I beg to move,
That this House
notes the ending of preventative measures allowed under Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIM) for six terrorist suspects in January 2014, including individuals that the Home Secretary considers to pose a risk to the security of the United Kingdom through terrorism-related activity;
notes the decision made by the Home Secretary to end TPIM controls after two years regardless of whether she assesses individuals are likely to involve themselves in terrorism-related activity;
is concerned that the Home Secretary has provided to Parliament no assessment of the current threat these individuals may pose to the public through terrorist-related activity, and notes the recent finding of Mr Justice Wilkie that the Secretary of State does not accept that there is a general duty to tailor measures towards the end of a TPIM in order to facilitate assimilation;
further notes the disappearance of two terrorist suspects subject to TPIMs, Ibrahim Magag and Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed;
calls on the Government to make a statement to Parliament on the threat of terrorist-related activity posed by the six suspects exiting TPIMs, and to share the full assessment from the Security Service with the Intelligence and Security Committee;
and further calls on the Government to establish a cross-party review of TPIMs in the light of these assessments to decide whether changes are needed to protect the security and liberty of the United Kingdom.
By the end of this week up to six terror suspects will have all their restrictions removed so that they can walk the streets of Britain unhindered. These six men were previously considered sufficiently dangerous by the Home Secretary and the courts that they were subject to terrorism prevention and investigation measures, with their communications and movements restricted to prevent terror-related activity. According to the courts, one was a suspected suicide bomber planning to blow up an airline; one was planning a firearms attack, either in the UK or abroad; one was trying to join terrorists in Somalia and another was trying to join Islamist terrorists in Syria; a fifth was accused of fundraising and supporting terror activity in Pakistan; and a sixth was accused of planning attacks and fundraising for al-Shabaab, the group responsible for the awful attacks at Nairobi’s Westgate centre last year.
We know how dangerous the court and the Home Secretary believed these men were even just 12 months ago, when their TPIMs were renewed. The Home Secretary needs to tell us today whether she believes they are still dangerous now. Their TPIMs are not being removed because the Home Secretary has changed her security assessment; they are being removed because the Home Secretary changed policy and legislation three years ago. We need answers today on the risk each of these men poses and on what action she has taken to reduce the risk. Parliament also needs to know whether TPIMs are still fit for purpose, or whether reforms are needed in the interests of public safety.
Can the right hon. Lady be clear on her position? Is it her view that people who have been accused but never convicted should be held under such measures indefinitely? That is the consequence of what she is saying.
I will make a little progress and set out our concerns and views. We have always raised concerns about the introduction of the two-year time limit, because we believe that that raises serious questions. We also want nobody to be under control orders or TPIMs longer than is necessary, so it is right that they are continually reviewed. However, it is also right that we make sure that concern for public safety is at the heart of the debate, and that is what we need to discuss today.
My right hon. Friend is talking about the answers we need. Promises were made to the Bill Committee—I was on it—and Parliament about the cost of TPIMs, but we have never got to the bottom of how much those costs have increased by. Would she like to comment on that?
My hon. Friend is right. Figures were given in briefings to newspapers of about £50 million of additional funding to the security services and the police as a result of the switch from control orders to TPIMs, but it would be helpful to have that figure confirmed by the Government. In addition, however, we do not know whether extra resources are being provided for the ending of TPIMs. That clearly creates additional pressures on the police and security services.
This country has always to be vigilant against terrorism, and we should thank the police and our security and intelligence services, which do a difficult job incredibly well, often behind the scenes and unnoticed. According to the independent reviewer of terrorism, the threat of a terror attack directly by al-Qaeda has decreased since the mid-2000s, but the threat from its affiliates and its power to motivate other extremists and provide training and planning support all remain. Over this Parliament, we have seen attempted bomb plots in the west midlands, plans to attack a Territorial Army base and target Wootton Bassett, and of course the dreadful murder of Drummer Lee Rigby last summer.
UK nationals attempting to travel overseas to fight and train are also potential threats to the UK, both to our interests and citizens abroad and to us here when they return home. The independent reviewer has warned that the Syrian conflict might begin to rival the traditional threat from al-Qaeda core and regions north of Pakistan. We need to be vigilant against these threats and ensure that the British people are protected, and to ensure that the terrorists do not divide us or undermine our democratic values. The laws we pass against terrorism need always to be proportionate and fair.
That is why, like control orders before them, TPIMs are exceptional powers and should be used only in exceptional circumstances, but there are difficult cases: where there is substantial evidence that someone poses a terror risk, but where convictions cannot be achieved—for example, if they depend on secret intelligence that cannot be used in court. Given the risk of harm and potential loss of life from terror attacks, Parliament and our courts have long supported preventive measures based on a clear legal procedure, with safeguards to reduce the risk to the public.
Three years ago, however, the Home Secretary decided to weaken those terror powers by replacing control orders with TPIMs, putting a two-year limit on each one and removing relocation and other restrictions from them. She said there would be a greater focus on prosecution and imprisonment.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the narrative being put out by the Conservative part of the coalition is that the legislative change that brought in TPIMs was a result of their coalition partners, the Liberals? Was not the start of this, however, in the Conservative party’s 2010 manifesto?
My hon. Friend makes an important point, and I want to come to that. The Home Secretary ducks the issue if she simply blames the Liberal Democrats for this change in legislation, because she introduced it and Conservative MPs voted for, supported and defended it at every stage of its passage through the House, even when we raised questions and concerns.
Does the right hon. Lady not accept that it was the courts of law in this country that criticised and weakened the control orders that her Government set up—the courts sounded their death knell—and that any Home Secretary has to establish a proper legal framework for the orders of this country to subsist?
I am afraid the hon. Gentleman is simply wrong, and he knows he is wrong because he asked exactly that question of David Anderson, the independent terrorism reviewer, in the Select Committee on Home Affairs. The reply from David Anderson was clear. He said that control orders had not been undermined by the courts and had in fact been upheld by then—that the principle had been upheld and individual control orders had been upheld. Of course it is right for control orders to be scrutinised in the courts, as it is right for TPIMs to be scrutinised. However, the independent reviewer was absolutely clear: it was not the courts undermining control orders, nor was it the courts that decided to replace them with the weaker TPIMs; it was the Government.
My right hon. Friend touched on relocation, which was one of the most effective parts of control orders, but it is now being replaced by a costly system that cannot work as effectively.
The concern for us is that the weakening of the terror powers has led to additional costs. We simply do not know what additional costs there might be now as a result of ending control orders for up to six people this month.
The Prime Minister told the House earlier this month that TPIMs “are working”, but the verdict on TPIMs, two years on, is very different. According to the independent reviewer, there have been no successful prosecutions, despite all the Home Secretary’s promises. The removal of relocation powers has badly backfired. No one relocated as part of their control order ever absconded, yet the Home Secretary removed relocation powers and lost two out of 10 suspects in 12 months. Ibrahim Magag ran off in a black cab; Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed ran off in a burqa. They have not been seen since, and the Home Secretary and Prime Minister have no idea where they are. The Prime Minister calls this a successful policy, yet 20% of the terror suspects on TPIMs have disappeared within a year.
We want to concentrate on the six men expected to be released from TPIMs this month. The House warned the Home Secretary of the risks that she was taking by restricting TPIMs to two years regardless of the security assessment unless fresh terrorist activity had occurred. Here is what Mr Justice Collins said about her legislation:
“if a TPIM has achieved its purpose and the Home Secretary has no reason to believe that any terrorist related activity has occurred, there will be no power to impose a fresh TPIM whether or not…the Secretary of State has reason to believe the subject will involve himself in terrorist related activity.”
In other words, if the TPIM works to prevent terrorist activity, there is no possibility of the Home Secretary extending it, even if she has good reason to believe that that terror suspect remains a serious risk and will return to terrorist activity straight away.
If that is the case, Parliament needs to know the extent of the risk that these men pose now, and the Home Secretary needs to give us this simple piece of information: does she believe that these six men are still likely to pursue terror-related activity: yes or no? The courts said they were likely to do that 12 months ago. Does she believe they are now? Are these men still a risk: yes or no? She cannot claim that she does not comment on individual cases, because she already has done. Public statements have been made about these men and the risks they pose.
Let us take the person known as CD—one of the men whose TPIM expires this month. The Security Service said he was trying to procure firearms for a terrorist attack in the UK. Just over a year ago, the judge agreed he was too dangerous to remove the TPIM controls. The judge said at that point that
“the evidence that CD has been involved in terrorist activity is overall stronger now than it was”.
He also said that the
“control order and now TPIM are having something of their intended effect, but that is very different from saying that the TPIM should be ended…there remains a network, his views and determination are unchanged, he has training”.
What has changed since then? Have CD’s views and determination changed? Has his network changed? Or is there still a significant risk that he will try to get firearms or other weapons again to pursue a UK attack? The Security Service and the judge told us a year ago that this man was a serious risk; now the Home Secretary is removing all his restrictions. We have a right to know whether she still thinks he is a risk or whether that risk has gone. I will give way to the Home Secretary if she will tell us now whether CD is still a risk. [Interruption.]The Home Secretary has chosen not to intervene to answer the specific question about whether CD remains a risk.
Is the right hon. Lady really telling us that she is going to take us back to the bad old days of Labour’s anti-civil-libertarian state, with its control orders, ID cards, national database and 90-day detention? Is that where new Labour is going to take us once again?
The hon. Gentleman, too, should want this information and these answers from the Home Secretary. Whatever his views about the legislation, he ought to want answers from the Home Secretary about whether CD still presents a risk. Our view is that it is right to have exceptional legislation, but that strong safeguards should also be in place. Sometimes there is a need for clear powers, but clear safeguards must also be in place. There should be provision to review TPIMs or control orders to make sure that they are used only where it is proportionate and justified. However, the Home Secretary should provide answers about whether she is needlessly putting people at risk as a result of the decisions she has taken.
My right hon. Friend will be aware that the independent review of David Anderson recommended that consideration be given to an additional power at the end of a TPIM to provide something similar to licence conditions when people are released from prison. At the moment, there is no legislation to provide any degree of control once the TPIM is ended. Does my right hon. Friend think it a good idea to introduce such provisions into the TPIMs legislation so that if we do not have a TPIM, we at least have something akin to licence conditions on the release of prisoners?
My right hon. Friend makes an important point. As we understand it, no restrictions will be in place for these six men, regardless of the security risk. We do not know what the security assessment of these six men is; that is why the Home Secretary needs to tell us. She may now believe that they are no longer a risk and that no further restrictions are needed. If further restrictions are needed, however, we need to know what they are. We are happy to engage in a cross-party discussion about whether further legislation and changes are needed, but we need answers from the Home Secretary on the security assessment of these men.
Let us take the man known as AM, for example. The Government have argued that he was part of
“a viable plot to commit mass murder by bringing down transatlantic airlines by suicide bombing”.
Here is what the judge said just 18 months ago:
“But for the disruption of the transatlantic airlines plot, there is every reason to believe that AM would have killed himself and a large number of other people.”
Those are the judge’s words. He also said that
“convincing evidence of a change of heart was required before the Secretary of State could reasonably consider that the need to protect members of the public from a risk of terrorism had gone or been reduced to a level at which preventative measures were no longer required.”
The Home Secretary has now removed those preventative measures. Does she believe that there has been
“convincing evidence of a change of heart”?
Does she have evidence that
“the need to protect members of the public from a risk of terrorism” has gone? I have cited what the court said 18 months ago, but what does the Home Secretary say about AM now? Once again, I give her the opportunity to intervene to answer the question whether she believes that AM is still a risk.
There are others, such as the man known as BF. Just seven months ago, the Home Secretary described him as a
“long term, committed and historically well connected extremist” who
“maintains a desire to travel overseas and he would seek to travel after restrictions are removed and he would seek to engage in terrorist related activities.”
That was seven months ago; what has changed? Is he still a risk; yes or no? Then there is the man known as CE. The Home Secretary told the courts that he was trying to travel to Somalia to engage in terror-related activity and that he was linked to a UK-based network of Islamist extremists who are fundraising and supporting terrorism in Somalia. Is he still a risk; yes or no?
The courts confirmed nine months ago that CF had attempted to travel to Afghanistan to engage in suicide operations, while the Security Service said he was fundraising for al-Shabaab and recruiting fighters from the UK. Is he still a risk? The man known as BM is accused of fundraising for terrorist organisations in Pakistan and of trying to travel there to engage in terror-related activities. Is he still a risk?
Perhaps the Member known as YC will tell the House what measures she would introduce to replace those to which she is referring.
That is an important question. We think that the decision about the framework must depend on the security assessment, to which the Government have access but we do not. We believe that it was wrong to introduce the two-year limit in the first place, and wrong to remove the relocation powers. That was our view when the legislation was passed, and we continue to be concerned about those issues. However, we are willing to work with the Government and with other parties, on a cross-party basis, to consider what the framework should be now. My right hon. Friend Hazel Blears advanced important proposals which have also been advanced by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. There may be other options, and we think it important for those to be debated, but they need to be debated in the light of the security assessment.
Does the right hon. Lady agree with the independent reviewer that there should be a licence system, or does she recognise its weakness?
The independent reviewer’s proposals should be looked at very seriously. As I have said, there may be other options, such as the extension of time limits. As the hon. Gentleman has pointed out, any set of proposals will involve limitations. This is the kind of debate we ought to be having in Parliament, but it needs to be informed by that proper security assessment.
I am grateful to the right hon. Lady; I know that she wants to move on. Do I understand from her response to Ian Paisley that her understanding of justice in this case is that the group of people concerned should not be allowed to see the evidence that will be presented in a trial that they will not actually undergo, and that they should then be forcibly relocated from their communities and kept in detention for at least 23 hours a day, for an indefinite period? Is that the Labour party’s view of justice in this case?
No. We have made it clear throughout the passage of the legislation that these measures should be used only in very exceptional circumstances, and that there must also be a court procedure. There must be legal safeguards, and there must be judicial processes. I have cited the views of the judges, not just the views of the Security Service and the Home Secretary. However, we must also recognise that there are some cases in which it is very difficult to prosecute in the courts because of secret intelligence, and the risk to human sources who may put their lives at risk by providing that important information.
The Home Secretary should tell us this: does she still believe that each of the six men whose restrictions she is now removing poses a terror threat—yes or no? She told us 12 months ago that the answer was yes, because she renewed their TPIMs, but what is her answer now? We know what she thought of those men when she imposed the restrictions, but surely it is even more important for us to know the risk when she takes those restrictions away. We are not asking her to show Parliament the detailed Security Service assessment—she should show that to the Intelligence and Security Committee—but we are asking her to inform us of her conclusions, and to give us as much detail as she gave publicly to the courts.
The Home Secretary gave us her security assessment when Magag and Mohamed ran off. She told us then that she did not believe they posed any risk to people in the United Kingdom. If she could tell us that much about those two terror suspects once they were out on the streets without restrictions, why can she not do the same now in relation to all the others?
People change and risk levels change. If the risk has been reduced, restrictive measures may no longer be justified, in which case they should certainly be removed. We support the removal of restrictions as soon as they are no longer justified. Over the last decade, control orders have rightly been removed from more than 30 people because they were not longer justified. Terror powers such as these must always be kept under review, but the Home Secretary has removed these restrictions not because they are no longer justified but because of her legislation, the legislation she pushed through Parliament. How can Parliament assess whether that legislation was right, and whether she has done the right thing, without knowing the continued risk that any of these men is expected to pose?
We also need to know what action the Home Secretary has taken to prepare for the end of TPIMs. The independent reviewer warned us some time ago that serious planning should be done to work with those individuals to reduce the risk once the restrictions were removed. Has that happened? Has any work been done with them to address their extremism? Judge Wilkie suggests not. On the basis of the evidence that the Home Secretary submitted to the court, he said that she
“does not accept that there is a general duty to tailor measures towards the end of a TPIM in order to facilitate assimilation.”
What planning has taken place to cope with the restrictions being removed? The Home Secretary has told us that the Metropolitan police have a plan for each person, but will she ensure that the Intelligence and Security Committee is shown those plans? Will she also tell us what those plans will cost? When control orders were downgraded to TPIMs two years ago, the Government provided extra funding for surveillance and investigations. However, that extra funding was clearly not enough to ensure that there was sufficient surveillance on Mohamed and Magag, who were able to abscond, or enough to deliver successful prosecutions. That reduction from control orders to TPIMs will have put additional pressure on the resources of the police and the security services, but surely the ending of TPIMs for those suspects altogether will put even greater pressure on those resources now, as there are no restrictions in place. Has any additional funding been made available to cope with the ending of TPIMs for those men, or will surveillance resources have to be redeployed from other important targets?
Before the Home Secretary stands up to answer my questions, let me address some of the points that she usually makes in her defence, as well as some new ones that she has added to her list in the past few days. She usually argues that control orders were not strong enough, and that people absconded while subject to them. She and I agree that the control orders without relocation powers, under the regime that operated before 2007, were not strong enough, but that is why the control order regime was tightened up in 2007 with a greater focus being placed on relocation, after which no one absconded. My response to that was to say that we should keep the relocation powers. Hers was to ditch them. She has lost two terror suspects as a result.
The Home Secretary has now come up with two new defences. She has told the Daily Mail that the problem was the fault of the Human Rights Act, and she has told The Sun that it was the fault of the Liberal Democrats. Both claims are nonsense. She has also tried to claim that control orders had to be reformed because they were being undermined in the courts. The independent reviewer has made it clear, both to the Home Affairs Committee and in other statements, that the courts have repeatedly upheld the principle of control orders and upheld individuals’ cases time and again. The independent reviewer has said:
“The replacement of control orders by TPIMs was a political decision. It was not prompted by any court judgment, either from the United Kingdom or from Strasbourg.”
As for the idea that this was all the Liberal Democrats’ fault, the Deputy Prime Minister is not even strong enough to sort out the problems in his own party. No one believes that he is strong enough to make the Home Secretary put forward legislation that she does not agree with. Let us remember what she said at the time. She made it clear that it was her legislation, not his. She defended every one of the changes, including the two-year limit, the end of relocation and the granting of extra freedoms. Indeed, she was proud that she was
“re-striking the balance between national security and civil liberties.”—[Hansard, 7 June 2011; Vol. 529, c. 71.]
The Home Secretary cannot blame the Liberal Democrats, the Human Rights Act or the courts. She has only herself to blame if she does not like the consequences of her legislation. We need to know what she is going to do now, however. What is the risk to the public from those six men? What is the risk to the public from her legislation? What is she doing about this? She told us three years ago:
“Where successful prosecution or deportation is not possible, however, no responsible Government could allow dangerous individuals to go freely about their terrorist activities.”—[Hansard, 7 June 2011; Vol. 529, c. 69.]
So can she now get up and tell us that she is not doing exactly that? Can she put her hand on her heart and tell us she is confident that she is doing the right thing for the British people by removing those TPIMs from those six individuals this month? And if she is really as uncomfortable with her own legislation as her briefings to the newspapers suggest, is it not time that she backed down and set up a cross-party review to look at this legislation again?
We later had the extraordinary spectacle of the attempt to increase the period of pre-charge detention to 90 days, which was rightly defeated by Parliament, and in 2005 the last Government introduced control orders, but control orders too, as my hon. Friend Michael Ellis has said, were steadily eroded by the courts. Three control orders were quashed because the courts said they were wrong in principle, two control orders were revoked because the courts directed that they were no longer necessary, and three control orders were revoked because the previous Government felt they were unable to make the disclosures ordered by the court. All those individuals were then freed from their controls.
I have to say that that is an ingenious argument to make in support of the hon. Gentleman’s Front Benchers, but what it shows is that the courts were giving a very clear message about aspects of control orders. What we needed was a regime that was legally viable and would command the confidence of the police and security services, and TPIMs have been consistently endorsed by the courts, two successive independent reviewers of counter-terrorism legislation, the police and the Security Service. They provide some of the strongest restrictions available in the democratic world and some of the strongest possible protections that our courts will allow. We now have a strong and sustainable legal framework to handle terrorist suspects whom we can neither prosecute nor deport.
I am beginning to have a concern that, as a result of the outcry because people have absconded from the TPIMs regime, the Government will in future be reluctant to use the TPIMs powers. Will the Home Secretary confirm that if there are people who pose a serious security risk to this country, the Government will continue to use the TPIMs powers, although they are considerably weakened in my view, to try to protect the people of this country?
The TPIMs remain on the statute book. They remain there as an option; they are an option for the Security Service and the police to look at in relation to any individual and to bring forward to the Secretary of State for determination and then through the court process, which the right hon. Lady knows is in place.
Some of us come from the “lock ’em up and throw away the key” brigade on a lot of these matters, but will the Home Secretary take this opportunity to spell out the additional measures, which she has referred to, that will convince us that what will be put in place will be stronger, better and give us more security?
If the hon. Gentleman has a little patience, I shall refer to some of the other measures we have taken a little later on in my speech, but first I want to address the issue of funding.
As part of the TPIMs package, we provided additional funding to the Security Service and the police of tens of millions of pounds a year to help keep the public safe. For obvious reasons, I cannot go into detail on how that money was spent, but I can assure the House that it has significantly strengthened the police and the Security Service’s surveillance and counter-terrorism capabilities.
We followed that up by increasing spending on the security and intelligence agencies, most recently also protecting counter-terrorism policing budgets in the 2015-16 spending round. The police and Security Service made it clear that the move from control orders to TPIMs, combined with the additional funding for counter-terrorism, would not substantially increase overall risk. In fact, I can tell the House that the police and Security Service believe that TPIMs have been effective in disrupting the individuals subject to TPIMs and their networks.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, and as I made clear to the House following the statement I made on that individual, when that individual returned to the United Kingdom he did so on a document that was not a passport, and therefore the passport was not available to be taken.
Let me deal with the specific points raised by Yvette Cooper. Anyone listening to her would sometimes think that the control order regime would have solved every terrorist plot, but as well as the eight people released when the courts revoked their orders, another seven people absconded during the six years that control orders existed, and only one of those seven was ever found again, so people did abscond on control orders.
One of the central differences between control orders and TPIMs that the right hon. Lady has not mentioned so far is the issue of relocation. Nobody absconded from relocation, and she cannot claim that she abandoned relocation because of orders from the courts, because the courts generally were supportive of relocation.
I was about to answer the point that the right hon. Gentleman has just made. When I refer to the seven absconds that took place under control orders, the answer that I always get from Opposition Members is about this issue of relocation. What neither he in his intervention, nor the right hon. Lady in her speech tell us is that forced relocation was struck down by the courts in four control order cases, including those of two individuals who were subsequently placed on TPIMs. The right hon. Lady also does not say that several control order subjects breached their control orders even while they were relocated, so the idea that relocation would prevent orders being breached is simply not correct. When the Metropolitan Police Commissioner was asked whether the removal of the option for relocation would have had any bearing on the case of Ibrahim Magag, in particular, he answered:
“we do not think so”.
What about the point made by David Anderson in his latest review? He says:
“The possibility of relocation has now been removed. That step was not required by the courts …which had indeed shown themselves generally supportive of relocation as a deterrent” to terrorism.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for mentioning the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, because David Anderson has consistently said:
“The only sure way to prevent absconding is to lock people in a high security prison.”
As I said at the beginning of my speech, that option, without charge or prosecution, has already been struck down by the highest courts in the land.
“The possibility of relocation has now been removed. That step was not required by the courts …which had indeed shown themselves generally supportive of relocation as a deterrent” to terrorism-related activity. The Home Secretary has just claimed that the Government had to get rid of relocation because it kept getting struck down by the courts, but the independent reviewer has said the complete opposite. He has said that the courts supported the principle of relocation. Will she now make clear her view: does she simply think the independent reviewer is wrong or will she now withdraw her previous comments?
I will repeat precisely what I said a few minutes ago, which is that what the right hon. Lady never tells this House is that forced relocation was struck down by the courts in four control order cases. The point is that she and others speak about relocation in this House as if it was never queried, but it was; in four cases it was struck down.
What I have made clear is that the courts struck down forced relocation in a number of cases. That is a fact that the shadow Front-Bench team never put before this House.
The Opposition’s motion also raises a number of other issues, as the right hon. Lady did in her speech, so let me start by addressing the issue of the two-year time limit. Again, the Opposition do not tell us the whole story. If the police or Security Service observe any of those individuals engaging in new terrorism-related activity, they can apply to have a new TPIM placed on that subject. That is something that is entirely open to them. Besides, people coming off restrictions is nothing new. Convicted prisoners serve their sentences and are released every day. Opposition Members can say what they like, but that also includes people convicted under the Terrorism Acts.
It would help the House enormously if the Secretary of State could confirm now whether she is prepared to look at the recommendation from David Anderson that at the end of a TPIM there be some power similar to licensed conditions when people are released from prison, so that at least there is some mechanism for making these people engage with the authorities, whether it is the National Offender Management Service or the probation service. There needs to be some vestige of control over those people’s activities.
I will come on to those points about individuals in general and individuals who are coming off TPIMs. As I have said, if individuals have been conducting new terrorism-related activity, it is perfectly possible for a new TPIM to be established and for a request to be made for that TPIM to be applied to those individuals.
The Opposition can say what they like about the issue of the two-year time limit, but I suggest that the fact that people are released having been convicted under the Terrorism Acts suggests that there are people released on to our streets who have been involved in acts of terrorism.
I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for giving way. Having been in her position, I remember what it is like trying to defend a very weak position. To compare people who are released from prison under terrorism legislation with people whose TPIM comes to an end is no comparison at all. Will she acknowledge that if someone is released from prison after serving a lengthy sentence for terrorism offences, they will be on licence and they are eligible to be recalled to prison straight away without any further court proceedings?
As my hon. Friends are saying from a sedentary position, there is a basic difference between the individuals: one set of individuals has been prosecuted, convicted and put in prison. The suggestion that somebody who has at some stage been involved in terrorism activity is never allowed to be released on to the streets is not correct, yet that is the impression that the Opposition sometimes give. In their comments on control orders, they fail to concentrate on the fact that 43 people who were on control orders came off their restrictions. That may have been because the orders were allowed to expire or they were revoked or quashed by the courts, or people may have absconded. As I have said, even before TPIMs were introduced, the courts would simply not allow people to be parked permanently on control orders. When the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police was asked whether he had concerns about time limits, he said, “I do not think so.”
It has come to something when the Tories are having to lecture Labour on civil liberties. Why does the right hon. Lady not just test the evidence? Why does she not make sure that those who are on TPIM orders are taken to the courts so that the courts can decide? Surely that is what we do in a democratic society.
We take individuals to court where it is possible and where there is evidence on individuals to prosecute them for crimes under the Terrorism Acts. The court is then able to make those decisions. The issue is what does society do with the individuals we are not able to deport or to prosecute. The Government took the decision at an early stage that we introduce TPIMs and give them a two-year time limit. That matter was debated and discussed in this House.
I am happy to say to the hon. Gentleman that these matters of security are reserved matters for us here in Westminster. I have not looked at the debate on these issues in Hansard, but I would not be surprised if the hon. Gentlemen from Scotland or indeed Northern Ireland took part.
I will now make some progress. On the specific cases, the police and Security Service have now been working for some time to put in place tailored plans to manage each individual once their TPIM restrictions are removed. Those plans, which are similar to those put in place for the release of prisoners who have served their sentences, are kept under constant review, and they are similar to the plans the police and Security Service use every day to manage other suspects who are not subject to restrictions.
I completely reject the suggestion that the Opposition are putting about that the police and Security Service have not carried out proper risk assessments of these individuals. They have done so because that is their job, and they have put in place specific, tailored plans to deal with each individual.
Will the Home Secretary spell out very clearly that this will not be like the licence system? When the Labour party was in government, hundreds upon hundreds of licensed prisoners—including mass murderers—were released from our jails in Northern Ireland. Those people were at large to commit crime and their licences were only revoked after they had committed another crime. That was not good management. Will she assure us that the management system that will be put in place will not be like the licence system?
The hon. Gentleman brings considerable experience of this matter to the House. As I said, the police and Security Service have been putting plans in place for those individuals who will come off TPIMs, and they are similar to the plans they use every day to manage other suspects who are not subject to restrictions.
I am going to make some progress as I have taken quite a few interventions.
We continue to believe that the best place for a terrorist is behind bars. As I have said, if the police and Security Service find any individual engaging in new terrorism-related activity, the police will seek to have them prosecuted. If that is not possible, it is open to the police and Security Service to recommend that a new TPIM notice should be imposed.
In response to an earlier intervention from the hon. Member for North Antrim, I said that I would talk about the new powers that we have introduced. We have not just given extra money to the police and Security Service; we have strengthened their powers. In April last year, in a written statement to the House, I explained how we would use the royal prerogative to remove passports from British nationals who we believe want to travel abroad to take part in extremist activity, terrorist training or other fighting. That has significantly enhanced the security services’ powers in this area and the prerogative has already been used on several occasions, helping to disrupt terrorist suspects who want to travel abroad to gain skills or contacts that they could use to plot attacks in this country.
In the cases of several of the six people expected to be released from TPIMs this month, the concerns raised were that they would travel abroad to be involved in terrorist activity. Can the Home Secretary tell us whether that power has been used to remove the passports of any of those who are coming off TPIMs this month?
I will not go into operational detail, but what I will say to the right hon. Lady is that it is open to the Security Service and police to make a request for the royal prerogative to be exercised in those cases where they think it is appropriate to do so.
The Home Secretary answered this question when she was asked about Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed, and specifically about his passport—she initially gave an incorrect answer to the Home Affairs Committee, which she then corrected. If she was prepared to answer a question about his passport, why is she refusing to answer legitimate questions about the attitude towards the passports of these suspects?
I should have thought that the right hon. Lady would have been able to distinguish between the information given to this House about the passport of Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed and the question of whether the royal prerogative has been exercised.
Given the conflict in Syria, powers to disrupt terrorist travel are now particularly vital. The UK already has some of the most robust and effective legislation in the world to deal with suspected terrorists and those suspected of engaging in terrorist-related activity, both in the UK and abroad. We will not hesitate to use every power at our disposal. If a terrorist suspect is a dual national, I will consider deprivation of their British citizenship, and the Government are considering strengthening our legal powers in that area. If a suspect is a foreign national, the Government can exclude them from the UK. This Government have excluded more foreign hate preachers than ever before.
We will further increase our efforts to remove foreign nationals from this country where they threaten our national security. After this Government finally secured the deportation of Abu Qatada—who was, of course, one of the original Belmarsh detainees—we introduced the Immigration Bill to make it easier for us to get foreign terrorist suspects out of our country. The Opposition failed to vote for that Bill on Second Reading.
As well as tackling foreign terrorist suspects, we are doing more to stop home- grown extremism. This summer, we saw events that shocked the nation, with the horrific killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich and the murder of Mohammed Saleem in Birmingham. Last month the Prime Minister announced new measures to tackle extremism, with the outcome of the extremism taskforce, which was established in the wake of those tragic events. That built on the revised Prevent strategy, which we extended to cover all forms of extremism, including non-violent extremism. We have already had success in restricting extremist speakers. Many events with extremist speakers have been referred to the police, some have been disrupted, and in other cases, venues have been persuaded not to host speakers with extreme views.
That does not answer the central point. In January 2011, when introducing TPIMs, the Home Secretary said:
“there is likely to be a small number of people who pose a real threat to our security, but who cannot currently be successfully prosecuted or deported...no responsible Government could allow those individuals to go freely about their terrorist activities.”—[ Official Report ,
In relation to the five or six people who will be released, what assurance can she give to Parliament that they will not now go about their terrorist activity?
The right hon. Gentleman is correct in saying that there are some people whom it is not possible to deport or prosecute. That is the sentence I opened my speech with. That is precisely why we have the TPIM measures as possibilities to be used for certain individuals.
In addition to the other measures I have spoken about, more than 21,000 items of illegal terrorist content have been taken down from the internet. As I have mentioned, we have excluded more preachers of hate from this country than ever before. While some Labour politicians positively welcomed the likes of Yusuf al-Qaradawi to London, under this Government foreign hate preachers are not welcome here.
We are stopping terrorist suspects travelling abroad, we are depriving them of the option of coming back, we are deporting foreign terrorist suspects and we are doing more to tackle home-grown radicalisation.
The Home Secretary has not answered the basic question about whether these six men still pose a risk. Let me ask her about one of them, the man known as CD. She has told us plenty about him before and has said plenty to the courts. She told us plenty about Magag and Mohamed. Why does she not simply tell us now whether she believes that CD still poses a risk that he will pursue terrorist-related activity—yes or no?
I have made it clear to the right hon. Lady and to the House that of those individuals who are coming off their TPIMs, the police and the Security Service have made a proper risk assessment and have put in place measures to ensure that they are dealing with those individuals in the way that they believe is appropriate. Those are decisions that they take.
I am grateful for the Home Secretary’s patience. I am sorry to try it, but I really do not think that she has answered the question from my right hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State. She was asked whether she believes that CD currently represents a threat. She responded by saying that an assessment was carried out. That is not the answer. Does she believe that CD poses a threat to the public safety of this country?
I recognise that quite a few hon. Members, possibly including the hon. Gentleman, want to speak in the debate and time is pressing. For every individual who comes off a TPIM, an assessment is made of the risk that they pose. That assessment is properly made by the police and Security Service, and that is a decision that it is right for them to make. They put into place the appropriate measures that they believe are right in order to deal with those individuals, as they do—as I have said—with other suspects, other people who are of concern, people who have not been on TPIMs or control orders.
The other issue is ensuring that we have successful prosecutions. There have been some notable recent successes. In the year to
Those convicted include Irfan Naseer, Irfan Khalid and Ashik Ali, from the Birmingham area, who were convicted in February 2013 of offences including: travelling to Pakistan for training in terrorism; collecting money for terrorism; assisting others to travel to Pakistan for training in terrorism; recruiting others for terrorism; and planning a bombing campaign, which was assessed to be potentially on a scale greater than the 2005 London bombings. Naseer was sentenced to life imprisonment for each count and will serve a minimum term of 18 years. Irfan Khalid received a sentence of 23 years. Ashik Ali received a sentence of 20 years.
We should not forget that we must also tackle the threat from far-right extremism. Last year the police arrested Pavlo Lapshyn, who pleaded guilty to the murder of Mohammed Saleem in April 2013 and IED attacks on three mosques in the west midlands. He received a life sentence with a recommended minimum tariff of 40 years. Unlike the Labour party, which was content for convicted terrorists to be released halfway through their sentence, this Government have proposed that those convicted of serious terrorism offences should no longer be automatically released at the halfway point of their sentence without an assessment of their suitability for release.
To keep us all safe, our police and security services do exceptional and often dangerous work every day. I am sure that the whole House will join me in paying tribute to their skill, courage and dedication. TPIMs are just one weapon in the considerable armoury of powers at their disposal. But the Government have shown that we are committed to doing all we can to support the police and Security Service in tackling the threats we face. That is why we have enhanced our powers to disrupt terrorist travel, we will help deport foreign terrorist suspects, and we have given the police and the Security Service tens of millions of pounds in extra funding each year. The police and the Security Service do a tremendous job in keeping our country safe. Rather than questioning their work, we should be supporting them with the powers and resources they need. That is why the Opposition’s motion deserves to fail.
Order. In order to try to accommodate the number of Members who wish to contribute to the debate, I am afraid that I will have to impose, with immediate effect, a seven-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches.
Achieving a balance between the liberty and freedom of citizens on the one hand, and the safety and security of the same citizens on the other hand, is a fundamental duty of this House and a fundamental responsibility of any Home Secretary. Since it is not possible to exercise more abstract freedoms and liberties without the freedom to live one’s life in peace and security, identifying where that balance lies will always be difficult and must take account of the particular circumstances of the age in which we live.
The Home Secretary opened her remarks—we should all be grateful for her generosity in giving way—by referring to the fact that all these orders were in the shadow of the attacks of
I am not suggesting for one second that every change the Labour Government initiated or proposed was exactly right, because it was not. We had to learn from experience. I do not think that anyone who has held the office of Home Secretary—I am glad to see my right hon. Friend Alan Johnson in his place—would suggest that they got everything right.
However, I believe that by the end of our period in government, including the reforms introduced in 2007, the regime of control orders was broadly operating better than any alternative for dealing with the very small minority of dangerous people who, for reasons with which the House is fully familiar, could not in practice be prosecuted for the offences which it was understood in other circumstances they had committed or were likely to commit. Some would say, “We should just leave these matters to the courts.” At least the main parties are agreed that some people are so dangerous—as confirmed by information sufficiently reliable for the courts, albeit in closed proceedings—that they cannot just be left at large. No Government and no Home Secretary would survive if we washed our hands of the risks before us and then an aeroplane was blown up with hundreds of UK citizens on it, or bombs were let off. Control orders, imperfect though they are, and although they should be used only in extreme circumstances, were introduced to deal with those threats.
I never understood, and we have had no reliable explanation today, why on earth the Home Secretary decided, with no explanation whatsoever, to change control orders, which were working, to a weaker system of which there are two fundamentally different features: first, an arbitrary time limit, which she did not need to impose; and secondly, the removal of the relocation provisions, which was not required by the courts. She referred to four cases, I think, where she said that the courts said that they were not appropriate, as opposed to being struck down, because that phrase is about striking down legislation. The courts had decided, quite rightly, in the instant case, that they were not going to approve that part of the control order. That is what the courts are there for. They were not striking down relocations; they were merely saying “Parliament asked us to substitute our judgment for that of the Home Secretary. That is precisely what we have done. We do not think this is justified in these circumstances.” By the end of this process, no individual for whom a relocation order had been confirmed then absconded, whereas the Home Secretary has been faced with the reality that the system she introduced is very much weaker.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw on his experience as Home Secretary and that of my right hon. Friend Alan Johnson. Perhaps the current Home Secretary should have drawn on the experience of Lord Howard, who was Home Secretary in the previous Tory Administration and who said:
“If you ask me my personal view…I would have preferred the relocation provisions to have remained.”––[Official Report, Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Public Bill Committee,
I am sorry that the Home Secretary did not say, as I think anybody who has held that office would say, “Okay, we’ve made these changes but we’re willing for them to be reviewed on a cross-party basis”, which is the gravamen of what is proposed in our motion.
The Home Secretary was asked, I do not know how many times, whether she regarded those whose TPIMs are about to end as still posing a significant risk to the public. In other words, we seek her judgment as to whether, if there were no time limit, she would be seeking to maintain those TPIMs. However, answer came there none. What she did say, which I greatly regret—I do not think it fits the office—was, “The police and the intelligence agencies have judged that they posed no substantially increased risk.” That is damning the current regime with faint praise. Of course she has to take advice from the police and the security agencies, but she knows very well that she cannot subcontract the responsibilities of this House and the statutory responsibility of the Home Secretary to unnamed police and intelligence agents; she has to make the judgment herself. The legislation does not say that the decision about whether to apply for a TPIM—as, before, with the decision about whether to apply for a control order—should be delegated to a panel of the police or the intelligence services. It is a judgment for her.
We needed to know, not least so that we could understand the Home Secretary’s own confidence in the measures that she has recommended to the House, whether she thought that the individuals in question continued to pose a risk. She did not answer that question. That is one of a great many reasons why I believe that she herself has little confidence in the process that she has brought into legislation and why we should strongly support the motion in the name of my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary.
I broadly support what the Home Secretary is trying to achieve on TPIMs. As far as the public outside will be concerned, the debate has been rather skewed, because for most of it a Conservative Home Secretary has been attacked by the Labour party on a civil liberties issue. The House should not indulge in party political attacks but should reflect what our constituents want, which is to feel that they are safe. They want our Home Secretary to do whatever is necessary for that.
Before I deal with the issue of whether TPIMs or control orders are right, I point out that as far as most Back Benchers and most members of the public are concerned, TPIMs are simply control orders-lite. There is not a huge difference between them. I will deal with the issue of relocation in a moment, but first I wish to support both the Labour Government and the current Conservative Government in having such orders at all, because they are under attack from the civil liberties lobby. If there is a choice for me, as a father, between my daughters being blown up on a London tube, or our constituents being attacked by people who detest everything we stand for and all our liberal values, and there being some minor infringement of those people’s civil liberties, I know what choice I will make. I suspect that 90% of the population would make the same choice.
It is said that such orders are a gross infringement of civil liberties. I am on record as being an advocate of our jury system, I have never wanted to give the police extra powers and I recognise all the ancient arguments for our civil liberties. However, given the danger that some people pose and the views that they hold, what is the gross infringement on their civil liberties that we are talking about? Overnight residence measures; electronic tagging; restrictions on communication or association; exclusion from particular places; overseas travel bans; restrictions on bank accounts; restrictions on the transfer of property; limitations on the possession and use of electronic communication devices; work or studies measures that require permission to be obtained for specific activities or notice to be given prior to any work or studies being carried out; measures requiring regular reporting to a police station; and measures requiring the individual to allow himself to be photographed. Are those grotesque violations of those people’s civil liberties? No.
The hon. Gentleman is living in a dream world. Does he appreciate what these people are trying to do? Does he understand the level of danger they pose?
Surely what is important is that those individuals are being deprived of those liberties without due process, a trial and conviction, on the basis solely of suspicion, albeit in many cases potentially justified suspicion.
We know that there is some evidence, such as intercept evidence, that is difficult for the Home Secretary to bring to trial. Surely we must have some faith in our Home Secretary. Surely we respect her and the instruments of justice as having the public interest at heart. They are in no way inclined to restrict anybody’s civil liberties unless there is good reason.
Would the hon. Gentleman like to explain how his list is not a major problem to somebody like Cerie Bullivant? He was on a control order that was scrapped by the courts because there was simply no evidence, and he was found not guilty when there was a criminal trial. How would the hon. Gentleman explain to him that the two years he spent under that control order was not an infringement of his basic rights?
This is not actually the moment; the Government have moved on from control orders, but that is another issue. I would say that if there has been a trial and that person has been found not guilty, fair enough. There may, however, be reasonable suspicion that somebody poses a real danger to the public. This whole debate has been skewed because the Labour party has attacked the Government from the right, but I am more interested in what the public think. When the public look at the appalling outrages that have taken place, and when they consider the plots to blow up hundreds of innocent people for no reason at all, I do not think that most of them think that the sorts of measures that the Labour Government brought in, and that our Government are enforcing, are such a dramatic infringement on our traditional way of life. In that sense I support the former Labour Government; I think they had to act as they wanted, although we know there was a problem with the courts.
It does not seem to me that TPIMs are so very different from what we had before. They are instigated by the Home Secretary with the permission of the High Court, and they are granted on the basis of a reasonable belief in the subject’s involvement in terrorism—that all sounds quite sensible. That is, I agree, a higher threshold than the one for control orders, which required “reasonable suspicion”, but as far as the public are concerned, is there a great deal of difference between the “reasonable suspicion” that was required under the former Labour Government, or a reasonable belief in the subject’s involvement in terrorism? I do not think so; that is not a great difference between control orders and TPIMs. The Home Office memorandum on the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 states that the Home Secretary must reasonably—again, “reasonably”, and all this is subject to judicial review—consider
“that it is necessary, for purposes connected with protecting members of the public”.
Let us always focus on members of the public. That is what we are here for, not to debate party political issues. I wish those on our two Front Benches could get together on this issue; it is a matter of national security.
I am sure that on a Privy Counsellor basis, the Home Secretary would be happy to brief the right hon. Lady. I am speaking as a Back Bencher, but it seems that when the public are concerned, and when there are people who hold such dangerous views, it is not unreasonable for us as members of the public to ask our two parties of state to work together on this.
The memorandum says that the Home Secretary must reasonably consider
“that it is necessary, for purposes connected with protecting members of the public from a risk of terrorism,” and with preventing or restricting the individual’s involvement in terrorism-related activity,
“for TPIMs to be imposed on an individual.”
That is not unreasonable.
There are two points to consider and I understand the attack from the Labour party. I also understand that the High Court had a problem with relocation, but I would have thought we could find a way through that.
If relocation was absolutely necessary from the point of view of protecting the public, I do not think it unreasonable —I have been listening to the shadow Home Secretary—for there to be some requirement for relocation.
I hope my hon. Friend does not mind, but I must finish in a few seconds. I will end with this point, although I would like to be able to give way.
We have a right to know that these six people are now safe to be released on the streets. That is a reasonable question. The Home Secretary’s reasonable point of view is that there must be some new evidence that they continue to be a threat to the public, and we cannot keep someone under a control order for ever on the basis of information that is two years old. I think that is her point of view, and that is how TPIMs differ from control orders. From a rational and objective point of view, that is not an unreasonable stance.
When the Minister sums up the debate, without going into operational details, I would like him to seek, as best he can, to reassure the House that those people have behaved themselves over the past two years, that there is no evidence of new involvement in terrorism, and that in his view, they will not be a threat to society. That would be entirely proper for the Minister to do. Surely all the public want is reassurance that they and their children are safe, and it is the job of us in this Parliament to ensure that those children are safe.
It is a pleasure to follow Sir Edward Leigh, who spoke for the public. It was the kind of speech that should have been made by someone on the Treasury Bench.
To join in the debate with the national union of current and former Home Secretaries, it is important to stress that nobody wants control orders or TPIMs. In our free society, no one has ever issued a control order without a heavy heart—and the current Home Secretary issued control orders before the change.
The best solution would be to have the ability to use intercepts as evidence. There is full agreement in the House on that, but Sir John Chilcot’s cross-party Privy Council review could find no practical way of doing it. I briefed the current Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, and we accepted that there was no way forward. Added to that, an authoritative review by senior counsel found that using intercept evidence would not have made a difference in nine cases they examined.
We are therefore stuck in a dilemma. The hon. Member for Gainsborough was right that there is little difference between TPIMs and control orders, apart from the two main measures we are debating. Shami Chakrabarti has described TPIMs as control orders-lite—Shami’s problem is with “control orders”; my problem is with “lite”. She is right in a way. The Home Secretary’s review came to the same conclusion as the previous Government—I was confident that it would. The argument is not about sending people through the courts. There is a small number of people whom we can neither deport nor send through the courts, so we must have a process.
We use control orders or TPIMs with a heavy heart, but there is no alternative. I have the affliction of seeing the other side of the argument, which affects all hon. Members. I can see the civil rights argument for getting rid of control orders, but I cannot see the argument for keeping TPIMs, which apply to a small number of dangerous people who could be free on our streets wreaking havoc and causing harm, and taking away relocation and the ability to renew.
It is important to stress that the people subjected to TPIMs have not simply looked at a few unsavoury websites or made a couple of inflammatory speeches—an awful lot of people would be on TPIMs if they were used in those circumstances. TPIMs, like control orders before them, are issued on the basis not of an extravagant expression of support for terrorism, but of evidence of an intention to carry out threats. As the Government’s independent reviewer puts it, the suspects are at
“the highest end of seriousness”.
There is complete consensus on that among those on the two Front Benches. When control orders were introduced in 2005, it soon became apparent that, if those subjected to them continued to live within that sphere of influence, making it easier for them to fraternise with their old associates, the order was less effective and the ability to abscond was enhanced.
I am following the right hon. Gentleman’s argument closely. Although I intend to vote with the Government, I find common ground with him on the question of relocation in one respect. Does he agree that, if terrorists move away from the more spectacular type of attack to the type that involves just a small number of them, and if people are not physically located away from one another, it makes things much harder? There will be nothing to intercept if people plan low-level attacks by meeting face to face.
Relocation does not have to be part of an order—it would be within the Home Secretary’s box of tools. There would be no argument whatsoever if there was an agreement that that might be counterproductive. I do not think we are over those kinds of threats yet—I take issue with that—but I take the general thrust of the hon. Gentleman’s point.
It would be a different matter if relocation was objected to by the courts, but that is not the case. My right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper quoted David Anderson and others. It would be a different matter if the removal of relocation was required by the Government’s independent advisers, but David Anderson thought we were going backwards on protecting the public. That is what he said in his first review, in so many words. Those on the Liberal Democrat Benches do not like to listen to Lord Carlile, and neither would I if I was in their position, but David Anderson’s predecessor said:
“On the evidence available, I am persuaded firmly—I choose my words carefully—to the view that it would be negligent to remove relocation from the main provisions.”
Both Governments’ reviewers said the same thing.
It was me who placed the control order on Ibrahim Magag, who was relocated away from London. Why was he relocated away from London? Because the ruling of Lord Justice Collins was that
“it is too dangerous to permit him to be in London even for a short period.”
That was the courts, not me. Why on earth did the current Home Secretary allow him back into London, enabling him to hail a taxi and disappear? In times past, media pressure would have meant a taxi being ordered for the Home Secretary.
As the right hon. Gentleman is making such a substantial point on relocation, and as he is experienced in the use of control orders, can he advise the House which other European Union countries have relocation as part of their protections against terrorism suspects, and, if it is not used in other EU countries, why does he think it is particularly apropos in the United Kingdom?
We could have a seminar for hours on other European countries and their much better abilities to detain, and to detain for many years, as we have seen with suspects in France. The hon. Gentleman’s Government reviewed this and decided that they needed an element that they could call a control order. The “T” in TPIMs did not stand for temporary; it stood for terrorism. Having concluded that, why would relocation be removed? That is a mystery to me. The Home Secretary herself placed the control order on Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed, before control orders were changed to TPIMs. Humiliatingly, he has absconded.
The two-year limit is completely arbitrary—that is the mystery. It is not as if a terrorist who has served a sentence is about to be released after a period in prison. TPIMs relate to people who, we had cause to believe, posed a danger. The question we have asked consistently of the Home Secretary is why, after this arbitrary period, do they suddenly not pose a threat?
I am very familiar with the activities of three of the people covered by TPIMs. Incidentally, one of them is known as DD. I am not sure if that is a reference to Mr Davis, who may well have been put under one of these orders by his own Front Bench. Those three people do not have to be engaged in any fresh activity for me to be extremely worried about their release. Indeed, it is a curious point that TPIMs come to an end if people subject to them are not engaged in any fresh terrorist activity. That suggests that TPIMs are so weak that people on them could be gaily getting involved in fresh terrorist activity. However, it is not the fresh terrorist activity I am worried about, but the original reasons for the order.
Let us go back for a moment to the Home Secretary’s words, which we have heard before. She said that there are
“a small number of people who pose a real threat to our security”,
“no responsible Government could allow these individuals to go”—[Hansard, 26 January 2011; Vol. 522, c. 307-8.]
back on the streets. The motion is genuinely trying to reach a consensus. This matter is too serious for us to score political points. Parliament is concerned that people previously thought too dangerous for our streets will now be released. We need to find a solution, and I urge the Treasury Bench and Government Members, if not to support our motion, which might be too much for them, at least to find a similar way to reach a consensus on this issue.
It is a pleasure to follow Alan Johnson, and I particularly take on board his last exhortation. He is absolutely right: when it comes to national security, party politics should recede into the background and the common interest of Members of Parliament, whether acting as legislators or residents—or as parents, as my hon. Friend Sir Edward Leigh reminded us—should guide us in our deliberations.
The TPIMs debate is finely balanced. I took part in the Bill Committee on what is now the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011, and I sit on the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which this week will publish its post-legislative report on the Act’s implementation. While it would be wrong of me to pre-empt its findings, personally, I can offer some opinions on where the balance needs to be struck. I am sure that the first principle that needs to be emphasised is accepted by most, if not all, Members. The fundamental basis from which we all start must be the rule that individual freedom should be curtailed only where there are reasonable grounds for arrest or sufficient evidence to charge a suspect, or where custody is the only appropriate sentence after a finding of guilt. Any departure from that rule has to be exercised sparingly and within the narrowest parameters, and cannot involve indefinite or permanent deprivation of liberty. Balanced against that important principle has to be the duty of the state and its agents to safeguard us in our daily lives, which is why the activities of our security and intelligence services deserve our strong support and praise.
I have seen people locked up for a long time. When they come out, their resentment and aggression can grow, and what worries me is our assumption that the aggression and resentment of these six people, after two years on TPIMs, will have lessened. I am worried about them just being released.
My hon. Friend’s point allows me to make two observations. First, we have to be careful, in setting the parameters of any orders we impose, not to heighten the sense of grievance; and secondly and most importantly, the Government have to take other measures, in terms of the resources given to the security and intelligence services, the work done by Prevent and the counter-terrorism work done day in, day out to supplement the TPIMs regime. Is there not a danger that in dwelling on the detail of TPIMs, we ignore the bigger picture and the Government’s welcome injection of extra resources into this area of activity?
The constant vigilance of our security services is not only underpinned by statute, but, as the Home Secretary said, exercised by use of the royal prerogative, which is still the residual source of authority for Government activity in this area and which I know is used daily. The motion calls on the Government to share with the Intelligence and Security Committee the full assessment of the threat or otherwise posed by the six individuals who are to exit the TPIMs regime imminently, and then subject it to a cross-party review. However well intentioned that might be, to link such a process with individual cases is misconceived, because it risks bringing a Committee of Parliament into the field of operations. It is the job of parliamentary Committees to consider the strategy and the legal structure; it is not their job to consider operational matters, and I can see any cross-party review falling foul of that problem.
I accept the hon. Gentleman’s point about the role of that Committee and its structure, which perhaps allows it to go into more intimate detail than debates on the Floor of the House would allow. However, if members of that Committee were to intervene—I am sure some of them will take part in the debate later—I think they would hesitate before allowing the ambit of the Committee to include looking at individual operational matters. That really is not the role, as I see it, of a Committee of Parliament such as the Intelligence and Security Committee.
TPIMs are already subject to a number of reviews. We have heard a lot about the independent reviewer, David Anderson, QC, and his annual reports, which give a helpful and comprehensive analysis of the effectiveness or otherwise of TPIMs. There are also, of course, quarterly reports to Parliament made by the Home Secretary, and I have already mentioned the work of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. As I understand it, the Government intend to carry out a broader review of counter-terrorism measures, which will no doubt include the operation of TPIMs. For all those reasons, it seems unnecessary to call for a cross-party review at this stage.
Let me deal with some of the points that have sparked debate this evening, the first being the question of absconsion. The very nature of such orders means that the risk of absconsion will always be present, whatever the conditions may be. The only way to prevent absconsion is to lock people up, and doing so without trial falls foul of fundamental principles that we should all share as democrats and lovers of liberty. There is an argument I have heard that the risk of absconsion would be higher if TPIM subjects remained in their local communities, but to my way of thinking it is equally arguable either way. It is equally arguable that a person placed in another part of the country, isolated and therefore disengaged from their community, would want to abscond as well.
The truth is that there is no clear evidence to support the contention that the lack of relocation powers in TPIMs has led to more absconsions. When it comes to the reasons for those absconsions, Ministers must satisfy themselves that the secret services and the police are taking every step possible to reduce the risk posed to the rest of us by such people and that suitable resources are available to deal with the situation. That is why the increase in resources by the Government is so important.
As an investigative measure, TPIMs are a bit of a misnomer in my view. I agree with the view of David Anderson that the investigatory part of TPIMs has not been effective. There is no evidence to suggest that they have in any way led to further prosecutions. What they are is a preventive measure. That was the view of the reviewer and it is certainly my view. I agree with him that TPIMs are likely to have prevented terrorist activity and, most importantly, they will have allowed resources to be released from deployment on the former control order regime, to deal with other pressing national security targets. Those are not my words; they are the words of the David Anderson in his last review, and I agree.
We have heard about exit strategies. It would be wrong to explore individual cases, but—to return to the point made by my hon. Friend Bob Stewart—some information about the work being done in the wider counter-terrorism context would be welcome, whether it be general information about the Prevent strategy or information about the work of the new extremism taskforce, which was set up in the wake of the appalling Woolwich murder.
Much has been made of time limits, yet an inescapable truth has been avoided by some Opposition speakers: that the indefinite use of control orders would inevitably be subject to legal challenge in the continuing absence of guilt. The argument about time is therefore rather an artificial one and does not advance the merits of the case much further forward.
In a nutshell, it would be wrong to characterise the introduction of TPIMs as a wholesale diminution of the Government’s resolve to tackle terrorism. To say so does no service to the issues that we are dealing with. Let us return to the approach outlined by Alan Johnson, the former Home Secretary, and rise above petty party politics.
Order. Given that hon. Members have taken their full complement and interventions to boot, the time limit will have to be reduced, with immediate effect, to six minutes.
I shall not take that personally. Because the Select Committee met at the same time as the Opposition Front Benchers called for this debate, I was not able to be here for the excellent speech of the shadow Home Secretary or to hear what the Home Secretary had to say. I would like to take up the theme started by the former Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend Alan Johnson—and, indeed, continued by Mr Buckland—in urging us to look beyond any partisanship in dealing with counter-terrorism issues.
One feature of our discussions on the Floor of the House—and it applies to Select Committee discussions, too—is the need to understand that we are living in a very dangerous age. That highlights the importance of our trying to build on the consensus that I believe is so important when dealing with counter-terrorism issues. The Select Committee is in the middle of its inquiry into counter-terrorism and is just about to look at a report on TPIMs that will be published next week. I have just read the report. I shall speak very briefly about it because, having just read it, I do not want inadvertently to leak any of it. When Members get the chance to read it, I hope they will find it to be a measured and all-party report. One feature of a Select Committee is that progress is made on an all-party basis.
I shall flag up three personal concerns. First, what on earth is going to happen to all the people who are on TPIMs and are about to be removed from them? That is an important question, and I hope that the Minister will answer it. I entirely accept what Bob Stewart said in his intervention on the hon. Member for South Swindon—that if we go to the trouble of making people subject to TPIMs, we need to think about what it will do to those people if the orders are suddenly stopped. One problem with control orders and TPIMs has been the lack of engagement with those who have been subject to them. The Government will have to introduce some kind of measure to replace the one that is about to expire for so many people, so I hope we will be able to ensure not only proper monitoring of those individuals, but appropriate engagement with them.
We heard evidence in our last session from Cerie Bullivant, a young man who, through association with another individual whose brother was a subject of interest to the security services, was put under a control order. His view was that control orders and TPIMs were exactly the same, but he felt that his life had been transformed by the experience—he became even bitterer because he had been made the subject of such an order. When we are dealing with situations of this kind, we must have these orders, but we must also engage with these people. If we do not, when the order ends, we will be in the same position or an even worse one than when we started.
Secondly, I am still not clear about what has happened to the two individuals who have escaped from their TPIMs—Ibrahim Magag and Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed. We have had no explanation of what action has been taken. I recall statements being made by Ministers and I know there was a dispute about whether the passports had been retained by the Home Office and the police. Frankly, however, we must have clarity on those points of detail. We know the circumstances of the two individuals who decided to break their orders, but as we come towards the expiry of the orders for the others, we still do not know where these people are. Presumably, we will make no attempts to find them, for what is the point of trying to find people when their orders have expired?
Finally, I want to say something about foreign fighters. The Committee took evidence from Charles Farr of the Home Office, and we have heard speeches from the head of the security services. These are issues of great importance to the House. What concerns us is not just those who go abroad, but those who come back and then infect other people with their ideology. We need a new counter-terrorism strategy that brings the community on side with us so that they are our eyes and ears. We cannot simply feel that we can prevent this happening; without engagement, we will not be in a position to deal with these dangerous times.
It is a pleasure to follow the Chair of the Select Committee.
A number of principles are at the heart of what we stand for, which is the way of life for which we are fighting. We may not agree on all of them, but one of them, surely, is that people are innocent until proven guilty. That is how our legal system starts. No matter how awful the crime of which someone is accused, that person should have his day in court, and should be found guilty or not guilty. However, Labour Members have spoken up against that in the House. They have said that when someone has never been convicted of a crime, the key should be thrown away. When we were discussing the legislation in Committee, the then shadow Minister, Mr Sutcliffe—I am pleased to see that he is in the Chamber now—said
“there are times when people have to be outside the legal framework.”––[Official Report, Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Public Bill Committee,
I do not agree with that as a principle for the rule of law in this country.
May I point out that it is not just members of the Labour party who are very concerned when people say that they want to do us harm and we cannot obtain evidence against them? I say that we must do something to keep those people out of harm’s way so that they do not harm our people.
I understand what the hon. Gentleman is trying to achieve, but I hope he would stand up for the rule of law, because it is fought for in many places. People who have committed terrorism offences, of which there is a huge range, should be tried, and if they are convicted they should go to jail for a long time. That is the best place for someone who is dangerous.
The hon. Gentleman has already conceded that he does not stand by his own point. He supports the TPIM regime, which actually allows someone to be punished for up to two years without being taken to trial and convicted. Why does he support that regime?
The hon. Gentleman can have a look at the report of the debate in which I described the method that I should prefer, which is far more focused on prosecution, and note the amendments that I tabled.
The system that was set up by the last Government involved secret evidence. People did not know what their orders were based on. There was a huge range of punishments, including long curfews—virtual house arrests—and there was this awful internal relocation. People were not even allowed to be in their own homes. All that could continue for an indefinite period. To me, internal exile without trial does not sound like what I would expect this country to be doing; it sounds like the way in which the Soviet Union would behave. In the review that he carried out for the Government, Lord Macdonald said of relocation:
“This is a form of internal exile, which is utterly inimical to traditional British norms…It is disproportionate and there is no justification for its retention.”
That view was expressed on the basis of a detailed study.
Is it not also the case that whenever that regime is in place, the Government of the day—acting as judge and jury in the case of people who have never been brought to trial—will see the Opposition trample over our civil liberties in order to look tougher than the Home Secretary, and try to scare people about what may happen with no evidence that it will happen at all?
That is a good point, although I should say in fairness to the Labour party that it has been authoritarian in office and authoritarian out of office. It has at least been consistent in that regard.
Control orders simply did not work very effectively. Astonishingly, there were people who went to court, were tried and were found not guilty, and who then had a control order slapped on them although they had just been acquitted. As we have already heard, a huge number of people absconded. Seven people who had apparently been very carefully monitored wandered off. More important, not a single person on a control order or a TPIM has ever been convicted. As Ken Macdonald 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.”
The view of our expert, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, was that those measures were not helping to prosecute the people who should be prosecuted if they have committed an offence.
The Chair of the Select Committee described the case of Cerie Bullivant, who attended our Committee last week. He was found not guilty and the High Court threw out the control order, two years after the Home Office had imposed it. He has said that
“had I actually been someone dangerous, with criminal intent, the control order wouldn’t have stopped me. Instead all it achieved was to beat me down for two years and change my life forever.”
He said that it would have been no tougher to go on the run under the relocation powers. He went on:
“You don’t have a life while you are under a control order. Everything is as it says on the tin. It is claustrophobic and it is controlled. Every day every sort of action you are taking is being monitored. With all of the conditions upon you that you are constantly worried about breaching and trying not to breach, it is like having a sword hanging over your neck.”
He is a British citizen living in Britain. He had not committed an offence. He was found not guilty and the High Court scrapped the control order. This approach runs against our fundamental sense of British justice, and it does not work. It did not lead to the convictions that I and others would like to see.
There is a collection of things that affect the way in which people see their role in society. Let us consider the control orders and the huge range of anti-terror powers created by the last Government. It was claimed that they were put in place for our safety, but they were abused time and again. We have heard about the push from Tony Blair to allow people to be detained for 90 days without even telling them what they were accused of. We also remember when the anti-terror powers, apparently put in place for our safety, were used when the 82-year-old Labour party member Walter Wolfgang was thrown out of the party conference for heckling about the Iraq war. That is an example of those rules being abused. When I think of a terrorist, I certainly do not think of an old man shouting at a conference. Labour has still not learnt, however.
These measures have a financial cost. They have a moral cost to our country when we tell people around the world how they should behave. They also have the cost that Keith Vaz touched on—namely, the message that they send to people in this country. If we ask many of the people in the Muslim community how they perceive their interactions with this country, they will talk about the pressures resulting from such measures. They will talk about the alienation that they suffer as a result of the schedule 7 searches at ports. They will also talk about the effects of stop and search—the Home Secretary is quite rightly reviewing that policy. When we send people a message that they are suspects because of what they believe, they become more separated from our society and less able to engage. The right hon. Gentleman was quite right to highlight the concerns about that, and the effects that all the rhetoric can have.
Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the report from his Government, led by the very man whom he has just been quoting, Lord Macdonald, found no evidence that control orders had the kind of effects that he is talking about?
We can argue about that, but the noble Lord made it absolutely clear that relocation had no place in this. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept that point. He only has to talk to members of the Muslim community around the country, as I have done on many occasions, to find out how they feel victimised by the rhetoric and the legislation that was passed.
We have to get national security right, which is why I want to see a far greater focus on prosecution. I have tabled amendments to try to achieve that. We cannot sacrifice our way of life and our longest-held, proudest traditions because we want to look as though we are being tough, which is what we see in the Opposition motion. I am pleased that TPIMs are much lighter than control orders and do not run for an indefinite period, and that we have got rid of the awful idea of internal exile. I want to see more support given to investigations, and I want people to be convicted in court whenever necessary. That is the right approach, and it is the one that this Government are heading towards. I am disappointed that the Opposition are not standing up for the things that this country holds dear.
It was a pleasure to be on the Bill Committee with Dr Huppert. He has been consistent in his arguments about the threat to individual and civil rights, and I understand his point. As the former Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend Alan Johnson, has said, none of us wants to be in this position. We all want the rule of law to be in place, but there are circumstances, when we are dealing with a small number of individuals who want to do harm to the country, in which we have to take exceptional measures. That is the reason for control orders and that is why we are in the situation we are in today. It was a political decision: the Government of the day—the coalition—decided they did not want control orders, for the reasons that Members have set out tonight. Instead, they wanted to introduce TPIMs.
It is good to see that the Minister who took the Bill through the Bill Committee for the coalition Government is in his place. I had the privilege of leading for the Opposition. It was a good Bill Committee in the sense that we had 10 sessions relating to the very important issues that were at stake. Mr Buckland served on the Committee, as did my right hon. Friend Hazel Blears and our colleague, whom we have sadly lost, the former Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East. He also served on the Intelligence and Security Committee and brought great expertise to bear.
Why are we here today? Why have the Opposition had to bring forward a debate in Opposition time to ask the Home Secretary and the Government what is going to happen at the end of the month when a number of people who have already declared themselves a threat to our country are going to be released because the TPIMs regime has a time limit—and there is nothing in its place to deal with these individuals?
My right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle said he had concerns and was aware of three of the six or seven people involved, whom he considered at the time to be a threat to the nation. We have heard nothing today to allay the concerns that he and I have. We have information about the individuals under this TPIMs regime, and until I hear something different, I will consider them to be a threat. I am happy to say that is not my responsibility, however. It is the responsibility of the Home Secretary. It is the Home Secretary who takes out the TPIMs, acting on the recommendations of, and information given to her by, the security forces. I hope the Minister will be able to allay our fears about these individuals who are going to be released because the TPIMs regime only lasts for two years, and there is nothing in place to deal with them.
I noticed that the briefings sent out said there would be a tailored response by the security services to each of these individuals. I understand the Minister cannot go into the detail of what that tailored response will be, but we need to know whether these people are still a threat to our nation and whether they are going to be treated as such.
I christened the TPIMs mini-control orders, which the Minister did not like at the time and I am sure he will not like now. The only difference from the control orders was the issue of relocation and the two-year limit, which went against the advice of the then independent person, Lord Carlile, and the former Home Secretary, Lord Howard. It is interesting to note the views of former Home Secretaries, who have had the unfortunate responsibility of dealing with the nature of this threat. I do not believe that the threat has lifted in any real way; we still live in a dangerous time, and that is why it is right and important to give thanks to the police and the Security Service for the excellent work they do. We should never underestimate, or fail to reflect on, the work they do to stop threats being executed.
I hope that we do reflect on this issue, though it is sad that that has to be done on an Opposition day. I agree with the hon. Member for South Swindon that we should try to find a way to discuss these matters without being partisan. As I have said, the Government of the day took the clear decision that they did not think control orders were appropriate and they considered TPIMs to be a better measure, to restore what they said was the right balance between the individual and society.
The terrorists have only got to get it right once, whereas the security forces have got to meet all the threats. Surely what should be of concern to us all is the safety of the nation. I believe that if there are six people who are a threat to us, we should know about it and we should know we are going to defend our nation in the way we have tried to defend it before. This is an important debate, and we need answers.
I raised the issue of cost. We were told that control orders cost about £1.8 million per individual, yet we are now told the cost is nearer £18 million per individual. Will the Minister deal with that point, and also with the cost of the legal cases since 2012 getting somewhere near £2 million? I am sure we can deal with the details another day, but the principal question is: is the country safer because of TPIMs? We hope that the Minister can give us some positive responses in his reply.
Let me start by reminding the House why this debate is taking place today, and to do so I will quote from today’s The Times:
“A terror suspect feared to have been plotting a Mumbai-style attack in London is to be free to walk the streets in days despite MI5 warning against lifting restrictions on his movements.
The security service said there was a ‘real risk’ that the man, known as CD, would attempt to revive plans for terror attacks in the UK if curbs were lifted.”
The report continues:
“Court papers show that the security services judged that CD would be able quickly and covertly to purchase firearms for use in his attack plans and that without a Tpim in place there was a ‘real risk’ that he would seek to revive his plans to carry out attacks in the UK or engage in other terrorism related activity.”
This man is about to go free from all restrictions that have been previously imposed on him, despite the fact that in September 2012, just 15 months ago, the Home Secretary described CD as “a leading figure” in an extremist network in north London, who had displayed a “very high level” of “security awareness”. I found it deeply disappointing that despite repeated questions from myself and from the shadow Home Secretary, the Home Secretary refused to answer a very straightforward and pertinent question: does she still believe that her assessment, delivered to the House in September 2012, is relevant? Does she still believe that CD is a threat? She refused to answer that, so we must conclude that the answer is yes.
Another question to ask is: do Ministers trust our security services? Do they trust the judgment of our security services? I found it odd, almost surreal, that during the debate the Minister for Crime Prevention, Norman Baker, who wrote a book slandering MI5 for alleged complicity in the murder of Dr David Kelly, was sitting supporting the Home Secretary and the release of a number of highly dangerous criminals—terrorists—from their obligations under TPIMs. He was sitting there during the debate offering his support, and Ministers sometimes have to be wary about whose support they encourage.
If we have in our country a number of individuals whom we can all agree pose a risk but cannot be deported or charged, they must be contained. If control orders, with appropriate judicial oversight, result in those individuals being subject to restrictions for an indefinite period, that is a consequence we should be prepared to tolerate. I have to take issue with Dr Huppert—he would be disappointed if I did not do so—because I disagreed with almost everything he said, apart from one thing: he said that control orders did not contribute whatsoever to the conviction rate of suspected terrorists. He is absolutely right about that, but of course he is entirely wrong to imagine that that was ever the point of control orders. Control orders were put in place to prevent terrorist acts from happening—to protect individual members of the public; they were never intended as a mechanism to increase the conviction rate of terrorists.
Let us consider the current alternative to control orders. If an individual spends two years dreaming about the carnage he wishes to wreak on the wider population, but does not act on it, he will be released to walk the streets to associate with whomever he likes. The idea is absurd: if someone behaves themselves for two years while they know that their movements and communications are being monitored, they are guaranteed to be relieved of those restrictions because they will be deemed no longer to be a threat—not because they are a reformed character but because they have managed to resist the temptation to plan anyone’s death for a couple of years. Why do we not give them an OBE while we are at it?
Control orders, although despised by the civil liberties lobby, were a proportionate response to the threat of terrorism—they were proportionate because of the scale and nature of the threat posed by Islamist terrorism. Yet too many in this Chamber, on both sides of the House, do not recognise the scale or the nature of that threat. They claim that the threat is no greater than that previously posed by the IRA and that British foreign policy is as much to blame as this hateful religious ideology. They convince themselves that everything did not change after 9/11. They are wrong; everything did change. We need a legislative framework that will provide a proportionate response to this new form of terrorism. A regime that allows people whom the Home Secretary and the security services consider to be a threat to walk our streets does not deserve the support of this House.
The first priority of any Government must be the protection of their citizens. In this country, we take for granted the freedoms and liberties that have been built up over many centuries. Do many of our constituents think about the threats that are posed by Islamic terrorists? No, they do not, and that is quite right as they have to go about their daily business. None the less, there is a serious threat. My hon. Friend Mr Harris has just mentioned the fact that some people believe that this threat is similar to that posed by the IRA. It is not similar to IRA terrorism. It is not similar to other terrorist organisations that act against states. Ideologically, this is a corrupted version of Islam that is hellbent on taking away the liberties and the way of life that we have built up over many centuries and that we in this House support. It also involves individuals who are prepared to take part in atrocities, including by taking their own lives, against all types of communities. That was certainly not the case with other terrorist organisations. What we are dealing with here is a new type of threat.
I agree with previous speakers when they asked whether, in an ideal world, we would have control orders or TPIMs. No, we would not. There is a recognition that, in a small group of cases, the state needs to act to protect its citizens. Mr Buckland, who is not in his place, said that we should not make this a party political matter. I must say that that is a bit rich coming from the Conservative party or the Liberal Democrat party, which made it a very political matter at the previous election.
I do not know what fantasy world Dr Huppert lives in, but it is clear that he has a distorted view of control orders and the TPIMs arrangement. I know that Government Members scoffed when I suggested that the courts were doing their job when they turned down control orders. Well, they were; it was built into the process. The hon. Gentleman stated that the relocation of people was tantamount to a Soviet-style regime. No, it was not. In that system, the High Court could review cases and, in some instances, they overturned them. It was doing its job as defined by the legislation. Four cases were rejected. The idea that the Home Secretary has put over today that the courts were the reason for changing control orders was nailed by the independent reviewer, David Anderson, in his report. He said:
“The possibility of relocation has now been removed. That step was not required by the courts (which had indeed shown themselves generally supportive of relocation as a deterrent to TRA”— terrorist-related activity.
In an ideal world, we would want to prosecute such cases, but it is not possible. That does not mean that those individuals are not dangerous to our citizens and our way of life, but what TPIMs have done—they were referred to by Sir Edward Leigh as control orders-lite, which is exactly what they are—is to affect two fundamental issues: the arbitrary two-year time limit and relocation. I know that the Liberal Democrats might not want to be reminded of being lectured by Lord Carlile, but what he said is important and interesting. He said:
“With my experience from the beginning of control orders until early this year, I wonder why we are troubling to replace a functioning system with another that has almost entirely the same arms, body and legs, but…there is one leg missing from the Bill, and for now, in my view, it gives this legislation a distinct limp. It is the continuing power to order relocation, subject, of course, to the usual court procedures.”
Again, that is something that the hon. Member for Cambridge seems to forget about. Lord Carlile went on to say:
“On the evidence available, I am persuaded firmly—I choose my words carefully—to the view that it would be negligent to remove relocation from the main provisions.”—[Hansard, House of Lords, 5 October 2011; Vol. 730, c. 1176.]
Clearly, the TPIMs system has taken two of the fundamental provisions away. The question for the Government and the Home Secretary today, which she refused constantly to answer, was about the six individuals who will come off TPIMs in the next week. What will happen to them? She gave us an assurance that the Security Service has put in place the necessary monitoring systems, but we need to know about that as the public need that reassurance. Without it, people who are a threat to the liberties we take for granted in this country will walk free on our streets. It is not good enough for the Home Secretary simply to say, “Trust me, this will happen.” These people are either a threat or not a threat, but the public need to know.
I do not often agree with the editorial of The Sun, which said this morning:
“The Coalition is relaxing terror controls just as Britain enters a perilous era.”
My hon. Friend Mr Jones reminded us at the start of his speech that the first priority of any Government should be to provide national security for its citizens. My right hon. Friend Keith Vaz reminded us that, sadly, we are living in dangerous times. Any changes to the regime for dealing with people who threaten our country and our citizens must therefore be dealt with very seriously. That is why the hon. Members for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) and for South Swindon (Mr Buckland) said that this is too big for party politics. It is an issue on which all political parties should work together in the national interest and, essentially, that is what the Opposition motion does. It suggests exactly where we should be going.
My right hon. Friend Mr Straw, with all his experience, clearly spelt out the difference between control orders and TPIMs—essentially, the introduction of an arbitrary time limit and the removal of the relocation element. Under the TPIM system that the Government have put in place, they have already lost two individuals who were subject to such measures so, in that respect, there have been failures in the regime. There are still questions about what happened with those two individuals and they have not all been satisfactorily answered.
One advantage of speaking towards the end of the debate is that one has the benefit of listening to the wisdom of all Members, which is significant in this case, but I still do not understand why exactly the individuals who are currently on TPIMs will go off them next month and how that is a secure process. When pressed, the Home Secretary did not give full assurances. She suggested that she felt comfortable with the process, but I do not think that those assurances were strong enough for this House or, more importantly, citizens outside it.
She was certainly reticent about sharing that information with the House. Interestingly, one individual who absconded did not have a passport but had entered the country with some other identification about which we were not given further details. The plot thickens.
It is clear that nobody wants TPIMs or control orders, and it would be much better to prosecute those involved in terrorism. But we have heard from the Home Secretary and two eminent former Home Secretaries that in a small number of cases evidence is inadmissible because it would compromise security, and that means that alternative measures need to be in place. As my right hon. Friend Alan Johnson said, that applies to a very small number of individuals, but they pose a serious danger to the public and the public would expect us to have powers in place to secure our security in regard to those cases. My right hon. Friend said that he knows these cases inside out and expressed concern about the future behaviour of those individuals. Let us hope that his concerns are ill founded and that the Home Secretary’s assurances are well founded. If the opposite is true, we will all pay the price, which none of us wants.
“at the highest end of seriousness, even by standards of international terrorism.”
These are very serious cases. They are not trivial. These individuals are not members of organisations like the scouts. They are people who are involved in activities of serious concern. The evidence is there.
Next month, the six individuals currently subject to a TPIM will no longer be subject to a TPIM. In my simple world, either they do not need a TPIM now or they need one in the future. If there is no TPIM in the future, we need more clarity from the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, James Brokenshire. He is a good Minister and I hope that he will be able to give more clarity than the Home Secretary was able to give about the strength of powers that are in place to ensure that these six individuals do not pose a threat to citizens of the UK or elsewhere.
Unfortunately, the Government first weakened the powers of control orders by removing the relocation element when the TPIM process was involved, and now all powers to manage these suspects will end. There is a lack of clarity, but that is what seems to be happening, because of an essentially arbitrary two-year limit after which these people who are considered to be a real threat turn into pumpkins of no threat. That does not appear at all credible.
As the shadow Home Secretary spelt out clearly in opening the debate, the Labour party wants necessary but proportionate powers to manage the dangers that these individuals pose. It has persistently and consistently offered to work with the Government in the national interest to ensure that appropriate powers are taken forward on a cross-party basis to protect our citizens from that small group of people who pose such a risk.
Today the House is debating the Government’s first responsibility, which is to keep their citizens safe, in this case from acts of terror, and the expiry of the six TPIM orders on individuals who have been identified as posing a terrorist threat, but who will all have restrictions removed from them, regardless of the security assessment, because of the two-year limit on the life of the orders brought in by the coalition Government.
Different views have been expressed, but one thing unites the House: we would all prefer not to need TPIMs or control orders. We would all prefer to see terrorist suspects prosecuted. That would be fairer, more effective and cheaper, but it is not always possible. We are debating how to deal most effectively and fairly with the small number of exceptional cases that cannot be prosecuted. As the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC, has said, those on TPIMs are accused of
“terrorist activities at the highest end of seriousness, even by standards of international terrorism.”
For the past decade, Labour and the Conservatives have agreed on the need to have terrorism orders that are restrictive but viewed by successive Home Secretaries and the High Court to be necessary and proportionate. The current Home Secretary decided to weaken those powers, first by removing the power to relocate, and secondly by introducing an automatic ending of such orders after two years. That leaves a series of questions about her judgment.
As six of the individuals subject to TPIMs will have all restrictions ended this month, owing to the legislation that the Home Secretary introduced, the questions asked by my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary still need addressing: what risk does each man pose, and what action has the Home Secretary taken to reduce the risk? Parliament needs to know whether TPIMs are still fit for purpose and whether reforms are now needed in the interests of public safety. It is important that she recognises that these are genuine concerns.
We heard many excellent contributions in this high-quality debate, including from two former Home Secretaries, my right hon. Friends the Members for Blackburn (Mr Straw) and for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson); from the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee; from the former shadow Minister who led for Labour when the TPIMs Bill went through Committee, my hon. Friend Mr Sutcliffe; and from my hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow South (Mr Harris), for North Durham (Mr Jones) and for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin). We also heard three contributions from the Government Benches.
Given the number of points that have been made, I will limit my remarks to the issues that I think the Government still need to respond to. First, the TPIMs regime was supposed to allow more prosecutions at the same time as providing protection for the public. Will the Minister confirm whether any of the individuals subject to TPIMs have actually been prosecuted for terrorist-related activity?
Secondly, we know that two of the people subject to TPIMs have absconded. The fact that the power of relocation is no longer available to the Home Secretary might have something to do with that. Will the Minister agree to reflect on whether it was wise to ignore the advice of the former Conservative Home Secretary, the noble Lord Howard, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, the noble Lord Carlile, and the police when removing the power of relocation?
When TPIMs replaced control orders, Parliament was promised that the introduction of those weaker powers would be accompanied by extra surveillance capacity. The Public Bill Committee was promised an elaborate web of 24-hour surveillance provided by specially trained officers. The cost was predicted to rise from £1.8 million a year for a control order to £18 million a year for a TPIM, but Ibrahim Magag disappeared by getting into a taxi and Mohamed did the same by donning a burqa and removing his tag. Will the Minister set out whether the TPIMs regime provided the direct surveillance of suspects that Parliament was promised? For example, was either of those suspects under direct surveillance when they disappeared?
The Home Secretary pointed out that individuals had in the past been taken off control orders. Indeed they were, but the difference is that in those cases the individuals were no longer deemed to pose a high risk. Now the decision has been taken away from the Government with the automatic ending of a TPIM after a maximum of two years. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, when pressing the Home Secretary on her personal view on when individuals should come off TPIMs, asked whether she thought that they posed a risk. She refused to answer.
The Home Secretary was also asked whether she thought that the person known as CD still posed a risk. As she was previously able to tell us what the risk assessment was for Magag and Mohamed, it is rather unfortunate that she was unable to be as candid on the Floor of the House in this important debate about these individuals.
Let me say clearly to Dr Huppert that nobody wants people to remain on TPIM orders indefinitely, but we do want a proper risk assessment as to when a person should come off a TPIM order, not an arbitrary two-year time limit. That is our position, and I hope he will reflect on that.
Control orders and TPIMs have had some parliamentary oversight from the Intelligence and Security Committee, and that vital form of accountability needs to continue. The Opposition would like an assurance that the ISC will be given the individual risk assessments for each person who is currently subject to a TPIM order and the individual plans for them once they are no longer subject to it.
It would be helpful if the Minister said a little more about what is going to happen after these orders come to an end. He has referred to specially tailored packages, and my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham asked for more information about exactly what that would mean. I understand the constraints that the Minister is under, but a more general comment would be welcome.
When TPIMs replaced control orders, the extra cost continued to be borne by the Home Office. Will the Minister say where any extra funding will come from and clarify whether Ministers will remain responsible for the oversight of these individuals once the TPIM orders have been lifted?
I want to ask the Minister about any additional powers that might be required. The Opposition have offered assistance and co-operation to bring in necessary but proportionate measures on a cross-party basis. My right hon. Friend Hazel Blears referred to the issue that David Anderson raised about the possibility of a provision akin to a licence condition being imposed when someone comes off a TPIM order. The Opposition would be willing to consider that with the Minister if he were willing to engage in such discussions.
Will the Minister comment on the restriction on foreign travel? When someone is placed on a TPIM order, their passport should be confiscated, although that did not happen in the case of Mohamed, and we have not got to the bottom of where the passport is or whether it is still in existence. Seven of the current TPIM suspects are thought to have travelled abroad to Pakistan, Syria or Somalia to attend terrorist training camps, where they develop the expertise and skills that make them so dangerous. I heard what the Home Secretary said about the use of the royal prerogative, but will the Minister confirm whether any additional powers are needed to stop these individuals travelling abroad once they are no longer restricted by TPIM orders?
We hope that the Minister will acknowledge that we have used an Opposition day debate to raise an important matter, to offer co-operation on an issue of national security, and to work together on a cross-party basis to make sure that we have legislation that is fit for purpose.
Let me say at the outset that this Government regard protecting the British public from terrorism as absolutely one of the most important functions of the state. I stress the seriousness and weight that the Home Secretary, other Ministers and I attach to the exercise of these powers, and therefore the careful consideration that we give to them.
We have been consistently clear that violence and extremism of all kinds have no place in today’s society. We believe that individuals who engage in terrorist activity should be prosecuted wherever and whenever possible. The right place for terrorists is behind bars. In that context—I am sure that this will be supported by Members in all parts of the House—I recognise and pay tribute to the work of the police and the security services in protecting the security of our country and pursuing those who would seek to do us harm.
However, where individuals who pose a threat to this country and its people cannot be prosecuted or deported, we need powerful measures that can help manage the risk. My hon. Friend Sir Edward Leigh made that point clearly. That was exactly why we took stock and reviewed the control orders that the previous Government had used. Despite what a number of Members have said today, it was clear to us that control orders were not working as they were intended to.
During the six years for which control orders existed, seven people absconded. Moreover, they were being steadily eroded by the courts. A total of eight were either quashed or revoked because they were thought wrong in principle, because they were believed no longer to be necessary or because the previous Government were unable to make a disclosure ordered by the court. Furthermore, in four cases the relocation of individuals subject to control orders was quashed. That was why we judged that the state of affairs was untenable. The British public rightly expect protection from dangerous individuals, and we needed a robust system that would provide effective and workable restrictions. We therefore ordered a lengthy and considered review of our counter-terrorism powers against the risk that then existed.
We judge that TPIMs have proved effective and workable. They have consistently been upheld by the courts, they have been endorsed by two separate independent reviewers of counter-terrorism legislation and they have the confidence of the police and the Security Service. To quote David Anderson, they are a “harsh measure” that provide some of the toughest controls possible in the democratic world. They provide for a comprehensive range of restrictions that can be placed on terror suspects, including daily reporting; overnight residence at a specified address; a ban on overseas travel; the wearing of a global positioning system tracking tag; limits on the use of telephones, computers and financial services and on association; and exclusion from specific places such as ports and airports. They give the police certainty about how individuals will be managed. In his first annual report on TPIMs, David Anderson stated:
“In terms of security, the TPIM regime continues to provide a high degree of protection against untriable and undeportable persons who are judged on substantial grounds to be dangerous terrorists”.
The right hon. Gentleman needs to understand—I am sure he will recognise this, as a former Home Secretary—that we need to focus on the management of dangerous offenders’ exit strategies and how they are released. As the Home Secretary made clear, the courts struck down relocation on a number of occasions. Our concern has been, and always will be, about having a continuing arrangement to provide assurance about the management of such offenders. Most importantly, the police and the Security Service, whose opinions are after all the ones we should listen to on the subject, say that TPIMs have been effective in disrupting individuals and networks that pose a threat to this country’s security. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made clear, however, they are only one weapon in the fight against extremism and terrorism.
The right hon. Gentleman and other Labour Members have implied that, in essence, the measure was a silver bullet and the solution, but that absolutely was not the case. The courts have challenged relocation in individual cases, and it is therefore important for us to reflect on that in the management of those individuals.
As my colleague the Home Secretary has made clear, TPIMs are only one weapon in our fight against extremism and terrorism. They are used only in exceptional circumstances as part of measures designed to disrupt a person’s activities—in other words, part of the bigger picture that my hon. Friend Mr Buckland mentioned. Alongside TPIMs, the Government provided additional funding of tens of millions of pounds a year to the Security Service and the police, substantially increasing their surveillance and counter-terrorism capabilities. In addition to TPIMs, a range of tough measures are in place to disrupt the activities of people engaged in terrorist activities, and prevent people from becoming radicalised.
We are using the royal prerogative to remove passports from British nationals whom we believe want to travel abroad to take part in terrorist and extremist activity, and who on their return would pose a threat to this country. We have strong controls in place at British ports, and the National Border Targeting Centre is able to check advance passenger information provided by carriers, and identify any known persons of interest who intend to travel. We have the power to exclude extremists and preachers of hate from coming to this country, and where necessary we may consider the use of other disruptive powers, including deprivation of British citizenship where an individual is a dual national and the Home Secretary determines that such action is conducive to the public good.
I am grateful; the hon. Gentleman has a couple of minutes to tell Parliament what it needs to know. In the judgment of the Home Secretary, which of the six people who will be released from their TPIMs, and who were considered so dangerous that they needed to have those restrictive measures, still pose a security threat?
As the Home Secretary made clear, and as I said in my contribution this afternoon, the police and the Security Service have stated that TPIMs have been effective in reducing the risk associated with those individuals. The right hon. Gentleman, and others, have sought to make a point about the risk assessments. Those have been made but they are an operational matter for the police and the Security Service. It would seem that right hon. and hon. Members are seeking to have information disclosed on the Floor of the House that could make it that much harder for the police and the Security Service to do their job of protecting this country.
The Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 provides for the appointment of an independent reviewer of the operation of that Act, and for that reviewer to report annually on the outcome of that review. David Anderson has been appointed to perform that function and reviews all TPIM cases. No doubt he will cover those coming off their TPIMs in his annual report.
We are returning dangerous foreign nationals who have no right to be here back to their home countries through deportation with assurances, just as we did with Abu Qatada last July—something the previous Labour Government failed to do. We are working to do more than ever to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. I am clear that the best place for a terrorist is in a cell, and those who endanger lives and threaten our national security deserve to receive long sentences. Unlike under the Labour party, which was content for convicted terrorists to be released halfway through their sentences, under new proposals, criminals convicted of serious terrorism offences and who receive a determinate sentence will no longer be automatically released at the halfway point of their prison sentences without any assessment.