Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001: Detainees

– in the House of Lords at 11:00 am on 10th April 2003.

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Photo of Lord Ahmed Lord Ahmed Labour 11:00 am, 10th April 2003

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the total number of people held in custody under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001; what are their nationalities; and how many have been convicted.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State (Criminal Policy), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice System)

My Lords, 15 foreign nationals have so far been detained using powers in Part 4 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. Eight were detained in December 2001, one in February 2002, two in April 2002, one in October 2002, one in November 2002 and a further two in January 2003. Of the total detained, two have voluntarily left the United Kingdom. The other 13 remain in detention. They have been detained under an immigration power. They are not being held pending criminal charges.

Under the Special Immigration Appeals Commission's direction under Section 11 of the Contempt of Court Act 1987, we are directed that,

"there shall be no publication of any matter which may identify them or any of them".

Therefore, the nationalities of those detained must remain undisclosed.

Photo of Lord Ahmed Lord Ahmed Labour

My Lords, I thank my noble and learned friend for his reply. Can he tell the House whether any of those detained have been involved with any terrorist activities in this country? Were their arrests due to intelligence received from their countries of origin or from their activities in this country? Will they be extradited to their countries of origin or will they remain in custody for a very long time and, if so, for what period?

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State (Criminal Policy), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice System)

My Lords, I shall not comment on any intelligence material. As I said in the Answer to the Question, their detention comes under an immigration power. We wish to deport them from this country because they are suspected terrorists. We cannot deport them because we fear what may happen to them if we do so. Therefore, they are detained in this country until they can be deported.

As I indicated, the detainees can leave voluntarily if they wish, and two of them have done so. Therefore, criminal charges are not pending. How long they remain in custody will depend on the view of the Secretary of State and the review of their position by SIAC. SIAC must consider their position and the hearings will start on 19th May. After a conclusion has been reached, the decision will be reviewed every six months thereafter.

Photo of Lord Biffen Lord Biffen Conservative

My Lords, will the detainees be deported to countries which operate the death penalty?

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State (Criminal Policy), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice System)

My Lords, the country to which they would be deported, if they agreed to go, would depend on the nationality of each individual defendant. I cannot say whether or not those countries have the death penalty.

Photo of Lord Marsh Lord Marsh Crossbench

My Lords, given the current circumstances around the world in which the death toll from terrorism currently runs well into the thousands, is it not perfectly reasonable that the authorities should take a considerable interest in persons who have been involved in terrorism, whether in this country or anywhere else?

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State (Criminal Policy), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice System)

My Lords, it is perfectly reasonable. We have balanced the rights of the individual against the national security of the state. The approach that we have taken is sensible and has been approved by the courts as being both sensible and lawful.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Liberal Democrat

My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is always preferable that suspects should go through due process? Can he say how many people arrested under this legislation have subsequently gone through the normal processes of the courts following a charge?

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State (Criminal Policy), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice System)

My Lords, the Question relates to Part 4 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act. I gave the numbers in the Answer. The total was 15 foreign nationals. I repeat that this is not a precedent to criminal proceedings. This matter comes under an immigration power. We would wish to remove those people from the country because we believe that they pose a threat, but we are not prepared to put them in the danger that would arise from their being deported. Therefore, these are not criminal proceedings; they are immigration powers intended to protect the state and to protect the interests of the defendant.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I refer to an earlier reply of the Minister in which he stated that the detainees have not as yet appeared in front of SIAC. If that is the case, has no one looked at them since their arrest, which occurred a considerable time ago?

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State (Criminal Policy), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice System)

My Lords, the point first raised in relation to SIAC was whether or not the derogation from the European convention was lawful. That matter was not resolved until October 2002 and, indeed, a further appeal is possible. However, the merits of the cases are now to be considered by SIAC in accordance with the provisions of the Act, and that is due to start in May. Initially, the detainees' position was looked at by the Home Secretary.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Conservative

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for the helpful answers that he has given today on these difficult issues. He referred to legal procedures that are coming into effect with regard to SIAC. Can he say something about the special advocate procedure? His noble friend Lord Filkin, in reply to my noble friend Lord Bridgeman, said that that would be kept under review. Can the Minister say what kind of review it will be and under what timescale it will be carried out?

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State (Criminal Policy), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice System)

My Lords, the special advocate procedure involves someone being appointed to represent the detainee at SIAC. That person is entitled to hear closed evidence which the detainee himself would not be able to hear. I do not believe that any specific review of the role of the special advocate is intended to take place. The special advocate is there to protect the interests of the detainee but in a way that also protects the national security of the state.

Photo of Lord Roberts of Conwy Lord Roberts of Conwy Conservative

My Lords, are any of the 13 remaining detainees required or wanted as international terrorists in other countries?

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State (Criminal Policy), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice System)

My Lords, I am not prepared to make any comment about the details surrounding any of the detainees.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Liberal Democrat

My Lords, some of the detainees may be from Algeria. Can the Minister explain the difference between our attitude to the Government of Algeria and that of the French Government?

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State (Criminal Policy), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice System)

My Lords, I am not prepared to say anything that indicates the nationality of the detainees.