Abu Qatada

– in the House of Lords at 11:23 am on 1st April 2004.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Ahmed Lord Ahmed Labour 11:23 am, 1st April 2004

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they can confirm recent media reports that the Al'Qaeda cleric Abu Qatada has provided information to the British security services.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, the Security Service had three meetings with Abu Qatada during 1996 and 1997. Information on that is provided in the open determination handed down by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission on 8 March 2004.

Photo of Lord Ahmed Lord Ahmed Labour

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for her reply. Will she confirm whether Omar Bakri and Abu Hamza are also providing information to security services? If not, why have they not been deported to their countries of origin, as they are working against the interests of our community in our country, inciting hatred between communities and encouraging the recruitment of young people into militancy? Is she aware that any threats of terrorism to Britain—London or anywhere else—are also threats to the British Muslim community? Does she agree that reports of Islamic terrorism and bombs are offensive to mainstream Muslims, who are law-abiding citizens of the United Kingdom, proud to be British and proud to be Muslims?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, I very firmly endorse what my noble friend said about the mainstream Islam view, and reinforce what he said about the need and desire for people to be proud of being both Muslim and British. He will understand that it would be quite improper for me to comment on any information in relation to the security services, and I am not able to do that. However, I can say that any action taken by the services or in terms of police enforcement has to come within our law.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Shadow Minister, Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the open judgment by Mr Justice Collins, to which she refers, does a great deal to enhance public confidence in the SIAC process, except that he made some adverse remarks about the failure of the special advocates to attend? He said that he could not see any reason for that. Does she not think that the SIAC procedure rules need to be amended to oblige the special advocates to attend in all such cases?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, of course I noted the comments made by Mr Justice Collins in relation to the case. I do not believe that the rules need to be amended. It was clear that, in that case, the advocate came to a view that their continuance would not inure to the benefit of their client. We are not entitled to know why they came to that view. It is also right to remind the House that the SIAC made it clear that the evidence in the case against the appellant was so strong that no special advocate, however brilliant, could have persuaded us that reasonable suspicion had not been established so that the certification was justified.

Photo of Lord Biffen Lord Biffen Conservative

My Lords, is it not high time that the work of the British security services was restored to the secrecy that it once enjoyed?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, noble Lords will know that there is a tension between what is necessary to keep us safe and what is necessary to keep us fair. We have that difficult balance about right.

Photo of Lord Campbell-Savours Lord Campbell-Savours Labour

My Lords, does my noble friend accept that there are circumstances in which it would not be in the interests of British security and intelligence to exclude people?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, that may be the case, although of course we cannot in this House explore what those circumstances may be.

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

My Lords, in view of the very helpful published findings of the SIAC and the remarks of Mr Justice Collins, to which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred, will the Minister assure the House that all legitimate steps are being taken to monitor any contacts that Mr Abu Qatada may have from within Belmarsh with persons or bodies hostile to the security of the realm?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, once again I cannot make any specific comments, but noble Lords should be reassured that our services and police forces are taking all appropriate, proper and legal steps to make sure that the citizens of this country are made as safe as can be contrived.