London: Terrorist Attacks

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:22 pm on 20th July 2005.

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Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management) 3:22 pm, 20th July 2005

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. The Statement is as follows:

"With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to bring the House up to date with developments since my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made his Statement to the House on Monday 11 July.

"A total of 56 people are now known to have died as a result of the explosions. The identities of all of these have now been formally confirmed through the relevant procedures. Support and advice continues to be given to the families affected as requested, in what remain very difficult and traumatic circumstances.

"It is possible that this total may rise as the police investigation of the very difficult scenes continues. Twenty-seven people remain in hospital undergoing treatment at present.

"Until this week all four explosion sites have remained crime scenes—at this point three still are. As the police have made clear, it is vital to their work that no clues or evidence are overlooked or destroyed. However, Transport for London is optimistic that Aldgate station, which has been handed back to London Underground by the police, may be returned to service by next Monday, 25 July. The train has now been removed from the Edgware Road site, although police remain at the scene. Subject to completion of the forensic work and a fuller inspection of the tracks at Edgware Road, it is hoped that a full Circle Line service may be restored in a couple of weeks. It is not possible at present to say how long restoration of the Russell Square site may take. Roads around Upper Woburn Place remain closed at present pending conclusion of the police forensic investigation of the site.

"There has been a great deal of speculation about the ongoing investigation. The police will continue to give regular updates but I do not intend to make detailed comments since in my opinion to do so could be damaging and might impede any resulting prosecutions.

"However, the House will be aware that there has been rapid progress on identifying productive lines of inquiry. A very large volume of information, including witness statements, CCTV footage, evidence from the scenes and recovered from searched addresses, is already being analysed. The police and Security Service are to be congratulated for their work in this complex and fast-moving investigation. We are all determined to take whatever steps are needed to identify, track down and bring to justice all those involved in instigating, planning and supporting these terrible crimes.

"I now turn to the forthcoming counter-terrorism legislation. As the House will know, I wrote to the right honourable Member for Haltemprice and Howden and the honourable Member for Winchester on Friday, setting out our initial proposals for inclusion in the Bill. Copies of my letter were placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

"On Monday, I met the right honourable and honourable gentlemen to discuss this matter, and I should like to place on record my appreciation of the helpful and constructive tone which they both adopted.

"My letter set out the main items that the Government believe should be included in the Counter Terrorism Bill. I should stress that those proposals were drawn up before 7 July, and that, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister indicated in his Statement last week, we are discussing with the police and intelligence agencies whether there might be further powers that they need in the light of those events and the subsequent investigation.

"The heart of the Bill is the creation of three new offences. The first of these criminalises acts preparatory to terrorism in order to ensure that early intervention does not mean that those responsible, who may be planning very serious terrorist crimes, should escape prosecution. The new offence will capture those planning serious acts of terrorism.

"The second proposed new offence focuses upon indirect incitement to terrorism. Direct incitement to commit acts of violence is already a criminal offence. This proposal targets those who, while not directly inciting, glorify and condone terrorist acts knowing full well that the effect on their listeners will be to encourage them to turn to terrorism. So, indirect incitement, where it is done with the intention of inciting others to commit acts of terrorism—an important qualification—will become a criminal offence.

"Thirdly, the Bill will deal with the giving and receiving of terrorist training. Our existing law already criminalises much activity that could fall within that description, but we want to close the gaps to make sure that anyone who gives or receives training in terrorist techniques is covered.

"Legislating for those two offences will enable the United Kingdom to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism, which I very much welcome.

"The Bill will also make a number of amendments to existing legislation, which are set out in the letter that I have placed in the Library of the House.

"I am very pleased to say that, when we met on Monday, the right honourable and honourable gentlemen indicated that they were, in principle, prepared to support all those measures. Of course, they will want to see, and contribute to, the detail as it emerges, and I have undertaken to keep them informed of developments during the summer. I am very grateful to them for their support and I very much hope that we can continue to proceed by means of consensus.

"In that spirit, both indicated to me on Monday that they were in favour of the Government de-coupling this legislation from the further parliamentary consideration of control orders, to which I committed during the passage of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, and bringing it forward for introduction in October. They further indicated to me that they were in favour of proceeding straight to introduction, without pre-legislative scrutiny, provided that they could have early sight of the draft legislation and that the normal parliamentary procedures and timetable were followed in both Houses.

"On this basis we are proposing to bring forward the legislation as soon as practicable when the House returns. We propose to return to the issue of control orders in the spring after we have the report from the independent reviewer, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile.

"The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, is not only the reviewer of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, he performs a similar function in respect of the Terrorism Act 2000. He published his most recent report on the operation of the Act on 26 May. I am very grateful to him for a typically thorough and thoughtful report. Of course, his report was published before the terrible events of 7 July but he has since confirmed that his overall conclusions remain.

"I have today published the Government's response to his report and placed copies in the Library. We have given effect to several of his recommendations and are giving active consideration to others.

"In the days and weeks since 7 July, many have raised concerns about extremists who seek to come to this country and foment terrorism or provoke others to commit terrorist acts. I have reviewed the Government's powers to exclude such people.

"The Home Secretary has powers to exclude an individual on the grounds that his or her presence in the United Kingdom is not conducive to the public interest. There is no statutory right of appeal against the exclusion decision, but, of course, it can be challenged through judicial review. In addition, immigration and entry clearance officers have similar powers. Any 'exclusion' by them would generate a right of appeal. This power is currently informed by the operation of a 'warnings index' of named individuals.

"I have concluded that these powers need to be applied more widely and systematically, both to people before they come to the United Kingdom and when they are here.

"In recent decades, for all Home Secretaries, the criteria for exercise of these powers have generally been grounds of national security, public order or risk to the United Kingdom's good relations with a third country. In going beyond these grounds we rightly need to tread very carefully indeed in areas which relate to free speech. But in the circumstances we now face, I have decided that it is right to broaden the use of these powers to deal with those who foment terrorism or seek to provoke others to terrorist acts.

"To this end, I intend to draw up a list of unacceptable behaviours which would fall within this—for example, preaching, running websites or writing articles which are intended to foment or provoke terrorism. The list will be indicative rather than exhaustive. We will consult on the list because it is important that we work with the community on this. Where there are grounds for considering that a person has been engaged in such activities, or will do so in the UK, exclusion will be considered.

"I have asked my officials, together with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the intelligence agencies, to establish a full database of individuals around the world who have demonstrated the relevant behaviours. This database will be available to entry clearance and immigration officers and will be added to the current 'warnings index'. I should make it clear that entry on this index does not itself necessarily mean exclusion, but in all cases it will trigger the possibility of a decision to exclude by Ministers.

"In addition to using this list to ensure that these 'non-conducive' powers are applied more widely and systematically at the point of entry, the specified unacceptable behaviours will not be permitted for individuals who have leave to enter or remain in this country. This arises in various categories, as follows: for those here temporarily—for example, as visitors, students or workers, or their dependants—and for those with indefinite leave to remain, any breach will lead to termination of their leave or deportation; for asylum seekers, we will as a general rule look to detain them and fast track their claims in these cases; for refugees, we will consider whether the behaviours described fall within one of the categories for exclusion from protection under the Refugee Convention 1951; we have already made clear in the changes announced on refugee status earlier this week that any breach by a refugee of the categories for exclusion will trigger an immediate review of their status; we are already consulting on changes to the conditions for leave to enter and remain as ministers of religion. We will consider with the faith communities whether further measures are needed.

"I am also urgently seeking agreement with European Union and other countries on a mutual exchange of information on exclusion decisions. The power of exclusion is necessarily targeted at those outside the United Kingdom. When people already in the UK engage in the kind of behaviour I have identified, it may well be appropriate to deport them under statutory powers. I will ensure that a consistent stance is taken in relation to both deportations and exclusions. In the past, there have been some successful challenges to proposed deportations under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. For this reason we have actively been seeking memoranda of understanding with a number of governments to address these legal concerns.

"I am pleased to announce today that the Governments of the United Kingdom and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan have reached agreement in principle on the provisions of such a memorandum of understanding regulating the arrangements by which assurances regarding the treatment of particular individuals can be sought prior to their deportation. The formal signing of the memorandum of understanding will be arranged shortly, and a copy of the text will be placed in the Libraries of the Houses of Parliament once the signing ceremony has taken place.

"I do not in general intend to comment on the position of particular individuals in these matters. However, in the light of recent public comments, the House may be interested to know that I understand that Sheikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi is not now planning to visit the United Kingdom in the near future. If he were to seek to do so, I will of course have to consider whether his presence will be conducive to the public good. I will follow the approach I have set out today in the case of Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed and other individuals whose names are in the public domain.

"I want to conclude by applauding the efforts which the leaders of the Muslim communities are now making to improve their capacity to fight extremism and protect young people. At a series of meetings with my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, myself and others, positive proposals are emerging to strengthen our capacity to fight the destructive and nihilist philosophy of those who promoted the London bombings.

"As I hope I have demonstrated, there is unity of purpose. The Government want to work with other parties to ensure that we have the most effective anti-terrorism legislation on our statute book. Similarly, we want to work with the Muslim community to isolate and weaken dangerous extremists. I am grateful to all those engaged in this important work, which I hope will command the support of Parliament".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.