National Security

– in the House of Lords at 3:31 pm on 25th July 2007.

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Photo of Baroness Ashton of Upholland Baroness Ashton of Upholland President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office) 3:31 pm, 25th July 2007

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

"With permission, Mr Speaker, on 29 and 30 June the professionalism, vigilance and the courage of our police and our security and emergency services thwarted a conspiracy to murder and maim British citizens."Britain—led by London and Glasgow—stood firm in the face of threats, and our calmness and steadfastness as a nation sent a powerful message across the world that we will not yield to terrorism nor ever be intimidated by it. These events were the 15th attempted terrorist plot on British soil since 2001. "As previously set out, the police and security services are currently having to contend with around 30 known plots and monitor over 200 groupings or networks and around 2,000 individuals. I think the whole House will agree that our country—and all countries—have to confront a generation-long challenge to defeat al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist violence."In recognition of the continuing long-term threat, we have created a new National Security Committee to oversee the new Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism. Following the first two meetings of the National Security Committee, I want to report on changes that we now recommend to this House. First, let me confirm to the House that in future we will publish a national security strategy, and that the first will be published and presented in the autumn to Parliament for debate and decision in this House. At the time of the spending review we will announce a single security budget for our country."In line with the Butler report, we will separate the position of chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee from policy adviser to the Government, so the sole responsibility of the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee will be to provide Ministers with assessments that have been formulated independently of the political process and, therefore, to improve across government the effectiveness of intelligence analysis."Today I am also publishing the Intelligence and Security Committee report on rendition. The Government are consulting on how in future the ISC should be appointed and should report to Parliament with, where possible, hearings in public, a strengthened capacity for investigations, reports subject to more parliamentary debate and greater transparency over appointments to the committee."To strengthen the counterterrorist capability of the police and security services, we have since 11 September doubled our overall investment to more than £2 billion a year. Dedicated anti-terrorist resources have also doubled. Even in advance of the spending review settlement for future years, the security service will by next year, be twice the size it was in 2001."The protection and resilience of our major infrastructure and crowded places require continuous vigilance. I can confirm that over 900 shopping centres, sports stadiums and venues where people congregate have been assessed by counterterrorism security advisers, that over 10,000 premises have been given updated security advice and that the police will continue high-visibility patrols."The counterterrorism Bill will include a new power allowing the Secretary of State to ensure additional protection for key utility sites, and we have asked Lord West to oversee over this summer a further review of how best we protect crowded places and our buildings and national infrastructure: roads, railways, tunnels, bridges, water systems and utilities. "Since 1997, the Government have given the police new resources and Parliament has provided new legal powers to arrest and try terrorists. Thanks to the hard work, dedication and commitment of the men and women in the police, security and intelligence services and the prosecuting authorities, this year alone in nine cases a total of 30 individuals have been convicted. The forthcoming counterterrorism Bill will propose additional penalties for terrorists charged with other criminal offences. "Our first line of defence against terrorism is overseas at other countries' ports and airports, where people embark on journeys to our country and from where embassies issue visas. To protect us in routes and places where there is the greatest threat of harm, I believe that we now need to accelerate our plans, completing the move from old and ineffective paper-based systems to real-time monitoring, which will allow us to act immediately and in a co-ordinated way across immigration, police and intelligence. The way forward is electronic screening of all passengers as they check in and out of our country at ports and airports so that terrorist suspects can be identified and stopped before they board planes, trains and boats to the United Kingdom. "After a review of counterterrorism screening, and as part of the overall spending settlement for security to be set out in the autumn, the Home Secretary will enhance the existing e-borders programme to incorporate all passenger information to help track and intercept terrorists and criminals as well as illegal immigrants. While new biometric visas are already in place for immigrants from high-risk countries, I can confirm that within nine months, from March next year, we will extend biometric visas to all visa applicants and from 2009 we will introduce a new, enhanced system of electronic exit control linking the checking of passports to checking against the warnings index."The second line of defence is at our borders where biometrics—not just fingerprints but iris recognition—are already in use. To strengthen the powers and surveillance capability of our border guards and security officers, we will now integrate the vital work of the Border and Immigration Agency, Customs and UK Visas overseas and at the main points of entry to the UK and establish a unified border force."I have asked the Cabinet Secretary to report back by October on the stages ahead in implementation and whether there is a case for going further while ensuring value for money. But as a result of our announcement today, the first change people will see is that, starting from next month, when arriving in Britain, they will be met at the border, either a sea port or airport, by a highly visible, uniformed presence, as over the next period we move, for the first time, to one single primary checkpoint for both passport control and customs. "But this, our second line of defence, has also to be complemented by a third line of defence: ID security within our own borders. While for UK citizens the first biometric ID cards will start during 2009, from the end of 2008, any foreign nationals coming to the UK for more than six months will be required to have a biometric ID. Such an identity scheme will help prevent people already in the country using multiple identities for terrorist, criminal or other purposes. "In the identification of potential terrorist suspects, there should be maximum co-operation internationally with maximum possible use made of alerts and watch lists. While Lord West's review has found no systematic failings in our procedures for checking potential suspects, it has highlighted the importance of enhancing existing co-operation to share more information between police and immigration services and internationally across countries within the EU to enable British law enforcement authorities to access immigration information on existing EU databases, bilaterally with other member states mutually to exchange information, and joining up criminal records databases throughout the EU so that our authorities can quickly identify individuals charged with crimes, no matter where in Europe they are convicted. At a cost of £5 million, we will link the UK watch list to the Interpol database of lost and stolen documents."In addition to the nine foreign nationals recently deported under immigration powers on grounds of national security, a further 21 foreign nationals are currently subject to deportation proceedings on national security grounds. On the same grounds, we are preventing 124 individuals coming to our country and refusing to admit another 52 for glorifying terrorism or other unacceptable behaviour. Overall, 4,000 foreign prisoners are likely to be deported this year. Having agreed repatriation arrangements with Jordan, Libya, Lebanon and Algeria, we will now press ahead to sign more agreements. "Mr Speaker, liberty is the first and founding value of our country and security is the first duty of government. The British way is that every measure we take to enhance security is complimented by additional protections against any arbitrary treatment and in defence of the liberties of the individual. So we want to consult widely and we look forward to seeking and obtaining all-party consensus on how we treat intercept evidence and new provisions for pre-charge detention and post-charge questioning. The independent and cross-party review into the use of intercept as evidence in court will be led by Privy Counsellors Sir John Chilcot, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, and the right honourable Member for Berwick-Upon-Tweed, Mr Alan Beith."While it is already a criminal offence to seek training for terrorism overseas or in this country, we will consult on tightening up bail conditions and, in particular, the restriction of travel in any cases where people are suspected of complicity with terrorism."We have in place a regime which allows pre-charge detention up to 28 days. There is already general agreement that the circumstances in which the police will need to go beyond even 14 days will be rare and will be subject to special procedures, both of judicial oversight and of parliamentary accountability. There is also, I detect, a growing weight of opinion—including from the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of anti-terrorism legislation—that there may be some circumstances in which detention beyond 28 days could be necessary: where the police have to intervene early to avert an attack; where there may be huge quantities of material evidence to be analysed; and where there is a need for assistance from other countries. The 2005 case, cited in previous debates on this issue, involved investigation of some 60 mobile phones, 268 computers, and 920 DVDs. However, the airline investigation last August involved 200 mobile phones, 400 computers, 8,000 CDs, DVDs and disks containing 6,000 gigabytes of data, searching nearly 70 businesses and open spaces, with inquiries across three continents. Another case involved 3,000 statements, examining 6,000 documents, with over 8,000 exhibits and inquiries across nine countries. During the recent period, six people had to be held for 27 or 28 days. "While one of the proposals we are bringing forward, with broad support, is to allow post-charge questioning for the explicit purpose of securing evidence in a terrorism trial will reduce the risk that we need to go beyond 28 days, the Home Affairs Select Committee which investigated these matters concluded that this step will not eliminate the risks entirely. It is right to explore whether a consensus can be built on the most measured way to deal with this remaining risk. I hope the House will agree that we should not return to the proposal rejected by the House, but I also hope that the House will agree that there has to be a maximum limit set by Parliament."We today put forward four options for consultation over the coming months. One proposal that we cite in the consultation document from Liberty—to which we are grateful for engaging constructively in the debate—is that if this risk materialises, we should declare an emergency under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 and allow for a period beyond the 28-day limit, for up a further 30 days, although that would require the declaring of a state of emergency. "We are also proposing for consultation—this would not require a state of emergency—an extension of the current limit for up to 28 days more, or a lesser period, but only if, in addition to the requirement that a judge must approve every seven-day extension, the case is notified to Parliament and subject to a timely report to it of all circumstances, and with the option of a later parliamentary debate. This means that any extension would not only be subject to a specific case being made by the Director of Public Prosecutions, subject every seven days—up to the agreed limit—to the approval of a High Court judge and subject to the regular report of the independent reviewer, with an annual debate in Parliament, but also subject in each and every instance to a specific parliamentary notification procedure, to a further statement to Parliament on the individual case, a review on the specific case by the independent reviewer and with the provision for this House to scrutinise and debate the report and all the circumstances."However, Mr Speaker, more important even than consensus here in this House is the consensus we will seek in all the communities across this country. Since the attacks of 7 July 2005, communities in Britain and across the world have come together in a common front against terrorism and against the propaganda that fuels it. This requires not just the security measures we are outlining, but that we work with all communities and all countries through debate, discussion, dialogue and education as we tackle at root the evils that risk driving people, particularly vulnerable young people, into the hands of violent extremists. Here, colleges, schools, universities, civil society and faith groups—indeed, every institution in our country—have a part to play. "Last week, President Sarkozy of France and I agreed to propose the formation of a joint working group with Germany and others to share our experiences and develop ways to expose and defeat terrorism. We will report later this year on this work but we can make a start today. Over the next three years, we will provide an additional £70 million for local authorities and community groups to improve the capacity of local communities to resist violent extremism. This will include developing leadership programmes for young people, strengthening the capacity of women's groups, and local projects to build citizenship."There are perhaps as many as 1,000 madrassahs in Britain, educating between 50,000 and 100,000 young people in after-school classes. In Bradford, an agreement was reached to include citizenship education in their curriculum and we will now offer to work with other communities on similar programmes. We will also support a new skills qualification in citizenship and community cohesion for faith leaders, sponsor English-speaking imams, propose inter-faith bodies in every community in the country to build greater understanding, and update guidance to universities before the autumn on how they can do more to protect safety and security, particularly of vulnerable young people. I can also confirm funding for a BBC Arabic channel and an editorially independent Farsi TV channel for the people of Iran. Following further discussion, the Government will report back to Parliament on further measures that can isolate extremists who preach and practice terrorism."Mr Speaker, our priority as a Government is a Britain strong in security, robust in our resolve and resilient in response, so that as a nation we both defeat terrorism and isolate violent extremism wherever we confront it and whatever its support. I hope that in doing so, an all-party consensus that will extend into every community of our country is possible so that, together, we create a stronger, safer, more cohesive Britain".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

Photo of Lord Strathclyde Lord Strathclyde Leader of Opposition In the House of Lords, Parliament 3:49 pm, 25th July 2007

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for repeating that Statement. There was a great deal in it—it was a long Statement, and understandably so—and it will need time for reflection. This is, of course, an area where we will work together, as my right honourable friend Mr Cameron indicated in another place.

If the noble Baroness will permit me, I must say one thing. There was a measured tone to the Statement which differed from some of the more hysterical pronouncements that we have become used to over recent years. However, I am afraid that, outside Parliament, we have seen some of the old spin—"Prime Minister challenges opposition parties to stand up against terror", and so on. Spin of that kind helps no one because it undermines the consensus that the noble Baroness and the Prime Minister say they are trying to create and it belittles the difficult judgments that lie behind all this as to the balance between our ancient liberties and the challenge of terrorism. The debates in which this House perhaps above all others has distinguished itself are not about will but about method; they are not about party politics but about what is right and what is most effective. I hope that the noble Baroness will use her influence to rein the spin doctors in.

The noble Baroness is right to say that we face exceptional challenge and new methods of attack but, equally, this fine old country has faced a few challenges along the way, and we have seen them off without compromising our essential freedoms, which were so hard won and defended at a cost far greater than any we have seen in recent years. It is easy to lose a freedom. Once lost, it is no longer a birthright and its return becomes a concession from the state. That is to change fundamentally the whole nature of British liberty, which is not enshrined in conventions and rights but in the rule of law and parliamentary constitutional government. I have no doubt that this House will approach these questions with that in mind, and it will be right to do so.

The security services, the police and, indeed, courageous members of the public have distinguished themselves in recent weeks in thwarting terror. The whole House will thank them for that. I have no doubt that they will be called on again, and we welcome the additional resources that have been announced today. However, can the noble Baroness confirm that funding for Special Branch, which carries out much vital surveillance work around the country, will be included in that budget? It urgently needs to expand. To defeat terrorism will require tough, consistent and rigorous action at every level. It will need intelligence, and I very much welcome the revised arrangements for the Joint Intelligence Committee. It will need to tackle extremism and the preachers of extremism. We will look carefully at the ideas in the Statement, but we need to be firm; far firmer than we were for far too long in dealing with the Abu Hamzas of this world. It will need effective policing, including at our borders. We welcome the apparent acceptance by the Government of the idea being put forward by our party of a unified border police. Perhaps the noble Baroness will therefore explain why the Government have spent years resisting and rubbishing that idea.

How many illegal immigrants, and among them how many potential terrorists, have got in under the wire while the Government were playing nimby politics over effective control of our borders? Can the noble Baroness tell us the Government's current estimate of the number of those in this country without lawful authority, the number of former foreign criminals released into the community who have not yet been traced, and the number of those under control orders currently on the run? Will the Government draw on the work of the Conservative Party's commission under the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, to prepare and implement that policy?

It will not have escaped the notice of the noble Baroness that we have the UK Borders Bill before this House at the moment. Now that the Government have dropped their opposition, will they consider recommitting the Bill in the autumn to enable the creation of the border police on the fastest possible timescale? I have not been able to consult my colleagues in another place but, if it is practical and if the Government really mean what they said, we in this place would be ready to discuss in the usual channels any reasonable measure, including carry-over, to enable this important provision to be made.

We welcome the fact that, on intercept evidence, the Prime Minister has accepted another of our proposals, for a Privy Council committee. Will the Government legislate immediately if the committee finds a way of lifting the ban on the use of this vital evidence in court? The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, has played a major part in this argument. I hope that he, too, will be consulted in this review. Again, however, why did the Government resist this proposal for so long?

We cannot agree on the question of ID cards. This House laboured hard to try to inject some sense into this debate. It is immensely disappointing that the new Prime Minister is not prepared to think over this again. The costs are spiralling; its effectiveness is questioned; and, behind the scenes, a giant surveillance apparat is being planned and created, quite unprecedented in the free world. Surely the money could be better used to bolster security and public safety elsewhere. On ID cards as on money laundering, child protection and so much else, the Government are obsessed with giant computer projects, placing every citizen under surveillance and imposing a presumption of potential guilt that is as corrosive of trust as it is of liberty. They are building giant haystacks in which the lethal needles go unnoticed. No evidence has ever been presented that ID cards would have prevented any of the major outrages we have seen.

Use of such instruments needs to be far more focused, and we will look at the measures on people coming to this country, but why do they apply only to those here over six months? Surely an act of terror can be planned and perpetrated in less than six months. We will also explore carefully what is proposed on controls on terror suspects travelling abroad. The ID card system makes travel abroad for UK citizens conditional upon submitting to permanent domestic surveillance. Surely the priority is to target resources on the suspect and suspect organisations. When will Hizb ut-Tahrir be banned?

We agree very much with the need to win hearts and minds. Not enough has been done to integrate new arrivals to our country. Our country, our history, our language, our culture, our freedoms become their treasure, too, and the birthright of their children. We must sweep away zany ideas in education that have diminished teaching of our national traditions. We might begin by keeping Churchill in the history curriculum. He fought for the freedom of every religion, race and land, and people of every religion, race and land fought alongside him.

I welcome the decision to finally take up our proposal to allow the questioning of a suspect after they have been charged. Is this not the most important way of ensuring that the police can get their job done without introducing what could in time start to look like executive internment? Certainly we have to frame carefully the rules on the use of this power so that it is not abused, but should we not consider the effectiveness and value of this and other instruments before returning to the totemic question of 28 days?

We will look at these consultation papers carefully, but both Houses struck a difficult compromise only two years ago. What has changed since last December, when the then Home Secretary, the then Attorney-General and the Lord Chancellor all agreed that fresh evidence was needed before any further change could be justified? Should not this House ask that Ministers prove that all existing laws are being used before they reach for new legislation? After all, it was a Victorian statute that helped to stop Abu Hamza. Our liberties are precious, and one of the greatest ironies of recent years is that some of them are being eroded because of the operation of the Human Rights Act. Will the noble Baroness admit that this Act is frustrating our fight against terror and will she undertake to include reform of that, too, in the ambit of any cross-party discussions?

Security is necessary, but liberty makes us the country we are. If we erode that, no one wins but the terrorists who are our enemies. That is the difficult balance we must strike—where the role of Parliament, properly, is to be sceptical; and the role of government is not to chide Parliament for doing its job, but to heed its occasional wisdom.

Photo of Lord McNally Lord McNally Leader, House of Lords, Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords 3:59 pm, 25th July 2007

My Lords, I, too, welcome the Statement made by the Leader of the House. We learn that the Government intend to consult widely and to seek all-party consensus. That is key, and must of course be welcomed. However, consensus does not mean, "Everyone else, adopt our policy"; it means listening and sometimes changing policy, and we will judge this policy of consensus according to that criterion. I also hope that the Government will accept that this House in particular has special experience and a special role to play in examining these matters.

I start almost at the end of the Statement by welcoming the various initiatives to go into communities. A couple of weeks ago, I received as part of an educational programme a Muslim lady who was a social worker. After I had shown her and a number of others around, we talked generally and she told me that she had an 18 year-old son who was very keen to join the police. She then paused and said, "But of course he would not dare say that down at the mosque". For me, that sent a chill that must be addressed. Young Muslims should be able to think of joining the police, our Army and other parts of our national life without fear of mentioning it down at the mosque. We also have a special job to do in universities where some very dangerous extremism is given root. There is a need for an educational role there. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, caught part of the mood of this. We understand the statistics on the number of plots and terrorist gains; our scepticism arises when the Government have to rush to make new and fresh legislation every time a plot is discovered. Surely the point of the previous legislation was to deal with those very points. Legislation on this must not become a ratchet or an ever-incoming tide. We must look very carefully at each case.

We of course welcome the publication of the national security strategy and the review of counterterrorism measures, but I hope that once the noble Lord, Lord West, with all his experience, has looked at how ID cards and their costs are unfolding and has reached the conclusion that resources might be diverted more effectively to other parts of counterterrorism, the Government will have the courage to accept such advice. They have heard our advice and are going down that road but, as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, indicated, there have been some spectacular and costly failures in the use of new technologies, and it would be a pity if the more mundane parts of the service, such as Special Branch, were starved of resources simply because the Government did not have the courage to admit that they had got into a costly cul-de-sac.

Again, we welcome the review of intercept evidence. I shall not tick off all the ideas that we or the Conservatives had first because, if we are working towards consensus, we should all take the credit. I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, is given special mention; he is almost heading for sainthood so far as the Government are concerned. However, there are other experienced views on the 28-day rule on these Benches, not least those of my noble friend Lord Dholakia, who pointed out only yesterday—at col. 758 of the Official Report—that we have moved very quickly from 14 days to 28 days, and that 56 days are now proposed. The voice of the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, carries at least as much weight as that of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. Yesterday, in the same column of Hansard, he pointed out that we already have the longest holding period without trial of any liberal democracy. I therefore hope the Government realise that we on these Benches will test very carefully the arguments on 28 days and that we will look for the evidence that an extension is needed.

I suppose, however, that it ultimately comes back to the theme in the Prime Minister's intentions, and certainly to the spirit which the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, mentioned. Around both Houses and across the country there is a real pride in the term "liberal democracy", in the broader sense, and what it means for our freedoms. There is a real determination which goes beyond any political party to defend and not to lose the things that make a liberal democracy worth defending. It will be a very difficult balance.

I echo the last point made by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde—by their fruits will we know them. Leaflets suggesting that the Liberals are soft on terrorism and press briefings suggesting that only the Government have national security at heart are what will destroy the consensus. We will listen, we will watch, we will participate—but by your fruits we will know you.

Photo of Baroness Ashton of Upholland Baroness Ashton of Upholland President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office)

Indeed, my Lords, and I expect nothing less. I am conscious that I have a short time to try to respond to some of the key points. I will respond further later.

There is no question that the Government are attempting to spin anything; we seek a genuine consensus. Frankly, I do not care who came up with which idea. The difference for those in government is that we get a chance to look at ideas and how to implement them properly. If we can work together on these important issues it will be a credit to all noble Lords, to the Government, especially, and also to Parliament. That is what we should seek to do. I am extremely grateful for the general warmth with which both noble Lords received the proposals, with all the caveats that they put forward.

I want to make it clear that we are talking about a unified border force, not a unified border police. We are saying that border control, Customs and UKvisas coming together. Special Branch, as I said, will have a role within that. I have figures on funding which I will send to the noble Lord. As my right honourable friend said in another place, the work of the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, is an important piece of work in trying to look at all the evidence and all the views. We will be keen to ensure that we do that. I, too, pay tribute to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, who I am sure will have much to say on these issues. I look forward very much to discussing those with him.

On biometric data, my noble friend Lord West will not hesitate to tell the Government if he believes that there are different avenues to be explored. That is precisely why he is in your Lordships' House and doing the enormously important work that he is undertaking. However, I also know that the importance of biometric data should not be underestimated. Such data have already proved incredibly valuable in the current work and I think that noble Lords should consider how to take the issue forward in that spirit.

As noble Lords will know, since December we have had not only the Home Affairs Select Committee report but circumstances in which it has not been possible to deal with those about whom we are worried until the 26th or 27th of the 28 days. On their own, those are two good reasons why we should consider the issue again. There is no question of rushing legislation through. We have brought this forward today in a measured way so that, over the summer, noble Lords and Members of another place can consider the proposals and build what we hope will be a genuine consensus on taking these issues forward. I agree completely on the issue of what we have described as hearts and minds and on the importance of working with all institutions—particularly those in education and especially universities—to support vulnerable young people who may be at risk from those who would seek to change them into supporters or joiners of terrorist organisations. That is a core part of the work that will be going forward.

I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, does not wish to confer sainthood on the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, but I am sure that he will agree that it is right and proper—and I accept that the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, has much to offer—to draw attention to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, because of the role that he has undertaken and performed so well.

Photo of Lord Campbell-Savours Lord Campbell-Savours Labour

My Lords, will the Intelligence and Security Committee remain a committee of parliamentarians, effectively a creature of the Executive, reporting to the Prime Minister and publishing report, or will it become a committee of Parliament, effectively a Select Committee? Can we be assured that reform of the ISC will not be circumscribed by the Intelligence Services Act 1994?

Photo of Baroness Ashton of Upholland Baroness Ashton of Upholland President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, noble Lords will know from the Statement and from our debate on the previous Statement that I made—the noble Baroness, Lady Park, was particularly concerned, and she may wish to comment on this again—that we seek to enable greater debate and openness within Parliament while recognising the importance of the committee's work. My noble friend said "creature of the Executive" in a particular tone of voice. We want noble Lords and Members of another place to have greater confidence in the committee's role within Parliament while not losing sight of the value and importance of its work and so preventing it from fulfilling the role we wish it to perform.

Photo of Lord Lloyd of Berwick Lord Lloyd of Berwick Chair, Ecclesiastical Committee (Joint Committee)

My Lords, I, too, welcome the Statement. It is a huge relief to discover that the Government are not contemplating a detention period of 60 or 90 days and have accepted that only on rare occasions should the period exceed 14 days, so 28 days must not be regarded as the norm—I hope it never will be. However, it is said that, on even rarer occasions, it might be necessary to go beyond 28 days. I accept that that might be so.

It seems to me that the safeguards now proposed are such that they might form the basis of a consensus across all the parties. I cannot conceive of any circumstances that would justify an extension of a further 28 days, making 56 days in all, which, as I have said on many occasions, would be clearly contrary to Article 5 of the European convention.

There is one other possible safeguard that would do much to convince me. In Ireland, there used to be an office known as the Independent Commissioner for Holding (Detention) Centres, who did more than anyone to ensure that within detention centres the police complied with the law and got on with the job. I suggest that we should have a similar arrangement at Paddington Green.

Finally, I welcome the appointment of the review committee on interception of communications. I cannot imagine four men more likely to reach a sensible result.

Photo of Baroness Ashton of Upholland Baroness Ashton of Upholland President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, I am grateful for the comments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick. His comments about what happened in Ireland are very valuable. That is exactly the kind of dialogue we wish to have and the sort of input we wish to receive from noble Lords and Members of another place in considering what might be done. I confirm that we are talking about 28 days' detention as rare. The reason for our proposals and options in the paper is that the combination of what the Home Affairs Select Committee has said and recent real-life experience make it right and proper to give Parliament the possibility of extending the 28-day period in the way my right honourable friend has described, but with all the safeguards mentioned and, indeed, additional safeguards that might be suggested. I look forward to discussing these issues further with the noble and learned Lord.

Photo of Baroness Park of Monmouth Baroness Park of Monmouth Conservative

My Lords, I remain deeply concerned about the implications of public discussion of intelligence matters, and I should like a reassurance from the Minister that, when the Government say "consulting", they mean that we shall be consulted in October and not returning to a fait accompli. If not, I can only say that no agents will come forward, no foreign intelligence services will trust us and it will be a disaster. This has to be considered further, and I should like to be reassured that "consulting" does not mean that two or three people will meet in the recess and make a decision. This is a major issue.

Photo of Baroness Ashton of Upholland Baroness Ashton of Upholland President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, the noble Baroness has raised this with me previously. I assure her that we are starting the consultation but there will not be a fait accompli. Some issues can be debated and discussed fully over the summer, of course; but the noble Baroness has rightly raised issues from her great experience, and it would be completely wrong not to take them on board. I think that we need to do that separately as well. If I may, I shall talk to her about that today.

Photo of Lord Evans of Temple Guiting Lord Evans of Temple Guiting Government Whip

My Lords, sorry, it is the turn of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Swansea.

Photo of Lord Anderson of Swansea Lord Anderson of Swansea Labour

My Lords, there is an impressive international architecture in place, notably UN Security Council Resolution 1373 and the UN convention, but there are gaps because many countries do not have the capacity to implement those conventions. My noble friend mentioned co-operation with the French; is it not something that we and our French colleagues could do? Mainly the non-complying states are in Africa, and we through the Commonwealth and the French through the Francophone countries could offer mentoring and technical assistance in helping them to implement the relevant UN conventions and Security Council resolutions.

Photo of Baroness Ashton of Upholland Baroness Ashton of Upholland President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, my noble friend makes an important point. We need to discuss with our European colleagues, including the French, Germans and other members of the 27-strong European Union, our influence and how we can support other countries.

Photo of Lord Morris of Aberavon Lord Morris of Aberavon Labour

My Lords, I welcome the Statement. Have the Government considered asking Parliament for a detention period longer than 28 days, with judicial supervision but increasing the period by stages, by affirmative resolution, as the evidence of need emerges?

Photo of Baroness Ashton of Upholland Baroness Ashton of Upholland President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, again, that is precisely the kind of contribution that we are looking for. Two documents have been released on paper and two more are available on the Home Office website. We hope that noble Lords will look at what the Government are saying in the round and consider the implications of the evidence before us and how, in parliamentary terms, to tackle some of the underlying concerns raised. In particular, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, raised the need to ensure that we are not moving inch by inch towards a different kind of state. The noble Lord's comments will be taken on board.

Photo of Baroness Ludford Baroness Ludford Liberal Democrat

My Lords, it is welcome news that the Government are finally going to link up our terrorist watch list to the Interpol database of stolen passports, given the robust criticism from the director of Interpol a couple of weeks ago about our consistent failure to do that. However, we have other failures in information exchange. I recently learnt that the DVLA is refusing to exchange vehicle registration details with its EU counterparts. Perhaps the Minister would look into that.

The Minister also referred to EU access and exchange of immigration data, but the UK is not allowed to access Schengen information system data on persons to be refused entry because we are not in the Schengen zone, as has been brought out in a Lords EU Select Committee report. Will the Government not at least develop some long-term strategy and express an intention regarding the Schengen zone, with caveats about secure external borders, to perhaps advance our access to the Schengen immigration data?

Photo of Baroness Ashton of Upholland Baroness Ashton of Upholland President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, the noble Baroness will know that we are currently before the courts on a data-sharing issue. The Government have made their position on Schengen very clear. In the longer term, they will keep everything under review, but we recognise the importance of sharing information with our European Union partners. Whether we are in or out of Schengen should not affect our opportunity to share information that could be vital in tackling serious and organised crime and terrorism.

As for the DVLA, we must ensure that the legislation under which we have brought in bodies, or in which we have laid out the ways in which they can operate, enables them to share data. All the data sharing implications, including those within the context of data protection, need to be looked at. We shall come back to Parliament on that.

Photo of Lord Fraser of Carmyllie Lord Fraser of Carmyllie Conservative

My Lords, I regard this as the greatest civil liberties outrage in modern times. It is quite outrageous. Whatever conciliatory noises my own Front Bench makes, I shall be a renegade on this. There is absolutely no way that I regard even 28 days as appropriate. Seven days is, in its own way, far too long. What is wrong with hours rather than days? I cannot believe that this will lead to anything other than sloppy and bad policing. I am in favour of good policing. If you allow the police 56 days to agree what should be done, I cannot believe that they will do anything for 55 days other than sit on their hands. That is simply wrong. I do not believe that day one is day one. What will the noble Baroness do, or am I simply alone in believing that 56 days is an outrage, and that she ought to be ashamed of herself?

Photo of Baroness Ashton of Upholland Baroness Ashton of Upholland President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord speaks on this matter with enormous passion. I am not at all ashamed of myself. It is very important that the noble and learned Lord's voice and that of other noble Lords, who may feel equally passionately in the same direction or another, is heard. That is an important value of your Lordships' House. It is important to examine the circumstances of cases that have come before us. My right honourable friend's Statement sets out some of the difficulties and issues that have been raised.

I have far greater faith in our police forces than the noble and learned Lord. They work incredibly hard and have done a huge amount to keep us as safe as possible. In that context it is important to listen to and talk to them about what they believe they need. We should not necessarily always do everything that they say but we should put it in the right context. As I indicated, the comments of the Home Affairs Select Committee and the evidence that we have on people who have been charged suggest that we have a problem. It is right for Parliament to consider this, to deliberate in a measured way and to look at what needs to be done and the right and proper safeguards that need to be put in place. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will voice his passionate feelings in those debates.

Photo of The Bishop of Chester The Bishop of Chester Bishop

My Lords, I join with the majority of noble Lords who welcomed the Statement's measured and restrained tone and the breadth of the ways in which the issues are to be addressed. I am somewhat anxious that if we are to go beyond 28 days a state of emergency will have to be declared. It seems to me that that could be misused or misunderstood by the public. I wonder whether that is the best mechanism to adopt if we have to go beyond 28 days. I welcome the measure on working with the Islamic community, especially in this country, consulting carefully about what happens in the madrassas and potentially sponsoring English speaking imams. I believe that for some years the French Government have worked with the Islamic community in sponsoring French speaking imams. I suggest that there may be other ways in which working very closely with the moderate voices in the Islamic community could be as key a part of the strategy as the more direct security measures referred to.

Photo of Baroness Ashton of Upholland Baroness Ashton of Upholland President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate. My personal reaction is that the state of emergency issue is over the top. There may be particular circumstances involving an individual in which that could apply if Parliament agreed, but with the safeguards that I indicated. I am not talking necessarily about a series of plots resulting in the declaration of a national emergency. However, we indicated in the documents that we want to discuss these issues fully and we will do so. I could not agree more with the right reverend Prelate about working with the Muslim community in the context of interfaith relations and looking at how we can support communities and vulnerable young people who could be drawn into difficulties. We very much look forward to working with the right reverend Prelate and other representatives from different faiths to see how we should do this.

Photo of Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate Labour

My Lords, I once had the pleasure of debating these issues with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser, at Durham University, and he was equally wrong then. Given the evidence of the police having to go to the wire in many detention cases, does the Minister agree with me that, if they had to release important suspects simply because of lack of time, the public would be outraged if they were endangered as a consequence? Equally, does she agree that the greatest threat to civil liberties is that of being blown to smithereens?

Photo of Baroness Ashton of Upholland Baroness Ashton of Upholland President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that the Government's first responsibility is to keep people safe, above anything else that we do; therefore, it is right and proper for the Government to consider the measures that need to be taken, to bring them before Parliament and debate them properly. My noble friend is right in all that he said about the importance of ensuring that the public have confidence in the measures taken by Parliament and Government to keep them safe. The balance that we are seeking to strike is that, in changing the nature of what we do, we do not lose sight of the value and importance of individual liberty, on which this country is founded.

Photo of Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville Conservative

My Lords, against the threat of illegal or suspect immigration across the 300-mile land border with the Republic of Ireland, are we currently primarily reliant on Irish immigration control?

Photo of Baroness Ashton of Upholland Baroness Ashton of Upholland President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, I am not, as the noble Lord would expect, as familiar with the work that is happening in Ireland as he might like, and I will therefore write to him on that.

Photo of Lord Howarth of Newport Lord Howarth of Newport Labour

My Lords, I apologise that I was unable to be present when my noble friend repeated the Statement, but I have read it. Having served on the Intelligence and Security Committee in the last Parliament, I put it to her that it is a second-order issue whether the ISC is technically a Select Committee or a committee appointed by the Executive. However, I cannot conceive, given the matter under its consideration, that public hearings could be other than rare and, at best, ceremonial.

There are three factors which govern the ISC's effectiveness. First, it needs the power to see, without question or argument, the material that it requires in the course of its investigations. It must have that information freely supplied to it on request, by the agencies and by the Government. Secondly, it must have the resources at its disposal within its secretariat and, through the co-operation of the agencies and the Government, to pursue its inquiries thoroughly. Thirdly, it must have the will to pursue its inquiries with the utmost thoroughness. Provided that those three conditions are met, the ISC will be an extremely valuable instrument.

Photo of Baroness Ashton of Upholland Baroness Ashton of Upholland President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, I agree completely with what my noble friend has said. The Statement refers to "where appropriate". I saw the noble Baroness, Lady Park, nod in agreement with my noble friend. These are important issues. The committee must be able to do its work effectively, but I am also mindful that we must get it right. Where there are appropriate means by which the committee is able to say things in public, it should be able to.

Photo of Lord Evans of Temple Guiting Lord Evans of Temple Guiting Government Whip

My Lords, I think we should hear from the noble Baroness.

Photo of Baroness O'Cathain Baroness O'Cathain Conservative

My Lords, I reiterate what the right reverend Prelate said about this Statement being measured and restrained. It makes me feel more comfortable that the Government are pursuing the first objective, which is to ensure people's security. I think that it is a focused Statement but, not having read it, I believe that there is a problem: £70 million is to be given to local authorities for involvement in youth leadership schemes, extension of women's groups and citizenship education, all to deter extremism. I am worried that that might take people's eyes off the main ball, which has been the focus of the Statement. Could this not be hived off to local authorities without being involved in this exercise?

Photo of Baroness Ashton of Upholland Baroness Ashton of Upholland President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, I am grateful that the noble Baroness has welcomed the measured tone of the Statement. Work will be done over the summer to look at how best to use the available resources and to ensure that we are able to support organisations appropriately and that we do not, as the noble Baroness fears, take our eye off the ball.

Photo of Lord Kilclooney Lord Kilclooney Crossbench

My Lords, does the Minister accept that, if the Republic of Ireland authorities do not upgrade their controls on illegal immigrants, those immigrants will be able to cross into the United Kingdom over the land border without any checks whatever by police or immigration personnel and then take a ferry boat to Liverpool?