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Mr. Howard: The Secretary of State will appoint them. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman gestures, and the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) laughs. If the exclusion order is to be maintained, what other procedures would they like to see in place? Are they prepared to accept that persons whom I have just described as dangerous, committed terrorists are to be allowed to continue to travel free to commit their acts of terrorism at the expense of innocent people in this United Kingdom of ours? That is the alternative.

Mr. McNamara: My understanding is that, when the Home Secretary informs an individual that he is considering making an order, that person may then be detained with no charge made against him and with no recourse to the court. The individual may make representations within seven days. According to the order, there follows an indefinite period during which an adviser appointed by the Secretary of State will examine the evidence--which the detainee will never be able to see, know the substance of or argue against, and neither will he have the benefit of any legal help. Subsequently, a report will go to the Secretary of State who, without any time limit being imposed, can choose how long it will be before he decides whether to confirm or revoke his proposal. Under that procedure, an individual may be held almost indefinitely--there is no time limit and he or she does not have the normal protection of the law. Secondly--

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris): Order. The hon. Gentleman has already taken a minute. One question of that length is sufficient at this stage.

Mr. Howard: Detention in the circumstances that the hon. Gentleman described will be an option entirely for the detainee. There is a simple way in which that person can avoid detention.

Mr. McNamara indicated dissent.

Mr. Howard: If the hon. Gentleman will restrain himself for just a moment, I may explain that the prospective detainee can escape detention by complying with the terms of the exclusion order. If the individual is

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prepared to return to Northern Ireland or Great Britain, as the case may be, he will not be detained. If the individual is not prepared to comply and is in the advanced stages of planning or committing a terrorist operation, it is clearly essential that detention powers are available. The hon. Gentleman's summary omitted that regulation 5(2) requires the decision on exclusion to be made as soon as reasonably practicable.

Mr. McNamara: We have seen examples of that before from the Home Secretary.

Mr. Howard: I have not given way again to the hon. Gentleman. If he is fortunate to catch your eye,Mr. Deputy Speaker, no doubt he will make his further points at that time.

I have explained why there is currently a power to detain individuals during the time that an exclusion order is being considered--which is why the new regulations contain a similar power of detention. Under the new procedures it will be possible, if the individual concerned is within the part of the United Kingdom from which consideration is being given to excluding him, to detain him for the period between the serving of the notice and the final decision being taken.

The power to detain is not always used now. It may not always be used in future. Sometimes, the individual is permitted to leave the jurisdiction pending consideration of the case against him. That will be possible in future, but no sensible Government would deny themselves the power to detain murderous criminals while exclusion is under consideration. We will certainly not do so.

All the necessary procedures will be carried out as swiftly as possible but, as will be seen from the regulations, the time it takes for any individual to be interviewed is partly dictated by that person. Individuals will have seven days from the date of the notice, if they are inside the jurisdiction from which consideration is being given to excluding them, in which to make their representations and request an interview.

I began by emphasising our abhorrence at the resumption of the IRA campaign. For 18 months, peace seemed as close as it has ever been in the last 25 years, but the terrorists have returned to the path of murder. The bombs in London serve no purpose. The overwhelming majority of people on both sides of the Irish sea want peace. The IRA has shattered those hopes but the door to peace remains open, and both this Government and the Irish Government continue to explore ways of making progress towards the goal of a comprehensive political settlement in Northern Ireland.

The events of last month have shown yet again that we cannot afford to drop our guard. I do not propose to do so. For the past 12 years, the Labour party has voted against renewal of the PTA. For the two years before that, Labour Members abstained. Before that, they voted for the Act. Now they are doing no more than proposing to return to the position that they adopted when Michael Foot was their leader.

I hope that, even at this late stage, the hon. Member for Blackburn and his hon. Friends will reflect on the matter and support the legislation. Abstention is not enough. Indecision will not do. Governments cannot shrink from deciding whether to take the measures necessary to protect the public from terrorism. We continue to need

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the emergency powers in the 1989 Act and the order and regulations before the House will give those powers. Once again, I ask the whole House to support them.

5.5 pm

Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn): Terrorism is a modern plague. It randomly destroys the lives of innocent people, and it wrecks families and communities--but terrorism is rarely used randomly. Its aim, almost always, is to disrupt the political process. Some acts of terrorism take place in authoritarian regimes, but they are used as often to undermine democratic countries and the processes by which they seek through peaceful means to resolve conflicts that arise between different peoples or interest groups. The threat to the international community from terrorism is so great that yesterday a summit on that subject alone was held in Egypt.

There is no more appalling example of the immediate and wider consequences that terrorism can bring than the recent bombings of innocent bus passengers in Israel. Although that country is 3,000 miles away, we are all affected by such terrorism. We are directly affected if terrorist organisations also intend to base some of their operations in the United Kingdom or seek support here.

The middle east peace process has been rendered fragile by the resumption of extreme terrorism by Hamas. In the UK, the process to achieve peace in Ireland has been placed under enormous strain by the Provisional IRA's unilateral decision to end its ceasefire and begin a bombing campaign on the mainland. Innocent lives have been lost. Many more people have been physically injured or have suffered great psychological damage. Employment has been disrupted, and millions of pounds' worth of damage has been done to homes, offices and businesses. I join the Home Secretary in condemning those atrocities today, as we did when they occurred.

The police and security forces have again found themselves in the dangerous front line of the fight against terrorism. I place on record our gratitude for their work and the debt that we owe for their bravery and dedication. Fortunately, the disruption caused by the ending of the ceasefire has not aborted the peace process but has strengthened the resolve of all political parties represented in the House and of the Irish Government to work even harder to achieve lasting peace, and the huge benefits that it would bring.

The reality of terrorism, whether international or emanating from within the British Isles, means that special measures must be in place the better to combat terrorism. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made his views clear when he spoke in the renewal order debate two years ago:

That sentiment has been repeated by me and by my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam), shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who also said in the emergency provisions Bill debate two months ago that

We have also striven hard to ensure that, in order to deal effectively with terrorism--by the security measures needed to fight it and the political processes required to

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undermine support for it--there is bipartisan agreement across the House. We have achieved such a position on the peace process. Both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland have readily acknowledged that the peace process has been immeasurably strengthened by our support for it. I pay tribute to the indefatigable work of my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar and her team in that regard. I wish to put it on record that my hon. Friends the Membersfor Redcar and for Clydebank and Milngavie(Mr. Worthington) would have been here, but for the fact that they are in the United States following their duties in the Northern Ireland team.

For at least five years we have also sought means by which there could be all-party agreement on the measures necessary to combat terrorism. In practice, there has been little argument between the parties about four of the six operational parts of what is now the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989--those relating to proscribed organisations, to financial assistance for terrorism and to powers relating to the investigation of terrorist activities, searches for munitions and the control of explosives factories, magazines and stores. There has, however, been argument about the use of certain of the powers relating to arrests, detentions and port controls, and overwhelming objections to the principle of exclusion orders.

Five years ago, my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), then shadow Home Secretary, made proposals for what he described as a "fundamental re-examination" of the prevention of terrorism Acts to achieve

on anti-terrorist legislation. Those were turned down.

Two years ago, the late John Smith, with my right hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), made a further sustained effort to achieve that demonstration of common purpose. Private discussions to achieve that common purpose were held with Ministers, but those private discussions were aborted when their details were leaked. That leak did not come from the Opposition.

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