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Dr. Godman: I promise that I will be brief. I wish to seek clarification with regard to new clause 4 which, it has been suggested to me, excludes Scotland. Yet it refers to clause 40, subsection (3)(b) of which refers to someone being detained under schedule 6. In the table of designated ports in schedule 6, five of them are in Scotland--Ardrossan, Cairnryan, Campbeltown, Stranraer and Troon. If things go well over the next few months, Port Glasgow may have to be added to that list. Negotiations are taking place about a ferry service between Northern Ireland and Port Glasgow. I believe that a ferry terminal will be built there.
This is not a facetious point. We know that extremists on both sides of the divide have their supporters in Scotland. Recently, a person convicted of a terrorist crime was released and has applied to a Scottish university to read for a degree in political science.
The new clause states that all persons detained should have a solicitor present at all interviews to be conducted under this measure. The presence of a solicitor in such interviews is, I believe, standard practice in police and criminal procedures in England. That is not the case in Scotland, and that might present a difficulty if the new clause includes Scotland, as I think that it must, given what I have said about clause 40(3)(b).
Given the activities of some people in Scotland in relation to extremist organisations in Northern Ireland, do persons detained under the Bill have the same rights when being interviewed as apply elsewhere in the United Kingdom?
Mr. Bermingham: My hon. Friend makes a very good point about Scotland. Will he accept from me that the inquisitorial procedures in Scotland, with the role of the procurator fiscal, the way in which evidence in accumulated and served and the way in which interviewing take place are different from those of England? Whereas Scotland may well have problems in the future with the European Court, we should not allow Northern Ireland to have problems that can be avoided.
Dr. Godman: I have two comments in response to my hon. Friend's intervention. The Scottish legal system is now a devolved matter for the Scottish Parliament. However, there is a difference between the two systems concerning the right to a solicitor. Some years ago, when we were debating a Scottish criminal justice Bill in this place, I sought to amend it along those lines. I was defeated. My right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Anniesland (Mr. Dewar), who then represented Glasgow, Garscadden and who is a lawyer, unfortunately argued against me. However, there is a distinction that has some bearing on the new clause.
There are difficulties with the new clause where Scotland is concerned. Even though Scotland has not suffered from the outrages that have been inflicted on English communities--I think that the army general council of the Provisional IRA decided some years ago not to extend the campaign to Scotland--nevertheless senior police officers in the Pitt street headquarters of the Strathclyde police in Glasgow say that numerous supporters of outrageous terrorist activities and activists are based in Scotland.
Mr. Lidington: Government amendment No. 64 is the central amendment in this group. It makes sense to relate the other amendments to the Government's proposal. The Government suggest that someone who is detained under the powers in clause 40 should have two rights: to inform a friend, relative or other person of their detention and to have access to a solicitor as soon as reasonably practicable, but subject to a number of exceptions, which are laid down in the Government's amendments to schedule 7.
Labour Members spoke in favour of their amendment. A detainee should have a right to consult his or her solicitor, but the right should be conditional to some extent and should not be left untrammelled. The hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) said how, with a bank robbery, the police might be justified in holding incommunicado members of a gang whom they had captured while they attempted to extract information and get hold of the gang members who had evaded them.
The Government face a difficult balance between the desire to accord people legitimate civil rights and the demands of effective counter-terrorist policing. If someone is allowed unconditional access to a solicitor after detention, there will be a risk that other members of a terrorist organisation may be informed that an arrest has taken place or of a suspicion that an individual has informed the security forces, or that other information may be passed on that would help terrorists to perpetrate their crimes or put the police and security forces at risk.
Mr. Bermingham: I think that the hon. Gentleman misunderstood what I said. Under English law, one can hold someone incommunicado for serious arrestable offences. We understand that, it is acceptable and special rules apply. Also, at present one can hold those arrested for terrorist offences incommunicado and no one is suggesting that that should change. The Bill should make it clear that the powers that are being exercised in England and Wales are the powers that will be exercised in Northern Ireland. We are simply saying, "Same place, same powers."
Mr. Lidington: The Minister will defend the exact words of the amendment, but the list in sub-paragraphs (4)(a) to (g) is pretty comprehensive in setting out the risks that would legitimately justify withholding access to a solicitor during a counter-terrorist investigation.
I understood the intention of the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Mr. Cohen), but it is a mistake to set a firm time limit for the review of detention. There is always a risk, in particular when one is dealing with officialdom in whatever shape or form, that a maximum time limit will become the minimum. The language of the Bill--that the review should take place as soon as is reasonably practical--offers a better safeguard. In most instances the police service will want to conduct the review and get it out of the way as quickly as possible.
First, the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) pursued the Scottish angle and schedule 7 seems to include a section that offers safeguards to people detained under clause 40 in Scotland. Amendment No. 64 would put in place comparable safeguards for detainees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, the criteria for withholding access to a solicitor are different. The language of the Bill in page 108, where it relates to Scotland, is much less specific than the items laid down in amendment No. 64, which apply to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Why is that the case? In practice, is there likely to be a substantial difference between the safeguards and categories of exemption available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and those available to a detainee in Scotland? That might be an important distinction in an investigation that crosses boundaries within the United Kingdom, if there were indeed a difference of substance in the law that the Government propose.
Secondly, how will the police power to withhold access to a solicitor under certain defined conditions link with the power to seek from a judicial authority an extension of the detention period of up to seven days? Am I correct in my understanding that the Government propose that, provided the conditions in sub-paragraph (4) of amendment No. 64 are met, someone could be denied access to a solicitor for up to the full seven days of detention provided for in the Bill?
Thirdly, I have a question about the right of the detained person to have one named person informed of his detention as soon as reasonably practical. The amendment does not specify the way in which that information should be communicated. The Government clearly realise--in their proposals on legal advice--that there need to be safeguards in relation to the police and the conduct of counter-terrorist investigations. Do not those problems also arise as regards alerting a friend, relative or other person interested in the welfare of the detainee?
Is there a risk that exercising that right, which seems to be unconditional--according to my reading of amendment No. 64--would lead to information getting out that would put lives, or a terrorist investigation, at risk in the same way that the Government have accepted might happen if there were untrammelled access to a solicitor's advice? What is the Government's reason for making that difference between the two categories of right that they want to extend under the amendment?