Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East): The Home Secretary said that persons who come here from dictatorial and oppressive regimes but who nevertheless promote terrorism will face the option of being detained or going to what he called "a third country." Will he explain how third countries will be approved and selected? Will the Government publish a list of countries that they think are appropriate for housing terrorists?
Mr. Blunkett: That was very entertaining. [Hon. Members: "It needs a serious answer."] If hon. Members want a serious answer, I can tell them that we do not need a list of third countries. A person who is not facing extradition from a specific country because of action taken but whom we want to eject from the country would have a choice. He could be deported to a country of his choice or to a country prepared to take him, or he could be detained in this country under the appeals process. Such people would not be charged with a specific terrorist act overseas: they would be suspected of working with and supporting terrorists. We are proposing measures to protect this country from those people. We are interested in ideas about safe third countries if that choice is not available to an individual. If anyone has a smart answer, I should be grateful to hear from them in the morning.
Ms Bridget Prentice (Lewisham, East): Like all Members of the House, I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement. He will be aware that, as he was speaking, people in the civil liberties lobby were unpicking every word that he said. I ask him to resist that strongly. In a free society, we must take on not only our rights but our responsibilities. Although there must be due scrutiny by the House, some of us believe that there should be an even more robust approach, particularly on judicial review. Will that happen? Most people in this country would agree to sacrifice some of their liberty if it meant greater security.
Mr. Blunkett: It is precisely that balance that we intend to secure. Debate in the House and the securing of freedoms through political action must always be preferable to falling back on those who are not elected, who are not accountable and who often cannot respond quickly or sensitively to a particular threat. That is why parliamentary and participatory democracy is the better safeguard, rather than relying on jurisprudence.
Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury): Will the Home Secretary explain why he has not taken this opportunity to legislate on mercenary activity? He will recall that we were promised a Green Paper in November last year, and that in April this year the Government regretted that they had not got around to it. Now we see young British men recruited by British citizens to fight for the Taliban,
Mr. Blunkett: I have known the hon. Gentleman for many years in opposition, so let me be frank with him. No, I did not know that we were thinking of producing a Green Paper, but I will go back and read the material, along with all the other tomes that I have been reading over the past five weeks.
Mr. David Crausby (Bolton, North-East): I have visited various mosques in my constituency on recent Fridays, and I have heard from the Muslim community overwhelming condemnation of acts of terror. At the same time, however, there has been a free and frank exchange of views with that community, which has not always been in complete agreement with the Government's tactics. Can the Home Secretary reassure me that the measures will be used in the fight against terrorism and religious hatred, and not against that free and frank exchange of views?
Mr. Blunkett: Yes, I can. On my own visits, I too have encountered both support and concern from constituents. We are all in this together, as has been said over and over again in the House by the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the Secretary of State for Defence and Opposition Members. We are in it together because we are all threatened by terrorism. It is indiscriminateit singles out no religion, no colour, no creed. That is why everyone in this country will need to back, and should back, the measures that we are takingwe are protecting them and their families as well as our own.
Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells): Does the Home Secretary agree that the main lesson from the terror attacks on America was not that existing laws are inadequate, but rather that the security and intelligence services failed to use the existing laws and their powers? Will he be very sceptical about Government agencies and others that demand new intrusion and surveillance powers, and also about the European Union, which has a declared aim of using the existing emergency as a pretext for centralising and advancing its own powers? In presenting his proposals for new laws, will he in each case show that they are required specifically for the struggle against terrorism, that their absence was significantly inhibiting, and that they will be used only in that war on terrorism?
Mr. Blunkett: I certainly agree with the first of those three propositions. There would be no point in measures that were not specific to, and helpful in, combating terrorism. I cannot guarantee the implication of the second question, which was, "Would these measures have materially helped to prevent the attack on the World Trade Centre?" Hindsight is a wonderful thing; what we now need to do is learn the lessonswhat went wrong, what measures were not in place, what scrutiny had not been carried out and what failures may have existed following the bombings in Dar-es-Salaam and Kenya in 1998and thereby ensure that we establish measures and facilities that will prevent such terrorist attacks from occurring again. We should not wait until they do occur again, and then say that perhaps we should have taken measures,
Mr. Blunkett: The list will be kept up to date. The 14 original organisations, and the additional 21 that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary introduced earlier this year when he was Home Secretary, will be reviewed. What is more, we need to ensure that those who fragment within those organisations, change their name and reconfigure themselves in new forms are dealt with adequately and speedily.
Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills): I support the Home Secretary in his intention of getting it right rather than merely acting quickly. How does he square that with the use of affirmative orders? A 90-minute debate on the Floor of the House is hardly an appropriate form of scrutiny of matters that touch on the relationship of citizens to the state and the competence of the state over judicial arrangements.
Mr. Blunkett: I am not proposing simply to have 90-minute debates. I am proposing that we have a debate about the nature of the orders that would be consequent on the parent legislation, and that each aspect should then be debated on the Floor of House in a way that has not always been the case for such measures adopted under secondary legislation. We intend to give every opportunity, at a later date, for people to be able to review whether the measures have been effective. The fact that they emanate from co-operation across Europe should be seen as a plus, not a minus, because we want other European countries' co-operation, as much as they need ours, to combat a threat that knows no national boundaries.
Mr. Paul Marsden (Shrewsbury and Atcham): I welcome my right hon. Friend's aim of outlawing incitement to religious hatred, but in our headlong rush to protect our democracy there is a real danger that we will forgo basic civil liberties. What, specifically, does he mean by retaining data? I am sure that many businesses are very concerned about what that will involve. Personally, I am concerned about whether it means nosing through private e-mails or steaming open letters.
Mr. Blunkett: It explicitly does not mean ferreting through people's private e-mails or steaming open their post. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 is the greatest safeguard that exists in any democracy in the world in its updating of earlier provisions for protecting our rights. Having had this job for four months, I am well aware that that is the case. Great care is taken in these matters.