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Mr. Hogg: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you clarify the position on interventions? They can help debate. My understanding is that the intervention does not count against an hon. Member's time, although the answer sometimes does.
Ross Cranston (Dudley, North): We have a heightened responsibility to scrutinise the Bill because it encroaches on civil liberties and human rights. They have been hard won, and we therefore cherish them. We also know that the great majority of people do not have similar civil liberties and human rights.
Our history teaches us that the Executive can trample on liberties or rights in pursuit of their interests. Habeas corpus was mentioned in one of the many interventions that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary took. It was an attempt by common law courts in the 17th century to limit one aspect of Executive government. Seldon's case, which was one of the seminal decisions, involved the imprisonment of Members of Parliament by the Crown because of their objections on a taxation issue.
History also teaches us that law enforcement agencies can use discretion partially. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said, Labour Members are especially sensitive to that because the Labour movement was often a victim. The well documented example in the 1930s of the partiality of the police to the blackshirts comes to mind.
Again, history shows that encroaching on civil liberties or human rights, however justified, can go horribly wrong. Obvious recent examples are the miscarriages of justice arising from the fight against Irish terrorism. We must therefore scrupulously test the claims made for a Bill such as the measure that we are considering. What is its overall justification? Are its specific provisions justified? Are there equally effective alternatives that would make less of an incursion into liberties and rights? Will the unintended effects swamp the benefits? How will the checks against abuse, misuse and mistakes work in practice?
I cannot accept that we should not act because that is somehow contrary to what are said to be our liberal, democratic traditions. We are vulnerable because a liberal democracy enables people to pursue individual interests, and we act as a refuge for those from other states. We will pay a high price if we ignore the minority of fanatics who would abuse the liberties and rights of liberal democracy to destroy it.
Part 4 deals with the dilemma that is posed by the European Court of Human Rights, and decisions such as that on Chahal: we would be in breach of article 3 of the European convention on human rights if we deported international terrorists to jurisdictions where they would be tortured, executed or otherwise inhumanely treated. What should we do? Should we allow terrorists to continue their evil work unchecked? The Bill proposes their detention, which will be subject to regular review by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. That body was set up following a suggestion by the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Chahal. Its composition and methods have been judicially approved by the European court and in the House of Lords in subsequent decisions.
Hon. Members need only consider SIAC's decision in the Rehman case to realise that it is no pushover. It imposed the same high standards of proof as ordinary courts. In the case of Rehman, SIAC rejected the Home Secretary's case. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said, some believe that there will be no judicial review of SIAC decisions. That is nonsense. The Bill provides for an appeal to the Court of Appeal on a point of law. That covers matters such as the sleepy judge, which the hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin)
Mr. McNamara: I accept the point about appeal on a point of law, but although a friend who is appointed to represent the accused may be told the evidence on which intelligence services make their decision, the accused will not. His court-appointed representative cannot tell him that. He is therefore in no position to rebut the evidence against him.
Merits review has been mentioned. Judicial review never involves a review on merits. There can be an appeal on a point of law, and issues such as lack of evidence or facts, which the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham mentioned earlier, will be taken into account. I do not, therefore, regard that as an objection.
The more substantial objection to the detention provisions is that foreign international terrorists should be dealt with by the ordinary courts. The Terrorism Act 2000 gives the courts extra-territorial jurisdiction to deal with foreign international terrorists who incite, or who have engaged in, terrorist acts abroad. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has assured the House that there is still a small number of foreign international terrorists who would not be caught by those powers. He alluded to the problem of the Interception of Communications Act 1986, and the bar that it appoints to bringing evidence before the court. That Act was, incidentally, introduced by the previous, Conservative Government.
I am sure it would help the House if the Minister, or the Home Secretary, could reiterate that it is Government policy that the Bill's provisions will be a last resortin other words, that if foreign international terrorists can be prosecuted here, or extradited to places where they can be tried, they will be.
I cannot see an alternative to the thrust of the provisions, although the Joint Committee on Human Rights has raised some useful points of detail which I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will consider. I should also say that, at first blush, I am attracted to Professor Gearty's proposal to the Home Affairs Committee for an annual report on detentions, by an independent commissioner.
Earlier this year, I supported the provisions on the disclosure of publicly held information for law enforcement purposes, to which the hon. Member for West Dorset objected, and with the additional protections
On the provisions relating to religion, there has been, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) said, an upsurge in religious harassment and attack. Such incidents have occurred in my constituency. Hon. Members may have received through the mail the latest bile from the British National party, a copy of which arrived in my office this morning.
Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch): Following on from what the hon. and learned Member for Dudley, North (Ross Cranston) has said, I hope that, if he had been allowed to speak for a bit longer, he would have gone on to tell us that the Home Affairs Committee report contained some useful evidence from Muslim organisations which originally thought that the Bill would be helpful to them, but now realise that it will not be.
The right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) dismissed the objections raised by Muslims, but he failed to recognise that the organisations which signed up to the document submitted in evidence to the Home Affairs Committee included the Muslim Council of Britain, the Association of Muslim Schools, the Muslim Parliament, the Union of Muslim Organisations, the Muslim college, the Muslim Women's Helpline and others. The Muslim organisations, of which those are some, are against the provisions in part 5 of the Bill. They recognise that there are immense practical difficulties connected with the provisions, but my concern is more an issue of principle. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) said, race and religion are not the same thing. Race and colour are attributes with which we are born, and over which we have no choice, whereas religious belief, or lack of it, is a matter of choice and opinion. In that sense, religious belief is similar to political belief or even, dare one say, support for a football team.
The front page of the sports section of The Sunday Telegraph yesterday carried an amazing photograph of a section of the crowd at White Hart Lane on Saturday, when Tottenham played Arsenal. They were carrying placards which had one word on them: "Judas". I understand that those placards were directed towards Sulzeer Jeremiah Campbell, otherwise known as Sol Campbell, the English international footballer. They were directed at him because he had switched clubs, from Tottenham to Arsenal. I do not know Mr. Campbell's religion or, indeed, his race, but if he is a devoted Christian, and if part 5 of the Bill had already been on the statute book, I have little doubt that all those holding up the "Judas" placards would, prima facie, be guilty of incitement to religious hatred.
The hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) has done the House a great service in producing his report from the Home Affairs Committee. It is an excellent report, but it is important to consider the scope of the proposed new offence of incitement to religious hatred. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Beverley Hughes), kindly sent us all a document earlier this month, which contained a summary of the key points of the Bill. In relation to this provision, she stated:
Someone from the Dorset Commission for Racial Equality objected, and the matter was referred to the police and to the prosecuting authorities. There was no question of going round and discussing with this person what his motives were. An enormous amount of public money was spent on investigating the matter and, eventually, about six months later, the editor got a knock on the door, and two policemen explained to him that he was not going to be prosecuted on that occasion, but that he should not do anything like that again because it was, effectively, against the law, although there was to be no prosecution.
That is a case of someone exercising his right of free expression in a small circulation newspaper. The prosecuting authorities did not have a go at The Sun, did they? They spent a lot of time investigating some pretty harmless comments from this person in the Verwood locality of my constituency. If the Home Secretary, or any other worthy, gets up and says that it is not the intention of the Bill to result in the denial of free speech, all I can say is that he cannot guarantee that.
In practice, if anybody complains the complaint will be taken extremely seriously by the prosecuting and investigating authorities, because it is about a serious offence. If it is not taken seriously, that in itself will generate a further complaint. That process will take up a lot of time and it will not necessarily result in a series of prosecutions, but people will be threatened by such an atmosphere. I am concerned that the Bill extends so widely into an area where, hitherto, we have been able to exercise free speech and free expression. I support everything that my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) said from the Front Bench.