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Norman Baker: I rise to support the comments of the hon. Member for SouthEast Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice), to whose amendment I and Liberal Democrat colleagues have appended our names. We entirely support the thrust of his argument, irrespective of the merits of the extra powers, although we have our doubts about whether they are merited and whether they give too much to the law enforcement agencies and too little respect to civil liberties.
Irrespective of those doubts, we believe that the Government are abusing their position by seeking to introduce to so-called emergency legislation intended to deal with a terrorist incident, run-of-the-mill criminal matters that, as the hon. Gentleman said, are more appropriate to a police or criminal justice Bill. It is perhaps telling that the title of the Bill includes the word "crime". I am reminded that the emergency Bill that we considered after the IRA bombing in Birmingham in the early 1970s was 15 clauses long. This Bill, in its putative state, was 40 clauses long, and that total has now multiplied into 125 clauses.
If the Government want all-party support for measures to deal with terrorism, they will find it throughout the House, on their Benches, the Conservative Benches and on ours. However, if they seek to piggyback important anti-terrorist measures with a range of other bits and pieces that are lying around the Home Office cupboard, they must expect hon. Members in all parts of the House to be sceptical and angry about abuse of their position.
I want to draw the Minister's attention to the comments of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which has considered these clauses. I hope that the Government are not going merely to wash away the Committee, which is distinguished. I make that comment even though I serve on the Committee, which has other distinguished members. It is formed of experts from both Houses and was established by the Government expressly to consider such matters. If they are to ignore the advice of a Committee that they have set up, one wonders why it is there.
Mrs. Patsy Calton (Cheadle): Does my hon. Friend agree that any changes in policing in Northern Ireland should be made in the spirit of the Patten report? Not making such changes in that spirit could cause needless tensions in the reform of policing in Northern Ireland.
Norman Baker: I agree with my hon. Friend, who takes her interest in Northern Ireland very seriously. A further issue to bear in mind is that, when we introduce rushed proposals in a delicate situation such as that in Northern Ireland, we must be very careful that the good work done there by the Government and their predecessors is not upset. We know how difficult it is to get matters right in Northern Ireland politics and legislation.
Will my hon. Friend the Minister deal with two points? First, in relation to the previous clause, I mentioned the holding of fingerprint information. It is perfectly reasonable that, when the police take fingerprints that are subsequently proven to be unnecessary, as the suspect has been released and no charge has been proffered, there is no case for keeping them; otherwise the police can have a permanent record on somebody who is wholly innocent of all suspicions, and one then has to ask why any records of any sort are being kept. During the passage of the prevention of terrorism Act, many of us suspected that it was intended more to enable the police to haul people in and keep records on them than to lead to serious prosecutions.
Secondly, the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, to which hon. Members have referred, reveals serious anxieties about the way in which clause 89 and associated provisions have suddenly been thrust into the
If there are genuine anxieties about fingerprinting and right of access, the Government should introduce a separate measure that can be properly scrutinised. It is inappropriate to deal with such a major topic in a 15-minute debate in the middle of considering an enormous Bill that is being rushed through at inordinate speed.
Beverley Hughes: The anxieties that have been expressed by the Joint Committee on Human Rights and hon. Members have not been ignored or treated lightly. That is far from the case. The need for the clauses and powers that relate to establishing identity were considered carefully. Several points justify their retention.
Clause 89 and the associated provisions simply replicate existing police powers for investigating crime at the point when people are detained and their identity is not known, either because they withhold co-operation or because they have given a false identity. That applies to only a small number of cases. Most people co-operate with the police in saying who they are. However, that does not happen in a small number of cases and valuable time may be lost.
Beverley Hughes: Those cases may involve terrorism. I shall talk about that later, but people may be detained for another offence, which is not a terrorist offence, but may be shown in the fullness of time to be linked to terrorist acts.
Beverley Hughes: As I said, I shall deal with that point later. However, the powers that we are considering will be available to the police when they have detained someone in connection with a crime that is not a terrorist offence.
Beverley Hughes: As I said, the powers relate to establishing identity. If someone is detained on suspicion of involvement with terrorism and refuses to disclose identity, or gives a false identity, the powers will be initiated.
Mr. Paice: I suspect that there will be several interventions on the Minister. She said that the powers relate to identification, but I could draw her attention to many other aspects of the clauses. They do not simply cover identification. Clause 89(9) states:
(a) may be used by, or disclosed to, any person for any purpose related to the prevention or detection of crime, the investigation of an offence or the conduct of a prosecution".
Beverley Hughes: Certainly, once a photograph has been taken, it may be retained by the police and used for those purposes. The original taking of the photograph, and the powers in the Bill that allow the police to take it, are for the purposes of identification. The information collected, be it a photograph or a fingerprint, can be retained and used in the subsequent investigation of other crimes or acts of terrorism. The power relates, initially, to the need to identify people.
I ask hon. Members to think about the practicalities of the circumstances in which the police have detained someone without knowing who it is. At that point, the police do not know what they are dealing with, in relation either to the person or to the offences that the person might have committed.