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Simon Hughes: I understand the Minister's arguments, but is she saying that because there are more investigations now, we are strapped for resourcesthe people to do the job quickly? Is she saying that the investigation of hard drives or chemical substances, for example, and checks with Interpol and foreign police forces now take place, but were not undertaken three years ago? When we looked at all the terrorism legislation, we provided not the two days that Lord Lloyd recommended or the four days that he recommended in exceptional cases, but seven days to allow for leeway. What has changed in those three
Beverley Hughes: It is not the number of cases and the need to detain people longer so that we can make proper use of the available resources; it is the growing appreciation of the increasing sophistication of methodologies used by terrorists, their access to technology, whether equipment or particular substances. There is greater evidence of more sophisticated approaches, but we also have a greater understanding of what needs to be done so that we use our investigation processes to get as much out of the investigation as possible and obtain usable evidence to press charges.
Mr. Heath : I am interested in the technical response to the terrorist threat. One of the limiting factors that the Minister is describing is the difficulty of biological assay in response to a bio-terrorism threat and the time that it takes to analyse a pathogen. I recently saw some interesting work in the Livermore laboratory in the United States on a much faster assay process. Is Britain buying into that sort of technology so that investigative processes can be speeded up for the benefit of our defences?
Beverley Hughes: We are certainly keeping up to speed with all the developments in that area. I would not like to imply, nor would I like the hon. Gentleman to assume, that we have tabled the amendment extending the time limit because our technology is not as advanced as that of other countries. As I have said, hon. Members will have to make a balanced judgment. They are getting at some undoubtedly important points, which I take seriously. Detaining people, whatever we suspect them of, is a serious matter for a democracy and it is right that hon. Members should question us about it. However, at the same time, they will have to judge whether, on balance, the limitation of liberty that is being proposed is proportionate and justified in a very small number of cases in relation to the serious harm that people suspected of such activities can potentially wreak on society. Different judgments will be made about that. We have reached our judgment on the basis of the practical experience of the police and their advice to us about the period of time that may be required in an admittedly small number of cases.
I am sure that hon. Members will know that there are a significant number of safeguards in schedule 8 already. We have built further safeguards into the formulation of the amendment. It is not proposed, for example, that the court should be given the power to issue a warrant authorising 14 days of detention on the first occasion on which a warrant for an extension of detention is sought. Rather, the court will be able to extend the period in the warrant for more than seven days only if the warrant already authorises detention for the maximum seven days that is currently permitted. To think through the process, the police will be able to detain for 48 hours, and if they then apply to the court for an extension, the maximum that the court can allow at that point is seven days. If further time is needed, the police will have to come before the court again and explain why. The court will have to satisfy itself of the conditions.
Beverley Hughes: If I can just finish the point. We have already seen from the operation of the current provisions that the courts are rightly exercising some caution and judiciousness in respect of the periods of time that they grant. They do not necessarily grant the entire period requested: they require the police to return and, if they need to, subsequently repeat the request for an extension rather than grant three or four days in one chunk.
Mr. Grieve: By continuing with her explanation, the Minister has answered my question. It would be considered perfectly routine if the courts were granting extensions beyond seven days only in periods of 24 or 48 hours.
Beverley Hughes: That is certainly how the power is exercised currently and it is what we expect in the future because of the conditions that have to be satisfied and also because the courts take their responsibilities seriously.
Mr. Beith: That certainly helps our understanding. However, I am concerned about the Minister's argument that using the procedure might stop a major incident. That is a powerful argument, but in such circumstances, the people taken into custody are unlikely to proceed if it had been their intention to do so, because their cover has been blown. When it becomes possible to link them to others, the operation would almost certainly change and others would be drawn into it. If it were believed that they were preparing to commit an offence themselves, they could be pursued on the basis of a criminal charge and the matter could be taken further in that way. The idea that taking such people into custody will not disturb an organisation's plans seems rather confused.
Beverley Hughes: I do not think so. It is in the nature of these incidents that we have to deal with hypothetical circumstances. We cannot know what we have disturbed and interrupted by acting on the intelligence of the security services. I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman. We have to act on the intelligence that we have. We may never know how effective it might have been in interrupting a planned operation, but we have to do all that we can on the basis of the intelligence that we possess. That means arresting people whom we suspect to be engaged in planning a particular operation or engaged more generally in activities that are likely to lead to terrorist acts as defined in the legislation.
Terrorism is a reserved matter, so the new clause will apply throughout the United Kingdom. It will come into effect by order after Royal Assent. As I said in an earlier response to a question put by the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon)for which I was gratefulthe application and use of the power will be subject to annual review by the independent reviewer of the Terrorism Act 2000, Lord Carlile.
Amendment (a) accepts that a period of detention greater than seven days might be required for the police to complete their investigations. Notwithstanding the interventions of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) so far, I am grateful that the amendment accepts that principle. The problem is that it ignores the advice that we have had from the police, based on the practicalities of dealing with a suspected terrorist in custody. When I introduced these provisions, I made it clear why we think that an additional three days would not be sufficient. I have tried to outline the safeguards and, in particular, the way in which the judicial authorities will operate the new clause, only authorising extra time if the police have made a case for it. That is the ultimate safeguard.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) asks about his new clause 56. Schedule 8 to the Terrorism Act 2000 sets out the key detention requirements, which apply across the UK, such as the period of time a person can be detained under section 41 or schedule 7, review of the detention, authorisation and access to solicitors. The way in which those various requirements are regulated varies slightly across the legal jurisdictions in England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
In England and Wales, detention of terrorist suspects is covered by PACE codes of practice, in Northern Ireland it is governed by a code of practice made under section 99 of the 2000 Act, and Scotland does not have a PACE equivalent. I am talking specifically about the use of recordings, to which my hon. Friend's new clause refers. All interviews in the UK under the Terrorism Act 2000 are audio recorded and that is governed by the UK-wide code of practice for the audio recording of interviews under that Act. That code goes wider than PACE code E, which is the equivalent PACE code of practice for tape recording interviews with suspects. It allows for a consistent approach to Terrorism Act interviews across the UK, whereas PACE applies only to England and Wales.
Previously there was a code for Northern Ireland and administrative systems in England, Wales and Scotland, and that led to considerable inconsistency in approach and the Government's decision to lay down a code of practice in the Terrorism Act 2000. Because we already have a code of practice that goes wider than PACE code E, I ask my hon. Friend not to press his new clause, or I shall ask the House to resist it.
Although my hon. Friend's new clause refers specifically to recordings and to the application of PACE to recordings, I am aware that he may have concerns that go wider than the recording issue and relate to how people are treated in detention
PACE code C applies generally and the new code goes wider than PACE code E on the recording issue. I hope, therefore, that my hon. Friend is assured that the general circumstances that apply to all detainees under PACE apply to people detained under the 2000 Act.