|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Mullin: My hon. Friend the Minister is right to say that I received a very helpful letter from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary today. I want to be sure that detention for up to 14 days will not be used as a device for breaking down people who have not broken down in the first seven days of detention.
I completely understand the point about technology and so on, but I want to be certain that the necessary safeguards are in place to prevent what I have described from happening and to ensure, for example, that interrogation of a person will always take place in the presence of that person's solicitor. My hon. Friend the Minister has dealt with the point about tape recordings. I seek her assurance that the provision will not be used to break down people who have not broken down previously.
Beverley Hughes: As I have said, for people detained under the Terrorism Act 2000, the procedures involved in interview sessions, and the conduct of those sessions, will be governed by PACE code C. No difference in procedure is involved there, and I am awaiting clarification in respect of my hon. Friend's question as to whether solicitors always have to be present. My hon. Friend may be aware that, in cases such as we are discussing, some differences exist between schedule 8 of the 2000 Act and PACE code C in connection with legal advice, how quickly it has to be provided, and so on. However, in general terms, all the provisions in respect of interview sessions and conduct will continue to be governed by PACE code C.
In addition, the provisions covering the responsibilities of the senior investigating officer and the custody officer remain the same. The senior investigating officer constantly has to review developments as the investigation goes on in order to satisfy the overarching obligation in paragraph 37 of
In addition, at each change of shift by the custody officerthat is, every 8 to 12 hoursa recorded welfare interview is carried out to ensure that the prisoner is in good health, requires no medical assistance, and that everything is as it should be. There is therefore no difference between the conditions for people detained under the terrorism provisions and those for people detained under criminal procedures.
My hon. Friend asked whether a solicitor would always be present. I am advised that the solicitor can be excluded from interviews only during the first 48 hours, as provided under section 41 of the 2000 Act. The solicitor is present during any period of extension after the 48 hours.
Mr. Grieve: The new clause is not an ill reflection on the Government, but it is a dreadful reflection on the state of our society that the Government should feel the need to come to the House and ask for such a draconian extension of powers. In any other circumstances, I think that most hon. Members would regard that extension as a very serious matter. It remains so, but it may be justified by the state of the threat to which this country is subject. I hope that the Government would never otherwise ask the House to approve individuals being detained for up to 14 days without charge, while criminal investigations against them take place.
The Opposition will certainly not stand in the way of powers if they are needed to prevent a serious terrorist threat to this countryalthough I am bound to point out that there will be quite a long delay before they reach the statute book. In the meantime, although the Government have, presumably, assessed the threat as serious, the power does not exist.
In view of the late stage at which the provision has been introduced, it is difficult for us to take a reasoned view as to whether it is necessary. I am very mindful of what the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration told the House a few moments ago and I am fully aware that there are issues of secrecy and confidentiality about the reasons, which may or may not exist, that the police have been unable to conclude their investigations into suspect terrorists whom they have arrested. I can understand that if the police release a suspected terrorist after six days, they will not necessarily indicate to him that they have done so only because they have not had time to collate the evidence against him, but will simply say that the time is up and he is being released.
The weakest part of the Minister's argument, however, was her inability to provide examples from past investigations where the police felt that the power was absolutely necessary. I am mindful of the reasons that she gave us, but I very much hope that, even if it is on a Privy Council basis, some information
Lady Hermon : The hon. Gentleman is describing the weakest part of the Minister's argument, but would he address the strongest point of her presentation? The Minister referred to the assessment made by Lord Carlile. He has striven hard to normalise the Northern Ireland legislation on terrorism and has found no fault in the provisions in the Bill. Surely to goodness, that should weigh heavily in the Opposition's decision this evening.
Mr. Grieve: I am sure that Lord Carlile's opinion will be taken into account. However, I am sure that the Minister will readily accept our difficulty: the proposal has been made at a late stage of the Bill's proceedings and it is draconian. I am sure that the Minister will not disagree. If the provision goes into the statute book, I very much hope that it is kept under constant review, with a view to its removal from the statute book as soon as possible, because I do not like the idea that individuals could be detained for up to 14 days without charge. That is a serious matter.
Indeed, the extension of the power to seven days was already a serious matter, although I fully accept the justification for doing so. One can only assume that the Minister's view is that the threat and its nature go far beyond that posed by, for example, the IRA even at the height of the troubles. The Minister alluded to some of the reasons for her view. She mentioned chemical, biological and radiological weaponry and the need to carry out tests. Those are grave matters and we shall take them seriously into account. We shall certainly not oppose the new clause at this stage.
However, I hope that between now and the scrutiny of the proposal in another place there will be an opportunity to hold full briefings for Members of Opposition parties about the background reasons for the new clause, in so far as the Government can give them. Will the Government also give us some detail about the trouble experienced by the police in respect of the seven-day rule in the past?
The Minister provided some examples of hypothetical problems, but there is an enormous difference between a hypothetical problem and one that has actually occurred. We must be careful that we do not end up with a situation in which, because the police think that the provision might be a useful tool in a hypothetical setting, we simply say, "Yes, of course you must have it." It is offensive to civil liberties that people should be detained for 14 days.
I shall pick up on a very important point raised by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin)the Chairman of the Select Committee on Home Affairsin relation to new clause 56, which he tabled: the longer a person is detained, the more worrying the weight and reliability of any evidence obtained from that person. We would not want challenges to be made under the
I do not wish to take up the House's time, so I simply tell the Minister that we will not oppose the measure at this stage, but we will keep it under review in the hope that it will be debated fully in another place. We would like to hear an explanation of the necessity of including the measure, in so far as the Government can provide one, particularly because it is not as though it will come into operation tomorrow in any event.
We appear to be in a period of great threat and I have no reason to disagree with the Government's assessment, given the explanations that they have provided, but where we will be in October, or whenever the Bill becomes law, is another matter. So, for a period at any rate, the police will not enjoy this power, which they appear to be seeking as a matter of urgency. I very much hope therefore that, at the end of the consideration of the Bill, we will be able to be fully confident of the necessity of including this draconian measure.
Mr. Mullin: As the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) says, this is quite a large power for the Government to seek, and they have done so at rather a late stageI think that I got a telephone call the Friday before lastso my Committee and, indeed, the House have not been able to give the proposal the consideration that it perhaps needs, although the Home Secretary was very generous in making time available for an informal meeting to discuss this and one or two other last-minute additions to the Bill.
Although the Minister, for reasons that I perfectly understand, is not able to give hard examples of why the power is needed, I am able to give hard examples of how we got into the mess on terrorism some years ago. Let me say at the outset that I completely understand and accept that things have moved on light years since then, and I do not suggest that we are back there, but I am suggesting that I do not want the House to approve of things that might take us back in that general direction.
In the mid-1970s, there was a series of major terrorist offences on the British mainlandthe M62 coach bombing, the bombings at Guildford and Woolwich and the Birmingham bombingall of which occurred within 18 months of one another. In total, 18 people were convicted in connection with those bombings, and they were all sent away for very long periods. I think that I am right in sayingI say this off the top of my headthat 10 of those 18 people signed confessions in custody, explaining how they had carried out those bombings. In due course, all those confessions proved to be false. There is evidence that, in some casescertainly, in the Guildford case and possibly in that of Judith Wardthose who took them knew that they were false when they were obtaining them.
In addition to the terrorist cases, there have been a number of other cases where people have been convicted of murder solely on the basis of confessions obtained in police custody, often with no other evidence whatever.