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Mr. Blunkett: It is nice to do business again with the hon. Gentleman, whose question brings back many happy memories. I am coming to that issue, but I shall answer the question as succinctly as I can. It is, of course, possible to switch to alternative ways of dealing with individuals held under part 4 of the 2001 Act. The challenge laid down by Lord Newton of Braintree and the Privy Councillors is to decide whether it is possible to use without derogation a similar system for those being dealt with under immigration law who would otherwise be removed from the country and for those who are indigenous citizens of the United Kingdom.
Such a process would require the presentation of evidence from the security services and the protection of their sources. It would also require the presentation of evidence taken through the SIAC while ensuring that that evidence did not leak. The circumstances mean that it is not always possible for the defendant to be given the entirety of the evidence precisely because they are someone who is believed to be engaged in terrorism. That individual would transmit that evidence in one form or another, which would put the security services and their sources at risk. We are trying to address that circular argument.
I must put this important point on record because of the challenge in the House of Lords: part 4 of the 2001 Act was necessary and it remains necessary. It is the only way to deal with the circumstances outlined in the 2001 Act, and it must be maintained on the statute book and implemented. We are entirely open to persuasion that we can deal with a wider range of challenges while meeting the tests laid down by the Newton committee.
Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): I accept that the Home Secretary makes a serious point when he discusses the risk that evidence could leak if it were communicated to terrorists. However, that problem has also arisen over the past 30 years in Northern Ireland, where we have convicted terrorists by conventional means. Surely the effective processes to deal with evidence in Northern Ireland can be invoked to deal with the individuals covered by part 4 of the 2001 Act.
Mr. Blunkett: I have obviously familiarised myself not only with the issues before us today, but the debate and decisions on the Terrorism Act 2000 and debates that took place before that. I am aware of the significant difficulties. It is not a one-way process, with the only issue being how we can change the SIAC process and the provisions of part 4. The further question is how we can make our existing terrorism legislation, including the
I suggest that the challenge in the months ahead is to explore how we can make what we already have work more judiciously and effectively through the criminal justice system, while also learning the lessons of Northern Ireland. The challenge that we faced post-11 September 2001and will face again as we debate the issue in the months aheadis how to deal with circumstances in which we do not use prosecution and punishment as discouragement, but get in at the beginning to prevent action from being taken by those for whom prosecution and punishment hold no fear. In other words, there are no norms when dealing with suicide terrorism generated by al-Qaeda and the networks working with it, in the way that there were in the past with terrorist groups that had a negotiating position and whose members sought to save their own lives even if they endeavoured to take the lives of others.
Vera Baird (Redcar) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend able to confirm that two of the people currently subject to part 4 have been prosecuted, one to conviction and the other is in course of prosecution? If that is correct, were special procedures needed or used in those prosecutions?
Mr. Blunkett: I can confirm that one of the 17 has been found guilty of other offences. Those offences could be dealt with by the criminal court, but the certification and the material produced by the security service on that individual's more serious and wide-ranging association with and commitment to terrorism could not. That is the difficulty. Lord Newton poses the challenge of whether one can take a lesser offence and build on it, with evidence of what in other circumstances is called aggravation. That could mean the imposition of a longer, more substantive sentence, on the basisin some formof security service advice provided through a process similar to the SIAC process. The original crime would be enhanced, but it would still be addressed through the criminal justice system. That is a profound question. Can we get in at the sharp end and pick up on low-level criminality that is associated with terrorism? The report raises that issue and I shall deal with it in greater depth in a moment.
We will put out a statement today, at the other end of the spectrum of prevention, about how we can protect ourselves against attack through the capabilities resilience programme, which we used to call civil contingencies. It will address how we can protect the public and intervene quickly if an attack takes place. The statement will update the House on developments and I hope that it will be helpful. However, it will obviously not protect the nation from what we are describing this afternoon.
Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion) (PC): What will concern many of us who opposed the powers and would like to see the recommendations of the Privy Counsellor Review Committee adopted is the idea that the further powers the Home Secretary seeks to bring insome of which we supportwill add to the panoply of powers he has and not replace some of them. Before he goes into detail about the new powers that he wants to consider,
Mr. Blunkett: My right hon. Friend the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration and I are asking the Houseshe will do so later by laying the relevant orderto proceed with part 4 and with the derogation because nothing that has been suggested is a substitute for those procedures. Nor have we heard any answers to the challenges that we lay down this afternoon. The Newton report and Lord Carlile have made sensible suggestions for dealing with low-level terrorist activity and association, and some legislative measures that have been implemented abroadsome long before 11 Septemberare worthy of consideration. That might enable us to deal with at least one of the contradictions that we acknowledged two and half years agothat if one uses powers under immigration law, as we have in the case of the 17 people who were certificated under the SIAC procedure, they are not being dealt with on the same basis as the indigenous population. That follows logically. However, that does not address the further challenge of the derogation with regard to the admissibility of evidence, the nature of the evidence base and the way in which it is presented.
David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): Before the Home Secretary leaves the subject of part 4, can he confirm whether I am right in my understanding of the documentation that he issued this morning? If I read it correctly, he undertook to review part 4 before the end of this Session. If so, will he come back to the House with his decision to continue or to amend it?
Mr. Blunkett: I intend to have extensive consultation over six months, in which we will invite Members of Parliament, the public and those with a specific interest to come forward and to build on the propositions in the reports that I have mentioned and the challenges that we put in our paper. We will then produce not an alternative to our defence against the House of Lords challenge, but a comprehensive response to the issue of combining the powers that we possess under part 4 with the challenge of how to deal with the indigenous population, including the enhancement of the effectiveness of the Terrorism Act 2000, to which I referred in response to the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg). We will also respond to the challenge that the Government face as we move closer to the expiration of the sunset clause in 2006. Instead of coming within three months of the expiration of the sunset clause and then having the debate, I prefer to have the debate in the calm that I described in responding to my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (David Winnick), to allow everyone to have a fair say.
We act as we do because we believe that there is a substantial and continuing threat. I am deeply disturbed when I hear somenot allhuman rights lawyers, including those who represent those who are held in protective custody under the certification system, talk about the "so-called war on terror" and imply that there is no continuing threat.