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Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend recognise that this very important legislation, which we, clearly, are looking at for the purpose of securing security for our own population, has an international implication, because any extension of imprisonment without trial will be noted by countries around the world that are not so concerned as we are about those very high standards of justice? Will there be an opportunity in the consultation period to take on board comments from other countries, as well as bodies in this country, in order to examine terrorism in the wider sphere?
Mr. Blunkett: Albeit that I am open to criticism for making speeches on terrorism across the world, which is also faced with terror, the answer is "Yes, I think we should." I did it in New Delhi to an audience including human rights lawyers and members of the supreme court, who, contrary to the kind of dismissal that I saw on "Newsnight" last night, had a deep commitment as human rights lawyers and members of India's supreme court to human and civil rights in their country and across the world. I shall do the same in the Untied States in two weeks' time, because I believe that these are universal principles that are crucial to democracy and justice, and that we should debate them on that basis.
Mr. Mark Oaten (Winchester) (LD): The Home Secretary has just confirmed that he plans to review part 4 in a six-month period. Will he therefore consider amending tomorrow's order so that the extension period is six months, so that there will be a guarantee that we can debate it in a six-month period?
Mr. Blunkett: No, I will not. Apart from the fact that the regulations and the Act do not permit us to do so, we laid down the annual review by the House and the renewal procedure knowing that individual cases, after the initial six months, would be reviewed on a three-monthly basis. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission will review all the cases that it has dealt with on a three-monthly basis, and it has the powerand is free tochallenge the continuing evidence placed before it, and whether the risk continues. In terms of dealing both with Lord Newton's report and with renewal, I need to spell out that that is risk to the life of the nation that constitutes a public emergency within article 15 of the ECHR. I needed to get that on the record as well.
As I spelt out in quoting Eliza Manningham-Buller, nothing has diminished that threat. It is important to continue to re-emphasise that, because, sadly, people easily forget Bali, where 202 people were killed; Casablanca, where 44 people were killed; Riyadh, where 34 people were killed; Jakarta, where 12 people were killed; and Istanbul, where at the end of last year, over 50 people lost their lives including the consul general and members of his staff.
These are continuing threats that are taken seriously by all democratic nations, and rightly so, given the tremendous threat from al-Qaeda, repeated by bin Laden on numerous occasions. From February last year, to Septemberwhen he produced a tapeto
I simply ask that, in dealing with the real and very big challenges of not doing away with the standard of proof, the presumption of innocence and the way in which we have traditionally upheldin the face of considerable difficultiesour criminal justice process, we bear in mind the nature and level of the threat and what it means to us.
Mr. George Osborne (Tatton) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman is clearly right about the nature of the threat, and I applaud much of what he is doing to counter it. Can he assess how much damage we have done to al-Qaeda in the last couple of years? We have had the military operations in Afghanistan, and bin Laden is pinned down wherever he is, but can he give a broader assessment of whether we are winning the war against terror?
Mr. Blunkett: At a superficial level, I think that people can presume that, given the attacks that I listed, the war is not yet won; the pronouncements of the head of the Security Service, MI5, underline the continuing threat. But the challenge is what would have happened had we not taken the steps that we took, had we not got the quality of the Security Servicebuilt up, it must be said, with its expertise and knowledge of dealing with terror emanating from Ireland, particularly over the last 30 yearsand the anti-terrorist branch. That gives me an opportunity to say how much respect I have for them and to thank them for the work that they have been doing. The difficulty for them is that prevention is never seen or acknowledged. Prevention does not allow us to celebrate what has been done. It is only in the aftermath of tragedy that we see whether a system, process or security measure has failed. I have the privilege and the difficulty of being given the evidence of what they are doing and how they are doing it. I hold them in tremendously high regard. That is why prevention is so fundamental to this debate.
Vera Baird: My right hon. Friend was discussing criminal procedures and the position of the security services. I accept entirely that he personally adopts a very much higher standard than reasonable suspicion before certificating people, and I am sure that SIAC adopts a high standard before confirming his certificates. Usually, civil courts adopt a criminal standard when their finding will imply that somebody has committed criminal offences, which is the position here. I wonder how far we are from being able successfully to prosecute the people concerned, at least
Mr. Blunkett: Let me take the challenge on. We believe that if we have not actually achieved it, we have come very close to achieving the standard of proof relevant to, and by necessity demanded by, a criminal court. My hon. and learned Friend puts her finger on the difficulty, which is the nature of how we have reached that level and standard of proof. By necessity, in terms of the nature of the evidence presented, its admissibility and the use of special advocates, the difficulty is that, every time we take a step to try to achieve what is being asked of us, we get disqualified by people being against particular elements of the process that they do not like.
I referred earlier to the difficult issue of how to ensure that, as with a criminal trial, defendants have all the evidence presented to them, when the defendants themselves are a problem in passing on and using the evidence presented to them, as opposed to the special advocate assigned to them, to continue the development and perpetration of terror.
That is not like the consideration of a normal criminal activity when someone is charged with finding out, through an adversarial situation, whether a person is guilty or not and evidence is adduced to determine that. That is different from people using evidence to continue to perpetrate the activity that they were doing in the first place that we were trying to stop. The way in which we move forward is a layman's challenge as well as a legal challenge for those of us who are not lawyers.
Could we have special advocates? The Newton committee suggests that we could have special advocates at a different level, which relates to what we were discussing a moment ago about the enhancement of the crime so that punishment would thus be based on an initial arrest for a form of criminality different from terrorism. It also lays down the challenge of producing a definition of terrorism, because the House and the other place have struggled to find one that would make terrorism a crime in itself, rather than the combination of activities that we put together in the Terrorism Act 2000 and the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.
I thought that I was struggling when I tried to get the legislation clear in my head two years ago, but that was chickenfeed compared with actually taking on the challenge of trying to find the nature of the solution and addressing the contradictions raised by the Newton committee with which we are dealing now. The Government had to come up with the right solution for the specific problem of overseas citizens whom we could not remove. The Newton committee is now understandably challenging us to deal with a whole different range of individuals who are preparing for, or engaged with, terror.
Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): With reference to the Home Secretary's comments about Northern Ireland, does he accept that one of the lessons from Northern Ireland for Governments of all colours was that suppressing terrorist acts was not especially successful? For example, detention without trial had the counter-productive effect of strengthening the recruiting