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Mr. Blunkett: I do not for a moment dispute what the right hon. Gentleman says about taking such a system seriously and being prepared to examine how it might enhance the powers available to us. I said that there were probably lower-level activitiesthe French call them associating with a wrongdoer. Their system goes back to the time when they were dealing with major terrorism from north Africafrom Algeria to be precise.
As well as the inquisitorial system, the right hon. Gentleman will be familiar with the recommendations in the Newton report, such as those for electronic tagging and monitoring and on the subject of bank balances. They could come into play. I dispute whether the latter recommendations could come into play for those who are so strongly linked to, and engaged in, terrorism that they are central to the threat to us. Allowing them free access to talk with and to be with other people at allnever mind allowing them to use computers, telephones or bank balanceswould put us at risk. We are half way to each other in recognising that the committee has raised an interesting issue that we should address and that we should be open-minded about.
I am interested in French law. However, I am not advocating it, and I had better make that clear in case a baroness in the other place gets the wrong idea and is on the "PM" programme before I get the chance to refute the idea that I am. There is a historical difference in France. Because of the system of investigatory magistrates and the way in which the French judicial system works, they have held people suspected of terrorism for up to four years without trial. I would not want that; the SIAC process is a lot better, not least the three-monthly reviews. Our ability to debate the issues this afternoon demonstrates the care with which our
Mr. Cash: The manner in which the Government are presenting the information to the House, the discussion paper and all that flows from it and the dialogue that is going on are, unlike the approach taken to the Civil Contingencies Bill, extremely useful. Does the Home Secretary agree that, whatever merits there may be in the Newton committee's criticisms of part 4, one aspect has not been considered sufficiently? Under section 21, the Secretary of State can issue a certificate only if he reasonably believes or suspects that someone is a terrorist. We then have the review procedures on appeal and the provisions for certification in sections 25 and 26. In other words, unlike in the Civil Contingencies Bill, there is in this measure an opportunity for the court to get to grips with the question of whether the Home Secretary or other Ministers have misbehaved in any way. Does he agree that that is one reason why he might be right and the Newton committee might not be?
Mr. Blunkett: There needed to be a checkthe House was very clear about thison the certification and subsequent reviewing work of SIAC. When deciding to make SIAC a superior court of record, the issue of judicial review was debated. The starting point was how we could review certification judicially, as well as having the Carlile review, although Lord Carlile does an extremely good job of reviewing whether the process has been used correctly and whether due weight has been given to reasonable belief. That is why I have been able to say that we have now gone beyond reasonable belief in weighing up.
I know that other hon. Members want to speak, so I shall not go on at great length. To put that matter in context, however, it is worth reflecting that when the House was debating this at substantial length in November, it was feared that very large numbers of people would be picked up, certificated and dealt with under the measure. It was suggested at the time that 200, 300 or 400 people could be picked up.
Mr. Blunkett: Well, it would be if that person were unjustly accusedI accept that challenge. That is why we are agonising over how to go forward. We have been through the trauma of finding that people who have been through our existing criminal justice system have turned out to be innocent, and we are mindful of that. However, I was about to make the point that there was much concern because of the promises that had been given in the past. I remember that at that time one of my hon. Friends used the example of a former Home Secretary who projected at the beginning of the second world war the number of people who would be picked up for internment, which turned out to be a massive underestimate. I merely point out that we gave a pledge that we would use the provision judiciously and sparingly, and that we have kept that promise. We have used it only where we genuinely believed that the risk warranted it.
Jeremy Corbyn: Can the Home Secretary help me on one point? If the legislation that he supports allows him to detain foreign nationals on suspicion of terrorist activities, is he considering extending that power to British nationals? Surely, if someone is entitled to legal rights, they are entitled to them whatever their nationality.
Mr. Blunkett: That is what we debated when we passed the 2001 Act. We discussed the fact that we were dealing with immigration powers, and with citizens whom we wished to reject from this country but could not because we wanted to safeguard their human rights. I have said this afternoon that although we face substantial challenges in improving the use of other parts of our law, including the Terrorism Act 2000, it is not my intention to use the SIAC process for citizens of the United Kingdom. Nor is it my intention, because I cannot see how we could do it, simply to do away with SIAC by using instead the system that we have in the United Kingdom purely to deal with this challenge.
We are trying to square the circle, because there are those who do not want special advocates but accept that we have to keep security evidence private, and others who do not want derogation but accept that if we have special advocates and want the process to be fair and open, we have to use derogation because we acknowledge that we are derogating from part 5. Then there are those who are uncomfortable with the certification process. But how do we deal with a magistracy investigation process in such circumstances? Some may agree with us on severity and the particular circumstances developed for part 4, but want us to consider other activity in connection with lower-level association, perhaps looking at what has taken place in France or the suggestions made by Lord Carlile on acts preparatory to terrorism. All those matters need to be dealt with in the months ahead.
Mr. John Denham (Southampton, Itchen) (Lab): Part 4 applies solely to foreign nationals. If I understand Newton and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary correctly, measures against acts preparatory to terrorism or association with wrongdoers would not apply solely to foreign nationals but could apply generally to British citizens. Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to say how during the next six months he will explore the real issues that that would raise, given that it would introduce legal measures that, in the real world, would apply only to one community in this country, whatever the theory of the law? He is raising enormously important issues, and the handling of them, including the consultation period, is critical.
Mr. Blunkett: I understand precisely what my right hon. Friend is, quite rightly, alluding to. Let me make the position clear. We had the same difficulty with citizens of, or persons who had originated in, Ireland when surveillance and anti-terrorism activity focused on
Part of what we are required, of necessity, to do is to calm fears. We should not exaggerate incidents or appear to be regularly hyping such situations, but should try to explain to the public that people from an Islamic background who have engaged with terror have disengaged themselves from the Koran and the teachings of Islam. That is what all my Islamic advisers and friends make clear. Therefore, in taking actions that deal with a particular source of terror activity, we need to take commensurate steps to maintain calmness, social cohesion and race relations, giving the necessary explanations and information. My right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) has played an important part in that, including in taking forward suggestions not only on divided communities and the issues that were raised after the disturbances in 2001, but on the broader issues of how we develop faith and cohesion measures to enable us to avoid the kind of problems that he has raised this afternoon. I thank him for the way in which he has raised those issues.
I also say to my right hon. Friend that if we were considering lower-level activities, we would be examining concrete suggestions over the next six months and beyond. I have one suggestion that goes with the grain of the Newton report and the experience in France. Let us suppose that it were possible to seek to prevent someone from being engaged in a low-level connection or association with terror by preventing them from using a particular bank balance, as Newton suggested, or a telephone or computer. I am now drawing on the Newton committee report. Let us suppose that an order were placed on that person to preclude them from using those facilities for a particular length of time. That would be a civil order, but if they breached it, it would be a criminal offence. We should be dealing with the breach of the order. That area is worth exploring, and I believe that the Newton committee and the acts preparatory to terrorism that Lord Carlile mentioned will help us to examine it.