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Jeremy Corbyn: The right hon. Gentleman is making a most interesting contribution. In relation to all his dealings in Northern Ireland during the 1980s and 1990s, does he think that the prevention of terrorism Act did much to reduce tensions or was it the two ceasefires and the political process that achieved a modicum of peace in Northern Ireland compared with what went before?
Sir Brian Mawhinney: The hon. Gentleman will not rememberand I shall not bore the House by going down memory lanethat I was the first Minister who was asked by the Government to explore whether a peace process was possible. In part, that was because I had long advocated the idea that ultimately a solution had to be found in a political context. He should have no doubt, however, that the strength and commitment of the Government to security and trying to offer protection to the people provided an indispensable part of the foundation on which those other political policies emerged. I have no doubt about that whatever.
As I was saying, the legislation was rushed, and was tagged on to immigration legislationthat has been explored in depth, and I do not intend to go any further into it. It differentiates United Kingdom nationals and non-United Kingdom nationals, and deals only with the latter. Evidence to us, however, suggested that perhaps half of those who are in the frame as a matter of concern to the security forces are UK nationals. This legislation provides no ability whatever to deal with them. I understand the point made earlier about not wanting to stigmatise, which I accept, but terrorism legislation, which is supposed to be legislation for the United Kingdom, that does not deal with half of the identified problem is not very impressive.
Thirdly, there is an inherent problem at the heart of the policythe only solution for non-UK nationals is to get them out of the country. The Home Secretary keeps telling us, however, that we are faced with a global threat. Moving them out of this country to some other country therefore does nothing to resolve the global
Let me return for a moment to the subject of Northern Ireland. Given parallel issues of this kind, it was recognised in the legal system that change was necessary, and it came in the form of Diplock courts. They broke the rules that were normal, but they did a fundamentally important job. They were not justified on the grounds that the justice they meted out, if judged on the basis of success in the Appeal Court, was at least as good as that provided through the normal jury process; that was not their raison d'être. Their raison d'être was the fact that in circumstances in which it was difficult to do the normal, the Government were so committed to the legal process that they were willing to contemplate the abnormal. That included public interest immunity certificates and the like. I feel that the Government should adopt the same open-ended, open-minded approach today.
Mr. Cash: My right hon. Friend may have noticed that I am troubled by one aspect of the Newton committee's report. I should like to know what he thinks about it. When the Home Secretary has reasonable cause to believe that a person is a suspect, or a terrorist, the courts have the right to adjudicate, subject to conditions that I mentioned earlier. Against the background of the terrorist threat, is that not a reasonable starting point? If we dismiss part 4 as it stands, what will we put in its place?
Sir Brian Mawhinney: I agree that it is a reasonable starting point. As I said earlier, the Government had to produce legislation in a hurry, without having thought the whole process throughand the safeguards written into it are important: my hon. Friend and I agree on that. What I do not find acceptable is the prospect of people spending years and years incarcerated without having any evidence presented to them, and without being given an opportunity to test it in the historic tradition of the United Kingdom. I personally, and the committee generally, therefore felt that while the provision was a good starting point, it was not a good finishing point.
Mr. Hogg: Those people will be detained without there being any finding that they have done anything wrong. All that can be said is that there are reasonable grounds to believe or suspect that the section 21 criteria have been met. That is different.
There is another part of the Act that I think Members do not consider as worrying as they ought to. I refer to the wide dissemination of personal information that it allows. All sorts of Government bodies have access to information that many of us here have spent decades trying to prevent them from obtainingnot because we wanted to be awkward, but because we believed that the individual had a right to an element of privacy. I have no time to elaborate on that, but I remind the House that the committee unanimously recommended that
The legislation is a rag-bag. Those of us who have been Ministers know that when one arrives in a Department, civil servantsGod bless themreach into their pigeonholes and provide all the legislation that, they say, is absolutely crucial and necessary and must be introduced before Christmas. Indeed, that is what happened in this case. It became known in the Home Office that a Bill was to be introduced, so the terrorist bit got put in, police powers got put in and criminal justice bits got put in. Indeed, everything else bar the kitchen sink got put in, including bits of legislation that had already been put before, and rejected by, Parliament. However, they were recycled because the supposition was that, given the terrorist nature of the legislation, it would all get through. And of course, that supposition was proved to be right.
My point is an important one. If we are to ask the people of this country to accept certain draconian impositions on their lives and the way in which they live them, such impositions must be linked explicitly to terrorism; they cannot be bundled into all sorts of things. An extremely unfortunate event occurred recently, whereby terrorism legislation was used to disband a perfectly legal demonstration in the City. That is a matter of concernor at least it ought to beto Members on both sides of this House. That is why we made such an issue of the mainstreaming of legislation.
I understand the point that the Home Secretary makesI have been there, done that and got the T-shirt. There is always a battle each year about which Bills will make it into the Queen's Speech, so no member of the Committee expected the Home Secretary to rip up the entire terrorism Bill and produce new mainstream legislation. But, equally, I hope that the Minister will not use extensively the argument that these issues cannot be addressed because of the pressure on parliamentary time. There is a democratic need to disaggregate police and criminal justice legislation from terrorism legislation.
So that I can be consistent, I should point out that when we debated this legislation on Second Reading and in Committee on the Floor of the House, I expressed considerable reservations about the issue of religious hatred as dealt with in part 5. [Interruption.] It is clear that the Minister remembers. We have a unanimous recommendation to which I subscribe, but having listened to the evidence I am no more impressed by the arguments for part 5 than I was when the House first considered them. We heard evidence that at least some in the Muslim community regard part 5 simply as a sop to them. I should point out to the Government that
Joyce Quin: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. As he knows, I took a very different view from him in committee and strongly supported part 5, but I agree that we should welcome what the Home Secretary said today about mainstreaming, and about dealing with these issues on their own merits in an appropriate framework.
Sir Brian Mawhinney: We worked hard to have a unanimous report and we were unanimous on this issue. I would not wish to cause even a ripple to float across the surface of that unanimity, but given that it was my contribution, I suspect, to the Second Reading debate on this subject that got me on to the committee in the first place, I thought it right to reaffirm that I have not changed my personal views, even though I support the committee's recommendation.
So we need new legislation: we need it to be thought through, widely consulted on, coherent and terrorist-based; and we need it to focus on the rights and responsibilities of the individual. If we do so, we will achieve greater public and parliamentary support. We must not sacrifice the right of the individual to accommodate our pre-existing structures. We must start with security and the rights of individuals, and shape our structures and legislation to that end. If we have that mindset, the state is worth defending and the country will be safer.