Previous SectionIndexHome Page

David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): I begin by commending the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Oaten) on the tone that he set for the debate. This is one of those debates in which hon. Members will not engage in political combat so much as seek to persuade each other. The opposing principles involved—the preservation of life, or the preservation of our way of life—are fundamental, and that is something that we should not underestimate.

I also want to commend the Home Secretary on the long overdue action that he has taken to make deportation possible. As I said to the hon. Member for Winchester, the French seem to be able to deport people to Algeria, which is one of our problem countries. Why can we not do so, not necessarily using the same mechanism, but using our mechanisms? As a former Foreign Office Minister, I recognise that this is a difficult but nevertheless creditable process.

Jeremy Corbyn: As a former Minister, the right hon. Gentleman is aware that the Foreign Office monitors human rights issues in all countries and that the Home Office has its own internal system, although I believe that it is slightly different. Is he satisfied that if someone
8 Feb 2005 : Column 1425
is deported to Algeria—there are plenty of other examples—they will not be subject to abuse or Executive detention, not necessarily on arrival, but later, which may be why they left that country in the first place?

David Davis: The hon. Gentleman has raised a good point, and it is the sort of matter that the Minister would have to address in the memorandum of understanding. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Winchester that there has to be a legal framework, because a memorandum of understanding can be binding between countries. It should address torture and execution, which are the two primary issues, but also Executive detention. A judgment must be made, and it will be a better judgment than the one we have had so far.

I want to read some extracts from the minority opinion of Lord Hoffmann, who made some pertinent points that go to the core of the issue. He said:

As I develop my argument, I shall explain how the Government's proposal still falls within the description of the old system.

What Lord Hoffmann went on to say is important in the context of the Minister's reasonable comments about a state of emergency. He said:

In conclusion, he said:

I would not have chosen that phrasing, but Lord Hoffmann is saying that terrorists may destroy our buildings and our lives, but without our help they cannot destroy our way of life. That is what this debate is about today.

Simon Hughes: Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the implication of that very good summary of the position is that there was not and still is not a case for derogating from our obligations under the European convention on human rights, because it allows flexibility in certain cases? That means that his party, like ours, will hold to the view that we must stay within the European convention and not seek to derogate again, which would be a different position from that taken by his party during the last Parliament.
8 Feb 2005 : Column 1426

David Davis: I take the hon. Gentleman's point. I support the thrust of the argument urged by his party today. He will not be surprised to hear that I would have phrased it in terms not of the ECHR but of our fundamental rights, which are of longer standing. Let us consider how the Government can deal with the matter in a way that meets the fundamental rights about which I am concerned and the concerns that he is expressing.

Although I realise that there is a good reason why the Home Secretary cannot be in the Chamber today, I am sorry that he is not here, as I was going to tease him slightly. When he and I first knew each other more than 30 years ago in the 1960s the most fashionable writers were revolutionary left-wing writers, such as Guevara and Frantz Fanon. Some of the writers that the Home Secretary would have read made it clear that one of the main aims of revolutionary terrorist acts is to provoke a reactionary response from the state, to recruit new people to their cause. We must bear that in mind when addressing these issues so that we do not inadvertently do what the terrorists want us to do—in effect, that is what Lord Hoffmann was talking about.

The Home Secretary's proposed actions may not only be in breach of hundreds of years of our ancient British liberties, they may also be counter-productive. I do not normally quote Frenchmen, but in the words of Talleyrand this is, in terms of the war against terror,

That is the risk we face. As I said about house arrest when the Home Secretary made his statement to the House on the matter, he may lock up one known terrorist but he will create 10 unknown terrorists. Although house arrest is marginally less draconian than being in prison, the irony is that it may act as a stronger recruiting agent because it is in the middle of the community from which the person comes.

I am not the only person who takes that view—the most eminent ally I have found over the past few days is the chairman of the Bar Council, who said:

It is important that we keep that in mind.

Mr. Tom Harris: I assume that the right hon. Gentleman is talking about the current situation in Belmarsh rather than the Home Secretary's new proposals. Can he put that scepticism in the context of his support for the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001? In December, he told Morgan and Platell that he could not remember whether he supported the Act. Is his memory any better now? Can he tell us whether his new position is a U-turn or what he always believed?

David Davis: If the hon. Gentleman wants us to return to political combat I am happy to do so, but I am not talking about the old system, I am talking about what is now being proposed. The Minister could not elaborate in detail on that set of proposals, but we shall no doubt hear more over the next few weeks. We shall have to assess the proposals in terms both of the fundamental human rights in which I believe, even if the hon. Gentleman does not, and of the safety of our country. I happen to believe that the proper action will maximise both and will not act as a compromise between them, as I shall explain.
8 Feb 2005 : Column 1427

We should address the principles of justice that are being jeopardised by the Government's proposals. The first is the presumption of innocence. Then there is the person's right to know the charge against them, the right to know and challenge the evidence against them and the right for the case against them to be proven beyond reasonable doubt. It was failure on all those counts that led Ian Macdonald to resign from his position as a lawyer serving the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. He talked about the new proposals as follows:

That is the key point before us today.

Objections to the SIAC procedures apply equally to the new proposals.

Next Section IndexHome Page