|Previous Section||Index||Home 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 involvedthe preservation of life, or the preservation of our way of lifeare 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.
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 Algeriathere are plenty of other examplesthey 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.
"This is one of the most important cases which the House has had to decide in recent years. It calls into question the very existence of an ancient liberty of which this country has until now been very proud: freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention. The power which the Home Secretary seeks to uphold is a power to detain people indefinitely without charge or trial. Nothing could be more antithetical to the instincts and traditions of the people of the United Kingdom."
"This is a nation which has been tested in adversity, which has survived physical destruction and catastrophic loss of life. I do not underestimate the ability of fanatical groups of terrorists to kill and destroy, but they do not threaten the life of the nation. Whether we would survive Hitler hung in the balance, but there is no doubt that we shall survive Al-Qaeda. The Spanish people have not said that what happened in Madrid, hideous crime as it was, threatened the life of their nation. Their legendary pride would not allow it. Terrorist violence, serious as it is, does not threaten our institutions of government or our existence as a civil community."
"The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these. That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve. It is for Parliament to decide whether to give the terrorists such a victory."
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.
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 doin 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.
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?
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:
"They are really using detention rules which have been declared unlawful. At the end of the day if you're going to keep people in some sort of house arrest or in prison, you really have to take account of what I think is a fundamental principle, that people are presumed innocent. If they're really dangerous they should be charged under criminal law."
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|