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If we implement the Home Secretary's proposals, inasmuch as we know the detail at the moment, there are still likely to be terrorist acts. There is no doubt about that. If we do not implement the proposals, there are still likely to be terrorist acts. The raw truth is that whichever way we go, there will be terrorist acts. People from all parties have said, "Oh, surely you can't disagree with the Government on this, because you'll be blamed the next time there is a terrorist act." I think that that is ridiculous and I do not think that the Home Secretary would take that stance either; he has effectively told me so already.
My judgment is that, if we take the route of protecting our way of life, it will be the best way of protecting our lives as well. That is the way around the matter. Quite understandably given his task and job, the Home Secretary talks all the time about protecting lives, but we have to protect the way of life as well as lives. If we protect the way of life, we will create fewer recruits for terrorist organisations and actually protect our lives better.
Mr. Marshall-Andrews: Before the right hon. Gentleman concludes, will he speculate on one matter relating to the Government? Before the House of Lords judgment, there was no indicationperhaps he can help me on thisfrom the Government or anybody else that it was considered necessary to extend detention without trial to British subjects. The House of Lords judgment was then made and we are now told that it is necessary to extend detention without trial to British subjects. Can he speculate on what has happened in truth during that time?
Terrorism is not new to this country and we have faced it down before without giving up our fundamental rights. We did not give up our fundamental rights after an almost successful attack on the Cabinet and the Prime Minister in the Brighton bombing, the assassination of a member of the royal family,
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the Omagh bombing or the deaths of many soldiers and civilians in Northern Ireland. We did not give them up then and we should not abandon them now. In this debate, we have tried to maintain an open and persuasive approach. We will try to be as constructive as possible in the coming weeks, because the issue is fundamental to all our constituents. I reiterate that the best way in which to defend our lives is to defend our way of life.
Mr. Tom Harris (Glasgow, Cathcart) (Lab): I shall begin by responding directly to some of the comments made by the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis). The fallacy that we have faced the threat of terrorism before and that we can face it this time has been raised on many previous occasions. People who make that claim fail to understand the nature of Irish terrorism, which we faced before, and Islamist terrorism, which we face now.
We were able to "face down" Irish nationalist terrorism because the previous Government, in which the right hon. Gentleman served, and this Government sat round a table with IRA representatives and reached a political agreement. Disagreements arose about exactly how to proceed, but given that the IRA had a political aim, it was possible for elected politicians to sit down with its representatives and ask, "What can we agree on? Where is the common ground?" Through that process, which has been long and hard, we have managed to face down the reality of Irish nationalist terrorism in this country.
I am amazed that the shadow Home Secretary has failed to grasp that, by definition, the people who now plan to engage in terrorism against our people and our nation cannot be reasoned with. On a number of occasions, Osama bin Laden has said that it is perfectly acceptable to kill all American citizens and all Jews, and to destroy the state of Israel. At what point do we sit down around a table to negotiate and ask, "Where is the common ground?" There is no common ground. For the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden to claim that there is any similarity between what we faced in the '60s, '70s and '80s and what we face now, especially since 11 September 2001, is wholly untrue, and I am surprised that he has tried to advance that particular argument.
I am disappointed that the title of the debate is "Belmarsh Judgment" and that the Home Secretary had to come to the House with new proposals to replace the existing arrangements on the detention of terrorist suspects in Belmarsh. I have absolutely no doubt that their lordships made the correct decision as far as the law is concerned, but I am disappointed that we must water down and compromise our arrangements.
I am surprised by the hon. Gentleman's view. I hope that all hon. Members accept that laws passed in this place must comply with our national and international obligations. If the Law Lords, who are judges from all over the United Kingdom, say that something is illegal, I hope that he accepts that that is the final say and that it is right for us to re-examine the matter.
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Mr. Harris: Perhaps I did not make myself clear. I was not suggesting that the Government should ignore the House of Lords rulingI was expressing disappointment that the Law Lords made that ruling in the first place, because I had hoped that taking the legal framework into account they would conclude that the existing arrangements were legal. However, I entirely understand that we are a responsible Government and have to abide by the rules and laws of the land as decreed by the House of Lords.
I have a question for my hon. Friend the Minister. In Belmarsh there are a dozen or so terroristspeople who were planning to kill and maim citizens of our country, but were free to leave the country at any time simply because they are foreign nationals. The nub of the Lords' objection to the new arrangements is that they do not apply to British nationals. Will my hon. Friend clarify the new arrangements that will apply to foreign nationals and to British citizens? Presumably, British citizens will not be able to escape control orders by leaving the country. Will the provision allowing foreign nationals to leave the country if they wish apply under the new arrangements? In other words, will they be able to escape tagging orders or house arrest by leaving the country?
Since this is the Liberal Democrats' motion, I should like to deal with some of the points raised by the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Oaten). Many people taking part in this heated debate will claim that there exists no threat to our nation, and that these measures and others introduced by the Government are therefore unnecessary, or will claim, as I do, that there exists a very real threat and that not only are the proposed measures absolutely necessary, but we may have to consider even more strict measures in future if we are to protect our country.
Jeremy Corbyn: I am listening carefully to what my hon. Friend is saying. In the light of this threat, how does he justify the detention of people without trial and without knowledge of the charges against them, given that there is a danger that they have been incarcerated on evidence that would not stand up in court, which leads to the self-serving belief that the guilty are being held in jail, when they may well be innocent? That is a much greater threat than that which exists at present.
Mr. Harris: I am not entirely surprised that my hon. Friend expresses that point of view. Looking at the 12 detainees in Belmarsh, any reasonable person might think that there was not enough evidence admissible in courtthat is different from flimsy evidenceto bring about a conviction, while others may think that they have been done bang to rights because they are obviously a clear and present danger to our nation, but it is difficult to understand how anyone could believe that the only reason that they are there is because a vindictive Government is picking on 12 innocent people.
Jeremy Corbyn: My point, which perhaps I did not make very clearly, is that security services information can be wholly inaccurate. It can be based on people pursuing a vendetta against somebody else in a particular community, and then becomes very dangerous when it gets a life of its own based on a fundamental inaccuracy. I am not suggesting that Ministers go around perversely saying, "I want to imprison X, Y or Z," but they might be advised that there is evidence against that person, and that ends up with their imprisonment.
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