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Mr. Clarke: I shall come on to that detailed point in a second, but I agree with my hon. Friend—and it is the Government's policy, as I have set out on a number of occasions—that prosecution in the courts and conviction for particular offences are the most desirable course of action.

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann) (UUP): I thank the Home Secretary for his generosity, and urge him to reconsider the limitation that he put on the actions that he could take. Surely, the issue is whether there is something that poses a threat to the life of the nation and whether there is an emergency. That emergency and threat could come from a range of sources, and he should not fetter himself too much at this stage.

Mr. Clarke: I agree completely with the right hon. Gentleman, who states the case correctly. In my answer to the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley), I said that at the moment the state of emergency or threat to the life of the nation that would require a derogation is focused on international terrorism from al-Qaeda and related organisations. However, I completely accept the point made by the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) that in theory and practice it is perfectly possible that terrorist threats of other kinds might arise.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): I have listened with great interest to the Minister, but he seems to be in danger of generating a league table of terrorism in which paramilitary killings in Northern Ireland are not regarded as just as bad as killings by al-Qaeda. I am sure that he does not intend to give that impression, but why does he think that it is right for the Government to attempt to dispel the motives for terrorism in Northern Ireland when, by contrast, he is intent on using the suppression of the opportunity to terrorise as the sole method for acting against international terrorism?

Mr. Clarke: I would not dream of doing that, and the suggestion of league tables in this area is deeply offensive. My argument, which has been widely made, is
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that 9/11 changed things, the existence of al-Qaeda and its related organisations changed things and, therefore, it is incumbent on the Government and the House to address that change.

Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Clarke: I want to make more progress, but I will give way later.

As I said, the five qualities that I set out, concluding with global reach, show that al-Qaeda is qualitatively different from other organisations. Moreover, al-Qaeda has repeatedly stated that the United Kingdom and its citizens are targets of its terrorist network. Since 9/11—I emphasise this because it is important that it is understood—the police and intelligence services in this country have successfully disrupted a number of attacks in the United Kingdom before they could be mounted. The fact that there has been no terrorist attack in this country since 9/11 is due to the quality of our security services and police, not to any lack of terrorist ambition to mount an attack in this country. It would be deeply ironic if our success in preventing terrorist attacks should persuade us that now is the time to lower our guard in any way. I argue exactly the contrary: that our success in that regard makes it even more important not to lower our guard in any way.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Clarke: I want to make a little more progress, but I will give way in a moment to the hon. Gentleman and other colleagues.

In the battle against the terrorist threat—it is a battle, and a war, against an organisation that seeks to attack us—we must acknowledge that the terrorists' capacity has changed and increased. We must also acknowledge that our capacity has changed and increased in surveillance, in the resources that we allocate to the security services, and in international co-operation, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Helen Jackson) referred. We are seeking much higher levels of international co-operation than previously to address precisely those questions. We must strengthen our capacity in those areas. We are engaged in a battle and it is a battle that we cannot resile from in any way.

When Sir John Stevens was Metropolitan Police Commissioner he gave us the following advice in November 2003:

I am not prepared to accept that an attack is inevitable and I will do all in my power to prevent the inevitability of any attack. That is why the Bill is before the House.

Mr. Blunt: Does the Secretary of State understand the danger of proceeding on the basis of assertion, and the need to produce evidence to sustain support throughout the House and the country for these extraordinary measures? He said that the Government have been successful in preventing operations, but the terrorists
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surely know that those operations have been disrupted, so why can he not share that information when making his case? He is making a case for the powers of administrative detention on the basis of assertion, but, following the war in Iraq, the Government have lost trust. I urge the Home Secretary to bring a detailed case to the House.

Mr. Clarke: First, I set out yesterday in the House—I hope that the hon. Gentleman studied what I said in detail—a series of papers addressing precisely the point that he raised. Secondly, he simply does not accept the seriousness of our situation—[Hon. Members: "He did not say that."] He did say that he could not accept it. He said clearly that he could not accept, without further evidence, that we face a threat of the sort that I assert. He should accept that.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): Given that the Home Secretary is referring to international terrorism, can he tell the House of any democracy in which such Executive orders exist?

Mr. Clarke: A wide range of democracies use such measures, depending on the legal system in the countries concerned. In some European Union countries, individuals may be locked up for three, four or five years, but, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, a different legal system exists in those regimes with an instruction judge system.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): The Home Secretary rightly paid tribute to the security services' successful prevention of attack. It was adequate to use judges in special courts at the height of the IRA offensive when it was involved in wide-scale attacks, so why is it not adequate to use judges in special courts, instead of politicians, at a time when, thank goodness, attacks have not yet been successfully carried out?

Mr. Clarke: There are different solutions, and having judges in special courts is one solution that could be considered. However, that does not address the central objection of those who criticise the legislation. The fact is that there is evidence of activity that cannot be put before a court, of whatever type. That is the fundamental issue.

Mr. Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis and Littlehampton) (Con): Given that some countries use intercept evidence in court, would not an alternative approach be to amend our disclosure rules so that intercept evidence could be used in our courts safely and securely?

Mr. Clarke: We considered that in detail in the review commissioned by the Prime Minister and on which I gave a written statement to the House some weeks ago. It is certainly possible to consider different approaches, but the core point that must be understood is that there is no evidence that the use of intercept evidence has been successful in bringing terrorists to trial in any country in the world. That is the reality with which we must deal.
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Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): The Secretary of State knows that our substantial difference of opinion with him is that he is proposing a system of Executive control orders that he would make, which would then be considered by a judge. In our view, it is essential that those orders are confirmed, in the first instance, by a judge on application from him. When the Prime Minister was questioned on the matter, he suggested that the principal argument for that was urgency. Is there not a case for some form of interim order on sufficient evidence, to deal with precisely that issue?

Mr. Clarke: I intend to deal with that matter later in my speech and will address the hon. Gentleman's point then. However, it is an appropriate matter to be discussed in Committee because the issues raised by the Liberal Democrats, as well as those raised by some of my hon. Friends, are legitimate aspects of debate on the Bill.

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