Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Mark Oaten (Winchester) (LD): I thank the Home Secretary for notice of his statement and for the approach that he has taken over the past couple of weeks. In particular, I thank him for the constructive meeting held on Monday. As he knows, the Liberal Democrats have offered our support for the three measures that he has outlined. We believe that they could contribute towards security in this country.

The measures on indirect incitement to terrorism will be difficult to define, and I welcome the Home Secretary's constructive approach in working with all parties on the wording. Does he agree that the key to the law will be to produce a wording that can stand up in court but which is not so wide in scope that it could ever be misused in future?

The Home Secretary knows that we still have differences on control orders. I welcome the idea of raising those differences and working with the Government when they are debated in the spring. When will he next report on the number of control orders issued, and does he agree that that report cannot wait until Parliament returns in mid-October?

The Home Secretary has stressed in the past that he believes that the intelligence services have the resources that they require. However, it is local police who are in the front line and who often provide essential back-up for the intelligence services. Is he satisfied that the Met and local police forces that have major cities in their area have the resources to be able to provide that essential back-up?

On deporting, which the Home Secretary mentioned in his statement, he said that he would seek memorandums of understanding with other countries on human rights. What system will be put in place to check that countries stick to the commitments in the memorandums, and would he favour some form of independent assessment to see that that is being done?

Finally, it is our firm view that good legislation needs good debate and scrutiny by parliamentarians. The Liberal Democrats will play our part in that process, but we do so from the firm belief that all parties should work together on these measures to send the terrorists the strongest possible signal that parties committed to democracy in this country are determined to join together to defeat them.

Mr. Clarke: I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comments, which I appreciate and accept entirely. I appreciate, too, the way in which he and his colleagues have worked on these matters in the past days. We shall continue to work in that spirit.
20 Jul 2005 : Column 1261

The hon. Gentleman asked about the wording standing up in court, and that is precisely the point. He is also right to say that the drafting issues on the inciting offence are by no means straightforward, which is why we shall discuss them in the way that he suggested. He is quite right that the offence will have a value only if it can stand up to the scrutiny of courts at a later stage, and that will be a central principle in what we do.

On control orders, we are committed to reporting every three months on the operation of the regime. We reported after the first three months a few weeks ago and will next report at the next three-month point, which is in, I think, the second week of September. We will, I hope, report via the parliamentary process at that time, although it is yet to be resolved exactly how. Certainly, under all circumstances, we will report as we have committed to.

On resources for policing, I do believe that extra resources for policing have made a difference, particularly the extra resources for the intelligence services, which, I have been told, have made a significant difference already to their work over the recent period. I accept the point that we will need to review how resourcing has been over the period. I have had initial discussions with the Commissioner on one or two aspects of that, and we will keep it under close review.

On the memorandums of understanding, the hon. Gentleman is quite right to say that they must be capable of including a monitoring process that will be seen to be acceptable. The question of the independence or otherwise of the assessment will be dealt with on a country by country basis. We have been active in pursuing the agreements, and I am delighted by the announcement I have been able to make today about Jordan. The memorandums will themselves have to stand up in court when courts come to consider how article 3 operates.

Finally, I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's commitment to a healthy debate on those matters. I, too, will try to give as good as I get.

Ann Keen (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the way in which the process has been conducted, particularly in my borough, Hounslow, which is a well established multicultural community. My right hon. Friend mentioned recruitment to the police in his statement, particularly from the Muslim community. The borough commander in Hounslow, Dr. Diziea, is from that community, and I would welcome any opportunity to discuss with my right hon. Friend his role in helping in any way.

Mr. Clarke: I thank my hon. Friend for her comments. I know the borough commander and his work, and I share her assessment of him. I spoke earlier today with the Commissioner about precisely these matters. He sees two major areas that he will seek to develop in conversations he will have next week. The first is the recruitment of Muslim police officers, which my hon. Friend referred to, including at senior level. The second is how to develop work on counter-terrorism in a strong way that ensures nationally, and not just in
20 Jul 2005 : Column 1262
London, that there is a strong relationship with the Muslim community that can help to detect any proposed terrorist acts.

Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury) (Con): Will the Home Secretary thank the chief constable of Thames Valley for the professionalism with which his officers and the Met carried out their operation in Aylesbury last week? Will he welcome the denunciation of terror and the strong support for the police expressed by the imam and the leaders of the mosque in Aylesbury? Does he agree that alongside the counter-terrorist measures that he is rightly bringing forward, we as a country need to address why a minority of young men from our Muslim communities feel so disaffected, not only from mainstream white society but from the older generations of their own communities, that they have, in a minority of cases, wanted to listen to those who were urging extremism and hatred?

Mr. Clarke: I am happy to reinforce the hon. Gentleman's praise for the chief constable of Thames Valley police. The police in general have done an outstanding job, particularly in areas such as Aylesbury, Leeds and London, where there have been particular challenges.

I was delighted to read of the denunciation by leaders of the Muslim community in Aylesbury of these terrible atrocities. It is particularly important, if I may say so, that the communities directly involved make explicit, strong and courageous statements in the way that the hon. Gentleman describes. It is critical to twin that with the determination to root out the causes of this behaviour.

On disaffected young people, that is an issue of the ages that we have to address. This morning we had a good discussion—the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) was present—with several people from different communities about what we can do. I can confirm that following those discussions the process will continue, with some specific propositions over the summer. I do not want to imply that it is an easy issue, because it is not—it is quite fundamental.

John Battle (Leeds, West) (Lab): I thank my right hon. Friend for his calm and measured leadership in the past two weeks. Will he join me in offering a word of tribute to people in the Burley Lodge area in Leeds? I rushed home on Tuesday because they were evacuated from their homes while the whole area was searched for a bomb factory. When I got to the community centre, I found that only 34 people from the 470 homes that had been evacuated were there because the rest had been taken into the homes of families, friends and neighbours, cutting across racial, religious and cultural divides. That quietly demonstrates the forbearance and tolerance that could be a hope for the future in our communities.

I thank my right hon. Friend for the way in which the police and the security services worked with the local community at the tape barrier during the crisis; it was a model of police and community relations. Does he agree, however, that while we work on the taskforce initiative and on building a consensus for necessary new legislation, it will be crucial in the next few weeks that all
20 Jul 2005 : Column 1263
sections of the community, including peoples of different faiths and none, work together to ensure that we are vigilant—watching out for each other—without turning into vigilantes? Life could be difficult in our neighbourhoods unless we develop a deep respect and calm in our neighbourhoods while we work to address the complex challenges that this has thrown up.

Next Section IndexHome Page