Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Clarke: I absolutely associate myself with my hon. Friend's congratulations to Bedfordshire police and the communities in Luton. There were difficult problems there and they were handled extremely well. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend's efforts to try to move matters forward.

I shall not say what the relationship will be between the legislation and the group that she mentioned. However, I stress that the measure will cover the issue that she raised. I do not draw any specific conclusion for the particular group to which my hon. Friend referred, but the issue will be addressed. We have to do that by getting maximum support throughout all communities for dealing with incitement. We cannot simply let it all go on without taking a stance against it. We must address it and we call on all communities to work with us. I commit myself and the Home Office to working as closely as we can with communities in Luton and elsewhere to tackle those matters.

Mr. Jeffrey M. Donaldson (Lagan Valley) (DUP): Any measure that undermines terrorism is welcome. However, I remind the Home Secretary that in 1998, after the Omagh atrocity, the House was recalled to introduce special legislation to combat terrorism, yet no one has ever been prosecuted under that measure. In proposing to criminalise acts preparatory to terrorism—I welcome that—is not intelligence gathering as important as evidential information in securing prosecutions? Is not the use of phone tap evidence to secure convictions for acts preparatory to terrorism crucial? Drawing on our experience in Northern Ireland, is it not time that the Home Secretary accepted the need to use phone tap evidence to secure prosecutions against terrorists, who are adept at avoiding leaving a trail of evidence?

Mr. Clarke: I understand the hon. Gentleman's point. It is one of the issues that we considered in the review that the Prime Minister commissioned on the use of intercept as evidence and on which I reported to the House earlier this year. As I have said, we have to discuss the matter further—I am sure that we will do that in Committee—to ascertain how we deal with it. However, the hon. Gentleman is fundamentally correct in saying that intelligence is our key weapon. That includes communications evidence. We must analyse how we ensure that we maintain the ability to collect intelligence and do not jeopardise our capacity to do that while getting the evidential basis for successful prosecution.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle) (Lab): Is it not a priority that we train imams here for the British Muslim population of 1.6 million? Until we reach that stage, will we make it a condition of settlement for imams to be able to speak and understand English? Will imams be quizzed on their views when they apply for settlement?

Mr. Clarke: Language is a requirement in the new proposals, which we sent out for consultation early this week, just as my hon. Friend suggests. Quizzing on
20 Jul 2005 : Column 1267
ideological or philosophical views is not yet part of our proposals, but I shall listen to my hon. Friend's comments in the consultation that is currently taking place. On training imams, several senior community leaders made that precise proposal in the meeting that I held with them this morning. I committed myself to considering it carefully for the reasons that my hon. Friend implies. One of the under-appreciated points is that Muslim communities differ according to which part of the world they are in. That is why my hon. Friend's point has force and we are obliged to ascertain how it can be taken forward constructively.

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): While I welcome the creation of the new offence of indirect incitement to terrorism, I point out to the Home Secretary that some of us, including the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore), have been warning about the activities of fanatics for the past 10 years, yet the Government have taken no action. I sent the Home Secretary's predecessor, the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), a letter in 1998 about Omar Bakri Mohammad. In it, I stated that unless the British Government made it clear that we would not tolerate incitement here, we would find that other fanatics would be encouraged to follow Bakri's line and that our institutions would be subject to attack. It is important to tell the House whether the previous pronouncements of people such as Omar Bakri Mohammad will be called as evidence and taken into account. He openly condoned the attacks on our ally, the United States. If only future incitement is taken into account and people's past pronouncements are ignored, we will do the people of this country a disservice.

Mr. Clarke: I will not comment on individual cases, as I said in my statement, but I confirm that all aspects of conduct will be taken into consideration when deciding what action should be taken. The Home Secretary's powers in relation to acts that are not conducive to the public good are important in principle. Getting the balance right is important. I hide from no one the fact that the events of the past few weeks have changed my view to some extent about the direction that we should take. It is a difficult balance and judgments must be made, but I have made the statement today because I believe that we need to consider the situation in a slightly different way.

Chris McCafferty (Calder Valley) (Lab): May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement and the police on their remarkable forensic work since the London bombings? Will my right hon. Friend comment on recent reports that, following the Madrid bombings, the police were able rapidly to identify the owners of the mobile phones that were used as detonators because, in Spain, an ID card is a prerequisite to purchasing a mobile phone? Does he agree that although ID cards are not a panacea, they may be a useful tool in the fight against terrorism?

Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend puts it entirely correctly. No particular proposal—for ID cards or anything else—is a panacea, but they can provide useful tools, and her account of the events following the Madrid bombings is correct. I am not making the argument that
20 Jul 2005 : Column 1268
anyone should change their view about particular proposals for legislation—for example, ID cards—as a result of the events of 7 July. However, I do ask people to take all the issues into account in the round in the way that my hon. Friend has suggested. That is certainly the way in which we will approach this.

Sarah Teather (Brent, East) (LD): My constituent, Shyanuja Parathasangary, perished in the bombings on 7 July. She was around my age and was travelling on the No. 30 bus, on her way to work, with many other Londoners. My thoughts—and, I am sure, those of the whole House—are with her family at this time as they struggle to come to terms with their enormous loss. Her family are from Sri Lanka, like many residents of Brent. All nations and all faiths are represented there, and people live alongside one another in remarkable harmony. Does the Home Secretary agree that great care must be taken over the language that we use to describe these atrocities, to ensure that community relations are not inflamed? Good community relations are hard won, but very easily lost.

Mr. Clarke: I certainly agree with the hon. Lady, and I have tried to behave and to use care in the way that she suggests. I, too, had a constituent who died on 7 July in those events, and I am acutely aware of the sensitivities that the hon. Lady describes. The most important duty that we have towards the friends and families of those who perished is to learn our lessons and to show how we can build in the future a society that has increased strengths. That is certainly what I will seek to do.

Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon) (Lab): Among the fatalities were four people from my constituency. They were four people from four different ethnic community backgrounds, so the tragedy has seriously affected the whole of my constituency and been a great source of distress to us all. I welcome my right hon. Friend's comments regarding the extremist clerics but, as the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) said, this is not a new issue. Since 1998, I have consistently raised in the House the activities of Omar Bakri Mohammad and others. My right hon. Friend already has the power to remove indefinite leave to remain, which is the basis on which Omar Bakri Mohammad is in the UK. Will my right hon. Friend give urgent consideration to removing his indefinite leave to remain under those powers, so that we can take steps to remove him from this country?

Mr. Clarke: As I said, I am not going to comment on individual cases, beyond the general discussions that I have had. However, I shall certainly listen to any representations made by hon. Members after they have had a chance to study my statement today. I accept my hon. Friend's deep concern following the deaths of his constituents.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): If an individual were totally to condemn suicide bombings in Britain but to condone or applaud them in Baghdad, Ankara or Tel Aviv, would he or she be caught by the new offence of indirect incitement, however it is finally defined?

Next Section IndexHome Page