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I am not going to prejudge the debate that we shall have in the House and the other place on
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that legislation. However, I will say that suicide bombing and the killing of civilianswherever it occurs, anywhere in the worldis simply unacceptable, full stop. It is terrorism of whatever description. I do not think that there is a difference between British people who are killed in terrorist outrages such as that in London on 7 July, and people who are killed in terrorist outrages in the places that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. That has to be the motivating spirit behind the way in which we address these questions.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): May I join others in the universal praise for the Home Secretary and Sir Ian Blair for the exceptional way in which they have conducted themselves over the past few weeks, and for the dialogue that the Home Secretary has personally established with the Muslim community in Britain? One of his proposed measures, however, will put greater pressure on the entry clearance operation. Will he ensure that more resources will be given to the posts abroad that have to deal with these applications, particularly Islamabad and Karachi, where the situation sometimes seems chaotic? Will he give me an assurance that the extra attention that will be paid to these cases will not in any way affect the genuine people who wish to come here as visitors, and who might face the prospect of more refusals because entry clearance officers will obviously have to be very careful? Will he also put these measures to the community groups when he meets them?
Mr. Clarke: I appreciate my hon. Friend's remarks, which are genuinely well meant. Yes, I will give the assurance that he seeks that existing procedures will not be slowed up by the process that he has described. I will also give the assurance that I will look into the precise resources implications that will arise. I know that my hon. Friend will agree that the best way to secure strong community relations in this country is to have good, effective, accurate decision making on visa and other applications from other countries throughout the world. That is what we are trying to achieve.
Angela Watkinson (Upminster) (Con): The Home Secretary will know that firefighters are in the front line of emergency rescue operations. Tributes have been paid today to the splendid response of our emergency services in the aftermath of the London bombings. He will know that firefighters are often first on the scene, and are therefore the most vulnerable to secondary devices. He will also know that most insurance policies have exclusion clauses for acts of terrorism. What discussions has he had, and what plans has he, to ensure that, should there be similar incidents, our splendid emergency services have proper protection?
Mr. Clarke: The hon. Lady is right. The answer is that I have not yet had any discussions of the kind that she describes, but I am chairing a meeting tomorrow to get responses from a wide range of elements among those who are involved in this approach, to determine what lessons we have learned. I shall ensure that that point is considered at the meeting.
Mr. Sadiq Khan (Tooting) (Lab):
Has my right hon. Friend recently re-read the excellent Home Affairs
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Committee report on terrorism and community relations? If he has, he will have seen that one of the recommendations made in March 2005 was that the Government should ensure that British Muslims were fully engaged in the formulation of any new anti-terror legislation. What steps is he taking to implement that recommendation? Does he agree that while the consensus between the political parties inside Parliament is welcome, it is even more important for there to be consensus between Parliament and our citizens? All the strands of our community signing up to the anti-terror legislation couldwith a fair wind and God willingresult in there being no more terrorist attacks in the UK.
Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend is completely correct. I have not recently re-read the Home Affairs Committee report but, prompted by his suggestion, I shall certainly take it to the beach this year and make sure that I get on top of it. My hon. Friend is entirely right: the serious point is that it is critical that everything that we do is widely understood and supported in the community. That is why I gave a commitment in my statement to consultation on a variety of the issues that we are talking about, and I can confirm that that will be our approach.
John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): I am sure that the Home Secretary will join me in welcoming the condemnation by Muslims in Birminghamparticularly in the Acocks Green ward of my constituencyof the attacks on London. Does he agree that to achieve a calm and peaceful world we need to stand on two legs: security and justice? We cannot have justice without security but, at the same time, we cannot have security without justice. We need to focus on ensuring that justice is done, nationally and internationally, and that it is seen to be done, for example, under international humanitarian law. The proposal for ID cards was mentioned earlier. Such cards might not be able to prevent attacks such as these, and there is an argument in regard to ID cards about whether one can do things ex-post facto. There is also an argument about whether closed circuit television would be more cost effective.
Mr. Clarke: These are serious issues. CCTV is an extraordinary case. Its utility in this investigation has been of particular importance. Where there are serious issues of human rightswhich there arethere needs to be proportionality in dealing with them. That includes CCTV, ID cards and the retention of telecommunications data as evidence. I hope that all parties in the HouseI look to the hon. Gentleman's Front-Bench colleagueswill look at all of these proposals in an appropriately proportionate way.
Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South) (Lab):
In regard to port security, I was visited last Friday by a constituent who is a coach driver who regularly travels between here and the continent. He told me that securityfor coach drivers, anywayhad deteriorated to the point of being almost non-existent in the past few years. Does my right hon. Friend have any plans to review the situation at ports, particularly in relation to coach drivers? My constituent says that someone trying to smuggle something in would only require an alliance
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with the coach driver, not the co-operation of passengers. He raises what I think is quite a serious issue, although I appreciate that these days most port security is intelligence led.
Mr. Clarke: The national co-ordinators of special branch and ports police are actively reviewing the situation that my hon. Friend describes. I do not know, but I assume that they are considering the coach issue specifically, along with other issues. He is right that it needs examining carefully, and we are doing just that.
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): I very much welcome the Home Secretary's statement. May I focus on one specific point? He rightly identified the role of websites in inciting violence and said that he would control that. But he knows as well as I do that websites can be generated from outside the United Kingdom. What discussions has he had with internet service providers in the United Kingdom so that if websites are identified as inciters to violence and terrorism, ISPs based in the UK will block them?
Mr. Clarke: We have had two types of discussions. The first is with other countries. About a month ago, we had a specific session on this point at the G8 meeting of Interior Ministers in Sheffield, which is relevant to the hon. Gentleman's point, as one or two of the G8 members are places from which websites can be run. We agreed to increase significantly our work to address that point, which is also being addressed in the EU context. Secondly, I have had discussions about such developments with some ISPs, but in the context of child pornography rather than in this context. The hon. Gentleman is right, however, and we will move in both directionsthrough the industry and in relation to particular jurisdictionsto see how we can take matters forward.
John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): The Home Secretary's forthcoming legislation deserves the most painstaking and sympathetic scrutiny. In making the case for it, notwithstanding what he has said about the broadly responsible media reporting of recent events, will he accept the need to underline constantly that we are seeking to upbraid and prevent acts by a tiny minority of people who want to destroy this country? He and all of us recognise that the overwhelming majority of people who seek to come to this country, whether to study, work or be granted asylum, have no ill designs on us and would deprecate terrorist atrocities as vociferously as all of us in the House.
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