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Control of Internet Access (Child Pornography)

Margaret Moran accordingly presented a Bill to require internet service providers and other commercial organisations providing access to the internet to declare whether or not they have taken steps to prevent access to web sites containing indecent images of children; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 12 May, and to be printed [Bill 67].

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Orders of the Day

Terrorism Bill

[Relevant document: The Minutes of Evidence taken before the Home Affairs Committee on 11th October, HC 515-i, on the Draft Terrorism Bill.]

Order for Second Reading read.

1.24 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Clarke): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Bill seeks to place our counter-terrorist legislation on a permanent and secure basis. I should say at the outset that I am well aware that Members on both sides of the House have doubts about two particular aspects of the Bill: first, the definitions of terrorism and glorification and how we describe them; and, secondly, the length of time that somebody may be detained before charge, and proposed amendments in that respect. I will come to those issues later in my speech, but I should say now that I am ready to give way to debate them at the relevant time today, although of course the major debates will take place in Committee and on Report on the Floor of the House.

The Government have said all along that in a matter as important as this legislation we want to proceed on the basis of consensus. In that spirit, I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) and the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Oaten), and to the Select Committee on Home Affairs, the Joint Committee on Human Rights and others, for the constructive tone that they adopted over the summer.

I made a commitment to bring forward further counter-terrorism legislation earlier this year during the passage of the Bill that became the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005. Preparations for the Bill were already well under way in early July this year, and I set out a list of measures to the Opposition spokespeople on 15 July. I am grateful to them both for the constructive response that they were able to give. I also made it clear that we were consulting the police and intelligence agencies in the light of the terrorist attacks and would consider whether additional measures were required. On that basis, I sent out a draft Bill to the Opposition and to Committee Chairs on 15 September.

In the light of the helpful comments that we received from a variety of sources, on 6 October I set out some revised proposals in respect of the offence of glorification. On the same day, my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary published a paper setting out anti-terrorism laws in other countries, which I hope will help to inform today's debate. In the same spirit, through the usual channels we agreed a substantial amount of time to debate the Bill in Committee and on Report on the Floor of the House.

That is how we reached the stage that we are at today. In addressing the central issue that we face, I must start from the fundamental premise that there is a serious terrorist threat that has to be addressed. From New York, Nairobi, Sharm el-Sheik, Istanbul, two offences in Bali—one recently—Madrid, and our own events in
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London this July, we know of the existence of that terrorist threat. As we legislate to address it, we must do so on the basis, first, of clarifying the values and society that we are seeking to defend, and, secondly, of identifying the threat with which we have to deal.

Of all the societies throughout the world, perhaps that of the United Kingdom is the society that laid the basis for the values that we here seek to defend: valuing and building free speech and freedom of expression, including a free media; believing in a society that respects all faiths, races and beliefs; believing in a society founded on the rule of law; wanting every citizen to have a democratic stake in our society; valuing the free economy, which has built prosperity, including high-quality public services on which we all depend; and valuing the fact that women can play a full role in our society. We all know that our society, based on those values, will continue to evolve and develop. We also know that we can all point to aspects of our society that fall short of those aspirations. However, people on all sides of politics have struggled over the centuries to achieve the values that we celebrate today.

The society that we have built, with the values that it embodies, is not slight nor passing but deeply rooted and profound. I emphasise that those values are embraced by the overwhelming majority of our citizens, from whatever faith group or minority ethnic group they come. Indeed, most of those who migrated to our country did so precisely because they wanted to embrace the values that I just set out. Our society is characterised by common values but diverse backgrounds, faiths and lifestyles. It has been a stunningly successful model of integration, despite regular challenges.

If one compares the United Kingdom of the 1950s, before significant migration took place, with the United Kingdom of today, one sees that in many key parts of life and endeavour—our businesses, our design, our literature, our food; there are too many to name—the vibrancy of diversity has powered creativity and economic success. I emphasise again, however, that that has always happened within the framework of our common democratic values.

Mr. John Baron (Billericay) (Con): Some aspects of the Bill create further concerns that the Government are too willing to accept recommendations from the security forces without adequately scrutinising them. Control orders and evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq are two examples of that. Will the Home Secretary make it clear why he believes that the detention period without charge should be extended to 90 days?

Mr. Clarke: I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman was present when I began, but I said then that I would deal specifically with the 90-day point when I reached that part of my speech. I shall do that.

Mr. Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): The Home Secretary is rightly dealing with the theme of values. What about the value to which Lord Carlile referred when he criticised the excessive use of section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000? He described its use as a substantial encroachment into the reasonable expectation of the public at large that they would face police intervention in their lives only if there was a
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reasonable suspicion that they would commit a crime. Is not that value threatened if events such as those at the Labour party conference or the instance of the person who was told that she could not walk on a cycle path occur?

Mr. Clarke: I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman adopts that tone. However, he is right to cite Lord Carlile because his report is the basis on which we deal with legislation on all such matters. We will continue to pay serious attention to his comments on section 44 and other aspects of our proposals because it is his role to report to Parliament and to the Intelligence and Security Committee, of which the right hon. Gentleman is a member.

Our type of democratic society has been created over many years and all parts of our community embrace and support it. I argue even more strongly that the ambition for democratic society has driven enormous political and social change in the past 30 years throughout the world. In those 30 years, fascist or militaristic rule in Greece, Spain and Portugal in southern Europe has been succeeded by democracy; apartheid South Africa has been succeeded by democracy; colonialist southern Africa has been replaced by democracy; the totalitarian states of central and eastern Europe have been succeeded by democracy; Latin and central American dictatorship has been replaced by democracy, and, even in south-east Asia, democracy has replaced dictatorship. Democracy and the need to protect our democracy is at the heart of the Bill.

I understand perfectly well that, in each of those parts of the world, massive problems remain. However, those enormous changes, which have occurred across the planet in one generation, prove that change for the good can happen, and, moreover—and more important—without violence or bloodshed in many cases. It is important for this generation to assert that. I repeat that the fight for democracy is at the core of those great changes.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): The Home Secretary is making an important point. Does he also accept that this country has an important tradition of being a place where people have a right of asylum and where people can proselytise to get rid of oppressive regimes throughout the world? Does he agree that many such people were labelled as terrorists but later lauded as freedom fighters for achieving change? Will he assure me that the Bill will not criminalise those who plead for decency and change in their societies?

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