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Such examples highlight why we must look at new proposals with scepticism until the case is proven. Let us apply that test particularly to those that are the most controversial. The proposed new crime of glorification, which I have been asked about, is one. Today's proposal is better than that originally anticipated when the Prime Minister announced the clause back in August. As the Home Secretary said, he wrote to the Liberal Democrat spokesman and me. I objected to various aspects of it, as did others, and he has changed it. The revised version has brought together the incitement and glorification clauses of the existing Bill, but the term "glorification" still remains too broad, and I am not convinced that it is necessary or desirable. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Binley), we clearly have to address a definition of foreign terrorism if we are going to pursue this.
The proposed law does not require that an individual intends to encourage terrorism in order to commit a crime. It rests on the requirement that someone's comments could "reasonably be expected" to incite terrorism. That is a test of negligence, not criminality. Of course, it also fails the Cherie test. The Prime Minister's wife famously talked sympathetically about the motives of suicide bombers, as the hon. and learned Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) reminded us. Unless the Prime Minister is seriously suggesting that his wife should be locked up, the clause needs to be thought through again. If it cannot be improved in that and the other aspects that have been mentioned today, it must be removed.
Jeremy Corbyn : Many organisations are already proscribedincluding the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which was proscribed some years agoand, therefore, supporting them would be a criminal act. Will the right hon. Gentleman propose any amendments to remove the proscription list?
David Davis: No, I will not propose such amendments. That decision has to be made by the Executive. However, in the light of the debate today, we will consider what acts as a benefit to an organisation, because some good points have been made about that important issue.
Mr. Hogg: Will my right hon. Friend remind the House that this part of the Bill is said to reflect the intention of the Council of Europe convention on the prevention of terrorism, but that article 5 requires an element of intent to incite the commission of a terrorist offence?
David Davis: My right hon. and learned Friend makes his point brilliantly, as always, and it is the question of intent that is key. We cannot have a serious criminal offence that can be committed by negligence rather than intent. When we discussed the matter with a variety of officials, it was suggested that it was difficult to prove intent. Given what we have seen, even since 7 July, I do not think that a British jury would find it difficult to arrive at a decision on intent.
The great sticking point in the Bill remains the plan to increase the amount of time that a terrorist suspect can be detained without charge from 14 to 90 days. I shall spend most of my speech on that issue, because it is so
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important. In short, this is a proposal, as the civil rights group Liberty points out, to imprison someone for the equivalent of a six-month sentence. But under this provision, they will have never faced a charge, let alone a trial. And if they never do, they will be released after three months inside for no reason at all. If they did not have a reason to hate Britain when they went in, they may well have one once they come out.
A change of such magnitudewith such risks to our system of justice and even to the effectiveness of legislationwould require a really compelling argument, and that is what the Prime Minister says he has heard. I have to tell the Home Secretary that I have spoken to the police and the security services and, at his behest, I have received a Privy Council briefing, and I have heard no such compelling argument from any quarter. Indeed, I have yet to hear a convincing argument for this particular measure. I have heard good arguments, but they can all be dealt with by other means.
For example, one argument says that it takes time to crack encryption codes to access evidence on computers. That argument is dealt with by invoking the powers in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which made withholding such codes a criminal offence. Therefore, it would be possible to charge the alleged terrorist with that offence and hold them on that basis. We happily support increasing the penalty for that offence, as clause 15 provides.
Another argument is that our criminal law does not allow the police to interview people once they have been charged, which may be an argument for not charging them in some cases. That argument is answered by changing that rule in terrorist cases, which would be a much smaller infringement of our traditions of liberty and justice by comparison with the proposed 90-day extension, but it would achieve the same aim. The Prime Minister has said that he wants to give the police the powers that they need. But he should not simply give the police the powers they demand.
Rightly so. That is the role of the Government and they must fulfil it by making an objective assessment of the facts and acting accordingly. Even the Home Secretary admitted to the Home Affairs Committeeand repeated todaythat
I remind the House that the proposed increase to 90 days comes less than two years after the time limit was increased to 14 days under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. There is a genuine and fundamental objection to any further extension, but it does not just come from this side of the House.
As the right hon. Gentleman says, when the police were last asked, they said that they wanted the period raised from seven to 14 days. Has he noticed that
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the reasons given at the timeto be found in the Official Report for 20 May 2003 at columns 9423are similar to the reasons advanced for the increase from 14 to 90 days? For example, there is a whole paragraph on the difficulties of extracting material from computers.
David Davis: That is a good point. One issue that needs to be resolved is that of resources. We have heard about problems with resources for interpretation and reading computer disks. It may well be a resource problem as much as anything else. If so, we would support any argument the Home Secretary makes to obtain more resources to deal with the problem.
Mr. David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): Would it not be more appropriate to deal with police concerns about the time taken to gather evidence by relaxing the position on the admissibility of intercept evidence, rather than taking the draconian step of removing people's liberty?
David Davis: That is one of many measures that would make the 90-day proposal unnecessary, and I shall return to that point shortly. As the Liberal Democrat spokesman pointed out in an intervention, we also have the crime of acts preparatory to terrorism, which will make charging much easier on lower levels of evidence, and various other measures would make this proposal unnecessary.
Mr. Khan: Will the right hon. Gentleman give us his view on those cases in which it would not be possible to look at all the evidence within 14 days? What are his views on giving the court the ability to grant bail on conditions similar to the provisions for control orders, which would allow the authorities to keep an eye on someone deemed a serious threat without limiting his or her freedom?
David Davis: I am not especially fond of control orders, as the hon. Gentleman knows from previous debates, but there are several methods of dealing with the problem. One is greater surveillance before arrest. Another is refusing bail, after an early charge, if the individual is a threat to the state or the citizens of this country. We must not confuse an arrest with a view to conviction with an arrest to prevent terrorist action, which is what appears to be under consideration. We must be clear that from what we have seen so far, the 90-day proposal is not necessary.
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