Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Grieve: If that is the case, does the hon. Gentleman agree that we will need a completely separate PACE code that provides much more limited time for questioning in any 24-hour period?

Mr. Oaten: I could not agree more. Checks and balances are required if we move to the model that I have outlined, and PACE guidelines that acknowledge that changing process are obviously required.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Oaten: I will not accept any more interventions, because I wish to conclude.

I wish to suggest another way forward to the Home Secretary. Even if the alternatives do not fit the profile of the individual whom the police want to hold and arrest, the right hon. Gentleman has the power of control orders, which we debated at length at the beginning of the year. While I find the way in which control orders are put in place problematic, I accept that there will be rare occasions when it is difficult to charge someone, and control orders are then a useful tool. If all the alternatives are tried, but none of the lower offences works, the use of control orders would be a better way to tackle the problem than holding individuals without charge for a long period. Those control orders, however, would be different, as the clear intention is to move towards a point where a charge could be brought. They would not be open-ended orders without any prospect of charge.

In conclusion, it is clear that there is potential to find a way forward on differences that have emerged over the 90-day issue. I accept that the police have a compelling case in four instances, but I do not accept that that case should lead us to break many of this country's long-held principles. I hope that in Committee and on Report we
26 Oct 2005 : Column 363
can work with the Home Secretary and the shadow Home Secretary to find a sensible alternative. That is our commitment, but if the Government continue to pursue the prospect of holding individuals in this country without charge for three months we cannot, and will not, support those measures.

3.34 pm

Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) (Lab): The Home Secretary is right to remind us of the grave threats that our society faces from terrorism. Every Member of the House would be at one with him on that. However, the House has a duty to find a balance between measures that are necessary in an era of new technical challenges and new types of terrorism, and safeguards for the traditional values of our society and the legitimate rights of those who stand accused of certain offences.

I was interested by various sub-debates that have taken place this afternoon. I distinctly remember, as some of our Northern Ireland colleagues may also recall, that one of the almost certain effects of the introduction of internment and detention without trial in Northern Ireland was to radicalise, and not in an acceptable way, a generation of those on the then republican side of the political divide. I speak from near-personal experience. It was a profound mistake by the Labour Government of the day, who introduced those measures.

I say that not because the debate today is about the introduction of the same principles of detention or internment, but because we must measure the impact of the Bill not only in terms of the legitimate enhancement of the security of society, and not even in terms of its impact on those who come within its power, but in terms of its wider social impact if it is deemed not to be appropriate or proportionate to the challenge that we face. That is the problem that I see with at least two aspects of the Bill.

The first relates to the better rehearsed arguments about the 90-day period of detention. Like many hon. Members, I feel extremely uncomfortable that the case has not been properly made that that length of time is necessary. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) is being over-cynical when he says that the measure is a police bargaining chip, but we need a much more robust defence of their need for anything like that increase in the period of detention or for any increase at all, before the House accepts that they should be the arbiters as we, the House of Commons, seek to erode the freedom of our fellow citizens. That case has not been made today.

As my hon. Friend observed, under existing legislation only two people have been held for 13 days, not the full 14 days. Both were charged at the end of that period. Although it is not possible to argue by extension that the period must be absolute and precise, that is at least an indication that so far the police have not found the present arrangements inappropriate for the type of activities with which they have had to deal. Things can change, but the case must still be better made.

Mr. Khan: In support of that argument, does my hon. Friend agree that there have been 10 occasions when somebody has been detained for more than seven days but less than 14 days and released without charge, and
26 Oct 2005 : Column 364
in none of those 10 cases was the individual re-arrested at a later date when the police or the authorities had deciphered any encrypted computer data or any other data that had come to their attention? That supports the argument that there is no evidence for extending from 14 days to 90 days the period in custody without charge.

Tony Lloyd: My hon. Friend helps me in the case that I am presenting. We need an intelligent debate and we need to consider whether the present structures are appropriate. The case has not been made for the legitimacy of the leap from 14 to 90-day detention for the police to interrogate suspects and obtain evidence. Therefore, I, like many hon. Members, share the concerns, and I hope that we will see a robust debate in Committee and during further proceedings on the Bill as we examine where the proper balance and test should come.

The question of glorification troubles me every bit as much as the 90-day period. It is easy to dismiss this by asking, "Are we not all against those who advocate the killing and maiming of others?" But I want to remind the House that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) said earlier, many of us have lived through periods in our political lives when we have not simply sought to explain but actively advocated the concept of armed force as a legitimate defence. I met someone in Guatemala many years ago who told me how, under the military Government at the time, he saw his father taken off a bus and told to hold his hands out, whereupon they were systematically macheted off, salami style, by members of the armed forces. That was a particularly brutal crime, and at the time it was a particularly brutal way of persuading me that it was legitimate to defend the ordinary peasants of Guatemala by recourse to the force of arms. I cannot run away from that view these years later simply because that country is now, happily, at peace. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris) referred to the situation in Burma today, which, ironically and tragically, is parallel to that in Guatemala.

Mr. Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab/Co-op) rose—

Tony Lloyd: I want to develop that theme further but I give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Hendrick: Is my hon. Friend saying that basically violence is okay, it just depends which side one is on?

Tony Lloyd: Yes, I am saying that, and my hon. Friend has to face that directly. All but the pacifists in our society have always accepted that sometimes, very sadly, although we can use phrases such as "as a last resort", faced with families being slaughtered in Burma, when the Burmese army are moving into the villages of the Karen people, when they are raping women and children and brutally murdering the whole population, when they are ethnically cleansing, it is not illegitimate to say that recourse to defence by force of arms is the only course available. We are pious and nonsensical if we pretend otherwise.
26 Oct 2005 : Column 365

Mr. Marshall-Andrews : I agree entirely with the point that my hon. Friend makes, but does he agree that this Bill is even worse because one need not agree with the violence—all one has to do to bring oneself under the Bill's provisions is to express sympathy or understanding with those carrying it out?

Tony Lloyd: A number of my hon. Friends have already expressed such sympathy with the Karen people in Burma, so all of us stand guilty of that.

I want to draw to the Minister's attention the Home Secretary's response to our hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. He asked specifically about people seeking to justify the non-human targeted attack upon, for example, the railway infrastructure. The Home Secretary's response—I hope that I do not misquote the spirit of what he said—was that because that might result in the killing of people it would fall under the definition. I would go much further in any case and say that I can think of circumstances when I would not simply sympathise, but I might even be prepared to support and advocate on behalf of those who took up arms as their only legitimate defence.

Hon. Members may say that I am making overly heavy weather of this point.—[Interruption.] I am glad that the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) does not. But it is important to establish this, not simply to say that there are some circumstances—I say this in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Hendrick)—where we would all justify the potential use of arms, but because it is incredibly difficult to move from those situations where we can to those situations where we do not do so.

I can think of many circumstances in our society in which people can advocate something horrendous, such as the murder of another individual, but that is caught by the offence of incitement to murder. I think it would be caught even if the murder were to take place overseas, because it is possible to prosecute British citizens for murder that takes place abroad. So there is an argument that our present laws on incitement already cover the terms that are easiest to define.

Then we approach the middle ground, which is the most difficult area. Here I may even agree with those who deplore the words of those who advocate violence in different parts of the world on behalf of causes in which I do not believe. The problem is, though, that I am not sure how the public interest is served in moving towards prosecution. We may say that we deplore the words of the most crazed exponents of violence, but what do we achieve as a society if we stop treating those individuals as objects of scorn and social condemnation and instead put them in prison cells, thereby making them martyrs? Experience from many different situations around the world shows that the way to radicalise young people or the population generally is by creating a sense of injustice through the arbitrary, or seemingly arbitrary, imposition of such imprisonment on those whose offence may be an inappropriate use of words.

Next Section IndexHome Page