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Mr. Winnick: No, I am coming to a close now. If my right hon. Friend also says that on Report he will come much nearer to our position, it will be for the House to decide whether we should divide on the issue.
Mr. Grieve: I have read carefully the hon. Gentleman's proposals and listened to what he has said. They would offer an opportunity to the House to achieve an early resolution of the issue if he were minded to press the matter to a Division and Members felt that it was worth doing. Without it, the danger is that relations will become more corrosive. That is a real threat if the Government do not start to listen to the fears that are being expressed.
Mr. Winnick: One of the ironies of this situation is that I am as certain as I can be that ifheaven forbidwe had a Tory Government, they would have proposed 90 days and there would be far more vehement opposition to that proposal from the Labour Opposition Front Bench than anything I have said today.
Mr. Winnick: No, I am concluding my remarks. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will have the opportunity in a few moments' time to demonstrate that he understands our concerns and to show flexibility. We can then reach the sort of compromise that is essential on this issue.
Mr. Heath : It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick). If the Home Secretary or the Government had any doubt about the disquiet felt on both sides of the HouseI doubt that they didabout this proposal and others in the Bill that have already been debated, they will have been disabused of that doubt by the result of the Division earlier and by the speech that we have just heard and interventions in it by Labour Members.
I wish to pick up two points from the hon. Gentleman's remarks. First, he asked for consensus and compromise. I am wholly in favour of consensus on this
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issue and it is important that we reach it. I am less convinced that compromise would be consensus on this issue. It worried me slightly when the hon. Gentleman said that if the Home Secretary were to come some way towards 28 days, we would make progress. That sets new parameters for that compromise of between 90 days and 28 days. Some of us believe that if something is wrong, it is wrong. It is as simple as that.
Secondly, the hon. Member for Walsall, North said that there was very little that divided him and the Home Secretary. I hope that very little divides hon. Members on the sensitive issue of terrorism. I hope that we are all aware and convinced of the serious threat that this country faces. I hope that we are all convinced of the need to take the most appropriate and effective action to combat that threat. The point on which we differ is whether the Government's proposals are the right response to the latest event or to likely events.
My party and I are not convinced of the case for 90 days. In fact, I suspect that the Home Secretary is not convinced. There are media reports drawn from what appear to be wholly credible sources that he said,
Mr. Heath: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The right hon. Gentleman is a Home Secretary with whom we would like to do business. We believe that there is a degree of consensus between usthe same could not always be said of previous Home Secretaries. We have had more difficulty with some of his predecessors.
What we cannot accept is that the new proposal for 90 days should be proceeded with on the simple assertion that it is necessary. The matter is not trivial; it is extremely important. The question facing us is whether we detain someone without trial and without charge for three months. That is not the British way of doing things. That is not how we conduct judicial processes in this country. Let us be clear: if we allow the 90-day detention period, we have allowed at least a partial victory for the terrorists.
That brings into question some old-fashioned concepts that I believe are still important, and I am happy to know that other hon. Members agree with me. Those concepts include liberty, justice and the rights of the citizen, whoever they may be, to a proper hearing before the law. That there are a few who would support 90 daysor 90 yearsif that is what the police asked for trivialises the debate. This is a serious debate, which we should approach in a sensible manner.
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Steve McCabe: No one wants to play politics with the issue and I take the hon. Gentleman's word regarding his sincerity. The Liberals say that they oppose on principle an extension beyond 14 days, so am I correct in assuming that if the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) is pressed to a Division, they will not vote for it?
Mr. Heath: I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman thinks that he is making a clever point, but I assure him that he is not. The principle is that we in this country do not hold people without charge and without trial. That is the starting point, which is mitigated by the necessity of concluding investigations and of proceeding in a judicial way. If, as I hope he will, the hon. Member for Walsall, North presses his proposal, the question facing us will be: is it better to have 90 days, as in the Bill, or 28 days? I take the view expressed by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry), who is now grinning, thinking that she made a clever point. Twenty-eight days is 62 days less than 90 days and is therefore to be preferred, but it is still not what we want in the Bill. We have made that abundantly clear throughout our proceedings.
Mr. Heath: I thought that I had just dealt with the principle involved, which, as I say, is about the balance that we must all strike between the appropriate civil liberties of the subjects in this country and what is required for the defence of our wider libertyour safety. We are debating where that balance should be struck.
In support of his proposals, the Home Secretary has prayed in aid jurisdictions other than our own, but the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) was right to say that that is not a proper comparison. For a start, we can compare ourselves only with other common law jurisdictions. We can compare ourselves with a jurisdiction that is based on a wholly different premise of law only if we take a holistic approach to its proceedings. Simply isolating one procedure from many gives an entirely false impression of other jurisdictions.
Did not Lord Carlile say in his report that he would be far more comfortable with the proposed
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changes if the process were not adversarial but inquisitorial, similar to that in other European jurisdictions?
What is proposed is a judicial innovation, but there are others that we would like in order effectively to combat the threat of terrorism. The measure cannot be considered in a vacuum and to say that it is the one thing that is needed in order to allow the police to do their work ignores all the legislation over recent years that successive Home Secretaries have brought before the House to be voted through and enacted. Indeed, that claim ignores various other measures in the Bill.
That is not the ringing endorsement of the proposal that some Labour Members have suggested. Lord Carlile went on to set out clearly his preferred alternatives in order to provide the safety locks for the 90-day detention period:
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