Mr. David Hamilton: The contribution made by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) was extremely good, especially when he said that a certain Conservative even tried to send questions to the House of Commons from prison. I think that that was a former Member for South Midlothianthe last Conservative ever to represent my constituency.
I have one or two observations to make. I have grave reservations about the three-month lie downor lock-up, as it should commonly be called. I come from
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a mining community, and the point that several hon. Members have made about community involvement is really important.
If the police begin to arrest certain members of the community who are not charged after a period of detention, that will infuriate the other members of the community. As I said earlier, there remain deep divisions and hostilities between miners and police in Scotland's mining areas. The police have had to work extremely hard in the 21 years since the miners' strike.
I may be the only hon. Member who has been locked up[Interruption.] Perhaps that is not the case, but a provision exists in Scottish law called the 110-day petition, under which a person is held on remand. I am disappointed that the Home Secretary has not taken account of the Scottish approach, as I am worried about what happens when a person is detained without trial.
I was in prison for more than two months before my trial, when the jurythat is, the peopletook only 25 minutes to find me innocent. I am therefore not a huge supporter of the great Scottish legal system, and I have grave concerns about it. However, the serious point is that it is bad enough for a person who is wrongly sent to prison and who then has to fight against the charge levelled at him: much worse is the problem faced by the person who is sent to prison without being told what the charge is. It is possible that such a person might leave prison without ever being charged, and that is intolerable. We must do all that we can to ensure that that does not happen in this case.
I do not want this Government to repeat the mistakes made by the Conservative Government of the 1980s. We must not become isolated from the communities in this country. We must work with the people in the communities and carry them with us. If one person is detained in prison without trial, under the circumstances envisaged by this Bill, that is one person too many.
It is possible that some hon. Members may not know what happens in prison. Every weekday, I was locked up for 21 hours out of the 24, and at weekends I was locked up for 23 hours. I could not leave the cell, but that is what happens to people who are awaiting trial and who are innocent. It is intolerable that the Government propose to put people in that position while they are waiting to be interrogated by the police, sometimes with representation and sometimes without.
I want to make one final appeal to the Home Secretary. He said that a mechanism would be established that would allow cases to be reviewed by a judge, whose seniority has yet to be decided. I have concerns about judges, and who will monitor the decisions that they take? Will the legislation be reviewed, say, in six months from now to ensure that we are not going down the wrong road? If too many people are being detained without trial, that will show that there must be a fault in the system. In that case, the provision should be brought back for discussion in this House.
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Mr. Cash: I shall keep my remarks brief, because I know that other hon. Members wish to speak. My point goes back to my exchange with the Home Secretary. We hear now that the Attorney-General provided the basis on which the certificate of compatibility was granted. In the past, we have had opinions from the Attorney-General, but this matter is so important that we should be told on what basis the certificate of compatibility has been given. Lord Carlile of Berriew made a general point about whether the provisions would be challenged under the Human Rights Act 1998, but I believe strongly that any limit above 14 days would run a severe risk of being so challenged. Whether I agree with that upper limit or not, such a challenge is likely to be made.
Such a challenge could come in various shapes or forms, and I wish to know what the Attorney-General had to say on that. In particular, did he consider the possibility of a challenge not only under article 5which is frequently mentioned and concerns deprivation of libertybut article 3, some of which can be subject to derogation and some of which cannot? Did he consider article 10, which deals with freedom of expression? I could mention other counts on which a challenge could be made to the provisions of the Bill as it stands and any limit above 14 days is liable to be subject to such a challenge.
Chaos would result if the legislation were struck down, as the Belmarsh decision struck down the compatibility provisions in previous legislation. Lord Hoffmann, and eight out of nine Law Lords, spoke with great vehemence about the need to reverse the previous decision on the Belmarsh case on the ground of incompatibility. Only a short time earlier, Lord Hoffmann said in another case that, legislation, if clear and unambiguous, would be constitutionally acceptable even if it were inconsistent with the Human Rights Act 1998 and that the courts would have to follow the later legislation.
the judges would be under an obligation to give effect to the legislation irrespective of what the European convention on human rights said and irrespective of the HRA. I appreciate that, in the past few months, the Home Secretary and the Prime Ministerand my right hon. Friends the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) and the Leader of the Oppositionhave all stated that, if necessary, they would repeal or amend the Human Rights Act 1998. That was actually in our manifesto. This is a practical example in which such considerations come into play. I wish to know whether the Home Secretary will keep open the idea of amending the Bill in the way that I have described, because only that will ensure that the provisions will stand upif a time limit over 14 days is imposedand will not be successfully challenged.
This is a serious matter. A huge amount of time and effort has been put into the proposals and it would be a waste if they were struck down by the Law Lords in such circumstances as I have described. It would also expose
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the British public to considerable danger because, in the years that would elapse, it would be likely that people who should be detained would get away.
Keith Vaz: I wish to detain the Committee for only a few moments to raise just two points with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. At the start of the debate, I was much in favour of the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick). I pay tribute to him and to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) for their contributions to the debate. I was pleased to hear what the Home Secretary had to say. I am glad that he will continue the discussions in the coming week, although I fear that we are merely putting off this particular debate for seven days.
I wish my right hon. Friend to take note of two points in the coming seven days. First, the new laws will have a disproportionate effect on the Muslim community and the Asian community. I am not a Muslim, but 12,000 members of the Muslim faith live in my Leicester, East constituency. Although they have not written me letters, they have made representations to me regarding my discussions with them and their concern about the way in which the Government have reacted to the events of 7 July. Rightly, they condemn terrorism and the 7 July attacks, but there is concern about an apparent gap between what we decide here and the community outside the House. I welcome the Home Secretary's assurance that he intends to go out to the community to explain why the measures are needed, but it is important that he recognises that it is the Muslim community and the Asian community generally that will be most affected if the Bill is passed.
Only last week in Leicester, I was contacted by members of the Muslim community whose houses had been raided by the police, not under terrorism legislation, but under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. I contacted the police to find out why, but was not given an explanation sufficient to enable me to explain to those members of the community why that had happened. They said to me, "The powers are already there. Why are more needed?" It is not only up to Members of this House to explain to the community; the Government have a leading role to play in ensuring that that happens.
My second point is on the Attorney-General. I was concerned to read in newspapers about the Attorney-General's concerns about the proposals, specifically the one on detention for 90 days. The Home Secretary told the House that the Attorney-General believes that his proposals today go a long way to deal with the problem. The right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) asked the Home Secretary whether the Attorney-General was completely satisfied. I should like the Attorney-General's advice to be made available to the House. At the very least, a Law Officer should have been present for our debate. I accept that the Attorney-General cannot be here because he is a Member of the other House, but the Solicitor-General ought to have been here so that Members of this House could question him about the Law Officers' advice and whether the criticisms they made in the memorandum
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that was sent to the Prime Minister and copied to the Home Secretary have been met. It is not that I doubt my right hon. Friend the Home SecretaryI am sure that he was absolutely truthful.