Mr. Clarke: All the amendments in this group relate to the complex and contentious question of pre-charge detention in terrorist cases. Government amendments Nos. 52, 53, 54, 56, 57, 59, 60 and 62 provide that extensions of detention beyond 14 days must be approved by a High Court judge or, in Scotland, a judge of the Court of Session. That responds directly to concerns raised in the Chamber at Committee stage. Any application that would extend detention beyond 14 days will need to be made to the senior judge. If, for example, on day nine, the police thought that they needed only another couple of days before they would be in a position to release a suspect or suspects, they could still apply to a district judge. If, however, the police were clear at that point that they wanted a further seven days, the application would need to be made to the senior judge.
Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): I am grateful to the Home Secretary for giving way at this early juncture. Why is application in Scotland to be made to a court of civil jurisdictionnamely, the Court of Sessionfor what is essentially a criminal matter?
Mr. Clarke: Following our exchanges in Committee, I set out clearly to all Scottish MembersI think that the hon. Gentleman will have received my correspondencethe range of issues relating to that particular set of questions. I believe that that addresses the question that he has raised. If not, and he is indicating that it does not, I shall come back to him on the point later in the debate.
In Committee, it was suggested that it was not only the level of judge that was important, but his experience of handling terrorist cases. It was suggested that there should be a cadre of judges designated for that purpose. We have explored that suggestion with the Department for Constitutional Affairs, but it and the judiciary rejected that approach, so it has not been pursued.
Another option raised in Committee, following Lord Carlile's recommendation, was for decisions to be taken by senior circuit judges, with an avenue of appeal to a High Court judge. In our view, that would lead to an appeal in virtually every case with the cases eventually being decided by a High Court judge, so we have achieved the same result with fewer hearings. I can easily explain the effect of the amendments and I have also dealt explicitly with the proposals made by the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash).
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It was also suggested that judges should give reasons for their decisions to extend detention. The clear advice we have is that that would open up an avenue of appeal. There is also the risk that the judge might have decided to grant the extension on the basis of sensitive material, so we have decided not to proceed with that suggestion.
Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): Can the Home Secretary amplify the exact procedure before the High Court judge? Will it be possible for submissions to be made by the person under detention pending charge? Will he be represented? How will the procedure operate and will the Government publish further material on that point, if necessary?
I turn to Government amendments Nos. 51 and 58. As the Bill is currently drafted, extensions of pre-charge detention are for seven days unless there are "special circumstances" that warrant a lesser period. The amendments remove the word "special" so that a shorter extension period would be granted if the judge felt that circumstances warranted it. The amendments are identical to ones tabled by the Opposition in Committee, so we are responding to the debate on that issue.