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My hon. Friend makes a serious point. As I said in response to the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, there are many issues of the type that
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my hon. Friend the Member for Calder Valley (Chris McCafferty) raises, which it is important to address. That is why, in responding to the amendment, I committed myself to look carefully at how we deal with the question of compensation, including any hardship that might arise.
Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): I think that my right hon. Friend misunderstood the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mark Fisher). There is no doubt that Muslim communities stand four-square against terrorism, but there is also no doubt that a large section of Muslim youth, who are against terrorism, is profoundly alienated from the system, as it sees it. The co-operation of that section of Muslim youth in intelligence gathering is vital, and the danger is that the Bill will alienate it.
Mr. Clarke: I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mark Fisher), if I misunderstood him. We have had discussions with the Muslim community, including a series of working groups to identify the best way to deal with the issues raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden). I acknowledge that we must address the existing and potential alienation of young people from those communities.
I have been speaking for an hour, and, in the interests of debate, I shall not give way again, because I have been generous in giving way throughout. In conclusion, there are some people who argue that this has been a politically partisan exercise. I put it to the House that that is the opposite of the case.
It is the obligation of every hon. Member to understand the threats to national security and to equip our security forces with the ability to deal with that in the best and most protected way. Moreover, I say to all those who have doubts about the time period that the whole purpose of the sunset clause is to provide an opportunity carefully to analyse how the period has worked, so that this House and the other place can make a decision on that matter in a year's time, which will allow us to test the hypotheses and concerns that various individuals have genuinely raised. Even the putative leaders of the Conservative party should think hard about their responsibilities on such matters, too. [Hon. Members: "No!"] Yes they should, because they have ducked the issues, and the House should not duck its responsibilities now.
I start on a sad note, because the Home Secretary's comments about this not being a politically partisan exercise were undermined by his final remark. I am conscious that I am speaking on behalf of a party that has seen friends and colleagues murdered by terrorists. The names are familiar to all hon. Members: Airey Neave, Ian Gow and Anthony Berry. This party
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has first-hand experience of terror, so the House can draw its own conclusions when it faces silly and, frankly, contemptible accusations that any party, least of all mine, is soft on security.
The war on terror is, after all, a battle of hearts and minds. The Government have passed five terrorism Acts since they came to powerthe Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act 1998, the Terrorism Act 2000, the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and, finally, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005. Those Acts contain many worthwhile provisions, but none of them prevented the atrocities of 7 July, so let us not pretend that we can win the war on terror by passing every single law that the Government throw up. We will win the war by actually being tough, rather than just talking tough.
There is a lot that the Government could do. They could secure our borders by introducing a new border control force, which is something that we have often proposed, but they will not do it. They could fund the security services properly by scrapping plans for identity cards and spending the money on intelligence, but they will not do it. They could help to convict terrorist suspects by allowing the authorities to submit phone-tap evidence in court, but they will not do it. They could appoint one, single Minister to take control of our fight against terrorism, which has happened in other countries, but they will not do it.
We will take no lessons from the Government about being tough on terrorism, because they have failed to take on board many of our proposals, which, although our proposals were not especially innovative, would have brought us into line with the rest of the world. On the crucial matter before us todaythe period for which a suspect can be held without trialwe want toughness that will work.
Like all hon. Members, we have been searching for a workable proposal and we welcome the Government's changes, which we proposed in many cases, such as better judicial scrutiny, new police and criminal evidence codes, which we hopethe Home Secretary did not address this pointwill facilitate the interview of suspects after they are charged, and a clause, which is not a sunset clause, that requires the annual review of the legislation. It is right to point out that all those provisions were obtained only through parliamentary pressure from both sides of the House. The Government should also listen to what the House of Commons is saying about the duration of detention. On their own, those improvements to the Bill do not remove our responsibility to ensure that the detention is as limited in time as possible.
It is worth grasping what is at stake right at the startthe imprisonment of men and women without trial in the country that invented habeas corpus. We all accept that, when national security is imperilled, our instinctive support for civil liberties must be qualified and that detention without charge must sometimes happen. That means getting a difficult balance right, because if the period of imprisonment is too brief, the civil liberties of suspects may be protected, but the lives of innocent people may be endangered. If the period of imprisonment is too long, locking up people without
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charge risks becoming the first resort of the authorities rather than the last. In those circumstances, innocent people are imprisoned. We should remember that a 90-day detention is the equivalent of a six-month jail sentence, and the risks include not only an affront to justice, but a public backlash, in which case legislators' mistakes will become recruiting sergeants for terrorists. The House knows the serious consequences for our national security and our civil liberties if we get the balance wrong in any direction.
Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West) (Lab/Co-op): Given that the British judiciary has demonstrated in the past that it is robust in defending human rights against Government legislation, does the right hon. Gentleman not think that the fact the whole process will be subject to judicial oversight after 14 days provides adequate procedural protection? If he does not think that, does he agree that the one-year sunset clause is a further failsafe device?
Think of the decision facing the judge when the police say, "We think that this person is a possible terrorist, but we have not got to the bottom of the evidence." Is that the test that we should use in this country to imprison people? I hardly think so. The sunset clause is actually a review clause. What will happen next year? The crisis and the political difficulties will have gone, and the provision will be rolled forward.
Huw Irranca-Davies: My apologies. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that the provision could become the first resort of the authorities, but once again, a Conservative Member is painting a picture of a police state. The provision will include judicial oversight by High Court judges. Is he suggesting that the judiciary will use the provision like a police state, because my right hon. Friend knows that that is preposterous?
The initiative will lie with the police. When the Cabinet Office gave me a Privy Council briefing on the matter, I expressed my concern that the provision will take the pressure off the police to resolve situations quickly. After all, even 14 days is a damaging experience for someone who is innocent, so 90 days is an enormously damaging experience that could wreck lives, ruin jobs and destroy relationships. We must understand that this is a fundamental British freedom that should not be thrown away lightly.
We recognise the Government's difficulties on this. It is of course a matter of judgment. We acknowledge that the world has changed since the IRA halted its terror campaign. New technology brings new security
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challenges. As the Home Secretary said in relation to the National Technical Assistance Centre, the police and security services need more time to scour CCTV footage and to crack encrypted messages. The international dimension of Islamist terrorism also brings new challenges. That is why my hon. Friends made it clear in Committee that we agree with the Government that the current 14-day limit is too brief and propose its extension to 28 days. I believe that that proposal will find widespread support among Members around the House, including on the Government Benches. But the proposal before the House is not ours but the Government's. The Government propose a full 90 days. The House must therefore ask itself this question: have Ministers made a robust, convincing and evidence-based case, not for an extension, as there is a case for that, but for 90 days? I do not believe that they have.
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