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Sir Menzies Campbell: The right hon. Gentleman allows me, through his reference to the role of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, to make a point that I tried to raise with the Home Secretary. He will remember that, during the 1980s and 1990s, out of sincerely held conviction and principle, the Labour party consistently voted against the renewal of the terrorism legislation that related to Northern Ireland. At no time in that period, when Labour Members' attitudes were clearly based on conviction and principle, did anyone accuse them of being complacent or pathetic. Such words lie ill in the mouths of those who criticise others whose opposition to the Government's proposal is equally based on sincere conviction and principle.
Before 7 July, I analysed most of the instances of terrorism in the western world since 9/11 and examined the behaviour of the Opposition in the countries where they happened. I concluded that it was possible in some cases for Oppositions to score political advantage. Indeed, there was a change of Government in Spain. However, I also concluded that, whenever Oppositions did that, there was at least a risk, and generally a probability, that the primary beneficiaries were the terrorists, not western civilisation. I therefore took a stance for which I have been criticisedI believe by hon. Members of all parties but certainly by Conservative Membersof supporting anything that the Government introduced that I believed would be effective against terrorism.
We support much of the Billindeed, we are the originators, along with the Liberal Democrats, of approximately two thirds of it. It is unfortunate that the Liberal Democrat senior home affairs spokesman is not here today.
Yes, the hon. Gentleman is ill. He would doubtless confirm that I suggested that the Bill be published in September and introduced in the House before Christmas. The original proposal was to introduce it after the Carlile review next January. We have, therefore, been helpful in all sorts of ways. Numerous conversations have taken place with the Home Secretary and the Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety, as well as other Ministers, to ascertain whether we could find solutions to the problem. There is evidence of that, too, and it reflects well on the Home Secretary from time to time. He altered the glorification clause to reduce the extent of its damage. I suspect that that will happen again.
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Throughout the process, there has been an almost extreme attempt to help the Government within the limits of the duties of the House. The first duty of the House is to protect the liberty of the British subject. I do not often agree with Liberals, but I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) that the comments of the past few days have, at the very least, not been up to the standard of the past four months' co-operation.
Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal) (Con): My right hon. Friend is explaining to the House the alternative means of meeting the need that the police have identified. Is not that the fundamental duty of the House? It is for us to decide how best to meet the need that the police identify. It is not for the police to tell the House how to legislate. Is not it a pity that, for the first time in my long history in the House, it appears that a fairly concerted effort has been made to bring pressure on hon. Members not to examine the problem carefully but to accept a solution offered by those whose job is not to find such answers?
David Davis: My right hon. Friend is right. I had some doubts, which I did not express, about the constitutional propriety of the process. The police have a task to perform. Their primary task is to protect the citizen from crime, including terrorism. They will get the most powers that they can to achieve that end. Our job is to balance that important task with other important considerations. In the modern world, this country is defined by its institutional historyits history of liberty, judicial process, the presumption of innocence, the right not to be locked up without trial. We point at other countries in scorn about those matters. We should not throw away that history easily, least of all on the judgment of those whose task is difficult and important but should not make us overturn the fundamental duty of the House.
Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that a suspect who is detained and released without charge after 89 days will do more harm to community relations than a suspect who is detained and released without charge after 27 days? Are not the Government in danger of having an encrypted community relations policy?
Angela Watkinson (Upminster) (Con): I wonder what conclusion my right hon. Friend would have drawn if he had been part of the cross-party delegation to South Africa last week. We were conducted round the prison at Robben Island by a former prisoner who commented, "This all happened in the days when we locked people up for 90 days without charge."
The Prime Minister is on the record as saying that the case for the extension to 90 days is "compelling". He clearly believes that there is such a case, just as he believed in those famous weapons of mass destruction. However, the proven case for 90 days, like that for the weapons, simply does not exist. I am willing to give way now to any hon. Member who can cite a single terrorist incident in this country that would have been averted by the 90-day proposal rather than by good police work or implementation of laws that are already on the statute book.
Michael Jabez Foster (Hastings and Rye) (Lab): We do not know, because it never happened. The right hon. Gentleman has suggested that arrests should be made later, following further surveillance and so on. If he had taken the trouble to speak to local police chiefs, as many of us have, they would have told him that this measure is about the prevention of terrorism, not its detection. Therefore, it is not always possible for the police to wait until they have all the evidence necessary to make an arrest if they need to make that arrest quickly. Does he agree that that is a fair and reasonable stance to take?
David Davis: It is interesting that the hon. Gentleman, who is the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Attorney-General, appears to be making a case for internment. I will pass over his slightly fatuous comment about whether I have spoken to any police chiefs recently. Perhaps he does not know what my job is.
Shona McIsaac: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I was intrigued by his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) about his discussions with the police to support his case for 28 days. What discussions has he personally had with the terrorism experts on his own police force? What did they say to him that would provide a strong evidence-based case for 28 days?
David Davis: If the hon. Lady will forgive me, I thought that talking to the terrorism experts in the Cabinet Office and the Home Office was probably better than talking to the terrorism experts on Humberside. Important as they are to my people, they are not necessarily the people I want to talk to on this particular issue.
Shona McIsaac: Is the right hon. Gentleman, who is a neighbour of mine, telling me that he did not speak to the ACPO terrorism representative for the north of England, who is a member of the Humberside police force?
I have talked to Sir Ian Blair, to Mr. Fox and to a whole series of people whom the Home Secretary organised for me. I took the view that that was quite enough, thank you very much. Let us be clear that
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the hon. Lady does not misrepresent the point that I am making. She seemed to suggest that I was looking for a case to support the proposal for 28 days, but I have to tell her that I was not. I was looking for any case whatever to support any extension. I did not find any such case at all until last week, when Mr. Hayman's document came out. I grant the hon. Lady that that letter makes some case for some extension, but I have not yet seen any case for 21, 28 or 90 days.
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