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Robert Key (Salisbury) (Con): Referring back to the intervention by my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), may I, too, tell my right hon. Friend how I deplore the way in which chief constables have been drawn into this political argument? It is the first time in my 22 years in the House that a chief constable has ever contacted me to seek support for a particular clause in a Bill in favour of the police. I received a letter from my excellent chief constable, for whom I have enormous regard and respect, in which he asked me to support the extension. He said:
"If I may say so, I am more likely to be swayed by you than by Charles Clarke! Please will you explain to me why it must be 90 days, not 28? Or would you perhaps be willing to settle for a doubling to 28?"
David Davis: My hon. Friend makes that case better than I could have done. The simple truth is that, in all the interventions that I have allowed, I have not yet heard the case that any terrorist incident would be prevented by an extension even to 28 days, let alone 90.
Mr. John Baron (Billericay) (Con): Will the shadow Home Secretary continue to press the Home Secretary on the issue of lack of evidence, and particularly on the point that, if the vast majority of developed countries do not require a 90-day provision, why should we?
It will doubtless be argued that what the police want, the police should have. What the police want carries real weight on this side of the House, but it is not in itself conclusive. If the police want 90 days and are given it because we do not want to stand in their way, what would the House say if they were to come back and ask for 100 days, 180 days, 360 days or two years?
While we are at it, another point raised by the Minister was about the security services. Let no one claim that the security services want 90 days. Whitehall officials have reported that the security services have
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made "no recommendation" on the detention period. To return to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Baron), let no one claim, either, that we need to bring our periods of detention into line with those of other countries. In Australia, where a murderous terrorist plot has just, mercifully, been foiled because of vigilant police action, there is fierce debate about an extension from two days to 14 days. Most of the other countries with similar judicial systems to ours have smaller, not greater, rights to detain without trial. On the evidence that we have, 90 days is simply too long, and too long by an order of magnitude.
The relative leisure of the three-month time scale, compared with the present 14 daysor for that matter, 28 daysrisks the imprisonment and consequent release without charge of innocent people. Those innocent people will be drawn disproportionately from one section of the community and there is a real risk in that community of a backlash on an unprecedented scale, not to mention the affront to justice that would be felt by all.
When this matter was raised with the Home Secretary, it was clearly a sore point, because he went into his high-decibel overdrive, as he sometimes does. He started talking about how the leaders of the community were entirely onside against terrorism. Of course they are. Of course the heads of the Muslim communities, in particular, are onside against terrorism. They fear this more than we do, I suspect. The problem that they face is the problem of radicalisationindeed, unknown radicalisationof very small but dangerous parts of their own community, involving young men in their community. We must not make those community leaders' job more difficult, or, indeed, almost impossible.
Mr. Ben Wallace (Lancaster and Wyre) (Con): Does the shadow Home Secretary agree that the security services and the police forces are finding it incredibly hard to recruit employees from the ethnic and Muslim communities because of the isolation that they feel? Would not the 90-day provision increase that problem, rather than decrease it?
It was clear from the beginning of this process that the majority of the British people actually favour 90 days, and I think that we should recognise that. I have been accused of opportunism; it is an odd kind of opportunism that takes the unpopular side of the argument, but never mind. A large number of people favour 90 daysperhaps this is true in the Muslim community as wellbut they will do so only until the day it goes wrong, and we find that someone has been held for three months, lost his job, broken his family, yet comes out innocent. If he did not hate Britain when he went in, I suspect that he would have a grudge when he came out. That is the situation that we have to look forward to. In the aftermath of 7 July, I quite understand the imperative, but we must be absolutely balanced in the way we approach this issue, and think forward.
Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): Putting the powerful point that my right hon. Friend has just made together with his previous point, does he agree that the crucial point about the success in Australia, and the fact that that country gets away with requiring only a moderate number of days' detention, is that the Australians have prevented radicalisation through not having human rights legislation that blocks them from getting rid of known agitators and troublemakers?
David Davis: I am on record as having said that we need either to reform, replace or repeal the Human Rights Act 1998, for precisely that reason. Beyond that, I had perhaps better not be tempted further.
Mr. Bailey: The right hon. Gentleman is very generous. He has been making the case that the extension to 90 days will radicalise young Muslims. Will he explain how 90 days would radicalise them, yet 28 days would not? Or would they perhaps be a little less radicalised?
David Davis: The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. On Second Reading, I said that I did not really see an argument to go beyond 14 days, and one of the fears was that locking people up for a month is still harmful. The only reason that I would go to 28 days is that the Home Secretary has given an undertaking that the powers will be used extremely sparingly. The trouble with 90 days is that even one mistake will be a disaster. The hon. Gentleman is right that it is a judgment call, but in the balance between liberty and security, this country should always err on the side of liberty.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): Anybody who is asked whether they agree with the detention of terrorists will answer, "Yes of course." Our concern is not the detention of terrorists but the detention of people who are not terrorists. That is what will have an effect on the communities of which the right hon. Gentleman speaks.
David Davis: The hon. Gentleman makes the point well. The real risk is that, if we detain and then release one suspected terrorist without charge, we radicalise 100 further peoplethe terrorists of the future. The Bill is dangerous in that respect. The proposal is simply wrong: it will damage liberties, rights and a system of justice fundamental to the British way of life. It will be counter-productive and ineffective.
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