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Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): I shall confine my remarks to amendment No. 63. I shall not accept interventions, except from Front-Bench spokespeople or from my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Lynne Jones), who tabled the amendment with me.
I do not know whether its wording is right, but amendment No. 63 seeks to provide compensation for anyone who is released without charge after being
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incarcerated for more than 14 days but fewer than 90 days. They would receive compensation for financial losses. I apologise to Scottish Members, because I am a solicitor in England, so I am not using the terminology applicable in Scotland. However, people who are detained would not receive damages for injuries to feelings and so onthey would be compensated only for financial loss if, for example, they lost their house or job, and were thus deprived of their income.
As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State acknowledged, the amendment would affect an extremely small number of people, as we are told that only a few people are likely to be held for more than 14 days and released without charge. Only a small proportion of that minority are likely to get into difficulties and be able to prove that they had suffered financial losses. The Bill is extraordinary legislation, and I do not intend that my amendment should be used as a precedent by people remanded in custody and acquitted, as their situation is not extraordinary.
People who have been convicted and imprisoned wrongly, such as the surviving members of the Birmingham Six, received compensation. My hon. Friend the Member for Calder Valley (Chris McCafferty) helpfully mentioned the financial hardship faced in detention by people who are held without charge for more than 14 days. My amendment does not cover such individualsit deals only with losses suffered after the eventbut my hon. Friend made the case for such compensation. I am heartened that the Secretary of State agreed to look carefully at the amendment. It is a pity that he could not make a greater concession, but that is the nature of politics. I remind him and other Front Benchers that I am seeking genuine progress on the issue before the Bill leaves the other place.
: I do not speak as a lawyer, although eminent lawyers have participated in our debate. I am certainly not a human rights lawyer like the hon. and learned Member for Redcar (Vera Baird), who may well have campaigned against measures such as the Bill. I speak as someone who served in Northern Ireland, and was involved in the implementation of a number of counter-terrorism measures. I often had to stand on the streets of Northern Ireland while members of the Labour party voted against important measures. Many members of the security forces risked their lives to work within the law, and we did so because we believed that gathering evidence before arrest was the best way to prevent and counter terrorism. Royal Ulster Constabulary officers and many other people in Northern Ireland learned that there are no shortcuts to counter-terrorism. One cannot wipe the slate clean or try to outmanoeuvre the terrorists in minutes or days, as we have seen in four days of debate on the Floor of the House. Have we forgotten the lessons that we learned in Malaya, Northern Ireland and even in Basra? Terrorism is defeated by winning hearts and minds, when the communities themselves stop people committing such acts. If the Government think that they will bring communities closer to the forces of law and order by incarcerating people for 90 days without trial they are badly mistaken. It is from communities that we get informers and tip-offs, and it is from the communities that we recruit members of the police forces and the security services that, in the end, defeat terrorism.
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It is important that we do not forget those lessons. If we alienate people, they will not come forward. I am not saying that people in communities will ignore someone walking down the street with a bomb, but they will ignore the signs. They will ignore the individual in the mosque who is starting to stir up trouble. I know from my own experience that when we had heavy-handed regiments in parts of Belfast or in East Tyrone, the information dried up. People did not pick up the telephone to let us know that there were people down the road behaving suspiciously.
The Government have argued that there is a difference between the terrorists in Northern Ireland and those whom we face now. Yes, of course, what the terrorists are trying to achieve by killing innocent people and how they are trying to achieve it is different, but the cause is not. The way to solve terrorism is no different. It is only when communities engage with the forces of law and order that we start to head such people off. Whatever has caused the current problems in France, how much will the Algerian community, the north African and Muslim communities help the forces of law and order in the next year or two? The answer is very little. We must be careful how we proceed if we take individuals out of communities, which will be predominantly Islamic communities, some in my constituency, and hold them without charge for 90 days.
The Government have so far failed to give us a case that would be solved by detention for 90 days. I am not arguing from the human rights point of view. My hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) would probably disagree with some of my suggestions, which go further than he would. Some of the Government's reasons are entirely bogus. Let us consider one: encryption. The Home Secretary will know that in some serious crime cases, investigators have failed for two years to crack the computer encryption. The Government cannot guarantee that every encrypted device will be unlocked in 90 days, so are we to expect that they will return in a year and ask for the power to lock people up for a further year because a new encryption technique has been invented? Is that what they are trying to say?
Let us examine some of the other issues. I, like a number of my hon. Friends and probably Labour Members, received the letter from the chief constable or perhaps the template of such a letter, urging me to support the measures. I rang the person I was told to contact, who was one of the heads of special branch. I said to the police officer concerned, "Let's look at some alternatives. Let's look at interviewing under charge." He said, "That would really help to move matters along."
I said, "What about some of the restrictions on informers, because of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000?" Some people might think that was a good thing. The Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Police Service of Northern Ireland did not think that those restrictions were good. It is interesting that the Home Secretary said in the House today that the police say we must, so we must, but when the police said we must not restrict special branch in Northern Ireland, the then Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland ignored those wishes.
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I asked the police officer, "What about Iraq?" He replied, "Without the Iraq war, we probably wouldn't have had quite so many people queuing up to take part in some of the current problems". We must recognise that part of the problem we face today is due to previous legislation and current issues leading up to the debate today. The answer is not for the Government to come back to the House, take a short cut, lock people up for 90 days without trial and expect everything to be hunky-dory.
If we take such a short cut, I am almost certain that we will have to return to the issue. We will still have bombs on the underground and terrorists preparing for attacks, because the causes still exist. What I learned in Northern Ireland is that as long as there is a cause, people will queue up to replace those who have been incarcerated, so we should not start with the principle that we learned so wrongly in 1972that internment is the solution.
The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short) does not know this, but when I served in Northern Ireland, I knew her very wellshe used to move around in a black Ford Escort. It was my job to know such things, and I also know that it took years to solve terrorism in Northern Ireland.
If we act on the preventive principle, where will we stop? Why not go on to serious crime? Why do we not lift all the armed robbers? Why not go on to benefit fraud? Where do we draw the line on such issues?
Mr. McFadden : The hon. Gentleman asks why we should not extend the power further. Does he accept that in their evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights the police explicitly excluded extending those powers to non-terrorist offences?
Mr. Wallace: I am grateful for the intervention. I remember that a year ago the police said they wanted 14 days. The police are trying to achieve the best route for themselves, but sometimes they get it wrong.
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