|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
I have already dealt with the hon. Gentleman's second point. On his first point, I am grateful for his party's general support of this approach.
10 Nov 2005 : Column 498
It is always difficult debating with Liberal Democrats, but I look forward to a proper engagement in a serious way with the individuals concerned.
Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe) (Lab): I thank my right hon. Friend for the way in which he has tried to listen to many different and conflicting views, particularly from Labour Members, throughout the process of consideration. He knows that my concerns have always been about the glorification clause, the definition of terrorism and the fact that many people might feel themselves criminalised for supporting what they see as genuine liberation struggles throughout the world. Can he give me an assuranceI welcome his reference to Lord Carlilethat Lord Carlile's report, whatever it says, will come back to the House for debate and decision as part of the process?
Mr. David Kidney (Stafford) (Lab): To return to my right hon. Friend's exchange with the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath), in what way has my right hon. Friend dealt with post-charge questioning? Now that the maximum period of detention can be only 28 days, what is the Government's view on allowing the police to question people after charge and adjusting the law relating to bail to allow that to happen? In my opinion, more damage could be done to our judicial system, and in respect of the propaganda point, by going down that route than by sticking with the 90 days that we could have had.
Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend, with his experience, puts his finger precisely on the issue that we are considering. There are attractions in that route, as I have indicated. There are also some significant wider implications for the way in which the legal system, and particularly the bail system, operates, that we would need to consider extremely seriously before taking that course of action. However, I can confirm that we are considering the matter. It is right to do so, but as with every legal reform of this type, and many of the issues that we have discussed, a reform that seems simple in one neck of the woods can become very complicated in other respects.
John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): As one who jousted with the Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety on the definition of terrorism, and who expressed a real concern about the plight of people fighting for freedom in thoroughly unfree and, in some cases, bestial environments, I consider this an extremely positive development. The review by Lord Carlile will be warmly welcomed, and I would not want the Home Secretary to think that it was not appreciated. It is, and it is the right way forward.
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's personal commitment. One of the exciting revelations for me through the entire debate has been the transformation of a number of Conservatives into
10 Nov 2005 : Column 499
freedom fighters throughout the world, which is genuinely entertaining to some of us who have been involved in these matters in various ways over time.
Mr. Grieve: May I take the Home Secretary back to post-charge questioning? I appreciate that there may be some difficult practical issues, but if he gets advice, I am sure he will find that the principle of post-charge questioning does not pose any great theoretical difficulty. It may be a change to our general criminal law that could properly be introduced, if there are adequate safeguards. I urge him not to disregard this. The police have consistently said that it is a problematic area in terrorist cases. If we are responding to a problem identified by the police, we should do so positively where we can, especially where it appears to be wholly compatible with the maintenance of the rights of a suspect.
Mr. Clarke: I am overwhelmingly delighted that those on the Opposition Front Bench are listening to the advice of the police on these matters. I wish that that would happen more generally in addressing the issues that we have to face. On the particular point that the hon. Gentleman makes, I said and I say again that there is a case for that, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney) said, there are serious implications more widely and those need to be properly considered. We are engaged in that consideration.
"Those arrested in groups share the same solicitors, usually drawn from a narrow circle of firms with special expertise and experience in terrorist crime . . . Those solicitors are generally very professional, extremely skilled and analytical"?
Mr. Clarke: The purpose is to gather evidence, rather than to change that aspect of the situation, but my hon. Friend is right. One aspect of that report that concerns me is the small number of practices that deal with such cases, which creates massive delays in the legal process, quite properly at present. That is a matter of genuine concern.
Lynne Jones: On post-charge questioning, my understanding, which arises from a briefing from one of the lawyers mentioned, Gareth Peirce, is that post-charge questioning was always possible and is possible, provided that significant new evidence arises. Is that not the case?
Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con):
During the long debates that we have had, the Home Secretary
10 Nov 2005 : Column 500
referred a number of times to a small number of people who will be detained for more than 14 days without charge. Outside this place, "a small number" has been interpreted as being fewer than five, fewer than 12 or fewer than 20. Can he give us an idea of what he has in mind as a small number? If it is greatly different in practice, what will the Government do about that?
Mr. Clarke: Indeed. We are talking about a small number, but by definition we cannot be precise about it because by definition we do not know which terrorist conspiracies we will be able to stop and put through that process or not. But we are talking about a small number, and that stands.
Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con): I am sure Gareth Peirce's shoulders are broad enough to take any praise or other comments that the Home Secretary wants to make. Can he tell the House whether he read her article in The Guardian yesterday and whether the interviewing conditions at Paddington Green are as she stated?
Mr. Clarke: No, I did not, but again, I am delighted that the readership of The Guardian now encompasses large numbers of Opposition Members. That is a major development. The hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) says from a sedentary position that she can read. I am delighted that in her case that is true. I notice that the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) claims with pride to write for The Guardian. So he should claim with pride. I note that he opposed the Bill on Second Reading. I hope he will support it today. We shall see.
Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South) (Lab): There is a serious issue here. Will the Home Secretary look at the interviewing conditions at Paddington? If he is interested in expediting the process and making maximum use of the 28 days available, there are several changes that could be made.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|