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Mr. Grieve: I should be grateful if the Home Secretary would make a statement. There will be occasions when detention goes beyond 14 days. Will detentions still take place at Paddington Green? Will people be moved to Belmarsh? What will happen in practice? Will there be a blurring between what is effectively police detention, pre-charge, and people being detained in an ordinary prison environment?
No hon. Member can seriously question the fact that the United Kingdom and many other countries, as we so tragically saw in Jordan yesterday, face a very serious and, in our history, unique threat from terrorism. We face foes who seek to destroy our way of life and everything we stand for. They are happy to sacrifice their own lives in pursuit of that aim and they have no qualms about how many innocent lives they take. I do not pretend that legislation is the only solution to such a threat, but it is very important that we have the most effective legislation at our disposal. The Bill will be another important weapon in our armoury in fighting terrorism, and we need to get it on to the statute book as soon as possible. I hope therefore that colleagues from all sides of the House will unite to give the Bill a Third Reading and to send it to another place.
Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): The Bill as it now stands merits the continuing support of the official Opposition and will have it. In the unlikely event of the House being divided this afternoon on Third Reading, we will support the Government. I am pleased that the circumstances that have arisen in the House, both in Committee and on Report, have enabled us to do so. It is greatly to the credit of Parliament as a whole that the Bill has been sufficiently improved so that the consensus that the Home Secretary sought has been achieved, even if he might have wanted somewhat different details in the Bill from those that are in fact present. We will give the Bill our support and wish it fair passage through the other place.
I hope the Home Secretary will forgive me if I examine some of the details. I had to disagree slightly with him on one aspect. It is true that we have had a great deal of time to debate the detail of the Bill, but we have not hadI do not entirely blame the right hon. Gentlemansufficient time, particularly yesterday, to decide whether we wanted to make changes to the Bill in certain areas, following that scrutiny. There are issues relating, for example, to whether a defence should be available to somebody who is arrested for having been present at a terrorist training camp. The House has not had an opportunity to decide whether a proper defence should be allowed and, if so, how it should be worded. That will have to be considered in another place.
We have also failed to resolve whether there should be a defence for the dissemination of terrorist publications. That has been of great concern to academics and librarians because, as the Bill stands, if one hands out an al-Qaeda manuscript to students so that they can write an essay on it at a university, one commits a serious offence. Only the discretion of the Director of Public Prosecutions will prevent prosecution. That is unsatisfactory. It is not sufficiently unsatisfactory to make us abstain or vote against the Bill, but it must be tidied up in another place.
We have great problems with clause 1 that have not been resolved at all. Glorification remains a concept in the clause and it essentially muddies the provision's clarity. I cannot believe that there is no better formulation, which meets the Government's need to criminalise indirect incitement without introducing to our national law a concept that has previously been alien to it and which is so opaque and woolly that we
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fear that it risks creating injustice. I hope that perhaps lawyersit is a legal issuecan tackle that in another place and devise a better response.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): I beg my hon. Friend's pardon for not being a regular attender at earlier stages of the proceedings. Has sedition been considered in the context of the problem of glorification? That already covers in law the sort of anxieties that the Government rightly havewe would like to support the Government in resolving themwithout the side effects about which my hon. Friend is rightly worried.
Mr. Grieve: My hon. Friend is right. One of the curiosities of the Bill is that, in almost all cases, it is at least arguable that offences similar to those that we are creating already exist. There are some exceptions, especially mere attendance at terrorist training camps abroad and aspects of terrorist training. My hon. Friend is right that the offence of sedition already exists. One of the extraordinary aspects of clause 1 is that nobody has yet been prosecuted for the sorts of utterances that it criminalises, yet in the past few years many such utterances have been made and existing law is available to deal with them. The Government have never provided an explanation for that. I have therefore inferred that they take the view that such prosecutions would perhaps cause more harm than good. That poses the question of why clause 1 is being promoted with so much gusto.
Bringing anti-terrorist legislation together in one Bill may have something to commend it. The problem is that clause 1 as it is currently worded remains deeply unsatisfactory. We discussed and debated yesterday the problem of whether indirect incitement can be caused intentionally, recklessly or negligently. The Government have amended the Bill and it now reads slightly better, but it is remarkable that they have adopted a test for recklessness that the House of Lords described last year as no longer sustainable because it risked creating injustice.
I have serious doubts about whether the clause will last long in that form when it is scrutinised in another place, where, apart from anything else, one or two former Law Lords may be present who will point out the intellectual problem that it poses. The word "reckless" is incompatible with the way in which the Government have qualified it in the provision. It will create injustice and lead to people being criminalised who should not be. I hope that that will be altered when the Bill is considered in another place. I also hope that the glorification provisions will be amended or removed.
There are two major problems in the Bill and we have touched on both. The first is the period of detention and the second is the definition of terrorism. The definition of terrorism colours the consideration of the Bill. I acknowledge that the Government have a problem. We have little difficulty in deciding what constitutes terrorism if it takes place in this country, but much more difficulty when we try to apply the definition abroad, especially in countries that may be governed by tyrannies. It is unfortunate that we have been unable to resolve that problem satisfactorily.
I am grateful to the Home Secretary for explaining to the House that Lord Carlile will review the matter. However, the Bill is likely to reach the statute book some
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time before Lord Carlile reports. In the intervening period, all we can do is hope that those who are accused of committing an offence abroad do not come through our court system. If that happens, we will face serious difficulties. Lord Carlile's review, which I welcome, does not mean that Members of the other place should be fettered and prevented from considering whether the Bill can be improved in the meantime. Lord Carlile can always improve matters further later.
The definition of terrorism is profoundly unsatisfactory; we have not succeeded in tackling that. I disagree with the Home Secretary's view that we had enough time. We did not reach those clauses yesterdayit is as simple as that. The problem impinges not only on the definition but on proscription of organisations for glorifying terrorism abroad and, indeed, every other aspect of the Bill. The Government have offered some improvements by providing that one or two clauses do not apply extra-territorially.
The problem however remains that we are creating an over-arching structure, which, if it were applied logically, could criminalise all sorts of people in a way that Parliament never intended. It is a fundamental flaw in the Bill. I hope that Lord Carlile can solve the problem, but in the meantime the House and the other place cannot abdicate our responsibility for trying to improve the measure.
I do not want to take up too much of the House's timeafter all, we have had plenty of debate. Let me deal with the key issue of the period of detention. I listened carefully to the Home Secretary's speech and I regret the tone of his remarks on that. When the police approached the Government in the summer, they presented a series of documents. I have seen them, the Home Secretary has seen them and I daresay that, by now, every hon. Member has seen them. Although they raised a clear concern about whether 14 days was sufficient time pre-charge to carry out investigations, they never explained anywhere why 90 days was the appropriate period to which detention should be extended. Nothing in the documents explained that and nothing since has provided a justification for that figure.
What is the House to do in such circumstances when faced with a request from the police for a change, and the need to protect the liberty of the subject, which is one of the fundamental reasons for our existence? I say to the Home Secretary kindly that the outcome of 28 days, which some hon. Members would argue was too long, represents a reasoned and reasonable assessment of, and a sensible response to, the information that was placed before us. To accuse people of opportunism or conspiracy demeans the Home Secretary and suggests that the Government are woefully out of touch with what this place is supposed to try to achieve. Speaking of opportunism, if we had wanted to be opportunistic in the face of the Government's propaganda barrage, the solution would have been to say that the period should be 500 days, and to appeal to the most frightened or base sentiments in the country. It is greatly to the House's credit that it did not respond in that way.
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