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I have listened to all sides of the argument. I took umbrage about the lack of respect shown to Gareth Peirce, but I have also listened to the Home Secretary and the police chiefs. As the hon.
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Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) said, some of us have had the privilege to listen to Sir Hugh Orde. It is pity that most hon. Members did not have the opportunity to do that, as I think that he is in a unique position to offer advice. We have to live with the version of Bill that we have arrived at, and I hope that the outcome will be positive.
I return to the lessons that we can learn from 1984. We can debate the rights and wrongs of what happened forever, but the actions of the Government at the time, and of the police and the judiciary, led to a massive feeling of disillusion in the mining communities. People came to mistrust the police, and many still do. In addition, 11,000 people were arrested in the dispute. Most were regarded as heroes in the mining communities. If the Bill causes the same thing to happen in Muslim communities, we will have a big problem. The Government therefore must make sure that the legislation is as tight as possible. It must be applied fairly, and it must not be abused.
The legislation must be monitored properlythat is vital. I am not sure what the impact of the sunset clause will be, but the law must be used very sparingly. It must be subject to the closest possible scrutiny and applied very tightly. We cannot return to what happened in 1984, when so much mistrust was caused. If that happens, the problems that we face could become a great deal worse.
Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East) (DUP): This has been a challenging Bill for all of us in the House. Those of us who have sat through all its stages will know that it required us to dig deep into our consciences and reach a considered judgment on many serious issues.
I hope that the Government do not come to believe that they have been defeated. They have produced a Bill that will offer a considerable advantage in the war against terrorism. The one issue that has divided the House should not be allowed to cloud the overall impact of the Bill, much of which, in its amended form, will be of great value.
I want to touch on three issues. First, my colleagues and I will support the Third Reading of the Bill, even though we remain concerned about the question of glorification. Those proposals are drawn very widely and we are worried about some of the possible uses to which the clause may be put. We are also concerned that the Director of Public Prosecutions is the only safeguard against abuse of the provision. However, the overall benefit of the legislation is sufficient for us to set that concern to one side and perhaps to hope that the other place may be able to take some corrective measures.
We have been mindful throughout the process that this is a terrorist Bill. At every stage that has been at the forefront of my mind, particularly coming from where I do in Northern Ireland. The Province that I represent has suffered considerably over the past four decades. Members who represent Northern Ireland know better than most what the dangers of terrorism are and what the impact of various elements of legislation can be. Therefore, we approached the debate recognising that difficult decisions had to be taken and might not always be understood.
The second issue that I want to touch on is the need for the House to be united in the battle against terrorism. I can well understand that the Home Secretary is a little bruised
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today. He seems to be flaying around a little. However, I do not believe that the type of yah-boo politics, "I'm tougher against terrorism than you are" will advance us. Conservatives could argue that they suggested that intercept evidence should be taken into account, which would have toughened the legislation. If I wanted to get into yah-boo politics no doubt I would say that it ill became the Government to lecture the House about being tough on terrorism when, on the day of the Committee stage key vote, they introduced legislation to allow on-the-run terrorists in Northern Ireland to go through a farce of a judicial process to be freed. It does not help us to go down that road. It is far better that we all recognise that the House must be seen to be united in the battle against terrorism.
I certainly take it hard to hear the Home Secretary say that those of us who voted for 28 days are soft on terrorism. I entered politics because my friend was killed by terrorists. Few of my colleagues on this Bench have not been shot at or bombed. I have had two bombs sent to me and I have to have permanent police protection because of the danger from terrorism. Nobody in Northern Ireland would consider me to be soft on terrorists.
I come from a party that was opposed to internment. Because we are regarded as at least a centre right party, most people would have expected us to support internment. We opposed it and we were right to do so. We saw the effects that it had in Northern Ireland. I am not saying that the 90 days would have been in effect internment, but there were similar features. The impact on the nationalist community at first, and within sections of the Unionist community later when people were picked up, held for long periods and ultimately released, undoubtedly aided those who wanted to stir up the anger of the community against the state. There is no inconsistency in our position that we were opposed to internment.
From Second Reading, we made it clear to the Home Secretary that we were convinced from the evidence from chief constables and others that he had a case to increase the detention period beyond the existing 14 days, but we were not at that stage convinced that he had made a case to extend it to 90 days. We supported the Government on Second Reading to give the Home Secretary the opportunity to convince us and, frankly, we were open to be convinced. In our own discussions we felt that there certainly was a case to extend the period to 28 days. We were even minded to go as far as 60 days, but no case suggested to us that 90 days was the appropriate length of time. I do not sayand I hope that no one will suggestthat 90 days was right or wrong, or that 28 days is right or wrong. It was a judgment call; it is not an exact science. There are advantages to 90 days and advantages to 28 days, as well as disadvantages to both.
The overall balance that we struck recognised the dangers involved in a very long period of detention, not simply because the evidence produced in a court might be rejected because of the length of time for which an individual had been examined, but because of the injustices that could be caused as a result, especially for those who might be considered vulnerable. I am reminded of the case that is known in Northern Ireland as the UDR Four. Serving soldiers were charged and convicted of murder. They were later brought before an
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appeal court and three of them were released, because the convictions were unsafe. The case did not involve individuals who would have felt strange in the company of police officers or unaccustomed to the pressures of the examination to which they were subjected. However, after a period of detention, they made confessions because of the strain of the examination by the police. If that was possible under existing terror laws in Northern Ireland, it would certainly be possible during detention for 90 days. The problem is not only that the courts would find it difficult to rely on such evidence, but the injustice that might arise as a result.
Like the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. Anderson), I think that many people would say that we should have a heavy heart if someone were detained for 90 days and then released without charge, because they would feel a sense of injustice. We would have even heavier hearts if allowing detention for 90 days would have prevented a terrorist act from taking place. However, that argument could be advanced for 120 days, 360 days or beyond and that is why we had to make a judgment.
Our view was that if the police could not come up with at least a holding charge within the time frame that my party was prepared to allow of between 28 and 60 days, it was unlikely that they would be able to produce a more substantive charge by the end of 90 days. The decision that has been reached is the best in the circumstances. The House has settled its mind on the issue and I trust that we can bind the wounds that divided us and move forward, united, in the battle against terrorism.
Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab): I must start by returning, in the nicest possible way, the gold cup for loyalty that the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) awarded to me earlier after some of my interventions, because I do not believe that the Bill is perfect. It certainly was not perfect in the form in which I first saw it in the middle of September and I still have concerns about it.
I share the concerns of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) about clauses 6 and 8 and those of the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) about clause 6 especially. The aspect that jumped out at me was the definition of training for terrorism. In the United States, people who had trained the 9/11 bombers had suspicions that the training would be used for nefarious purposes and had alerted the police, although the intelligence was not acted on. Under the Bill, however, they would be guilty of knowing or suspecting if they continued to give that training.
As a former academic, I also have concerns about my colleagues in education and higher education who may feel inhibited about teaching microbiology, chemistry or other things to students. Their academic freedom might be compromised by a disaffected student or, as is often the case in higher education, an envious colleague who might bring a malicious case against them.
I am also concerned about what would happen to the people held under the provisions. They will clearly be held not in police facilities but in high-security prisons. I have visited the high-security category A prison in my
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constituency and seen the conditions in which high-security prisoners are kept. I would not wish that on anyone for any length of time.
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