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Mr. David Kidney (Stafford) (Lab): The House has arrived at a settled position, so it is now our responsibility to make the Bill work. I assume that the other place will revise the Bill, rather than transform it.
I want to consider the advice that we should give to the police on the rare occasions when a person has been detained for 27 days and not yet charged. I believe the police and the security forces when they say that they are working actively to prevent and deter terrorist attacks on our soil. I understand why they say that they intervene sooner rather than later. We have heard a lot about how the police can get things wrong, but if they get this wrong, the results could be catastrophic, which is why they require time for investigation. We know that delays to an investigation could be caused by the decrypting of computer evidence, inquiries overseas and the tracing of records on the multiple use of pay-as-you-go mobile phones. The police need reasonable suspicion to arrest people, but admissible evidence to charge them. By the end of 28 days, the police will have to decide whether to charge or release. The House must advise them that, if they have not finished their inquiries and do not have admissible evidence, they must release.
Some people hope that the police will charge people with other offences instead. Liberal Democrat Members say that the police could charge a suspect with a lesser terrorist offence. However, the police advise us that they will not have reached the point at which they can decide to charge because they will not have the evidence to charge a person with a terrorist offence at all.
Some people have suggested that, if a person is charged with terrorism and must thus be put before a court, the court would of course refuse bail. However, the Hayman briefing note points out that a terrorist was granted bail and left the country, but the police subsequently believed that he was a prime conspirator, so that assertion does not help us. Conservative Members have said that a person could be charged for other reasons, such as not giving the decryption key to the police. However, that would mean that the person would have the right to attempt to get bail, which would interfere with questioning after charge.
If we have to change the law to allow people to be questioned after charge and to stop them being granted bail, but if no one says for how much longer after 28 days such questioning may go on, we will end up in the same position as we would have reached under the Government's proposal. However, we would have done more damage to our system and given more ammunition to those who are against us and say through their propaganda that the police make trumped-up charges, keep people in and question them until they get their evidence.
The debate has, on the whole, taken place in a good-tempered and sometimes even convivial fashion, so let me be clear: I do not suggest for one moment that the Prime Minister is a tyrant. I think he is a patriot and, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) said, a person of remarkable qualities and courage. I think that sometimes he is right. I happen to think on this occasion that he is wrong. It is a question of an honest difference of opiniona concept that I hope the Government and their Back Benchers would be prepared to recognise.
Specifically, the kernel of my objection to the Bill in its current formas it was my objection on Second Readingis that it contains too broad a range of powers, which are too vaguely defined and threaten too much damage, in return for too little benefit. I want to focus on a couple of the arguments that the Government have advanced in support of it. Neither of them strikes me as compelling.
One argument is to say that the public want it. That, frankly, will not do. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) argued in a powerful contribution, we cannot reduce ourselves to a situation in which we accept that legislation should be formulated, defended and passed on the basis of survey research or an opinion poll. I argueI think legitimately sothat we should heed the words of Edmund Burke who, in his letter to the electors of Bristol in 1774, said that he was their Member of Parliament and representative, and in that capacity he owed them not merely his industry, but his judgment, and he betrayed, instead of serving them, if he sacrificed his judgment to their opinion.
We must be prepared to look at the merits of the case. If we are not robust enough emotionally and intellectually to withstand the rather downmarket, low-grade and substandard attacks on us that will emanate from the veritable organ of public opinion, The Sun newspaper, we should not be in this place. I want to argue the case on its merits.
The second argument that the Government advance, to which we have to pay significant attention, but which I do not regard as conclusive, is that the police tell us that the power is necessary. I was concerned by the argument of the hon. Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Gordon Banks), who said that he was guided by that argument because we have to listen to the experts. We have a responsibility to listen to, but not be overwhelmingly persuaded by, the experts' view. That is especially so if we are not told of the evidential basis for that view. The argument, "The police say it's necessary, and that's good enough for me", may be good enough for some hon. Members, but it is not good enough for me.
I want to know the evidential case for an extension of the period of detention without charge from 14 days to 28 days. I am still not convinced that there is such a case. I certainly should want to be persuaded that there was a compelling evidential case for 90 days. It is my view that there is a better way forward. Intercept evidence should be admissible in court proceedings. I fear that the Home Office is against that because, were the policy adopted, it would require warrants to be issued on the basis of a
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decision by a judge and not simply on the say-so of a junior Home Office Minister. Nevertheless, it is the right course of action and the Government should adopt it.
Moreover, there is a better approach. If the security services cannot manageit is a difficult process because they would have to download computer files, de-encrypt and study the detaillet us have a massive increase in the investment in the personnel, resources and training that are required to enable the police and intelligence services to do their job. I am sad that that argument was not properly explored before the Government contemplated and advocated the abandonment of an historic liberty of the British people. If, in blindfold pursuit of enhanced security, we sacrifice precious liberty we shall end up with neither enhanced security nor precious liberty. That would be a tragedy. I respect the Government's integrity. I believe that they are motivated by the highest considerations of national protection and public service, but I honestly believe that they are wrong.
Patrick Mercer (Newark) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (John Bercow). I was particularly interested in the comments that he made about the attempt to reintroduce intercept evidence. It is worth pointing out that within the past few days the Australian Government have avoided a serious attackwe assume by Islamist fundamentalists. There was excellent intelligence work, excellent intelligence gathering and excellent police work. Yet that Government are now wrangling over whether they should extend their period of detention up to that huge limit of 14 days.
We have had some very interesting and helpful speeches from hon. Members on both sides of the Floor. One of the best speeches came from the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Bill Etherington), who touched with great principle on a number of subjects, not least internment. The hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. Anderson) spoke equally well but from a different point of view. The hon. Members for Dundee, East (Stewart Hosie) and for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone) talked of matters of high principle. Those speeches sit in stark contrast with that of the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Khabra), who made a rather bitter speech that impugned many people's intentions and many people's honour within the House.
One of the most moving speeches was from the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson). He began by talking about the need to get through and beyond and to grow up from yah-boo politics. He, too, mentioned the juxtaposition of internment as opposed to 28 days and 90 days. He spoke also, movingly, about the need for the House to combine across the parties in the fight against terrorism. The comments of my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) were particularly helpful and illuminating. I agree with him that it does not seem that the Bill falls within the category of emergency legislation. I will deal in more detail with the comments of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) in a moment.
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I thought that the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkland[Interruption.] I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon, I was referring to the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty). The Falklands are a long way from home. I am sure that his constituents will not be grateful for that slip. The hon. Gentleman made an interesting series of points but failed to look outside the fact that the Bill should go much further than it attempts to do at present.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe made that point exactly correctly when he talked about the terrorists' aim to produce an overreaction inside this country. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) touched cleverly on that. He made the point that longer detention gives a greater possibility of evidence being obtained under duress. That is certainly something of which I have personal experience. I shall return to that.
The speeches that started the debate need to be examined in a little more detail. The Home Secretary started with the theme of internment. Whether one uses the term or whether, like the hon. Member for Belfast, East, one merely touches on it as having parallels with the problems in Northern Ireland, the one thing that convinced me of the need to go no further than 28 days was my experience of internment in Northern Ireland. I suspect the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality would disagree, and he is welcome to do so, but there are parallels. There are similarities and dissimilarities. In a number of arrests that I carried out, people said to me, "I have never lifted a hand against the Crown forces. Yes, I am a nationalist. Yes, I am even a republican. But the thing that persuaded me and persuaded others was my unlawful detention for a long and unnecessary period." I cannot help but feel that, as a number of right hon. and hon. Members said today, if we introduce a period greater than 28 daysI am unhappy even with thatwe are in grave danger of producing discontented people who will go back to the communities from which they came and spread the word of resentment against the Government.
Interestingly, my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis), in an intervention, spoke about the charge of sedition and why that has not been used. My hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve), who has done such a brilliant job of leading on the Bill through all its stages, dealt in some depth with the nonsense of glorification and indirect incitement. He posed the question why no preachers of hate have been charged under current legislation. He went on to speak about the definition of terrorism and about the Government's vacillation, which has done them no favours over the past 10 days or so.
If the House is to continue to consider only legislation, we would do well to concentrate on the comments of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe who spoke of the Bill as mere gesture. We must get right the period of detention that we impose on our citizens before they are charged, but if the Bill really were emergency legislation, it should have been dealt with immediately after the attacks in July. We made that offer to the Government at the time. I fail to understand why we spend so much time concentrating
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on legislation which, after all, will not deter a terrorist from carrying out the new form of terrorism, about which we have heard so much today. If the Bill were not merely a gesture, we would have considered the concrete measures needed to protect our people and physically stop such attacks happening again.
I regret that the Government have changed their position several times. I thought last week that the Home Secretary would reach some accommodation with us that allowed the whole House to go forward together. Sadly, I believe that the Prime Minister changed the Home Secretary's mind. That has weakened the Government's position, both in their own eyes and in the eyes of the public. I also very much regret the way the Association of Chief Police Officers has been used to make political points and, to borrow the words of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, to lobby and not to brief. Those are powerful words.
We will support the Bill. Nevertheless, I am grateful to Opposition and Government Members for making it a very much more sensible and reasonable Bill, which I hope will stand us in good stead in the future.
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