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8.40 pm

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), with her long years of experience on such matters.

I start by echoing the Home Secretary’s opening remarks. I agree absolutely that the House and the Government are responsible for ensuring the maximum protection of our citizens against international terrorism.

We have been targeted in Scotland. We have felt the icy touch on our shoulders of those who would destroy our way of life and maim and kill indiscriminately for their warped and perverted agenda. We will not, therefore, take lectures from anybody about protecting and ensuring the safety and security of our citizens.

Scotland was targeted. Scotland was violated the day that burning jeep crashed into the airport terminal in Glasgow, and I suppose that our attitude to terrorism has changed for ever and a day because of that. Some people believed that Scotland would not be targeted because we had not fully bought into the worst aspects of the Government’s belligerent and aggressive foreign policy. Some of us believed that we might have been spared, but 30 June last year changed everything.

I know the seriousness with which my colleagues in the Scottish Government take such issues. Their first priority is ensuring the safety of Scottish citizens. However, they also have obligations and responsibilities for ensuring Scottish civil liberties. They are responsible for making sure that nothing compromises or threatens the good community relations that we have in Scotland. We will therefore not allow any half-cocked proposals or half-baked suggestions such as the extension to 42 days to threaten that. We have seen no evidence that anything beyond 28 days is required. We agree with all the campaign groups, Opposition parties and the new voices that contribute to the overwhelming chorus that says that nothing beyond 28 days is required.

To legislate on the basis of hypothesis is the most ridiculous way of running the country. If we follow that route, where will it end? There is an undignified tangle between Labour Front Benchers and Back Benchers to stave off some sort of rebellion. Half-measures were proposed to try to buy off a Back-Bench revolt. I suggest to the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Gedling (Mr. Coaker), that he has not done enough to achieve that.

To revert to Scotland, one of the reasons that are sometimes cited for an extension beyond 28 days is the case of Kafeel Ahmed, one of the Glasgow bombers. It is contended that his case proves that more than
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28 days is required. However, after ramming that jeep into Glasgow airport, Kafeel Ahmed fell into a coma and died in hospital. He was filmed driving a blazing jeep into the terminal building. What more evidence is required to bring a charge? The claim that that proves the case for an extension beyond 28 days is absurd. If that is the best the Government can do, it is not good enough.

Let me consider Scotland and clause 27, about which I have great concerns. The provision was introduced late and at about the time we heard about the transfer of powers from Holyrood to Westminster. When pressed, from the Prime Minister down, the only powers that the Government could come up with were those on terrorism, which are almost 99 per cent. reserved in any case. We have only the right to try terrorist suspects in Scotland under Scots law. That made me wonder whether clause 27 is part of the agenda to transfer powers from Holyrood to Westminster and the commission that the Secretary of State for Scotland has proposed.

We accept that, of course, co-operation is needed across jurisdictions and all law enforcement agencies and courts should work together to try to secure that. However, we need to establish the priority of the Lord Advocate’s role.

I want to see a clause in the Bill that makes it clear that any transfer of terror suspects out of Scotland’s jurisdiction to the jurisdiction south of the border has to be made with the full consent of the Lord Advocate and that the Lord Advocate has the right to say no. We transferred the terror suspects last year because the case was made that they would be better prosecuted with the involvement of the Metropolitan police in the London courts. However, there will be times when that will not be necessary or appropriate, and when such suspects should be tried in Scotland. I want to see that in the Bill.

The other issue for Scots law is post-charge questioning. We remain relatively happy with what has been suggested in general, but what has been suggested for post-charge questioning flies in the face of a principle of Scots common law that ensures that once a person is charged he or she comes under the protection of the court and that it is the court’s duty to see that nothing is done to prejudice his or her trial. Quite simply, in Scotland, any answers provided after charge are not admissible. The clause on post-charge questioning runs a coach and horses through that principle in Scots law, so I seek reassurances that members of the Crown Office and the Lord Advocate have been fully consulted on that issue, too.

Of course we believe that new powers are required to tackle terrorism. We will not oppose the Bill tonight, either, although we will return to it in future. We also believe that long-established human rights and community relationships should not—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I call Mr. Cook.

8.46 pm

Frank Cook (Stockton, North) (Lab): A large chunk of my education was received at the hands of the Jesuits. They always taught us that open confession is good for the soul and that we should tell the truth and shame the devil; so I have to tell the House that the last
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time we debated these issues, way back in 2005, I did not speak in the debates, nor did I vote. I was giving the then Home Secretary a very hard time over police reorganisation and I felt rather sorry for him, so I was rather reticent about pushing on the business of 90 days.

In any case, I could not see why there was such trouble then. There was a judicial review every seven days, which I thought was a pretty good safeguard, so I wondered what on earth my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) was getting all het up about. “He’s almost demented, shouting for his 28 days,” I thought. But he stuck by his guns and got 28 days, and he deserves every credit for that. The reason I did not speak or vote at the time was that I had accepted the responsibility of chairing the Committee stage of the Bill. Indeed, I moderated portions of the debate on it in the Chamber, too.

When I saw this Bill’s proposals for 42 days, I thought, “Well, there’s some easement or relenting here.” I was summoned to a meeting with the Home Secretary and went along wondering what it was all about. I was surprised to find that she was anxious to discuss, on a one-to-one basis, the 42-day element. As she was questioning me, I thumbed through the card index of my brain box and remembered that 90 days had been no great problem for me. I said, “There’s no problem”—I used her first name—“you can be assured of my vote on that.” She was reassured and that was that.

But some time later I had another one-to-one discussion, with Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty. She simply asked me, “Have you ever put yourself in the position of the person being detained?” That stopped me dead in my tracks. I thought, “Well, okay, what would it be like? Forty-two days—God, that’s six weeks.” I would be in custody, without charge, under suspicion—suspicion of what?—for one week, and then another and another, at the end of which someone would come to me and say, “All right, Mr. Cook, we believe that you’re innocent—off you go.” What would I feel like?

I immediately felt angry, but then I thought, “Just a minute—what if Frank Cook was a Muslim and that happened?” What would I do then? I would be likely to go back to South Shields, the south bank or Southampton and play merry hell, providing evidence of the residual reservoir of resentment that had built up over those 42 days of not knowing what they wanted to detain me for. It would not only eat like acid into the individual soul, but provide justification for others within the community to feel the same levels of resentment and seek a similar kind of retribution. They would feel justified in doing that. This is the second time that I have made this confession in a week, but I felt ashamed of my own failure to recognise all that, so I picked up the phone, rang the Home Secretary’s private office and asked them to tell the Home Secretary that I had changed my mind. She was not very pleased!

We have heard many good speeches today and a couple of mediocre ones, but most have been quite brilliant. The one that stands out in my mind as providing something that we should try to hang on to was the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member
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for Foyle (Mark Durkan). Why? He reminded me of the famous words of Nye Bevan, when he said:

My hon. Friend the Member for Foyle opened the book for us tonight. We cannot go on ignoring history. Will we never learn? We have to open our eyes, open our ears and use the bit of grey matter that God, thank heavens, gave us and make sure that we do not make the same mistakes of the past.

I will support the Bill as a whole this evening as it has some good elements—intercepts, DNA and other aspects—but on Report, when it comes to the provisions on pre-charge detention, I am afraid that I must warn the Government that they will not be able to count on my support. I shall oppose the provisions on that occasion.

8.52 pm

Mr. Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) (Con): I shall first address the issue of increased detention-without-trial periods. I certainly support my right hon. Friends and others who have spoken so strongly on that issue today. I thought that the speech of the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Frank Cook) was indeed powerful. The current period of 28 days is already the longest for detention without trial in the western world, and I do not believe that it should be extended unless clear evidence is submitted to show that it would improve national security. No such evidence, to my satisfaction, has been provided today.

As the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) pointed out very well, after a speech from the Home Secretary that lasted almost an hour, we had still not heard why the specific period of 42 days, rather than any other number of days, is necessary. The Home Secretary should come back to the House and explain why she needs 42 days. Accordingly, I find it hard to see any good reason for increasing terms of detention without trial—except as a way of chipping away at our citizens’ civil liberties. Like the Government’s little-supported ID cards and their control orders, this proposal will undermine our fundamental freedoms while doing little to bolster our security.

Mr. Angus MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): Will the hon. Gentleman cast his mind back two years to when the Government were getting into a big frenzy about 90 days? They did not get that, and time has shown that they did not need it, either. They have not even needed to use 28 days. All that shows the red herring of the case for 42 days, as he is rightly arguing.

Mr. Djanogly: Yes, indeed. The Government did not provide any evidence then, and they have not provided any now. They would be better advised to concentrate on keeping convicted terrorists locked up. Instead, we hear that two men convicted of terrorism, who present a real danger to the security of our country, have been let out under the Government’s early-release scheme.

In dealing with sentences for offences with a terrorist connection, I find it hard to justify the proposal that such a “terrorist connection” should be an aggravating factor in the sentencing of an individual, as proposed
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in clauses 29 to 31. A crime is a crime and should be punishable as such. Militant groups draw great propaganda mileage from the “martyrdom” of suicide bombers, promising recruits that paradise lies on the other side of the detonator. Why should there be any differentiation in the sentencing of a so-called “terrorist” nail bomber who acts alone on behalf of no particular neo-Nazi cause and a gunman who murders, but whose motive is unclear? Both are murderers and should be punished as such.

We should treat terrorists as the criminals that they are, and the Minister should recognise that there are dangers here. The question is whether the offence should be aggravated for plotting or causing multiple murders, rather than terrorism.

On forfeiture, the Bill makes several amendments to previous legislation, but they are loosely drafted and might have unintended repercussions. The somewhat vague wording in proposed new section 23 of the Terrorism Act 2000 that forfeiture can be applied to property that an individual

the purpose of terrorism has the potential to undermine the rights of a person completely unconnected with the terrorist offence. For example, it may result in the forfeiture of a home shared by a terrorist suspect with his family, despite the fact that the family was entirely unaware of the terrorist activities being carried out in, let us say, the suspect’s bedroom.

Peter Clarke, the Metropolitan police senior counter-terrorism officer, has warned against destroying the trust that

Members have spoken about the need to maintain intelligence. This provision has the potential to perpetuate the erosion of trust, and I would be interested to hear the Minister’s views on how that could be prevented.

The Government sometimes seem to take the standpoint that to legislate is to police. That is as wrong here as it has been with many other of the 3,500 or so new criminal offences that they have delighted in creating in the mistaken belief that they are thereby being tough on crime. The hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) called it the just-in-case principle. Heavy-handed use of provisions such as proposed new section 23 could make ethnic minority groups feel persecuted.

We need to catch and punish the wrongdoers without alienating the innocent community within which they live. I support the concept of allowing post-charge questioning, which I also feel would significantly lessen the need for an increased detention-without-trial period. It is sensible for police officers to have the opportunity to question further a terrorist suspect on the same terrorism-related offence for which they have been charged. I have a concern, however, that these provisions do not seem to allow for any judicial scrutiny of the process. Would it not be wise to implement a process whereby judges had some say as to when and how such procedures were applied? That could help to ensure that the provisions were used consistently, and only where necessary.

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There is one area on which the Government have often uttered strong words but failed to deliver, and they fail again in this Bill: the effective banning of extremist organisations that preach hatred and violence. There is no doubt that our police and security forces have been doing a magnificent job in protecting our country. The number of foiled terrorist attacks in the past few years is testament to that. However, they can do only so much, and it is our job to suggest measures that will help to protect our country. Banning extremist groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir and Hezbollah, which incite violence, radicalise our children and encourage mass murder, will help to achieve that.

The Government must take another careful look at the potentially very dangerous groups that they are allowing to exist and grow within our country. I appreciate, however, that while banning such groups is technically easy, undertaking that in the context of building trust with the relevant communities in our country will be a much harder feat to achieve than passing the Bill.

8.58 pm

Mrs. Joan Humble (Blackpool, North and Fleetwood) (Lab): With great pleasure, I rise to follow the many well-informed and passionate speeches that have been made in this important debate. I shall concentrate on part 6 of the Bill, as I believe that it is inappropriate to the overall purpose. The issue it addresses would be far better discussed in the context of the reform of the inquest system set out in the draft coroners Bill.

I am chair of the all-party group on Army deaths, which seeks to draw attention to the tragic circumstances of non-combat-related deaths of service personnel, both in the UK and overseas. The Deepcut and Beyond families group, with whom my colleagues and I work closely, has won broad support in the House and among the public at large for a public inquiry on deaths at Deepcut barracks and elsewhere.

Each of the families involved has its own unique sense of loss, and the grief of many has been compounded by the failure of those in authority to treat bereaved families with sensitivity and the respect they deserve. The families’ distress has been heightened by the belief that they have not been told the truth and that those who were responsible for a death or who could have prevented one will never be held to account. Bereaved families know that it is not possible to bring back the son or daughter they loved, but they want to ensure that lessons are learned and that no one else mourns as a result of a death that could have been prevented.

The Deepcut and Beyond families, although focusing on non-combat deaths, have discovered wide areas of common experience with those who have lost loved ones in the fog of war, whether through so-called friendly-fire incidents, systemic shortcomings or other failures. Their objectives of truth, justice and change where necessary to avoid future deaths have become common cause.

When more than 200 Members of the House called for a public inquiry on non-combat deaths, we were told that the coroner’s inquest was the appropriate
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vehicle to satisfy the requirements of openness and transparency and to meet the criteria for adequate redress. Lord Bingham, in his judicial review ruling on the investigation of the death in prison of Zahid Mubarek, summarised the purposes of an inquest under article 2 of the European convention on human rights as follows:

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