|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that we have a great deal of support and affection for each other. I do not believe that I had then the amount of
evidence or information that I have now. I have seriously taken time to garner the information that is available, and perhaps I should have done so previously, but the evidence presented by ACPO was clear. In the interval between November 2006 and 2007, it saw a rise in the number of people identified as causing concern, possibly involved in terrorist activity, from 1,600 to 2,000. During the same period, we had 15 terrorist attempts. I had not previously understood the quantity and capabilities of the terrorist group, but I think I understand them better now, and I hope that the House will respect this information.
The add-on factor, which, again, I found quite compelling, was that such people do not just have an identity; they have multiple identities. We are looking at a situation in which many more people are potentially highly problematic to us. Added to that was the complexity of the situation. We have all spoken about the global nature of terrorism and its investigation and about an informal network that is working within communities. In addition, there is the use of mobile phones, internet communications and the rest, which makes the issue very complex.
There is one more factor. The House knows about it, but it is important for me to state it. There is a language input. Some languages are becoming more and more a part of a world that could be attached to terrorist activity, and oftentimes we have very few people with the competence to understand them, especially when those languages become colloquial. I say to the House, with a smile, certainly as I look at the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) on the Opposition Front Bench, that one of them is an Afghan language known as Dari. He would have expected that to be a problem, would he not?
Crucially, we also wanted to see how the civil libertarian argument could be supported. We held very clear sittings during which we took evidence from Justice and from Liberty. Our concern was to consider the alternatives to extending the 28-day period. Was it true, for example, that we really would become the most anti-libertarian country in the world if we did so? Again, I shall use Lord Carlile as my textbook, but there were others whom I could have used. He said no, that each and every legal system is different, and that comparisons are very difficult to make. In the USA, the detention period is not two days at all. He said that the US Attorney-General has executive witness-detention capabilities and that they can hold people for up to a year.
David Howarth: I am interested in that point. Did Lord Carlile inform the Committee that the US federal material witness statute has been held by the federal court in Idaho not to apply at all to suspects?
As the hon. Gentleman will guess, Lord Carlile did not make that statement to the Committee. However, he did make statements that many of us
checked, including the statement that we are not the most anti-libertarian country at all. We compare very favourably with others. The other statement that I would make quite determinedly is that many of the countries that we compare ourselves with, such as Canada or Australia, most certainly have not faced the hideousness of 15 very serious terrorist attempts, and most certainly have not seen 52 of their citizens die and 800 seriously affected as a result of terrorism. It is not true that comparisons are easy. I do not choose to make them; most particularly, I state that they should not be made.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: My hon. Friend does not realise that there was an attempt not so very long ago to kidnap the Canadian Prime Minister. In Canada, there is a one-day detention periodone day alone.
We also looked at post-charge questioning, because, again, it is a crucial issue. Is it true that we could question people post-charge and get the same quality of information? The response was that in the view of many in the legal system, which, again, includes Lord Carlile, post-charge questioning is certainly not a silver bullet. They believe that it will make a limited difference to cases. We persistently asked Lord Carlile about threshold testing, which was an important issue for us. He said:
It is desirable in as many cases as possible that people should be charged with something approaching the criminality of which it is reasonably suspected that they are guilty and on which a prima facie case will be presented.
I do not see that as being any more human-rights compatible than a properly judicially supervised extended detention period that results in proper charges being brought on a sound basis, without the necessity to use the threshold test, which is undoubtedly second-best, as the Crown Prosecution Service recognises. [Official Report, Counter-Terrorism Public Bill Committee, 24 April 2008; c. 122.]
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Did the hon. Lady also consider how many innocent people might be held for 42 days and then released without any charges being brought? In her view, how many such people would be a reasonable number given her estimate of the extent of the threat?
Ms Taylor: The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Of course, nobody in this House would ever want an innocent person to be held. To date, we have not seen any innocent person being held[Hon. Members: Yes, we have.] All right, up to 14 days, but not 28 days. The fact is that we face exceptional circumstances involving horrific terrorist activities. Hon. Gentlemen decry the fact that I had forgotten for a moment that six, or perhaps three people were held beyond 14 days. None of us is perfect; I wish that we were. As we have seen, the terrorist only has to be lucky once, so sometimes the balance of the law must clearly be seen to protect the individual.
Ms Abbott: I entirely agree that none of us is perfect, but does my hon. Friend agree that it would be a highly imperfect system that led to even relatively small numbers of persons being held for up to six weeks, then released without charge back to their communities feeling troubled, bitter and angry? Would not that be entirely counter-productive in terms of community cohesion and getting the intelligence that is the only way in which we will effectively fight terrorism?
Frank Cook: As my parliamentary neighbour, I hope that my hon. Friend will consider the prospect that in supporting this measure there is a danger that she will erect a wall of resentment between herself and her Islamic community and that that wall may extend next door between me and my Islamic communityand I do not want that.
Ms Taylor: My hon. Friend says it as it is. To date, I have not received one letter from my Muslim community. I have spoken to the imams, who have no reservations about thisand let me tell him that if they had, they would have expressed them.
The fact is that I really do not need any other Member to tell me my responsibilities. I have made sure that my community is comfortable with this measure. Is it enthusiastic? Of course it is not. I would not claim that it was, but I do not need any Member to tell me where my responsibilities lie. I want to end
Mark Hunter: I am grateful to the hon. Lady. Some of her hon. Friends have raised concerns about the legislations impact, if it goes through. I ask her to reflect on the views of a former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Lord Condon, who said
If we now go back and make it look as though we are going to challenge yet again the point of 28 days that we have reached, I fear that it will play into the hands of the propagandists, who will encourage young men and womento all other intents and purposes, they are good peopleto be misguided, brainwashed and induced into acts of martyrdom.[ Official Report, House of Lords, 13 December 2005; Vol. 676, c. 1175.]
Is that not the point that her hon. Friends were making a moment ago? Does she not share those concerns? Does she not attach any importance at all to the views of the former head of the Metropolitan police?
Ms Taylor: As I just said, I have spoken to my Muslim community. I was very clear about addressing the issues and to date, no member of it has made a statement that the measure would ratchet up concerns. The hon. Gentleman is right to present the case, but I am saying to him that I do not have that problem. Perhaps Stockton, South is an exception to the rule; I do not happen to believe that it is. I would like to end
I end by quoting from a book that I read some time ago and recommended to the Public Bill Committee. It is a clear, well-executed book, called Celsius 7/7 by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove). I believe that what he says in that book needs at least to be heard, even if it is not agreed with. He says:
We cannot be serious about defending liberty unless we ensure, through proper parliamentary accountability, that legislation designed to deal with a specific terrorist threat is on the Statute book for only as long as the threat exists. But we also cannot be taken seriously when we try to defend democracy unless we ensure that we show resolution in framing the laws necessary to prevent terrorists operating freely.
Mr. Llwyd: I rise to support Government amendments Nos. 4 and 5, which seek to delete the 42-day requirement from the Bill. Amnesty International published a report entitled 2007: The State of the Worlds Human Rights, in which Amnestys general secretary, Irene Khan, says that fear of immigrants, fear of crime and fear of terrorism are used by states to suppress basic human rights. She develops that argument by saying that giving one group of people security at the expense of other peoples rights is bound to fail, and that many anti-terrorist measures and laws have failed because they do not give that point enough consideration. They have
done little to reduce the threat of violence...and much to damage human rights and the rule of law.
I regret to say that that those words are a reflection of what has been happening under this Government in this Parliament for some years now. Although the Government have decided that Ministers will no longer use the term the war against terrorism, the need remains to ensure that we continue to feel under threat.
We must remember that each and every one of us has a right to freedom, and yet the Government are prepared to weaken ita task that is far easier against the background of terrorist and violent threats. Everyone knows that Government policieswhichever Government they might betend to be created in the tabloid press, and it is difficult to have a meaningful discussion on security and penal policy without sinking deeply into the quagmire of superficial politics.
In saying that, I also readily acknowledge that the Government have a very difficult job to carry out. No one here would demur from the view that one of the prime duties of any Government is to ensure the security of their citizens. However, that raises the question of the balance to be struck between that obligation and the rights of the state. That balance is key to this whole debate. As Sir Ian Blair told us in evidence to the Public Bill Committee:
Your job is to balance civil liberties against the threat. That is what Parliament is engaged in. [Official Report, Counter-Terrorism Public Bill Committee, 22 April 2008; c. 22, Q26.]
There has been enough talk about balancing the freedom of the individual with the security of society. Of course that is important and it must be central to
our debate. However, many people believe that the scales have tipped far too heavily towards the states interests, at the expense of the guaranteed rights that we have recognised for a century and morerights and freedoms that meant that we stood out as an example of a civilised system that provided for the interests of the individual, alongside the interests of the society or state. That used to be the situation, at any rate.
We saw that keeping individuals under lock and key without going to court was inflammatory in Ireland and that it led to an intensification of the problems there in the 1970s and 1980s. I am not saying that the proposal for 42 days equates to internment, but clearly the same tensions come into play, negating rights that were guaranteed and increasing the number of those who turn to violence. It appears that the Government have simply not learned the lessons of history. I regret to say that that failure could be very expensive, although I hope that I am wrong about that.
To be fair, the Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing has attempted to create a consensus on the issue over the past few months, and his office has been open to Opposition Members. The Bill contains some things that are helpful and acceptable, and they will be supported alongside certain safeguards. However, I am afraid that those on both sides of the Public Bill Committee came to the conclusion that there were misgivings about the Bill and about the mistakes made.
The Minister of State did his best to build a consensus, so it is surprising to think that a consensus had been built up over the past two years on the 28-day limit. Many of us who were vehemently opposed to 90 days were eventually persuaded, pragmatically, to fall in line with 28 days. Now, a mere two years later, that consensus has sadly disappeared. One must ask whether there is now a compelling and urgent reason to revisit that decisiona decision of the whole House that was arrived at by consensus. Sadly, I do not think that such a case has been made at all, and I say that with respect to the Minister of State and the Home Secretary. In all the discussions that we have had in the past seven or eight months, we have not seen any evidence whatever to justify the move, let alone any compelling and/or urgent evidence.
Several people have been quoted in this debate and several Committees and non-governmental organisations have been referred to. I shall avoid all that, as it can be taken as read. However, it is telling that both the Home Secretary and Sir Ian Blair say that there have been no cases in which the full 28 days were necessary. I have no desire to reel off all the quotationsI am sure that they are on the recordbut hon. Members should think of the perfectly innocent people who are brought in and arrested. There seems to be an awful presumption among some people in the House that everybody who is arrested is, by definition, guilty. Good God, we have not reached that stage yet, and I hope that we never do.
We must also think about something that has not been mentioned hithertothe effect of keeping an innocent person under lock and key without advising them of exactly what charges they are facing. I have represented clients as a solicitor and a barrister. I have seen innocent people in custody being questioned for three or four days and it has left an indelible mark on several of them. It has caused psychological problems in some
cases. Let us magnify that up to 42 days and see where we go from there. How will those peoples nearest and dearest feel when they return home totally innocent, but wrecked psychologically?
Dr. Julian Lewis: I emphasise that the hon. Gentleman makes a key point, particularly in the context of concern about a very small number of people being able to wreak a large amount of damage. Will he bear in mind that, given the policy on prisoner releases, putting someone in jail for six weeks is equivalent to sentencing someone found guilty in a criminal court to three months in prison and releasing them halfway through?
Let me mention another issue gained from my experienceand I know that other people in the Chamber have practised criminal law. There is also a very real risk of false confessions being drawn out after a long period in custody. If that happened, it would not be the first time. However many so-called safeguards are in place, the person is still under lock and key and still has to live with himself or herself for 24 hours a day.
Jeremy Corbyn: I imagine that the hon. Gentleman will recall the historic cases of miscarriages of justicethe Guildford four and the Birmingham sixwhich were all based on confessional evidence. In the case of the Guildford four, the evidence was drawn while they were in detention under the prevention of terrorism Act.
Mr. Grieve: There seems to be quite a lot of evidence that detention, particularly in pre-charge detention conditions, is extremely stressful for an individual so detained. In the course of inquiries I made into the background of the provisions, it was brought to my attention that in at least one case, there had been concern about the mental health of the person detained.
Kate Hoey: I thank the hon. Gentleman and I agree with what he is saying. Does he agree that raising questions about compensation almost makes the situation worse, not least in respect of people who have been kept in custody for murder and then released without charge? The whole thing will bring further chaos into the situation. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is wrong to suggest that compensation can somehow make up for six weeks of someones life and the changes to it that those weeks will bring?
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|