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This gracious Speech sets out provisions to deliver greater stability, security and opportunity for this country. The Government are committed to meeting the needs and aspirations of all their citizens through measures that will make direct improvements to their daily lives. Provisions on counterterrorism, immigration, citizenship and crime form an important part of the gracious Speech. They offer critical underpinning and protection for our citizens and for the freedoms which they enjoy to go about their daily lives. I look forward to debating these and other issues with noble Lords in the months ahead.

3.20 pm

Baroness Neville-Jones: My Lords, I am pleased to have this opportunity to follow the Minister in a debate on the humble Address. The gracious Speech contained several important proposals regarding counterterrorism and it is right that the Government should focus on the serious threat that this country faces. We have some reservations about the details of

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the proposals themselves, which I will come to, and I want at the outset to make clear that, on this side of the House and no doubt more widely, we agree that this country cannot fail in the effort to overcome the twin challenges of terrorism and extremism. The creation of my post as shadow Minister for Security with a seat in the shadow Cabinet is testimony to the seriousness with which we take the issues involved.

Last week, the director-general of MI5 said that there are at least 2,000 British citizens and residents who his service believes pose a direct threat to national security and public safety because of their support for terrorism. Many of those people have links to terrorist networks abroad. As a consequence, it is no longer appropriate to treat domestic security and foreign relations as separate subjects, which is why the Official Opposition believe that we need a national security approach to these issues. We also believe that such an approach must be strategic in nature and sustainable over the long term.

This country must be protected, but not at the expense of the very values and principles that help to make it what it is—free and just. Nor does this side of the House believe that it is necessary to make such a sacrifice. We must be clear-sighted in our assessment of the risk and proportionate in our response. This afternoon, I want to focus on three points—the existing laws on the statute book which already give the Government great power, the need to ensure that such laws are fully and consistently applied, and the implications of the fact that our security lies ultimately in a cohesive society united around the fundamental values of liberal democracy. Clearly, there is potential for tension between the first two aspects and the third. The challenge is to find the balance. I shall not address legal and constitutional reform, as my noble friend Lord Kingsland will address these when he winds up later.

The laws relating to terrorism are already extensive; for example, the Terrorism Act 2000, the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 and the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005. I could go on. Unlike legislation in relation to Northern Ireland, none of these needs positive renewal. They are on the statute book in perpetuity. In 1997, after three decades of IRA terrorism, the state had the power to detain people for five days without charge. Now it has been extended to 28 days. When asked last week on the “Today” programme, as my noble friend has noted, what the limit on pre-charge detention should be, the Home Secretary replied, “I don’t know”. She also avoided ruling out indefinite detention. Furthermore, she seems to be saying that these anti-terrorist powers might in future be extended to other crime. If all that is to be agreed, it would constitute an extraordinary further extension of the power of the Executive. We must ask ourselves, “Would it be proportionate?”. As Machiavelli noted, once the state has acquired powers, it is always liable to use them.

The Government must surely have formed a view already on the maximum period they think would be appropriate for pre-charge detention and it would be very helpful if in winding up the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, could enlighten us. If he is unable to do so we are obliged to rely on the figure of

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56 days, which the Government have allowed to gain currency. We also have reason to believe that the Government wish to allow, in addition to extended pre-charge detention, post-charge questioning of suspects, restrictions on convicted terrorists after they have served their prison sentences, more extensive use of terrorists’ DNA records and further reinforcement of the protection to be accorded to parts of the critical national infrastructure of this country. If that is the case, it would be helpful to know why they feel that further law is needed.

I want to examine the case the Government make for the centrepiece of their proposals—the further extension of pre-charge detention. This is against the background of Ministers admitting that lack of powers hitherto has not hindered the process of investigation and charging of terrorist suspects. They claim however that they could do so in future. As the Minister confirmed, the Government appear to have two scenarios in mind. The first is a circumstance in which, despite their best efforts, the police have been unable within the existing 28-day limit to bring together in a given individual case the evidence necessary to support the charge they believed to be the right one and for which they have good grounds for believing that releasing such a suspect would endanger the public. We certainly need to consider that contingency seriously.

However, it is not as if there is no alternative to extended pre-charge detention to cover such a situation. If the police have managed to establish so great a body of evidence that it is clear to them that release of such an individual would be dangerous, it should follow that they could bring a substantively serious charge and continue investigation until they are in a position to bring final charges. In other words, it seems specious to argue that choosing the option of continuing to question post-charging in such circumstances would be to exploit unfairly the rights of the defendant.

The second scenario that the Government cite, mentioned by the noble Lord, is the complex and large-scale plot requiring extensive investigation which could not be completed adequately within 28 days. The Government point out that such a scenario would not necessarily be a remote possibility. I should like to make two points. First, the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, which allows an extension of detention—an additional 30 days in the first instance and longer if agreed by Parliament—was sponsored by the current Government with just such an emergency in mind. It is not credible to argue that the public would be alarmed by applying the right temporary measures to a situation which would cease to be in force when the emergency itself ended—unlike the proposed legislation.

We have some experience of the scenario of the type that the Government refer to: the airline plot of 2006. In that instance, all suspects were either charged or released within the existing 28 days. Suffice it to say—this is my second point—that there is reason to believe that ways and means are open to the police to conduct their investigations more speedily than hitherto, thus enabling them to do their job without further curtailment of the right to liberty of all citizens. We on this side note the Government’s desire for consensus and we shall listen carefully to what more

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the Government may have to say on these important issues, but as things stand, we do not believe that a compelling case has been made. We are reinforced in this view by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which concluded in July this year that:

The noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, has rightly agreed by saying:

That is indeed so but, all that said, Members on this side will work as closely as we can with the Government to make our country safe, and with that in mind we will apply the tests of necessity, effectiveness and proportionality to the proposed measures.

A sign of our co-operation has been the establishment, at our urging, of a committee of privy counsellors to examine the feasibility of admitting into court evidence obtained by intercept, and we should await its findings. I am aware of the strongly felt concerns of those, including my noble friend Lady Park of Monmouth, who fear the adverse consequences for our intelligence services of going down this path, and they should not be lightly put aside. On the other hand, there is the strong public need to find ways of bringing as many suspects as possible to trial, thus minimising the need to resort to executive detention, a most obnoxious measure for a democracy to have to resort to. I hope, therefore, that the committee of privy counsellors will be able to find an appropriately safeguarded route through for us.

As I mentioned earlier, we have had a welter of legislation in recent years. Despite this, much of the law is not being applied and is not succeeding in its intended objective. Perhaps I may give an example. For no fewer than three years after 9/11, Abu Hamza continued to preach hatred in Finsbury Park mosque. While he was doing so, the Government created some 19 new anti-terrorism offences. But it was only after the US authorities demanded his extradition against a charge of attempting to set up a terrorist training camp on US soil that he was finally charged by the UK authorities in late 2004. The main charge was soliciting murder, which has been a criminal offence since 1861. I could give other examples, so we have to ask how useful is some of the legislation which has been passed, and if it is useful, why is it not being applied with the consistency and determination that the grave increase in the radicalisation of sections of our population warrants? Therefore we question the merit of further legislation from the same Government. There is no point, for instance, in legislating for the imposition of travel restrictions on convicted terrorists following the end of their sentence unless the enforcement resources are going to be made available to prevent those concerned making a mockery of the law.

What about consistency in the application of the law? The Government have said that they would ban Hizb ut-Tahrir. That was two years ago, and they have still failed to do so. Perhaps I may take another example, that of Hezbollah, a known terrorist organisation. The

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Government currently proscribe only one part of it, leaving the remainder legal with the effect that it is entirely licit for Hezbollah to raise funds and recruit members in the UK. The Government expect us to believe that none of this effort will ever be used for terrorist purposes. How naive. This contrasts with the correct policy which they pursue in relation to the Tamil Tigers and the Kurdish PKK, both of which are fully proscribed. It may appear that as Hezbollah operates largely abroad it is of diminished relevance to the UK, yet I argued earlier for a national security approach because we need to bring both home and foreign policy together, the threat being both international and national. We cannot accept terrorism in any form anywhere in the world.

Moreover, we expect foreign Governments to assist us in suppressing terrorism in the UK. We must be serious about keeping our side of the bargain. Remember how long this country pleaded with the Americans to shut down funding for the IRA. This country needs to ensure that ostensible charitable activity is not exploited to finance terrorism. We intend to go further than the Government and will bring forward concrete proposals in the context of the forthcoming Bill fully to ban Hezbollah’s activities in Britain, to prevent charities being used to finance terrorism and to review the Government’s confused approach to proscribing extremist organisations that preach hatred and violence in this country.

The challenge this country confronts is not only terrorism but also the ideology that sustains violence and which threatens the values we all stand for. Effective counterterrorism, though essential, is not enough; we must also focus on creating a cohesive society in which all members willingly uphold the values of liberal democracy. This means that people from all communities must be able to benefit from the rights and opportunities which our society guarantees. The way we go about countering terrorism has to be consistent with this aim. Community relations are very easily damaged.

As things stand, and as we argue, we continue to fall short in the pursuit of our aims in this vital area. We do not understand well enough the ideology that confronts us and we are being outwitted in the battle of ideas. Too often we have allowed wishful thinking to cloud our judgment and have mistakenly treated as moderate opinions and organisations which are far from being so. We have done too little to articulate the values we stand for as a society. This means we must argue vigorously for those values and act against individuals who seek to undermine them, otherwise it is hard for those who we expect to integrate into our society to know what is required of them. Government certainly has a role to play but we must all have shared responsibility. British Muslims are central to the finding of solutions.

My noble friend Lady Warsi, the first Muslim woman to be made a Conservative Peer, is the shadow Minister for community cohesion. She is pre-eminently qualified to help us forward in this area and I look forward to her contribution.

Finally, the challenges of terrorism and ideology are extremely serious. The strategy we pursue must enable us to confront both without undermining the

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values for which we stand and which we must practice as well as preach. As President Eisenhower said during the Cold War:

We need hard-nosed defence of liberty rather than ineffective authoritarianism. This requires a sophisticated and coherent policy. We do not believe that we are yet at that point. We need the right laws applied consistently and the right policies pursued with vigour and determination. I am confident that this House will help us form the wise response to these important issues which the country needs and has come to expect from your Lordships’ House.

3.39 pm

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, it is a privilege to open from the Liberal Democrat Benches for the Home Office. There are new Front Bench faces all around the House. Ministers in the Government, Conservative spokesmen—the noble Baronesses, Lady Neville-Jones, from whom we have just heard so eloquently, and Lady Hanham—and I are all new to our responsibilities. Given my experience of hearing from those noble Lords, having seen the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath in his previous ministerial role, knowing the background, and having seen the performance of the noble Lord, Lord West, at the Dispatch Box, I think we can expect fair but tough fights when we disagree and a very thorough exploration of the arguments when we are finding a way forward through the thorny issues we will all face.

Whether some of those issues fall within the responsibility of the Home Office or of the Ministry of Justice is not always clear—at times, I suspect, even to the Government. I am privileged and fortunate to join a forceful and knowledgeable team with a depth of experience in some of the thorny issues just referred to by the noble Baroness. My noble friends Lord Dholakia and Lady Falkner of Margravine will be helping us with some of the issues surrounding cohesion and terrorism. My noble friends will also contribute to some of the other issues that I shall simply touch on today.

What has struck me even more forcefully since taking over this brief is just how close the Government are coming to breaking the social contract, the contract by which people agree to be governed. That contract can only be realised by due process, and in almost every area the Government have undermined due process over the past few years. I shall look at areas where due process has been undermined or indeed thrown out, and where it should and can now be restored. We are moving to a position where the state, instead of justifying and accounting for each intrusion into individual liberty and privacy, now expects those extensions to its powers to be granted unless we the Opposition can show why they should not be granted. Simon Jenkins pointed out in the Sunday Times a couple of weeks ago that,

This situation is compounded by public apathy, born from a feeling that no matter how public opinion is expressed it will not make a difference to government

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policy. The depth of that feeling started with the Government’s decision to go to war in Iraq despite a manifestation of concern on the streets on a scale unprecedented in recent times. The ballot box and politicians are held in low esteem. The Government tacitly acknowledge the extreme weakness of the system when they appoint so many independent people and independent bodies to make decisions that used to be made by politicians, because the public now hold the politicians’ contribution to be questionable. Sometimes independence is a virtue, of course, but too often it is a case of Ministers sloping their shoulders and hiding behind that so-called independent advice. These issues will be touched on by my noble friends Lord Goodhart and Lord Maclennan later today. This unhealthy political atmosphere is especially dangerous at a time when liberal values are under immense pressure from the fear of terrorism; we acknowledge that is a real and present threat, but it must be kept in proportion.

Sometimes I am reminded of a comment of my mother’s when I was growing up and things seemed particularly gloomy. I think I was eight at the time of the Bay of Pigs. There have always been threats. In previous centuries they came from famines, plagues, world wars and nuclear annihilation—but through all of them we built and cherished our democratic traditions. The Government have finally realised how inappropriate it is to require police permission six days in advance for even one person to demonstrate in Parliament Square. They have finally issued a consultation on reform of that legislation, which was passed in haste without consultation. I trust that they have learnt a lesson from that.

The Government’s realisation of the enormity of the change made in the ability of individual citizens to protest is partly due to pressure from these Benches, partly from organisations such as Liberty and partly due to the comedian, Mark Thomas, who has shown up through justified ridicule the disproportionate nature of the legislation. It is a crazy waste of police time and has involved administering a system that requires a policeman to decide whether someone with an iced cake saying “peace” constitutes a demonstration. And when we come to rewrite the legislation, who will say sorry to the likes of Maya Evans and Milan Rai, who now have a record of breaking the law and have suffered for it? What amends will they receive for upholding individuals’ right to protest peacefully in our country?

The same legislation criminalised protest at other sites, as designated by the Secretary of State. If a new generation of nuclear power stations are built, people choosing to protest at those sites will find themselves under a far harsher regime and suffer much greater penalties if they hold their placard in the wrong place or if more of them gather at the fence than were given permission by the police.

This provision applies at military bases, too—yet some things happening on British soil have not been subject to due process. As my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby pointed out last Wednesday, in February the then Prime Minister promised a major debate in Parliament and a public debate on whether the UK should partake in the US-led missile defence

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system, now extending to Poland and the Czech Republic. All Parliament actually got was a Written Statement. That makes protests at Menwith Hill all the more important, because there has been no democratic mandate for what is happening there.

There is insufficient democratic mandate, too, for technology creep. Last week some noble Lords here may have visited the exhibition held in Portcullis House on the benign uses of tagging—for example, to help staff cope with Alzheimer’s patients and keeping newborn babies safe in hospitals. However, the minute size of tracker devices, their cheapness and the ability to store the information they transmit means that Parliament must wake up to monitoring what is happening. New technologies in the hands of a state more concerned with controlling than preserving freedoms would be dangerous. The police are trialling drones, tiny remote-controlled aircraft that can photograph and spy unnoticed. These tiny mechanisms can shower crowds with “smart rain” which genetically tag people so they can be picked up later. I quote those examples because last year Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, published A Report on the Surveillance Society. As he points out, Home Office plans are to extend dramatically data collection and storage.

We shall continue to be concerned about these issues and challenge the necessity of these measures. DNA databases are already with us, and my noble friend Lady Walmsley has challenged the Government time and again on their policies on taking and keeping DNA from schoolchildren. Last week my noble friend Lady Barker raised deep concerns about the rights of those in the health system with regard to their DNA.

On the older technologies, the recent Home Office report on CCTV makes depressing reading, but it asks some very important questions, which we should follow up in this House, on its efficacy in combating crime. It is not enough simply to film crime; we must ensure that crime reduction is happening.

Over the coming year, the Liberal Democrat Benches will be challenging the Government approach to young people and the law. My noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford, in his contribution to the debate last Wednesday, spoke eloquently of the use of orders, which are altogether blurring the distinction between civil and criminal jurisdictions. This blurring really worries me when it comes to young people. Many of them have a brush with the law—just a brush, nothing serious—before they are 21. That has been happening for as long as I remember. In the 1950s, mods and rockers were fighting on the sea fronts; in the 1960s, hippies and Hells Angels were scaring motorists, villagers and all of middle England and in the 1970s, skinheads were frightening grannies and being pretty anti-social. But how many of those once appalling youths are now sitting in your Lordships' House or the other place and how many are teachers, doctors or civil servants? Would they have got those jobs with the DNA records that will now follow an individual through the years? I think not.


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