I beg to move,
That the draft Terrorism Act 2006 (Disapplication of Section 25) Order 2010, which was laid before this House on 24 June, be approved.
Our country has many years’ experience of dealing with terrorism. Five years after the appalling events of 7/7, the threat from Islamist terrorists is well known. The threat from dissident Irish republican terrorists has not gone away, and new threats will undoubtedly emerge in future.
Terrorism is not just another crime. Its purpose is political, its methods are barbaric and its effects can be devastating. For those reasons, dealing with terrorism and terrorist suspects cannot be treated in the same way as dealing with other crimes and other criminal suspects. The potential loss of life from terrorism means that the priority of the police and security agencies is to stop attacks happening in the first place. That often means that they have to intervene at a very early stage to prevent the terrorists’ plans from becoming too far advanced, which often means that there has been insufficient time to gather enough admissible evidence to charge the suspects. So, uniquely in terrorism cases, it is often after arrest that most of the evidential investigation takes place.
Furthermore, once arrests have been made the police can be presented with an enormous volume of information, which is exacerbated by three things: first, modern communications, because of the increasing and more sophisticated use of encryption; secondly, globalisation, because of the complexity of international terrorist networks and the need for co-operation in often difficult diplomatic circumstances; and, thirdly, the ambitions of the terrorists, because of the need for forensic examination of the hazardous and volatile materials that many wish to use as their weapons.
Unlike Ministers in the previous Government, I say that not to make the case for 28 days’, 42 days’ or 90 days’ detention before charge, but because I believe that it is important to remember during the debate the gravity of the threat that we face, and the difficulty of the job done by the police and the intelligence and security services.
Obviously, one understands that there is an important and serious job of investigation to be done. However, this country has a uniquely long period of pre-trial detention—far longer than that of any comparable country. I know that the Home Secretary has undertaken a review of that, so would it not be sensible to give a signal that we intend to reduce the length of pre-charge detention, by decreasing it to 14 days today rather than reaffirming the 28-day order? We reaffirmed the prevention of terrorism Acts throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Every time we said that the matter would be re-examined. Maybe this time, we should do something.
If the hon. Gentleman has some patience and listens to what I am saying, he will hear the signal that I want to give about 28 days. However, he will recognise that, by definition, the fact that I have moved that the order for the 28-day measure be continued for six months means that I am not suggesting that the detention period should change to 14 days today.
I have set out the nature of the threat, and it is important that we recognise its gravity in the debate, but it must be met by taking proportionate action, and the job must be done with proportionate powers. That is why, yesterday, I announced the inclusion of pre-charge detention in my review of counter-terrorism powers, along with control orders, stop-and-search powers, the use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, deportations with assurances, and measures to deal with organisations promoting hatred or violence.
I want to make it absolutely clear to the House that I consider the 28-day limit to be a temporary measure, and I want it brought to an end once I have completed my review. Since the power to detain for 28 days was passed by Parliament and came into force in July 2006, 11 people have been held for more than 14 days, eight were charged with terrorist-related offences, and four were found guilty. Of those, six people have been held for between 27 and 28 days, three were charged with terrorist-related offences, and two were found guilty. No suspect has been held for more than 14 days since July 2007. When one considers that in the 12 months ending in December 2009 28 terrorism-related trials were completed, with 93% convictions, including six life sentences, it is clear to me that the power to detain for up to 28 days is not needed routinely for the police to investigate, interrogate and charge terrorist suspects.
The possibility remains that in some extreme circumstances it might be necessary to detain some suspects beyond 14 days, but those circumstances remain rare and extreme, and we need to be sure that the powers are never abused. That is why we need to take time to consider pre-charge detention as part of the review of counter-terrorism powers. Therefore, in moving today’s motion, I am asking hon. Members not to support 28 days indefinitely, nor to support 28 days for 12 months, as was envisaged in the Terrorism Act 2006, but to support a renewal for six months while the counter-terrorism review considers how we can reduce the limit.
The draft order that I have laid before the House will come into force on 25 July and will expire on 24 January 2011. After that, it will be up to me as Home Secretary to come back to the House to ask for a further extension, to let the limit fall to 14 days, or to present new proposals that reduce the limit but introduce contingency arrangements in extreme circumstances.
The review of counter-terrorism powers will, as I said yesterday, be informed by the principles of the coalition Government. Those principles—shared principles—are based on a respect for our ancient civil liberties and individual freedom. There is nothing we take more seriously than our duty to protect the public, but in doing so we will not, as the previous Government did, forget to defend our way of life.
In her reply to me yesterday, the Home Secretary said that her favoured time would be 14 days. We know that that is the view of the Liberals and the view that is coming out of the Home Office, so why waste time and expense if we already know the result? Why not get on with this today, and just go back to 14 days?
I made it clear to the hon. Gentleman in my answer yesterday that 14 days represents my personal view, but I also said in answer to him and a number of hon. Members that I do not think it right to pre-empt the result of the review. As I indicated, one option from the review might be to return to the House with a proposal for a reduced period of pre-charge detention, but with the possibility of contingency arrangements for extreme circumstances, when it may be necessary to take detention beyond 14 days. We should wait to hear the options that come from the review. That is why I am suggesting that hon. Members today support an extension, albeit just for those six months.
I referred to the principles of the coalition Government and said that we would not forget to defend our civil liberties, but that we take the duty to protect the public more seriously than anything else. The need to get that balance right is why we have already introduced legislation to get rid of identity cards and announced interim restrictions on the use of stop-and-search powers under terrorism legislation, and why I included the controversial use of automatic number plate recognition cameras in the review of CCTV regulations. We will introduce a freedom Bill, adopt the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database, restore rights to non-violent protest, end the storage of internet and e-mail records without good reason, and extend the scope of the Freedom of Information Act. Freedom runs through the DNA of this coalition Government, and it will apply to our work on pre-charge detention as it will to everything else we do.
The country has not only a new Government, but a new Parliament. Having spoken to many new hon. Members as well as old, I know that this Parliament takes very seriously its role in protecting our freedoms. I therefore hope that we can today rise above the sort of arguments put forward by Ministers in the previous Parliament, and work out together how we can reduce the limit, subject to adequate safeguards and contingency plans. I extend that invitation to Opposition Front Benchers.
Yesterday, when I announced the review of counter-terrorism legislation, the shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson), queried the need for further safeguards,
“given that 28-day detention has to be re-approved by Parliament each year”.—[Official Report, 13 July 2010; Vol. 513, c. 799.]
However, what sort of safeguard was that, given that the previous Government used to whip Labour MPs to reinstate it every year, come what may? Similarly, one source was quoted in a national newspaper this morning as saying:
“You either have complete security or complete civil liberties—you cannot have both.”
I am afraid that that sort of zero-sum mentality damaged individual freedom under the previous Government. It is time we moved beyond that thinking, so that we have a more mature approach that balances the need for national security with important civil liberties.
I am aware that in asking many hon. Friends and hon. Members to vote for this temporary six-month measure today, I am asking them to take a deep breath and vote for a measure that they do not very much like. But I can assure them that if they support this order, I will work with hon. Members on both sides of the House to find a solution that reduces the limit for pre-charge detention, but gives the police the powers they need to keep us all safe from those who would bring devastation to our country. I commend the order to the House.
It seems that the Home Secretary and I are allies in the debate this afternoon—although, having read her written ministerial statement and listened to her speech, I think that she is adopting the position of St Augustine—“Lord, make us virtuous, but not yet”. The Home Secretary and I have many things in common, among them our charm, panache, looks and preference for flat shoes. And we both voted for 28 days in 2005. Neither of us has ever voted against 28 days, and we both belong to political parties that made no mention of reducing pre-charge detention of terrorist suspects in our manifestos.
This issue will, of course, form part of the review that the Home Secretary rather foolishly described yesterday as putting right the failures of the previous Government. If 28 days was a failure, it is strange that she should advocate the continuation of that failure today. She is right to do so: as so often with the Home Secretary, the problem is not so much what she does as the way in which she does it. She told us yesterday that personally she was always in favour of 14 days. We understand that it is impossible to tell what she believes from her voting record, but this fervour for 14 days has been a well-kept secret. She has always actually voted for 28 days.
Incidentally, the person whom the Home Secretary has appointed to provide independent oversight of the review—the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven—made clear in evidence to the Home Affairs Committee his support for 28 days, stating:
“We welcomed the increase to 28 days and we felt that a period of 14 days was not sufficient. It seems to us that 28 days has been effective and has provided us with powers, supervised by the courts, which have been useful to us as prosecutors in making appropriate charging decisions within that period.”
This review, like Brighton seafront, has two peers—both Lib Dems—and the views of Lord Macdonald are completely in line with the view of Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of the terrorist legislation, whose work the Home Secretary rightly described yesterday as “excellent”. Lord Carlile not only accepted the need to maintain 28 days but said:
“I expect in the course of time to see cases in which the current maximum of 28 days will be proved inadequate. This will be very rare but inevitably extremely serious.”
The 28 day pre-charge detention for terrorist suspects is a temporary measure which, thanks to the work of my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick), who is in his place, has to be renewed each year. The task of the House in considering whether to support a further extension—in this case for six months—was succinctly expressed by the hon. Member for Bury St Edmunds (Mr Ruffley) when he spoke for the Conservatives in last year’s debate. Perhaps I may just mention that we all look forward to seeing the hon. Gentleman restored to good health. He has many friends across the House who respect and admire him and want to see him back on the Government Benches very quickly. He said last year that the Government must first demonstrate convincingly to Parliament that the security situation is such that 28 days remains indispensable, and secondly, that the legal framework must meet the procedural protections afforded by our common law and by the Human Rights Act. He said, with his customary prescience:
“I hope that this will give an indication of the approach that we want to take, should there be a change of Government before the next renewal.”—[Official Report, 9 July 2009; Vol. 495, c.1165.]
I accept that a small minority of Members—it may or may not include the Home Secretary—are convinced that pre-charge detention should be 14 days or less, and I respect that view. It has been consistently argued by several—a minority, but several—Members. The majority of Members, however, will look at the evidence and decide on that basis whether in the year since we last renewed this legislation, the terrorist threat has faded and/or whether this legislation is being abused by the criminal justice system.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that no other country in Europe, or indeed North America, that suffers the same kind of concerns as we do has seen fit to go down the road that we have in this country—of having very long periods of detention before charge?
I am not aware of that. In fact, the usual argument is that the common-law countries such as Australia, Canada and even the US do not have this system. Europe is the worst place for my hon. Friend to find his examples. Let me cite Norway, for instance. Good old, solid, Scandinavian, liberal Norway has provisions that allow people to be kept in custody—renewed by a High Court judge, who is involved in any detention beyond 14 days—for far longer than 28 days, or even 42 days. That was a helpful intervention, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend.
I think that the hon. Member for Bury St Edmunds succinctly summed up the two issues I mentioned, but there is one further aspect that we have to consider in deciding whether to renew this legislation. It was rightly raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz). The issue is whether the very existence of 28-day detention leads to radicalisation in certain communities to the extent that it defeats the objective of reducing the terrorist threat. The Home Office community impact study published in March certainly found examples of UK Muslims having a strong negative perception of counter-terrorism legislation, but concluded that there was insufficient evidence on specific aspects, such as 28 days, to lead to any firm conclusions. I doubt whether anyone in this Chamber thinks that pre-charge detention of 28 rather than 14 days has of itself radicalised anyone to the extent that they would be prepared to engage in terrorist activity.
While I am dealing with this aspect, I hope the Home Secretary can refute the story in The Guardian this morning that she has decided to dismantle the Prevent strategy. She told my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears) yesterday, as is recorded in column 802 of Hansard, that the strategy was being reviewed by the Home Department and the Department for Communities and Local Government. When I read the Home Office draft structural reform plan released yesterday, which is the source of the story in The Guardian, all I could find was the eminently sensible objective of keeping the “prevent” strand of counter-terrorism separate from the “integration” initiatives of DCLG. I would welcome clarification.
I am happy to give the right hon. Gentleman the clarification he seeks. As set out in the Home Office structural reform plan, we intend to look at the different strands of the Prevent strategy and to ensure that they are properly focused on the right aims. I believe that it is right and appropriate to separate out the part of the Prevent strategy that is about integration from the part about counter-terrorism. One problem with Prevent is that those two aspects have become intertwined in too many people’s thinking, which has, sadly, led to some of the Prevent work being rejected by those whom it was intended to help.
I am grateful for that clarification, and I completely agree with what the Home Secretary has said about Prevent.
As the Home Secretary said in her speech, the security threat is, if anything, greater today than it was a year ago. In the year since the last renewal, we have learned more, by means of Operation Overt, about the so-called liquid bomb plot, through the successful prosecution of those involved. We should remember that this involved the planned destruction of seven passenger planes all flying to North America, and is one case in which pre-charge detention beyond 14 days was necessary in respect of six people involved in that plot.
We also know now that Operation Pathway in Greater Manchester, which was a matter of speculation in the debate this time last year, is now understood to have been a serious and advanced terrorist plot. It was, thankfully, thwarted yet again by the security services. In the past year, two further organisations have been proscribed. The threat level, decided not by Ministers but by the experts in the security agencies, has been changed to “substantial” and then back to the second highest level, “severe”, which means that an attack is highly likely. As we meet today to make a decision based on the evidence over the coming year, that is the position in which we find ourselves.
On Christmas Day, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian citizen who studied in the United Kingdom and was radicalised in Yemen, flew from Lagos via Holland with 80 grams of PETN explosive—which successfully circumvented aviation security—sewn into his underpants, in an attempt to blow up a passenger plane over Detroit. That demonstrated first the continuing ingenuity of our enemies, and secondly the international nature of the threat.
There has been one other important development over the year: the report of the all-party group of Privy Counsellors, under the chairmanship of Sir John Chilcot, on the crucial issue of intercept evidence. When I was Home Secretary, I briefed the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister separately in their previous roles. They fully understand—as, I know, does the Home Secretary—that the Privy Counsellors found that two of the nine principles that they themselves had established in order to ensure a practical way in which to meet our shared desire to use intercept as evidence were breached during the simulations that they conducted in the course of their work. They are doing further work to see whether they can find a way around the difficulties, but the issue is obviously integral to the whole question of pre-charge detention.
I ask the Home Secretary to reconsider the response that she gave yesterday to the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), who asked why intercept evidence was not being considered as part of the review. She rightly said that it was better to consider the issue over time, but that, I believe, is an argument for spending longer on the review. I fail to see how such an important component of the argument about 28 days—rehearsed in every annual debate, and also integral to the consideration of control orders, which is also part of the review—can be separated from the overall review.
Finally, there is the important question of whether the power is being abused in the legal framework. Some Members argue that we should abandon this measure because it is not used very often, but I would be more concerned if it were used other than sparingly. As the Home Secretary rightly said, it is an exceptional measure, as Lord Carlile has pointed out, the need for it is rare, and the Crown Prosecution Service is well aware that no one should be detained for a moment longer than necessary. There is no evidence that the power has been abused, but Lord Carlile made an important recommendation in his review of Operation Pathway, proposing the granting of conditional bail by a judge for a period up to the 28th day following arrest, which would enable restrictions short of custody to be imposed while the inquiry continued. That strikes me as worthy of consideration, perhaps during the review.
In my view, the evidence is overwhelming. The statutory instrument should be approved today, and the Government should tread very carefully if the purpose of their review is to arrive at a conclusion consistent with the Liberal Democrat manifesto commitment to reduce the 28-day pre-charge detention period for terrorist suspects regardless of the dangers and the overwhelming evidence.
It is a pleasure to follow both my right hon. and charming Friends, the Home Secretary and the deputy—sorry, shadow—Home Secretary. I am sorry; that was a Freudian slip, but almost a deliberate one.
Let me begin by wishing you a happy Bastille day, Mr Deputy Speaker. It seems appropriate, given the subject that we are discussing. I shall not recommend that we storm the barricades, but I do intend to divide the House on the motion. I tell Members that now, so that it is clear where we are going. We may not trouble the scorers greatly in the Lobby against the Government, but, given the historic role of the House in defending the liberties of our monarch’s subjects, I think it important that a policy which, whatever its rights and wrongs, has so far led to the imprisonment of three innocent people for 28 days is one on which the House should decide explicitly and not on the nod.
I welcome the Home Secretary’s intention to have a six-month review of counter-terrorism policy, but I say to her that, in my view, there is plenty of very clear evidence to demonstrate that 28 days is too many. I will also go through some of the points the shadow Home Secretary raised in his speech. These are not just matters of principle; they are matters of high principle and hard fact.
The shadow Home Secretary said he recognised that there are concerns that an authoritarian approach to counter-terrorism policy might have the deleterious effect of creating more radicalised Islamists—more potential terrorists—than a more traditional liberal British approach would. That is clearly the case. The hard fact supporting that assertion was given by the head of MI5 in his last speech to the country, when he said that there are 2,000 persons of interest—those are his words—to MI5, which is a 25% increase on the previous year’s figure. If the increase continues at that rate, no amount of security will defend us from the consequences of our own actions.
Radicalisation is, of course, created by more than just authoritarian policies, but such policies do drive it. Anybody who talks to the leaders of Muslim communities up and down the country will know that—they will pick that message up time and again. At the forefront of that trend is the 28-day policy. In relation to home-grown terrorism, detention without charge is the biggest recruiting sergeant for our opponents.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it was interesting that the shadow Home Secretary did not choose to mention the threat we currently face from republican terrorism coming from the north of Ireland? In view of the fact that we are approaching the internment day anniversary of 8 August, would it not be an extremely powerful statement to reduce the detention period from 28 to 14 days now, rather than to wait until later?
My hon. Friend makes a very good case, and he knows Northern Ireland terrorism better than most people in this House. He also knows that internment was one of the best recruiting sergeants for the Provisional IRA and others in that period. So yes, he is right.
The second hard fact I want to draw on relates to the reasons given to me for 42 and 90 days by John Reid, the predecessor as Home Secretary of both my right hon. Friend the current Secretary of State and my friend the shadow Secretary of State. When John Reid briefed me, as shadow Home Secretary, on his Government’s proposals for those periods of detention, the most telling argument he had—to be fair, it was telling—was the prospect of the British agencies being overwhelmed by multiple prospective attacks at the same time. The circumstances he listed were as follows: multiple plots against multiple targets at multiple locations, with not all the information involved being in our control—perhaps some of it was coming from foreign intelligence agencies such as the Pakistani service—and with the plot already starting to be carried out, so that it was necessary to move quickly.
That was the case the then Home Secretary made, and within a month or so of his briefing me on it we almost had a rehearsal in Operation Overt, the Heathrow plot, to which the shadow Home Secretary referred. It was thought at the time that 10 aircraft had been targeted, although it now turns out that the true number was seven, as well as multiple locations—there were many suspects at the beginning in at least three different locations. There were also concerns about gaining access to some of the houses and other places where evidence was thought to be located, and foreign evidence was involved, too. It was a facsimile of the case John Reid had described.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, although we accept that radicalisation may not be created by one action or one piece of legislation, having pre-charge detention of 28 days compromises civil liberties and that, for some at least, it is one step towards radicalisation—as is the Prevent agenda’s national indicator 35, which targeted the Muslim community specifically? We need to make sure that we do not compromise the democratic process and that we engage all communities.
My hon. Friend is entirely right. This is the most symbolic of the restrictions of our civil rights, and the one seen by Muslim communities in this country as being targeted on them. It is not intended to be, but that is the way it is seen.
What actually happened as a result of Operation Overt and the Heathrow plot? As the shadow Home Secretary said, six people were held beyond 14 days; five people were held for 27 or 28 days, and at the end of that process it turned out that three were innocent. I used the word “innocent” when the previous Government were in power, and I was almost shouted down. I mean innocent: no control order, no surveillance, no open file—the police thought they were innocent. When I obtained that information I had with me as my witnesses my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab) and the Attorney-General. What was thought was therefore very plain.
The right hon. Gentleman is making a very effective case. Can he explain why, in last year’s debate on this issue, he voted for the continuation of 28 days? His party abstained but he made the point in that debate that he could not accept 14 days, which he is now advocating, precisely because he knew inside details of Operation Overt and what happened at Heathrow. What changed his mind during the ensuing year?
It took us time to get to the bottom of the facts. When I asked the right hon. Gentleman’s predecessor as Home Secretary to give us the information I am talking about, we were not given it. I asked for it three times, and my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton was there on at least one or two of those occasions. This is one of the problems with the Home Office: it mouths the words “justice must be seen to be done”, but it does not live by them in terms of transparency.
Let me turn to the remaining two people who were detained, because some further facts have come to light. We were told at the time, “Here is a serious case and we have to go to 27 or 28 days—right to the edge—in order to bring a case against them.” However, we pressed the matter and asked when the evidence was obtained to charge those individuals. It was obtained not at 27 or 28 days, but before 14 days—if I remember correctly, on day three and day 12. It was perfectly possible to charge those people before the 14-day limit; now we find, however, that they were charged on day 28. They spent nine months in prison on remand, and even in that time not enough evidence was found to convict them. One of the cases was thrown out by the judge after hearing it—it did not even go to a jury. The other was rejected unanimously by the jury and the individual concerned was exonerated. It was not a soft jury: the same jury convicted three other terrorists in the same trial. So, we had five people, every single one of whom was innocent.
That is what our policy has done so far and why it is a recruiting sergeant for terrorism. It might not make somebody a terrorist, but it does make the communities concerned less likely to co-operate, less likely to provide information, and less likely to help us to prevent the next terrorist attack. That is why the policy is completely counter-productive.
Let me turn to hard fact No. 3: the simple list put out by the previous Government and the present Government showing why we need this provision for another six months. We are told how difficult terrorist cases are. What did we do when we were trying to be consensual with the previous Government? Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats agreed with—in fact, we thought up—the idea of acts preparatory to terrorism. We supported the idea of terrorist training being an offence, so we made matters easier in that regard.
The next argument was, “We have lots of evidence and it might be encrypted—it might be in code.” We had to remind the previous Government that when they passed the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, they made it an offence to withhold the encryption key, so if the evidence is in code, belongs to the suspect and he does not provide the key, we have got him for five years anyway. Therefore, that argument went out the window.
The right hon. Gentleman will no doubt be aware that in cases involving encrypted data, 28 days, six months or even a year would not necessarily be long enough if there were no access to encryption codes, so such a detention period would not help anyway.
My hon. Friend—I suppose he is my hon. Friend—is exactly right. When we heard those arguments, we thought that, with the prospect of the terrorism levels being, as the shadow Home Secretary says, very high, the then Government would have acted quickly. What was worrying was that that RIPA requirement, passed in 2000, was not brought into effect until 2007—two years after the 7/7 bombings. So we did not even give what was already on the statute book as a weapon for the police to use.
The other thing the then Government said to us was, “If you charge people, you cannot interview them after charge.” In 2005, we volunteered to amend that, but the Government did not make that change in the 2006 legislation. They put the provision in the 2008 legislation, which is not even in force yet. If we are serious about taking this on, we should deal with the things that actually attack the problems that we are trying to address. We should not create other problems for ourselves.
Has my right hon. Friend taken note of the recent statements by the Lord Chief Justice on such matters? He has been very clear about the need to protect the common law, so the whole issue of habeas corpus, which is an integral part of this, needs to be reinforced. What we need is fair trials, due process and habeas corpus, irrespective of the Human Rights Act 1998.
My hon. Friend goes, as usual, right to the core of the issue. This is about habeas corpus; it is about the most fundamental British freedom there is.
When we have got through all the things I have mentioned, we come to what happens on day 28. I want to be helpful to the police. They might say, “I have somebody in my control who I am sure is a terrorist. I know that from everything I know. I can’t quite prove it, but I think I will get the evidence if I have got him for another few days.” What do we do then? We actually have something that we do then—it is called the threshold test. The test for charging somebody is allowable—we are allowed to charge them if we are convinced that they are guilty and that we will find the information shortly.
I am not going to name the individual, but at one point in this process I asked to see the head of counter-terrorism and I talked to him about that. What shocked me was that he did not even understand the threshold test. Again, I cite my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton as a witness, because he was at that same meeting. It is terrifying that our own forces did not know the weapons that they had at their command.
Right across the board, every piece of evidence to support the case for the provision falls down. The most fundamental one, which has been mentioned, although it was rather mocked by the shadow Home Secretary, is the approach of other countries. None of the problems that I have described as the case in support of 28 days is faced by us alone; every other common law authority has the same problems. Yet America charges in two days and indicts in 10, Canada does that in one day, New Zealand does it in two days and South Africa does it in two days. The nearest arrangement to ours is indicative, because it is Australia, which does it in 12 days. Its 12-day provision was a mistake, but 12 days is what it was. However, as we stand here, its Senate is taking through a law to reduce that to eight days, and the only controversy in Australia is about whether it should be lower, not about whether it should be higher.
The simple fact is that our policy is built on political machismo, not on effectiveness. What we have to do is recognise what all the other civilised countries in the world are doing and go in the right direction, which is to cut 28 days.
It is unlikely that the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) and I agree on anything, except what we are now debating. We certainly see eye to eye on this question and have done for a considerable time.
The figure of 28 days was not picked out of the air in November 2005, when the maximum period was 14 days and 90 days was proposed. It should be remembered that, in July that year, there had been a massacre—there is no other way to describe it—of 52 innocent people, with others seriously injured. A fortnight later, on 21 July 2005, there was another attempted atrocity. That was the situation that faced the House of Commons when we were debating the issue in November that year. Given those circumstances and the fact that the Government—wrongly in my view—wanted to increase the 14 days to 90 days, it is understandable that the House agreed to 28 days.
As far as I know, no one actually suggested that the 14 days should stay. There was no vote on whether 14 days should remain the status quo. There was more or less agreement—apart from in the Government and among those who supported the Government at the time—that the number of days of pre-charge detention should be doubled from 14 to 28 days. Those were the circumstances in which we debated the issue at the time.
The facts of the situation were that the provision on the face of the Bill was for three months’ detention but at the key stage of the Bill, two amendments were listed. One changed the limit from three months to 90 days and the other changed it to 28 days. Those were the only two options on offer. When the Government’s 90 day amendment was defeated, the 28 day amendment was the only way that anybody had of preventing the limit from staying at three months.
I do not wish to disagree with my hon. Friend, but what I am saying is that there seemed to be general agreement, given the circumstances of the atrocities that occurred in July 2005, that the limit should be increased. However, I do not particularly want to pursue that further because I am now of the view—I agree with the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden—that we should return to 14 days, because I do not really believe that there is any justification for extending the order for another six months. I know the views of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench but, again, I disagree with them.
We must always bear it in mind that for non-terrorist cases the maximum remains, rightly, only four days—96 hours. No Government, fortunately, has suggested that there should be any change to that whatsoever. Where terrorism is concerned, we are going beyond the four days allowed in non-terrorist cases—that is crucial. Until 2003, the maximum for terror suspects was just seven days. It has continued to increase—to seven days, 14 days and then 28 days. Fortunately, all attempts to increase it beyond 28 days—first to 90 days and then to 42 days—were defeated. The 42 days provision was passed by a majority of nine in the House of Commons but rightly rejected by the Lords.
As the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden has said, there is of course the added provision now that did not exist in 2005—namely, post-charge questioning of terror suspects. That is an important element. The fact that the provision has not come into force is not a reason not to take it into consideration. Only the Home Secretary or the shadow Home Secretary can explain why it has not come into force. If there is a feeling that 14 days is not sufficient and that the terrorist threat remains acute—I could not agree more on the latter—one would have thought that the provision in the Act on post-charge questioning could be brought into force sooner rather than later.
I am the last person in any way to minimise the continued terrorist threat. I have always worked on the assumption that, as the police said at the time, it was a question of not if but when. The police were proved absolutely right, unfortunately and tragically, by the mass murder in July 2005. Surely no one would now say that the threat does not exist to the same level. I do not know if it is smaller or not, but I do know that if al-Qaeda could carry out the sort of atrocities that it carried out the other day in Uganda, it would do so without the slightest hesitation whatsoever. I mention that to make it absolutely clear that in no way do I argue that the terrorist threat does not exist or is minor—far from it. I am sure that the same applies to other hon. Members.
As far as the 28-day period is concerned, the Home Secretary has confirmed today that no one has been held for longer than 14 days since July 2007, so the provision is not in use. One argument for voting against it today is that we need not keep it if it is not absolutely essential. The Home Secretary is on record as saying that she would prefer a period of 14 days, so if that is the position, why not agree to a 14-day period today? Protecting the public from terror must be one of the highest priorities for all concerned, particularly the security services, the police and the Government of the day. The job of Parliament is to ensure that funding is provided to ensure that the police and security services can do their jobs. Obviously, that is essential, but we have another responsibility to protect, as far as possible, our traditional liberties. That is one of the most essential jobs of Parliament. It is relatively easy to defend civil liberties when there is no terrorist threat, but the real challenge is when there is such a threat, be it from the most obvious sources, or from dissident republicans or whoever.
When there is an acute threat, how do we protect the liberties that are so essential to the tradition of our country? The right of an individual not to be held by the police except for a very short time has become very much a part of the tradition of this country. The right of habeas corpus existed even when civil liberties as such did not, so a person could not be held indefinitely. That is why I feel so strongly about this issue and why I believe that it is not necessary, at this time, to extend the 28-day period. To repeat what I said nearly five years ago, every generation of parliamentarians has the responsibility to make sure that the freedoms and the civil liberties that we inherit from our predecessors should be passed on to our successors. That is important and it is why I have always been very wary of giving the police and the security authorities more power than is absolutely essential.
The Home Secretary said that there was a whipped vote for Labour Members on this issue at the time, and there was, not surprisingly—one would not expect otherwise. However, some of us broke the Whip because we decided that the matter was so important that we should vote against the Government, who were duly defeated. Without being patronising, let me ask Conservative and, perhaps, Liberal Democrat Members something: even if they are whipped today, do they really believe that it is absolutely essential to renew this order? If they do, they will vote with the Government, obviously but if they do not, I hope that they will do what so many Labour Members did in November 2005.
I welcome the forthcoming review of the 28-day limit, the measures that the Home Secretary has already taken on ID cards and stop-and-search powers and the wider review announced yesterday. We have an opportunity with the coalition and, as the hon. Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) made clear, we have support across the House to restore our freedoms, while strengthening our security. This is not the zero-sum game depicted by countless, hapless Labour Home Secretaries, but it is crucial that we have an open and honest debate on these matters, and for that we need clear and accurate information.
I ask the Home Secretary to clarify a slight discrepancy between the answer that I received from her Department on 28 June and the quarterly bulletin of last November. My understanding is that only one person, not two, held for the full 28-day period has ever been convicted of a terrorism offence. I also ask her to provide in table form basic information that her department has previously refused to give. First, I should like to know, year by year, the number of people subjected to control orders, with a breakdown indicating the number of UK citizens and foreign nationals. That is relevant to our ability to deport terrorist suspects whom we cannot prosecute. Secondly, I should like information setting out the number of foreign nationals who have not been deported, broken down by category of reason—whether administrative, legal or based on human rights—so that we better understand why we have been failing to deport so many of them. That information is not impossible to collate, and it is vital for this issue and the wider debate on counter-terrorism.
My hon. Friend asks for a number of figures, but it is only fair to the House that I should pick up the first point that he makes, which relates to a parliamentary question that was answered in the name of the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), who has responsibility for crime and policing. Unfortunately, an inaccurate statistic was included in that answer, and he will correct that in the Hansard record very shortly. The figures on pre-charge detention are indeed as I indicated in my speech. Eleven individuals have been detained for 14 days or longer. Six individuals have been detained for 27 to 28 days, of whom three were subsequently charged and three released. Of the three who were charged, two were convicted and the case of one was not proceeded with. In the answer that my hon. Friend was given, reference was made to the number of individuals who had been arrested as a result of an operation by Greater Manchester police. It was indicated that two individuals were involved. In fact, only one of the 11 arrested as a result of that operation was involved.
I thank the Home Secretary for that clarification. It is refreshing to get clarification from the Home Office so swiftly.
Twenty-eight days’ pre-charge detention was an emergency measure introduced on a temporary basis. We need a clear and convincing justification to retain it, because it undermines the ancient right of habeas corpus, which goes back to Magna Carta. We now know that, in relation to Operation Overt and the Heathrow plot of August 2006—the most challenging counter-terrorism investigation that we have ever faced as a nation—only five suspects were held for the maximum period of 28 days and only two were charged. Contrary to what Ministers said at the time, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) has said, all the evidence relied upon was available well within 14 days. That Operation Overt was used by the last Government to justify proposals for 42 days’ detention was deeply irresponsible.
Since Operation Overt, only one person has been held for longer than 14 days—an isolated case of 19 days’ pre-charge detention. Last year, in 2009, no suspects were held in pre-charge detention for longer than 14 days and 70% were dealt with within 48 hours. So the raw facts in the debate are that, in four years, we have not needed longer than 19 days’ pre-charge detention, let alone 28 days. If we are judging the necessity of the order on the pressures that the police face during the pre-charge period, the evidence no longer supports a limit beyond 21 days at the very most.
In truth, those data are not the only relevant information. Briefings by the heads of MI5 in 2006 and 2007 showed a rise in the number of terrorist suspects being monitored by the authorities from 1,600 to 2,000. In 2008, the head of MI5 stated publicly that the volume of late-stage terrorist planning had fallen that year. I am not aware of any more recent assessments from the head of MI5 or the agency more generally. The House will recall that MI5 refused to support the last Government’s proposals for 42 days’ detention. Ministers stated at the time that it would be inappropriate for MI5 to give a view, yet Tony Blair publicly relied on MI5’s support for the increase in the limit in 2005. It cannot be in the interests of the intelligence agencies or the public that MI5 assessments are relied on by Ministers only when it is politically expedient or they want to publicise blood-curdling assessments of the terrorist threat. I ask the Home Secretary to put these arrangements on a more clear and stable footing. Either we should not have such briefings and public statements by MI5, or we should have regular, objective assessments of the domestic terrorist threat based on hard data that avoid any risk or perception of politicisation.
Paragraph 7 of the explanatory memorandum to the order claims that all the specific grounds cited as reasons for increasing the maximum limit to 28 days in 2006 “remain relevant”. It is difficult to accept that sweeping assertion without further information. First, has the challenge of encrypted computers not been eased at all by the enactment in 2007 of a criminal offence of withholding encryption keys? Will the Home Secretary give us data on prosecution and conviction rates under that offence?
Secondly, will the Home Secretary inform the House of any case in the past two years in which the presence of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear material has been a direct factor that has prolonged the period of pre-charge detention? Thirdly, will she explain the extent to which the new powers of post-charge questioning that were enacted in 2008 have alleviated the problem of having to intervene early in some terrorist investigations because of the threat to public safely? Alternatively, is it correct, as Liberty and several hon. Members have stated, that the relevant power was not even brought into force by the previous Government, despite all the hubris on that specific point?
The truth is that gaps remain in the UK counter-terrorism strategy, despite the excellent work and unstinting commitment of our police and intelligence agencies. If it is correct that the terrorist threat has remained constant and at its highest level, it must be worrying that the number of arrests leading to charge under terrorism legislation dropped by more than a fifth last year. The number of guilty pleas in terrorism investigations also fell by a third, while the number of convictions under terrorism legislation halved. Counter-intuitively, there was a conviction rate of 93% in terrorism cases, compared with rates of 31% for conspiracy to murder, 30% for wounding and 38% for rape, and that raises the more basic question of whether, as a matter of policy, we are taking a sufficiently robust approach to the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in terrorism cases—I am talking about not a case-by-case approach, but the overarching strategy on prosecution.
We need a review of prosecutorial strategy as part of a broader shift away from the previous Government’s ineffective authoritarianism and towards an approach that deploys rather than sidesteps the British justice system. That means the greater use, when necessary, of the threshold test to prosecute when evidence is not available but is in the pipeline. It also means lifting the ban on intercept evidence, coupled with a more proactive use of plea bargaining, to increase the number of convictions, as well as the conviction rate, especially in cases involving wider conspiracies or joint criminal enterprise, as it is commonly known. Above all, however, it requires a change in the professional culture of this country’s intelligence and law enforcement authorities. That would be in line with the approach in other common law jurisdictions, most notably the US, where pre-charge detention is limited to two days. That is the way in which we can fight terror while defending our historic freedoms in this country.
I will support the order. I recognise that the Home Secretary needs time to examine these difficult issues further, but in the absence of convincing new evidence, I will be inclined to oppose renewal in six months’ time.
Existing counter-terrorism legislation allows the police, in specific circumstances, to arrest individuals who are reasonably suspected of being terrorists. Once arrested, those suspects may be detained without charge for up to 28 days, which allows the police to obtain, preserve, analyse and examine evidence for use in criminal proceedings.
I must confess that, having listened to the debate, it seems that several hon. Members think that we are still living in a cosy country and a peaceful world, and that they are oblivious to the serious threats that we face. The reality is very different. A significant threat from Islamic terrorism remains, while dissident republican organisations endeavour to increase their capacity for murder and mayhem. I believe that we need measures that reflect the threat against our people.
I have little time and I want to complete the few remarks that I believe need to be put on the record.
On 7 July 2005, the attack on London’s public transport system surely reminded us that there is a vicious and evil terrorist threat against the United Kingdom. In the House the other day, I said that the Government’s first responsibility is to protect the law-abiding community, and that every tool must be available to the security services to ensure that that priority is achieved. I believe that the House and the country must come to terms with reality. We must make up our minds what the primary objective really is. Terrorism—no one knows it better than the people of Northern Ireland—is an evil in society, and society must face the evil.
There is nothing beautiful about terrorism and there is no excuse for terrorism. The idea that somehow 28 days of detention gives terrorists an excuse to attack the people of the United Kingdom is despicable. Terrorism is ugly, unacceptable and despicable, and it must be faced. We in Northern Ireland endured the curse of terrorism for more than 30 years. To be frank with the House, many were happy to appease the terrorists as long as terrorism remained in Northern Ireland and did not come on to the mainland. Some thought that appeasement was a price worth paying. Terrorism destroys the liberty and the freedom of a people. It destroys the freedom and the liberty of the innocent, and I fear that some are about to make the mistake of the past. I do not wish for any person to be detained any longer than is necessary.
The statistics that the Home Secretary has brought to the House today prove that the legislation has not been abused, and therefore people have not been abused, because the figures tell us that the legislation that has been in place with the 28-day provision has been used both sensitively and responsibly. As I have said, I do not wish anyone to be detained for any longer than necessary, but I would leave it up to the security services to advise on the issue, rather than allow political expedience to meddle with things or to muddy the waters.
It is interesting to notice that the major party of the coalition Government, when it went to the electorate, did not mention 14 days in its manifesto. It did not mention changing the 28-day period. The only party that did mention it was the Liberal Democrat party, which is not surprising. However, on previous occasions, my right hon. and hon. colleagues received security briefings on this important issue and were guided thereby. Therefore, will the Home Secretary clarify what advice she has received on the current 28-day detention period?
Over the years, we in Northern Ireland have been inconvenienced. We were frustrated on many occasions and at times we were angry at the use of powers, but whenever our lives were preserved from the terrorists’ bombs, we were very thankful. We were very appreciative of what the security forces did to preserve innocent life and the freedom of law-abiding citizens.
When we talk about what we want to hand on to the next generation, I suggest that the fundamental responsibility of the House is to hand on freedom. We can have a peace at any price, but we cannot have freedom at any price. As I have said, at times we have been angry, but our lives were preserved. We fail to thank the security services for the numerous times they have saved us from disaster, but many times we are quick to condemn them and complain about them when they do not get it completely right. The measure before the House and the 28-day period is appropriate, bearing in mind the terrorist threat that the United Kingdom faces, and I trust that the House will approve the order accordingly.
Order. Under the Standing Order, this debate closes at 14 minutes past 5. I shall call the Home Secretary at nine minutes past 5—[Interruption.] Even later than that? I thank the Home Secretary for that, but could Members please restrain themselves?
Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. I shall try to be brief.
Our coalition Government agreed to restore the ancient civil liberties that should be synonymous with our country, and it is to Labour’s eternal shame—with a few honourable exceptions, many of whom I am glad to see in their places—that it did so much damage to our country’s name and to our civil liberties. I congratulate the Home Secretary, as I did yesterday, on the review, which represents excellent progress, but my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) and I pressed her on 28 days, because that is important. Labour’s 90-day efforts, which were resisted, have become one of the party’s totemic issues, and I welcome the Home Secretary’s aims to reduce the period to 14 days. However, I do not agree that we need to wait six months before we get on with it. We should allow the 28 days to lapse and default to 14 days while the review goes ahead.
Let us think about the 28-day period. It means 28 days without being told what someone is accused of. Is that proportionate? How does it interact with the concepts of being innocent until proven guilty and habeas corpus? Then there are the effects on people’s lives afterwards, if, as often happens, they turn out to be innocent.
What about elsewhere? We have talked about the US, where the constitution provides for 48 hours. In Spain, which has faced terrorism, the limit is five days, and in South Africa it is 48 hours, against which I am sure hon. Members campaigned during apartheid. The shadow Home Secretary, whom I am pleased to see in his place, talked about Norway, but I hope that he is aware of how that country, under its Criminal Procedure Act 1981, allows only three days’ detention, with an extension after the police have presented the charge. That is a critical difference, because after the charge has been presented we are into a very different space.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many of us voted for 28 days only because we saw it as a means of blocking 90 days? There was no consensus on our Benches for 28 days.
Indeed I am. I have followed the matter, and the hon. Lady is absolutely correct: 28 days was not the aim, but it was better than 90.
We have heard about those other countries, so are we saying that our police are worse than theirs? Do we think that our prosecutors are less good and our legal system less effective? I do not think so. We have excellent police and prosecutors, and an excellent legal system, so what makes us so different? What message about our attitude to civil liberties does the measure send not only to our citizens, but to those of other countries, who used to look on us as a beacon of civil liberties but have been sadly let down?
Does the hon. Gentleman not read the monitors, when he walks into this building every morning, that remind him why we are different? The threat level is severe and remains severe, and, although he might wish to play cricket with terrorists and give them a sporting chance on this issue, he is playing Russian roulette with the lives of this nation’s citizens.
I find it disappointing that the hon. Gentleman takes that line. We are not alone in facing the threat of terrorism. Other countries have faced it and had issues to deal with, and they have done that in much better ways.
We have alternatives, and other countries clearly manage. We have the threshold test, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) referred. It states that, when there is not enough information, it is possible to proceed with a charge if there are reasonable grounds to think that we will get more evidence, the case is serious and there are grounds to object to bail.
I ought to save time.
If that is not the case, then we should not be holding people for 28 days anyway. How can we defend a month?
We also have the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, which gives powers in extremis, and I know that the Home Secretary and other hon. Members are aware of that.
We do face a serious situation, and we do need to have the right tools to combat terrorism, but 28-day detention without trial is not the right one. It causes too much collateral damage in its effect on our civil liberties and the message that we send to others who might be considering such issues and those who look up to us from other countries. I urge hon. Members to reject 28 days.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert), who is the newest member of the Home Affairs Committee. I can recall that of the Committee’s 38 reports, 37 were unanimous; the discussion and inquiry that we held on pre-charge detention was the only one on which the Committee divided.
We have had some very odd couplings, if I may put it like that, today. We had the Front Benchers—the Home Secretary and the shadow Home Secretary—agreeing, and then we had the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) and my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) agreeing. I thought for a moment that the hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab) was going to vote against the order until the last few seconds, when he gave the Home Secretary the benefit of the doubt.
This is a very important debate. Of course, the mood is different from that of the last debate, although there is a huge amount of passion. I came into this Chamber with a determination to vote for the order, but I am going to vote against it because I do not think the case has been made. I have been swayed—I know that this is very unusual for a Member of this House—by the speeches that I have heard. I am impressed by the integrity of my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North, who has campaigned long and hard on this issue, and by the fact that the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden resigned and fought a by-election on it. I also remember the speech made by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) during the last debate, which was pretty passionate. That is not to dismiss anything that we have heard from others who obviously make very important points.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we need 28 days for two reasons: for the ongoing verbal investigations and for the forensic part of the evidence? It is not like the “CSI” programmes on TV. A person is not convicted in 60 minutes—28 days are needed to do that. It helps to remove the more volatile members of the community and to ensure that innocent people are protected.
I understand that; it is exactly the point that Ian Blair, now Lord Blair, made to the Select Committee. However, as we have heard today from the Home Secretary, this power has not been used very often. I am sure that she was in the Chamber when the Attorney-General spoke on the issue—it was one of the best speeches that I have ever heard here—and opposed what the last Government were going to do. To be perfectly frank, if one has a power that one does not use, why have it?
It is important to consider who supported the longer detention period. Only the police came before the Committee and said that they supported it. Ken Macdonald—now Lord Macdonald—who is conducting the review had no reservations when he was Director of Public Prosecutions, but had reservations after he ceased to be DPP. He brought those reservations—
My right hon. Friend is right, but we now have the facts and some evidence that we did not have before. The hon. Member for Esher and Walton mentioned the security services. The security services have never said, on or off the record, that they wanted an increase in the detention period. When they met the Select Committee, they were very clear that they were not taking a position on this, and that was echoed in the statements made by the head of MI5. In their view, it was a decision to be made by politicians.
My next point concerns the impact on the community. I listened to what my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary said, and I have great admiration for him. However, I do not believe that the so-called independent research conducted by officials at the Home Office—or consultants, or whoever did it—truly reflects the views of the community. This matter impacts on the community, and that includes the ethnic minority communities of this country, specifically the Muslim community. There was huge disquiet about these powers being sought by the last Government. I have 10,000 people of the Muslim faith in my constituency; others have more. It was not only the Muslim community but the entire ethnic minority community that was concerned, although they may not have wanted to relate their views to consultants for a research document.
The Home Secretary is coming before the Select Committee tomorrow morning—I hope she has not forgotten, because we are all turning up and it would be terrible if she were not there—and we will of course probe her about her review. I am sure that she will deal with all the points that we raise in the competent way she has done since becoming Home Secretary. However, in answer to the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) she said that she was personally in favour of 14 days. She had me until that point. If she believes that 14 days is the right limit, how can she come before the House and ask for 28? On that point alone, and having been convinced by right hon. and hon. Members, I will vote against the motion.
In the light of the time left, you will be delighted to know, Mr Deputy Speaker, that rather like the last Government in their dying days, I have adopted a policy of slash and burn to the speech that I was going to make.
If the counter-terrorism review states that the limit should be reduced, I and this Government would support that. I would personally welcome a move towards liberty and away from the Big Brother state that grew up under the last Government. Having listened to the debate today, I am afraid the matter is not as simple as saying that the limit should be 90 days, 40 days, 28 days, 14 days or 2 days, as in Australia. Maybe 14 days is the correct amount of time, but what about extreme, complicated or international cases? For me, any decision taken before the review would by definition be arrogant, hasty and uncalled-for.
Consultations and reviews are not simply box-ticking exercises, although they often had a habit of becoming so under the last Government. They are there for a reason. There are big decisions that need grown-up, thought through answers, and they need decisions in this House that result in laws that do not need to come back to the House constantly to be amended, fixed and adjusted. Earlier, the question was asked, “Why do we not just say 14 days?” For me, that is precisely the point. The Government are trying to search for the best results, not just the best headlines. That is why we do not just say 14 days.
Sometimes, like good tea, good whisky and good coffee, good laws take a little bit of time to produce. An extra six months is not perfect, but nor is it permanent, and it is purposeful. Within that time, the counter-terrorism review will have published its opinion, taking into account the issues that have been debated this afternoon such as encryption, the complexity of some extreme cases and how to avoid the abuse of powers. I, for one, look forward to voting then for a good, well thought through and well worked out law that is based on what is best for the country and for the people of Britain.
Before I came to the House I practised as a criminal practitioner for about 20 years, both prosecuting and defending. I know that some Members, and some other people in the country, are perhaps not convinced by the civil liberties argument on 28-day detention. They ask why we should provide protection to people who want to commit criminal offences. Instead of the civil liberties perspective, I wish to give a practical one—do we, the police or the law enforcement agencies actually need a 28-day limit?
Members should be aware of the type of evidence that the police gather, especially when monitoring terrorists or people they believe are going to be terrorists. There is intrusive surveillance, with probes in people’s homes and cameras outside them. Every single text or e-mail they send is recorded by the intelligence services, who also keep every phone call they make. Are Members really telling me that with all that evidence before them, they still need 28 days to interrogate people in a police station?
As someone who has dealt with anti-terror cases and seen the evidence that comes in, and even taking away the civil liberties argument, I know as a practitioner that law enforcement agents do not need 28 days to interrogate people. They have all the information and evidence before them. As we know, guidance on the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 allows for various surveillance methods and intrusions to take place.
I am a rather rare bird in politics—a Conservative defender of the Human Rights Act 1998, which I regard as the codification of 800 years of British common law.
Let me briefly draw attention to the previous Government’s appalling record, which is perpetuated in the suggestion that there is an intrinsic tension between liberty and security. Security often relies on a clear understanding of the commitment of a Government and a nation to liberty. I massively welcome the emphasis of the new Government and the new Home Secretary on freedom, and the suggestion that the order is a temporary measure is most welcome. My right hon. Friend’s personal commitment to 14 days is noted, and the freedom Bill, the crackdown on CCTV and the collection of DNA, and the extension of the Freedom of Information Act are all welcome.
Today is Bastille day. We should never forget that Edmund Burke rightly predicted that it would be followed by disorder, chaos and terror. It made him deeply unpopular at the time. However, on reflection, we now celebrate the day for recorded rights—not abstract, but recorded rights. They were developed in British common law, and the greatest of them is now in section 5 of the Human Rights Act. It is habeas corpus, as prefigured in article 39 of Magna Carta.
We must never forget that we are considering suspects—they have not been convicted of any crime. The Home Office has tools at its disposal that it did not have in 2006. It has the ability to question people post-charge, and to draw on new offences, especially training, preparation and dissemination in the context of terrorism.
I conclude with two questions. First, has thought been given to 21 days as an intermediate period between 14 and 28 days? Are there merits in that? Secondly, has adequate consideration been given to the use of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 as an alternative to 28 days’ detention? If we answer those questions, I am sure that we can make progress overall.
The right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) treated us to a medley of his greatest hits from previous debates, and the shadow Home Secretary performed his cover version of some of his arguments. However, let us remember that the main issues in previous debates were the threshold test, post-charge questioning and intercept evidence. It is important, in the context of the review and any decisions taken in six months if the order is passed today, that the House fully and properly understands those issues.
We were told earlier that a senior person who dealt with counter-terrorism was not aware of the threshold test. Although it was not mentioned in the Home Secretary’s announcement yesterday, I imagine that she is taking six months to conduct a review because she wants to roll the pitch on several issues so that, when the debate takes place, Opposition Front Benchers cannot accuse her of a knee-jerk reaction to the Lib Dem manifesto and she can show that any change has been on the basis of thorough review. I understand the tactic. However, I will vote against the order because I never believed on principle in 28-day detention. Like others, I found myself taken hostage and having to vote for 28 days because it was the only way to stop three months’ detention.
Let us also remember that counter-terrorism measures can be—some have proved to be—counter-productive. Not only internment, but a host of counter-terrorism measures were counter-productive in Northern Ireland. The Democratic Unionist party advocated and cheerled many of them, which ended up assisting the terrorists, partly by alienating the community from the police and making the job of community policing hard and even impossible.
No, because the Home Secretary needs time to wind up the debate.
In the previous debate, we were told about the comments of chief constables. I do not know the collective noun for chief constables, but they were all lined up in support of 28 days. I assume that it will take six months to sort out their line and get them on a different course. However, I recall among the good contributions in previous debates about 28-day detention those of the now Attorney-General. He clearly signalled before the election his opposition to 28 days and said that the policy would be reviewed. It is therefore not true that only the Liberals made such a proposal.
As Opposition Front Benchers discover that they need to change their position on immigration, I appeal to them to wake up to civil liberties.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. I suspect that my distaste for 28 days is shared by many, on both sides of the House. The question is how best to get rid of it and how best to ensure that in doing so, we have covered the contingencies so that we are seen to have acted responsibly. In that way, the line taken by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary deserves support.
We hear what the Attorney-General says. He indicates that the motion is about positioning and lining things up.
Again, whoever is elected Leader of the Opposition to present a new, improved and restored Labour party next year must say that the party has gone back to its better instincts on civil liberties.
In the time available to me, it will not be possible to mention all the speeches made in the debate. However, the debate has in many ways shown the House at its best. People have made thoughtful and serious contributions on the matter in hand. They spoke from the heart and passionately on issues about which they feel deeply.
I shall simply reiterate what I said in my opening speech. The proposal in the pre-charge detention order is for a temporary measure that will enable us to look again at the 28-day period of pre-charge detention, and at how to reduce it, during the review on counter-terrorism measures.
The hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) and the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) challenged me on why I was not going straight away to 14 days, having said that that is my personal preference. The former is correct in thinking that we want to look at the matter in the round alongside other counter-terrorism legislation, and not simply pick it off and deal with it as one issue. I can tell the latter that it is my duty to this House and to the country as a Minister to look at such issues responsibly and to consider all the arguments, and not merely to say that my view should necessarily hold supreme. My views will inform my final decision, but it is right and proper for me to consider all the arguments before I take that decision.
I am sorry, but I have very little time left—about one minute—so I will not give way. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be able to find me afterwards if he wants to make a speech to me—[Interruption.] I can assure him that that was not a comment on the name of Paisley.
The order is a temporary measure to continue 28 days pre-charge detention for just six months. That enables us to look at pre-charge detention in the counter-terrorism review, and to find a solution that reduces the limit from 28 days while ensuring that the police have the powers they need to keep us safe from those out there who would wish us ill.
The House divided: Ayes 354, Noes 47.Division No. 24][5.13 pmAYESAdams, NigelAfriyie, AdamAldous, PeterAlexander, rh DannyAllen, Mr GrahamAmess, Mr DavidAndrew, StuartArbuthnot, rh Mr JamesBacon, Mr RichardBagshawe, Ms LouiseBaker, NormanBaker, SteveBaldry, TonyBaldwin, HarriettBarclay, StephenBarker, GregoryBaron, Mr JohnBarron, rh Mr KevinBarwell, GavinBayley, HughBebb, GutoBeith, rh Sir AlanBellingham, Mr HenryBeresford, Sir PaulBerry, JakeBetts, Mr CliveBingham, AndrewBinley, Mr BrianBirtwistle, GordonBlackman, BobBlackwood, NicolaBlunkett, rh Mr DavidBlunt, Mr CrispinBoles, NickBone, Mr PeterBottomley, PeterBradley, KarenBrady, Mr GrahamBrake, TomBray, AngieBrazier, Mr JulianBridgen, AndrewBrine, Mr SteveBrokenshire, JamesBrooke, AnnetteBrowne, Mr JeremyBruce, FionaBruce, rh MalcolmBuckland, Mr RobertBurley, Mr AidanBurns, ConorBurns, Mr SimonBurrowes, Mr DavidBurstow, Mr PaulBurt, LorelyByles, DanCable, rh VinceCairns, AlunCameron, rh Mr DavidCampbell, Mr AlanCampbell, rh Sir MenziesCarmichael, Mr AlistairCarmichael, NeilCarswell, Mr DouglasCash, Mr WilliamChishti, RehmanChope, Mr ChristopherClappison, Mr JamesClark, rh GregClarke, rh Mr KennethClifton-Brown, GeoffreyCollins, DamianColvile, OliverCox, Mr GeoffreyCrabb, StephenCrockart, MikeCrouch, TraceyDavidson, Mr IanDavies, David T. C. (Monmouth)Davies, GeraintDavies, GlynDavies, PhilipDinenage, CarolineDjanogly, Mr JonathanDodds, rh Mr NigelDonaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.Donohoe, Mr Brian H.Dorries, NadineDoyle-Price, JackieDrax, RichardDuddridge, JamesDuncan Smith, rh Mr IainDunne, Mr PhilipEllis, MichaelEllison, JaneEllman, Mrs LouiseEllwood, Mr TobiasElphicke, CharlieEustice, GeorgeEvans, GrahamEvans, JonathanEvennett, Mr DavidFabricant, MichaelFallon, MichaelFarron, TimFeatherstone, LynneField, rh Mr Frank Field, Mr Mark Foster, Mr DonFox, rh Dr LiamFrancois, rh Mr MarkFreeman, GeorgeFreer, MikeFullbrook, LorraineFuller, RichardGarnier, MarkGauke, Mr DavidGeorge, AndrewGibb, Mr NickGilbert, StephenGillan, rh Mrs CherylGlen, JohnGlindon, Mrs MaryGoggins, rh PaulGoldsmith, ZacGoodwill, Mr RobertGove, rh MichaelGraham, RichardGrant, Mrs HelenGray, Mr JamesGreen, DamianGreening, JustineGrieve, rh Mr DominicGriffiths, AndrewGummer, BenGyimah, Mr SamHalfon, RobertHames, DuncanHammond, rh Mr PhilipHammond, StephenHancock, MatthewHancock, Mr MikeHands, GregHanson, rh Mr DavidHarper, Mr MarkHarrington, RichardHarris, RebeccaHart, SimonHarvey, NickHaselhurst, rh Sir AlanHayes, Mr JohnHeald, Mr OliverHeath, Mr DavidHeaton-Harris, ChrisHemming, JohnHenderson, GordonHendrick, MarkHendry, CharlesHerbert, rh NickHillier, MegHinds, DamianHoban, Mr MarkHollingbery, GeorgeHollobone, Mr PhilipHolloway, Mr AdamHopkins, KrisHorwood, MartinHowarth, rh Mr GeorgeHowarth, Mr GeraldHowell, JohnHughes, SimonHunter, MarkHurd, Mr NickIllsley, Mr EricJackson, Mr StewartJames, MargotJavid, SajidJenkin, Mr BernardJohnson, rh AlanJohnson, GarethJohnson, JosephJones, AndrewJones, Mr DavidJones, GrahamJones, Mr KevanJones, Mr MarcusKawczynski, DanielKirby, SimonKnight, rh Mr GregKwarteng, KwasiLaing, Mrs EleanorLamb, NormanLancaster, MarkLansley, rh Mr AndrewLatham, PaulineLeadsom, AndreaLee, JessicaLee, Dr PhillipLefroy, JeremyLeslie, CharlotteLetwin, rh Mr OliverLewis, BrandonLewis, Dr JulianLiddell-Grainger, Mr IanLidington, Mr DavidLilley, rh Mr PeterLloyd, StephenLopresti, JackLord, JonathanLoughton, TimLuff, PeterLumley, KarenMacleod, MaryMann, JohnMaude, rh Mr FrancisMay, rh Mrs TheresaMcCartney, JasonMcCartney, KarlMcCrea, Dr WilliamMcLoughlin, rh Mr PatrickMcPartland, StephenMcVey, EstherMenzies, MarkMetcalfe, StephenMichael, rh AlunMiller, MariaMills, NigelMilton, AnneMoore, rh MichaelMordaunt, PennyMorgan, NickyMorris, Anne MarieMorris, DavidMorris, JamesMosley, StephenMowat, DavidMunt, TessaMurphy, rh PaulMurray, SheryllMurrison, Dr AndrewNash, PamelaNewmark, Mr BrooksNewton, SarahNokes, CarolineNuttall, Mr DavidOfford, Mr MatthewOllerenshaw, EricOpperman, GuyOttaway, RichardPaice, Mr JamesPaisley, Ian Parish, Neil Patel, PritiPaterson, rh Mr OwenPawsey, MarkPenning, MikePenrose, JohnPercy, AndrewPerry, ClairePhillips, StephenPickles, rh Mr EricPincher, ChristopherPoulter, Dr DanielPound, StephenPrisk, Mr MarkPritchard, MarkRaab, Mr DominicRandall, rh Mr JohnReckless, MarkRedwood, rh Mr JohnRees-Mogg, JacobReid, Mr AlanRifkind, rh Sir MalcolmRobathan, Mr AndrewRobertson, HughRobertson, Mr LaurenceRobinson, Mr GeoffreyRogerson, DanRosindell, AndrewRudd, AmberRussell, BobRutley, DavidSandys, LauraScott, Mr LeeSelous, AndrewShannon, JimShapps, rh GrantSharma, AlokSheerman, Mr BarryShelbrooke, AlecSimmonds, MarkSimpson, DavidSimpson, Mr KeithSkidmore, ChrisSmith, Miss ChloeSmith, HenrySmith, JulianSmith, Sir RobertSoames, NicholasSoubry, AnnaSpelman, rh Mrs CarolineSpencer, Mr MarkStanley, rh Sir JohnStephenson, AndrewStevenson, JohnStewart, BobStewart, IainStewart, RoryStraw, rh Mr JackStreeter, Mr GaryStride, MelStuart, Mr GrahamStunell, AndrewSturdy, JulianSwales, IanSwayne, Mr DesmondSwinson, JoSwire, Mr HugoSyms, Mr RobertTapsell, Sir PeterThurso, JohnTimms, rh StephenTimpson, Mr EdwardTomlinson, JustinTredinnick, DavidTruss, ElizabethTurner, Mr AndrewTyrie, Mr AndrewUppal, PaulVaizey, Mr EdwardVickers, MartinWalker, Mr CharlesWalker, Mr RobinWallace, Mr BenWard, Mr DavidWeatherley, MikeWebb, SteveWharton, JamesWheeler, HeatherWhite, ChrisWhittaker, CraigWhittingdale, Mr JohnWiggin, BillWilletts, rh Mr DavidWilliams, RogerWilliams, StephenWilliamson, GavinWilson, Mr RobWilson, SammyWinterton, rh Ms RosieWollaston, Dr SarahWright, SimonYeo, Mr TimYoung, rh Sir GeorgeZahawi, NadhimTellers for the Ayes:Mr Shailesh Vara andJeremy WrightNOESAbbott, Ms DianeAli, RushanaraClark, KatyCorbyn, JeremyCrausby, Mr DavidDanczuk, SimonDavis, rh Mr DavidDobson, rh FrankDurkan, MarkEdwards, JonathanEngel, NataschaFlynn, PaulGardiner, BarryGilmore, SheilaGlindon, Mrs MaryGodsiff, Mr RogerHilling, JulieHoey, KateHood, Mr JimHopkins, KelvinHosie, StewartHuppert, Dr JulianJackson, GlendaKeen, AlanLavery, IanLlwyd, Mr ElfynLucas, CarolineMacNeil, Mr Angus BrendanMcDonnell, JohnMercer, Patrick Qureshi, YasminRobertson, AngusRotheram, SteveSanders, Mr AdrianSarwar, AnasShepherd, Mr RichardShuker, GavinSkinner, Mr DennisSoulsby, Sir PeterUmunna, Mr ChukaVaz, rh KeithWeir, Mr MikeWhiteford, Dr EilidhWilliams, HywelWilliams, Mr MarkWinnick, Mr DavidWood, MikeTellers for the Noes:Pete Wishart andMr John LeechQuestion accordingly agreed to.
That the draft Terrorism Act 2006 (Disapplication of Section 25) Order 2010, which was laid before this House on 24 June, be approved.