With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a statement on the outcome of the review of counter-terrorism and security powers.
The review has taken place in the context of a threat from terrorism that is as serious as we have faced at any time. In dealing with that threat, it has been the consistent aim of this Government to protect not only the security of our citizens, but the freedoms of us all.
We reviewed counter-terrorism legislation because too much of it was excessive and unnecessary. At times, it gave the impression of criminalising entire communities. Some measures, such as the extraordinary attempt to increase the period of pre-charge detention for terrorist suspects to 90 days, were rightly defeated in Parliament. Others, such as the most draconian aspects of control orders, were defeated in the courts. Those measures undermined public confidence, so I am delighted that the Leader of the Opposition has made it clear that he will support me in preventing the excessive use of state power.
I make no apology for the time that this review has taken. It has rightly been deliberate and thorough to ensure that we safeguard both our security and our freedoms. The review has taken account of all sides of the argument. It has received evidence from academic experts and civil society groups, from communities across the country, and from the law enforcement and security agencies. I have, of course, consulted regularly with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and my noble Friend Lord Macdonald of River Glaven has provided independent oversight of the process. He has had access to all relevant papers and has played an invaluable role in ensuring that all the evidence was given proper consideration. I thank him for his contribution in ensuring that the recommendations of this review are not only fair but seen to be fair. I am laying the review, a summary of the public consultation, and Lord Macdonald’s report, in the House.
On pre-charge detention, the Government announced to the House last week that we would not renew the current legislation on extended pre-charge detention. This means that the sunset clause inserted by the last Government has now brought the maximum period of pre-charge detention down to 14 days. The review sets out the detailed considerations leading to this conclusion.
The police, prosecutors and the Government are clear that the normal maximum period of pre-charge detention should be 14 days. However, we recognise that, in exceptional circumstances only, that might need to be temporarily increased to 28 days. We will therefore draw up draft primary legislation to be introduced for parliamentary consideration only in such circumstances. We will publish a draft Bill and propose that it be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny. I should make it clear to the House that until it is repealed by the freedom Bill, section 25 of the Terrorism Act 2006 will remain on the statute book allowing the Government to increase the maximum period to 28 days in an emergency, subject to Parliament’s agreement. There has therefore been no gap in our ability to seek Parliament’s consent to increase the period of pre-charge detention should the need arise.
On the use of section 44 stop-and-search powers, I have concluded that the current provisions, which were found unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights, represented an unacceptable intrusion on an individual’s human rights and must be repealed. However the evidence, particularly in Northern Ireland, has demonstrated that where there is a credible threat of an imminent terrorist attack, the absence of such powers might create a gap in the ability of the police to protect the public. We therefore propose to repeal section 44 and to replace it with a tightly defined power that would allow a senior police officer to make an authorisation of much more limited scope and duration for no-suspicion stop-and-search powers to prevent a terrorist attack where there is a specific threat. This targeted measure will also prevent the misuse of these powers against photographers, which I know was a significant concern with the previous regime.
On the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, we will implement our commitment to prevent the use of these powers by local authorities unless for the purpose of preventing serious crime and unless authorised by a magistrate. In this context, surveillance—the most controversial power—will be authorised for offences that carry a custodial sentence of at least six months.
On the wider question of communications data—that is the who, when and where of a communication, but not the content—the Government intend to ensure that as far as possible, they are accessed only through the revised Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. We will bring forward specific legislation to this effect in a future communications data Bill.
The Government are committed to tackling the promotion of division, hatred and violence in our society. We must expose and confront the bigoted ideology of the extremists and prosecute and punish those who step outside the law. The review considered whether counter-terrorism legislation should be amended to tackle groups who are not currently caught by the law, but who still aim to spread their divisive and abhorrent messages. After careful consideration, we have concluded that it would be disproportionate to widen counter-terrorism legislation to deal with these groups, however distasteful we find their views. To do so would have serious consequences for the basic principles of freedom of expression. We therefore propose to use existing legislation, as well as tackling such groups through our wider work to counter extremism and promote integration and participation in society.
On the deportation of foreign nationals suspected or known to have been involved in terrorist activity, the review found no evidence that this policy was inconsistent with the UK’s human rights obligations and found that it was legitimate and necessary to seek to extend the arrangements to more countries which would include independent verification. As Lord Macdonald says, the Government’s engagement with other countries on these issues is likely to have a positive effect on their human rights records.
Finally, on control orders the Government have concluded that, for the foreseeable future, there is likely to be a small number of people who pose a real threat to our security, but who cannot currently be successfully prosecuted or deported. I want to be clear that prosecution, conviction and imprisonment will always be our priority—the right place for a terrorist is a prison cell—but where successful prosecution or deportation is not immediately possible, no responsible Government could allow these individuals to go freely about their terrorist activities.
We are also clear that the current control order regime is imperfect and has not been as effective as it should be. We therefore propose to repeal control orders. Instead, we will introduce a new package of measures that is better focused and has more targeted restrictions, supported by significantly increased resources for surveillance and other investigative tools. Restrictions that have an impact on an individual’s ability to lead a normal life should be the minimum necessary, should be proportionate and should be clearly justified. The legislation that we will bring forward will make clearer what restrictions can and cannot be imposed. These will be similar to some of the existing powers used in the civil justice system, for example to prevent sexual offences and domestic violence.
These “terrorism prevention and investigation measures” will have a two-year maximum time limit, which will clearly demonstrate that these are targeted, temporary measures and not to be used simply as a means of parking difficult cases indefinitely. The measures will have to meet the evidential test of “reasonable belief” that a person is or has been engaged in terrorism. This is higher than the test of “reasonable suspicion” under the current regime.
Curfews will be replaced by an overnight residence requirement—[Interruption.]
Order. Whatever Members think, on either side of the argument, the statement by the Home Secretary on this matter must be heard with courtesy and in silence.
Forcible relocation will be ended and replaced with the power to order more tightly defined exclusions from particular areas, such as particular buildings or streets, but not entire boroughs. Individuals will have greater access to communications, including to a mobile phone and to a home computer with internet access, subject to certain conditions such as providing passwords. They will have greater freedom to associate. They will be free to work and study, subject again to restrictions necessary to protect the public. We will add the crucial power to prevent foreign travel. These measures will be imposed by the Home Secretary with prior permission from the High Court required except in the most urgent cases. The police will be under a strengthened legal duty to ensure that the person’s conduct is kept under continual review with a view to bringing a prosecution and they will be required to inform the Home Secretary about the ongoing prospects for prosecution.
I have asked the incoming independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC, to pay particular attention to these issues in his first report on the new regime and to make recommendations that he considers appropriate to ensure the new regime is working as intended.
I am also today laying a written ministerial statement outlining the next steps in the work to find a practical way to allow the use of intercept as evidence in court. We will repeal the current provisions which permit control orders with restrictions so severe that they would require the United Kingdom to derogate from the European convention on human rights. I cannot imagine circumstances in which the Government would seek to introduce such draconian measures.
So the review I am announcing today will create a more focused and flexible regime. However, in exceptional circumstances, faced with a very serious terrorist threat that we cannot manage by any other means, additional measures may be necessary. We want to prepare for this possibility while ensuring that such powers are used only when absolutely necessary. So we will publish, but not introduce, legislation allowing more stringent measures, including curfews and further restrictions on communications, association and movement. These measures will require an even higher standard of proof to be met and would be introduced if in exceptional circumstances they were required to protect the public from the threat of terrorism. We will invite the Opposition to discuss this draft legislation with us on Privy Council terms. These powers would be enacted only with the agreement of both Houses of Parliament.
All of these measures will be accompanied by a significant increase in resources for the police and security and intelligence agencies to improve their surveillance and investigative capabilities. This will underpin the effectiveness of the regime and support the gathering of evidence admissible in court which could lead to a successful prosecution.
We will bring forward legislation to introduce the new regime in the coming weeks. We want to give Parliament the opportunity to scrutinise our proposals properly. I am sure the whole House would agree that in the past, too many laws in this area were rushed through without the opportunity for adequate debate and consideration. So while Parliament considers that legislation, we will renew the current regime to the end of the year. Many of the other measures I have outlined will be brought forward in the forthcoming protection of freedom Bill.
I wish to finish by thanking the police and the security services for the tremendous work they do to keep our country safe. The measures I have outlined today will help them continue to ensure our safety and security at the same time as we restore our civil liberties. They are in keeping with British values and our commitment to freedom, fairness and the rule of law. They will restore public confidence in counter-terrorism legislation and it is my hope that they will form the basis of an enduring political consensus. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Home Secretary for her statement and for advance sight of the review. The horrific attack at Moscow airport brings home to us all the terrible damage, loss of life, carnage and fear that terrorist attacks can cause. The threats that we face from organised groups with international connections and lone individuals radicalised at home mean that our police and our security services face an incredible task in protecting this country. They match that threat with incredible effort. We pay tribute to the work that they do today.
The challenge for democratic Governments in the face of terrorist threats must be to protect both our national security and our historic freedoms. It is right to update powers and policies in response to ever-changing threats, so we welcome the fact that the review is being held. However, it would have been better to do this alongside a full assessment of the risks and challenges, through the updating of the Government’s wider counter-terrorism strategy, Contest, which was due in January, but which I understand has now been delayed until the summer.
It is our responsibility as the Opposition to scrutinise the Government’s proposals in detail and, wherever we can, to support the Government on national security matters on the basis of the evidence. We will support some of the measures that the Government have announced today. We support their approach to deportations with assurances to countries with which we can reach agreement, which continues the work that we did in government. We note that the Government have decided to continue with the existing regime for proscribing groups that are engaged in terrorism. That seems to be a sensible approach. Can the Home Secretary tell the House whether that means that the Prime Minister has abandoned his commitment in the Conservative manifesto to
“ban any organisations which advocate hate or the violent overthrow of our society, such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir”?
We also agree that the use by local authorities of powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 should be restricted. Some of the uses that we have seen in practice go far beyond the intention of the original legislation. However, we will of course scrutinise the detail, as we agree that councils still need to be able to take action on issues such as the sale of alcohol or tobacco to those who are under-age. We also support sensible changes to stop-and-search powers to prevent their being misused, but it would be helpful if the Home Secretary could confirm that the legislative changes that she is proposing largely reflect the practical changes that the police have already introduced. I am still concerned about the implications for Northern Ireland, where, as she will know, stop-and-search powers have played an important role in preventing terrorist attacks. Is she confident, and is the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland confident, that the police will have all the powers that they need in Northern Ireland under the new arrangements?
Let me turn to pre-charge detention. In the last three years, no case has invoked pre-charge detention for more than 14 days, as the review makes clear. We have made it clear that if the best police and security evidence shows that we can reduce the maximum period for pre-charge detention from 28 days with sufficient safeguards, then we should do so. However, the Home Secretary’s review concludes that there could be future circumstances in which detention for longer than 14 days will be required, saying that
“there may be rare cases where a longer period of detention may be required and those cases may have significant repercussions for national security.”
The review recommends an emergency option to return to 28 days if necessary. However, the emergency legislation to do that is still not available in the Library. Indeed, it is still not ready, despite the commitment made by the Immigration Minister last Thursday. On Monday, the Home Secretary told the House that she could extend detention through an order under section 25 of the Terrorism Act 2006, yet her own review concludes that
“it would be very difficult to extend 28 days”
in that way
“in response to or during a specific investigation,”
owing to the length of time that it would take to go through the House.
The Home Secretary is putting the House in a very difficult position. The old powers lapsed on Monday; her review says that she may need to restore them swiftly to deal with a difficult case; according to her review, the order-making power will take too long; and the emergency legislation is not ready. Why did she not make the emergency legislation available sooner, and why did she not wait until the emergency legislation was ready before she let the old powers lapse? As we have seen from the events in Moscow, we can never predict what is round the corner. What are the police and the Crown Prosecution Service supposed to do if a difficult and dangerous case emerges right now? And what on earth is the Home Office doing telling the House on Thursday that the legislation would be ready, on Monday that section 25 of the 2006 Act would be sufficient, and, in its review today, that neither of those things is right?
We know already that the Home Secretary’s policies in this area have been a complete shambles, but they are also irresponsible. She has identified that emergency provisions are needed, but she has left the police and the public in a difficult position by failing to put those provisions in place. Indeed, we also have concerns about another aspect of the Home Secretary’s approach. She is relying on being able to rush emergency legislation through in a hurry to deal with an individual and difficult case. Is that really a sensible way to proceed, with the possibility of Parliament being recalled in a recess in order to discuss the risks in an individual case, yet without prejudicing that case? I would urge her to think carefully about that approach, and about whether it would be better to develop more restricted bail conditions to apply beyond 14 days, so that emergency legislation is less likely to be needed.
Let me turn to control orders. We all know that this is a difficult area. I think that everybody recognises that no one wants to use control orders, but we accept the conclusion of the review, which is that there is a continuing need to control the activities of terrorists who can be neither successfully prosecuted nor deported. We have said that we are ready to look at alternatives to control orders if the evidence supports that. However, the proposals that the Home Secretary has set out today are not an alternative approach to control orders; they are simply amendments to control orders. Many of the same elements remain: restrictions on movement and communications; and a review by the court at the instigation of the Home Secretary, with special arrangements in place. I would ask her to explain to the House the difference between an eight-hour curfew and an overnight residence requirement. Is not the truth of it that what the Government are doing is a political fudge? The Deputy Prime Minister told the BBC that he had abolished control orders. Is not the truth that he has simply abolished the name?
We need to ask some detailed questions about the proposed amendments. We would like to be able to support sensible changes to control orders, but we need answers to some important questions. First, the Government are introducing a two-year limit, with a requirement for new evidence before a control order can be renewed. Lord Carlile’s last annual review of control orders said:
“There is significant and credible intelligence that”
three of the controlees
“continue to present actual or potential, and significant danger to national security and public safety. I agree with the assessment that the control order on each has substantially reduced the present danger that exceptionally they still present despite their having been subject to a control order for a significant period of time.”
Those three individuals have been on control orders for more than two years, so will they now have their orders revoked, and what measures will be put in place to keep the public safe from the threat that Lord Carlile and the police clearly believe they pose?
Secondly, can the Home Secretary tell us whether the changes will mean a reduction in the restriction that the Government are currently imposing on the remainder of the eight people who are currently on control orders? Thirdly, the Home Secretary has made it clear that she intends to rely more heavily on surveillance and less on the measures under control orders. We would support the greater use of surveillance, especially if it were to increase the chance of prosecution, but I am concerned about whether there will be sufficient resources for an increase in surveillance. The Home Secretary has talked about increases in surveillance, but we have not had clear figures about what exactly that will mean. The Daily Telegraph appears to have been told that there would be a £20 million increase for the police and security services, but we have not been told exactly what that means. Can she confirm that the £20 million for surveillance operations, or whatever the figure is, will not be ring-fenced, and that it follows a £150 million cut in the counter-terrorism budget and billions of pounds of cuts for the police? Can she assure the House that she is confident that the police and the security forces will have the resources that they need to keep Britain safe from terror?
This has been a chaotic review, delayed, confused, riven by leaks and political horse-trading, and culminating in a political fudge. It is a review with serious gaps, which raise serious questions about security and resources, and the public and the people who work to keep us safe deserve better. The rhetoric of opposition has now come up against the reality of government. The review has been muddled in its formation and chaotic in its announcement; the Home Secretary must ensure that it is neither of those when she implements it in practice.
May I start by welcoming the more measured approach that the shadow Home Secretary took in the early stages of her response to my statement, and her stated commitment to ensuring that we work together in the interests of national security? I sincerely hope that we shall have cross-party dialogue and agreement on matters that are indeed of national interest in ensuring our national security. Sadly, however, in the time that I have been Home Secretary, such a response has not been noticeable from the Opposition Benches up to now, but I live in hope that that prospect will change.
The right hon. Lady also supported our proposals on deportation with assurances, and our continuing work on that with other countries is important. On proscription, I can assure her that we are actively looking at the issue of Hizb ut-Tahrir, and we do not resile from our commitment to ensure that action can be taken on the sort of groups that we have described. She supported what we are doing on the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, and on local authorities in that regard. I am pleased to hear that, although it might have been nice to hear an apology from her for the use of RIPA by local authorities under her Government. I believe that that is one of the things that has damaged people’s confidence in counter-terrorism legislation.
The right hon. Lady also referred to section 44, and asked about the changes, which she said were introduced by the police last summer. Those changes were not introduced by the police; I changed the guidance to the police following the European Court of Human Rights judgment. It was entirely right that we did that, when a judgment had been made against us. The police have been operating under the new guidelines. Having looked at the judgment, we believe that it will be possible to introduce legislation, whose use will be very tightly circumscribed, to cover any potential gap in the powers available to the police as a result of the ECHR judgment.
The right hon. Lady referred to Northern Ireland. I specifically made reference to Northern Ireland in my statement, and I have been discussing these matters with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State has been in touch with the Chief Constable and with the Minister of Justice in Northern Ireland to ensure that the measures that we introduce will indeed provide the capabilities that the PSNI needs for the difficult work that it does. I should like to pay particular tribute to the PSNI, because we have seen a significant increase in the number of potential attacks, as well as in the number of terrorist-related arrests and charges, in Northern Ireland over the past year. The PSNI is doing valuable work in keeping the people of Northern Ireland safe.
The right hon. Lady talked about pre-charge detention, and that was when her more measured, conciliatory and consensual approach started to disappear. She made an awful lot of the issue about whether draft legislation had been laid before the House. The Minister for Immigration, my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green) did not promise that it would be laid before the House last Thursday. He said that we would be laying draft legislation before the House. It is my intention to discuss this draft legislation with the Opposition. As I said in my statement, we intend it to be the subject of pre-legislative scrutiny, so that, if and when it is necessary to introduce the emergency legislation, the House will already have had an opportunity to scrutinise it.
The right hon. Lady also tried to make quite a lot of the gap in the emergency provision that would be available, and about the length of time that it would take to get emergency legislation through the House. It is perfectly possible to get emergency legislation through Parliament in a day; it has been done by previous Governments. I might also remind her that this is exactly the same procedure that was adopted by her Government in relation to their proposals for 42 days’ pre-charge detention.
On control orders, the measures that we are going to introduce will be significantly different from the control order regime that the right hon. Lady’s Government introduced. She talked about a curfew, but under the current regime, a curfew of 16 hours is possible, with little or no flexibility. Our proposals for the requirement for an overnight residency or stay represent a significant reduction on that, and offer increased flexibility for the individuals involved. We are changing the regime so that there will be a two-year limit on the operation of a control order on any one individual. The right hon. Lady asked about people who are currently on control orders. As I made clear in my statement, the current control order regime will be extended until the end of the year.
The right hon. Lady said that she supported the greater use of surveillance, which is part of the package that I have announced. I welcome her support. I am sure that we are all of one mind in wanting to ensure that we can prosecute people and bring them to justice. Obviously, we will make every effort to ensure that people on the new measures are constantly looked at in regard to bringing prosecutions. She also asked about resources. There will be new money available to the Security Service and the police over the comprehensive spending review period, but it is a well-known practice that we do not identify individual sums of money allocated for Security Service purposes.
Finally, the right hon. Lady made quite a lot of the fact that she thought there was a problem with the process that had been undertaken. I have to say to her that she was a member of a Government who tried to introduce first 90 days’ pre-charge detention, then 60 days, then 42 days before finally settling on 28 days, so I will take no lessons from her on process.
Order. This is an extremely important matter and a great many right hon. and hon. Members understandably wish to question the Home Secretary about it. However, there is also important business to follow, and therefore considerable pressure on time. Brevity in questions and answers alike is therefore imperative, a fine example of which can now be provided by Sir Menzies Campbell.
May I remind the Home Secretary that it was a Labour Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins, who put through emergency legislation in relation to terrorism in Northern Ireland in the course of one parliamentary day, demonstrating that, if there is consensus, a way can be found to legislate? May I also say to her that, in this finely balanced package—particularly in relation to control orders—she provides a welcome alternative to, and relief from, what often seemed to be the unbridled authoritarianism of the previous Government? Does she further understand that she strikes a particularly welcome note in continuing to pursue the possibility of intercept evidence, and in her emphasis on surveillance, investigation and prosecution?
I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for his contribution. I am particularly grateful to him for pointing out, from his experience, that it is perfectly possible to pass legislation in one parliamentary day, as did a Labour Home Secretary. Of course, the crucial factor then was consensus across the House, and I hope that we shall be able to achieve that again, should it be necessary to bring forward the emergency legislation to which I referred in my statement.
My right hon. and learned Friend also reminds us that is has been important for the coalition Government to ensure that we rebalance the needs of our national security with our civil liberties. I was disappointed that the shadow Home Secretary made no attempt to apologise for the way in which the previous Labour Government infringed people’s civil liberties.
May I sympathise with the Home Secretary in having to balance the protection of the British people with the political embarrassment of the Deputy Prime Minister? As she has already said, we all agree that prosecution and conviction would be preferred in cases where conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, or the preparation of such acts, are the issue. Will she therefore consider one more attempt to approach the senior judiciary and the legal profession to get agreement to change the rules on disclosure and admissibility of evidence, so that we can use due process through the courts in difficult circumstances such as those of the man known as AM who is being held on a control order? He has declared that he wishes to take his own life, and thereby the life of the British people. The consequence of that would be that we could not prosecute or convict him, because he would be dead.
I note the points that the right hon. Gentleman has made. On the issue of the admissibility of evidence in court, the Government will produce a Green Paper later this year—some time in the summer—that will deal with the whole question of the use of closed evidence in legal proceedings. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will look forward to that with great interest. On his first point, I merely say that both parties in the coalition Government went into the election absolutely committed to the need to rebalance our national security and our civil liberties. The package I have announced today does just that.
I welcome unreservedly the Home Secretary’s comments on the reduction of detention without charge, the curbing of the misuse of section 44 stop-and-search powers and, indeed, the reduction in local authority surveillance. On the contentious issue of control orders, she knows as well as I do that these have acted as a recruiting sergeant for terrorism. Indeed, as Lord Macdonald said in his report:
“The evidence obtained by the Review has plainly demonstrated that the… control order regime acts as an impediment to prosecution.”
Can she therefore tell the House why she did not accept the proposal put to her of using police bail, which would have given her all the control she currently has—but within the judicial system rather than in denial of it?
I think that my right hon. Friend is aware that there are certain aspects of this on which he and I take a different view. I welcome his support for a number of the measures we have introduced today. On the issue of the impact of control orders, the aspects of the counter-terrorism legislation that led to most concern among communities were the 28 days’ pre-charge detention and the use of section 44 stop-and-search powers. In fact, it was the stop-and-search powers that many people in communities up and down country were most concerned about; and they were also concerned about the use of counter-terrorism legislation by local authorities in respect of matters that clearly had nothing to do with counter-terrorism, such as dog fouling and whether or not children had the right to go to a particular school in a particular catchment area. The package produced today and the measures introduced to replace control orders will, I believe, provide the necessary structure and powers to ensure that we are able to prevent and disrupt terrorist activity while at the same time ensuring that we put every effort into prosecuting individuals. As I said, prosecution must be the preferred option.
Will the £20 million of new money, to which the Home Secretary refers, come from within her existing comprehensive spending review allocation or from the reserve?
I have named no figure on the funding to be made available. I was very clear in my response to the shadow Secretary of State that I was not going to name a figure. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, as a former Home Secretary, will understand why we are not doing so in respect of the work of the security services. I can say that the Security Service and the police will both receive new money.
I certainly welcome the Home Secretary’s statement about the increase in surveillance, but she will be as aware as the rest of the House that in the last few weeks we have seen a heightened threat level from Irish dissident activity on the mainland as well as a series of scares about a very serious armed incident inside this country. If surveillance of known terrorists increases, how will she balance that against the increased threat from unknown terrorists?
We are, of course, very conscious of the severity of the threat that this country faces. That is why the threat level is currently set at severe, which means that a terrorist attack is highly likely. We are constantly undertaking with the security services, the intelligence agencies and the police painstaking day-by-day work, which is necessary to ensure that we not only prevent activity by those already known as terrorists, but that we identify others who might be in the process of trying to undertake terrorist activity. I pay tribute to the police and the security services, particularly to West Midlands police, for the operation undertaken before Christmas, which led to the arrest of 12 individuals and the charging of nine of them for terrorist-related offences.
May I welcome the reduction in the detention period and the changes to control orders, although we will need more detail on exactly what they mean. I also welcome the Home Secretary’s attempt to try to develop consensus across the House. I certainly think it right that she should meet the shadow Home Secretary—following the robust relationship that seems to be developing, I, for one, would like to buy a ticket to that meeting. I ask the right hon. Lady not to forget Parliament or the need to engage with the Select Committee on these issues. Will she give us an assurance that her Prevent strategy will remain robust, that she will protect the counter-terrorism budget and that she will ensure that reviews of this kind—I know that she has more of them planned—will in future be more orderly than the one we have just had?
We could never forget the work of the Select Committee under the right hon. Gentleman’s chairmanship—on these and other home affairs matters. It is this Government’s intention to do all that is necessary to maintain our national security and to protect the public. That involves looking at the budgets that we make available for counter-terrorism work and the powers available for that work, as I have set out today. I dispute the right hon. Gentleman’s comment about the way in which this review has been conducted. We are conducting a number of other reviews, but what I think is important for all of them, given the severity of the threat we face and the importance of the decisions we take, is that we look at all opportunities, discuss the issues and reach decisions that are right for the people of this country.
I thank the Home Secretary for her statement and I welcome the long overdue rebalancing between security and civil liberties that it signalled. Looking ahead, can she explain how the Government’s work on communications data will impact on the agencies’ ability to access it and to intercept communications where necessary?
My hon. Friend has raised an important issue. This is just one part of our ongoing work to ensure that the Government provide for the security and intelligence agencies and the police the necessary powers and tools that they need to keep us safe. We made it absolutely clear in the strategic defence and security review that we will introduce a programme to preserve the ability of the security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies to obtain communications data and to intercept communications within the appropriate legal framework. That work is ongoing; we are ensuring that that capability is retained.
I welcome the reduction of the period of detention from 28 to 14 days—although I wish it were without the reserve powers announced last week and again today—but is the Home Secretary aware that her statement on control orders will be very disappointing to many of us? It would be far better if the due process of law—ordinary law—were used in the fight against terrorism. No one in this House underestimates for one moment the terrorist danger, but we should be very careful about making intrusions into civil liberties—hence the disappointment on control orders.
It has been clear from the responses to my statement that there are differing views across the House. We all want to see terrorists investigated, prosecuted and brought to judgment. As I said, the best place for a terrorist is in a prison cell. We want to make every effort to ensure that the processes of investigation and prosecution can be successful, but in a small number of cases prosecution has not been possible and deportation is not possible, so the Government need to act in order to protect the public.
There is no freedom without security, so would the Home Secretary consider changing the proposed Bill’s title from the protection of freedom Bill to the security and freedom Bill? The Lord Chief Justice and many others have highlighted the problem that the principles of habeas corpus, due process and fair trial have been significantly hijacked by human rights legislation and judicial interpretation, which have taken us significantly in the wrong direction.
I must confess to my hon. Friend that I wondered where his question was leading, but I should add that he did not disappoint me at the end. I will consider his suggestion, but I think that we have a very good title in the protection of freedom Bill.
While, in cosy comfort and at times with chuckles, we in the House deal with the theory of terrorism, Belfast this morning unfortunately experienced the practice of terrorism when a massive explosive device was found. As a result, the whole of north Belfast was sealed off from commerce, schooling and everything else, which is the equivalent of sealing off the whole of the east end of London.
With that in mind, will the Home Secretary—whose statement I welcome—tell us whether the repeal of section 44 and its replacement with a more tightly defined power for police officers will be flexible enough to allow the police to deal with specific threats that have an impact on a border with a 200-mile radius? We do not want them to be confined to dealing with such tightly specific threats that they are prevented from policing Northern Ireland properly, and protecting it from a more generalised dissident republican threat.
With regard to the new money—
Order. I very much want to hear what the hon. Gentleman has to say, but I think that one question is enough. On days such as this, a great many Members wish to contribute.
The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the issue of the latest attempted terrorist attack in Northern Ireland. As he says, it involved a significant explosive device, and the action that had to be taken disrupted a significant number of people in Belfast. I am sure that all of us, on both sides of the House, are absolutely determined that people who perpetrate such acts should not be allowed to succeed.
Once again, I pay tribute to the work of the PSNI. We have been engaged in close discussions with the Northern Ireland Office—which, as I have said, has itself been engaged in discussions with the PSNI and the Justice Minister—about the operation of the section 44 replacement, if I may so describe the new power that will be available. I am confident that that new power will give the PSNI the capabilities that it requires, and I understand that later this week the Northern Ireland Office and the PSNI will discuss the protocols that will apply.
As a member of the Home Affairs Committee who has been involved in the saga of scrutinising the proposals for 14 days, 28 days, 60 days and 90 days as periods of pre-trial detention, I commend the approach taken by my right hon. Friend. May I urge her to be vigorous in her engagement with foreign Governments in order to facilitate the deportation of terrorist suspects in appropriate cases, thus reducing both the burden on the security services and the threat to citizens of this country?
My hon. Friend has made an extremely valid point. The Government will indeed be rigorous in their efforts to increase the number of countries with which we have agreements about the deportation of terrorists, so that we are able to deport them rather than their remaining in the United Kingdom.
As the Minister responsible, with the then Home Secretary, for taking the control orders legislation through the House, may I say that I deeply resent the implication by some Government Members that we welcomed the opportunity to incarcerate people without trial? Control orders were always an imperfect solution to an unprecedented terror threat.
Recently, in the High Court, Mr Justice Wilkie said of the subject of a control order that he had renewed:
“He was and remains prepared to be a martyr in an attack designed to take many lives. He remains highly trained, security conscious and committed.”
Does the Home Secretary feel personally confident that the measures that she is introducing will protect the British people from people like that?
I have announced these measures precisely because we recognise the need to take action against a small number of people of the sort described by the right hon. Lady whom it has not been possible to prosecute or deport. I am confident that our measures will do the job that is necessary, preventing and disrupting terrorist activity and ensuring that we can keep people safe.
There is much to welcome in the statement, which goes a long way towards reversing the worst infringements of civil liberties by the last Government, but when it comes to control orders, the details do matter. I am pleased to note the increased focus on prosecution, the justice system and the police, but can the Home Secretary confirm that when the legislation is published, we shall see a continued move away from a murky, spooky world and towards a legal and just world?
My hon. Friend is obviously particularly concerned about the civil liberties aspects of the proposals. I believe that the package that I have announced contains a series of measures that will enable us to protect the public and maintain our national security, while at the same time reducing our civil liberties—[Interruption.]. I mean that the measures will enable us to increase our civil liberties and reduce infringement of them. I am sorry: I was thinking about my hon. Friend’s reference to a “murky, spooky world”.
Let me simply say to my hon. Friend that it is necessary for our security services to be able to operate. The security services and the intelligence agencies do a valuable job for us in this country, and, by definition, what a security service does must remain secret.
In the context of civil liberties, which does the Home Secretary consider to be more draconian, a control order or 24-hour round-the-clock surveillance?
There is a significant difference between telling people that they cannot do something and watching people while they are doing certain things, while enabling them to lead as normal a life as possible commensurate with the protection of the public. That, I believe, is the balance that we have achieved in these new measures.
I welcome the Home Secretary’s announcement about the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. No longer will local authorities be able to spy on law-abiding residents who may commit heinous crimes such as putting out their dustbins or taking their children to school.
That is an extremely valid point. I believe that local authorities’ misuse of RIPA powers has done much to reduce the public’s confidence in counter-terrorism legislation, and that today’s move is important for that reason.
Is the Home Secretary entirely comfortable with the notion that individuals are held in British prisons without due process before being deported to countries that have not signed international conventions such as the United Nations convention against torture, where they may face an abuse of their human rights? Will she guarantee that in future no one will be deported to a country that has not signed the convention against torture?
The whole point of the discussions that we have with countries in order to be able to deport people is to ensure that those people will not suffer from abuses of their human rights when they are returned to those countries. I refer the hon. Gentleman to what my noble Friend Lord Macdonald said in his report on the review. As I said in my statement, he said that the Government’s engagement with other countries on these issues was likely to have a positive effect on their human rights records.
I can inform the House—at the risk of provoking my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr Cash)—that I led the delegation from the European Parliament that first briefed the United States Congress on British and European involvement in extraordinary rendition, at a time when Labour Members were maintaining in the House the fiction that our Government were not involved. Against that background, my right hon. Friend’s statement is very important in rebalancing civil rights in this country. Will she comment on the suggestions that we should consider introducing much more post-charge questioning and the use of intercept evidence?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the work that he did in the European Parliament. I know that he has taken an interest in human rights matters there, and that he continues to take an interest in them in the House.
Today I laid before the House a written statement indicating that further work would be undertaken to investigate the possibility of the use of intercept evidence. I am pleased to say that we have been able to continue the valuable work of the Privy Council group of which the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith)—together with a number of Members of the House of Lords—is a distinguished member.
Does the Home Secretary accept that those of us who signed section 44 orders and control orders did so for the purpose of preventing terrorism? Does she envisage any alterations in the regime governing the—I believe—eight individuals who are currently subject to control orders pending the changes that she is to introduce, and how does she expect to deal with the proposed extension of the pre-charge detention period from 14 to 28 days when Parliament is not sitting?
First, I recognise that individual Ministers have to take difficult decisions on the use of these powers. I am sure that all Ministers take those decisions with the right intentions, including that of maintaining the safety of the public. The current regime will continue until the end of the year, as I have made clear, and the measures necessary to continue that regime will be brought before both Houses of Parliament before 10 March, the date on which the legislation on that falls. The package that we have put together not only does exactly what the right hon. Gentleman wanted to do and what I want to do, which is to protect the public, but very importantly it ensures that we are maintaining our civil liberties and rolling back some of the infringements of them.
What if the House is in recess? [Interruption.]
I think that the Whip, the hon. Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound), has told the right hon. Gentleman what he intends to do with the recess. If Parliament is in recess, it is perfectly possible that it can be recalled to bring in emergency measures. The right hon. Gentleman knew the answer to that question before he asked it.
The Home Secretary’s statement will be welcomed by all those who value fundamental British rights and the defence of our national security. Can she confirm that emergency powers will not be used as a back-door ruse to reinstate some of Labour’s human rights-busting counter-terrorism legislation? This Government believe in the judicial process and will seek to prosecute alleged terrorists, not to detain them indefinitely and arbitrarily.
On the indefinite detention of people, I can confirm to my hon. Friend that we will be introducing a two-year limit in the new measures. It will then be possible to put a new measure in place if it has been clear that somebody has been undertaking further terrorist activity, but that two-year limit is an important power that we will be ensuring is on the statute book.
Further to the question asked by the hon. Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley), may I press the Home Secretary further on section 44? Whatever the problems in Great Britain, there is no question in my mind but that section 44 has saved lives in Northern Ireland. The power has been used proportionately by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, in tandem with the powers under the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007, to uncover and disrupt activity by terrorists. I will want to look, as others will, at the detailed proposals that she introduces, but she has described them as very tightly circumscribed. Is she not concerned that she may tie the hands of the PSNI?
The right hon. Gentleman’s description of the PSNI’s use of section 44 is accurate, because the PSNI used it very carefully—more carefully than police forces on the mainland. He rightly says that, as a result, terrorist attacks were disrupted and prevented. We have been very careful in discussions, and it has been of particular concern to ensure that the power that we are proposing will be usable by the PSNI and will enable it to continue to do what it needs to prevent terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland.
I commend the Home Secretary on the important steps that she has taken towards reversing the draconian drift under the previous Government. I am disappointed that the coalition has not scrapped control orders altogether, but even more important is the need to reverse the collapse in counter-terrorism convictions of 90% in the past four years. May I just ask about the written statement on intercept evidence? Are the Government now committed to lifting the ban? Has the question now changed from “if” to “when and how”?
The Government have always had a commitment, including in the coalition agreement, to examine the possibility of using intercept material as evidence. It is on that basis that we have asked that further work be done to examine a number of issues associated with practicality, affordability and how an intercept-as-evidence regime could operate. It is a mistake for anybody in this House to think that using intercept as evidence is somehow the silver bullet that will take away all our other issues and requirements. Work has been done to examine existing cases and ask whether a prosecution would have been made possible had intercept as evidence been available. I believe that I am right in saying that in all cases—although I hesitate in saying “all” because I cannot remember the exact numbers—such evidence would not have made that possible. That is certainly true of most cases.
I welcome the direction taken by the Home Secretary. It is an indictment of the previous Government that it has taken a Tory-led Government to restore at least some of our civil liberties, albeit in a very halting way. I want to take her back to her decision not to use this opportunity to bring back control orders within the normal judicial process as a form of police bail. Does the failure to do that not simply mean that we still have control orders, albeit by another name?
No, we do not. We are repealing control orders and introducing a new set of measures that have more tightly targeted restrictions on individuals and that, in some areas, significantly increase the flexibility for those individuals to work and study and give them some access to communications. May I correct the hon. Lady on one point? It is the coalition Government who have brought this package of proposals before the House today and both parties in the coalition were clear in the run-up to the election and following it that action needed to be taken to rebalance national security and civil liberties.
There is much to welcome in my right hon. Friend’s statement, but thousands of people around the world are subject to arbitrary internment by Executive fiat and they should look to Britain as a beacon of freedom. What consideration has she made of the impact on this nation’s voice for liberty and justice arising from this lost opportunity to place control orders where they should be: fully within the criminal justice system?
I think that people will look at what the Government have done today and see a responsible Government who have recognised the need to ensure that the protection of the public and national security is our priority while retaining and strengthening those freedoms and civil liberties that we have valued over the centuries.
The debate at the heart of government on these issues has been based on the wrong premise that it is the laws put in place by the previous Government to protect the public against terrorism that pose a threat to our liberties. The threat to our liberties comes from those who want to kill innocent people. Today’s announcement waters down the control that we have over terrorist suspects, increases the risk that we would lose control over those suspects, and increases costs and pressures on our hard-pressed security services. Does the Home Secretary accept that, if one of the people currently subject to those restrictions is found to be engaged in a terrorist act, the public will rightly look back on this announcement as both dangerous and complacent?
I reject the right hon. Gentleman’s description of the situation and of the balance between national security and civil liberties. Of course it is the terrorists who pose a threat to our civil liberties and to life and limb, and it is right that the Government do everything they can to ensure that they protect the public against that terrorist threat, but if legislation infringes people’s civil liberties and by its very operation reduces the public’s confidence in counter-terrorism legislation, that also has an impact. It is right that this Government should examine the measures that the previous Government introduced—which before the election both coalition parties felt had gone too far in a number of areas and, on control orders, the courts had found were too draconian—and deal with them as we are today, which will continue to protect the public.
I remind the House that I had a former profession as a barrister for the Attorney-General. The Home Secretary has said that the curfew element of the control order will be replaced by—
Surely the hon. Gentleman does not need to read his question if he is a barrister.
Thank you; any time you want to get it going, you can.
The Home Secretary has said that this will be replaced by an overnight residence provision. Could she tell us more about that? Will there be significant differences between the past and present situations?
Yes, there are significant differences between the past and present situations. The curfews under the control order regime allow 16 hours of detention in the home. The overnight residence requirement will replace the curfews and there will be a requirement for people to stay normally in their nominated home overnight. Most people would consider a normal overnight residence to be eight to 10 hours, but we are not suggesting that we should put a figure in the legislation. That would be a matter for the courts to decide. There is a significant difference between the proposal we are making and the regime that the previous Government introduced.
Just like the “Grand Old Duchess of York”, the right hon. Lady marched the Liberal Democrats up a hill last May and has brought them back down again this week. On the specific issue of what she now calls the overnight residence requirement, does she not accept that if something acts like a curfew, looks like a curfew and sounds like a curfew, it is a curfew?
No, I have just explained the differences between the curfew and the overnight residence requirement.
May I congratulate the Home Secretary on the decision to allow Lord Macdonald to oversee and approve the process for the review? The Labour party has complained about the process. Does my right hon. Friend recall the previous Government making provision for such a review to have independent oversight?
No, I do not recall the previous Government ever doing something like that—[Hon. Members: “Lord Carlile!”] Opposition Members mention Lord Carlile, but he did not undertake a review of this sort. He was the independent reviewer of counter-terrorism legislation and he continued in that role. May I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the work that he has done for a number of years in that role? He will be replaced in it by David Anderson, QC next month. The previous Government did not produce such a review or enable Parliament to have a discussion or debate such as that we will have on the counter-terrorism legislation. I am pleased to say that my noble Friend Lord Macdonald has said that he found the process of the review to be “sound” and
“The evidence base for the Review’s conclusions”
to be “extensive”.
The truth is that the vast majority of British people will be very concerned that the control orders regime is being watered down as a result of party political considerations and not as a result of national security considerations. If any of the people involved are caught using the new freedoms that the Home Secretary is going to give them and using the mobile phones and computers that she is going to allow them to have to plot terrorist activities, to encourage other people to engage in terrorist activities, to radicalise people or to promote extremism, will she be prepared to resign?
The hon. Gentleman clearly does not appreciate the purpose of what is being done and the Government’s intention. The answer to his question is that if there is evidence that an individual has been engaging in terrorist activity, they will be charged and prosecuted.
May I congratulate the Home Secretary on establishing a wholly new and more balanced counter-terrorist regime that restores civil liberties lost under the previous Labour Government but that still gives police the power they need to keep us safe in this country?
I thank my hon. Friend. I think that the vast majority of the public will see that the Government have done exactly what we said we would do when we came into power, which is to restore the balance between national security and civil liberties. That will be welcomed.
What will happen if, after two years of the Home Secretary’s new form of control order, an individual has not committed any terrorist actions and cannot be deported or prosecuted but we know that they still represent a threat? What will happen then?
As I have made clear, there is a two-year limit on the new measures. It will be possible, if further evidence of terrorist activity is found, to impose a further measure. The idea that, as the previous Government thought, the Government can under some measure have people parked indefinitely was a problem identified with the previous control order regime, and one of the issues that we have addressed.
Although I appreciate that the Home Secretary might be a little constrained in what she can say, will she nevertheless give an indication of the reactions she has had from the police and security services to the content of her statement today?
I am certainly happy to inform the House that I have had a positive reaction to the statement, in that the director general of the Security Service has told me that he considers that the changes provide an acceptable balance between the needs of security and of civil liberties and that the overall package mitigates risks. As we said in the review:
“an approach that scrapped control orders and introduced more precisely focused and targeted restrictions, supported by increased covert investigative resources, would mitigate risk while increasing civil liberties. Such a scheme could better balance the priorities of prosecution and public protection.”
All parties will see that.
The Home Secretary has said that she will publish two separate pieces of draft primary legislation. They will sit around and we will be able to chat about them, but she will not introduce them until there is suddenly some specific reason—such as a court case—for her to do so. We will then suddenly have to pass the legislation in one day. Surely it would make far more sense to go through the legislative process so that we can table amendments and consider the legislation properly without the burden of the emergency affecting the debate. Would that not avoid the danger that the courts might decide that there was no proper opportunity for a free and fair trial given that Parliament had already effectively decided that the people involved were guilty?
We have proposed that the emergency legislation on 28 days’ pre-charge detention should be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny so that there is an opportunity for it to be considered, as I have made clear. If the hon. Gentleman is so concerned about the process that we propose, why did he support it when his Government introduced it for the 42 days’ pre-charge detention?
It was all going so well. There we were, happily dismantling Labour’s anti-civil libertarian agenda, when along came this review. With respect to the right hon. Lady, she has simply done “a Labour” on control orders. Her proposals seem and feel just like the Labour control orders. At what point did she abandon her plans to get rid of control orders entirely and come up with control orders No. 2?
The commitment was always to review control orders. We were always absolutely clear that national security took priority, but we needed to rebalance civil liberties and national security. I believe that that is what this package does.