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isolate Islamic extremists who... seek to manipulate and divide our society.
He is right, but will the Government recognise that in order for that to happen, it is necessary to ban extremist groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir and Hezbollah, which do so much to foment violence? Will the Prime Minister make certain that none of the £6 million of grants from the Department for Communities and Local Government made available under its preventing violent extremism programme is going to groups within the Muslim community that have extremist or separatist agendas? So that we can check that, will he put the record of the grants in the House of Commons Library?
In that context, can the Prime Minister explain why his Government have allowed extremists from abroad, such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Delwar Hossain Sayeedi and Matiur Rahman Nizame, into Britain? Finally, is he aware that the Irish Government recently refused entry to Ibrahim Moussawi, head of Hezbollahs viciously anti-Semitic TV station, Al-Manar? What approach will the Government take when Moussawi attempts to enter the UK to speak at a conference in early December? I would like an answer on that.
In fighting extremism and terrorism and in securing our country, the Prime Minister will have the support of Opposition Members, but the national security strategy that we need must not only be right in theory, but effective and competent in its implementation. There is much in the statement that we support, but there is a lot of generalisation. Will the Prime Minister accept that tough action on deportation, on extremist
groups and on banning preachers of hate is necessary at the heart of this strategy if it is really going to deliver?
The Prime Minister: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for itemising the areas where the Opposition will support the Government in the legislative and administrative actions that we are taking. In respect of the particular named individuals that he mentioned, I will write to him specifically about them. As for grants to individual organisations, we will try to make available all the relevant information and place it in the House of Commons Library.
The right hon. Gentleman raised some specific points. On intercept, let me say that, at the request of the reviewers, the review will be completed in January. The Home Secretary wrote to her counterpart this morning about that, clarifying that the reviewers requested more time. The report will be available in January and it will then be possible for any amendments based on it to be included in the counter-terrorism Bill.
On the border agency, I have to tell the right hon. Gentleman that there is a debate about the role of the police in it. The Opposition believe that the police should be fully integrated into that agency but that raises issues which we must consider. It would create a national police force in place of local police accountability, which would change the nature of policing in this country. The Opposition should know that there is some opposition to that from some of the major police forces in this country and I believe that we should consider those issues carefully before making a final decision.
I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that the border agency will have new powers, which are set out in the detailed documentthe ODonnell reportpublished today. It will have the funding necessary to do the job and I have already mentioned that it has a staff of 25,000. People who were doing different jobs in different areas are now being brought together and they will have additional powers to stop terrorists coming into the country. In charge of the agency will be a joint Treasury and Home Office Minister. The Home Office will be responsible to the House for the agency, but all the details are set out in the document published today.
Let me deal with the issue of Hizb ut-Tahrir, Hezbollah and other associated organisations. I said to the right hon. Gentleman in the summer that if he had any evidence to bring to bear on the matter, he should send it to me. I have looked as carefully as I can into the circumstances of those groups. Even many of those who have left the groups and feel that they should be exposed are of the view that exposing them is not the same as banning them altogether. Maajid Nawaz, who talked about the matter on Newsnight, said:
My ideal scenario would be not to ban the party but it would be that through the...power of discussion and persuasion that eventually the party would fizzle out in this country.
There are divided views on the issue, but we must take into account whether, in banning an organisation, we would win an appeal in the courts as a result of that. I will keep all those matters under review, and will be happy, as will the Home Secretary, to consider any evidence brought to bear.
I welcome the fact that there is common ground on considering the issue of intercept. I also welcome the fact that we are near to an understanding of the common position of the parties on post-charge questioning.
When the House last discussed pre-charge detention, I referred to the fact that the shadow Home Secretary had said previously that he recognised that it might be necessary to go beyond 28 days in certain circumstances. I also quoted Liberty, which has published documentation saying that it could envisage going beyond 28 days in certain circumstances. Knowing the complexity of investigations, the danger of multiple plots, that people who are arrested usually have many false identities, false passports and false bank accounts, and that the investigation into such cases can take a great deal of time before a charge can be put, the issue is: in what circumstances can there be common agreement that it might be necessary and allowable to go beyond 28 days? Contrary to what the Leader of the Opposition said a few minutes ago, I believe that there is scope for agreement on that.
The scale of the whole thing is quite dramatic. Looking at the complexity of this, there will be occasions when we need more than 28 days.
there was a need to extend the 28-day limit on detention.
I expect in the course of time to see cases in which the maximum of 28 days will be proved inadequate.
Contrary to the views currently expressed, I believe that many Opposition Members will recognise that achieving a consensus on the circumstances in which it might be necessary to move beyond 28 days would be in the interests of the whole country. It would make no sense, however, to declare an emergency the minute that one case had to be taken beyond 28 days. That would provide oxygen to terrorism, which no one in the House would want.
A range of measures are necessary to counter terrorism, and we are considering how to take a long-term view about winning hearts and minds in this country. I hope that all Members will understand, however, that whether in relation to prisons, universities, colleges or schools, or the future of mosques and the training of imams, we must consider each of those areas to see how we can build deeper understanding in our country across communities, and together root out terrorist influences that would undermine our society.
Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD): I add my welcome to the statement. I totally agree with the Prime Minister that, as far as possible, we should proceed on national security issues on the basis of political consensus. As someone who once worked in government alongside the intelligence and security services, I have always respected their professionalism and the need for them to be properly supported.
There is already a great deal of consensus and progress on areas where we have common ground. We welcome the progress made on post-charge questioning. Many of the ideas put forward by Lord West on building design seem, at first sight, eminently sensible and worthy of support. The Prime Minister has reported the progress on intercept evidence, for which we have argued. We have also long argued for a unified border force, and share the concern expressed about the lack of integration with the police and the danger of two forces working in parallel. Perhaps he will set out what the ODonnell report concluded on the matter, so that we can make progress.
Pre-charge detention remains our main concern, and the issue is not separate from that of confidence in the minority communities, about which the Prime Minister spoke at length, because it is of great concern to them. On the issue of all-party consensus, there is already substantial consensus that we should not proceed beyond the present 28 days. That consensus embraces both Houses of Parliament, the Home Affairs Committee, the Joint Committee on Human Rights and many bodies outside. Let me quote to him the evidence of Rachel North, one of the victims of the 7/7 bombing, who had no party political axe to grind and summarised the situation admirably:
I have not seen anything that convinces me that longer than 28 days is needed to stop people such as...Mohammed Sidique Khan...detonating his bombs in the future...its fundamentally important to us as a country that we do not hold people without them knowing what theyre being charged with and why.
Does the Prime Minister agree that the decision on the issue must be evidence-based? Is it not the case that of the 1,143 arrests under the Terrorism Act 2000, it has not been argued seriously in a single case that extended detention would have helped in their prosecution? Has not the Home Secretary acknowledged in parliamentary testimony that there has not yet been a single case that would have been helped by an extended period of detention?
Does the Prime Minister agree that comparative experience is highly relevant, and that other countries with experience of dealing toughly with terrorism do not have such long periods of pre-charge detention? The United States has, I believe, two days, Turkey has seven and Spain has five. Why is Britain so fundamentally different in those respects?
Finally, I want to ask the Prime Minister a series of specific questions, some of which are on issues that he touched on in his statement. First, on control orders, the previous Home Secretary acknowledged that the system was full of holes and that six of the controlees had absconded. Is the system to be preserved or scrapped, as it does not seem to work?
Does the Prime Minister accept the growing volume of opinion that additional plea bargaining in terrorist
cases would be useful to enable a wider range of witnesses who are peripheral to terrorist organisations to give evidence in court?
Can the Prime Minister update us on the police radio issue, as there are reports that police radios still do not work in parts of the underground system and in many tall buildings? Will he indicate what progress has been made on that?
Will the Prime Minister give us a report on the review of the relationship between MI5 and MI6? Clearly, they are distinct organisations with distinct mandates, but what has been done to improve information flow and co-operation between them?
In relation to international co-operation, will the Prime Minister update us on his comments on 25 July about the co-operative work with President Sarkozy and the Germans on terrorism in Europe? Has that work advanced? In view of the crucial importance of cross-border co-operation, does he think that it was perhaps premature to have achieved an opt-out from the European treaty provisions in relation to counter-terrorism?
On control orders, yes, we continue to use them, and their use was upheld in the courts recently. As for plea bargaining, that is allowed. On the police radio, the Airwave system is now being spread out across the forces, and considerable investment has been made.
Co-operation with the French and German Governments is moving forward, and there is an attempt not just to have cross-border co-operation on immediate terrorist issues but to find a way to encourage a European Islamic scholarship across the countries of Europe.
International co-operation will form part of the greater detail of the national security strategy. As for the national border agency, a detailed report published today sets out the relationship between the immigration and customs services, and all the work being done at the moment. The most important consideration is that those who work at the single point of entry have power not just to deal with the traditional cases with which they have had to deal in their own areas, but to stop people for reasons related to terrorism and take action.
The hon. Gentleman raised, primarily, the question of the 28-day limit. I understand that the Liberal Democrats have taken a strong view on the matter, although Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer and a member of the Liberal Democratic party, has stated categorically that in the work he has done he has accepted the need for further days at some point. He says that there will be
cases in which the maximum of 28 days will be proved inadequate.
The hon. Gentleman raised the issue of what evidence we had. At the time of the last airline plot the police had to deal with 400 separate computers and 8,000 discs, including compact discs and DVDs. They had to deal with people with false identities and false passports
who were operating from numerous addresses with numerous bank accounts. Sometimes it is difficult in the first instance to know exactly who has been arrested.
I have had the same experience as Home Office Ministers and police in relation to the freezing of terrorist assets. I did not answer a question from the Leader of the Opposition about why asset-freezing required new powers. The availability of information and the ability to use it in ones defence in the courts if challenged has been the central issue in regard to asset-freezing over the past few years, and that has made it more difficult for us to do the things that we need to do.
I hope that, over time, the Liberal Democrats will come to accept that there are instances in which it may be necessary for people to be detained beyond 28 days. In such instances, there would be full safeguards that would include not just the approval of a judge but the involvement of the Director of Public Prosecutions before any action was taken, and a proper report to the House of Commons and a study by the independent reviewer so that people would know what was happening in each specific instance. It seems to me that in such cases the issue is not the arbitrariness of the procedure, because we are protecting against that, but whether we are satisfied that there are occasions on which either multiple plots or complex investigations will require more than 28 days detention.
There is one point on which I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. It is not possible to make an exact comparison between the legal and policing systems of all countries. I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that under the British system, people who are arrested are brought to court very quickly. That is not the case in other countries. When the figure of 20, 30 or 15 days is used in those countries, it sometimes relates to the time that it takes to bring people to court in the first place. Under the British system people are brought to court early, and the safeguards that we are trying to incorporate will require a judge constantly to determine whether a detention is still justified.
Mr. Paul Murphy (Torfaen) (Lab): My right hon. Friend rightly put dealing with the radicalisation of young people at the centre of his statement. He said that there would be much more co-ordination between Departments. Given that a great deal of radicalisation takes place outside the cities of Westminster and London, can he reassure us that there will be proper co-ordination between the devolved Governments of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, between local authorities and Government, and between the security services and the special branches? I consider that to be an extremely important way of dealing with radicalisation.
The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who chairs the Intelligence and Security Committee. Both he and his Committee have made valuable proposals to which the Government have listened very carefully, and we will continue to listen to the advice that he and his colleagues give.
My right hon. Friend referred to the devolved Administrations. When the Cabinet organisation that deals with emergencies of this kind convenes, it will normally include representation from the devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In particular, when we are dealing with the need for co-operation in both policing and other areas connected with terrorism, the involvement of those Administrations is not just important but essential. That will continue to be part of what we do.
Patrick Mercer (Newark) (Con): The Prime Minister talks of achieving consensus on the 28-day limit, and I could not agree with him more. He talks of a series of sensible precautions that would be taken if the limit went beyond 28 days, and I could not agree with him more. The fact remains, however, that if we do go beyond 28 days, whatever the realities of the situation, our enemies will brand it as internment. We will be passing them such a powerful tool. May I beg the Prime Minister to look at the lessons of history, and not to walk into this ambush?
The Prime Minister: I thank the hon. Gentleman for the work that he did alongside Lord West in identifying some of the areas in which protective measures must be strengthened, and will be strengthened as a result of that work. He identified not only the London underground, which has already been mentioned, but the way in which, particularly in new buildings, we can design out some of the flaws that we have detected when examining what has happened in relation to some terrorist incidents.
The hon. Gentleman raised, with some passion, the issue of the 28 days and the message that we send to other countries. I could not agree with him more that our ability to defend our liberties when faced with a terrorist threat is crucial both to the message that we send to ourselves about the health of our society, and to the message that we send around the world that we will not be blown apart by terrorist activity in our country and will not give in to it. I must tell the hon. Gentleman, however, that proposals even from his party envisage our going beyond 28 days in certain circumstances.
The issue for me, which I think will increasingly be the issue for everyone, is this. I believe that if it is possible to protect against arbitrary treatment of individuals in the context of complex and sophisticated investigations by ensuring that the police are responsible to the courts and perhaps even to the Director of Public Prosecutions, that Parliament is involved at some stage, that there is a report on individual instances from an independent reviewer or any other body chosen by the House and that every instance in which we go beyond 28 days is properly investigated and analysed, in a sense we will design out the arbitrariness in the system, and also send a message about the importance that we attach to people being treated fairly even when they are suspected of terrorist offences.
This is a debate that we will continue to have. I do not believe that the issue is one of principle, because the Opposition have already conceded that there are circumstances in which we may have to go beyond 28 days. The issue is whether we can secure agreement on the individual detail of the circumstances in which, with proper protection, that would be justified.
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