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Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendment No. 237C:

"Reserve Forces Act 1996 (c. 14)

In paragraph 5(3) of Schedule 1 to the Reserve Forces Act 1996, for the words "imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months" there is substituted "dismissal from Her Majesty's service with or without disgrace, to detention for a term not exceeding 3 months,"."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 283 [Limit on period of detention without charge of suspected terrorism]:

Lord Lloyd of Berwick moved Amendment No. 238:

    Leave out Clause 283.

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this is a free-standing amendment that I suggest is of some importance because it affects the liberty of the subject. Clause 283 amends the Terrorism Act 2000 by increasing from seven to 14 days the period during which a suspected terrorist can be detained without charge. The purpose of my amendment is simply to leave out Clause 283.

In Committee, the Minister replied at considerable length—for which I am sure that the whole House was and remains grateful. However, I regret that I am still not persuaded that such a sudden and dramatic inroad into the liberty of the subject has been justified. The House will remember that in the case of all ordinary offences, the maximum period for which a man can be held without charge is four days. That is so however serious the offence—even including the most serious

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offences—and however difficult or protracted the investigation. That four days represents less than one third of what is now proposed in the case of terrorist offences.

I asked the Minister to remind the Committee about recent terrorist occurrences on the mainland of Great Britain, since it seemed to me that the number of such incidents would be of great relevance to whether Clause 283 should stand part. She was then unable to give the Committee that information, but this morning I checked the facts with the Centre for the Study of Terrorism at St Andrews under the chairmanship of Professor Wilkinson.

The most recent terrorist incident involving loss of life was in February 1996, at Canary Wharf, where two people were killed. In June 1996, there was an incident in Manchester city centre, where about 200 people were injured—I believe that no one was killed, but I may be wrong. There was then a gap of five years until 4th March 2001 when there was an explosion at the BBC in west London in which one person was injured. In May 2001, a device exploded at Hendon—again, one person was injured. In August 2001, there was an explosion at Ealing Broadway, when seven persons were injured. In the same month, a device was discovered in Birmingham that failed to go off. Since 2001, there have been no incidents of terrorism of any kind on the mainland of the United Kingdom.

So in the eight years since 1996, there have been only two deaths.

Lord Carlile of Berriew: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord. I know that it is difficult to discuss matters that are pending before the courts, but I am sure that he would want to bear in mind that there are such matters, including the incident that led to the death of Detective Constable Oake in Manchester last year, which is alleged to be part of a terrorist incident.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, I am grateful for that intervention and of course shall turn to more recent incidents—especially those subject to current investigation—in due course.

As I said, there has been a gap of five years and a total of two people killed back in 1996. In the three years since 2001, a total of nine people have been injured. All of those were incidents of Irish terrorism. There has not been a single incident of international terrorism, unless one counts the Lockerbie air disaster, about which we could clearly have done nothing.

It may be said that there have been no incidents of terrorism since 2001 because the Anti-Terrorist Squad has been so successful. I am happy to accept that that has been so, but that argument is self-defeating. If the Anti-Terrorist Squad has managed to keep us safe since 2001 with the seven days allowed under the Terrorism Act 2000, why does it suddenly need 14 days now? International terrorism was not invented in 2001.

Why do I stress the absence of any incident of international terrorism? The whole basis of the argument of the Minister when she replied and the whole basis of

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the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, whom I am glad to see in his seat, was that the nature of terrorism had changed since 2000, when seven days were thought sufficient. It is said to have changed because international terrorism is so much more difficult to prove than Irish terrorism. Indeed, when listening to the Minister and to the noble Lord on the Liberal Democrat Benches, I almost had the impression that, if we were concerned only with Irish terrorism, they would have been perfectly content to continue to accept seven days as the appropriate period for detention. No arguments to the contrary were advanced; all their arguments were based on the threat of international terrorism.

What is so special about the threat of international terrorist activity? It is said that there can be language difficulties in investigating such cases. If a terrorist suspect is arrested in north Norfolk, for example, very few Arabic interpreters would be available locally. But the answer to that objection is perfectly simple: Schedule 8 to the Terrorism Act 2000 gives the Secretary of State a power to designate places where terrorist suspects are to be detained. Surely there would be no difficulty in bringing terrorist suspects to London, where plenty of interpreters would be available to carry the matter forward.

The second difficulty—I refer here to the three difficulties to which the Minister referred in her letter to me—is that of analysing hard drives in computers. That argument was utterly demolished in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, when he observed—I have no reason to disbelieve him—that it takes far longer than 14 days to analyse the hard drives in computers. So I hope that we shall not hear that argument again.

Thirdly, it is said that, with the advent of chemical and biological weapons, time is needed to analyse substances which may be found on the terrorist's person or in his premises. However, chemical and biological weapons have been with us since at least the atrocity on the Japanese underground many years ago. They are the favoured weapons of international terrorists. So there is nothing new here.

In any event, if they had validity, all the three points on which the Minister relied would have been raised when we were asked to pass the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. That Act was passed in a great hurry during the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Many regarded it as a profoundly illiberal measure. It is the Act under which eight suspects are still being detained without trial after a period of 20 months. Further, and perhaps more relevant to our present purposes, Part 6 contains detailed provisions relating to chemical and biological weapons.

If the analysis of chemical and biological substances requires 14 days rather than seven days, as is now suggested, why was that point not raised in 2001 when the anti-terrorism Act was passed? Surely that was the appropriate occasion, when the House was addressing the question of terrorism. The opportunity was not taken at the time, no doubt because it was thought that such an amendment was not necessary. Yet here we

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are, less than two years later, being asked to tack on to the end of an immensely long Criminal Justice Bill a provision relating to terrorism which has nothing whatever to do with the rest of the Bill. It is hard to find anything which is not covered in this legislation, but there is no mention of terrorism until we come to Clause 283.

What has changed since 2001 to make this provision so necessary? I would say: precisely nothing. Certainly there have been no incidents of international terrorism. A number of figures were cited by the Minister on the last occasion. Of the 212 people who were arrested between January 2002 and March 2003, only 16 were detained for six days. That does not suggest any great urgency or major change in circumstances. All those 16—here I address the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile—concerned a single operation following the discovery in January 2003 of ricin in north London. I wait to be corrected if I am wrong about that. Of the 16, 11 have made appearances in court, four have been charged under Section 57 and one charged with the non-terrorist offence of forgery. Those figures hardly spell out any great need for a change in the law.

So far as I can tell, nothing was said by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, in his report published at the end of 2002 to suggest that seven days was inadequate. Nothing was suggested in the report of the independent commissioner for the detained terrorist suspects. I suggest that the evidence on which to change the law so radically against the liberty of the individual is quite inadequate. It is simply because the police have said that they would like 14 days rather than seven days, and simply because they seem to have persuaded the Home Office.

As Members of Parliament, surely we must be satisfied of the need for the provision. I have seen the evidence. The Minister was good enough to let me see it, but obviously I cannot pass that on to the House. However, I for one am not satisfied with the evidence on which the Government are relying. Of course terrorism is an ever-present danger and of course we must be for ever vigilant, but let us not become paranoid when the subject of terrorism is mentioned. Above all, let us not over-react. That is what we would be doing by allowing Clause 283 to stand part of the Bill. It represents an over-reaction, out of all proportion to the present danger from terrorism. I beg to move.

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