|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The noble Baroness also touched on consultation and how much we try to deal with people. I have been told by a number of people that we have had greater consultation than there has ever been on a Home Office Bill. This went on and on for months and a number of concessions were given. People have joked and accused me falsely of U-turns. A very different option was on the table last year, so we had a massive consultation. I am afraid that it did not succeed, but we still have this worry and fearI am sure this will happenthat we will need more than 28 days at some stage.
I have been accused of saying that we are safer. Some of the measures that we have put into place in the past 15 months have made us safer, but that does not mean that we are safe. The threat is huge. It dipped slightly and is now rising again within the context of severe. There are large complex plots. We unravelled one, which caused damage to al-Qaeda, and the plots faded slightly. However, another great plot is building up again, which we are monitoring. We have done a great deal to protect ourselves and to look after our water supplies, our resilience, underground trains, our preparedness and communications. We have done all the things that we need to do, but the threat is buildingthe complex plots are building.
The Civil Contingencies Act was mentioned. We well know from all the experts that that Act is not the appropriate way of covering this threat. Intercept is not a silver bullet. We are proceeding with the intercept work and implementing the Chilcot provisions with all haste on a cross-party basis, so I do not think that we can be faulted on that.
All I will say in the final analysis is that having this measure in place is useful and will stop us passing something too draconian. What we need to do now, and what I would like to do, is to put this behind us and try to avoid being party political, because there are provisions in the Bill that are extremely important. I have tried in my entire time in this post to focus on the really important things for the nation and not to be political because, rather as in some other areas, that is the most important thing.
Lord Dear: My Lords, I should like to pick up on a comment made by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, and refer the Minister to two short comments in the Statement made yesterday in another place by the Home Secretary. She said:
Bearing in mind that many noble Lords who spoke or voted yesterday have had a long and, at times, very dangerous association with the terrorist threat, can the Minister reassure the House, by disassociating himself from those statements, and, if not, why not?
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that one of the incidental advantages of abandoning this part of the Bill is that we will be spared any more lectures from the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones?
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, that is perfectly in order. Does my noble friend agree that what we saw last night was a large number of Tory backwoodsmen, who very seldom attend this House, turn out in a deliberate attack to embarrass the Government? If they had sat through the debate, particularly the speeches made by the noble Lords, Lord Carlile and Lord Tebbit, and had listened to the arguments, they would have voted differently. As the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, said, many Conservatives opposite will rue the day.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I share my noble friends view that some of us may rue the day that we do not have a back-pocket measure. Late last night, I sat at home looking at Hansard. I looked at the balance of how the argument went and I thought that it was good and fairly well balanced. In fact, I thought that we had done rather better, so I was horrified at the total score at the end. I would not attack the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, on the same basis. I was impressed that she said that it was her Government. At times in the media I have had the feeling that she is the Minister for Security, so I was not surprised by that statement.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, do the Government consider following the advice of the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, and do they seek to establish cross-party consensus beyond a political divide? To that end, might they even consider setting up a Select Committee, inviting Members of this House who have practical experience in the gathering of terrorist intelligence to serve?
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the noble Lord makes an interesting point. The thrust of his feeling that counterterrorism should be removed as far as possible from political aspects is right. I do not believe that setting up a Select Committee would be right. The mechanisms in place already allow the sort of debate required.
Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the remarks made by the Home Secretary are singularly unhelpful if she is trying to establish a bipartisan approach to this issue? Perhaps I may reinforce what the noble Lord, Lord Dear, said. Some of us who obviously have had involvement in terrorism take enormous offence when remarks such as those that the Home Secretary made last night in the House are made. I hope that he will emphasise that very strongly. Would he answer the question asked by my noble friend Lady Neville-Jones? Will there be pre-legislative scrutiny of this measure?
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord King. I understand that. I hope that I have never in anything I have said given an indication that I think other than that people are acting with the interests of this nation and our country at heart. I am sure that my right honourable friend will be aware of what has gone on in terms of debate in this House. On pre-legislative scrutiny, the draft Bill is in the Library. When an incident happens, it will have to go through the normal process in both Houses.
Lord Soley: My Lords, I commend my noble friend on the way he is handling this, not least because I was one of the people who for a number of years opposed very strongly the old Prevention of Terrorism Act, which was far harsher than the Bill as it enabled politicians to exclude a person from one part of the UK to another without judicial oversight as well as many other things that are not allowed under the Bill. At the time both the Conservative and the Liberal parties accused me of being soft on terrorism, said that the IRA would be delighted, and so on. The way to deal with this may be simply to say that this is a rather belated apology from the Front Benches of the Conservative and Liberal parties to me for what was said in the 1980s.
Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that while some people may have turned up to vote last night who do not come every day, the most noticeable thing yesterday was the very large number of those who claim to be government supporters who did not come and vote for their Government?
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I am not sure that I totally agree with that. I was rather pleased by the number who did vote with the Government, but there were one or two notable exceptions. Some of those did surprise me; in one case, for example, the person had been a strong supporter of 90 days. That was somewhat surprising.
Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords, the Statement is full of implications concerning the lack of patriotism among Members of this House. I regret that the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, whose integrity we are absolutely sure of, has not used this opportunity to dissociate himself from the Home Secretarys comments, as the noble Lord, Lord Dear, asked him to do.
My question concerns the detail of the Bill, and I do not believe that the noble Lord has responded to any of the questions put to him in this regard. Given that it is still within the ambit of pre-charge detention, what does the Minister expect to happen if there is, say, another alleged hijack attempt such as that carried out in 2006 and those of us from the Muslim community are contacted, as we always are, with information from the Home Office confirming that arrests are taking place? Does he expect us to come into this Chamber, to be told nothing, and then blindfold and with hands tied, have to vote for this Bill? Will he consider the implications of this measure for the Muslim community at a time of crisis when the possibility of civil disorder will ariseparticularly in the light of comments about patriotism that have been maderesulting in even greater friction in the community and certainly to the drying-up of any intelligence or information that might lead to a successful trial?
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I hope that the noble Baroness will accept, as I have said a number of times, that I would not impugn at all the motives of any noble Lord in this Chamber. In my 15 months here I have not met or talked to anyone who is anything other than caring of our nation and our people. That is absolutely the way I feel about it. I hope that the noble Baroness does not think I feel anything else, because I do not.
We have to be careful of incidentsthey are hypothetical and we have to think them through. What will happen is that when the DPP and the police feel that we desperately need more than 28 days, the Bill will be brought before the other place and this House and will be debated. I am sure that everyone will consider it fully, even though it will be pushed through. I do not believe that it will be as draconian as it might be, and certainly not as dangerous as if, say, someone were either to let off or be in the process of trying to detonate a dirty bomb while some people were still exposed to it. In that sense at least, the Bill is constrained. That is how I see its introduction.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, I see that the Government intend to press ahead with their proposals on post-charge questioning. Is the noble Lord aware that if post-charge questioning were made subject to judicial authorisation, those proposals would have a far easier passage through this House?
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I know that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, will be raising various issues when we debate the Counter-Terrorism Bill later in the week. I would rather not comment at the moment, but wait for those debates.
Lord Baker of Dorking: My Lords, a few moments ago the Minister rather disarmingly said that he was just an old sea dog. Can he say from his experience that when a boat has been holed below the waterline, is taking on water and is limping into port, the crew and the captain will take comfort from the fact that the next thing they are going to be asked to support is a boat that has not been built and can be launched only in a typhoon?
Lord Ryder of Wensum: My Lords, if the Minister feels that he has done well when 50 per cent of his noble friends have not supported him in a Division, I would hate to follow him into a real battle. Has he considered that the draft emergency Bill might have to be introduced during a summer recess and that Parliament would have to be recalled? In those circumstances, it would be imperative for it to receive pre-legislative scrutiny. Otherwise the prospect of passing the Bill in a summer recess after Parliament had been recalled in an emergency would be absurd.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the noble Lord is right that Parliament would be recalled. He needs to beware of saying that no one would follow me into battle because they have done on a couple of occasions and I had no difficulty with that. On pre-trial scrutiny, clearly I have got the wrong end of the stick and I should like to come back on it.
Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, there seems to be a total genuineness among people of all parties, both in this House and the other place. It seems to meI hope I am not looking at it too naivelythat everyone is essentially asking the same question: how do you cater for an exceptional case which does not fit within the rubric of the 28-day detention rule? I think that is a fair way of putting it. The fallacy is that the answer must be to make it 42 days. The exceptional case may be as little likely to fit into 42 days as it is into 28 days. In other words, those of us who are arguing for a baulk on extended detention time are looking down the wrong path. The point was mentioned by the Minister last night when he said that there could be lengthy periods of detention if we develop that side-by-side with sophisticated communication advances. The only alternativethis could well be the basis of a cross-party agreementis to look down a totally different path, the judicial path. Once a case nears the 28-day limit, it should be left to the discretion of a senior judge, or a panel of senior judges, to allow any period of time, in appropriate tranches, even if that came to 50 days or 100 days. The difference would be that the citizen would not be in the hands of the calendar with all the checks and balances that we have now; but would be at the mercy of the courts.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the noble Lord raises an interesting point. I can assure him that I will be looking very closely at any other ways of ensuring that, if we get to a position of people at 28 days, we are able to gather the evidence necessary to make a charge or to say they have to be released. There may or may
14 Oct 2008 : Column 608
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, will my noble friend listen carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, has said? In his intervention there were the seeds of a possibility and I beg my noble friend not to dismiss it lightly. It is incumbent on this House to act speedily and effectively to the terrorist threat. I do not think any of us has the right answer at the moment. We have the possibility of acting effectively and speedily, but that requires the consent of both sides. Put aside what happened last night. I do not think that the Opposition have come to the right conclusion and I am not sure that the Government have. Think again.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his interjection. I certainly will not dismiss lightly the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan; as I hope I made clear before, I will think about it. As regards putting things behind us, I could not agree more. I should like to put this firmly aside, get the important things that still remain in the Counter-Terrorism Bill on the statute book and press on with trying to make the country safer.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, the noble Lord has effectively dissociated himself from the insults that were thrown at this House by the Home Secretary yesterday and about those who oppose the Governments plans. He heard the debate. Will he convey to the Home Secretary and those advising her that the main objection to the proposal that she put forward was that people would be kept for up to 28 days when there was not even a reasonable suspicion that they had committed an offence? If after 28 days those who were investigating did not have in their mind a reasonable suspicion that the person detained had committed a terrorist offence, then it would be just internment by another name. To extend the time limit to 42 days is ridiculous as well.
The last I heard, there were 14 computer analysts employed by the Home Office. Let us assume that the figure has doubled to 28. How long would it take them to decrypt and look at the 400 computers that were involved in Operation Overt, to which I referred yesterday? Could they do it between 28 days and 42 days? Obviously they could not. The whole scheme has been nonsense. It is ridiculous to have another Bill of this sort coming forward in which these mistakes and misunderstandings are maintained.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I am afraid that I have to take the noble Lord to task. It is nonsense to suggest that we go into a pub, pick up eight people and say, Lets get these chaps and keep them in detention while we try and find some evidence. The Security Service, GCHQ, SIS and SO15 have been involved.
14 Oct 2008 : Column 609
Lord West of Spithead: I will not give way, my Lords. These are not people dragged in off the streetit is a very different situation. This makes me slightly annoyed because we do not do that. We put a huge effort into this; we do not scoop up little innocent chaps at a football match and throw them into detention. That is not what they are.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I must make this point to do with computers. I have looked at the number of people involved, and there are choke points which make it impossibleit would not matter if we had 10,000 analysts. There are also the problems of going into other jurisdictions. If you go to Pakistan, they are not always 100 per cent helpful and there are countries which will not help. These things all take time, so it as not as straightforward as has been said.
Baroness Manningham-Buller: My Lords, I support the Minister in his analysis. It may help the House, in thinking about this issue, to differentiate between intelligence from whatever source, whether it comes from overseas or is from a human source regarding what one person said to another. It is not admissible in evidence because it is hearsay. It is being developed to try to make it evidence on which to charge people. During the 28 days, intelligence that has been collected has been seen by the CPS and is shared with the police who will consider what of that intelligence amounts to evidence on which people can be charged. This is a proper process.
There has been too much confusion in Committee between intelligence, which is in most cases imprecise, incomplete and insufficient when it comes to charging people, and evidence which, quite rightly, meets a high standard before it can be used. That transition is what happens in a period of reasonable suspicion.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, for that interjection. She put far more eloquently than I did, because I became slightly stroppy, exactly what I was trying to say. It is not as straightforward as that.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|