Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Remember, Remember the 7th of November - David Davis

Way back in November I highlighted a little exchange in the House of Commons when both David Davis and Bob Marshall-Andrews had a few things to say about the Queens Speech.

At the time I highlighted Bob Marshall-Andrews speech as I thought it was fairly significant that a Labour backbencher would have so much to say about what his Government was proposing. I did highlight that David Davis had also made a good speech but it is worth highlighting it a bit more fully to show that detention and all the other points of he mentioned in his resignation speech are not a new subject for David Davis.

Its starts out

It is a particular pleasure to face across the Dispatch Box the Lord High Chancellor, the real Deputy Prime Minister and now, it seems, the acting Home Secretary as well. I have followed the career of the right hon. Gentleman since he was a left-wing firebrand leading the National Union of Students, so it was a particular pleasure to watch him at the heart of the British establishment yesterday, retreating down the steps of the throne in his cloak and tights. I should tell the Lord Chancellor, who was not in a position to hear, that the Prime Minister, watching this scene, turned and said, "Now this is a constitutional reform of which I do approve."
Jack Straw replies
What, walking backwards?
David Davis continues
That is right.

The right hon. Gentleman also knows that I rather approve of him, although I should tell him that when dealing with his successors as Home Secretary, who passed in rather rapid succession, I always thought of him as the one that got away. [ Interruption. ] He agrees.

The Government have approached the Queen's Speech in each of the past 10 years under the misguided assumption that they can meet the challenges Britain faces by sheer volume of new legislation. After 60 Home Office Bills introduced by the Government, it is overwhelmingly clear that law making is no substitute for law enforcement. It is not possible to legislate away gun violence, which has multiplied under this Government, or to legislate away the Government's failure to count, let alone control, immigration, and it is not possible to legislate away the failure to build enough prison places—despite the comments of the Lord Chancellor a moment ago—which has led to the release of 8,500 serious criminals since the new Prime Minister took office.

When it comes to security, the Government have spent a huge amount of time, energy and resources on controversial policies that are ineffective, if not downright counterproductive. Why are the Government wasting billions on ID cards, when the IT can be corrupted by terrorists using a gadget costing £100? Why, with 2,000 individuals threatening our security, are the Government wasting so much energy on a control order regime that monitors 14 terrorists and is so ineffective that seven have escaped, most without trace? Why the fixation on extended detention without trial, which I suspect will be the main issue today, without a shred of evidence that we need longer? Such a change will cut off vital co-operation from local communities and we have emergency powers to deal with the nightmare scenarios that Ministers keep speculating about.

Before coming on to the proposals from the Home Office, I inform the Lord Chancellor that we agree with a number of proposals from his Department. But I have to say that they read rather like an indictment of Labour's record over the past 10 years. There is a Bill to guard against the politicisation of the civil service. We look forward to learning from the Government's experience. There will be reform to require greater parliamentary scrutiny of war-making powers. The former Foreign Secretary is uniquely well qualified to guide us through that. There will be a review of the ban on protestors outside Parliament, but presumably not on hecklers at Labour party conferences.

When it comes to tackling crime, the Government are exhausted, despite the Lord Chancellor's brave words earlier. We heard his numbers; the truth is that violent crime has doubled. They can argue about the figures all they like. The public know the reality on our streets and they have lost all trust in what Ministers say. The single most important measure the Government could have announced today would be to cut the red tape that ties officers to their desks. The Home Secretary claims that the Government have cut 9,000 forms, but when we asked her only two weeks ago to list them, she could not. So I do not expect much of Labour's fifth major review of police red tape that is due in the new year.

A Conservative Government will take the first opportunity to slash red tape and replace it with direct accountability that will get our police back on the streets, cutting crime and responding to the needs of local communities. I understand that the Lord Chancellor is warming to the idea of direct accountability. Perhaps he can clarify his position—or the Home Secretary can do it for us—by telling the House in clear terms whether locally elected police commissioners will be the next policy his Government try to pinch from the Conservative party.

Then we come to the Government's recent statements on immigration, which were a classic demonstration of how they operate. They simply cannot be trusted on this issue. Anyone reading the papers yesterday or the day before would have expected to hear in the Gracious Speech about an immigration Bill that would cut immigration by 35,000—that was the headline. Earlier in the week, one paper said that a "new immigration Bill" setting out a "points-based system" that will

"slash immigration by 35,000 a year will be at the heart of Gordon Brown's first Queen's Speech".

That is wrong on two counts. First, no immigration Bill in this Queen's Speech introduces a points system. It does not exist—it is not there. Secondly, it is misleading because the Government have said that the points system, which is already in place, is not about setting a limit on immigration. The Home Office, in a burst of honesty, said that it could not predict the numbers. A former Immigration Minister said that the system was not about letting fewer or more people in, and the current Minister for Borders and Immigration, when asked how a points-based system would reduce the number of migrants said he was

"not the general secretary of a Soviet-style central planning system".—[ Official Report, 30 April 2007; Vol. 459, c. 1226.]

The Prime Minister will be disappointed.

The Government's proposals on counter-terrorism, however, formed a key component of the Gracious Speech. Only this week, we have heard from the head of MI5 about the growing number of terror suspects—a threat level rising faster than our capacity to monitor it. My party believes that we need a renewed effort across all parties to confront and scale back the terrorist threat. We will join the Government in supporting every effective and appropriate measure with that aim in view. We have called for the introduction of post-charge questioning for two years. We hope that the Government will take swift action on the matter. We shall look closely at arrangements for using DNA in terrorism investigations, and at the workability of proposals for monitoring those convicted of terrorism offences after their release, with the Government's woeful track record on enforcing control orders firmly in mind.

There are areas where we shall urge the Government to go further, and I shall be interested to hear the Home Secretary's views on those when she makes her winding-up speech later today. We intend to bring forward concrete proposals in the context of the Bill to ban fully Hezbollah's activities in Britain, to take action to ensure that charities are not used to finance groups engaged in terrorism and to review the Government's confused approach to banning extremist organisations that preach hatred and violence against this country. We want to see a zero-tolerance approach to those involved in terror.

I had intended to avoid commenting on the question of intercept evidence today in light of the cross-party review that is under way. However, since there was no mention of the review in the Queen's Speech, and since the Home Secretary felt able to brief newspapers that she was hardening against any change in the law, I no longer feel so restrained. Foreign intercept evidence is already used in British courts. Intercept is used in nearly every US prosecution of organised crime and terrorism. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and US prosecutors say that intercept is more often than not the decisive evidence that leads to a conviction. Using intercept will be cost-effective because where used it often results in an early guilty plea and encourages co-operation with the police. The Director of Public Prosecutions, the last Attorney-General and senior officers in the Met have called for intercept to be used in the courts.

The Home Secretary now briefs that she is concerned about compromising the value of intercept as an intelligence-gathering tool, but every other country has found a way to protect sources. Terror suspects are already acutely aware that they may be monitored, but they still use mobile phones. If in any specific case there is a really serious objection, the answer is simple: we do not use intercept in that case. That is why the Australian Director of Public Prosecutions said:

"If you are not using intercept, you aren't being serious."

Let us consider the vexed and central issue of extending detention without charge. We remain open to cross-party dialogue, although internal Government consultations appear to have settled the matter. Their security adviser, Lord West, stated:

"We have to show absolutely that we really do need this".

The Home Secretary's answer to the Select Committee on Home Affairs was:

"I accept that there has not been a circumstance in which it has been necessary up to this point to go beyond 28 days."

Jacqui Smith interjects (stupidly)
Thank goodness.
David Davis continues
I shall deal with the Home Secretary's sotto voce comment of "Thank goodness" because she appeared to imagine that we had picked the number out of the air. It is the longest time for which people can be held without charge in the free world. That is hardly a matter of pride for the Home Secretary to pick on, so we shall come back to her shortly.

The last time the House held the debate—the so-called 90-day debate—the Government did not present any evidence that 90 days were necessary. Instead, they presented an argument that 90 days might be necessary if certain circumstances came to pass. The result was the Government's defeat in the House for the first time in 10 years because they persuaded almost nobody.

Regrettably, a circumstance that greatly resembled the one that the Government described came to pass in the alleged Heathrow plot of August 2006. It was alleged to involve a simultaneous attack, which was believed to be imminent, on 10 airliners. It involved many people and locations, some potentially hazardous, and many computers. The Home Secretary said on the radio this morning that three terabytes of data were involved—I will challenge her about that in the coming weeks. The plot raised problems of evidence gathering. It involved information from a foreign intelligence agency, which, of course, slows things down. The police had to move earlier than they would have chosen, before all their evidence was gathered, because the threat was thought to be imminent. It was almost an exact replica of the imaginary case that Mr. Hayman presented in support of 90 days.

In practice, were 90 days needed? Not at all. Nowhere near 90 days were needed. Fifteen of the defendants were charged in 19 days or less. Five suspects were kept beyond 19 days, two of whom were charged at the 28-day point. Were the full 28 days needed to collect the evidence?

The speech continues on with a number of interruptions but the above give a flavour of what David Davis was thinking over 8 months ago on the detention laws. Read it all here.

Don't forget to visit the new website David Davis for Freedom.

That is right. The right hon....: 7 Nov 2007: House of Commons debates (TheyWorkForYou.com)

No comments: