CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

HOME AFFAIRS – 42 DAYS' DETENTION – 11 June 2008

Dr Julian Lewis: My right hon. Friend [David Davis] referred to people being released right up against the buffers, as it were. The Government are saying that the nightmare scenario is that someone would be released after 28 days and then go on to commit some heinous offence. They are also saying that the numbers of people involved in the exercise of 42 days' detention would be very small and in circumstances of grave threat. Surely it is hard to imagine any circumstances where if someone had to be released after 28 days, they would not be under the most intense surveillance thereafter. It is hard to see how even if they were released under those circumstances, they could then precipitate an atrocity on the scale that the Government anticipate.

[Mr Davis: My hon. Friend makes a good point. There are two aspects that relate to a small number of cases involving one, two or three people. This is where the Home Secretary differs from me in wanting the scope to act. It is entirely possible that the security agencies and the police could put a small number of people under close surveillance – through a control order, I suppose, if one believes that they work. It could be overt surveillance – there is no reason why a police car could not be put outside a house – or covert surveillance. All those things are possible.

My hon. Friend reminds me of something that I forgot to say earlier. Implicit in some of the arguments made is that the people in question are a threat or danger to the public. The image conjured up is one of some sort of dangerous terrorist who will go out to bomb the nearest station or plane. Indeed, the Home Secretary implied that when she spoke of 28 days' detention putting the public at risk.]

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Dr Lewis: I emphasise that the hon. Gentleman [Elfyn Llwyd] makes a key point, particularly in the context of concern about a very small number of people being able to wreak a large amount of damage. Will he bear in mind that, given the policy on prisoner releases, putting someone in jail for six weeks is equivalent to sentencing someone found guilty in a criminal court to three months in prison and releasing them halfway through?

[Mr Llwyd: The hon. Gentleman makes his case strongly, and I am obliged to him for that.]

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[Mr Llwyd: ... We heard from Lord Stevens that there is a real need for this measure and that some evidence is now coming through. I ask the question: are the Government using Lord Stevens as some kind of outrider to avoid having to “sex up” evidence, as they did with the Iraq dossier? I do not know, but I would not put it past them.]

Dr Lewis: That was only 45 minutes.