We wondered if Baroness Mannigham-Buller would comment on the Counter-Terrorism Bill, and she has done so in her maiden speech to the House of Lords.
Sitting on the Cross Benches, she has come out against the Government's plans, as have former New Labour Chancellor Lord Falconer, former New Labour Attorney general Lord Goldsmith
Baroness Helen Kennedy, a Labour human rights barrister, and Lord Condon, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner have also spoken against the extension to 442 days of holding people without charge.
The Labour member of the intelligence and Security Committee, the Rt. Hon. Lord Foulkes of Cumnock managed to bring up Andy Burnham, praising his controversial comments against David Davis and even mentioning Shami Chakrabarti's threat to sue Burnham, in his blustering support of the Government.
We may be wrong, but it certainly looked as if someone bearing a resemblance to Shami Chakrabarti was actually sitting in the visitor's gallery in the Chamber of the Lords whilst he said this.
Baroness Mannigham-Buller's speech:
This is from Hansard's daily Today in the Lords, which gets replaced by the official Hansard transcript the following morning.
The official Lord's Hansard version of the speech:
Baroness Manningham-Buller: My Lords, I am delighted to be in your Lordships' House. I thank noble Lords for the very warm welcome that I have had from all parts of the House and for the generous comments made today.
Normally, I would have liked a little longer than a week to settle in and to learn the conventions of your Lordships' House before opening my mouth, but I have learnt one convention, which has been drummed home to me, which is that maiden speeches are to be short and non-controversial. I can do short, but non-controversial is a bit trickier in the circumstances.
Since 9/11, we have had a great deal of terrorism legislation. One point that has not been made so far is that successful counterterrorism work depends on a number of things, but in particular on good intelligence and good police work, not necessarily on changes in the law. That said, all the legislation has had some important and enabling provisions.
I applaud the fact that we are discussing now, rather than against the background of an atrocity, where this country wants to draw the line on issues such as pre-charge detention. I have considerable sympathy with the police on the collection of evidence, which is very challenging, given the need to move early, the amount of seized data, the complexity of cases and the forensics. I congratulate the anti-terrorist branch of the Metropolitan Police for the superb job that it does. But arguments can be made to justify any time of detention, just as in other countries, although mercifully not here, they can be made to justify any method of interrogation.
In deciding what I believe on these matters, I have weighed up the balance between the right to life--the most important civil liberty--the fact that there is no such thing as complete security and the importance of our hard-won civil liberties. Therefore, on a matter of principle, I cannot support the proposal in the Bill for pre-charge detention of 42 days.
I understand that there are different views and that these judgments are honestly reached by others. I respect those views, but I do not see on a practical basis or on a principled one that these proposals are in any way workable for the reasons already mentioned and because of the need for the suspect to be given the right to a fair trial.
Finally, I have been fortunate in my career to have dealt with national security. It has been a great privilege. Our legislation covering the Security Service refers to the protection of parliamentary democracy. I have a plea: handling national security should, as far as possible, be above party politics, as it has been for most of my career. Faced by a severe terrorist threat, we should aim to reach, after debate and discussion, a broad, cross-party consensus on the way ahead. Polarised positions are damaging to what we are all trying to achieve in preventing--I underline that--detecting and countering terrorism.
8 July 2008 : Column 648
Obviously in a traditionally short maiden speech, she did not have time to mention the other controversial areas of the Counter-Terrorism Bill e.g. the nobbling of Coroner's Juries and Inquests, the use of intercept evidence in secret asset freezing and secret Coroner's inquests, which some other Lords have mentioned.
None of them seem to have mentioned the DNA and fingerprint and the other data sharing powers which further destroy professional duty of confidentiality, aspects of the Bill.