Control orders disgust me


I spoke last night in the debate on the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Bill, expressing my contempt for the surrender of our highest values in the face of cowardly enemies.

9.10 pm

Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con): As I follow my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Stephen Phillips), I am reminded of something that I learned shortly after I arrived in the Chamber—that is, that some of the finest and most informative speeches are delivered after the glare of the media has departed from the Front Benches. I found his remarks very interesting, although I have not agreed with all of them.

I associate myself with the remarks of my hon. Friends the Members for Newark (Patrick Mercer) and for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab). Listening to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), I found myself disagreeing with him somewhat. I hope he will forgive me if I say that I think the threat that we face today is not the same as the threat that we faced during the cold war. We do not face total nuclear war or mutually assured destruction. During the cold war we did not capitulate our highest values. Instead, we sought to emphasise them. As my hon. Friend mentions the cold war, I hope the House will forgive me if I quote Reagan in 1964:

“You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin—just in the face of this enemy?”

I could go on, and I am sure some Members would enjoy it if I did. Just in the face of this enemy? No. Some values are higher than life itself.

I particularly associate myself with the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Kris Hopkins). Like him, I have a large Muslim population in my constituency and I have come to be very fond of those fine people. I have found that we share a commitment to justice and to objective morality as the basis for our liberty. It is true that a very small number of my constituents have been convicted of terrorist atrocities, so I approach this subject with considerable care.

As a gallant Member of the House, Mr Deputy Speaker, you may recognise in me a sense of missing the clarity of serving in the armed forces. When I first considered the subject of the prevention of terrorism, I had just come out of university and the law of armed conflict in the UK and carrying firearms in the UK was being explained. It was made perfectly clear to us, fresh out of university, that the correct response to a terrorist caught in the act of committing a terrorist atrocity was a bullet—a single aimed shot at the centre of the chest. We were shocked and appalled when that instructor explained to us that he would be disappointed if any member of the armed forces did not take the opportunity offered by the rules of engagement to shoot a terrorist.

That is only the first category of ways we might deal with terror. The second is that which we are all perhaps more used to—investigation, arrest, charge, conviction, imprisonment. I think the mood of the House is that we would all prefer that standard criminal process to be followed. The final category seems to be the strange twilight which we have entered, the twilight of semi-guilt and shadow justice, where we cannot bring people to prosecution, yet we fear them. What has happened to us?

Some words are so powerful and represent concepts so important that people will lay down their very lives for them—words like “liberty” and “justice”, inseparable words, hooray words, which unfortunately, as I have discovered in my political journey, are subject to interpretation and political conflict. But our forebears laid down their lives for liberty and justice. I was asked once on my journey here if there was one thing I could change about the state that Britain finds itself in, what would it be? Before I was asked, I thought I would say we should leave the European Union, but on reflection and having read the brilliant book by my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton, “The Assault on Liberty”, I found myself thinking briefly and saying, “I would repeal control orders.”

Control orders disgust me. They represent the capitulation of our highest values in the face of cowardly enemies. We should not tolerate them, so like some of my hon. Friends, I welcome clause 1. Clause 1 is a glorious and joyful clause, perhaps the finest I have seen in the House.

We face, we are told, a serious and sustained threat. I find myself returning to Pitt. We have come a long way since 1783 when he said:

“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”

I might go less far, but I would say that the response to fear and to threat is not the abandonment of our highest values; it is courage. It is to reach deep within ourselves and to find the courage to face down cowards. That is what I wish the Government would do.

I meet clauses 2 to 27 and the eight schedules with profound misgivings, but I can hardly vote against them as they represent a move in the right direction. The shadow Home Secretary, although offering us a confused analysis of the Bill, has said that they water down control orders, and I think that a good thing. Lord Macdonald said that this measure is

“an unmistakeable rebalancing of public policy in favour of liberty”.

I welcome that, and I will be supporting the Government tonight, but with a very, very heavy heart.

Finally, I should like to quote Benjamin Franklin:

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

I wish that we did not face such choices, but we do. We should reach within ourselves for that courage to face these fears, these threats, and move forward, keeping our values.

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Comments & Responses

One Response so far.

  1. Al says:

    Hear hear