§ 8. Mr. Dalyell
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the Amnesty International report on British treatment of Iraqi nationals.
§ Mr. Kenneth Baker
I have placed in the Library a copy of a reply sent to Amnesty International on 18 February. I am satisfied that the action taken against Iraqi nationals is in accordance with domestic law and our international obligations. The International Committee of the Red Cross has visited all Iraqis detained and has stated that they are being treated in accordance with the Geneva conventions.
§ Mr. Dalyell
In view of the recent heavyweight criticism that current United Kingdom law, which allows people to be detained on grounds of national security without being given a reason for their detention, is in breach of international law, do the Government have plans in any way to synchronise United Kingdom arrangements and bring them into line with the proposed international arrangements?
§ Mr. Baker
I appreciate the interest that the hon. Gentleman has shown in the matter in recent weeks. I do not accept that the action that we have taken is in breach of international standards. In certain other countries, Iraqis were bundled out very quickly indeed. The hon. Gentleman is familiar with the procedures that operate in such cases. The advisory panel is headed by a lord justice of appeal and it has so far dealt with 54 cases. In his judgment on the Cheblak case, the Master of the Rolls examined the basis of the three advisers' procedures and 447 took the view that the arrangements struck a proper balance between the protection of individual rights and the requirements of national security.
§ Mr. Alexander
Have not we behaved impeccably to the Iraqis during the Gulf conflict? My right hon. Friend mentioned, for example, the due judicial process which must be gone through before any of them is ejected. Does my right hon. Friend recollect the threats, emanating from Baghdad of increased terrorist activity? Were not we wise to be safe rather than sorry?
§ Mr. Baker
I fully support what my hon. Friend says. At the outbreak of hostilities, Saddam Hussein called on Iraqis and other sympathisers across the world to take action to support him. We were absolutely right to follow the principle that it is better to be safe than sorry. Although hostilities in the Gulf have now ceased, it would be imprudent to believe that international terrorism, whether from the middle east or from other countries, will cease. We must therefore continue to be vigilant.
§ Mr. Winnick
Is the Home Secretary aware that I, for one, totally accept that while we were in military conflict with a notorious terrorist dictatorship it was necessary on national security grounds to take various actions? [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] I am not going to apologise for that —least of all to those who did not support the military conflict in any way.
Is the Home Secretary aware, however, that I should like to see progess in one form of activity? Is not there a strong case for those who appear before the three advisers to have legal representation or some other form of representation so that our democratic process is not harmed?
§ Mr. Baker
I have known the hon. Gentleman in the House for many years, dating back to when he represented another seat. I have always thought of him as an hon. Member who is not afraid to stand up and speak his mind on any subject, as he has done with great fearlessness in the past few weeks. I appreciate the concern that he and others have expressed about this matter. In practice, lawyers have made representations—sometimes directly to the three advisers, who have seen those lawyers if that was what was wanted. Representations have also been made to me by the lawyers. There is, therefore, some flexibility. I believe that those cases have been handled fairly—in fact, with impeccable fairness.
§ Mr. Andrew MacKay
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the overwhelming majority of people in this country will be gratified and relieved at the action that the Government have taken, which has ensured that no terrorist incident has taken place? Is he further aware that they will equally contrast what has happened to Iraqi nationals in this country with what happened to the Kuwaitis when Iraq moved into that country?
§ Mr. Baker
The despicable behaviour of some Iraqis during their occupation of Kuwait is not a standard to be followed by any country. We have behaved according to the highest standards. I appreciate that the powers are unusual and as Home Secretary I have therefore been especially careful to ensure that everything has been done to give those people a fair hearing.