HC Deb 15 January 2003 vol 397 cc683-95 12.31 pm
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement on yesterday's events in Manchester.

I know that the House would want to reiterate the words of the Prime Minister in expressing great sadness, regret and outrage at yesterday's tragic events in Greater Manchester, which resulted in the death of Detective Constable Stephen Oake and the injury of four other police officers. Our deepest condolences go to Detective Oake's family; our thoughts must be with them and the injured and their families at this time.

Yesterday, I used my powers under the Antiterrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 to certify the detention, pending deportation, of two foreign nationals who are suspected of involvement in terrorism and of posing a threat to national security. The Greater Manchester police were acting with immigration officers in support of the operation to detain one of those individuals. Police in Manchester detained three men in total. The second national certified by me has now been detained in London. In total, 15 people have so far been detained under the provisions of the Act.

Greater Manchester police have activated their major incident procedures and are conducting a murder inquiry. I shall, of course, report further to the House when I am in a position to do so.

On 7 November, I outlined in a written statement the scale and nature of the threat that we face from international terrorists. In the past few months, my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary and I have made it clear that that threat is a continuing and dangerous one. I know that the whole House supports the efforts of the police and the security services to detect and prevent terrorist incidents. Parliament has provided the authorities with extra powers through the Terrorism Act 2000 and the Antiterrorism, Crime and Security Act, and I regularly discuss with the security services and the police how those powers are being used and whether they are being used effectively.

Yesterday's events highlighted the ongoing threat that we face. In combating that threat, we rely on the bravery and commitment of police officers and security services in defending us against dangerous criminals and those who threaten the very safety of our country. I commend their bravery to the House.

Mr. Oliver Letwin (West Dorset)

As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made clear, we all share the Home Secretary's admiration for the efforts of police officers involved in protecting our lives against terrorism. Our condolences go to the bereaved and our thoughts are with those officers who have been wounded.

It is far too early to make comments or ask detailed questions about the operation, which clearly went badly wrong in some respects. I am sure that in due course the Home Secretary will give the House some information on the way in which the operation was conducted, on what can be done better to protect police officers under such circumstances, and on whether it is appropriate, in such circumstances, for them to be armed. However, this episode also draws our attention to wider questions.

For many months, I have been attempting to alert the Home Secretary and the Government as a whole—and the country as a whole—to the fact that although the Government very clearly have the protection of citizens at heart, and although they do have some machinery to achieve that effect, there are worrying signs that there is not yet the level of urgency that is needed to match the level of threat that the Government rightly acknowledge. The recent entry into Sizewell B power station by some protesters was a worrying sign; signs from the civil defence community that the level of preparedness on the ground is not all that it might be are also worrying.

I hope that the Home Secretary will tell us today that he will redouble his efforts to increase co-ordination to match the level of threat; but, beyond that, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition pointed out in Prime Minister's questions a moment ago, this episode raises the question of whether our current chaotic system of asylum arrangements, of which the Home Secretary is very well aware and which he has attempted in one way and another to mend, notwithstanding the fact that his predecessor left them in probably the worst state of any country in the civilised world—

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)

The right hon. Gentleman should not say things like that.

Mr. Letwin

The right hon. Gentleman says that I should not say things like that, but they happen to be true, and have been known to be true. They have been known by the current Home Secretary to be true, which is why he has been trying to put them right. However, I regret to say that there is ample evidence that, at present, people are getting through the asylum system who do not have the best interests of this country at heart, and who intend to pursue terrorist activities. What will the Home Secretary do over the coming weeks and months urgently to intensify the security vetting of those who seek to enter this country? That is clearly the question that the House needs to ask, and it is clearly the question that the Home Secretary needs to answer.

Mr. Blunkett

I am deeply sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has chosen to attack the record and actions of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why"?] He inherited a system that was on the verge of breakdown. I, at another time—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Opposition Front Benchers have asked the Home Secretary several questions, so it is only courteous to listen to what the Home Secretary has to say.

Mr. Blunkett

At another time and in a more appropriate setting I shall be happy to explain why we had to put in place a new computerised fingerprinting operation, why we had to restore a system following the collapse of the computer that had been ordered in 1996 and why my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) had to take the actions that he did; but let us deal now with last night's events.

The right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) is right to say that, as part of the inquiry, proper facts about what happened will be laid out. It is my understanding, however, that the initial incursion by a very large number of police, supported by immigration services, was made with the support of armed police officers and with the necessary body armour. It was subsequent events that led to the tragic death of Stephen Oake. It is my understanding also, and I think that it will be the understanding of the House, that the work of MI5 and of special branch and the police, leading to the arrests, shows how well our system is working in identifying and taking action against those who threaten our lives and security. It is precisely because we certificated those people whom we believed to be a risk that Greater Manchester police were acting on the advice given to me, through the security services. That affirms that the system is working—tragically, it led to the death of Stephen Oake—and underpins the fact that we are on top of those who threaten our lives and livelihoods.

We do not need to be reminded by the right hon. Gentleman that he has drawn my attention to the urgency of the matter. After all, the Government were held to account by the Opposition parties and by some elements of the press for what they described as acting too urgently and precipitately in autumn 2001. We were opposed for that very reason again and again in the House and we were ridiculed for it. In the past 12 months, certain elements of the Opposition and the press have constantly said that our action was disproportionate and that we did not have a balanced approach to the protection of our nation vis-à-vis the freedom of the individual. It is those who believe in global trade, global movements and the freedom of the individual who are now calling for even more draconian measures.

Let me deal head on with the issue raised by the Leader of the Opposition and, on his behalf, by the shadow Home Secretary, who must have to eat his words as he repeats his leader's decision to up the ante on asylum. Let us be clear about what we have done. We have introduced a warning system, whereby everyone who goes through the immigration process is identified to check whether they are on the security services' warning index.

I assure the House that, first, we will look into further refining that system by using the computerised fingerprinting and surveillance systems that Opposition Members so often oppose, which were in part introduced by the present Foreign Secretary.

Secondly, on 29 October 2001 I announced the introduction of a range of new processes—induction, reporting centres and an asylum registration card, which is now virtually completely in place—to make registration meaningful and enable us to track those moving through the asylum process. We strengthened the entire immigration process, as the Prime Minister reiterated, to ensure that those who commit a crime can be removed, that there is a fast-track system for doing that and that we can quickly reject those who come into our country clandestinely.

On the basis of expediency, the very people who have chosen to use asylum in the way they have this afternoon have opposed so much of what we have done. Let me make it clear that whatever the basis on which people enter our country—on a visa for tourism or for short stays, with a visa for a work permit or as asylum seekers—we will deal with them if they pose a threat to our country.

In the interests of community and race relations, however, let no one suggest that we can assume that asylum seekers pose the sole threat and that it is asylum that we need to fear. It is those people who use asylum and freedom of movement throughout the world and who organise against our interests whom we must fear. It is the people who are helping us to arrest, hold and secure those who pose that threat of whom we should be so proud today.

Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey)

First, I join my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) and all my colleagues around the country, especially those in Greater Manchester and Cheshire, in associating ourselves with expressions by the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary of love, sympathy and gratitude to Stephen Oake's family, and of support and solidarity to chief constable Mike Todd and all those who work with him in Greater Manchester police. Many of us have personal experience of their calibre and quality and want to put on record the debt we all owe them.

I endorse entirely the tone of the Home Secretary's response to the previous intervention. The raids in Wood Green, in Edinburgh, in Bournemouth and in Crumpsall yesterday show that the intelligence services and the police are very much in command of the situation. They are a tribute to the work done behind the scenes and in difficult circumstances, and the public need to know that the Home Secretary has every confidence that we are managing the terrorist threat and the threats from individuals to our liberties in a very professional, effective and advanced way. I share the right hon. Gentleman's views in that respect.

Will the Home Secretary deal with three matters that I hope are appropriate to raise now? Will he confirm that the police's view remains that the presumption should be that they are not routinely armed, but that any police force that feels that, to do their job, its officers need to be armed or to have special protective clothing or other protective equipment can use such equipment when the judgment on the ground is that it is appropriate? Will he also confirm that there are no restrictions on that?

Secondly, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the reality today, even if it was not 50 years ago, is that the special branch of the Met, the National Crime Squad and the National Criminal Intelligence Service show that we have a level of national policing because there is national activity that has to cross the boundaries of police forces? Does not the reality of policing today mean that we must recognise, formally and openly, that, built on the foundations of local policing, we now need regional, national and international policing; and that unless that level of policing is fully supported, we will not be able to counter those who work internationally and are no respecters of police authority or police force boundaries?

Finally, while I share the Home Secretary's view that terrorism in this country is no more the province of asylum seekers than of other foreign nationals who come here or British-born persons who are persuaded of that awful route, is it not worth re-examining the recommendation of the Select Committee on Home Affairs that we could do well by toughening our border controls and replacing the three different agencies that share responsibility at our airports and seaports with one common border force? If the Home Secretary reconsidered that course of action, he would have considerable support. It would allow our liberties, including liberty of movement, to remain, but be the most effective way of ensuring that those who seek to undermine liberty are caught, dealt with and prosecuted according to law.

Mr. Blunkett

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's opening remarks.

It is not our intention that the police should be routinely armed, but our clear objective, and that of chief constables across the country, is that they should be able to make a local decision in the light of circumstances. I understand that the chief constable of Greater Manchester, Mike Todd, had made that decision in respect of the original incursion into the buildings last night.

Secondly, I share the view that we need the best possible co-ordination between existing crime and intelligence agencies. We are considering how to make sure that, as we do at European level and internationally, we do that more effectively nationally and regionally. SO13, led by David Veness from the Met, performs that role in anti-terrorist and special branch functions very well indeed.

On the third question, if memory serves, my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) raised that issue with me at the time of the proscription of the four organisations that we dealt with in the autumn. I said at the time that I did not rule out a change in the organisation of border and port controls. It is worth examining that, as we have in respect of security at airports, within the context of having a clearly focused, prioritised and objective way of using the services available to us to target those whom we know form a genuine risk.

Those people, whether in the press or in this House, who believe that we could surveil, secure details of and verify 100 per cent. the security ratings of the 90 million people who pass through our ports and airports each year are living in a totally different world. From talking to the Attorney General of the United States, it appears that the US takes the same view. Through intelligence work and security, we must take a prioritised and focused approach; it is the only way in which we can proceed, and it is all that we can do. Despite our best efforts and the efforts of those who work for us, in the end, in a global economy with global movements, we cannot create a fortress Britain.

Mr. Graham Stringer (Manchester, Blackley)

I pay tribute to Stephen Oake and the other officers who were injured in my constituency last night. I wish particularly to pass on my condolences to the family. I have just realised, having read the front page of The Daily Telegraph, that I know Stephen's father quite well from the world of international sport. He chaired the Isle of Man commonwealth games committee and we worked together on the Manchester games and in the run-up to them. I therefore feel particularly emotional and upset. My thoughts are with Robin and the family.

I pay tribute to the refreshingly open way in which the new chief constable of Greater Manchester has provided a great deal more information than we have come to expect. I suspect that he has provided as much information as he can to reassure the local community and the country as a whole.

I live within a couple of hundred yards of where last night's incident took place. I know that the relationships in what is a very mixed cultural and ethnic community are extremely good. I ask my right hon. Friend to agree with me that there is a national problem of international terrorism, and that it is not a Manchester or north London problem.

Mr. Blunkett

Once again, we reiterate our condolences and understand my hon. Friend's words. I can confirm entirely what he said. The actions taken arising from the decision to certify one individual were taken on the basis that we want action wherever and whenever it is necessary.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

Detective Constable Stephen Robin Oake was one of my constituents. He lived with his wife of 20 years, Lesley, and his son and two daughters in the village of Poynton in my constituency. He was a thoroughly committed, dedicated and brave career professional policeman. His father, as we heard from the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Stringer), was an assistant chief constable in Greater Manchester, following which he was chief constable of the Isle of Man constabulary.

I make a plea that the media and others respect the grief and the privacy of the Oake family. I ask for a total commitment from the Home Secretary and express the hope—I am grateful, on behalf of the family, for the sympathy that has been expressed by the Home Secretary, by the Prime Minister, by the Leader of the Opposition and by the spokesman for the Liberal party—that the Government, the House and all political parties will do all within their power to ensure that Stephen's life was not lost in vain and to ensure that terrorism does not succeed.

Mr. Blunkett

We all join the hon. Gentleman in requesting that the privacy and integrity of the family be respected and agree that we have an obligation, whatever debates take place across the Dispatch Boxes, to ensure that Stephen Oake did not die in vain. We must learn lessons from what is happening and what happened last night, and apply them in protecting ourselves.

Mr. Kaufman

Following the dignified and moving intervention of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) and the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Stringer), may I say that the people of Manchester and the family of the murdered police officer, who are mourning that death and lamenting the injuries to the other police officers, will not take kindly to politicians seeking to score cheap political points over a deeply sad, tragic and alarming event? Hon. Members who seek to do so will win scorn rather than support.

I agree with what the hon. Member for Macclesfield and my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley said, but this terrible event demonstrates that terrorism knows no frontiers inside the country or outside it, and that the measures that we are taking against terrorism are justified.

Mr. Blunkett

I share entirely the points made by my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale. West)

I, too, extend my condolences to the family of DC Oake. It may be too soon for the Home Secretary to comment, but I ask him to assure the House, if he is able to do so, that last night's tragic events were not in any way caused by a co-ordination failure between the security services, the local special branch and Greater Manchester police. Does the right hon. Gentleman feel that any lessons can be learned in improving that co-ordinaton, which might save other tragedies in future?

Mr. Blunkett

On the latter point, I think that there will be lessons to be learned; the review arising from the major incident report will highlight the lessons. I can give an assurance that co-ordination between the security services, SO13—the anti-terrorism branch—and the local police was very good, and that the initial incursion was a success. As I said earlier, arms and body armour were available and were used. It was a subsequent part of the process of dealing with the three people in the dwelling and with what was discovered that led, tragically, to Stephen Oake's death.

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central)

I join my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the whole House in offering my commiserations to the family of Stephen Oake. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is at times such as this that we are forced to focus on the great bravery that we ask of servicing officers in Greater Manchester police and in police forces generally? It is a dangerous job. Fortunately, this sort of tragedy does not happen too often, but it is something that is in the very nature of the role that the police perform.

My right hon. Friend had to act against those suspected of involvement in terrorism. Will he make it clear from the Dispatch Box that asylum seekers in Manchester or elsewhere in Britain are not collectively accused of involvement in terrorism? We must recognise that the vast majority of those who seek refuge in this country want to contribute to the British way of life and do not, sadly, as in this case, want to take from it.

Mr. Blunkett

I reiterate my hon. Friend's point. We must make it clear that we deal with individuals who threaten our lives, not with groups of individuals whom we can dub in a particular way at a particular time for a particular purpose.

We have all commented on police bravery. High-profile events such as yesterday's capture the headlines, but it is worth remembering those who lost their lives in less high-profile events because of the bravery that they showed. I think that our families would want us to do that as well.

Mr. George Osborne (Tatton)

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton), I represent members of Greater Manchester police who live in east Cheshire. I know that Stephen's death will be felt deeply in the police community and throughout the Manchester area and the Cheshire area.

May I ask the Home Secretary about the nature and scale of the terrorist threat? I have heard informed Government sources say that there are about 1,000 people in this country who are potential international terrorist operatives. Is that figure really correct—are we talking about a threat of that magnitude?

Mr. Blunkett

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman seriously expects me to speculate on the number of people who may or may not pose a terrorist threat. What I can say clearly to the House is that anyone who is suspected of posing a terrorist threat, or who is suspected of dealing with or succouring terrorists, will of course be under surveillance and will be dealt with appropriately. There are no meaningful and verifiable figures of the sort used in the media, and I do hope that the considered and sensible way in which we have normally dealt with these matters in the House not only prevails here, but is reflected in the media. One of the great strengths of our country is that we are not just stoical; we deal with things with a clear and hard head, and we know what does and does not make sense.

Angela Eagle (Wallasey)

May I also associate myself with condolences offered to the family of Stephen Oake, and to those officers who were injured? I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), in that the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman's response to today's statement constituted a misjudgment. Will my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary comment on the progress that is being made in international co-operation among law enforcement agencies, particularly within the European Union, to try to anticipate such threats, and to prevent the threats to our country and our way of life that the arrests of Algerian terrorist gangs in the past week have demonstrated?

Mr. Blunkett

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend's work in helping to secure precisely that co-operation across Europe, both in terms of immigration and of the policing and security services, and I thank her for it. We have been building on that through genuine cooperation between the services, and by enabling people to share data. Eurodac—the fingerprinting database that was announced only a day or two ago by the relevant Minister—assists us by enabling the sharing of that information and the tracking of those who pose a threat to us all.

Dr. John Pugh (Southport)

May I add my condolences to those eloquently expressed by other Members; and can the Home Secretary say how long the suspected terrorists involved in this case have been in this country, and in the north-west in particular?

Mr. Blunkett

I can deal with the individual who was certified yesterday, and who was arrested in Manchester. He has been in this country, off and on, for about four years. He sought asylum and was refused, took his case to appeal, absconded and disappeared, and was then tracked. This is the real issue for the House: he was not let go and forgotten about; he was tracked by the security services, to the point where we were about to arrest and deal with him under legislation passed in autumn 2001.

Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon)

In passing on my condolences to the Oake family, may I ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to look again at taking action against those who incite such violence? I am referring to Abu Hamza, for example, who, incidentally, was given permission to remain in the United Kingdom by the previous Government. May I remind my right hon. Friend that when Abu Hamza spoke in Burnley four years ago—Burnley is not that far from Manchester—he used language to incite precisely such violent knife attacks on what he called "non-believers"? What happened last night was exactly the sort of incident that Abu Hamza has been inciting for many years. Is it not time to take such threats and statements seriously, and to take action against Abu Hamza and others of his ilk?

Mr. Blunkett

My hon. Friend has been assiduous in rightly pursuing these incidents and issues—as have I—to ensure that the Metropolitan police and, where necessary, the security services evaluate the words and the actions of individuals such as the one mentioned this afternoon. We all know how difficult this matter is, given that there are those who are very careful not to overstep the mark. Baroness Thatcher had exactly the same problems with this individual—this is not a party political point—way back in 1990–91. Real attempts were made to deal with him, but his care in not crossing the line caused the then Government and the police to back off. However, make no mistake about it: every word and every action is being monitored, and we need to do so in a way that secures the confidence of people who are sick and tired of individuals like him abusing our hospitality.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough)

May I briefly touch on one point that has been raised on several occasions? The fact that my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary asks questions that occasionally discomfit the Government does not mean that they are illegitimate, and it is a pity that the manner in which his questions have been considered has created that reaction.

Yesterday's events in Manchester, about which people have spoken movingly, demonstrate—if ever it needed to be demonstrated—that the distinction between our domestic security and our foreign security is not a real one. I therefore suggest to the Home Secretary that he and his right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary discuss a means whereby we can have a debate in this House during which the security of this country at home and abroad is considered in a calm, rational and mature atmosphere, so that the Government can explain their overall policy on international terrorism overseas, and its effects on our national security in this country. That would help us to avoid being reactive, and therefore ill tempered.

Mr. Blunkett

On the first point, I do not want to get sidetracked into considering the actions or words of the shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin). I have reflected, however, on whether my first reaction if I were in opposition would have been to appear on "Newsnight" and to make the remarks about asylum that he made. I can only presume that the dramatic change of character and approach of the past few weeks has been engendered from elsewhere. I have a great deal of time for the right hon. Gentleman, and it is very sad indeed to see this transformation taking place.

On the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) about having a debate, we had a measured, sane and rational debate on 11 July, but as I have said before, I think that it was reported in only one column of one newspaper. I commend that newspaper—I think that it was The Independent—because it usually has a real go at me; in fact, I have never known it not to do so.

Secondly, we will shortly be debating the renewal of some of the powers in part 4 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. I hope that that will also provide an opportunity to reflect on these matters, and that we are able, as we so often are, to transcend party politics in not only addressing the issues, but making sensible suggestions that a wise Government are clever enough to take on board.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central)

I am one whose voice and vote have always supported the current Home Secretary in his attempts to deal with difficult questions, and for everyone in this House difficult questions do indeed surround this issue. As he knows, my constituency office deals with a high number of asylum seekers, the vast majority of whom are here genuinely. However, last week an Afghan refugee came into my office and said that he was claiming asylum as a former fighter with the Taliban. One needs to question whether this is a sensible system. If we have a war in Iraq, at the end of it supporters of Saddam Hussein would presumably be entitled to claim asylum in the west. This is a ridiculous position.

Mr. Blunkett

I do not consider that it is not possible for people to return to Afghanistan. After the fall of Saddam Hussein, I would not consider that it was impossible for people to return to a free and democratic Iraq. However, I take my hon. Friend's point entirely. Sanity has to prevail in the way in which we legislate and process matters, and in the way in which the judicial system deals with appeals. If the individual in question was trying to hide his intent or past history, he was not doing a particularly good job of it by coming into my hon. Friend's surgery and announcing his past endeavours.

Lady Hermon (North Down)

Speaking as the wife of a former Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, which of course lost 302 officers at the hands of those involved in terrorist activity, may I say how desperately sorry I was that we learned last night of the murder of a young police officer doing his duty in Manchester? Mercifully, we have been spared such acts in Northern Ireland in recent years. I am terribly sorry for Stephen Oake's family that they have been put through such pain and suffering, as well as his colleagues and the community of Manchester. Such an event is a terrible tragedy in any community.

May I urge the Home Secretary to consult the present Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Hugh Orde, to see what lessons can be learned further to protect police officers, to ensure that there is no repetition of last night's appalling incident in Manchester?

Mr. Blunkett

Yes, I am very happy to do that. We all accept that the hon. Lady was closer to such events through her husband than any of us have been. We respect and understand her very strong feelings.

Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone and The Weald)

May I add my condolences to the family of Stephen Oake? [also pay tribute to the security and intelligence services, which have obviously twice now got the right information and managed to track down activity that is dangerous to all of us.

Nevertheless, will the Home Secretary answer the questions asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) from the Front Bench? Will he specifically tell me what his reasons are for not adopting a policy of securely housing all new applicants for asylum until either, under my proposed policy, their cases are determined, or, according to the advice that he received from his officials, at least until their identity has been determined?

Mr. Blunkett

First, I did not receive such advice. I am aware of the disclosure to the right hon. Lady under the appropriate Act and of the e-mail sent by a junior official shortly after I had made a statement to Parliament laying out how the induction reporting and ARC—application registration card—system would register and track those who came to the immigration service in a way that was not possible before June 2001. Secondly, I said that the logistical cost of providing wholly secure accommodation for every single asylum seeker and their dependents while they are assessed and their security rating is evaluated is enormous. As we have seen in respect of planning consents, we could still be in the process of trying to secure those centres without the reporting, the ARC card and induction in a way that would not have ensured our security—but might have made her feel better.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

Having finished the admirable 20-day parliamentary police service scheme in Brixton only last Friday, may I express my especial sympathy to the family of DC Oake and to the officers who were injured in Manchester? It is our duty to the police service and the country as a whole to ensure that our systems of immigration control really work and that those who are in breach of the immigration regulations are returned promptly. In respect of applications for asylum, we must ensure that the provisions of the Dublin convention are upheld. Thus, applicants who come from EU countries should not, prima facie, have to be dealt with in this country, but should be returned to the EU country in which they first arrived.

Mr. Blunkett

I agree entirely. I know that the whole House will support the Government in future when we deal with those cases, as we had to with the Ahmadi family.

Patrick Mercer (Newark)

As someone who has been present at the scene of the murder of several police officers, I should like to join the rest of the House in expressing my sympathy for Constable Oake and my admiration for the security services in the success that they have achieved. However, when such an incident occurs, it is not currently clear whether the Security Service, the chief constable of the region concerned, or the national co-ordinator of the Metropolitan police's anti-terrorist branch is in charge. If some good is to come from the death of this brave constable, can we ensure that that situation is resolved?

Mr. Blunkett

The Security Service does its job in detecting, conducting surveillance and advising. The anti-terrorism branch works, as it always has, with the local police, as they are the enforcement and arresting authorities. The police are therefore co-ordinated through the anti-terrorism branch in incidents such as yesterday's. It obviously behoves those immediately in charge to ensure that at each stage of the process—there are different stages, as I am sure will become clear as the evidence emerges—the appropriate force is in charge of the aspect in question. I do not want to go further in that regard, as it is important that the major incident programme be undertaken. It is also important that the evaluation of the evidence from those involved be brought forward at a time when, after the terrible trauma caused to those who were present at the incident and had to deal with the attack on the officers who were injured, as well as the death of Stephen Oake, we can evaluate it more carefully.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East)

The Home Secretary is undoubtedly correct to say that what has ended as a police tragedy began as a Security Service success, but does he recall a not dissimilar incident in a prison camp in Afghanistan, when an American interrogator was murdered by someone whom he was interrogating in circumstances in which one would normally have thought that violence was unlikely? Is not one of the lessons that should be drawn from what happened that the mentality of fundamentalist Islamic terrorists is such that they will lash out whenever they can, even if it is to their own obvious disadvantage? Should he not, without prejudging the circumstances of this case, perhaps consider when all those circumstances are known whether guidelines should be issued saying that people who are arrested on suspicion of such terrorist activities should be held in handcuffs until they are removed to a secure environment?

Mr. Blunkett

I am sure that the lessons of yesterday's incident will be learned and that there will be an evaluation of the process that took place in terms of the unhandcuffing of the individual who committed the act and obtained a knife. At this stage, I think that it would better if we said no more about the incident.