I move amendment No. 1:
In page 7, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following section:
"(2) The Offences Against the State Acts 1939 to 1998 andsections 48 to 53 may be cited as the Offences against the State Acts 1939 to 2004.”.
The amendment proposes the inclusion of the legislation in a collective citation covering emergency legislation relating to domestic offences and offences expected to be committed by international organisations or an external element. As these Acts are of this nature, make amendments to the Offences Against the State Act and deal with the proceeds of crime and confiscation of the proceeds of crime — terrorist crime in this case — it is appropriate that they would all be cited as Offences Against the State Acts 1939 to 2004.
The legislation under discussion goes back a long way. We had the initial framework document in 2001, the legislation was introduced in 2002 and now in the latter days of 2004 we are at the 11th hour. It is possible now to look at the legislation and the framework document and decision that preceded it from a more distant perspective than in the immediate aftermath of the tragic events of 11 September 2001. I am glad the legislation was not rushed through at that time. There are some occasions when it is good to leave legislation on the books for a while and this was one.
Much of this legislation is of an emergency nature. It will introduce offences against the State when we had reached the stage of reviewing such measures. We had hoped, especially with the possibility of a peace deal in Northern Ireland arising from the Good Friday Agreement, that we would review all emergency legislation. The Hederman committee produced a report on which action has not been taken, but some decision is required on it because it is part of the Good Friday Agreement from 1998. I had hoped we would try to eliminate some elements of this type of legislation rather than increase the corpus of emergency powers. However, we seem to be going in the wrong direction.
I notice that in the new Criminal Justice Bill we are again normalising what would be regarded as powers of detention. I remember the debate that took place in 1984 on the increase in the period of detention from six to 12 hours. When we pass the Criminal Justice Bill 2004, we will double that period to 24 hours.
This is emergency legislation and therefore should be cited appropriately rather than giving the impression that it is something less. It is also important that we review it periodically. We are passing substantial powers. While there is some justification for them, we do not have an assessment of that justification. We should have an assessment here and internationally. An international threat is not necessarily a domestic threat. However, that does not mean we should not be careful and take whatever measures are appropriate.
When we passed our offences against the State legislation in 1939, followed by amending legislation in 1992 and 1998, it was to deal with a domestic threat to the State. In this case it seems we are responding to a threat to other states, particularly the United States. Do we need the same level of protective measures as would be required in the United States? We need to do a full review and assessment of security in this country and examine where the threats lie.
I would welcome an explanation from the Minister in the form of a background assessment as to why we need anti-terrorism legislation as distinct from the current domestic legislation, the Offences Against the State Acts. What is the international threat to this country and from where does it come? Is the threat internal? Are there elements of it in the country, for example, al-Qaeda or other organisations with terrorist contacts, engaging in or threatening terrorist activities? The definition of terrorism includes both the threat and the activity.
It would be useful for this House to know the Minister's assessment from the information available in the Departments of Defence and Justice, Equality and Law Reform. He need not reveal confidential matters to provide this but let us know where we stand at this point. We see on CNN and Sky News the level of fear and the perception of the global threat of terrorism, but where do we stand? What is the threat to us and how does this legislation fit into the global context.