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Patrick Mercer warns that extended period of detention without trial would stem flow of intelligence

Patrick Mercer MP: "Whatever we do and whatever we say, if we extend the period of detention before charge, our enemies—wrongly, in my view—will label it internment. Would it be internment? Would it bear any resemblance to what went on during the war years, when Italians and Germans were held? Would it bear any resemblance to what I saw in the 1970s in Northern Ireland, when it was predominantly Catholics who were held? Of course not. It bears no resemblance whatever. But would that stop our enemies claiming that it was internment? Absolutely not.

If we hand that weapon to Islamist fundamentalists, those who would damage this state not just physically, but morally and politically, we would do ourselves a grave disservice. We would immediately lay ourselves open to further alienating the community from which the majority—although not all—of the problem stems. It is crucially important that the British Muslim community is kept on side in its entirety—or as close to its entirety as we can get. If we consider what happened in the 1970s in Northern Ireland, we see that the one word “internment” would—I believe, having listened to the evidence given to the Home Affairs Committee—alienate good, honest, loyal, properly religious and truthful Muslims.

Secondly, and probably even more damagingly, anything we do to damage the flow of intelligence from the relevant communities will turn off our only important weapon in fighting the people whom I am talking about. We can rely on information, observation and analysis, but none of that equates to proper, hard intelligence. Believe me, anything that we do that damages our touts, informers or resources, or that alienates people who are giving information, will damage the fight against terror."

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