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Column 1135The Minister said earlier that he had answered that question. I asked my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South, who said that he had not heard the answer. I asked the hon. Members for Thanet, South and for Torbay (Mr. Allason) ; they had not heard the answer either. May we now have the answer to that simple question?
Mr. Gorst : Will my hon. Friend the Minister give me an assurance that two things will not be possible under the Bill? First, will he assure me that categories of people will not include trade unions? Mr. John Patten indicated assent.
Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr) : I came to listen and not to speak, but I want to put three short questions to the Minister. He will have to return to the Dispatch Box simply to clear up many misunderstandings. He did not satisfactorily answer the question about retrospective operation. Is he resting that on the word "is" in line 15 and the word "its" in line 16 of clause 1? The tense of the words is the only ground for retrospective action. That seems a weak argument, and if the matter is dealt with in some other part of the Bill he should draw that to the attention of the Committee. My next point is crucial and was raised by the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd). This is a serious and probing amendment. We seek from the Minister the groups or classifications of people other than Crown servants and Government contractors who could be covered. The Minister gave no example other than the Security Commission. All the people in the list that he read were covered in one way or another by clause 12.
I should like to press the Minister on another matter raised by the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills. Will the person responsible for auditing the books and looking at the accounts of the intelligence services be dedicated to security? The Minister may argue that such work is not closely related to national security, which is the interest of the state. Clause 12 defines the state as the Government. Such a definition could be used to cover up embarrassments that have nothing to do with what we understand to mean national security and the interests of the state. It may be used to save embarrassing the Government. Of course, clause 12 says that the state includes things other than the Government.
Will the Minister answer the question asked by the hon. Member for Aldridge -Brownhills about whether those responsible for auditing the books would be notified? It is a specific question, and it is clearly legitimate to ask it. For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Minister could not bring himself to go wider than he did and give examples of people other than members of the Security Commission. He should have included people who audit the books.
Mr. Corbett : I am sorry to speak again because I know that it is late, but these are extremely important matters and we should do our best to put them right. I do not know what to make of the Minister's list of persons who are
Column 1136likely to be notified. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) said, the Minister did no more than take us at a canter through clause 12 when he talked about senior, carefully selected members of the armed forces, people--mainly civil servants--providing professional support and holders of public office.
The Minister then used a rather curious phrase that does not appear in the Bill. Paragraph 48 of the White Paper makes it clear that, when the Bill reaches the statute book, no one will be able to find out who has or has not been notified, but there is no provision in the Bill for that to be done. The Minister referred to people in positions of trust and went on to mention members of the Security Commission. If the Minister intends to extend the provision and to include, as would be proper following the Government's logic, people holding positions of trust in these sensitive areas, why is that not in the Bill? Will he now consider including it in the Bill? 11.15 pm
I am sure that the Minister did not want to speed up the proceedings and thus fail to answer questions put to him quite legitimately, but what am I to make of his silence about those classes of contractors who are employed from time to time to do specified jobs over specified periods in the offices or premises of the security or intelligence services? Am I to take it that they would not be subject to notification in any circumstances? Mr. John Patten indicated dissent .
Mr. Corbett : The Minister shakes his head. I hope that, when he looks at Hansard, he means that. Perhaps he will put me right on this. Is the Minister saying that, if a fairly lengthy contract for major refurbishment of an MI5 building were involved, necessitating 12 or 18 months' work, none of those contractors would be notified, or can private contractors called in for such work be made temporary Crown servants?
I hope that the Minister will reconsider this matter. Hon. Members are worried that it is left solely to the Minister's whim and discretion and, as he has confirmed tonight, it is not even subject to the expensive and rather lengthy process of judicial review.
Sir Barney Hayhoe : When my hon. Friend the Minister gave way to me a moment ago, I asked him a simple, straightforward question. What happens if a Minister makes a mistake in notifying an individual or individuals? What redress of grievance is available? The House is concerned with the redress of individual's grievances. What redress of grievance is available to an individual who has been wrongly notified? That is a straightforward question, and I hope that the Minister will give us an answer.
Sir Barney Hayhoe : I must still ask what happens if a mistake is made. Is my hon. Friend the Minister saying that the individual who has been wrongly notified has to lump it? Is that what he is saying to persuade the House to vote in favour of this proposition, that the individual with a genuine grievance has to lump it and that the Committee is being asked to legislate to the effect that there is no redress of grievance for that individual?
There is surely no need, as a matter of order, for me to give way to the Minister. We are in Committee and surely
Column 1137all of us, including the Minister, can intervene in the debate as many times as we wish. This is an important enough issue for me to ask the Minister to give a clear answer to what I believe is a clear and straightforward question.
Mr. Dalyell : The Minister obviously does not intend to reply to the questions he has been asked by his hon. Friends or to give answers to a number of other legitimate questions. Some of us believe, in all seriousness--I do not use the word frivolously--that that is an insult to the Committee. To those hon. Members who have just entered the Chamber I say that until now the Minister has been rather good about giving way. He has been courteous to the Committee. These are crucial questions ; they are not debating points.
I ask the Minister yet again a question that has been asked in several forms by several Members on both sides of the Committee: how can an unreasonable ministerial opinion be challenged? That is an important question. Will either a mistake or an unreasonable ministerial opinion be open to challenge? The Minister sits firmly in his place. He may have been given instructions by the Chief Whip to do so, but after all that has taken place today I think that that is extremely poor behaviour.
Mr. Corbett : The Minister's decision not to reply to these questions is absolutely unacceptable. You will have seen, Sir Paul--as has every other hon. Member--the Chief Whip sitting beside the Minister on the Treasury Bench and saying certain words to him. I also saw the Home Secretary, on one of his rare visits during the debate on these amendments, appear--I put it no stronger than that--to encourage the Minister of State to keep what he said to the absolute minimum. I am all in favour of keeping what is said to the absolute minimum, but in this case the Committee is being treated with contempt. Legitimate questions have been put to the Minister by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee.
If, at the behest of some of his hon. Friends who are trying to twist his arm, the Minister intends to deal with legitimate questions in that way, the Committee will have to sit far longer than it needs. If the proceedings go on for a long time, that does not mean that a great deal of ground has been covered. I repeat that legitimate questions were put to the Minister with which he did not deal. It is not good enough for him to leave them unanswered. The Committee will not accept it.
Mr. John Patten : All these fine words, arguments and verbal threats by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) are based on the belief that no further reply would be given. I have been here happily since 4.30 pm, I have given way on many occasions and I have tried to be courteous to the Committee. I seek always to answer all the questions that I can. I do not take amiss the strictures of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), which I presumed were designed to trap me into getting to my feet. I assure him that his strictures were unnecessary.
Ministerial decisions would be judicially reviewable. The normal principles of judicial review would apply. A person could argue that he was not properly covered by the criteria in subsection (6) of clause 1 and that therefore he should not have been notified. That would make the decision judicially reviewable.
Mr. Archer rose--
Mr. Patten : I am about to deal with mistaken notification. Then I will give way to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I have given way to him on many occasions. It has been a pleasure of mine since he gave me my first tutorials in "teach yourself criminal law" during the proceedings on the Criminal Justice Bill last year.
If the notified person thinks that a mistake has been made--I think I made the point before in two interventions--he can take it up through the normal channels. The Minister can consider his representations and, if necessary, revoke the notification. The representations should go through the usual channels, which can include the head of the department. I hope that I have satisfied the Committee on those two points.
Mr. Archer : One does not want to prolong this discussion indefinitely, but the Minister, virtually at the last moment, has changed the case he was making and has said that the matter is subject to judicial review. Judicial review is not a form of appeal. A person cannot go to the court and say, "Do you disagree with what the Minister says?" The Minister has to give a reason for saying that the person falls within the criteria. Unless that has happened, I do not see how we even begin to get judicial review on its feet. What the court is being asked to do is to look at the Minister's reasons and to say whether it thinks there is something wrong with the reasons. But the Minister does not have to give reasons. I will not take it further now, but at some stage the Minister will have to do better.
Mr. Richard Shepherd : When I moved the amendment I thought that my hon. Friend the Minister could give a simple explanation. I wanted to find out the sorts of individuals who would be notified outside the remit of Crown servants, et cetera. The debate has taken a long time and at the last moment my hon. Friend the Minister of State has notified us that there could be some form of judicial review, a point on which he was not able to advise us during the last hour or so.
Mr. Shepherd : My nervousness has increased during the debate because of the extraordinary language that the Minister has dredged up. We now have ordinary judicial review, presumably as opposed to extraordinary judicial review. Last week on the Security Service Bill we had an important clause which tried to take out of any form of judicial review the work of the tribunal. This is close to the work of the security services. The same sort of individuals will be involved and those who come into contact with them will be notified. On the one hand, we will be able to have a review ; on the other, we will not. I am lost.
I no longer have confidence. I am sorry to say that at this late hour. The Minister understands the Bill that he is piloting through the House. A series of questions were asked legitimately. We wanted an example of the sort of
Column 1139individual who might be notified. The only example he gave was a member of the Security Commission. There must be a better answer. I am not satisfied, and I propose to force a vote on the amendment. Question put, That the amendment be made :--
The Committee divided : Ayes 197 ; Noes 246.
Division No. 52] [11.28 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane
Archer, Rt Hon Peter
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)
Beith, A. J.
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)
Body, Sir Richard
Bray, Dr Jeremy
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)
Buckley, George J.
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Cunningham, Dr John
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Godman, Dr Norman A.
Golding, Mrs Llin
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Harman, Ms Harriet
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Heffer, Eric S.
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Home Robertson, John
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Macdonald, Calum A.
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Marek, Dr John
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)