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Mr. Simon Hughes: The Minister is being helpful, but I did not hear him respond to my questions about the minimum number of ports affected by the Bill and on the number of police or police hours that the Home Office expects to result from a control order.
Mr. Clarke: I did not answer that question because we have made no assessment of the number of ports through which people would travel. The number--perhaps eight to 10--is relatively small by comparison with the number contained in the schedule to the Terrorism Act. Similarly, we have made no estimate of the costs of policing, although we have done so on the court side. I cannot give the hon. Gentleman an estimate.
Miss Widdecombe: I have listened carefully to the Minister. I am prepared to admit that the amendment might have been better drafted. However, it is the only amendment before us that addresses an important issue. I intend, therefore, to press it to the vote, and the Government will have an opportunity to amend the Bill on Report or in the other place. The issue is of such importance that the Committee should make a statement on it.
'(5) Before an order is made under subsection (4) above, the Secretary of State shall lay before both Houses of Parliament a report on the working of this Act in the previous twelve months.
(6) The Secretary of State shall appoint an individual or individuals in order to produce a report under subsection (5).'.
Miss Widdecombe: I intend to press amendments Nos. 1 and 2 to a Division. The two amendments relate to the so-called sunset clauses, seeking to reduce the periods involved. The Government propose that the Bill should cease to exist after five years. If it were thought to have been successful, fresh primary legislation would be needed. They also state that the first review of the Bill and its first annual renewal will take place one year after its commencement.
We propose that the Bill should cease to have effect after two years without fresh legislation and should be reviewed, with a view to renewal, for the first time after six rather than 12 months. The reason for that is that the Bill has been exceptionally rushed.
As a matter of form rather than of substance, I pointed out to the Minister that if he did not like my proposal, he could amend it on Report. As the Committee will be aware, it is exceedingly unlikely that, as Report will immediately follow the Committee stage, the Minister will have enough time to draft a suitable amendment.
The rushed proceedings of the Bill make it imperative that we review the measure as soon as possible. At this stage, we should include provisions for renewal, for the Bill to cease to exist and for the introduction of fresh primary legislation. Even if the time limit is two years, that would enable us to get past the world cup qualifying period and the matches about which the Home Secretary and the Minister are so worried. We should have been able to test the measure repeatedly. If it works well, the Minister need have no fear about the ease with which it would be renewed under fresh primary legislation. However, if it is not working, the sooner we get rid of it, the better. It would be counterproductive to add a further three years before it ceases to have effect.
If the legislation had been taken at a more leisurely pace, I would have considered six months unreasonable for the first review date. I would have said that we should have at least a year, so as to give the Bill time to work and to see what happened. However, there has been an exceptional rush. The Government have already had to amend their proposals many times. There were many additions and amendments to the first draft of the Bill before it became the second draft. That too was changed before the final Bill was issued. We have proposed amendments this evening--some of which the Government have accepted. They have added their own amendments and have tabled some on Report. We assume that there will be further amendments in another place.
The whole process has been so rushed that we need to give ourselves an early point of renewal. That is why I propose six months. That period will take us past several matches. The measure will have been exercised in different circumstances in several parts of the country. We shall have been able to form a judgment as to how well it is working. If it is not working--if it turns out to be an expensive piece of inefficiency--the sooner we get rid of it, the better.
If the Minister has confidence in the measure, however, he will accept my proposal. If he believes that the measure will work, there will be no difficulty whatever. Given that we have co-operated in trying to get it through and have done what we can to amend it to make it better, we shall not stand in its way if it is actually working after six months. Indeed, the Minister might like the opportunity to stand at the Dispatch Box and gloat in six months' time--that might be a crucial moment for him to gloat. If he has confidence in the Bill, he will accept the amendments. I intend to press amendments Nos. 1 and 2 to a Division.
Mr. Peter Brooke (Cities of London and Westminster): I support my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe). Hon. Members will have heard me quote the remark of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Sam Rayburn, Lyndon Johnson's great ally. He said that the three wisest words in the English language were "Wait a minute".
I commend my right hon. Friend for her moderation in asking for only six months and not for a lesser period. I have sat through most of the proceedings of the Bill on Second Reading and in Committee. As the minutes go by, the disadvantages of the process through which the measure is passing become ever clearer. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment. In choosing a period of six months, my right hon. Friend makes it clear that she has considered both the football programme that lies between now and that deadline and the desirability of reconsidering the measure, given the manner in which we have been considering it.
Mr. Simon Hughes: My hon. Friends and I are concerned about this clause and we have tabled an amendment that is similar, although not as immediate in its effect, to the one tabled by the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe). Like the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke), I believe that the process today has confirmed my original view that we should review the Bill sooner rather than later.
If, over the next week, and with the help of the Lords, the House gets the Bill right, we may not need to do much work. However, that is not the issue. The issue is when we give ourselves the lever to do something about it, so I hope that the Minister will be sympathetic to three proposals. The first is that we bring forward the timetable for review. The right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald suggested that it should be six months, and the Home Secretary made the good point that it would be unrealistic to have a review at about the time of a general election. It is sensible to plan for the review outside the probable general election month of May and, to be fair to the right hon. Lady, a review in six or in 18 months would achieve that aim.
Mr. Hughes: The hon. Gentleman knows the answer better than me, but I understand that there is at least one away match in that period. I understand that England will play a friendly against France and the first world cup
Secondly, we need to establish what the backstop to the Bill will be. As a result of representations, the Government have offered a backstop of five years, but we, like the Conservative party, are trying to persuade the Government to bring that forward. Such a Bill should not be left for as long as that.
The third proposal appears in amendment No. 23. I hope that the Minister can be positive about the fact that, as with much other legislation--including legislation that has passed through the House this year--there will be provision to report to Parliament on how the Bill has worked before we debate its renewal or extension. The Government should consult the police, the port authorities, the airports and the magistrates so that an informed report is produced by an independent person, and it is clearly not fixed, spun or in other ways subject to political bias.