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Mr. Blunkett: My right hon. Friend the Chancellor and I will discuss the question of resourcing, but I can make it clear that all necessary practical measures will be in place before the legislation reaches the statute book.
The human rights questions that the hon. Gentleman raised can be answered in the affirmative. Yes, we shall consult the Joint Committee. Yes, we are party to the 1951 convention, as I spelled out. We do not intend to introduce internment, although if a major crisis arose from the terrorist threat, other specific measures would have to be introduced, as has been the case since the second world war. Governments have always held that in reserve.
On the question of secondary legislation, I did not know that it had ever been Liberal Democrat policy that every single measure agreed at European level required primary legislation in the House. It certainly has not been since we joined the European Union and signed the treaty of Rome in 1972. Affirmative and negative orders as well as the European Scrutiny Committee have been used for such measures. I had thought that affirmative orders, which offer the opportunity for debate on the Floor of the House, provided a much more positive way to deal with such matters than do other measures.
I ask the hon. Gentleman to think again, because we shall grind our own legislative procedures to a standstill and make a nonsense of our partnership in Europe if we do not accept that secondary legislation is required. The matter involves the specific terms that I have laid down, not any old issue at any time, and it is important that we reaffirm that.
I have dealt with the question of seeking co-operation. I cannot guarantee that we shall be able to publish a draft Bill, because of the speed at which we are trying to act, but I shall engage the opposition parties and those in the House with a particular interest as quickly and effectively as I can.
Ms Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North): I broadly welcome the proposals that the Home Secretary has brought to the House, but may I press him further on the nuclear, biological and chemical issues to which he referred? Does he intend to provide a statutory basis for
Mr. Blunkett: I am happy to give the assurance that we shall consult. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Police, Courts and Drugs has been doing sterling work on the civil contingencies side of our operation and we want to ensure that we consult such groups.
On my hon. Friend's first question, it came as a surprise that although the Chemical Weapons Act 1996 gives substantial powers in relation to the movement, possession and use of chemicals, we have not done the same in the areas that I have outlined, in particular radiological aspects. Irrespective of what happened on 11 September, it is time that we had those powers in place. We have the opportunity to move quickly on the measures, some of which were in preparation, and they can be put in place speedily at this timely moment.
Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe): While we all wish to reserve the right to scrutinise in detail this massive legislation, may I welcome the Home Secretary's announcement about tackling the problems of extradition? I well remember expressing my frustration about them when I held his office because of the archaic procedures and protracted litigation that often occurs.
Although the right hon. Gentleman may have to confine fast-track emergency legislation to terrorist offences, does he accept that there is an extremely good case for tackling the problem of extradition in almost all serious offences? There is no good reason why people accused of serious violence or serious organised crime should not speedily be returned to the jurisdiction of any country that respects the rule of law to face serious charges. Will he try to maintain progress on a Europe-wide arrest warrant, so long as all member states have satisfactory safeguards on personal liberty and the due process of law?
Finally, does the right hon. Gentleman propose to remove the Home Secretary's role in extradition cases? Although that sounds attractive, in practice it encourages people to raise political issues and bring political lobbying to bear on him and those who hold similar office in other jurisdictions, which can have most unfortunate and delaying consequences.
Mr. Blunkett: I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his supportive words. I hope that the European arrest warrant will be dealt with by the beginning of December at the Laeken Council. It will then be possible to make sense of something that is not always operated in the best interests of speed or justice. That will iron out some of the issues that I have read aboutJulian Knowles' article in, I think, The Daily Telegraph was about a case in Portugaland enable us to deal with these matters sensitively and sensibly.
I agree that there is a good case for examining the withdrawal of the Home Secretary's role from areas where, otherwise, judicial review would be used as a deliberate delaying tactic, without new evidence or new presentation but with the ability to challenge at each stage of the process. As a former Home Secretary, the right hon. and learned Gentleman will know how difficult it is for a Home Secretary to give up any power.
On the speeding up of extradition and related matters, the House welcomes the legislation in outline. However, I represent many people who have genuinely fled from torture and oppression, and the burden of proof in these matters will be very important. We would not want the process to be so speeded up and robust that people were returned to torture and perhaps death.
Mr. Blunkett: It certainly would not be my wish, either, that we returned people to torture and death. That would contravene the conventions that were mentioned a few moments ago. I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that she seeks in relation to free speech, dialogue, debate and attitude. What we are dealing with, in changing the law on race and religion, is hatred. I take the inference of her intervention, so I shall examine carefully the question of atheists andI say this wrylyconsider whether unpleasant and unhelpful comments about atheists could be included.
Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough): Can the Home Secretary tell us today whether the new legislation on incitement to racial hatred will include either a definition of religion or a list of those religions against which it will be illegal to incite hatred?
Mr. Blunkett: It is not our intention to include in the Bill a definition of religion, for all the reasons that many in the House will be familiar with. The Attorney-General and I would wish to assure ourselves that we were handling the matter sensitively, bearing in mind the fact that the existing law in relation to race provides for those religions that have a direct relationship with the race of the individual concerned. We want to extend that facility to people who follow Islam and Christianity. The measures will also enable us to deal with those who deliberately use the current law to stir up dissension and hate, which we would all find unacceptable.
I am examining why existing law has been used so infrequentlyin the past decade about four prosecutions a year have been successfuland whether, in conjunction with the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, we should be slightly more robust in what we do about those who, in writing or in speech, deliberately cause hate in our community.
Fiona Mactaggart (Slough): Is not this the wrong end of the equation? We have a law against racial discrimination, which was followed by a law against incitement to racial hatred. Perhaps the best way to deal with this issue is to prohibit religious discrimination rather than start with a prohibition on incitement. Has my right hon. Friend considered doing that?