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Mr. David Cameron (Witney): Given the recent history of legislation on issues such as asylum and extradition being taken apart by the courts, why is the Home Secretary waiting before deciding whether or how much to amend the Human Rights Act 1998? Is not the history of Home Office legal advice on such matters that if officials think that it might possibly be necessary, it almost certainly will be necessaryso why not do it at once? Could we hear a little more of his thinking on that subject?
Mr. Blunkett: Delphically put, if I may say so. I use the word "might" because we want to be absolutely sure when we introduce the legislation that it will be absolutely necessary, in order to achieve our goals, to derogate in the way that I described. I am pretty certain that it will be, given the advice that we have already received and the views of the Attorney-Generalbut precisely for the reasons that the hon. Gentleman outlined, I want to ensure that we have taken every possible step to get the best legal advice before committing ourselves.
Geraint Davies (Croydon, Central): In respect of the Proceeds of Crime Bill, may I ask my right hon. Friend about offshore bank accounts, especially in respect of their access and transparency? It is of widespread concern that the proceeds of crime and drug smugglingtherefore, the funding of terrorare funnelled through offshore bank accounts and, indeed, Swiss bank accounts. I wonder whether he would take a fresh look, in consort with the rest of the international community, at achieving such access.
Mr. Blunkett: There are many times when I am very pleased to have my right hon. Friend the Chancellor alongside me, and this afternoon is one of them.
Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion): On behalf of the Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru, I welcome the Home Secretary's statement. We want to work with the Government and assist them in ensuring that the right legislation is put through the House. To that end, will the right hon. Gentleman agree to work with all parties in the House, not only on the details of the legislation but on the timing and the amount of debate that we will have on the crucial questions that will be asked, such as those that have been asked by many Members today?
The Home Secretary made some important announcements on extradition. Nevertheless, will he now rule out the extradition of individuals from this country to places where they will face the death penalty? Instead, will he work within multilateral agreements to ensure that such individuals can be extradited, but with a different result? Finally, does he accept that despotic Governments use accusations of terrorism against their genuine opponents who are not guilty of terrorism? What safeguards does he envisage in his legislation so that this
Mr. Blunkett: No genuine refugee has anything to fear from the proposals that I have introduced this afternoon. Those who claim that specialist status, having been picked up on suspicion of terrorist acts or who are in transit through our airports, will still be entitled to go to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission and to appeal to the Court of Appeal, so there is no question of taking away their rights. Speeding up the operation of those rights and not suffering fools gladly is how we intend to proceed. We will consult the minor parties as much as possible on the way in which we proceed in the months ahead.
I think that I have missed one the hon. Gentleman's questions
Mr. Thomas: The death penalty.
Bob Spink (Castle Point): The USA.
Mr. Blunkett: The hon. Gentleman asked about the death penalty, and the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) says "the USA". Where we have specific extradition treatieswe would seek to extend themthey already apply in that way. We have had an extradition treaty with the United States since 1976, and only last Thursday we extradited a man called Qadar, who was wanted in the state of New York. The treaty has been working well. There have been no difficulties with it, and I have agreed with the Attorney-General in the US that we will update itbut as with all extradition treaties with other countries, the provisions that we have in place will safeguard that basic acceptance which the House has affirmed on numerous occasions.
Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston): Can I press my right hon. Friend a little further on his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms Walley)? Clearly, his statement is very important in relation to the chemicals sector, whether we are dealing with major hazard sites in manufacture, with transport or with chemicals that could be made for an innocent use but misused in the production of chemical weapons. Will he clarify the situation in relation to the movement of and trade in chemicals? Is he satisfied that his right hon. Friend the Chancellor, who is sitting bedside him, is affording him sufficient resources to address those very serious problems, especially for those who represent the chemicals sector?
Mr. Blunkett: The answer is yes, of course, but the industry has an obligation to ensure security and safetythe two go hand in handas has the Health and Safety Commission. However, on this occasion the legislation will be primarily intended to prevent those who should not have access to, possess or move such products from being able to do so. I am surprised that we are catching up with such matters latebut of course, as I said earlier, hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): Has the Home Secretary detected the widespread support for his
Mr. Blunkett: I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the leaders of all the denominations and faiths with whom we have spoken over the past five weeks are enthusiastically in favour of this measure. We do not, of course, intend to take any freedom away. The freedom to hate and to use that hate to incite others to take actions that destroy our community cannot be in the best interests of democracy. I also believe that it is crucial, for the reasons that have been referred to earlier, that those who face or have experienced religious hate know and feel that we are on their side and are listening and responding to them. We want them to be part of the anti-terrorist drive and the development of a unified voice here and across the world.
Mr. Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead): On that point, will my right hon. Friend accept the real concern about some sort of special protection for religion as it might make his task much more difficult? Of course, religious belief generally is of great benefit to our society, but some religious tenets actually promote hate. For example, in Leviticus and Revelations, homosexuality is called an abomination and people are enjoined not to touch a woman at the time she is unclean. It is important that my right hon. Friend understands that although those beliefs have now been marginalised in St. Mary's church in Hemel Hempstead, they are often not marginalised elsewhere. It is vital that those who do not support them speak out against them and are given the freedom so to do.
Mr. Blunkett: I have answered one or two questions over the past four and half years during which I have been a Minister but, for once, I am speechless. Suffice it to say that I think that few terrorists have engaged with Leviticus.
Mr. Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford): The Home Secretary began his statement by saying how important it was to balance the respect for our liberty with the need to prevent its exploitation. Given that fine balance, will he explain to the House his plans for the exchange of informationoften private informationwithin Government agencies? In particular, what safeguards will he put in place to ensure that law-abiding citizens will have nothing to fear?
Mr. Blunkett: We have a formidable Data Protection Registrar and we have set in place protections unequalled anywhere in the world in terms of ensuringcorrectlypeople's right to privacy. We have, of course, to ensure that the methods we use are commensurate with the threat that we face. That is the crunch in terms of getting the balance right. In addition, those who seek to protect us and have information at their disposal which, at present, they may be unable to transfer so that it can be used effectively against that threat, need to know that we are