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Bob Spink (Castle Point): Does my hon. Friend agree that a better way of dealing with that aspect of part 4 would be for the Government to use articles 57 and 58 of the European convention on human rights to gain reservation against article 3, so that those threatening national security could be deported to countries such as, say, the USA and India?
Mr. Letwin: Not only do I agree with my hon. Friend, but I have spent a large amount of time in the last few weeks propagandising for that view. I shall come to that hugely important question in detail in a few moments. My hon. Friend is absolutely right.
I turn now to the three major elements of the Bill in which we see large-scale problems, and for which we do not think that scrutiny and detailed correction will suffice. The first relates to clauses 109 and 110, which, as the Home Secretary so helpfully pointed out, relate to the implementation of third pillar decisions by the member states of the EU. The clauses propose that such implementation should occur by statutory instrument.
The Home Secretary confirmed today what an earlier letter from one of his Ministers had hinted at, namely that it is his intention to implement the framework decisions on counter-terrorism and on the Euro arrest warrants through the forthcoming Extradition Bill, rather than through statutory instruments. We are grateful for that. On account of that, however, clauses 109 and 110 cannot be regarded as urgent. This cannot be regarded as an emergency provision if the very items most closely related to the emergency with which we are dealing are going to be implemented not by statutory instrument under the clauses, but by another route that is already availableprimary legislation.
We have a case, therefore, against including clauses 109 and 110at least as they are currently draftedin emergency legislation, and a material case against them in any event. The whole point of the third pillar of the EU is that it gives member states an opportunity to continue to control the vital question of how they are governed from the point of view of their criminal law.
Mr. Hogg: Will my hon. Friend do more to emphasise his objection to clause 109? Is not the real objection that, hitherto, primary legislation has been required to put such measures into law? We are being asked to approve by way of emergency legislation, rushed through in two days, a state of affairs in which primary legislation will not be necessary to implement third pillar regulations. That would be done under the affirmative procedureunamendable at that.
Mr. Gummer: Does my hon. Friend accept that that objection is shared even by those hon. Members who are Europhile? It is not acceptable that, using the excuse of emergency legislation, the House should deny itself the opportunity properly to scrutinise what in most cases I would find perfectly acceptable had the House debated it properly.
Mr. Letwin: I concur with my right hon. Friend. He and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) were members of the Cabinet who gave us the third pillar and part of the point was precisely that the House should retain the right to control those matters by primary legislation. I believe that we should utterly resist including in this emergency legislation provisions that deny the House that right. So, incidentally, does the Home Affairs Committee. As in other areas, there is a distinct congruence of the views of Conservative Members and the Committee, which has in its ranks a majority of Labour Members.
Mr. Shepherd: I must reinforce my hon. Friend's point. Under title 6 of the European Union treaty, which deals with home affairs and some police matters in co-operative terms, primary legislation must be used.
Part 5 contains clauses that largely relate to incitement to religious hatred. I put it on record that Conservative Members recognise that the Home Secretary has a noble motive in introducing them. He wants, as we want and as every Member of the House wants, to protect vulnerable religious communities. That is not an issue. Moreover, he has included clause 39, which makes it an aggravated
We see a genuine distinction between an evil and illegal act committed by an individual for ulterior motives and such an act committed for religious reasons. The difference is that sectarian strife can ensue if the motive is religious. That is a consequence for society worse than even the offence itself. Therefore, just as with a racially aggravated offence, we see an argument for a religiously aggravated one. There we are at one with the Government.
I fear that we have the severest reservations about the rest of part 5all those clauses that deal with incitement to religious hatred and the definitions that flow from it. In the first place, we are worried about including such provisions in emergency legislation. These are immensely delicate issues and there are huge questions of freedom of speech, some of which my hon. Friends and Labour Members have already raised.
I do not know, and I suspect that Ministers do not know, what will be the true extent of the legislation's effects. No clear answer was given to my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) when he asked whether the Member who has called the Pope an anti-Christ would be affected. I do not know whether he would be affected. I do not want to subscribe to legislation that could have effects on free speech that none of us in the House knows.
Mr. Gummer: May I put another case to my hon. Friend? If a religious group allows its children to die because it does not accept blood transfusions, and if I drew that to the attention of others, they might well be very angry about the death of the children. Would I be breaking the law in making a direct connection between the religious beliefs of that group, and the deaths that result? If so, it means that I cannot properly argue the case in this country in future.
Mr. Letwin: I do not entirely know, and what worries me is that I am not certain that the Home Secretary has fully fathomed the answer. Earlier, in response to a question, he said that what had to be shown under sections 18 to 23 of the Public Order Act 1986which are the relevant sectionswas that the defendant intended to stir up religious hatred and that, having regard to all the circumstances, racial hatred was likely to be stirred up. It is not so. The word "intends" in section 18(1)(a) is governed by what followsthe word "or" followed by
I am sure that, under the "and" clause, my right hon. Friend's hypothesis would be unfulfilledI am sure it would not be the case that he had intended to stir up racial or, in this instance, religious hatred. But whether, having regard to all the circumstances, religious hatred would be likely to be stirred up by such a statement, I do not fully knowand I do not believe Members will know unless and until judges make decisions.
We stand at a very difficult moment for the country, for reasons that the Home Secretary rightly adduces. We are potentially under attack; but this is also a difficult moment because relationships between the Muslim community and the remainder of our citizens are tense. That is acknowledged on both sides, and the Home Secretary and I share an earnest desire for the tensions not to be aggravated.
The Home Secretary rightly said that a piece of legislation of this kind could and would apply to Muslims, as to all our fellow citizens. That is how our law operates: it is blind to the persons with whom it is dealing. My hon. Friend, however, has raised a vital question. It can be replicated in many other ways. We must ask whether the editor of The Muslim News will find that he or some of his writers are under threat. Will Muslims feel that the use of this law against them at this time might have deleterious consequences?
We are dealing with a matter of great delicacy. It deserves to be part of a considered debate featuring wide consultation and deep thought over a prolonged period, and very probably allied to the resolving of the whole question of religious discrimination, which is the item that most worries most religious minorities. We firmly believe that it would be far better to remove these clauses, and to leave the Bill to concern itself with items that are genuinely to do with terrorismthis is not such an itemso that we can return later to consider, properly and deliberately, the question of religious discrimination and all the attendant questions.