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Simon Hughes: I thoroughly agree. Those parts of the Bill seem to be related to terrorism, so they pass the first test, but we will not be given the opportunity to consider them in detail, so they do not pass the second test. That is why I hope that, whatever view the right hon. and learned Gentleman takes on other matters, he will join us in voting against the programme motion later.
Mr. Hogg: And the Bill itself.
Simon Hughes: I shall come to the Bill. We cannot begin to deal with those provisions in the two Committee days that are to be allocated. As the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) said, a maximum of 16 hours' consideration of a Bill of this size is not possible or justifiable, however exceptional the circumstances.
My comments on the two remaining parts are less controversial. The bribery and corruption measures in part 12, to which we may table detailed amendments, have been included only as an exception to the rule. There was agreement between the three main parties that those measures were not controversial because everybody had argued for them and they were potentially linked to terrorism. Part 14 makes general provision.
So much for agreementit does not apply to the rest of the Bill. Parts 3 and 11 deal with very important matters concerning the rights of the state to interfere in communications, to find out what communications, technological or otherwise, are passing between people and to require people in the communications industry to
Part 10 relates to police powers. We are told that there will be a police Bill later this Session, so we could reasonably expect those powers to be introduced in that. I ask the House to take care and to seek much more satisfactory answers about two measures in particular before it agrees to them. The first is the power enabling the police to require somebody to remove coverings that they are wearing, even when they have not been arrested or taken into custody. Somebody could be wearing a hood on their way to a football match; they could be taking part in a demonstration on globalisation issues; or they could be wearing a piece of clothing traditional to their culture. It is dangerous to propose seeking powers to identify people before they are believed to have done anything wrong and when there has been no arrest for suspicion an offence. I hope that in due course we can remove that provision from the Bill.
Mr. McNamara: What about somebody wearing a balaclava in a crowd throwing pipe bombs?
Simon Hughes: If they are suspected of committing an offence, they can be arrested and dealt with in the normal way. I understand what the issue is and that it is a matter for debate, but we cannot debate it properly in two days.
The second controversial area relates to whether the Ministry of Defence police and the transport police should have jurisdiction outside their natural territory. Such a provision is left over from the Armed Forces Act 2001. It was got rid of before the election, but is now being reintroduced. Colleagues all over the country, both north and south of the border, have serious concerns about the tight control of policing of non-specialist parts of the country other than by conventional territorial police. Clearly, we seek change on that.
Mrs. Dunwoody: Is the hon. Gentleman saying that, although he accepts a small number of clauses relating directly to the current emergency, almost two thirds of them, which he has carefully enumerated, are not acceptable to him or his party? If that is the case, will he give an undertaking that he will oppose the Bill?
Simon Hughes: I was going to deal with that, if the hon. Gentleman will allow me.
Mrs. Dunwoody: Actually, I am a lady.
Simon Hughes: I beg the hon. Lady's pardon. No one could fail to recognise that she is a lady, unless they were momentarily inattentive; I apologise again.
I have tried to make it clear that eight parts of the Bill seem to relate to terrorism. Six parts either do not relate to the subject or go much wider than we would wish. In a second, I shall explain how we propose to deal with that, both today and in the days ahead. Madam Deputy Speaker[Interruption.]I am sorry, I mean Mr. Deputy Speaker[Laughter.] I have a defence, as the occupant
I shall move on to race and religion, which may be safer than gender and sex. Liberal Democrat Members have made the point that the Bill includes perfectly reasonable propositions to remove the blasphemy law which applies only to the Church of England; we support that and have long argued for it. We have long subscribed to the need for an equality Bill, which treats all faiths equally. The right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) made the point that race relations legislation does not protect all faiths equally.
The Bill makes specific proposals both on incitement to religious hatred and on aggravated offences. I hope that I have made clear our view that we ought not to legislate on such sensitive areas now; incitement to religious hatred comes into that category. If the House is minded to deal with the much easier matter of accepting the aggravated offence of religious hatred and sentencing on it, we ought to follow the proposal of the Scottish Executive, which was put to the Scottish Parliament last week, to consult more widely and relatively quickly on religious incitement but to legislate separately. The Scots are not buying into that aspect of the legislation; I hope that the United Kingdom Parliament will not buy into it either. If we are trying to make sure that community relations improve as a result of the crisis of the past two months, we need to ensure that we do not act in ways that would make it more likely that they worsened.
Mr. Dobson: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that a substantial number of Muslim people have been asking for equality before the law for yearsso long, for instance, that the Law Commission's 1985 report on blasphemy canvassed the idea of an offence of creating religious hatred? Although it is convenient to include such a provision in the Bill, it can scarcely be regarded as a rush to judgment. The hon. Gentleman may have talked to religious groups that find it surprising that it has now been thought of, but they were consulted in the past, as the House has discussed it before.
Simon Hughes: That is certainly true, but those groups also say clearly that they would rather have an equality Bill that dealt with all matters of faith, as the Government promised in the last Parliament. We were waiting for a report from the university of Derby, which has now been published, and the Government said that they would introduce such a Bill. Many groups, and the Liberal Democrats, believe that it would be much better to pursue that option.
Part 13 deals with the third pillar proposal. Even though our party is supportive of a European jurisdiction, I share the view that we ought to have primary legislation on important and wide-ranging measures, even if they have their genesis in the European Union. The Secretary of State is justified in seeking a short debate and the right to introduce statutory instruments only in relation to
Simon Hughes: Those are the only things that ought to be introduced now. The conclusion to be drawn from what the Home Secretary just said is that we may be able to limit this part of the Bill to those matters. If so, he will find much more widespread support in the House.
Part 4 raises one major issue that has already been touched on and two others, including the process of dealing with asylum applications. The Bill suggests that somebody can be turned away before their application is considered, against the advice of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. It also introduces the power to keep asylum seekers' fingerprints indefinitely, which is not right. In addition, there is the issue of how we deal not just with people who are suspected of terrorism but, as was pointed out earlier, with individuals who could be linked to terrorisma much more remote propositionand therefore detained under the proposals. Theoretically, under one derogation, people could be detained for up to five years, although with six-monthly reviews.
We should improve the procedure significantly; we should improve the rights of representation on appeal and throughout the process; we should improve people's opportunity to have their case reviewed, as the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) pointed out, according to both facts and law, and allow more frequent reviews. The key point is that the House should not agree to take away the rights of the courts to hold the Executive, tribunals and Ministers alike to account. That is almost unprecedented; it is entirely unjustified and goes well beyond what is necessary, even in the circumstances.
Later, we shall debate whether we should derogate from the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European convention on human rights. The Joint Committee on Human Rights, which has just been set up, made clear recommendations after taking evidence from the Home Secretary. It stated, in paragraph 30 of its second report, that
The British constitution works on the basis that Ministers bring proposals to Parliament. It is for Ministers to propose and for Parliament to decide. I gather that some Government amendments have already been tabled, even before we have completed the first day of proceedings on the Bill. If they are good amendments, they will be welcome, but it is strange that the Government are amending their Bill at this stage