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There are sinister overtones of the great Lewis Carroll in another important part of the Bill. Hon. Members will have noticed that, under clause 21(4), the definition of a suspected international terrorist is someone who has been certified as a suspected international terrorist. That logic would have been well understood by Alice in Wonderland"words are what I certify them to be."
Some parts undoubtedly require urgent and emergency legislation; other parts manifestly and certainly do not. Religious bigotry certainly does not, nor do other more immediate provisions. For example, the power in respect of disguises in Northern Ireland does not require emergency legislation. Giving police officers the power to say, "Give me your moustache and your balaclava", may well be valuable in the Province, but that provision should not be found in the Bill.
Of course, the Bill's kernel, which has exercised the House for almost the whole debate, is to be found in clauses 21 to 32the powers of internment and detention by the Executive without trial, without charge and without the subject having the elementary protection of even knowing the basis on which he or she is interned.
Before I go on to deal with the Bill in detail, may I acquit the Home Secretary in two respects? May I acquit him of the outrage and the criticismwhich came from many different directions, not just from Hampstead socialiststhat greeted his description of those who are concerned about arbitrary, Executive imprisonment without charge or trial as being airy-fairy? I do not think for a minute that he believed what he said on that occasion. If he did, it was alarming indeed that he should have shown such contempt for the absolute, central tenet of human liberties, for which hundreds, thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of men and womenmany of them designated as terroristshave fought during the past century of totalitarian government.
The Home Secretary has a penchant for irony. One might even say that he has fallen for it, and one is forgiving and characterises what he said as an ironic statement, as indeed one does about the words that have occasionally fallen from his lips in relation to the judiciary, which have sounded semi-venomous, if not absolutely venomous. No doubt those remarks were intended to excite the judiciaryas, indeed, they have from time to timebut I acquit him of the charges of illiteracy as to the divisions of power. I dare say that he has read Montesquieu with the care and attention that I have, and I acquit him of that charge.
Three tests are necessary to arrogate all those powers to himself. First, are they necessary? Secondly, have safeguards been built into the Bill or the British common law sufficient to deal with those powers? On the first test, I am bound to sayI am sorry to have to do sothat I am unconvinced. I came here with an open mind I wanted to be convinced. I listened for the evidence, although I appreciate that some of it cannot be shared with us. What did we hear? We heard a quotation from The Times, which said that hundreds of terrorists are living in our midst, without any source for that information. Where does it come from? I would lay quite a lot of money on the source probably being a Home Office briefing. Thus, I am unconvinced of the need for such powers, as are many hon. Members.
Let us assume for a moment that there is such a need. Let us pass on to the linchpin of the defence offered by the Home Secretarythat SIAC will effectively take over judicial review. There was a wonderful, dramatic pause when the Home Secretary waved the rhetorical cape and said that hon. Members were all here when SIAC was created, and that those who cavilled at SIAC's powers should stand up and be counted, to a man or woman, but there was silence. I am terribly sorry that I was so slow to get on to my feet; by that time, he had moved on.
Of course, if hon. Members had heard that SIACthat star chamber of an organisation, with all its draconian powers over evidencewas to be used as an appeals procedure not for deportation but for the indefinite incarceration of people without charge or trial, no one would have voted for it; or, if they had, they would have felt ashamed of themselves a great deal earlier than this. SIAC is not a body known to law. It is a star chamber, and it is manifestly inadequate as the only appeal court against the exercise of such powers.
The final provision that causes concern is clause 29the deliberate and expressed exclusion of the courts and judicial review from the procedure. I have heard it said that the court considering judicial review cannot take into account the merits of the case before the Home Secretary. I have to say, using the best parliamentary language that I can, that that is complete bunkum. A divisional court, in considering ministerial discretion, has the power to examine everything that the Minister can consider. The test that it applies is: could a reasonable Minister have come to this conclusion? It is a high test, but I do not know why the Home Secretary should be worried about itI have not the remotest idea. Terrorists or potential terrorists can be kept in custody while a judicial review takes place and we have all the mechanisms and protections in place under the immunity provisions so that information is not revealed in public. At the end of the day, a divisional court makes its decision, but such a court has been deliberately and totally excluded from the Bill.
That is the point at which I stick. I will never vote for the Bill for as long as clause 29 is in it. It is the signpost to tyranny, and I will not take a single stepno matter how few people are involveddown that road.
I acknowledge the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin), the shadow Home Secretary. I pay tribute to him for what was a real tour de force and an example of how we can oppose with reasonableness and in a forensic way. I hope that it will be a model for the future. It was a privilege to be present to hear his speech.
I have a considerable measure of support for the Bill, but I have three concerns and in the nine and a half minutes that remain to me I shall recite them. First, like many others, I am concerned about the time scale. We all understand that there are times when the House needs to act quickly to deal with emergencies, but there are at least two major provisions that do not, by any means, constitute emergency legislation.
The first is the anti-bribery legislation that flows from a commitment that we signed up to under Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development provisions back in 1998. I know that because when I carried out a Front-Bench job on international development not a million years ago we consistently called on the Government to incorporate the OECD convention in United Kingdom law and to introduce anti-bribery provisions. My hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman), who is doing a fantastic job in her portfolio, has continued to call for that legislation but she has not, in any circumstances, specified that it should be appended to an emergency Bill. The Home Secretary got that wrong.
We know that for many years many communities have discussed laws against religious discrimination. Until recently, we eagerly awaited the university of Derby's report on the subject because there was a measure of optimism that the Government would consider it carefully and introduce laws on religious discrimination. However, no one anticipated that they would tack those laws on to emergency legislation dealing with terrorism. That is a significant mistake. It is in the nature of Governments that they will seek to maximise every opportunity to pass legislation in the House, but I regret that they are adding to important emergency legislation other provisions that have no place in the Bill.
My two other reservations have been well recited in the debate, but I want to make a contribution to that important discussion. I feel strongly that the Government are making a significant mistake with part 4. We all recognise that those who drafted the European convention on human rights after the second world war attempted to ensure that the holocaust would never happen again. Therefore, we support the convention 100 per cent.
However, can one imagine that, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, it was in the minds of the draftsmen of that convention that a British Home Secretary with strong grounds for suspecting that someone was a threat to national security should not be able to prevent that person from entering this country? That would not have been in their minds. In addition, they would not have contemplated that people in the country who were considered to be a threat to national security could not be deported or, certainly, extradited to countries where the
The person in the Dog and Duck in my constituencyalthough there is no pub of that name thereand people considering the issue in detail recognise that there is a problem. It is absurd that this country cannot deal with people who are a threat to national security by sending them back to their home country or onwards for trial to countries such as India or the United States of America. However, in response to that genuine problem, the Home Secretary has come up with a strange and dangerous solutionto intern or confine people without trial for an indefinite period, which must undermine many precious and long-regarded freedoms. He is making a very serious mistake.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset referred to the precedent that such a provision would create, and he was absolutely right. We have now all come to terms with, and have begun to take for granted, policemen walking around airports or Whitehall with machine guns. How did we reach that point in just a few months? Although I am in favour of the police protecting us, such draconian measures represent a slippery slope. If we introduce draconian measures on internment, who knows where we will end up in five or 10 years' time? I ask the Home Secretary to reconsider that provision. We face the real risk of reprisals, so is it right for this country to take on board that extra danger simply because he has chosen the wrong solution to an undoubted problem?
We have offered the Home Secretary another solution. The solution is smart and there is no reason why it cannot work. It involves stepping outside the convention for a millisecond and introducing the restrictions and derogations that we need to make sure that article 3 does not apply in these circumstances. If the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Beverley Hughes), believes, after legal advice, that our solution cannot be introduced, will she explain why? I believe that it can and should be implemented.
My final concern relates to part 5. I want to live in a country where people are free to follow their religious convictions and are not discriminated against because of the colour of their skin, their religious faith or their genuinely held convictions. However, I also want to live in a country where there is genuine freedom of speech. Therefore, I say to the Government and to the Home Secretary that they really need to reconsider part 5. It will almost certainly fall foul of the historic law of unintended consequences. If it becomes law, horrendous unintended consequences are likely to make religious relationships worse. I ask them to think again.
Will the Government take the provisions in part 5 out of the Bill and put them in a White Paper so that we can have a proper period of consultation with senior religious leaders? We all want to get on together and to create a society in which people are not discriminated against and in which everyone is treated equally.
Let us think of some of the difficulties involved with seriously and sincerely held religious faiths. Some people might argue, "There is no God but Allah, and anyone who believes differently is an infidel." Others might argue that,
At the moment, the Bill is flawed. We shall of course support it, because it is important that we send a clear signal to terrorists that we shall close every loophole and take every measure to bear down on them. There are, however, at least two provisions that even reasonably minded people such as me could not support at this stage. The Government have their work cut out to persuade us that they have thought it through, seen the consequences of parts 4 and 5 and decided that, as there are no alternatives, this will make serious and sensible law. At the moment, I have to say that at the very least the jury is out.