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9.45 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Beverley Hughes): I want to thank hon. Members on both sides of the House for the spirit in which they have made it their business to get to grips with the Bill's detail so quickly after publication to enable us to have a good debate. I recognise that many hon. Members wanted to take part. I hope that those who were not able to will stick with it and make their contributions in Committee. I also want to thank my hon. Friends the Members for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) and for Bristol, East (Jean Corston) and the members of their respective Committees for their work in analysing the Bill and producing their reports so expeditiously.

Before I comment on the contributions on the Bill's detail, I want to refer to the three over-arching issues that were raised. Some hon. Members expressed concern about the timetable and the procedure for considering the Bill, including my hon. Friends the Members for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) and for Stoke- on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) and the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) and the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd). We have taken 10 weeks to consider what is necessary. During that time there has been considerable debate and consultation, especially after the Home Secretary's statement on 15 October, when the Government's intentions were set out in detail.

On the timetable in the House, I remind hon. Members that we still face an emergency. The Bill's powers are necessary to increase the protection and security of people here. Members have to consider whether the public will expect all of us to ensure that the issues are considered not only as thoroughly as possible but as quickly as possible in accordance with a timetable that reflects the urgency of the situation.

The second general point was that the Bill's content is not restricted to terrorism. I fail to understand that concern. All the measures are designed to enhance intelligence and information gathering, to restrict people suspected of involvement in terrorism, to prevent abuse of asylum and to give law enforcement and security agencies powers to tackle the problems that we face. We cannot

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draw a firm line between terrorism and crime. Crime funds and fuels terrorism, and the links between serious crime and terrorism are clear.

Mr. Hogg: The Minister is saying that the entirety of the Bill is connected with terrorism. What connection with terrorism has the provision designed to make it an offence to say religiously offensive things? What connection with terrorism exists in the part that deals with bribery and corruption abroad?

Beverley Hughes: I was getting to that, but I can tell the right hon. and learned Member now that we need to prevent people from exploiting the events of 11 September and inciting disorder on the grounds of religious hatred precisely because of those events.

The Bill will ensure that enforcement agencies, security services and Government Departments are able to detect and prevent terrorist attacks, and improve the security of industries that may be vulnerable. Terrorism's connection with crime means that the Bill covers a wide range of Government measures. It is not only one part out of 14 that deals with terrorism, as the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham maintained; all 14 are relevant to the tasks facing us.

Mr. Andrew Turner: If those connections are so clear, why does the Bill not apply to terrorist acts involving parts of the United Kingdom?

Beverley Hughes: We already have powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 that apply to UK nationals and people who are resident here. This Bill is about international terrorism, and I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman appreciated that by now.

Some hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South, also raised the perceived need for more sunset or review clauses. We believe that only the measures that need regular review—those concerning detention and the possible mandatory requirement on communication service providers—require an expiry or review date. I can say to my hon. Friend that the derogation provision, which is linked to the detention measures, will fall after five years unless it is reviewed, and a sunset clause would mean that the Bill would have to be reintroduced. However, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has said, there will be a three-hour debate on the Floor of the House every year. That has been agreed by the Leader of the House.

Simon Hughes: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Beverley Hughes: No, I am sorry, but I will not give way again.

The Bill is a proportionate and balanced package that relates clearly to the situation that we face. There has not been a great deal of debate about some of the measures, including the provisions on terrorist finances, measures on weapons of mass destruction, pathogens and toxins, police powers and measures on communications data. I say to the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) that it is particularly in relation to those issues that the links between terrorism and crime are most evident, and that is the reason for their inclusion. The same is true of the measures on bribery and corruption, and I am surprised

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that the hon. Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter) did not seem to know that his Front-Bench colleagues had proposed that those measures be included.

I turn now to the three issues of most contention. The first is the proposal that Justice and Home Affairs Council provisions be incorporated in this country's laws through the affirmative resolution procedure. It seems to us right that, when European Union Heads of Government agree on measures to tackle terrorism and serious crime, we should be ready to meet our commitments as quickly as we can. The Bill will enable third pillar measures to be made law through the route already used for environmental and other measures.

In addition to scrutiny in the European Scrutiny Committee, where proposals are being developed, the measures will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure in both Houses. Some Conservative Members, including the hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron), claim that this would be a major constitutional change. They do not seem to have read the detail of the Bill or to have realised that the provision will be circumscribed.

Let me now deal with the measures on religious hatred. It is important that we tackle those who would exploit the tensions which inevitably, because of the nature of the events and their perpetrators, arise from 11 September. The Home Secretary has made it clear that the measures on incitement to religious hatred will not undermine free speech and the normal activities that we take for granted, but the Bill will cover those who indulge in threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with the intention, or the likelihood, of stirring up hatred of others because of their religious beliefs. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson)—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. Hon. Members will not shout at the Minister.

Beverley Hughes: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for pointing to the injustice experienced by members of the Muslim community, who are excluded from current provisions on racial hatred, unlike other groups such as Jews and Sikhs. I noted the reservations of some of my hon. Friends; however, we need to prevent people from exploiting those events.

Mr. Grieve rose

Beverley Hughes: I will not give way.

Turning to the measures on detention, there is clearly misunderstanding of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission and the way in which it works under legislation passed unopposed in the House in 1997. Many features criticised by some Members tonight were not criticised then. Under the Bill's provisions, SIAC fulfils the purpose that it already fulfils. The difference is that, under the powers proposed in the Bill, the Home Secretary will take the power to detain somebody when that person is adjudged, not only by the Home Secretary but by SIAC, to be a threat to national security. I must tell the hon. Member for Beaconsfield that that is not internment but something completely different; those people can leave whenever they choose.

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The proposal to detain people who are a threat to our national security is not one that we make lightly. Members have rightly pointed out that it is a serious power. Under the Immigration Act 1971, we already have the power to deport such people, but if they refuse to leave or if we cannot deport them to a safe country that would respect their right to reasonable treatment, we face a real and difficult dilemma. I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dudley, North (Ross Cranston) and the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) for pointing out and acknowledging that dilemma.

The events of 11 September marked a step change in the kind of threat posed by international terrorists; there was a deliberate intention to claim the lives of thousands of innocent people with a highly organised, no-warning suicide operation. The lengths to which those terrorists will go, including their own certain death, makes new demands on our ability to anticipate their plans and therefore protect our people. I agree with my hon. Friends the Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker), for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. McCabe), for Lewisham, East (Ms Prentice), for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) and for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Khabra) who pointed out that, as Members of Parliament, we should be asking ourselves a critical question: what do members of the public—our constituents—expect us to do? That is the critical test, but it was not advanced by a single Opposition Member in our debate.

In the aftermath of 11 September, while we do not need a wholesale revision of existing laws, we do need new levels of security and intelligence as well as exceptional temporary measures. The package of measures introduced in the Bill is balanced; it is a proportionate approach to the extraordinary circumstances that we now face. We are all striving to strike the best possible balance between the right of all our citizens to protect their safety, freedoms and liberties and the right of individuals whom we suspect of wrongdoing to due process and fair treatment. I believe that the Bill strikes that balance, and I believe the vast majority of ordinary people in this country think so too. I ask all Members to support the Bill tonight, and I commend it to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 458, Noes 5.

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