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5.52 pm

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall): I begin by expressing my gratitude to hon. Members of all parties. Hansard shows that the motion that I put to the House at 12.52 this morning was passed nem. con. I am grateful to all hon. Members for allowing the House to use that safety valve. There are not many safety valves left now, but hon. Members' response to my motion was very helpful.

As the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) said, the result is that we have brought out of the dark obscurity of the early hours of the morning into the relatively bright light of prime-time business some extremely important issues. It would be improper to refer to any of the discussion that took place after the motion was passed. Even though the present Bill is not likely to be retrospective, I suspect that the Home Office, and the Home Secretary, in their current mood, would have me locked up if I referred to any matters discussed in private session.

As was said last night, I do not believe that any Member of this House or the other place is not committed to effective measures to deal with terrorism. There was some suggestion, or spin, that anyone who resisted the business motion was somehow against the emergency measures needed to deal with terrorism. That is a canard, and it is not fair on the Labour Members of the two Houses—let alone anyone else—who have major misgivings about the Bill and the way that it has been handled. Our lack of wholehearted, comprehensive and unquestioning commitment to the handling of the Bill and all of its contents does not mean that we are not committed to the defeat of international terrorism.

Another advantage of bringing the matter before the House in prime time is that we have the pleasure of the company of the Leader of the House, who will recognise

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the text that I am about to quote. I hope that the Minister who will reply to the debate found that the sampler above his bed—when he finally got there in the early hours—still carried the motto, written in proper, traditional Victorian woven script, "Good government and effective scrutiny go together."

The Leader of the House said that to the Hansard Society on 12 July. He added that it was part of the exercise of achieving good government that this House and the other place must undertake their scrutiny roles with responsibility and proper dispatch. That is why it is so extraordinary that in the circumstances already described, the House is being asked to prejudge, in effect, the validity and value of amendments coming from another place. We do not know how substantial they will be.

In previous Parliaments, it may have been possible for Ministers in the House of Commons to take the view that the opinions of people in the House of Lords could be discarded. However, the first of this Government's reforms of Parliament has given the Lords a new legitimacy. It is only right, therefore, that we take more notice of what the House of Lords says on matters such as this.

Moreover, the Leader of the House told us a few weeks ago that he thought that the House of Lords in its present form was so good that he was prepared to countenance a substantial number of appointed members in the second phase of reform. That gives additional legitimacy to the House of Lords.

We cannot therefore prejudge that what we get from the other place can be discarded because it has no value or validity. We cannot assume in advance that the amendments that the House of Lords has not even tabled yet will not be valid. Indeed, Labour Members in the other place may be disposed to accept some of those amendments, which makes it very important that we do not tie ourselves down to a business motion, in the format that is before the House today, that prejudges that issue.

Mr. Gummer: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the business managers of both Opposition parties could have come to an accommodation with the Government to ensure proper opportunities for the discussion of Lords amendments without interfering with what remains of the Government's programme?

Mr. Tyler: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I know that that offer was made, informally, through the usual channels, and I shall return to how we could have found more time to do what he suggested.

It is critical for the House to know what amendments will come from another place before we tie ourselves to a programme. Those amendments themselves can be amended, and we need time to assess whether they can be improved still further and thereby achieve the sort of compromise that many hon. Members want. However, the other place may complete its scrutiny only of the Bill late on Tuesday night. We will be able to see the amendments that are tabled then and on the subsequent day, so the opportunity for intelligent amendment—informed by people in the House and outside it, as was noted earlier and, indeed, last night—will be limited. The Bill is big, and covers many issues, and such amendment is very important.

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There may be circumstances in which the Government are disposed to accept all the amendments that come from the other place. If so, why do they not accept them now?

That would save the House a lot of trouble, but we must assume that the Government will not accept them all, but resist some. However, if they are going to accept the amendments passed in the other place, the sooner they tell us which they will accept, the better. That will allow us to deal with the amendments more expeditiously.

For the moment, I shall assume that the Government will dig in their heels. The indications, from the Home Secretary down, are that that is the Government's mood. In those circumstances, hon. Members have a responsibility to provide proper and careful scrutiny of the improvements that have been suggested. We do not want to put on to the statute book legislation of this importance that is full of loopholes and problems.

Moreover, as the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham said, that is not the whole story. As its name implies, secondary legislation is secondary to primary legislation. We cannot know how apt, apposite and effective that secondary legislation is until we know what the primary legislation is. We cannot know how legitimate, proper and in order the secondary amendments are until we see what amendments come back from the Lords. We need to know the reaction of Ministers. Will they be prepared to accept some amendments, will they want to amend others, and will the House come to the view that compromise on some is a possibility?

That was clearly spelt out in the watches of last night. The Parliamentary Secretary was honest enough to say that there is a whole package of secondary legislation to follow. We cannot take a view about the legitimacy of such legislation until we have seen the amendments to the original legislation.

As you will have heard last night, Madam Deputy Speaker, there are views about the Bill on both sides of the House. It is an unusual Bill. The unkind might refer to it as a ragbag; I have described it as the good, the bad and the downright ugly. More charitably, it could be called a portmanteau Bill. It certainly covers a huge range of issues of varying urgency and impact upon basic civil liberties and human rights. Inevitably, parts of it raise different issues with different people. It is unusual in that respect, because there are so many aspects to its clauses. In those circumstances, it is not unnatural for Members of the other House, let alone Members of this one, to respond differently to its different parts.

The legislation that is put before us is often not only short but directly focused and Members on both sides can take a broad-band approach to it. They know where they are on a Bill's basic issues and how they will respond to its different parts. That is not the case with this Bill. As happens often in debates in the other place, there has been a judicial review of parts of the Bill, independent of party politics. The bishops have had a view about specific aspects, although it would not be proper for me to go into detail. It is equally true that some distinguished and experienced Members of the Labour party in the other place have major misgivings about parts of the Bill.

The Leader of the House, no less, has been saying how important it is for the revising second Chamber of this Parliament to be independent of Government and to have

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expertise and experience to bring to its responsibilities. As we have in this place skimped Report and had no Third Reading debate, it is not unnatural that we have to rely on our colleagues at the other end of the building to do some careful detailed scrutiny of these issues. It would be outrageous if, after all the good work that they had done on our behalf, we then said, "We don't care what they said. Let's tear it up and get on with the job." That would be a negation of the responsibility of Parliament which, the Leader of the House has frequently reminded us, lies upon our shoulders.

We still do not know what will happen under the business motion. Will there be a ping-pong situation? Will there be an opportunity for sensible people to sit down and achieve some compromise, perhaps even taking out of the Bill those issues that are not urgent and with which it is not necessary to deal immediately? My hon. Friend the Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) referred last night to issues that predate the terrorist attacks on 11 September. They cannot be regarded as so urgent as to be necessary now.

It was apparent from the way in which the debate began to develop last night that there is no parliamentary imperative, let alone an outside imperative. We have yet to hear anyone say that the Bill must reach the statute book next week or terrorists will attack on Christmas day. It is outrageous for anyone to pretend that we must have the Bill then, to the day.

I have pointed out to the Leader of the House that he unexpectedly gave us an extra day for the Christmas recess. Most of us knew that we were going to be here on Thursday 20 December, and then he told us that we were to rise on Wednesday 19 December. So there is room for shunting; we can find more time.

What imperative demands that we must complete all our study of, and responsibility for, the Bill by the night of 13 December, given that it is complex, contentious and that there is opposition to it within Government ranks in both Houses? There is one date that makes that essential, but it is nothing to do with Parliament, the quality of the Bill or the opposition to it in either House. It is simply that on 14 December, the Prime Minister is due to go to the European summit at Laeken in Belgium. He wants to take in his back pocket a Christmas present from the Houses of Parliament and say, "Look what a good boy am I. I am getting tough on terrorism. I have a derogation from my Parliament on the European convention of human rights. Why don't you?" That is what it is all about.

It is the Prime Minister's imperative, for political reasons. It is not to improve the legislation or to put on the statute book a measure of which we will be proud in years to come and which we will know was the right response to an emergency. This will be a tawdry Act because it has been dealt with in a tawdry fashion.

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