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Mr. Beith: Does the Home Secretary recall that one of the reasons for setting up the committee was that there was a lot of anxiety about rushing legislation through Parliament when significant parts of it extended far beyond the realm of terrorism? Given that the response rejects quite a lot of the committee's recommendations relating to greater monitoring in the areas that are not primarily about terrorism, will he at least reflect on the committee's concern that, if legislation covering far wider issues than terrorism is rushed through
Mr. Blunkett: While I do not wholly agree with what was being said, I was about to say that there are other areas that deal with the wider Act, involving the open publication of statistics and relating to arrests under the Terrorism Act 2000 and the certification process, which we accept as well. The taking forward of the list of pathogens and toxins, the recommendations of the Newton report on the security of premises and the commentary in relation to aspects of the Act itself in terms of mainstreaming were among the suggestions to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred.
We are not rejecting those suggestions. We are saying that if there are opportunities to mainstream other parts of the Act in future legislation, the Government should consider doing that. However, deliberately to re-run them for the sake of re-running them now, not because anyone objects to them, would be detrimental to the other forms of legislation that every Member of the House is encouraging us to introduce. This is a bit like air traffic control: if one plane is in the air, the next one cannot go up until we have moved the first one. That is how legislation works. Each Cabinet Minister feels strongly that their own Department's legislation should be brought forward. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for not being a great enthusiast for re-running everything from other parts of the Act, and for being willing to re-run them when it is appropriate to do so, in the spirit of the Newton report.
Vera Baird: Have I understood the gist of what the Home Secretary is saying in asking for the powers relating to terrorism to be renewed? Is he saying that, however we try to devise appropriate criminal procedures, which might satisfactorily deal with British citizens who can be dealt with in no other way, and might reduce the number of people who need to be detained under the current powers, he is none the less perfectly satisfied that we cannot manage without the current powers as well?
Mr. Blunkett: The answer to that has to be an unequivocal yes; otherwise, the Act would collapse. The process of certification and the challenges being made would all be subject to that answer. I made it clear when I repeated the words of the head of the intelligence service that I believe it is a necessity to reaffirm part 4 and to look at the wider issues in the spirit that we have done this afternoon. I want to thank the House
Hugh Bayley: My right hon. Friend is very kind. My concern is with part 12 of the Act, which does not directly deal with terrorism but contains anti-bribery provisions. Have I understood correctly that the Government will not repeal part 12 until such time as alternative, more clearly drawn legislation against international bribery has been enacted?
The atmosphere in the House this afternoon and the way in which right hon. and hon. Members are approaching this issue are extremely encouraging. Democracy protecting democracy is the best possible advert for democracy. That is a great strength, and I thank all hon. Members for this. I commend the motionwhich I carefully enunciated at the beginning of this debate, because I had toto the House, and I hope that hon. Members will support it.
David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): I join the Home Secretary in thanking Lord Newton and his colleagues for their report on the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. As the House would expect from a committee of distinguished Privy Councillors, it has produced a report that is substantial, measured and constructive. The committee clearly put in a formidable quantity of work and did an enormous amount of research. It also brought to bear a considerable level of expertise and experience, and made a number of serious recommendations worthy of careful consideration by the Government.
Matters as serious as the balancing of the safety of our citizens against the fundamental rights to justice of all human beings demand serious consideration, so it was with regret that I observed how quickly the Home Secretary seemed to dismiss the main thrust of the report when it was published in December. As Peter Riddell put it in The Times:
As the Home Secretary has pointed out, the context for the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 was the events of 11 September 2001. At that time, it was said that those events were an attack not just on the United States or the American people but on us all, on our democracy, our freedoms and our way of life. We should not forget that 78 of the 3,000 people killed that day came from our own country. Since 11 September, attacks have taken place in Bali, Mombassa, Riyadh, Casablanca and Istanbul, so no one should harbour any illusions about the potency of the terrorist threat, or about the fact that we in the United Kingdom remain a top target for people such as bin Laden and his al-Qaeda cohorts.
We need to have in place all the necessary measures to prevent attacks from succeeding in the United Kingdom and, to the best of our ability, elsewhere in the world. It is clear that, in the House, we have to be united in the war against terror. So we agree with the Newton committee that there is a continuing need for special counter-terrorist legislation. We also believe that terrorists should be given no special status and ought to be treated as criminals. As Lord Lloyd set out in his 1996 review, as far as possible anti-terrorist legislation should approximate to the ordinary criminal law and procedure.
Of course, the Home Secretary is right to stress that the Government do not lightly take on the powers in the 2000 and 2001 Acts. It obviously involves difficult judgments and measures that no Government in a liberal democracy would ordinarily consider. The Home Secretary will be happy to know that I include him in that definition of liberal democracy. [Laughter.] I thought I might get a laugh. To be serious, that is why we need constantly to check the powers against three strict and rigorous tests.
First, are we confident that the powers work to minimise the risk of terrorism? That is not an otiose question. Secondly, do they undermine fundamental liberties to the extent that they do the terrorists' work for them? Thirdly, can the protection of the public be achieved with less harm to those liberties by any other means? To put it another way, we must always remember what we are defending. For those reasons, although we support the 2001 Act overall, we believe that all anti-terrorist legislation should be subject to annual review and full debate by Parliamentand, if necessary, regular revision.
Before I come to the most controversial piece of the report, which took up most of the Home Secretary's speech, I shall deal with some other serious sections of it. One of the most striking aspects of the committee's report is the number of powers that it identifies in the 2001 Act that have been used sparingly or not at all. It gives the example of freezing orders, provided for in part