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Mr. Hogg: There may be another reason for the Home Secretary's belief that it is not necessary to revisit legislation: the Henry VIII provision of section 124. Under that section, the right hon. Gentleman can amend any provision.

Mr. Beith: Indeed, that is one of the few powers that the Committee said ought to be repealed without qualification. The report stated:

The House should know the Government's response to that. It states:

That is not just terrorism, because the 2001 Act covers a wide variety of offences. The response goes on to say:

Responding flexibly does not mean being able to amend legislation by statutory instrument on matters of fundamental principle.

Mr. Hogg: By negative procedure, too.

Mr. Beith: I must say that the Government response asserts that they could amend legislation only by the affirmative procedure. From memory, I am not sure whether we have ever received a convincing answer to that point. My reading of the statute is that legislation can be amended by negative instrument, and I am reassured to know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman also takes that view.

Mr. Shepherd: The point is enormously important. The Civil Contingencies Bill contains a similar provision

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by which subordinate legislation may amend any primary legislation on the statute book. The trend is incredible and this is where it started.

Mr. Beith: The most effective challenge to such provisions will be mounted not at this end but at the other end of the building. A challenge was mounted when the legislation was considered. The creation of the Newton committee was in part a response to this. Many Lords felt that the legislation was wider than it needed to be to deal with the terrorist threat and used attenuated parliamentary procedures inappropriately to push through provisions that, on reflection, would not be accepted by many Members in either House.

As I said earlier, a consensus has formed on the Home Secretary's remarks about reviewing during the next six months provisions to replace part 4 of the 2001 Act. I welcome that decision, and I take him at his word that he is prepared to engage in that process and build on the Newton committee's recommendation. Simply because others have not had the opportunity to do so, I have concentrated on the area about which I feel more discontented by the Home Secretary's response.

Many of the recommendations go far beyond terrorism, and I therefore put in a very strong plea for the extension of the spirit of consensus that the Home Secretary sought to include in part 4 of the 2001 Act into areas where the Government's initial response has been to suggest that nothing more needs to be done and that they will not give up powers that they have managed to introduce by this rapid process.

4.42 pm

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Hull, North) (Lab): It is fitting to reflect for one moment that today marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the National Council for Civil Liberties; there is a certain irony in our debating this matter and remembering the anniversary of that important non-governmental body.

The Home Secretary is right to highlight the enormous responsibility that he bears to protect the public from the threat of terrorism and the actions of terrorists. It is, however, a responsibility that we all share. To shirk it and bury our heads in the sand would be playing with lives, which none of us wants. The criticisms of the Home Secretary are not about the urgency of the situation or the gravity of the threat, but about whether the methods adopted are proportionate, appropriate and capable of achieving the ends that we all desire or whether they are counter-productive.

On "Newsnight" yesterday, the Home Secretary discussed the intrusion of that responsibility into his Christmas holiday. I can sympathise; had he been of another faith, I am sure that his burden would have been just as great over December. If he does not mind my saying this—I am sure that he would not if he were here—he is rather like a wicket keeper who complains that everyone keeps throwing the ball at him. I want to consider the responsibilities of the whole team, and our response to it.

On 11 September 2001, after the collapse of the twin towers, when planes were still missing, buildings were being evacuated and no one knew who or what would next be targeted, I had just returned from the United Nations world conference on racism, held in Durban,

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South Africa. What is the relevance of that to this debate? I reflected then how that country had changed, in such a short time, from being a potential target for international terrorism to one that sought to provide a model for future conflict resolution. It had gone from being part of the problem, on a world scale, to providing part of the solution.

One of the principal achievements of the Durban conference was to commit world leaders to a project in which each country would draw up its own national action plan against racism. Like other participating states, the UK Government agreed to draw up such a plan in co-operation with non-governmental organisations and minority ethnic groups. Surely in that way we could set an example to the world. It is relevant in this debate to ask what happened to that plan.

I have asked questions in the House about progress on the maintenance and achievement of the national plan, and I have been told, two years later, that it is in progress. When I talked to the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities about its efforts to achieve action to address the wave of racist attacks that have left members of minority groups in south Belfast living in fear of their lives, I was told that it has been informed that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary plans to drop his commitment to the national plan. That has enormous relevance. I wonder what representatives of the Muslim community in Britain will make of that decision, especially when they feel that their co-religionists are demonised in the war against terror and that their needs are not being addressed.

My right hon. Friend says that we should not adopt a knee-jerk opposition to anti-terrorist legislation, and that in the era of the suicide bomber everything has changed. He is correct to argue that we should study and understand, but I am not sure that everything has changed. It is not as though the IRA, the UVF or the UDA were ever gentleman terrorists or Northern Ireland was a place where terrorists played by the rules.

There are lessons to be learned from Northern Ireland. Those who wish to demonstrate that they are tough on terrorism, but cannot focus on or address the causes of terrorism, are inevitably forced to rely on the supposedly inexplicable nature of the problem or the psychopathic nature of its perpetrators. We had indications of that from my right hon. Friend today. If that is the case, why does the determination to be a suicide bomber find resonance among young people? Why do they feel that legitimate grievances have not been examined and that no attempts have been made to rectify them? Those young people have not all been brainwashed. They have arrived at conclusions because of their experiences. Why was there so much rejoicing—I say that with great sadness and the same horror that every other right hon. and hon. Member must feel—in slums and ghettos throughout the world at what happened to the twin towers? That was an appalling and shocking response. Why did it happen?

Unlike the Northern Ireland conflict, in which the UK had a primary responsibility, the problem we face today is global and requires a global solution. Whatever we do can only be part of that solution. However, another lesson from Northern Ireland is that international standards provide a framework for the protection of democracy and the best guarantee for defence of the rule of law. In Northern Ireland,

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successive Governments changed the rules and broke the law. When internment without trial failed, we introduced no-jury courts, relaxed the rules of evidence, relaxed the rules that prevented the use of confessions extracted under duress and allowed the use of informer and accomplice evidence.

What did that achieve? Certainly, it put some people behind bars, but what really happened was that the law became the enemy. Young people flocked to join the terrorist groups. Internment and Bloody Sunday were both the breaking of accepted rules. Indeed, on Bloody Sunday, in flat contradiction of a decision of the Supreme Court of Northern Ireland, the British Army was acting illegally. What also happened was that the prisoners, the men behind the wire of whatever community, and not the policemen, were the heroes. That surely is both unacceptable to us and something from which we should learn.

David Winnick: Those mistakes were undoubtedly made in Northern Ireland, but does my hon. Friend accept another lesson, which is that the House of Commons did not give in to terror and that, despite all the differences over how we should deal with the situation in Northern Ireland, we—Government and Opposition—were absolutely determined that the IRA would not succeed in attaining its objective? Thirty years later, the IRA was defeated—not militarily, but politically, because it could not achieve what it set out to do. Its objective was not reform and change in Northern Ireland, which were already taking place when it was formed, but a united Ireland, to be achieved through terror. The IRA never succeeded. We stood firm, and we, including my hon. Friend, were absolutely right.

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