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I am certainly not going to take any lessons from the hon. Gentleman on civil liberties. Frankly, his synthetic anger suggests that he wishes to remain in opposition as shadow Leader of the House, rather than having to behave in the responsible way in which the Government are required to behave, given the terrorism threat that we face. There is no plan to ram this Bill through the House of Commons. He seems not to be aware that as a result of the Law Lords' decision, Royal Assent is required by early March at the latest. The Bill will need to be in force and control orders made in
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respect of the current detaineesif appropriatebefore the part 4 powers in the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 lapse on 14 March as a consequence of the Law Lords' judgment. It is not possible simply to renew them, because the Law Lords have declared that they are not lawful. Surely the hon. Gentleman recognises that it is the job of the Government to balance civil liberties and their continued protection with ensuring that we fight terrorism at every opportunity.
Mr. Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove) (LD): I thank the Leader of the House for the statement. The priority of the Liberal Democrats is to avoid any further derogation from the European convention on human rights, which is the central issue that must be tackled. We welcome the fact that the Leader of the House is putting some proposals before the House, but I must make the point that it is three years too late. As to the court ruling, we look with great regret on the way in which the Government have sought to circumvent it. We shall look very carefully at their proposals. If the legislation that results from the proposals does not find favour with the House, we would certainly want a much shorter derogation periodnot 12 months, but perhaps fourin future, while we work out in greater detail across the House some satisfactory solutions to this difficult legal conundrum.
Mr. Hain: First, I acknowledge that the leader of the Liberal Democrats behaved in a responsible way when he saw the Prime Minister last Friday and said that he welcomed some of the changes being madeI see that the hon. Gentleman agreesin contrast to the opportunism of the Leader of the Opposition. As to circumvention, it is not a matter of circumventing the ruling but of introducing legislation so that we are no longer out of compliance with the European convention on human rights, as the Law Lords ruled. It is a question of overcoming that anomaly in the best way possible, which is what the leader of the Liberal Democrats discussed with the Prime Minister last Friday. Those discussions were very constructive.
Mr. Robert Marshall-Andrews (Medway) (Lab): Does the Leader of the House understand that the measures likely to be contained in the Bill represent the greatest attack on the liberty of the British people for 300 years? He understandably does not wish to take lessons from Conservative Members in that regard, but does he realise that many Labour Membersand hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people outside the House who are natural Labour supportersshare precisely the concerns aired by the official Opposition spokesman?
Mr. Hain: The greatest attack on civil liberties in Britain in 300 years would be a suicide terrorist attack right at the heart of our communities. The Government would be acting irresponsibly if they did not, while balancing concerns about civil liberties, deter such an attack. It seems that some Opposition Members, among others, are encouraging us to act in that irresponsible way.
Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP):
The Leader of the House may not be aware that Northern Ireland Members were informed that the Secretary of State for
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Northern Ireland would make a statement to the House today. Does he have any idea when that statement will be made during the course of this week? He will know that the Irish Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has issued a statement saying that he has evidence that two Members of this HouseI refer to McGuinness and Adamsare members of the army council of the IRA. That has now been put on record, so surely the people of Northern Ireland are entitled to have a statement about what is taking place there.
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): The Leader of the House referred to the constructive discussions between the Prime Minister and the leader of the Liberal party. May I remind my right hon. Friend, with the greatest respect, that that is all very well, but we in the House are not privy to those discussions? There should be some disclosure before Second Reading as to whether agreement or concord was reached between the Prime Minister and the leader of the Liberal party. We also need to know whetherthis is a crucial point for many Labour Members who have not been consulted in the same waya judicial element applies when people are detained in their houses. For me, that is the critical point. While I am seized of the gravity of potential terrorism, I am not prepared to support legislation that keeps people in custody in their homes on the decision of a politician, although I might accept that decision by a judgeI see colleagues nodding in agreement. This is a dynamic situation and I hope that my right hon. Friend will report back to the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister this afternoon. If he wants us to support him in the Lobby, he must meet our concerns.
Mr. Hain: I understand the reasons for my hon. Friend's question and I believe that he will be encouraged when the Home Secretary makes a statement tomorrow, which he intends to do before Second Reading so that any questions can be put to him. That will give plenty of time before the remaining stages, including Committee stage next Monday, for any points to be taken on board. I believe that my hon. Friend will be encouraged by the contents of the Bill and that some of the worst fears that have been expressed in the media and elsewhere will prove not to be well founded.
Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry) (Con): The Leader of the House is clearly right in saying that we need to reach an understanding about the balance between liberty and the threats to it. However, in the spirit of the debate on a Liberal Democrat motion less than two weeks ago, does he accept that there are genuine concerns, particularly about the judicial element, throughout the House, and that the best way of resolving those is to have adequate debate rather than ramming the Bill through with undue haste, which is likely to lead to tears?
I am sorry, but I do not accept that we are ramming the Bill through with undue haste. I have already explained the reason for putting in place the
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necessary legislation and obtaining Royal Assent by early March in the light of the Law Lords' ruling. The Bill amends a specific section of the 2001 Act and there is no need to discuss it for more than two days. When the hon. Gentleman has had a chance to look at the Bill when it is published tomorrow, I think that he will be reassured that we are adopting a course of action that protects civil liberties and also protects us from terrorist attack. The balance is difficult, but when he hon. Gentleman hears what the Home Secretary announces, I think that he will agree that we have got the balance about right, although we will listen to any constructive suggestions to improve the Bill.
Mr. Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead) (Lab/Co-op): Does my right hon. Friend accept that the strong action that he wants to take in response to terrorist threats would receive greater support if it were clear that all the available evidence would be brought to court, particularly phone tap evidence? That greatly exercised the Standing Committee that considered the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill, but when the Bill reached this House, only one sentence of objection came from a Labour Membermy right hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith). It is vital that phone tap evidence be admissible in court to minimise the prospect of people being unnecessarily detained without trial.
Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion) (PC): I hope that the Leader of the House is aware that when the Home Secretary made his initial statement to the House he agreed with me that we need the widest consultation and discussion with Members from all parties before introducing a Bill. We shall not see the Bill until tomorrow, and most of us are totally unaware of its contents. Has not the Leader of the House, in his other job as Secretary of State for Wales, utterly failed in not consulting with other political parties in Wales?
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