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Mr. David Kidney (Stafford) (Lab): When my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary last made a statement to the House on this subject he gave an assurance that, whenever possible, a prosecution would be the preferred course of action. Is it the intention that the legislation will enshrine that as a precondition before control orders are possible? Have any thoughts been given to creating the new criminal offences recommended by the Newton report? Is it the intention that a cadre of judges will have the specific responsibility for dealing with such cases?
Mr. Hain: I think that my hon. Friend will see, when the Bill is published and the Home Secretary makes his statement, that a careful system of checks and balances will be put in place. I think that he will be encouraged by thatat least I hope he will be.
Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): Presumably the Leader of the House has been aware since the Law Lords' judgment that fresh legislation would have to be completed by early March, so it is his fault and not that of his critics in the House that it is being rushed through at this late hour. In those circumstances, should not there be more than one day for Committee and a slightly longer gap between Second Reading and Committee and Report so that we can consult interested parties outside?
Mr. Hain: For the reasons that I have already explained, I do not consider that necessary, because the Bill amends only one section of the 2001 Act. There will be plenty of time both to debate it in principle on Wednesday and to probe the Home Secretary before that, tomorrow. There will then be detailed line-by-line consideration on Monday. The precedents established by previous Governments, including ours and those in which the right hon. Gentleman served, show that when we have had to introduce emergency legislation of this kind, we have had to do it quickly. The reason it is being done at this time is that much care and thought have gone into getting the balance absolutely rightas best we canbetween the protection of individual liberties and the threat of terrorist action. The right hon. Gentleman should welcome what we are doing when the whole proposal is published tomorrow.
Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke) (DUP): Further to the point that the Irish Government have publicly and formally identified two Members of the House as members of a terrorist organisation, should not that be a matter of grave concern to the House and one that it should address at the earliest opportunity?
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): I listened carefully to everything that the Leader of the House said, but why can we not have a few days to reflect on the Bill, which none of us has seen? Why cannot we have its Second Reading on Monday and complete its stages during the rest of next week? That would give us all an opportunity to read it and to reflect and consult on it, and many of the charges justifiably levelled at the Leader of the House could then be withdrawn.
I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman is making, and he is always entitled to press me for more time, especially on such important issues. I remind him, however, that Royal Assent is required by early March at the latest as the Bill will need to be in force and control orders made in respect of the current detainees, if appropriate, before the part 4 powers lapse on 14 March; otherwise those people may simply walk out. The procedure still has to take its course in the
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House of Lords before Royal Assent can take place, and the Bill may be closely debated there, as the Lords are entitled to do. We are absolutely right to bring in the Bill as we have done, but we are anxious to see the fullest possible scrutiny of it.
Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): Does the Leader of the House understand that people will be incredulous that the House will go from First to Third Reading in six days to impose, on the recommendation of the nation's secret police, powers of administrative detention? That he of all people should be recommending that to the House on such a timetable is extraordinary, and I hope that the Government will review it.
Mr. Hain: I am sorry, but I can give the hon. Gentleman no encouragement or satisfaction on that point. I have explained the necessity for the timetable. Surely he will understand that something has to be done before the powers lapse on 14 March, especially in light of the Law Lords declaring that the current legislation is defective in this respect and out of compliance. We need to do something about that, and I would have thought that he would join in a constructive discussionand encourage the Leader of the Opposition to get involvedabout the exact balance to strike, rather than opposing the measure almost outright, as appears to be the case.
Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): Notwithstanding the right hon. Gentleman's protestations, many of us in all parts of the House believe that the decision suddenly, and with such haste, to introduce this threatening piece of legislation is extremely undesirable, given that one of the linchpins of our liberties is under threat. Can he, on the strength, presumably, of advance sight of the draft of the Bill, at least offer the House an assurance that where such a sacred liberty is under threat the Bill that we see will be the Bill in total, and that there will be no provision in its clauses for further and potentially damaging incursions on liberty, introduced by the Government in the form of secondary legislation?
Mr. Hain: The hon. Gentleman will have to wait to see the contents of the Bill, but as I keep saying, I think he will be reassured. What the Government are doing and what we have always stood by is ensuring that the protection of individual liberty comes firstthat is something that I have spent many years of my life fighting forbut in a situation where we have the suicide bomber and an international terrorist threat of quite a different order even from that of the IRA in past years, we need to be very careful about protecting our security and protecting our liberty alongside it, because if our security is not protected, what is the point of any liberty?
Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con):
The Leader of the House keeps telling us about the very tight timetable that we must meet. Presumably, he knew of that timetable when he made his last business statement to the House. Since then, the House has not sat for a week, and now he tells us that there will be but six days from First to Third Reading. Will he assure me
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now that the House of Lords will not get longer to debate this issue than the House of Commons, which is elected?
Mr. Hain: Again, I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman puffs himself up into anger about this issue, because the truth is that the original Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill, following the events of 11 September, was taken in three daysthe whole Bill. Its Second Reading took place on 19 November, and then there were two days of debates in Committee and on Third Readingso three days in total. We are devoting two days to one aspect of that Bill, as opposed to the entire Bill, which took three days. Therefore, we are entitled to ask for the House's understanding in the circumstances.
As for the other point about timing, yes, the recess has come between my last business statement and now. I have come to the House at the earliest possible opportunity, and one of the reasons why there has been some delayI genuinely make no criticism about thisis that the Prime Minister wanted to consult both the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Liberal Democrats. That consultation took place on Friday, and I do not think that it could have taken place beforehand. That is one of the reasons why we are proceeding in this way.
Mr. Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance about a ministerial statement on Stansted airport. You will probably be aware that, last Friday, while the House was not sitting, the High Court upheld a series of challenges against the Government's air transport White Paper. The judgment found that the Department for Transport had acted unfairly, that it had withheld some Government evidence and that it had prejudged the planning process, thus blighting people's homes not just in my constituency but in those of a number of other right hon. and hon. Members.
It was therefore expected that the Secretary of State for Transport would come to the House to make an oral statement, enabling us to question him, but instead all we have been given is a short written statement. Given the hardship caused to people in my constituency and others, and the fact that the court judgment, which runs to more than 109 pages, directly questions Government policy, should hon. Members not also have the chance to question the Minister? Have you, Mr. Speaker, received any indication that the Secretary of State for Transport intends to come to the House to answer for himself and for his rather ragged and incomprehensible Government policy?
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