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Mr. Dalyell: Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect the case of Matrix Churchill and public interest immunity certificates? Does that not warn us to be extremely careful?

Mr. Lilley: I would love to go down that line on another occasion, but there are better examples of why we should be careful.

We should not ignore the advice of the security authorities either on policy or on individuals. We should take it extremely seriously. They are brave, honourable supporters of the state and the public interest. We should do what Ministers clearly failed to do in the case of weapons of mass destruction—question, probe and evaluate any evidence that we receive from them before we adopt it, and then Ministers should adopt it in their own authority and not pass off the responsibility and blame to officials.

Sadly, the Government are trying to escape responsibility for what they are doing. They are trying to escape proper debate about what they are doing. I believe that the outcome would be far healthier were the debate longer, and were we able to accept the advice from the Conservative Front Bench and prolong existing measures until we are sure that we are putting in place something that will ensure the security of the nation, which might involve some curtailment of liberties, but will, I hope, not go as far as saying that individuals can be put away on the say-so of a politician rather than an independent judicial source.

4.35 pm

Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury) (Lab): As many Members from both sides of the House have observed, we must acknowledge at the outset of debates on these matters that they relate to the very difficult issue of the essential balance between public safety and individual liberty. In relation to judging where legislation should fall in order to strike the right balance, the Home Secretary has struggled with these extremely difficult and serious matters, as has the House. I spent a year of my life on the Newton committee struggling with the self-same issues in relation to the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.

We must also acknowledge that the Home Secretary has listened to some of the points and criticisms that have been made by Members from all parts of the House in recent months. I welcome the fact that he intends to discuss seriously with other countries the possibility of guarantees of fair treatment if deportation is seen as the
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appropriate action. I welcome the fact that he is considering a new offence of being concerned in terrorist acts. I also welcome the clear statement that he has given to the House today that prosecution with proper trial must always be the preferred choice if that option is available. The arguments put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) in relation to that and the need to strengthen that proposition are well made.

Above all, I welcome the fact that the Home Secretary, in response to the Law Lords' Belmarsh judgment, has sought to introduce a range of charges and penalties that can be imposed so that a particular threat can be met with a proportionate response. That must be the right principle to adopt.

As is the Home Secretary's wont, he has listened to a lot of what has been said to him and he has considered carefully the points that we made in the Newton report. Because he has made progress on these matters, I do not intend to join the Opposition parties in the Lobby tonight, but I fear that I cannot join my right hon. Friend in the Lobby either, because I remain very concerned about certain aspects of the Bill. I have one overarching concern, and I want to make three more detailed points.

The fundamental point relates to that balance between public safety and individual liberty and justice. Let us never forget that the greatest victory that terrorism can have is if it forces us to abandon the very principles of liberty, democracy and the right to justice which we are all seeking to defend against terrorism. These principles should be abandoned only in the face of the utmost and urgent necessity, when the case is utterly compelling, when there is imminent proven danger and when there is absolutely no alternative to taking that action.

Mr. Cash: The right hon. Gentleman should recall that during the war, when there were emergency powers, there was regulation 18B, but habeas corpus was still available. It was only because of a disgraceful case called Liversidge v. Anderson that all the issues relating to proper due trial and justice were overruled. That case has been effectively binned by subsequent decisions in the House of Lords. Habeas corpus still applied during the war in the extreme circumstances that the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned.

Mr. Smith: The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. He also reminds us usefully of the experience of the first and second world wars, the use of internment powers during those conflicts and the problems which arose for many individuals because of wrongful internment. Those are issues that we must always bear at the back of our minds.

I accept the point made by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary about the qualitative difference of present-day terrorism. However, I am not entirely convinced that such absolute circumstances in favour of extreme action exist here and now and require a decision to be taken, apparently, in the next five days. Deciding to take such a step because the security services say that it will be useful is not a sufficient reason for doing so. Of course they will say that the power will be useful. Of
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course they will say that they would like to have it. It is the job of Government and Parliament to test rigorously whether it is absolutely necessary.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman is making a powerful speech. Does he agree with me that, as a way forward, the Government could frame an amendment to the law against terrorism to capture and to meet their worries about people whom they are detaining or wish to detain? In that way a case could be brought in court against those people for whatever it is that they have done that has led the security forces to have such fears about them. I would have thought that everybody would then be happy that due process was being followed and that people who were likely to commit terrorist attacks could be captured by the law.

Mr. Smith: I am not sure that I follow the right hon. Gentleman entirely in that. I accept that there may be a relatively small number of cases in which evidence is available to the security and police services that cannot be advanced in open court because of the source of that evidence, and that there must be some procedure to take account of those particular cases. It is because I accept that there is a possibility that that is an issue that I believe something along the lines of what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is struggling to achieve may be necessary, but I do not think that he has got it completely right.

Mr. Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that exactly the same situation arose in Northern Ireland in relation to admissible evidence, and that that was dealt with over a number of years? Indeed, the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) will know better than anyone in this place that it was dealt with without recourse to the powers that we are considering today.

Mr. Smith: My hon. Friend is, of course, right. One can observe that the situation in Northern Ireland was dealt with rather successfully because a range of different approaches were taken to the issue, which, taken as a whole, provided an appropriate response.

I said earlier that I have three detailed points of concern. First, I cannot understand the rush. In the Newton committee, we examined the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 in detail and looked at how it was brought on to the statute book. Our unanimous conclusion was that it never makes sense to legislate in haste on matters of such gravity. In response to the failures and flaws of the 2001 Act, which was introduced in haste, I fear that we are introducing further legislation in haste.

There are ways of getting round the problem of urgency, to which both the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have alluded. It would be possible to extend the existing powers for a strictly limited period of time by agreement across the parties in this House. Especially in view of the fact that the Home Secretary has specifically said that he does not want to trigger the derogation powers that he is giving himself in the Bill, it is surely possible to leave that element out of the Bill entirely, rapidly to process the remainder of the Bill through the legislative procedures and to return to the
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derogation proposals and examine them at greater leisure. It is surely better to try to get it right than to get it quickly.

Secondly, I fail to understand why the Home Secretary continues to refuse to consider the use of intercept evidence in court. I know that the security services are against such a proposal, but pretty well everyone else is in favour of it.

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