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Mr. Blunt : Plainly, I play second fiddle to my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) in terms of parliamentary experience. He has made the point that the concern is shared on both sides of the Committee and that the issue is immensely serious because it concerns the role of the Executive and the liberty of citizens. I have not dealt with more important legislation than this Bill, which concerns the security of the nation balanced against the liberty of the individual.
The way in which the matter has been handled should be an appalling embarrassment to all hon. Members. Earlier, I intervened on the Home SecretaryI am pleased that he is herein the hope that he would take the opportunity to find a better way to deal with the matter. He replied that because I oppose the principle of control orders and of the Bill, I have no right to invite comment on how the Government should take the matter forward, and he then gave his own presentation of my views.
We should all be appalled that the Government, or anyone else, think it necessary to introduce such measures. If the Government are correct and the situation in which they find themselves and the threat that the nation faces is such that we must put this Bill on the statute book, it should give us extreme pause for thought. The Bill is being introduced in the most enormous hurry, and we have not examined from first principles why it should be put on the statute book. Given the enormous controversy surrounding the Bill, it is essential that the Government take seriously and listen to the debate on this group of amendments, which relates to the role of the judiciary and the courts.
Enormous confusion exists about the need for control orders. If the Government stated that control orders are the only way to deal with the threat that we face, I would be prepared to be convinced. However, the threat from al-Qaeda is not somehow different from the threats that our nation has faced down the centuries. In the early 21st century nations possess significant advantages over non-state actors who are determined to overthrow the state. We have never before come across the quantity of information to which states have access and which they can collect about people.
I understand that when the Prime Minister was interviewed on "Woman's Hour" today, he saidoutside this placethat the orders may be applied to hundreds of people. That, together with the fact that the Leader of the House explained last week that the Bill had to be rushed through the House in six days, suggests that we are facing an emergency and that we are not
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being given the entire picture. The apparent position is that we must have something on the statute book by 14 March in order to replace the measures that will fall because of the judgment in the House of Lords. Yet the Home Secretary will not apply the control orders under clause 2 to the people who will walk out of Belmarsh and be subjected to a type of control order that does not require a derogation from the convention.
I am confused about the depth of the threat that our nation faces from its own citizens. I want the Government to produce the evidence and convince me of the scale of the threat. The dossier that they produced to support the Second Reading debate is not sufficient to justify measures that fly in the face of 790 years of the tradition of British justice and the liberty of British citizens. I listened the Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety on the radio this morning. Her instinctive assumption that she, as the Minister, must take at face value the requests of the Security Service and the police and give them all the powers that they desire is not good enough. We need a proper case to be made so that we can be convinced by the weight of the evidence.
The Prime Minister, at Prime Minister's questions last week, told the House that the security service was unanimous, but I find that extremely difficult to believe. There are more than 2,000 members of the Security Service, as I understand it, and I find it difficult to believe that although powers on this scale have been met with controversy in the House and in the country, that controversy is not reflected in the Security Service and the police. Members of those services understand the consequences of a lack of faith in Government if the Government take powers to themselves that people see as unfair and potentially unnecessary because there is no proper judicial process to allow people to put the case in their own defence in the proper way.
I identified 23 different debates arising from the first group of amendments, but we all know that there is little point in trying to deal with the detail of the business before us because the Government will put a different Bill before the Lords. If the Bill passes through another place and we in due course consider Lords amendments, I hope that the Government will give the House sufficient time to do its job properly, which it has not done in the first stages of consideration of the Bill.
This has been a fascinating debate. There have been some excellent contributions ranging right across the spectrum, from the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), who come from opposite political poles and perspectives but take the same view in their dislike of the legislation and, moreover, in their suspicion of the Government's motives in the way that they have presented it. Plenty of other contributions, some from lawyers, whom the Home Secretary appears not particularly to like, highlighted the novel powers that the Government are seeking to take for themselves and urged them on one discrete issuethat is all that this debate is aboutto change their mind and to allow non-derogation powers to be properly used by a judge under precisely the powers that would be available if they were derogation powers in terms of reviewing the facts of the case.
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Even at this late stage, I hope that the Home Secretary will listen. As I fear that he will not, however, I will voteI encourage every Member in this House, certainly those on my Benches, to do likewisein support of the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths). As this will in reality be the conclusion of our scrutiny of this Bill, it is essential that this Committee should send a signal to the other place regarding what is troubling us. I ask all hon. Members to think carefully about their own positions and be willing, if they possibly canalthough I am sure that some will be loyal to the Governmentto go into the Lobby to support the hon. Gentleman's amendment and send out a signal that the Government need to think again on this issue.
I ask the Home Secretary to deal with one last point, which was picked up by my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt). There is a discrepancy between the number of people whom the Home Secretary believes will be affected by these orders and the number whom the Prime Minister says will be affected. I have here the Prime Minister's quote from "Woman's Hour", where he said:
"you have got to give us powers in between mere surveillance of these peopleand there are several hundred of them in this country we believe are engaged in plotting or trying to commit terrorist actsbetween mere surveillance and being sure enough of proof to prosecute them beyond reasonable doubt".
More generally, it would be most helpful if the Government would be franker with the Committee about what they want and the difficulties that they face. If they did that, and listened better to what the Committee has to say, they would find it much easier to obtain a consensus on these difficult issues.
Mr. Charles Clarke: I will be brief because I have had more than my fair share of time in this debate. We have had a very full and good debate. First, let me say in response to those right hon. and hon. Members who sought more time for the debate that I will certainly consider with my colleagues through the usual channels the extent to which this House can debate the issues that come back from the other place.
Secondly, I believe that I have made very major and significant movement on the proposals that I originally put. I did so in order to seek consensus in this House on these very important matters, particularly on the very powerful motivating concern that I heard expressed by Members on all Benches regarding the need to have proper judicial scrutiny of deprivation of liberty. I have sought to respond to that central concern.
Thirdly, I want to make it very clear that every decision of the Home Secretary has to be justified on the basis that it is necessary and proportionate and will be subject to judicial assessment in a very full way.
Fourthly, I want to confirm the point with which I started this whole debatethis is a difficult and problematic issue. Lord Carlile, the reviewer of these
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matters, stated in his report, powerfully and truthfully, and in a way that the whole House should take full account of:
"Having seen extensive material, I am in no doubt that national security could be at risk if certain types of evidence were revealed to the detainees. At risk too would be some individuals' lives. The kind of evidence I have in mind includes that provided by . . . human resources including those who might be described as a term of art as 'informants', disclosure of locations used for observation, details of technical facilities available for listening to and/or reading communications, descriptions and identities of police officers and others, and methods of risk assessment used by the control authorities."
The hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) cited the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) and raised the Prime Minister's comments on "Woman's Hour" earlier today. It was put to the Prime Minister's official spokesman that my right hon. Friend had said in the interview that there were "several hundred people plotting" a terrorist attack, which is the case. The official spokesman was asked whether that would mean several hundred house arrests. He replied, "No", and said that the Prime Minister had used exactly the same phraseology last week in Prime Minister's questions and made it clear that, at the extreme end of control orders, which we are discussing, we envisage using the provision against very few people.
The hon. Member for Reigate asked whether there was any evidence to show that British citizens were involved in such activity. I cite today's evidence about Mr. Sajid Badat, a British citizen, who admitted to plotting to blow up a plane, in league with Richard Reid, the notorious shoe bomber, who is also a British citizen.
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