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Mr. Blunt: Will the Home Secretary give way?
Mr. Clarke: I shall not. [Interruption.]
The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Sylvia Heal): Order. It is up to the. Member who is on his feetin this case, the Home Secretaryto decide whether to give way.
Mr. Clarke: Thank you, Mrs. Heal.
We are considering major issues. As I have said throughout our proceedings, we must balance national security with civil liberties in relation to British and overseas citizens. I believe that our proposals are right and I hope that Parliament will support them.
Mr. Garnier: The Home Secretary has done his best to explain his change of heart, although I suspect that it is driven more by political expediency than an assessment of the Opposition's argument. None the less, he has done his best and I thank him for the change of policy, even if it was produced through a letter rather than by formal amendments tabled in the proper way.
It is a pity that the right hon. Gentleman's enthusiasm for his caseor at least for the advice that he has been givensometimes allows him to draw strength from material that is not helpful to it. Let us take the case of Badat. It demonstrates the strength of the criminal justice system, not the need for the sort of proposals that the Home Secretary presented.
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No Conservative Member, especially the Leader of the Opposition, could ever be accused of being soft on terrorism. When my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) was Home Secretary, anybody who suggested that he was soft on terrorism would have been laughed out of court. When the Home Secretary mumbles into his beard that the Leader of the Opposition is soft on terrorism, nobody believes him. My right hon. and learned Friend was criticised for being the oppositefar from soft on anything to do with civil liberties or anything that stank of terrorism. It is absurd for the Home Secretary to rely on the Badat case, which went all the way to the Old Bailey and produced a change of plea today, and to bounce off that and claim that the Conservative party is soft on terrorism. We know that that is absurd and so does he.
We all accept the need to protect the nation from terrorist activities by foreign people and British citizens. [Interruption.] The Home Secretary says that I do not. I do not know how he thinks that he can read my mindhe can hardly read his own after his performance today. My family and I and my hon. Friends and their families have fought hard against terrorismwe have seen colleagues blown up and killed through it.
We do not need lectures from the Home Secretary about being soft on terrorismperhaps he would care to button his lip on that and simply listen to people who want him to succeed in dealing with the problem but do not wish him to suborn the parliamentary process in doing so. It is important that the parliamentary process should keep its integrity. When a Governmentthrough a Secretary of State or a Ministerunwittingly or wittingly mislead Parliament about what they intend to do to gain a guillotine, the process is utterly reduced and the Government should be ashamed.
I shall sit down now, but I warn the Government that those in the other place will have listened very carefully to what the Home Secretary has said about the Bill, and to what those on the Labour Back Benches have said. I trust that they will also occasionally have listened to what Conservative Members have said. It is in our shared interest to deal with terrorism and it will not do for the Home Secretary to suborn the parliamentary process. He thinks that he can get away with it because he has a majority of 165, but I suspect that he will find that majority somewhat reduced tonight
The First Deputy Chairman: Order. This is wide of the amendment under discussion.
I rise briefly to answer the Home Secretary. Twice today he has chosen to present my views, although they did not represent my views at all. I fully accept that there is a risk from terrorists, both British and foreign, in the United Kingdom. Surely the reason that British citizens were able to be taken to Guantanamo Bay had some basis in the fact that they were taking part in terrorist activity in Afghanistan. Anyone who has listened to the debates taking place in the Islamic community in the United Kingdomparticularly among the most extreme elements of that community, where we have seen people preaching wholly unacceptable messages in the streetswill
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understand that a small percentage of people in the United Kingdom have some ideological sympathy with the supposed objectives of al-Qaeda. I do not hesitate to say that that potential is out there.
The Home Secretary specifically referred to al-Qaeda on Second Reading. He suggested that it posed a uniquely different threat that had to be met with uniquely different measures. That seems to mean that the Executive will take powers to themselves the like of which we have not seen since habeas corpus was suspended in the face of the threat from the French revolution. In taking those powers, however, the Home Secretary is doing something extreme and unique in the history of the United Kingdom, and it should therefore be beyond peradventure that the Government's case should be extremely strong. I do not accept that the threat is so unique that we should throw out 790 years of British jurisprudence and British traditions of liberty.
The British criminal justice system has brought such people to justice, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) has pointed out. Indeed, the Home Secretary adduced such cases in saying that British terrorists existed. We accept that. We faced down terrorism of an Irish dimension in Britain for more than 30 years, and we made mistakes in that regard when we went too far with the powers of internment. We undermined our case in defending democracy when the state took powers to take on the terrorists that went too far. We then acted as a recruiting sergeant for those
The First Deputy Chairman: Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that, although there has been some latitude, he is again going very wide of the amendments under discussion.
Mr. Blunt: I am grateful for your guidance, Mrs. Heal.
The Home Secretary weakens his case in support of the amendments that he is going to table to the Bill in another place, and the case against the amendments that we are considering tonight, when he misrepresents the arguments of people who take a different view from his own. It is extremely important that the Government do not indulge in misrepresentation, particularly given their record on other issues relating to war, peace and the security of this country. It is very important that they should carry as much support from the British people, and achieve as much consensus in this House, as possible. The way in which they have carried on has not assisted that objective at all.
Sir Patrick Cormack: Let me ask the Home Secretary a question that I asked the Minister when I thought that she would respond to this brief debate.
The Home Secretary spoke at length today, and dealt as best he could with many interventions. I hope that on mature reflection he will realise that he has behaved with a degree of arrogance and disdain towards Parliament that does not do him credit. I hope that before 10 pm he will return to the Dispatch Box and at least promise us that when the Bill returns from the House of Lords, where it will be given the scrutiny that we have not been allowed to give it, we will have a proper chance to discuss any substantive amendments made to it in the
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other place. The Home Secretary owes us that undertaking. The very least he can say is that he will have discussions with the Leader of the House immediately to ensure that proper time is made available.
The Home Secretary may look peeved and fed up, but as Home Secretary he is answerable to the House of Commons. Members in all parts of the Houseincluding many of his own supporters, many of them loyal supporters over the yearsare deeply distressed by the way in which the Bill has been handled. I am closer to him on the Bill than many others, because, as I said earlier, I see a need to ensure the greater safety of the greater number, and certain liberties may have to be sacrificed; but he has gone about this in a manner that makes the proverbial bull in a china shop seem a model of taste, decorum, delicacy and decency.
I urge the Home Secretary to tell us that we will have a proper chance to discuss amendments from the other place. He has rewritten the Bill in his letter. He has not tabled amendments so that we can debate them. He has not provided extra time so that we can debate them. He has treated the House of Commons, of which he is a Member, with contempt. I hope that he will now feel able to repent, and to give us the undertaking that I seek. He has eight minutes in which to do it.
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