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Let me start with the sunset clause and the remarks of the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis). He made several important points of principle about the hundreds of years of liberty that were being set aside and the tests that should apply in the judicial process. However, it is fair to remind him that, when, as a member of the previous Government, he voted every year to renew the Prevention of Terrorism Act, he supported a measure that prevented thousands of British citizens from living in England, Wales and Scotland, with no judicial process or legal standard of proof and none of the safeguards that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has suggested. The right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden cannot therefore credibly discover a set of principles and concerns about British liberties that he never applied when he was in government. Exclusion orders are similar to the non-derogated control orders.
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My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has proposed the same type of order with some protection. The question is whether we should apply a sunset clause or an annual vote to the measure. As I said on Third Reading, I believe that the Bill is only a stage in the move towards the sort of terrorism legislation that we need. Many proposals from the Newton report and other suggestions, such as acts preparatory, need to be considered carefully. I would like to revisit my right hon. Friend's decision to rule out intercept evidence, although I agree that it has marginal relevance to many of the cases that we are considering.
I also believe that we should pursue the concept of the investigative magistrate, although, as a non-lawyer, I am prepared to admit that marrying a principle that has evolved in European continental law with the British system of common law may not be quite so easy. Such a process cannot be completed by November or even December this year. Indeed, if there is to be a general election, there are probably no more sitting days between now and then than there were between the Belmarsh judgment and now. Part of the problem about which people have complained is trying to pass legislation with a gun pointed to our heads because of the parliamentary timetable. It makes no sense to cock the gun now on the measure.
I was surprised by some of the comments of the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden. I believe that he meant that, in his view, there will not and should not be control orders and that is why he is happy to have a sunset clause, because it would provide that they would be with us briefly and disappear. Frankly, he would do better to be honest and vote against the Bill rather than hiding behind a sunset clause.
Sadly, measures such as control orders are likely to be a feature of our counter-terrorism strategy for some considerable time. We need an approach that does not provide for having them for eight months and then getting rid of them but one whereby they will be part of the framework, which will be better in future. That is why annual renewal and a vote in the House is infinitely preferable to trying to include a sunset clause, which is a dishonest way in which to tackle the issue.
A renewal order would not amend the Bill. That point has already been clearly made. I entirely trust my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and, indeed, I would trust any of the Opposition parties, were they to win the general election. Everyone agrees that this is not the final word on anti-terrorism legislation. New legislation will be initiated by my party and would be initiated by other parties if there were a change of Government after the election. The issue is to get the rest of the anti-terrorism legislation right, not to introduce control orders for a period of six months, eight months or a year and then drop them. Frankly, if I thought that that was what we were going to do, I would vote against the Bill because that would be nonsense. There would be no protection against terrorism under such short-term measures. Sadly, we are building a framework of legislation that is likely to play an important part in our
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lives for 10 or 15 years or more. To set a timetable of only months before scrapping the legislation would be nonsense.
Sir Patrick Cormack : The right hon. Gentleman is making a thoughtful speech. He said, however, that the proposal for a sunset clause was dishonest. Is he really accusing those who voted for it in the other place of being disingenuous or dishonest? He heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden that that measure would have been passed without a single Conservative vote. He knows that his own colleagues voted for it. Is he really saying that they are dishonest?
Mr. Denham: I certainly believe that there were those who voted for the sunset clause in the other place because of their intense dislike of the whole principle of control orders and who wish to see them come to an end. I cannot, of course, speak for any of them, and my judgment can be on only some of them. Those who believe that we need control orders know that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is right to introduce his proposal for an annual vote in both Houses of Parliament, to provide a check on this legislation.
Mr. David Watts (St. Helens, North) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the difference between the Government, the Lords and the lawyers is that neither the Lords nor the lawyers would be held accountable for any terrorist attack?
Mr. Denham: It is undoubtedly true that that responsibility lies with the Government, although, in fairness, that does not remove from any of us the obligation to scrutinise the legislation carefully.
I am disappointed that the official Opposition have not managed to decide which side of the fence they are on in regard to control orders. I would have thought that, by now, we would have heard a more definitive response from them.
Mr. Denham: Indeed it is, particularly in the light of the high level of reporting, analysis and scrutiny that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has offered. It is not as though we would be going into that annual vote without a considerable amount of knowledge about how the legislation was operating in practice. Indeed, by the time we reach the second, if not the first, renewal, the use of the orders will no doubt have been tested in the High Court under the European convention on human rights, so there will have been independent scrutiny of the compliance of the legislation with the convention. I think that that is entirely adequate.
Donald Anderson (Swansea, East) (Lab):
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, although the right hon.
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Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) happily voted year after year for the prevention of terrorism Acts, a major change has taken place in the security context since then? At the time of the PTA, we did not have suicide bombers or bioterrorists, for example. The nature of the threat that our citizens face is now much greater.
Mr. Denham: That is undeniably true. It is disappointing that those who regularly voted for the extension of the prevention of terrorism Acts with no qualms about issues of judicial process, of civil liberties or of hundreds of years of human rights have suddenly discovered those issues in such an implausible way during this process. However, that does not remove from us the need to get this legislation right.
In general, there has been a welcome of my right hon. Friend's moves to put the judiciary at the heart, and in every possible circumstance at the beginning, of the process. I will not dwell on that, but it is an important move, and it gave rise to most concern for many of us when we last discussed the issue.
Let me touch briefly on the question of the balance of probability versus suspicion. First, this House should not lightly set aside the advice that we are told that the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister have received from the security services about the nature of the evidence available to them. Each of us must make this judgment individually. If they advise us that the lower threshold is necessary at least to have some level of control over people who might pose a threat to our wider society, lightly setting that aside is dangerous.
Secondly, the process that my right hon. Friend has proposedthis point was confirmed in exchanges with himdoes not just verify whether it was right to have a control order but enables the judge to consider whether the particular measures in the control order are justified by the evidence put forward. Those of us who have watched the judiciary at work over the years, for example, in relation to antisocial behaviour orders, are familiar with the fact that the more draconian the order that one seeks, the more questioning and sceptical judges are likely to be about the quality of evidence that they receive. I am confident that if we stick with my right hon. Friend's proposals, judicial scrutiny will be adequate to ensure that there is sufficient evidence to justify the level of restriction proposed.
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