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"Our strategy should therefore be to insist that the bill does not diminish the liberty of the subject but amplifies it; that the true liberty of the subject consists in the freedom to walk the streets unmolested . . . and that far from circumscribing the liberty of the subject this will enlarge it . . . Paradox works well and mists up the windows, which is handy. 'The loss of liberty is the price we pay for freedom' type thing."
My hon. Friend will realise that they are the words of the fictitious Home Secretary in Alan Bennett's excellent play "The History Boys". They were intended as satire, but now sound eerily and worryingly prophetic.
Mr. Grieve: Indeed. Government Members yesterday suggested that the need for security was so great that any infringement of liberty might be tolerated. We disagree profoundly with the Government on that point.
The situation regarding the sunset clause is quite clear. The Government know from the comments of many of their Back Benchers, including those whom they persuaded to support them yesterday, that the Bill is without doubt a major infringement of civil liberties and is poorly drafted. The hon. and learned Member for Redcar (Vera Baird) made that comment, even though, in her loyalty, she came back to support the Government. The Home Secretary should therefore accept that the legislation should have a finite limit. Without such a limit, I have no confidence that the Government will ever review the measure properly. We will simply be asked to rubber-stamp its renewal, and
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there will be no creative thinking about how we resolve our present dilemma and maintain civil liberties while fighting terrorism adequately.
Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): Once again, the Opposition have made much of the opinions of people who have formerly held eminent positions. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that his proposals fly in face of the contemporary opinions of the security services and the police? If his measures are accepted, they will fly in the face of that advice and jeopardise the citizens of the United Kingdom.
Mr. Grieve: The hon. Gentleman's generalised comments are not very helpful, as we need to look at specific points. Is he suggesting that the security services have said that a sunset clause defeats the object of the Bill? It plainly does not, and it is nonsense to make that assertion.
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Is my hon. Friend, like me, worried not only about the attack on civil liberties but about the fact that the Bill does not guarantee the security of the British people? The Government know that there are hundreds of terrorists out there, but we now know that not a single one will be charged or locked up.
Mr. Grieve: My right hon. Friend makes a good point. That is a serious problem, and it is one reason why we tabled a provision on the director of public prosecutions, as there should be proper consultation to ensure that wherever possible prosecution is pursued. That is another area that the Government have dismissed entirely.
Huw Irranca-Davies: The hon. Gentleman is generous in giving way again. To pursue his point about the security services and the police, they are asking for control orders. What is the Opposition's policy on control orders? If they have no intention of using them, will they include such a statement in their manifesto?
Mr. Grieve: The hon. Gentleman is not listening to the debate. However much I dislike the prospect, it is within the Government's power to obtain control orders within a few hours. What is preventing them from doing so is the purest petulance. The Government have insisted that there should be a distinction between derogated and non-derogated orders.
Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab):
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that there is a huge divide in the House on a number of issues, but that the crucial issue is the sunset clause? There may be only one Government Member who believes that the measures fall short of the threat but, having listened to the Home Secretary, I accept completely that the threat is of a nature that we have not faced before. I am therefore worried about whether the measures proposed by the hon. Gentleman are adequate to deal with the threat. Without a sunset clause, we can never go back to the drawing board to consider measures that are adequate to the challenge. I am worried that a review in 12 months' time will merely
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provide approval, not a basic analysis of what is required, given the challenge that the Home Secretary said we face.
Mr. Grieve: I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman's sensible comments. If the Government accepted the sunset clause in the spirit in which it is intended, the House could start to make real progress. The reluctance of the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister to accept a sunset clause on an issue of huge importance to civil liberties does them no credit whatsoever.
Mr. Field: Is the hon. Gentleman saying that if the Government accepted the sunset clause, the official Opposition would drop all their objections to the remaining measures, knowing that we could return to the drawing board after the election?
Mr. Grieve: The Government should go further and I shall explain why. I simply do not understand why they chose to make an issue of the distinction between derogating and non-derogating orders. During the debate last week, the hon. and learned Member for Redcar made an exceptionally good speech in which she explained why the distinction between derogating and non-derogating orders should be removed. She also highlighted why judicial review proceedings are inadequate for non-derogating orders. Her comments then were absolutely correct and I accept that she accepted less than that yesterday out of loyalty. I have yet to understand the rationale behind the Home Secretary's insistence that the distinction must be maintained.
Vera Baird (Redcar) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman knows very well that when I referred to judicial review I was addressing the question of an appeal on an unsatisfactory basis. I have been substantially reassured because the judge will now come first in non-derogating control orders. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not misrepresent what I said a week ago.
The hon. Gentleman seems to be suggesting that a sunset clause is a precondition for conversations between parties about future legislation. That is utter rubbish and the public should understand that. Conversations have been offered here and now by the Home Secretary, irrespective of the sunset clause, and he has promised new legislation next year. The Opposition have every opportunity to contribute to better future legislation on this matter. The sunset clause is a silly, political tactic.
The hon. and learned Lady is naive if she thinks that in the absence of a sunset clause we will get any joy from this Government on a proper review of this legislation with its draconian clauses and consequences.
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I have here the comments made by the hon. and learned Lady on 28 February and they could not be more crystal clear in their condemnation of a review system as opposed to one where the judge makes the initial decision. I invite her to read her words.
Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): As someone who was, in the words of the hon. and learned Member for Redcar (Vera Baird), given the opportunity to contribute to legislation in the Newton committee, I remind the House that the only sunset depended on the committee's report being debated. When the all-party committee produced a set of alternative proposals, the Home Office did not have to consider adopting them because the legislation continued. Only the sunsetting of the legislation by the House of Lords led to the Government taking up the committee's proposals.
Mr. Grieve: Yes, indeed. Baroness Hayman was a member of that committee, which may explain why she places so little faith in the Home Secretary's assurances. I am bound to say to the hon. and learned Member for Redcar that she should not place much faith in those assurances.
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