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Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD): Will the Minister give way?

Ms Blears: I should like to move on to—[Hon. Members: "Give way."] I shall give way.

Sir Menzies Campbell: I am most grateful to the Minister for giving way at this early hour, as she rightly described it.
 
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I have listened on several occasions when she and the Home Secretary have tried to draw a distinction between derogating and non-derogating orders. Does she not agree that the consequences of derogating and non-derogating orders are penal? The only difference is a matter of degree. If it is a matter of principle that the standard of proof for derogating orders should be balance of probabilities, why is it not a similar matter of principle for non-derogating orders?

Ms Blears: No, I think that I have said on several occasions that these orders are not punishments, they are about prevention. I have also explained that there is a proper reason for the distinction between the two orders set out in article 5.

I now wish to move to the second area of concern of the Lords and my amendments in relation to having an independent reviewer rather than a committee of Privy Councillors. My further amendment shortens the period in which the first report of the independent reviewer must be submitted to nine months, and provides explicitly in the Bill for his report to include the implications for the operation of the Act of any proposal made by the Secretary of State for changing the law relating to terrorism. That has two effects. First, it would ensure that the renewal debates that we will hold in the House will be informed by the report on the operation of the whole Act by the independent reviewer. On that basis, our debates will be more informed. Secondly, it would include in the Bill the Home Secretary's commitment that the independent reviewer should consider specifically in his report the implications for the operation of this Act, once passed, of any new proposals or legislation on counter-terrorism.

We have already said that we will bring forward proposals and have pre-legislative scrutiny. We now want to make sure that the independent reviewer can consider that as part of his review by including that explicitly in the Bill. We want to ensure that his report is done within nine months, so that when we come to the annual renewal after 12 months we have a proper, informed debate in full knowledge of his review.

Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal) (Con): If, as the hon. Lady rightly says, it is necessary for us to have this detailed report and be absolutely sure that the legislation is working properly, why does she not feel at the same time that the House could be assured that it would have new legislation that took all that into account? Why does she not therefore give way by making sure that we have a sunset clause?

Ms Blears: I am afraid that the sunset clause would not ensure that.

My third amendment would ensure that in relation to our annual renewal, the Secretary of State would be required to consult the independent reviewer of the Act before making an order to renew the powers to make control orders for up to a further year. [Interruption.]
 
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We believe that the provisions we are putting into the Bill to review the operation of the Act are right and appropriate, but my amendment requires the Secretary of State to consult the independent reviewer of the Act before making his order to renew the powers. We think that this—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady. The House must come to order. We need to hear this debate.

Ms Blears: We think that this is a sensible idea. At that point, we will have the benefit of the independent reviewer's report, and we will have any recommendations that he wants to make on the way in which the Act is operating when we consider whether we will renew those control order powers. I propose to reinforce that position by making it a specific requirement on the Secretary of State to consult him before making the renewal order.

Mr. Cash: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Blears: I am not giving way to the hon. Gentleman.

We now have a series of checks and balances in the Bill. We have a three-monthly report by the Home Secretary to Parliament about the measures taken. We have an annual renewal of the legislation. If we have derogated, we have an annual renewal of that derogation. We have an independent review, and as part of that the operation of the whole Act can be considered, including the appeal provisions. We have promised new legislation next Session, with pre-legislative scrutiny.

Mr. Beith : Before the hon. Lady completes this detail, will she confirm that when asked in the other place, the Lord Chancellor said that the Security Service had not advised the Government that it would be wrong to have a sunset clause in the Bill?

Ms Blears: Yes, I can confirm that. [Interruption.] I can also confirm that we think that the checks and balances in the Bill, with the independent reviewer, are sufficient and in fact better to achieve our purposes.

Mr. Cash: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Blears: I am not giving way.

We have said that we will produce further legislation to establish whether we can try to prosecute more people in the circumstances that we are discussing, but there are a small number of people whom we cannot prosecute through our traditional criminal justice system because of the danger to human sources, and the danger involved in revealing sensitive intelligence techniques. If there is a small number of people whom we cannot prosecute, we must have a system that enables us to control their activities so that we protect the safety of the country. I think that it is pretty clear now—


 
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Mr. Cash : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In our earlier proceedings, the Home Secretary gave me an explicit assurance that habeas corpus would apply in these circumstances. Is it not something which—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman realises that that is not a point of order for the Chair, but an attempt to pursue the debate.

Ms Blears: I was trying to emphasise—although I do not think I need to do so—the importance and severity of the measures that we are considering. Let us suppose, for example, that we have intelligence about someone who is a real and serious threat, and that the information we hold might require us to reveal human agents or sensitive intelligence techniques. There is a real danger for us there. The question for us tonight is this: in those circumstances, what do we do? If we cannot prosecute, we must have a framework that enables us to control people.

We have a real choice: either we have control orders, or we allow people whom we cannot prosecute to walk free. Opposition Members have not come up with any suggestions. We need to know whether they support the idea of control orders. I think the answer is very clear: I think that the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve), in particular, opposes control orders in principle, and if we do not have control orders we face the very real prospect of—

Mr. Oliver Letwin (West Dorset) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I believe that I heard Ministers confirm that the security services had not given advice on the sunset clause. According to Wednesday's Hansard, the Prime Minister said:
 
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Have you received any indication from the Prime Minister, Mr. Deputy Speaker, of an inclination on his part to come to the House and explain that statement?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I have had no such notice, and that continues to be a matter for debate.

Ms Blears: It is the advice of the security services that they want us to have control orders. Let me say this to Opposition Members. If there are people who are a real and serious threat to this country and we cannot prosecute them because that would mean revealing sensitive and dangerous intelligence, what do we do with them? At this stage, we have no indication that Opposition Members are prepared to support control orders that will protect our national security. I think that it is vital that we secure this legislation tonight and establish a framework enabling us to strike the right balance between national security and individual liberty.

These are real matters. This is not an academic debate—we are faced with real problems.


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