Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Jeremy Corbyn: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Denham: No. Two reasonable people can disagree about introducing a sunset clause into the Bill or providing for annual renewal, but the fundamental issue is whether we in this House, and the other place, should have the democratic ability, every year, to get rid of this legislation if we do not like it. That has been established as a result of the changes made to the Bill, and it is not the basis for a constitutional crisis between this House and the other place.

Mr. Beith : I would like to take the right hon. Gentleman's mind back to the debates on the annual renewal of the prevention of terrorism Act, which are essentially the mechanism that the Government have so far agreed for a reconsideration of that Act year by year. The dilemma that faced the Labour party year after year was whether to oppose the renewal, in the face of the argument that Labour would prove soft on terrorism if it did, because it was a take-it-or-leave it situation. Does he realise that that will be the situation under this Bill unless we have a mechanism whereby the Bill lapses and must be replaced by new and better legislation?

Mr. Denham: Of course the process of annual renewal can be limited; it was under the prevention of terrorism Act. It is a genuine and reasonable difference of opinion that one can have about a sunset clause as opposed to annual renewal. Is that a basis, however, for saying that the differences are so great that this House and its democratic majority should be overruled by an unelected Chamber? I do not think that it is.

My point is this: this Chamber has improved this legislation considerably since its introduction by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. As very often in the House, decisions in another place have had an impact and have been taken into account. Equally, the legislation has been changed by the actions of Members here—let us be honest, partly by those Members who did not vote for it on this side who might have been expected to, and partly by a number of Members who did vote for the Government but perhaps have made it clear that we wanted to see changes made. This
 
10 Mar 2005 : Column 1840
 
Chamber has improved the Bill. We have now reached a situation where there are differences of opinion between the House and another place, but none that justify the House now conceding to the other place.

We may well be fighting an election in a few weeks' time. [Hon. Members: "Really?"] So I am given to understand from the newspapers. The truth is that if the House is forced to give in by the other place, the election of every single Member of the House will be diminished as a result. The process will be diminished. Those on the other side who are organising in the House of Lords to achieve that should be mindful of the consequences.

Mr. Cash : The Bill achieves neither objective: neither the security of the nation nor the liberty of the subject. The first duty of all judges is to maintain habeas corpus. In the preceding question that I put to the Home Secretary and to his Minister, I referred to something that I put to the Home Secretary with regard to habeas corpus:

He answered:

It does—that in itself is a reason why the Bill should not proceed.

Mr. Garnier: Has my hon. Friend analysed the Home Secretary's amendment (a), which is supposed to give us comfort because it provides judicial oversight? Has he noticed that the Home Secretary gives himself permission to make control orders, which can be overseen by the court only in very limited circumstances? It has to be demonstrated that the Minister's decision was obviously flawed. What happens if the decision was flawed but not obviously so? The Home Secretary's powers are left unattacked.

Mr. Cash: My hon. and learned Friend is completely right. He demonstrates the fact that the Bill itself is fundamentally flawed. That is why the Bill must be subjected to a sunset clause, but in subjecting it to a sunset clause we shall then have an opportunity, during the time that this is available, to consider the proper basis—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Conversations are breaking out in the House. I cannot hear the hon. Gentleman who is addressing the House. [Interruption.] Order.

Mr. Cash: The plain fact is that the Bill is fundamentally flawed on all the principles on which it is being proposed. It does not secure the nation. It is liable to create further trouble and dissention among those whom we are seeking to control—the terrorists. It denies the liberty of the subject—habeas corpus—but the Home Secretary refuses to accept that, although he originally said that it would contain habeas corpus. He would not give way to me—as you noticed, Mr. Deputy Speaker—because he knew that I would raise that point. All that he could do was come up with a cheap jibe.
 
10 Mar 2005 : Column 1841
 

The plain fact is that the Home Secretary knows that the Bill must be subjected to a sunset clause, but I ask the House to consider the central problem with the Bill: it is dependent on the application of the European convention on human rights. [Hon. Members: "Hurray!"] Hon. Members opposite may have their moment, but the reason why the Bill cannot work is that there is an internal tension, which the Home Secretary knows, between complying with the European convention on human rights on the one hand and trying to ensure the security of the nation on the other.

Mr. Hogg: Does my hon. Friend agree that another central flaw with the Bill is that, ultimately, it does not secure a fair hearing for the person who will be affected by the control order?

Mr. Cash: I entirely agree with right hon. and learned Friend. He is absolutely right. Indeed, I introduced a Bill two days ago to provide precisely this: if it were enacted, we would provide that a writ of habeas corpus and a fair trial in accordance with due process and the rule of law should be available to every person. The Bill achieves neither the security of the nation nor the liberty of the subject. It should be subjected to a sunset clause. Furthermore, during that period, we should also make certain that the legislation makes sense and disapply the nonsense of the European convention on human rights in respect of this legislation.

Mr. Win Griffiths : More than a week ago, I was able to move an amendment to the Bill that—if Opposition Members had been as zealous as they have been in the arguments that they have put forward in today's debates—might have given us a different outcome, but they did not appear to be serious about the issues at stake. Fortunately, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary took on board the issue about which I asked for a vote in the House—that he should apply to court for an order to be implemented.

Mr. Garnier: The hon. Gentleman may be well based in his point, but has he looked at amendment (a) to see what limited powers the court has to review the Home Secretary's orders? He should just read it, and find out for himself how limited are the powers of the court and how massive are the powers that the Home Secretary is giving to himself.

Mr. Griffiths: I have sat through all the debates on the Bill. We have discussed judicial review and there seem to be large differences as to how it would work. My view is that under the Human Rights Act, which many of the hon. and learned Gentleman's hon. Friends seem to despise—despite the fact that it protects the rights of individuals—there would be every opportunity for a defendant to have his case put fairly in the circumstances provided for by the Bill.

With the scope that the Bill gives for this place and the other House to vote down all the legislation on the orders, there is sufficient safeguard, with the other amendments tabled by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, for the Bill to be accepted. No one on the Opposition Benches has mentioned tonight—or rather this morning—that my right hon. Friend is already committed to bringing all parties around the table to try
 
10 Mar 2005 : Column 1842
 
to develop new terrorism legislation that may enable much of the Bill to fall in future. Let us put that to the test. Let us vote the Bill through this evening. Let the other House listen to our view.

Peter Bottomley: If there were a free vote, who thinks that Members on the Labour Benches would vote for the sunset clause? Stand up. Come on, stand up. No one is standing up. Not a single one. If the Conservatives were putting that forward, who thinks—

It being one hour after the commencement of proceedings, Mr. Deputy Speaker put the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Order [9 March].

The House divided: Ayes 301, Noes 211.


Next Section IndexHome Page