Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst):
Order. I wonder whether I can help the right hon. Gentleman? Expressions used outside the House do not fall within the rules of order and seemly language within the House. However, if some of those words are brought into the debate, there is a danger that one might get into the realms of immoderate language.
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Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): May I take the Home Secretary back to another point, away from such contentious issues? He said that the annual renewal clause, which was moved by the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) and which I supported, will have to be recast in the other place because it was incomplete. I have no objection to that, but why did the Government not move their own renewal clause, thus obliging the hon. Gentleman to move his? Was that in a fit of pique? I fail to understand why that was not done yesterday, when the provision was on the amendment paper?
Mr. Clarke: Sometimes failure to understand is the hon. Gentleman's characteristic. As I sought to explain in the House yesterday, the Government's amendment for 90 days included a sunset clause for a clear reason. It was that there should be an opportunity for the House to reconsider the situation after a year's application of the legislation, so that the concerns that had been raised by hon. Members on both sides of the House could be assessed and considered by the House after a year.
The sunset clause that my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North moved was of a different character. It referred, for example, to annual renewal. Therefore, we decided not to oppose my hon. Friend's amendment but we, the Government, did not move it. I can confirm that the redraft that we will introduce in another place will accept in all respects the intention behind his proposals. I gave him the commitment privately yesterday that I reassert across the Floor of the House that I will consult him in drawing up the exact wording of what we propose. He can then satisfy himself that we are operating in the spirit of what the House agreed yesterday. There is no intention on my part to go past that.
Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe) (Con): I realise that the Home Secretary had no opportunity of warning the hon. and learned Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) that he was going to refer to him because he was invited to reflect on comments that he made this morning. I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman would not welcome my leaping to his defence. Will the Home Secretary reflect upon the rather vindictive spirit in which he referred to the hon. and learned Gentleman because he had been hostile to parts of the Bill? I listen to the hon. and learned Gentleman myself quite frequently and do not doubt the sincerity of his views. I regard it as absurd to suggest that he is in some way sympathetic to terrorism. I have to confess that I agreed with quite a lot of what he said. Is the Home Secretary prepared to modify the views that he expresses for some reason about one of his critics?
Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab):
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It was not only my
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hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) who was spoken of in such terms. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) was also mentioned. There was the implication that other Members had a frivolous attitude towards terrorism. I think that the Home Secretary should withdraw those comments.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I have heard no unparliamentary language in this debate. What I have said, and will say again, is that I think that we are getting into dangerous ground and getting into the use of immoderate language if we dwell on personality. I think that enough has been said now. We should draw a line under that and move on with the substance of the debate.
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): My right hon. Friend was talking about the sunset clause. If in a year's time we choose not to renew, we will go back from 28 days to 14. Many of my constituents who have been in touch with me today and who have been speaking on BBC Radio Wales and elsewhere want Parliament to consider an extension in a year's time, if the police still believe that that is necessary and if the circumstances in the intervening time suggest that it should be done. Will my right hon. Friend look at that?
Mr. Clarke: I am certain that my hon. Friend is accurately reflecting the views of his constituents who have been in touch with him. It is always open to the Government to bring back further proposals if we wish to do so. I will shortly make a comment about that process. It is important to get all our terrorism legislation on to a very firm, secure and permanent basis.
I shall turn to an issue that was raised briefly near the end of our proceedings yesterday, which is the definition of terrorism. I know that several hon. Members, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham), have concerns about that. Even though the Government are not yet convinced that a more satisfactory definition is easily available, we recognise the level of concern about the issue among Members on both sides of the House. I know that the House will be keen to have a further opportunity to consider the definition of terrorism. Accordingly, the Government have invited the independent reviewer of our terrorism legislation, Lord Carlile of Berriew, to carry out a review of the definition of terrorism. I do not think that anyone could cast doubt on his independence or his experience in these matters. I am sure that he will want to take account of the current initiatives in the European Union and the United Nations. As the House may be aware, the UN comprehensive convention on terrorism is grappling with just these issues. I am sure that he will also want to take account of the views that have been expressed in the debates that we have had on the issue in the context of the Bill.
Lord Carlile has said that, in performing his task, he will want to see contributions and views, including consultation with people in the House who can make a relevant contribution. I have asked him to complete this
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work within a year of commencement of the Act. I will lay his report before Parliament. Clearly I cannot predict at this stage what the outcome his deliberations may be, but I can say that we shall provide Parliament with an opportunity to debate and take a view on his conclusions. If consensus is achieved on a change to the existing definition, we would commit to bringing forward that change as soon as parliamentary time would allow.
More generally, I am extremely keen to see whether we can find some means of getting the legislation to combat terrorism in Parliament on to a secure and stable basis rather than having a series of emergency arrangements. As the Opposition parties know, we considered in this Parliament trying to bring together the Northern Ireland terrorist legislation that the House is considering in parallel with the legislation that is before us. For a series of reasons about the time of expiry of existing legislation we decided we would not do that. In generalI am not making any proposal at this stageI am keen to get to a state of affairs where we arrive at a stable and fixed position that is the will of Parliament across the entire range of the legislation. That is the approach that I will follow. Lord Carlile is particularly important in his looking at these issues to try to move into that sort of process. In that context, I would listen to the proposals being made and take them more generally.
Mr. Grieve: If that is the course that the Government intend to adopt, we will help and co-operate with the Government in trying to achieve it. I think that the right hon. Gentleman is aware from previous conversations that we have had that we can certainly see the desirability of achieving a framework of legislation rather than having a series of bits and pieces. If we can be of assistance in that process, we shall take that approach.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): I welcome what the Home Secretary has just said. As he correctly says, there was disquiet in all parts of the House about having a valid definition of terrorism. I am sure that my noble Friend Lord Carlile will do a good job. I wonder whether he will have access also to the considerations of the Law Commission, which might be of value.
I suggest to the Home Secretary that he might review another aspect of this legislation that has caused concern, which is the legal context of post-charge questioning. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (David Howarth) said, there is some doubt about what exactly can be done post-charge and what cannot, and to what extent it can be mitigated by changes to PACEthe Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.