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Mr. Hoon: No doubt the raising of that issue here has saved the Scottish National party a certain amount of money for its campaign in Dunfermline, but I am confident that it will result in the election of another Labour Member of Parliament to continue the excellent work of the former Member, Rachel Squire. She was a friend of mine and a remarkable Member of Parliament, and I regret her loss.

The economy of the United Kingdom and that of Scotland have, in fact, never been stronger. I should be intrigued to know—I shall not give the hon. Gentleman the opportunity to tell me now, but perhaps he would like to write to me—exactly what prescriptions the Scottish National party would set out for the economy of Scotland. The economy of Scotland is doing extremely well under a Labour Government, and while obviously we regret job losses—particularly on the scale that we have seen recently—one of the remarkable features of the current economy is that those who are losing employment have an opportunity, for the first time in more than a generation, to secure alternative employment. The Government have invested an enormous amount of resources in ensuring that they are given appropriate training and education so that that can happen.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex) (Con): Do the Leader of the House and the Government agree that the reporting of Iran to the United Nations Security Council is a very serious matter, reflecting a grave international crisis that is preoccupying every major power on this earth? I realise that we are to have a defence debate this afternoon, but a 12-minute limit on speeches has been imposed, and the debate is meant to be about procurement, not just about Iran. Would it not be sensible for the Government to hold a full day's debate on Iran, so that the House can be fully informed about where this development is leading our own Government?

Mr. Hoon: The Government have serious concerns about Iran's policies, and not least about such aspects as its nuclear and ballistic missile programme. That is why we have engaged with other members of the EU3, why we have taken up the issue internationally, and why we continue to regard developments in Iran with great concern. I share the hon. Gentleman's anxiety, and will consider the possibility of a debate in due course.

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Prevention of Terrorism Act

12.14 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Clarke): With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a statement on the renewal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005.

I have today laid before Parliament Lord Carlile of Berriew's report on the operation of the control order regime under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, and an order to extend the life of that Act for a further 12 months. I am very grateful to Lord Carlile—as I am sure the whole House will be—for the customary diligence and care with which he approached his task.

Overall, I believe that the report endorses the current operation of the control order system. Paragraph 61 states:

Lord Carlile also states, in paragraph 38, that in the 18 cases in which control orders have been made,

Lord Carlile has made a number of recommendations to improve the operation of the control order regime, including the monitoring of each case to ensure that the restrictions imposed are the minimum necessary consistent with the safety of the public, and fuller information from the police about why they believe it would not be possible to mount a prosecution rather than relying on a control order. I have considered each of Lord Carlile's recommendations, and in principle I accept them. I am currently consulting, as required by the Act, the Intelligence Services Commissioner and the director general of the Security Service, and will take their views into account before making final decisions, on which I will report to the House during the debates on the renewal order. No recommendation made by Lord Carlile requires primary legislation, and it is on that basis that I have laid the renewal order today. It will be fully debated in both Houses, and all Members will have an opportunity to debate Lord Carlile's report and our response to it. Of course I hope that the order will be supported.

The last stage of the Prevention of Terrorism Act was a significant parliamentary occasion that all members of this House will remember well. During that debate, I made a commitment to timetable further counter-terrorism legislation for spring this year, so that Lord Carlile's report would be available to inform the House when it considered any amendments to the control order legislation. I gave that commitment in the context of an announcement I had already made that we would introduce legislation to give effect to new offences of terrorism. The House will know that the tragic events of 7 July changed the timetable for the introduction of that legislation. With the agreement of all parties, we decoupled that legislation from further parliamentary consideration of control orders and presented it in October, in the Terrorism Bill that is currently before Parliament. In July, I said that I would return to the issue of control orders in the spring.
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On receiving Lord Carlile's report, I was left to consider the merits of introducing a Bill that would have little content, but would enable hon. Members to table amendments to the Prevention of Terrorism Act. In doing so, I noted the following points.

First, Lord Carlile's report emphasises that there has not yet been a complete cycle of control orders, in that legal challenges brought by those who have been the subject of control orders have not yet been completed and therefore tested in the courts. I think that final conclusions on the operation of the whole control order regime would therefore be premature.

Secondly, there are three very important pieces of work that are being done this year, which I want to be able to take into account before presenting legislation on counter-terrorism. The first is Lord Carlile's review of the legislative definition of terrorism, which was promised during the passage of the Terrorism Bill and has been a significant part of the debate in both Houses of Parliament. The second is his report on the operation of the current Terrorism Bill, once passed, and in particular the measure to lengthen the period of detention without charge to 28 days, which has been the subject of great debate in both Houses. The third is the work that the Government are undertaking to find, if possible, a legal model that would provide the necessary safeguards to allow intercept material to be used as evidence. That has been raised in many parts of the House. Each of those pieces of work has been of considerable importance to Members in all parts of this House during our debates, and in my view will demand attention before we decide the details of how to proceed on terrorism legislation.

I am conscious that our terrorism legislation is now split between several different Acts of Parliament, and that the principal Act, the Terrorism Act 2000, has been subject to multiple amendments. That, as Lord Carlile among others has noted, is confusing, and I am keen to ascertain whether a way could be found of consolidating all our counter-terrorism legislation in a single, permanent Act. When I expressed that hope on Third Reading of the Terrorism Bill on 10 November 2005, the Opposition parties were good enough to say that they might be prepared to co-operate in such an endeavour.

For all those reasons, I have decided not to introduce further legislation on terrorism now, but to plan for the development of a draft Bill that takes into account all the work that I have laid out, to be published in the first half of 2007 for pre-legislative scrutiny. Depending on the outcome of that scrutiny, we will seek to introduce the legislation later that year.

It is a matter of genuine regret to me that—despite very positive discussions between the parties at the beginning of last year, following the House of Lords judgment on Belmarsh, and during the summer of last year after 7 July—any consensus reached has never held during the passage of subsequent legislation. It is unarguable that it would be better by far if the next counter-terrorism Bill had the support of all parts of the House. The timetable that I have set out offers us that opportunity and, for my part, I am determined to take it, working with the whole House.
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David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): I begin by thanking the Home Secretary for making his statement to the House today, and for his courtesy in allowing me advance sight of the documents. My saying so is not just a formality—we were given serious advance sight of those documents.

The review and renewal procedure for control orders is the consequence of the enormous battle that took place in the House of Commons before the last general election. In my judgment, it demonstrates that that debate, in which we heard brave and passionate contributions in defence of British freedoms from all parts of the House, was worth while. The Home Secretary was right to say that Lord Carlile's report is largely supportive of the Government's operation of the system, and that Lord Carlile felt that the process appeared to work. Indeed, he concluded that it was extremely rigorous, and that the Home Secretary took his personal responsibilities extremely seriously. If I may say so without embarrassing the Home Secretary, it is a reflection of his stature that not a single Member of the House will be surprised to learn that he took them seriously.

That does not mean, of course, that the control order approach can replace proper judicial process, which is why it should be kept under review, minimised and in due course replaced. It is also why, in paragraph 37 of the report, Lord Carlile supports the use of intercept evidence—the Home Secretary referred to this—to bring criminal prosecutions in as many cases as possible. Lord Carlile points out that the Terrorism Bill, which is due to return to the House shortly, will allow us to try, and in due course to convict, terrorists more easily, and to reduce even further the need for control orders. Practical factors such as resources will, in time, also help with surveillance, for example.

The report tells us that 18 control orders were issued last year, and that only one of them applies to a British citizen. I am glad to observe that that particular control order does not involve tagging or curfew, and that it allows the person in question to continue with his work. During the original debate, we expressed the worry that control orders could be destructive of people's lives.

Nine of the men in question—they are all men—have been removed from the control order system and detained pending deportation, when and if the Government obtain memorandums of understanding with the relevant Governments. This raises two key questions that are not easy to answer, but which I shall put to the Home Secretary anyway. First, how will the Government deal with any legal challenge to deportations, made under the European convention on human rights, where a memorandum of understanding is achieved? Secondly, although the report does not say so in terms, it makes it clear that it is proving quite difficult to conclude those memorandums with certain countries, which is unsurprising. What do the Government intend to do if it proves impossible to conclude them?

In paragraphs 71 and 72 of the report, Lord Carlile highlights his concerns, and those of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, at the prospect of control orders being renewed time and again. He says:

What are the Home Secretary's views on that matter?
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Let me now turn to the wider issue of counter-terrorism legislation, which the Home Secretary referred to in his statement. He said that there is no requirement for primary legislation in Lord Carlile's review, but that is not quite right: paragraph 37 makes it clear that the law should be amended to allow limited use of intercept evidence. However, I accept that that will take some time to get right. I believe that the Government are right to legislate on terrorism in a more deliberate manner. Indeed, I should tell the House—I do not think that I am breaking any confidence in doing so—that the Home Secretary and I have discussed at length the use of intercept evidence. My party did not press the matter in the Lords, on the understanding that the Government would make a serious attempt to devise a robust legal model to allow the safe use of intercept material in court. I am very pleased that the Home Secretary has confirmed that intention to the House today.

I also welcome the Home Secretary's intention to rationalise terrorism legislation. This is not just a technical issue—Lord Carlile's report refers to confusion in this regard. Much anti-terrorism legislation was necessarily put together in haste and has proved unusable or unnecessary. Other such legislation appears to be being used for purposes beyond the original intention, or is being used far more than was intended. There were some 29,000 uses of the Terrorism Act 2000 last year, for example. So there is great scope for rationalisation, including some pruning of current law, and we will do what we can to facilitate that process on a consensual basis. This is an issue of enormous national interest that involves serious matters such as striking a balance between protecting the security and liberty of the subject, and protecting and preserving our values, so we will be very constructive on it.

However, let me offer a gentle comment—I will not say a rebuke—to the Home Secretary. He expressed disappointment at what he saw as a lack of consensus on the current legislation. There is a difference between a constructive, consensual approach and a supine acceptance of everything that the Prime Minister chooses to announce. We have defeated the Government on some major issues of principle, but they are just that: major issues of principle. As such, they have aroused the passionate concern of members of all the parties represented in this House, not just mine. That is as it should be, and in my judgment such concern has improved the legislation.

The result of the positive discussions that the Home Secretary alluded to has been fewer clashes—certainly fewer unnecessary clashes—than would otherwise have occurred. The Bill itself is better and more wide ranging than it would otherwise have been, and the Home Secretary will have key legislation earlier than would otherwise have been the case. After all, the timetable on which he is putting this legislation through was my suggestion, which was supported by the Liberal Democrats. So even though the outcome has not always been to his satisfaction—he is only human, so we cannot expect otherwise—it has in fact been good.

The issues arising from the proposed legislation—the definition of terrorism, the 28-day detention without trial procedure, the use of intercept evidence—are all vital and we need to get them right. I agree that we need to take a measured and thoughtful approach; that, ideally, we should proceed by way of consensus and not
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according to an unnecessarily hasty timetable; and that cross-party discussion would be useful. The Home Secretary will not expect me to give him a blank cheque, but I will make sure that my party does all in its power to ensure that the process that he described is effective and thorough and delivers anti-terrorism legislation that attracts the support of all parts of the House and, more importantly, really works to defend the lives and liberties of the British people.

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