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Mr. Clarke: I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's constructive and positive tone. I shall not talk today about the details of the control orders referred to in Lord Carlile's report; we will have a chance to debate them when the renewal order is in place. I should re-emphasise the Government's view that, as the right hon. Gentleman said, proper judicial processgoing through courts, and for convictionsis the right way to address these matters wherever possible, rather than using measures such as control orders. He is also right to say that under the legislation currently before Parliament, the number of cases in which there is a prospect of securing a conviction through the courts will increase; I hope that it will have the impact that he describes. For the avoidance of doubt, I should confirm our approach throughout this process: we are introducing a regime that will apply only to a very narrow set of caseswe hope that it will become narrowerin which prosecution through the courts in the normal way cannot work.
The right hon. Gentleman asked how we will deal with deportation cases in the light of court judgments. I am not going to predict how we will deal with such situations, but we have been able to secure memorandums of understanding with a number of countries, and the Foreign Secretary and I continue actively to discuss with other countries the securing of such memorandums. I hope that the courts will regard those memorandums as serious agreements between sovereign Governments in such circumstances. But of course, the courts will have to judge the nature of the memorandum of understanding with a particular country, and its operation in relation to a particular case. Therefore, I am not going to speculate about how that will be dealt with.
On intercept, the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden is right to say that hon. Members in his party and others, and many Labour Members, have wanted to explore whether we can do better than is currently the case. I can confirm what I have told him in private, which is that the Government are looking at that very actively and seriously, with a view to seeing how we can introduce an appropriate regime. A report on that will be produced later in the year. If progress is made in that regard, I can confirm that legislative change along the lines suggested by Lord Carlile would be appropriate.
Whether his remarks amount to a gentle comment or a rebuke, the very cordial and consensual relations that I have had with the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden in discussing some of these matters have not always been evident in debates in the House. I blame my own conduct for that, of course, but he may care to look at his own approach in that regard. [Laughter.] However, I do appreciate his determination to play a constructive role in rationalising the legislation. As he
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says, it could certainly do with pruning and close examination. In that context, we would need to see whether the current legislation on terrorism in Northern Ireland could be brought within the framework. I repeat that I very much appreciate his constructive approach.
We are not looking for a blank cheque from the Opposition or any other Member of the House. We will not simply lay a proposal on the table and say, "Take it or leave it." We want a serious debate and a consensual approach to achieving a stable and permanent legislative regime that will tackle properly the appalling challenges that we face.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend accept that, although certain differences arose in November, most hon. Members recognise the heavy responsibility that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary bears in the face of the ongoing threat of terrorism carried out by murderous fanatics? No one should underestimate the terrorist danger that our country faces. I hope that a consensus will emerge on this matter, and that the Opposition parties will play a positive role, but there needs to be greater dialogue between the Government and Parliament as a whole. If that had happened previously, some of last year's difficulties might have been avoided. However, I have confidence in what my right hon. Friend has said, and that that dialogue will take place.
Mr. Clarke: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for those remarks, given the leading role that he played in the debate last year. I pay tribute to his continued engagement in these matters and his total commitment to fighting terrorism by whatever means are appropriate. I very much agree with him: this is a matter for all of Parliament, both Government and Opposition parties. I mentioned the possibility of pre-legislative scrutiny of proposed legislation because I think that that might offer a vehicle for progress on a consolidated basis. In that way, hon. Members of all parties, whether they have a specific or a more general interest, will be able to make a contribution to creating the new legislation. I confirm that our approach is intended to achieve consensus across the House on these matters.
Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): May I also thank the Home Secretary for his very generous advance notice of the statement and of Lord Carlile's report? That has been of considerable assistance. I should also like to associate myself with his remarks about the composition of Lord Carlile's report. He has brought to it his customary intellectual rigour and a very sound practical approach to issues that can be complex and involved.
"As a last resort (only), in my view, the control order system as operated currently in its non-derogating form is a justifiable and proportional safety valve for the proper protection of civil society."
"However, I have a real concern about the detention under deportation procedures (even where bail has been granted) of persons who in practice cannot be deported at present and are unlikely to be capable of legally compliant deportation within a reasonable time."
"a Home Office led procedure whereby officials and representatives of the control authorities meet regularly to monitor each case, with a view to advising on a continuing basis as to the necessity of the obligations imposed on each controlee"?
I welcome the Home Secretary's announcement about a new Bill that I hope will receive some pre-legislative scrutiny. I have told him already in private that I consider that to be a sensible way to proceed, although I hope that it will be possible to look again at the indicative timetable that he has proposed, as that would not allow anything to reach the statute book inside two years. Will he assure the House that the new Bill will not be used as an excuse for revisiting matters on which hon. Members have already expressed a very clear view?
Finally, I share the Home Secretary's frustration at the lack of consensus on these matters. It is clearly preferable to proceed with consensus, if that is at all possible. I fear that the fault is shared by all parties, and I hope that he will ensure that his words are heard in No. 10 Downing street.
Mr. Clarke: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his approach and the stance that he has adopted. As I said in my statement, in principle I accept each of Lord Carlile's recommendations to which he referredon Home Office procedures, deportation processes and so on. I am requiredand wishto consult the Intelligence Services Commissioner and the director general of the Security Service, but I hope that not too many weeks pass before we debate the renewal order. I shall then set out to the House my detailed and final decision, following that consultation, on Lord Carlile's recommendations.
I very much welcome the constructive approach adopted by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) in respect of the timetable for the new Bill. I can tell the House that his predecessor in the post took the same approach. I shall look at what the hon. Gentleman said about the indicative timetable, but I am determined that the new Bill takes full account of all the pieces of work to which I referred. The timetable will therefore not be based on indolence on the part of Parliament or the House, but on the fact that proper account must be taken of how the regime has worked, the comments that are made about it, and other specific pieces of work that must be developed.
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The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland mentioned revisiting issues. Parliament has a tradition of doing that in a variety of ways. I cannot guarantee that no issues will be revisited, by me or another Labour Member. I am not sure that I can ask him for a guarantee that his party will not revisit any issuesI am thinking about its opposition to the existence of control orders in the first placebut a commitment in that regard from him could very much aid consensual progress.
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