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Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth) (Lab): My right hon. Friend said that he would consult the ISC and the director general of the Security Service. I know that these are difficult matters, but will he ask them also to prepare a report for Members of Parliament that could be placed in the Library? In addition, will he ask them to push the envelope in respect of the information that any such report can contain? In these circumstances, the more information that hon. Members have the better, especially when it comes from an independent and neutral source, although I recognise the difficulties that our security services encounter in making such information available.
Mr. Clarke: I very much appreciate the way in which my hon. Friend puts his very appropriate question. It is right that we need to share information as much as we can, with Parliament and with society more widely, although my hon. Friend clearly accepts that there are serious constraints on how we do that. There are various procedures that we can follow to make that information availablethrough the Intelligence and Security Committee, the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Home Affairs and other Select Committeesbut I will ensure that we talk to the security services in general about how we can share the information more widely without threatening the country's security in any direct way. I accept without qualification his fundamental point, which is that our security will be stronger if the information is more widely shared and understood. The question is how best to do it. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I will set about the task with that in mind.
Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): While warmly welcoming the Home Secretary formally letting the House know today that work is being carried out on a legal model that we hope will allow for tapped evidence to be permissible in court, may I underline the fact that for many of us it is absolutely essential that we fall into line with our European allies and that this actually happens? We fully understand that it might take some time to find this legal model, but it must happen and it must be incorporated in the fresh legislation. I hope that it is a matter of when, not if.
I understand the right hon. Gentleman's point and I reaffirm the commitment that I gave in the statement and in response to his right hon. Friend the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) about our intentions in these matters. I should put two points for the consideration of the House. First, our legal systems are very different from the legal systems in other European countries. I notice some characteristic austere nods from his Back-Bench
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colleagues on that matter. We need to understand those differences, as I am sure the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) does better than any of us, when we think how to deal with this. I accept what the right hon. Gentleman is saying in principle, but we should accept the reality of how this is dealt with by very different legal systems.
The second issue that I always have to be aware of is the need to ensure that we do not jeopardise our ability to collect information and intelligence which is important in the national security struggle in which we are engaged. Those are my two qualifications. I again confirm that we are keen to find a solution if we can. We are working actively on this. I look forward to the House, at some point in the timetable that I have set out, considering how well or not we have achieved that.
Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe) (Lab): May I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, particularly the idea of consolidated legislation, which seems entirely right and appropriate? I welcome the intention to produce the Bill in draft form for pre-legislative scrutiny. That seems entirely consistent with my right hon. Friend's approach to engage with and listen to the views of right hon. and hon. Members. I am sure that he will be able to give me the assurance that I seek, namely that that scrutiny will be informed by Lord Carlile's thoughts and views about the definition of terrorism. It is the current definition in relation to the glorification clause that has caused many of us real problems with the current Terrorism Bill.
Mr. Clarke: First, I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his general support. Secondly, I can certainly give him the assurance that he seeks. The reason whyit was in response to the debate in this Housewe have given Lord Carlile this commission is precisely to inform the debate that we will have. We are expecting him to report towards the end of this year. These are difficult questions. Perhaps I should remind the House that the United Nations Security Council decided last year to pass a resolution on this matter, includingdare I say itthe word "glorification" as a matter that should be outlawed. That was according to the august body of world opinion, the UN, and not just some No. 10 Downing street occupant of the moment. One of the mandates from that Security Council resolution was that during this year the convention on terrorism should be developed and a new agreed international definition of terrorism achieved. I discussed that with the UN Secretary-General. There is serious work going on in this area and there are serious difficulties. I am not sanguine about the possibility of getting such an agreement, but obviously I would want us to take account of whatever happens in the UN context. I can happily and confidently give my hon. Friend the assurance that he seeks.
Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con):
May I welcome the Home Secretary's announcement with regard to the prospect of new legislation? I hope that when he refers to consolidation he uses that in the broad sense because it may well need to be a consolidation with amendments. May I suggest to him that the first priority is to protect the public from terrorism and that the question of whether or not we subscribe to the Human Rights Act 1998 is only
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secondary? Does he agree that the role of the judiciary under that Act sometimes appears to interfere with the first principle, the protection of the public, and that we in this Parliament should legislate on our own terms to guarantee fair trial, habeas corpus and due process for alleged terrorists, but not hand over those important decisions to the court in Strasbourg or, now that the charter of fundamental rights is coming in through the back door, to the court in Luxembourg?
Mr. Clarke: I was using the word "consolidation" in a broad sense and perhaps too loosely in my statement. I can confirm that my intention is in accordance with what the hon. Gentleman is sayingthat is to look at the situation in the round and get a clear position on the statute book. I cannot agree with his attacks on the European convention on human rights and the Human Rights Act 1998. That has been an important development in many ways. Neither can I accept that the role of the judiciary somehow stands against the protection of the public. The rule of law in this country is dependent on the independence of the judiciary and how it operates in deciding how to protect individual liberties. That being so, there are serious issues about the interpretation of the ECHR and some of the court judgments. We have asked for certain issues to be reconsidered by the courtfor example, the Chahal judgment in relation to these matters. We have joined various other actions in those regards. I am not saying that there is nothing in what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but it would be a grave mistake to set the judiciary as the opponent to the protection of the public because that is not true. It would be a grave mistake, too, to say that human rights should not be at the core of our approach. As the hon. Gentleman rightly says, the balancing issues are complicated and difficult and that is precisely what Parliament will have to assess when we look at the legislation.
Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South) (Lab): I echo what my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Mr. Jenkins) said: what would really reassure the public if and when the new legislation goes through Parliament would be if we could have some sort of annual report. The public would then be reassured that Parliament had taken an interest. Finally, what happened to the proposal in the press report to tap Members' telephones? Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a question of confidentiality between the public and their Member of Parliament?
On my hon. Friend's final point, there are important issues at stake. The Intelligence Services Commissioner has made some recommendations and the Prime Minister is considering them and will make a statement in due course, as he has said. I understand exactly my hon. Friend's points and their importance. There is a whole series of reporting and accountability procedures in the current legislation, such as reports to the House and certain Select Committees and renewal legislation in various forms. I agree with my hon. Friend, first, that reporting procedure is important and needs to be part of this and, secondly, that it needs to be fairly consistent and straightforward to improve public understanding of the issues. When we look at the new
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legislation, I hope that we will get a clear system of reporting. That would be bound to include an annual report of some kind. The type of scrutiny given to that report is also relevant. It would be beneficial to get a coherent approach on all these reporting and accountability mechanisms.
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