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John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): I want to address the same point as the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke). When the House debated the legislation, it agreed to enact this unusual process on the basis that the measures were proportionate to the threat that faced the country at the time. If hon. Members had been able to read the Joint Committee on Human Rights report on the impact of the measure on the individuals concerned and, more importantly, their wives, children and families, I wonder whether they would have accepted that it was proportionate. In the report, Lord Carlile states:

Page 63 of the report includes evidence from Liberty about the impact of the operation of control orders on the individuals concerned. The evidence is not only distressing, but well beyond what hon. Members assumed would be the impact when they agreed to the process. One person was

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It behoves a Government who place an individual in such circumstances to ensure that support is available.

Page 72 of the report includes evidence from Gareth Peirce about


The evidence includes cases in which children have been affected by what has happened to their parents. When we enacted the legislation on control orders, no one appreciated the scale of the Government's lack of concern about individual cases, their failure to provide support and the impact on the children involved.

Today's debate is limited, and I concur with the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe that it was predictable that instead of its becoming a major debate each year, a derisory amount of time would be allocated and few hon. Members would be interested.

Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): The hon. Gentleman may recall that I was very concerned about control orders in the first place, but perhaps for somewhat different reasons from those of the hon. Gentleman, who speaks eloquently on these matters, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe. Does he agree we should insist upon habeas corpus, a fair trial, and due process within the terms of our own legislation instead of getting caught up in the tortuous attempts to provide for compliance with the European convention on human rights, which creates more problems than it solves?

John McDonnell: I made my position clear in the previous debate. I believe that, as the hon. Gentleman says, we should apply habeas corpus and have due process of law. If the Government wanted to propose alterations to those processes, they should have done so swiftly with primary legislation and a thorough debate. We had a debate about the enactment of control orders and the promise of an opportunity of primary legislation, that would be fully debated in this House within a limited period of time. That has not occurred and has yet again been put off.

Several people are suffering as a result of control orders—not only the individuals themselves, who have as yet had nothing proven against them in law, but more importantly their wives and children, against whom we have no objections or allegations. They are suffering through a lack of support from the state and a lack of adequate consideration of the proportionality of the effects of control orders in these individual cases.
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I urge the Minister not only to bring back as swiftly as possible the debate about primary legislation but to provide a report on the impact of control orders on the individuals concerned, on a case-by-case basis, which could be examined by Members who were involved in the original debate on the process. It is the Government's responsibility to protect those individuals, who have not as yet been prosecuted for anything, and, more importantly, to protect their families and give them adequate support.

6.36 pm

Hazel Blears: I will do my best to respond to the remarks that Members have made. Although, as has been said, the House is not particularly full, that did not undermine the quality of the contributions that they made to the debate on these very important matters.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer) for recognising that the Home Secretary has considered all these cases in detail and in depth, personally making the decisions and looking at the intelligence and information. Lord Carlile confirms that the Home Secretary has fulfilled his duties in a very responsible manner. I am also grateful to the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) for his comments about the Home Secretary's approach.

We regard these matters as extremely serious and important because they inevitably involve constraints that are put upon people to limit their freedom of action. They are certainly not taken lightly.

The hon. Member for Newark raised some practical issues about the surveillance resources made available to the police and the security service to allow them to monitor control orders. He will have heard me say on previous occasions that we have substantially improved the resources available to the police, special branch and the Security Service. There have been dramatic increases in the numbers of people working in those services, and we are confident that there are sufficient resources for the control order regime, as it currently operates, to run effectively. I cannot go into any further detail than that—I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not expect me to—but there are certainly enough resources in place to ensure proper monitoring of the conditions that have been imposed on people.

The hon. Member for Newark, among others, raised issues that were highlighted in the report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights. Let me go through some of those briefly, as I cannot give an in-depth analysis in the time available. Members asked about non-derogating control orders being operated in a way that amounts to a deprivation of liberty. The orders were considered by the court and made with the permission of the court, which did not consider that they amounted to derogating control orders. None of the people concerned, all of whom are legally represented, has made a legal challenge to say that the prohibitions placed upon them are such that in total they would amount to a derogating order.

There has been no legal challenge to that effect. Lord Carlile says that the prohibitions are restrictive in some cases, but he does not believe that they fulfil the definition of deprivation of liberty, although they approach the cusp of that. Those are his words and he clearly takes a careful view. The fact that the orders have not been challenged is important because it is always open to those subject to them to make such a challenge.
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The compatibility of the procedural protections with the provisions of the European convention on human rights has been questioned. It is important to stress that we do not accept that control order proceedings amount to a criminal charge, which engages all the rights that pertain to a trial situation. We are considering an application for a civil order and the proceedings are regulated by civil rules of procedure. As I have said, it involves a two-stage test. First, is there a reasonable suspicion that the person is involved in terrorism? If so—the second test—is it necessary to make the order to protect the public from whatever action the person might commit? There is therefore a range of civil procedure regulations for making control orders. I am not convinced at this stage that the view of the Joint Committee on Human Rights constitutes the right approach.

Hon. Members asked whether the subjects of control orders suffered inhuman and degrading treatment. We do not accept that to be the case. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture has visited the UK and it will report on some issues in March. Our view is that the prohibitions do not constitute inhuman and degrading treatment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) asked about the families of those subject to control orders. Those are serious questions and we are trying to get the balance right—Lord Carlile said that proportionality was key. He is satisfied that, as a last resort, control orders are a proportionate "safety valve", as he put it, to protect the public. Lord Carlile had access to all the information and intelligence and he said that he would have made the same decisions as the Home Secretary. With great respect, Liberty has not had access to that information and intelligence. It cannot therefore strike the balance between prohibitions on a person who is involved in terrorism and for whom it is necessary to make an order and the rights of the family. One has to see the situation in the round, with access to the information about how dangerous the individual may be.

We are considering circumstances in which there are fairly dangerous people whom one cannot prosecute for various reasons, or deport. We therefore have control orders. The alternative is no prohibitions or restrictions on them and allowing them to walk the streets in freedom. I am sure that many people would be seriously worried about that.

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