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As set out in my written ministerial statement of 5 February, the Terrorist Asset-Freezing (Temporary Provisions) Bill is being introduced as an urgent temporary measure to prevent assets from being unfrozen and returned to terror suspects as a result of the Supreme Court's decision to quash the 2006 terrorism order without a stay. That decision had effect from 4 February.

The Government have had urgent discussions with the relevant banks following the Supreme Court's decision not to grant a stay and those banks have confirmed that in the light of the Government's decision to bring forward immediate legislation providing retrospective legal authority for them to continue existing freezes, no funds will be unfrozen as a result of the Supreme Court's judgment.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way, but will she be good enough to tell us why, given the reports of the Newton Committee in 2001 and the Joint Committee in 2004, as well as the facts that the relevant litigation started in 2008, was in the Court of Appeal in October 2008 and came before the Supreme Court in October 2009, primary legislation was not put before the House long ago that could have been the subject of proper consultation and debate?

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: We believe that we had strong grounds in law for introducing the secondary legislation under the United Nations Act 1946-and I should point out that the Court of Appeal agreed with us-so the matter is by no means clear-cut.

National security and public protection are priorities for the Government. We aim to ensure that there is no gap in the asset-freezing regime, that suspected terrorist funds cannot be diverted and used for terrorist purposes and that suspected terrorists do not get free access to the UK's financial system. That is why we are moving
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this motion to ensure that there is rapid discussion of the Bill today, and I am sure that hon. Members will contribute to that debate. We consider it necessary for the UK's national security to act swiftly to restore asset freezing on a temporary basis under primary legislation.

Mr. Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow) (Lab): My hon. Friend says that the banks have agreed to continue to freeze assets pending the passage of emergency legislation, so on what legal basis will they be freezing assets in that period?

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: I take on board my hon. Friend's point, but I remind him that we are debating a motion to set out the time in which we will discuss the Bill. It would be better to discuss the issue that he raises when we get to Second Reading, or Committee, if the motion is agreed to.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): I shall leave the detailed discussion of the Bill's content to my more expert colleagues. I am concerned about the frequency with which we seem to be allocating time to expediting legislation on an emergency basis. Why do the Government increasingly feel that they have to rush things through? We have had a long time to discuss this issue, as the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) has pointed out, but the Bill seems to have been jammed right up towards the end of the Session.

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: Again, I take on board the hon. Gentleman's point, but, obviously, we are not in control of the Supreme Court's timetable. If we are to debate the issue of proper scrutiny and the length of time given to the Bill, it would be better to get the motion passed so that we can get on with discussions about whether this is the right way of proceeding. The measure is a temporary one that would be used while we introduce permanent measures, with time for Parliament fully to scrutinise our proposals.

4.32 pm

Mr. Mark Hoban (Fareham) (Con): Let me be clear from the outset: we shall not oppose the programme motion because the time spent doing so would eat into the time allowed for proper debate of the Bill, but the Minister must accept that the Bill is being rushed through today because the Government have failed to put in place a proper timetable in which proper primary legislation could be produced. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) rightly said that the Government have had plenty of notice regarding this matter: there have been repeated warnings to them about the basis on which the terrorist orders were being issued. Rather than rush through measures this afternoon, the Government could have acted earlier to ensure that there was a proper basis on which to make the orders.

We recognise, however, that the judgment that the Supreme Court issued on Thursday quashing the orders means that terrorists could have access to financial resources and the financial system, and that it is therefore vital that the Bill should complete its Commons stages
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today and receive Royal Assent as soon as possible. If the Bill is not enacted, terrorist suspects could have access to finances and could use them to facilitate terrorist acts. I think that we all agree that it would be better if we were not in this situation now and if the Government had read the warning signals clearly and introduced primary legislation sooner so that they would not be reduced to rushing through emergency measures today.

4.34 pm

Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): I shall be brief and support the Minister in what she is trying to do. It is vital that the matter comes before the House, as it has done, as soon after the Supreme Court judgment as possible. Clearly, it could have been brought before the House on Friday, but it is much better that it should be before the House today in order to allow for proper scrutiny.

The motion deals solely with the allocation of time. If we deal with it quickly, all the proper points that have been raised by the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban) and others as to why we are in this position can be addressed during the substantive debate. Of course we would like to know why this happened and why Parliament did not have an opportunity to vote on it previously, but I hope that we can make quick progress on the motion and have a proper debate on the substance.

4.35 pm

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): I wish that that argument were more persuasive, and that there was an opportunity during the substantive debate to cover these matters. However, the accelerated procedure is predicated entirely upon the lack of opportunity to deal with these matters earlier, and we must ask the Government why that is the case. I am deeply unhappy with the accelerated procedure unless there are very strong reasons for it.

No one wants criminal terrorists to be able to use money to support terrorist operations, so it is a seductive argument to suggest that we must push the Bill through, whatever its merits, in the shortest possible time in order to fill the lacuna. But the lacuna is of the Government's making, and that is what they need to recognise.

Keith Vaz: I am not disputing for one moment that we should scrutinise the Government and question them about why they have reached this position, but we had better get on with agreeing the motion so that we can spend appropriate time on the Bill. If the hon. Gentleman believes that the Bill must be passed today, he must accept that today will end at midnight, unless the Liberal Democrats have a way of extending it beyond midnight, so the quicker we get on to discussing the motion, the better.

Mr. Heath: The right hon. Gentleman, who has been in the House many years, knows that parliamentary procedure allows us to extend a day indeterminately, if we so choose. Such is the Alice in Wonderland world in which we live. I do not propose to do so, but the Minister must respond to the fact that, as has been pointed out by the right hon. and learned Member for
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Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), that there have been a number of occasions when the procedures that underlie the Bill have been thrown into question, when the Government had the opportunity to act and chose not to. They chose not to act in the context of what they claim is an urgent requirement to have the legislation in place. I should have thought that a prudent Government who felt that that was the case would have introduced primary legislation at an earlier stage, as a belt-and-braces measure. They would not have waited for the Supreme Court to deliver its judgment. They would have put in place a properly debated, properly considered Bill in order to put the matter beyond doubt, and they have not done so.

The fast-track legislation justification in the explanatory notes is the key to the allocation of time motion. Under our procedures now, the Government are required to give answers to various questions about why we should accept the proposition. In response to the question,

the Government simply say that this is the first opportunity since the quashing of the 2006 order. As we have heard, it was possible to address the issue before the Supreme Court made that judgment, but they chose not to do so.

In response to the question,

the Government state:

What an extraordinary thing not to have done if they knew that there was a possibility of having to introduce legislation.

A further justification is offered. In answer to the question,

the Government state:

I accept the first part of that contention-that there is nothing precisely based on the UN terrorism orders; but on the statute book there are certainly comparable powers to make asset freezes, because over the past few years the Government have inundated us with Acts that deal with precisely that problem. There is the Terrorism Act 2000, and the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, part 2 of which deals specifically with the making of freezing orders.

The Government's case is undermined irrevocably by one Supreme Court judge, Lord Hope, who, in the judgment of Ahmed against the Government, said:

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