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There is a final designation and an interim designation. The final designation lasts for one year and then expires unless it is renewed. An interim designation may last up to 30 days. One would suppose that an interim designation
could well be enacted in order to allow for a temporary intervention while the details of a final designation were completed. Surely, then, there is a case for a provision to allow for the renewal of an interim designation.
In relation to designation, there is another question that deserves to be raised. Under the Bill, there are a number of circumstances in which a designation is not made public. I can well understand how there could be a need for some such exceptions, but chapter 2 on prohibitions states that a person has committed an offence if they deal with funds or economic resources
"owned, held or controlled by a designated person"
if they know or have reasonable cause to suspect that the person is dealing with such funds or economic resources. Under the terms of the stated possible exceptions, a decision has been taken not to publicise the designation then. Is there not a possibility that a person genuinely would not have been aware of it? Alternatively, a person could state that they were not aware of it.
The same would apply to all the offences listed in chapter 2. That is reinforced by chapter 3 and the reporting obligations of relevant institutions. In chapter 2 the obligation placed upon an individual relates exclusively to a designated person, but in chapter 3 the obligation is extended to include both a designated person and someone who is suspected of having committed an offence under any provision of chapter 2. Would there be merit in looking again at chapter 2 and bringing it into line with the obligations set out in chapter 3?
Also under chapter 3, there are civil liberty concerns that need to be considered. Provision is made to grant power to request information. The Bill bestows upon the Treasury the right to disclose this information and even provides the offences relating to the failure to comply with a Treasury request for such information. But what of circumstances in which such a request is made and it is later determined that there is no case to answer? What becomes of that information?
I should like to comment on the sentences laid down for offences set out in the Bill. Let us consider for a moment what kind of terrorist threat we are dealing with. There is the ongoing threat from dissident republican groups not only in Northern Ireland and in the Republic, but across the whole United Kingdom. In recent days these groups have attempted to kill police officers with grenades. In my own constituency they planted a bomb which very nearly killed young children. Again in my constituency, they succeeded in murdering Constable Stephen Carroll. In the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for South Antrim (Dr McCrea) they murdered two soldiers in Massereene barracks. In recent days the Police Service of Northern Ireland raided a house that was being used by dissident republicans. Some weapons, I understand, were found and just over £100,000 in cash.
Then there is the kind of terrorist threat that resulted in the 7/7 London bombings and the desire to commit mass murder expressed by some Islamic militant groups. Those who assist them economically, those who provide the economic and financial muscle to allow them to obtain their arsenal of murder, are complicit in those murders. They aid and abet those murders. To set out a sentencing policy that lays down a maximum-not a minimum, but a maximum-sentence of seven years is wholly unsatisfactory. The tariff should be considerably higher.
On the subject of offences and sentencing, I draw attention to clause 36 and the subject of time limits. As we are dealing with people and groups who are determined to kill police officers, military personnel and ordinary men, women and children, why on earth would we allow their economic backers the opportunity to escape justice after a period of only three years following the offence? How is justice obtained for the victim and how is society made safer if those who finance terrorism are allowed to walk free once the calendar moves on to three years after the offence?
I said at the beginning that I regarded the Bill as a sincere attempt to deal with important issues and that I agree with the need for measures to be put in place. There is a need to stop the flow of resources to such groups in every possible way so, in general terms, I wish the Bill well and I hope that when the Minister concludes, he will address some of the concerns that I have raised.
Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): As my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) said at the beginning of the debate on Second Reading, we support the Bill in principle and will not press it to a vote tonight. It is a measure that we would have introduced ourselves, had we still been in government, to meet our international obligations and to replace the temporary legislation and put it on a permanent footing.
The Bill has been subject to thorough scrutiny in the Lords, but in the Committee sittings next week we will not shirk from our duty to examine it robustly. As my right hon. Friend said, we will table amendments. The report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights has only just been placed before the House-I think it was available on Friday-and it contains some suggested amendments that we may table, as my right hon. Friend indicated to the hon. Member for Aberavon (Dr Francis), who chairs the Joint Committee. We will keep some of the issues under review in the light of the review being carried out by Lord Macdonald and the internal review.
It is a shame that the hon. Member for West Suffolk (Matthew Hancock) is no longer in his place. I think he slightly misunderstood some of the points made in the opening remarks made from the Opposition Benches. We did not say that the Bill was being rushed through with undue haste. That point was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee. He did not speak in the debate- [Interruption]. I thought he had just made a number of interventions, but I stand corrected. He is such a frequent speaker in this place that I lose track of when he pops up and when he does not.
There was also a misunderstanding on the part of the hon. Member for West Suffolk about the amendments that we might table in Committee, but I hope that he will decide to become a member of the Committee and that we will be able to take up those points with him then. I should point out that it is certainly our intention to co-operate with the Government to try to get the Bill through.
I shall now turn to my notes on what my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East said-which does indeed confirm that he spoke in the debate-and a
fascinating contribution it was, too! He said that the Home Affairs Select Committee would look into this issue more generally after Lord Macdonald had reported, and that it would examine issues such as control orders and the wider civil liberties questions. He also asked the Minister a number of questions about whose accounts had been frozen and whether the 205 such accounts related to 205 separate individuals. He also said that not much money seemed to be involved. I hope that the Minister will be able to respond to those points in his closing speech.
The hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) is a member not only of the Home Affairs Select Committee but of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, so he has a double interest. He said that he intended to table some amendments in Committee, which presumably means that he wants to be a member of the Committee. I am not sure whether the Liberal Democrat Whips will be quite so enthusiastic about his doing that, but we look forward to seeing him next week if he is allowed. He raised some important points tonight, as did the hon. Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman), particularly about the test of reasonable suspicion being replaced after 30 days by one of reasonable belief. He said that that was still a lower standard of proof than that of the balance of probabilities. That is an important point, and it has been discussed in the other place.
Guy Opperman: I have no issue with the fact that I have been chosen over Cambridge. Do the Opposition have a specific view on what the percentage is? The hon. Lady will recall that the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) and I mentioned this in our speeches. Is it 40%, 30% or 20%?
Dr Huppert: I was going to ask a very similar question of the hon. Lady. Will she clarify the Opposition's policy? Should the test be one of reasonable suspicion, as under previous legislation, or one of the balance of probabilities? The right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) seemed to suggest that there should be a very low threshold, perhaps even lower than the one the Government propose.
Kerry McCarthy: We welcome the fact that the reasonable suspicion test is to be in place for only 30 days before it moves to one of reasonable belief, which is slightly tougher. In response to the hon. Member for Hexham, it is a matter for the courts to interpret what "reasonable belief" would be. We need to thrash out in Committee whether that constitutes a much lower standard than the balance of probabilities. We do not have a firm view on that, but we need to debate the matter in Committee.
The hon. Member for Upper Bann (David Simpson) spoke from his experience of the Northern Ireland situation, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn, who is a former Northern Ireland Office Minister.
The hon. Member for Upper Bann described the Bill as a sincere attempt to deal with important issues, but raised some questions about the interpretation of civil liberties, and it is important that they should be thoroughly debated in Committee.
The hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Mr Llwyd) said that it was absolutely vital to scrutinise these matters, and that, although there seemed to be unanimity of purpose across the House in that we all want to ensure that assets are not misused for terrorist purposes, that was not quite the same as ensuring that the legislation would actually work. He referred to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and to the legislation that followed the shootings at Dunblane, and made the valid point that we must ensure that the legislation will not be struck down because of a perceived illegality. He quoted Burke saying that bad law was the worst kind of tyranny. This highlights the importance of scrutinising the Bill in Committee, and, although we broadly support its intentions and principles, we will subject it to robust scrutiny next week.
The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): It is a pleasure to be able to conclude today's Second Reading debate. This is a most important Bill that covers issues of national security and civil liberties. These are significant issues that deserve full scrutiny and I would like to thank all hon. Members for their eloquent contributions.
My hon. Friends the Members for West Suffolk (Matthew Hancock) and for Hexham (Guy Opperman) brought experience and expertise to the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) spoke in a way that I am sure his predecessor, David Howarth, would approve of. He raised a number of questions in regard to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which I shall address in detail in a moment.
The right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) made a memorable speech- [ Laughter. ] Well, at least I will remember it. He noted that he was somewhat suspicious of anything that had cross-party support from both Front Benches. I imagine that he did not experience that very often when he was a Minister. I should like to thank the hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Mr Llwyd) for highlighting his concerns about knee-jerk legislation and making a similar point to that of the right hon. Member for Leicester East. The hon. Member for Upper Bann (David Simpson) brought to the debate the experience of his part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, which has suffered so much from terrorism over many years. He asked a number of questions that I hope to be able to respond to later.
A number of issues have been raised in the debates over the course of this year, and I am pleased to say that the Government have responded to the concerns raised in the House earlier this year and to those raised in the public consultation exercise on the previous Government's draft legislation. We introduced legislation as soon as possible, to ensure that Parliament has sufficient time to scrutinise the legislation properly and still meet the 31 December deadline to avoid a gap in the regime and the unfreezing of assets. The Bill before the House today is a significant improvement on the current asset-
freezing regime, because it strengthens civil liberties safeguards without undermining the effectiveness of the UK's asset-freezing regime in disrupting terrorism.
Let me address in more detail the striking of the right balance between national security and liberty in the context of the Bill. I shall deal first with the national security element of that balance. Let me be clear that, while it is true that the asset-freezing regime has an impact upon human rights, it is the Government's view that the interferences set out in the Bill are necessary in the interests of national security and public protection. We have recently been reminded of the very real threat posed by international terrorism.
To achieve our objectives, the Government must have the right tools to combat terrorism in the UK and overseas. It is not sufficient for us to be reactive, and to be able to deal with an atrocity only after it has happened. We must be able to act preventively, to disrupt terrorist plots in their planning stages. Hon. Members will acknowledge that one of the most effective ways of doing this is to limit terrorists' access to finance. We know that terrorists need finance to carry out attacks, to maintain their infrastructure, training, equipment and recruitment, and to promote their message of hate. In order to contain the threat that these extremists pose, the Government need to be able to act quickly to freeze the funds and finances of those involved in terrorism who are considered to present a real threat to the general public. The Government believe that the UK's asset-freezing regime is the right means to achieve that.
There is no question but that the asset-freezing regime has proved a valuable tool for disrupting and preventing terrorist financing. The £140,000 of currently frozen assets could be used to devastating effect were they to be released. The right hon. Member for Leicester East made the point that the total amount that has been frozen is perhaps surprisingly small, but it is worth remembering that disproportionate damage can be done with a small amount of money. As we have heard, the 7/7 attacks cost less than £10,000.
Keith Vaz: We clearly understand that it takes only a small amount of money in certain circumstances, but will the Exchequer Secretary clarify those figures for us? Is he saying that £140,000 is frozen at the moment? Does he know the total amount that has been frozen since the previous Government introduced the original legislation, or would he be able to write to me with the number or place it in the Library so that Members will all know it?
Mr Gauke: The current figure is £140,000, as I said. The figure that the right hon. Gentleman talks about is £290,000, which as I understand it is the amount that has been frozen in total. He asked earlier about the 205 accounts referred to in the written ministerial statement. That does not necessarily mean that 205 people are involved, and it is worth pointing out that 24 people in the UK are subject to asset freezes under the legislation that the Bill will replace.
"As of 30 September 2010, a total of 205 accounts containing just under £290,000"
It is right to point out that asset freezing is a preventive tool, and that people can be subject to a freeze only if the legal test is met-in other words, if they represent a terrorist threat and so the freeze is necessary for public protection. The Treasury must have reasonable grounds to suspect their involvement in terrorist activity. I will return to that point in greater detail when I turn to the comments of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. It is also worth pointing out that 21 of the 24 persons in the UK subject to these measures have been charged with, or convicted of, terrorist offences.
Asset freezing is not just an effective domestic tool, it is necessary. The UK has an international obligation to freeze the assets of terrorists, and the Government are content that the Bill's provisions remain fully compliant with international standards and are sufficiently robust to meet the needs of the police and security services, who are engaged in a day-to-day battle to maintain the security of the general public.
The right hon. Gentleman asked one or two questions about complaints. Any person who is not satisfied with a decision taken by the Treasury may request a review of the decision, and if after that review they are still unsatisfied, a complaint regarding the handling of the case can be made under the Treasury's official complaints procedure. A senior official not directly connected with the case will then take the review decision. A designated person may appeal against their designation through the courts, and in the case of any other decision, such as on licensing, applications can be made to the High Court for the decision to be set aside.
The right hon. Gentleman asked what happens to people whose freezes have been revoked. As he pointed out, the revocation of a freeze does not show that the system is failing to work or that the imposition of a freeze in the first place was wrong. Circumstances can change, so it may no longer be necessary to maintain a freeze even though it was necessary when it was imposed. When a freeze is revoked, the individual concerned is notified, the revocation is brought to the attention of the financial sector and the outside world and the restrictions on their financial activity are removed.
One concern that has understandably been raised is whether the system is well targeted on terrorism. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge made that point. Terrorism, for the purposes of the Bill, is defined in clause 2(2) as involving one or more of
"the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism...conduct that facilitates the commission, preparation or instigation of such acts, or that is intended to do so",
To respond to the point made by the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) about organised crime, the Bill contains very specific powers designed to meet our UN obligations to freeze the assets of terrorists.
They are not intended to be used against organised criminals unless they are also involved in terrorism, and the Government have other powers to deal with organised crime.
I turn to the very important issue of civil liberties, because we have to get that right and ensure that the balance is correct. As my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary set out, the Bill does not simply reintroduce the previous regime, which the Supreme Court quashed. We have introduced additional safeguards and made changes to ensure that the regime operates in a clearer and more transparent manner. Those changes reflect the civil liberties concerns that were raised in Parliament during the passage of the emergency legislation and in the public consultation exercise conducted over the spring and summer. We do not believe they will undermine the effectiveness of the regime or continued compliance with international best practice.
I shall highlight the key elements of those changes. We are introducing more targeted prohibitions, to limit the impact of asset freezing on innocent third parties. There is provision to ensure that the regime does not catch the payment of state benefits to the spouses or partners of designated persons, and so does not have the draconian impact on family life about which the Supreme Court was concerned. The establishment of an independent review function will ensure that there is proper independent scrutiny of the asset-freezing regime.
As the Financial Secretary highlighted, during the Bill's passage in the other place the Government introduced significant further safeguards to raise the legal test for freezing assets for more than 30 days from reasonable suspicion to reasonable belief, and to strengthen judicial oversight by ensuring that there is a full merits-based review of designation decisions. Those are important new safeguards that will make the asset-freezing regime significantly fairer, more proportionate and more transparent, and I welcome the endorsement that they have received from hon. Members today. However, we have also heard in today's debate, and read in the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, some calls for the Government to go further and introduce more civil liberties safeguards. I wish to respond to those points.
One concern that has been raised is that reasonable belief is still too low a threshold for freezing assets, and that the Government should be able to do so only on the balance of probabilities-in other words, if someone is more likely than not to be involved in terrorism. It has even been argued that asset freezes should be imposed only in cases of criminal charge or conviction. I shall reiterate why the Government do not agree with, and cannot support, those proposals.
To meet our UN obligations and protect national security, asset freezing must be preventive: that is, it must be capable of being used at an early stage to disrupt and prevent terrorist attacks. Setting the legal test higher than reasonable belief would make it more difficult to use the asset-freezing tool in a preventive manner, and therefore make it less effective because the level of evidence needed may rule out the use of asset freezing when it could be most useful.
Dr Huppert: Does the Minister genuinely think it appropriate to freeze people's assets when the Treasury believes that it is more likely that they are not involved in terrorism than that they are so involved?
Mr Gauke: I reiterate that it is necessary to have a tool available to use at an early stage, for preventive reasons. The asset freezes imposed on those suspected of involvement in the transatlantic plane bomb plot in 2006 provide a good example of the value that preventive asset-freezing can have for national security. It is important that we preserve that element of asset-freezing. In the Supreme Court, Lord Rodger spoke of the nature of intelligence and the need, sometimes, to act on information that is fragmentary and not certain. For the same reason, the Government cannot support limiting asset-freezing to those charged with, or convicted of, a terrorist offence.
Although a significant majority of those in the UK whose assets have been frozen have been charged or convicted of a terrorist offence, limiting freezing to such people would have two significant drawbacks. First, preventing the Treasury from freezing assets when it reasonably believes that someone is involved in terrorism and when it considers that asset-freezing is necessary to protect the public, but when a person has not been, or could not be, charged, would incur a significant cost for national security. Secondly, limiting freezing in that way would severely curtail the Treasury's ability to freeze the assets of international terrorists or terrorist groups operating overseas. Many such persons and groups operate in countries where they will not be prosecuted, perhaps because the country does not have the capability or the will to prosecute terrorists.
Dr Huppert: I understand the Minister's point about those not in Britain, but what about those who are, and hence subject to our controls? Given that the threshold for powers of arrest is reasonable suspicion, does he agree that anyone who has enough evidence to freeze assets would also have enough evidence to arrest?
Mr Gauke: Given the flexibility that we need, I believe that we have struck the right balance by allowing an interim arrangement on the basis of reasonable suspicion followed by a longer-term arrangement on the basis of reasonable belief. Sometimes, it is a question of timing and we may need to act first on freezing assets and subsequently to make an arrest-we must remember that after all, the vast majority of those in the UK who have been subject to a freezing order have gone on to be arrested. For example, if we limited the Treasury's freezing powers to those charged or convicted, we could prevent the UK from co-operating with international partners when we are trying to prevent funding getting to international terrorists and terrorist groups. For those reasons, the Government remain convinced that the legal test as set out in the Bill-reasonable suspicion for an interim period of 30 days and reasonable belief for a final designation-strikes the right balance.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge mentioned the role of the courts, which has also been raised by civil liberties groups. They have called for a mandatory court involvement in asset-freezing. They want freezing decisions either to be made by the courts or to be approved by them mandatorily, but the Government do not support those proposals. Decisions to freeze assets are national security measures taken on operational advice from law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and fall squarely within the remit of decisions that Ministers should and do make on other matters, such as
prescription, deportation and exclusion. Ministers are accountable for their designations both to Parliament and to the courts.
We also do not believe that mandatory court approval for asset freezes is the right approach. Only a very small minority of asset-freezing cases-around 10% of current cases-concern people in the UK who have not been prosecuted for a terrorist offence. The remaining 90% of cases concern either individuals in the UK who have been prosecuted or individuals and groups overseas. Mandatory court approval would therefore add no value in those 90% of cases. Indeed, it might even be unhelpful. For example, overseas terrorist groups who do not currently challenge asset freezes would nevertheless have their designations subjected to mandatory court scrutiny.
My hon. Friend also mentioned written reasons. We heard today that the JCHR recommends that an express requirement to provide reasons for a designation, subject to public interest requirements of non-disclosure, be written into the Bill. The Committee's reasons for that were eloquently put, but the Government are not convinced that an express obligation on the Treasury to provide reasons for a person's designation is necessary. It is already a requirement of the basic principles of administrative law to provide reasons for a designation where possible, subject to public interest requirements. If this Government or any other were to write into a Bill all the Treasury's obligations under administrative law, such a Bill would be considerably longer. I do not see that as desirable. The time available for parliamentary scrutiny should not be spent debating unnecessary provisions. I should also make it clear that there will be times when the Government cannot divulge the case against a person or the reason for a designation, such as when sensitive intelligence has been relied on for a decision and there is an obvious case for withholding information. None the less, where possible, the Government disclose information when that can be done without, for example, damage to a pending prosecution or to national security. There is no sensible reason to go beyond that and write such a requirement into the Bill.
The JCHR also sought to convince hon. Members that the Government should accept the principle set out in the House of Lords in the case of AF on the use of special advocates and closed-source material. It said that that principle should apply to asset-freezing provisions. I am sure that hon. Members have read Hansard and are aware of the debate on that in the other place. I can but restate the points that the Government made then. First, the courts have not considered whether AF applies in asset-freezing cases, and it is not the role of the Government to prejudge what the courts would say. Secondly, the Supreme Court will consider the wider application of AF (No. 3) in January 2011 when it hears the Tariq case. Thirdly, the Government are committed to ensuring that any challenge to a Treasury decision is heard fairly. Finally, the application of AF (No. 3) is part of a wider debate on the use of special advocates and intelligence material, and we have already announced that we will be considering the use of special advocates and closed-source evidence as part of a Green Paper next year.
There will be plenty of opportunity for the JCHR and other interested parties to relay their views as part of the consultation that informs that Green Paper. It is
right and proper that the Government give all parties the option of commenting on such an important mechanism without prejudging the outcome.
The final matter raised by the JCHR is the question of transparency and accountability. The Bill strengthens transparency and accountability in two ways. First, we are enshrining in legislation the Treasury's existing practice of presenting quarterly reports to Parliament on the operation of the powers in the Bill. That will guarantee transparency on the quarterly operation of the regime. Hon. Members will note that the most recent quarterly report was laid today. Secondly, we have written into the Bill that the operation of the regime should be independently reviewed nine months after the Bill is passed and every 12 months thereafter.
The JCHR maintains that the provision in the Bill for an independent reviewer does not go far enough and that the independent reviewer should be more independent of the Government-the right hon. Member for Delyn made that point in the debate. I am sure that that will be debated further in Committee, but the Government cannot accept the JCHR position. We are committed to effective scrutiny of the asset-freezing regime and the independence of the reviewer will be a principal objective of any appointment, but for Parliament to approve the independent reviewer would be a significant departure from standard practice. The appointment of the reviewer by the Government reflects the long-standing principle that Ministers are directly accountable to Parliament and the public for those whom they appoint and for the operation of the regime.
Mr Hanson: I tend to agree with the Minister, as I indicated in my discussions, but can he tell the House whether the reviewer for this piece of legislation is likely to be the same one as is currently in post, which is Lord Carlile, who is soon to be replaced by David Anderson QC?
Mr Gauke: I am grateful for the point that the right hon. Gentleman makes. The final decision on that is still to be made, so if he will just be a little patient, he will receive the answer in due course.
Dr Huppert: The Government have recently started taking the approach that independent people can be scrutinised by a Select Committee to check that they are sufficiently independent. Could we go down that route to check the independent reviewer?
Mr Gauke: I am on the record many times as arguing why Parliament should have a significant role in a number of public appointments, but in this area we have arrangements whereby Ministers take responsibility and are accountable. We will ensure that the independent reviewer is free to examine any aspect of the regime, and his or her findings and recommendations will be released in full to Parliament. We also think that the Treasury has to have sight of the independent reviewer's report prior to its being laid before Parliament, but that is only for the entirely sensible and understandable process of ensuring that no material detrimental to national security is inadvertently released. To answer the question specifically, Ministers have to take responsibility on this and we are not inclined to move away from that position.
I wish to address a point made by the hon. Member for Cambridge about ensuring that a designated person has reasonable expenses and is not left in desperate hardship. There is a requirement in law for the Treasury to implement asset freezes proportionately, taking full account of the human rights of a designated person and their family. My hon. Friend the Member for Hexham asked whether a designated person is able to fund their appeal-there was concern that that might not be the case. The Treasury has issued general licences to enable any legal aid payments to be made to a designated person's solicitors where they are eligible for legal aid and to allow third parties to pay a designated person's legal expenses. Where a designated person wishes to use their own funds for legal expenses, an individual licence can be applied for. The asset freeze does not, therefore, hinder a designated person from challenging their designation or any other decision, such as to impose particular licence conditions.
I wish also to pick up on the points raised by the hon. Member for Upper Bann. He raised the concern about decisions being taken not to publicise a designation and asked whether there is a danger that third parties are not aware of the designation-that is a perfectly fair point. The offences in the Bill apply only where a third party is aware, or should be aware, of the designation; if they do not know, and have no reason to know, no offence will be committed. I hope that that provides some reassurance to him. Where a designation is not publicised, financial institutions will still be informed, as that helps to ensure that funds are frozen. I reassure him that decisions not to publicise are rare and are always taken for very good reasons, and that the designated person will be told.
I also wish to pick up on the hon. Gentleman's point about whether someone could be subject to a 30-day freeze on the basis of suspicion and then be subject to another such freeze after the first one is dropped. Freezes cannot be continually retained on the basis of reasonable suspicion by dropping a freeze after 30 days and then reimposing it as the new interim freeze based only on reasonable suspicion arising from the same or substantially the same evidence-clause 6(3) makes specific provision on that. A new interim freeze could be made if there is significant new evidence that significantly contributes to a fresh reasonable suspicion on the Treasury's part. Without such new evidence, a freeze could be maintained after the 30 days only if there was reasonable belief that the person is involved in terrorism.
I shall now deal with the questions raised by the right hon. Member for Delyn about the overall counter-terrorism review and its relationship with this Bill. This is a stand-alone Bill and it is not intended to be further amended by the counter-terrorism review. The Government have already considered civil liberties safeguards for this Bill and introduced amendments at Committee stage in the other place, as I have mentioned. There is no intention to amend the Bill further.
In conclusion, today's debate has been about the balance between national security and safeguarding civil liberties. I am convinced that the Bill strikes the right balance between both. It is effective and fair, it takes the necessary steps to prevent the raising and use of funds for terrorist purposes and it sets the terrorist
asset-freezing regime in primary legislation for the first time. I commend the Bill to the House and look forward to further discussion in Committee.
That the following provisions shall apply to the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Bill [ Lords]:
1. The Bill shall be committed to a Public Bill Committee.
Proceedings in Public Bill Committee
2. Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not usbpreviously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Thursday 25 November 2010.
3. The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.
Consideration and Third Reading
4. Proceedings on consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which those proceedings are commenced.
5. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on that day.
6. Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings on consideration and Third Reading.
7. Any other proceedings on the Bill (including any proceedings on consideration of any message from the Lords) may be programmed. -(Angela Watkinson.)
That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Bill [ Lords], it is expedient to authorise-
(1) the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any expenses incurred by
the Treasury or any other Minister of the Crown in consequence of the Act; and
(2) the making of payments into the Consolidated Fund. -(Angela Watkinson.)
That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Sports Grounds Safety Authority Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any expenditure incurred by the Secretary of State by virtue of the Act.
I should like to take the opportunity to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Jonathan Lord) for introducing this important Bill, and I am pleased to be able to confirm the Government's support. On Second Reading, it was the will of the House that the Bill should be discussed in Committee. The Bill repeals and replaces the statutory basis for the Football Licensing Authority and thus triggers the need for a new money resolution. The Bill seeks to reconstitute the FLA as the sports grounds safety authority and will extend its advisory functions so that it has the power to provide advice about safety at sports grounds to any national or international organisation, person or body.
The FLA receives grant in aid funding from my Department of just under £1.2 million a year to carry out its statutory functions, including advising on spectator and venue safety issues at football grounds in England and Wales. The Government are very clear that the FLA carries out an important role and want this to continue, but we also want to allow it more freedom to develop and thus become more independent from government and less reliant on public funding. The FLA has built up a national and international reputation for expertise in the area of sports ground safety, but the statute prevents it from formally sharing that advice with other sports or with those in other countries, and it is right that we remove that restriction.
Extending the FLA's advisory role will be especially important as we approach the biggest sporting events that this country has ever staged, including the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. It makes complete sense to free the FLA from current constraints and allow it to provide advice to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games and local authorities in relation to non-football Olympic venues. That would allow the authority to offer such advice to other sports, creating the potential to help to ensure greater consistency in the application of sports grounds safety advice across all sports.
The new role will not extend the FLA's regulatory role, nor will it add any burdens to football clubs, other sports or local authorities or, indeed, change the safety regime for football or other sports grounds. The Government are committed to reducing regulatory burdens, not increasing them. In addition, local authorities and others will not be required to seek advice from the new authority in relation to sports grounds.
Although the authority will be able to charge for its advice in certain circumstances, providing that it has the consent of the Secretary of State, that will be limited to cost-recovery only, so there is no risk of the fees being unreasonable. Those charges will simply ensure that the costs of providing the advice are generally met by those who receive the benefits of that expertise, rather than by
any increased public expenditure. However, there still may be occasions when it is not justifiable to charge, and when the organisation can easily absorb the costs of that advice. It is therefore important that there are no doubts in relation to the use of publicly funded resources by the sports grounds safety authority. On that basis, I commend the motion to the House.
Ian Austin (Dudley North) (Lab): I thank the Minister for his courtesy earlier today. As he said, the Football Licensing Authority was established in the wake of tragedies at football grounds such as Hillsborough in 1989 and Heysel in 1985. Following Lord Justice Taylor's final report on the Hillsborough disaster, the FLA was charged with responsibility for monitoring local authorities' oversight of spectator safety at international, premiership and football league grounds.
The Minister is absolutely right about the FLA's importance. My right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth) referred to the establishment of the FLA as a debt of honour to the families of those who lost their lives at Hillsborough; my hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Derek Twigg), who was at Hillsborough on the day of the tragedy, said that he believes the FLA was the correct response to helping to ensure that nothing like that happens again; and my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern) has already raised a series of concerns and questions about the Bill with the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr Maude), and I know that she will scrutinise its details as it proceeds through the House. Other hon. Members with Merseyside constituencies and interested members of the public have also raised a number of questions.
"must make sure there is no cost-cutting on safety."
We agree and believe that any dilution of the focus on safety at football grounds would be a cause for concern. I welcome the additional details that the Minister has provided today, because it is fair to say that the detail of the Government's intentions had not been crystal clear.
The Government announced the abolition of the FLA in the spending review and said that its responsibilities were being "transferred to another body". They obviously support the Bill, but the Minister for the Cabinet Office has been reported as saying that the responsibility for safety at grounds will shift to local authorities, so although we will not oppose the motion, we will vigorously scrutinise the Bill in Committee in order to ensure that safety is not compromised.
Jonathan Lord (Woking) (Con):
I am grateful to the Minister for moving the motion and supporting my Bill, and to the shadow Minister for his guarded support
at this stage. I hope that we can make that the Opposition's full support in due course. I hope also that the House will allow the Bill to proceed into Committee.
The Football Licensing Authority was set up by the Football Spectators Act 1989 in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster. Over subsequent years, the authority and its key personnel have gained an extremely good reputation for their expertise and experience in football ground safety, but the organisation has been forced to turn down requests from other sports and sports grounds for safety advice, as its existing statutory remit extends only to football-even though those seeking that advice had indicated their willingness to pay.
The increased advisory role that the Bill proposes will usually be provided at no additional cost to the organisation or to the public purse. The sports grounds safety authority will be able to charge to recover its costs for providing advice about the safety of sports grounds, but that will be with the consent of the Secretary of State, and there will be no requirement for the authority to offer its advice.
A charge for the authority's advice will not always be appropriate or necessary, for example when giving one-off, informal views, so such costs will be easily absorbed by the authority's existing resources.
As the Minister explained, his Department is committed to funding for the FLA of just under £1.2 million a year, and that figure should not have to rise as a result of the Bill. The Bill will allow the sports grounds safety authority to generate additional income streams, especially from advice to other sports. Charges for that advice will not be allowed to generate profits, but the authority will be able to include an element of fixed and running costs, thereby relieving pressure on public funding.
In particular, the Bill will enable the authority to become fully involved with safety advice and guidance to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games and to local authorities in relation to the 2012 Olympic venues. As we prepare to welcome the rest of the world to our shores for the Olympic and Paralympic games, I trust that the House will approve the motion and, in due course, the Bill in order to help to ensure that the games are as safe as we can possibly make them. I commend the motion to the House.
That the draft Immigration (Biometric Registration) (Amendment) Regulations 2010, which were laid before this House on 11 October, be approved.- (Angela Watkinson.)
David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale) (Con): I tabled this Adjournment debate to highlight the plight of an area in my constituency called Sunderland point. Sunderland point is a narrow sliver of land. It could not be described as a peninsula or as an island, yet it is effectively an island when the tide comes in. One has to travel across the estuary to reach it.
Sunderland point is the only area of its kind left in the whole world. It is literally an area of outstanding natural beauty, and it is steeped in history. The point flourished in the 1600s and 1700s because of the slave trade and the import of wood. It was Britain's main port at the time. Over the years, it has become a shrimping community where people get on with their daily lives, but, owing to the death of a slave boy called Sambo at the point in the early 1700s, the movement to enact the abolition of the slave trade began there.
The child believed, legend has it, that his master had deserted him, and he took ill and died. There was outrage, because the boy was buried in an unconsecrated grave, and, although the issue took years and years-several decades indeed-to reach this House, eventually Wilberforce pushed through his Bill to abolish slavery. On the child's tombstone, there is a poem, and the very last line-
"Not on Man's color but his worth of heart"-
More recently, Sunderland point has been under threat from coastal erosion. The point is estimated to be eroding by 1 metre a year. The locals say more, but official figures state about 1 metre. Nevertheless, the point is now eroding rapidly, because the sea has started to reach an area of fields, where there is mainly clay, rather than rock. The problem is that the question of who can help the community seems to have fallen between the cracks of various points of officialdom. Natural England seems to be the main roadblock. This is supposed to be an area of special scientific interest, but I cannot for the life of me see why it would have any scientific interest if it is not going to be there in 50 years' time. The Environment Agency has a strategic plan to hold back the tide, but no money to enact it. This story has been running for the whole week on local radio and television and in the regional media.
The community is well on the way towards getting the money to put up a wall of aggregate to stop the point eroding. That will not cost the taxpayer any money whatsoever. It is a shrimping community, and people want to preserve their way of life. It is the only place left in the whole world like it. There is evidence to suggest that George Washington's family sailed from Sunderland point to the new world, and we all know what happened from there on in.
I am fighting against the plight of my local residents on their behalf because this is an area of outstanding historical value. Once it has gone, it will have gone for ever-and it will be gone within 100 years. Moreover, the way that the waters move and swell in the bay means that they will eventually start eating away at Glasson
dock, which is a working port and a big employer, and affect the village of Overton. The Environment Agency has a management realignment plan for that, but let us say it in plain English: in layman's terms it is coastal erosion.
I am asking the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to consider using its powers under section 16(1) of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 to overrule Natural England if it continues to block efforts to install the flood defences that the local community badly need to put in place to save Sunderland point.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Richard Benyon): I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (David Morris) for raising this important issue and for offering me the opportunity to discuss the Government's approach to managing erosion and flood risk on our coastlines and to respond to his specific points.
The area that my hon. Friend describes is one of extraordinary historical value, and I genuinely appreciate its importance for so many people in his constituency and beyond. The connection that he made with George Washington will no doubt excite interest from beyond our shores. The historical connection with the abolition of slavery is a remarkable story. One can only imagine the tragic consequences that led to the siting of the grave he mentioned, and the importance of that in leading to the whole debate that ended up in this place and saw one of the scourges of the history of this country and of the world consigned to the history books.
I fully appreciate that coastal flooding and erosion are issues of significant concern for my hon. Friend's constituents and for other coastal communities living in vulnerable areas. On a recent visit to another part of the coast, I saw at first hand the difficulties that coastal change causes for communities.
Before I turn to the detailed points that my hon. Friend made regarding Sunderland point, I would like to outline what was agreed for funding in the spending review and to explain the Government's general approach to managing flood and coastal erosion risk. The Government are committed to protecting people and property from flooding and coastal erosion where it is sustainable and affordable to do so. I appreciate my hon. Friend's point about money, and I will talk about that specifically in a moment. In the recent spending review, flood and coastal erosion risk management was identified as a priority area for DEFRA. My Department has made it clear that we will protect front-line services such as forecasting and warning services and incident response, and prioritise the maintenance of existing defences. Times are tough, and it will be difficult to kick off new defence projects over the next couple of years, but as a result of the investment that we are making, we expect to deliver better protection from flooding and erosion to 145,000 households by March 2015. Annual budgets are yet to be finalised, and my hon. Friend will therefore appreciate that it is not possible to discuss individual projects. However, for the benefit of the House I should add that defences already under construction will be completed under existing arrangements.
It is important that we are honest with communities about what can and cannot be done. As I have said to the EFRA Committee, a generation of politicians across several Governments have given assurances about coastal defences that it has not been possible to live up to. The idea that we could "hold the line" on the whole of our coastline in perpetuity, and defend every house, was a notion that was wrong from the outset, but that does not mean that we cannot successfully work with local communities in areas such as the one that my hon. Friend describes. However, although it is not possible to protect all areas, there is more that we can do through innovative approaches. A number of communities are already taking the lead in identifying alternative sources of funding for defences or trialling ways of "rolling back" homes and maintaining local amenities where erosion is taking place.
Let me turn to the specific case of Sunderland point. As my hon. Friend points out, Sunderland village is located on a headland and is frequently cut off from the mainland by the high tide. Properties in the village have flooded on six occasions in the past 20 years. Sunderland point is an uninhabited area at the tip of this headland. As a result of coastal erosion, it has retreated by 75 metres since 1848. I appreciate that this has been an issue of significant concern for the residents of Sunderland village, who fear that the erosion of the point may increase the risk of flooding to their homes. That is a point of concern to a wider population who recognise the amenity and the historical value of this site.
The Environment Agency has investigated the issue and has concluded that erosion of the point is not increasing the flood risk to Sunderland village. I appreciate that that conclusion will concern my hon. Friend. I am aware, however, that flooding continues to pose a threat to the village. As he intimated, there is not a sufficiently strong case for national funding of flood defences for Sunderland village because there are not the benefits to justify the costs. However, the village did benefit from a DEFRA grant scheme in 2008, through which the Environment Agency and the local authority provided property level flood protection measures to 30 houses that are at risk.
As my hon. Friend said, people in the local community have done precisely what we want them to do, which is to come forward with innovative local solutions that can secure a coastline that they feel is important to deal with the risk that they face and to protect a much-loved environment. We have to unblock a blockage within government, at whatever level that is, as regards whether, in protecting a site of special scientific interest, we may be causing other damage that neither I nor my hon. Friend are aware of. That is the conversation that I will be having in response to the very sensible points that he makes. I will talk to Natural England as a matter of urgency to get to the bottom of this issue, because I recognise its importance locally.
It is clear that flooding and coastal erosion are very serious issues for this community and many other communities along that part of the coastline. We know that the effects of climate change will only increase the pressure on such communities. Funding is clearly the key issue but, as my hon. Friend pointed out, taxpayer funding is not an issue in this case. That is a very important matter that I will take forward. We in DEFRA are consulting on a new approach to funding that will be more transparent and give local areas a bigger say in what action is taken to protect them in return for more local contributions. The Government will continue to focus on those at greatest risk and on people in the most deprived areas of this country.
I thank my hon. Friend for the opportunity to debate these issues today. I give him the firm assurance that I will take up the points that he raises and, if necessary, get him together with the officials whom he believes are holding up the situation. I want to ensure that all agencies of government are working together and that we are not only doing everything we can to protect sites of special scientific interest in important historical locations such as the one he describes but working to reassure local communities that everything that can be done is being done to support their obvious and expected intentions in wanting to protect their homes from flooding and coastal erosion.