“the decision to trigger a CMP must be for the court, not the Government.”

The original bill, as published, included no substantial role for the judge. I accept that this has been moved on since then, but some of the progress made in the other place has now been undone. Despite claims to the contrary, the Bill does not give a judge the proper discretion to decide between whether to hold proceedings in the open or to move proceedings behind closed doors. The Government chose to remove the Lords amendments that put in place a proper judicial balancing of these competing interests—the so-called Wiley balance.

Last week’s report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights is very powerful on this issue. I pay tribute to the Chair of the Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Dr Francis), for all its hard work on this. In its report—Liberal Democrat colleagues will be keen to hear this—the Committee says that

“there is nothing in the Government’s revised clause 6 which replaces it with anything requiring the court to balance the degree of harm to the interests of national security on the one hand against the public interest in the fair and open administration of justice on the other.”

Mr Kenneth Clarke: I must have misheard the right hon. Gentleman. He seems to think his amendment widens the discretion of the judge. It actually narrows

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it. The Bill as it stands says that the judge may hold a closed session after the three conditions are satisfied, which are mainly the fair and effective administration of justice. We have now reached the situation where critics are so nervous about what the judge may do that they want to lay down additional tests that the judge must put to himself before he makes a judgment one way or another. Lord Woolf, the former Lord Chief Justice, this morning made it clear that the judge now has complete discretion to decide what to do, and it is the critics who are so worried that there might be closed material proceedings that they are trying to put in extra tests to try to put the judge off. As the right hon. Gentleman’s amendments narrow the judge’s discretion, he might at least put his case the right way round. As the Bill stands, the judge has a pretty unfettered discretion.

Sadiq Khan: On at least four occasions over the past 18 months the Minister has told the public, the media, MPs and Members of the House of Lords that judges had full discretion, notwithstanding the four changes that he has agreed to make over the past 18 months. He cannot be right on all four occasions. Let me tell him what the House of Lords did, pursuant to the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. It put on the face of the Bill the balancing exercise that a judge should undertake, balancing on the one hand the public interest in the open and fair administration of justice and the public interest in making sure that there was no damage to our national security as a consequence of material being disclosed. In Committee the right hon. and learned Gentleman tried to tie the hands of that balancing exercise. In a new report last week from which I quoted, the Joint Committee said that he tried to do the very same thing. He is again arguing today why he is right and all the members of the Joint Committee are wrong.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Kensington) (Con) rose

Sadiq Khan: I will give way to the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, then I will make some progress.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Does the right hon. Gentleman not appreciate that the bald choice that he is trying to make between national security and the administration of justice certainly applies when one is considering a public interest immunity certificate, because that removes the evidence completely from the consideration of the courts in the interests of national security? But the Wiley test that he referred to just does not apply when one is dealing with closed material procedures because there is a perfectly good argument—the right hon. Gentleman may not accept it—that the administration of justice is better served by at least the judge hearing all the evidence than the evidence being completely withdrawn and not being able to be taken into account at all.

Sadiq Khan: That is exactly what the Supreme Court said in the al-Rawi case: that a judge has at his—I am afraid it mostly is “his”—disposal a number of tools to deal with issues that are sensitive and would create problems for national security. If an application for public interest immunity is made and the certificate is signed by a Minister, the judge will go through a number

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of loops. He will consider on an application ex parte whether, for example, it is possible to have a fair hearing using anonymity. He will decide whether it is possible to have a fair hearing with confidentiality rings. Imperfect as it is, it is one of the ways in which he will reach a conclusion after balancing the public interest in holding an open and fair administration of justice and the public interest and harm to our national security from disclosure. He does that anyway.

The problem that the Supreme Court recognised in its finding on al-Rawi is that at present the judge does not have the option of a CMP unless we give him that option. That is what the Bill seeks to do. We have explicitly stated in the Bill that there should be a balancing exercise by the judge. In Committee the Ministers tried to limit that. There is no balancing now. All a judge has to consider is whether the procedure is fair and effective, rather than a balance of what is in the public interest.

I am quoting what the Joint Committee said in its report last week, which the Minister finds so objectionable. After his amendments in Committee were defeated by one vote—the Lib Dems voted with Labour—the Joint Committee said that

“there is nothing in the Government’s revised clause 6”—

[Interruption]. The Minister might mutter, but the Committee said that

“there is nothing in the Government’s revised clause 6 which replaces it with anything requiring the court to balance the degree of harm to the interests of national security on the one hand against the public interest in the fair and open administration of justice on the other.”

For us, this is a failing. The test applied at the gateway is very important.

4.30 pm

Hazel Blears (Salford and Eccles) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Sadiq Khan: I keep saying that I will give way for the last time. This really is the last time.

Hazel Blears: For the sake of clarity, will my right hon. Friend confirm that there will be circumstances in which it would be appropriate, in the interests of the fair administration of justice, for there to be a closed material proceeding hearing? If there are allegations that the security services have acted improperly, that information ought to be before the court rather than having the option of settling the case and the information never being subjected to judicial scrutiny?

Sadiq Khan: I agree with my right hon. Friend. She basically paraphrases the words of David Anderson, who said that there are a small number of cases where it is preferable for there to be closed material proceedings, imperfect as that is. She is right to remind the House of what David Anderson said, albeit in her own words, and I agree.

The Wiley balance is a tried and tested legal mechanism by which courts can balance these competing interests, and there is considerable case law history to back that up. It was supported by the House of Lords, as I said, including by Lord Phillips, the former president of the

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Supreme Court. The Government’s changes remove from the Bill all reference to open justice. The fear is that by not taking open justice into account, the likelihood of a CMP taking place will increase to more than the exceptional that the Government have talked about. As I have said, the Government also tabled amendment 55 in Committee, which replaced “open” with “effective”. It is our view, shared by the JCHR and the special advocates, that this is a retrograde step. As I said, the Supreme Court in al-Rawi confirmed that both natural justice and open justice are important but separate fundamental principles, hence our amendment seeks to reintroduce to the Bill the Wiley test of fair and open justice.

Mr George Howarth: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Sadiq Khan: I want to make some progress then I will give way.

Paving amendment 26 brings us to amendment 31, which would ensure that the use of CMPs became an option of last resort. Amendment 34 would mean that the court must consider—I emphasise the word “consider” —using public interest immunity before opting for closed proceedings. We believe that those amendments are important for two key reasons. First, deviation from open and fair justice should be considered in only the most extreme of circumstances, and I think there is general agreement there. As the Government have said, CMPs should be used only in exceptional cases. Let me remind the House that on Second Reading the Minister said:

“I agree that we should be talking about a small number of cases where any other process is impossible and it is necessary for it to be handled in this way.”—[Official Report, 18 December 2012; Vol. 55, c. 721.]

By placing in the Bill a provision that states as such, this should help ensure that the use of a CMP does indeed remain exceptional, as we all intend. Secondly, because it also allows the consideration of other measures, such as public interest immunity, redaction, in camera hearings, confidentiality rings and anonymity, all of these would protect the precious open and fair nature of our justice system, which must be one of our priorities.

Mr Howarth: My right hon. Friend has moved on from the point I was going to make, but I will return him to it. He has explained how the Wiley test works effectively with public interest immunity cases, but he seems to assume that that test will work equally well in closed material proceedings. I fail to understand how he can justify that statement on the basis of what he has already said.

Sadiq Khan: The Wiley balancing exercise has been applied for many years, and there is a rich history of precedent. The Minister plucks from the air “fair and effective”, but that was plucked from the air at the eleventh hour, at the last minute that an amendment could be tabled in Committee. What we, the Joint Committee, the special advocates and the House of Lords are saying is that if there is to be a gateway test before the decision about whether a hearing should be open or under a CMP, or about which material within a CMP should be open or closed, the judge should carry out a balancing exercise. He should weigh the public

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interest in having an open and fair hearing against the harm done by the revealing of information that would breach national security. That is the test that judges use now and what the Supreme Court judges in al-Rawi would like to have used had they had the option of a CMP, which this Bill would give them.

Dr Huppert: The right hon. Gentleman is being generous, although it sounds as if he needs to be nicer to some of his own party’s Back Benchers to get their support on some of these issues. He is making an interesting point about the last resort, and I have some sympathy with that. He will be aware that closed material proceedings were introduced by the previous Government in respect of a number of other cases in British law—in special immigration cases, control orders and employment tribunals. Will he remind the House whether there was a last resort provision for all those? I simply cannot remember—perhaps he can.

Sadiq Khan: As the hon. Gentleman will know, this is an extension into civil actions. He is talking about special immigration appeals hearings, but I am talking about something very different: when one party is suing the Executive—the Government—for damages. Historically, the Government could press the “eject” button, but for the reasons given by the Minister and my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears), we do not want damages to be paid where a case could be exhausted and there could be a resolution of the disputes. That context is very different from one in which somebody’s immigration status is being considered.

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): My question is also to do with the right hon. Gentleman’s concept of the last resort. I think he would accept that one of the reasons why we are enacting this Bill is to avoid an unpalatable situation. People who we might know from secret sources, which we cannot expose in public, to be closely involved in terrorism have been able to sue and walk away with £500,000, £1 million or more. That is what is behind the provision.

It will always be open to the Government to pay the money and thus avoid the action. Will the right hon. Gentleman’s criterion of the last resort mean that we can go for a closed material procedure to avoid having to pay out the money unjustifiably or that we will have to carry on doing what we are doing at the moment—rather than exposing secret sources or techniques, paying out a lot of money to potentially very dangerous people?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I ask hon. Members to make shorter interventions, although I know it is important to get things on the record.

Sadiq Khan: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. Six interventions ago, I said that I would take my last one; I keep being too generous.

The hon. Gentleman’s point would be good if I was suggesting that we remove CMPs altogether. I am saying that a judge should consider—a word that I shall explain in a moment—all other options, including public interest immunity, before going to a CMP. The Government amendment requires the Minister to consider PII; if it is good enough for the Minister, why is it not good enough for the judge?

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We are not saying that there should not be CMPs, but that it is exceptional, for the reasons the Government have given. It should happen very infrequently; people have mentioned figures of seven or 15. The Under-Secretary has said from the Front Bench that he is not sure how many, which is why he will be supporting our sunset clause. What I am saying is that asking the judge to consider all the other options would make explicit the intention of Parliament and the Government.

Caroline Lucas: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sadiq Khan: I really must make progress; there will be time for hon. Members to contribute after I have finished.

David Anderson, the Government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, has himself said that

“the court’s power to order a CMP should be exercisable only if, for reasons of national security connected with disclosure, the just resolution of a case cannot be obtained by other procedural means (including not only PII but other established means such as confidentiality rings and hearings in camera).”

We should not legislate in a way that means that CMPs will replace tried and tested methods for dealing with sensitive material in open proceedings if those methods will do the job. Only if it is deemed, after consideration by a judge, that those tried and tested measures cannot be employed in a way that would allow important evidence to be used in a public court, would the option of a CMP be considered. The Bill as it stands does not allow for this. Our amendments would not, as some have argued, including the Minister on Second Reading, mean that a full and lengthy PII exercise had to be undertaken before a CMP could even be considered. On the contrary, the key word in all this is “considered”. Our amendments would deliver this. I hope that the House will support that as part of our efforts to maintain as much as possible of the precious traditions of openness in our justice system.

Some have interpreted the Government amendments tabled at the eleventh hour last week as delivering what we and others have asked for. They will lead to a Minister—in other words, one of the parties in the civil action or judicial review—considering the use of PII and the judge having to take their conclusion into consideration when deciding whether to grant a CMP. In our view, this is not an appropriate check and balance, and we will therefore look to amend the Bill accordingly.

Amendment 38 deals with the Wiley judicial balance within the CMP. The Government’s argument for resisting this is the same as their reason for resisting full judicial balancing on the decision on whether to order a closed proceeding in the first place. We are not persuaded of their arguments in that circumstance. We believe that this is another key component of judicial balancing and a crucial check and balance.

Our amendments also deal with the equality of arms. On Second Reading, the Minister said:

“We will also accept that any party, not just the Government, should be able to ask for a closed material procedure.”—[Official Report, 18 December 2012; Vol. 555, c. 722.]

We welcomed that statement. After all, equality of arms is backed by the JCHR and the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC. However, following the changes that the Government made in Committee, we now know that their idea of equality of

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arms is very different from everyone else’s. The JCHR report published last week is highly critical of what was done to the Bill in Committee. It says:

“in our view the Government’s amendment enabling all parties to proceedings to apply for a CMP does not provide for equality of arms in litigation because it would unfairly favour the Secretary of State”.

In short, it is a two-tier equality of arms—or, in the real world, an inequality of arms. Our amendment would restore proper equality of arms. I am pleased that the Government have decided to support us and have signed our amendment.

Some have said that the debates at this late stage are nothing more than angels dancing on the head of a pin. I disagree. There remain some fundamental differences, chiefly about judicial balancing and last resort, about which we are still concerned. I hope that colleagues in all parts of the House will support, in particular, amendments 30 and 31. We will first need to vote on amendment 26, which is a paving amendment that would ensure that the Bill contained the proper checks and balances that it needs without having to rely on the other place—with Lib Dem support, I hasten to add—to make sure that there is equilibrium in the great balancing act that we face between our national security and the rights of individuals.

Mr Kenneth Clarke: I rise early in the debate because I want to speak to the Government amendments that stand in my name. I have already added my name to two Opposition amendments. As we do not have a great deal of time to discuss some quite complex issues, it will be helpful to set out what those issues are so that we do not have so many interventions when the person who is being intervened on is agreeing with the person making the intervention, as happened several times to the Opposition spokesman.

I think that an ordinary, intelligent person from the outside world who is listening to this debate would be rather baffled as to what is causing us so much concern. It has seemed to me for some time that we are in complete agreement on policy and there is no disagreement between us on the principles of the very great need to protect national security and the equally great need to protect the rule of law, the principles of British justice and all the values that we seek to uphold. We have spent the entire time trying to work out a process for reconciling those principles.

The Opposition spokesman entirely agreed with the interventions by the right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears) and my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), who both put forward the principle that we must find some way of trying these cases properly so that everybody knows that there is justice and that a judge has been able to reach a conclusion on the merits or otherwise of the allegations made. Nobody has yet got up to say otherwise. The real critics of this Bill—I do not think that they are Members of this House—say that, somehow, it is a lesser evil to keep paying out millions of pounds in order to not extend the principle of closed proceedings further than it already exists in British law. The idea seems to be, “What a pity. We hope that none of the millions will go to bad causes,” although I do not think that that argument has an advocate in this place.

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What we are doing—we have been having this debate for months—is discussing amendments that would underline the fact that this is a judge-made decision, made with proper discretion and taking the right things into account, and that closed material proceedings will be used only in a very small number of cases that would give rise to issues of national security if they were held in open court.

4.45 pm

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Clarke: I shall start giving way in a moment and will do so at least as frequently as my opponent, the right hon. Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan).

I will not use my own words to make the general case for the measure. I think I am in agreement with the Labour party, the Liberal Democrats and, I hope, my own party, or at least the bulk of it—that is sometimes the least certain proposition one can make in British politics these days. A collection of people whom I admire wrote to The Times a few months ago:

“In national security matters our legal system relies upon a procedure known as public interest immunity. Under PII, evidence which is deemed to be national security sensitive is excluded from the courtroom. The judge may not take it into account when coming to his or her judgment.

This procedure is resulting in a damaging gap in the rule of law. To protect national security evidence from open disclosure the Government is forced to try to agree substantial settlements with claimants who have not had the opportunity to prove their case. Civil damages claims made against the security services are not therefore being scrutinised by a judge in a court.

It was to resolve a similar problem that previous Governments introduced Closed Material Procedures (CMPs) in immigration and control order cases, and courts have ordered them by consent in the past.

CMPs are not ideal, but they are a better option where the alternative is no justice at all. The Special Advocates who operate within them are more effective than they admit…and the Government loses cases in these hearings.

We believe the Government is right therefore to extend the availability of CMPs to other civil courts. This will ensure that the security and intelligence agencies can defend themselves against allegations made against them, that claimants are given the greatest opportunity to prove their case, and that concerned citizens will have the benefit of a final judgment on whether serious allegations have foundation.”

That puts the general case impeccably. One of the signatories was Lord Reid, the former Home Secretary, which is not too surprising given that most Opposition Members who are former Ministers with experience of dealing with these matters are pretty supportive of the Government and have been throughout, particularly those who are still up to date because they are on the Intelligence and Security Committee. Another signatory was Lord Mackay of Clashfern, who was a Conservative Lord Chancellor many years ago, but who was the most independent Lord Chancellor I can recall. He is an impeccable lawyer and a man whom no one could accuse of not having regard to the rule of law.

I stress that the former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, whose name has entered the fray again today, is a great defender of personal liberties who invented, I think, the whole concept of judicial review by which Governments are now held to account better by the courts for ministerial decisions. I have great respect for his opinion and today—this is my final quote before I start to give way—he has written:

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“What is important is that the operation of…CMPs should be under the complete control of a judge. That the Government has now given him that control is to be welcomed. The Bill now ensures that we will retain our standards of general justice, while also putting an end to the blindfolding of judges in this small number of cases.”

I think that we all agree. There may be some rare exceptions from the ultra-liberal end of the left or the right, but by and large practically everybody in this House agrees with that case. What we are arguing about now is the fact that every time we table an amendment, further amendments are tabled in order to make it more practically difficult ever to have a CMP. The lawyers who are persuading various groups to table those amendments and who are drafting them for them actually think that the law as it stands is perfectly satisfactory, but they keep trying to invent fresh conditions, tests and processes to get in the way of CMPs.

The Litvinenko inquest is proceeding under the old law. I gave in to all the lobbyists who said that none of this should ever apply to inquests. In inquests, secrecy must therefore remain the order of the day so far as the coroner, the family and everyone else is concerned once a PII has been applied for and granted. I do not think that that should apply to civil claims, but people will no doubt try to persuade me that it should.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): I thank the Minister for giving way and for the way in which he is trying to present a not very strong case. If we have a Security Service, it must be accountable, and if we have a criminal law process, it must be open. The process that is being introduced and previous processes end up, in effect, with people being criminalised in secret without knowing the full case against them. Does he not accept that there is a danger in the process that he is presenting?

Mr Clarke: The Bill most emphatically does not apply to the criminal process. I would be against any evidence of which the offender was not aware being given in a criminal case. That gets us into the control order problem, which is that sometimes there is no evidence in a case, but responsible people are terrified of the prospect of the person being left at liberty because we cannot prosecute. However, that is for another day. I do not believe that there can be a criminal case with secret evidence. I quite agree about that.

In civil cases, I would prefer there to be open evidence all the time. I particularly agree with the hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) that the security services must be accountable to the courts and to Parliament wherever possible. At the moment, they are not accountable to the courts, because all the material that the Government want to bring in their defence cannot be given in open court. By definition, this is not evidence about our being involved in torture, rendition or anything like that. We deny that we are and most of the allegations are not that we have done such things, but that we have been complicit in another agency doing them. The evidence that we are talking about is evidence that the security services and their lawyers believe would enable them to defend the action and refute the allegations. At the moment, because we cannot hear such evidence in closed proceedings and because it cannot be heard in open court, it is not heard at all. We just offer no defence and pay out. If we have this procedure, it will make the services more accountable to the courts.

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The other half of the Bill greatly strengthens the work of the Intelligence and Security Committee, which I approve of, by making it a proper Committee of this House and by strengthening its powers. I agree with the hon. Member for Islington North that we must reassure the public that we are defending our values by the most reputable methods and that we are respecting human rights. There must therefore be accountability to the courts and to Parliament.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Clarke: I will give shorter answers if I can. I will give way to a Member on my side of the House.

Sir Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con): My right hon. and learned Friend has come against the rock of the special advocates. They have looked at this business and rejected it universally. They are the ones who are supposed to carry these court cases through and they do not like the proposal. I do not like it and, as this debate progresses, I think we will find that many more Members of this House do not like it either.

Mr Clarke: I thought we were doing all right with this Bill until the special advocates came out with their remarkable evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights. I agree that that got me into a lot of trouble. I do not understand why they take that ferocious view. As I have demonstrated before with plenty of quotations, they do win cases. One would think that they are powerless, but they do succeed. The judges accord to special advocates much more power of persuasion than they seem to accord to themselves, because judges want to have a special advocate to help them test the evidence when they are reaching their conclusion.

Of course, special advocates act on behalf of the claimants, as do most of the people who make these objections. I am not accusing them, because their motives are the highest and most honourable, but they have got into a frame of mind where they think that anything that is not advantageous to the claimant must be bad. Even at the height of my enthusiasm for human rights and the rule of law, I cannot get myself into that position. Claimants should be obliged to prove their case and I believe that special advocates are the most effective means that we have of testing the Government’s case on behalf of claimants.

Dr Huppert: The Minister made the excellent point that none of this would apply to criminal cases in which somebody’s liberty could be at risk, which is important. It is clear that there will not be closed information in such cases. Will he confirm whether civil habeas corpus cases will be covered? Could there be closed proceedings in such cases, which could affect somebody’s liberty?

Mr Clarke: My off-the-cuff reaction is to say no, but I confess that it is an uninformed one, so I think I ought to check that and return to it later.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Clarke: I will give way once or twice more, then I must resume my speech, otherwise this will turn into a question-and-answer session. I must finish my speech, as the right hon. Member for Tooting did with great difficulty.

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Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab): May I reiterate what the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Sir Richard Shepherd) said? If special advocates, who are independent people and fully aware of cases such as those in question, are expressing reservations and think the provision is wrong, should the Government not take notice of that?

Mr Clarke: We have taken notice of it, but I do not understand why special advocates seem to be taking up the arguments of people who say that we should never allow anybody to consider the evidence in question. I never thought that PIIs were a perfect process, but the critics have suddenly decided they are now that we have brought forward CMPs. If there is a PII, the judge cannot take account of such evidence, claimants and the defence cannot use it, and the lawyers do not know about it. That is held up to me as a superior position to the one we are putting forward, which will mean that the judge can consider that evidence.

Rory Stewart (Penrith and The Border) (Con): Will the Minister tell us in broad terms what concessions he has made since the Bill was conceived, and whether there are any further concessions that he can make to address any concerns?

Mr Clarke: I was about to move on to that point, having made the general case. Every time I make concessions, they are pocketed and there is a fresh set of demands. I have known that to happen before, but never on the same scale as with this Bill. I will try to explain that when I get on to the matter.

Caroline Lucas: I see that the Minister is about to get some advice from behind him on habeas corpus cases. The advice we have received is that they are regarded as civil actions, and that habeas corpus could therefore be at risk in future.

The Minister should not get carried away with the idea that everybody supports the change. Some parties, such as the Green party, do not. That will not surprise him, but the Liberal Democrat conference did not support it, either. It talked about it as a serious risk to public trust and confidence. Many people out there do not support the change or think it is necessary, and I have yet to hear any real argument as to why it is.

Mr Clarke: I respect the hon. Lady’s sincerity, and she represents those who are against the whole policy. I have met such people outside—to use a flippant phrase, some of my best friends are human rights lawyers, and I have met people who say that the whole idea of CMPs is so bad that it is a lesser evil to keep paying money to the ever-mounting number of people coming forward. That is a judgment for the House to make, but the three political parties do not contain many members who agree with that, and I do not think the public agree with it. I would prefer to see a judge test the evidence and come to a conclusion.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Clarke: I will move on, but I will remember who I have not given way to.

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I have been given advice on civil habeas corpus cases, and I will read it to the House. It says, “We can’t envisage any such cases.” I find that inconclusive, so I will make further inquiries. The question bowled me middle-stump, so I have some sympathy with the unfortunate lawyer in the Box who has had to decide what on earth we can say, and I think we ought to be allowed to go away and consider the matter.

On the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart) made, Lord Woolf mentioned in his letter this morning that before the Committee stage, and again last week, the Government have tabled a lot of significant amendments that, in our opinion, meet every practical objection that has been made by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Opposition, my colleagues in the Liberal Democrats and my noble Friends, who defeated us several times. We accepted quite a lot of those defeats, which were improvements to the Bill.

I have tabled four more amendments today and added my name to two Opposition amendments. I considered the point about equality of arms; I think it is slightly overdone but Government Members have added their names to two Opposition amendments so that any party to the proceedings can apply for a declaration that there should be closed material procedure.

Let me remind hon. Members where we have got to. There has been enormous movement since the Green Paper, and quite a big movement while the Bill has proceeded through the House. The court may grant such an application and order a CMP if it—

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Clarke: Let me remind hon. Members of the position we have reached and then I will give way.

5 pm

The court must be satisfied that the Secretary of State has considered whether to make, or advise another person to make, a PII claim for the material on which the application is based. Therefore, the Secretary of State must have considered that PII claim. We are not in favour—I will come back to this point—of the Secretary of State being put under an obligation to go through the whole PII process, which in some cases can take months, if it is obvious from a sample of the material that the case is likely to involve a CMP.

Now that the Bill has been amended, the tests the judge must apply before going into closed proceedings are clear. The judge must be satisfied that the material is relevant to the case and bears on issues that the judge is being asked to decide on. Secondly, the judge must be satisfied that the material could damage the interests of national security. A case cannot be contemplated for closed proceedings until the judge is satisfied on that point. Thirdly, the judge must be satisfied that a CMP would be in the interests of the fair and effective administration of justice—the proper way a British judge should try the case.

Those three conditions are pretty wide and they have to be satisfied. If the judge, exercising the widest possible consideration, is satisfied that those three conditions have been met, he may allow a CMP. We have removed the wording that he “must” allow a CMP, so the idea

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that this decision is not under the control of the judge strikes me as totally fanciful. If a CMP is being considered, the only way it will be workable is if a judge looks at a sample of the material to see whether those three conditions are satisfied. He may then order a CMP.

In a CMP a judge will hear all the material, which can amount to thousands of documents. During that time, when the special advocate is challenging and going through the case, the court is obliged to keep the CMP under review. Again, we have given the judge the power to revoke the CMP at any time. Indeed, the court has a duty to revoke a CMP following the pre-disclosure exercise if it feels that the CMP is no longer in the interests of the fair and effective administration of justice. As Lord Woolf has said, the changes the Government have made put the judge in complete control of whether a CMP can be granted and whether it will continue or be revoked—I could add more but I will not because I have started to give way again. The judge also decides how much of the case will go into open proceedings, how much of a gist can be given to the defendants, and how much can go into open proceedings as long as certain documents are redacted. Of course, the judge will have been informed by evidence and heard it challenged, and will then continue to the rest of the proceedings.

If we started like that, Lord knows where we would be now given the amendments we were facing—I cannot imagine. Some of this is unnecessary because I think a British judge would want to hold open proceedings. People will have difficulty persuading a British judge that it is sensible to go to closed proceedings. The idea that we need a whole lot of amendments that put fresh conditions on the judge, fresh questions for them to ask, and fresh, expensive and long processes to go through, is just an attempt to thwart CMPs. The Bill contains every protection because we have amended it yet again after consideration by the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park) (Con): I welcome my right hon. and learned Friend’s comments. Will he tell the House whether there is a clear and understood definition of the term “national security”?

Mr Clarke: There is no definition, because all attempts to define it have got one into worse difficulties.

It is possible to exclude evidence from a case altogether under the existing public interest immunity procedure; the Bill does not touch that. The present PII law will be completely unaffected by the Bill, so people could still go for a PII. One is obviously being actively sought at the moment in the Litvinenko inquest, although I know that only from what I read in the press. That kind of exclusion could be claimed on the ground of damage to international relations, if the Government of some third-party state would be upset if certain evidence were to be published. That goes beyond questions of national security and into total secrecy, allowing the Minister to withdraw the whole blasted thing from the proceedings and not letting even the judge use it. That measure goes much wider. Such exclusions on wider grounds happened under the previous Government.

We are sticking to national security, however, and judges, using the completely unfettered discretion that we are now giving them, will no doubt have regard to what I say. What we have in mind are things that would

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cause damage to national security, by which we mean the safety of our citizens, our attempts to counter terrorism, and threats to international order among the wider public. I can assure the House that I am not in favour of excluding ministerial pigs’ ears. I am sure that the previous Government made more of them than we did, but I do not believe that that sort of thing should be put away in closed proceedings under any Government.

Mr George Howarth: Is not national security rather like reasonable doubt—two well understood English words, as a judge advised the jury in a trial the other week?

Mr Clarke: Amendments have been tabled to Bills of this kind to try to define the concept, but that leads to more trouble than it is worth. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that reasonable doubt is a very good comparison.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr Clarke: I will in just a second. I am sorry not to give way to the Chairman of the Committee at the moment, but I will before I finish.

I think I have made my point that people are grasping at the straws that keen human rights lawyers have presented to the critics of CMP, and trying to bring in a process to prevent them from happening. That would be the effect of most of the amendments. We have accepted the spirit of the JCHR’s amendments, and we have addressed the questions on unintended consequences.

Let us consider amendment 30 and the Wiley balance. I have just mentioned the unfettered discretion that we are giving to judges. Should we add to that discretion a confinement so that a judge would have to apply what is known as the Wiley balance, which is used in PII? I will not repeat the arguments used by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind), the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee and, I think, the right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles. PII is not the same.

The amendment that the Opposition have been persuaded to table is not actually about the Wiley balance. Whoever drafted it has realised that that would not be quite good enough for their purposes, so they have altered it by adding the words “fair” and “open”. I do not understand how, having decided that national security would be at risk and that that would be relevant to the issues, and that such a measure would be necessary for the fair administration of justice, someone might then decide that they preferred open justice and that the evidence should be given in public anyway. That is a complete non sequitur, in a way. It would be slightly absurd to do that. It would be like saying to the judge, “If you agreed with the Green party and were against the policies in the Bill in the first place, you can now throw everything out anyway because you need to consider whether you would prefer open justice, after those three conditions have been satisfied.” That would be a slight non sequitur, and it is also a bit deceptive—not deliberately; I am not accusing anyone of acting improperly—to describe this proposal as the Wiley balance. It is the Wiley balance with bits added, which some ingenious lawyer has come up with to try to put a spoke in the wheels.

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Mr Andrew Tyrie (Chichester) (Con): I am very grateful indeed, in the circumstances, to the Minister for giving way. Did I hear him correctly? Perhaps I will give him the opportunity to correct the suggestion, which I think he pretty much made a moment ago, that the remaining opposition to the Bill has been got up by a few human rights lawyers. Will he explain, which he has still failed to do, why the only people who really understand the system—the people who have experience both of PII and CMPs; that is, the special advocates—have concluded absolutely clearly and unequivocally:

“The introduction of such a sweeping power could only be justified by the most compelling reasons and, in our view, none exists.”?

Mr Clarke: I do not think that I would conceivably use the language that my hon. Friend tries to attribute to me. Human rights Members are fervently opposed to the whole idea of CMP. They are extremely able lawyers and draftsmen. I am left in wonder and admiration at their ingenuity in producing an endless procession of amendments, so that every time their principles are adopted by the Government in amendments at various stages, a fresh set of amendments is tabled introducing new concepts that are designed to elaborate on the process. That is enough praise for my opponents, but it is ingenious.

We are not putting in the Wiley test, because we have three perfectly effective tests and complete discretion for the judge anyway. The Wiley test is used for PII, which is a quite different process that tries to exclude the evidence entirely from the judge, the claimant, the lawyers and everybody. PII is an application for total silence. We do not need to put the test in for that.

Amendment 31 is more difficult, as it requires that a CMP may be used only as a last resort. The circumstances I have described are getting pretty near to the last resort. We expect only a handful of cases, because we do not think our intelligence agencies will be sued very often. They are strictly enjoined to follow the principles of human rights, and not to connive at torture and everything else, but we do not know, and the conditions we have applied make it clear that we will only ever have CMPs in national security cases, unless a future Government try to relax them.

The trouble is that the last resort argument will undoubtedly be used for going through the whole PII process before starting on CMPs, and there are some people who want to do that. They say that they do not like the fact that the Secretary of State has to consider an application for PII. They want the Secretary of State to go through the whole process. They do not like the fact that the court has other tests for going to a CMP. They want the court to go through the whole PII process before it gets there. Why? Because it could take months or years. The Guantanamo Bay cases had hundreds of thousands of documents—it is a very elaborate process.

Mr Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr Clarke: I will in just a second.

There is a serious risk, in our opinion and in the opinion of those who have considered the drafting, that it will introduce a huge, expensive and discouraging

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process. David Anderson, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, has described this sort of clause as requiring the court to bang its head against a brick wall. I think the Lords Constitution Committee also said that it did not want full PII. The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr Slaughter), who led for the Opposition, said this:

“None of us wants exhaustive PII or a Minister tied up for a year exhaustively going through paperwork, if it were obvious to all concerned that it was not needed”.––[Official Report, Justice and Security (Lords) Public Bill Committee, 5 February 2013; c. 167.]

We are resisting amendment 31 because we think ingenious lawyers will use the argument that we have to settle down to a few years of process and paperwork to satisfy the requirement exhaustively to consider every other possible way of trying the case.

Sadiq Khan: Does the Minister accept that good judges will throw out frivolous applications by ingenious lawyers? If he is concerned about judges spending too much time considering documents, why does Government amendment 47 put the same obligation on the Secretary of State to consider PII, which we are seeking to put on the judge? All we are asking is that the judge considers PII, and the Government amendment requires the Secretary of State to consider it. Rather than the defendant in a claim having to consider, why not the judge?

Mr Clarke: Let us not make this a competition about which of us most trusts British judges to make reasonably sensible decisions. I have just described how we have put the whole thing in the hands of the judge, and I think that the right hon. Gentleman agrees that a British judge will instinctively want an open hearing and will have to be persuaded to go closed, and he will only do so as a last resort—to use a colloquial term—because his or her preference will be for open justice. There would have to be a very compelling reason for going closed.

5.15 pm

That is the trouble with the amendments. I do not say they are all wicked, but they are designed, I think, to enable people to argue that it is not good enough just for the judge to decide that the tests are settled. They could argue that the judge has to go through an exhaustive procedure and consider every other possible alternative before going ahead. I do not see what on earth that would add. It would insert into the Bill what is almost a colloquial phrase. Whoever drafted it thought, “It’s worth a shot. Perhaps we can get the full process gone through before entering the closed process.”

Patrick Mercer (Newark) (Con): On a wider point, has my right hon. and learned Friend thought how much comfort this will give to their cause, in the world of propaganda, when CMPs are used against terrorists?

Mr Clarke: I have, but with the greatest respect to my hon. Friend’s expertise in this area, I must say that one of the things that most troubles me, as the Minister enthusiastically in charge of the Bill, is not just the need to save the money or the irritation of being unable to defend claims, but the considerable damage done to the reputation of our security services because they are unable to defend themselves. The House always insists

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on being persuaded that the security forces abide by human rights and do not go in for malpractice or unlawful rendition and so on, but their inability to defend themselves against allegations that they have done so is undoubtedly used by our enemies against our security services, and they are very conscious of it—as are our allies and those with whom we co-operate in the security field.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Clarke: In order to avoid losing the thread—as far as there is one—of the Opposition’s amendment, I will make some progress.

Amendment 38 would allow the court to order the disclosure of sensitive material, notwithstanding the damage that would be caused to national security, even if the CMP would have been fair without the disclosure. That would make the Bill completely ineffective from the point of view of the main policy, on which we are all agreed, and would give the courts the sort of power that prompted our allies’ concerns following the Binyam Mohamed case. It would seem to allow the judge to look at some material, determine that it was national security-sensitive but then say that there were wider considerations and disclose it anyway. Of course, if such a disclosure was ordered, the Government would have to withdraw from the case and seek to avoid further disclosure in claims for damages.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Clarke: I must conclude. I apologise to those distinguished Members to whom I have not given way.

I remind Members of the extraordinarily important objectives that we have for the Bill and which the Government’s amendments support. I do not think that the Opposition wish to destroy the policy of the Bill, but they have tabled amendments that would have that effect. The Bill will ensure that the increasing number of civil claims brought against the Government alleging British involvement in kidnap and torture are for the first time fully examined by the courts and that the agencies are better held to account for their actions both by Parliament, through the Intelligence and Security Committee, and in the courts.

The Bill will enable us to reassure the Heads of State of our closest intelligence-sharing partners that we will keep their secrets. The fact that we cannot do this at the moment has already led to the US putting measures in place restricting intelligence exchange and has seriously undermined confidence among our key allies. As I have already mentioned, the Bill will also stop us having to make unnecessary payouts to people who have not proved their case and reduce the risk of British taxpayers’ money being used to finance terrorism.

We have revised the Bill as far as we can. We all agree on the rule of law and with the principles of justice in this country, but I invite the House to apply a modicum of common sense and a sense of national security to its considerations. We have debated this endlessly. Never can a Government have been quite so responsive to the points put to them, and I fear that I must resist the further pressure.

Dr Hywel Francis (Aberavon) (Lab): It is a pleasure, and it is certainly a challenge, to follow the Minister without Portfolio.

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On Second Reading, I welcomed the improvements that had been made by the House of Lords, but expressed the view that more significant improvements were required. I hoped that the Bill would be amended in Committee to make it compatible with the basic requirements of the rule of law, fairness and open justice, which, of course, the whole House would wish to endorse. Regrettably, however, the amendments made by the Government in Committee have removed or watered down many of the improvements made in the other place.

In an earlier report on the Bill, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which I have the honour of chairing, considered carefully whether the Government’s amendments gave effect to its recommendations. In its second report, published last week, it reached the clear conclusion that they did not, and recommended further amendments. The day after we agreed our report, the Government tabled further amendments. I think—I choose my words carefully—that that was regrettable. We would have liked to scrutinise those amendments properly. The Minister, however, told the Daily Mail that the Government had now met every sensible legal objection that there could be to the Bill. I welcome some of the latest Government amendments, as does my Committee, but I must add that they meet only one of the seven main concerns expressed by the Committee in the report published last week.

Let me deal first with equality of arms in the ability to apply for a CMP. We welcome and support the Government’s amendment, which is the only one that gives effect to a recommendation in last week’s report. If we are to have CMPs in civil proceedings, it is vital for individuals such as torture victims who are bringing cases against the Government to have the same opportunity as the Government to apply for them, but how does the Minister propose to ensure that such claimants are aware that a CMP might help their case? Can he reassure us that special advocates will be appointed whenever the Government apply for sensitive national security material to be excluded from a case on grounds of public interest immunity, and also that those advocates will be able to communicate to excluded parties the fact that a CMP might help their case? I think that those are both very important questions.

Let me now deal with judicial balancing at the “gateway”—the so-called Wiley balance, which has already been discussed a great deal today. I support the amendment proposed by the shadow Justice Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan). In fact, I shall be supporting quite a few of his amendments, not because of any party loyalty but because he is supporting my Committee’s recommendations.

The Government’s amendments removed from the Bill the Wiley balance between the degree of harm to national security on the one hand and the public interest in the fair and open administration of justice on the other. That important safeguard had been inserted by the House of Lords, following a recommendation from my Committee. As the Committee explained in its report, the purpose of our recommended amendment inserting the Wiley balance was to ensure that the court considered the public interest in the fair and open administration of justice.

Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con): May I ask whether the Joint Committee also considered the human rights of society more widely, including the

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right not to see millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money given to undesirable elements and individuals because cases must be settled immediately rather than explored properly, evidentially, through the courts?

Dr Francis: I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s point. These are very important issues, and the Committee was cognisant of them.

To return to the point I was making, that purpose is not served if the Bill does not contain any express requirement that the court conduct such a balancing exercise before deciding whether to allow a CMP to be used. By deleting the Government’s new condition that it is in the interests of the fair and effective administration of justice in the proceedings to make a declaration and reinstating the Wiley balance as a precondition for a CMP, the amendment would restore a crucial safeguard for open justice.

On last resort, I support the amendment tabled by the shadow Secretary of State for Justice, which would give effect to my Committee’s recommendation. The Committee, in its report last week, explained why it does not accept the Government’s reasons for removing the “last resort” amendments made by the House of Lords, which are based on a misunderstanding of the effect of the provisions. The Government’s commitment to ensuring that CMPs are available only in those cases where they are necessary is most welcome. However, in order to give effect to that intention the Bill must be amended so as to reinstate the condition that the court is satisfied that a fair determination of the issues in the proceedings is not possible by any other means.

The requirement that the court consider whether a claim for PII could have been made must also be reinstated. The Government’s latest amendment, which requires the court to consider whether the party applying for a CMP considered applying for PII, does not go far enough, because it does not require the court itself to consider whether PII is a suitable alternative to a CMP.

Mr Kenneth Clarke: As I have already argued, that sounds as though it is demanding that both the Secretary of State and the court go through the full process of PII before even getting on to applying for a CMP. From what the hon. Gentleman is saying, it sounds as though that is exactly what the Committee is contemplating, but how can that be justifiable when all the people concerned in some of these cases will rapidly come to the conclusion that they are wasting time, money and effort on a totally unnecessary exercise and it would obviously be more sensible to go into a CMP and consider the nature of the evidence?

Dr Francis: I am sure that—

Sadiq Khan: On that point, will my hon. Friend give way?

Dr Francis: Yes.

Sadiq Khan: I think that the Minister without Portfolio is in danger of not understanding his own Bill or the amendments. The amendment would simply require the court to “consider” whether a claim for PII could have

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been made in relation to the material. That is the same word used in Government amendment 47, which proposed that the Secretary of State must consider whether PII should be used.

Dr Francis: My right hon. Friend has explained that better than I could.

I have a question for the Minister, if he will listen to it, about the effect of the Bill on arrangements known as confidentiality rings. Will he repeat to the House the unequivocal reassurance he gave my Committee that the Bill, as it stands, makes no difference to confidentiality rings, that they will remain available under the Bill as they are now, and that the Government have no intention of taking away the possibility of such arrangements being used as an alternative to CMPs? I am not sure whether he was listening to that, but no doubt his supporters and officials can assist him later.

On the question of judicial balancing in the CMP, I again support the amendment tabled by the shadow Secretary of State. It would give effect to my Committee’s recommendation that the Bill be amended to ensure that a full judicial balancing of interests always takes place within the CMP, weighing the public interest in the fair and open administration of justice against the likely degree of harm to the interests of national security when deciding which material should be heard in closed session and which in open session. My Committee’s report explains why express provision for judicial balancing of interests needs to take place within a CMP. It is essential to ensure that the judges have the discretion they require to ensure that the Bill does not create unfairness.

Finally, on the question of gisting, I support the shadow Justice Secretary’s amendment, which, once again, would give effect to my Committee’s recommendation that this crucial safeguard be included in the legislation. On Second Reading, I said that the House needs to listen to the expert views of the special advocates and act on their recommendation that the Bill must include what has become known as a gisting requirement: a requirement that the party excluded from the courtroom must be given a summary of the closed material that is sufficient to enable him to give effective instructions to his lawyers and the special advocate who represents him in his absence. The special advocates have forcefully repeated that view in their most recent submission to my Committee. The courts have held that such a requirement is necessary in order for the legislation to be compatible with the right to a fair hearing, and the House should make it absolutely clear that that is what it intends, by writing this safeguard into the Bill.

5.30 pm

I hope to be called later this evening to make a speech on annual renewal. On behalf of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, I thank everyone who has been contributing to this debate, because this is a crucial matter and we must all take it very seriously. I, for one, am grateful to have the opportunity to speak this evening.

Mr Tyrie: It is rare that I find myself agreeing with the lion’s share of what Opposition Members are saying and not agreeing with much that I have heard from my Front-Bench team. This is particularly unusual because of who has been speaking from the Dispatch Box.

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I normally agree with a great deal of what my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister without Portfolio says, but I cannot agree with him tonight.

The amendments on closed material procedures may look technical but they are really about the kind of society we want to live in: they are about whether people can get to hear the case that is being made against them; they are about whether we can keep legal safeguards that we have had for generations; they are about whether we are committed to finding out how much Britain has facilitated the United States’ programme of rendition—kidnap and, in some cases, torture; and, above all, they are about what values this country is seeking to espouse and export.

Amendments 30, 31 and 34 would take us some way in the right direction, and I will be voting for them. Amendments 31 and 34 would ensure that CMP is used at the discretion of a judge only as a last resort and only if obtaining justice is impossible by other means. For the sake of clarity, let me say that that is certainly not what the Government originally intended. Clause 6(5) of their original Bill required only that

“the Secretary of State must consider whether to make…a claim for public interest immunity”

before making an application for a CMP. A moment’s thought can tell us that that was almost worthless, as I believe the Government knew right from the start; all the Secretary of State would have to do would be to think about this matter, and he could do that in the bath if he so chose.

The House of Lords rescued matters, adding another provision requiring the judge to consider whether a PII “could have been made”. That meant that the court would be required to see whether a fair trial would be possible using PII, and so it would be up to the judge, not the Secretary of State, to decide whether PII should apply. We need to be mindful—this point has not been raised today—that the Executive, in general, and Secretaries of State, in particular, advised by officials, have interests of their own to serve. Foolishly, the Government scrapped that sensible House of Lords provision in Committee and they even scrapped the then clause 6(5), which would have required a Secretary of State at least to consider a PII.

The Government now intend to replace all that with their amendment 47, about which there has just been an exchange. It will provide that before making an order for a CMP the judge must be “satisfied” that the Secretary of State has “considered” making a CMP application. How, in a secret area, consideration by the Secretary of State would really be demonstrated is still unclear. Earlier the Minister said that we do not know exactly what effect this new process will have. No doubt officials will be able to provide suitable documentation to the Secretary of State in order for him to make that judgment, but I am not yet convinced that he will not be able to consider that in the bath as well. In other words, the discretion and control will lie fully not with the judge, as Lord Woolf wrongly supposes it will in his letter in The Times, but to a significant extent with the Secretary of State.

We have been told several times, and I have also been told in correspondence with the Minister, that this is a crucial area of the Bill on which further concessions would damage the interests of both justice and security.

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It is worth pointing out that on this crucial issue the Government have already held three incompatible positions: first, that the Secretary of State must think about PII; then, after Committee, that the Secretary of State should not even think about PII; and now, if amendment 47 is accepted, that the Secretary of State must tell the judge that he has thought very carefully about PII. Frankly, if this were not so serious an issue, all this chopping and changing would look slightly comical.

Amendment 30 is equally important. It would enable the judge to exercise the discretion he or she has now to balance the interests of justice against those of national security in determining what evidence should be disclosed. That is what is known as the Wiley balancing test, which has been discussed and is supported by the JCHR and a large proportion of the legal profession. It is important to be clear that that should not mean that judges will permit disclosure of information that would prejudice our security. I have asked for, but have not yet been told of, any case in which a judge has made that mistake under PII so far. Judges might not be perfect, but so far they have done a very good job of protecting our security and balancing security with justice.

Mr Brazier: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr Tyrie: I am concluding, if my hon. Friend will forgive me.

For those reasons, I shall support amendments 30, 31 and 34. In my view, they give the minimum necessary judicial discretion to the court.

Hazel Blears: I, too, intend to speak briefly as I know that a range of Members want to contribute.

My speech follows that of the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr Tyrie) and I have the greatest respect for his point of view on this issue, for the depth of his knowledge and for how he has studied these matters. The sense in the House is that people hold varying views which, in many cases, cross party lines. People feel strongly about trying to strike the right balance between liberty and security, which has been the subject of many of our previous debates.

It is right that these matters should be controversial, because they go to the heart of our legal system, protecting the rights of applicants and respondents, ensuring that the role of the state is in the proper place to hold the balance between parties, and trying to ensure that our justice system retains its respect and integrity across the world. That balance is difficult to draw and is never easy to achieve, and I say that as the Minister with responsibility for counter-terrorism who took the controversial legislation on control orders through the House. We debated them until 5 am in one of our very rare all-night sittings, which was for me evidence of how strongly people felt about these issues and how much they wanted to protect the integrity of our legal system. I share that desire.

The Bill has been debated at length and the issues have been debated in great depth. It is perhaps almost otiose to be debating them again, but a few points need to be made.

We must not forget why we are debating the Bill. If we did not need to debate it, none of us would want to introduce it. Everybody in this House and in the country

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believes in the British system of open justice, an adversarial system in which evidence is brought into open court and tested by the parties, allowing the judge to deliberate on the evidence and make a judgment.

We are in this position for two reasons. First, legitimate concerns have been expressed by our intelligence liaison partners, particularly in the United States of America, about the breach of the control principle for intelligence, which has put sources, techniques and capabilities at risk. That is the issue of national security, which is very much about the assets that are at risk. I am delighted that the Norwich Pharmacal provisions have gone through with agreement on both sides, which has been extremely positive, but concerns nevertheless remain about the possibility of information being disclosed in open court proceedings that could damage our intelligence relationships. That is the first reason why we are debating this issue.

The second reason is that we have seen an increasing number of claims of unlawful detention and allegations of mistreatment or torture by the security services against people who have been held in a range of different circumstances. Those allegations amount to more than 20 outstanding cases and the number is likely to increase if there is a jurisdiction within which such claims can be ventilated freely. The position has been that many of those claims have had to be settled because the evidence necessary to prove the case either way impinges on national security. That is why we have seen payments made to some claimants without having the opportunity to decide whether their claims were well founded as the evidence has not been put into a judicial setting.

I feel particularly strongly about this matter. If the security agencies have been conducting operations in a way that falls outside our framework of human rights, I want those issues to be put before a court and to be litigated. The fact that they cannot be goes to the heart of the reputation of our intelligence services. People will always say, “Well, you are settling that case because something in it was well founded. That is why you are prepared to pay £2 million, £3 million or £4 million to avoid litigation in our courts.” I want that information; I want to know what happened. Equally, if these claims are unfounded and unfair allegations are being brought against our security services, I want them to be able to defend themselves and the good name and integrity of our intelligence agencies.

Yasmin Qureshi: Will my right hon. Friend take it from me that using the concept of national security as something to hide behind is not right either? This has been used by states all too often. We know from our history that things can be hidden behind national security issues and the truth does not come out.

Hazel Blears: My hon. Friend makes my case for me. If she wanted the information about these matters to be put before a court for a judge to decide, she would support the idea that, in a small number of cases, closed material procedures are necessary. I am afraid that I must tell her that in some circumstances if the secrets we hold, the capabilities, the agents and the capacities we have were to be put in open court, the security of our nation would be threatened. If she does not accept

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that—I genuinely say this with respect—she has no appreciation of the importance of those secrets to our national security.

Yasmin Qureshi: That is completely wrong. As one who has spent many years prosecuting, dealing with issues such as PII, making applications in front of judges relating to informers, issuing evidence for public interest immunity applications and being sensitive to issues on behalf of victims, I can assure my right hon. Friend that the suggestion that we do not appreciate these things is not right. I am saying that it is possible to have these discussions and to find out what is happening. Special advocates, for example, who are experts and independent people belonging neither to the defence nor to the prosecution, have said that these particular procedures in civil cases are completely inappropriate. A criminal trial is a different matter, but these procedures are not right in civil cases.

Hazel Blears: It may well be that some people take a principled position that paying out millions of pounds is a price worth paying if they do not want to have closed proceedings. That is a perfectly legitimate place to be, but it does not happen to be a situation with which I agree. My hon. Friend talks, as many Members do, about PII, which is about excluding information; I want to be in a position where we maximise the inclusion of information and bring it before the judge.

Mr Tyrie: The right hon. Lady and a number of others have fallen into the same trap as did the Advocate-General in the House of Lords, and the point was decisively knocked down by Lord Pannick when he said that the Advocate-General

“wrongly presents PII as a mechanism which, when it applies, necessarily means that the material is excluded from the trial. It is on that premise—a wrong premise…that he suggests a CMP is preferable…The reality…is that the court has an ability applying PII to devise means by which security and fairness can be reconciled”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 19 June 2012; Vol. 737, c. 1694.]—

by the use of other mechanisms. He then listed what they were. Because I am making an intervention, I will not list them, but they are obviously to do with redaction, the anonymising of witnesses and the use of confidentiality rings. There has been a serious misrepresentation of the effects of PII.

5.45 pm

Hazel Blears: I am sure the hon. Gentleman would make an amazingly creative lawyer, if he is not already one. By any interpretation that was a list of the items that could be included. I am probably in good company if I am in agreement with the Advocate-General. There is fairly overwhelming evidence that the list that the hon. Gentleman tried not to give would not be suitable for some cases where a huge amount of the information impinges on national security.

Dr Julian Lewis: Does the right hon. Lady accept that if sensitive material is redacted under PII, that may be the very sensitive material—the secret source, the secret technique or whatever—which is the thing that proves the Government’s case? Therefore it is not good enough to say that PII could be used with redactions,

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because the redactions themselves may be the key component of the evidence that the Government need to present.

Hazel Blears: As ever, my colleague on the Intelligence and Security Committee makes the point in straightforward, direct and proper terms. My understanding is that the Opposition accept that in a small number of cases it will be necessary to have closed material proceedings and that PII does not meet the case in every set of circumstances.

Sir Richard Shepherd: On the point that the right hon. Lady was making in respect of balance, there is another element that is not often discussed but which is surely central to our system of justice—the openness of it and the confidence, therefore, that the general public can have in due process. That is what this debate obscures. I grew up with Matrix Churchill, and I think the right hon. Lady’s time in Parliament coincided with that. Those are the worries that inform part of the anxiety about the Bill.

Hazel Blears: The hon. Gentleman, as ever, speaks with passion on these issues and I respect his point of view. I was a lawyer a long time ago and I understand how important it is to have open justice, but it is also important to get the balance right.

Amendment 30 is about the Wiley balance. I have some difficulty with the amendment because I feel that the Wiley balance is perfectly appropriate for PII, because it is used to decide whether to include or exclude material and whether or not there should be an open hearing. It strikes me that in relation to closed material proceedings there is a more complex and nuanced decision to make which contains different factors. I am keen that we get a balance and that we get the balance right, but I am convinced that the Wiley balance is one that we can simply transpose into the new legislation and that it will be effective.

Amendments 34 and 37 are about whether every other method has to be exhausted before we can get to a closed material proceeding. I am disappointed that there is not more agreement across the House on this. We all want to see whether cases can be dealt with in another way, because closed material proceedings should be the absolute minimum—an irreducible core, as I put it, of cases. I wonder whether the determination could be made by the Secretary of State, having considered whether PII would be suitable, and whether there could be some mechanism for the court to exercise a scrutiny function on whether the Secretary of State’s consideration had been more than cursory.

There will be concerns if the Secretary of State just ticks a box and says, “I’ve considered PII, in my bath”—as the hon. Member for Chichester said—rather than going through a proper process. I would like to see, whether or not we end up in ping-pong with the Lords, something in the Bill that says that the court has to take a proper look at the Secretary of State’s consideration of PII. That would not be exhaustive, but would have some substance to it. I ask the Minister to consider taking that into account.

Mr Kenneth Clarke: The judge will have to be satisfied that the Secretary of State has considered the matter. He will not take that as just having thought about it in

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the bath; that is not how the judge will test whether the Secretary of State has seriously considered it. The judge has such a wide discretion that he could decide that in the fair and effective administration of justice, for some peculiar reason the case should be PII; he should not be listening to a CMP application. That would be one reason for using his discretion. Having listened to the two principal advocates of these further tests, I think they are advocating that the court and the Secretary of State should go through the whole process of PII first. That is not what the Opposition intend, but that is what their amendments would do. The Government have met the right hon. Lady’s case perfectly satisfactorily in the Bill.

Hazel Blears: I hear what the right hon. and learned Gentleman says. He has been very inventive and creative in trying to table amendments, and it would not be beyond him to put something in the Bill that reassured people that there was a proper check on whether the Secretary of State had properly considered whether other methods could be used. I leave him to reflect on that.

Amendment 70 seeks to add inquests to the Bill. It originates from my right hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Paul Goggins) and he will speak to it with his depth of knowledge, experience and appreciation of the issue, and I simply say that I will support him on it 100%.

It is important in a justice system for people to have sufficient notification of the circumstance to be able to give instructions, but at the moment the bar is set a little high, because there may well be circumstances in which the gisting goes right to the heart of national security. Therefore, by giving a gist that is wide enough to enable instructions to be given, the national security case is given away. Again I wonder whether something could be included about there being a presumption in favour of gisting that could be subject to rebuttal in circumstances that merited it. I would feel more reassured if there were something along those lines. The process adopted so far has been an attempt to try to get some agreement and consensus on these issues. It is difficult to do so, but the issues at stake are so important, both for our national security and for the integrity of our justice system, that we need to keep trying to see whether, on a couple of those issues, even at this stage, there is room for a little more movement to get us to a better place.

Mr David Davis: It is a particular pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears). Her speech was well thought through and persuasive. We do not always agree on these issues, but on one aspect she persuaded me, and I shall say in a minute what that was. In this area of argument, which goes right to the heart of what makes British justice special and right to the heart of our national security, we are all inclined sometimes to put things rather too heavily in black and white. I have every sympathy with the agencies that are trying to preserve their own security. They have plenty of threats: past agencies, the David Shaylers, the Richard Tomlinsons, leaking their information, even Ministers—I remember that Ted Rowlands once in the House gave away some Crown jewels—and most ironically of all, Washington. Given the genesis of the Bill, some of the biggest leaks relate to our biggest ally, whether it is Pentagon papers four years ago or, only

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two months ago, what sounds from the British papers to be the putting at risk of the life of an Anglo-Saudi agent whom it used in one of its operations and then talked about afterwards. Nobody, certainly not I, would challenge the right of the agencies to preserve their own proper security—I stress “proper security”.

Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con): My right hon. Friend mentions how things have changed over 40 years and how things have happened. It is clear from this debate how things have moved on. The clandestine community is very different from what it was in the past. It is now scrutinised in a way that has never been done before. We can now mention John Sawyer and Jonathan Evans, names that could never even be mentioned in the Chamber, let alone in MI5 or MI6. Will he concede that we are now having to look at a new level of scrutiny, and that that is why these CMPs have to be put in place. Forty years ago, we could not even discuss the matter.

Mr Davis: As one of the two junior Ministers who took the Secret Intelligence Service Bill through the House and asked the then head of MI6 whether he really meant this, I can take his point. But the simple truth is that we have to live up to those standards of accountability, and that means open justice wherever we can have it.

One of the interesting divides that has taken place in all this is almost a generational one. We have had closed material procedures only since—

Mr Jack Straw (Blackburn) (Lab): 1997.

Mr Davis: Yes, 1997; for only a decade or two. A generation of special advocates have taken a strong stance on this, and they have taken a different stance from everybody else because they have experienced both sorts of procedure. Nearly all of them have personally understood the closed material procedure and the PII procedure, and most of them know both procedures inside out. One of the things they argue—a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr Tyrie) in his brilliant speech, every word of which I agreed with—is that PII has been misrepresented. Any special advocate will say that PII is a much more complex, judge-created, judge-evolved process than is being represented. Of course there can be simple blocking; of course, in addition, there can be redaction; of course there can be circles of confidentiality; of course there can be in-camera hearings. The Minister without Portfolio rather dismissively said that this is the system that gave us arms to Iraq. Even in that process, which involved at least one ex-Minister and one Minister in the House today, early on in the development of PII we saw one category of certificate refused, one category accepted and one category heavily redacted. That gave the court enough information to make Alan Clark face the interrogation in which he came out with those famous words “economical with the actualité”, which collapsed the case because the prosecution recommended an acquittal on the basis of the evidence.

Yasmin Qureshi: Just to continue to emphasise the PII point that the right hon. Gentleman makes, he will be aware that at this moment and for many years in our

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country, covert operations have been carried out evidence from which has been used to convict people, yet the methodology used, where the operatives were and the locations were always kept secret, and that was part of the PII application. PII is not about excluding evidence, it is about including evidence, but not letting the other side know what is adduced. The majority of people seem to be working on the totally wrong basis of what a PII is.

Mr Davis: The hon. Lady is of course right, but let me come to the point that I was driving towards, which is that none of the systems that we are talking about is perfect. PII clearly has weaknesses. Everyone who has spoken has said something to that effect, and the hon. Lady was particularly correct about that; there are weaknesses to PII. We should not accept that that is the perfect outcome either.

Mr Kenneth Clarke: My right hon. Friend rightly says that in PII, because people do not like excluding all the evidence, there is a perfectly legitimate argument about how much we can gist and how much can be redacted, and then it can be put into the open court. But everything that does not get there is entirely left out; it is not available to claimant, judge, lawyers or anybody else. In a CMP, exactly the same thing can be done, because the judge will be required to consider how much we can gist, how much we can redact, and what can be shared with the defendant. The only difference is that in a CMP, the evidence, including, as my right hon. Friend said, some things that might be absolutely key to the case that cannot unfortunately be disclosed, can be considered by the judge. PII shuts out all that which is not possible to gist. With a CMP, there can be all the gisting and redaction that one wants, but all the evidence is considered.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind rose—

Mr Davis: I give way to my right hon. and learned Friend.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind As a Minister who signed a PII certificate in the Matrix Churchill case and was vindicated by the Scott inquiry for having done so, may I say, yes, of course, some things can be permitted through PII? As my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister said, the real issues that would damage national security cannot be considered either by the judge or by anyone else. My right hon. and learned Friend perhaps does not appreciate that even when closed procedures may be approved by the court, once special advocates have been appointed, if the special advocates, having had access to the secret material, put forward a convincing case to the judge that some of that need not continue to be held under closed procedures but can be held in open court, the judge, if so persuaded, is perfectly free to do so. The special advocates themselves, unlike their clients, can put forward that argument, and have done so in immigration cases, and that point has not been mentioned in this debate so far.

6 pm

Mr Davis: I do not dispute any of that; that is where I am coming to with respect to the attitude of the special advocates. Clearly, of the two they do not like

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CMPs, for reasons on which I am about to elaborate. That means not that CMPs should be impossible to use, but that restriction should be the order of the day.

The best outline of the weakness of closed material procedures came from Lord Justice Kerr, who effectively said—I am now desperately paraphrasing—that unchallenged evidence can be “misleading”, which was the word he used. That came up any number of times during the Lords debate from a number of lawyers. Helena Kennedy, for example, cited a case in which a tape recording of a conversation that appeared to incriminate a defendant was played in court. When the defendant heard it, he said, “I’m sorry, but I left after about five minutes.” People listened carefully and could hear the door opening and closing as he went. So a piece of evidence that appeared to be incredibly incriminating became not incriminating at all. David Anderson put a similar point to the Lords Committee when he was giving evidence.

The issue of challenge is important; it is critical to our judicial process—completely different from any other judicial process around the world. The challenge is vital. Without it, the judicial process is not operating properly. That is why we have to take on board what the special advocates say and effectively build it into the structure of the Bill—to create, as it were, a hierarchy. We have to go through that thought process.

I am cognisant of the point made by the Minister without Portfolio. We do not want a Minister to be pinned down for a year working on one PII. I am sure—indeed, I know from experience—that some of the Guantanamo cases are incredibly complicated and involve very many documents. I do not think it is beyond the ken of the House to achieve that.

I will support the Opposition’s amendment today, although I am open to argument if we can find better wording to get what we are trying for. I am talking about a hierarchy, a priority—first, open hearings; then the PII process, if that is appropriate; if it is not, CMPs in the final analysis. I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind) that the process should be more open than it currently is.

Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab): The right hon. Gentleman is making a characteristically interesting speech. He has referred several times to a hierarchy in relation to openness, in which he places PII above closed material procedure. I am sure that the House would be interested to know his rationale.

Mr Davis: All right, let me give the right hon. Gentleman an example. The question is whether or not there can be a challenge; if the evidence can be in court, it should be capable of being challenged. There is an example that goes back to 2006 relating to the current CMPs used in the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. I shall read from the Press Association release:

“A judge in a secret hearing has criticised the Home Office over contradictory MI5 intelligence in the trial of two terrorism suspects. The intelligence only came to light because—by chance—the same barrister was acting in both cases.

Mr Justice Newman said the ‘administration of justice’ had been put at risk in the trial of Algerian Abu Doha and a suspect known as MK…Both sets of contradictory evidence had come from MI5.”

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There had been a false passport that was claimed to have been used by two different people in two different places at the same moment on the same day—clearly impossible. That became apparent only because the same barrister was acting as a special advocate in each case. The problem is that there was no process of challenge; if there had been, the contention would have been denied and struck out. As it was, both cases were struck down because they were clearly implausible. The process of challenge is vital.

For that reason, I am entirely with what the Joint Committee on Human Rights wants—gisting, if it is possible.

Paul Goggins rose—

Mr George Howarth rose—

Mr Davis: Forgive me, but I am just coming to an end.

The right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles was persuasive in arguing that if there is to be some sort of opt-out on gisting if things are really serious, only the judge should decide that. I take that point, and it is a good argument. There should be proper, explicit judicial balance in the decision to go to a CMP that takes into account all the interests of justice, and not just national security. There should be the argument of strict necessity; that is what I mean by the hierarchy. On that basis, the House could come to a conclusion in which we effectively have the best of all worlds.

Mr Straw: I begin by drawing the House’s attention to the fact that, along with Her Majesty’s Government and an official, I have been a defendant in civil actions brought by two Libyan nationals and their families— Mr al-Saadi, whose case was settled just before Christmas, and Mr Belhaj. In the case of Mr Belhaj, proceedings are still active; in the circumstances, I am sure the House will understand how constrained I have to be in respect of those matters at present. I hope to be able to say much more about the cases at an appropriate stage in future. However, I should make it clear that at all times, in all the positions that I occupied as a Secretary of State, I was scrupulous in seeking to carry out my duties in accordance with the law.

My purpose in rising to speak now is to explain why I believe that the Government’s formulation for the conditions for a closed material proceeding are to be preferred to those of the Opposition. However, I want to make two more general points to begin with.

First, the freedoms that we in this country take for granted are built on our system of justice, which is among the very best in the world. It is independent, fair and fearless—and it is transparent, for the very obvious but crucial reason that justice must not only be done, but be seen to be done. It follows that we should permit departures from that principle of openness only in the most exceptional circumstances.

Whenever Parliament has been asked to agree to having part of a court’s proceedings in camera or to having the identity of witnesses, or most seriously the evidence itself, withheld from one of the parties to the proceedings, it has scrutinised the legislation with the greatest care. It has nonetheless been convinced that, in some cases, the interests of justice do require such special procedures.

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Thus in 2008, Parliament agreed, in the Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Act, new statutory procedures for the taking of anonymised evidence in criminal trials. That evidence has to be heard by the defendant and the jury, but its origin—the names involved and often the exact circumstances in which it came to be produced—is kept secret and away from the defendant.

More relevantly to today’s proceedings, in 1997 Parliament decided on a cross-party basis to establish the first arrangements for closed material proceedings in respect of persons whose deportation had been ordered on grounds of national security but where the evidence against them could not safely be disclosed to the deportee or their representatives.

I note what the special advocates have said, because we are all reluctant to see such a system operate, although it has to because it is better than any alternative. In the intervening period, that system has worked for the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, and worked reasonably well. The senior judges who preside at these proceedings, in SIAC, have shown themselves to be robustly independent. Of 37 substantive cases before SIAC since 2007, the tribunal—a senior judge with colleagues—has found against the Government in at least seven. The procedures in the Bill build on the 15 years’ experience of SIAC.

Secondly, I commend my right hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan) and his colleagues for the constructive approach that they have adopted towards the Bill. I spent 18 years on the Opposition Benches between 1979 and 1997 and then witnessed the Conservative Opposition during their 13 years on these Benches. The temptations on Oppositions to oppose in a destructive way are considerable, and so too are the pressures from outside on them to operate in that way. We in my party succumbed to those pressures too often in 1980s, and, I am afraid, so did the Conservative party on many occasions, including on Bills like this, during part of its 13 years in opposition.

By contrast, my right hon. Friend and his colleagues, from the outset of the publication of the Green Paper—I well remember his response to that a year and a half ago—have accepted, as he said in his opening remarks, that there may be circumstances in which closed material procedures have to be applied in civil cases, but argued that there should be greater safeguards in the Bill and, crucially, that the court, not the Secretary of State, should decide whether a CMP should operate in any particular case. As a result, the Bill has been significantly improved, and my right hon. Friend and his team can rightly claim considerable credit for that.

Let me turn to the key amendments 30 and 31 and the amendments to which they are linked. The amendments seek to reword clause 6(6) and to add a third condition. Thus the Government propose,

“The second condition is that it is the interests of fair and effective administration of justice”

to use a CMP, while the Opposition instead propose that the second condition should be a relative one—that

“the degree of harm to the interests of national security if the material is disclosed would be likely to outweigh the public interest in the fair and open administration of justice.”

They also propose to add:

“The third condition is that a fair determination of the proceedings is not possible by any other means.”

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As the Minister said, this is colloquially called the Wiley balance test. However, when I looked at the definition of the Wiley test I noted that the Joint Committee on Human Rights has turned it into something else. It is a test, but it should not be adorned with the phrase, “the Wiley test”, because it goes considerably further. I do not dispute anybody’s motives in dealing with this incredibly difficult issue. However, shifting the test, even if it were the accurate Wiley test in respect of PIIs, to CMPs has the defect of arguing by analogy. It is appropriate in PII cases but not in this regard.

We have had a great deal of elucidation. I commend—but do not, with respect, agree with—what the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr Tyrie) said about the uses of PIIs. I also accept the comments of the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis). During the nine years for which I was responsible for the various agencies, I quite frequently had to make applications to a court for a PII. Even in respect of marginal evidence, PIIs are hugely time-consuming. It is not like dealing with a letter to a Member of Parliament on an issue that one knows backwards where one can virtually top and tail it in one’s sleep. One has to read every single piece of evidence that one is certifying ought to be—in one’s own view, although it is a matter for the court—excluded on grounds of national security, or whatever the grounds may be. I accept the burden of what the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden and the hon. Member for Chichester said. Yes, it is true—this was brought out by the court’s judgment in al-Rawi—that when the court receives an application for PII it is able not only to accept or reject it but to take a middle way—a third way, as it were—of gisting, confidentiality rings, and so on.

However, the profound difference in this regard is that ultimately, if the respondent party, which in civil cases is inevitably the Government—it is completely different in criminal cases, but this is not about criminal cases—do not like the decision that the court has come to, they have to decide not to contest the case at all. That is why there is a lacuna in the current arrangements, and that is the mother and father of this Bill. That does not apply in respect of CMPs, where the Government will not be able to use PIIs to exclude evidence as they can now, because the judge will say, “Hang on a second. Why are you applying to exclude evidence which is absolutely central to the case? You need to put it in, and I will decide, thank you very much, whether it should be kept completely secret or there ought to be some kind of gisting or summary of that evidence.” The right that accords to the state in respect of PII does not accord to it in respect of CMPs.

6.15 pm

PIIs have taken on a life of their own, with some people having suddenly decided that they are a touchstone of British justice. They are being presented as though they are a better alternative than CMPs. I signed all the PIIs that I dealt with, as others in this House have had to, with a great burden on me and while looking at the evidence. Like anybody else, I did not just do what I was asked to do. Rule No. 1 to anybody in a ministerial position who wishes to survive is every day never to do that which they are asked to do but to make their own decisions. That is what I did, and I am still here. At the heart of PIIs is the application by the relevant Secretary

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of State to exclude evidence. The paradox is that the more sensitive and secret the evidence, and the more crucial it is to a case, the more likely a judge is to exclude it altogether rather than allow it to be gisted or summarised, and so the interests of justice are not served.

Interestingly, unless things have changed since I made PII applications, special advocates have no role in the PII process. Nobody challenges what the Secretary of State has done apart from the poor old judge, whereas in respect of applications for CMPs there will be special advocates acting like terriers, as we have seen from SIAC. As the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind) said, if at any stage the special advocate believes that the CMP should not continue, he or she will make an application to the judge.

Mr Ellwood The right hon. Gentleman said that he is still here, and I think that the House very much appreciates that given what he is offering to the debate with his experience. Does he agree that, as my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) said, PIIs offer an opportunity for judges to redact information that could otherwise be used in the processes proposed for CMPs, or for that argument to be put forward?

Mr Straw: Of course. Those of us with experience of SIAC will know that it too could be seen as a parody of a secret court. In SIAC cases, the chairman of the tribunal, who will be an experienced senior judge, issues a closed judgment with all the argument in it and a redacted judgment with a very great deal of evidence in it. The idea that it is—fortunately nobody in the Chamber has used the term, “a parody”—a secret court worthy of Kafka’s “The Trial” is, frankly, utter nonsense.

Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): It is helpful for those of us who are amateurs with regard to these issues to benefit from the right hon. Gentleman’s judgment. He has referred a couple of times to the administration of SIAC. My understanding of and opposition to CMPs results from the case of a constituent who was subject to the restrictions of SIAC. His understanding of, and the way in which he was treated by, the criminal justice system and the impact of that form of justice on his physical and mental well-being are some of the reasons why I am emboldened to oppose the Government’s measures. Now that the right hon. Gentleman is no longer in office, has he had the opportunity to meet people who have been subject to CMPs in order to understand the implications that SIAC has had for their lives?

Mr Straw: Let us be clear that SIAC does not deal with criminal cases. There is no procedure in our system, north or south of the border—and nor should there ever be—whereby, in any criminal trial, somebody can be tried and lose their liberty without being able to hear all the evidence.

Dr Huppert rose

Mr Straw: I recommend that the hon. Gentleman not test me on the details of the Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Act 2008, because I know every part of it and why we had to go through with it.

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Dr Huppert: I cannot resist the temptation. To amplify the point that was just made by the hon. Member for Bedford (Richard Fuller), does the right hon. Gentleman agree that in SIAC cases, as happened in control order cases, people’s liberty could be significantly curtailed without them knowing the evidence against them?

Mr Straw: Of course I do, and that was going to be my next point. No one is suggesting that SIAC deals with trivial matters. It deals with whether an individual should be deported on national security grounds, while the control order tribunals deal with restrictions of individuals’ liberty.

I have met one individual who was subject to a control order and will tell the hon. Member for Bedford (Richard Fuller) about the circumstances outside the Chamber. The heart of the issue is about protecting our national security. That has been discussed in abstract terms today, but what we are actually debating is how to protect the sources of information on which intelligence depends. These individuals are developed by our intelligence and security agencies and they place themselves at considerable risk. In essence, they provide information to the United Kingdom—as they would to a foreign intelligence agency—that they are not supposed to provide. Sometimes they betray their own Government or country. They are, by definition, giving away confidences and they do so for a variety of motives: some say that they are doing it for the highest of motives, which are that they fundamentally disagree with the system in which they are operating; some do it for the lowest of motives, because they have committed a criminal act and want some form of escape; and some are somewhere in between, in that they have high motives but they also want some money.

In every case, that information would simply dry up if the identity of that individual, or information leading to their identification, was compromised. That is the fundamental dilemma, and there is no way out of it unless we want to abandon our intelligence and security agencies. Let us remind ourselves—this is not scare- mongering; it happens to be true—that, had we abandoned those agencies, scores of serious atrocities would have killed our constituents and many others. If we had explained how we had ended up in such a situation by saying that information had to be provided in its entirety in open court in all circumstances, people would have said, “Thanks very much, but my relative, wife or child has just died.” That is the dilemma and it is not abstract—it is absolutely real.

Jeremy Corbyn: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr Straw: I hope that my hon. Friend will allow me to make progress, because I have already used up a lot of time.

This leads me back—I will finish shortly—to the reason why, with great regret, I cannot support the endeavours of my hon. Friends on the Front Bench to set a relative test that

“the degree of harm to the interests of national security if the material is disclosed would be likely to outweigh the public interest in the fair and open administration of justice.”

That could lead, inadvertently and unintentionally, to a situation in which a judge might decide that the identity of an agent or other crucial information about the work

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of our intelligence agencies needed to be disclosed in the interests of open justice. We have to accept that the justice under discussion is, by definition, not open. It cannot be—we cannot have it both ways. There is no dubiety about that. I understand why the test has been proposed, but it does not work.

Finally, many Members have reputations as liberals, including the Minister without Portfolio, the hon. Member for Chichester and many on the Liberal Benches. I have never sought that reputation, and nor has it been offered to me, but Lord Woolf, the former Lord Chief Justice, is someone of impeccable liberal credentials—he even lives in Barnes. He wrote in a letter to The Times that the Bill as drafted

“now ensures that we will retain our standards of general justice, while also putting an end to the blindfolding of judges in this small number of cases.”

To be frank, if it is good enough for the liberal Lord Woolf, it ought to be good enough for this House.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order. I ask Members to show some time restraint, because, as they can see, a lot of Members want to speak to the amendment.

Dr Huppert: It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw). Although I am not sure that we agree on everything, I think we do on some things. There have been some interesting discussions between Front and Back Benchers.

I want to focus on some of the amendments. I am pleased to see the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which I used to have the pleasure of serving on. I pushed a number of those proposals during the Bill’s Committee stage and we had interesting debates and votes on a range of things. I do not plan to go through every single aspect, because we rehearsed them thoroughly. I am delighted to see that a number of the amendments that I tabled and supported in Committee have come back.

I hope that the Minister will clarify the position on habeas corpus. Indeed, I would be happy to take an intervention from him, because it is a very important issue. I was happy with his clear answer of no. If he can stick to that, it would be fantastic; if not, we should be clear.

I welcome some of the Government’s good amendments. One that has not really been mentioned—it was tabled in the Lords and accepted by the Government—is that which changes “must” to “may”, allowing discretion to the judge, rather than the Minister. That is very welcome and has made a significant improvement. I am pleased that the Government have stuck to it.

I am also pleased that the Government have agreed to amendments on equality of arms to achieve true symmetry. They were recommended by the JCHR and I spoke to them at great length in the Bill Committee. We lost the vote, but I am glad that the Government have now come around to them. Symmetry is important, because one can think of a number of examples where an ex-employee of MI6 may not be able to raise publicly a document that is important to a case that they may wish to bring.

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In such circumstances, they may wish to have a CMP themselves so that the document can be debated without putting other things at risk. Such cases may be relatively rare, but ensuring pure symmetrical equality is absolutely the right thing to do.

I am also pleased to see reinstated, at least in the text of the Bill, the role of public interest immunity. There is a debate about whether it goes far enough and about what it does, but including it in the Bill is extremely good. I share the view of those who think that PII is not a perfect process. I do not like the secrecy involved, and there is certainly not a great case for it—we have seen, for example, some of the concerns in the Litvinenko case.

There is an issue with regard to last resort. I would like to see closed proceedings as a last resort. I do not think that this is entirely about openness; it is also about fairness and the principle that both sides should have the chance to see the same evidence. I think that it would be accepted everywhere that a CMP can never quite get to that point, because one person is not able to see everything. That is not a great situation.

Simon Hughes: May I reinforce the point that has been made to the Minister without Portfolio by Members from across the House? The Joint Committee on Human Rights did not argue for an exhaustive exploration of PII, but for an assessment by the court of whether PII would be a realistic and sensible option and, if not, for the court to move on and look at other things. The Minister has said that that would be reasonable, so I do not think that there is much between him and those of us who take the position of the Joint Committee. I hope that we can reach agreement on that, even if it does not happen tonight, because the Joint Committee was clear that what we are arguing for is not an extreme position, but a moderate, modest, sensible and pragmatic one.

6.30 pm

Dr Huppert: None of us wants to see Ministers’ time sucked up for a year reading documents and signing them. That would not be in anybody’s interests.

Why do we believe in the concept of last resort? The Government have an advantage in these cases because they know what the evidence is and the other party does not. That is why we want more balanced processes to be tried first. That changes slightly if the other party has applied for the CMP. To take the case that I advanced earlier of an ex-employee who knows of a document, we should probably say that a CMP would be the preferred option for them, rather than allowing the Government to keep something away. We want a slight bias away from the Government—not a huge bias, but a slight one—to make up for their advantage of being able to see all the documents.

Mr Kenneth Clarke: On the hon. Gentleman’s point about the last resort, I am grateful that both the Labour party spokesman and the Liberals who have spoken so far have agreed with what we have said. We do not want a statutory provision that requires people to go through immense procedures to eliminate every other way of dealing with a case. Unfortunately, there are later Opposition amendments that would have that effect. It is very late in the day. In conversational terms, we are all agreed that closed proceedings are a last resort. We want closed

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proceedings only when national safety is in danger and where there is no other sensible way of trying the case. I will go away and consider the matter, but we are rather late in the proceedings. Of course, the rules of the court still have to be made and it may be possible to address the matter there. In practice, there is not much between us, because judges and lawyers will not want to go into closed proceedings other than as a last resort. What we do not want is to introduce a process that involves months of time and vast sums of money, the intention of which is really to stop anybody taking on a closed procedure at all.

Dr Huppert: I thank the Minister for saying that he will look more carefully at the matter. However late in the day it is, we would be grateful for any changes he could make that might take us in the direction of what has been suggested by the JCHR and others.

While the Minister is in the mood for looking at other issues, can he be absolutely clear about confidentiality rings? This matter was raised earlier, so I will not go into it. As was discussed in Committee, there is a change in the wording that has led to the impression that the test is about the material rather than the disclosure. I hope that it will be made very clear that there is no sense in which that would apply to confidentiality rings. I believe that Opposition amendment 28 is intended to explore that issue.

I look forward to supporting any of the amendments that would take us towards the proposals of the JCHR. I look forward to amendment 1 being debated and for any opportunity to test the will of the House on that issue.

I was surprised to see amendment 70 and I look forward to the explanation from the right hon. Members for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Paul Goggins) and for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears). I am pleased that, owing to the influence of the Liberal Democrats, inquests were taken out of scope after being included in the original proposals. It is important, particularly at an inquest, that the family knows the grounds for the conclusion. It would be very unsatisfactory for people who had lost a loved one to be told, “We cannot tell you why it happened.” I am pleased that inquests are not included. I am surprised that there is a move to put them back in. I had hoped to ask the shadow Secretary of State whether he supported that move, but I suspect that I can guess the answer.

Amendments 39 and 40 relate to gisting. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh West (Mike Crockart) and I tabled similar proposals in Committee. I find it hard to see why there would be many cases in which a judge would not want a gist to be made available. We want that to happen. I understand that there may be cases in extremis where no gist would be possible. It would be helpful if the Minister made it clear that it is the intention that judges should always gist to the maximum extent possible. As long as that is said in this place, I think that we will be able to make progress.

Mr George Howarth: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point about gisting. In an exchange with him in Committee, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire), gave a verbal assurance that gisting would be an acceptable way of proceeding.

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If that assurance was repeated today, and then taken with what the hon. Gentleman has just said, it would give a good indication of Parliament’s intention and would probably satisfy the point.

Dr Huppert: I dare say that it would. We will have to see what happens.

To return to the principle, I talked earlier to the right hon. Member for Blackburn about the range of civil proceedings into which the previous Government introduced close material proceedings. I find many of those far more objectionable than civil cases. I do not like the introduction of closed material proceedings into civil cases and find the principle very difficult. However, I find it worse when people’s liberty is at risk. That is the case with control orders, terrorism prevention and investigation measures, and SIAC.

I know something of the case referred to by the hon. Member for Bedford (Richard Fuller) because we have discussed it in the past. The gentleman referred to has had his liberty seriously infringed. It is not a simple question of whether he is allowed to stay in the country or not. He has been detained for a considerable time now, given that it is two years since we last spoke about the case in great detail, based on evidence that he does not have the chance to see. That strikes me as deeply alarming. I am sure that the whole House would hold the position that criminal sanctions should not be allowed. We are edging very close to that if we are detaining somebody for years.

Mr Straw: None of us likes the idea of closed proceedings or proceedings in which the evidence is kept from one of the parties. However, on the assumption that the court has decided that the evidence cannot be made available in open court because another individual, perhaps an informant or an agent, could be killed—I am not joking—what is the hon. Gentleman’s answer to this dilemma? Is it to leave the person at liberty or to do what used to happen in the past, which was that the Home Secretary would make such decisions without any proceedings? What is his alternative?

Dr Huppert: I think that it is the same as the right hon. Gentleman’s alternative would be in a criminal case for which the evidence needed to convict somebody could not be gathered. If one cannot gain that evidence, one cannot proceed. It is important that that applies when people are being deprived of their liberty. I made the same argument when we were getting rid of control orders. One must try to provide the evidence that is needed to convict people. Failing that, I do not like the idea that people are simply held for many years, with very little freedom. I believe that control orders had 23-hour curfews. That is an extreme infringement of liberty. I know that we are not discussing criminal issues principally, but there are many cases in the criminal system in which the police are sure that somebody is guilty, but they cannot find evidence that may be used in court. None of us would want to see such cases proceed and the same should apply to any other serious deprivation of liberty.

I look forward to the votes. It is not clear to me exactly which matters we will have the opportunity to vote on. I will stand by all the votes that I cast in Committee, where we came very close to changing the

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Bill, but never quite close enough. I think that we won one vote on a new clause being read a Second time, but the decision was reversed immediately afterwards by the Chairman’s casting vote. I hope that we will change the provisions either so that we do not have these proceedings, which would be my ideal, or we at least move them closer to the proposals of the JCHR. I accept that we should not keep every word of what the Joint Committee suggested and that tweaks could be made. I hope that the Minister will consider that at the point at which he confirms the position on habeas corpus and my other questions.

Mr Kenneth Clarke: I may have misheard, but the hon. Gentleman is not rejecting closed material proceedings altogether, is he? He would be the first person in the debate who has gone that far if that is what he is saying. He suggests that he might vote against clause 6. Two Members from smaller parties have tabled an amendment that would delete that clause. That would take us right back to square one after we have spent the last three hours agreeing that there are cases in which national security requires there to be closed proceedings.

Dr Huppert: I am sure that the Minister will be aware that I and my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh West did press for a vote in Committee to remove clause 6. Sadly, it was defeated.

I look forward to hearing the Minister’s responses on habeas corpus and the other points that I have made because what he says may well affect what happens, and liberty is a very important principle.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order. May I re-emphasise the time constraint?

Caroline Lucas: I am pleased to speak in favour of my amendments 1 to 7, and I hope to press amendment 1 to the vote. As colleagues will know, they are designed to get rid of part 2 in its entirety. That part would allow Ministers to use secret courts in a wide range of cases, for example any in which they could claim that national security was involved.

Let us look at some examples of when secret courts could be used, such as the cases of the bereaved families of soldiers bringing negligence claims against the Ministry of Defence. Debi Allbutt, whose husband was killed in a so-called friendly fire hit on his Challenger tank in Iraq, has said:

“I really don’t think people in the country realise how dangerous this new law will be for justice. I think anyone in my position deserves to know the truth about how their husband, a brave soldier fighting for his country, lost his life.”

Let us think of cases involving victims of torture or rendition in which the Government have been involved, who are seeking redress. They would also be affected, including such people as Khadija al-Saadi, who was 12 years old when she was rendered by MI6 to Gaddafi’s Libya along with her mother, three younger siblings and Gaddafi-opposing father. In a letter published by the prisoners’ human rights group Reprieve, she has said:

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“I wrote to Ken Clarke when I heard about the secret courts plan, but he would not say that he would not seek to try my case in secret. I still feel this would have been unnecessary, unfair, and unworthy of the UK. I hope the inquiry will be as open and as fair as the phone hacking inquiry.

Secret courts could also be used in actions against the Government over corruption in arms deals. On Second Reading, Ministers refused to rule out the possibility of that in some cases:

“if there was embarrassment over arms sales to a particular country, where those sold arms had been used to deny the human rights of many others, against the policies and wishes of this country, and there was a desire not to make that too public”.—[Official Report, 18 December 2012; Vol. 555, c. 722.]

A case of corruption in arms deals is therefore another that would not be held in open court.

Habeas corpus claims are at risk, too. Claims under the centuries-old safeguard against illegal detention, which forces the authorities either to charge or release a prisoner, are generally considered civil actions, so secret courts could mean people being imprisoned without knowing why. That was exactly what the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire), said in the Public Bill Committee—that the Bill would cover habeas corpus claims. My new clause 2 would address that.

The question this evening is whether we really want to allow the Government to ensure that everything from state involvement in torture to the neglect of British soldiers could be hidden from public view. After a decade that has seen our intelligence agencies become involved in unprecedented complicity in wrongdoing, we should ask how we can prevent that from ever happening again, not how to remove the safeguards that allow us to hold the state and its agencies to account. That is especially true when, as the high-profile case of Binyam Mohamed has amply illustrated, the security agencies have shown that they are prepared to mislead the judiciary, and given that judges tend to defer to Ministers when faced with arguments about national security.

Mr George Howarth: I take it that the hon. Lady’s case is that better than a closed material procedure is public interest immunity, in which case nobody ever gets to hear anything about what happened and what evidence exists.

Caroline Lucas: Like the special advocates and many others in the legal profession, I believe that PII is a safer way forward than having hearings in closed courts, and I stand by that.

Stephen Phillips (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): On a related point, the Government are currently obliged to settle cases, with none of the evidence ever being disclosed and no hearing at all. They never go before a judge. How would deleting clause 6 assist in ensuring that there is justice in such cases? At the moment, there is no trial at all.

Caroline Lucas: I would argue, and a huge amount of legal opinion argues with me, that secret courts are a worse option. We would not choose either option, but I strongly believe that closed courts are a step too far for British justice.

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Jeremy Corbyn: I agree with the thrust of the hon. Lady’s speech. Does she accept that one problem with the secret courts process is that it would create a culture of impunity among the security services and allow them to develop relationships with other security services knowing that they would be protected and would be unlikely ever to have to face anybody’s wrath?

Caroline Lucas: Indeed, and I pointed out earlier the complicity of the intelligence services. Such arguments are mounting up, and they explain why opponents are lining up to denounce the Government’s proposals for closed material procedures. The special advocates have called them “fundamentally unfair”, and the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken Macdonald, has warned that secret courts will