Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, before we move to the three Statements on anti-terrorism measures, the funding of terrorism and Railtrack, perhaps I may take this opportunity to remind the House that the Companion indicates that discussion on a Statement should be confined to brief comments and questions for clarification. Peers who speak at length do so at the expense of other noble Lords.

Anti-terrorism Measures

4.36 p.m.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat a Statement made by the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, in another place. The Statement is as follows:

15 Oct 2001 : Column 362

15 Oct 2001 : Column 363

    mean the records of calls made and other data, not the content. We shall work with the industry on a code of practice.

    "I wish to thank those who have co-operated so well over the past five weeks.

    "I believe we all accept that there is a compelling need for more effective powers to exclude and remove suspected terrorists from our country. We rightly pride ourselves on the safe haven that we offer to those genuinely fleeing terror, but our moral obligation and love of freedom does not extend to offering hospitality to terrorists. That is why both in the emergency terrorism Bill and in a separate extradition measure, I shall ensure that we have robust and streamlined procedures.

    "I believe that it will be possible to achieve these changes without substantial alteration to the Human Rights Act. Nevertheless, it may well be necessary, using Article 15, to derogate from Article 5 of the European convention. This would allow the detention of foreign nationals who we intend to remove from the country, and who are considered a threat to national security. This would occur in circumstances falling outside those permitted by Article 5 of the European convention, but within the scope of Article 1f of the 1951 refugee convention.

    "I am also looking to take power to deny substantive asylum claims to those who are suspected of terrorist associations, and to streamline the existing judicial review procedures while retaining the right of appeal. Appropriate safeguards would apply to any such derogation.

    "A review of extradition procedure had been undertaken by this Government prior to 11th September. I intend to bring forward a separate substantive measure to modernise and place our laws within the context of the new international situation. Streamlining, while retaining rights of appeal, will form part of the measure.

    "I also intend, following an announcement to this House in the weeks ahead, to modernise our nationality and asylum system.

    "There are four other measures that I wish to refer to today. The first, which relates to the responsibilities of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport and Local Government, will strengthen security at airports and for passengers. Powers both within restricted areas at airports, and aboard aircraft, will all be strengthened.

    "In addition, I can announce that we shall be expanding the role and jurisdiction of the British Transport Police, together with those working on enforcement from the Ministry of Defence and the Atomic Energy Authority. We shall be asking the House to agree to widen their powers beyond the boundaries of particular sites.

    "I shall also seek powers to provide to the police, and Customs services, the authority to demand the removal of facial covering or gloves. This is a basic

15 Oct 2001 : Column 364

    requirement to enable identification, where fingerprinting or other biometric tests are important.

    "I am also including in the Bill clauses on nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological materials--generally described as, "weapons of mass destruction". These clauses will cover the intention to use, produce, possess or participate in unauthorised transfers of these materials.

    "At the time of the millennium a great deal of work was undertaken to ensure the security of key utilities. I want to assure the House that both in the Civil Contingencies Committee, and more widely, we have examined and put in place further work to update our preparedness, preventive action, and remedial steps, should they be necessary.

    "The United Kingdom has some of the world's best counter-terrorist expertise. Working together with international partners, we are taking every step to protect ourselves. These plans are continually reviewed and tested. There is no immediate intelligence pointing to a specific threat to the United Kingdom, but we remain alert, domestically as well as internationally.

    "I know that many in this House will agree that strengthening our democracy and reinforcing our values is as important as the passage of new laws. If, therefore, we do not rise to the challenge, provide through our democratic institutions the commitment and will to face-down terrorists, then our economy, our social well-being, and our quality of life will suffer.

    "The legislative measures that I have outlined today will protect and enhance our rights, not diminish them. Justice for individuals and minorities is reaffirmed, and justice for the majority and the security of our nation will be secured.

    "On 11th September families lost their loved ones, and the threat of terrorism touched us all. If we fail now to take the necessary action to protect our people, future generations will never forgive us.

    "That is why I am asking for the wholehearted support of all sides of the House in demonstrating that this Parliament, our democracy, and our judicial system, are capable of rising to the challenge and of doing so swiftly and effectively".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.56 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will be grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement made by his right honourable friend in another place. Like the noble Lord's party, we also wish to see those changes in domestic law that are necessary to improve the effectiveness of the counter measures against terrorism in this country. However, I am sure that the noble Lord will agree that over a number of recent years we have witnessed too many instances where we have legislated in haste and subsequently repented at leisure. We must be most

15 Oct 2001 : Column 365

careful in what we do to ensure that we properly maintain the balance between public safety and individual freedom.

The Statement refers to building on the powers under the proceeds of crime Bill to deal with the question of cutting off funding for terrorist activities. I believe that the City is the biggest money market in the world; indeed, it is certainly by far and away the biggest within Europe. Can the Minister assure me that proper and adequate consultations are now taking place, especially with banks and other city interests, to ensure that, while every proper step is taken to ensure that we do what we can wherever possible to restrict the movement of funds that might be used for terrorist purposes, we do not take steps that might at the same time so restrict the City that we indirectly achieve the terrorists' purposes for them?

We welcome the acknowledgement that we need to change the law now in the interests of public safety so that the Minister can refuse entry to this country of persons known to pose a risk to public safety and national security. That law will require precise definition.

We also need to deal with the people who are already here. There will unquestionably be some, as we know from some recent court cases. What shall we do to remove them? Again, I welcome the Minister's assurance that action will be taken, but it is clear from recent cases that the removal of dangerous foreign nationals will present us with a tricky legislative problem.

The Statement appears to say that one way of overcoming that difficulty would be the indefinite detention of such individuals, but that may not necessarily be the best way forward. As we see the programme of proposed legislation, we shall need to explore whether other methods might be more appropriate.

We welcome the assurance that there has been in the past that Parliament will have the right to consider the Human Rights Act. Indeed, we may now have to examine the effect of that legislation in so many ways because of the counter-terrorist problem. The issue of counter-terrorism has affected not only this country. Europe has rightly woken up to the problem, which is a welcome response. We welcome the directive requiring other EU countries to pass legislation on terrorism that is parallel to our Act.

That is one thing, but to accept too slavishly what comes from Europe may not be as reasonable as the Statement implies. I admit to considerable concern about the part of the Statement that appears to imply that action to implement European arrest warrants might be passed into British law using only secondary legislation. That is so serious that we need to think more carefully about it. It could threaten the old British principles of habeas corpus and one is innocent until proven guilty. These are serious matters, and I should welcome the Minister's assurance that they will be treated with all necessary and due care when the legislation is brought before us.

15 Oct 2001 : Column 366

It is clear that sunset clauses, to which I referred when we debated the Statement on emergency action a week or two ago, are very significant. Will the Minister assure us that there will be a sunset clause in the proposed new legislation on terrorism, as it relates to the present emergency, so that Parliament can review regularly both its effect and the need for it to remain on the statute book?

We support the principles that the Government have outlined and which they are trying to implement. The whole House will want to examine in detail the proposals, to minimise the possibility of any perverse effect. The legislation that is passed by Parliament must be in the best interests of all our people, whatever their background or their community within our nation state. That is our purpose and one with which we are happy to join the Government in pursuing.

5.4 p.m.

Lord McNally: My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, I am grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement. I am not particularly good at mathematics, so I wonder whether he can tell me how many pieces of primary legislation he has announced today. I am sure that the House will be interested to know.

The most abiding memory of the events of the 11th September was the sight of firemen, police and other emergency services going against the flow and going into danger as others fled from it. There is no doubt that if we ever faced a similar attack, we could rely on a similar sense of duty and heroism from our own emergency services.

This is the first time that the House has had the opportunity to discuss or question home front matters and time will be needed for a debate on the issues raised. I wonder whether the Minister agrees that if truth is the first casualty of war, there is often a danger that civil liberties is the second, and freedom of the press is the third. There is a need for Parliament to be careful of the powers that government and the state ask for when facing an emergency.

As I said when I intervened in the debate on emergency action, it is not as if we have lacked legislation in these matters. The Terrorism Act, Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, Immigration and Asylum Act and various Acts relating to criminal justice are all less than two years old, and presumably were drafted with an eye to emergency and attack. As regards some of the most recent Acts, in particular, Parliament should be willing to see how the new powers that were so recently granted apply to this situation.

On the question of money laundering measures, to which the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, referred, I disagree slightly with his emphasis. I spent part of the summer talking to various authorities about money laundering, mainly in relation to drug trafficking. In listening to the professionals of the various bodies involved, I was struck by how much slack there is in London. Although I understand the desire of the noble Lord not to damage the City of London and its

15 Oct 2001 : Column 367

financial institutions, they cannot have it both ways. It is extremely important that bankers, lawyers and accountants show a sense of proper responsibility--I see one of our most distinguished accountants nodding vigorously.

The matter is important. It is no use saying, "I am not a private detective". I believe that those professional organisations have a public duty to help in taking effective action against money laundering.

Will the proposed emergency legislation on terrorism be published in draft form? Will there be a consultative process, especially considering the large number of parliamentary groups that are interested in these matters? Will our new Human Rights Committee be consulted? The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, referred to a sunset clause and annual provisions for renewal, which are matters that concern us all, so it would be useful to have clarification.

No mention of identity cards was made in the Minister's Statement, so can we assume that the authoritative put-down by the noble Lord to a Labour party fringe meeting is the last word on these matters?

Will the proposals for derogation from the Human Rights Act be put to the Human Rights Committee and will there be scope for judicial review of derogations? Will derogations be time limited by the Government? We welcome the proposals referring to incitement to religious hatred, although it has been pointed out that the existing legislation on racial hatred has been rarely used.

I wish to touch on another point, which relates to the second half of the Minister's Statement that comes under the broad term of civil contingencies, or perhaps the more old-fashioned term of civil defence. Who is in overall charge of the security of London? Can he give us a categorical assurance that there are no "turf wars" between central government and the Greater London Authority as have benighted transport policy? It is important that we do not fall foul of such "turf wars".

I am aware that a review of civil defence is under way, but there is the worry that our civil defence is geared to fight a cold war and nuclear war and a possible attack from Russia. This is an emergency and we are fighting a different kind of threat. One wonders how well geared we are to meet the new threat. The Minister mentioned that the MoD, atomic energy and transport police will have extended powers. How will those powers match those of existing police bodies and those of the police authorities who have oversight of those bodies? Does the Minister fear that "turf wars" or contradictions may arise? That is always a danger with these matters.

The Minister ended his comments with a ringing declaration of wholehearted support and our duty to future generations. We are all aware of that duty. However, Parliament also has a duty to be certain that emergency legislation is just that; namely, that it responds to an emergency, is clearly justified and will apply only for as long as is necessary. The wholehearted support of these Benches will be gained if the Minister can reassure us on those points.

15 Oct 2001 : Column 368

5.12 p.m.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, in the limited time available I shall do my best to respond to some of the points which have been made. However, it is inevitable that I shall not be able to respond to all the points raised by the noble Lords, Lord Dixon-Smith and Lord McNally.

The Government have taken on board the point with regard to legislating in haste. We are trying not to do that. Much preparation and thought are being put into the legislation. Many of the loopholes we have identified have existed for some time. Sometimes it has not been appropriate to seek to close them, as has been the case in legislation that has been passed in the past few years. This House has not been satisfied that some of them should be closed. Therefore, we do not have to invent the wheel in respect of some of these issues.

I understand that the proceeds of crime Bill will be published later this week. I warn the House that it is a massive tome with over 400 clauses. It is a substantial piece of legislation. It has involved much consultation and has already been published in draft. Some consultations on the draft Bill are ongoing. As I indicated, we shall have to revisit the human rights legislation. I make no bones about that. That will have to be done in conjunction with the other place. As I made clear, we intend to use affirmative procedures with regard to the proposals of the Justice and Home Affairs Council of the European Union. I make it absolutely clear that the United Kingdom cannot solve these problems on its own. We must co-operate closely with our European Union partners. We do not seek to undermine or fast track the matter. As I say, we shall use affirmative procedures in bringing forward matters relating to the Justice and Home Affairs Council. There will be full debate in this House.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, that I listed three Bills: the emergency anti-terrorism legislation; an asylum and immigration Bill and an extradition Bill. The proceeds of crime Bill will be modified to deal with some of the other matters. I take second place to no one in defending our civil rights, but inevitably there are those who will seek to abuse our liberal, tolerant democracy to undermine and exploit existing loopholes. We must make sure that we maintain our liberal and tolerant quality of life and not have it smashed by terrorist minorities. We must be careful. People have rights but they also have duties. One cannot have dutiless rights and have a decent civic society.

The other day I came across The Principle of Duty by David Selbourne. The book fell open at a page where a point was made that clearly fits the current circumstances. We must defend our rights but those rights involve duties. We shall consult fully. I hope that we have made that clear from the beginning of the parliamentary Session as regards the legislation that we are bringing forward. I cannot promise that it will be published in draft form. An emergency anti-terrorism Bill will be brought to the House quickly. I suspect that there will not be time to publish it in draft form. It will be introduced first in the other place

15 Oct 2001 : Column 369

and, to that extent, its contents will not come as a surprise. In so far as we can consult with all relevant parties we shall certainly seek to do so.

I was asked about ID cards. I was asked a straightforward question; namely, whether ID cards were part of the Government's emergency legislation. I replied, "No". I did not add, "How could they be? If we were to do that it would take years and this is emergency legislation". The next day the headline in the media was, "Government abandon ID cards from emergency legislation". When I replied "No" to the question that I was asked, it was an honest answer. That is not to say that the Government are still not considering the issue. I have not issued a "put down". I simply made the point that we were not rushing the matter, that there were no secret policies or plans and that the Government would discuss that matter and, if it was considered appropriate, we would bring forward proposals but that it would not be part of the emergency legislative package. It could not possibly be so in a country with nearly 60 million people. There are no "turf wars" in Whitehall.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page