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Business of the House: Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill

3.8 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That in the event that the Third Reading of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill is taken on Tuesday 11th December, Standing Order 48 (Amendments on Third Reading) be dispensed with to allow the House to consider amendments to the Bill tabled before 12 noon on that day.—(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

National Heritage Bill [HL]

Read a third time; an amendment (privilege) made; Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill

3.9 p.m.

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.

Moved, That the Bill be further considered on Report.—(Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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Clause 111 [Implementation of the third pillar]:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean moved Amendment No. 77ZA:

    Page 66, line 5, at beginning insert XAt any time before 1st July 2002,"

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in Committee, I undertook on behalf of the Government further to consider the serious concern raised by many of your Lordships about the justice and home affairs enabling power set out in Clauses 111 and 112. It was clear to the Government that the power had raised a genuine and deeply felt concern—mainly over the scope of the third pillar measures that could, in theory, be implemented through secondary legislation under such a power.

For example, the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, was concerned that legislation on racism and xenophobia could be adopted in that way. No measures in the European Union's terrorism road map adopted on 20th September contain provisions against xenophobia. As the noble Lord pointed out, such provisions might arise in relation to third pillar legislation, but not under the powers in the amendments.

Other noble Lords, especially the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, whom I do not see in his place, were concerned that the enabling power could be used to enact the European arrest warrant, which is due to be agreed at the Laeken European Council this week. The House will be aware that several issues are to be negotiated before the European arrest warrant can be adopted, but the Government have made absolutely clear that we have no intention of implementing it through the enabling power.

The Government remain of the view that it is right to seek that power. Measures agreed by the JHA Council of the European Union make a significant contribution to the fight against terrorism. We must be able to implement them swiftly. We remain of the view that it is right to introduce such measures, which are, after all, binding agreements made at European level through secondary legislation. But we recognise that the power would be a new method of dealing with business in that area, which must be considered seriously. We have also carefully considered the views expressed by your Lordships.

We therefore propose two key amendments to address the concerns that have been raised. The first is Amendment No. 77ZA. That ensures that the power will run for six months only, until the end of June. That period will allow us to implement the key measures contained in the European Union's anti-terrorism road map. However, I want to be absolutely clear to the House that we will look for a suitable legislative vehicle before that period is complete by which to return to the issue.

The second key change is contained in Amendment No. 78, which sets out in absolutely clear and precise terms what we intend to use the power to implement. I hope that that will allay your Lordships' fears and enable all—or most—of your Lordships to support the measures. The measures covered by the amendment

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are part of the European Union's road map on terrorism, agreed by the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 20th September and endorsed by the European Council on 21st September. We should be absolutely clear that that constitutes Europe's response to the terrorism outrages of 11th September.

The measures include, first, the framework decision on asset freezing. For a specified list of offences, including terrorism, that measure allows orders to be enforced in the minimum possible time. The rapid execution of freezing orders could be vital in securing terrorist assets that might otherwise be dissipated or destroyed. It may therefore make the difference between, on the one hand, securing a conviction or freezing terrorist assets and, on the other, allowing terrorists and their money to go free.

The second measure is the European Union framework decision on combating terrorism. That will introduce common definitions of terrorism offences and minimum penalties across the EU. That framework decision constitutes progress, but let us be under no illusion that it is sufficient on its own. More needs to be done.

Earl Russell: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for giving way. She could materially assist her case were she able to give the House one further assurance: that the Government have no plans to introduce between now and 1st July 2002 the proposal in the White Paper on House of Lords reform that this House should lose the power to reject statutory instruments.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Earl will not be surprised to know that I cannot give an assurance of that nature. If I may finish the points that I wish to make, the noble Earl may find that I can give the House many assurances. I recognise his point—it was made when your Lordships last discussed the matter—but I cannot give that specific assurance now.

To return to the second measure, the European framework decision on combating terrorism, I said that we felt that more needs to be done on the matter.

The third measure is the European framework decision on setting up joint investigative teams to fight organised crime, especially terrorism, drug trafficking and trafficking in human beings. That will provide the framework for police officers across Europe to work together against terrorism and organised crime. The power will also be used to implement the 1995 and 1996 conventions related to extradition between member states.

I hope that that will allay fears that the Government will use the power to implement measures that have nothing to do with terrorism—one point that exercised many of your Lordships when we discussed the matter last week. One thing that we have learnt since 11th September is that we still have a great deal more to do—often in areas that do not immediately and obviously appear to do with combating terrorism. We need to be able to break down the barriers behind

10 Dec 2001 : Column 1144

which terrorists hide: bureaucratic delays in executing court orders; procedural barriers that stop effective police co-operation; and bureaucratic delays that mean that by moving around Europe, a terrorist can always keep one step ahead of the law; nor can we allow ourselves to fall into the trap of tackling terrorism in isolation from the crimes off which it feeds. Drugs trafficking, arms dealing and the miserable trade in human beings, of which we are all too well aware, are all crimes that are inextricably linked to terrorism.

So the power will not be used for measures against racism and xenophobia—important though such measures may be; nor will it be used to implement the European arrest warrant—essential though that is. These government amendments make no attempt at what has been described as Christmas tree anti-terrorism legislation; nor will the power remain on the statute book indefinitely; rather, it will be used for a strictly limited period to implement a strictly limited—series of measures. We believe that it will be of great use in tackling terrorism across Europe.

I turn to the two amendments tabled by the Liberal Democrats.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the Minister. Before she moves on, I had the impression—which was shared by several of my noble friends—that she mentioned Amendment No. 78, which is tabled in my name. I should be interested to know whether she was actually referring to that amendment, and if so, what she said.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, forgive me if I misspoke, but the amendment that I meant to mention was Amendment No. 78A standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Rooker.

I shall now address Amendments Nos. 77BB and 77CB standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. I assure your Lordships that we shall not between Royal Assent and the date of the sunset clause—30th June—specified in Amendment No. 77ZA introduce measures further to those listed in subsection (1A) by any means other than primary legislation.

I hope that I have been able to put some substance behind the arguments that I put to your Lordships last week. We are not trying, as I think that one of your Lordships put it last week, to Xsmuggle through" additional provisions that might not have a direct relationship to terrorism over and above the ones that we feel that we need. I hope that I have been clear in saying that we shall have to return to the issue. Nevertheless, we feel that the Government have listened very carefully to what has been said in your Lordships' House, and that we have now introduced amendments that I hope and believe will address the very substantial issues that we discussed last week. I beg to move.

10 Dec 2001 : Column 1145

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