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Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for setting out this latest group of amendments, which we on this side of the House have examined with very great interest and care. I should say straightaway, in answer to her more general remarks, that we are united with the Government in seeking enactment of effective legislation against terrorism. We are not, however, united or enthusiastic when it comes to measures and powers that we believe have very little or nothing to do with terrorism. We are even less enthusiastic when it comes to measures in relation to which there would be completely inadequate or almost non-existent parliamentary accountability. That is our starting point in considering the amendments.
I confess that it was with a modest amount of relief that I watched the amendments coming out of my fax machine late on Friday night, which was perhaps a little late in the day. The amendments did, however, envisage a change of heart to some degree by the Government. Nevertheless, we on these Benches would like to probe a little further, to gain the reassurance that the Government mean what they say.
The proposal on a six-month cut-off date seems to be clear enough. As for the issues in Amendment No. 78A, however, we must yet again seek assurances. I have heard everything that the noble Baroness has said, and we welcome what I understand to be a firm undertaking that the European arrest warrants project will be dealt with in future, proper primary legislationpossibly in an extradition Bill, if there is one, although it does not seem to be having a very happy start. If there is such legislation, it will be handled in that manner. Whether such an arrangement would be adequate parliamentary involvement is for another debate at another timepersonally, I do not think that it would bebut at least it is not being proposed that such provision should be pushed through by this Bill's provisions and the move to secondary legislation. None the less, may we be assured beyond peradventure that that matter will be dealt with in that manner, and that we shall not find in a few months that the position has changed?
If these new amendments are now the Government's proposals, we would like to be reassured that paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) in Amendment No. 78A will be the only proposals in the pipeline between now and next June and that no other matters or framework decisions will suddenly appear from nowhere. We would like an assurance that we are dealing only with these two matters and with the framework decision on,
We seek those key assurances, which I think that we have already been given by the noble Baroness. However, I would like her to confirm them in her reply, after my noble friends and other noble Lords have spoken to this group of amendments.
I confess that we are still left with considerable unease about this whole episode. Moreover, as the old saw goes, nothing lasts like the provisional: this legislation is provisional, but how long will it last, and what will be the arguments next June? We also face the forthcoming debate on EU arrest warrants. I note that it is now being proposed that, if Italy will not play ball, that proposal should be achieved by the process of enhanced co-operation, as authorised in the not-yet-ratified Treaty of Nice. I do not know how that process will work, but we shall have to debate it later.
It would still not be entirely satisfactory even if these truly sensitive matters of policing and criminal justice were dealt with in future, after June, in primary legislation. As my noble friend Lord Kingsland said in last week's debates, and as the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Select Committee suggests in its superb report, regardless of whether those decisions are made in primary or secondary legislation, they are reached virtually irrevocably by a type of prerogative treaty process.
In theory, this Parliament decides yes or no on those matters, and, as the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, said, if it is primary legislation, there can also be small changes to them. In practice, however, the whole thing is dumped on our Parliament. The process is inconsistent with the aim that Ministers and the Prime Minister have repeatedly stated, that we need to bring national parliaments more closely into the process not only of legislation, but of pre-legislation and decision making. I think that it was the noble Lord, Lord Garel-Jones, who, last week in Committee, said that inter-governmental third pillar measures should be decided by parliaments. That is not happening. It is not really happening even in relation to primary legislation, and it is certainly not happening in relation to secondary legislation.
Let us hope that my interpretation of the Government's proposals is the correct one. We shall need absolutely firm reassurances from the noble Baronessperhaps the Attorney-General should give us these cast-iron assurances
Lord Howell of Guildford: Perhaps I shall be lucky. I am very glad to see the Attorney-General on the Bench; it gives me some reassurance. We shall need those cast-iron reassurances. When we have heard them we shall be able to take a final position on how we view the Government's amendments and how we view our own amendments.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we on these Benches have two major concerns about Clause 111, the first of which is on scope, and the second on timing. This terrorism legislation is being pushed through as an emergency measure. We wish therefore to insist that it does deal only with terrorism and that it is limited to the immediate emergency. It seems that the amendments that the Government have now offered meet those concerns.
We were also concerned that the Government should not attempt at any later stage to expand for any reason whatsoever the interpretation of the narrow scope that is now spelled out in the amendments. That was the purpose of Amendments Nos. 77BB and 77CB tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. Consequently, we shall not be moving those amendments, nor Amendments Nos. 77A, 77B and 77C.
We thank the Government for those concessions and for Friday's negotiations. That seemed to us a model way to use our time to consider the Bill in Committee and on Report. The purpose of the Committee stage is indeed to examine and discuss each clause in detail, and the purpose of the Report stage is to consider what concessions the Government are willing to make, and if necessary to vote.
That is the proper role of Parliament and it does not help if some among the Government describe the proper role of this House in terms of sabotage by naive, silly, aristocratic people. Some of us do not think that we are particularly aristocratic when it comes to it. We need reasoned debate on Bills of this complexity in which we ask the Government to justify their proposals and we do our job in holding up their proposals to careful scrutiny. Sadly, on this occasion, the other place failed to fulfil that role and it has therefore fallen to this Chamber to fulfil much more of it in its turn. When it comes to discussing further the reform of the House of Lords, it is clear that we shall have to discuss the reform of the House of Commons, too.
The noble Lord, Lord Howell, referred to the Prime Minister's declared intention to increase the role of national parliaments, which he has repeated on a number of occasions. As originally proposed, the amendment would have decreased the role of national parliaments. We on these Benches have much to be unhappy about in respect of the third pillar. Much of what is now under the third pillar we would be happier to move into the first pillar, because apart from anything else it provides a proper lengthy process through which proposed legislation moves.
When I was chairman of Sub-Committee F there were a number of occasions on which third pillar proposals moved remarkably rapidly from initial proposal through to acceptance because no careful block clauses occurred under the first pillar. The position was made a good deal more obscure by the British Government's declared opting out from the Schengen convention and subsequent opting in to a great many of the clauses under it. That may confuse the Daily Mail and it certainly confuses many of us within this House.
Having said that, however, we accept this useful clarification. We accept the careful, further assurances which the Minister gave in her opening speech on the meaning and intent of the clause. Therefore, we do not wish to move our amendments and will accept the clause.
Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, at this and earlier stages I have tabled amendments to delete Clauses 111 and 112 in their entirety. I want to welcome with perhaps greater warmth and enthusiasm than the noble Lord, Lord Howell, could express, the care and trouble the Government have taken to meet our concerns in their amendments. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, that that is a most satisfactory conclusion to the proceedings of this House.
I want to ask only two questions. First, is it entirely clear from what the Minister said that the power will be used only to implement those measures which are already contained in the European Union road map on terrorism? Secondly, I want to ask the Government a little more about the European arrest warrant. I gather that last week the passage of that was defeated or delayed by the intervention or participation of the Italians. Without in any way making any form of racist remark, it is perhaps a sorry day that the British people have to look for the protection of their liberties to the Italian Government and not to their own Government.
Notwithstanding that defeat, why are the Government so keen to press ahead so quickly with a measure which is still under scrutiny by the Select Committees of both Houses of Parliament and has not been released and on which this House has already expressed its enormous concerns? It has nothing to do with the fight against terrorism and would be much better considered at proper length and with proper care. Why can that not wait?
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