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Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, has made a powerful speech, with which Members in most sectors of the House will have some sympathy. However, ultimatelyeven in this House, where there is a strong degree of independence and idealismwe have to live in the realms of practical politics, and we have to look at the totality of the Bill as it is now. It is for that reason that we shall not be supporting the noble Baroness in her assertion in regard to Amendment No. 66G.
We are grateful to the Government for the care and consideration that they have given to the views expressed by the House. We have been fortunate to have a much greater time to consider the Billrushed though it has been, complain about it though we havethan Members of the other place were permitted. The noble Baroness is correct: we cannot say that the Bill was considered in the other place. But we have demonstrated here that the totality of Parliament can work well on behalf of all the British
It is a result in which this House can take considerable pride. We have a Bill with which Parliament in its totality can be pleased and which the country in due time will come to appreciate. It has been an immensely hard task for those involved, but we have arrived at what I regard as a satisfactory conclusion. I regret that on this occasion we shall not be supporting the noble Baroness.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I note what the noble Baroness has said. However, I must say that she uttered an unfortunate phrase at this time of night, bearing in mind the position we are in, referring to the Xso-called elected Chamber". It is a phrase that she may come to regret later.
I accept that what we propose in lieu of a review of the Act is unique. However, as was made clear earlier, in this country our legislative system does not allow for systematic reviews of Acts of Parliament so that we could ask after mature consideration: does this Act do what Parliament intended when it passed it? We do not have a systematic review like that. It is a matter about which many people in both Houses have complained in the past.
This is a unique structure, asking a group of Privy Counsellors to review the legislationa minimum of seven; we have not fixed the number. There are 500-odd members of the Privy Council to choose from, of coursesome of whom are probably slightly longer in the tooth than myself, it is true. Nevertheless, the chances are that they are likely to be Members of both Houses. They will be people of experienceprobably in dealing in the past with so-called emergency legislation. It is an important step.
I must also make the point, so that there is no misunderstanding, that it is our intention that the Act should be reviewed in the way in which it is implemented. It will not merely be a review after two years. It is true that there will be a report before two years, but our intention is that the review will start as soon as the Act comes into effect, so that there will be a constant period of review. We cannot say when, but the committee will be set up and proposals will be drawn up as soon as possible, early in the new year. It has never been our intention that everything should go to sleep and then, all of a sudden after two years, the committee will look at what has happened. Our intention has always been to have a constant review. I hope that no other impression has been given.
I listened to the debate in the other place during the past hour. It is true that there has been a great deal of criticism about the way in which both Houses have dealt with the Bill in terms of time. I accept that in this House the biggest problem has been lack of time for consideration between the Bill's stages. That has caused problems for everyone.
In the other place, many Members could rightly say that three days was not enough time for a piece of legislation such as thisthat is a legitimate pointbut between both Houses, over a considerable period of hours and daysbearing in mind that the legislation was not rushed; it took us three months to produce it. It may have been produced in an emergency situation, but the Bill is not emergency legislation in the sense of being thought up one week and presented to Parliament the next. It has been improved at every stage of its progress. At every stage of its progress through both Houses changes have been made. To that extent, every part of the process has been an improvement. As the Home Secretary said, 98 per cent of the Bill is there. It is true that there is the other issue, which I shall not go into, regarding religious hatred. Nevertheless, the general thrust of the Bill meets the circumstances in which we find ourselves. It is moderate, proportionate and measured. I also welcome the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, in favour of the proposed amendment.
As this is the last time that I shall rise to speak on the Bill, perhaps I may take the opportunity to thank all noble Lords who have participatedsometimes privately with little billets-doux, at other times vociferously in the Chamber. I also want to thank the team of civil servants who have worked on the BillI must say, having seen their office in Queen Anne's Gate, in quite appalling conditions. They have worked their socks off night and day, seven days a week during this process. It has been a massive effortbut it has been damned good experience!
I also want to thank my own private office in the Home Office. Dealing with our day-job on immigration and asylum we have a large caseload in addition to this Bill. I look forward to dealing with all the other Home Office Bills that will be brought before your Lordships' House.
Lastly, I thank the ministerial team. Six Ministers have dealt with the Bill on a departmental basis. It has been absolutely crucial that we have been able to operate as a team and to share the load so that we could put before your Lordships a coherent package of measures. The Bill is long and complicated, but the central issue is a simple one: to take some moderate precautions into our legal framework for dealing with the terrorists rewriting their rulebook on 11th September.
Lord McNally: My Lords, perhaps I can take the briefest moment to congratulate the Minister on what I believe was a parliamentary tour de force. When I watched the Home Secretary in another place, I fully appreciated the fact that he is the softy in the Home Office! I want to thank my home team. I often say that if we had to pay them we could not afford them. We have tried to make a constructive contribution from the considerable expertise that exists on these Benches. We are also grateful for the co-operation of the Xofficial" Conservatives. We have all had times when we have lost our cool, but I believe that we have reached a good ending. I thank the Minister.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.