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Lord Goodhart: My Lords, on this occasion I do not support the noble Baroness. I am concerned about the constitutional implications of the amendment. As a matter of constitutional theory, the allocation of responsibilities between Ministers has always been a matter for the Prime Minister. It may well be right that there should be a single Minister with such responsibility, but I doubt whether it would be appropriate on this amendment to part from a long-established constitutional principle.
Lord Filkin: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, for his sound reminder of the constitutional proprieties on the issue. I also have a sense of deja vu. When I was asked in the House not long ago why we did not have one person to co-ordinate counter-terrorism, like Tom Ridge and the Department of Homeland Security in the US, my response, if I recollect it, was, "What a good idea, but we already have one. He is called the Home Secretary".
Although I shall go away and check, as is my wont, and burden the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, with a further letter if I think it would benefit her, I think my answer is, in broad terms, the same. We have one senior Minister, apart from the Prime Minister, who has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the Government's efforts to counter terrorism, whether it originates abroad or is targeted at home. That person is the Home Secretary. We are all in accord with the point about the Prime Minister. While he has overall responsibilities, someone who is not so excessively burdened must have operational responsibility. From my direct experience, the Home Secretary fulfils that role clearly, strongly and powerfully.
Some other functions that contribute to counter terrorism have another ministerial lead over them. That is perfectly right and sensible and in no way weakens our efforts, as long as there is one senior, powerful Minister who is co-ordinating the Government's efforts and using the information to do our utmost to counter terrorism. That Minister is the Home Secretary. The fact that there are ministerial committees does not imply for a second that there is any division of responsibility. Any sane government have to have ministerial committees to ensure that there are proper processes to co-ordinate government activity. That is perfectly right, as long as it is clear who has the overall clout to bend the efforts of Ministers and officials to do thatin this case, it is the Home Secretary.
I shall not discuss further operational matters, although I am happy to set them out in a letter, if it would help. At operational level, we try to ensure that we are strongly connected with other European Union countries, America, and other countries throughout the world, to counter terrorism, to support them in their efforts and to benefit ourselves. We are not aware of a problem to which this amendment is a solution. That does not mean that we are complacent, or believe that we could ever have total protection against terrorism. It is a fantasy to think that this proposal, which is a repackaged version of the homeland security argumentation, has merit.
I was grateful to the Minister for his robust defence of the Home Secretary as being the person who carries the can. I do not know whether he has the clout, but he carries the can. We are all firmly supporting him and hope that there is no can to be carried in this regard. It is a difficult job.
I was grateful to the Minister, too, for saying that he would write on operational matters with regard to the Government's contacts with other countries in relation to activities countering terrorism and the assistance that is available. I would be grateful for that letter, especially against the background of what is building up in the course of the next week or so. It would assist noble Lords who have taken part in this debate and might form a background to other debates that will be held in the next few weeksperhaps under the Defence Secretary's rather than the Home Secretary's tutelage. I would like to take him up on the offer. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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