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Lord Truscott: My Lords, I shall keep my speech relatively short—first, because I do not want to repeat earlier points and, secondly and more importantly, I have a terrible cold.

Your Lordships are right to be concerned with civil liberties and the rights of citizens vis-à-vis the executive. For years, I have closely studied the Soviet Union and its successor states, including the Russian Federation. The noble Lord, Lord Garden, mentioned the USSR. No one who has witnessed the abuse of power, human rights abuses and the erosion of liberty in the former Soviet Union can be indifferent to the importance of defending the rights and privileges of civil society. Yet, certainly in Russia, part of the problem has been the corruption of the judiciary and the judicial process, which has conspired to make the law and justice an arm of government policy.

In Britain, we have benefited from an independent judiciary, which, although it has made some spectacular mistakes in the past—for example, the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven—has remained largely incorruptible. It seems to me that the role of the judiciary in a civil society is to interpret and uphold the law, not to make political judgments or even protect national security. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson of Lymington, clearly stated that view.

Governments and politicians must make their decisions on when national security and the safety of the country is threatened. Judges then have a role in ensuring that politicians' actions remain within the law. As has been said today, politicians are politically accountable for their decisions in a way that judges are not.

I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Garden, about the suspension of due judicial process in the Prevention of Terrorism Bill. The Bill before your Lordships' House strikes the right balance between civil liberties and protecting national security and the lives of our citizens. The role of the courts in both derogated and non-derogated orders is clear and represents a real check on unreasonable and unjust
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behaviour by the executive. In the case of non-derogated control orders, judicial review will ensure that the Home Secretary's actions remain reasonable and proportionate.

After the Law Lords' decision last December, the Government had to act to protect the population in those cases where there was insufficient evidence to prosecute cases up to the point of "beyond reasonable doubt". It seems inconceivable that the Government should fail to take action to prevent an atrocity on the scale of the Madrid bombing simply because they failed to muster enough evidence to achieve a successful prosecution.

I agreed with my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis when he said that maintaining Part 4 powers, given the universal condemnation by the Law Lords, would be perverse. I am surprised that the Conservative Benches support what would be a wholly inadequate stop-gap measure. The British public certainly will not understand a failure to take preventive action against terrorists where the Home Secretary reasonably suspects involvement in terrorism.

As my noble friend Lord Young of Norwood Green pointed out, a recent poll showed that three-quarters of those asked believed that it may be necessary sometimes to take action against people who have not yet committed any offence. The Government have indicated that prosecution will always remain the preferred course, as shown by the arrest and prosecution of Saajid Badat, another of our home-grown terrorists. As my noble friends Lord Giddens and Lord Harris of Haringey said earlier, we are facing a formidable and unprecedented terrorist threat, a ruthless opponent who will stop at nothing to cause mass slaughter and mayhem.

Al'Qaeda is not another form of the IRA, and we blur the distinction at our peril. No other terrorist organisation has threatened the use of nuclear weapons, which Al'Qaeda would undoubtedly use in some form if it could get hold of them. There are no grounds for complacency.

In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, who is not in his place, the country will not thank your Lordships if we acknowledge that we saw the threat coming but prevaricated and fumbled in response.

8.8 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Truscott. I am afraid that I believe that this Bill is an assault on ancient liberties and that one of the reasons I am privileged enough to be in your Lordships' House is to play a small part in protecting ancient British liberties. Those liberties have served us well and have allowed us to prosper and to go forth from a fairly primitive society into one of the most civilised societies on earth.

I will start with a quote or two.

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coincidentally, another Mr Clarke—

You may not guess it, but those quotes were made by an up-and-coming young barrister who, at that time, led for the Home Office when Mr Clarke was renewing the Prevention of Terrorism Act in 1993. Noble Lords may just have guessed who that up-and-coming young barrister and Member of Parliament was. It was the right honourable Anthony Blair.

What has made him change his mind? Has he suddenly allowed it to go to his head? Yesterday, on "Woman's Hour" of all places, he suddenly announced that there were hundreds of terrorists out there. If there are hundreds of them out there, why have none of them been arrested and charged or is he making up the whole lot? It is either crass incompetence on behalf of the security services or it is wild imagination on the part of the First Lord of the Treasury.

Another amusing thing is coming out of Downing Street. Suddenly, they are saying that "Oh, Mr Howard has become part of the civil liberties lobby". I say, "Yippee". The great thing about Mr Howard is that some of us thought that he was not nearly near enough to it. Is it not extraordinary that a Prime Minister can accuse the Leader of the Opposition for liking civil liberties? That is what he is supposed to do. I could understand it if they said that he is a tyrant, a jackboot and wanted to lock everyone up, and that was wrong. That is what some of them did say about him when he was the Home Secretary. But now the sinner has repenteth.

Let us turn to Mr Hain, who is now behaving like a sort of Boer interior Minister, saying how necessary it is that we should have all of these restraining orders and that there has been no greater threat to English liberties for 300 years. Has he not heard of Queen Elizabeth's great speech at Tilbury when she was objecting to Parma and Alva murdering and slaughtering the Dutch Protestants? She said:

We have had this before. I know that the noble Baroness will not be familiar with this quote, but it is too good to miss quoting to your Lordships. It is what Macaulay said when King James, who had just published a foul, dictatorial manifesto of what he was going to do—to hang everybody—had just been defeated at the Battle of La Hogue—or rather, the French had:

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We have seen all these threats before. There was even the great remark by Admiral Earl St Vincent, when the Government were panicking over a French invasion. He said:

I could go on quoting from my favourite anthology to underline that these threats are not new. We have had 30 years of very unpleasant Irish terrorism. We managed to convict a very large number of them and lock them up legitimately: all right, we had to use Diplock courts. We managed to convict Fuchs, Blake and Vassall by having positively vetted juries. We cannot and we must not sacrifice our ancient liberties by panicking over something that could certainly be very unpleasant. But it is much more unpleasant that Ministers can lock people up without trial on the say-so of an intelligence service that might have got its information from an Uzbek torturer who has been wielding the electric prod, because that is where some of our information has been coming from.

This Government have a track record of rotten behaviour over civil rights. The Civil Contingency Bill is one example. The abolition of double jeopardy is another. The interference with jury trials is a third. I have almost run out of bits of paper to add even more of them.

My father did not romp up and down the North African desert in a clapped-out tank—because we could not build the right one—being shot at by the Germans so that he could come back to a country which locked up its citizens without trial on insufficient evidence with insufficient due process. I hope that my Front Bench and the Liberal Democrat Front Bench stay hard on their opposition to the Bill and make it infinitely better and, if they cannot do so, make sure that the Government do not get the Bill at all, because that would be the better course.

8.17 p.m.

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