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Baroness Royall of Blaisdon moved Amendment No. 51:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Health Bill

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 (Continuance in force of sections 1 to 9) Order 2006

7.26 pm

Lord Bassam of Brighton rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 2 February be approved [17th Report from the Joint Committee and 23rd Report from the Merits Committee].
 
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The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 was introduced last year in recognition of our need to be able to tackle the threat posed to national security by individuals that we could neither prosecute nor deport. The Government's response to the Law Lords' ruling on the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act Part IV powers was the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which introduced control orders. Control orders enable tailored obligations to be placed on an individual to protect the public from the risk of terrorism. The Prevention of Terrorism Act came into force on 11 March 2005.

The threat posed to the life of the nation by terrorism and the consequences of terrorism is a subject that has necessarily occupied this House on too many occasions. The tragic events of last July brought home to everyone that this is a very real and continuing threat. The UK Government must continue to tackle terrorism. Control orders have a vital role to play alongside other existing powers and the new measures contained in the Terrorism Bill, which was debated earlier in the other place.

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary set out in his Statement to the other place on 2 February why he thought the powers were necessary and why we were seeking to renew these powers for a further 12 months. The report of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, on the operation of the 2005 Act was laid on the same day.

It is in accordance with Section 13 of the 2005 Act that today's renewal debate is taking place. Section 13 provides that the powers contained in the 2005 Act relating to control orders will automatically lapse after one year unless renewed by order subject to the affirmative resolution in both Houses of Parliament.

When the Prevention of Terrorism Act was going through Parliament we gave an undertaking that we would provide the opportunity for legislative change. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary outlined in his Statement on 2 February how we would take this forward and his proposals for the development of a draft Bill to be published in the first half of 2007 for pre-legislative scrutiny.

We would then seek to introduce the legislation later that year. This would provide the opportunity to make legislative changes to the 2005 Act—if that was thought necessary—once the processes in the Act had been through a full cycle and we had the benefit of a further report from the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, on the operation of the Act.

I turn to the specific need for the powers. We face a continuing threat from terrorists and terrorism-related activity. Prosecution is and will always remain the Government's preferred course of action in dealing with individuals suspected of terrorism and priority will continue to be given to prosecution. But prosecution is not always possible for a variety of reasons. There may be insufficient admissible evidence, an overriding need to protect sensitive sources and techniques, or other reasons why a prosecution may not necessarily be in the public
 
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interest. Deportation is also an option for foreign nationals since removal can provide alternative means of disrupting their activity and reducing the threat to national security. But again this is not always possible, although we have made a considerable amount of progress in agreeing memoranda of understanding with a number of countries which we believe will provide a means by which individuals can safely be returned to their countries of origin.

The Terrorism Bill currently before Parliament will introduce some new offences, including the offence of acts preparatory to terrorism. But there will remain a comparatively small number of cases where we are unable to prosecute, but where individuals pose a very real terrorist threat. In these circumstances, it is vital that the Government and the law enforcement agencies are able to act to reduce the risk that such individuals pose. The report of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, provided support for this view. Paragraph 61 states:

Once again I want to take the opportunity to thank the noble Lord, who conducted his analysis with great care and attention. I should also like to thank the Joint Committee on Human Rights for its informative report and detailed reflection on the legislation and its operation. These contributions will be invaluable in informing the House in our consideration of these important issues.

Sections 1 to 9 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 provide for the making of control orders. These are preventive orders that enable one or more obligations to be placed upon individuals that are designed to prevent, restrict or disrupt their involvement in terrorism-related activity. They can be applied to any individual, whether a United Kingdom or foreign national, where the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds for suspecting that the individual is or has been involved in terrorist activity and he considers it necessary for the purposes of protecting members of the public from the risk of terrorism. The obligations can be tailored to tackle particular forms of terrorist activity on a case-by-case basis. Any breach of the obligations in a control order without reasonable excuse is a criminal offence punishable with a prison sentence of up to five years and/or an unlimited fine.

The Act makes provision for two types of order—derogating control orders and non-derogating control orders. The distinction between the two is that a derogation will be required if the obligations either individually or in total amounted to a deprivation of liberty within the meaning of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights. We have not sought to make any derogating control orders. For non-derogating control orders the Secretary of State has to apply to the court for permission to make an order. There is provision in the Act, in the case of urgency, for the Secretary of State to make a control order. This must then be referred immediately to the court. The
 
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court must then begin its consideration of the case within seven days. Once a control order is made, an automatic review process is triggered. This judicial review of the Secretary of State's decision provides independent judicial scrutiny.

Control orders have a maximum duration of 12 months. They can then be renewed by the Secretary of State, but this provides for a separate right of appeal. An individual may also apply to the court for the order to be revoked or an obligation to be modified where there is a change in circumstances, again with separate rights of appeal. The Act provides full judicial oversight and rights of appeal. Additionally, there are other reviewing and reporting requirements, such as the independent review in the form of the annual report of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, while the Secretary of State has to make three-monthly reports to Parliament on the exercise of his powers.

There is a delicate balance to strike between safeguarding society and safeguarding the rights of the individual. As I have outlined, a number of safeguards are set out in the Act, and the renewal debates today both here and in the other place are a further requirement of the Act. Renewal requires an affirmative resolution in both Houses. These debates give honourable Members and noble Lords an opportunity to consider what is said in the report of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, and the merits of control orders more generally.

The noble Lord has made some important recommendations in relation to improving the operation of the control order regime, including developing a procedure to monitor closely the necessity and proportionality of control order obligations and for the Government to provide fuller information as to why a prosecution cannot be brought instead of a control order. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has welcomed the noble Lord's recommendations and explained that he will need to consider these once he has consulted the Intelligence Services Commissioner and the Director General of the Security Service, as required by the Act.

In relation to the first of the two main recommendations, we agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. While a number of internal mechanisms are already in place to review control orders, we accept that there is scope for an additional review of the obligations throughout a control order's life cycle, and we are discussing with stakeholders how best to achieve this. On the second recommendation, for the police to provide more information on why a prosecution is not possible, I think we all acknowledge the soundness of the principle here and we undertake to examine further with stakeholders how this might work in practice.

I turn to the specific working of the draft order before the House. Without the order the power to make control orders will lapse at midnight on 10 March 2006. The effect of the order is to continue it in force until 10 March 2007. It requires approval by both Houses of Parliament. It is the
 
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Government's strong belief that control orders are an essential element of the range of measures that are necessary to address the continuing threat posed by terrorism. This belief is supported by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, in his report to the House on the first nine months of the operation of the prevention of terrorism legislation. In his report the noble Lord pointed out:

Those are chilling words and it is crucial that we never underestimate the threat we now face. Control orders are one of a number of options that the Government are employing to counter the very real threat of terrorism. They have an essential role to play both in countering the threat and contributing to a more hostile environment for terrorists to operate in.

The Government's role, first and foremost, must be to protect the general public. Control orders are helping to achieve this while maintaining the necessary safeguards to protect individual rights. It is with this very much in mind that I commend the order to the House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the order laid before the House on 2 February be approved [17th Report from the Joint Committee and 23rd Report from the Merits Committee].—(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)


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