Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

I turn briefly to the Bill. As noble Lords will be aware, I was responsible for taking the temporary provisions Bill through this House in February. The Government acted in good faith in their implementation of the powers which they believed they were able to take under the United Nations Act 1946. However, the Supreme Court advised that, in its judgment, we were relying too much on the facilitating powers of that Act, hence our need to bring a temporary provisions Bill through this House. I thank noble Lords who participated in that debate for their very useful contributions to an expeditious conclusion which ensured that we had appropriate legislative protection in place and a clear commitment that we would bring a fuller Bill back to the House as soon as possible. I congratulate the Minister on bringing the Bill back in this Session and giving us the opportunity for this Second Reading debate.

Measures to prevent terrorist financing are at the heart of international efforts against terrorism. If you read yesterday's and today's Guardian you need no reminding of the continuing great threat that our country faces from terrorism. However, our responses must be proportionate and fair and, at the same time, robust and effective. This is a difficult balancing act-to strike a balance between public interest on the one hand and the rights and liberties of individuals on the other. I am most grateful to the Minister for depositing in the Library a schedule indicating the changes to the temporary Bill contained in this Bill. That is a very constructive step by the Minister; it shows that he approaches the Bill with an open and accommodating stance. I know the House will appreciate that.

I welcome several of the improvements that the new Government have made to the Bill, compared with the temporary Bill which I took through the House in February. Spousal and partner exclusion is a particularly good addition. I am also pleased to see the proposals for review and reporting, although I am sure that in Committee the House will test the Minister on the extent of the review and reporting procedures. Perhaps in winding up the Minister could give us a little more of a feel for the identity of the likely reviewer. How do we strike the right balance between a reviewer who is experienced and one who is independent? Is it the Treasury's current proposal that an existing reviewer should perform that function, or that this presents an opportunity for the Government to bring a fresh view to this task?

The key issue in looking at the Bill has to do with the term "reasonable suspicion". The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, talked about that both in February and today, as did the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, from the Cross Benches. I have reflected long and hard on our discussion of the temporary Bill on this point. I

27 July 2010 : Column 1272

was much taken by the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, which were recited by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, both in the debate on the temporary Bill and today. They are so powerful that I will repeat them as well:

"To suspect something to be so is by no means to believe it to be so. It is to believe only that it may be so".

As I think more about this, I find myself asking whether there is a better form of words that we should be using here, notwithstanding that I was party to a Government who persuaded the House to support the use of the term "reasonable suspicion" in the temporary Bill. The powers granted to HMT officials are very broad, very pervasive and have enormous consequences. I am not sure that reasonable suspicion is a sufficient test. The Minister will need to satisfy the House-perhaps today, definitely in Committee-that it is not better to use the word "believe". The Government and the Minister will have to persuade the House that we would wish to grant these powers if the Government could not say that they believed that there was terrorist activity at hand or in prospect.

I am also persuaded that we need to look carefully at the limitations of judicial review in providing protection for those who find themselves in receipt of an order in respect of this Bill. I welcome the Home Office review of counterterrorism powers but I share with others, including the noble Lord, Lord Patten, a view that perhaps the time has come to merge and consolidate. Indeed, in the only political comment in the Minister's opening remarks, he referred to a lack of coherence and co-ordination in the previous Government's approach to terrorism. The defence there must be that the situation with terrorism has evolved so radically over the past 10 years that we constantly found ourselves-

Lord Patten: I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord for giving way, but he used my name. When the record is published tomorrow, I think we will see that I said the time was not right for consolidation, and that we should press ahead. I remember that my noble friend Lord Sassoon indicated assent from the Front Bench. Rather than seeking to consolidate now, at a later date it may be entirely suitable to have that certainty to which the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, referred. However, for the avoidance of doubt, I definitely did not say, "This is the Bill, now is the time, get on with it".

Lord Myners: I am very grateful to the noble Lord for correcting me. He is, of course, absolutely correct. However, the sentiment that there is a patchwork of regulation and legislation is an entirely reasonable one to express. There is considerable merit in pulling all this together in a single piece of legislation at some point. However, if I take myself back to where I was before I accepted the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Patten, I still argue that this situation will continue to evolve. We may never reach a steady state where we can put in place a single piece of comprehensive legislation which will cope with all possible contingencies and developments, including cyber crime, as the noble Lord, Lord Patten, mentioned, or piracy, as my noble friend mentioned.

I hope that we will not see any reduction in the availability of legal aid to those who find themselves having to defend an action taken under either the

27 July 2010 : Column 1273

temporary Act or the new Bill. I would welcome an assurance from the noble Lord, Lord Sassoon, that there is no intention to reduce the legal aid available to those entitled to it in securing advice and pursuing their right to challenge actions taken under the temporary Act or this Bill.

I am sure that the general sentiment and thrust of the Bill will receive the warm support of the House. However, as they say, the devil is in the detail and, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Davidson of Glen Clova, said, the House will no doubt wish to pursue a number of issues in Committee.

5.54 pm

Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords, I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes of Stretford, to the House. Their speeches were very fine indeed and we look forward to hearing from them as we progress through the Bill.

I am not in any way expert in the minutiae of financial services. My area of interest in the Bill arises from my membership of the Constitution Committee and from my engagement with previous security and counterterrorism legislation in this House and beyond. Let me therefore flag up straight away that indeed we need vigorous measures to deny terrorists the finance that they need to carry out their aims. I therefore look forward to working constructively with the Minister on measures which, however, might impinge on the civil liberties of UK citizens, as well as further complicate rather than simplify the range of counterterrorism measures on the statute book.

Before I detail my concerns, I shall say a word or two about the genesis of the Bill. We are told that its measures lie in our obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373. That was a response within 17 days of the al-Qaeda attacks of 11 September 2001 to the use of international terrorism as a threat to international peace and security, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, reminded us. The resolution was legally binding and imposed on member states a requirement to put in place the necessary architecture to respond to the resolution within 90 days. Given the political climate of the time and, indeed, the wide-ranging ambit of the resolution, it was not unsurprising that UK legislation was drafted in haste. That, and further iterations of it, have now been struck down, and we find ourselves in a position whereby we have to have something on the statute book by December, as the Minister urged.

Nevertheless, the timing of the Second Reading is strange. As many other noble Lords have commented, an urgent review of counterterrorism and security powers is currently being undertaken by the Home Office. I welcome the Minister's reiteration of the Home Secretary's assurance that the recommendations of the review will be taken on board, but I for one would have preferred a Bill after the review had taken place to incorporate its recommendations.

In its report, the Constitution Committee takes up the issue of the scope of the Bill, which is only partial, in that its coverage of terrorist asset freezing is intertwined with the provisions of UNSCR 1267. We made the point that having separate statutory regimes for terrorist

27 July 2010 : Column 1274

asset freezing makes the law unnecessarily complex and has not been the subject of adequate parliamentary scrutiny. We may find ourselves in a few months with at least four different pieces of legislation to cover this area and, while I heard my noble friend's opening remarks, I am not sure that I can see why Resolutions 1373 and 1267 could not have been consolidated.

Let me turn to the reasonable suspicion test in Clause 2. As several other noble Lords have commented, both previous substantive Acts-the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 and the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008-used the test of reasonable belief. The Treasury argues that this is there to comply with UNSCR 1373. I should declare to the House that I was the officer at the Commonwealth Secretariat in 2001 who was responsible for the Commonwealth ministerial Committee on Terrorism. This group was charged with the Commonwealth-wide implementation of UNSCR 1373. It was not taken by the several Commonwealth countries represented on that committee, all of which have to conform to similar judicial practice to the UK, that Resolution 1373 imposed a threshold as low as reasonable suspicion. Indeed, I do not recall that the UK delegation, which I think was led by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, wished that to be the case in any form whatever.

I accept that there is a requirement for a preventive regime in Resolution 1373. It is clearly evident in clause 1(a) of the resolution, which requires all states to:

"Prevent and suppress the financing of terrorist acts".

So I accept that the Bill should have a preventive element in it. The reasonable suspicion test, however, is not the sole means by which we could be compliant with the preventive aspects of Resolution 1373. The Treasury, in its response to consultation published earlier this month, argues that there is a further reason for this test-to meet the UK's national security needs. At paragraph 3.7 on page 9 we are told:

"The Government believes that, to be consistent with UNSCR 1373 ... and to meet the UK's national security needs, the asset freezing regime should be preventative in nature ... The Government believes that the ability to act on reasonable suspicion is an appropriate standard".

I argue that the overall national security threat is best dealt with by the National Security Council and the Home Office, while the Treasury should take a more narrow and technical purview and deal solely with terrorist assets rather than with catch-all phrases under the rubric of national security.

When it comes to EU legislation, we have a long history of gold-plating directives to make them vehicles for a lot of other things that we would like. I caution against doing so with counterterrorism legislation. The Treasury argues that the scale and severity of the threat facing the UK is such that it needs in its toolkit a more robust regime than other countries. I suggest to the Minister that his department might concern itself with the narrow approach to asset freezing that I have suggested and leave the bigger questions to colleagues in the Home Office. It is known for its zeal in bringing forth a deluge of legislation on national security, and I am sure that it will continue to keep a vigilant eye on these matters.

27 July 2010 : Column 1275

In order that we might be convinced of the scale of the threat, will my noble friend tell us how many people are designated and what is the sum of their assets? Implementation of the UNSCR is an obligation on all UN members, and the Treasury might do well to look abroad for good practice, as we in United Kingdom are not unique. I understand that New Zealand has preventive provisions through an interim order that lasts 30 days and is based on the test of reasonable suspicion, and after 30 days requires the Prime Minister to exercise the test of reasonable belief. That could point to the way in which we might proceed.

I turn to the process issues in the Bill. Clause 22 provides for judicial review. In paragraph 24 of its report, the Constitution Committee states that the court would make a determination not as to whether designation is necessary, but merely whether the Treasury's decision was reasonable. Clearly, this would be inadequate if a person was unreasonably designated. There are further issues of disclosure and closed evidence that call into question the overall fairness of the role of special advocates. I should declare that I was a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights when it looked into those matters. I am sure that we will probe all these issues in Committee.

In conclusion, I remind the Minister of the words of his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department on 13 July on the Home Office review. She said:

"The review will enable this Government to put right the failures of the last Government and, in so doing, restore the ancient civil liberties that should be synonymous with the name of our country".-[Official Report, Commons, 13/7/10; col. 798.]

I hope that during the passage of the Bill we will bear in mind those words.

6.03 pm

Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I welcome the Bill as there is a general consensus that greater measures are needed to assist in the fight against global terrorism. Terrorism is one of the greatest threats that we face in the 21st century. This legislation will make an important contribution to our national security by helping to ensure that funds are not used to perpetrate terrorist activities. I also welcome the Government's strategic defence and security review, as stated in the coalition agreement. We have a duty to our citizens and Armed Forces to shoulder the collective task of formulating a robust security strategy for an increasingly dangerous world. I am confident that this legislation will contribute to achieving this goal.

In overcoming the threat of terrorism, we need clear understanding and constant vigilance. I congratulate the Government on the recent announcement of a successful conclusion to negotiations between the European Union and the United States Treasury on the exchange of information on terrorist finance tracking. One part of frustrating the evil intentions of those who inflict terrorism across the world is to starve them of resources-and this lies at the core of the Bill.

It is timely that we should be considering our approach to the terrorist threat just a few weeks after the fifth anniversary of the 7/7 suicide bombing attacks

27 July 2010 : Column 1276

in London, which resulted in the deaths of 52 people. Thankfully, there has been no other major successful terrorist assault in this country since that day. That has not been because the threat has dissipated, and we should not allow complacency to creep into our considerations.

We should not allow a debate to take place on terrorism-and counterterrorism-without spending a moment reflecting on some of the issues that cause terrorism: alienation, grievance, demonisation, a sense of injustice, whether real or perceived, exclusion and political issues. We cannot expect to overcome the terrorist threat without acknowledging the role that these factors play in motivating the disaffected to move towards violence and terrorist atrocities. We need to examine and find remedies relating to the root causes of extremism and terrorism. Community cohesion and counterterrorism are not the same thing and they should not be confused. They are complementary and there are links. We must therefore regard the two issues in the appropriate manner.

Similarly, we need to recognise that the threat from terrorists arises from a multitude of different areas and groups. Those who are radicalised with terrorist sympathies are not restricted to one particular group, religion or region. At this stage, I should like to follow up on what the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes of Stretford, said and make the point that nearly all Muslims are law-abiding and good citizens who are against any form of extremism and terrorism. However, I appreciate that there is a problem with a tiny minority of people who do not follow the true principles of Islam. Islam forbids any form of suicide bombing. It is, indeed, a religion of peace. For example, when we greet each other, we say "As salaam alaikum", which means "The peace of God be upon you". As a Peer, I have a coat of arms, and on it I have two doves because I want to give the message that Islam is indeed a religion of peace.

Clause 1 of the Bill defines individuals who have been labelled "designated persons" by the Treasury. This clause is also of extreme importance in ensuring that we fulfil our obligations in implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373. This provision ensures that asset-freezing measures are applied to groups and individuals who engage in or financially support terrorist activities.

Designated persons can be defined only by competent authorities. However, I feel it is important that all competent authorities in United Nations member states act in harmony to make sure that the necessary procedures are followed to combat terrorism on a global basis. It is important to achieve a degree of consistency in tackling cross-border terrorism. I should be grateful if the Minister could advise your Lordships' House whether bodies in addition to the Treasury will gain status as competent authorities in the near future for the purposes of this legislation.

Clause 2 covers the Treasury's power to designate persons. This includes instances when the Treasury has reasonable grounds to suspect an individual or group of engaging in terrorist activities. I am concerned by this requirement, as Resolution 1373 expressly states that the assets of those who commit, or attempt to

27 July 2010 : Column 1277

commit, acts of terrorism should be frozen. The resolution does not extend to those whom competent authorities suspect of terrorist activity. Therefore, the burden of proof is not satisfied under this clause.

Furthermore, we must be mindful that whatever we enact could not be construed as a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that all individuals are entitled to respect for their family and private life in accordance with the law.

Our criminal justice system is based on the principle that individuals are innocent until proven guilty. Any attempt to interfere with this principle would be to the detriment of our society. Even if a person is proven innocent, there may be a possibility that the person will be branded a terrorist. This could be damaging to a person's future prospects. Is there any scope for awarding compensation to those who have had their assets frozen prior to acquittal?

Clause 4 states that a designation issued by the Treasury expires within one year unless renewed. The clause gives the Treasury authority to renew a designation at any time before it expires if there are reasonable grounds for doing so. I fear that this clause may encounter the same difficulties as Clause 2. The clause states that a designation may be renewed more than once. However, there is no specification as to how many times a designation can be renewed. I would welcome greater clarification as to the powers of the Treasury concerning the duration. If these powers are wrongly used by those in authority, it could have long-lasting and devastating consequences for individuals and the integrity of this department.

Clause 20 makes reference to the need for co-operation with internal and international investigations. I strongly support this clause; it is in our best interests to work with our European and wider partners to achieve this aim. Foreign policy and national security are intertwined and should be treated as such.

The success of our foreign policy will work to promote our national interests and security both at home and abroad. The question of national security covers a multitude of areas, which is why a narrow approach to this issue has a limited chance of success. Co-operation with our neighbours in the European Union, our partners in the Commonwealth, transatlantic allies and other international organisations is vital to ensuring that we successfully combat terrorism. This threat is not just limited to one continent and therefore requires a multilateral solution. Counterterrorism is dependent on international co-operation, and a vigilance to identify the emerging and constantly altering threats to our security.

I welcome Clauses 33 and 34 as they clearly define the meaning of "funds", "economic resources" and "financial services". These are key terms for the purposes of the prohibition stated in Clauses 8 and 9. These two clauses make it an offence for funds and financial services to be made available to designated persons.

At this stage, I would like to declare an interest as I am the chairman of an organisation which provides insurances and financial services. I feel that companies which offer financial services as stated in this clause should be given the appropriate assistance in understanding the requirements of this legislation.

27 July 2010 : Column 1278

I would be grateful if the Minister could inform your Lordships' House as to whether any guidance and information will be made available to companies which provide financial services. I wholeheartedly endorse the principles that these measures are seeking to embody in law. We need to maintain our defences and be vigilant in tackling the threat posed by terrorism. We should be robust in seeking to prevent those who cause actual terrorism drawing on the resources that they need to inflict the injury of their design.

I am, however, of the opinion that we must ensure that the provisions of the Bill do not compromise the human rights of law-abiding citizens. This country has a proud history of promoting democratic values around the world and in our local communities. Although we are in a heightened state of security in terms of domestic and external threats, legislation must not be allowed to compromise our civil liberties. It is important to strike a balance to ensure that no ethnic or social group feels as though it is the constant target of discrimination. We must co-operate internationally and focus on marginalising those who idolise or endorse terrorism. We are bound to ensure that we approach the matter in a proportionate, measured and effective manner. It is only through detailed scrutiny that this House can content itself that the Bill meets those tests.

6.15 pm

The Archbishop of York: My Lords, I do not want to detain your Lordships for long. The Bill deals with terrorist asset freezing by the Executive, with the supervision of the exercise of powers by the Executive by review decisions of the court in Clauses 22 and 23 and an independent reviewer of the operation of Part 1 under Clause 25. I am intrigued. Clause 25(5) states:

"The Treasury may pay the expenses of a person who conducts a review under this section and also such allowances as the Treasury determine".

Is that meant to be pro bono? Who will pay for that independent work if it falls under the Bill?

I support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, on appeals. The question of whether the assets are too big or small should not be a matter for the Supreme Court to decide; a lower court could probably deal with it.

My main reason for speaking is to support the noble Lords, Lord Pannick and Lord Myners, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Falkner and Lady Hamwee, on what the Bill seems to suggest is the bar in law. "Reasonable grounds to suspect" is far too low. You may not believe it, but you could stop and search only if there were reasonable grounds to suspect. I have been a victim of stop and search eight times on reasonable grounds. I have been stopped; I have been searched. When the policeman suddenly realises that a middle-aged bishop is unlikely to be committing some crime, that has not stopped me being stopped and searched. "Reasonable grounds to suspect" is far too low. All you need to think is: "He does not look like one of us. He surely must be a suspect". His assets are frozen and it takes a long time before the appeal and review take place. In that time, that person may have been in a very difficult place.

27 July 2010 : Column 1279

If people's assets are to be seized and an independent person is to review it, I should have thought that judicial review would be automatic. Otherwise, you have no money, your assets have gone and it is not easy. Again, I am not happy with this very low bar. There should be a prime facie case before a reasonable tribunal can seize your assets. If that is not the case, we are going the wrong way.

I have just been reading the book written by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bingham, The Rule of Law, where he translates for many of us bits of the Magna Carta. Paragraph 39 reads:

"No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land".

If it is not his equals who are doing it, then the law of the land has to be quite clear about what it is doing. Listen to clause 4 of Magna Carta:

"To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice".

He says that these words should be written above the Ministry of Justice because they are far more powerful than the rather mealy-mouthed words that are there at the moment.

Terrorism is a heinous crime. I do not believe that law alone will deal with it, but when you are taken before a court in this country and people are about to seize your assets, you should know that it is being done justly and not simply on reasonable grounds to suspect. The other thing is that, because terrorism is a crime, surely those who are intending to participate in it should be seen as criminals, so the standard needs to be raised and not just simply ignored. If we see to that, we will not run into trouble.

I finish by congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, and the noble Lord, Lord Davies, on their wonderful maiden speeches. I was more controversial than they were when I made my maiden speech because it was on the Queen's Speech, so I could afford to do it. However, I congratulate them and thank them for enlivening our House. I look forward to greater participation in the Bill.

6.21 pm

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, it is my great pleasure to open my speech by offering congratulations on the maiden speeches by Members of my Benches. My noble friend Lady Hughes chose to speak early after her introduction in the House in a debate on an area on which she has considerable expertise. How blessed she is that the opportunity fell to her, but how well she discharged her responsibility and how much we appreciate the fact that she emphasised that all law has to be put in the context of the community that it is there to serve and regulate. She identified a context in which we also safeguard ourselves by the actions that we take in relation to the communities that we serve, as well as by the laws that we enact.

My noble friend Lord Davies threatens to make the name Davies the largest patronymic in the House-that is not something that I could have said before the 1958 Act with regard to life Peers. I welcome him and the great expertise and achievements that he will bring

27 July 2010 : Column 1280

as talents to this House in a range of debates. He quite characteristically did today what I am sure we will enjoy in future: he added a dimension to the debate that might not have been entirely anticipated. I am not sure how the Minister is going to react to the issue of piracy and how it relates to terrorism, but I am certain that what my noble friend identified is a grievance that we all feel with regard to international law and the safeguarding of all who travel on the seas at present. I am grateful to my noble friend for already giving us a flash of the range of inspiration that I know he will bring to subsequent contributions to the House. I am grateful, and quite sure, that both noble Lords will be making their speeches in future with that degree of regularity that we all hope for from those who have a lot to offer.

The Minister engages my sympathy to a degree. After all, only yesterday he was engaged in a major debate on the Finance Bill. It was large enough for him to feel that he ought to break almost all records for a summing-up speech. I hope that we have not presented quite that challenge to him today. Nevertheless, the very late arrival in the list-in fact, in the gap-of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York added force on those issues that I know the Minister recognises as critical, which we are all anxious about with regard to this legislation. All I can say to the Minister is that he will have quite an energetic time in Committee. He must hope that the several weeks' break before we engage in the Committee will enable him to meet the challenges raised today.

Those challenges have come from all sides and rest largely on the issues that the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, was the first to identify. Since he is a member of the Constitution Committee, it is not surprising that he would identify its key anxieties about the legislation, with his dire warnings of the extent to which he might engage with these issues in Committee-as if we ever doubted that they would be discussed thoroughly there.

The important thing about this legislation is that it was somewhat rushed into being following the previous, unsatisfactory position, with the orders being struck out by the Supreme Court. Hurried legislation had to be introduced. My noble friend Lord Myners played his full part in that. I noted in his speech an element of reservation about where we are now. An advantage of being in opposition is perhaps that it gives a little freedom from the constraints of responsibility that affect the Treasury Bench, but my noble friend is nothing except honest in wrestling with these issues.

Nevertheless, the Opposition will need some persuading by those who are advocating significant amendment to the Bill before we subscribe to it. Of course, I recognise the great concern felt about civil liberties and the exercise of the rule of law-it has been expressed with great passion by almost every contributor to this debate-and we all share those anxieties. However, there is also the necessity for our society to defend itself. I understand entirely why the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, indicated anxiety about reasonable suspicion being the test. The most reverend Primate also indicated from a strong moral base his acute anxiety.

27 July 2010 : Column 1281

However, an element of this legislation makes it a little different from all other criminal legislation. That relates to the concept of prevention as well as retribution. Governments have as a prime responsibility for the safety of the citizen. That is why the arguments over the great evolution of the law and the developing democracy of the United Kingdom that obtained in the 19th and 20th centuries took a savage turn for the worse as a result of the real problems that terrorism presented for the community. That is why Governments have to act in haste. The necessity of the defence of the citizen is also why the basis of the legislation on which they work may come closer to infringing civil liberties.

If we did not have this debate in this House, our democracy would be all the poorer and I have no doubt that, when the Bill gets to the other end, the other place will benefit enormously from the extent to which we have explored these issues. However, we as the Opposition are concerned about changes to the legislation, although we obviously appreciate that the present Administration are faced with legislation that has a terminal date and must be replaced by this Bill.

I hear on all sides the other great concept-that of getting this issue into a consolidated measure, which would make it so much clearer and more effective in the courts. However, consolidation is no easy matter. The Administration must perforce get this legislation on to the statute book in a limited period because of the sunset clause that was quite properly applied to the legislation that pertains at present.

I say to all noble Lords who have spoken so strongly and so passionately in this important debate that I hope that the Minister will be able to give solace to those who have expressed anxieties. I also hope that the review will be productive enough, and early enough, to inform our Committee proceedings, as that would certainly help us in those proceedings. However, I do not hold out too much hope on the issues of cardinal principle that are contained in this legislation. At present, the Opposition see no difference between the way in which this Government should act and the way in which we acted to protect our citizens when we enjoyed power.

6.31 pm

Lord Sassoon: My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their contributions, which have made for a stimulating and interesting debate and have played an essential role in providing full and proper scrutiny as we embark on this legislation. I am particularly grateful for the support from the Opposition Front Bench.

I opened this debate by observing that this month marks the five-year anniversary of the London bombings. I believe the whole House will agree with me that we must continue to guard against the threat to the UK from international terrorism. Importantly, a number of contributions this afternoon put this whole debate into context. We were reminded of the local and community context by the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes of Stretford, in her very welcome maiden speech; my noble friend Lord Sheikh also addressed this. At the other end of the scale, we were reminded of some of the global contexts, again in a striking maiden speech, by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, who

27 July 2010 : Column 1282

referred not least to piracy. My noble friend Lord Patten not only put the debate into its proper global context but even took us into the realm of cybercrime. This context is very relevant and points to the challenges posed by terrorist activity.

In this context, the Government have inherited an asset-freezing regime that is an essential part of the UK's counterterrorism toolkit but which has not been grounded on a secure legislative footing, an asset-freezing regime which the UK is required to have as part of its international obligations but which exists only under temporary legislation. The debate today has taken us a step closer to resolving this undesirable situation.

The Government have rightly prioritised national security and public protection, and through this Bill we will ensure that suspected terrorist funds cannot be diverted and used for terrorist purposes. This will help to ensure that the UK financial system cannot be abused by would-be terrorists. But this Government are progressive and so is this Bill. It reasonably balances the requirements of national security with protecting civil liberties. It puts safeguards that did not exist under the 2006 order on a permanent and secure footing, and introduces additional mechanisms to assist Parliament in effectively monitoring the asset-freezing regime.

None the less, we have today debated the merits of this legislation and I will now turn to some of the major points raised. I am reminded by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, that I might have tested the patience of some Members of your Lordships' House last night in trying to respond to all the points in a long debate. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I do not address every point this evening, but I will write later on points which have not otherwise been addressed.

My noble friend Lady Falkner of Margravine asked about the number of people and the amount of money that was frozen. I mentioned it at the beginning, but I will mention it again. We are referring to only 26 people and only £150,000, but we have to remember that not only were some of those 26 people involved in such planned outrages as the 21 July Tube plot, the Glasgow airport bombs and so on, but that the amounts of money that can do so much damage can be very small. The estimates suggest that the 7 July London Tube bombings cost only £8,000.

Another part of the Bill which has been much discussed is the Home Office review. I will only repeat what I have said before in answer to points raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Davidson, my noble friend Lady Hamwee and my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern. The Treasury is working closely and co-ordinating with the Home Office review. The Home Secretary has said that the review will be reported to Parliament after the Summer Recess, which, for the other place, ends rather earlier than ours. I repeat what I said before: it would be appropriate to introduce any government amendments, if we consider them to be appropriate, in Committee.

A number of different questions and comments were raised about consolidation of the legislation into a single Bill, and whether it is counterterrorist legislation or asset-freezing legislation, by my noble friends Lord

27 July 2010 : Column 1283

Patten, Lady Falkner of Margravine and Lady Hamwee, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Davidson, and the noble Lords, Lord Pannick, Lord Myners and Lord Davies of Stamford. At the outset I said that of course there is merit in consolidation, but producing consolidated legislation would be a very significant task. There was reference to eight months having passed since February. It has not been that long since the new Government took office and it would not be a simple matter to put together consolidated legislation. Our priority has to be to get the current legislation in place with appropriate parliamentary scrutiny before 31 December.

I turn now to some of the substantive concerns about the legal tests in the Bill. Understandably, there has been a lot of discussion about the reasonable suspicion test. Questions were raised again by my noble friend Lady Hamwee, the noble Lords, Lord Pannick and Lord Myners, and the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York in particular. I and the Government very much recognise the concerns that have been expressed, but I have explained and would reiterate the operational benefits of using suspicion to allow early action. But this is a topic that we will consider alongside the Home Office review.

Since there have been quotations from Justices of the Supreme Court, perhaps I may read out something else that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Rodger, said to this point-that,

This is by no means an easy matter, even for the courts.

A related question was asked by my noble friend Lord Sheikh about decisions breaching or not breaching Article 8-the right to respect for private life. I can assure him that the Treasury considers interference with human rights when deciding to make a direction, and that directions are made only when necessary for public protection. When deciding what is necessary, of course the Treasury carefully balances individual rights against public safety.

A number of questions were put about appeals processes and the question of judicial review. Points were made by my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern and my noble friend Lady Hamwee. We seek to avoid being in a position where there is a need to challenge Treasury licensing decisions. We seek to take a fair and proportionate approach so that challenges are avoided, but if there is a need to challenge, we think that judicial review is the right course. The process can be expedited if the court thinks that there is a need to consider licensing decisions quickly, and indeed the Constitution Committee recognised that the judicial review process is a meaningful scrutiny process. But, again, we recognise that this is an issue to be examined further alongside the Home Office review.

27 July 2010 : Column 1284

The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York asked whether judicial review should be automatic. Most UK asset freezes are made at the same time as criminal arrest and charge, so I believe that automatic judicial review would be unnecessary when many people are subject to prosecution for terrorist offences. However, I will take the matter away and think about it further. Another related point was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, on the question of whether the court should have access to information considered by the Minister. We expect the court to take a robust approach to any judicial review, examining the evidence on which a decision is made. This would include consideration of closed material so that the court would see all the information seen by the Minister if it wanted to do so. Again, of course, the Treasury in this context always seeks to comply with Article 6 of the ECHR.

The noble Lord, Lord Myners, asked about the availability of legal aid. I remind him that the Treasury has issued a general licence to ensure that, where people are entitled to legal aid, the asset-freezing regime does not prevent them accessing it.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Davidson, asked a question about innocent people getting off the list. In that context, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, was referring to the AQ regime, where the UN has a list of designated persons. The AQ regime is not part of this Bill and I am not sure whether I need to address that point.

The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, asked what would happen if someone was the subject of a wrongful freezing order. If a person's asset freeze is quashed, that person can start an action for damages, including for breach of contract and under the Human Rights Act. We invite designated persons to make representations to the Treasury on their asset freeze to enable them to challenge evidence that the Treasury has used.

I am looking nervously at the clock but we may get through the points.

My noble friend Lord Patten referred to the importance of tackling the evolving nature of terrorist finance and questioned the poor performance of SOCA. I welcome his important contribution in recognising the evolving threat of terrorist finance and organised crime. The Government are committed to tackling these threats robustly and are already taking steps to do so. That is exactly what my right honourable friend the Home Secretary's announcement on 6 July on proposals to establish a new national crime agency seeks to do.

As I said in opening, the financial services sector is very much in the front line. My noble friend Lord Sheikh asked about the guidance that is given to companies providing financial services. I reiterate that we recognise the crucial role that the financial sector plays in implementing asset freezing. The Treasury works closely with the financial sector to provide advice on implementation issues and, in that context, we welcome the input of the British Bankers' Association to our recent public consultation.

There were a number of questions about the role of the independent reviewer as proposed in the Bill. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Davidson, asked about

27 July 2010 : Column 1285

the cost in relation to the impact assessment, as did the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York. The noble Lord, Lord Myners, asked about identity and commented on the need for an independent reviewer. The independent reviewer will be reimbursed but I cannot put a figure on it at this stage. In the current fiscal climate it will certainly not be a significant sum in relation to the totality of the impact of the legislation. We shall not appoint a reviewer until the legislation has been passed but, when we do, we will want someone who will be an effective and credible reviewer and who will take an independent stance.

There were a couple of questions on procedural matters, if I may put it that way. My noble friend Lord Patten asked whether the Bill will be extended quickly to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Yes, it will. We are already discussing this with the overseas territories and the dependent territories and we shall seek to ensure that they are covered either by an order made under the Bill or through their own legislation.

This brings me to the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick-I do not know whether it is the most important point of the day-about the mystery of the word "etc." appearing in the title of the Bill. That was something that I questioned when the Bill was first presented to me, but I assure the noble Lord that there is nothing behind this, other than that it was added to reflect the amendments to the Counter-Terrorism Act in Part 2 of the Bill. That is why "etc." needed to be put in the Title. There is absolutely no intention of widening the Bill to include any wider conclusions from the Home Office review or anything. I am sorry to prick that sense of mystery.

Lord Myners: Before the Minister concludes-and noting the arrival of the Chief Whip to provide necessary protection in keeping him within his time limit-I should say that he has given us an excellent summing up of the debate. It has been one of the best that I have

27 July 2010 : Column 1286

heard, and I congratulate him on it. He very kindly referred to my question on legal aid. In fact, I asked him to assure us that there will be no cuts in the legal aid budget and the legal facilities available through legal aid to those who find themselves the target of this legislation, because they are in such a delicate and exposed position that they have every right to be able to secure the very best legal protection.

Lord Sassoon: I am grateful to the noble Lord, who is doing his best to get me over the 20 minutes. I shall write to him. I shall now conclude, because I am equally nervous about the Chief Whip being here.

This Bill takes the necessary steps to prevent the raising and use of funds for terrorist purposes. I believe that it continues to improve the protection of individual civil liberties in doing that.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Academies Bill [HL]

Returned from the Commons

The Bill was returned from the Commons with a privilege amendment. The amendment was agreed to.

Royal Assent

6.52 pm

The following Acts were given Royal Assent:

Appropriation (No. 3) Act, Finance (No. 2) Act, Academies Act, Kent County Council (Filming on Highways) Act, Allhallows Staining Church Act.

House adjourned at 6.53 pm.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page