Part of Orders of the Day — Terrorism Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:46 am on 15th March 2000.

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Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office 1:46 am, 15th March 2000

I begin by expressing my thanks, first to members of the Committee, Opposition spokesmen and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office for the way in which we have worked. Secondly, I thank the Bill team, who gave tremendous support throughout the proceedings, not only to Ministers but to all members of the Committee. Thirdly, I thank the officials of the House, including Hansard staff and clerks, who have worked extremely effectively. We have had an efficient and full discussion of many of the issues.

We have had a lengthy debate this evening, so I shall try to be brief, but I need to address some of the points that have been made. It is clear that my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) was not satisfied with the answers given in the discussion, and that is entirely his right. However, it is simply not true that the Government have not faced up to the issues. In particular we have directly addressed the implications of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the various issues arising from that. I know that there will be controversy about the issues because people will argue that cases will arise.

The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) and my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) have expressed concern about the inability to return to these issues. The doctrine of the omnicompetence of Parliament has simply not been grasped. There is a series of issues about the ways in which Parliament exercises its scrutiny in discussion, but it is possible, and indeed likely, that Parliament will return to discussion of these issues because it has a right and a duty to do so.

We have had a full discussion about the definitional points. Our definition is right, and it is defensible and positive. I acknowledge the difficulties of balance, and I repeat, as I have said throughout the debate, that we will consider proposals that have been made. I repeat my thanks to those organisations that have sought to make constructive proposals.

The Bill starts from the necessity to recognise the existence of domestic and international terrorism, and the terrible things that terrorists do—blowing planes out of the sky, destroying buildings, blowing up people and knee-capping. There is a vast range of activities. The obligation not only of Ministers but of all elected politicians and legislators is to ask what we can do to address international terrorism, and to do everything in our power to prevent those who want to terrorise us from being able to do so. Our need and our duty is to fight terrorism domestically and internationally, and that is what the Bill is about.

It is absolutely true—it has been a theme running through our discussions—that the need to defeat international and domestic terrorism has to be set against the individual liberties of every citizen in the country and their right to be properly treated under the law. Another theme has been the need to avoid the abuses of justice, to which my hon. Friends the Members for Islington, North and for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell) referred. They are absolutely right to say that we must achieve the right balance.

I say as emphatically as I can that it is our duty both to maintain the rights of individuals under the rule of law and to maintain their right to very existence and life in the face of the threat posed by international terrorism. It is our duty to ensure that we do all in our power to inhibit terrorists' ability to destroy, kill and create a negative atmosphere in our society. That is why we have introduced the Bill, it is why I hope that my hon. Friends will support it and it is why I am grateful for the support of the official Opposition. I commend the Bill to the whole House.