[Relevant documents: First Report from the Home Affairs Committee, Session 2001-02, on the Anti- terrorism, Crime and Security Bill, HC351.
Second Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Session 2001-02, on the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill, HL Paper 37/HC 372.]
Order for Second Reading read.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you know, a timetable motion has been tabled on which we shall vote later, at least under the deferred procedure. So many hon. Members wish to speak that you have felt it necessary to impose a 10-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches. There is genuine anxiety about the timetable. Will you consider not putting the Question on the timetable motion unless and until the Home Secretary makes a statement to explain why two days are deemed sufficient?
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. After the Second Reading debate and the vote on the timetable, we will consider a motion, which has an hour and a half for debate, on whether to support and agree to this country's derogation from article 5 of the European convention on human rights.
Last week, my hon. Friend Mr. Tyler wrote to the Leader of the House to ask whether discussion of the derogation could wait until we had completed our consideration of the Bill. That would enable us properly to consider the need for the derogation. This afternoon, there is a debate in the House of Lords about whether such consideration should happen at the end of the Bill's passage through both Houses.
May I, through you, ask a Minister to explain whether the Government are willing to accept that logical proposal? If they are, we would not have to spend a lot of time today arguing about whether to pull out of an article of the human rights convention when it may be rendered unnecessary by Parliament amending the Bill.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I thank all those—my advisers, officials and hon. Members, including my ministerial team—who have worked so diligently with me on the Bill. I should also like to put on record my thanks to the members of the Joint Committee on Human Rights and of the Select Committee on Home Affairs for their speedy and diligent work.
It would be useful to deal with the question that Simon Hughes asked about the derogation from article 5 of the European convention on human rights. We believe that it is sensible to seek the consent of the House of Commons and the House of Lords because unless Parliament agrees to clauses 21 to 23 and associated provisions, which relate to detention, the need to seek a derogation from article 5 under article 15 will not arise. It is therefore sensible to have the provision in place. It will fall automatically if Parliament does not consent to the clauses that I mentioned.
I thank the Home Secretary for being as courteous on this matter as he has been throughout the proceedings so far. Will he reconsider the issue that he heard me raise earlier, and with which he has partially dealt? Does he accept that, by virtue of the order that the Government laid last week, there is a 40-day period within which the order is the law. At the end of the 40 days, it will lapse if Parliament does not agree to the proposal in both Houses. Given that the Government have the cover that they seek, is it not, in a sense, an abuse of the judgment of both Houses to assume that they will agree that the Bill should remain as it is, when there may be ways—following the Human Rights Committee's proposal—in which it could be amended to avoid derogation? In that case, the Government would not need the decisions of both Houses, the 40-day period would lapse in the normal way and the Government would not, to put it crudely, be putting the cart before the horse on a hugely important national and international legal obligation.
The 40-day period stands, but we do not agree that there is an alternative way of proceeding that would be acceptable to the Government; if there were, we would propose it. This issue will be the subject of the debate today, and of subsequent debates here and in the House of Lords. On that basis, we are seeking the consent of the House on derogation.
Circumstances and public opinion demanded urgent and appropriate action after the
We therefore took our time in preparing the statement of
It is important to recognise that, in the first few weeks after
The right hon. Gentleman made the point that he has taken 10 weeks to contemplate the contents of the Bill. That was indeed right. Given that it was necessary for him to take 10 weeks, does he understand the anxiety in this place that we are being asked to pass the Bill—all 114 pages and 125 clauses of it—in two days beyond today? Surely that cannot be right.
I am not absolutely certain that the length of the debate and the scrutiny given to a Bill are one and the same thing. The length of the debate and our scrutiny of it depend on the availability of time to deal with the aspects of the Bill on which there is genuine disagreement. Disagreeing with something on which there is general approbation is entirely different. It seems to me that the time available in this House and the House of Lords will be used effectively and rightly to scrutinise those proposals that have already received public attention and on which there has been considerable comment.
My right hon. Friend will be aware that the time set aside for consideration in Committee, on Report and on Third Reading is roughly equivalent to four Committee sittings. Is that a proper way to deal with this most important legislation, the significance of which he has underlined, given that terrorism and other such Bills were considered for much longer? The Bill contains the embryo of five Bills.
I do not accept that it contains the embryo of five Bills. The measures are coherent, they deal with a threat of a particular nature, they were laid out on
I shall give way once more, but then I must make progress so that we do not lose time for the debate that Members want. We must get on to arguing about the content.
I am most grateful to the Home Secretary for giving way a fourth time so early in his speech.
My right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Hogg complained about the lack of parliamentary time to discuss the Bill following the 10-week gestation period. It was published only towards the end of last week, but it will complete its Commons stages by the beginning of next. That allows only a week for outside bodies to concentrate on its terms and lobby those in the House who are interested in its content and implications. Although the Home Secretary may be right that he spent 10 hard weeks drafting the Bill, surely those outside the House should have rather longer than a week to lobby Members and the Government on its content and effect.
I am most grateful to the Home Secretary. Surely he appreciates the distinction between the principles that he laid out on
I have no intention of getting into conflict this afternoon, but, if I might say so, I had not noticed that the past 10 weeks were free of detailed comment by a range of lobbying organisations and individuals. [Interruption.] Yes, about the Bill, the nature of its content, the statement of
I have certainly learned one thing. I believed that lobby groups and those connected with the law understood the existing provisions more fully than proves to be the case. I shall try to deal with that this afternoon, because what the Bill seeks to do is build on what is already there rather than transform or overturn it. If there is any confusion in the minds of those giving advice or lobbying Members, I hope that we shall be able to end it during the days ahead.
As a legal challenge to the Bill is highly likely, will the Home Secretary elaborate on his definition of a public emergency, and also explain why the United Kingdom is the only country subscribing to the European convention that considers such an emergency to exist?
I shall deal with the second point during my speech. I am well aware of the differences that exist not merely within countries that are signatories to the convention, but across the world. However, the definition of terrorism in the Terrorism Act 2000 and the article 15 provisions gave us precisely the power to act in circumstances envisaged by those who drew up both the European convention on human rights, as approved in 1953, and the European convention on refugees, as approved in 1951. They foresaw circumstances in which it would be necessary to take action to derogate—to suspend temporarily—a particular article or clause, in order to be able to act in a particular way to respond to what was happening. I am positing that the circumstances of
An article in The Times on
"Despite fine promises and emergency legislation, Britain is still home to hundreds of extremists who have made this country one of the centres for the violent transnational network that inspired and encouraged the barbarism in New York and Washington."
That is just one of hundreds of statements that have been made over the past 10 weeks about what people perceive to be the situation in our country. Again and again, people—including people in the United States—have illustrated the real dangers that exist, and it is on that basis that I shall spell out today why we felt it necessary to act.
Let us recall for a moment not just what happened on
Does the Home Secretary accept that many people who are obviously appalled at what happened on
I would take my hon. Friend's appeal more to heart if it were not for the fact that we are debating use of the very machinery that the House agreed, in 1997, to ensure that the legal process is followed and legal rights exist. I think that fundamental misunderstandings have arisen among lobby groups and others because of that point.
In 1997, the House unanimously passed the Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act 1997, which established the commission. I would be interested to know whether any hon. Member would like to use their comments in debates on that legislation to contradict me now on this legislation. Does anyone wish to intervene? No hon. Member from either side of the House voted against that legislation, which was subsequently approved by the other place. It was approved not only because previous practice had been judged not to accord with the level of human rights that was needed and accepted at the end of the 20th century, but because, in November 1996, the then Government had lost the Chahal case, which considered the acceptability of the process being used to eject people from the United Kingdom.
It was adjudged in the Chahal case that there had been improvements in the process, such as use of the three wise men and women, but it was also held that the process for ratifying the Home Secretary's power of certification for removal was not acceptable because the power infringed article 3 of the European convention on human rights. That is the nub of the issue. There is also no disagreement that the previous Government would have introduced the 1997 Act.
After the Chahal judgment, therefore, the House passed a measure that effectively provided judicial review of the Home Secretary's right to certificate the removal of an individual who is not a British national, but who is judged to be endangering national security or whose presence is not conducive to the public good.
I shall give way in a moment, but I should like first to deal with what I consider to be a fundamental misunderstanding of our proposals.
The question for hon. Members is, what did they think that the Special Immigration Appeals Commission and the judicial process would do? What cases was the commission to hear? Was it to hear cases in which there was judged to be a risk, or cases in which the presence of an individual was not conducive to the public good and the Home Secretary had heard evidence from the security and intelligence services and was prepared to act? The answer is yes; the commission was established to consider precisely those types of case. Nevertheless, the very judgment that led to the commission's establishment was the one that held that article 3 precluded us from sending people back to their death, to torture or to degrading treatment.
The current situation, therefore, is that evidence may be adduced by the security and intelligence services, the Home Secretary may believe that he or she is correct to issue a certificate and the Special Immigration Appeals Commission—SIAC—may judge that that belief is correct, but the Home Secretary cannot deport that person because of the risk to the person's life. That is, and has been, the situation. The difference now is that we want to ensure that people cannot continue to conduct or organise terrorism from this country.
I shall give way in a moment, when I have finished making this point.
The issue for me to decide is whether I should seek an opt-out from the European convention, and then to opt-in again by using, I think, article 58; to say that individuals should be released although we have evidence which SIAC is prepared to uphold that warrants detention; or to seek to hold those individuals.
It is the third choice that we are putting before the House this afternoon. If we were prepared to derogate, or if I were prepared to sign a certificate to send someone to their death because no third safe country was available, we would not be introducing the measure in this form. We are doing so precisely to avoid that eventuality. That is why—you will forgive me for mentioning this, Mr. Speaker—I have been slightly depressed over the past day or two about how the case has been put, and how some in the media who know better have sought to mislead those who have no reason to know better because they were not present, did not see and could not read about the steps that led to the establishment of SIAC precisely to deal with the circumstances that I described.
The right hon. Gentleman places great weight on the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. Surely he should remind the House that under the Act that established that commission, it is entitled to withhold from the detained person particulars of the reason why he is detained. Furthermore, the Law Officers of the Crown can appoint a representative for that person who is expressly stated not to be responsible to the persons whose interests he is appointed to represent. That is not a very good safeguard of rights.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman may make a judgment about whether that is acceptable to him, but it was acceptable to the whole House in 1997. Following a challenge in the courts in the case of Mullah Rehman, the Lords judged five weeks ago that both the process and the threshold of evidential base were acceptable and in line with what the House intended when it passed the Act unanimously in the first place.
I shall in two seconds—but first I shall answer the second element of the question.
The person who is adjudged to be a risk has the right to take on a legal advocate of his own. When the case reaches the point at which evidence is presented by the security and intelligence services the delivery of which—this is why SIAC was established—would put at risk the operation of the security services, and those working with them and for them, often covertly, an advocate from a list of advocates is provided, as in 1997 the House judged should happen, to allow evidence to be presented and the case on behalf of the person charged to be heard and properly dealt with legally. Then a right of appeal on a point of law to both the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords is provided in similar circumstances and with similar rights.
I take the view that in all circumstances the powers that my right hon. Friend is taking are necessary. I am not happy—no one could be—about what is happening, and I work on the assumption that several people have been allowed in who should never have been allowed in. Does my right hon. Friend accept that some of us who take that view are, despite his comments, worried about the lack of judicial review? If we introduce measures that no one likes, and people are to be locked up for reasons that we believe are justified, some form of judicial review—apart from what my right hon. Friend has been explaining—is all the more necessary, and its existence would make me much happier.
We would have to return to anything that the House decides about extradition or asylum issues more generally. All that we seek to do in the Bill is to make clear what SIAC and the Lords believe to be the case. In the cases that have gone to SIAC since the Act was passed four years ago, judicial review has not been sought, because the operation of SIAC has been judged to constitute a judicial review of the Home Secretary's certification. That is the issue that we are dealing with and that is why SIAC was seen as a substantial improvement on what existed previously.
The issue this afternoon is whether it is right that we should hold people in circumstances where we cannot transfer them to a third safe country, where the country to which we originally sought to transfer them does not have extradition agreements and therefore where their lives would be at risk, or whether we should release them into the community. At issue is an enhanced risk, post-
I also wish to make it clear that we do not think that a debate of one and a half hours would be adequate should we have to seek reaffirmation of the provision under the affirmative procedure and, with the agreement of the Leader of the House, we would seek to provide a more extensive opportunity for debate.
My question is not intended to be pejorative, because I am genuinely interested in the answer. Does the Home Secretary accept that there is a sea of difference between SIAC being used to deal with issues of deportation—with all the problems that SIAC has as a review body—and its being used to review decisions to incarcerate and imprison, indefinitely, without trial and, indeed, without charge? If evidence exists against the people about whom we have heard, why are they not being charged and tried in this country?
If the evidence that would be adduced and presented in a normal court were available, of course we would use it, as we have done in the past. We are talking today about those who are adjudged to have committed, organised and supported and helped those involved in terrorism worldwide in the circumstances of
I am coming to SIAC. It was the establishment of SIAC and the judgment in the Rehman case that upheld the threshold required and the nature of the way in which the evidence should be presented that answer my hon. and learned Friend's question. The House accepted, and the House of Lords agreed, that in some cases the nature of the evidence from the security and intelligence services will be such that it would put at risk the operation of those services and the lives of those who act clandestinely to help them if that evidence were presented in normal open court. That is the measure of the proposals this afternoon.
Can my right hon. Friend explain more about the way in which SIAC will operate in cases where he is making a certificate relating to articles 1(f) and 33.2 of the refugee convention, which do not simply cover people suspected of international terrorism? How do his comments about article 3 and returning people who may face the death penalty relate to clause 34, which the Home Office's explanatory notes say provides that, in considering whether those articles apply, there is no requirement to consider the threat to life or freedom of someone who is removed from the UK?
Clauses 33 and 34, while being separate from clauses 21 and 23, are related to them. Let us consider the example of someone who is picked up on suspicion of being involved in or engaged in terrorist acts while in transit through one of our airports. The moment they are picked up and there is the intention to remove them, they then claim asylum and the rights that go with it in terms of having their case heard through the asylum process. To be able to adjudge that in those circumstances the substantive case for asylum is not heard is to acknowledge the circumstances of the detention of someone who was about to leave the country or go about their business in another way without actually claiming asylum, who is then using the asylum machinery precisely to get round the existing law. That was debated immediately after
Following the consultation on extradition, we will be able in the Extradition Bill to deal with these matters more extensively, where extradition powers exist; however, where they do not, we have to be able to deal with the circumstances that we are discussing today. This is our home—it is our country. We have a right to say that if people seek to abuse rights of asylum to be able to hide in this country and organise terrorist acts, we must take steps to deal with them.
The underlying question is whether this measure is necessary. Is there really an issue arising out of
I will give way, but let me answer the question. I have posed one, so I think that I will answer it.
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer spent the weekend in Ottawa with colleagues from across the world. He was engaged, rightly and effectively, in getting 183 countries to affirm that they would establish what we have established—a terrorism finance unit—as a way of co-operating and getting to the bottom of the most careful and clandestine networks the world has known. My right hon. Friend spent the weekend encouraging people from 183 countries to do that not because there has not been a new threat but because the threat has increased dramatically. That is not merely because people acted as suicide bombers, flying planes into the World Trade Centre, but because they have openly declared that it is open season on all of us. They want to destroy our lives, our liberty, our values and our way of life. If 10 weeks makes such a difference in terms of perception, I despair of our being able to hold in our mind the gravity of what we have been dealing with and the threat that exists. The question is whether, proportionately and cautiously, we should take steps to protect ourselves.
I welcome the legislation that my right hon. Friend is bringing forward. After
I declare straight away that I do eat yoghurt and occasionally muesli—in the summer, I even wear sandals; but I do not suffer fools gladly. It seems to me that although the nation of course has a right to scrutinise what we are doing and to question us—to ask why on earth we are taking additional measures—we must also face up to things and be prepared to understand that people out there really want us to get a grip on any danger that threatens their or our lives, or the operation of this country—its economy, working and lifeblood. That is all that we seek to do this afternoon: to explain the necessity of having to take these actions and, on the back of them, of having to derogate.
Will my right hon. Friend accept the thanks of many Members in the Chamber for his new news today that debate on future renewals will not be limited to an hour and a half—unlike our debate on the motion that we are to discuss later tonight? Given the circumstances of the 40 nations that have signed the European convention and, indeed, of the United States itself, why does my right hon. Friend think that circumstances in the UK should lead us to suspend habeas corpus? That is not the case for those other nations, which were equally affected and, in one instance, much worse affected by the tragedy on
In the United States, the Patriot Act gives the Attorney-General sweeping powers of detention. It gives powers in terms of the ability of the Attorney-General first to certificate and then to hold people pending their removal from the country. Of course, they are not subject to article 3 of the European convention on human rights. In countries such as France—
I am still answering a question.
In countries such as France, where the investigatory magistrates have considerable powers, a different law applies. People can be—and have been—detained without trial while investigations are taking place, for up to four years in certain circumstances. From time to time, investigatory magistrates are challenged. Indeed, the French have been challenged in the European courts. When the challenges are upheld, the magistrates take a different approach, but based on French law, not British law.
I am proud of the fact that British law provides the human rights that are being defended and considered by all of us this afternoon. I am not intent on trawling through the anti-terrorist, criminal or civil laws of each country in order to abuse their systems, but I want to make one thing absolutely clear so that there is no mistake: those of us who are arguing the case this afternoon for additional powers are just as committed to human rights and civil liberties as those who legitimately and reasonably seek to oppose the powers. Some of us—in fact, all of us on the Government Benches—have spent our lives fighting for the civil liberties and empowerment of people who do not have access to wealth, privilege and power.
I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend, and I am glad that he rephrased what he said about our living together.
I do not doubt the intentions behind the Bill and the need for action following
I return to my original point, and I apologise to the House for making it again, but it is important to stress that we are seeking the powers in relation to detention and the use of SIAC precisely on the basis of our immigration and nationality provisions and the inability to send people to countries in which they would be put at risk.
The right to regular review exists; the right to leave the country exists; and the right to ask that Parliament reconsiders what we are asking it to pass in relation to these measures exists; but all that is based on the presumption that, in normal circumstances, we would have asked people to leave our country but that we have been unable to do so because their lives would thereby be put at risk. I shall give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North, because I promised to do so.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way; he is being most forbearing. He mentions the United States Patriot Act and the power of the US Attorney-General to detain people for up to four weeks. Will he confirm that, under the US constitution, any act by the Attorney-General is subject to scrutiny by the Supreme Court of the United States and cannot be excluded?
Well, it is, but that question has two answers. First, the person will be detained while that process takes place. Secondly, under the existing Acts and powers and in the circumstances where the Attorney- General would use his powers, military courts can also be used. In such circumstances, evidence can be presented in precisely the way that we intend under the SIAC process. I would not advocate such an approach, and I do not imagine for a moment that other hon. Members would.
"'international terrorism' does not include terrorism concerned . . . with the affairs of a part of the United Kingdom"?
Does that mean that individuals from Turkey, Florida or other places who help and finance the Real IRA or the IRA will not be covered by the Bill? Bearing in mind the fact that international terrorist organisations co-operate with one another and help one another with financing and training, is it not crazy to exclude the Real IRA from a Bill that deals with international terrorism?
When such a foreign national is suspected of international terrorism or linked with international terrorists, he would be subject to the Bill.
Yes. We can argue it out in Committee on Wednesday and I will be happy to do so. There will certainly be time to argue about that particular phrase.
I want to make progress by giving Members the opportunity to intervene on different parts of the Bill. Before I move quickly through the Bill in detail, I want to lay to rest once and for all the idea that, because action has been taken—action criticised by others—that has liberated two-thirds of Afghanistan from the threat of the Taliban, the threat has somehow gone away. It has not. It is worth bearing in mind the fact that a wounded and cornered tiger is more dangerous than ever.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his patience.
Further to the question raised by
My answer is unequivocally yes. Of course we would do that. The hypothetical question was not about the act that could be charged—such as organising terrorism in Northern Ireland—but about whether it could be shown that there was a link to terrorism world wide.
I am most grateful to the Home Secretary for his patience. Following on from the point made by my hon. Friend Fiona Mactaggart, do not the courts in this country have all the powers that they need to take evidence in camera, and are not judges able to clear the court? In respect of any evidence—my right hon. Friend identified it earlier—that prejudiced sources or the security forces or is prejudicial to the case, powers currently exist to hold part of a court trial in camera. The need to assume the wide powers in the Bill is not readily apparent.
My hon. Friend is right. The difficulty, as adjudged in passing the measure that set up the Special Immigration Appeals Commission and that results from the challenge of Mullah Rehman, is that some evidence is not admissible in such a court, but it is admissible in SIAC. That protects the security and intelligence services. The required threshold has to reach the level where SIAC adjudges that the decision taken by the Home Secretary on advice is correct. The Rehman judgment affirmed that what we believed to be the case over the past four years was indeed the case—that the threshold of evidence that would not be admissible in a normal court is acceptable in the SIAC process. I hope that that clarifies the position, because there has been a major misunderstanding about that at the public level. Although I have tried on various news and current affairs programmes to clarify the issue, it has not been possible to spell it out.
Parts I and II complement the Proceeds of Crime Bill in stopping organised terrorism and crime being perpetrated through money laundering by organised finance—a subject that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer considered in Ottawa. We are seeking the ability to freeze assets, to take unified action with other countries and to introduce restraining orders. I also referred to the terrorism finance unit.
Part 3 will enhance the power of disclosure to law enforcement agencies, with clear guidelines, and allow disclosure to be presented in constrained circumstances, including those that relate to criminal investigation.
Part 4 deals with the issues to which I have just referred. In addition, I intend to make a small amendment to clause 25. During the deliberations of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, it was pointed out to me that there should be a test of reasonableness. It is my intent, therefore, to introduce an amendment to clarify that. I hope that that information helps the House and shows that we are genuinely prepared to listen and respond to what is proposed on such matters.
Part 5 covers issues that relate to the controversy that has arisen in respect of religious hate. For the sake of clarification, I again want to put on the record what we seek we do. The debate on this subject has been going on for a long time. We were approached by leaders of the Muslim community—it was a representative leadership group—who thought that it was only right, fair and protective to include religion with race in terms of avoiding incitement to hate using the Public Order Act 1986. I considered that and decided that their point was fair and reasonable. That suggestion was also made when the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 went through Parliament and the Opposition pressed us hard to implement it. At the time, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who is now Foreign Secretary, accepted that there was a reasonable case for keeping it under review, but that it would not be introduced then.
Since then, others from the Muslim community—representative or otherwise—have said that they do not like the idea. It has been suggested—I heard people say this as recently as this morning on the radio—that it might be used against Muslims. That is true; it might, because Muslims are no less subject to the law than Christians, Hindus, Jews or anyone else. I do not want gesturism. I hope that the provision will protect all those who have deeply held religious beliefs from having that faith used to incite hatred against them. This is a public order Act, and it is the order that we are talking about. To be prosecuted, the power has to be used against the perpetration of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with—this is the crucial phrase—the intention and likelihood that racial hatred would be stirred up. That is the crucial element.
I will give way in a moment.
The case is to be adjudged by the Attorney-General and brought only if he believes that there is a case to be heard. That brings the law into line with those of the Jewish or Sikh faith who have already been adjudged by the courts to be covered by the term "race".
I am grateful to the Home Secretary for giving way and want to put a question to him from a Christian point of view. He will know, to use his own words, that two of the central foundations of the Christian faith—namely, that Jesus Christ was both man and God and that people can get into a relationship with God only through Jesus Christ—are deemed by some in other religions to be insulting and offensive. Indeed, in some countries it is so insulting and offensive that the very statement of Christian faith is enough to put someone in prison. Will the affirmation of those fundamental Christian beliefs fall foul of his Bill?
I fully support the Home Secretary's intention to extend to Muslims the protection afforded by race relations legislation to members of the Sikh and Jewish faiths. However, the problems with that legislation, including the exclusion of Muslims from its provisions, have simply been created by judges in their interpretation of it. Why does not the Home Secretary simply amend the Race Relations Acts of 1965 and 1976 to extend their protection to the Muslim community, rather than creating a new criminal offence? Will the Home Secretary acknowledge—
Religious discrimination is a different matter, and it does not relate directly to the issues that we have been debating, which are public reassurance and calm in our communities following the hatred and associated dangers arising from the events of
People are entirely entitled to their views on this matter, but including religion with race seemed to us to be a perfectly reasonable measure, associated as it is with the aggravated offence, which has been extremely successful—almost 22,000 such cases have been considered, and there have been 4,000 prosecutions.
May I put a very straight point to the right hon. Gentleman? Rev. Ian Paisley has on occasion said that the Pope is the anti-Christ and the whore of Babylon. Would that be illegal under this Bill? As a follower of His Holiness, I do not think that it ought to be illegal, because people should be allowed to say what they want.
The argument is not whether people should be allowed to say what they want but whether the intention, and the likely effect, of their comments is to stir up racial hatred. [Interruption.] Both the intent and the consequences will be the basis on which the Attorney-General will make a judgment on any individual case. The great strength of our democracy is that we can debate, and people can say what they believe, but another strength, represented by race hate legislation, is that we can prevent people from using that democracy to develop hate into attacks on other people.
I have paid careful attention to the column inches devoted to this matter. It is interesting that the very people who, in the weeks immediately after
There is an interesting debate to be had about the blasphemy laws—I said so to the Joint Committee on Human Rights—which apply only to the Church of England. However, this is not about religion or the blasphemy laws; it is about public order and whether we are taking the right steps to ensure that we broaden the definition in relation to hate and the aggravated offence. An amendment will undoubtedly be tabled on Wednesday, which we shall be able to debate; we will reflect on what was said back in 1998.
Part 6 deals with weapons of mass destruction and will extend the scope of the Chemical Weapons Act 1996. Those are precautionary measures but, in my view, quite sensible. Part 7 deals with dangerous substances and secures the necessary protection for laboratories and other places where they may be held. Part 8 increases security in and around civil nuclear installations and will enable the Office of Civil Nuclear Security to deal with that. Part 9 updates aviation security and makes improvements to the Aviation Security Act 1982, which has some extraordinary loopholes. Part 10 deals with policing.
They are to be used in specific circumstances. It is important to distinguish the MOD services that we are talking about from the military police; I read one article that clearly implied that we were talking about military police moving around with guns in their hands. We are not. I want to make it clear that any use of weaponry would be entirely under the provisions of the authorisation requested by police services in the normal way. We are talking about circumstances in which MOD services would be brought in, either on the request of the local police or where there was judged to be a definable emergency, and only for that period. It is right and proper that in the police reform legislation that we will introduce next year, we ensure that the normal powers for police complaints will be available; if there is any action under the measures by people acting in a certain way, there is no doubt that individuals will have normal protection.
Parts 9 and 10 also enable us to deploy the transport police in a more sensible way than is available at the moment; that is not controversial in any way. Part 11 deals with the retention—
I am grateful to the Home Secretary for that clarification. Why will the powers that he proposes to give the authorities require all communications data to be kept and the authorities to have access to them not simply for the purpose of safeguarding national security, which people will understand, but for the purpose of the prevention and detection of crime, which could be any crime whatsoever? Why are the powers so sweeping and far-reaching?
Because it has become abundantly clear that it is impossible to distinguish the issues when one cannot separate out crime and terrorist funding, crime and terrorist organisation, and crime used to fund terrorist acts. That is why there is a provision allowing data already held by the service providers to be held under the voluntary code that we intend to put in place.
We thank, as I did on
Part 12 deals with bribery and corruption. We were happy to respond to the many voices, including those in the House, calling for such provisions. Part 13 deals with a range—
I did not think for a moment that my friends on the Eurosceptic wing would allow that to pass. For clarification, the affirmative procedure would apply under part 13.
Clause 109(3) states that references to the treaty on European Union include references as amended by the treaty of Nice. As I understand it, the treaty of Nice has not yet been approved by all member states, and is unlikely to be approved by member states. Is it right to put into our law a provision amended by the treaty of Nice, when that treaty has not been approved by each member state?
I believe that the hon. Gentleman would be strongly in favour of our approving what we consider appropriate. The treaty of Nice and the Tampere European Council took forward provisions that were expected to be carried through in the usual way, after detailed scrutiny and an affirmative resolution. They included the 1995 and 1996 conventions on extradition, as well as laws updated in 2000 on mutual legal assistance. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was against the 1995 and 1996 provisions, but such measures are precisely the sort that will be carried through.
The provisions relating to arrest warrants, which have caused such interesting debate in Europe, not least when I was discussing them last Friday, will be carried through, subject to the agreement of the House, in the Extradition Bill, rather than in the measure before us. The Bill also contains provisions dealing with the manifests carried by carriers, to introduce the protections that we seek.
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, the Terrorism Act 2000 and the Bill provide the country with the power to defend itself, and provisions to monitor and scrutinise how that power is used, to ensure that Parliament is not ignored and can hold the Executive to account for the actions that they take, and to ensure that our security and intelligence services are used effectively.
I am aware of reports in the broadcast and print media of people abusing our intelligence and security services. On the basis of their performance 10 or 20 years ago, one or two commentators have called those services useless. They are not useless. Over the past few days, together with the Customs service, they have proved that by picking up those who threaten our lives in the United Kingdom from Ireland. We owe those services a debt of gratitude. Members of the police and security services, for instance, who approach vehicles that are about to explode in order to save the lives of others do not deserve the opprobrium of those who simply write columns and who have never in their lives taken the responsibility for making a decision, apart from what they would buy from Sainsbury's.
Let me put the matter simply, as though we were dealing with someone who has been invited into our home—someone who is not a member of our family, but who accepts our hospitality. Let us suppose we find that, in our home, they are undertaking actions that are unacceptable to us. In normal circumstances we would ask them to leave, but that might immediately put their life at risk. We would surely want to take steps in our home to ensure that we and our family were secure. Using the Special Immigration Appeals Commission and the powers that we are setting out in the Bill, we endeavour to do precisely that, while of course protecting the civil liberties gained over many years in our nation and including the power to set aside even the limited requirement of detaining people on a limited basis should it prove that the threat that emerged on
These are dangerous times—I think that is agreed across the House—and there are loopholes in our national security. That, too, is agreed across the House. However, the purpose of the House and of Parliament as a whole at a time such as this is not merely to enact into law the first set of propositions that occur to Her Majesty's Government, but to achieve an appropriate balance between public safety, which it is the Home Secretary's responsibility to protect, and individual liberty, which this House and Parliament as a whole were established to protect. Most of what I want to say relates to that balance and to the elements of the Bill that I and my hon. Friends believe do not appropriately strike that balance.
First, however, I want to say a word about process. I have discerned across the House, as everybody here must have done, a strong feeling that a few days—three days, in the case of this House—are not enough fully to scrutinise the Bill. However, I accept the severe time constraints under which the Home Secretary feels that he is operating. I also accept, therefore, that it is probably appropriate to allow this House and the other place the opportunity to make up ex post for what we will have failed to do ex ante, by providing a drastic set of sunset clauses so that Parliament as a whole will have a full opportunity to revisit almost all parts of the Bill regularly, and so that the great bulk of it will fall away unless Parliament chooses to re-enact it. We will then have the opportunity to see how it works in practice and to investigate whether the Home Secretary is correct, or whether some of the arguments that hon. Members, including me, will advance in this debate are proved right.
Does my hon. Friend accept the proposition that, although there may be parts of the Bill that are truly urgent, the great majority of it cannot from any viewpoint be considered as such? Is not the best way forward to identify that which is truly urgent, incorporate it into a one or two-part Bill and deal with the rest of the matter in proper order?
My right hon. and learned Friend and I will probably not wholly agree about this, but I am willing to take on trust and for the time being the judgment made by the Home Secretary, as he is in a position—whereas I am not—to understand what is urgent and where the loopholes are. If it turns out that some of the provisions were not needed or that they have not worked as the Home Secretary supposed, that will be an argument for them to fall. Of course, my right hon. and learned Friend will agree that some provisions should not have been included in the Bill in the first place. We will come to them in a moment.
Does not the hon. Gentleman accept that that is quite a comforting doctrine, as it says that if the House of Commons passes bad laws, that is good enough, as long as we know that we will return to them within 12 months? Does he accept that it would be far better if the House of Commons and the other place had time to consider the Bill carefully before it gets on to the statute book, and not after we have discovered that, as too frequently happens these days, we have made a pig's ear of it?
Of course, it would be better if we had more time now. However, I suspect that the hon. Lady would agree that the time needed to scrutinise the Bill in detail is not simply an extra couple of days. If that were the case, I am sure that the Home Secretary would give way to the argument. The problem is that consultation on a wide range of measures has been inadequate because of time. The Home Secretary believes that he needs powers now to protect us against a potential appalling attack on our fellow citizens. I am unwilling on behalf of my party to put my country at the risk of the Home Secretary being proved right. I am therefore willing in that exceptional case to accept the argument that we should reconsider the matter later.
I could not let that go. My hon. Friend's approach to the Home Secretary is sympathetic and could almost be described as osmosis. Although that may be admirable, let us consider part 12, which covers bribery and corruption. What is so urgent that it needs those provisions? What arises from
My hon. Friend is right. Part 12 is not an emergency measure. For a long time, Conservative and Liberal Democrat Members have called for legislation on bribery and corruption to implement our obligations under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development convention. I accept that the inclusion of the provisions constitutes an inelegance. However, it would be difficult for my party to oppose it given that we called for it.
I am grateful for the way in which the shadow Home Secretary expresses his genuine disagreements. I believe that the Conservative spokesman for international development suggested that the Bill would be a suitable vehicle for the provisions in part 12. I accepted that, given that it affects the OECD and the financial implications that the Chancellor tackled in Ottawa yesterday. The United States has said that it wants precisely such measures to help with anti-terrorist activity.
The general approach that the shadow Home Secretary intends to take to the Bill has excited a great deal of interest. Looking back at all those who have occupied the office of Home Secretary in the past 14 years, does he believe that it would have been legitimate in every case for Parliament to adopt the principle of "Trust me, I'm the Home Secretary"?
It is never appropriate to adopt a principle of trusting anybody. Parliament exists not to trust but to scrutinise. I wholly accept that we should be willing to pass legislation at the current pace only in the most exceptional national circumstances. That view has not always been shared by Labour Members.
However, when the Home Secretary of the day believes that an urgent threat to our national security needs to be resolved but Parliament does not have adequate time to do that through scrutiny, proper sunset clauses are the only way in which to proceed. I hope that there is general agreement on that and that the Home Secretary and members of the Treasury Bench will eventually subscribe to our drastic amendments on sunset clauses.
Meanwhile, we must not delude ourselves that it is sufficient to express the fears and hesitations that many of us may have about the short time available for scrutiny, or to use them as an excuse to sit back and refuse to carry out the scrutiny that we can in the few days that are available to us. We have tried to begin that scrutiny in the past few days. I shall give three examples of amendments that I believe we shall table jointly with Liberal Democrat Members. I hope that they will command wide support in the House of Commons and the other place.
Part 3 deals with disclosure and includes strong provisions to increase the amount of disclosure of personal details by Government agencies, including the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise. We shall try to limit that. The Bill would permit disclosure under the circumstances of any criminal investigation, including that of a minor offence. We want the provision restricted to terrorist-type offences.
Part 4 gives a definition of international terrorism that I believe simply contains an error. The response of the Treasury Bench will be interesting. The definition specifically excludes terrorism that is
"concerned only with the affairs of a part of the United Kingdom".
Members on both sides of the House will recognise that the effect of that is that, if someone comes to the UK from a foreign country to engage in the kind of terrorism that is specifically restricted to Northern Ireland, these provisions could not be used against them. That cannot be the intent of the Government, and we would want to see an amendment to that provision.
My third point relates to the section with which my hon. Friend Mr. Shepherd was concerned. Notwithstanding the short time available, we want to carry out what scrutiny we can on the section on bribery and corruption. Clause 106 contains another error. I understand from our legal advisers that the clause as drafted would have the effect of making it a common law offence—indeed, probably an imprisonable one—for a member of Her Majesty's security services to bribe a foreign official to get information to stop terrorism in the UK. That cannot be the intent of the clause, and we shall table amendments to cure that.
Does the hon. Gentleman share my concern over the wording of clause 21(2)(c), in which the definition of an international terrorist includes someone who
"has links with a person who is a member of or belongs to an international terrorist group"?
When we are taking such extreme powers, is association of that nature—and the way in which it could well be interpreted—really satisfactory?
I have to admit that, before the hon. Gentleman's earlier intervention, I had not taken proper note of clause 21(2)(c). I found his arguments compelling, and I shall discuss with my colleagues whether we could table an amendment to try to cure that anomaly too. I agree that there is a problem there, and I suspect that there are other problems lurking in the text of part 4.
Does my hon. Friend agree that a better way of dealing with that aspect of part 4 would be for the Government to use articles 57 and 58 of the European convention on human rights to gain reservation against article 3, so that those threatening national security could be deported to countries such as, say, the USA and India?
Not only do I agree with my hon. Friend, but I have spent a large amount of time in the last few weeks propagandising for that view. I shall come to that hugely important question in detail in a few moments. My hon. Friend is absolutely right.
I turn now to the three major elements of the Bill in which we see large-scale problems, and for which we do not think that scrutiny and detailed correction will suffice. The first relates to clauses 109 and 110, which, as the Home Secretary so helpfully pointed out, relate to the implementation of third pillar decisions by the member states of the EU. The clauses propose that such implementation should occur by statutory instrument.
The Home Secretary confirmed today what an earlier letter from one of his Ministers had hinted at, namely that it is his intention to implement the framework decisions on counter-terrorism and on the Euro arrest warrants through the forthcoming Extradition Bill, rather than through statutory instruments. We are grateful for that. On account of that, however, clauses 109 and 110 cannot be regarded as urgent. This cannot be regarded as an emergency provision if the very items most closely related to the emergency with which we are dealing are going to be implemented not by statutory instrument under the clauses, but by another route that is already available—primary legislation.
We have a case, therefore, against including clauses 109 and 110—at least as they are currently drafted—in emergency legislation, and a material case against them in any event. The whole point of the third pillar of the EU is that it gives member states an opportunity to continue to control the vital question of how they are governed from the point of view of their criminal law.
That is not just a matter of intergovernmentalism. To coin an adaptation of the words of Edith Cavell, intergovernmentalism is not enough. We need a continuing parliamentary check, so that it is possible to revise what Ministers in Brussels have decided between them. That is why we want these clauses to be restricted to the very narrow extradition proceedings to which the UK is already committed, and thereafter to lapse, so that we can return, as we believe that we should, to implementing EU third pillar decisions in primary legislation. To give an example, that would mean that with proposals such as the Euro arrest warrant, we would be able to argue for amendment—as we will—so that the Euro arrest warrant related exclusively to terrorism. Such amendment would be possible only under a Bill such as the Extradition Bill. It would not be possible if these clauses remain intact, so we want to excise them in that form.
Will my hon. Friend do more to emphasise his objection to clause 109? Is not the real objection that, hitherto, primary legislation has been required to put such measures into law? We are being asked to approve by way of emergency legislation, rushed through in two days, a state of affairs in which primary legislation will not be necessary to implement third pillar regulations. That would be done under the affirmative procedure—unamendable at that.
Does my hon. Friend accept that that objection is shared even by those hon. Members who are Europhile? It is not acceptable that, using the excuse of emergency legislation, the House should deny itself the opportunity properly to scrutinise what in most cases I would find perfectly acceptable had the House debated it properly.
I concur with my right hon. Friend. He and my right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Hogg were members of the Cabinet who gave us the third pillar and part of the point was precisely that the House should retain the right to control those matters by primary legislation. I believe that we should utterly resist including in this emergency legislation provisions that deny the House that right. So, incidentally, does the Home Affairs Committee. As in other areas, there is a distinct congruence of the views of Conservative Members and the Committee, which has in its ranks a majority of Labour Members.
I must reinforce my hon. Friend's point. Under title 6 of the European Union treaty, which deals with home affairs and some police matters in co-operative terms, primary legislation must be used.
My hon. Friend is right, and that is a strong point.
Part 5 contains clauses that largely relate to incitement to religious hatred. I put it on record that Conservative Members recognise that the Home Secretary has a noble motive in introducing them. He wants, as we want and as every Member of the House wants, to protect vulnerable religious communities. That is not an issue. Moreover, he has included clause 39, which makes it an aggravated offence to engage for religious reasons in an act that is anyway an offence. We are more than happy to subscribe to that clause.
We see a genuine distinction between an evil and illegal act committed by an individual for ulterior motives and such an act committed for religious reasons. The difference is that sectarian strife can ensue if the motive is religious. That is a consequence for society worse than even the offence itself. Therefore, just as with a racially aggravated offence, we see an argument for a religiously aggravated one. There we are at one with the Government.
I fear that we have the severest reservations about the rest of part 5—all those clauses that deal with incitement to religious hatred and the definitions that flow from it. In the first place, we are worried about including such provisions in emergency legislation. These are immensely delicate issues and there are huge questions of freedom of speech, some of which my hon. Friends and Labour Members have already raised.
I do not know, and I suspect that Ministers do not know, what will be the true extent of the legislation's effects. No clear answer was given to my right hon. Friend Mr. Gummer when he asked whether the Member who has called the Pope an anti-Christ would be affected. I do not know whether he would be affected. I do not want to subscribe to legislation that could have effects on free speech that none of us in the House knows.
May I put another case to my hon. Friend? If a religious group allows its children to die because it does not accept blood transfusions, and if I drew that to the attention of others, they might well be very angry about the death of the children. Would I be breaking the law in making a direct connection between the religious beliefs of that group, and the deaths that result? If so, it means that I cannot properly argue the case in this country in future.
I do not entirely know, and what worries me is that I am not certain that the Home Secretary has fully fathomed the answer. Earlier, in response to a question, he said that what had to be shown under sections 18 to 23 of the Public Order Act 1986—which are the relevant sections—was that the defendant intended to stir up religious hatred and that, having regard to all the circumstances, racial hatred was likely to be stirred up. It is not so. The word "intends" in section 18(1)(a) is governed by what follows—the word "or" followed by
"(b) having regard to all the circumstances racial hatred is likely to be stirred up".
There is all the difference in the world between those two little words "and" and "or".
I am sure that, under the "and" clause, my right hon. Friend's hypothesis would be unfulfilled—I am sure it would not be the case that he had intended to stir up racial or, in this instance, religious hatred. But whether, having regard to all the circumstances, religious hatred would be likely to be stirred up by such a statement, I do not fully know—and I do not believe Members will know unless and until judges make decisions.
My hon. Friend brings me to the second of my deep concerns about clause 39.
We stand at a very difficult moment for the country, for reasons that the Home Secretary rightly adduces. We are potentially under attack; but this is also a difficult moment because relationships between the Muslim community and the remainder of our citizens are tense. That is acknowledged on both sides, and the Home Secretary and I share an earnest desire for the tensions not to be aggravated.
The Home Secretary rightly said that a piece of legislation of this kind could and would apply to Muslims, as to all our fellow citizens. That is how our law operates: it is blind to the persons with whom it is dealing. My hon. Friend, however, has raised a vital question. It can be replicated in many other ways. We must ask whether the editor of The Muslim News will find that he or some of his writers are under threat. Will Muslims feel that the use of this law against them at this time might have deleterious consequences?
We are dealing with a matter of great delicacy. It deserves to be part of a considered debate featuring wide consultation and deep thought over a prolonged period, and very probably allied to the resolving of the whole question of religious discrimination, which is the item that most worries most religious minorities. We firmly believe that it would be far better to remove these clauses, and to leave the Bill to concern itself with items that are genuinely to do with terrorism—this is not such an item—so that we can return later to consider, properly and deliberately, the question of religious discrimination and all the attendant questions.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that when I raised the matter with the Home Secretary in the House a couple of weeks ago, he expressed complete incomprehension in regard to claims made by me at that time, and made today by, for instance, Mr. Gummer and Mr. Hogg?
Although we could argue about clause 39, on religiously aggravated offences, I go along with the rest of the hon. Gentleman's view. I think that it is extremely significant that the Home Affairs Select Committee has taken the view that
"We have not seen sufficient evidence to justify the proposition that extending the law of incitement to include religious as well as racial hatred will work in practice . . . We therefore see no reason for this measure to be included in this emergency Terrorism Bill."
I hope that the Home Secretary will heed those remarks from a source that is not partisan and that he will see fit to withdraw those clauses.
It may be helpful for the hon. Gentleman to have confirmation that, having talked to the Christian and other faith communities, we believe that the strong preference of all faith communities is the one that has been expressed by him and by Mr. McWalter. The faith communities believe that we should legislate carefully and separately on the issue and that we should not mix debates on terrorism with those on how we protect people's faith and their right to criticise faith. That view should be a support for the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues. It is also held by a very large coalition which I detect may find favour in a few days in the other place.
I wholly agree with that, and our soundings among the same communities have produced the same results. I also think that the hon. Gentleman has, by allusion, made an enormously important point. To confuse protection of any minority, but particularly Muslim minorities, with counter-terrorism is itself to make an elision that is dangerous in the current circumstances. Muslims are not, as the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister have freely and frequently acknowledged, terrorists. Muslims are Muslims—they are from a religion—and terrorists are terrorists. We do not want to be discussing the one in the same breath as the other.
Part 4 contains the internment clauses which have caused most of the scintillating debate today. If these clauses are to remain in the Bill—in a moment I shall give the reasons why I believe that there is a much better route to use than that type of internment—they will need amendment. However, I think that the Home Secretary may have started to move in directions that are welcomed by Opposition Members.
Clause 21(1)(a) currently requires the Home Secretary merely to believe that the person in question who is to be interned is a risk to national security. In the context of that inevitably draconian power, there should surely be at least a requirement for substantial grounds for belief. I think that that chimes with the Home Secretary's welcome statement earlier today that there would be some form of reasonableness constraint. I should like a reasonableness constraint allied to substantial grounds.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that desirable though such provision may very well be, and although such provision may well be included in the Bill, if judicial review remained—and there seems to be absolutely no reason why it should not remain— the divisional court would import a question of reasonableness into the test in any event?
The hon. and learned Gentleman moves me on to my next point, on judicial review. Perhaps unlike him, I sympathise with the Home Secretary's desire to exclude from consideration by judicial review the decision made by the Home Secretary himself.
Yes. I believe that the Home Secretary fears that, if the merits of his decision are subject to judicial review, the merits will be subject to judicial opinion. He believes, and I have some sympathy with this line of thought, that it is the Home Secretary of the day—
I promise the hon. and learned Gentleman that, if he can contain himself, I am about to make a point that will fully expose my view. Then I shall be happy to enter debate with him.
The Home Secretary believes that it is the Home Secretary of the day, in the democratically elected and accountable Government, who should decide, on the merits of the case, whether the individual concerned is a danger to our national security. I can sympathise with that view, although with the profoundest doubts and hesitations.
However, I cannot sympathise with the further leap that the current text takes, of entirely excluding judicial review. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission was set up not for the purpose of determining whether a person should be detained indefinitely, but for other and lesser purposes. Although, as the Home Secretary rightly says, that body was originally established with a view, de facto, to reviewing judicially decisions made by the Home Secretary, it is not constituted in a manner that gives sufficient assurance that by itself it will always act properly.
The Lord Chancellor sets out the rules for that body, and we want at least an amendment that makes it possible to test by judicial review whether the body followed its own rules. That must be the absolute bare minimum of procedural constraint. To take a ludicrous example—
I should hate the hon. Gentleman to embark on a ludicrous example before I was able to challenge him on a less ludicrous one. Surely the right of appeal to the Court of Appeal and, if given leave, to the House of Lords on a point of law is itself a point of law relating to whether the SIAC process has been observed properly by the High Court judge and those sitting with him.
No. I have taken legal advice on the matter—as, obviously, has the Home Secretary—and we shall argue it out in Committee. As I understand it, an appeal on a point of law would not lie if there was a procedural irregularity in the conduct of SIAC. To take what I hope is a ludicrous example—although it has happened in English courts—if the person presiding over the commission on a given occasion were asleep during its proceedings, I understand that the Home Secretary would debar legal review of the decision to put someone into an English jail indefinitely, notwithstanding the fact that the person presiding was asleep. That needs reviewing.
May I say, slightly painfully, that in this respect I agree entirely with the Home Secretary? That would be a matter of law, and would clearly be covered. The real problem surely relates to an attack on the merits, on which a Minister decides, on the basis that someone will be incarcerated indefinitely. For that not to be reviewable is abhorrent. Does the hon. Gentleman not understand that in judicially reviewing a Minister's decision, the divisional court does not say whether it agrees or disagrees with the Minister? It must find that no reasonable Minister would have come to that conclusion. In my experience that has always been so: I cannot think of a single case in which the divisional court has not dutifully followed that principle.
The hon. Gentleman makes a powerful case, to which we shall attend and, perhaps, return in Committee. The question is whether the judicial review might be restricted to a kind of reasonableness that genuinely does not seek to judge whether the Home Secretary was right. That elision increasingly worries Members on both sides of the House. If the definition could be genuinely restricted to the case of reasonableness as it was originally understood, Opposition Members would have considerable sympathy for such an amendment.
I understand why my hon. Friend is reluctant to subject to judicial control the Home Secretary's decision about whether someone is likely to be a threat to national security. That is a qualitative judgment and is difficult to make, and therefore rather difficult to subject to appeal. The question whether someone is associated with a terrorist organisation, or whether reasonable grounds exist to suspect that he or she is, is ultimately a matter of fact. I put it to my hon. Friend that there is a strong case for that issue to be the subject of an appeal and review procedure.
My right hon. and learned Friend makes another important point, and I am more than prepared to consider that, too, in the 24 hours that are available to us. We may return to it in Committee. Indeed, I have no doubt that he will want to return to it in Committee, by which time we may be willing to support him.
Those are all very fine legal points and distinctions, but for many of us the important question is whether the person who is to be incarcerated should know the reasons and evidence on which that incarceration will rely. We are saying that we will have to depend on the good faith of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I have great respect for my right hon. Friend, but there have been other Home Secretaries, in other circumstances, whose objectivity has been more coloured by the need to retain popular support than by the interests of justice and the individual. It is because we believe that a person should know the evidence that is being used to justify his incarceration that we object to this part of the Bill.
The hon. Gentleman takes us beyond the question of the process to be used and advances an argument against part 4 as a whole. There I leave him, because the Home Secretary and the Government do not currently have a viable alternative. They should develop such an alternative, which returns us to the point made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham a moment ago.
It surely is not beyond the wit of the Home Secretary, or of man generally, to come up with a process that can accommodate the protection of the rights of the individual subject to the detention order and the necessary requirements of the secret services to protect their sources of information. Those are both proper things to want to protect, so surely, between the 659 of us, we can devise a process that would achieve both aims.
I agree that it ought not to be beyond the wit of the House—and the other place, which may have a large role to play—to devise such a balance in part 4. That should be our primary purpose in Committee and it should be the primary purpose of the other place. I hope that we will devise such a scheme and amend the Bill accordingly. If we are unable to do so, a drastic revision after a year may enable us to correct what we have been unable to get right now. Between those two possibilities, I hope that we will get nearer to having a part 4 with which we feel more comfortable.
We cannot ever feel wholly comfortable with part 4 because it poses two difficulties. The first, which concerns some Labour Members and some of my hon. Friends, is that each time we intern people—under whatever procedure—indefinitely and without a full trial, we create another precedent that, in the long run after an accumulation of precedents, may prove dangerous to our liberties. That is a worry. Secondly, and ironically, we may cause a risk to our society. The Home Secretary rightly seeks to protect British citizens from attack by means of the Bill, but if people connected with terrorism are interned without trial in our jails, that may be a potential cause of their friends, relations, allies and compatriots taking action from the outside to seek to liberate them through hostage taking, reprisals or other measures. Will the Bill impose an additional risk on us?
For those reasons—the reason of precedent, which every hon. Member takes seriously, and the reason of increased risk—we should have a viable alternative to putting people in jail indefinitely. In my opinion, there is a viable alternative because the Home Secretary is in an unusual position. Most of our predecessors would have found it astonishing to be told that a British Home Secretary who had serious grounds for believing that an individual posed a threat to the stability of our society and the safety of our population was unable to prevent that individual from entering the country. That is indeed an astonishing state of affairs. It is yet more astonishing that on discovering that such an individual is in this country, the Home Secretary is unable to remove him. He is unable to do those things not because of article 3 of the European convention on human rights, which is often cited, but because of what the judges have decided in cases such as Chahal and Soering, which was not part of the original intention of the drafting of article 3.
The original statements that gave rise to the convention make it abundantly clear that the intention was to make it impossible for a country that subscribed to the convention to engage in inhuman or degrading treatment of its citizens or anyone else in its country—something to which I wholly subscribe. The judges extended that doctrine so that it was impossible for the Home Secretary's predecessor—a man whose politics I do not share but who is, by any standards, a reasonable man—to remove to India, which is not in a state of barbarism but has a proper legal system, two individuals whom he conscientiously judged to be a risk to this country. That strikes me and my right hon. and hon. Friends as absurd.
The Home Secretary has today helped enormously to take the debate forward in a constructive fashion by reinforcing the very point to which we have been trying to draw attention. Under articles 57 and 58 of the European convention on human rights, it is clearly possible—we have taken formal legal opinion on this and no doubt the Home Secretary has employed half the English Bar to consider it—to engage in an inelegant manoeuvre to remove ourselves from the convention for a millisecond and re-enter with a reservation, parallel to, though much more restrictive than, the reservation that the French have entered in respect of national emergency. That would enable the Home Secretary to have two weapons at his disposal. I think that the one to prevent entry or remove the person in question will be used more often.
In the extreme circumstance that someone would be sent back to a most ghastly death and the Home Secretary judged that the risk to this country of interning him would not be so great as to make even that tolerable, then it is reasonable, I think—just, and with my heart sinking—for the right hon. Gentleman to put that person in indefinite detention, at least until the country in question becomes reasonable enough for him to return that person there. Instead, the Home Secretary is creating a situation in which he is willing to put at some risk our civil liberty precedents and our safety, as far as reprisals are concerned, simply to avoid that inelegance. I find that astonishing.
I hope that the Home Secretary will reconsider this state of affairs and take action. I do not believe that primary legislation is required at this stage. Oddly enough, in the Human Rights Act 1998, the same provisions apply to reservations subsequent as to derogations subsequent. The same kind of order that we will be debating later could apply to reservations. The Home Secretary could take action without any significant primary legislation being necessary in the short term. I hope that he will look again at the question and spare many of us the great anxieties to which part 4 gives rise by providing himself with a proper viable alternative.
The hon. Gentleman's word "inelegant" is an elegant way of describing sending people back to countries where they might be killed, tortured, subject to inhuman treatment or the target of American bombs. The statements of the leaders of the United States make it clear that countries that take into their territories people even suspected of terrorism will be legitimate targets. The hon. Gentleman is not asking my right hon. Friend to do that, is he?
We are talking about a fine balance. I respect the hon. Gentleman's pure position. However, does he really believe that the fact that someone comes from what, by our standards, is an unpleasant country—even if it has a perfectly proper judicial system—justifies us opening ourselves to the possibility of an appalling attack on our fellow citizens? The logic of his twin attack on part 4 and on my alternative is that the Home Secretary exposes us to that very risk. I am struggling to preserve so far as possible the fabric of our liberties while giving the Home Secretary the greatest possible scope to protect our public safety. It is that twin act—not so pure, but desperately important—in which we as a Parliament must try to engage.
On that basis, we should never have taken into our country any refugees who were Jews, because they were likely to be followed by German Nazi persecution—[Hon. Members: "Rubbish!"] That is the logic of the hon. Gentleman's argument. In the words that he used to describe the countries to which people were being sent, he also supports and strengthens the case being made by my right hon. Friend.
My mother-in-law left Germany in 1939. Her entire family was wiped out. I am rather grateful that this country received her because it gave me my wife. If she had come here with the intention of blowing up Londoners I do not think that she should have been let in. That is the argument I am making. I am not making it because I do not care about refugees: I do—passionately. I am making it because the Home Secretary has to balance our protection against the protection of individuals who are seeking entry. That seems a rational position.
Does my hon. Friend agree that there is also a great inelegance because in the present circumstances we are saying to countries such as India, which have become independent, that we do not trust them as they should be trusted? We are thus taking a view that they must find immensely offensive. I do not understand why those who are most enthusiastically anti-imperialist should take upon themselves a role that they would not adopt in any other circumstances.
My right hon. Friend is unequivocally right. The case of India shows his point clearly. Let me take him one step further: if Mr. bin Laden were not to be apprehended and eliminated by British troops currently trying to kill him—as I understand it—but were to make his way to the UK and to say to the Home Secretary's officials that he was claiming asylum, not only would they have to admit him to this country but it would be impossible subsequently to extradite him to the United States if the Americans insisted on applying the death penalty to him. British troops may hunt someone down to kill him abroad, but if he enters this country we cannot return him to sit on death row in the United States—irrationality!
In case anyone should think of writing that up as a tremendous debating point, I make it clear that we have had an extradition agreement with the United States since 1974. We understand precisely where we are on that. It was not the Government but the courts who judged that we should not extradite or remove to India, so we come full circle: the hon. Gentleman is deciding—is he not?—not simply that we should disavow but that we should have to withdraw from the European convention on human rights. That is what he is saying.
To repeat: the opinion we have obtained suggests that it would be perfectly possible to withdraw for a millisecond and to re-accede with a reservation. However, the Home Secretary has made an extremely odd point. Our treaty and understandings with the United States rely on the American states to which we are extraditing individuals not applying the death penalty. If an American state or the federal Government insist on applying the death penalty, I cannot understand how it can be right to refuse to extradite a gentleman whom we are trying to kill elsewhere. That is irrational.
I have spoken for too long, for which I apologise to the House. I have done so mostly because I have tried to answer a number of interventions, as the Home Secretary did on a much more magnificent scale. I hope that, in the succeeding few hours, we shall have a calm but effective debate on the detail of the Bill, which poses fundamental issues for our liberties and safety. I hope that in Committee, in this House and in the other, we shall make changes that will make the Bill not perfect—we cannot hope to do that with this rush—but at least better. Finally, I hope that, in a year and in two, three and four years from now, Parliament will have the chance to reconsider the provisions and to decide how many of them are really necessary and how many need further amendment. If we can achieve that in Committee, in this House and in the other, Parliament will have done its job.
I do not suppose that any hon. Member welcomes this Bill because we all regret the circumstances that have made it necessary. We wish that there was not a growing threat of terrorism and growing evidence of people provoking and inciting racial hatred and discrimination, but, sadly, there is. We face a dilemma: we are presented with emergency legislation, but we have to recognise that these laws are likely to have to remain in place for many a long year and that they might be strengthened and amended later to combat the threat of terrorism.
Attempting to curb terrorism will be a long process, but we have a duty to protect our law-abiding fellow citizens going about their business or, for that matter, going about their pleasure, and we also have to make a measured response. We must always bear it in mind that one of the objectives of terrorism has been, is now and will be to get us to conspire with the terrorists to bring our valued institutions into disrepute and to get us unnecessarily to erode our democratic standards, so we must be very careful.
The Home Secretary has had a very difficult job in attempting to strike a balance. Broadly speaking, he has got it about right, although hon. Members on both sides of the House have many detailed criticisms. However, I hope that, in the spirit that has been embodied in virtually all the contributions, he will listen to the points that have been made and consider additional safeguards where they can be provided without undermining the general strength of what he is trying to do.
I want to concentrate on the proposal to make incitement to religious hatred a crime in the same way that incitement to racial hatred is a crime. That proposal seems to have provoked a great deal of adverse comment from the commentariat in the newspapers, hardly any of which seems to have addressed the background to the proposal.
The proposal has been introduced because Muslims have been victims of religious hatred and discrimination not just since the murderous events in New York and Washington, but for years. Muslim mothers collecting children from primary schools have been abused and assaulted. Muslim homes have been stoned and fire bombed. Well-qualified Muslim young people have been denied the jobs that they expected to get. All that has happened because of religious hatred and discrimination, yet Muslims have been denied some of the protection that is rightly afforded to other groups.
Incitement to racial hatred and discrimination has been unlawful since 1965, and most of the arguments now being put against making incitement to religious hatred and discrimination unlawful are exactly the same as those put in the 1960s. The problem is that the racial hatred laws cover some religious groups—for example, Sikhs and Jews—where religion and ethnicity coincide, but that is not the case with Muslims. Muslims, if they are a group at all, are a religious group, not an ethnic grouping. Devout Muslims feel resentment because they know that the blasphemy laws do not cover their religion.
I support the proposal to outlaw incitement to religious hatred. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary pointed out, the scope has been limited so it does not pose a substantial threat to freedom of speech. I agree that it will be hard to enforce—the law against incitement to racial hatred has been difficult to enforce—but it is not impossible.
We must remember that the law is declaratory. Making incitement to racial hatred discriminatory and unlawful changed society's view of the awful things that had gone on in the past. The law declared that such incitement was wrong and at the moment we are not declaring that incitement to religious hatred and discrimination is wrong. I believe in equality before the law, so I am glad that the Home Secretary accepted our argument that the proposed change in the law should apply to people of any religious belief.
The law should also protect people of no religious belief, because 40 to 45 per cent. of the population of this country—and I am one of them—subscribe to no religious belief. Atheists and agnostics are just as entitled as anyone else to protection against fanatics having a go at them. We should all be equal before the law. We need to right a wrong against Muslims and I believe that this change will do that.
As my right hon. Friend pointed out, the change will have two effects on the Muslim community. It will protect them from attack, and also constrain immoderate attacks by some of them, which is only right and proper. Equality before the law is what we believe in.
If we pass this measure, it will remove the last fig-leaf of legitimacy for the present law on blasphemy. As long ago as 1949, Lord Denning described it as a "dead letter". In 1967, Parliament repealed the Blasphemy Act 1697 and in 1985 the Law Commission recommended—and no wonder—that the common law offence of blasphemy should be abolished. It has never been clearly defined. People may commit a crime without knowing that they are doing so. Despite that, there is strict liability, so if people commit a crime they may be guilty even if they never intended to cause offence in either sense of the word.
The last time that the courts considered the matter in 1991, it was decided that not Christianity but only the Church of England was covered. That relied on the summing up of a judge in Gathercole's case at the York summer assizes in 1838. I am proud of my native city and its contribution to English history, but that is ridiculous. There is no reason why any religion should require special protection over and above what the Bill intends to provide.
No, I am afraid I do not have time.
I understand that the Archbishop of Canterbury and others have objected on the grounds that the change might lead to things being said that cause offence to people of deeply held religious beliefs. Deeply held religious beliefs are not a monopoly of the Church of England. Roman Catholics, Quakers, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews and Sikhs all have deeply held religious beliefs and have no protection at all from blasphemy. Although I am not a believer, I recognise their deeply held beliefs and I do not believe that the Church of England is in such a bad state that it needs some special measures. As my right hon. Friend knows from his experience as Secretary of State for Education and Employment, special measures are usually an indication of real trouble.
I have tabled an amendment, which I understand that my right hon. Friend favours. It was drafted by the Law Commission and comprises just 84 words to amend a Bill of 114 closely printed pages. I hope that he will ignore his officials and, if the Archbishop of Canterbury has objected, that he will ignore him. The Church of England should learn to stand on its own feet.
I am reminded of a glorious episode—and I mean that—in the history of the Church of England when Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley were being got at by Catholic theologians. It was said that Cranmer leant upon Master Latimer in the argument, Master Latimer leant upon Master Ridley and Master Ridley leant upon the singularity of his own wit. People in the Church of England should now lean upon the singularity of their own wit and look after themselves. They do not need the state to protect them.
One more sentence; it is an early intervention.
My party believes—in this respect, I share the Home Secretary's view—that it is better to legislate on this matter in the context of other changes in faith legislation, with slightly more time given to them after we have dealt with the emergency provisions that make up the principal part of the Bill.
That is certainly part of our case. I shall return to the argument that, when we legislate on faith, freedom of speech and so on, we need to be careful to consider whether we can do it reasonably in a total of two or three hours in the House of Commons, because it will be almost incredible if we can. To think that Parliament as a whole can do it in a couple of weeks is certainly incredible, and we will be in big trouble if we try, because we will be doing a disservice to members of all faiths and because it will be disrespectful. I hope that we can agree on the process even if we have different views—as there are in all parties—about the laws that we should have.
On a more formal note, I thank the Home Secretary, his ministerial team and their officials for the courtesy that they have shown to me, my colleagues and, I believe, Conservative Members in trying to keep us abreast of the preparation of the legislation before it came into the public domain last week. We may disagree—as we do—about some of its elements and about the process, but on the matter of personal political co-operation, I hope that the three main parties have behaved as efficiently as possible given that the Government have an army of civil servants and all the cards at the beginning, and the Opposition parties do their best with the cards that they are dealt at the end. We have also tried to work co-operatively and intelligently with Mr. Letwin and his team, so that the politicians disagree only when we really disagree and do not spend time engaging in artificial disagreements when there is little between us.
May I take this opportunity to associate myself with the hon. Gentleman's remarks? I, too, thank Ministers for now distributing early versions of their amendments to us for consideration. They are gratefully received. I hope that the Bill will be an example of scrutiny in opposition, with the Opposition parties working together in co-operation in a way that does service to the nation.
That is the formalities over. It is important that we send people the message that we are trying to be adult and responsible politicians as we deal with difficult matters in difficult times.
Liberal Democrats share with all other responsible community leaders the view that exceptional times sometimes need exceptional measures. The
This debate, however, is not about what we do abroad; today's questions relate to what we do at home. Are the United Kingdom's laws sufficient to deal with the threat, or do they need to be strengthened because we did not foresee the provisions that we would need?
I remind colleagues that only a year ago we passed the Terrorism Act 2000, and only a little earlier we passed the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. Those two major Acts give the state considerable new powers, and before we legislate further we should consider whether those are not enough.
We are all seeking to ensure that we get the balance right between the powers that the state properly needs in exceptional times and the liberties that people should have whatever situation we are in. That is self-evidently important because we have no written constitution. With some exceptions, Parliament is supreme, so we have a particular job to do. If, for example, we deny people the opportunity to go to court to have a decision of the Executive investigated, there is no place to which they can turn for a remedy.
There are two fundamental justifications for the Bill. The first is that we need additional powers to deal with terrorists, and the second is that we need an emergency timetable to put those powers into statute within days. However, the problem is that the Bill deals not only with national and international terrorism but with many other matters. Liberal Democrats' first objection is that if we are to be asked to legislate in haste to deal with terrorism, we should do just that, and not tackle matters that are in the Government's queue for action or that it will be convenient to append to this already significant project.
When the Home Secretary was asked why the Bill contains phrases such as "any other criminal offence," he said, in a telling response, that it is because the offences cannot be separated out. That is not the argument that we heard from his colleagues last year when we legislated on terrorist offences. If we are trying to deal with terrorism, as much of the Bill does, we should limit the legislation to that because it gives the state particular additional powers. Other, less serious, crime should not be dealt with in the same way, and there should be no general removal of rights from the defendant or suspect.
Our second objection, which has also been voiced by Conservative Front Benchers, is that time limits are imposed at only two points in the Bill. There is a time limit on the opt-out from article 5 of the European convention on human rights and a possible time limit on some of the powers on data regulation in part 11. Like the Conservatives, we say clearly to the Government that unless, by the time the Bill leaves Committee, it contains general provisions requiring us to legislate again when we have time to do so properly, it will not be acceptable. There is a precedent for such legislation—we have introduced emergency powers for Northern Ireland, as many colleagues know well. In that case, there was not only an annual renewal provision but a requirement for Parliament to re-enact legislation to make sure that what was done in haste was considered more carefully later on.
I need not remind hon. Members that history tells us that legislation rushed into statute for a short period often remains in place for a very long time, and legislation pushed through the House quickly is often very poor. I shall give a minor example. At 4.30 pm my hon. Friend Mr. Burnett went to a delegated legislation Committee dealing with a Home Office measure on the rehabilitation of offenders in England and Wales. From the fact that the Committee had to be adjourned because the measure was not accurately or adequately drafted, we can see the need to get our legislation right. With the greatest respect to the members of that Committee, this Bill is much more wide-ranging and much more dangerous in its implications than that statutory instrument, and we need to learn the lesson.
We welcome the omission from the Bill of two provisions that were talked about and, in one case, even announced. We welcome the fact that the provision for additional sentencing powers for what are colloquially called "anthrax hoaxes" is not retrospective, because that would have been quite wrong. We are grateful that Ministers heard the opposition to that idea and decided not to proceed. Secondly, in his statement of
I can be very brief about the bulk of the Bill. There are generally good things in eight of its 14 parts. Parts 1 and 2, which deal with the proceeds of crime, terrorist property and freezing orders, are by and large acceptable. My only comment today is that they should logically be part of the Proceeds of Crime Bill, which is in Committee at the moment. I hope that, by the time this Bill has passed through the House, those provisions will be more correctly located with their parent legislation.
Without going into detail, parts 6, 7, 8 and 9 contain measures that the House wants to put into statute. It is obvious, for example, that we ought to be improving aviation security, so we welcome and support those measures.
The hon. Gentleman says that we welcome and support those measures, and he may be right, but does he agree that the process that we have embarked on should enable us to consider them properly and in detail?
I thoroughly agree. Those parts of the Bill seem to be related to terrorism, so they pass the first test, but we will not be given the opportunity to consider them in detail, so they do not pass the second test. That is why I hope that, whatever view the right hon. and learned Gentleman takes on other matters, he will join us in voting against the programme motion later.
I shall come to the Bill. We cannot begin to deal with those provisions in the two Committee days that are to be allocated. As Mr. Shepherd said, a maximum of 16 hours' consideration of a Bill of this size is not possible or justifiable, however exceptional the circumstances.
My comments on the two remaining parts are less controversial. The bribery and corruption measures in part 12, to which we may table detailed amendments, have been included only as an exception to the rule. There was agreement between the three main parties that those measures were not controversial because everybody had argued for them and they were potentially linked to terrorism. Part 14 makes general provision.
So much for agreement—it does not apply to the rest of the Bill. Parts 3 and 11 deal with very important matters concerning the rights of the state to interfere in communications, to find out what communications, technological or otherwise, are passing between people and to require people in the communications industry to hold on to that information for much longer. We have only just legislated in that area. If we need more powers, they should be strictly limited to matters to do with terrorism, and they should be much more narrowly drawn. We shall seek to amend parts 3 and 11 to that effect.
Part 10 relates to police powers. We are told that there will be a police Bill later this Session, so we could reasonably expect those powers to be introduced in that. I ask the House to take care and to seek much more satisfactory answers about two measures in particular before it agrees to them. The first is the power enabling the police to require somebody to remove coverings that they are wearing, even when they have not been arrested or taken into custody. Somebody could be wearing a hood on their way to a football match; they could be taking part in a demonstration on globalisation issues; or they could be wearing a piece of clothing traditional to their culture. It is dangerous to propose seeking powers to identify people before they are believed to have done anything wrong and when there has been no arrest for suspicion an offence. I hope that in due course we can remove that provision from the Bill.
If they are suspected of committing an offence, they can be arrested and dealt with in the normal way. I understand what the issue is and that it is a matter for debate, but we cannot debate it properly in two days.
The second controversial area relates to whether the Ministry of Defence police and the transport police should have jurisdiction outside their natural territory. Such a provision is left over from the Armed Forces Act 2001. It was got rid of before the election, but is now being reintroduced. Colleagues all over the country, both north and south of the border, have serious concerns about the tight control of policing of non-specialist parts of the country other than by conventional territorial police. Clearly, we seek change on that.
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that, although he accepts a small number of clauses relating directly to the current emergency, almost two thirds of them, which he has carefully enumerated, are not acceptable to him or his party? If that is the case, will he give an undertaking that he will oppose the Bill?
I beg the hon. Lady's pardon. No one could fail to recognise that she is a lady, unless they were momentarily inattentive; I apologise again.
I have tried to make it clear that eight parts of the Bill seem to relate to terrorism. Six parts either do not relate to the subject or go much wider than we would wish. In a second, I shall explain how we propose to deal with that, both today and in the days ahead. Madam Deputy Speaker—[Interruption.]—I am sorry, I mean Mr. Deputy Speaker—[Laughter.] I have a defence, as the occupant of the Chair has just changed, unlike the sex of Mrs. Dunwoody, which is well known to be permanent.
I shall move on to race and religion, which may be safer than gender and sex. Liberal Democrat Members have made the point that the Bill includes perfectly reasonable propositions to remove the blasphemy law which applies only to the Church of England; we support that and have long argued for it. We have long subscribed to the need for an equality Bill, which treats all faiths equally. Mr. Dobson made the point that race relations legislation does not protect all faiths equally.
The Bill makes specific proposals both on incitement to religious hatred and on aggravated offences. I hope that I have made clear our view that we ought not to legislate on such sensitive areas now; incitement to religious hatred comes into that category. If the House is minded to deal with the much easier matter of accepting the aggravated offence of religious hatred and sentencing on it, we ought to follow the proposal of the Scottish Executive, which was put to the Scottish Parliament last week, to consult more widely and relatively quickly on religious incitement but to legislate separately. The Scots are not buying into that aspect of the legislation; I hope that the United Kingdom Parliament will not buy into it either. If we are trying to make sure that community relations improve as a result of the crisis of the past two months, we need to ensure that we do not act in ways that would make it more likely that they worsened.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that a substantial number of Muslim people have been asking for equality before the law for years—so long, for instance, that the Law Commission's 1985 report on blasphemy canvassed the idea of an offence of creating religious hatred? Although it is convenient to include such a provision in the Bill, it can scarcely be regarded as a rush to judgment. The hon. Gentleman may have talked to religious groups that find it surprising that it has now been thought of, but they were consulted in the past, as the House has discussed it before.
That is certainly true, but those groups also say clearly that they would rather have an equality Bill that dealt with all matters of faith, as the Government promised in the last Parliament. We were waiting for a report from the university of Derby, which has now been published, and the Government said that they would introduce such a Bill. Many groups, and the Liberal Democrats, believe that it would be much better to pursue that option.
Part 13 deals with the third pillar proposal. Even though our party is supportive of a European jurisdiction, I share the view that we ought to have primary legislation on important and wide-ranging measures, even if they have their genesis in the European Union. The Secretary of State is justified in seeking a short debate and the right to introduce statutory instruments only in relation to measures that cannot wait until beyond the end of the year because they are time-limited by an EU agreement and are connected to terrorism and related issues.
Those are the only things that ought to be introduced now. The conclusion to be drawn from what the Home Secretary just said is that we may be able to limit this part of the Bill to those matters. If so, he will find much more widespread support in the House.
Part 4 raises one major issue that has already been touched on and two others, including the process of dealing with asylum applications. The Bill suggests that somebody can be turned away before their application is considered, against the advice of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. It also introduces the power to keep asylum seekers' fingerprints indefinitely, which is not right. In addition, there is the issue of how we deal not just with people who are suspected of terrorism but, as was pointed out earlier, with individuals who could be linked to terrorism—a much more remote proposition—and therefore detained under the proposals. Theoretically, under one derogation, people could be detained for up to five years, although with six-monthly reviews.
We should improve the procedure significantly; we should improve the rights of representation on appeal and throughout the process; we should improve people's opportunity to have their case reviewed, as Mr. Hogg pointed out, according to both facts and law, and allow more frequent reviews. The key point is that the House should not agree to take away the rights of the courts to hold the Executive, tribunals and Ministers alike to account. That is almost unprecedented; it is entirely unjustified and goes well beyond what is necessary, even in the circumstances.
Later, we shall debate whether we should derogate from the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European convention on human rights. The Joint Committee on Human Rights, which has just been set up, made clear recommendations after taking evidence from the Home Secretary. It stated, in paragraph 30 of its second report, that
"even if it is accepted that there is such an emergency"— which is a prerequisite for derogation—
"the lack of safeguards built into the Bill, particularly in relation to detention powers, causes us to doubt whether the measures in the Bill can be said to be strictly required by the exigencies of the situation."
At the moment, those safeguards are not in the Bill, which is a strong reason for making sure that we do not derogate at this stage from the Human Rights Act and the ECHR. That is why I suggested to the Government at the end of last week that we leave that debate till the end of our consideration of the Bill, and that we do not come back to it unless we can be persuaded—the burden is on the Government—that the Bill contains only what is necessary. If the Human Rights Committee, which we set up to do the job, advises us that the measure is not justified, we should be careful to follow that opinion. If we do not, the danger is that community relations could be significantly impaired because we have not been attentive to those who are suspected and held in detention as a result.
The British constitution works on the basis that Ministers bring proposals to Parliament. It is for Ministers to propose and for Parliament to decide. I gather that some Government amendments have already been tabled, even before we have completed the first day of proceedings on the Bill. If they are good amendments, they will be welcome, but it is strange that the Government are amending their Bill at this stage—
As I said, we listened and responded to the Human Rights Committee's deliberations last week—yet now the hon. Gentleman tells us that it is strange for us to table amendments. I have every intention of listening. If there are good arguments that the Government as a whole can accept, I will accept them. To do otherwise would be an example of the yah-boo politics that bring the House into disrepute. In return, I hope that, if I convince both major Opposition parties, they will do me the courtesy of giving way on matters which at present they find objectionable.
Of course. If the Home Secretary had let me finish the sentence, he would have heard me say that I hoped that the Government would try to get agreement with the Opposition on amendments tabled at this stage. We are all in the business of reaching agreement about any improvements that can be made to the Bill; I accept that, whatever the rigours of the timetable. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we have tried to ensure that where agreement is possible, it is reached. Yes, we will listen and respond. We hope that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will do likewise.
To answer the question from the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich, many significant amendments will be needed in the Commons or the Lords if the Bill is to be acceptable to us. That might make the Bill not only shorter and more focused on terrorism, but much more limited in terms of time. Liberal Democrats see it as their job to make sure that legislation pushed through by emergency procedures has only a limited life. We see it as our job to ensure that anti-terrorist legislation deals with the dangers of terrorism, not with a lot of other issues at the same time. We see it as our job to make sure that the Home Office does not take the opportunity to clear its in-tray just because there is the convenient opportunity of less scrutiny. We specifically see it as our job to make sure that we do not take away the right of anybody in this country to go to court to test whether what the Government or the Executive are doing is right.
We had a choice to make about the attitude that we took tonight and in the days ahead. I have indicated that we will vote against the timetable motion, as the time is ridiculously short. I have made it clear that we will vote against derogation from the Human Rights Act, as we do not believe that the case has been made. However, we are prepared to let the Bill go on to the next stage.
If, in the light of the Home Secretary's last remarks, we are to be constructive, and given that the Government have a majority in the Commons, we will seek to change the Bill by amendment over the next few days. If we do not get the amendments, we will vote against Third Reading. If we get the amendments, the Bill will have been much improved by the fact that the views of the Opposition and of many Labour Back Benchers have prevailed. I look forward to persuading the Home Secretary and his colleagues of the fact that the Bill will be acceptable to deal with terrorism or the emergency only if it is significantly amended.
I shall speak mainly to the Select Committee on Home Affairs report published today. I start by thanking the Home Secretary and his colleagues for co-operating with the Select Committee's attempt at pre-legislative scrutiny, of which I hope we shall see a great deal more.
In the short time available, we inevitably focused on part 4 of the Bill. We were anxious to publish our report and the evidence in time to inform today's debate and the subsequent Committee stage. I hope that hon. Members in all parts of the House will find our report and the published evidence useful.
I welcome the fact that no attempt was made to rush through emergency legislation in the immediate aftermath of the atrocity on
Despite the Home Secretary bending over backwards to co-operate with our Committee, our witnesses had to give oral evidence and express a view in public before they had a chance to see the Bill. That is not entirely satisfactory. The Bill is large—much larger than any previous emergency anti-terrorism legislation—and it would have benefited from a slightly more generous timetable.
Many of the measures in the Bill are uncontroversial and are plain common sense. They adapt existing anti-terrorism legislation to deal with the threat of chemical and biological warfare; they oblige telecom companies to keep records for much longer than they must do at present to assist with investigations into terrorism; and they enable Customs and Inland Revenue officers to work with law enforcement agencies. All that seems to me, as it seemed to the Committee, desirable.
As regards part 4, the Committee accepted, albeit reluctantly, that there may be a small category of persons who are suspected international terrorists who cannot be prosecuted, extradited or deported, and may therefore have to be detained. However, as everyone who has spoken so far agrees, that is a very large step, which we should not take lightly or with much enthusiasm. We welcome the various safeguards that the Home Secretary has inserted—the renewal after 15 months and 12 months—and I particularly welcome what he said about his willingness to provide for a much longer debate when the time comes to renew the legislation.
We note the six-monthly review of detention in each case by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. However, we believe that there should be a sunset clause for part 4. As we all know, the history of anti-terrorism legislation is that when it is introduced, it is represented as temporary and as a response to some immediate crisis, but it has a habit of becoming permanent. I have therefore tabled—as have others, probably—a sunset clause which requires the Government to come back to Parliament after five years to go through the entire legislative process to obtain the powers that they seek in part 4.
We picked five years—others may choose a shorter or a longer period—because there is a precedent for it. That is what appeared in the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984. I believe that the Government could readily concede that measure, and I hope that the Home Secretary will reflect carefully on it. I am sure that he will.
As for the clauses dealing with incitement to religious hatred, most of the evidence that we received was sceptical—first, about whether they would work, and secondly, about whether they were needed. Thirdly, some suggested—I was probably the person whom the Home Secretary heard on the radio this morning, although he was far too delicate to mention it—that the provisions would probably be used first against Muslims, which was not necessarily the intention. Of course, I entirely agree with his comment that Muslims should be as accountable to the law as those of any other faith, but I agree also with those who have argued that the measure has no place in emergency legislation and should perhaps return to the House in another provision that deals with this and other religious issues. If he is going to proceed anyway, as I suspect he will, this might be the moment to adopt the suggestion of my right hon. Friend Mr. Dobson and abolish blasphemy as well.
On the third pillar measures, the Bill gives the power to implement all the justice and home affairs measures, rather than those relating only to terrorism, by secondary and not primary legislation. The Committee felt that that was too broad and that the power should be confined to anti-terrorism measures. I hope that the Government will think carefully about the matter.
I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to forgive me; I shall not give way, as I have only a few minutes.
There is one other matter that we did not consider as a Committee: extension of the powers of the MOD police, all of whom can be armed, to arrest anyone in connection with any offence in any area, albeit subject to a request from a police force. I believe that the last Armed Forces Bill contained a measure that fell at the last election to confer new powers only in life-threatening situations. The measure before us seems to be an improvement. I welcome the comment of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary—indeed, I had intended to make the same suggestion—that, if the MOD police are to have these powers, they should be subject to the Police Complaints Authority and perhaps also to Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary. However, perhaps that is not possible—of course, he will have taken advice on the matter—and the powers should be limited to terrorism-related incidents.
I recognise, as did the entire Committee, that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Many of the measures in the Bill are necessary and reasonable, but some go too far and take powers that are too wide, and I hope that some limits will be placed on them during our brief consideration of the Bill. 6.23 pm
It is always a pleasure to follow Mr. Mullin, the Chairman of the Select Committee on Home Affairs. I congratulate him and his fellow Committee members on their speedy work in producing the report to which he alluded. In discussing that report, I congratulate also Jean Corston and the Joint Committee on Human Rights on the speedy work that they have done. I am sure that it has informed the debate considerably.
If there is any purpose in this Chamber any more, it is to provide members of the opposition—I refer to the official Opposition, the Liberal Democrats, members of the other smaller parties and, indeed, the members of the opposition that I see seated on the Government Benches—with opportunities to bring to public attention from time to time the ideas that masquerade as considered policy and high principle and which are turned, almost without question, into law.
We have already had an excellent debate. The Home Secretary, who has just left the Chamber, was generous in giving way, as was my hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary, who made an especially effective contribution. I hope that, if he and other hon. Members question the utility, let alone philosophy, of the Bill or parts of it, the Home Secretary will pause, listen and perhaps even consider what we have to say before sweeping all before him. He said that he would do so, and I hope that he is as good as his word. The victor's laurels do not take long to wither. Although the first stage of the crisis in Afghanistan may perhaps be ending successfully, our duty to unpick legislation, ask the simple questions "Why?" or "What for?" and test propositions almost or even to destruction goes on.
The Home Secretary has a number of arguments at his disposal in support of the Bill. We will have to take some of them on trust, because the evidence upon which he relies is drawn from the secret services. I accept that he cannot tell us everything, but if he wants us willingly, rather than grudgingly, to accept the need to disapply certain provisions of the European convention on human rights barely a year after the Human Rights Act 1998 came into force and to accept in a spirit of co-operation that what were so recently thought to be essential freedoms should be curtailed, he needs to be more open with us and, if I may say so, to avoid insulting the very people whom he needs to apply and carry through his new restrictive provisions.
It is not an argument in favour of detention without trial to say that those who are prepared to uphold the present law against the Executive are ill-motivated. The Home Secretary is clearly proud of the fact that he is not a lawyer. I am sure he is entitled to the proud heart that evidently beats so fiercely in his breast, but he has recently made it an article of faith to vilify judges and lawyers. Ten days ago at The Spectator magazine and Zurich parliamentary awards lunch, at which he was the honoured chief guest, he repeated what he had said only a few days before in accusing lawyers—I paraphrase so as not to give the slander excessive currency—of being a money-grubbing vested interest group. Lawyers of that calibre may exist, or it may be that his sense of anger arises from a conversation with the Lord Chancellor.
Lawyers and judges are and must be independent of Government, but they will apply whatever laws, good or bad, that we pass. If we pass laws that have consequences that the Government did not foresee, it is a problem that the Government and Parliament must deal with in a rather more intelligent fashion than by abusing the judiciary and the legal profession. The term "Kill all the lawyers" is not a new motto, but nowadays it has greater resonance in Zimbabwe than it should have in this country. It should certainly have no resonance in the Home Office.
The Government's case is apparently based on a public emergency. The Home Secretary declared last week that we were in a state of emergency so that he could avoid the consequences of the very convention that his Government brought into our law last year. However, what is the evidence to show that such an emergency exists or had to be proclaimed except as a device to sidestep this Government's own legislation?
Article 15 of the European convention on human rights permits a state to derogate from convention rights
"In time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation".
The functions of government at national, devolved, county, district and parish level continue undisturbed by the events of
Humbug often masquerades as high principle. The signs of political camouflage in the British domestic arena are already emerging. Nowhere is that more evident than in the Government's proposal in the Bill to make it a crime to incite religious hatred. We do not need a law to make that type of behaviour illegal, and nor would it serve the purpose for which some of its proponents hope: deterring anti-Muslim unrest in this country and allowing Britain to be seen as fighting terrorism and not Muslims. Every citizen of this country has the right to expect that the law will protect him from bodily harm as well as safeguard his freedom to worship and to express his views. That does not mean that those who disagree, wish to evangelise in favour of another religion or want to express views that others may find abhorrent should have to curtail their activities or run the risk of prosecution. Parliament should not be in the business of standardising opinion or entrenching orthodoxy. Nor should it make courts of law arbiters of what is right, wrong or acceptable in religious or philosophical controversy. Such debates should take place in the columns of newspapers, in books, on public platforms and in pulpits. The criminal law should protect citizens, not ideas. Plenty of laws make the use or threat of violence against human beings a criminal offence.
It is a mistake to confuse race and religion; they are not always interchangeable. They should not be likened as they are in the Bill. If the Government whip Parliament into passing a law that outlaws incitement to religious hatred but will not define religion and list the religions that are to be covered by the statute, its use to stifle debate and free expression can be foreseen. The Government may not want the law to do that or to be used to that end, but those who are more intent on curtailing than respecting free speech will employ it in precisely that way.
The lengthy Bill, heavy with constitutional and legal implications, will receive a Second Reading. I trust that here on Wednesday and next week and in the other place later, further work will be done and that in the short interval, the public will learn exactly what we are doing in their name. Perhaps it is worth saying that if we are prepared to cast aside essential freedoms to gain temporary security, we are likely to lose both freedom and security.
We have a heightened responsibility to scrutinise the Bill because it encroaches on civil liberties and human rights. They have been hard won, and we therefore cherish them. We also know that the great majority of people do not have similar civil liberties and human rights.
Our history teaches us that the Executive can trample on liberties or rights in pursuit of their interests. Habeas corpus was mentioned in one of the many interventions that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary took. It was an attempt by common law courts in the 17th century to limit one aspect of Executive government. Seldon's case, which was one of the seminal decisions, involved the imprisonment of Members of Parliament by the Crown because of their objections on a taxation issue.
History also teaches us that law enforcement agencies can use discretion partially. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said, Labour Members are especially sensitive to that because the Labour movement was often a victim. The well documented example in the 1930s of the partiality of the police to the blackshirts comes to mind.
Again, history shows that encroaching on civil liberties or human rights, however justified, can go horribly wrong. Obvious recent examples are the miscarriages of justice arising from the fight against Irish terrorism. We must therefore scrupulously test the claims made for a Bill such as the measure that we are considering. What is its overall justification? Are its specific provisions justified? Are there equally effective alternatives that would make less of an incursion into liberties and rights? Will the unintended effects swamp the benefits? How will the checks against abuse, misuse and mistakes work in practice?
I have no doubt about the Bill's overall justification. Terrorism is not new. We have known since the bombing of the World Trade Centre in 1993 and the east African embassy bombings in 1998 that al-Qaeda is a major terrorist organisation. However, the events of
I cannot accept that we should not act because that is somehow contrary to what are said to be our liberal, democratic traditions. We are vulnerable because a liberal democracy enables people to pursue individual interests, and we act as a refuge for those from other states. We will pay a high price if we ignore the minority of fanatics who would abuse the liberties and rights of liberal democracy to destroy it.
In 1940, E.F.M. Durbin, who later became a Member of Parliament, considered the relationship between socialism and democracy and wrote that
"we should continuously remind ourselves that the enemies of democracy have no moral right to the privileges of democracy; . . . a time may come when, to defend ourselves, it will be necessary to suppress their political organizations."
He was referring to fascism and communism in the 1930s, but his words are equally pertinent today.
The events of
Part 4 deals with the dilemma that is posed by the European Court of Human Rights, and decisions such as that on Chahal: we would be in breach of article 3 of the European convention on human rights if we deported international terrorists to jurisdictions where they would be tortured, executed or otherwise inhumanely treated. What should we do? Should we allow terrorists to continue their evil work unchecked? The Bill proposes their detention, which will be subject to regular review by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. That body was set up following a suggestion by the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Chahal. Its composition and methods have been judicially approved by the European court and in the House of Lords in subsequent decisions.
Hon. Members need only consider SIAC's decision in the Rehman case to realise that it is no pushover. It imposed the same high standards of proof as ordinary courts. In the case of Rehman, SIAC rejected the Home Secretary's case. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said, some believe that there will be no judicial review of SIAC decisions. That is nonsense. The Bill provides for an appeal to the Court of Appeal on a point of law. That covers matters such as the sleepy judge, which Mr. Letwin mentioned, and the absence of evidence, to which Mr. Hogg referred. Apart from some interlocutory matters, appeal on a point of law is equal to judicial review. Therefore, judicial review exists.
I accept the point about appeal on a point of law, but although a friend who is appointed to represent the accused may be told the evidence on which intelligence services make their decision, the accused will not. His court-appointed representative cannot tell him that. He is therefore in no position to rebut the evidence against him.
The evidence is rebutted by counsel appointed by the Attorney-General to act for the accused. That points to the importance of the independence of the Bar.
Only one aspect of a case before SIAC—intelligence information—will be treated in that way. In other aspects, ordinary counsel, who acts on behalf of the person, will put the case.
Merits review has been mentioned. Judicial review never involves a review on merits. There can be an appeal on a point of law, and issues such as lack of evidence or facts, which the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham mentioned earlier, will be taken into account. I do not, therefore, regard that as an objection.
The more substantial objection to the detention provisions is that foreign international terrorists should be dealt with by the ordinary courts. The Terrorism Act 2000 gives the courts extra-territorial jurisdiction to deal with foreign international terrorists who incite, or who have engaged in, terrorist acts abroad. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has assured the House that there is still a small number of foreign international terrorists who would not be caught by those powers. He alluded to the problem of the Interception of Communications Act 1986, and the bar that it appoints to bringing evidence before the court. That Act was, incidentally, introduced by the previous, Conservative Government.
I am sure it would help the House if the Minister, or the Home Secretary, could reiterate that it is Government policy that the Bill's provisions will be a last resort—in other words, that if foreign international terrorists can be prosecuted here, or extradited to places where they can be tried, they will be.
I cannot see an alternative to the thrust of the provisions, although the Joint Committee on Human Rights has raised some useful points of detail which I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will consider. I should also say that, at first blush, I am attracted to Professor Gearty's proposal to the Home Affairs Committee for an annual report on detentions, by an independent commissioner.
Earlier this year, I supported the provisions on the disclosure of publicly held information for law enforcement purposes, to which the hon. Member for West Dorset objected, and with the additional protections in the Bill, I cannot see any problem with them. As to the objection to the power to remove face coverings, if the power is handled sensitively, I cannot see a problem, contrary to the views expressed by Simon Hughes. The retention of communications data will be subject to a code of practice, and also to data protection legislation.
On the provisions relating to religion, there has been, as my right hon. Friend Mr. Dobson said, an upsurge in religious harassment and attack. Such incidents have occurred in my constituency. Hon. Members may have received through the mail the latest bile from the British National party, a copy of which arrived in my office this morning.
Following on from what Ross Cranston has said, I hope that, if he had been allowed to speak for a bit longer, he would have gone on to tell us that the Home Affairs Committee report contained some useful evidence from Muslim organisations which originally thought that the Bill would be helpful to them, but now realise that it will not be.
Mr. Dobson dismissed the objections raised by Muslims, but he failed to recognise that the organisations which signed up to the document submitted in evidence to the Home Affairs Committee included the Muslim Council of Britain, the Association of Muslim Schools, the Muslim Parliament, the Union of Muslim Organisations, the Muslim college, the Muslim Women's Helpline and others. The Muslim organisations, of which those are some, are against the provisions in part 5 of the Bill. They recognise that there are immense practical difficulties connected with the provisions, but my concern is more an issue of principle. As my hon. and learned Friend Mr. Garnier said, race and religion are not the same thing. Race and colour are attributes with which we are born, and over which we have no choice, whereas religious belief, or lack of it, is a matter of choice and opinion. In that sense, religious belief is similar to political belief or even, dare one say, support for a football team.
The front page of the sports section of The Sunday Telegraph yesterday carried an amazing photograph of a section of the crowd at White Hart Lane on Saturday, when Tottenham played Arsenal. They were carrying placards which had one word on them: "Judas". I understand that those placards were directed towards Sulzeer Jeremiah Campbell, otherwise known as Sol Campbell, the English international footballer. They were directed at him because he had switched clubs, from Tottenham to Arsenal. I do not know Mr. Campbell's religion or, indeed, his race, but if he is a devoted Christian, and if part 5 of the Bill had already been on the statute book, I have little doubt that all those holding up the "Judas" placards would, prima facie, be guilty of incitement to religious hatred.
Those placards were displayed with the likelihood, if not the intention, that they would stir up hatred. I think that they were in very poor taste, if not puerile, but why should it be unlawful in a free society to stir up hatred against people with whom one strongly disagrees, or whose beliefs or behaviour one strongly condemns? I hate communism. I also hate the religious beliefs of Osama bin Laden, but he has religious beliefs—or so we are told—and under part 5 of the Bill, those who support the religious beliefs of Osama bin Laden will receive protection. I have tabled a question on this matter, to which I hope I shall receive a reply. I hate the doctrines of the Dutch reformed church that led to apartheid. I dislike many aspects of Rastafarianism, which has recently been described by the courts as a legitimate religion. I also hate Muslim fundamentalism. Why should we legislate to prevent people articulating such views in our open society?
Mr. Mullin has done the House a great service in producing his report from the Home Affairs Committee. It is an excellent report, but it is important to consider the scope of the proposed new offence of incitement to religious hatred. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Beverley Hughes, kindly sent us all a document earlier this month, which contained a summary of the key points of the Bill. In relation to this provision, she stated:
"Whilst preserving the right to practise religion in peace, the Bill recognises the long-standing tradition of free speech. To be prosecuted for stirring up religious hatred, the perpetrator must use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour intended or likely to stir up hatred against a group of people because of their religious belief. Whilst preserving the right to practise religion in peace, the Bill recognises the long-standing tradition of free speech. It will not prevent reasoned debate, humour or criticism of religions or religious practices."
I want to share with the House something that happened in relation to the existing provisions on stirring up racial hatred. In my constituency, a free advertising magazine called ADvantage is circulated. It is published quarterly, and comprises mainly advertisements but also some local news. The editor of the magazine had been reading on the internet stories generated by a spoof article written by Richard Littlejohn in The Sun in February 2000. He replicated parts of the article in his free newspaper, although I do not think that he attributed them to Mr. Littlejohn.
Someone from the Dorset Commission for Racial Equality objected, and the matter was referred to the police and to the prosecuting authorities. There was no question of going round and discussing with this person what his motives were. An enormous amount of public money was spent on investigating the matter and, eventually, about six months later, the editor got a knock on the door, and two policemen explained to him that he was not going to be prosecuted on that occasion, but that he should not do anything like that again because it was, effectively, against the law, although there was to be no prosecution.
That is a case of someone exercising his right of free expression in a small circulation newspaper. The prosecuting authorities did not have a go at The Sun, did they? They spent a lot of time investigating some pretty harmless comments from this person in the Verwood locality of my constituency. If the Home Secretary, or any other worthy, gets up and says that it is not the intention of the Bill to result in the denial of free speech, all I can say is that he cannot guarantee that.
In practice, if anybody complains the complaint will be taken extremely seriously by the prosecuting and investigating authorities, because it is about a serious offence. If it is not taken seriously, that in itself will generate a further complaint. That process will take up a lot of time and it will not necessarily result in a series of prosecutions, but people will be threatened by such an atmosphere. I am concerned that the Bill extends so widely into an area where, hitherto, we have been able to exercise free speech and free expression. I support everything that my hon. Friend Mr. Letwin said from the Front Bench.
The Home Secretary strove magnificently to defend a number of indefensible propositions. Following that unstinting praise, I hope that he regards the rest of my speech as friendly fire.
The historian A.J.P. Taylor argued that Napoleon III learned nothing from the mistakes of history other than how to make newer and bigger ones himself. I think the House will prove to be like that tonight—Napoleonic and ill judged in its attitude to the Bill.
Not since the panic and hysteria that overcame the British establishment in the aftermath of the French revolution has the House considered such draconian legislation. Habeas corpus was suspended twice—first between 1794 and 1801 and subsequently in 1817. The Minister responsible was Lord Eldon—a member of the vilest troika ever to rule Britain. The second member was Castlereagh:
"I met Murder on the way—
He had a mask like Castlereagh".
A psychopath, before he went mad and cut his own throat he converted a Dublin riding school to a den of terror where anyone remotely thought to be connected with rebels against the Crown was flogged with the cat o'nine tails until either bones showed beneath the flesh or he betrayed his friends. Now there is a thought for a Home Secretary looking for good ideas to tackle terrorism.
The third member was Viscount Sidmouth, the Home Secretary and perhaps an exemplar for the current incumbent. He prospered through inheritance and corruption, waged war against the British people, set up an army of spies whose good works resulted in the execution of many liberal reformers and introduced a stream of laws to put down free speech as well as an Act of Parliament to prevent public meetings of more than 50 people for any purpose whatever:
"And many more Destructions played
In this ghastly masquerade,
All disguised, even to the eyes,
Like Bishops, lawyers, peers, and spies".
Unbelievably, the troika prosecuted war against the French with no fewer than 470,598 citizens under arms in a population of just 10 million. Yes, there is much for today's troika—the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and the Foreign Secretary—to chew over here. But let them beware before they go ahead with the legislation—a rag bag of the most coercive measures that the best mandarin minds from the Home Office can produce, which are manna from heaven for any future or present Home Secretary who wants to establish a police state.
When the troika of Eldon, Castlereagh and Sidmouth died, the people of England rejoiced and danced in the streets. We would not want that to happen if any of our modern troika died, would we?
The Bill clashes with habeas corpus, judicial review, the rule of law, the notion that justice should be public and be seen to be done and checks on the arbitrary power of the authority of the state, including the Home Office, the security services and invisible commissioners. It threatens freedom of expression with an extended version of the infamous blasphemy laws and invades privacy on the internet and God knows what else—we have not seen its full implications—so perhaps we should pause for a moment lest history judge us badly.
The fundamental fault line of the Bill lies in its refusal to accept the checks and balances of our constitution and its assertion, adumbrated with inelegant clarity by the Home Secretary, that the Executive must be all-powerful and beyond criticism. Our Home Secretary and our Government genuinely and sadly believe that the Executive can justify any action if it is given legitimacy by a compliant Parliament that has long since consigned to the dustbin of political history the notion that our primary function is to check and call to account the Government of the day.
For the Home Secretary, the judiciary is there to be lectured and mocked. Was there ever a more populist person guaranteed to get a cheap laugh as he tries to bring the law and its practitioners into hatred, ridicule and contempt? According to him, MPs know best, lawyers suck and the law is an ass to which only airy-fairy civil libertarians such as me pay homage.
In Shakespeare's "Henry VI, Part II", a bloodthirsty, Blunkett-type character snarls:
"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."
Theatrical simpletons and bar-room drunks may enjoy that approach, as will those MPs who, for whatever desperately sad reason, need to stay on message. The rest of us will treat it with scorn.
Yes, the judges have sometimes failed us, but invariably by going along with the conventional establishment wisdom and the dictates of the establishment. Everyone knows that, at the height of the second world war, Lord Atkin, a judge, pleaded with his brethren that they should be more than
"mice squeaking under a chair in the Home Office".
Who today will plead that MPs should be more than mice nibbling cheese at the Home Secretary's table?
This bad legislation is as unnecessary as it is draconian, as theatrical as the declared emergency is phoney, as beguiling as the chants of approval that will come from those for whom justice is a chimera. To those on these Benches who intend to support the Bill tonight, I suggest that they remember that its most avid supporter is that infantile cretin who edits The Sun and that our Foreign Secretary has given a ringing endorsement to the views of the aforesaid Mr. David Yelland. Need I say more? I shall not support the Bill at any stage, and I very much hope that others, too, will refrain.
That is a remarkably hard act to follow, so I hope that the House will show compassion if I fail to match the eloquence of Mr. Sedgemore.
Without doubt, it is right to reassess the country's security needs in the aftermath of
When, periodically, the Government create new anti-terrorism measures, the proposals should be tested against strict criteria. Are they appropriate to the threat? Will they be effective in combating terrorism? Do they contain proper safeguards against the abuse of those new powers? Should the new measures be categorised emergency and temporary, and therefore subject to further parliamentary scrutiny, or mainstream, more permanent legislation? When all those are posed about the Bill, they are serious questions indeed.
My first and main concern has already been expressed by other hon. Members and I need refer to it only briefly. The reckless speed with which the Government are taking through Parliament a Bill that touches on supremely important issues of human rights and individual liberties is scandalous. It is wholly unacceptable that our deliberations should be subjected to such a curtailed and arbitrary timetable. It can be predicted with a degree of confidence that a Bill rushed through with such speed will before long be found to be deficient in some way. A 124-clause measure cannot possibly receive the attention that it deserves within the Government's proposed timetable.
Part 4 deals with how to treat foreign nationals in the United Kingdom who are believed to be involved in terrorism. Without doubt, ideally the answer would be through criminal law. I accept that that cannot always be the case: that there are circumstances in which evidence of terrorism, the source of that evidence and the nature of that evidence, if made public, could both jeopardise the source and endanger life. The dilemma that faces the Government—a dilemma significantly of their own making—arises from the existence of articles 3 and 5 of the European convention on human rights.
As it is entirely unacceptable to allow foreign nationals involved in terrorism to wander around the United Kingdom plotting and conspiring, either article 3 or article 5 must become non-binding. Reluctantly, I accept that there are circumstances of national emergency in which the practice of internment is the lesser of evils: it is not right, but it can prevent a greater wrong. It was used very successfully by the British Government during the second world war, and has been used successfully twice by Irish Governments in their dealings with the IRA. It proved counter-productive only when intelligence was deficient. I therefore view part 4 with more sympathy than do some of my hon. Friends.
My hon. Friend says that in certain circumstances intelligence was deficient, and criticises the use of the internment provision on that basis. Does he not agree that there is always a high risk of intelligence being at least in part deficient?
There is always that potential ultimately, but I think the circumstances of the early 1970s, when internment was not a success, no longer prevail. The quality and quantity of our present intelligence is far greater than it was in historic circumstances.
I do not quarrel, in principle, with the proposed role of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. I believe that the exclusion of appellants and their lawyers can be justified on grounds of national security. I note that the Attorney-General may appoint a special advocate to represent an appellant's interests. I understand that the Government do not propose any derogation from article 6 of the convention, which states that although the press and public may be excluded from a trial in the interests of national security,
"judgment shall be pronounced publicly".
The legal question that interests me is whether, in the prevailing circumstances, the Government can legitimately provoke the powers of derogation in article 5. The European Court has said that the article can be applied only when there is
"an exceptional situation of crisis or emergency which affects the whole population and constitutes a real threat to the organised life of the community of which the state is composed."
I think that whether we face an emergency that threatens the life of the nation may be open to considerable doubt. The greatest threat to the security of the United Kingdom from terrorism is still the threat of Irish terrorism, and the non-applicability of the Bill to such terrorism is a matter of concern.
As for the question of making incitement to religious hatred a crime, I share the widespread conviction that the Bill's proposals may prove unworkable and should therefore be dropped. Moreover, I consider the need for such a new law highly questionable. I do not agree with Mr. Rowan Atkinson and others who argue that comedians may fall foul of the provisions—there is and should be an enormous difference between exposing to ridicule what is deemed to be absurd, and inciting hatred—but I do agree with the pressure group Justice that these measures, apart from constituting a sop that the Government want to throw at the Muslim community, will prove divisive and impractical, and breach fundamental rules relating to freedom of expression.
I feel that the key to much of our dealings with the Bill should be to look at each part separately. We should ask whether, if an individual part of it had been law before
Plenty can be done to make the country a safer place. We can be granted more resources for the police, better witness protection, the admission of telephone intercepts as evidence in terrorist trials, and a greater willingness to enforce deportation orders when they do not infringe article 3. Some of that may require abrogation of international treaties or curbing of the power of the judiciary, but most can be achieved under existing legislation and without this Bill—a Bill that will become bad law because it is being rushed through with such unseemly haste.
Until the speech of my hon. Friend Mr. Sedgemore, I suspected that most Members agreed about the scale and nature of the dangers that confront us, and that almost all considered many of the intentions and new powers in the Bill to be sensible. The prospect of international terrorism focusing on Sellafield certainly concentrates the mind on the powers of the police around nuclear plants, and the idea that terrorist organisations can accumulate money in their bank balances with impunity in this country commends the relevant parts of the Bill.
It is possible to agree with all that, however, and still to be very unhappy—as I am—with some features of the legislation, particularly the necessity of derogation from a convention to which we have only just signed up, and aspects of part 4. Those fears make it extremely hard for me today to support the Government whom I am generally proud to support in the Lobby.
The Home Secretary presented his case with great courtesy and patience, and engaged with the House. That is to his credit, and no one would doubt his sincerity—or his record of defending human rights, which he mentioned. I fear, however, that the roots of much of the Bill lie in the need to be seen to do something in the face of horrific dangers and anxieties. That is a very bad basis for legislation. Far from calming my fears, the Home Secretary played on them by citing a report in The Times, dated, I think,
I am sure that there is pressure, in that the country wants the Government to do something; but, as I have said, that is a bad basis on which to legislate and to find the correct balance between the powers we have—or should have—to deal with international terrorism, and not just the protection of human rights but the maintenance of the fundamental principles of our legal system, which I consider even more important than specific human rights.
Surely the strategic test that we should apply to our scrutiny of all aspects of the Bill, and to its totality, is this: have we sufficient powers in our existing legal system, after recent terrorism legislation and the creation of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission and other arrangements, to deal with the present circumstances? Only if those powers are totally inadequate should we seek more. I am not sure that that applies to some of the Bill's provisions.
I appreciate that we shall have an opportunity to discuss the derogation in a later debate. However, I remain totally unconvinced that we would be within our rights under the convention to derogate. The convention specifically says that we can derogate only
"In time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation".
Last weekend, looking round our constituencies, did hon. Members see the life of this nation being threatened? We saw people flocking to early showings of "Harry Potter", and others doing their Christmas shopping. We also saw the trains at least trying to run on time. The life of this nation is not at risk.
That is not the question to ask. Currently, the life of the United Kingdom and other European nations is not being threatened. Although I hope that we do not, we may well suffer the horror of a terrorist attack. None the less, one attack on a nation does not threaten the fundamental life or nature of the state. Such an attack would wound the state grievously and would be a wound that none of us wished to see, but it would not threaten the life of the nation. I believe that that phrase was included in the convention to protect against civil war or a complete breakdown of a country's system of law and order. I do not believe that it was meant to deal with a horrendous attack in another country that made us all only too acutely aware of the scope and nature of terrorism.
I commend the Joint Committee on Human Rights on the speed with which it has served the House by issuing its report. In paragraph 30 of that report, the Committee seems to say that it is not convinced that derogation is justified. I share that view. I am not a lawyer, but I wonder whether derogation would be legal if it were not justified.
Why is no other European country derogating? It is an international problem that affects us all equally, regardless of the primacy of our position in tackling the situation in Afghanistan. Although our Government of course have a prime duty to protect the people of this nation, we must consider the international dimension. Indeed, I would go further and say that we will solve nothing by deporting terrorists from the United Kingdom. Terrorists are as dangerous to this country and to the world if they are in other countries as they are if they are here. Our responsibility is if necessary to tackle terrorism in this country by means of our legal system. I am not sure that we need the extra powers that the Government are proposing to provide in the Bill.
During the Home Secretary's speech, I raised the issue of the definition of a terrorist, in part 4. Clause 21(2)(c) states that an international terrorist is defined as someone who has "links" with an international terrorist group. Considering the severe nature of the legal sanctions, guilt by association, as is implied by the word "links", is really not good enough. I hope that the Home Secretary will consider that issue and accept amendments to eliminate the word "links".
I am also less than convinced by the nature of the provisions on trial and detention in part 4 and by the overall treatment of evidence. The Home Secretary and I had a previous exchange on that issue. He defended himself by saying that the provisions were all to do with inadmissible evidence. Although, as I said, I am not a lawyer, as I have always understood it the rules on inadmissible evidence are based on the nature of that evidence, such as whether it was hearsay, rather than on its source. The crucial issue in this legislation is to protect a source such as the security services. Are we happy that people should be indefinitely detained and imprisoned on the flimsy basis of evidence that they will never hear? I do not believe that we can be.
I am also extremely perturbed about the speed at which we are being asked to move. The Home Secretary said that we have had 10 weeks to examine the matter. Today we are considering not the wider intentions that he announced 10 weeks ago but the actual wording of the Bill. We are passing legislation, and wording is everything. As Thomas More understood, if we do not cling to the wording of the law, when the wind blows we shall have nothing to protect us. We are producing loose wording to define "terrorist", and wording that is misguided in other respects.
I am grateful to the Home Affairs Committee and to the Joint Committee for moving so fast in producing their reports, which none the less show the precise nature of the problem. One Committee met on
Despite all the semi-sunset clauses that the Home Secretary has included in the Bill to enable us to review aspects of it, I believe that we are moving too fast. If we cannot properly scrutinise legislation, we shall serve neither the House nor the country well.
The world order changed on
Some of our constituents are very concerned about the legislation. My constituent Mr. Guy Nicholls of Salisbury e-mailed me to say:
"I am extremely concerned about recent developments towards change regarding basic human rights in the United Kingdom . . . Imprisonment without charge or trial is a violation of fundamental human rights and should be dropped from the 'Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill'."
Feelings are running high. Although I accept some parts of the Bill and believe that any Home Secretary would wish to see loopholes tightened and closed, I have difficulties with other parts, the first of which is part 5, on race and religion. One of the greatest strengths of British parliamentary democracy is its tolerance. The British, and I think the English in particular, are tolerant people, but part 5 smacks of intolerance.
There are two broad reasons why I cannot support part 5. As a member of the Church of England, I deplore the intolerance that I sometimes sense both among the Wee Free Presbyterians and in Roman Catholic dogma. However, as an Anglican and an Englishman, I tolerate their right to express a hugely divergent view, and I would not wish to see Free Presbyterians in the Hebrides locked up for denouncing the Bishop of Rome for whatever reason. I first face up to the principles. Legislation should not seek to control all outward actions by telling us what we should or should not do. If it did, our society would be totalitarian. The rule of the law is intended to establish and sustain for society as a whole—for all our citizens—what the Christian tradition calls the common good.
Criticism of another person's race is morally unacceptable; criticism or rejection of religious beliefs or practices is not only acceptable but desirable. The claims and practices of religion are in principle public claims and should be open to public examination and critique. It is such examination and critical reflection that can lead a person towards a change in religion, or, indeed, towards religion itself. Freedom for such examination and critique is an important part of religious freedom. Can the Government and the courts be sure that the Bill will be capable of publicly distinguishing between criticism or rejection of religious beliefs and practices, and expression of religious hatred? We should avoid a legal change that threatens openness to scrutiny and criticism.
"As part of the Anti-Terrorist, Crime and Security Bill introduced earlier this week, we have proposed expanding incitement to racial hatred to cover religious hatred, to protect everyone from religious hatred and harassment."—[Hansard, House of Lords, 15 November 2001; Vol. 628, c. WA96.]
In other words, motherhood and apple pie. But racial hatred and religious hatred are not the same, and we cannot simply extend the law on the first to cover the second.
Article 18 of the 1948 universal declaration of human rights gives a clear definition of religious freedom, which is at risk under the Bill. Religious freedom is an immunity and freedom from coercion, and any legislation that threatens that freedom is unwelcome. The least that the Government must do if they want the support of people who think like me is to amend the Bill so as to recognise the major difference between race and religion—one is a fact of life, and the other is not.
The notes that Home Office Ministers have kindly provided, which have already been quoted, state:
"To be prosecuted for stirring up religious hatred, a perpetrator must use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour intended or likely to stir up hatred against a group of people because of their religious belief".
Who decides? By whose standards, culture and traditions will a policeman or a court judge decide? The provision is entirely unsatisfactory, and I cannot support it.
Part 6, which covers weapons of mass destruction, and part 7, also give me great concern. Like the Research Defence Society, I am worried that domestic terrorism remains a serious problem and that the position of medical and scientific researchers, who have already been subject to outrageous and violent attacks by animal rights extremists for the past 20 years, is not being dealt with. You may recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that in the past year extremists have fire-bombed the cars of 11 people connected with Huntingdon Life Sciences, and attacked several people personally, injuring them gravely.
Several of my constituents have been attacked and bombed and had their lives made a misery. The lives of people working at Porton Down for the protection of our forces, who are engaged in defending the liberties of this country, are being ruined by domestic terrorism. That should have been covered in the Bill.
I turn to the part of the Bill that deals with Ministry of Defence police, Atomic Energy Authority police and British Transport police. There is a lot of good sense in the Bill. The fact that the British Transport police and AEA police are being given extra power and jurisdiction is welcome. I should like the Home Secretary or the Minister who is to wind up tonight to explain what point we have reached with the legislation on mercenaries. The Home Secretary was kind enough to be frank about the matter when I raised it in the House last month. The Export Control Bill was not deemed the right place to include measures on mercenaries, but this Bill is part of a terrorism package and might have included some. What is the Foreign Office up to? It appears to be dragging its feet.
The Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee has already referred to Ministry of Defence police. I spent the first three months of the year in the Standing Committee that considered the Armed Forces Bill, which dealt with that matter. My advice to my hon. Friends on the Front Bench would be broadly to welcome the substantial changes that have been made to the proposed measure. It was pushing their luck to try to tag the measure on to the Armed Forces Bill, and it is pushing their luck a little further to tag it on to this Bill. A lot of probing needs to be done. The revision is sensible, and I welcome it. The wording is quite different; it has been substantially rewritten. However, we still have no independent control for Ministry of Defence police—independent, that is, from the chain of command of the military—or independence for the chief constable, to whom the Secretary of State can still effectively give orders. There are no proper discipline and complaints procedures either. I was therefore delighted to hear the Home Secretary say that the matter would be included in new legislation next year.
No formal agreement or legal arrangements have been made with the Police Complaints Authority. There is no formal discipline or conduct procedure regulated by Parliament. Ministry of Defence police have no formal or independent police committee or authority. There are no formal inspections by Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary, although that was promised. No legal liability for torts has been defined, and so on. What has happened to those standing arrangements at a high level? My hon. Friends need to home in on that.
The future role of Ministry of Defence police could be as a gendarmerie, which Britain currently lacks. They are used in Kosovo to great effect, and the matter should be reviewed. In devising a long-term strategy for the Ministry of Defence police, we should consider whether they should be an armed gendarmerie for international peacekeeping operations, if that is the way the world is going, rather than using any more of Her Majesty's forces.
There are good bits and bad bits to the Bill, as my hon. Friend Mr. Grieve is aware. My constituents want terrorism defeated, and I am robust in that objective. However, we must ensure that we do not extinguish the ancient freedoms that the House has guarded so well for so long.
May I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister for Criminal Justice, Sentencing and Law Reform, if he is to reply, to answer two questions—or otherwise to inform whoever is to reply of them? The first relates to the religious clauses and their extension to include religious hatred. Will he confirm that the clauses will provide a remedy for parents and girls at the Holy Cross school in the Ardoyne, who have been victims of a vile campaign of religious hatred? Secondly, will he confirm that the clauses could be said to fulfil the promise in the Good Friday agreement to uphold the right to freedom from sectarian harassment? He will have read in today's newspapers Greenpeace's advert showing routes taken by trains carrying nuclear waste through London. Will he confirm that once the Bill becomes law such adverts will become illegal, and will silence people or organisations that rightly draw attention to health and environmental dangers?
The Home Secretary was charitable in the number of times that he gave way to Members from both sides of the House and in answering some of our points. He did not convince us, but he answered us. Points about the amount of time that we have to consider the Bill have already been well made, and I do not intend to discuss the matter further.
Unfortunately, I shall not be present next Monday, because I shall be chairing a Committee of the Council of Europe—the Sub-Committee that considers the appointment of judges to the European Court. We make recommendations to the Parliamentary Assembly—several countries make recommendations and give us a list. What do most people here think the reply would have been if before
That would be quite right, because the effect of the derogation takes away from the accused the right to a fair trial and to defend himself in person or through legal assistance, and the right to examine or have examined witnesses against him, and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf, under the same conditions as the witnesses against him. The derogation takes away all those rights under article 6, which are fundamental to freedom. This House cannot and should not accept that.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary did not answer the point, which has been raised continually, that no other state in the European Union or the Council of Europe has felt it necessary, following
My final points concern internment. I shall not deal with the legal niceties, but I remind the House what happened in Northern Ireland. We had a state of emergency, followed by the introduction of internment. Internment led to Bloody Sunday and to the death of Bobby Sands. I was involved in that issue and I know that those three factors—internment, Bloody Sunday and the death of Bobby Sands—were the three great recruiting agents for the Provisional IRA.
People will argue that the present situation is not analogous, but I believe that it is. If one person who was imprisoned under the Bill, whether he was wrongly imprisoned or guilty as hell, went on hunger strike and died, what would happen? We boast that the legislation is not directed against Muslims or Islam, but it was argued that earlier anti-terrorism legislation was not directed against the Irish. At the time, people said, "Oh, it will only affect a few people and we must deal with them." However, that legislation put the entire Irish population in this country through persecution and harassment after 1974, and ended in a situation in which that population did not support the Provos but did not respect the forces of law and order either. There are disaffected young people in this country of Asian-Islamic origin, who feel no tremendous loyalty to this country, for a variety of reasons. Whatever their leaders, elders and muftis have said in good faith about deploring—and I do not doubt that for one moment—what happened on
Why are we prepared to risk that happening? Is it because we feel that our institutions are somehow so threatened that we are not prepared to put a person we suspect before a judge to have the evidence against him properly examined? I hope that I am wrong about the effects of the Bill. I want to be wrong, but this omnibus Bill contains every illiberal idea that the Houses of Parliament have already rejected, except for the sweetener on corruption. Are we prepared to risk all that might happen for the sake of this tawdry Bill when we could find out more information about what is happening by having proper surveillance of the dozen or so people involved, probably at far less expense?
When I first became a Minister, a wise colleague told me not to sign anything for the first fortnight, because a new Minister is always presented with all sorts of things that the civil servants have been keeping in the cupboard and that no Minister previously was prepared to sign. I have that feeling about the Bill. It contains all sorts of elements that we have failed to pass previously and that are being presented to us again. We should start our consideration of the Bill by distinguishing between those elements that are necessary for the prevention of terrorism and those elements that have been brought in under the guise of an emergency Bill and clearly are not necessary.
Nobody could accuse me of being soft on terrorism. Anyone who was present at the heart of the Grand hotel in Brighton when the bomb went off has a clear view of the damage done and the horror created by terrorists. However, I hope that the House recognises that tonight's debate represents the whole reason to be a Member of Parliament: it is the need to protect the liberties of the people against the over-mighty power of the Executive. That battle has to be fought in every generation, even when one cannot but accept that the Home Secretary is a decent man in a Government who are not, at this moment, intending to take penal powers against innocent people. However, that is the very situation in which we should most beware. At no time is freedom more vulnerable than when good men set out to protect freedom against terrorists. The good men have an excuse for almost every action, but that excuse is too ready to be used in the wide way in which it is being used for the Bill.
The only element that could make the situation more dangerous is the speed at which we are moving. The Home Secretary said that it has taken 10 weeks to get to this point. If it has taken him 10 weeks to get here, with the panoply of the civil service at his command, he must understand why those who have concerns about the Bill need time to debate it, to grasp the realities and to ask the questions that he has already shown are very difficult to answer.
The key issue is democracy. Anyone who has seen the Greenpeace advertisement today will have noticed the mistake in it. It says:
"The nuclear industry is incompatible with a democratic society."
What it should have said is that nuclear power is incompatible with any system except democracy. It is possible to do many things safely only because of our democratic system. The danger of the Bill is that it strikes at some of the freedom that makes so many other things safe. I hate the expression "public safety" because it reminds me of the Committee of Public Safety, but it also reminds me of why that was so terrifying a committee. It used the excuse of public safety to do horrific things. Many of its members were idealists, but one can be an idealist and still do terrible things. That is why I find the Bill so objectionable.
I shall take two examples in which I support what the Bill tries to achieve but still believe the methods in the Bill to be wholly wrong. First, I am a supporter of our active and enthusiastic membership of the European Union, but I do not believe that the third pillar should be passed into law in the form of the mechanism in the Bill. I believe in democracy. I want us to debate the issues and I want those of my hon. Friends who have much greater doubts about it than I do to have the opportunity to put their points of view forward. They will of course be wrong, but that should not deprive them of the opportunity of putting their case, or me of the chance to answer it. That is what democracy is about. I do not believe that that part of the Bill should be accepted.
There is a false connection between race and religion in the Bill. There should be no need for any man or woman to defend himself or herself because of the colour of their skin. That is not in question. However, it must be necessary for all of us who have faith to defend the basis upon which that faith is placed. In many cases, people do things that are profoundly wrong because of what they believe. Dr. Goebbels, for example, believed what he said. It was evil and wicked but, under this Bill, it could—or could not—be referred to as a religious belief.
So pathetic is this part of the Bill that the notes read:
"This definition is designed to cover a wide range of religious beliefs but does not seek to define either what amounts to a religion or a religious belief."
If we cannot define what we are trying to protect, it seems odd to seek to protect it. We must know what we are doing, but the Bill does not know what it is doing. Let me give two examples. If anyone suggested that the author of "The Satanic Verses" was intent on stirring up his fellow Muslims, that would not be far from the truth. He wanted to do that, I believe, for what he thought was a good reason. He thought it important to sharpen people's attitudes and get them talking. However, Muslims saw it as a blasphemous insult to their religion. Will the man whom we have spent millions of pounds protecting now be subject to the law for inciting religious hatred? That must be the result of the Bill if it is passed.
The second example involves religions that promote notions which are manifestly damaging. I am not prepared to be prevented from saying that those who believe that children should be killed by not having a blood transfusion are wrong and that they should be stopped from doing that. I know that the strength of that remark may be considered by others, and certainly by the people to whom I refer, as an incitement to religious hatred. I do not like the word "hatred"—I hope that I hate no one, but I know many who would come near to hating when they saw that the result of those people's beliefs was a dead child. I do not believe that that is a suitable case for interference by the law; I believe that I should be able to say what I believe to be true on that issue.
Some organisations, such as Scientology, masquerade as religions. With the protection of this House, I say that Scientology is a fraud. It is a mechanism for money raising, a damaging and hateful thing. Under this measure, however, I should not be able to talk about that outside this House, and that is wrong. The Government should have no part of it.
I must say something very firm about the Government. They ought to believe in habeas corpus. All their instincts should mean that they do not want these provisions in the Bill. I believe these measures to be so fundamentally wrong that I am very unhappy that my party is prepared to support the Bill, although I say to my hon. Friend Mr. Letwin that I understand why they are doing so. Of course it is necessary for the Opposition to show that they are fundamentally opposed to terrorism and will not put the people of Britain in danger in any way by not allowing the Government those parts of the Bill that are necessary, but that does not mean that we all have to go along with it.
Some of us must stand up and say that so much is so wrong with the Bill that not only will we not vote for it, but we will vote against it. We do so knowing that people outside know perfectly well that we are not in favour of terrorism and are, indeed, rather right-wing about it. A free society needs to be defended most when there is the greatest degree of pontification, self-opinion and hugely righteous indignation. Righteous indignation makes bad law. The people of Britain need to be defended in the age-old way, by supporting habeas corpus and ensuring that we do not condemn people for their religious views, forcefully put.
I wish to use the time available to me to draw on the report on the Bill by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which I have the honour to chair.
The Bill was introduced into the House last Monday and our report was published on Friday. I do not know whether it is a record to report within four days, but it must be quite close. I wish to record my thanks to fellow members of the Committee, our staff and legal adviser for making it possible for the House to have the benefit of the report as an example of pre-legislative scrutiny.
I thank the Home Secretary for meeting a delegation of members of the Committee before the Bill was published and giving evidence to us on
It is precisely in circumstances such as the aftermath of
The Committee welcomed the decision not to increase retrospectively the penalties for terrorism-related hoaxes and the Home Secretary's undertaking to consider rewording clause 27(9) concerning his power to issue a second certificate when the Special Immigration Appeals Commission cancels a certificate. We welcomed the confirmation that under the provisions dealing with incitement to religious and racial hatred, which were urged on us last month by the UN Human Rights Committee, the Bill will not restrict the freedom to express opinions and beliefs, including those which are critical of some or all religions, whether expressed seriously or satirically. So, to respond to a point made earlier on the Opposition Benches, Rory Bremner and Rowan Atkinson will not be out of a job.
The Home Secretary's statement to the Committee was also welcome, in that he told us that there will come a moment when the law of blasphemy will find its place in history. I welcome that. The Committee also accepted that SIAC is a fully fledged judicial tribunal.
Let me summarise the matters to which the Committee wants to draw the attention of this House and the other place. First, no other European country is considering this kind of legislation. Secondly, we believe strongly that there should be a clear definition of the class of people liable to be regarded as international terrorists. We also think that people who are considered to have links with terrorists or terrorist groups are covered by the Bill in ways that give cause for concern. We can find no precedent in United Kingdom law for such a vague definition.
By relying on immigration legislation to detain suspected international terrorists, there is a risk of discrimination on the ground of nationality. We call attention to the proposals to retain indefinitely fingerprints taken from intending immigrants, believing that it stigmatises those who have no criminal connections whatever.
We note the extension of the powers of constables to require anyone on the street to remove facial coverings. That could be a matter of sensitivity for many people, particularly Muslim women.
We also call attention to the extension of police powers in non-terrorism cases relating to detention in a police station, such as being photographed without consent, removing any article worn on the head or face, even with the use of force, and the fact that there are no accompanying provisions covering the taking, storing, retention and cross-matching of the photos. We also note that the code of practice relating to the retention of communications data will not be subject to any parliamentary procedure, even though it may be used in evidence in courts and tribunals.
Finally, the European arrest warrant should be introduced by primary legislation rather than by invoking the provisions in clause 109. In brief form, those were the points to which the Committee wanted to draw the attention of both Houses as they consider the measure.
In conclusion, the Bill entails a great leap of faith and a considerable element of trust. I believe that the Home Secretary has evidence that a number of people—albeit a small number—are abusing our immigration and asylum system for the purposes of terrorism. However, by its nature, that evidence cannot be shared with us.
I have more reason than most people to trust the Home Secretary, having served as his Parliamentary Private Secretary during almost the whole of the last Parliament, but emergency legislation passed in haste can often haunt us. The Bill provides that the power of detention will continue in force for only 15 months, so I hope that the Home Secretary has booked a slot in the legislative timetable for February 2003 to ensure that it is not renewed. As the Joint Committee on Human Rights states in its report:
"The situations which may appear to justify the granting of such powers are temporary—the loss of freedom is often permanent."
The Ulster Unionist party understands the need for most parts of the legislation. However, I am sure that the Home Secretary will recall that in summer 1998, following the tragic bomb explosion in Omagh in which 28 innocent people were brutally murdered, the House was recalled to debate emergency anti-terrorist legislation and that there was much talk of how effective such legislation would be in combating terrorism, especially the activities of the Real IRA. I bring the attention of the House to the reality that not one person in the United Kingdom has been convicted under that legislation since it was enacted by the House.
The Real IRA—the main target of the legislation—continues to be active in the United Kingdom and, indeed, we have seen its activities recently in Birmingham. To enact legislation is not in itself enough to defeat terrorism, so I urge the Government to look carefully at the effectiveness of the new laws that they intend to introduce.
With regret, we also note that Irish terrorism is not covered in the definition of international terrorism. That is difficult to understand, as the definition of an international terrorist group is that it is
"subject to the control or influence of persons outside the United Kingdom".
Is a person who resides in the Irish Republic not someone who lives outside the United Kingdom? Is it not the case that the Real IRA, for example, are controlled by people who live outside the United Kingdom? Is it not also the case that the Real IRA and indeed the Provisional IRA have been engaged in international terrorism?
During last summer, three senior members of the Provisional IRA were arrested in Colombia. It is thought that they were involved in the preparation and instigation of acts of terrorism in that country and were sharing their engineering expertise in bomb making with the Colombian terrorist group, FARC. However, the Provisional IRA will not come under the definition of an international terrorist group set out in the Bill; nor will the Real IRA, which has been involved in procuring weapons abroad and has been assisted in its terrorist activities by people residing outside the United Kingdom. It is, of course, a two-way process. The IRA has been assisting other international terrorist groups in acts of terrorism, yet it will not fall under the provisions of the Bill.
The leader of my party, Mr. Trimble, has written to the Home Secretary setting out in detail our views on those aspects of the Bill that affect—or ought to affect—the terrorist situation in Northern Ireland. However, as I said, one of our primary concerns is the definition of international terrorism. Will the Government look at that carefully? We believe that the definition is too narrow. It is wrong to exclude groups primarily involved in acts of terrorism related to Northern Ireland or other parts of the United Kingdom; there is ample evidence that those groups are involved with and engage in international terrorism.
I support the comments of Mr. Letwin, the spokesman for the official Opposition, on the clauses dealing with incitement to religious hatred. I also support the comments of other right hon. and hon. Members in that regard. There is a genuine fear, especially among Christians, that those provisions will have serious implications for freedom of speech.
The Home Secretary must reflect on those points. The concept of civil and religious liberty lies at the heart of our constitution. I and my party are concerned that the provisions will curb civil and religious liberties to such an extent that we shall be unable to pursue the evangelism of our Christian faith in this country for fear that it will cause offence and that we will end up in court as a result of such activities.
I want to focus on the provisions on the retention of communications data. We are disappointed that the Government have not made provision for the admissibility of wire-tap evidence in bringing prosecutions against terrorists. The Home Secretary will be aware of the success of the United States authorities in infiltrating the mafia and securing convictions using the legal powers laid down in "RICO"—the racketeer influenced corrupt organisations legislation.
We have pursued that issue in the House for several years. Interestingly, it was considered by Lord Lloyd of Berwick in his inquiry into anti-terrorist legislation. In considering the arguments for and against the admissibility of wire-tap evidence, he made several points. I quote from one paragraph of his report. In dealing with the arguments in favour of an amendment on the subject, Lord Lloyd stated:
"The first and most obvious argument is that evidence of intercepted material is admissible to prove guilt in each of the countries which I have visited, and in every other country of which I have knowledge. The United Kingdom stands alone in excluding such material."
Why on earth does the United Kingdom impose that unique handicap on itself when dealing with serious crime, including offences of a terrorist nature? I can see no sense in that.
There are inconsistencies in the approach taken by the Government and also by previous Governments, as at present it is possible for conversations recorded by a device placed on a person to be admissible in evidence, yet evidence gathered using similar equipment to record telephone conversations is not admissible. When the Prime Minister declared war against Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, he did so partly on the basis of intelligence information made available to him, no doubt including information gathered using wire-taps. Surely, if it is right to go to war on the strength of such information, it is right to make use of it to prosecute terrorists in our courts. Therefore, I urge the Government to consider the value of using wire-tap evidence and its admissibility in court if we are to secure convictions against international terrorists. It is worth bearing it in mind that, after years of terrorist activity, those people are very astute in the methods that they use to evade conviction, prosecution and, indeed, capture. We see that very clearly with the al-Qaeda group. Therefore, if we are to take stringent measures to combat terrorism, we should use every valid means at our disposal to ensure that those people are brought to justice. Making wire-tap evidence admissible is a valid method to secure prosecutions against terrorists, who are very adept at evading prosecution and conviction.
I return to what I said at the beginning of my speech. The legislation that emerged in the aftermath of the Omagh bombing is on the statute book, but, to date, it has proven totally ineffective in bringing to justice the people who perpetrated the Omagh bombing. They are still at large, free to carry out their evil activities. Therefore, in proceeding with the Bill, the Government need to take steps to ensure that the legislation is more effective than at present. However, I support those who call for the provisions on incitement to religious hatred to be removed and dealt with in separate legislation and at greater length, so that we can fully consider their consequences.
This is a compendious, complex camel of a Bill. In very large part, it is incontrovertible; in very large part, it is worthy. In juxtaposition, parts of it are draconian, dangerous and completely unacceptable and, unhappily, other parts of it are completely incomprehensible. I would challenge any professor of linguistics or semantics to cast light, meaning or vision on clauses 25 and 26. As I have unsuccessfully wrestled with those clauses for a considerable time and as they go straight to the very deepest and basic part of human liberties, that is, to say the least, a shame.
There are sinister overtones of the great Lewis Carroll in another important part of the Bill. Hon. Members will have noticed that, under clause 21(4), the definition of a suspected international terrorist is someone who has been certified as a suspected international terrorist. That logic would have been well understood by Alice in Wonderland—"words are what I certify them to be."
Some parts undoubtedly require urgent and emergency legislation; other parts manifestly and certainly do not. Religious bigotry certainly does not, nor do other more immediate provisions. For example, the power in respect of disguises in Northern Ireland does not require emergency legislation. Giving police officers the power to say, "Give me your moustache and your balaclava", may well be valuable in the Province, but that provision should not be found in the Bill.
Of course, the Bill's kernel, which has exercised the House for almost the whole debate, is to be found in clauses 21 to 32—the powers of internment and detention by the Executive without trial, without charge and without the subject having the elementary protection of even knowing the basis on which he or she is interned.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman please forgive me for not giving way as time is limited? I suspect that I may well cover what he has in mind.
Before I go on to deal with the Bill in detail, may I acquit the Home Secretary in two respects? May I acquit him of the outrage and the criticism—which came from many different directions, not just from Hampstead socialists—that greeted his description of those who are concerned about arbitrary, Executive imprisonment without charge or trial as being airy-fairy? I do not think for a minute that he believed what he said on that occasion. If he did, it was alarming indeed that he should have shown such contempt for the absolute, central tenet of human liberties, for which hundreds, thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of men and women—many of them designated as terrorists—have fought during the past century of totalitarian government.
The Home Secretary has a penchant for irony. One might even say that he has fallen for it, and one is forgiving and characterises what he said as an ironic statement, as indeed one does about the words that have occasionally fallen from his lips in relation to the judiciary, which have sounded semi-venomous, if not absolutely venomous. No doubt those remarks were intended to excite the judiciary—as, indeed, they have from time to time—but I acquit him of the charges of illiteracy as to the divisions of power. I dare say that he has read Montesquieu with the care and attention that I have, and I acquit him of that charge.
I also acquit the Home Secretary of the concept that he arrogates such powers to himself willingly—anything else would indeed be alarming—and of the oft-repeated criticism that he is using a populist veil to push through this draconian legislation. Let us acquit him of all those things and consider the substance of what he is attempting to do.
Three tests are necessary to arrogate all those powers to himself. First, are they necessary? Secondly, have safeguards been built into the Bill or the British common law sufficient to deal with those powers? On the first test, I am bound to say—I am sorry to have to do so—that I am unconvinced. I came here with an open mind— I wanted to be convinced. I listened for the evidence, although I appreciate that some of it cannot be shared with us. What did we hear? We heard a quotation from The Times, which said that hundreds of terrorists are living in our midst, without any source for that information. Where does it come from? I would lay quite a lot of money on the source probably being a Home Office briefing. Thus, I am unconvinced of the need for such powers, as are many hon. Members.
Let us assume for a moment that there is such a need. Let us pass on to the linchpin of the defence offered by the Home Secretary—that SIAC will effectively take over judicial review. There was a wonderful, dramatic pause when the Home Secretary waved the rhetorical cape and said that hon. Members were all here when SIAC was created, and that those who cavilled at SIAC's powers should stand up and be counted, to a man or woman, but there was silence. I am terribly sorry that I was so slow to get on to my feet; by that time, he had moved on.
Of course, if hon. Members had heard that SIAC—that star chamber of an organisation, with all its draconian powers over evidence—was to be used as an appeals procedure not for deportation but for the indefinite incarceration of people without charge or trial, no one would have voted for it; or, if they had, they would have felt ashamed of themselves a great deal earlier than this. SIAC is not a body known to law. It is a star chamber, and it is manifestly inadequate as the only appeal court against the exercise of such powers.
The final provision that causes concern is clause 29—the deliberate and expressed exclusion of the courts and judicial review from the procedure. I have heard it said that the court considering judicial review cannot take into account the merits of the case before the Home Secretary. I have to say, using the best parliamentary language that I can, that that is complete bunkum. A divisional court, in considering ministerial discretion, has the power to examine everything that the Minister can consider. The test that it applies is: could a reasonable Minister have come to this conclusion? It is a high test, but I do not know why the Home Secretary should be worried about it—I have not the remotest idea. Terrorists or potential terrorists can be kept in custody while a judicial review takes place and we have all the mechanisms and protections in place under the immunity provisions so that information is not revealed in public. At the end of the day, a divisional court makes its decision, but such a court has been deliberately and totally excluded from the Bill.
That is the point at which I stick. I will never vote for the Bill for as long as clause 29 is in it. It is the signpost to tyranny, and I will not take a single step—no matter how few people are involved—down that road.
I am delighted to follow Mr. Marshall-Andrews, but I wish that he would come off the fence and say what he really means. It is a treat to follow him; he is an advertisement for independent-minded Members who speak their minds. I pay tribute to him for that.
I acknowledge the speech of my hon. Friend Mr. Letwin, the shadow Home Secretary. I pay tribute to him for what was a real tour de force and an example of how we can oppose with reasonableness and in a forensic way. I hope that it will be a model for the future. It was a privilege to be present to hear his speech.
I have a considerable measure of support for the Bill, but I have three concerns and in the nine and a half minutes that remain to me I shall recite them. First, like many others, I am concerned about the time scale. We all understand that there are times when the House needs to act quickly to deal with emergencies, but there are at least two major provisions that do not, by any means, constitute emergency legislation.
The first is the anti-bribery legislation that flows from a commitment that we signed up to under Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development provisions back in 1998. I know that because when I carried out a Front-Bench job on international development not a million years ago we consistently called on the Government to incorporate the OECD convention in United Kingdom law and to introduce anti-bribery provisions. My hon. Friend Mrs. Spelman, who is doing a fantastic job in her portfolio, has continued to call for that legislation but she has not, in any circumstances, specified that it should be appended to an emergency Bill. The Home Secretary got that wrong.
We know that for many years many communities have discussed laws against religious discrimination. Until recently, we eagerly awaited the university of Derby's report on the subject because there was a measure of optimism that the Government would consider it carefully and introduce laws on religious discrimination. However, no one anticipated that they would tack those laws on to emergency legislation dealing with terrorism. That is a significant mistake. It is in the nature of Governments that they will seek to maximise every opportunity to pass legislation in the House, but I regret that they are adding to important emergency legislation other provisions that have no place in the Bill.
My two other reservations have been well recited in the debate, but I want to make a contribution to that important discussion. I feel strongly that the Government are making a significant mistake with part 4. We all recognise that those who drafted the European convention on human rights after the second world war attempted to ensure that the holocaust would never happen again. Therefore, we support the convention 100 per cent.
However, can one imagine that, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, it was in the minds of the draftsmen of that convention that a British Home Secretary with strong grounds for suspecting that someone was a threat to national security should not be able to prevent that person from entering this country? That would not have been in their minds. In addition, they would not have contemplated that people in the country who were considered to be a threat to national security could not be deported or, certainly, extradited to countries where the death penalty was in place. That takes the convention too far, and judges who have turned article 3 into such a provision have done us all a grave disservice.
The person in the Dog and Duck in my constituency—although there is no pub of that name there—and people considering the issue in detail recognise that there is a problem. It is absurd that this country cannot deal with people who are a threat to national security by sending them back to their home country or onwards for trial to countries such as India or the United States of America. However, in response to that genuine problem, the Home Secretary has come up with a strange and dangerous solution—to intern or confine people without trial for an indefinite period, which must undermine many precious and long-regarded freedoms. He is making a very serious mistake.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset referred to the precedent that such a provision would create, and he was absolutely right. We have now all come to terms with, and have begun to take for granted, policemen walking around airports or Whitehall with machine guns. How did we reach that point in just a few months? Although I am in favour of the police protecting us, such draconian measures represent a slippery slope. If we introduce draconian measures on internment, who knows where we will end up in five or 10 years' time? I ask the Home Secretary to reconsider that provision. We face the real risk of reprisals, so is it right for this country to take on board that extra danger simply because he has chosen the wrong solution to an undoubted problem?
We have offered the Home Secretary another solution. The solution is smart and there is no reason why it cannot work. It involves stepping outside the convention for a millisecond and introducing the restrictions and derogations that we need to make sure that article 3 does not apply in these circumstances. If the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Beverley Hughes, believes, after legal advice, that our solution cannot be introduced, will she explain why? I believe that it can and should be implemented.
My final concern relates to part 5. I want to live in a country where people are free to follow their religious convictions and are not discriminated against because of the colour of their skin, their religious faith or their genuinely held convictions. However, I also want to live in a country where there is genuine freedom of speech. Therefore, I say to the Government and to the Home Secretary that they really need to reconsider part 5. It will almost certainly fall foul of the historic law of unintended consequences. If it becomes law, horrendous unintended consequences are likely to make religious relationships worse. I ask them to think again.
Will the Government take the provisions in part 5 out of the Bill and put them in a White Paper so that we can have a proper period of consultation with senior religious leaders? We all want to get on together and to create a society in which people are not discriminated against and in which everyone is treated equally.
Let us think of some of the difficulties involved with seriously and sincerely held religious faiths. Some people might argue, "There is no God but Allah, and anyone who believes differently is an infidel." Others might argue that, "Jesus Christ is the unique gateway to salvation and anyone who does not believe that will not go to heaven." Yet others might say, "The Jews are God's chosen race and nobody else is." However, if the provisions becomes law, we shall have a cocktail for conflict and derision. We want to ensure that no one is discriminated against because of their religious belief, but let us put the provisions into a White Paper so that the Government can consult. If, after the consultation, it becomes clear that legislation is necessary, let us introduce more balanced, insightful and sensible measures.
At the moment, the Bill is flawed. We shall of course support it, because it is important that we send a clear signal to terrorists that we shall close every loophole and take every measure to bear down on them. There are, however, at least two provisions that even reasonably minded people such as me could not support at this stage. The Government have their work cut out to persuade us that they have thought it through, seen the consequences of parts 4 and 5 and decided that, as there are no alternatives, this will make serious and sensible law. At the moment, I have to say that at the very least the jury is out.
I have listened carefully to the debate and was pleased to be in the Chamber for Home Office questions earlier. It is interesting to note how many of today's questions related to MPs' concerns about constituents of theirs who felt that there was no justice in, for example, the way in which antisocial behaviour was dealt with in their communities—a fact which I will link to the debate that we are holding today. I strongly believe that what came out of the tragedy of
The events have caused me and my constituents to question whether the 20th-century methods of dealing with terrorism, or our perception of what terrorists are or how they behave, is valid in the 21st century. As the debate after
Whatever is portrayed of the United Kingdom, and whatever arguments we may have on issues of civil liberties, I am pleased to be able to say that, looking round the world, we live in a tolerant and fairly liberal society. Our society recognises that people are entitled to rights in terms of their position. However, some of those people who read in the papers about the latest use of human rights or social justice or equality have started to question whether they are fair.
No, I do not want to take any interventions; lots of people want to speak and I do not want to encroach on their time. I hope that we will have a chance to debate the issue further in Committee.
How have we arrived at this point? The events of
We cannot interact with that terrorism as we might have interacted with a different type of terrorism in the past. It is not about doing something in exchange for releasing prisoners. Over the past few days it has emerged that bin Laden could have had a hand in the beheading of the British Telecom engineers in Chechnya, so such terrorism is certainly not about clear demands. From what I have read—I am no expert—the engineers were killed purely because they might have introduced a telecommunications systems in that country which would have allowed people to have access to discussion and debate and because bin Laden wanted to destabilise European investment. Those are not demands that we could understand.
We are dealing with terrorists who have the education and finance to carry out hugely complex terrorist acts on an international basis. They do not need to be heavily armed or strapped up with Semtex; instead they use the latest technology to pursue their aims, based on small networks throughout the world. It is a new form of remote-control terrorism, which uses technology in a way that I have not been aware of before. Few could imagine the shattering of lives that it caused on
In the face of such actions, we need new powers to tackle the threat. Our country has a relatively liberal regime. Despite all the discussion about asylum and immigration laws, the system is fair, but the fact is that there are those who seek to abuse it. We know that asylum seekers disappear. We also know that false names are used. We found out that many of the terrorists in the United States used the names of people living in, for example, Egypt. We only need a small number—not hundreds—of highly motivated activists to carry out enormous crimes against humanity.
I believe that, when all is said and done, the debate is about striking a balance between preserving the freedoms that we all cherish and recognising the threat that we face today. We can all contribute to the scrutiny of the Bill, but few of us in the Chamber will bear the responsibility if we do not attempt to tackle a threat that might lead to a tragedy happening in central London similar to that which happened in New York.
The Government are accused of cynicism for pushing the Bill through, but with every day that goes by, we are risking our safety. Terrorists are not awaiting legislation. Bin Laden will no doubt follow world events. As the picture worsens for him in Afghanistan, who knows what plans he has for more murderous terrorist activities around the world? Some of my colleagues have suggested that we risk making matters worse, but what is the alternative? I believe that the detention plans strike a fair balance, and we should also use fingerprinting to get around the problem of people using false names at a later date.
I turn now to police powers to ask people to remove masks or head coverings. My hon. Friend Dr. Starkey told me that during elections in Qatar, where she was an observer, every woman wearing a veil was asked to remove it so that she could be identified before going to vote. If there are violent activities on our streets, the police have a right and responsibility to ask people to identify themselves. If people in the vicinity of a violent act are known to the security forces because of their activities, it is right that we should know where they were when the event took place.
I hope that the Bill will receive a Second Reading. We must go home to our constituents and explain that it is necessary. Times are hard and decisions are difficult, but we must bear it in mind that safeguards are incorporated in the Bill to ensure review and to uphold people's right to reasonable behaviour. We must take people with us on this, or we will do human rights a huge injustice.
I very much hope that the House does not accept the advice of Caroline Flint because, in justifying her actions, she has focused almost exclusively on the terrorism measures in the Bill. However, as she knows full well, the Bill has 14 parts, and only one deals with terrorism.
That takes me to the central theme of my remarks. I share the reservations of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench, but those reservations cause me to believe that we should deny the Bill a Second Reading, rather than abstain or wait and see what happens. I say that essentially for two reasons. First, I am against the process, and secondly I am against much of the content.
I shall deal first with the process, because that causes me the greatest offence. The Bill was published last week. We are discussing it three or four days thereafter. The lobby groups have not yet had an opportunity to express their views. The passage of the Bill will be complete by Monday of next week, following about two days of parliamentary discussion. That is a very odd thing to do with a Bill that infringes civil rights in many important respects and touches on terrorism in only one part.
Most of the Bill has simply come out of the Home Office's back lobby. It has a lot of stuff that it wants to put before Parliament, and it has attached it to this Bill. Part 5 deals with incitement to religious hatred, which is a very important issue, but it has nothing to do with terrorism; part 10 on police powers, ditto; part 11 on retention of communications data, ditto; part 12 on bribery and corruption, ditto; part 13 on implementation of the European Union third pillar, ditto. All those matters are important, but they are certainly not about terrorism, and yet we are subjecting them to a very tight timetable. Measures of fundamental importance to many of our constituents will be rushed through in two parliamentary days. That is offensive; indeed, it is a scandal.
There was a perfectly proper way forward. I suggested it to the Home Secretary, and it got some support from my hon. Friend Mr. Letwin. We could have identified that part of the Bill which is urgent and touches on terrorism, put it into a short Bill of one or two parts and asked the House to push it through. We could have cleared the parliamentary timetable to enable the matter to be properly discussed. I would have been willing to do that, and I might even have been persuaded as to the merits of such a Bill, but most certainly I will not support an extraordinarily tight timetable to push through legislation most of which has absolutely nothing to do with terrorism.
I turn now to content. Mr. Marshall-Andrews made an extraordinarily powerful speech, which I cannot emulate, on part 4. He is absolutely right because part 4 is deeply offensive. It concerns internment without trial. I was a Home Office Minister for two years and a Foreign Office Minister for five. When I was a Home Office Minister I argued against internment without trial in Northern Ireland. When I was a Foreign Office Minister I argued against unlawful detention in the middle east.
I seem to remember that Labour Members gave me some support when I made those points—but not now. They were, of course, right because the general arguments against internment without trial are very powerful. We normally get the wrong people; it is unjust; we depart from the moral high ground, and we alienate folk. It is a jolly bad policy to pursue. When one looks a little more closely at the detail, as the hon. and learned Member for Medway has done, one sees what a scandal it is in this case. People can be confined arbitrarily and indefinitely because of the Secretary of State's suspicion or belief. Suspicion and belief are enough to take people's liberty away.
We were told by the Home Secretary that there will be some form of appeal to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, which was set up under different legislation for a different purpose; the hon. and learned Member for Medway was entirely right about that. However, that judicial safeguard is pretty rum. To start with, the detained person does not necessarily have to know the evidence; he does not even have to be present during the inquiry and may be excluded; he may not necessarily appoint representatives of his own choice. If the Law Officer chooses to appoint a representative for him, the Bill expressly states that he is not responsible for the interests of the detained person. It is a pretty rum safeguard.
The tribunal only has to say that it may be satisfied on the grounds of suspicion or belief for a certificate to be issued. Even if the certificate is cancelled, the Secretary of State can issue another one straight away without any explanation. We were told by Jean Corston—and she is entirely right—that the provisions will die away 15 months after the Bill is enacted. So they will, but the Home Secretary has the power by order, or even without order, to return to the House and revive or extend that 15-month period. That is a pretty rum safeguard.
I am hostile to the Bill because I disapprove of the process used to introduce it. It includes significant measures touching on important civil liberties, but we are proposing to rush it through in one week; that is not right, it cannot be right and the House should not do it, as it means that the Bill will not be properly scrutinised. Even if I am wrong about that—and I am not—part 4 is deeply offensive to those of us who cherish liberty. For that reason, I shall seek to divide the House, even if the only people in the No Lobby are Mr. Sedgemore and my right hon. Friend Mr. Gummer; they will be good company.
I support the Bill and have good reason to do so. I do not believe that its powers will be abused by the authorities in any way. I was surprised by the speech of Mr. Hogg because the Government to whom he belonged had an appalling record on civil liberties.
I admire the Home Secretary for his courage and guts in fighting terrorism which, everybody knows, is the cancer of society. I offer my condolences once again to the people of New York, who live in a city that seems to be under constant siege. With the atrocities of
We are dealing with an organisation willing to take terrorist activity to unprecedented levels. America may be al-Qaeda's priority, but bin Laden's own words point to his desire to extend the conflict to Americans and their civilian and military allies. To address that threat, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is proposing several sensible measures. On aviation security, for example, the Bill improves the police's ability to deal with potentially dangerous situations at airports and on aircraft. Allowing the authorities to remove someone from a restricted zone makes sense.
In the light of the threats made by bin Laden, another logical step is to tighten legislation relating to chemical, nuclear and biological weapons, including the provision to make it an offence to aid or abet the overseas use or development of such weapons. I approve of plans to allow officers to stop, question and search people travelling or believed to be travelling by aircraft within Great Britain.
Only this year, President Mubarak of Egypt announced that Egyptian intelligence had learned of a communiqué regarding a plan to load an aeroplane full of explosives and plunge it into Genoa during the G8 summit in June. As we know, if terrorist organisations are to succeed, they require funding. The speed with which money can change hands means that the authorities must be able to act swiftly. It makes sense for the Government to have the power to freeze the assets of overseas individuals or groups who support terrorist acts, even if that means acting before the European Union or the United Nations have agreed a course of action.
Stifling terrorists' financial links may make their lives more difficult, but it will not be enough to close down their activities completely. Terrorism is often not a particularly expensive business for the terrorist, who may simply have to pay for plane tickets, van rentals and the rental of two apartments. Clearly, it will be difficult to starve organisations such as al-Qaeda of money. The American Treasury estimates the total cost of the 1993 World Trade Centre bombings at around $18,000. That is why firmer action will sometimes be necessary.
The United Kingdom has frequently taken too soft an approach to those who not only incite hatred, but are willing to offer assistance to terrorist organisations. Terrorists in this country have been given the freedom to indulge in terrorist activities and kill people, including one of my friends in my constituency. I can guarantee that those involved in terrorist activities will not be questioning their actions as we are questioning ours.
Dr. Magnus Ranstorp of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism at the university of St. Andrews said:
"London is an attractive place because it is a multinational city."
Bin Laden had his advice and reform committee in Britain in 1994 and lived here before he gained notoriety. Our legal system, with all its avenues of appeal, which is used to provide justice for the citizens of this country, is often exploited by terrorists and their supporters. Some of the press, politicians and human rights activists also sometimes give support and encouragement indirectly.
For that reason, I welcome the introduction of firmer detention powers. Arbitrarily detaining massive numbers of suspects would be unpopular and wrong, and as a Member of Parliament representing a constituency with a large ethnic population, I am sensitive to people's concerns. However, the Bill is targeted specifically at foreign nationals against whom there is fairly strong evidence and who cannot be sent back to their own country. We are not dealing with a catch-all measure, but with something designed very much with al-Qaeda in mind.
I believe that many human rights campaigners take a naive view of the people with whom we are dealing and wrongly charge the Home Secretary with trampling on our civil liberties. Indeed, some hon. Members have accused him of doing that. However, this is a mature, democratic country. These measures will take effect only where there is strong evidence. Law-abiding citizens who are not involved in terrorist activities will have nothing to fear.
Recent evidence has highlighted al-Qaeda's attempts to develop nuclear capabilities, which are well known to the international community. A nuclear or biological strike on this or any other country would represent an attack on our liberties. It is unfortunate that these measures are necessary, but the ruthless actions of bin Laden and his followers have left us with little choice. We have seen that in Afghanistan. A manual entitled "Military studies in the Jihad against tyrants" was found in Manchester in May 2000. It outlined the tactics that al-Qaeda operatives should employ. All the instructions were given to them. The cell structure, as they call it, that they are encouraged to use makes gathering evidence against them difficult. The 180-page manual indicates the thoroughness of the preparations that we have to combat.
In an ideal world, we would not have to take these firmer measures—I can believe that—but
"The confrontation that we are calling for with the apostate regime does not know Socratic debates . . . Platonic ideals . . . nor Aristotelian diplomacy."
If we do not act at this precise moment, there is no doubt that the terrorists will.
The Home Secretary has characterised the Bill as emergency legislation that is being introduced in response to a threat that is exceptional and beyond our past recollections. I represent a constituency that is situated very near to Birmingham. An assault on people there occurred 25 years ago. Indeed, an assault was attempted only two weeks ago. It would have been massive, had the explosive gone off, as the detonator did. People who live in London have been under assault for more than 30 years, with the threat of terrorism hanging over them. All through those years, we maintained our attachment to a basic concept of who we are as a people and what distinguishes us as citizens of this island. That includes our attachment to due process and the right to know the charges that are laid against us. At the centre of that are the courts, as well as ourselves.
The Home Secretary has issued a statutory instrument, which will be debated later, on the basis of a claim that there is a public emergency threatening the life of the nation—an issue that has come before the courts before. Lawless v. Ireland states that it refers to
"an exceptional situation of crisis or emergency that affects the whole population and constitutes a threat to the organised life of the community of which the state is composed."
I reflect on that, because no other European state has sought a derogation such as that sought by the Home Secretary. I reflect also that, in the context of the common law countries, among which we are, or rather were, pre-eminent, there is no prospect of removing these matters from the judgment of the courts. Therein lies the freedom of the citizen and even of the stranger to this shore. I do not want to see a deterioration in our regard for ourselves.
I want to speak about process, which my right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Hogg discussed so eloquently. Part 3 appears to be lifted from the Criminal Justice and Police Bill. In the case of that measure, the provision was deemed—that sums up the House's regard for such matters—by the Labour majority to have been discussed, although it had not been considered. It fell only because of the intervention of a general election.
Part 5, which covers religious hatred offences, constitutes a great threat to our liberty and sense of self-regard. Whatever my feelings, what are such provisions doing in a measure that is trying to deal with an emergency that threatens the nation? They should not be included; neither part 3 nor part 5 should be in the Bill.
As my right hon. Friend Mr. Gummer said, implementing the European Union third pillar is not appropriate. Its inclusion is a major constitutional breach. Provisions that affect home affairs and the criminal law in this country should not be passed through delegated legislation. Under chapter VI of the treaty on European Union, which also deals with legal and police matters, such changes have to made through primary legislation.
The Home Office exists to protect and ensure due process under our constitution, not to hand over power so that a directive can become part of our law without proper scrutiny by those who are sent here to represent people. There will be difficulties in the upper House about implementing such constitutional provisions. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal said, such incorporation should be done through primary legislation.
I asked my hon. Friend Mr. Letwin why the Bill included provisions on bribery and corruption. I am rather ashamed that they are incorporated at the insistence of Conservative Front-Bench Members. I did not know that and I am dismayed by the knowledge. Their inclusion is absolutely nutty.
When we strip down the measure, what is left? What is the irreducible factor that causes anxiety? I am sympathetic towards some provisions, such as those dealing with pathogens, whatever they may be. They sound menacing and frightening and should be incorporated in the Bill.
However, we must revert to the central questions with which I began. Who are we? What are we defending? What constitutes our sense of freedom and justice, which we extend to all members of our communities and those who reach our shores? I understand the Home Secretary's difficulty. I, too, believe that we should be able to reject those whom we do not want here.
However, we all know that the Home Secretary knows no more than me who enters and leaves this country. He knows no more than me whether they are of good character or conducive to the public good. He will rely on something that I have come to dread—secret information given by those who are charged with the most difficult task of all: maintaining the security of the state. They cannot reveal their sources or give evidence in open court. On that basis, we have committed terrible actions.
Northern Ireland has been mentioned, and hon. Members have referred to what happened in Diplock courts and in set-ups. Under such circumstances, the Home Secretary becomes the only king of our law. He determines what is right and wrong. I do not believe that that is right. Generations before us did not believe that one man should determine something so dreadful that, even if wrong, it would characterise an individual for the rest of his life.
The Bill is wholly unacceptable. It is only part of the rather brisk march towards a security state that I have witnessed in the 22 years that I have been a Member of Parliament. Against our traditions, we are the security state non plus ultra in the western democratic world. One has only to look at everything that we now do: we cannot have freedom of information in the way that the former Secretary of State proposed in a White Paper. Why not? Because we have more secrets and sensitive matters than any other common law country.
This is the heart of the matter: the Home Secretary hopes to bounce the House into passing the Bill, with all its 125 clauses and eight schedules. We have approximately six hours for its Second Reading. We will then have 15 hours at the most to deal with all the concerns of the House that I and others have described. All I know is that the Bill will go through with a massive majority, and that we cannot debate these clauses and schedules rationally in 15 hours and then have time for a Third Reading. We are now also told that there will be amendments.
The House is doing yet again what it does constantly under this Government: it is hoping that the House of Lords will assert through careful deliberation the principles that many of us on the Conservative Benches profoundly believe in. The Bill should be voted against.
I will try to be brief, as I know that many of my colleagues want to speak.
I do not want to live in a security state, but I believe that we want to live in a secure one. I think that my hon. Friend Caroline Flint and I speak for the vast majority of our colleagues who have been silent throughout the debate, in saying that those who shout the loudest do not necessarily have the best arguments. I should say to Mr. Hogg that, if he is looking for briefings, I have several here from a number of the different lobby groups, and I would be happy to share them with him.
The majority of provisions in the Bill are uncontroversial. The measures relating to hoaxers, financial powers, data sharing, biological and chemical instruments, the nuclear industry, and strengthening security at airports must be matters on which hon. Members on both sides of the House can agree. I accept the argument that the timing of the Bill is difficult. It is true that its introduction has been speedy, but we have had time, albeit limited, for some scrutiny already. The Home Affairs Committee, of which I am a member, and the Joint Committee on Human Rights have given some scrutiny to the Bill already. We have certainly had more time to scrutinise it than we have had for any previous emergency legislation brought before the House. Clearly, the world has changed since
I want to address two main points. First, like many hon. Members, I have deep concerns, as did our Select Committee, about the clauses dealing with incitement to religious hatred. That is not because I disagree with the provision in principle. I agree that we should legislate on the matter. It is, however, a complex area that needs to be examined in more detail. Nor do I have any concerns about Rev. Ian Paisley condemning the Pope as the anti-Christ and having his right to freedom of speech undermined. In the situations in which that hon. Gentleman makes such remarks, I simply turn the other cheek. The issue is complex, and I would like further debate involving members of all our faith communities and others before that provision becomes law.
Secondly, I want to talk about the clauses relating to the asylum and immigration, and to the question of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission and judicial review. I am convinced that SIAC's role in reviewing the Home Secretary's decisions is more than adequate. When the Opposition spokesman commented on how ludicrous it was that the Home Secretary would not have the ability to remove people, he made the very case for judicial review not being needed. There is no need for judicial review because SIAC has a High Court judge presiding, and another judge sitting with him or her, as well as someone with special experience in security issues. Furthermore, there will be a right of appeal to the divisional court on a point of law.
I say to those who argue that there should be judicial review that one High Court judge reviewing the decision of another would simply add another layer. On the matter of evidence, the Home Affairs Committee has expressed concerns. The hearing could be held in camera, which would prevent the press from seeing the evidence, but the defendant may cross-examine. That means that the defendant would have information from the security services that may undermine their role and, indeed, threaten people's lives. I do not see why we should endanger the lives of members of our security services in such circumstances.
As so many colleagues want to speak, I draw my comments to a close by saying that I welcome the Bill in so far as any of us can welcome such legislation. I say to the civil liberties lobby that it does not have a monopoly on concerns about people's rights, whether they be civil liberties or human rights. No one, at least on this side of the House, takes such steps lightly, which is why we on the Home Affairs Committee reluctantly accept the need for the legislation in these times.
I believe that the Home Secretary himself is as reluctant as we are to take these measures, but the evil of
It is a pleasure to follow Ms Prentice. We both sit on the Home Affairs Committee and we did our best to consider the Bill in the little time that we had. Like her, I do not deny the scale of the problem that we face—200 of our fellow countrymen dead in the world's worst terrorist outrage—nor do I deny the great evidence that we are still in danger.
The Home Affairs Committee has twice been briefed by the security services. I even managed to make it to the right building on one occasion, but the first time, instead of going to MI5's, I went to the other one. I could not ask a policeman the way. The security services gave us compelling evidence and I ask them, if they can, to publish as much as possible, because we in the House are being asked to pass remarkable legislation.
I do not deny the need for a Bill and there are good elements to it, such as those on hoaxing, British Transport police and nuclear facilities, but I have four serious objections. The first is the size of the Bill—we do not have to read it, as we can simply weigh it. There are 124 clauses and eight schedules, but we are told that it must be dealt with by Christmas.
Although the House has only three days on which to consider the Bill, it will be law by Christmas, which, as other Members have said, is the operative word. This Christmas tree Bill has been round every Department and pieces have been hung on it. Having listened to the debate, I believe that we shall have to perform serious surgery.
I am new to the House and today I have seen one of the worst sides of being a Member, as we are passing a 124-clause Bill in just three days at the whim of the Executive. We have heard powerful speeches laying bear the objections to parts of the Bill and I beg the Government to listen. They have had little time to prepare the Bill. If they came back to the House to say, "We have thought again and we will remove parts of it," they would be applauded and there would be no loss of face.
Let me touch on some objections. We must be clear on the third pillar and clause 109: effectively, it allows Ministers to pass through the House as a statutory instrument rather than a Bill any measure agreed at the Justice and Home Affairs Council. That is staggering.
The Government are not saying, "Europe has agreed an important terrorist measure and we must rush it through the House and get it into British law." They are not saying, "A package of terrorism measures has been agreed so we must put it into law." They are not even saying that any European Union decision on terrorism must go through this place quickly and become law. They are saying that any, and possibly every, measure agreed under the third pillar by Europe's Justice and Home Affairs Ministers can go into law without primary legislation being passed.
Where was that in any of our manifestos—in anything that we put before people when we are asked to come to this place? And what important decision in Europe produced the need for this legislation? There is the rub: we do not yet know. The terrorism framework directive has not yet been finally agreed, so we do not know what we shall be passing into law and what is quite so urgent.
It is even worse than that. We are not taking this power—not taking this huge constitutional step—in a normal Bill, debated properly in the House; we are rushing it through in a piece of emergency legislation that will be debated in only three days. As other Members have said, clause 109 is not emergency legislation, and it should be struck from the Bill.
Then there is the question of incitement to religious hatred. I utterly condemn those who stir up religious hatred, whether we are talking about Abu Hamza in the Finsbury park mosque or thugs in the National Front, but I want the police to use existing laws to gather intelligence, chase the people concerned, build up the evidence, take it to the Crown Prosecution Service and prosecute through the courts. The question we must ask today is whether we need a new law.
The Prime Minister gave an elegant answer at Question Time. He said "There is a law against racial hatred; we must have a law against religious hatred." But, as many hon. Members have said, the two are not the same. People are born with their race, but they are not born with their religion. Even that is not the strongest argument: a Muslim might feel that his religion is so core to his being that it is part of his identity.
I am afraid not. We are very short of time.
The real argument is this, I think. We all know that no race is greater than another. All races are equal: people are equal, whatever the colour of their skins. Every religion, however, claims that it is the true faith, and denies the veracity of the others. [Interruption.] Almost all religions do. If you are a Catholic, if you are a Jew, if you are a Muslim, you claim that yours is the true faith.
I am afraid not. There is not enough time.
There is, however, an even more serious objection to the Bill: it would bring the whole of the law into disrepute. When the Minister appeared before the Select Committee, I asked what definition was being used. She said that it was intended to catch those who produced literature that was
"clearly inciting people to hatred and likely to result in public disorder."
I asked the Minister whether it would catch "The Satanic Verses", a book that did, in many people's eyes, incite religious hatred, and in some instances led to disorder. She replied that she did not believe it would be caught, but she cannot know: she is not the Crown Prosecution Service.
The real point is this, is it not? Many people believe that the book should be caught. The police and the CPS would be inundated with complaints, and when they did not prosecute, how would people feel? They would feel desperately let down, and the law would be brought into disrepute.
I believe—some Labour Members mentioned this—that the real answer is to level the playing field between the religions by abolishing the blasphemy laws. I suggested that to the Minister when she appeared before the Select Committee. However, she said that such action was outside the terms of the Bill. Is that not the reason why none of the stuff on religious hatred should be dealt with in an emergency Bill? Let us do that separately, in a considered way, so that we can examine all the options.
There are parts of the Bill that we need to pass into law rapidly, to help us to deal with the terrorist threat. Powers are needed—powers that the Home Secretary has told us about. Huge parts of the Bill, however, have nothing to do with the emergency and nothing to do with terrorism. That is made clear in the Select Committee's report, and I hope that the Government will heed it when they consider the Bill further.
In view of the time, I shall try to be brief.
Like many other Members, I do not welcome the Bill with open arms. In view of the events of
I should like quickly to express three concerns. First, when we are addressing these types of issue, and regardless of the exasperation and frustration felt by some, it is not helpful to dismiss those who express concerns about civil liberties as being "airy-fairy". I do not think that there is any part to play for such criticism, particularly in the Labour movement.
Secondly, although I listened with interest to the points made by my hon. Friend Ms Prentice, I do not think that the case has been made against judicial review. I hope that the Home Secretary will reflect further on that issue.
Thirdly, although I, like many other hon. Members, recognise the intention behind the provisions against religious hatred, I am not at all convinced that the way in which they are presented in the Bill will be helpful.
I was entertained by and listened with interest to the speech by my hon. Friend Mr. Sedgemore. However, regardless of the craftsmanship of his speech and the colourfulness of his prose, I do not think that some of the comments we have heard truly chime with the concerns and fears of the British public. We would be doing them a great disservice if we were to ignore the real threat posed against them. I also do not think that we would ever be forgiven if there was a serious attack on this country and it was later shown to have been preventable if we had taken the action necessary to plug gaps in our law.
If Mr. Hogg genuinely believes that only one of the Bill's 14 parts deals with terrorism, he clearly needs more time to read and scrutinise the Bill.
We should be arguing for immediate implementation of many of the Bill's provisions, such as those to freeze terrorists' assets. The events in the United States showed us the purposes to which terrorists put their money. I also welcome the provisions on retaining fingerprints and other forms of identification, although I do so with a heavy heart, because we need those provisions now.
Like other hon. Members, I also see the necessity of provisions to secure laboratories and other installations that contain toxic materials and micro-organisms. We should also welcome the seemingly minor provisions to extend the powers of the British Transport police, the atomic energy constabulary and even the Ministry of Defence police, although I recognise that there are some concerns about how those provisions will operate in practice.
As for concerns about the provisions on detention in part 4, I think that the Home Secretary was absolutely genuine today when he pointed out that he is proposing them because he has no option. The Law Lords left him no option when they said that another way of providing safeguards in national security cases would have to be found. Although the shadow Home Secretary presented an alternative, my view is that this is emergency legislation that we need now to cope with the present threat. If there were another way, I would be happy for the House to consider it. I argue strongly, however, that we should not deny ourselves the available protection before an alternative has been presented.
I shall make only one party political point. I listened with great interest to some eloquent and elegant speeches by Opposition Members in defence of freedom. I only wish that they had found that voice when some of them were in government or when others supported Governments who enacted some of the most draconian measures against good, honest and hard-working British trade unionists who posed no threat to security. I do not recall Opposition Members expressing concern about those people's freedom.
I shall try to be brief, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I want to cover two main issues. Let me make it clear straight away that I have serious doubts about some of the Bill's provisions, which I do not support. Although security needs to be reviewed in the light of what happened on
Part 4—clauses 21 to 23 in particular—provides the powers to act on suspicion. Many Members have discussed the problems of certification and of the definition of suspected terrorism leading to indefinite detention, the nature of the evidence and how it can be challenged. I do not want to repeat their remarks, but I shall make one brief point.
Throughout debate on those clauses so far, the assumption seems to have been made that the intelligence with which we shall be dealing will come from British intelligence services. Inevitably, some foreign Governments will want their political opponents who live in this country to be regarded as international terrorists, and will no doubt try to supply evidence and intelligence to that effect. Questions will arise about how that intelligence will be assessed and what the political pressures will be, depending on which country the evidence comes from. I am sure that if we were not introducing the Bill, but were considering the introduction in other countries of indefinite internment without trial, many hon. Members would say that they fundamentally disapproved of what was happening.
Clauses 33 and 34, which have not been discussed much in this debate, deal with the UN convention on refugees, and certification that the convention does not apply. Why are those clauses needed? Terrorists are not covered by the convention, as article 1(f) of it makes clear. People who have committed crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity are not covered by the convention. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has made it clear that it does not believe that the change is necessary.
The question that should be asked about this part of the Bill is: how is it possible to make a proper judgment about whether someone should be excluded from the provisions of the refugee convention without considering their whole story? It is only by full consideration that it is possible to decide whether they should be excluded. The drafting of the clauses means that the Special Immigration Appeals Commission will not be able to do that. It will not be able to question the merits of the decision that the Secretary of State has made. That is specifically excluded.
Clause 34, the title of which is "Construction", appears to be an interpretation of parts of the 1951 convention—and, indeed, a reservation concerning some of those parts. How does that relate to article 42 of the convention—to which we are signatories—which makes it clear that reservations concerning articles were possible only at the time of signature and accession to the convention. Indeed, it is impossible to make reservations concerning some articles, including article 1.
I have significant doubts about the provisions on religious hatred, which I do not have time to detail this evening. The Bill raises serious questions, and I hope that significant changes will be made in Committee, especially to parts 4 and 5. Without such changes, I shall not find it possible to support the Bill's Third Reading.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate. We have heard some powerful speeches from Members on both sides of the House and I single out Mr. Sedgemore, whose speech we all enjoyed, my hon. Friend Mr. Shepherd and my right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Hogg. I would say that it was one of my right hon. and learned Friend's best speeches except that I used to be his speech writer, and I know that he made better speeches earlier in his career.
It is good that we have heard high quality speeches because we are discussing, once again, the distinction between freedom and security—the distinction between the civil liberties of the individual and the liberty of civil society. Once again, we face a Government—I take the point that other Governments have done the same, including Conservative Governments—who claim the power of the moment, in this case the events of
I shall concentrate on part 4 of the Bill, which so many hon. Members have discussed. It will drive a coach and horses through 800 years of legal history, stemming from habeas corpus, and we must be careful about excluding people from legal processes and about ruling out judicial review. I notice that one clause is actually called "Exclusion of legal proceedings". That is not an appropriate approach.
We know who is behind the Bill; anyone who has followed the Home Secretary's remarks in recent weeks will know that he has no time for lawyers. Indeed, he was reported in The Times immediately after he spoke at the Labour party conference as saying:
"Freedom springs not from abstract legal process but from political action. After all, British democracy was not created by lawyers and judges."
I do not know how much history the Home Secretary has read, but he profoundly misunderstands the history of this country. Freedom has come from Acts of Parliament and acts by politicians, but it has also come from hundreds of years of judicial decisions and the growth of our common law. It was in large part the common law and the decisions of lawyers that placed the Government within the rule of law and protected the liberties of the individual. Our founding fathers are not only politicians and those who draft constitutions: they are also jurists and judges who, over the centuries, have taken those decisions. We must be careful.
The Home Secretary tells us that he has to take these powers because, in effect, he is hindered by human rights lawyers. That is not the case. What really restricts his power to act are the various international agreements and conventions that Governments of all parties have entered into on our behalf. We are being asked to erode the historic liberties of our country, including hundreds of years of common law and habeas corpus, so that we can twist our way around international agreements. That does not make for a pretty spectacle. Later this evening, we will go through the legal charade of claiming that this country is in a state of public emergency so that we can get part of the Bill through this House of Commons which is democratically elected by the people of this country. That is not a happy state of affairs.
Clause 23 states the position explicitly:
"A suspected international terrorist may be detained . . . despite the fact that his removal or departure from the United Kingdom is prevented . . . by . . . a point of law which . . . relates to an international agreement".
That is why we have to go through these contortions. It does us no great credit and we should be honest about why we have got into a mess. It is because we have incorporated one of those conventions—the European convention on human rights—into our law.
I noticed in the recent appeal brought by the Home Secretary against certain asylum seekers who objected to being detained that the court said that
"we started this judgement by remarking that it was artificial to consider English domestic law and the Human Rights Convention separately. The Human Rights Act has made the Convention part of the Constitution of the United Kingdom."
The Bill will of course become law, despite the valiant efforts of some Opposition and Labour Members to oppose it. I hope that as we pass the Bill we are aware that we are jumping through legal hoops and undermining our domestic tradition of liberty simply because we have got into a mess about the international agreement to which we have signed up. I hope that we are aware that we are undermining the rights of our citizens because we have given so many rights to people, including suspected international terrorists, who come to this country and claim asylum.
The terrible events of
As always, in a liberal democracy, there is tension—even conflict—between the public interest and the civil liberty of the individual. It is, however, understood by all that certain rights have to be restricted for the benefit of all. Individual human rights are important and must be protected, but so must collective human rights. A small minority must not dictate to the majority.
If an individual seeks to bring terror to the lives of countless others through the bomb, the gun or other means, does society not have a right to protect the human rights of those countless threatened people through the denial of that individual's human rights? That is what causes many to deplore those who use the very freedoms treasured by all of us to undermine and threaten our democracy. It is ridiculous that the Government can do nothing while terrorists use our immigration and asylum laws, which offer genuine refugees a safe haven, as a means of staying here and openly pursuing their hostile opinions. Thus, the Home Secretary is taking action to address that anomaly through the Bill.
The Bill will guarantee the individual rights of the majority by restricting the rights of a small number. That change is demanded loudly and clearly across the country in every constituency, and will reverberate through every estate. Ordinary people can see a clear difference between ensuring that a suspected terrorist can face special detention procedures and a threat to everyone's civil liberties. They can see a clear difference between tackling effectively those who would maim and terrorise and those who seek to protest through democratic means.
In my view, if we did not seek to strengthen our laws as the Bill proposes, following the events of
If the Bill restricts freedoms, it is the freedom to terrorise, and most people believe it is right and proper that it does so. They can see a difference between that and persecuting minorities, banning dissent or unpopular opinions and undermining our traditional rights and freedoms.
In any society, the security of its citizens has to be one of the major tasks of Governments. Strong measures are necessary to tackle the threat of terrorism. We simply cannot and must not put the rights of an individual above those of the majority. For too long, ordinary people have been frustrated; they believe that they have seen the erosion of their right to feel safe. They have felt ignored as they have seen individuals exploit the judicial system, use our democracy and abuse our desire for fairness and freedom under the law:
We have had a fascinating debate. An illustration of the advantage of starting the main business immediately after questions is that the debate has been much fuller than might otherwise have been possible. Second Reading debates are often curtailed, but today there have been ample opportunities for many Members to make contributions.
As I contemplate the contributions that have been made, I note that Vernon Coaker is in a small minority. Only the hon. Members for Don Valley (Caroline Flint), for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. McCabe), for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Khabra) and the hon. Gentleman tried to justify the entirety of what the Home Secretary came to the House to propose. The vast majority of the contributions made during this fascinating debate expressed grave reservations about sections and components of the legislation.
Those anxieties and fears are shared by Opposition Members. It is abundantly clear that in embarking on emergency legislation, designed to respond to sudden and horrific events, we must be extremely careful not to go beyond the bounds of what is proper, and try to ensure that civil liberties are upheld.
I was especially struck by the speech of Mr. Sedgemore. He highlighted the behaviour of the United Kingdom Government during the period of the French revolution. My right hon. Friend Mr. Gummer noted that similar excesses occurred in France at the same time. It must be a characteristic that one action sets off another. The greater the tendency of this Parliament to legislate and to raise the temperature, the greater the knock-on effect, which can go far beyond this country, in creating a climate where people want to suppress activities that they think may be prejudicial to the safety of the state.
We have heard powerful contributions from several of my right hon. and hon. Friends. I apologise if I am unable to go through all of them in detail. My hon. and learned Friend Mr. Garnier expressed his concerns about the religious hatred clauses. My hon. Friend Mr. Chope spoke on the same theme.
I have already mentioned the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal. He made telling points about what happens when religious tolerance and religious hatred come into conflict. We also heard the views of my hon. Friend Mr. Streeter.
My right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Hogg made what I can only describe as a fizzing speech. He was moving around behind me throughout his speech and I was never quite sure where he was going to pop up next.
My hon. Friends the Members for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), for Witney (Mr. Cameron), for Tatton (Mr. Osborne) and for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) all made speeches on the same theme. Although they accepted the need for emergency legislation, they expressed disquiet about its scope.
I turn to the way in which the Opposition would have wanted to approach such a Bill in the circumstances that have arisen. First, I point out to my right hon. and hon. Friends who have expressed disquiet and, indeed, opposition that I completely understand their position and have great sympathy with it, but the problem is that it is difficult to escape the fact that the events of
I was struck by the contribution made by Mr. Fisher. He made one of his characteristic speeches on civil liberties, with which I have so much sympathy. However, he began by saying that, when those events took place his mind turned to places such as Sellafield or nuclear power installations, where a catastrophe could occur if unscrupulous terrorists were involved. The House would do well to ponder the fact that, if such an event were to occur, under the European convention on human rights it would fall within the category of an event threatening the life of the nation. The Home Secretary grimaces slightly, but let us consider the issue sensibly.
I used to be involved in legal work on nuclear safety, and I remember a case involving a power station on Anglesey. Although terrorist bombs may kill people, events involving nuclear power stations could lead to widespread nuclear contamination, with catastrophic consequences not only because they would kill a large number of people, but because they would jeopardise ordinary life. At the time of the Lockerbie air disaster, fears were expressed about the fact that the plane could have crashed into the Chapel Cross nuclear power station, whereas the plane passed over it on its way down. The House would do well to ponder such events.
We accept that some of the Home Secretary's proposals seem to constitute a measured and sensible response to the emergency that has arisen. Indeed, I have listened to some of the points made by hon. Members, and few have reservations about part 6 on weapons of mass destruction or part 7 on the security of pathogens, or about the extra protection for the nuclear industry in part 8.
Most tellingly, I heard no hon. Member criticise part 9 on aviation security. We expected such measures to appear in the Bill. Indeed, provisions such as those on communications data and police powers may well be targeted specifically on terrorism. It is for that reason that we on the official Opposition Front Bench support the Government on the Bill, but it is for that reason only. I am bound to tell the Home Secretary that an awful lot in the Bill does not seem to be about the emergency that has arisen at all. [Hon. Members: "You are going soft."] One can never go soft on issues involving civil liberties—a point that I made in Committee to the Under- Secretary, Mr. Ainsworth, in debates on the Proceeds of Crime Bill, to which, I am afraid, he seems remarkably oblivious. We will not go soft on those issues; we want them to be considered carefully, and I shall simply tell the House what we will seek to do.
First and foremost, in relation to some of the issues, such as police powers, we will seek to amend the Bill to make it absolutely clear that, where extra powers are provided, they are for the purpose of fighting terrorism and that they do not represent a general enhancement of ordinary powers to deal with criminals, which should be given close scrutiny and not passed as emergency legislation at all. It appears that there is absolutely no reason why the provision on the communication of data should not be confined to offences that relate to terrorism. I do not understand why it should be so difficult to isolate what is a terrorist offence. Those investigating such offences will know exactly what they are, so it should be possible to frame the Bill to ensure that it is confined to those offences and not to general criminal conduct.
With the assistance of the Liberal Democrats, we intend to give the provisions for internment in part 4 the closest possible scrutiny. First and foremost, one need only examine the detailed wording to realise that the provision on the grounds under which proceedings may be brought can be substantially tightened up. The question of mere belief should give way to the question of substantial ground to believe, and we shall seek to amend the Bill accordingly.
On the internment provisions, we shall seek in Committee to ensure that there is judicial review of the Home Secretary's decision-making powers so that those who see the provisions in operation consider that they are manifestly fair and that they do not have the taint—an unintended taint, I know—of being a purely administrative procedure that has been taken out of the hands of the judiciary. I do not share the Home Secretary's phobias about the judiciary in this country; they have served us extremely well. Therefore, it is perhaps unfortunate that he should have introduced the Bill having prefaced his remarks so frequently with disparaging comments that are bound in the circumstances to make Members question the basis of his approach.
We shall also examine carefully whether there are alternatives to internment. It may be justified but, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset pointed out, there are substantial problems involving the duration of the internment, the public resistance that may arise when someone is incarcerated and deprived of their liberty and the relationship between internment and the Home Secretary's undoubted powers to deport.
It is fascinating that the two reports produced by the Select Committee on Home Affairs and the Joint Committee on Human Rights—neither of which is exactly dominated by Opposition Members—make absolutely clear the oddity of the situation by which the interpretation of article 3, as developed by jurisprudence in the European Court of Human Rights, seems to fly in the face of common sense. It beggars belief that the Home Secretary should not be able to choose to deport someone to countries to which people could properly be deported. I refer to those countries that any right-thinking person would believe provide a reasonable standard of justice and that do not torture people or arbitrarily put them to death. If, after the due process of justice, it is decided that someone should suffer the death penalty after he had committed serious terrorist offences in another country, most people in this country would consider that to be a matter for the person who decided to commit a terrorist act in that country in the first place.
In those circumstances, we shall probe the possibility of introducing before the House measures that will enable the Home Secretary to deport people to the countries that I have mentioned. As he has the powers under domestic law, he should have the courage of his convictions or at least the courage of the convictions of the Home Affairs Committee or the Human Rights Committee, which have suggested that he should grasp the nettle and introduce such powers for himself and exercise them in a way that no one in the House could possibly fault. That would mean that we could be fairly certain that the European court would have to change its approach after what I strongly suspect was its wrong decision.
I merely point out that hardly anyone who has spoken in the debate has had a good word about the Bill's provisions on religious hatred. Although they may be well intended, I suspect that they are unworkable and capable of bringing about great injustice, A wide range of people may be caught by them. The protections will not apply simply to people in established religions, but to those who wish to carry out practices that most people would regard as abhorrent. They will enjoy a protection from criticism that the Home Secretary will come to regret.
I very much hope that my hon. Friends and hon. Members in general, while supporting the principles that the Government are trying to achieve, will give the Bill close scrutiny. We will support the Government only on that condition. We will want the Bill to be amended to ensure that when it leaves Parliament it is in a state of which we can be proud and not, as it stands at present, in a state that causes great disquiet for our civil liberties.
I want to thank hon. Members on both sides of the House for the spirit in which they have made it their business to get to grips with the Bill's detail so quickly after publication to enable us to have a good debate. I recognise that many hon. Members wanted to take part. I hope that those who were not able to will stick with it and make their contributions in Committee. I also want to thank my hon. Friends the Members for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) and for Bristol, East (Jean Corston) and the members of their respective Committees for their work in analysing the Bill and producing their reports so expeditiously.
Before I comment on the contributions on the Bill's detail, I want to refer to the three over-arching issues that were raised. Some hon. Members expressed concern about the timetable and the procedure for considering the Bill, including my hon. Friends the Members for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) and for Stoke- on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) and Mr. Hogg and Mr. Shepherd. We have taken 10 weeks to consider what is necessary. During that time there has been considerable debate and consultation, especially after the Home Secretary's statement on
On the timetable in the House, I remind hon. Members that we still face an emergency. The Bill's powers are necessary to increase the protection and security of people here. Members have to consider whether the public will expect all of us to ensure that the issues are considered not only as thoroughly as possible but as quickly as possible in accordance with a timetable that reflects the urgency of the situation.
The second general point was that the Bill's content is not restricted to terrorism. I fail to understand that concern. All the measures are designed to enhance intelligence and information gathering, to restrict people suspected of involvement in terrorism, to prevent abuse of asylum and to give law enforcement and security agencies powers to tackle the problems that we face. We cannot draw a firm line between terrorism and crime. Crime funds and fuels terrorism, and the links between serious crime and terrorism are clear.