New Clause 6 — Duration

Orders of the Day — Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill — [1st Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 4:47 pm on 21st November 2001.

Alert me about debates like this

Votes in this debate

(1) This Act, apart from Part 12, shall (subject to subsections (2) to (5)) cease to have effect at the end of the period of one year beginning with the day on which the Act receives Royal Assent.

(2) The Secretary of State may, subject to subsections (3) to (5), by order provide—

(a) that a provision of the Act which is in force (whether or not by virtue of this subsection) shall continue in force for a specified period not exceeding twelve months;

(b) that a provision of this Act shall cease to have effect;

(c) that a provision of this Act which is not in force (whether or not by virtue of this subsection) shall come into force and remain in force for a specified period not exceeding twelve months.

(3) Parts 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 14 of this Act shall, by virtue of this subsection, cease to have effect at the end of the period of five years beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

(4) Parts 3, 5, 10, 11 and 13 of this Act shall, by virtue of this subsection, cease to have effect at the end of the period of two years beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

(5) Part 4 of this Act shall, by virtue of this subsection, cease to have effect at the end of the period of one year beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.'.—[Mr. Letwin.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Oliver Letwin Oliver Letwin Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The Chairman:

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: New clause 7—Report to Parliament No. 1

'(1) The Secretary of State shall lay before both Houses of Parliament at least once in every 12 months a report on the working of Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13 and 14 of this Act as they relate to terrorism.'.

New clause 8—Report to Parliament No. 2

'(1) The Secretary of State shall lay before both Houses of Parliament at least once in every 12 months a report on the working of the Parts of this Act which relate to terrorism.'.

Government amendments Nos. 72, 42, 66 and 73 to 75, and clause 123 stand part.

Photo of Oliver Letwin Oliver Letwin Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

I am not privy to the discussions that may have gone on between the Government and the Chairman of the Select Committee on Home Affairs, but from listening to the interchange during the debate on the programme motion I sensed—perhaps mistakenly—that the Government might be offering to concede on the version of new clause 6 that has been proposed by the Home Affairs Committee. We shall undoubtedly discover whether that is the case as we proceed.

I want specifically to point out the respects in which new clause 6, tabled jointly by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, differs from that which has been proposed by the Home Affairs Committee. The Committee's proposition is a huge advance on the position in the Bill. We would welcome a concession, but our view—for reasons that I shall explain—is that the Home Affairs Committee version is not tough enough to enable the House and the Government to inquire sufficiently, over succeeding years, into the effects and implications of the most controversial parts of the Bill.

Ministers will already fully understand new clause 6, but I apologise to the Committee because the drafting is inelegant and it may be opaque on first reading. The intent, however, is simple. New clause 6 is best read from back to front. The underlying intent of new clause 6(5) does not differ greatly from that of the Home Secretary. It would provide that part 4—the most controversial part—would cease to have effect after a year. The Bill would give that provision a 15-month renewal clause, so although there is a significant difference between a complete lapse and a renewal and a minor difference between 15 months and a year, our underlying thoughts are similar to those of Ministers.

New clause 6(4) would apply a two-year lapse period to the second most controversial class of parts of the Bill—parts 3, 5, 10, 11 and 13. Part 5, which covers incitement to religious hatred, might have been better included in new clause 6(5) and given only a year before it lapses, but we opted—in the spirit of attempting to reach eventual consensus with the Government—to give it and the other parts I mentioned two years before they lapse. New clause 6(3) relates to the remaining parts of the Bill except part 12. They are less controversial and we opted for a period equal to that suggested by the Home Affairs Committee—five years.

Having moved from the end of the new clause towards the front, I beg the Committee to move from the front towards the middle. New clause 6(1) and (2) describe the flexibility that we wish to give the Home Secretary, within the constraints that I have just described—one-year, two-year and five-year lapses for parts of descending order of controversy—to renew parts or to let them lapse and bring them back. The only other effect of new clause 6(1) would be on part 12—the implementation of the OECD convention on bribery and corruption—which would be left intact with no lapse period, because it is a matter of cross-party agreement and I am reasonably confident that such minor amendment as we have proposed will eventually be the subject of agreement, if merited. It is a purely technical amendment.

The sum result is that we wish the Committee to recognise—and if it does not, that the other place will do so—that the necessary constraints under which Ministers have laboured in producing a Bill at high speed and under which the House and the other place labour in scrutinising it at even higher speed, as we have already heard, should be matched by an exceptional rigour in forcing the Executive to bring back sections of the Act, as it will be, for fundamental renewal. The renewals would be more frequent the more controversial the provisions. I hope that we can reach consensus on that point. Many issues will be debated in the next few hours, next Monday and in the other place.

We ought to be able to agree that it is as much in the interests of the Government as it is in the interests of Parliament and of the people that there should be the opportunity to discover whether the intent of the Bill—I have always admitted throughout these proceedings and in all public pronouncements that the Home Secretary's intent is noble and justified—is reflected in the outcomes it provides.

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Conservative, Harborough

As always, my hon. Friend explains his case with exemplary clarity. May I ask him a question about new clause 6(2)(c)? It states:

"The Secretary of State may, subject to subsections (3) to (5), by order provide . . . that a provision of this Act which is not in force (whether or not by virtue of this subsection) shall come into force and remain in force for a specified period not exceeding twelve months."

I understand that a provision that the Secretary of State wishes to lapse should be dealt with by order. That broadly covers subsection (2)(b). I can also understand that the continuance of an existing provision should be made by order of the Secretary of State, but when a provision has lapsed—for one, two or three years—is my hon. Friend able to convince me that it should be revived by order rather than by some more fully debated system?

Photo of Oliver Letwin Oliver Letwin Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

I certainly do not know whether I shall be able to convince my hon. and learned Friend. If I can, it will be a good test of whether I am right. He is one of those Members whose legal knowledge and attention to these matters is of the greatest. Let me try to convince him.

We believe that the constraints established by subsections (3), (4) and (5), which will force primary legislation de novo for part 4 within a year, for parts 3, 5, 10, 11 and 13 within two years and so forth, already create a sufficient lever for Parliament against the Executive. Subsection (3) would allow part 1, a relatively uncontroversial part of the Bill, to stand for five years. Under subsection (2)(c), to which my hon. and learned Friend refers, the Home Secretary would have the option to implement the provision, to let it lapse because it was no longer deemed necessary or to bring it back again within five years. Given that at the end of five years primary legislation would be required to re-enact the provision, it seemed to us reasonable that he should have that flexibility within the five-year period.

I certainly do not regard that as a cardinal point. If my hon. and learned Friend were able to persuade me or the Committee that new clause 6 was appropriate, bar subsection (2)(c), I should not dream of going to the stake about it. However, the flexibility that we are providing is appropriate, given the strict rigour that we are applying to the Government's actions under the sunset clause.

Furthermore, if the provision stretches the patience and tolerance of my hon. and learned Friend, that is a good indication of the lengths to which we have gone to try to ensure that we achieve consensus with the Government. We have tried to ensure that the new clause provides sufficient flexibility that reasonable Ministers, acting in their own self-interest as well as that of the House and of the country, could accept the new clause.

Finally—I certainly do not want, in these proceedings or elsewhere, to go beyond the requirements of the subject matter—I merely observe that if Parliament passes large sections of the Bill intact, without a serious sunset clause, questions will be raised about the legitimacy of parliamentary proceedings in this country. It is perfectly right that the Home Secretary of the day, attending to a major national crisis, should introduce emergency legislation to deal with it. It is perfectly right that he should entertain the possibility of engaging in legislation of a kind that I suspect for him, and certainly for us, has a rather difficult feel to it. However, it cannot be right to do so at speed, and without the provision—right from the beginning—to enable Parliament to reconsider these controversial issues. The effect of not including such a sunset clause will be to cast into disrepute measures that are in principle acceptable and necessary. So I hope that the Home Secretary will, on mature reflection, support and welcome new clause 6, and I offer to describe it as "the Blunkett amendment" if that helps.

Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett The Secretary of State for the Home Department 5:00 pm, 21st November 2001

In speaking to the Government amendments and suggesting that clause 123 stand part, I want first to respond to the remarks of Mr. Letwin on the substantive issue—the sunset clause.

I said on Monday that we were—in my view, rightly—prepared to listen and respond to proposals, made by the Joint Committee on Human Rights and by other hon. Members, that would reassure the two Houses and were material to ensuring that the Bill would be in a good state when it gained Royal Assent. I meant what I said, and we will do so during the Bill's passage through Parliament. The speed with which it proceeds does not affect our willingness to be prepared to listen and respond.

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the Chairman of the Select Committee on Home Affairs has suggested, having deliberated such issues in that Committee, that it would be appropriate to draft a clause that did not simply reinforce the return to the detention powers in clauses 21 to 23 annually, for which provision is already made in the Bill, so that Parliament can debate such issues under the affirmative procedure, but for longer than an hour and a half, as we said on Monday. He suggested that the content of those clauses should be put to the House afresh, so that it could show whether it was willing to reaffirm them.

I am prepared to agree on behalf of the Government that, on Report, we shall move a Government amendment providing a sunset clause after five years. That would allow us to determine whether we as a Parliament felt that the detention provisions were justified and acceptable any longer.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Labour, Sunderland South

I thank the Home Secretary for what he says. His willingness to listen to what the Select Committee and others have said will make it very much easier for those hon. Members who have some discomfort about the Bill to support it in the Lobby later on.

Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for saying that. I am genuinely prepared to continue to listen and to refute those who have the unfounded belief that we have malice aforethought in assuming that we can have questions and debates that are more like those of the court room than of Parliament.

I only quote The Guardian to upset my hon. Friend Mr. Hughes, but, on 13 November, Hugo Young asked:

"how long will the emergency last? When will circumstances permit it to be lifted? If the minister is left to decide this alone, does anyone seriously expect this ever to happen?"

The answer is yes—people do seriously expect it to happen, and it will happen not only in the annual reaffirmation but in the sunset clause.

I am also prepared to respond to a further proposal, which appears on the amendment paper, from the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee in relation to the sensible suggestion that, as with the Terrorism Act 2000, we should allow the reviewer of the Terrorism Act to review the operation of the detention clauses in time to report before the first review by Parliament—that is, when they return to Parliament for reaffirmation.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North

I hope that, when the occasion arises, the Home Secretary will make another important concession, which I mentioned on Monday. As a member of the Home Affairs Committee, I very much welcome what he says, as did my hon. Friend Mr. Mullin. Does it not destroy the argument used by some Opposition Members that the Government and Labour Back Benchers are indifferent to civil liberties—that we could not care less about them and that we simply vote without any concern for the civil liberties of people in the country, including those who are not nationals? The Home Secretary shows how deeply concerned we are, and I am very pleased that he has listened to the Committee's recommendation.

Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Throughout my time in politics—a very long time—there have been many occasions, not least the terrible traumas in the Labour party in the 1980s, when abuse rather than persuasion was the order of the day. I have never relented in the face of abuse and I have always said that if people try to persuade they are more likely to receive a hearing. As long as I am in this job, I shall be prepared to listen to persuasion from Members on both sides. I am pleased that Lord Carlile accepted my invitation to undertake the duty of reviewing the clauses and of reporting back in time for the House to hold its deliberations.

I do not intend to speak for long as there is very little time available, but I need to refer to new clauses 6, 7 and 8, which were tabled jointly by the two opposition parties. We really cannot accept sunset clauses that deal with issues that—by anyone's standard and irrespective of how long they have been debated—would be accepted by us all.

Do we want to retain the power to remove unauthorised intruders from aircraft and airfields? Of course we do. Who wants to reject after two, four or five years the updating of the Aviation Security Act 1982? What is the point of tabling sunset clauses for issues on which we are all agreed? Do we seriously want a sunset clause to ensure that we can no longer protect civil nuclear sites in the way they will be secured and, as Members said on Monday, should have been secured a long time ago under previous legislation? Do we really oppose measures that retain on the statute book powers against the aiding and abetting of people transporting nuclear weapons?

Photo of Oliver Letwin Oliver Letwin Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

Does the Home Secretary accept that, although we certainly agree with the intent behind such provisions, there is a difference between agreeing with the intent and being sure now that the drafting will have the effect that he and I jointly desire?

Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The limited but genuine exercise to try to engage everyone in the past few weeks and the genuine commitment to respond to sensible suggestions, including drafting suggestions made here or in the House of Lords, are designed to meet that point. For example, if we have got wrong the provisions to protect us against the ebola virus, we will be very happy to respond to suggestions about how we get them right. However, the idea that we shall run out of time and that, in the next few years, we shall change our view on how we should protect ourselves does not do the House justice. The proposals would allow opposition for its own sake and not for the sake of getting the measures right. I want to be brief, but that is why we oppose the new clauses.

By all means let Members suggest changes that are appropriate to improving the legislation, but let us not for political or parliamentary procedural reasons suggest that sensible provisions that should have been sorted out a long time ago should be held up in years to come and brought back to the House. If they are, that will be at the expense of the other legislation for which Members on both sides will be pressing. They will ask why a Bill has been left out or why the Government have not managed to achieve what they wanted to do. They will ask why their constituents are demanding that we should have done this, that or the other—whether on the national health service or foxhunting—when we are bringing back large parts of a Bill that people agree with but wish to make a point about.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

Does the Home Secretary not understand the consequences of the argument that he is adducing? Precisely because, on every future occasion, there will be pressures for other legislation, Ministers will say that it appears, on reflection, that such legislation should be put through very quickly and perhaps not in the form that we would like. The many other competing claims might mean that we do not return to a certain Bill, and that might be one reason why we have had defective Official Secrets Acts for so long.

Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett The Secretary of State for the Home Department

That argument does not damage my point. The Leader of the House is endeavouring to allow sufficient time for us to debate the issues that hon. Members wish to address while using parliamentary procedures and timetables that bear some relation to what people outside expect. As I have said several times, I am in favour of timetabling every Bill because that benefits constituents. There is an interesting anomaly, and the shadow Home Secretary was good enough to mention the clause on bribery and corruption. We agreed to it because we and the Opposition parties wanted it and it was an international obligation.

We should pause and reflect on the fact that the Bill may be long, but we have tried to get the wording right and to replicate the provisions for Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is on the intent of the Bill that we should be agreeing or disagreeing, not on whether bits of it, with the exception of one clause, should have to return to the House to be put through as a substantive parent measure just because people are irritated about the speed with which we are operating. It is on that basis that I ask the Committee to reject new clauses 6, 7 and 8.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I begin by agreeing with the Home Secretary's decision to accept the proposal by the Select Committee on Home Affairs, as contained in amendment No. 53, to give a sunset maximum life of five years to part 4, which contains the most controversial measure—detention without trial. Of course that is welcome.

It is also welcome that the Home Secretary has said that there should be a reporting back procedure on those measures that relate to terrorism, which is in line with the recommendation of the Select Committee and new clauses 7 and 8. This is my first chance to say in public how glad we are that he has appointed our noble Friend Lord Carlile of Berriew, a former Member of this House, to be the new reviewer of terrorist legislation. That job was created by the Terrorism Act 2000 and will be extended to this legislation.

Although those measures are welcome, there are others on which the Home Secretary needs persuading. I intend to do that by persuading him on their merits, the tactic that he says works best. He does not understand the nature of the case put by Mr. Letwin and my right hon. Friend Mr. Beith. The issue is one of principle. Parliament is being asked to have unusual timetables and exceptional measures of procedure, and the House of Commons is to spend a total of three days on a Bill. The timetable has not been agreed with the parties. With the exception of the clause on bribery and corruption, which the Government asked the Opposition parties to accept, the proposals have not been agreed in detail; yet they are trying to use emergency procedures, as evidenced by Monday's vote on a guillotine motion that gave us today and next Monday to debate the Bill's substance. In such a case, legislation should always come back to Parliament. It is not a case of whether it is controversial. The principle is that Parliament must hold the Government to account.

Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Why then does the hon. Gentleman not accord that principle to the clause that was agreed? We agreed to many clauses in our discussions, although they did form part of a bigger Bill. If I introduced them one by one and suggested that they were, as they are, emergency provisions, and if the parties agreed to them, would they add up to the same clause on bribery and corruption as he is prepared to accept?

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 5:15 pm, 21st November 2001

Not only is the answer no, but that is an unfair and unreasonable comment. The Home Secretary cannot have it both ways. His Minister came, no doubt with his blessing, specifically to obtain the agreement of the other parties to the inclusion of that particular proposal on bribery and corruption. No other proposal came to us. We were not consulted on whether other parts should be included. I expressly agreed with the Minister that the measure would be the only ring-fenced provision. I accepted that it could go through without the usual requirement for it to return to the House, because it was part of the policy supported by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. The Home Secretary must not pretend otherwise. He is wrong to do so, and he is misleading the House if he is suggesting that anything else happened. I am going to be tough with him because this is completely unreasonable.

Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett The Secretary of State for the Home Department

If you accuse me of misleading the House, I have the right to make the clear point that over the past three weeks we did not bring clauses singly to the parties—except for the bribery and corruption clause, which was drafted after the substantive clauses had been presented to the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrat party in substantial form. You might not like the form in which they were presented, but they were presented. I object strongly to the suggestion that I misled the House—

The Chairman:

Order. I have not suggested anything about the Secretary of State. I let the matter go because Simon Hughes spoke in the conditional tense. I do not think that he was aiming a direct slur at the Home Secretary.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I was careful to do that, as the Home Secretary will realise if he refers to the transcript of the debate.

We have not agreed to the detail of the rest of the Bill; therefore it must come back to Parliament if we are to have an emergency procedure. That applies generally and in particular to the more controversial provisions, especially the powers of the state. The Government have introduced the Bill to give the state more power. In that respect, it is important that Parliament should have the opportunity to scrutinise the legislation. We propose that there should be a five-year period for the uncontroversial matters to return to us, a two-year period for the relatively controversial matters of police powers and European legislation, and a one-year period for detention without trial, which is four years earlier than the Select Committee wanted. That is a considered proposal to ensure that everything that has not been agreed returns.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that when there is such full-hearted agreement in the immediate aftermath of a disaster or terrorist outrage, experience teaches us that that is when we may well make mistakes? When the Home Secretary suggests that everyone agrees to this legislation so there is no need to return to it, the experience of everything from the Dangerous Dogs Bill to any other emergency legislation teaches us that when we all agree we soon find out that we should have disagreed.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

The right hon. Member is a former Minister and former chairman of his party and he is absolutely right. The Bill is a mixture of general agreement on matters that are not fundamentally important to our constitution, and huge disagreement on some matters that are very important. I pray in aid the fact that the Select Committee noted at paragraph 10 of its report:

"Since 1974, at least eight Acts have been passed by Parliament, dealing with terrorism. Those in 1974, 1996 and 1998 were passed by the House with great speed. The other five were taken at the normal pace . . . The three Bills which passed quickly were relatively short—between seven and 13 clauses or 12 to 14 pages—and passed all stages on a single day at sittings of up to 17 hours . . . It is proposed"

—these are the Select Committee's words, not mine—

"that this Bill (which is ten times longer) should be considered at three sittings—one day for second reading and two days for Committee".

The Committee concludes:

"We question whether it is appropriate for this Bill to be passed through the House of Commons in exactly two weeks with only three days of debate on the floor of the House. A Bill of this length . . . with major implications for civil liberties should not be passed by the House in such a short period and with so little time for detailed examination in committee."

Those are the words of an all-party Committee, considering the Bill and forming a clear view.

I shall quote just two sentences from paragraph 79 of the second report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Session 2001–02:

"Careful consideration is not, however, aided by the decision to push a Bill of this size and complexity through Parliament at such breakneck speed. Too many ill-conceived measures litter the statute book as a result of such rushed legislation in the past."

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Conservative, Harborough

Is not the very good point that the hon. Gentleman is making reinforced by the selection list? In the first allotted day, before 6 o'clock, there are 15 underlined subheadings to be dealt with, many of them subdivided. The Home Secretary very fairly said that he was prepared to listen, but if we do not have time to talk to him, he will find it quite difficult to listen.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Ministers cannot say that we are taking up time now. Members of Parliament are sent to this place to debate issues; I am sorry about that. We are sent to Parliament to ask Government questions. We are sent to Parliament to question whether the Government have got things right. The hon. and learned Member for Harborough is absolutely right, as are my hon. Friends, to point out that it is impossible to do so if there is no time allocated to do it.

It is a constitutional matter. We—ordinary people, the people whom the Home Secretary commends: the trade union movement, women, students—have fought over the years for Parliament, not the Executive, to be supreme: for Parliament to have the chance to decide, not the Executive. The Home Secretary must understand, and I am sure that he does if he is straightforward with the House on this matter, that Parliament must be here to hold each and every Government to account, including his; and on matters emanating from the Home Office, to do with the powers of the state and liberty, Parliament must do its duty above all, for us, and for future generations as much as anyone else.


Read that again:

"We—ordinary people...—have fought over the years for Parliament, not the Executive, to be supreme..."

Submitted by Julian Todd

Several hon. Members:


Photo of Matthew Taylor Matthew Taylor Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury)

I want to catch my hon. Friend before he goes too much further. A moment ago, the Home Secretary intervened to argue that the bribery and corruption clauses had been presented to the Opposition parties because they were drafted subsequent to the main items of the Bill. I was grateful that the Chancellor of the Exchequer took the time to discuss that issue with me, because it was something that I had pressed on him, and we welcome the introduction of those clauses. However, my understanding was that the discussion took place on the basis that there was some question as to whether they were appropriate for inclusion in the Bill, because although they might have indirect links with terrorism they were not directly linked with it, and whether we would support them in view of that issue, not because they were drafted late.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

That is exactly the point, and that was the subject of the debate. The debate was about whether—without prejudice to the question of whether there was a terrorism link—because there was perceived by Government to be a relevance, and it was a reasonable case that there might be, and because everyone else had said that they supported these proposals, and they were part of an international obligation, we would accept the Bill as a home for them. Without prejudice to the rest of the Bill, we said yes to that.

The whole debate about the Bill, however, and about the justification for it—I hope that we shall have that debate shortly—is about whether the Bill should be a general Bill about terrorism, crime, security and other things, or whether it should be a terrorism-related Bill only. Those of us on the Opposition Benches who are trying to do our constitutional job are saying that if the Government want Parliament to pass a Bill quickly to deal with an emergency, it must be limited to matters that are to deal with that emergency.

The Chairman:

Order—I now wish to intervene. The hon. Gentleman is straying wide of the duration clause. I know that there are various interconnected issues but we must, for the sake of good order, keep within the confines of the new clause.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Of course, Sir Alan. I wish to take two interventions. Let me deal with the last substantive points before I let my colleagues intervene and then allow others to speak.

The reason Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Front-Bench team have sought to work together on the new clause and others is to try to achieve the maximum agreement to save time as far as possible, so as to create a basis for reasonable agreement in both Houses. That is why, conscious of the timetable, we have separated out the most controversial aspect of the measure and given it a specific one-year duration proposal—we believe that detention without trial should not be authorised by rushed legislation, given all the controversial issues that were raised on Monday night, without its returning properly to the House after being considered in the other place—and why we have suggested, in relation to a limited number of proposals, that some of them, but only some of them, should have a two-year life.

I remind the House of what those proposals are. They are: the parts of the Bill dealing with exchange of information among Government Departments—controversial; the part of the Bill dealing with race and religion—extremely controversial, if it were to reach the statute book; the part of the Bill dealing with police powers and their extension—extremely controversial; the part of the Bill dealing with communication data and the control by authorities of data—also controversial; and lastly, and not accidentally, the power that the Bill gives Ministers to introduce, by secondary legislation and by order, legislation that has only ever seen scrutiny by Ministers in Brussels and has not even been to the European Parliament. It is not unreasonable to argue that that sort of legislation, when we do not have time to scrutinise it and we may not in the House have time to debate much of it either, should have to return to this place, definitely, certainly and not conditionally on the whim of the Home Secretary.

Photo of Mr Paul Tyler Mr Paul Tyler Liberal Democrat, North Cornwall

I am grateful that my hon. Friend continued his speech somewhat before taking my intervention, because it makes my point even more formidable. I suggest to my hon. Friend that the Home Secretary is taking a huge risk by resisting these sensibly, carefully crafted amendments, because by resisting them in the House, where the Government have a majority, he is simply inviting the other House to spend more time examining these issues and perhaps reaching a more rational and carefully crafted conclusion than we are able to in the House. He is taking that absurd risk by pushing the Bill through without these central amendments, because he will come a cropper at the other end of the building.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I not only accept that, but I hope that the Home Secretary accepts that if he does not want his Bill bouncing around between both Houses of Parliament in the days leading up to Christmas—

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

No, it is not a threat. It is a constitutional process, not a threat. The right hon. Gentleman knows that it has happened in every Parliament he and I have been in this place. The House of Lords has a job to do. When it overturns the Government or amendments are made, the legislation returns to this place, and the more the Government resist in this place, the more will have to be overturned in the other place, and the more it will have to come back to this place. I am seeking to do what the Home Secretary said he wanted to do, which was to make proposals with widespread support, which will be supported in this and the other place.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

Might I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that his arguments are further reinforced by this consideration? We are now debating a group of new clauses and amendments, and the debate must end by 6 o'clock. There are actually 20 clauses in the schedule on which discussion must end by 6 o'clock. Some of them relate to the Treasury's powers to freeze money or to seize what is described as terrorist cash. The truth is that we shall never reach any of those clauses because we must terminate this part of the debate by 6 o'clock. Very important things—

The Chairman:

Order. I must say to the—

The Chairman:

Order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman must accept that that is taking us outside the scope of the new clause before us. He is trying to make a more general point than is permissible in the debate that we are having.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

What I am seeking to do, if I may just explain—

The Chairman:

Order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot, on an intervention, argue with the Chair. Mr. Simon Hughes.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

On a point of order, Sir Alan. I was not seeking to argue with the Chair. What I was merely trying to do—and I am not seeking to argue with the Chair—was to reinforce the case for the sunset clauses, on the basis that we would not be able to discuss many things because of the timetable.

The Chairman:

What I heard the right hon. and learned Gentleman say seemed to me to fall outside the terms of the new clause to which the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey is addressing his remarks. For the sake of time, we have to concentrate very determinedly on the terms of the new clause.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 5:30 pm, 21st November 2001

The Home Secretary asked a rhetorical question about how long the emergency will last. None of us knows that. Liberal Democrat Members have accepted that there is a case for special legislation, but we do not know for how long it will be necessary. That is why the new clause provides for flexibility. It will allow the Government to terminate elements of the legislation or even re-enact certain elements within five years, if that is required. However, Parliament has a duty to say to the Government that we will not allow emergency powers or legislation that we have not considered to continue indefinitely. We are the Parliament of the United Kingdom. There are separate issues for Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. If ever there were a test of whether the constitution will be upheld, it is whether Parliament will have the opportunity to scrutinise legislation.

The sadness for some Opposition Members is that those are exactly the arguments that the Labour party, in opposition, used to deploy against the Government of the day. It is sad to record that the longer it remains in office, the more new Labour forgets that it has to be properly accountable to Parliament—and Parliament to the people—rather than arrogating more and more power to the Executive. The Government need lessons because they are ignoring what they used to say in opposition and what the country expects from a democratically accountable Government. This is a usurpation of power too far.

Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Labour, Hackney North and Stoke Newington

In speaking to the new clauses on duration, the Home Secretary said that the important thing is that we all agree on the Bill's intent, implying that we should not get too hung up on procedure or detail. With the greatest respect to him, I beg to differ. We are passing a law on which will turn the liberty of the subject, so despite the fact that many of those interned under the legislation will be people whom most hon. Members find unsavoury, and who have no popularity with the wider public, it is important not only that we agree on the Bill's intent but that we be satisfied that the letter of the Bill is robust and will achieve the desired effect.

In the debate on the programme motion, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Beverley Hughes, said that we needed to suspend our normal expectations because of the emergency situation. I am not sure what she meant by that, but no emergency justifies the suspension of our normal expectation that the House should pass legislation that is robust, defensible and fair.

I congratulate the Home Affairs Committee on its excellent report, and in particular its Chairman, my hon. Friend Mr. Mullin, on his hard work on winning from the Home Secretary the concession of a five-year sunset clause. Of course it is an improvement on the status quo, but I ask my hon. Friend to cast his mind back to the last Parliament, when my right hon. Friend Mr. Straw was Home Secretary. He was a past master at the art of the carefully calibrated concession—just enough to get people voting with the Government but not enough to alter the substance of the legislation. I hope that in this Parliament we will not get caught up with such concessions because, a few years on, no one can remember what the concessions were but we know that we are lumbered with thoroughly bad legislation. The Chairman of the Select Committee is to be congratulated on his body fight for the concession—

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Labour, Sunderland South

The Select Committee considered the proposals in detail and concluded that it agreed with the Government that there is a small category of people who cannot be deported or extradited and who constitute a danger to the state. The Committee is not disputing the Home Secretary's reason for bringing the core part of the Bill to Parliament. We wanted a sunset clause because we hope that in five years the emergency will be over.

Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Labour, Hackney North and Stoke Newington

I do not think that anybody in the House disputes the Bill's intent; it is the letter of the Bill that we are attempting to debate under the onerous restrictions of the programme motion.

I give the House a general warning to beware, as we scrutinise the Bill, of the carefully calibrated concession and always to return to the substance of the Bill and ask whether it is acceptable. The new clauses that would introduce more detailed sunset provisions would be preferable even to my hon. Friend's hard-won concession, but as we go through the Bill, we will find many substantive points to which many of us wish to speak.

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron Conservative, Witney

I sit on the Home Affairs Committee with Mr. Mullin, and I thank the Home Secretary and his colleagues for giving way on an amendment in our names.

I have listened to the debate and to the point made by Ms Abbott about the carefully calibrated concession. When the Select Committee suggested a sunset clause on part 4, the most difficult part of the Bill, we also said that we profoundly believed, as Simon Hughes said, that it was not appropriate to give the Bill's passage so little time and we called on the Home Secretary to do some major surgery to the Bill.

We know from what we have heard that the House will get no more time to examine the Bill, and having listened to the debate on Second Reading, some of us are doubtful that we will get major surgery. The Select Committee asked for most of part 5 and all of part 13 to be cut out of the Bill. Do Ministers still have an open mind on those other points? New clause 6 in the name of my hon. Friend Mr. Letwin is, I admit, complicated, but it does at least deal with the problem that the Bill is simply too long.

A sunset clause alone is not enough. A more general sunset clause along the lines suggested by my hon. Friend, which would not apply to the bribery clauses in part 12, would allow the Government to re-enact parts of the Bill for 12 months. It would include a fallback position of a full sunset clause: five years for the least controversial aspects; two years for quite controversial matters, and one year for part 4. If the Government accepted that, it would give them the defence that they will need when the Bill goes to another place, where Members will know, because it is simply too long, that we have not had time to scrutinise it properly. I hope that Ministers will address that point.

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central

Like others who have spoken, I greatly welcome the Home Secretary's acceptance of the Home Affairs Committee's recommendation of a sunset clause for part 4. I especially welcome what he said about extending the remit of Lord Carlile, which would give many people considerable confidence.

The debate about sunset clauses has focused on the principle, intent and duration of the Bill, but there is a separate problem that new clause 6 might address, albeit slightly inadvertently: implementation. We need to retain not only the power to bring the measure to an end after a five-year term, desirable though that is, but the ability to consider and express a view on how it is being implemented.

Photo of Oliver Letwin Oliver Letwin Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

That effect is not inadvertent; it was central to the view that Simon Hughes and I took when we tabled the new clause.

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for those comments, which I accept.

I should like to return to an issue that I raised in the debate on the programme motion, and mention what happened when we introduced internment in 1939 and 1940. On 4 September 1939, the then Home Secretary, Sir John Anderson, of Shelter fame, gave in answer to a question from Mr. Arthur Greenwood an admirable reply about how aliens would be treated under internment. He said that there would be

"no unnecessary interference with other foreigners".—[Hansard, 4 September 1939; Vol. 351, c. 366.]

I am sure that that was his intention and that he wanted the measure to be liberally interpreted and carefully considered and constrained, but as quickly as the following July, different results were shown by a statistical survey that was conducted in an internment camp containing 1,500 people. It dealt with the circumstances of all of those people and was conducted to see how internment was operating.

Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I have been listening carefully to my hon. Friend. All that he has said is entirely true. Policies were undertaken here and in other democratic countries during the second world war that caused great regret. However, first, there is, surely, no comparison; and secondly, no one envisaged in 1939 or 1949 the special immigration advisory committee procedure, which I spelled out in great detail on Monday and which we will, of course, implement to the letter.

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central

I accept what my right hon. Friend says. There is no intention that the measure should be applied on a wider basis than is appropriate. In 1939, however, the then Home Secretary initially thought that he was giving himself powers to intern about 2,000 people, but within nine months, 20,000 of the 30,000 Austrian and German male residents in this country had been interned because of the pressure of events. I suspect that that is not what Sir John Anderson intended, but it is what happened. The speed of events and the implementation of the measures by those with that responsibility—in this case, the chief constables—meant that although the sweep was originally targeted at enemy aliens, it was much wider in practice. Nazi sympathisers and opponents, Jews and Aryans, and a whole range of people who were not originally intended to be caught by the measures were affected. [Interruption.] I must say, Sir Michael, that it is terribly difficult to address the Committee when the junior Minister is talking on the Front Bench. As I was saying, the intention was one thing, but the effect was another. There were no additional powers, but the impetus of events meant that the circumstances were very different as soon as nine months later.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend Home Secretary intends the Bill to cover a very small number of people, as he told the House the other day. However, we must have the right to ensure that we can consider how it is proceeding in one or two years' time. At the very least, we must have a chance to debate, comment and, if necessary, vote on Lord Carlile's report every year, so that we can ensure that circumstances do not drive the intentions of legislation that is passed this year in a very different direction.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

I rise briefly to express my support for the thought behind the sunset clause approach, largely because of the procedure that we are going to adopt. The new clause at least enables all the parts of the Bill to which it refers to fall away within specified times. That inevitably means that this House will have to consider those provisions further if the Government of the day want to give statutory force to them.

The plain truth is that, because of time constraints, we are not going to discuss the substance of any of the clauses in the group whose consideration terminates at 6 o'clock. We have reached only the first line in the marshalled list. At least new clause 6 would apply a sunset provision to all the other measures that feature in the marshalled list, but which will not be discussed at all. Some of them, such as the power of the Treasury to freeze people's cash, the power of Customs to go to the magistrates to get a seizure order in respect of "terrorist cash" and the extension of disclosure obligations are of great importance.

I shall not seek to debate the merits of those issues as you, Sir Michael, would call me to order if I did so. I point out only that, from any viewpoint, they are extremely important obligations and powers that are backed by penal sanctions. Furthermore, they apply to people's property and may also affect the property of innocent third parties. However, we are not going to discuss them at all. That is one of the arguments in favour of sunset clauses, which are a very imperfect way of dealing with the problem that we face. We should not be in this position, but as we are, we must do something to provide a remedy. A sunset clause is one way of at least expressing our dismay about the position.

Photo of Mr John Burnett Mr John Burnett Liberal Democrat, Torridge and West Devon 5:45 pm, 21st November 2001

The right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned penal sanctions. Does he agree that there is a compelling debate to be had about whether more senior judges should deal with those matters, rather than more junior judges and magistrates, as the Bill proposes?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

I am sure that that is correct, although I am being a bit careful because I do not want to stray into the merits of clauses that are not currently before the Committee. None the less, the hon. Gentleman's point is valid, as the sunset clause gives us the opportunity, at least in theory, to address matters that the House will not address at all. Its failure to do so cannot be right.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman recall that, as the professor of human rights law at King's college pointed out in his evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, since the mid-1970s, regular review has been a feature not only of parts of anti-terrorism legislation, but of that legislation as a whole? That is the case not least so that Parliament and Government have to keep thinking about whether the legislation is justified and so that the public continually have it in the front of their minds.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

I was not aware of that specific evidence, but I am sure that the professor is entirely right. Sunset clauses at least focus the attention of the Executive and Parliament on whether the existing situation at a given time is serious enough to justify a derogation from civil rights. That is important, but in this case it is much more urgent: some 12 minutes of debate remain, in which we must consider 20 clauses—and we have not discussed one of them.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley North and Sefton East

I welcome the agreement that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has given in his response to the suggestion of the Select Committee on Home Affairs regarding sunset clauses. It is entirely appropriate that a five-year limit has been set. In normal circumstances, the House is rightly very suspicious of measures such as that which is before the Committee, but they should not necessarily be ruled out in all circumstances. Clearly, we are currently in a situation that nobody sought and nobody wants. We all wish that this had not happened, but the fact is that there are significant threats not only to this country and the security of its people, but to our way of life.

I want to take up a couple of points, but I do not want to detain the Committee long. In his two speeches this afternoon, my hon. Friend Mr. Fisher made great play of comparisons with legislation passed during the second world war. I shall reinforce the point made by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in an intervention—the two sets of circumstances are not comparable. In the second world war, we were dealing with a defined enemy and a known set of circumstances and massive intelligence was not required to know where people were or what support they had, although espionage was certainly going on in this country. We are now dealing with a terrorist organisation with tentacles all over the place. It can use sophisticated technologies that simply did not exist during the second world war. In those circumstances, it is crucial that we protect ourselves against that threat.

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central

The Home Secretary said that his difficulty is that he can identify the people who put this country at risk, but cannot take action against them. We are not dealing with the problem of an unknown and undefinable enemy in the community; the Home Secretary, or the security forces, can identify the people who are likely to cause terrorist outrages in this country, but cannot act against them.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley North and Sefton East

My hon. Friend would be right if the intelligence available to the Home Secretary and Ministers was a single static body of knowledge. I am sure that the Committee agrees that intelligence gathering is a dynamic process. As time goes on, other people, although relatively small in number, may well be identified who will fall under the provisions proposed by my right hon. Friend. I hope that that will be the case. I suspect that, in such circumstances, he will want to use the power that is available to him. So, in direct response to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central and others, in times like these they must accept that an element of trust is involved.

Photo of Oliver Letwin Oliver Letwin Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

No one is denying for half a second that an element of trust is involved. We are entrusting to the Government the power, with relatively little parliamentary scrutiny, to implement measures of great concern. The question is whether that trust should prevail for years or whether we should have the opportunity to review the issue of whether our initial trust was well placed.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley North and Sefton East

I accept that entirely. If the hon. Gentleman had not intervened to make that point, I was going to go into that territory.

If the House and, by extension, those whom we represent are to give that trust, it follows that the House should have regard to the period for which the legislation should sensibly last and at what time a sunset clause should come into effect. I have given that trust to Labour Ministers and would happily give it to Mr. Letwin if he were in government. I do not think that that is an immediate prospect but, nevertheless, I would do so. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has listened and he has earned our trust. He decided that suggestions by the Select Committee on Home Affairs were sensible and signalled that he wished to take them on board.

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Does the hon. Gentleman understand that we would all be more willing to trust the Home Secretary completely if the Bill was narrowly focused, concentrated on anti-terrorist measures and not packed full of stuff that has been lying in a Home Office cupboard for months?

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley North and Sefton East

If I strayed from the immediate point, you would pull me up, Sir Michael. However, the argument that the Bill has somehow managed to attract unconnected clauses for the Government's convenience is, frankly, a naive reading of the situation. The truth is that the Bill's provisions are connected. Having spent two years as a junior Minister in the Northern Ireland Office, I am well aware of the connections between all the clauses; there is an overarching theme, and the Bill is not just a loose connection of good ideas that somebody has decided to throw together. The point made by Norman Baker does not stand up.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley North and Sefton East

I shall give way to my hon. Friend Lynne Jones first and then the hon. Member for West Dorset, but after that I really must try to conclude my remarks.

Photo of Lynne Jones Lynne Jones Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

My hon. Friend said that the Government listened to the Home Affairs Select Committee, but that is not completely true. The Home Secretary accepted its recommendation on the five-year sunset clause, but not its concerns about the time needed to debate the Bill in the House. He did not accept those reservations when they were made by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, either. Surely, the two things go hand in hand.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley North and Sefton East

I am in some difficulty, as I do not know whether the Front Bench wants time to respond before 6 o'clock. I am sure that somebody will signal if that is the case.

I listened carefully to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who said that he was persuaded by the recommendation of the Home Affairs Committee on the sunset clause. He went on to say that there were other areas on which he was prepared to continue listening to advice. I am prepared to give him more than the benefit of the doubt, as he has already demonstrated his willingness to listen.

I said that I would give way to the hon. Member for West Dorset[Interruption.] He has declined the opportunity.

Photo of Ms Annabelle Ewing Ms Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party, Perth

In the light of Mr. Letwin not taking up that offer, I thought that I would quickly get in. I have listened to the debate with interest, and must ask a fundamental question. In what way is the Government's position, especially on part 4, fundamentally impinged if they have to return to the House to renew their legislation?

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley North and Sefton East

If the hon. Lady had been listening to my speech, she would be aware that I made the point that, in the circumstances, the Government must return to the House to renew the legislation. The only contentious thing is with what frequency they should do that.

Photo of Mr Andrew Hunter Mr Andrew Hunter Conservative, Basingstoke

A moment ago, the hon. Gentleman argued that the entire Bill was, in a core sense, central to anti-terrorism. If that is the case, why does he not argue, as he did all the years that he was in opposition, that the whole Bill should be subjected to annual review?

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley North and Sefton East

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was present, but my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary clearly explained that that is exactly his intention. I do not fully understand the hon. Gentleman's position.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley North and Sefton East

The hon. Gentleman sought to intervene earlier; I tried to give way to him, but he withdrew his request. There are two minutes left, and I have been generous in giving way throughout my speech. I shall now try to bring my remarks to close.

My right hon. Friend made it clear that he has listened to concerns that have been put to him and has acted on some of them. He also made it clear that he will listen to further reasonable concerns; I accept in good faith that that is his intention. In those circumstances, I hope that Conservative Members will withdraw new clause 6, and I hope that Liberal Democrat Members will not press their two new clauses to a vote.

Photo of Oliver Letwin Oliver Letwin Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

For the avoidance of doubt, we shall not withdraw the new clause. The position is not as represented inadvertently by Mr. Howarth. The Home Secretary's concession means that one part of the Bill will lapse after five years and, in the interim, will be subject to annual review. The remainder of the Bill, in its entirety, will not be subject to review and will last for ever. Conservative Members cannot accept that position.

It being Six o'clock, The Chairman, pursuant to Order [this day], put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question put, That the clause be read a second time:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 216, Noes 351.

Division number 72 Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill — New Clause 6 — Sunset Clause

Aye: 216 MPs

No: 350 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name


Nos: A-Z by last name


Absent: 88 MPs

Absents: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.