Clause 17 — Extension of existing disclosure powers

Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:30 pm on 13th December 2001.

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Lords amendment 5B, in lieu of Lords amendment 5: in page 7, line 23, at end insert—

"() No disclosure of information shall be made by virtue of this section unless the public authority by which the disclosure is made is satisfied that the making of the disclosure is proportionate to what is sought to be achieved by it."

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

I beg to move, That this House
agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

A paper setting out the details of the Lords message is now available in the Vote Office. A second paper setting out the Government's proposals for a response to the Lords is also available.

The first Government motion relates to Lords amendment No. 5. I understand that it is the wish of the Government that all their other motions should be debated at the same time, and they are so grouped. At the end of the debate, I shall put the Question on each Government motion in succession.

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

First, I apologise for the fact that it has taken us so very long to receive the Lords message and that we have delayed Members of the House so late tonight. I want to explain the areas on which the Lords have deliberated in detail: part 5 on incitement to religious hatred, part 10 relating to police powers, part 11 on data retention and part 14, which, for want of better a phraseology, we might describe as sunset clauses.

Before we deliberate on the Lords message, it is very important to note that agreement has been reached on about 98 per cent. of the Bill. Given the speed, complexity and vigour of the debate over recent weeks here and in the Lords, that is a tremendous achievement. All people of good will should take pride in having been able to secure it. In that spirit, I shall address the four remaining clauses that we are dealing with tonight.

My political instinct is that people would never forgive us if we engaged in party political wrangles at this stage. I do not believe that anyone outside the House with any maturity expects us to behave in anything but a mature and responsible fashion in dealing with the remaining disagreements. That is why I want to try to secure agreement between the two Houses on the outstanding issues.

One issue and one alone has overridden everything we have debated—that is, providing greater security and reassurance to the people we serve. We have sought to do so by providing proportionate and responsible powers and trying to reach agreement where there is disagreement over how far the legislation should go.

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

In the spirit of what the Home Secretary says, we recognise that the disagreement has not been party political, because it brought people of all parties together when they felt that the legislation, in some respects, went beyond the requirements of dealing with terrorism and security. The agreements that have been reached have helped to redress that balance.

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

I certainly agree that Members of all parties have genuinely sought a way forward, but I hope that tonight we will show that we can achieve that in even greater degree. That is the point that I seek to make. Having established that we have already reached agreement on 98 per cent. of the Bill, I want to reach an agreement that allows the House of Lords to agree to the Bill tonight and to ensure that people are aware not only that we have been able to achieve that goal, but that Parliament has been able to handle a difficult and complex issue in such a fashion. As I said last night, the credibility of the process—not just of Parliament—is important to all of us, certainly those of us who care deeply about politics.

Let me work backwards. Part 14, relating to sunset clauses, has exercised Members in all parts of the House in regard to which elements of legislation should be returned to, not just in terms of deliberation—that applies to part 5, on an annual basis and or part 11, which already involves a sunset clause of two years—but in terms of broader issues. We agreed with the Home Affairs Committee on a sunset clause of five years on part 4, and we agreed that it would be appropriate to return that to primary legislation.

It has been suggested, particularly by the Liberal Democrats, that every part of the Bill should have to be revisited and rerun through Parliament. That, of course, would be at the expense of other measures proposed by, among others, the Liberal Democrats. We believe that, after sensitive deliberation on the matters that are of most concern and after agreement had been reached, it would be right to seek a return only if it was considered that remaining parts not given sunset clauses had prompted concern. We therefore proposed a review by a Privy Council committee, which would report to the two Houses within two years, and recommended that the terms of its report should be debated by the House of Commons.

There appears to have been doubt about whether the commitments given by the Government would result in full deliberation in relation to any concerns expressed by the committee. Our amendment, while declining to provide sunset clauses in regard to every part of the Bill and therefore to rerun those parts, does ensure that the review can highlight areas in which the committee believes there is cause for concern in terms of implementation, and therefore that we would guarantee a sunset clause of six months on any such items should the two Houses not have an opportunity to deliberate fully.

We consider this a sensible amendment, which should reassure everyone that the Government will have to provide a debate and will have to reach conclusions on the issues highlighted by the review committee.

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

Of course a review—particularly one conducted by those with authority—is welcome. The constitutional issue that divides us is this: it should be for Parliament, rather than seven or more people appointed by the Secretary of State—however important they may be—to decide whether legislation such as this should continue. This is a fundamental change in the principle that Parliament, and only Parliament, can apply the necessary wisdom and make the appropriate decision on whether emergency legislation that has not been considered properly should remain on the statute book indefinitely.

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

We will return those concerns to the House specifically, but we will also bring the report on the Bill to the House, thereby offering it an opportunity not simply to debate clauses relating to extension of the Terrorism Act 2000 and part 4—we have already made a commitment to consider that annually and to conclude it after five years, if it has not already been concluded by a vote in the House—but to debate the whole of the working of the Bill. That is a unique opportunity. It has never been offered before by Government, and I think it helps us in these circumstances.

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

I will in a moment.

I think that that helps us; given that people have been prepared to give and take, listen, respond and make sensible suggestions, we have now reached consensus on the vast majority of clauses. For unique reasons, we appear to have had consensus on bribery and corruption across the House. One measure was demonstrably put in at the last moment on the insistence of a Front-Bench spokesman for the Opposition party. On that alone appears to rest the full consent of the Liberal Democrats. It is a very strange world we live in, but there we are. Given that it is such a strange world, I give way to my hon. Friend Jeremy Corbyn.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

The Home Secretary said that the Privy Council committee will have a chance to examine all the workings of the proposed legislation and then issue a report. Will he confirm that in its examination of all the workings of the Bill, the committee will have access to the information under which anyone is imprisoned as a supposed international terrorist, and will be able to examine what it believes to be the justice of those cases before it issues its report on the general workings of the Bill?

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

The reason why it is a Privy Council-established committee is to give it access to the security and intelligence services. Of course it will not have access to the detailed cases of the individuals who have gone through the Special Immigration Appeals Commission and the evidence that has been heard in private. [Hon. Members: "Why not?"] I am not even going to try that answer because we have spent hour after hour, including last night, deliberating on that matter. I do not intend to hold the House up unnecessarily.

On part 11, we had a suggestion from those who have been extremely busy on the Liberal Democrat Benches that we should separate out, because it is about not access but retention, those parts of data that someone could second-guess as being relevant to terrorists as opposed to organised criminals and others. They have considered it necessary to press that.

Should I resist the House of Lords on that matter, the Bill is in danger of falling. We have some quaint rules as between the two Houses. If something is resisted twice, the whole Bill falls—not the clause, but the whole Bill. It is a learning curve even for those of us who did politics as a degree. No doubt the Leader of the House will get around to looking at modernising the way in which we operate. [Interruption.] That was not a threat; it was a little quip. I am so keen to get the Bill through before Christmas that I would not dare threaten anyone, not even on my own Back Benches.

The amendment, in relation to part 11 therefore suggests that we should try to separate out those parts of data. As I tried to explain on a number of occasions, including last night, it is not possible to do that, but paradoxically, because it is not possible to do it, it is not reasonable to suggest that we should not do it. I am therefore prepared to accept the amendments that have been tabled. In order to be able to implement what they want, we will have to retain the data, so that it can be accessed to test out whether the intelligence services are right in believing that it is relevant in tackling terrorists. That is how stupid the Liberal Democrats are.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

I hesitate to intervene on that introduction, but I congratulate the Home Secretary on accepting the amendment. It is important not in terms of the practical implications, which are as he spelled out, but in terms of the message it gives to one of the UK's important industrial sectors, from which he will require full co-operation if we are to implement anything in the Bill—or indeed in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett The Secretary of State for the Home Department 9:45 pm, 13th December 2001

We have been fortunate in that the industry has given its co-operation voluntarily for the past three and a half months. I remember in my statement on 15 October thanking the industry and congratulating it on doing so. We established the concept of a code of practice with a sunset clause in recognition of the fact that the best wanted to get on board the rest, as per the famous Winston Churchill phrase of 1909, to ensure that those who were prepared to co-operate were not undercut by those who were not. However, we have agreement, so let us move to part 10, on police powers.

We have another little paradox on part 10. It transpired that the Liberal Democrats had managed to contrive a situation in which their amendments reduced the powers already available to the police and the jurisdiction of the British Transport and MOD police. I pointed that out last night, and the Liberal Democrats went back to the House of Lords and persuaded their Lordships that they should accept an amendment that provides as follows:

"Any powers conferred by this Part, except in so far as they confer powers replacing police powers which existed immediately before the coming into force of this Part, shall only be enforceable in relation to any suspicion, or investigation, or acts, of terrorism or any matters of national security."

In other words, having accepted that they had made a complete backside of it, the Liberal Democrats have decided to put the matter right. We are now back where we started. In the spirit of co-operation, I shall ask the House of Lords if it would be kind enough not to resist putting the original wording back in, so that we can move forward on the basis that we thought we were on in the first place.

The issue is serious because, should the House of Lords resist that request and send the issue back to the Commons, and if we were unprepared to put up with that nonsense, the Bill would fall. We have a clear message for the House of Lords: to ask it to accept that we have gone as far as we can in relation to those powers and to agree with this House.

I come to part 5. Coming from Sheffield, I am familiar with the old nursery rhyme about the grand old Duke of York. So I have marched myself up to the top of the hill and I am about to march myself down again. Before anyone can quip about giving way gracefully or otherwise, I shall ask the House to give way to the House of Lords, which has voted twice to remove the incitement to religious hatred from the Bill. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear!"] There we have it.

There will be consequences. Every decision that we take—be it this House, the House of Lords or people in their individual lives—has consequences. Some people's attitude is, "We really agree with this proposal and we think that in the long term it would be a good thing to do, but this is not the time or the Bill and we did not agree with every word so we will reject it." [Interruption.] Those people will need to reflect in a year's time on where the new Bill is, not least those Liberal Democrats who are heckling me. After all, they have suggested that we should re-examine every aspect of this Bill, to the point where no time or space would be available to table a separate small Bill on incitement to religious hatred.

That is the consequence of the enthusiasm demonstrated by hon. Members—on the Opposition Benches and on my own side as well—at the fact that the provision has been removed from the Bill. We all understand that the House should concern itself with construction, constructive change, improvement and building on proposals. What I have never understood is the great joy and cheer at the destructiveness of removal. I want to explain what I mean—

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

I do not think that I have messed it up. I think that the votes in the House of Lords have messed up this provision.

Many hon. Members were not in the Chamber when there was sensible and rational disagreement on these clauses. Genuine concerns were expressed, which were heard and responded to. Discussions took place behind the scenes, and the Attorney-General did his best to ensure that we found a way forward.

I have no disagreement with that. People genuinely felt that there could be improvements and safeguards. That is fine. What I was referring to was the tremendous cheer that getting rid of the provision altogether aroused. There was no quiet pleasure at having won—[Interruption.]

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

I shall give way to the former leader of the Scottish National party in a moment, but I merely want to make the point that the House should not shout and jeer at such moments. We had a rational debate on the matter, and the Government have conceded that we have lost on it. The House of Lords has voted against it twice, both times substantially. However, that is not a matter about which anyone should rejoice. It may be late, and people may be frustrated, but that is the single point that I want to make.

I give way to Mr. Salmond.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Scottish National Party, Banff and Buchan

The Home Secretary will not have to wait a few years to see such legislation in operation. My understanding is that the Scottish Parliament intends to proceed with similar legislation. However, in the Scottish Parliament, it will not be proceeded with as emergency, rushed legislation. Is not that the lesson that the Home Secretary should take on board?

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

I have learned a number of lessons over the past few weeks, which I hope that I will carry with me. However, one lesson that I have learned from interventions from Scottish National Party Members over the past week or two has been how different the two Parliaments are. I do not mean in terms of their processes, but in terms of the volume of legislation and the enormity of pressure that exists in them. Obviously, the modernisation process proposed by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will assist us, but in this Parliament we have the most enormous backlog and jam of legislation. Everyone, from every side, wants their preferred Bill to come forward.

I give way to my hon. Friend Mrs. Fitzsimons.

Photo of Ms Lorna Fitzsimons Ms Lorna Fitzsimons Labour, Rochdale

I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way. Does he agree that we in this House are sometimes in danger of operating as though we are not seen by the outside world? Does he share, as I do, the disappointment felt by the 27 per cent. of my constituents of Muslim origin, who feel that, tonight, the House has not listened to their concerns or protected them? Does he agree that we bring ourselves into disrepute when we do so in a crowing manner?

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

When a number of faith groups, including the Muslim Council of Britain, asked me if I would consider bringing forward a clause on religious hatred, similar to the provisions regarding race hatred, we considered that it was a worthwhile proposition and attempted to do it in good faith. We did it to try and meet genuine concerns at a time when reassurance and increased security and surveillance were judged to be necessary. Our attempt to do this has undoubtedly sent a signal across the world. We did it in good faith.

I have made a point that has aggravated Opposition and some Labour Members, but I think that it is important that, when we deliberate on these matters, we take joy in success.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney Conservative, North West Cambridgeshire

I was one with whom the Home Secretary engaged constructively and graciously. Although we had a difference of opinion that was not resolved, we behaved as Members of this House ought to behave, so I am slightly disappointed at his tone. I ask him to think back to those discussions. The shadow Home Secretary and the Liberal Democrat spokesman both made an offer to the right hon. Gentleman to the effect that, were this measure to be dropped, they would co-operate with the Government on a new Bill that would address these serious issues in the round. Is the Home Secretary now telling us that that is not a prospect in the foreseeable future?

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

As for the right hon. Gentleman's sadness about my tone, I merely observe that if someone blows a raspberry in my ear, I am inclined to blow my mouth organ slightly louder. A raspberry was blown by Members when I announced that the clause was to be dropped.

On the substantive issue, I have heard that Conservative and Liberal Democrat Members indicated that they would like to co-operate on a measure that they have just defeated. I am very keen that they should indicate that through the usual channels, as well as how they wish to co-operate over such a Bill, how they believe that it should be designed; what substantive measure, if any, they think that it should be attached to; and which measure would have to give way in order for us to find a slot for it. It was because of the need to get through these measures in time to ensure that we did not leave people at risk or completely disrupt the rest of the legislative programme that we sought to achieve what we are doing tonight.

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

I hope that the Home Secretary will return to his introductory tone and accept that there are honourable views held on this issue on both sides of this House and the other place, just as there are outside in all communities, of faith and without faith. It just so happens that the House of Lords has twice, by the largest majority since it has been reformed, not shared the view of the Government.

I hope that the Home Secretary will not repeat the words of his colleague who suggested that the defeat on this issue—we think that it is the wrong place and the wrong time—should preclude collaboration on any Bill that deals with the blasphemy law, incitement and religious discrimination in the early future. The Government can make that time available if they want to.

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

There is every reason to continue encouraging those who are prepared to co-operate to do so. I repeat that my remarks were based not on concern about people's disagreement but on the triumphalism surrounding that disagreement. I intend to conclude, because I want people to have the chance—[Interruption.] It is no good the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats immediately offering their co-operation, if that is what they are doing, and then criticising me for being taken aback at their tone. That is all.

If we want co-operation, let us seek it. I shall conclude on that point—[Interruption.] I am not bitter at all; we have achieved a lot. We have achieved consensus on a range of measures—including the aggravated offence in relation to religion associated with race hate. That will be extremely important in its own right in achieving security and safety, as well as sending a message to people. I do not want people of any faith to believe that tonight Parliament turned down their protection. That is important—whether or not we disagree.

Although it is late, I want to finish on a positive note. During recent days, we have received substantial co-operation from the Conservative home affairs team. I am grateful to them for that. A responsible attitude has been shown today by Conservative Front-Bench Members, and I am grateful to them. As I said yesterday evening at about 11.30, I hope that that will be emulated by the Liberal Democrats when these provisions return to the House of Lords—for it is not words that we seek, but genuine co-operation in establishing that Parliament can secure a safer and better future for the British people.

Photo of Oliver Letwin Oliver Letwin Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office) 10:00 pm, 13th December 2001

This is an important moment for Parliament. The Home Secretary set out to achieve a Bill, with good intentions. Throughout, we have paid tribute to that. Throughout, we have recognised the necessity of the Bill and of having it quickly, because we face, as a nation, a real threat and, as I mentioned yesterday, all but seven of the 126 clauses properly address that threat.

I also pay tribute to the fact that the Home Secretary has made significant shifts in order to enable us to have what we set out to have in the first place—a Bill about terrorism. There was never a place in such a Bill for a clause on incitement to religious hatred. I will not rehearse the arguments. We are grateful that the Home Secretary has given way to the overwhelming objections from the Lords. I do not share the right hon. Gentleman's view of the performance of the Liberal Democrats, who have worked with us conscientiously and openly to achieve that important result.

I am also grateful that the Home Secretary has made way for a sunset clause that I believe will work. It is not perfect, but I suspect that we could never have hoped to achieve perfection in 10 days or so of parliamentary debate of a Bill of immense length. The provision will, I think, serve the purpose.

I am further grateful that the Home Secretary has allowed the Lords to do their work of noticing that there was something wrong in having about 81 Government agencies and quangos disclose almost everything to almost any law enforcement officer, who was trying to investigate almost any crime, anywhere in the world. That was not proper drafting, although I do not think that the Home Secretary intended that provision from the beginning. The proportionality rule that he has now explicitly applied will probably serve to remedy the problem. Again, it is not perfect. As the years go by, we shall have to see whether it works, but it is certainly much better than where we started.

Most of all, I am grateful to the Home Secretary for removing from the Bill an item that should never have been in any Bill: an attempt—if, indeed, it was intentional—to enable the Government of the day to push through, in a 90-minute debate in a Committee upstairs, any decision reached by EU Justice Ministers on any matter of criminal law. The Home Secretary has, in effect, removed that part of the Bill. He has so constrained the provision that it is innocuous, and for that not only we but the nation as a whole will be grateful, not just this year but for years to come.

What has been proved during the rather arduous progress of the Bill is the value of parliamentary scrutiny and parliamentary check. The Home Secretary has ended up with a better Bill—not only from our point of view but from his point of view. What has been shown is that when Parliament asserts itself constructively, effectively and in a dignified way against the Executive, Parliament can win and can make the actions of the Executive better than they would otherwise be. That is a triumph for our democracy and I am grateful to the Home Secretary for co-operating in achieving it.

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

I am grateful to Mr. Letwin and his colleagues for their collaboration. We have often been able to reach a common view in both Houses, and that view has prevailed in considerable parts of the Bill. I am sorry that the Home Secretary's frequent courtesy and friendliness when we have seen him and his ministerial colleagues to discuss the Bill and to put our point of view has not always been reflected in the tone that he has adopted publicly.

I hold no grudge about the fact that the Home Secretary may have a different view. I understand his national political responsibility, and he is perfectly right to introduce in Parliament a Bill to deal with terrorism. The Liberal Democrats have unequivocally said that we accepted that there should be such a Bill and that we would support it, and we accepted that it should be emergency legislation. We have never veered from that view, but we have had some disagreements about the Bill's content.

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

We have disagreed about the content because we have also kept to two other very straightforward positions. First, the provisions of a Bill that proceeds through an emergency process, without proper scrutiny and in double-quick time, should return for scrutiny at a later date—a perfectly normal constitutional principle. Secondly, we believe that a Bill that was intended to deal with terrorism and related activities should be limited to terrorism and related activities, and many of our amendments have been intended to deal with that issue specifically.

Of course, there have been, and still are, disagreements. I am grateful to all my parliamentary colleagues for the fact that we have reached a common view about how to proceed and that they have unitedly supported the leader of my party, myself and our colleagues as we have sought to amend the Bill. However, the Home Secretary must not misrepresent the fact that when we have disagreed on extending the powers of data retention and transfer and those of the police beyond what is needed to deal with the current emergency, we have done so because we believe that it is not right to deal with those matters in this process and in this Bill and that, if the Government want to do that, they should do so elsewhere.

I want to make a point about the deliberations of the past day or so. Although the Government have no majority in the country, they clearly have a majority in the House. [Interruption.] No, they have no majority in the country. Indeed, no party has a majority in the country, and the Government achieved a considerably lower vote than most Governments since the war, so we should have no arrogance from the Government. [Interruption.]

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. It would be as well for the progress of business if any Member who has the Floor is heard in reasonable silence.

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

The Government also have no numerical majority in the House of Lords, but this Government of all Governments cannot complain if they are defeated in the House of Lords because that is the House that Tony, Jack, David and Derry built. This is their House of Lords and their creation. If they wanted a different one, they could have created it.

Liberal Democrats regret the fact that the Government did not accept our argument about judicial review. We do not believe that it was necessary to derogate from the European convention on human rights and we were sad that there was a proposal to allow for European third-pillar issues to be debated on the basis of secondary legislation. However, we clearly acknowledge that the Government have made considerable concessions, and for each and every one of those we are grateful and are clear in our minds that they were wise moves that were taken on the basis of evidence and argument.

Three issues remain. The first relates to the incitement to religious hatred provision. The proposition that I put to the Government yesterday and before remains absolutely clear. Liberal Democrats believe, like the Scottish Parliament believes, that there should be legislation on religious discrimination. We believe that, if the Government want to legislate, they can find the time to do so. We shall, indeed, collaborate with other parties and faith groups to seek to persuade the Government to find the time to legislate properly.

Secondly, we believe that there should be a sunset clause for the Bill. What the Government have offered—[Interruption.]

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. There is still too much noise for such a serious occasion.

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

What the Government have offered is an improvement, but we have not changed our view that such a Bill should return for proper review.

Finally, we believe that we were right to press the argument that the powers of the police and the authorities that were so widely drafted in the original Government proposals were much wider than was necessary to deal with the current emergency.

We are consoled in our view by the fact that people from both the other major parties often supported us. We assure the Government that, like them, we are willing to co-operate and we assure the House and the country that we accept that this Bill, improved and amended, should pass into law tonight. However, we shall keep up our arguments when we believe that the law needs to be changed hereafter.

Disagreement must not be misrepresented. It is the place for Parliament to express disagreements and Liberal Democrats are proud of the position that we have taken. We shall continue to argue our case.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Labour, Holborn and St Pancras

I have no religious beliefs, but it is shameful that people in our country are subject to abuse and assault because of their religious beliefs and are subject to discrimination in jobs, housing and education because of their religious beliefs. I have long believed that we should outlaw such discrimination. I strongly supported the Government's proposal to do that, even though it was included in a Bill that relates to terrorism.

I am sorry that the House of Lords voted that proposal down, but the problems remain. Tomorrow morning and tomorrow evening, as they take children to and from school, Muslim women will be abused and assaulted because they cover their heads because of their religious beliefs.

I have listened to the arguments against the inclusion of such a proposal in a clause in the Bill. I have noticed that many of the provision's opponents have said that they want such legislation, but not in this form or at this time. The problems that it was supposed to address remain. I hope that the Home Secretary and the rest of the Cabinet will recognise that and shortly introduce a Bill that includes proposals to outlaw incitement to religious hatred and religious discrimination, because we owe it to the people who are suffering those outrages at the moment.

Photo of Mr Tony McWalter Mr Tony McWalter Labour/Co-operative, Hemel Hempstead 10:15 pm, 13th December 2001

I rather disagree with the general tone of what my right hon. Friend Mr. Dobson said, but I congratulate the Home Secretary on agreeing with the Lords in amendment No. 23, on incitement to religious hatred.

We are all fanatically and fiercely opposed to hatred in all its forms. Indeed, if there were no such thing as hatred, we might not need a House of Commons at all. It is the resistance to expressions of hatred and violence that gives us our very role as Members of Parliament. Hatred is a hydra-headed monster: one can chop off one of its heads and two might grow in its place.

The issue facing us has been properly expressed in the House of Lords. The Lords said that part 5 has an unobvious but deep and devastating implication for freedom of speech. I do not believe that this House has had a proper chance to analyse that proposition, but if it is true, and we are the custodians of freedom of speech, it is right that we pay the appropriate amount of attention to that argument. We have not been able during our three sittings to give it that attention. The House of Lords, in its eight sittings, has had more opportunity so to do.

If it is true that the Bill has implications for freedom of speech, of course it may be that we still need to embrace curtailments because of terrorism, but the argument in this place has consisted of some people saying that anybody who says that there is anything at all wrong with the Bill is forgetting about 11 September. The beautiful 35-year- old daughter of my friend Padraig McHugh lost her life on 11 September, so if I say that the Bill is manky in parts, let no one tell me that I am forgetting about 11 September—no way.

Some people have said that those of us who are opposed to some parts of the Bill have set civil liberties too high and the threats too low. Every item in the Bill needs to be considered by reference to whether it lowers the probability of events such as those on 11 September. Unlike many of my colleagues who have opposed the Bill and said that they are also opposed to the military action taken by the Government, I have been strongly in support of the military action.

It is right, however, that this Bill—drafted too hastily, thought of too quickly and imposed without sufficient debate, particularly in this place—be simplified, and I am pleased that the Lords have done a job that should have been done here. I hope that in future, the timetable for any legislation of this sort will allow proper scrutiny to be conducted in this Chamber, instead of expecting it to go up the road where the Lords have the luxury of detailed debate, which we have been denied. I hope that we get legislation through to curtail hatred and make sure that we do so in a way that maximises the opportunity for freedom of speech.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

Like other Members, I shall be brief. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear.] I am grateful to my hon. Friends. The Home Secretary made the point that he will appoint a review committee to look at the workings of the Bill and told the House that it will not have access to evidence on the basis of which he will have the power as Home Secretary to name someone as an international terrorist, imprison them, deny them access both to the evidence against them and legal representation, then review their case every six months. Will the House reflect for a moment that no other country in Europe has introduced such legislation?

We are rushing through legislation that means that people will be imprisoned without any access to the evidence against them or to an open court. Because the security services are apparently not prepared to trust the civilian courts, the Home Secretary is not prepared to change the Bill. The House should reflect for a moment on the fact that, unaccountably, we are giving incredibly serious and draconian powers to the Home Secretary and future Home Secretaries. We should not be doing that. To defend itself, a democracy must be open and democratic and give people the right both to knowledge of the evidence against them and to be defended.

The Bill has been rushed through; it is extremely dangerous because it is a denial of civil liberties. If we parade ourselves as a democratic society, in times of difficulty it is important to show the rest of the world that we are prepared to stand up for the civil liberties and rights which we enjoy. If the Bill is used against supposed international terrorists and foreign passport holders, there is always the danger that it could be extended later to United Kingdom citizens. My hon. Friends and I are not prepared to support it because it is a dangerous departure from the norm of a Labour party and a labour movement that defends the right to civil liberties in our society.

Photo of Glenda Jackson Glenda Jackson Labour, Hampstead and Highgate

I support the remarks of my right hon. Friend Mr. Dobson and place on the record the fact that many of my constituents believe that there should be a criminal offence based on incitement to racial hatred [Hon. Members: "Religious hatred"] Thank you. I should also like to place on the record my perception that that part of the Bill is not meant essentially or exclusively to protect people of the Muslim faith. There are many faiths that at present and, doubtless, in future, can be used as a target for hatred, as they have been in the past.

I wish to assure my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that he has no need to apologise for his response to what he rightly called the triumphalist response to his announcement. I can assure him that the majority of Members who bayed their triumphalism were not in the Chamber last night when the issue was debated. The whole reason for the House's existence is to examine forensically the Executive's legislation, so why do certain Members always hide behind the excuse that they would be able to do so if only they had more time? This piece of legislation was introduced because of an emergency. If the emergency services that work on our streets and in our hospitals throughout the year argued that they could not fulfil the requirements of their job because they had not had sufficient notice, what would the House and the people of this country say?

I take issue particularly with Simon Hughes who averred that he discounted the other place. He said that it was a Chamber that had been created by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and other members of the Government. When the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues signally fail to win an argument in this House, they invariably refuse to push their amendments to a vote because, as they say, the matter will be raised in the other place. A Chamber which the hon. Gentleman claimed this evening to discount is always his fail-safe.

The essential point, which the House should examine without delay, is that an unaccountable and unelected Chamber can overturn the decisions of this Chamber. Members of the official Opposition and the Liberal Democrats—I do not know what one calls the Liberal Democrats; one can hardly depute them to be the unofficial Opposition—argue that the Government are eroding the powers of this Chamber for various reasons, yet they are perfectly prepared to allow the noble Lords in the other place to overturn this Chamber's decisions. The sooner we ensure that the other place—

Hon. Members:

Elect them.

Photo of Glenda Jackson Glenda Jackson Labour, Hampstead and Highgate

Too impatient, and as always, illogical and illiterate. I intended to end by saying that the sooner the other place is elected and becomes accountable, the better.

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

I thank right hon. and hon. Members of all persuasions who have contributed to making it possible to get the Bill through. I thank my hon. Friends for their contributions. I shall be spending more time north of King's Cross, given the support that I received this evening from my right hon. Friend Mr. Dobson and my hon. Friend Glenda Jackson.

I thank my fellow Ministers, who have worked incredibly hard, and our Whip, who has worked particularly hard on the Bill. I thank officials and the lawyers, not just my own, who have worked extremely hard, but many others who have worked outside, briefing hon. Members and political parties and making sure that the Bill is a better one than when it entered the House.

I have got over my momentary pique—[Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] That's better. I feel a lot better for that. I genuinely think that the British people will say, "Well done. Parliament has shown itself in a good light and we are proud of what you have done."

Lords amendments Nos. 5, 8 and 23 agreed to.

Lords amendments No. 380 disagreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 40, 44 and 48 agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put, pursuant to Order [5 December], That this House insists on its disagreement with the Lords in amendment No. 66:—

The House divided: Ayes 330, Noes 64.

Division number 114 Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill — Removal of Sunset Clause — Insistence

Aye: 330 MPs

No: 64 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Absent: 260 MPs

Absents: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly agreed to.

It being more than one hour after the commencement of proceedings, Mr. Deputy Speaker put the remaining Questions necessary to dispose of those proceedings, pursuant to Order [12 December].

Government amendment (a) in lieu of Lords amendment No. 66 agreed to.

Committee appointed to draw up Reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to amendment No. 38C: Paul Goggins, Mr. Dominic Grieve, Beverley Hughes, Simon Hughes and Mrs. Anne McGuire; Beverley Hughes to be the Chairman of the Committee; Three to be the quorum of the Committee.— [Mr. McNulty.]

To withdraw immediately.

Reasons for disagreeing to a Lords amendment reported, and agreed to; to be communicated to the Lords.

On resuming: