New Clause 6 — Power to make control orders

Part of Orders of the Day — Prevention of Terrorism Bill – in the House of Commons at 10:56 pm on 28th February 2005.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General 10:56 pm, 28th February 2005

I am truly sorry to see the Home Secretary mired in these fantasies and delusions of his own making. He comes to the House, presents a Bill and commends its Third Reading to the House, yet he knows that the debates in Committee have shown that it contains serious flaws that he has to rectify, and that his Government, through the Whips on his Treasury Bench, have, through their programming, denied the House of Commons any opportunity to consider its details.

We are being invited to vote on a Bill having not considered the following matters: the obligations on the Secretary of State in connection with control orders; the content of control orders; the definition of "terrorist-related activity"; the balance of proof in relation to the making of control orders; the abolition of a distinction between non-derogating and derogating control orders; the duration of the Act, which some Members might think a most important issue; the content and delivery of a notice of modification of an order; the power of the court to make a conditional discharge; the mechanisms of appeal; the possibility of providing for costs and damages if wrong is done to the individual who is adversely affected by these measures; appeals relating to derogating control orders; reviews; and control order proceedings in the schedule, which, as Members have commented in the short debates that we have been able to have, is clearly a document of the mightiest mischief, because it provides a mechanism whereby this Government—in whom I have to say that I no longer have any confidence whatsoever in terms of the maintenance of civil liberties in this country—can produce whatever they like by way of rules of court in an area of novel power-making.

How has this situation come about? Over the past week, the Home Secretary has weaved backwards and forwards between saying, when he wishes to appeal to one audience, that this is a non-party-political matter that requires serious consideration, and then denouncing one Opposition party or another for playing politics. Most of the time it has been my party that has been accused of playing politics, but when the Liberal Democrats have stood up against him, it is allegedly they who have been doing so.

The shallowness of the way in which the Government have embarked upon this project is breathtaking. Although they have known since 16 December that their existing powers were wholly flawed, all they did in the intervening six weeks was to go behind the scenes and decide to try to cobble something together. Here was an opportunity for the Home Secretary, in the new job that he had acquired, to show that he would rise to his office. He could have approached any party for consultation on a pre-legislative basis, but no. He and the Prime Minister, having decided what they would do, graciously extended the opportunity to come into the big tent. However, the moment any objection is raised, one is cast into the outer darkness.