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 agree with the hon. Gentleman—what he says is the absolute truth. I believed at the time that the lack of consultation was due to the bizarre and individual attitudes of the previous Home Secretary. However, it has become clear that he has spread contagion throughout the Government because the current Home Secretary has adopted all his worst vices in his approach to the matters that we are considering.

What are we to make of the Home Secretary's coming to the Dispatch Box a few moments ago and reciting a series of mantras about the public opinion polls? I stress to him that 99 per cent. of people in this country might believe in the Bill, but I would not vote for it. Hon. Members who consider their consciences, the way in which the Government have gone about the matter and the enormity of what is involved, can readily dismiss the appeals to public sentiment, whether it is accurate or not.

The Government are highly populist. The Prime Minister picks his position carefully. If he believes that he can take some shallow swing of the popular mood with him, that justifies his doing anything, however authoritarian, illiberal or undermining of the constitution. The long-term damage is enormous.

I cannot understand how a Government who were elected for the first time in 1997 on the back of commendable promises about their standards of integrity could descend so rapidly into the gutter, in the way in which we have witnessed in the past few weeks.

The Bill does not deserve a Third Reading. It is fundamentally flawed. It could be made tolerable, but we have been allowed to do nothing to enable that to happen. Every hon. Member should consider sending a signal to the other place that we need its help. Heaven knows, we do.

We have demeaned ourselves in the past 24 hours. We have allowed a measure that is poor in quality, content and concept to pass through its Committee stage. We have one last opportunity to say that, although we are prepared to consider the problems that confront the Government, we are not willing to put up with such a dog's breakfast, which so undermines the basic principles of liberty in this country. I therefore ask hon. Members to vote against Third Reading and repeat the signal.

We hear a lot about standing up to protect people. I do not need lessons from the Home Secretary about protecting people. I am satisfied that there is a threat to this country but one does not solve it by turning into a coward and dying a thousand deaths, which the right hon. Gentleman appears to invite the population of this country to do. It is possible to respond to and deal with terrorism in ways that are compatible with our freedoms and liberties. The Bill fails that test completely.