New Clause 6 — Power to make control orders

Part of Orders of the Day — Prevention of Terrorism Bill – in the House of Commons at 11:06 pm on 28th February 2005.

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Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 11:06 pm, 28th February 2005

This is a debate of the utmost gravity on a matter to which the House should give the highest priority: not only the safety of the people of this country but their liberties. I accuse the Government of dereliction of duty over the past three years for not having sought an acceptable formula to deal with a threat that we acknowledge. I find it incredible that a Bill of this importance should have received no Committee or Report stage today. Instead, it received a mutant form of Second Reading for the second time, which will have to be repeated when the Bill comes back from the Lords in unrecognisable form. A number of new clauses and 227 amendments have simply not been debated today. When will the House get up off its knees and tell the Executive, "Enough is enough. We will not put up with abuses of this kind"?

We are told that the Home Secretary has made a serious concession by accepting the need for judicial oversight of derogating control orders. We are grateful for that; it is a measure that we have argued for and that we believe should be in place. It cannot be right that a citizen of this country should be put under house arrest by the diktat of a member of the Executive, rather than by the courts. Perhaps the Home Secretary believes that that concession is sufficient to win the support of the House, but if he was not disabused of that idea by the debate, I hope that he was disabused of it by the result of the Division and the reduction in his Government's majority. That will send the clearest possible signal to the other place that there is a high level of dissatisfaction with the proposals on both sides of the House.

That is hardly surprising. We have not even seen the concession that we have been promised. The Home Secretary could not bring himself to table amendments on the provision in this elected House so that we could debate it. It is based on a prima facie hearing before a court in which he originally said, with a slip of the tongue, that consideration would be on the balance of probabilities. He then corrected himself and said that there would need to be reasonable grounds to suspect that an individual had been involved in terrorism. That is exactly the low level of proof that has given us so much cause for concern already.

We then come to the argument about non-derogating orders. Most people outside the House will not have a clue what the distinction is between a derogating order and a non-derogating order in the context of the Bill. I have to say that many of us inside the House do not have a clue either. We have heard cogent contributions, particularly from Labour Members, pointing out the deficiency of the proposals in regard to appeals and to the definition of a derogating order.