New Clause 6 — Power to make control orders

Part of Orders of the Day — Prevention of Terrorism Bill – in the House of Commons at 11:24 pm on 28th February 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Conservative, Worthing West 11:24 pm, 28th February 2005

Mr. Denham has done the House a service in talking about the Bill as part of the approach that the Government and Parliament need to adapt to the problems of terrorism and justice. One of the issues that matters to me is what happens when someone becomes subject to a control order. Who can speak for them; who can advise them; who can raise queries about them on the basis of information?

In evidence provided to the Select Committee on Constitutional Affairs six days ago, the special advocates said that they were first briefed by a man from the Treasury solicitors who was not security cleared and who was then unable to provide them with information relevant to the security problems that had to be faced. Even if we believe that 95 per cent. of the people who are fingered or targeted under the legislation are in some sense guilty or rightly suspected, let us assume that neither the Government nor their agencies are 100 per cent. correct. It seems that a special advocate, who is appointed not by the person under suspicion but by the Government, is not allowed to resign. That may be a technical issue for some people, but it really matters.

It is significant that the sort of terrorist suspect that we saw during the IRA troubles could secure a lawyer such as Gareth Peirce to establish alibis and demonstrate that suspicions were not well founded. If that is to be thrown away, I firmly believe that the House has a duty not to leave the Bill to the other place, but to call the Government, the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip to account and invite the Home Secretary to explain openly the problems that justify the approach that he is adopting in the Bill.

The truth is that some of us, probably including the Leader of the House, took pride in breaking control orders when they were applied to people in South Africa or when prevention of terrorism legislation was used to control people such as the late Reverend Beyers Naude, or when the defence and aid fund was used to channel funds from Scandinavia, north-west Europe and this country in order to defend people in South Africa. Yet the legislation that we are now proposing will prevent people from being defended in a similar way because they will not have been accused. People will not know what they have been charged with.

I put that simple point to the Home Secretary and Labour Members, including the 59 who did not vote with the Government in the Lobbies this evening, and to those who should have crept in to join the 59. I hope that those creepers will feel ashamed of themselves for their inaction this evening. Just eight more hon. Members would have changed the result of the vote. I hope that the media, who occasionally watch our proceedings, will grasp the significance of how close the Government came to defeat on a simple point of justice and law. The Government have got it wrong.

The Government should not simply pass the buck to the House of Lords. They should come back before this House and test the arguments again. They should reflect on what the Select Committee has suggested. I hope that they are strong and brave enough to improve the Bill through proper debate and agreement. They need to secure the best possible protection against terrorism without throwing justice and the tenets of democracy out with the bathwater.