New Clause 6 — Power to make control orders

Part of Orders of the Day — Prevention of Terrorism Bill – in the House of Commons at 11:26 pm on 28th February 2005.

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Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central 11:26 pm, 28th February 2005

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak briefly in the debate. I want to say that none of those who voted in favour of the amendment proposed by my hon. Friend Mr. Griffiths and against the Government on various other provisions are unaware of the dangers of terrorism. Indeed, I do not believe that a single Member is complacent or soft on terrorism. We are all, frankly, frightened and concerned about it. The idea that any one of us cares more about the security of this country than anyone else is a wrong-headed mistake. Every Member cares deeply, on behalf of constituents, about the security of this country and would do nothing to put it at risk.

Nevertheless, as the Home Secretary has seen, many of us remain unconvinced by the Bill or the way it has been conducted. My right hon. Friend Mr. Denham, whose contributions on both days have been distinguished and extremely thoughtful, was typically generous to the Government in saying that the detention orders did not really amount to Executive action. Whether my right hon. Friend is right or wrong, the Home Secretary has moved some way today. Given that he has done so, many Members are baffled about why he cannot go the whole way and move on both derogating and non-derogating orders. It is incomprehensible.

The Home Secretary was wholly unconvincing in his answers today, and it is not at all brave of me to predict that the Bill will be changed in the other place. I do not know why the Home Secretary insisted on resisting that change here, in the democratic Chamber of our Parliament, when he must know that his position is illogical and will not do. It will be thrown out, and we will back here again in a few days' time. He will then have to explain to the House why he has had to think again and why the Executive will not be involved in the decision on either type of order. It baffles me why he has not given way on that today, but I am sure that that will change. There is no point in getting heated about it, because it will change.

Many of us have been so distracted by that issue today that we hardly noticed that we did not have a chance to express our grave concerns about evidence in these matters. That part of the Bill has not even been explored. I would have thought that every Member of this House, regardless of party politics, must be concerned about somebody's liberty being put at risk without their even knowing of what they are accused. I accept that the Home Secretary will say, "Ah, these are very difficult matters. These are very dangerous people." Well, we came across those issues in Northern Ireland and nobody pretends that there is an easy call to make, but surely we can do better than we have done with this Bill? There must be avowals that we can put in place to allow a judicial process to hear the evidence and let the accused know of it—even if only in the most general way, as my hon. and learned Friend Vera Baird said. It is essential that someone on a charge that threatens to remove their liberty should have the right to hear the evidence against them.