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Prevention of Terrorism Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:45 pm on 10th March 2005.

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Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 6:45 pm, 10th March 2005

No, we do not have time. The hon. Gentleman voted for the timetable motion, which prevents debate. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."]

There is no logical reason for a separate judicial process between derogating and non-derogating orders, and I still hope that the Home Secretary will agree that matter with us.

On the standard of proof, we have a significant disagreement, and the Home Secretary has not yet established to my satisfaction why the balance of probabilities is an inappropriate test to decide whether someone should lose their liberty. I believe that that test is appropriate, but he has told me that the security services require that the test should be based on reasonable suspicion rather than the balance of probabilities. That simple assertion is not enough, and I invite him to provide us with evidence that will allow us to understand why he believes that the balance of probabilities is not the appropriate standard of proof.

The Home Secretary has asked us to remove the reference to the Director of Public Prosecutions—which, incidentally, is in the wrong part of the Bill—and argues that the matter should be put before a chief of police. However, we have argued for years that the prosecuting authorities rather than the police should decide whether to prosecute. Why is he taking that retrograde step, and why on earth should that be a sticking point?

The Home Secretary has asked us to remove the provisions for a Privy Council annual review. Notwithstanding the concerns about the future employment of my noble Friend Lord Carlile—I hope that Lord Carlile or someone else will have the opportunity to continue as an independent reviewer—the Privy Council is a useful mechanism for examining the performance of the legislation in action.

The position on the sunset clause is the biggest absurdity of all. We have a Labour peer—Baroness Hayman, previously a Member of this House—putting forward the eminently sensible suggestion of a sunset clause, to come into effect after a year, for this legislation, which is acknowledged on all sides to be temporary, emergency and not entirely well considered.