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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

The hon. Gentleman says from a sedentary position—I am happy to read him into the record, as he is so desperate to get into it—that that is not acceptable. So what is not acceptable? We are told that it is unacceptable for the legislation to cease to have effect after a year, but acceptable for the House to reject it after a year as a renewal. We are told that it is not acceptable for the House to improve the Bill, but acceptable for it to reject the Bill. In any case, we are told by Baroness Scotland that by that time we will have new and better legislation, because, as she virtually admitted to the other House, this legislation is defective and we can do better—in other words, there is no need to worry about the renewal because something else would already be on the statute book. Yet if there is no need to worry about renewal, why is there any need to worry about a sunset clause? There is no logic in that position. It is unacceptable for the Government to hide behind it as a pretext that that is a bar to their having their legislation.

To say that to accept a sunset clause is to send a signal to the terrorist is the worst argument that I have ever heard. That is to say that al-Qaeda operatives all over the world are waiting to hear whether we are going to have a sunset clause or a renewal facility on 31 March next year, and if we make the right decision they will be satisfied and put their bombs away.

This is an absurdity. The Government have it within their power to have their legislation tonight—they will have it within an hour or two if they take the necessary steps. They have moved a very long way in several areas; we are grateful for that. They have a couple more steps to go, and then they will have their legislation. But if they do not take those steps—if they believe that the sunset clause is the sticking point that prevents them from having their legislation—not only will they look absurd, but we can only conclude that they did not actually want this Bill in the first place.