Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:17 pm on 15th February 2006.

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Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Security and Community Safety), Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 5:17 pm, 15th February 2006

The hon. Gentleman makes the important point that we have asked Lord Carlile, as the independent reviewer, to review the definition of terrorism. As he knows, there are some difficulties with that. The United Nations is considering a definition of terrorism, and it is not an easy matter to resolve. However, we should consider control orders in the overarching context of our counter-terrorism legislation. They are one of the tools that we can use, together with our law enforcement agencies and the legislation that we have passed this afternoon, to counter terrorism in this country.

There is broad agreement that we should have pre-legislative scrutiny and take a good, long, cool, hard look at our counter-terrorism legislation to ensure that it is appropriate. I hope that the hon. Gentleman appreciates the sense of going through a full cycle of control orders before considering whether to make changes and amendments.

The UK Government must continue to tackle terrorism. As I said, control orders have a vital role to play alongside other existing powers and the new measures in the Terrorism Bill, which we debated earlier. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary set out in his statement to the House on 2 February why he believed the powers were necessary and why we were seeking to renew them for a further 12 months. Lord Carlile's report on the operation of the 2005 Act was laid on the same day.

Today's renewal debate takes place in accordance with section 13 of the 2005 Act. Section 13 provides that the powers on control orders will automatically lapse after one year unless they are renewed by order subject to the affirmative resolution in both Houses of Parliament. I have dealt with the opportunity for legislative change and the time scale for that.

Prosecution is and will always remain the Government's preferred course of action in dealing with individuals suspected of terrorism and priority will continue to be given to prosecution. However, it is not always possible, for a variety of reasons. There might be insufficient admissible evidence—clearly there is a reliance on intelligence in some cases—an overriding need to protect sensitive sources and/or techniques, and other reasons why a prosecution is not in the public interest.