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

I am aware that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has extensive legal experience, and he will know, as I do, that the courts take their responsibilities on judicial review extremely seriously. We had a long debate on what the appropriate standard of proof should be. For non-derogating orders, we decided that it should be reasonable suspicion. Were there to be derogating orders, we decided that it should be on a balance of probabilities, because the standard of proof should be higher. That was debated at great length in both Houses of Parliament, and the legislation was passed on the basis of that standard of proof. As he will know, the courts will need to consider whether the Secretary of State acted reasonably in coming to his conclusion, whether he took into account all relevant considerations, and whether he excluded all irrelevant considerations. He will also know that judicial review is no rubber-stamp process and entails rigorous consideration by the courts. Indeed, Lord Carlile expresses that view from an independent standpoint.

Once a control order is made, the automatic review process is triggered. Control orders have a maximum duration of 12 months, and can then be renewed by the Secretary of State. After 12 months, however, a separate right of appeal is provided, which is another safeguard. An individual can also make an appeal for an order to be revoked or an obligation to be modified when there is a change in circumstance. Again, a separate right of appeal is provided when the obligations are varied—another safeguard built into the system. I therefore feel that the Act provides full judicial oversight and proper rights of appeal.

In addition to those individual rights, there are reviewing and reporting requirements, including an independent review by Lord Carlile and the report that the Secretary of State must bring to Parliament every three months—which he has done on three occasions so far, I think—on his exercise of the powers, giving information such as how many orders have been made. The system contains robust safeguards, subject to reporting requirements and independent oversight. A delicate balance must be struck between safeguarding society and safeguarding the rights of the individual, and I think that the 2005 Act strikes that balance.