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 Secretary of State considers the impact on family rights before making a control order. He has information about those important issues. Representatives of families have raised them with the courts, and they can be considered by the courts when each case is automatically reviewed.

Family rights are important, but they are part of that delicate balance between safeguarding the rights of the individual and safeguarding the rights and security of the wider community. I understand the implications for families, but we are dealing with people who are deemed to be a threat to national security, who cannot be prosecuted or deported but whose activities need to be controlled to protect the security of the nation.

The renewal debates here and in the other place are a further requirement of the Act. Affirmative resolution is required in both Houses of Parliament. The debates give all Members an opportunity to consider Lord Carlile's report and the merits of control orders more generally.

Lord Carlile made recommendations for improvement in the operation of the control order regime, including a procedure to monitor closely the necessity and proportionality of control order obligations and fuller information from the Government on why a prosecution cannot replace a control order. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has welcomed the recommendations. He has said that he will need to consider them after consulting the Intelligence Services Commissioner and the director general of the Security Service, as required by the Act.

The first of the two main recommendations concerns the procedure for monitoring and reviewing the obligations. We accept that there is scope for additional review of the obligations throughout a control order's life cycle, and we are discussing with our stakeholders how best to achieve that. We think that the second recommendation is sound in principle, but we shall want to examine the operational implications.

Without the order, the power to make control orders will lapse at midnight on 10 March 2006. Under the order, it will continue until 10 March 2007. As I have said, it requires approval by both Houses. The Government strongly believe that control orders are an essential element of the range of measures that are necessary to address the continuing threat posed by terrorism, and that belief is supported by Lord Carlile.

Let me quote from a paragraph that, for me, sums up the way in which the report highlights the issues while also being accessible. Lord Carlile says that

"the nature of the activities of which I have seen information"

—and we should not forget that Lord Carlile sees all the information—

"is sufficiently alarming for me to re-emphasise, as I have in other reports, the real and present danger of shocking terrorism acts involving suicide bombings . . . further suicide bombings in the UK must be expected and the target unpredictable".

Those are indeed chilling words, and it is crucial that we never underestimate the threat that we now face. Control orders are one of a number of options that the Government are employing to counter the very real threat of terrorism. They have an essential role to play, not just in countering the threat but in contributing to a more hostile environment for terrorists. Any Government's first consideration must be protecting the security of the nation.

When the legislation was originally considered, we were in some ways discussing this issue in theoretical terms. Since then, the events of 7 July and 21 July have had a real impact on people.