Clause 1 — Temporary validity of certain Orders in Council

Part of Terrorist Asset-Freezing (Temporary Provisions) Bill (Allocation of Time) – in the House of Commons at 8:00 pm on 8th February 2010.

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Photo of David Howarth David Howarth Shadow Secretary of State for Justice 8:00 pm, 8th February 2010

First, let me say that it would have been better if we had dealt with all the amendments before us in one large group.

Amendment 1 is an attempt to introduce a stricter sunset clause. I can see the Government's point that the end of March is very soon and there is little likelihood of full consideration of the replacement Bill being made in that time, but there needs to be a tighter timetable than the one the Government propose, which is the end of December.

The Bill allows the continuation of a situation that the Supreme Court finds obnoxious in that it undermines fundamental rights. In the words of Lord Justice Sedley, echoed by Lord Hope in the Supreme Court, the UN orders lead to a situation in which subjects of the Treasury's directions are, effectively, prisoners of the state; they are walking prisoners, of course, and two of them have walked away, but the restrictions are so tight, both on the subjects and their families, that, effectively, these people can no longer live their own lives. To echo what Winston Churchill said in 1943 about a situation in which the Executive could throw a man into prison, that is odious in the highest degree. It should not be allowed to continue one hour longer than is necessary. Our view, put forward in amendment 2, is that all the wider consultation and all the Committee consideration of the replacement Bill could be carried out before the election, and after the election it would be perfectly doable and adequate to complete all the stages of a replacement Bill by the summer recess-before the end of July.

When I was listening to the Minister, it suddenly occurred to me why the Government cannot accept our amendment-it is the reason that they cannot state: amendment 2 assumes that the election will be on 6 May or before. I accept that if this Parliament were to run its full course and the election were to be in early June, it could plausibly be argued that there would not be enough time to complete the passage of a replacement Bill by the end of July. I also accept that the Government will not admit in a Committee of the whole House on an emergency Bill what the date of the election will be -[Interruption.] Well, they might; it seems that Ministers are about to reveal the date. Of course the Secretary of State for Defence revealed it on television, but that was subsequently withdrawn.

Nevertheless, I draw the attention of Ministers to the briefing prepared by Justice, which has said that even assuming that the Parliament runs its full course it should be possible to get the replacement legislation through by the end of October. Thus, I am very open to the Government rethinking the December date in favour of an October one, even if they are unwilling to move to a July date, for obvious political reasons.

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