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Protection of Freedoms Bill

Part of Resource Extraction (Transparency and Reporting) – in the House of Commons at 7:04 pm on 1st March 2011.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Labour, Blackburn 7:04 pm, 1st March 2011

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman endorses that view.

I am sorry that the Home Secretary has left the Chamber, although I understand the pressures on her. She made some extraordinarily hyperbolic remarks, and described the situation under the previous Government as the creeping intrusion of the state and a slow march to authoritarianism. As my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary has accepted, the previous Government got some things wrong, and, in the light of experience, some things turned out not as intended. I will deal with those later, but on our record of balancing necessary security with the expansion of freedoms, I and the Labour party defer to no one.

Labour was the party that introduced the Human Rights Act 1998. I remind the Conservatives that they voted against it on Second Reading. I am glad that, following amendments to the Bill, which I sought to make to build the kind of consensus of which my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary spoke today, the then Conservative Opposition supported it on Third Reading. The then shadow Attorney-General, the late Nicholas Lyell, said from the Opposition Dispatch Box that he wished the Bill well.

I also remind Mr Cash that the 1998 Act is about bringing British rights home, so that they can be adjudicated on by British courts. The Act does not create a sovereign Supreme Court. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, under section 4, even if the British Supreme Court declares that legislation made by this House is incompatible with the incorporated European convention on human rights articles—that happens rarely, and not in the cases of DNA or votes for prisoners—the legislation is not unenforceable: it stays in force unless and until this House decides otherwise.

The Labour Government introduced the Human Rights Act 1998, the title of which was never disputed, because it was indeed about human rights—we could have called it the “Human Rights and Freedom Act”. We also introduced the Freedom of Information Act. I am proud that I was the Home Secretary who produced those measures and a number of others. The previous Conservative Government opposed the freedom of information legislation at every stage for 18 years. They wanted only a non-statutory, unenforceable code. That is all they would have introduced.