New Clause 1 — Relocation of terrorist suspects

Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:15 pm on 5th September 2011.

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‘The Secretary of State may include in a TPIM Notice a requirement that an individual shall reside at a specified address in any place in the United Kingdom if the conditions in paragraphs (a) or (b) are met—

(a) the Secretary of State must reasonably believe that the individual is more likely to be involved in terrorism-related activity if he resides at his own residence, or

(b) the individual is more likely to be involved in terrorism-related activity if he resides in a locality in the United Kingdom with which he has a connection.’.—(Hazel Blears.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Labour, Salford and Eccles

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Chair, Panel of Chairs, Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chairman of Ways and Means

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: New clause 2 —Relocation of terrorist suspects (No. 2)

‘(1) The Secretary of State may impose a requirement for relocation on the individual if the Secretary of State has a reasonable belief that the individual will engage in terrorism-related activity if the individual remains at their current location.

(2) The individual may be relocated for residence purposes to a locality deemed appropriate by the Secretary of State and in line with this locality being a place or area of a specified description.

(3) This measure may remain in place for the duration of the TPIM.’.

Government amendment 16.

Amendment 5, page 16, line 21, leave out ‘must’ and insert ‘may’.

Amendment 6, page 16, line 24, at end insert—

‘(c) any other premises specified by the Secretary of State under section 2A(1)’.

Government amendments 17 and 18.

Amendment 7, page 18, line 11, at end insert—

‘(3) A specified area or place or a specified description of an area or place may include the individual’s own residence or a locality with which the individual has a connection in accordance with paragraph 1(4)(a) and 1(4)(b).’.

Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Labour, Salford and Eccles

I am delighted that my new clause has been selected. The Minister will know from our lengthy debates in Committee that this is the issue about which I feel most passionately and which I believe is one of the biggest flaws in the Bill. The Government’s decision not to have a power of relocation is fundamentally flawed and flies in the face of the evidence, of logic and not only of my personal views, but of the views of some very, very knowledgeable and experienced people in the police, of Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer, and Lord Howard, the former Home Secretary—a range of people who feel that the Government are limiting their options for controlling suspected terrorists and providing the public with the security and protection that we, as parliamentarians, have a responsibility to try to achieve.

My new clause 1 is a simple and straightforward measure that would provide that the Secretary of State may include in a TPIM notice the power to direct that a terrorist suspect should reside at a specific address that is not his home address or an address with which he has a connection, as is provided for in current legislation. To tie the Home Secretary’s hands in providing that a suspected terrorist has either to live at home or in the area where his known associates are gathered is absolutely ludicrous. Therefore, my amendment would provide that the Secretary of State may direct that the suspected terrorist is relocated to a different area so that they can be properly monitored and the public protected.

Photo of Richard Fuller Richard Fuller Conservative, Bedford

The right hon. Lady made a forceful opening to her comments, and I am interested to listen further. In her advocacy of enforced relocation, has she looked for inspiration to other democratic countries that forcibly relocate people who have not been subject to a trial?

Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Labour, Salford and Eccles

There is a range of examples of countries that have attempted to deal with the threat for international terrorism with different legal provisions. France is often cited as a place where people are brought to trial under the criminal justice system. People are often held for months, if not years, under the investigatory process adopted by an inquiring magistrate. Indeed, the powers in some European countries are perhaps more draconian—the hon. Gentleman’s words, not mine—than any that we have ever had on our statute book. Therefore, to try to portray our country as one that does not accord with the rule of law or have effective judicial oversight, as Dr Huppert has on a number of occasions, is an absolute travesty when we look at the real circumstances.

Photo of Richard Fuller Richard Fuller Conservative, Bedford

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for giving way, and I shall enjoy the opportunity to ask her the question again. The question was not about draconian measures. She is advocating a specific measure—forced relocation—and my question was specific. What other democratic countries has she used as her inspiration for this measure—which she makes out to be so important—which involves the forced relocation of people who have not been convicted in a trial?

Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Labour, Salford and Eccles

I have not used any other country as my inspiration. What I have used, as my commitment in new clause 1, is a genuine analysis of the evidence provided by the police and other experienced people in the field in asking what measures we can take to ensure that the public are properly protected from the serious harm intended them by some of the most dangerous people in this country. It is right and proper that our Parliament should decide of its own volition what the appropriate measures are. We do not always look to other countries, which have very different legal systems to ours. I am absolutely convinced that the power of relocation can add to the security of this nation, which is my prime and most important concern when looking at this legislation.

I want to emphasise the point that the kind of people subject to either control orders or, in future, TPIMs are unfortunately some of the most dangerous people we could ever have to deal with in this country. There has been some suggestion that people who have been prosecuted through the criminal justice system are somehow more dangerous than those who are subject to administrative orders. If hon. Members looked at the judgments of High Court or Court of Appeal judges who have seen the intelligence and the information about the people upon whom we seek to impose such orders, they would perhaps revise their position. There are currently only 12 such individuals subject to control orders, and the expressions used by judges in relation to them include “trained soldiers” and “committed terrorists”, determined to be martyrs to their cause and determined, whatever steps we take, to cause the maximum harm to innocent people in this country. Those are statements by judges, not given to florid language, having seen the intelligence that the services hold in relation to some of those people. We are talking about a maximum of a dozen people who are very dangerous indeed. That is the measure that we must use in asking what the powers that we are seeking to use are, whether they are proportionate and whether they are the right powers. It is my submission that the power of relocation of some of the most dangerous people in our country—committed terrorists—is actually a proportionate power to use.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Labour, Wythenshawe and Sale East

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will give more details later about the case of BM, which involved one of the two relocation appeals challenged by the Home Secretary, successfully on both occasions. To underline what she has just said, BM conceded in the hearing that took place—this was not a point made by the security services; he conceded it—that he is indeed

“committed to terrorism, in particular to terrorism in Pakistan”,

and that he

“wishes to carry out that commitment by travelling to that region” to take part in terrorist acts himself. It is by his own admission that that is the level of threat that he poses.

Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Labour, Salford and Eccles

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right: in that case BM did concede that he was determined to carry out terrorist activity, and it was right that the power of relocation, which the Home Secretary had imposed relatively recently, was upheld as a necessary power to protect the public. This is not a case of draconian Governments, or authoritarian or totalitarian regimes wanting to impose controls for their own sake; it is always a matter of balance, and trying to mitigate the risk and draw the line in the correct place, so that we can maintain essential freedoms in this country, which include the freedom of the public to go about their law-abiding business without being threatened with death and destruction by some of the most committed terrorists in this country.

Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Labour, Wolverhampton South East

My right hon. Friend is making an eloquent speech about the reality of the situations that we face. Let me quote to her what the judge said about relocation in the case of CD:

“I have concluded that the relocation obligation is a necessary and proportionate measure to protect the public from the risk of what is an immediate and real risk of a terrorist related attack. While he is living in London there is a significant risk that he will take part in terrorism-related activities, notwithstanding the high level of protection implicit in the obligations which are not under challenge.”

Does she agree that that shows the danger? Will she also speculate about why the Government are so determined to deprive the public, whom we represent, of the protections afforded by the current relocation provisions?

Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Labour, Salford and Eccles

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right about the case of CD. We had a long discussion in Committee about the need for a relocation clause and about the judge’s comments. Indeed, the judge in that case said that since CD’s return,

“he has endeavoured to obtain firearms on a number of occasions from a number of associates for the purposes of putting into effect a planned terrorist attack, has held covert meetings with associates in relation to plans to use the firearms as part of his planned attack and has displayed a very high level of security awareness.”

It was on those grounds that the judge decided that the relocation condition was absolutely appropriate in controlling CD’s activities. As for my right hon. Friend’s second question, about why the Government have been so reluctant to provide the Home Secretary with the power to relocate—not the duty to do so in every case, but the power where necessary—I believe that this is part of a political accommodation with the Liberal Democrats and that this will be revealed in all its rather distasteful details in due course.

Photo of Steve Pound Steve Pound Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

Everyone in this House knows the wealth, depth and breadth of my right hon. Friend’s experience: she has seen evil in close quarters. However, does she not agree that we would not even need to discuss this issue if many of the people involved were deported and sent back to their countries of origin, as they should be? Would it not be a little more helpful if this multicoloured Government assisted us in that endeavour, in particular with memorandums of understanding, which they oppose so strongly? Then we would not have to worry about how many miles someone was from London, because they would be in Jordan.

Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Labour, Salford and Eccles

My hon. Friend also has considerable experience in relation to terrorism and the necessary laws. We did our utmost to try to negotiate memorandums of understanding with other countries so that deportation could take place. We were successful in a number of cases, albeit perhaps not with as many countries as we wanted. Equally, however, he must acknowledge that unfortunately we now have the issue of domestic, home-grown terrorists—people who cannot be deported and who were brought up in this country. Therefore, we need laws that provide sufficient security for those circumstances, as well as for where terrorists come from abroad.

I want to cite a bit of evidence, because evidence is important, and otherwise this debate is in danger of becoming a politician’s polemic. I want to quote again from the evidence that DAC Osborne gave us in Committee. I am beginning to feel slightly sorry for the poor man. I questioned him quite vigorously on relocation, and he said:

“The relocation issue has been very useful for us being able to monitor and enforce at the current time. Without that relocation, and depending on where people choose to live, that could be significantly more difficult. Where the choice of residence will be and how many people are within an area will affect the complexities, but there are different environments that make policing easier or more difficult. People could choose to live in an area that was difficult to police in normal circumstances, and that would be even more difficult to police in relation to monitoring control order subjects.”

He was then asked a very good question by my hon. Friend Jessica Morden. She asked whether

“of all the measures available to you, is it fair to say that relocation is the most effective?”

DAC Stuart Osborne, the national co-ordinator for counter-terrorism, replied:

“Overall it probably is, yes.”

That response comes from someone who has been engaged in dealing with suspected terrorists on a day-to-day operational basis. He says that relocation is the most effective measure that he could have to help him to police in these circumstances and to protect the public. That is a very powerful submission indeed. He went on to say of the provisions in the Bill:

“The new freedoms that will be given to individuals will significantly increase the challenges that we have to face”.––[Official Report, Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Public Bill Committee, 22 June 2011; c. 5-6.]

DAC Osborne is a well respected police officer with considerable experience, and his views should be accorded some importance by the Government.

We also heard evidence from Lord Howard. Like my hon. Friend Shabana Mahmood, I would not normally pray him in aid, but he said:

“If you ask me my personal view, however, I would have preferred the relocation provisions to have remained.”––[Official Report, Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Public Bill Committee, 22 June 2011; c. 17.]

Speaking from his experience as Home Secretary, he said that the provisions should be retained.

Lord Carlile was the independent reviewer for 10 years; he has not come to the issue recently. He has looked at every single control order and talked to the people who are the subject of the orders. He has gone into immense detail. He told the Committee:

“If an empirical decision has been made that somebody should be relocated and that decision has been upheld by the courts, there is generally a good reason for it. The risk is increased if one person has the relocation condition removed. If nine people have relocation conditions removed and therefore are all able to move closer either to one another, or to their contact to whom they would wish to be close, plainly you are right that there is an increased risk.”––[Official Report, Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Public Bill Committee, 22 June 2011; c. 17.]

There are currently nine control order suspects with a relocation condition.

More than half the present suspects who are subject to a control order come from London, and if the legislation goes through we face the possibility that they could return to London before the Olympics. In my view, that is a totally unnecessary risk to take. It places layers of risk upon risk. What better circumstances could al-Qaeda want for a spectacular event than the Olympics, when the world’s eyes are upon us? Yet at the very same time, the Bill is proposing to deny the Home Secretary the power of a relocation clause that would ensure that some of those people would remain in other areas of the country—the midlands, Norwich, Leicester or wherever—and not congregate with their associates back in London, where they could resume their plotting and their attack capabilities.

Photo of Bob Stewart Bob Stewart Conservative, Beckenham 8:30 pm, 5th September 2011

I have asked this question of the Minister, but I have not yet had an answer. Would not enhanced TPIMs allow some form of internal exile or removal to another place? I ask because I am genuinely not sure, but if they would, we would at least have that provision in the legislation.

Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Labour, Salford and Eccles

I acknowledge that the hon. Gentleman has asked that question but not received a response to it. I have the utmost respect for his experience in these matters. He is almost unique among us in having had experience on the ground of effective surveillance and the need to control terrorist suspects. In Committee, he thought very carefully about these issues, and he has already said tonight that he is concerned about the question of resources and that he might well consider supporting the Opposition’s amendment. I would welcome it enormously if, having thought carefully about the relocation question, he felt able to support us on that as well, given his practical experience and amazing depth of understanding of these issues.

I just want to say a word about why we have ended up in this ludicrous position. I say this with respect to the Minister. I respect him, and he does his job with incredible dedication and commitment, but in these circumstances he has ended up in a position that might well come back to haunt him. I think he knows that that position is untenable. Effectively, his decisions are flying in the face of the evidence of the police, of Lord Carlile and of a former Home Secretary, and they will leave him without the power to order relocation, should he need it.

This brings us back to the language that the Liberal Democrats have used time and again in the debate on these issues. They have talked about house arrest and internal exile. It is my belief that the counter-terrorism review, which the Minister has sought to rely on to justify all the steps that he has taken, is a political accommodation. Before the election, the Liberal Democrats—

Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Labour, Salford and Eccles

I am going to make this point. Before the election, the Liberal Democrats said that they wanted to see the complete abolition of control orders because they were an insult to our civil liberties and to democratic society. They made that decision prior to coming into government and certainly without being privy to the available intelligence about these suspects. In fact, in his evidence, Lord Carlile said:

“I have a concern about the genesis of this Bill. It arose from coalition politics—I am aware of the process that occurred—and it is a compromise…it is the sufficient lowest common multiple, and it will do. However, it does not provide as much public protection as control orders, and it would be foolish to ignore that fact.”

He went on to say that

“my party made a serious mistake in committing itself to the abolition of control orders. It made that mistake understandably, however, because it did not have the information at the time.”––[Official Report, Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Public Bill Committee, 21 June 2011; c. 21-22, Qs 66 and 67.]

What we have seen is political rhetoric and a particular stance being taken by the Liberal Democrat part of the coalition, with the Conservative part finding itself in the unenviable position of trying to accommodate that situation. Because of the use of terms like “house arrest” and “internal exile”, the relocation powers became the centre around which this accommodation has had to be drawn.

Let me say to the Minister that the deal that was done will lead us to bad legislation and it will come back to haunt us. I hope and pray that we do not have an incident in which somebody who has not been subjected to relocation is able to resume his contacts with his co-conspirators, to further a plot to attack this country and to execute that plot because there was no power to relocate that person to another part of the country. I hope and pray that that will never be the case. I would certainly not have made the decision to deny a Minister the right to make a relocation order in order to reach a political accommodation.

In my view—I hope it is shared across the House and I hope the Minister shares it—national security is far too important to be the subject, as Lord Carlile said, of “coalition politics”. This should be about a clear-headed analysis of risk and the steps that need to be taken that are proportionate to mitigate that risk. At the forefront of our minds and reflected in every step we take should be the protection of this country’s innocent people so that they can walk the streets in safety and security.

I do not believe that the decision to deny the power of relocation meets any of those tests. It is illogical. I can only believe that the Bill has no power of relocation because of a political accommodation designed to enable the Liberal Democrat part of the coalition to save face by saying that it had done some kind of deal. That is why the Liberal Democrats are so angry about the prospect of a relocation clause being in the enhanced TPIMs Bill, because that would mean that the principle of a relocation clause had been conceded. I would be interested to know, particularly from Tom Brake, whether he will support the enhanced TPIMs Bill when it comes up for scrutiny. Perhaps he will tell us now.

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat, Carshalton and Wallington

I am happy to intervene; I had hoped that the right hon. Lady would give way earlier. As to the enhanced TPIMs Bill, what we have said is that we would need to consider the extraordinary circumstances that applied at the time. Certainly neither my hon. Friend Dr Huppert nor I can envisage the extraordinary circumstances that would apply in which relocation powers would be acceptable. We will have to wait and see what scenario might develop.

Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Labour, Salford and Eccles

That is a very interesting reply—that a Liberal Democrat cannot envisage the exceptional circumstances in which a relocation power might be necessary. I look forward to the scrutiny and to finding out whether there will be harmony between both parts of the coalition on this issue. I believe that the fault line that is emerging will go deeper and deeper, and I am sure that it will begin to crack as the debate goes forward.

My amendments are pretty straightforward. Ironically, the relocation power is available if there is police bail, but the amendments on police bail from Dr Huppert have not come forward. If police bail is granted, there is a relocation power. This is beyond the power of words to express. I cannot for the life of me see why a relocation power is acceptable if there is police bail, but not when we are dealing with a suspected terrorist, who might be one of the most dangerous people in the country. We can have a relocation power for someone involved in serious fraud or serious crime, but not for someone we suspect wants to harm hundreds of people through a terrorist act. Again, this defies logic. That is why I genuinely believe that this is the result of political accommodation not the result of a logical decision by Ministers.

Amendments 5 and 6 are consequential to the new clause, but amendment 7 is slightly different, and I should welcome the Minister’s response to it. It seeks to ensure that it will be possible to exclude a terrorist suspect from an area although his own residence, or a residence with which he has a connection, may be in that area. At present there is a contradiction in the Bill. It is not clear whether the entitlement of a terrorist suspect to live in his own property, or in a property in an area where he has a connection, will take precedence over the exclusion power, or whether the exclusion power will take precedence over his right to remain in his own home.

For example, if a terrorist suspect’s home were in east London, in the area of the Olympics, would he be allowed to live there, or could he be excluded? In Committee we were told that it would be possible to exclude people from the area of the Olympics—or, indeed, to exclude them from a whole borough of London, or even from the whole of Greater London. It seems to me that, as the Bill stands, if a terrorist suspect had a home in such a borough, or in London as a whole, the right of an individual to remain in his own home would take precedence over the exclusion power, and that strikes me as a gaping hole in the legislation. I must ask the Minister to think about that very carefully, and to consider supporting amendment 7 if he is certain that he wants the power to exclude people from areas of particular danger, which could include that around the Olympics.

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat, Carshalton and Wallington

It gives me great pleasure to rise to oppose the amendments tabled by Hazel Blears, and first of all to deal with her oft-repeated allegation that getting rid of relocation is a sweetener for the Liberal Democrats. She quoted Lord Carlile, and clearly that is his view, but I should be interested to know what evidence he has to support his contention. Equally, the right hon. Lady might want to offset his view against that of Lord Macdonald. I think it incumbent on her to produce more evidence to support her allegation that a stitch-up or deal has been done on behalf of the Liberal Democrats. She was, of course, a member of the Bill Committee and she will have heard a number of Conservative Members speak out against powers of relocation, so I think she will know that it is incorrect to suggest that only Liberal Democrats are advancing this argument.

The right hon. Lady says that she feels strongly about the issue. So do I. I wonder whether she has had a chance to talk to some of the people who have been subject to control orders that have subsequently been quashed because it was found that there was no genuine or strong evidence against them. I wonder whether she has heard from those people about the impact of relocation on them as individuals, and on their families. I think that if she wants to be fully informed about all aspects of the matter, she should hear from people who have subsequently been found to be innocent.

As the right hon. Lady may know, I have heard from a reliable source that of the people who are currently held under control orders, probably two or three present a real and serious threat to United Kingdom security. I acknowledge that—clearly—a limited number of people do represent a serious threat, and I think that that is why the Government have rightly announced that the package of measures to get rid of relocation will include additional surveillance resources to ensure that security and safety are maintained.

Photo of Bob Stewart Bob Stewart Conservative, Beckenham

If one or two people might create a threat, why are we tying the hands of the Home Secretary? The provision does not have to be used, but what worries me is that we might need it for just one or two people. Why should we decide that we cannot use such a facility?

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat, Carshalton and Wallington

The reason I do not think we should use it is linked to what was said earlier about the term “internal exile”. I know that the right hon. Lady does not like the phrase “internal exile”, but in practice that is what we are talking about. She was asked whether she took inspiration from any democratic countries in adopting the policy of relocation and she said that she did not. I suspect that she may have found it hard to find inspiration in the extent to which other democratic countries allow such a policy, so she has been inspired herself to come forward with the proposal to reinstate relocation.

That gets to the heart of what the debate is about. It is about where the balance between civil liberties and security lies and where we can achieve enhanced civil liberties at the same time as maintaining security. That is where the additional surveillance that the Government are putting in place kicks in.

Therefore, I am happy to oppose the proposals. Relocation is to all intents and purposes internal exile. If the overriding threat scenario emerges at some point, we may have a debate about the enhanced powers in this place and in the Lords and that will be the appropriate way forward. We can then discuss whether relocation is required in those circumstances, but to have it on the statute book now as something that the Government could be tempted to adopt, would be regrettable. That is why I am happy to oppose the right hon. Lady’s new clause.

Photo of Shabana Mahmood Shabana Mahmood Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 8:45 pm, 5th September 2011

I am mindful of the time, so I will try to keep my comments relatively brief.

I endorse the powerful contribution made by my right hon. Friend Hazel Blears. She spoke with great passion about an issue that has concerned her for some time. It certainly concerned her in Committee, and it has concerned Opposition Front Benchers, too.

Relocation has been a central issue in the debates that we have had about the Bill, both on Second Reading and in Committee, and it is one of the most important issues that we are taking forward on Report. New clause 1 seeks to add the power of relocation to the Bill to replicate the position in relation to control orders under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005.

It is clear from the evidence that the relocation power has proved extremely useful in disrupting terrorist activity. It is regularly described by police and others as one of the most useful and effective powers that they have under the control orders regime. We know that nine of the 12 current control orders have relocation as part of the control order.

The importance of relocation as a measure to be made available to the police in meeting the terror threat was made clear at the evidence sessions held by the Public Bill Committee. We heard evidence from Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Osborne, for whom, like my right hon. Friend said, I am starting to feel slightly sorry. She quoted him, but I will repeat the important bit of the quote again because it will concentrate the mind of the House:

“The relocation issue has been very useful for us being able to monitor and enforce at the current time. Without that relocation, and depending on where people choose to live, that could be significantly more difficult.”

He added:

“The new freedoms that will be given to individuals will significantly increase the challenges that we have to face, and managing those challenges will increase the resources that we need. The degree to which we are successful in managing them depends on both the extent of the Bill and the additional resources that we get.”––[Official Report, Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Public Bill Committee, 21 June 2011; c. 5-6, Qs 10 and 14.]

The importance of relocation as a measure was further highlighted by Lord Howard and Lord Carlile. Lord Howard, the former Home Secretary, has described the power as the single most useful power in ensuring that the package of measures that we have is sufficient to keep us safe.

It is clear from the evidence that the police gave to the Committee that the additional risk created by removing relocation from the TPIMs regime could be mitigated by the additional resources, but it would not be eliminated and there are of course degrees of mitigation. In Committee, DAC Osborne was only “hopeful” that the risk would not increase if the Bill were passed, which does not fill me with a huge amount of confidence.

It is clear, and we must recognise, that there is an irreducible minimum number of people who pose a serious threat to our country and we have to have an adequate and effective way to manage that risk. Relocation is clearly an important part of that package of measures. It is our view that, if the new clause is added to the Bill, the policing challenge that DAC Osborne and others will face will be reduced and our collective security protected. It has always been our concern that if this Bill closes off the power of relocation to the Home Secretary—if it deprives her of being able to use that power—that would deprive her of an incredibly important tool in her kit bag for dealing with the threat posed by a very small number of people. For those reasons, we will support new clause 1 in the Division.

Photo of Richard Fuller Richard Fuller Conservative, Bedford

It is a pleasure to be able to make a brief contribution to this debate.

I listened to the rhetoric of Hazel Blears in her opening speech in support of her new clause, and it made me even more scared about giving Administrations a fiat on the treatment of people in our judicial system, rather than leaving that with the judges. On many occasions, both in this debate and in Committee, the right hon. Lady talked about the importance of balance, but I feel that, in the sharpness of her rhetoric and the blithe way challenges were laid down and comments were made about loosening and potentially putting us at risk, her speech did not betray any balance whatever. That highlights one of the risks in giving the Executive the power to restrain and control people who have not been brought to justice. Both in the specific instance of relocation and more generally in the tone of Opposition Members, a disservice is being done to this Government’s attempts to return us to some semblance of the traditions of British justice that we achieved before the period of the so-called “war on terror”—before 2001—and we should remember that control orders were not introduced until 2005, and that therefore they were not in place between 2001 and the Iraq war, which some would argue was the period of greatest risk.

I wish to make a couple of comments on the specific issue of relocation. I have a lot of respect for the right hon. Lady and I do not mean to pick on her; I am just picking on her point. I challenged her earlier about democratic countries from which she drew inspiration. I could not think of any either, so I did some research on a well-known search engine. I looked up forced relocation of individuals. Kazakhstan featured prominently. There were also a few honourable mentions for Cambodia—not the current Cambodian Government, but I think we can work out which Government—and for Burma. Kazakhstan, Cambodia and Burma are not exactly the paragons of virtue in this respect that I would like our Government to follow as they attempt to strike the difficult balance of maintaining both the security of the nation and the liberty of the individual.

May I also refer to one not particularly tabloid-friendly comment on relocation? A number of Members have talked about meeting people who are subject to a control order or its equivalents and who have been subject to relocation. We must remember that those subject to control orders have not yet gone through full justice in our country. Many other countries, including the United States, have laws against cruel and unusual punishment. Relocation has the most significant negative impact on the mental health of these individuals. In evidence in Committee, Dr Korzinski said:

“What I am concerned about…is the absence of any sort of safeguards with respect to the impact on the mental health of the individuals who are subjected to these regimes. I can say quite unequivocally that it has been catastrophic in all the cases that I have worked on.”––[Official Report, Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Public Bill Committee, 21 June 2011; c. 43, Q121.]

That may not be the most popular of reasons to oppose the right hon. Lady’s new clause, but there are also many others, such as support for our justice system and achieving that balance that she advocates, but which I do not think she spoke to today. I shall support the Government on this new clause.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend Richard Fuller made some powerful and important points in his succinct contribution.

As I think Hazel Blears accepted in her opening comments, we are revisiting a subject that we debated in detail in the Public Bill Committee, when amendments with the same effect were tabled by Opposition Members and the same arguments were made in support of them. As was made clear following the carefully considered counter-terrorism review, despite the aspersions that the right hon. Lady seeks to cast, the Government concluded that it should not routinely be possible under the TPIM system to require an individual to relocate, without consent, to another part of the UK.

The debate in Committee frequently turned to the question of balance—specifically, the balance between protection of individual liberty and security for the wider population. This is an area where there is a very careful balance to be struck, and where views on where the right balance is may differ. The previous Government took the view that compulsory relocation was necessary as one of a wide range of potential obligations under the control order provisions. Our conclusion, as we made clear in January, is that a more focused use of the restrictions available under the Bill, together with the significantly increased funding we are providing for covert investigation, will allow us to protect the public effectively without the need for this potentially very intrusive power to be routinely available. That is where our approach departs from the Opposition’s, and why we are seeking to strike a different balance from that marked out by them.

Photo of Bob Stewart Bob Stewart Conservative, Beckenham

The Minister used the word “routinely”. Does he mean that this is something that does not normally happen, but could?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

To be clear, when I say “routinely” I am talking about powers routinely available under the TPIM Bill, accepting that there is a draft Bill that we tabled last week, and the exceptional circumstances when those powers may be available, which we discussed earlier today. Of course, we will be able to use the robust powers in this Bill to disrupt an individual’s involvement in terrorism-related activity by, for example, requiring them to reside and stay overnight at a particular address in their locality, so that they can be easily monitored; requiring them to abide by other restrictions on their movements overnight; banning them from areas or places where they might meet extremist associates or conduct terrorism-related activities; prohibiting their association with individuals of concern and requiring prior notice of association with other individuals; requiring them to report regularly to a police station and to co-operate with electronic tagging; restricting and monitoring their financial activities; and limiting their communications to a small number of approved devices.

That is why I say clearly that the TPIM Bill provides robust measures to address the risks posed by such individuals, allied to the additional resources being provided to the police and the Security Service, and that that is the right package of measures to have in place. Indeed, as the House is aware, the director general of the Security Service has told the Home Secretary that he is content that the TPIM Bill provides an acceptable balance between the needs of national security and civil liberties, and that the overall package mitigates risk.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North

As someone who had many reservations about the previous regime and the methods that were used, I, for one, can see very little difference between what this Government are doing and what the previous Government did. At the end of the day, despite all the criticism that was made, particularly by the Liberal Democrats in the last Parliament, by and large, what happened before the election is happening again.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I ask the hon. Gentleman with all due respect please to read the Bill. He will see that there are significant and important differences that I cannot address in the two minutes remaining to me. However, we have always been clear that there may be exceptional circumstances where the measures in the Bill, together with the additional resources, may not be sufficient to manage effectively the risk we face. National security is the primary duty of any Government, and we will not put security or the public at risk. That is why we concluded, as announced by the Home Secretary in January, that there may be exceptional circumstances where it would be necessary to seek parliamentary approval for additional, more restrictive measures. The review included a commitment that emergency legislation would be drafted, and that is what we tabled last week.

In a free society, we must challenge ourselves to fight terrorism using a targeted set of powers, safeguarding our hard-won civil liberties and prosecuting terrorists wherever possible. However, we must also ensure that those powers are sufficiently robust to meet the threats we face and sufficiently flexible to protect the public in changing circumstances, including in exceptional circumstances. I believe that the Government’s approach to this difficult issue is the right one and—I come back to balance being the essence—does strike the proper balance in giving us that right mix of disruption and ensuring protection for civil liberties. I am sorry that the Opposition do not appear—

Debate interrupted (Programme Order, 7 June).

The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (Standing Order No. 83E), That the clause be read a Second time.

The House divided:

Ayes 213, Noes 314.

Division number 332

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)

Question accordingly negatived.

The Deputy Speaker then put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).