Schedule 2 — Consequential provision

Part of Business without Debate — Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:43 pm on 7th March 2013.

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Photo of Julian Huppert Julian Huppert Liberal Democrat, Cambridge 4:43 pm, 7th March 2013

It is fascinating to follow Members’ comments on the internal dynamics of all parties, but I will not comment on them. I am not a fan of closed material proceedings, for reasons that have been expressed. I will not go through all the discussions we have had during the Bill’s previous stages.

The point has been well made that the measure does not apply to criminal cases, but there is a view that it does in some cases. We are still waiting for absolute clarity on whether it applies to cases of liberty and habeas corpus. I am sure that the Minister without Portfolio will be able to give us the latest update on that. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, James Brokenshire, made it clear in Committee that the position has changed somewhat.

Even without that, there are lots of cases where this is already in our law and which I find even more alarming, because they affect people’s liberty much more. We heard on Monday from Richard Fuller about a Special Immigration Appeals Commission case in his constituency. I remember talking to him about it two years ago, when his constituent was under detention during the period of the case, which was based on closed material proceedings, under legislation introduced by the previous Government. As I understand it, two years on the constituent is still being detained under the same legislation, because of evidence he has not had the chance to see. Whatever we think about a civil case, where money is involved, I hope that everyone here would say that a case involving two years of somebody’s life—curfews and the sort of internal exile that we saw with control orders and, to a lesser extent, terrorism prevention and investigation measures—is more serious. We should not allow ourselves to ignore that.

The Bill has been on a long journey and in that time it has got a lot better. Since the Green Paper, a huge number of changes have been made to what material would be excluded. There was the incredibly important switch from the language of public interest in keeping something quiet to the language of national security, which was definitely a step in the right direction. I do not think that anybody in the House wants to see silenced information that would just be embarrassing to the Government. I am sure that Governments would be quite capable of arguing that public interest includes their not being embarrassed too often.

It is also important that we have excluded inquests. It is right that we say to a family who want to know happened to a loved one that they will definitely know the truth and that they will not be told, “Something happened, but we can’t tell you.” It was a pleasure to follow Mr Howarth, but I was surprised that he, along with some of his Labour colleagues and some Conservative support, wished to bring inquests back within the scope of the Bill. I am very pleased that that amendment was not put. Had it been, I hope it would have been defeated thoroughly.

We saw further changes in the Lords. I pay great tribute to the Joint Committee on Human Rights for its sterling efforts. There are interesting questions about how the Government and the Joint Committee might work together more on some of these issues. We have had the slightly unusual case where the Joint Committee made some suggestions, the Government claimed to have satisfied them and the Joint Committee disagreed, but all this happened at a very slow pace. Perhaps there should be some way for the Committee, its Chair or the legal adviser to talk to the Government early on about draft amendments and to say, “Yes, this would achieve what we are trying to do, but with some wording differences”, as opposed to disagreeing fundamentally on whether it achieves the same thing.