Charter of Fundamental Rights – Government Report

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 21st November 2017.

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Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Conservative, Forest of Dean 4:45 pm, 21st November 2017

I accept that we should not take unnecessary risks, but it seems to me that we could deal with that. I confess that I am not completely across the content of the Data Protection Bill—I hope the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me—but it seems to me that we could make sure we deal with that concern in that Bill, and Ministers on the Treasury Bench will no doubt listen to that point.

My final point is about something that has been brought up on a number of occasions. One benefit I have from being on the Back Benches is that I do not feel the necessity to defend every aspect of Ministers’ behaviour, particularly things they did before they were Ministers. The case that keeps being cited—[Interruption.] The Ministers on the Front Bench are looking very worried now, because they do not know what I am about to say. I happen to think that the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union was not correct in the case he brought against the Government, and I happen to think that the Prime Minister when she was Home Secretary was right to defend it.

We also dealt with any potential defects in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 in the ground-breaking legislation this House passed more recently, the Investigatory Powers Act 2016. I am reasonably familiar with that legislation: I had to consider it when I was a member of the Government, and dealt with how we approached the House. The way we proceeded with that legislation was by bringing forward a Bill that was in good shape at the start of the process, and then having a very thorough scrutiny process across parties. The Opposition took a sensible, grown-up approach on it, because it was very important legislation. We dealt with the concerns, and that is the right way to proceed. This House is perfectly capable of dealing with such concerns, and this House is the right place to deal with them.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 is a model for legislation to deal with people being kept in servitude, and, similarly, the Investigatory Powers Act is ground-breaking, world-leading legislation on how to balance individual freedoms and rights to privacy with the legitimate rights of the state to ensure it protects those citizens from those who will do us harm. This House and the other place got the balance right in that legislation, and we should have more confidence in the ability of ourselves as parliamentarians.

Joanna Cherry, who speaks for the SNP, harrumphed a little a bit—she is not in her place to harrumph again probably—when my right hon. Friend John Redwood spoke about this House being the place where we guarantee those freedoms. She was not hugely impressed by that argument, but the two examples I have given show that we should have a bit more self-confidence about this House being the place where we defend those essential rights. I therefore commend the Bill in its present shape to the House and hope that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee do not press their new clauses and amendments to the vote.