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Counter-Terrorism Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 9th October 2008.

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Photo of Lord Dubs Lord Dubs Labour 3:45 pm, 9th October 2008

I am a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and the amendment and one or two others that we will be discussing on Monday and later stem, in part at least, from the work of that Select Committee.

There is a small error in the amendment. It refers to England and Wales but should refer to the United Kingdom, in case anyone draws conclusions about Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Minister arranged for some of his officials to be here this morning so that we could discuss aspects of the Bill with them. I was happy to do that. Through the Minister, I would like to express my thanks to his officials for being very patient in dealing with the various points I raised.

Essentially, the amendment concerns torture. Torture is absolutely unacceptable. Of course, evidence obtained through torture is, or certainly ought to be, completely unacceptable. I appreciate that, when evidence comes in from abroad, it is not always possible for the powers that be to know for certain whether it has been obtained in the way in which it would be if it were obtained internally in this country, but it is right for us to say that certain safeguards ought to be required. Clearly, in this country we would not use evidence that had knowingly been obtained through torture. I think that is clear and there is no doubt about that. The question is: how much trouble do we go to to ensure that that is the case? It is possible for evidence to come in and for the authorities to say, "Well, it doesn't look as though it came from torture, so let's just make use of it".

The point of the amendment is to put greater responsibility on the three services or individuals mentioned—the Security Service, the intelligence service and GCHQ—so that the directors and chiefs of those organisations will have ensured, as much as possible, that none of the information had been obtained through torture. I would contend that this is almost certainly what they do anyway. Therefore, we are simply asking that this be made clearly and transparently known in a statement rather than simply understood to be the case. If it is not the case, of course, we are in a somewhat worse situation.

In the amendment we are seeking a safeguard that everything possible is done to ensure that information has not been obtained through torture and that quite a lot of trouble is taken to ensure that that is not the case. Nothing can be 100 per cent clear, but I contend that we can go further down that path than is the case at the moment. I beg to move.