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Counter-Terrorism Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 9th October 2008.

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Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism) 4:00 pm, 9th October 2008

My noble friend Lord Dubs has shown me the error of my ways in getting people fully briefed before these events. They then know what I am going to say, which is an issue.

The amendment is unnecessary, as nothing in Clause 19 authorises, purports to authorise or can reasonably be taken to authorise a breach of the Human Rights Act 1998 or a breach of the UN convention against torture. Proposed new paragraph (iii) refers to "relevant international obligation", which could have such a wide application that without further qualification no one could be sure what is included and what is excluded.

As I have said before, passing laws that have no effect is generally held to be bad law. This in no way decries or diminishes the importance of the Human Rights Act or the convention against torture, which we feel are extremely important. However, if we were to follow the logic proposed here, we could add a long list of criminal offences that Clause 19 did not authorise. The Government, when drafting Clause 20, thought it was helpful clarification to say that nothing in Clause 19 affects the working of the Data Protection Act or the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. It could be said that these, too, were unnecessary, as my noble friend said. They were included because they were cited in parallel provisions that relate to SOCA in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act. One reason behind Clauses 19 to 21 is to place the intelligence services on to a similar statutory footing to that of SOCA in the disclosure of information. That is why we did it. I hope that, with that explanation, my noble friend will feel that the amendment is unnecessary.