Terrorist Asset-Freezing Bill — Question

– in the House of Lords at 3:06 pm on 24th March 2010.

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Photo of Lord Pannick Lord Pannick Crossbench 3:06 pm, 24th March 2010

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they have taken to begin the process of pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Terrorist Asset-Freezing Bill.

Photo of Lord Myners Lord Myners Parliamentary Secretary, HM Treasury

The Government are committed to ensuring proper scrutiny of the draft Terrorist Asset-Freezing Bill. To enable and help inform that scrutiny, we published our draft Bill on 5 February, and on 18 March we launched a public consultation on our proposals. This will help to ensure that parliamentary scrutiny of the legislation is informed by the views and evidence provided by the general public and interested parties.

Photo of Lord Pannick Lord Pannick Crossbench

I am very grateful to the Minister and I warmly welcome the consultation paper. Will the Government, in addition to organising the consultation, welcome pre-legislative scrutiny of this draft Bill by a Joint Committee or by a Select Committee of your Lordships' House?

Photo of Lord Myners Lord Myners Parliamentary Secretary, HM Treasury

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, for his question. We of course want this Bill to be properly scrutinised. Indeed, one of the reasons why we argued against the opposition amendment for the sunset provision in the current temporary legislation to have a much shorter life than was eventually agreed by Parliament was that we wanted to allow appropriate time for pre-legislative scrutiny. It is for Parliament to determine how that scrutiny takes place and how it would work within the timetable that is effectively set by the sunset clause, but we certainly appreciate the value that would come from detailed public comment and pre-legislative scrutiny by the Houses of Parliament.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Spokesperson for Communities and Local Government

My Lords, those who may wish to comment on the draft Bill, or on any future consultation in this area, may find it particularly difficult because of their own circumstances. These are sensitive matters and some individuals who may have things that are worthwhile saying may not feel confident about saying them in the public arena. Will the Government give some thought about how those who would wish to give their views on these matters could do so confidentially-including, of course, their identities?

Photo of Lord Myners Lord Myners Parliamentary Secretary, HM Treasury

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for making that point, which had not occurred to me. I will take it away and give it careful consideration. We need to strike the right balance between protecting individual freedoms and securing the peace, tranquillity and safety of the nation. The noble Baroness raises an important point and I will, if I may, go away, reflect on it and communicate with her directly afterwards.

Photo of Baroness Noakes Baroness Noakes - Shadow Minister, Shadow Minister

My Lords, the consultation paper that has helpfully now come out specifically excludes those covered by the al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorism provisions. Can the Minister explain why there should not be a consultation on whether there are appropriate safeguards in that order, as well as in the draft legislation?

Photo of Lord Myners Lord Myners Parliamentary Secretary, HM Treasury

They are of course entirely different orders dealing with similar, but different, situations. I believe that the House is due to consider the al-Qaeda orders later this week, when we will have an opportunity to hear whether the House believes that there should be a similar, parallel or congruent consultation that covers that legislation.