I am extremely grateful to you, Mr Speaker, as ever.
Having listened with great interest to hon. Members’ speeches, I think it is perfectly possible to reconcile them all. With reference to the excellent speech by the hon. Member for South Antrim (Dr McCrea), the whole question of the realities of terrorism has to be dealt with in relation to whether people should, as the hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) suggested, be given a proper trial. That is what I keep insisting on in my interventions, as I did in the debate that took place yesterday. These are the real freedoms. At the same time, I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab), who makes extremely valuable contributions to these debates, and my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer). I also pay tribute to the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert), which may surprise him a little.
All these things can be reconciled if, as the essence of my Bill on the prevention of terrorism proposes, we take out the overhanging shadow of the human rights legislation against which our legislation is constantly being tested. It is simple. We did not have a problem in the days when we ourselves decided on matters such as habeas corpus, fair trial and due process. It is not beyond the wit of our Parliament—in fact, it is the duty of our Parliament—to make proposals that meet all the different requirements. That can be done by sitting down, drafting a Bill, sending it to Committee and coming up with a reconciliation of all those different questions under one simple principle, to which the hon. Member for Islington North rightly referred—that people should be guaranteed the proper justice to which they are entitled when they are confronted with an accusation, whether they are suspected terrorists or serious criminals of a different order.
There may be a public emergency, which can be defined in various ways, in which it is absolutely essential that the Secretary of State, not the courts, should make the decisions, because ultimately the security of the nation has to be prescribed, as Lord Hoffmann clearly stated in a case called Rehman. Following that important judgment he was somewhat criticised by those who want to see a much more relaxed arrangement. National security has to be decided by Secretaries of State not by the judiciary, and once those decisions have been taken, the manner in which the legislation is interpreted by the courts follows.
I leave the argument at that point. We have a review. Let us stick to simple principles. Let us be sure that we give justice even to suspected terrorists, but not at the expense of the security of the state.
— from debate entitled “Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism”
The three speeches/headings immediately before
- 1 earlier: John Bercow
Order. Let me point out that I intend to give the Minister a 10-minute winding-up speech, so the hon. Gentleman has a brief opportunity to contribute if he so wishes.
- 2 earlier: Bill Cash
- 3 earlier: Julian Huppert
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for calling me in this important debate. As we consider control orders and counter-terrorism, it is important to think of the context in which we make these decisions. It is a time of unprecedented flux in the middle east and in north Africa, and what we are seeing there is nothing less than the wholehearted pursuit of liberty. None of us can imagine what it must have been like to be part of the Egyptian revolution in Tahrir square, and none of us has experienced the oppression that Libyan protestors are currently suffering.
All of us are privileged to live in a country where, by and large, freedom has been established and protected for many generations, but it has been clear to many of us for a while that those cherished rights and freedoms have been under attack. The previous Government used the uncertainty created by terrorist atrocities to carry out a widespread squeeze on civil liberties, and they shamefully used fear as a political and electoral weapon. Even their party’s leader, who is not particularly given to making statements about the dubious legacy left to this Government by new Labour, admits that they “seemed too casual” about civil liberties. He has not yet overcome his vagueness and set out a new and generally liberal path, although I hope that he will, and he certainly has not told either shadow Home Secretary whom he has so far appointed.
The coalition Government, however, are making progress—slow but steady progress—in their attempt to regain a better balance between security and liberty, and the counter-terrorism review was an important part of that programme. I am privileged to be a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and I was involved in writing its report on control orders, which I hope Members have read. Along with the Committee, I welcome the review’s conclusion that the current control order regime, which Labour put in place, is too intrusive and fails to demonstrate a commitment to the priority of criminal investigation.
Terrorism prevention and investigation measures are a step forward, and the system is different and better, although it is certainly not perfect, because, as many Members have already said, extra-judicial processes are simply not the right way to proceed. It is a shame that we do not yet have the replacement, and it is a shame of timing that we are not in a position to ditch control orders completely and pass the legislation on TPIMs. That is what I would like, and I have made that point in a number of places in the House. In fact, we should go further. We already have the concept of bail for people who have not yet been convicted of a crime, and that is the model we should use, not the control order regime. I hope that we continue with that thread.
I am concerned about what will happen in the next nine months if we agree to the order tonight. It seems illogical for the Government to ignore their own assessment of the weaknesses of the control order regime, but that is what is happening. A number of points have been made about Lord Macdonald’s suggestion that the Director of Public Prosecutions should have a role in criminal investigation. I hope that the Minister will respond to that point, which others have made, and that he will be asked to look at each current controlee’s case to see what is the right thing to do.
I am also concerned—in timing and in practice—about the Government’s plan to make emergency legislation available for a stricter version of control orders, which would be introduced in an unforeseen emergency. Lord Macdonald described to the Joint Committee how huge such a disaster would have to be, and the Government say that they will share a draft of the legislation only with those on the Opposition Front Bench. That is wrong. The number of Members who are neither in the Government nor part of the Opposition Front Bench, but who would be interested in seeing such legislation, is very high. We would like to see it, and it should be scrutinised.
I find it hard to imagine what the need would be, but, if there ever were a need, I would like to know that Parliament had thought in the fullness of time about how the legislation would work, and had not made a rushed decision after a huge number of bombs had already gone off. I hope the Government will agree to let all Members see the legislation and go through the same process that they are going through for their emergency legislation on 28 days’ detention.
There are a number of concerns about TPIMs in detail, and I have had the privilege of talking to people in the Home Office and raised the matter with the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary. On the measured transition that the Minister described, we know that the review described relocation as too intrusive and inimical to the possibility of prosecution. Will the Minister commit to leaving unused the power for relocation in control orders between now and the new TPIMs regime?
Similarly, can we shorten the curfew periods in control orders as we head towards the new TPIMs regime? I hope that we do not introduce just a shorter curfew. To me, an overnight residence requirement involves a requirement to live somewhere normally, and if I live somewhere normally that means I am typically there between 1 am and 3 am, that I am often there earlier or later, and that sometimes I will get up early and sometimes arrive home late. That, not a shortened curfew, is an ordinary residence requirement.
I hope that the Home Secretary will thoroughly review the current controlees to see how we can bring the regime into line with what we aim for in TPIMs, and as a first step towards getting rid of the whole system. I look forward to the Minister’s comments and hope he will be able to reassure the many of us who wish to see even greater steps away from the abhorrent nature of control orders.
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