|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
I do not want to live in a security state, but I believe that we want to live in a secure one. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) and I speak for the vast majority of our colleagues who have been silent throughout the debate, in saying that those who shout the loudest do not necessarily have the best arguments. I should say to the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) that, if he is looking for briefings, I have several here from a number of the different lobby groups, and I would be happy to share them with him.
The majority of provisions in the Bill are uncontroversial. The measures relating to hoaxers, financial powers, data sharing, biological and chemical instruments, the nuclear industry, and strengthening security at airports must be matters on which hon. Members on both sides of the House can agree. I accept the argument that the timing of the Bill is difficult. It is true that its introduction has been speedy, but we have had time, albeit limited, for some scrutiny already. The Home Affairs Committee, of which I am a member, and the Joint Committee on Human Rights have given some scrutiny to the Bill already. We have certainly had more time to scrutinise it than we have had for any previous emergency legislation brought before the House. Clearly, the world has changed since 11 September. Previous legislation could not have taken into account that terrible event, so we must surely accept that this is, indeed, emergency legislation.
I want to address two main points. First, like many hon. Members, I have deep concerns, as did our Select Committee, about the clauses dealing with incitement to religious hatred. That is not because I disagree with the provision in principle. I agree that we should legislate on the matter. It is, however, a complex area that needs to be examined in more detail. Nor do I have any concerns about the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) condemning the Pope as the anti-Christ and having his right to freedom of speech undermined. In the situations in which that hon. Gentleman makes such remarks, I simply turn the other cheek. The issue is complex, and I would like further debate involving members of all our faith communities and others before that provision becomes law.
Secondly, I want to talk about the clauses relating to the asylum and immigration, and to the question of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission and judicial review. I am convinced that SIAC's role in reviewing the
I say to those who argue that there should be judicial review that one High Court judge reviewing the decision of another would simply add another layer. On the matter of evidence, the Home Affairs Committee has expressed concerns. The hearing could be held in camera, which would prevent the press from seeing the evidence, but the defendant may cross-examine. That means that the defendant would have information from the security services that may undermine their role and, indeed, threaten people's lives. I do not see why we should endanger the lives of members of our security services in such circumstances.
As so many colleagues want to speak, I draw my comments to a close by saying that I welcome the Bill in so far as any of us can welcome such legislation. I say to the civil liberties lobby that it does not have a monopoly on concerns about people's rights, whether they be civil liberties or human rights. No one, at least on this side of the House, takes such steps lightly, which is why we on the Home Affairs Committee reluctantly accept the need for the legislation in these times.
I believe that the Home Secretary himself is as reluctant as we are to take these measures, but the evil of 11 September, when 10,000 children were left without a parent, and our country's inadequacy in respect of dealing with those suspected of terrorism mean that the Bill is necessary. I hope that the House supports it.
Mr. David Cameron (Witney): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Ms Prentice). We both sit on the Home Affairs Committee and we did our best to consider the Bill in the little time that we had. Like her, I do not deny the scale of the problem that we face200 of our fellow countrymen dead in the world's worst terrorist outragenor do I deny the great evidence that we are still in danger.
The Home Affairs Committee has twice been briefed by the security services. I even managed to make it to the right building on one occasion, but the first time, instead of going to MI5's, I went to the other one. I could not ask a policeman the way. The security services gave us compelling evidence and I ask them, if they can, to publish as much as possible, because we in the House are being asked to pass remarkable legislation.
I do not deny the need for a Bill and there are good elements to it, such as those on hoaxing, British Transport police and nuclear facilities, but I have four serious objections. The first is the size of the Billwe do not have to read it, as we can simply weigh it. There are 124 clauses and eight schedules, but we are told that it must be dealt with by Christmas.
I am new to the House and today I have seen one of the worst sides of being a Member, as we are passing a 124-clause Bill in just three days at the whim of the Executive. We have heard powerful speeches laying bear the objections to parts of the Bill and I beg the Government to listen. They have had little time to prepare the Bill. If they came back to the House to say, "We have thought again and we will remove parts of it," they would be applauded and there would be no loss of face.
Let me touch on some objections. We must be clear on the third pillar and clause 109: effectively, it allows Ministers to pass through the House as a statutory instrument rather than a Bill any measure agreed at the Justice and Home Affairs Council. That is staggering.
The Government are not saying, "Europe has agreed an important terrorist measure and we must rush it through the House and get it into British law." They are not saying, "A package of terrorism measures has been agreed so we must put it into law." They are not even saying that any European Union decision on terrorism must go through this place quickly and become law. They are saying that any, and possibly every, measure agreed under the third pillar by Europe's Justice and Home Affairs Ministers can go into law without primary legislation being passed.
Where was that in any of our manifestosin anything that we put before people when we are asked to come to this place? And what important decision in Europe produced the need for this legislation? There is the rub: we do not yet know. The terrorism framework directive has not yet been finally agreed, so we do not know what we shall be passing into law and what is quite so urgent.
It is even worse than that. We are not taking this powernot taking this huge constitutional stepin a normal Bill, debated properly in the House; we are rushing it through in a piece of emergency legislation that will be debated in only three days. As other Members have said, clause 109 is not emergency legislation, and it should be struck from the Bill.
Then there is the question of incitement to religious hatred. I utterly condemn those who stir up religious hatred, whether we are talking about Abu Hamza in the Finsbury park mosque or thugs in the National Front, but I want the police to use existing laws to gather intelligence, chase the people concerned, build up the evidence, take it to the Crown Prosecution Service and prosecute through the courts. The question we must ask today is whether we need a new law.
The Prime Minister gave an elegant answer at Question Time. He said "There is a law against racial hatred; we must have a law against religious hatred." But, as many hon. Members have said, the two are not the same. People are born with their race, but they are not born with their religion. Even that is not the strongest argument: a Muslim might feel that his religion is so core to his being that it is part of his identity.
The real argument is this, I think. We all know that no race is greater than another. All races are equal: people are equal, whatever the colour of their skins. Every religion, however, claims that it is the true faith, and denies the veracity of the others. [Interruption.] Almost all religions do. If you are a Catholic, if you are a Jew, if you are a Muslim, you claim that yours is the true faith.