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There is, however, an even more serious objection to the Bill: it would bring the whole of the law into disrepute. When the Minister appeared before the Select Committee, I asked what definition was being used. She said that it was intended to catch those who produced literature that was
The real point is this, is it not? Many people believe that the book should be caught. The police and the CPS would be inundated with complaints, and when they did not prosecute, how would people feel? They would feel desperately let down, and the law would be brought into disrepute.
I believesome Labour Members mentioned thisthat the real answer is to level the playing field between the religions by abolishing the blasphemy laws. I suggested that to the Minister when she appeared before the Select Committee. However, she said that such action was outside the terms of the Bill. Is that not the reason why none of the stuff on religious hatred should be dealt with in an emergency Bill? Let us do that separately, in a considered way, so that we can examine all the options.
There are parts of the Bill that we need to pass into law rapidly, to help us to deal with the terrorist threat. Powers are neededpowers that the Home Secretary has told us about. Huge parts of the Bill, however, have nothing to do with the emergency and nothing to do with terrorism. That is made clear in the Select Committee's report, and I hope that the Government will heed it when they consider the Bill further.
Like many other Members, I do not welcome the Bill with open arms. In view of the events of 11 September, however, I recognise the existence of a new and immediate threat, and I think that the Bill is designed as an emergency provision to plug some of the gaps in our existing security.
Secondly, although I listened with interest to the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Ms Prentice), I do not think that the case has been made against judicial review. I hope that the Home Secretary will reflect further on that issue.
Thirdly, although I, like many other hon. Members, recognise the intention behind the provisions against religious hatred, I am not at all convinced that the way in which they are presented in the Bill will be helpful.
I was entertained by and listened with interest to the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore). However, regardless of the craftsmanship of his speech and the colourfulness of his prose, I do not think that some of the comments we have heard truly chime with the concerns and fears of the British public. We would be doing them a great disservice if we were to ignore the real threat posed against them. I also do not think that we would ever be forgiven if there was a serious attack on this country and it was later shown to have been preventable if we had taken the action necessary to plug gaps in our law.
If the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) genuinely believes that only one of the Bill's 14 parts deals with terrorism, he clearly needs more time to read and scrutinise the Bill.
We should be arguing for immediate implementation of many of the Bill's provisions, such as those to freeze terrorists' assets. The events in the United States showed us the purposes to which terrorists put their money. I also welcome the provisions on retaining fingerprints and other forms of identification, although I do so with a heavy heart, because we need those provisions now.
Like other hon. Members, I also see the necessity of provisions to secure laboratories and other installations that contain toxic materials and micro-organisms. We should also welcome the seemingly minor provisions to extend the powers of the British Transport police, the atomic energy constabulary and even the Ministry of Defence police, although I recognise that there are some concerns about how those provisions will operate in practice.
As for concerns about the provisions on detention in part 4, I think that the Home Secretary was absolutely genuine today when he pointed out that he is proposing them because he has no option. The Law Lords left him no option when they said that another way of providing safeguards in national security cases would have to be found. Although the shadow Home Secretary presented an alternative, my view is that this is emergency legislation that we need now to cope with the present threat. If there were another way, I would be happy for the House to consider it. I argue strongly, however, that we should not deny ourselves the available protection before an alternative has been presented.
I shall make only one party political point. I listened with great interest to some eloquent and elegant speeches by Opposition Members in defence of freedom. I only wish that they had found that voice when some of them were in government or when others supported Governments who enacted some of the most draconian measures against good, honest and hard-working British
Mr. Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow): I shall try to be brief, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I want to cover two main issues. Let me make it clear straight away that I have serious doubts about some of the Bill's provisions, which I do not support. Although security needs to be reviewed in the light of what happened on 11 September, I do not believe that the contents of the Bill are being properly scrutinised. Nor do I believe, despite the fact that it is intended to be in force for only 15 months in the first place, that it will not be in force long term. The history of all previous legislation introduced in this way suggests that the Bill will last and be in force for a long time to come.
Part 4clauses 21 to 23 in particularprovides the powers to act on suspicion. Many Members have discussed the problems of certification and of the definition of suspected terrorism leading to indefinite detention, the nature of the evidence and how it can be challenged. I do not want to repeat their remarks, but I shall make one brief point.
Throughout debate on those clauses so far, the assumption seems to have been made that the intelligence with which we shall be dealing will come from British intelligence services. Inevitably, some foreign Governments will want their political opponents who live in this country to be regarded as international terrorists, and will no doubt try to supply evidence and intelligence to that effect. Questions will arise about how that intelligence will be assessed and what the political pressures will be, depending on which country the evidence comes from. I am sure that if we were not introducing the Bill, but were considering the introduction in other countries of indefinite internment without trial, many hon. Members would say that they fundamentally disapproved of what was happening.
Clauses 33 and 34, which have not been discussed much in this debate, deal with the UN convention on refugees, and certification that the convention does not apply. Why are those clauses needed? Terrorists are not covered by the convention, as article 1(f) of it makes clear. People who have committed crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity are not covered by the convention. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has made it clear that it does not believe that the change is necessary.
The question that should be asked about this part of the Bill is: how is it possible to make a proper judgment about whether someone should be excluded from the provisions of the refugee convention without considering their whole story? It is only by full consideration that it is possible to decide whether they should be excluded. The drafting of the clauses means that the Special Immigration Appeals Commission will not be able to do that. It will not be able to question the merits of the decision that the Secretary of State has made. That is specifically excluded.
Clause 34, the title of which is "Construction", appears to be an interpretation of parts of the 1951 conventionand, indeed, a reservation concerning some of those parts. How does that relate to article 42 of the conventionto which we are signatorieswhich makes it clear that
I have significant doubts about the provisions on religious hatred, which I do not have time to detail this evening. The Bill raises serious questions, and I hope that significant changes will be made in Committee, especially to parts 4 and 5. Without such changes, I shall not find it possible to support the Bill's Third Reading.