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Mr. Hogg: I rise briefly to express my support for the thought behind the sunset clause approach, largely because of the procedure that we are going to adopt. The new clause at least enables all the parts of the Bill to which it refers to fall away within specified times. That inevitably means that this House will have to consider those provisions further if the Government of the day want to give statutory force to them.
The plain truth is that, because of time constraints, we are not going to discuss the substance of any of the clauses in the group whose consideration terminates at 6 o'clock. We have reached only the first line in the marshalled list. At least new clause 6 would apply a sunset provision to all the other measures that feature in the marshalled list, but which will not be discussed at all. Some of them, such as the power of the Treasury to freeze people's cash, the power of Customs to go to the magistrates to get a seizure order in respect of "terrorist cash" and the extension of disclosure obligations are of great importance.
I shall not seek to debate the merits of those issues as you, Sir Michael, would call me to order if I did so. I point out only that, from any viewpoint, they are extremely important obligations and powers that are backed by penal sanctions. Furthermore, they apply to people's property and may also affect the property of innocent third parties. However, we are not going to discuss them at all. That is one of the arguments in favour of sunset clauses, which are a very imperfect way of dealing with the problem that we face. We should not be in this position, but as we are, we must do something to provide a remedy. A sunset clause is one way of at least expressing our dismay about the position.
Mr. John Burnett (Torridge and West Devon): The right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned penal sanctions. Does he agree that there is a compelling debate to be had about whether more senior judges should deal with those matters, rather than more junior judges and magistrates, as the Bill proposes?
Mr. Hogg: I am sure that that is correct, although I am being a bit careful because I do not want to stray into the merits of clauses that are not currently before the Committee. None the less, the hon. Gentleman's point is valid, as the sunset clause gives us the opportunity, at least in theory, to address matters that the House will not address at all. Its failure to do so cannot be right.
Simon Hughes: Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman recall that, as the professor of human rights law at King's college pointed out in his evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, since the mid-1970s, regular review has been a feature not only of parts of anti-terrorism legislation, but of that legislation as a whole? That is the case not least so that Parliament and
Mr. Hogg: I was not aware of that specific evidence, but I am sure that the professor is entirely right. Sunset clauses at least focus the attention of the Executive and Parliament on whether the existing situation at a given time is serious enough to justify a derogation from civil rights. That is important, but in this case it is much more urgent: some 12 minutes of debate remain, in which we must consider 20 clausesand we have not discussed one of them.
Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East): I welcome the agreement that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has given in his response to the suggestion of the Select Committee on Home Affairs regarding sunset clauses. It is entirely appropriate that a five-year limit has been set. In normal circumstances, the House is rightly very suspicious of measures such as that which is before the Committee, but they should not necessarily be ruled out in all circumstances. Clearly, we are currently in a situation that nobody sought and nobody wants. We all wish that this had not happened, but the fact is that there are significant threats not only to this country and the security of its people, but to our way of life.
I want to take up a couple of points, but I do not want to detain the Committee long. In his two speeches this afternoon, my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) made great play of comparisons with legislation passed during the second world war. I shall reinforce the point made by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in an interventionthe two sets of circumstances are not comparable. In the second world war, we were dealing with a defined enemy and a known set of circumstances and massive intelligence was not required to know where people were or what support they had, although espionage was certainly going on in this country. We are now dealing with a terrorist organisation with tentacles all over the place. It can use sophisticated technologies that simply did not exist during the second world war. In those circumstances, it is crucial that we protect ourselves against that threat.
Mr. Fisher: The Home Secretary said that his difficulty is that he can identify the people who put this country at risk, but cannot take action against them. We are not dealing with the problem of an unknown and undefinable enemy in the community; the Home Secretary, or the security forces, can identify the people who are likely to cause terrorist outrages in this country, but cannot act against them.
Mr. Howarth: My hon. Friend would be right if the intelligence available to the Home Secretary and Ministers was a single static body of knowledge. I am sure that the Committee agrees that intelligence gathering is a dynamic process. As time goes on, other people, although relatively small in number, may well be identified who will fall under the provisions proposed by my right hon. Friend. I hope that that will be the case. I suspect that, in such circumstances, he will want to use the power that is available to him. So, in direct response to my hon. Friend
Mr. Letwin: No one is denying for half a second that an element of trust is involved. We are entrusting to the Government the power, with relatively little parliamentary scrutiny, to implement measures of great concern. The question is whether that trust should prevail for years or whether we should have the opportunity to review the issue of whether our initial trust was well placed.
If the House and, by extension, those whom we represent are to give that trust, it follows that the House should have regard to the period for which the legislation should sensibly last and at what time a sunset clause should come into effect. I have given that trust to Labour Ministers and would happily give it to the hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) if he were in government. I do not think that that is an immediate prospect but, nevertheless, I would do so. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has listened and he has earned our trust. He decided that suggestions by the Select Committee on Home Affairs were sensible and signalled that he wished to take them on board.
Norman Baker (Lewes): Does the hon. Gentleman understand that we would all be more willing to trust the Home Secretary completely if the Bill was narrowly focused, concentrated on anti-terrorist measures and not packed full of stuff that has been lying in a Home Office cupboard for months?
Mr. Howarth: If I strayed from the immediate point, you would pull me up, Sir Michael. However, the argument that the Bill has somehow managed to attract unconnected clauses for the Government's convenience is, frankly, a naive reading of the situation. The truth is that the Bill's provisions are connected. Having spent two years as a junior Minister in the Northern Ireland Office, I am well aware of the connections between all the clauses; there is an overarching theme, and the Bill is not just a loose connection of good ideas that somebody has decided to throw together. The point made by the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) does not stand up.
Mr. Howarth: I shall give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Lynne Jones) first and then the hon. Member for West Dorset, but after that I really must try to conclude my remarks.
Lynne Jones: My hon. Friend said that the Government listened to the Home Affairs Select Committee, but that is not completely true. The Home Secretary accepted its recommendation on the five-year sunset clause, but not its concerns about the time needed to debate the Bill in the House. He did not accept those
I listened carefully to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who said that he was persuaded by the recommendation of the Home Affairs Committee on the sunset clause. He went on to say that there were other areas on which he was prepared to continue listening to advice. I am prepared to give him more than the benefit of the doubt, as he has already demonstrated his willingness to listen.