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Amendments have been tabled to clause 25, but I do not wish to discuss them. The only question that I have for the Home Secretary relates to the primary legislation, if I may refer to it in that waythe Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act 1997. My right hon. Friend said that he had read the Hansard of the Second Reading debate of that legislation. I do not know whether he has had a chance to read the Act, but that Act sets out in section 2 the jurisdiction of the commission, and the jurisdiction relates to the various Actsmainly immigration Actsthat are set out in subsection (2).
It has been argued in previous debates on the Bill that SIAC, or whatever it is called, is not appropriate. The Home Secretary says that of course it is because it is about immigration and we are talking about immigration, but I believe that one has to look at the specific areas of jurisdiction in relation to legislation for which SIAC was established; and it is established under section 2 of the 1997 Act.
My simple question, which does not go to the heart of the Bill but is necessary in the interests of clarityafter all, we are in Committeeis: is my right hon. Friend satisfied that merely stating that SIAC can hear appeals under clause 21 gives it a jurisdiction to do so? The parent Act, the 1997 Act, obviously cannot relate to this present legislation.
Mr. Blunkett: I wish to be helpful. I believe that it does have jurisdiction, because it is dealing with the powers that were granted, long before SIAC was created, in terms of certification. The role of SIAC, agreed in 1997, was hence to deal with that certification process. I am happy to provide the necessary legal evidence to my right hon. Friend and to other Members if that will helpover the next two weeksthem to be fully satisfied that what we are saying is the case.
Denzil Davies: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I am not criticising him when I say that I do not really understand. Apparently there were some powers that were there before SIAC was established, and we are now taking those from the air, or somewhere, and bringing them back. That may be the case, but I will avail myself of my right hon. Friend's kind offer, and if his lawyers, who I am sure are worthy gentlemen, and obviously better than some lawyers in private practice, are prepared to supply him with chapter and verse, which I am sure that he will sign, we shall all be very happy.
Mr. George Osborne (Tatton): I want to speak briefly on the clauses. I welcome the limited sunset clause that has been agreed to. My good and hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron), who is not in his place, put his name to that amendment. It was the first amendment that he had ever put his name to, and he is in deep shock because the Government have accepted it.
Annabelle Ewing: The hon. Gentleman is not the only guilty party, because this confusion has been a feature of our discussions in Committee tonight. There are various legal systems in the United Kingdom and it is wholly inaccurate to refer to British law in the various circumstances covered by the Bill.
Mr. Osborne: I am happy to confine myself to English law, which has a long history of liberty established by the rule of common law and by decisions of judges and jurists over many centuries, which are in many cases as important as acts of revolution or Acts passed in the House over the centuries.
Today we find ourselves contorting our long tradition of domestic liberty. We are jumping through legal hoops. We are going through legal fictions, such as declaring ourselves to be in a state of public emergency, because weby that I mean Governments who have acted in our name and that of the Househave signed themselves up to international agreements that have been interpreted far more widely than was expected when they were signed up to.
We have already gone through the steps of derogating from article 5 of the European convention on human rights, and I have yet to hear a convincing explanation from a Minister of why we cannot go through the process suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin), which is to withdraw from the European convention for a split second and rejoin with reservations, which are exactly what France has. By doing so, we would be dealing with the root cause of all the problems that we have been discussing today and on Mondaythe conventions that we have signed up to and the way in which they are interpreted by lawyersand we would have no need to twist our domestic laws and liberties.
Ms Abbott: We are now, happily, moving from the choreography of carefully calibrated concessions on to the substance of the Bill, and the substance of the set of clauses before us is the notion of internment without trial. I have heard Ministers say that it is not internment because people can always leave the country, but I point out to colleagues that anyone who knows anything about the workings of the immigration system knows that it is highly unlikely that any other European Union or American state would accept someone whom we had just interned, so in reality the only place they could go would be the country in which they were at risk of torture or worseso it will feel, and look, very much like internment without trial.
Much has been made of the suddenness with which this issue has been blown up and the importance of moving speedily, but it has long been the wish of some of the most gruesome, most barbaric, most undemocratic regimes in the world to get the Government to act against people whom they deem to be terrorists. Finally, and fortuitously for them, they have got their wish in these clauses on internment.
As other hon. Members have pointed out, these clauses potentially have a very wide ambit. It is no good Ministers briefing people privately that only half a dozen individuals will be affected. Thousands of people in this country are card-carrying members of organisations that we, perhaps rightly, have proscribed, but which they consider to be nationalist groups of a somewhat robust nature. I know that membership of the PKK or of certain Sikh organisations will not, on its own, bring people within the ambit of certification, but the Bill is potentially wide ranging, and that is why it is unfortunate that we have so little time to debate it.
Let me remind the House that it has long been accepted, certainly by most Labour Members, that internment was one of the best recruitment sergeants that the IRA ever had. We are supposed to be acting against terrorism and reassuring young people, whether they are Muslim or Catholic, about the fairness of British society and the things that we stand for, but the notion of internment without trial runs clean contrary to the idea of an effective war against terrorism. Even if it were possible to persuade some of us that in certain limited circumstancesmuch more prescribed than those in the Billinternment was the only practical option, the notion of internment without judicial review would be completely unacceptable.
I know that I will see colleagues marching through the Lobby to vote for internment without trial whom, many years ago, I would never have dreamt of seeing voting for such a thing. The Government, with the size of their majority, can pass these clauses any which way they like, but many hon. Members on both sides of the House look to the Lords to make this legislation acceptable both to the course of an effective war on terrorism and to this country's traditions of liberty and justice.