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Mr. John Burnett (Torridge and West Devon): I have the impression that the Home Secretary is digging a bigger hole for himself. The security services must liaise with the police. They must be able, in camera and in confidence, to give the police information. The police will then have a suspiciona legitimate suspicion.
Mr. Blunkett: If the amendments were passed, that would be the case if they believed there was a terrorist threat, but not if they had suspicions that led to an understanding of a terrorist threat. [Interruption.] It is no use the Liberal Democrats giggling[Interruption.] Laughing, then. I mistook a gurgle for something else. [Interruption.]
It appears that the Liberal Democrats were not laughing, giggling or gurglingin which case they were expressing amazement that it might actually be desirable to link one set of information with another in order to apprehend those whom we are discussing.
Simon Hughes: The Home Secretary knows that we are trying to agree on the terms of reference. We understand that credit fraud, for example, may be linked with terrorism. Our proposition is that the suspicion has to be that there is a direct or indirect link and that, provided it comes within that ambit, the amendment passed in the Lords would be sufficient. Will he consider that? We would reasonably consider the point that he has made that the Bill should not further restrict organisations such as the MOD or the transport police, although that has never been the intention. If he thought about the one, we would certainly think about the other.
Mr. Blunkett: I am continuing to think. I have already indicated to both the shadow Home Secretary and to the hon. Gentleman that I will continue listening and thinking for the next 24 hours until we can secure agreement on the Bill between the two Houses, but it is not possible for someone dealing with the apprehension of and therefore the passage of information on drugs to know that there is an indirect or a direct link until that is investigated by the enforcement agencies. That is the nub. How can they have a suspicion that that particular activity leads back to the al-Qaeda, to the GIA or to one of the other major international terrorist outfits? They cannot
Amendment No. 48 relates to part 13. We seek to include paragraphs (d) and (e). The convention on mutual assistance in criminal matters would be a third pillar measure under subsection (1). It is a simple facilitation of the sharing of video information, making that easier and increasing the speed with which it can be done, paragraph (e); relates to the Schengen acquis, which includes Norway and Iceland as well as the European Union. I hope that over the next 24 hours we will be able to persuade both colleagues in this House and those in the House of Lords that those two additions, together with the sunset clause at the end of June, all the provisos that we have built in and the ability to test that we are not sneaking something through, get the matter right.
Let no one misunderstand what we are doing. I have read articles and heard speeches that have linked issues that are not in the Bill with what we are debating tonight and have debated over recent weeks. I have heard people link the Bill with the European arrest warrant time and again. Even the shadow Home Secretary, for whom I have much time and who has been honest on these matters, did that in his article in The Guardian on Friday. The Daily TelegraphGod bless it; it does not normally pick things up from The Guardianseemed to repeat the calumny, although not in his name, on Saturday. An enormous amount of suspicion has been generated about what the Government may or may not be seeking to do. What we are certainly not trying to do is delude anyone tonight.
Mr. Letwin: I unreservedly welcome the tone in which the Home Secretary has addressed the House. We started these debates with six big issues, shared between the Liberal Democrats and ourselves. On at least two and a half, arguably three, the Government have made sensible movement and we have arrived, I think, at an acceptable solution.
We have three to go. Those relate to seven of the 126 clauses of the Bill. It is important to remind ourselves that we are arguing only about seven of 126 clauses. If we continue the argument in the spirit that the Home Secretary exhibited this evening, we are likely to arrive at a resolution.
I want to dwell on the logic that the Home Secretary was exposing and to try to demonstrate why Conservative Members are still unconvinced, but before I do so I should say that his offer to move towards the application of a proportionality test is taken in the spirit in which it was clearly intended: as a serious and constructive move. We will need to study whatever amendment is tabled to that effect in the Lords. There are present in the Lords people of great legal learning who will no doubt be able to advise that House and us about whether it will indeed have sufficient protective effects to make it an acceptable variant. If it is, we will accept it. We do not wish to press the Government to the point of breaking if we can avoid doing so.
It will help materially in advancing that debate if I expose as clearly as I canmany speaking in interventions have already begun to do soexactly why we are unconvinced by the Home Secretary's logic. We absolutely accept that there are links between terrorism and other forms of crime. The Home Secretary has rightly quoted my right hon. Friend the Leader of the
Moreover, we acceptalthough this is not a point that the Home Secretary has made, it would be a legitimate onethat from time to time, the Al Capone strategy may be sensible. It may be sensible to apprehend a terrorist, a suspected terrorist or someone suspected of links to terrorism on the basis of some minor charge discovered by ferreting out some other aspect of that person's activities, even where it is not possible to prove that they are linked to terrorism. It may be possible to prove that they have engaged in some other minor felony. We accept a chain of logic that runs from the suspicion by the authorities that someone is in some way linked to terrorism to the disclosure of a wide range of information from 81 different agencies and quangos to the authorities about that person. Exceptional strains and risks demand exceptional measures.
The Lords amendments work on exactly that logic. As my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney) pointed out, the Lords amendmentsI take the example of amendment No. 6 but many others are to the same purposesay specifically that if the authorities believe or suspect that the disclosure may be of information that directly or indirectly relates to a risk to national security, the floodgates are open. They do not need to believe it. They need only to suspect it. They do not require the suspicion to be reasonable. They merely have to suspect it. They do not need to suspect that the person is a terrorist. They do not even need to suspect that the person is directly linked to terrorism. They merely need to suspect that the person is indirectly linked to terrorism. That is about as wide as their lordships could have cast the net.
I still fail to understand what must be genuine logic on the part of the Home Secretary's advisers, otherwise I cannot imagine why he would be going to an awful lot of fuss and bother to defend the proposition. I genuinely cannot understand how, if the trigger for opening the doors to such massive disclosure is merely the necessity that the authorities suspect an indirect link to terrorism, there can be any real restriction on their activities.
Denzil Davies (Llanelli): I have some sympathy with what the hon. Gentleman is arguing, but in all fairness the Home Secretary asked a question towards the end of his speech, I think in relation to amendment No. 6 and the word "suspect". It may be difficult, or so the argument goes, for a public authority that is not involved in the murky world of pursuing terrorists and suspected terrorists. That public authority may not have any information at all on the basis of which to suspect anything. Is that not the problem that the Home Secretary was trying to point out?
Mr. Letwin: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, with whom I have had many arguments about constitutional points; we have mainly been on the same side. He needs to look at the next passage of amendment No. 6. It does not require the authority that holds the
I do not make that argument in an attempt to create a confrontation where one may no longer exist. If the Home Secretary, regardless of the validity or otherwise of his logic, can produce a proportionality test that fully convinces their lordships and ourselves that no individual will suffer a trawling exercise by the authorities when he or she is being pursued for a minor offence, possibly committed in another country, we may be willing to accept the clausedespite not understanding the logic. However, it would be helpful if between now and tomorrow the Government could for the first time explain why the logic that I have just exposed is not fallacious.
The Home Secretary made the argument that the amendments made by the Lords to part 10 would have the effect of restricting the powers of the Ministry of Defence and British Transport police more than was the case before the Bill was introduced. If that is so, it is unintentional and I accept that it is not something that we wish to legislate to do at present. I hope that over the next 24 or 36 hours we will find a solution to that problem.
The Home Secretary did not rehearse the history, which is well known to him, of how we came to this set of amendments on part 13. I shall briefly rehearse it, in order to explain our current position. We began with a proposition that any decision reached at intergovernmental level on criminal justice under the framework of the third pillar of the EU could be enacted in British law through an order subject to a 90-minute debate in Committee. The Home Secretary is right to say that I have argued in public that that could have meant that the European arrest warrant was adopted by those means. I have always tried to acknowledge that the Home Secretary gave us an assurance that the European arrest warrant would not suffer that fate, because it would be introduced in the extradition Bill. What concerned my colleagues and me was that the Home Secretary would have taken a reserve power under this Bill and, if we were to seekas we willto amend the extradition Bill to restrict greatly the scope of the European arrest warrant, he could have told us that we were being naive because he had that reserve power to enact it in a 90-minute debate and that, if necessary, he would use it. That position would have been intolerable. Luckily, the Attorney- General has now given an assurance from the Dispatch Box in the House of Lordswhich is as binding and solemn an assurance as one can get from the Governmentthat that will not happen. As the Home Secretary said, clauses 110 and 111as they appeared in the Lordshave been limited to June 2002 and our fears about the future are removed. That is a major step forward.
Since that time, the Government have introduced amendments to Lords amendment No. 48 that would have the odd effect of reintroducing, in paragraphs (d) and (e), the convention on mutual assistance and certain of the Schengen acquis provisions. I was not sure that I fully grasped the full implications of the Home Secretary's