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Procedure for making certain amending orders

Lords amendment: No. 1, page 5, line 24, leave out
"further order states that the Treasury"

and insert "Treasury reasonably".

Beverley Hughes: I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Madam Deputy Speaker: With this we may discuss Lords amendments Nos. 2 to 4, 24 to 37 and 67 to 70.

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I ask hon. Members who are leaving the Chamber to do so as quickly as possible.

Simon Hughes: We have reached the part of our debate that proves that some aspects of the Bill are non- controversial. I can help colleagues from all parties by saying that my hon. Friends and I do not intend to divide the House again tonight. I hope that that encourages those who do not feel obliged to stay for the remaining few minutes that have been allocated to our discussion.

Mr. Letwin: In a spirit of cross-party amity, we do not intend to divide the House if that permits the Whips to let people go home.

Simon Hughes: That leaves only two options: Labour or Conservative Back Benchers or our friends from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland will press the button. However, I sense that we may be reserving the contest for tomorrow.

I want to raise three points on the amendments. They have evidently been put through the Lords with agreement, and there is therefore no attempt to reject them in the Commons.

Lords amendments Nos. 33 to 35 relate to the nuclear industry, and raise some important issues that we had barely a moment to discuss earlier. Lords amendment No. 33 covers the regulation of security of the civil nuclear industry. [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. If hon. Members want to hold conversations, perhaps they should leave the Chamber.

Simon Hughes: The Government have not had the chance to explain, in the context of their justification of part 8 of the Bill, how they reconcile clause 78, which allows the Secretary of State to

which is unarguable, and clause 80—which is the subject of Lords amendments Nos. 34 and 35—with their freedom of information legislation intentions.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) proposed, during our brief Report stage, that we ought to be able to know where nuclear waste and nuclear materials were travelling throughout the country. We would argue strongly that the reason for that is to reduce—and not increase—fear, suspicion and concern. Can we have some reassurance, either tonight or tomorrow, on those two clauses, by way of further amendments, that freedom of information will apply in relation to these matters in the Bill that we have not had the opportunity to raise before?

Norman Baker: Is not the issue that the Government are reducing the amount of information being given on the transportation of nuclear material? I understand that specific movements must, of course, be kept secret, but the generality must be available for public discussion. Would it not be more sensible if the Government, for reasons of security and to deter terrorism, sought to reduce the number of nuclear movements? At the moment, they are increasing.

Simon Hughes: That seems a logical addition to what I was seeking to persuade Ministers of. I hope that they

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will offer an explanation that such measures are behind some of the amendments or, if not, that further amendments are possible.

Of course it is important that the nuclear industry is secure, and the Liberal Democrats have supported, in general terms, the sections of the Bill that deal with weapons of mass destruction, security of pathogens and toxins, and security of the nuclear industry. We believe that their inclusion is appropriate.

Lords amendment No. 37 relates to clause 88, in part 9, which deals with aviation security. It would insert a new clause that would allow powers originally incorporated in the Civil Aviation Act 1982 and the Aviation Security Act 1982 to apply outside the United Kingdom. Conservative Members have often raised the issue, perfectly properly, of when it is appropriate to enact extra-territorial legislation.

We are clear that improving aviation security is a right and proper part of the Bill, but we are disturbed that we have barely been able to debate the matter. Colleagues with airports in their constituencies, and other hon. Members, would have liked such an opportunity. My hon. Friend's proposal for a sunset provision on the issue has strength, because it would give us the chance to do that. On Lords amendment No. 37, will the Minister tell us why our courts need extra-territorial jurisdiction only in relation to these matters, and not to others?

The non-controversial matters in the Bill will be concluded tonight, because they have come from the Lords to us, and if we agree with them, that is the end of that business; they will not go back to the other place. There are, obviously, matters on which we have taken a different view from the Lords, and those matters will go back tomorrow.

The hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) and I have said that we shall collaborate and participate in discussions to get maximum agreement. The House of Lords has no time limit on its debates tomorrow, so it can give those issues more consideration than we have been able to give. I hope that, as it does so, the Government respond to our concerns—we want this to be the last time that we have to raise them—and to concerns expressed at the other end of the building.

Norman Baker: Does my hon. Friend share my concern that the Lords may make radical amendments that address concerns expressed in this Chamber and that we shall have only an hour in which to discuss them?

Simon Hughes: That is certainly true. You, Madam Deputy Speaker, will be aware that the business motion passed just after 3.30 pm, although it was opposed by my colleagues, Conservative Members and others, gives us an hour to deal with everything that comes back. We object to that, as an hour is not enough and we have no idea how many amendments there will be.

I tell the Minister that we are willing to be constructive, but we are absolutely clear about the fact that we will have the parliamentary opportunities at both ends of the building to require the Government to come back with alternatives that meet the principles involved. These matters are being debated at this stage in only 15 minutes, and they can be discussed in less time at earlier stages, so if ever there was an argument for being able to limit the Bill and for having it back for proper review, that is it.

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We expect a proper review. We also hope that the Minister will respond constructively to the specific points raised tonight and that, tomorrow, the Government accept that such legislation should last for a limited time. That will enable us to do our job properly, however soon the Government want to give us the opportunity.

Mr. Hogg: I must briefly comment on Lords amendments Nos. 1 to 4. The House will have noticed that they are detailed, but as we had no opportunity for proper debate in Committee, we could not consider their desirability. The fact that the other place introduced four important amendments on the reviewability of the statutory order procedure suggests how unwise the House is to enact this Bill rapidly.

The truth is that if the other place had needed to, it could, with difficulty, have found more time. We could not, and there are many aspects that we would wish to have debated more fully. Had we done so, we would have been in the business of introducing detailed measures designed to reinforce civil liberties. We have been denied that opportunity and the other place has had insufficient time, but the fact that the four amendments were introduced and accepted demonstrates the lack of wisdom shown by the Government in this regard.

Simon Hughes: The right hon. and learned Gentleman may not have added up the figures, but by my calculation the Government did not disagree on 40 uncontroversial amendments from the other place, although they disagreed on 10 substantive amendments. Many involve matters that were never debated here, which confirms his point and argues strongly that we must not go down this road again.

Mr. Hogg: Absolutely. As you will recall, Madam Deputy Speaker, scores of clauses passed through this House undiscussed. That is not a proper way in which to legislate. Even the non-controversial clauses demonstrate the force of what I am saying.

Mr. Letwin: I do not want to say much about the amendments, which are uncontroversial, except to seek an assurance from the Minister that the Government know what they are doing in accepting the removal of white pox from the list of viruses. I do not mean to be impolite, but some of my hon. Friends asked me why it is being done. I must admit that I do not understand why, though there may be a perfectly good explanation.

I thank the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes), with whom we have co-operated long and hard, as much has been achieved. I also thank the Government for their co-operation in removing much that was offensive. I echo his sentiment that, as tomorrow progresses—and it may become tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow—we must not merely briefly debate, if I may use that term without abusing it, and then vote on whatever comes to us from the Lords, but, much more importantly, continue a dialogue over what may be many hours to resolve issues that remain outstanding.

The Home Secretary was right: if we fail, the country will look askance. If we succeed by giving too much, neither the Government nor the country will benefit.

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It is a delicate balance. We must achieve resolutions that genuinely protect civil liberties; we must ensure that what passes into law is a Bill about terrorism rather than a Bill about other matters, and a Bill that is workable rather than a Bill that causes trouble for the Government as for others. If we can achieve those goals, our discussions today—and discussions that I suspect will take place at much later hours tomorrow—will have been worthwhile.

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