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"Detailed provision is made in Schedule 3 for the content of freezing orders, including a system for the granting of licences authorising funds to be made available. Orders made under the Act are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure...and they cease to have effect after two years... To a large degree, the power to make freezing orders under this Act enables the Treasury to do what paras 1(d) and 2(d) of SCR 1373(2001) require. But it is more precisely worded, and it contains various safeguards."
Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. Could I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are talking about the allocation of time? I am sure that there will be an opportunity for him to develop those arguments later.
Mr. Heath: But, Madam Deputy Speaker, my point is precisely about the allocation of time, because it is precisely about the justification for the fast-track procedure that is stated quite clearly in the explanatory memorandum. The case for the fast-track procedure is that no other legislation is in place, yet Lord Hope in the Supreme Court makes it abundantly clear that other legislation is in place. He says:
"Yet the Treasury have, it seems, chosen not to make use of the powers given to them by this Act, preferring to use the general power under section 1 of the 1946 Act."
"In my opinion the rule of law requires that the actions of the Treasury in this context be subjected to judicial scrutiny."
That is a powerful judgment that fatally undermines the Government's case that no other legislation will enable them to safeguard the national interest. They simply choose not to use what is already in place.
Lembit Öpik: Is my hon. Friend effectively saying that, when faced with the inconvenience of checks and balances on human rights, this Government prefer to declare an emergency, have a debate and try to sweep them away-in rather the same way that they had three goes at banning Brian Haw, who still happens to live in Parliament square?
Mr. Heath: My hon. Friend is absolutely right; he has got it in one. That is why the allocation of time motion is before us today. There is one abhorrent point in it, incidentally. Given the difficulties inherent in such legislation, and the Supreme Court's judgment, I find it extraordinary that, if another place makes suggestions to us about how the legislation might be improved, all those amendments will be dealt with in one hour by this House. These matters strike at the fundamental liberties of citizens: by Executive decision, their assets can be frozen on the basis of suspicion. This House would not be doing its job properly if it were to accept that.
At the end of the day, the legislation is before us because the Government have been found to be acting ultra vires and failing to secure proper parliamentary approval. Other Commonwealth jurisdictions have had no problem in that respect: the Australian and New Zealand Governments had no problem in going back to their Parliaments and asking for their approval properly. However, the arrogance of this Government and, in particular, the Treasury means that they do not understand what Parliament is for, and they do not understand the proper scrutiny of Bills. That is why the motion is before us today, and I invite my right hon. and hon. colleagues to vote against it.
First, I accept that we will have to enact the Bill today. Leaving aside the fact that the Government have a majority, the truth is that the Bill has to go through because we are where we are, but the Government's conduct in this matter is wholly lamentable, and within the rules of order I wish to spell out why. First, the timetable provides for very brief discussion. All stages of this Bill have to be finished by 10 o'clock tonight. The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) made a good point about the Lords amendments as they are provided for in the timetable motion. Given that the Bill was published at the end of last week, those in the other place will have a little more time to reflect on what has happened, and I have no doubt that they will come forward with amendments. However, this House will be given only one hour to consider those amendments. That is wholly lamentable.
Lembit Öpik: Does it strike the right hon. and learned Gentleman as ironic that the Government want to rush this through in such a way that they could build in further failings in the legislation, which could be prevented if we had proper scrutiny? Once again, they are legislating in haste and allowing themselves the risk of repenting at leisure.
Mr. Hogg: Yes, I agree with that. Nor is it necessary, because the provisions of the Bill-I will not expand on those at the moment, Madam Deputy Speaker-enable previous Acts to be validated and declared legal, so we could take a more leisurely approach in the knowledge that if the banks refused to transfer money, they would be protected by the language of the statute that we will pass in due course.
The truth is that this House has had almost negligible time for consideration. The Bill was published on 5 February. It puts into primary legislation the language of the statutory instrument that attracted such serious criticism in the Supreme Court. Lord Hope said, in terms, that it was an affront to democracy-that it struck at the heart of democracy-and this House is being asked to echo those provisions by the end of today's business. That is a scandal. It is no surprise, either, that Lord Hope should have been so concerned, because the freezing provisions in the 2006 order are very wide in their impact. Furthermore, the designation procedures whereby individuals are designated as persons caught by the provisions are not subject to any proper review. Anybody who supposes that judicial review is a proper remedy in this class of case is making a very serious mistake. Speaking of mistakes, the penalty for infringing the offences in the legislation that we will pass in three hours or so is seven years' imprisonment, which is a very serious tariff.
One of the problems inherent in the timetable motion is the fact that right hon. and hon. Members have not had a chance to consider amendments. The Bill was published on 5 February-last Friday-and today is Monday. Sensible people do not set about drafting amendments until they have had an opportunity to consult. There can have been no consultations; it is therefore not surprising that there are so few amendments. What is more, none of the amendments deals with the central issue-whether there should be a proper judicial review or appeal process as to the scope of freezing
orders or as to designation. That is not because such amendments are not required or justified in law-clearly, the Supreme Court was looking for precisely that class of amendment-but rather because this thing has been so rushed that right hon. and hon. Members have not had an opportunity to formulate them. That shows how dangerous this timetable motion is.
The Minister said, "Well, of course, until the last moment we were confident of winning in another place." That is a lamentable approach to the matter. First, the issues were very grave and required primary legislation. Secondly, as I said in my intervention on the Minister-if she would be good enough to listen-Lord Newton of Braintree, who has had huge ministerial and other experience in this place and elsewhere, headed a committee that said, in terms, that legislation of this class should be primary legislation. That view was repeated in 2004 by the Joint Committee on Human Rights. Let nobody say that the Government have been caught by surprise. They have known for a long time.
Furthermore, the litigation that gave rise to the Supreme Court judgment began in 2008, entered the Court of Appeal in October 2008 and reached the Supreme Court in October 2009. There was ample time to introduce primary legislation, or at least draft proposals, that could be consulted on among those with an interest in the matter. That was all the more necessary and important because the principal legislation involved is secondary legislation that never went through the parliamentary process. The measures had no Committee stage, Second Reading or Report, yet they will enable the Treasury on "reasonable suspicion" to designate a person, leaving them unable to deal with their financial affairs.
That is lamentable. The timetable motion will pass, I know, and the Bill will pass into the other place. In view of the timetable motion, I suspect that it will be largely unchanged when it returns. True, it has a sunset clause, but that expires at the end of this year, so for nearly 12 months, potentially unjust legislation will be on the statute book. That is the fault of this Government-arrogant, uncaring, undemocratic and smug. Happily, the general election is coming soon.
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: I have listened with interest to hon. Members' contributions on the motion. The main thrust of the arguments can be made on Second Reading and during debate on the clauses; I just want to put a couple of points on the record.
Our terrorist freezing Orders in Council were made in good faith. The Court of Appeal agreed with the Government on the matter in October 2008. I point out that one of the Supreme Court judges, Lord Brown, in the minority, considered that the United Nations Act 1946 gave the Treasury wide enough powers to draft the Al-Qaida and Taliban (United Nations Measures) Order 2006 as it did.
I emphasise that the Bill will establish a temporary measure. We have published a longer Bill intended to undergo proper scrutiny; I am sure that one of the arguments that we will have this evening involves how much time people consider is enough for proper scrutiny.
I hesitate to contradict the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath), who speaks for the Liberal Democrats, but the powers under the Anti-terrorism,
Crime and Security Act 2001 are not comparable. They can be used only against threats emanating from outside the UK, not domestic threats such as UK-based terrorists. With that, I hope that I can persuade him not to oppose the motion, which I commend to the House.
The whole House would wish that today's provisions were not required, yet we are realists, and we know that the real world demands action of the kind proposed in the Bill. Terrorism continues to pose a threat to the United Kingdom. Indeed, the Home Secretary recently apprised the House of the fact that the terrorist threat is now judged as severe-in other words, highly likely at any time.
As hon. Members know, terrorist organisations, including al-Qaeda, have executed or planned a succession of attacks with the aim of causing mass casualties. Many of our constituents have been affected or caught up or murdered. Yet the economics of that threat are frighteningly simple. The cost of a terrorist attack is low, yet its impact is devastating. The attacks on London on 7 July 2005, for example, cost the perpetrators just £8,000, yet the price paid by the British people was immeasurably greater.
For that reason, we seek to fight back with every appropriate weapon, which must include control of finance, assets and cash. Without resources, terror networks are unable to plan, organise or execute attacks, for which reason the United Nations requires that all states:
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