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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: There is no suggestion by my noble friend or anybody else that the Bill should cease to have effect before Parliament takes any action. I am sure that what was intended by my noble friend, and indeed all other noble Lords who spoke, was that Parliament should take action before the three months elapsed, not that there should be any interregnum.
Earl Russell: I am a little puzzled by the argument of the noble Baroness. Is she telling us that the Government had time to put together a Bill between last Thursday and today but would not have enough time to put one together in the next three months?
Baroness Blatch: We have responded very quickly, and I believe effectively, to a particular situation. We have brought this Bill before the House for consideration today. It has been given consideration in another place. This Committee is being invited to accept it today. It is suggested that we may find another, perhaps hurried, period between now and three months' hence when we may have another Bill on the statute book, which perhaps will simply confirm these powers, when we will not even have the experience of policemen as to how these powers have worked in operation. I do not accept that it would be right to do that.
I say that against the background that the Prevention of Terrorism Act--of which this Bill will be part--more than any other Act of Parliament in history is constantly monitored. It has an independent reviewer who makes a full report to Parliament on an annual basis. He looks at files, interviews people and inspects all of the practical operations and the way in which the Act of Parliament is used. He makes a recommendation to Parliament on an annual basis. Alongside that, we think it right that Parliament should give thought to what would happen if there was a cessation of hostilities in Ireland but nevertheless we had to face the real possibility raised by the noble Lord, Lord Annan, the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, and my noble friend Baroness Cox (in previous amendments this afternoon), that terrorism in one form or another would be with us. It is right that the work now being undertaken by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, should consider this new scenario. What happens when the present hostilities cease? Will there be a place for a permanent Prevention of Terrorism Act on the statute book?
As I said in respect of the last amendment, Section 27 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, of which this measure will be a part, gives the Secretary of State power to revoke any part or all of the Act if he believes that there is a case for so doing. I believe that he has taken the best possible advice that he can. In response to the police saying that they need these powers, he has asked Parliament for them. He has asked for those powers speedily, because he believes it is right that the police should have these powers as soon as possible. Full all-party discussions have taken place. The shadow Home Secretary, Mr. Jack Straw, has agreed not only that the powers should be accepted but the speed at which the Bill is being taken through Parliament.
I make no excuses for saying that I do not believe this amendment, or any alternative suggestion, should be accepted. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Annan, said that temporary legislation tended to last for ever. This is rather different, in that there is a formal
The noble Earl, Lord Russell, asked me what the Bill added. Perhaps slightly disingenuously, he does not accept that I gave a fairly full description of each of the clauses of the Bill. I explained where they added to existing powers. They are extensions of existing powers. I also explained that some clauses of the Bill cleared up uncertainties in the present law, and it was important that this matter should be statutorily underpinned.
Baroness Blatch: This matter is about whether or not the Bill should lapse in three months' time. That is the point that I address at the moment. Nevertheless, I shall answer the noble Earl's question. We have agreed that there should be 5,000 extra policemen. The first tranche has been dealt with in this year's expenditure round. This pledge was made over a three-year period. It is our intention that over a three-year period there will be funding for 5,000 extra policemen.
As the proposers of the amendment appear to believe, the Bill is not a radically new approach to the problems of terrorism. It builds on the existing powers and provides further practical and sensible measures. We do not believe that it warrants such excessive caution that it should lapse in three months' time and another Bill should be hurriedly prepared in its stead. I believe that we should allow the normal processes to apply, pass the Bill today, await the proper monitoring exercise and report to Parliament in a year's time.
Earl Russell: I must apologise to the Minister if she thought I was being disingenuous. I shall, naturally, read extremely carefully what she said on Second Reading. It is not possible, in a technical matter of this sort, to take in every word the first time one hears it. No doubt, in a perfect world, one might be able to. If I failed, I apologise.
However, I am not satisfied by the Minister's reply to me on the other point about the drafting of the Bill. She said that she did not see what could be different in three months. What could be different is that we could have a parliamentary input into the drafting of the legislation. That seems to me to be important.
The Minister said "we", and by "we" she appeared to mean the Home Office--I hope that she will correct me if I am wrong--would not have had time to do the monitoring and would not have been able to think of a better version. But is it not possible that in any clause or subsection of the Bill all the accumulated wisdom of this place might not think of a better wording than that of the Government? I find that a strange suggestion. My right honourable friend Mr. Beith said yesterday in
Baroness Blatch: Perhaps I may come back on that point. I do not believe that I said, although I, too, will have to read what I did say in Hansard tomorrow, that we would not have time. When I say "we" I mean the Government. I speak for the Government on this matter. I merely said that if the Bill, according to the amendment, is to lapse in three months' time, then work to determine what should follow it, if anything, would have to start immediately. These provisions will only go on the statute book today. Therefore there will be no experience of the operation of the measures to give us any feel of how they should be modified, removed, or added to. That is the point I was making.
The noble Earl talked of government by decree. When my right honourable friend took the view, and gained the agreement of the whole Cabinet, that these provisions should be asked for of Parliament he made it his business, as I said, without any delay, to involve all of the parties in that process. As the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said earlier, it is better that there should be an all-party approach to legislation of this kind. We could not have resorted to the procedure without the acquiesence of the Official Opposition. That was necessary. Without it, we could not have proceeded in this way. We could not have used this process to bring the Bill before Parliament.
It was my right honourable friend's intention to bring before Parliament a Bill containing these powers. But we may have had to resort to other measures to do so. The honourable Member, the shadow Home Secretary in another place, did not just accept the case for the measures; he accepted the need for speed. It was because he agreed with that that we are today dealing with the Bill in this way. Therefore it is not government by decree. I find that a disparaging remark about a Home Secretary responding to what I believe was a request by the police who are at the front line of fighting terrorism on behalf of us all.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: This has been an interesting debate, and, I believe, probably a useful one. I thank all noble Lords who spoke to the amendment and who have given me support, sympathy, qualified sympathy, qualified support, or what have you. I shall not attempt to reply to all the points made; they were all extremely useful. However, I should like to comment on the remarks made by the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, who paid me the compliment of saying that he usually agrees with me. Perhaps I can return it and say that I usually agree with him. That means that there are two great minds operating in this place at present. However, I do not believe that he was here for the Second Reading debate. I want to make clear what I said then, because it is important that he and the Committee know that I support the measures contained in the Bill but not the way the Bill is being put through Parliament.
My noble friend Lord McIntosh reminded us of previous Bills which have gone through this place in haste and which have been repented at leisure. He mentioned the Dangerous Dogs Bill. The one that comes to my mind introduced unit fines. We found ourselves fining burglars £40 and fining people who parked on double yellow lines £500. That is why the strictures of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, should be taken into account.
I fully expected the Minister to reject the amendment. I did not think she would reject it so unsympathetically. I was proposing not merely that the Bill should lapse. I began my remarks by saying that we would expect another Bill to come to this place immediately after the Whitsun Recess. That would have given this place three months to consider properly and fully the important measures that are being proposed. That would be much more preferable than pushing through both Houses in a couple of days measures which cannot be properly considered.
I greatly regret that the Government will not take on board some of the suggestions made, particularly those of the noble Lords, Lord Jenkins and Lord Rodgers, giving a much longer time than my three months which I appreciate may be a little short. The Government have not accepted in any way that there can be room for further consideration and discussion. That I greatly regret.
As I said, I understand the need for the legislation. I am only sorry that the Government will not give on parliamentary discussion and the rights of Parliament to ensure that legislation of this sort is considered properly. Having said that, I am not intending to press the amendment. I thank the Committee for discussing it seriously and in depth. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.