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Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I had not considered the issue of St Andrew's Day at all until now, but I am persuaded that we should not adopt the idea that 30 November is sacrosanct. For all the reasons adduced by my noble friend Lady Hayman, it is appropriate that we consider 31 March. For that reason, we should have an adequate opportunity to consider the effect of the Bill. I am very chary about certain aspects of it, but I may be wrong. But it is absolutely vital that at least we have a report from the review committee before us and can consider the effect of the position taken by people outside the Houses of Parliament.
I was very disappointed when my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor said that the idea of the sunset clause was not acceptable to the Government. I beg of them to think again about the matter. It is not as though we are considering a perfect Bill; in many ways, it is imperfect. I am prepared to give the Government the benefit of the doubt, but there must be a provision that we consider the legislation again not on 30 November, which for reasons that I have already explained I believe is entirely appropriate, but on 31 March next year, which would be wholly appropriate.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, the Government are trying to have it both ways. I was in the other place yesterday, when I heard people on the government Front Bench repeat the argument that no sunset clause was needed at all and in the same breath say that if there were to be a sunset clause, the end of November would be too soon. As far as I can see, this Bill was put together in about two months. It is precisely because it was so hurriedalthough I understand the reasons for thatand precisely because it has such huge constitutional import, that we are saying that a total review is necessary and therefore a sunset clause is necessary.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, made a good case for offering the Government an extended period for the sunset clause. That is a mark of good faith. But for the Government to go on saying that a sunset clause is not needed when this huge ramshackle Bill was put together in only two months seems to me a contradiction.
Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, not for the first time, I find myself in almost total agreement with the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman. Because she put her case so clearly and because my noble friend Lord Forsyth made many of the points that I wished to make about the Prime Minister's stance, I can be very brief.
I sat in another place yesterday to hear the debate and I heard my right honourable friend David Davis say that if the Government came back and said that there would be a review after 12 months, he would not object. I also heard my right honourable friend Kenneth Clarke remind the House that David Davis had been generous in saying that there had been eight
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days to debate this Bill, as in the House of Commons there were only three hours and the first hour and 10 minutes of those three hours was taken up by a speech from the Home Secretary. This was a completely new Bill for the Commons. It has been amended again, and when it leaves this House it will again be very different. So we can be certain that this is a deeply flawed piece of legislation.
Therefore, for all the reasons set out so eloquently by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, we clearly do need a sunset clause, and the procedures of a 12-monthly review are wholly inadequate. All we need from the Government is to say, "Okay, we accept a sunset clause", and all the other disagreements can be put aside and we can get on with the legislation and deal with terrorism. There is a consensus in the House on so many of the issues and I believe that we can find a consensus on the time needed.
There are clearly doubts among a number of noble Lords that the November deadline is adequate. In the light of the remarks made by my right honourable friend David Davis in another place and what has been said today I suggest to my noble friends on the Front Bench that we should seek a consensus on the issue, accept the case put by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and go for a sunset clause that ends on 31 March.
The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, during the foot and mouth disease outbreak we used to say how sensible and well the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, presented her case. After about the third time she got frightfully ratty at the Dispatch Box and said that she was fed up with compliments from Members on our side of the House.
On this occasion I risk inciting her ire yet again. I hope that my noble friends on the Front Bench will accept what she had to say. It is perfectly reasonable, although I dislike vast chunks of the Bill even as it stands, for it to be extended for another four months, which is not that much.
The noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, was so near to arguing for a sunset clause. She was saying that we are going to have something in place. That is why a sunset clause becomes possible. What happens if for some reason either this House or the other place decides not to renew the Bill under annual renewal? The Government would be in a worse position than they are now with Part 4 and Belmarsh. I strongly suggest that we support the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, which shows that it is an all-party matter and not just a Conservative matter to score party political points.
Baroness Wall of New Barnet: My Lords, I am sure that noble Lords opposite who have any involvement in business will know that in a partnership relationship
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in any business wherever we have an agreement we have a review clause. We do not renegotiate the whole of the agreement but we look at the consequences of the agreement into which we have entered and we review the effects.
I find it bewildering. I am talking to people who have a great deal of experience, which is mostly judicial; people who, I am sure, when it comes to legal matters, are extremely important. But in reality we are dealing with an issue that can be reviewed. There is already built into the Bill the opportunity to look at the orders on a yearly basis. I do not understand why there is a distinction between that and any other part of our lives.
Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: My Lords, I want to say to my noble friend Lady Wall that we are talking about something much more substantial in our lives than making a business contract. We are talking about fundamental rights and liberty; the stuff that this House particularly can speak to in the interests of all the citizens of this country.
In supporting the propositions of my noble friend Lady Hayman I want to say that I have heard over the past 24 hours aggressive adversarial comment that the Bill is about party machinations. That has not been my experience in talking with people in this HouseI cannot speak about elsewhere. I know that many people; particularly people who have spoken from the Labour Benches, are motivated by genuine concern about the quality of the Bill and the lack of time to discuss such important issues.
I would hate to see the issue being seen purely as to do with party positioning before an election. It is too important for that. In relation to my noble friend Lady Hayman's sensible propositions, because of the reservations about the Bill and because it is being presented as something to do with party politics, many people on the Labour Benches last night voted with the Government because they felt deeply uneasy about the fact that they were being accused of disloyalty. There was a sense that they were expected to vote for amendments coming from somewhere else that may have been motivated by party advantage.
On some issues we have to leave party aside. I strongly urge this House not to present these matters as opportunities for scoring points against the other side, but to discuss them in the interests of justice and liberty. Many people on these Benches feel alarmed about the Bill for good reason. The idea of a sunset clause weighs heavy on my heart because I think that the Bill should not be going through the House at all. I ask for a sunset clause only because it is a backstop so that we can reconsider such important issues at more leisure.
I say to all noble Lords: leave party aside for a moment and think about things that are about everyone's interestthe national interestand about liberty and principles that we have fought for in this country for so many years. I know that some Members on our Benches have deep unease about the Bill but also feel a great sense of loyalty to party. They would
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feel relieved if some kind of veil would come down to enable us to think again and to start with a blank sheet so that we get the legislation right.
Lord Joffe: My Lords, having practised as a human rights lawyer in South Africa at a time when house arrest and a range of other oppressive laws had been passed allowing the authorities arbitrarily to deprive citizens of the protection of the courts, I would like to speak briefly. I will make only one significant point on the sunset clause.
Those laws in South Africa were used indiscriminately: both against individuals of whom the Government had good reason to be suspicious; and against those who in criticising the Government were simply exercising their democratic right to freedom of speech. They resulted in great hardship and harm both to innocent people andperhaps even more importantlyto their spouses and children.
I do not for one moment compare the evil former South African Government with our own Government, many members of which in those days were ardent supporters of human rights in South Africa. However, sadly, in one respect our Government are using the same tactics as the South African Government used by insisting that the safety of the population is at risk unless the laws that they are seeking to rush through are urgently passed without proper consideration and deliberation.
In South Africa that unjustified urgency and implicit threat led to a spineless oppositionwith the exception of one courageous Member of Parliament, Helen Suzmanthat supported the appalling legislation, because they thought that they would be seen to be weak on terrorism. Fortunately, unlike the former South African opposition parties, the Opposition in this Parliament have behaved courageously and with integrity and a proper respect for the laws and traditions of this country despite the Government's efforts to portray them as weak on terrorism.
It makes no sense for the Government to suggest that a sunset clause would be an indication of weakness in the fight against terrorism. A sunset clause must surely be the rational response to the issues raised in the House. It gives the Government what they seek for enforcing the law until the clause becomes operative. It also gives the opportunity to those who oppose this legislation to ensure that proper and thoughtful legislation is crafted which will properly balance the requirement to defend the country against terrorism while ensuring that there is only the minimum diminution of the rights of individuals, through the protection of the courts.
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