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Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed): Does the Home Secretary not understand the consequences of the argument that he is adducing? Precisely because, on every future occasion, there will be pressures for other legislation, Ministers will say that it appears, on reflection, that such legislation should be put through very quickly and perhaps not in the form that we would like. The many other competing claims might mean that we do not return to a certain Bill, and that might be one reason why we have had defective Official Secrets Acts for so long.
Mr. Blunkett: That argument does not damage my point. The Leader of the House is endeavouring to allow sufficient time for us to debate the issues that hon. Members wish to address while using parliamentary procedures and timetables that bear some relation to what people outside expect. As I have said several times, I am in favour of timetabling every Bill because that benefits constituents. There is an interesting anomaly, and the
We should pause and reflect on the fact that the Bill may be long, but we have tried to get the wording right and to replicate the provisions for Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is on the intent of the Bill that we should be agreeing or disagreeing, not on whether bits of it, with the exception of one clause, should have to return to the House to be put through as a substantive parent measure just because people are irritated about the speed with which we are operating. It is on that basis that I ask the Committee to reject new clauses 6, 7 and 8.
Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): I begin by agreeing with the Home Secretary's decision to accept the proposal by the Select Committee on Home Affairs, as contained in amendment No. 53, to give a sunset maximum life of five years to part 4, which contains the most controversial measuredetention without trial. Of course that is welcome.
It is also welcome that the Home Secretary has said that there should be a reporting back procedure on those measures that relate to terrorism, which is in line with the recommendation of the Select Committee and new clauses 7 and 8. This is my first chance to say in public how glad we are that he has appointed our noble Friend Lord Carlile of Berriew, a former Member of this House, to be the new reviewer of terrorist legislation. That job was created by the Terrorism Act 2000 and will be extended to this legislation.
Although those measures are welcome, there are others on which the Home Secretary needs persuading. I intend to do that by persuading him on their merits, the tactic that he says works best. He does not understand the nature of the case put by the hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith). The issue is one of principle. Parliament is being asked to have unusual timetables and exceptional measures of procedure, and the House of Commons is to spend a total of three days on a Bill. The timetable has not been agreed with the parties. With the exception of the clause on bribery and corruption, which the Government asked the Opposition parties to accept, the proposals have not been agreed in detail; yet they are trying to use emergency procedures, as evidenced by Monday's vote on a guillotine motion that gave us today and next Monday to debate the Bill's substance. In such a case, legislation should always come back to Parliament. It is not a case of whether it is controversial. The principle is that Parliament must hold the Government to account.
Mr. Blunkett: Why then does the hon. Gentleman not accord that principle to the clause that was agreed? We agreed to many clauses in our discussions, although they did form part of a bigger Bill. If I introduced them one by one and suggested that they were, as they are, emergency provisions, and if the parties agreed to them, would they add up to the same clause on bribery and corruption as he is prepared to accept?
Mr. Blunkett: If you accuse me of misleading the House, I have the right to make the clear point that over the past three weeks we did not bring clauses singly to the partiesexcept for the bribery and corruption clause, which was drafted after the substantive clauses had been presented to the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrat party in substantial form. You might not like the form in which they were presented, but they were presented. I object strongly to the suggestion that I misled the House
The Chairman: Order. I have not suggested anything about the Secretary of State. I let the matter go because the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) spoke in the conditional tense. I do not think that he was aiming a direct slur at the Home Secretary.
We have not agreed to the detail of the rest of the Bill; therefore it must come back to Parliament if we are to have an emergency procedure. That applies generally and in particular to the more controversial provisions, especially the powers of the state. The Government have introduced the Bill to give the state more power. In that respect, it is important that Parliament should have the opportunity to scrutinise the legislation. We propose that there should be a five-year period for the uncontroversial matters to return to us, a two-year period for the relatively controversial matters of police powers and European legislation, and a one-year period for detention without trial, which is four years earlier than the Select Committee wanted. That is a considered proposal to ensure that everything that has not been agreed returns.
Mr. Gummer: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that when there is such full-hearted agreement in the immediate aftermath of a disaster or terrorist outrage, experience teaches us that that is when we may well make mistakes? When the Home Secretary suggests that everyone agrees to this legislation so there is no need to return to it, the experience of everything from the Dangerous Dogs Bill to any other emergency legislation teaches us that when we all agree we soon find out that we should have disagreed.