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May I make a suggestion, Sir Michael? If in future you put the Question on a clause out of the marshalled-list order, so that there is a risk of our being taken unawares, will you be good enough to make that plain? I think that there has been a mistake, and that there will be some surprise about what has happened.
The Second Deputy Chairman: The right hon. and learned Gentleman is simply repeating a point that has already been made. I did not put the Question on clause 17 out of order. I explained clearly to the Committee what the vote would concern, and it was up to the Committee to listen. As I have said, we have already dealt with clause 17, and we must now move on.
Mr. Blunkett: I hope that whatever disagreement has taken place will not sour the serious debate that we are about to have. [Interruption.] It has taken us until 6.35 pm to embark on a substantive discussion of the detail of the Bill, and I appeal to Members to be prepared to engage in that discussion rather than continuing to grumble from a sedentary position about the decision that has just been made.
While evidence was being given to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, a number of issues were raised with me. I promised that I would think about them, and return to them in due course. One, which I mentioned on Monday, is the issue of the "reasonableness" clausethe provision requiring that a belief and suspicion must be reasonably held by the Home Secretary of the day in respect of judgments made by SIAC on the correctness of the certificate issued by the Home Secretary. I can confirm that we will table such a clause.
I am aware that a piece of paper circulating among some Members implies that the insertion of the "reasonableness" clause will be at the expense of what was already there, in terms of SIAC's powers to overturn the certificate. That is not correct. The "reasonableness" clause is as well as, not instead of, the current position, as it were. I think it important for people not to be misled.
Having heard the discussion in the Human Rights Committee and taken cognisance of approaches made by its chair, I think it only right to look again at some of the wording of the Bill, including clause 27(9). That subsection relates to links that someone may or may not have with a terrorist or a terrorist group. I think that the issue would be best addressed in the House of Lords, but I think we should make clear the connection someone would have to have with a particular group or groups. I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Bristol, East (Jean Corston), and for Redcar (Vera Baird), who made a point of drawing that to my attention. We are happy to examinewith our lawyershow we can clarify the position.
I must now apologise for referring to clause 27(9) in connection with links. I meant to refer to a different clause. Clause 27(9), in fact, gives rise to debate on the word "otherwise". I undertook to look at that wording too.
Mr. Blunkett: Having signed up to the convention, we are fully cognisant of it. I take the point, however, because there appears to have been some misunderstanding or at least misreporting of Lord Scott in relation to the interpretation of what is available to us and would be available to an appellant.
With regard to the word "otherwise", the human rights Committee feared that a certificate might be altered in circumstances other than those in which a certificate might be found to be technically at fault without the substance of the proposition being at fault. The Committee felt that SIAC should have the right to draw attention to the fact, and that it should be possible for the certificate to be drawn up again. Our lawyers believe that the formulation of that particular provision is correct. I have agreed to examine it and to take advice. Should it not be the case that what we intended is achieved, we will be prepared to look at the matter in the other place.
Mr. Robert Marshall-Andrews (Medway): I am sorry to take the Home Secretary back a little. I was rather taken by surprise by what he said in relation to Government amendment No. 70that it does not increase the test for SIAC. The amendment would leave out
Mr. Blunkett: The provision does not take away the power of SIAC. It clarifies the terms on which it would make its judgment, again within the provisions and terms agreed in the Rehman judgment. We referred to that at considerable length on Monday in terms of the evidential threshold and the process to be followed. It is on that basis and in response to the requests made to us that we wish to clarify what is described as the reasonableness test. I will stick to that. Having gone through the matter at considerable length, I am satisfied that we are improving, not worsening, the rights that are available and the clarity with which certificates will be dealt with by SIAC.
There has been much misunderstanding all round in relation to the operation of SIAC, including by those who have great experience in the court. A letter in The Daily TelegraphI am a great reader of The Daily Telegraph at the moment, which always enlightens me and sometimes infuriates mefrom Peter Carter-Ruck of Great Hallingbury, who I understand is a renowned libel lawyer, so I am very careful to say what I am saying in the House rather than outside, accuses me of seeking to set up a
Mr. Burnett: Does the Home Secretary think that, without impugning the present Lord Chancellor, the system of appointment would be more objective if appointments to SIAC were made by the Lord Chief Justice?
Mr. Blunkett: Appointments to a range of tribunals and appeals have been long established. On an emergency measure of this sort, to ask the Lord Chancellor to hand over to the Lord Chief Justice the appointments to the tribunals and commissions would be extraordinary, so I resist that.
Mr. Letwin: I am sorry, but I do not want to leave the point that was raised by the hon. and learned Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) because I think that I am now in some confusion. On Government amendment No. 70, which changes the position from one in which SIAC could agree or disagree with the belief to one in which it must judge whether there are reasonable grounds for the belief, does the Home Secretary believe that he has made it more or less difficult for SIAC to reject the Home Secretary's decision?
Mr. Letwin: We may end up by agreeing about the matter on reflection. As I understand it, it is a double mirror image. The Home Secretary, or his lawyers, may think that, by changing to reasonable groundsa move that we support and welcomethey have tightened the rule on what SIAC has to agree, but if all it is permitted to judge is whether there are reasonable grounds for the belief, the Home Secretary might make a decisionthis was the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews)with which it profoundly disagrees, but for which it admits he had some reasonable grounds. That is to enlarge the capacity of the Home Secretary and to diminish the capacity of SIAC.
Mr. Blunkett: Yes, but SIAC cancels the certificate if it believes that there are no reasonable grounds for believing that the person is a threat to the United Kingdom's national security, or suspecting that the person is an international terrorist. It is whether the grounds on which that certificate was issued are reasonable that is being inserted.