§ 11.33 a.m.
The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers)
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal I beg to move the Motion standing in his name on the Order Paper.
The purpose of the Motion is to enable the House to take all stages of the Prevention of Terrorism (Additional Powers) Bill today. As noble Lords will be aware, the Bill provides additional powers to the police for the prevention of terrorism. I am happy to say that the purpose of the Bill received considerable support in another place yesterday. There was a considerable measure of agreement that these powers should be granted as swiftly as possible. That being the case, I hope that your Lordships will be content to agree to this Motion without prolonged debate, reserving comment on the substance of the Bill for the proceedings on the Bill itself.
It may be for the convenience of the House if I indicate now that, at the conclusion of the Second Reading debate, it will be proposed that the House do adjourn during pleasure for 20 minutes to give noble Lords an opportunity to ensure that they have copies of the amendments which have been tabled and to ensure that the Committee stage can be begun in an orderly manner. I beg to move.
Moved, That, the Prevention of Terrorism (Additional Powers) Bill having been brought from the Commons, Standing Order 38 (Arrangement of the Order Paper) and Standing Order 44 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with to enable the Bill to he taken through all its stages this day before the Motions standing in the names of the Earl of Shrewsbury and the Lord St John of Bletso.— (Earl Ferrers.)
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, the Minister and the House will be aware that my friends in another place agreed to a comparable Motion there yesterday. I wish to make it clear from the outset that we, too, are not opposing the Business Motion before the House. I shall not seek to trespass in any way on the Second Reading debate and address the virtues or otherwise of the Bill itself, but I have to say, although we have agreed, and we shall not be opposing the Business Motion, that this is not a happy day for the House.
277 It can only be under the most exceptional circumstances that we agree to the curtailment of parliamentary debate in this way. Fortunately we are in no position to agree to the extent of curtailment of parliamentary debate that took place in another place yesterday, because there is no possibility—thank God!—of a Guillotine Motion in this House as there was in another place yesterday.
In the event, because of the Guillotine Motion, even the consideration of Clause 1 was not completed in Committee, and the other clauses—it is a substantial Bill of 12 pages—were concluded without debate being possible. That is not possible today. In fact your Lordships will recognise that the, perhaps feeble, attempts I have made to understand the full import of the issues in the Bill, and the feeble result in terms of amendments that I have been able to put down, are nothing like the consideration which the Bill deserves from your Lordships' House, and not merely from the Opposition Front Bench.
There should be much more considered debate of the issues, and that has just not been possible, not only because of the Motion which is before the House, but because of the very short time that has been available since the matter was first raised with my honourable friend Mr. Jack Straw last Thursday, and the public announcement of the Bill by the Home Secretary in another place on Monday. There has just not been time for the degree of consultation with outside interests, and the degree of scrutiny of the Bill by Members of the Opposition, for us to undertake the kind of scrutiny which we believe the Bill and all legislation deserves.
I regret, in particular, that the timetable Motion in another place, which was carried yesterday, included a guillotine on consideration of any amendments from the House of Lords. That may be an academic issue in the sense that it may be that your Lordships will not seek to make any amendments to the Bill, but, nevertheless, the precedent of having your Lordships' amendments subject to a Guillotine Motion in another place is one which, in particular, we would seek to resist and restrict to the most dire emergency.
I noticed, when looking back at the history of such Motions, that when the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, was obliged to introduce the original Prevention of Terrorism Bill in 1974, it was done by a Business Motion which provided for multiple stages to be carried through on one day, but there was no Guillotine Motion. I commend the example which the noble Lord set to another place at that time. I regret the Guillotine Motion, and the Business Motion which we have before the House today.
In the light of the crisis which has been identified and the security briefings which have been given to my honourable friends in another place, there is no alternative but for this Business Motion to be carried. However, it should not be taken as a precedent, and it should not be repeated except in the most extreme circumstances.
§ Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank
My Lords, perhaps I may first remind your Lordships that we on these 278 Benches have supported and will continue to support every reasonable measure to combat terrorism. As the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, said, my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Hillhead was responsible as Home Secretary for the original legislation when it passed through the other place in 1974. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich, as some noble Lords will remember, piloted the Bill through your Lordships' House on 28th November that year. Only a fortnight ago, on 19th March, I spoke in support of the renewal order. So our record is plain, and we shall not oppose the Second Reading today.
We recognise also the need, if the circumstances are exceptional, to take a Bill through the House on one day. Of course, 1974 is a good example. Those of us with experience of government are fully aware of the circumstances, rare though they may be, when that may be necessary. Nevertheless, there are disturbing aspects of how the matter has been handled. I believe it right to set them before your Lordships this morning in debating this important Motion.
I expressed my anxieties on behalf of these Benches when faced with the surprise of the Statement made by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, on Monday evening. I said then that we were disturbed about the Government bringing forward this legislation on the eve of the Recess. Nothing that has happened since, neither anything said in this Chamber nor anything said to another place yesterday, has made me change my mind.
If the Government want all-party support in both Houses, they should go to some trouble to get it and not assume that it is there whatever they may do. At the very least, there are a number of courtesies which should be involved. I absolve the noble Earl, who was in no way responsible; I hope that I can absolve the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde; but nevertheless these questions need to be addressed.
The first I heard about this legislation was indirectly at 4 p.m. on Monday afternoon. I was then led to believe that the Business Statement would come the following day. There may have been a misunderstanding about that, and I shall not pursue the matter further. Although consultation—this is the important point—took place between the Home Secretary and opposition parties in another place last week, at no time have I or any of my noble friends received any communication from the Home Secretary or from the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, on his behalf. I have received no indication and there has been no suggestion at any time that I or any of my noble friends should receive a briefing from the police. I should like to ask the noble Earl when replying to tell us why it was thought appropriate, given the responsibilities of the House, to offer briefings to Members of another place but to offer no briefings, at least to Members on these Benches. There are four or five Privy Counsellors, including myself, on these Benches, if it had been thought to be a Privy Council issue.
I do not believe there is any need to say much about why we should be anxious. This is a Bill, so the Home Secretary told another place yesterday, which is sensible and practical, and so it may be. He said that the Bill was 279 subject to clear and careful safeguards. No doubt we will examine that today. But the Bill involves giving the police new powers or putting existing powers on a statutory basis. It is inevitably an intrusion into privacy and a reduction in the freedom of the individual. Whether or not it is a necessity, it cannot be welcomed in this or any other House. It may be a necessity, but we recognise that we are once again balancing personal freedom against the need to deal with those who would seek to destroy it.
The resurgence of terrorism occurred with the Canary Wharf bombing eight weeks ago. I understand that discussions between Home Office officials and the police have taken place since then. Indeed, there is nothing in the Bill with which your Lordships will not already be familiar as matters which have been put forward by the police from time to time as those which statute should embody. So, why now, this day, eight weeks after the Canary Wharf bombing; why now on the eve of a Recess has the Bill been brought before us? There is insufficient time to scrutinise something which strikes at the heart of our civil liberties, however important the Bill may be.
There is another point which I would ask the Government and all Members of your Lordships' House, respectfully, to consider. All in this House believe that this House has a role parallel to that of the other place in Parliament. Indeed we believe that to be our justification. Further to that, we believe that this House can spend more time, more usefully scrutinising legislation put before Parliament than can the other House for many different reasons. If that is the case, and this House is as important as we all recognise it to be, and if the Bill deserves proper scrutiny, why was it that more trouble was not taken to inform noble Lords on both sides, and principally the principal political parties, that the Bill was coming forward?
As I said, I, with other noble Lords, spoke on 19th March on the order renewing the Act. I have re-read the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and there was no hint that this Bill was coming forward. Surely it must have been in the Government's mind at that time, given discussions between the police and the Home Office, that such a Bill might be needed. There is nothing new—no new emergency—and, thank goodness, no new terrorism attack. Why could not the Minister have then said to your Lordships' House that it might be necessary to come forward with a Bill with further powers? We might even in the course of discussing that order have formed a view of what those powers might be.
I hope that your Lordships will recognise that what I have said has been said in a constructive spirit and in defence of the proper role of your Lordships' House. I should like to make two practical suggestions. If the noble Earl cannot give a positive response today, I hope that he will convey the thoughts to his noble friend the Lord Privy Seal and will make a Statement to your Lordships' House at an early date.
As the noble Earl will recall, and certainly the Home Secretary must know, the Bill introduced into another place by my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Hillhead in 280 November 1974 was reintroduced 18 months later. As noble Lords will find if they scrutinise the Official Report, it was set out clearly in your Lordships' House at that time by my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich that he and the Home Secretary recognised that there had been inadequate scrutiny of the Bill. It had been brought forward as an emergency after the Birmingham bombing. Therefore the Bill was reintroduced early in 1976 in order that the scrutiny could take place on a Bill which had been on the statute book for 15 months.
My suggestion is that during that relatively quiet time that your Lordships' House normally experiences after the Queen's Speech and before the Christmas Recess, the Government should bring forward the Bill again in the way that the 1974 Bill was brought forward again so that we can then scrutinise it in full detail and in the light of experience of it during the interval.
The second point I put to the noble Earl is that I do not wish to pursue this matter further today. It would be inappropriate. I do not know how many noble Lords may wish to do so, but clearly something has gone wrong. Without wishing to attribute blame, and without wanting to argue now that any harm can be undone, there is a case for the Procedure Committee to consider how to deal with emergency legislation, when a Statement to the House should be made and what time should be provided for discussion of it. The Procedure Committee may well endorse the Government's conduct in this case, in which case I shall be satisfied. However, we should at least take the matter out of the arena of discussion across the Chamber. I have tried to make my point on a non-party basis. I suggest that the Procedure Committee should look at the Bill and report to your Lordships' House; we should then not have such problems again. We must all work together to combat terrorism but there is a right way and a wrong way of going about it.
§ Lord Stallard
My Lords, I agree with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, says because he has repeated much of what was said in another place. I was a Member of the other place when the original Bill was passed and I opposed it for similar reasons. Eighteen months later it was admitted that we had been right in saying that there was insufficient discussion and scrutiny of the Bill.
I am puzzled by the fact that only a couple of weeks ago the renewal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act was debated and discussed. It must have been known then that the Government intended to take extra measures. We know that the police authorities were in constant discussion with the police forces and no doubt with Government Ministers long before the Baltic Exchange explosion and since. Why was it not possible, therefore, to announce the changes two weeks ago during the debate on the Prevention of Terrorism Act? That is a puzzle which no one can solve. Perhaps the need to rush the Bill through is a further example of government by decree rather than the democratic process to which we have become accustomed. There can be no democratic process given the time that has been allotted to discuss a most important Bill.
281 We are dealing with a Bill which could have dramatic and disastrous consequences for the community relations with the police which have been built up over many years. A great deal of work is being done in that respect; it will be put at risk if the Bill goes through in such a rush. Obviously, there will be a dramatic increase in police duties at a time when there are insufficient policemen to carry out the duties placed on them by other legislation and by the general increase in crime. At a time when they face an uphill task in almost every other respect they are being told that virtually everyone with an Irish accent is suspect and should be stopped and searched.
The Bill is being rushed through and discussion is being denied. When I telephoned to put my name on the list of speakers I was told that it had closed last night at 6 p.m. I was amazed. I did not know that the list would be closed at that time and I do not recall anyone mentioning it. I therefore intend, if allowed, to speak for the allotted time in the gap because that will be the only opportunity to mention some of the more worrying aspects of the legislation.
I am also aware that I am much inhibited by the unfortunate statement from my noble friend on the Front Bench that there is cross-party agreement before the debate has even taken place. From the Back-Bench point of view, that is unfortunate because I knew nothing about it. Had I known I should have been opposed. I take the opportunity therefore to record my opposition to the rushed procedure on an important Bill which will have dire consequences. I reserve my right and privilege to speak in the gap.
§ Lord Merlyn-Rees
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Stallard has been involved in Irish affairs for a long time. In his constituency in north London he represented large numbers of people born in the Irish Republic. However, I have been involved for only 25 years, since I first visited Long Kesh when it was opened. Family-wise, I have been involved for a little longer. My father, who was a Welsh private soldier, was at the Easter rising in Dublin as part of an Irish regiment. Therefore, I knew that Ireland existed before I took my O levels, or whatever they were called. I have no doubt that if Parliament has to act to deal with terrorism it should act, and should act quickly, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers. It should not allow procedures to prevent change taking place.
I do not wish to discuss the Bill because there is little point in doing so. No amendments can be tabled and received in the other place. I speak on the Business Motion only because I am surprised and perplexed about why the legislation is being pushed forward. I do not wish to transgress the rules of the House, but perhaps I may say that Clause 1 raises matters of public interest as regards civil liberties and needs to be examined carefully. Clauses 2, 3 and 4 are highly technical. I see no reason why the legislation should be taken so quickly. If there was need to take it quickly it should have been debated last Thursday and Friday after the Cabinet meeting and the discussions with the shadow Cabinet. I do not understand the situation.
282 I am not sure whether the gossip at the other end of the Palace reaches this end. When I asked what it was all about, I was told, "It's the Home Secretary being political". He is the least political Home Secretary I have ever come across in my career. Political? I would not say that about the Home Secretary. There must be a better reason. There are dark hints about the Unionist vote but I do not see how that comes into the matter. People are thinking around the issue because they can find no good reason for the Bill being dealt with in this way.
There is no point in staying here for the rest of the day because we can do very little and we should be wasting our time. We can make our views clear now, which is what I am trying to do. I am perplexed and surprised. I was privileged to come to this House. But what part can we play? To a large degree we are wasting our time. Today's procedure has been decided. I shall not vote against the Bill. If I did so it would be misunderstood.
One can read the debate which took place in the other place yesterday. It would be very dangerous to become involved in narrow, silly politics, as happened there yesterday, particularly when the Government are talking to the IRA on one side of the water and trying to deal with it on this side. If one became involved in such politics it would be to the detriment of both Houses and to the detriment of Irish policy. Your Lordships have seen the paintings outside the Bishops' Bar. The fact that the politics of Ireland were so involved in party politics was one of the reasons why the aims of the then Liberal Government failed. I do not want that yet I do not understand the Bill. There seems to be no urgency in it. It is highly technical. Clause 1 should be examined most carefully. I shall not vote against the Bill. In my view, we are wasting our time here today.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, I wish to make two brief points, to one of which I hope I shall receive a satisfactory answer. First, I should welcome a categorical assurance that another place will still be in session when we complete consideration of the Bill. Secondly, I still do not entirely understand what is claimed to be an emergency. Of course, I understand that some of the evidence on which that may be based could be difficult to put forward. However, the evidence that has been put forward puzzles me somewhat. We are told that it is the 80th anniversary of the Easter rising. I should exaggerate if I said that we have had 80 years' notice of that, but I should not exaggerate very much. We are told also by the Home Secretary in his appearance on "Newsnight" that it is possible to carry a bomb which may be concealed in a pocket. I accept that. It is clearly true, But it is not new. I remember—I think it was something over 20 years ago—during the Christmas shopping rush in Dickins and Jones somebody whom I shall not describe as a dumb animal concealed those in one of every 10 fur coats in Dickins and Jones. Therefore, the Home Secretary has had 20 years to get used to that idea. Why has he only just discovered it now?
§ 12 noon
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My Lords, I wish to make only a couple of very brief points to follow on from other remarks which have been made. I remind the House and the country that this is the only second Chamber that we have. If it is a second Chamber, it should be allowed to do the job of a second Chamber; that is, to revise and advise. It is being prevented from playing that proper role which has been with us down the centuries and, indeed, which is enshrined in the Parliament Acts which are apparently being set aside.
The other point that I wish to make is that we now appear to have reached a situation in which, if the two Front Benches that is, the Government and the Official Opposition—reach an agreement on something, then Parliament's view matters very little. Even the Liberal Democrats, apparently, have not been consulted.
But I reserve my greatest sympathy for my noble friend on the Front Bench who will advise us to pass this Motion and, indeed, will advise us not to vote against the legislation. My honourable friend in the other place, Jack Straw, has had the privilege of a security briefing. Therefore, he is able to advise in the House of Commons. But my noble friend has had no security briefing; or has he? He did not say so. Therefore, he is advising us in the dark as to what we should do on this Bill. I really do not believe that that is good enough.
I have a final question to put to the Minister. If the Official Opposition had said no to this Bill, had they said that they would not agree to the Guillotine and this procedure which we have before us, would the Government still have brought forward the Bill?
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, this is an interesting and important debate and I think that in most of your Lordships there is an internal conflict of interest. There certainly is within me. As a member of the Government in Northern Ireland for two-and-a-half years and in the Home Office for three years, I see the pressing need for instant reaction to imminent danger. As a Member of this House for 23 years, I see the importance of protecting the liberty of the civilian and keeping a close eye on the work of the Executive.
In the particular circumstances in which we are today, we must have a certain trust in our system and in our colleagues. What has been delegated by both Houses de facto is a decision as to the urgency of the situation. Those who are a party to that knowledge, the knowledge on which that decision has been taken, are those who have been preferred by the two principal parties as at least capable of taking that sort of decision on their part.
I believe that it would be entirely irresponsible now to throw a spanner into the works on the basis that they were not trusted; to delay the legislation; and to leave the guard of this country down when they say that it should be up. Therefore, I support Her Majesty's Government in their wish to carry through this legislation with the support of Her Majesty's Opposition.
But I do see that it is a matter of close interest, even after the event. I have been involved in a sufficient number of debates on police, criminal evidence and 284 other such legislation to know how delicate are some of these issues when it comes not just to questions of the liberty of the individual generally but the preservation of a bearable or good relationship between the police and, for example, ethnic minorities.
Therefore, I hope that your Lordships will have a later opportunity to look at this legislation when it has been in place for some time. The best thing would be if my noble friend could say whether that is feasible, but I doubt that that can be written into a Bill. I hope that in 12 months' time we may have a debate on the functioning of the Bill. If we can have something of that sort, I shall be warm in my support for Her Majesty's Government in relation to this Motion.
§ Lord Monkswell
My Lords, at a time when rules are being set aside, it is comforting to know that some rules are in place and are being applied and that there are also mechanisms to circumvent that, if I can put it like that.
I start my remarks by apologising to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, because last night I was unable to place my name on the list of speakers for the Second Reading debate and so I should also like to speak in the Gap. I know that that will restrict me to four minutes and no doubt that will come as a tremendous measure of relief to your Lordships' House.
But I went to the Chief Whip's Office last night at seven o'clock thinking that it would be polite to let the Chief Whip know that I should be speaking today. I found that the list of speakers had been opened and had already closed. That was in relation to a debate as to which, in theory, there was no certainty that it would take place today. But we have heard—and a number of noble Lords alluded to it—that there has been an agreement between the two Front Benches that this legislation shall go through.
The noble Earl, Lord Russell, has already alluded to the fact that the Government had some notice that this year would be the eightieth anniversary of the Easter Rising. But we can see also that the Government have had effectively eight weeks' notice of the fact that the ceasefire has broken down. It is only two weeks since we debated the renewal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. In that debate, I referred to a problem which appeared to present itself because of the requirement following a European Court decision to change the operation of the mechanism in relation to exclusion orders. At this stage I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, for responding to my comments and for subsequently writing to me.
While I accept the assurance that she has given from her point of view, I still believe that there is a problem with that particular piece of legislation and effectively we are losing an opportunity to consider that. That could have been included in a Bill such as this. We could have taken that through both Houses of Parliament, not necessarily in the two or three months which it normally takes legislation to pass through, but we could have done it over a period of several weeks. That would have enabled Parliament to scrutinise this legislation and, if necessary, add other parts to ensure that we were protecting ourselves from adverse criticism.
285 We must ask ourselves why the Government are bringing forward such legislation at this time. I wonder whether it has anything to do with the fact that they are facing a by-election in South Staffordshire. Of course, I could not possibly comment on that. We are advised that the Home Secretary and the Shadow Home Secretary have received security briefings which indicate that there is an urgent necessity for the legislation. While it would be wrong at this stage in the debate to look at the detail of the Bill, if there is some security information which is of such a precipitate nature, is it right that we should be thinking in terms of legislation rather than actually warning the British public of the information which is available? Again, I could not possibly comment.
While I support virtually everything that has been said by other speakers, perhaps I may pose a question to the Minister. Can he say whether it would be possible for the House to adjourn for a period after the Committee stage, where, I suspect, no amendments will be passed, which means that there will be no Report stage? To ensure that it has the ability to do as much justice as possible to our responsibilities of scrutinising the legislation, I believe that it might be useful for the House to have a gap between the Committee stage and Third Reading to give your Lordships, having taken cognisance of what is said in Committee, the opportunity to table manuscript amendments which could then be considered on Third Reading. I make that suggestion in the hope that it will be recognised that what I am seeking to do is to protect the good name of this House as regards its reputation for scrutinising government legislation effectively.
My Lords, I shall be brief. I have been most disappointed with some of the things that I have heard, not least from the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. The question has been asked as to why this legislation is being introduced. I would have thought that an infant would understand. Obviously, the Government have good reason to do so. If the liberties and rights of our people outside the House are at risk, I should point out that there are times in the history of Parliament when it is necessary to put trust on both sides. We have all done so when we were Ministers. Indeed, every Minister talks to his opposite number and takes him into his confidence if there is a special difficulty.
We are not taking anything away from the authority of this House if we realise that, on a special occasion when the life and liberty of our own people are matters that have obviously been brought to the attention of Her Majesty's Government, the least we can do is to try to see that they have the weapons that they require at their disposal.
§ 12.15 p.m.
My Lords, it does not fall easy to any government to propose such a Motion because we have the rules of procedure in order to guide the way in which 286 we conduct the passage of our legislation. It is only on very rare occasions that it is necessary to change those procedures and then one can only do so with the approval of the House. If I may say so, I agree with the remarks made by the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, in what I thought had the merits of being a short, succinct and totally sensible speech, in contrast, as the noble Viscount himself said, to some of the other speeches that have been made.
Perhaps I may deal first with the noble Earl, Lord Russell. He asked whether the other place would be sitting when we disposed of the Bill. I thought that that was an extraordinary question. The noble Earl knows perfectly well what are the rules of the House. The fact is that Royal Assent cannot take place without both Houses sitting. Therefore, the other place will be sitting in order to pass the Bill into Royal Assent. The noble Earl then made what I thought was an astonishing and remarkable suggestion—and I measure my words in this respect. He pointed out that such incidents had been known about for 20 years, and asked why on earth it had taken the Home Secretary 20 years to get used to them. I found that to be a most infantile comment.
That speech was followed by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. The fact is that we are dealing with terrorism. Terrorism is wicked, it is subversive, it is dangerous and it is unpredictable. All those factors must be taken into account. The police sought powers after South Quay which were based on their experience of using the existing Section 13A powers, which have only ever been applied after that incident. It is quite clear that there is a real and continuing terrorist threat. That is the reason why the Bill has been brought forward today.
I can understand anyone who feels that this is a petty exercise because it is not possible to make amendments to the legislation. Well, there are occasions when parliamentary processes have to be fairly swift. But if one has to have such swift processes in order to protect the public, I believe that the House would agree that your Lordships' personal interventions might possibly take second place to the protection of society. I was, frankly, horrified by the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, that the introduction of the legislation might have something to do with a by-election. I believe that that suggestion must have made his own Front Bench cringe as much as it made all of us cringe on this side of the House.
The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, said that it was bad to have such a process on the eve of the Easter Recess. Of course, this is not necessarily a time of one's choice. However, one does not have choices when dealing with terrorism. The fact is that the legislation is both necessary and required now. That is why it is being put through Parliament at speed.
The noble Lord was also concerned because he did not know anything about the legislation until Monday afternoon. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary had discussions with Mr. Straw, the Opposition Shadow Home Secretary, last Thursday on the matter. He also had discussions with the Metropolitan Police, and I understand that Mr. Beith was also consulted. That was the Government dealing 287 with the Official Opposition in another place. It was after that weekend and as a result of those discussions with the police that the Opposition Shadow Home Secretary agreed that it was necessary. That has been agreed, and the Liberal Democrats also had discussions.
My noble friend the Chief Whip offered to make a Statement to the House on Monday afternoon, but that was declined by the Opposition for reasons which are understandable to them. Therefore, he made a Business Statement. In the circumstances, I do not believe that we can be accused of not having taken into account those people who should have been consulted. If there have been breakdowns in communication between people within their own parties, that is a matter for them. Governments do not push such measures through Parliament without having first secured the agreement and approval of Opposition parties. Indeed, the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, pointed out that that has often been done.
The noble Lord, Lord Stallard, together with the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell—and that is a curious combination—and I believe one other speaker, complained that they had wanted to put down their names to speak on Second Reading but found that they could not do so because the list was closed at six o'clock. Of course that is perfectly true. That is part of the procedures of the House. When a debate takes place at 11 o'clock the next morning the list closes at six o'clock but, as both noble Lords will have observed, they can speak in the gap. I remind them that they would be restricted to four minutes.
§ Lord Stallard
My Lords, the noble Earl says that this is part of the procedure of the House. However, we are not dealing with procedures in a normal way. This is not a normal procedure. There is something abnormal about the whole set-up. Why, then, should we be told that it is part of the normal procedure when we are dealing with an abnormal suggestion for carrying the Bill through in a rush? There should have been more leeway given in view of the emergency situation and the need that the Government feel for the Bill to go through in a few hours. I repeat that this is not a normal procedure.
My Lords, if I may say so, the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, makes an astonishing intervention. Of course, the procedure for this Bill going through the House is different from the normal procedure; that is why we are having the debate. But to say that all the procedures of the House should therefore not take place is quite erroneous. The noble Lord, Lord Stallard, has known since Monday—as has everyone else—that this debate was to take place. If he does not acquit himself of knowing what the procedures are and attempts at seven o'clock on the evening before the debate to add his name to the list of speakers when the rules of the House state that his name must be put down by six o'clock, that is the responsibility of the noble Lord. However, we shall have the pleasure of listening to him. I am sure that if he speaks for four minutes his speech will be concise and worth listening to, as are all his speeches.
288 The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, says that his right honourable friend the shadow Home Secretary had the privilege of a briefing which his own Front Bench had not had the privilege of receiving, and that Mr. Straw could therefore advise his people in another place which way to vote, or what to do with the measure, but the Leader of the Opposition here was denied that privilege. I would not wish to intervene in anything that the party opposite does. But both Houses—and the Front Benches of both Houses—know what the position is. I can only suggest to your Lordships that while we all recognise that this is a difficult and an unusual situation, terrorism has to be dealt with and we have to take such action as is required. I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, say that if Parliament has to act, it has to act. I was a little disappointed when he said that he was wasting his time this afternoon. He has been a distinguished Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and he knows that these things have to be dealt with quickly. I hope that now that your Lordships have expressed your concern, which I understand, your Lordships will agree that the Motion should be approved.
§ Lord Jenkins of Hillhead
My Lords, I intervene briefly, partly because as the author of the 1974 Act I have been referred to several times, but I have even more of a reason for intervening. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, did not, in my view, reply to any of the serious points which were put to him, particularly by my noble friend Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank. The noble Earl seems to be in a bad temper today. He has found every other intervention astonishing. I must tell him that I found his reply astonishing because of his refusal to apply himself closely to any issue, his attempt to bluster every point, and his self-righteous unwillingness to believe that anyone else's view is worth considering. On a day when he is seeking all-party agreement, I would say with respect to the noble Earl—of whom I am most fond—that that is foolish conduct. I think that when noble Lords read his speech they will reflect upon that.
The principal point which my noble friend Lord Rodgers put concerned why the Bill cannot be brought back for reconsideration—it can be in operation in the meantime—at some date in the future. That point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Elton. However, it was not mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. At the time of the 1974 Act when we were operating under a much more dreadful immediate tragedy—the worst of all things, the Birmingham bombings—we did not have a guillotine, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, pointed out. The Bill was debated—this was a telescoped period—for over 18 hours in the other place. Moreover, we brought the Bill back to be considered, not under a renewal order, but so that it could be debated in an open-ended way as a new piece of legislation in February 1976. A serious point put to the Government by my noble friend Lord Rodgers—which the noble Earl did not even mention—concerned whether the Government would give serious consideration to following that procedure. It is by far the best guarantee against the evils of hasty legislation.
289 The dilemma was well described by the noble Lord, Lord Elton. We all appreciate the dilemma; namely, to respond quickly to terrorism on the one hand, given the knowledge, on the other hand, that hasty legislation tends to have faults. One cannot go fully one way or the other but surely the best balance is achieved by giving serious consideration to the proposition which was put forward clearly by my noble friend Lord Rodgers and echoed to some substantial extent by the noble Lord, Lord Elton. It is totally unsatisfactory to let the matter go without having some response from the Government to that serious, major and obvious problem.
My Lords, I would be the first to apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, if he thinks that I was cross or in a temper. I was not in the slightest. If I gave that impression, it was a wrong impression. I am sorry that the noble Lord thinks I was blustering. I tried to respond to a number of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank. However, he made a number of points over a certain period of time and I apologise if I did not answer them all.
One of the complaints of the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, was that he knew nothing about the procedures until the evening he mentioned. I have replied to that point. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, said that I did not answer the point about the re-introduction of the Bill. As long as we require the Prevention of Terrorism Act, that Act is already subject to annual renewal, and the debates on the renewal are informed by the report of the independent reviewer who scrutinises its operation. Therefore, it will be discussed in the future.
§ Lord Jenkins of Hillhead
My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that there is a difference between annual renewal when there is merely a Motion before the House and what we did following the 1974 Act, which was to re-introduce the Bill as a new Bill in which case it is open to Committee stage, Report stage, Third Reading, and therefore subject to amendment?
My Lords, if I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, that really is a matter for discussion on the Bill and not for discussion on the Motion that the Bill is passed through all its stages now. Certainly that point will be considered. However, if the noble Lord thinks, when my noble friend Lady Blatch is taking the Bill through, that the Bill ought to be re-considered or another Bill brought in later on, that is a perfectly reasonable debating point. With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, it is not relevant to the debate we are now having which concerns whether all stages of the Bill should be taken on one day.
§ Lord Jenkins of Hillhead
My Lords, it is not a debating point. It is a procedural point and wholly apposite to the procedural Motion.
My Lords, I do not know whether we shall proceed much further with this discussion. The fact is that we are debating whether or not the Bill should go through its paces in one day. It is perfectly 290 reasonable for any noble Lord to say that he is prepared to let it go through its paces in one day but that he thinks it ought to be re-introduced at a later stage. As I understand it, that is what the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, is saying. All I am saying is that I think that that is a matter for discussion on the Bill itself rather than on this Motion. I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, will take the opportunity to do that.
I do not disagree with the noble Lord. A number of points need to be discussed. However, we are debating whether it is right to have the Bill considered in one day. That is the Motion which is before us. I hope your Lordships will agree that it is appropriate that that should be done.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Then Standing Orders No. 38 and No. 44 having been dispensed with (pursuant to resolution):