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Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 (Continuance in Force of Sections 1 to 9) Order 2011

Volume 725: debated on Tuesday 8 March 2011

Motion to Approve

Moved By

That the draft order laid before the House on 3 February be approved.

Relevant documents: 15th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, 8th Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights

My Lords, the purpose of the order before the House today is to renew Sections 1 to 9 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 pending their repeal and replacement with an alternative regime. These sections expire after one year unless renewed by order subject to the affirmative resolution of both Houses. The effect of this order will be to maintain the control orders powers until 31 December 2011, and I emphasise that this is a limited and temporary renewal. As the Home Secretary said on 26 January in another place, this allows us to bring forward the legislation introducing a replacement system. In due course the House will obviously be able to debate the new legislation in detail.

By way of a preliminary I should like to set out the context for the proposal before the House. Sadly, I have to say that the threat to the United Kingdom from terrorism is as serious as we have faced at any time, and it remains assessed by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre as “severe”. Since the beginning of the year, there have been a number of major terrorist attacks that have resulted in the deaths of many innocent people. These attacks have occurred in different countries from Russia to Afghanistan to Yemen and to the Philippines, and they show that a large number of fatalities still result from terrorist attacks. This country has been well protected, but nevertheless in the UK we have witnessed a number of significant terrorist plots that have been uncovered over the past year, and recent investigations and trials show that terrorist networks are continuing to plan and to attempt to carry out attacks. The threat we face continues to evolve, and I do not think that it is going to diminish or change to any material extent in the near future. That is the background against which we have to look at the temporary legislation and the new regime.

The coalition’s commitment to redress the balance in our counterterrorism powers was made in the run-up to the election and we therefore conducted a review of the counterterrorism and security powers. That review included consideration of the necessity, effectiveness and proportionality of control orders. On behalf of the Government I thank the independent oversight given to that review by the noble Lord, and now my noble friend Lord Macdonald. The review underlined that the Government’s absolute priority is to prosecute suspected terrorists in open court and that imposing restrictions on suspected terrorists who have not been convicted in open court should be the last resort. I want to emphasise that prosecution is our objective. Where restrictions are required they should, as far as possible but given the need to protect the public, continue to support the primary objective of prosecution.

The review concluded that for the foreseeable future there is likely to continue to be a small number of people in the United Kingdom who pose a real threat to our security but who, despite our best efforts, cannot be prosecuted or, in the case of foreign nationals, deported. Our reluctant conclusion is that there will therefore continue to be a need for a mechanism to protect the public from the threat of such individuals.

Noble Lords may be aware that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, reached the same conclusion in his most recent and, indeed, his last independent report on control orders, and the other statutory consultees support the proposal to renew the control order powers. I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and I am sure that other noble Lords will want to join me in this, that the Government thank him for his very thorough work over the past 10 years on the review process. His reports have been a model of clarity and succinctness and a great aid towards everyone’s understanding of what was at issue.

I am aware that a number of Members of this House and members of committees have said that they would have liked to have been able to see, at the time of the renewal of this order, the legislation that we are going to bring forward. I have to say that we will bring forward that legislation as soon as we can. We regard it as extremely important to get it right. We do not want to get ourselves into a position where subsequently we are reviewed and changed in our intentions through court action.

However, it is only right, as we have already done, to give the highlights of the provisions that we intend to bring forward, which mark real changes in the regime. It will provide, among other things, a two-year maximum time limit on the measures, which will clearly demonstrate that these are targeted and temporary. It will be possible to impose a further measure on an individual only if there is evidence of new terrorism-related activity after the original measure was imposed, which of course is different from the current situation. Measures will have to meet the evidential test of reasonable belief that a person is or has been involved in terrorist-related activity, and this of course is a higher threshold than the test of reasonable suspicion of such involvement, which of course exists under the current control order regime.

The police will be under a strengthened legal duty to inform the Home Secretary about their ongoing review of a person’s conduct with a view to bringing a prosecution. A more flexible overnight residence requirement will replace the current curfew arrangements. Forcible relocation to other parts of the country will be ended. Geographical boundaries will be replaced with a power to impose much more tightly defined exclusion from particular places only. There will be no power to exclude someone, for instance, from the totality of, say, a London borough. Individuals will have greater freedom of communication, which will include access to a mobile phone and to a home computer with internet access, subject to certain conditions such as providing passwords. They will have greater freedom to associate. For example, there will be no blanket restrictions on visitors or meetings. They will be prohibited only from associating with people who may facilitate terrorism-related activity. And of course they will be free to work and to study, subject again to any restrictions necessary to protect the public.

These changes will allow individuals to continue to lead a normal life as far as possible, subject only to the restrictions necessary to prevent or disrupt involvement in terrorism-related activity. We are clear that the more limited restrictions that may be imposed may indeed facilitate further investigation as well as prevent terrorism-related activities. The new regime will be accompanied by an increase in funding for the police and the Security Service to enhance their investigative capabilities. That is an absolutely key part of the new measures. We intend to bring forward legislation to this effect shortly and, as I have said, it must be properly prepared so that it may be properly scrutinised by this House. We welcome the support given by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, to these measures and, indeed, the comments that have been made by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its recent reports. The committee has expressed some welcome, even if perhaps only cautious, to the new system. The Government will of course reply formally to the detailed recommendations that have been made in those reports.

In the mean time, the Government are clear that it would be irresponsible to allow the current regime to lapse in the absence of alternative measures and while the investigative capabilities of the law enforcement and security agencies remain to be developed. As I say, that is a key part of the new regime. It is therefore important to underline that, for the time being, control orders should remain legally viable. While they may be imperfect, they have had some success in protecting the public and they are fully compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights.

It is sometimes asserted that controlled individuals do not know why they are subject to a control order. I remind the House that, as a result of the Law Lords judgment of June 2009 in AF and others, this is no longer the case. That judgment specified that controlled individuals must be given sufficient information about the case against them to enable them to give effective instructions to the special advocate.

Pending the introduction of the replacement to control orders, we believe that it is right, proper, proportionate and essential that these powers continue to be available in order to protect the public. As I have said, we are currently preparing the legislation to introduce the replacement system, which we will bring forward in the coming weeks. I have no doubt that noble Lords will want to give the new measures thorough scrutiny and we must have time to do that. While that process is under way, it would not be responsible for us to leave a gap in public protection. Therefore, we believe that it is right to ask the House to renew the powers for this temporary period, the alternative being a situation in which those who pose a threat to our safety could go about their activities with far too great freedom.

This is the last occasion on which the House will be asked to renew these powers. Before transition to the new regime is complete, the risk to the public would be grave indeed were the control order powers not to be renewed. I therefore ask the House to approve the renewal of the powers for the transitional period. I commend the order to the House.

My Lords, as all your Lordships know, control orders were introduced in March 2005 as an emergency measure. We in this House, after an all-night sitting which I shall never forget, insisted that the Government should have to come back after 12 months in order to justify the extraordinary powers which had been conferred on the then Home Secretary. They were indeed extraordinary powers, because they enabled him, on suspicion, to impose what amounted in effect to house arrest on an individual who had never been charged with any offence. Yet here we are, six years later, being asked to renew those very same powers yet again.

In a powerful briefing note which I am sure the Minister has read with care, Liberty describes the control order regime as being “completely discredited”. It would be difficult indeed to disagree with that view. However, Liberty is equally critical of what is now proposed in place of the control order regime, the so-called terrorism prevention and investigation measures —TPIM for short. We do not, of course, know what the Bill will contain, and it is the greatest pity that we do not have a draft of the Bill before us today. When we do get it, I hope that it will be subject to pre-legislative review.

The present indications are that the Bill will contain many of the objectionable features of the existing control order regime. Indeed, Liberty describes the new regime in its briefing note as simply control orders under a different name. Whether or not that is right is not a question for discussion today; that will be a matter for great debate when we see the Bill. No doubt the Government will then argue—as the Minister has indicated already—that there is a real difference between the Home Secretary being required to believe that a person is a terrorist and the Home Secretary being required to suspect that he is. Similarly, the Government will no doubt argue that the overnight residence requirement is much less restrictive than the curfew, which is to be abolished, and no doubt they will argue that the TPIM will allow access to the internet and much greater freedom to communicate and associate with others.

As I say, that is an argument for another day. For the purpose of today’s discussion, I am prepared to assume that the Government are right about all that. We know that eight individuals are currently subject to control orders. One has been subject to a control order for more than four years; three have been subject to a control order for between two and three years; and four have been subject to a control order for between one and two years. No doubt they will all have been glad to hear that control orders are to be abolished at any rate by December. To extend the control orders beyond December—I understand the Minister to say that that will not happen—in the light of what may then be yet another emergency, would be the gravest injustice. Is there not something else that we could and should be doing now for those wretched individuals in anticipation of the regime? I have already mentioned that under the new regime the Home Secretary must believe that an individual is a terrorist; it is not enough that she should suspect. That being so, surely she should now review each of those eight cases and see whether they satisfy the stricter test which will be the order of the day from December onwards. If they do not in any case satisfy the stricter test, it is surely the duty of the Home Secretary now to quash those control orders rather than to wait and see what the new Bill says when it is ultimately in force.

Even if the Home Secretary decides in the case of all eight individuals that the control orders satisfy the stricter test, there is still much that could be done. There is a body of which the Minister will be aware called the control order review group. It is its duty to keep under continuous review the obligations to which each of those eight individuals is subject and to ensure that their current obligations are proportional to the risk that they currently pose. One of the eight individuals currently subject to a control order is subject to a 14-hour curfew. Happily, the curfew will be abolished in December, or at least not later, and replaced by what is called the overnight residence requirement. On no view would an overnight residence requirement extend to 14 hours. Surely it is therefore the duty of this body, CORG, and of the Secretary of State to consider that case and to see whether there is any ground for keeping the curfew as long as 14 hours. Surely it could be reduced now to eight hours, or whatever is thought to be a likely period of an overnight residence requirement.

It may be said that there is no harm in asking those individuals, who have waited so long without being charged, to wait at least until the new regime is in force. We are dealing here with human beings who have been subjected to the most unusual restrictions on their liberty for many years, under a system which is now discredited. In the cases that I mentioned, it has been in operation for more than two years, which will be the maximum under the new regime. Surely it is time to show these individuals a little humanity. It might even increase the chances of mounting a successful prosecution against one or more of them if we take the course which has been so strongly advocated by the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald—who I am glad to see in his place—in the report on the review.

I hope that the noble Baroness will take the points that I have made back to the Secretary of State and let us know in due course whether there is not something that can be done now in anticipation of what will be in the Bill.

My Lords, we all recognise that this is an immensely difficult issue. Before I say anything about it, I take this opportunity to yet again express, without qualification, my admiration for Ministers, the security services and the police in the heavy responsibilities they carry on our behalf in protecting society. I hope that anything I say today will be seen in the context of that sincere recognition of what is being done on our behalf and will be constructive.

The Minister referred to the Joint Committee on Human Rights and I shall concentrate on its report. She said that there will be a government reply to the Joint Committee. However, the Joint Committee serves and reports to us and it is not satisfactory for us to consider the report in the absence of the detailed ministerial response to it, because we ought to be able to take that into account in evaluating the observations of the Joint Committee. I pay tribute to the hard work which is done consistently by the committee on these matters.

Without any observations of my own, I shall concentrate on highlighting what the Joint Committee has said. I thought the Minister was a little ungenerous in her comment on its comment. I read as quite positive its remark that,

“we welcome the Government’s commitment to repealing the control order regime and its renewed commitment to the priority of criminal prosecution”.

Those are splendid words from a committee which is not renowned for making observations of that kind and I endorse them wholeheartedly.

The report then, of course, introduces the word “however” and questions,

“whether the renewal of the control order regime through the draft Order is consistent with the recommendations of the Government’s Review of Counter-Terrorism and Security Powers”.

In the committee’s view,

“the Government should urgently review all existing control orders to ensure they are compatible with the findings of the Review of Counter-Terrorism and Security Powers. Where the Review found that certain requirements cannot be justified because they are too intrusive, those obligations in existing control orders should be removed or reduced so as to be no greater than those which will be permissible under the proposed Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures regime. This should also apply to any new control orders made under the existing regime if it is renewed”.

The Joint Committee then goes on to make some specific recommendations. The Government should explain to us—in this debate, presumably—

“why it is considered justifiable to maintain control orders on individuals for more than two years in the absence of any new evidence of their involvement in terrorism and whether TPIMs will be imposed on persons already subject to control orders for two years”.

It also recommends that:

“The Director of Public Prosecutions should be asked to consider whether a criminal investigation is justified in relation to each of the eight individuals subject to existing control orders and whether, in each case, everything possible is being done to investigate and gather evidence with a view to such prosecution”.

The committee then makes a very important point about which I am quite concerned. Until a few years ago I was a member of this committee and I remember coming up against it even then. It recommends that:

“The Minister should meet with representatives of the special advocates to discuss their continuing concerns about the fairness of the special advocates system”.

This troubles me because, when I was on the committee, the special advocates shared their concerns with us. They said it was very stressful being expected to operate in a way which was quite alien to their professional training and the way in which they normally would expect to conduct themselves in court and in the fulfilment of their professional responsibilities.

This brings me to why these matters are so important not only in terms of abstract principle but in practical terms. First, we say that we are protecting society with all these measures, but what are we protecting? Our system of law is absolutely crucial to what makes Britain a society worth defending, and I am always anxious that, inadvertently, over a long period of time, we are eroding the quality of that law and undermining the professional commitment of the people within it by what they are expected to do with the special arrangements in place.

Secondly, we are, in a sense, in this dreadful ongoing challenge that confronts us, also involved in psychological warfare. In psychological warfare, highly manipulative extremists are always looking for opportunities to exploit doubts or misgivings. Therefore, our ability to demonstrate that we are doing things transparently and keeping within the law as it has always operated in this country is terribly important to winning the battle for the minds of people. This gives poignancy to the recommendations of the Joint Committee.

The Minister referred to her commitment to pre-legislative scrutiny before the new arrangements are brought into play. I am glad that she did so because there is evidently a misunderstanding. In its report, the Joint Committee draws attention to the fact that, in giving evidence, the Minister did not seem to suggest that pre-legislative scrutiny would be appropriate. To have that reassurance from her tonight—I would be grateful if she could underline it in anything she says later—is important.

Another point on the findings of the Joint Committee which should be emphasised is that it also recommends that,

“the Government publish a summary of the views of the Crown Prosecution Service, the police, the security and intelligence agencies and Government departments on the Review of Counter-Terrorism and Security Powers, to facilitate parliamentary scrutiny of the Review; and a summary of the views of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Director-General of the Security Service about the proposed renewal of the control order regime”.

I do not want us ever inadvertently to give a victory to the extremists and terrorists. If we are not to do so, a resolute commitment to transparent justice—to people knowing why they are being held and the reasons for it—is absolutely essential. If we are not doing that, then all kinds of genuinely concerned, not sceptical or cynical, young people—and not only young people—in society will be very anxious and will not be full-heartedly behind the Government in the responsibilities that they are trying to discharge on our behalf.

My Lords, I declare an interest as the independent overseer of the review of counterterrorism and security powers. Like the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its recently published report, I strongly welcome the Government’s conclusion that the current control order regime can and should be repealed, consistent with public safety. It is obviously essential that it is replaced with something that is very different in character and not simply a pale imitation. We shall have to look closely at the legislation that comes forward to ensure that that is not what the Government have in mind. The review has clearly shown that the present regime is inefficient, grants excessive power to the Government, and undermines traditional British norms and respect for the rule of law. This may not be surprising. It was introduced by accident, following a series of court judgments adverse to the last Government. It has been a bad mistake.

I also strongly welcome the Government’s renewed and strengthened commitment, expressed in their response to the review, to the absolute priority of criminal prosecution. Where people are involved in terrorism they must be detected with all the considerable power at the disposal of the state, then prosecuted and locked up. It is not just public confidence that demands this but also our traditional common-law attachment to the supremacy of due process in criminal justice and our courts. The fact is that the evidence gathered by the review has made it clear that the present control order regime acts as a fundamental impediment to prosecution. This is because the restrictions placed upon controlees forbid the very contact and activity that, under proper surveillance and investigation, lead to evidence fit for prosecution. It is also because far too many controlees are simply warehoused under the supervision of the security services, beyond the scrutiny of criminal investigation, and therefore beyond any real possibility of prosecution.

For good reasons, the instincts of the security services are protective rather than prosecutorial in nature but this practice, and the Security Service’s primacy within it, means that some serious terrorist activity remains completely unpunished by criminal law. This is a serious and continuing failure of public policy. Any new scheme introduced by the Government must not replicate this failure. To give reality to the primacy of prosecution, which is the Government’s stated aim, it should clearly become an intrinsic part of any new regime that restrictions placed upon individuals should be linked to a continuing criminal investigation. After all, if the Home Secretary, under the new regime, is to go to the High Court to assert her belief that an individual is involved in acts of terrorism so that she may obtain an order placing restrictions upon that person, it would be quite absurd for there to be no active criminal investigation into the individual in question attendant upon the Home Secretary’s application. Yet that is the position that we are in at the moment.

Of course, if there were always such an investigation in progress, court-approved restrictions mandated for the duration of that investigation, up to a maximum period of two years, would become much more constitutionally acceptable—a form of pre-charge bail. I have no doubt that such a reform would garner broad support for the Government’s new regime, including among those most bitterly critical of the current arrangements. This reform would encourage evidence gathering and therefore increase the likelihood of prosecution. It would bring the new regime much closer to criminal justice, which is an obvious good in itself with all the protections that criminal justice implies for suspects. The Government should urgently reconsider their preliminary view on this issue which, frankly, has been hostile.

Again frankly, any Security Service opposition to intense police activity around controlees should not be a trump card. The public interest is wider than the instincts of the Security Service. In fact, the trump card should always be found in locking up those people who want to wreak violence upon our communities and putting them in prison cells for long, long years. This is the true deterrent and it is also the process that truly protects the public in a way that control orders never have.

There is a separate issue. A further conclusion of the review was that relocation—the practice under which people were forced to move to other parts of the country away from home, family and friends—should be abolished, and that long curfews should go. These were among the most bitterly resented aspects of the old regime and for good reason. They were also the most offensive to our traditional norms, imposed as they were without prosecution let alone conviction, and without the controlees being told any more than the mere gist of the allegations against them. Whoever would have thought that in Britain we would have a form of internal exile without prosecution or conviction?

The Government have now agreed that these provisions are excessive, disproportionate and, unnecessary—and I would add offensive. We do not need them, as the Government have now determined. They intend to abolish relocation and long curfews under their new regime. In those circumstances, they should do so now. How can it be right for this House to be invited to extend powers that the Government themselves have conceded are wrong in principle and excessive in practice, particularly when those powers impact so vividly upon civil liberties? I invite my noble friend to consider a way to proceed that does not include renewal of these quite excessive and, as we now know, unnecessary intrusions. Those subjected to them should not have to labour under these oppressive measures any longer. There can be no conceivable public interest in obliging them to do so when the measures themselves are serving no useful purpose.

Finally, it will be critical for this House and the other place to examine with great care the legislative proposals that come forward. It is always tempting for the bad old stuff to slip back into a piece of draft legislation. We must not end up in the position of approving a system later this year or early next year which is a form, as some people have put it, of “control order light”. We need real reform in this area. If there are to be restrictions, they must be coterminous with criminal investigation. There must be no restrictions which destroy the ability of the state to obtain evidence against people who might have been involved in terrorism, which is precisely the effect of the present regime. It has failed and must stop.

My Lords, I will be brief. First, I suspect I am one of few people in the House who has been involved in some of these cases in the courts. I have seen them at close quarters.

Many noble Lords will also remember that I was one of those on the Labour Benches who strongly opposed the Labour Government introducing control orders. I opposed them then and ever since. I welcomed the fact that noble Lords on the other side of the House, whose faces are familiar, all went through the Lobbies with me opposing control orders. Now they are sitting in government and I want to remind them of the principled stand that they all took on control orders. It is easy, once in government, to hear poured into their ears the position taken by the security services that somehow this is the only way forward. With regard to the issue of dealing with persons suspected of links with terrorism where it would be difficult to bring them to trial, I have always advocated that surveillance, the use of intercept and so on can be done, but without interfering with liberty in the excessive way that control orders have meant. I am saddened and disappointed that the siren voices of the security services have persuaded the Government that something not very different from control orders should be the way forward. I am sure that I will be one of the people who take part in the debates when the legislation is presented to this House, and I will rigorously test some of the suggestions that have been made.

I strongly support what has been said by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald: given the principled position that the Government are going to do away with control orders, and even if the position is that something else will come in of a lesser order but somewhat similar, it is quite wrong at this moment to keep the thing that they have criticised for so long with regard to the eight people currently subject to the level of suspicion that we have heard about. It cannot be right to continue that until the end of this year. At the very least, the Government should be reducing the constraints upon liberty to the standard that they are intending to introduce, and then that can be revisited in December. However, it cannot be right for them to continue with control orders when they so bitterly opposed their existence once they had been introduced by new Labour in government. I ask that, in the spirit not just of decency but of appropriateness, the cases that we have spoken about and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, mentioned be revisited.

I reiterate what my noble friend Lord Judd has said: one of the jewels in our crown, one of the great limbs of our democracy, is the way in which we interpret the rule of law. I am a proud champion of the common law. We have always believed that due process was vital before we in any way encroached upon the liberty of human beings. That is a proud tradition here and it is a sort of ceding to the terrorists if you abandon those values, which are so precious in our society. I strongly urge that we do not go down the road of introducing something similar, because it is a poison in the system. It is a way of saying that it was not just a temporary measure; somehow we have bought into this idea, and an alternative to the things that we have always believed in can now be introduced. I urge that we think again about that.

I was interested to hear that the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, said that there are alternatives, and I hope that in the months to come the Government will look again at what they are intending to do.

My Lords, I add my thanks for the decision by the Minister to abandon forced relocation. However, I have been given to understand by Liberty that this weekend a young man with a young family was forcibly sent off. I want to highlight the law of unintended consequences: a young family is left behind that will be deprived of rights that this very same young man is going to have in the very near future. That means that a child will be raised apart from the care of the father of the household, but that child has committed no crime. My understanding was that the House has always agreed that the interests of children should be put first. It surprises me that at this stage we still are forcibly sending off young people who may or may not be guilty and punishing their family in the process.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for her earlier statement. I join her in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, for his stewardship of what has been a very sensitive area.

I am reminded of when control orders came about, how they were introduced and the sense of the terrorism that gripped our very shores. I remember 7/7 vividly for various reasons: first, as someone who was travelling at that time; secondly, as someone who would have been impacted directly through both friends and family; and, thirdly, because of what happened in the aftermath when it was perceived that a particular faith or a particular community had indulged in, or been involved in, those acts. For all those reasons, a chill went down my back. It was important at that time that action was taken.

Britain, as many noble Lords have said, is a place of great liberty and freedoms, and that is right. However, the people who enact these crimes or even conceive of them do not respect that. They do not respect these laws, freedoms and liberties. Somewhat ironically, it is the very freedoms that are provided by our country that allow them, not to act, but to conceive of acting in that way.

We have heard from many noble Lords that control orders are not the perceived way forward. The Government accept that; indeed, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has said that quite clearly. However, I am concerned. Until the revisions are introduced, what is the option? What do we do in the interim? The threat of terrorism is alive today. If we cast our mind across the world to Pakistan, in Faisalabad today there has been yet another terrorist attack. As the Minister has said, this is not a threat just to the UK; it is a threat internationally, and we must react to it. Britain is a great place for civil liberties and freedoms, but equally the first responsibility of the Government must be to the citizens and residents in this great country—to protect their freedoms and their rights, yes, but also their safety and security.

While the extension of control orders is not perceived in this House as welcome, until we fill that vacuum there is an absolute need to ensure that our citizens are protected. I am sure that as the new legislation comes forward there will, with the wisdom possessed by this House, be robust debate. For tonight, though, I support the Minister in ensuring that control orders are extended to protect that majority. It is the exception who fall victim to control orders, but the majority must be protected. I lend my support to the extension of these orders, with the hope that the new legislation that we will see will be right for Britain and will continue to protect the residents and citizens of our country.

My Lords, I would like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, for introducing this statutory instrument, which has of course a narrow, technical and short-term focus. In doing so, she displayed her customary vigilance in these matters. I am happy to support the instrument and, indeed, the Government’s plans for liberalisation in this area. Like other noble Lords, I particularly welcome the decision to increase access to internet and mobile phones under certain conditions for those affected by these orders, and I am glad, too, that the ability to relocate terrorist suspects in new areas will in all likelihood go. These are necessary, explicable and entirely defensible liberalisations.

We have heard much tonight about the case made by Liberty in a very fine document sent to many noble Lords, but I simply want to make one point on the other side of the argument regarding the extent to which all of this is shrouded in mystery. I simply think that it is possible for all of us to read some of the open-source evidence, including the High Court documentation, on these matters. If one does so, it is much more difficult for one to say that what is at stake here is a mystery of some sort. In fact, there is a significant amount of evidence in the public domain. Perhaps this bears on the argument about the role of the security forces in making a case behind the scenes—no doubt that goes on in all Governments—but, even without access to that sort of information and discussion, which most of us do not have, there is none the less a lot of material in the public domain that the Government have to take seriously. That is a balancing point that is worth making.

I am happy to support this temporary instrument as a necessary measure for public protection.

My Lords, the Minister started by giving the context for this order; my personal context falls into two parts. Like the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the events of 7 July 2005 had an enormous impact on me personally, as much as on anyone who was not actually on one of the tube trains or on the bus. In addition, I am hugely aware of the capacity for restrictive measures to act as a recruiting sergeant for actions that seek to achieve destabilisation and that rack up calls for more measures that are contrary to our democratic principles. I have said that because I do not want what I will go on to say to be thought of as being a sort of hearts-and-flowers approach.

The points made in the report done by my noble friend Lord Macdonald of River Glaven and in the recent report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights are issues that I hope the Government take on board in the next stage of dealing with these matters. I hope that both reports will feed into the final design of the measures. Like others, I will not attempt to cover all the ground tonight, but I will make a number of points on which I personally feel particularly strongly.

Respecting the principles of the rule of law and, to the greatest extent possible, applying the normal principles and processes of the criminal law and the criminal justice system are to me, as to other noble Lords, fundamental and indeed essential. I mention simply these requirements: due process within the criminal justice system; judicial, not executive, action; special advocates—the noble Lord, Lord Judd, talked of how what they are required to do is alien to their professional training, but I suspect that it is alien to their instincts as well; the role of the DPP; and that the new measures should be a point on a road to prosecution rather than an end in themselves, which the Minister this evening has confirmed is the objective.

On the issue of curfew, as my noble friend’s report recommends—I will put it more crudely than he did—giving those who are suspected of terrorist activity enough rope to hang themselves is in itself very persuasive, quite apart from the other issues. On the objections to curfews, both in principle and in practice, I have to say that I have never been persuaded that ordering someone to stay at home for up to 16 hours a day would deter him if he was determined to commit terrorist actions. Like others, I am pleased to hear that relocations are to cease. Can the Minister tell us any more about that? A residence requirement, which I hope will mean a requirement just to have a normal residential address, is not a curfew and I hope that such a requirement will not come anywhere near being a curfew.

It is important that, as far as possible, the new measures allow the person subject to them, and, importantly, his family, to get on with life. I have read comments by someone who was subject to a control order saying that the arrangements for signing in at a police station could not have precluded work or study more, and that they made normal life completely impossible. Points have been made around the House about the Government reviewing the current orders now and relaxing the regime to one that they have already decided is appropriate. The noble Baroness, Lady Afshar, asked the Minister whether it is the case that a young man and his family have been relocated in only the past few days.

In evidence to the JCHR the Minister argued that, despite there being lower numbers of controlees compared with the past, resources for surveillance are not currently adequate to reduce numbers to the level that several noble Lords have described. That may be something that the independent reviewer will be able to consider. No doubt there will be a review before we get to the end of this process. Like others, I hope that there is wide consultation on the legislation and the draft emergency legislation, which the Government propose to create and keep on the stocks in case it is needed. Confining consultation on that to the Opposition on Privy Council terms would not garner the expertise that is available to the Government.

On one point that the noble Baroness has made, would she not agree with me that the special emergency measures are absolutely a priority for scrutiny because of their very nature? The way that they will be used in an emergency means that it is terribly important that Parliament should look at them thoroughly and think through in advance what their implications will be.

I almost always agree with the noble Lord; I certainly do on this point. If they are to be introduced as a matter of urgency—no doubt in a climate in which calm judgment will be difficult—that in itself argues for calmer judgment at an earlier point.

The current system is hardly perfect. I recently met someone who had been controlled, although the control order had been quashed. He said that all he understood of the reasons for the order was that he had been assessed as having been trained in countersurveillance. What techniques did he have? He was on the top deck of a bus with his son and turned his back on the CCTV camera. The Minister has anticipated this, but I have recounted the tale because it is part of what we are considering. It indicates how we need to move forward. The controlee does not want his name to be mentioned. I found his story and the comments of Dr Michael Korzinski—the psychologist and clinical director of the Helen Bamber Foundation, whose client he was—profoundly affecting. He talked about the practical, legal, health, emotional and relationship issues and the impact on his family. Dr Korzinski talked about how social isolation, ostracism and stigma affect the brain, saying that his client “was essentially driven mad”. I understand from him that there has been no mechanism for oversight or review of the impact of the orders on the mental and physical health of the individuals and their families. People who have been seen at the Helen Bamber Foundation have developed serious mental health problems as a direct consequence of control orders.

It occurs to me that the role of the independent reviewer, with access to an expert panel of mental health and other relevant professionals, could be extended to ensure proper monitoring and review in this regard as well as others. We must be very careful how we treat individuals and how—here I think that I echo the noble Lord, Lord Judd, almost word for word—we protect our society from becoming a society which we as citizens would not in our turn wish to support.

My Lords, I will be extremely brief on this issue. It is very clear that everyone in this House is opposed to terrorism but the question we must ask is how effective the control orders have been. The noble Baroness, Lady Afshar, asked what their impact had been on those who have been affected by them, not simply those who are subject to the orders but their families and those who suffer the effects of these exclusion orders. The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, and the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, referred to alternative forms of investigation and surveillance.

One of the consequences of not using powers of surveillance and investigation in Northern Ireland to the extent that they led to prosecution was that we saw a development in criminal activity. I am not suggesting that the control orders would lead to that but one of the consequences of repressive anti-terrorist legislation is that it grows the terrorism which it seeks to defeat by virtue of the impact it has on the communities on whom it is imposed and on which it impacts. The evidence is very clear that legislation which is neither proportionate nor necessary has the effect of growing resentment in those communities, and that that resentment can lead ultimately to people becoming involved in, or possibly supporting in some very minor way, the very terrorism which it seeks to defeat. Is it not possible for the control order to slip into oblivion, for the new measures to be introduced in December, and in the mean time to make use of the very extensive powers of investigation and surveillance available under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and other legislation?

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, for introducing the order. I echo my noble friend Lord Judd in thanking our security services and police for their co-ordinated work in keeping us safe. We know that plots have been foiled recently. It is clearly our duty to provide the police and security services with the tools and procedures that they need to do their job effectively. As we have heard today and in previous debates, that sometimes means walking a very difficult line in balancing individual freedom with collective safety—the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, put that very well—with the rights of the wider community sometimes outweighing the rights of the individual. Control orders have been the tool for that and I thought that the Minister said that they had had some success. In an ideal world we would not wish to use control orders. It would be greatly preferable if our criminal justice system could deal with terrorists who wished to cause us harm but the view was taken by the previous Government and previous Home Secretaries that control orders were a necessary evil.

The order before us provides for the continuation of the power to make a control order against an individual when the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds for suspecting that the individual is, or has been, involved in terrorism-related activity. I echo the noble Baroness’s tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, for the work that he has done. We know that eight people are subject to control orders at the moment. My understanding—perhaps the noble Baroness will confirm this—is that some of these orders have been made since the coalition Government came to power. The implication of what the Minister has said is that the Government recognise that a number of people pose a real threat to our security who cannot be prosecuted or deported. Therefore, the Government have come face to face with reality in recognising the need for a mechanism to protect the public from the threat that such individuals pose. The Sixth Report of the Independent Reviewer states clearly:

“The control orders system, or an alternative system providing equivalent and proportionate public protection, remains necessary, but only for a small number of cases where robust information is available to the effect that the individual in question presents a considerable risk to national security, and conventional prosecution is not realistic”.

It looks like the Government have gone through a steep learning curve in the past few months, but one of the results is an absurd situation whereby the order on 28-day detention was allowed to lapse without the draft emergency legislation being in place. Legislation has now been published but, as yet, we do not know when Parliament will discuss it.

A number of noble Lords referred to the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights that examines whether Parliament should be given the opportunity to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny of the proposed emergency legislation. The noble Baroness will know that the Select Committee said that it does not accept the Government’s reasoning for not providing this opportunity and recommends that the legislation should be published and made available to Parliament for pre-legislative scrutiny. I invite the noble Baroness to comment on that specific recommendation. I also echo the point raised by my noble friend Lord Judd, who referred to the recommendation in the committee’s report that the Government should publish a summary of the views of a number of the agencies involved in counterterrorism in order to facilitate parliamentary scrutiny of the review. I accept that the report was published only a few days ago and I would not expect the Government already to be able to come to your Lordships’ House with a full response. That would be unreasonable. However, the noble Baroness should be able to say broadly whether she accepts those recommendations and can respond to them.

It is noticeable that the proposed new control order regime pays particular attention to surveillance. We are told that sufficient finance will be available to the police and security services for that resource-intensive proposal. Will new money be made available? The noble Baroness owes it to the House to inform us as to how continuation of the current control order regime will be dealt with, given the financial cuts that the police and the security services are facing. I pray in aid to the noble Baroness the report published today that details some of those cuts.

Will the noble Baroness inform the House about the impact on the capability of our counterterrorism work of the changes proposed in the Police Reform Bill that is now in the other place? That is highly relevant to this order and to what is likely to take place over the next few months. I have great reservations about the proposal to impose elected police commissioners on our police forces. I have no doubt whatever that it risks politicisation of our forces and inevitably corruption. That is a debate for another day, but I am concerned about the impact on national strategic policing issues, which are relevant to this debate.

There can be little doubt that police commissioners will be elected on manifestos that are bound to focus on local policing issues. I suspect that it will be a question of which candidate proposes more bobbies on the beat. That is fair enough, but what if these elected police commissioners neglect their national responsibilities? What if they do not make appropriate resources available for counterterrorism work? The noble Baroness speaks with great authority on this issue. Is she convinced that there will be sufficient intervention powers at a national level to ensure that elected police commissioners do not inhibit national security work in which the police have a major role to play? I assure her that we will come back to that issue.

These are not easy issues. As every noble Lord who spoke today said, we in this country have a long tradition of individual rights and freedoms. We are all very proud of that. As the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, said, we have responsibilities for the safety and security of the public in very challenging times. It is a very difficult balance to achieve. The Official Opposition support the extension of the order this evening. We look forward to the new legislation on how we can scrutinise what happens. I hope that we will be able to reach consensus that meets the requirements of individual freedoms while keeping the safety of our country to the fore.

My Lords, I thank the House for the thoughtful tone of the debate that followed my opening remarks. It demonstrated, not surprisingly, that there is a range of views on these issues. There are strong principles involved and I do not resile in any way from the principled stand that I took in opposition. However, I always said—and it is still the case—that one has to measure what one does against the security needs of the country, and what one does must be consistent with those needs. It is a matter of regret that we came to the conclusion that we cannot simply revert to a situation in which we can rely on open and normal prosecution through the courts. It is much to be desired that that is where we will come to. However, after detailed examination—this was a very thorough process—we came to the reluctant conclusion that we could not dispense entirely with the measures that lie alongside the normal judicial system.

I am grateful to noble Lords for many of their remarks. Perhaps I might have wished that more recognition had been given to the differences that exist between the measures that we are proposing and those that exist at the moment. We had regard to what was said, in particular about the psychological effects of relocation; we took a view on the necessity of a very long curfew; and we did our best to create a situation in which normal life will be open to those who are under restrictions and they will be able to work. Many of them do not, but we would like those who have work to be able to do it. We are trying extremely hard not to distort the lives of those individuals who are under restrictions any more than is necessary.

There will be an opportunity for scrutiny of this legislation. That is one reason for wanting to have in place a temporary regime. I was asked about pre-legislative scrutiny. The Government have no problem with this. It is partly a question of the amount of time available to do various things. I am sure that the House will attach importance to us not continuing the existing control order regime longer than we need to. We must allow enough time for scrutiny on the Floor of the House, not only of the TPIMs but also, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, remarked, of the emergency provisions. I take his point and put it to noble Lords that we need to be practical about how we go about giving the scrutiny that this House and the other place will want to give to this legislation. I am not saying that the Government see an obstacle to it in principle; it is simply that we have doubts about the practicality.

I was asked whether there will be new money for the extra surveillance. The answer is yes, and I shall come back to that in a moment. I was also asked whether we will give information about, or publish, the evidence given by some of the services in the process of the review. I am not going to promise that. I think it will be perfectly understandable to Members of this House why it is necessary to keep the confidence of the security services, in particular, but also the police in this matter. We will do our best to—

The Select Committee’s report came out only a few days ago. Is that a considered response in the light of the report? I entirely understand the point that she is making but I wonder whether the Government need to give a little more time to that.

As I said, I am not going to make that promise. I was about to add a sentence when the noble Lord rose. We will take this under advisement and see whether we can give some kind of summary, but if the noble Lord does not mind, I do not want to give a totally definitive answer to that point this evening.

I was asked a number of detailed points and I shall try, without detaining the House for too long, to go through some of them. Right at the beginning, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, asked a number of questions which I think bear on points made subsequently in debate. The implication of his remarks was: would we honour seriously what we have said about the importance of continuing to seek prosecutions? I have three things to say about that. One is that the CORG which he mentioned will conduct serious work. I think that it has always been a serious body but the Government are going to make absolutely certain that the conduct of the CORG—the review body that keeps these cases under continuous and pretty close scrutiny—is serious. We have, I hope, created a situation in which there will be greater possibilities for prosecution. I stress to the House that I think it is only fair to say that the primary purpose of these measures is still protective. Nevertheless, within the scope that is offered, we will certainly be looking at the possibility of continuing and bringing prosecutions. Indeed, the operation of the TPIMs themselves may allow that to happen.

I was also asked why, if we believe that the control orders are imperfect—as, indeed, I said myself—we do not abolish them straightaway. I was asked whether it would not be right to do just that. I remind the House of the condition which is very important to our ability to move to a looser regime, and that is the surveillance that needs to be put in place in order to provide the public with the necessary security. That surveillance does not exist at the moment. Individuals have to be recruited; people have to be trained; and we have to have extra capacity and capability in that area, which we do not have at the moment. I do not think it is reasonable to say that you should be able to abolish the existing regime for the individuals who are currently under control orders in the absence of the necessary conditions for a new regime. Having said that, clearly the current control orders come up for regular review. We shall be reviewing them and of course we will be looking at individuals’ cases in the light of their situations. As I have said, there is clearly a transition to be undertaken. I do not think that I can go further than that at the moment. I understand perfectly well the point that has been made but I hope that noble Lords will also understand the constraints that we are under in moving quickly from one regime to another.

My Lords, perhaps I can deal with the issue of moving people to places like Leicester or up to Norfolk and so on. We have decided that that is abhorrent and that it will not be sought by the Home Secretary. Therefore, can we not now bring back from exile the people who have been put on those orders?

When the circumstances are in place and we have the necessary surveillance and protection for the public, we will be able to do so. First we must put in place the conditions that will enable us to operate the new regime.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, is absolutely right to say, as I should have said, that the Government are extremely pleased that the Joint Committee on Human Rights has welcomed the change. He will also have observed that I did not miss the fact that there were some qualifications in the views expressed by the committee. We shall certainly take those seriously. In particular, he mentioned the unhappiness about the conditions under which special advocates have to operate. In the report there are one or two instances of the special advocates’ conditions of work being eased. It is a big issue and it goes wider than control orders. That will be taken up and examined, and part of the Green Paper that the Government are to bring forward will be devoted to the use of special advocates and the conditions under which they should be able to work for their clients.

I would like to reiterate my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald. He did us the honour of saying that he felt that the process had been an honest and thorough one. I am extremely grateful for that, as it is valuable to have that endorsement. I have to be honest and say that there is some light between us on the balance to be struck between protection and prosecution. That is an issue that we shall want to explore further in debate. We entirely agree with him about the supremacy of due process and I do not deny at all that the control order regime inhibits prosecution. We are trying to strike a balance that will enable us to have greater emphasis on the prosecution side of things. However, I cannot conceal from the House that the protective element in the TPIMs is a primary objective.

I believe that I have covered most points. One noble Lord mentioned the role of the reviewer. We now have a new statutory reviewer and, having met him, I have total confidence that he will do an extremely thorough and careful job. I think that he will be a safeguard against the danger to which the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, pointed—the difference that turns out to be not a difference but a continuation of the existing situation. I do not believe that that is the Government’s intention or the effect of implementation, but there will be that safeguard. He will also report on individual cases. It is right that we should leave that role to him; I do not want to do that role myself.

I hope that I have covered the main points raised in the debate. Perhaps not surprisingly, the noble Lord opposite tried to get me on to the effect of the police reform Bill. I remind him that the budget for counterterrorism is protected. There will be more information about the whole role of the National Crime Agency. I assure him that the national functions of the police will be just as protected as our desire to ensure that the accountability to local authorities on the part of the police and crime commissioners is also a feature of modern policing.

Given the prospect of scrutinising the new regime with the thoroughness that I know this House will wish to apply, and with the clarification that I have been able to give, I hope the House will agree that the order can be renewed, and I commend it to the House.

Motion agreed.

House adjourned at 8.56 pm.