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Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill

January 6, 2015

Mark made the following contribution to the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill.

Mark Field: Unlike many of my colleagues I am more sympathetic to the Government’s position than others, although I respect the deep concerns felt across the House about broad issues of civil liberties. I have less concern about the temporary exclusion order being down to Executive authority, and in many ways the accountability of any Minister to come to the House and justify their actions counts for quite a lot.

The right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) referred to the protection only of judicial review. If it were still down to old-fashioned Wednesbury principles I could accept that, but judicial review is now a rather broader body of law than was perhaps the case in the 1940s. It is now pretty substantial, which provides enough comfort—at least to my mind—for us to go down that route, rather than requiring the oversight that would come through David Anderson QC.

Mr David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that judicial review can look only at the process of reaching a decision, but that judicial oversight would be in a position to take further evidence on the correctness of the decision? Surely that is appropriate to these circumstances.

Mark Field: That is the principle of judicial review, as the hon. Gentleman is well aware, and judicial activism has put matters well beyond that particular point.

I have two more brief observations, and I have some sympathy with the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), who is not currently in his place. My concern from the various whisperings around the Chamber in the last couple of hours is that the Government are trying to find some way of backtracking in the House of Lords on this matter. I think it would be a great discourtesy to this House if that came to pass. If we are to have a proper debate on this issue, it should be through the elected House as far as possible, rather than showing a bit of leg and letting things happen in the House of Lords. We shall see what the Minister has to say and how matters proceed in the other place.

I have one brief observation about all these issues and this sort of legislation, which is close to all our hearts. Governments of both colours are perhaps too utilitarian and practical in their outlook on such issues, and at times they need to take a broader view. The right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) referred to our international reputation, and I could not agree more. Our international reputation on these issues counts for a hell of a lot, and on the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta there is a sense in which the rule of law has been an important part of what we have been able, in terms of values, to turn out to much of the rest of the world.

I was also struck by the Snowden revelations made by Angela Merkel at the Reichstag, which recognised those states in the west that pride themselves on the values that have played an important part in developing human rights across the globe, affecting all 7.5 billion citizens of the world. We must watch and ensure that what we do does not set a precedent and an opportunity for dangerous dictators to utilise the fact that the rights of individuals have apparently been run over roughshod. There is no doubt in my mind that what is proposed in the Bill is necessary, but it is open to some debate whether some elements of it are entirely proportionate. It is a delicate balance. My instincts often are on the side of liberty on these issues. More often than not, it is right that we have some form of broader judicial oversight. As someone who is on the Intelligence and Security Committee, I recognise the importance of parliamentary oversight for some of the very important issues that require a focus on terrorism. I think the Government have broadly got it right in this regard. I hope the Minister will pay due attention to the concerns that have been raised and that, if there is to be backtracking, courtesy will be shown and it will come to this House rather than being left to another place. We have had an important debate, with contributions from Members on both sides of the House. The Minister should pay very close attention to the concerns that have been raised today.