New Forest East


Dr Julian Lewis: Does the right hon. Gentleman [Jack Straw] agree that the observation by my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) – I am sorry that he is no longer in the Chamber – that PII [Public Interest Immunity] certificates have not imperilled national security was obviously correct but utterly banal? As long as we are willing to drop all these cases and pay millions of pounds, national security will not be affected, but the Exchequer will be.

[Mr Jack Straw: Yes, and using PII certificates in respect of evidence that is central to a case is profoundly unjust to both sets of parties. ...]

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Dr Julian Lewis: In support of what the right hon. Gentleman [George Howarth], who is also my friend, has just said, the House should bear it in mind that it is not just a quantitative increase in resources that is required. If that increase is forthcoming, there will be a qualitative change because, as the Chairman of the ISC [Intelligence and Security Committee] pointed out, the new people will act like investigators, going into the agencies and thus giving a realistic prospect of seriously close scrutiny.

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[Mr Andrew Tyrie: ... The Bill came about partly as a consequence of the recent exposure of Britain's involvement in a programme of extraordinary rendition. Bringing all that into the public domain is a matter of deep concern to the Americans, particularly their security agencies. They are worried that our court proceedings could lead to the exposure of intelligence information handed to them by us. The Bill is a consequence, as we have just heard, of the cost and embarrassment of settling a number of civil actions brought by people who have alleged maltreatment. To deal with the first problem, the proposal is to close down the so-called Norwich Pharmacal jurisdiction and, to deal with the second problem, the Government have decided to replace public interest immunity certificates with closed material procedures in most national security cases. ...]

Dr Julian Lewis: I appreciate the serious point about getting to the bottom of a given rendition. Does my hon. Friend [Andrew Tyrie] agree that if we are left with only PII, pay-offs will tend to be given and we will not get to the bottom of cases? However, if a pay-off is made when closed material procedure could have been used, one can deduce that something was amiss because although the Government could have used a more specific route, they chose not to do so.

[Mr Tyrie: My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. The judge now has discretion on CMPs – at least, I hope that is where we will end up as a result of efforts in the other place – so we could arrive at a position where we have more justice and not less, which is the underlying principle we are discussing.]