JUSTICE – JUSTICE & SECURITY BILL – REPORT STAGE – 4 March 2013
Dr Julian Lewis: My question is also to do with the right hon. Gentleman’s concept of the last resort. I think he would accept that one of the reasons why we are enacting this legislation is to avoid an unpalatable situation. People who we might know from secret sources, which we cannot expose in public, to be closely involved in terrorism have been able to sue and walk away with £500,000, £1 million or more. That is what is behind the provision. It will always be open to the Government to pay the money and thus avoid the action. Will the right hon. Gentleman’s criterion of the last resort mean that we can go for a closed material procedure to avoid having to pay out the money unjustifiably or that we will have to carry on doing what we are doing at the moment – rather than exposing secret sources or techniques, paying out a lot of money to potentially very dangerous people?
[Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I ask hon. Members to make shorter interventions, although I know it is important to get things on the record.
Sadiq Khan: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. Six interventions ago, I said that I would take my last one; I keep being too generous. The hon. Gentleman’s point would be good if I was suggesting that we remove CMPs altogether. I am saying that a judge should consider – a word that I shall explain in a moment – all other options, including public interest immunity, before going to a CMP. The Government amendment requires the Minister to consider PII; if it is good enough for the Minister, why is it not good enough for the judge? We are not saying that there should not be CMPs, but that it is exceptional, for the reasons the Government have given. It should happen very infrequently; people have mentioned figures of seven or 15. The Under-Secretary has said from the Front Bench that he is not sure how many, which is why he will be supporting our sunset clause. What I am saying is that asking the judge to consider all the other options would make explicit the intention of Parliament and the Government.]
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Dr Lewis: Does the right hon. Lady accept that if sensitive material is redacted under PII, that may be the very sensitive material – the secret source, the secret technique or whatever – which is the thing that proves the Government’s case? Therefore it is not good enough to say that PII could be used with redactions, because the redactions themselves may be the key component of the evidence that the Government need to present.
[Hazel Blears: As ever, my colleague on the Intelligence and Security Committee makes the point in straightforward, direct and proper terms. My understanding is that the Opposition accept that in a number of cases it will be necessary to have closed material proceedings and that PII does not meet the case in every set of circumstances.]