PRIME MINISTER – HUMAN RIGHTS – 28 June 2006

Dr Julian Lewis: What is his policy  on returning terrorist sympathisers to their countries of origin?

[The Prime Minister (Mr Tony Blair): Foreign nationals living in the UK who pose a threat to this country should indeed be removed.]

[SUPPLEMENTARY:] I entirely agree with the Prime Minister, but does he accept that no society can be safe if its laws fail to recognise that people forfeit some of their own rights when they pose a threat to, or infringe, the rights of others? Is not that failure precisely why he had to abandon the pledge that he gave the House on 3 May that foreign prisoners – criminals – would be deported automatically on release, and is it not why he is helpless to deport foreign terrorist sympathisers?

[The Prime Minister: No, although there is a particular problem, which I will come to in a moment. We have many people – I think almost 40 – who are foreign nationals who are accused of terrorist offences or of plotting or inciting terrorism and their cases are going through the court. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that we have got to make sure that those court cases are successful. But under the Human Rights Act 1998, we have the power expressly to override legislation if we wish to do so. What I said last year, and repeat now, is that we are prepared to do so if necessary.

If I may say so, our view is somewhat better than the one expressed by the Leader of the Opposition. He said that we should replace the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights. He also went on to say that that should not be subject to the Parliament Act, and therefore would be entrenched, which, in fact, would make it even harder to do what the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) wants. The Leader of the Opposition also said that the reason why we needed that was something called the Singh case. I can point out that the case was decided in August 2000. The right hon. Gentleman said that it had been decided under the guidance of the Human Rights Act, but that Act came into force in October 2000. So we have –

Mr Speaker: Order. I think that the Prime Minister has made the point.]