HC Deb 06 March 1991 vol 187 cc291-312

'.—(1) Where a person is convicted in the Crown Court of a relevant offence the court shall, subject to the provisions of this section, make a confiscation order if it is satisfied that he has (whether before or after the coming into force of this Part of this Act) benefited from terrorist-related activities engaged in by him or another; and that order shall require him to pay an amount equal to what the court assesses to be the value of his proceeds of those activities.

(2) For the purposes of this Part of this Act—

  1. (a) a person engages in terrorist-related activities if he engages in activities which consist of or involve the commission of one or more relevant offences;
  2. (b) a person benefits from terrorist-related activities if he obtains money or other property as a direct or indirect result of those activities; and
  3. (c) a person's proceeds of terrorist-related activities are the money or other property obtained by him as mentioned above.

(3) A court shall not on convicting a defendant of a relevant offence make a confiscation order against him unless—

  1. (a) he is in the same proceedings convicted of another relevant offence committed on a separate occasion (whether before or after the coming into force of this Part of this Act) since the beginning of the period of six years ending when those proceedings were instituted; or
  2. (b) he is shown to have committed another relevant offence as mentioned in paragraph (a) above.

(4) In subsection (3)(a) above the reference to an offence of which a person is convicted includes a reference to an offence taken into consideration by the court in determining his sentence.

(5) A court shall not on convicting a defendant of a relevant offence make a confiscation order against him unless it is satisfied that, at some time since the commission of that offence, the realisable property held by him has exceeded £20,000 or such other amount as is for the time being prescribed for the purposes of this subsection by an order made by the Secretary of State.

(6) A court shall not make a confiscation order if the defendant satisfies the court that the circumstances in which the terrorist-related activities in question were engaged in would make it unfair or oppressive for such an order to be made.

(7) If when making a confiscation order the court is satisfied that the amount that might be realised in the case of the defendant at that time is less than the amount which the court assesses to be the value of his proceeds of terrorist-related activities, the order shall require him to pay the amount that might then be so realised.

(8) For the purpose of assessing the value of the defendant's proceeds of terrorist-related activities in a case where a confiscation order has previously been made against him, the court shall leave out of account any of his proceeds of such activities that are shown to the court to have been taken into account in determining the amount to be paid under that order.'—[Mr. Brooke.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

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The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Brooke)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to consider the following: Government new clause 6—Provisions supplementary to section (Confiscation orders).

Government new clause 7—Relevant offences.

Government new clause 8—Realisable property, value and gifts.

Government new clause 9—Assumptions as to benefit and value of proceeds.

Government new clause 10—Statements, etc., relevant to making confiscation orders.

Government new clause 11—Assisting another to retain proceeds of terrorist-related activities.

Government new clause 12—Concealing or transferring proceeds of terrorist-related activities.

Government new clause 13—Enforcement and supplementary provisions.

Government new clause 14—Interpretation of confiscation provisions.

Government amendments Nos. 18, 21 to 31, 15, 32, and 34 to 38.

Mr. Brooke

New clause 5 is the first of a series of 10 closely related new clauses. Together with an associated new schedule, they will, if approved, provide for the confiscation of assets belonging to persons who have benefited from terrorist-related activities. The new provisions are aimed at those persons who have involved themselves, or who may be tempted to involve themselves, in the financing of terrorism in Northern Ireland. If they become law, persons who are convicted of a range of offences—of a type known to be committed by terrorist financiers—will be liable to personal financial loss, as well as to whatever penal sanction the court convicting them may impose. I hope that it will be for the convenience of the House if, when introducing new clause 5, I also say something about the confiscation scheme as a whole—the background to it, its rationale and its main features.

You and other hon. Members, Mr. Speaker, will note that the 10 clauses and the schedule contain a good deal of technical legal language. You may therefore be somewhat reassured to know that much of this is necessary repetition, for the purposes of this Bill, of very similar language contained in comparable provisions of the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986, which provide in England and Wales for the confiscation of the assets of persons involved in drug trafficking, and the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which deals with the confiscation of the proceeds of involvement in other serious crime. Moreover, many of the paragraphs in the text now before us repeat, almost word for word, provisions in the Northern Ireland (Criminal Justice) (Confiscation) Order 1990, which reproduces, for Northern Ireland, the substance of the two Acts which I have just mentioned.

First, I will give some background. The Government are convinced that an effective strategy for the eradication of terrorism in Northern Ireland must be one which includes effective measures for tackling terrorism at its financial roots. Finance is the life blood of terrorism. It is required not simply for the acquisition of weapons, explosive and other terrorist material, some of it very sophisticated and expensive; it also pays the so-called "volunteers"—those who carry out acts of terrorism on behalf of their organisation. The provisions before us represent an important additional element in what we intend should he a comprehensive range of measures for curbing the financing of terrorism, itself an increasingly diversified activity. There is, I suggest, little doubt that such measures are necessary.

It is well known that terrorist organisations in Northern Ireland and those who handle money on their behalf are becoming ever more sophisticated in the means by which they raise and launder funds. Increasingly, persons of substance, including business men and accountants, are involved. It is a particularly worrying feature of the current scene that persons known to be involved with terrorist organisations are involved in the running of what may be regarded as legitimate businesses, with the principal objective of using those businesses to raise or launder funds intended to finance terrorism. There is good reason to believe that some of these people have been involved in such terrorist-financing activity for several years and that they have derived substantial personal benefit from their involvement.

There is in the Government's view—a view which is fully shared by the Royal Ulster Constabulary—a serious risk that, unless effective action is taken soon, persons acting on behalf of terrorist organisations will succeed in establishing a commercial or business infrastructure capable of providing long-term support for terrorism. Perhaps just as much a matter for concern is the risk that, even after a cessation of political violence, such an infrastructure might remain in place, able to sustain a potential for more straightforwardly criminal racketeering. No one would wish to see the creation of a Mafia-style society anywhere in the United Kingdom.

It was against this background, and with the concerns that I have just outlined, that the Government considered how they might use the opportunity created by this Bill to strengthen the law to allow more effective action against terrorist financiers. There were two principal outcomes of this consideration. The first was the new investigative powers for non-police officers, which were introduced by my hon. Friend the Minister of State in Committee, and which are now to be found in clause 47 and schedule 4. An ability to invoke these powers, and to secure the involvement in a financial investigation of persons with the special skills required for this task, should considerably ease the task of the RUC in bringing to justice those involved in such activities.

The second main outcome of our consideration of possible new measures is the scheme for confiscation which is now before us. It addresses a gap in the existing law. As Lord Colville has pointed out in his recent report on the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989, the present law, while providing some machinery for the confiscation of money or property which it can be proved is intended for terrorist use, does not provide any means of depriving "terrorist financiers" of the personal benefit which they derive from their involvement in such activity.

It is a matter of regret to me that the very extensive and detailed work that was necessary before these provisions could be brought forward could not be completed quickly enough to allow them to he considered in Committee. They were, however, tabled at what was the earliest possible moment after the necessary preparatory work had been done, and I am grateful for the indulgence of the House.

Despite their length and technical complexity, the provisions that make up the new scheme have a simple purpose, and their intention can be expressed in straightforward terms. In essence, they provide that, if a person is convicted in the Crown court of a relevant offence as defined in new clause 7, and if certain conditions have been fulfilled, the court will be required to make a confiscation order. The amount of that order will represent either the value of the person's proceeds from terrorist-related activity during the six years preceding his conviction, or the value of his realisable property—as defined in new clause 8—at the time when proceedings are instituted, whichever is the less. The relevant offences will be the scheduled offences identified in new clause 7 from the commission of which persons are most likely to benefit or which are most closely related to terrorist finance.

There are five matters, identified in new clause 5, about which a court must be satisfied, after it has convicted someone of a relevant offence, before it can make a confiscation order. It must be satisfied first that the defendant has engaged in terrorist-related activities; secondly, that he has benefited from such activities; thirdly, that at some time since the commission of the offence the defendant has had realisable property exceeding £20,000 in value; fourthly, that, in the period of six years ending when the proceedings were instituted, the defendant has committed another relevant offence on a separate occasion; and, fifthly, that in the particular case, having regard to the circumstances of the offences, the making of the order would not be unfair or oppressive.

Terrorist-related activities are defined in new clause 5(2)(a) as activities that consist of, or involve the commission of, one or more relevant offences, and it will be provided that a person benefits from such activities if he obtains money or other property as a direct or indirect result of such activities.

Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)

As my right hon. Friend has said, the wording of the new clause is somewhat extensive, and difficult for anyone to understand completely. Will one of the conditions to be met before the court can make an order be that the defendant must be given notice that, if he is convicted, an application for such an order will follow? Or will an order be made in any event against anyone who is convicted of such an offence?

Mr. Brooke

As I said a moment ago, the court will be required to bring in a confiscation order if the relevant circumstances obtain.

To assist the court in its task of determining whether the conditions have been fulfilled, the scheme will provide certain assumptions which the court. in the absence of evidence to the contrary, will be obliged to apply. They include the assumption that any property appearing to the court to have been held by the defendant at any time since his conviction, or to have been transferred by him at any time during the six-year period ending when proceedings were instituted, was received by him as a benefit from terrorist-related activities.

As with other confiscation schemes, such as the 1990 Northern Ireland order that I have already mentioned, provision will be made for restraint and charging orders. Those are required to enable assets to be frozen at an early stage so that they are available to meet any confiscation order that may be made if the defendant is convicted. There will also be provisions creating offences aimed at persons who attempt to avoid confiscation.

The power to make confiscation orders will be available only to the Crown court in Northern Ireland, but the funds subject to such orders may be held elsewhere. For that reason, the scheme will enable provision to be made by Order in Council for the enforcement in England and Wales, Scotland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man of confiscation and restraint—but not charging orders—made in Northern Ireland. The offences provisions in new clauses 11 and 12 will also be capable of application in those separate jurisdictions.

It is intended that restraint orders should normally be granted by the High Court in Northern Ireland. However, it will also be provided that, in certain closely defined circumstances, the power to grant such orders should be exercisable by the Secretary of State. The circumstances will be that the Secretary of State should be satisfied on all the matters on which a High Court judge would have to be satisfied before granting such an order, and that in addition it should appear to him that the disclosure of information that it would be necessary to provide to the judge in support of such an application would be likely either to place someone in danger or to prejudice the capability of members of the RUC, or an authorised inquiry, to investigate offences to which the scheme applies.

I readily acknowledge that these provisions appear severe. Indeed they are severe, which is their intention. They are intended to make people who have deliberately involved themselves in financial activity in support of terrorist organisations, or who may be thinking of so involving themselves, to think twice about that involvement. I remind the House that, in principle, the provisions are no different from or more severe than provisions that Parliament accepted for those who profit from their involvement in drug trafficking. The Government, and I hope the House, regard the deliberate financing of terrorism as an equally heinous activity. That is why I introduced the provisions and am commending them to the House.

The Government amendments are all consequential on the new clauses to which I have referred.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

To some extent, we welcome the new clauses. We question them not because of a lack of good will towards them—we welcome their purpose and hope that they will be speedily and readily effective—but because we believe that they should be part of the general law of the land. I understand that a Home Office committee is considering their provisions, but we would have preferred them to be part of the general law on preventing anybody from benefiting from criminal offences.

It is of the utmost importance that no one should be able to benefit financially from the proceeds of terrorist offences. It is important that such proceeds, whether they be from extortion, illegal rackets or bank robbery, do not find their way into the normal channels and thereby make it appear that they came from legitimate businesses. That is very dangerous because, if the criminal elements—the IRA, some Protestant paramilitaries or the mafia—were to gain control of our economy, it would make us a very sick society. We cannot allow that, so we welcome the new clauses.

We regard the Bill as proper anit-terrorist legislation. To deal with terrorism, we must get at terrorists' financial routes and cut their ability to finance their enterprises. It is perhaps not a spectacular way of dealing with it. It is not immediately emotive and it will require much hard police work, but in the long term we believe that it is far better than any knee-jerk reaction to terrorist offences.

The Secretary of State has said how the system will work and it seems to contain adequate safeguards to prevent abuse. Unless all the conditions are fulfilled, seriatim, no orders can be made against individuals. Again, we welcome that.

We should not wish a legitimate business to go out of existence merely because its financial control was in the hands of terrorists or terrorists' front people. Legitimate jobs may be placed at risk and many innocent people may suffer. One would like to think that there was some way of thinking this matter through so that those points were covered.

Finally, I turn to the tracing orders that will be made for the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. Is there any provision that would enable funds to be followed to other Community countries—because of the free movement of capital that now exists within the Community—or to countries outside the European Community where they could be used to buy arms? It would be a great benefit to terrorist organsiations to have apparently legitimate funds in such countries.

With those general caveats, we welcome the provisions. We believe that they will be effective and hope that they will form part of the general law of the land. As this is emergency legislation, let us hope that, when the Home Office inquiry is concluded, we see such provisions as part of general legislation and included in our ordinary Criminal Justice Acts.

4.15 pm
Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley)

It is gratifying for all of us who represent Northern Ireland constituencies to debate a Bill, not an Order in Council, because the benefits that will flow from that will enable people from all walks of life in Northern Ireland to feel that their views have been expressed both in Committee and on Report.

We hope that we can illustrate the inaccuracy of the advice that is sometimes given to the Secretary of State, to the effect that, if the Government legislated by Bills as a matter of course for Northern Ireland, that would place an intolerable burden on the time of the House. My colleagues on this Bench, and, I hope, all those in the House, will do our best to illustrate that that is not an accurate assessment. We can all help. I make a plea to my colleagues of all parties who represent Northern Ireland constituencies to help by making their contributions crisp, accurate and concise, and not to waffle on at great length on matters which, strictly speaking, have nothing to do with the provisions under discussion.

We are aware of the hurried introduction of some of the new clauses and the thinking behind them. If there had been a longer period for consultation—if the provisions had been tabled, even in outline, on Second Reading or earlier in Committee—we would all have had the benefit of receiving some input from interested bodies and experienced persons in Northern Ireland. We might then have been able to assist the Secretary of State and his colleagues to improve the legislation still further.

I find it difficult to understand why we appear to have been caught on the hop. My hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) reminded the Committee—I put it on the record now—that some of us had read in The Sunday Times as far back as 21 October 1990 that the Northern Ireland Office had it in mind to introduce legislation on this subject akin to what applies in the United States of America. However, there appears to be a curious dichotomy in the Government's thinking as a unit. Not all Departments in Whitehall seem to be alive to the possibilities of the legislation and the potential effectiveness of clauses such as those which have now been introduced. All honour to the Secretary of State and his colleagues for perhaps defying the advice that they have received from certain other quarters, to the effect that they should take their time and put off this matter until after a general election. That would not have been desirable.

I find it curious that we have not been given more time, but I appreciate the problems and the fact that discussions probably took place in Government at various levels, so I shall not press that point too far today.

My colleagues and I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State seemed to say that he was providing for the application of certain provisions to Great Britain by order. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for not being precise because, like his hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook), I find it difficult to take all these matters in at one bite. Nevertheless, if that is what the Government have in mind, it would be highly desirable. Like the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), I go further and suggest that thought should be given to a wider application, where possible, to overseas finance houses if co-operation could be secured.

At various stages of the Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann has made pleas for greater precision in drafting. Having listened to the Secretary of State, I hope that he will not close his mind to further suggestions about how precision could be attained. In various respects, the new clauses represent a considerable improvement on the outline made available in Committee, but I hope that, in our examination of the new clauses and amendments, we can give further help to the Secretary of State to achieve greater precision.

I assume that, even when Royal Assent has been obtained, the Secretary of State and his colleagues will pay heed to expert advice and opinion—I use those words deliberately—about closing loopholes which terrorist godfathers, like tax dodgers, will inevitably discover in the legislation. I assure the Secretary of State and his colleagues of the co-operation of the law-abiding people of Northern Ireland and their representatives in the House, first, on the passage of the remaining stages of the Bill and, secondly, in helping him to scrutinise the effectiveness of the legislation when it is applied to doing something significant to contain terrorists, wherever they may be found.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

Signals from the Labour Front Bench were trying to attack me through the mouth of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), but they should remember that example is better than precept.

Of course hon. Members from Northern Ireland welcome the fact that we are discussing a Bill in the House. We should not be over-enthusiastic, because I do not think that the Government are in any way converted to the view that all legislation for Northern Ireland should be done through Bills. This legislation is being done by Bill because of certain regulations connected with it. However, I do not think that the Government have been down a Damascus road and have been persuaded that the House should legislate for Northern Ireland in the same way as it legislates for other parts of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Molyneaux

I hope that I did not give the impression that it was a fait accompli. Is my hon. Friend prepared to give the Government the benefit of the doubt? Perhaps we will all travel hopefully.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I have my doubts about the Government, so I can give them the benefit of the doubt at all times.

I regret that, when the Government introduce a Bill, we have all these changes and additions. It would be easier for Northern Ireland Members to discuss a measure on Second Reading if they knew the full content of the Government's mind. Of course, the Government may not know the content of their own mind, and may therefore be in difficulty about delivering it earlier.

The Government are trying to do what needs to be done. Money should be clawed back immediately from anyone who benefits financially from terrorist activity. Everyone is in full agreement on that. I have tried to be concise.

Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)

For once, I shall try to follow the example of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley).

Again, I am disappointed that this new legislation has been introduced in the manner in which it has. The Minister of State was good enough to consult members of the parties from the north of Ireland in the concluding phase of drawing up the legislation, but we now have 10 new clauses, a complete new schedule and almost a complete new Bill on Report. It may be easy for people with legal expertise to deal with such legislation, but those of us who are not so qualified find great difficulty with it. It is not fair to hon. Members to introduce what is essentially almost a new Bill at this stage, because the Bill is not open to the investigation and examination that is required.

Another important factor is that, if the changes to the Bill had been dealt with in Committee, we would have a much clearer idea of the import, impact and effectiveness of the Bill. I have sympathy with the point made by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara). One of the difficulties with emergency legislation—I made this point on Monday—is that we end up with a patchwork quilt. The Government have drawn a little from the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973, a little from the prevention of terrorism Act, a little from the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, a little from the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986 and a little from something else, and have ended up with a panoply of measures which is like a patchwork quilt, with no central unity. It is almost impossible to deal with such a measure as a single piece of legislation. That is what has happened, and that is why the changes have been made so late.

The Bill seeks to take provisions from the ordinary law, to put them into emergency legislation and to make them apply to proscribed organisations and scheduled offences. The patchwork quilt approach has continued. It does not seem the right way to deal with the matter.

I regard wealth or money which is obtained through violence or as a result of violent activity as nothing less than blood money. [Interruption.] I am not terribly sure why the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North has given me a glass of water. Is there a Freudian message within it, or is there something stronger?

Mr. McNamara

It was what the doctor ordered for the hon. Gentleman's throat, and it is suitable for Lent.

Mr. Mallon

I thank the hon. Gentleman for it. I know that, when it comes to that which goes into a glass, he is an expert on the implications of Lent.

Money earned as a result of violence is simply blood money. I and everyone else who lives in the north of Ireland have seen the way in which some people have become wealthy on the back of the sufferings of others, so no one would question the need for legislation to deal with it. It is a difficult area of operation, and the problem has been with us for several years. The reason why it became so widespread and so much a part of the sub-culture of the north of Ireland was that successive Governments were not willing enough to get to grips with it. It is on record in the House through the years that organisations such as the Housing Executive, which is charged with providing housing in the north of Ireland, have paid out millions upon millions of pounds—in protection money and other forms of racketeering. Part of the problem was a reluctance to come to grips with it, because it was a conduit for intelligence. That is a reality which people may not like to hear, but it is one of the difficulties. As a consequence, racketeering has become part of the sub-culture of the north of Ireland. That is why it has reached the stage that it has.

I have reservations about certain elements of the new clauses. I am worried about the families of those who may come under scrutiny. I am fairly certain that in some cases a woman has no control whatsoever over the activities of her husband. Such a woman might find that her home was subject to confiscation. In other words, a woman and her children could lose their home through no fault of their own. I am not sure that such sensitive matters are dealt with clearly. Let us hope that the Secretary of State will be able to clarify the situation.

My other fundamental reservation concerns the fact that, once again, the onus of proof is on the suspect. Throughout these new clauses, the suspect is required to prove his innocence. That represents not just weak law but also a weak approach to law.

4.30 pm

The provision concerning compensation is particularly ambiguous. Compensation may be paid if the High Court decides that there has been some serious default on the part of a person concerned in the investigation or prosecution of the offence. Surely the provision must be made much more precise. Is not proof of innocence sufficient to establish entitlement to compensation under this type of legislation? It seems to me that there is a high degree of subjectivity in the definition of serious default by the High Court. Once a person has been absolved, he should be entitled, without this subjective element, to compensation. The provision would substantially weaken the subject's position. As this is emergency legislation, we should be especially concerned about the protection written into it. It is not enough to provide for the punitive element.

I repeat that there is a need for this type of legislation. It is not confined to proscribed organisations. Indeed, some of the most serious racketeering in the north of Ireland is indulged in by an organisation that some people deem no longer to exist. Those of us who live there know how potent it still is. We know how much money it puts through its hands every year—and its members through their pockets. We know that it works very closely with what many people now regard as a legitimate political party. The fact that it is not proscribed shows the difficulties that could be faced in the application of the law to such racketeering. There are weaknesses in the new clauses. We must always look for means of protecting accused people.

Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down)

This new legislation manifests the determination of the Government and of the people of Northern Ireland not to let up, even for a moment, in the attempt to throttle the evil men—on whichever side of the divide—who parade themselves as patriots. The legislation can grab hold of what the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) referred to as the blood money which has been screwed out of the people of Northern Ireland by the terrorists, in particular by the Provisional IRA.

I have some reservations about the legislation. As the Secretary of State said, it is based on legislation dealing with drugs in England. The courts have not been determined in grabbing hold of all the money that drug dealers have accumulated. They have interpreted the laws extremely strictly and dealt kindly with the relations of the defendants in the dock. The laws should be tougher. As the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said, we must be able to follow funds that go to other parts of the world—for example, the tax havens in the West Indies.

The IRA is extremely astute at manipulating money. Those funds have been and are being accumulated for the express purpose of terrorism, but the terrorists also have in mind the day when peace will come—as it surely must—to Northern Ireland and put the money away for their retirement. It is said, although I cannot produce any proof, that IRA funds have been used to buy property in my constituency. Some people act as front men for the terrorists.

I only hope that, when the legislation is enacted, it will be fully implemented, with the greatest determination. As the Secretary of State said, money is the life blood of the terrorist. We must cut off that money and, in so doing, we shall help bring down the evil men who have haunted Northern Ireland for more than 20 years, and whose day of reckoning has come.

Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East)

The legislation, which was introduced late in the course of the Bill's passage through Parliament, is full of good intention. However, I have been in the House for 17 years and have lived through the problems and troubles of Northern Ireland since the day they began, and I have seen much legislation pass through the House that was full of good intentions. But good intentions are not enough; the practical consequences of those good intentions are what count. If the Secretary of State thinks back on all the legislation brought before the House that was supposed to produce good consequences, but which gave birth to nothing of the sort, I have no doubt that he will share my reservations about the legislation before us.

The Secretary of State knows perfectly well, because he referred to it, that the legislation is based on the powers contained in the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986 How much money, and on how many occasions, and how much property has been seized as a result of the application of that Act against people committing drug offences? Similar powers, relating to the seizure of bank accounts, were contained in the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989: how many bank accounts have since been seized?

If the Secretary of State asks us to pass such legislation, surely he should tell us the practical consequences of earlier, similar legislation, but he did not do so. The House has a right to hear the answers to those questions and to know whether similar legislation has been effective. I fear that it is not effective in those two situations. Whenever he says that business men and accountants are now involved in these matters, he inadvertently proves to the House and to the country that all this talk about mindless violence committed by members of the IRA is utter nonsense. The IRA and its fellow travellers are not engaged in mindless violence. The Secretary of State knows perfectly well that I, for one, have never accepted the belief that they were mindless thugs. They are directed by clever, efficient and ruthless people. By telling the House that business men and accountants are now involved, the Secretary of State has given us proof positive that these organisations—not only but principally the IRA—have got the thing down to a fine art.

These people are being well advised by able people. Therefore, a botched job will be no good. It will only bring the law being formulated against them into grave disrepute. That does no good to anyone: in fact, it makes the matter a great deal worse. Therefore, I hope that, when the Secretary of State, his colleagues and his advisers were dreaming up these new clauses, they asked themselves how the provisions could be circumvented. As soon as they appeared, the IRA and other terrorist organisations had their boys on the ball trying to figure out ways round them.

I have no doubt that, when the Secretary of State and the police proceed against the first targets that they have in mind, they will find that those people have discovered ways round the new law. They will have found the loopholes and expanded them until an elephant, never mind a mouse, can get through. This is a serious issue, and I hope that the Secretary of State and his advisers, and the police officers and accountants who have to investigate such matters, have put themselves into the minds of terrorist organisations, have tried to, discover the loopholes, and as a result have created nets-to ensure that those people are caught in one way or another.

The hon. .Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) referred to the situation in the building trades in Northern Ireland. That has been an open scandal for more years than any of us cares to remember. The consequence is that, whenever a legitimate builder looks for work in Northern Ireland, he is confronted with two problems. The first is that many believe that building firms are under the control of these evil organisations. If even one tenth of what we hear is to be believed, firms have been paying large sums to terrorist organisations on every building contract that has been put through in an area ruled by such an organisation.

The second problem is partly the result of the DHSS in Northern Ireland still falling down on its job. We hear tales from the small builders of how they can no longer compete because these fellows are doing the double, working for £20 a day. Will the DHSS be called in to close that aspect of the building trade? That concerns every legitimate builder in Northern Ireland.

New clause 5 says that the value of the realisable property has to exceed £20,000. I should like an explanation of that figure. Am I to take it from that that persons can acquire a maximum of £20,000 from terrorist organisations or activities before the legislation catches them? Many people would like £20,000 if they thought that they could get it without any danger to themselves. It might be a powerful incentive to some of these folk to go ahead. If that is so, can we close that loophole?

The third line of new clause 5 says: whether before or after the coming into force of this Part". That implies retrospective legislation. Nobody likes that but the fact that it is necessary in this case shows that the Government are a minimum of six years late in introducing this measure.

Mr. Mallon


Mr. Ross

I think that it is rather more than 12, but we shall only try to catch the latter half of the 12, even if that is incorrect.

I appreciate the need for retrospection in this case, but I regret that it is needed, because it is not the sort of Bill that any hon. Member would like to accept or willingly pass. Retrospective law is generally bad law, and I do not like it. However, in this case it is necessary.

4.45 pm

I also noted that the individual who is convicted cannot be caught by these provisions for only one proven offence. He has to be convicted of more than one. I should like the Secretary of State to comment on that. The implication is that we are trying to catch not the one-off offender, but the committed, continuing offender. If that is so, I should welcome it.

New clause 14 speaks of "property wherever situated". As has already been said, property owned by these organisations, and income-producing property at that, can be anywhere—the United States, Canada, the Irish Republic or England. I can understand that the Secretary of State is referring to property in Northern Ireland and probably in the United Kingdom and adjacent British Isles. However, is he saying that he will try to find out the situation in foreign states such as the Irish Republic? If he is not, here is the first great gaping hole. We need to have that cleared up. I do not believe that the IRA has invested all its ill-gotten gains in Northern Ireland. A lot of it is invested elsewhere, where it is safe.

The new clause seems to be aimed at individuals who have benefited, but we are not dealing with terrorists as individuals. Individuals get caught, but they are only part and parcel of the terrorist machine. I am curious about what consideration has been given to how we can get at the whole machine. Although the person who has been caught may have benefited, he is only a tiny part of the machine. How about the money held by the organisation that owns the property and employs the individual, perhaps as a consultant, a worker, a director or a simple, straightforward employee or alleged employee? These matters need to be addressed, because these organisations are super-mafias.

I wonder whether the powers that the Government have taken unto themselves are sufficient, draconian though they are. Will they hurt these organisations where it matters—in their pockets? That is where we want to hurt them. We do not want to attack the minor individual who has made a small profit, take the money off him and leave the whole organisation with its property and money and resulting income intact.

I am curious to know whether, if one of these individuals has been paid as an employee and has benefited over the past six years to the tune of £10,000 or £12,000 a year, we will tell him that he will have to pay such wages back. What will be the practical consequences of such a move? The person does not have money in the bank, because he was paid the money and has spent it on living. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to recover that money.

I welcome the fact that any compensation that the convicted individual has to make will have priority over any other claim. I am happy to see that, because those who have suffered injury and may be able to claim compensation from the individual who has committed the offence will be protected, and their interests will be safeguarded. It is unusual that the individual rather than the Crown will be first in line for the money. If that policy were applied generally, many people in the business world would be happy to see the tax man's demands. I do not think that the Secretary of State will ever convince the Chancellor to adopt that approach to debts.

Under new clause 6(8), the courts will have to state the reasons for their actions. I am curious about whether that is necessary, because we may create a precedent which, instead of being helpful, turns out to be an albatross. Perhaps the Secretary of State and his advisers would like to consider that measure again. If the right hon. Gentleman puts himself into the position of the courts or the terrorists, he may think of some of the possible problems.

You will have gathered from my comments, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I do not think that this is a good curate's egg overall. It looks good. No doubt the hen's intention in laying it was good. It is a pity that the egg was kept in the nest for six or seven years too long and went bad. However, good intentions are welcome. We hope that, with increasing knowledge of the capacity of the wicked organisations at which the Bill is aimed, the Government will understand that this is a fair beginning but is not yet a good or successful end.

Mr. Clifford Forsythe (Antrim, South)

I support and welcome the Bill, which we hope will prevent racketeers from using normal businesses to make money for terrorist purposes. As a former plumbing contractor and one who worked in the construction industry, I have taken great exception to the threats against business people and tradesmen in the building industry and the protectionism practised by terrorist groups and racketeers.

Many jobs have been lost because of changes in certain areas of Northern Ireland. Many tradesmen and other workers in the construction industry are on the dole because threats mean that they cannot work in certain places because of threats. Sadly, people who went to work in such places were murdered because they came from a different area. It is disgraceful that a person who is trying to earn money for his family should be treated in that way.

The threats are made by cowards, not by people who express their views to workers. They are made by telephone calls and by "a word to the wise". That is absolutely disgraceful. Unfortunately, the cowards are getting away with it. It is a tragedy that people who wish to work cannot do so. If the Bill has any effect on such actions, I should very much welcome it on behalf of those who work in the construction industry. Attempts are made to extract money from people so that they can work in particular areas—and, sadly, workers are paying it. That is another tragedy.

The Bill is the other side of the coin from the terrorists who prevent workmen from going to certain areas or certain camps to carry out their building trade. Workmen are murdered to prevent them from doing their work. Firms are intimidated. I have been sadly disappointed by certain firms that backed down when threatened. For years, workers who have travelled into and out of these areas have been intimidated and threatened but have gone to work; but as soon as some firms are threatened or intimidated, everyone loses his job. I have been sadly disappointed that business people should do that.

Mr. William Ross

My hon. Friend will be aware that, whenever a firm is forced out because of such activity, it can be replaced by a firm whose workers will comply with the terrorists' demands.

Mr. Forsythe

Unfortunately, that seems to be the case.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Is there not a Government failure in providing proper protection for those firms? I am sure that the hon. Member would not like to castigate a firm which has been seriously threatened and which, when it asks for protection, is told by the police that they cannot do much to help. I am sure that such firms cannot carry on in view of a threat against not only the business people but all the workers, as recently happened in Ballymena in my constituency.

Mr. Forsythe

I thank the hon. Member for his comments. I was coming to that point. It is sad that firms are placed in that position and that they feel that they can no longer depend on security measures to look after them and their workers.

In such circumstances, workers are put on the dole. The fellow travellers of those who carry out the threats and murders then wring their hands in despair about unemployment in Northern Ireland. The hypocrisy of such actions is beyond belief and is treated by the people of Northern Ireland with the contempt that it deserves.

I am sure that the racketeers and the terrorists will not listen to anything that I say or, indeed, to what the House says, but they are not wanted by people in any area in Northern Ireland. They should let the rest of us again have the quality of life that the people of Northern Ireland deserve. I plead with the Government to enforce the laws.

Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster)

Does the hon. Member not find it strange that, on numerous occasions in my constituency, the IRA has set off large bombs which have destroyed many premises, yet the first people on the scene to board up and replace windows happen to be from the same grouping, from Sinn Fein or the IRA? The Government are ready to fill its coffers with payment for doing those jobs.

Mr. Forsythe

Sadly, I agree with the hon. Gentleman that that has happened on a number of occasions.

Mr. Mallon

It would be entirely wrong to give the impression that everyone working in the building trade in the north of Ireland is, first, a member of that nationalist community and, by implication, a member or a supporter of Sinn Fein or the IRA. The real racketeering in the building trade is organised by the loyalist paramilitary groups, and hon. Members who represent Belfast know that. They also know that the people who have been killed on building sites because of racketeering are, by and large, Catholics who have come to those sites from other areas.

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The consensus that we should seek to achieve should mean that anyone who runs any racket is guilty and should be found guilty before the law. We should not indulge in the type of snide remarks that the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) has introduced into the debate.

Mr. Forsythe

I made my position clear at the beginning of my speech.

Rev. William McCrea

I should have thought that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) would have the honesty to condemn the despicable actions that have often occurred in my constituency. Whenever the IRA blows up a town and destroys properties owned by people right across the community, IRA personnel then come in under disguise as contractors, and they lift the coffers from the Northern Ireland Office. That is a despicable situation and it should be condemned by everyone in the House.

Mr. Forsythe

I am sure that hon. Members heard what the two hon. Gentlemen said and they will draw their own conclusions. I made it clear at the beginning of my speech how disgraceful I thought it was that building trade workers were not allowed to go about their business without intimidation and threats. I stand by that.

Mr. Mallon

All building trade workers.

Mr. Forsythe

Yes, all. I was one myself, and I support them fully.

If the Government intend to introduce new legislation, I plead with them to ensure that it is implemented for the good of the people of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)

I wish to make it clear at the outset that I support the new clause and the others grouped with it. Like other right hon. and hon. Members, however, I believe that they should have been tabled much earlier so that more detailed consideration could have been given to them.

When considering this type of legislation one must consider the overview and ask whether such measures are necessary in the present circumstances. The present circumstances in Northern Ireland are such that it is clear that further measures are necessary to curtail the activities and membership of terrorist organisations.

One has only to consider the actions of the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland in the past 48 hours to appreciate that it is attempting to take away people's livelihoods. In my constituency, Mountpottinger police station was attacked. The area surrounding that police station is largely Roman Catholic and a number of properties were affected by the attack which, once again, the IRA got wrong. A large and vital area of industry in east Belfast is Short's. The Provisional IRA has also damaged that company—it has not damaged the structure of the building so much as the credibility of the firm. The Provisional IRA is attempting to undermine that firm and its attempts will be condemned by everyone in the House. Such damage affects the employment of many people and casts aspersions on many. The Provisional IRA may send one person out to infiltrate an organisation and, as a result, that person may cause damage. However, the finger of suspicion is pointed at many when all but a few are not entitled to be viewed with such suspicion.

The Provisional IRA is the master of taking away the livelihoods and finances of others. If I have any criticism of the new clause, it is that it does not go far enough. I cannot see the logic behind simply going for the terrorist who has been involved in profiting from acts of terrorism. There are those terrorists who cause loss to others by their terrorism but who live very nicely thank you in Northern Ireland.

A bomber from the Provisional IRA or any other paramilitary organisation may cause damage worth £100,000 to a public house in Northern Ireland. That person may be found guilty of that terrorist crime and convicted, and the police may have evidence to prove that that individual owns property to the value of more than £100,000. Why should the state compensate the person who has lost his public house when the person who carried out that damage has goods to that value and more? I urge the Secretary of State to consider taking away benefit, by whatever means it may have been acquired, from the terrorist who is prepared to cause damage and loss in society and the public purse. Such confiscation is entirely justified.

I have some scepticism about the general premise advanced by the shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. He has argued that the new clause represents a major way in which to deal with terrorism. I agree with the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) that the new clause deals with the problem on the periphery and that we should be cautious about how advantageous the new clause turns out to be.

If the powers in the new clause strike at the pockets of the terrorists, it will do good, but I do not believe for a moment that touching the finances of the godfather of terrorism or other terrorists will effectively deal with terrorism. The new clause deals with the problem on the periphery; there is no alternative to strong, resolute military activity against terrorists.

Touching the finances of the terrorist will have a marginal effect. Political stability in Northern Ireland will have a marginal effect on terrorism, but I believe that it would have a greater impact on terrorism than touching the terrorists' finances. To defeat terrorism one must take strong, resolute military action against the Provisional IRA and its fellow travellers. No one who supports the new clause should think for one moment that we have cracked the problem and that we have the means to defeat the IRA. At best, we have a marginal advantage on the previous legislation.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

I was sorry that at one stage in the debate it sounded as though we were entering into a squabble about something on which we all basically agree, but perhaps we have passed that stage now.

One can level criticism at the Government for the procedural avenues on which they have decided. It is a pity that we have before us 22 pages of amendments, including a huge schedule, all of which could readily have been included in the original Bill and debated properly on Second Reading. Hon. Members who disagree with the Government amendments and new clauses could have tabled amendments to them. There are five Opposition parties in the House with the resources to do that. However, Report stage is not the same as Second Reading, after which a Bill goes to Committee for detailed scrutiny, at which point amendments can be tabled. Hon. Members who do not have the resources of political organisations are affected by this. There are better opportunities to introduce amendments in that way than if the Government suddenly introduce a bundle of proposals almost like a new Bill.

I do not know why the Government have introduced so many new proposals at this late stage. The proposals could form a separate piece of legislation rather than being included in the Bill, and thus allow the usual processes of proper scrutiny of a measure which in principle might be widely supported. Such legislation could have been fine-tuned and improved.

The Bill seeks to tackle the laundering of money from criminal to legitimate areas. Much of that money is obtained by dubious practices, such as theft and exploitation. Funds collected from overseas are also fed to paramilitary organisations and some of those funds finish up in the kind of businesses that hon. Members have described. People need to be told how money collected in America finishes up with the IRA and how it is used. The people who carry the collecting tins say, "It is for our boys." We must spell out what happens to the boys and girls and the adults of Northern Ireland as a result of paramilitary activity.

Yesterday representatives from a group called Families Against Intimidation and Terror were present in a Committee Room. The group was set up by Nancy Gracey in Downpatrick following the knee-capping of her son, who had been involved in some trouble on a bus. The bus passengers were called together by the IRA which meted out its dubious method of justice. Nancy Gracey's son was taken out and knee-capped. Even if he had been guilty of some crime, there was no ground for such punishment. The fracas was about someone who had been in the IRA and had been in prison.

Nancy Gracey was so incensed by what happened that she made a brave stand and the result was an organisation which operates in both Protestant and Catholic areas and involves people suffering at the hands of their own sectarian organisations. The situation has become worse and the proposed legislation should have been introduced earlier. Organisations continue to grow and develop. Extreme organisations, such as the Baath party, the Nazis and Stalinists attract to themselves all sorts of thuggery because they employ methods which ignore law and order and the normal checks and balances in a democratic system. That leads to massive exploitation because such organisations have the freedom to act unlawfully.

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Mr. Mallon

The hon. Gentleman spoke about funds collected in the United States. Has he any observations on the amount of money which the supposedly defunct Official IRA raises on the west coast of the United States and launders back to the north of Ireland every year? It is interesting to note how an organisation that is supposed to be defunct operates probably the biggest international scam of the lot.

Mr. Barnes

Once again we seem to be on the verge of confrontation, which is inevitable when we discuss Irish issues. My knowledge of the Official IRA is in terms of its successor bodies and the developments which led to the establishment of the Workers party. That shows that the democratic process offers opportunities and hope to people and can help to transform the situation. That needs to be taken into account when people consider what action to take about Sinn Fein and whether it should be banned in the same way as the IRA. We might finish up with the same people wearing a different hat. However, the attractions of having to use the ballot box to achieve political change can help to transform organisations. The changes that have taken place are welcome, although the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) may wish to stress problems that have arisen.

The measure is essentially directed at banned paramilitary organisations and deals with the misuse of their funds for further exploitation. Such organisations engage in the legitimate collection of money and use it to build up or retain their strength. The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) said that such a measure was welcome. He also said that it was by no means the main method of dealing with terrorism. I agree. But terrorism cannot be overcome only by massive police and military action to search out and remove terrorism at every stage. Such actions tend to become part of a pattern. The way forward is the long-haul solution which seeks to undermine the very conditions which lead to terrorism. The economic and social agenda, such as Monday's debate on the Northern Ireland (Appropriation) Order, which is equivalent to the Budget, is important and needs to be seen in the context of other issues.

The other avenue is the democratic one of people coming together and standing up for the sort of society that they wish to see. Nancy Gracey's organisation has stood up and campaigned and organised in Downpatrick to such an extent that the official organiser for the IRA has moved out of the area. The argument is being won by people who put forward alternative solutions.

Mr. Brooke

I am delighted to have the opportunity to reply to the debate. I shall allude first, because it has been mentioned by a number of hon. Members, to the delay in bringing forward the legislation. I understand the feelings of the House. I have thanked the House for its indulgence and, in the context of the language that has been used in the debate, I thank the House for its patience and understanding.

The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) was understanding of some of the circumstances which might have given rise to the delay. It is better that the legislation should have come forward than that it should be delayed further, but I recognise the difficulties in which the Government have placed the House and I appreciate the understanding that has been shown towards us.

A number of points have been made and I will do my best to respond to them. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), in welcoming the general principles of the legislation on behalf of the Opposition, asked why the new provisions could not be part of general law. The new provisions rely on the concept of scheduled offences and are therefore unique to Northern Ireland. They cannot be applied in England and Wales where there are no scheduled offences. They are also designed to deal with a particular situation in Northern Ireland. However, I understand the sentiment which underlay the hon. Gentleman's question and I am grateful to him for his tribute to the police for their hard and painstaking work.

The hon. Gentleman asked about legitimate businesses. A legitimate business, properly so called, has nothing to fear from these provisions, but somebody who provides a legitimate service but who also helps terrorists will be vulnerable under the legislation. The hon. Gentleman asked a question which was also raised subsequently about a move into Europe and overseas. That is not possible under the present law, but it is not impossible in the longer run. We might be able to take powers to enter into reciprocal enforcement arrangements. That is a proper matter to have been raised and it is something which we would seek to pursue.

I expressed my gratitude to the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley for his understanding and I assure him that, with regard to what he said about loopholes and the provision of expert advice and opinion, we shall welcome all the help that we can get to obtain the maximum benefit from the legislation and to prevent loopholes occurring.

The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley and the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) had a small internal debate about the Government's practice in the legislative procedures in the House. I noted that the phrase "the benefit of the doubt" crept into the debate. That phrase derives much from the game of cricket. I apologise if I have in any way polluted Northern Ireland debate by introducing such metaphors. My experience is that one is given out as often as one is given not out and that they balance out over the years. I hope that the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley will feel that his optimism was more justified than the scepticism of the hon. Member for Antrim, North.

The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) asked me a series of questions. It is always a source of pleasure to me that my hon. Friend the Member for Wiltshire, North (Mr. Needham) should have had an ancestor who was a Member for Newry and that I should have had an ancestor who was a Member for Armagh. We watch the hon. Gentleman's progress with care and we take perhaps greater interest in his development than that of any other Northern Ireland Member.

Mr. Mallon

I thank the Secretary of State for his felicitations. Can he make any observation on the fact that his noble antecedent represented one part of Newry and Armagh and that of the hon. Member for Wiltshire, North (Mr. Needham) represented the other part, while I have to represent both on my own?

Mr. Brooke

Ever since the hon. Member entered the House I have much admired his productivity.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the onus of proof. The onus remains on the Crown throughout to prove all the matters set out in new clause 5. Assumptions are provided to assist the Crown in establishing some of these matters, but all those assumptions can be rebutted by a defendant on the lowest civil standard of proof—the balance of probability.

The hon. Gentleman asked about compensation. The provision in the schedule is in exactly the same form as appears in the other compensation schemes such as those in the Drug Trafficking Offences Act and the prevention of terrorism Act, which have apparently worked without difficulty. The fact that the provisions are broadly paralleled and mirrored in the Drug Trafficking Offences Act will, I hope, help the House in its consideration.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the position of children and spouses. All that can be confiscated are the proceeds of terrorist-related activities. I think that he cited the house. If the house represents the proceeds of such activities, it is right that it should be confiscated. However, if the defendant can show that, on the balance of probabilities, the house was come by legitimately, it cannot be the subject of an order.

The hon. Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder) expressed the expectation that peace would come and in so doing endorsed the legislation, and I am grateful to him.

The hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) asked me a question relating to the amounts secured under earlier legislation. The Home Office started collecting statistics on restraint orders issued under the Drug Trafficking Offences Act in 1989, but the returns received were so unreliable that it was not felt safe to quote the figures. Customs and Excise does not collect figures and there is no obvious evidence from, for example, bank evidence to Select Committees, that the banks have any figures.

However, against that background, statistics are available for confiscation orders under the Act—a matter which I think also underlay the hon. Gentleman's question. That is the stage that comes after restraint orders. Statistics are as yet available only for England and Wales where, in 1987, 200 offenders were ordered to pay £1.2 million on confiscation orders. That was the year after the Act came into force. In 1988, 540 offenders were ordered to pay £8.1 million and in 1989, 800 offenders were ordered to pay £7.8 million. Therefore, a significant sum of money is coming into the public coffers as a result of the legislation.

The hon. Gentleman asked why we had not introduced legislation before.

Mr. William Ross

What does the right hon. Gentleman say about sums of money recovered under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989?

Mr. Brooke

The hon. Gentleman is right to remind me that he raised that question. No restraint or forfeiture orders have yet been made in Northern Ireland under that Act, but I remind the House of what I said earlier. As Lord Colville pointed out in his recent report on that Act, the present law, while providing some machinery for the confiscation of money or property which it can be proved is intended for terrorist use, does not prevent any means of depriving terrorist financiers of the personal benefit which they derive from their involvement in such activity. That gap is filled by this legislation.

The hon. Gentleman was free with criticism of the legislation. I did not catch in his speech much detail of the alternative legislation that he would like to see against the problem which I think we all acknowledge exists. I agree with what he said about mindless violence. There is no question but that manipulative skills of a high order are employed within the terrorist movement, and it is an index of the purpose of the legislation that it is being directed against just such skills. The hon. Gentleman saw that point and I can confirm that it is true. He will recall the 62 establishments which were raided simultaneously in the latter part of last year on warrants signed by myself for the collection of documentation which was then taken away for analysis.

The hon. Gentleman asked about builders, as did the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Forsyth). I recognise that that is not specifically contained in the legislation except as a side-wind. It is a complex matter, because one must be certain to introduce powers which, although they will defeat terrorists, do not impose impossible burdens on honest business men throughout the Province. The Government are continuing to pursue that matter, and are determined to bear down on those sources of finance.

Mr. William Ross

I made specific reference to persons on the double. Will the Government make a serious attempt to deal with that problem—even in the case of individual houses, where Housing Executive grants are paid?

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Mr. Brooke

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his support. The Government are determined to bear down on all sources of finance. Today, we are adding to our armoury a contribution to that process.

The hon. Member for Londonderry, East asked why there should be a £20,000 cut-off. The scheme is deliberately targeted at persons who make a practice of, or living from, financing terrorism—in other words, the major players—and to ensure that a requirement on the courts should not be imposed when someone is convicted of a minor, albeit relevant, offence but who has received no benefit or hardly any benefit personally from his actions. Any cut-off point is arbitrary, but a figure of £20,000 seems about right. It can be varied by order, and we would be perfectly happy to return to that question. The hon. Gentleman, in his remarks about the commissioning of more than one offence, correctly interpreted the Government's intentions.

A confiscation order will apply to property anywhere in the world. If the prosecution can establish that the defendant has realisable property in Australia, for example, it will be included in the order. If the defendant does not pay, he will be sentenced to imprisonment in default of not having done so. The location of the asset is not significant.

The hon. Member for Londonderry, East asked whether the scheme will apply to property owned by a terrorist organisation. It does not, but such property is already liable to forfeiture under schedule 7 to the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Londonderry, East for a most agreeable culminating phrase, when he commented that the clauses are not a good curate's egg overall. I shall treasure that phrase, and whenever I quote it I will give the hon. Gentleman the credit for having originally uttered it.

The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) spoke of the measures as being on the periphery, and referred to the remarks of the hon. Member for Londonderry, East about the particular persons to whom the legislation is addressed. I repeat that terrorism will be brought to an end by exercising pressure on terrorists across the whole front. I am the first to acknowledge that the aspect dealt with by clause 5 is not a decisive element, but it is much better to exercise pressure across the whole front so that the terrorist is made to realise that there is no way he can win.

The hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) argued, perfectly properly, for a doctrine of perfection. As I said earlier, I should have been delighted if these measures could have been introduced on Second Reading. However, the best can be the enemy of the good, and it was desirable to bring forward this measure only when it was ready. I appreciate the understanding that the House has shown in that regard.

Mr. Peter Robinson

Is the Secretary of State prepared to take from a terrorist who was involved in the destruction of property a sum equal to its value?

Mr. Brooke

We have been examining that aspect, and I will write to the hon. Gentleman. I commend the new clause to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

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