§ Order for Second Reading read.3.31 pm
§ Mr. Straw
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill provides for permanent anti-terrorist powers for the police, other law enforcement agencies and the courts. Let me first explain to the House why we judge that such powers—powers additional to those of the general criminal law—are needed.
Terrorism involves the threat or use of serious violence for political, religious or ideological ends. It is premeditated, and aims to create a climate of extreme fear. While the direct victims may be specific or symbolic targets, they may also be selected at random. In any event, terrorism is aimed at influencing a wider target than its immediate victims.
Although all crime to some degree plainly threatens the stability of the social and political order, terrorism differs from crime motivated solely by greed in that it is directed at undermining the foundations of government. It poses special difficulties for those of us who live in liberal democracies. Our sense of outrage is all the greater because in such democracies the overwhelming majority of the population believe that there are adequate non-violent means for expressing opposition and dissent. However, we will have handed the terrorists the victory that they seek if, in combating their threats and violence, we descend to their level and undermine the essential freedoms and rule of law that are the bedrock of our democracy.
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)
I accept the generality of the hon. Gentleman's comments, but will he help me on one point? Am I right in thinking that the actions of the Kosovo Liberation Army in combating the Serbs in Kosovo or, for that matter, those of the Kurds in fighting Saddam Hussein in north Iraq, fall within the scope of terrorism as defined in clauses 1 and 57?
§ Mr. Straw
I understand what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is saying, and in one sense he may be correct, but we are talking about terrorism in this country. I will deal with what is in clause 57 in a moment. Although clause 1 has a wider coverage than the current arrangements for Irish and international terrorism, such activities are already covered in the existing definitions of terrorism. The broadening of the Bill covers domestic terrorism. We are raising the threshold for triggering the powers in the Bill above the threshold in the temporary legislation. I shall come on to explain that point to the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
Under the previous Government, Lord Lloyd of Berwick carried out a detailed inquiry into legislation against terrorism and reported to Parliament in October 1996. He opened the third chapter of his report by complimenting Gearty and Kimbell's publication "Terrorism and the Rule of Law". He said that the authors had identified three general principles that should govern
153 any code of laws designed to counter violent subversion—equality of treatment before the law, fairness in application of the law, and respect for certain basic principles of human dignity.
In paragraph 3.1, Lord Lloyd went on to say:I favour the authors' approach in beginning from a set of principles, and these seem to me perfectly sound as far as they go. But they are not sufficiently descriptive for a review of this kind, so I have formulated my own as follows:
In preparing the Bill, I have sought carefully to follow those four principles.
- (i) Legislation against terrorism should approximate as closely as possible to the ordinary criminal law and procedure;
- (ii) Additional statutory offences and powers may be justified, but only if they are necessary to meet the anticipated threat. They must then strike the right balance between the needs of security and the rights and liberties of the individual;
- (iii) The need for additional safeguards should be considered alongside any additional powers;
- (iv) The law should comply with the UK's obligations in international law."
There is, however, a wider issue, particularly now, which is whether the threat of terrorism today is such that it justifies any specific legislation. The counter-terrorist legislation currently in force goes back to 1974, to the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill introduced into this House in late November of that year, a week after the terrible bombings in Birmingham in which 21 people were killed and 180 injured. On Second Reading, the then Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins, said:I do not think that anyone would wish these exceptional powers to remain in force a moment longer than is necessary"—[official Report, 25 November 1974; Vol. 882, c. 642.]To underline that, the powers in the Bill were subject initially not to yearly, but to six-monthly review.
Despite the hope in 1974 that the need for counter-terrorist legislation would be short-lived, those powers—with amendments and additions—remain in force a quarter of a century later. In the interim, more than 2,000 people have died in the United Kingdom as a result of Irish and international terrorism, and thousands more have been injured. The toll would unquestionably have been greater without the anti-terrorist powers, and above all without the courage and commitment shown by members of the police and security forces over 25 years.
§ Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde)
I endorse the tribute that my right hon. Friend has paid to the courage of police officers and armed forces personnel. Part VII of the Bill deals with Northern Ireland, the system of non-jury trial there and the appointment of an independent assessor of military complaints. If decommissioning occurred before the end of May to the satisfaction of General de Chastelain, the two Governments and the politicians of Northern Ireland, what implications would that have for the implementation of the Bill?
§ Mr. Straw
I shall deal with that point in more detail when I reach part VII, which is included in the Bill because the emergency provisions Act that covers Northern Ireland is due to expire next August. It was felt appropriate to bring these matters together. It is the fervent wish of hon. Members on both sides of the House 154 and of the people of Northern Ireland that the emergency provisions should be withdrawn as soon as possible. One of the Bill's main purposes is to provide permanent counter-terrorist legislation that is not specific to Northern Ireland. We hope that so-called Irish terrorism will wither on the vine. If the Bill is enacted, either part of part VII—what amounts at present to the EPA—or the whole of it will be open to withdrawal by affirmative resolution of the House. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will want to take such action as soon as he judges it to be safe.
My hon. Friend's intervention reminds us that there is now a better chance for a lasting peace in the island of Ireland than at any time that any of us can recall. However, not everyone on either side of the religious divide is signed up to peace. It is only 16 months since the carnage at Omagh in which 29 people died and more than 200 were injured. In the same month, August 1998, there were particularly horrific examples of international terrorism, when bombs exploded outside United States embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, killing 257, mainly local, people and injuring thousands of others.
Lord Lloyd's inquiry was one of the most thorough ever conducted into the nature of the terrorist threat. Writing before Omagh, Dar es Salaam or Nairobi, Lord Lloyd concluded that, even when there was a lasting peace in Northern Ireland, the need for counter-terrorist legislation would remain. He recommended, however, that the legislation should cease to be specific to Northern Ireland, and that a new Bill should be brought in to put the provisions on a permanent footing.
The Government have accepted the central conclusion and recommendation of Lord Lloyd's inquiry: that even when what we judged to be a lasting peace had been achieved, there would remain a requirement for specific counter-terrorist legislation. We have consulted widely on how that recommendation should be effected. I point out to the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) that, in effect, that process of consultation has been going on for at least three years, since the publication of Lord Lloyd's report. This time last year, I published a consultation document entitled "Legislation against Terrorism", and last Thursday I published a summary of the responses received. The Bill is thus the consequence of that long, open and deliberative process. In view of that, I hope that the House will accept that the examination of these provisions by a Special Standing Committee—which I understand the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey proposes—is not necessary.
In preparing the legislation, I have kept much in mind the four principles set out by Lord Lloyd, and the need to act fairly and proportionately. The Bill is not intended to threaten in any way the right to demonstrate peacefully—nor will it do so. It is not designed to be used in situations where demonstrations unaccountably turn ugly. Should any unlawful activities occur in such circumstances, the powers available under the ordinary criminal law will, as now, suffice.
I shall deal with the new definition of terrorism that we propose in the Bill, and with its application to all forms of terrorism. However, I make it clear that the new definition will not catch the vast majority of so-called domestic activist groups. To respond to a recent example, 155 I know of no evidence whatever that Greenpeace is involved in any activity that would fall remotely under the scope of this measure.
§ Mr. Hogg
If someone decided to break into a mink farm in order to release the mink from their cages, or to break into a research station and destroy the animals cages, that would clearly be an act of serious violence. It would be a criminal act—and one that I would deplore. But why should such organisations be classified as "terrorist" under clause 1?
§ Madam Speaker
Order. As the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) has asked a question, he might listen to the answer.
§ Mr. Straw
There are people who claim to be in favour of so-called animal liberation who have engaged in actions that not only caused risks but resulted in the most serious violence to individuals, and have put people under threat of their lives. Such circumstances may well fall within the ambit of clause 1. Having said that, I believe that we must have some confidence in the law enforcement agencies and the courts. If we look back at the past 25 years, we can see that the powers have been used proportionately in the face of an horrific threat from terrorism in Ireland and a considerable threat from international terrorism. Moreover, as I have explained, we are raising the threshold of the definition in the Bill; we are adding to the powers in only one respect; and we are removing many powers to which hon. Members on both sides of the House have taken exception in the past.
The Bill does not focus on demonstrations, which are a normal activity in a democracy. I wholly defend people's right to go in for peaceful protest—indeed, many of my right hon. and hon. Friends and I have been involved in such peaceful protests.
§ Mr. Straw
I will give way to both my hon. Friends in a minute.
156 Instead, the Bill focuses on the opposite end of the spectrum. It is about deterring, preventing and, where necessary, investigating heinous crime—heinous because terrorism seeks to destroy not only lives, but the foundation of our society. The Bill is therefore about protecting, not threatening, fundamental rights. In the words of the Home Office's principal purpose, it is about establishing a
"safe, just and tolerant society".
§ Mr. McNamara
My right hon. Friend has now introduced a new word—heinous. Is that to be the equivalent of serious? What criteria will he suggest police forces should adopt in bringing an action under clause 1? What is serious? What is heinous? Is it something that involves a real threat to life? Is it something deliberate or accidental? Will a cash value also be placed on the action, depending on the extent of the damage to property, or will it be simply a question of inconvenience? Those are very real problems, about which many people are worried, and "serious" is a very wide definition in these various matters.
§ Mr. Straw
I understand the point that my hon. Friend raises. We have to legislate with words because that is all we have, but we also have to trust and do more than trust—we must build safeguards into our framework of law to ensure that arrangements such as those in the Bill, which I accept at the outset go beyond the normal criminal law, are used responsibly and proportionately.
I know that my hon. Friend has changed his mind, but I remind him that he supported the original Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill in ringing tones when it came before the House on 28 November 1974. He fully supported his then right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins, saying that the introduction of the Bill wasthe least he could do.He also said that it would besad, however, if we were to worry now too much about the curtailment of liberties and later to have upon our consciences the deaths of our fellow citizens."—[Official Report, 28 November 1974; Vol. 882, c. 700.]I fully understand that my hon. Friend has changed his mind since then, but I draw his attention to the fact that the Bill that he supported at that stage had a lower threshold for the triggering of the powers than does the Bill before us.
There has been some almost wilful misunderstanding of the Bill by some who have taken exception to it in extravagant language. Clause 1 does not create an offence of terrorism. It sets out the extremely specific circumstances in which the use of police powers can be triggered, or in which the use of other powers can be triggered—also in very controlled circumstances. In each case, the powers—including the power of proscription—are subject to proper judicial adjudication.
§ Mr. McNamara
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for two reasons. First, he reminded me of my stupidity in believing that, when the 1974 PTA was passed, it would be in force for only six months. However, I was right at the time. Secondly, I want to remind my right hon. Friend that he, too, voted against the Prevention of Terrorism Acts. He also fought an election against going into the 157 Common Market and an election in favour of repealing all the Conservative Government's industrial relations Acts. He also made speeches on other matters. Should he not bear it in mind that it is possible that not only St. Paul but he and I have had Damascene conversions?
The issue now is whether the circumstances that resulted in the passing of the Act in 1974—when to push us through the Lobby to vote in favour, promises were made and threats were whispered in the Corridors about the reintroduction of capital punishment if the legislation was not passed—apply at this time.
§ Mr. Straw
My hon. Friend would get a surprise if he looked at my voting record. As for the Common Market, he is right. Not only did I vote against our continued membership of the Common Market, I campaigned against it as an active member of the "No" campaign. However, you would rule me out of order, Madam Speaker, if I went too far on that.
I regard my hon. Friend as the epitome of rationality. I say to him that although he came to a different view in 1974, he did so with the same rational brain that all of us have come to know and love so much, and it would therefore have been possible for him to encompass a different judgment then. To offer him comfort, I tell him that the threshold that we are putting in the Bill for good reasons—circumstances have changed—is higher than existed then.
On the overall circumstances, I do not believe that it is possible to consider the continued potential for Irish terrorism from organisations and individuals who are not signed up to the peace agreement; the threat of international terrorism, which continues; or the potential threat of some domestic terrorism, and to say that there is no threat of terrorism. Notwithstanding that, it may be possible to assert that such threats should be dealt with within the existing criminal law and procedure—and we are principally talking about procedure rather than criminal law. Although I appreciate that point of view, I come to a different opinion. I draw particular attention to the careful analysis in Lord Lloyd's report, which in turn drew on the opinion, which I have already cited, of well-known academics who have studied the issue with considerable care.
§ Mr. Corbyn
I beg his pardon—the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg). That is near to Grantham; we all know where it is.
158 My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary did not answer the right hon. and learned Gentleman's point about whether Greenpeace or animal liberation front groups could be named as terrorist organisations either by him as the current Home Secretary or by any future Home Secretary.
There is also the equally serious point that many migrant organisations that campaign actively and peacefully in this country for enormous political change in their own country are labelled as terrorist organisations by the Government of their country. I am thinking of the Governments of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, India and many other countries who have at various times named overseas political opponents as terrorist organisations. Is there a danger that the traditional right of people in exile to campaign for political change in their own country would be curtailed by their organisations being named as terrorist organisations in this country, which would bring them into the orbit of British law and prevent them from acting to achieve the political change that they desire?
§ Mr. Straw
My hon. Friend's first question was about Greenpeace and animal rights organisations. I am not a signed-up member of Greenpeace, but on its behalf I take considerable exception to it being lumped with some animal rights organisations. I answered the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham. I say with considerable care that I know of no evidence whatever related to Greenpeace's activities that could bring it remotely within the Bill's ambit. I could not be clearer about that.
Proscription of organisations is dealt with in part II. If my hon. Friend reads clause 3, as I am sure he will, he will see that an organisation becomes a candidate for proscription only if it is concerned in terrorism and, under subsection (5),commits or participates in acts of terrorism … prepares for terrorism … promotes or encourages terrorism, or … is otherwise concerned in terrorism.The power of proscription is of course an extreme power, and it has been used only in very specific circumstances in respect of Irish terrorism. My hon. Friend will be well aware that clause 5 provides that if the Secretary of State decides to proscribe an organisation, a judicial commission known as the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission will make the final decision about any proscription.
§ Mr. Straw
I shall make one more point before I give way to the hon. Gentleman.
My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) mentioned India. That is interesting because he may have the idea that the incitement provisions in clause 57 might lead to someone being charged in this country with incitement to commit, in India, one of the serious offences laid down in the clause. That is not the case, because since the introduction by the previous Labour Government of the Suppression of Terrorism Act 1978, incitement to commit such serious crimes in India and Council of Europe countries has been 159 an offence. We are seeking, in a limited way, to remove certain anomalies in the criminal law, not to establish a new principle.
§ Mr. Hughes
As the Home Secretary knows, my colleagues and I support the end of piecemeal legislation and the introduction of UK-wide legislation. However, his definition of terrorism, which is at the heart of the Bill, goes beyond the dictionary definition, which concerns actions of a political nature, and it goes beyond the phrasing in Lord Lloyd's report, which relates to coercing Governments and, therefore, to the political process.
If we take into account clauses 1 and 38 and the incitement provisions, the Bill's definition sweeps in not only people who attack property for an environmental objective or for objectives connected with other general issues such as animal rights, but people who support organisations outside Governments in countries that are not democratic. All those people would now be included in the definition. Does the Home Secretary accept that it is a much wider definition than we have had before?
§ Mr. Straw
No, I do not—quite the reverse. The current definition of terrorism applies to Irish terrorism and international terrorism. I accept that the scope of the Bill is broader than that of current legislation, in that it encompasses domestic terrorism. I think that that is justified and anyone who is familiar with some of this country's not directly political, but ideological and religious groups would agree.
In Japan, a religious cult released nerve gas on the Tokyo underground: I hope nothing similar ever happens here, but, if it does, we need powers to deal with it. If the security forces were to obtain information that such an organisation was plotting such an outrage in this country, the security forces would need the powers provided in the Bill to prevent the outrage from occurring. That is the principal justification for introducing powers to arrest and detain on reasonable suspicion of involvement in acts of terrorism whose scope are wider than those covered in existing anti-terrorism legislation and in the normal criminal law, such as the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.
I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that the threshold in the Bill is lower than that in existing anti-terrorist legislation and that proposed in Lord Lloyd's report. The wording of existing provisions is different, talking of "violence" rather than "serious violence", so, in that respect, the threshold is raised by the Bill. The language we have used differs from Lord Lloyd's. He talks of government, but that is too specific: a terrorist act can threaten the foundations of our society without being exclusively directed against government, except when that word is understood in its broadest sense; therefore ours is a sensible and proportionate description.
I repeat that clause 1 does not create a terrorist offence. It sets out the circumstances in which terrorism takes place and defines terrorism; in turn, in limited circumstances, those provisions may trigger the use of the powers set out in the Bill. Those powers are backed by offences, but the clause does not in itself create any offences.
§ Mr. Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South)
Many of us are concerned that the definition of terrorism has been 160 broadened to encompass a series of offences that are currently covered by normal criminal law, and that it is hard to see how they will not fall within the new anti-terrorism law. My right hon. Friend says that there are different thresholds, but many Members of Parliament are involved in international campaigns, such as those that support, for example, the action of Kurds resisting being driven from their lands by the building of dams, the resistance of the Ogoni in Nigeria to the theft and pollution of their lands, and the resistance of the Amazon Indians to the destruction of their rain forests. All those campaigns of resistance have involved incidents of violent collision with those who would destroy people's livelihoods and lives. Despite my right hon. Friend's assurances, it is hard to see how such international campaigns, if supported by acts of solidarity within this country, will not be covered by the provisions of the Bill. Will he spell out where and why they will not be covered?
§ Mr. Straw
I understand my hon. Friend's concern. In general terms, people supporting one or another of the international causes he cites will not even remotely come under the Bill. It is perfectly possible that some of those who support those causes will conspire to commit, either abroad or in this country, acts that are plainly, by any definition, terrorist acts; in that case, they would come under the legislation. However, to think that the Bill will restrict the right of peaceful protest, demonstration and campaigning is wholly erroneous.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
My right hon. Friend has been generous in giving way on an important subject. My view is somewhat different from that of some of my colleagues, who are critical. I have always taken the view that Britain should not be used as a base for terrorism abroad. The use of this country for such a purpose cannot be defended or justified because of what happened previously in relation to the anti-apartheid movement, which I supported from day one and throughout my political life. Nevertheless, does my right hon. Friend accept that those of us who accept the broad thrust of the Bill have certain misgivings and feel that under a Government different from the present one civil liberties could be threatened or undermined? He has said that in combating terrorism we must take a proportional and responsible attitude and not give ammunition to the very people who, through their terrorism, also want to destroy or undermine our democracy. I hope that on Report, if not in Committee, he will be flexible in reconsidering various safeguards which would go further than the existing ones. After all, I speak as someone who supports what he is trying to do in combating terrorism.
§ Mr. Straw
I understand and share my hon. Friend's anxieties. I also share his view about the need for the powers that are set out in the Bill. I was about to say that we have put in place another profound safeguard against the disproportionate use of the powers that we are discussing, and that is the Human Rights Act 1998, which will come into force on 2 October 2000, before the Bill takes effect. That measure brings into our domestic law all the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights as well as specific articles, including article 5, which provides protection against arbitrary detention, and article 6, which provides the right to a fair trial.
Leaving aside whether or not successive Governments will have the same concern to balance liberty and the fight against terrorism as this Government have, the Human 161 Rights Act will provide powerful control over the use of the powers that are set out in the Bill. I also say—I hope that this will be of reassurance to my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North, who was concerned, as I have been—that we took great exception in opposition to what we saw as particularly arbitrary aspects of the prevention of terrorism Acts. For example, we took exception to the use of exclusion powers, to Secretaries of State having power to authorise extensions of detention without judicial authority and to section 18 in the current Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989, which relates to tipping off.
In each instance, we have made fundamental amendments. I have not operated exclusion powers since early 1998. I am sure that they were dropped altogether under PTA renewals, and they are absent from the Bill. We have ensured in the Bill that in place of a Secretary of State having the power to authorise an extension of detention, that power will be exercised by stipendiary magistrate—district judges, as they will come to be known from April next year. We were told for years and years that that would not be possible, but the change has been made in the Bill. It is one that meets the concerns that we expressed. Section 18 offences, which have given rise to considerable anxieties, have been dropped altogether.
We have sought to act proportionately. However, I accept the need—it is the role of the House—to examine with particularly great care that which we are proposing. If there are ways in which the Bill can be improved, it is our duty to accept those suggestions.
§ Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)
I am worried, as are a fair number of others inside and outside the House, because it looks as though supporters of the African National Congress could come under the provisions of clause 57. If that is not my right hon. Friend's intention, will he undertake to reword the clause so that that is utterly clear?
§ Mr. Corbyn
I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way. I am aware that this is the second time that I have intervened, but I have more than one objection to the Bill.
My right hon. Friend mentioned the European Court of Human Rights and the welcome passage of the Human Rights Act 1998. Is he aware that, according to a considerable body of legal opinion, the Bill goes well beyond the provisions of the human rights legislation, and any prosecutions under it would fall foul of the law already passed by the House? What advice has my right hon. Friend received?
§ Mr. Straw
I am not aware of that. I signed a certificate—I did not sign it blind—stating that in my 162 view, the provisions of the Bill are compatible with convention rights. My hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that far from what he says being correct, the reverse is correct: a decision by the previous Government was overturned in the Strasbourg court in 1988 in the Brogan case, which holds that executive powers in the prevention of terrorism Acts were contrary to articles 5 and 6.
As a result of that, the previous Government had to enter a derogation to the European convention, which still exists. As a result of the Bill—this is a good reason for voting for it, I say to my hon. Friend—we will be able to withdraw that derogation and bring ourselves into line with the convention rights. I was delighted, as ever, to give way to my hon. Friend. I look forward to him calling a vote, and then voting with us on the Bill.
I said before that the Bill does not create the separate offence of terrorism. When terrorists are brought to trial, they are typically prosecuted for offences in the ordinary criminal law—murder, explosives offences, conspiracy to cause explosions, unlawful possession of firearms and so on.
The main purpose of the Bill is not to extend the criminal code, but to give the police special powers to enable them to prevent and investigate that special category of crime. Those powers include an enhanced power to arrest and detain suspects, and powers to set up cordons, to stop and search vehicles and pedestrians, to investigate terrorist finances and to examine people passing through ports.
The police have no interest in using those powers in circumstances in which the normal criminal law will suffice, nor do they have the resources to do so. In 1998, only 45 people were detained in connection with terrorism, and extensions of detention were granted for just 21 of them.
I have mentioned Brogan. I shall deal now with clause 57, about which some hon. Members have expressed concern, and the new provisions on incitement and proscription.
The aim of the incitement proposals in clause 57 is to deter those who seek to use the United Kingdom as a base from which to promote terrorist acts abroad. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North some time ago, the provisions of the Bill do no more than fill gaps in the existing law. Under the Suppression of Terrorism Act 1978, which was passed by a Labour Government, the UK already has extra-territorial jurisdiction over a number of serious offences including murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, wounding with intent, and causing explosions, and incitement to any of those offences.
That extra-territorial jurisdiction covers all Council of Europe countries, including—I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson), who is concerned about the Kurds—Turkey. That jurisdiction already exists. If the police and the Crown Prosecution Service had wanted to prosecute people in this country for incitement to commit various offences in Turkey, they could have done so at any time since 1978. The countries covered by the jurisdiction also include India.
Under other specific international conventions, and UK statutes bringing those into force, hostage taking and hijacking, and incitement to hostage taking and hijacking, are offences in the UK if committed in any country in the world.
163 The present law, I suggest to the House, is plainly anomalous. There is no obvious justification for incitement to commit murder in Turkey or India to be an offence in the UK, whereas incitement to commit murder in Japan or Australia is not an offence. The Bill seeks to put those anomalies right.
§ Mr. Hogg
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I think that this is a serious matter.
Kurdish representatives came to see the then Foreign Secretary, the then Prime Minister and me, to obtain our support for their campaign to drive Saddam Hussein and his army out of north Iraq. On the face of it, that falls within the scope of action capable of constituting terrorism under clause 1.
I understand the right hon. Gentleman to be saying not that I am wrong, but that no one would be prosecuted for encouraging the Kurds to take such action, because of the discretionary power of the prosecution authority. That, however, is a profoundly unattractive situation.
§ Mr. Straw
I simply do not accept the proposition. The idea that in this country the police would investigate such an alleged offence in respect of Iraq, that the Crown Prosecution Service would bring a charge and that the Director of Public Prosecutions would give his consent cannot exist outside the right hon. and learned Gentleman's fevered imagination.
Of course, we can all invent hypothetical circumstances—fantastic circumstances—in which any of us, according to the criminal code, could be charged and subject to conviction; but there is no point in our doing so. We know that, in the real world in which we live, the criminal law is subject to a significant series of checks and balances, including proper invigilation by the courts of the land and control of the Crown Prosecution Service by Members of Parliament who are answerable to the House of Commons and the other place. Such circumstances therefore do not arise, and I do not believe that they ever will. At precisely the time when the right hon. and learned Gentleman was engaging in the discussions to which he referred, the Government of whom he was a member were supporting the Jurisdiction (Conspiracy and Incitement) Bill, introduced in 1996 by the then Member of Parliament Nigel Waterson.
§ Mr. Straw
Indeed it does. Anyway, I apologise abjectly for failing to remember that Eastbourne is one of the seats that we did not win.
The scope of that Bill was infinitely wider than the provisions in clause 57 of this Bill. The earlier Bill made incitement to commit an offence abroad an offence here, referring to any offence in the criminal calendar. It would certainly have caught a variety of potential offences that the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North 164 Hykeham had in mind. This Bill, however, deals with a much narrower set of offences, and is consistent with the provisions of the Suppression of Terrorism Act 1978.
§ Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington)
I support the Bill, but the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) has raised an interesting point. It is entirely possible that diplomatic pressure could be exerted for other reasons—to do with trade, perhaps, or preparedness to support some new international treaty—for a prosecution to be brought against a group active in, say, Saudi Arabia. We might not deem that group to be violent, but those exerting the pressure might believe it to be so. Is my right hon. Friend entirely satisfied that that possibility has been taken into account?
§ Mr. Straw
I am grateful to my hon.
Friend for his support. I do not want to refer to Saudi Arabia specifically, but it is true that pressure was exerted on the last Government, and is exerted on the present Government from time to time, by other Governments whose history in respect of democratic and peaceful protest and representative government is not as long as ours, and who complain about the fact that people in this country are campaigning against them. As long as those people operate peacefully—and, I add parenthetically, their immigration status is satisfactory—they are fully entitled to protest. The test in a democracy is not whether one accords rights to people with whom one agrees, but to those with whom one profoundly disagrees. I defend their rights.
§ Mr. Straw
As my hon. Friend says, he is a sensible fellow—I hope that my hon. Friend was referring to the Prime Minister, not to me.
Pressure will be exerted. I have had to tell some Governments—to avoid doubt, not that of Saudi Arabia—"People in this country may campaign against you, but as those people have committed no offence under the British criminal code, and their immigration status is in order, the fact that they cause you some difficulty is regrettable for you, but it is the nature of our society that we encourage dissent." If those Governments persist in their efforts, I remind them of this country's long history of encouraging dissent and that Karl Marx wrote "Das Kapital" in the basement of the British museum.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
Perhaps I can be a little more precise. Let us suppose that there was a major defence contract, which was worth billions of pounds over many years, and that a Government in the middle east exerted pressure on the British Government by telling them that, if they wanted the contract, they would have to take action against a militant group, active in London in conspiring in and drawing together an international campaign. Does not my right hon. Friend foresee circumstances—not under 165 a Labour Government, but under other future Governments—in which that sort of pressure could pay off?
§ Mr. Straw
I genuinely do not believe that that would happen. Let us assume for a moment that holders of my office, regardless of party, are completely venal and have an interest only in securing that defence contract. No member of the Government would make the decision to prosecute. First, the police would have to decide whether to investigate an alleged offence. The law guarantees the operational independence of chief officers of police. It is profoundly important under our constitution to ensure that it is not possible for the holder of a political officer, however high or mighty, to instruct a chief officer to investigate a crime because it happens to suit that person's purpose.
Secondly, clause 113 provides that,proceedings shall not be instituted in England and Wales"—that also applies to Scotland and Northern Ireland—for an offence under any provision of this Act without the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.I know of no Director of Public Prosecutions or Attorney-General under any Government who would give comfort to the view that the pressures that we are discussing should influence a prosecution. Moreover, were such pressures put on paper or recorded, they would have to be disclosed to the defence, which would clearly help the defence's case.
§ Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)
The anxiety of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) is understandable because problems exist. We can be totally safeguarded against the problem only by allowing the position to continue whereby this country could become a safe haven in which terrorists operate. The challenge that the Home Secretary issued at the beginning of his speech was that if additional powers were put in place to cover a genuine problem, the safeguards must be sufficient. The integrity of Ministers is often bolstered by the knowledge of the existence of judicial review.
§ Mr. Straw
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for those remarks and, to pick up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), we should defend to the last the right of peaceful protest and dissent in this country. At the same time, we should not provide a haven for people who are plainly committing, organising or inciting terrorist acts here or abroad.
I have witnessed only one terrorist act in this country, which was the bomb that went off at the Old Bailey in—[Interruption.] I have listened carefully to the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham; may I be allowed to complete my sentence?
I have witnessed directly the results of a terrorist outrage only once, when a bomb went off at the Old Bailey in 1973, although other Members of the House have witnessed far more terrible events with much greater frequency. An outrageous aspect of terrorist activity is its indiscriminate nature. If people are killed or injured, the fact that the bombs, the shrapnel and the glass carry a label marked "Animal rights" or the name of some foreign country is immaterial to those who suffer. The victims of 166 such outrages are completely innocent and I hope that the House, in ensuring that the Bill is proportionate, is able to do its job of scrutinising and improving legislation. We must also think of the possible consequences of terrorist outrages in the absence of such legislation: innocent lives might be saved if such powers were on the statute book. That is the balance that we are seeking to achieve.
§ Mr. Straw
No, I want to bring my remarks to a close because I have been speaking for almost an hour.
I want to put on record the main components of the Bill about which I have not spoken. Part I contains the definition of terrorism and part II the provisions for proscription. Part III deals with terrorist property and removes the tipping-off offence. Parts IV and V introduce a range of investigative tools and other counter-terrorist powers. Part VI refers to a number of further terrorist offences, including incitement provisions. Part VII relates to temporary measures for Northern Ireland only. As I told my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Inverclyde, we are committed to removing those emergency powers in Northern Ireland as soon as it is safe to do so. In parallel with the passage of the Bill, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland intends to review the arrangements for non-jury trials. Working with interested ministerial colleagues, he will consider what potential exists for making changes at this stage and, if and when that is judged right, what steps would be necessary to achieve the Government's overall aim of a return to jury trial.
The wide-ranging and evolving threat from terrorism will not go away. The Bill therefore sets in place an appropriate and effective range of provisions, which is proportionate to the reality of the threat that we face and of practical operational benefit. It also sends a clear message to terrorists and their supporters and is consistent with the rule of law and our democratic traditions. I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone and The Weald)
I am grateful to the Home Secretary for setting out the details of this very necessary Bill before the House. The necessity for such a Bill is of course regrettable, but it is nevertheless fully recognised. I should therefore say at the outset that should any Member divide the House this evening, the Government will have the Opposition's full support in seeking a Second Reading for the Bill.
Conservative Members have never shirked their duty to take the toughest stand against terrorism and to give the police and the armed forces the powers that they need to protect the public. That is why, when in government, we significantly increased the powers available in the prevention of terrorism Act and the emergency provisions Act and why we had no hesitation in backing the Government when they introduced new powers in the aftermath of the Omagh bombing last year.
We have always believed that there should be a united front across all parties in the House in the fight against terrorism, from wherever that terrorism may come and whosoever perpetrates it. It demonstrates the total determination of the House that terrorism shall not 167 succeed and that parliamentary government throughout the United Kingdom will be vigorously defended. Whenever that bipartisan consensus breaks down, the only people who gain any succour are those who wish to subvert democracy and the rule of law for their own ends—the terrorists themselves.
Of course, bipartisanship in the House has never been and can never be about giving the Government a blank cheque to do whatever they like. Obviously, we all reserve the right to raise specific ideas where we think that the Government may be getting it wrong. Nevertheless, there is no doubt about one thing—the Opposition will always back legislation that makes life harder for those who engage in or support acts of terrorism. On that central point we believe passionately that the Government and the Opposition should stand as one.
As the Home Secretary has been discussing Damascene conversions, let me say that I wish that it had always been the case that the Government of the day had the vigorous support of the Opposition over such issues. I do not doubt that all right hon. and hon. Members abhor terrorism and I do not doubt for one moment their determination to see terrorism defeated, but the defeat of terrorism requires more than condemnation and more than just words; it requires a willingness to act.
That is why I remind the right hon. Gentleman of the actions of his party in opposition throughout many of the darkest days of terrorist violence in Northern Ireland, when Labour Members trooped into the Opposition Lobby to vote against the legislation. Year after year, increasingly lame excuses were trotted out one after another. I do not believe that we shall ever forget the sight of the Prime Minister, when he was shadow Home Secretary, the very night that IRA mortar bombs were raining down on Heathrow airport, ignoring the pleas of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) and leading his colleagues into the Lobby to vote against the renewal of the prevention of terrorism Act. That was a shoddy and shameful action for the official Opposition in the House of Commons. It is not a pattern that the present Opposition intend ever to follow. It is not without a certain irony today that it falls to the party which in opposition described much of the legislation that it is now introducing as unnecessary and counterproductive finally to have the responsibility to place it permanently on the statute book.
We all agree that terrorism is evil and that those who engage in it or support it seek simply to gain through violence that which they are denied by the ballot box. We cannot allow that to happen. Democracy cannot afford to tolerate it, let alone allow it to succeed, for to do so would fatally undermine democracy itself. So we must never be prepared—nor will the Opposition ever be prepared—to compromise democracy and terror.
Here in the United Kingdom we have lived with terrorism and the threat of terrorism for some 30 years. It has been principally, though certainly not exclusively, in connection with Northern Ireland and the facts are chilling. More than 3,600 people have been killed and more than 40,000 injured either in Northern Ireland or Great Britain as a result of the violence associated with the troubles.
We have witnessed scenes of unmitigated horror and barbarism and they are all etched indelibly on our minds: La Mon house, Warrenpoint, Enniskillen, the Shankill road, 168 Greysteel, Canary wharf and, most recently, Omagh. Those are just some of them, but there have been many more and we must never forget the suffering that our fellow citizens in Northern Ireland have had to endure. Their resilience and their fortitude, along with that shown by people throughout the entire United Kingdom, has ensured that the ballot box will always prevail over the armalite.
Nor should we forget the efforts of the police and the armed forces. I have no hesitation in commending their dedication, professionalism and sheer courage in facing the full force of the terrorist onslaught over the past 30 years. In particular, it is timely again to recall the sacrifice of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the thin green line that has literally stood between the rule of law and the descent into anarchy, and not just in Northern Ireland. As both the Metropolitan police and the Garda would be the first to acknowledge, the RUC is the first line of defence for mainland Britain and the Republic of Ireland. The RUC has paid a terrible price: 302 officers have been murdered and more than 9,000 have been maimed or injured. No police service anywhere is more deserving of our praise. Therefore, I willingly join those who have already congratulated the force on the award of the George Cross. Without the RUC, the opportunities that we see in Northern Ireland today would not exist. Everyone who cares about the rule of law owes the RUC the most profound debt of gratitude.
Conservative Members unreservedly welcome the progress that has been made in Northern Ireland, including the establishment of the Executive and the devolution of powers to the Assembly. In our view, the Belfast agreement offers the best hope for a lasting peace underpinned by stable political institutions. There is at long last the possibility that the politically motivated violence that has characterised and scarred the past 30 years might become a thing of the past. But we are also certain that, if all sides are to move forward with confidence, the Belfast agreement will have to be implemented in full. In other words, devolution must be accompanied by the decommissioning of all illegally held terrorist arms and explosives. There can be no place in government—I hope that the Home Secretary, when he is not as distracted as he has been for the past 10 minutes, will agree—for representatives of fully armed terrorist organisations that seek to cling on to their weapons of murder and mayhem.
Of course, the security situation is much improved. It is undeniable that life in Northern Ireland for many people is decidedly better and that there is a real determination that things must not go back to how they were, but we would fool ourselves if we refused to acknowledge that the peace that exists in Northern Ireland today remains very much an imperfect peace.
Terrorist organisations on both the republican and the loyalist side remain firmly intact. Their command and control structures have not been dismantled. Their capacity and capability remain undiminished. Paramilitary beatings and shootings have not ceased. As Mr. John Rowe pointed out in his most recent review of the EPA:Terrorist organisations are active in the following ways: killing, maiming, beating and carrying out assaults; procuring explosives, and constructing and planting and using explosive devices; obtaining money and funds by robbery, intimidation and extortion; and lastly, fomenting disorder".Even if the Executive succeeds, as we all must hope that it does, and the main paramilitary groups do decommission, it would still be folly to discount the 169 possibility of threats from splinter groups. The history of Irish republicanism is littered with splits. The Omagh bomb, the single worst atrocity of the past 30 years, was carried out by the republican splinter group calling itself the Real IRA.
We should not underestimate the ability of any of those groups—or, indeed, the so—called loyalist groups-to destabilise Northern Ireland. For those reasons, we strongly support the inclusion of the existing powers contained in the EPA in part VII of the Bill. Equally, in recognition of the fact that we do not want those powers to be retained for longer than is necessary, we agree that they should remain temporary provisions, subject to annual renewal by Parliament.
That said, the movement in Northern Ireland is overwhelmingly in the right direction and the outlook today more positive than at any time since 1969. Like every hon. Member, we want that process to go on and to succeed, but it is not just from Irish republican, or so—called loyalist, terrorism that the United Kingdom has suffered—the threat from other forms of domestic terrorism and, indeed, from international terrorism, remains potent.
I do not wish to rehearse those threats in detail, but I refer the House to appendix F of the Lloyd report prepared by Professor Paul Wilkinson, which graphically illustrates their scope and nature. We are all mindful that next week is the 11 th anniversary of the bombing of the PanAm jet over Lockerbie, which resulted in the deaths of 270 people from 21 nations. That atrocity is now the subject of proceedings under Scottish law in the Netherlands.
I come now to some of the specific provisions in the Bill. Anti-terrorist legislation was introduced to deal with specific and, it was hoped, short-term terrorist threats. The Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1974—the first such measure—was passed in response to the Birmingham pub bombings of that year, and the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973 followed the Diplock commission in Northern Ireland. Both those measures were intended to be temporary but, due to the prolonged terrorist threat, with a few significant revisions they have taken on a permanence that could not have been envisaged.
The positive developments in Northern Ireland have made it opportune to look again at that legislation, which is why the previous Government invited Lord Lloyd to do so in 1995. We agree entirely with his conclusion—which is the assumption that underpins the Government's approach—that there will remain a continuing need for counter—terrorism legislation in the foreseeable future. That being the case, we therefore also accept Lord Lloyd's opinion—which is, after all, common sense—that we should combine the existing prevention of terrorism and emergency provisions measures into one piece of permanent, UK-wide, legislation.
I listened to the earlier debate, but the Opposition can broadly accept the Bill's new definition of terrorism designed to cover the range of terrorist activity. However, we may wish to probe it a little in later stages.
§ Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough)
Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to deal with the many interventions in the Home Secretary's speech that were to 170 do with the nature of terrorism? Often, today's terrorists are tomorrow's statesmen. Various organisations were mentioned, including Greenpeace, the African National Congress and even the Palestine Liberation Organisation. However, is not it impossible for the Government to include in the Bill an exact definition of terrorism that will cover all situations? Must we not allow the Home Office some latitude for good sense?
§ Miss Widdecombe
My hon. Friend makes an important point. He is right that terrorism cannot be defined either out of existence or so closely as to cover every eventuality—
§ Miss Widdecombe
If my right hon. and learned Friend will allow me to complete my sentence, I shall certainly give way to him. I agree with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh), and that is why I said that the Opposition broadly accept the new definition. In response to the point that I suspect my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) is about to make, I confirm that we shall nevertheless wish to probe that definition a little later in the Bill's progress through the House.
§ Mr. Hogg
I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend. I am perfectly prepared to accept that, generally speaking, the Home Office will approach the matter with good sense. However, I hope that my right hon. Friend will appreciate that rights of third parties are also involved. For example, there is the question of raising money for organisations capable of falling within the class of those carrying on acts of terrorism as defined in clause 1. To raise money for that purpose is an offence, and banks and accountants are under a duty to disclose the cash transactions arising from such dealings. To define such activities broadly under clause 1, so that serious injury to property becomes part of the definition, is to court a very serious problem indeed.
§ Miss Widdecombe
I have to say to my right hon. and learned Friend that funding terrorist activities should attract the same definition and penalties as perpetrating them. However, I take the point that there is room for further exploration of the definition that we broadly accept but which we are happy to have debated and refined.
In this context, I note that the Government have inserted the word "serious" before "violence" in the new definition. We hope that that will not be used by some in Northern Ireland to distinguish between so-called punishment attacks—what has been described as internal housekeeping—and wider attacks on the community or security forces. It is our view that they are all acts of terrorism. Even if it were only by a nod, I would have appreciated the Home Secretary signalling that the word "serious" was not to be used to excuse paramilitary or punishment beatings.
§ Mr. Straw
We have included the word "serious" in the definition not for any of the reasons suggested by the 171 right hon. Lady, but because that was one of the recommendations of Lord Lloyd's report, which states:The existing definition … 'the use of violence for political ends … & could be retained, subject to the addition of the word `serious' before `violence'.In a separate section, the report talks about using an FBI definition which uses the phrase "serious violence".
§ Miss Widdecombe
I was not suggesting for one moment that the Home Secretary had that distinction in mind. I was asking him whether that definition of "serious" could be used in such a way as to preclude punishment beatings from being caught by the legislation. It is a straightforward question.
§ Miss Widdecombe
I am grateful for that assurance, although we may return to precisely what we are driving at later.
We agree with the Government that the time has come to remove exclusion orders. They have outlived their practical usefulness and we are not sorry to see them go. We are satisfied that the wider power to exclude or deport is maintained in the Immigration Act 1971.
We support the inclusion of the separate Northern Ireland provisions in the Bill. We would all like to see a move away from Diplock courts in Northern Ireland back to normal jury trials. Diplock courts are a wholly exceptional arrangement, but the circumstances that gave rise to them remain. Therefore, they are essential to the operation of the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland. We welcome also the fact that the Government have maintained their U-turn from when they were in opposition and retained the system of certifying out offences, rather than adopting a system of certifying in. We believe the current system to be the right one.
Having agreed with all that, we are not without some concerns about some aspects of the Bill. One of the advantages of the existing prevention of terrorism and emergency provisions legislation being renewed annually is that it has allowed Parliament to scrutinise the exceptional powers contained in that legislation. In addition, the Government and Parliament have benefited enormously from the annual reviews of the legislation. I join the Home Secretary in paying tribute to Mr. John Rowe and his predecessors in this respect.
As it stands, the Bill offers no mechanism for Parliament to scrutinise the powers that it contains. That is regrettable. We believe that they should be re-examined by Parliament at frequent intervals. We would expect them to be reviewed by an independent expert, such as Mr. Rowe, and to have his report presented to Parliament. We believe that this is an area where accountability to Parliament is essential.
The Bill proposes to take away the power to approve an application to extend the length of time that a suspect can be held in detention without charge from the Home Secretary or the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and give it to a judicial authority. The Home Secretary made 172 great play of that as a virtue. We remain unconvinced that it is legitimately a judicial function, rather than an Executive one. The decision to extend detention under existing legislation is usually based on intelligence material in the hands of the Executive that cannot be considered appropriate for judicial consideration. The information is often of such a sensitive nature that it cannot be disclosed to a detainee or his legal adviser without compromising the source of the intelligence, thus endangering lives or impeding an investigation.
By giving that power to a judicial authority, the judiciary would inevitably be seen as part of the investigation and prosecution process, which could bring its independence into question. The problems associated with that seem to be particularly acute in Northern Ireland, where all scheduled offences are tried under the Diplock system—save those that are certified out by the Attorney—General—with a single judge acting as both judge and jury.
The Home Secretary will be aware that the judiciary in Northern Ireland has always been opposed to taking on such a function. Even if the right hon. Gentleman were to press ahead with this, he would have to overcome the serious practical problem of finding sufficient people in Northern Ireland, which has a small judiciary, willing to serve in such a capacity.
Doubtless the Home Secretary will justify this move by claiming that the present system is vulnerable to challenge in the European Court. Yet not only has the United Kingdom successfully applied a derogation in respect of article 5(3) of the convention since the Brogan case in 1988, the validity of that derogation was upheld in 1993. The Government could continue to apply that derogation but for the fact that under the Human Rights Act 1998 it will expire anyway in 2005. But that was a matter of policy rather than legal necessity, and we urge the Government to think again.
We strongly support some aspects of the Bill. We support the new powers to enable the seizure and detention of terrorist cash at borders, and its subsequent forfeiture, as advocated by Lord Lloyd. We also support extending the offence of directing a terrorist organisation from Northern Ireland to the rest of the United Kingdom.
In general, we support most of the Bill, but we have serious reservations about the transfer of detention from the Executive to the judiciary. We have some concerns, which have been expressed on both sides of the House, about the adequacy of the definition, although we broadly support it. We are glad that the legislation is being made permanent and that the two Acts are being brought together. We will support the Government in the Lobby, should there be any who press this matter to a Division.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Hull, North)
I start by congratulating my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on his speech and on his willingness to accept so many interventions. The good humour with which he accepted those interventions showed a degree of rationality that I cannot hope to emulate.
There are some improvements in the Bill, based on the White Paper. The creation of the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission goes some way to meeting some of the problems raised by proscription. The main problem in that connection, which will have to be debated in 173 Committee, is that judicial review deals only with the legality of cases, not their merit. I shall be discussing that later.
I also welcome the decision to have judicial intervention in cases of detention. We campaigned for that for a long time when we were in opposition, and my right hon. Friend is to be congratulated on introducing it. I also welcome the fact that one of our first actions was to get rid of executive detention, which was a polite name for internment without trial. That was one of our undertakings, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend on that achievement.
I welcome in particular the decision on exclusion orders and internal exile. Our late colleague, Roger Stott, would have welcomed that decision because, as my right hon. Friend knows, he campaigned long and hard for the withdrawal of that provision.
On the basis of what is happening in Northern Ireland, I welcome the closure of the Castlereagh detention centre. It has had an unhappy history, with members of both communities suffering torture and beatings there. I look forward to the time when the interrogation centres at Gough barracks and at Strand road police station are closed and when everyone charged with a criminal offence in Northern Ireland is charged under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, not other regulations.
I welcome much in the Bill, and much that is being dropped. However, I read the Bill in some sorrow and some anger. We appear to have lost a wonderful opportunity to have got rid of a lot of the litter and debris of the past 30 years in Northern Ireland. We could have done without part VII, an opinion shared by the Human Rights Commissioner in Northern Ireland, Professor Brice Dickson. It is particularly sad that we are keeping those provisions because the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1974 was something of a cosmetic version of the old Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act (Northern Ireland) 1922.
Throughout the existence of Northern Ireland, some special powers have existed. During the first world war, there was the Defence of the Realm Act 1914. After that came the Restoration of Order in Ireland Regulations 1918, then the 1922 Act and the 1974 Act. The whole history of Ireland since the Union with Ireland Act 1800 has been a history of Acts of coercion. Only in Northern Ireland have such Acts been in continuous operation for more than 70 years.
Members who were not here in 1974 will not recall the atmosphere when the PTA was introduced. I should like to remind hon. Members, particularly my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, of the situation at that time. There had been an appalling atrocity in Birmingham. It was felt that something had to be done. There was a popular clamour for action. Several arguments were advanced. First, the Government had to be seen to act decisively. Secondly, it was suggested that action was necessary to defend the Irish population in the country, who were being threatened at work, physically abused, having their homes stoned and windows broken and who faced all manner of intimidation and harassment.
It was felt that the PTA would be helpful, and we were given guarantees that it would exist for only six months. As I said earlier, there was also whispering in the 174 Corridors that if we did not introduce the Act, and quickly, we might face the reintroduction of capital punishment. That was the atmosphere of panic, fear and intimidation that then existed as we floundered around wondering what could be done. A Bill already drafted was taken from its pigeonhole and introduced.
In fact, the temporary Bill has lasted until now, and it will continue in force for the foreseeable future. It is ironic that a Bill introduced to protect the Irish in this country has been used for their intimidation and harassment. There have been many arrests, but few prosecutions and even fewer convictions. It has been used to harry and hinder law-abiding people, both immediate immigrants and people of the second or third generation. A sense of purpose was lost. Far from giving encouragement, succour and security, the measure became one of the most hated pieces of legislation in this country. We are now being asked to maintain it.
There is always a danger that, in any legal system, there could be two parallel sources, where the same set of facts could result in the employment of two different systems of justice—the only difference would be motivation. If one is caught up under the provisions of the PTA or the EPA, one's legal rights would be far less than if one were detained for what we might describe as an ordinary, decent crime. That cannot be a proper way of dealing with the problem. It is surely not a measure that we should want to have and to hold.
§ Mr. McNamara
I realise that other hon. Members have given way to me, but, with the greatest respect to the hon. Gentleman, I gave a specific undertaking to the Chair that I would not take up too much time. I should be more than willing to cross swords with the hon. Gentleman in Committee—indeed, I shall be more than delighted to do so.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)
Order. I point out to the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) that the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) is perfectly within his rights not to accept an intervention. Comments such as those made by the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone from a sedentary position are not really in the spirit of the House.
§ Mr. Maginnis
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I apologise for having spoken from a sedentary position. However, it is well known that the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) pursues a tedious path in his interpretation—
§ Mr. McNamara
If the Chair will allow me to forego my promise, I shall willingly give way to the hon. Gentleman, but having given that undertaking, I felt that I should honour it.
§ Mr. Maginnis
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He pursues his usual tedious and predictable 175 path through the measure. He always talks as though successive Governments have deliberately discriminated against Irish people. It appears that he has no understanding of the terror of the 3,500 people killed or 300 policemen injured. Would the hon. Gentleman balance the remarks in the remainder of his contribution so that we can hear the matter put properly in context?
§ Mr. McNamara
I do not need lectures from the hon. Gentleman on how hard the deaths in Northern Ireland have hit home—I have had personal experience. However, I am concerned that we should have a proper system and a proper understanding of the rule of law. The effect of the legislation, especially in the 1970s and the early 1980s, was to alienate a whole community. That is not a good thing.
We have already discussed the definition of terrorism, so I shall not pursue the points that I had planned to make on that subject. It will be interesting to hear what comes up in Committee on that matter.
On the front of the Bill, there is a statement by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that the Bill does not offend against the European convention on human rights. That is not the opinion of the Human Rights Commission in Northern Ireland. At the drop of a hat, the commission found six cases under the EPA provisions. Section 13, on the onus of proof on possession of proscribed articles, is incompatible with the presumption of innocence in article 6 of the convention. Section 20, on the power to enter and search premises without a warrant, is incompatible with the right to respect for private life in article 8.
Section 25, on the power to stop and question, is incompatible with the right to liberty in article 5(1)(b). Section 30(A), on onus of proof on possession of certain documents, is incompatible with the right to a fair trial in article 6. Section 30A(2), on the evidence of a police officer—that is the stupid legislation that we pushed through after Omagh, in another fit of panic—is incompatible with the right to a fair trial in article 6(3)(d). Section 30A(4), on inferences from silence in respect of membership charges, is incompatible with the right to a fair trial in article 6(1).
In the prevention of terrorism provisions contained in the new Bill, the Human Rights Commission identified 10 matters that were incompatible with the European convention. Clause 3, on proscription, might be incompatible with article 11 of the convention, which provides for a right of peaceful assembly. Under clause 5 and schedule 3, on the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission, judicial review is the first test for appeal. However, following the "gays in the military" case, the European Court said that a judicial review in itself was not sufficient, and that we could go to the merits of the case.
Clause 18, on the duty to disclose information with reversal of the burden of proof, contravenes article 10—the right to freedom of expression. It also limits press freedom to collect information and relates to sorry circumstances such as the Stephens inquiry's pursuit of Ed Malone of the Sunday Tribune recently. Clause 37, on the tipping-off offence, again reverses the onus. It possibly stifles criticism of the police or security services, and therefore contravenes article 10 of the convention, on freedom of speech.
Clauses 38 and 39, on powers of arrest, may well contravene article 5(1)(c), which lists the grounds of arrest. It must be remembered that previous Home Secretaries 176 have justified that power, not to gain convictions but for fishing expeditions to gain evidence—arresting people not to prosecute them, not even because they were thinking about it, but to try, by questioning, to get information. That was justified by the then Home Secretary, the former European Commissioner Mr. Leon Brittan.
We then come to schedule 13, paragraphs 2 and 6, on the right of access to lawyers, which can be delayed for up to 48 hours. That contravenes article 6 of the convention. Clause 39 and schedule 7, on the detention of an individual for up to 48 hours, similarly contravenes the convention.
Clause 42 gives a policeman the power to stop and search anyone that he reasonably believes to be a terrorist. That creates all sorts of problems on the basis of the new, wider definition of terrorism that appears in clause 1. The Bill will leave itself wide open to challenge because a case relating to the narrow, secure and specific definition would be easier to defend before the European Court than would a case that is so broad and so wide in what is being averred.
Clauses 55 and 56 would make it an offence to possess items that give rise to a reasonable suspicion that they are being used for terrorist purposes. Again the onus of proof has been reversed, breaching article 6(2)—the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Interestingly, in the Stobie case, when Mr. Stobie was charged with the possession of guns and ammunition and had to prove his innocence under the existing legislation, the Director of Public Prosecutions dropped the case in the absence of any proof. That was a remarkable decision by the DPP. Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary should have borne that in mind when he was giving his paean to some public officers in the Stobie case.
Finally, the Bill would make it an offence to possess information that is likely to be useful to terrorists, and article 10 of the European convention provides a right to receive and impart information without interference from a public body—even if the ideas "shock or disturb" the state.
I welcomed the incorporation of the convention into our legislation. I believe that it was an important step forward, but I believe that the Home Secretary is being overoptimistic in his statement on the face of the Bill that the provisions of the Bill are compatible with the convention rights.
Fortunately for the House, however, such matters will be decided not by the Executive any more but in the courts. We all admire my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary's learning, but not only our courts but the court in Strasbourg may decide that the advice that he has received is not well founded. Incorporating the European convention on human rights into our legislation was a courageous act by the Government, and I support them in that. However, the convention is very much a two-edged sword and the Government may find to their cost—I happily say "to their cost"—that they have been given bad advice on this matter. I imagine that many of the issues that I have mentioned will be dealt with in the courts. The court in Strasbourg considers cases in detail and takes them one by one. The blanket approach, as suggested by the Bill, will not apply.
I have pointed out that the courts will be the final arbiters, but I return to the start of my speech. I welcome the way in which my right hon. Friend the Home 177 Secretary has approached the matter. In particular, I welcome a statement that he slipped in towards the end of his speech. He said that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will set up a committee to see how we can return to jury trials in Northern Ireland. That was a most important statement. However, the return to jury trials can be introduced quite easily. Instead of contracting out cases from scheduled offences, they should be contracted in. The Director of Public Prosecutions, the Attorney-General and others argue that doing that would be to take over a role that should be carried out by Parliament. However, contracting something out to have a jury trial also means taking over the role of Parliament.
Given the current background with the considerable lessening in the number of terrorist offences and the considerable lowering of tensions, we should do everything that we can to encourage a return to jury trials. Contracting in of scheduled offences is the best and easiest way to do that. At present, the authorities say that all scheduled offences are terrorist offences unless we contract them out. Why cannot they say that all offences are honest, decent, criminal offences—if there is such a thing—and those that we suspect of being terrorist offences will be contracted in?
§ Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)
I support the Second Reading of the Bill and I welcome the fact that there will be a permanent Terrorism Act on the statute book. I was struck by references to the origins of previous prevention of terrorism measures, which tended to be in response to outrages. Reference has been made to Birmingham and to Omagh—and I introduced certain measures in the House in response to an outrage at Ballygawley. One of the measures that we introduced at that time was the right, in certain circumstances, to draw inferences from a suspect' s determination to remain silent. For that, I was heavily attacked by Labour Members when they were in opposition, but they moved that principle a bit further in the measures that they introduced in response to Omagh. I do not criticise them for that.
The contribution of the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) is living proof of how far the Labour party, which is now in government, has moved. The hon. Gentleman was once the Opposition spokesman whom I had to face across the House. He sang a very different song at that time and spoke on behalf of his party when he did so. I doubt whether the Labour party would now subscribe to many of the views that the hon. Gentleman expressed at that time.
I declare an interest: I am the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee. In our most recent report, we drew attention to the fact that terrorism is not confined to Northern Ireland and that it will not be happily dealt with by the Good Friday agreement and what has flowed from it. Terrorism is now a global activity which poses many fresh and serious challenges. Terrorism has long existed around the world in domestic situations, but it is now conducted against one country from another. The latter is often a safe haven that offers peace and 178 tranquillity for planning, organising and fundraising for some of the outrages that are perpetrated in another country.
§ Mr. Corbyn
Will the right hon. Gentleman concede that there are fundamental problems with the argument that he is propounding? During the apartheid era in South Africa, it was held that Umkhonto we Sizwe was operating a terrorist regime against the Pretoria Government. The organisation had strong supporters and friends in this country. My understanding is that, under this Bill, the ANC office in London would have been closed down on that basis, and the ANC banned in Britain as a terrorist organisation.
§ Mr. King
I shall develop that serious point because it needs to be addressed, but I want first to set the scene.
There is globalisation of terrorism, facility of movement of funds and equipment, which is almost unpreventable, and the horrific development of technology. The Home Secretary referred to the use of sarin on the underground in Tokyo. Weapons of mass destruction—whether they be nuclear, chemical or biological—have developed to the extent that they offer new possibilities for terrorism, often as much by the threat of their use as by their actual use. Against that background any democratic state must have in place arrangements and facilities to deal with those situations.
Having had to take some responsibility for these matters in the past, I share the Home Secretary's view that no Government could face their people if they had not taken responsible action to ensure that measures were in place. I recognise not only how quickly public opinion can change and public comment can focus on safeguards and the need always to protect legitimate interests, but how ferocious will be the counter-attack if the Government are seen to have left their people exposed to unacceptable threats and dangers, and not to have taken reasonable and responsible action to protect them. I include that new dimension of terrorism, to which my committee referred in its report, in my consideration of the Bill.
The issue that the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) just raised is precisely the point that I made to the Home Secretary. We are seeking to ensure that we do not allow this country to become a safe haven for those who commit against perfectly democratic countries terrorism of a kind that we would find totally unacceptable. Those countries may be other members of the European Union. It is no secret that because of the outrages that have been committed in Paris, the French Government are extremely critical of us for what they see as providing a haven for Islamic terrorists. I do not imagine that any hon. Member would seek to defend the position of this country being a safe haven for terrorism against legitimate, democratic Governments.
We then come up against exactly the problem that the hon. Member for Islington, North mentioned: one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. I intervened on the Home Secretary to make the point about balance, which is one of the principles by which he will determine his actions.
We are talking, without question, about additional powers, not the normal criminal law. With additional powers must come additional safeguards. I shall not try to 179 pronounce in detail what I think the answer should be. The merit of the Committee scrutiny of the Bill is that those issues, which need to be recognised, can be dealt with.
I shivered momentarily when my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) was speaking. I went into northern Iraq to support the Kurds there, supported by 45 Commando and a squadron of Tornados. We were attempting to ensure that the Kurds were protected: we encouraged them to take the most violent action to repel any aggression against them by Saddam Hussein and his forces and we provided back-up in the form of air power and a Marine commando. It is an extreme illustration, but I am sure that lawyers would have a field day with such admissions if I were liable to arrest for aiding and abetting a terrorist act against the legitimate Government of another country. I hope that the Serjeant at Arms does not feel the need to make a citizen's arrest for what might be claimed to be a manifest breach of proposed legislation.
The serious point is that there must be proper safeguards and thorough analysis of what constitutes terrorism. In a private Member's Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson)—who, despite what the Home Secretary thinks, is alive and well and still a Member of Parliament—tried to ensure that, to be considered a terrorist act, an act should be legally defined as a terrorist act both in this country and in the country in which the complaint originated. The complexity of that description demonstrates the difficulties that Ministers encounter when trying to strike a balance between obvious acts of terrorism committed against a friendly country, and action that is less easily recognised as terrorism because it takes the form of an act of protest against a regime that we regard as unacceptable and our sympathies reside with the protesters. How that balance is struck will be the business of the Committee on the Bill. I am not able to serve on the Committee, so I look forward to Report to discover how the Committee resolves that important issue. I approve of the Bill in general and believe that the Committee will be able to deal with detailed problems.
I am not sure that I can fully support what my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) said about judicial approval of an extension order. I used to have to extend orders in respect of people who were held in detention before charges were preferred—indeed, I might have been the Secretary of State who was pilloried in the European Court in Strasbourg after lawyers contended that my giving an extension of seven days before charges needed to be brought was absolutely disgraceful. Therefore, I took an interest in events that occurred at the same time as that case was going on.
The case coincided with the successful apprehension by the French authorities of a ship called the Eksund, which was loaded with arms and munitions from Libya intended for the IRA. The French arrested the captain and crew and the examining magistrate took charge of proceedings. Around the time that the UK was being criticised for holding a person for seven days before charge on the authority of a Secretary of State, the examining magistrate under French judicial proceedings had the crew of the Eksund held for two years before preferring charges. As I understand it, the examining magistrate granted himself the extension while he assembled the prosecution case.
180 It is difficult for our European friends, who operate a completely different system of legal procedures, to believe that it might be right for a politician to make out extension orders. Against that background, I think that the judicial approach is certainly worthy of consideration. I recognise the criticism that can be made of political power being used in this way and the feeling that it could be used improperly. That is something that the Committee might like to examine.
I warmly support all the references to fundraising in the Bill. I realised too late in my time in Northern Ireland that one of the key elements was to try to get after the funds of the terrorist organisations. That was in addition to trying to stop violence on the streets and prevent terrorist outrages. I set up the anti-rackets unit to try to pursue those funds.
I remember well—some right hon. and hon. Members may also recall this—an incident when certain people were charged with conspiracy to murder in this country. They were apprehended with some of their equipment in a campsite in Somerset. I recall that they had £4,000 stitched into the wall of their tent. A certain learned and reverend gentleman in Northern Ireland had great doubts about British police arresting decent young Irishmen who were obviously genuine holidaymakers. He thought that they should not have been apprehended in the way that they were. It was the discovery of the money that made him realise that the people concerned were not ordinary tourists or students on vacation. That is a reminder that money is a key ingredient in the obtaining of weapons, transport, the buying of vehicles and the entire paraphernalia on which terrorism depends.
§ Mr. King
I shall finish my point.
Anyone who knows Northern Ireland will be familiar with the incredible infrastructure of black taxis, protection rackets, smuggling and one-armed bandit rigging. The entire operation is backed up in that way. The IRA and other terrorist organisations, including the UVF in its time, saw that funds were an essential element in their activities.
§ Mr. McNamara
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sorry to interrupt the debate. The right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) referred to a case in which it was partially because of statements that he had made in the House that the Court of Appeal overthrew the conviction of those involved. It should be put on the record that those people are innocent as far as the law of this land is concerned.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Gentleman is sufficiently experienced in the House to know that that is 181 not a point of order on which the occupant of the Chair can rule. It is a matter of debate. The right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) felt unable to give way to the hon. Gentleman.
§ Fiona Mactaggart (Slough)
I asked earlier to be allowed to speak in the debate, but, owing to a terrible cold, I had not prepared myself. That is why I looked slightly taken aback when you called me, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Forgive me.
I do not join in right hon. and hon. Members' welcome for the introduction of permanent prevention of terrorism legislation, because it suggests that, in a way, the terrorists have won. I accept that there have been circumstances in which it has been necessary to suspend the protection of human rights, as guaranteed in international legislation and in other ways, effectively to investigate and prosecute activities conducted by terrorist organisations. In a way, they want that to happen, and that is part of the problem.
The best form of prosecution and prevention is through the robust mechanisms of the usual laws to prevent the activities of such organisations. Then, there is no risk of their being able to portray the state as oppressive and as suspending their human rights, and themselves as victims of an oppressive state.
Unlike many hon. Members, therefore, I am disappointed that we have had to take permanent legislative powers to deal with the matter. One of the important reasons why there has not been more careless use of the temporary legislation that we have had hitherto is that it is regularly renewed and regularly debated by the House. I welcomed the request from the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) that the reports by Mr. Rowe QC should be continued if we have permanent legislation. I would welcome a commitment from my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench to the continuation of that reporting mechanism.
We must be sensitive to the degrees of suspension of human rights incorporated in the Bill's provisions. I cannot believe that it was not without careful reflection that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State signed the undertaking, under section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998, which appears on the front of the Bill. I suspect that he may have given the British courts some interesting challenges in the future in carrying out their duty to read the Bill, if it survives in its present form, in a way that conforms with that Act.
I have a particular concern about clause 18, which imposes a duty to report suspicions. For example, journalists may be reluctant to investigate issues relating to terrorism because the Bill places on them the onus to report matters that are only suspicions. I am deeply worried about how that might be interpreted in future.
§ Mr. Hogg
The hon. Lady is entirely right, and her point applies to banks and accountants, too. If they have reason to suppose that an organisation might fall within the organisations that are conducting terrorism as defined 182 by clause 1, they are under a duty to report. They might conclude that they should make a report on any organisation that advocated violence against property—for example, Greenpeace.
§ Fiona Mactaggart
Indeed. We know from recent activities—for example, the campaigning against the Seattle round, and Stop the City—that there are organisations that have within their sphere of influence and activity people who are certainly democrats, with legitimate aspirations to influence policy, as well as people who are not. It is in respect of such groups that the danger of the legislation biting wrongly and seriously interfering with fundamental human rights and liberties becomes most serious.
The Home Secretary showed us, in a certain piece of legislation, what I consider to be the best way of dealing with terrorism. I refer to the legislation that he introduced to ensure that the sentences of those who were prosecuted for offences could be increased when a racial motive was involved. It is right for such people to be subject to heavier sentences, because of the terrorising effect of racism on black and other ethnic minority communities. I feel that, in many instances, the legislative response to terrorism is enforced most effectively at the point of sentencing when the fact that the impact of the terror extends to more people than the victim is significant, and must be taken into account.
§ Fiona Mactaggart
That is true; but I believe that, if part of the Bill's aim is to prevent terrorism as well as detecting it, we must understand the way in which the politics of terror operate. Part of that operation is the terrorising of communities, the limiting of their capacity for action, and making people believe that the democratic route to solving problems is not a route that will work. Many terrorists—individuals and organisations—are pleased when the state takes steps to restrain and restrict them which have the effect of restraining and restricting, for example, peaceful assembly, because that rewards terrorists. It is a tempting option for a state, especially as many terrorists do not care about the consequences of their actions, and do devastating things such as blowing up themselves as well as others.
That is why I see merit in temporary rather than permanent legislation. There are times—many of us have lived through them in this country—when the impact of terrorist activity is so significant that people's conduct of their daily business is restricted. When terror already exists in the community, the use of police cordoning powers and wider investigative powers is entirely appropriate. We should not forget, however, that the use of such powers is itself terrorising in a sense.
§ Fiona Mactaggart
I am not saying that it is deliberately terrorising, but it is terrorising in a sense. I remember the terror that I felt when I went into the City and saw police officers wearing flak jackets and carrying machine guns. I was frightened, and I think that many 183 others were as well. Although such a response is sometimes necessary to deal with the activities of terrorists, it must be proportionate: it must never become the normal run of things. If it does, that will be a victory for the terrorists.
As I have said, I see merit in temporary provisions. There is merit in, for example, the response of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission to the White Paper. The commission suggested that there should be staged measures: it suggested, for instance, that powers should exist in the first place to deal with money laundering involving proscribed organisations, but that other powers should be triggered by the degree of terror. We should reflect on whether all the powers in the Bill need to be permanent.
The most difficult task of any politician is to defend the civil rights of a terrorist, because terrorists have no interest in the civil rights of the rest of humanity. However, we should ensure that their civil rights are protected because that is the best way in which to reduce their support, and, if we can catch them while protecting their human and civil rights, we can create a society in which politics flourishes and terror does not.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey)
I am happy to follow the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), not least to congratulate her on speaking from a background of adversity. I welcome the main thrust of her speech, which was an argument against permanent legislation.
When I took up my new responsibility of looking after home affairs for my party, one of my first tasks was to consider the sort of legislation that my party believed should be on the statute book. That task was, effectively, to devise the home affairs part of an alternative Queen's Speech. Like the Government, we drew up a long list. One of the measures that I proposed and which my colleagues accepted was one on counter-terrorism.
We believe that we should codify and simplify existing exceptional legislation on terrorism, repeal unnecessary measures, especially the sort of legislation that we passed last year in haste, and ensure regular scrutiny of counter-terrorist legislation on a United Kingdom-wide basis. We approach the debate from that perspective. We support a United Kingdom-wide Bill. We also support reconsidering a series of existing temporary measures and bringing them together. However, we have fundamental anxieties about the Government's conclusion to that process.
Although we will vote for Second Reading of the Bill, we have tabled a motion that would provide for a Special Standing Committee to consider it. In such a Committee, Members of Parliament can take evidence before examining the Bill line by line. We believe that exceptional measures require exceptional scrutiny. The fact that a consultation process has occurred is not a sufficient defence for rejecting the motion. In the previous Session, a Special Standing Committee considered the Immigration and Asylum Bill, which deals with exceptional problems. I hope that colleagues from other parties will join us in trying to persuade the Government that a Special Standing Committee should consider the measure.
My approach to the Bill is based on a variety of reflections. I have a background as a lawyer and I have worked in the Council of Europe, dealing with appeals 184 against the United Kingdom Government from individuals who complained of violations of human rights under the emergency legislation. I went to school with people who went on to serve in Northern Ireland and were badly injured—including some who were unable to work properly again. My brother served in Northern Ireland, including in Omagh. I represent a constituency in the London docklands where people were killed by terrorists. I am also the Member of Parliament who represents Liberty—formerly the National Council for Civil Liberties—which has always been vigilant in ensuring that we carefully protect the liberties of our citizens and never overreact. Like others, I have been a member of the anti-apartheid movement. I was conscious that we were supporting people who were out of power, some of whom had engaged in terrorist activities as they were then defined, but I was none the less willing to support them at the time.
I come to the debate conscious that we still have no written constitution, although grateful that the Government have legislated for the European convention on human rights to become part of domestic law, as it will in October next year. I also remember how we have so often reacted to events, as the right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) reminded us. Last September's recall of Parliament, which was a reaction to the Omagh bombing, provided the latest bad legislative example: we acted in haste and, as a result, introduced legislation that we are not only returning to, but which was clearly seen to be defective at the time. Parliament was recalled for two days of business during the recess and against the background of a threatened guillotine motion, so it was always unlikely that we would get the legislation right.
The point made by the hon. Member for Slough has more importance, not only because it is theoretically right, but because the experience of the House is that we must ensure that we are able to look at legislation again. I say to colleagues that we must not put on the statute book exceptional measures with no mechanism for Parliament to reconsider them. My hon. Friends and I will argue that there should be not only special examination of the Bill in Committee, but a provision whereby the legislation would lapse once a Parliament to allow us to review, re-enact or amend it.
In an article in today's edition of The Guardian, the Home Secretary says that terrorism changes readily, often and quickly, which is why we need to be able to respond periodically and why we should not assume that, once we have legislated today, that will do for all our tomorrows. That well-worn saying, "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance" applies particularly to such Bills as this one, and in our view we must not just do our business and pass the legislation, thinking that that will suffice. As a postscript, I should add that once a Parliament would normally be the right frequency for a substantive reconsideration of the legislation, but we also ask for the annual report procedures—which have been used recently for temporary provisions—to be implemented so that a report can be made to the House on the workings of what are exceptional provisions in law.
§ Mr. McNamara
Has the hon. Gentleman considered that it might be better to provide for the report to go to
185 the Home Affairs Committee? That would allow for better in-depth examination of the issues than might be achieved in an hour and a half debate after 10 o'clock at night.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am always of the view that reports should go first to the relevant Select Committee and that the House should then consider matters after colleagues in those Committees have had more time to look at the details. I support that argument, but the Bill should certainly come back to Parliament for consideration regularly because we may want to amend it. As the hon. Member for Slough said, it is also better to know that the legislation will return to the House for review because that provides a useful check against misuse of legislative powers that we would otherwise have no means to change through Parliament without a Government's assent.
We welcome some measures in the Bill, such as the repeal of the exclusion order provisions. Although my party sometimes did otherwise, I never voted for them and I always considered that they were wrong. Ours is one country or it is not, and excluding people from one part of Britain from another part of it always struck me as fundamentally wrong. I know that colleagues on the Ulster Unionist Benches and others took that view. We made a terrible mistake by going down that road and I am glad that it is being put right, albeit belatedly.
We share the Government's view—it was supported in measured terms by the right hon. Member for Bridgwater—that special powers should no longer be subject to ministerial review but to judicial review. There are exceptional circumstances in Northern Ireland and differences that I entirely understand, but in general terms special powers should be subject to independent review which is not conducted by the Executive.
We entirely agree that there should be a less piecemeal approach, that UK legislation should be considered as a whole and that everything that is defined as terrorism should be dealt with at the same time and not in different legislation.
The Bill includes specific provisions for Northern Ireland. My hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) has left the Chamber briefly to attend the Welsh Grand Committee, but he may say a word or two about that. We support the proposal that there should be a temporary continuation of additional special powers in Northern Ireland, ideally with the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the confidence of the community in Northern Ireland as political and other normality returns. I hope to visit Northern Ireland to talk to representatives of all parties to reassure myself that the progression from unusual provisions such as the Diplock courts to normality is made with the maximum consensus. Five years seems to be the right time scale for such changes to be made; if that can be achieved more quickly that is welcome, nevertheless the provision in the Bill is the right one.
We see the Government's proposal that the Northern Ireland powers should lapse after five years as an argument in favour of our suggestion that there should be a general five-year review. The Government accept that certain powers should continue for a temporary period. We consider that that condition should apply to all powers and that they all should be subject to regular review.
The debate has already highlighted several key issues, the most important of which is the definition of terrorism. It is true, as the Home Secretary rightly said, that the Bill 186 does not create a new offence of terrorism. Clauses 1 and 38 define certain activities as terrorist activities which require special responses from the state.
It is absolutely clear, however, that the Bill changes the definition of terrorism as understood by the man or woman in the street. The New Oxford Dictionary definition is probably the one that they would understand. It defines terrorism asthe use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.
Previous legislation has defined terrorism in different ways. Both the substantive Acts that are repealed by the Bill include the same phraseology. I repeat it because it is important to recognise that we are moving a long way from the present legislation. According to the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 and the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1998, terrorism:Means the use of violence for political ends, and includes any use of violence for the purpose of putting the public, or any section of the public in fear.The Reinsurance (Acts of Terrorism) Act 1993 describes terrorism as follows:Acts of persons acting on behalf of, or in connection with, any organisation which carries out activities directed towards the overthrowing or influencing, by force or violence, of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom or any other government de jure or de facto.It addresses activities aimed at the powers of the state and having political ends.
Lord Lloyd's report took the definition further, but not as far as the Government now propose. The independent review of the legislation stopped far short of the Government's proposals. Lord Lloyd proposed the FBI definition of terrorism asthe use of serious violence against persons or property, or the threat to use such violence, to intimidate or coerce a government, the public or any section of the public in order to promote political, social or ideological objectives.
I ask the House to reflect on whether it is right to go as far as the Government do in clause 1, which mentions "use or threat" and thereby extends the definition of terrorism. It refers toa political, religious or ideological cause",serious violence against people or property and activities that not only endanger lives, but createrisks to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public".We should tread most carefully when extending the legislation from crimes against the state to crimes against individuals and still more carefully if we extend it further to crimes against property.
§ Mr. Hughes
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is quite correct and I shall address his point in a moment.
It is also difficult to define an offence by motivation. To say that a cause is political, religious or ideological poses many questions. For example, does the provision cover deluded religious fanatics who think that they are hearing voices? Does it cover people who are mad, 187 schizophrenic or paranoid or who believe that they are doing something for ideological reasons? How much does it take into account different degrees of sanity?
When a Bill applies to such a broad category it tends to cover a broad sweep of potential activities. It also becomes extremely difficult to define those activities. It is clearly possible that an environmentalist attacking a field of corn in Lincolnshire would be caught under the Bill as would someone causing serious damage to an animal laboratory in Oxfordshire—even if there were no human being in it—or someone attending a meeting in any of our constituencies at which someone spoke claiming to support a freedom struggle in a democratic country. If we go down that road we will be asking for trouble for ourselves for our reputation as a democracy.
§ Mr. Maginnis
Is not the hon. Gentleman taking his argument to the point of being ridiculous? Nobody has suggested that terrorism could be predicated on the basis of a mad person or a zealot using violence on another member of the community. Does not terrorism involve groups of people carrying out organised terrorist activities?
§ Mr. Hughes
The hon. Gentleman states what the public think terrorism is and I agree with him. I share his understanding of what terrorism laws should address, but that is not what the Bill says. I am happy to spend time discussing these matters with the hon. Gentleman and our Northern Ireland colleagues as they, above all, deserve our support to make sure that we get the law right. The Bill, however, deals with groups of as few as three people meeting in private. The Bill specifically also does not limit itself to the sort of activity with which, tragically, the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) and his colleagues have had to deal every day. If we are to do anything, we will have to ensure that the House and the country have legislation that can adequately deal with the sort of tragic circumstances that Northern Ireland, above all, has suffered from for so long, but without at the same time accidentally or on purpose sweeping in all sorts of other things that have nothing to do with such terrorist activity.
§ Mr. Corbyn
I have been listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman. He made the point that someone could be arrested in this country under a criminal charge for speaking at a meeting if that person were deemed to be speaking in support of a terrorist organisation against a democratic regime. The problem with that is: how does one define a democratic regime? Many Governments claim an electoral mandate for their activities, yet repress human rights disgracefully. They would claim to be democratic; their opponents would not. Does he not agree that there is a serious problem? Unless we define what we are actually dealing with, we will end up proscribing people whom we do not like or agree with.
§ Mr. Hughes
The hon. Gentleman is correct. My simplistic definition between democracy and non-democracy tried to make the argument even more bald, but there are many grey areas. One of the things that we did not hear a word about from the Home Secretary was who he might be thinking of proscribing. I give the hon. Gentleman an example.
188 My constituency includes a small but significant number of people from Sri Lanka. I have in my constituency—it is not a secret building—the office of Tamil Eelam in London. I have been to its meetings. I have talked to Sinhalese Sri Lankans and to Tamil Sri Lankans.
If I go to the headquarters of Tamil Eelam in my constituency for a public meeting that is attended by more than three people and people there support the Tamil Tigers in Jaffna, they could potentially be proscribed and suddenly fall within the ambit of the Bill. The presence of anyone at that meeting would be sufficient to render them guilty of an offence, with all the exceptional powers and penalties associated with that.
It is not just groups from Sri Lanka. It could be groups from Pakistan or Burma or groups representing half the globe at any particular time. Many of those countries are not democratic. They certainly include Burma. One could by no stretch of the imagination believe that that country is a democratic regime.
§ Mr. Hogg
The hon. Gentleman had better be even more careful than he has been already. If the Tamil Eelam people ask him for money, they are committing, at least potentially, an offence under clause 14. If he were to give them that money, he would commit an offence under clause 14(3). It is precious little consolation to him to know that he will not be prosecuted unless the Director of Public Prosecutions agrees. It is all on the discretion of an individual.
§ Mr. Hughes
Early in its stages, the debate is showing that the proposals need the most careful scrutiny, to put it at its mildest.
The clause 38 definition of terrorist takes in clause 10, which deals with membership of proscribed organisations, and clause 11, which deals with people inviting support for proscribed organisations, including—I pick up the point—private meetings of three or more people. Someone may be guilty through association even with someone who is not a member of a proscribed organisation, but who alleges that he is.
The definition also takes in clause 14, which deals with the fundraising provisions to which the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) referred; clause 15, which is about use of money or other property; clause 16, which is about other arrangements; clause 17; clause 52, which is about instruction and training; and clauses 54, 55 and 56. There is a range of implications from the proposed definition of terrorism.
The hon. Member for Slough and others have made the point that clause 18 will make someone guilty if that person discovers something about activities in support of terrorism and says nothing. If that clause goes on to the statute book, many journalists will be guilty without having done any more than that.
Clauses 38 and 39, which deal with arrest and stop-and-search procedures, were originally enacted before the current criminal law arrangements for arrest, stop and search applied. There are strong police arguments that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 is sufficient. We should not need another extension of the removal of liberty for such purposes because we have new legislation in the general criminal law.
189 Nearly last but not least—it has not yet been mentioned—part VI contains provisions on the possession of articles or membership lists—for example, lists of the Cabinet, as happened on one occasion. Under the Bill, the reversal of the burden of proof presumption will still apply in relation to the collection of information. Five years ago, the current Attorney-General, when Opposition home affairs spokesman in the other place, said that those provisions were far too harsh and draconian. No less a person than the Lord Chief Justice said last year that the provisions, in ablatant and obvious way undermined the presumption of innocence.All those proposals are in the Bill.
Finally, the incitement proposals will catch people who associate themselves with organisations in other countries. As was said earlier, that might have included the ANC 30 years ago, or others today.
I hope that I have shown that my party is clear that we need legislation and that it should be on a United Kingdom-wide basis, with every citizen treated the same. The Bill looks as though it is going too far in favour of the state and away from liberty.
I pay tribute to the people of Northern Ireland. All of us want to make it clear that the least we can do is to recognise their sacrifice, that of their police service and the armed services, who have given their lives when terrorism, which is unacceptable and never justified here, was carried out. We must have a strong law against terrorism, but it must be the right law.
As the right hon. Gentleman for Bridgwater said, additional powers need additional safeguards. Legislation with additional powers needs additional scrutiny. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will support our proposal that the Bill should go to a Special Standing Committee and that the Government, who have suggested that they are not absolutely opposed to that option, feel able to support it by 10.15 this evening. In any event, I hope that, by the time the Bill comes out of Committee, we will not have put on to the statute book in haste a Bill that may cause us, and many of our citizens, to repent at leisure.
§ 6.8 pm
§ Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)
Before I came to the debate, I attended a pensioners function at the Islington Irish centre in my constituency. I was there briefly. One person was treated, correctly, as a welcome guest—it was Gerry Conlon, one of the Guildford Four. He spent more than half his life in British prisons for an offence that he did not commit, on the basis of evidence that was collected after the first arrest of a person under the prevention of terrorism Act—Paul Hill. Subsequently, the other three so-called members of the group were arrested, charged and imprisoned. It took an enormous campaign to get them out of prison.
The PTA was rushed through the House in 1974 in the wake of the appalling events in Birmingham. It was seen to be temporary and a solution to the problem. As my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Audrey Wise) has pointed out to me, it was supposed last for six months, but, 24½ years later, it is being renewed in a permanent 190 form—perhaps in an even more draconian form—by the Bill that the House is being asked to give a Second Reading to today.
Few people were charged successfully under the PTA, and the number charged at all was small. Indeed, the number convicted was tiny. In fact, the Act always had a more sinister role, in that it allowed people to be questioned and investigated.
I was first elected to this House in 1983. My constituency includes a large number of Irish people. There was often a sense of terror among the community when people travelling from Belfast or Dublin failed to arrive, because it was feared that they were being held for questioning under the PTA. To find out from the police at Paddington Green or in Belfast whether a person had been arrested involved a labyrinthine procedure. Often, the police did not own up to arresting someone. When asked whether a certain person was being held, officers would answer, "I can't say." The next question would be, "How many people are you holding at the moment?" The police officer would say, "I don't know, I think it's only one."
Leon Brittan, the former Home Secretary, in a 1985 interview on Radio Telefis Eireann, defended the PTA and said that it was used not for prosecution, but to gain information through questioning people. However, the vast majority of those questioned under the Act did not have access to legal representation. They were held incommunicado and their families did not know what was happening to them.
The PTA was a disgraceful piece of legislation that did much to damage civil liberties throughout the United Kingdom, not just in Northern Ireland. It caused this country an awful lot of problems on the world stage. We are being asked to approve a Bill that will make permanent most of the PTA's faults. That is extremely regrettable.
It is also regrettable that the Bill flies in the face of the general thrust of the Government's proclaimed legislative programme on civil liberties and human rights. There are Bills on freedom of information and on human rights, and the European convention on human rights is being incorporated into British law. From next year, all the case law of the European Court of Human Rights will be incorporated into British case law. That is welcome and it represents a good step forward, but there are two aberrations—the rushed legislation following the abominable acts in Omagh in August 1998, and this Bill.
In his opening speech, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary quoted Lord Lloyd's 1988 review of the legislation, in which it was stated that legislation against terrorism should approximate as closely as possible to ordinary criminal law and procedure. However, this Bill goes much further, and its implications are much more far reaching than those of any other legislation. We should pause and think clearly about that.
The Bill will get its Second Reading; both Front Benches are agreed on that. The Liberal Democrats have tabled an amendment proposing that the Bill be referred to a Special Standing Committee, and I support that. However, Members who are asked to agree proposals that will have a serious effect on the human rights of people in this country—and, by implication, of people all over the world—should stop for a moment's serious thought about those proposals. I shall return to that matter and the enormous effects internationally that have been demonstrated in numerous examples.
191 As the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) noted, the Bill contains no provision for review. The original 1974 Act provided for a six-monthly review: accordingly, debates were held in the House every six months, after which Labour Members would religiously vote against renewal on the ground that the Act threatened civil liberties. I do not know what has changed between May 1997 and now that allows some of the most draconian provisions of the PTA to be acceptable, when they were unacceptable before.
Clause 1 offers a definition of terrorism that is much broader than any previous definition. It includes religious threats and threats to property, and it is not clear how wide its scope is. That requires careful thought. As the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey said, the international implications are enormous. Dozens of meetings are held in my constituency each year by various international solidarity groups. The countries involved include Sri Lanka, Peru, South Africa, China, Tibet, Korea and Indonesia. In addition, meetings have been held by groups from most of the countries of Latin America.
Many people speak at those meetings and express sympathy for the armed insurrection or other action taking place in the country involved. Are those people, or the ones attending such meetings, to be criminalised? Fellow speakers at the same meeting may not endorse military or armed action against a regime, but will they be criminalised, too? My understanding of the Bill is that they will. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that it was not his wish to criminalise such people, and I accept that, but he will not be Home Secretary for ever.
§ Audrey Wise
Does my hon. Friend recall that for many years it was Labour party policy to supply arms to the African National Congress? Help was not confined to silent consent, but extended to aid in the armed struggle.
§ Mr. Corbyn
I recall the resolution to set up the southern Africa solidarity fund being passed at a party conference in the early 1970s. It included no definition of where the money would go or how it was to be used. However, the clear implication was that it would be used to support the opposition in South Africa to the apartheid regime.
§ Mr. Hogg
I support the hon. Gentleman in this matter. He has described solidarity groups, whose function is to raise money. Clause 14 makes it plain that a person invited to give money is committing an offence. It is no good saying that such people would be prosecuted only with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The very fact that there is a possibility that an offence might be committed will deter people from inviting money or contributing money. To that extent, the Bill diminishes civil rights regardless of whether there is a prosecution.
§ Mr. Corbyn
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is correct: that is what clause 14 will do. Indeed, I observed 192 the effects of the 1974 Act on the Irish community where I live. It diminished political debate because people were afraid of being picked up and held under the PTA provisions.
I was a union official at that time, looking after a substantial number of Irish members. Many of them were detained—erroneously, as it turned out—under the PTA. Their experience was so frightening that many have not recovered. That is why I maintain that we must think very carefully before passing measures such as those proposed in the Bill.
§ Mr. McNamara
Does not my hon. Friend recall that many thousands of people held at ports and airports under the PTA were never charged? The Bill will allow that practice to continue.
§ Mr. Corbyn
That is true but, as they were not charged, it is unclear where those many thousands of people appear in the statistics pertaining to the PTA. Constituents of mine who have been held for periods of between half an hour and two hours have been told that they are answering questions. The words "prevention of terrorism Act" have been uttered, but, as no formal process has ever been established, there is no certainty that they ever appear in any statistics.
Article 11 of the European convention provides that people have a right of peaceful assembly and association throughout Europe. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that he had received no legal opinion to the effect that the Bill would be outwith the convention's scope, or that any of its provisions could be declared illegal under the convention.
I am not a lawyer, and I am not legally qualified, but I beg to differ. Many sections of European human rights law give rights of assembly and of political debate and organisation that are far greater than those specifically proscribed in the Bill. My right hon. Friend defended the Bill by saying that there remains an avenue for judicial review, but that is simply not good enough.
Although I am not a lawyer, I know that a judicial review is a review of a decision to determine whether it was made correctly in law. It is not a review of the decision, but of the quality of the decision and the way in which it was made. Therefore, it is not a defence for the Home Secretary to say that there is access to judicial review. There is access to judicial review for almost anything, if it can be brought to court. That is not the same as a right of appeal against a decision. The emergency powers on arrest—particularly in clauses 34 and 35 and schedule 7—would appear to be contrary to the international obligations to which this country has signed up willingly.
I am concerned also about the access to legal representation. I opened my remarks by talking about what happened when the PTA was passed, and the way in which people could be held for a considerable time without charge, trial or access to lawyers. We are going beyond that in denying people access to legal representation for 48 hours. Under existing legislation, it can be for only 36 hours under exceptional circumstances. We should be extremely careful about that.
Once the authorities start arresting people and denying them access to legal representation, all sorts of other things can happen—including the most appalling 193 transgressions, which can become the most appalling miscarriages of justice. Some of the victims of those miscarriages of justice in this country were victors, in the sense that they were freed, such as Judith Ward, the Guildford Four, the Birmingham Six and a number of others. The Criminal Cases Review Commission was set up to deal with the question of the right of access to law. No such thing appears to apply in the Bill.
I am concerned about the international implications of clauses 57, 58 and 59. I have a list of organisations that are proscribed by the US State Department. It includes a vast number of organisations with weird and wonderful titles, some of which I have never heard of, and a number of which I know for certain no longer exist. Interestingly enough—given that the list comes from the United States—not one Irish organisation is listed. The Kosovo Liberation Army was removed from the list, as it was transformed from a terrorist organisation into a liberation force in record time. Many other organisations have taken many years to achieve that change in status.
We must be clear on what could happen. This country prides itself on its tradition of granting rights of political asylum for people to pursue a political agenda for their own country in Britain. The borough that I have the honour to represent is full of such people. Today, I had a long chat with some Italians about Garibaldi, who lived in Islington for a while—as did many others. They all pass through; some of us stay.
§ Mr. Corbyn
Some stay on the Back Benches, and are happy with that. Biscuits were named after Garibaldi.
Under the Bill, Garibaldi would be locked up as quick as anything, as he was calling for armed insurrection and the overthrow of the Government in Italy. He was successful, and went back and achieved that. Sun Yat Sen, who campaigned against the Chinese Emperor, would have been culpable under the Bill.
The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey referred to Sri Lanka. I have been to many meetings concerned with the efforts to bring peace to Sri Lanka. If we are to get a peace process in Sri Lanka, we have to reckon with the Tamil Tigers—it cannot be achieved without negotiations with them. Under the Bill, such groups could become illegal and proscribed organisations in Britain, so that peace discussions would be impossible here—and, very rapidly, elsewhere.
My constituency includes many Kurdish and Turkish people. The PKK is a significant force. It has declared a cease fire in Turkey, but it could be argued that it is a terrorist organisation. Certainly the Turkish Government would argue that. They would argue that there is evidence that the PKK has plotted armed insurrection in Turkey and, therefore, it could be declared illegal here. What are we to do then? Are we to ban, deport or imprison these people? What would that do to bring about a resolution of the dreadful conflict in Turkey?
There must be political solutions, as has been recognised in Northern Ireland and South Africa. The right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) did not seem able to answer my question of whether, had the Bill been in force in the 1960s and 1970s, the ANC offices in 194 my borough at that time would have been closed down. Would the ANC have been deemed to be a terrorist organisation because of its obvious links with the struggle that Umkhonto we Sizwe was waging within South Africa? There are many other examples.
Ministers say that this is okay because they are going to proscribe only organisations which oppose democratic regimes. That is a difficult area to define. I am not in sympathy in any way with what Sendero Luminoso has done in Peru, or the way in which it has carried out its struggle. Sendero Luminoso, or its representatives here, would argue that the Peruvian Government are not a democratic organisation because they suspended the constitution and carried out their war against that organisation.
Sendero Luminoso would argue that it is democratic. We might argue that it is not. We could then end up banning that organisation from having any representatives in Britain because it is opposed to a democratic Government, when there is plenty of evidence that the Government are not that democratic in the first place. There are many other such examples to be found all over the world.
We should think more carefully and more seriously about this issue, because otherwise we will end up putting people on trial because their own Governments want us to do that. We will then get into the murky area of the commercial links that these regimes have with companies in this country, and the pressure on the British Government to achieve higher export earnings. I remember the campaign mounted in this House by Conservative Members against opposition elements from Saudi Arabia because they were more interested in defence contracts with that country than in human rights there. That could apply to many other countries around the world.
The Bill has been proposed without the necessary thought. It has the support of both Front Benches, which usually makes me suspicious and should make everybody careful. If we are serious about democracy, accountability and a due process of law, this is no way to achieve that. It is the opposite direction to that of the Freedom of Information Bill, human rights law and the European convention on human rights.
I recognise that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading, but I hope that it will be committed to a Special Standing Committee, to which the amendment invites us to agree. Above all, I hope that there will be some significant changes because we are in danger of putting on to the statute book some draconian legislation—far more draconian than any of the temporary provisions that have been rushed through this House during previous crises. We are not in a crisis at the moment, so surely it is time to do something far more rational and sane than what is proposed this evening.
§ Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)
It is strange that so many hon. Members here tonight have referred to terrorism as though it were something new, rather than something which goes back to time immemorial. Terrorism, not only in this country but throughout the world, has been with us for as long as there has been history.
In recent times, we have been brought to our senses by 30 years of terrorism emanating from that part of the United Kingdom in which I live. It gives me no 195 satisfaction to say that this should not be seen as extraordinary or special legislation, but rather as necessary legislation within any democracy if we wish to protect that democracy—a democracy that has evolved over centuries to bring us to this point.
If we had not dealt with terrorism and potential terrorism at the start, we might have found ourselves in situations of escalating violence, such as the violence that occurs in parts of the Balkans or between the Hutus and Tutsis in Africa. The difficult decisions taken in this House meant that terrorism in Northern Ireland did not reach such awful proportions. Those decisions may not have been popular; they may have impacted on what I considered were my civil rights, but they were taken to keep two traditions from carrying out greater acts of violence than has been the case over the past 30 years. The legislation isolated the men of violence on both sides.
§ Mr. Maginnis
Not at this stage—later on I will.
I welcome the way in which the Government have sought to combine the EPA and PTA in the Bill. It helps me, as someone living in Northern Ireland, to feel part of the United Kingdom. Ninety per cent. of the community—the ordinary, decent people who live normal lives—do not want to feel that they are somehow pariahs within the United Kingdom because they have had to deal with the terrorism that emanates from both traditions in Northern Ireland.
Governments have had to recognise that terrorism has changed vastly over 30 years. I first encountered terrorism 40 years ago. As a young schoolteacher, just out of college, I was in the midst of what was known as the 1956-62 campaign. There were very few cars on the roads in those days, and young people did not have access to transport. There was no internet 40 years ago and no mobile phones—indeed, very few people had phones at home.
Terrorists then were most obliging. When they were caught, as they invariably were, they went to the courts, lined up like turkeys volunteering for Christmas, said that they did not recognise the courts and were put in prison for a few years. Many were allowed out early—all they had to do was sign a declaration that they would not get involved in terrorism again, and out they came.
I am afraid that the changes over those 40 years have been considerable. Now the means to communicate, move around the country and organise are more sophisticated. The Government have an almost impossible task. They must enact legislation that ensures the integrity of the police, and of society as a whole. The legislation must also be flexible enough to cope with the terrorists exploitation of the law and the judicial system. It must be able to cope with the violence of terrorism, the racketeering and the money laundering—with everything that would substitute anarchy for democracy.
The hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) spoke of his delight that Castlereagh is closing as a holding centre. It may surprise him to hear that I, too, am pleased that it is closing, but for a different reason. It is not because I saw Castlereagh as a threat to me or to the majority of people, but because the level of violence in Northern Ireland is decreasing. Castlereagh is no longer needed. Excesses may have occurred—when people are 196 fearful and have a responsibility to deal with those who are conditioned to resist the normal processes of law, there can be excesses—but they were consistently dealt with as they arose.
The real issue about Castlereagh is that hundreds of lives were saved because of the work done in the holding centres—the detection, charging and convicting of terrorists. We always hear about the charges and convictions that were wrong. About 400 terrorists, give or take a couple of score, have just been released from the Maze.
§ Mr. Maginnis
The reality is that those people were convicted because of the work done in places such as Castlereagh by a police force constantly under criticism from people who should know better but who have, and have always had, green-tinted spectacles. They are tedious in their defence of what is wrong without seeking to recognise the victims of the terrorist. I shall now give way to the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Corbyn
The hon. Gentleman suffers from the tedium of others a great deal. I hope that I can help him in that respect.
Did all the legislation on Northern Ireland—the EPA and the PTA—and factors such as internment and stop-and-search powers bring about a peace settlement? Or was it ultimately a process of engagement and a recognition of the traditions of both communities? Was it not the political process over the past four years that brought about a peace process and, we hope, a permanent peace in Northern Ireland, rather than all the repressive legislation that so damaged civil liberties and imprisoned so many innocent people?
§ Mr. Maginnis
I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman would ask me a rather more difficult question. Each measure that he mentioned was necessary in its time. He seems to forget that 80 per cent. of all planned terrorist activity was frustrated by the action that was taken within the law that was available to the police and members of the Army.
It was in 1990, after going on the streets to boast, "20 years and not defeated", that Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, saw the reality of the situation. Twenty years and not being defeated did not mean that it was ever going to win. It was encouraged, bit by bit, to move towards the political process. I do not, like some people, regret its involvement in the political process. I hope that it can carry that to its logical conclusion and give up the guns, bombs and threats that have sustained it for the past 30 years but have brought heartbreak to my part of this kingdom. If it can do so, I, unlike the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson), will not regret it.
I mention the hon. Member for Belfast, East only because it is unavoidable when one talks about attitudes towards the police, the law, the Army and terrorism. The hon. Gentleman and his ministerial colleague from the Democratic Unionist party, Mr. Dodds, yesterday tried a publicity gimmick which they must have thought would detract from the real business in Armagh. Ministers from Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic sat down as
197 democrats, none having authority over another, to decide how they might mutually act in the best interests of both the jurisdictions on the island.
However, the hon. Member for Belfast, East boycotted this process and could only complain that he could not get police protection so that he could visit a police station at, I think, Forkhill in South Armagh. He had not gone there in 1974, 1979, 1984, 1989 or 1994, so why did he have to go along on one particular day in 1999? And why on earth should he expect special police protection? Some of us have lived our whole lives without police protection in Northern Ireland. We would not want it when our constituents face the threats that they have faced for 30 years. I have lost more than 200 constituents, and I do not expect or want—I would not accept—more security than the police and the Army can give to my constituents.
I do not know why the hon. Member for Belfast, East whinged so much yesterday. He whinged that he could not have a helicopter to take him to South Armagh. Is it the logic of his argument that if the Army gave him a helicopter, it would have to give one to Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, too when they go there? His argument is ridiculous. He whinged a bit more about the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary not doing his job.
The hon. Member for Belfast, East allegedly protects the police, and claims to have the interests of the police at heart. Like me, he feels great antipathy towards much of the Patten report. Is not one of the best ways in which to undermine or change the Patten report to criticise the Chief Constable and the command structure of the RUC?
The hon. Gentleman is the same person who went to Clontibret. He is the man who whinged that if he were jailed in the Republic, his throat would be cut while he was in prison. He is the man who prefers stunts to trying to move forward a process, even if it is an exceedingly difficult one. My fear is that the IRA and other paramilitary groups may not disarm, but I believe that the hon. Gentleman fears that they will.
I want the Bill to ensure that no part of the United Kingdom will have to go through What we have been through for 30 years. That is why I am surprised to hear speaking against the Bill the very people who urged me to take a chance on how we deal with terrorism in Northern Ireland and how we accommodate those who say that they are prepared to move away from terrorism but who have yet to provide evidence of that. I am willing to take a chance, and I have taken one. But rather than moving forward during the time I have been in the House, the hon. Member for Hull, North and the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn)—I have been here as long as he has—have regressed into their bigoted, narrow, little, green-tinted world. They make no contribution whatever to attempts to convince the people of Northern Ireland across the political divide that they have a genuine understanding, let alone a proper interest.
Part II of the Bill worries me. The Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission seems to be inadequately dealt with. How will it operate? From past experience, I fear that the Secretary of State could, in a benevolent mood one day, decide that as an organisation had not been heard from for a couple of months he should end its proscription. In fact, there must be solid 198 information on whether any proscribed organisation has moved permanently away from violence. We must ensure that the RUC special branch is properly equipped and resourced so that it can deal adequately with the huge list of proscribed organisations.
If we follow the Patten route for special branch, it will be gradually subsumed within the CID. I seek the Home Secretary's assurance that there will be adequate resources, particularly in Northern Ireland, to maintain the work of special branch. Some of my hon. Friends will recall that when terrorism once again raised its ugly head in Northern Ireland in 1970, the available amount of high-grade intelligence on which the Government could act was low. We must not leave the police without resources adequate to deal with the huge list of proscribed organisations.
In relation to schedule 2, I might ask the Secretary of State what is in a name. For example, there was a coalition of Continuity IRA, Irish National Liberation Army and Provisional IRA dissidents known as Uglaigh na hEireann, but it is not among the proscribed organisations in the schedule. Perhaps like the Real IRA, which is also not listed, it qualifies for proscription under the generic term, "the IRA". I want to ensure that that is the case.
The organisation that I know as the Continuity IRA is alluded to in the schedule as the Continuity Army Council. Based on my remarks about the use of the generic term, I wonder whether the CAC is another name used by the Continuity IRA. If that name were changed tomorrow, must we add the new name to the list of proscribed organisations, or is there a means by which the Bill can encompass the fact that the previous name was the Continuity Army Council? I hope that we can receive an answer on how we deal with such matters.
Some important provisions under clause 18 were, surprisingly, dismissed by some of those hon. Members who made more positive contributions to the debate. Those provisions deal with the obligation of disclosure where money or property resulted from, or was to be used for, illegal purposes. It struck me that, rather than being too tightly drawn, those provisions are somewhat loose, inasmuch as a person is not required to make a declaration if he believes that his business or organisation has established a means of identifying illegal property or money.
It might be helpful if such a person were required not to assume that the procedure for making a disclosure was adequate for that purpose. We are aware that all sorts of businesses—such as public houses or filling stations—operate as a cover for illegal activity in Northern Ireland. We have no doubt that, should terrorism rise again, the funds for terrorist organisations would emanate from such apparently legitimate businesses.
Under clause 18(5), professional legal advisers are excused from the need to pass on information. That applies when a crime has been committed, but should there not be some clarification? For example, in a case where a professional legal adviser has reason to believe that the life, or lives, of a person, or persons, may be at risk, should he not have an obligation of disclosure? That matter should be covered in the Bill.
Why does the responsibility for disclosure apply only to people in professional environments? As I recall it, that differs from provisions under earlier legislation, which 199 required people in domestic or social environments to make known illegal activity, or a cover for illegal activity. Why have such measures not been included?
I conclude by pointing out that terrorism becomes as sophisticated as the legislation designed to inhibit it; in fact, of necessity, it becomes more sophisticated. It is important that the Bill, as it evolves through its various stages over the forthcoming months, is flexible enough to adapt to the changing nature of terrorism. Hon. Members should be assured that terrorism and the nature of terrorism will continue to evolve.
§ Mr. Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South)
Victor Hugo said:An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.I suspect that, were Victor Hugo to witness our debate today, he might caution us that an invasion of liberties might be justified, but not if it is based on an obsession with ideas whose time has passed. Sadly, we need to recall the past in order to see where we are at present. We stand at the edge of the possibility of a lasting peace in Ireland. That is as uncertain as it is exciting, and will, no doubt, bring its own challenges.
However, the opportunities offered by that possibility mean that we must roll back the frontiers of our presumptions—how far our obsessions with terrorism dictate the framework within which we view the whole of society. Given that we have reached this point, it is surprising and disappointing that the Bill would dramatically extend the scope of our definition of terrorism.
For two or three years, many of the big global corporations—especially those involved with biotechnologies—have been telling us that they require new rules from Governments to protect the ability of corporations to exploit. They regularly refer to the actions of social movements that oppose them as environmental terrorism. They are keen to push this phrase into the language of our view of society and of our civil rights legislation.
Although in the UK we face a period of extended peace, it is also true that, under the agenda that is gathering for the start of the next century, there will be a dramatic growth in social movements involved in direct action. In many ways that is a consequence of Governments—including our Government—deciding that they are not able to defend public rights against corporate acquisitions. We have seen this in many of the debates on the World Trade Organisation, and in several debates on the interference with common rights of citizens in Europe. Time after time, Ministers have to stand at the Dispatch Box and say, "The hon. Member may have an important point, but I am powerless to intervene. This is outside the Government's control. We are not in a position to protect our own citizens' rights." In consequence, we are witnessing a global resurgence of citizens' movements, saying, "If democratically elected Governments can no longer protect citizens' rights, we shall have to do so ourselves."
Inevitably, some of those social movements will not only challenge the status quo but find themselves in breach of the law. It is terribly sad that we have chosen this moment to change the definition of terrorism that the 200 House has worked to, in order to extend the remit of control and intrusion directly into the lives of those social movements.
At the start of the debate, the Home Secretary actually said that terrorism legislation should be directed at action by organisations that were determined to undermine the foundation of government itself. That is the definition of terrorism that makes the most sense to me. To colleagues from Northern Ireland, I would simply say that the important challenge of this time is about moving away from presumptions about terrorism and simply looking at ways in which the extension of the criminal law can be made realistic and accessible.
In that context, it would be a tragedy if we used the Bill as an opportunity to extend the mentality of terrorism into the social fabric and organisation of the whole United Kingdom. Yet that is precisely what the definition in clause 1 would seek to do. It is to turn direct action movements into potentially terrorist movements. The consequences of that would be devastatingly destructive for the whole of the social fabric of the United Kingdom.
As other hon. Members have pointed out, clause 1 raises huge questions about the language in which it is written. It is pointless for the Home Secretary to say, "I am terribly sorry; laws are constructed from language, but let me give you some assurances about meaning," because the words are the only legacy that the House gives to society in the laws that we pass. Assurances about interpretation are not deliverable in the courts or the judicial processes or, more specifically, in extrajudicial processes. There is a long history of a much more limited and destructive set of interpretations subsequently being placed on words used in legislation that has passed through this House.
Who will define "serious violence"? Who will define serious violence against the person? Who will define serious violence against property? Who will then say when an act of terrorism falls outside the scope of existing criminal law, in relation to the advancement of a political, religious or ideological cause?
§ Audrey Wise
Would my hon. Friend care to take account of those people who commit serious violence against property, not with a view to destroying life, but with a view to saving life? I think of those women—some of whom were acquitted—who attacked the Hawk aircraft with hammers, and of the Trident Ploughshares 2000 organisation, which attacked the Trident submarine to save life, not to destroy it. They may be right or wrong—we could discuss that at length—but are they terrorists?
§ Mr. Simpson
My hon. Friend raises an important point. The actions taken by the women in Trident Ploughshares 2000 were dealt with very differently in Scotland and in England. In Scotland, the sheriff acquitted them; in England, they were found guilty. However, in both cases they were tried under criminal law, not under the terrorism Acts. It is crucial for us to declare, at this stage, that such issues must be dealt with within the framework of the criminal law system. As soon as we start to move into presumptions about terrorism, we transform the relationship between civil protest movements and elected Parliaments and the judicial system.
§ Mr. Corbyn
Does my hon. Friend agree that the French Government's action in ordering the sinking of the
201 Rainbow Warrior—and the death of two sailors on it—in New Zealand was an act of terrorism, as was the United States bombardment of the medical factory in the Sudan? Does he agree that, when we are talking about terrorism, we must also think very seriously about the whole concept of state terrorism?
§ Mr. Simpson
It just goes to show what a terribly complicated area this takes us into.
I shall cite my own examples—examples that cause me huge uncertainties about where they would fit in relation to the Bill's provisions. What happens to those Kurds who are involved in the opposition to the building of the Ilusu dam, which would forcibly remove tens of thousands from their homes, and from which there would be no environmental gain but real political gain for a Government who wish to get shot of, or to silence, their Kurdish population? Many of us in this country have actively supported that movement, and yet it would appear that the wording of the Bill, especially in the definitional framework of clause 1, would make that activity illegal.
What would happen to the opposition by the tribal peoples of the Amazon to the corporate destruction of the rain forests? Many of us have also been involved in active support for those campaigns of resistance, and would certainly provide platforms and meeting places for some of the main campaigners in the United Kingdom. We would seek to work internationally to provide a framework of support for those organisations—and yet all of that would appear to be caught within definitions of terrorism in the different clauses.
I have been involved in campaigning work with Indian farmers and peasants and consumer movements, who have a campaign called Cremate Monsanto. It is terribly clear and unsophisticated. Its aim is to burn down the fields of crops that they see as likely to do devastating damage to their own ecosystem and their prospects of survival. That too would be defined as an act of terrorism within the Bill, and supporting their campaigns would also be so defined.
§ Mr. Hogg
One need not look abroad to see the difficulties that are posed. The plain truth is that if an organisation threatens to grub up large quantities of genetically modified crops, it is threatening an activity that falls within the scope of clause 1; and if someone wants to subscribe money to that organisation, they are committing an offence under clause 14. It is pointless for Ministers to say that the Director of Public Prosecutions would not authorise a prosecution; the plain truth is that democratic activity is inhibited by the fear of the offence that is being created.
§ Mr. Simpson
I am very grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for bringing me to that point. I spoke at a rally in Oxfordshire, organised jointly by Greenpeace and Genetix Snowball. I congratulated them on having logic and ethics on their side, but said that they did not need to occupy the adjacent field of genetically modified crops. However, they took no notice of my advice, and peacefully occupied it.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is absolutely right that such an occupation would fall within the Bill's definition of an act of terrorism. Those who supported it 202 would similarly be caught within the terms of the Bill. In this case it would not only have been myself; it would also have been the large number of decorated ex-service men who turned out in their full regalia of medals, who told me that they had fought two wars—certainly the last one against fascism—and felt that the prospects of food fascism being forced on them by multinational companies required them to come out and peacefully sit down in those fields, in the knowledge that they were destroying those crops. They were organised acts of a political or ideological nature that certainly did damage to property.
I hope that the people who committed those acts understood that they were taking risks within the existing framework of the criminal law. However, that would not, under any current circumstances, redefine them as terrorists.
We are being asked to accept a real paradigm shift. Somehow the threat to the stability of the state has given way to threats to the corporate estate, and that will be the basis for the new definition of social terrorism. That is a desperately dangerous path to go down.
On a lighter note, the Bill may result in the need to rewrite episodes in "The Archers" that dealt with the trial of Tommy Archer. Those who follow "The Archers" realise that Tommy Archer was tried under the criminal law. But, if the Bill goes through, he would have to be tried as a terrorist. If its provisions were accepted, Tommy Archer would be unlikely to get off—even in "The Archers". Is there any value to society in going down a path that runs the risk of turning large sections of its members into social terrorists?
§ Mr. Simon Hughes
The even more worrying point in support of the hon. Gentleman's remarks is that we are being asked to make that shift with the Home Secretary providing no evidence or making the case in the House that the current law does not adequately deal with the problems that the hon. Gentleman has described.
§ Mr. Simpson
That is absolutely the point that I want to make. I have waited in vain to hear any evidence that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 fails to provide us with the abilities to tackle the issues that have been mentioned to justify the Bill. Nothing has been cited in the debate so far which has offered a shred of evidential support for that.
I have referred to causes that I support which could all fall within the terms of the Bill. However, it is also important to refer to at least one cause that I do not support. I am an opponent of this cause, but I would defend to the hilt the right of its members not to be redefined as terrorists. I am referring—and the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) may wish to reflect on this—to anti-abortion campaigners. We all know that in the United States militant anti-abortion campaigners pose threats to people's lives and they certainly pose threats and do damage to property.
Such offences should be dealt with under the criminal law, but would I wish to see them defined as acts of terrorism? If they are defined as terrorism under the terms of the Bill, all those who offer succour and support to such religious or ideological campaigns could similarly find themselves caught within the term. They would be open to the same presumptions about the right of arrest, the right to seize documents and the right to be challenged 203 about whether they act as channels for the direction of money or publicity support. Even though the cause or campaign is one that I do not support, it is not right to redefine such behaviour as acts of terrorism. Offences must continue to be dealt with in the framework of the current criminal law.
§ Mr. Simpson
My hon. Friend says, "Free the Vatican One" and he illustrates the Bill's danger. It becomes harder to envisage which social, direct action campaigns will not be caught within its remit.
We must consider carefully the clauses that would present real difficulties to such campaigns. Clauses 14 to 17 are about the provision of assistance. They will bring solidarity groups within the Bill's terms of reference. Clause 18 sets out a duty to provide information and puts people under an obligation to act upon their "suspicions". The failure to do so can constitute an offence that may warrant up to five years in prison—and acts of solidarity can carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Clause 54, which is the highlight of them all, and is about directing the activities of criminal groups, introduces an offence that can carry a lifetime sentence.
I return to the example that I gave about Genetix Snowball. It held a press conference in the House of Commons at which its press officer explained why the group was taking action to occupy fields of genetically modified crops. It is clear from the terms of clause 54 that that press officer would have been guilty of organising "at any level" the activities of Genetix Snowball. He would have fallen under the terms of the Terrorism Bill. It is crazy that its reach should extend so far and so destructively. It is a catch-all Bill that will net, if not all Members of the House, some fairly prominent Members of it.
I urge the Home Secretary to reflect on the fact that at least two of his ministerial colleagues occupied prominent positions in the campaign "Stop the 70s Tour". Many were involved in direct activities that were damaging to property and that were unambiguously ideological. They were designed to bring about the collapse of the apartheid regime. Not only would such campaigners have been caught then, but at least one of my hon. Friends is now ideally placed in the Foreign Office to conspire with others involved in international liberation struggles. Under this Bill, that may also be redefined as terrorism. This highlights the absurdity of what it could inadvertently catch within its reach.
I shall be brief in adding to the list of issues that the Bill's Committee will have to consider. The whole House should be concerned about any extension of the remit for extrajudicial activities, such as extending the rights to stop and search, to enter premises, to make arrests without warrant and to seize documents. Those are serious extensions into, and serious erosions of, civil liberties. There may be a crisis in the security services if a lasting peace breaks out in Ireland. However, we cannot offer some sort of job saving new deal scheme for the security services simply by extending the presumptions of terrorist activities into and across the whole United Kingdom.
The Bill is also in danger of presenting us with a two-track judicial system in which there is a much greater extension of reverse presumptions. Parts of the Bill make 204 it quite clear that it will be the arrested person's obligation to prove his or her innocence. That is a complete reversal of one of the central tenets of our judicial system. Anyone who has been down that path will know how difficult it is to prove one's innocence. The basis of any credible justice system is that it has to prove guilt; it is not for the accused to prove their innocence.
There are three challenges that must be met in Committee. First, we need to begin at the point suggested by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), which is to spell out exactly what is not covered within the framework of existing criminal law—particularly the Police and Criminal Evidence Act—that would justifiably be included in a terrorism Bill.
Secondly, we ought to consider a different definition of terrorism. I ask the Home Secretary to consider for a moment the definition used in the Reinsurance (Acts of Terrorism) Act 1993, which says that terrorismmeans acts of persons acting on behalf of, or in connection with, any organisation which carries out activities directed towards the overthrowing or influencing, by force or violence, of Her Majesty's government in the United Kingdom or any other government de jure or de facto.We may want to include considerations about whether those Governments are democratically elected, but that definition returns us to the recognition that the concept of terrorism has to be, and be seen to be, a threat to the stability of the state, not to the sanctity of corporate profits.
Thirdly, in any extension of terrorism legislation, we have to recognise that exceptional measures have not only to be justified through exceptional scrutiny but constrained by conditional approval. Any such provision ought not to be passed by the House without the House being given the duty and the opportunity to review the adequacy of the legislation if not annually, at least every five years. To do less than that would be to do a disservice not only to the society that put us in the House, but to the House itself and the principles of democratically elected and accountable Government.
§ Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)
It was clear even before today's debate that the Bill had generated a great deal of interest and no little controversy. This afternoon's debate has confirmed that, but by this stage many of the salient features have been rehearsed, so I shall be brief. I want to pick up one or two points in what we have discussed.
The first is parliamentary scrutiny, which was almost the last point raised by the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson), and was also mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) and the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). One of the more reassuring features of the prevention of terrorism Act and the emergency provisions Act was the level of parliamentary scrutiny to which they were subject.
As the House knows, they were reviewed thoroughly every five years; their implementation was subject to an annual independent review, and the Act had to be renewed annually after a debate and the opportunity of a vote in this place. That was deemed the appropriate way to handle emergency and temporary provisions of an exceptional nature.
205 Over the years, we have listened to and respected the views of a succession of Labour shadow Home Secretaries, including the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) and the right hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), who viewed emergency provisions and the PTA as affronts to liberties, to be tolerated, if at all, only because of the threat and reality of Irish terrorism. I am therefore genuinely and greatly puzzled to find Labour Members, now that they are in government, willing to abandon the important mechanisms of parliamentary scrutiny of the sort of measures that they previously hesitated to support and sometimes did not support.
Successive Governments deemed that those mechanisms were necessary to scrutinise such legislation. Why cannot there be a statutory five-year review and an annual report on the implementation of this proposed permanent legislation? Why cannot there be roughly the same procedures of the annual debate and vote? I cannot understand why that should not happen. If it cannot happen, it begs the question whether it is wise to move into an era of permanent anti-terrorism legislation.
The second issue is the one on which most of the debate has been focused—a definition of terrorism, which is the inherent problem in any attempt to draft anti-terrorism legislation. I started listening to the debate with an open mind but with a general approval of the Government's approach. I had watched, as many hon. Members had, the evolution of that line of thinking, predominantly through the reports of Lord Lloyd of Berwick.
The more that the debate has unravelled, however, the more concerned I have become about the line that the Government have adopted. I should like to think that a distinction could be drawn between acts of terrorism that happen in a mature democracy, where the Government can be and are changed through the ballot box, and those that occur in a country where there is not what, for convenience, one might call a genuinely democratic Government. The various contributions to the debate have shown that such a strict distinction is hard to maintain, even untenable.
That is a supremely important issue to which we must return, first in Committee and no doubt in later stages. I fear greatly that the Bill could be used to take false steps, albeit with the best of intentions. Much thought must be given to the whole issue of defining terrorism. I suspect that ultimately one cannot reach a universal interpretation, definition and application of the concept of terrorism.
The final point that I want to raise has not been touched on greatly in this debate. It is the thorny problem of detention and the European convention on human rights. The previous Government considered in detail amending the PTA to make the judiciary responsible for authorising the extension of detention. They concluded that there was no way to do that without undermining the independence of the judiciary, especially in Northern Ireland, so the derogation that they entered after the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights on the Brogan case remained in force.
Not all of us on the Government Back Benches at the time were entirely happy with that, not least because we saw that the judiciary was increasingly assuming a review 206 role in other areas of the law. Although we accepted that the independence of the judiciary should not be undermined—especially, perhaps, in Northern Ireland where such matters are more sensitive—some of us thought that it could be avoided by creating a separate. independent judicial body for that purpose.
I was therefore encouraged to find in the present Government's consultation paper, "Legislation Against Terrorism", that such a body was one of the three options that they were then offering. They put forward the idea of creating an independent commission along the lines of that established by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act 1997. I regret that the Government have not followed that course.
Paragraph 24(4) of schedule 7 details different arrangements for the judicial authority that can lengthen detention beyond 48 hours. I do not think that those arrangements remove fears about threats to, and the undermining of, the independence of the judiciary. It is a matter for regret that the Government have chosen not to create an independent commission for that purpose.
Those issues aside, I believe that much of the Bill represents steps in the right direction. I shall support it in principle tonight, with the single qualification that many hon Members are rightly concerned that the issue of defining terrorism might take us in the wrong direction.
§ Mr. Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Hall Green)
I apologise for not having been present throughout the debate so far. I had a pressing commitment and gave my apologies to Madam Speaker.
Three weeks ago, I attended the anniversary service at Birmingham cathedral for the victims of the Birmingham bombings. I was struck by the horror and torment that relatives of the victims feel to this day: 25 years on, they still ask how such a terrible thing could have happened, why it was not prevented and why those responsible were never caught. Therefore, I recognise the need for legislation to curb the actions of fanatics and those lacking any respect for the democratic process. Those of us who believe in freedom and democracy know that we have to pay a price for protecting ourselves from anti-democratic terrorist elements. That price involves some restriction of our liberties, but a balance must be struck between our security and the sacrifice of our liberties.
We should welcome certain elements in the Bill, such as the general recognition of the need to co-operate with international partners to tackle the growing and unpredictable threat of terrorism. Like the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), I welcome the scrapping of the internal exile provisions that were so unsatisfactory a feature of the prevention of terrorism Act. The Bill introduces good safeguards, such as the welcome role of the judiciary in determining extensions of detention beyond 48 hours. Further to that, I wonder why the judiciary is not also being given powers to authorise stop and search, and why that has been reserved to Ministers. I also welcome the sensible step of providing proscribed organisations with a right of appeal.
There is much in the Bill with which I feel comfortable, but, like many other right hon. and hon. Members, I have reservations about certain elements in the Bill, to the extent that I wonder whether we have got the balance right. I am struck by the many letters I have received from 207 constituents—ordinary people in Birmingham who have experienced horrible bombings—in which they make clear their belief that the Bill contains real threats to our freedoms. I am not convinced that the assurances given and safeguards offered so far are sufficient. Like the civil rights organisation Liberty, I wonder whether it can ever be right in principle for us to accept that those motivated by religious or ideological beliefs should have fewer rights and be made worse off than those who commit crimes motivated by malice, greed or revenge.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn), I am happy with the current Home Secretary and his ministerial team: I have great faith in them and believe that they genuinely want to preserve our freedoms and protect democracy. I have no concerns about them, but I am conscious that ministerial teams change. I recall one Prime Minister who thought that there was an enemy within—organised labour. What would have happened to the miners and their families, or to the women at Greenham Common, if the legislation before us had been in effect when they opposed the Government of the day?
The Home Secretary said in a recent article in The Guardian that we should not be concerned about the "Mandela effect"—the notion that if the powers in the Bill had been in effect earlier, we would have been unable to support the ANC. However, the ANC had an armed wing, as does the National Council of Resistance in Iran—an organisation which was once regarded as a great friend of the British Labour party. The council is dedicated to ending a regime in Teheran that is regarded as being wholly tyrannical and anti-democratic, even though it claims to have democratic legitimacy. I am to meet representatives of that organisation tomorrow, but, by associating with such people and supporting their cause, am I risking sooner or later becoming guilty of an offence under this legislation?
I am also worried about the provisions relating to the threat of serious violence. Recently, it became apparent that the Chinese President and his security people believe that what we would regard as legitimate protest can be construed as a threat of serious violence. What would be our response if people who shared the views of the Chinese started to put pressure on us?
Clause 55 makes one guilty of an offence if one is in possession or is associated with an article that the authorities believe is connected with terrorism. How does one prove one's innocence in those circumstances? That an article appears, one is associated with it or accused of being associated with it, and one is therefore guilty, all sounds rather Kafkaesque to me. Clause 56 makes it an offence to collect information that someone else might choose to use for terrorist purposes. Working as an investigative journalist in such a legal environment will be extremely difficult. Similarly, a person who is accused of holding information that might be useful to terrorists is guilty until he is able to prove his innocence.
I understand that it will also be an offence not to pass on a belief or suspicion in respect of terrorist activity. There is a massive streak of Big Brother in such a provision. Our judicial system will be stretched too far if holding a suspicion or a belief but not sharing it makes one liable to prosecution. My point is that all those provisions will severely restrict the actions of investigative journalists and have a serious impact on the freedom of the press. Instead of making our society more 208 secure, the Bill might make it more secretive. That cannot be the intended outcome of legislation designed to protect us against terrorists.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will be willing to address in Committee the genuine concerns that have been expressed today by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House. He should do his utmost to ensure that the final outcome is legislation that protects us from terrorism without attacking the very liberties and freedoms that guard a democratic society.
§ Mr. Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley)
As has already been said, the Ulster Unionists will be supporting the Bill tonight. We believe that it is important to continue to have legislation in the United Kingdom which provides for the continued threat of terrorism. I welcome the permanence that is now being given to legislation dealing with anti-terrorism. Sadly, terrorism is a permanent feature of the world in which we live.
In implementing the Bill, it is important that we recognise what has happened in the past. As flaws in previous legislation were sometimes exploited, it is important to ensure that new legislation is as accurate and fail-safe as possible.
It is true that I and others have expressed concerns about concessions that have been made under the Belfast agreement, not least the early release of terrorist prisoners. However, if we are truly drawing a line under all that, it is important that the Bill sends out a clear signal that terrorism will not be tolerated, whether it is in Northern Ireland or in any other part of the United Kingdom. Some terrorist organisations see the concessions that have been made by the Government in respect of the IRA, the UVF, the UDA and other terrorist organisations as signals that the Government are weakening their approach to terrorism. That must not be allowed to happen.
It is important that the House sends out a clear signal to all terrorist organisations that we will not tolerate terrorism in the United Kingdom. Parliament has a responsibility for ensuring the safety of all our citizens. Bearing in mind that the objective of terrorism and of terrorists is to terrify those citizens to apply pressure on the political process, we who are involved in that process have a responsibility and a duty to ensure that that is not allowed to happen, that we uphold the principles of democracy and that we do not give way to terrorism. That is why ending terrorism in Northern Ireland means not only an end to violence but to the threat of violence. I think that the Bill acknowledges that when it seeks to define terrorism as being not only the commission of an action that involves violence but the threat of such an action.
In political terms, the threat of violence and terrorism can be as potent as violence and terrorism themselves, as we have learned to our cost in Northern Ireland. That is why we have argued consistently for disarmament as a key element in ending terrorism. It is vital to removing the threat of violence. For as long as there are terrorist organisations that are fully armed, with their arsenals of weaponry intact, the threat of violence remains. That is why we will continue to press for disarmament. It is about removing the threat of violence from the political process in Northern Ireland.
The political representatives who now sit in the Executive of the government of Northern Ireland and who are linked to terrorist organisations must ensure that those 209 organisations remove the threat of violence by removing the arms that pose that threat. The sooner that happens, the sooner the threat of violence will be removed from society in Northern Ireland.
In my opinion, a terrorist organisation that remains armed and refuses to declare that its campaign of violence is ended should remain a proscribed organisation under the terms of the proposed legislation. I note that there is provision within it for de-proscription. However, in respect of the terrorist organisations that are operating in Northern Ireland and elsewhere in the United Kingdom which are linked to politics in Northern Ireland, let us be clear that there will be no question of de-proscription until they have ended their violence for good and have fully disarmed in line with the objectives that are set out in the Belfast agreement. That is in line with the clearly defined principles established as part of the political process that are known as the Mitchell principles, which commit parties and organisations to non-violence in all its forms.
The Opposition spokesmen have made it clear that that must mean an end to so-called punishment attacks, for example. That is vital. We must not countenance violence by terrorist organisations in any form. Our objective must be to pursue an end to all violence. Unless that happens and unless disarmament takes place and is complete, the Government should not move to de-proscribe any of the terrorist organisations that are listed in schedule 2. To do so without disarmament and without an end to violence would be premature and wrong.
If an organisation fails to meet the requirement outlined in the agreement, set out by the Prime Minister on numerous occasions and established under the Mitchell principles, it should continue to be proscribed for the purposes of the proposed legislation.
I note the special provisions for Northern Ireland in part VII, which are time limited for five years. I am sure that we all hope that in five years' time such provisions will no longer be necessary. However, I urge the Government not to rule out the possibility of re-enacting the provisions in five years if that is necessary. It may be that the threat of terrorism will remain after that period. We know that organisations are operating in Northern Ireland on both sides which have not declared ceasefires, and therefore continue to pose a threat. They are in addition to the organisations that are on ceasefire, which equally pose a threat to peace in Northern Ireland because they have failed to renounce violence or decommission their illegal weapons.
Given the special provisions for Northern Ireland, it is necessary to mention the Diplock courts. In a perfect world, we would have trial by jury in Northern Ireland. However, the reality is that terrorism is pervasive; the terrorists continue to use intimidation against jurors to prevent justice from being applied. Again, I urge the Government not to act prematurely in ending the Diplock system. It is necessary to ensure that justice continues to be applied to the activities of terrorist organisations.
Let us not forget that terrorist organisations, even if some of them are on ceasefire, are still continuing with forms of violence and intimidation, along with their so-called mafioso-type criminal activities. It will be difficult to obtain convictions through jury trials against individuals who are members of these organisations who 210 continue to engage in violent activities, whether criminal or terrorist. The Diplock court system should continue for the foreseeable future.
It is equally important that the Government should not act with indecent haste in removing the anti-terrorist security infrastructure. I know that the agreement envisaged a normalisation process, but that can take place only when we have normality, or when the threat of violence is significantly reduced and eventually removed. In proceeding with the so-called normalisation policy, I hope that the Government will bear in mind the need to protect people and not to drop their guard. I mention particularly the full-time reserve of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Royal Irish Regiment. If it is the Government's intention to withdraw troops from Northern Ireland, they must ensure that that regiment continues to have a role in supporting the police in their anti-terrorist activities. The regiment is locally recruited and locally based, so it is available if there is a sudden increase in terrorist violence in Northern Ireland. I hope that the Government will retain both the full-time and part-time elements of the regiment to support the police.
Despite the recommendations in the Patten report, I trust that the Government will not act prematurely to reduce the numbers of the full-time RUC reserve, which has played a vital role in supporting the regular police, not least in combating terrorism. It is important that the full-time reserve does not get a raw deal for the sake of political expediency, and that it is accorded proper respect and allowed to continue in its role as long as that is needed.
As the Chief Constable said, there must not be a premature down-sizing of the RUC as long as the threat of violence remains. There can be no doubt that the threat is still present in Northern Ireland. The Chief Constable has said on a number of occasions that the activities of dissident loyalist paramilitary organisations and of the republican terrorist organisations not on ceasefire give rise to concern, so we must not drop our guard now.
Clause 52 makes provision for dealing with training and recruitment in respect of terrorist organisations. As I understand it, subsection (1) makes it an offence to publish information useful for the purposes of manufacturing or using weapons for terrorism. That could include the publication of such information on the internet. That is a useful provision. May I suggest to the Government that it might be extended? My right hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble), the leader of the Ulster Unionist party, has on a number of occasions made representations about the need to extend the provision for the admissibility of wire-tap evidence in terrorist trials.
It may be useful to extend the scope of the provision covering the publication of information on the internet to include wire-tap evidence. That would enable such evidence to be admissible in court to prove, for example, that someone had been involved in procuring weapons, recruiting people to a terrorist organisation, or the dissemination by telephone of information for the purposes of manufacturing or using weapons for terrorist purposes.
In conclusion, my constituents in Lagan Valley look forward to the day when terrorism is a thing of the past. We, like others in Northern Ireland, have had to live with the yoke of terrorism, the anti-terrorist infrastructure, and 211 the security measures that have been necessary to protect life. I commend the security forces, particularly the RUC and the Royal Irish Regiment, and their predecessors, the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Army, for their role in defending the community in Northern Ireland and throughout the United Kingdom.
We want to be free of the yoke of terrorism, and we want peace in Northern Ireland, but that must be real peace—not just the absence of violence, but the absence of the threat of violence. That must surely be the objective of all democrats and of the Government. The legislation is necessary, but we hope for the day when it will not be necessary. That day is some way off yet.
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)
Inevitably, I shall focus on the aspects of the Bill with which I disagree. There are a number of those, but I recognise the merit behind the Bill's general approach. I see great advantage in having one statute that consolidates or codifies—I do not use those terms in a technical sense—the law, so that one does not have to deal with various statutes.
It is good to introduce a Bill that brings together the relevant legislation. However, I am uneasy about the Bill's definition of "terrorism" and "terrorist". The definitions of terrorism in clause 1, and of a terrorist in clause 38, lie at the heart of the Bill. The reason is that the various powers, offences, duties and obligations that the Bill sets out are directed to the pursuit of terrorism and to the identity of the terrorist. I shall return to those obligations and offences, but I begin with the definitions.
The definition of terrorism goes far beyond the traditional definition. Historically and in previous enactments, we have essentially directed our attention to campaigns against the state, which have been defined in various statutory language. As was appropriately said from the Government Benches, the Bill includes attacks on the corporate estate, which is an extraordinary departure in our concept of terrorism.
The definition of terrorism that appears in clause 1 includes the use of the threat of serious violence against persons or property. In my remarks, I shall focus on serious violence against property. What do we mean by that? The Home Secretary was right: he cannot give an absolute definition. However, we can be sure that the courts will attach a meaning to "serious violence". I shall suggest some activities which, in all probability, do constitute serious violence.
If I were a supporter of Greenpeace, which I am not, or of Friends of the Earth, which I am not, and I had it in mind to grub up a field of genetically modified crops or set fire to them, I would say that such an act was serious violence to property. It most certainly would be serious violence to persons if I were to knock a policeman about in the process of doing that.
If I supported animal liberation, which I do not, I would recognise that breaking open mink cages to release mink was an act of serious violence to property. If I wanted to interfere with the laboratories of research stations and decided to smash my way in and release the animals, that would be a serious act of violence to property. Those are not speculative acts—all of them have happened frequently. For example, the hunt saboteurs—a particularly 212 disagreeable group of people—threaten serious violence to property. Incidentally, they threaten serious violence to individuals as well.
I strongly disapprove of all those characters, and I am glad to say that existing criminal law covers, in almost every respect, their activities. However, if I ask myself whether they should be treated as terrorists, I am bound to say, no way. Why not? Let us consider some of the consequences that attach to an activity that falls within the scope of terrorism; or, for that matter, let us consider what happens to activities that are connected with individuals who fall within the definition of a terrorist.
First, there is the power of proscription. The Home Secretary can tell Greenpeace or the Animal Liberation Front, for instance, "Because you are associated with what are clearly acts of terrorism, I am entitled to proscribe you"—and he is so entitled, according to the Bill. What is the right of appeal? We are told, in short order, that there is such a right, but that is rubbish. What there is, is a commission. Is the commission to review the merits of proscription? Oh, no—under the Bill, the commission must decide whether, in accordance with the principles of judicial review, the exercise has been carried out properly. That is entirely different. That is one of my less important objections to the Bill, but it is certainly an objection.
Anyone who pursues an activity that comes within the scope of clause 1 can be proscribed by the Home Secretary, with no effective right of appeal. However, there are much more serious objections of a more practical character. Let us suppose that one of the organisations that could come within the scope of clause 1 wants to raise some money. Let us suppose that it asks for money, as it is bound to do: Greenpeace, the Animal Liberation Front and anti-abortion activists certainly do. Asking for money in connection with an activity that is capable of being terrorism is capable of constituting an offence, according to the Bill. Moreover, contributing money is an offence under clause 14. We should be very careful if we are feeling generous.
The Home Secretary says, "This is all artificial, because the Director of Public Prosecutions would never agree to a prosecution". That may be true, but what is the individual citizen to reckon in advance? Does he know Mr. Calvert-Smith as well as I do? Of course he does not. [Interruption.] Does the Home Secretary wish to intervene? I shall give way if he does. He clearly does not wish to, so I think that he is making my point.
The ordinary citizen will know only that his act is capable of constituting an offence; whether he is prosecuted will depend on the wisdom of the Director of Public Prosecutions. What will that individual do? He will feel that he cannot become involved in a democratic activity. Moreover, banks and accountants who happen to be handling the affairs of such organisations will probably be under a duty to make a disclosure, and will probably be deemed to have committed an offence if they do not do so. We are told that the Director of Public Prosecutions would never be so foolish as to authorise a prosecution, but can the banks and the accountants count on that? Will they not say, "As a result of an abundance of caution, we will make a disclosure"?
The issue goes even further. Clauses 23, 24 and 25 contain powers of seizure and forfeiture; clause 39 contains a power to arrest without warrant; clause 35 contains a power to exclude people from a designated
213 area, and clause 41 contains a power to search premises and property. Generally speaking, all those powers are triggered by a reasonable ground for the belief that the organisation involved is embarking on acts of terrorism. Uncomfortable as this may be for Ministers, we have already established that the act of terrorism has been broadly defined by clause 1, and is capable of including many acts that no one in his right mind would consider to be acts against the state. That is thoroughly undesirable.
I want to draw attention to another power, which I think would be even more distressing for some Labour Members. It lies in clause 60, which states that an individual who had, for example, maintained an armed campaign against people whom we considered undesirable, and who then came to this country, would face prosecution. Let us be clear about this. Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabari—whom the former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), the former Home Secretary, Lord Hurd and I met, and encouraged to wage war against Saddam Hussein in northern Iraq—were clearly doing things that came within the scope of clause 60. If they came to this country, they could be prosecuted. If they came to someone like me—a practising lawyer—and asked whether they could safely come to this country, I would have to tell them that, under this legislation, they could be prosecuted. I would add that whether they would be prosecuted would depend on the good sense of the Director of Public Prosecutions. That is a bizarre state of affairs, which is entirely wrong. As I have said, I do not approve of such activities, but I do not want to make them constitute terrorism.
That takes me to my second, related point, and here I draw on my experience of the Foreign Office. Clauses 1 and 57 include in the concept or definition of terrorism acts that are committed abroad. Let us take two recent examples. The Kosovo Liberation Army was engaged in a struggle against the Serbs in Kosovo. I do not want to discuss the merits of that, but what the KLA was doing certainly involved acts of violence against persons and property. Its acts constituted, or were capable of constituting, acts of terrorism within the terms of clause 1.
I used to meet the Kurds of northern Iraq on behalf of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. We positively encouraged them to try to throw Saddam Hussein out of the area. They were using force, and therefore fell within the scope of clauses 1 and 57. If they were to raise money in this country, as they did—indeed, the Government probably gave them money—that would constitute an offence under clause 14. Those are offences. The only consolation that we can offer those people is that they would not be prosecuted because of the provisions of clause 113, under which the DPP would not give his consent. I feel that this is a serious departure from the principles that we should be implementing in this country.
I do not intend to spend a lot of time discussing drafting points, because they are essentially Committee points. However, in passing, I have to say—and I have already told the Home Secretary—that one of the reasons against proscription is the absence of a right of appeal.
Another point relates to the powers of seizure of funds associated with terrorism. I have personal experience of that. About two years ago, I was operating in the courts of Dublin in relation to the Criminal Assets Bureau. This 214 legislation is not very different from the Irish legislation in that regard. All that need happen is for a police constable to say that he has reasonable grounds to suppose that the cash is associated with terrorism, and he can then grab it and go along to a magistrates court which, if it is satisfied on similar grounds, will make a detention order. If the character whose money has been taken wants to get it back, the onus is on him to prove that the circumstances no longer exist. Those powers are capable of being misused, and powers that are capable of being misused will be misused. That is the nature of the beast.
I personally think that the Bill has revealed the structures under which civil liberties will be seriously curtailed. By extending the definition of terrorism, we put at risk our long tradition of giving sanctuary to people who are fighting oppressive regimes abroad. We put at risk the democratic right of people to protest. I may not approve of that protest—I frequently do not agree with protests—but I do not want protesters to be classified as terrorists.
Left to myself, I would probably divide the House on giving the Bill a Second Reading. However, there is not sufficient support for that, so I shall not do so. However, the Bill should be committed to a Special Standing Committee because it requires very careful consideration. If the Liberal Democrats move their motion, I shall support it. I hope that other hon. Members who are worried about civil liberties will do likewise.
§ Mr. Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire)
I shall restrict my comments to part VII, which deals with Northern Ireland. Any hon. Member who was involved in the recall of Parliament in September 1998 will not be surprised by the Bill's contents, which are consistent with events then. I remember spending 16 solid hours in the Chamber listening to exactly the same arguments, and over which hon. Members took similar positions.
The legislation that was passed then has not been used once since it became law. Governments are in the habit of worrying about the failings of human nature instead of celebrating its triumphs. That is slightly ironic because one of its great triumphs has occurred in Northern Ireland in the past few weeks. The extraordinary events there show that if we have faith in people and apply normal human law, we can make enormous progress.
The emergency provisions and prevention of terrorism Acts have been part of a messy process which has led us to our current position. They probably had an impact on our ability to reach that position, so it is no surprise that those measures are amalgamated in the Bill. That is part of the process of normalising the terrorism legislation that applies to Northern Ireland. We all agree that that needs to be done. It is not only the five-year limit that is crucial, but the fact that the provisions must be renewed every year, like previous measures. That means that they could cease to operate before the end of the five-year limit, which is all to the good.
Some hon. Members, few of whom are present, believe that even the time-limited Northern Ireland provisions are too much. I do not believe that because we need to make the change gradually, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) said. For example, the role of the Diplock courts nowadays is much diminished compared with the time when they were established. However, we must be confident that we can get rid of them.
215 Placing the onus of proof on the accused for possession of firearms and explosives is a logical provision, given events in Northern Ireland during the past 30 years. The much-debated powers of search, seizure and arrest without a warrant, which clauses 79 to 93 cover, have always been controversial. We all want to see the back of those clauses over time—nevertheless, it is right to be cautious.
Some senior and authoritative sources question the need for continuing with separate proposals for Northern Ireland and ask why we cannot have one measure that covers the United Kingdom. One of the most eminent of those groups is the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which is an independent statutory body that was established under the Good Friday agreement and the Northern Ireland Act 1998. It is the only commission of its kind in the United Kingdom, and probably in western Europe. It has a duty to keep under review the adequacy and effectiveness of law and practice in Northern Ireland on human rights. It takes a stronger view than mine—it believes that the Bill should not provide additional special powers exclusively for Northern Ireland, and that the measure should not extend the life of the current emergency provisions Act until it comes into force.
Professor Dickson, who is chief commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, is worried about the compatibility of the Bill with the European convention on human rights. Those points have already been made. I make the case not because I am convinced by it, but because we have to anticipate a profound dialogue in Committee to understand why people such as Professor Dickson feel so strongly. My views reflect those of the Ulster Unionist Members who spoke tonight. Change must be gradual.
I would be grateful if the Minister could give the House some idea of the amount of consultation that has already taken place with the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Assembly, and the Government's plans as we progress towards Committee stage. It is important that the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Assembly are seen to be directly involved in the process as we move forward. It is perhaps even more important for the public to understand why the Bill contains separate provisions for Northern Ireland as we move towards a normalised cultural and social society in Northern Ireland.
The fundamental question is, for how long will we need special provisions for Northern Ireland? Is there a way of balancing more quickly the needs of Northern Ireland with those of the rest of the United Kingdom? Given the breadth of views expressed in the Chamber tonight, the Northern Ireland provisions will constitute the Bill's key bone of contention. Those are good grounds for further discussion in Committee.
§ Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)
I apologise for not being in the Chamber throughout the debate. I shall give the reason for that shortly, because it bears on the debate. I listened to the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) and I totally agreed with him. I have written to the Government Chief Whip to say that I cannot support the Bill. I do not know whether there will be a vote, but I cannot support the measure for very personal reasons.
216 When I appeared in Trafalgar square in 1964 to support a well-known terrorist who had just been convicted in the Rivonia trial, would I have been guilty of terrorism under the Bill? The next time I met the man, he had a Nobel peace prize and was President of South Africa.
One of the reasons for my absence from the debate was that I was outside the Russian embassy, protesting against the bombing of Chechnya. The Russians argue that the people of Chechnya are terrorists. Would I be guilty of supporting terrorism for going to the Russian embassy to demand that the Russians stopped the bombing and that Chechnya be given the opportunity to determine its future? Doubtless, the Home Secretary can help me. It is no good people shaking their heads. According to the Russian Government—a de jure and a de facto Government—the people of Chechnya are terrorists.
Tomorrow morning, I shall be in the Middlesex court defending a woman who put some graffiti outside the House of Commons to protest against nuclear weapons. She is a very courageous woman. I am not allowed to mention her name because one cannot deal with sub judice cases, but I have known her for years. She was at Greenham common and I appeared for her in York when she opposed the Menwith camp. If we define damage to property as terrorism, that woman could be a terrorist.
The Bill is an outrageous measure. I have spoken to the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). I could not believe that the Liberal Democrats would not vote against the Bill. I have enough Liberal blood in my veins to believe that this place is about civil liberties and democracy. The more the Government open themselves to the influences of international organisations and business, the more they clamp down on dissent in this country. My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson) drew attention to that. I can imagine circumstances, which my hon. Friend also mentioned, involving, for example, genetically modified food, in which the Government crack down on opposition here and become increasingly open to the influence of Monsanto and other companies that interpret free trade as an opportunity to buy Governments.
I was in America this summer, celebrating my golden wedding, and I had breakfast with the World Affairs Council. A former Governor of Ohio said to me, "We'll never have democracy in America until we stop companies buying political parties." He was a Democrat—I suppose that he would be called an old Democrat in the language of today—and he pointed out that the American prison population is rising dramatically and that big companies pay the Democrats and the Republicans and expect a pay off, whoever wins.
These are big issues and I am terribly disappointed that a Government whom I support—I have always supported Labour Governments since joining the party in 1942—should be introducing a measure that would get a standing ovation at a Tory conference if a Tory Home Secretary proposed it. Every Conservative Member knows that the Bill is absolutely foreign to the conventions and traditions of the Labour party, which has always been in favour of trying to help people from other countries who have struggled for their independence against repressive Governments and which has always been sympathetic to the dissident because the dissident often turns out to be right. I do not know whether the suffragette who chained herself to the statue of Lord Falkland in St. Stephen's hall
217 and broke the sword when she was pulled off would have been guilty of damage to property under the Bill. Might she have ended up in that category?
This is a thoroughly bad Bill. Although there will not be a vote against it, at least on the motion—
§ Mr. Hughes
Although the right hon. Gentleman was unable to be present for my speech, he knows that severe criticisms of the Bill have been made from both sides of the House. Given that we cannot defeat it on Second Reading and therefore will go ahead, and because we want to debate the issues, I hope that he will accept that examining the evidence for the Government's case before we consider the Bill line by line is the best way to proceed.
§ Mr. Benn
We all know what the evidence is: the Home Secretary wants the Bill. There is no evidence for the change and we want a Committee of the whole House to debate every amendment because the Bill affects the civil liberties of the nation. Although any opportunity to enter the Lobby is attractive to the Liberal Democrats, perhaps they have settled everything in a Cabinet Committee with the Government, in which case I would not dream of tempting the hon. Gentleman away from his allies. I do not know about that, but the Bill should be dealt with by a Committee of the whole House. If such a motion were tabled we could consider it properly, but a Special Standing Committee seems to me to be an excuse for diverting attention from the major errors in the Bill.
§ Mr. Hughes
A Special Standing Committee is nothing to do with that. I think that it is within the right hon. Gentleman's power to table a motion to commit the Bill to a Committee of the whole House, if he wants to put that proposition to the House. Such a motion does not have to appear on the Order Paper. The House could consider the matter, we could vote on it and we could have a Committee of the whole House. I assure him that these issues certainly have not been debated in a Committee by my party and the Government.
§ Mr. Benn
It will be best if all the main points are put to the House on Report and we can vote on them. I have described my genuine—not nasty—disappointment that the Liberal Democrats, whom I had always thought of as okay on these matters, have turned out to be less clear than I had hoped. However, we cannot all follow the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham, who made a powerful speech which I shall read again and again. His remarks reflected exactly what I think about the Bill.
§ Audrey Wise (Preston)
I shall be brief. Like some other hon. Members, I want to concentrate on the issue of serious violence committed against property. We all abhor terrorism and we are all afraid of it—I certainly am—but I have met people who have committed serious violence 218 against property and against a Trident submarine. They were not terrorists and their motivation was not to frighten us but to save lives. They think that Trident submarines are a danger to all our lives, although their action may or may not have been appropriate. Speaking for myself, I prefer straightforward, mainstream political action—that is why I am a Member of the House—but those people were not terrorists. The women who broke into British Aerospace outside Preston and went at the Hawk aircraft with hammers did it to save lives—they were not terrorists.
There has been some discussion of clause 18, which has been described as a danger to investigative journalism because a person would be committing an offence if he did not disclose his belief or suspicion that, under the Bill's definition of terrorism, another person had committed an offence. Journalists may not be the only ones affected. I could foresee a situation in which I was told that someone had gone to do more damage to a Trident submarine. Would I be committing an offence if I did not immediately trot off to the Government and say, "I am informing on these people"? I would not dream of doing that. I might engage such people in a discussion about the best and most effective means of action, but inform on them? I certainly would not.
The right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) made a powerful speech that was made even more powerful by his disagreement with most of the organisations that he used as examples. 1 have given money to Greenpeace and I support it. I am also a supporter of Genetix Snowball, and I gladly give it money when the opportunity arises; but those organisations commit offences against property.
§ Mr. Hogg
The hon. Lady asks whether she would be committing an offence if a member of one of those organisations said to her that he had committed an offence or intended to do so and she did not tell the prosecuting authorities. She is much to be reassured because the Director of Public Prosecutions would not have her prosecuted, but she probably would be committing an offence.
§ Audrey Wise
I find it difficult to be reassured by reassurances because, like the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I believe in looking at what is in the Bill. I do not always understand the decisions of the DPP on ordinary criminal matters and I know for a fact that I am not the only Member who does not understand those decisions. Why should I expect to understand decisions made by successive Home Secretaries and successive Directors of Public Prosecutions? The important issue is what the Bill says, and it says that a person is a terrorist if he commits serious violence against property for ideological, political or religious reasons. The people I have referred to certainly acted for ideological and political reasons that were deeply moral.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes
The hon. Lady, who I think has listened to the whole debate, is not only right but right to warn the Government and the House of the danger of going down such a road. Under the Bill, the go-betweens involved in the discussions that took place in Northern Ireland over the past few years and who tried to 219 achieve the breakthrough to peace would have risked criminalisation. I hope that she is listened to because she realises the severity of the proposal.
§ Audrey Wise
I take the hon. Gentleman's point.
I very much hope that the Government listen to the points that have been raised. Nearly everyone who has spoken in the debate, with the possible exception of the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe), has criticised the Bill, but not out of any desire to support terrorism or terrorists—on the contrary.
It is indeed dangerous to define terrorism so widely that it could cover damage to genetically modified crops, as that would risk people losing their natural revulsion for terrorism and making them think, "Perhaps some terrorists are not so bad after all." I would not want to bring the law into disrepute in that way. I want people to detest terrorism, and we would not encourage them to do so by widening its definition.
§ Mr. Winnick
I do not think that my hon. Friend was in the Chamber when I intervened on my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. As someone who is broadly in favour of the measure and who believes that under no circumstances should Britain be used as a base for terrorism, I have serious reservations about those aspects of the Bill that could undermine civil liberties which, as my right hon. Friend said, is exactly what the terrorists want to do.
§ Audrey Wise
I saw my hon. Friend's intervention on the screen, and I agree with him.
I urge my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who has a certain reputation for being willing to engage in serious discussion and listen to serious points—perhaps more than some of his colleagues—to justify that reputation in respect of the Bill. We do not want to make it seem as though there are divisions in the House in respect of terrorism. Indeed, there are not, but there certainly are divisions in respect of the Bill. I very much hope that my right hon. Friend and his colleagues will listen to the points that have been made from both sides of the House and from many different perspectives.
§ Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury)
Lord Lloyd of Berwick began his consideration of terrorism legislation in Britain by addressing whether there was still a need for specific legislation or whether instead we should rely on the general criminal law. Having studied the evidence and talked to those most closely involved in the fight against organised terrorism, he reached the firm conclusion that such legislation was still needed. I believe that the Government were right to accept that conclusion and to introduce the Bill.
Today's debate has included contributions from all parts of the House accepting that central proposition, although some right hon. and hon. Members expressed reservations about particular aspects of the Bill. The hon. Members for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson) and for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) spoke from their long experience of dealing with the threat of terrorism in their constituencies, and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. McCabe) spoke about the 220 scars that the Birmingham bombing left in his constituency. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) spoke from experience derived from his stewardship of the Northern Ireland Office for some years.
Lord Lloyd concluded that the threat from organised terrorism is likely to grow in the near future rather than diminish. The hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) expressed some disappointment with the Government's conclusion that there was a need for permanent legislation. I welcome the fact that she supported my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) when she asked the Government to consider seriously the possibility of arranging for an annual report to be made to Parliament and for an annual debate to take place in each House about the exercise of the powers under the Bill, on the assumption that it becomes law. That proposal found favour in various political parties represented in the House, and I strongly urge the Home Secretary and the Minister of State, Home Office, the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke), to take it seriously and to incorporate it into the Bill.
Several hon. Members considered whether, in the light of the improving political climate in Northern Ireland, there was still a need for special provisions for the Province. The hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) expressed a strong view that special powers in respect of Northern Ireland were no longer needed. His view was countered by those of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater and the hon. Members for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, for Lagan Valley and for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik).
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald said, the Opposition accept that exclusion orders no longer serve a useful purpose, and we shall not oppose their formal repeal. It is certainly our hope that political progress in Northern Ireland succeeds in turning the Good Friday agreement into a genuine and lasting peace, but we are not yet in that position. Therefore, the Opposition endorse the Government's view that there remains a continuing need, at least for the time being, for specific provisions in respect of Northern Ireland.
Much of the debate has centred around the definition of terrorism in the Bill as it is currently drafted. Concerns have been expressed by some somewhat strange bedfellows: my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), the hon. Members for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) and for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson), and—although he spoke in slightly less strident terms—my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter). Clearly, we shall need to look closely at the definition of terrorism when the House considers the Bill in Standing Committee and on Report, but it is important for us always to bear in mind the fact that the legislation has to strike a balance between civil liberties and the protection of the public, and that the threat to the safety and well-being of the British public from organised terrorism is real and continuing.
Let me deal with a couple of the points that have been made in the context of definitions. Reference was made, for example, to animal rights groups. Questions were asked as to whether people who supported particular demonstrations or causes that were connected with animal rights would fall within the definition of terrorism in the 221 Bill. I hope to hear the Minister say in due course that of course those individuals would not be so categorised, but it is also right that people who are engaged with animal rights extremists to the extent of becoming involved in plotting acts of violence against their fellow citizens should be subject to the full rigour of anti-terrorism law.
Anyone who studies Professor Wilkinson's paper, published with Lord Lloyd's report, will see that there is a history of such incidents. They include firebomb attacks on stores in the mid-1980s; a high-explosive bomb attack on Bristol university in 1989; and car bomb attacks by animal rights extremists in 1990, one directed at a veterinary surgeon, a second at a psychologist. One of the attacks resulted in injuries to a 13-month-old baby. Those are not incidents that can be described simply as normal or legitimate political protest. They are acts of tenor. The police and other authorities should have the powers that they need to investigate and to check such actions.
Comments have been made about the Bill's reference to serious violence to property. I have listened carefully to the points that have been made, especially those made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham. We will want to explore the matter further in Committee, but there is another side to the argument. I understand from reading the consultation document that the Government wish to ensure that the law provides for adequate powers to be available in respect of attacks by organised terrorists that are designed to disrupt, for example, vital computer or other communications systems, which could result in extensive disruption to economic and other infrastructure. In effect, the Government have a duty to provide against economic blackmail.
Had the Bishopsgate bomb or the Arndale centre bomb in Manchester gone off with no loss of human life and no injuries, those would still have been acts of terrorism designed to intimidate British people and to force the British Government into action out of fear that, otherwise, further lives would be put at risk or major damage would be done to the normal way of life.
Other right hon. and hon. Members have spoken about the Bill's references to support for acts of terrorism, or alleged terrorism, overseas and to its provisions for extraterritorial jurisdiction. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater spoke about the difficulty of legislating for a spectrum of countries whose political regimes could range from those of France or Germany at one end to that of Iraq at the other. Much depends on the actions that might be classified as terrorist. Even the most robust critics of the Bill would accept without question that a random terrorist attack on innocent people in an authoritarian or totalitarian country was unacceptable.
§ Mr. Hogg
It is extremely difficult to tackle that definition. For example, if the Kurds in north Iraq decide to embark on a military campaign against Iraqis in that region, they might use artillery to shell villages. Such explosions would fall within the classification covered by clause 1, but are we really to say that people who support 222 the Kurds in those circumstances should be treated as though they were aiding and abetting terrorists? That would be the effect of the Bill.
§ Mr. Lidington
I hope that the Minister will deal with that point in his concluding remarks. It is another matter for more detailed examination in Committee.
§ Mr. Maginnis
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the point raised by the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), does not he recognise that ordinary, conventional warfare conducted according to the Geneva convention is one thing, and that terrorism—which by and large picks on the weakest element in society to create terror—is another? Does not that difference apply to the example offered by the right hon. and learned Gentleman?
§ Mr. Lidington
The hon. Gentleman makes an effective point. As a country, we have agreed already that some offences—hijacking is the most high-profile example—are to be deplored and that they should be subject to criminal sanctions at an international level. That applies regardless of any sympathy that we might have for the motives of those who feel impelled to take such courses of action. I accept that these are not easy matters to define, but the Government, while preserving civil liberties, also have a clear duty to consider what measures are needed to protect the public from a genuine and serious threat.
§ Mr. Tom King
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) is worried about the drafting difficulties of clause 1, but does not my hon. Friend agree that we must ensure that we are able to deal with the problem of the extraterritorial organisation of terrorism? Such activity is deplored by all hon. Members.
§ Mr. Lidington
I agree completely with my right hon. Friend.
My only personal exposure to the immediate impact of terrorist action was at Brighton in October 1984. No Conservative Member who was there will ever forget the scenes. However, it is sobering for anyone with such vivid memories of Brighton to reflect on the experiences of people such as the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. He and his constituents have had to endure a campaign of vicious and relentless terrorism that lasted for decades.
So long as the threat to Britain from domestic and international terrorism remains, exceptional powers will be needed to enable the police and other authorities to deal effectively with it. That is why the Opposition will support the Government in seeking a Second Reading for the Bill.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Charles Clarke)
We have had an interesting discussion this evening, which has accelerated in the past hour or so. I shall try to deal directly with some of the points made in the debate.
The Bill is predicated on the belief in the proposition that the threat of terrorism continues, and is still a force which exists today which must be dealt with.
223 In the light of some of the cuddly remarks made about animal liberation, which I was not going to address this evening, I will quote from Professor Paul Wilkinson's inquiry into legislation against terrorism—a document which is in the Library of the House, and which sets out the kind of threat about which we are talking. After dealing with nuclear smuggling and other attractive manifestations of terrorism, he goes on to refer to animal rights groups. The reports says:The majority of those involved in the animal welfare lobby keep firmly within the law and abhor violence.That is their creed, as my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Audrey Wise) has described.However, a cluster of small groups such as the so-called Justice Department of the Animal Liberation Front, and the Animal Rights Militia, have crossed the threshold from extra-parliamentary protest and demonstrations to what can only be described as acts of terrorism; incendiary attacks on shops and other premises and letter and parcel bombs. In 1990 animal rights extremists used car bombs in two attacks on scientists, one in Bristol and one in Porton Down. In the former case the scientist was unhurt, but a 13 month old baby was injured by shrapnel. There were major firebomb attacks against shops in Newport, Isle of Wight, York and Harrogate, in 1994. Millions of pounds worth of damage has been caused over the past few years alone.There is continuing evidence that terrorist violence by animal rights extremists remains a threat in many parts of the country.The report gives the example of police finding a bomb factory in the home of one activist, with material for 100 incendiary weapons and a list of potential targets. The target list included an agriculture college, slaughterhouses, the Milk Marketing Board, food manufacturers and horse breeders. The report states:It is clear that a campaign of this kind would have endangered life as well as property.I commend the document to the House. We are dealing not with cuddly individuals or organisations, but with serious issues.
The right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) referred to the global threat—the Japanese gas attack, the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam and the continuing issues with some forces in Ireland. The reason for the Bill is that terrorism continues to exist, and we would be betraying our duty to the people who elected all of us if we did not make sure that we put in place a system of law to deal with those threats.
§ Mr. McDonnell
When will the criminal law apply, and when will this proposed legislation apply? My understanding of the Bill and its definitions is that it would apply to the Stop the City campaign, in which property was seriously damaged. Would it apply to those protesters in Seattle—as well as their supporters—where there was violence and damage to property and individuals? Would the Bill apply to those groups, or would they be subject to the criminal law?
§ Mr. Clarke
I assure my hon. Friend that I will address that point in detail, along with the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn).
I want to place on record that I welcome the support of the Opposition Front Bench, the Liberal Democrats and the Ulster Unionist party for the Second Reading of the Bill. I have sat throughout this debate—apart from a couple of very brief comfort breaks—and, according to the notes I have taken, about two thirds of those who have 224 spoken support the Second Reading. There have been some serious issues on process and the question of the Special Standing Committee, but about two thirds have said that they support Second Reading. That is because they recognise that special measures are needed to protect the public and to work within the international framework.
§ Mr. Clarke
I will in a moment. I shall just deal with the important procedural points that have been raised. First, people have raised concerns about the Human Rights Act 1998, which they are perfectly entitled to do. However, it must be emphasised that my right hon. Friend's statement, which appears on the front of the Bill, was not made ill advisedly. The statement reads:In my view the provisions of the Terrorism Bill are compatible with the Convention rights.I am not referring to my right hon. Friend's professional expertise, which is well known, but, on the basis of all the advice that we have had, the Bill is compatible with the 1998 Act—it would not have been drafted in this form were it not.
§ Mr. Clarke
No. I will give way after I have dealt with the procedural points, first to the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) and then to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn).
Secondly, we do not favour using the Special Standing Committee procedure for the Bill. There has been extensive consultation on the provisions via the report of Lord Lloyd of Berwick in 1996 and the Government's consultation in December 1998, to which there were 80 responses. We published an analysis of the responses earlier today; copies of the responses can be made available if that would be helpful.
These provisions do not differ significantly from the proposals in the consultation paper. While some may be considered to be controversial, I do not view them as particularly difficult or technical. I therefore do not think that there is a need to adopt the Special Standing Committee procedure, as proposed by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey, to whom I shall now give way.
§ Mr. Hughes
I understand the Government's position that there is widespread support for a Bill. But the view of many people who responded to the consultation was that either the Bill should not be extended beyond domestic legislation or that the definition as now proposed was not acceptable. The definition is different from that contained in Lord Lloyd's proposal—it has changed. Surely there is a case for hearing evidence and getting the measure right rather than pushing it through and then discovering that we have got it badly wrong.
§ Mr. Clarke
There is a case for a full debate on these matters. I shall indicate, as I go through the substance, the areas in which points have been made that need to be discussed very fully in the Standing Committee. However, 225 that does not add up to an argument for a Special Standing Committee. I shall now give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North.
§ Mr. Corbyn
The Minister mentioned that the Home Secretary had given the authorisation for the Bill under the Human Rights Act 1998. The Bill contains provisions that allow detention without access to legal advice for 48 hours, the rights of invasion of privacy, powers of stop and search and the power to proscribe organisations operating in other countries which help people in this country. Does the Minister not believe that many of these will be tested in the European Court of Human Rights or under British law when the Bill is finally enacted? What will the Government do if the Bill is found to be inadequate in that respect? Will they accept the power of the European convention on human rights or try to legislate around it?
§ Mr. Clarke
I remind my hon. Friend and the House that it was this Government who decided to incorporate the convention into British law and establish these rights. As a result of that law, we must give our verdict on the front of the Bill as to whether we think that it complies with the convention. Our view is that it does. As my hon. Friend suggests, any decision that is raised may be tested through the judicial process. We shall have to consider that aspect as the Bill progresses.
That leads me to the third procedural point that I wish to make—Parliament's continued attention to the matter. A number of proposals have been made in the course of the debate, including renewal every Parliament, annual reports to Parliament and to the Select Committee on Home Affairs, and scrutiny under the European convention on human rights, as mentioned by my hon. Friend. These are serious points and the Government take them seriously. We are prepared to discuss in Committee the best way of ensuring that the whole House can judge these matters as the Bill progresses and consider the best way to proceed.
There are a number of different views in this approach, and many hon. Members on both sides of the House have indicated the importance of Parliament having the continued right to scrutinise this effectively through the whole process. I am prepared to say that we shall return to the matter in Committee so that we may discuss the most effective way in which to proceed.
My fourth procedural point is that we are repealing the exclusion orders, something which several hon. Members have welcomed. That powerful and positive development should be welcomed on both sides of the House.
§ Mr. Clarke
The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey has had a lot to say, but I shall give way to him once more.
§ Mr. Hughes
I accept that that is so. The Minister's comments on the possibility of reaching an agreement on reconsidering the Bill are welcome. We, and I hope the other parties, shall take seriously any all-party discussion on how any legislation can be opened to greater scrutiny in future.
§ Mr. Clarke
I am grateful for that offer.
226 Let me turn to part VII, which deals with Northern Ireland, and which several hon. Members have mentioned. Our whole approach to this part of the Bill is part of a process in which all our colleagues in Northern Ireland have participated. The Government are prepared to remove part VII as soon as the assessed level of threat means that it is safe to do so. It is part of the process through which we have gone and to which both sides of the House are committed. We intend to be in tune with the process rather than being at odds with it. That is why the Bill has been introduced, and why we have dealt with these matters in this way.
Several hon. Members have gone over the history of their roles in the process in entertaining and sometimes informative style. I thank the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) for all that he has said and for the support that he has given to the leader of his party. He raised particular points about schedule 2 and proscribed organisations, and I can tell him that the Continuity IRA and the group that calls itself Uglaigh na hEireann—otherwise, the Real IRA—are proscribed by the general proscription of the Irish Republican Army in schedule 2.
The nub of the debate is the definition in part I. Several clarifications must be made for the sake of clarity. First, our definition does not threaten demonstrations and expressions of opinion. Secondly, contrary to the suggestions of my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield, it was not inserted into the Bill at the behest of international corporate interests. Thirdly, the definition will threaten organisations that seek to prosecute ideological views by the threat of serious violence. That is our intention, because that is a dangerous area.
Insufficient attention has been given to one further point of the Bill. The threshold of the definition—not its breadth—is higher than was previously the case. The tests applied in the Bill involve "serious violence", endangeringthe life of any personor creatinga serious risk to the health or safety of the public".The test is not "any use of violence". Acts that intimidate the public but for which no qualifying motivation can be demonstrated are no longer caught by the Bill. As at present, no offence of terrorism is linked to the new definition. The major offences for which any terrorist may be charged—this answers the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell)—will, as at present, be criminal offences under the ordinary criminal law. Those include murder, conspiracy to cause explosions and so on.
The definition triggers extra powers for the police to prevent and investigate terrorist actions and threats, such as stop and search, the power to raise cordons and a special power of arrest. Special additional powers and offences are being introduced to thwart the establishment and continuance of terrorist groups, such as a power to proscribe and a bar on fundraising.
In light of some allegations that swirled around the Chamber earlier this evening, I want to make it clear that the new definition would not necessarily catch the actions of any domestic groups currently in existence. My right 227 hon. Friend the Home Secretary has no plans at present to proscribe any domestic group. Circumstances may of course change, and it is right that we should have the flexibility to respond if they do. However, if groups do not engage in serious violence—to the best of my knowledge and that of my right hon. Friend, most do not—the new definition cannot catch them. For example, peaceful demonstrations or strikes could not be caught. That clarification is important for the whole process.
I acknowledge that the question of definition is a real issue, as the right hon. Member for Bridgwater pointed out. Serious proposals have been made on both sides of the House as to how we should deal with that question. Opposition Front-Bench Members offered to introduce a series of probing amendments in Committee; I look forward to them. My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South suggested an alternative definition, which he felt would be more appropriate than the one in the Bill.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Bridgwater that we need to find the difficult balance between the additional powers under the Bill and the additional safeguards and responsibilities that attach to it. Definition is important and the balance of judgment is difficult. We shall debate the various issues that arise from that in Committee. I am fully ready to explore those matters in Committee, as long as we do not water down one of the critical commitments of the Bill—to deal with terrorism in the most effective way.
§ Dr. Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
If my hon. Friend is not prepared to accept the amendment to create a Special Standing Committee, which I regret, given that the principal Opposition are not against the Bill will he ensure that the Government Members on the Standing Committee include some of those who have expressed concerns about the Bill and who will engage in vigorous discussions on the points that he has just raised?
§ Mr. Clarke
One of the great tragedies of my life—hitherto I have not shared it with the House—is that I have never been a Whip and thus am not entirely privy to the processes of the Committee of Selection. However, I am sure that that mysterious group—whoever they are—will have heard what my hon. Friend said.
Proscribed organisations are dealt with under part II, and there is a specific definition. There is an appeals process—to the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission—as set out by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. We acknowledge that the power to proscribe is an extreme and significant one. The groups currently listed in schedule 2 are Irish organisations that are already proscribed under existing legislation. We are considering which international groups it might be appropriate to add, taking into account such factors as the nature and scale of the group's activities, the specific threat that they pose to UK and British nationals abroad, the extent of their presence in the UK, and the need to support other members of the international community in the global fight against terrorism. However, I emphasise that proscription is a heavy power; it will be used only when absolutely necessary. It is part of the balance that I mentioned earlier.
§ Mr. McDonnell
I accept the Minister's assurance on this Government's exercise of proscription as a final power. 228 However, I offer a concrete example. Let us take part I and part II together, under a definition of an organisation as terrorist—an organisation that has an "ideological cause" and perpetratesserious violence against any person or property".Almost every organisation that demonstrated in Seattle was involved in serious crime against persons or property. Major mayhem was caused in that city. Many of those organisations were from this country and were funded by individuals from this country, and could be subject to proscription under parts I and II—could they not?
§ Mr. Clarke
Any organisation that focuses on the courses of activity defined in clause 1 is potentially subject to proscription. That is clearly set out in the Bill. My hon. Friend's point about funds relates to my next point on terrorist property and the concerns expressed about clauses 14 and 18.
In relation to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South on clause 14, it is not true that those giving money to an organisation—some of whose actions may come under the clause 1 definition—will necessarily commit offences under part III. People who give such money would have to know, or have reasonable cause to suspect, that the donation would be used for the purposes of terrorism. There needs to be a much more direct link between a donation and its likely end purpose than my hon. Friend suggested in his intervention.
My hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) raised a serious and important point on clause 18. I emphasise strongly that the fundraising and money-laundering systems are massively important in fostering and strengthening terrorist organisations. I have become fully aware of that fact only since taking on my present job in the summer. I had read about Noraid and so on, but I had not appreciated the extent to which that is the case. It is also the case in some of the areas of crime that the Bill does not cover. The money-laundering system is a key element in the support for such organisations. That is why we need to address, and why the clause addresses, the ways in which we target those people.
As many hon. Members have suggested, it is important to get the balance right; but it is also crucial to target the fundraising, which is the life-blood of such organisations. That includes telling professional advisers—as we do in the Bill—to take seriously their responsibilities in that regard. Two months ago, I was at a G8 conference on organised crime. The key question that was being discussed throughout the world was how to ensure that people who know that the proceeds of fundraising will be used to support terrorism live up to their responsibilities. That is a large part of the motivation for the relevant clauses in the Bill.
§ Mr. Maginnis
Given the problems that the Serious Fraud Office has had over the years, huge resources will be needed to take action on the provision of finance to terrorist operations from apparently legitimate sources. Are the Government now prepared to say that those resources will be made available to tackle the problem that the Minister has defined?
§ Mr. Clarke
I am not prepared to make a statement to the House tonight, but I am prepared to say that we 229 absolutely take the point that the hon. Gentleman is making. Proposals for new legislation are under consideration, and we are studying the resources issues that will be involved because extremely substantial issues are involved.
In response to the specific argument made by my hon. Friend the Member for Slough, I want to make it clear that although I do believe that people who, in the course of their work, come across information about terrorist fundraising should pass it on, there is in the Bill a defence of reasonable excuse, which is an important qualification. We have also dropped the broader provision in section 18 of the PTA that any suspicion of terrorist activity acquired in any circumstances must be passed on, or an offence is committed. We have substantially tightened the provision.
I am prepared to consider in Committee the detail of the various wordings of which there was criticism, from wherever that criticism came. The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone was worried that the definition of terrorism in clause 1 might be too loose, and he also drew attention to other issues. Those need to be debated in Committee.
My penultimate point is on the question of detention and whether it should be dealt with by the Executive or the judiciary. We have fulfilled our commitments in that area. We believe that the judiciary approach is modelled in ordinary criminal law. Hon. Members from both sides of the House have spoken on that subject, and no doubt it will be fully debated, but the Government believe that it is an effective, positive and progressive change to give the judiciary power to deal with these matters.
Finally, I turn to the question of incitement and overseas activity, mentioned by several of my right hon. and hon. Friends. First, I want to quote from clause 57(1):A person commits an offence if he incites another person to commit an act of terrorism wholly or partly outside the United Kingdom".I emphasise the word "incites". It is important to send a strong message to extremists that incitement in this country to terrorism anywhere overseas is unacceptable. In tandem with other parts of the Bill, those provisions demonstrate our commitment to change the climate in which people seek to operate in this country. We want to deter the encouragement of terrorist activities and to offer a basis for enforcement action that is necessary in the various circumstances that arise.
§ Mr. Clarke
I shall give way in a second, but first I shall answer the question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield.
In the case of the Rivonia trial, the answer is no—there would not have been an offence against the Bill. One could consider whole areas. The aim is to stop the incitement of specific terrorist activities.
§ Mr. Corbyn
If a person organises a meeting in solidarity with an organisation in another country that is attempting to overthrow the Government of that country by violent means, is that person guilty of an offence? Are the supporters of that organisation guilty of an offence? Are the people funding it or attending the meeting guilty of an offence? It seems to me that they could well be adjudged to be supporters of terrorist acts even if the regime that they were trying to overthrow was a totally evil and repressive regime, but had since named its opponents as terrorists.
§ Mr. Clarke
Prima facie, the answer is no. I cannot judge specific cases; that will be a matter for the courts to determine according to particular circumstances. The short answer is that support for solidarity action, international campaign organisations or whatever will not be an offence in the context that we are talking about.
I want to emphasise that clauses 60 and 61 will enable the United Kingdom to ratify the United Nations convention on the suppression of terrorist bombings and, therefore, to meet our international obligations. Clauses 57 to 59 will essentially fill in the remaining gaps in the law to ensure that where offences are committed anywhere in the world, they can brought before our courts—and quite rightly so.
§ Mr. Winnick
Does my hon. Friend remember that when terrorist atrocities occurred in Egypt involving British citizens, the Egyptians asked why Britain allowed this country to be used as a base for terrorist purposes? Whether we did or not—it would have been unknown to the Government of the day—is it not important that we send the message that Britain will under no circumstances be used as a base for terrorist activities? Otherwise, we shall be in no position to lecture other countries.
§ Mr. Clarke
My hon. Friend makes a powerful and important point, which applies not only to the Egyptian case but to a variety of others in which it is important that we send our message clearly.
§ Mr. Tony Benn
Let us consider the case of Sandline. It overthrew a de facto—not a de jure—Government and the Foreign Office seemed to be involved in that from the beginning. What is the position on that? We cannot be asked to give even a Second Reading to a Bill in which the lines of definition are so blurred that they are very dangerous.
§ Mr. Clarke
My right hon. Friend was a member of the Government who in 1978 passed the legislation that deals with such circumstances. It is important to say that it not possible to give prima facie judgments on all the issues as they arise, but we must establish a proper framework.
The Government believe that every act of terrorism is a uniquely cowardly and barbaric crime. The Bill responds to the need for specific powers, ensures that the United Kingdom takes a tough stance, provides a new permanent legal framework and gets the balance right. I commend the Bill to the House and look forward to energetic and interesting discussions in Committee on the various issues before us.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 63(2),
§ That the Bill be committed to a Special Standing Committee.—[Mr. Simon Hughes.]
§ The House divided: Ayes 47, Noes 262.233
|Division No. 19]||[9.13 pm|
|Allan, Richard||Keetch, Paul|
|Baker, Norman||Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles|
|Ballard, Jackie||(Ross Skye & Inverness W)|
|Beith, Rt Hon A J||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)||Livingstone, Ken|
|Brake, Tom||Livsey, Richard|
|Breed, Colin||Llwyd, Elfyn|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||McDonnell, John|
|Burnett, John||Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert|
|Burstow, Paul||Marshall—Andrews, Robert|
|Cable, Dr Vincent||Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)|
|Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies||Moore, Michael|
|(NE Fife)||Oaten, Mark|
|Chidgey, David||Öpik, Lembit|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Rendel, David|
|Cotter, Brian||Russell, Bob (Colchester)|
|Foster, Don (Bath)||Sanders, Adrian|
|George, Andrew (St Ives)||Swinney, John|
|Hancock, Mike||Tonge, Dr Jenny|
|Harris, Dr Evan||Tyler, Paul|
|Harvey, Nick||Webb, Steve|
|Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)||Willis, Phil|
|Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas||Wise, Audrey|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)||Sir Robert Smith and|
|Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)||Mr. Andrew Stunell.|
|Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)||Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)|
|Ainger, Nick||Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)|
|Allen, Graham||Clwyd, Ann|
|Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)||Coaker, Vernon|
|Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)||Coffey, Ms Ann|
|Ashton, Joe||Cohen, Harry|
|Atkins, Charlotte||Coleman, Iain|
|Austin, John||Colman, Tony|
|Barnes, Harry||Connarty, Michael|
|Beard, Nigel||Crausby, David|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret||Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)|
|Bennett, Andrew F||Cryer, John (Hornchurch)|
|Blackman, Liz||Cummings, John|
|Blizzard, Bob||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Borrow, David||Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)|
|Bradley, Keith (Withington)||Curtis—Thomas, Mrs Claire|
|Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)||Darling, Rt Hon Alistair|
|Bradshaw, Ben||Darvill, Keith|
|Brinton, Mrs Helen||Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)|
|Brown, Russell (Dumfries)||Davidson, Ian|
|Burden, Richard||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)|
|Burgon, Colin||Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)|
|Butler, Mrs Christine||Davis, Rt Hon Terry|
|Byers, Rt Hon Stephen||(B'ham Hodge H)|
|Campbell—Savours, Dale||Dawson, Hilton|
|Cann, Jamie||Dean, Mrs Janet|
|Caplin, Ivor||Dismore, Andrew|
|Casale, Roger||Dobbin, Jim|
|Caton, Martin||Donaldson, Jeffrey|
|Cawsey, Ian||Donohoe, Brian H|
|Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)||Doran, Frank|
|Clapham, Michael||Dowd, Jim|
|Clark, Paul (Gillingham)||Drew, David|
|Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)||Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)|
|Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)||Love, Andrew|
|Edwards, Huw||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Ellman, Mrs Louise||McCabe, Steve|
|Field, Rt Hon Frank||McCafferty, Ms Chris|
|Fisher, Mark||McCartney, Rt Hon Ian|
|Follett, Barbara||McDonagh, Siobhain|
|Forsythe, Clifford||Macdonald, Calum|
|Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)||McGuire, Mrs Anne|
|Foster, Michael J (Worcester)||McIsaac, Shona|
|Foulkes, George||McKenna, Mrs Rosemary|
|Fyfe, Maria||Mackinlay, Andrew|
|Galloway, George||Mactaggart, Fiona|
|Gardiner, Barry||Mcwalter, Tony|
|George, Bruce (Walsall S)||Maginnis, Ken|
|Gilroy, Mrs Linda||Mallaber, Judy|
|Godman, Dr Norman A||Marsden, paul (Shrewsbury)|
|Godsiff, Roger||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Goggins, Paul||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)||Martlew, Eric|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||Maxton, John|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Meacher, Rt Hon Michael|
|Grocott, Bruce||Meale, Alan|
|Gunnell, John||Merron, Gillian|
|Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)||Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)|
|Hall, Patrick (Bedford)||Milburn, Rt Hon Alan|
|Hanson, David||Miller, Andrew|
|Heal, Mrs Sylvia||Moffatt, Laura|
|Hepburn, Stephen||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Heppell, John||Moran, Ms Margaret|
|Hill, Keith||Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)|
|Hinchliffe, David||Morley, Elliot|
|Hood, Jimmy||Mountford, Kali|
|Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Mullin, Chris|
|Hope, Phil||Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)|
|Hopkins, Kelvin||O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)|
|Howells, Dr Kim||O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)|
|Hoyle, Lindsay||O'Hara, Eddie|
|Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)||Olner, Bill|
|Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)||O'Neill, Martin|
|Humble, Mrs Joan||Organ, Mrs Diana|
|Hurst, Alan||Osborne, Ms Sandra|
|Hutton, John||Pearson, Ian|
|Iddon, Dr Brian||Pendry, Tom|
|Illsley, Eric||Perham, Ms Linda|
|Ingram, Rt Hon Adam||Pickthall, Colin|
|Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)||Pike, Peter L|
|Jenkins, Brian||Plaskitt, James|
|Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)||Pope, Greg|
|Johnson, Miss Melanie||Pound, Stephen|
|(Welwyn Hatfield)||Powell, Sir Raymond|
|Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)||Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)|
|Jones, Helen (Warrington N)||Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)|
|Jones, Ms Jenny||Purchase, Ken|
|(Wolverh'ton SW)||Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce|
|Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)||Quinn, Lawrie|
|Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)||Rammell, Bill|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Rapson, Syd|
|Keeble, Ms Sally||Raynsford, Nick|
|Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)||Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)|
|Kemp, Fraser||Roche, Mrs Barbara|
|Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)||Rooney, Terry|
|Khabra, Piara S||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Kidney, David||Rowlands, Ted|
|Kitfoyle, Peter||Roy, Frank|
|King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)||Ruane, Chris|
|King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)||Ruddock, Joan|
|Ladyman, Dr Stephen||Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)|
|Lawrence, Mrs Jackie||Salter, Martin|
|Laxton, Bob||Sarwar, Mohammed|
|Lepper, David||Savidge, Malcolm|
|Leslie, Christopher||Sawford, Phil|
|Levitt, Tom||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)||Shipley, Ms Debra|
|Lock, David||Singh, Marsha|
|Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)||Todd, Mark|
|Smith, Angela (Basildon)||Trickett, Jon|
|Smith, Miss Geraldine||Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)|
|(Morecambe & Lunesdale)||Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)|
|Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)||Turner, Neil (Wigan)|
|Snape, Peter||Twigg, Derek (Halton)|
|Southworth, Ms Helen||Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)|
|Spellar, John||Tynan, Bill|
|Starkey, Dr Phyllis||Vis, Dr Rudi|
|Steinberg, Gerry||Walley, Ms Joan|
|Stevenson, George||Ward, Ms Claire|
|Stewart, David (Inverness E)||Wareing, Robert N|
|Stewart, Ian (Eccles)||Watts, David|
|Stinchcombe, Paul||White, Brian|
|Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Straw, Rt Hon Jack||(Swansea W)|
|Stringer, Graham||Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)|
|Stuart, Ms Gisela||Winnick, David|
|Sutcliffe, Gerry||Worthington, Tony|
|Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann||Wray, James|
|(Dewsbury)||Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)|
|Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)||Wright, Dr Tony(Cannock)|
|Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)||Wyatt, Derek|
|Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Thompson, William||Mr. Robert Ainsworth and|
|Tipping, Paddy||Mr. Don Touhig.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee.