§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 28th February he approved [9th Report from the Joint Committee].
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move that the draft order laid before the House on 28th February be approved.
With the Terrorism Act 2000, which came into force on 19th February, this Government signalled their determination to defeat terrorism in all its forms. As well as bringing our provisions into line with the European Convention on Human Rights, the Terrorism Act ensures that we are in a better position to deal with the serious threat which terrorism poses abroad as well as in this country.
The Act makes available the power to proscribe for the first time terrorist organisations concerned in international or domestic terrorism and not just those concerned only in terrorism connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland which, as noble Lords will be aware, remain proscribed under Schedule 2 of the Act.
Parliament gave its support to this extension of the proscription regime by approving the passage of the Terrorism Bill. It is clearly of the utmost importance that the United Kingdom does not become a base for international terrorists and their supporters. The proscription and other provisions in the Act demonstrate this Government's commitment to change the climate in which supporters of terrorism might seek to operate in this country.
The Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2001, which is the subject of today's debate, was laid before Parliament in draft on 28th February. It lists 21 international terrorist organisations which, in the carefully considered judgment of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, should now be subject to proscription in the United Kingdom. The draft order was debated in the other place on 13th March and approved the following day under the deferred voting procedure.
Under Section 3 of the Act, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary (or, in the case of organisations concerned only in terrorism connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland) has the power to proscribe any organisation which he believes "is concerned in terrorism". An organisation is "concerned in terrorism" if it,commits or participates in acts of terrorism, prepares for terrorism, promotes or encourages terrorism, or is otherwise concerned in terrorism"."Organisation" is defined in Section 121 of the Act as including,any association or combination of persons".Having satisfied the statutory criteria in any particular case, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary then has discretion as to which organisations should be recommended to Parliament for 145 proscription. In considering which international terrorist organisations should be proscribed, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary took into account a number of factors, including those indicated to Parliament by Ministers during proceedings on the Terrorism Bill. Those factors were: the nature and scale of the organisation's activities; the specific threat that it poses to the UK; the specific threat that it poses to British nationals overseas; the extent of the organisation's presence in the UK; and the need to support other members of the international community in the global fight against terrorism. Depending on the organisation concerned and its sphere of operation, certain factors will have carried more weight than others.
To assist consideration of the draft order by both Houses, all noble Lords and honourable Members were sent a brief summary of information on each of the organisations named in the draft order. As my right honourable friend the Home Secretary made clear in the debate on the order in the other place, in reaching his decisions he had access to related intelligence-based material on the various organisations in addition to information which is in the public domain and took into account police, security and legal advice. He is entirely satisfied that the organisations which are being recommended to Parliament for proscription are "concerned in terrorism" and thus fully meet the criteria laid down in the Act.
I know that a number of noble Lords expressed concerns that certain domestic extremist groups have not been included in the draft order. As noble Lords will no doubt recall, during proceedings on the Terrorism Bill we indicated that we did not intend to proscribe any of the domestic groups known to us at that time. When considering the organisations to be included in this draft order, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary looked at this matter again very carefully, taking account of police advice. His judgment was that it would not be right to proscribe any domestic groups at present. If circumstances change, however, we could return to the question of proscription.
Ministers acknowledged during proceedings on the Terrorism Bill that proscription is a heavy power. It should be used only where the circumstances warrant it. The draft order includes international terrorist organisations of particular concern to the United Kingdom. It would be unrealistic and excessive to proscribe every international organisation in the world that might be "concerned in terrorism". No other country does that.
As noble Lords will understand, however, the powers and offences in the Act more generally will apply to anyone planning or supporting here terrorist acts anywhere in the world, whether or not the group has been proscribed. The proscription regime provides an additional measure with specific, linked offences, including in relation to fundraising for use against those involved with or supporting the organisations which have been proscribed. The investigation and 146 prosecution of any alleged offence under the Act is, of course, a matter for the police and prosecuting authorities.
The proscription regime is aimed at organisations and individuals concerned in terrorism, as defined in Section 1 of the Act. The definition of terrorism was, of course, considered in great detail during parliamentary proceedings on the Bill and it would be inappropriate to go over that ground again in the debate tonight.
I must emphasise that the provisions in the Act are not aimed at any specific community or at those protesting in a peaceful and non-violent way against alleged injustices or for political change. Nor are they aimed at those raising funds for legitimate social or humanitarian purposes. As long as people do not break our laws, they are free to express views with which the Government may profoundly disagree, including criticism of friendly governments. That is part of our cherished tradition of free speech. That freedom is unaffected by the coming into force of the new Terrorism Act.
Following debate in and approval by both Houses, the proscriptions will come into effect on the day after my right honourable friend the Home Secretary makes the order. It will then be open to any of the organisations so proscribed, or any person affected by their proscription, at any time to make application to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary for deproscription. Under the Proscribed Organisations (Applications for Deproscription) Regulations 2001, which came into force on 19th February, that application should, among other things, state the grounds on which it is being made. That provides an opportunity for an organisation or individual to make a case—to the Home Secretary in the case of international proscribed organisations—as to why they should be deproscribed. He will, of course, consider any such applications very carefully and fully indeed.
Where an application is refused, the Act provides for an appeal to a new independent judicial tribunal, the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission. The commission will consider any refusals to deproscribe in the light of judicial review principles.
My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor is responsible for the establishment of the commission. He announced on 5th March the appointment of a chairman and two other judicial members, respectively Sir Murray Stuart-Smith, Sir Harry Ognall and Sir Brian Smedley, all of whom are retired judges. He is in the process of appointing legal and lay members of the commission, who will be announced in due course. I am confident that these arrangements are sufficient to ensure that an effective remedy is available to anyone who might be aggrieved at the decision to proscribe the organisations listed in the draft order.
In conclusion, I must emphasise that this is not a once and for all process. The proscription list will be kept under constant review. The Secretary of State can decide at any time in future to recommend to Parliament the addition of an organisation to 147 Schedule 2, where events or circumstances demand such action, and where it meets the criteria in the Act. Similarly, in appropriate circumstances, and when it was safe to do so, an organisation could be removed from the list without it necessarily making an application for deproscription.
I should like to take the opportunity here to place on the record a correction to what my right honourable friend said on 13th March during the debate on this order in another place, at col. 949 of the Official Report. If a decision is taken to deproscribe an organisation, either on application or otherwise, that deproscription will he subject to approval by Parliament by the affirmative not the negative resolution procedure.
In my view, the draft order is compatible with the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. It represents a fair, just and proportionate response to the threats we face from international terrorism. I commend the order to your Lordships.
Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 28th February be approved [9th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Lord Archer of Sandwell
rose to move, as an amendment to the above Motion, at end insert ";but that this House regrets that the Mujaheddin e Khalq have been included in the schedule of proscribed organisations contained in the order and invites Her Majesty's Government to lay a further order, removing the Mujaheddin e Khalq from the Schedule.The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I listened carefully to my noble friend. I do not think that I. counted more than two propositions which he put forward with which I might conceivably disagree, although in our debates it is always wise to make that kind of statement without prejudice.
This debate is an example of what is probably the most fundamental problem in democratic politics. How can we reconcile law and order, the protection of people from crime, with the protection of people from the executive, with fairness and justice to individuals? Quin custodiet?—if I am allowed, outside the rules of order, to depart from the English language.
Part of that is formulating rules for the executive when admittedly it is contending against people, some of whom do not play by the rules. Part of that in turn means recognising, as my noble friend said, that sometimes the executive has to act on information which it cannot disclose because to disclose it would be to reveal the source of the information to those against whom it may have to be used.
We debated all that when we discussed the Freedom of Information Bill. It will shortly be discussed in another place when it considers the report of the Intelligence and Security Committee. Although I have no interest to declare in this debate, it may assist transparency if I disclose that I am a member of that committee. So, I understand some of the problems 148 about which my noble friend will no doubt tell us when he comes to reply; indeed, if he is busy elsewhere I could make his speech for him.
While I am in concessionary mode—I doubt whether my noble friend would consider me to he what was earlier today called "a plaything of the Government"—perhaps I may offer him another trump card. The principle of the Terrorism Act has no more enthusiastic supporter than me. Terrorism does not recognise international boundaries. If it is to be fought on equal terms, this is yet another instance when the international community must set aside the obsession with national sovereignty and bureaucratic ring-fencing and co-operate in the interests of the global family. I approve of the fact that those who practice or plan terrorism anywhere will be denied sanctuary anywhere. I do not rest any part of my argument on the concession which the Home Office made in relation to the organisation which I wish to address today, that it does not practice terrorism in this country.
None of that is in issue between us. But we need to recognise that when the practitioners of crime clash with the forces of law and order, someone may he caught in the middle. Decent, law-abiding, long-suffering people may be crushed in the nutcrackers. My noble friend said—this is the one proposition of which I am not sure—that we should not discuss the definition of terrorism in the Act. It does not address all the problems. I accept my share of the blame. I was content with the general thrust of the Terrorism Bill, as it then was, and I failed to scrutinise the definition; so did we all. However, it occurs to me that within that definition, William Tell was a terrorist, Oliver Cromwell was a terrorist, and Nelson Mandela was a terrorist.
At Second Reading in another place of the Bill which became the Terrorism Act, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary was asked (Official Report, Commons, 14/12/99; col. 152) whether the Kosovo Liberation Army, at that time opposing the Serbian regime in Kosovo, or the Kurds opposing Saddam Hussein in northern Iraq fell within the definition. I hope that I do my right honourable friend no injustice; I read the debate carefully and I do not think that the question was answered. I say that not by way of criticism; in the to and fro of debate questions get lost. However, my right honourable friend specifically argued that in democracies there are other ways of expressing dissent. Yes, indeed, but what if the regime is not democratic? What if it is tyrannical, oppressive and tolerates no dissent?
It is an unfortunate factor in this debate that we are faced with a single unamendable order which includes in the schedule 21 separate organisations—I know that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, will address that later—faced with a whole spectrum of different regimes and a variety of opportunities either to express or repress dissent. We cannot oppose the inclusion of any one organisation without opposing the entire order. That was tempting, I admit. However, if we had done that it would have deferred a process for which in 149 general we accept the need. Yet the mischief would have lain squarely at the door of the Home Office, which elected to proceed in that way.
I have been approached by other organisations which challenge their designation as terrorists, notably the International Sikh Youth Federation and some of the groups concerned with the liberation, as they see it, of Kashmir. I do not propose to discuss them today, partly because I have not had an opportunity to give my noble friend notice that I would do so and partly because I am not sufficiently familiar with the facts.
My amendment is designed not to destroy the order, but simply to invite my right honourable friend the Home Secretary to rectify the situation quickly by introducing a further order to remove from the schedule one organisation. I turn now to the one organisation with which the amendment is concerned, the Mujaheddin e Khalq.
In Iran there is no democratic way to change the regime. There is no freedom to express an opinion or to argue for one's beliefs. Even since Mr Khatami took office, 800 people have been put to death for their beliefs; 75 this year. Those are the regime's own official figures. We know that there have been many more secret murders. Thirteen people have been stoned to death; eyes have been gouged out; limbs have been amputated; and people have been publicly flogged.
In April last year, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights condemned the executions, the torture, the inhuman punishments, the absence of due process of law and the discrimination against women. That was the 46th time that an organ of the United Nations had condemned the abuses under the regime. The commission extended the mandate of the special rapporteur for yet a further year.
There have been repeated reports by Amnesty International and other human rights organisations. There is no right to disseminate opinions or even information. Last year, at least 40 publications were closed down because the regime disapproved of what they said. In February, Geneive Abdo, the Guardian's correspondent in Iran, was warned to adapt her reports to what pleased the administration and was then unceremoniously removed from the country. Of course there was an election and it served a purpose, because whatever else may be said about the result, it was clear that the people wanted to live under a more liberal regime. They supported Mr Khatami; and I would not dispute that he may have wished to move in the direction of greater freedom. But it is clear that he is as much a prisoner of the mullahs as anyone.
The constitution is not intended to afford free choice. On 7th December last year, Mr Khatami himself spelt it out. He said:There is no talk of changing the constitution. Today, talk of changing the constitution amounts to changing the state. This is treachery to the state and to the Iranian nation".In the election, no one could vote for a candidate who was not approved by the Guardian Council because if a candidate was not approved, he was not permitted to stand as a candidate. We all remember the long delays 150 before the results were announced, and we can speculate as to what was happening to ballot boxes and ballot papers during that time.
Therefore, it is in that context that we need to consider the Mujaheddin. That movement came together in 1965 to campaign for democracy when it was repressed under the regime of the Shah. Thousands of its members were imprisoned, tortured or killed under that regime. There was no question of it using violence at that time.
Then came the revolution and members of the movement thought, as did many, that the terror and repression were over. But it still continued; the new regime did not change the repression. For more than two years the Mujaheddin did not respond with violence, but a time came when it believed that the murders and mutilations were not going to be changed by free elections—there were not to be free elections—and it decided that the only way to stop the repression by the military was to resist the military. The only way to stop the murders was to stop the murderers.
I have never made any secret of where I stand. I do not believe that a free society, where people can live together in peace, can best be brought about by violence. But I understand why the movement came to believe that there was no other way. If I believed that it used indiscriminate violence or risked the lives of civilians, I would have no time for it and I would not be addressing your Lordships today. I believe that it confines its target specifically to military bases and to senior officials of the regime who have themselves committed crimes against humanity.
I do not know on what information my right honourable friend the Home Secretary acted when he decided to include the Mujaheddin in the schedule—and this is a moment when perhaps I might have my noble friend's attention—but I understand that my noble friend cannot reply to that. However, it would be helpful if, when replying to the debate, he would tell us who was consulted: the Secretary General of the United Nations; the Human Rights Commission: Amnesty International; or the Inter-Parliamentary Union? Can we be told which person or body with knowledge of human rights was consulted before that inclusion?
"But", says the Home Office—my noble friend said it today—"these questions are not best discussed in Parliament. The Terrorism Act provides for the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission"; that is, POAC in the acronym-ridden official speak that we all practise. An organisation included in the schedule may appeal to POAC and it will consider it. That is indeed a welcome last safeguard to correct mistakes, but as an argument in this debate it has two weaknesses. First, it raises the question: if Parliament is not to exercise any control over the executive why do we have these debates? Why do we go through the pretence of laying down orders before Parliament if we are then told to stay quiet? Secondly, this form of redress operates retrospectively. Much of the damage will already have been done.
151 Again, we are all to blame. We could have spoken against the scheme of the Terrorism Bill. But there is something distasteful about a process which begins by convicting someone and then proceeds to inquire whether there is a case against them. Lewis Carroll's Queen of Hearts called for sentence first, verdict afterwards. That scheme is best confined to Alice in Wonderland.
There is a large Iranian community in this country. Many are now British subjects. They are fair, law-abiding, hard-working people. They came here initially to escape persecution at home. Persecution for membership of the Mujaheddin has repeatedly been accepted as a reason for granting people asylum in this country. Some have lost members of their families to the murderers and torturers. Even here they are not safe from the regime. At least 35 political opponents of the regime have been murdered not in Iran but in the territory of other countries. The fatwa which declared it was permissible—indeed, a duty—to murder Salman Rushdie did not confine that to Iranian territory; it clearly contemplated that he should be murdered outside Iran. Even last year, when my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary was told that it might be withdrawn, there was very quickly a correction. They said that that had been a mistake and it could not be changed. It remains in force.
So where are the terrorists? Are they among the Mujaheddin or among the leadership of the regime? Not surprisingly, most of the Iranian community have supported the resistance, not all of whom are members of the Mujaheddin. But some of them do applaud the Mujaheddin; some even help it financially.
They are in good company. Members of the Mujaheddin have been welcome guests at the Labour Party conference where there is always sympathy for victims of persecution. If the Mujaheddin is in the scheme, those people will suffer the stigma of supporting a terrorist organisation. Under Section 12 of the Act, if they support or even invite someone else to support that movement, they will be criminals.
Those who support the amendment have the satisfaction of agreeing with views expressed by 335 Members of the other place; some 61 Members of your Lordships' House; a majority of members of the United States Congress; 175 members of the German Bundestag; 150 members of the French Assembly; and a majority in the parliaments of Italy, Belgium and Luxembourg. We are simply asking my noble friend in reply to assure us that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary will move quickly to introduce a further order rectifying this mistake.
It would be an unusual gesture for the Home Office, but I beg my noble friend to consider it possible that on this occasion it may be wrong. I beg to move.
Moved, That as an amendment to the above Motion, at end insert "; but that this House regrets that the Mujaheddin e Khalq have been included in the schedule of proscribed organisations contained in the order and invites Her Majesty's Government to lay a further order, removing the Mujaheddin e Khalq from the schedule".—(Lord Archer of Sandwell.)
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Lord McNally
My Lords, this morning the noble Lord, Lord Rea, and I attended a meeting in this House organised by Liberation which allowed a large group of representatives from various organisations to express their views about this order and how they would be treated under the Act. I do not know the strength of their case or the merits of the various organisations. However, it reaffirmed my conviction, which is expressed in my amendment to the Motion, that those who dealt with the original Bill did not envisage that secondary powers would be used to hoover up, as it were, 21 organisations in a single instrument. By any standard of natural justice, that does not make sense. It means that the good, the bad and the ugly are put together.
As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, pointed out, by the very nature of our rules of procedure we take or leave statutory instruments in those circumstances. I believe that in approaching the matter in this way the Home Office has discredited the procedure from the outset. That was not our intention in seeking comprehensive terrorism legislation that applied to all parts of the United Kingdom. The general belief was that the ad hoc approach to terrorist legislation that had grown up since 1974, with particular emphasis on Northern Ireland, was not good for civil liberties and a comprehensive approach to these matters. But it also illustrates—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, acknowledged a mea culpa that we all share—the danger of legislation which provides quite sweeping secondary powers, because exactly how they are used is dependent on the executive.
What worries me about the way that the Home Office has gone about it is that in the first test of those secondary powers the department has got it wrong. It has approached it in a broad-brush way which leaves a number of organisations, such as the one referred to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, feeling aggrieved. The Home Secretary in his letter to noble Lords to explain the legislation states that it,provides new permanent and UK-wide legislation"—in response, we say "good"—which is proportionate to the threat which the UK faces and may face from all forms of terrorism".Judgment comes in when one considers the proportionate nature of the threat. All of these organisations are active and linked to various national immigrant groups active in other countries. We shall be going into this matter in considering further amendments. As has been said, none of them refers to UK groups. I am worried that in the "hoovering" process we may put at risk the age-old and much cherished belief in freedom of speech and association in this country, and introduce guilt by association.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, raises a matter which worries a number of people; namely, that organisations have been placed on the list on the advice of the police, security services, foreign governments and foreign security agencies. By the very nature of the legislation, a good deal of this is wrapped 153 in secrecy. Although I understand the responsibilities of government, I am not content to allow Ministers simply to pat us on the head, give us a knowing look to the effect that they are in receipt of secret information which, if only we could see it, would make our toes curl and, therefore, we should nod through every piece of new legislation that they want. The other day I was disturbed to learn that the head of MI5 had complained about parliamentary scrutiny. I believe that our security services should be exposed to parliamentary scrutiny. It would give me a good deal more confidence if the Intelligence and Security Committee, to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, referred, had an opportunity to look at the evidence presented to the Home Secretary in order to make his decisions.
§ Lord Marsh
My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the noble Lord purely to seek information. Does the noble Lord believe that if the security services obtain information from a particular source, which may be in a country that does not have a nice democratic government, that source will be quite as enthusiastic when it is discovered that in future it will be declared to Parliament?
§ Lord McNally
My Lords, I am not so naive as to believe that that is what should be made available in terms of parliamentary scrutiny. I have been involved in these matters in one way or another for a good number of years and have grown suspicious of Ministers who fall in love with secret briefings. I believe that Parliament should always be highly sceptical of a process whereby we are simply patted on the head and told that if only we knew what they knew we would understand why they were doing it. We must have some check and balance on that activity.
One of the matters of which we must be assured is that what is being acted upon is at least the advice of our own security services, not simply the complaint of other security agencies or foreign governments. We are not in the business of doing the dirty work of regimes when organisations in this country do things which are perfectly legal here, such as saying rude things about government, but which in other countries are subject to draconian measures. Therefore, it is not part of the exercise to do favours for countries which may have regimes that do not follow our standards.
I should like to mention a few practical matters which were raised at the meeting this morning. If organisations are named in the list, how will they fight proscription if they cannot call meetings, raise funds or rally support for their cause? How much flexibility will they have to work against proscription once they have been named? That is a matter to be clarified. One of the representatives of a British trade union who was present wanted to know how the measure would affect trade unions, which in this country have a long tradition of adopting both individuals and organisations and giving them moral and material support.
154 As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, asked, from where do we start in this matter? The noble and learned Lord referred to the ANC. Between 1970 and 1974 I was secretary of the Labour Party's Southern Africa Solidarity Fund which supported the ANC and the liberation movements in Mozambique and Angola. I presume that we would have been caught by these orders. My radical past is coming out here. I was also the secretary of the Spanish Democrats Defence Committee under the chairmanship of Jack Jones. In the late 1960s, I took to see that no lesser a person than the Secretary of State for Defence a delegation from East European Social Democrats in exile who were still working against their regimes.
I make the point that the assumption that people living in this country and working against foreign tyranny are all somehow to be hoovered up under the general term of "terrorist" is extremely dangerous. Yet governments intimidate oppositions into accepting legislation because none of us wants to be caught on the wrong side of questions such as, "Who is in favour of terrorism?" and "Are you soft on terrorists?"
I have never been in favour of what I call "the Bayswater Road liberationists" who sit out their time in London, putting out inflammatory messages and never going into danger; neither am I in favour of London with its particular communications hub becoming a centre for international terrorism. I prefer to stand four square with the warning given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, with his long and distinguished record on these matters: democracy does not protect itself by ever more draconian powers to its security services.
This order is too wide, too reliant on secret reasons and too arbitrary. I have quoted this previously, but I always remember the scene in "A Man for All Seasons" where Richard Rich is advising Sir Thomas More to take arbitrary action. More asks, "But where will one shelter when the wind of tyranny blows if one has chopped down all the protection?" It worries me that, along with the quite legitimate requirement and duty on government to protect the state against terrorism and to root out international terrorism and play our part against international terrorism, we are in danger of putting at risk age-old freedoms of association and liberties which this House has the duty to protect.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Lord Mancroft
My Lords, I feel slightly like an impostor today. It is as if I have stumbled into a grand and glorious debate, in which I am not really qualified to play a role. The issues raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, and the noble Lord, Lord McNally, are incredibly important. It is very difficult for government to achieve a balance between the rather grubby things they have to do to make the nuts and bolts of government operate and the important protection of individuals; in this case individuals who come to this country from abroad and need our protection. It is a balance, as so many matters in 155 government are. Furthermore, it is a tricky balance. It is a debate where much is theory but which we need to get right in practice.
Like other noble Lords, I suspect, I do not really know what effect such an order will have in practice. Like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, who said he was not quite sure what the definition of terrorism is, the more I think about the matter the more I do not know what the definition is. But I have a feeling that if I saw a terrorist I should know it. That is worrying in itself.
I suspect that that those who are intent on the kind of activities which comprise terrorism will not be deterred from their activities by the existence of an order such as this, or the inclusion of their organisation on the list contained in the order. The people who join real. undoubted terrorist groups probably take little or no notice of what amounts to the disapproval of Parliament, particularly if that Parliament is in a different country.
I am reminded of the story of Gilbert Monkton. In the 1950s or 1960s he was sent on a mission to Washington. He had to fill in that very long immigration form the United States used to have. After the questions on age, date of birth, residence and so on, the last question was: do you intend in any way to take up arms against or threaten the security of the United States? He wrote, "Yes, sole purpose of visit". He was arrested on arrival. That was a pity because he was there on the orders of the Foreign Office. It took a little explaining, but makes my point.
My amendment is very much simpler and more mundane than the amendments of previous noble Lords. It seeks to include the names of three UK-based organisations engaged in what we all know, and would know, are terrorist activities within the UK. Looking at the matter in detail in the past 24 to 48 hours, I have discovered that the organisations are engaged also in violent activities in Europe and the United States. However, that is slightly beside the point.
Yesterday we debated provisions within the Hunting Bill. During the course of our earlier debates, the subject of violence and intimidation of the hunting community by animal rights extremists was touched on. It was widely condemned by noble lords from all sides of the House, as your Lordships would expect. Indeed, on several occasions, the Home Secretary has made clear that he finds the violent activities of those fanatics completely unacceptable. We are grateful to him for that support.
It is not recognised as much as it should be that too many members of the hunting community have lived with abuse, intimidation and violence, both threatened and actual, for many years. I pay tribute to their courage, but I also think that we, as a House of Parliament of the legislature, owe it to those people to recognise the extent of the problem. One way of doing that would be to attach the names of the organisations in my amendment to the order and publicly condemn their members in that way.
156 I have an interest of sorts to declare. As a board member of the Countryside Alliance, an organisation your Lordships are getting to know rather well, and as someone closely involved in the hunting community, I have been a victim of these organisations myself. Some of your Lordships who have been here more than a minute or two may remember that some years ago I received a bomb through the post. I have also received quite an amount of unpleasant hate mail from some of these fanatics. I received one letter which contained very specific details about my family and our daily routines, together with some really horrific threats to my wife and young children. So I know about the matter.
I do not wish to over-emphasise the importance of these incidents, except to make two points: first, to commend the police for their support and prompt and professional responses; and, secondly, to indicate, that even those incidents pale into insignificance when compared with the threats, the intimidation and the violence that others have to live with on a daily basis.
As we debate here today in the security of this House, this wonderful Palace, within the past few months in Surrey, not an hour's drive away, some members and staff of the hunt made famous by Surtees in his stories of Jorrocks, the hunting grocer, have been attacked, bombed, and driven from their homes by an almost unceasing campaign of violence in the name of animal rights.
A number of my colleagues recently met Mr Charles Clarke at the Home Office and supplied him with a detailed dossier of some of the worst attacks over the past few years throughout the United Kingdom. We are immensely grateful for his attention to that matter.
The terrorism perpetrated by the three organisations named in my amendment is not confined to those who engage in field sports. But it is now clear that many of those who start out as hunt saboteurs end up as bombers. It does not take too long for them to progress down that route. In the dossier we supplied to the Home Office a full range of activities is clearly documented, starting with trespass; attacks on horses and dogs; serious attacks on people, often resulting in hospital treatment; violent attacks on vehicles and property, causing damage estimated at many thousands of pounds; and bombs, letter bombs, razor bombs and incendiary devices.
Many of these groups have close links and individual members are often linked to more than one group. Many of those engaged in sabotaging hunting, shooting and fishing also commit serious crimes against other animal rights targets. Those have included Boots, the chemists, a fish and chip shop in Wales the other day, a number of scientists engaged in research, and the meat trade. More recently, two Members of another place, Ms Kate Hoey and Mrs Llin Golding, have been threatened. I pay tribute to their courage in resisting those threats.
It is also important to remember that some of the organisations that purport to be respectable have closer links than they should have to organisations that use violence. One of the options that we debated 157 yesterday in the House was promoted by Deadline 2000. I wonder how many noble Lords who received briefing from that group realise that the press officer of the League Against Cruel Sports, Andy Walsley, pleaded guilty to public order offences, including violence in attacking police officers at a riot at Hilgrove farm in 1998. The three organisations mentioned in my amendment are among the worst, but are also among those against which hard evidence exists.
The Animal Liberation Front operates in this country and in the United States. Its activities have recently been investigated by a federal grand jury in Portland. The ALF claimed responsibility for the recent theft of a pack of beagles from the Wye College Hunt. As noble Lords may remember from the newspapers, one beagle was later recovered, having been roughly and callously castrated, and with a mutilated ear. These are animal lovers! Keith Mann is a leading terrorist member of the Animal Liberation Front. He was gaoled in 1992 for attacking the home of a member of hunt staff and was sentenced to 14 years in 1994 for criminal damage, possession of explosives and attempted arson.
The Justice Department is another hardline group. My noble friend Lord Cope knows of it. It first gained notoriety for trying to dig up the grave of the late Duke of Beaufort, shortly after he was buried, in the 1980s. It was involved in bomb attacks in 1993 and sent six letter bombs in June 1994 to companies involved in the live animal export business. In addition, a cross-Channel ferry company had its head office bombed. The Justice Department has also conducted campaigns against furriers and hunters in Canada, notably sending 65 letters with rat poison-encrusted razor blades to hunting guides in Alberta in 1996.
It is believed that the Justice Department was responsible for the attack on Mr Brian Cass, the managing director of Huntingdon Life Sciences. Mr Glynn Harding, from Crewe, is a leading Justice Department member. He has recently been charged with sending 11 letter bombs between December 2000 and February of this year. A leading member of Justice Department is Mr Gurjeet Aujila, who was gaoled for six years in 1995, having pleaded guilty to eight charges of sending letter bombs to people involved with the live animal export business.
The final group mentioned in my amendment is the Hunt Retribution Squad. It announced a campaign against the Old Surrey and Burstow Hunt in September 2000. That has been followed by a sustained campaign of violence. In early September the police had to evacuate a family with children from their home before it was laid siege to by 30 attackers, who did considerable damage. Police attending the incident were overpowered and reinforcements, including police dogs and a helicopter, were needed to bring the situation under control. The police have launched an investigation into the Hunt Retribution Squad after two devices were found under cars belonging to hunt members in October last year. This 158 campaign continues. Cars have been covered in paint stripper and people have been subjected to telephone harassment, as well as bombs and attacks on property.
I hope that the details I have given the House are enough to show that this is terrorism by anyone's standards. We are not talking about a grey area. It is black and white, it is ongoing, and it is happening throughout Britain and within an hour's drive of the House today and every day. It is unacceptable. The police have recognised the seriousness of these terrorists by setting up and resourcing a specialist department to deal with the groups and the threats that they pose. These terrorists have been responsible for more violence and more bombs than any group in the United Kingdom over the past decade, including the IRA. I hope that the Government and the House will recognise the severity of the situation by accepting my amendment today.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Lord Glentoran
My Lords, with the permission of the House, I shall speak as the Official Opposition spokesman on Northern Ireland. My noble friend Lord Cope will answer on behalf of the Shadow Home Office team.
My amendment is clear. It is about administration and clarity. During the passage of the Terrorism Bill I spoke to Schedule 2. I am a supporter of the Terrorism Act, but I feel that the description of the Northern Ireland terrorist organisations is inadequate. Perhaps I may gently remind the noble Lord, Lord McNally, that the Provisional IRA, the Real IRA, the Continuity IRA and others on the list are British organisations. I am ashamed to say it, but they are. They operate mostly within the United Kingdom.
I have two main reasons for including in the schedule the organisations named in my amendment. First, they are supposedly covered as the Irish Republican Army. I do not think that many people would accept that. There are now many branches of the Irish Republican Army. Indeed, I am not sure that the IRA would accept it even itself. As we learnt recently, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are leading members of the Army Council. I do not think that they would accept—publicly anyway—that they have any control over the Real IRA or the Continuity IRA. The time may well come—let us hope that it is fairly soon—when the Provisional IRA does what its predecessors have done completely—fades into the political mists and becomes part of the political organisation known as Sinn Fein. Indeed, it may even decommission. It would then have every right to be removed from the schedule.
However, if that situation arose, I would not like the Irish Republican Army to be removed from the schedule because I am certain that there would still be dissident groups that would need to be named in the schedule. I do not need to remind the House of the catalogue of crimes of which the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA are guilty, both in London and in other parts of the United Kingdom, including 159 Northern Ireland I therefore think that it is necessary for the Government to attempt to tidy up this part of the schedule.
The Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998 refers to organisations being proscribed as per its schedule. In its schedule, the organisations proscribed are the Continuity Irish Republican Army, the Real Irish Republican Army, the organisation using the name "the Orange Volunteers" and the Red Hand Defenders. The Red Hand Defenders and the Orange Volunteers feature in Schedule 2 to the Act, but the Continuity IRA and the Real IRA do not. That is illogical. For the sake of clarity in the future and for the sake of flexibility—we shall want that for the future in order to allow some of these organisations to come out of the schedule and to be seen to come out—I ask the Minister to attend to the matter and to clarify this anomaly.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Lord Rogan
My Lords, the order before us today deals with terrorist organisations—terrorist organisations which use these shores as a base to commit acts of terrorism abroad. There are 21 organisations listed for proscription by the order. The brief accompanying the order would lead us to believe that. collectively, these 21 organisations ensure that terrorism is truly global. Just as the people and government of Spain live under threat from ETA, November 17, which recently murdered a high profile British diplomat, poses a threat to the people and government of Greece.
It is not an easy task to determine which organisations should or should not be included on this register of proscribed organisations. Indeed—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, alluded to this—defining "terrorism"—offering an objective definition of "terrorism" as a means of determining which groups or organisations should find themselves on such a register of proscribed organisations—is equally difficult.
The matter is further complicated when one considers the origins of the term "terrorism". Terrorism was first used to describe the state violence, the reign of terror, in post-revolutionary France. I venture to say that not many modern definitions of terrorism would incorporate state violence in any way, never mind be centred on it.
The term was later applied to the narodniks, or Narodnava Volya anti-Tsarist group in pre-revolutionary Russia, even though it must be admitted that this group engaged mainly in acts of assassination rather than the indiscriminate violence we tend to associate with modern terrorist groups.
Modern usage of the word "terrorism" and the contemporary definition of a "terrorist group" are surely subjective. Nowadays, terrorism is a badge of illegitimacy and a label of disapproval. Therefore to approve this order, we must disapprove of all these organisations: what they stand for; the activities they are engaged in; and their use of the United Kingdom as a base to raise funds, to organise, or from which to launch operations.
160 I confess that I do not have an in-depth knowledge of all these organisations. Indeed, some operate in areas of the world of which my knowledge is less than comprehensive. However, I understand that not all of these groups organise solely in the UK. For those organisations to be proscribed, therefore, is primarily a badge of disapproval, and possibly acts as a minor deterrent to any future organising.
For groups that do not organise in the UK, their proscription can be only a means of disapproval. This is something that I do not necessarily object to, but I can think of other organisations worthy of such statutory disapproval that do not appear on this list of organisations. However, maybe listing additional groups merely gives such groups the international recognition they crave.
Just as there are groups that should be included on such a list of organisations, I am aware that there are concerns about a number of the groups that are included in this order. In another place. there was concern with regard to the inclusion of the Mujaheddin e Khalq and the International Sikh Youth Federation. I confess that I do not know much about the International Sikh Youth Federation, or what threat it poses for the Indian state. However, I have witnessed terrorism at first hand in part of this United Kingdom and I know how terrorist campaigns have plagued Northern Ireland and its people for over 30 years.
I am also concerned about the Real IRA and the 32-County Sovereignty Committee. My concerns as regards the Real IRA are not with respect to the bare inclusion of the IRA in Schedule 2 to the primary legislation. Indeed, I can say that I am satisfied with the assurances given in another place that the term "Irish Republican Army" will include all variations of that term, whether they be Provisional, Continuity or Real. However, I am not satisfied that this proscription of "IRA" extends to the 32-County Sovereignty Committee.
It is my understanding that this order will make it illegal for a person who supports the International Sikh Youth Federation, presumably a youth living in this country, to place a poster purporting to support the organisation in his bedroom window. I am not questioning the merits of this being passed into law, but I am questioning the provisions proscribing what could be termed "domestic terrorist organisations".
If it is illegal for people supporting the International Sikh Youth Federation to express their support, why is it not the same for those who support the Real IRA through the 32-County Sovereignty Committee? Why can a young Sikh in Wolverhampton not place a poster of support in his window, but the 32-County Sovereignty Committee can hold rallies in pubs in Euston Road?
The Real IRA and the 32-County Sovereignty Committee are two sides of the same coin. Their members were behind the bomb attack at the BBC earlier this month; they attempted to blow up the MI6 building near Millbank; and they are believed to have 161 been the bombers of Hammersmith Bridge. Most certainly, and most significantly, they were behind the atrocious attack in Omagh.
Let me remind noble Lords: 31 lives were lost in that bomb attack, two of those unborn. It was the greatest single atrocity committed in Northern Ireland—and there have been many over the years. The victims of Omagh deserve justice. They deserve to have the 32-County Sovereignty Committee proscribed. They deserve to see the United States list the Real IRA on its State Department record of terrorist organisations, especially when one notes the level of fund-raising for that group in the United States. Most importantly, the Omagh victims and the people of Northern Ireland deserve justice under law. If those who committed that most heinous of crimes cannot be brought before the criminal courts, in the interests of transparency and accountability they must be brought before the civil courts.
I fully endorse the efforts of the Omagh Victims' Legal Support Group, which is attempting to bring a civil action against the individuals known—I repeat, known—to have committed that bombing. I hope sincerely that the group will succeed in raising the £1 million it requires to commence that action before it is time-barred in August of this year. I know that its members would appreciate the support of noble Lords in this task.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Lord Clarke of Hampstead
My Lords, I should like, first, to pay tribute to my noble and learned friend Lord Archer of Sandwell for tabling the first amendment to the Motion before the House. I should like also to pay tribute to the measured and clear way in which he moved the amendment and how he was able, far better than I, to put the case for excluding from the list of proscribed organisations, the Mujaheddin e Khalq.
I also applaud the second amendment to the Motion. I understand the concern of the noble Lord, Lord McNally. It seems rather a nonsense that your Lordships' House should be presented with such a long list without providing for the consultation that should have taken place beforehand. It is a nonsense that we are not able to consider these organisations separately and it is a shame that no proper consultation took place prior to the day, some 28 days ago, when the order was first introduced to the House of Commons. I shall not comment further on that point except to say that I hope that noble Lords will share my concern over bundling together a number of groups and organisations.
I shall return to my remarks on the first amendment. It is regrettable that the Mujaheddin e Khalq is included in the schedule of proscribed organisations contained in the order. However, I welcome the fact that this opens the door for the Home Secretary to bring back a further order to remove the Mujaheddin e Khalq from the schedule. Any examination of the 162 situation in Iran demonstrates clearly and beyond doubt that it is the ruling regime in that country which practises terrorism—terrorism on its own people.
When the Prevention of Terrorism Bill—later the Terrorism Act 2000—was debated in another place, the Home Secretary said that the legislation was directed at groups in Britain that supported efforts to overthrow democratic regimes abroad. Importantly, he added that dissent was a vital part of our democracy. Surely, no one in this House can describe the mullahs' regime in Tehran as democratic.
The United Nations special representative on human rights in Iran, Professor Maurice Copthorne, as recently as this month, has reported that:Breaches of human rights are in large part as common today as they were live years ago".He has also reported that the number of executions reported in the Iranian press during the year are placed at about 200. So far this year, 75 people have been sentenced to death, including eight women; some of the sentences include death by stoning.
The Home Office note associated with this order states that the Mujaheddin e Khalq has not attacked UK or Western interests. Why have our Government included the Mujaheddin in the list at this particular time?
Quite recently, the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell and I circulated a statement to all noble Lords urging support for those crying out for freedom in Iran. In a matter of days, almost 100 Members of your Lordships' House responded to the cries of those who live in terror and fear of the mullahs' regime. As my noble and learned friend Lord Archer said, a similar statement in another place gained the support and endorsement of 337 Members of Parliament. I ask again: why have our Government—who, like previous governments, have shown compassion and understanding of the need to promote human rights—decided to give comfort to a barbaric regime?
Last Thursday, I had the privilege to hear a speech by Elizabeth Sidney, whom I had never met before, who is, as I understand it, chair of the International Network of Liberal Women. She has made a study of the current situation in Iran. Miss Sidney asked the audience to imagine that they were in Trafalgar Square and that a huge crane is driven into the square with five ropes hanging from its jib. The square was in east Tehran, last Monday week. The crane was driven into position and five people were appended to the ropes and hanged. They were hanged on the basis that they had been convicted of offences involving drugs. Five people—four men and one woman—hanging in public execution in the year 2001. How can a government such as ours give comfort and solace to such a regime?
The entire world is aware of Iran's appalling record on abuses of human rights. The Mujaheddin e Khalq, together with other pro-democracy organisations inside and outside Iran, keep the world informed of the true situation in that country. There can be no justification for our own democratic society denying others the right to draw these matters to the attention 163 of all who truly believe in freedom, justice and the promotion of basic human rights in any part of the world. I urge noble Lords to support the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Viscount Colville of Culross
My Lords, I was concerned with the terrorism legislation which preceded this Act. It was my job for a number of years to report to this House and another place on what could be broadly described as two matters: first, the proportionality of the measures that were in place, which were renewable on an annual basis; and, secondly, whether there were proper remedies if things went wrong.
I do not wish to address the political agenda as other noble Lords have done, although I will attach my speech to the amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell. I have received, as have, I am sure, many of your Lordships, a large amount of extraordinarily well-reasoned and sensible correspondence from members or supporters—I know not which—of the Mujaheddin e Khalq. I have also received an interesting opinion from Matrix Chambers about what its remedies may be.
I use that as an illustration because, from my recollection of the period when I was dealing with this matter, I was concerned not only with powers relating to terrorism in Northern Ireland, which has been much referred to, but with powers to detain at ports people suspected of being concerned in international terrorism. Indeed, they were detained—even under the old legislation—and, if necessary, they were arrested and tried.
The correspondence and opinion that I have referred to, as well as the discussions on this order in another place, seem to have left a great deal of misapprehension on the part of members of any organisation which is proscribed in the Act—or which is to be proscribed in this order or any other order which may come about—as to what they can do.
The noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, referred to the Proscribed Orders Appeal Commission, a new body which has recently been set up. It is modelled on the Special Immigration Appeal Commission, which was set up a few years ago, and has remarkably similar powers. In both cases, the reason for a special commission being set up is because they have to handle, in a way which is fair, complaints from individuals or organisations that have been proscribed or in some way singled out for unfortunate attention. At the same time, the commissions have to provide some degree of secrecy for the material upon which the action is based. Let us face it, none of us in this House know what it is that has inspired the right honourable gentleman in the Home Office, and those who advise him, to place any of these organisations in the list. The Mujaheddin are the same as the rest of the organisations in this respect.
164 I wonder whether the Minister can say a little more than has been previously discussed in Parliament about what are these remedies. There are twofold remedies because rules have been produced in accordance with the Act which deal with the way in which an appeal against the proscription can take place. As far as I know, these rules have not previously been mentioned in any debate, but they are the rules under which the commission will operate; they are contained in Statutory Instrument 2001/443.
There will be, of course, classified material which cannot be disclosed to the organisation which is appealing against a failure by the Home Secretary to deproscribe it. That is the way it will work. The organisation will appeal against a failure to deproscribe and the procedure will go on from there. There will have to be placed before this tribunal, distinguished as it is, material which may not be able to be disclosed to individuals or organisations seeking deproscription. Therefore, there will be a special advocate to whom this material will be disclosed, who will discuss it in private with the commission. Based upon all of that and the material presented by the organisation or the people involved, the commission will come to a decision. It will give by way of reasons at least a summary of why it has acted as it did in accordance with the secret material that no one else has seen.
It would be helpful if the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, gave a little more publicity to this matter. It does not appear that any of the people who have written to me have any idea that this procedure exists, and they should have. They ought to be told how to do it, and they ought to be told what is the further remedy and how it will work. Even if the commission does not overrule the Home Secretary's failure to de-proscribe, there is an appeal to the Court of Appeal. Technically, there may also be an appeal to the Divisional Court, but as the whole of this procedure is based on judicial review criteria alone it is unlikely that the Divisional Court would be involved. The statute says that the appeal is to the Court of Appeal.
What will happen when this material and this appeal comes to the Court of Appeal? There is nothing in the rules about this. So far as I am aware, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission has not so far been taken to the Court of Appeal—at any rate, I can find no report of that having happened. Will the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, tell the House what is to be done in front of the Court of Appeal about the secret material? I know that the appeal will be on a point of law; but it will also be an appeal—as will the initial hearing in front of the commission—on the sections of the Human Rights Act which are directly concerned in this kind of exercise: that is to say, freedom of expression and freedom of association.
The points of law that could arise in front of the commission and in front of the Court of Appeal seem likely to involve the disclosure to the Court of Appeal as well of material that the appellants will not be allowed to see. How will that be handled by the Court of Appeal? There must have been some discussion 165 about this matter and there must be some way of dealing with it. I think that everyone would very much like to know.
There is one final point which is very much a human rights point and one that has been made by a number of people who have written to me. Once the organisation has been proscribed under the terms of the order, membership or professed membership of it will be a criminal offence: a person can be arrested for it and, I assume, if it is the decision of the magistrate's court or the Crown Court, he or she can be kept in detention. What will be the position when the police start to move in on one of the proscribed organisations and arrest its members, if that organisation then applies for de-proscription? There will be quite a long process. I have described some of it already. It could go to the Court of Appeal. Will the members who are at present automatically guilty of a criminal offence be held until the matter is decided by the Court of Appeal? Has the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, considered the question of bail, the terms of bail and other matters of that kind? I believe that those who belong to any of these organisations—
§ Lord Archer of Sandwell
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for giving way. What he has said has been extremely helpful. Does he appreciate that we are talking not only about people who are members of these organisations, but about people who support them or elicit support for them?
§ Lord McNally
My Lords, it would help if we heard both matters together. I should value a learned opinion on this precise point. The point has been made to me that proscribed organisations that want to go through the kind of procedure indicated by the noble Viscount may want to fund-raise and to elicit other support. Are such activities to be banned? How, then, will those people be able to mount a proper defence if they cannot raise funds and they cannot seek support in the normal way?
§ Viscount Colville of Culross
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, have put their finger on the point. The question was asked earlier: how do you set up a process of applying for de-proscription if you are not allowed to organise yourself and you are not allowed to raise funds? It is for that precise reason that I am asking the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, to describe what will happen in relation to people who are thought by the police or by the Security Services to be members of these organisations and who are thought to be organising some sort of campaign against proscription? If they are to be arrested and kept in confinement until the whole case has gone through and the Court of Appeal has made its final decision, then we have a very unhappy state of affairs indeed, and one where I should think habeas corpus will start to lie.
166 I do not believe that any of this has been thought out. If it has been thought out, it has certainly never been disclosed to Parliament. Not a word has been said about the matter in another place, and we have not heard a word about it today. Therefore, I invite the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, to take this opportunity, first, to go into a little more detail about what remedies are available, how they will work, what access will be given to those who are seeking de-proscription for their organisations to the material on the basis of which the organisation has been proscribed—that also includes what happens in the Court of Appeal. While all that is going on, what will happen to individual members of the organisations so that they are not deprived of liberty for belonging to an organisation which, one may possibly suspect, in the end will be de-proscribed? I know that they will receive compensation, but compensation is not a great deal of consolation to those who have been locked up on remand for a long period of time. This is an opportunity for the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, to explain a good deal more about this matter. Members of this House would be wiser, as would members of these organisations or those who support the organisations and who would like to pursue some of the political aims that have been discussed by noble Lords.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Lord Phillips of Sudbury
My Lords, first, I largely agree with the points made by my noble friend Lord McNally and with the remarks that have just been made. There is a great deal of concern on this side of the House as to the procedures by which this measure has been brought forward.
Secondly, nothing in my remarks should be taken as in any way indicting indifference to human rights issues, which I absolutely accept are in many particulars parlous in Iran. They are far from being as we would wish them to be—although I point out the noble Lord, Lord Clarke, that executions are not a prerogative of Iran. About the same number of executions take place in the United States and they are semi-public.
My interest in Iran derives from nothing more than having been to that country. As a student, I spent six weeks there in 1961. I spent some time as a guest of SAVAK, the Shah's secret police, in Shiraz gaol. None the less, I learnt a great deal and admired a great deal in that extraordinary country. I returned to Iran in 1978, before the fall of the Shah, and again in 1997, when I spent two weeks back-packing with my son around the country on public transport. It may surprise some of your Lordships, having heard the remarks of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, and the noble Lord, Lord Clarke, that the people of Iran are in no way cowed or afraid of giving their opinion. In fact, their opinion was so readily and vigorously given that at times we had to retreat from those who wanted to bend our ear. I returned to Iran in 1999, with the first all-party delegation since before the fall of the Shah and I am presently secretary of the British-Iranian All-Party Parliamentary Group.
167 Those noble Lords who are unaware of the background of the Mujaheddin e Khalk (MeK)—or as it is sometimes called, the MKO—and the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which supports the MeK, should understand that the organisations have a Marxist-Leninist Islamic root. Although they took part in the revolution which overthrew the Shah and were indeed one of the most extreme organisations in that bloody revolution, they and their leader, Massoud Rajavi, lost out in the post-revolution struggle between the different groups concerned, despite being hard-line anti-American. They were expelled from France in 1986 and then de-camped to Iraq where they have remained ever since. Their finances and their arms come from Saddam Hussein. They supported Saddam Hussein during his grab for Iranian territory in the early 1980s which was only successfully resisted by Iran after an appalling war in which the Iranians lost over 1 million people. It is not to our credit, or that of America, that we supplied Saddam with his arms on that occasion.
The MKO is still based in Iraq. Against that background, the assertion regularly made by the MeK and its supporters—that they have widespread popular support in Iran—is not credible. The MeK and related organisations have been formally designated as foreign terrorist organisations by the United States for many years, and were redesignated as such in October 1999.
On 24th March last year, when answering press questions, Secretary of State James Rubin made clear that the Americans viewed the NCRI,as an alias for the MeK".He made clear that the Americans viewed the MeK as an organisation through which Saddam Hussein sponsors terrorism. He also said that,this is a satellite photograph of a new headquarters complex that Saddam Hussein has built for the MeK"—that is, a complex situated at Falluja, which is about 40 kilometres from Baghdad—when it becomes operational, in our judgment, it will be used to co-ordinate MeK terrorist activities and to plan attacks against targets in Iran and elsewhere".To judge Iran by the democratic standards of western Europe is both unfair and unreal. It has its own very different history. Like most, if not all, countries in that part of the world, democracy has not been its tradition. Islamic influence has been and remains its dominant force. It is still a theocratic state. Its ways, as in other Muslim states, are cruel to our way of thinking in many respects. But that is still their predominant culture. Having said that, Iran has made real and vital strides towards fully-fledged democracy. In 1997, it held a presidential election in which the favourites of the reactionary mullahs—and not all mullahs are reactionary—Nataq Nourri, was unexpectedly trounced by Mr Khatami. Well over 80 per cent of the electorate turned out, which is something we might envy.
In last year's elections for the Majlis, their parliament, again, about 80 per cent of the people of Iran turned out to vote. That election was rubbished 168 up hill and down dale by NCRI and its supporters, the MeK, and company. They attempted to say that the polling booths were empty and that it was a fraud. I spoke to someone at the British Embassy about the situation. Those concerned took the trouble to send their staff to polling stations far and wide. They reported that it was a real election, an enthusiastic election, and unfrightened election, and one they found credible. More importantly, of 290 members of the Majlis returned, 190 were progressives, 50 were independent and only 50 were rightist reactionary mullah-dominated candidates.
That election was not perfect by our standards. Ten per cent of the candidates—over 6,000 of them—were rejected by the Islamic vetting procedure that is part of their complex, theocratic constitution. None the less, it was a free and open election that has delivered to Iran a parliament which, in my view, will ensure that reform and progress continue.
When speaking to the Majlis, as recently as the 11th of this month, President Khatami said that,governing and staying in power at any price does not make sense. But so long as I know I can move forward despite all the difficulties I will he willing to serve".He was referring to the forthcoming presidential election on 8th June, for which he has not yet declared his candidacy. The "difficulties" to which he referred are the battle going on for the soul of Iran between the conservative mullahs and the bulk of the Iranian population, especially young Iranians. A huge proportion of the population are under the age of 25, 15 per cent of whom are university educated with women representing half that number. However, it is just not realistic—indeed, in a way, it would be arrogant—to expect that that advance will go forward at a pace that we should like, or towards a destination that we should necessarily agree with in all particulars.
As I said, there are many blemishes on Iran. There is still torture. Newspapers have been closed—35 of them in the past year. However, when I spoke to someone at the Foreign Office recently, he came back to me with the fact that there are still 25 daily newspapers circulating in Teheran alone, with a circulation of over 100,000 each. They say that more than two thirds of those are reformist. Therefore, the notion of some benighted, oppressed state with a citizenry afraid to say or read anything that does not have the approval of the reactionary mullahs is simply nonsense.
People are still killed and threatened. There is corruption in high places. But, again, for the first time in Iran's history, there were recent convictions of state officials responsible for murdering progressive politicians two or three years ago. Trials are now taking place of policemen who fermented the student demonstrations just before we arrived in Teheran in 1999.
To view all of this outside the context of Iran's own history, outside the context of its region—it is the only stable state in the whole of the region—and outside the context of the undoubted progress that it has made, is self-defeating. The NCRI organised an advertisement 169 in yesterday's Guardian, utilising the crest of the House of Commons rather cheekily. It is full of exaggeration, half truth and worse. Unfortunately, unless he was misquoted, the noble Lord, Lord Clarke of Hampstead, was mentioned as saying that,the Mojahedin's military arm acts in the framework of international convention and has never attacked civilian targets".The noble Lord should try telling that to Amnesty, which, in its latest human rights "Watch", says that the Iraq-based armed opposition group MeK continues to carry out attacks against targets inside Iran and that, although the organisation claims to be targeting officials, several civilians were killed or injured in incidents such as a mortar attack on the presidential office in downtown Teheran in February. I know that there have been two more rocket attacks on court houses this month.
Unfortunately, I must also quote from the noble Lord, Lord Alton. Again, he may have been misquoted in the advertisement to which I referred, but he is mentioned as saying that,the people of Iran have made it absolutely clear that they want to put an end to this dictatorship. The solution for Iran is democratisation".That is exactly what they are doing—painfully, fitfully and both forward and back. What is the noble Lord, Lord Alton, doing saying that this is a dictatorship with no democracy?
Anyone who goes to Iran and talks to the people will realise that it is unrecognisable today from the Iran of even 10 years ago. I have a number of Iranian friends who left Iran during the time of the Shah because they could not stand the regime. They returned during the revolution, but left again because they could not stand the oppression. Several of them have returned to Iran in the past three years. I have visited them and talked to them at length. Having left the country several times in the past, they tell me that they could never have contemplated the progress that Iran has made today. We must realise that that is all relative.
The notion to which the noble Lord, Lord Clarke, gives credence—namely, that the situation in Iran will be improved by the violent military means of the Mujaheddin in seeking to de-stabilise and overthrow the present regime—seems to me fanciful at best. I hope that noble Lords will support what have been sensible and constructive policies pursued by the present Government and the present Foreign Secretary, reinforced by the upbeat recent visit made to the country by Cabinet Minister Mo Mowlam. She found a country struggling desperately to control the drugs flowing across it from Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, would actually encourage civil war. It is misconceived, both as to its analysis of the whole circumstances in Iran and as to the true nature of the MeK. The amendment betrays its own purpose, to achieve more democracy, more freedom and better justice. Iran's painful but real development will not be accelerated by encouraging civil war which would 170 throw it into savage reverse, opening the floodgates, not to enlightenment but to a long, dark night when that admirable people are just seeing some light.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Lord Marsh
My Lords, I start by reassuring my noble friend that in my view the one thing I am absolutely sure about—I think that it is a significant part of the debate—is that no organisation on this list will fail to be informed of how to appeal. I go further and say that the likelihood of the Home Secretary losing a number of those appeals is in my view almost equally certain. I am in the market for a bet on either of those propositions. It is possible to lose sight of the fact that there is an elaborate appeals procedure and that that procedure will be available to organisations which have both the wealth and the sophistication to make the fullest use of it.
I was deeply cheered by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. Listening to the debate—I know that there are differences between us, and some of us have known each other for a long time and are not surprised at those differences—I find it difficult to believe that we are actually seeking to reduce the ability of terrorists to kill and maim perfectly innocent people. There is an enormous amount of self-delusion in this area. All history demonstrates that, by the very nature of the environment in which they work and the causes they seek to support, terrorists, even if they wished, cannot confine the mayhem to senior army officers and members of the ruling party. Civil war and the overthrow of governments are not like that.
I find the views of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, worrying. He accepts in principle the Act and its purposes, but then begins to embark upon a categorisation of the different types of terrorism. He draws a distinction between democratic countries where it would not be acceptable and, by implication, as I understand it, non-democratic countries, which comprise the vast bulk of the world, where it can be seen as regrettable but virtually inevitable. I find that extraordinary because the people who usually get hurt are not the leaders or the generals; on the whole they tend to be the "PBI", the simple people. By definition, the senior people in those countries are very well protected. They know that someone might want to kill them and they spare no expense in ensuring that that is avoided. As has been said, Iran has not been a real democracy for any considerable length of time during its history.
§ Lord Archer of Sandwell
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Would he include Nelson Mandela among the terrorists of whom he has spoken?
§ Lord Marsh
My Lords, I often went backwards and forwards to South Africa at the time of sanctions, but, like the noble and learned Lord, I was not present most of the time. I believe that the opinions with which we should concern ourselves are not those of noble Lords in this Chamber where it is warm and comfortable. I believe that the people who had tyres put round their 171 necks in front of their families and petrol poured into those tyres—as Winnie Mandela said, "There's lots more where that came from"—probably thought that those who committed those acts were terrorists. The whole point is that those are always the people who are killed. What happened in South Africa was probably inevitable. However, I do not think that the old regime was brought down by terrorism but rather by economic sanctions—and primarily financial sanctions.
There is no justification for murdering people. The noble and learned Lord shakes his head, but he cannot have it both ways. He asked me a question and I have tried to answer it. I refer to the people who were killed in the Omagh bombing and to the brigadier who was killed in Athens who could not conceivably have had any influence on anything the Greek Government did. The relatives of those murdered people think that those murders were acts of terrorism. They do not have the luxury of sitting in the warm and analysing the position.
One unhappy development in the latter part of the 20th century was the rapid growth in international terrorism. The list constitutes only a sample of that. It is an interesting sample, but many of us could mention many other examples. Euphemisms such as "freedom fighter" give a completely false and very dangerous impression of people who recognise no moral or legal code. Their objective is clear; it is to spread violence and the fear of violence—and the fear of violence is best spread by killing innocent people, not by shooting the odd Minister.
We have seen that phenomenon grow and we have seen the Omagh bombing where 29 innocent people were killed. Some of the people who contributed to those deaths are nice, decent, God-fearing Christians. They live in the United States. Someone introduced them to an Irish wolfhound at one stage and they like singing "Danny Boy". They do not consider that they support terrorism. They pass round the collection box and raise money which they send to the IRA and they think that at Christmas that money will be used to give all the little children a present. The IRA uses that money to buy weapons. That is why financial support for terrorism must also be controlled.
I accept totally that none of that is news to anyone in this Chamber. And yet, to the increasing consternation of friendly countries, for years this country has been a major haven of peace for international terrorists. We have known about that and we have had many complaints about it. Indeed, an extraordinary feature of the Terrorism Act is that in February of this year for the first time we came into line with our international obligations in this area not to allow our country to provide a base for those who plan terrorist activities in other people's countries. Until that time we were out of line with the European Convention on Human Rights—which has total support in this House—with civil and political rights and with the UN conventions relating to terrorism which deal specifically not just with bombing but also with the financing of terrorist activity.
172 That brings me to the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer. It would be absurd to suggest that all, or even most, Iranians in Britain who want to see a change of government in Iran are terrorists. I have read many of their letters on headed notepaper and most of them seem respectable, middle-class business people. But it would be equally absurd and naïve in the extreme to suggest that terrorists who are happy to live under the protection of Saddam Hussein and receive their pay and rations from hire would hesitate to use the large organisation which clearly exists in the UK to raise money and support for illegal activities and terrorist activities. That was a feature of NORAID in the US and it is a feature of Sinn Fein.
Then we turn to the other point: why should not we have more information? People who give information to the security services of other countries in the circumstances we are considering take very serious personal risks, even to their lives. It is absurd to think it realistic that they would co-operate without total guarantees of confidentiality. A number of people have found themselves in that position. I think of Colonel Penkovsky who came to a very nasty end for co-operating with the wrong people.
None of us knows what led the Government to identify this group of organisations. We can only guess at the reason, but unfortunately the nature of their antisocial acitivites means that reliable information about such organisations can be obtained only by use of classified intelligence operations. That inevitably brings us to the point where there is no alternative to the present procedure. Ministers have investigated the matter and they have produced specific propositions. There is an elaborate appeals procedure and at the end of the day, Ministers have to rely on the advice they have received.
We know the people involved in the production of this list in this place. In addition to the noble Lord. Lord Bassam, they include Jack Straw, Robin Cook, the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, the police, the security services, various intelligence agencies and, inevitably, the lawyers. Why should they all conspire to construct this extraordinary facade, which they knew would be highly controversial?
That Iran is a repressive regime I accept. It has been so since about the 16th century. That many Iranians would like to see it brought down is clear. That factor exists in many countries. But fighting wars by proxy in other countries in the safety of this country is not acceptable. We rightly give asylum to many people who fear persecution in their own countries and I hope that we continue to do so. But that does not give them the right to use this country as a base from which to support and conduct murder and mayhem, inevitably involving innocent people.
It is not an issue, as some have suggested, of trade relations. It is not an issue of political views. It is a moral issue about how civilised countries behave in the face of a common threat. This order, regrettable though it may be, is the only sensible way of dealing with it.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Lord Tomlinson
My Lords, I shall try not to delay the House quite as long as the noble Lord, Lord Marsh. Perhaps he will forgive me if I do not follow his argument.
In such a debate, we should not be competitive in our condemnation of terrorism. I do not think that a single noble Lord would say that terrorism is good, that we welcome it, and that we want it practised from our shores. The debate poses fundamental questions about the pursuit of justice in the fight against terrorism. On that basis, I welcome the speeches of my noble and learned friend Lord Archer and the noble Lord, Lord McNally. The order represents a process of collective proscription of 21 separate organisations on the basis of evidence which we cannot share in any detail. The process is supposedly ameliorated by the fact that individual organisations can apply for de-proscription. Such organisation will undoubtedly commit criminal offences in preparation for the process of de-proscription.
That seems fundamentally wrong. A presumption of guilt seems to be assumed without available evidence being tested prior to the chance to prove innocence. That is extremely difficult when no one has stated explicitly what one is alleged to have done so that one can proceed to absolve oneself.
In the short time I shall detain your Lordships' House, I do not propose to speak about the Mujaheddin. The case has been covered admirably. But in over 20 years of representing parts of the West Midlands in another place and in the European Parliament. I have had long, regular and useful contact with the Sikh community, including the International Sikh Youth Federation. In over 20 years I met those people frequently; I socialised with them; I dined with them; I argued with them. The only time in any of those discussions when terrorism was part of the agenda was when one of the leaders of the Sikh temple in Walsall was arrested following a murder in Southall. He was released the following day having been exonerated of any involvement in the murder. After his release, he was immediately rearrested and told that he would be deported from the United Kingdom for activities which were incompatible with his staying here. To my knowledge this individual had been a member of the local community for 11 years and was a regular devotee of the Guru Nanak temple in Walsall.
I had always assumed that the Home Office had good evidence on which to base its arrests. After 20 months' detention in Winson Green Prison, without either charge and therefore no trial—he had no opportunity to defend himself—without having been deported, Mr Ragbir Singh was eventually released. That has led me to doubt the universal belief that the betters of our society—the great group described by the noble Lord, Lord Marsh—will get it right automatically on every single occasion. Ask any member of the Sikh community about Ragbir Singh and he will tell you that he is a hero inside the community, not because he was a terrorist but because he stood up to the unfairness of society and, on coming 174 out of his prison sentence 20 months later, resumed his role in the temple in Willenhall without ever showing malice.
I have not been alone in that contact with the International Sikh Youth Federation. Cabinet Ministers, including my right honourable friend Mr Jack Straw, have had regular contact with it. The Prime Minister has had contact with it on a number of occasions. I imagine that every Cabinet Minister who has been engaged in inner city politics has had contact, as has almost every other Government Minister. I have frequently disagreed with some of the political aspirations of the International Sikh Youth Federation, but that does not make me right, and it does not make its members terrorists.
A valued group in our community with no proven case of terrorism against it is entitled to better treatment. The Government must give a better justification of why an organisation based within a religious movement in this country should be told that its activities are incompatible with the standards that we expect in the United Kingdom. Its members are devotees of Guru Nanak. They add to our cultural and religious diversity. They are an important part of improving the understanding of that diversity in our society. On that basis, I value them greatly and have great doubts about the wisdom of the decision of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary to include the International Sikh Youth Federation on his list.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Lord Alton of Liverpool
My Lords, the noble Lord has helped to remove some of the polarisation that was beginning to emerge in the debate. It is wrong to suggest that anyone who in any way questions the order is somehow implicitly in favour of terrorism. I remind my noble friend Lord Marsh that we have an opportunity in this House to question Bills, orders and any other form of legislation. We do not want to turn this House into a rubber stamp.
§ Lord Marsh
My Lords, the noble Lord has started off on a false premise. It would be ridiculous for me to suggest that everyone who is opposed to the order is ipso facto in favour of terrorism. The noble Lord knows that that is unfair nonsense.
§ Lord Alton of Liverpool
My Lords, the noble Lord will forgive me, but the tone of his remarks was such as to suggest that anyone who dared to question the sagacity and wisdom of the committee to which he referred, which comprised very distinguished people, is in some way complicit in collaborating with the upholding of terrorism in this country or overseas. I entirely dispute that, as I dispute the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, who spoke in a similar vein, suggesting that anyone who supports the Mujaheddin or the Council for Resistance in Iran is somehow a closet Marxist or Leninist. That was one of his throwaway lines.
§ Lord Goodhart
My Lords, in view of the very powerful speech made by my noble friend Lord 175 Phillips, does the noble Lord really claim that the Mujaheddin has not sold its soul to the devil? It is backed and supported by Saddam, whose regime is far more murderous than the Iranian regime. Whatever may be said about other organisations, surely there is no argument but that the Mujaheddin belongs on the list.
§ Lord Alton of Liverpool
My Lords, I shall come to those arguments in a moment. The noble Lord should read the remarks of Elizabeth Sidney, the chair of the International Network of Liberal Women. I had the pleasure of working with her when I was a member of the noble Lord's party. She is a most distinguished woman who is hardly the supporter of revolutionaries worldwide. Last week, she said:Instead, we have succumbed to pressure by the mullahs by including the Mojahedin, the group which promotes protest within Iran against the brutalist mullahs, on our list of proscribed terrorist groups.
The reality has been disgracefully distorted in favour of oil, trade and strategic influence and disgracefully pusillanimous in pursuit of human rights". At the minimum, there is a profound disagreement between us. We can disagree among friends. We should not try to caricature one another as somehow soft on terrorism or closet Marxist-Leninists.
§ Lord Alton of Liverpool
My Lords, this is the third intervention in as many minutes, but I shall happily give way to the noble Lord.
§ Lord Phillips of Sudbury
My Lords, the noble Lord has twice inferred from what I said some slur on those in this House who support the Mujaheddin—namely, that they are Marxist-Leninists. I made a simple factual remark that the Mujaheddin has Marxist-Leninist-Islamist roots. if he can deduce from that any such slur, he is a better man than I am.
§ Lord Alton of Liverpool
My Lords, the noble Lord will accept that some Members of your Lordships' House were once members of the British Communist Party. I suppose that they could be caricatured as having Marxist-Leninist roots. I refer the noble Lord to the correspondence that your Lordships have received, as I have, from a number of Iranian organisations in' this country. These are respectable groups who have been accepted here under our asylum and immigration rules. They have stated clearly that they are not involved in any terrorist activities and we have accepted that by allowing them to reside in the United Kingdom. The Anglo Iranian Community in Greater London states:The mullahs have rejected all peaceful means, like elections under international observation in the past, despite the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran's repeated attempts 20 years ago to bring the mullahs to the negotiating table. Instead the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran was faced with atrocities, barbarism. imprisonment, torture, systematic rape of their women sympathisers and public hanging of their supporters".We heard about that last point from the noble Lord, Lord Clarke of Hampstead.
176 The Anglo Iranian Youth Society wrote in similar terms, stating:To name this resistance movement in the proscribed list serves no one but the mullahs and those who benefit from dirty deals with them. I wonder how the life of an Iranian youth is calculated in terms of pure financial interest. How many barrels of oil is it worth'? It is indeed a human tragedy to trade people's lives for … economic interests".I had the pleasure of working with some members of the National Association of Iranian Academics in Britain at Liverpool's John Moores University. It states:Including the People's Mojahedin of Iran in this list is insulting. It undermines the hard work of this group in bringing political and public awareness of the atrocities carried out by the Iranian government over the past two decades.The Association of Iranian Women in the UK states:Naming Mojahedin, where women have a significant part in their struggle, in the proscribed list would be seen b^ this brutal regime as a green light to extend their campaign of terror against the Iranian people".The Anglo-Iranian Association of Computer Scientists states:This decision of the Home Secretary has in effect given the Iranian government a clear concession that will allow them to continue to pursue their reign of terror in Iran and abroad".It is significant that the US State Department lists the Iranian Government alongside the governments of countries such as Iraq and Libya as those that are most likely to be involved in acts of state-inspired terrorism. We seem to have some confusion about who are the perpetrators of terrorism and who has been resisting it. Would we have proscribed the French resistance during the Second World War? That is the sort of parallel that we should draw. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, mentioned Nelson Mandela. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, will recall that 20 years ago he and I visited Beirut and met members of the Palestinian resistance, including Yasser Arafat. We should think about people such as Menachem Begin or Eamon de Valera. The examples could go on and on.
§ Viscount Waverley
My Lords, where would my noble friend place the state of Israel, which was caught red-handed engaged in state-sponsored terrorism in Amman during Netanyahu's time?
§ Lord Alton of Liverpool
My Lords, I have just mentioned Menachem Begin. At the time of the blowing up of the King David Hotel 50 years ago, he was placed on the proscribed list and regarded as a state terrorist. We acquire a different view with the passage of time. I suspect that we shall also have a different view of the Mujaheddin in the fullness of time.
It is worth stating clearly for the record what the resistance say about themselves. Mr Massoud Rajavi, the leader of the Iranian resistance, said last year:I pledge on behalf of the Iranian resistance that if anyone from our side oversteps the red line concerning absolute prohibition of attacks on civilians and innocent individuals, either deliberately or unintentionally, he or she would be ready to stand trial in any international court and accept any ruling by the court, including the payment of compensation".177 That is a clear statement. I wish that we could hear a similar statement from the leaders of the Iranian regime, who have been responsible for many of the atrocities that have been alluded to today.
I also refer your Lordships to the lucid and powerful speech made by Robin Corbett on 13th March in another place. He, of course, is the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee—not someone who will easily be taken in by an organisation run by terrorists masquerading under another name.
So far as concerns the noble and learned Lord, it is 20 years since he and I dealt with Northern Ireland matters in another place—he from the Opposition Front Bench. On regular occasions I was happy to support many of the speeches that he made. I believe that he took a clear, unequivocal line against terrorism. There are no lovers of terrorism in the Chamber today, but there are many who uphold the principle of free speech. Many of us believe that it is vitally important that we recognise the nature of the regime with which we are dealing.
Six or seven years ago, I took up the cases of two Christian leaders in Iran—Medi Dibaj and Bishop Haik—both of whom were executed. Interestingly, at that time the regime tried to lay the blame at the door of the Iranian resistance. Last year, it emerged in its official propaganda that the regime now accepts that it was the regime's agents who took the lives of those two clergymen.
Therefore, the dark process that has been taking place inside Iran is not a simple or easy one. It is not one which we should be misled into believing will be easily resolved, and certainly not by acts of violence. In that respect, I agree with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. We all want to see, wherever possible, a peaceful transition and the emergence of true democracy.
I believe that all the indications show that Iran is on the brink of change. Almost four years have passed since Mohammad Khatami became the president. He came then with the promise of reform. Western governments, eager perhaps, as the students suggested in their letter, to have more trade with Tehran, embarked upon a more conciliatory approach towards the mullahs' regime.
Four years later, reform and change within the clerical establishment in Iran have proved to be no more than an illusion. That is not strange because Khatami himself is part of that clerical regime, responsible for the atrocities committed over the past two decades. In 1988, he supported the massacres of 30,000 political prisoners. Not once has he publicly criticised the regime's conduct in such atrocities. However, he has repeatedly expressed allegiance to his mentor, Khomeini, and the current spiritual leader, Khamenei. Not long ago, he said—the noble and learned Lord referred to this during his opening remarks—that there is no talk in Tehran of changing the constitution. In fact, he said:Today. talk of changing the constitution amounts to changing the state. This is treachery to the state and the Iranian nation".178 That was said only a year ago.
British foreign policy is not well served by hitching it to that kind of tarnished star. Khatami had four years in which to bring about change, but he chose not to do so. He wants cosmetic change and not real reform. He knows better than anyone else that moving in that direction will jeopardise the survival of the theocratic regime.
No longer can anyone deny that Khatami has failed and that the people of Iran are continuing to demand change. Over the past year, through dozens of anti-government demonstrations across the country. they have clearly stated that demand. They want to establish a new system which will respect human rights; a system that will guarantee a free and fair election; and a government who will recognise the rights of women and respect the rights of religious and national minorities. Those people have no doubt that the present regime is not the one to do that.
However, it seems that the cry of the Iranian people is currently falling on deaf ears; or perhaps we are listening too much to the mullahs and to their apologists in this constructive engagement so that we do not hear what the people themselves are saying. I believe that the decision by the Home Secretary to proscribe the Mujaheddin is a clear example that we are siding with the mullahs instead of with the people.
I have been following the situation in Iran for some 20 years. It was as a young Member of another place that I organised a meeting on behalf of the resistance 20 years ago at my then party's conference. Indeed, I organised a meeting for them at each and every subsequent conference, even while I was that party's then Chief Whip. Therefore, along with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, who mentioned the meetings that have been held at Labour Party conferences over the years, I also ask whether in the future such gatherings will be legal or whether they will be proscribed under these orders. Will it mean that even at party political conferences it will not be possible to hear the voices of people who resist that regime? It is quite extraordinary that we should have created such a situation.
Therefore, I was very disturbed to see that the Home Secretary had included that organisation in the list. I am in no doubt that the decision has nothing to do with terrorism but that it is a political decision. It is a sad day for our democracy. Values that we have upheld for decades and even centuries are being violated. Defending the Mujaheddin in this case is defending not only the right of Iranian people to resist; it is defending our own values. It is defending the most fundamental rights of human beings: the right to freedom of expression; the right to freedom of assembly; and the right to freedom of association.
Another problem arises for this Government in proceeding with this list of orders—the "take it or leave it" list. Thousands of Iranians in this country 179 support the Mujaheddin. Most of them have, as I said, been granted political asylum for their connection with, or support for, the Mujaheddin. Where will this order leave the people who have been given asylum if they continue to support the Mujaheddin in the future? Many of them were prosecuted and persecuted in Iran. Expressing their support for the Mujaheddin was tantamount to arrest, torture and, in many cases, execution.
Thank God that we do not have the death penalty, although I believe that it is gratuitous to compare capital punishment, which I oppose, in the United States with the type of public executions which the noble Lord, Lord Clarke of Hampstead, rightly reminded us of during his excellent contribution earlier. None the less, the Government are saying to those people, "If you express your views, you will be imprisoned". The families of many Iranians in the United Kingdom have been executed in Iran for being a member of the Mujaheddin. I wonder whether they will be able to hold, for example, a memorial in the future for their beloved ones or whether that, too, would he considered as support for the Mujaheddin.
I echo the remarks of my noble friend Lord Colville, who earlier asked the Minister directly—I hope that he will reply later when he replies to this debate—whether or not the information to which he has been privy will be made available to the Court of Appeal if and when this matter finally comes to rest there.
Four years ago we were told that the new government here would follow an ethical policy in foreign affairs. Today we are confronted with what I consider to be a most unethical policy. For economic or whatever reasons, we have given in to the demands of a brutal regime. How can we justify holding a dialogue with those who stone their own people and yet accuse their victims as terrorists? How can we talk of an ethical policy, yet take sides with the oppressors and not with the victims?
I end by trying to set out my view clearly. I believe that our Government are making a serious mistake. Proscribing the Mujaheddin is not only wrong morally and unethical; it is also unwise from a hard-headed, political point of view. The mullahs' regime is in real trouble and the people of Iran have made it absolutely clear that they want an end to the present dictatorship. Therefore, I believe that this Government are betting on the wrong horse. I have said it before and I stress again that the solution for Iran is democratisation. In that respect, the NCR is the force that cannot he ignored in the current situation in Iran. I believe that we would be wise to support the amendment laid before the House tonight by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Lord Smith of Clifton
My Lords, perhaps I may make the shortest speech in the debate tonight and refer to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. I well understand the reasons which motivate the noble Lord in seeking to delineate the different varieties of IRA. However, I have some reservations.
180 Moving away from the generic IRA label and specifying the varieties may be counter-productive to his aims. I believe that it would merely tempt the growth of further adjectival innovations, such as the "Artificial IRA", the "Episodic IRA", and so on. It is better simply to proscribe the IRA per se as it is at present in the schedule to the Act. That is the best way in which to deal with these particular terrorist groups.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Lord Rea
My Lords, I shall make only a short contribution. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, mentioned the meeting that was held this morning in Committee Room 3, organised by Liberation. It was attended by members of a number of the 21 organisations, and they discussed the order that we are debating tonight. It was an extremely well ordered meeting and the contributions were constructive. It was also extremely colourful because people came in their traditional dress. There were Sikhs. Kurds, Kashmiri, Tamils and Iranians, to name but a few. It did not appear to me at all that I was in the presence of terrorists.
The question that first springs to mind is: why introduce the order at this time? So far as I can discover, there has been no particular escalation of acts of terrorism during the past few months, and none of the proscribed organisations has committed illegal acts in the United Kingdom. There is little evidence that any of the organisations plotted their acts of violence in the UK. Perhaps my noble friend has other evidence; if he does, it would be nice if he could share it with us.
The noble Viscount, Lord Colville, discussed much more eloquently than I could the problems associated with secretly held information. As my noble and learned friend Lord Archer and other noble Lords pointed out, most members of those organisations who live in the UK are refugees and had to leave their countries precisely because of their membership of one or other of the 21 organisations in the order. They had to leave not because they had committed acts of terrorism but simply because they were members of an organisation. It is somewhat ironic that they should face prosecution for the same reason for which they were granted, or applied for, asylum in the first place.
The listed organisation with which I am most familiar is the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which is based in Turkey and which is often criticised. I am puzzled by its current inclusion because, for the past two-and-a-half years—well before its leader, Abdullah Öcalan, was captured in Kenya—the PK K has declared a ceasefire. Previous ceasefires before that period broke down not because the PKK violated them but because the Turkish Government took no notice and continued their military operation against the Kurdish population in south-east Turkey. Even now, Turkey is illegally and relentlessly pursuing members or supporters of the PKK who are sheltering in Iraq. The Turks are destroying the villages of Kurds who give those members or supporters shelter. That is done with the connivance of ourselves and the United 181 States, which, by arrangement, permit Turkey to send helicopter gunships and other aircraft across the no-fly zones.
The PKK has clearly declared its intention to pursue its aims by political means. To proscribe it now, when it was not proscribed in this country during the period in which it engaged in armed resistance—it was tolerated by the previous government—is extremely odd to say the least. Perhaps my noble friend will explain why the Government choose to proscribe the PKK now. Is it perhaps—perish the thought—in order to please or placate the Turkish Government at their request in return for allowing our aircraft to use Turkish air force facilities at Incirlik? We used that as a base in our efforts against Iraq.
My noble friend can expect busy legal moves for "de-proscription" from the PKK and other organisations. I expect that the courts and the legal profession will have plenty of extra work as a result of the order.
§ 8 p.m.
§ Lord Fitt
My Lords, I have waited until almost the end of this debate before contributing because it is regarded almost as an irritant to speak about terrorism in Northern Ireland. Speeches have been delivered with great passion and solemnity about terrorism or alleged terrorists in far outposts of the world.
I recall vividly that in August 1998, a few days after the Omagh bombing, the House met in sombre mood. I recall the speeches that were made then about the atrocity that had been carried out by the Real IRA. I recall that it was said that we would leave no stone unturned until we had apprehended those people and that we would use every endeavour to bring them to justice. The pages of Hansard are littered with such proclamations. Yet today the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, made a simple request for the three organisations that are mentioned in his amendment to be included in the order.
We have heard today about atrocities that were carried out by the Iranian Government and about other activities that are alleged to have been carried out by other terrorist organisations. All last week and all this week, the national newspapers in Belfast have been reporting daily that someone has been murdered by one of the organisations or kneecapped by them and left disabled for the rest of their lives.
As to far-away places, I am inclined to think of Czechoslovakia just before the last war. However, we can do something about the situation in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Although we express our concerns and disappointment about what is happening in other faraway countries, we have the ability to take whatever steps are necessary to inhibit the organisations that are mentioned in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran.
The noble Lords, Lord Marsh and Lord Rogan, mentioned Northern Ireland and the Omagh bomb. Many of us from Northern Ireland met the relatives of 182 the Omagh victims last week. We were made aware of their great disappointment about the fact that no one had been brought before the courts in relation to the atrocity. Everyone in Northern Ireland knows that the Real IRA did it. Everyone in Northern Ireland, particularly the police in Northern Ireland, know the identity of the people who carried out the atrocity. We were told last week that governments cannot do anything to bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice and that it is not within the ambit of an elected government to support a private prosecution. All I can say is that the people of Northern Ireland, especially the relatives of those killed in Omagh, feel betrayed by the inaction of the Government. Not one Real IRA man has been brought before the courts in Northern Ireland and charged with the offence. But we find time to discuss what is happening in all these other countries. It is the Government's prime responsibility to do all that they can to attack the organised terrorists who act in our midst and to ensure that life is made extremely difficult for them.
The noble Lord, Lord Rogan, mentioned the fact that the Continuity IRA held a meeting in a pub in north London because it was collecting money for its organisation, which is allegedly an illegal organisation. The person who led that collection effort was none other than one of the Price sisters, who were convicted of murder in what is known in Northern Ireland as the Old Bailey bombing. Someone convicted of murder for an IRA terrorist offence in 1971 can now walk freely in London and support an organisation—the Continuity IRA—which is in open war with the Government.
When we say anything about the Provisional IRA, others say, "They are observing a ceasefire and are not murdering policemen or soldiers or carrying out major explosions in Northern Ireland or in this country. Don't be too critical of them because that may in some way harm the peace process". We hear repeatedly—I listened to it all weekend—"Do not say anything about the Provisional IRA members because they are on a cease-fire". That is the wrong attitude. We should continue to harass all sections of the IRA, whether it be the Real IRA or the Continuity IRA. Those people are still engaged in terrorist activities, not against the Army or the police on this occasion, but against ordinary members of the community, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Marsh. In that respect I cannot see any justification for the Government not accepting the request made by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, supports the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, on the proscription of certain organisations not mentioned in the schedule. But he will agree with me that the reason why nobody was prosecuted for the Omagh bombing has nothing to do with proscription and that the experience we have had with proscription in the past in Northern Ireland shows that it does not necessarily help to catch the criminals who perpetrate terrorist acts. The Omagh bombing is a good example of the difficulty we face; 183 that is, that the police in Northern Ireland know perfectly well who committed that offence, but for reasons which are not absolutely clear to me—they may concern the difficulties of obtaining sufficient forensic evidence—they have not brought proceedings against those concerned.
The same may be true of the other organisations listed in the order. We are satisfying ourselves that we are combating international terrorism, but we may not be doing a great deal to put the perpetrators behind bars. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, put his finger on it when he said that the trouble is that we have been friendly with a great many people in the past who have attended our party conferences. We are suddenly criminalising them and do not know how that can happen with people we know are not terrorists.
The fact is that any armed opposition group or anybody who supports an armed opposition group in whatever country in the world is ipso facto a terrorist. That is what the definition in Article I says. It was pointed out that if the order had been in force at the time, it would have caught people like Nelson Mandela of the ANC; it would have applied to the opposition parties which contested the Zimbabwe elections after the Lancaster House conference in 1980, and to Fretilin in East Timor after 1975. So the examples given could be multiplied almost indefinitely.
The West has not always taken such a rigid stance against armed oppositions in other countries combating repressive regimes. At one time the United States backed UNITA in Angola. Of course the outstanding example which we live to regret is the mujaheddin in Afghanistan. President Bush senior tried to persuade the Shi'a of Iraq to rise against Saddam in 1991 after operation Desert Storm. So there are plenty of examples in the recent past where states and our own governments have supported armed oppositions which are fighting repressive regimes.
The UN General Assembly repeatedly recognised that peoples under colonial or alien domination have the right to struggle and to seek and receive support in the exercise of their right to self-determination. It ruled that the use of armed force in those circumstances fell outside its definition of aggression. If we had been more careful to uphold the principles of international law, we ought at least to have excluded those cases from the definition. If that much is accepted, should we not at least have required the Secretary of State to consider whether, in each of the 21 cases listed here, the organisation could have sought its objectives peacefully through the political system in the state concerned.
The noble Lord, Lord Rea, mentioned the PKK. The Kurds in Turkey had no chance, as a minority, to exercise the rights laid down in the OSCE's Copenhagen declaration because, as your Lordships are aware, the Turks do not admit the existence of any minorities other than those mentioned specifically in the Lausanne treaty of 1923—the handful of Christians who remained in the country at that time. 184 The advocacy of internal self-government is against the constitution and is prosecuted under their terrorism law.
The People's Mujaheddin of Iran cannot pursue its goal of a secular democratic state by peaceful means when the supremacy of the religious leader is the fundamental principle of the Islamic revolution and anybody rash enough to question that idea is a criminal. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, mentioned, the president himself said that that person is guilty of treason and 30,000 of the members of that organisation were slaughtered in cold blood in 1988 on the orders of Ayatollah Khomeini. Many other opponents of the regime like Dr Shapour Bakhtiar, the Shah's last prime minister, and Dariush Forouhar, a distinguished political peaceful activist, have been murdered by the agents of the mullahs.
On the other hand, the LTTE in Sri Lanka, like other Tamil political parties, could have worked through the political system. There is on offer in that state a substantial devolution package which gives wide powers of self-government, or would do, to a Tamil-elected agency in the majority areas which are generously defined. Whatever the faults may be of that scheme, once the government recognised the need for a kind of home rule, there was no excuse for continuing to use the gun.
None of those considerations affected the mind of the Home Secretary in deciding how to pick the 21 organisations with which we are dealing out of the many thousands which satisfy the Act's definition. He said that the factors he took into account, which were repeated by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, were the nature and scale of the organisation's activities; the specific threat it posed to the UK; the specific threat it posed to British nationals overseas; the extent of the organisation's presence in the UK and the need to support other members of the international community in the global fight against terrorism.
If one looks at the list and the helpful notes provided by the Minister, 11 of the 21 organisations have no overt presence in the UK or only one or two members who are being held already on extradition warrants. Those bodies are therefore untouched by the proscription and their inclusion seems to be a political gesture with no meaning—what the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, called a "badge of disapproval". For instance, the November 17 organisation is undoubtedly a vicious murder gang responsible for the killing of the British defence attaché, Brigadier Stephen Saunders, in Athens in June last year. But it has operated entirely in Greece. We cannot any longer send the navy, as we did in the days of Don Pacifico and civis Romanus sum; but we can strike fear into the hearts of those who attack our citizens by putting them on a list.
On that principle we should have proscribed a great many other organisations, such as the FARC in Colombia, a faction of rebels in Chechnya which was guilty of kidnapping and murdering British citizens, and the former junta of Pinochet in Chile and the Indonesian army, which murdered two British citizens in 1975. All those have wilfully killed British civilians. 185 Is it sensible to add them all to an omnibus list even larger than the 21 we have in front of us? In most cases the individual concerned should be prosecuted in the courts of his own country. If he came within our jurisdiction and there was enough evidence against him, he could be extradited to that country to be dealt with for the substantive offence of causing harm or killing a British civilian rather than for being a member of an organisation.
As regards fundraising, people do not go round saying that they want money for explosives and firearms. As the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, remarked, we do not see terrorists with placards saying, "Poor terrorist, RPG and two kalashnikovs to support". They operate under the guise of charities. Even the LTTE, which has its international secretariat in the UK, operates through front organisations which are ostensibly for the relief of hardship and suffering in the north and east of Sri Lanka. The Charity Commission is already seized of that matter. It is looking actively at one body, the Tamil rehabilitation organisation, and scrutinising two others.
The Charity Commission needs to be even more active in its inquiries into bodies which claim to be charitable where there are grounds for suspicion that their funds are being diverted into terrorism. But that will not be achieved under this order. In the case of the International Sikh Youth Federation, which has been mentioned, the Home Office states that it provides a base for fundraising. That implies to me that it does not itself raise money for terrorism. It would be useful to know how the Minister thinks it operates. The ISYF has vigorously denied to a number of your Lordships that it has anything to do with terrorism. Looking at its published objects, it is entirely peaceful. It points out that a prominent member was awarded the OBE. As the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, remarked, the president of the organisation met the Prime Minister, as did other senior members, on an occasion on which it celebrated the 300th anniversary of the Sikh nation. The fact that two members of that organisation were found to be a threat to national security—though for other reasons they were not deported to India, as the note states—poses two questions in my mind.
First, where any organisation has peaceful objectives but some of its members have engaged in violence, is it terrorist? If so, why do we make the distinction in Ireland between Sinn Fein, whose objectives are political but some of whose members have committed acts of terrorism, and the IRA, which is avowedly terrorist? Secondly, as has been mentioned by a number of your Lordships, what is our policy now concerning the people who have been given asylum here, partly on the basis of membership of or having links with one of the organisations on the list? Do those people automatically commit an offence immediately the order comes into effect, or would they have to renew their "subs" before they could be charged? The practice is that none of the bodies listed would have a formal record of membership. However, they have large numbers of supporters who take political action in support of their objectives. That is 186 illustrated well by the number of letters, from which your Lordships have quoted, from organisations which support the People's Mujaheddin in the UK protesting at its inclusion of the list. Presumably, none of the writers of those letters belongs to the PMOI, but they advocate a democratic sector in Iran, and its presence in the UK shows that it was unable to pursue those objectives in Iran.
Finally, I endorse the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Rea, about the oddity of listing the PKK here two years after it declared a cease-fire. That seems not just odd but perverse. We are discouraging people from declaring cease-fires if we say, "It does not really matter" because, as the note tells us, cease-fires have broken down in the past. Therefore, the PKK is still to be classified as terrorist, no matter, presumably, how long the cease-fire continues.
There is a balance to be struck between the preservation of our rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly on the one hand, and our commitment to the global fight against terrorism on the other. I agree with the Government that we should take steps to prevent the UK from being used as a base from which to plan, organise or finance acts of terrorism elsewhere in the world. However. I also think that since we cannot possibly proscribe all the thousands of organisations throughout the world which are concerned with terrorism within the definition of Section 3 of the Act, including some governments, we should have done better to go down this road cautiously, limiting the use of the power to states which have democratic, pluralistic governments.
§ Viscount Waverley
My Lords, I thought long and hard over the weekend as to whether to move an amendment to have each group proposed and those put forward in the future to pass through a relevant committee for vetting purposes. Indeed, the committee of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, might be ideally suited, and I wish that I had followed that through. For reasons that I shall explain, I believe that open debate is not the answer. On the other hand, we should concentrate on exacting certification of which groups would be proscribed and why.
The noble Lord. Lord Bassam, spoke of terrorism. Everyone tells me that it is well defined in the Act. However, I think it would be helpful to understand exactly what is meant by terrorism. A question occurred to me, particularly listening to the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord McNally; that is, which of those organisations on our proposed proscribed list do not appear on the American equivalent designated list? Can we see the differences? It may well be that the Minister does not have that information immediately to hand, but if he does perhaps I may ask that he kindly considers placing the information in the Library. Ideally, we should all be working in a harmonised and co-ordinated way in the international fight against terrorism.
I have long supported the principle of a proscribed list. I am sympathetic to the spirit of the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord McNally. However, 187 for practical reasons, as existing provisions stand, I believe that it is right for the executive to make unilateral decisions about individual terrorist groups. No Minister—this point has been made over and over again this afternoon—can ever realistically be expected to defend in open forum and in detail evidence derived from intelligence briefings. The noble Lord, Lord Marsh, was right to point to the appeals process.
One of the detrimental effects of debate in Parliament about a particular terrorist group's impending designation would be to alert the group concerned that it is about to be designated, thereby giving it more than sufficient time to move financial assets around. So, by extension, I am afraid that I cannot support the amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell. Perhaps I may say with the greatest respect to the noble and learned Lord that not all his remarks about the electoral process in Iran were entirely accurate. It was the reformers who were the beneficiaries in the round to which I believe he referred.
I refer to the MPs and Peers who we have been told put their names to a list in support for the Mujaheddin. That list has never been made public. I would appreciate seeing who all the people were who put their names to that list. I know that those on our side who are engaged in the subject would also appreciate that opportunity.
Let there be no doubt; I abhor the complaint, if true, made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, about Iran. However—I make the point only—there is conflict between the differing governing factions. It should be noted that there has been the beginning of a change in that country. An example might be that the Stale of Iran is now a signatory to the International Criminal Court, on which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, has worked so tirelessly.
I have no doubt that the Home Secretary will be sensitive to the amendments tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Mancroft and Glentoran. The ideal alternative to open debate would be confidential notification of the intention to designate a group to allow for expressions of concern or opposition. The process would be better informed but, as I suggest, is impractical.
In this less than ideal process, therefore, the Minister might assuage concerns by confirming that consideration includes extensive inter-agency review of the evidence of each group's involvement in terrorism. Suitable mechanisms must exist to ensure that inclusion or exclusion does not rely on any particular Minister's Bank-Bench prejudices, as one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist, particularly when being pressed by constituents. I would hope that the Home Secretary would be sympathetic to receiving representations from Members of Parliament.
I was surprised and disappointed at the declaration by the Home Secretary that the list was,not driven by foreign policy considerations".188 I believe that to be ill-judged. Our system for designating foreign terrorist organisations differs from that of the Americans, whose straightforward approach involves, for example, identifying a foreign policy priority, like the Middle East peace process, and then determining which organisations fulfil the criteria of being detrimental to that process, whether it be by murder and extortion or through financing or other relevant means.
Terrorist organisations often cloak their activities with good works. However, I take it from the Minister's opening remarks that any contribution to a designated foreign terrorist organisation, regardless of the intended purpose, is illegal.
What then is the rationale behind the list before us today? I should appreciate clarification. The interpretation of "terrorism" within Part I of the Act clearly permits consideration of foreign policy concerns and objectives. Indeed, foreign policy concerns by extension are domestic, as the effects invariably remain to haunt us in one form or another.
I therefore sense a degree of uncertainty about the driving forces behind the list, producing both coherence and anomalies. The Americans; for instance, rightly have the ELN and FARC of Colombia on their list. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, was right to include them. We do not. I recognise that the United Kingdom has been and is being instrumental in encouraging particularly FARC to participate in the current peace dialogue and that to put its name on the list now might be to send ambiguous signals. While I appreciate the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, about the IRA, the state of Colombia would want to encourage the process and would prefer their names to appear not necessarily immediately.
However, I wish to flag the following. FARC's willingness to enter serious peace negotiations is much in doubt. Both groups attack oil and gas infrastructure; heavily engage in kidnappings, with an average in the country as a whole of up to 3,000 a year; disrupt the democratic process through murder and extortion; and, what should worry the Minister as much as anything else, are at the centre of protection for the narcotics industry.
Large swathes of the "national interest" are under attack here. Their actions on occasions make the IRA look like amateurs. If they withdraw from the peace process, I urge the Minister to have the appropriate system thoroughly re-evaluate their status. I speak knowing of the terror caused by those groups in Colombia.
Having taken the welcome decision to proscribe terrorist organisations, surely it behoves the Government to eschew ambivalence in favour of clear-cut fundamental criteria for proscription. Why can we not, for example, state that we do not support violent means where other remedies are available and have not been exhausted? And why do we distinguish between the "military wings" of some groups but not of other—perhaps less sophisticated—movements? Are there "good works" associated with terrorist groups that are 189 more or less acceptable than others? Is this for convenience or political expediency? Why are all organisations with such detrimental effects on our national interest not proscribed by us? Is this merely a preliminary list? It suggests a hesitancy, as though our heart is not really in this exercise. In my view, greater consideration needs to be given to appropriate definition such that "foreign terrorist organisations" can be fairly and squarely pinpointed.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Lord Cope of Berkeley
My Lords, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, indicated some hours ago when we began the debate, it was always going to be a difficult one. Of course there is the difficulty to which the noble Viscount referred of distinguishing terrorists from freedom fighters. They can be the same people at different stages in their lives. However, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, that I do not have a view of Mr Menachem Begin's early terrorist activities which is different from the view I held some years ago. But I do not want to enter the question of Palestine tonight—we have roamed far enough geographically.
The other reason why the debate was always going to be difficult was that we all recognise the Government's problems in disclosing to your Lordships' House and then to the public the intelligence and full reasons behind the choice of the various organisations included in the order. I know a little about that. My direct experience of fighting terrorism came from a spell as security Minister in Northern Ireland. In that connection, I agree thoroughly with every word spoken today by the noble Lord, Lord Fitt.
However, some of the debate has related to the process in which we are involved, beginning with the definition of "terrorism". Those noble Lords who took part in the debates on the Terrorism Bill will recall that we struggled a great deal with the definition. Many amendments were tabled and there was a great deal of discussion. The Government listened carefully and the definition was modified in the course of those debates. I pay tribute to them for that.
The definition is now clear in Section 1 of the Terrorism Act. Summarising it, it is the use or threat of violence for political, religious or ideological cause. That is to say, it is the use of violence against the public—and that is in any part of the world and is not confined to the United Kingdom—intended to influence political, ideological and religious decisions. We firmly believe in democracy and that decisions should not be taken as a result of violence. To accept that is to say that if violence is to rule the decisions, the greatest violence will eventually decide who governs and who controls what.
§ Lord Archer of Sandwell
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Does he accept that that decision cannot operate unilaterally? The violence must be eschewed on the part not only of the governed but of the government?
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Lord Cope of Berkeley
My Lords, of course that is true and that is what drives the British Government in their policy best illustrated by Northern Ireland. Some criticise what they call "the restraint"—the holding back, as it were—of the troops and so forth at different stages. But we all know why that was done; it was because of thoughts such as the noble and learned Lord expressed.
As regards distinguishing between existing organisations in other parts of the world pursuing their objectives, we have had good illustrations today of the difficulties of making the judgment and none better than in the case if Iran. We heard a powerful speech from the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, in support of the Government's decision on Iran. Other speakers made the opposite point from their knowledge of Iran. I do not have such knowledge but I had exiled Iranians living in my constituency and therefore learnt a little about it. However, I have never been there and I do not know as much as some noble Lords who have spoken today. We heard similarly powerful speeches on behalf of the International Sikh Youth Federation, which has written many letters to us.
That illustrates the difficulties of deciding which organisations should be included. However, I am on the side of the noble Lord, Lord Marsh. I believe that the Government, with all the facilities they have at their beck and call, particularly as regards intelligence and so forth, must make these difficult decisions and they should do so. That is what they have done.
Of course that is not the end of the matter. We heard about the appeal process and the noble Viscount asked careful questions to which I hope the Minister will respond. During the course of the Terrorism Bill, we approved the mechanism for the appeal process and its conduct.
Some other speakers have asked why additional organisations should not be included. As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, there are very many organisations that might be included. A day or two ago I was asked why the Shining Path and Tupac Amaru of Peru, which certainly have organised in London in the past and have been responsible for some terrible events there, were not included. All I say in connection with those organisations is that this list is not necessarily the end of it: no doubt there will be additions to and subtractions from it in due course and further orders of this character. I hope that the list will not be quite so mixed because it makes the debate very difficult. In that sense, I have sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord McNally, and his amendment. My goodness, is it not a good thing that, unlike the other place, in this House we do not have time-limited debates? In the other place the time limit under Standing Orders is extremely strict and it is impossible to debate an order of this kind properly. We certainly could not have had anything like the debate that we have had in your Lordships' House.
More particularly, why not include the kinds of terrorists to which my noble friend Lord Mancroft referred earlier? The Minister said in opening that no 191 domestic organisations were included in the proscription. That may have been an indirect reference to the organisations to which my noble friend referred. However, that is not true. Domestic organisations are included; in particular, in the context of Northern Ireland substantially on the loyalist and IRA sides. I shall not develop the Northern Irish point because my noble friend Lord Glentoran spoke to that. But it is extremely important to proscribe organisations of that character, I hope that the Home Office is not in any way discouraged by either the length of the debate or anything that has been said this afternoon from looking hard at organisations of this kind in deciding whether or not to place them on the proscribed list.
This is a tough power which makes it an offence to belong to the organisation, to raise money for it and to organise meetings. Any money that is raised can be confiscated, and so on. Those in your Lordships' House and the other place gave this important power to the Government in the Terrorism Bill (now Act), which built on existing terrorist legislation, only a few months ago. We should support the Government in all they do in trying to implement the power and take these very difficult decisions because that is in the interests of democracy here and elsewhere in the world.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, this has been a very interesting debate. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cope, for the sympathy and understanding extended to me in attempting to draw the debate to a close. I started the debate with a headache, which has become worse. I have been taking medicine throughout. I wish that the glass before me contained something else because it might be of some assistance, but my headache is not due to the quality of the debate but rather my general ill health.
I shall try to deal in turn with the four amendments to the Government's Motion. I shall probably dwell rather more on the first than on the other three amendments because much of the debate concentrated on the issues unlocked by the contribution of my noble and learned friend Lord Archer when speaking to his amendment. My noble and learned friend started from a point to which others returned: the issue of definition. We had a very good debate on definition during the passage of the Bill. The Government listened very carefully to the representations made and took account of the views then expressed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, who advised us in detail on the importance of getting the definition right.
Definitions are by their very nature not always perfect, and certainly they are not a perfect science. But I believe that we have a workable definition and that we must now turn our minds to how that definition is to be used and to how it will work in regard to proscription. Noble Lords will be aware that under Part II of the Terrorism Act 2000 the Home Secretary, in the case of international or domestic organisations, may proscribe any organisation which he believes is concerned with terrorism where he believes that the statutory criteria have been satisfied 192 in a particular case. He has discretion as to whether or not to proscribe. That is really at the heart of what we have been considering during this afternoon's debate.
In laying the draft order on 28th February, the Home Secretary confirmed that he was entirely satisfied that all of the 21 organisations listed, including the Mujaheddin e Khalq, which has been referred to extensively this afternoon, the PKK, which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and my noble friend Lord Rea, and the LTTE, which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, fell within the terms of the criteria. Information on the terrorist activities of the Mujaheddin e Khalq, as my noble and learned friend Lord Archer will know, was included in a note sent to Members of both Houses on 28th February.
As to the procedures for use of the new legislation, I believe that we have set up a most transparent process to deal with the very difficult issue of terrorist organisations. As a government we have undertaken to put more information into the public domain than has hitherto been the case. That has enabled us to come to very clear, though difficult, decisions.
During the debate this afternoon your Lordships' House has been regaled with pleas for several organisations to be removed from the list or reconsidered. At all times we are in a position to do that, but we have come to a fixed view. I turn first to the Mujaheddin e Khalq which has excited most interest and a very passionate debate, perhaps best exemplified, on the one hand, by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, and, on the other, by the contributions of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and my noble friend, Lord Clarke of Hampstead. I have no doubt that the views expressed were based on those particular noble Lords' understanding of that organisation.
In the end, I must agree with most of the analysis of the Mujaheddin e Khalq offered to your Lordships' House by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. From all that we know of it, it is a terrorist organisation. The MeK claims to be a democratic party which fights for a different and better Iran, but its terrorist actions are not consistent with that claim. I do not believe that we can see it as a democratic freedom movement. As the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, argued, the MeK has no popular base in Iran because of its support for Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war. The MeK headquarters are based in Baghdad. My understanding is that the organisation is still one of Saddam's most trusted supporters. As to that, I can confirm what the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, said.
The MeK was also responsible for the assassination in August 1998 of Asadollah Lajevardi, a former Minister of Prisons. In April 1999 the Iranian Deputy Joint Chief of Staff of Iran's armed forces was killed in Tehran by MeK operatives. The MeK also claimed responsibility for a series of mortar bomb attacks during January and February 2000 against the southwestern town of Ilam and in early 2001 against Karaj and Ilam.
The British Government remain firmly opposed to the violence practised by the MeK. Her Majesty's Government have condemned acts of terrorism by that 193 organisation, just as they condemn all acts of terrorism wherever and whenever they take place, whatever their motivation. That should not be read or understood as saying that we justify the behaviour or approach of the Iranian Government. That is far from the case.
The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, in his contribution, recognised that there are many concerns, even though there have been some welcome moves on human rights issues in Iran. The UK and the EU co-sponsored a UN resolution on the subject as recently as 4th December last year. We are also supporting a commission of human rights resolution in Geneva.
The Government have been vigorous in progressing human rights concerns. When my right honourable friend Mo Mowlam visited Iran, she was not backward in coming forward on precisely those issues. She forcefully made known her views.
There are the beginnings of an improvement, not just in UK-Iranian relations, but also on some of the issues of concern expressed very effectively by a number of noble Lords. We do not condone human rights abuses. We remain very unhappy about many of the approaches to governments adopted by the Iranian Government. We shall not withdraw or stint from being critical where that is right. But if we engage that government in constructive dialogue and discussion about these matters, we believe that we can make some progress in those areas.
A number of questions were raised about who we had consulted in putting together the list. We consulted the security services and the police. We had internal consultations and, importantly, we consulted the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In all those consultations human rights issues were of concern.
It is important that we go through some of the issues that have been raised not least by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville—
§ Lord Archer of Sandwell
My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving way. I asked him specifically whether there were any consultations with human rights organisations.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, we did not think it appropriate to consult human rights organisations. That is not really part of the process of proscription. However, I recognise that the noble and learned Lord has a point. No doubt that is a point on which we can reflect carefully over time. The Government are seized of the importance of human rights and recognise that ultimately human rights considerations will play a part if proscription is challenged through the POAC route and perhaps even at Court of Appeal level.
The noble Viscount, Lord Colville, raised questions about proscribed organisations and their ability to fight proscription. Those concerns are well understood. It could be argued that any individual who seeks "deproscription" by way of application directly to the Home Secretary or by appeal, either on behalf of a proscribed organisation or as a person 194 affected, might be discouraged from pursuing either course by the risk of prosecution for certain offences; namely, the offences under Sections 11 to 13, the membership support sections; under Sections 15 to 19, on fund-raising, use and possession of funding arrangements, money and disclosure; and under Section 56, on directing a terrorist organisation. Section 10 ensures that evidence of anything done in relation to the application proceedings, including any documents submitted for those purposes, will not be admissible in evidence for those offences mentioned above. Therefore. we feel that organisations wishing to challenge proscription will not be inhibited in the way suggested by the noble Viscount and other noble Lords.
§ Lord Mayhew of Twysden
My Lords, I apologise for my intervention. It is intended to be helpful, which the Minister may find very surprising. Can the Minister add to the point that he has cogently been making that the Act provides that there shall be a right of appeal to the Court of Appeal on the ground that a decision—and it may be a decision to deny "deproscription"—is flawed in the light of the principles that apply to judicial review? Does the noble Lord accept that the principles which apply to judicial review boil down ultimately to fairness or unfairness? So, written into the Act, there is the concept which has to be applied by a court outside the structure provided by the Act of the commission and so forth, of looking at the matter in terms of whether the decision is fair or unfair. Is not that a unique and certainly new safeguard?
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, it is the case that there is nothing in the Terrorism Act which would prevent—this is probably a view that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, shares—a judicial review of a POAC decision.
I was going to come on to that very point because it was an issue raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville: POAC rules are and were subject to an affirmative resolution procedure and were debated and approved by both Houses. The POAC process is very robust. It mirrors SIAC to which the noble Viscount. Lord Colville, referred. So far as I am aware, there has been only one appeal to the Court of Appeal for judicial review of a SIAC decision. We take the view that similar opportunities will arise if at the end of the POAC process there is dissatisfaction, the issue of fairness is raised and the decision of POAC challenged.
In that case—this comes to the heart of the noble Viscount's point—there was no formal role for a special advocate in the SIAC Court of Appeal case involving Rehman, but it went into closed proceedings. There was no formal role for the special advocate as with POAC. Instead the Court of Appeal relied upon its inherent jurisdiction and appointed an amicus to represent the appellant in closed session. That process satisfies the concerns relating to the European Convention on Human Rights and those with regard to national security.
195 National security is most important in the debate. While I take the challenge raised to the Government by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, that in this area we need to be careful of just simply claiming that the Government know best, it is important to reflect carefully on the advice given and made available to government from the security services. Those matters have to be carefully balanced. But, given that consideration, we have ensured through POAC—it will be ensured though any challenge to a POAC decision— that considerations of fairness and the appropriateness of using the courts are well understood, so that the quite proper concerns of those who wish to appeal against proscription can be properly recognised and heard.
§ Lord Alton of Liverpool
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I strongly welcome what he said about the use of an atnicus curiae to put the case on behalf of the appellant—that goes some way to answering the point about fairness raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew—but will he say a few more words about the issue of disclosure, which the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, raised with him earlier and which I raised during my remarks? Can he tell us whether all the advice that will have been given to the Home Office in making the decision to place an organisation on the proscribed list will be made available to the Appeal Court should the decision come before it?
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, when POAC considers cases, the advice that is made available to the Home Secretary will be available. I would take it as read that any further appeal to the Court of Appeal would have to consider those matters as well; but very sensitively and in closed session. I am sure that the noble Lord will appreciate why that might be the case.
Many other points were made during the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, raised the issue generally of combating international terrorism. We recognise that the United Kingdom alone cannot combat international terrorism for good, but the introduction of the Terrorism Act 2000 and our intention to proscribe foreign terrorist organisations are important demonstrations of our commitment to fight against international terrorism. We have to take our international responsibilities most seriously. We also take a leading role at the UN, in the EU and with our G8 partners in international efforts to fight terrorism. As a direct result of the Terrorism Act coming into force, the UK has now been able to ratify all the UN conventions relating to terrorism.
Perhaps I may refer to some of the other organisations that were mentioned during the debate. This is an important opportunity for noble Lords to discuss and look at some of those organisations. The noble Lord, Lord Rea, referred to the PKK. We welcome the reduction in violence in south-east Turkey since the PKK declared its ceasefire in summer 1999. But we still believe that the PKK is a terrorist organisation. We believe that the most effective way to work to improve the human rights of the Turkish 196 population as a whole, including the Kurdish community, is our approach of constructive dialogue, bilaterally and at the EU level. To answer his specific point as to when we proscribe and why, we did not proscribe earlier as the power to add foreign terrorist organisations did not come into force until the Act was commenced on 19th February.
Other organisations were mentioned during the debate—
§ Baroness Williams of Crosby
My Lords, I apologise that I was not able to be present for the earlier part of the debate and I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way, especially as I suspect that he is longing to take home his headache. But perhaps I may pursue the issue of the PKK for a moment. An organisation which specifically and publicly abandons violence, as since the arrest and subsequent imprisonment of Mr Oçalan the PKK has done, is surely somewhat discouraged by then being proscribed as a continuing terrorist organisation. Can the Minister say anything about what kind of period of non-violent activity would be required before the Home Office would recommend that such an organisation should no longer continue to be proscribed?
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, it would be wrong for me to opine at the Dispatch Box on the period for which an organisation should have given up its commitment to violent means for securing change. We have to judge each case very much on its merits. The PKK has a long history of violence. It is certainly the case that over the past couple of years it has eschewed that route. I think that we need to see some more progress. But if effective representations are made by representatives arguing for the PKK in the future, we shall have to listen to those. As I said at the outset of the debate, it is open to government to proscribe and deproscribe at any stage. That is a consideration, but a consideration certainly for the future.
The noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, raised the issue of the International Sikh Youth Federation. The terrorist activities of that organisation, established, as the notes say, in the 1980s, have continued since then. The ISYF's attacks have included assassinations, bombings and kidnappings. Mostly, those have been directed against Indian officials and Indian interests. As the notes make clear, the Special Immigration Appeals Committee found in July last year that two ISYF members were a threat to UK national security. There is still a problem here. Despite what the noble Lord said about his contact with those who support the ISYF, we believe that it fits very much and very firmly within the criteria that we have carefully considered and carefully established.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that in the case of the two Sikhs who were alleged to be members of the ISYF, Mr Peter Wrench, the dleputy director general of policy at the Home Office, told the Security and Intelligence Committee, only eight months ago, that the security services in the UK had 197 no problems with the activities of the ISYF? Can the noble Lord say what has changed in the past eight months?
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, I was not aware of those comments. I shall study carefully what the noble Lord said and reflect upon it.
I turn to some of the observations made by the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, before I move on to look at the other amendments which were spoken to during the course of the debate. I say to the noble Viscount that decisions that we reached included and reflected close consultation within government—other Ministers, agencies and so on—and, as I said at the outset, included the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary was contacted and discussed all these matters. They have been given very careful consideration.
The noble Viscount raised the issue of the potential cross-over between our own proscribed list and that of the US government. There is a cross-over, and a number of terrorist organisations are shared by both lists. Probably the safest thing I can do for the purposes of clarity is to provide the noble Viscount with a definitive list. I shall share that with your Lordships' House and ensure that a copy is placed in the Library so that it is there for all to see.
Perhaps I may move on to the issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, in his amendment to the Motion. I understand the point that the noble Lord seeks to make here, but I shall say this to him. We have been debating the 21 organisations for some three-and-a-half hours. If we had tabled 21 separate orders, I imagine that the House would have had to sit for several days in an attempt to consider all of those organisations. We have established a standard practice so that a number of items to be added to legislation can be grouped together, not least for the convenience of your Lordships' House and for ease of debate. Imperfect though the process may be, this debate has given ample voice to the fact that this is an effective forum.
We need also to consider that, outside our debate on the proscribed organisations, there is the proper opportunity for individual consideration of each of those organisations through the process of application and appeal to the Home Secretary. I believe that, over time, that process will be understood and will come to be widely respected.
§ Lord Alton of Liverpool
My Lords, does the noble Lord accept that, out of the 21 organisations that we have been considering, there is no dispute between us about 19 of them? One of the more interesting aspects of today's debate is that consensus has been reached on much of what the Government have done here. However, where there is disagreement, a process should be in place so that the more controversial questions can be aired separately. I believe that that is 198 the point that, quite properly, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, has sought to raise in his amendment to the Motion.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, I thought that consensus had been reached on 18 of the organisations. However, I do not wish enter into an argument on that point.
As I have said, this debate has provided a valuable opportunity to conduct a full discussion, during which the position of a number of organisations has received a fair airing and a number of important points have been made. Imperfect though the process may be, I think that it has provided us with a useful opportunity to consider all of the issues.
I should like to turn now to the amendment standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. We have considered very carefully the issue raised in his amendment. Like the noble Lord, of course we utterly condemn the violent and disruptive attacks carried out on individuals and businesses by animal rights extremists. We recognise fully the severity of those activities and condemn such shameless acts. The police have the full support of the Government and of the public in their efforts to track down the criminals involved.
We considered at length whether to include what I would describe as "domestic extremists", but decided that, at this point, it would not be right to do so. However, if circumstances change and we feel that the situation justifies it, we shall not hesitate to use the route of proscription. But, acting very much on police advice, we decided that it would be unwise to take that further step and bring into the remit of proscription the Animal Liberation Front, the Hunt Retribution Squad and the inaptly named Justice Department.
We believe that criminal law is in place to deal with such organisations. The noble Lord knows that we have brought forward a number of measures further to strengthen the law through the Criminal Justice and Police Bill. The police will be given additional powers to deal with protestors demonstrating outside people's homes—the noble Lord touched on that issue—so that they will be able to direct such protestors to disperse or move away. Failure to comply will be a criminal offence. The Malicious Communications Act 1988 will be amended to enable us to replace the subjective defence presently available to the accused—that they believed that their behaviour was reasonable—with an objective test.
The Department of Trade and Industry is well under way in its aim to produce measures which will allow the addresses of company directors to be withheld from public access. That issue has been of particular concern to Members of your Lordships' House. Several Questions have been tabled on that issue.
We understand the concerns expressed by the noble Lord. Like all noble Lords, we totally condemn the mindless acts of criminality and attacks on people perpetrated by extremists in the animals rights movement over the past few months.
199 I shall turn now to the amendment tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. The amendment invites the Government to list in the schedule of proscribed organisations the Provisional IRA, the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA. This point was debated during the passage of the Terrorism Bill and was discussed again more recently during the debate in the other place on the draft order now before noble Lords. I am happy once again to put our position on the record.
We take the view that the term "Irish Republican Army" captures the Provisional IRA. the Real IRA and Continuity IRA. Each claims to be the standard bearer of the republican movement known as the "IRA". During the debate on the draft order in the other place, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary confirmed, very much on the advice of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, that,The Real IRA is covered, as is the Provisional IRA, by the description 'the Irish Republican Army', which appears at the beginning of schedule 2 … of the Act".—[Official Report, Commons. 13/3/01; col. 951.]The noble Lord, Lord Rogan, referred to the 32-County Sovereignty Committee. The point here is that we have to see that organisation and the Real IRA as opposite sides of the same coin. In saying that, it draws a distinction between terrorism and political wings in the same way that we currently draw a distinction between PIRA and Sinn Fein. Of course I can confirm that the Real IRA is caught, as I said earlier.
We take very careful note of the concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, and by the noble Lord, Glentoran., and I can assure them that the order before us does nothing to affect our position on the proscription of Irish organisations. Again in that context, I can also confirm that deproscription of any of those organisations would be very carefully considered indeed. It is a step on which we would want to consult extensively and widely.
I hope that I have covered some of the main issues raised in this very long and thoughtful debate. I know that I will not have satisfied all Members of your Lordships' House. I shall study Hansard very carefully and concentrate, if I can, on the issues that I have not covered. I shall try, if and where necessary, to respond to those points in writing to the noble Lords who have raised them.
This has been a very useful opportunity for noble Lords quite properly to air their concerns. We believe that, in relation to both the provisions of the Terrorism Act and the organisations recommended now for proscription, we have got the balance about right; we think that we have struck a proportionate approach. The action that the Government have taken is very fair and right in the circumstances. It is right in its attempts to ensure that people within our country are protected from the threat of terrorism and to offer a measure of protection to British citizens overseas. We have been 200 very mindful of our international obligations and we have taken careful account of a range of concerns, some of which have been expressed during the debate.
§ Lord McNally
My Lords, to ensure that we do not fall into error, is the Minister recommending that the House resist all four amendments?
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, I should have said that I cannot commend any of the amendments standing in the names of the noble and learned, Lord Archer, and the noble Lords, Lord McNally, Lord Glentoran and Lord Mancroft. I hope that the House will approve the order as it stands on the Order Paper.
§ Lord Archer of Sandwell
My Lords, it is customary at this stage to thank all noble Lords who have participated in the debate. I do so, and not only formally; I really am grateful to all noble Lords who have participated, even to those who have disagreed with me. This is a subject on which it is quite possible to have legitimate different opinions. I hope that at this hour I shall be forgiven if I do not refer to specific contributions or to specific noble Lords by name.
It seems to me that the significance of the de bate is that it has taken place within parameters that we all share. No one who has taken part supports terrorism, just as no one is indifferent to state tyranny and torture. We all support effective measures against terrorism, just as we all look to the Government to promote international human rights.
But there is always a danger of injustice. We know how horrifying miscarriages of justice have taken place, even where everyone concerned had the best of intentions. We still do not subscribe to a doctrine of Home Office infallibility. We cannot resolve all the problems by dismissing them as unreal; we cannot say that individuals do not matter; we cannot say that some injustices are inevitable and therefore that we should not try to rectify them; we cannot even say that the House should not be bothered with such matters because one day POAC will put it all right. There is no perfect answer, but we are not excused from doing the best that we can.
I sympathise with my noble friend, who has a headache. With his demanding job he needs all the rest he can get. I hope that he will not think me unkind when I say that I hope that he loses some sleep tonight. We should all be losing sleep over this problem and the dangers that it poses. However, this is not the moment to seek the opinion of the House. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.