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Mr. Campbell-Savours rose--

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Hull, North) rose--

Mr. Straw: I shall give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), and then, as I promised, to my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara).

Mr. Campbell-Savours: In the context of the intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant), what would happen if the Turkish Government pleaded that there should be prosecutions within the United Kingdom? What would happen if the Turkish ambassador in London said that he believed that there should be a prosecution?

May I ask another related question, too? As I understand it, decisions on prosecution are taken in the context of what is perceived to be the public interest. We all know of cases in which prosecutions have not been brought because, we have been told, it would not be in "the public interest" to bring such a prosecution.

Would issues such as the allocation of defence contracts, troop deployments overseas and commercial factors form part of a public interest consideration that the Attorney-General and the prosecuting authorities may have to bear in mind when deciding whether a prosecution should be brought? That is what worries me in the Bill, and I hope that my right hon. Friend can give me a satisfactory answer.

Mr. Straw: I shall deal with those points in turn. My hon. Friend asks what would happen if the Turkish Government made representations about someone conspiring to commit offences in Turkey. Such representations would be treated in exactly the same way as any other representations--on their merits. In no sense would they determine whether a prosecution should take place. That would be decided on the evidence.

As for the public interest, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General--like anybody who fills that office--has a difficult set of judgments to make, but he makes them in a quasi-judicial way. My hon. Friend is right to say that, every so often, the Attorney-General may decide to prosecute a case, in the public interest, and be told that he has got it wrong; he may also decide not to prosecute and be told that that, too, was the wrong decision. That is in the nature of the job.

However, the fundamental ultimate safeguard, apart from all the procedural safeguards, is that prosecution will be a matter for the court--a matter for a judge and jury

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to decide. No court and no jury in this country would accept the kind of tendentious case that some of my right hon. and hon. Friends fear.

Several hon. Members rose--

Mr. Straw: I promised to give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North.

Mr. McNamara: I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend; I much admire the patience that he has shown to right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House. However, the conditions to be fulfilled for a prosecution to be brought contain a lot of gobbledegook, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) tried to point out earlier. I cannot understand part of what is in the Bill, so will my right hon. Friend tell the House one thing: can a person be convicted under the Bill for something that is an offence in a foreign country but is not an offence in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Straw: No; I give that undertaking categorically.

Several hon. Members rose--

Mr. Straw: I shall give way, for the last time, to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway.

Mr. Robert Marshall-Andrews (Medway): I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. May I, in conjunction with the question just asked and in a spirit of seeking enlightenment, ask him to tell me and the rest of the House what subsection (6) of the proposed new section 1A of the Criminal Law Act 1977 means? It is to be found in clause 5, and I attempted to read it out earlier, but was stopped. Now I hope that I may legitimately do so. It deals with offences that are now being brought within the Bill.

For the benefit of hon. Members who do not have a copy of the Bill, subsection (6) says:

This is not an attempt to embarrass the draftsmen, but I have genuinely struggled with that provision for a long time. I wish to be helpful, and I should be perfectly happy to help my right hon. Friend redraft the provision if he told me what was required. Indeed, I would do so free.

Mr. Straw: I was about to accept my hon. and learned Friend's offer--until he said that he would do the work for nothing. People get what they pay for when it comes to legal advice; and I say that as someone who used to earn an honest copper at the Bar.

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What that absolutely transparent sentence means--[Laughter.] It is the dual criminality rule. That is what it is; I promise. Indeed, in that belief we have the benefit, until he changes his mind, of the opinion of the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Mr. Waterson rose--

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East) rose--

Mr. Straw: I said that I would not--

Mr. Waterson: It would save time.

Mr. Straw: I shall take two more interventions--to save time. Then I must get on.

Mr. Waterson: I am most grateful to the Home Secretary, who has been most generous in taking interventions. My question genuinely might save time in a later debate. My earlier Bill, which the right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to mention, covered both conspiracy and incitement to commit offences abroad. As I read his Bill--or at least, the version of it that I have--he seems to have excised the bit about incitement. Will he explain briefly to the House why he did that?

Mr. Straw: I thought that I already had. It was because we were concerned about the implications when we were in opposition, and we are still concerned about them. In criminal justice law, we should never say "never", but, if incitement were to be included, it would require many more safeguards than those in the hon. Gentleman's Bill, or in ours, in respect of conspiracy. I do not believe that it would have been justified to bring forward emergency legislation on incitement. That is why we left that part out; we shall consider it over the longer term.

Mr. Donald Anderson rose--

Mr. Straw: This had better be the last intervention.

Mr. Anderson: It might save or curtail a speech later. Does my right hon. Friend--who has been very generous--agree with the following statement? Some cases are absolutely clear-cut, and any democratic society must have a means of combating them. For example--

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord): Order. It has been brought to my attention that negotiations are continuing with the Box. That is not the normal practice of the House.

Mr. Anderson: Does my right hon. Friend agree that some cases are absolutely clear-cut, and that it would be absurd if any democratic society did not have the means to deal with them? For example, if a group--like the Baader-Meinhof group in the past--were destroying buildings and killing people in a friendly country, and if those attacks were planned in London or in the United Kingdom, it would be absurd if we were not willing and ready to deal with them.

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In other, marginal, cases, public interest will arise--such as the case of the Kurds, mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant)--but the Attorney- General is used to dealing with such public interest considerations. Every day, the Attorney-General takes decisions on the public interest. Obviously, therefore, the starting point must be that we must do something about international terrorism. There must be safeguards. If we did nothing, we would be very much open to criticism.

Mr. Straw: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I accept what he says. I return to my point about the current anomalous position. If there were a Baader-Meinhof gang today, conspiring in Britain to commit offences in Germany, that could be the subject of an indictment for conspiracy under the Council of Europe provisions to which we have already signed up, but if such a group were conspiring to commit those offences in, for example, Australia, we could not. That is anomalous.

I now conclude my remarks. Although I fully understand the concerns that Members--including those on the Government and, I believe, Opposition Front Bench--have about the fact that we have had to be brought here during the recess, and about the fact that we are asked to accept and approve this legislation at some speed, I believe that there is, and will be, widespread support from both sides of the House for the proposals. The Bill really does represent a measured and targeted response to the appalling events that we have witnessed in Northern Ireland and around the world. It remedies specific difficulties that have been identified in taking action against the terrorists who are behind them.

It may well be that more will have to be done in future. I do not rule that out. I have described today the need for fuller consideration on a wide range of issues in the framework of wider work which we already have in hand. However, those longer-term considerations in no way diminish the desirability of acting now to take clear and self-contained steps that can have an immediate operational impact and a crucial deterrent effect. I commend the Bill to the House.

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