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Mr. Donald Anderson rose--

Mr. Waterson: However, I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), who has been consistent in his intelligent interest in my Bill and this Bill, and in his reservations about my Bill. In his earlier remarks he recognised his role, and that of his party, in the demise of my Bill.

Mr. Anderson: Before the hon. Gentleman rewrites history too much, he must surely concede that, had he received the full support of the Government on whose behalf he was acting as agent with his private Member's Bill--that is, if a sufficient number of Conservative Members had been asked to attend on the relevant day--there would have been no problem.

From the start, part of the difficulty was that no, or no adequate, safeguards were written into that Bill, but many Labour Members were happy for the Bill to proceed once the sifting mechanism with the Attorney-General had been added. However, the hon. Gentleman must surely accept that the Conservative Government had acted with insufficient commitment in not properly supporting his Bill by ensuring that Conservative Members were there.

Mr. Waterson: I shall deal with the hon. Gentleman's second set of points later in my speech, when they will arise naturally. As for his earlier comments, as I have said, I do not wish to become involved in a wrangle about whose fault it was; I am merely saying that it is not for the current Home Secretary to take credit for having always supported this Bill. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Swansea, East for his consistency throughout the stages of my Bill, and, indeed, for his attitude to the current Bill, but I agree with him that we should not rewrite history. It is important for these matters to be put on the record.

The Bill has a long and distinguished provenance. I leave aside my own involvement, before which we had Lord Lloyd's report and the report of the Society of

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Conservative Lawyers, which I have mentioned. At the time of my Bill, I was grateful for the enthusiastic support of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), who was then Home Secretary. It was ironic at the time--this was reflected in the comments of the hon. Member for Swansea, East during the debates--that the House had only recently supported a very similar measure applying to paedophilia and other activities in foreign countries.

Against all that background, I was a trifle taken aback when I heard the Prime Minister say in his statement earlier today:

As I put it to the Home Secretary, what is the difference between then and now? There are no degrees of terrorism, whether it is hundreds in Nairobi or a single much-loved local Member of Parliament. When I introduced my Bill, a case was proceeding in the Old Bailey, which I quoted, in which those responsible--or allegedly responsible--for bombing the Israeli embassy here in London were using this very defence. It was a very current issue then, as indeed it is now.

I merely make the point--more in sorrow than in anger--that, if my Bill had received the support from all parts of the House that it deserved at the time, it would have been on the statute book for some 18 months.

Finally, let me touch on the reassurances that were in my Bill, and are in this Bill, for those on both sides of the House who have expressed concerns about civil liberties. The question of dual criminality, which has been discussed at length, is a major safeguard, ensuring that any offence that is brought before the courts must be an offence in this country as well as in the other country. If, in Iraq, for example, it is a criminal offence to publish pamphlets criticising Saddam Hussein, that will not be actionable in the courts in this country. We have, of course, the normal rules of the English legal system to protect the accused: charges must be proved beyond all reasonable doubt.

As for the safeguard of the Attorney-General, I think, with respect, that some Labour Members are misguided in regard to the sort of political decision or judgment that they think the Attorney-General may be called on to make in certain cases. I do not think that there is a major difference between this Bill and my Bill in that respect. In the earlier instance, the Director of Public Prosecutions became involved in the decision to prosecute; but, in any event--this was an error that the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Dr. Palmer) fell into--the Attorney-General has always had the power to intervene in any prosecution in this country, under the nolle prosequi rule, if he sees fit.

There has been considerable agonising, both today and during the stages of my Bill, about one man's terrorist being another man's freedom fighter. That is not a problem with which Labour Members need wrestle; it does not come into this Bill, as it did not come into my Bill. Terrorism is not defined as such, and, as we said at the time of my Bill, it would be very difficult to define it. We must merely establish that a criminal offence has been committed both in this country and in the other country, and that it has been proved beyond reasonable doubt.

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I emphasise that neither my Bill nor, I believe, this Bill was ever intended to discourage peaceful political protest and dissent from a foreign regime. After all, we are the country that allowed Karl Marx to sit in the reading room of the British museum, writing "Das Kapital". Long may such activity continue.

We will continue to be a safe haven for such people--not for those who abuse our hospitality by plotting mayhem and criminal acts overseas. We will ensure that those who abuse our hospitality by planning criminal actions in foreign countries--friendly or otherwise--are subject to our laws, and that has not been the case so far. For those reasons, and a number of others, I am happy to support the Bill.

11.19 pm

Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington): I wish to explain briefly why I have put my name to the reasoned amendment, and I want to confine my remarks to the aspects of the Bill that deal with Northern Ireland. I want to say to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and to the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram), that it would help a large number of Labour Members and others if they would concede the point about having audio recordings of interviews in every case from day one, and if they would accept the provision that solicitors remain with those facing charges while interrogations take place.

I am going to say things that I do not mean to be offensive, and I do not want to upset people--especially colleagues from Northern Ireland. However, I will say directly to the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) in particular that he and some of his colleagues seem much happier living in the past than facing up to the future.

Regrettably, some of my Front-Bench colleagues do not seem to have appreciated what I regard as the highly significant developments in Northern Ireland since the dreadful outrage in Omagh. Things that happened before the House was recalled in response to what happened in Omagh give grounds for considerable hope and optimism. After the outrage in Omagh--and however sickening it was--the group that claimed responsibility for it, the so-called Real IRA, for the first time ever did not simply apologise, but went on to announce that they were no longer going to commit acts of violence. INLA had said earlier that they had given up violence.

Yesterday, Sinn Fein said that violence was

Too many in this House, including the Government--perhaps they are too near it--have missed the real significance of those statements. What is important are some of the reasons that lie behind those statements. There is no question but that that is exactly the outcome that the Government, and all those who put their hands to the historic Good Friday agreement, wanted. They wanted the community in Northern Ireland to show that it was fed up with violence, and that it wanted to take the gun out of Irish politics.

The Secretary of State, in an article in The Observer, spoke about

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    That was demonstrated by the referendums on both sides of the border which endorsed the Good Friday agreement. Over the whole island of Ireland, nine out of every 10 people who voted in that referendum supported the agreement and made it clear that they had had enough of violence. However, they made something else clear.

This is what I think is being missed, and why Sinn Fein, the Real IRA and INLA have made the statements they have. In that referendum and in the reaction to the outrage in Omagh, the people of both traditions in Northern Ireland--and, indeed, the people in the Republic of Ireland--were saying that they were no longer going to hide the men and weapons that make these acts of terrorism possible. They were saying that they would no longer supply them with the information that has helped those on both sides of the argument, let it be said, and has made this violence possible.

Colleagues anywhere in the House can say to me that I am being wildly optimistic about this. What I argue is that at least this is a possible and credible explanation. It goes beyond the mere euphoria of that hard-negotiated Good Friday agreement and the result in both the referendum and elections in Northern Ireland that followed. It is of profound importance.

We all know--colleagues from Northern Ireland must know better than I, but we know it from other parts of the world--that no terrorist organisation can survive for any length of time without some support in the communities on whose behalf it claims to act. These groups cannot exist in isolation. They need people to provide the alibis, the information, the so-called safe houses to hide the people who have committed acts of terrorism and to hide the weapons under the beds, in the cupboards or wherever it is.

My interpretation of what has happened in Northern Ireland is that those facilities that have been available in both communities have now been withdrawn; otherwise, why would INLA or the Real IRA have made the statements that they have? There was no need for them to do that. My strong view is that it is at least open to that interpretation--they have now recognised that, if you like, their life support system has been withdrawn by the communities on which they previously relied.

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