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Mr. Ingram: We have had a good and detailed debate. I can tell all my hon. Friends from Scotland who have contributed to the debate that the part of the Bill with which we are dealing has been subject to the robust scrutiny of Scottish lawyers. Obviously there will be Scottish lawyers who disagree with the import of what we are trying to achieve--but it seems to me that it is ever thus with lawyers; the minute we hear one opinion we shall also hear another. That applies outside Scotland, too.

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In drafting the legislation, we have tried to bring all parts of the United Kingdom into a clear framework. Scotland had to be included, because the threat applies throughout the United Kingdom, and has to be dealt with accordingly.

My hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) and for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) asked about the role of the Scottish Parliament. Like all anti-terrorist legislation, the Bill concerns a reserved matter. It falls into the reserved area and is therefore to be dealt with by the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

I suggest to my hon. Friends that they could have had that debate when the appropriate legislation to establish the Scottish Parliament was going through. If they had been able to persuade others that the envisaged arrangements were not appropriate, suitable amendments would have been made. However, as terrorism knows no borders and no boundaries, we need United Kingdom legislation, and we must ensure that its application under the various jurisdictions within the United Kingdom is mutually compatible.

Terrorism is an evil and a menace. It may have particular effect at a particular time in one particular part of the United Kingdom, but at any time it could be visited upon other areas, as has happened with England in the past. For a variety of reasons, we have been able to avoid it in Scotland, but that does not mean that people of evil intent will not bring their terrorism to my homeland, and in drafting legislation we must always be conscious of that.

I shall now deal with the amendments. Amendments Nos. 3 and 10 are defective because they would extend reference to committal to Scotland, which would be inappropriate because of the criminal law that applies there. The drafting makes them defective, so on that basis I cannot ask the Committee to accept them. Clearly, they would not comply with a major element of Scottish law.

Amendment No. 13 would deny a court in Scotland the ability to convict on the basis of inferences drawn under the Bill and any other evidence supporting those inferences. The provisions of clause 1 are designed to provide a Great Britain-wide scheme whereby the courts in the various GB jurisdictions can act on inferences drawn from silence in another part of Great Britain. We believe subsection (10) to be sensible and necessary for the proper working of the clause in Scotland, so that a court may take inferences fully into account without being authorised to convict purely on the basis of inferences.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East made a strong point in support of part of that argument: he argued that acceptance of amendment No. 13 would seriously diminish the status of Scottish law, and should therefore be resisted. He made other points, which I shall try to deal with. However, on the basis of the arguments that I have made, I ask the Committee to resist amendment No. 13.

1.30 am

Mr. Canavan: Will the Minister explain the words in subsection (10):

Mr. Ingram: Any evidence judged by the court would be sufficient evidence. Like my hon. Friend, I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me, as a layman, that it is for the

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court to decide what it deems to be suitable and appropriate evidence to be taken into account. Legislation should not say what would constitute such evidence. Therefore, the term "any evidence" is something that is brought forward for consideration by the court of law, and it is judged by those sitting in judgment--and, in Scotland, the trial is likely to be a jury trial. Therefore, "any evidence" is that which is deemed appropriate by the court to be considered.

Mr. Connarty: Would that evidence be sufficient evidence if it was only the opinion of a superintendent of police--in a Scots court?

Mr. Ingram: Of itself, no.

Mr. Connarty: Corroboration?

Mr. Ingram: Perhaps what I say when I come to the issue relating to corroboration or supporting evidence will deal with that. However, before I move on to that, may I deal with--

Mr. Canavan: Am I correct in understanding that subsection (10) means that any evidence that a person belongs to a proscribed organisation shall be sufficient evidence that he or she belongs to that proscribed organisation, so that even the flimsiest of circumstantial evidence shall be deemed to be sufficient evidence for a conviction?

Mr. Ingram: Well, it really is for the court to judge the strength or weakness of evidence that has been advanced to it. It is not for us in this place to decide the value or otherwise of evidence, because the judgment must be made in the court of law. In the Bill we are merely building a framework that allows those matters to be proceeded with so as to allow people to be brought to justice for their involvement as part of a specified organisation. Any evidence is sufficient, but only where it corroborates inferences, so that, where an inference is being drawn, any other evidence could be deemed by the court to be sufficient. It can be, but it will not always be, sufficient, and that is for the court to decide.

Mr. Canavan: That is not what it says. It says "shall be".

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael J. Martin): Order.

Mr. William Ross (East Londonderry) rose--

Mr. Michael Jabez Foster (Hastings and Rye) rose--

Mr. Ingram: I give way to the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross).

Mr. Ross: If the word was "may" rather than "shall", the Minister's argument would have more force. His hon. Friends have raised a serious problem.

Mr. Ingram: I am considering that serious point, and I am trying to explain, as I go along, dealing with

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interventions as they arise. I am trying to explain that part of the Bill, why it exists and why we feel that it is important to ensure that Scotland is brought into compliance with the rest of GB and with the other jurisdictions affected by the legislation.

Mr. Foster: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Ingram: I hope that my hon. Friend is a Scottish lawyer, because that may help us.

Mr. Foster: I am not a Scottish lawyer, but is it not the position that, in any event, the provision applies only when there is no statement by the accused? Surely any evidence that he or she is a member of an organisation would be better evidence than no evidence that he or she was not; so it applies only in circumstances in which there is no denial. Would that not be sufficient evidence in any event?

Mr. Ingram: My hon. Friend has made a strong point, and I accept that it refers to the matter at stake, in terms of the way in which I have amended the original legislation. However, we must deal with other groups of amendments, including Government amendments. I shall deal with issues that were raised earlier in the debate that may answer points that have been raised, rather than responding to interventions.

Government amendments Nos. 61 and 62 propose minor changes that are necessary to ensure that the provisions have similar application in Scotland to their application in England and Wales. They reflect the potential for a jury to draw inferences from failure to mention a material fact when questioned, and the importance of ensuring that those who did belong to a specified organisation are caught in Scotland as well. They are not a result of rushed drafting per se, and do not reflect the potential for any number of other terrors; they are simply minor amendments to ensure that the law has a similar impact throughout Great Britain.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East said that subsection (10) had been inserted as a result of the need to reflect fully certain aspects of Scottish law, and that, when it was inserted, it did not reflect those aspects fully in relation to other features of the Bill. That is why we had to table amendments Nos. 61 and 62, which I ask the Committee to support.

A point was raised about a change in the caution provisions. Let me explain. The suspect will be warned, in appropriate language, of the effect of failure to answer questions: that is the way in which the caution will apply. As for the point about the diminution of corroboration requirements, there will be no such diminution. Simply treating inferences as one piece of evidence means that that is not the case. There is only one piece of evidence for which inference would be used.

As for the right to legal representation, the accused must be given an opportunity to consult a solicitor before inferences can be drawn; otherwise, there is no change. I stress that inferences alone are not sufficient evidence, but, if corroborated, they can be taken into account. That is an important protection for those who are charged.

The Bill does not say that any evidence is sufficient evidence; it says that evidence on the issue at trial, together with inference, can be sufficient evidence.

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I have tried to deal with the detailed parts of the Bill. Hon. Members may want to continue the debate, but I think that we have examined the issues fully, especially in view of that other matters that remain to be considered.

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