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Mr. Michael: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and I hope that I have conveyed that point to him in this debate. It is of course not ideal to deal with legislation during a short recall of Parliament, but, as I said, the recall of Parliament is triggered by events in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. We have taken the opportunity to introduce something to tackle a mischief that has been perceived for a long time and which the House has wished to tackle. Previously, the debates have been about how we make sure--

Dr. Lynne Jones: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Michael: No, I am bringing my remarks to a close.

In the past, the debates have been about how we make sure that effective legislation does what we intend, which is to detect terrorism and serious crimes rather than insignificant or minor incidents or deal with protest movements. We have done that. The legislation is satisfactory in that regard and contains the necessary protections. The amendment would undermine the very purpose of the legislation, and the House would quickly regret having limited the legislation in that way. I hope that having heard the debate and my responses to a wide variety of interventions, some of which ranged way beyond the amendment before us, the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Beith: The intervention by the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) from the Opposition Front Bench was accurate. The hon. Gentleman said that the amendment would prevent the Bill from dealing with football hooliganism and a variety of other matters.

2 Sept 1998 : Column 906

There are many mischiefs that the law should attend to, but I do not claim the privilege of tacking them all on to the Bill. If that happened, the Bill could do an enormous number of things. Indeed, it is already about an enormous variety of things, some of which are significant. However, it is not our way to deal with significant matters in one night's debate and without the opportunity of prior examination of the Bill unless there are overriding reasons for our doing so. I am not criticising the hon. Member for Hertsmere; I am explaining why I believe that it is important that we narrow the focus of the Bill to what it was originally supposed to be about.

Mr. Dalyell: In all the talk about the modernisation of Parliament, there is the question of pre-legislative scrutiny. Is not this a classic case for some examination of the deep issues? As soon as one starts to look, all sorts of creepy-crawly things come out from under stones. What we are doing is ludicrous.

Mr. Beith: The phrase pre-legislative scrutiny sheds some light on our proceedings today. We certainly have not had much opportunity for that, but that is in the nature of the Government's rapid response to events in Omagh and the need to do something about them. I feel strongly that the Home Office has tried to get on the back of events at Omagh to deal with matters that it may have considered important, but which do not require or lend themselves to a similar procedure.

The Minister was drawn into replying to a number of amendments about the consent of the Attorney-General, which we have not yet moved. We have sought to tackle another side of the problem in other ways. The Attorney-General safeguard is useful and was lacking in the original Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson), but the safeguard is questionable in some respects. Given the autonomous nature of the Attorney-General's prosecution powers, he is not accountable to the House for them in the way that he is for his administrative responsibilities. Indeed, it is not thought appropriate that he should be accountable for decisions on prosecutions. Many questions remain about how views on the desirability of allowing organised groups that are resisting other regimes to operate in this country can be brought to bear on those decisions. However, we shall return to some of those matters in our debates on later amendments.

The crucial test on which the Minister relied for saying that we do not need to narrow the definition of what conspiracies can come under the Bill, as the amendments do, was that an offence has to be a crime in both the countries concerned, which is a low threshold indeed. It is an easy test to pass. Loads of offences are crimes in both countries. Criminal damage is an example that has been cited and that might be not merely graffiti, but breaking into or damaging a building, damaging vehicles or a series of other offences. In Britain, defining such offences as conspiracies would be unjustified because there are democratic means of protesting when one disagrees with something, but we might feel that they were justified in countries where there is no democratic means to do so. Such offences will be caught by this legislation unless we achieve some definitions. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) is assuring me that, under the Bill, he would probably have been sent to prison in

2 Sept 1998 : Column 907

this country for assisting his friends in Estonia in their courageous battle for independence. Many of them put their lives at risk to win the independence of their country, with the general support of the people of this country, who have always had a feeling for the Baltic nations, which suffered repression under the Soviet yoke for so many years.

Those actions are not terrorist actions, but they are a crime in both countries. Therefore, we have sought to restrict the application of the conspiracy provisions of the Bill. The wide-ranging interventions and questions have reinforced my view that it was not appropriate to deal with something so complex on the back end of an urgent Bill relating primarily to Northern Ireland.

Parliament has a responsibility to consider legislation, to get it right in detail and to ensure that it does its job properly and is not prone to achieving the opposite effects to those intended or putting people in jeopardy for actions for which they ought not even have to fear prosecution. My party consented to a serious compression of the discharge of that responsibility to respond to what happened at Omagh. We consented to parliamentary proceedings that give no opportunity for the normal wide outside consultation on the contents of the Bill because we believed that to be exceptionally justified in those circumstances. We cannot extend that justification to the other parts of the Bill.

The Minister advanced arguments about the evils of paedophilia and the fact that conspiracies related to that offence could exist in this country. Of course, we agree, but this legislative mechanism is not the appropriate way to deal with those. The Minister did not seek to rest his case primarily on the technical arguments, although he advanced them, saying that the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) would undermine legislation on sexual offences enacted a few years ago. However, that is because the Government have interlinked the two pieces of legislation; it is not the fault of the hon. Member for Sunderland, South. That defect and any technical defect in our amendment can be remedied in another place tomorrow.

The Government have at their disposal the means to meet the wishes of the House, and to do so in a technically satisfactory way. Instead, they are asking us to accept severely attenuated procedures, with limited debate and no realistic outside consultation, to deal with matters for which that is not justified by the arguments about urgency. I do not think that we can do it.

I say to hon. Members who have a variety of doubts about this part of the Bill that this is the first, and perhaps the best, opportunity that they will have in the course of these morning hours to set some limit on the extent of the conspiracy powers. Because we consented to the urgent procedures in the Bill, we have to show that we do not feel them to be right for matters that, although important, ought to have the normal legislative scrutiny that the House affords. We therefore wish to press our amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The Committee divided: Ayes 10, Noes 214.

2 Sept 1998 : Column 908

Division No. 360
[4.56 am


Allan, Richard
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Breed, Colin
Burnett, John
Harris, Dr Evan
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Öpik, Lembit
Rendel, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Webb, Steve

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Andrew Stunell and
Mr. Donald Gorrie.


Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Banks, Tony
Barron, Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blizzard, Bob
Boateng, Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brazier, Julian
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Butler, Mrs Christine
Caborn, Richard
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Caton, Martin
Chisholm, Malcolm
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Yvette
Cousins, Jim
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Darvill, Keith
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Edwards, Huw
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Fisher, Mark
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Home Robertson, John
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Ms Tessa
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Laxton, Bob
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McDonagh, Siobhain
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, Peter
Martlew, Eric
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Alun
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Mudie, George
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Mrs Diana
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Raynsford, Nick
Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Ms Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Salter, Martin
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sheerman, Barry
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Soley, Clive
Spellar, John
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Vis, Dr Rudi
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Woolas, Phil
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. David Clelland and
Mr. Greg Pope.

Question accordingly negatived.

2 Sept 1998 : Column 909

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): I beg to move amendment No. 80, in page 7, line 10, after 'Kingdom' insert 'other than a country or territory to which subsection (2A) applies.

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