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Mr. Allan: I speak in support of Liberal Democrat amendment No. 53. Our aim is similar to that of the Labour Members who have spoken--to make human rights explicit in the Bill. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) has said, it is not enough for the Attorney-General to be given broad discretion. He must be given the appropriate tools to justify his decisions. One such tool is that he can say that he is not prepared to take action because of the human rights record of a country.

I should like to give some more difficult examples than those already mentioned. In relation to Kashmir, many thousands of British citizens are organised politically in this country in a way that could be described as related to a conspiracy to carry out acts that may be criminal in India or Pakistan. Many citizens fear being drawn in to being described as part of a conspiracy because they have collected money or organised in a political party here. I am not going into the rights and wrongs of the case, but they have a justified concern about the Bill that needs to be answered.

Examples from closer to home include the recent situation in Bosnia, or that in Kosovo now. Those supporting the Kosovo rebels are supporting a group committing actions against the legitimate Serbian Government. The Bill must incorporate the respect for human rights that would enable the Attorney-General to say that our response would be proportionate.

Where people have justifiable concerns about the human rights situation in another country or have proof of violations that have been carried out against their people, a little more leeway should be allowed on their actions in this country. We do not want any legality given to those who carry out terrorist acts such as bombing a civilian area or hijacking and bombing aeroplanes. There is no justification for that under any regime, but there are grey areas in which incorporating the notion of human rights in the Bill would give us more clarity in dealing with them.

The human rights concern must lie at the heart of all our legislation, and should not be overridden by commercial or other concerns. We want it to be incorporated through our amendments or those of the Labour Back Benchers.

Mr. Canavan: I support what my hon. Friends the Members for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) and for Hull,

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North (Mr. McNamara) have said, but I should like to concentrate on amendments Nos. 83, 84 and 85 in my name and those of my hon. Friends the Members for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion), for Paisley, North (Mrs. Adams) and for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing).

The three amendments are somewhat similar: amendment No. 83 refers to the position in England and Wales; amendment No. 84 to the position in Northern Ireland; and amendment No. 85 to the position in Scotland. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Bill already requires the consent of the senior Law Officer--the Attorney-General--before a prosecution can take place of a person accused of conspiracy to commit offences outside the United Kingdom. Therefore, it seems reasonable to place a statutory obligation on the Attorney-General to take into account the standards of democracy and human rights in the country where the alleged offence was intended to be committed.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley gave the example of people in this country who are intent on the overthrow of the fascist regime in Iraq. It could be argued that, if they went so far as to plot the assassination of Saddam Hussein, that assassination, if committed in this country, would, in strict technical legal terms, constitute a criminal offence. It certainly would constitute a criminal offence in Iraq.

Therefore, the principle of dual criminality would apply, so anyone plotting in this country to get rid of Saddam Hussein by the use of force could fall foul of the legislation. It seems perfectly reasonable that the Attorney-General should be under a statutory obligation to take into account the nature of the regime in the country where the result of the conspiracy is intended to occur, and whether that occurrence was intended to combat injustice or oppression.

There seems to be a difference between the application of the Bill in Scotland and its application in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, the Bill does not require the consent of any Law Officer before a prosecution can take place of a person accused of conspiracy to commit offences outside the United Kingdom. Amendment No. 85 would insert a requirement for the consent of the Lord Advocate in Scotland, just as, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the consent of the Attorney-General would be required.

If there is no statutory obligation for the Lord Advocate himself to look at the papers on the case and to give his consent, presumably it could be left to the local or regional procurator fiscal to decide, on the normal criteria, whether a prosecution should take place. When dealing with offences of a highly political or potentially extremely serious nature, we should make it incumbent on the Lord Advocate personally to take the decision on whether to prosecute. In other words, there should be a safeguard in Scotland similar to the safeguard laid down in the Bill for England and Wales.

The Secretary of State, if he is to wake up and reply to this debate, or the Minister of State may well say that procedure for prosecution is different in Scotland. No doubt the Lord Advocate and/or the procurator fiscal will apply the normal criteria. Perhaps he can refresh our memories as to what the criteria are.

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I understand that the criteria include whether there is sufficient evidence to obtain a successful prosecution; whether the prosecution would be in the public interest; whether the alleged offence is serious enough; and whether the person accused has any previous convictions or has received any previous warnings from a procurator fiscal about his or her conduct. There may be other criteria on which the Minister can elaborate.

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It would be helpful if there were a statutory obligation on the Lord Advocate in Scotland parallel to the obligation on the Attorney-General in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The record of human rights and democracy--or the lack of them--in the appropriate country should be one of the criteria on which the decision whether to prosecute is based.

It is a great pity and an absolute disgrace that, in the whole of this debate, not one Scottish Office Minister has sat on the Front Bench. I do not know whether any of them are in the Palace of Westminster, or even in London. We now have a Scottish Office Minister who is not a Member of either House, but four of the six Scottish Office Ministers are Members of the House of Commons; yet not one of them has come here to explain the Bill's implications for Scotland, which are different in many respects from its implications for England and Wales.

I know that the two Law Officers are not Members of the House of Commons--one is a member of another place--but during our many hours of discussion, someone should have spoken on behalf of one of the Scottish Law Officers.

Dr. Starkey: All the amendments are designed to get across one essential point, which has largely been accepted by the Minister in some of his previous replies: that offences that might be deemed terrorist offences, whether against property or against people, are of a different nature when they are committed in a democratic country, where there are ample democratic means of achieving political ends, from when they are committed in a wholly despotic country in which the ordinary democratic avenues are completely closed and more assertive methods may be the only means of changing the political situation. Amendments Nos. 83 and 84, in particular, represent an attempt to get that included as a factor that the Attorney-General must take into account when considering whether a prosecution would be in the public interest.

I should like to add an additional criterion, which does not, strictly speaking, come under the terms of human rights. When offences are committed in a country or territory under illegal occupation, that should be a material consideration, and should change our opinion about whether it was in the public interest to prosecute those who conspired in this country to commit the offences.

I am concerned about the amorphous concept of the public interest and the way in which the Attorney-General appears to have the impossible task of trying to second-guess what the public interest may be. It is not unreasonable for Parliament to be in a

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position to give the Attorney-General some guidance on the objective factors that he--at the moment it is he, but it might be she in future--should take into account in assessing the public interest.

The objective criteria should be related to human rights and democratic freedoms within the country that is being complained of, and to the status of its Government in international law. That would take account of the circumstance that I have suggested, of a Government illegally occupying the territories or countries in question.

It is unlikely that any of the amendments will be accepted, and it would be helpful if the Minister could try to be more definite about the precise criteria that the Attorney-General will be expected to take into account when assessing the public interest. Those are: issues of human and democratic rights, and the standing of the Governments in question under international law.

Mr. Corbyn: I support the amendment that was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) and I obviously support the amendment that was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) because I am one of the signatories. Trying to deal with clauses 5, 6 and 7, which have been tagged on to the legislation, at this time is utterly ridiculous. This is an important Bill with far-reaching implications. Plainly, it is not well drafted and is open to all sorts of interpretations. I pay tribute to those hon. Members who have managed to table sensible and intelligent amendments.

We should not have to deal with the Bill at this time. There should have been a separate Bill to be dealt with either when we returned in October, if it were that urgent, or in the new Session in November. Such legislation should be dealt with properly, but the Bill has all the hallmarks of a measure that somebody in the Home Office has for a long time wanted to put through Parliament. The opportunity was taken to remove it from the shelf and shove it in, and we are stuck with it.

The amendments that my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North and I tabled would ensure that there was at least some consistency, in that the European convention on human rights would be the basis for any prosecution. Such a safeguard is also incorporated in the amendments that were tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley, because the United Nations would be involved. As the legislation stands, it would be possible for a regime such as the one in Nigeria to claim that the Ogoni people, who were led by Ken Saro-Wiwa, were terrorists. That regime claimed that they were terrorists who operated against the oil installations in Nigeria.

Such operations are illegal in that country and would be illegal here and, on that basis and because of a vast amount of commercial and other pressure, a British Government could prosecute a leader of the Ogoni people in Britain for raising funds to support his colleagues in Nigeria. Following the appalling way in which Saro-Wiwa was executed and all that went with that, I do not think that that would happen, but we can envisage a method of reporting building up a scenario in which British interests are damaged by people in Britain who are raising money for attacks on installations in Nigeria. The same could be said of what happens in many countries.

All over north London, in my constituency and in the constituencies of my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) and

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of many others, dozens of small organisations are campaigning for justice in their countries. There has been the Nicaragua solidarity campaign, the El Salvador solidarity campaign, the Chile solidarity campaign, other campaigns relating to Latin America, such as that for Colombia, the trans-Caucasus campaign and campaigns involving people from Indonesia, Malaysia, India and China. It would be possible to make a case against almost any of them by stating that, somehow or other, they are raising money that is used to support illegal activities in their countries.

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