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Mr. Winnick: My hon. Friend is right to say that safeguards are necessary. People who campaign against repressive regimes should continue to have their freedom in Britain: it would be extremely unfortunate if it were otherwise. There is no disagreement between us on that, but is my hon. Friend aware that some people who live in this country and who were interviewed justified the bombing in east African countries? I am not saying that those people were involved in planning those murders, but, if they were, surely they have no right whatever to be in this country.

Mr. Corbyn: My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary dealt with that point quite clearly when he said that to express a point of view on those bombings was one thing, but to support them in a practical sense was another. I have no time whatever for that bombing. What happened was abominable and appalling and I do not seek to justify supporting people who do such bombings.

Many organisations give support to liberation movements--or whatever description one wants to apply to them--in their own countries, which, it could be argued, are giving material comfort to those who are committing illegal acts. It is a grey and complex area.

My concern is that the Bill may result in enormous commercial and political pressures being put on a British Government to prosecute people who have done nothing other than campaign for justice and for democracy in a land that is denied it.

Mr. Winnick: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for allowing me to intervene again. We agree that the freedom to campaign is essential. Are we in agreement that people in Britain who have been given the right to stay here, who organise murders abroad for political reasons, should not be in a position to do that?

Mr. Corbyn: I am not sure why I am the subject of this questioning by the hon. Gentleman. Obviously, I am not in favour of people organising murders anywhere. My purpose is to see peace in the world and a system of government that provides for the democratic resolution of conflict. Unhappily, many people in the world do not enjoy that privilege. Many British companies are happy to make a great deal of money out of those countries where democracy is denied. Much money has been made by oil companies in Colombia, for example. There are many other examples.

I support the amendments. If they were accepted by the Government, they would make the Bill less bad. However, inserting clauses 5, 6 and 7, with all the dangers attendant on them, is a great mistake. Rather than, at nearly 6 am, trying to rush through the Bill, there should be serious

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and proper discussion in which evidence and opinion can be taken from different organisations, such as Amnesty International and United Nations groups, which have a serious contribution to make to the debate. We legislate in haste and regret at leisure. There will be a lot of regretting to do if we start prosecuting people who legitimately pursue a peaceful solution to conflict in a violent world.

Mr. Donald Anderson: I well understand the concerns that have been expressed, and I could give other examples. For example, I recently read a book on the French Resistance in which the writer exulted at how he and his colleagues blew up trains, actions that we were supporting from this country. That is precisely the sort of area that would be blocked by the Attorney-General. That is why many of us who began by opposing the private Member's Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) a year or two ago changed our minds when the mechanism of the Attorney-General was brought in.

I understand the concerns of colleagues, but they are essentially misplaced. My hon. Friends seek to fetter the discretion of the Attorney-General. The range of considerations is so wide that it is impossible to set out clearly answers to the multitude of considerations which may arise.

Consider, for example, the persuasive points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) on human rights and the convention. The Kenya bombing was an outrage. It was clear that whoever was responsible for that bomb outside the US embassy was wholly unconcerned about the loss of life which was likely to follow. More than 200 innocent Kenyans were killed, apart from those in the embassy and adjoining buildings. I heard an individual in this country almost exult in that, saying that if the cause was served, the deaths of those Kenyans was very sad, but that was just one of those things that happen.

5.45 am

Are we to say that, had we doubts about the validity or the legitimacy of the judicial processes in Kenya, we would take a different view? Kenya may be deficient in some ways, but we are broadly happy with the judicial processes. If anyone in this country had plotted or sought military materiel or anything else involved in the Kenya bombing, that could not be justified, whatever our concerns about judicial processes in that country. That is the real dilemma that we face. It was wrong, and it would be wrong even if the Kenyan judicial system were highly deficient.

Our starting point must be the fact that there is a deficiency in our law, a lacuna that must be corrected in a proper democratic way. It must be dealt with according to the traditions of the House and appropriate safeguards must be built in for human rights reasons. That is why, as there is no immediacy in clauses 5 to 7, I follow, as always, the wisdom of my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell).

If the measure had been tackled properly, there would have been an opportunity for outside legal human rights opinion to be expressed in some sort of pre-legislative committee. There would have been a proper Committee stage. I am one of those who do not believe that the Home Office is infallible. One of my heroes, Cromwell, said:

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    "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken."

Even the Home Office legal experts may be mistaken. Even what they say can be improved upon. There is no urgency and no reason why we should have gone about the matter as we have.

I heard what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said in an excellent speech. He observed that the matter had already been extensively canvassed in the abortive private Member's Bill. In my judgment, that was not so. It was a private Member's Bill, although I concede that the hon. Member for Eastbourne was acting as an agent for the Home Office. He received only a certain degree of support. The Bill was not studied with great care in the House or in Committee. If we are properly to advance, we must recognise that there is a lacuna, but the House of Commons must rectify it in the proper way, with proper scrutiny.

Mr. Öpik: If we did not have entrenched positions, Ministers should now be able to say that they will reconsider the measure and take a more balanced position in the light of the commonsense comments that have been made on the Floor of the Chamber. The intention is not to fetter the discretion of the Attorney-General, but to make it possible for him to exercise some judgment in the grey areas that arise when these clauses must be applied to a situation involving a country with a questionable human rights record.

Britain has been a crusader in the past, at least in some parts of the world, helping people who were seeking to create a democratic system where one did not exist. I draw the Minister's attention to the many examples that have been cited in the debate.

I know the example of Estonia well, and I know it to be a genuine case in which individuals operated from the United Kingdom to assist Estonian people to create a democratic system there. I am in no doubt that if Britain had not made it relatively easy for Estonian activists and fighters for independence to work from here, they would have had to find somewhere else from which to operate. I am also in no doubt that the work that the activists did in Estonia was illegal under the laws of the former Soviet Union. In some cases, it would have been illegal had it been done in the United Kingdom.

That does not make the activists terrible criminals; it simply underlines the core fallacy in clauses 5, 6 and 7, which is to assume that individual behaviour in other parts of the world can be assessed in the same context as behaviour here in the United Kingdom. That is the core mistake. It takes no account of the very difficulties that a fighter for independence or a political activist in a more oppressed part of the world has to face.

I hope that Ministers accept the need to think again about an inflexible part of the Bill which is causing many of us great difficulties, not least because we do not see the purpose of including it alongside clauses 1 to 4, which clearly have an immediacy and direct significance to the terrible tragedy of Omagh and the difficulties that face us in ensuring that the peace process in Northern Ireland can continue.

I throw the challenge to Ministers to discuss the matters privately among themselves, have some respect for the difficulties that we have raised here in Committee and

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come back with something that makes it a little easier for us to swallow this part of the Bill and, more than anything, something that makes it easier for Britain to continue to play a leading role in assisting those individuals who have the courage to fight for independence in their own country and use the United Kingdom as a platform to do so.

Ms Abbott: I represent a constituency in the east end of London that has been a haven for political dissidents since the Huguenots in the 16th century. In the present day, we have Kurds, Algerians and Nigerian dissidents. It is because this legislation could affect the lives and liberties of many of my constituents that I rise to speak. It is wrong that we should discuss legislation of this gravity in the early hours of the morning. The matter should have been dealt with in a separate Bill introduced in October. It should have proper scrutiny. As my friend and colleague the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), said with such cogency, the arguments of urgency that applied to the earlier clauses of the Bill in relation to Northern Ireland do not apply to clauses 5, 6 and 7. There is no reason why we should be discussing these clauses at 6 o'clock in the morning.

I am glad to be able to speak in support of a set of amendments that has been moved so ably in the past hour. I do not wish to go over arguments that have already been made, but, precisely because the arguments of urgency do not apply, it seems to me that tagging on these three clauses is sheer opportunism by Home Office officials. It has all the hallmarks of a measure that has been dusted off and tagged on to the Northern Ireland proposals.

Much has been made of the safety mechanism provided by the Attorney-General and the fact that he will have to take questions of public interest into account. Much has been made of how we should not fetter him in examining the public interest, but I want to know--Ministers have not told me--precisely what aspect of the public interest he will give most weight to. Will he look at the public interest in relation to arms sales or in relation to international good governance? Will he look at the public interest in relation to ethical foreign policy or in not upsetting people who are big buyers of British goods?

We have the utmost confidence in the current Attorney-General. No one on the Labour Benches is seeking to fetter him, but we feel that he could benefit from more scrutiny of the legislation and more guidance and clarity. It is not clear how the legislation will work. I do not believe that that is clear even to Ministers and officials. The lack of scrutiny and the way the Bill is being bulldozed through Parliament is entirely lamentable.

In the coming months and years, this legislation could mean that some of the most repressive regimes in the world could reach their long arms into Britain and take action against people whose only real crime is that they are in political opposition to regimes that do not have the ordinary democratic processes that we know. The way in which clauses 5 to 7 has been introduced is wrong. They are ill drafted and ill thought out. There is no justification for provisions of this nature being introduced in this way. I am glad to have had the opportunity, albeit briefly, to support an important group of amendments.

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