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Mr. Dalyell: I have two questions of fact. The first, following on from the speech of my hon. Friend the

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Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan), is whether the Crown Office was consulted at an early stage. Was the Lord Advocate consulted? To what extent were they consulted? This is not simply an arcane question, because there are Lockerbie issues involving the importance of Scottish law about which we have heard a great deal. The question of fact is, to what extent was the Crown Office consulted?

Secondly, what are the cost implications? As I understand it, a phenomenal amount of money is already spent by Scotland Yard units monitoring various ethnic organisations and various countries' organisations. When one starts to take legal action against these organisations, bearing in mind all the family involvement, surely there must be cost implications and implications for police time. Could the Minister quantify the likely costs?

Finally, I say this to the Home Secretary at 6 am: he is the rarest of political creatures--a seemingly successful Home Secretary. He is certainly an authoritative one in this Government and he has done many good things. I believe that he has sufficient authority to do what has been done before. There is a precedent for a Minister going back to the Cabinet and saying that he has heard what the House of Commons has to say, that he is uneasy, that perhaps his parliamentary colleagues have a point, and that his Cabinet colleagues should postpone the action that they propose to take.

I do not think that members of the Conservative Front Bench will quibble if I use the example of Iranian sanctions. [Interruption.] I see the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) nodding. Ministers went back to Mrs. Thatcher, as she then was, and said that there was great difficulty in the House of Commons and that they believed it to be genuine. They said that there was a problem of retrospection, and that perhaps she should postpone her proposed action and think again. I say this in no purgative spirit, but that was the first of Mrs. Thatcher's U-turns.

I suppose that I am asking the Home Secretary to make a minor, mini U-turn. I am asking him to go back to his colleagues and explain that there are great difficulties about tagging on clauses 5 to 7. I think that I speak for most of my colleagues when I say that, if he were to do that, it would be no disgrace for him. It is not disgraceful to put something before the House, to find that the House of Commons takes a more critical view than expected and then to start work on it again.

Mr. McDonnell: I wish to speak because, in the spirit of the Bill, I do not want people to infer that my silence is support for the legislation, or any form of guilt. The debate on the amendments has been a revelation. I realised during our debate on the previous group of amendments that my support for Greenpeace might be seen as part of a criminal conspiracy. During the debate on this group, I have realised that I have form as long as one's arm, given my support for Chile Solidarity, anti-Vietnam campaigns, law campaigns and support for the Kurds and a range of other groups--all actions which could fall within the ambit of this legislation.

The omnipotence of the Attorney-General has been a revelation to most new Members of Parliament, as have the breadth of the concept of public interest and its vagueness. A number of us want to fetter the discretion of the Attorney-General when considering the matter. The

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amendments would do that, because they draw attention to what should be his key consideration in exercising his omnipotence on that issue--the human rights records of other countries.

6 am

There are precedents. I can recall being a spectator in debates on extradition treaties in the House. In particular, I recall the debate on the treaty with India, which affected a large number of members of my community. During that debate, the human rights record of India towards Sikhs and other people who lived in or originated from the Punjab was discussed. That became a material factor in considering whether the treaty should be signed.

The previous Government also introduced a white-list system for asylum seekers and refugees. The human rights record and the judicial systems of the countries of origin or destination were material factors to be taken into consideration in decisions by the United Kingdom Government on whether someone should be accepted as an asylum seeker or refugee. There are precedents for certain elements of Government decision making being fettered as a result of considering the human rights record of certain states.

Therefore, I join other hon. Members in urging that, at this late stage in the debate on the legislation, which was forced on us, the clauses should be taken back. As an assembly, we should be mature enough to recognise that we may be blundering into an error that will drastically affect the lives of many of our constituents--not merely their well-being, but their very existence--so I urge reconsideration.

I would welcome a vote on the amendments, but, if we are not to have one, I want some assurance from the Minister that he will take the matter back to the Cabinet and that the Government will reconsider how we define the powers of the Attorney-General and the concept of public interest.

Mr. Winnick: In his reply, the Minister has a responsibility to give us some reassurance about the right of people who come to this country from abroad to demonstrate against foreign Governments. That is essential. Like many of my hon. Friends, I have campaigned on and off for more than 40 years about various foreign Governments. Indeed, I just reminded myself that it was as long ago as 1954 that, as a private citizen, I sent a telegram to try to save the life of the ex-Foreign Minister of Iran who had been involved with the Government of 1950-51--it did not do any good, although I wish that it had.

Our record in this country is essential. People are allowed to demonstrate. I have reservations about some of the remarks made by my hon. Friends, but I take on board the fact that foreign Governments could put pressure on this and future Governments and that dissidents living here could be pressurised by the police and the security authorities to stop what they are doing. That should not be the purpose, and we are told by the Government that it is not the purpose, of clauses 5 to 7; so, as I have already said, we need that reassurance to be absolutely clear about it.

The difficulty that I have with some of my hon. Friends is not--because of what I have just said, it cannot be--that we disagree over the right to demonstrate, the right

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to give asylum and the rights of people who have been given asylum and who want to demonstrate against the Governments and regimes from which they have come. We are in total agreement on those matters.

However, there is a problem that some of my hon. Friends may not have quite faced. Mention has been made of Kenya, but I remind the Committee that last year, when the killings of foreign citizens took place in Luxor, Egypt, the Egyptian Government said, rightly or wrongly, that they had been planned in the United Kingdom, which was used as a safe haven for terrorists.

The Home Affairs Committee, including the Chair, one or two other hon. Members and me, closely questioned my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on that point. He may remember the occasion. We wanted to find out whether the British Government--the present or the previous incumbents--had inquired whether there were people in this country who had planned that terrible massacre of foreign citizens in Egypt.

We know why that massacre occurred: fundamentalist elements wanted to turn Egypt into a fundamentalist state and to stop tourism. That is why only foreign citizens were killed--to prevent foreign tourists from going to Egypt.

There are many aspects of life in Egypt with which I disagree. That is obvious. I am a democrat, and Egypt is nowhere near the kind of democracy that we would like to see. Although I disagree with the authorities there and with some of the repression that takes place, one thing is certain: I do not want to see it made worse and become a fundamentalist state.

The same applies to Saudi Arabia. We all know about the repression that occurs there, the amputations and the rest, which are repulsive to say the least. However, some of the people who are demonstrating, agitating and doing their best to overthrow that Government are not doing so for our reasons, to make it anywhere near a democracy. Far from it; those people are trying to make Saudi Arabia a fundamentalist state--and that includes the person mentioned earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn). Are we in favour of such people? We want reforms in those countries, and less repression, but we do not want regimes such as that in Afghanistan.

Dr. Lynne Jones: I do not think that there is concern in the House of Commons about the possible prosecution of people based in this country who conspire to carry out acts such as those that my hon. Friend described. We have had assurances from the Minister that such measures will not be used for fairly minor offences such as demonstrating against Governments, or even organising minor acts of vandalism and suchlike.

The concern is about actions in between those extremes, such as attacking military or other property within a state because that is the only way to take action in support of human rights. The example has been given of the actions of the military wing of the ANC in attacking property in South Africa.

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