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9.30 pm

I should like to illustrate some of the catch-all consequences of not amending the definition. Clause 1 refers to serious violence against any person or property as part of


We need to take stock of where that leads. Almost all Labour Members would have to list a long catalogue of causes with which they have been directly associated, in their careers in Parliament and outside, and which would be caught under the new rubric of the definition of terrorism.

People participating in the miners' strike and Grunwick were responsible for serious damage to property. Their motivation was undoubtedly political or ideological. Regardless of whether they were dealt with well or badly, they were properly dealt with under the framework of

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industrial and criminal law. It would be wrong for us simply to presume that what was missing at the time was the ability of the Government of the day to redefine those activities as acts of terrorism.

Mr. Hogg: The hon. Gentleman is looking back on his youth, when he was no doubt a participant in some of the anti-Vietnam demonstrations. In his middle years, he may well have been a participant in the community charge demonstrations in Trafalgar square. Will he reflect on the fact that both those activities undoubtedly fall within the scope of clause 1 and are therefore potentially terrorist acts?

Mr. Simpson: I accept the right hon. and learned Gentleman's propositions. I will try and list the other charges that I would like to be taken into account.

Mr. John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington): There is no time for that.

Mr. Simpson: The causes with which Labour Members have identified and which would be caught under the definition would include activities at Greenham common and those of the women at Menwith Hill, who regularly take down the fencing at the American spy base. They would include the activities of the women involved in the Trident Ploughshares campaign and those who broke in and damaged the Hawk aircraft. They would include the activities of animal rights protesters, activists who knowingly destroy fields of genetically modified crops and those who oppose live animal exports. From a different political perspective, they would also include the activities of anti-abortion campaigners.

It is not a matter of whether I agree with those campaigns. If people commit breaches of the criminal law, they should be dealt with under that criminal law. But it is quite wrong for us to give the Government the power to redefine whole tranches of social protest movements as though they were acts of terrorism. The implications for society are horrendous.

Mr. Robert Marshall-Andrews (Medway): Will my hon. Friend reflect on an example that he has not given? I refer to support for the African National Congress during the course of the apartheid struggle. It is a singular problem for one of our distinguished Ministers of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that last week he would have lost his right to jury trial in respect of the bank theft with which he was unjustly charged, and this week he would be prosecuted under clause 1 for his activities regarding the ANC. As the same can be said for most of us, it would have been a happy band of brothers in the dock.

Mr. Simpson: I thank my hon. and learned Friend for those comments. As usual, he is several steps ahead of where I intended to go, but he is right.

Where would those caught in the net of the new definition of terrorism find themselves? Clause 1(1)(c) refers to terrorism if there is


Again, such terrorism could be driven by support for a political or ideological cause. Where would that place the threat of strikes within essential public services--the national health service or the fire service--or by air traffic

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control and power workers? Could many of those workers find themselves not in breach of employment law, but being charged with terrorist offences?

The decision warrants much more serious thought and reflection, rather than calling on an in-built majority, which may be used in pursuit of an act of folly.

People who are so charged would face a number of consequences, which are defined in later clauses. They would certainly be exposed to the prospect of arrest without warrant, which is defined in clause 40. They might also be guilty by association. Clauses 15 to 18 define the framework within which groups of people will be committing terrorist offences if they raise funds for such causes and organisations or encourage others to do so. If they are found guilty of those charges, they will face a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

Clause 19 almost provides for guilt by suspicion. If one suspects that a person--perhaps a relation, someone who lives next door or whom one works alongside--supports one of the proscribed causes, but one fails to notify a constable, one is also guilty of an offence, for which one could be imprisoned for up to five years. Many hon. Members who were not directly involved in some of the campaigns that I listed would certainly have attended meetings and fund-raising events in support of those self same causes.

Mr. Norman Baker (Lewes): The hon. Gentleman's case is persuasive. He has set out the huge implications for civil liberties if the clause is not amended. That case could have been made by any principled Labour or Liberal Democrat Member in the past 20 years. Can he explain why the Government are failing to hear his logic or that of my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes)?

Mr. Simpson: I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman will have to wait a long time for such an explanation. I cannot come up with one for myself, let alone for anyone else. It is utterly perplexing that we should apparently be wedded to a definition that threatens to undermine so sweepingly civil liberties and the credibility of governance itself. I cannot fathom why we should feel propelled to charge down such a catastrophic path.

However, it does not end there. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) pointed out, clause 1(2)(c), which sets the provision in an international context, means that large numbers of us who actively supported the anti-apartheid campaign, the case for freeing Nelson Mandela, and the African National Congress, would clearly have been in breach of this Bill. It would be a wonderful way to get shot of a Labour majority at a stroke--it might even clear our Benches entirely. That would be the electoral aspiration of most of the Opposition parties. However, such heroic acts of self-sacrifice are not to be recommended to the Government--certainly not from within the Labour party.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): My hon. Friend has made much of the past in South Africa. Is he aware that, at present, in many countries, even wholly peaceful opposition forces to military dictatorships are routinely labelled as terrorist organisations by their Governments? Under the Bill, someone from a country that is deemed to have an independent judicial service--

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however doubtful some of us might be about that definition--could be prosecuted in this country for being part of a peaceful, exiled opposition to the Government of such a country.

Mr. Simpson: I realise that. It is important to make the serious point that the international dimension is not only reminiscence; it relates to conditions in today's world. The definition would apply not only to conflict with a Government; it could apply equally to the Ogoni people's conflict with Shell and Shell's property. It could apply to the conflict between Amazonian Indians and the logging corporations that would destroy their natural habitat, their lives and livelihood. The reach of this definitional clause is frightening in its implications.

Moreover, there is a serious prospect that the international roles played by organisations such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Christian Aid or War on Want could be defined as collusively involved in active terrorism, because those organisations support actions that confront the power of corporations and may damage their property. We have made a fundamental misjudgment of what a relevant and appropriate definition of terrorism should be in the Bill.

In the world in which we are trying to function and of which we are trying to make sense, one of the strong motive forces is power and pressure from global corporations. They want terrorist legislation to protect their property. They want us to put the protection of corporate fiefdoms at the head of civil societies. By including the property reference in our definition, we would be doing precisely that.

Global organisations are already conducting a battle of language through much of the campaign literature that they produce. They refer to environmental protesters as "environmental terrorists". They want us to describe those who protest against the building of roads, dams and oil extraction plants and against forest exploitation not as eco-protesters, but as eco-terrorists. That is what the Bill would do. It would give a facade of protection to corporate fiefdoms through repressive legislation.

Mr. McNamara: Does my hon. Friend agree that many corporate organisations are themselves arming dissidents to protect their property?


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