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Clergy Pensions

31. Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): What account is taken of the projected level of state pensions in calculating the projected level of clergy pensions. [128227]

Mr. Stuart Bell (Second Church Estates Commissioner, representing the Church Commissioners): I nearly said that I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer that I gave earlier.

The projected level of state pensions is one of a number of factors taken into account by the Church in establishing the formula for determining the full basic rate of clergy pension and retirement lump sum. Those factors include receipt in retirement of a state pension and also the need to meet the cost of housing. For those in office, however, housing is provided in addition to a stipend.

Mr. Hughes: I nearly said that I did not know my question was so difficult. However, although clergy are expected to have some vocation for their jobs, is it the Church's policy that the income and pensions of clergy should bear some relationship to average incomes and pensions in England? If not, why not?

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Mr. Bell: The hon. Gentleman, as usual, puts a friendly, kindly and complex question. We are cognisant of the need to be sure that pensions and lump sums on retirement are related to what is happening in the outside world. The pensioner retirement lump sum is related to the national minimum stipend--the full basic rate of pension is two thirds of the previous year's figure for the national minimum, and the lump sum is three times the pension. The answer might be on the subtle side, but I hope that it is clear.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): Might not the Church Commissioners obviate the need for paying pensions so early and thereby be able to pay a better lump sum on termination of service, and a higher pension, if clergy were able to serve beyond the normal retirement age of 70? Is it not the case that many parishes have to go without a parish priest when a perfectly good, able-bodied clergyman has to retire, perhaps against his will, at the arbitrary age of 70? The Church should be beyond ageism.

Mr. Bell: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He makes a valid point, which I shall be glad to take back to the Church Commissioners.

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Points of Order

3.31 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Have you had any requests from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence or the Department for International Development about their making a statement on the deteriorating position in Kosovo in relation to the attempt to establish any kind of multi-ethnic community?

Madam Speaker: I have not been informed that any Minister is seeking to make a statement on any issue today. No doubt those on the Front Bench will have noted the hon. Gentleman's interest.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You may be aware from the front page of The Guardian today that recorded crime over the past year has risen by 3 per cent., and that violent crime has risen by more than 10 per cent. Have you received any representations from the Home Office as to when it will make its statement on that report? Can you ensure that the statement is not made on 18 July, which is the likely date for the statement on the comprehensive spending review?

Madam Speaker: I cannot guarantee when statements are made. I have no control over such statements. Ministers let me know when they are ready to make such a statement, but I have noted what the hon. Gentleman has said.


Madam Speaker: I propose to put together the Questions on the four motions.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Medical Profession

Terms and Conditions of Employment

Data Protection

Question agreed to.

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Orders of the Day


Order for Second Reading read.

Question, That the Bill be now read a Second time, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 56 (Consolidated Fund Bills), and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, put forthwith, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.

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Terrorism Bill

Lords amendments considered.

Clause 1

Terrorism: interpretation

Lords amendment: No. 1, in page 1, line 7, leave out subsection (1) and insert--
("(1) In this Act "terrorism" means the use or threat of action where--
(a) the action falls within subsection (1A),
(b) the use or threat is designed to influence the government or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and
(c) the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause.
(1A) Action falls within this subsection if it--
(a) involves serious violence against a person,
(b) involves serious damage to property,
(c) endangers a person's life other than that of the person committing the action,
(d) creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, or
(e) is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.
(1B) The use or threat of action falling within subsection (1A) which involves the use of firearms or explosives is terrorism whether or not subsection (1)(b) is satisfied.")

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.-- [Mr. Charles Clarke.]

Madam Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss amendments (b), (c), (e), (f) and the amendment in lieu, and Lords amendments Nos. 2, 3, 17 and 107.

3.33 pm

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): I give notice to you, Madam Speaker, and the Minister that I shall not be pressing amendment (c) because it is covered by an amendment in lieu which comes later in the group. Other colleagues clearly want to speak about other aspects of the definition clause.

When we debated the Bill on Second Reading, Third Reading and in Committee, and when the Bill went to the other end of the building for debate, I think that it is fair to say that the most controversial area--that which has exercised more people for a longer time--has been the definition of terrorism. Therefore, it is not surprising that we are starting this afternoon's debates on the amendments made in the Lords by looking at the Bill as it has come back to us, with a changed definition.

It is to the credit of the Minister of State and of the Government that they accepted that the Bill might not have been in a perfect form when it was presented. The new definition of terrorism shows that it has been amended. In some respects, that amendment is an improvement--as, in general, are the Lords amendments. Amendments Nos. 1 and 19, on reverse burdens of proof, are significant. They are a move in the right direction and we are grateful for that.

Recent debates on the Bill have shown that we need to learn a lesson--it relates specifically to these amendments. When we deal with a controversial Bill on

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a difficult aspect of law--especially one, such as this, that would make permanent legislation that has never formerly been so--we should follow the procedures already established in the House that allow us to take advice so that we get the measure right.

There are several elements in that system. The first is the Select Committee procedure. The second is the use of draft Bills--if ever there was a case for a draft Bill, this was it. The third procedure is one that we tried to persuade the Government to use on several Home Office Bills this year: to submit a Bill to various forms of scrutiny upstairs--to a Special Standing Committee, where evidence can be taken, before clause by clause deliberation.

I hope that the Government, and especially Home Office Ministers, will seriously consider holding discussions between the parties at an early stage so that we can get right such matters as definitions. Paradoxically, the Home Secretary is holding such discussions over the measure on football hooliganism that may be dealt with later this week. Had we done so on other Bills, we might have made a better success of the legislative process.

It is accepted that the amendment is still not right. My reading of the debates in the other place confirms that although there was a widespread view that many efforts were made to improve the measure--including meetings with the Home Secretary and with people outside the House--no one pretends that the definition of terrorism is correct. The amendments try to improve that definition and to pick up some of the threads that ran through previous debates, without repeating those debates.

Amendment (b) is relatively small. It deals with the central part of the definition of terrorism. That part of the measure is oddly drafted. Amendment No. 1 states that terrorism is

it then refers to proposed subsection (1A) and sets out two complementary criteria. The first is

The second is

Amendment (b) would clarify the "designed to" concept by adding a "directed against" provision. I apologise to hon. Members for this relatively technical explanation, but that is inescapable in a discussion of definitions and drafting. The benefit of the amendment lies in the fact that, sometimes, terrorism has results that it was not designed or intended to achieve; it might have been directed to a purpose, but an objective assessment of that might be different from a subjective evaluation of it. That is difficult and important law because it relates to whether we always seek to prove intent.

However, for reasons that we often reiterated in Committee, it is important to get the Bill right. It will not create new offences, but will take certain offences and, in certain conditions, will define them as "terrorist" offences with the set of consequences that such offences entail. When they are committed, the Bill will give the state greater and the citizen fewer powers, and the punishment involved will be heavier than for non-terrorist offences. The Bill does not say that a certain form of activity is a terrorist offence, but says that that activity--even though

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it is already a crime--becomes terrorism in certain circumstances. Once the threshold is crossed, the police can take possession of documents, set up cordons and have greater powers to detain people. I ask the Government to consider whether the definition should cover both whether an action can objectively be assessed as being directed against the Government or intimidating the public or a section of the public and whether the action was designed with such aims in mind.

Amendment (c) was tabled as a probing amendment to encourage a debate. The Minister will remember the big debate that we had in Committee on how or whether we should limit the definition of terrorism. We considered whether to limit it to activities directed against Government or extend it to include activities directed against other parties that are not in government, such as an Opposition party or a party that is not represented in government. We also considered whether the definition should go wider than that. Given the procedures of the House, I sought to find a peg on which we could hang such a debate and that is why I tabled the amendment. However, the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell) has offered the House an alternative to the Lords amendment and that allows us to have the debate.

I would like to consider the alternative proposal, which appears as an amendment in lieu on the second page of the amendment paper. It retains the widely drawn provisions relating to

but limits those provisions to action against the Government themselves. I recognise that there is a weakness in any definition that suggests that only the Government can be the target. Although it is no secret that we have had a difference of view on how to draft an amendment, my hon. Friends and I would prefer that the definition should take account of other political targets and not just the Government.

Lords amendment No. 1 contains a provision that refers to a threat that is designed to

Unless the amendment in lieu tabled by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington is accepted, that provision is likely to become part of the Bill. If it does, we must be careful to ensure that we understand what we are doing. We are changing the definition of terrorism to one that may cover acts that have no political objective. It may cover activities based on ideological or religious grounds and--I have previously referred to a similar example--it might cover the actions of someone who is deluded or has religious convictions and who takes action against another member of the public. In normal lay parlance, we would not regard such an act as terrorism.

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