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Mr. Corbyn: Is my hon. Friend the Minister not a lawyer?

Mr. Charles Clarke: No.

Mr. Corbyn: I beg my hon. Friend's pardon. That makes three of us. We have a lot in common.

We tabled the amendment in lieu after much consideration. I should be grateful if my hon. Friend the Minister would consider the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell) and me when he replies. We were not members of the Committee that considered the Bill, and were thus unable to pursue the anxieties that we expressed on Second Reading. We were worried that the definition of terrorism in the Bill was so broadly drawn that there was a danger of its including people who were by no stretch of the imagination terrorists, but who could be defined as such in a British court. The right hon. and learned Member for North Hykeham and lots of other places--

Mr. Hogg: Sleaford.

Mr. Corbyn: The right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), who represents all places in Lincolnshire, also drew attention to the problem. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and

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Harlington pointed out, one person's terrorist can be another person's freedom fighter. Former President Nelson Mandela of South Africa was denounced in this country as a terrorist, as were many others who were later elevated to the status of freedom fighter. It is the lot of many so-called terrorists around the world to become freedom fighters and then saints, often in the space of a short time.

We are worried that the definition in the Bill could enable foreign Governments to put pressure on the British Government to arrest people in this country for peaceful activities that are pursued here in support of a change in their society. Those activities may be pursued peacefully here but not so peacefully in the relevant country. Such circumstances are potentially a minefield.

I recall the time when various Conservative Members asked about Mohammed al Nasari's activities in opposing the Saudi Government. They claimed--I do not know whether the claim was justifiable--that British economic interests and arms exports were substantially affected by his campaign to oppose the Saudi Government and royal family, and that there was therefore an economic bearing on reasons to remove him from this country. I do not recall his being labelled a terrorist, but the comments were not far removed from calling him a terrorist.

The native Amazonian people in Brazil campaigned honourably for a long time to protect the rain forest in a sustainable way and to preserve their way of life. At various times, their methods have been described as terrorism against the state of Brazil, because they prevent what some perceive as legitimate economic activity and others perceive as disastrous for the rain forest. Many people in this country have supported them. Would they be included in the catch-all definition if they undertook peaceful direct action against Brazilian economic interests here? That is the danger of the definition.

4.15 pm

On Saturday, I went to the north Yorkshire moors with many other people from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. It was a beautiful day and the scenery was wonderful. We were protesting against the American national missile defence system and star wars experiment. Our demonstration was entirely peaceful; we marched up to the base and hung banners around its edge. The police were entirely co-operative and said that it was a very nice day out as well. It did not rain all the time we were there, and everyone went away.

If there had been some form of direct action, such as people trying to climb over the fence or whatever as has happened with Operation Snowball, I would have described it as peaceful direction action in pursuit of a peaceful objective. Indeed, such a view has been upheld in the courts. However, it could be argued that such action was against the interests of the United States Government in trying to pursue their national missile defence policy. I should be grateful if my hon. Friend would consider that matter in his reply. I also have in mind those who have been charged with damaging genetically modified crops--although I cannot pursue that case now because it is before the courts.

The crux of the amendment in lieu tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington is that it directly deals with

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I realise that the word "elected" can cover a multitude of sins; it is difficult to define. I am slightly suspicious of Governments who are elected by 99.8 per cent. of the vote, and the Albanian electoral system in the past. We must define the word "elected" carefully, and perhaps we should further consider the definition, but my hon. Friend the Minister should consider the fact that our genuine desire is not to support violent terrorism in any form--that is not our purpose--but to protect the important right of people in this country to engage in legitimate, peaceful political activities that are intended to promote social and political change in their own society.

We should not allow foreign, dictatorial Governments or oppressive regimes to use economic and political arguments in this country to ensure that their internal opponents are arrested under British law. That would be dangerous and a negation of many of the principles under which people have claimed asylum under the 1951 convention.

Dr. Godman: I have considerable sympathy for the amendment in lieu tabled by hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell). In criticising that amendment, the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) referred to middle eastern regimes and to his experience as Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I remember debating with him whether the Lockerbie trial should be held in Scotland. I remind him that the amendment in lieu refers not to regimes, but to elected Governments, although it might have been better if it had referred to democratically elected Governments.

My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) referred to serious damage to property. An incident took place not so long ago at the nuclear submarine base on the Clyde involving three women demonstrators, or campaigners against the nuclear deterrent. Their campaign focuses on the removal of those submarines from the Firth of Clyde, and I have some sympathy for that view. They were charged at Greenock sheriff court under extant Scots law on criminal offences and criminal damage to property. Incidentally, the sheriff threw out the case, but that is another story. I am also concerned about damage to property or inadvertent injury to persons that can happen in industrial disputes.

On the pursuit of ideological objectives, the International Whaling Commission, for example, might allow the Norwegians and the Japanese--the two foremost industrial whaling nations--greater access to the rapidly depleting whale stocks. That might prompt Greenpeace to send out a vessel, perhaps to our territorial waters, and, in its efforts to interfere with the whaler's activities, that vessel might damage the whaler in a collision. Would that constitute an act of terrorism under the Lords amendment? Too many people who act rashly, inadvertently causing damage, might be charged with terrorist activities. The amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington fits the reality of political protest and campaigning much better than do the Bill and the Lords amendment.

Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury): The House of Lords has done a good job as a revising Chamber in

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considering the definition of terrorism and my reading of the debates in the other place shows that the issue was discussed constructively and at length. On Report in the House of Lords, the Government introduced a redefinition that meets a number of concerns expressed by Members of both Houses about the original definition.

In particular, I record my welcome for two features of the new definition. First, it describes terrorism as an activity that puts people in fear--that terrorises the public or others. As my noble Friend Lord Cope of Berkeley pointed out in the other place, that is surely an essential feature of any definition of terrorism. Secondly, the Government have agreed to extend the definition to include what might be termed cyber-crime--the deliberate act of wrecking computer and information systems to intimidate the public or to influence a Government. We drew attention to that matter early in the Bill's proceedings in this House--indeed, it was highlighted by Lord Lloyd of Berwick in his original report on the subject.

The Bill must make it possible for the police and others to treat as terrorism the prospect of an attack by a group such as the IRA or continuing republican paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland on an air traffic control system or an information technology system governing the activities of a public utility, major finance houses in the City of London or the civil service in Whitehall. Indeed, I am told that there is evidence from overseas that some Tamil terrorist organisations have sought to damage the Indian Government's communications systems as part of their on-going political campaign. All Members who experienced the damage done recently by a computer bug to our ability to communicate will know that such methods of intimidation are almost certain to be attractive to terrorist groups.

I reiterate the support of those on the Opposition Front Bench for the concept of the definition encompassing both domestic and international terrorism. We acknowledge that that raises difficult questions about balancing the need for effective counter-terrorist legislation with defence of human rights, but I believe that the threat posed by both domestic and international terrorism is such that the Government are right to propose a definition that is broader in scope than those included in current legislation.

May I deal briefly with the amendments that we are debating alongside the Lords amendment? I was glad to hear from the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) that he did not intend to press amendment (c), because that would have narrowed the definition in an unacceptable fashion. In his discussion of amendment (b), he raised the interesting question whether we need an objective, as well as a subjective, test. However, when he dealt with proposed subsection (1B), he spoiled his argument by saying that there should be a test of intention--namely, an intention to cause death--rather than the objective test included in the Lords amendment as drafted.

Amendment (e) is too narrow in scope. To say that an act involving

would constitute terrorism only if "intended to cause death" would open the gates to those terrorists who attack targets such as Canary Wharf or the Arndale centre in

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Manchester, and then blame the casualties on the fact that the police did not act on the warning that the terrorists claim to have given the authorities. That amendment would create an imbalance in the Bill in favour of the terrorists, so the House should not accept it.

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