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Mr. Simon Hughes: I want to ensure that the hon. Gentleman understands that proposed subsection (1B) qualifies the preconditions that must be met in the earlier parts of the definition. Whether or not my amendment or any form of words is accepted, we must retain proposed subsection (1B). All that it does is convict someone on the basis of
Mr. Lidington: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for explaining the intention behind his amendment. I was going to deal with the point that he raised because, to an extent, it answers some of the concerns that were expressed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg). Some of the debate about proposed subsection (1B) seemed to assume that it was an unqualified exception to the principles established in proposed subsection (1A). Yet surely the use of firearms or explosives must be shown, under proposed subsection (1)(b) and (c), to be
Mr. Lidington: The Minister will no doubt clear things up for both of us. According to my reading of the Lords amendment, the motivation of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause would clearly have to be established, even if one accepted the point that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham made.
The other point that my right hon. and learned Friend made is worth consideration: whether we should extend the exemption in proposed new subsection (1B) to include not just firearms and explosives but other lethal forms of weaponry, such as chemical and biological weapons. I would be interested to know the Government's thinking on that point.
Mr. Lidington: I understand the hon. Gentleman's argument but, to use that hypothetical case, if a gang of people were organised and believed that some God was impelling them to raid a sub-post office to stamp out gambling, it should be possible to treat them as a terrorist organisation. Similarly, it should be possible to treat an organisation that uses violent methods in pursuit of animal rights as terrorist, given the attempts to kill and maim people made by such extreme organisations.
That brings me on to the points made by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell). He acknowledged that to use a phrase such as "any other elected government" raises many questions about the validity of elections in different parts of the world. In any case, we need a definition of terrorism that goes wider than action against Governments.
Mr. Hughes: The hon. Gentleman has been intellectually honest as we have gone through this process, and I just want to press him one more time. I may be prepared to accept his proposition that the actions of a group seeking to undermine people may justify a terrorist description. However, does he honestly believe that the act of one person with one firearm endangering one person's life from some ideological motive--albeit that that is a criminal, undesirable act that would deserve to be severely punished--should be classed not as an ordinary crime but as an act of terrorism, with all the implications that that has?
Mr. Lidington: The problem with the hon. Gentleman's argument is that, in the example of the hypothetical nutter who believes that he is hearing divine voices, the offences involved in addressing a public meeting or fundraising would not be relevant--they would be relevant only to an organised group. Similarly, I would have expected that in such a case the police would rely on the powers given to them to enforce the criminal law, and it is likely that they would establish the man's claimed motivation only after the event when they had detected and arrested him.
I understand the case that the hon. Gentleman makes, but he is pushing a hypothesis to extreme lengths. I acknowledge--if I can repay the compliment--that he has been intellectually consistent throughout our deliberations on the Bill. In my view, however, it is important to have, if not the form of words that we now have in front of us, something very like it when the Bill finally gets to the statute book, in order to ensure that we are armed with sufficient safeguards against the real danger posed to our society by organised terrorism.
Let me respond briefly to the points made by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington. The law's definition of terrorism needs to be broader in scope than "actions designed to influence or to have an impact on Government." We know extreme animal rights groups
Mr. Charles Clarke: May I begin with a couple of generalities--with the specific exception of the vicious smear on me by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn), who claimed that I was a lawyer? I have spent a lot of time resisting those attacks and I have attacked other lawyers. I am surrounded in the Home Office by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who is a lawyer, and by my fellow Ministers of State, who are lawyers. The Prime Minister is also a lawyer. I have taken great pride in not being a lawyer in our discussions, so I was deeply distressed--that is the only phrase I can use--by my hon. Friend's attack.
More generally and more seriously, I welcome the various welcomes--and appreciate the spirit in which they were given--from hon. Members on both sides of the House for the changes that we have introduced in the Lords. It is true that we have sought to take account of what has been said by a number of people in the course of our debates.
I want to emphasise, as I have throughout, that many of these judgments are difficult judgments of balance between the various rights involved. Of course, there is room for different emphases as one deals with the balance.
Amendments were debated at earlier stages concerning the life of the Bill. I hope that, when the review is conducted of the operation of the Bill, reports on the central definition and its effectiveness or ineffectiveness will be considered. Obviously, it will be for the person conducting the review to decide exactly how to deal with the matter. I acknowledge that it has been a dominant theme of our debates in both Houses of Parliament. It is, therefore, entirely appropriate for the review to consider addressing those matters.
Mr. Corbyn: Can the Minister assure the House that the person undertaking the review will not only review any cases, actual or potential, that come up in the courts, but take evidence from exiled organisations and reputable human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International on the operation of the law? In the
Mr. Clarke: I cannot give my hon. Friend the first assurance that he sought. We have set out clearly the way in which the reports will be laid before the House, and will be capable of being considered by it. As for his second point, I can, perhaps, be more reassuring. If serious questions of definition arose in the reports, certainly this but, I think, any Government would take them extremely seriously, and consider what changes were needed.