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5.12 pm

Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater): I support the Second Reading of the Bill and I welcome the fact that there will be a permanent Terrorism Act on the statute book. I was struck by references to the origins of previous prevention of terrorism measures, which tended to be in response to outrages. Reference has been made to Birmingham and to Omagh--and I introduced certain measures in the House in response to an outrage at Ballygawley. One of the measures that we introduced at that time was the right, in certain circumstances, to draw inferences from a suspect's determination to remain silent. For that, I was heavily attacked by Labour Members when they were in opposition, but they moved that principle a bit further in the measures that they introduced in response to Omagh. I do not criticise them for that.

The contribution of the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) is living proof of how far the Labour party, which is now in government, has moved. The hon. Gentleman was once the Opposition spokesman whom I had to face across the House. He sang a very different song at that time and spoke on behalf of his party when he did so. I doubt whether the Labour party would now subscribe to many of the views that the hon. Gentleman expressed at that time.

I declare an interest: I am the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee. In our most recent report, we drew attention to the fact that terrorism is not confined to Northern Ireland and that it will not be happily dealt with by the Good Friday agreement and what has flowed from it. Terrorism is now a global activity which poses many fresh and serious challenges. Terrorism has long existed around the world in domestic situations, but it is now conducted against one country from another. The latter is often a safe haven that offers peace and

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tranquillity for planning, organising and fundraising for some of the outrages that are perpetrated in another country.

Mr. Corbyn: Will the right hon. Gentleman concede that there are fundamental problems with the argument that he is propounding? During the apartheid era in South Africa, it was held that Umkhonto we Sizwe was operating a terrorist regime against the Pretoria Government. The organisation had strong supporters and friends in this country. My understanding is that, under this Bill, the ANC office in London would have been closed down on that basis, and the ANC banned in Britain as a terrorist organisation.

Mr. King: I shall develop that serious point because it needs to be addressed, but I want first to set the scene.

There is globalisation of terrorism, facility of movement of funds and equipment, which is almost unpreventable, and the horrific development of technology. The Home Secretary referred to the use of sarin on the underground in Tokyo. Weapons of mass destruction--whether they be nuclear, chemical or biological--have developed to the extent that they offer new possibilities for terrorism, often as much by the threat of their use as by their actual use. Against that background any democratic state must have in place arrangements and facilities to deal with those situations.

Having had to take some responsibility for these matters in the past, I share the Home Secretary's view that no Government could face their people if they had not taken responsible action to ensure that measures were in place. I recognise not only how quickly public opinion can change and public comment can focus on safeguards and the need always to protect legitimate interests, but how ferocious will be the counter-attack if the Government are seen to have left their people exposed to unacceptable threats and dangers, and not to have taken reasonable and responsible action to protect them. I include that new dimension of terrorism, to which my committee referred in its report, in my consideration of the Bill.

The issue that the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) just raised is precisely the point that I made to the Home Secretary. We are seeking to ensure that we do not allow this country to become a safe haven for those who commit against perfectly democratic countries terrorism of a kind that we would find totally unacceptable. Those countries may be other members of the European Union. It is no secret that because of the outrages that have been committed in Paris, the French Government are extremely critical of us for what they see as providing a haven for Islamic terrorists. I do not imagine that any hon. Member would seek to defend the position of this country being a safe haven for terrorism against legitimate, democratic Governments.

We then come up against exactly the problem that the hon. Member for Islington, North mentioned: one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. I intervened on the Home Secretary to make the point about balance, which is one of the principles by which he will determine his actions.

We are talking, without question, about additional powers, not the normal criminal law. With additional powers must come additional safeguards. I shall not try to

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pronounce in detail what I think the answer should be. The merit of the Committee scrutiny of the Bill is that those issues, which need to be recognised, can be dealt with.

I shivered momentarily when my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) was speaking. I went into northern Iraq to support the Kurds there, supported by 45 Commando and a squadron of Tornados. We were attempting to ensure that the Kurds were protected: we encouraged them to take the most violent action to repel any aggression against them by Saddam Hussein and his forces and we provided back-up in the form of air power and a Marine commando. It is an extreme illustration, but I am sure that lawyers would have a field day with such admissions if I were liable to arrest for aiding and abetting a terrorist act against the legitimate Government of another country. I hope that the Serjeant at Arms does not feel the need to make a citizen's arrest for what might be claimed to be a manifest breach of proposed legislation.

The serious point is that there must be proper safeguards and thorough analysis of what constitutes terrorism. In a private Member's Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson)--who, despite what the Home Secretary thinks, is alive and well and still a Member of Parliament--tried to ensure that, to be considered a terrorist act, an act should be legally defined as a terrorist act both in this country and in the country in which the complaint originated. The complexity of that description demonstrates the difficulties that Ministers encounter when trying to strike a balance between obvious acts of terrorism committed against a friendly country, and action that is less easily recognised as terrorism because it takes the form of an act of protest against a regime that we regard as unacceptable and our sympathies reside with the protesters. How that balance is struck will be the business of the Committee on the Bill. I am not able to serve on the Committee, so I look forward to Report to discover how the Committee resolves that important issue. I approve of the Bill in general and believe that the Committee will be able to deal with detailed problems.

I am not sure that I can fully support what my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) said about judicial approval of an extension order. I used to have to extend orders in respect of people who were held in detention before charges were preferred--indeed, I might have been the Secretary of State who was pilloried in the European Court in Strasbourg after lawyers contended that my giving an extension of seven days before charges needed to be brought was absolutely disgraceful. Therefore, I took an interest in events that occurred at the same time as that case was going on.

The case coincided with the successful apprehension by the French authorities of a ship called the Eksund, which was loaded with arms and munitions from Libya intended for the IRA. The French arrested the captain and crew and the examining magistrate took charge of proceedings. Around the time that the UK was being criticised for holding a person for seven days before charge on the authority of a Secretary of State, the examining magistrate under French judicial proceedings had the crew of the Eksund held for two years before preferring charges. As I understand it, the examining magistrate granted himself the extension while he assembled the prosecution case.

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It is difficult for our European friends, who operate a completely different system of legal procedures, to believe that it might be right for a politician to make out extension orders. Against that background, I think that the judicial approach is certainly worthy of consideration. I recognise the criticism that can be made of political power being used in this way and the feeling that it could be used improperly. That is something that the Committee might like to examine.

I warmly support all the references to fundraising in the Bill. I realised too late in my time in Northern Ireland that one of the key elements was to try to get after the funds of the terrorist organisations. That was in addition to trying to stop violence on the streets and prevent terrorist outrages. I set up the anti-rackets unit to try to pursue those funds.

I remember well--some right hon. and hon. Members may also recall this--an incident when certain people were charged with conspiracy to murder in this country. They were apprehended with some of their equipment in a campsite in Somerset. I recall that they had £4,000 stitched into the wall of their tent. A certain learned and reverend gentleman in Northern Ireland had great doubts about British police arresting decent young Irishmen who were obviously genuine holidaymakers. He thought that they should not have been apprehended in the way that they were. It was the discovery of the money that made him realise that the people concerned were not ordinary tourists or students on vacation. That is a reminder that money is a key ingredient in the obtaining of weapons, transport, the buying of vehicles and the entire paraphernalia on which terrorism depends.

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