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Mr. Hughes: The hon. Gentleman is correct. My simplistic definition between democracy and non- democracy tried to make the argument even more bald, but there are many grey areas. One of the things that we did not hear a word about from the Home Secretary was who he might be thinking of proscribing. I give the hon. Gentleman an example.

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My constituency includes a small but significant number of people from Sri Lanka. I have in my constituency--it is not a secret building--the office of Tamil Eelam in London. I have been to its meetings. I have talked to Sinhalese Sri Lankans and to Tamil Sri Lankans.

If I go to the headquarters of Tamil Eelam in my constituency for a public meeting that is attended by more than three people and people there support the Tamil Tigers in Jaffna, they could potentially be proscribed and suddenly fall within the ambit of the Bill. The presence of anyone at that meeting would be sufficient to render them guilty of an offence, with all the exceptional powers and penalties associated with that.

It is not just groups from Sri Lanka. It could be groups from Pakistan or Burma or groups representing half the globe at any particular time. Many of those countries are not democratic. They certainly include Burma. One could by no stretch of the imagination believe that that country is a democratic regime.

Mr. Hogg: The hon. Gentleman had better be even more careful than he has been already. If the Tamil Eelam people ask him for money, they are committing, at least potentially, an offence under clause 14. If he were to give them that money, he would commit an offence under clause 14(3). It is precious little consolation to him to know that he will not be prosecuted unless the Director of Public Prosecutions agrees. It is all on the discretion of an individual.

Mr. Hughes: Early in its stages, the debate is showing that the proposals need the most careful scrutiny, to put it at its mildest.

The clause 38 definition of terrorist takes in clause 10, which deals with membership of proscribed organisations, and clause 11, which deals with people inviting support for proscribed organisations, including--I pick up the point--private meetings of three or more people. Someone may be guilty through association even with someone who is not a member of a proscribed organisation, but who alleges that he is.

The definition also takes in clause 14, which deals with the fundraising provisions to which the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) referred; clause 15, which is about use of money or other property; clause 16, which is about other arrangements; clause 17; clause 52, which is about instruction and training; and clauses 54, 55 and 56. There is a range of implications from the proposed definition of terrorism.

The hon. Member for Slough and others have made the point that clause 18 will make someone guilty if that person discovers something about activities in support of terrorism and says nothing. If that clause goes on to the statute book, many journalists will be guilty without having done any more than that.

Clauses 38 and 39, which deal with arrest and stop-and-search procedures, were originally enacted before the current criminal law arrangements for arrest, stop and search applied. There are strong police arguments that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 is sufficient. We should not need another extension of the removal of liberty for such purposes because we have new legislation in the general criminal law.

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Nearly last but not least--it has not yet been mentioned--part VI contains provisions on the possession of articles or membership lists--for example, lists of the Cabinet, as happened on one occasion. Under the Bill, the reversal of the burden of proof presumption will still apply in relation to the collection of information. Five years ago, the current Attorney-General, when Opposition home affairs spokesman in the other place, said that those provisions were far too harsh and draconian. No less a person than the Lord Chief Justice said last year that the provisions, in a

All those proposals are in the Bill.

Finally, the incitement proposals will catch people who associate themselves with organisations in other countries. As was said earlier, that might have included the ANC 30 years ago, or others today.

I hope that I have shown that my party is clear that we need legislation and that it should be on a United Kingdom-wide basis, with every citizen treated the same. The Bill looks as though it is going too far in favour of the state and away from liberty.

I pay tribute to the people of Northern Ireland. All of us want to make it clear that the least we can do is to recognise their sacrifice, that of their police service and the armed services, who have given their lives when terrorism, which is unacceptable and never justified here, was carried out. We must have a strong law against terrorism, but it must be the right law.

As the right hon. Gentleman for Bridgwater said, additional powers need additional safeguards. Legislation with additional powers needs additional scrutiny. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will support our proposal that the Bill should go to a Special Standing Committee and that the Government, who have suggested that they are not absolutely opposed to that option, feel able to support it by 10.15 this evening. In any event, I hope that, by the time the Bill comes out of Committee, we will not have put on to the statute book in haste a Bill that may cause us, and many of our citizens, to repent at leisure.

6.8 pm

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): Before I came to the debate, I attended a pensioners function at the Islington Irish centre in my constituency. I was there briefly. One person was treated, correctly, as a welcome guest--it was Gerry Conlon, one of the Guildford Four. He spent more than half his life in British prisons for an offence that he did not commit, on the basis of evidence that was collected after the first arrest of a person under the prevention of terrorism Act--Paul Hill. Subsequently, the other three so-called members of the group were arrested, charged and imprisoned. It took an enormous campaign to get them out of prison.

The PTA was rushed through the House in 1974 in the wake of the appalling events in Birmingham. It was seen to be temporary and a solution to the problem. As my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Audrey Wise) has pointed out to me, it was supposed last for six months, but, 24½ years later, it is being renewed in a permanent

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form--perhaps in an even more draconian form--by the Bill that the House is being asked to give a Second Reading to today.

Few people were charged successfully under the PTA, and the number charged at all was small. Indeed, the number convicted was tiny. In fact, the Act always had a more sinister role, in that it allowed people to be questioned and investigated.

I was first elected to this House in 1983. My constituency includes a large number of Irish people. There was often a sense of terror among the community when people travelling from Belfast or Dublin failed to arrive, because it was feared that they were being held for questioning under the PTA. To find out from the police at Paddington Green or in Belfast whether a person had been arrested involved a labyrinthine procedure. Often, the police did not own up to arresting someone. When asked whether a certain person was being held, officers would answer, "I can't say." The next question would be, "How many people are you holding at the moment?" The police officer would say, "I don't know, I think it's only one."

Leon Brittan, the former Home Secretary, in a 1985 interview on Radio Telefis Eireann, defended the PTA and said that it was used not for prosecution, but to gain information through questioning people. However, the vast majority of those questioned under the Act did not have access to legal representation. They were held incommunicado and their families did not know what was happening to them.

The PTA was a disgraceful piece of legislation that did much to damage civil liberties throughout the United Kingdom, not just in Northern Ireland. It caused this country an awful lot of problems on the world stage. We are being asked to approve a Bill that will make permanent most of the PTA's faults. That is extremely regrettable.

It is also regrettable that the Bill flies in the face of the general thrust of the Government's proclaimed legislative programme on civil liberties and human rights. There are Bills on freedom of information and on human rights, and the European convention on human rights is being incorporated into British law. From next year, all the case law of the European Court of Human Rights will be incorporated into British case law. That is welcome and it represents a good step forward, but there are two aberrations--the rushed legislation following the abominable acts in Omagh in August 1998, and this Bill.

In his opening speech, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary quoted Lord Lloyd's 1988 review of the legislation, in which it was stated that legislation against terrorism should approximate as closely as possible to ordinary criminal law and procedure. However, this Bill goes much further, and its implications are much more far reaching than those of any other legislation. We should pause and think clearly about that.

The Bill will get its Second Reading; both Front Benches are agreed on that. The Liberal Democrats have tabled an amendment proposing that the Bill be referred to a Special Standing Committee, and I support that. However, Members who are asked to agree proposals that will have a serious effect on the human rights of people in this country--and, by implication, of people all over the world--should stop for a moment's serious thought about those proposals. I shall return to that matter and the enormous effects internationally that have been demonstrated in numerous examples.

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As the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) noted, the Bill contains no provision for review. The original 1974 Act provided for a six-monthly review: accordingly, debates were held in the House every six months, after which Labour Members would religiously vote against renewal on the ground that the Act threatened civil liberties. I do not know what has changed between May 1997 and now that allows some of the most draconian provisions of the PTA to be acceptable, when they were unacceptable before.

Clause 1 offers a definition of terrorism that is much broader than any previous definition. It includes religious threats and threats to property, and it is not clear how wide its scope is. That requires careful thought. As the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey said, the international implications are enormous. Dozens of meetings are held in my constituency each year by various international solidarity groups. The countries involved include Sri Lanka, Peru, South Africa, China, Tibet, Korea and Indonesia. In addition, meetings have been held by groups from most of the countries of Latin America.

Many people speak at those meetings and express sympathy for the armed insurrection or other action taking place in the country involved. Are those people, or the ones attending such meetings, to be criminalised? Fellow speakers at the same meeting may not endorse military or armed action against a regime, but will they be criminalised, too? My understanding of the Bill is that they will. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that it was not his wish to criminalise such people, and I accept that, but he will not be Home Secretary for ever.

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