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7.55 pm

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): Inevitably, I shall focus on the aspects of the Bill with which I disagree. There are a number of those, but I recognise the merit behind the Bill's general approach. I see great advantage in having one statute that consolidates or codifies--I do not use those terms in a technical sense--the law, so that one does not have to deal with various statutes.

It is good to introduce a Bill that brings together the relevant legislation. However, I am uneasy about the Bill's definition of "terrorism" and "terrorist". The definitions of terrorism in clause 1, and of a terrorist in clause 38, lie at the heart of the Bill. The reason is that the various powers, offences, duties and obligations that the Bill sets out are directed to the pursuit of terrorism and to the identity of the terrorist. I shall return to those obligations and offences, but I begin with the definitions.

The definition of terrorism goes far beyond the traditional definition. Historically and in previous enactments, we have essentially directed our attention to campaigns against the state, which have been defined in various statutory language. As was appropriately said from the Government Benches, the Bill includes attacks on the corporate estate, which is an extraordinary departure in our concept of terrorism.

The definition of terrorism that appears in clause 1 includes the use of the threat of serious violence against persons or property. In my remarks, I shall focus on serious violence against property. What do we mean by that? The Home Secretary was right: he cannot give an absolute definition. However, we can be sure that the courts will attach a meaning to "serious violence". I shall suggest some activities which, in all probability, do constitute serious violence.

If I were a supporter of Greenpeace, which I am not, or of Friends of the Earth, which I am not, and I had it in mind to grub up a field of genetically modified crops or set fire to them, I would say that such an act was serious violence to property. It most certainly would be serious violence to persons if I were to knock a policeman about in the process of doing that.

If I supported animal liberation, which I do not, I would recognise that breaking open mink cages to release mink was an act of serious violence to property. If I wanted to interfere with the laboratories of research stations and decided to smash my way in and release the animals, that would be a serious act of violence to property. Those are not speculative acts--all of them have happened frequently. For example, the hunt saboteurs--a particularly

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disagreeable group of people--threaten serious violence to property. Incidentally, they threaten serious violence to individuals as well.

I strongly disapprove of all those characters, and I am glad to say that existing criminal law covers, in almost every respect, their activities. However, if I ask myself whether they should be treated as terrorists, I am bound to say, no way. Why not? Let us consider some of the consequences that attach to an activity that falls within the scope of terrorism; or, for that matter, let us consider what happens to activities that are connected with individuals who fall within the definition of a terrorist.

First, there is the power of proscription. The Home Secretary can tell Greenpeace or the Animal Liberation Front, for instance, "Because you are associated with what are clearly acts of terrorism, I am entitled to proscribe you"--and he is so entitled, according to the Bill. What is the right of appeal? We are told, in short order, that there is such a right, but that is rubbish. What there is, is a commission. Is the commission to review the merits of proscription? Oh, no--under the Bill, the commission must decide whether, in accordance with the principles of judicial review, the exercise has been carried out properly. That is entirely different. That is one of my less important objections to the Bill, but it is certainly an objection.

Anyone who pursues an activity that comes within the scope of clause 1 can be proscribed by the Home Secretary, with no effective right of appeal. However, there are much more serious objections of a more practical character. Let us suppose that one of the organisations that could come within the scope of clause 1 wants to raise some money. Let us suppose that it asks for money, as it is bound to do: Greenpeace, the Animal Liberation Front and anti-abortion activists certainly do. Asking for money in connection with an activity that is capable of being terrorism is capable of constituting an offence, according to the Bill. Moreover, contributing money is an offence under clause 14. We should be very careful if we are feeling generous.

The Home Secretary says, "This is all artificial, because the Director of Public Prosecutions would never agree to a prosecution". That may be true, but what is the individual citizen to reckon in advance? Does he knowMr. Calvert-Smith as well as I do? Of course he does not. [Interruption.] Does the Home Secretary wish to intervene? I shall give way if he does. He clearly does not wish to, so I think that he is making my point.

The ordinary citizen will know only that his act is capable of constituting an offence; whether he is prosecuted will depend on the wisdom of the Director of Public Prosecutions. What will that individual do? He will feel that he cannot become involved in a democratic activity. Moreover, banks and accountants who happen to be handling the affairs of such organisations will probably be under a duty to make a disclosure, and will probably be deemed to have committed an offence if they do not do so. We are told that the Director of Public Prosecutions would never be so foolish as to authorise a prosecution, but can the banks and the accountants count on that? Will they not say, "As a result of an abundance of caution, we will make a disclosure"?

The issue goes even further. Clauses 23, 24 and 25 contain powers of seizure and forfeiture; clause 39 contains a power to arrest without warrant; clause 35 contains a power to exclude people from a designated

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area, and clause 41 contains a power to search premises and property. Generally speaking, all those powers are triggered by a reasonable ground for the belief that the organisation involved is embarking on acts of terrorism. Uncomfortable as this may be for Ministers, we have already established that the act of terrorism has been broadly defined by clause 1, and is capable of including many acts that no one in his right mind would consider to be acts against the state. That is thoroughly undesirable.

I want to draw attention to another power, which I think would be even more distressing for some Labour Members. It lies in clause 60, which states that an individual who had, for example, maintained an armed campaign against people whom we considered undesirable, and who then came to this country, would face prosecution. Let us be clear about this. Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabari--whom the former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), the former Home Secretary, Lord Hurd and I met, and encouraged to wage war against Saddam Hussein in northern Iraq--were clearly doing things that came within the scope of clause 60. If they came to this country, they could be prosecuted. If they came to someone like me--a practising lawyer--and asked whether they could safely come to this country, I would have to tell them that, under this legislation, they could be prosecuted. I would add that whether they would be prosecuted would depend on the good sense of the Director of Public Prosecutions. That is a bizarre state of affairs, which is entirely wrong. As I have said, I do not approve of such activities, but I do not want to make them constitute terrorism.

That takes me to my second, related point, and here I draw on my experience of the Foreign Office. Clauses 1 and 57 include in the concept or definition of terrorism acts that are committed abroad. Let us take two recent examples. The Kosovo Liberation Army was engaged in a struggle against the Serbs in Kosovo. I do not want to discuss the merits of that, but what the KLA was doing certainly involved acts of violence against persons and property. Its acts constituted, or were capable of constituting, acts of terrorism within the terms of clause 1.

I used to meet the Kurds of northern Iraq on behalf of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. We positively encouraged them to try to throw Saddam Hussein out of the area. They were using force, and therefore fell within the scope of clauses 1 and 57. If they were to raise money in this country, as they did--indeed, the Government probably gave them money--that would constitute an offence under clause 14. Those are offences. The only consolation that we can offer those people is that they would not be prosecuted because of the provisions of clause 113, under which the DPP would not give his consent. I feel that this is a serious departure from the principles that we should be implementing in this country.

I do not intend to spend a lot of time discussing drafting points, because they are essentially Committee points. However, in passing, I have to say--and I have already told the Home Secretary--that one of the reasons against proscription is the absence of a right of appeal.

Another point relates to the powers of seizure of funds associated with terrorism. I have personal experience of that. About two years ago, I was operating in the courts of Dublin in relation to the Criminal Assets Bureau. This

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legislation is not very different from the Irish legislation in that regard. All that need happen is for a police constable to say that he has reasonable grounds to suppose that the cash is associated with terrorism, and he can then grab it and go along to a magistrates court which, if it is satisfied on similar grounds, will make a detention order. If the character whose money has been taken wants to get it back, the onus is on him to prove that the circumstances no longer exist. Those powers are capable of being misused, and powers that are capable of being misused will be misused. That is the nature of the beast.

I personally think that the Bill has revealed the structures under which civil liberties will be seriously curtailed. By extending the definition of terrorism, we put at risk our long tradition of giving sanctuary to people who are fighting oppressive regimes abroad. We put at risk the democratic right of people to protest. I may not approve of that protest--I frequently do not agree with protests--but I do not want protesters to be classified as terrorists.

Left to myself, I would probably divide the House on giving the Bill a Second Reading. However, there is not sufficient support for that, so I shall not do so. However, the Bill should be committed to a Special Standing Committee because it requires very careful consideration. If the Liberal Democrats move their motion, I shall support it. I hope that other hon. Members who are worried about civil liberties will do likewise.


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