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Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): We would all welcome the military wing of, respectively, Hezbollah, Hammas and the Abu Nidal Organisation being proscribed, but a few hon. Members would have doubts about Mujaheddin e Khalq, which is attempting to impose--if that is the word--a democratic regime in Iran. I would welcome responses from my right hon. Friend and the Home Secretary, in his winding-up speech, on whether the MEK has had discussions with the Home Office about whether or not it should be proscribed.
Miss Widdecombe: I am sure that my hon. Friend understands that the Home Secretary must answer that question, not me. I cannot possibly know what representations the Home Office has received, although in a few weeks' time I expect to receive that information on a regular basis.
Does the Home Secretary have any plans at present to include--[Interruption.] I am sorry, I am endeavouring to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question. Does he have any plans at present to include any further terrorist organisations, either international or domestic, in the list of proscribed organisations? I should also be grateful to know what action he envisages taking against the funding arrangements of proscribed organisations.
In addition to the destabilising effect of the international terrorism groups mentioned in the order, recent events have highlighted the constant danger of terrorism in the United Kingdom. The Opposition feel as strongly as anyone else that tough measures are essential to deal with that danger. Will the Home Secretary therefore enlarge on his earlier answer about the Real IRA and Continuity IRA?
The list of proscribed organisations in schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000 includes the Irish Republican Army, but does not make a distinction between the Provisional IRA and the so-called Real IRA. I think that the Home Secretary said that that did not matter, as both organisations were covered. However, I should like that to be spelled out.
The IRA is proscribed under the terms of the Act, as I said, but that Act incorporates pre-existing legislation which enables the Secretary of State to use emergency powers to enact special provisions, introduced after the Omagh bombing, against specified organisations. In order for special provisions to be enacted against specified terrorist organisations, the organisation has to be both proscribed by schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000 and specified in the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998.
Organisations such as the Real IRA or the Continuity IRA are listed under the terms of the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act, but they are not specifically proscribed under schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act. In the debate on the Terrorism Bill in the other place on 6 June last year, the Minister of State, Cabinet Office assured the other place that the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA would be covered by the generic prohibition of the IRA in schedule 2 to the 2000 Act. I should be grateful not only if that assurance could be repeated--we have heard that tonight--but if some explanation could be given as to why there is no specific prohibition. There seems to be room for confusion in that arrangement.
The Real IRA and Continuity IRA, along with the Red Hand Defenders and the Orange Volunteers, are specified under the terms of the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act as organisations that are not observing a complete and unequivocal ceasefire, but those organisations are not specifically proscribed again under schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act.
Given all that complication, would it not be more appropriate if there were one list of proscribed organisations? Should not all terrorist organisations be fully subject to all available anti-terrorist legislation? Is there not a lack of clarity in the present arrangements? Should not the force of law be applied to all proscribed organisations, whether they are currently on ceasefire or not?
Having said that I think that there may be a case--I put it no more highly than that, pending the Secretary of State's reply--for one list, may I probe him on some rather odd omissions? There are hon. Members who have been threatened by the Animal Liberation Front. That group has been connected with activities that most of us would consider extreme and unlawful. I am sure that all hon. Members would condemn such actions in the strongest terms, yet the ALF is not proscribed. Nor is Combat 18 proscribed. That organisation also uses and espouses violence.
I have discussed the matter with the Secretary of State, but I should be grateful if he would put on the record his reasons for not proscribing those two organisations. Aside from those remarks, I repeat the Opposition's willingness to give all possible support to the measure. I shall be interested to hear the contributions of other hon. Members.
Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington): I should make it clear that I chair the British Committee on Iran Freedom, and share the dismay and disbelief of most of the UK's Iranian community at the mujaheddin being labelled a terrorist organisation. A range of Iranian organisations in this country have been in touch with me, but I shall not weary the House by listing them.
Mr. Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Hall Green): With regard to the number of Iranians living in this country because of the circumstances in Iran, does my hon. Friend agree that it astonishing that the Mujaheddin e Khalq should be placed on the list of proscribed organisations at a time when the Home Office accepts that membership of that organisation or association with it are proper grounds for asylum in Britain?
During the passage of the Bill that became the Terrorism Act 2000, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that the legislation was aimed at groups in Britain that supported efforts to overthrow democratic regimes abroad, but he made clear that dissent was a vital part of our democracy. Does he consider the present regime in Tehran to be democratic? Not even the mullahs would describe themselves in that way, and nor should they, as they have stolen democracy from the Iranian people. If he needs some help on that, he should know that as lately as yesterday, the UN special representative on human rights in Iran, Professor Maurice Copthorne, reported:
Mr. Corbett: The hon. Lady's comments are interesting. I happened to be chosen to be part of an Inter-Parliamentary Union delegation to Iran. I think that it was three years ago. The then Iranian Parliament found the visit inconvenient, as myself and one of my hon. Friends were known critics of the mullahs' regime, which did not feel able to allow us to make the visit under the auspices of the IPU. The delegation never left the country
I must tell my Front-Bench colleagues that it is suspected that when the regime's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kamal Kharazi, came here last year, he demanded the banning of the mujaheddin as the price of better relations between our two countries. It is further suspected that that call was repeated when my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Cabinet Office was in Tehran last month. The Home Secretary should know that last year, 335 Members of the House--a majority, as it is one more than a half--and 61 peers signed a statement on human rights and democracy in Iran. It called on our Government to support the Iranian people's struggle for freedom and democracy. That action was mirrored by a majority of members of the US Congress, 150 French Deputies, and Members of the Parliaments of Italy, Belgium and Luxembourg.
This year, in a statement headed "Iran--the cry is freedom", hon. Members are again signing up to say that the United Kingdom should support the millions, not the mullahs, in the rising demands for democracy and human rights. While she was in Iran, the hon. Member for Taunton (Jackie Ballard) might not have noticed the evidence from pro-democracy demonstrations across that country that the mullahs' regime is on its last legs. The so-called reformers and reactionaries are two faces of a single, repressive regime.