Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington): While no one denies the atrocities perpetrated by some groups on the list, what we are attempting to scrutinise tonight is the process, the thinking and the procedure behind this type of proscription. The history of Britain's withdrawal from empire is littered with groups that were described as terrorists, but survived to take tea with the Queen.
Mr. Corbyn: Indeed. I am sure that had such legislation been in operation in 1945, when the pan-African unity conference was held at Chorlton cum Hardy town hall, every one of the people there would have been arrested for being a terrorist, because they were seeking freedom from the British empire. Later, however, every one of those people became either a Prime Minister, President or Cabinet Minister of one African country or another. Later, without exception, every one of them took tea with the Queen.
The Home Secretary should also tell us--if he has a few minutes at the end of the debate perhaps he will do so--where the list came from. I am very well aware that the Indian Government, the Turkish Government, the Sri Lankan Government, the Iranian Government and undoubtedly many other Governments have been constantly pressing the British Government to close down political activity in this country by their opponents. I also believe that all those organisations--surely it is purely coincidence--are also on the State Department list in Washington. I am sure that that is just a coincidence of history and that there is no complicity whatsoever.
I also ask the Home Secretary to think through the implications of what hon. Members are saying. None of us likes bombing. None of us supports terrorism. None of us wants violence. The end game to violence and to achieving peace is a political process, giving people and their organisations the political space to argue and debate.
The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey mentioned the situation in Sri Lanka. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are on the list of organisations to be banned. It is currently observing a ceasefire, although it has been violated by the forces of the Sri Lankan state. What message are we sending to the Tamil people living in this country, perhaps because they have gained asylum here? We are saying that an organisation that many of them support is to be banned. A similar point can be made in relation to the peace process in Turkey--which we hope will end successfully--where the Kurdistan Workers party is also observing a ceasefire.
I believe that the proposed process is wrong because it would entail the Home Secretary making a decision on the basis of intelligence information. Subsequently, he would receive representations from hon. Members, from representatives of the organisation concerned and from anyone else who cared to make a representation that he cared to receive. Hon. Members and the organisations would not know what had been said to him. Subsequently, he may impose a ban, which may then be the subject of an appeal to the independent appeal committee that he has appointed. The chairman of that tribunal will also receive the security information, whereas the other parties will not. If the matter becomes the subject of a judicial review, a public interest immunity certificate may be granted by the Home Secretary.
Whoever is Home Secretary, under the order he or she is judge, jury and proponent of the initial decision. I believe that the process should be far more open and that if something is wrong, the criminal law is available to deal with it.
Despite the Home Secretary's earlier comments, I believe that there are serious problems with the legislation's compliance with the European convention on human rights and with our own Human Rights Act 1998. There are serious problems also with the possible criminalisation of people during the appeals process. If the House passes the order and all the organisations are banned, the order would, as I understand it, take effect immediately. Consequently, anyone involved in those organisations will automatically become a criminal. However, the organisation may appeal against the ban and it may be lifted. Nevertheless, there is the possibility of a miscarriage of justice if people are convicted of criminal activity by belonging to an organisation, despite the fact that the organisation can appeal and, subsequently, the ban might be lifted.
Fiona Mactaggart: I believe that my hon. Friend has met a constituent of mine who is an active member of the International Sikh Youth Federation, and who has certainly persuaded me that his activities have nothing to do with terrorism. Does my hon. Friend share my concern that the order covers some organisations whose members are social and political activists, and that it could criminalise them in a way that would be inappropriate, given the work in which they are involved?
Mr. Corbyn: My hon. Friend is right. I met a delegation of people from the Sikh community this afternoon, as did many other hon. Members. One could not meet more active, upright or socially aware people. Are we to make them criminals for their membership of those organisations? That will be the effect of the order. The message being given to members of Muslim, Sikh,
We are in danger of making a very bad decision that will set a bad example of the true work of a democratic Parliament. We will be in danger of criminalising--or of driving into the hands of criminals--a lot of people who have no wish to take part in criminal activities. That danger will arise because we are not prepared to take part in what ought to be the political process to bring peace to places around the world where at present there are only difficult and almost intractable problems.
How many more organisations will be put on the list because Governments around the world find it inconvenient that international organisations use London as a base from which to spread political propaganda aimed at securing change in their home countries? Britain has given refuge to many people from different parts of the world for a long time. Enormous political changes have resulted, such as those resulting from the struggle to bring about independence from empire, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) referred.
Mr. William Thompson (West Tyrone): I, too, have a number of reservations about adding 21 new organisations to the proscribed list. It is true that many of those organisations are involved in violence in other parts of the world, but the judgment that we have to make is whether they have been involved in violence in the United Kingdom. An order proscribing every organisation involved in violence around the world would be very wide and difficult to police.
We in Northern Ireland have had plenty of terrorists from various organisations. On numerous occasions we have asked that they be proscribed. We have always been told that that was a difficult matter, that a careful balance must be struck, and that proscribing the organisations might give them more publicity than they would otherwise achieve. As far as we can see, the order strikes no balance and makes no judgment as to what activity a proscribed organisation might be carrying out in Northern Ireland. The fact that such an organisation is carrying out terrorism in other parts of the world is considered to be sufficient for it to be proscribed here. That is an undesirable feature.
I wish to emphasise a difficulty raised by other hon. Members--the use of the term "Irish Republican Army". I know that it has been said that the term is used in a generic way, to cover both the Provisional IRA and the Real IRA. That may be difficult to argue in legal terms. The order should be made explicit in its references to the Real IRA: in that way, there will be no doubt or controversy in any future legal discussion.
The Real IRA is a terrorist organisation which killed 29 people in my constituency. Its members are carrying out terrorist activities on the mainland. It is a very dangerous organisation. It is therefore right that it should be explicitly named so that there can be no doubt.
We must, however, ask ourselves what the point of proscription is. The IRA is a proscribed organisation, yet the Government are prepared to negotiate with its members. Various other terrorist organisations are proscribed--what difference has it made? The Government have still negotiated with them and made concessions to them--indeed, whether those organisations were proscribed or not does not seem to have made much difference. What is the point of proscription and what benefits will accrue from it?
In conclusion, we have reservations about the order and although we do not wish to support terrorism in the United Kingdom in any way, we believe that this is the wrong way to go about it at this time.