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7.26 pm

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Hull, North): May I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister for Criminal Justice, Sentencing and Law Reform, if he is to reply, to answer two questions—or otherwise to inform whoever is to reply of them? The first relates to the religious clauses and their extension to include religious hatred. Will he confirm that the clauses will provide a remedy for parents and girls at the Holy Cross school in the Ardoyne, who have been victims of a vile campaign of religious hatred? Secondly, will he confirm that the clauses could be said to fulfil the promise in the Good Friday agreement to uphold the right to freedom from sectarian harassment? He will have read in today's newspapers Greenpeace's advert showing routes taken by trains carrying nuclear waste through London. Will he confirm that once the Bill becomes law such adverts will become illegal, and will silence people or organisations that rightly draw attention to health and environmental dangers?

The Home Secretary was charitable in the number of times that he gave way to Members from both sides of the House and in answering some of our points. He did not convince us, but he answered us. Points about the amount of time that we have to consider the Bill have already been well made, and I do not intend to discuss the matter further.

Unfortunately, I shall not be present next Monday, because I shall be chairing a Committee of the Council of Europe—the Sub-Committee that considers the appointment of judges to the European Court. We make recommendations to the Parliamentary Assembly—several countries make recommendations and give us a list. What do most people here think the reply would have been if before 11 September I had asked one of the candidates, "What is your opinion of articles 5 and 15?" and he had said that if there were any source of trouble at home, it would be a mere technicality to derogate, and that would be the end of the matter? A mere technicality? Eyebrows would be raised, people would tap their pencils, and in all probability that person would not have received a recommendation to be a judge on the European Court of Human Rights.

That would be quite right, because the effect of the derogation takes away from the accused the right to a fair trial and to defend himself in person or through legal assistance, and the right to examine or have examined witnesses against him, and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf, under the same conditions as the witnesses against him. The derogation takes away all those rights under article 6, which are fundamental to freedom. This House cannot and should not accept that.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary did not answer the point, which has been raised continually, that no other state in the European Union or the Council of

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Europe has felt it necessary, following 11 September, to derogate as we propose to do. Many of those states—Spain, France, Germany and Italy—would all be prime targets on the basis of the undertakings they have given to supply men and women to fight al-Qaeda and the other organisations. Nor has any attempt been made in the US to stop the courts having jurisdiction over detained people. Why do we have to be more American than the Americans, more Catholic than the Pope—old red socks, my great friend? My right hon. Friend has not answered that point to the satisfaction of the Joint Committee or of the House.

My final points concern internment. I shall not deal with the legal niceties, but I remind the House what happened in Northern Ireland. We had a state of emergency, followed by the introduction of internment. Internment led to Bloody Sunday and to the death of Bobby Sands. I was involved in that issue and I know that those three factors—internment, Bloody Sunday and the death of Bobby Sands—were the three great recruiting agents for the Provisional IRA.

People will argue that the present situation is not analogous, but I believe that it is. If one person who was imprisoned under the Bill, whether he was wrongly imprisoned or guilty as hell, went on hunger strike and died, what would happen? We boast that the legislation is not directed against Muslims or Islam, but it was argued that earlier anti-terrorism legislation was not directed against the Irish. At the time, people said, "Oh, it will only affect a few people and we must deal with them." However, that legislation put the entire Irish population in this country through persecution and harassment after 1974, and ended in a situation in which that population did not support the Provos but did not respect the forces of law and order either. There are disaffected young people in this country of Asian-Islamic origin, who feel no tremendous loyalty to this country, for a variety of reasons. Whatever their leaders, elders and muftis have said in good faith about deploring—and I do not doubt that for one moment—what happened on 11 September, if someone put in prison under the Bill dies or an injustice is created, it will foster that same degree of hatred and depth of feeling in the disaffected youth here and in the slums of south-east Asia and Pakistan as in Ireland.

Why are we prepared to risk that happening? Is it because we feel that our institutions are somehow so threatened that we are not prepared to put a person we suspect before a judge to have the evidence against him properly examined? I hope that I am wrong about the effects of the Bill. I want to be wrong, but this omnibus Bill contains every illiberal idea that the Houses of Parliament have already rejected, except for the sweetener on corruption. Are we prepared to risk all that might happen for the sake of this tawdry Bill when we could find out more information about what is happening by having proper surveillance of the dozen or so people involved, probably at far less expense?

7.35 pm

Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal): When I first became a Minister, a wise colleague told me not to sign anything for the first fortnight, because a new Minister is always presented with all sorts of things that the civil servants have been keeping in the cupboard and that no Minister previously was prepared to sign. I have that feeling about the Bill. It contains all sorts of elements

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that we have failed to pass previously and that are being presented to us again. We should start our consideration of the Bill by distinguishing between those elements that are necessary for the prevention of terrorism and those elements that have been brought in under the guise of an emergency Bill and clearly are not necessary.

Nobody could accuse me of being soft on terrorism. Anyone who was present at the heart of the Grand hotel in Brighton when the bomb went off has a clear view of the damage done and the horror created by terrorists. However, I hope that the House recognises that tonight's debate represents the whole reason to be a Member of Parliament: it is the need to protect the liberties of the people against the over-mighty power of the Executive. That battle has to be fought in every generation, even when one cannot but accept that the Home Secretary is a decent man in a Government who are not, at this moment, intending to take penal powers against innocent people. However, that is the very situation in which we should most beware. At no time is freedom more vulnerable than when good men set out to protect freedom against terrorists. The good men have an excuse for almost every action, but that excuse is too ready to be used in the wide way in which it is being used for the Bill.

The only element that could make the situation more dangerous is the speed at which we are moving. The Home Secretary said that it has taken 10 weeks to get to this point. If it has taken him 10 weeks to get here, with the panoply of the civil service at his command, he must understand why those who have concerns about the Bill need time to debate it, to grasp the realities and to ask the questions that he has already shown are very difficult to answer.

The key issue is democracy. Anyone who has seen the Greenpeace advertisement today will have noticed the mistake in it. It says:

What it should have said is that nuclear power is incompatible with any system except democracy. It is possible to do many things safely only because of our democratic system. The danger of the Bill is that it strikes at some of the freedom that makes so many other things safe. I hate the expression "public safety" because it reminds me of the Committee of Public Safety, but it also reminds me of why that was so terrifying a committee. It used the excuse of public safety to do horrific things. Many of its members were idealists, but one can be an idealist and still do terrible things. That is why I find the Bill so objectionable.

I shall take two examples in which I support what the Bill tries to achieve but still believe the methods in the Bill to be wholly wrong. First, I am a supporter of our active and enthusiastic membership of the European Union, but I do not believe that the third pillar should be passed into law in the form of the mechanism in the Bill. I believe in democracy. I want us to debate the issues and I want those of my hon. Friends who have much greater doubts about it than I do to have the opportunity to put their points of view forward. They will of course be wrong, but that should not deprive them of the opportunity of putting their case, or me of the chance to answer it. That is what democracy is about. I do not believe that that part of the Bill should be accepted.

There is a false connection between race and religion in the Bill. There should be no need for any man or woman to defend himself or herself because of the colour

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of their skin. That is not in question. However, it must be necessary for all of us who have faith to defend the basis upon which that faith is placed. In many cases, people do things that are profoundly wrong because of what they believe. Dr. Goebbels, for example, believed what he said. It was evil and wicked but, under this Bill, it could—or could not—be referred to as a religious belief.

So pathetic is this part of the Bill that the notes read:

If we cannot define what we are trying to protect, it seems odd to seek to protect it. We must know what we are doing, but the Bill does not know what it is doing. Let me give two examples. If anyone suggested that the author of "The Satanic Verses" was intent on stirring up his fellow Muslims, that would not be far from the truth. He wanted to do that, I believe, for what he thought was a good reason. He thought it important to sharpen people's attitudes and get them talking. However, Muslims saw it as a blasphemous insult to their religion. Will the man whom we have spent millions of pounds protecting now be subject to the law for inciting religious hatred? That must be the result of the Bill if it is passed.

The second example involves religions that promote notions which are manifestly damaging. I am not prepared to be prevented from saying that those who believe that children should be killed by not having a blood transfusion are wrong and that they should be stopped from doing that. I know that the strength of that remark may be considered by others, and certainly by the people to whom I refer, as an incitement to religious hatred. I do not like the word "hatred"—I hope that I hate no one, but I know many who would come near to hating when they saw that the result of those people's beliefs was a dead child. I do not believe that that is a suitable case for interference by the law; I believe that I should be able to say what I believe to be true on that issue.

Some organisations, such as Scientology, masquerade as religions. With the protection of this House, I say that Scientology is a fraud. It is a mechanism for money raising, a damaging and hateful thing. Under this measure, however, I should not be able to talk about that outside this House, and that is wrong. The Government should have no part of it.

I must say something very firm about the Government. They ought to believe in habeas corpus. All their instincts should mean that they do not want these provisions in the Bill. I believe these measures to be so fundamentally wrong that I am very unhappy that my party is prepared to support the Bill, although I say to my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) that I understand why they are doing so. Of course it is necessary for the Opposition to show that they are fundamentally opposed to terrorism and will not put the people of Britain in danger in any way by not allowing the Government those parts of the Bill that are necessary, but that does not mean that we all have to go along with it.

Some of us must stand up and say that so much is so wrong with the Bill that not only will we not vote for it, but we will vote against it. We do so knowing that people outside know perfectly well that we are not in favour of terrorism and are, indeed, rather right-wing about it.

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A free society needs to be defended most when there is the greatest degree of pontification, self-opinion and hugely righteous indignation. Righteous indignation makes bad law. The people of Britain need to be defended in the age-old way, by supporting habeas corpus and ensuring that we do not condemn people for their religious views, forcefully put.

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