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Sir Patrick Cormack: What about you, then?
Mr. Wilshire: Well, the Home Secretary asked me whether I would like to bring some of this material in. I have had this collection of material for a number of years, and various police forces have consulted it with a view to using it to take action against members of the organisation. I should be happy to discuss the matter with the Home Secretary.
Worse even than his encouragement of women members to have sexual intercourse to recruit people, Berg developed dreadful attitudes to children. He encouraged child sex, with experimenting from the age of two or three to full intercourse at the age of 12. He
In my 27 years in politics, I have never before said that I would defy the law, but if the Bill becomes law, I have no intention of ceasing to denounce those who harm others in the name of their god. If a religious group of the sort that I have describedthere are othersis denounced by me or others in the way that I have just done, it is hard to see how that would not generate religious hatred against its members and lead some people to take the law into their own hands. Because the justification for those groups' actions is that their religious beliefs require them to behave as they do, they will seek the protection of clause 38 to try to shut me up. As I read it, clause 38 will make me a criminal, but I have to tell the Home Secretary that it will not make me shut up.
Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South): A number of hon. Members have referred to the report of the Select Committee on Home Affairs. I should make it clear that the Committee did not say that it was against including the clause in the Bill; it said that it was not persuaded. I cannot speak for my colleagues, but, having sat through this debate and listened in particular to the speeches of my right hon. Friends the Members for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) and for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, I am now persuaded that the clause should remain in the Bill. The fact that we shall rely on the Attorney-General to provide a safeguard is the answer to those who say that the measure will lead to a lot of spurious prosecutions. It is probably also the answer to the problem outlined by the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire).
I do not think that the inclusion of the clause will make an enormous difference. As the Home Secretary said, it is a small step, but it will send a signal that we take seriously the kind of abuses to which some of our constituents are being subjected. Not to include the clause would send a negative signal, and I shall therefore support it.
On blasphemy, I am afraid that the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras seems to have fallen victim to the doctrine of unripe time. Were he to press that amendment to a Division, I would vote for it.
Sir Patrick Cormack: I listened with great interest to the Home Secretary, and I have great admiration for him, but I am afraid that, on this occasion, he is wrong, and I beg him to think again. He said two things in his speech that made me extremely concerned. He saidI paraphrase and I hope that I do not distort too much in the processthat, because of the reaction in Muslim countries to the dreadful events of 11 September, and because of the fear among many Muslims that subsequent actions would be
Mr. Blunkett: The hon. Gentleman was not inaccurate, but that was only a partial explanation.
Sir Patrick Cormack: I do not have a long time to make a speech, but that was one of the reasons that the Home Secretary advanced for introducing the Bill.
Mr. Blunkett indicated assent.
Sir Patrick Cormack: The Home Secretary is assenting to that proposition as I speak. It is a pity that he was persuaded to act so precipitately in an area of great delicacy. Admittedly, he has heard speeches giving him strong support, but he has also heard dissenting speeches by hon. Members in all parts of the House who are united in viewing with total revulsion any incitement to religious or racial hatred. Of course I share entirely the abhorrence of such attitudes, which were graphically described by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), but the fact that I abhor them as much as he does not mean that I want legislationin this measure against terrorism of all measuresto be rushed on to the statute book. That in itself would send out rather unfortunate signals.
The Home Secretary responded generously to my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney), but I ask him to take that a stage further and not insist on these proposals. The Home Secretary should at least give an undertaking not only that he will monitor them but that he may be prepared to withdraw them after listening carefully to powerful speeches made in the other place. The right hon. Gentleman will serve Parliament in so doing.
The Home Secretary made another remark that does not entirely tie in with his determination to press on. He said that he does not want to hurry the reconsideration of the blasphemy laws. I applaud that, but in that case why hurry the Bill through with such speed? It is not central to his understandable and wholly laudable desire to deal with the terrorism in our midst.
I am one of those who strongly support the general thrust of the legislation and I am one of those prepared to support internment without trial, because on this occasion the greater good of the greater number transcends that fundamental belief, which I have always held, that it is better for a guilty person to go free than for an innocent one to be punished.
I do not want a potential terrorist to go free, so I am prepared to give the Home Secretary the benefit of the doubt and support what he says, even though many Members in all parts of the House do not go along with him on that issue. On this provision, however, I beg him to think again. I speak not only as a Member of the House but as the only Member who is an elected member of the General Synod of the Church of England. I know that many, not only in the Church of England but in what are now loosely called the faith communities, share my sense of unease.
In seven minutes' time, we shall have had three hours of debate on this exceptionally important subject.
Mr. Bryant: What message would the Committee send to the Muslim community if it decided, at this particular moment, to keep the blasphemy laws and reject the current measures?
Sir Patrick Cormack: In spite of what the Home Secretary read out from the Muslim Council of Britain, many thoughtful Muslims have said that they have grave misgivings on that score for a number of reasons. One is that they will be brought under a Bill specifically to do with terrorism.
I return to the point I was making to the Home Secretary, and ask him to reflect for a moment. Three hours' debate in Committee is not enough. Yes, there will be debate in the other place and, yes, the measure may come back to us, but again we shall debate it under a guillotine. I understand the right hon. Gentleman's desire to get the whole measure on to the statute book. I support him in that, in spite of certain misgivings that I hold and which others hold in greater measure, but these measures are not central to the fight against terrorism.
Why does the Home Secretary not accept that this of all issues lends itself to a draft Bill, which could be considered by a special Committee of the House and, yes, crawled over? I say to the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Bryant) that witnesses could be summoned from the Muslim community as well as from Christian and other faith communities. Let us try to get the Bill right. If we push it through in this form, we shall not do so.
The Home Secretary should think back to one of his predecessors in that high office of state who, appalled by dreadful incidents of savagery by certain dogs, rushed legislation through the House. That Home Secretary sat on my side of the House, but the Bill was one I could not support. It was not a good measure and it did not produce good law. The danger is that we shall produce bad law if we proceed as the Home Secretary would have us proceed. To produce bad law is far, far worse than leaving the law as it is for the time being.
I urge the Home Secretary once more to be prepared to be the big man I know he is and say at the very least that he will not only monitor and reflect on but if necessary withdraw these measures. The Bill will be the better for that.