Draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Enforcement of External Orders) Order 2001

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4.53 pm

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth): I see the order as another lever in the lock that we are trying to put on terrorism, and I am sure that it has the support of my Leicestershire constituents in Hinckley and Bosworth. I have no doubt that the measures are in tune with the mood of the population and build on the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill and the Proceeds of Crime Bill, whose Committee sittings my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield and I have the honour to attend, as do some Labour Members present today.

If any good has come out of 11 September, it is a new determination among us all to act in a co-ordinated way. This interesting measure, building on the Terrorism Act 2000, dramatically involves our European friends productively and constructively to constrict and restrict the ill-gotten gains of terrorism. That is something that we very much welcome at a time of some insecurity.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield said, the Opposition support the measure. I have no doubt that the Minister will deal with the one or two minor points on terminology, but I definitely support the order.

4.54 pm

Beverley Hughes: I am grateful that Opposition Members support the order. It is an important measure, and I am grateful for their constructive approach. I shall now deal with the points raised by the hon. Members for Beaconsfield, for Southwark, North and Bermondsey and for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick).

The subject of India was raised. As I explained, India was designated in 1995 under previous legislation, and the terms of the Terrorism Act 2000 were such that the order made then becomes the equivalent to an order made under that Act now. As the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey said, a mutual judicial co-operation agreement was made with India at the time, and the terms of that agreement satisfied the then Government. Some of the concerns raised today were dealt with in that process.

The reasons for making that order included drug problems. As we are in a public forum, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be content to leave it at that.

As the Committee is aware, the order is made under the Terrorism act 2000. I can therefore assure hon. Members that it is exclusively to do with terrorism. It does not go beyond the bounds of the definition of terrorism in that Act.

The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey asked whether mutual judicial co-operation agreements were made with the countries that we are now adding to the list of designated countries similar to that made with India. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the provisions of the Terrorism Act 2000 allowing for the registration and enforcement of overseas forfeiture orders do not depend on such co-operation agreements being in place. Having come to the conclusion that those countries should now be designated, we are in the process of clearly identifying which countries have arrangements that we could make reciprocal. If countries have not made such arrangements, we encourage them to do so. That process will continue, but the implementation of the order can proceed in its own right under the Terrorism Act.

The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey also asked about the clause in the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill. I can reassure him that the order does not relate to a European Union decision, and there is no need for such a decision for the order to be effective. It is outside the enabling power that we propose to include in the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill, and it is does not depend on or relate to that process. If the Committee makes the order today, and it will stand in its own right.

The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey asked whether there were gaps in the schedule. We do not yet have the necessary detail to complete all the information in the order. We are assembling that, but I assure him that it will not affect the operation of the order. Indeed, we can agree today to those countries being added, and I suggest that it is right to do so, and to let that information gathering process proceed. The information that is not yet available to be included in the columns of the schedule that the hon. Gentleman identified is not crucial, and we ought to designate those countries today.

Simon Hughes: When information to fill in the blanks in the schedule is available—for example, if the Austrian Government designates the appropriate authority and agrees the preconditions—would a further statutory instrument be necessary for it to become law?

Beverley Hughes: No, I do not think so. The gaps do not need to be filled in: they are part of the process of implementation. That detail will need to be explored in order to implement the order satisfactorily: we are debating the power to proceed. The inclusion of those countries as designated countries is the decision in principle that will be taken today.

Mr. Grieve: I accept that this is unlikely, but were the appropriate authority designated to appear astonishing or absurd, the Committee's view of the order might be coloured. Can the Minister assure the Committee that the details that would normally have appeared in the schedule will be made available to members of the Committee when they are decided?

Beverley Hughes: I certainly can. As a wider reassurance, I can tell hon. Members that the High Court or its Scottish equivalent has the discretion, even with a designated country, to satisfy itself that some of the parameters that I set out in my opening speech have been complied with, that a proper process has been gone through and that a proper authority has been the source of the order in the designated country.

I briefly but warmly respond to the hon. Member for Bosworth. I am sure that he speaks for us all. What he said has not been expressed as strongly as it should be in the House and in the other place in our debates on the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill. The public express to Members their concern and general support for many of the measures that we are taking. I certainly share his view that our constituents would support the order, and that they want us to take strong action against terrorism.

Mr. Tredinnick: I shall build on the Minister's remarks, for which I thank her, by saying that anyone looking around London will have noticed that there are not quite as many people about as one would expect as we approach Christmas. People who would normally travel are not in the mood to do so. As legislators, we should try to rebuild people's confidence, and instruct them not to give way to terrorism. I say that, having served in Ulster more than a quarter of a century ago. We need a bit of stiff upper lip. We need to maintain our lifestyles, but it is up to the House of Commons to set an example. It is also up to us to give reassurance through our legislation. At times of war, we must all bind together, although we must criticise constructively whatever the Government propose.

The Chairman: Order. That was a lengthy intervention, but I used my discretion.

Beverley Hughes: I am glad that you did, Mr. Winterton. It was worth hearing those words. I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and I hope that his words will be heard in the House and in the other place, where we are debating the anti-terrorism legislation. We must strike a difficult balance between protecting the majority of our constituents and defending and upholding the rights of individuals about whom we may have concerns.

Question put and agreed to.


    That the Committee has considered the draft Terrorism Act (Enforcement of External Orders) Order 2001.

        Committee rose at three minutes past Five o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Winterton, Mr. Nicholas (Chairman)
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Berry, Mr.
Cairns, David
Clarke, Mr. Tom
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Goggins, Paul
Grieve, Mr.
Hughes, Beverley
Hughes, Simon
McGuire, Mrs.
McKechin, Ann
Mallaber, Judy
Simmonds, Mr.
Tredinnick, Mr.
White, Brian

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Prepared 28 November 2001