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6.23 pm

Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab): I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) for being brief and giving me a few moments to speak in the debate. He is unlikely to be convicted and imprisoned for the possession of "Scouting for Boys"—he even forgot the first name of its author, so he clearly has not been reading it closely.

It is right and proper that the House has concentrated on the fight against terrorism and the security risks that face our country because that is what the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 exists principally to address. However, I wish to speak briefly about one of the Act's criminal provisions that would have become void if this debate had not taken place and if there had not been a similar debate in the other place.

As I indicated earlier, I want to speak about part 12 of the Act, which deals with the problem of international bribery and corruption. I have a longstanding interest in the issue. I introduced a ten-minute Bill six or seven years ago, and I was delighted when the Government introduced measures in the Act to make bribery or corruption by British citizens or British companies abroad an offence in British law.

Legislation is necessary. It is estimated that corruption costs $1.5 trillion globally, some 5 per cent. of the world economy, and it makes business difficult in many countries. The CBI used to accept with great reluctance that bribery was a necessary way to do business in certain markets, but it dropped that approach some years ago because the level of bribe required in some markets simply got to the point where it was impossible to do business at all.

I became interested in the issue because bribery and corruption undermine development in many poor countries. When President Mobutu of Zaire was driven out of his country, his personal wealth was judged to be almost as great as his country's national debt. A case is before the courts in London in which the Government of Nigeria are seeking to have returned to Nigeria $1.3 billion that is currently in the bank accounts of the former Nigerian President, the late General Abacha. Such a sum represents 20 or 30 years of British aid to Nigeria. It becomes completely impossible to carry out development assistance in circumstances in which Heads of State, other leading public officials or politicians corruptly accept money of that order. Corruption at the top trickles down through the ranks of public officials and police and customs officers until it paralyses development.

The Newton committee agreed with the Joint Committee on the draft Corruption Bill that there should be a radical simplification of the bribery and corruption law in the forthcoming Bill. The Home Secretary in the discussion paper that he published today does not agree with all the arguments of the Newton committee, but I am sure that he remains committed to the principle of introducing new legislation on corruption.

Part 12 of the Act is essential—for the time being at least, until there is other legislation—to the United Kingdom's compliance with the 1997 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development convention on combating bribery. This year, the United Kingdom faces an evaluation by the OECD's working group on

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bribery to see whether we comply with the convention. Also this year, we face an evaluation by the Council of Europe's group of states against corruption of our compliance with the Council of Europe's convention on corruption, which was ratified by our Government in December last year.

Mr. Shepherd: The hon. Gentleman is making a most important contribution on an issue that has not been touched on in the debate. A report in today's Financial Times under the authorship of Laurence Cockcroft, the chairman of Transparency International (UK), refers to the

Is the hon. Gentleman not alarmed and shocked at that?

Hugh Bayley: I am concerned to hear that, although I know that the Foreign Secretary has sent instructions to all posts abroad that they should report to the Foreign Office cases in which it is believed that there has been bribery or corruption of public officials in other countries by UK citizens. It is necessary to collect the evidence if we are to have prosecutions and convictions under the legislation. I am not in the business of drumming dozens of business men through the British courts and getting them sent to prison, but it is important for there to be a few cases so that the business community realises that this is a business practice that cannot and should not happen.

Through the good offices of the Solicitor-General, I have had the opportunity to meet her and her officials and the Serious Fraud Office, and I know that there are cases under investigation. I should hate to see the legislation in part 12 of the 2001 Act fall before new and better legislation is on the statute book, because all the effort that the Serious Fraud Office and others have put into gaining evidence, so that cases can be brought before the court to see how this legislation works in practice, would then be wasted. Dealing with any serious financial crime, and gathering evidence for prosecutions, is a costly exercise. It is especially costly and difficult when the evidence needs to be collected from abroad.

The United States has had legislation of this kind on its statute book for almost 30 years, and has brought some 29 cases against 23 companies and 54 individuals. Fines imposed have ranged from $10,000 to $21.8 million, and some company executives have been sent to prison. International bribery and corruption are serious offences, and are not victimless crimes. The people who have been bribed in the American cases include Presidents, Government Ministers, military officers and Members of Parliament in 34 different countries, including developed ones, ranging from Nigeria, Mexico and Iraq to Israel, Italy and Canada.

Unlike the US legislation, ours is new and cases have not yet been brought to court under it. I hope that the Minister can reassure me that the legislation in part 12 will remain on the statue book until such time as we have a new corruption Act. I welcome the commitment that the Home Secretary gave, in response to my intervention, that this issue will be addressed in the

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serious and organised crime White Paper. I hope that the White Paper will cover the enforcement of the law, as well as the legislative framework for this matter.

6.32 pm

Patrick Mercer (Newark) (Con): We have been extremely lucky in today's debate to have three members of the Newton committee with us: the right hon. Members for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) and for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), and my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir Brian Mawhinney). They were all able to add much depth and clarity to a debate that I found useful and enlightening.

The Home Secretary started with a lengthy but clear exposition of exactly what the committee had said and his response to it. We did not need that to be quite so long, because it had all been trailed in the press several days in advance, so none of it came as much of a surprise. However, my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) then made an extremely balanced and clear contribution, setting the agenda for the rest of the debate. He talked particularly about part 4 powers, and said that the fact that the Government had agreed to review not only those powers but the whole Act, including the details of intercept evidence, after six months would probably mean that the Opposition would support the Government on this measure.

The question of intercept evidence has been mentioned widely. The right hon. Members for Islington, South and Finsbury and for Berwick-upon-Tweed, the hon. Member for Walsall, North (David Winnick), my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) and a number of others all talked about intercept. Although it is undoubtedly extremely important, perhaps I might add a note of caution from my practical experience of it. Intercept is not only, as the hon. and learned Member for Redcar (Vera Baird) said, a question of telephone tapping—although I know that she knows that. As we move away from the last war, as the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) said, and start to look at the new war—I shall be careful about using that phrase in the presence of the hon. and learned Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews)—or at the new campaign, we have to understand that we will be intercepting not only clear speech on the telephone, but veiled speech on the internet, in e-mails and in other means of electronic communication, which it will be extremely hard even for trained analysts to understand.

That point was clearly brought out by the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham). Using such information as evidence will not be simple. The people involved do not use clear speech. They do not say, "Let's organise an attack for next Tuesday using three rocket launches and four people carriers." It is not done like that. Even in the days of the IRA, which was relatively unsophisticated, not a single terrorist in my experience used clear speech.

It is clear from the difficulties with flying aircraft back and forth to America that whatever is being intercepted is extremely difficult to interpret. Turning that

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interpretation into evidence will be very tricky. I thoroughly understand the Government's reservations and applaud the points made by my right hon. Friends the Members for Haltemprice and Howden and for North-West Cambridgeshire and other hon. Members, but using such evidence will not be as simple as it seems. Nevertheless, I appreciate that the Government have agreed to review the matter.

One or two other points emerged clearly from the debate. The hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Oaten) was backed up by the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen and the hon. Member for Walsall, North. All spoke about the racial aspects of the legislation—how the Muslim community could feel particularly victimised. Indeed, the Muslim community in my constituency is extremely uneasy about the developments of the past two years. There is no doubt that the community feels scrutinised, if not victimised. I therefore ask the Minister what the Government will do about introducing a Muslim outreach programme such as that which the American Government so successfully implemented following 11 September 2001. How are we approaching that matter and how are we ensuring that such communities feel less uncomfortable? As my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) said, we depend greatly on those very communities for intelligence, information and recruits for our intelligence services, which I am told are developing and expanding considerably.

At least three colleagues spoke about allowing subordinate legislation to amend primary legislation—my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) made a powerful intervention on the subject. It is clear from his remarks, as well as those made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash), that, hand in hand, the Terrorism Act 2000 and the Civil Contingencies Bill are changing the face of legislation. We must be desperately careful that extreme measures do not lead to extreme legislation which, to paraphrase the hon. and learned Member for Redcar, we later regret or have to allow to wither on the vine rather than use day to day.

We have been told clearly—almost to the point of nauseam—that extra resources will be given to MI5, but where will extra resources come from for MI6, GCHQ, the National Criminal Intelligence Service, Customs and Excise, immigration services and the host of other agencies that collect information or intelligence? May I go one step further and ask the Minister to what extent those disparate organisations will be streamlined as a result of the White Paper on our intelligence services?

There has been a lot of exposure in the press about lack of economies of scale in our intelligence agencies. At least two contributors, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham and the hon. and learned Member for Redcar, have expressed their reservations about the use of intelligence, the gathering of it and the virtue of it. Only by streamlining our intelligence services will economies of scale be reaped. Only by doing that will we be able physically to produce a set of intelligence that it may be possible to interpret so that it can be used as evidence in court. I would be grateful for the Minister's comments on that.

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Although I do not believe that this matter has been covered tonight, I would be extremely interested to know what measures the Government intend to take against those people who are recruiting the British suicide bombers whom we have seen in action recently. To the best of my knowledge, three Britons have now destroyed themselves with suicide bombs, and I believe that they were recruited in this country in such a way that it was probably not a criminal act. What will we do about those leaders who choose to suborn the people whom they are meant to lead? What powers will we have to prevent that sort of recruiting, which manifests itself clearly in terror overseas and no doubt in due course here at home?

I want to underline the points made by several Members that this legislation puts too much emphasis on what has existed previously. The idea of internment—that is what it is—has clearly not worked in the past. We have been through that, and looked at the lesson. We cannot try to reintroduce internment even in a modified or attenuated version as we see in Belmarsh today. Can the Minister assure me that we will look at new ways of dealing with this matter?

We are blessed with excellent security services. It has already been mentioned that this time last year we were facing an attack in this country by a chemical or perhaps a biological agent—the information can be interpreted in two ways. Ricin was going to be used in north London. Similarly, in the middle of February last year, armoured vehicles were deployed around London Heathrow airport to protect us from a surface-to-air missile threat. Both those victories—victories they were—were based on solid and profound intelligence. We deterred both those operations. Had we not done so, I suspect that the whole nature of today's debate would have been different. We have the men and women of our intelligence agencies and our police force to thank for that.

My last point has been made clearly, not least by the hon. and learned Member for Medway: we cannot allow our liberties to be compromised by bad laws. We must uphold the laws of this land. We must have effective and proper laws that reflect our particular brand of liberal democracy. If we do not, we give way to the pressures of the terrorists and we become as bad as they are.

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