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Banking Practices (Protection of the Elderly)

Dr. Julian Lewis accordingly presented a Bill to require banks to adopt and maintain specific practices in dealing with vulnerable elderly clients at risk from certain financial arrangements by institutions and from other forms of exploitation by individuals: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 8 April, and to be printed [Bill 65].

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Point of Order

1.48 pm

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I mentioned to Mr. Speaker that I would raise this point before the debate on the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, because he has overall responsibility for security in the House. Over the past year we have had to introduce new security measures. Some of them, like the screen in front of the Public Gallery, are immediately apparent to visitors, while others, such as the fact that every taxi that comes here is searched, are apparent to those who frequent the Members' entrance.

In spite of all that, four Members of the House accept all its privileges but take no part in proceedings. They refuse to swear the oath of allegiance, and have known and fully established terrorist links. We are moving towards introducing very severe measures to restrict terrorists' activities. Surely it would be appropriate for Mr. Speaker to exercise his authority and forbid those people to be near the Westminster premises.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice that he wished to raise this matter, with a view to putting it on the record for Mr. Speaker's consideration. However, I think that Mr. Speaker would want to be aware of the views of the whole House in a matter of that kind.
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Orders of the Day

Prevention of Terrorism Bill

[Relevant documents: Memorandums laid before the Constitutional Affairs Committee on the Operation of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), HC323-II, Session 2004–05]

Order for Second Reading read.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): I have to announce to the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the names of the Leader of the Opposition and of the leader of the Liberal Democrat party. He has also placed a 15-minute limit on speeches by Back-Bench Members in the debate.

1.49 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Clarke): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The core of the case for this legislation is that this country faces substantial and real threats to the freedoms of institutions and people in our society that are qualitatively different since 11 September 2001. Despite this country's long experience over decades of terrorism of different kinds in relation to Ireland and anti-colonial struggles of various descriptions, the nature of the threat that we now face is of a qualitatively different order and, in my opinion, requires qualitatively different measures.

Al-Qaeda and its network are qualitatively different in five ways that I shall set out to the House. First, their ideology is entirely destructive in nature. They wish to destroy religious toleration and tolerance; they wish to destroy freely elected democratic government; they wish to destroy the rule of law in our society; they wish to destroy free discussion and freedom of opinion in the media and elsewhere; they wish to destroy equality for women; they wish to destroy our market economy. The destruction of those things and values for which we and our predecessors in the House have fought for centuries is qualitatively different from terrorism of different types in the past when individuals fought for particular freedoms, as they saw it, in certain circumstances. Al-Qaeda and its colleagues seek to impose on us a nihilist regime.

Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Clarke: I shall do so in a moment, when I have made the essence of my argument.

Al-Qaeda and its network are qualitatively different in their destructive character. Secondly, they are distinctive in the cataclysmic and catastrophic lack of restraint in the measures that they use. They are prepared to use biological, chemical and nuclear warfare to poison water supplies and to destroy whole systems of life—mass murder that is utterly different in its scale and impact from any previous terrorism. Thirdly, they are qualitatively different, because they are prepared to combine mass murder, violence and a cataclysmic approach with a suicidal—I use the word advisedly—readiness to commit such crimes. Suicide
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and martyrdom are not unique in the history of fights of this kind—what is unique is the combination of suicide and the readiness to commit suicide with the mass murder that they seek to commit. That, I believe, requires different measures from us.

The fourth difference is particularly important and needs to be well understood. The capability, resources and capacity of terrorist organisations around al-Qaeda, their ambition and sophisticated operation are of an utterly different order in terms of lawbreaking from their predecessor organisations. The final qualitatively different characteristic of that organisation is its global reach. There have been terrorist acts on an enormous scale: in the US itself on 9/11; in Africa, in Tunisia, Kenya, Egypt and Morocco; in Asia, in Pakistan, Indonesia and Turkey; in the middle east, in Saudi Arabia and Yemen; and in Europe during the general election campaign in Spain. This terrorism therefore has a global reach of a different order.

Mr. Lilley: I do not demur from the point that the Home Secretary is making, but is there anything in the Bill that limits or restricts the use of the qualitatively different powers that he is seeking to those who indulge just in this extreme form of terrorism, or are they available for use against any kind of terrorism that he may choose?

Mr. Clarke: The derogation powers in the Bill require the Secretary of State to put before both Houses of Parliament an assertion or order stating that there is a threat to the nation from international terrorism. Such a derogation could not be made unless both Houses were convinced of the merit of that case. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman and the House that the Government would propose such a derogation only against international terrorism with the characteristics that I have just described.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): No one denies that al-Qaeda wants to destroy democratic debate, but is it not then all the more important that in changing practice that has existed in this country for 800 years we have sufficient parliamentary time to do so? All the arguments could be put and, as far as possible, we should proceed by consensus. Would the right hon. Gentleman at least agree to that?

Mr. Clarke: I certainly agree with the desirability of proceeding by consensus, and that is what I have sought to do, both before my statement to the House on 26 January and in subsequent discussions. Let us not equate the perfectly legitimate case that the hon. Gentleman made for sufficient time for parliamentary debate, which is part of the conventions of the House, with al-Qaeda's determination to destroy Parliament itself.

Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough) (Lab): My right hon. Friend described well the international nature of the terrorist threat posed by al-Qaeda and others. I agree that it is distinctly different from the domestic threat, particularly against Westminster, from the IRA in the past. What international endorsement has he sought and received from Europe or further afield for the particular proposals that he is asking us to endorse over the next few days?
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Mr. Clarke: I am grateful that my hon. Friend accepts the qualitatively different nature of the terrorist threat. The G8, the European Union and the Council of Europe have clear and well-established positions on terrorism with which we work, and we have discussed these issues with the Justice and Home Affairs Council of the European Union. As for endorsement—my hon. Friend's word—of our measures, that has not been delivered by those organisations, because we do not live in a regime of world government in relation to such issues, which are for different nations to address individually.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): If the Home Secretary has an enormous body of evidence against individuals who are about to prepare a monstrous attack, surely it is up to him to bring a prosecution against them in the courts in the normal way. The concern of many people both inside and outside the House is that he is seeking powers for Executive control and detention that are outwith all our democratic traditions.

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