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Mr. Hain: Although Father Alec Reid has apparently apologised for his remarks, of course I join the hon. Gentleman in condemning what he said. On the question of on-the-runs, I have explained that when the proposals are ready we will make them available to hon. Members, including him, for debate, scrutiny and, if the House so decides, amendment. The proposition is not an amnesty because that would mean that people who had committed offences would in advance be released for ever from being punished for them. I made it clear in an earlier reply that there will not be an amnesty because such people will be subject to the process of the law. The cold cases that are being reviewed by the Chief Constable and his officers will lead to people being charged, if evidence exists. If such people come under the on-the-runs legislation, they will be subject to the appropriate judicial process, so there is no question of people being let off the hook.
Mr. Hain: The definition of "victim" is historically quite contentious in Northern Ireland. What matters is that the victimsthe more than 3,000 people who were killed and their families, loved ones and friendsunderstand that there is a process of recognition of that.
Mr. Secretary Prescott, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Dawn Primarolo, Mr. David Miliband, Mr. Phil Woolas and Jim Fitzpatrick, presented a Bill to make provision about the dates on which new valuation lists for the purposes of council tax must be compiled in relation to billing authorities in England: And the same was read the First time, and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 57].
Secretary Margaret Beckett, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary Prescott, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Clarke, Mr. Secretary Hain and Mr. Ben Bradshaw, presented a Bill to make provision about animal welfare; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time, and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 58].
This is the third such application under these provisions. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, when he was Home Secretary, laid an order for the proscription of 21 international terrorist groups under part 2 of the Terrorism Act 2000 on 28 February 2001, which was approved by the House. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, when he was Home Secretary, similarly laid an order for the proscription of a further four organisations on 28 October 2002, which was also approved by the House.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has this week introduced the Terrorism Bill for the purpose of further strengthening the United Kingdom's counter-terrorist powers. The new powers in the Bill reflect the importance that the Government place on dealing with those who seek to overthrow legitimate Governments through violent means. The attacks on London in July and the subsequent atrocities in Egypt and Bali have shown us all the importance of continuing the fight against terrorism, and the importance of not only breaking up terrorist groups, but the networks of organisations that support them and give them succour.
Under part 2 of the Terrorism Act 2000, the Secretary of State has the power to proscribe any organisation that he believes "is concerned in terrorism". That is the phrase under the Act. An organisation is concerned in terrorism if it commits or participates in acts of terrorism, if it prepares for terrorism, promotes or encourages it or is otherwise concerned in it. If the Secretary of State is satisfied that a particular group meets those criteria of being concerned in terrorism, he then has the power to proscribe it.
In addition, there are other criteria that can be taken into account. These additional factors include the nature and scale of an organisation's activities, the specific threat posed to the United Kingdom, the threat to British nationals overseas, the extent of the organisation's presence in the UK and, importantly, the need to support other members of the international community in the global fight against terrorism. I think that we would all acknowledge that we are now facing terrorism with a global reach in many different countries.
Proscription means that an organisation is outlawed in the UK and that it is illegal for it to operate here. The 2000 Act makes it a criminal offence to belong to, to support or to display support for a proscribed organisation. The Act allows the police to seize all property of that proscribed organisation.
I acknowledge that this is a tough power. It has the effect of outlawing previously lawful activity. It is right that it has to be given effect by affirmative resolution in both Houses. It is an important power to exercise. The
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Home Secretary has made it clear that he takes such decisions only after the most thorough scrutiny of all the intelligence put forward by the security and intelligence agencies.
We believe that this power plays a key role in creating a hostile environment for terrorists and their supporters. It also deters international terrorist organisations from coming to this country in the first place. Equally importantly, it sends out a strong signal throughout the world that the UK rejects such organisations and their claims to legitimacy.
Adam Price (Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr) (PC): I question the Minister specifically on the Uzbek organisation that appears in the list. According to the right hon. Lady's own note, it has as its principal aim the holding of elections in Uzbekistan. It does not organise or recruit in the United Kingdom. It was involved in the Andijan uprising in May, which left hundreds of civilians dead. They were killed not by the Islamic Jihad Union but by the brutality of the Karimov regime that it is trying to overthrow. Should we not tread very carefully before proscribing an organisation that has less blood on its hands than a Government with whom we still maintain diplomatic relations?
Hazel Blears: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. I took a particular look at the organisation to which he refers. The indication, given the information, was that it was perhaps less active here than many of the other organisations that are set out in the explanatory memorandum. I have been assured that the group would cause a threat to British interests overseas in particular. It is always open to any of us to seek to weigh the balance between the actions of one group or another. As for the organisations that are set out in the list, I am saying that the information of the security and intelligence services has been sufficient, when scrutinised carefully by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, for him to reach the decision that proscription is appropriate. I will deal with the provisions on appeal, which are extensive for any organisation that finds itself proscribed.
Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): Reading the note as carefully as I could, it appeared to me that in respect of the Islamic Jihad UnionI would be grateful if the right hon. Lady were to clarify the matterit was not its resistance to the Karimov regime that was causing the Government difficulties, but the fact that it was associated with direct acts of terrorism in third countries such as Kazakhstan. Can the Minister confirm that that is the case?
There is a range of activities that all these organisations will be undertaking. We have attempted in the explanatory memoranda to outline, as far as we can, the activities that have taken place. As for the Islamic Jihad Union, in March 2004 there was an explosion in Uzbekistan that killed nine people who were involved in the construction of portable improvised explosive devices. Over the following three days, there was a series of shoot-outs and suicide bombings that were carried out in Tashkent, Bokhara
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and Uzbekistan, leaving about 25 dead and 35 wounded. I also asked about the impact on British interests to satisfy myself that the order was an appropriate way forward.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has carefully scrutinised the information that is available to him. We are being told by the security services that the organisations on the list are of particular concern at this time. That is why the decision has been reached.
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