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Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): I do not have any difficulty with what the Minister has said so far. For the purpose of clarity, I ask her what the situation is with groups such as the Al Aqsa martyrs brigades, which, for all I know, may be on a previous list. There is no evidence of them causing a direct threat to civilians in the United Kingdom, but they have an overt record of blowing up buses and finding other ways of killing civilians in Israel. Is it the case that that alone is enough to qualify an organisation of that sort to go on the list, given that British citizens often travel to Israel?
Hazel Blears: I have tried to outline that the first requirement is that a group should be concerned in terrorism, and that can be promoting, encouraging or taking part in acts of terrorism. There is a series of other factors that the Secretary of State can take into account, and some will have greater weight than others. One of those factors is supporting the rest of the international community to tackle terrorism. Where groups are active in other countries it is vital that we act together to ensure that we do as much as we can to fight global terrorism. That is one of the factors that are taken into account.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): I want to return to the Islamic Jihad Union. It is the organisation that causes some of us concerns because of the country in which it is clearly operating. Can the Minister reassure me that her primary channels of information come from British intelligence and not from Uzbek sources?
Hazel Blears: The information that we receive is from our own security and intelligence services. Obviously, we have very good relationships with intelligence services throughout the world, and it is right that we should also take account of that information. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, in his careful scrutiny of the evidence available to him, will have taken into account a range of different sources in relation to each of these decisions.
Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con):
I wanted to pick up the need to work together. It is all very well the UK keeping lists of outlawed terrorist organisations up to date, but the Minister referred to Bali, and yesterday was the anniversary of the first major bomb there. Indeed, there was another attack by
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the same group only a couple of weeks ago. Does it not undermine the work that we are doing here if countries such as Indonesia do not even outlaw Jemaah Islamiyah, the group responsible? Will the Minister work more closely with the Foreign Secretary to make sure that we combat terrorism globally? Our work here is undermined if we travel abroad and are confronted by the very terrorists whom we are trying to prevent from attacking us in the UK.
Hazel Blears: The hon. Gentleman makes an important and fair point. When we face the threat of international terrorism, it is incumbent on all of us across the world to try to work together as closely as we can. Different countries have different proscription regimesthey are not all identical to ours. Some of the groups on our list are proscribed in other countries, but some are not. It is important that the Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary work closely together and that we work with other Governments to give all our citizens as much security as possible in the dangerous world situation that faces us.
Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South) (Lab): Do other EU countries include the IJU on a proscribed list? Concerns about the Uzbek Government would prompt many of us to prefer to see them on the list rather than groups that oppose them, given that they have carried out acts of cruelty and torture against their own citizens. Have the British Government received representations from the Uzbek Government and other Governments about the inclusion of organisations on the list? It can be argued that many of them display anti-western attitudes, so what representations have been received from the United States?
Hazel Blears: The IJU is proscribed by both the US and the UN, so other countries have concerns about that organisation. As I said, the intelligence on which the Home Secretary reached his decision was from our own sources, so I hope that that reassures Members that the matter has been scrutinised properly and that this is a proper decision. I shall come on to the appeal provisions, which are robust. If groups feel that they have been wrongly proscribed they have recourse to a review.
I am sure that what the Minister said about the IJU is correct, but after the uprising in Andijan people were massacred by the Government, and others were tortured into saying that they belonged to radical Islamist groups. How will the Minister make a judgment in practice about whether people truly belong to the IJU, which is to be proscribed, or have simply been tortured into claiming that they do?
If an organisation is proscribed, anyone seeking either to become a member or to give it support
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would be guilty of a criminal offence. Prosecution would be a matter for the courts, and it would have to be brought properly. Evidence would be tested and there would be an opportunity for all the issues raised by my hon. Friend to be explored within the criminal justice system, as would happen with any other kind of offence. There would be an opportunity to discover whether evidence had not been obtained properly or did not stand up under scrutiny or cross-examination. I accept the points made by several hon. Members that other people may have carried out acts that we would all find abhorrent. However, we are talking about whether particular organisations pose such a threat that they should be proscribed. The fact that other organisations may be involved in other activities does not mean that the listed organisations should not be subject to a proscription order.
Stewart Hosie (Dundee, East) (SNP): A number of organisations on the list have UK-based supporters but no official representation here. Has an assessment been made of the extent of their support and do any of them have large-scale support networks in this country? Do any of them pose a particular threat and do any particular organisations receive a disproportionate amount of support, help, succour or money from the UK for their activities abroad?
Hazel Blears: The hon. Gentleman is pressing me to stray into inappropriate areas, given the risk of revealing intelligence. It would be invidious to single out organisations as being strong or weak, as we are engaged in a fight against terrorism. The information in the explanatory memorandum attempts to be as clear as possible about the extent of activity. Most of the organisations do not have a formal representative presence, but a number of people in this country support them. That is as far as I can go in trying to answer the hon. Gentleman's question.
We are seeking to proscribe the 15 international terrorist groups that appear in the explanatory memorandum. We have sought a shortened timetable to try to ensure that the power is as effective as possible by not allowing the proposed groups time to move resources out of the country or to change their names to evade the powers in the Terrorism Act. If we support the order, it will go to the other place this afternoon and will come into effect tomorrow. I accept that that is a short time scale, but there are genuine reasons for it. Hon. Members will note that most of the groups are active in south Asia, specifically Pakistan, but Ansar Al Sunna and Ansar Al Islam are active in Iraq. The Libyan Islamic Fighting group and the Groupe Islamique Combattant Marocain mainly target their activities against their respective countries, and Al Ittihad Al Islamia is based in east Africa. A range of organisations are therefore subject to the order. It is clear from the evidence put before the Home Secretary that all those groups are active in terrorism and have linkages to the network of organisations associated with al-Qaeda. They have been chosen because the security and intelligence agencies have advised us that they are the highest priority at the present time. The Government
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have every confidence in the work of the agencies and we think that they are doing an excellent job in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.
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