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Mr. Ellwood: What co-ordination is there between the security services? To develop my earlier question, how much co-ordination is there between the various intelligence organisations and how can we secure a global agreement about which organisations should be outlawed?
Hazel Blears: As well as receiving advice from the individual security agencies, the Home Secretary receives advice from a working group that brings together all the agencies so that they can share information and provide him with advice. Those agencies are mainly home agencies but, as I said earlier, there are extremely close relationships between security agencies across the world, which have become even closer in the light of the attacks that we face. I am confident that there is better information sharing now than there has been at any time. Information sharing and working together are clearly a key part of our policy.
John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): It would be helpful if, without endangering sources and so on, the Government published more information about the history of the funding of those organisations. In particular, knowing the current and past funding of those organisations by states would help us to make a judgment about individual organisations, as we would know where their funding came from in the past and what association they have had with state funding.
Hazel Blears: I understand why my hon. Friend wants to see that information, but I cannot undertake to publish the details. We have tried to be as open as possible in the explanatory memorandum, and I will re-examine the matter.
Hazel Blears: I am not aware of the detail on that point. Some organisations may be on the UN list, but not on our list. The organisations in the order are those that the Security Service tells us are currently of most concern. If we were to proscribe every single organisation in every single part of the world, our list would include many scores of organisations. We have tried to prioritise, but I am more than happy to go through the list and try to provide the hon. Gentleman with that detail after the debate.
: I understand the sensitivity surrounding the extent to which the Minister can discuss
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what we currently know about those organisations. On the urgency of the situation and the need to pass the order today and take action quickly, will the Minister undertake to return to the House to set out exactly what assets and resources have been seized under the order, because it would be helpful to know whether real assets and resources have been identified? If the list is passed urgently, it must be followed by evidence of the demonstrable case for that urgency.
Hazel Blears: I am pleased that my hon. Friend has acknowledged that, where people have assets, it is important to take urgent action to ensure that those assets are not removed and that organisations do not attempt to change their names, which means that they would no longer be proscribed under the current legislationwe shall attend to that point in the Terrorism Bill, because that loophole must be closed.
My response to my hon. Friend's request for further information is the same as my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) and the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes). I will do my best to see whether we can provide such information, but the issue must be placed in the context of the current security situation. I do not want to release information that could advantage organisations whose stated aim is to damage this country. If it is possible to give hon. Members background and context, I shall seek to provide them, but I must draw a line and make sure that people do not know our tactics and strategy.
Dr. Julian Lewis: The Minister is being extremely generous in giving way. A few moments ago, she said that all the organisations on the new list are believed to have some link with al-Qaeda. Reverting to my earlier question about organisations such as the al-Aqsa martyrs brigades, does that mean that she is not putting on the list organisations that are a threat to British tourists abroad, but which are not known to have links with al-Qaeda?
Hazel Blears: The criteria are not as rigid as the hon. Gentleman suggests. The groups on the list are of the highest priority at this time, but the list is not exhaustive and is kept under constant review. If we receive advice that another organisation has become a serious threat, we will revisit the matter. The criteria around groups that are or are not connected with al-Qaeda are not rigid, and if organisations pose a serious threat to the people of this country, either here or abroad, we will review the matter.
The appeal system is important. An organisation that has been proscribed or an individual who believes that he has been affected by a decision to proscribe has the right of appeal. In the first instance, the appeal is to the Home Secretary. If the Home Secretary confirms the decision to proscribe, a further appeal may be made to the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission, which will review whether the legal criteria apply and whether the Government and the Home Secretary have properly exercised their powers. The POAC tribunal consists of three senior judges, who are cleared to see sensitive material and who can see the intelligence used by the Home Secretary as the basis for his decision
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against a particular group. In closed sessions, a special advocate may be appointed in accordance with our usual arrangements.
As I have said, the Government's prime task is the protection of the public. We want to take whatever action is necessary to ensure the safety of our whole community, irrespective of background, and the powers will be used proportionately and effectively. I have issued a certificate to the effect that I consider that the provisions, which are proportionate and necessary, comply with our obligations under the European convention on human rights. The groups that we are discussing are involved in terrorism and seek to promote the poisonous ideologies of al-Qaeda and its acolytes.
Hazel Blears: Five appeals were initially made to the Home Secretary, who dismissed them all. Three appeals went forward to the tribunal, where they were withdrawn without being heard. I am not prepared to go into any detail about those organisations.
Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): I reassure the Minister that the official Opposition will support the order. These are difficult areas, and hon. Members have highlighted the point that it is no light matter for this House to proscribe organisations that may want to set themselves up in this county or that are already operating in this country, if they can be shown to have legitimate aims.
I suggest that a common-sense distinction can easily be made between organisations that seek political change in their countrythey might even support freedom fightersand organisations that support terrorism. The random slaughter of innocent individuals can play no part in the process of trying to bring about political change. The hallmark of the various organisations identified by the Government is that they have engaged in that very activity.
I am mindful of hon. Members' comments about the Islamic Jihad Union. The Government of Uzbekistan undoubtedly leave a great deal to be desired and may properly be described as "a tyrannical regime". The fact that opposition to that regime may manifest itself outside the law is perhaps understandable, but that it should take the form of random suicide bombings that kill innocent civilians must be unacceptable. If this House does not send out a signal that it considers such behaviour unacceptable, we are on dangerous ground.
I understand why the Minister has introduced a list of organisations, but if the Government were to seek to proscribe a controversial organisation about which opinion is divided, they should do it with a statutory instrument that refers to that organisation alone, because the House should not be placed in the position of having to reject an order, despite having a problem with only one small part of it. However, I want to
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emphasise to the Minister that I am satisfied with the information that she has brought to our notice in respect of the listed organisations.
We have to accept that a great deal of this must be taken on trust. Few of us, unless we are devotees of bizarre websites, are likely to know much about these organisations at all, and we must therefore accept the Government's word that the security services have told them that they pose a danger. However, if one is dealing with an organisation such as Mr. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami, ample evidence has been presented on numerous occasions on television of his murderous and unpleasant nature.
I do not wish to take up any more of the House's time this afternoon. We will support the Government if the order, for any reason, is put to a Division. The measures are proportionate and reasonable; in many cases, they are truly and urgently needed. Some of these organisations have been murdering fellow Muslimsfor example, Ahmadi Muslims in Bangladesh. That was brought to my notice but is not mentioned in the Government's background paper. Harakat-ul-Jihad-ul-Islami is killing Hindus in that country. We should have no truck with them and make it clear that there is no ground for them to have an office, base or organisation in this country. If the order helps to achieve that end, it will be well worth while.
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