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John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): The emphasis of our debate, in the past and today, is on the care that is needed in the process of proscription. Many of us are worried that, in the past, the provision of information to the House, based on the intelligence services' activities, may not have been all that it should have been. Whenever it is argued that the organisations that we are proscribing seek to overthrow a legitimate Government, we should have a thorough discussion about the legitimacy of that Government. We must be sure that not all those who are engaged in armed struggle are defined as terrorists. It behoves the Government to provide us with as much information as possible.
We must have as much information as possible on the role of individual states supporting such organisations and the role that those states played in establishing them, funding them and supporting their activities. That includes the role of our Government in associating with certain organisations that are active across the world. The order is largely based on our trusting the information that comes from the intelligence services. There is deep scepticism about some of that information, certainly since the Iraq invasion and the basis on which intelligence decisions were made at that time.
I want to refer specifically to the operation of the system after proscription. I shall give the example of a constituent of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Khabra)Mr. Balbir Singh Bainswhose family reside in my constituency. It is an example of how the system after proscription should not work. In one list we proscribed an organisation called Babba Khalsa, which the Indian Government identify as a terrorist organisation operating in the Punjab and elsewhere. Mr. Bains visited India and was arrested and
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detained as a result of an alleged association with Babba Khalsa. He had no such association, as we proved subsequently, but it took us two years to do so. In fact, he was an active member of our local gurdwara and was much respected in the community in undertaking religious duties and community activities. Then it was alleged that Babba Khalsa was proscribed because of its association with Mr. Balbir Singh Bains, a known terrorist. The argument becomes circular in such cases. His family contacted me two weeks ago and told me that they understand that his name is still identified in association with the alleged terrorist group, which is still identified on the Foreign Office website. I urge the Minister to take that information on board and to try to rectify the matter. In all that we do, we must ensure that we are careful after a proscription is activated to consider its impact on the lives of individuals.
I would welcome an opportunity to debate the process by which information on individual organisations is garnered. I understand the problems about how much information can be provided, but it would be useful if we could at least have more about how much comes directly from British intelligence services and how much is provided by the CIA and others, so that we can gauge the motivation of those judgments and reach our own independent judgment.
I would welcome a longer time scale in terms of the indication of organisations that may be listed for proscription so that we can be more engaged in the debate, if only through informal discussions with the Minister, under Chatham House rules in some instances because of the sensitivity of the information.
I doubt that there will be a Division. Nevertheless, I caution that on every occasion we tread very carefully when we seek to use information from other agencies and Governments in proscribing organisations in a way that will occasionally have such a direct impact on the lives of our constituents and their families.
Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): As became apparent from the interventions on the Minister, it is inevitable that in dealing with such measures an element of trust must be placed in the way in which the Government have gathered information and the use to which they wish to put it. The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) made a point about the transparency of the process and the provenance of information in terms of the nationality of the agency concerned. I hope that as the process evolveswe can expect to deal with more such orders in the months and years to comethe Government will consider that approach.
Liberal Democrat Members do not take substantive issue with the substance of the order, although we have some reservations, to which I shall turn. As my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) said in business questions earlier, we have strong reservations about the manner in which the Government have introduced these measures. Introducing an order listing 15 specified organisations in a circumstance where debate is limited and there is no opportunity for amendment could have put the House
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in a very difficult situation. As it happens, we do not have any substantive information that would contradict the information that the Minister has helpfully supplied in her letter, but that is a happy circumstance and would not necessarily apply in every case. When I first approached this matter, I shared the unease that was expressed by the hon. Member for Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr (Adam Price) about the listing of the Islamic Jihad Union. Indeed, I continue to feel uneasy about the inclusion of that group among the list of 15. If it had been the subject of a specific order, there would have been greater opportunity for the House to scrutinise its inclusion.
I hope that nobody outside the House will be in any doubt about the view that we take of the Karimov regime, which is entirely despicable and despotic. The Minister's PPS, the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Stephen Pound), recently did a brave and laudable thing in going there and bringing to the attention of the regime the revulsion that we all feel. I know that the hon. Gentleman and I share a concern about the practice of the Uzbek Government with regard to the operation of the death penalty. The Government's signals to the Uzbek regime have not always been helpful. I am thinking especially of their treatment of my old friend, the former ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, who has done us all a great service in graphically highlighting the appalling human rights record of the Uzbekistan Government.
It is often said that because of the challenge posed by al-Qaeda the rules are different and are constantly rewritten. Al-Qaeda is a diffuse and ever-changing organisation. Even with the changes, to which the Minister referred, that intend to ensure that successor organisation are caught by orders such as the one that we are considering and that an organisation could not avoid them simply by changing its name, it will be difficult for the Government to establish that an organisation is a successor organisation. We must recognise that orders can take us only so far in dealing with the challenge that is posed to our country. We must also acknowledge that we require something more than proscription of organisations such as those on the list. We now need resources so that we can play the individual rather than the team.
The order is useful inasmuch as it may prevent attacks by terrorist organisations here. We should neither underestimate nor overstate its importance, whether the implications of the organisations' actions are felt in this country or elsewhere in the world. No one should be under the illusion that the order is anything other than a small weapon in the armoury in the fight against terrorism. I believe that we can expect a great deal more in the future. We are not minded to oppose the Government but I hope that, as the procedure becomes more frequently used, they will listen to what hon. Members have said today.
Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South) (Lab):
I, too, doubt whether there will be a Division on the order. However, if there were, I would find it difficult to vote for it. That is not to offer endorsement of or support for any one of or all the organisations on the list. I believe that fundamentalist organisations are, by their nature, barking mad and would be thrown out of any sensible society. That is my approach to fundamentalism.
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I am, however, worried about three matters: our responsibilities in the democratic process; the nature of the threat; and the consequences of simply adding names to a proscribed list without due processes of proper parliamentary scrutiny. In considering the organisations that are listed, one of my starting points was to ask what we knew about the involvement of any of them in the current risk or threat to the United Kingdom. So far, 895 people have been arrested and detained under the Terrorism Act 2000, of whom 55 per cent. were released without charge, 15 per cent.138 peoplewere charged and 2.5 per cent., which makes a grand total of 23, were convicted of offences.
I have not been able to find out from the Library or the Home Office whether any of the organisations on the list have been involved or implicated in any of the charges, detentions or convictions under the Act so far. When we put names on a list of proscribed organisations, it seems reasonable to ask what evidence we have of the involvement of any of them in current actions that have threatened the security of the United Kingdom. To be unable to get an answer to that is deeply worrying in the democratic process. How can we as a Parliament draw up a list of organisations that we propose to proscribe when we cannot even tell Members of Parliament whether we have any evidence to show that those whom we have arrested under our anti-terrorism legislation have any connections with them? It would be helpful simply to know the answer to that.
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