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The Bill extends the provisions to those who disseminate terrorist material, including on the internet, but makes it clear that those who simply transmit material that does not reflect their views will not be caught. That will, among other things, enable the United Kingdom to ratify the Council of Europe's convention on the prevention of terrorism, which I think is an important step.
The encouragement offence also includes glorification, which was a manifesto commitment. After we published our initial proposals, it was clear that there was considerable unease about the proposal for a self-contained offence of glorification of terrorism. In the spirit of consensus, we have now responded to that concern. Accordingly, glorification is now an offence only if the person who glorifies terrorism believes, or has reasonable grounds for believing, that the remarks will be understood as an incitement to terrorist acts.
Some concern has been expressed about the appropriate definition of terrorism, particularly by the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen. The definition that will apply to the new offences in the Bill is the one that was agreed by Parliament for the Terrorism
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Act 2000, with the addition of a small change which will bring threats against international bodies, such as the United Nations, within the scope of the definition. Beyond that, the Bill uses the definition of terrorism that has become established in our law.
The definitions used internationally, such as that used in the recent European Union Council framework decision of 13 June 2000, do not appear to be substantially different, and we do not consider them to have advantages over the definition used in the UK legislation. Following the Security Council resolution from which I quoted earlier, the UN is still seeking agreementwhich I think will be difficult to achieveon an appropriate definition of terrorism.
Let me emphasise, in the light of the discussion that we have been having, that the Bill will not in any way interfere with the right of political demonstration, with criticism of any regime or with an appeal for change, however strongly worded. Nor will it interfere with the rights of individuals to seek other peaceful means of achieving political ends. What it outlaws is the encouragement of violent attacks.
The offence of encouragement of terrorism is a serious offence, carrying a maximum sentence of seven years' imprisonment, and has been framed with a number of safeguards. First, the person making the statement must have known, believed or had reasonable grounds for believing that it would have been likely to be understood as an encouragement of terrorism by a member of the audience to whom it was made. Secondly, any prosecution could proceed only with the permission of the Director of Public Prosecutions, who would have to determine whether a prosecution was in the public interest. That is an important safeguard, and not to be taken lightly.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that, on this part of the Bill as on others, not only is our position on the principle that stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Oaten), but we have always been prepared to support the Government when there is consensus? We said that last year, and we have said it since the election. There is potential for consensus if the Home Secretary goes further with the part of the Bill that deals with such issues as intent, and there is potential for consensus elsewhere. That, surely, must be the best basis for legislation against terrorism.
I judge all Members principally by their acts, and the key act is voting. I judge them on how they vote on crucial questions. I am very ready to accept that the hon. Gentleman is displaying integrity when he says he seeks consensus. That is a generous assessment, but I am ready to make it. Ultimately, however, the choice is simple: do we believe that the Bill should have its Second Reading or not? If we say no, we are saying that there will be no counter-terrorism legislation.[Interruption.] That is what is meant by a vote in the House of Commons. If an hon. Member decides that he
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does not agree with a particular measure, a particular clause or a particular set of clauses, he will either table an amendment or vote against the clause or clauses during the substantial consideration of the Bill in Committee and on Report. I might disagree with that, but I would respect it.
The hon. Member for Winchester made clear in our discussions during the summer that he had real difficulty with one or two points, not only on his own account but on that of his party. He is entitled to adopt that position: it is a reasonable position for a political leader to adopt. What he is not entitled to doand this is why I make my point as sharply as I dois say, "We oppose any legislation on counter-terrorism."
A little while ago, a perfectly respectable public figure expressed the sentiment that, in view of the nature of the occupation of Gaza and the west bank, she fully understood how some young Palestinians could be driven to become suicide bombers. That statement would appear to contravene every single part of clause 1. Is the intention to criminalise that statement?
Mr. Clarke: I am not sure whether my hon. and learned Friend was quoting Jenny Tonge or Cherie Blair. Those are the quotations that are often batted around. I am glad that he has raised the issue, however, because absolutely nothing in the Bill would prevent anyone from expressing understanding, from discussing why something had happened or from voicing any such emotions.[Interruption.] It is not about encouragement or incitement, so the statement to which my hon. and learned Friend refers would not in any sense contravene this legislation.
Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): I am grateful to the Home Secretary for giving way. I take him back to the definition of terrorisman issue that we will have to consider very carefully. Is it not true that one reason why terrorism is undefined at the United Nations is that many a despotic regime is only too pleased for any violence used against it to be described as terrorism, just as the Germans described the actions of the French resistance during the second world war as terrorism? We will have to tackle this issue, because as drafted the definition is so wide that legitimate armed resistance to tyranny would be covered and any encouragement of it would be criminalised.
Mr. Clarke: As I have said on a number of occasions, I simply do not accept that. Quite apart from points of principle, such as how one could or should have resisted fascism between the wars or promoted change in eastern Europe after the war, it is important to understandhence my devoting quite a lot of the early part of my speech to the issuethe nature of the terrorist threat that we are dealing with now, compared with some that we have had to deal with in the past. It is right as we legislate today to take that into account.
Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab):
I am very grateful to my right hon. Friendhe is being
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very generous. Of course we face a terrible terrorist threat in this country and around the world. However, let us consider the example of Burma and imagine that I said the following to the Karen people: "It's fantastic that you blew up that railway line and didn't injure anybody, as an act against a regime under which you do not have democracy. Please keep doing it again and again, until the regime in Burma is changed. As long as you don't injure people, I'll support you blowing up railway lines." If I said that, would I not be breaching clause 1?
Mr. Clarke: Actually, such a specifically violent act could kill. Such people say that they do not want to kill, but when the NatWest tower was blown up, people were killed, even though it was suggested that that should not happen. If we advocate acts that would kill people[Interruption.] The act that my hon. Friend describes would have that effect, and it would be taken into account.
Michael Gove : I am very grateful to the Home Secretary for giving way. He is doubtless familiar with the Muslim Council of Britain's media spokesman, Mr. Inayat Bunglawala, who has been asked to advise the Home Office on a number of cultural matters. Mr. Bunglawala has in the past said that Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, who was responsible for the first attack on the World Trade Centre in 1993, was "courageous" and was arrested only because he called on Muslims to fulfil their duty to Allah to fight against oppression and oppressors everywhere. Mr. Bunglawala subsequently wrote of Osama bin Laden that he was a "freedom fighter". Are these comments to be criminalised under this legislation?
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