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John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con):
Pursuant to the intervention by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris), when I visited Burma last year I met children who had seen their parents murdered
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in front of them, and parents who had seen their children murdered in front of them, by the Burmese army, the Tatmadaw. Does the hon. Gentleman think that if I were publicly to express support for any initiative or campaign by the Karen National Liberation Army violently to overthrow the State Peace and Development Council, I would be caught by the terms of the Bill? If so, the Bill must be redrafted, because it is wrong.
Tony Lloyd: I think that the hon. Gentleman's fears are correct. It is very difficult to get this legislation right, but we must do so, because if we fail we risk doing far more damage by imposing this law than we do in terms of enhancing the security of our own population or advancing the fight against terrorism more generally.
I had a brief exchange with the Home Secretary about the Bill's compatibility with the European convention on human rights. I am less certain than he is that the 90 days' detention is consistent with the convention, paragraph 3 of article 5 of which says that detainees
The 90-day period could well be tested, not only in our own courts but in the court at Strasbourg. We need a more robust response as to whether the Bill is compatible.
I can tell my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety that I will be voting with the Government tonight because the Bill must be properly examined in Committee.
Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): I will return to some of the points made by the hon. Member for Manchester, Central (Tony Lloyd), because I agree with much that he said.
This is a Bill that the House would do well to scrutinise with considerable rigour: first, because it was born out of crime and tragedythe recent events in Julyand Bills that are enacted so soon after such events are frequently seriously flawed; and, secondly, because it follows a raft of legislation that we have passed since 2000, in the shape of three substantial Acts. If these matters are so important, it is difficult to see why they were not included in that legislation.
I am willing to concede that there are parts of the Bill that most Members would support, myself includedparticularly clauses 5 and 6, which deal with ancillary acts, and those clauses that deal with radioactive material. However, they are not the core of the Bill. One has to go to the core to determine whether to support the measure. When I go to its core, I find myself unable to vote for it. Indeed, I shall vote against it.
Let me begin with clause 23, which enables a person who is not charged with an offence to be held in custody for up to 90 days. That is deeply offensive and, while it remains in the Bill, the measure should be opposed. There are several reasons why the provision is deeply offensive and I shall enumerate them briefly. First, it amounts to administrative detention, which we deplored when it was done in South Africa under the apartheid regime. We deeply criticise the state of Israel when it does that today. Secondly, it contravenes a basic
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rule of English law that a person should not be held in custody for extended periods unless convicted of or charged with a serious offence.
There are two further points of a more technical nature. First, it is inevitable that the provision will bear most harshly on the ethnic and religious minorities in this country. They will say, with some force, that they are being treated in a discriminatory manner. That will increase the sense of alienation that one often finds in those communities. Secondly, I raise a point that I have previously put to the Home Secretary and to the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Oaten). What weight can one properly place on confessions when they are made after an extended period in custody? To put the same point in reverse: what weight can one place on accusations by detained persons of third parties when they have been detained for extended periods? The 90-day provision opens up the prospect of serious injustice.
Let me deal brieflyI know that others wish to speakwith clauses 1 and 2. First, the common law offences of conspiracy and incitement already cover much of the ground in the provisions. Secondly, the right of free speech should be safeguarded and fought for, even if it involves hearing things that one might find deeply offensive. For example, when Gerry Adams speaks of the "glorious volunteers" of the IRA, I am deeply offended. After all, the IRA murdered thousands of our fellow citizens, including four Members of this House, who were friends and colleagues of many of us who are still in this place. We are deeply offended when Gerry Adams speaks in those terms. However, I do not wish his words to be criminalised. When the BBC was banned from broadcasting such words, Labour party spokesmen rightly denounced the Government.
It is better by far that bad men reveal themselves by their words and deeds so that they can be judged than that they suppress their true intentions and gain a reputation that they do not deserve.
Mr. Denham: Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that one of the lessons of that period of history was that members of the public who supported those views were better drawn into the political process as voters who sought representation in a democracy than they were as active supporters of terrorism?
Mr. Hogg: That is entirely right.
Let me deal with the detail of clause 1. I hope that I shall be forgiven if I paraphrase because its language is complicated. It provides that an offence is committed by a person if that person publishes a statement, knowing or believing that those who hear or read it are likely to treat it as an encouragement to commit an act of terrorism The Bill defines the sort of statement that falls into that category as including every statement that glorifies terrorism, whether in the past, the future or generally, and that might encourage others to emulate such conduct. The Bill does not provide for intent. The provision is far removed from an offence of incitement with intent.
Historians or those who write about the past will inevitably be caught by the legislation. Let us consider those who have written about the 19th century struggle
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of the Fenians against British occupation in Ireland, or the African scholars who write about the Mau Mau revolt against the British empire in Kenya, or the Greek Cypriots who praised EOKA in its struggle against the British Government.
Mr. Grieve : My right hon. and learned Friend will also be aware that the Taoiseach of Ireland has announced that the Irish Government are to hold a military parade in Dublin to celebrate the Easter rising. Might that make the Taoiseach liable to arrest if he came to this country?
Mr. Hogg: Indeed, and he would be protected only by the rather doubtful intervention of the Government's in-house lawyer, namely the Attorney-General. And I would not commend that to him as a very safe bet.
These are but examples among scores of cases that could be cited. All those struggles involved terrorism, and they were all successful. Most of the people who write about them glorify them, and it is quite likely that the people who read the articles and the history will be inspired to emulate them because they were successful.
What about present and future struggles that involve the use of force? As the hon. Member for Manchester, Central asked earlier, what are people to do in states that have no democracy and where tyranny and oppression prevail? Are we to say that acts of violence are in no circumstances to be countenanced? Such acts of violence will often include actions that are undoubtedly acts of terrorism within the definition in the Terrorism Act 2000. Do we really want people to be made criminals if they urge an armed insurrection against the military regime in Burma? Are we really prepared to say that people who say that Mugabe's regime should be displaced by force are committing a criminal offence? Is that really what we are bringing this society to?
Let us consider the occupied territories. The Liberal Democrats will know that one of their number, now Baroness Tonge, expressed sympathy for the suicide bombers there. I believe that the Prime Minister's wife has done the same thing. They were but a step or two away from falling within the scope of clause 1. Do we really want to say that such people are criminals who are to be brought before the law and sent to prison? I find that an extraordinary proposition.
It is true that there are safeguards in the Bill. We are told that the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutionsor, in the case of an overseas terrorist, that of the Attorney-Generalwill be required for a prosecution.
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