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Lynne Featherstone (Hornsey and Wood Green) (LD): Does my hon. Friend also agree that while the power is disproportionate, it could also be used in error? The authorities always say that they know when someone is guilty, but if they are to hold people for 90 days, what would they say to the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and Judith Ward, all of whom were accused of being terrorists, but were innocent?
There was a failure of intelligence on 7 July and all the legislation in the world would not have prevented what happened. I am sure that all those who represent communities that were directly affected by the events in the summer and the revelations of their links with west Yorkshire would agreeI hope that we would all reach this conclusionthat the solutions to address what happened on 7 July must come from those communities.
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The message is simple and clear. I cannot understand the strange conclusion that the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) reached, but I agree with and welcome the conclusion of the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing). Yes, there are aspects of the Bill with which I and the community that I represent agree. However, other measures in the Bill, most notably clause 23, which will allow the detention of people for up 90 daysor three months, which, as the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) pointed out, is the equivalent of a six-month prison sentenceare creating fear in my community. The provision is already causing division, mistrust and fear. The clause is too serious to allow me to vote in favour of the Bill, so I am pleased to say that I shall not do so, and nor will my party and many hon. Members on both sides of the House.
Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): I join my right hon. and hon. Friends and, indeed, Opposition Members in complimenting the Home Secretary for the way in which he has gone about the debate and the spirited dialogue that he has undertaken. That said, there is something a little circular about some of the arguments that have been put forward in support of several of the more contentious aspects of the Bill. They almost seem to suggest that because we are dealing with a new kind of terrorist threat, the more uncompromising the apparent response, the more effective that response will be. I do not necessarily agree that that is the case.
We must try to work out what we can do to minimise the chance of actions such as those in July from happening again. Part of that will involve determining the most effective methods of investigation and the most effective ways in which we can bring to justice those who commit, or are preparing to commit, such offences, but we must also ensure that we win over peoplethey are often young peoplewho have a sense of grievance so that they do not adopt such actions and violence as a means of protest, or because they feel that that is a way of achieving change.
Part 1 of the Bill and other relevant provisions are profoundly deficient and may well achieve precisely the opposite of what Home Secretary wants them to achieve. It is already illegal to incite others to commit terrorist acts. Now, however, the Government are asking us to approve legislation that will lock people up for seven years if they say something that "glorifies" terrorism and can be held indirectly to encourage it. Those are sweeping powers. They are directed not at what people do but at what they say, so we would expect to have to be careful about the way in which we define glorification and terrorism.
Many hon. Members have talked about the deficiencies in the catch-all definition of terrorism with which we are working. The example of the African National Congress in South Africa is a good one. Equally, however, if someone incited or encouraged a Government to launch a military attack on another country to achieve a political objective such as the removal of a tyrannical regime, that would be considered terrorism under the definitions in the Bill and
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in the Terrorism Act 2000. Presumably politicians who encouraged a Government to take military action against a tyrannical regime would be guilty of terrorism. If that is the case, a number of hon. Membersnot me, I should addwould be caught by the provision.
Ministers are asking us not to worry our heads about these things, as the new law will not be applied indiscriminately. They say that the Director of Public Prosecutions will look at the "context" of each case and the public interest. That is not very reassuring. It sounds as if we may try to prosecute individuals who glorify politically motivated violence by people of whom we do not approve but that we may turn a blind eye to statements in support of political violence committed by our friends. It is precisely the perception of such double standards that has contributed to the scepticism with which many people, particularly in our Muslim community, view the much-vaunted war on terror. One does not have to be a supporter of Hamas or even a sympathiser to worry that someone could be locked up in this country for suggesting that Palestinians might be justified in using some form of political violence to resist the occupation of the west bank.
Mike Gapes: I would be grateful for clarification. Is my hon. Friend saying that people who advocate the blowing-up of buses, bars and schools are not inciting or glorifying terrorism? Is that acceptable?
Richard Burden: No. I said exactly what I meant. I condemn anyone who advocates the blowing-up of buses or any attack on civilians. The Bill, however, does not just include such acts but any act of political violence. As I said, I am worried that someone could be locked up for suggesting that Palestinian political violence is justified. We should debate that, as only a few weeks ago an Israeli general accused of war crimeswhether justifiably or not, I do not knowwas discreetly spirited out of the UK to avoid an arrest warrant. There have even been rumours of unofficial diplomatic apologies to Israel for any embarrassment that may have been caused.
I am not condoning in any way the use of terrorist violence in the west bank or Gaza. Indeed, I spend a great deal of time arguing with people who do so because I think that such arguments are a worthwhile exercise. I am told that conversations that others and I have had may have played a part, albeit a small one, in helping to achieve certain ceasefires. But what the Bill tells me is that there is no place for that kind of dialogue. It asks me as a legislator to criminalise someone not for committing the act of violence, but for offering an opinion that may seek to justify it. By banning things or outlawing them, one will not necessarily stop them.
If one talks to people who know about the dynamics of different forms of political Islam, they will say, and have said in meetings in this place, that the danger of
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clause 1 and related clausesmy right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) put it very wellis that they will end up grouping together those who support the use of violence to achieve limited political aims, even if I do not agree with those political aims, because they believe, perhaps wrongly, that there is no alternative, with those whose perverted and apocalyptic view of the world sees some kind of Zionist-crusader conspiracy as the root of all evil, and who say that any kind of slaughter anywhere in the world is justified to confront that supposed conspiracy.
Are we more likely to save one more innocent life by lumping those two political outlooks together, or are we more likely to save lives if we are prepared to distinguish between thembetween those whom we might just stand a chance of diverting from the path of violence, and those whom we simply have to fight? Those who incite, organise or commit the kind of atrocities that London experienced in July should be held to account for those crimes, but we also have a responsibility to try to help prevent similar atrocities from taking place in other countries.
I realise that the argument that I am advancing may be unfashionable in some quarters. I am sure it would be unfashionable in the neo con world of US Patriot Acts or the easy division of the world into goodies and baddies, usually defined as goodies being "us", and baddies being "them". However, we also need to tackle the complex web of causes of grievances that end up leadingyeseven to the slaughter of civilians, whether by Governments, which I would condemn, or by terrorist groups, which I would equally condemn.
We are in danger of making matters worse if we introduce laws that are so open-ended that they outlaw debate, even an uncomfortable debate, or are applied so selectively that they seem to be targeted on only one section of our community. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South should realise that under the definitions in the Bill, if I, or anybody else, sought to justify Palestinian political violence, I would be caught by the Bill. If somebody stood up in the House and sought to justify the bulldozing of a Palestinian home suspected of harbouring terrorists by the Israeli army, they would be also be committing an offence under the Bill.
In dealing with the problems in the middle east and working out how we can most effectively contribute to a just peace there, we can do rather better than trying to lock each other up because we happen to hold one view or another view. That is why I am profoundly worried about the first part of the Bill and related clauses. The Government will not get my support tonight. I may not vote against the Bill, but they will not get my support. I hope they will listen to the arguments and rethink the clause before Committee and Report, because it will do nothing to defeat the causes of terrorism, which is what we should aim to do.
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