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Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con):
I was looking forward to hearing the Government's plans for dealing with international terrorism. I take a personal interest in the subject, having lost my brother in the Bali bombing, as the House may be aware. I am
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concerned, however, about what is in the Bill, what is not in the Bill, and what is part of an entire strategy that the Government should be putting together to deal with an international issue, not a local issue.
I do not understand why we are not addressing the fundamental issue of why British citizens decide to kill other British citizens. The Bill does not address that and I should like the Minister to comment on that.
Time is limited and others wish to speak, but I want to focus on two issues that concern the international scene. We understand that no matter how much legislation we create in this House or anywhere else, it is virtually impossible to stop an attack taking place. However, I have spoken to the survivors and the families of the victims of the Bali, Turkey and Sharm el-Sheikh disasters, and there is a frustration that the energy and determination that has been expended to fight terrorism here in the UK is not matched by other countries around the world. That is reflected in the fact that a second bomb has gone off in Bali. Bali itself, or Indonesia, has yet to condemnto outlawJemaah Islamiah, the terrorist group responsible for the first and second bombings. Those countries need our help and support, and if we are to have a strategy to deal with international terrorism, we should be at the forefront of helping such countries, whether they be in the middle east, Indonesia, Afghanistan or Pakistan.
The other concern that has been expressed is that the energy and determination to prevent a bomb from going off in the first place is not matched by the commitment and support to the victims. With regard to compensation, will the Minister update us on the position regarding those affected by 7 July? There is also a recognition that terrorism knows no borders, and neither should our support for British citizens, no matter where the bombs take place. Yet, because the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority refuses to acknowledge any events that take place abroad, although people in Bali, Turkey and elsewhere have been killed by the same terrorist organisations, they do not get a penny in compensation from the Government.
Terrorism is unlikely to disappear. In fact, it is likely to get worse with the use of nuclear, possibly biological and perhaps chemical weapons as well. If the Bill is supposed to be the platform to contain, stop and eradicate terrorism, I find it wanting. We need to give more help to those people where the blanket of security that we are trying to create is failing. We face the challenge of breaking down the religious divide that these terrorists are trying to widen not only here in the UK but in other parts of the world.
There is little in the Bill to prevent the conveyor belt of the disillusioned from being recruited by the terrorist. We could be doing much more not only in the House but as a nation and on the international scene to improve our prospects in fighting the battle against terrorism.
Mr. Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab/Co-op):
The 20th century was a century in which this country had to deal with the challenges faced by the "isms" of communism and fascism. The people of this country
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were threatened by evil ideologies from abroad that were totalitarian in nature and that threatened the country with the conventional military might of armies, air forces and navies.
In the 2lst century, we must deal with the challenges of globalisation and terrorism. Some months ago, I might have said international and global terrorism, but since 7 July, the fact that we witnessed here in London terrorist acts perpetrated by British citizens has moved the goalposts, and as the Prime Minister put it, the rules must change. The threat that we face is totalitarian in nature, but guerrilla-like in its methods.
Again we face an evil ideology from abroad, a perverse extremist form of Islam. It is as extreme and perverse as some of the right-wing white supremacist sects in the United States, but it is one that has now chosen to wage war with any religious or racial group that does not follow its teachings.
The hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash), with whose views I often disagree, particularly on Europe, was the first hon. Member, despite the hours of debate, to describe this as a war. Al-Qaeda is waging a war on secularism, tolerance, and racial and religious harmony. It is waging a war on Muslims in Iraq as well as on the people of all faiths and races from places as far apart as New York and Bali and as near as Madrid and London.
The world in which we live is changing by the day. Affordable international air travel, the internet and even digital mobile phone technology have become the means of delivery of the poison of these people's ideology or the power of their explosives. The threat had to be faced and I believe that the Bill is part of the developing armoury of legislation that must be deployed to counter the threat and provide for a more secure Britain.
Today's British society recognises the need for this legislation. Some civil liberties groups, Opposition Members and colleagues have genuine reservations about parts of the Bill, but I have none. Since the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, we have had the benign 1990s. Britain, and Europe in general, with the exception of the Balkans, have enjoyed relative peace and stability. Until 11 September 2001, we had come to expect economic growth, high employment, low interest rates and modern creature comforts as things that we all deserved, and the vast majority of people had hopes, expectations and a general feeling of security.
Today, however, people have fears as well as aspirations because of the nature of the threat that we face. The Bill deals with those threats in a balanced and reasonable way that is a large step in the right direction. In order to stop the spread of this poisonous ideology, the glorification of terrorism is to be outlawed, as is praising or celebrating terrorist acts: good, I say.
Some Members have said, "What about praising the ANC or movements in Palestine, Burma or elsewhere in the world?" It is clearly justifiable to support, praise and celebrate the aims and objectives of many such movements, particularly when they are oppressed by regimes that deny them their land, liberty and freedom of speech, without necessarily supporting all their methods in trying to achieve those aims and objectives. I want a stable and secure Palestine based on the 1967 boundaries, but I would never praise or celebrate the terrorist methods of Hamas or the former atrocities of the PLO. If oppressed opposition groups in countries around the world who have just cause choose to resort to terrorist methods because they have lost their land, liberty and freedom and have no vote, I would not celebrate, support or try to justify those terrorist actions.
That is not to say that if change occurs in a country as a result of the use of terrorist methods, I would not accept that the new regime mayor in some cases may notbe better than the old one. I would not seek to justify the means by which it had gained power, but be content with the outcome. I have never believed that the ends justify the means. In a situation where a regime is persecuting people, self-defence is legitimate. Wars or UN resolutions-based actions against regimes are legitimate. As for what remains on the consciences of people in other countries in determining how they attain their freedom, I, and for that matter many Governments, have little power over that. However, where there are interventions and military actions such as in Afghanistan and Iraqconflicts where genocide has been avertedand conflicts that involve the UN, we can hold a view that celebrates and justifies armed struggle against the oppressors, and would justifiably not describe actions against the regime in question as terrorism.
Let us say that the tube train that exploded in an underground tunnel on 7 July was activated by a timing device left by someone who had left the train instead of a suicide bomber, and that the suspected bomber had later been apprehended by the police. It could take months to acquire the forensic evidence to convict the suspect, as the tunnel could have completely collapsed, with a risk to rescue workers similar to that which we saw on 7 July. Finding a fingerprint on something left by the bomber would be like finding a needle in a haystack and would take longer than two weeks.
The stakes are now so high that half measures will not do. The nation looks to us to safeguard its security. If the Bill is not passed in something that relates to its current form andGod forbidanother atrocity on the scale of 7 July occurs because a detained suspect is released after a few weeks, despite the fact that he remains under suspicion on good intelligence grounds, we would have to live with that knowledge for the rest of our lives.
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