|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Hazel Blears: I shall deal with that issue in detail and hope to convince hon. Members that it is a matter not of ignoring the convention, but trying to get a practical law that actually works. I am interested in the matter, despite our forays into existential philosophy.
I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, but I am disappointed that he has not been in Committee for the whole debate. Today, we have had a really good argument, which I have followed from the beginning. It is important to develop arguments in Committee, so I will be disappointed if he does not make a serious point.
2 Nov 2005 : Column 871
Mr. Johnson: The Minister is most unfair, because I have sat through 95 per cent. of this afternoon's proceedings. I may have been inconspicuous. If what Cherie Blair said would not be criminalised under clause 1, will the Minister provide a single, concrete example of indirect incitement to terrorism that would be criminalised and that would not be caught by existing statute?
Hazel Blears: The hon. Gentleman is a very conspicuous character, so if he had been in Committee for 95 per cent. of the debate, I would have noticed. I will come to the comments that have been made about various people's statementsfor example, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) raised that very issue. It is invidious for Ministers to stand at the Dispatch Box and say what is criminal and what is not, because those are matters for the courts to decide.
There are very serious concerns whether people can say, "Wasn't it fantastic what happened on 7 July?", knowing or believing that the people to whom they are speaking will be encouraged to emulate that behaviour. That is the territory in which we find ourselves, and the issue is very serious. Some of the fanciful suggestions that we have heard this afternoon have not helped to advance the argument.
It is already an offence directly to incite a person to commit a specific act of terrorism. What is not an offence is to incite people to engage in terrorist activities generally or to incite them obliquely by creating a climate in which they may come to believe that terrorist acts are acceptable, and we are trying to close that gap. I take the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) that we must get our legislation into such a shape that we can target particular kinds of mischief. I shall address some of his serious points about intention and the threshold, because I am interested in introducing practical, effective and workable legislation that protects the citizens of this country, and I know that he shares my aim.
The hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) raised the question of the difference between freedom fighters and terrorists several times on Second Reading, and I know that he feels strongly about the matter. I am genuinely surprised that he has not tabled an amendment seeking to define "freedom fighter", although he may find it difficult to construct such a formulation. It is too late for him to table an amendment, but no doubt he will participate in tomorrow's debate on the definition of terrorism.
It is difficult to draw the line on what people may or may not do. Nothing in the Bill will prevent people from holding, expressing or disseminating the view that using violence for political ends is legitimate in certain regimes. I have some difficulty with that argument, because I think it wrong to encourage people to kill and murder others in such circumstances. The Bill will not affect the ability to say
2 Nov 2005 : Column 872
that people who are fighting oppression should be supported. It will prevent people saying such things, when they know, believe or have reasonable grounds for believing that the people to whom they are speaking are likely to see such remarks as an inducement or encouragement to emulate that behaviour. The legislation is precise, and it is targeted at people who know that when they say such things, they might not incite people to a specific terrorist act, but they are creating a climate in which resorting to terrorism is seen as a valid response. The definition in clause 1 is tight.
Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West) (Lab/Co-op): We have heard some examples today where it was implied that somebody expressing sympathy and understanding for how somebody becomes a terrorist would be caught in the same way as somebody who glorifies and extols terrorism and who incites people to become terrorists. There is a substantive difference between those two approaches. Does the Minister think that the Bill encapsulates that difference?
Hazel Blears: We have heard some fanciful suggestions this afternoonhistorians writing about the 19th-century struggle in Ireland, those who celebrate the Easter rising and African scholars who write about the Mau Mau in Kenya. I say to the hon. Members who have raised those issues that the Bill does not cover such areas. We are discussing people who make statements knowing or believing that the people to whom they are speaking want to emulate terrorist acts.
Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): If my right hon. Friend thinks that there is an easy distinction to be drawn in the manner suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, West (Mr. Bailey), will she take her mind back to what was referred to on Second Reading as the Jenny Tonge test, which she said would not be caught by this Bill? I took the liberty of looking at the BBC website reports around the time that that was said, and it had 12 pages of people suggesting that that was an encouragement to terrorism. There was also a Member of this HouseI will not name the person
Mr. Llwyd: The Minister has given the wrong impression of the offence in clause 1. She said that the offence was committed if the person "knows or believes" that what he or she is saying would incite, but she does not refer to the lesser test, "has reasonable grounds for believing."
Hazel Blears: In everything that I have said so far I have referred to "knows or believes" or "has reasonable grounds for believing." If I did not do so at that particular point, it is not because I was seeking to ignore that provision.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway asked whether the statement by Cherie Blair would fall into that category. There are six tests: first, whether somebody knew or believed, or had reasonable grounds for believing; secondly, the likely effect; thirdly, the context under subsection (3); fourthly, whether there is a reasonable prospect of conviction; fifthly, whether it is in the public interest; and sixthly, whether the director of public prosecutions gives his consent. Those are six safeguards, or hurdles, to try to ensure that we are absolutely targeted at the mischief that we are dealing with. Several hon. Members said that I seek to rely only on the consent of the DPP, but clearly I do not. A range of safeguards and requirements need to be fulfilled in order for the offence to be completed.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|