Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Paul Goggins: Even communities such as the Muslim community have organisations and structures, although overall the Muslim religion is not as highly structured as   some other religions. Each mosque has its own management committee; nothing is left to one individual. The clause relates to organisations, and it would be for Ministers to consider and make recommendations in respect of any specific organisation once all the evidence had been carefully considered.

In conclusion, I again pray in aid Lord Carlile, who has been quoted many times during our deliberations. He made the following recommendation:

So he sees clause 21 as an appropriate measure and, accordingly, I support it strongly.

12.30 pm

Dr. Tony Wright (Cannock Chase) (Lab): I support very strongly what the Government are trying to do in   general through this Bill, but we are right to ask for   a certain amount of caution at various points, and this is   probably one of them. During our proceedings, the so-called Mandela test has been raised in a number of   ways. Of course, the fact is that these provisions apply not only to this country but internationally—to   organisations and activities elsewhere. There is a fundamental difference between societies that have democratic, liberal political systems and those that do not, and between the appropriate political responses. We should never forget that terrorism is always an act of mass murder, but the context in which it operates is profoundly different when there are no opportunities for   normal means of political opposition. So giving some kind of credence—or, indeed, support—to organisations operating in such a context is clearly different from giving it to the organisations that we are primarily dealing with today.

I suspect that in the past all of us have flirted with supporting organisations that would come a cropper under this Bill. Many of my generation had a picture of Che Guevara on their walls, and not many of us regarded Nelson Mandela as anything other than a great icon. That suggests that we should proceed with great care in making sure that we get this Bill right. Of course, in a sense these provisions apply to past activities, not just current ones. In Westminster Hall, there is a splendid exhibition about Guy Fawkes, and we can buy commemorative mugs showing pictures of the Guy Fawkes conspirators. In fact, I just met someone dressed as Guy Fawkes walking into Portcullis House, and I am sure that there are Guy Fawkes commemoration societies and various other such bodies.

We do not want to be silly about this, but the fact is that we tend to regard things that happened a long time ago rather differently from those happening currently. However, these provisions are designed deliberately to capture past associations, too, and all that I am doing is asking the Government please to proceed with some care and caution.

Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East) (DUP) rose—

Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe) (Con): I want to press the Minister to give us a little more detail on
3 Nov 2005 : Column 987
exactly how this provision will be applied. I agree with what has just been said, in that the wording is very broad and could cause difficulties. The Minister gave no specific examples of what he thought might be unlawful conduct leading to an organisation's being proscribed. I   shall give a more recent—and still sometimes sensitive—example than the perfectly reasonable ones given a moment ago.

As we all know, in Ireland there are plenty of gatherings at which people will start singing republican songs that glorify very violent conduct, and I believe that there are some loyalist equivalents, as well. The situation in Ireland is very much improved, but there are still extremists there. The current end to violence, which we all hope will last, can prove somewhat fragile when tensions arise in Ulster, and I wonder whether the past glorification of terrorism as contained in the lyrics of many Irish republican songs could be regarded as unlawful conduct.

Mr. Robinson rose—

Mr. Clarke: The Bill seems not to require that, to be caught by this provision, the person or organisation singing the republican songs must be intending to provoke further violent conduct; it is simply a question of whether it might reasonably be expected that someone will take from such songs a general encouragement to emulate such conduct in current circumstances. I can think of situations where that might be so—if, for example, an event were taking place in the Province at a very sensitive time. I give this example so that the Minister can offer some insight into how such a situation might be affected by this clause.

The phrase

is vague and is such an innovation that it will be susceptible to very wide interpretation at various future points. I am not sure why it has been included. I am entirely content that organisations be proscribed that in other ways are plainly trying to encourage violent activities. Given yesterday's very narrow majority, may we have an assurance that the Government will consider before Report whether this vague term—the "glorification" of such conduct, be it in the past, present or future—might not more sensibly be removed from the Bill altogether?

Mr. Peter Robinson: In attempting to intervene earlier, I wanted to make a point similar to that made by   the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke). I can foresee circumstances in which the police might have to scoop up half the population of Northern Ireland. Some, for example, glorify the 1916 rebellion, and parades are regularly held to glorify those who were arrested in the post office and later executed. A large section of the community glorifies the actions of 1912 and the defiance of the Ulster volunteers; indeed, even today there are bands named after the Ulster volunteers. All such forms of glorification would   clearly be caught by the net of this Bill. The only   criterion that the Government have offered is the   Director of Public Prosecutions' sensible use of the
3 Nov 2005 : Column 988
legislation. If I may mix my fishing metaphors, the only way for such people not to be caught by this legislative net is for the DPP to let them off the hook. That is hardly satisfactory. How do the Government view those major commemorative occasions in Northern Ireland and the actions that are likely to flow from them?

Mr. Cash : I very much endorse the views expressed by   my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for   Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) and the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson). The glorification provision, to which I have tabled a number of amendments, takes us into extremely dangerous territory. It will lead to extremely unproductive discussion and invite the problems that I mentioned earlier in an intervention on the Minister.

I think that I heard the Home Secretary suggest this morning on the "Today" programme—he will correct me if I am wrong—that the glorification provision was an important but not essential part of the Bill. Given the   circumstances and the narrow majority for this provision of just one vote, to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe referred, I   hope that I can infer from the Home Secretary's comments that the Government are not going to insist on it. If it proceeds to the House of Lords, it will get into increasingly deep trouble. I sat through the whole of yesterday's debate and I cannot remember a single Member—apart from Government Front Benchers—saying a single word in favour of including the glorification provision in the Bill.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe was right to say that we must deal with other aspects of incitement to terrorism and the proscription of terrorist organisations. However, it is simply absurd to introduce the notion of glorification to deal with the mischief that terrorism presents.

With respect to the hon. Member for Cannock Chase (Dr. Wright), I must point out that not only past associations are important in this respect. Present associations must also be taken into account. Yesterday, I spoke about the Catholic martyrs of the 16th century, to whom Catholic services still constantly refer. Beatification is still an issue, as is the fate of people such as St. Edmund Campion and others. For instance, in the persecutions of the late 16th century, 30 people who attended my old school were martyred. They were hung, drawn and quartered, and services are held at regular intervals to glorify them.

Martyrdom, whether religious or political, is not confined to the past. It happens in the present, and will continue to happen in the future. People will continue to act in ways contrary to the circumstances of the present, and the law must deal with that. Inserting into the Bill a   notion of glorification, unlawful or otherwise, is extremely dangerous, as it will encourage much uncertainty and unnecessary hostility.

Next Section IndexHome Page