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Mr. Carmichael : I share the concerns of the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) about clauses 6 and 8; my amendments Nos. 89 and 42 arise from the same concerns. They seek to achieve the same end by a different means, but they head in the same direction.
The hon. Member for Beaconsfield strikes exactly the right balance in his amendments to clause 8. The accused must show that, on the balance of probabilities, he was in a training centre for one of the three legitimate reasons given in amendment No. 59. I am concerned about the potential to fall foul of clause 6 as a result of
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people's suspicions. Amendment No. 42 offers a small measure of protection, because any such suspicion must be reasonableit does not cover suspicions borne of prejudice or mere fancy. The common theme of clauses 6 and 8we dealt with it at length yesterdayis that it is all too easy to blunder unknowingly into a situation and fall foul of the legislation. I cannot see that that is what the Government intend, but it is unfortunately the consequence of the clauses' drafting. As hon. Members said yesterday in the context of clause 1, people must be able to regulate their conduct according to this legislation, which, frankly, is not possible at the moment.
The concern that I seek to highlight in relation to clause 8 relates to "legitimate research purposes" and investigative journalism, which often performs an important function in these situations. The Government might believe that suspicions should be investigated not by journalists but by the appropriate authorities. We all know that in the real world matters can often be rather more complicated. The British Government of the day might choose, perhaps because of some wider concern, to ignore something that is going on in another country that constitutes a training place for terrorism. Yesterday, we spoke about Uzbekistan. The Government of Uzbekistan have had the benefit of a great deal of very benign doubt from the British Government, if I may put it like that. Who is to say that, if a training camp were to be established in Uzbekistan, we might not go looking too hard for it? An investigative journalist, however, might want to undertake some sort of exposé, but, under the clause, he or she could feel constrained from legitimately exercising professional freedom.
Chris Bryant: I was waiting to intervene because I thought that the hon. Gentleman was coming to the end of a paragraph. He refers to the term "legitimate research purposes", which is in his amendment No. 42. Are there any legitimate research purposes other than those to which he has already referred?
Mr. Carmichael: I never know until I read Hansard whether I have come to the end of a paragraph. I would love to pretend that my speeches have such structure. I can anticipate some situations that would go beyond investigative journalismsome sort of academic research might need to be covered. It has to be a legitimate research purpose, and that comes back to the point made by the hon. Member for Beaconsfield
The problem is the word "legitimate". The hon. Gentlemanno, it was the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) who accused the Government earlier of using inchoate language.[Interruption.] It was the hon. Member for Orkney and
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Shetland (Mr. Carmichael). They merge into one. The problem is that the word "legitimate" is, of itself, inchoate. It is merely a circular argument.
Mr. Carmichael: Legitimacy will be established according to the full facts and circumstances of any individual case. I am sorry if that sounds a little pat, but I have said that once or twice in the past.
If there are to be various defencesit is the clause's total absence of defences that I find quite difficultthey have to be constructed in such a way that they can cover a multitude of circumstances that we might not necessarily anticipate now, and for that reason the language has to be drawn quite widely. It may not be the most elegant language, but at the end of the day I will not be pressing my amendments to a vote, although the hon. Member for Beaconsfield may well be pressing his, and if he does so, I would be minded to support him.
Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman referred to the different types of organisation that might be in such a place for legitimate research purposes, and he mentioned NGOs. Will he expand on his thinking on that important point?
Mr. Carmichael: I do not know whether the hon. Lady was present when the hon. Member for Beaconsfield referred to people who find themselves in such a place involuntarily. Young people and children in particular may be there involuntarily. An NGO may well be there to secure their release, which I would say was an entirely legitimate purpose for an NGO. An NGO acting in that way should not fall foul of the law.
As I have already said, should the hon. Member for Beaconsfield press his amendments to a Division, for the reasons that he outlined, with which I would probably agree, the Liberal Democrats will support him.
: I seek some reassurance from the Minister on amendment No. 58. For example, a university lecturer, lecturing in chemistry at the excellent university of Wolverhampton, could inadvertently fall foul of the clause by having suspicions but, not wishing to act on them, by ceasing to teach the pupil concerned for fear of offending the pupil. I suspect that often in such circumstances a lecturer would initially downplay his or her suspicions because they did not want to cause offence in a social sense, but they would then be committing an offence in the legal sense, and there should be a middle ground, such as is set out in amendment No. 58, although I am not sure that its wording is quite right. Such suspicions could be reported to someone in authority, with the lecturer saying, "I haven't yet confronted the student, but I want to alert you to the fact that I think that they are taking a rather unprincipled interest in the chemistry I am teaching them."
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Hywel Williams (Caernarfon) (PC): The hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) said that the range of activities is vast, and I am concerned with particular activities in Wales and north Wales, outdoor pursuit training and, pertinently in this case, white water rafting on the Tryweryn river, in which some of the people involved in the events of 7 July were engaged. The range is vast, so how will the providers of such training decide whether they should suspect someone? There is a question about the degree to which they should suspect that people engaging in otherwise entirely legitimate and innocent activities are engaged in preparation for terrorism. I understand that terrorists often engage in such innocent activities for the purposes of team building and to increase a feeling of camaraderie. They might engage in such activities as part of a larger group. There is a lack of clarity for training providers.
A further question that I worry about is not directly related to the clause, but if a group of young Asian men, possibly Muslims, turn up in white, Welsh-speaking north Wales to go white-water rafting, is the provider of the activity to suspect them merely because they are a group of young Asian males? All kinds of possibilities are opened up that are entirely undesirable.
The Bill gives itself a universal jurisdiction and seeks to cast the net very widely over potential suspects. Many of us who represent inner-city constituencies are familiar with accusations that places such as community centres and mosques are being used for terrorist trainingit is easy to make such an accusation, in the same way as it is easy for people to accuse their neighbours of being drug dealers. We must therefore be extremely careful in drawing the net so widely that people are automatically guilty by association. I appreciate that any prosecution must occur within the terms of the Attorney-General's decision, but the matter poses some serious dangers.
The Bill says that anyone who has visited a terrorist training camp anywhere in world is guilty by association, and I think that amendment No. 59 probably helps with that problem. I have visited a number of refugee camps in central America that were characterised by their opponents and neighbouring Governments as terrorist training camps. During the war in El Salvador, El Salvadorian refugee camps in Honduras were routinely accused of being terrorist training camps. I do not believe that they were terrorist training camps, but the accusation was and is made frequently. The Bill could lead to doubtful hearsay evidence of attendance at such places being used to accuse and prosecute somebody. The Minister must think carefully about amendment No. 59, which would improve clause 8.
My final point applies to the whole Bill. The tenor of the Bill is to try to charge people as widely as possible with advocacy of, preparation for or association with terrorism, which will alienate large numbers of people who already feel quite alienated from normal British society. Many young Muslims who live in inner-urban areas already feel alienated. Are they in danger of being prosecuted for attending classes in which someone speaks or going to a community centre where it is alleged that training activities have taken place? We could end up not only criminalising the innocent by detaining
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them for 90 days without charge, but reducing the likelihood of co-operation with the authorities on genuine cases in which someone is seriously planning to commit criminal acts either in this country or anywhere else. We should learn from the experience in Northern Ireland between 1968 and 1971, when alienation grew so rapidly that it led to 20 years of troubles. I fear that we will alienate people who do not want to be alienated and who want to live in a decent, free-speaking, democratic society, because we are in danger of driving them in the other direction.
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