Paul Goggins: With your permission, Mr. Cook, I will follow up the inquiries made by my hon. Friends the Members for Islington, North and for Stroud. I do not think that I will be able to give as full answers to them now as I would like, given the seriousness of the issues that they have raised. Both my hon. Friends and others have a record of campaigning in this area and have a particular interest in it. I acknowledge and respect that. It is important that I provide my hon. Friends with a full answer.
The essential answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North is that the provision is in the Bill to deal with the threat that is posed by unauthorised people who enter a nuclear site. The particular relevance is where they might have entered for the purposes of terrorism. That is why it is relevant for the provision to be in the Bill.
I emphasise to my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud that the amendments to the clause relate only to a few licensed nuclear sites. We are dealing with licensed sites, part of which exist outside the perimeter fence. I think that my hon. Friend understands that. The question that he asksthis is why he deserves and will receive a fuller answer from me at a later stageis about the process for deciding what is the designated site, the process for de-designating that site and the process for deciding where the boundary fence should be and how easily that can be moved. I do not know the answer to those questions now, but I shall try to provide them at a later stage.
I emphasise that the provision is to deal with a licensed site that is outside the perimeter fence. I hope that on the whole it will help to clarify the position and help my hon. Friends with some of the concerns that they may have had.
I listened to the Minister and I understand the amendments that have been accepted. I wrote down his words, which were "purposes of terrorism on entering the base". There were many occasions during the Greenham Common women's camp when women climbed over or cut the fence and entered the base to paint flowers on nuclear missiles and hang drapes on tanksentirely peaceful things. Under the Bill, anyone who climbed into the Aldermaston site and painted something on the walls to the effect that they believed that nuclear weapons were dangerous, illegal and immoral and that this country should adhere to the non-proliferation treaty would not be accused of criminal damage or trespass, as at present, but would become
3 Nov 2005 : Column 1033
terrorists, potentially detained for 90 days without going to court while questioning took place, and might then receive a long period of imprisonment.
What message does that send? I am sure that the Minister has many friends who belong to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and have been active in the peace movement all their lives, as have Members on both sides of the House. Are we advancing anything by designating as terrorists people who, by their very nature, are opposed to violence, terror and the existence of nuclear weapons, and who in many cases are equally opposed to nuclear power? I honestly do not see the point of the clause standing part other than gratuitously to criminalise a large body of people who act for entirely peaceful purposes and who have brought about significant political changes. That is simply not a sensible way to proceed. It will further alienate large sections of the population who do not want to be alienated, but do want to engage in serious political debate about the morality of nuclear weapons.
John Bercow: With what offence would such individuals be charged under clause 12? On the surface, I share the hon. Gentleman's concerns. I have a strong aversion to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and, indeed, to the activities of the Greenham Common women. I am glad that the Coalition for Peace through Security, Peace through NATO, and my noble Friend Lord Heseltine were effective in campaigning against the Greenham Common protesters. However, those protesters were not terrorists and should certainly not be categorised with people who are.
Jeremy Corbyn: I am not sure how grateful I should be for that intervention, but I shall do my best to accept it in the spirit in which it is offered. I should fess up, as I am national vice-chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which I first joined at the age of 16. I have never left it, so I have continuity on the subject. When the history of the 20th century is finally written
The Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I think that the Committee can be spared the history of the 20th century. The hon. Gentleman is experienced enough to know that he is being led astray by the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow), but I am determined that he should stay on the straight and narrow.
Jeremy Corbyn: I never wish to be led astray by the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow). Future generations will recall the Greenham Common women more than they will recall the Coalition for Peace through Security, and Peace through NATOthat is the only point I wish to make on the subject.
The hon. Gentleman made a serious point about for what offence the protesters would be prosecuted. The Minister referred to people entering a site for the purposes of terrorism. He will correct me if I or the hon. Member for Buckingham have misunderstood the provision, but my reading is that everyone who enters a designated nuclear sitewhether a power station, a base, a research site and so onfor whatever purpose, whether to plant a bomb or paint flowers on something, would be treated exactly the same and would be convicted under the Bill.
3 Nov 2005 : Column 1034
It would be helpful if the Minister explained exactly what he meant, because it appears to me that the provision is gratuitously trying to entrap large numbers of peace movement members within the ambit of terrorism. At the moment, they would probably be charged with criminal damage for breaking a fence and also trespass. Anyone who plants a bomb commits several criminal acts, not least acts preparatory to murder, which are already within the ambit of criminal law. Why, therefore, are nuclear sites and bases included in the Bill? What information is displayed outside bases to make clear the point at which someone becomes a suspect under the terrorism legislation when they cross a threshold? Will signs be put up on all those sites, and will they be designated in that way? These are serious matters as a substantial number of people may end up in prison for a long time.
John Bercow: I fear that unless I explain the point it might sound frivolous when it is not. It is important that people should be notified and forewarned, because I rather suspect that at the Labour party conference the individual concerned was not remotely conscious that he was within an environment in which, by virtue of his attendance and noise, he could be charged under the legislation under which it was proposed that he be charged.
Jeremy Corbyn: Walter Wolfgang has also been at demonstrations outside nuclear sites, so perhaps that should be considered as well. There is a point here about information. Those who have been in the countryside recently will know that the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 has resulted in signs all over the place indicating which pieces of land are open access and which are not. It is possible to do that, and at the very least there should be some indication outside these sites. I hope that the Minister will be able to respond to the points made by me, the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew).
Rob Marris: I welcome you to the Chair, Sir Alan. I could do with a little help from the Minister, following on from the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn). I am a little confused about what clause 12 is doing in the Bill. The Bill's short title is "Terrorism Bill". As far as I can see, clause 12 makes no mention directly of terrorism. It is an amendment to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. When I look at the explanatory notes for clause 12, they make no mention of terrorism or terrorists, or any such word. Will my hon. Friend explain a little more what clause 12 is doing in this Bill, a terrorism Bill?