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Amendments Nos. 90 and 91 stand in my name and those of several of my hon. Friends, as well as those of the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) and the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis). They are probing amendments designed to give us a clearer understanding of the
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Minister's intentions in clause 17. As I read it, it appears to create a universal jurisdiction in regard to these offences. In other words, if anyone anywhere commits a crime that falls into the necessary categories and is a crime in the United Kingdom, that crime will be prosecutable in a British court of law. If that is the case, those crimes would become part of a small subsection of crimes that are prosecutable on that basis. Examples include genocide, war crimes and I think that there is another one, but it has escaped my memory
Mr. Heath: I thank the hon. Gentleman. Some sexual offences are also included. I do not argue against that, although I accept that the amendment would restrict the application simply to those crimes that directly affected British nationals or the interest of the United Kingdom through British nationals.
I can see a counter-argument, which I ask the Minister to confirm is the Government's view: if it were to be restricted, individuals who were indictable for the offences, and who could not be extradited either to their country of origin or the country in which the crime was committed because of our treaty obligations, would not be subject to due legal process. Britain would therefore provide a service in allowing for a prosecution where otherwise the person would go free because the crime of which they were accused was committed in a country that perhaps retained the death penalty, thus making extradition impossible. Will the Minister therefore confirm the categories of crime that he expects to be caught under the purpose of the clause, and that we are applying a principle of universal jurisdiction in this area? If that is the case, he will have the support of the Liberal Democrats.
Mr. Kenneth Clarke: The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) introduced his amendment in a very low key way. I have been rather disturbed by clause 17, however, and would welcome his amendment and seek considerable reassurance before we let this extraordinary provision pass through.
The effect of clause 17, as I understand it, is to make it a criminal offence for any person of any nationality to commit an act as described in the whole of part 1 of the Bill in any part of the globe, and to make that person subject to criminal prosecution when they come to this country. Somebody yesterday described the jurisdiction being sought as extraterrestrialit does not go that far, but it is certainly extraterritorial on a grand scale. If one considers the totality of part 1, one realises that it is extraordinary that we are being asked to contemplate that proposition.
Mr. Grieve: I think that it is extraterrestrialthe scope of the Bill is not limited to the planet Earth at all, and on that basis, if the Bill applies outside the United Kingdom it must also be extraterrestrial.
As I understand it, were a little green man to get out of a flying saucer anywhere in the United Kingdom, and were he suspected of having committed
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the act of encouraging terrorism before he left the planet from which he had departed, he would immediately be subject to the provisions of the Bill. That puts another complexion on the problem.
Of course we understand that there are a few very serious cases for which we accept the case for universal jurisdiction: genocide, crimes against humanity and things of that order. With the greatest respect, I do not think that large parts of part 1 come remotely near that category of crime. I will not rehearse the arguments that we had yesterday about clause 1, as it stands, on the encouragement of terrorism. Members on both sides of the Committee were concerned about comparatively harmless, innocent acts of political protest that might be construed to be offences under clause 1.
Under clause 17, we are being asked to consider that acts of that kind, committed by anybody in any country of the world, should be regarded as terrorist offences, so that such people could be arrested and dealt with if they came to this country.
I can see that there are cases in which terrorist acts committed abroad should render the people responsible for them liable to arrestsuch cases are tantamount to crimes against humanity. Anybody who has blown up a school bus in any part of the world should not automatically expect to be immune from prosecution if they happen to come to this country and the British authorities arrest them on British territory. I accept that, but as I have said, that is not what part 1 encompasses.
Mr. Heath: I do not disagree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Perhaps I did present the amendments in a slightly low-key way, but that was because I wanted to return to the issue of definition later. If the definition is sound the clause is sound, but if the definition is not sound the jurisdiction becomes extremely wide.
Mr. Clarke: I was not criticising the hon. Gentleman. I can, however, envisage enormous difficulties. Let us suppose that someone comes here from Chechnya, from Kashmir or from Uzbekistan. I will not go on: it would take a long time to recite the names of all the territories on which people have been guilty of terrorist offences, or at least of encouraging terrorist offences in the terms of clause 1. That person would then find himself liable to prosecution for something that had happened a long way away.
The defence will beI know this, because it is in the Billthat such prosecutions will be brought only with the consent of the Attorney-General. We shall hear the argument that we heard yesterdaythat the Attorney-General will only bother to prosecute people who have been accused of serious offences in the country. As I said yesterday, I do not approve of passing catch-all legislation on the basis that we can make as many acts as possible criminal and justiciable, relying on a wise Attorney-General not to bother to enforce the law despite its wording.
: The Government might be storing up a problem. A number of Governments with whom we are generally friendly regard some of their own citizens as terrorists, while the British Government have taken a more ambiguous view. In the past, the British
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Government have said "We cannot deal with these people while they are resident in this country, because they have not broken any British law." If this law is passed, will there not be intense pressure on the British Government to prosecute a range of people who are disapproved of in those other countries, although we would prefer not to do so? The Attorney-General will be in an incredibly invidious position.
Mr. Clarke: The right hon. Gentleman has made a point that I intended to make. That is the other snag involved in relying on the Attorney-General's protection. Friendly Governments, including the American Government, might define some people from some parts of the world as terrorists, and the British Government might not entirely agree. The Russians would certainly regard many people from the Caucasus as terrorists, and we might not find that a non-controversial assertion. Again, I will not go on, but in the case of other regimes even more tenuous examples could be given.
The Governments of those overseas territories will expect the British Government to use their authority, granted by Parliament, to arrest such people when they come to this country, and to deal with them. The Attorney-General will then not merely be acting in his capacity as adviser on legal matters to the Government; he will be seen to be makingindeed, will be makinga political decision, as a matter of public policy, on whether we should accede to the request of an overseas Government for someone whom they regard as a dangerous agitator to be arrested because he has come to our shores.
Mexico must deal with Zapatistas, while half of Central America is dealing with Sandinistas and others. The examples are legion. The situation would be made more difficult by the fact that, as some of the bodies involved are very controversial, there would be political division in this country. Members of some parties in the House would demand that some South American fascist be arrested and put on trial while Conservatives demanded the arrest of some campaigner elsewhere, and the Attorney-General would be in the middle of it all.
If someone had committed a terrorist act in Kashmirhad actually taken part in such an actI am not sure that I would see any objection to his arrest and prosecution in this country. When I was Home Secretary, I was concerned about cases in which people were organising terrorism in Kashmir from this country. We were inhibited in doing anything about it. In modern times, it is possible to organise a terrorist act in a very different jurisdiction thousands of miles away. But part 1 of the Bill, which includes this particularly difficult provision on encouraging terrorism, is not concerned with that category. I regard as utterly fatuous opening the door to Governments throughout the world making representations that a particular person in this country is "encouraging" terrorismin the very soft terms that this Bill uses to create that offenceand demanding that we arrest the person and put them on trial in the British courts. That has absolutely nothing to do with what the Government have always maintained is the Bill's underlying purpose: to make us all feel safer from
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the threat of terrorism here. This provision is opening up a political can of worms that Parliament should not contemplate.
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