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I heard the opinion expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield. It looks to me as though clause 1 is relevant only insofar as it is relevant to the application of the convention, but that is not wholly clear, and I hope that the Minister will clarify it. As she knows, I do not like the references to glorification in any event, and the whole thing is made more undesirable, unattractive and fraught with political risk if it turns out to have universal application.
Mr. Gummer: The word "glorification" is pretty unusual. Its only regular use is in the formularies of the Church of England and the Church of Rome, where it has a particular religious meaning. If one walked down a high street saying, "I'm just about to go and do a bit of glorification", it would be thought at least a bit odd.
The problem with the provision is that it is left over from a previous attempt to try to react satisfactorily to the understandable anger of people in Britain about the
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seeming ability of clerics from various organisations, among others, to talk in a hot-headed manner and thereby seemingly encourage people to accept actions that are manifestly dangerous and unpleasant. The Minister needs to be very careful about things that are left over and no longer of any use. The appendix, for example, is a particularly nasty part of the body in the sense that it causes a great deal of harm to no discernible good effect. That is because it is left over from a use that it once had but does not have any more. It would have been much better had the Almighty so organised the process of evolution that we got rid of it altogether. I suspect that that is precisely what we should be doing with this part of the clause. It would be much better to get rid of it altogether because the residuum is not sufficient to grant any important advantage.
I have tried hard to invent a case that could properly be prosecuted with the possibility of seven years' imprisonment and could not be prosecuted under any other subsection in the clause, let alone the rest of the Bill. So far, I have been unable to do so other than by reaching to those furthest shores that some people have visited in explaining why glorification is so dangerous to history teachers and so on. It is almost impossible to imagine circumstances in which the provision creates any additional defence of freedom or opposition to terrorism that could properly be used. It does not make sense.
Introducing into British law an offence of glorification is seriously dangerous. The word "glorification" is so loose, difficult to define and varied in people's understanding of it that it will become a dangerous precedent for the Government.
Mr. Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con): My right hon. Friend referred to ecclesiastical language at the beginning of his speech. Is not it dangerous, when those who mean us harm already try to use religion inappropriately to justify their actions, to use terminology in our legislation that would perhaps enable them to do that more, rather than less, easily?
Mr. Gummer: My hon. Friend has put his finger on the reason for my unhappiness with the word. He is right that, if ever there were a subject about which our language should be clinical and avoid overtones that might have the effect that he described, we are considering it. He is right to point out why it is so dangerous.
However, it is also dangerous for another reason. If glorification were some residuum of a law that was passed in 1734 and somebody suggested that it would be a good idea to get rid of it because it was no longer useful or might be used badly, the answer would be the same as the one the Minister has given in previous debates: it is perfectly safe because nobody could use it and there is always the gate of the Director of Public Prosecutions and others. That works if it applies to a provision that has been in desuetude for a long time. However, we are proposing a new provision. It would be difficult in 2006 to say that we did not mean legislation of 2005 to apply to a case. We could not claim that it was a jeu d'esprit or a little twiddle in an otherwise dull Bill. It
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would be hard to argue that. The intention to include it in such a serious measure is therefore genuinely problematic for the Government. Let me define the three specific problems.
First, the Government should not underestimate the extent to which the Director of Public Prosecutions can be perceived by those who do not understand the process as a political figure. We all have experience in our lifetimes of examples when, because the Director of Public Prosecutions has or has not allowed something, it has been suggested that Ministers have leaned on him. That is a mean, unpleasant and unfair suggestion but it should nevertheless be avoided rather than encouraged.
Secondly, the provision becomes an even greater danger if extra-territorialityI am delicate in my references because of your earlier, proper restrictions, Mr. Deputy Speakerturns out to apply to the extent that my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) suggests. Those who may wish to put pressure on the Government are even less likely to understand the independent position of the Director of Public Prosecutions if they are from countries where such an independent position does not exist. The example given by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) of the Russians and the Chechen rebels, or my own example of the Rwandan authorities and the Belgian priest, would in those circumstances become even more germane. The Government would be likely to have pressure brought to bear on them by people who were not going to take seriously the fact that this great independent figure, the Director of Public Prosecutionsso unknown anywhere elsewas the gate that had prevented a prosecution from taking place.
Thirdly, I beg the Minister to recognise that this legislation as a whole has struck a very sharp note for many people among the ethnic minorities in this country. The Home Secretary was utterly right, in answering an earlier intervention, to point out the enormous support for law and order and the opposition to terrorism that we find among the Muslim community. Unfortunately, he was not answering the question that he had been asked. It was a very good answer to a question on that subject, but that was not the question that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mark Fisher) had asked him. I am not going to stray from the subject of glorification, Mr. Deputy Speaker
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I am very grateful that the right hon. Gentleman has glorification very much in his sights. I was beginning to worry that he had moved on to a Third Reading speech, and our Third Reading debate is tomorrow.
I was trying to say that what was true in that discussion becomes germane when we think of glorification. I cannot believe that a simple explanation or understanding of the word "glorification" would be universal among the Muslim community. It might be, among some people, but that would be unusual. I do not know what its translation into the various languages involved would be, and it would be improper to refer to them in the House in any case. However, glorification is a concept that is not easy to pass around between those
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who have lived all their lives knowing it in its ecclesiastical context, and far more so for those who have had no such knowledge. There is a real problem that glorification could easily be misinterpreted by those in the ethnic community when they came to explain to their friends what the word meant.
This is one of the most dangerous parts of the Bill. If the word "glorification" were misinterpreted by some, it could lead to people expecting a prosecution, because of the way in which they had interpreted it, only to have that expectation dashed because this curious figure, the Director of Public Prosecutions, had said, "No, this is the sort of glorification that you can go in for. There are other sorts that you cannot go in for." The prosecution would therefore be prevented.
The whole of the Bill has been overshadowed by the misinterpretation of many of the Government's views. There is so much misinformation out there, and if we consider that alongside our discussions of other Billswhich we shall no doubt discuss again herewe see too many opportunities for misunderstanding being opened up among the minorities in this country. Clarity and sharpness in the language that we use is absolutely essential, as the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) so clearly pointed out.
I turn now to the breadth of the circumstances in which the concept of glorification could be used. Unlike some of her colleagues, the Minister is not someone who eschews history. There is a tendency on the Labour Benches to talk as though nothing that happened before last week actually counts or has any real reference to today. I am one of those who thinks that if everyone learned a bit more history, they would have a bit more humility about the excellence of today's ideas. History is important, and many of us like to be pretty biased about our history. I am pretty biased against Carson, and pretty much in favour of a number of those people whom I would see as freedom fighters in earlier years in Ireland. I have a pretty clear view of that, and history is made much more interesting if one takes sides in relation to it.
I have therefore been guilty of an offence under the Bill over many years, although I hope that the DPP will not enforce it against me. In my enthusiastic pursuit of history, I have glorified a number of people who, in fighting for freedom, behaved in a way to which we would probably object today, largely because we live in a democracy and there are alternative ways of putting one's case forward. One of the things that the Government have found so difficult throughout consideration of the Bill has been to understand that in many cases people have had to take action in a way that has meant the loss of life, because there was no other way of righting terrible wrong. In such cases, the fault lies with the system and the Government, rather than with those who took up arms to uphold such a right.
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