Here is my point, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We cannot look lightly on a clause of this type in this Bill, which could on so slender a footing lead someone into the commission of a crime, even if unwittingly and inadvertently, even if the person did not mean or intend it, or even if the circumstances gathered around him were not of his own volition and cause. It would be crazy for the House to allow such a clause to pass.
Mr. Salmond: I may be wrong, but I recollect that Winston Churchill once said that if he had been a Boer, he would have fought in the field against British forces. If that is correct, how would that be viewed in relation to the clause?
He was not a bore, but I may be one. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that Churchill's comment, particularly if made among the right audiencethat is what is so pernicious about the offence; it depends so much on unpredictable local and special factorscould have fallen foul of the clause. It depends not only on the factors of one's audience, but on who is doing the speaking. If I spoke praise of Saladin, it is likely to
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excite little impression on the minds of radicalised youth, but if I happened to be an imam and started to talk about Saladin, the code that I might be using could fall foul. That is effectively what the offence is designed to tackleusing code to incite or encourage terrorism. That is the meaning of the phrase "indirectly encouraging". It refers to encouragement by a sort of code. If I were an imam praising Saladin to my congregation, I would be committing an offence under the clause.
Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman believe that any of his examples could possibly pass the test that the Attorney-General would set before sending them on for prosecution? Also, he has told the House about his legal background. If I ever find myself in trouble, will he assure me that he will not offer his services?
The point about the Attorney-General's discretion is a very serious one. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal said, the Attorney-General will have to decide when a form of speech is an offence under the clause. Will that depend on the race of the speaker or on his religion? The answer is yes: no impression would be excited if I were to praise Saladin in such circumstances, but it would be if I were an imam. The context would be wholly different. The Attorney-General will have to decide the factors involved, and there is no place in our law for a discretion of such width.
Mr. Harper: Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a danger that our opponents, enemies and people who want to act against the state might be encouraged to make such statements and provocations? In that way they could force the Attorney-General to make a decision and thus drag the matter into the political firmament.
In conclusion, the Home Secretary said earlier that the proposed offence was intended to deal with the creation of the moral climate that allowed terrorist acts to be committed. However, to legislate to prevent the creation of a moral climate, as opposed to the incitement of specific acts of violence in specific circumstances, is to go too far. I urge the Minister to think again. If the amendment is pressed to a vote, I urge the House to support it.
Jeremy Wright (Rugby and Kenilworth) (Con): I am grateful to be called to speak in this debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but perhaps not so grateful to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Cox). However, I shall do my best.
I fully understand the Government's inclination to respond to people's heightened emotional state in respect of terrorism and to respond to those who talk about terrorism in positive terms. We all find such
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talk very distasteful, but the Government appear to be falling into the trap of making something distasteful into something illegal. There is a big difference, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) raised the fundamental issue about the clause when he asked what sort of action would be covered by the word "glorification" that would not be covered by "encouragement" yet still attract punishment under the criminal law.
I believe that no action meets the circumstances of that definition. If that belief is correct, the Government are creating with this clause a piece of law that can have only two possible fatesit will be misused, or it will not be used at all. If the latter is the case, the provision will simply gather dust. Prosecutors will not use it because it is inappropriate to put before a jury, but either fate is unacceptable for a facet of the criminal law.
My second concern has to do with the points raised already about the role of the Director of Public Prosecutions. I understand the Government's argument that there is no need to worry about the clause because, although it may be completely inappropriate in all sorts of circumstances, the DPP will put his foot down and prevent it from being used. That seems a profoundly unfortunate position for a Government to be in when proposing a clause to be part of the criminal law. It may be that the DPP currently in office will be able to protect us from all the different situations in which a glorification charge would be inappropriate. It may also be that the next three or four holders of the office will do so. Surely, however, we in this House must make law that will stand as good law, and not simply as law that needs to be propped up by the DPP, or, worse, law from which the DPP needs to protect us. It is fundamentally unsatisfactory to propose legislation that would have that effect.
If we are to look beyond the immediate compass of the current situationI accept that that situation makes the Government worry about how we deal with itit must surely be right to construct legislation today and this week that will stand the test of time and enable us to be confident that it will not be misused in future. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal said, the concept of glorificationindeed, the term itselfdoes not currently form part of the criminal law. It seems to me that there is good reason for that: it is too broad, too ephemeral and too difficult to define, and if that is so, the fact that it has no place in the criminal law is frankly because it deserves no place there. It will create difficulties in the future. I ask the Government to reconsider that part of this clause.
The Minister knows that there is a good deal of support for a great part of the Bill, and even for a great part of the clause. I fully appreciate that those who encourage terrorism should be penalised. We can, however, do that without needing to criminalise a concept called glorification, and I invite the Minister to consider what it is that is glorification but is not encouragement but should still be criminal. That is the crucial point of the debate, and without an answer on it, we cannot be confident that the clause should remain.
I am grateful to those who tabled the amendments for allowing us to revisit this area. I shall endeavour to respond to the contributions made, which have ranged from Wat Tyler to Hereward the Wake
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through all points in between. I am grateful to hon. Members who acknowledged that some of the examples given have beenI think this was the term usedfanciful. I am grateful, too, for acknowledgements that this is a serious matter, although I must tell the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Cox) that terrorism is a serious issue and the tone in which he made some of his contribution really did not reflect that seriousness.
I remind the House that we had a pledge in our election manifesto to outlaw the glorification of terrorism. We originally had a stand-alone offence but have come now to the formulation in clause 1. Lord Carlile, our independent reviewer of the legislation, says that
"in my view, this proposal in its revised form is a proportionate response to the real and present danger of young radically minded people being persuaded towards terrorism by apparently authoritative tracts wrapped in a religious or quasi-religious context".