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Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle) (Lab): I am struggling to think of concrete examples of behaviour that would be caught by the Bill. If someone were to wear a T-shirt, for example, with a picture of Osama bin Laden and underneath the words, "Osama needs you", would that fall within the ambit of the Bill?
Mr. Clarke: It would depend on the intention. Let us take a simple sentence such as, "We glorify the memory of Mohammed Siddique Khan", one of the 7 July bombers. I emphasise again, in response to the comments that have been made, that it would depend on the context, but that is the type of statement that would be covered by the Bill, but would not be covered by general incitement legislation of another type.
Thirdly, on the Lords amendment, I make a technical point about the drafting of the legislation. As it passed through this House, the offence in clause 1 included a provision that referred to "glorification" explicitly. The only conclusion to be drawn from the removal of the word is that it will be presumed that the offence was not intended to cover glorification. This view could well be taken by the courts, it would probably be taken by our constituents and, more seriously, it could well be taken by the recruiters of terrorists. This would undermine both the legal effectiveness of the offence and its effectiveness as a deterrent, in a climate where we need to understand that individuals and organisations that promote and glorify terrorism are looking at our decisions and deciding how best to conduct themselves.
Taken together, the three major reasons that I have outlined mean that we must not agree to the Lords amendments, but should insert the alternative amendments that I propose in lieu of them. We should, particularly in view of the flaws in the Lords amendments that have been acknowledged from the Opposition Benches, even now proceed on the basis of consensus. Indeed, in the spirit of consensus, we have agreed that the offence should be committed only if the requisite mens rea tests are satisfied. Those mental tests are intent and subjective recklessnessthat is, the offence will be committed only if someone encourages terrorism, whether directly or indirectly, including through the glorification of terrorism, intending to encourage it or knowingly taking an unreasonable risk that they will encourage it. In this context, I cannot see why there should be objection to the inclusion of a provision relating to the glorification of terrorism. I hope the House will agree to reject the Lords amendments and accept those that I proposed.
The Home Secretary comes to the House to make a case for the restoration of the concept of glorification. I think he knows and has acknowledged in the course of interventions that it is a concept hitherto unknown to our law and is undefined. The Home Secretary glossed over the history of the matter. The original announcement, which came from the Prime Minister as much as from anybody
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else, was that we would have a separate offence of glorification, condoning and exaltation of terrorism. That was the expression.
What happened, although the Home Secretary seems to be unwilling to admit it in the House this afternoon, is that that idea came in for a massive amount of criticism, to the point where it was entirely rubbished and ridiculed. It was an unworkable proposal. It envisaged putting up a list which, in a convoluted way, meant that there was a 20-year cut-off period for criticisms, to try and get round the problems that it might pose in respect of the African National Congress. It was a dog's breakfast of a proposal and the Government and the Home Secretary wisely abandoned it.
Having abandoned the proposal, the next problem was to cope with the occupant of No. 10 Downing street, who once he has come out with one of his populist pronouncements, which he thinks has some resonance with the press, decides that the word still has to feature. That seems to be the only reason why glorification was put into clause 1. I say to the Home Secretary that it could be removed in its entirety and the Bill, with the concept of indirect encouragement, would still be perfectly workable. In some cases, glorification might be an example of indirect encouragement, but in other cases it might not. There is no rhyme or reason why it should be there.
Mr. Charles Clarke: In his political knockabout, does the hon. Gentleman accept that the word "glorification" was used in the Labour party manifesto at the general election in May? The suggestion that it was used only after the events of 7 July by the Prime Minister in his statement in August is completely wrong. It was clearly set out in the election manifesto before the 7/7 bombings and is a word that we have thought important, for the reasons that I have given, over a considerable time.
Mr. Grieve: The Home Secretary helpfully gave us a history of the origin of the word, which lies not in legal text, but in a pronouncement from an international organisation. It is none the worse for that, but translating pious aspirations into sensible law is the job of the House. It is not the job of the House to take every such pious aspiration and repeat it verbatim. The decision to repeat it verbatim was the Prime Minister's when he concluded that there was political mileage in doing so. He kept it up even after I think the Home Secretary pointed out to him that the original idea was entirely unworkable. [Interruption.] In that case, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would like to intervene and explain why the original idea of a separate offence was dropped.
Mr. Charles Clarke: The answer is straightforward. We consulted on the proposal and, as the hon. Gentleman rightly said, there were a number of people who thought that it was not correctly constructed. We debated in the House how to deal with it. We made a set of amendments, in the spirit of compromise that I tried to set out. However, I repeat that the word "glorification" was set out in the Labour party manifesto. It is not an invented word in the populist political way that the hon. Gentleman describes.
The Home Secretary may correct me if I have got it wrong, but I do not think that a separate
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offence of glorification ever featured in the Bill as published. It featured in the draft Bill. He said that amendments were then made, as though that took place in the Chamber. It did not. There were no such amendments. The Government dropped the concept because it was unworkable. Yet even last night, the Prime Minister's propaganda department was putting out to the pressthat is the way it was reproduced on the news this morningthat what was at stake in the House today was an offence of glorification. That is how it was announced on the 8 o'clock news on Radio 4. It is fascinating to see the No. 10 press unit peddle utterly misleading information, which is accepted verbatim despite its being at complete variance with the facts. The debate involves both a principle and a technical issue, but it has been hijacked by the Prime Minister for narrow party political purposes.
Mr. Marshall-Andrews: On the rhyme or reason argument, will the hon. Gentleman address the question of placards, which the Home Secretary has not addressed? It has been stated that without the Bill people cannot be prosecuted for displaying such placards. Why have prosecutions not taken place under the existing incitement legislation?
Mr. Grieve: I entirely agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman. Clear criminal offences have been committed under the existing law, and I can see no difficultly in bringing prosecutions. It adds to my concern when I hear the Prime Minister and, indeed, the Home Secretary repeatedly insisting that there is a great difficulty, because neither I nor any lawyer of my acquaintance can perceive it.
Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal) (Con): Will my hon. Friend return to his statement that we do not need the word "glorification" because the legislation covers the indirect encouragement of terrorism? Can he think of a single example in which a person who could be prosecuted for glorification could not be prosecuted for indirect encouragement in a case that would be likely to be won?
Mr. Grieve: My right hon. Friend brings me on to my next point, which is that indirect encouragement is all that is required to lay the foundations of the offence. However, glorification and indirect encouragement are not identical, and the mischief of using the term "glorification" is that it undoubtedly extends further.
In April, the Taoiseach will lead the Irish nation in the celebration and praise of the Easter rising, and I defy the Home Secretary to persuade me or anybody else that that is not glorification within the scope of the lawincidentally, I emphasise that the Taoiseach has good reason to lead such a celebration. That topic is controversial in Ireland: some people see the Easter rising as a historical event that is worthy of commemoration because it was part of a period of national self-assertion, while others see it as a continuing call to armsalthough a ceasefire has been declared in Northern Ireland, some individuals do not respect it.
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If the Taoiseach were to visit this country after that celebration, he would be in serious difficulty under the Bill as draftedthe Government want the Bill as it is drafted. He would have to accept that the celebration was not without controversy, because some people in Ireland say that it might encourage terrorism. Even under the subjective recklessness test, he would not be free of the possibility that his decision would be impugned. If the law were applied impartially, he would have to be jolly careful, because he is not subject to sovereign immunity when he visits this country, and I think that he would be liable to arrest and prosecution following that celebration.
It is a classic example of the crassness of the Government's approach that they should end up with such a ludicrous state of affairs. The only protection that the Taoiseach or anybody else has is that the Government have smiled sweetly and said, "You need not worry, because the exercise of discretion in these matters will mean that no prosecution will actually be brought." That approach is simply ridiculous, when this House can craft legislation that makes sure that such nonsense does not happen and meets the Home Secretary's needs.
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