Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Ellwood: The placards outside the Danish embassy have been mentioned several times. Aside from the sensitivities around removing them at the time, have the police said that arrests were not made because there was not an adequate law under which to make them?

Mr. Grieve: If the police were to say that, they would be wrong—it is as simple as that. If the people involved can be identified, there is no reason why they cannot be charged with an offence. It would not even be a question of indirect encouragement, because the incident involved the most direct incitement to violence and murder that one can possibly imagine.

Abu Hamza was prosecuted under laws dating back to 1861. I know that the world was supposed to have started when new Labour entered government, but perfectly reasonable laws were on the statute book before then.

Mr. Winnick: I was outside the post office in Dublin when Ireland was declared a Republic—I emphasise that that was in 1949 rather than in 1916. Is the hon. Gentleman really comparing the fight for Irish independence against British colonial rule and the American war of independence with modern terrorism such as 7 July? If so, is he not in danger of minimising the horrors that occurred in our country, where more than 50 people were massacred and many others were seriously injured and must live with those injuries for the rest of their lives? How can he compare that event with what happened in Ireland or what is now the United States?

Mr. Grieve: The hon. Gentleman has made my point: I would not seek to equate one event with the other, but the legislation makes no such distinction.

The definition of terrorism is so wide that it includes the activities of Robin Hood in the 13th century. Helpfully, the Home Secretary has said that he will ask Lord Carlile to review the matter and try to come up
 
15 Feb 2006 : Column 1443
 
with a definition of international terrorism that goes some way to meeting those anxieties, but it is a difficult task—it will take a legal genius to come up with a formula, and I hope that Lord Carlile or someone else can do it. In the meantime, however, we are saddled with a definition of terrorism that covers the activities of the ANC, the IRA and French resistance fighters during the second world war.

Sir Patrick Cormack: EOKA.

Mr. Grieve: Indeed, the definition also covers EOKA, Wat Tyler, Jack Cade and John Ball, so it is pretty wide. In those circumstances, we should restrict the scope of offences and ensure that they are neatly targeted, which is what the House of Lords has attempted to do.

Mr. Kilfoyle: The hon. Gentleman has obviously allowed his mind to roam around possible prosecutions under the Bill as drafted. Returning closer to home, the former hon. Member for Richmond lost her position on the Liberal Democrat Front Bench because she sympathised with the aspirations of suicide bombers. Would she have been liable to prosecution under the Bill?

Mr. Grieve: On the strict textual interpretation of the Bill as the Home Secretary wants it, she is at risk, as indeed is the Prime Minister's wife. That illustrates how ludicrous the Government's approach is.

Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West) (Lab/Co-op): As a non-lawyer layman, I am always nervous about entering into a debate about definition that seems to be largely conducted by lawyers. It seems to me that given the scale of the problems that we face, it would be better to move towards a definition which provides a greater disincentive to anybody to do or say anything that might be construed as pro-terrorism rather than be a prisoner of the past on other issues. Does the hon. Gentleman agree with that layman's perspective?

Mr. Grieve: The concept of indirect encouragement is probably sufficient in itself, but it was with a view to trying to encapsulate the point made by the hon. Gentleman that the Lords drafted amendment No. 5. Their intention was to be not oppositional, but conciliatory, to the Government. If the hon. Gentleman reads the Hansard record of the debate in the Lords, he will see that some perfectly respectable people in the other place felt that even this amendment went too far and preferred to keep, without further ado, the straight definition of "indirect encouragement". The amendment was intended to encapsulate the issue and to be helpful.

Mr. Bailey: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the narrowness of the definition in the Lords amendment means that it would not be seen as a disincentive to a whole range of potential offences, and is therefore not conducive to realising the whole objective behind the Bill?

Mr. Grieve: Let me take the hon. Gentleman back to my point about the Taoiseach. That is not some far-fetched fantasy but a straightforward present-day reality. I do not wish the Taoiseach to be prosecuted for
 
15 Feb 2006 : Column 1444
 
commemorating and celebrating the Easter rising any more than the hon. Gentleman does, so how do we go about ensuring that that does not happen? Saying that

correctly explains what the House wishes to criminalise. The Taoiseach clearly does not wish people to emulate the Easter rising. That is a good approach that is worthy and should commend itself to the House.

Mr. Charles Clarke: The hon. Gentleman has conceded that his own position is ridiculous. Any celebration of the Easter rising by the Taoiseach would not be done with intent to incite others to commit acts of terrorism or even with subjective recklessness. The Government's wording requires the statement to be one

the hon. Gentleman's word—

The Taoiseach's remarks simply would not be caught by this law.

Mr. Grieve: I disagree. Of course the Home Secretary is right that the Taoiseach does not intend people to engage in terrorism, but even in terms of subjective recklessness he is at serious risk. This is a controversial issue in Ireland. Some people look to the Easter rising as an example of what they should be doing today, and the Taoiseach will know that when he stands up and decides for political reasons that it is a risk work taking to repossess from Sinn Fein the celebration of this particular event and to restore it to the mainstream of Irish political life. That is what he is intending to do, but the way in which the Bill has been drafted by the Government does not protect him. There is no point in the Home Secretary shaking his head. The only protection that he has is the Government's discretion not to prosecute him. That is unacceptable. The Home Secretary would have a better case if this were an offence only of specific intent.

Sir Patrick Cormack: As always, my hon. Friend is making his case with great precision and lucidity. Have not the Government recently spent a lot of time in this House trying to distinguish between the sort of terrorism from which we have recently suffered and terrorism in Northern Ireland? A Government who have spent so much time trying to pretend that there are enormous differences between the two are now introducing a Bill that makes nonsense of their own protestations.

1.45 pm

Mr. Grieve: My hon. Friend is right. In the context of proscribed organisations, Sinn Fein would have to be proscribed on the spot. That must be the reality of the wording of clause 21. As the Bill is drafted, I do not see how Sinn Fein could survive not being proscribed—although of course the Government would no doubt exercise their discretion.

Dr. Evan Harris: I invite the hon. Gentleman to consider the report by the Joint Committee on Human
 
15 Feb 2006 : Column 1445
 
Rights. The Home Secretary rightly said that it criticised the provision on the basis of a lack of restriction on intent and that a concession has been made to deal with that. He also said that the Committee drew attention to the breadth of the definition of terrorism, and rightly said that that was being dealt with indirectly through the review. However, he did not recognise the third criticism, in paragraph 36, of the vagueness of the glorification requirement. Will the hon. Gentleman invite the Home Secretary to meet Liberal Democrat concerns in that respect?

Mr. Grieve: The hon. Gentleman is right. This went to the heart of the debate in the other place. Lord Morris of Aberavon, a previous Labour Attorney-General and a person of great distinction who has always been a robust supporter of what the Government have generally been attempting to achieve, said:

He went on to say that, under the definition that the Home Secretary wants,

He went on:

That encapsulates the problem that glorification will pose. The Government would do well to heed what not only Lord Morris, but many others, including previous Law Lords, said in the course of the debate—and they were seeking to be conciliatory. Lord Ackner, who is not usually a friend of the Government, said:

They were genuinely trying to help the Government, who have closed their ears and eyes to what they have been told. Consequently, this House is in danger of passing law that is unworkable.


Next Section IndexHome Page