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Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): I do not intend to detain the House for long, as we have been over this ground several times and I fear that we are in danger of pursuing a debate that might generate more heat than light. However, I commend the closing remarks of the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) to the Home Secretary. The approach that he advocates, of going out from Whitehall and engaging with communities, is much wiser than that which the Government have hitherto chosen to follow. The obsession with introducing one piece of legislation after another on the basis that something must be seen to be done is not a sustainable approach in the long term.

On the political context of today's debate, the Home Secretary spoke last week about his wish to build a consensus around terrorism legislation. I took him at his word and was disappointed on Monday to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer—I know how fond the Home Secretary is of him—basically say that anyone who does not agree with the Government is soft on terror. Such language does not really assist the debate. Again, on "Today" this morning, the Home Secretary spoke about the House of Lords playing politics with terrorism. He only needs to read the report of the debate in another place and he will see that Lords amendment No. 5, with which we are dealing, was brought forward by Lord Lloyd of Berwick, a Cross Bencher, and supported by the Bishop of Winchester.

Clearly, there is a wide concern outside the chattering classes and the political community. I know that Ministers and Secretaries of State in particular sometimes find themselves living in a bubble in which they are insulated from some of those concerns. I ask the Home Secretary to accept, however, that those of us who hold such concerns do so for sincere and deeply felt reasons and that we are not simply engaged in some sort of frolic.

2.15 pm

On the Home Secretary's point that the glorification proposal was in the Labour party manifesto, the manifesto referred not just to glorification but to those who condoned terrorism. Clearly, that proposal has been quietly and properly dropped, but it indicates to me that these days—particularly in light of last night's events—there is a pick-and-mix element to political manifestos. I caution the Home Secretary against relying too much on that point.

The Liberal Democrats' concerns remain as they have been throughout. First, there is the question of the vagueness of "glorification" as a term to be used in statute. My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) made that point in relation to the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and he is absolutely right. Three concerns were raised by the Joint Committee, of which the first two have been addressed, but the Government have made no attempt to address the third. For as long as they insist on the maintenance of the term in the Bill, they can make no such attempt, as that circle simply cannot be squared. The Home Secretary accepted in a speech today that we
 
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still do not have a proper working definition of terrorism. The effect of that is to have vagueness heaped on vagueness, which results in bad law. I did not come here to enact bad law.

The Home Secretary told us that glorification is a subset of indirect encouragement. He is absolutely right. That assertion, however, is an admission that the reference to glorification is wholly unnecessary; in fact, it is dangerous. The problem with using exemplars in that way is that they can be seen as in some way restricting the broader term of which they seek to be an example. The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) said that all glorification would be caught by indirect encouragement but that not all indirect encouragement would be caught by glorification. He is absolutely right in that. He will be aware, as those advising the Home Secretary should surely be aware, that it is a simple rule of statutory construction that to express one option is to exclude the others.

Mr. Cash: I do not know why this debate is perhaps more important than the last one on the issue, but does the hon. Gentleman agree that we do not come here to try to produce laws that are unclear, and that we need the definition to be made? Given the importance of the Liberal Democrats in this exercise and in the House of Lords, does he agree that in the interests of the public, whom it is our main objective to serve, we should find some means of delay to which the Government could agree? Rather than rushing the Bill through on a ping-pong basis, we could settle down over the recess and come up with a clearer definition, because neither the amendment nor the Government's proposals are adequate to deal with this serious state of affairs.

Mr. Carmichael: I would certainly never seek to disagree with anyone who suggested that the Liberal Democrats were important, and I have little difficulty in agreeing with what the hon. Gentleman has said. He is right. I shall say more about this shortly, but it seems to me that there is no real chasm between the two sides. If the Home Secretary sincerely wanted to build consensus, it would not be a particularly difficult task to undertake. It certainly ought to be possible for us and the other place between us to achieve that consensus during the recess next week. Consensus, however, can be achieved only if both sides wish to achieve it.

I do not think that the root cause of the problem lies in the Home Office; I think that it lies in No. 10 Downing street. There is no political will on the Government's part to achieve the consensus, because it suits them better to dominate the political debate by calling those of us who are on this side of the argument soft on terrorism than to find a workable, sensible, legally enforceable solution.

Mr. Winnick: In evidence to the Home Affairs Committee yesterday, Lord Carlile, who used to be a Liberal Member of Parliament in the House of Commons, told us that if he had to estimate the number of clerics in the Muslim community—they are, needless to say, totally unrepresentative of that community and of fellow clerics—who are peddling dangerous nonsense, he would say that there were about 20. As I have said in earlier interventions, I recognise the
 
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sensitivity of an issue that is not as clear-cut as many of us would like it to be, but is it not possible—I am not speaking as a lawyer—that if the number is anywhere near 20, those clerics could be dealt with under existing law? If that is the position, as the Home Secretary would no doubt argue, is it not quite likely that they could be dealt with by means of the provision on glorification? If that is so, will not the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) concede that there is a case for doing what the Government intend to do?

Mr. Carmichael: The problem with that is that the hon. Gentleman's case has already been undermined by the Home Secretary, who has told us that glorification is a subset of indirect encouragement. That means that nothing said by the imams referred to by my noble and learned Friend Lord Carlile would not be caught by the broader and more general terms of indirect encouragement. The difficulty arises from the baggage that is attached to glorification. I shall say more about that later.

I want to say something about the Home Secretary's objections to the Lords amendment. He latched on to the word "listener". I accept that the wording is not the best possible formulation, and it is not the one that I would have chosen. If the word "recipient" had been used, with one bound we should all have been free; but instead of trying to work around that, the Government chose to set up a tremendous clash between this House and the other place. As I told the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash), I think that that can only have more to do with the wider political debate than with the process of securing good, workable legislation.

Then there is the question of the signal that would be sent to the courts and to terrorists if it were suggested that glorification was somehow acceptable. That has more than a whiff of desperation about it. If it is the strongest argument that the Government can come up with, they are in some trouble. As I said earlier, the Government previously used the word "condone" in their manifesto. When they dropped that word, did it mean that they suddenly condoned terrorism? I do not think so.

Mr. Grieve: The Government also used the word "exalt". I am not entirely sure what they meant by it; the hon. Gentleman may agree that it is a rather undefined phrase. They seem to have been able to drop that without any difficulty.

Mr. Carmichael: Indeed. I shall not be too hard on the Government, because I am delighted that they dropped the reference to exaltation, a term which in my view has no place in statute.

The problem is that the Government have never answered the fundamental question posed by the Opposition: what will this measure add to current law? We can all see the dangers. We can all see the chilling effect that it may have. We can all see the difficulties that may be caused to those of us who may at some time wish to engage in a legitimate protest and to send our support to those in other countries who labour under despotic and violent regimes, but may be prevented from so doing.

If I may borrow a term from the management-speak of which we hear so much from the Government, I think it is incumbent on us to conduct a cost-benefit analysis.
 
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We can all see the cost of the legislation; the benefit is less clear. On that basis, I urge the House to retain the Lords amendments.


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