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My concern about Hizb ut-Tahrir is that we hear the weasel words that it does not engage in terrorism, but I certainly think that it creates the climate in which people move on, as has been suggested. Omar Bakri Mohammad came to the UK quite a long time ago—in fact, if we are to get into party political arguments, he was given indefinite leave to remain by the Government of, I think, Mrs. Thatcher—to set up Hizb ut-Tahrir in
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the UK. He was its organiser here. He eventually fell out with it and went on to establish al-Muhajiroun and the various splinter groups that flow from it. I am pleased that he is no longer on our shores, although he seems to be able to communicate pretty effectively through the internet to spread his pretty evil message.

If we are proscribing JMB and TNSM primarily on the basis of their activities overseas, what effort have we made to track down the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir in other countries on the same basis? Although it claims not to be engaged in such activities in the UK, what is happening in other countries? For example, I know that Egypt has been concerned about the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir. I certainly do not hold up Uzbekistan as a example of liberal democracy—far from it; it has a pretty nasty regime—but it believes quite strongly that it faces a serious terrorist threat organised by Hizb ut-Tahrir. I have no way of knowing whether that it right, but it has certainly raised that issue with me.

If we are able to proscribe TNSM because of its activities in Pakistan—of course, Pakistan is not a democracy—and JMB on the basis of what happens in Bangladesh, perhaps we can look at what Hizb ut-Tahrir is up to in other countries as well. I simply put that to my hon. Friend the Minister and hope that he can tell us whether he has received representations from other Governments about the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir abroad. If he has received those representations and their contents can be substantiated, exactly the same test should apply to a ban on Hizb ut-Tahrir as to the two organisations that we are considering.

The other issue that I particularly want to raise, which I have raised tangentially in interventions, relates to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Tamil terrorist organisation that operates both in Sri Lanka and, I am afraid, in the UK—not by carrying out terrorist attacks, but I have little doubt that fundraising and protection rackets are going on here and that active support for the LTTE is being organised within the Tamil community.

This issue seriously splits the Tamil community. There are those who would give support to the LTTE—perhaps moral support, rather than physical support—but others are vehemently opposed to the LTTE. The Home Office has come under some pressure in debates in the House to lift the proscription of the LTTE, and I urge my hon. Friend the Minister, if he needs urging, not to go down that route. LTTE activity has significantly increased both in Sri Lanka and in London very dramatically in recent months, and it would send totally the wrong message if he were to go down that route.

There have been two significant arrests of LTTE activists, who have been charged with terrorist offences over the past few weeks. Indeed, there was a raid in my constituency in Grahame Park, and I believe that material was seized during that raid and bank accounts have been frozen, so I hope that my hon. Friend—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. I remind all hon. Members who wish to contribute to the debate that its scope primarily is about the two organisations listed in the order. I do not mind a passing reference to other organisations, but the debate is primarily about those two organisations.

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Mr. Dismore: I am sorry, Madam Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend the Minister said in introducing the debate that he would be happy to deal with other organisations as well. I am not sure whether you were in the Chair at that time, but I take on board your constrictions.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I was here when the Minister made that remark. Nevertheless, although he has considerable authority and power, when it comes to the Chamber and debates, they lie with the occupant of the Chair.

Mr. Dismore: Of course, Madam Deputy Speaker. I could not possibly question your remarks. In fact, I have made my point about the LTTE, which is the last issue that I wish to raise, so I shall draw my remarks to a close.

6.49 pm

Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): I obviously fully endorse what the Minister said and have no reason to question in any way the decision to proscribe the two organisations, which I too will refer to acronymically—if that is the right of way of putting it—as TNSM and JMB. I have one simple question, which has not yet been asked: if JMB was responsible for the detonation of, I think, 300 bombs in 50 Bangladeshi cities in just one hour on 17 August 2005 and if it is so widely accepted and well documented that TNSM has been actively involved in launching attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan, why is the move to proscribe those two organisations only taking place now? All those events were well known months and years ago and are explicit, overt acts of horrific terrorism. I simply do not understand why there appears to have been such a time lag between those well-documented events and the move to proscribe the organisations. Perhaps the Minister can shed some light on that.

With your admonitions in mind, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will refer only briefly to Hizb ut-Tahrir, but it does seem to have emerged as quite a prevalent theme in the debate today. I am perplexed by the position of the Conservatives on the issue. It was raised by the Leader of the Opposition, but there is only one Member—a Whip—on the Conservative Benches at the moment. That is a most peculiar way of underlining a point made in such strident terms by the leader of the Conservative party. Given that the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) quite rightly underlined in the previous debate—about periods of detention without charge—the necessity of having concrete evidence when taking steps in this area, I am still at a loss to know where the evidence is and how it has been marshalled to sustain the claim that Hizb ut-Tahrir should join TNSM and JMB on the list of proscribed organisations.

It is not often—in fact, it is exceptionally rare—that I find myself in agreement with the words of the previous, and no doubt widely lamented, Home Secretary, but when he spoke out on the subject in Prime Minister’s questions recently, and pleaded for an evidence-based approach, I thought that he was completely correct. The hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) referred to activities in Uzbekistan and
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elsewhere. As he knows very well, it is extremely difficult to get authoritative and objectively verified facts from countries such as Uzbekistan as far as the activities of this and other organisations are concerned. I am familiar with that myself, having in a previous incarnation worked in central Asia and in Uzbekistan.

The issue of principle is this: if there are organisations such as Hizb ut-Tahrir that are, if not explicitly, certainly implicitly, anti-Semitic, and which seem to me to stand for a theocratic philosophy that I, as a Liberal Democrat, find abhorrent but which do not explicitly espouse the use of terrorist violence to prosecute their aims, surely the only thing to do is to take on those organisations on their own terms, defeat their ideas, and defeat and expose their ideology for the mishmash of prejudice and misplaced grievances that it clearly is. If the Conservative party is to claim that it is a liberal Conservative party, I wonder why in this case it does not seem to have more self-confidence in the liberal arguments that need to be deployed when confronted by the abhorrent views of Hizb ut-Tahrir, rather than immediately seeking to score what appear to be political points and reaching for the statute book, when the evidence simply does not suggest that that is merited.

6.54 pm

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): As the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) mentioned, when the issue of new proscriptions comes up, we are often presented with organisations that are not necessarily coherent as a set. That presents us with a problem, not least because the list of 44 proscribed organisations includes organisations as diverse as Abu Nidal, November 17, and Euskadi ta Askatasuna—ETA—in Spain. The variety with which we might have to deal in one debate, without an opportunity to amend the legislation, is quite extraordinary. On a point of order for the future, I wonder whether Ministers would consider presenting the whole list again each year, so that we could refer regularly to all the organisations that are proscribed, rather than simply to any new organisations as they are being proscribed. Of course, I support the Government’s proposals on the two organisations, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) mentioned, the rationale behind their proscription could properly be used for the proscription of other organisations.

Mr. Heath: The hon. Gentleman will be aware that theoretically the process is reversible and that Ministers could put before us orders to de-proscribe organisations. It is incumbent on the Government to review periodically all the organisations on the list to which he refers to see whether the conditions still apply.

Chris Bryant: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I merely make the point that it would be helpful and right for Parliament regularly to assist the Government in that process of review, because there are important issues that we are in effect deciding on behalf of the nation when it comes to how we address terrorism. Once an organisation is proscribed, in theory its status might never be reviewed again, which would be inappropriate.

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I want to refer to some comments that have been made by other organisations and which should make the Government think twice about whether to proscribe them. For instance, in Australia last year, at an Eid carnival in Melbourne, leaflets were distributed that said that Muslims

I suppose we might all say that we have referred to our own political opponents and said that we would quite like to consign them to the dustbins of history. However, the leaflets went on to point out that Muslims had scored victories over the west through some of their terrorist activities around the world and had

They called on all Muslims to

One ought to consider whether an organisation such as that is seeking to promote and glorify terrorism.

In Copenhagen, in October 2002, Fadi Abdullatif was given a suspended sentence because he maintained in a square in Copenhagen that

I am sure that all hon. Members would agree with the sentence that the court handed down. The leaflet went on to quote words that were quoted in this Chamber only last week. The leaflet urged Muslims to kill Jews

I understand that some organisations debate whether that is a proper quotation from the Koran and whether it is anti-Semitic, because the translation does not normally refer to Jews; it refers to invading forces. None the less, most of us would accept that that is certainly glorifying terrorism.

In Bangladesh, on 10 February this year, leaflets were given out and people chanted slogans and carried banners that said: “Death to those who degrade our beloved prophet!” and “Hang culprits”. Other banners said: “Free speech symbolizes War on Islam” and “Free speech—Crusade against Islam”.

All those things have been organised under the name of Hizb ut-Tahrir. That is why I ask the Minister very clearly to consider the importance of keeping under constant review the issue of whether Hizb ut-Tahrir should be on the list of proscribed organisations. It is proscribed in most of the Muslim nations of central Asia: in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Tatarstan and—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. May I remind the hon. Gentleman of my ruling? He has made his point.

Chris Bryant: I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me the liberty that I have taken. I would merely urge the Minister to look at whether the reasons behind the proscriptions that he has proposed today are not also reasons why we might consider proscribing Hizb ut-Tahrir.

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6.59 pm

Mr. McNulty: I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) about the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. I cannot give the House a running commentary on any discussions that we might have with Governments, the Security Service or the police about organisations that we may proscribe in future, but the last time we introduced a proscription order, I said at the Dispatch Box that we would keep Hizb ut-Tahrir under serious review. I got a very nice letter from that group as a result, and I do not doubt that I will get another one today. We keep it under review, not least for the reasons that my hon. Friend gave, and that is as it should be. That applies to a whole range of other groups, too.

The roving Whip, the hon. Member for Braintree (Mr. Newmark), mentioned al-Muhajiroun. It had disbanded by the time we got round to considering proscription orders, but the first proscription order that I introduced banned al-Ghurabaa and the Saved Sect, two of its successor bodies. There was clear, substantive and sustainable evidence for doing so.

As I say, we keep Hizb ut-Tahrir under review, but it seems that the issue, which is one of 12 that the previous Prime Minister mentioned on 5 August 2005, is now used as a stick with which to beat the Government. It is used to challenge the legitimacy of all that we are trying to do to counter terrorism, and that is a little churlish, if not schoolboyish. I am certainly not casting aspersions on the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve), who treats such issues seriously, but the Leader of the Opposition prances around—with or without the letter to which my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) referred—treating the issue as some kind of badge of honour, and questioning whether the Government are deadly serious about what we are doing. Frankly, that is schoolboy politics, and he should know far better. The last time we discussed these matters, I said very seriously that we keep Hizb ut-Tahrir under review, and that is certainly the case.

Inspiration has come to me since I last sat down, so I can tell hon. Members that neither of the organisations mentioned in the order is based in the UK; and, clearly, as they are to be proscribed, that is unlikely to change. However, I take the point that the hon. Member for Beaconsfield made about charities. We are holding a review of the safeguards that are in place for charities, not least in the context of terrorist finance. A consultation on that issue is under way as we speak, and it closes on 2 August. I have engaged fully with the Treasury on the issue of terrorist finance and the nexus with charities, charitable law and the work of the Charity Commission. That work is ongoing, because we know—sometimes through anecdote, and sometimes via more substantive routes and evidence—that not every penny given to nominally bona fide, utterly legitimate charities will get to where it is supposed to go.

There are those, terrorists among them, who crawl on the back of human disasters—often very serious ones—such as earthquakes, and the money directly funds terrorism, so I share the concern expressed by the hon. Member for Beaconsfield. I am not saying that what we have done thus far with the Treasury and the
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Charity Commission is sufficient, but it does take us some way. If he has not seen the documents to which I refer, I will make sure that he receives them.

I point out to the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) that it is not incumbent on the Government to de-proscribe or review. Organisations can apply to the Home Secretary for de-proscription, and if the Home Secretary says no, there is an appeal process. It is incumbent on the organisation, in the first instance, to ask, “Can we be de-proscribed now?” It is not for us to review the decision. If the Home Secretary refuses, the issue comes before the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission, or POAC. I have just noticed that that is an anagram of ACPO, but there is no reason why anyone else should worry about that. POAC is a special tribunal of three members, including a senior member of the judiciary, that determines whether the Secretary of State’s decision to refuse to de-proscribe is flawed, when considered in the light of the principles applicable to judicial review applications. That is the process; there is no duty on the Government to be proactive in considering such cases.

I take to heart the points that the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome made about procedures and paperwork. He asked whether there were ways in which we could consider the issues under separate orders and so have a wider review, which would almost span the globe: the organisations include the Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan, Euskadi ta Askatasuna and the Baluchistan Liberation Army, and groups in other places, too. That is a fair point that we should perhaps take up through the usual channels.

Mr. Heath: I just want to emphasise—for the benefit of the business managers, really—that there is no reason why having separate orders should extend the time needed for debate, because the orders could be taken together and discussed in parallel.

Mr. McNulty: I take that point, and the point that the hon. Gentleman made about the possibility of there being real contention about just one of four or five groups on a list, and that is entirely fair.

On why it supposedly took so long to proscribe Jammat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh and Tehrik Nefaz-e Shari'at Muhammadi, we take such decisions seriously, and there is due process. To describe a period of a little under two years for each group as anything other than the result of our being rigorous and doing things in an appropriate time frame is a bit unfair. Although one of the groups did come to our notice some five years before then, it was its key activities in 2005 that prompted concerns.

With all those caveats, and bearing in mind the point about keeping Hizb ut-Tahrir under review, and the point about giving further consideration to the process of the House—I think that that is the issue, rather than the legal process—I commend the order to the House.

Question put and agreed to.


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