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It is fair to dwell momentarily on my right hon. Friends broader point, which I take, about community, political and other organisations that clearly do not support terrorism, but which are interested in the same areas of politics. That is a grey area; that is entirely clear. However, I simply say in passing that it must be incumbent on individuals who choose to get involved
with either charities or political organisations to make it clear, on their own terms, that they do not support in any way, shape or form any organisation, proscribed or otherwise, that has terrorist intent. It cannot be that everyone is absolved from that responsibility, which should be upon us all.
Keith Vaz: My right hon. Friend will know from his constituency of Harrow, East, which has a large and diverse community, how important it is to get the message across. We are talking about a core responsibility of Government, so what engagement is or has been proposed with those community groups that may be loosely associated with any of the organisations that I have mentionedfor example, Hezbollah, those who support the middle east peace process, or those in the Tamil community who support peace in Sri Lankato get that message across, rather than leaving it to community members to work out that they cannot be involved in such activities? I described how difficult it was when such organisations tried to arrange meetings, because they are not au fait with the various minutiae of the law.
Mr. McNulty: I take my right hon. Friends point, but I repeat: there is at least a degree of responsibility on those organisations to ensure that they are au fait with the law and that they are not intent on supporting organisations that have a terrorist bent, whether proscribed or otherwise.
On the wider issue of engagement, the Government act in the normal fashion, through the engagement of the Foreign Office and the Department for Communities and Local Government with a range of communities, as well as through the Home Office and other parts of the Government, which take those opportunities to tell people, if appropriate, about the Governments prevailing view of particular organisations, especially proscribed ones. That happens regularly. On the specific threat that we face from violent extremism, my right hon. Friend will know, too, that there are a range of issuesprincipally involving DCLG, but also involving the police, under our broad prevent agendaon which we are doing precisely that kind of work, albeit in a more sustained and focused way, particularly in respect of the Islamist or jihadist threat that we face.
Mr. Dismore: My right hon. Friend makes an important point about organisations being able to show that they are distinct from proscribed organisations. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) used the example of the Tamil community. The reports that I heard of the event that he attended were very worrying indeed. It may sound very innocent that children had their faces painted as tigers, but more importantly, I heard reports of banners and posters being put up that supported the LTTE operation. My right hon. Friend ought to be aware that there are significant differences in the Tamil community over the LTTE. My constituency party secretary is a Tamil, but her brother was murdered by the LTTE in Sri Lanka before she came here as a refugee.
Mr. McNulty: I fear that I will tempt your patience, Madam Deputy Speaker, if I go into too much detail about the byways and highways of one particular organisation. Having said that, I am about to talk about another organisation that is nothing to do with the order, either. However, I crave your indulgence, because hon. Members have raised it.
My hon. Friend is factually inaccurate about the United Kingdom. We have not banned Hamas in its entirety; we have banned, as we are doing this evening, only the military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassem Brigades, not the whole thing, for the same reason. However, my hon. Friend is quite right that in some contexts at leastcertainly at the EU levelthe entire organisation is effectively banned, through asset freezing and other dimensions. It is important, too, that, on the broader issue of finance, which hon. Members have raised, we deal with organisations at either UN or EU level, or via the proscribed list, through asset freezing, where possible and if identified, and by notifying all financial and banking institutions, not least in respect of their dealings with charities, that they are under an obligation to refer to us any suspicious activities involving the movement of funds that may or may not be destined for organisations on the proscribed list.
The hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) is entirely right to say that that is not easy. There are often myriad accounts, addresses and organisations, but in the normal course of things, it is our jobthe job of the authoritiesto try to chase the money, to see whether it gets to any proscribed organisations and then to deal with it in the appropriate fashion. However, the task is not straightforward. A proscription order is not a magic wand that makes things any easier. The Charity Commission is clear what its responsibilities are in that regard, as are the financial and other regulatory authorities, but the hon. Lady made an entirely fair point.
Keith Vaz: The hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire raised an important point, which goes back to something that my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) said. I will not go into detail about the meeting at the weekend, but there were also some young children with lions painted on their faces, tooI saw one. But anyway, let us put that to one side. If someone gives some money in good faith to a charitable cause associated with peace in the middle east and, to take the example that the hon. Lady gave, it ends up, through myriad transactions, somewhere that was not intended by the person who originally gave it, surely that person should in no way be held responsible.
Mr. McNulty: That is right, and that is reflected in the law, but the key phrase is in good faith. Where the organisationthe charity or whatever elseis clearly directly associated with a proscribed organisation or where it is well established that the organisation is a front, or even where it is proscribed itself, the responsibility is on individuals to establish, effectively, the bona fides of that organisation. However, if someone gives a contribution in good faith, it is not for the authorities, some 24 iterations or otherwise down the line, if we follow the money, to ensure that the original donor is pursued. That is not the purpose of the law at all.
On the general point about the distinction between military and other wings, the order is carefully drawn, in referring to recognised elements of the organisation. That is why the order calls for replacing, for the reasons that I have outlined, the words Hizballah External Security Organisation with:
The military wing of Hizballah, including the Jihad Council and all units reporting to it (including the Hizballah External Security Organisation).
As far as we are aware from the evidence that we have and from the substantive points made by experts, both legal and otherwise, the Hezbollah External Security Organisation, which was proscribed, and the military wing of Hezbollah, including the Jihad Council and all units reporting to it, are recognised elements of the organisation, and it is right and proper to ban them.
The right hon. and learned Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), who is no longer in his place, was quite right to ask in terms, as did other hon. Members, not only why we should ban just the military wing and not the whole organisationthat is a perfectly fair point, which I hope I am addressingbut why, given what is happening in the middle east, not least in Lebanon, we are proscribing it at all. Those are both fair points, and I hope that I have addressed them.
We recognise that the political wing of Hezbollah and the political organisation provide a social and humanitarian function in Lebanon. To an established extent, they make positive contributions to Lebanon and other places. In keeping with a whole range of United Nations Security Council resolutions, they provide a positive function in Lebanon and other parts of the middle east. It is to be hoped that the strength of those social and political wings would obviate the need for the military wing to do anything in the first place. We cannot reach a position in which the United Kingdom and others call on Hezbollah to disarm and participate in Lebanese politics as a democratic and peaceful political partyin line with UN Security Council resolutions 1559, 1680 and 1701and then somehow put obstructions in its way to prevent it from doing so.
I believe that there is a fine balance between the military and other elements of Hezbollah but, in this instance at least, my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon is misguided in seeking to ban the whole organisation. I do not think that it is sufficient to say that anything to do with Hezbollah is terrorist, period. We recognise that there is sharp distinction between the two parts.
Colleagues have asked me to go into much more depth about the evidence. I am a fair personI thinkand I have tried to outline as much evidence as I could in my opening speech. Were there substantially more evidence for me to share with the House, I would have done so. The hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire asked why we were introducing the measure now, when the key piece of information that I was able to relay concerned March 2007. I would simply say that we do not take these decisions lightly, and we have to take careful consideration of all the available evidence. I can assure her, however, that the decision is not related to recent events in Lebanon, and certainly not to the coincidence that happened on 2 July in that regard.
There is a wide range of international positions on Hezbollah. As I have said, some countries, including the USA, Canada, and the Netherlands, proscribe the entire organisation. Australia proscribes the External Security Organisation only, while others, such as France, do not proscribe any part of the organisation at all. As I said earlier, I cannot go into any more detail on the evidence. The ability of organisation so proscribed to be de-proscribed involves a clear and fair process, although I will take on board the points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East about wider community
groups. I repeat, however, that responsible individuals have responsibilities that go beyond simply endorsing the view of an organisation. With that, I happily commend the order to the House.
That the draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2008, which was laid before this House on 2 July, be approved.
That the draft Companies (Reduction of Share Capital) Order 2008, which was laid before this House on 9th June, be approved.
That the draft Financial Assistance Scheme (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2008, which were laid before this House on 18th June, be approved.
That the draft Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme 2008, which was laid before this House on 18th June, be approved. [Mark Tami.]
That this House takes note of European Union Document No. 6996/08, the amended draft Directive on the taking-up and pursuit of the business of insurance and reinsurance (Solvency II); and supports the Governments negotiating position on the Directive which seeks to ensure that it is prudentially sound, provides appropriate protection for policyholders and enhances the Single Market in insurance. [Mark Tami.]
Mr. Michael Moore (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) (LD): I am grateful for this opportunity to present this petition on an issue that I have raised with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and to which I hope I will get a positive reply in due course.
In a few short months, the Borders area that I represent will be the first region to see the switchover to digital television, and a brave new world in which 40 television channels and countless radio channels will be available to people in the area. Unfortunately, however, the many
people who are not served by the main transmitter in Selkirk will not receive all the channels; they will receive only what is known as Freeview Lite, which provides far fewer channels and a much poorer service. As a result, 2,500 of my constituents have prepared a petition that I wish to present to the House this evening:
The Petition of those concerned about the extent of Freeview services in the Borders as a result of digital television switchover,
Declares that, in November 2008, the Borders will be the first region in the UK to make the switch from analogue to digital television. Many people in this area receive their television picture from a relay transmitter, but after switchover they will not receive all the available channels on Freeview. Instead, they will receive a much reduced service known as Freeview Lite. Many channels enjoyed by viewers elsewhere will not be available to viewers who rely on relay transmitters for their television picture.
Further declares that this situation is unfair.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to urgently review the impact of the digital television switchover on the Borders area and to take steps to intervene to prevent Borderers from missing out and ensuring that viewers in the Borders who currently receive their television signal from a relay are provided with all the Freeview channels after digital switchover.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.
Mr. Edward Timpson (Crewe and Nantwich) (Con): I wish to present a petition on behalf of the employees of Her Majestys Revenue and Customs, the Public and Commercial Services Union and others, concerning the future of the HMRC office in Crewe, and all its other offices in the north-west of England. The petition has attracted the support of 52 signatories, and was co-ordinated by the employees of Her Majestys Revenue and Customs in Crewe.
The petition of the employees of Her Majestys Revenue and Customs, the Public and Commercial Services Union and others,
Declares that they are seriously concerned about the future of the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) office in Crewe, and also similar threats facing their colleagues elsewhere in the North West of England. The proposal to close this office will mean that local people and businesses will be left without access to these services. They are also concerned about the likelihood of staff affected by the closures being able to find alternative work within the local area, it being unreasonable for them to travel to alternative HMRC sites by public transport for reasons of cost, time and care for their families. They further declare their support for the PCS campaign to keep these offices open.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges HM Government to withdraw the threat of closure to the Crewe HMRC office.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.[P000231]
Ann Coffey (Stockport) (Lab): I want to start by welcoming the draft Heritage Protection Bill. The Bill aims to set out the legislative framework for a more unified and simpler heritage protection system that will be more open, accountable and transparent. I am pleased that the Bill has been designed to provide more opportunities for public involvement and community engagement in understanding, preserving and managing our heritage. These are laudable aims.
The benefits of the reforms, as set out in the Bill, are that they will enable us to preserve the historic environment and to manage its transition to the future. My main concern tonight is to ensure that, when it comes to protecting buildings, there is a balance between the past and the future. We must not let our desire to cherish and protect the past jeopardise building for future generations. I believe that more consideration should be given to wider economic and regeneration issues in the listing or designating of buildings.
At the moment, the criteria to which English Heritage has regard in determining whether to recommend that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport should list a building are the architectural and historic value of the building. The majority of listings are carried out in response to applications for individual buildings, which can be made by any individual or organisation. In addition to the listing work that is undertaken in response to applications, English Heritage also undertakes some thematic reviews of particular types of building. For example, in the 1990s, the textile mills of Greater Manchester were looked at in this way, and about five years ago cinemas across the whole of England were examined as a whole.
Mr. Fraser Kemp (Houghton and Washington, East) (Lab): In my constituency, we have the worlds only listed pigeon creeor loft, as they are commonly known. Does my hon. Friend agree that, under the Bill, the heritage, enjoyment and pastimes of the working people should be recognised, and that it should not simply deal with the great stately homes of Britain?
The draft Bill will simplify things by creating a single system for designationto be called the heritage registerwhich will replace listing, scheduling and registering. However, the decision to designate will still be made on the basis of special architectural, historic or archaeological interest.
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