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Lord Monson: I have considerable sympathy with my noble friend's amendment. After all, it is perfectly possible to be a member of an illegal organisation without ever committing a crime of violence or even being directly or indirectly involved in the commission of a crime of violence. I believe that people should be punished for the harm they do rather than the harm they might theoretically do at some point in the future. For that reason I am inclined to support the amendment.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The amendment to which the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, spoke is, I hope, still grouped with Amendments Nos. 19, 27, 28, 55 and 57.

Lord Hylton: They are consequential and, I think, mirror amendments.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am most obliged. I think it is convenient if I specify the amendments I am speaking to and establish that they are still grouped. The noble Lord is quite right. Ten years is the maximum penalty, as it is the maximum penalty--

Lord Holme of Cheltenham: I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. For his assistance I hope I may give him notice that Amendments Nos. 27 and 28 in this group will not be moved.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, is right that 10 years is the maximum penalty, as it is at the moment, for membership of a proscribed organisation. I think I made that point when I dealt with forfeiture as an additional penalty to what I said on that occasion, which was 10 years' imprisonment and unlimited fine. Forfeiture is an addition.

If one puts one's eye and mind to these amendments, I do not think that they are capable of bringing about the consequence that the noble Lord wants. As the noble Lord said, Amendments Nos. 10, 19, 55 and 57 seek to

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limit sentencing powers to 12 months where conviction has been secured on the basis of a statement made by a senior police officer and any inference from the accused's silence.

That is not exclusive, of course, because I did give worked examples. There may be a statement from a senior police officer; there may be inferences from silence; but, of course, there may be a lot of other evidence. These amendments would restrict sentencing power in all cases no matter the quality and weight of the other evidence adduced at the trial.

We believe that it is for the trial judge to come to his own conclusion about the seriousness of the offence, the nature of the offence and all the relevant circumstances. We do not believe it is right to limit the sentencing power to one year. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, said that people should be sentenced for the harm they do. I do not disagree, but if a defendant is a member of the Real IRA and if it was, in fact, the Real IRA which carried out that monstrous act in Omagh, I find it very difficult in all conscience to say that 12 months is an appropriate sentence for belonging to such an organisation. In certain circumstances the sentence, in the judge's discretion, might appropriately be very much longer than 12 months. Therefore, I do not think that the amendments hit the target. But even if they did, I would not be prepared, with all respect, to accept them.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden: Is not the short point on this amendment that we ought to be looking at the safety of the provision as drafted rather than admitting to ourselves that this may be a little less than safe and therefore that will be reflected in a shorter maximum sentence? I believe we are right to look at the safety of all these provisions. However, once we are satisfied that they are sufficiently safe, I see no case for diminishing in any particular set of circumstances the maximum sentence.

Lord Hylton: I am a little disappointed that the noble and learned Lord the Minister has been unable further to clarify the meaning of the phrase "belongs to an organisation". Nevertheless, on balance, I am happy to leave the sentencing to the discretion of the court. On those grounds, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Avebury moved Amendment No. 11:

Page 3, line 7, leave out ("and Conspiracy").

The noble Lord said: This amendment, and the series of amendments which have been taken with it, removes Clause 5 and all the other references to conspiracy to commit an offence overseas which are contained in the Bill, leaving alone only the parts which are concerned with terrorism in Northern Ireland.

As I said earlier, there is no reason for taking the conspiracy proposals at this stage rather than waiting a couple of months and putting them into the Queen's Speech in the proper and normal manner. I hope noble Lords would agree that there have to be exceptional grounds of urgency for consideration of any legislation in the middle of the Summer Recess.

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While the Government have advanced a case on the Irish provisions of the Bill that some action is necessary in the wake of the appalling catastrophe at Omagh, though I would not agree with them that legislation was necessarily the best response to that catastrophe, there are no such arguments in the case of conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism abroad.

We all know that in many parts of the world there are tyrannical governments which oppress and kill their own subjects. If people take up arms against those governments, they are undoubtedly committing an offence under the law in force in that country. Anyone in the United Kingdom who is connected with their activities may then be prosecuted under the Bill. I shall look at the exact nature of the activities which could attract proceedings in a moment. But first let us consider whether all liberation movements are now to be seen as of a criminal nature.

The United Nations itself envisages that in the exercise of their right to self determination peoples under colonial and alien domination have the right to,

    "struggle ... and to seek and receive support, in accordance with the principles of the UN charter",
and in conformity with the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States. The definition of aggression--it is in General Assembly Resolution 3314 of December 1974--recognises the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples under colonial and alien domination. This includes the right to use armed force against colonialist powers which suppress the aspiration of people to their independence when peaceful means have all been exhausted.

Mention was made earlier today of the case of Nelson Mandela. The ANC, now the party of government in South Africa under that universally respected and saintly man, was driven to acts of violence against the racist apartheid regime. Many people in this country worked hard, no doubt including the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, to support the ANC. Should we then have been treated as criminals?

The Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front, led by Isaias Afewerki, now President of Eritrea, fought a 30-year war of liberation against the colonial domination of the Ethiopians. For many years, I was the chairman of the Eritrean Support Group in the United Kingdom which tried to mobilise political support for the cause of the Eritreans. Was that an offence; or would it be treated as an offence under the Bill?

The Bangladeshis fought a war of liberation to secede from Pakistan, and many people here supported them in their struggle.

Lord Dunleath: While I take the point that the noble Lord makes, he is talking about wars of liberation, in the case of the ANC and others where they are in the majority. That is not the case in Northern Ireland. We are not talking about a war of liberation.

Lord Avebury: We have left the Northern Ireland provisions. We are not dealing with those. We are

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dealing with Clauses 5 to 7 and the consequential amendments which I tabled which remove the offence of conspiracy to commit offences overseas. This has nothing whatsoever to do with Northern Ireland. We have left that part of the Bill.

Lord Dunleath: I apologise. My mind had wandered temporarily.

Lord Avebury: I am grateful to the noble Lord for his apology.

I do not wish to weary the Committee with too many examples from the past. Let me turn to some from the present day. Of course it is a little trickier to consider these instances of liberation movements which still function because the conventional mindset automatically condemns the revolution unless it is already on the verge of success. But there are instances of what I may call for the purposes of this debate partial legitimacy where states such as the United Kingdom are prepared to deal with liberation movements or secessionists as a matter of expediency, or in order to further a peace process which is under way in a particular country.

I give an example. Richard Holbrooke, the architect of the Dayton Accords, has met representatives of the Kosovo Liberation Army, and so has US Ambassador to Macedonia, Chris Hill. Could I and my friends help the Kosovo Liberation Army from this country without running the risk of being prosecuted?

What about the Sudan People's Liberation Army, an organisation which has fought for many years against the domination of the Islamic regime in Khartoum because the southerners in Sudan wish to obtain the self determination of their peoples so that they can run their affairs in accordance with a completely different culture, and different ethnic origins, from the people in the north? If we support the People's Liberation Army or if we have any dealings with them, are we running the risk of prosecution, and how does that square with the United Kingdom's membership of the Friends of IGAD, which has to have dealings with the SPLA for the purposes of meetings to try to secure a peaceful political resolution to the problems in that country?

Mention has already been made in another place of one final example that I shall quote, and that is northern Iraq. In northern Iraq there are two separate de facto entities which are governed by the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Both those organisations are presumably unlawful in terms of Iraqi law. The equivalent in the United Kingdom would be a separate government in, for example, Cornwall or East Anglia with its own constitution and law, and so on. That would clearly be unlawful in the United Kingdom as well. Therefore, any person who supports or has dealings with the KDP and the PUK is committing an offence, both under Iraqi law and under the law of the United Kingdom, and yet we constantly have meetings with the KDP and the PUK. They are invited to London and they sit round a table with ministers, discussing the possibility of a peaceful resolution of the disputes between the two parties in the region.

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The Minister has already said, when I quoted one particular example, that of course, the Attorney-General has the right not to sanction a prosecution. He may say at the end of this debate that in all the circumstances mentioned by the noble Lord, the Attorney-General would not give his fiat to prosecution. That would not be good enough, because the law has to be certain. It is no good having to go to the noble Lord every time I wish to know if a particular course is lawful or not and for him to say that in that particular instance I can be pretty certain that the Attorney-General will not bring proceedings. It is absolutely essential, if one is going to pass legislation of this kind, that people know whether a particular course of action which they propose to take will be lawful or not.

I am also concerned about the position of groups that operate in this country as political oppositions using only peaceful means. They already come under suspicion and often receive increased attention from the police and security services, which, as a result of the ending of the Cold War, are looking for a new role and focusing greater attention on the activities of foreign groups within the United Kingdom. I believe also that our Government have come under increasing pressure from foreign states, such as those in the Middle East and North Africa, which accuse us of harbouring their terrorists, and that, as a result of these pressures, we keep many bona fide refugees in this country under unnecessary and constant surveillance.

In one instance of which I know, the police launched an investigation which has had disastrous consequences for a legitimate organisation. That was the Kurdish Community Centre, whose premises were raided by the Special Branch on 20 November 1997, when a number of documents, computer files, photographs and papers were confiscated, not all of which have been returned. The police then informed the National Lottery Charities Board that they were making enquiries about the centre and, as a result, the board suspended its agreed funding in the middle of February on the grounds that it was awaiting the results of the police inquiry. As Members may imagine, that has had extremely serious effects on the operations of the centre.

The inquiry is still continuing and the police can give no idea when they will have completed their work. At one of the interviews with an official of the centre, who was the target of an assassination attempt in December 1994, the police used an interpreter who has close links to the Turkish embassy--and there are good reasons to suspect that the police are working closely with the Turkish authorities on the case.

On 21st August, the centre was attacked by arsonists, causing damage estimated to amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds. Computers used in training refugees were destroyed as well as most of the furniture. The centre's co-ordinator, Sheri Laizer, told the Ham and High:

    "We believe the actions of some Turkish government inspired groups against the Kurdish community are being encouraged by the completely unjustified attitude of Special Branch police towards our centre".

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It is no wonder that many other groups are terrified of the effects of this legislation and are wondering whether they are next on the list. The Government would not be so desperate to get these provisions onto the statute book if they did not have some targets in mind, and those are not the terrorists who bombed the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the originators of which were certainly not from this country. The immediate consequence of the clause will be to undermine the security of thousands of people who fled here from tyrannical regimes thinking they would be immune from persecution in a free country. I beg to move.

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