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Lord Archer of Sandwell: Purely factually, Amnesty has had very great difficulties internally over the question of whether it should support people who have adopted violent methods of bringing about what they have in mind.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: That is a different proposition again from the offence of conspiring to carry out criminal activities in a foreign jurisdiction which would be criminal acts if they were carried out in this jurisdiction. Support by way of fund raising, by way of encouragement, by way of public speeches and by way of propaganda--anything short of conspiracy to commit crime--by Amnesty or any other organisation, whether we like it, whether we support it, or whether we do not, will not be caught by these provisions. I do not accept
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Perhaps I may just finish my sentence. If it is worth finishing at all, I may as well finish it now. Of course, it may not be worth finishing. It is not limited to conspiracy to commit terrorism. It includes conspiracy to carry on drug trafficking, which is another great scar on international society. It includes a conspiracy to carry out acts of paedophilia and conspiracy relating to money laundering. It is not limited to terrorism. I feel like a very old lag and I have just finished my sentence. I give way to the noble Baroness.
Baroness Ludford: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. I am sorry to carry on the interruption. Can the noble Lord help us a little further? I am sure that he will accept that in this area many Members of the Committee are having great difficulty and are in a dilemma. The Minister does not appear to accept that there is a difficulty. Many of us find ourselves in an Alice in Wonderland situation. This is a problematic area which the Minister does not appear to accept.
Perhaps I may take the cliche example of Hitler, referred to earlier in the debate. Is the Minister saying that in 1942, for instance, we would not have supported those who would have tried to kill by a bomb an elected head of government? It is too late for me to remember whether Hitler was also the elected head of state. That would have been the assassination of a head of government, which, presumably, would have been a crime here. It is the problem of the duality of the crime where some of us are unable to follow the Minister in saying that there is no problem, because it would have to have been a crime here. It would have been a crime in Germany and here to assassinate a head of government. Is the noble Lord really saying that we would not have supported those who wanted to assassinate Hitler?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am sorry if the noble Baroness believes that I consider that there is no problem. My wife is Indian. Her parents lived in South Africa throughout the whole of the apartheid regime. I am not entirely sure that the noble Baroness is well founded in suggesting to me that I do not know the problems in those circumstances or that there might be difficulties about conspiracy legislation. I am not really saying that it would have been prosecuted if an attempt, successful or otherwise, had been carried out in 1942 to murder the head of a state with which we were are war. If that is the example put to me I simply repudiate it. The noble Lord, Lord Holme, was about to ask me to give way.
I believe the gap in the logic is that under some pressure from the noble Lord, Lord Henley, who quoted the Prime Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Williams, said that it was a timely response--I am paraphrasing him--to the bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Dar es Salaam and to the bombing in Cape Town, which were all terrorist acts. The implication of what he said is that the timeliness of this legislation and the reason it has to be processed now, rather than in an orderly way when Parliament resumes, is because a response is required to terrorist acts which have outraged us all.
There is logic in that but, if that is so, why is the legislation so widely phrased in order to cover other criminal offences? My noble friend Lord Russell is not here. Why is the Minister not more sympathetic to the point made by the noble Lords, Lord Monson and Lord Hylton, of taking a narrower terrorist definition of the issue to be dealt with?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: I do not believe that the alternatives put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, are right. He used a narrower range of offences, but they are not the only serious offences with which we need to deal. I have said several times that to concentrate only on terrorism in this context is a mistake. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, had an alternative approach. I promised the House that I would deal with it. The noble Earl wants a further alternative to be included which is that a conspiracy to cause in a country which did not have free and fair elections an explosion which might well kill people would not be subject to the sanction of the criminal law. I cannot accept that either, for the reasons which I hope I have set out. The fact is that we are in a situation which everyone knows and recognises. It is not something which has just been plucked off the back burner; it has been discussed for a long time. It was discussed at length in another place on the occasion that I have already mentioned.
Lord Marlesford: Before the noble Lord leaves those points, he gave a striking example a moment ago that the law makes no distinction between the killing of the rapist and the vicar. My understanding was that the legislation as drafted contains certain safeguards against its inappropriate use by requiring the Attorney-General to consent to prosecutions. If the criterion is purely and simply whether the law is being broken, using the
Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am told that Attorneys sometimes get things wrong, though I do not refer to the present Attorney. The fact is that the Attorney has to give a fiat in circumstances where there may be an overriding public interest which is not limited simply to the question of whether there is evidence to prove that a crime has been committed. That is quite frequently used in corruption cases. I give examples at random from my own experience. If the proposed defendant is rather elderly, sometimes the Attorney will not give the fiat. That is the wider public interest question. May I deal with--
Lord Marlesford: The noble Lord has not quite answered the point. The examples given by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, did not concern corruption. They basically concerned giving assistance, perhaps in the form of a conspiracy, to help dissident and opposition movements in certain countries where we would in general believe such movements were a good thing. I thought the implication of the safeguard was that in those cases the Attorney would prevent a prosecution taking place. But, as we are talking about a criminal offence in the example of the murder, is the noble Lord saying that in that case in theory at least the Attorney could suggest that to kill the rapist is justified because he is a rapist, and the murderer should not be prosecuted?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: However great the burdens upon Attorneys, they do not include giving fiats to prosecute murders. To take up the point of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford--I use his phrase--giving support to people in foreign jurisdictions who are fighting for their rights and liberties cannot be an offence under this proposed legislation. You have to conspire to commit crimes which are crimes in a foreign jurisdiction and crimes here. If I want to subscribe to any worthy cause here, that is no crime. If I want to send money to somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, that is no crime and I cannot be convicted of conspiracy.
Lord Clinton-Davis: If I were to express the attitude that the only way in which a particular regime can be brought down is by violence because there is no other possible route, would I not be participating or compounding and encouraging a conspiracy to commit the kind of acts of violence that are set out in this Bill in Clause 5? Would any sanctions thereby arise? I am thinking in terms of dissident opinion, which is generally viewed favourably in this country. In such a situation, could I rely more or less on the Attorney General exercising his fiat against any prosecution?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: No, because one does not get to that stage. To encourage other persons to conspire is not itself a conspiracy. To be a party to a conspiracy, you have to have at least one other person; you have to have an agreement between the two of you that unlawful
Perhaps I may deal with the case of the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General, just to nail it once and for all. It has been raised and, despite the fact that it has been shot several times, it seems to have more lives than a cat. The Secretary of State for the Home Department will not be able to overrule the Attorney-General. The point of putting the saver in the Bill which has drawn so much attention is simply for the sake of bringing this legislation into consistence and consonance with the present situation.
Perhaps I may give an example. Because of the legislation that was passed not too long ago--and the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, was very much in support of this--it is an offence in this country to commit acts--I summarise--of paedophilia in Thailand, for instance. That does not require the sanction of the Attorney-General for a prosecution. Therefore, when we looked at this Bill and saw that conspiracy might include conspiracy to commit paedophile acts in Thailand, it would be rather absurd to require the sanction of the Attorney-General for that class of activity when it is not required in the basic legislation. Therefore, the power that is given here is not for the Home Secretary to go to the Attorney and say, "You have got to prosecute this set of conspirators", or, "You must not prosecute those".
It is very simple indeed. Despite all the hackles that have been raised and the suspicions wrongly aroused, it is simply that the Home Secretary may schedule, as it were, if that is the word I am looking for, certain categories of offence which do not require the Attorney's fiat. That is the long, the short, the beginning and the end of it. I have dealt with it now because, although I know that there are subsequent amendments, it has been raised in this context.
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