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Lord Carver: My Lords, there can be no doubt that these proposals will not produce a really effective inspection system that will ensure that all IRA weapons are beyond use. However, we should welcome them as a further step in the whole business of dealing with the situation in Northern Ireland. One advances with little creeping steps, and sometimes one then takes steps backwards. I welcome what is proposed, although I have sympathy with the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, and the noble Baroness, Lady Park. As a professional soldier, I know perfectly well that this is not an effective inspection system; but it is a further slight step forward towards maintaining and bringing about a situation in which those arms will not actively be used again.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, I welcome what my noble and gallant friend just said. In the light of some earlier remarks this afternoon, I have just one comment to make. Since 1994, we have had cease-fires with, admittedly, a number of breaches. This has been an enormous benefit for the great majority of people living in Northern Ireland. It has led to a very marked economic improvement. Therefore, anyone who breaks the cease-fire and returns to the violence of the past will be most unpopular and held, I would say, in execration by many people. That is all I wish to say.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, again, I am grateful for the comments that have been made in this short debate. It is worth emphasising two points. In their statement of 6th May, the IRA's leadership said that they would,

They have never previously said such a thing. They also agreed to put in place within weeks a confidence-building measure,

    "to confirm that our weapons remain secure",

which was a reference to the inspection of some arms dumps. Again, that is something to which they have never previously agreed.

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Of course one must be vigilant; of course one must be on one's guard; and of course one must not be too credulous. But the Government regard this as a significant step forward. The timing and modalities of the process of decommissioning are matters to be determined by General de Chastelain and the decommissioning commission. We believe that we have reached a significant moment and that we should capitalise on it. I am grateful for the support that has been expressed, especially from the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Front Benches, for the extension of the amnesty order, which is plainly a vital step in ensuring that decommissioning occurs. I commend the order to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Terrorism Bill

5.15 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (Lord Elton) in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Terrorism: interpretation]:

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Elton): Before I call Amendment No. 1, I must tell the Committee that, if it is agreed to, I shall be unable to call Amendments Nos. 2 to 8 inclusive.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 1:

    Page 1, line 7, leave out from ("use") to ("outside") in line 14 and insert ("of serious violence against persons, or the causing of serious damage to property, or the threat to use such violence or cause such damage, to intimidate or coerce a government, the public, or any section of the public, in order to promote political, religious or ideological objectives.

(2) In subsection (1)--
(a) "damage" includes any interference with electronic systems,
(b) "property" includes any public utility undertakings,
(c) "violence" includes the causing of personal injury,
(d) "use" includes use").

The noble Lord said: This amendment, and those grouped with it, concern the definition of the word "terrorism". As we know, the Bill does not create an offence of terrorism in itself, but the definition is the key that allows the police, the courts, the Government, and so on, to use the special anti-terrorist measures provided by the legislation, some of which contain reference to offences which were thought necessary to their proper operation. Therefore, from the point of view of offences, but also in a much wider sense, the definition is vital to the success of the Bill.

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It is most important for the definition to be correct. Apart from the offences, it is what triggers the additional powers for the police, the courts and others, which are provided in the Bill. Judging by the Second Reading debate, I believe that we are all agreed that those powers should not be triggered except in the case of genuine terrorist outrages, because they run against our normal expectation of the freedom of the individual, human rights, and so on. So the definition is of the first importance.

There has been a great deal of discussion about the definition because it is very difficult to formulate one in legal language that will stand up to the pressures placed upon it. The discussions in another place about what the proper definition should be continued right up until the end of its debates on the Bill, with the Minister saying at intervals that he was willing to consider the arguments. Therefore, I do not believe that the Government regard the definition as being set in concrete at this point, or that they would necessarily go to the stake for it--provided, of course, that we can convince them of the desirability of modifying the definition.

The definition in the Bill does not follow the lines recommended by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, in his report on the situation, which forms the foundation of the legislation; nor is it in line with that recommended by Mr John Rowe QC, who reported on these matters. Indeed, it does not follow the definition to be found in the Government's own consultation document. The responses to the consultation document supported the earlier formulations as developed in the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lloyd Lloyd, and in the views held by Mr Rowe and others. It was rather a surprise to note that the definition did not follow those formulations accurately. So far we do not seem to have been given a clear explanation of why the Government changed their mind in that respect.

This afternoon I propose to address the points of interest with regard to the definition comparatively briefly to give the Minister and others the opportunity to outline the Government's case and to allow us to discuss the matter as fully as possible. I hope that that will enable us to achieve wider agreement on all sides of the Chamber before we reach the later stages of the Bill. As I say, I recognise that it is difficult to arrive at a wholly satisfactory definition.

Amendment No. 1, which stands in my name, reproduces the definition of "terrorism" as proposed by Mr John Rowe QC in a letter written after the Second Reading--and obviously after having seen the Bill--to myself and to a number of noble Lords including the Minister. Since I tabled the amendment I have had the opportunity to discuss the matter with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick. He told me that he much regretted that an unbreakable engagement this evening prevents him attending this debate as he would have wished. He told me that I could inform the Committee that he thinks that Mr Rowe's draft is an improvement on his own suggestions. The noble and learned Lord believes that the definition in the Bill is seriously defective. While I

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do not in any way seek to tie him to every word that I say, I believe that he and I are in general agreement as regards the problems concerning the definition as it appears in the Bill.

The most important difference between the definition in the Bill and Mr Rowe's formulation in Amendment No. 1 is the omission in the Bill's definition of the concept of terror, of placing the public in fear or--as stated in Amendment No. 1--

    "to intimidate or coerce a government, the public, or any section of the public".

Most of us believe that terror is of the essence of terrorism. The dictionary definitions all seem to contain that concept. Their definitions of "terrorism" refer to the use of terror and fear to try to influence governments, public policy and public action. This is not just a case of a semantic disagreement; it is more important than that. The omission of this concept from the definition extends it much more widely. That is why the definition in the Bill has given rise to much concern that it would cover all kinds of legitimate protests, even, for instance, a political argument in a pub which led to an exchange of blows.

Each of us can, no doubt, think of groups of protestors with whom we agree and others with whom we disagree. We can all deplore violence of any kind in support of both causes with which we agree and those with which we disagree. However, laws exist to combat such violence and it is going too far to brand all such violence as terrorism, which the Bill potentially does. That is the most important difficulty as regards the definition in the Bill.

I turn to the second difference, which is much more minor. Mr Rowe's formulation uses the phrase, "serious damage to property" rather than "serious violence to property". I consider that the phrase "serious damage to property" constitutes better English, but I am not so sure what is the legal difference, if any, between "serious damage to property" and "serious violence to property". However, it strikes me that "damage" is wider than "violence". If, for example, one entered a building and turned all the taps on, that is not a violent action of itself but it could cause an immense amount of damage to the building. There are numerous other, perhaps less homely, examples that one could mention in the context of terrorism.

The third difference is much more important. Unlike the definition in Amendment No. 1, the Government's formulation in the Bill does not specifically include, "interference with electronic systems". I believe that we shall return to so-called "cyber terrorism" throughout the Committee stage. It is important that the definition we are discussing should include cyber terrorism. The only question that arises is whether it needs to be included in the specific legal wording. I rely on the legal expertise of Mr Rowe and the noble and learned Lord in thinking that it is desirable that a phrase of this kind should be included in the definition.

I do not think that there is any doubt in any of our minds at present about the potential dangers of cyber terrorism. If there was, the "love bug" and its effect on

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the parliamentary system a few days ago should have reminded us of those dangers. As far as we know that was not the work of terrorists but of amateurs, relatively speaking. Cyber terrorism and the use of electronic devices to damage systems in pursuit of political and ideological objectives is taken extremely seriously in the United States. The director of the Cyber-Terrorism Taskforce, who is advising Congress in the United States on this matter, explained the other day that the first official terrorist use of what he called "offensive information operations" occurred two years ago when the Tamil Tigers disrupted Sri Lankan embassy communications in Washington, Ottawa and Korea. As I say, this threat is taken extremely seriously in the United States.

Experts from the Home Office are this week attending a conference in Paris for three days, with other nations in the Group of Eight, to debate ways of harmonising computer crime law in case criminals attempt to use viruses of the kind I have mentioned to attack networks. That conference is, apparently, primarily concerned with crime rather than terrorism, but the effect of such action is the same. No doubt lessons can be learnt at that conference with regard to laws on terrorism as well as laws on crime. Anything that the Minister can tell us about the conference and the lessons to be learnt in terms of this Bill would be valuable.

The fourth difference between the two definitions I am discussing is that the definition in Amendment No. 1 specifically includes a reference to "public utility undertakings". Strictly speaking, this may not be necessary in a legal sense. I think that it is desirable to make the matter clear in case there should be any argument, but I accept that it is a less important difference than some of the others that I have mentioned.

The fifth difference is that the Amendment No. 1 definition includes "the causing of personal injury". That could be taken to refer to, among other things, punishment beatings. There was some discussion about this issue at Second Reading. It is extremely important that punishment beatings in Northern Ireland, which have been practised until recently in a very vicious fashion indeed--by both sides, I hasten to add; not only by terrorists on one side--are seen as terrorist actions, which indeed they are. Punishment beatings by terrorists are intended to control sections of the population--often to control sections of their own population, as it were; their own side of the divide. Punishment beatings are a part of terrorist activity and should be included in the definition.

One can argue that it may not be necessary to define them specifically, but I believe that it is desirable to do so, as do Mr Rowe and the noble and learned Lord. In all these ways, the definition given in Amendment No. 1 is preferable to the definition given in the Bill.

Included in this group of amendments are a number of possible variations of the definition which have been proposed by myself and by others, notably by the Liberal Democrats and by the noble Lord, Lord

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Beaumont. They cover some of the points to which I have referred. I shall respond to points made later in the debate, but obviously I support the elements of their definitions which are similar to mine.

It is desirable that the definition should be as good as it possibly can be in order to ensure that it will stand up to legal attack and legal examination in the courts in the future. It is also necessary in order that there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that we are not trying to go further than what we all understand by "terrorism"; that we are seeking to ensure that the powers set out in the Bill are available to the police and to the courts in terrorist cases. I beg to move.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Goodhart: Our Amendment No. 3 adds a further element to this interesting and important discussion about how terrorism should be defined. It is worth the Committee taking some time to discuss these issues and to see how far we can get towards a consensus. That may enable us to come back at a later stage with a more effectively targeted definition.

We believe that the definition in the Bill as it now stands is in some respects too wide and in other respects too narrow. We believe that it is too narrow because it requires the relevant terrorist acts to be,

    "for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause".

We do not think that motive is a necessary or desirable part of the definition. A motive for terrorism could be none of these; it could be criminal. For example, a group of criminals could get hold of radioactive material and threaten to let off a crude bomb which would scatter it around an inhabited area such as central London unless the Government buys them off by submitting to blackmail.

Criminal terrorism is fairly rare, but it certainly happens. For example, it plainly happens in Columbia, where the drug cartels go in extensively for terrorism. It could happen in many other parts of the world and there is no reason to suppose that it could not happen in the United Kingdom.

We could, of course, deal with that particular point simply by adding the word "criminal" to the words "political, religious or ideological"--but why bother to do that? If acts are being committed which involve deliberate violence being directed against the public or against a government in order to intimidate, why does it matter what the motive is? It simply adds an unnecessary element which has to be proved before a conviction can happen. It possibly opens up the prospect that someone could be charged with a criminal offence because of a political motive and could then claim that he should be acquitted because his motive was not political but ideological. That I think is the kind of "logic-chopping" argument that any definition should seek to avoid.

But the definition is also too wide. First, it does not require violence. I believe that violence is, in most circumstances, an essential element of terrorism, with the exception of cyber terrorism. I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Cope: cyber terrorism is clearly

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something which has to be taken very seriously. We could well end up with something far more damaging than the "love bug", which turned out to be a serious nuisance but not a major economic threat.

Under the Government's definition, a long strike by refuse collectors could create a serious risk to the health of the public. It could, therefore, come within the Government's definition of "terrorism". But that plainly would not be regarded as "terrorism" in any normal use of the word.

Secondly, where the Government's definition refers to violence, it does not require that violence to be unlawful. The actions taken on behalf of Her Majesty's Government and other states in Kosovo and Serbia last year involved serious violence against the person and property; it was, unquestionably, for the purpose of advancing a political cause. It therefore seems to me that that is plainly within the Bill's definition of "terrorism", even though the violence was lawful under the law of the United Kingdom. Plainly some change to the definition--which could be done simply by describing the violence as "unlawful"--is necessary to ensure that we do not end up with that kind of absurdity.

Thirdly, under the Bill the definition of "terrorism" can be triggered by too low a level of violence against property. It has been suggested that the action of Greenpeace in pulling up GM crops might fall within the Bill's definition. I do not think that that is so; it would be difficult to regard that kind of violence as falling within a definition of "serious violence". But the actions in Whitehall and adjacent areas on May Day could certainly be regarded as involving serious violence to property, although I believe that they fell short of the level of violence required to constitute terrorism.

I do not accept the arguments from some quarters that violence against property can never of itself amount to terrorism. Economic terrorism is plainly possible. Indeed, a high proportion of IRA terrorism has been for economic reasons. The bombs in the City of London and in Canary Wharf in recent years were primarily intended to cause economic damage, although, sadly, they caused some loss of human life and injury.

A terrorist campaign involving putting the London Underground out of action or destroying a number of the Thames bridges in London would cause serious damage to the economic well-being of London and would be properly regarded as terrorism even if steps were successfully taken to ensure that it was done with no loss of life or serious injury. So, for example, would attacks on the National Grid. As has already been said, cyber-terrorism holds enormous prospects for economic damage.

I am not convinced that our definition is the best that can be achieved--I think further improvements could be made to it--but it does include what I believe is the core definition of terrorism as far as possible and little, if anything, beyond it.

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That core definition seems to me to involve these factors. First, there must be serious and unlawful violence, extending that definition of violence to include cyber-terrorism but not actions such as strikes. Secondly, that violence must be directed against the public or a section of the public. Thirdly, where the violence in question is violence against property, it must be at a level which causes serious economic damage to the country as a whole or to a significant part of the country such as London.

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