Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Earl Attlee: My Lords, before the Minister concludes, is he convinced that he has all the necessary primary legislative powers? It would be embarrassing to have to come back to the House at a later stage to ask for more powers. Additionally, what is the penalty for failing to comply with the V5 procedure that he described, and how many prosecutions have there been for failing to make the notifications?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I fear that I would have required notice to have answered the second part of the noble Earl's question. On the first part of his question, it would be jolly embarrassing for the Government to have to return to the House to secure primary legislation. That is not unknown but it would be embarrassing. I am reasonably confident that the necessary primary legislative powers will be in place. As I said, we will introduce some additional secondary legislation in relation to the requirements for the registration document to be returned to the DVLA. I accept that the total system is not yet in place, but it could be put in place through secondary legislation. The necessary primary legislation is already in hand.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. I know what "shortly" means in parliamentary speak, and the phrase "reasonably confident" fills me with alarm.

The Minister's initial observations suggest that I did not intend to catch just written-off vehicles. I intended to catch all vehicles that a salvage contractor receives, apart from his own domestic vehicles. I am quite a bit happier, although we are still left with a small loophole. Let us suppose that a self-insured operator damages his car and sells it to his so-called friend, who finds that he cannot repair it and, to make some sort

27 Mar 2001 : Column 142

of financial gain, rings it with another vehicle; I am not convinced that my amendment would cover that loophole. There are many potential loopholes in this context and I expect that the Minister will continue to discover more as time goes on. I hope that the necessary primary legislation will be in place to deal with them through regulations. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 7 not moved.]

5.36 p.m.

Lord Whitty: I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.--(Lord Whitty.)

Baroness Scott of Needham Market: My Lords, as a relative newcomer to your Lordships' House, I have learnt much during the passage of the Bill, and I am therefore very grateful to noble Lords on all sides of the House who contributed to our debates. We all support the Bill's aim of reducing vehicle crime. Noble Lords on all sides have been unusually co-operative during the Bill's passage. However, we should not imagine that the Bill is not without its weaknesses. We have identified and debated some of them. In the interests of the Bill's smooth passage at this interesting time in our legislative programme, we have not tested the opinion of the House. I therefore conclude by seeking assurances about the processes of regulation and guidance. I ask for the fullest possible consultation. In this case, it will be more than usually important to ensure that some of the loopholes will be dealt with in that way.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, we are at one, as the noble Baroness said, in wanting to fight vehicle crime. For that reason, we support the Bill. However, it will set up two new sets of regulations: new licensing schemes for motor salvage operators and for registration plate suppliers. It is not alone in setting up new licensing systems. Such quangos multiply all the time, and a whole forest--or a small wood, at any rate--of regulations will flow from the Bill. Such regulations are also being made all the time. The cumulative effect of all of those new individual licensing systems, with all of their detail, is damaging to small businesses in particular. Firms in some trades have to comply with literally dozens of sets of regulations and get themselves licensed with different bodies for different parts of their activities. Each of those systems is desirable in itself, but it is the cumulative effect that makes it so difficult to run a business these days. Having got that off my chest, we are against vehicle crime and we want to fight it. That is why we support the Bill.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, my colleagues and I are deeply grateful for the co-operation from both Opposition Front Benches and from noble Lords

27 Mar 2001 : Column 143

generally in the passage of the Bill. We believe that it is an important part of the fight against vehicle crime. I agree with the noble Lord about trying to minimise the burdens on small business, but we are clearly dealing with an industry in which a number of scams are running. We hope that we have blocked off the vast majority of them through our proposals and the regulations that will flow from them. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, that there will be full consultation.

We hope that we have dealt with all of the major problems in the industry and that we are setting up a regime in which one can get a reputation for being a decent trader--the best in the industry already deserve that--and a regime which will help consumers; that is, the car owners and motorists of this country. We will be making a major contribution towards that. The fact that we have got the provisions through this House, despite the reservations expressed by your Lordships, means that although we may not have gone as far as some noble Lords would wish, we have done a good deal. This is a good Bill and one which will make the life of motorists and honest people throughout the land that much better. I commend it to the House.

On Question, Bill passed.


Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, in view of the plethora of amendments on the Order Paper, it may be for the convenience of the House if I quickly explain the procedure we will follow this afternoon when we come to debate the Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2001.

My noble friend Lord Bassam of Brighton will shortly move his Motion to approve the order. At that point he will make his speech. The next speaker will be my noble and learned friend Lord Archer of Sandwell. The whole debate will then take place on my noble and learned friend's amendment. Any noble Lord who has any point to make in relation to the original Motion, or in relation to any of the amendments, should speak at that point. I assume that the noble Lords, Lord McNally, Lord Mancroft and Lord Glentoran, will all speak during the course of that debate.

At the end of that debate the amendment of my noble and learned friend Lord Archer will be disposed of. The other three amendments and the original Motion will be taken formally and disposed of in turn without further debate. I hope that clarifies matters.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, for clarification can I take it that we can debate the generality of the proscribing order?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, yes. Any general point should be subsumed in the debate following the contribution of my noble and learned friend Lord Archer.

27 Mar 2001 : Column 144

Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2001

5.42 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 28th February be approved [9th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move that the draft order laid before the House on 28th February be approved.

With the Terrorism Act 2000, which came into force on 19th February, this Government signalled their determination to defeat terrorism in all its forms. As well as bringing our provisions into line with the European Convention on Human Rights, the Terrorism Act ensures that we are in a better position to deal with the serious threat which terrorism poses abroad as well as in this country.

The Act makes available the power to proscribe for the first time terrorist organisations concerned in international or domestic terrorism and not just those concerned only in terrorism connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland which, as noble Lords will be aware, remain proscribed under Schedule 2 of the Act.

Parliament gave its support to this extension of the proscription regime by approving the passage of the Terrorism Bill. It is clearly of the utmost importance that the United Kingdom does not become a base for international terrorists and their supporters. The proscription and other provisions in the Act demonstrate this Government's commitment to change the climate in which supporters of terrorism might seek to operate in this country.

The Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2001, which is the subject of today's debate, was laid before Parliament in draft on 28th February. It lists 21 international terrorist organisations which, in the carefully considered judgment of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, should now be subject to proscription in the United Kingdom. The draft order was debated in the other place on 13th March and approved the following day under the deferred voting procedure.

Under Section 3 of the Act, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary (or, in the case of organisations concerned only in terrorism connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland) has the power to proscribe any organisation which he believes "is concerned in terrorism". An organisation is "concerned in terrorism" if it,

    "commits or participates in acts of terrorism, prepares for terrorism, promotes or encourages terrorism, or is otherwise concerned in terrorism".

"Organisation" is defined in Section 121 of the Act as including,

    "any association or combination of persons".

Having satisfied the statutory criteria in any particular case, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary then has discretion as to which organisations should be recommended to Parliament for

27 Mar 2001 : Column 145

proscription. In considering which international terrorist organisations should be proscribed, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary took into account a number of factors, including those indicated to Parliament by Ministers during proceedings on the Terrorism Bill. Those factors were: the nature and scale of the organisation's activities; the specific threat that it poses to the UK; the specific threat that it poses to British nationals overseas; the extent of the organisation's presence in the UK; and the need to support other members of the international community in the global fight against terrorism. Depending on the organisation concerned and its sphere of operation, certain factors will have carried more weight than others.

To assist consideration of the draft order by both Houses, all noble Lords and honourable Members were sent a brief summary of information on each of the organisations named in the draft order. As my right honourable friend the Home Secretary made clear in the debate on the order in the other place, in reaching his decisions he had access to related intelligence-based material on the various organisations in addition to information which is in the public domain and took into account police, security and legal advice. He is entirely satisfied that the organisations which are being recommended to Parliament for proscription are "concerned in terrorism" and thus fully meet the criteria laid down in the Act.

I know that a number of noble Lords expressed concerns that certain domestic extremist groups have not been included in the draft order. As noble Lords will no doubt recall, during proceedings on the Terrorism Bill we indicated that we did not intend to proscribe any of the domestic groups known to us at that time. When considering the organisations to be included in this draft order, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary looked at this matter again very carefully, taking account of police advice. His judgment was that it would not be right to proscribe any domestic groups at present. If circumstances change, however, we could return to the question of proscription.

Ministers acknowledged during proceedings on the Terrorism Bill that proscription is a heavy power. It should be used only where the circumstances warrant it. The draft order includes international terrorist organisations of particular concern to the United Kingdom. It would be unrealistic and excessive to proscribe every international organisation in the world that might be "concerned in terrorism". No other country does that.

As noble Lords will understand, however, the powers and offences in the Act more generally will apply to anyone planning or supporting here terrorist acts anywhere in the world, whether or not the group has been proscribed. The proscription regime provides an additional measure with specific, linked offences, including in relation to fundraising for use against those involved with or supporting the organisations which have been proscribed. The investigation and

27 Mar 2001 : Column 146

prosecution of any alleged offence under the Act is, of course, a matter for the police and prosecuting authorities.

The proscription regime is aimed at organisations and individuals concerned in terrorism, as defined in Section 1 of the Act. The definition of terrorism was, of course, considered in great detail during parliamentary proceedings on the Bill and it would be inappropriate to go over that ground again in the debate tonight.

I must emphasise that the provisions in the Act are not aimed at any specific community or at those protesting in a peaceful and non-violent way against alleged injustices or for political change. Nor are they aimed at those raising funds for legitimate social or humanitarian purposes. As long as people do not break our laws, they are free to express views with which the Government may profoundly disagree, including criticism of friendly governments. That is part of our cherished tradition of free speech. That freedom is unaffected by the coming into force of the new Terrorism Act.

Following debate in and approval by both Houses, the proscriptions will come into effect on the day after my right honourable friend the Home Secretary makes the order. It will then be open to any of the organisations so proscribed, or any person affected by their proscription, at any time to make application to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary for deproscription. Under the Proscribed Organisations (Applications for Deproscription) Regulations 2001, which came into force on 19th February, that application should, among other things, state the grounds on which it is being made. That provides an opportunity for an organisation or individual to make a case--to the Home Secretary in the case of international proscribed organisations--as to why they should be deproscribed. He will, of course, consider any such applications very carefully and fully indeed.

Where an application is refused, the Act provides for an appeal to a new independent judicial tribunal, the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission. The commission will consider any refusals to deproscribe in the light of judicial review principles.

My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor is responsible for the establishment of the commission. He announced on 5th March the appointment of a chairman and two other judicial members, respectively Sir Murray Stuart-Smith, Sir Harry Ognall and Sir Brian Smedley, all of whom are retired judges. He is in the process of appointing legal and lay members of the commission, who will be announced in due course. I am confident that these arrangements are sufficient to ensure that an effective remedy is available to anyone who might be aggrieved at the decision to proscribe the organisations listed in the draft order.

In conclusion, I must emphasise that this is not a once and for all process. The proscription list will be kept under constant review. The Secretary of State can decide at any time in future to recommend to Parliament the addition of an organisation to

27 Mar 2001 : Column 147

Schedule 2, where events or circumstances demand such action, and where it meets the criteria in the Act. Similarly, in appropriate circumstances, and when it was safe to do so, an organisation could be removed from the list without it necessarily making an application for deproscription.

I should like to take the opportunity here to place on the record a correction to what my right honourable friend said on 13th March during the debate on this order in another place, at col. 949 of the Official Report. If a decision is taken to deproscribe an organisation, either on application or otherwise, that deproscription will be subject to approval by Parliament by the affirmative not the negative resolution procedure.

In my view, the draft order is compatible with the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. It represents a fair, just and proportionate response to the threats we face from international terrorism. I commend the order to your Lordships.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 28th February be approved [9th Report from the Joint Committee].--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

5.53 p.m.

Lord Archer of Sandwell rose to move, as an amendment to the above Motion, at end insert ";

    but that this House regrets that the Mujaheddin e Khalq have been included in the schedule of proscribed organisations contained in the order and invites Her Majesty's Government to lay a further order, removing the Mujaheddin e Khalq from the Schedule."

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I listened carefully to my noble friend. I do not think that I counted more than two propositions which he put forward with which I might conceivably disagree, although in our debates it is always wise to make that kind of statement without prejudice.

This debate is an example of what is probably the most fundamental problem in democratic politics. How can we reconcile law and order, the protection of people from crime, with the protection of people from the executive, with fairness and justice to individuals? Quis custodiet?--if I am allowed, outside the rules of order, to depart from the English language.

Part of that is formulating rules for the executive when admittedly it is contending against people, some of whom do not play by the rules. Part of that in turn means recognising, as my noble friend said, that sometimes the executive has to act on information which it cannot disclose because to disclose it would be to reveal the source of the information to those against whom it may have to be used.

We debated all that when we discussed the Freedom of Information Bill. It will shortly be discussed in another place when it considers the report of the Intelligence and Security Committee. Although I have no interest to declare in this debate, it may assist transparency if I disclose that I am a member of that committee. So, I understand some of the problems

27 Mar 2001 : Column 148

about which my noble friend will no doubt tell us when he comes to reply; indeed, if he is busy elsewhere I could make his speech for him.

While I am in concessionary mode--I doubt whether my noble friend would consider me to be what was earlier today called "a plaything of the Government"--perhaps I may offer him another trump card. The principle of the Terrorism Act has no more enthusiastic supporter than me. Terrorism does not recognise international boundaries. If it is to be fought on equal terms, this is yet another instance when the international community must set aside the obsession with national sovereignty and bureaucratic ring-fencing and co-operate in the interests of the global family. I approve of the fact that those who practice or plan terrorism anywhere will be denied sanctuary anywhere. I do not rest any part of my argument on the concession which the Home Office made in relation to the organisation which I wish to address today, that it does not practice terrorism in this country.

None of that is in issue between us. But we need to recognise that when the practitioners of crime clash with the forces of law and order, someone may be caught in the middle. Decent, law-abiding, long-suffering people may be crushed in the nutcrackers. My noble friend said--this is the one proposition of which I am not sure--that we should not discuss the definition of terrorism in the Act. It does not address all the problems. I accept my share of the blame. I was content with the general thrust of the Terrorism Bill, as it then was, and I failed to scrutinise the definition; so did we all. However, it occurs to me that within that definition, William Tell was a terrorist, Oliver Cromwell was a terrorist, and Nelson Mandela was a terrorist.

At Second Reading in another place of the Bill which became the Terrorism Act, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary was asked (Official Report, Commons, 14/12/99; col. 152) whether the Kosovo Liberation Army, at that time opposing the Serbian regime in Kosovo, or the Kurds opposing Saddam Hussein in northern Iraq fell within the definition. I hope that I do my right honourable friend no injustice; I read the debate carefully and I do not think that the question was answered. I say that not by way of criticism; in the to and fro of debate questions get lost. However, my right honourable friend specifically argued that in democracies there are other ways of expressing dissent. Yes, indeed, but what if the regime is not democratic? What if it is tyrannical, oppressive and tolerates no dissent?

It is an unfortunate factor in this debate that we are faced with a single unamendable order which includes in the schedule 21 separate organisations--I know that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, will address that later--faced with a whole spectrum of different regimes and a variety of opportunities either to express or repress dissent. We cannot oppose the inclusion of any one organisation without opposing the entire order. That was tempting, I admit. However, if we had done that it would have deferred a process for which in

27 Mar 2001 : Column 149

general we accept the need. Yet the mischief would have lain squarely at the door of the Home Office, which elected to proceed in that way.

I have been approached by other organisations which challenge their designation as terrorists, notably the International Sikh Youth Federation and some of the groups concerned with the liberation, as they see it, of Kashmir. I do not propose to discuss them today, partly because I have not had an opportunity to give my noble friend notice that I would do so and partly because I am not sufficiently familiar with the facts.

My amendment is designed not to destroy the order, but simply to invite my right honourable friend the Home Secretary to rectify the situation quickly by introducing a further order to remove from the schedule one organisation. I turn now to the one organisation with which the amendment is concerned, the Mujaheddin e Khalq.

In Iran there is no democratic way to change the regime. There is no freedom to express an opinion or to argue for one's beliefs. Even since Mr Khatami took office, 800 people have been put to death for their beliefs; 75 this year. Those are the regime's own official figures. We know that there have been many more secret murders. Thirteen people have been stoned to death; eyes have been gouged out; limbs have been amputated; and people have been publicly flogged.

In April last year, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights condemned the executions, the torture, the inhuman punishments, the absence of due process of law and the discrimination against women. That was the 46th time that an organ of the United Nations had condemned the abuses under the regime. The commission extended the mandate of the special rapporteur for yet a further year.

There have been repeated reports by Amnesty International and other human rights organisations. There is no right to disseminate opinions or even information. Last year, at least 40 publications were closed down because the regime disapproved of what they said. In February, Geneive Abdo, the Guardian's correspondent in Iran, was warned to adapt her reports to what pleased the administration and was then unceremoniously removed from the country. Of course there was an election and it served a purpose, because whatever else may be said about the result, it was clear that the people wanted to live under a more liberal regime. They supported Mr Khatami; and I would not dispute that he may have wished to move in the direction of greater freedom. But it is clear that he is as much a prisoner of the mullahs as anyone.

The constitution is not intended to afford free choice. On 7th December last year, Mr Khatami himself spelt it out. He said:

    "There is no talk of changing the constitution. Today, talk of changing the constitution amounts to changing the state. This is treachery to the state and to the Iranian nation".

In the election, no one could vote for a candidate who was not approved by the Guardian Council because if a candidate was not approved, he was not permitted to stand as a candidate. We all remember the long delays

27 Mar 2001 : Column 150

before the results were announced, and we can speculate as to what was happening to ballot boxes and ballot papers during that time.

Therefore, it is in that context that we need to consider the Mujaheddin. That movement came together in 1965 to campaign for democracy when it was repressed under the regime of the Shah. Thousands of its members were imprisoned, tortured or killed under that regime. There was no question of it using violence at that time.

Then came the revolution and members of the movement thought, as did many, that the terror and repression were over. But it still continued; the new regime did not change the repression. For more than two years the Mujaheddin did not respond with violence, but a time came when it believed that the murders and mutilations were not going to be changed by free elections--there were not to be free elections--and it decided that the only way to stop the repression by the military was to resist the military. The only way to stop the murders was to stop the murderers.

I have never made any secret of where I stand. I do not believe that a free society, where people can live together in peace, can best be brought about by violence. But I understand why the movement came to believe that there was no other way. If I believed that it used indiscriminate violence or risked the lives of civilians, I would have no time for it and I would not be addressing your Lordships today. I believe that it confines its target specifically to military bases and to senior officials of the regime who have themselves committed crimes against humanity.

I do not know on what information my right honourable friend the Home Secretary acted when he decided to include the Mujaheddin in the schedule--and this is a moment when perhaps I might have my noble friend's attention--but I understand that my noble friend cannot reply to that. However, it would be helpful if, when replying to the debate, he would tell us who was consulted: the Secretary General of the United Nations; the Human Rights Commission; Amnesty International; or the Inter-Parliamentary Union? Can we be told which person or body with knowledge of human rights was consulted before that inclusion?

"But", says the Home Office--my noble friend said it today--"these questions are not best discussed in Parliament. The Terrorism Act provides for the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission"; that is, POAC in the acronym-ridden official speak that we all practise. An organisation included in the schedule may appeal to POAC and it will consider it. That is indeed a welcome last safeguard to correct mistakes, but as an argument in this debate it has two weaknesses. First, it raises the question: if Parliament is not to exercise any control over the executive why do we have these debates? Why do we go through the pretence of laying down orders before Parliament if we are then told to stay quiet? Secondly, this form of redress operates retrospectively. Much of the damage will already have been done.

27 Mar 2001 : Column 151

Again, we are all to blame. We could have spoken against the scheme of the Terrorism Bill. But there is something distasteful about a process which begins by convicting someone and then proceeds to inquire whether there is a case against them. Lewis Carroll's Queen of Hearts called for sentence first, verdict afterwards. That scheme is best confined to Alice in Wonderland.

There is a large Iranian community in this country. Many are now British subjects. They are fair, law-abiding, hard-working people. They came here initially to escape persecution at home. Persecution for membership of the Mujaheddin has repeatedly been accepted as a reason for granting people asylum in this country. Some have lost members of their families to the murderers and torturers. Even here they are not safe from the regime. At least 35 political opponents of the regime have been murdered not in Iran but in the territory of other countries. The fatwa which declared it was permissible--indeed, a duty--to murder Salman Rushdie did not confine that to Iranian territory; it clearly contemplated that he should be murdered outside Iran. Even last year, when my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary was told that it might be withdrawn, there was very quickly a correction. They said that that had been a mistake and it could not be changed. It remains in force.

So where are the terrorists? Are they among the Mujaheddin or among the leadership of the regime? Not surprisingly, most of the Iranian community have supported the resistance, not all of whom are members of the Mujaheddin. But some of them do applaud the Mujaheddin; some even help it financially.

They are in good company. Members of the Mujaheddin have been welcome guests at the Labour Party conference where there is always sympathy for victims of persecution. If the Mujaheddin is in the scheme, those people will suffer the stigma of supporting a terrorist organisation. Under Section 12 of the Act, if they support or even invite someone else to support that movement, they will be criminals.

Those who support the amendment have the satisfaction of agreeing with views expressed by 335 Members of the other place; some 61 Members of your Lordships' House; a majority of members of the United States Congress; 175 members of the German Bundestag; 150 members of the French Assembly; and a majority in the parliaments of Italy, Belgium and Luxembourg. We are simply asking my noble friend in reply to assure us that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary will move quickly to introduce a further order rectifying this mistake.

It would be an unusual gesture for the Home Office, but I beg my noble friend to consider it possible that on this occasion it may be wrong. I beg to move.

Moved, That as an amendment to the above Motion, at end insert "; but that this House regrets that the Mujaheddin e Khalq have been included in the schedule of proscribed organisations contained in the order and invites Her Majesty's Government to lay a further order, removing the Mujaheddin e Khalq from the schedule.".--(Lord Archer of Sandwell.)

27 Mar 2001 : Column 152

6.10 p.m.

Lord McNally: My Lords, this morning the noble Lord, Lord Rea, and I attended a meeting in this House organised by Liberation which allowed a large group of representatives from various organisations to express their views about this order and how they would be treated under the Act. I do not know the strength of their case or the merits of the various organisations. However, it reaffirmed my conviction, which is expressed in my amendment to the Motion, that those who dealt with the original Bill did not envisage that secondary powers would be used to hoover up, as it were, 21 organisations in a single instrument. By any standard of natural justice, that does not make sense. It means that the good, the bad and the ugly are put together.

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, pointed out, by the very nature of our rules of procedure we take or leave statutory instruments in those circumstances. I believe that in approaching the matter in this way the Home Office has discredited the procedure from the outset. That was not our intention in seeking comprehensive terrorism legislation that applied to all parts of the United Kingdom. The general belief was that the ad hoc approach to terrorist legislation that had grown up since 1974, with particular emphasis on Northern Ireland, was not good for civil liberties and a comprehensive approach to these matters. But it also illustrates--the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, acknowledged a mea culpa that we all share--the danger of legislation which provides quite sweeping secondary powers, because exactly how they are used is dependent on the executive.

What worries me about the way that the Home Office has gone about it is that in the first test of those secondary powers the department has got it wrong. It has approached it in a broad-brush way which leaves a number of organisations, such as the one referred to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, feeling aggrieved. The Home Secretary in his letter to noble Lords to explain the legislation states that it,

    "provides new permanent and UK-wide legislation"--

in response, we say "good"--

    "which is proportionate to the threat which the UK faces and may face from all forms of terrorism".

Judgment comes in when one considers the proportionate nature of the threat. All of these organisations are active and linked to various national immigrant groups active in other countries. We shall be going into this matter in considering further amendments. As has been said, none of them refers to UK groups. I am worried that in the "hoovering" process we may put at risk the age-old and much cherished belief in freedom of speech and association in this country, and introduce guilt by association.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, raises a matter which worries a number of people; namely, that organisations have been placed on the list on the advice of the police, security services, foreign governments and foreign security agencies. By the very nature of the legislation, a good deal of this is wrapped

27 Mar 2001 : Column 153

in secrecy. Although I understand the responsibilities of government, I am not content to allow Ministers simply to pat us on the head, give us a knowing look to the effect that they are in receipt of secret information which, if only we could see it, would make our toes curl and, therefore, we should nod through every piece of new legislation that they want. The other day I was disturbed to learn that the head of MI5 had complained about parliamentary scrutiny. I believe that our security services should be exposed to parliamentary scrutiny. It would give me a good deal more confidence if the Intelligence and Security Committee, to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, referred, had an opportunity to look at the evidence presented to the Home Secretary in order to make his decisions.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page