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Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I add our gratitude to the Home Secretary for the extremely consultative and inclusive approach that he has taken in drawing up this legislation. I have two questions for the Minister.
My first question follows what has already been asked by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, with regard to indirect incitement to terrorism. The Minister will know very well that during apartheid many people in this country strongly supported the anti-apartheid movement and did so even after the creation of Umkhonto we Sizwe, which could have been described as taking part in acts of violencefor example, with the blowing up of electric pylons, and things of that kind. Can the Minister assure the House that every effort will be made to try to ensure that there is a sharp distinction between those we rightly accuse of incitement to violence on grounds of their wish to create acts of terrorism and those who are generally attempting to overturn extreme dictatorships when there is virtually
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no opportunity in the country itself to raise questions about the behaviour of those governments? I shall not list them, but the Minister will know very well the kind of governments that I have in mind.
Secondly, in relation to that matter, can consideration be given to the issue of hazardous substances? Might there be a review of the list of hazardous substances which now governs the behaviour of pharmacists and chemists to ensure that that list is added to if necessary to ensure that certain chemicals that are currently sold over the counter are rather more difficult to obtain?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness particularly in relation to the last matter that she mentioned. Certainly, it is an opportunity for us to look at the issues to make sure that the provisions that are in place are fit for the purpose, particularly in the new environment in which we find ourselves.
On incitement and the nature of indirect incitement, I reassure the noble Baroness that we understand the difficulties that we will jointly face in coming to a definition that is sufficiently precise to capture the behaviour that we all abhor and brings to justice those who are identified as guilty of those improper acts but does not improperly attack those who should not be caught, on the basis that they have not done anything that would incite someone to commit an act of terror. I have already said that I appreciate the difficult task ahead of us. I certainly reassure the noble Baroness and the House that we will do all that we can to make sure that we get it right.
I should like to mention two matters. The first is the extent to which the emergency services proved themselves to be ready for the tasks that were given to them on that sad morning. They had done a tremendous amount of training. Often, training is a difficult thing to keep going if no immediate sign appears that that training is required. The emergency services carried that out with great persistence. The fruit of that training was manifest in the tremendous success that they had in dealing with a horrific situation on that morning. It is also a matter of great providence that the No. 30 bus was exploded just outside BMA House, where very experienced casualty doctors were having a meeting, so that immediate expert advice was obtainable.
The other matter that I want to touch on is the fact that it appears very plainly that a perverted religious ideology can be extremely dangerousthat is what we have seenand that those who embrace such an ideology can be extremely dangerous. Therefore, does the Minister agree that it may be wise to consider whether it is right to restrict comment on such things in any way, when, after all, what we wish to do is to
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expose the danger of such ideology and the danger to young people in particular of embracing it and acting on it?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I join the noble and learned Lord in commending the emergency services. They behaved in an outstandingly courageous way. It certainly demonstrates all the work that we put into developing resilience and, indeed, into the Civil Contingencies Act. That preparation really came good, if I can put it in that colloquial way. There was no one who did not feel immense pride and appreciation at what they did.
The noble and learned Lord rightly ventured on to the sensitive issue of the impact of perverted religious ideologies. I assure the noble and learned Lord that those issues were very much in our minds before 7 July but also particularly since. The legislation that we are about to consider remains in its form, but both Houses of Parliament will go through that legislation. I am sure that it will give us an opportunity to reflect further.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I also welcome the spirit of consensus on these issues that has been developed on all sides of this House and on all sides of another place. That is extremely welcome and important. As a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority and as an adviser to Transport for London, I both welcome and share the congratulations to all involved in the emergency services and the transport services for the work that they did on 7 July. It was truly remarkable, and it was truly a commitment to the contingency planning that had gone on.
I would welcome some clarification from the noble Baroness about the offence of indirect incitement. In particular, is it intended that it will apply to indirect incitement to acts of terror inside this country and outside this country? I can see the difficulties of definition, but I can also see the importance for matching international obligations that we are seen to be even-handed on this one. I would welcome some clarification.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the new offence of indirect incitement is intended to capture the expression of sentiments that do not amount to direct incitement to perpetrate acts of violence but that are uttered with the intent to encourage individuals to commit or attempt to commit terrorist acts. The requirement for intent is very important. Anyone simply expressing a view, however distasteful it might be, will not be committing an offence; it is the intention that we are going to try to home in on. It is intended that the offence of indirect incitement will apply both in relation to the United Kingdom and abroad.
Lord Donaldson of Lymington: My Lords, I invite the Minister to consider including in the definition of acts preparatory words that one can take from Section 22 of the Theft Act in relation to handling stolen goods, that the offence is only committed if the perpetrator knows or believes that what he or she is doing is an act preparatory to terrorism.
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I raise that because one the features of the problems that arose on 7 July appears to be that the bombers were able to prepare for and carry out their attacks without the knowledge of anyone closely connected with them. A possible way in which that can happen is if someone invites you to go out and buy some materials, allegedly for a perfectly harmless purpose, and you might well help them out by going and buying them. You would in fact be involved in an act preparatory to terrorism, but if you know nothing about it you should not be prosecuted.
I mentioned the handling of stolen goods; one has to be careful not to go so far as to criminalise suspicions. There must be some people in this House who sometimes speculated whether something offered for sale at a low price fell off the back of a lorrythat is a suspicion. If you know or believe, that is a different matter, and that is an offence.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord makes a good point. The precise definition has not yet been settled upon. The provision seeks to address the mischief where individuals have been identified and they have been known to have instigated an act of terrorism or to have been planning, preparing or conspiring to commit an act of terrorism. The provision is to enable us to intervene at that preparatory stage and not have to wait until they do something more that demonstrates further intent in relation to dates.
If, for instance, one went out and purchased certain goods that one had ready, with other information, that may be sufficient for an act preparatory. We are trying to think about that mischief and then try to cast the net tight enough to restrict it to those who are engaged in that way. I absolutely bear in mind what the noble and learned Lord said.
Lord Roper: My Lords, I join others in saying how much we appreciate what the noble Baroness and the Home Secretary have done in keeping the House informed of the developments and maintaining a consensus. However, we are moving into a rather extended Recess and wonder how the House as a whole, as distinct from the Front Benches, may be kept informed of developments. In one of her answers, the noble Baroness referred to a Parliamentary Question being tabled, but that will not come into the public domain until we sit again in October. Will she consult her noble friend the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms to see whether ways could be foundperhaps e-mailso that other Members of the House who wish to be kept informed of developments during the Recess could become aware of them?
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