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Lord Parekh: My Lords, in the light of the July attacks in London and the knowledge that we have acquired about terrorist methods and networks, a Bill such as this is needed and I have no general difficulty with it. But I do have four sources of unease and I should like to spend the next five or so minutes articulating them.
I have some difficulty with the whole idea of detention without charge for 28 days or more. This kind of detention could traumatise the individuals involved and, as the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, pointed out, it could lead to an enormous amount of injury and psychological damage to the individuals involved. It could also lead to false confessions and to unreliable convictions, as we have known in several cases in the past. There is also the danger that this part of the Bill might be seen as directed at or against Muslims and might therefore alienate them and make intelligence gathering that much more difficult. On this question of intelligence gathering, there is one point that we might need to bear in mind. There is a lot of talk about training a large number of Muslim informants who would act as a source of reliable information about what is going on within the community. I hope that we will tread that path very carefully because, if we are not careful, we could easily create deep areas of discontent and incoherence within the community and even promote violence between Muslims.
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If we do decide to go ahead with 28 days of detention without charge, then I hope that we will bear at least the following points in mind: the conditions under which people are detained; the methods of interrogation that are employed; the right of appeal and even compensation in cases where the detention turns out to be utterly unjustified; regular and close judicial scrutiny; and, what is just as important, periodic review of how this policy is working out.
The second difficulty I have with the Bill is with this whole idea of glorification. Whenever it is defined within the Bill, it talks in terms of praising terrorism, celebrating terrorism, inducement or incitement to terrorist attacks or encouraging others to emulate. These are only four or five words in terms of which the idea of glorification is defined. It is too wide and too vague.
Hardly anyone in your Lordships' House has pointed out that we have precisely this legislation in the Indian penal code. While sati was abolished a long time ago, in the mid-1980s there was an act of sati; lots of women in India got terribly worked up and the Government had to give in to pressurethe kind of thing our Government are doing nowand do something. They enacted a law against the glorification of sati. That was about 18 years ago, and not a single prosecution has taken place. In one case, when a prosecution was mounted, no conviction was secured because the case was easily shot down on questions such as what was glorification and whether the utterances by a particular individual amounted to glorification. So if there is any lesson to learn from India, that is it.
I am not sure what it means to talk about praising, celebrating, or inducing people to engage in terrorist attacks. If I were to argue that, in certain situations, the use of violence, even terrorist violence, was justified, now or in the past, could I be said to have induced anyone to engage in similar acts in the present? What am I to do if my listener or my reading public were to draw that kind of conclusion from what I have written?
This is not just a hypothetical example. About two years ago, I delivered a lecture at Harvard University on a very technical philosophical question; namely, what are the limits of rational debate and at what point in time may I be able to tell someone, "There is no possibility of arguing with you"? At what point does such a dialogue break down? As an experiment, I imagined a dialogue between Osama bin Laden and Mahatma Gandhi. This article was published a few weeks later in Prospect. I was told that the publishers, who eventually published it in the Harvard University collection, were deeply uneasy just in case it got me into trouble, and even when it appeared in Prospect, I was told that if I were to go to the United Statesand I go often, when I am invited to give lecturesI might be detained at the airport.
I have a feeling that the Bill would catch that kind of article. In order to make my argument philosophically as convincing as possible, I tried to make Osama bin Laden a better philosopher than he
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is, trying to marshal arguments in his favour which the man would never have dreamt of making. Of course, I made Gandhi just as strong, refuting every point that Osama bin Laden was making. But my conclusion was that in matters of moral absolutes, no compromise, no rational resolution of disagreement, is possible. I am afraid that if I were to write more of this kind of article, I might get into more trouble than I seem to have done.
I have a similar difficulty with Clause 2, which refers to handling, distributing or circulating terrorist material. I do that all the time. As a university professor whose job it is to teach all kinds of things, including the possibility of justification of terrorist violence, I recommend books by Bakunin, Kropotkin and Nachaevall kinds of anarchistswho all gloried in terrorism, sometimes mindlessly. Am I to be told that for duplicating these articles or books and circulating them to my students, I will be hauled up before Her Majesty's court and told that I am guilty of "handling"whatever that may mean in an academic contextmaterial of this kind? We need to be extremely careful.
When I teach courses on theories of violence and of revolution in history, or whether the concept of innocence makes sense in a political context, because that is important to a definition of terrorism, I might be told that they would not be caught by the Bill because all the Bill intends to stop is incitement to terrorist attacks, and this is not what I am doing. But I do not understand "incitement" in this context. What I do when I teach is to help my students understand that in certain situations, terrorist violence might be condoned and even justified. In other words, the dividing line between inciting and condoning terrorism is pretty thin, and I do not think that the Bill quite captures it. Those are the three specific points I wanted to make. They concern me very deeply, both as someone from within an ethnic minority but, more importantly, as a philosopher whose job it is, as Socrates said, to act as a sting fly, making people think.
I have a larger point, on which I should like to end. Terrorism is certainly a security question, but it is not only thatit is also a moral and political question. We need to address why people are drawn to it. No one wants to die and, contrary to what some of your Lordships said earlier, even those seeking martyrdom want to reassure themselves that that is consistent with the central principles of their religion. In fact, when the first suicide bombers appeared in Lebanon in the early 1980s, there was intense debate among Muslim theologians about whether that was acceptable in the context of the Koran. Only a few years later, a view was reached in certain circles that it was an okay thing to do. We need to ask why people were persuaded to read their religion in this way and what cultural and political factors precipitated that reading.
We might also ask ourselves why Britain has not been subjected to an Islamic terrorist threat until recently and why it has come under it only now. For all these reasons, I suggest that while addressing the question of terrorism as robustly as we have done, we need to look at the larger factors. The battle against
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terrorism cannot be fought within our country alone; it is a world-wide phenomenon and will not disappear in a few days or a yearit will come up again and again. Political wisdom requires that we should be thinking about long-term factors in our country, about our relations with the Muslim world and about the larger sense of grievance that Muslim societies seem to have. If we can apply our minds to creating a sensible kind of world order, that might in the end be a better way of addressing terrorism.
Lord Carlile of Berriew: My Lords, I am sure the whole House will join with me in expressing pleasure that the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, did not follow the tendency of Mr Galloway to hand himself over to the American authorities. Had he done so, we might have been deprived of the fascinating and entertaining speech that we have just heard.
It may be for the assistance of the House if I make a few remarks from my bird's-eye view as independent reviewer of certain aspects of counter-terrorism legislation. I take it that the House will accept that it is not an abuse of my position as a Member of this House to speak at Second Reading. I have concluded, however, that it would be inappropriate for me to speak in Committee, and I have decided that it would not be appropriate for me to vote in any Divisions.
In the past few weeks, I have been cited, I think, on every side of every argument in relation to these matters. When the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, spoke of sati, it immediately put me in mind of my childhood reading and my fascination with fakirs, who lay on beds of nails. I have learnt in recent weeks what that felt likea sort of exquisite discomfort.
It is perhaps worth re-emphasising a fundamental point founded onand I use the word in its broadest senseevidence that I have heard, seen and found from conversations with those operationally involved in counter-terrorism activity and from my own observation. There is a real and present threat of continuing al-Qaeda-connected terrorism within the United Kingdom. One of the problems is that we do not know exactly what al-Qaeda is. It is a loose co-fraternity of mutually sympathetic groups. That is the most that can be said with clear definition. The threat that it poses is unpredictable in its size, range and scope. It applies to all citizens, wherever they may congregate in significant numbers. It applies equally to Members of this House and another place in this building and to children on buses on the way to school in any town or village in the United Kingdom.
The appearance of suicide bombers in our midst, shocking but not at all surprising given the history of recent years, has raised the stakes. It is right, as a number of noble Lords have said, that the first duty of any government must be to protect the public and keep them safe. However, it is important to recognise that reaction is dangerous, that reaction must be measured, and that reaction must be intellectually defensible at all times. What we do in response to that kind of terrorism must be proportional and must not be
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exaggerated. As a number of your Lordships have said, we must give paramountcy to continuing solid community relations. To alienate any part of our pretty well integrated community, compared with some other European countries, is to expose ourselves to danger.
Another paramount matter is to ensure that we enact laws that are needed, not unnecessary, that are enduring, not temporary, and that are fair, not arbitrary. Had there been a scrutiny committee, as was originally envisaged by the GovernmentI would have favoured a scrutiny committee having chaired another one for a period of months recentlyevidence before such a committee would have demonstrated something I have observed. I sometimes think we spend too much time wringing our hands rather than looking at how clean our hands are.
I say that in this context: evidence before such a committee would have included something I have been doing in recent months. I have been comparing the civil liberties protections offered in all parts of the United Kingdom with those offered in other countries in the Council of Europe and in the United States of America. I have looked in particular at the United States of America, at France and at Spain. I would say, without exaggerating, that we have a very reasonable quality of civil liberties protection in this country. The noble Lord, Lord Soley, has spoken accurately about some of the things that occur in the French jurisdiction, which we would not tolerate here; for example, up to four days of interviewing by the police, with no tape recording and with no lawyer present. That was described to me by a senior person in France in the past three weeks, unsurprisingly, as a "very productive period of questioning".
Those of us who remember the pre-PACE days are not at all surprised by that. I am therefore far from satisfied that other countries' systemswhich we sometimes praise from a position of relative ignoranceprotect their civil liberties any more than ours. I suspect they protect them less. I am far from satisfied that some of the European systems do more than merely shoehorn them into basic European Convention on Human Rights compatibility, but actually involve far longer periods of detention than ever occur anywhere in the United Kingdom, or were ever envisaged remotely by this Bill in its original form. That, I believe, is a realistic assessment of the comparative evidence.
I remain satisfied, as I said in my report published on 12 October, that in a very small number of the most important cases a longer period of arrest prior to charging would ensure proper investigation, charging with the right offencesnot some kind of holding offence to justify keeping people in custodyor not charging at all. I believe that if we followed those principles, we would ensure a logical outcome. The reasons I set out in paragraphs 56 to 61 of my report, published on 12 October. If any noble Lords want to read them they can get it from the Printed Paper Office. However, it is extremely important to retain a fair system of law and protection of personal liberty
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consistent with paragraphs 224 to 227 of the report of the Newton committee, raised earlier by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman. I have advocated an elaborate and fairly complex system of introduction of an investigative judge. I regret that the Government have felt that this is not, for present purposes, the time to go down that road, though my understanding is that the Government are reasonably well disposed to looking at such a system. If such a system were introduced, along the lines of the template suggested by the Newton committee and in my recent report, then we would be considering the important issuehow we get the balanceand not merely conducting a Dutch auction on the number of days, which, in my view, has not distinguished the political process.
Twenty-eight days offers an improvement, although a modest one, in terms of public safety. I am doubtful about the additional protections for individual freedoms offered by the Bill as amended. I am not sure it is a sensible use of High Court judges. I shall, of course, review what emerges from this Bill. I hope that time will confirm the democratic wisdom of another place. There will be an opportunity to debate other details of the Bill.
I just want to raise two concerns, concerns which have already been raised by other speakers in this debate. I have sat in Professor Paul Wilkinson's interesting attic office in the University of St Andrew's Centre for the Study of Terrorism. I do not want to shop Professor Wilkinson and have him arrested by the local constabulary, but my reading of the provisions at the moment are that he might well be committing a criminal offence under this Bill by being the greatest non-lawyer expert in this countryand that is praise, rather than criticismon terrorist organisations around the world. My noble friend Lady Williams made a powerful case on behalf of the British Library, but I believe there is an equally powerful case to be made on behalf of academicsnot just the great ones but the good ones tooand also on behalf of people such as Members of another place, who take a real interest in these matters and have research for them.
I want to raise specifically what I call the John Simpson point. I have seen people such as John Simpsonis he now the diplomatic editor of the BBC?go to terrorist training camps and report, in my view in the public interest, on what these camps do , why they exist, and draw the matter to public attention. Under Clause 8, he would be committing an offence. I cannot believe that that is the real intention of the Government. I hope that the Government will find a way to introduce an amendment to protect bona fide journalists.
I have accepted the request that I look at the definition of terrorism. I have been given nearly a year to look at eight lines of text, which sounds more formidable a task than looking at it in a month. However, given that time, I hope, in a period of rather less than a year, to produce something useful. I intend to invite the widest submission of papers and advice. I propose to invite the public to express their views and to contribute, as well as the many known for their
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specialist interest in this area. I am sure that the whole House would wish this to be an open process, possibly even including public meetings.
Overall I would urge this House and another place to take a carefully balanced view of the Bill in the context of the real threat. Perhaps the most telling contribution I can make is to ask Members of both Houses to remember that this is not an abstract issue.
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