Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Elton: I ask the Minister not to follow too closely some of the tempting lures laid in front of her by my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch. The simple fact is that a controlling interest of this sort held by anyone of any nationality who was linked to any terrorist organisation of any ethnic group would be equally unacceptable, so we are not concerned with Europe or Islamists; we are concerned with terrorists. It is from them that we and the country wish to be protected.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Before the Minister rises, I accept the rebuke from my noble friend Lord Elton in tempting her slightly wide of the specifics of the amendment, but Islamism does enter into this amendment very seriously because the gentleman concerned has clear Islamist links.

Lord Elton: The amendment is not directed at a particular gentleman; it is directed at a particular lack in our security system.

Lord Kingsland: Any suggestion that the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, makes about combating terrorism has to be taken seriously. As the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, observed at Second Reading, she has done more than anyone to warn of the growing danger that militant Islamism poses to Western society.

The issue that this amendment confronts is: are terrorists or those sympathetic to terrorism buying into strategic industrial and infrastructural concerns in our country with the aim of undermining our security? The Committee will recall the worries that the noble Baroness expressed about certain companies in her Second Reading speech.

This is a probing amendment which has the merit of asking the Government questions about matters that go to the heart of our national security. I am anxious to hear the Minister's response. The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, has identified a real threat; and the Minister must satisfy the Committee that it is adequately confronted under existing legislation or accept the noble Baroness's amendment or something like it.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, for raising this issue and giving me the opportunity that I was denied on the last occasion because of time, as the noble Lord,
20 Dec 2005 : Column 1660
Lord Pearson of Rannoch, so aptly put it. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that I will do my best to resist the lures cast out by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, in relation to leading me astray down the path of commenting on things that are inappropriate to this amendment. I also reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Park, that we understand the sensitivity of these issues and bear in mind the caution that she rightly mentioned in relation to this whole issue and how it must be dealt with.

Noble Lords will know that the security issues as they pertain to this House are a matter for the House authorities. Therefore, I am unable to comment on them. I hope that the Committee will understand that.

The new clause proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, would amend the existing exemplary list in Section 1(4) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005. Before getting into the substance of the amendment, perhaps I can say something more generally on the subject of control orders. As your Lordships may be aware, it was agreed between the main political parties in July that we would accelerate the passage of the Bill and leave the issue of control orders to one side for the time being.

Noble Lords will also be aware that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, who is the independent reviewer of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, will give his report on the operation of the first nine months of the control order regime early in 2006. That will be the appropriate time to consider the issue of control orders more generally. I hasten to make it clear that I absolutely understand why the noble Baroness raises the issue now, as it is the appropriate vehicle for her to explore the issue and give us an opportunity to talk about it. I make no criticism of the noble Baroness for doing that, as it is an important discussion for us to have.

Turning to the amendment, the new clause would amend Section 1(4) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005. It is important to remind ourselves that Section 1(4) of that Act contains a list of examples of obligations that can be imposed on an individual who is subject to a control order. The specified obligations are all examples of the types of obligations that can be imposed pursuant to the general power in Section 1(3), which allows a control order to impose any obligation but only when those obligations are considered,

That limitation on the obligations that can be contained in a control order is important when considering the new clause. We think that the noble Baroness's concerns can be subsumed within those provisions. However, with the limitation that I have just outlined, I do not think that the additions suggested by the noble Baroness are necessary. There is some doubt about whether some of them may even fall within the ambit of the control order regime at all. That is because it has to be tied back into what is necessary for the purposes of preventing or restricting involvement by the individual in terrorism-related activity.
20 Dec 2005 : Column 1661

Proposed new paragraph (q), which refers to,

is unnecessary as that is covered by existing obligations specified in Section 1(4)(a), (b) or (c), which are,

Even if it were argued that the wording of Section 1(4)(a), (b) and (c) did not quite fit the particular circumstance of buying shares, it is important to remember that the obligations in Section 1(4) are examples such that similar obligations controlling the use of a person's property can be imposed, provided of course that they are necessary and proportionate to prevent his terrorism-related activities.

On the other obligations proposed by the noble Baroness in new paragraphs (r), (s) and (t), there is a question on whether their insertion into the control order regime is practical. The control order regime is preventive as I have just explained. Obligations can be imposed only where necessary to prevent or restrict the controlled person from involvement in terrorism-related activity. Punitive obligations therefore are excluded from the regime, as are obligations that do not directly address the risk that the individual poses. To that end, we question whether the remaining proposed paragraphs could be included in the control order. With regard to proposed paragraph (r) it would be the use, not the possession, of such asset that would pose a risk. That is not to say that we do not take the possession of assets by those who pose a risk to the UK's security and interest seriously. We certainly do.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, for indicating that she does not expect me to answer or comment on specific cases, and I shall not do so. The Terrorism Act 2000 introduced a number of special provisions for the detection and prosecution of terrorist finance. For instance, it provided for the seizure and subsequent forfeiture of cash at borders by the police. It required individuals to report activity that came to light in the conduct of their profession, and which aroused suspicion of terrorism. It also allowed the police to place a disclosure order on a financial institution requiring the release of customer information as part of a terrorist investigation.

The Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 amended that framework, allowing the United Kingdom to take immediate targeted action to freeze the assets of overseas individuals or groups that carry out or support terrorist acts. Part 1 and Schedules 1 and 2 to the Act contain provisions to prevent terrorists gaining access to their money. They ensure that investigative and freezing powers are available wherever funds could be used to finance terrorism. The Act gives law enforcement agencies the power to seize terrorist cash anywhere in the United Kingdom, and the power to freeze assets at the start of an
20 Dec 2005 : Column 1662
investigation, rather than when the person is about to be charged, thereby reducing the risk that funds will be used or moved before they can be frozen.

The Newton committee, which reviewed the legislation, concluded that the provisions were a proportionate and effective extension of the framework set by the Terrorism Act 2000. The Act also provides for freezing orders that ensure that controls equivalent to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 apply to terrorism. The control orders include gold, cash, deposits and securities, which include stocks, shares and debentures.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page