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Lord Elton: I think the Minister was giving way so that I could interrupt to say that I was totally satisfied. I have to say that it is too much to hope for. I realise how we test her patience. In the last two sentences before she sat down, she referred to powers that I will want to read about. I will reread what she says between now and Report. She seemed to be saying that if somebody who was not funding terrorism, but was in a position to control security of government and other assets essential to national life, they could be deprived of that control.
including stocks and shares. How one actually puts an order on the owner of a company telling him what he can do about the management of that company needs a little reflection as well. I thought I ought to express
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my reservations, because I hope I will not now be moved to say anything again before the next stage, but she will know what I am thinking about until then.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I thank the noble Lord, but I hope that he will appreciate that, if someone has acquired certain assets, we cannot deprive them of those assets simply because they happen to have a nationality with which we have concerns. That, frankly, would be intolerable.
The Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2001 gives effect to the UN resolution of 28 September and provides the Treasury with the power to direct that funds are not made available to any person specified under that order. Asset freezing is an essential element in measures countering the financing of terrorism, by denying terrorists and their financers access to funds across the world. I can only assume that one of the concerns is that not only may this person have financially infiltrated the system and therefore have assets, but he could also use those assets in a way that might be detrimental and to the disadvantage of this country. We have done a great deal of this work since 11 September 2001; 44 accounts have been frozen in the United Kingdom, and a total of 45 accounts are frozen by UK financial institutions.
In relation to proposed paragraphs (s) and (t), a control order cannot be used to try to uncover criminal activity. If we impose a control order on someone because his terrorist-related activities include, for example, facilitating terrorism through holding assets on trust for other terrorists, the control order itself would address this activity by restricting it. By contrast, if no activity is suspected or known about, it is difficult to see how an obligation could be necessary or proportionate for purposes connected with preventing or restricting involvement by that individual in terrorism-related activity.
I thank the noble Baroness for giving me such a delightful opportunity to explore the issue in such depth. I hope that I have satisfied her that this is a matter that the Government are seized of and which is being dealt with appropriately.
The Minister, in commenting on the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, has drawn your Lordships' attention to the fact that the control order system may not be the appropriate place for such an amendment. That may well be true; but the question that your Lordships' House is seeking to pose to the Minister is whether the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, has identified a real problem. If the Minister accepts that,
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then I am sure that your Lordships' House would accept, in turn, that a piece of legislation other than the control order system might be more appropriate to regulate the problem that the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, identified.
My difficulty with what the Minister has said so far is that I am still unclear whether she thinks that the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, has identified a problem that is not yet covered by any existing legislation.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I am sorry to trouble the Minister's patience further, but I put two other general questions on the amendment which I do not think she has answered. I am sure she can give a robust response.
Could she confirm that there is no truth in the rumours that there are plans for the relaxation of our vetting procedures generally and of the examination of asylum seekers? I am sure that she will be able to reassure your Lordships that there is no truth in these suggestions at all.
FinallyI apologise to the House for not tabling a specific amendmentas I asked at Second Reading and again today, are the Government giving any thought to the possibility that they might encourage debate within the Muslim community on the nature and purpose of Islam, with a view eventually to eliminating violent Islamism?
On the discussion about terrorism and the contribution of all our communities, the noble Lords will know that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and many others have already indicated that that is to be welcomed. We are working closely with the Muslim community to try to address the causes of radicalisation. We are looking at how to take forward the recommendations of the Preventing Extremism Together workshops, which have been meeting since July. All that work is important, but it is also important that we do that work with all our other communities. Terrorism does not, regrettably, attack just one part of our community. It is something to which we are all subject. That was made clear, if it was not clear before, when the bombs went off on 7 July: the people of our country, of all different nationalities, but all British, died, and they died together.
Baroness Cox: I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate and have clarified and enhanced the concerns I tried to express. The noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, very graciously pressed these points with great eloquence and I am grateful for his clarification and persistence on the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter, as I said in my opening remarks, must move a little from the specific to the
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general and from the general to the specific. It deals with the question of undue influence by people who might have terrorist intent through the financial influence of firms of key strategic significance of various kinds.
As the Minister rightly said, I do not expect clarification on matters which have specific security sensitivities. That would cover relationships concerning the Houses of Parliament. We also talked about other organisations; as the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, said, we are really talking about the whole of our industrial, commercial and charitable infrastructure. On the arrangements for ensuring appropriate employment or vetting procedures, I understood the noble Baroness to say that the responsibility lies with employers or contractors. That must be a matter of public transparency. That is not in the realm of the secret and the sensitive; we are dealing with firms such as Texaco, British Airways and others. I am still not sure how much reassurance we have had on the procedures that are in place to ensure that for key posts in those firms, there is adequate vetting for sensitive areas.
The noble Baroness, Lady Park, highlighted a point which has been at the heart of my concern. Here we must move from the general to the specific. There is almost a cartel of security surveillance firms. Security surveillance for a whole range of organisations is arranged through two firmsIEDS and Protec. The range of those firms is enormously significant, particularly when one of the key financial personnel in that firm has close links with the Islamist regime in Khartoum. Saleh Idris owned a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, and anyone who owns a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum must have very close links with the National Islamic Front regime, which is committed to spreading militant Islam throughout Africa and beyond. We must move from the general to the specific in terms of transparency, safeguards and general principle.
Disagreeing for a moment with the Minister, I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, said. We are addressing a specific kind of terrorism: Islamist terrorism. Of course the vast majority of Muslims in this country are peaceable, law-abiding and very hospitable, but there is a definite strand within the Islamic community in this countryand it is incontrovertiblethat is committed to Islamist terrorism and is underpinned by an Islamist ideology which promotes terrorism. That is particularly worrying given the relaxation of restrictions concerning imams in this country. Those of us who have followed these issues, read the websites and heard the speeches know that there are people in this country who are promoting Islamist terrorismAbu Hamza did it freely for many yearsand that many people have come under their influence. We have people who are encouraged by their ideology to promote terrorist activities. It is a new scene which the amendmentwhich I said was probingis designed to address.
I thank the Minister for being so gracious as to call this a delightful debate; it may have been, but I found it disturbing as well. I have not been reassured about
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the heart of the matter, but I will read extremely closely all that the Minister has said. I will consult with people inside and outside this House who share my deep concerns over these deep issues for the security of our country and of innocent civilians who will stand to suffer if we get this wrong. In the meantime, reserving the right to come back after further consultation, I thank all who have contributed to the debate and enhanced my concerns. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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