Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

I am particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, who has been remarkably resistant to change and yet remarkably flexible at the same time, which is quite an achievement. If I have one regret, I have one only. The Bill was 32 pages longer this morning than when it arrived here. As a result of this morning’s work, it is probably 35 pages longer. Those out in the field who have to study the Bill in order to work will have to dig even further and mine even longer shafts in order to receive the nuggets they need on which their work is based.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 319 [Orders and regulations]:

Baroness Andrews moved Amendments Nos. 16 to 20:

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 8 [Amendments of enactments: Part 1]:

Baroness Andrews moved Amendments Nos. 21 and 22:

“Local Government Act 1972 (c. 70)“(g) the Homes and Communities Agency so far as it is exercising functions conferred on it in relation to a designated area by virtue of a designation order.”(a) is to be treated as a reference to such premises located within the designated area as the Homes and Communities Agency considers appropriate, and(b) in the application of section 100A(6)(a) above to a case where the meeting is to be held at premises other than those mentioned in paragraph (a) above, includes a reference to those other premises.”(a) in subsection (2), paragraph (c) was omitted, and(b) in subsection (3), for paragraphs (a) to (c) there were substituted—“(a) a committee established under paragraph 6(1) of Schedule 1 to the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 for the purpose of exercising functions conferred on the Homes and Communities Agency in relation to a designated area by virtue of a designation order; or(b) a sub-committee of such a committee established under paragraph 6(2) of that Schedule to that Act for that purpose.”“Housing Act 1985 (c. 68)

On Question, amendments agreed to.

17 July 2008 : Column 1346

Schedule 11 [Possession orders relating to certain tenancies]:

Baroness Andrews moved Amendments Nos. 23 and 24:

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 16 [Repeals and revocations]:

Baroness Andrews moved Amendment No. 25:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons with amendments.

Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2008

12.40 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 2 July be approved.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the international terrorist threat to the United Kingdom and its interests abroad, and to our international partners, remains severe and sustained. The Government are determined to do all they can to minimise the threat, including using proscription to prevent terrorist organisations from operating in the United Kingdom by inviting support, raising funds or otherwise furthering their objectives.

The purpose of the order, if this House and the other place so approve, is to add to the list of 45 international terrorist organisations that are already proscribed. We propose to do so by substituting the existing proscription of the Hezbollah External Security Organisation with a new listing covering its entire military wing. This is the seventh proscription order made under the Terrorism Act 2000.

Section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2000 provides a power for the Home Secretary to proscribe an organisation if she believes it is concerned in terrorism. This is achieved by adding the organisation to Schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000, which lists the proscribed terrorist organisations. The Act specifies that an organisation is concerned in terrorism if it: commits or participates in acts of terrorism; prepares for terrorism; promotes or encourages terrorism, including the unlawful glorification of terrorism; or is otherwise concerned in terrorism.

17 July 2008 : Column 1347

The Home Secretary may proscribe an organisation only if she believes it is concerned in terrorism. If the test is met, she may then exercise her discretion to proscribe the organisation. When considering whether to exercise this discretion, a number of factors are taken into account, which were first announced to Parliament in 2001. They are: the nature and scale of an organisation’s activities; the specific threat that it poses to the United Kingdom; the specific threat that it poses to British nationals overseas; the organisation’s presence in the United Kingdom; and the need to support other members of the international community in tackling terrorism.

Proscription is a tough but necessary power, and its effect is that the proscribed organisation is outlawed and is unable to operate in the United Kingdom. The consequence of proscription is that specific criminal offences apply in relation to a proscribed organisation. These include membership of the organisation, the provision of various forms of support, including organising or addressing a meeting, and wearing or displaying an article indicating membership of the organisation. Further criminal offences exist in relation to fundraising and various uses of money and property for the purposes of terrorism.

Given the wide-ranging impact of proscription, the Home Secretary exercises her power to proscribe an organisation only after thoroughly reviewing all the available relevant information on it. This includes open-source material as well as intelligence material, legal advice and advice reflecting consultations across government, including with the intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Decisions on proscription are taken with great care by the Home Secretary, and it is also right that both Houses must consider the case for proscribing new organisations.

The Hezbollah External Security Organisation, a unit of the military wing, was proscribed in 2001 because of its involvement in terrorism outside Lebanon. We now have evidence that further parts of the organisation are directly concerned in terrorism, and this is why the entire military wing, including the External Security Organisation, is specified in this order. I am sure that noble Lords will appreciate that I am limited in what I can say about the evidence in support of this belief, as much of it is intelligence material and of a sensitive nature. I can, however, say unequivocally that Hezbollah’s military wing is providing active support to Shia militant groups in Iraq, including Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM), which has been responsible for attacks on both Iraqi civilians and coalition forces. This includes providing training in the use of deadly, explosively formed projectiles used in roadside bombs.

Although I am unable to go into the detail of the evidence, I can inform noble Lords that Hezbollah’s support for insurgent groups in Iraq was confirmed when coalition forces captured a senior Hezbollah operative, Ali Musa Daqduq, in Iraq on 20 March 2007. Daqduq is a Lebanese national who served for 24 years in Hezbollah. In 2005, he was directed by senior Lebanese Hezbollah military commanders to train Shia groups in Iraq. Hezbollah’s military wing is also providing support to Palestinian rejectionist groups in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

17 July 2008 : Column 1348

The proscription of Hezbollah’s military wing will contribute to making the United Kingdom a hostile environment for terrorists and their supporters. It will signal our condemnation of the support that Hezbollah provides to those who attack British and other coalition forces in Iraq, as well as Iraqi civilians. It will support our international partners in disrupting terrorist activity in the occupied Palestinian territories, and it will also send a strong message that the United Kingdom is not willing to tolerate terrorism either here or anywhere else in the world.

Noble Lords will be aware that, alongside its military operations, Hezbollah performs a legitimate political, social and humanitarian role in Lebanon. Proscription is not targeted at, and will not affect, these legitimate activities, but it sends a clear message that we condemn Hezbollah’s violence and support for terrorism. We continue to call on Hezbollah to end terrorist activity, abandon its status as an armed group and participate in the democratic process on the same terms as other Lebanese political parties.

As a final point, I have already said that the Government recognise that proscription is a tough power that can have a wide-ranging impact. Because of this, there is an appeal mechanism in the legislation. Any organisation that is proscribed, or anyone affected by the proscription of an organisation, can apply to the Home Secretary for the organisation to be deproscribed. If this is refused, the applicant can appeal to the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission, POAC, a special tribunal which reviews whether the Home Secretary has properly exercised her powers to refuse to deproscribe the organisation. POAC is able to consider the sensitive material that often underpins proscription decisions, and a special advocate can be appointed to represent the interests of the applicant in closed sessions of the commission.

Given the evidence of the military wing of Hezbollah’s direct support for terrorism in Iraq and the occupied Palestinian territories, it is right that we extend the existing proscription of the External Security Organisation to cover Hezbollah’s entire military wing. I commend the order to the House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the order laid before the House on 2 July be approved. 25th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.—(Lord West of Spithead.)

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, Part 2 of the Terrorism Act 2000 contains a procedure for proscribing organisations that the Secretary of State believes to be “concerned in terrorism”. As the Minister stated, this covers any organisation which,

The list of proscribed organisations is set out in Schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000. The Secretary of State has the power, by order, to add to, remove or amend a name on the list.

Sections 11 and 12 of the Terrorism Act 2000 create a wide range of offences dealing with membership or professed membership of proscribed organisations, the promotion of them and meetings in support of them. Moreover, the grounds for proscription have

17 July 2008 : Column 1349

been widened by the recent Terrorism Act 2006. Under Section 21 of that Act, organisations which “glorify” the commission or preparation of acts of terrorism can also be proscribed.

On 2 July, the Government laid before Parliament this order seeking to proscribe the military wing of Hezbollah in its entirety, including the jihad council and all units reporting to it. If the order is approved by Parliament, it will be a criminal offence to belong to, fundraise and encourage support for the military wing of the organisation.

The Explanatory Memorandum to the order states inter alia:

During Prime Minister’s Questions on 2 July, the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister told the House:

The Government have emphasised that this order will not affect Hezbollah’s political, social and humanitarian activities. Introducing the order, the Home Office Minister, the right honourable Tony McNulty, said that proscription of Hezbollah’s military wing would not affect the legitimate political, social and humanitarian role Hezbollah plays in the Lebanon but would send out a clear message that the Government condemn Hezbollah’s violence and support for terrorism.

With respect to that observation, can the Minister explain how this distinction will work in practice? Can the group be simultaneously legitimate and a terrorist organisation? This suggests two entirely separate wings of Hezbollah that operate independently from each other. Is the Minister confident that this is really the case? In particular, to what extent does Sheikh Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s recognised leader and in overall charge of Hezbollah’s military activities, have control over Hezbollah politicians within the Lebanese Cabinet?

Will the United Kingdom seek the proscription of Hezbollah’s military wing by the European Union? Does the Minister not agree that if the United Kingdom designation is to have any real effect, it needs to be extended to the Union as a whole?

Does the Minister not agree that this move to ban the military wing must be linked to steps to achieve the group’s disarmament, without which it will remain an unacceptable threat to Israel and to the security of the region?

What evidence does the Minister have of Hezbollah’s fundraising activities in the United Kingdom, and if none, what measures are being taken to identify such

17 July 2008 : Column 1350

activity? The Government’s measure falls short of proscribing the whole organisation. Will that not increase the risk of fundraising, supposedly for political and humanitarian purposes, being diverted to Hezbollah’s military activities?

In announcing the decision to proscribe the whole military wing of Hezbollah, the Prime Minister said the move was based,

Does the reference to terrorism in Iraq include any specific threat to United Kingdom personnel?

The proposed policy towards Hezbollah contrasts with the Government’s approach towards the Tamil Tigers and the Kurdish PKK, both of which are fully proscribed. The right answer, surely, is for the order to impose a complete ban on Hezbollah in the United Kingdom; otherwise, it will continue to be able to raise funds which, and recruit members who, can then be diverted for terrorist purposes.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we on these Benches support this order, although we would certainly not join with the Conservatives in supporting a complete ban on Hezbollah in the United Kingdom. We have spent many years, all of us involved in United Kingdom politics, accepting the rather artificial distinction between Sinn Fein as a political movement and the Irish Republican Army as a military operation. We recognised at the time that it was important to maintain that there was a distinction, even though that distinction was never entirely clear.

We all accept that the threat from terrorist organisations in the United Kingdom and elsewhere is real but that, as an open and democratic country, political movements operating in and outside Britain have legitimate functions to fulfil and, furthermore, in our very diverse society, that charitable activities in the United Kingdom to support suffering in other countries are legitimate. I do much of my politics in Yorkshire and I am conscious that the issue of charitable activities to support humanitarian projects in other countries can on occasions be quite controversial. Nevertheless, we have to maintain those clear distinctions. We also recognise that one man’s terrorist activity outside Britain is another person’s armed resistance.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page