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Grand Committee

Tuesday, 19 November 2013.

Arrangement of Business


3.30 pm

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Skelmersdale) (Con): Good afternoon, my Lords. In the Grand Committee this afternoon we have three statutory instruments and one Question for Short Debate. If there is a Division in the House, the Committee will adjourn for 10 minutes.

Defamation (Operators of Websites) Regulations 2013

Considered in Grand Committee

3.30 pm

Moved by Lord McNally

That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Defamation (Operators of Websites) Regulations 2013.

Relevant document: 10th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally) (LD): My Lords, these regulations are made in exercise of the powers conferred on the Secretary of State for Justice by Section 5 of the Defamation Act 2013. Section 5 creates a new defence against an action for defamation for the operators of websites hosting user-generated content. Where an action in defamation is brought against a website operator in respect of such material the operator will not, however, be able to rely on that defence where the claimant shows: that he or she did not know who had posted the statement on the website; that he or she had complained to the operator about the statement in the proper way; and that the operator had failed to respond to that complaint in the way set out in these regulations.

The approach that we have taken in these regulations aims to support freedom of expression by allowing operators generally to retain the benefit of the defence without the need for material to be taken down where the person who has posted it co-operates with the process and wishes to stand by the material. In such a case the process will help to enable complainants to resolve their concerns with, or take action against, the poster of the allegedly defamatory material. Equally it will ensure that, to rely on the defence, an operator must remove the material complained about where the poster cannot be identified or is unwilling to engage in the process.

Informal views were sought on the contents of the process set out in the regulations from a range of key stakeholders including internet organisations, claimant and defendant representatives, media bodies and non-governmental organisations.

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To benefit from the Section 5 defence, operators will be required to carry out prescribed actions within a short fixed time limit. A range of views was expressed by stakeholders on what time limits were appropriate. We consider that the approach we have taken strikes the right balance in ensuring that action is taken as promptly as possible, without placing unreasonable burdens on operators or denying posters a reasonable opportunity to engage with the process.

The time limits are subject to a general discretion, in the event of a defamation action being brought against the operator, for the court to waive any time limit if it considers that it is in the interests of justice to do so. That will ensure that the defence is not lost through, for example, an inadvertent or unavoidable failure by an operator to comply with a time limit if the court thinks that this would be unfair. The process is not compulsory, and operators can still choose either to remove a statement immediately on receipt of a complaint, or allow it to remain posted. An operator which takes either course of action can of course seek to rely on any other defences that may be available against a defamation action.

Noble Lords may find it helpful if I explain the process established by the regulations in detail. To trigger the process, a person complaining about a statement posted on an operator’s website must send the operator a notice of complaint. Regulation 2 and Section 5(6) of the Act set out the information that must be included in a notice of complaint.

These provisions require that the notice must state where on the website the statement was posted, set out what the statement says and explain why it is defamatory of the complainant, and explain what meaning the complainant attributes to the statement and what aspects he or she believes are factually inaccurate or are opinions not supported by fact. The notice must also confirm that the complainant does not have sufficient information about the poster to bring proceedings directly against him or her.

The complainant does not have to provide detailed evidence to support what is said, but the intention is that the poster should have sufficient information to reach an informed decision on how to respond. The complainant must also provide his or her name and an e-mail address at which he or she can be contacted, but can ask the operator not to provide this to the poster of the statement. These provisions were supported by a substantial majority of those who provided views on the content of the regulations.

Where the complainant does not provide all the required information, to retain the defence Regulation 4 provides that the operator must inform the complainant of this in writing within 48 hours of receipt of the notice of complaint, and must tell the complainant what is required for a notice to be valid. In common with other instances under the regulations where an operator is required to take action within 48 hours, this time period excludes non-business days such as weekends. The operator is not required to specify exactly what it considers is wrong with the notice that the complainant has sent. This avoids imposing any obligation on an operator to guide or advise the complainant. However, the guidance accompanying

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the regulations makes clear that operators can provide this information to the complainant if they wish to do so.

Paragraphs 2 to 4 of the Schedule to the regulations explain what an operator which wishes to rely on the defence must do on receipt of a valid notice of complaint. Paragraph 2 provides that the operator must contact the poster of the statement complained of within 48 hours and paragraph 4 provides that it must also inform the complainant that this has been done. If the operator has no means of contacting the poster by e-mail or another means of private electronic messaging, paragraph 3 of the Schedule to the regulations provides that, in order to retain the defence, the operator must remove the statement within 48 hours and must inform the complainant that this has been done.

Paragraph 2 of the Schedule sets out what information the operator has to provide to the poster to enable the poster to respond to the complaint. This includes a deadline for the poster to respond of midnight at the end of the fifth day after the day on which the operator sends the information to the poster. The operator must specify the calendar date on which the deadline expires and ask the poster within that time to confirm whether or not the poster wishes the statement to be removed from the website and, if not, to provide his or her name and postal address to the operator and confirm whether or not he or she consents to this information being released to the complainant.

Paragraphs 5, 6 and 7 of the Schedule deal respectively with situations where the poster fails to respond within the prescribed time period, where the poster responds but does not provide all the information requested, or where the poster agrees to the removal of the statement. In all these circumstances the operator is then required to remove the statement within 48 hours and to inform the complainant that this has been done. If the poster provides a name and postal address that a reasonable operator would consider to be obviously false, the operator is required to treat the response as not containing all the required information, and hence must remove the statement.

To ensure that the regulations operate effectively where the statement has already been removed before the operator is required to do so, paragraph 1 of the Schedule provides that in those circumstances the operator is taken to have complied with the relevant requirement.

If the poster indicates that he wishes the statement to remain on the website and provides the relevant contact details, paragraph 8 of the Schedule provides that the operator must inform the complainant within 48 hours that the statement has not been removed and, if the poster agrees, pass the poster’s contact details on to the complainant. If the poster does not agree to release his contact details, the operator must inform the complainant of this. Provided it has complied with these requirements, the operator will have a defence under Section 5 unless it can be shown that the operator acted with malice in relation to the posting of the statement concerned.

Where the poster has not consented to release of his or her contact details to the complainant, it will be a matter for the complainant to consider what further

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action he may wish to take. It will, for example, be open to the complainant to seek a court order, known as a Norwich Pharmacal order, for the operator to release the information that they hold on the poster’s identity and contact details so that legal proceedings can be brought against the poster.

Paragraph 9 of the Schedule provides further protection for complainants in circumstances where material has been removed following a notice of complaint, but the poster persists in reposting the same or substantially the same material on the same website. On the first such occasion, to keep the Section 5 defence the operator must follow the full process and seek the poster’s views. However, on being informed by the complainant that the poster has posted the same or substantially the same statement on two or more previous occasions, the operator is required to remove the statement within 48 hours of receiving the notice of complaint without seeking to contact the poster again.

We consider that this is a fair and proportionate approach which gives the poster an opportunity on a first reposting to engage with the process in circumstances where, for example, they were not aware of the original notice of complaint but which tackles persistent reposting by immediate removal.

I believe that the process established by the regulations strikes a fair balance between freedom of expression and the protection of reputation and between the interests of all those involved, and that it will provide a useful and effective means of helping to resolve disputes over online material. I therefore commend these draft regulations and I beg to move.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill (LD): My Lords, we should be very grateful to my noble friend for a very full explanation of what he seeks to be approved today. It sounds dry and technical but, in fact, although I do not say that my noble friend Lord McNally is like Moses in the splendid portrait, bringing down the tables of the law to the Israelites, in seeking the approval of the House to the regulations what he is doing is important not only in this country but throughout Europe and in the wider world.

We are trying in the regulations to lay down a fair framework, as my noble friend said, which will provide effective remedies to victims without unduly burdening the freedom of speech. If he will allow me to say so—he has little choice—I remember him at an early stage insisting that the Defamation Bill should cover the difficult subject of defamation via the internet. That was an important decision taken by him, however difficult it was to give effect to it. It was important because we had no proper laws in this country striking a fair balance between free speech and defamation in relation to the internet. The regulations are part of the process which, I understand, will come into force in April. They will be read with interest in the United States, on the most libertarian side, and in China, on the most restrictive.

3.45 pm

In this country we are subject to the e-commerce directive, which strikes a European balance between the extremes of absolute immunity for internet service

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providers and the Chinese firewall—the great wall of China—which seeks to regulate the internet. In Europe, we find a compromise and the beauty of these regulations is that they strike a fair balance, as the Minister has said. They do not deal with other problems of speech via the internet. They do not deal with privacy. They do not deal, obviously, with cybercrime. They do not deal with copyright, which is dealt with very well by our own courts. They deal with all that they can deal with, which is defamation. I am sure that it is right to do so by means of regulations rather than on the face of the statute. That enables flexibility in the future when, as I am sure we will have to, we will need to amend the scheme in the light of further technological change.

In one sense, we are trying to do something which King Canute’s courtiers failed to do. They could not stop the tide from coming in and we cannot in this country, by our one system alone, deal with all abuses on the world wide web. However, I would be sceptical about trying to seek too much international regulation of the internet because I fear that that would, unlike these regulations, be too coercive of free speech and too much overregulation.

I congratulate the noble Lord and the Government on these regulations. They are probably the last word that we will say in this House about the process of completing the work on the Defamation Act, which has taken three careful years by the noble Lord and his team, and by the other place. I am very glad to be present today to welcome these regulations.

Lord Beecham (Lab): My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Lester, who was instrumental in securing reform of defamation law and has campaigned long and hard for that. I also join him in thanking the Minister for walking us through this rather tangled undergrowth of regulations. I am bound to say that the Minister reminds me less of Moses bringing down the tablets than perhaps Daniel exercising judgment. I should like to think that I was descended from one or other; I may be remotely connected but I do not think that I am descended from either of them.

After 45 years as a solicitor, I know something about the law of defamation, although I would not claim to be an expert. But when it comes to the world of computers, information technology and social media, I confess to being an utter novice. At the risk of being labelled a Marxist by the right-wing press or Conservative Central Office, I recall some words of Marx—Groucho, I hasten to add, and not Karl. In one of his films, which might have been “A Night at the Opera” but I would not swear to that, he is seen poring over a map and declares that a child of five could understand the map. He continues: “Bring me a child of five”. I am tempted to make the same request when confronted by matters of the kind encompassed by these regulations.

We share the Government’s objective to protect freedom of speech, in which the internet and social media can and do play such an important part. We welcome the thrust of the regulations, although perhaps it would have been better if guidance on Section 5 of the Defamation Act had been available in draft form when the legislation was under consideration on its

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journey through Parliament. The regulations appear to offer reasonable protection to the operators of websites but there are perhaps questions about the extent to which they adequately protect those who claim to be defamed by material appearing on those sites. Thus, the website operator will have a defence, as we have heard, to an action if it can show that it did not post the material in question unless the claimant can show that he or she did not have sufficient information to bring legal proceedings against the poster of the statement and that the operator failed to comply with a notice requiring it to identify the poster requested by the complainant. Of course, this assumes that the claimant has the means to pursue that legal remedy, a somewhat questionable proposition in the light of the matter of costs. We are not now dealing with conventional media stories with a limited shelf life and relatively limited audience, although perhaps quite a wide reach, but with material with a potentially unlimited shelf life—unless, like the Conservative Party’s once publicly available material, it can be conveniently hidden—and a consequently higher risk of damage to a complainant’s reputation.

Part 4 of the guidance explains that the operator will have a defence when the complainant has sufficient information to bring an action against a poster but, again, that relies on the claimant having the means to do so—and what if the poster is outside the jurisdiction? It is all very well for the guidance to proclaim that disputes should be resolved directly between the complainant and the poster but, in the event that the poster does not wish a statement to be removed and his details to be released to the complainant, the latter will have to obtain a court order to obtain the details, again raising the issue of cost. Would it not have been better to have established for these purposes a less formal and less expensive mechanism, in which a panel, perhaps financed by the industry itself, could determine whether the information as to identity should be released and whether the post should be removed, leaving the question of financial compensation to be determined by the courts?

On a further point, what is the Government’s response to the observation of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee to the need for the guidance to define,

“how terms such as ‘receipt’ are interpreted in this legislation”?

The Explanatory Memorandum to the regulations sets out the response to consultation and lays down welcome tighter timetables for action by the operator and poster following a notice of complaint. However, somewhat disappointingly, it requires further notices to be given when the material has been the subject of two or more complaints rather than immediately. Moreover, paragraph 9 of the Schedule to the regulations makes it clear that even the more limited protection afforded by this provision is available only when the same poster is involved. If a different person posts the same material, the whole process must be gone through again by the defamed claimant—and the material can be identical.

My honourable friend Dan Jarvis, speaking for the Opposition yesterday in the debate in the Commons, asked the Government whether they would keep the new process under early review, given the speed at

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which the world moves. Is the Minister able to confirm that that is the Government’s intention and that such a review would be initiated within a year of the regulations taking effect and be kept under regular review thereafter? Will they look again at suggestions made in Committee during debates on the Defamation Bill that would require the operator to post a notice of complaint, should one be received, alongside the alleged defamatory material so that those who view the material can, at least, be alerted to the fact that the matter is disputed?

Having said that, we support the regulations. As the noble Lord, Lord Lester, indicated, things change, and it is necessary to keep these matters under review. Perhaps some of the points that I have raised could be taken on board at the time of the first review and in the light of the experience that will develop over the next few months or so.

Lord McNally: My Lords, I am grateful for the contributions of both noble Lords. As the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, said, the noble Lord, Lord Lester, is very much the godfather of this Act, and I have benefited from his wisdom over the whole three years. As he says, the end is nigh, in that the Act will come into force on 1 January 2014, including these regulations. He points to the fact that although the Act itself will, I hope, give the kind of balance between freedom and the rights of the defamed which will stand the test of time, as he and the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, have said, legislators will always have the problem of how fast technology moves. I am not one of those who believe that new communications technologies should be beyond governance, but it is going to be a continuing challenge. The noble Lord rightly points to areas such as copyright, privacy and cybercrime, which we will continue to grapple with. But we set an example by being flexible and, as both noble Lords indicated, by underpinning free speech as far as we can and avoiding overregulation.

The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, always starts with a statement of modesty by saying that he does not understand these things and that they are all so complex. He then deftly skips through the particular regulations posing me difficult questions. I will try to address some of them.

Anyone listening to this debate will know that this is a complex matter, but it is complex because we have to get the balance right between the poster, the internet provider and the complainant. We do not want to overburden the provider with regulations or drag him into court cases. This is an attempt to ensure that the complainant and the poster are brought face to face, as it were, as easily as possible.

We are taking steps to introduce a system of cost protection for defamation and privacy and have recently consulted on that. We are currently considering the views expressed with the intention of introducing that as early as possible next year. I am grateful to the Master of the Rolls for the advice that he has given me on that.

On monitoring, it is always tempting, particularly for the Opposition, to ask for a review within a year. We obviously need an opportunity to see how these

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matters will settle down. Parliament has put in place formal reviews within a period of three to five years of royal assent. This Act will be subject to the usual arrangements of parliamentary scrutiny. However, the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, is quite right. We will continue to informally monitor the operation of these regulations and we will certainly not hesitate to draw the attention of Parliament to them if they do not seem to function as we hope they will.

On not releasing details and putting complainants to the cost of a Norwich Pharmacal order, there may be a good reason why the poster is unwilling to release the contact details. On balance, we consider that it is right for a court order to be obtained in these circumstances. However, there may also be cases where, through the operation of the process set out in regulations, a poster agrees to release contact details to the complainant, avoiding the necessity to obtain a court order.

The other question was on the matter of the definition of “received” in the regulations. While ultimately it will be for the court to interpret the regulations, we consider that the word “received” should be given its natural meaning and that therefore the notice of complaint would be “received” at the point when it is delivered. That is when it has arrived at the operator’s machine. We will make that view clearer in the guidance accompanying the regulations.

As both noble Lords indicated, the Act has been broadly welcomed by those who have campaigned for it. We believe that it will defend free speech while giving those who are defamed a reasonable opportunity for redress, and with some protection from the costs of doing so. Section 5 of the Act, and these regulations, represent an important part of the package of measures designed to reform the law of defamation. The noble Lord, Lord Lester, is right: given the way the world is moving from the printed page to electronic communications, it would have ducked the issue had we not tried to address the matter in the Act. In so doing, I think we strike a fair balance between freedom of expression and the protection of reputation, as I said in my opening remarks. The regulations strike a fair balance between the various interests involved, and their approval will enable the Act as a whole to be brought into force on a timely basis at the end of this year. I hope that noble Lords will agree that this is a proportionate and sensible measure.

Motion agreed.

Judicial Appointments (Amendment) Order 2013

Considered in Grand Committee

4.01 pm

Moved by Lord McNally

That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Judicial Appointments (Amendment) Order 2013.

Relevant document: 10th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.

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The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally) (LD): My Lords, the order before us, if passed, will make fellows of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives—CILEx—eligible for coroner appointments under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. The order essentially has two main aims, which are complementary: to make coroner appointments potentially more diverse; and to increase the range of roles which CILEx fellows can perform, to include that of coroner.

The order will amend the Judicial Appointments Order 2008, made under Section 51 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. In practical terms the order is the final part of the legislative package of reforms that the Government committed to when we implemented the coroner reforms in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 earlier this year. As background, I hope it will be of use to explain how the 2009 and 2007 Acts work together to determine eligibility for coronial appointment.

Under the 2009 Act, a potential candidate must have met what is known as the “judicial appointment eligibility criteria” for at least five years. Under Sections 50 to 52 of the 2007 Act, this means that they have a relevant legal qualification and have gained experience in law for five years or more. In practice, the only people who meet the criteria are solicitors and barristers. Under Section 51 of the 2007 Act, the Lord Chancellor may extend the list of relevant qualifications that make someone eligible for a judicial appointment. The Judicial Appointments Order 2008 exercised that power and provided that CILEx fellows were eligible for various judicial posts, such as deputy district judge and judge of the First-tier Tribunal. These posts are set out in Schedule 1 to the 2008 order.

The 2013 order will amend the 2008 order simply by adding coroners to the list of roles for which CILEx fellows are eligible, so in future CILEx fellows will be considered to have a relevant qualification to be a coroner. The order is a continuation of the Government’s aim to increase the diversity of those who can apply for and hold judicial positions.

Sections 50 to 52 of the 2007 Act and the 2008 order have already removed some of the old barriers to judicial appointment. Coroners are appointed slightly differently from those holding other judicial appointments and in fact the process for appointing them has recently changed. It may be helpful if I take a moment to explain this and put it in the context of increasing diversity of appointments.

Under the Coroners Act 1988, coroners were appointed by their local authority, but then were free to appoint their own deputies and assistants. Now, under the 2009 Act, every coroner appointment is made by the relevant local authority. Every vacancy is advertised and every proposed appointment requires the consent of the Lord Chancellor and chief coroner.

The new system has only just been put in place. However, this new advertising and central scrutiny of all posts will increase the transparency of appointments. It will enable applications from a more diverse pool of people who may never have heard about a vacancy under the old system. Although the actual appointment process for coroners is different from other judicial

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ones, I think it has to be the case that the same principle of increasing diversity of applicants should apply to all these appointments.

Any changes to the 2008 order are not just the Government’s responsibility. They also require the approval of the Judicial Appointments Commission and the Lord Chief Justice. I can report that both have confirmed that they support our proposal. We have also sought stakeholders’ views on the policy behind this draft order. We did this in the spring as part of our consultation on implementing our proposed reforms to the coroner system under the 2009 Act.

Responses on this issue were split evenly between those who supported the proposal, those who did not, and those who expressed no view. CILEx itself was among those who welcomed the proposal, because of its potential to increase the diversity of coroners and competition for the role. Other respondents, including many coroners, worried that extending eligibility for coronial appointment could lower standards.

We published our response to the consultation in early July. To address concerns about lowering standards, we confirmed that we would be increasing eligibility only for applying for coroner roles. Our aim was to encourage suitable CILEx fellows to apply for coroners’ posts. However, their applications would subsequently be assessed against the same consistent and transparent criteria as those from solicitors and barristers. Appointments would be made purely on merit.

To put it simply, if a CILEx fellow applied and was the best candidate he or she would be appointed as coroner. If the fellow applied and the application was weak, he or she would not be appointed. Having made this clear, the consultation response reconfirmed our commitment to make the proposed change later in 2013.

Finally, this draft order also has the support of the chief coroner, His Honour Judge Peter Thornton QC. We are working closely with the chief coroner on the new coroner appointments system, as well as the implementation of the other recent changes in the system.

I hope that I have demonstrated the merits of the order before us today. It will permit those CILEx fellows who may be more than adequately skilled and experienced to, for the first time, apply for a coroner’s role. They will then be assessed to the same high and consistent standards as other applicants, to ensure that the best person gets the job. It is no more than what bereaved people deserve. I beg to move.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill (LD): My Lords, I have always been in favour of widening the pool, as far as one can, for judicial appointments, provided that there are adequate safeguards. I am satisfied that there are adequate safeguards and I think that it is in the public interest if the pool of people can be widened in the way which my noble friend described.

Lord Beecham (Lab): My Lords, I served my articles to a solicitor who was a coroner, and subsequently went into partnership with him. I may regale the Minister with a couple of stories from the coroners’ courts after the sitting. There are certainly some interesting

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side-lights that he might enjoy. I join the noble Lord, Lord Lester, in congratulating the Government on widening the range of possible appointees. There is no earthly reason why a competent and experienced legal executive should not exercise the coronal functions. In passing, I am also glad that we still have a chief coroner, notwithstanding the Government’s early aspirations in that regard. That should also lend confidence to the legal profession generally that the standards will be maintained.

It has to be said that, from time to time, one hears criticisms of coroners, as one does of other members holding judicial appointments in our legal system. Some of the new appointees may likewise incur some questioning and criticism, but that does not vitiate the thrust of the Government’s policy, which is to widen the range of potential applicants and encourage those who take that particular form of legal career to progress their careers and make their contribution to society.

We are glad to see the order and congratulate the Government on introducing it.

Lord McNally: My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords. I suspect that the clue to the unity is the fact that we were using legislation passed by the previous Government, including the reforms to the coroners. The chief coroner is of course very much the child of this House in the way that it advises and revises. It advised us to keep a chief coroner and, being a wise Government, we accepted that advice. I have benefited from it in bringing forward the order.

Lord Beecham: I thought for a moment that the noble Lord was implying that some of us were going to need the services of a coroner before very long.

Lord McNally: Ultimately, we all will.

The noble Lord said that he had some stories about coroners. Along the rocky road that I have travelled, I was political adviser to the Prime Minister, James Callaghan, whose personal physician was Monty Levine. Monty Levine was coroner in Westminster and Southwark for about 20 years. I think he was a doctor who qualified as a coroner. In the order and what is in the legislation, we are bringing consistency, but also an opportunity for diversity, both of which are entirely welcome. I am very grateful for the support from the noble Lords, Lord Lester and Lord Beecham, and I commend the draft order to the House.

Motion agreed.

Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Procedure) (Amendment) Rules 2013

Considered in Grand Committee

4.14 pm

Moved by Lord McNally

That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Procedure) (Amendment) Rules 2013.

Relevant document: 11th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.

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The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally) (LD): My Lords, the amendment provides for the extension of the current SIAC rules to cover new applications resulting from the new jurisdiction inserted into the Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act as a result of the Justice and Security Act 2013. This enables the Home Secretary to certify that certain exclusion, naturalisation and citizenship decisions were made in reliance on sensitive information which should not be made public in the interests of national security, in the interests of the relationship between the UK and another country, or otherwise in the public interest.

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission, or SIAC, was set up under the Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act 1997. It hears immigration and asylum appeals involving national security issues and/or sensitive information which should not be made public—for instance, cases where intelligence is part of the evidence and the material cannot be released to the appellant, or his representatives, for fear of compromising sources or the national security of the UK. It has heard appeals under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 by persons certified as suspected international terrorists, and it currently hears appeals against deprivation of citizenship.

The Justice and Security Act 2013, which commenced in June this year, contained a number of provisions designed to control the disclosure, during litigation, of material which if released could be damaging to our national security. Section 15 of the Act amends the Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act 1997 to ensure that, where the Home Secretary excludes someone from the United Kingdom or refuses to naturalise them as a British citizen on the basis of sensitive material, the appropriate place for that decision to be challenged should be the Special Immigration Appeals Commission.

Previously, any individual in that situation could apply to the High Court to set aside the decision. This was a far from satisfactory arrangement for two reasons. First, prior to the Justice and Security Act 2013, the High Court had no facility for closed material proceedings, and even now it has only limited provision for them. Secondly, SIAC is the tribunal with the greatest expertise in considering sensitive national security cases, as well as having expertise in immigration matters.

Parliament therefore deemed that challenges to exclusions or citizenship decisions would be best heard by SIAC. In order for SIAC to entertain these new challenges, its procedure rules must first be amended, and that is what we must turn our attention to now.

The rules that sit before us have been produced on behalf of the Lord Chancellor, following a short period of consultation with several of the parties who best know SIAC. The list of consultees includes the Law Society, the Bar Council and indeed the sitting chair of SIAC.

In the main, the amendments that these rules make simply confirm that all the existing rules, covering the kinds of appeal that SIAC has heard since its inception in 1997, now apply to the review of exclusion and naturalisation decisions. These are purely administrative

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changes which establish the guidelines relating to time limits for seeking a review, submission of forms and so on.

However, the rules have a number of substantial effects. First, although SIAC uses closed material proceedings regularly, the SIAC Act 1997 allows this by providing that rules may make provision for closed material proceedings. Therefore, until these rules are passed, it is difficult for SIAC fully to consider applications for review of exclusion or citizenship decisions.

Secondly, these rules establish the obligations upon the Home Secretary when disclosing material following an application for a review of an exclusion or naturalisation decision. These disclosure obligations are slightly different from those attached to a conventional appeal, and new Rule 10B makes that distinction. The difference derives from the fact that applications for review are to be decided on the principles applicable in an application for judicial review, and therefore the duty of candour represents the correct approach to disclosure. By contrast, appeals to SIAC are merits-based. SIAC is not simply reviewing the Home Secretary’s decision; it is making its own. Therefore, in appeals, a fuller disclosure process is required.

Thirdly, your Lordships may wish to note Rule 29, which amends 2003’s Rule 40 to give the commission the power, where appropriate, to reinstate an appeal or application for review which had previously been struck out. This, I hope the Committee will agree, will benefit the interests of justice by ensuring that an appellant or claimant need not be punished for a failure to comply with SIAC’s rules when the failure is for a reason outside their control. Indeed, this amendment results from a judicial suggestion made by the president of SIAC in a recent judgment in a case known as R1—see paragraph 28 of the judgment in R1 dated 21 May 2013, which can be found on SIAC’s website.

There is a particular need to affirm these rules without delay, as until they take effect the new cases which SIAC will hear cannot be progressed to conclusion. That affects the 60 or so claimants whose pre-existing High Court challenges will be certified and terminated under the Justice and Security Act’s transitional powers but whose applications to SIAC cannot be fully considered without these new rules. I beg to move.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill (LD): My Lords, this course is important and sensitive. I would like to give a little background to how SIAC came to be set up and involved in this way in this procedure. It happened because of a case called Chahal. Mr Chahal was a Sikh and suspected terrorist being sent back to India. Under the old three wise men procedure there was no proper judicial process to decide whether he should be sent back, so he brought a case in Strasbourg. The problem was how you reconcile justice and the needs of national security. In the Chahal case, the various NGOs that intervened mentioned that there was a Canadian process that allowed national security and justice to be reconciled by a procedure rather similar to what the House is now considering.

I then did two cases from the bad old days, one in which the then Secretary of State prevented women in the Royal Ulster Constabulary part-time reserve having

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their sex discrimination cases determined in Belfast on the basis that it involved national security and that in no circumstances could his certificate be set aside. The second one involved alleged Catholic discrimination in Northern Ireland, where another Secretary of State again sought to prevent the applicants having the merits of their cases reviewed.

The SIAC procedure of 1997 was Parliament’s decision at the time to apply something like the Canadian procedure to enable national security and justice to be properly weighed. I have one experience of SIAC from the distant past, when I represented a group of suspected terrorists, who later won their case—not through me—in Luxembourg. My experience then was very unhappy. I and they did not consider that the way it was dealt with by SIAC felt fair. But that was a long time ago and I am sure that lessons were learnt a long time ago. For my part, we are now concerned with not the controversial matters that plagued the House for so long when considering the Justice and Security Bill, but a perfectly sensible grafting on to the existing SIAC procedure of matters that clearly belong within SIAC under those procedures and nowhere else.

I recognise the compromises that are struck in these rules, one of which is where the Home Secretary—the Minister—decides to object to the disclosure of information to the claimant. My understanding is that there can then be a special advocate procedure to deal with that. That is a compromise that I reluctantly accept has to apply in this context. I hope, having said all that, that it provides a little more context to what we are talking about. For my part, I support the Motion before the Committee.

Lord Beecham (Lab): Once again, there are three of us in this marriage, to quote a much more distinguished person.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lester, for his long contribution to the evolution of the law in this area and the conduct of the debate. Of course, we spent a considerable time debating closed material procedures when we were engaged in a more recent piece of legislation. It is perhaps worth remembering that the procedures under SIAC are rather more stringent in terms of the criteria that a tribunal can apply, since the Justice and Security Act requirement is to protect matters of national security, but SIAC’s remit is wider. It has the potential of ruling out material that is contrary not only to the interests of national security but the international relations of the United Kingdom, the detection and prevention of crime or in any other circumstance where disclosure is likely to harm the public interest. That is a much wider range, but this is a rather separate case. We are not at the moment disputing that.

However, the Minister referred to consultation about the proposals. I make it clear that we are not opposing the proposals. He cited the special advocates, the Law Society, the Bar Council and the chairman of SIAC as having been consulted. He did not mention that the Home Office, the Treasury Solicitor, the security and intelligence agencies and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office were also consulted, which is perfectly proper. But can he say if anyone else was consulted? Were

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organisations concerned with representing people in this situation consulted? Were voluntary organisations such as Liberty or Justice for All consulted? Were any bodies or organisations working with those involved in immigration matters consulted, such as the association of immigration lawyers? It would be interesting to know whether the consultation was confined to those who might be expected to have few, if any, reservations about it as opposed to those who might want to raise other issues.

For my part, having had some communication from the association of immigration lawyers, there is one matter that I would be grateful for some elucidation about. There is a concern that the transitional provisions in the rules could allow a case currently progressing in the High Court as a judicial review to be hijacked and taken to the commission. I have no idea whether there is any substance in that fear. Will the Minister—perhaps not at this moment—clarify whether that is a possibility and, if it is a possibility, how likely it is and how many current cases might be caught? It would be a matter of concern if it is a possibility, although, of course, it may not be and I am perfectly content to await the Minister’s response on that.

Another possibility that has been raised is that perhaps some matters have been held back from being listed for hearing on a judicial review, if indeed it is possible that the problem might have arisen. Again, an assurance that that has not happened would be welcome. Having made all the points that I want to make, I support the order.

Lord McNally: I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Lester for his little historical background. He also hinted, as did the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, that every party which has had responsibility for these matters has agonised over that balance between the proper demands of justice and the need to protect national security. It is right that we agonise. I believe we do because we are of all political persuasions. This country is still a liberal democracy—with a small “l” and a small “d”—and liberal democracies agonise about how to get that balance right.

The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, asked for the list of other consultees and I am hopeful that I will be able to tell him that. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, around 60 cases currently are held in the High Court, which the Home Secretary intends to certify. My understanding is that those cases would then go to SIAC. If the full list of consultees has been passed to me, it has gone right past me, which would not be the first time.

Lord Beecham: Perhaps the Minister will write to me about that.

Lord McNally: I will write and put in the Library of the House the full list of consultees.

While I have been here today, the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, has been sitting in his place at the other end. I have to say that passing through my mind was the thought that when Talleyrand died, Metternich apparently said, “Now, what does he mean

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by this?”. I have been looking at my Order Paper wondering on which item of business the noble Lord would intervene; then I realised that his is the next business. So as regards any unworthy thoughts that he was going to intervene on any of my business, I am much relieved.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch (UKIP): My Lords, I trust that it did not make the noble Lord too nervous. I thought that his performance was entirely fluent throughout.

Motion agreed.


Question for Short Debate

4.36 pm

Asked by Lord Pearson of Rannoch

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what was the basis for the statement by the Prime Minister on 3 June that “There is nothing in Islam that justifies acts of terror” (HC Deb, 3 June, col 1234).

Lord Pearson of Rannoch (UKIP): My Lords:

“But there is a problem within Islam—from the adherents of an ideology that is a strain within Islam. And we have to put it on the table and be honest about it.

Of course there are Christian extremists and Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu ones. But I am afraid this strain is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies.

At the extreme end of the spectrum are terrorists, but the world view goes deeper and wider than it is comfortable for us to admit. So by and large we don’t admit it. This has two effects. First, those with that view think we are weak and that gives them strength.

Second, those within Islam—and the good news is there are many—who actually know this problem exists and want to do something about it, lose heart”.

Those are not my words but those of Tony Blair, after the Islamist murder last summer of Drummer Rigby—the same Tony Blair who, as Prime Minister, dismantled our borders to,

“rub the noses of the right in diversity”.

We must be grateful that his subsequent experience as our Middle East envoy has taught him something about the reality of modern Islam, and that he had the courage to say what he did. In these few minutes, I want to talk about some of that reality.

Islam does not enjoy the separation of powers that we take for granted in our liberal, western democracies. Islam’s Sharia law is a legal, political and religious system all in one, which takes its authority solely from the Koran, the Hadith and the Sunnah, as interpreted by its religious clerics, collectively known as the ulema.

Our Muslim friends tell us that the jihadists are a misguided minority who misinterpret the Koran and the holy texts. They point to verses such as Surah 2, verse 256, in which Muhammad commands that there shall be no compulsion in religion, and to other verses

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of peace. There are millions of Muslims who live their lives guided by those verses, and many thousands who have been murdered by their violent co-religionists.

Here we come up against part of Islam’s problem, which is the widely held Muslim tenet of abrogation. This holds that, when verses in the Koran contradict each other, it is the later verses which cancel out or abrogate the earlier ones. This is unfortunate because, as Muhammad went through life, he became steadily more of a conquering warrior, and the messages that he received and what he said and did became progressively more bellicose and violent. If abrogation is accepted, the later verses of the sword, of which there are many, outweigh the earlier verses of peace, and it is from these later verses that the jihadists take their inspiration and authority. I have time to touch on just two of them. Surah 9, verse 5, commands the faithful to kill the unbelievers wherever they find them, and Surah 9, verse 14, says:

“Fight against them so that Allah will punish them by your hands, and give you victory over them”.

“Them” means non-Muslims. The Hadith and the Sunnah, examples of the sayings and doings of Muhammad, which all Muslims are bound to follow, are even more antagonistic to non-believers, or Kaffirs, as they call us.

I am not pretending that Christianity has done all that well over the centuries. Even if the Crusades were a response to 400 years of Muslim aggression, we still have the Hundred Years War and the facts that Soviet communism emerged from Christian Russia, and the two world wars and the Holocaust from Christian Germany and Europe.

As a Manichaean, I see good and evil as balanced in the eternal dimension, beyond and above all the world’s religions. It seems to me that good and evil are present in each one of us, and that they can work only through the agency of our humanity. Evil is at its most destructive when it passes from the individual to the collective, as we saw with the Holocaust and Soviet communism. It is no respecter of any religion, nor of the humanists—the Soviets were a fine example of humanism gone wrong.

However, we must consider how our world stands now, today, and I fear that the dark side is moving strongly within Islam. I understand the defence that Islamist terror against the West is a reaction to Palestine, Srebrenica, Iraq and Libya. The kaleidoscope of Islamic internal violence is being shaken hard in north Africa with the tragic conflict between Sunni and Shia, and we cannot yet see how it will settle. However, it is not encouraging that the Sandhurst-educated Sultan of Brunei has just introduced strict Sharia law in his country.

If we come home to the United Kingdom, we see large and growing Muslim communities which are set against integration with the rest of us; we see thousands of home-grown potential terrorists; we see Sharia law running de facto in our land; and we see a birth rate several times higher than ours, to which our democracy is already exposed. Noble Lords have just to look at the recent Bradford by-election if they doubt that.

To me, most worryingly of all, we are not allowed to talk about any of it. As soon as we do, we are condemned by our useless political class as racist

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Islamophobes. The “racist” tag is clearly nonsense—Islam is present in almost every race on earth, including of course our own. A phobia is an unreasonable fear of something, but is it unreasonable to fear a religion which has recently given us 9/11 and 200,000 dead, most of them Muslims, in 18,000 attacks since then; which has given us the London bombings, Mumbai, the Spanish train, Bali, Drummer Rigby, Nairobi and Boko Haram; which, in 15 of its current regimes, employs stoning to death, amputation and death for apostasy?

What baffles me completely is that when we do speak against these things and when we dare to mention that they come from within Islam, we are told that we are the guilty ones—that it is us who are stirring up hate—and our politicians invent “hate crime” to shut us up. However, the hate lies in the heart of the Islamist. We can stir it up only because it is already there, red hot and seething against us. These people hate us with frightening religious fervour, and we are right to fear them.

What can we do? I suggest that we must stop being afraid to talk about it. We must do much more to encourage and support our many brave Muslims and apostates who take on their violent co-religionists publicly and thus risk the death penalty.

As an example of our present weakness, I give you the BBC, which was happy to air “Jerry Springer: The Opera”, with its offensive treatment of our Judaeo-Christian heritage, but which refused to air that brilliant play “Can We Talk About This?”, a factual critique of Islam, which ran last summer to packed audiences at the National Theatre. It was helpful of Mark Thompson, the BBC’s director-general, to confess that the BBC would not air “Can We Talk About This?” because he did not want to look down the barrel of an AK47.

In that respect, and in closing, I congratulate the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, who is to reply to this debate, for the great courage that she showed in her speech at Georgetown University last Friday. I regret her support for UN Resolution 16/18, put forward by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which seeks to criminalise Islamophobia or “defaming Islam” worldwide. She certainly highlighted, however, the current plight of Christians in the present world at the hands of what she calls a new sectarianism. As a Muslim she was particularly brave to say that Muslims should be free to change their faith.

I conclude by asking the Minister only two questions. First, does she agree that nearly all the present violence against Christians is coming from within Islam—from the jihadists? We have the suffering of Muslims themselves in Burma and we have the Hindu massacre of Christians at Orissa, but is not the rest of it almost entirely jihadist?

The second question is one I have asked the Minister before. If it is true that the jihadists are such a small minority in Islam, who misinterpret the Koran and the holy texts, why does not the great majority do more to stand up against them? Why for instance do not the leaders of Islam, the grand muftis and righteous ulema call a massive conference, a sort of combination of the councils of Nicea and Trent, to issue a fatwa against the jihadists and to cast them out of Islam?

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Could it be because they dare not? Are things as bad as that? I hope not and I look forward to the noble Baroness’s reply.

I am also grateful to all noble Lords who are to speak. Looking down the list I fear that none of them may agree with what I have said. At least, however, we are talking about it. I trust that it is just a start.

4.46 pm

Lord Sheikh (Con): My Lords, I speak as a Muslim, as a proud British national and a supporter of all faiths and communities. I am privileged to live in a country where people of numerous religious beliefs live alongside each other in relative peace. This is a testament to our nation’s tolerance and unity in equal measure.

I was brought up in Uganda, where there were people of different racial and religious groups, and learnt to respect all communities. I am a patron of several Muslim and non-Muslim organisations that promote harmony between people. I believe that there must be dialogue and respect for others if we are to continue to coexist peacefully. Without these, there is lack of understanding which leads to suspicion and tensions.

I believe this debate today has been called as a result of such misunderstanding. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, questioned the basis for the Prime Minister’s statement that:

“There is nothing in Islam that justifies acts of terror”.

I believe the basis for the Prime Minister’s statement was obvious. There is nothing in any religion, teaching or scripture that condones causing indiscriminate harm to others. It is the interpretation of corrupt minds that seek to justify these actions for themselves and those they manipulate.

The actions of a few fanatical individuals must not be the yardstick by which we judge Islam or any other religion. If we allow this to happen, the culture of fear and division takes hold. When that culture permeates, the terrorists realise their intentions. Later on in the statement, the Prime Minister referred to the murderers’,

“extremist ideology that perverts and warps Islam to create a culture of victimhood and justify violence.” —[

Official Report

, Commons, 3/6/13; col. 1234.]

It is that ideology that we are facing, not the religion itself. Terrorists’ motives have time and again been revealed as political grievances. Terrorists twist these grievances, through the prism of religion, into an ideology to justify their actions. It must therefore be clear that these actions were not motivated at root by religious teachings. The united condemnation of the Woolwich attack from prominent Muslims illustrated this.

Let us look specifically at Islamic teaching. As a Muslim, I was taught that human life was sacred. It is written in the Holy Koran,

“whoever kills a human being … it is as though he has killed all mankind, and whoever saves a human life, it is as though he has saved all mankind”.

That is why I have consistently spoken about Islam as a religion of peace, and continue to do so. In fact, I even represent that in my coat of arms, which features

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two doves. I believe that every Muslim should be an ambassador to convey that message and help to promote peace and harmony with other religions. I also believe that both the media and politicians must play their part. Some media circles, in particular, are guilty of vilifying Islam and portraying us with an unfair image.

There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, and in the United Kingdom, there are more than 2.6 million. Such large numbers of people and their faith must not be used as a scapegoat or a political football. It is important that our politicians of all persuasions act responsibly and use moderate language. I find the use of the term “Islamic terrorist” to be improper in the same way that I would the term “Christian terrorist”. That kind of language stokes fear and creates a psychological tie between the religion and the terrorist.

The opposite is in fact true. A report by Demos in 2011 revealed that 83% of British Muslims feel proud to be a British citizen, compared with 79% of people across the whole population. That reasserts that our problem lies with a very small minority. The vast majority of Muslims enjoy practising their religion peacefully in the United Kingdom. I do not believe that anybody looking to cause disharmony should be allowed to come here from a Muslim country or a European country, such as the Netherlands. If we demonise Islam or any other religion, we are doing a disservice to the concept of religion as a whole and the societies that embrace it. I therefore totally endorse the comments made by our Prime Minister.

4.52 pm

The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for enabling us to talk about these very important matters, so in that sense I can agree with him. I also encourage him not to lose heart at sin and evil wherever they are found. There are remedies, and people of religion are often seeking to achieve them.

Of course, if I read my own scriptures, as I do every day, and select various pieces of them, I could easily form myself into some kind of sect which would be disapproved of, I hope, by most of civil society. None the less, our activities which are theological, seeking peace, are often turned into historical disappointments and much less than the ideal that we want to promote. That is true of all religions and, indeed, of all humanity.

Rather than seek division or selective use of scriptures and theology, I emphasise today that the healing of divisions and the communication between those of different religions and societies is the primary responsibility, such as we find in the very diverse community of Birmingham, with 187 nationalities and all the great religions of the world represented in great numbers.

Your Lordships will know of the work of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, in reviewing the Prevent strategy, which came to us in 2011. There we can find that those who support terrorism obviously reject a cohesive, integrated society. They often reject parliamentary democracy. Because polarisation and fragmentation are key conditions for the emergence of radical views, every effort should be made to understand, to have dialogue with and to befriend those who are different

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from ourselves, those who have different religions, different cultures or even different political solutions to intractable problems both at home and overseas.

In the communities of the Church of England, we have a process of presence and engagement where we want to be present in local communities, however diverse they are, and to engage with theologies and differences of views from our own strongly held beliefs. Noble Lords will know that the Near Neighbours programme, which is supported by the Department for Culture and Local Government, engages in four communities across England. They are asked to make friends, stay friends and change society based on cross-cultural and cross-religious engagements. In smaller ways, charities such as the Feast bring Christian and Muslim young people together in activities both civically and in practical ways. We can see that in the face of unacceptable terrorism, wherever it is found, the response is to resist evil but at the same time to build new ways of understanding and community.

Perhaps one other thing to mention is the process of scriptural reasoning where the great Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Islam and Christianity are, at the highest level and local level, examining the scriptures and testing the realities of things that are captured perhaps by groups who want to be terrorists. They are put into their proper perspective and understood, so that the wider community can be taught properly. I also welcome the work of the Ministry of Justice and the noble Lords, Lord McNally and Lord Ahmed, in seeking to understand what religious freedom is really like in this country.

Of course, those national and international efforts—the practical resistance of evil wherever it is found—are necessary. But it is at the local level in local dialogue and local communication that I believe these terrible things that we experience can begin to be resolved. We should sit with one another and listen to the understanding of our theologies and our scriptures but also debate vigorously the differences that we find when we do not understand why someone might feel differently or behave in a different way.

I hope that today we will understand that there are difficulties but that we are building a new community in a completely unrecognised way in places such as Birmingham. People who hitherto have not understood each other and not got on with each other are now able to say that they are proud to live in this country and proud to enjoy their diversity. They also are proud—as one Muslim waiter in an Indian restaurant in Birmingham seeks to do with his Bishop—to stand against those within their own community whom they feel, sadly, have become atheist; we have a joint campaign to enable them to be enlightened. In the scriptures we have the strong and imperative demand to seek peace and pursue it.

4.57 pm

Lord Bhatia (Non-Afl): My Lords, the statement made by the Prime Minister on 3 June 2013 is correct and has been echoed by the leaders of the Labour Party and the Lib Dems. Terrorism and extremism has existed in people from all faiths and religions. The important thing to understand is that such terrorists

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form a very small part of the faith groups. If one looks at the Muslim communities in Britain, there is a huge silent majority who abhor violence in the name of their religion. They are peace-loving British citizens who practise their faith and contribute to the welfare of their own communities, the wider communities and the United Kingdom. They oppose the attacks on innocent civilians. No religion advocates violence. Those who commit violence should be dealt with by the police and other law-enforcing agencies.

One has to look at the root causes of terrorism in the United Kingdom. Is it lack of education? Is it lack of understanding of their own faiths? Is it because the young get influenced by radical preachers? Our schools should be teaching the messages of peace and law abiding, and ensuring that only through sound education one becomes successful. It is perhaps rightly argued that people who are trapped in the vicious circle of poverty due to lack of jobs and opportunity become victims of radicalism. The past five years have not been easy for such people without jobs. The Government need to create more opportunities for the young who are without work.

Turning to Islam as a faith community, I wish to say that Islam, although it is the fastest-growing faith in the world, is little understood or not understood at all in the West. There is a deficit of understanding of Islam. Islam is a peaceful faith and occasionally, like all other faiths, it is hijacked by a handful of radicalised people for their own perverted personal or political reasons and ambitions. Islam reveres all the prophets—Christ, Moses, Abraham and others. Muslims are shocked when the prophets are ridiculed or abused on the altar of freedom of speech and expression.

Freedom of expression is a democratic right, but it carries responsibility. Our democracy is based on the rule of law, and those who break the law should be dealt with in the courts. Our courts are independent and magistrates and judges ensure that justice is not only delivered but seen to be done.

Turning to the Muslim community in Britain, I ask the Minister whether more could be done to support newly arrived spouses and partners from different parts of the world who come to join their families. In order to integrate them into the wider communities, they need to learn English. There are thousands of Muslim women who need to learn English to be able to communicate with the wider community and participate in civic society. They also need to be able to communicate with their own children who go to school. I believe that English and the ability to use a computer with internet connectivity are the two tools that will bring such isolated groups of women from the margins to the mainstream.

English and computers will enable the mothers to understand what their children are doing with their computers when they return home from school. Are they doing their homework, or are they playing computer games or chatting with undesirable people? The Minister should consider talking to some of the charities who work with these isolated groups of women to explore how additional funding could be given to those charities to help these isolated groups of women.

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5.02 pm

Baroness Uddin (Non-Afl): Assalamualikum wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barkathu. Peace be upon you all. This is the fundamental doctrine and teaching of Islam, so how is it that, again and again, we are forced to defend the beauty of our faith? Find me a community that does not have its burden—countless acts of senseless violence and death all over the world, including between different faiths. We all have our crosses to bear. Hidden under the protection of faith, hundreds of thousands have suffered predatory abuse in silence, yet it has never occurred to me or to many others in the Muslim community to make the slightest aspersion on the religion of those who committed those crimes.

I do not think about the religion of those who carry out drone attacks, ruthlessly, on thousands of innocent bystanders, just as I do not consider those who tried to kill Malala Yousafzai, Kainat Riaz, Shazia Ramzan and many other girls and women—Muslims. We must call acts of brutal violence and criminality by their name and not allow them to be trivialised with our prejudices and blindness by attributing it to Islam, Christianity or Catholicism.

A task force to tackle radicalisation was set up by the Prime Minister following the murder of our soldier Lee Rigby in a bid to deal with extremism head-on. Michael Gove and Schools Minister David Laws will look at confronting racism and extremism in schools and charities, while Business Secretary Vince Cable will monitor universities, the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling will look into prisons and the Faith and Communities Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, will examine work in the communities.

That is rightly impressive attention, yet I also heard emotional pleas made publicly on television channels by the family of Mohammed Saleem, a father, grandfather, husband and brother mercilessly stabbed repeatedly by a self-confessed racist. The family and its supporters asked repeatedly why there was no political outcry about the terror that the family and the community endured. Why was no COBRA meeting called? Why was there no decision to hold an inquiry into the activities of the far right fascist groups and their atrocious impact on the streets of our major cities, schools and universities and, most importantly, why was no mention made of the attacker’s race or faith? Further, why was his community not asked to account for his criminal action?

This is the home of 3 million Muslims, who are impeccably loyal and love our country. We also know that there is inherent, deep-seated Islamophobia and racism in the way that we deal conveniently with one community and not the other, demonising one until it has no recourse except to tolerate more deaths and violence. I commend the Prime Minister’s commitment and his words, and I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, whose record speaks for itself.

I end with a quotation from the Deputy Prime Minister in his more liberal days. In 2008, he said:

“The sad truth is you play into the hands of the men you seek to discredit, driving further the alienation of the majority of Muslims who see themselves mischaracterised everywhere they turn as would-be terrorists ... The space for debate is currently filled with few voices, a fact that extremists capitalise on. If we are

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to truly achieve a society in which all peaceful members are free and equal, that space must be filled with reasoned and principled debate … We must challenge publicly the ideas of those who propagate terrorism and instead promote the cause of peace and freedom in Britain for all citizens”.

I very much look forward to the Deputy Prime Minister, in the very near future, countering some of the impact of what Tony Blair has said.

I believe in free speech, so today I have borne the seething hatred of Islam from the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. It is time that we reclaimed our pride as a multifaith, multiracial society where we now take collective responsibility against the subjugation of all our faiths.

5.06 pm

Lord Hameed (CB): My Lords, the holy book of the Muslims begins with the concept of God as not hurting or harming or as cruel but as beneficent and merciful. It also talks of Islam as a religion of peace and not war, for every time a Muslim takes the name of the Prophet Mohammed, he adds the words, “Peace be upon him”. The Koran also instructs the believer to be tolerant and compassionate and to extend a helping hand to the sick and infirm. It also commands the pursuit of knowledge with respect for scholars, women and minorities in any land. It also instructs Muslims to respect other faiths and to live with them as good neighbours in peaceful coexistence. Therefore, strapping oneself with explosives to kill others in an act of suicide in search of martyrdom is totally un-Islamic and against the instructions of the Koran, the holy book that all Muslims must obey.

As was explained earlier, the word “phobia” is described in the Oxford English Dictionary as an extreme and irrational fear or dislike of a specified thing. Thus, noble Lords may have heard of the term “Islamophobia” being bandied about against Islam, leading to prejudice and generalised hatred or fear of Islam and its followers. The media around the world have their share of blame to bear in drip-feeding into the minds of the readers of newspapers and journals, and the viewers of television, regular doses of anti-Muslim material, not as factual reporting but to create public excitement with sensationalism to enhance the number of their readers and their viewing public. The widespread damage this does to society at large is incalculable. The resultant pressure from this on Muslim families is anger, confusion and frustration, with the resultant acts of violence.

God’s vision of a just and compassionate human society remains unfulfilled. This, in turn, leads to impressionable young men, low in self-esteem, frustrated with unemployment and ostracised by society through the media, who then become the best recruiting ground for the sergeant-majors of terrorism.

In truth, no divine religion has ever been based on conflict, whether it be the religions represented by Moses and Jesus or Mohammed, Ram or Guru Nanak, Zarathustra or Buddha himself. On the contrary, all religions strictly forbid conflict, oppression and the killing of innocent people.

The question we face as Muslims in the West is whether Islamic society is ipso facto fundamentalist. No, we say, because the holy book of the Muslims, the Koran, repeatedly commends coexistence. It says:

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“lakum deen-e kum wal ya deen”—

your religion for you and my religion for me. It also says,

“la iqra fi al deen”—

let there be no compulsion in religion.

Let me give your Lordships a glaring example of how selective our principal source of information, the media, can be. I am pointing out a question of opportunities. One of the most venerated and respected figures of the Islamic world is the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, where the most holy sites for Islam are based. Recently, he delivered the Hajj sermon for the annual pilgrimage, where nearly 2 million Muslims were gathered. There, with many in the Muslim world also listening to his fatwa, or sermon, he underscored the true teachings of Islam through peace and harmony and declared that Islam has nothing to do with terrorism or extremism and urged Muslims to unite against the incidence of suicide bombings. These, he said, were recipes for being transported to hell rather than a place in paradise. I wish that our wonderful media worldwide had given more prominence to such a message, rather than the drip-drip that we see in newspapers every day which leads only to the poisoning of our minds against each other.

Finally, let us proclaim loudly our intent to defeat those who are bent on destroying our civilised way of life and resolve our differences through interfaith dialogue. My friends, it is time to stand up and be counted. This, indeed, is our duty, and we must fulfil it.

5.12 pm

Lord Ahmed (Non-Afl): My Lords, the Prime Minister’s statement that there is nothing in Islam which justifies acts of terror was a call for unity at a time when many of us felt frightened. The Prime Minister was right: we must respond to senseless violence with all the strength of a united society. When community leaders of all faiths work together to guide young people away from extremism, they strengthen our society. That is the kind of constructive action we need. The spreading of religious prejudice is far from constructive. Islamophobia and any other kind of religious hatred will only divide Britain. Religious hatred and the fear-mongering that goes on with it has no place in a civilised country.

First, I want to deal with the myth that terrorism is an Islamic phenomenon. In July 2011, 77 people were murdered and 150 injured in Norway. Acting on the belief that immigrants were undermining the Christian values of his country, Anders Breivik identified himself as a Christian crusader. I do not think that Breivik was a Christian. I do not think that his actions reflect Christianity or that Christianity has something fundamentally wrong with it because he claims to be acting in its name.

The noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, mentioned Pavlo Lapshyn, who stabbed an 82-year-old man, Mohammed Saleem, in Birmingham. Pavlo Lapshyn also planted three bombs outside mosques. Lapshyn cited his desire to stir up racial tension as the motivation for his crimes. Surely this makes it our duty to quash any racial tension that this kind of violence stirs up.

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The noble Lord mentioned the Buddhist monks who have been attacking the Rohingya communities in Burma, killing thousands of Muslims, and Hindu nationalists have also bombed in India. They do not represent the majority of Hindus or Buddhists. From the reign of Bloody Mary and her burning of hundreds of Protestants to the troubles of Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics, our history illustrates that it is ignorance, prejudice and the desire for power—not religion—that fuels violence.

Even so, some will draw comfort from blaming the Muslim community. In an interview in 2009, the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, stated:

“Muslims are breeding ten times faster than us”.

To me, this dehumanising language echoes the anti-Semitic comments made about Jews in the 1920s. When the noble Lord says “ten times faster than us”, what does he mean by “us”? Would he separate British Muslims from the rest of British society? Millions of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs served in the British Armed Forces across two world wars. British Muslims have also served and died in Afghanistan.

Quotations from the Holy Koran have been used by Geert Wilders and the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, including verse 14 and other verses in Surah 9, and Surah 47, verse 4. I tell noble Lords that those quotations are out of context. They are not even interpreted. I challenge him to recite three words in Arabic and see whether he can do the translation.

The truth is that the right reverend Prelate was right. I could quote 18 examples from the Holy Bible that could be misinterpreted, but I do not want to go down this route. As a politician, I want to remind noble Lords of a quotation:

“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. …You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might … You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: it is victory, victory at all costs … victory, however long and hard the road may be”.

That is not Lord Ahmed calling for jihad in the House of Lords or threatening the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, as he claimed in Washington DC on 28 October 2009. This is our great war-time leader, the Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in the House of Commons on 13 May 1940. It can be read at col. 1502 in Hansard. I do not need to remind your Lordships of the two world wars. There were 16 million deaths in the First World War and 60 million in the Second World War. I need not mention the colonial wars. Everywhere you dig into European colonialism in Afro-Asia there are bodies—lots of bodies—as well as between 1916 and 1930 in Tsarist and Soviet Russia. Lives were also lost during the fight for Algerian independence. I could go on. None of them were Muslims.

I know that my time is up. All I want to say is that the Koran teaches me: do not argue with the people of earlier scripture. Even if they do, tell them that you believe in the same God as they do.

5.18 pm

Lord Triesman (Lab): My Lords, I start by doing something that I have not done often, which is simply to endorse the Prime Minister’s words. It is notable to me that no noble Lord today has started with the

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convention that we have of congratulating somebody on getting a debate on the Order Paper. That is probably because most of us, certainly me, have looked forward to this with some apprehension. I was apprehensive because I know from the time in November 2009 that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, in running for the leadership of his party, UKIP, said that the political class was complacent about Islamism. He claimed that our people—again, I do not quite know who the “our” and “we” are—were strangers in our own land. He went on to commend the right-wing Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, and invited him to screen his controversial film about Islam here.

A number of speakers in this debate have treated it, understandably, as though it were a discussion of a religious or theological issue. I do not believe that it is—I think that it is straightforwardly political. It is about the potency that is sometimes achieved, at times of economic crisis, of characterising some people in ways that are dismissive of them and stereotypes them, speaking about them with a generality that cannot be justified. I shall have to go back through Hansard to make sure that I am quoting accurately, but in introducing this debate the noble Lord talked about the “dark side” and birth rates of people who are, obviously, not quite as good as us, people stirring up hate and “red hot” people striving against us, people who we will finally see looking down the barrel of a gun at us, the plight of Christians, and so on. These are all characterisations which, candidly, should have no place in the debates in this country and our Parliament.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Lord Triesman: Sadly, and I want to say this as briefly as I can—and I make the point about it being political—this is not simply about the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. I have been going through quotations from a large number of other people from UKIP, and there is obviously an attempt to adopt positions on the extreme right in our country. Cavan Vines, the candidate in south Yorkshire, talked of people who hide behind women and kill our children. Chris Pain, the opposition leader in Lincolnshire, gave a foul-mouthed diatribe about Islam. Peter Entwistle, the deputy chair of Bury UKIP, speaking of President Obama said:

“If I ever see him on a Greyhound bus wearing a rucksack, I’m getting off!!”.

Misty Thackeray, the deputy chair of UKIP in Scotland, praised the right-wing Dutch politician, Geert Wilders as a self-confessed hater of Islam. I could go on. I have also noted that the support for those UKIP positions from the EDL has been as conspicuous as those quotations are. This is a sequence of attacks that have no place among us.

Whatever the justification that some people may feel for political objectives that they cannot achieve by normal, democratic means, those objectives never justify the use of violence to achieve them. That is true for any people in any community; it is never justified, and nobody in here would try to justify it. Nobody would say that the people of the United Kingdom can be bombed, shot at or violently compelled to make political

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changes that they do not wish to see. They never have been compelled that way and I do not believe that they ever will be compelled that way; this is a country that repudiates violence from any quarter and insists that those who conduct violence from any quarter are brought to justice. That is a straightforward convention among all of us, for reasons that are very profound.

It is not a matter, in my view, of whether people choose to live differently in their style or at a distance from others in their own communities. Personally, I have no taste for seeing communities constructed in that way—let me be quite clear about it. I prefer to live in an integrated society in which people share each other’s cultures and enjoy them. But it is also a truth that if people live that way within the law and including all laws that protect equal status of all citizens, there is no reason why those people should be subject to state intervention or trenchant language, as we have heard in the House this afternoon. People do have different lifestyles, and if they wish to live lawfully in their own communities we should at least have some modicum of respect for those facts.

I noted what the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, said about abrogation, with the later verses superseding the earlier ones, but I am not a sufficient student of that tradition to understand what is or is not within context. However, I am, in my modest way, a Talmudic scholar—at least, I have studied it to some extent—

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con): Perhaps the noble Lord could conclude his remarks.

Lord Triesman: I am nearing my final words. I notice that one of the most prominent quotations often relied upon is about smiting one’s opponents hip and thigh. That appears in Judges, chapter 15, verse 8. I tell noble Lords that I have never set about doing that, I have never thought of doing it, and I have never thought that it was a compunction upon Jewish people or anybody else.

5.25 pm

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to put on record this Government’s view on extremism and terrorism. I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, for his bold words of support, and I add my wholehearted endorsement to everything that he has said.

I begin with the Prime Minister’s words in the wake of the horrific murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in May —the words to which the noble Lord refers in calling this debate:

“What happened on the streets of Woolwich shocked and sickened us all. It was a despicable attack on a British soldier who stood for our country and our way of life, and it was a betrayal of Islam and of the Muslim communities who give so much to our country. There is nothing in Islam that justifies acts of terror, and I welcome the spontaneous condemnation of the attack from mosques and Muslim community organisations across our country. We will not be cowed by terror, and terrorists who seek to divide us will only make us stronger and more united in our resolve to defeat them”.—[Official Report, Commons, 3/6/13; col. 1234.]

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Those are his words, and I thank my noble friend Lord Sheikh, the noble Lord, Lord Bhatia, the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, and others for their kind words of support for the Prime Minister’s stance—support which was received from across the world and from across the British Muslim community. Indeed, if Islam justified terror, we would not have seen the out-and-out condemnation of this brutal murder by the British Muslim community.

After that attack, we saw the Ramadhan Foundation, the Muslim Council of Britain, the Christian Muslim Forum, MINAB, the Al-Khoei Foundation, the British Muslim Forum, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, the Karima Institute, the Islamic Forum of Europe and many, many others come out and say, “Not in our name”. They were united with the country in grief and horror at what happened on a London street. I wholeheartedly support this clear and unequivocal condemnation. As the noble Lord, Lord Hameed, said, let us stand and be counted. The British Muslim community did just that.

I am grateful for the very considered contribution from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham. Islam, like all the major religions, is not inherently violent. Passages from sacred texts must be taken in context. It would be possible to distort quotes from any religious text.

The noble Lord referred extensively to the sword verses in the Koran. These are often cited by critics to demonstrate that Islam is violent in its very nature. These same verses are also selectively used, or abused, by religious extremists to develop a theology of hate and intolerance and to legitimise unconditional warfare against Muslims and non-Muslims.

It is not surprising that the Koran, like the Hebrew Scriptures or the Old Testament, has verses that address fighting and the conduct of war. However, like all scriptures, Islamic sacred texts must be read within the social and political context in which they were revealed.

As a political anorak, I shall step away from theology and talk TV political drama. In the hit American show “The West Wing”, a conversation between the Catholic President, Bartlet, and a bigoted TV presenter went something like this. President Bartlet:

“I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality an abomination”.

The TV presenter:

“I don’t say homosexuality is an abomination, Mr. President. The Bible does”.

President Bartlet:

“Yes it does. Leviticus 18:22. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I have you here. I’m interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She’s a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be?”. While thinking about that, can I ask you another question? My Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it okay to call the police? Here’s one that’s really important because we’ve got a lot of sports fans in this town: touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point? Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side?

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Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions, would you?”.

I could not make this point more clearly. These texts from the Old Testament could so easily be manipulated to cause mischief and indeed have been manipulated in the past. But being religious means making choices and understanding the central values of your faith. It also means considering the context in which that faith was formed. To be an adherent, one must also be a historian. This is a point that the late Benazir Bhutto, the first female Prime Minister of a Muslim country, once put particularly well when speaking of teachings in the Koran. She said:

“In an age when no country, no system, no community gave women any rights, in a society where the birth of a baby girl was regarded as a curse, where women were considered chattel, Islam treated women as individuals”.

Noble Lords will be aware that most religions have suffered at one time or another from extremism. Islam is no exception. The essential lesson taught by Islamic history is that extremist groups are ejected from the mainstream of Islam. They are marginalised and seen as heretical aberrations to the Islamic message. That is why religious leaders such as countless Muslim scholars have stood tall, not only condemning acts of violence committed in the name of their faith but issuing clear Islamic rulings, a fatwa on why terrorism is a rejection of what Islam stands for.

The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, has a clear interest in Islamic theology. He makes a distinction between the Prophet’s life in Mecca and Medina. He refers to the “sword verses” in the Koran. He joins critics to demonstrate that Islam is violent in nature. Ironically, these same verses are also selectively abused by religious extremists to support their theology of hate and intolerance. It is not surprising that the Koran, like the Hebrew Scriptures and the Old Testament, has verses on fighting and the conduct of war but they must be put into context.

As many noble Lords have said in this debate Islam, like all world religions, neither supports, nor advocates, nor condones terrorism. I am saying that the values of al-Qaeda and like-minded terrorists are not only contrary to what we as a country stand for, they are a distortion of the Islamic tradition itself. Al-Qaeda’s ideology is fundamentally at odds with both classical and contemporary Islamic jurisprudence. That is why the majority of Muslims across the globe reject their ideology.

I believe it is a great shame that the noble Lord has asked this question. It points, at best, to ignorance about Islam, or, at worst, a deliberate attempt to perpetuate a distorted image of the faith. It is particularly sad to see this being done during interfaith week, when we celebrate the important role that faith plays in British society, particularly when different faiths come together. This Government support the role of faith in society. They support people in their right to manifest their faith, to worship freely and to act in the name of their faith for the good of society. They support people to share their faith with others, to change their faith, or, indeed, to have no faith at all. As well as that, they are committed to protecting people from intolerance, discrimination or even persecution

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on the basis of their faith. We have done more than any other Government to tackle that unacceptable scourge of anti-Muslim hatred. For that, I am proud.

Deep, entrenched anti-Muslim bigotry goes against everything this great nation stands for—the idea that Islam is a particularly violent creed and therefore an irrational reaction to it is somehow appropriate. I am concerned that the deeper Islamophobia seeps into our culture, the easier becomes the task of extremists recruiting. I invite the noble Lord to reflect on this.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, she has not answered the two questions that I put to her. I believe that I am in order to repeat them.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Colwyn) (Con): The noble Lord may make a brief point for clarity.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Will the noble Baroness answer the two questions I put to her?

Baroness Warsi: I am coming to that now. I will be answering the noble Lord’s direct questions now. The fact is, British Muslims play a crucial role in British society. Everyone in this house knows Muslims in British life—doctors, engineers, scientists, journalists, MPs, teachers, business people, local councillors and so on. They are all making strong contributions to our country. The citizenship survey of 2010-11 asked whether it is possible to fully belong to Britain and maintain a separate cultural or religious identity. Some 89% of Muslims agreed with that, as opposed to 72% of the general population.

Let me draw the noble Lord’s attention to recent research conducted by ICM, which showed that Muslims are Britain’s top charity givers, topping a poll of religious groups. Muslims who donated to charity last year gave an average of almost £371 each. That is nothing new. The first recorded Englishman to become Muslim was John Nelson, in the 16th century. At the time of the union with Scotland in 1707, Muslims were already in Britain. There are records of Sylhetis working in London restaurants as early as 1873. Noble Lords may also be aware of the recent campaign that the Government launched to highlight the contribution of the nations from the Commonwealth during the First World War. Hundreds of thousands of the 1.2 million who served in the British Indian Army were Muslims. They fought and died for the values and freedoms that we enjoy today.

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I turn to the two specific questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. He asked about the persecution of Christians and by which particular group it was being conducted. I say this simply: one life taken, one life destroyed, is one life too much. For me, the religion of those communities is absolutely irrelevant.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: With respect, that does not answer the question. The question I put to the noble Baroness was about the persecution of Christians, to which she so bravely referred in Georgetown last Friday. Is it or is it not mostly the work of the jihadists? That was the question I put to her.

Baroness Warsi: It was mostly the work of extremists who do not follow any faith, as far as I am concerned. Collective punishment for co-religionists is wrong. That is what I said in Georgetown. Collective requirement of a community to be a constant apologist for its co-religionists is also wrong. As the UK’s first ever Minister for Faith and Communities, it is my job to ensure that freedom of religion and belief remains at the top of the Government’s agenda both at home and internationally.

The US Congress hearing in 2011 about “Islamist terrorism” was described as reality TV and a witchhunt. The White House said that we do not practise guilt by association. The Prime Minister, this Government and I wholeheartedly agree with that. Values such as religious tolerance are not just British. They are universal values that cut across different countries and different faiths. Although, of course, all faiths contribute to the public good, Islam is my religion and I am proud of my beliefs.

I believe that our work in building a society characterised by respect and tolerance is not best served by scare stories stirred up by Parliament or parliamentarians. Those of us who have the privilege to serve in Parliament should use this platform to help to build better relations, to speak not just for those communities and faiths to which we belong but wherever injustice occurs, as I did just a few days ago in Georgetown, when I spoke about the persecution of Christians. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, for his warm words about the speech, and I hope that it inspires him to take a similar approach. Once more, I thank noble Lords for their contributions.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: My Lords, that fascinating debate completes the business before the Grand Committee this afternoon. The Committee stands adjourned.

Committee adjourned at 5.37 pm.