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Terrorism Bill

Volume 346: debated on Wednesday 15 March 2000

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As amended in the Standing Committee, considered.

New Clause 1

Financial Information

'. Schedule [Financial information] (financial information) shall have effect.'.— [Mr. Charles Clarke.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

5.7 pm

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following: Government amendment No. 39.

Government new schedule—Financial Information.

The purpose of the new clause is to provide a new power to investigate terrorist finance. New schedule 1 sets out how, and new clause 1 switches on the new schedule. Amendment No. 39 adds the two order-making powers in the new schedule to the list of orders under the Bill to be made by affirmative resolution.

A similar power is already in use in Northern Ireland for proceeds of crime investigations. It is a very powerful tool and has proved its effectiveness. A so-called general bank circular, once authorised by a circuit judge or equivalent, allows the police to write to financial institutions asking them whether they hold accounts in particular names. The financial institution only has to say whether it holds accounts in the names given. If a person under investigation has, for example, a very large number of accounts, or accounts with a very large number of banks, that in itself can be a useful lead.

The general bank circular does not enable the police to look at the details of what is in the account. If the police wanted to do that, they would need to seek a production order under schedule 5. The new schedule is modelled on certain powers of financial investigators under schedule 2 to the Proceeds of Crime (Northern Ireland) Order 1996. However, rather than proceeds of crime, the new schedule is for investigating terrorist finance: that can, of course, include money intended for use in terrorism, not just proceeds of acts of terrorism, as in the definition of "terrorist property" in clause 14. That is why the new power is needed in Northern Ireland, as well as in Great Britain. In Northern Ireland, it will complement the existing power in the proceeds of crime order. In Great Britain, it will be new.

We have consulted the banking and financial services industry on the proposal. The banks were generally supportive and supplied helpful information on compliance costs and other practical issues, for which I put on record the Government's thanks. We have taken their views into account in developing the proposal. Further details of the consultation are in the regulatory impact assessment document, which has been placed in the Library.

Where an order is made under paragraph (1), a constable can require financial institutions, as defined in the Bill, to provide customer information, which is also defined in the Bill.

The new schedule contains two order-making powers, to change the definitions of the terms "financial institutions" and "customer information" for the purposes of the schedule. Amendment No. 39 ensures that those orders are subject to the affirmative procedure of the House.

Throughout the proceedings on the Bill, the Opposition have joined the Government in stressing the importance of having on the statute book measures that are comprehensive and effective when it comes to dealing with terrorist finances. Therefore, we support the new measures that the Minister has just described.

The safeguards built into the new clause and the new schedule are sufficient to enable us to accept that the liberties of the people and institutions affected by the proposals have been protected, and the Minister has set out how the affirmative resolution procedure will be utilised. A police officer of senior rank seeking an order under the arrangements will have to get the permission of a senior judge in order to proceed.

As the Government made clear in the regulatory impact assessment, the proposed annual review of the legislation will give the Government and Parliament the opportunity to hear representations from the financial services industry about the practical effect of the measure. There will as a result be an opportunity for the House to consider possible changes to the law in the light of those representations.

I have one minor criticism. The consultation period lasted from 2 September to 15 October last year, and it is a pity that the Government could not present detailed conclusions about this aspect of the Bill a little earlier. Although the financial institutions were consulted earlier, and their views taken into account last autumn, they have not yet had the opportunity to consider the Government's final proposals at length, or to consult members of the various representative organisations.

However, the new clause and new schedule are welcome and have our support.

We consider the power proposed in the new clause and new schedule to be reasonable. I have two specific questions for the Minister about the results of the consultation, which he has been kind enough to allow us to see.

First, has the Minister received an opinion from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, the statutory body established to consider such matters? Secondly, a review of emergency legislation is reported to the House every year. Has the Minister received advice from any independent, Government-appointed person—Lord Lloyd, for example—who has undertaken such a review and can give authority to the proposal?

In general, we are happy with the new clause and new schedule. As the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) said, adjustments may have to made in the light of experience, but it is appropriate that this necessary power should be in this Bill.

I welcome the support from the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, and I accept the gentle and gracefully phrased rebuke from the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington).

I can tell the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) that our principal consultation was held with members of the financial, business and banking community. They would be most affected by our proposals, which we modified to some extent to meet the points that they raised. For example, we included the provision in paragraph (4)(b), which states that an institution can offer the defence that it has not complied with the requirement because to do so "was not reasonably practicable". That defence could be employed if an enormous number of names were involved, for example, or if there were other practical problems of a similar nature. The costs involved will not be disproportionate, as the regulatory impact assessment makes clear. We estimate that compliance costs to the banking and financial services industries will total about £900,000.

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the detailed comments of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, Lord Lloyd or anyone else, because our focus was on the banking community. However, I will write to him on that, as he requests.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 2

Detention Of Terrorists

'. Schedule [ Detention of Terrorists] to this Act shall have effect with respect to the detention of terrorists and persons suspected of being terrorists.'.— [Mr. MacKay.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

5.15 pm

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

With this, it will be convenient to discuss new schedule 2:—Detention of Terrorists


1. The Secretary of State shall for the purposes of this Schedule appoint such number of Advisers as he may determine to advise him on matters concerning the detention and release of terrorists.

2. An Adviser shall be a person who holds or has held judicial office in any part of the United Kingdom or who is—

  • (a) a person who has a ten year general qualification within the meaning of section 71 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990; or
  • (b) an advocate or solicitor in Scotland of at least ten years' standing; or
  • (c) a member of the Bar of Northern Ireland or solicitor of the Supreme Court of Northern Ireland of at least ten years' standing.
  • 3.—(1) An Adviser shall hold and vacate his office in accordance with the terms of his appointment and shall, on ceasing to hold office, be eligible for reappointment.

    (2) An Adviser may at any time by notice in writing to the Secretary of State resign his office.

    (3) The Secretary of State may pay to the Advisers such remuneration and allowances as he may determine.

    Interim Custody Orders

    4.—(1) Where it appears to the Secretary of State that there are grounds for suspecting that a person has been concerned—

  • (a) in the commission or attempted commission of any act of terrorism, or
  • (b) in directing, organising or training persons for the purpose of terrorism,
  • the Secretary of State may make an interim custody order for the temporary detention of that person.

    (2) An interim custody order shall be signed by the Secretary of State or a Minister of State or Under Secretary of State.

    5.—(1) The Secretary of State may, at any time before the expiry of the period of fourteen days following the date of an interim custody order, refer the case to an Adviser and, unless the case is so referred, the order shall cease to have effect at the expiry of that period.

    (2) A reference to an Adviser under this paragraph shall be by notice in writing signed on behalf of the Secretary of State and a copy of the notice shall be sent to the person detained.

    Reference To An Adviser

    6.—(1) As soon as possible after a case is referred to an Adviser under paragraph 5, the person detained shall be served with a statement in writing as to the nature of the terrorist activities of which he is suspected.

    (2) A person detained may, within seven days following the date on which he receives any such statement as is mentioned in subparagraph (1), send to the Secretary of State—

  • (a) written representations concerning his case; and
  • (b) a written request that he be seen personally by an Adviser;
  • and the Secretary of State shall send a copy of such representations or request to the Adviser concerned.

    (3) The Secretary of State may pay any reasonable costs or expenses incurred by a person detained in obtaining legal advice or legal assistance in connection with the preparation of any representations he may make concerning his case.

    7.—(1) Where the case of a person detained under an interim custody order is referred to an Adviser, he shall consider it and report to the Secretary of State whether or not in his opinion—

  • (a) the person detained has been concerned in terrorist activities; and
  • (b) the detention of that person is necessary for the protection of the public.
  • (2) In considering any case referred to him an Adviser shall have regard to any information (whether oral or in writing) which is made available to, or obtained by, him and to any representations (whether oral or in writing) made by the persons detained.

    (3) No person shall be present during the consideration of an Adviser of the case of any person referred to him, except—

  • (a) any person who for the time being is being seen by the Adviser;
  • (b) any assistant to the Adviser; and
  • (c) any person who is present in the interests of security.
  • (4) The Secretary of State may, at the request of an Adviser, pay any reasonable expenses incurred by any person in connection with a reference to the Adviser.

    Detention Orders

    8.—(1) After receiving a report made by an Adviser under paragraph 7(1), the Secretary of State shall consider the case of the person to whom it relates and, if he is satisfied—

  • (a) that the person has been concerned in the commission or attempted commission of any act of terrorism, or in directing, organising or training persons for the purposes of terrorism, and
  • (b) that the detention of that person is necessary for the protection of the public,
  • the Secretary of State may make a detention order for the detention of that person.

    (2) If, on considering any case under sub-paragraph (1), the Secretary of State is not satisfied as mentioned in that sub-paragraph, he shall direct the release of the person concerned.

    (3) Subject to sub-paragraphs (4) and (5), where—

  • (a) a person is detained under an interim custody order; and
  • (b) a detention order is not made in respect of that person within the period of seven weeks following the date of the interim custody order,
  • the interim custody order shall cease to have effect.

    (4) The Secretary of State may, where a person is required to be detained under an interim custody order, give a direction in writing extending the period of seven weeks mentioned in sub-paragraph (3) (or that period as extended under this sub-paragraph) for a further period of one week if it is stated in the direction that the report of the Adviser in relation to that person's case has not been received before the sixth day immediately preceding the day on which the interim custody order would, but for the direction, cease to have effect.

    (5) Not more than three directions under sub-paragraph (4) shall be given in respect of any one interim custody order.

    (6) A detention order shall be signed by the Secretary of State, and a direction under sub-paragraph (4) shall be signed by the Secretary of State or a Minister of State or Under Secretary of State.


    9.—(1) The Secretary of State may at any time refer the case of a person detained under a detention order to an Adviser and, if so requested in writing in accordance with sub-paragraph (2) by a person so detained, shall do so within fourteen days beginning with the receipt of the request.

    (2) A person detained under a detention order shall not be entitled to make a request for the purposes of sub-paragraph (1)—

  • (a) before the expiry of the period of one year beginning with the date of the detention order; or
  • (b) within a period of six months from the date of the last notification under sub-paragraph (5) below.
  • (3) On any reference under this paragraph, an Adviser shall consider the case and report to the Secretary of State whether or not the person's continued detention is necessary for the protection of the public.

    (4) Paragraphs 6(3) and 7(2) to (4) shall apply for the purposes of a reference under this paragraph as they apply for the purposes of a reference under paragraph 5.

    (5) Where a case is referred to an Adviser in consequence of a request made in accordance with this paragraph, the Secretary of State shall, after receiving the report of the Adviser, reconsider the case of the person to whom it relates and, if he decides not to release that person, shall notify him of his decision.

    (6) A notification under sub-paragraph (5) shall be by notice in writing and signed by the Secretary of State.

    10.—(1) The Secretary of State may, as respects a person detained under an interim custody order—

  • (a) direct his discharge unconditionally; or
  • (b) direct his release (whether or not subject to conditions) for a specified period.
  • (2) The Secretary of State may, as respects a person detained under a detention order—

  • (a) direct his discharge unconditionally; or
  • (b) direct his release subject to conditions or for a specified period, or both.
  • (3) The Secretary of State may recall to detention a person released under sub-paragraph (1)(b) or (2)(b) and a person so recalled may be detained under the original interim custody or detention order, as the case may be.

    (4) Where a person is released under sub-paragraph (1)(b), any period during which he is not in detention shall be left out of account for the purposes of paragraphs 5(1), 6(2), and 8(3).

    11.—(1) A person required to be detained under an interim custody order or a detention order may be detained in a prison or in some other place approved for the purposes of this paragraph by the Secretary of State.

    (2) A person for the time being having custody of a person required to be detained as aforesaid shall have all the powers, authorities, protection and privileges of a constable.

    (3) Subject to any directions of the Secretary of State, a person required to be detained as aforesaid shall be treated as nearly as be as if he were a prisoner detained in a prison on remand and any power of temporary removal for judicial, medical or other purposes shall apply accordingly.

    (4) A person required to be detained as aforesaid who is unlawfully at large may be arrested without warrant by any constable or any member of Her Majesty's forces on duty.

    12. Where a person required to be detained under an interim custody order is unlawfully at large, the interim custody order shall not cease to have effect under paragraphs 5 or 8 while he remains at large; and, upon his being taken again into custody, those paragraphs shall have effect as if the date of the interim custody order were that of his being taken again into custody.

    13. Any person who—

  • (a) being detained under an interim custody order or detention order, escapes;
  • (b) rescues any person detained as aforesaid, or assists a person so detained in escaping or attempting to escape;
  • (c) fails to return to detention at the expiry of a period for which he was released under paragraph 10(1)(b) or (2)(b); or
  • (d) knowingly harbours any person required to be detained under an interim custody order or detention order, or gives him any assistance with intent to prevent, hinder or interfere with his being taken into custody,
  • is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or a fine or both.

    14.—(1) Any document purporting to be an order, notice or direction made or given by the Secretary of State for the purposes of this Schedule and to be signed in accordance with this Schedule shall be received in evidence and shall, until the contrary is proved, be deemed to be duly made or given and signed.

    (2) Prima facie evidence of any such order, notice or direction may, in any legal proceedings, be given by the production of a document bearing a certificate purporting to be signed by or on behalf of the Secretary of State stating that the document is a true copy of the order, notice or direction; and the certificate shall be received in evidence, and shall, until the contrary is proved, be deemed to be duly made and signed.

    15. The Secretary of State may make such payments to persons released or about to be released from detention under this Schedule as he may, with the consent of the Treasury, determine.'.

    The new schedule and the new clause would, quite simply, return internment to the statute book. Let me say immediately that I do not necessarily see the need for internment at present, and I do not necessarily advocate internment at any particular time. However, I sleep easier in my bed, and I think that the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic do as well, knowing that internment is readily available for the Secretary of State at any given time.

    The House will be aware that from this Dispatch Box, I, and others, rigorously opposed the Government's decision, nearly two years ago, to remove internment from the statute book. We thought that that was ill advised, ill conceived and unnecessary. We have since noted that our friends in the Republic have not followed suit. Internment remains on the statute book in the Republic of Ireland, and rightly so.

    Let me briefly explain why I believe that it is in the interests of all law-abiding people that the Secretary of State, in extremis, has recourse to internment. I know that the Minister of State, who will be replying to this debate, will agree with me that we all hope and pray that the process moves forward. It is going through a difficult period at present, but we have had choppy water before, and we will have it again. We hope that in the not-too-distant future there will be a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. We hope that that lasting peace will include the paramilitaries—both so-called loyalist and republican—and their political parties, which signed up to the Belfast agreement, renouncing violence for good, decommissioning all their illegally held arms and explosives and playing their full role in the democratic process: that would include being Members of the Assembly and, in the case of Sinn Fein, resuming their ministerial positions in the Executive.

    If those happy circumstances were to occur, history dictates that almost certainly splinter groups, both so-called loyalist and republican, would break away and say that the cause had been let down. They would not join the process and would not give up violence.

    In the last few weeks, by and large, the guns have been silent and there is no certain evidence that those who signed up to the Belfast agreement have resumed serious violence. We know that there have been beatings, mutilations and kneecappings, but let us leave those to one side for the moment. There have not been other terrorist acts by those who signed the Belfast agreement. [Interruption.] I am very happy to give way to the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson), but I would prefer that he did not intervene from a sedentary position.

    Has the right hon. Gentleman acquitted the Ulster Volunteer Force of the two murders in Armagh?

    That will be for the security forces and the judiciary to decide. No one has been convicted of those crimes yet.

    I am saying that the guns of the mainstream paramilitaries are silent at present. Long may that continue, but the splinter groups are very active. As we know, and as the Minister and his security advisers will confirm, Continuity IRA was responsible for a bomb that could have killed many people in Irvinestown only a few weeks ago. Mercifully, attempts on two separate Army barracks, at Ballykelly and at Dungannon, were thwarted. If the security forces had not been vigilant, there could have been a huge loss of life.

    If the process reaches a happy and logical conclusion, those splinter groups will become even more aggressive and violent. They will be capable of destabilising the process. In those circumstances, the Secretary of State and his opposite number south of the border may well think it wise to reintroduce internment temporarily. I will not second-guess whether they would be wise to do so, because we will not know the exact circumstances until they happen. I am convinced that that rather blunt instrument, which did not work in the 1970s but worked extremely well in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s and in the 1957–62 campaign, and was used effectively by both the De Valera and the Lemass Governments in the south, is worth having in any Government's armoury.

    The previous Secretary of State foolishly said, "Don't worry. I will reintroduce legislation on internment if necessary." That was one of the more preposterous suggestions that she made at the Dispatch Box. Clearly, internment works only if there is an element of surprise. If internment is on the statute book, it can be used at extremely short notice. Primary legislation—even emergency legislation—takes time, as you are aware Mr. Deputy Speaker.

    Finally, the men of violence would certainly sleep less easily at night if they believed that internment was possible. They would be constantly on the run, under threat and destabilised and surely hon. Members on both sides of the House would want that. Therefore, I urge the House to make good the Government's mistake in taking internment off the statute book and to return through this legislation by supporting the new clause and the new schedule.

    I apologise for missing the first couple of minutes of the speech of the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay). I spoke with the right hon. Gentleman before the debate and had a clear picture of what he intended to do, and I understand his reasoning.

    The Liberal Democrats take a different view on the issue. While I understand the right hon. Gentleman's logic and his argument that Ireland still has internment, which is correct, the act of using it in Northern Ireland in the 1970s was tremendously provocative. If we reintroduce it now, we will be sending all the wrong signals to Northern Ireland, especially to the nationalist communities.

    The right hon. Gentleman correctly said that surprise was an important element in the use of internment. However, to reintroduce it to the Northern Ireland environment at this time would be a very active step and might be detrimental because of the tensions that it would generate in the nationalist communities. More tensions are the last thing that we need while the Assembly is suspended. As the right hon. Gentleman noted, internment did not work in the 1970s. In our judgment, it would not work in the current Northern Ireland environment—even if there were to be a further deterioration of the situation.

    The right hon. Gentleman prefaced his comments with many "ifs". It is true that if those circumstances occurred, the security situation would be serious. At that point, we should have to consider what to do about it. However, my fear is that if we were to introduce internment, it would prompt some of those "ifs" into reality. It would provide some of the hardliners in paramilitary organisations with the opportunity to point at Westminster and claim that there had been a breakdown in faith through the reintroduction of practices that were almost universally condemned as detrimental to the Northern Ireland political environment in the 1970s.

    Although Ireland retains internment on its statutes, that does not provide an accurate comparison because in Northern Ireland, internment means something different. Furthermore, it is regarded as a clumsy and fairly ineffective means of state—or Westminster—control over nationalists. I hope that the matter will not go to a vote, but if there were to be a vote on the new clause, my party and I will be obliged to support the Government.

    In supporting the new clause tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay), I should like to go back to those halcyon days when I was young, and when one or two Ministers had less grey hair. In 1972, Operation Motorman brought about the introduction of internment in Northern Ireland. Many of my friends were involved in that operation, although I was still a callow youth at university. When I was in Belfast in 1975, internment was still much on people's minds, because it had ended only within the previous nine months.

    In 1972, internment was not a success—apart, perhaps, from the fact that it provoked support for the terrorists. However, that does not condemn it for ever as a legitimate weapon in the anti-terrorist armoury. On my subsequent visits to Northern Ireland, I found that most people involved in security and in keeping the peace said that it was useful to keep internment in the back locker. Terrorists are frightened of the idea of internment; key people can be locked up for a long time with no justification, thereby ruining terrorist operations.

    Internment failed in 1972 because the intelligence that led to the arrest of many people—almost wholly from the nationalist community—was hopeless and out of date. That was what stirred up so many members of the nationalist community and provoked support for the IRA. However, that does not mean that a time could not come when one had sufficient intelligence to nobble top terrorists and remove them from the streets, while one carried out some political activity or sorted out security arrangements.

    Despite that lack of success in 1972, the subsequent 28 years have shown us that great strides have been made in the improvement of intelligence and in the knowledge of who, and where, the terrorists are. In 1972, the personnel of Operation Motorman were knocking at the doors of houses that had been boarded up for months or years. They arrested the wrong people; they had no intelligence—frequently, they did not even have photographs. However, things are now much better.

    The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) said that the reintroduction of internment would send the wrong messages. However, removing it from the statute book—as we did in 1997, against Conservative opposition—sent entirely the wrong message: that there might never be another occasion on which one might want to lock up dangerous and unpleasant terrorists who had been killing people and against whom one could not, perhaps, obtain a conviction in court.

    All the legal powers still exist—they are open to the police and the security forces—to apprehend individuals who are regarded as a threat.

    Yes, indeed. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong, but I think that we can hold people, only in Northern Ireland, for 72 hours.

    5.30 pm

    Under this legislation, one could possibly hold them for a week.

    I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his knowledge of the situation.

    Both hon. Gentlemen who intervened will know that hardened terrorists shrug their shoulders at the prospect of being held for a week by the RUC. They eat rather better than they might have done otherwise; they have a break from alcohol and perhaps from cigarettes. They do not get roughed up, as is occasionally alleged, and these days they have a pretty easy time, although I accept that perhaps that was not always true in the past.

    My point is that one day we may need to be able to arrest known terrorists and keep them in detention indefinitely. The message that we are sending by not having internment is that we do not think that there can ever be circumstances in which we will have to return to such action. That sends all the wrong messages to the terrorists, who believe that, yet again, the British Government are giving up more of their powers and their ability to deal with terrorism. Terrorism does not affect most of us in this room, but it affects deeply and permanently the few people who live in Northern Ireland, and it changes the pattern of life of all the communities in Northern Ireland.

    Internment was one weapon against terrorists, and I very much regret that it is not on the statute book. I applaud the initiative of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell in trying to bring back internment in the Bill, because it would be welcomed by all those who want peace and an end to the troubles in Northern Ireland.

    I had not intended to speak on the new clause, but lest my earlier intervention be interpreted as a desire to pick a fight with the mover of the new clause, the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay), I want to clarify my position. I entirely support the new clause, and I do so as someone who opposed internment in 1972 and whose party also did so.

    I intervened because I am concerned that we often allow terrorist organisations—which now operate a no claim, no blame policy—literally to get away with murder. Everybody knows that the Provisional IRA has been guilty of a number of killings, including the killing of Charles Bennett. However, if we apply the same criteria as the right hon. Gentleman did, we cannot make that assumption because no one has been charged, even though all the intelligence available to the RUC leads it to that conclusion.

    The dogs in the street know full well that the Provisional IRA killed Charles Bennett and a number of others. Equally, they know that the UVF killed the three Quinn children and that UVF members were involved in the killing of two young men in County Armagh. We should not attempt to protect terrorist organisations from the condemnation of the community by allowing them to hide behind the policy of not claiming their acts and therefore getting away with them.

    We should take account of the written answers on 17 February to several questions seeking information about the number of terrorist actions since the so-called "peace process" began. The first question asked:
    how many people … have been (a) shot and (b) mutilated by terrorists since the Good Friday Agreement.—[Official Report, 17 February 2000; Vol. 344, c. 617W.]
    The Minister of State replied that 155 had received gunshot wounds, 456 had been injured in explosions and 1,811 had been injured under the heading "Other", giving a total of 2,422.

    When asked specifically about attacks on the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Minister said that there had been 23 attacks by firearms, 45 by explosives, 2,348 by missiles including petrol bombs, six assaults and 279 attacks under the heading "Other". That is a total of 2,901 attacks on the RUC. On the question of the number of casualties as a result of paramilitary-style attacks, the Minister said that republicans were responsible for 46 shootings and 88 assaults, and so-called loyalists were responsible for 79 shootings and 172 assaults.

    All that shows that there have been thousands of incidents, which in any other community would be recognised as terrorist related, at a time when we are told that there is a peace process. No one in the House should fool themselves into believing that those incidents are entirely the result of dissident groups. Some of them may well be due to dissidents, but the majority of those attacks are taking place under the direction of the main paramilitary organisations, which have declared a ceasefire.

    The Opposition are right to table the new clause, and it deserves support. As I said, I opposed internment in 1972. It was ham-fisted and it was carried out at a time when insufficient up-to-date information and intelligence were available to the security forces. I agree entirely with the policy of selective internment, of which the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) and I have approved for many years. Under that policy, the security forces can, on the basis of firm information available to them, pick up ringleaders if there is no other course through the normal rule of law. In those circumstances, internment is justifiable.

    The new clause does not even ask for the introduction of internment, so there should be no alarm in the Chamber. It asks only that the instrument be available if the circumstances merit its use. It deserves the support of the House. Internment would be a weapon available to the security forces, should circumstances dictate its need. However, as an instrument it is useless unless there is a will on the part of the Government to take whatever measures are necessary against terrorist organisations.

    I do not find that the Government have the will to deal with terrorist organisations. That will can be demonstrated by introducing measures under the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998. Under that Act, the Government could take action today, because it places on the Secretary of State a duty to stop any further prison releases if an organisation is not co-operating fully with the decommissioning body. General de Chastelain has indicated in writing to the Government that the IRA is not co-operating with the decommissioning body, and, on that basis, the Secretary of State should be taking action. He should consider other criteria that, on their own, allow him to take action.

    The Government refuse to do that because their policy is to appease terrorism, do a deal with terrorism and reach agreements with terrorism. That is the weakness in their whole policy. When dealing with terrorism, there is only one policy that works—zero tolerance. The Government do not adopt that policy; their policy is one of appeasement.

    I had not intended to speak in the debate, but I find the last words of the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) appalling. I do not believe that appeasement is the policy of Her Majesty's Government, any more than I believe that it was the policy of the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) or his successors, as they sought to bring the terrible tragedy of Northern Ireland to a peaceful conclusion. I therefore rebut the hon. Gentleman's remarks.

    I think that I am the only Member now in the Chamber who was a Member of this place when internment was introduced. I am certain that I am the only Member now in the Chamber who voted against it after we had an opportunity to debate it. I voted against it along with about 100 Labour colleagues, because we felt that internment was wrong.

    We are fighting people who refuse to accept the concept of the rule of law. We shall not defeat them by ourselves doing away with the rule of law; we shall defeat them by bringing people before properly constituted courts and putting them on trial, where their guilt or innocence will be proved.

    I find it strange that people forget the debacle of 1971, when internment was introduced. They seem to go back to the halcyon days of 1956 to 1962, or some others. They do not accept, or they refuse to accept, that the campaigns in those days were very different from what was happening in Northern Ireland in 1968, after the attempts to crush the civil rights movement by the then Stormont Government.

    The earlier campaigns were inspired mainly by those outside the Six Counties of Northern Ireland. The present campaign, whether we like it or not, is mainly indigenous to Northern Ireland. That makes it very different. When the then Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), accepted the advice of Brian Faulkner that internment was the answer, that led to the tragedy of it becoming an enormous recruiting office for the Provisional IRA. Secondly, it was an anti-internment march that led to Bloody Sunday. Thirdly, there was the handling of the hunger strikers. Those three classic mistakes between them managed to inspire the Provisional IRA, and enabled it to draw recruits into its camps at times when it was not having the support of very many people in the community of the north of Ireland.

    I am surprised that the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) tabled the new clause. The circumstances as described by him and by the hon. Member for Belfast, East are similar to many circumstances that existed in Northern Ireland after the Government of the now Lord Callaghan phased out internment. With the legislation on the statute book, they could have reintroduced internment at any time if they had wanted to. They chose not to do so because they realised the psychological impact that internment would have if it were reintroduced in Northern Ireland.

    It is easy to say that the dogs in the street know who is guilty. The problem is that we have not yet been able to translate the barking of the dogs into English, so we do not have the evidence. If everybody knows, why do we not have the evidence? Once we start a process of doing things on the basis of suspicion and saying, "This is our evidence", we are on a slippery slope right along the line. Moreover, we would have to derogate from the European convention on human rights, which I understood the Opposition supported when its provisions came before the House, especially article 5—the right to a fair trial and that there should be lawful arrest and detention only. That means that a person is arrested or detained so as to bring him before a properly constituted court, as is laid down in article 5.

    We would be in real difficulty if, for even one moment, we were to consider doing what the Opposition suggest that we do. We are right to congratulate the Government on keeping the undertaking that they gave the Opposition that we would repeal the internment provisions and would not put them back on the statute book.

    5.45 pm

    I do not think that any Conservative Member has worked harder than my right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) to try to advance what the Government are trying to do in Northern Ireland, and to offer support for that. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) for reminding us of some of the circumstances in Northern Ireland, but the truest words were spoken by the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara).

    Most of us in England—or in this country, England, Scotland and Wales—grapple even to begin to understand the dilemma, the hatreds and the causes that have brought Northern Ireland to the centre of everyone's attention. Yet the truth is that we are a land of liberty. This is a great democracy and we struggle and thrash around in the face of irreconcilables. What does one do when people do not accept the authority of the words or views of a state's citizenry? It is a true dilemma that seems to be more immediate and more urgent across the surface of the globe.

    The history of detaining people by internment has, by and large, been very unhappy throughout the globe. If anything, it concentrates the passions on both sides. I follow the argument of the hon. Member for Hull, North, which is rare, when he says that the process of law and the rule of law is what we are about.

    Mandating and detention depend on knowledge, but knowledge without the standards of proof that would bring people to court. These processes are bedevilled by the informer, and sometimes the paid informer. As often as not, they provide the opportunity for settling old scores. Over the years, we have seen that awful injustices have been done when informers have been employed. The intent is to pacify and remove from society a danger and a threat. However, let us reflect on our own circumstances, because our appreciation of liberty and the rule of law must derive from how we would react if we were placed in circumstances where, through malignancy, people gave false information about ourselves. The circumstances could be construed in such a way as to give, however fleeting it may subsequently turn out to be, some appearance of reality. Would we not be enraged if our son, our brother or a member of our family were incarcerated by that means?

    By and large, decent people take the judgments of the courts and the authority of Government to indicate that the individual so identified is naturally, rightly and effectively detained. I am extremely unhappy about setting aside—

    Is the hon. Gentleman not arguing from the specific to the general? Is it not the case that people have been convicted through the courts, at times—rarely, thankfully—on the basis of false information? Is it any more likely that those who are leading terrorist organisations would be wrongly interned if internment were introduced? Where is the difference between the protection of society through internment and through the courts when it comes to that odd case of wrong information?

    My fear about the processes of detention used under provisions such as the new clause and the new schedule is that the powers granted are general. A court specifically identifies through due process the case for the prosecution and the case for the defence; by and large, society has trusted that process for a long time. The history of detention is unsatisfactory, unhappy and, in some cases, tragic.

    Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the potential for internment opens up the possibility of a presumption of guilt being made? Does he also agree that those who are interned might be regarded by some as either guilty or very guilty, and that that would have more to do with the weight of evidence rather than the quality of evidence involved? Does not justice stand on the quality of evidence?

    I notice that, in the new schedule, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell allows for the intermediation of an adviser. If I understand it correctly, the adviser is to play an almost judicial role. If so, my argument is that the due processes of court should be used.

    Is not the whole point of the adviser to ensure that the person interned does not see the evidence against him, and so is not in a position to refute it? Even though representations may be made to the adviser, he sees only one side of the case, and the burden of evidence is not seen by the person who is interned. On the question of errors made in court, does the hon. Gentleman agree that, if such errors are made—many have been—society recognises that and, to the extent that it can, compensates those who have been wrongly accused and later had their conviction quashed?

    Yes, but internment is generally used against a whole class of people—it does not result from individual assessment and weighing of evidence. From that usage emerge great tensions and hatreds—one need only look at the example of the Boer war to realise that. Across the world, we have seen the containment of sections of populations and witnessed how the hatred and revulsion already present in the community so detained is clarified by the act of general internment.

    I do not imagine that the powers in the new clause and new schedule will be used, but it is important that we understand that the history of internment can give us no confidence in its utility—nor can the need to rely on informers, sometimes paid informers, or the appreciation that the information given is often provided for reasons other than to serve justice. The truth in life and democracy is that, even if a man or woman has been convicted in the past of an act that we loathe, that does not mean that that individual is guilty of that with which he or she is subsequently charged, independent of the original act.

    My hon. Friend makes a powerful and typically high-principled argument, but it is important that we understand the circumstances in which internment might be used. I have said before that I do not like internment, but I understand from newspaper reports—I do not necessarily believe them—that the head of the Garda in the Republic has said that he knows perfectly well who the Omagh bombers are, but that he cannot convict them. Yes, the process uses informers, which is unpleasant, and of course some people will be wrongly interned, as they have been in the past; but when one sees the reasons why witnesses will not stand up and testify against murderers such as the Omagh bombers—those reasons being intimidation and threats of murder and maiming—one has to face up to the fact that internment, preferably not used, might be a weapon worth having.

    I do not doubt that the head of the Garda is a sincere and honourable man, but I have heard of many people who have asserted that they know all manner of things—they know the guilt of others. However, our process is not about individuals knowing the guilt; we require a higher standard than that.

    That is the crisis the House always faces when it deals with terrorism. We fear terrorism because it strikes at the very existence of Parliament, and in our fear we reach for instruments. However, we do so in advance of events. The powers in the new clause and new schedule are meant to be reserve powers, to be used if necessary. My point is that that is not necessarily appropriate or helpful. The notion that we can take the power to confine people based on the assertion, "I know it's them", is an extraordinarily draconian response. In a democracy such as ours, such a power should be invoked only in time of war, when the very survival of the nation is at stake.

    I defer to those hon. Members who represent the people of Northern Ireland. Mine must appear a highly abstract argument to those who are confident that they know who the bad ones are and who face them every day. Perhaps they are right, but the House should require a higher standard than that. That is why I am extremely cautious about the new clause and the new schedule.

    I start by saying that if my voice gives up in the middle of my speech it is because I have been suffering from flu for the past few days; I may have to pause now and then to take a sip of water.

    Because of its history, internment is an extremely sensitive issue on both sides of the Irish border, as our short debate has shown. I have listened carefully to the debate, which touched on some profound issues.

    I shall deal first with the points raised by the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson), who repeatedly makes the charge that the Government are involved in a form of appeasement of terrorism. I can rebut that by pointing out that there are 15,000 British soldiers and more than 12,000 RUC officers in Northern Ireland. They are not involved in appeasement. They are acting according to the wishes of the Government and to protect human rights and human life.

    When the hon. Gentleman makes such allegations against the Government, he never offers anything positive. A genuine democrat would set out the way forward, but the hon. Gentleman never does that. All he does is spray around allegations, label people as criminals without evidence, and charge the Government with appeasement. There is no foundation for his allegations and I ask him to reflect on those brave men and women who serve in Northern Ireland in the armed forces and the RUC. They do not see themselves as appeasers—[Interruption.] As usual, the hon. Gentleman shouts from a sedentary position: I shall give way if he wishes to intervene.

    Is the Minister referring to the "chinless wonders" mentioned by the Secretary of State?

    We are trying to have a serious debate, but the hon. Gentleman is dragging it down. I do not know whether he was present at today's Question Time when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State expressed his regret about having made that comment. I believe he described it as a gaffe; well, everyone makes gaffes. The hon. Member for Belfast, East makes gaffes whenever he makes his allegations against the Government and against the brave men and women who serve in Northern Ireland.

    6 pm

    This is a serious point. I do not necessarily accuse the Government of appeasement, although I am pretty worried about it from time to time. The Minister prays in aid the brave men and women serving in the RUC and the Army. I can tell him that in the autumn, when the present Secretary of State took over, three battalions of Foot Guards out of five were serving in Northern Ireland under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. I can tell him categorically that they are fed up with what he said at the weekend. It may have been a flippant gaffe, but it reveals a lot about the Secretary of State's thinking.

    Similarly, enforcing all the Patten commission's recommendations is undermining the morale of the brave men and women of the RUC—

    Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying a little too far from the new clause.

    I am prepared to defend the Secretary of State in all that he is trying to do to achieve peace. All his energy is directed at trying to bring about a new future for Northern Ireland. He has apologised for that comment, and we should let the matter rest. To return to it constantly serves no useful purpose.

    If it were in order, I would also be prepared to debate the Patten report and the way in which that was envisaged in the Good Friday agreement, which I thought the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) supported. As usual, he wants to cherry pick. He supports the bits with which he agrees, and rejects the rest. We cannot move forward on that basis.

    The Government acknowledge that different views on internment are held by people inside and outside the House who have Northern Ireland's best interests at heart. However, the Government stand firmly by their position, because we have yet to be convinced that internment represents an effective policy in Northern Ireland at the beginning of the 21st century.

    Right hon. and hon. Members are aware that executive detention powers were removed from the statute book during the passage of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1998. The issue was further debated that same year in the context of the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act 1998, which was passed in the wake of the Omagh bomb.

    It may be helpful if I refer to the Prime Minister's words on that occasion. He said:

    We had to make a judgment about internment. We have made it clear that we do not rule anything out for ever, but my judgment is that the history of internment as it operates here and in the Irish Republic is different.
    All the way through, we are trying to take carefully targeted measures that allow us to deal with these terrorist groups, but do not provoke such a backlash in other parts of the community that they undermine the fight that we are trying to secure. I agree that that is a matter of judgment, but that is our judgment; although, as I say, we rule nothing out for the future, should things be necessary.—[Official Report, 2 September 1998; Vol. 317. c. 697–8.]
    The case presented by the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) for the Opposition was predicated on the possibility or even the probability of failure. He argued, as he has done previously, that the peace process, which he genuinely wants to reach a successful conclusion, could none the less have certain ramifications, such as the fragmentation of the paramilitary groups.

    If we send out a message that fragmentation is inevitable and that it will be on such a scale that we will have to take such punitive action in the future, the right hon. Gentleman is implying the failure, not the success, of the peace process. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman says from a sedentary position that he is being realistic, but we must deal with the implications.

    Under the Good Friday agreement, the Government are committed to moving towards normal security arrangements in Northern Ireland as quickly as possible, consistent with the level of threat. That includes the removal of Northern Ireland specific temporary legislative powers as soon as it is safe to do so. Obviously, the reintroduction of internment, even if its immediate use were not advocated, would be a negative step in the context of that objective.

    I believe that those who advocate the return of the powers proposed in the new clause have a responsibility to be frank and tell the House when they would propose using them and against whom. There are a number of profound questions which it is right to pose at this point. How would those who argue for the return of internment guarantee that those powers would be used against the right people? On what basis would people be rounded up?

    The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) spoke about malicious information. People could be rounded up wrongly and interned as a consequence. Intelligence is not necessarily perfect. We cannot always guarantee that the information available to us would stand up in a court of law. We may have well-founded suspicions and a good knowledge base, but they may not stand examination in court.

    The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) pointed out that the law courts could get it wrong. If the courts get it wrong, it is more likely that, as the hon. Member for Aldridge—Brownhills commented, executive detention provisions would get it wrong as well.

    Let us consider that possibility. What would be the consequences for civil order in Northern Ireland? Everyone admits that the last time internment was used, it failed. Now some argue that it would be more likely to succeed because of better intelligence. However, they forget about the reaction within the community from which people would be swept up.

    Those who argue for the reintroduction of internment must tell us what would be the consequences for civil order and the implications for the peace process, which would be in the process of evolution. In advocating that approach, the right hon. Member for Bracknell must deal with those questions.

    There is a further fundamental question. Do those who advocate internment genuinely believe that its introduction at this stage will help the peace process? Will it assist the republican and loyalist communities if those who advocate a peaceful progress towards democracy and away from violence now acknowledge the possibility of failure somewhere down the line? The right hon. Gentleman must answer that. Does he believe that the new clause would help the peace process or deflect us from it? He did not deal with that in his contribution.

    It is important that we legislate on the basis of a reasoned assessment of the security situation. We are not in the business, and Government should never be in the business, of legislating for hypothetical situations. Unless there is a clear-cut case for taking the powers suggested, to do so would be a backward step now or in the foreseeable future.

    The Minister has access to enough high-grade intelligence to know that the Real IRA was responsible for the Omagh bomb, and that a man called McKevitt is the leader of the Real IRA. How will the Minister deal with the terrorist organisation that McKevitt is putting together, before that organisation, made up of cells, is so big and so efficient that the whole of society is once again in jeopardy? He must address that question, side by side with the question of internment.

    The hon. Gentleman is right about the level of intelligence that I receive. With the exception of the Minister of State, Home Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke), I receive the highest level of intelligence in the House. However, I will not confirm or deny that intelligence, or confirm the allegations of the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone at the Dispatch Box, because I could thereby jeopardise any possible court action against individuals, or even groups if decisions on proscription or specification were made relative to other legislation.

    We have to tackle the new growth in dissident groups. That is a matter for the security forces, not politicians, although we have to deal with it in some forms. However, the criminal justice system—including the police, the prosecution authorities and the courts—ultimately and rightly brings people to justice, not politicians.

    I have tried to present counter-arguments. We had the same debate when the Government removed executive detention, known as internment, and on subsequent occasions. We have returned to the subject because the right hon. Member for Bracknell and the Conservative party want to have the debate without proving conclusively that they would achieve the objective that I share with the right hon. Gentleman—a peaceful future in Northern Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman must make his case on that point: will the new clause help or hinder the process? We conclude that it could hinder the process. The right hon. Gentleman has to prove that it would help the process. He has not done that. I therefore ask him not to press the new clause to a vote.

    Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

    The House divided: Ayes 140, Noes 330.

    Division No. 108]

    [6.11 pm


    Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)Hamilton, Rt Ron Sir Archie
    Amess, DavidHammond, Philip
    Ancram, Rt Hon MichaelHawkins, Nick
    Arbuthnot, Rt Hon JamesHayes, John
    Atkinson, David (Bour"mth E)Heald, Oliver
    Baldry, TonyHeathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
    Beggs, RoyHoram, John
    Bercow, JohnHowarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
    Beresford, Sir PaulJack, Rt Hon Michael
    Blunt, CrispinJackson, Robert (Wantage)
    Body, Sir RichardJenkin, Bernard
    Boswell, TimJohnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
    Brazier, Julian
    Brooke, Rt Hon PeterKey, Robert
    Browning, Mrs AngelaKing, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
    Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)Kirkbride, Miss Julie
    Burns, SimonLait, Mrs Jacqui
    Butterfill, JohnLansley, Andrew
    Cash, WilliamLetwin, Oliver
    Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
    Lidington, David
    Clappison, JamesLilley, Rt Hon Peter
    Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
    Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Loughton, Tim
    Luff, Peter
    Clifton-Brown, GeoffreyLyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
    Corrnack, Sir PatrickMacGregor, Rt Hon John
    Cran, JamesMcIntosh, Miss Anne
    Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
    Day, StephenMaclean, Rt Hon David
    Donaldson, JeffreyMcLoughlin, Patrick
    Dorrell, Rt Hon StephenMadel, Sir David
    Duncan, AlanMaginnis, Ken
    Duncan Smith, IainMajor, Rt Hon John
    Evans, NigelMaples, John
    Faber, DavidMaude, Rt Hon Francis
    Fabricant, MichaelMay, Mrs Theresa
    Fallon, MichaelMoss, Malcolm
    Flight, HowardNicholls, Patrick
    Forsythe, CliffordNorman, Archie
    Fowler, Rt Hon Sir NormanO'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
    Fox, Dr LiamOttaway, Richard
    Fraser, ChristopherPage, Richard
    Gale, RogerPaterson, Owen
    Garnier, EdwardPickles, Eric
    Gibb, NickPortillo, Rt Hon Michael
    Gill, ChristopherPrior, David
    Gillan, Mrs CherylRandall, John
    Gray, JamesRobathan, Andrew
    Green, DamianRobinson, Peter (Belfast E)
    Greenway, JohnRoe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
    Grieve, DominicRoss, William (E Lond'y)
    Gummer, Rt Hon JohnRuffley, David
    Hague, Rt Hon WilliamSt Aubyn, Nick

    Sayeed, JonathanTrend, Michael
    Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs GillianTyrie, Andrew
    Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)Viggers, Peter
    Spelman, Mrs CarolineWalter, Robert
    Spicer, Sir MichaelWardle, Charles
    Spring, RichardWaterson, Nigel
    Stanley, Rt Hon Sir JohnWells, Bowen
    Steen, AnthonyWhittingdale, John
    Streeter, GaryWiddecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
    Swayne, DesmondWilkinson, John
    Syms, RobertWilletts, David
    Tapsell, Sir PeterWishire, David
    Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
    Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
    Taylor, John M (Solihull)Yeo, Tim
    Taylor, Sir TeddyYoung, Rt Hon Sir George
    Thompson, William

    Tellers for the Ayes:

    Townend, John

    Mrs. Eleanor Laing and

    Tredinnick, David

    Mr. Keith Simpson.


    Ainger, NickCasale, Roger
    Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Cawsey, Ian
    Alexander, DouglasChapman, Ben (Wirral S)
    Allen, GrahamChaytor, David
    Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Chidgey, David
    Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)Clapham, Michael
    Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms HilaryClark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
    Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
    Ashton, JoeClark, Paul (Gillingham)
    Atkins, CharlotteClarke, Charles (Norwich S)
    Austin, JohnClelland, David
    Baker, NormanClwyd, Ann
    Ballard, JackieCoaker, Vernon
    Barnes, HarryCoffey, Ms Ann
    Beard, NigelCohen, Harry
    Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs MargaretColeman, Iain
    Begg, Miss AnneColman, Tony
    Beith, RT Hon A JConnarty, Michael
    Bell, Martin (Tatton)Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
    Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)Cooper, Yvette
    Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)Corston, Jean
    Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)Cotter, Brian
    Bennett, Andrew FCousins, Jim
    Bermingham, GeraldCranston, Ross
    Berry, RogerCrausby, David
    Best, HaroldCryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
    Betts, CliveCryer, John (Hornchurch)
    Blackman, LizCummings, John
    Blears, Ms HazelCunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
    Blizzard, BobCurtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
    Boateng, Rt Hon PaulDarvill, Keith
    Borrow, DavidDavey, Edward (Kingston)
    Bradley, Keith (Withington)Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
    Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)Davidson, Ian
    Bradshaw, BenDavies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
    Brake, TomDavies, Geraint (Croydon C)
    Breed, ColinDawson, Hilton
    Brinton, Mrs HelenDoran, Frank
    Browne, DesmondDowd, Jim
    Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Drew, David
    Buck, Ms KarenDunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
    Burden, RichardEagle, Angela (Wallasey)
    Burgon, ColinEagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
    Burnett, JohnEdwards, Huw
    Burstow, PaulEnnis, Jeff
    Butler, Mrs ChristineFearn, Ronnie
    Byers, Rt Hon StephenField, Rt Hon Frank
    Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)Fisher, Mark
    Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Flint, Caroline
    Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife)Flynn, Paul
    Foster, Rt Hon Derek
    Campbell-Savours, DaleFoster, Don (Bath)
    Cann, JamieFoster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
    Caplin, IvorFoster, Michael J (Worcester)

    Gapes, MikeMcCabe, Steve
    Gardiner, BarryMcCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield)
    George, Andrew (St Ives)
    George, Bruce (Walsall S)McDonagh, Siobhain
    Gerrard, NeilMacdonald, Calum
    Gibson, Dr IanMcDonnell, John
    Gilroy, Mrs LindaMcFall, John
    Godman, Dr Norman AMcGuire, Mrs Anne
    Godsiff, RogerMcIsaac, Shona
    Goggins, PaulMackinlay, Andrew
    Golding, Mrs LlinMaclennan, Rt Hon Robert
    Gordon, Mrs EileenMcNamara, Kevin
    Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)Mactaggart, Fiona
    Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)McWalter, Tony
    Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)McWilliam, John
    Grocott, BruceMahon, Mrs Alice
    Grogan, JohnMallaber, Judy
    Hall, Patrick (Bedford)Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
    Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
    Hanson, DavidMarshall, David (Shettleston)
    Harris, Dr EvanMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
    Heal, Mrs SylviaMarshall-Andrews, Robert
    Healey, JohnMaxton, John
    Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
    Hepburn, StephenMeale, Alan
    Heppell, JohnMerron, Gillian
    Hesford, StephenMichie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
    Hill, KeithMichie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
    Hinchliffe, DavidMiller, Andrew
    Hood, JimmyMitchell, Austin
    Hope, PhilMoffatt, Laura
    Howells, Dr KimMoonie, Dr Lewis
    Hoyle, LindsayMoore, Michael
    Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)Moran, Ms Margaret
    Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
    Hurst, AlanMorgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
    Iddon, Dr BrianMorley, Elliot
    Illsley, EricMorris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
    Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
    Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)Morris, Rt Hon Sir John (Aberavon)
    Jamieson, David
    Jenkins, BrianMountford, Kali
    Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)Mullin, Chris
    Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
    Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
    Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)Naysmith, Dr Doug
    Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)Oaten, Mark
    Jones, Helen (Warrington N)O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
    Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW)O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
    O'Hara, Eddie
    Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)Olner, Bill
    Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)O'Neill, Martin
    Jowell, Rt Hon Ms TessaÖpik, Lembit
    Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldOrgan, Mrs Diana
    Keeble, Ms SallyPearson, Ian
    Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)Pendry, Tom
    Kelly, Ms RuthPerham, Ms Linda
    Kemp, FraserPickthall, Colin
    Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W)Pike, Peter L
    Plaskitt, James
    Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)Pollard, Kerry
    Khabra, Piara SPond, Chris
    Kidney, DavidPope, Greg
    Kilfoyle, PeterPound, Stephen
    King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
    Kumar, Dr AshokPrimarolo, Dawn
    Laxton, BobProsser, Gwyn
    Leslie, ChristopherPurchase, Ken
    Levitt, TomQuin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
    Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)Quinn, Lawrie
    Linton, MartinRadice, Rt Hon Giles
    Livsey, RichardRammell, Bill
    Llwyd, ElfynRapson, Syd
    Lock, DavidReed, Andrew (Loughborough)
    Love, AndrewRendel, David
    McAvoy, ThomasRoche, Mrs Barbara

    Rogers, AllanSutcliffe, Gerry
    Rooker, Rt Hon JeffTaylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
    Rooney, Terry
    Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
    Rowlands, TedTaylor, David (NW Leics)
    Ruane, ChrisTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
    Ruddock, JoanThomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
    Russell, Bob (Colchester)Timms, Stephen
    Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)Tipping, Paddy
    Ryan, Ms JoanTodd, Mark
    Salter, MartinTonge, Dr Jenny
    Sanders, AdrianTouhig, Don
    Sawford, PhilTrickett, Jon
    Sedgemore, BrianTurner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
    Shaw JonathanTurner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
    Sheerman, BarryTurner, Neil (Wigan)
    Shipley, Ms DebraTwigg, Stephen (Enfield)
    Short, Rt Hon ClareTyler, Paul
    Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)Tynan, Bill
    Singh, MarshaWallace, James
    Skinner, DennisWard, Ms Claire
    Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)Watts, David
    Smh, Angela (Basildon)Webb, Steve
    Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)Welsh, Andrew
    White, Brian
    Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)Whitehead, Dr Alan
    Smith, John (Glamorgan)Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
    Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
    Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
    Snape, PeterWilliams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
    Soley, CliveWillis, Phil
    Southworth, Ms HelenWinnick, David
    Squire, Ms RachelWinterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
    Starkey, Dr PhyllisWise, Audrey
    Steinberg, GerryWood, Mike
    Stewart, David (Inverness E)Woolas, Phil
    Stinchcombe, PaulWorthington, Tony
    Stoate, Dr HowardWright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
    Strang, Rt Hon Dr GavinWyatt, Derek
    Stringer, Graham

    Tellers for the Noes:

    Stuart, Ms Gisela

    Mr. Kevin Hughes and

    Stunell, Andrew

    Mr. Mike Hall.

    Question accordingly negatived.

    New Clause 3

    Expiry Of Part Vii

    '.—(1) This Part shall, by virtue of this subsection, cease to have effect at the end of the period of one year beginning with the day on which it is brought into force.

    (2) The Secretary of State may by order provide that a provision of this Part shall cease to have effect.'.—[ Mr. McNamara.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: New clause 8—Expiry and revival (No. 2)

    '(1) This Act shall (subject to subsection (2)) cease to have effect at the end of the period of five years beginning with the day on which the Act is brought into force.

    (2) The Secretary of State may by order provide—

  • (a) that a provision of this Act which is in force (whether or not by virtue of this subsection) shall continue in force for a specific period not exceeding five years;
  • (b) that a provision of this Act shall cease to have effect;
  • (c) that a provision of this Act which is not in force (whether or not by virtue of this subsection) shall come into force and remain in force for a specified period not exceeding five years.
  • (3) An order under subsection (2) shall be made by statutory instrument; and no such order shall be made unless a draft of the statutory instrument containing the order has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.'.

    Amendment No. 143, in page 51, line 38, leave out Clause 111.

    Later this evening, we shall debate the prevention of terrorism order for the last time, and my new clause draws attention to that. The lifespan of part VII, which deals specifically with Northern Ireland, is five years. That seems unacceptably long in the absence of a debate, which we have had in the past, to decide whether these extraordinary powers, or some of them, should be reconsidered or continued or repealed.

    My new clause proposes that part VII have effect for only a year, with the provision that the Secretary of State should be able to lift certain of its requirements at times. I do not believe that that is unreasonable. Had I had the time and thought more carefully, I should have drafted it to include a renewal order so that we could consider that matter. Unfortunately, I did not do so. Even so, we have the Government's undertaking that there will be an annual independent review of the Bill's operation, but we have not had an undertaking that the review will be debated. Nor have we had an undertaking that notice will be taken of the reviewers' suggestions on additions or deletions. In the past, proposed deletions have nearly always been ignored and proposed additions have always been seized on and included.

    If the Government have related part VII specially and specifically to Northern Ireland, it should be subject to statutory review. Northern Ireland is, sadly, an unhappy part of the country at present and specific legislation deals with the problems there. We hope that those problems will go away and that the Good Friday agreement will be implemented, but we should nevertheless examine the legislation, and very much so.

    An associated matter has been a disappointment. The criminal law review in Northern Ireland has progressed slowly. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office has said that he hoped that it would be completed either when we were dealing with the later stages of consideration of the Bill or before Easter, possibly in the other place. I do not hold it against him that it has not been completed, but I am concerned that we are passing legislation without having a proper opportunity to review it and without any undertakings being given about the Government's attitude to that review and what changes will be made in respect of part VII. That is the burden of my case.

    We are considering serious legislation specific to one part of the United Kingdom and the precedent has been that we examine such legislation every year. We should do so again. If my new clause does not meet the precise requirements, I am happy to leave it to my right hon. Friend to draft a fresh one for the other place, but I believe that the House would abdicate its responsibility if it did not at least provide for renewal orders relating to the implementation of the Bill.

    I believe that in happier days, when this legislation was first considered, we hoped that the Good Friday agreement would be implemented, and that—apart from having to deal with a few dissidents—the legislation might disappear for ever. That may happen—I hope that it will—but, just in case it does not, we should have an opportunity to examine the way in which the legislation is dealt with, especially the parts introduced as a result of the terrible Omagh bombing.

    6.30 pm

    The new clause tabled by the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), whom I am happy to follow, relates specifically to part VII—the Northern Ireland section that we debated in Committee with the Minister and some of our colleagues.

    I told the Minister and the Committee that it was our considered view that it was right for us to look forward to the early conclusion of special powers for Northern Ireland and right for those powers to be reviewed regularly on the basis of a report and the agreement of Parliament, but that we were happy for the end of the period concerned to remain unspecified for the moment. There is a backstop of five years. The Government would have to return to Parliament again if other existing legislation were repealed or changed once this law was enacted. We felt, however, that there must be a degree of flexibility.

    As the Minister may remember, since the Committee stage, I have visited Northern Ireland to talk to people about, specifically, aspects of the Bill that relate to the Province. I was pleasantly surprised and encouraged by the widespread view across the political parties and the community divides, and among senior members of the police service—and elsewhere—that action should be taken as quickly as possible to restore the normal processes of the court structure: hearings, trials and police procedures. They hoped that that would happen much sooner than in five years' time. No one argued to the contrary, which I found encouraging.

    New clause 8 concerns a linked but different issue. We have what is, in effect, renewable legislation. The Bill will introduce permanent legislation. Even after the courteous and reasonable debate in which we engaged with the Minister in Committee, my hon. Friends and I are not persuaded that we should move, all in one go, to a UK-wide Bill of a permanent nature.

    We are persuaded—indeed, we have always argued the case; I have argued it since I became my party's home affairs spokesman—that there should be UK-wide legislation, rather than legislation treating Northern Ireland separately from Great Britain. One of the reasons why I always thought that the old legislation was improper, and never voted for it, was the fact that it contained exclusion clauses, and treated citizens of one country as though they could be compartmentalised. We consider UK-wide legislation to be entirely proper, as the Minister knows.

    However, we consider it dangerous to table a Bill that is not just UK-wide but much more far-reaching, without giving Parliament a chance to bring it back to see how it is being implemented. New clause 8 suggests that, once enacted, the Act should cease to have effect five years after enactment without Parliament's approving its continuance. Its maximum length would therefore be the maximum length of a Parliament, although a Government could return to it before that. We think that such a safeguard is necessary.

    I will not go into details, but we need to be particularly attentive about two actions that we are taking in the Bill. We are creating permanent UK anti-terrorism legislation, and we are extending its remit. We will discuss definitions later, but I am not talking just about what is defined as terrorism; I am talking about the definition of the powers given to the authorities of the state—the police, the courts, and others.

    Exceptional measures—steps towards the removal of liberty and the increasing of state powers—should be taken with great care in a democratic country. We have been careful and we are careful, but we are in danger of unwittingly not being careful if we suddenly sign up to legislation that will come back only if whichever party is in power brings it back, or if a majority in the House wants to bring it back. The new clause would enable all Members, from all parts of the United Kingdom, to debate the issue.

    Let me say a word particularly to my Northern Ireland colleagues, from whose expertise—exemplified by the contributions of the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis)—we benefited during much of the Committee stage. Until Northern Ireland is at peace, which we pray will be soon, we must ensure that all of us—not just a corner of the House in which Northern Ireland Members talk to each other and to Northern Ireland Ministers—can learn from their experience.

    I think that subsection (2) deals with one of the two objections raised by the Minister in Committee. He suggested that the requirement for the Act as a whole to be brought back within five years was an inflexible tool. Subsection (2) would allow certain parts of the Act to be continued, certain parts to be discontinued, and certain parts that had been discontinued to be brought back. It is not inflexible: it is possible to look at each and every clause and to say, "This is right" and, "This is wrong."

    Of course, if we wanted to amend the legislation, there would have to be a process allowing that, but there is no reason why we could not do what we are doing today—coincidentally. There is no reason why we should not include in our debate both a Bill to amend existing legislation and an order to continue or discontinue part of it. It would be logical to do both at the same time.

    The Minister argued, perfectly reasonably, that we might need to act more quickly. In Committee, I said that I had been advised, and feared, that the Bill as drafted might contain breaches of the European convention on human rights, and that, if the European Court made a finding similar to its finding in the Bulger case in December, the Home Secretary would have to come to the House and announce a change in the law, or the procedure.

    That is, of course, true. At any stage, if there is a ruling against the Government that relates to legislation, the Government must come back to the House. Let me point out to the Minister, however, that the new clause does not suggest that the legislation can come back only every five years; it provides a backstop. Of course, if we find that, despite the Home Secretary's declaration on the front of the Bill, the Bill breaches the convention, it will have to come back earlier; but I hope that members of all parties will learn the lesson that we all painfully learned in two ways two years ago.

    After the Omagh bombing, which was painful enough in itself, we returned to the House for two days in September 1998 to pass yet more emergency legislation. That was not good legislating, as anyone involved will recall. We legislated in haste, and, as Ministers confirmed in Committee, much of the legislation has never been used. Perhaps none of it has. That is the practical implication of what was done. Sometimes—indeed, nearly always—it is better to have a opportunity to consider, to reflect on what needs to be done and to take advice. In the case of this Bill, we have taken account of a report by Lord Lloyd of Berwick, and have consulted the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which was established by a governmental statutory body. It is certainly the commission's view that we should not have permanent legislation.

    Interestingly, in all my discussions in Northern Ireland last month, and without naming any individual—I talked to very senior representatives of the relevant parts of society—no one argued for permanent legislation. They said not only that there should not be permanent legislation in Northern Ireland—let alone in Great Britain—but that there was benefit in reviewable and renewable legislation.

    One person convincingly put the following argument to me. If we have special powers and there is a group in the community that feels that it is oppressed, troubled, or likely to be the targets of those powers, it is much better for the law and order agency—the police or armed services—to be able to say that those will be reviewed in time and are not a permanent part of the state, than for people to feel that there will be no opportunity for a review that is apart from the forces of law and order.

    The hon. Gentleman referred to the Omagh bombing. Does he not accept that, at the time of the bombing, there was a great desire among the British and Irish Governments to work together as far as possible and to ensure that legislation on both sides of the border was consistent, so that people could not play the game of moving from one side to the other? Does he accept that that was one of the motivations that led to the legislation being introduced? Whether it was good legislation or not, does he at least accept that, at the time, the motives for introducing it were, effectively, to try to combat terrorist organisations that used the different jurisdictions to avoid detection or arrest?

    Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the courts in the Republic are now very reluctant to use that particular legislation and are not accepting the word merely of a senior police officer? They are looking for other things and more corroboration. We should not legislate in this country just to meet the needs of the Republic of Ireland. He might remember that, when these matters were discussed, Downing street's official spokesman issued statements saying that we did not need stronger legislation, as we already had all that we needed. All that we were doing was legislating to please the Irish Government and, incidentally, the Home Office and the Saudis.

    The hon. Gentleman is right. Both points raise an important issue. I was going to make a linked point. There is every benefit in being in touch with the Irish Government and the Irish Parliament and knowing what they are thinking. There is clearly every benefit in compatible systems north and south of the border to deal with people who can easily go back and forth across the border every day.

    However, one of the reasons why we would be wrong to enact permanent legislation is that, at this very moment in Ireland, a review of the constitutional provisions is going on. It has not been concluded. It has touched on the Disqualifications Bill, which we considered in December and January.

    There is some sense both in retaining independence, so that we can do what we think is best for this country, and in at least trying to understand what is happening elsewhere and not anticipating something: the Republic may come to a different conclusion as a result of the review. The unanimous view in Northern Ireland was that we should not have permanent legislation. One of the things that seem to strengthen that case is that there is a review of the legislation in the Republic and that it would be helpful to be able to take changes into account. If we have permanent legislation on the statute book, by definition, we will not be able to look at the matter again in the light of what is going on in Ireland.

    6.45 pm

    One of the places that I went to when I was in Northern Ireland again recently was South Armagh, which has suffered as much as anywhere, if not more. There were clearly differences of view about some of the details of what is going on in terms of the whole settlement process in Northern Ireland, but on one thing there was no controversy: if we had an exceptional set of powers—which are clearly needed at the moment—the people of Northern Ireland, their representatives in this Parliament and in the Assembly should be able to play a part in discussing how they should be continued.

    Once we put something permanent on to the statute book, the chance of being able to have such a debate—involving Members in the Northern Ireland Assembly, listening to people in local government in Northern Ireland, talking to the Royal Ulster Constabulary—goes. It is locked in, and only the Government can press a button that unlocks it.

    I ask colleagues on both sides of the House, and the Government in particular, to think again about their view that we do not need reviewable legislation. The Minister offered a concession, or came forward with a proposal in Committee that was welcome—a periodic report on the legislation will be laid before Parliament, as happens now—but it does not go far enough. There is all the difference in the political world between a report that we can read and legislation that has to come to Parliament to continue, or to be altered. I urge the House as strongly as I can to vote for our new clause, in the hope that we get terrorism legislation that Parliament can keep regularly under review at least once every Parliament.

    I have some sympathy for the observations of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) on the need for impermanent legislation. He called it renewable legislation.

    I support the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara). I listened carefully to what he said. He talked about an independent review, whereas the hon. Gentleman talked about a periodic report. I was not on the Committee, but an independent review sounds more powerful than a periodic report. If an independent review has been promised, that is reassuring.

    I agree with my hon. Friend that such a review should be debated in the House, so that all sorts of concerns can be raised. There are some powerful elements in this part. I mention three at a glance: clauses 97, 98 and 99, which deal with the independent assessor of military complaints procedures, the code of practice on police and Army powers and the code of practice on video recording respectively. A debate such as that mentioned by my hon. Friend would give us the opportunity to voice concerns about the imperfections of those clauses, or about where they could be strengthened or modified.

    It may not be feasible in parliamentary terms, but my view is that it would be better to submit such an independent report to a Select Committee for examination. A three-hour or five-hour debate in this place does not allow for the cross-examination of Ministers that a Select Committee hearing allows.

    With respect—it certainly does not apply to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office—I have heard Ministers brush aside questions on important issues from the Opposition and others. That cannot be done within the framework of a Select Committee investigation. I am not suggesting for one moment that he conducted himself in that way when I questioned him, but I make a serious point. It is one that I made in relation to the Sierra Leone affair. I told the Foreign Secretary at the time that it was good that he had offered to make a statement from the Dispatch Box, but that it would be better for all concerned that that matter should be subjected to a Select Committee inquiry.

    I hope that the hon. Gentleman did not think that I was arguing that we should not have an annual report or an opportunity for the matter to be taken before a Select Committee. The question is whether we also have the ability over a longer period—five years as opposed to every year—for Parliament to be able to make a positive decision that it wants the legislation, whole or in part, to go on. They are not incompatible.

    I am grateful for that clarification and reassurance. I thought that I was listening intently, but I must have strayed a little.

    If we are to have independent reviews, I believe that a Select Committee is a better instrument for monitoring the implementation of legislation, especially controversial legislation such as this Bill. Such legislation ought to be renewable rather than permanent.

    The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey mentioned that he had been to South Armagh recently. I visited a police station in the constituency of the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) where the RUC officers are working extremely hard to develop good community relations in a nationalist community. It is essential that legislation does not impede that sort of remarkably fine work.

    I am asking for renewable rather than permanent legislation.

    I commend to the Government the purposes behind the new clauses. The Bill, as we all understand, gives extraordinary powers to the Executive. It is appropriate to have what is, effectively, a sunset clause—perhaps the Government can draft something suitable.

    I am a believer in sunset clauses. The House has too little opportunity on a general range of legislation to review its workings under the necessity of having to justify it. A sunset clause gives the Government an opportunity to explain their stewardship of these extraordinary powers. I say this gently because it is important that where such powers are available to the Executive they must justify their exercise of them. I am grateful to the hon. Members for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) and for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) for giving the House the opportunity to pause to consider an important point.

    No one in the House would quarrel with the call from my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) for the Executive, whichever party happens to be in government, to be held to account for the exercise of the powers given to them by counter-terrorist legislation. These are far-reaching powers.

    The debate is about the most appropriate mechanisms for holding the Executive to account and subjecting Ministers to sustained questioning over their role as custodians of the legislation. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) and my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills have set out eloquently the case for the sunset clause.

    I should mention the new clause moved by the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara). The Opposition are satisfied that the provisions already incorporated in the Bill in clause 11 I provide adequate safeguards in respect of the special powers for Northern Ireland, and Northern Ireland alone. We are not persuaded by the hon. Gentleman's argument for new clause 3.

    New clause 8 was spoken to by the Liberal Democrats. The arguments for the sunset clause were powerful and well put and it would be wrong to dismiss them, but there is a compelling counter-argument. The first Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill was introduced by Lord Jenkin, then Home Secretary, in the immediate aftermath of the Birmingham bombings. Probably everybody assumed at the time that the powers would be needed only in respect of a crisis arising from terrorist violence in Northern Ireland, perhaps spilling over to the mainland of Great Britain. Everybody assumed that, within a few years, it would be possible to revert to normal criminal justice powers and legislation without the need for the special provisions. Sadly, that has not been the case. As the hon. Members for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) and for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) can testify, the need to be vigilant against terrorism in Northern Ireland remains to this day.

    Even if there were to be an established and enduring peace in Northern Ireland, there still remains a case for permanent counter-terrorist legislation. The first recommendation of Lord Lloyd when he summarised the conclusions of his review of counter-terrorist legislation was that
    When lasting peace is established in Northern Ireland there will continue to be a need for permanent anti-terrorist legislation.
    He went on to argue—we will come to this in later amendments—that new legislation should apply not just to violence related to Northern Ireland but to terrorism throughout the United Kingdom, covering domestic as well as international terrorism.

    I fear that organised and ruthless terrorism is not some temporary feature of the political landscape but is endemic. We have seen examples of middle eastern terrorism which has, on occasions, spilled over into the United Kingdom and other European countries and we have seen what has happened in Tokyo. I can recall that, at the time of the Gulf war in the early 1990s, there were acute fears in this country that Saddam Hussein, in order to further his campaign, would seek to sponsor or promote acts of terrorism in allied capital cities so as to try to induce the populations there to withdraw support from the United Nation's alliance which was confronting him over Kuwait.

    I have been listening carefully to what the hon. Gentleman said about the assumptions in the 1970s when the prevention of terrorism legislation was introduced in the wake of the Birmingham bombings and his views on the on-going problem of terrorism. I do not disagree with him. However, in the context of new clause 3, is that not an argument, if not for a sunset clause, for some form of subsequent review of whether the powers as cast should be changed, revised or muted? After all, terrorism, even if it is a permanent feature of the landscape, is likely to change its form.

    7 pm

    I agree with the hon. Gentleman on the need for regular and thorough reviews of the legislation, but I doubt whether new clause 3 provides the best mechanism for such reviews. The Government have offered us an annual review. In Committee, the Minister said that the Government were minded to appoint an independent examiner—someone in the tradition of Mr. John Rowe and Lord Colville—to examine from an outsider's perspective the operation of legislation and to report to the Government. I should hope that, subsequently, the Government would ensure that the examiner's report was fully debated by both Houses of Parliament.

    Does the hon. Gentleman not recognise that one of the difficulties in Lord Lloyd's analysis of the matter was the failure to explore the difference between permanent counterterrorism legislation and renewable counter-terrorism legislation? The latter would maintain the House's rights and responsibilities to deal with the matter in primary legislation, and would also allow the Government of the day to get out of the other trap. In a world in which the character of terrorism changes as quickly as economic circumstances change, if we try to deal with the matter in permanent legislation, we will inevitably be forced towards adopting much too broad a definition of terrorism, thereby casting long and dark shadows over the nature of democratic society and open government. A sunset clause would get us out of that predicament.

    Order. That intervention was far too long. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) could also perhaps deal with that matter in the debate on the next group of amendments.

    The difficulty that I have with the argument being made, quite honourably, by the hon. Members for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson) and for Blackpool, South (Mr. Marsden) is that we could end up deluding ourselves into thinking that we were supporting counter-terrorism powers that were in a realistic sense temporary.

    We have to acknowledge that the character of the international political environment in which British Ministers, British security and intelligence agencies and British police officers have to take their decisions has changed, and that it has probably changed irrevocably. It has been a change for the worse, but we have to come to terms with that change. There will be a need for us not only to remain vigilant about how Ministers and officials exercise the powers that they have been given in statute, but to ensure that our legislative safeguards are kept up to date, so that we are able to respond to what I fear might be the proliferation among terrorist groups of yet more deadly weapons.

    Professor Wilkinson's report, which was appended to Lord Lloyd's, mentions the fact that, in the next few decades, chemical, nuclear or biological weapons might fall into the hands of terrorist groups which are prepared, if not to use them as such, to use them as instruments of blackmail and coercion. We have also to ensure that our legal arrangements are kept up to date with whatever new technologies become available to terrorist groups.

    The best way of approaching that issue is to build on the process of annual review, which the Government have offered to us; to ensure that Parliament has the opportunity to demand of Ministers that they introduce amending legislation as and when it is demonstrated to be necessary; and, as the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) said, to use the Select Committee system that is available to us. I should certainly hope that not only the Intelligence and Security Committee, which would have an important role to play in the matter, but the Select Committees on Home Affairs and on Northern Ireland Affairs would interest themselves in the detail of how those powers are exercised in future.

    Coupled with the formal procedure of annual review and annual report that the Government have already offered, the Select Committees—with the interplay of question and answer that they allow, and their capacity to subject Ministers to sustained interrogation, rather than simply allowing them to make an introductory speech, and then wind up the debate, giving way as frequently or infrequently as they choose—are a better way of approaching the matter.

    For those reasons, I am not prepared to support this group of amendments.

    This has been a useful debate. As hon. Members on both sides of the House have acknowledged, the issue was debated very fully in Committee. I am delighted to return to the subject now.

    New clause 3 and amendment No. 143, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), would time-limit the Northern Ireland-specific provisions to one year. New clause 8, tabled by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), would provide for the expiry and revival of the Bill every five years. That provision is identical to the hon. Gentleman's new clause 2 in Committee, which we debated for 45 minutes, on 8 February.

    I shall deal with the detail of the two specific proposals. First, however, I should like to make a couple of general points about the role of Parliament in all this.

    As has been generously acknowledged by various speakers, the Government have sought to respond to the concerns expressed on Second Reading by establishing an annual report process, which was not in the Bill on Second Reading. We listened to comments made by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and felt that there was merit in the case for producing an annual report.

    I can also confirm that we did, indeed, commit ourselves to that report being prepared by an independent person. The document would not be internal and secret but out in the public domain. I should like to place that commitment on record now—as I did in Committee—as it is helpful to do so.

    It is important that we should have a little discussion about Parliament's role in dealing with this form of accountability. The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) used a good phrase—explanatory stewardship—to describe the role, and he was quite right about that. The question is how best stewardship can be explained. A wide range of parliamentary devices is available. My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Inverclyde mentioned Select Committees, which are the first possibility.

    As all hon. Members who have served on a Select Committee will know, the Select Committee process can indeed be far more effective than a general process in the House. One of my first duties after being elected to the House was to serve as a member of the Treasury Committee. I am sure that the Governor of the Bank of England would agree that the regular interrogation to which the Committee subjected him and the Monetary Policy Committee on their policy on setting interest rates was much more rigorous than a regular debate in the House, or some other process, would have been. As the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) said, we also have the Home Affairs Committee, the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and the Intelligence and Security Committee. They are an important part of the process. The House also has the capacity for debate in a variety of forms—a short debate on the Adjournment, or a more substantial debate, such as we are having today.

    Contrary to the comments of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey, it is not the provision that will serve as a backstop, but this Parliament. If ever one wanted evidence that this Parliament has been a backstop in our consideration of such issues, one would only have to study the way in which legislation has been dealt with, often very rapidly, by the House. Although I take the point about consideration, the suggestion that there is any inflexibility in Parliament's ability to consider new legislation as circumstances change is simply not correct. It is a fact that over the years—in this as in other matters—Parliament has shown a tremendous readiness to respond rapidly to the issues raised by changing events such as judgments by the European Court of Human Rights, or by more dramatic events such as bombs and explosions, which require issues to be dealt with differently.

    My response to the general discussion—before moving on to the particulars of the two proposals—is that it is quite wrong to describe Parliament as inflexible in its ability to address such questions. The reverse is true: Parliament has tremendous flexibility to achieve by a variety of different means the explanatory stewardship suggested by the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills. It would be unwise to opt for one constitutional straitjacket in seeking to address it.

    Of course there is the flexibility that the Minister described. Can he confirm that clause 124, which provides for a report, does not necessarily trigger a parliamentary yes or no process? More important, looking back over any number of years, the two circumstances in which the Government come to the House to seek changes are when the are obliged by a court judgment to do so or when they are seeking more power. Governments do not readily seek to give up power even when there is a large clamour outside telling them they should do so.

    I am not sure that that analysis is correct. In certain circumstances Governments seek the withdrawal of power as a result of events changing. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office suggests that that has happened recently in respect of the EPA.

    The amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North are aimed at time-limiting the Northern Ireland- specific provisions to one year from the date on which they are brought into force. There would be no power to continue the provisions beyond that point—nor could a provision be brought back into force if it had been lapsed by order.

    I shall set out again the Government's position on the Northern Ireland-specific measures. I am happy to do so as it is very important. I emphasise strongly that the Government wish to move to the position where there are no Northern Ireland-specific measures. The aim of the Bill is to have a UK-wide approach to combating terrorism. We remain strongly committed to this—indeed the Good Friday agreement requires us to remove the emergency powers in Northern Ireland as soon as the security situation allows it. That is our intention and desire.

    My right hon. Friend the Minister of State made the point that the test of a normalised society is to achieve that common basis. That is what we seek to do. It is an important policy consideration.

    If I thought that the security situation would allow for that in one year's time, I would be delighted to accept the new clause. Of course I cannot predict the security situation in a year's time—and neither can anyone else. The key is flexibility. Clause 111, which amendment No. 143 seeks to remove, time-limits the part VII provisions to five years. It allows powers to be switched off by order and to be revived if it is proved they are needed.

    Let me deal with a specific point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North. He suggested that the temporary Northern Ireland provisions would remain on the statute book for five years without the need for parliamentary approval. Clause 111 provides that part VII lapses after 12 months unless renewed by an affirmative resolution order for further periods of 12 months, up to a maximum lifespan of five years. That renewal will be informed by the annual report in all the ways that we know, and on the operation of the Act under clause 124. So there is a parliamentary approval process.

    Although I sympathise with the thrust of what my hon. Friend said, his amendments would tie the Government's hands to a degree that I cannot accept. There have been too many events reminding us of the terrible situation.

    My hon. Friend referred to the criminal review. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State assures me that it will be published soon, so as to enable further debate and consideration of these issues.

    I hope that my hon. Friend will accept my assurances that the Government remain committed to dispensing with the part VII powers as soon as it is safe to do so and will not press his amendments further.

    7.15 pm

    We reject the proposal in the Liberal Democrat new clause for the same reasons that we rejected it in Committee. Lord Lloyd concluded:
    once lasting peace has been established in Northern Ireland, there will continue to be a need for permanent counter-terrorist legislation to deal with the threat of international and domestic terrorism.
    I referred in Committee, and I shall do so again today, to the extract from pages 4 to 5 of his report, in which he sets out the reasons—as clearly and eloquently as anyone has been able to do here. At paragraph 1.20, he states:
    From my interviews with the police, the Security Service and other counter-terrorism specialists in the UK and overseas, I am convinced it would be a mistake—indeed, that it would be folly—to assume that a few years of relative freedom from acts of international terrorism here meant that the threat had largely gone away. There are two reasons for that view.
    First, to measure the threat merely in terms of the number of planned attacks which have been carried out in the UK would be to ignore the substantial effort which goes on, largely in secret, to avert such incidents. Evidence which I have seen and heard, though I cannot set it out here, persuades me that, although the immediate threat is low, international terrorist groups continue to seek opportunities to carry out attacks against UK interests, at home and abroad.
    The second cause for caution is that developments in world politics and the changing nature of terrorism have made it difficult to predict what the future holds. Chapter 4 of Professor Wilkinson's report deals with some of these factors. Regional and national conflicts which have generated terrorism, or have the potential to do so, will continue throughout the foreseeable future. The complex problems in the Middle East and North Africa will remain the most important factor, not least because of the pronounced anti-Western position adopted by some of the parties involved. As the "weapon of the weak" terrorism is likely to remain an attractive option to those engaged in regional power struggles, facilitated by the ever-increasing international freedom of movement of people, goods and information. The UK, together with some other Western countries, is particularly liable to be caught up in these struggles because of the number of communities of foreign nationals who live, or seek sanctuary, here.
    That is a powerful argument. It is why the Government have accepted this central recommendation of the report.

    As we said in the consultation paper,

    the Government believes that there exists now a clear and present terrorist threat to the UK from a number of fronts and that a terrorist threat is likely to continue to exist for the foreseeable future even when a lasting peace in Northern Ireland is achieved.
    It gives me no pleasure to say that I believe that to be a frank assessment of the position on the basis of serious consideration and advice.

    We have had so-called temporary provisions on the statute book for 25 years. The time has come to face the fact of terrorism and be ready to deal with it for the foreseeable future. We need to make the powers permanently available, although the fact that those powers are available does not mean that they have to be used.

    The Bill removes some of the most extreme powers that have been used in the past, such as internment and exclusion orders, and introduces judicial extensions of detention.

    The Human Rights Act 1998 will be fully implemented by the time that the Bill comes into force. That is an important new safeguard.We are providing Parliament with an annual report to allow for full consideration of these issues. I pay tribute to hon. Members on both sides of the House who asked for that provision. There is a full opportunity to discuss the issues in great detail. I am sure that that will continue, and on that basis I hope that my hon. Friend will withdraw his new clause.

    I accept what my hon. Friend said about part VII. It is only unfortunate that it does not apply to the rest of the Bill. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

    Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

    New Clause 4

    Right To Consult Solicitor

    '.—(1) All persons detained under section 40 of this Act shall be promptly informed of their right to consult privately with a solicitor and to have a solicitor present at all interviews to be conducted under this Act.

    (2) All persons wishing to consult a solicitor must be permitted to do so as soon as is reasonably practicable.'.— [Mr. McNamara.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Amendment No. 173, in clause 40, page 18, line 34, at end insert—

    '(3A) Where a person is detained under this section for more than 36 hours, a police officer shall state in writing the reasons for continuing to detain him.'

    Government amendments Nos. 60 to 64 and 67 to 69.

    Amendment No. 178, in schedule 7, page 109, line 9, at end insert—

    'and, subject to paragraph 19, shall be completed and the decision notified to the detained person within four hours of his arrest.'

    Government amendments Nos. 70 to 76, 96 to 99, 109 and 116.

    The question of legal access is interesting, and it appears to be missing from the Bill. I want to assert the right of detained persons to have access to legal advice promptly, before the questioning starts.

    The situation in Northern Ireland is especially problematic, as those arrested in Britain under the Prevention of Terrorism Acts have, over the years, effectively been held under Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 conditions. One former head of the Met said that anybody who was arrested under the PTA in his area would always be held under PACE conditions.

    The emergency provisions Act contains a provision allowing for deferral of access to a solicitor for up to 48 hours, which was used widely in Northern Ireland until the 1990s and is still occasionally used. Even when a suspect got access to a lawyer, the lawyer was not permitted to stay in the interview with the suspect, as is the case with PACE. There appears to have been no statutory basis for that exclusion, which resulted from Royal Ulster Constabulary policy and had not been subject to judicial review.

    The only occasion when the matter arose was in Murray v. United Kingdom, a case in Strasbourg, in which the applicant argued that the exclusion of his lawyer from the interviews constituted a violation of article 6, which concerns the right to a fair trial. The court did not express an opinion on that point, having already found a violation on the basis of deferral of access to Murray's solicitor, combined with the drawing of inferences from his silence. Its attitude to the exclusion of a solicitor is not clear, but it said:
    It is of paramount importance for the rights of the defence that an accused has access to a lawyer at the initial stages of police interrogation.

    Does my hon. Friend agree that the current preferred thinking is that the refusal of access to a solicitor during an interview would be a breach of article 6.3 and that the court would rule against us, as it appears that the idea of a fair trial—equality of arms—is paramount and the right exists throughout the rest of the United Kingdom?

    If I understood my hon. Friend correctly, I agree.

    Article 6.3, which should be enforced, does not appear in the legislation. I seek an undertaking that there will be access to a solicitor. That is implicit in the Bill, but not specific. I tabled the new clause in the hope that, when their Lordships in one place or another read our debates to see what was intended, a statement from the Front Bench will be on the record.

    I want to speak mainly to amendments Nos. 173 and 178, although I would also like to say a word about Government amendment No. 64.

    Clause 40 concerns arrest without warrant. Liberty issued a briefing note for our Second Reading debate. It said:

    The Government intends to retain the arrest powers of the PTA which entitle the police to arrest without warrant anyone who they have reasonable grounds for suspecting. Liberty has long been concerned about the existence and operation of this power and considers that it should not he retained for the following reasons:
    it is unnecessary: there is no evidence that the PACE powers of arrest are inadequate.
    it is too wide: it permits a police officer to arrest where the person is not suspected of committing any offence …
    powers have been used in the past simply as an intelligence gathering device.
    These points are particularly important in view of the widened definition of terrorism.
    That is quite a critique of the power, on the use of which amendment No. 173 is designed to put only a small restraint.

    I am concerned about people being held incommunicado. One of my first cases as a Member of Parliament, in the 1980s, was when a constituent came to my advice surgery and reported that she had been to the police because she thought that her son had disappeared and she wanted to report the fact and get their help to find him, but it later transpired that the police were holding him and had not informed her. That was a dreadful abuse of civil liberties.

    The police have increasing powers to hold people, but the rights of both the person detained and the family are very important.

    I remind my hon. Friend that he dealt with a case involving my nephew, Luke, who was detained for eight hours in a police station in his constituency. He will confirm that my nephew was innocent of any misdemeanour.

    I cannot remember all the cases that I have had in 17 years in Parliament, but I am happy that my hon. Friend has put that on the record and that I was able to help his nephew. I am happy to help all my constituents in such circumstances.

    Lord Lloyd of Berwick's report on his inquiry into legislation against terrorism—Cm 3420—has been quoted a lot. Paragraph 9.26 on page 48 says:

    In England and Wales, whether a person is arrested under PACE or under the PTA, he has the right to consult a solicitor and to have the solicitor present during interview. He is also entitled to have someone he knows informed of his arrest. These rights may be delayed on the authority of a superintendent if he reasonably believes that such communications might be detrimental to the investigation for one or more specified reasons. The maximum period during which a detainee may be held incommunicado corresponds with the length of time for which he may be detained without further authority. Thus, in non-terrorist cases the rights of access may be delayed up to 36 hours whereas a terrorist suspect may be held incommunicado for up to 48 hours. Furthermore, in terrorist cases an officer of Assistant Chief Constable rank or above may order that consultations with a solicitor are to take place within the sight and hearing of a uniformed officer of at least the rank of inspector.
    That makes it clear that, in non-terrorist cases, the norm is 36 hours. If the period is to last longer than that, it is not unreasonable that the reason for the delay and denial of rights should be specified. A simple explanation would suffice, perhaps involving the suspicion of terrorism, but some concrete justification should be given and someone should not be kept an extra 12 hours and denied those rights without genuine suspicion. That would subvert PACE, because every case could be treated as a terrorist case and a person detained for an extra 12 hours without anybody being notified.

    7.30 pm

    Does my hon. Friend agree that, if those games of holding persons incommunicado—the purpose of which is to put pressure on prisoners—are played, those actions would be subject to subsequent inquiry by the court and, after 2 October, by the European Court of Human Rights? It is ludicrous that we should lose cases because of unnecessary provisions such as the ones before us.

    That is a good point. It would not be difficult to give a reason, because the Government's proposals in the legislation against terrorism consultation paper suggest that a written record should be kept of the outcome of the review of the case. Lord Lloyd also made it clear that delay had to be for specified reasons.

    Lord Lloyd also pointed out that a survey of those detained under the PTA in Britain in 1989–90 found that legal advice was delayed in some 26 per cent. of cases and there was a delay in informing someone of a person's detention in 44 per cent. of cases. Those are high figures, and I hope that we will not see a return to such wholesale denial of rights. In a sense, the Bill would legalise those delays.

    Other hon. Members have mentioned the European Court of Human Rights and its judgment in Murray v. United Kingdom. The court found that the denial of access to a lawyer, when combined with the trial court's right to draw adverse inferences from silence under questioning, violated the detainee's rights under article 6 of the European convention on human rights. Consequently, the circumstances that gave rise to the successful challenge in the Murray case could now arise throughout the United Kingdom. I would like an assurance that the Government have addressed that point so that we will not face similar judgments in future.

    Amendment No. 178 seeks to ensure that a detained person has access to his or her family after four hours of detention and that the first review of the case should be completed by then. I admit that the figure of four hours has been plucked out of the air, but a review of the case could reasonably be completed within that time. It would be better than a long time without any proper review and the denial of rights of the person being held.

    The amendment would amend the review process. I want to ensure that individual rights are maintained, although that is outside the review process. However, the amendment would build on the existing requirement for a review officer to inform the detained person of his rights as soon as continued detention has been authorised, by adding a requirement that the first review must be completed and the decision notified to the detained person within four hours of his arrest. At that point, the detained person would have to be notified of his rights, otherwise—as far as I can see—he would be left without having been notified of his rights for an indefinite period. The amendment would extend the civil liberties of the person involved.

    I am concerned about the drafting of Government amendment No. 64, which is not as tight as I would have hoped. The Government may be able to reconsider in the other place. The amendment repeatedly mentions doing things
    as soon as is reasonably practicable.
    That is a bland requirement, and no explanation for undue delay need be given. No indication is given of how long that requirement could be. The amendment also states:
    The person named must be … a friend of the detained person … a relative, or … a person who is known to the detained person who is likely to take an interest in his welfare.
    What if none of those categories applies? For example, people from abroad might have no one in those categories in this country. Much abuse is being heaped on beggars at the moment. If they were taken into a police station under these powers, they might have nobody in those categories available.

    The amendment also states:
    Where a detained person is transferred from one police station to another, he shall be entitled to exercise the right … in respect of the police station to which he is transferred.
    Will that mean that he will be denied those rights at the first police station he is taken to, with the excuse that he will eventually be transferred, thus increasing the delay? It also states that a detained person may
    consult a solicitor as soon as is reasonably practicable, privately and at any time.
    However, that right is negated later in the amendment, when it provides that
    a detained person … may consult a solicitor only in the sight and hearing of a qualified officer.
    Bang goes the right to privacy.

    Does my hon. Friend know why is it necessary to put such provisions in the Bill, which will open us up to litigation in the European Court after 2 October, because the European convention on human rights contains the right to private consultation?

    That is why we need an explanation of Government amendment No. 64. It also states that

    an officer of at least the rank of superintendent may authorise a delay.
    It gives a list of reasonable grounds for authorising a delay, but it does not say that an officer must specify the reason on which he relied. In my view, the reason should be put on the record formally and explained to the detained person.

    The amendment also states that
    the reason shall be recorded as soon as is reasonably practicable.
    As I have already said, that is vague and provides no proper time limit.

    What does the term "reasonably practicable" mean in this context? Are reasons supposed to be provided there and then, or later? Is the term meant to carry a notion of fairness? It is an interesting idea.

    The phrase could be interpreted in all those ways. That is what is worrying. Given that the police are always busy with crimes, they could say that it was reasonable to delay making a decision on a case, with the result that the person detained could be held a lot longer.

    The term is vague. I hope that the Government will at least put time limits on what they consider to be reasonably practicable.

    Proposed new subsection (7) states that delays can take place
    in the absence of a further authorisation under sub-paragraph (1).
    That means that there could be repeated delays in granting rights to a detainee.

    I acknowledge that the Government want to improve matters with amendment No. 64, but it is too loosely worded. It needs to be tightened up to ensure that civil liberties are protected.

    We support new clause 4, and the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Mr. Cohen) touches on some matters raised in Standing Committee. He alluded to the reasonable suspicion test, which we tried to amend in Committee.

    This debate illustrates the main point of the previous debate. There is no great difference between the parties about the fact that permanent legislation may be needed, but what should it contain? The powers of detention, the period for which people can be held in detention, how long they can be held before they can talk to a solicitor, or before their families are told—all those matters must be reviewed in the light of experience. They appear again and again in the Lord Lloyd review and in the annual reviews held at present. There needs to be a more regular review system for the legislation.

    The hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) mentioned a matter that the Standing Committee touched on regularly. The law will be changed fundamentally when the Human Rights Act 1998 comes into force in October. Not many people outside the House are aware of it, although it may turn out to be one of this Administration's most important achievements. The fact that that Act is coming down the track should make us sensitive about passing legislation that recent case law suggests may be in breach of it, as the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead said.

    7.45 pm

    The Secretary of State has asserted that the Bill is compatible with the European convention on human rights, but other legal advice states that parts of it are not compatible with the convention. Where case law warning bells ring about periods of detention, the right to see a solicitor and so on, we should err on the side of caution and legality. We should not give excessive power to the authorities, even if we have to revisit the provisions because they are not perfect.

    Britain will not be well served, and Parliament's reputation will be spoiled even further among those people who dislike it already, if we are dragged back again to the European Court for breaches of the convention. We must not ignore those warning bells, which are ringing rather loudly.

    Is not one of the sad things that we have yet to see the evidence that the Government claim renders the Bill compatible with the convention, despite the number of challenges to that claim?

    In Committee, I offered to show the Minister of State my legal advice if he would show us his. I have not seen the Government's legal advice. I have mine with me, and the Minister is welcome to see it.

    The hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) makes a good point. On issues such as this, the advice to Government must be placed in the public domain. However, the Government must heed the case law, the European convention on human rights and the Human Rights Act 1998. They must try to share the best advice and err on the side of caution. Otherwise, they will have to return to the courts to defend this Bill, and what we have warned about today will come to pass in about a year.

    I was not going to speak in this debate, but I wandered into the Chamber to listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) who, like me, has had a long involvement in Irish politics in one way or another.

    I declare an interest. I am a practising lawyer, and I paid £175 to go on the Bar Council course on human rights legislation. The Human Rights Act 1998 brings the European convention into our domestic law, and is one of the most far-sighted pieces of legislation of my lifetime, and possibly of the previous century. It establishes, once and for all, a person's right to a fair trial. It also establishes equality of arms—as it is phrased—between the rights of an individual and those of the state.

    That that has not always been true of our law was especially clear in the 1970s. I served on the Standing Committee that scrutinised the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, when we examined a detained person's rights, and especially that person's right to legal advice and access. The so-called PACE code followed, and it has served us well. If I say that the Court of Appeal has sometimes sought to negate that legislation, and slim down the rights conferred by Parliament, I do so with my tongue in my cheek.

    The 1984 Act was far-sighted. One of the cardinal principles of our law has always been the right to legal advice. If it is good enough for the man accused of murder, it is good enough for anybody else. Everybody who is arrested for a domestic crime, save in exceptional circumstances, has almost immediate access to a lawyer. That lawyer has a right to be present throughout the inquiries that are made; he has a right to advise his client whether to say something or not. The laws on the right to silence have changed over the years. Be that as it may, the right of access to a lawyer is at the very heart of our inquisitorial system, which is an accusatorial process when it comes before a court.

    My hon. Friend obviously has a lot of experience in this area. How does he feel about denial of privacy, given that the authorities can listen in to the conversation between the person detained and his lawyer?

    My hon. Friend makes a good point, and I will come to it in a moment.

    As I said, that right has always been absolute, and people have always been entitled to privacy and integrity. In police stations up and down the land, facilities are available to enable people to have private consultation. The telephones are meant to be secure—there has just been a ruling in a prison case, so the authorities cannot tap telephone calls. There is another case going before the House of Lords, and if that does not succeed before 2 October, it will inevitably go to Europe, where it will succeed. Listening in to telephone calls is an invasion of human rights, and interferes with the equality of arms.

    The European Court of Human Rights is not just a court for the European Union. It is for the whole of Europe, and stretches across some 26 countries.

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that. The tests and standards are meant to be the same throughout.

    Why should Northern Ireland be different? Why should there be a class of case in which there is not the right for a lawyer to be present at an interview? I do not want to vote on this; I just want the Minister of State to say, "Okay, we'll put it in." The Bill can be amended. What do we lose by including the new clause and making things clear? If we do not do it, it will be done for us.

    The trouble with some of these cases, which people often forget, is that if we play games with legislation that is not clear, honest and obvious, we give people who may well be guilty of crime the opportunity to have their convictions quashed later on a technicality. Why on earth do we run the risk?

    In some of the cases that went before the European Court, there was overwhelming evidence but, because our rules were not fair, convictions were quashed. Does that really serve justice? The answer is no. When we detain people and deny them access to lawyers, do we achieve anything in a judicial sense? What on earth is the purpose of keeping someone incommunicado? I can understand it while people are being arrested and there is a rolling round-up of villains. The classic example is the armed robbery: the police hold incommunicado those they have caught escaping from a bank. That is perfectly reasonable and proper, because the notice of their arrest may well alert people whom the police are seeking to trace and arrest. No one objects to that. Including such a provision in legislation on terrorism would be equally understandable and proper. The reasoning would be in front of us, and there would be no query about it.

    The minute we go beyond being reasonable and do not write into the law the equivalent of the law in other fields, whether in terrorism or something else, we open ourselves up to subsequent actions in the European Court that can lead to the quashing of convictions. Under article 6, if we get it wrong, there is no second chance, no retrial—the conviction is quashed. That is what we saw in the Murray case, which never actually got to the point about legal advice. There were already enough grounds to quash it. The European Court does not necessarily take every point. It looks at the strongest points and rules on those. Murray was one case, and Davis and Johnson is another. Not getting public interest immunity inquiry cases right leads to the quashing of convictions.

    So it goes on. In 1984, we wanted to avoid miscarriages of justice, and much legislation has been put in place since then. We have seen some pretty terrible cases, but we create cases of injustice when we do not have simple and fair laws. I ask the Minister of State just to look later at the new clause—that will be good enough for me. They tell me that this is a listening Government, and I hope that they will also listen to me about something else that I raised. I do not like voting against the Government. I try not to. If the Minister of State simply looks at the new clause, he will see the wisdom of ensuring that the law in Northern Ireland is exactly the same as the law in England and Wales. If that is so, we ain't got a problem. Why can it not be like that?

    I promise that I will be brief. I wish to seek clarification with regard to new clause 4 which, it has been suggested to me, excludes Scotland. Yet it refers to clause 40, subsection (3)(b) of which refers to someone being detained under schedule 6. In the table of designated ports in schedule 6, five of them are in Scotland—Ardrossan, Cairnryan, Campbeltown, Stranraer and Troon. If things go well over the next few months, Port Glasgow may have to be added to that list. Negotiations are taking place about a ferry service between Northern Ireland and Port Glasgow. I believe that a ferry terminal will be built there.

    This is not a facetious point. We know that extremists on both sides of the divide have their supporters in Scotland. Recently, a person convicted of a terrorist crime was released and has applied to a Scottish university to read for a degree in political science.

    The new clause states that all persons detained should have a solicitor present at all interviews to be conducted under this measure. The presence of a solicitor in such interviews is, I believe, standard practice in police and criminal procedures in England. That is not the case in Scotland, and that might present a difficulty if the new clause includes Scotland, as I think that it must, given what I have said about clause 40(3)(b).

    Given the activities of some people in Scotland in relation to extremist organisations in Northern Ireland, do persons detained under the Bill have the same rights when being interviewed as apply elsewhere in the United Kingdom?

    My hon. Friend makes a very good point about Scotland. Will he accept from me that the inquisitorial procedures in Scotland, with the role of the procurator fiscal, the way in which evidence in accumulated and served and the way in which interviewing take place are different from those of England? Whereas Scotland may well have problems in the future with the European Court, we should not allow Northern Ireland to have problems that can be avoided.

    I have two comments in response to my hon. Friend's intervention. The Scottish legal system is now a devolved matter for the Scottish Parliament. However, there is a difference between the two systems concerning the right to a solicitor. Some years ago, when we were debating a Scottish criminal justice Bill in this place, I sought to amend it along those lines. I was defeated. My right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Anniesland (Mr. Dewar), who then represented Glasgow, Garscadden and who is a lawyer, unfortunately argued against me. However, there is a distinction that has some bearing on the new clause.

    8 pm

    I think that the new clause governs Scotland as well, as it refers to clause 40, which is in part V on counter-terrorist powers, not part VII, which is limited to Northern Ireland.

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has greater knowledge of the law than I. In that case, we may have to amend Scots law, which would be a matter for the Scottish Parliament, even where this sort of legislation is concerned. At the very least, a concordat would have to be established between Ministers from the Home and Northern Ireland Offices and the Scottish Executive.

    There are difficulties with the new clause where Scotland is concerned. Even though Scotland has not suffered from the outrages that have been inflicted on English communities—I think that the army general council of the Provisional IRA decided some years ago not to extend the campaign to Scotland—nevertheless senior police officers in the Pitt street headquarters of the Strathclyde police in Glasgow say that numerous supporters of outrageous terrorist activities and activists are based in Scotland.

    I merely ask the Minister that persons detained under clause 40 should have the same protection as those detained elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

    Government amendment No. 64 is the central amendment in this group. It makes sense to relate the other amendments to the Government's proposal. The Government suggest that someone who is detained under the powers in clause 40 should have two rights: to inform a friend, relative or other person of their detention and to have access to a solicitor as soon as reasonably practicable, but subject to a number of exceptions, which are laid down in the Government's amendments to schedule 7.

    Labour Members spoke in favour of their amendment. A detainee should have a right to consult his or her solicitor, but the right should be conditional to some extent and should not be left untrammelled. The hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) said how, with a bank robbery, the police might be justified in holding incommunicado members of a gang whom they had captured while they attempted to extract information and get hold of the gang members who had evaded them.

    The Government face a difficult balance between the desire to accord people legitimate civil rights and the demands of effective counter-terrorist policing. If someone is allowed unconditional access to a solicitor after detention, there will be a risk that other members of a terrorist organisation may be informed that an arrest has taken place or of a suspicion that an individual has informed the security forces, or that other information may be passed on that would help terrorists to perpetrate their crimes or put the police and security forces at risk.

    I think that the hon. Gentleman misunderstood what I said. Under English law, one can hold someone incommunicado for serious arrestable offences. We understand that, it is acceptable and special rules apply. Also, at present one can hold those arrested for terrorist offences incommunicado and no one is suggesting that that should change. The Bill should make it clear that the powers that are being exercised in England and Wales are the powers that will be exercised in Northern Ireland. We are simply saying, "Same place, same powers."

    The Minister will defend the exact words of the amendment, but the list in sub-paragraphs (4)(a) to (g) is pretty comprehensive in setting out the risks that would legitimately justify withholding access to a solicitor during a counter-terrorist investigation.

    I understood the intention of the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Mr. Cohen), but it is a mistake to set a firm time limit for the review of detention. There is always a risk, in particular when one is dealing with officialdom in whatever shape or form, that a maximum time limit will become the minimum. The language of the Bill—that the review should take place as soon as is reasonably practical—offers a better safeguard. In most instances the police service will want to conduct the review and get it out of the way as quickly as possible.

    I have three questions for the Minister about the Government amendments. If he cannot reply in detail now, I should be grateful if he would respond in writing in due course.

    First, the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) pursued the Scottish angle and schedule 7 seems to include a section that offers safeguards to people detained under clause 40 in Scotland. Amendment No. 64 would put in place comparable safeguards for detainees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, the criteria for withholding access to a solicitor are different. The language of the Bill in page 108, where it relates to Scotland, is much less specific than the items laid down in amendment No. 64, which apply to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Why is that the case? In practice, is there likely to be a substantial difference between the safeguards and categories of exemption available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and those available to a detainee in Scotland? That might be an important distinction in an investigation that crosses boundaries within the United Kingdom, if there were indeed a difference of substance in the law that the Government propose.

    Secondly, how will the police power to withhold access to a solicitor under certain defined conditions link with the power to seek from a judicial authority an extension of the detention period of up to seven days? Am I correct in my understanding that the Government propose that, provided the conditions in sub-paragraph (4) of amendment No. 64 are met, someone could be denied access to a solicitor for up to the full seven days of detention provided for in the Bill?

    Thirdly, I have a question about the right of the detained person to have one named person informed of his detention as soon as reasonably practical. The amendment does not specify the way in which that information should be communicated. The Government clearly realise—in their proposals on legal advice—that there need to be safeguards in relation to the police and the conduct of counter-terrorist investigations. Do not those problems also arise as regards alerting a friend, relative or other person interested in the welfare of the detainee?

    Is there a risk that exercising that right, which seems to be unconditional—according to my reading of amendment No. 64—would lead to information getting out that would put lives, or a terrorist investigation, at risk in the same way that the Government have accepted might happen if there were untrammelled access to a solicitor's advice? What is the Government's reason for making that difference between the two categories of right that they want to extend under the amendment?

    I look forward to answers to those questions, but the Opposition are broadly content with the Government's proposals.

    The discussion has been interesting. I welcome the opportunity to speak briefly on several of the issues raised.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) referred to access to solicitors. I shall deal with the points that he made and with Government amendment No. 64, and the amendments grouped with it, in the same context. There is not much difference between my hon. Friend's position and that in the Government's substantive amendment No. 64 and the others. There is universal acknowledgement that prompt access to a solicitor should be the norm in any of the circumstances outlined in the provisions. However, there is a difference between us; I shall deal further with that when I have made the general case for the Government's substantive amendments.

    The Government believe that in terrorist cases, as in ordinary cases under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, it should be possible in very rare circumstances—I stress that point—on the authority of a senior officer, to delay access to a solicitor. As I understand my hon. Friend's new clause, he thinks that that should not be possible in any circumstances. That is a difference between us. As the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) noted, it is a matter on which a balance of judgment has to be made. I shall put some flesh on that point in a moment. Before doing so, I shall explain the effect of the Government amendments.

    The Government amendments will add to the Bill the circumstances in which the right to advise someone of one's detention and/or to consult a solicitor may be deferred. When the Bill was introduced, that was achieved by amendments to sections 56 and 58 of PACE and the equivalent Northern Ireland PACE order, found in schedule 13. In the course of drafting those provisions, some technical deficiencies were identified and it was decided, for the ease of the reader, that rather than merely tidying them up by amendment, they should be included in the Bill. That is in line with the provisions for Scotland set out in paragraphs 12 to 16 of schedule 7. I hope that approach will be broadly welcomed.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) and the hon. Member for Aylesbury made some points about the situation in Scotland. The legal position in Scotland is addressed in paragraphs 12 to 16 of schedule 7. As my hon. Friend pointed out, Scotland has a separate criminal justice system, so matters are not dealt with in quite the same way.

    In response to the point made by the hon. Member for Aylesbury, let me say that the criteria are slightly different, but as they are consistent we do not think that any substantial difference will emerge. We have considered the issue carefully. However, in the light of the points made in the debate, I am prepared to consider whether my assertion needs closer scrutiny. The hon. Gentleman made a fair point, but the reason why Scotland is dealt with separately is—as my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Inverclyde pointed out—that Scotland has a separate system.

    8.15 pm

    The amendments do not change our policy on the arrangements for those detained under the terrorism provisions; they ensure that such people usually have a prompt means of communicating with a named person and/or can obtain access to a solicitor. The amendments continue to provide that those rights would usually be available as soon as practicable. They also provide that, under the Prevention of Terrorism Acts, as at present—I emphasise that that is the situation that exists as we speak—and as provided for when the Bill was introduced, those rights may be deferred in certain circumstances for up to 48 hours.

    The circumstances in which the rights may be deferred are set out in paragraph 2C(4) of amendment No. 64. Seven alternatives are envisaged. The first four apply in all PACE cases; the last three are specific to terrorist cases. They include circumstances in which there is reasonable suspicion that access to a solicitor will have the effect of making it more difficult to prevent a terrorist act, or to apprehend someone involved in such an act, or to gather information about the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.

    That is the fundamental point with which I respond to the intervention made by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham). He asked what was different for Northern Ireland. The difference is that we are talking about terrorist legislation. That is what gives rise to the whole measure and to some of the issues that have been raised.

    I am not against the idea of delaying the right of access; it is already acceptable in serious, arrestable offences. It is certainly acceptable in terrorist offences—because of the pursuit and arrest of other suspects and so on. The point on which I intervened is my grave concern about the presence of a solicitor during an interview. I can see no reason why that should ever be denied.

    I understand the point that my hon. Friend makes; I shall return to it in a moment.

    We do not expect access to be deferred often. Records for England and Wales show that access has not been deferred in any terrorist cases during the past three years. In Northern Ireland, access was deferred in only 19 cases in 1999, in four cases in 1998, and in 33 cases in 1997. However, it is important to be able to defer access in exceptional cases. That brings me to the new clause tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North and the points that he made.

    It would not be sensible to bind ourselves to a position in which it was never possible to defer access to a solicitor. If I understand my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, South, he appeared to acknowledge that in his intervention. That is not to suggest that the Government assume that some solicitors may have links with terrorism—any more than the fact that such provision exists under PACE for detention in non-terrorist cases suggests that we assume that solicitors might have links with organised crime. However, we must provide in law for the possibility that such a situation might occur. Otherwise, with the absolute right that the new clause provides, even if the police knew that a nominated solicitor was directly linked to a terrorist group, they would be powerless to defer access. However rare we might all believe such circumstances to be—I do not seek to impugn the reputation of solicitors either in Northern Ireland or Great Britain—it is surely our responsibility to ensure that such an eventuality could be dealt with if it arose.

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. My new clause actually states that a person detained

    shall be promptly informed of their right to consult privately with a solicitor and to have a solicitor present at all interviews to be conducted under this Act.
    We are arguing about being interviewed, not about the length of detention—although that might be another argument.

    It is precisely in response to the concerns expressed by my hon. Friend that a clear provision will be included in the Bill.

    My hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, South made some points about human rights. We believe that the Bill is entirely consistent with the European convention on human rights. We have considered the matter at great length and that is why the certificate is in the Bill.

    I am perfectly well aware that lawyers may challenge that view, and the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) initiated an entertaining discussion on that in Committee. Indeed, the cynic would say that it is likely that the view will be challenged in law. We believe that the provisions specifically protect the processes that we have described against action in the European Court of Human Rights and under the Human Rights Act 1998.

    It is in that context that I deal with the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North. I am the first to acknowledge the sensitivities of interviewing a person without their having the benefit of a solicitor being present, and those sensitivities include the fact that there could be implications for the weight that may be placed in any subsequent court case on answers given in those circumstances.

    My hon. Friend comes to the exact cause of my worry. The problem is the fact that one can draw inferences from the right to silence being exercised or from what is said during an interview. The presence of a lawyer protects the interviewer as well as the interviewee. If we have that in England in criminal and terrorist cases, why on earth are we not including it in the Bill?

    If my hon. Friend will permit me, I will come to the precise point that he has been raising throughout the discussion.

    As I said, the sensitivities include the fact that there could be implications for the weight that may be placed in any subsequent court case on answers given in those circumstances. Sections 76 and 78 of PACE provide for the courts to exclude confessions or other evidence obtained unfairly, and of course it would be for the court to decide whether those provisions applied to evidence adduced in court which was obtained before a solicitor was present. That deals directly with my hon. Friend's point.

    As I have said, we do not envisage access being denied other than in the most exceptional circumstances, and we have a responsibility to ensure that those detained under the terrorism provisions, as under PACE, are properly looked after, and that includes having appropriate access to legal advice. Equally, we have a responsibility to prevent acts of terrorism and to apprehend those involved in such acts. That is the balance of judgment that we have made.

    I have tried to set out the Government's thinking in response to the points that have been made, and I am prepared to consider whether any of the matters raised need to be addressed. However, what we have said is clear and straightforward.

    I am extremely grateful for the courteous and comprehensive way in which my hon. Friend responded to my concerns about Scotland. On a minor point, in the table of designated ports on page 103, Campbeltown is misspelt.

    I shall certainly draw that misspelling to the attention of the parliamentary draftsmen.

    I turn now to the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Mr. Cohen). Amendment No. 173 is unnecessary. Paragraph 25 of schedule 7 provides that a review officer must make a written record of the outcome of all reviews and that the record must include the grounds on which continued detention is authorised. That is fundamental to the issues raised by my hon. Friend.

    Paragraph 18 provides that the first review of detention must be as soon as practicable after arrest, and reviews must take place thereafter at 12-hour intervals, so although there may not be a review at exactly the 36-hour point specified in the amendment, there will be a review between 36 and 48 hours. As with all reviews, a written record will be made of the outcome, including the reasons for continued detention, and that addresses my hon. Friend's specific point.

    Amendment No. 178 in the name of my hon. Friend would require the first detention review to be done within four hours of arrest. In most cases it would not be realistic to have a fixed requirement, and I could not advise the House to accept the amendment. My hon. Friend acknowledged that the figure of four hours was plucked out of the air. I do not suggest that as any criticism of his amendment, but that is essentially the problem in choosing a period, whether it is two hours, four hours or six hours—there is an arbitrary nature to that choice. That is why the wording—[Interruption.]

    Order. I appeal to the House to come to order. There are too many private conversations going on, and the Minister is replying to the points made by hon. Members.

    I am sorry for going on for slightly longer than I had hoped. Many technical points were made during interventions and I thought that it was courteous to respond to them as fully as possible, even though I am aware that this may not be the height of rhetoric and may not grip everybody in the way that every parliamentarian would wish.

    We hold to the phrase
    as soon as is reasonably practicable
    precisely because fixing a particular time would not be effective.

    I am gripped by interest in the Minister's response, and I accept that my period of four hours before the first review and subsequent report is arbitrary, although it is meant to be a maximum period. My hon. Friend's formula is for the review and report to be done

    as soon as is reasonably practicable.
    Would he expect that to be within four hours?

    I am certainly prepared to say that the courts would view the period suggested by my hon. Friend as reasonable, but that is a judgment not for me but for the courts, which have to consider situations in the round. Delays can happen for realistic, technical reasons, and they need to be dealt with.

    I have tried to deal as fully as I can with the points made by hon. Members, even down to the spelling of important Scottish towns, critical as that is. I hope that, on consideration, my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North will withdraw his new clause and we will not have a Division.

    I am conscious of the time and hon. Members' desire to move on, so I have not spent a great deal of time explaining Government amendments Nos. 60 to 63, which have not been addressed in the debate. I hope that they will be accepted.

    In view of what the Minister has said and his willingness to look at the points again, presumably before the Bill goes to the other place, and in view of amendment No. 64, which goes some way to meeting our concerns about what was missing from the Bill, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

    Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

    New Clause 8

    Expiry And Revival (No 2)

    '(1) This Act shall (subject to subsection (2)) cease to have effect at the end of the period of five years beginning with the day on which the Act is brought into force.

    (2) The Secretary of State may by order provide—

  • (a) that a provision of this Act which is in force (whether or not by virtue of this subsection) shall continue in force for a specific period not exceeding five years;
  • (b) that a provision of this Act shall cease to have effect;
  • (c) that a provision of this Act which is not in force (whether or not by virtue of this subsection) shall come into force and remain in force for a specified period not exceeding five years.
  • (3) An order under subsection (2) shall be made by statutory instrument; and no such order shall be made unless a draft of the statutory instrument containing the order has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.'.— [Mr. Simon Hughes.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    Motion made, and Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

    The House divided: Ayes 47, Noes 281.

    Division No. 109]

    [8.28 pm


    Allan, RichardBeith, Rt Hon A J
    Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyBell, Martin (Tatton)
    Baker, NormanBreed, Colin
    Ballard, JackieBruce, Malcolm (Gordon)

    Burnett, JohnMcNamara, Kevin
    Burstow, PaulMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
    Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife)Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
    Moore, Michael
    Chidgey, DavidMorgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
    Cotter, BrianOaten, Mark
    Davey, Edward (Kingston)Rendel, David
    Fearn, RonnieSanders, Adrian
    Flynn, PaulSimpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
    Foster, Don (Bath)Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
    George, Andrew (St Ives)Stunell, Andrew
    Hancock, MikeTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
    Harris, Dr EvanThomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
    Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)Tonge, Dr Jenny
    Hogg, Rt Hon DouglasTyler, Paul
    Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)Wallace, James
    Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W)Webb, Steve
    Willis, Phil
    Wise, Audrey
    Livsey, Richard
    Llwyd, Elfyn

    Tellers for the Ayes:

    McDonnell, John

    Mr. Tom Brake and

    Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert

    Mr. Bob Russell.


    Ainger, NickClwyd, Ann
    Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Coaker, Vernon
    Alexander, DouglasCoffey, Ms Ann
    Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Cohen, Harry
    Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)Colman, Tony
    Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms HilaryConnarty, Michael
    Ashton, JoeCook, Frank (Stockton N)
    Atkins, CharlotteCooper, Yvette
    Austin, JohnCorston, Jean
    Banks, TonyCousins, Jim
    Barnes, HarryCranston, Ross
    Battle, JohnCrausby, David
    Beard, NigelCryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
    Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs MargaretCryer, John (Hornchurch)
    Begg, Miss AnneCummings, John
    Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
    Bennett, Andrew FCurtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
    Benton, JoeDarvill, Keith
    Bermingham, GeraldDavey, Valerie (Bristol W)
    Berry, RogerDavies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
    Best, HaroldDavies, Geraint (Croydon C)
    Betts, CliveDawson, Hilton
    Blackman, LizDonaldson, Jeffrey
    Blears, Ms HazelDowd, Jim
    Blizzard, BobDrew, David
    Boateng, Rt Hon PaulDrown, Ms Julia
    Borrow, DavidDunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
    Bradley, Keith (Withington)Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
    Bradshaw, BenEagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
    Brinton, Mrs HelenEdwards, Huw
    Browne, DesmondEnnis, Jeff
    Burden, RichardFisher, Mark
    Burgon, ColinFitzpatrick, Jim
    Butler, Mrs ChristineFlint, Caroline
    Byers, Rt Hon StephenForsythe, Clifford
    Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)Foster, Rt Hon Derek
    Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
    Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
    Campbell-Savours, DaleGapes, Mike
    Cann, JamieGardiner, Barry
    Caplin, IvorGeorge, Bruce (Walsall S)
    Casale, RogerGerrard, Neil
    Cawsey, IanGibson, Dr Ian
    Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)Gilroy, Mrs Linda
    Chaytor, DavidGodman, Dr Norman A
    Clapham, MichaelGodsiff, Roger
    Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)Goggins, Paul
    Golding, Mrs Llin
    Clark, Paul (Gillingham)Gordon, Mrs Eileen
    Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
    Clelland, DavidGriffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)

    Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Merron, Gillian
    Grocott, BruceMiller, Andrew
    Grogan, JohnMitchell, Austin
    Gunnell, JohnMoffatt, Laura
    Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)Moonie, Dr Lewis
    Hall, Patrick (Bedford)Moran, Ms Margaret
    Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
    Hanson, DavidMorley, Elliot
    Harman, Rt Hon Ms HarrietMorris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
    Heal, Mrs Sylvia
    Healey, JohnMorris, Rt Hon Sir John (Aberavon)
    Hepburn, Stephen
    Heppell, JohnMountford, Kali
    Hill, KeithMurphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
    Hinchliffe, DavidMurphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
    Hodge, Ms MargaretNaysmith, Dr Doug
    Hope, PhilO'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
    Howarth, Alan (Newport E)O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
    Howells, Dr KimO'Hara, Eddie
    Hoyle, LindsayOlner, Bill
    Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)O'Neill, Martin
    Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)Organ, Mrs Diana
    Hurst, AlanPearson, Ian
    Hutton, JohnPendry, Tom
    Iddon, Dr BrianPickthall, Colin
    Illstey, EricPike, Peter L
    Ingram, Rt Hon AdamPlaskitt, James
    Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)Pollard, Kerry
    Jamieson, DavidPond, Chris
    Jenkins, BrianPope, Greg
    Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)Pound, Stephen
    Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
    Prosser, Gwyn
    Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)Purchase, Ken
    Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
    Jones, Helen (Warrington N)Quinn, Lawrie
    Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)Radice, Rt Hon Giles
    Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)Rammell, Bill
    Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)Rapson, Syd
    Jowell, Rt Hon Ms TessaReed, Andrew (Loughborough)
    Keeble, Ms SallyRobinson, Peter (Belfast E)
    Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)Roche, Mrs Barbara
    Kemp, FraserRogers, Allan
    Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
    Khabra, Piara SRooney, Terry
    Kidney, DavidRoss, Ernie (Dundee W)
    Kilfoyle, PeterRoss, William (E Lond'y)
    Kumar, Dr AshokRowlands, Ted
    Laxton, BobRuane, Chris
    Lepper, DavidRussell, Ms Christine (Chester)
    Leslie, ChristopherRyan, Ms Joan
    Levitt, TomSalter, Martin
    Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)Sawford, Phil
    Linton, MartinSedgemore, Brian
    Lock, DavidShaw, Jonathan
    Love, AndrewShipley, Ms Debra
    McAvoy, ThomasShort, Rt Hon Clare
    McCabe, SteveSingh, Marsha
    McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield)Skinner, Dennis
    Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
    McDonagh, SiobhainSmith, Angela (Basildon)
    McFall, JohnSmith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
    McIsaac, Shona
    Mackinlay, AndrewSmith, Jacqui (Redditch)
    Mactaggart, FionaSmith, John (Glamorgan)
    McWalter, TonySmith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
    McWilliam, JohnSmyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
    Maginnis, KenSnape, Peter
    Mahon, Mrs AliceSouthworth, Ms Helen
    Mallaber, JudySquire, Ms Rachel
    Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)Starkey, Dr Phyllis
    Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)Steinberg, Gerry
    Marshall-Andrews, RobertStewart, David (Inverness E)
    Maxton, JohnStinchcombe, Paul
    Meacher, Rt Hon MichaelStoate, Dr Howard
    Meale, AlanStrang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin

    Straw, Rt Hon JackTwigg, Stephen (Enfield)
    Stringer, GrahamTynan, Bill
    Stuart, Ms GiselaWard, Ms Claire
    Sutcliffe, GerryWatts, David
    Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)White, Brian
    Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
    Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
    Taylor, David (NW Leics)Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
    Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
    Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)Winnick, David
    Thompson, WilliamWinterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
    Timms, StephenWood, Mike
    Tipping, PaddyWoolas, Phil
    Todd, MarkWorthington, Tony
    Touhig, DonWright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
    Trickett, JonWyatt, Derek
    Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)

    Tellers for the Noes:

    Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)

    Mrs. Anne McGuire and

    Turner, Neil (Wigan)

    Mr. Graham Allen.

    Question accordingly negatived.

    Clause 1

    Terrorism: Interpretation

    I beg to move amendment No. 122, in page 1, line 7, leave out from "means" to end of line 8 and insert—

    'the commission of, or the threat to commit, any criminal act with the intention of—

  • (a) putting the public or any section of the public in fear, or
  • (b) coercing the institutions of democratic government, provided that the act'.
  • With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 190, in page 1, line 7, leave out from "use" to end of line 12 and insert—

    'of serious violence against a person or persons, or the threat to use such violence, to intimidate or coerce a government, one or more political bodies or organisations, the public or any section of the public for political ends, and which—

  • (a) endangers the life of any person; or
  • (b) creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public.'.
  • No. 194, in page 1, line 7, leave out from "threat" to "of in line 8 and insert "for political ends,".

    No. 192, in page 1, leave out line 8 and insert—

    'coercing, influencing or intimidating government, one or more political bodies, groups or organisations, the public or any section of the public, of actions which—'.

    No. 146, in page 1, leave out line 9 and insert—

    '(a) involves violence against any person or serious violence against property'.'.

    No. 193, in page 1, line 9, leave out "or property".

    No. 123, in page 1, line 10,, after "(b)", insert "seriously".

    No. 195, in page 1, line 14, leave out from "Kingdom" to "and" in line 16.

    Amendment No. 122 would alter the definition of terrorism. It would remove the phrase

    the use or threat, for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause, of action.
    Amendment No. 123, which I also tabled, would insert "seriously" before "endangers" in subsection (1)(b).

    The amendment is a straight response to the kind invitation that the Minister issued in Committee on 8 February. He said:
    if a better definition of terrorism emerges, we are prepared to consider it.-[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 8 February 2000; c. 325.]
    The definition of terrorism took up the time of the House and the Committee. Hon. Members were worried that the definition in the Bill was too wide, based on wrong principles, and could catch in its net people who simply opposed genetically modified foods.

    The Government's attitude to those who oppose GM foods has altered since Second Reading. Someone who might once have been considered an eco-terrorist is now regarded merely as a person who has serious misgivings about the adequacy of the provision for GM plants and their long-term effect.

    The amendment arises from discussions that I held with the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which was worried about the wide scope and subjective nature of the definition. The amendment that the commission proposed has four main elements. First, it deals with the motivational basis. The commission suggests that the provision for
    advancing a political, religious or ideological cause
    should be removed.

    Secondly, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission insisted that the action should be contrary to the criminal law. Thirdly, it proposed that the prohibited action should put the public in fear, or coerce the institutions of democratic government.

    The commission believes that the Bill should not provide for differential police powers that depend on the motive behind the relevant actions. It believes that triggering the special powers should depend on the nature of the intended consequences of the action. In its view, the two most undesirable consequences are
    putting the public or any section of the public in fear

    coercing the institutions of democratic government.
    Motivation is not the issue and should not be criminalised, although it would probably be appropriate to tackle it at the sentencing stage if someone was found guilty of an offence. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said on 14 December:

    If people are killed or injured, the fact that the bombs, the shrapnel and the glass carry a label marked "Animal rights" or the name of some foreign country is immaterial to those who suffer.— [Official Report, 14 December 1999; Vol. 341, c. 165.]
    Motivation is extremely hard to prove and the categories are not susceptible to clear delineation. The Bill's approach makes the development of a two-tier justice system more likely. Under it, some people will be afforded lesser rights on the basis of the motivation for their crimes.

    I am not opposed to the hon. Gentleman's objective, but does he realise that the amendment would make acts by, for example, hunt saboteurs, capable of falling within the definition of terrorism? I do not suppose that the hon. Gentleman wants that, but the amendment would achieve that effect.

    8.45 pm

    I understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman's point and I would be prepared to take a verbal amendment to exclude hunt saboteurs. However, even though clause 1 is one of the most controversial in the Bill—he is probably aware of that as he took part in the exchanges on Second Reading—I do not intend to push the amendment to the vote. That shows the degree to which the House is searching for a satisfactory solution to this difficult problem that gets away from advancing a political, religious or ideological issue and achieves a better way of dealing with it.

    Amendment No. 123, which would put the word "seriously" in front of the word "endangers", would meet the problems raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman's hunt saboteur to some extent, but the essential point is that a criminal act should be committed, which would not necessarily make such an offence a terrorist offence. The problem is that, if we retain motivation in the definition, we will have a two-tier approach and certain people will be afforded lesser rights on the basis of the motivation for their crimes.

    The inclusion of political, religious or ideological cause results in a definition of terrorism that is both too wide and too narrow. It is too wide because many of the problems with extending the definition in the manner proposed, which we discussed on Second Reading, show people's discomfort with the range of organisations and activities that we believe might be caught by the clause.

    My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary gave the assurance that prosecutions would not ensue in many of the examples cited by colleagues from all parts of the House—for example, undertaking activities and fund raising on behalf of solidarity groups committed to major political changes in other countries—essentially on the basis that the Director of Public Prosecutions would use good sense in these matters. That is not in any way sufficient to allay the concerns expressed. Indeed, some decisions by the DPP to proceed with prosecutions, particularly under the Official Secrets Acts, make one wonder about whether that good sense is always proper and always accurate in these matters. Furthermore, a person's right to freedom of expression and of association cannot be contingent on the discretion of one person. The Bill should not be drawn wider than the threat justifies.

    In addition, one of the principles underlying the European convention is that precision and certainty in the law is a key precept. A person is entitled to know whether the activities in which he or she wishes to engage or the right that he or she wishes to assert have been prescribed or limited by law. The Bill's definition is far too wide in terms of what a person may or may not say or express.

    The definition is also too narrow because the clause excludes many organisations that use terror tactics—gangs involved in organised crime, racketeering or drug running, for example, which are not covered by a definition based on motivation. It is not certain that the Bill's definition would cover the Mafia. Surely, therefore, one should remember that the Bill's impact on society is what will be assessed and gaps in the existing criminal law for dealing with such infrastructure errors or failures should be closed. The commission's first point, therefore, is that—specifically and directly—the question of motivation is dangerous. Far better to be specific in terms of attitude and say that a criminal offence should have been committed. It is that to which I now turn my attention.

    The Bill's definition leaves open the possibility that some actions could be classified as terrorist although they were not criminal offences, and I do not consider that acceptable. The objective of this element of the commission's proposed definition is to exclude certain activities that would be covered by the definition, but that most people would not regard as terrorist—for example, activities involved in industrial action. Many trade unions could be accused of endangering the lives and/or the health and safety of a section of the public in such circumstances. That would apply to electricity workers, firefighters, ambulance workers or nurses. Under the Bill as it stands, such actions could potentially be classed as terrorism. A requirement for the legislation to be otherwise—to be criminal—would exclude, for example, legitimate industrial action. Hunger strikes or suicide attempts would likewise be excluded by the criminality requirement in my proposed new definition.

    The next requirement in the amendment is that the action involved should put the public "in fear". International human rights standards make it clear that the essence of terrorism lies in the effect that it would have on the public. For example, the first protocol of the Geneva convention of 1949 refers, in sub-paragraph 2 of article 51, to
    acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population.
    Article 5 of the 1998 United Nations convention on the suppression of terrorist bombings states:

    Each State Party shall adopt such measures as may be necessary, including, where appropriate, domestic legislation, to ensure that criminal acts within the scope of this Convention, in particular, where they are intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons.
    Interestingly, Lord Lloyd recommended a similar approach—that the definition should include the element of intimidating or coercing the public or any section of the public. His proposed definition was the use of serious violence against persons or property, or the threat to use such violence to intimidate or coerce a Government, the public or any section of the public in order to promote political, social or ideological objectives.

    That is the whole definition. Although the commission does not accept the words
    in order to promote political, social or ideological objectives,
    it takes a similar approach to the European convention on human rights, the first protocol of the Geneva convention and the suppression of bombing convention.

    The commission also considered the prohibition of action to coerce institutions of democratic government. The Minister of State, Home Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke), said in Committee:
    The fundamental thrust of what we should be trying to achieve is a definition of terrorism as an attempt to undermine democratic processes by the use of violence.—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 18 January 2000; c.18.]
    We are trying to meet my hon. Friend's request, while meeting the spirit of Lord Lloyd's recommendation. That is the Government's intention, but it is not included in their definition.

    The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission proposes an alternative to
    putting the public or any section of the public in fear.
    The use of a car bomb to put pressure on a totalitarian regime would be covered, as would the threat to coerce a democratic Government that did not put the public or any section of it in fear.

    We have grounds for discussion about the possibility of improving the Government's definition, and getting away from their ideological, political or religious approach. Nevertheless, the amendment aims to achieve what the Government and, I believe, the whole House want to achieve: to get away from a definition that is hugely subjective, wide in some aspects and dangerous, placing individuals in a position where they do not know whether what they are doing is right or wrong in the eyes of the law.

    Again, I entirely respect the hon. Gentleman's motives, but his amendment is enlarging the class of activities that might be treated as terrorist, not restricting them. If the Bill removed the purpose test and included the test of putting the public, or any section of it, in fear, hunt saboteurs, for example, would be brought within its scope. I dislike hunt saboteurs, but they are not in any ordinary sense terrorists. However, that is what the amendment would achieve.

    With the greatest respect, let me say that, if one inserts the word "seriously" before "endangers" in line 10 of clause 1, that will ensure that the risk that would trigger the powers is a serious one. If that is there, it will meet the right hon. and learned Gentleman's point. When he makes his speech, as 1 am sure that he will, because the question of definition has engaged and worried us all, we will hear what he proposes.

    It is not my intention to force the matter to a vote, but, because of the concerns expressed here, there should perhaps be an opportunity for those in the other place who are learned in the law to apply their minds to the matter, which is causing considerable difficulties among lawyers, who are concerned about the sweep of that definition. It has caused Lord Lloyd of Berwick some concern. As the legislation is based on many of his opinions, it is proper that we consider his concerns carefully, but I make the point: a person should be guilty of a specific criminal act. That should be what is judged, not whether it is politically, religiously or ideologically motivated, although that point could be taken into account in sentencing.

    My hon. Friend says that a person should be guilty of a specific act, but, from my reading of his amendment, it still encompasses the concept of threat. That is one of the things that I find most baffling and disturbing about the Government's wording in the Bill: the threat of serious violence against property constitutes terrorism. As I read their wording, a letter threatening to burn a field of GM crops would constitute an act of terrorism. I sympathise with much of what he says, but, by maintaining the idea of threat, is his amendment not perpetuating the problem that I have with the Government's wording?

    We all have that problem on the question of threat. I put it in a way that my hon. Friend might appreciate. If I seek to carry out an act and threaten to do it, but that threat is not carried out, for whatever reason—a bomb does not go off or something of that nature—that would still be a threat. The amendments talks about seriously endangering life. That would meet that point. On the point about GM crops and similar matters, that is why I am seeking to get rid of motivation, which would then become a question on sentencing. There is a world of difference between the motivation of a person who is seeking to blow up a building and the motivation of a person who wants to destroy a field of GM crops. That is the point at which the question arises of whether an act is criminal.

    9 pm

    The hon. Gentleman has shown what difficult territory we are in. Those of us who served on the Standing Committee left it with the same definition with which we had begun. We are a long way from having an adequate and precise definition of terrorism. We must get that definition right, even in this slightly odd forum—the best that we have—because "terrorism" is the word on which the structure of the Bill depends. Once we define something as being terrorist, much else follows.

    For example, proscription of an organisation may follow. That cannot happen unless, under clause 3, the Secretary of State believes that the organisation involved "is concerned in terrorism". A whole set of offences follows from a definition of terrorism, and the burden of proof or the nature of the defence will change. Those offences include fundraising for a terrorist organisation or failing to co-operate with the police in relation to a terrorist organisation. Much more happens. The powers of the police are greater if they say that they are dealing with terrorism. A person can be detained for longer, or large areas may be cordoned off. The powers of the Bill are based on the point that someone is involved in what is defined as terrorism.

    Like the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) and the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), I felt concern that we were going too far. To a lesser extent, the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) felt it, and it was certainly felt by the hon. Members for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) and—if I may say so in his absence; I know that he intends to come back after a constituency party meeting—for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter).

    I shall set out where the consensus lay. As the Minister appreciates, it is important to note that there was consensus to some extent over the need for a change to the definition. The hon. Gentleman has not yet signed up to that need, but there was a broad view across part of the Committee, as there is across the House—it includes people of such differing political perspectives as the hon. Members for Basingstoke and for Fermanagh and South Tyrone and hon. Members on the Labour and Liberal Democrat Benches—that a Bill that allows us to define as terrorism something that targets any organisation in the world goes too far.

    This is a perfectly legitimate debate, just as it was in Committee, but the hon. Gentleman takes too much on himself in seeking to speak for all members of that Committee. He should allow hon. Members to speak for themselves.

    They will. I merely put it to the Minister that a widespread view was expressed on Second Reading—and to a lesser extent by the somewhat more restricted membership of the Committee—that the definition is too wide. Although we may not yet have a form of wording that unites the hon. Member for Hull, North with the hon. Members for Fermanagh and South Tyrone and for Basingstoke, the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham and me, some common elements in the direction that all of us seek to follow would take us away from the definition given by the Minister and the Government. We want a better, tighter, more specific definition.

    Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that, although we had a discussion on the matter in Committee, the Committee did not accept his position on it—as we did not accept other positions on it? I shall certainly speak for myself later in the debate. The hon. Gentleman used the word "consensus", but there was not a consensus on the matter—there are different points of view on it. Those views are held by hon. Members from different parties—none of whom, I suspect, would necessarily agree with one another on the matter.

    I do not want to misrepresent the situation—nor do I want the hon. Gentleman to misrepresent me. I did not say that there was a consensus in the House—

    Yes. There was a large body of dissatisfaction about the matter, and there is a large body of agreement on it between those whom I identified. I was not including everyone in that. I was not including the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes), his colleagues in Committee who supported the Government when we voted on the provision, or the Minister. However, there is a consensus among a wide body of opinion in the House—that body; not everybody—that we should amend the legislation.

    The only reason that I am intervening—I had not intended to do so; I am very happy to listen to the hon. Gentleman's arguments—is that I must object to the proposition that he is speaking on behalf of some cross-party consensus in the Committee or in the House. He is speaking for himself, as he should.

    I do not want to be distracted by this issue. I shall make the point even more bluntly. The definition is not acceptable to many hon. Members on both sides of the House. I hope that the Minister understands that, and that the Government will amend the definition. The Liberal Democrats will seek to divide the House on amendment No. 192—unless, as I hope, Ministers have said by then that they will move in our direction.

    I am not too bothered about whether the Government move in the direction that we propose, or in the direction proposed by the hon. Member for Hull, North or the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, as long as we move away from the breadth of the Government's definition—which will cover all sorts of activities which, until now, no one, not even Lord Lloyd, has argued should be defined as terrorism. We shall be stretching the definition of terrorism beyond any definition previously accepted in the United Kingdom, including that in the dictionary and that in common parlance. We should not do it.

    There is general unease about the Bill's definition of terrorism, which I share and will be expressing in my own words—if I have the good fortune to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. One of the conclusions to which we may well come is that we cannot define terrorism in acceptable terms in clause 1 if we are properly to balance that definition with civil liberties. If that is right, the Bill itself is inherently flawed, both in part I and in consequential parts, and by seeking further and other definitions, we are simply thrashing about.

    That is certainly a theoretical conclusion to the debate, and it may even be the practical conclusion. In a moment, I shall try to deal with the Minister's objections to the proposed alternative definitions that we have included in some of our amendments.

    Amendment No. 122, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Hull, North, seems to deal well with the point that, if we include motivation in the definition, we shall begin to be in trouble. If we start saying that we have to read someone's mind to determine whether their motivation is political, religious or ideological, huge numbers of people may be covered. I gave an example in Committee. In terms of motivation, someone who hears voices telling them that they must stalk serial adulterers will be considered to be ideologically driven. Such a person would potentially come within the definition of terrorism, provided that he or she fulfilled the other criteria. Someone who believed that he or she had a duty to be an environmentalist and therefore decided to attack property as a way of protesting against a particular development would also come within the definition in the Bill.

    Until now, nobody has argued that that is terrorism. The dictionary definition of terrorism—we looked it up in Committee—makes no such reference. The Bill stretches the English language too far. We should not do that because we have the criminal law: it is not as if we do not have the rest of the law. If someone set off a bomb for no reason that anyone could divine—we do not know the conclusion of the case, but let us say that nobody ever discovered why those terrible nail bombs were set off in London—that would be covered by the explosive substances legislation. It is perfectly good criminal law. If someone attacks a field of corn, there is perfectly good legislation dealing with criminal damage and damage to property. The Bill is not meant to cover any of that; it is meant to provide for cases that are not already covered by the law, and we should provide only for cases that are not already covered.

    That is not right. The purpose of the Bill is not to tackle a range of activities that are not yet subject to the criminal law but to attach to those individuals and organisations the full weight of the other powers to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, such as the restrictions on the right to finance.

    The right hon. Gentleman is correct. The law already exists, but the Bill will ratchet it up and suddenly apply the criminal law and a whole range of other powers. As the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone knows—and he has had more practical experience of such legislation than most of us—it will then sweep into the legislation cases that no one wants swept in.

    Amendments Nos. 190, 194 and 192 seek to direct the Bill at those who threaten political targets. The hon. Members for Fermanagh and South Tyrone and for Basingstoke and I—among others—believe that we should try to limit it in that way. The Minister will recall that in Committee we debated whether the Bill should be directed only at those who wanted to attack Government. We concluded that that would not do, as it would make it illegal to attack a Government who were not legal, or another political organisation. In Northern Ireland, if one political organisation attacked another political organisation, neither of which were in government, that would be understood as terrorism. We understood that we had to widen the definition of terrorism to include attacks on political organisations. That is why amendment No. 190 includes the phrase

    to intimidate or coerce a government, one or more political bodies or organisations, the public or any section of the public …
    The amendments also seek to remove the ideological and religious definitions because they are dangerously wide. They allow the crazed, deluded individual who is mentally ill or has a personality disorder to be swept in. We should not seek to do that. Such people are not terrorists just because they have an ideological fixation.

    We also tried to make sure that the Bill did not include attacks on property where there was no risk to the public. In amendments Nos.193 and 195 we seek to remove the provisions in relation to property. To take the example of London, it would be callous to attack Canary Wharf or a building in docklands because people might be killed, but if someone decided to attack an empty building in the middle of a field and their the only intention was to attack the building—

    9.15 pm

    No, not at the moment.

    An attack on an empty building would not normally be regarded as in the same league as acts that involve serious violence against persons or endanger their health or create a serious risk to their safety.

    I agree with the hon. Member for Hull, North that we must avoid legislation that would make the nurse who took political action in the course of his or her duty potentially guilty of terrorism, with all the panoply of consequences. That is disgraceful nonsense. Lord Lloyd may have come to nearly the same conclusion, but the Government have gone further than him and further than their own consultation paper.

    The Government may say that there are various safeguards and that the Director of Public Prosecutions will not order prosecutions, but legislation should not do what it is not intended to do. The Bill creates a whole set of new powers against the individual. That is bad legislation, as it neither defends the liberty of the subject nor helps make credible the argument for legislating against terrorism.

    We have not found a solution that has the consensus of the whole House, but we have tabled amendments that would considerably improve the Bill. In due course, I will ask colleagues to support us in a vote on amendment No. 192.

    The Home Office was shown one of many proposed amendments—the Human Rights Commission and Liberty have done some very good work, and I pay tribute to them—and said:
    Whilst acknowledging the sensitivities surrounding violence against property alone, we do not think the answer can be to make all such violence "off limits".
    We are not arguing that; we are arguing that violence that has only a property implication and can have no other should not be included.

    The Government's only other objection was to ask about a bomb or threat in connection with the Grand National or a laboratory where experiments on animals take place. If that carries no risk to any member of the public and has nothing to do with threatening the institutions of the state, it should not be considered a terrorist activity and should be dealt with by the criminal law in the normal way.

    As I understand it, amendment No. 192 would have no impact whatever on the question of property. Is that right?

    Amendment No. 192 has to be read with the consequential amendments, Nos. 193 and 195. If they were made, property would disappear from the Bill unless the attack on property had a consequence for individuals. The amendments go together, with one narrowing the group affected and the others removing acts with property-only implications, although as a matter of practicality we do not seek to divide the House on every amendment on the list.

    Amendment No. 195 would, as I understand it, delete reference to activities that take place outside the United Kingdom. If the amendment were adopted, would the legislation apply only within the United Kingdom?

    The answer is no. I can show the hon. Gentleman the relevant wording later, but the problem is that we are considering seven or eight different amendments that are intended to deal only with property outside and inside the UK. They do not address the issue that we should have the power to deal here with activities that may arise abroad, subject to the qualification—which is always raised by the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone—that they should be political activities.

    If somebody in this country planned a terrorist action to destroy property in another country, would it be subject to this legislation?

    It would be subject to the legislation if it posed a threat to an individual or group of individuals and if it had a political aim. If no person were at risk, the activity would be excluded, because there are provisions in the criminal law to deal with such issues.

    The European convention does not define terrorism as including property-only offences. The precedent is that terrorism is defined by threats and damage to individuals, not property. I hope that the Government have received the clear message that their definition is dangerously wide and should be changed.

    I support amendments Nos. 122 and 123, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara). I also support amendments to the definition in the Bill. I was sad that my new clause 7 was not selected for debate, but I shall try to address the principal issues that it covered.

    I feel considerable disquiet about the Government's definition and, yesterday, I discussed it with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, at the Home Office. As I was waiting to be allowed in, I saw on the Lobby notice board that the security status was black. I asked what that meant and was told that it meant that there was no threat. It is important to realise that we are having this debate at a time when there is at least the prospect of being able to step back from the rigid, brittle frontiers of terrorist legislation that have blighted much of the democratic debates that the House has had on the issue in recent years.

    Members of Parliament can go about their normal business without being surrounded by a House security system on high alert. That is something that we should celebrate. As a caveat to that, I can reveal that my meeting with my right hon. Friend carried a certain amount of risk to me. The Home Secretary was delayed unavoidably at a meeting in Downing street, and a Division was due in the House. I received a pager message telling me that the vote was imminent and I had to notify my right hon. Friend's staff that, if he did not arrive in time, I would have to race out of Queen Anne's gate to reach the House in time for the Division. The Division was called, and I bade a fast farewell, was escorted to the lift and began legging it for all I was worth along the road to try to get back here. Unfortunately, I almost collided with a vehicle as I crossed the road. It turned out to be my right hon. Friend's vehicle. He made excuses for me to the Whips, but I pointed out to him that we were likely to face threats from the Whips—in my case because I had missed the vote and in his case because he had missed me. That was about the level of the risk that we faced.

    However, the Bill's definition of terrorism spreads the notion of threat and risk in a way that raises serious questions about the Bill's credibility and about the erosion of civil liberties in our society. I am certain that this definitional clause, which is pivotal to the Bill, must be re-examined. Sadly, the Government declined to do so on Second Reading and in Committee.

    The definition is far too wide. The concept of terrorism that it advances is fundamentally flawed. It is deeply damaging to the openness of our society, to the primacy of civil and criminal law in our society, and to the respect in which that law is held.

    On Second Reading, I urged the Government to look again at the definition of terrorism contained in the Reinsurance (Acts of Terrorism) Act 1993, which is currently in force. That Act defines acts of terrorism as the acts of

    persons acting on behalf of, or in connection with, any organisation which carries out activities directed towards the overthrowing or influencing, by force or violence, of Her Majesty's government in the United Kingdom or any other government de jure or de facto.
    I accept that that definition is probably insufficient, as it talks of threats to the Government rather than to governance. We must acknowledge that terrorist threats can be directed against all parties in a Parliament, not just the Government. We must also accept that terrorist threats can seek to disrupt civil society to coerce or undermine the functioning of governance.

    I would have had no qualms if the Government had returned with a definition that had been expanded in those terms. I understand that the definition proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North is based on suggestions from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. My attempt is based on the wording used in the Australian criminal code, and I am sure that Liberty has offered advice on the wording used in the Liberal Democrat version. However, any of those alternatives would be a welcome departure from the broad-brush definition in the Bill.

    The definitions proposed in the amendments would help the House to avoid the sophistry or the confusion involved in redefining terrorism in terms of threats to person or property, rather than to the prospects of governance and to civil society. Briefly, my preference would be that terrorist acts would be defined as acts that create public fear in order to coerce or undermine institutions of democratic governance.

    The important point is that terrorist acts threaten the functioning of society and state, not the security of individuals and property within that society. That is adequately covered in our framework of civil and criminal law—as it should be—but it is wrong for the House to be confused about the reach of anti-terrorist legislation and the reliability of criminal and civil legislation. By failing to grasp this point, the Government have produced a definition that must be amended if we are to avoid the horrendous social division and wretched undermining of civil rights that would follow from it.

    9.30 pm

    I should like to illustrate some of the catch-all consequences of not amending the definition. Clause 1 refers to serious violence against any person or property as part of
    advancing a political, religious or ideological cause.
    We need to take stock of where that leads. Almost all Labour Members would have to list a long catalogue of causes with which they have been directly associated, in their careers in Parliament and outside, and which would be caught under the new rubric of the definition of terrorism.

    People participating in the miners' strike and Grunwick were responsible for serious damage to property. Their motivation was undoubtedly political or ideological. Regardless of whether they were dealt with well or badly, they were properly dealt with under the framework of industrial and criminal law. It would be wrong for us simply to presume that what was missing at the time was the ability of the Government of the day to redefine those activities as acts of terrorism.

    The hon. Gentleman is looking back on his youth, when he was no doubt a participant in some of the anti-Vietnam demonstrations. In his middle years, he may well have been a participant in the community charge demonstrations in Trafalgar square. Will he reflect on the fact that both those activities undoubtedly fall within the scope of clause 1 and are therefore potentially terrorist acts?

    I accept the right hon. and learned Gentleman's propositions. I will try and list the other charges that I would like to be taken into account.

    The causes with which Labour Members have identified and which would be caught under the definition would include activities at Greenham common and those of the women at Menwith Hill, who regularly take down the fencing at the American spy base. They would include the activities of the women involved in the Trident Ploughshares campaign and those who broke in and damaged the Hawk aircraft. They would include the activities of animal rights protesters, activists who knowingly destroy fields of genetically modified crops and those who oppose live animal exports. From a different political perspective, they would also include the activities of anti-abortion campaigners.

    It is not a matter of whether I agree with those campaigns. If people commit breaches of the criminal law, they should be dealt with under that criminal law. But it is quite wrong for us to give the Government the power to redefine whole tranches of social protest movements as though they were acts of terrorism. The implications for society are horrendous.

    Will my hon. Friend reflect on an example that he has not given? I refer to support for the African National Congress during the course of the apartheid struggle. It is a singular problem for one of our distinguished Ministers of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that last week he would have lost his right to jury trial in respect of the bank theft with which he was unjustly charged, and this week he would be prosecuted under clause 1 for his activities regarding the ANC. As the same can be said for most of us, it would have been a happy band of brothers in the dock.

    I thank my hon. and learned Friend for those comments. As usual, he is several steps ahead of where I intended to go, but he is right.

    Where would those caught in the net of the new definition of terrorism find themselves? Clause 1(1)(c) refers to terrorism if there is
    a serious risk to the health or safety of the public.
    Again, such terrorism could be driven by support for a political or ideological cause. Where would that place the threat of strikes within essential public services—the national health service or the fire service—or by air traffic control and power workers? Could many of those workers find themselves not in breach of employment law, but being charged with terrorist offences?

    The decision warrants much more serious thought and reflection, rather than calling on an in-built majority, which may be used in pursuit of an act of folly.

    People who are so charged would face a number of consequences, which are defined in later clauses. They would certainly be exposed to the prospect of arrest without warrant, which is defined in clause 40. They might also be guilty by association. Clauses 15 to 18 define the framework within which groups of people will be committing terrorist offences if they raise funds for such causes and organisations or encourage others to do so. If they are found guilty of those charges, they will face a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

    Clause 19 almost provides for guilt by suspicion. If one suspects that a person—perhaps a relation, someone who lives next door or whom one works alongside—supports one of the proscribed causes, but one fails to notify a constable, one is also guilty of an offence, for which one could be imprisoned for up to five years. Many hon. Members who were not directly involved in some of the campaigns that I listed would certainly have attended meetings and fund-raising events in support of those self same causes.

    The hon. Gentleman's case is persuasive. He has set out the huge implications for civil liberties if the clause is not amended. That case could have been made by any principled Labour or Liberal Democrat Member in the past 20 years. Can he explain why the Government are failing to hear his logic or that of my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes)?

    I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman will have to wait a long time for such an explanation. I cannot come up with one for myself, let alone for anyone else. It is utterly perplexing that we should apparently be wedded to a definition that threatens to undermine so sweepingly civil liberties and the credibility of governance itself. I cannot fathom why we should feel propelled to charge down such a catastrophic path.

    However, it does not end there. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) pointed out, clause 1(2)(c), which sets the provision in an international context, means that large numbers of us who actively supported the anti-apartheid campaign, the case for freeing Nelson Mandela, and the African National Congress, would clearly have been in breach of this Bill. It would be a wonderful way to get shot of a Labour majority at a stroke—it might even clear our Benches entirely. That would be the electoral aspiration of most of the Opposition parties. However, such heroic acts of self-sacrifice are not to be recommended to the Government—certainly not from within the Labour party.

    My hon. Friend has made much of the past in South Africa. Is he aware that, at present, in many countries, even wholly peaceful opposition forces to military dictatorships are routinely labelled as terrorist organisations by their Governments? Under the Bill, someone from a country that is deemed to have an independent judicial service— however doubtful some of us might be about that definition—could be prosecuted in this country for being part of a peaceful, exiled opposition to the Government of such a country.

    I realise that. It is important to make the serious point that the international dimension is not only reminiscence; it relates to conditions in today's world. The definition would apply not only to conflict with a Government; it could apply equally to the Ogoni people's conflict with Shell and Shell's property. It could apply to the conflict between Amazonian Indians and the logging corporations that would destroy their natural habitat, their lives and livelihood. The reach of this definitional clause is frightening in its implications.

    Moreover, there is a serious prospect that the international roles played by organisations such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Christian Aid or War on Want could be defined as collusively involved in active terrorism, because those organisations support actions that confront the power of corporations and may damage their property. We have made a fundamental misjudgment of what a relevant and appropriate definition of terrorism should be in the Bill.

    In the world in which we are trying to function and of which we are trying to make sense, one of the strong motive forces is power and pressure from global corporations. They want terrorist legislation to protect their property. They want us to put the protection of corporate fiefdoms at the head of civil societies. By including the property reference in our definition, we would be doing precisely that.

    Global organisations are already conducting a battle of language through much of the campaign literature that they produce. They refer to environmental protesters as "environmental terrorists". They want us to describe those who protest against the building of roads, dams and oil extraction plants and against forest exploitation not as eco-protesters, but as eco-terrorists. That is what the Bill would do. It would give a facade of protection to corporate fiefdoms through repressive legislation.

    Does my hon. Friend agree that many corporate organisations are themselves arming dissidents to protect their property?

    Indeed. The one solace that I might have drawn from the measure would have been if it gave the House the power to prosecute those corporations under terrorism provisions, rather than to prosecute those who protest against the corporations. Sadly, the opposite will be true; the exploitation of people and the planet will not be reined in by the Bill.

    If the House is to understand anti-terrorism legislation, that legislation must address extraordinary circumstances. It is not legislation for all seasons and, because it addresses extraordinary circumstances, it must have extraordinary clarity. The definitional clause does not offer that. On the contrary, it offers confusion and a potential threat to the security and stability of civil society, which is in excess of any threat that it could claim to remove or to offer protection from. That is why I ask the House, and the Government, to support the amendment.

    The existing definition will be as counter-productive as it is repressive. What begins by putting society in chains will end by putting the Government on trial. If we do not amend the definition, the House will be found wanting.

    9.45 pm

    I find myself in considerable sympathy with the points made by the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson), and I broadly support what he said.

    We need to understand that this debate is right at the heart of the Bill because the definition of terrorism is the Bill's essential focus for the reason advanced by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), which is that if an activity falls within the definition, the whole weight of the Bill falls on the individuals and institutions concerned. He cited some of those consequences, which include restrictions on the power to raise money, the rights of entry of the police and the right to require answers to questions. They are all detailed in the Bill.

    The question that we must all ask about any activity is not whether it should be criminal, but whether the additional consequences contained in the Bill should fall on the individuals and institutions involved. In my view, there are many activities that are manifestly criminal but that should not in any circumstances be deemed terrorist. I think of two groups who perform activities that I particularly dislike. The first is hunt saboteurs. The second is GM protesters, of whom I do not think very much. However, I ask myself whether their activities should be deemed terrorist. The hon. Member for Nottingham, South mentioned many activities, and some of them should be criminal and some should not, but none of them should be deemed terrorist.

    Those who demonstrated in Trafalgar square against the community charge committed serious offences against the criminal law, but I ask myself whether that was intrinsically a terrorist activity. I think back to the days of the anti-apartheid demonstrations, which the hon. and learned Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) cited. The great majority of hon. Members, whether or not they approved of the demonstrations and what happened in them, would agree that in no sense should they be classed as terrorist. An example from my youth is the anti-Vietnam demonstrations. To be honest, I do not like demonstrations of any kind because they almost always involve violence and their character is often criminal, but in no sense should they be deemed terrorist.

    Once one starts from the proposition that that range of activities should not be classed as terrorist, one goes to the Bill and, I regret to say, the amendments, and starts by considering the Government's definition of terrorism. I am sure that Ministers will forgive me for saying that the definition means that all the activities to which I have referred run the risk of falling within the category of a terrorist activity, which is not to say that they would always fall within that category. That risk cannot be right.

    Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman reflect on the fact that these proceedings in the House are intrinsically linked to last week's proceedings? The truth is that if many of those offences were charged as terrorism, a jury would have no problem in throwing out such nonsense. The offences would plainly fall within the definition of terrorism, but no jury would have any of it. However, taken with the erosion of the right to jury trial, these two parallel moves are deeply worrying.

    I agree only in part with the hon. and learned Gentleman. He and I have agreed in many ways for 30 years, even though we come from different political traditions; we have known and worked with each other for many years. I shall not digress far, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but he and I stood together against the legislation that restricted trial by jury, because we both disagreed with the proposals that it contained. One of the reasons was that juries act as the public conscience: sometimes, when the elements of an offence are made out, the consequences appear so absurd that the jury as the public conscience recognises the absurdity and refuses to convict. The point on which I disagree with him is that he appears to be affected by a slight misconception. Clause 1 does not create new offences; it triggers consequences and attracts penalties and sanctions to those individuals who are doing things that are classified as terrorist. Therefore, his point is not quite the same as mine, although it is very nearly the same.

    The right hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that clause 1 also confers new powers, specifically in respect of the police. If the clause had been in force, the poll tax demonstration could have been prevented—he might think that would have been a good thing—as could any demonstration on the say so of one constable saying that a terrorism investigation was under way.

    The hon. Gentleman is wholly right, and that point lies at the core of my objections.

    I hear mutterings from the Treasury Bench, so I shall face their source. Ministers say that clause 1 does not have the wide effect that we say that it does; well, let us examine clause 1 and see whether two activities—those I especially dislike: the actions of hunt saboteurs, and the anti-poll tax demonstration—fall within the class of clause 1 terrorist activity.

    The clause states:
    "terrorism" means the use or threat, for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause, of action.
    Let us start with the purpose test. Hunt saboteurs are certainly advancing an ideological cause—they would say so and, as a matter of law, they would be right; so would the police, and they would be right too. The community charge demonstrators in Trafalgar square were certainly advancing a political cause and, for that matter, an ideological cause. Therefore, the purpose test is made out.

    Of course, such activities are not "terrorist" unless they fall foul of subsections (1)(a), (b) and (c). Subsection (1)(a) speaks of action that
    involves serious violence against any person or property.
    In Trafalgar square, there was serious violence against both persons and property. In many demonstrations against fox hunting, serious violence is committed against persons and property. The clause continues, referring to action that
    endangers the life of any person.
    In Trafalgar square, the police were very much at risk and they said so at the time. Subsection (1)(c) refers to action that
    creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public.
    Fox hunters consider themselves to be at serious risk, and the Trafalgar square rioters certainly put the public at serious risk.

    There is absolutely no doubt that the classes of activity that I have described fall within the scope of clause 1. It is misleading for Ministers to deny that.

    The right hon. and learned Gentleman lays great emphasis on the word "action", but is not clause 1 more complicated, and its implications worse, than he has said, in that the threat of action triggers the same consequences as action itself? Therefore a letter to a newspaper threatening to commit such action, or an interview on a local radio station in which a person announces his intention, or hope, of burning a field of GM crops, would bring all the consequences triggered under clause 1. Does not the definition used in the clause throw our definition of terrorism far too wide?

    I was focusing on the most graphic examples, but the hon. Gentleman is wholly right. The threat is sufficient to constitute the activity as potentially terrorist. The House would agree a wrong thing if it accepted the clause.

    There have been attempts to address the problem in several amendments, my own included. The hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) produced one set of amendments, the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey another. I modestly produced a third—amendment No. 200, which was not selected.

    I hope that the hon. Gentlemen will forgive me if I say that they have not resolved the problem. If they ask themselves the rhetorical question—I shall not take them through the detail, as I have already done so—"Would the fox hunting saboteurs be caught by their amendments?", the answer is yes.

    I see the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey looking at his amendment No. 190. In the purpose section, it states:
    to intimidate or coerce a government, one or more political bodies or organisations, the public or—
    this is what I underline—

    any section of the public for political ends.
    Let us consider the last set of phrases and ask ourselves whether hunt saboteurs fall within that group. They certainly create a serious risk to the health or safety of the public—that is, fox hunters—with the purpose of coercing those who go fox hunting. I am using the example of fox hunting because I must use an example, but the same applies to the demonstrators in Trafalgar square, and I can perform exactly the same exercise with exactly the same consequences to the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Hull, North.

    We must come to a conclusion. I believe that none of the amendments sufficiently addresses the problem that I have identified. I tried to do so through amendment No. 200, which narrows the definition of "violence" so that violence constitutes only threats to life. Even that is imperfect. The truth, I suspect, is that we cannot properly reconcile what the Government seek to do—I accept their good motives—with the aims of those of us who want to defend civil liberties and political freedoms.

    My belief is that the difficulties associated with the definition are so great as to mean that the Bill is fatally flawed. That is the conclusion to which I think I come. It may be that others cleverer than I, here or in another place, can so define "terrorism" that it does not have the objectionable consequences which I believe that the present definition has. However, they have not done so yet. They have tried, but I suspect that they will not succeed. If that is indeed the case, the clause and most of the Bill should be rejected.

    I shall try to be brief. I speak as someone who supported the African National Congress, opposed the Vietnam war and supported non-violent direct action. The past hour has been a litany of scare stories and worst-case scenarios such as I have seldom heard.

    My constituents and most people in the United Kingdom want to be able to travel on international aircraft without threat of being blown up. They want to be able to have a meal in McDonald's, as two of my close friends were doing when damage to the ceiling was caused by the Canary wharf bombing. They want to be able to go about their lives without the threat of internationally motivated, funded and organised terrorism. That is the essence of the Bill.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson) said that there was no threat. I do not know which world he is living in. The world contains well-organised, well-funded international terrorist organisations which operate in one country, plan their activities in a second country, have members who live in a third country, and get their finance from a fourth country. The Bill is trying to provide for effective anti-terrorism legislation. We can debate definitions of terrorism, and I accept that there are difficulties. However, we should not put ourselves in a position where, because of arguments about definition—

    It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

    Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business),

    That, at this day's sitting, the Terrorism Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.— [Mrs. McGuire.]

    The House divided: Ayes 279, Noes 40.

    Division No. 110]

    [10 pm


    Ainger, NickBegg, Miss Anne
    Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Beggs, Roy
    Alexander, DouglasBell, Martin (Tatton)
    Allen, GrahamBenn, Hilary (Leeds C)
    Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Bennett, Andrew F
    Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)Benton, Joe
    Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms HilaryBermingham, Gerald
    Ashton, JoeBerry, Roger
    Atkins, CharlotteBest, Harold
    Austin, JohnBlackman, Liz
    Banks, TonyBlears, Ms Hazel
    Barnes, HarryBoateng, Rt Hon Paul
    Battle, JohnBorrow, David
    Beard, NigelBradley, Keith (Withington)
    Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs MargaretBradshaw, Ben

    Brinton, Mrs HelenHall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
    Browne, DesmondHall, Patrick (Bedford)
    Burgon, ColinHamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
    Butler, Mrs ChristineHanson, David
    Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
    Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Heal, Mrs Sylvia
    Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)Healey, John
    Campbell-Savours, DaleHepburn, Stephen
    Cann, JamieHeppell, John
    Caplin, IvorHill, Keith
    Casale, RogerHinchliffe, David
    Cawsey, IanHodge, Ms Margaret
    Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)Hope, Phil
    Chaytor, DavidHowarth Alan (Newport E)
    Clapham, MichaelHowells, Dr Kim
    Hoyle, Lindsay
    Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
    Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
    Clark, Paul (Gillingham)Hurst, Alan
    Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)Hutton, John
    Clelland, DavidIddon, Dr Brian
    Clwyd, AnnIllsley, Eric
    Coaker, VernonIngram, Rt Hon Adam
    Coffey, Ms AnnJackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
    Cohen, HarryJenkins, Brian
    Colman, TonyJohnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
    Connarty, MichaelJohnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
    Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
    Cooper, YvetteJones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
    Corbyn, JeremyJones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
    Corston, JeanJones, Helen (Warrington N)
    Cousins, JimJones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW)
    Cox, Tom
    Cranston, RossJones Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
    Crausby, DavidJones, Dr Lynee (Selly Oak)
    Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
    Cryer, John (Honrchurch)Keeble, Ms Sally
    Cummings, JohnKeen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
    Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)Kemp, Fraser
    Curtis-Thomas, Mrs ClaireKennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
    Darvill, KeithKhabra, Piara S
    Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)Kidney, David
    Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)Kilfoyle, Peter
    Davies Geraint (Croydon C)Kumar, Dr Ashok
    Laxton, Bob
    Dawson, HiltonLepper, David
    Donaldson, JeffreyLeslie, Christopher
    Dowd, JimLevitt, Tom
    Drew, DavidLewis, Ivan (Bury S)
    Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)Linton, Martin
    Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)Lock, David
    Edwards, HuwLove, Andrew
    Ennis, JeffMcAvoy, Thomas
    Etherington, BillMcCabe, Steve
    Fisher, MarkMcDonagh, Siobhain
    Flint, CarolineMcDonnell, John
    Flynn, PaulMcFall, John
    Forsythe, CliffordMcGuire, Mrs Anne
    Foster, Rt Hon DerekMcIsaac, Shona
    Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)Mackinlay, Andrew
    Foster, Michael J (Worcester)McNamara, Kevin
    Gapes, MikeMactaggart, Fiona
    George, Bruce (Walsall S)McWalter, Tony
    Gibson, Dr IanMcWilliam, John
    Maginnis, Ken
    Gilroy, Mrs LindaMahon, Mrs Alice
    Godman, Dr Norman AMallaber, Judy
    Godsiff, RogerMarsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
    Goggins, PaulMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
    Golding, Mrs LlinMarshall-Andrews, Robert
    Gordon, Mrs EileenMaxton, John
    Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
    Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)Meale, Alan
    Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Merron, Gillian
    Grogan, JohnMiller, Andrew
    Gunnell, JohnMoffatt, Laura

    Moonie, Dr LewisSmith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
    Moran, Ms Margaret
    Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
    Morley, ElliotSmith, John (Glamorgan)
    Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelte (B'ham Yardley)Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
    Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
    Mountford, KaliSoley, Clive
    Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)Southworth, Ms Helen
    Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)Squire, Ms Rachel
    Naysmith, Dr DougStarkey, Dr Phyllis
    O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)Steinberg, Gerry
    O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)Stewart, David (Inverness E)
    O'Hara, EddieStinchcombe, Paul
    Olner, BillStoate, Dr Howard
    O'Neill, MartinStrang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
    Organ, Mrs DianaStraw, Rt Hon Jack
    Pearson, IanStringer, Graham
    Pendry, TomStuart, Ms Gisela
    Pickthall, ColinSutcliffe, Gerry
    Pike, Peter LTaylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
    Plaskitt, James
    Pollard, KerryTaylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
    Pond, ChrisTaylor, David (NW Leics)
    Pope, GregTaylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)
    Pound, StephenThomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
    Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)Thompson, William
    Prosser, GwynTimms, Stephen
    Purchase, KenTipping, Paddy
    Quin, Rt Hon Ms JoyceTodd, Mark
    Quinn, LawrieTouhig, Don
    Radice, Rt Hon GilesTrickett, Jon
    Rammell, BillTurner, Dennis (Wolverth'ton SE)
    Rapson, SydTurner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
    Raynsford, NickTurner, Neil (Wigan)
    Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
    Roche, Mrs BarbaraTynan, Bill
    Rogers, AllanVis, Dr Rudi
    Rooker, Rt Hon JeffWard, Ms Claire
    Rooney, TerryWatts, David
    Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)White, Brian
    Rowlands, TedWilliams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
    Ruane, ChrisWilliams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
    Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
    Ryan, Ms JoanWinnick, David
    Salter, MartinWinterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
    Sawford, PhilWise, Audrey
    Sedgemore, BrianWood, Mike
    Shaw, JonathanWoolas, Phil
    Shipley, Ms DebraWorthington, Tony
    Short, Rt Hon ClareWright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
    Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)Wyatt, Derek
    Singh, Marsha
    Skinner, Dennis

    Tellers for the Ayes:

    Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)

    Mr. David Jamieson and

    Smith, Angela (Basildon)

    Mr. Clive Betts.


    Allan, RichardHeath, David (Somerton & Frome)
    Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyHogg, Rt Hon Douglas
    Ballard, JackieHughes, Simon (Southwark N)
    Beith, Rt Hon A JKennedy, Rt Hon Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W)
    Breed, Colin
    Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Livsey, Richard
    Burnett, JohnLlwyd, Elfyn
    Burstow, PaulMaclennan, Rt Hon Robert
    Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife)Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
    Moore, Michael
    Chidgey, DavidMorgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
    Cotter, BrianOaten, Mark
    Davey, Edward (Kingston)Rendel, David
    Fearn, RonnieRussell, Bob (Colchester)
    Foster, Don (Bath)Sanders, Adrian
    George, Andrew (St Ives)Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
    Hancock, MikeStunell, Andrew
    Harris, Dr EvanTaylor, Matthew (Truro)

    Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)Willis, Phil
    Tonge, Dr Jenny
    Tyler, Paul

    Tellers for the Noes:

    Wallace, James

    Mr. Tom Brake and

    Webb, Steve

    Mr. Norman Baker.

    Question accordingly agreed to.

    As amended in the Standing Committee, again considered.

    Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

    As I was saying, the legislation is important in enabling the country to play its role in the international fight against terrorism. We were told by earlier speakers that, for some reason the definition should be changed to exclude—[Interruption.]

    Order. I am sorry to interrupt, but we are in the middle of a serious debate, and the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes) is entitled to a reasonable hearing.

    Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

    The Liberal Democrats have told us that they want to exclude reference to property. I want to raise two issues which I think show the error of their position.

    First, let us suppose that a terrorist organisation decided to blow up the Eros statue, Nelson's column or the Palace of Westminster, having, in the latter case, given considerable notice allowing the evacuation of the Houses of Parliament. Presumably, according to the Liberal Democrats' definition, those perpetrating the crime would not be subject to a charge of terrorism.

    Secondly, there is the problem of the intentions of those who commit crimes. Presumably, at least according to the Liberal Democrats' barristers, if a person attacked a building or monument with the intention of not injuring human life, but if someone happened to be in the building or was passing it, that person's defence would be that he had had no intention of endangering life, and he would therefore be acquitted.

    The hon. Gentleman is making a fundamental error. Those involved in his two examples could be charged with other substantive offences under the criminal law, but the Bill does not create an offence of terrorism.

    I refer the right hon. and learned Gentleman to the definition in clause 1, which states that

    "terrorism" means the use or threat, for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause, of action which … involves serious violence … endangers … life … or … creates a serious risk to … health or safety.
    My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South implied that the word "which" did not appear in the definition. His argument was based on the assumption that the first sentence in itself would make a person guilty of terrorism—that someone who was committed to an ideological cause would be, by definition, a terrorist. That is absurd.

    10.15 pm

    I do not believe that, under the Bill, Nelson Mandela could ever have been put on trial. He certainly could not have been convicted in any court under it. Any Crown Prosecution Service prosecutor who decided to go through that process would not have put him on trial under the Bill. It is palpably absurd to think that there would ever be a conviction.

    Similarly, we could use criminal damage or some other legislation, but we could not use terrorism legislation when people destroy crops in fields—one of the scare stories that we have heard. It is fanciful. It is based on worst-case, scare-story scenarios that are designed to frighten people off from introducing effective legislation to combat terrorism.

    This country needs legislation, so that it is not a safe haven for people who plan crimes in one country and seek refuge in another. We have had examples of that. We know that the people who perpetrated the fascist bombing in Bologna have been living in Brighton for many years. They planned it, organised it and have been running neo-Nazi book shops in Brighton. It is time that we had effective measures to combat international terrorism, whatever the source.

    I hope that the Liberal Democrats will think carefully about their position. This country must be at the forefront of international co-operation. That is what internationalism is about. The Liberal Democrats do themselves and their internationalist ideals a disservice by not being prepared to take internationally effective action to combat terrorism.

    I am sorry that the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) is not in the Chamber on this unique occasion: for the first time in 17 years, he and I have the same objective. That objective is to define terrorism. However, in case he takes what I say too seriously, may I allude to amendment No. 122, which suggests that we insert

    the commission of, or the threat to commit, any criminal act with the intention of
    (a) putting the public or any section of the public in fear.
    That is such a flawed amendment. It shows the difficulty that we have with the definition of terrorism.

    It is a criminal act for a young hooligan to throw fireworks through the letter box of a pensioner and thus endanger that person's life. Under the amendment, that would be not a criminal act, which can be dealt with under normal legislation, but a terrorist offence. That would be folly.

    While I am talking about folly, I am rather puzzled by amendment No. 123, which wants to change the phrase
    endangers the life of any person
    seriously endangers the life of any person.
    I wonder what the difference is. If the hon. Gentleman endangered my life, I might end up dead. I presume that he means that, if he seriously endangered it, I would end up very dead.


    At the same time, I have serious concerns about the definition of terrorism in the Bill. I would delete virtually all of clause 1. It is a catch-all, but it does not adequately define what we mean by terrorism.

    My definition of terrorism is that it is a conspiracy by three or more persons to use or threaten violence against society and/or property for the purpose of undermining or destroying institutions of the state. In Committee, the Minister displayed commodities that have become rarer during the 17 years that I have been in the House—considerable patience and courtesy. I hope that he will take what I say about the Bill in the spirit in which I intend it.

    The Minister inherited an absolute mish-mash. We should have two Bills—one to deal with national terrorism against this democratic state, and another to deal with international terrorism being carried out from within this state against another. That would enable us clearly and meaningfully to define terrorism for, dare I say, the selfish, introverted needs of our own nation.

    The problems of legislation on terrorism were highlighted by earlier mentions of that which followed the Omagh bombing. Whatever the good intentions behind it, it has proved unnecessary and has not been used. The Terrorism Bill also contains elements that will never be used because they are impracticable and do not relate to activities that endanger or undermine institutions of the state.

    We have a democratic system, and we know what we mean by the institutions of state. The amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) is too explicit, listing political parties, groups and organisations, all of which are part of the institutions of state, as we understand that phrase. The Minister may be unable to deal with this point now, but when the Bill moves on to another place, I ask him seriously to consider the possibility of defining terrorism in terms of needs within this state and in terms of what can be implemented understandably.

    I have nothing more to say. We need two Bills, not one. We need a simple definition of terrorism, based on violence or the threat of violence intended to undermine the institutions of this democratic state.

    It is a privilege to follow the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis), who has had to live under the shadow of terrorism as hon. Members from English or Welsh constituencies have not had to do. I listened carefully to his comments and to all of the debate. I was not a Committee member, and therefore was not party to the detailed speculation on the various definitions of terrorism in use in international conventions, in the United Nations and in other countries.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes), who was on the Committee, seems confused about the Bill. As the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) said, the Bill does not create an offence of terrorism. The offences created by the Bill are in clauses 11, 12 and 13—which deal with belonging to a proscribed organisation, supporting that organisation and wearing the uniform of that organisation. Clause 1 defines terrorism and, by doing so, triggers the very serious and sombre treatment of someone who is so defined. It is essential—not because we are creating an offence of terrorism, which we are not doing, but because we are creating a sequence of treatment—that we get that definition right. The definition in the Bill is totally baffling and incorrect.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South is the only person who has spoken in support of the Bill's definition. However, with due respect to him, he did not support the Bill's definition; he supported its aims—to be tough on terrorism. Not a single hon. Member or other person in the United Kingdom has any time for terrorism at all. My hon. Friend therefore chose the wrong subject. We are all with him and the Government in seeking to eliminate terrorism from society. However, in clause 1, we are doing something completely different—we are redefining what we mean by terrorism. Therefore, the wording of clause 1 is crucial.

    It is no good my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South simply saying that we need not pay attention to worst-case scenarios or to hysterical thinking. If the Bill defines terrorism in such and such a manner, that would become the legal definition of terrorism. However, the Bill's definition of terrorism makes no sense whatsoever.

    The crucial words in clause 1 are, first, "use" and "threat"; secondly, "political, religious and ideological" causes; and, thirdly,
    serious violence against any person or property.
    If we put those three things together, all the possibilities described by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson), the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham and the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) would become real.

    A threat is a part of the Bill's definition of terrorism. Therefore, a statement in an interview on a radio station or in a letter to a newspaper that "I intend to burn a crop of GM food" would become part of a terrorist activity. Subsequently, the terrorist activity would be compounded if there were violence, such as burning a crop. If the violence were directed against property—such as a crop—it would also fall within the definition, especially if the violence were being done to serve an ideological purpose, such as pursuing a vendetta against GM crops.

    It does not matter whether the purpose of the activity is good or bad. The consequence of the Bill's definition is that it would be a terrorist activity to write a letter saying that one will burn a crop of GM corn. There is no way of getting around that. I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South would consider that to be a worst-case scenario, but that is what the Bill would entail.

    I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham. I am not very keen on hunt saboteurs or some of the actions of people who are against animal experiments. They may have virtuous intent, but their actions are often pretty unpleasant. However, it is nonsense to propose that such people should be defined by our society as terrorists, yet the Bill would do just that.

    As my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South said, certainly Labour Members—I suspect Liberal Democrats too—have all been guilty of these things. Certainly during the miners' strike we all pushed down fences and gates. I did it at the Hem Heath colliery, the Florence colliery and elsewhere—

    10.30 pm

    I certainly did and I would do it again as it was in a good cause. The idea that I was committing an act of terrorism is absolute nonsense. I believe that would be generally accepted. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) who is no longer in his place said, a jury would probably acquit one, but that misses the point of the Bill. It is not about whether or not one would be convicted of terrorism; it is about what is in the Bill. The Bill redefines terrorism in a totally nonsensical way.

    Will my hon. Friend comment on the case of an individual who sought my help? He was in custody on suspicion of robbing a post office but, for the sake of avoiding the restrictions in criminal law, he had been detained under the PTA. If that can happen under the existing system, what prospect is there of protecting people under the system that is about to be introduced?

    I do not know that case, which is an interesting inversion of the proposal we are discussing. I should have thought that the criminal law gave the police and the prosecuting authorities perfectly adequate means of dealing with a person who had committed a criminal offence. As the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham, who knows the law better than most of us, has said several times, the criminal law can deal with actions against property and against the person. I cannot think of anything that the criminal law does not cover. That requires us to be much more detailed and specific about what we mean by an act of terrorism that is distinct from normal criminal activity. I was interested in what the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey said about the debate in Committee and the various speculations. I am sorry that I was not party to that discussion. It is extremely difficult to establish a definition, and we are not doing so by any of the proposed amendments, well intentioned though they are.

    In amendment No. 122, my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) concentrates on motivation. I sympathise with the intention behind the amendment, but the criticisms that have been made are valid. Motivation rather misses the point.

    My amendment proposes that motivation should not be taken into consideration, but that it should be concentrated on as the cause.

    I beg my hon. Friend's indulgence. I am sorry if I misled the House as I would not want to misinterpret his speech.

    I sympathise with the thrust of amendment No. 190, but as it retains the words "violence against the person" and the word "threat", it does not overcome some of my objections.

    We are all seeking a way forward. Between us, at least we have proposed a way of getting rid of some of the mischief. For example, amendment No. 193 would exclude violence to property with no risk to the public or individuals. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman realises that to make the Bill perfect may require a combination of factors, but after tonight at least it will be better—and narrower—than it was when it first came to the House.

    I do not want to go too far down that path, because the House wants to make progress, but I think that the amendments are all designed to pare away certain elements rather than identifying what is specific about terrorism. Surely a threat to the security of the state is at the heart of what most of us mean by terrorism as well as of most dictionary and legal definitions. None of the amendments quite achieves the aim.

    The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey says that we are doing our best, but now that we are launched on the path of legislation we have to get it right, in another place if not here. I feel that we are very far from an adequate definition that would not be too wide for anybody with any flicker of libertarianism. As a libertarian, I am offended and deeply worried by the definition in the Bill. I will not vote for any of the amendments, but I cannot do what I presume the Government will ask and vote against them, because by so doing I would be implicitly supporting the definition in the Bill, which is dangerous, misguided and inadequate. I do not understand what led the Government to it. It is totally baffling.

    If the Government are simply sending a message that they are tough on terrorism and tough on the causes of terrorism, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South said, we would all say yea to that, but the definition goes much wider than that, and it is tough on many things that many of us would feel are totally outwith the ambit of terrorism.

    The fact that we have so many Government amendments says something about the inadequacy of resources for parliamentary drafting in recent years, but on so crucial a matter I do not believe that bad drafting can be blamed. I wait to hear what the Minister and the Government are seeking to do, but I am perfectly convinced that the definition in the Bill simply will not do.

    The thrust of the amendments is to limit the scope of the definition of terrorism in clause 1. Some of them are designed to define terrorism more closely in terms of people with political rather than other objectives and others to delete references to attacks on property or to actions affecting persons and property overseas.

    I want to put my party's approach on the record. We accept that, as the Minister has acknowledged at all previous stages of our proceedings, there is a difficult balancing act to strike between effective counter-terrorism law and civil liberties. It is right that, throughout the Bill's passage through both Houses of Parliament, the detail of the definition of terrorism should be kept under review.

    I firmly believe that we need to have on the statute book powers for the police and the Executive against terrorist organisations. We need powers to search, to restrict fundraising and to detain. Those conclusions are shared not only by Conservative Members but by independent examiners of the legislation, including Lord Lloyd of Berwick and Professor Wilkinson, who were appointed by the Government to carry out a thorough-going review of the law on terrorism.

    I believe, too, that it is right that this legislation should cover acts in respect of property. We surely cannot put ourselves in the lunatic situation in which an attack by the Provisional IRA on an empty office block, a railway junction, an airport building or Westminster Hall should somehow fall outwith the scope of anti-terrorism legislation because it had taken care to ensure that no human being would be at risk. If we adopted that approach, we would be saying to the police, "You may know from your intelligence that the Provisional IRA is responsible for that act of terrorism but, because of the way that we have drafted the definition, you are not allowed to use the powers of detention, stop and search and arrest that we have provided for you and other agencies in this legislation."

    In amendment No. 146, I have sought to address the worries that have been expressed that the Bill allows too wide a scope for actions against property alone to be brought within the law, and I welcome the Minister's comments on that in due course.

    I take the hon. Gentleman's point that the Bill should apply to the IRA in the circumstances that he has described, but surely it should be possible to word the clause that would catch such action. For example, the action against property could be coupled with the endangering of life, because the blowing up of such a large piece of property would be certain to endanger human life.

    As regards property, it is right that the Bill should contain a general provision of the kind that the Government suggest. We can argue about the exact words that we would prefer but, given the ruthlessness and dedication of terrorist organisations, we need to include attacks against property, because they can be used to disrupt life in this country and other democratic societies as a means of intimidating the population and their Governments.

    I do not think that many people would disagree with some parts of what my hon. Friend has said, but he needs to answer this question—if the result of drafting clauses that catch the IRA in the way that he has described is that they also catch many other organisations that are not trying to subvert the state, is it right to follow the course that he advocates?

    It was made clear in Committee when the Minister responded to the concerns that had been expressed by several hon. Members about the matter that the Government envisaged that, in the normal course of events, most criminal offences would continue to be dealt with under the normal procedures of the criminal law. My right hon. and learned Friend is obviously worried that to trust in the judgment of the police and the courts is inadequate and that a new definition needs to be written into the law. However, I feel that we would fail in our duty if we narrowed the definition to such an extent that it failed to provide adequate protection against terrorist groups that have shown repeatedly that they are utterly careless of human life and well-being.

    It is also right that the Bill should cover domestic terrorism and more than purely political objectives. We have seen the example of the Aum sect in Tokyo and the havoc that it wrought against innocent civilians. Some of the extreme, well-organised animal rights groups might also properly be treated as terrorist, because they are organised and have in the past used car bombs and like measures to harm men and women who are not politicians but research scientists or otherwise connected with a company whose policies on experimentation the groups seek to influence.

    It is right that the Bill should cover action overseas as well as in the United Kingdom, but I retain some reservations about that and 1 hope that the Government will reflect on the definition that they have applied. Given the attack on the United States embassy in Kenya, the outrages in the middle east and the assassination of democratic leaders such as Rajiv Gandhi, it seems right that our anti-terrorist legislation should catch the perpetrators of such crimes.

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    Genuine unease has been expressed about whether the safeguards suggested by the Bill are adequate. One man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter: how does one deal with that problem? How does one deal with the difficulty caused when a group of people in the United Kingdom call for the overthrow by force of a tyrant in another country? The examples of Saddam Hussein and others were mentioned frequently earlier.

    Hon. Members have been right to draw such matters to the Minister's attention. I hope that the Government will continue to reflect on them as the Bill continues its passage through Parliament.

    From the outset, the Government have been keen to emphasise the difficulty of defining this important matter. We have said, clearly and explicitly, that a balance must be drawn between the need to fight international terrorism—many reports confirm that that is a real threat in the modern world, which we must combat if we are to protect our citizens—and the need to protect individual liberties. That is a very hard question of judgment.

    On Second Reading on 14 December—three months and one day ago—my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I both stated that we were ready to consider other, better wordings and definitions to deal with these matters. We said that we were prepared to look at better forms of definition, and I repeated that commitment more than once in Committee. Much of this evening's debate has centred on questions of wording.

    I want to take this opportunity to thank Liberty and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. Both organisations have made serious efforts to draft alternative clauses in response to the invitation from me and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. Their work is to be commended. Although I do not agree with every word that they offered, I accept that they took on the challenge, acknowledged the importance of addressing the problem of international terrorism, and sought a better definition than the one offered by the Government.

    It would be churlish not to acknowledge those two pieces of work, which underlie the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) and by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes).

    The Government started from the viewpoint that the definitions in the prevention of terrorism and emergency provisions legislation had operated effectively and that changes should be made only where they could be justified. We were also firmly of the view that it was no longer defensible to confine the legislation to Irish and international terrorism, and to exclude the application of the definition to acts connected solely to the affairs of the United Kingdom.

    It is striking that, although there is much debate about what actions constitute so-called domestic terrorism, it appears to be generally agreed that the time has come to accept that some such actions should be caught. In deciding on a definition to put before the House, we also considered carefully the advice of Lord Lloyd. I shall not rehearse earlier debates, but we took very careful account of what he had to say.

    Finally, and most importantly, we bore in mind the purpose of the new definition as we worked it up. As I have stressed many times, there is no linked offence of terrorism. As is the case now, most terrorists will continue to be charged with offences under the