I beg to move,
That the draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2006, which was laid before this House on 17th July, be approved.
Section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2000 provides a power for the Home Secretary to proscribe an organisation that he believes is concerned in terrorism by adding the organisation to schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act, which lists proscribed organisations. An organisation is concerned in terrorism if it commits or participates in acts of terrorism, prepares for terrorism, promotes or encourages terrorism or is otherwise concerned in terrorism.
That power was extended by section 21 of the Terrorism Act 2006 to include organisations that glorify the commission or preparation of acts of terrorism. Glorification includes any form of praise or celebration of acts of terrorism. We are therefore now able to take action against those who make statements that most right-minded people find abhorrent and who create a climate that supports and fuels terrorism.
I take my hon. Friend’s point. This is not a definitive list in terms of proscription. There are any number of other organisations, among which I would include Hizb ut-Tahrir, that we keep under constant review and are seriously concerned about. I do not come here with “This year’s list of proscribed organisations”. This is an ongoing process and we keep all those organisations under review.
The order adds names to the list. Will the Minister explain what an organisation, once on the list, can do to be removed from it, and will he reconsider whether the People’s Mujahedin of Iran should be removed from the list now?
Will the Minister give the House an indication of how many other organisations are under intensive review, with the possibility of being banned? Is there a danger that the Minister will need to ban other organisations over the long parliamentary recess?
I do not think that there is any intention of introducing proscription orders over the recess. In the confines of the assorted Terrorism Acts, an order subject to the affirmative procedure has to come before the House, so there will not be any proscription over the recess, unless the second element of the legislation is used. That element allows orders subject to the negative procedure to be laid regarding organisations that are clearly successor groups to an organisation that has previously been proscribed. I can thus give the right hon. Gentleman a broad assurance.
The House will know that the order before us lists four organisations that we believe are concerned in terrorism: al-Ghurabaa, the Saved Sect, the Baluchistan Liberation Army and Teyrebaz Azadiye Kurdistan, which, if I may, I will call TAK from now on. Al-Ghurabaa and the Saved Sect are being proscribed under the new glorification provisions, and this is the first time that those powers have been used. The Baluchistan Liberation Army and TAK are directly involved in acts of terrorism.
When deciding whether to make an order proscribing a group, several additional factors are taken into account. They were published in 2001. The factors are the nature and scale of an organisation’s activities, the specific threat that it poses to the United Kingdom, the specific threat that it poses to British nationals overseas, the organisation’s presence in the United Kingdom, and the need to support other members of the international community in their fight against terrorism.
The proscription of an organisation is a very serious matter, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, East (Mr. Marshall) suggested. It means that the organisation is outlawed in the UK and that it is illegal for it to operate here. The Terrorism Act makes it a criminal offence to belong to, or invite support for, a proscribed organisation. It is also an offence to arrange a meeting that will support or further the activities of a proscribed organisation, or that will be addressed by someone who belongs to such an organisation. Finally, a person commits an offence if he or she wears clothing, or carries or displays articles, that provide a reasonable suspicion that he or she is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation.
I now come on to my hon. Friend’s point. It is important to note that any organisation that is proscribed, or anyone who is affected by a proscription, can appeal directly to the Home Secretary for the organisation to be de-proscribed. If that is refused, the applicant can appeal to the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission. There is thus a twofold process whereby organisations on the list can be de-proscribed.
Given the wide-ranging impact of proscription, the Home Secretary takes the decision to propose a group for proscription only after a thorough review of all relevant material. That includes open-source and intelligence material, as well as advice that reflects consultations across Government and with law enforcement agencies.
I believe that proscribing the four groups in the order will send a clear message that the United Kingdom continues to take its role in fighting terrorism seriously. We all know that the nature of terrorism has changed. The structures used are more fluid and international, and there are organisations that recruit and radicalise, as well as those that actually commit terrible acts of violence against innocent civilians. Each day we see more and more examples of the enormous challenge that we face.
There is, so I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s comment. He will know that an order subject to the negative procedure is before the House today. The PKK is a proscribed Kurdistan group. We believe that we have sufficient information that suggests that the two groups that are the subject of that order—KADEK and Kongra Gele Kurdistan—are simply successor groups to the PKK, which is why they can be proscribed simply by such an order under section 22 of the Terrorism Act 2006, unless the order is prayed against during the 21 days, or whatever it is, for which it is laid. We rightly included that provision in the Act because we had evidence of such activity.
It is against the broad background that I outlined that we must consider all steps that we can take to protect our citizens from terrorism. That involves difficult decisions and judgments, but the overriding responsibility must be to protect the public. Part of that is about making it harder for organisations that are involved in terrorism—both directly and indirectly—to operate, and that is simply what proscription does.
Al-Ghurabaa and the Saved Sect use the internet as their main medium. The two organisations are closely connected and both are successor organisations to al-Muhajiroun. They use the internet to attack the values of our society and praise those who want to use violence for ideological aims. They spread a message that is aimed at the young and vulnerable, which indirectly encourages them to emulate previous terrorist acts.
I would have thought that most people, including those in the Muslim community, would say, “It’s about time.” However, what about the people behind these organisations: the racists and hate-mongers who are not UK citizens? Is there not a strong case for considering those people’s status in the United Kingdom and inevitably asking whether their presence in this country is really desirable?
There certainly is; I agree with my hon. Friend. He will know that during the passage of the Bill that became the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, not least because of the events of last summer, we revisited precisely the issue to which he refers on a cross-party basis. Many of the powers that we have to get rid of the undesirables to whom he refers—those who are not UK citizens, but operate in this country—are at their strongest because of the provisions that were added to that Act, with broad agreement in the main part.
I cannot offhand, not least because the organisations that have been proscribed under the Terrorism Acts 2000 and 2006 have not been as such for terribly long. If I can get any substantive information, I suspect that it will be about charges that have been made because the process will be unfolding as we speak. That relates in part back to the earlier statement, given the length of time that it takes such things to go through the courts. If I am able to give the information to the hon. Gentleman and the House, I will of course be happy to do so.
May I ask about the removal of organisations from the proscribed list? Apart from the point that was made about organisations that become defunct, will the Minister tell us whether the Government have given any consideration to the removal of other organisations, including domestically based ones in Northern Ireland, on the grounds that they might have changed in character? We are being told that organisations in Northern Ireland are fit for government, yet they remain proscribed as illegal organisations under the legislation.
The narrow confines of the order relate only to the organisations that are being proscribed under the powers in the Terrorism Acts, rather than the broader context of domestically based organisations in Northern Ireland and other such concerns. The order relates simply to the proscription of organisations—although I have mentioned de-proscription—and no more.
I will leave it to my hon. Friend to give the oxygen of publicity to those people and their previous, imminent or subsequent convictions. I choose not to mention names, which is why I am rather irate with my hon. Friend.
A spokesman for al-Ghurabaa explicitly refused to condemn the 7 July bombings:
“What I would say about those who do suicide operations or martyrdom operations is they’re completely praiseworthy. I have no allegiance to the Queen whatsoever or to British society; in fact if I see mujahideen attack the UK I am always standing with the Muslims, never against the Muslims.”
I recall that in 2001 we had one vote on the proscription of 21 organisations. If any of those organisations were to be de-proscribed in the way that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, East (Mr. Marshall) suggested, would there have to be a review of all 21 proscribed organisations, because there was just one vote?
No, there would not. No matter how many organisations are on the order, they are treated under law as separate and distinct organisations, so the de-proscription would apply simply to the one organisation, rather than to the whole list.
As I was saying, there is material on the al-Ghurabaa website that says
‘kill those who insult Mohammed’
“we do believe in Jihad, we do believe in violence, we do believe in terrorizing the enemy of Allah”.
It talks about Osama bin Laden being a lion and says that his opponents are
“treading a downhill path of destruction and humiliation”.
It speaks of the USA being
“forced to kneel down towards him”.
The Saved Sect churns out similar propaganda. Let us be clear: those are examples not of freedom of speech, but of the abuse of those freedoms. They are insidious attacks on the broad values that the overwhelming majority of communities in this country hold dear.
The case of the Baluchistan Liberation Army and TAK is different, as those organisations are directly concerned with terrorism, and have claimed responsibility for some dreadful atrocities. For example, the Baluchistan Liberation Army has claimed responsibility for attacks going back to at least 2004, including the murder of Chinese engineers in February 2006 and nine bombings of railway stations in 2005. TAK has also claimed responsibility for attacks in Turkey since 2004, including a bomb attack on an internet café in Istanbul. Although those organisations are not based in the United Kingdom, they pose a threat to our citizens, as was demonstrated by the tragic death of British citizens in a bomb attack by TAK in the Turkish resort of Kusadasi in 2005.
I have no dispute with the Minister about the proscription of TAK, but he has announced the proscription of three Kurdish organisations. There is a long history in Kurdistan, particularly its Turkish part, of the oppression of Kurdish people. Will the Minister give me an assurance that he will keep the situation under review, so that we do not end up proscribing organisations that are democratic? There can be no doubt about the nature of TAK, but many Kurdish organisations are accused of terrorism by the Turkish Government, and their members are imprisoned, when in fact they are democratic organisations fighting for the rights of the Kurdish people.
I take the hon. Gentleman’s point, but in the context of the order, there is clear evidence against TAK, and there is already substantive evidence against the PKK. The other two organisations that we propose to proscribe in an order under the negative procedure are simply successors to the PKK. If a body is not a terrorist organisation in terms, as defined in various Acts and in the judgment and review of the Government, it will not appear on a list for proscription.
Paragraph 7.1 of the explanatory memorandum explains that under section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2000, the Minister could proscribe an organisation that, among other things,
“promotes or encourages terrorism or is otherwise concerned with terrorism.”
It explains that section 21 of the Terrorism Act 2006 adds the glorification of terrorism to the reasons for proscription. I do not necessarily disagree with the Minister’s proposal, but is the section 21 power required to proscribe the Saved Sect and al-Ghurabaa, or does the Minister think that they could be proscribed under the powers in the 2000 Act, without need for that power?
I assume that the hon. Gentleman was here at the start of my speech. I said very clearly that the organisations are being proscribed under the glorification offence in section 21 of the Terrorism Act 2006, which deals with those organisations that glorify
“the commission or preparation…of acts of terrorism”.
“any form of praise or celebration”
of acts of terrorism. This is the first time that the offence has been used, and I made that clear at the start of my deliberations.
When the Minister cited that provision he did not read from the website of al-Ghurabaa, so it was not clear to those of us who had not seen that website what language fell specifically under the category of “glorification”, rather than under “promotes and encourages”. I am not seeking to argue with him; I am just seeking to establish whether, in his view, what he read out from that website did not promote or encourage terrorism, but glorified it.
I understand what the hon. Gentleman is trying to say, but I shall not, with the indulgence of the House or otherwise, read the whole speech again. I would quite like to—I could do it a bit differently this time—but I do not think that I will. The offence is under section 21, and that is the substance of the issue. Given the material that is available, as I have said, it is quite right that we should proscribe the organisations listed in the order, and I commend the order to the House.
I thank the Minister for his statement and for giving us the facility to discuss the order before we came to the House today.
The measure is apposite, bearing in mind that this Thursday exactly a year ago we were in the middle of another wave of terrorist attacks that, had they been successful, would, I suspect, have focused our minds much more closely even than the attacks of 7 July. On the next day—22 July—those attacks were followed by a series of tragic events that are close to the Government’s thoughts at the moment. We would do well to remember that many of the organisations that we are talking about today were heavily involved in the events of last year.
May I begin by saying that the Opposition are delighted with the four names on the order to which the Minister has referred? We certainly support the Government’s proscription of those organisations, but I should be grateful if the Minister would kindly answer one or two questions. I shall first deal with the first two organisations that have been proscribed today. Both al-Ghurabaa and the Saved Sect—also known as the Saviour Sect—have been proscribed, but they are remnants of al-Muhajiroun. What are the Government’s views about other remnants of that organisation, such as the followers of Ahl Us-Sunnah Wal-Jammaa’ah, the Muballigh, the Islamic Thinkers Society and the Society of Muslim Lawyers, which is not the same as the Association of Muslim Lawyers?
Omar Bakri Muhammad, who established al-Muhajiroun, said:
“Al-Muhajiroun has many organs which are active within society under its leadership. These organs specialize in different fields, such as: the Society of Muslim Lawyers, the Society of Converts to Islam, the Society of Muslim Parents, the London School of Shari’ah, the Shari’ah Court of the UK, the Society of Muslim Students, the Islamic World League, the Muslim Cultural Society and the Party of the Future.”
How will the Government cope with that? As soon as organisations are banned, they change their name. The same happened with the IRA—first, there was the Official IRA, then the provisionals, then a series of other splinter organisations. How will we cope with that? Can the Minister help me on that point? As soon as one organisation is banned, it springs up under another name. That is not a criticism; I am merely asking for information about how that can be controlled.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. The answer is that there are any number. As soon as I name one of those organisations, it will rename itself. As soon as it is proscribed, it will spring up under another guise. As I said, that is not a criticism of the Government; it is a merely question about how they intend to deal with it.
Hezbollah is much in the news at present. Will the Government explain why the external security organisation of Hezbollah is proscribed, whereas Hezbollah’s political arm and its guerrilla forces in south Lebanon are not proscribed? I shall quote from the Minister for the Middle East, although his words make the situation no clearer. He stated in March 2006:
“We are not aware of any involvement by Hizballah in terrorist activity in southern Lebanon. However, we remain very concerned by Hizballah’s support for terrorist activity within the Occupied Territories.”—[Official Report, 22 March 2006; Vol. 444, c. 422W.]
Can the Minister please explain why we deal with one half of the organisation in one way, and the other half in another way?
Why is Abu Hamza’s old group, the Supporters of Sharia, not proscribed? What is the Government’s view on them? From their chat rooms, it is clear that they are a thinly disguised front for al-Qaeda in the United Kingdom. What are the Government’s views on Tablighi Jama’at? That organisation has plans to build a £100 million mosque in east London that will apparently accommodate 10,000 worshippers. French intelligence is deeply worried by that organisation, claiming that 80 per cent. of Islamist fundamentalists in France come from TJ and calling it the “antechamber of fundamentalism”. How will we cope with that? Do the Government propose to allow the group’s recruiting methods to continue? Are we to give succour to it? Again, I simply require information from the Government. What about the Student Islamic Movement of India inside the United Kingdom? We have already touched on that. What are the Government’s views on the comments of Lord Carlile about the de-proscription of Mujaheddin-e-Khalq?
I return to the point that the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) made about Hizb ut-Tahrir, or HUT for short. A few days ago the Home Secretary told us how pleased and delighted he was with the way that Project CONTEST was developing. That is the Government’s anti-terrorist strategy, which revolves around four streams of thought—four streams of action. Will the Government explain how HUT fits into both the “protect” and the “prepare” streams of thought of project CONTEST? I remind the House that the Prime Minister’s delivery unit said of Project CONTEST that activity in the project was not connected or coherent, it asked who was in charge, and it said that Project CONTEST measures meetings and reports, not real world impact. The Home Secretary denied all that.
HUT is banned from many Arab countries, the former Soviet Union and Germany, yet London appears to be its headquarters. Its UK branch was founded by Omar Bakri Muhammad, who founded al-Muhajiroun, and it talks endlessly about anti-Muslim integration. On 5 August 2005, the Prime Minister said that HUT would be proscribed. Why has it not been? If we have Project CONTEST, a strategy for counter-terrorism, which the Home Secretary tells us is in good shape—although the Prime Minister’s delivery unit says it is not fit for purpose—can the Minister please explain to me why the Prime Minister’s words have not been honoured?
I share the hon. Gentleman’s views about HUT, particularly about its statements, which it made openly, that Muslims should be tried according to sharia in this country. We have the rule of law in the United Kingdom, which everyone must obey. The attitude of HUT may not be a reason for proscribing it, but it is certainly a reason for strong argument with the group. If it does not obey the rule of law in the UK, it is outwith a democratic society. Does the hon. Gentleman agree?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I entirely agree. I cannot understand why an organisation that espouses the views to which the hon. Gentleman has just drawn attention is not proscribed. More to the point, I agree with what the Prime Minister said on 5 August 2005. Why has HUT not been proscribed? If we are preventing terror, protecting our population, preparing for attacks and pursuing terrorists under Project CONTEST, why has that not been done?
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the points that he is making are the issues that cause so much confusion and concern within the Muslim population in this country about the way in which some organisations are treated, whereas others are ignored for other reasons, although they know not why?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. We had such discussions when we were serving together on the Defence Committee. There is nothing worse than inconsistency in a campaign such as the present one. Inconsistency will always be misinterpreted, perverted and turned against us. I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s intervention.
The hon. Gentleman is right, of course. Many of the questions that I have asked today may well be covered by the Minister in an explanation making that precise point. Certainly, I am criticising, but many of the other points that I am making are points of information that the whole House, as evidenced by the interventions, would be interested to know.
Lastly, if we proscribe organisations, it is all very well talking and generating hot air, but what is done about asset seizure? There must be delivery, not just talk. There is no point in Government anti-terrorism strategies that are torn apart by the Government’s own audit organisations. I welcome what the Government have done today. I ask the Minister for some thoughtful—as I know they will be—and trenchant replies to the questions that the Opposition have asked.
I, too, welcome the statement by my hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety. As he knows, I have been pursuing the fundamentalist extremists since 1998. That was when I first asked questions about Bakri Muhammad and al-Muhajiroun in the House. We should remember that Bakri Muhammad set up al-Muhajiroun because he has fallen out with the Muslim Brotherhood, which he came to the United Kingdom to set up—an extreme organisation banned in many countries around the world.
I agree with the comments of the hon. Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer) about the problems of the splinter groups that are continually set up. It is a little like the Trotskyists in the 1970s. Whenever one looked at them, they were a different organisation. The present case is rather more sinister and rather more dangerous than the Trotskyists ever were. They may have purported to undermine society as we knew it, but they never got very far.
I cannot resist a brief trip down memory lane. Although it is true that Trotskyists and other far left groups and, indeed, pro-Soviet groups used to rename themselves, it was nevertheless also true that when the hon. Gentleman’s party fatally abolished the proscribed list, that had a huge effect on reviving the overt way in which those groups were able to function. That is why, despite the danger of reinvention, proscription is worth while.
We are getting a little off the point. The serious issue is how we keep up with the continual name changes of organisations that are effectively the same organisations as those that were proscribed. If they have the same website, address or telephone number, that is relatively easy to follow. If the same people are involved, it becomes more difficult because many of them have aliases and noms de guerre. When we look them up on the internet, we find a series of different names for the same people. Moreover, they are not organisations like political parties with membership lists, membership cards and so forth, but loose associations, which makes it that much harder.
The explanatory memorandum, which gives the reasons why Al-Ghurabaa and the Saved Sect should be proscribed, uses somewhat measured and temperate language that understates the nature of the organisations with which we are dealing. One of Al-Ghurabaa’s key activists, Anjem Choudary, was the prime mover behind the demonstration outside the Danish embassy and was recently convicted of not giving proper notice to the police. I regret to say that he received a mere slap on the wrist, which no doubt encourages rather than discourages people in those circumstances. Several trials for more serious offences are still outstanding in relation to that demonstration. The rabid anti-Semitism of those groups is notorious. One need only look at some of the statements made on the demonstration, such as, “Butcher those who mock Islam”, or “Kill those who insult Islam”, and the people dressed as suicide bombers, to apprehend the nature of Al-Ghurabaa.
The Saved Sect is probably the most direct line back to al-Muhajiroun. It was formerly known as the Saviour Sect, but changed its name. That is why I mentioned name changes. Sometimes the new name is dissimilar, but it is often very similar. People associated with the Saved Sect included Mizanur Rahman, who demanded the beheading of those who insult Islam at the Danish embassy demonstration, and Islam Uddin, who called the Jewish people
“the most disgusting and greedy people on earth”.
Many others have made similar statements. I would like particularly to highlight Abu Yahya. When I first started this campaign back in 1998, I remember him speaking on the Radio 4 “Today” programme, proclaiming the jihadist message and boasting of the terrorist training that he had received in Afghanistan.
My key concern is the fact that so many organisations, not only those listed by the hon. Member for Newark, have not been brought within the realms of proscription. I particularly want to raise the question of Hezbollah. The military wing of Hezbollah is proscribed, but the political wing is not. Hezbollah itself does not make any distinction between those two entities and operates as one single organisation.
I presume that my hon. Friend means Lebanon, which I have not mentioned, as I do not think that we have any members of Hezbollah in the UK Government. The fact remains that we are talking about the proscription of organisations in the UK. I am extremely concerned that Hezbollah has not been banned in its so-called political form as it has in the United States, Canada, Australia and Holland.
Similarly, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades have not been banned either, although they appear on the US list of foreign terrorist organisations. The anti-Semitic, anti-British way of life organisation, Hizb ut-Tahrir, is clearly a matter of great concern to many Members. The arguments in favour of banning Hizb ut-Tahrir have already been advanced at great length. I agree. I cannot understand why an organisation that is banned in so many countries around the world, and which proclaims a message of anti-Semitism and of trying to destroy our society, should not also be proscribed.
I very much welcome the announcement by my hon. Friend the Minister—my only concern is that it does not go far enough. There are still loopholes that people who undermine our society and rule of law are more than willing to exploit in order to achieve that objective. We need ever greater tightening of these measures and further organisations put within the parameters of the proscription list.
I thank the Minister for the way in which he introduced the orders and for his offer of consultation prior to the debate, which I found extremely helpful.
I take the basic message from the hon. Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer), which is that attacking these organisations in an organised way is like battling a hydra, because there is no way of satisfactorily keeping pace with the splinter organisations that will inevitably develop. It may seem a rather thankless task.
The first order concerns a matter of process. When we debated the last set of orders, of which there were a great number, the hon. Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Dr. Vis) said that each organisation should be given separate consideration. One of the procedural difficulties that the House sometimes has, if not today, is that we do not have the opportunity to consider organisations separately because we can only accept or reject the entire list that is put before us.
I made that point at the time, and it does concern me. In debating such matters, we have to rely a great deal on trust, which is often well placed in Ministers and the advice that they receive from the security services. Nevertheless, we have to decide as a House whether to agree to the orders, and we should do so on the basis of the maximum information available.
I want to put one minor point to the Minister. The separate negative order that has been laid could have been included with the affirmative order to give the entire House the opportunity of agreeing to it. That would have meant that some of the exchanges in which the Minister has engaged with hon. Members would have been in order rather than almost out of order, as they must have been.
When we debate such matters, we often lack the evidence that the Minister has in his possession. That is inevitable. The House cannot know about all the advice that has been received because some of it will be from our security services and police and from foreign sources, and it would not be appropriate to divulge all that information in the public domain. However, we are entitled to know about the levels of activity of such organisations in the United Kingdom so that we can make a judgment about the danger to British citizens and British interests elsewhere.
We should be told whether any of the orders have been placed at the request of another Government. I fear that the Government are in danger of putting themselves in a difficult diplomatic position whereby they accede to requests for proscription from some countries but not from others. It becomes ever more difficult not to accede to such a request, even if there is a suspicion that it is less well founded, and that puts diplomatic pressure on the Government. It should be made clear to the House where there has been a request from an overseas Government and the extent to which that has been supported by British intelligence-gathering organisations in the field that can corroborate the view of that Government.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman, particularly in relation to Kurdish organisations. There has been oppression of Kurdish people by Turkey, Syria and Iraq over many years, and the Governments of those countries perhaps have a very different view of the operations of organisations that we would consider democratic but they may not.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman in one respect—that we must not proscribe organisations simply because another country with which we may be friendly believes that they are undemocratic. However, I have to say that there are clear cases where Kurdish organisations are engaged in terrorist acts, and those are the ones that have been put before the House. There may be a case for reconsideration at some stage in the future, but where there is evidence, then let us accept it.
Two organisations listed today are clearly, from the evidence presented to the House, involved in terrorist activity. They are the Baluchistan Liberation Army and Teyrebaz Azadiye Kurdistan. They pose fewer difficulties than the two that the Minister has included purely on the basis of section 21 of the Terrorism Act 2006. I shall not rehearse the arguments about the clause that were used during the Bill’s passage. There were different views—not about the intent to stop the vile and evil recruitment of people to carry out terrorist acts in this country but about whether glorification was the right term and whether other, more appropriate legal mechanisms existed. Let us not enter into that debate today.
There is a danger of moving away from our commitment in this country to free speech purely because people say things with which we profoundly disagree. Proscription is not the way in which to argue against, for example, an organisation that wants the Islamic caliphate or sharia law. An organisation would have to go much further—however violently one might disagree with its views—for it to be proscribed.
A significant point arises from the Minister’s response to my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris). The order does not mention section 21 of the Terrorism Act 2006 as a ground for proscription. The explanatory notes and the Minister’s comments do. Having heard his remarks and the quotes that he read out from the websites of al-Ghurabaa and the Saved Sect, I do not believe that proscription should be based purely on section 21. It may be unwise in legal terms to base the arguments on that section when they extend wider, because they are then open to challenge in court. From what I heard, the words used constituted prima facie evidence of the crime of incitement. I seriously ask Home Office Ministers why so few prosecutions for incitement have taken place when the comments that the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) cited are made openly. They at least suggest an incitement crime. Why are so few prosecutions brought? Prosecuting for incitement could be more effective than the heavy-handed approach of proscription.
I agree with my hon. Friend. Arguably, section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2006 could also be used. He is not alone in expressing concern about proscription. The Joint Committee on Human Rights also argued in paragraph 63 of its third report that extending the ground for proscription to cover organisations that glorify acts of terrorism was unlikely to be compatible with the right to freedom of expression in article 10 and the right to freedom of association in article 11 of the European convention on human rights. There is a concern that those powers may, at some point, be struck down and we therefore need to ensure that we use them in the right way.
Under the terms of the order, which does not specify a section, I doubt whether a court would put such a narrow construction on the Minister’s words, but we are right to express concern.
Is the Minister confident that the internet sites, which seem to be his principal concern, will be closed down as a consequence of proscription or will they simply move to an overseas base and continue as before? If proscription does not achieve the primary objective of closing down those sites, it has failed as a mechanism.
It is a matter of natural justice that proscribed organisations should be regularly reviewed to ascertain whether the proscription remains necessary and in order. The hon. Member for Glasgow, East (Mr. Marshall) mentioned the People’s Mujaheddin of Iran. There have been concerns about whether it should be proscribed. I make no comment on that apart from saying that I hope that it is subject to review. I especially hope that new assessments are made at the time of negative resolution orders for successor organisations. Rather than simply assessing whether an organisation is a successor body, we should assess whether it has the same principles and adherents as the previous organisation.
Not least for the benefit of others who may go down that route, let me say that the PMOI currently has an application for de-proscription before the Home Secretary. However much people wax lyrical about it, I shall not comment on it. It would not be appropriate to do that. If people want answers from me about that specific organisation, they will not get any because the de-proscription request is before the Home Secretary.
The Minister is right to take that view. I am not acting as an advocate for the organisation, I am simply asking for the matter to be considered.
Hizb ut-Tahrir clearly holds views that many of us find abhorrent. I am especially worried about the anti-Semitism that the organisation expounds, which should be subject to legal sanction. However, whether it is a matter for proscription is a different question. The organisation is avowedly against the violent expression of its views. I am not in possession of intelligence material that would tell me whether that is true, but I know that it states that it is against violent and terrorist activities. We must be careful not to assume, simply because we do not like—and may abhor—an organisation, that we, as a state, should stop it being able to undertake its functions in this country. We should always, when possible, use the normal criminal law to ensure that people are charged with proper offences in court and that, if they are found guilty, they pay the appropriate penalty.
I refer to the explanatory memorandums that were before the House in 2001. Those documents were fuller and amplified the Government’s case–– especially on the organisations to be proscribed and their activities in the United Kingdom––more than the current explanatory memorandum, which contains nothing to the same effect. I regret that. I do not want to belabour the point, as we fully realise that there are constraints on the Home Secretary. However, the memorandum could have been fuller and in line with what has been before the House previously. The Home Secretary asks hon. Members to trust his judgment, and I do, but that underlines the point that the Government need to review regularly the organisations that they have proscribed.
The Minister said in his opening remarks, and reminded us a few moments ago, that people can apply to be de-proscribed, but he himself cannot escape his duty to keep proscribed organisations under constant review. He did not refer to that and I regret it. If I could have his attention for a moment, it would make my journey to Westminster today worth while. I listened carefully to his comments, all of which were valid, but the Home Secretary has a duty to keep matters under review, especially given that the organisation to which the hon. Members for Newark (Patrick Mercer) and for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) referred—the PMOI, also known as Mujaheddin-e-Khalq—was proscribed in 2001. The British Government have acknowledged that the organisation has not been involved in any military or terrorist activity since then. In 2001, they acknowledged that it was not involved in any such activities in the United Kingdom. There must be carrot and stick. If an organisation fulfils the criterion of being a lawful organisation in the United Kingdom, Her Majesty’s Government should make some response.
The Minister was right to say that he could not comment on the PMOI’s application, which is before the Home Secretary, because the Home Secretary and the Minister will act in a quasi-judicial way. However, that does not stop me making points to underline the importance of considering such matters. As a backdrop, the Prime Minister referred to the Iranian Government this week from the Dispatch Box as the exporters of terrorism. Their opponents are trying to stand up to them, just as General de Gaulle kept the flame flickering while in exile.
The Minister for the Middle East is chuntering under his breath, but I hope that he will do me the courtesy of listening to me for one more minute. Even if he thinks that Andrew Mackinlay is talking rubbish, the case that I am advancing has been articulated much better by people such as Lord Archer of Sandwell, a former Labour Solicitor-General; David Waddington, a former Conservative Home Secretary; Lord Fraser, a former Conservative Lord Advocate; and Lord Carlile of Berriew, the person who has been charged by the Government with making an objective assessment of these proscriptions. In Lord Carlile’s most recent report, he flagged up the fact that the Government should reflect again on the PMOI, or the MeK, as it is also known.
I wish that the Ministers would recognise that some of us do trust them, but that we expect a quid pro quo. We, the custodians of liberties, need to be satisfied that they are reviewing past decisions that were dictated by a request from the Iranian Government to the then Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, which was then conveyed to my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), to proscribe the PMOI. Some of us think that that decision was flawed, and we want reassurance that there will now be some objectivity, and that the organisation will not continue to be proscribed merely to appease the rotten regime in Tehran.
I congratulate the Minister and the Government on proscribing al-Ghurabaa and the Saved Sect. Those organisations are the successors to al-Muhajiroun, whose founder, Omar Bakri Mohammad, was involved in the commission and preparation of terrorist acts and recruitment for jihad. He trained young men, whom he sent to fight in Chechnya, Afghanistan and Jordan. He was also directly responsible for the recruitment and training of two young Britons, Asif Mohammad Hanif and Omar Khan Sharif, whom he sent to their deaths in a suicide mission in Israel. His ideology is foul, and his organisation deserves to be proscribed. Its successor organisations also deserve to be proscribed, and I congratulate the Government on doing so.
I regret, however, that Hizb ut-Tahrir is not on the list of organisations being proscribed today. Last year, the Prime Minister outlined the case for the proscription of Hizb ut-Tahrir, and, as so often happens when the Prime Minister talks about Islamist terrorism, I found myself wholeheartedly agreeing with him. Why have the Government not proscribed Hizb ut-Tahrir? Did the Foreign Office and the Home Office fall out over this matter, as has been reported in the New Statesman? Will the Minister specify the nature of the discussions between those Departments on this matter, and let us know why that proscription has not proceeded?
Given that Hizb ut-Tahrir has been proscribed in Germany by Otto Schily, the interior Minister in an SPD-Green Administration, the proscription of the organisation would hardly be a reactionary move. Indeed, the desire for its proscription is endorsed by all those who believe that liberal, multi-ethnic democracies need to be protected from extremists who fly under flags of convenience.
I suspect that I might be rare in the House—although I note that the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Galloway) is here—in that I have had the privilege, if that is the word, of being invited to address a Hizb ut-Tahrir meeting in the past. I did not know that Hizb ut-Tahrir had organised the meeting when I was invited to address it. Because I did not know that, and because Hizb ut-Tahrir operates under a cloak of secrecy, I was rendered complicit in an exercise in radicalising young Muslim men. I saw how the organisation operated, and how it sought to divide young Muslim men from the rest of our fellow citizens. I recognise that it acts as a conveyor belt to extremist activity, as the Prime Minister has pointed out.
The hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) pointed out that Hizb ut-Tahrir bore similarities to Trotskyist organisations, and so it does, in that it operates under a number of identities in order to achieve its totalitarian aims. However, it is far more dangerous than Trotskyist organisations ever were in this country.
The Prime Minister made a speech to the Foreign Policy Centre earlier this year, in which he said:
which we all need to counter—
“may have started through religious doctrine and thought, but soon, in offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood, supported by Wahabi extremists and taught in some of the madrassahs in the middle east and Asia, an ideology was born and exported around the world.”
For those who do not know the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, I shall spell it out briefly. Its ideology is Allah—
Order. May I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are discussing the groups that are named in the order, rather than any that are not? I have allowed the hon. Gentleman some discussion on these matters, but I must now call him to order.
Thank you for bringing me back to the matter under discussion, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Why is the Muslim Brotherhood—a proscribed organisation in other countries, as the hon. Member for Hendon pointed out—not being adequately dealt with here? I am sure that the House is aware that there is an individual in the Foreign Office, Mockbul Ali, the Islamic issues adviser, who has described the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami as progressive organisations. Why is the Prime Minister’s stated desire to deal with the extremism promulgated by the Muslim Brotherhood not being dealt with effectively by the Government?
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I did not rise to the hon. Gentleman’s wholly gratuitous—and, as it happens, erroneous—reference to me. I have never attended a meeting of Hizb ut-Tahrir. However, is it in order for an hon. Member to name an individual civil servant in the Foreign Office in that disparaging way, when that civil servant is not here to answer for themselves?
I have not heard anything that is out of order. Members who make speeches must take responsibility for what they say in the Chamber. I would remind hon. Members, however, that we are discussing the list of organisations that are named in the motion.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Will the Minister ensure that, when these provisions are reviewed in future, all the organisations that seek to take young men and turn them into terrorists are kept properly under review? Will he also ensure that any organisations that act as generators of extremism and recruiters for jihad are given the degree of scrutiny that the Prime Minister said that they would be given when he spoke last July, and at the Foreign Policy Centre in February?
It is clear that terrorist organisations continually split up and change their names, and it is therefore difficult to keep track of them. We appreciate that, and we support the proposal to proscribe these organisations today. There is clear evidence that at least two of them are condemned out of their own mouths.
I echo the point made by the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) about keeping the situation under review. History shows that terrorist organisations sometimes split because some of their members move towards democracy. I appreciate the adherence to the precautionary principle, but the Minister should bear in mind the fact that there might be opportunities for some of these organisations to adopt peaceful means, and they should not be thrown away.
The Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru are slightly concerned about the situation regarding Kurdish groups. Teyrebaz Azadiye Kurdistan—TAK—is being proscribed today, and we have no objection to that, as it stands condemned out of its own mouth. The successor groups to the PKK are also being proscribed, under the negative resolution procedure. However, the Kurdish peoples in Turkey, Syria and Iraq have a long history of fighting against non-democratic regimes for their democratic rights. There is now an autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq, but the situation in Turkey is still very bad. The Turkish Government have taken action against democratic Kurdish groups, and Kurdish MPs have been imprisoned for using the Kurdish language.
Will the Minister ensure that, when requests are made for the proscription of groups by foreign Governments—especially Governments such as the Turkish Government, who are not entirely democratic—there is full investigation, so that we can be satisfied that they are groups that we would recognise as terrorist groups, and not simply groups that are unacceptable to the Government of the country in which they operate? There is a long history of oppression of the Kurdish people. We do not object to the proscription of the TAK, but we must ensure that we do not go too far, particularly in relation to Kurdish organisations.
I shall deal with the points raised in this very reasonable debate that were specifically about the order, rather than the assorted attempts—however well intentioned—to reopen the wonderful long debates that we had just before the election, which involved sittings lasting until 6 or 7 o’clock in the morning and losing a day’s business in the House. Wonderful memories! Nor am I going to go down the memory lane depicted by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) when he talked about Trotskyist groups. I shall say no more about that, but anyone who wants to talk about Trotskyist groups in the 1970s—with or without my own inclusion—should see me afterwards.
In relation to some of the specific points about process, I take the point about the first order that listed some 21 organisations. There was some urgency, once we secured the power to proscribe, to get that initial series of organisations on the statute books as quickly as possible. On reflection, merely an hour and a half—locked as we were into our limited parliamentary procedures—on an order that proscribed 21 organisations was probably not the best way to conduct business. I will take that point back to the Home Office for consideration.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is not it a serious discourtesy to the House that the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) should ask a series of questions of the Minister and then not be present to hear any answers?
I was about to intervene on the Minister to thank him for what he said, and to suggest that we need not to extend the parliamentary time available but to take a series of separate orders in a single debate. That would be the appropriate way of doing it, which he might like to consider.
I take that point, too. I cannot, however, tag an order subject to the negative procedure to one subject to the affirmative procedure. That simply cannot happen in our parliamentary procedures. The negative procedure deliberately addresses the issues raised by a number of hon. Members in relation to splinter groups and successor bodies, where a direct link can be made to the original parent body—for want of another phrase—rather than having the affirmative procedure every time there is another clear manifestation of the same group.
The hon. Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer) asked what happens now and how we will take matters forward. As with other proscription orders, we will work with the police to ensure that all options are considered, including the use of non-proscription offences such as the dissemination of terrorist publications. With the Treasury, we are exploring, as we always do, all the options in terms of asset freezing and forfeiture. Incidentally, we do not believe that the two domestic groups, of themselves, have a whole lot of assets to go after. With the high-tech crime unit, we are exploring what we can do with internet service providers, certainly where groups are domestically based, about the continuing provision of what is now a website for an illegal organisation. Under law, I think that I am right that the ISP becomes directly involved if it persists in providing such a service for an illegal organisation. Clearly, that is more difficult in relation to a foreign-based website.
In terms of the broader points, which were entirely fairly raised, about keeping matters under review, there are two processes. There is the process by which the organisation can apply directly to the Home Secretary and subsequently to the appeals commission, to be de-proscribed. There is also a proscription working group bringing together No. 10, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the police agencies, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Home Office, which continually reviews all the organisations on the list, which are entirely moveable feasts.
With the greatest respect to the House, the one thing that I cannot do is treat proscription like some sort of Dutch auction, whereby we present a list to the House of those organisations about which we feel that we have sufficient evidence to go down the proscription route, and then indulge in discussions about a range of other organisations. The House has generously invited me to talk about why Hizb ut-Tahrir or any number of organisations are not on the list. As I said at the outset, this is not the definitive list for this year. The Government still have very serious concerns about Hizb ut-Tahrir. We also have concerns about a range of other organisations, some of which have been mentioned by individual Members. On the evidential base that we have, I am simply putting to the House the four organisations listed on the order for proscription. I have not come here to discuss the next potential series of proscribed organisations, not least because of court proceedings that may follow should such organisations be proscribed in due course.
The Minister was extraordinarily grateful in taking interventions—[Hon. Members: “Generous.”]. The Minister was generous. Can he explain how the head of the security services in this country, the Prime Minister, was able to say over a year ago that there was clear evidence for one particular organisation to be proscribed, and yet one year on we still have not proscribed it? If the Prime Minister had the evidence, surely the Minister had the evidence, and it should be before us this afternoon.
I think that the hon. Gentleman made a Freudian slip initially—I am certainly not grateful for that intervention. I have just said that these are very serious matters, and proscription of organisations is very serious. I have not come here to speculate about whether any proscription order will come. On 5 August last year, the Prime Minister clearly mentioned three such organisations. I have come to the House with an order proscribing two of those. I have made it clear that the Government still have serious concerns about Hizb ut-Tahrir, but that is not to speculate about whether a proscription is forthcoming. Given the nature of the measures, which are not taken lightly, I implore the House to concentrate on those that the Government feel confident enough to bring forward, rather than to dwell on—with no pun intended—the ifs and buts of other organisations that may be under review and may form the basis of subsequent proscription orders.
Given the broadly generous way in which the House has received the proscription of those four organisations, I will quit while I am ahead, and commend the order to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
That the draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2006, which was laid before this House on 17th July, be approved.