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Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism

Volume 462: debated on Tuesday 10 July 2007

I beg to move,

That the draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2007, which was laid before this House on 2nd July, be approved.

I am happy both to discuss and take questions on organisations other than the two listed in the order. I would like to deal with those first, and then we can have whatever discourse the House would like on Hizb ut-Tahrir or any other organisation. I think that I was eight lines into my speech the last time that I moved any kind of proscription order before my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) asked a question about Hizb ut-Tahrir. I am happy to come back to that or any other organisations that should or should not be on the proscribed list once I have dealt with the two organisations under consideration.

I am sticking absolutely to the Minister’s suggestion. May I put to him the point that I have made previously when we have considered proscribed organisations, which is on a matter of procedure? The list of proscribed organisations is presented as an order, which is unamendable. If the same order lists organisations that are not related to one another, it is not possible for the House to apply discretion as to the merits or otherwise of the bodies listed. I have no reason to suggest that my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Clegg) will not agree to the Minister’s suggestions in respect of the two organisations concerned. I put it to him again, however, that it would be much more satisfactory, in procedural terms, if separate orders were provided for each organisation, which could be debated in a single debate, with the agreement of the House. That would allow dissent, if appropriate, to be demonstrated.

Let me explore that issue, because I get the general point. Last time, the issue was even more pronounced, as the four organisations on the list were so discernibly different, some being successor bodies to Al Mujahiroun, and some being related to the PKK and the Turkish situation. As a matter of law, I think that the orders are split up into separate orders after we have passed them. I do not know or understand the procedure that puts the organisations together in one order. I do not doubt that there might come a stage when people are very exercised about one organisation on the list, and may want to press that matter to a Division, while accepting the proscription of the other organisations. I shall look at the procedural elements. The hon. Gentleman should not be suspicious: the way in which the order is presented is not related to anything that I have done. He makes a fair point, which he also raised last time, when it was more appropriate.

After that little preamble, I will deal with the specifics of the two organisations. Proscription is a tough power: it means that the organisation is outlawed in the UK and cannot operate here. Membership of a proscribed organisation is an offence, as is inviting support for it. Proscription also makes it unlawful to raise funds on behalf of the organisation.

Members of the House know, because they have read the order, that the two organisations concerned are to be proscribed under the draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2007, rather than the Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2006, the difference between which is clear to everybody.

The two organisations listed in the order are directly concerned in terrorism, not just in propagating, supporting or proselytising on behalf of such groups. They are Jammat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh— JMB from now on—and Tehrik Nefaz-e Shari’at Muhammadi, or TNSM.

TNSM’s objective is the militant enforcement of sharia law in Pakistan. There is significant evidence that it regularly attacks coalition soldiers and Afghan Government forces in Afghanistan. It provides direct support to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and is believed to have been behind an attack on a Pakistani military base in November 2006, which killed 42 personnel.

JMB has claimed responsibility for numerous fatal bomb attacks in Bangladesh since first coming to prominence in 2002. In August 2005, some 500 bombs were set off in all but one of Bangladesh’s 64 districts in the space of an hour by JMB. The Bangladeshi Government recently announced the execution of six leaders of the JMB, including its chief. However, some sources indicate that the organisation has a significant number of full-time members. There are indications that it is making efforts to re-group to continue its campaign of terror.

The proscription of those two groups will support our international partners in disrupting terrorist activity by making the UK a hostile environment for terrorists and their supporters. It will also send the strong message to terrorists that the UK is not willing to tolerate terrorism either here or anywhere else in the world. There is a substantive case against JMB and TNSM.

My hon. Friend is setting out a good case in respect of the evil and nefarious activity of those organisations overseas. What is the evidence that they are active in the UK, like organisations such as the LTT, which, as we saw in recent arrests, is active in both Sri Lanka and London?

Let me tell my hon. Friend and the House, which I deliberately tried to resist doing, the factors, to which the order refers, that are taken into account in proscribing such organisations. They are: the nature and scale of an organisation’s activities; the specific threat that it poses to the UK; the specific threat that it poses to British nationals overseas; the organisation’s presence in the United Kingdom; and the need to support other members of the international community in tackling terrorism. At least two, if not more, of the criteria, apply to the two organisations—certainly, the one regarding the international community. Furthermore, the Pakistan-based group offers a specific threat to British nationals overseas—our servicemen. I do not know offhand why those concerns relate specifically to those organisations in this country, but I shall find out for the House. The criteria I mentioned are among the range that determines whether we should proscribe them.

I accept that the Government are entitled to look at the criteria in the round, but the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) raised an important issue: the extent to which the Government believe that one or other of the organisations is present in the United Kingdom in an organised form. As the Minister will appreciate, proscribing something that does not really exist in this country serves little purpose in reality. It would be helpful if he could amplify his remarks to explain whether the Government believe that one or other of the organisations has a presence in the UK, financially—in terms of raising or placing money—or in terms of recruitment or organisation.

The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. As I understand the order, the need to support other members of the international community in tackling terrorism and the specific threat the organisation poses to British nationals overseas are the principal criteria. I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s remark that if groups do not organise in this country, or there is no evidence that they do so, proscribing them is redundant. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore), if I can offer the House evidence about the ability thus far of the groups to organise in this country, I shall do so, to the extent that I am able to give such information.

Does my hon. Friend agree that although organisations may not be present in this country, they invariably use various networks, and occasionally literature and other things, to raise funds to support their activities in the countries where they are based? Proscribing such organisations in the UK is a practical step to stop funding that supports them in other countries.

I agree with my hon. Friend. As I have already said, to the extent that I can put in the public domain the information that my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon requires, I shall do so. He referred earlier to police activity involving the LTTE, another proscribed organisation; his implication was right. Many Members know that the LTTE organises effectively in the UK, especially in terms of fundraising and other support, for its nefarious activities in Sri Lanka. It is not the case that each of the 44 proscribed organisations meets every element of the criteria under the Terrorism Act 2000 and the Terrorism Act 2006. We have to make an overall judgment as to the balance of their offences according to the criteria, and it is on that basis that I offer the orders to the House.

I have been waiting anxiously for my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda to intervene, but as he seems to have chosen not to do so and we are not to have a lengthy discussion about Hizb ut-Tahrir, I shall quit while I am ahead and sit down.

I hope that our debate on the order is not as long as our previous debate.

To make my position clear, I must point out that the Minister somewhat traduced my remarks. There may be compelling reasons why we should ban the organisations, even if they have no presence in the UK at all. Indeed, Jammat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh is an active terrorist organisation in that country and there is ample evidence of its activities, so, on the basis of comity between nations that are international partners in the fight against terrorism, that in itself would be a good reason for banning it. However, unless there are compelling security reasons why the Minister cannot amplify his remarks, it would be useful for the House to know whether the Government think that the activities of one or other of the organisations pose a threat within the UK.

The second organisation, Tehrik Nefaz-e Shari’at Muhammadi, appears to be involved in direct violence against British or coalition forces in Afghanistan, although I rather suspect—I may be wrong—that, like many localised groupuscules in that benighted country, its reach does not extend to the UK. That raises an important issue: proscription must be for a purpose—to prevent organisations from operating in this country. I agree entirely with the comments of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Mahmood) that the problem with such groups is that unless they have an organised structure in this country that proscription will disrupt, which is all that proscription can do, I am afraid the evidence suggests that there are plenty of means whereby people can raise funds for them in this country or support them in some other way, if they want to do so—for example, by setting up bogus charitable foundations to funnel money. At the end of the debate, it would be useful if the Minister amplified briefly his remarks to tell us how the Government are tackling that phenomenon. From my personal contacts, I know of plenty of examples that give me serious doubts about where so-called charitable fundraising may be going. The debate may provide an opportunity to discuss that. Subject to that proviso, I do not intend to take up the House’s time further on the two organisations.

Before I sit down, however, I mention in passing that the Minister is well aware that other organisations have excited the concern of the House—in particular, Hizb ut-Tahrir. I remind him that Hizb ut-Tahrir would not feature so much in the House’s discourse were it not for the fact that the previous Prime Minister, Mr. Blair, stated openly—I think in the House—that he considered it a terrorist-supporting organisation that ought to be banned. He thereby raised a hare that a large number of people have pursued ever since. As the then Prime Minister of the UK took the view that Hizb ut-Tahrir is a terrorist organisation, it was rather strange that nothing happened thereafter. Two years later, despite those emphatic statements, Hizb ut-Tahrir has still not been banned, so I hope the Minister will take the opportunity of this debate, when we are looking at other organisations, to explain more fully than in the intervention of the previous Home Secretary at Prime Minister’s Question Time why the Government feel that the basis for proscription does not exist.

What I am about to say is in no sense meant to be in support of Hizb ut-Tahrir, but the organisation has written widely that the Leader of the Opposition wrote to it last year to congratulate it on its comments about the relationships between western Governments and the Muslim world. Would the hon. Gentleman like to put on the record precisely what the Conservative party’s position is with regard to Hizb ut-Tahrir?

I have not yet encountered the letter. In the past, I have appeared on television to debate matters with Hizb ut-Tahrir, and when I listen to what its members have to say what springs to my mind is Oliver Cromwell’s description of the Fifth Monarchy Men—poor fantasticals. That expression seems the best way of describing Hizb ut-Tahrir and its beliefs. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that there is considerable evidence to suggest that individuals who have committed terrorist acts have passed through Hizb ut-Tahrir on the way. I seem to remember that there was compelling evidence of an association between Hizb ut-Tahrir and Omar Bakri Mohammad.

My hon. Friend makes some excellent points on Hizb ut-Tahrir, but is not al-Muhajiroun another conveyor belt to terrorism in this country? Would the same points that he makes about Hizb ut-Tahrir be equally applicable to al-Muhajiroun?

My hon. Friend makes a very good point, and the House should bear in mind two things. First, a proscription list is a draconian sanction. The fact that people may say things that we regard as unpleasant or unacceptable or that they have a view of the world with which we profoundly disagree does not give us a justification for proscribing them. The Minister and I would be entirely in agreement about that. My hon. Friend may be right about al-Muhajiroun, but what arises with regard to Hizb ut-Tahrir is the remarkable fact that the then Prime Minister, Mr. Blair, considered that it required proscription, yet proscription has never taken place. Quite compelling evidence links that organisation with Omar Bakri Mohammad, who has undoubtedly said and done things that place him well beyond the line of criminal behaviour, and there is clear evidence that people have passed through Hizb ut-Tahrir into terrorism.

As the Minister rather invited hon. Members to raise this issue, it is worth raising. If he could amplify the few things that have been said about that organisation to explain the Government’s reasoning in relation to it and, in particular, the Government’s change in position from what the previous Prime Minister clearly believed, which was that the organisation ought to be banned, it would be useful to the House. Quite apart from anything else, it would enable us to draw comparisons about why certain organisations are proscribed and others are not.

I rather sympathise with the points that the hon. Gentleman makes about the organisation, but I want to clear up the fact that Hizb ut-Tahrir says that the Leader of the Opposition wrote to it saying:

“David is most grateful to you for your comments on relationships between western governments and the Muslim world. He fully takes on board the points put across to him… Yours comments are noted and appreciated.”

The letter concludes:

“Thank you again for writing; your views have been taken on board.”

That seems an extraordinary thing for him to write to such an organisation if he wants it to be proscribed. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman would like to check whether such a letter was written.

I am very happy to check. Given the use of the third person in the passage that the hon. Gentleman cited, I detected that it was not a letter signed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron). How that letter came to be written, if it came to be written, I simply have no idea. I say that honestly; I do not know. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman raise the issue directly with my right hon. Friend and his office, and he might then have an answer.

My right hon. Friend has repeatedly expressed concern rather legitimately about why, in view of the previous Prime Minister’s attitude to Hizb ut-Tahrir—he believed that it was fomenting violence—and the fact that it was seen as more than just an unpleasant organisation, the Government have not taken action in respect of it. The Minister may be able to answer our questions.

I certainly have no objection to the two organisations specified in the draft order being proscribed on the basis of their activities overseas. When I asked my hon. Friend the Minister whether they were active in the UK, I intended not to oppose what he proposes but to try to elicit whether there is evidence to support his argument. It is important that we know what activities proscribed organisations are carrying out in the UK. Of course, when considering Islamic terrorism in particular, we have always had the problem of splinter groups. When a group is proscribed, it suddenly reinvents itself as something else—it changes its name—and that may well have happened with some of these organisations.

My hon. Friend might be aware that, as soon as students join certain well-known colleges in the university system, their first contact in many instances is with really very extreme groups. Frankly, that is very worrying.

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, and that brings me to Hizb ut-Tahrir. As the House knows, I first raised the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir many years ago, and I have done so consistently over the years. I have spoken privately to the former Home Secretary and, indeed, successive Home Secretaries about the need for action to be taken.

My concern about Hizb ut-Tahrir is that we hear the weasel words that it does not engage in terrorism, but I certainly think that it creates the climate in which people move on, as has been suggested. Omar Bakri Mohammad came to the UK quite a long time ago—in fact, if we are to get into party political arguments, he was given indefinite leave to remain by the Government of, I think, Mrs. Thatcher—to set up Hizb ut-Tahrir in the UK. He was its organiser here. He eventually fell out with it and went on to establish al-Muhajiroun and the various splinter groups that flow from it. I am pleased that he is no longer on our shores, although he seems to be able to communicate pretty effectively through the internet to spread his pretty evil message.

If we are proscribing JMB and TNSM primarily on the basis of their activities overseas, what effort have we made to track down the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir in other countries on the same basis? Although it claims not to be engaged in such activities in the UK, what is happening in other countries? For example, I know that Egypt has been concerned about the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir. I certainly do not hold up Uzbekistan as a example of liberal democracy—far from it; it has a pretty nasty regime—but it believes quite strongly that it faces a serious terrorist threat organised by Hizb ut-Tahrir. I have no way of knowing whether that it right, but it has certainly raised that issue with me.

If we are able to proscribe TNSM because of its activities in Pakistan—of course, Pakistan is not a democracy—and JMB on the basis of what happens in Bangladesh, perhaps we can look at what Hizb ut-Tahrir is up to in other countries as well. I simply put that to my hon. Friend the Minister and hope that he can tell us whether he has received representations from other Governments about the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir abroad. If he has received those representations and their contents can be substantiated, exactly the same test should apply to a ban on Hizb ut-Tahrir as to the two organisations that we are considering.

The other issue that I particularly want to raise, which I have raised tangentially in interventions, relates to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Tamil terrorist organisation that operates both in Sri Lanka and, I am afraid, in the UK—not by carrying out terrorist attacks, but I have little doubt that fundraising and protection rackets are going on here and that active support for the LTTE is being organised within the Tamil community.

This issue seriously splits the Tamil community. There are those who would give support to the LTTE—perhaps moral support, rather than physical support—but others are vehemently opposed to the LTTE. The Home Office has come under some pressure in debates in the House to lift the proscription of the LTTE, and I urge my hon. Friend the Minister, if he needs urging, not to go down that route. LTTE activity has significantly increased both in Sri Lanka and in London very dramatically in recent months, and it would send totally the wrong message if he were to go down that route.

There have been two significant arrests of LTTE activists, who have been charged with terrorist offences over the past few weeks. Indeed, there was a raid in my constituency in Grahame Park, and I believe that material was seized during that raid and bank accounts have been frozen, so I hope that my hon. Friend—

Order. I remind all hon. Members who wish to contribute to the debate that its scope primarily is about the two organisations listed in the order. I do not mind a passing reference to other organisations, but the debate is primarily about those two organisations.

I am sorry, Madam Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend the Minister said in introducing the debate that he would be happy to deal with other organisations as well. I am not sure whether you were in the Chair at that time, but I take on board your constrictions.

Order. I was here when the Minister made that remark. Nevertheless, although he has considerable authority and power, when it comes to the Chamber and debates, they lie with the occupant of the Chair.

Of course, Madam Deputy Speaker. I could not possibly question your remarks. In fact, I have made my point about the LTTE, which is the last issue that I wish to raise, so I shall draw my remarks to a close.

I obviously fully endorse what the Minister said and have no reason to question in any way the decision to proscribe the two organisations, which I too will refer to acronymically—if that is the right of way of putting it—as TNSM and JMB. I have one simple question, which has not yet been asked: if JMB was responsible for the detonation of, I think, 300 bombs in 50 Bangladeshi cities in just one hour on 17 August 2005 and if it is so widely accepted and well documented that TNSM has been actively involved in launching attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan, why is the move to proscribe those two organisations only taking place now? All those events were well known months and years ago and are explicit, overt acts of horrific terrorism. I simply do not understand why there appears to have been such a time lag between those well-documented events and the move to proscribe the organisations. Perhaps the Minister can shed some light on that.

With your admonitions in mind, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will refer only briefly to Hizb ut-Tahrir, but it does seem to have emerged as quite a prevalent theme in the debate today. I am perplexed by the position of the Conservatives on the issue. It was raised by the Leader of the Opposition, but there is only one Member—a Whip—on the Conservative Benches at the moment. That is a most peculiar way of underlining a point made in such strident terms by the leader of the Conservative party. Given that the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) quite rightly underlined in the previous debate—about periods of detention without charge—the necessity of having concrete evidence when taking steps in this area, I am still at a loss to know where the evidence is and how it has been marshalled to sustain the claim that Hizb ut-Tahrir should join TNSM and JMB on the list of proscribed organisations.

It is not often—in fact, it is exceptionally rare—that I find myself in agreement with the words of the previous, and no doubt widely lamented, Home Secretary, but when he spoke out on the subject in Prime Minister’s questions recently, and pleaded for an evidence-based approach, I thought that he was completely correct. The hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) referred to activities in Uzbekistan and elsewhere. As he knows very well, it is extremely difficult to get authoritative and objectively verified facts from countries such as Uzbekistan as far as the activities of this and other organisations are concerned. I am familiar with that myself, having in a previous incarnation worked in central Asia and in Uzbekistan.

The issue of principle is this: if there are organisations such as Hizb ut-Tahrir that are, if not explicitly, certainly implicitly, anti-Semitic, and which seem to me to stand for a theocratic philosophy that I, as a Liberal Democrat, find abhorrent but which do not explicitly espouse the use of terrorist violence to prosecute their aims, surely the only thing to do is to take on those organisations on their own terms, defeat their ideas, and defeat and expose their ideology for the mishmash of prejudice and misplaced grievances that it clearly is. If the Conservative party is to claim that it is a liberal Conservative party, I wonder why in this case it does not seem to have more self-confidence in the liberal arguments that need to be deployed when confronted by the abhorrent views of Hizb ut-Tahrir, rather than immediately seeking to score what appear to be political points and reaching for the statute book, when the evidence simply does not suggest that that is merited.

As the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) mentioned, when the issue of new proscriptions comes up, we are often presented with organisations that are not necessarily coherent as a set. That presents us with a problem, not least because the list of 44 proscribed organisations includes organisations as diverse as Abu Nidal, November 17, and Euskadi ta Askatasuna—ETA—in Spain. The variety with which we might have to deal in one debate, without an opportunity to amend the legislation, is quite extraordinary. On a point of order for the future, I wonder whether Ministers would consider presenting the whole list again each year, so that we could refer regularly to all the organisations that are proscribed, rather than simply to any new organisations as they are being proscribed. Of course, I support the Government’s proposals on the two organisations, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) mentioned, the rationale behind their proscription could properly be used for the proscription of other organisations.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that theoretically the process is reversible and that Ministers could put before us orders to de-proscribe organisations. It is incumbent on the Government to review periodically all the organisations on the list to which he refers to see whether the conditions still apply.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I merely make the point that it would be helpful and right for Parliament regularly to assist the Government in that process of review, because there are important issues that we are in effect deciding on behalf of the nation when it comes to how we address terrorism. Once an organisation is proscribed, in theory its status might never be reviewed again, which would be inappropriate.

I want to refer to some comments that have been made by other organisations and which should make the Government think twice about whether to proscribe them. For instance, in Australia last year, at an Eid carnival in Melbourne, leaflets were distributed that said that Muslims

“enormously rejected their evil and corrupt rulers that the West have appointed over them, and they are looking forward to consigning them to the dustbins of history”.

I suppose we might all say that we have referred to our own political opponents and said that we would quite like to consign them to the dustbins of history. However, the leaflets went on to point out that Muslims had scored victories over the west through some of their terrorist activities around the world and had

“inflicted the most humiliating lesson on supposed superpowers”.

They called on all Muslims to

“Ally yourselves with those who work day and night to confront this war against Islam.”

One ought to consider whether an organisation such as that is seeking to promote and glorify terrorism.

In Copenhagen, in October 2002, Fadi Abdullatif was given a suspended sentence because he maintained in a square in Copenhagen that

“The Jews are a people of slander...a treacherous people...they fabricate lies and twist words from their right context.”

I am sure that all hon. Members would agree with the sentence that the court handed down. The leaflet went on to quote words that were quoted in this Chamber only last week. The leaflet urged Muslims to kill Jews

“wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out”.

I understand that some organisations debate whether that is a proper quotation from the Koran and whether it is anti-Semitic, because the translation does not normally refer to Jews; it refers to invading forces. None the less, most of us would accept that that is certainly glorifying terrorism.

In Bangladesh, on 10 February this year, leaflets were given out and people chanted slogans and carried banners that said: “Death to those who degrade our beloved prophet!” and “Hang culprits”. Other banners said: “Free speech symbolizes War on Islam” and “Free speech—Crusade against Islam”.

All those things have been organised under the name of Hizb ut-Tahrir. That is why I ask the Minister very clearly to consider the importance of keeping under constant review the issue of whether Hizb ut-Tahrir should be on the list of proscribed organisations. It is proscribed in most of the Muslim nations of central Asia: in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Tatarstan and—

I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me the liberty that I have taken. I would merely urge the Minister to look at whether the reasons behind the proscriptions that he has proposed today are not also reasons why we might consider proscribing Hizb ut-Tahrir.

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) about the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. I cannot give the House a running commentary on any discussions that we might have with Governments, the Security Service or the police about organisations that we may proscribe in future, but the last time we introduced a proscription order, I said at the Dispatch Box that we would keep Hizb ut-Tahrir under serious review. I got a very nice letter from that group as a result, and I do not doubt that I will get another one today. We keep it under review, not least for the reasons that my hon. Friend gave, and that is as it should be. That applies to a whole range of other groups, too.

The roving Whip, the hon. Member for Braintree (Mr. Newmark), mentioned al-Muhajiroun. It had disbanded by the time we got round to considering proscription orders, but the first proscription order that I introduced banned al-Ghurabaa and the Saved Sect, two of its successor bodies. There was clear, substantive and sustainable evidence for doing so.

As I say, we keep Hizb ut-Tahrir under review, but it seems that the issue, which is one of 12 that the previous Prime Minister mentioned on 5 August 2005, is now used as a stick with which to beat the Government. It is used to challenge the legitimacy of all that we are trying to do to counter terrorism, and that is a little churlish, if not schoolboyish. I am certainly not casting aspersions on the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve), who treats such issues seriously, but the Leader of the Opposition prances around—with or without the letter to which my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) referred—treating the issue as some kind of badge of honour, and questioning whether the Government are deadly serious about what we are doing. Frankly, that is schoolboy politics, and he should know far better. The last time we discussed these matters, I said very seriously that we keep Hizb ut-Tahrir under review, and that is certainly the case.

Inspiration has come to me since I last sat down, so I can tell hon. Members that neither of the organisations mentioned in the order is based in the UK; and, clearly, as they are to be proscribed, that is unlikely to change. However, I take the point that the hon. Member for Beaconsfield made about charities. We are holding a review of the safeguards that are in place for charities, not least in the context of terrorist finance. A consultation on that issue is under way as we speak, and it closes on 2 August. I have engaged fully with the Treasury on the issue of terrorist finance and the nexus with charities, charitable law and the work of the Charity Commission. That work is ongoing, because we know—sometimes through anecdote, and sometimes via more substantive routes and evidence—that not every penny given to nominally bona fide, utterly legitimate charities will get to where it is supposed to go.

There are those, terrorists among them, who crawl on the back of human disasters—often very serious ones—such as earthquakes, and the money directly funds terrorism, so I share the concern expressed by the hon. Member for Beaconsfield. I am not saying that what we have done thus far with the Treasury and the Charity Commission is sufficient, but it does take us some way. If he has not seen the documents to which I refer, I will make sure that he receives them.

I point out to the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) that it is not incumbent on the Government to de-proscribe or review. Organisations can apply to the Home Secretary for de-proscription, and if the Home Secretary says no, there is an appeal process. It is incumbent on the organisation, in the first instance, to ask, “Can we be de-proscribed now?” It is not for us to review the decision. If the Home Secretary refuses, the issue comes before the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission, or POAC. I have just noticed that that is an anagram of ACPO, but there is no reason why anyone else should worry about that. POAC is a special tribunal of three members, including a senior member of the judiciary, that determines whether the Secretary of State’s decision to refuse to de-proscribe is flawed, when considered in the light of the principles applicable to judicial review applications. That is the process; there is no duty on the Government to be proactive in considering such cases.

I take to heart the points that the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome made about procedures and paperwork. He asked whether there were ways in which we could consider the issues under separate orders and so have a wider review, which would almost span the globe: the organisations include the Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan, Euskadi ta Askatasuna and the Baluchistan Liberation Army, and groups in other places, too. That is a fair point that we should perhaps take up through the usual channels.

I just want to emphasise—for the benefit of the business managers, really—that there is no reason why having separate orders should extend the time needed for debate, because the orders could be taken together and discussed in parallel.

I take that point, and the point that the hon. Gentleman made about the possibility of there being real contention about just one of four or five groups on a list, and that is entirely fair.

On why it supposedly took so long to proscribe Jammat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh and Tehrik Nefaz-e Shari'at Muhammadi, we take such decisions seriously, and there is due process. To describe a period of a little under two years for each group as anything other than the result of our being rigorous and doing things in an appropriate time frame is a bit unfair. Although one of the groups did come to our notice some five years before then, it was its key activities in 2005 that prompted concerns.

With all those caveats, and bearing in mind the point about keeping Hizb ut-Tahrir under review, and the point about giving further consideration to the process of the House—I think that that is the issue, rather than the legal process—I commend the order to the House.

Question put and agreed to.


That the draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2007, which was laid before this House on 2nd July, be approved.