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Business of the House

Volume 743: debated on Tuesday 16 January 2024

With permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will make a short business statement about an addition to this week’s business. Following the announcement by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that the Government intend to proscribe Hizb ut-Tahrir under the Terrorism Act 2000, the business on Thursday will now be:

Thursday 18 January—A motion to approve the draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2024, followed by a debate on a motion on the loan charge, followed by a debate on a motion on HS2 compensation. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

I will announce further business in the usual way on Thursday.

I thank the Leader of the House for updating the House on the business for Thursday, and for advance sight of it. It is good to see her announcing a change in business as a statement, rather than a point of order, and I know that Members will appreciate that proper approach.

There have long been serious concerns about the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir, which have been exacerbated in the light of Hamas’s barbaric terrorist attack on Israel on 7 October. It is right that the Government have looked at the evidence and intelligence on the threat posed by the group, and Labour supports the decision to proscribe it.

I also welcome the fact that urgent time has been found to debate the order this week. Those who incite violence and promote or glorify terrorism have no place on Britain’s streets. In that context, what progress has been made on proscribing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, either via a statutory instrument, as the Government are using this week for Hizb ut-Tahrir, or by a new process to deal with hostile state actors for which there is wide cross-party support in this House?

Finally, I have to say that when I was first notified of an emergency business statement today, I did wonder whether the Government were having a rethink about their Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill in the face of the usual infighting and chaos. Can the Leader of the House take this opportunity to confirm that, whether the Bill is or is not amended in Committee today or tomorrow, there will still be, as programmed, Third Reading at the end of tomorrow’s business? There has been some suggestion that the Government may still table their own amendments and push Third Reading back to another day. Would that not be further proof of the Prime Minister’s weakness and the fact that, when it comes to governing, they are just making it up as they go along?

First, I thank the hon. Lady for her support for the statutory instrument that we are bringing forward. The Home Office has taken its time to consider the matter, but it is very clear that the activities the group is involved in fall into that category. They need to be dealt with swiftly, which is why we brought forward the SI at the first available opportunity.

The hon. Lady talks about the point of order I made last week. She will fully appreciate that this is a different situation. I am making a business statement today because we are changing the business that was previously announced. Last week, I was simply giving Members advance notice of forthcoming business, because if I had waited until our exchanges on Thursday, it would have meant an unsatisfactory amount of time for right hon. and hon. Members to prepare amendments.

I will certainly ensure that the Home Secretary has heard the hon. Lady’s query about the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Its activities are not restricted to what is happening overseas; it is engaged in activities on British soil against British citizens. I know that there is a great deal of interest in that in all parts of the House.

As the hon. Lady will know, the progress of the Rwanda Bill is subject to the House, and I shall make further business announcements in the usual way.

As a member of the Defence Committee, I know that it is an open secret that Iran is paymaster to, and helps to train, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthi rebels in Yemen—there is no doubt about that throughout the international intelligence community. I warmly welcome the decision to proscribe Hizb ut-Tahrir. However, given what I have just said, and given the action that we have taken against the Houthi rebels in order to maintain freedom of navigation on the seas, can the Leader of the House foresee any circumstances in which she could return to the House in the near future to make a similar announcement about proscribing the IRGC?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his very helpful question. I know that this is an issue of great concern to many Members. He will appreciate that the Home Secretary and the Government will want to make any future announcements in a timely way while also considering all the effects that such a course of action might bring about, not least to our ships and their insurance, but I shall ensure that the Home Secretary has heard what he has said.

Given that the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee is not present and that the announcement has an impact on Thursday’s Backbench business, can the Leader of the House give us any information about the timing of the debate? Will there be a timetable motion, as there would be if the business were taken in a Committee upstairs—probably allowing an hour and a half in normal circumstances—and why has the Leader of the House decided that it should be taken on the Floor of the House rather than upstairs?

I apologise to the Backbench Business Committee—I know that this will eat into its time on Thursday—but this is an important matter that we want to deal with swiftly, and we therefore felt that it was appropriate for it to be dealt with on the Floor of the House.

I thank the Leader of the House for the statement and welcome the intention to hold the debate on Thursday. In response to the right hon. Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois)—a fellow member of the Defence Committee—the Leader of the House said that the Home Secretary would come back to the House “in a timely way”. As the right hon. Member highlighted, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps supplies the Houthis, especially with drone materials, and it was also committing international action last night in northern Iraq. Rather than talking of a “timely way,” many of us in the Defence Committee would say, “Time’s up.” I wonder whether the Leader of the House could reinforce to the Home Secretary the fact that across the House there is a clamour to proscribe the IRGC at the soonest opportunity.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that helpful question. I will ensure that the Home Secretary has heard what he has said. The actions that he has described are not new; I think that, on average, that organisation has been behind about 500 attacks during any recent year against international shipping and people going about their daily business, and, as I have said, it is also engaged in activities in the UK. As a member of the Defence Committee, the hon. Gentleman will know of some the issues that surround this decision, but I am sure that if and when the Home Secretary makes his decision, he will want the House to be alerted at the earliest opportunity.

I welcome the statement and clarification of the business for Thursday. The Leader of the House will be aware of the high levels of terrorism and the severe threat to people in Northern Ireland from the Real IRA and the New IRA. There is surely a connection between such terrorist groups in Northern Ireland and those who have sympathy towards the Hamas terrorists—is it not wonderful how terrorists across the world come together to murder innocent people?

With regard to the business on Thursday, may I ask the Leader of the House—ever mindful of the fact that only certain things can be said in the House—if it might be possible to indicate whether the threat from the Real IRA and the connection with the proscribed Hamas can be clarified evidentially, and if so, what measures will be taken to reinforce the action of stepping down hard on the Real IRA and the New IRA?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising this important matter. As he will know, it is not a matter for me in connection with the business of the House, but he has characteristically made the point that he wished to make and put it on the record, and I shall ensure that the Home Secretary has heard it.