asked Her Majesty’s Government:
When they propose to seek the approval of the House for the draft order deproscribing the People’s Mujaheddin of Iran as a terrorist organisation, following the judgment of the Court of Appeal on 7 May 2008.
My Lords, the Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2008 was laid on 21 May 2008. No firm date has been set yet but I understand the usual channels are considering scheduling that order for the dinner-break business on Tuesday 1 July. Once it is agreed, the date will be advertised in the usual way.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. I rejoice that the PMOI will no longer be listed as a terrorist organisation, but is it not shocking that the Government are acting only because they have been ordered to do so by the Court of Appeal, which found the Home Secretary’s earlier refusal to delist the organisation to be perverse and resting on no evidence? However, the PMOI remains on the list of EU-proscribed organisations. Is it not there because the British Government wanted it to be there, and is not the legal basis for it being proscribed by the EU the listing by Britain? Is there not now a clear duty on the British Government to take immediate steps to see that this organisation is delisted also in the European Union?
My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lord for his role in ensuring that there was a more-than-adequate review of the position of the PMOI. The EU listings are based on a national-competent-authority decision; namely, that a domestic proscription or asset-freeze should be in place. Since the UK proscription of the PMOI was the sole EU member-state, national-competent-authority decision underpinning the EU listing, it is likely that that listing will now be reviewed.
My Lords, in welcoming the righting of this gross injustice done to this part of the Iranian resistance movement, may I press the Minister to be more specific about the action that will be taken by the United Kingdom Government to get the copycat ban on the PMOI removed in Europe? Will he give a date when the matter will be taken to the Council of Ministers or other appropriate body?
My Lords, I cannot give a date, but the United Kingdom has informed EU partners and the Council that the Home Secretary has laid the deproscription order before Parliament. It is now for the Council to consider what action it needs to take on the EU listing in light of the deproscription of the PMOI in the UK.
My Lords, does the Minister think that it sets a good example to ordinary people to obey the law when the Government delay for eight weeks in tabling the deproscription order in response to the Court of Appeal presided over by the Lord Chief Justice? Should they not have tabled the order immediately so that the proscription could be lifted promptly as the court prescribed?
My Lords, sometimes these matters take a little time. One has to put the right papers in order and ensure that matter is properly processed. While we accept the court’s decision in this matter, I think that our general approach of being cautious about organisations of the same or similar nature as PMOI is absolutely right. That situation has been reviewed; a decision has been made; we are putting in place the order; we are properly complying with the judgment; and we have informed our colleague states in Europe.
My Lords, are the Government aware that the Mujaheddin has no support in Iran, and has been absent from all the demonstrations by women and students and all the activities that are taking place against the Government in Iran? It is based in the West and is not supported in Iran.
My Lords, that is a widely held view. There does not seem to be any evidence of significant support for the PMOI inside Iran, and its unpopularity would appear to be based on its history of violence and its military support for Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war. That is probably the situation as best described.
My Lords, will the Minister reconsider his previous answer in light of the fact that the trade unions in Iran are being persecuted by the mullahs’ regime? Will he also accept that the students who demonstrate regularly against the regime should be given comfort and solace by a democratic country such as ours? Will he go further and agree with the vice-president of the European Union who only a fortnight ago in Brussels condemned the way in which the British Government have handled this matter and get the thing sorted out both here and in Europe, because an apology is due to those very brave people who are fighting the theocracy in Iran?
My Lords, of course—quite properly—we support those who seek to ensure that the people of Iran enjoy the benefits of democracy. Everybody supports that proposition.
My Lords, the Minister’s reply gives the impression that the Government are dragging their heels over taking this matter forward at a European level. Will the Minister confirm that the Government are being positive and proactive in taking this matter to the Council?
My Lords, I do not think that we are being slow in this matter. The order was laid just 10 working days after the Court of Appeal judgment. I have made it very clear from this Dispatch Box this morning that we are in contact with our EU counterparts to ensure that this matter is resolved in Europe.
My Lords, since the United Kingdom took the initiative to put the PMOI on the proscribed list, and as at the moment there seems to be a lack of knowledge in Europe as to what has happened here, is it not essential that Her Majesty’s Government should not only take the initiative in the Council to remove the PMOI from the proscribed list, but, no less importantly, should inform other member states about what has happened here, because it completely changes the picture on which member states initially voted?
My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble and learned Lord. I have made it plain that we have taken the action that we should quite properly have taken. It is now quite properly a matter for the Council to consider what action it needs to take. We have informed the proper authorities. I make the point, with regard to the PMOI, that the POAC itself made the judgment that we were right to proscribe it when we did. We were right because we should adopt a cautionary approach in protecting our interests and the safety and security of people in this country.
My Lords, does the Minister agree with me that this organisation campaigns for the rights of women and that that is a good thing?
My Lords, organisations that campaign for the rights of women are to be congratulated.