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Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism

Volume 743: debated on Thursday 18 January 2024

I beg to move,

That the draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2024, which was laid before this House on 15 January, be approved.

I am grateful to the House for considering this draft order, which will finally see Hizb ut-Tahrir proscribed. The events of 7 October will be permanently ingrained on our minds. What Hamas did that day was barbaric. It was evil. Who can erase the images that we saw of mothers crying over their blood-soaked beds with their children missing, of teenagers gunned down at a festival of peace, or of women abducted, raped and slaughtered? Who among us could fail to be appalled by such depravity or to still feel the pain of those whose loved ones are hostages? Who could stay silent in the face of the worst pogrom against Jews on any day since the holocaust?

In the aftermath of 7 October, communities across the United Kingdom came together to condemn these vile acts and to stand with British Jews in their hour of grief. Not everyone, however, reacted with sorrow. Instead of horror, Hizb ut-Tahrir responded to the murder of civilians with elation. Instead of condemnation, it lavished Hamas with praise.

I want to make something very clear: I am a champion of freedom of speech, and I have no issue with people saying things that I regard as insensitive, uninformed or wrong, but this is different. Free speech includes neither the promotion of terrorism nor the celebration of terrorist acts. It is not acceptable to describe Hamas as the “heroes” of Palestine or the events of 7 October as a “long-awaited victory”. It is not acceptable to refer to the killing of Jewish tourists by an Egyptian police officer as

“a simple example of what should be done towards the Jews”.

It is not acceptable to call for so-called Muslim armies to rise up and carry out similar acts.

Hizb ut-Tahrir has antisemitism at its very core. It rejects democracy and engages in vile homophobia. As an organisation, it does not just reject British values; it seeks to undermine them. We will not let groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir abuse our freedoms. We will never tolerate the promotion or encouragement of terrorism. We have zero tolerance for antisemitism. Hizb ut-Tahrir must be proscribed.

Before I come to discuss the specifics of the order, I will set out some background on the proscription power. Currently, 79 terrorist organisations are proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000. For an organisation to be proscribed, the Government must believe that it is concerned in terrorism as set out in section 3 of the Act. If the statutory test is met, the Home Secretary must consider the proportionality of proscription and decide whether to exercise their discretion.

Proscription is a powerful tool with severe penalties, criminalising membership and invitations of support for organisations. It also supports other disruptive activity including immigration disruptions and terrorist financing orders. In short, the resources of a proscribed organisation are terrorist property and therefore liable to be seized.

A decision to proscribe is taken only after great care and consideration, given its wide-ranging impact. It must be approved by both Houses. Part 2 of the 2000 Act contains the proscription offences in sections 11 to 13. An organisation is proscribed if it is listed in schedule 2 to the Act. Article 2 of the order will add Hizb ut-Tahrir to the list in schedule 2 as a new entry.

We have carefully considered all the evidence. Hizb ut-Tahrir is concerned in terrorism. With the House’s consent, it will be proscribed, including all regional branches such as Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain.

Although I am unable to comment on specific intelligence, I can provide the House with a summary of the group’s activities. Hizb ut-Tahrir is an international political organisation with a footprint in at least 32 countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia. Its long-term goal is to establish an expansionist caliphate ruled under Islamic law, with no fixed borders, seeking new territories to occupy in the name of jihad. That is its stated aim. Hizb ut-Tahrir’s headquarters and central media office are in Beirut, and its ideology and strategy are co-ordinated centrally.

The British branch, Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, was established in 1986. It is afforded autonomy to operate in its local environment, but it is important to emphasise that it is part of a coherent international movement, and recognises the leadership of Hizb ut-Tahrir. The decision to proscribe therefore relates to Hizb ut-Tahrir, including all its regional branches. Any distinction between them is artificial.

There is evidence that Hizb ut-Tahrir is concerned in terrorism. Its central media office and several of its middle eastern branches have celebrated and praised the barbaric terrorist attacks on Israel and other nations’ citizens carried out by Hamas, which, as Members will be aware, are already a proscribed organisation.

Is the Minister aware that Zeyno Baran of the Hudson Institute has observed that the British chapter of Hizb ut-Tahrir is the “nerve centre” of the international movement? As is so often the case when dealing with terror organisations, the responsibility to protect our own citizens extends to citizens in other countries as well.

The right hon. Member is absolutely right that the unity of this organisation means that one branch cannot be separated from another. The UK branch is important when taking down the network around the world. That is why, as I will come to, this action is supported not just here but around the world.

As I mentioned earlier, recent activity includes an article attributed to Hizb ut-Tahrir’s Egyptian branch, which referred to the killing of Jewish tourists by an Egyptian police officer as

“a simple example of what should be done towards the Jews”.

The British branch is supportive of—and indeed, subservient to—its global leadership and policy positions. It demonstrates a hatred not just of Israel but of all Jews. Its promotion and encouragement of terrorism is inspired by an abhorrent antisemitic ideology.

Hizb ut-Tahrir has frequently referred to Hamas as the heroes of Palestine. Hamas are not heroes. Those who perpetrated the attacks on 7 October are monsters. Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain published an article on its website that described the 7 October attacks as a long-awaited victory that

“ignited a wave of joy and elation amongst Muslims globally”.

It is the Government’s view that the content included in that article and others like it betrays Hizb ut-Tahrir and Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain’s true ideology and beliefs. Hizb ut-Tahrir has regularly engaged in homophobic and antisemitic discourse. It rejects democracy, and its aims bear similarities to those of terrorist groups, including Daesh, which is already proscribed. Internationally, Hizb ut-Tahrir plays the mood music to which other terrorists dance.

This proscription will serve as a reminder that the United Kingdom does not and will never tolerate the promotion or encouragement of terrorism. It will send the message that promoting or encouraging Hamas’s sickening attack on 7 October is utterly unacceptable and at odds with the values of this country. By proscribing, we will reassert our unwavering commitment to fighting antisemitism, which has increased unacceptably in the United Kingdom and globally in recent months.

To the Jewish community in the United Kingdom, I say this: “We will always protect British citizens. We will do whatever it takes to protect you.” To British Muslim parents and to many mosques across the country, I say this: “We will remove this menace that claims to act in your name. Hizb ut-Tahrir does not represent Islam or Muslims. You are a crucial part of our nation and your Government is on your side.”

Before I conclude, I will make a couple of further points. First, the decision to proscribe is supported by our international partners. Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned in many countries around the world, including in Germany, and restrictions are placed on its activities in Austria. This is an organisation that does not believe in borders or the nation state, and that calls for the overthrow of every Government in the Islamic world. It has declared the custodian of the two holy places in Saudi Arabia, the Khadim al-Haramayn, an apostate, and has been banned in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Following coup attempts in Jordan and Egypt, it has been banned in those countries as well. Its call for the caliphate is a colonial imperialist ambition from another age and gives legitimacy to others, including ISIS and al-Qaeda. When al-Nabhani split from the Muslim Brotherhood to found this organisation in 1953, it was to a great extent because he did not believe in its incrementalist policy of using democracy, but instead turned to violence and radicalising Muslim militaries to establish a single expansionist Islamist empire. This is an organisation calling for the conquest of India, Greece, Spain and France—anywhere, in fact, where Muslim armies once trod, even if that was over 1,000 years ago.

Let us not forget the impact of Hizb ut-Tahrir in the United Kingdom. One of its original leaders subsequently went on to set up al-Muhajiroun, a pernicious organisation, now also proscribed, with links to many of the perpetrators of Islamist-inspired attacks in recent years. We are taking this action to stop the pain and loss caused to countless families across our country who have lost loved ones to this cult. This proscription is important to protecting all communities across our country, and to standing with our allies and partners in nations from Indonesia to Morocco.

Proscription is a powerful tool. It will significantly hamper Hizb ut-Tahrir’s operations in the United Kingdom, and damage its activities and support for branches in other parts of the world. The United Kingdom must not be a hub for global terrorism: not today, not tomorrow, not ever. It will now be a criminal offence for a person to: belong to Hizb ut-Tahrir; invite or express support for Hizb ut-Tahrir; arrange a meeting in support of Hizb ut-Tahrir; and wear clothing, carry or display articles in public in such a way as to arouse reasonable suspicion that the individual is a member of, or a supporter of, Hizb ut-Tahrir. The penalties for conviction of proscription offences can be a maximum of 14 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.

The first duty of Government is to keep our people safe, to guard the homes of our friends and fellow citizens, and to discourage any from going down the path of radicalisation that destroys lives. Nothing matters more. It is a tremendous responsibility and one that we approach with the utmost seriousness. The fight against terrorism demands constant vigilance. When there is a clear need for action to support that vital mission, we will not hesitate. I therefore urge the House to support this proscription order. It is a proportionate response to the promotion and encouragement of terrorism. It is a justified response to calls for violence and disorder, and it is necessary to defend our values and to protect all the communities of our great country.

I thank the Security Minister for what he has said, and his colleagues at the Home Office for briefing the shadow Home Secretary and me ahead of this debate. Today’s proscription order is underpinned by the exceptional men and women who serve in our intelligence and security services in Government and in our police. They work tirelessly to keep our country safe. We are extremely fortunate to have them.

Keeping our country safe is the first duty of Government and a common cause that we share and treat with the utmost seriousness. On that basis, it is vital that the Government and the Opposition work together in the national interest on these crucial issues. As the Minister laid out, the order will amend schedule 2 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to add Hizb ut-Tahrir to the list of proscribed organisations. Doing so will make it a criminal offence to belong to Hizb ut-Tahrir, to engage in activities such as attending meetings, to promote support for the group, or to display its logo. After years of serious and increasing concerns about Hizb ut-Tahrir’s activity both internationally and in the UK, the Opposition strongly support its proscription. It is a necessary and proportionate step to effectively counter its hateful extremism and divisive rhetoric which threatens the safety and security of our country.

Proscription of this international terrorist organisation comes after other countries, including Germany, had already banned it. Hizb ut-Tahrir is being proscribed now because of escalating activity in the aftermath of Hamas’s barbaric terrorist attack on Israel. Unlike other Muslim groups in the UK who condemned these attacks, Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain glorified as “heroes” the Hamas terrorists who revelled in acts of indiscriminate violence against civilians. In the aftermath of 7 October there was deep sorrow and outrage among the British people, shared with the Israeli people; but Hizb ut-Tahrir boasted of its “euphoria” on the news of that appalling and tragic loss of life. There is no place on Britain’s streets for vile antisemitism. There is no place on Britain’s streets for those who incite violence and glorify terrorism. There is no place on Britain’s streets for Hizb ut-Tahrir. This terrorist group peddles hate, glorifies violence, and is not only hostile to our values but hostile to the common tenets of humanity.

There is nothing new about the divisive and poisonous rhetoric of Hizb ut-Tahrir, which has been widely recorded for over two decades in the UK, long before the attacks of 7 October. Organisations such as the Community Security trust, the Antisemitism Policy Trust and the Union of Jewish Students have long raised serious concerns about Hizb ut-Tahrir’s antisemitism, alongside its misogynistic and homophobic hate speech, which provide a channel for extremism. That is why previous Prime Ministers, Home Secretaries and Security Ministers have considered proscribing Hizb ut-Tahrir, but its activities were not recognised as sufficient under the definition of terrorism in section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2000 until now.

Given the amount of time for which these matters have been debated and considered, I should be grateful if the Minister, when he responds, said whether he thinks there are lessons to be learned about the length of time that it has taken to proscribe Hizb ut-Tahrir. Will he also say whether he believes that the current proscription process is agile enough to counter threats to our national security robustly, and whether he agrees that a bespoke proscription mechanism for state-sponsored organisations—which Labour has already called for—is now required? Countering threats to our national security requires joined-up, cross-Government working, but the counter-extremism strategy has not been updated since 2015, with important elements of policy involving community cohesion now the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. Given the significance of these matters, I should be grateful if the Minister told the House when the Government will provide a new definition of hateful extremism. Can he also tell us when his Department will update the counter- extremism strategy, an update that has been called for by the shadow Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper)?

Proscribing Hizb ut-Tahrir is the right thing to do for our national security. For too long the public have been exposed to its extremist ideology, its glorification of terrorist activity, and its core aim of overthrowing our democratic system of government to replace it with an Islamist theocracy. If left alone, extremism can and will spread insidiously and seep deeply into our national conversation. No Government must ever relent in their determination to ensure that we are always one step ahead of those who seek to harm us or to undermine our way of life. This House must always be on the side of the public whom we strive to serve and protect, and that is why we strongly support this proscription order.

Order. I note that there is some interest in this debate. It must end by 1.18 pm, so I ask Members to be mindful of the contributions that they make.

As I speak in this debate, I will have in mind the 136 hostages who are still held by Hamas, including Eli Sharabi. Several colleagues and I met his brother-in-law, Steve, in the House yesterday.

I welcome what both the Minister and the shadow Minister said on this subject, and I disagreed with nothing. I thank the organisations that have campaigned on this issue over the years, including the UJS and the Antisemitism Policy Trust, which is ably led by Danny Stone—he has long campaigned on this and I congratulate them all on their efforts, which have now paid off.

My only slight point of disagreement with what has been said is that, once again, I voice my support for the proscription of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is behind Hezbollah, Hamas and, of course, the Houthis. This is a debate of consensus, so I will leave that for another day.

As the Minister said, Hizb ut-Tahrir is an antisemitic, racist organisation that promotes and encourages terrorism. As both Front Benchers said, it openly celebrated the appalling pogroms of 7 October and has described Hamas as “heroes.” They are not heroes; they are murderers and rapists, for which they should be called out by everyone. Hizb ut-Tahrir is an explicitly antisemitic group and has targeted gay people, women and Muslims who do not share its perverse interpretation of Islam. It is right to ban this group, but will that ban include its pernicious online activities?

I will now look at some of the individuals involved with Hizb ut-Tahrir. Omar Khan Sharif, one of the British bombers of Mike’s Place in Tel Aviv, was found with Hizb ut-Tahrir literature. The bombing took place in the second intifada, so let us remember what an intifada is, for those who have been marching in the streets with signs calling for an intifada. At the weekend, people held signs calling for a “socialist intifada.” I am not sure what a socialist intifada is—perhaps it means murdering people more fairly—but that is what people have been calling for.

The second intifada involved the bombing of pubs and civilian buses, and it involved the murder of countless innocent civilians. That is what people have been calling for on our streets, and they have been allowed to continue calling for it without any police action.

It gets even worse, because this weekend we heard people not only on the march but on the stage saying that massacres should now become the norm. There is no place for that in society, which is why such motions should be welcomed not only by every Member but by everyone in this country.

I could not agree more. Doubtless the majority of people who attend protests are peaceful, but that behaviour is making Jewish people in this country frightened of wherever the protests take place. The Jewish community in my region has expressed to me its concerns about the small marches we have had in my area, and of course Jews in London are afraid to come into central London when the marches are taking place, precisely because of that behaviour, which I believe is by a minority.

The leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Denmark was convicted of racial hatred for distributing a leaflet that said:

“Kill them, kill the Jews wherever you find them.”

The organisation tells its followers that they should not be close friends with non-Muslims. In fact, one of its leaflets says:

“We maintain that the clash of civilisations is not only inevitable but imperative.”

Of course, it shares that view with neo-Nazis. It is absolutely right to ban this organisation, and I agree with everything that the Minister and the shadow Minister said. Welcome though it is, however, the ban will not end the continued targeting of the Jewish community and Jewish people in this country, which has led to a 1,000%-plus increase in antisemitism.

This week I was informed by the police force in my area that pro-Palestinian activists might come to protest one of our Holocaust Memorial Day events. I am sure they will protest peacefully, but that event is being targeted for no other reason than Jews will be present. That is absolutely appalling and disgraceful behaviour, just as it would be for a person to protest Hamas or Hizb ut-Tahrir at a Muslim community event. It is completely unacceptable. In fact, it is perverted.

A Jewish charity that supports disaffected young men and young boys in the north of London was targeted this week by activists, who screamed and shouted abuse outside. What does a Jewish charity working with disaffected youth have to do with this conflict? It was targeted for no other reason than it involves Jews.

We have seen continued denial of the events of 7 October in online spaces and on the streets of this country. Although this proscription will do a great deal, it will not prevent the continued targeting of Jews. Indeed, in just the last few days, because of a smear someone posted online after I dared to say in this place that people who do not contextualise the Israeli response to 7 October with the events of 7 October are giving the terrorists a “free pass”, I have received the most appalling antisemitic communications, including describing the hostages as, “Them Zionist rat hostages.” Someone messaged me to say, “Nobody cares about the Jews.” Another messaged me to tell me that I should be flogged because of my beliefs. I have been targeted with emails directly quoting the comments made about me on social media and telling me that they were false-flag operations, that the hostages do not exist and that it was the Israelis who killed people on 7 October—all the various conspiracy theories. The comments on social media have enabled antisemitism of the most awful kind, and I am afraid it will continue, which is why we have to do so much more.

I know that both the Government and the Opposition have done incredible things in calling all of this out and putting extra money into the CST, but the continued targeting of Jews in this country is deeply disturbing. Although this motion is welcome, it will not prevent that from continuing. We need tougher action.

As I said in a Westminster Hall debate, it has seemed on occasion as if the Metropolitan police force is acting as the public relations arm of some of the protests, instead of doing what it should be doing and protecting British Jews from such hate speech. We are such a small community, just 0.5% of the population.

I thank the Minister and the shadow Minister for what they have said, and I welcome this move. I hope the Minister will answer my question on whether the order will apply to Hizb ut-Tahrir’s online activities.

The SNP absolutely supports the proscription of Hizb ut-Tahrir. We stand with Jews and Jewish communities against antisemitism.

I particularly thank the Union of Jewish Students for its work in Aberdeen, and I am grateful for the comments it has brought to me about its experiences in the wake of 7 October. The hon. Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) told us about some of the incredibly explicit and horrific comments he has received, and I feel for all those who receive such comments, whether or not they are in the public light. Receiving such comments is awful, and we are happy to commit to working with everyone in the House to do everything we can to oppose antisemitism, wherever it occurs in our communities. We must stamp out antisemitism wherever we can.

We recognise the horrifying, dangerous comments and attitudes of Hizb ut-Tahrir, and agree with the reasons the Minister set out for its proscription. At a time of unprecedented violence on so many fronts, we call for, and we support those who call for, unity in the face of the forces of hatred that try to divide us.

Can the Minister assure us that, after proscription, he and the Government will take further action to remove Hizb ut-Tahrir’s ability to operate in the UK and, together with international partners, its ability to operate around the world, where we can do so? Will he update the House on the Government’s action and its impact, afterwards if necessary? I understand the need for some of that action to be taken without giving a heads up, but we would like to see the outcome and whether it has had an effect, so that we can support future action and be clear that it will achieve what the Government intend.

I wholeheartedly agree with the comments made by the hon. Member for Brigg and Goole about the Antisemitism Policy Trust and Danny Stone. Danny is an absolutely dedicated public servant who does a huge amount of good in supporting his community and bringing advice and information to parliamentarians, ensuring that we are all far more knowledgeable as a result.

Will the Minister update the House on whether the Government have made a further assessment of whether to proscribe the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps? It continues to be the SNP’s position that sanctions are not enough and that proscription of this organisation is required. If he can assure us that this is being kept under a watching brief, that would give us at least some reassurance that the Government have not entirely ruled it out and that it could be considered in the future. We ask that that organisation be proscribed too.

I thank the Minister for introducing this order, and I agree with the timescale. It is relatively unusual to have legislation come forward this quickly, but in this case we are happy to support it because of the speed and haste with which this has to be done in order to ensure that Hizb ut-Tahrir can be proscribed. We support the UK Government’s proscription of the organisation. We hope that the action taken by the Minister, his Government and everyone mentioned by those on the shadow Front Bench, including the security staff and the police, will ensure that such organisations cannot continue to operate. We support the work that they are doing, and we hope that it pays off. We hope that we have positive results as a result of the action that the Government, the security services and the police are taking. As I say, we are happy to support the proscription in this case.

I rise to support the Government. The proscription of Hizb ut-Tahrir is overdue, but it is always good when it happens. I continue to welcome my right hon. Friend the Minister to his position. Both of us, of course, have been sanctioned by the Chinese Government, and I may touch on this in a second.

The proscription of Hizb ut-Tahrir is overdue because it has been well known for quite some time here that the UK has been at the centre of operations. I am always concerned about how long it sometimes takes us in the UK to openly recognise that there are forces at work within this United Kingdom, using our freedoms and our judicial system to protect themselves while they promote the most ghastly behaviour and attitudes. After all, Hizb ut-Tahrir is an antisemitic organisation, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) and my right hon. Friend the Minister have already made clear. Antisemitism is at the core of its whole being. It is not an organisation that is passingly antisemitic; antisemitism is its core belief.

Let us be clear that the killing of Jews is a priority for Hizb ut-Tahrir, and its activities here in the UK, as a result of the protection it is no longer to have, have influenced a lot of people who do not really understand what is going on in the middle east and who settle on the idea that Hizb ut-Tahrir is somehow espousing the views of a people who are persecuted abroad. It is not; Hizb ut-Tahrir is talking about the persecution and eventual eradication of the Jewish people.

Hizb ut-Tahrir is antisemitic and racist, as my hon. Friend said. It has also supported other groups in their attacks on Israel, as has been said already. Hizb ut-Tahrir celebrated the October murders and the taking of hostages, and it has encouraged terrorism globally, but it has also provided excuses for some of the nonsense being said at the moment on some of the marches. People do not seem to understand what the organisation is saying. I support my hon. Friend’s call to make sure that its online activities are sought out and shut down, and that those involved in them are prosecuted under the criminal code. That is critical, so I welcome my Government’s decision to proscribe Hizb ut-Tahrir.

It is worth bearing in mind—I want to come back to this in a second—that, as my hon. Friend said earlier, there are 79 terrorist organisations proscribed here in the UK, and this will now add to that. I want to come to the other bit here, which is to do with the IRGC. I will not spend too long on this, but I want to make this point, because these organisations are linked. We are proscribing an organisation that is dangerous, vile, antisemitic and abusive, but there is another organisation whose fingers extend into all these organisations around the world and here in the UK: the IRGC. It makes possible much of what goes on in terms of the attitudes towards antisemitism, the attacks on people in a democracy, and the misogyny and homophobia within these organisations. It is not just one element; it is complete.

We know now that, since the attacks in October, Iran has accelerated its executions of those who have protested against the current regime. An astonishing number of executions is now taking place, under cover of what is going on in Gaza. It is quite appalling. We know that the IRGC is behind Hezbollah. It directs, it arms and it makes sure that Hezbollah acts as its arm in Lebanon and beyond. It is attacking Israel right now to keep Israeli forces tied up in northern Israel for tactical reasons.

The second part is that we are now engaged in trying to protect our shipping in the Red sea. Who is supplying the Houthi rebels—the terrorists—with arms and direction? It is Iran, which has upped its supply of rockets to the Houthis. When the Foreign Secretary says to Iran that it has some responsibility for this, as I think he did quite recently, Iran’s response is, “Mind your own business and leave that alone.” It is still supplying the Houthis with weapons and, if we do not get our action right, they could shut down the Red sea for all trade.

When I was approached by somebody who had been protesting, I asked, “Are you aware of what is going on here?” They said, “What does it matter? These people in Israel are persecuting the Palestinians in Gaza, so they’re right to do this.” I replied, “So you don’t mind massive inflation hikes and huge extra costs. You don’t mind the fact that trade cannot travel down the shorter route and all the other considerations.” They just looked at me blankly, because they had not understood what we were talking about. Right now, Iran is directly involved in what is going on in the Red sea to try to shut down the free world’s business arrangements and affect the cost of goods.

Another part of it is that Iran was quite clearly involved in the attacks that took place in October on peaceful Israeli citizens and others, the murders and the hostage taking. How does it benefit from this? Iran knew that Israel would have to respond. That was exactly what the whole plan was: to launch a vile attack, murder enough Jews and make sure that Israeli territory was invaded, so that Israel was bound to attack.

I am not going to spend time debating exactly how far Israel should have gone or any of that, which is a separate issue. My personal view is very clear: Iran is linked to Russia, and what is going on takes the attention off Russia and divides America’s ability to supply arms and weaponry. It creates a major debate, which is going on in the United States at the moment, about giving supplies to the Ukrainians to defend themselves, and it also takes the attention away from China’s aggression towards Taiwan.

Iran is part of the axis of authoritarianism which also includes China, North Korea, Russia, and now Syria and others in the middle east. Iran is very dangerous, and the IRGC is the arm of the Iranian Government. Not only is Iran behind all the attacks, but it continues to persecute Christians to a degree that we simply cannot understand. Executions, incarcerations and abuse are taking place, as we heard yesterday in a report delivered here in the House of Commons.

What do the Government plan to do about the IRGC? America has asked the British Government to proscribe it, and we simply have not yet responded. I asked a nameless individual who is involved with this, and with the Government, why they have not proscribed the IRGC. They said, “It keeps a back channel for us to get America through to Iran.” I said, “What? We now have to act as a back channel for the Americans? Don’t we think the American Government are quite capable of finding ways to engage Iran if they have to?” They then said, “Well, of course we would lose our ability to influence Iran.” I asked them, “Exactly what influence have we had over Iran in the last five years?” They said, “The release of hostages.” I said, “No, you didn’t. You paid for those big time, and they were hostage-taking for that.” We have no influence over Iran. Iran is dangerous, and the IRGC is the arm of that threat around the world.

With two Iranian banks sitting in the City of London, we know how the money is transferred to support some of these organisations, creating some of the nonsense on the marches. Most people do not understand what “From the river to the sea” means, notwithstanding the fact that Hassan Nasrallah made it very clear that the chant means clearing the Jews out of Palestine, and Israel being gone. It is as simple as that. He said that that is what it means, yet people chant it and the Metropolitan police still does not seem to understand that it is an aggressive, antisemitic chant.

I have a Jewish sister-in-law who told me the other day that she has never felt more under threat and less safe in this country in her whole life. What a statement to make in this United Kingdom, which upholds freedom of speech and the rule of law—that a Jewish person now feels desperately under threat just getting up and going to work in the morning. That is simply not right and we need to deal with it. Who is behind all this? The IRGC.

In his concluding remarks, will the Minister please address this issue? It is more than high time. This is a cross-party issue; I know that those on the Opposition Front Bench have called for it. We have to face this. The IRGC must now be proscribed and the banks of Iran shut down in the UK. The IRGC can no longer continue to use the UK as a base for further operations. I congratulate the Government on their decision on Hizb ut-Tahrir, but we should go a lot further. We need to protect our citizens.

I congratulate the Government—I will not say that too many times—on taking the important and welcome step of banning the extremist antisemitic, misogynistic and homophobic group that is Hizb ut-Tahrir. I echo the comments of the hon. Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) about the 136 hostages still in Gaza. One message that we can all get behind is to bring them home now.

This group poses a threat not only to democratic institutions but to people, including the vast majority of the Muslim community here at home. Hizb ut-Tahrir, or HUT, as I will refer to it, has blighted our shores and specifically our university campuses for years. It has run meetings and distributed leaflets, including one that described Jews as “cowards” and called on Muslims to

“purify yourselves against the deceptions of the Jews”.

On the Israel-Palestine conflict, it has called for

“the elimination of the monstrous Jewish entity, restoring all of Palestine to the lands of Islam”.

If that is not an organisation preaching hatred, I do not know what is.

Anti-racism campaigners including the Union of Jewish Students have been particularly alive to the threat, and its officers have run campaigns over many years, including, successfully, to have the group outlawed by the National Union of Students as early as 1994. Despite that, UK HUT activists have sought to circumvent such efforts. Reports have emerged that between 2022 and 2023, keynote speakers from HUT spoke to 10 separate campuses over 18 months, including in Bradford and Birmingham, and at the London School of Economics. The speakers included Luqman Muqeem, a prominent figure on the HUT website, who spoke five times at the University of Birmingham, despite having posted videos online in which he said that Muslims must fight Jews to the death and voiced support for the attack on Sir Salman Rushdie.

HUT has a long history of using front groups on campuses. For example, radicals from the group have sought to pass themselves off as the One Nation Society, the Democracy Society, the Islamic Front, the Muslim Media Forum, the Muslim Current Affairs Society, the New World Society and the 1924 Society. In changing the legislation, will the Government also look at those organisations to ensure that HUT can find no further loopholes to preach its hatred on university campuses? Such groups were observed at universities across the country, including in Nottingham, at Queen Mary and, locally to me, in Manchester. Concerns have been raised about how the group might have continued to undermine our legal and official systems using those front groups.

The Antisemitism Policy Trust’s Danny Stone, who has rightly been mentioned several times in the debate, highlighted to the Public Bill Committee for the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act 2023 the danger of HUT, in its many guises, misusing the new free speech protections in order to solicit compensation. It is therefore extremely welcome news that that potential loophole is now firmly closed, but I ask the Minister to confirm that front groups, aliases and other masks will not be enough to prevent HUT’s members from being identified and prosecuted.

This move will be welcomed not only by me: numerous others—individuals such as Sir Anthony Glees, and groups such as the CST and HOPE not hate—have called for HUT to be proscribed. Although I welcome today’s move we need, as the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) said, to go further and proscribe the one group that is not only providing funding but destabilising entire regions: the IRGC. That is more important now than ever, considering the last 100 days or so. Both groups are antisemitic; they blatantly repeat those tropes time and again. I have mentioned that in this Chamber, on the streets, in Westminster Hall and online, and will continue to do so, because we need to highlight what an evil organisation the IRGC is.

Both organisations perpetuate homophobia, suggesting that both Labour and the Conservatives should not be trusted because of our work to protect LGBT communities. Again, that is not welcome in a modern, tolerant society. The IRGC rails against what it defines as the “secular, democratic, liberal system”, and in favour of a global caliphate. These are freedoms and rights that we have worked hard to earn, and we will protect them with every ounce of our being, because that is the right thing to do.

Worldwide, HUT has reportedly been behind attempted coups in Jordan, Syria and Egypt, again with the backing of the IRGC. The IRGC is also in Yemen, backing the Houthis, in Lebanon with Hezbollah, and in Gaza with Hamas. Those activities are not limited to foreign countries: we see them on the streets in this country, which is why we really need to tackle the threat of the IRGC seriously. When we see Hamas operatives here in the capital, that is a step too far. This move from the Government is important and correct. It is slightly overdue, but it is welcome. I thank the Minister for coming to the House to highlight it, but we need to go further.

I place on the record my support, and that of my party, for today’s measure. The right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) gave a lot of important international context, particularly in relation to recent events in the Red sea and in Yemen. I will spare the House a repetition of what he said. I simply place on the record the fact that I very much endorse his analysis of what is going on there, not least because it brings into sharp relief the role of the IRGC. As others have said, it seems as if the focus of our attention must now turn in the direction of the IRGC. If it is any consolation to the Minister, I think it has emerged from today’s debate that a consensus to proscribe the IRGC would be easily constructed.

Whether to proscribe Hizb ut-Tahrir is not a new debate; it has been going on for a considerable time. I think it was back in 2011 that David Anderson, the Government reviewer of terror legislation, advised against proscription on the basis that the group was not advocating violence. Clearly, we are in a different situation today, but I mention that because I feel slightly conflicted about the speed with which we have moved. We should be slow to ban any organisation because, as a society, it is not something we should do lightly. However, once the evidence is there, as it clearly has been for some time and as it has been in relation to the IRGC, then, as the hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) said, that raises questions about whether our processes for making such decisions are adequate.

Obviously, it is important to take this step as part of our domestic legislation at the moment, because not to do so would send the worst possible signal to those in the Jewish communities who have felt so embattled since the events of 7 October. I hope they will take some comfort from the fact that action of this sort has been taken against those who have preached, and done more than preach, antisemitism.

However, there is a wider legislative context. As important as it is to proscribe organisations like Hizb ut-Tahrir, that is only part of a bigger plan. It seems that many of the other tools in that fight, such as the Prevent strategy, are not achieving the goals we need them to achieve. They are overdue for a proper root-and-branch review. Let us not forget that a spiral emerges here: we see the growth in antisemitism and antisemitic hate crime, but that in turn produces a growth in Islamophobia. So we do not proscribe Hizb ut-Tahrir in the interest only of Jewish communities, but in the interest of Muslim communities as well.

The tackling of extremism, of which that is just part, has to be at the heart of finding a long-term and sustainable way of approaching the issue. I encourage the Minister to speak again to his colleagues in the Home Office, in particular about the Prevent strategy. We know what we want it to achieve but, as we view it today, I have serious concerns about its ability to deliver what we need it to do.

Truly, the world is becoming a hostile place. The more we watch what happens across the world, the more we are convinced of the evil intent of many. I thank the Minister for his statement, clarity and strength of intention. I know that my party will fully support him, as we always do when it comes to these matters.

The reasons for the proscription have been clearly outlined by others. It is important that we do something in relation to the Hamas murders of 1,200 innocent Israelis, the taking of hostages, the continuing war of aggression and their view about the annihilation of the Israelis. In the UK, we want to play our part. The Minister has outlined how we can take on the terrorist activities and intentions of those who march in the streets and think they have a status above the law of the land. Today, quite clearly, they do not, and we welcome that.

The right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) always speaks with much wisdom and brings forward issues that we all endorse in their entirety. The proscription of the IRGC is critical because it funds, trains and gives weapons to many terrorist organisations across the world. We need to take that proscription a stage further, on top of this one, and do that with a zest. I am ever mindful that 79 organisations have been proscribed already.

As a Northern Ireland MP, I am obviously aware of the issues, as is the right hon. and gallant Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat), from his personal point of view, having served in the Army and now as the Minister for Security. The Real IRA and the New IRA have been most active, and the threat level in Northern Ireland is at a height we have not seen for some time. There have been a number of demonstrations across Northern Ireland and we are ever mindful of international terrorism, as those who want to murder, destabilise, kill, maim and destroy come together, wherever they may be from.

I am conscious that it is not always appropriate for the Minister to answer certain questions in the Chamber, but I want to put on the record my concerns about the connections between IRA republicanism and international terrorism. During the demonstrations that have taken place across Northern Ireland, things were said and done that should never have been done in this great United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, where I am great believer in unity and being better together.

On commitment by police forces, has the Minister had the opportunity to speak to the forces here on the mainland and to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, to ensure that they collectively take on Hizb ut-Tahrir, the terrorist organisation proscribed today? I am sure he has, but it would be nice to have that on the record. It is important that we are unified on the issue, as we are in the Chamber, especially when it comes to intelligence gathering and working collectively. Police forces need to be able to exchange their points of view and the intelligence that they gather to ensure that they protect our citizens across this great United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which we all have a duty to do. The proscription today is a step in the right direction, but I hope the Minister can provide some reassurance on my final points.

I pay tribute to Members for the tone in which the debate has been conducted. I place on record my thanks to the hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis); it is a pleasure to stand with him again in protecting our country’s interest, this time a little closer to home. I also pay tribute to the hon. Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch), who was with him on the Opposition Front Bench earlier. She was an extremely able predecessor in his role and a great help.

I repeat the hon. Gentleman’s thanks to the intelligence services, who have done so much to prepare the evidence in various different ways which has enabled us to support these various actions, although much of the information has been public, so it has been able to prepare it in the usual way. I thank him for his comments about the way in which this work has been done. As he recognises, it has been a little quicker than we would normally go, but I am grateful that the Scottish National party and the Labour party recognise that there is an urgency to this matter and have supported it.

I will briefly answer the hon. Gentleman’s questions about the timing of the proscription. This is, quite rightly, detailed legal work. The judgment has to be made extremely carefully. It must be not only lawful but proportionate, and we must get that balance right. As others have mentioned, proscription is an extremely powerful tool. It is not a political tool or to be used at the whim of a Government or Minister to silence critics or debate. This tool should be used only to protect the British people from terrorism—that is its purpose. We need to make absolutely clear that we are using it appropriately and only when necessary. All of us in this House, I hope, support freedom of views and freedom of expression. We have all heard things we may not like, but we would defend the right of people to say them, and we must ensure we are extremely careful about that.

The hon. Gentleman raised a question about the definition of extremism. As he knows, we are working on that. I pay a huge tribute to those working on that and to the Government’s countering extremism adviser, Robin Simcox, who has been an extremely important voice in much of the debate. I thank Members on the Opposition Front Bench for their support.

I turn to my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy), who has been a good friend of mine, but more importantly a good friend to his community for a very long time. He is tireless in the campaign against antisemitism. He rightly identifies what we are seeing today as being in the mould of the fascist movements of the 1930s. We could easily mistake some of the words on the works of Hizb ut-Tahrir as coming from the voices of some of the fascist leaders of the 1920s. They bear a stark resemblance to them. He is absolutely right that the online activities must be banned, and he will be pleased to hear that they are: all activities by this group are banned.

My hon. Friend is also right to say that Jews should not be afraid to be in London at any time, and certainly not on a Saturday or a Sunday, when many people want to go out shopping or just to be with friends and family. These protests, sadly, have not only been vile demonstrations of some of the worst parts of our community, but radicalising moments in themselves. I know the police are aware of that; the Home Secretary and I have both spoken to them about that.

I thank the right hon. and gallant Member for giving way. He joined me on the march against antisemitism several weeks ago when tens of thousands of people were saying no to Jew hatred. May I use this moment to say that there is a similar march in Manchester this weekend? If any Member wants to join us to say no to antisemitism, they would be more than welcome.

May I suggest to my right hon. Friend that his Department look into the possibility of confining marches to a static location? The fact is that all people are currently being inhibited from attending central London at weekends and that is having a significant impact on commerce and shopping in the west end. I would not want to see demonstrations inhibited by having costs imposed on them, but it seems a perfectly reasonable compromise after so many marches to have static locations.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his suggestion. I shall certainly take that away and I am sure that my colleagues in the Department will come back to him.

May I just turn to the remarks of the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman)? She rightly praised the Union of Jewish Students in Aberdeen and the work that it has done. The union has done some incredibly important work around the United Kingdom in our universities, which have seen a rise in antisemitism on their campuses. I have already spoken to Universities UK and the Russell Group about that. We simply cannot tolerate this. It is simply unacceptable to see students excluded from education because of the vile hatred of others. It is wrong. It is unBritish and it will not be tolerated.

The hon. Lady will understand—I hope that she forgives me—why for very obvious reasons I will not go into the actions that the police and other organisations may be taking, but she can be assured that conversations have been had that will lead to actions as soon as possible to ensure that this proscription, once authorised by both Houses, will not be sitting idly on the books and will be enforced as she would rightly expect.

Just before the Minister finishes on that point, will he commit to updating us, even if it is some time down the line, about the impact that those actions have had, to assure us that they have worked?

Absolutely, I will do that. I hope the House forgives me if I sound slightly coy in the way that I put this, but I will update the hon. Lady as soon as I can in the most appropriate way possible.

I now turn to the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith), who noted that we were both sanctioned by the Chinese state. I can add both the Iranian and Russian Governments, and after today, I think he will be joining me in at least one of those. What we are seeing is a pattern of violence, as he rightly identifies. It has spread out of Tehran over many decades and has had an influence on many different groups, including, as he correctly identifies, in the Red sea in this latest episode of Houthi piracy. We are incredibly aware of that, which is why the Government have rightly taken action. The Prime Minister was absolutely clear immediately that we should stand not just with our American allies, but with many others around the world in making sure that we defend freedom of navigation and that we protect those people working on ships, who are from very diverse backgrounds and have been targeted by this violence in recent months. Sadly, we have seen the murder of crews and ship workers by Houthi rebels in the Red sea, and it is right that we take action. I am grateful to the Prime Minister for his clear and determined response.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green also raised the question of dealing with state actors in this matter. This is something that he and I have discussed in the past. I draw the House’s attention to the recent introduction of the National Security Act 2023, which gives extraordinary and extra powers to our intelligence and police services to make sure that they may take action not just against intelligence services but against any who are supporting them and working with them. It is not, I admit, the same as proscription, but it does give a huge range of authority to our community to make sure that it is properly defended against the threats that we see.

It would be wrong of me to comment further on proscription options that we may be holding in reserve. As Members will know, for very clear reasons these are matters that we do not discuss until we are ready to announce them. None the less, it is absolutely right to say that we are taking the state abuse of our citizens, or the intervention of states in our Government or economic processes, extremely seriously. That sits alongside the National Security and Investment Act 2021 and hopefully demonstrates clearly to the whole House that we will not tolerate foreign interference or foreign aggression on our soil, or illegitimate uses by foreign intelligence services of organisations within the United Kingdom that are designed to do us harm.

The hon. Member for Bury South, who I will be seeing on Sunday, also spoke about front groups, and he was absolutely right to do so. If there are aliases or name changes, provisions can be changed quickly. That is covered under the Terrorism Act 2000. Should it be necessary, we will update the House, but Members can be assured that simply changing a name does not avoid proscription.

The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) spoke about advocating violence and the challenge of radicalisation in what we are seeing. I draw the House’s attention to the fact that the independent reviewer of Prevent, Sir William Shawcross, has just published his report. He has done what I think is a magisterial piece of work, which highlights areas where we need to update and change policies. We have accepted his recommendations and are in the process of making sure that the Prevent duty, as it applies to this country, is there to help and protect families across this country not just from the effects of violence, but from the effects of radicalisation. The pain that many families must feel when their children are torn away into these cult-like organisations is horrific, and it is quite right that we protect families from every community across this country.

That is where the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) is right as well. Of course this action applies across the whole of the United Kingdom and of course we will be having conversations with police forces across the whole of the United Kingdom. I regularly communicate with the PSNI, which is a very important part of our national police presence and a very effective police force. I am grateful to the hon. Member for his comments and support. This action is about protecting the whole of the United Kingdom against terror. Sadly, his part of the United Kingdom has experienced far too much of that, although I remember very clearly, as a child here in London, the effects of Northern Irish terror being felt on the underground and on the buses, where, sadly, too many people were also killed and maimed.

On that, I thank the House for this debate. I hope that this motion will go through as intended to ensure that this country is better protected.

Question put and agreed to.


That the draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2024, which was laid before this House on 15 January, be approved.