Lord Bach (Government Whip (technically a Lord in Waiting, HM Household); Labour)
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley. Perhaps he teaches some of his Front Bench a lesson in manners. I know not.
I have had placed in the Printed Paper Office and handed to opposition spokesmen the definition of terrorism that would result if the government amendments to Clause 1 and other clauses were accepted.
I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 1, 3, 4, 24 and 49, as well as the others grouped with them. In the light of the debates on Second Reading and in Committee in your Lordships' House, we have looked again at the definition of terrorism in Clause 1. We have always said that we were prepared to listen to concerns raised about the definition and we have tabled amendments in response to two specific lines of argument. I hope that they will find favour with the House.
The first change that we propose addresses action designed seriously to interfere with or disrupt an electronic system. It is included to ensure that serious disruption to computer systems to advance a political, religious or ideological cause is covered. Many noble Lords from all sides pressed us during earlier stages of the Bill to take that step, particularly in the wake of recent events. Our amendment is an important improvement to the Bill. As a consequence, the amendments to Clause 113 and Schedule 9 also add offences under the Computer Misuse Act 1990 to the list of scheduled offences in Schedule 9, so that those offences in Northern Ireland can be treated in the same way as other offences that terrorists commit.
We have also introduced an explicit requirement that for an action to be considered terrorism its purpose must, in most circumstances, be to intimidate the public or influence a government. The exception is when firearms or explosives are used. We have provided that to ensure that, for example, assassinations for political or other purposes are definitely covered. Of course, normally the terrorist use of firearms or explosives is a wicked attempt to put the public at fear, and often to influence a government as well, but we do not want the police to feel hindered in any way from acting in situations that most, if not all of us would regard as terrorism--such as assassinations--because it was not clear that either of those elements was present.
I hope that the introduction of this second new element to the definition will be welcome. Many have commented that our definition was seriously flawed because it lacked an explicit link with the concept of terror. That has been rectified. I should add in passing that we have moved, as some had suggested, from speaking of serious violence to serious damage to property. I beg to move.