Orders of the Day — Terrorism Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:15 am on 15th March 2000.

Alert me about debates like this

Amendments made: No. 116, in page 135, line 19, at end insert—

'1984 c. 60.Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.Section 116(5).'.

No. 117, in page 135, line 35, at end insert—

'1995 c. 40.Criminal Procedure (Consequential In Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1995.In Schedule 4, paragraph 72.'.

No. 118, in page 135, line 35, at end insert—

'1995 c. 43.Proceeds of Crime (Scotland) Act 1995.In section 49(1), the definition of "the 1989 Act".'.

No. 119, in page 136, line 4, at end insert—

'1999 c. 22.Access to Justice Act 1999.In paragraph 2(1) of Schedule 2, the word "or" after paragraph (f).'.

No. 120, in page 136, line 12, column 3, at end insert—

'Article 60(2). Article 66(12).'.

No. 121, in page 136, line 23, column 3, leave out "6,".—[Mrs. McGuire.]

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.—[Mr. Charles Clarke]

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 1:25 am, 15th March 2000

I wish that this Bill were not necessary. However, it is very necessary for the protection and security of the people of this country. Throughout our proceedings on Second Reading, in Committee and this evening, the Minister and his team have approached the subject with realism. They have also shown courtesy to the views that have been expressed by hon. Members of all parties.

Conservative Members have some differences of opinion with the Government over some aspects of the Bill, but we agree strongly with the proposals. We agree that the Bill is essential and should be on the statute book swiftly. If there is a Division on Third Reading, we shall support the Government.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara Labour, Kingston upon Hull North 1:26 am, 15th March 2000

I, too, congratulate my hon. Friends the Ministers, who have listened to the debate and tried to meet the points made. I cannot support the Bill wholeheartedly, but I shall not vote against it.

My hon. Friend the Minister of State was right to pay tribute to the work of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, Liberty and the Committee on the Administration of Justice. When he introduced the Bill originally, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary mentioned the work of Gearty and Kimbell in preparing the ground for Lord Lloyd's report. I declare an interest, as I was responsible for that work being produced, with the help of a considerable grant from Unison to the civil liberties department of King's College.

All the bodies that I have mentioned have expressed concern that the Bill does not meet the requirements of the European convention on human rights. Nothing that we have heard in evidence this evening has persuaded me or some other Labour Members that the Bill meets the main thrust of some of the points of the convention.

On Second Reading, I drew attention to some of the points that the Bill failed to meet, and I want to revisit them and see where we have got to.

Clause 3 deals with prescription. Article 11 of the ECHR provides for a right to peaceful assembly and asserts that limitation of that right must be proportionate. Proscription is a cosmetic part of the prevention of terrorism legislation that is little used in the fight against terrorism. We discussed that earlier this evening.

Clause 5 and schedule 3 deal with the appeals commission for proscribed organisations, as we discussed earlier. Judicial review is the first test of appeal. In the case involving gays in the military, the European Court of Human Rights said that that was not sufficient and that the case must be heard on its merits.

Clause 18 deals with the duty to disclose information. Its reversal of the burden of proof is especially dangerous, given the breadth of the definition of terrorism. It contravenes article 10 of the convention, which deals with the right of freedom of expression, in that it limits press freedom to collect information.

Clause 38 deals with the tipping-off offence, and again reverses the onus. It will stifle criticism of police and security and could contravene article 10 of the ECHR.

Clause 39 and 40 deal with powers of arrest, and will allow a constable to make an arrest without a warrant, on the grounds of reasonable suspicion. If such arrests take place to obtain information, rather than to secure a conviction, they will contravene article 5(1)(c) of the convention, which states that the intention behind an arrest must be to bring a suspect before a competent legal authority. Stop and search is contrary to the ECHR. In paragraph 2(6) of schedule 14 and clause 40(3), the right of access to lawyers can be delayed up to 48 hours. The contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) showed how that could breach article 6 of the European convention on human rights on the right of access to legal representation.

Clause 40 and schedule 7 deal with the detention of an individual for up to 48 hours and the exclusion of legal representatives from the application to extend the detention. Again, article 6 demands a right of access to a lawyer. Clause 43 deals with stop and search powers applied to anyone whom a policeman reasonably believes to be a terrorist. That is extremely dangerous, given the wide definition of terrorism, and probably violates article 8 of the ECHR on the right to privacy, unless interference is necessary in a democratic society.

Article 5(1)(c) of the convention provides for arrest, but with the requirement 'that a person is brought before a court. That provision is also contravened. Clauses 56 and 57 deal with offences to possess items and information that give rise to reasonable suspicion that they are being used for terrorist purposes. Again, the reverse onus clauses are included, which possibly breach article 6(2) of the convention on the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Article 10 of the ECHR provides a right to receive and impart information without interference from a public body, even if the ideas shock and disturb the state. That can be overruled only if the benefit to the state outweighs the cost to society. Given the current security climate, coupled with the reverse onus of proof, that would not seem to be a proportionate response.

I do not believe that the Government have faced up to the matters in the convention. I do not intend to divide the House because I think that that will be dealt with effectively and more directly by the European Court of Human Rights and, if not, by our own judges after October of this year. The Minister has, I believe, failed in that respect.

I welcome the independent review. I am only sorry that it is not followed by a guaranteed debate on the Floor of the House, plus an affirmative order, keeping the Bill in operation. The amendment that was not accepted earlier would have made the matter more complete.

It is regrettable that new clause 5 was not debated, because it dealt with the proposed Bill of Rights that is being discussed in Northern Ireland and that will be followed by legislation either later this year or early next year. It will be a problem ensuring that the contents of the proposed human rights Bill are compatible with those of this Bill. It would have been wise to wait for that legislation. I regret that we did not have the criminal law review so that we could compare the two. It is a sad thing that the other place may have it but we will not. It will make judgments that we have been unable to make.

I regret that the Bill is necessary, but I will not divide the House on it.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 1:33 pm, 15th March 2000

I begin with the less controversial matters and thank the Ministers for courteously dealing with these matters in Committee and afterwards, and for the help that their officials have given in providing information. That was much appreciated.

The debate has been appreciated by all right hon. and hon. Members, from all parties. Points were made and answered—we did not just play to each other in a series of monologues. Where we differed, we differed, but at least we tested the opinion of others. I join the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) in thanking those who briefed the Committee generally and individual members personally. I thank Liberty, which is based in my constituency, for its assistance, not least on an amendment on a crucial matter. I also thank the two Northern Ireland organisations, the Committee on the Administration of Justice and the Human Rights Commission.

That leads me to the more controversial element of my remarks. The chief commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission judged at the end of our proceedings—up to yesterday—that the Bill was seriously flawed. The commission is the one human rights body in the United Kingdom that we have set up to give statutory advice to Parliament and to public authorities. If it tells us that we are doing the wrong thing, we should listen carefully.

On Second Reading, my colleagues and I made it clear that we support the idea of a United Kingdom-wide Bill, rather than a partial UK Bill, and a Bill that would get rid of exclusion orders. This Bill does that. However, we said that we did not support the idea of a Bill that could not return to the House for further consideration once it was on the statute book. There is a difference between permanent legislation and legislation that contains no power of review. One can have the permanent framework, but with a power of review. It is a serious defect that the Bill does not have that.

After Second Reading, which we supported because we support the principle of a Terrorism Bill, we suggested having a Special Standing Committee to consider and take evidence on some of the difficult issues—we have now suggested that twice this year, but we do not do it to be tokenism. Tonight's debate has vindicated the wisdom of that proposal. The key issue in the Bill is how one defines terrorism. Clearly, a huge amount of work remains to be done to achieve a definition that would meet with the agreement of large numbers of people in the House and outside it, if that can be achieved. A Special Standing Committee might have been able to make some progress on that matter, but we did not have one. It was left to the debate in Committee.

One of the fundamental flaws that remains in the Bill is the fact that the definition of terrorism is extremely wide and is not targeted. Large groups of people whom we have never contemplated as terrorists may well be caught within it.

Another area of concern is that excessive powers are given to Ministers and the authorities and cannot be reviewed. A further recurrent problem is that far too often the Bill does not uphold the normal legal rights of individuals. Only an hour ago, we debated the reverse burden of proof—defendants have to prove that they are not guilty to establish their innocence.

Our conclusion is that the Bill has not been amended as it badly needed to be, and that it will not be fit for the statute book when it leaves this House—if Third Reading is agreed to—in that it will not sufficiently uphold liberties and does not get the balance right. We had to make the straightforward, but difficult decision whether to continue to support the Bill or to force a vote. We decided collectively that we could not support the Bill as it stands. It has not made the progress that it ought to have made and the other place will have much work to do on it—in particular on the legal aspects and the civil and criminal justice processes—to put it right.

However, as it is important that we have UK-wide legislation on terrorism and because the Bill contains some good provisions, we will not go into the Lobby against the Government tonight—[Interruption.] Nearly all my colleagues have been here all evening and have voted many times against specific provisions of the Bill.

The Bill does not have our support as it needs to be amended significantly. Unless we amend it, it will not get the balance right and the state will end up with excessive powers against the citizen. I hope that the good will and good faith of Ministers will ensure that the work that needs to be done where we and they have said that the Bill is defective, can be done. Above all, if we are to have a Terrorism Bill on the statute book for the whole of the United Kingdom, I hope that we can define terrorism correctly. We regret that we have not made more progress in the three months that the Bill has been in this place.

Photo of Lynne Jones Lynne Jones Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak 1:40 am, 15th March 2000

I shall not detain the House for long. Like most hon. Members, I accept that, unfortunately, the measure is necessary. However, I share the concern of my colleagues about the definition of terrorism used in the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Minister, in rejecting the alternative proposal made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), said that that definition could have included the Yorkshire Ripper as a terrorist. I point out to my hon. Friend the Minister that Peter Sutcliffe terrorised the people of Yorkshire—especially women. Many members of the public might feel that a definition that included such a person would be more acceptable than one that included, for example, the women who inflicted serious violence on Hawk jets or who attempted to inflict serious violence on a Trident submarine.

For that reason, I hope that the Government will use the opportunity afforded during consideration of the Bill in another place to find a new definition that will ensure that the concerns expressed tonight are taken on board.

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington 1:41 am, 15th March 2000

I apologise to my hon. Friends and comrades for detaining them. Many of us had an almost personal relationship with the predecessor legislation to the Bill.

In the early 1980s, Errol and Theresa Smalley approached me because they were concerned about their nephew—Paul Hill—who was one of the first people picked up under the prevention of terrorism Acts, and subsequently framed. I visited him in prison over the years—with my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn). I even attended his wedding in Long Lartin. It took more than half a decade to secure his release.

Throughout the 1980s, many members of the Irish community in this country campaigned for the eradication of the PTA—as did many members of the Labour party. Indeed, at one time, it was the policy of our party to repeal the Act. The PTA was used to harass the Irish community; it was ineffective and a source of injustice.

The Bill makes that legislation permanent. We have rejected the possibility of a parliamentary review; tonight, we rejected the potential for a quinquennial review. The Bill extends the scope of that legislation; it widens the definition to include many people who could never be defined as terrorist. It sets the scene for further miscarriages of justice. I cannot support the Bill and will vote against it.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North 1:43 am, 15th March 2000

I, too, will be brief. I endorse the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell). I also remember clearly the saga of the Guildford Four and the way in which, under the prevention of terrorism Act, wholly innocent people were picked up by the police merely for attending meetings to discuss the situation in Ireland or because they were framed by others. They were subsequently released, but they have never forgotten the scar of interrogation.

Paul Hill was the first person to be arrested under the PTA. From that, followed the misery of the 17 years that he suffered in prison. I had hoped that we would get rid of such draconian legislation.

My worry is that the measure that I suspect the House will accept on Third Reading is draconian. It could be used against people who peacefully and legitimately campaign for change in their own country, but who live in the UK because it is not safe for them to mount such campaigns in their home country. That international dimension needs to be considered.

There is also the question of the rejected amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), which sought to amend the clause that forces people to prove their innocence. That theme runs through the Bill, and it is bad legislation. It shifts the burden from the prosecution to prove an individual's guilt to the individual to prove their innocence, something that is obviously extremely difficult to do.

We have been through the pain of miscarriages of justice—Birmingham, Guildford, Judith Ward, Prem, and many others. Not all those cases were related to the prevention of terrorism Act, but they were miscarriages of justice. Parliament recognised that by setting up the Criminal Cases Review Commission. We recognised that the legal system in this country was not infallible. My concern is that without any possibility of review, the Bill might lead, although I hope that it will not, to further miscarriages of justice.

I suspect that we will be back here very soon, either because the House of Lords will significantly amend the Bill so that it must return here or because it will be overridden by the European convention on human rights and found wanting in European or British courts. I suspect that we will be amending the Bill in the near future. We ought to have better drafting of legislation in the first place so that we do not end up in that situation.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington. I have seen the effect of miscarriages of justice caused by crudely formed legislation to deal with terrorism. I am not in favour of violence or terrorism, but one does not solve those problems by imprisoning the innocent. In fact, one creates a far worse problem because if one imprisons the innocent, what happens to the guilty? The Bill will not do us any good, and we will be back here discussing it in the near future. I shall join my hon. Friend in opposing the Bill.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office 1:46 am, 15th March 2000

I begin by expressing my thanks, first to members of the Committee, Opposition spokesmen and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office for the way in which we have worked. Secondly, I thank the Bill team, who gave tremendous support throughout the proceedings, not only to Ministers but to all members of the Committee. Thirdly, I thank the officials of the House, including Hansard staff and clerks, who have worked extremely effectively. We have had an efficient and full discussion of many of the issues.

We have had a lengthy debate this evening, so I shall try to be brief, but I need to address some of the points that have been made. It is clear that my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) was not satisfied with the answers given in the discussion, and that is entirely his right. However, it is simply not true that the Government have not faced up to the issues. In particular we have directly addressed the implications of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the various issues arising from that. I know that there will be controversy about the issues because people will argue that cases will arise.

The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) and my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) have expressed concern about the inability to return to these issues. The doctrine of the omnicompetence of Parliament has simply not been grasped. There is a series of issues about the ways in which Parliament exercises its scrutiny in discussion, but it is possible, and indeed likely, that Parliament will return to discussion of these issues because it has a right and a duty to do so.

We have had a full discussion about the definitional points. Our definition is right, and it is defensible and positive. I acknowledge the difficulties of balance, and I repeat, as I have said throughout the debate, that we will consider proposals that have been made. I repeat my thanks to those organisations that have sought to make constructive proposals.

The Bill starts from the necessity to recognise the existence of domestic and international terrorism, and the terrible things that terrorists do—blowing planes out of the sky, destroying buildings, blowing up people and knee-capping. There is a vast range of activities. The obligation not only of Ministers but of all elected politicians and legislators is to ask what we can do to address international terrorism, and to do everything in our power to prevent those who want to terrorise us from being able to do so. Our need and our duty is to fight terrorism domestically and internationally, and that is what the Bill is about.

It is absolutely true—it has been a theme running through our discussions—that the need to defeat international and domestic terrorism has to be set against the individual liberties of every citizen in the country and their right to be properly treated under the law. Another theme has been the need to avoid the abuses of justice, to which my hon. Friends the Members for Islington, North and for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell) referred. They are absolutely right to say that we must achieve the right balance.

I say as emphatically as I can that it is our duty both to maintain the rights of individuals under the rule of law and to maintain their right to very existence and life in the face of the threat posed by international terrorism. It is our duty to ensure that we do all in our power to inhibit terrorists' ability to destroy, kill and create a negative atmosphere in our society. That is why we have introduced the Bill, it is why I hope that my hon. Friends will support it and it is why I am grateful for the support of the official Opposition. I commend the Bill to the whole House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 210, Noes 1.

Division No. 114][1.50 pm
Ainger, NickCann, Jamie
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Caplin, Ivor
Allen, GrahamCasale, Roger
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon JamesCawsey, Ian
Atkins, CharlotteChapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Austin, JohnClapham, Michael
Banks, TonyClark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Barnes, Harry
Beard, NigelClark, Paul (Gillingham)
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs MargaretClarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)Clelland, David
Bennett, Andrew FClifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Benton, JoeClwyd, Ann
Berry, RogerCoaker, Vernon
Blackman, LizCoffey, Ms Ann
Blears, Ms HazelCollins, Tim
Borrow, DavidColman, Tony
Bradley, Keith (Withington)Connarty, Michael
Bradshaw, BenCorston, Jean
Burgon, ColinCousins, Jim
Butler, Mrs ChristineCox, Tom
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)Cranston, Ross
Campbell-Savours, DaleCrausby, David
Cummings, JohnMackinlay, Andrew
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)McLoughlin, Patrick
Darvill, KeithMactaggart, Fiona
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)McWalter, Tony
Dawson, HiltonMallaber, Judy
Day, StephenMarsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Dowd, JimMeacher, Rt Hon Michael
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)Merron, Gillian
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)Miller, Andrew
Ennis, JeffMoffatt, Laura
Flint, CarolineMoonie, Dr Lewis
Foster, Rt Hon DerekMoran, Ms Margaret
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)Morley, Elliot
Gapes, MikeMountford, Kali
George, Bruce (Walsall S)Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Gerrard, NeilMurphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Gibson, Dr IanNaysmith, Dr Doug
Gilroy, Mrs LindaO'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Godman, Dr Norman AO'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Godsiff, RogerO'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Goggins, PaulO'Hara, Eddie
Golding, Mrs LlinOlner, Bill
Gordon, Mrs EileenOrgan, Mrs Diana
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)Pearson, Ian
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Pickthall, Colin
Grogan, JohnPike, Peter L
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)Plaskitt, James
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)Pollard, Kerry
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)Pope, Greg
Hanson, DavidPound, Stephen
Heal, Mrs SylviaPrentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Healey, JohnProsser, Gwyn
Hepburn, StephenPurchase, Ken
Heppell, JohnQuin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Hesford, StephenQuinn, Lawrie
Hinchliffe, DavidRammell, Bill
Hope, PhilRapson, Syd
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Hoyle, LindsayRooney, Terry
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Hurst, AlanRowlands, Ted
Hutton, JohnRuane, Chris
Iddon, Dr BrianRussell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Illsley, EricRyan, Ms Joan
Ingram, Rt Hon AdamSalter, Martin
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)Sawford, Phil
Jamieson, DavidSedgemore, Brian
Jenkins, BrianShaw, Jonathan
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)Singh, Marsha
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)Soley, Clive
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)Squire, Ms Rachel
Keeble, Ms SallyStarkey, Dr Phyllis
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)Steinberg, Gerry
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Khabra, Piara SStoate, Dr Howard
Kidney, DavidStrang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Kilfoyle, PeterStraw, Rt Hon Jack
Kumar, Dr AshokStringer, Graham
Laxton, BobStuart, Ms Gisela
Lepper, DavidTaylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Lidington, DavidTaylor, David (NW Leics)
Linton, MartinThomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Lock, DavidTimms, Stephen
Love, AndrewTipping, Paddy
Luff, PeterTodd, Mark
McAvoy, ThomasTouhig, Don
McCabe, SteveTrickett, Jon
McDonagh, SiobhainTurner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
McFall, JohnTurner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
McIsaac, ShonaTurner, Neil (Wigan)
Tynan, BillWinterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Vis, Dr RudiWood, Mike
Walley, Ms JoanWoolas, Phil
Ward, Ms ClaireWorthington, Tony
Watts, DavidWright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
White, BrianWyatt, Derek
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)Tellers for the Ayes:
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)Mr. Clive Betts and
Winnick, DavidMr. Gerry Sutcliffe.
Tellers for the Noes:
Flynn, PaulMr. John McDonnell and
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.