Repeals

Part of Orders of the Day — Terrorism Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:43 am on 15th March 2000.

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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.