I beg to move,
The Terrorism Act 2000 came into force on
I want first to state that there is no party political difference between us this afternoon, and I am grateful to Mr. Letwin, the shadow Home Secretary, for indicating to me issues that may prove appropriate for Privy Council briefings. I need to say now that there is information to do with the time for which particular groups have been monitored and the knowledge about their meetings and base which we would be happy to offer on Privy Council terms. Obviously, there will be questions about whether that is the earliest point at which groups may be proscribed, and I am happy to deal with them. Having moved the motion on proscription, I hope that the whole House will back us.
I do not intend to repeat the long discourse that we had a year ago, or even the statements made since the attack in Bali, as Members are well aware of events, including the escalation that has changed the position radically, as well as the behaviour since
People's heightened awareness since
I am grateful to the Home Secretary, and listened carefully to what he said about security at our airports. I would wish to share information on Privy Council terms, but unfortunately I am not a Privy Councillor. However, I am concerned about our seaports, which are largely unpoliced, with the exception of my port—Tilbury—Felixstowe, and Tees and Hartlepool. Many of us are deeply concerned that our seaports are porous—I think that that is the word—as people are coming in. The immigration authorities, Customs and Excise and the police force are simply not there to provide the necessary cover. I hope that the Home Secretary will reconsider, along with my right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary, creating a national dedicated police force for our seaports.
Following the work on airport security and its relationship to air travel from airports across Europe and the world—an important factor in making our population and people travelling to our country secure from the threat of terrorism—the Transport Secretary has already told me that he is taking a close look at strengthening the present arrangements spelt out by my hon. Friend, which consist of various forms of policing, including port health and environmental health programmes. That has been drawn forcibly to my attention.
We are also interested in putting in place technological surveillance equipment to tackle a wider threat—not simply people entering the country, but materials as well. I make that clear in case anyone who is contemplating terrorist acts or trying to get material into the country is under the misapprehension that we are not taking the necessary steps. We also want to stress, as Sir John did, the importance of people working in and around airports and our ports being vigilant—not merely those who are on policing duties but those going about their usual business.
The report that we are putting in the Library this afternoon demonstrates that we need to tighten all forms of security, not just the obvious ones. It also behoves us to ensure that the public exercise the greatest vigilance. We need to keep our routes in and out of the country open and free. That is critical for the free movement of people, goods and commerce. It is critical that we are not damaged economically or socially, and that those who are determined to perpetrate terrorism do not get an opportunity to disrupt the lives of the nation.
Does the Home Secretary agree that those who have hitherto enjoyed freedom and rights of way through our ports nationally must now accept that, in the interests of security, rights of way may be re-routed?
Wherever there is perceived to be a credible threat, steps will be taken to ensure that people are re-routed or that diversions are put in place to secure the well-being of the public. If there is a specific concern that the hon. Gentleman would like to draw to my attention or to that of my right hon. Friends, I shall be happy to take it forward.
My right hon. and hon. Friends will support the order. I hope that that is a helpful early indication, and I hope that the Home Secretary will feel able, at the appropriate time, to include my right hon. Friends, or me, or an appropriate combination, in the briefings. That would be appreciated, and it would be helpful.
Has the right hon. Gentleman further considered the Select Committee's recommendation of a common border force at our airports and seaports? Given the frequency of concern about security at our ports over the past two years, that seems a strong case well made that merits further attention from the Government.
None of us would dismiss thoughtful contributions on how best to achieve that. There are wider issues of co-operation between the various law enforcement and security agencies, which the Prime Minister, my right hon. Friends and I are examining. I am yet to be convinced that the establishment of another force with another bureaucracy is the right way of achieving the objective. That has a wider read-over to issues that the hon. Gentleman has raised with me before in relation to a European joint border force. Although I have moved policy on to indicating that we would contribute to that, we are not in favour of some centralised administration that would undoubtedly lead to more people being employed in managing it than in securing our borders. I am happy to continue exploring the best way of achieving the common goal.
I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's indication of support. We need to ensure that we are open to scrutiny and that we will answer necessary questions. I have indicated to him and his colleagues over the past 15 months a willingness to ensure that we share the maximum number of facts and the greatest amount of information, and I will continue to do that.
Today, I am asking the House to proscribe a further four organisations, in addition to the 21 that I mentioned earlier. Those four have discernible links with al-Qaeda. Following a number of recent attacks, including the one in Bali, international co-operation and the coherence of evidence and information from security and intelligence services across the world have indicated those links more clearly. That is primarily the answer to the question why we have not banned at least one of those groups, Jemaah Islamiyah, before. The evidence base, the links that have been established, the information from security services, and information that has emerged from other events over the past few months have provided a conclusive case that they are involved with and are part of the broader federal network of al-Qaeda. Of course, evidence has emerged since the tragedy in relation to suspected direct links with the bombing.
The proscribed organisations fall within criteria of which it will be useful to remind hon. Members. They are specified in the definition of terrorism provided in the Terrorism Act 2000, which refers to those who commit or participate in acts of terrorism, prepare for terrorism, promote or encourage it or are otherwise concerned with it. The factors spelt out alongside the original decision a year last February were as follows: consideration by the Home Secretary of the nature and scale of the organisations; the specific threat to the UK or British nationals overseas; and the presence and support of the international community. It is the support of the international community and the threat to our citizens overseas that we have weighed very carefully indeed, along with other factors, in proscribing the four groups.
The proscribed groups are Jemaah Islamiyah, or JI, with which we are familiar in relation to allegations made about the bombing in Bali; Abu Sayyaf, a group based in the Philippines; the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which has links with those whom we believe were involved in the hostage taking in Moscow; and Asbat Al-Ansar, which is based in Lebanon. Attached to the order is an explanatory memorandum that has been available to hon. Members, setting out the reasons why those groups meet the specific criteria and match the factors to which I referred.
Proscription sends a signal. It allows us to deal swiftly with those associated with groups that are committing terror across the world, whether they are members of them or provide support to them. It provides a coherent approach involving the UN and other international partners in seeking to attack and undermine terrorism, and it is also part of the mutuality and solidarity that we have expressed in the House on a number of occasions.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that many of us take the view that such action as has been taken, as well as that being taken today, has been long overdue? He may recall that I asked him and his predecessor in the Select Committee on Home Affairs about allegations made over the years by countries such as Egypt that Britain has been a safe haven for terrorism. I know that successive Home Secretaries have denied that that is the case. Our country should not be a safe haven of any kind for those who aim to engage in terrorism and destroy lives, as has happened so recently in Indonesia.
I agree with my hon. Friend. Whenever evidence is presented, my colleagues and I will act. That is why we are taking action this afternoon; it is also why, after passing the Terrorism Act 2000 and the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, we need to be not only vigilant but prepared to act whenever necessary. I respect the points that hon. Members have made.
As I said previously, we need evidence. It would therefore be helpful if, when countries or their agencies make allegations, instead of doing so through newspapers, they presented us with evidence. It would also be helpful if newspapers checked the credibility of the allegations. Their publication creates an atmosphere of fear and undermines the confidence and morale of those who are at the cutting edge of our actions to combat terrorism. I repeat that I have every confidence in this country's security and intelligence services, which do a first-class job. Long may that continue. Like us, they are learning all the time.
On the speed in making decisions about specific groups, I stress to the shadow Home Secretary that there is no special wisdom in government. We take the evidence that is presented, and respond at speed when people are prepared to provide verifiable evidence. If hon. Members from any party have evidence, I am happy to consider it. Some hon. Members present evidence constantly, and we check the difference between the loud-mouthed extremists who endeavour to provide diversion but, although undoubted irritants, require evidence to show that they are a threat, and those who do not clearly spell out their views or identity precisely because they constitute a greater threat and need to be taken more seriously.
In our democracy, a right of appeal exists. An appeal is made first to the Home Secretary. If he confirms the banning order, a further appeal can be made to the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission. I do not imagine that many people outside the House have heard of it, but it exists.
Does the Home Secretary accept that the commission approaches the matter on the basis of the principles that apply to judicial review and therefore does not review the merits of the original decision?
The commission has to review whether the criteria and the definitions that were debated in 2000, and when the first batch of proscriptions were made in February 2001 apply, and whether the Government and the Home Secretary properly exercised their power. That is fair, given the nature of the threat. We take time to ensure that we accumulate evidence. That is why we did not jump to proscribe only one organisation in the immediate aftermath of Bali. We wanted to have some coherence about the network of links with al-Qaeda, the evidence that could be adduced and the international position.
We want to secure the confidence of the community and the backing of the House, and ensure that we use intelligence to tackle such groups and all their aspects, including support, fundraising, links abroad, thus making it more difficult for al-Qaeda to wreak terrorism across the globe. We take action irrespective of the creed or nationality of those involved. As hon. Members will realise, a variety of groups, which are based in different parts of the world, are linked in a loose federation to those who are determined to take away our freedom and well-being. I am glad that we appear to have the House's wholehearted support in tackling those cells and that network.
The Opposition welcome and support the measures that the Home Secretary has taken today. I hope that nothing that I ask will be perceived as detracting from that support. I am also aware that the Home Secretary, and any occupant of that office, bears a heavy burden, and that it is difficult to discern reality from phantoms, or to know how best to proceed even when reality appears to have a certain shape. I am conscious that it is difficult—indeed, impossible, in some cases—to disclose the basis for some of the decisions that are made. That is a natural feature of this area of our national life.
Within the limits of those constraints, I have given the Home Secretary notice that I want to probe the question of the timetable that led to the proscription of Jemaah Islamiyah today rather than at an earlier date. I wish to do so not because that has any practical import today—after all, the Home Secretary has now proscribed it, and we welcome that—but because it will help to illuminate whether the system as a whole and the legislative framework that backs it are working as well as we would mutually hope.
I am extremely conscious that it is of great importance—as I hope the Home Secretary and the spokesman for the Liberal Democrats will agree—that we continue to have a framework within which there is a system of appeal, to which the Home Secretary rightly referred. Of course, if there is such a system, it will be necessary for the Home Office to accumulate reasonably robust evidence—albeit disclosable only in camera—before making a decision to proscribe, because otherwise the commission would overturn the proscription. I utterly accept, therefore, that there will inevitably be delays that would not occur if we were operating a system of proscription by fiat without appeal. I would be the last person in the House to suggest such a system. Indeed, the Home Secretary and I have had debates in the past on other matters in which I have been keen to strengthen the system of appeal, so I recognise the obligation on us to accept that there will be delays as a result of the appeals system.
Nevertheless, the question arises as to why this has taken so long, and I want to ask five particular questions about that. First, how long has it been known, or guessed, by the security services that there was a link between Jemaah Islamiyah and al-Qaeda? Secondly, was it known that JI was active in Thailand at the beginning of the year, as has been reported? I do not know whether those reports are accurate; I am merely asking whether that was known. Thirdly, how long has it been known that the Indonesian authorities believed that JI was connected with the terrible events that took place there at Christmas 2000? Fourthly, what liaison was there between our agencies and the Singaporean authorities when or after the Singaporean authorities detained a considerable number of suspected JI agents—13, I think—in December 2001? Finally, when the Government of the Philippines detained nine people—in May 2002, I think—alleged to be connected to JI, did that Government inform our security apparatus of the basis on which they were proceeding? If so, why did that not lead to proscription at that stage?
I re-emphasise that none of this had an unhappy result for Britain. There is no reason to suppose, for example, that the bombings in Bali would have been less likely to occur had proscription occurred earlier. I do not believe that any adverse practical consequences have flowed from the delay, and the Home Secretary has now taken the step that needed to be taken. No blame attaches either to him, to the Home Office or to the security services. I am grateful to him for making the offer to explain this matter in further detail on other terms. It is important, however, for the House—and perhaps, in due course, the Intelligence Committee—to understand whether the system is capable of responding as fast as the quite proper legal restraints enable it to do. If the Home Secretary can reassure us, now and later, on that point, he will have our backing not only today but, as we move forward, for the continued operation of a system that is certainly much better than no such system.
I shall not detain the House, because a number of hon. Members want to speak in this brief debate. I want to pick up on and amplify the matter that I raised in an intervention on the Secretary of State, and to raise a further issue.
I am deeply concerned about these and other terrorist groups, the growing menace of human trafficking and the likelihood of terrorist materials coming in through our sea ports. The Home Office—I am not referring to the Home Secretary himself—and other agencies do not sufficiently appreciate the nature of our sea ports. I represent the port of Tilbury, which is a secure port with it own dedicated police force, and very professional it is too. Incidentally, it celebrated its bicentenary this weekend. I am proud of the force, which is part of a much wider Port of London police force, which has now gone into decline.
In decades past, some ports were policed by the British Transport police, but only a few ports—Tilbury, Felixstowe, Tees and Hartlepool, one on Merseyside, Larne, Belfast, Dover and perhaps a few others—have a dedicated police force. Those forces are very professional, but in many other sea ports and wharfs, including some in my constituency outside the port of Tilbury, boats come in every day. I am convinced that, day after day, people get off those boats and come into the United Kingdom unchallenged, because the immigration authorities and Customs and Excise are not present and there is no dedicated police force.
I note what the Home Secretary said in response to Simon Hughes about the concept of a wider border authority for the European Union, and I am with the hon. Gentleman on that. That issue has wider implications and should be raised in a summit. I urge the Home Secretary to discuss with colleagues in his Department and across Departments the need for a dedicated national police force along the lines of the Ports Canada police and the coastguard in the United States of America. Such a force should operate in the United Kingdom. How would it be paid for? That is always the grubby problem. A small charge on each container going into our ports and a small nominal charge on each passenger passing through them could sustain an effective ports police.
Such a force would not be instead of Customs and Excise, the immigration service and other agencies, but would buttress them. It would provide a safety net and could develop skills and expertise, and use the technology to which the Home Secretary referred. That technology is being introduced at good ports, because the port managements are investing in it. The port of Tilbury has done a great deal, and is using some wonderful technology, which I do not understand, that can see inside containers. It can prevent human trafficking, terrorism and the other crimes that take place in our ports. That is not happening in some of its competitor ports. There is an issue of fairness and competition. All ports in the United Kingdom should have the same standards of integrity when combating crime and terrorism. I hope that the Home Secretary will think about that—I could amplify those ideas further in a meeting if that would be useful.
The Home Secretary referred to this technology in the summer. I would have tabled some parliamentary questions had we been sitting, but we do not yet sit in the summer. There was a report of radioactive material coming through the port of Felixstowe. Funnily enough, it was eventually stopped in Tilbury, although it was nothing to do with the port of Tilbury. The technology worked, but the human response failed.
I fully accept and abide by your ruling, Mr. Speaker. In my defence, I should say that it was the Home Secretary who referred to the technology at ports, not me. I noted that, because I thought that you might call me to order. He was the guilty man, not me, but I shall move on. The Home Secretary might know of the incident to which I refer. I realise that the question of security is involved, but I would welcome the opportunity to talk to him or his colleagues about this issue.
I have discussed in the Foreign Affairs Committee and with the Foreign Secretary my great anxiety about the presence in our scientific postgraduate institutions of members of groups such as those that are the subject of this order who are studying doctorates. The scientific community in this country is transient. It is a high-income earner for the United Kingdom, and long may it flourish, but all the indications are that our security and intelligence services and academia have not the foggiest idea who some of these people are. That constitutes a great void in our security and intelligence services, and I hope that the Home Secretary will refer to it. The organisations mentioned in the order could well have people working at the University of London, in Bloomsbury, at Imperial College, or at other of our great and proud institutions. Such people might be working on proper research 95 per cent. of the time, but what we do not know is what they are doing during the other 5 per cent., and what they have kept in the back of the fridge.
I told the Home Secretary and the House that my colleagues and I will support the order in this House, and in the other House later today. Given that this is the first debate on this issue for more than a year, it is appropriate first to join Ministers and others by reaffirming our solidarity and sympathy with the huge number of people who, since we last debated proscription and terrorist organisations, have suffered at the hands of terrorists. Atrocious numbers were killed in the United States in the late summer of last year. According to the latest figures, 184 people were killed in Bali just a couple of weeks ago, of whom 14 were UK citizens, and according to research carried out by my assistant with the help of our very good Library staff, the intelligence suggests that other terrorist activities that took place between
The Home Secretary is right to say that we need to be continually vigilant in this matter, and the Government are right to say that proscription must be kept under permanent review. As I have always made clear, we have an obligation to have legislation that helps to counter terrorism. Although he was not in his current post at the time, the Home Secretary may remember my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I arguing for the end of the old anti-terrorist legislation that split the UK into two parts—Northern Ireland in one category, and Great Britain in the other—and for comprehensive legislation that treats all parts and all citizens equally. That is why we welcomed the principle of the 2000 Act and accepted the principle of proscription. Sometimes, it is necessary to take the drastic step of telling those who belong to, work for and associate themselves with certain organisations that such activities are unacceptable in this country. We still hold to that view, which is why we will support the order, and consider it absolutely right that this country reserve the power to proscribe certain organisations in the right way.
To pick up on a phrase that the Home Secretary used, we should, of course, never be a haven for terrorists. The justifiable argument was made that we perhaps unwittingly became such a haven, in part, during the late 1990s. There is a difficult balance to strike. We must not become such a country, but on the other hand we must be a haven for free speech and liberty for those who, within the law, want to be critical of—in spoken word and in writing—regimes, faiths and practices that they consider unacceptable. I therefore hope that the Home Secretary—of whom I, like Mr. Letwin, would like to ask a few questions—will accept the good faith of our position.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that proscription often leads to fragmentation and splinter groups, which go underground and change their names? Sometimes, proscription can lead to greater difficulties, rather than addressing current ones.
The hon. Lady has clear local experience of that issue in Northern Ireland, and I understand her point. When we debated the legislation in Committee, her party's nominee on the Committee was sometimes critical—as were other Opposition Members—of some of the terminology, definitions and processes put forward by the Government, and that was because of his Northern Ireland experience. Now that we have common legislation that proscribes both Irish organisations and international organisations, we have a common interest in ensuring that we get it right. One of my questions for the Home Secretary is how we can get it right so that banning one organisation does not just force the people involved to invent themselves in another guise and carry on, with the inevitable lead time before that guise is also banned.
I have a question on timing, which is not meant to be accusatorial. The Home Secretary puts the names of four organisations before us today, which are all extremist Islamic organisations. The first, Jemaah Islamiyah, is based in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, and was put on the proscribed list by the United States, Australia and the United Nations only in the past couple of days or weeks. I have not been able to check whether it is on the European Union list yet. What triggered the Government's view that the organisation should be proscribed? I understand the delicacy of the intelligence issues, but that organisation clearly has a reputation in the areas in which it is based that has given real cause for concern.
As for the other three organisations, Abu Sayyaf is based in the Philippines, Asbat Al-Ansar is based in the Lebanon and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is—self-evidently—based in that former Soviet state in Asia. All those organisations appear to have been put on the EU list last October. What link is there between a decision by the EU to put them on its list and the Government's decision to put them on our list? I accept the point, which was well made by the Home Secretary, that we must not act simply on the basis of somebody's assertion of the case against an organisation. The Home Secretary has himself had experience of a case in which someone was arrested in this country but then acquitted because the United States did not produce the evidence that the authorities had been led to believe—in good faith, I am sure— would be forthcoming. The Government are right to make their own intelligence assessment and not rely on arguments put forward by another country that might have different motives to which we might not always wish to subscribe.
Can the Home Secretary confirm that to his knowledge none of those organisations are or have been active in the United Kingdom or are or have been a threat to our interests here? I understand that in relation to activities in Indonesia, there was a clear threat if those killed included British citizens—indeed, the organisation in question there showed that it is a threat to the international community. Is it sufficient for the purposes of the legislation for the Home Secretary to be of the view that a threat exists abroad?
Can the Home Secretary tell us when we may expect Lord Carlile's review, taking place under the process for checking on the legislation? It is due in the near future and will be helpful as an independent review of the working of the legislation. Does the Home Secretary remember whether the Government said in Committee that they would also undertake a regular review process? What is the mechanism for doing that?
The Home Secretary may remember that the Liberal Democrats had some arguments with the Government about the definition of terrorism. I shall not rehearse them today, but we argued for a narrower definition. We accept that we lost the argument, but we were also concerned that the legislation was a matter of proscribe first, review later. On that key issue, will the Home Secretary give further consideration to seeking the advice of the Intelligence and Security Committee—on which my right hon. Friend Mr. Beith serves—to obtain an independent view on every case in which he is minded to proscribe? That could be done very quickly. In some circumstances, it might not be possible immediately, but it would still remain a parliamentary backstop. I should be grateful if the Home Secretary would give consideration to that process, not least because it would give him support for his propositions in connection with information that cannot always be available to the House or the country.
It has been suggested outside the House that one currently proscribed organisation, the Sri Lankan Tamil organisation the LTTE, might be a candidate for de-proscription, as it has been de-proscribed in Sri Lanka. Given the peace process that is under way, will the Home Secretary say whether de-proscription of the LTTE is under active consideration? Which organisations currently on the list have appealed to the Home Secretary and, beyond him, to the commission? I presume that any organisation still on the list was unsuccessful in its appeal, but whether an organisation has appealed—and to which level—should not be a secret.
Finally, I represent a constituency with a significant multi-faith community that includes Muslims. We have to do another job that is the opposite of banning organisations. We have to educate young people who might be tempted to serve the causes of bad people. It might be useful for any such education process to list the banned organisations, and to ensure that correct information is propagated. That would ensure that people were not under any misapprehension that the organisation to which they were being recruited was involved in justified activity, whether it be in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Philippines or Indonesia. Will the Home Secretary consider ways to ensure that the communities affected—in this case, the Islamic community—can have the information that will help people with good motives to avoid entrapment in organisations that will lead them badly astray?
This is an important debate. The level of unanimity among hon. Members of all parties shows how seriously we take it. In the past, my party asked that organisations be proscribed separately rather than collectively. We argued that differences of view about organisations meant that it was impossible to vote on them all together. We hold to that view. As it happens, we believe that each of the four organisations in the order pass the test and therefore we agree that they should be proscribed. However, we hope that the Home Secretary will consider separate proscriptions for each organisation. We also hope that there will be separate votes, if not separate debates, if the matters come before the House again while he is in office.
I think that I have asked about 150 parliamentary questions on these matters over the past couple of years. My file of correspondence is probably as fat as my right hon. Friend's, but he will be interested to know that I do not propose to raise with him the question of the people whom he called loud-mouthed irritants. I assume that they include Abu Hanza, although I believe that he is a threat in a way that my right hon. Friend does not.
Moreover, press reports suggest that Abu Qatada, one of the spiders at the centre of the terrorist web in Europe,is now in detention. I am pleased about that, and hope that the reports are correct. However, I want to raise the question of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, about which I was in correspondence with my right hon. Friend earlier in the year.
I have been looking at the criteria employed for the proscription of some of the organisations. The PFLP seems to meet all of them, but has not been proscribed. That seems rather odd. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said earlier that proscription required that there be a specific threat to the UK or its nationals, or to those who support the international community's campaign against terrorism. Again, in that context, I am surprised that the PFLP is not on the proscribed list.
In a letter dated
The PFLP has a long history of terrorism, going right back to 1968. I do not propose to go into it this afternoon, but it virtually invented aircraft hijacking with the 1970 black September hijacking, when Leila Khaled was detained in the United Kingdom after the death of a terrorist and serious injury to a flight attendant on an El Al airliner. That terrorism has developed and grown since those early days and I was very surprised that Leila Khaled was allowed into this country earlier this year.
In recent times, the PFLP has become increasingly active in terrorist attacks. It rejects the peace process and its leadership is very hard line. In the past year, in particular, there have been some serious incidents, which mirror and, indeed, go far beyond those described on the list in the explanatory memorandum for today's debate. For example, Jemaah Islamiyah is being proscribed because of its links with al-Qaeda and the memorandum mentions
Xplanning attacks against several targets in Singapore".
In the past year, the PFLP attempted an attack on Ben Gurion international airport using a car bomb, which was mercifully foiled by the Israeli security services. Mohammed Kandas, a PFLP organiser, told his interrogators that he had been recruited in Iraq in 1988.
In the same month, there was an attempted attack on the Maccabiah games in Jerusalem. Salem Taleb Al-Darawi, of the PFLP, was one of those involved. It was described as a Xjoint operation" and a PFLP militia group was involved. Perhaps most chilling of all was the attempt to bring down the Israeli equivalent of the twin towers when, on
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is being proscribed because it is supposed to have launched a sophisticated bombing campaign in Tashkent, which was directed against the Uzbekistan regime. We should note that it was not directed against UK interests. However, in the past few months the PFLP has organised more bomb attacks. On
I make no apology for the organisation to which my hon. Friend refers, although I certainly see a distinction—even if he does not—between it and the organisations that have been proscribed, and I deplore all forms of terrorism. He referred to the totally unjustified killing of Israeli civilians, including children, which is absolutely deplorable. I hope that he will deplore the killing of Palestinian civilians and children by the Israeli authorities in the occupied territories.
Obviously, I hear what my hon. Friend says and any deaths in the middle east are to be regretted. We need to do what we can to achieve a ceasefire, but one of the keys to that is an end to Palestinian terrorism. However, that is not the issue that I am dealing with today.
We are told that Asbat Al-Ansar is being proscribed because of its activities in the Lebanon, which we are told in the memorandum have
Xbeen limited to small-scale bombing and assassinations".
We can contrast that with the assassination of the Israeli Tourism Minister, Rechavam Ze'evi, on
We are told that we should be supporting the international community. After the assassination of the Israeli Cabinet Minister, even the Palestinian Authority allegedly outlawed the military wing of the PFLP, yet we do not even seem to be doing the little that the Authority has done.
In June this year, the European Union declared the PFLP a terror organisation. To follow up the point made by Simon Hughes, there is a relationship between our domestic anti-terrorism laws and decisions taken by the EU. I understood that the EU decision to proscribe the PFLP as a terror organisation meant that, as one of the 15 member states, we, too, must take action by—at the least—freezing the funds and assets of the PFLP. If we accept that EU decision, I fail to understand why we are not proscribing the PFLP under the order.
We are told that we have to consider the threat to the United Kingdom and to UK citizens. There is no doubt that the PFLP is active on university campuses in the UK, as my hon. Friend Andrew Mackinlay suggested. For example, in January 2001 and May 2002, Leila Khaled visited the UK, but apparently we cannot prosecute her because in 1970 our laws against hijacking were not as strong as they are nowadays. If those offences had been committed today, she would have been jailed, presumably for life; yet she is allowed to come and go with impunity because the PFLP is not a proscribed organisation. In Manchester and at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, she reportedly justified suicide bombings. In the Daily Telegraph of
Xa lot of supporters here".
Indeed, an organisation has been formed—the Che-Leila Youth Brigade—which is primarily a student group and has been sending British students to the West Bank and to Gaza.
The PFLP has never accepted the peace process in the middle east. The organisation is rejectionist. It has never renounced its intention to mount attacks overseas against Israeli citizens and, indeed, those who get caught in such attacks. We must not forget that, in 1994, the PFLP attempted to blow up the Israeli embassy in Britain. It is a terrorist organisation and has become increasingly active. We are being asked to proscribe four organisations and I cannot understand why the PFLP is not the fifth on the list.
It is right that we should not let the motion pass undebated and that several right hon. and hon. Members should participate in the debate. The motion is important. I raise no objection to the proscription of these organisations. I am perfectly prepared to accept that they genuinely are terrorist organisations that constitute a threat to us all. None the less we need to be clear that the order is draconian and that it affects British citizens dramatically.
If you will forgive me, Madam Deputy Speaker, I shall remind the House of the extent to which the rights of British citizens are affected. British citizens are made the subject of the criminal law and their rights to support political organisations are constrained by what is very largely an Executive action.
The explanatory memorandum is helpful. Section 11 of the Act makes it an offence to belong to a proscribed organisation. That offence is punishable by 10 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine. Section 12 makes it an offence to seek support, financial or otherwise, for those proscribed organisations. That, too, is subject to a 10-year maximum prison sentence and/or an unlimited fine.
Section 13 of the Act makes it an offence to carry placards, for example, or wear the insignia of the proscribed organisations. That, too, is backed by a sentence of imprisonment and/or a fine. Of course there are very wide powers in the Act to seize, detain and forfeit the property of proscribed organisations, and the full range of the powers in the Act are applied to terrorist organisations.
The fact that the four organisations are largely situated outside the United Kingdom should not blind us to the fact that there may be British citizens in this country who, prima facie, support them. So we are ourselves by this proscription greatly extending the scope of the criminal law to the British citizen, and we need to be absolutely clear about the gravity of what we are doing. We therefore need to consider the procedure by which the House—it is ultimately the House—makes the order.
To start with, the Home Secretary—or, of course, his successor—has to form a belief that the organisation in question is a terrorist organisation, and I shall return to that in a moment. Assuming that the right hon. Gentleman reaches that conclusion, he will lay an order— which will doubtless be passed by the House and, indeed, the other place, because it is subject to the affirmative procedure. But let us be absolutely clear about the fact that no hon. Member, with the exception of the right hon. Gentleman, knows the nature of the evidence on which the proscription takes place, so we are entitled to ask how the British citizen affected by the order can challenge it.
I shall tell the House. The British citizen can apply for the proscribed organisation to be de-proscribed by applying to the person who proscribed it in the first instance, and if by any chance the Home Secretary says no, one is entitled to ask what then is the appeal. Well, that is where the difficulty arises. There is no proper appeal; there is a commission. I am not blackguarding the commission—I am perfectly prepared to accept that it is staffed by very eminent and respectable people—but its powers are limited because it reviews the Home Secretary's exercise of his powers in accordance with the principles that govern judicial review. In other words, the appeal is not an appeal against the merits of the Home Secretary's decision—oh, no—it is an appeal about the procedure. Provided that the Home Secretary got the procedure right—in other words, he did not act ultra vires or in any unreasonable manner—the decision not to de-proscribe stands because there is no review of the merits. The review applies the principles of judicial review to the procedure or the exercise of the powers. That is different.
The issues that my right hon. and learned Friend raises are worthy of debate, but does he agree that the criteria on the basis of which the Home Secretary makes the judgment are not just whether the organisation is in his view a terrorist organisation, but whether it poses a specific threat to the United Kingdom or to British nationals overseas; whether it has a significant presence in this country; and whether there is a need to ban it to support other members of the international community in the global fight against terrorism. Given that those are the criteria on the basis of which the Home Secretary is called to judge the matter, does it not follow that the proceedings will be parallel to those in the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, or judicial review on the basis of a full display of the evidence? The merits themselves cannot be questioned, but the commission will tend to ask the question that it is appropriate to ask in the light of the Wednesbury unreasonableness test. So will the commission not be investigating precisely whether the Home Secretary has sufficient evidence to be a reasonable person in making that decision? Is that not a sufficient safeguard?
That may be true. Clearly, the commission in question determines whether the Secretary of State was acting intra vires and whether he was acting reasonably. That is different, however, from deciding whether the decision was right, and/or whether the evidence was sufficient on its merits to justify the conclusion. That is a different matter from reviewing procedure.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is, of course, right. He has been consistent, and he is consistently right. It should be possible for the merits to be explored by a court, and that can be done without jeopardising security. I hope that he will elaborate on that point in the short time that is available.
I was going to come to the next point, which is that there is a limited right of appeal to the Court of Appeal. In that regard, I am talking about the jurisdiction of England and Wales and not outside—Lady Hermon will forgive me if I do not refer to Northern Ireland on this point.
A right exists to appeal to the Court of Appeal in England and Wales, but only on a point of law and from the commission—there are rules in relation to getting leave for that. I return to the point that, in reality, the criminal law is being extended and civil rights curtailed without anybody outside the Home Office having the opportunity to review the evidence. I view that, as a matter of principle, with great anxiety; that is not to say that it is not right in this case, but we should be very cautious.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will remember that when we debated the Bill, he, I and others sought to amend it to allow a review before prescription by a judicial authority that there were reasonable grounds. If the legislation were amended along those lines, would he be satisfied, or at least partly satisfied, that that would deal with the Executive power unqualified of which he is now critical?
It would be better than the current position, but I will make a particular proposal, too. I have expressed my anxieties, and I now want to identify some further questions. I know that the hon. Member for North Down wants to contribute, and I shall give way in good time.
First, we need to be conscious that what are being proscribed are terrorist organisations. Terrorism is defined broadly in section 1 of the Act. Of course, that definition catches the four organisations that are the subject of the order, many of which are related to al-Qaeda. By definition, however, it also catches, for example, people who want to supplant Saddam Hussein. Distinctions exist between sheep and goats in relation to terrorism. Some terrorists are goats, and some are sheep. The interesting question is who makes that decision. In theory, of course, the House decides, as it has the right to refuse the order. As Simon Hughes rightly said, however, this is a rolled-up order dealing with four named organisations. It would be better by far to have single orders dealing with the four separate organisations.
If I may, I shall finish this point, and then I shall give way.
The point is that we need to know more definitively how the distinction between one set of terrorism, which we regard as good because it does not threaten us, and another set of terrorism, which we regard as bad because it does, is made. Nothing in the Act provides for that; it is entirely discretionary.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows as well as anybody—perhaps better, owing to his ministerial experience—how difficult it is for a liberal democracy to protect itself while protecting civil liberties, and, at the same time, to try as far as is possible to deny those who want to destroy us the opportunity of doing so. Although the right hon. and learned Gentleman says that there is no evidence—I do not expect the Home Secretary to give us all the detailed information any more than he does—I notice that he has not questioned the information supplied to us in the explanatory memorandum. Would he not be on safer ground if he said that he does not accept what the Home Secretary has stated in the memorandum, and that he therefore disputes that the named groups are terrorist organisations?
I do not think that is fair criticism. In the first place, I have made it plain to the House that I am perfectly prepared to accept that the proscription of these four organisations is fair. The point that I wish to make is that the consequences are pretty draconian for British citizens. We therefore need to establish better ways of ensuring that the evidence is good.
That takes me to the point that I wanted to make in response to the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey, and which has also been raised by another hon. Member. I asked rhetorically why the Joint Intelligence and Security Committee of both Houses should not review the quality of the intelligence material on the basis of which the Home Secretary acts. It would at least be able to form a view as to the quality of that material. In a sense, that would be a review of the merits of the decision.
I have a couple of other direct questions for the Home Secretary. First, which Minister decides on proscription? I refer to the substance and not the form.
I am very glad to learn that. I recall from my time in the Home Office—and in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office—that there is a tendency to delegate decisions down to junior Ministers before the submission goes up to the Home Secretary. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is saying that the decision is not delegated to junior Ministers or officials, but that it is taken exclusively by him.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman used the word Xhope". I have just said—therefore, it is a fact—that, on this and every other terrorism and security-related issue, I take the decisions personally.
I am very glad to hear that, but I want to press the right hon. Gentleman a bit further. On what basis does he act? Is it exclusively a paper-based exercise? In other words, does he rely exclusively on a file or does he ask the relevant officials from GCHQ, the security services or whatever to come and make a presentation to him? I would like to know the answer, because I would be more cautious about a paper-based exercise than I would if the right hon. Gentleman summoned officials to a meeting and quizzed them. That is what he should do. How much consultation is held with intelligence services from other countries? That issue is important.
I have two final points. First, I very much agree with the point that the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey made about regular reviews. They can be carried out in various ways, but I should like to think that a regular review would take place within the Home Office of whether these or any other organisations should be subject to proscription.
I know that the hon. Member for North Down has been waiting patiently, but I wish to refer to justice. Let us never lose sight of the fact that we are curtailing civil and political rights and that we are extending the criminal law to British citizens who may or may not be our constituents. It is very easy to be unjust in the context of a crisis, an emergency or terrorism. I put those arguments to the Home Secretary during the debates on the Terrorism Act 2000.
I have, in a sense, come to where I want to rest. I would be happy to help in the establishment of a review committee that would address the merits of proscription. The consequences of proscription are perhaps graver than we all appreciate. The fact that the House is nearly empty may be evidence of that. The fact is that we can commit serious acts of injustice in the context of a national emergency, and the House must be slow in becoming party to such a process. We must scrutinise such orders as carefully and as closely as we can within the accepted procedures.
It is a pleasure to follow Mr. Hogg. I agree with his view that it is an important measure, so it is a matter of regret that the Chamber is so empty on this occasion.
I preface my remarks by saying that the experience of living through 30 years of terrorism in Northern Ireland colours one's impressions when speaking on any measure that deals with terrorism and extends the powers of the Home Secretary. It is with the appalling consequences that thousands of people in Northern Ireland have had to endure for those 30 years in mind that we welcome the fact that we are tightening measures to combat terrorism, not just in the United Kingdom, but around the world, where Governments are taking collective action and rightly standing shoulder to shoulder with the Prime Minister. I assure the Home Secretary that although other Members from the Ulster Unionist party are not here in body, they are with him in spirit. To quote the Prime Minister, we stand shoulder to shoulder with him in tightening measures to combat the awful scourge and threat of terrorism.
However—I realise that it is an awful moment when an hon. Member uses that word—there are two matters on which I would welcome the Home Secretary's comments. The first relates to the statement of compatibility with the European convention on human rights, on which I should like guidance. The Home Secretary knows that, according to the convention, everyone within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom, irrespective of their nationality, is guaranteed the right to life and to freedom from degrading and inhumane treatment. If a non-British national who is within the jurisdiction of the UK is a member of, or associated with, any of the four proscribed organisations listed in the order, can he be deported to a country where he will almost certainly be put to death or at least subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment or torture? I am greatly worried about the powers that we are taking to ourselves because the rights, privileges and the guarantees of the convention apply to everyone in the jurisdiction, irrespective of nationality.
My second concern relates to what I said when I intervened on Simon Hughes. Although proscription rightly sends out a strong signal to terrorist organisations, as the Home Secretary said, it often leads to fragmentation of those organisations, which go underground and rename themselves. That has been our experience in Northern Ireland of both loyalist and republican organisations, although internal feuding has also been a factor.
I shall not give a comprehensive list because I do not want to delay hon. Members, but the loyalist list includes the UDA, the UFF, the UVF, the Red Hand Commandos and the Red Hand Defenders. They have rebranded many times, primarily because of proscription, but also because of internal feuding. On the other side of the coin, the list of republican organisations started with the IRA. After a falling out, the list was extended to include the Official IRA and the Provisional IRA. The Real IRA, Continuity IRA and the INLA are also now on the list, to name but a few. Will the Home Secretary reassure me that the proscription of the four organisations will not follow the similar tragic pattern of proscribed terrorist organisations in Northern Ireland?
I am grateful to right hon. and hon. Members for the manner in which they have addressed the issues, and I will endeavour to respond to the wide range of the questions that have been asked. If questions remain that I have not tackled, I shall be happy to answer them in correspondence. As I indicated at the beginning of the debate, I shall deal on Privy Council terms with issues that require security clearance.
I assure Lady Hermon that we need to be vigorous in pursuing the intentions of proscription. If an organisation reconfigures itself—I used the term Xreconfigure" earlier in the debate—and reappears with the same members presenting themselves in a different guise, it must fall under the original proscription. The key task, of course, is to ascertain that a group has done so, and I would not demur from the inference that the task needs to be performed with vigour and clarity. In other words, we have not fallen off a log, and we know that simply changing a name or vaguely reconfiguring the membership would constitute a prima facie case. I am happy to continue to discuss that, and I shall do so with the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The issue was also raised by Simon Hughes.
I want to make it clear that the use of these powers and the designation of proscription are designed not to damage the interests of any individual but to protect the interests of the wider community. The hon. Member for North Down asked me about the process whereby an individual would, prima facie, be sent to certain death or torture. Such considerations were the reason for the establishment of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission under the 1997 Act of the same name, and for it being given powers that are wide enough to review raison d'etre and to consider evidence in camera for the decision of certification. Obviously, those provisions would apply if an individual were deemed to be a member of a proscribed organisation and was to be ejected from the country on the grounds that their presence was not conducive to the public good.
Mr. Hogg raised several issues—fervently, as he always does. I repeat my view that all security and intelligence issues, including proscription and the issuing of warrants, should be the job of the Home Secretary, and I take that very seriously because the buck stops here.
I make it clear to all hon. Members that, as Mr. Letwin rightly and generously said, I find decisions on proscription or the issuing of certificates weighty issues that have to be tackled with the utmost seriousness and care and in great detail. The unit established in the Home Office is able to provide that detail because it draws from the security and intelligence services evidence that they have adduced and evidence that they have gleaned from other such services throughout the world, with whom they have tremendous relationships.
The intelligence services—MI5, MI6, GCHQ and the defence intelligence service—have the best possible relations and, therefore, the ability to draw on and share information. That is crucial for the evidence that we use, particularly concerning organised international terrorism. All four organisations in this measure are being proscribed on the basis of their international action rather than—this answers one or two of the questions raised—the presence in the United Kingdom of individuals who can be shown to be members of the organisations. However, we are concerned about the general support, financial or otherwise, that may be given to those organisations, which is why the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I acted as we did following the UN decision last week.
In response to a question by the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham, I have to say that there is always a difficult issue concerning the proportionality and balance between the rights of individuals in a free society and the protection and public interest of that society as a whole. We debated that at length last year, and we will continue to debate it because we are a democracy. We will continue also to debate the nature of those who review the actions of the democratically elected Parliament, embodied in the Executive who are held to account, this afternoon and on many other occasions, by Parliament. The review should be conducted by people who can ask questions about the process described by the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham, as well as the evidence base and the way in which that relates to the original terms of the legislation and the definitions that I gave earlier. We should not consider democracy by Parliament and elected representatives more flawed and less reliable and secure than democracy by judicial methods—the two go hand-in-hand and are pillars supporting the same structure of protection. It is important that people do not think that the democracy that we have constructed is less secure and less of a democracy because we do not constantly hand over final decisions to those who are not elected and do not have that accountability or responsibility.
As usual, the Home Secretary is giving a fair view of sensitive matters, which are rightly confidential. No one in the House would impugn his personal integrity. Nevertheless, I hope that he agrees that, in the interests of justice, it should be possible for a court to scrutinise in camera the merits of a decision made by him or one of his successors with the appropriate advocate chosen from a pool of prolocutors in a process similar to that used by the SIAC system.
We could obviously debate whether the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission goes far enough in reviewing matters that we are reviewing and in being able to provide a proper form of appeal. I was asked earlier about appeal and de-proscription. If an organisation—the example given was LTTE, but others are also relevant—provides evidence that it has forsworn terrorism and is clearly distanced from it, here or internationally, it is important that we take evidence from the country that has suffered most and consider whether it is still actively raising funds and engaged in other ways with international terrorism. If so, it should be proscribed. That process can take place; the organisation can produce evidence and argue its case properly, not just to the Home Secretary but to the commission. We must take a reasonable and rational view—if the organisation believes it has a case, it can take that action. I shall supply the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey with a list, but some appeals are going through at the moment, so I shall not comment any further. Lord Carlile's review is due in February, and a 15-month review will be debated in Parliament on the back of the sunset clause in the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. There are so many review bodies and commissions, including those that rightly review all the warrants and certificates that I sign, that they almost constitute an industry. That is a proper safeguard, albeit one that is little known to the outside world, which assumes that we make a decision, then go away and that is the end of it. It is not, of course.
I am grateful for the Home Secretary's helpful answer. To take up a proposal made on a couple of occasions, will he consider whether an existing body of parliamentarians—the democratically elected members of the Intelligence and Security Committee—may be given an additional brief reviewing intelligence prior to future decisions about proscription?
I am minded to try to keep the balance of the Intelligence and Security Committee, for which we all have a great deal of respect. However, I am prepared to consider the kind of evidence that its members can take on Privy Council terms. I am not sure about widening the committee chaired by Lord Newton. In fact, I seem to have put myself in the hands of every form of opposition, from Lord Carlile to Lord Newton and Lady Harris. I am afraid to tell the hon. Member for North Down that no member of her party serves on that committee—we will have to take a look at that and see what we can do.
In response to my hon. Friend Mr. Dismore, I made it clear at the outset that the proscribed organisations covered by the motion are determined by their contacts with al-Qaeda and our knowledge and proof that that is so, but that does not rule out proscribing other organisations where that is merited. I have not done that. I want to make that clear to him, because he made a powerful case in relation to Palestinian terrorism.
There is an underlying issue, which was raised throughout the debate: the need to understand the international nature of terrorism, rather than the issue of whether a particular group wants to overthrow Saddam Hussein. The international nature of terrorism is what we have been debating this afternoon.
I invite my hon. Friend Andrew Mackinlay to meet the co-ordinator, to see whether we can make some progress on his concerns about port security. It is as important to me as it is to him and his constituents that we get that right. We have a senior police officer working as co-ordinator and I would value the help that my hon. Friend can give. In fact, he and my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon might be tremendous candidates for joining the security services when, at some distant future date, they decide to step down from Parliament. I shall put their names forward as they have done such a good job.
I assure the shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for West Dorset, that I will provide to him any answers that I have not given during the debate. It is important that answers are given to questions about the links to the meeting in Thailand, the incidents in the Philippines and Singapore, and the direct links to knowledge, at a particular juncture, about the work and actions of JI in the archipelago, of which Bali is just one part. I would like to provide that information on Privy Council terms. Clearly, knowledge has been available. Everyone who has taken an interest in these matters—I know that his right hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary, Mr. Ancram, raised the matter in the context of a statement following the Bali attack—was aware of the kind of intervention that had saved people in Singapore, and the exchange of information that had taken place between security services on the back of it.
As the right hon. Gentleman rightly pointed out very gently and, I thought, generously, it is easy to be wise after the event. We are trying to balance what his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham believes to be a draconian power of proscription with the need to act quickly and decisively when we believe that there is sufficient evidence to prove international links with terrorism, and a threat not just to us, but to all those seeking democracy across the world.
Question put and agreed to.