Orders of the Day — Terrorism Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:34 pm on 26th October 2005.

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Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Labour, Manchester Central 3:34 pm, 26th October 2005

A number of my hon. Friends have already expressed such sympathy with the Karen people in Burma, so all of us stand guilty of that.

I want to draw to the Minister's attention the Home Secretary's response to our hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. He asked specifically about people seeking to justify the non-human targeted attack upon, for example, the railway infrastructure. The Home Secretary's response—I hope that I do not misquote the spirit of what he said—was that because that might result in the killing of people it would fall under the definition. I would go much further in any case and say that I can think of circumstances when I would not simply sympathise, but I might even be prepared to support and advocate on behalf of those who took up arms as their only legitimate defence.

Hon. Members may say that I am making overly heavy weather of this point.—[Interruption.] I am glad that John Bercow does not. But it is important to establish this, not simply to say that there are some circumstances—I say this in response to my hon. Friend Mr. Hendrick—where we would all justify the potential use of arms, but because it is incredibly difficult to move from those situations where we can to those situations where we do not do so.

I can think of many circumstances in our society in which people can advocate something horrendous, such as the murder of another individual, but that is caught by the offence of incitement to murder. I think it would be caught even if the murder were to take place overseas, because it is possible to prosecute British citizens for murder that takes place abroad. So there is an argument that our present laws on incitement already cover the terms that are easiest to define.

Then we approach the middle ground, which is the most difficult area. Here I may even agree with those who deplore the words of those who advocate violence in different parts of the world on behalf of causes in which I do not believe. The problem is, though, that I am not sure how the public interest is served in moving towards prosecution. We may say that we deplore the words of the most crazed exponents of violence, but what do we achieve as a society if we stop treating those individuals as objects of scorn and social condemnation and instead put them in prison cells, thereby making them martyrs? Experience from many different situations around the world shows that the way to radicalise young people or the population generally is by creating a sense of injustice through the arbitrary, or seemingly arbitrary, imposition of such imprisonment on those whose offence may be an inappropriate use of words.