Orders of the Day — Terrorism Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:57 pm on 26th October 2005.

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Photo of Elfyn Llwyd Elfyn Llwyd Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Justice) 4:57 pm, 26th October 2005

Many of us are nervous about the Bill because we have seen how the 2000 Act has been operating out in the field, so to speak. A cricketer on his way to a match was stopped at King's Cross and questioned under section 44 of that Act about his possession of a cricket bat. Police thought he might be travelling to Scotland to cause trouble at the G8 summit.

Emily Flynn, a 24-year-old woman, was detained under section 44. She stated:

"They questioned me, searched my bag, read my notebook, and threatened to take me inside to strip search me. 'You have to admit,' said officer 216738—who could legally withhold his name . . . 'that you couldn't be searched by a better looking bloke.'"

She has no redress, apparently, after that incident.

I speak on behalf of Plaid Cymru and also the Scottish National party. Clause 1 deals with the encouragement of terrorism. We are concerned about the way in which the clause has been drafted. The requirement that the accused knew or believed or had reasonable grounds for believing that other members of the public were likely to understand it as a direct or indirect encouragement or other inducement to commit terrorist acts looks fairly reasonable, but it is not good enough. Without a more specific definition, the offence is likely to have unintended consequences, one of which, I can readily see, is the inhibition of free speech. Furthermore, it is unacceptable to create such a wide offence that will require reliance on the discretion of the prosecution as to its appropriate use.

We have heard about the Cherie Blair and Jenny Tonge test. I will not go over that again, but suffice it to say that many worthy causes—and, I regret to say, many hon. Members—will be outlawed if the Bill goes through in its current state. The law must be accessible, and those affected by it must know exactly what it prohibits. That must be formulated with clarity, so that those affected understand it and regulate their conduct according to the law.