With this we may discuss Lords amendments Nos. 11, 15, 28, 31, 32 and Government motions to disagree thereto and Lords amendment No. 34 and Government amendments (a) and (b) in lieu thereof.
I rise to urge right hon. and hon. Members to disagree to Lords amendments Nos. 5, 11, 15, 28, 31, 32 and 34, and to support amendments (a) and (b) in lieu of Lords amendment No. 34. Amendments (a) and (b) are minor, tidying proposals and I do not intend to devote more time to them. The key issue is whether the House will agree with another place and seek to restore its original wording.
I shall remind the House how we got to this point. We passed counter-terrorist legislation in the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, during the debates on which we said we would legislate to make prosecution easier, as required by hon. Members on both sides of the House. Page 53 of Labour's general election manifesto, on which we were elected, stated that
"we will introduce new laws to help catch and convict those involved in helping to plan terrorist activity or who glorify or condone acts of terror."
That was followed by the awful events of
With the agreement of all parties in the House, a new Bill was introduced in the autumn. Of course, there were difficult issues of freedom and security—we were able to agree with a lot that the Opposition said, but not all. Following that process, the House reached an agreement on the Bill, and that included a commitment to a review of the definitions of terrorism to be conducted by Lord Carlile and to reviews of the operation of the 2005 Act regime as well as a commitment to return to legislation, which will be introduced in the next Session, as I announced in a statement to the House a couple of weeks ago, and which was generally welcomed. I believe that that was a solid and stable basis on which to proceed, not only recognising the genuine differences of opinion but seeking to find a good way to make progress.
The Home Secretary said, as he did on the "Today" programme, that the House reached an agreement on these matters. Much as I enjoy reaching agreement with the Home Secretary, I recall that the Government had a majority of one, so I slightly question whether his use of the English language is correct.
After Third Reading, the Opposition parties, which have a majority in the Lords, decided to make Lords amendments to unstitch the solid and stable decision of the elected Chamber. I confirm that the Government are—and were—ready to compromise to get cross-party agreement. That has been our general approach throughout the passage of the Bill, because if we can secure as much agreement as possible it is a big advantage to the country. However, we are not prepared to compromise on removing the word "glorification" from the Bill, which would be the effect of the Lords amendments.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will make a speech in due course. If he will allow me to make my speech, he will no doubt be able to say what he has to say.
We insist on using the word "glorification" not merely because it is a manifesto commitment, important though that is in the structure of our democracy, but because the word is specifically used in United Nations Security Council resolution 1624, which was passed on
"Condemning also in the strongest terms the incitement of terrorist acts and repudiating attempts at the justification or glorification . . . of terrorist acts that may incite further terrorist acts".
The Government believe that the glorification of terror is an essential—I emphasise that word—method that is used by individuals and organisations that pursue terrorist ambitions and wish to get individuals such as the 7/7 bombers to commit to their suicidal and destructive ends.
The Home Secretary knows that I have strong views on human rights legislation. However, given that it exists and it is necessary to have clear and unambiguous provisions in relation to matters of such importance, will he explain why the Government have put the statement of compatibility with European convention on human rights on the front of the Bill when the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which Parliament has charged with examining such matters, has said that there is incompatibility with articles 5 and 10 of the convention? Why does he thus continue to pursue his arguments?
The order of events is quite clear. I gave the certificate on the basis of advice that I received, and that position stands. The Joint Committee published a report—yesterday, or perhaps today—that addressed the matter. It reached conclusions on some issues, but not on others. We will, of course, read the report carefully, but I have absolutely no reason to think anything but that my certification of the Bill's compatibility with the convention was entirely correct.
The Home Secretary will know that there is genuine concern in the ethnic minority community, especially the Muslim community, about the effects of the measure. Has he held meetings with the Muslim Council of Britain and other organisations that speak on behalf of the community to take on board their concerns, and to give them a detailed explanation of why the Government are implementing the measure and an assurance that it will not disproportionately affect members of the community?
My ministerial and official colleagues and I have held several meetings with the Muslim Council of Britain and a range of other Muslim organisations to discuss precisely that matter. There are concerns, as my hon. Friend correctly says, and I concede that not all of them have been met. However, I take a great deal of strength and fortitude from the fact that, both on the Bill and the general conduct of affairs in recent circumstances, a wide range of mainstream Muslim opinion supports us and condemns those who are extremists and glorifiers.
The Home Secretary understandably referred to the United Nations resolution, but will he explain a tautology in the reference that he cited? He quoted the phrase "justification or glorification", but that is the only part of the resolution that has in brackets behind it a further explanation: "apologie". The only translation of that word that I can find is justification in French, so the principle is being redefined, rather than extended.
I understand my hon. Friend's point. The word "apologie" is French. As he knows, international agreements are produced in English and French, for obvious reasons. It is not a translation error because the word "glorification" is the English word in the internationally agreed text. The word has importance and significance.
No, I will not.
The question of what each word in any UN declaration means is ultimately a matter for the courts to resolve, but the word chosen by the United Nations—appropriately—was glorification, which is why I focus on that word.
Will my right hon. Friend reassure me and those in the community that it will not be possible to be guilty of the offence if one inadvertently uses language? Will he confirm that the mens rea required will be intention?
I can give my hon. Friend that absolute assurance. I will talk about the detail in a moment, but he is entirely correct. Part of the debate in this House and the other place has been the intent behind any of these acts. An inadvertent situation of the type that he mentions could not arise.
I was going to intervene on the Home Secretary to offer him the benefit of the fact that I am bilingual in French and English. I was simply going to point out to him that the word "apologie" cannot be translated as glorification. If that was what was done, it was bunkum.
I shall certainly take the opportunity to offer the hon. Gentleman's services to the United Nations as a translator. With his manifold talents in the law and translation, I am sure that he would be a great asset. Although we in the House would miss him greatly if he departed, I am sure that the United Nations would welcome his arrival.
Why is the Home Secretary placing such emphasis on the manifesto commitment? Yesterday, a majority of the Cabinet decided to renege on a manifesto commitment because they thought that certain things had been rather wrongly worked out. Why can he not take account of what the other place has said about this manifesto commitment and accept the sensible amendments that it put before us?
I am surprised that a Member of such long-standing and constitutional weight does not acknowledge the importance of manifesto commitments when considering Lords amendments. We were not considering such amendments yesterday and the decisions taken on a free vote went beyond manifesto commitments. I mention the manifesto commitment because there is a difference of opinion between the elected and unelected Chambers. Conventionally, and for good reasons that are accepted on both sides of the House, a manifesto commitment is an important consideration when hon. Members debate Lords amendments.
It was inappropriate of the Home Secretary to suggest on the radio this morning that Opposition Members are somehow soft on terrorism. We are worried that although the measures in the Bill may already be covered by other laws, more people who normally have absolutely nothing at all to do with terrorism might come under the Bill's footprint.
I will address the details in a moment, but on the question of being soft on terrorism, I advise the hon. Gentleman to prove his determination to fight terrorism by voting with the Government today.
The report to which Mr. Cash referred was the third report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which was published several weeks ago. That report addressed the Bill, but the report to which the Home Secretary referred was on renewals. The third report criticises the Bill and says that there is a high risk of it being outside the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European convention on human rights because of the use of the word "glorification". The Home Secretary cited the words "glorification" and "justification" in the UN resolution, so why do the definitions in clause 20 include no reference to justification? Is that because there are UN terms that even he considers to be too broad to be related to the offence?
I apologise to Mr. Cash if I misunderstood the Committee report to which he was referring. Let me put the position on record. The Joint Committee on Human Rights expressed doubts due to the lack of clear intent requirements in clauses 1 and 2. The Government have amended the Bill to make it clear that the offences can be committed only with intent or subjective recklessness, which I believe meets the Joint Committee's concerns.
Dr. Harris asks about the wording. Our biggest problem is that there is no internationally accepted definition of terrorism—a central issue from which a series of political arguments arise. A number of alternative definitions are used, and this House debated them on Report. I stand ready—it is why I have suggested that we consider new legislation based on Alex Carlile's report—to look at the new language that emerges from the UN and elsewhere as a result of the process that is to take place this year, but I regard it as significant that the Security Council included "glorification" in its resolution.
I recognise that there are concerns—the issue is sensitive and I share the reservations that have been expressed to some extent. However, since we last debated the Bill we have seen the most blatant glorification of acts of terrorism—the events of
I shall deal with that point in more detail later, but my hon. Friend is entirely correct, without qualification, to say that we have to deal with the glorification of terror. If anything was needed to demonstrate that, it was the events of
May I take my right hon. Friend back to what our hon. Friend Mr. Khan said, and my right hon. Friend repeated, about the importance of linking the offence in the clause with intent or reckless disregard? That change was made between Committee stage and Report. Although that is on the face of the Bill and it is what he is arguing today, in attempting to put water between what the Bill as passed by the Commons would do and what the Lords amendments would do Ministers have sometimes appeared to say that the Bill is intended to go further—that it would outlaw glorification of terrorism rather than outlaw glorification of terrorism where there is an intention to encourage terrorism or reckless disregard in that respect. Will my right hon. Friend make it clear that the Bill as he wants it to be passed will not outlaw the glorification of terrorism, but will outlaw the glorification of terrorism where the intent is to encourage people to commit terrorist acts?
No. The hon. Gentleman has intervened already and I want to make progress.
The reason we made a manifesto commitment and why we think glorification should be dealt with as I propose is that people who glorify terrorism help to create a climate in which terrorism is regarded as somehow acceptable. They help to persuade impressionable members of their audiences that they have a moral duty to kill innocent people in pursuit of whatever political or religious ideology they espouse. In recent times, we have seen threats from extremists who claim to represent Islam. As I said in answer to my hon. Friend Keith Vaz, leaders of the Muslim community in the UK and elsewhere have, quite properly, explained that such views do not represent true Islam. None the less, all too many people may be influenced by those who glorify terrorism and conclude that they have a duty to kill and injure innocent bystanders in the misguided belief that they are bound to do so by their faith. Our duty to those we represent is to do everything we can to prevent that from happening.
Both Houses have agreed that there will be an offence of encouraging terrorism and that the offence will cover both direct and indirect encouragement. I am, however, concerned by the changes made to clause 1 and replicated in clause 21 by the Members of the other place. The Lords removed a provision which clarified that statements that constituted indirect encouragement included statements that glorified acts of terrorism and were statements from which those members of the audience who heard them could reasonably be expected to infer that what was being glorified was being glorified as conduct that should be emulated by them in existing circumstances. That was a clear provision in the Bill considered by the Lords. Taken with a definition of "glorification" in clause 20, it made what was being described perfectly clear. Moreover, it made it abundantly clear to everyone who had heard about the offence that glorifying terrorism in such a way that others might emulate it would no longer be tolerated.
Instead of that clear provision, which sent a strong message to all those who are involved in recruiting terrorists, the Lords inserted an alternative provision stating that
"'indirect encouragement' comprises the making of a statement describing terrorism in such a way that the listener would infer that he should emulate it."
That alternative is unacceptable for three main reasons. I will explain those reasons in a moment, but perhaps I should first remind the House that glorification features in the Bill as an example of what is encompassed by the concept of indirect encouragement. It is not self-contained. Glorification as an offence is a subset of indirect encouragement as an offence and can be committed only if the conditions surrounding the main offence are met, as I just said to my hon. Friend Richard Burden. Key among those conditions is the requirement that there must be an intention that others should be induced to commit terrorist offences or subjective recklessness on that point. Glorification without intention of emulation or without subjective recklessness cannot constitute an offence.
As I said, the Opposition's preferred form of words is unacceptable for three reasons. First, instead of being an exemplary description of what indirect encouragement could be, it is an exhaustive description. In other words, the offence is limited so that it is committed by making available to the public a statement directly encouraging terrorism, or a statement indirectly encouraging it, but only by actually describing it in such a way that the listener will infer that he should emulate it. The Government drafted the offence carefully so that it would cover all statements that were either an encouragement to terrorism or another form of inducement to terrorism. As we designed the offence, it covered statements that constituted direct and indirect encouragement and that made explicit references to terrorism, as well as those that encouraged terrorism but did not refer explicitly to it.
Let me put the argument as simply as I can. The use of the word "describing" in the Lords amendment means that the provision would not catch, as the original wording would, glorification, praise or celebration of an act of terrorism that does not actually describe the act. Similarly, the reference in the wording inserted by the other place to "listener" also limits the scope of the provision. It confines the definition to statements that are capable of being heard and so, for example, would exclude statements written on placards or published on websites.
I shall not. The hon. Gentleman can make his point when he makes his speech.
The deficiency becomes particularly obvious in connection with clause 2, which deals with the dissemination of terrorist publications. Those who drafted the Lords amendments perhaps did not intend them to have that narrowing effect, but they unquestionably do have precisely that effect. I regard that as a serious problem because I do not believe that any form of indirect encouragement or other inducement to terrorism should be acceptable. It is also a problem because the Council of Europe offence on which ours is modelled was clear on precisely that point. The offence was intended to capture "public provocation", as well as other forms of encouragement or inducement to terrorism. The European convention on the prevention of terrorism includes provocation, so we should include provocation, too. Like glorifying terrorism, it is possible to provoke it without describing or referring to it.
I listened carefully to what the Prime Minister had to say during Prime Minister's Question Time and I am not wholly persuaded by the argument that listening cannot encompass reading. I go to listen to the word of God in church, but that is sometimes communicated in written as well as oral form. If that is the extent of the Home Secretary's anxiety and the Prime Minister's, I am sure that they will agree that it is readily curable. If the Home Secretary gives the House an assurance that he would be happy with their lordships' formula if "listener" were replaced by some other word that emphasises that the statement can be heard or read, we shall be able to bring these proceedings to a close very quickly.
I am afraid that I was confused by the remark by Mr. Grieve that listening is the same as reading. Most children, before they reach key stage 2, understand the difference between listening and reading, so I would expect him to acknowledge it. Indeed, I believe that he did so, because he went on to say that the wording for which he wants to vote should be changed, and he invited me to do so. That is the simple point that I was making, but it was only the first of three points of difference that need to be addressed.
Will the Home Secretary clarify something that is viewed as very important outside the House? The vast majority of the public were doubtless horrified by the placards on display two weeks ago after the Danish cartoon affair. If the amendments supported by the Opposition do not cover that situation, does not that show the weakness of their argument and the weakness of the proposal for which they will vote?
My hon. Friend is right. I will not comment specifically on the placards used in that demonstration, because the matter is being considered by the police and prosecution authorities, and it is entirely possible that they were illegal under existing legislation. However, placards with wording that is not illegal under existing legislation, but which would be illegal under the proposals, may have been used. Irrespective of that important distinction, the Lords amendment excludes anything visual such as a placard or, rather more significantly, websites. Some websites disseminate the glorification of terrorism, but they are excluded from the Lords amendment.
I confess that, despite my surname, I know rather less about the French language than the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend Mr. Grieve. However, I know a little about the law of publication. We are addressing the publication—the making known to third parties—of statements that the right hon. Gentleman wants to outlaw. However, as we are on the subject of glorification, and given the muddle that we seem to be getting into, what is the difference between intentional glorification in the sense for which the Home Secretary is arguing and intentional incitement, which is already included in criminal law?
The indirect aspect is important. I know that the hon. and learned Gentleman, whose legal qualifications and understanding of the matter I respect, does not agree, but we believe that in the overall context of the Bill it is important to outlaw the glorification of terrorism where there is intent, as we have discussed. The Opposition think that it is not important to talk about glorification—they think that we should talk about indirect encouragement instead. We do not agree.
Will the Home Secretary deal with two related matters and thus greatly assist me and, I am sure, other Members? If, as he rightly said, glorification is simply an example of offences covered by clause 1, and if it is a particularly obvious example, why is it necessary to include it in the Bill? While we are on the subject, why cannot someone incite by holding a placard?
I know that I should not expect the support of my hon. and learned Friend in the Lobby, whatever I say. However, glorification is important in the Government's view because of the clear understanding by the public, the courts and juries both of the word itself and of what is happening. The Opposition do not agree, but we think that it is very important. In addition, our amendments deal directly with placards and such matters. The Lords amendment, however, excludes them.
I cannot do so at this stage, because a motion to disagree with the Lords amendment has already been moved.
You could not have made the position clearer, Mr. Speaker. That exchange was extremely helpful, because the hon. Member for Beaconsfield admitted that the Lords amendment was deficient. [Interruption.] I am sorry, I do not wish to be controversial or misleading, so I shall rephrase my remarks. The hon. Gentleman acknowledged in his contribution that it would be better if the Lords amendment were amended in certain respects, as Hansard will show. Sir Patrick Cormack asked if that could be done by a manuscript amendment, which you have made clear, Mr. Speaker, could not be accepted at this stage. That leads me to conclude—in my own words, not those of the hon. Member for Beaconsfield—that the Lords amendment is deficient.
I have often participated in Committee, where it is possible to hold lengthy debate on minute areas of textual drafting. I am always prepared to acknowledge that text can be improved or changed. Sometimes that does not make any difference, but sometimes it does, and the difference can provide reassurance. That is why I told the Home Secretary that if that is an obstacle for the Government—it appeared to cause the Prime Minister enormous anxiety at Prime Minister's Question Time—it is readily curable. If he would like to provide the House with an assurance that the Government would accept the Bill with a cure for that one word, I am sure that we can resolve the debate very quickly. That is as consensual an approach as it is possible to take. I wish that the Home Secretary would take it in good part and respond sensibly, rather than engage in more polemic.
I do not think that I have engaged in polemic. It is always entertaining to see qualified lawyers—I certainly am not one—counting the angels dancing on the head of a pin in these debates, but I do not accept that I have engaged in polemic. Indeed, quite the opposite.
I have given the first of three reasons why the Lords amendments should be rejected. Secondly, it is perfectly clear that people who seek to recruit terrorists do so not just by directly encouraging terrorism or by provoking people to commit violent acts but by glorifying terrorism and terrorists. They may emphasise that terrorists are heroes whose actions should be copied; that terrorists go straight to paradise when they die; that terrorists undertake glorious acts that deserve to be emulated; or that terrorists are simply better humans than those of us who are not terrorists. The single word that best captures that is "glorification". It is the word that, we all recognise, covers such forms of indirect encouragement. It does not, as I have explained, cover all forms of indirect encouragement, but it does cover those forms. It is that clarity of meaning that makes the word "glorification" so important. Not only do our electorate know what it means, and not only was it defined with total clarity for the courts, but those who seek to recruit terrorists know what it means. If the legislation outlaws the glorification of terrorism, preachers and proselytisers for terrorism and the organisations with which they work will know that if they glorify terrorism they may fall within the parameters of the offence. If it is not included, they know that they can glorify with impunity. The alternative expression "indirect encouragement" does not send a strong or clear message. The only message that it sends is that glorification is acceptable.
Can the Home Secretary provide one instance in which the word "glorification" has been defined in the courts as he suggested? There is no such description in any court judgment. As for his general assertion that the proposal will provide clarity, I acknowledge that the Lords amendments may well contain minor defects. None the less, the Home Secretary must surely admit that the Government's proposals are vague and uncertain, and have been condemned by the Joint Committee on Human Rights.
I am glad that a third hon. Member speaking from the Conservative Benches acknowledges that the amendments from the Lords are unclear in certain respects. That helps the debate.
The Home Secretary used a strange word just before the previous intervention, when he said that people may be found guilty of glorification. How can the word "may" be expressed so that people clearly understand that they could glorify something and they might not be committing an offence? What is the distinction?
First, the offence depends on the context within which glorification takes place. That was the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield. Secondly, it will be for the court in any given circumstance to judge whether any offence has been committed. That is not a judgment that I can make.
I am certainly prepared to acknowledge that the words from the Oxford dictionary are a reasonable way of looking at the word "glorification", but my argument is that "glorification" is a simple and clearly understood word that is very powerful in its own right.
The Home Secretary spoke of sending a clear signal, as did the Prime Minister earlier. Putting aside the concerns that the law is more about indicating what the Government are thinking than about dealing with a real gap in our criminal law, does it not come ill from the Government to talk about sending clear signals, when the immediate response to the disgraceful protests outside the Danish embassy was not to condemn the protesters but to condemn the newspapers that published the cartoons?
That point is utterly ridiculous and completely wrong. I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the statement that I made following the urgent question from my hon. Friend Mr. Winnick. On the Monday after those events, I came to the House as early as I could to make clear the Government position and I dealt with that explicitly.
I am struggling to think of concrete examples of behaviour that would be caught by the Bill. If someone were to wear a T-shirt, for example, with a picture of Osama bin Laden and underneath the words, "Osama needs you", would that fall within the ambit of the Bill?
It would depend on the intention. Let us take a simple sentence such as, "We glorify the memory of Mohammed Siddique Khan", one of the
Thirdly, on the Lords amendment, I make a technical point about the drafting of the legislation. As it passed through this House, the offence in clause 1 included a provision that referred to "glorification" explicitly. The only conclusion to be drawn from the removal of the word is that it will be presumed that the offence was not intended to cover glorification. This view could well be taken by the courts, it would probably be taken by our constituents and, more seriously, it could well be taken by the recruiters of terrorists. This would undermine both the legal effectiveness of the offence and its effectiveness as a deterrent, in a climate where we need to understand that individuals and organisations that promote and glorify terrorism are looking at our decisions and deciding how best to conduct themselves.
Taken together, the three major reasons that I have outlined mean that we must not agree to the Lords amendments, but should insert the alternative amendments that I propose in lieu of them. We should, particularly in view of the flaws in the Lords amendments that have been acknowledged from the Opposition Benches, even now proceed on the basis of consensus. Indeed, in the spirit of consensus, we have agreed that the offence should be committed only if the requisite mens rea tests are satisfied. Those mental tests are intent and subjective recklessness—that is, the offence will be committed only if someone encourages terrorism, whether directly or indirectly, including through the glorification of terrorism, intending to encourage it or knowingly taking an unreasonable risk that they will encourage it. In this context, I cannot see why there should be objection to the inclusion of a provision relating to the glorification of terrorism. I hope the House will agree to reject the Lords amendments and accept those that I proposed.
I am happy to speak in French to the Minister if he would prefer me to do so, but that is prohibited by the rules of the House, so I shall refrain from it.
The Home Secretary comes to the House to make a case for the restoration of the concept of glorification. I think he knows and has acknowledged in the course of interventions that it is a concept hitherto unknown to our law and is undefined. The Home Secretary glossed over the history of the matter. The original announcement, which came from the Prime Minister as much as from anybody else, was that we would have a separate offence of glorification, condoning and exaltation of terrorism. That was the expression.
What happened, although the Home Secretary seems to be unwilling to admit it in the House this afternoon, is that that idea came in for a massive amount of criticism, to the point where it was entirely rubbished and ridiculed. It was an unworkable proposal. It envisaged putting up a list which, in a convoluted way, meant that there was a 20-year cut-off period for criticisms, to try and get round the problems that it might pose in respect of the African National Congress. It was a dog's breakfast of a proposal and the Government and the Home Secretary wisely abandoned it.
Having abandoned the proposal, the next problem was to cope with the occupant of No. 10 Downing street, who once he has come out with one of his populist pronouncements, which he thinks has some resonance with the press, decides that the word still has to feature. That seems to be the only reason why glorification was put into clause 1. I say to the Home Secretary that it could be removed in its entirety and the Bill, with the concept of indirect encouragement, would still be perfectly workable. In some cases, glorification might be an example of indirect encouragement, but in other cases it might not. There is no rhyme or reason why it should be there.
In his political knockabout, does the hon. Gentleman accept that the word "glorification" was used in the Labour party manifesto at the general election in May? The suggestion that it was used only after the events of
The Home Secretary helpfully gave us a history of the origin of the word, which lies not in legal text, but in a pronouncement from an international organisation. It is none the worse for that, but translating pious aspirations into sensible law is the job of the House. It is not the job of the House to take every such pious aspiration and repeat it verbatim. The decision to repeat it verbatim was the Prime Minister's when he concluded that there was political mileage in doing so. He kept it up even after I think the Home Secretary pointed out to him that the original idea was entirely unworkable. [Interruption.] In that case, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would like to intervene and explain why the original idea of a separate offence was dropped.
The answer is straightforward. We consulted on the proposal and, as the hon. Gentleman rightly said, there were a number of people who thought that it was not correctly constructed. We debated in the House how to deal with it. We made a set of amendments, in the spirit of compromise that I tried to set out. However, I repeat that the word "glorification" was set out in the Labour party manifesto. It is not an invented word in the populist political way that the hon. Gentleman describes.
The Home Secretary may correct me if I have got it wrong, but I do not think that a separate offence of glorification ever featured in the Bill as published. It featured in the draft Bill. He said that amendments were then made, as though that took place in the Chamber. It did not. There were no such amendments. The Government dropped the concept because it was unworkable. Yet even last night, the Prime Minister's propaganda department was putting out to the press—that is the way it was reproduced on the news this morning—that what was at stake in the House today was an offence of glorification. That is how it was announced on the 8 o'clock news on Radio 4. It is fascinating to see the No. 10 press unit peddle utterly misleading information, which is accepted verbatim despite its being at complete variance with the facts. The debate involves both a principle and a technical issue, but it has been hijacked by the Prime Minister for narrow party political purposes.
On the rhyme or reason argument, will the hon. Gentleman address the question of placards, which the Home Secretary has not addressed? It has been stated that without the Bill people cannot be prosecuted for displaying such placards. Why have prosecutions not taken place under the existing incitement legislation?
I entirely agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman. Clear criminal offences have been committed under the existing law, and I can see no difficultly in bringing prosecutions. It adds to my concern when I hear the Prime Minister and, indeed, the Home Secretary repeatedly insisting that there is a great difficulty, because neither I nor any lawyer of my acquaintance can perceive it.
Will my hon. Friend return to his statement that we do not need the word "glorification" because the legislation covers the indirect encouragement of terrorism? Can he think of a single example in which a person who could be prosecuted for glorification could not be prosecuted for indirect encouragement in a case that would be likely to be won?
My right hon. Friend brings me on to my next point, which is that indirect encouragement is all that is required to lay the foundations of the offence. However, glorification and indirect encouragement are not identical, and the mischief of using the term "glorification" is that it undoubtedly extends further.
In April, the Taoiseach will lead the Irish nation in the celebration and praise of the Easter rising, and I defy the Home Secretary to persuade me or anybody else that that is not glorification within the scope of the law—incidentally, I emphasise that the Taoiseach has good reason to lead such a celebration. That topic is controversial in Ireland: some people see the Easter rising as a historical event that is worthy of commemoration because it was part of a period of national self-assertion, while others see it as a continuing call to arms—although a ceasefire has been declared in Northern Ireland, some individuals do not respect it.
If the Taoiseach were to visit this country after that celebration, he would be in serious difficulty under the Bill as drafted—the Government want the Bill as it is drafted. He would have to accept that the celebration was not without controversy, because some people in Ireland say that it might encourage terrorism. Even under the subjective recklessness test, he would not be free of the possibility that his decision would be impugned. If the law were applied impartially, he would have to be jolly careful, because he is not subject to sovereign immunity when he visits this country, and I think that he would be liable to arrest and prosecution following that celebration.
It is a classic example of the crassness of the Government's approach that they should end up with such a ludicrous state of affairs. The only protection that the Taoiseach or anybody else has is that the Government have smiled sweetly and said, "You need not worry, because the exercise of discretion in these matters will mean that no prosecution will actually be brought." That approach is simply ridiculous, when this House can craft legislation that makes sure that such nonsense does not happen and meets the Home Secretary's needs.
The placards outside the Danish embassy have been mentioned several times. Aside from the sensitivities around removing them at the time, have the police said that arrests were not made because there was not an adequate law under which to make them?
If the police were to say that, they would be wrong—it is as simple as that. If the people involved can be identified, there is no reason why they cannot be charged with an offence. It would not even be a question of indirect encouragement, because the incident involved the most direct incitement to violence and murder that one can possibly imagine.
Abu Hamza was prosecuted under laws dating back to 1861. I know that the world was supposed to have started when new Labour entered government, but perfectly reasonable laws were on the statute book before then.
I was outside the post office in Dublin when Ireland was declared a Republic—I emphasise that that was in 1949 rather than in 1916. Is the hon. Gentleman really comparing the fight for Irish independence against British colonial rule and the American war of independence with modern terrorism such as
The hon. Gentleman has made my point: I would not seek to equate one event with the other, but the legislation makes no such distinction.
The definition of terrorism is so wide that it includes the activities of Robin Hood in the 13th century. Helpfully, the Home Secretary has said that he will ask Lord Carlile to review the matter and try to come up with a definition of international terrorism that goes some way to meeting those anxieties, but it is a difficult task—it will take a legal genius to come up with a formula, and I hope that Lord Carlile or someone else can do it. In the meantime, however, we are saddled with a definition of terrorism that covers the activities of the ANC, the IRA and French resistance fighters during the second world war.
The hon. Gentleman has obviously allowed his mind to roam around possible prosecutions under the Bill as drafted. Returning closer to home, the former hon. Member for Richmond lost her position on the Liberal Democrat Front Bench because she sympathised with the aspirations of suicide bombers. Would she have been liable to prosecution under the Bill?
As a non-lawyer layman, I am always nervous about entering into a debate about definition that seems to be largely conducted by lawyers. It seems to me that given the scale of the problems that we face, it would be better to move towards a definition which provides a greater disincentive to anybody to do or say anything that might be construed as pro-terrorism rather than be a prisoner of the past on other issues. Does the hon. Gentleman agree with that layman's perspective?
The concept of indirect encouragement is probably sufficient in itself, but it was with a view to trying to encapsulate the point made by the hon. Gentleman that the Lords drafted amendment No. 5. Their intention was to be not oppositional, but conciliatory, to the Government. If the hon. Gentleman reads the Hansard record of the debate in the Lords, he will see that some perfectly respectable people in the other place felt that even this amendment went too far and preferred to keep, without further ado, the straight definition of "indirect encouragement". The amendment was intended to encapsulate the issue and to be helpful.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the narrowness of the definition in the Lords amendment means that it would not be seen as a disincentive to a whole range of potential offences, and is therefore not conducive to realising the whole objective behind the Bill?
Let me take the hon. Gentleman back to my point about the Taoiseach. That is not some far-fetched fantasy but a straightforward present-day reality. I do not wish the Taoiseach to be prosecuted for commemorating and celebrating the Easter rising any more than the hon. Gentleman does, so how do we go about ensuring that that does not happen? Saying that
"'indirect encouragement' comprises the making of a statement describing terrorism in such a way that the listener would infer that he should emulate it" correctly explains what the House wishes to criminalise. The Taoiseach clearly does not wish people to emulate the Easter rising. That is a good approach that is worthy and should commend itself to the House.
The hon. Gentleman has conceded that his own position is ridiculous. Any celebration of the Easter rising by the Taoiseach would not be done with intent to incite others to commit acts of terrorism or even with subjective recklessness. The Government's wording requires the statement to be one
"from which . . . members of the public could reasonably be expected to infer that what is being glorified is being glorified as conduct that should be emulated"— the hon. Gentleman's word—
"by them in existing circumstances."
The Taoiseach's remarks simply would not be caught by this law.
I disagree. Of course the Home Secretary is right that the Taoiseach does not intend people to engage in terrorism, but even in terms of subjective recklessness he is at serious risk. This is a controversial issue in Ireland. Some people look to the Easter rising as an example of what they should be doing today, and the Taoiseach will know that when he stands up and decides for political reasons that it is a risk work taking to repossess from Sinn Fein the celebration of this particular event and to restore it to the mainstream of Irish political life. That is what he is intending to do, but the way in which the Bill has been drafted by the Government does not protect him. There is no point in the Home Secretary shaking his head. The only protection that he has is the Government's discretion not to prosecute him. That is unacceptable. The Home Secretary would have a better case if this were an offence only of specific intent.
As always, my hon. Friend is making his case with great precision and lucidity. Have not the Government recently spent a lot of time in this House trying to distinguish between the sort of terrorism from which we have recently suffered and terrorism in Northern Ireland? A Government who have spent so much time trying to pretend that there are enormous differences between the two are now introducing a Bill that makes nonsense of their own protestations.
My hon. Friend is right. In the context of proscribed organisations, Sinn Fein would have to be proscribed on the spot. That must be the reality of the wording of clause 21. As the Bill is drafted, I do not see how Sinn Fein could survive not being proscribed—although of course the Government would no doubt exercise their discretion.
I invite the hon. Gentleman to consider the report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights. The Home Secretary rightly said that it criticised the provision on the basis of a lack of restriction on intent and that a concession has been made to deal with that. He also said that the Committee drew attention to the breadth of the definition of terrorism, and rightly said that that was being dealt with indirectly through the review. However, he did not recognise the third criticism, in paragraph 36, of the vagueness of the glorification requirement. Will the hon. Gentleman invite the Home Secretary to meet Liberal Democrat concerns in that respect?
The hon. Gentleman is right. This went to the heart of the debate in the other place. Lord Morris of Aberavon, a previous Labour Attorney-General and a person of great distinction who has always been a robust supporter of what the Government have generally been attempting to achieve, said:
"This part of the clause is vague, uncertain and unnecessary. It would make it extremely difficult in practice for a judge to be able to direct a jury."
He went on to say that, under the definition that the Home Secretary wants,
"'glorification' includes any term of praise and celebration, and cognate expressions are to be construed accordingly".
He went on:
"I wrote to the Minister, and she kindly replied that she did not feel it would be appropriate for her to prepare draft directions to a jury or to place any example directions in the Library. That was because any directions would have to be related to specific cases under consideration. I have not sat as a recorder for a few years since the age of 65 when the previous Lord Chancellor declared that that was enough. He may well have been right. All recorders—presumably all judges—are supplied with a book of draft directions which are in general and are applied almost every day by judges across the land. The argument that directions would have to be related to specific cases under consideration does not hold water."
That encapsulates the problem that glorification will pose. The Government would do well to heed what not only Lord Morris, but many others, including previous Law Lords, said in the course of the debate—and they were seeking to be conciliatory. Lord Ackner, who is not usually a friend of the Government, said:
"My Lords, I agree that subsection (3) must clearly go, for the reasons which have been fully explained. However, I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, that this is no matter of principle but one of drafting."—[Hansard, House of Lords, 17 January 2006; Vol. 677, c. 576, 580.]
They were genuinely trying to help the Government, who have closed their ears and eyes to what they have been told. Consequently, this House is in danger of passing law that is unworkable.
Does my hon. Friend accept that the real problem is that the Government want to allege that by refuting this idea of glorification, Opposition Members are somehow soft on terrorism. In fact, as I pointed out in an intervention on the Home Secretary, the courts have no definition of glorification. The most that can be said is that there is a public perception of glorification, but that will not help in this instance. What we really want is a clear definition. If an opportunity can be taken to get another definition on its feet before the Bill concludes its passage, that will be the best way of dealing with the problem.
I agree with my hon. Friend. We are passing law. Lord Bingham said in the Rimmington case that law had to be clear, precise and adequately defined, based on a rational and discernible principle. That is the problem. Glorification is not clear, precise, adequately defined or based on a rationally discernible principle. By plucking the concept out of the air, the Government will cause themselves and the courts that have to apply the law great difficulties. Like so many other laws that we have passed against terrorism in the past five years, when it is on the statute book, it will turn out that all the prosecutions are brought under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.
In 1998, we passed ludicrous law after the Omagh bombing about conviction on hearsay evidence. Mercifully, it has never been used or had to be used. We pass such law repeatedly and it is irritating when the Prime Minister gets on his hobby-horse, postures to the world, accuses everyone else of being soft on terrorism, gets his cheap headlines, which he wants, and leaves other people to clear up the mess that he created. It is the House's job to ensure that we clear up the mess now.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that a glorification charge would be necessary if it were not possible to charge and convict an organisation or an individual under provisions for encouraging, committing, instigating, inciting, commissioning, directly or indirectly, acts of terror or recruiting towards or fundraising for a terrorist organisation? Can he give one example of an organisation anywhere in the universe that would only glorify and not commit one of those other offences?
I agree that that is rather unlikely. That is why we have always believed that clause 1 is a belt-and-braces job. Sometimes belt-and-braces jobs have their place, but if we are to have one, we had better ensure that we are not, in the process, creating a new world where people get criminalised and are placed in a state of deep uncertainty—that is one of the great mischiefs of the measure—about what is proper and what is not. It is all very well saying that one will ultimately be acquitted if the state is foolish enough to prosecute, but most people who enjoy freedom of speech would like the reassurance that, for example, what they say at the commemoration of the Easter rising in a pub in north London in a couple of months will not land them with a knock on the door from the police afterwards. We must take that seriously.
The Home Secretary has criticised Lords amendment No. 5. As I said, I would be prepared to retain "indirect encouragement" and nothing else. That is one approach. The Lords have genuinely sought to help the House. If the Home Secretary believes that there are textual criticisms to make, he knew that they could be made from
The Prime Minister suddenly appeared to suggest, with such intensity, at the Dispatch Box earlier today that textual criticisms were the Government's objection. If that is the case, I am sure that the matter can be easily resolved. I repeat my offer to the Home Secretary to resolve it. The problem is capable of resolution. However, in the meantime, I am content with the Lords amendment.
I do not want glorification to be included in the Bill under any circumstances. I shall vote to ensure that that does not happen. If it does, we shall prolong a debate that is unworthy of the House. Glorification has no place in our law. It is incapable of proper interpretation and proper implementation; it risks criminalising those whom the Government do not intend to criminalise and, as a concept, it is frankly rubbish. It is time that the House said that to the Prime Minister even if he, most regrettably, cannot currently understand that.
It is always a pleasure to follow Mr. Grieve. He has won three awards in recent months for his parliamentary performance. Perhaps today we should give him an award for fiction. Although he had a good case, he embellished it to such an extent that those of us who may have wanted to support him are unable to do that.
I want to pick up two points. First, I want to consider the effect of clause 1 and the amendment on especially the Muslim community but also the wider Asian community. I am worried about the mood music of a rush to legislate on a wide range of issues that will affect the ethnic minority communities. I do understand the need for the Government to take strong, tough emergency measures to deal with those who wish to perpetrate or incite terrorism. The Home Secretary knows that I am with him on that because I supported the Government when we considered the matter previously.
I am worried about passing legislation after legislation, which creates in minds of the wider Asian community the concern that every member is under investigation. That is why we need to deal with the concerns of community groups, members of which are frequent visitors to the Home Secretary's office. They are worried about the way in which the legislation is framed. Moreover, they are worried about its implementation. The Home Secretary and the Government have conducted a proper dialogue with members of those groups since 1997. Recent events mean that it has obviously become much more intense. My right hon. Friend must ensure that the discussion includes reference to the police and that the dialogue is not simply about legislation—"We have to do this to respond to the concerns of the wider community"—but about ensuring that, in implementing the law, the police will understand the will of Parliament.
When my hon. Friend considers the disproportionate number of visible minorities and visible Muslims who are stopped and searched, arrested but not charged, and other statistics that he knows, including statistics relating to those detained at Belmarsh, does he agree that, for example, the Independent Police Complaints Commission should examine the entire country holistically rather than each independent police force considering how its officers are accountable?
My hon. Friend is right that the Independent Police Complaints Commission should examine the matter. Perhaps the reorganisation that the Home Secretary has in mind for the rest of the country means that the point will be covered.
Those of us who support the Home Secretary want him to go out and spread the message about why the Government are involved in such legislation. It is vital to explain in clear and crisp language that the measures are not being introduced to put the wider Asian community under pressure. Its members have made it clear that they are against those who purvey terrorism and with the Government in trying to ensure that something is done about the terrorists.
The hon. Gentleman has a strong constituency interest in this matter and must therefore be listened to with great care. The Johannesburg principles, with which I dare say he is familiar, set out the criteria for dealing with matters such as freedom of expression. They state that we should take account of the fact that
"some of the most serious violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms are justified by governments as necessary to protect national security".
However, they go on to say that it is essential to enact laws that are
"drawn narrowly and with precision, and which ensure the essential requirements of the rule of law".
The hon. Gentleman's last point is right. Of course it is important in a democracy that we should maintain the rule of law. It is also right that, when community groups and minority groups are likely to be affected by legislation, those groups should be reassured that the legislation is being directed not against them but against the tiny minority of people who seek to subvert democracy by blowing people up as they did on
I am interested in how the legislation would operate in practice. This business about the Taoiseach is a complete diversion. Will my hon. Friend comment on the concrete example given by the Home Secretary earlier, when he said that context would be all-important? If a group of people were parading with placards that said, "Free Kashmir now", which is a legitimate aspiration, and there happened to be bombings in Kashmir the day after, could those demonstrators be caught under the legislation after the bombing, even if they had been doing something completely legitimate before the bombing?
I know that my hon. Friend has a large Kashmiri constituency base in Pendle, and he is right to say that these practical points need to be addressed. I would hope that such demonstrators should not be prosecuted. I go to many events where such sentiments are expressed, although less so in recent years as the relationship between India and Pakistan has improved.
I have listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman, and particularly to his response to the intervention of Mr. Prentice. I appreciate the point that he makes, but does he not understand that the provisions that the Government are asking us to vote on this afternoon will create precisely such a climate of uncertainty in the minds of those Kashmiris as to what is permissible and what is not, and will risk criminalising people who have not the slightest intention of encouraging terrorism, but who wish to have a proper debate on difficult issues of international affairs?
I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman's point about uncertainty, but the Home Secretary dealt with that when he told the House why he could not accept the Lords amendment, and I accept what he said. There is certainty in the Bill, but the problem lies in explaining that certainty and sending out the proper message to the various communities. The Government have made it clear, in answer to the question put by my hon. Friend Mr. Khan and reinforced by my hon. Friend Richard Burden, that this provision is not about inadvertence; it is about subjective recklessness and intent. The fact that the Home Secretary has said that means that that must be the direction in which the police must move when they wish to prosecute.
Even if the hon. Gentleman accepts the Home Secretary's assurances, does he not share my concern that a legitimate demonstration after an awful event in Kashmir might be stopped because of uncertainty among the Kashmiri community about whether they would be prosecuted?
As I have said, I do not think that anyone would be prosecuted in those circumstances. I do not think that it would be the Home Secretary's intention. Of course, it would be up to the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to decide whether a prosecution should take place. The evidence would have to be gathered and presented to the CPS. A prosecution could not be brought automatically just because someone had held up a placard.
May I give my Friend another example that is equally apposite? A number of Tamil organisations are banned in this country, yet members of the Tamil community here continue to be very concerned about the situation in Sri Lanka and frequently wish to hold meetings to discuss it. Under the Bill, people attending those meetings could be construed to be supporting the Tamil Tigers and therefore glorifying a form of terrorism. Does my Friend accept that that would present a real danger for the people in that community, and that it would have the effect of reducing or preventing legitimate public debate about Sri Lanka?
My hon. Friend is very knowledgeable about international matters and is a great champion of the ethnic minority communities in London and elsewhere. I do not think that the people he mentions would be caught by the provisions of the Bill; in fact, I am sure that they would not. The uncertainty is being created by some Conservative Members who are seeking to exploit that uncertainty for political advantage, thus making it much more difficult to get the message across. That is why the dialogue that the Home Office has, and that this Home Secretary has created, with the wider Asian community—not just the Muslim community—is so vital. These provisions are not going to affect only the Muslim community. When a person of Asian origin is stopped in the street, people do not automatically know whether they are a Muslim. The fact is that the legislation will affect a much wider community, which is why it is vital to have this dialogue and to deal with these explanations in a proper way.
I am most grateful to my parliamentary neighbour for giving way. Is not the problem that the Government wish to send out a message? It is one thing for Ministers to make speeches and utter statements to indicate the Government's intention to deter and prevent terrorism in the national interest; it is quite another to use the language of a statute as a form of message-making machine. We need clarity and sureness of language in statute, notwithstanding that it might reflect a wider message. The language used in message-giving is entirely different and much looser. That is the problem that the Home Secretary is walking into.
The fact is that we have clarity in the Bill because the Home Secretary has listened carefully to the views that have been put forward. He has had many meetings about the provisions. He did not reach agreement with the hon. Member for Beaconsfield or with the Liberal Democrats, but he tried to do so. As a nation, we cannot stand by and do nothing. All communities are united in the belief that something ought to be done, and this is the legislation that the Home Secretary, the Government and their experts believe is necessary to meet the concerns that have been raised. My worry is that, in passing this legislation, we might feel that we have done enough. We have not. We must reinforce what we are doing with the messages that we put out.
Does my hon. Friend agree that there is greater clarity in the Bill than has been implied in questions about Kashmir and the Tamils or, in a completely different dimension, in the Conservatives' suggestion that the Taoiseach might be arrested at Heathrow airport for attending a commemoration of the Easter rising? Is not that clarity provided by the provision that anyone engaged in such an act could
"reasonably be expected to infer" that someone would emulate them? There is guidance in the legislation that will enable people to draw a distinction between someone making a political point about Kashmir, for example, and someone who is engaged in glorifying terrorism.
My hon. Friend Jeremy Corbyn referred to the Tamil Tigers, and he will recall that they were proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000, based on their behaviour before that act came into force. Colleagues were critical of that decision. Is it my hon. Friend's understanding of clause 21 of the Bill that conduct carried out only after the Bill receives Royal Assent will be considered when assessing whether a group should be proscribed, and that the group's conduct will not be assessed retrospectively?
That is my understanding, but I am sure that if I and my hon. Friend are wrong, somebody will correct us before the end of the debate—somebody who knows about these matters, rather than the hon. Member for Beaconsfield who is nodding his head at the moment.
We need to take great care over the way in which we foster the wonderful race relations that we have in Britain's multicultural society. I came to this country at the age of nine as a first-generation immigrant. I have seen race relations develop to such an extent that we have a proud record to show not just in this country but to Europe and the rest of the world. That is why what happened in France did not happen here. We should take great care of that legacy, however, and when we pass laws that will disproportionately affect a section of our community, we should do so with the utmost care.
The British Asian community should be able to demonstrate with placards when they feel that there is a grievance, as they did a couple of weeks ago in London. Of course there is a limit to freedom of speech—I have acknowledged that for all the time that I have been in Parliament. One cannot just say whatever one wants about different communities and not be subject to the rule of law. The community is mindful of that. Those who step over the line will have to be prosecuted. Within that context and the context of the law, however, the community must be able to demonstrate as it sees fit. If a cartoon is published in a newspaper that defames a particular religion, and groups of our citizens wish to demonstrate against that within the law, they should be entitled to do so. As we all know, because there is unity in the House, the line is drawn at transgression, where something more is asked for than is legitimate in a free and democratic society.
I understand that the Home Secretary has condemned the insensitivity of some of the things that have happened in the past two weeks but has said clearly that we need laws to deal with those who act to subvert our democracy. He is right to do so. I urge him, as I know that he listens to members of the communities, to continue that dialogue, to explain constantly why we need this legislation and to bring the communities on board. We will not be able to catch the perpetrators of violence unless the communities feel that they have a stake in ensuring that we retain our great vision of a democratic, free and multicultural society.
I do not intend to detain the House for long, as we have been over this ground several times and I fear that we are in danger of pursuing a debate that might generate more heat than light. However, I commend the closing remarks of Keith Vaz to the Home Secretary. The approach that he advocates, of going out from Whitehall and engaging with communities, is much wiser than that which the Government have hitherto chosen to follow. The obsession with introducing one piece of legislation after another on the basis that something must be seen to be done is not a sustainable approach in the long term.
On the political context of today's debate, the Home Secretary spoke last week about his wish to build a consensus around terrorism legislation. I took him at his word and was disappointed on Monday to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer—I know how fond the Home Secretary is of him—basically say that anyone who does not agree with the Government is soft on terror. Such language does not really assist the debate. Again, on "Today" this morning, the Home Secretary spoke about the House of Lords playing politics with terrorism. He only needs to read the report of the debate in another place and he will see that Lords amendment No. 5, with which we are dealing, was brought forward by Lord Lloyd of Berwick, a Cross Bencher, and supported by the Bishop of Winchester.
Clearly, there is a wide concern outside the chattering classes and the political community. I know that Ministers and Secretaries of State in particular sometimes find themselves living in a bubble in which they are insulated from some of those concerns. I ask the Home Secretary to accept, however, that those of us who hold such concerns do so for sincere and deeply felt reasons and that we are not simply engaged in some sort of frolic.
On the Home Secretary's point that the glorification proposal was in the Labour party manifesto, the manifesto referred not just to glorification but to those who condoned terrorism. Clearly, that proposal has been quietly and properly dropped, but it indicates to me that these days—particularly in light of last night's events—there is a pick-and-mix element to political manifestos. I caution the Home Secretary against relying too much on that point.
The Liberal Democrats' concerns remain as they have been throughout. First, there is the question of the vagueness of "glorification" as a term to be used in statute. My hon. Friend Dr. Harris made that point in relation to the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and he is absolutely right. Three concerns were raised by the Joint Committee, of which the first two have been addressed, but the Government have made no attempt to address the third. For as long as they insist on the maintenance of the term in the Bill, they can make no such attempt, as that circle simply cannot be squared. The Home Secretary accepted in a speech today that we still do not have a proper working definition of terrorism. The effect of that is to have vagueness heaped on vagueness, which results in bad law. I did not come here to enact bad law.
The Home Secretary told us that glorification is a subset of indirect encouragement. He is absolutely right. That assertion, however, is an admission that the reference to glorification is wholly unnecessary; in fact, it is dangerous. The problem with using exemplars in that way is that they can be seen as in some way restricting the broader term of which they seek to be an example. Mr. Gummer said that all glorification would be caught by indirect encouragement but that not all indirect encouragement would be caught by glorification. He is absolutely right in that. He will be aware, as those advising the Home Secretary should surely be aware, that it is a simple rule of statutory construction that to express one option is to exclude the others.
I do not know why this debate is perhaps more important than the last one on the issue, but does the hon. Gentleman agree that we do not come here to try to produce laws that are unclear, and that we need the definition to be made? Given the importance of the Liberal Democrats in this exercise and in the House of Lords, does he agree that in the interests of the public, whom it is our main objective to serve, we should find some means of delay to which the Government could agree? Rather than rushing the Bill through on a ping-pong basis, we could settle down over the recess and come up with a clearer definition, because neither the amendment nor the Government's proposals are adequate to deal with this serious state of affairs.
I would certainly never seek to disagree with anyone who suggested that the Liberal Democrats were important, and I have little difficulty in agreeing with what the hon. Gentleman has said. He is right. I shall say more about this shortly, but it seems to me that there is no real chasm between the two sides. If the Home Secretary sincerely wanted to build consensus, it would not be a particularly difficult task to undertake. It certainly ought to be possible for us and the other place between us to achieve that consensus during the recess next week. Consensus, however, can be achieved only if both sides wish to achieve it.
I do not think that the root cause of the problem lies in the Home Office; I think that it lies in No. 10 Downing street. There is no political will on the Government's part to achieve the consensus, because it suits them better to dominate the political debate by calling those of us who are on this side of the argument soft on terrorism than to find a workable, sensible, legally enforceable solution.
In evidence to the Home Affairs Committee yesterday, Lord Carlile, who used to be a Liberal Member of Parliament in the House of Commons, told us that if he had to estimate the number of clerics in the Muslim community—they are, needless to say, totally unrepresentative of that community and of fellow clerics—who are peddling dangerous nonsense, he would say that there were about 20. As I have said in earlier interventions, I recognise the sensitivity of an issue that is not as clear-cut as many of us would like it to be, but is it not possible—I am not speaking as a lawyer—that if the number is anywhere near 20, those clerics could be dealt with under existing law? If that is the position, as the Home Secretary would no doubt argue, is it not quite likely that they could be dealt with by means of the provision on glorification? If that is so, will not Mr. Carmichael concede that there is a case for doing what the Government intend to do?
The problem with that is that the hon. Gentleman's case has already been undermined by the Home Secretary, who has told us that glorification is a subset of indirect encouragement. That means that nothing said by the imams referred to by my noble and learned Friend Lord Carlile would not be caught by the broader and more general terms of indirect encouragement. The difficulty arises from the baggage that is attached to glorification. I shall say more about that later.
I want to say something about the Home Secretary's objections to the Lords amendment. He latched on to the word "listener". I accept that the wording is not the best possible formulation, and it is not the one that I would have chosen. If the word "recipient" had been used, with one bound we should all have been free; but instead of trying to work around that, the Government chose to set up a tremendous clash between this House and the other place. As I told Mr. Cash, I think that that can only have more to do with the wider political debate than with the process of securing good, workable legislation.
Then there is the question of the signal that would be sent to the courts and to terrorists if it were suggested that glorification was somehow acceptable. That has more than a whiff of desperation about it. If it is the strongest argument that the Government can come up with, they are in some trouble. As I said earlier, the Government previously used the word "condone" in their manifesto. When they dropped that word, did it mean that they suddenly condoned terrorism? I do not think so.
The Government also used the word "exalt". I am not entirely sure what they meant by it; the hon. Gentleman may agree that it is a rather undefined phrase. They seem to have been able to drop that without any difficulty.
Indeed. I shall not be too hard on the Government, because I am delighted that they dropped the reference to exaltation, a term which in my view has no place in statute.
The problem is that the Government have never answered the fundamental question posed by the Opposition: what will this measure add to current law? We can all see the dangers. We can all see the chilling effect that it may have. We can all see the difficulties that may be caused to those of us who may at some time wish to engage in a legitimate protest and to send our support to those in other countries who labour under despotic and violent regimes, but may be prevented from so doing.
If I may borrow a term from the management-speak of which we hear so much from the Government, I think it is incumbent on us to conduct a cost-benefit analysis. We can all see the cost of the legislation; the benefit is less clear. On that basis, I urge the House to retain the Lords amendments.
I shall be brief, because I know that many Members wish to speak.
I urge the House to support Lords amendment No. 5, which effectively does away entirely with clause 1(4). That subsection, like the Bill itself, is unnecessary and, at worst, mischievous. Let me explain why it is unnecessary. I shall do so as simply as I can. I must see the legislation through the dark prism of the eyes of a prosecuting criminal lawyer, and in my time I have prosecuted the worst of them; but when I consider likely offences, I cannot think of an actual or—to answer a point made earlier—an imagined circumstance involving the imparting of glorification, coupled with encouragement or inducement to emulate, that would not be caught by existing legislation on incitement. I shall be happy if any Member can give me an example of a case in which I would not advise prosecution in such circumstances. I have struggled, and if I could have thought of such an instance, I should have been happy for the Bill to be given a much clearer passage. The fact that no such instance can be imagined, and the fact that the legislation is unnecessary, lead to the inevitable suspicion—ventilated and articulated in this House—that the motivation is to persuade the people that the Government are doing something, and, worse still, to provide an alibi for what has not been done in the past.
Pre-eminent in this context is the case of Mr. Abu Hamza. I do not know why he was not prosecuted months or years ago under existing legislation. I am sure that at some stage those with responsibility, in the Home Office or in the departments directly under its aegis, will explain why Mr. Abu Hamza was not prosecuted months or years ago, together with the other clerics who are spreading violence and the concept of violence, and the encouragement of and incitement to violence that has been described to us.
Equally, I do not know why those who carried placards during the demonstration that has rightly been referred to many times—placards that were classic incitements to violence—have not been prosecuted, and were not apprehended at the time. That failure has done no favours at all to the Islamic community. I am afraid that I was not present for Prime Minister's Questions—and I have been told by the Whips that I can go home whenever I like during this debate—but I understand that the Prime Minister suggested that we needed the Bill in order to catch precisely those people who wave placards. I do not know who briefed the Prime Minister, but I can say for certain who did not brief him: the Home Secretary's parliamentary private secretary, my good, learned and honourable Friend Vera Baird, who would know perfectly well that what those placards contained was a direct incitement to violence. I do not know where that idea came from, but those holding the placards should, and could, have been prosecuted.
The second issue is the mischief that the use of the term "glorification" will lead to. "Glorification" is a wonderful word; it is resonant, rotund, glorious. It has no place whatsoever in criminal jurisprudence and absolutely no place in this particular criminal jurisprudence. In dealing with this desperate and sensitive area of law at this desperate and sensitive time, we must ensure that the law is hard, clinical, analytical, direct and immediately understandable by any who seek to look at it. It must contain the vernacular that underlines all those elements.
"Glorification" is a word that is interpreted subjectively, as we wish to interpret it; my "glorification" is not others'. Without a shadow of doubt, if we pass this legislation the office of the Attorney-General will be besieged by those who believe that what somebody else has said—be they Islamic or Christian; it does not matter—constitutes a glorification of terrorism. Demands will be made for the Attorney-General to exercise his discretion and if he agrees to do so, it will cause immense trouble and pain. If he does not, that will also cause immense trouble and pain. The problem stems from the use of this word. "Glorification" is wonderful from the pen of Blake or Milton; it is glorious in the music of Frideric Handel. But we do not do beatitudes in the Old Bailey; rather, we do law, conviction and punishment, which is what should have happened in the case of Abu Hamza and others a very long time ago.
I hope, even now, that this wholly unnecessary word can be expunged from this statute. Of course, it will not be, but I hope that it will through the accepting of this amendment. I also hope that in future, we will have more necessary and successful prosecutions in the Old Bailey, and fewer wholly unnecessary and grotesquely mischievous attempts at legislation such as this.
It is a pleasure to follow Mr. Marshall-Andrews. The word "glorify" is meant to be orotund. It is a word used almost exclusively on religious occasions, when it is meant to convey a feeling. It is meant to convey much more—and much more vaguely—than the meaning that it actually has. So it does have a place, but not in law.
Keith Vaz was wrong to say that the Home Secretary, the Government and their experts have concluded that the word "glorify" is necessary. Only the Prime Minister came to that conclusion, and "glorify" remains in the Bill in order to save him from the consequences of omitting that word, to which he feels deeply attached.
No one on either side of the argument can give anything other than a ludicrous example of the difference between a case that could be caught by the term "glorify", and one that could be caught by the term "indirect encouragement". In other words, the Government have not produced a single example of someone's saying something that manifestly should be prosecuted, but which cannot be prosecuted unless the word "glorify" is included in this legislation. If the House is to support it, the Government, the Home Secretary and the Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety must prove that point. It is no good making vague, suitable-for-the-"Today"-programme statements that anybody who does not agree with the Government must in some way be nasty. I know that that is a basic new Labour belief, but the truth is that many of us are concerned that the law be enforced, and be seen to be enforced, impartially, particularly on a matter as serious as this.
Every time that an example of something that would be caught by the term "glorify" is cited and shown to be ludicrous, the Home Secretary laughs and says, in effect, "I wouldn't allow a prosecution on that basis." He has to be saved from himself. We do not want a legal system in which the public and the individual are protected from the rigors of the law not by the law itself, but by a collection of political figures. We want a law that—to paraphrase the hon. and learned Member for Medway—is clear, precise and clinical; we do not want one written in such a way as to extend Ministers' privileges and prerogatives. Having been a Minister for 16 years, I believe that Ministers should be saved from being given an apparently quasi-judicial role; that is not a proper role for them, unless it is utterly necessary in the case of a particular Minister.
Of course, there are circumstances in which the word "glorify" is not as otiose as we think—in which it is, contrary to what the Home Secretary thinks, capable of being used unreasonably. It could have a serious effect on minority communities, and here, I have a great deal of sympathy with what the hon. Member for Leicester, East said earlier, although not with the conclusion that he came to. A person who recently preached in the town of Ipswich the particular, in my view rather narrow and extreme, position of a Protestant group was stopped by the police and told that his action—he felt that he was preaching the gospel—was liable to prosecution on the ground of stirring up religious and racial hatred.
I believe the policeman in question to be wrong in his interpretation of the law, but I do know the effect of that interpretation on that small and perfectly decent—but, I think, wrong—religious community. They happen to live in my constituency, and they came to me to talk this thing through. They said, "We are law-abiding people and we do not wish to be put into a category whereby it may seem, either to us or to others, that we have broken the law. We wish to abide by it." Given their peculiar view of the nature of human law and their desire for a theocracy, that is a very difficult thing for them to say. However, I do not believe that small groups of decent people should be made, in a sense, illegal simply because we think them rather peculiar. Here, I mean "peculiar" in the technical sense of different from other people. I therefore point out to the Home Secretary that there is a serious reason why the word "glorify" should not be included in the Bill—a reason akin to that advanced by the hon. Member for Leicester, East.
We must also recognise that we are dealing with issues about which the law has to be precise. Such issues of their nature give rise to fervour, and the word "glorify" is itself a word of fervour. The great music of Steiner is fervour-creating. I very often find myself uplifted by those words and that music, but they are not a suitable subject for law. We have to be very careful, because people who speak about religion often do so with fervour, as it is the most important part of their lives. For believers, it is the most important part of life, so the use of fervent words is not surprising.
Sometimes, when the Home Secretary describes the sort of statement that he is trying to prevent, he gets pretty close to what is said in the holy books of various religions represented in this country. The step is not a big one. That is partly because holy books were usually written in times and language very different from our own, and partly because they use turns of phrase that are especially difficult to translate into English. The Government must be sensitive to that, and not make matters worse.
The Oxford English Dictionary definition is that the word "glorification" means the praise and worship of God. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there will be a grave danger that the courts will try and construe those words in the context of terrorism, which is what the debate hinges on? If terrorism and religion are conflated, would not the courts have to make a decision based on how praising and worshipping God are interpreted?
My hon. Friend exposes why the use of the word "glorification" is so uniquely ridiculous, and makes clear how important it is to get this right. It is a delicate matter because it is so close to things that people feel very deeply. In a very delicate eye operation, for example, a tiny move can destroy the eye that was meant to be healed and therefore negate the whole purpose of the operation. The Home Secretary is capable of understanding and sensitivity, and that is why it is worth trying to pursue this matter.
My final point is a reinterpretation of my first. The matter is very delicate and so needs language that is different from that used to send political messages. As my hon. Friend Mr. Grieve noted, language has many purposes. All hon. Members have a range of different languages. If we used in the House the language that we used to speak to our children when they were young, we would sound pretty peculiar. Some hon. Members use language in the House that would sound better in a bar, while others use language that would sound better at the Bar. Most try to speak in a language suitable for debate.
It is part of your job, Madam Deputy Speaker, to make sure that in general we abide by language that is suitable for debate. There is no place in the world where people are more careful about the language that is used. Over many years, we have created circumstances that allow us to speak the truth, even if it is extremely hard, in a way that does not lead to brawling. We use the third person, and stand and sit far enough away from each other to make brawling difficult.
That is important because we recognise that free speech is difficult. It must be nurtured and protected very carefully. One protection is to make sure that we use the right word. Including in the Bill the word "glorify" would open the door to misunderstanding of what we are about. It would be bad enough if the ethnic communities misunderstood us, but that misunderstanding could reach many small groups in society for which belief in God is the key issue. The language that they use is important to them: they wish to know precisely where they stand, and it is up to this House to make sure that they do.
We have reached the stage in the debate when it is unlikely that minds will be changed. Some of us probably feel that it is more important to get on the record, so that our constituents and acquaintances know how and why we will vote this evening.
Many hon. Members consider the day they are first elected to be one of the proudest of their lives. They see that they are about to engage in the governance and future of the country as a whole, and deal with the most serious issues. One of those issues is the security of the country and of the constituents whom we represent.
Therefore, I resent the fact that this debate has moved away from a serious discussion of the issue in recent weeks, and that the threat from terrorism is used for political advantage rather than as a spur to drawing up appropriate legislation for our statute books. I am critical of all parties in that respect. I am upset—to say the least—to have discovered in the weekend press that Mr. Gould is polling on behalf of the Labour party to see how terrorism plays as an issue in the political debate. I resent the allegations from all sides that people who express a view on the matter can be accused of being soft on terrorism. No one in this Chamber is being soft on terrorism; we are simply trying to find the best way to confront and end it. I am also concerned by the ludicrous examples that some Opposition Members have used, as they trivialise the debate.
The debate on this amendment centres on the following questions. Is it necessary? Do the Government's proposals represent an appropriate alternative? Is the expression of those proposals appropriate, or could there be unforeseen consequences?
Many hon. Members have tried to consult as best they can on those questions. A group of us met Gareth Peirce, a lawyer who, as many will know, has been involved in terrorism cases for nearly 30 years. We first came across her when we asked her to engage in the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four cases. She should know whether enough statutes already exist to prosecute terrorists as she has already defended people accused of carrying out terrorist acts: some were innocent, others may well have been guilty.
Gareth Peirce's response was very concise. Why are we bringing in this Bill? The common law offence of incitement has been a crime for more than two centuries. Incitement to murder, which has already been referred to by Mr. Grieve, is contained in section 4 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which says that it is an offence to
"encourage . . . any person to murder any other person".
Again, incitement to violence is covered by section 4(1) of the Public Order Act 1986, which states that it is a criminal offence to use
"threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour . . . whereby that person is likely to believe that such violence will be used."
Section 12 of the Terrorism Act 2000 makes it an offence to invite support for proscribed terrorist organisations. Moreover, it is not as though all that legislation has not led to prosecutions, the most recent being the Hamza case.
My worry is based on my experience with legislation that is worded so broadly that it is ineffective and can be used to entrap the innocent. There are unforeseen consequences when we in this House legislate poorly. We should learn the lessons of the original prevention of terrorism legislation, which was used first of all against Irish republicans and which allowed the police and other authorities to undertake widespread sweeps of that community. Those sweeps caught up the innocent who were then, in many instances, subject to miscarriages of justice. We make people vulnerable when we legislate unclearly and with such a breadth of impact as this legislation would have, and that is my worry.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the effect of the prevention of terrorism Acts—and, indeed, the current proscribed lists—was often to choke off legitimate political debate and drive some people into the arms of extremists and others with bad intentions, whereas they should be brought into mainstream political discussion and debate?
That is another of the unforeseen consequences of badly drafted legislation. The innocent may suffer and others may be mobilised. Protections are proposed, such as the use of discretion, and we have been given assurances on the Floor of the House about the way in which the legislation will be used. However, I remind the House of when we debated the most recent anti-terror legislation. We sought assurances at that stage from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who was then a junior Minister at the Home Office, on whether peaceful demonstrators would be caught by that legislation. We were assured that peaceful demonstrators would not be affected by it and would not be liable to arrest. Within eight weeks, peace campaigners demonstrating outside an arms fair in east London were arrested under that legislation despite the assurances given on the Floor of the House. The bizarre experiences at Labour party conference—not just of Walter Wolfgang but the 460 other people who were detained under the legislation—gave the lie to the assurances that were given.
My hon. Friend Mr. Prentice made the point with regard to the Kashmiris and my hon. Friend Jeremy Corbyn made it with regard to the Tamils. I have many Sikhs in my constituency, some of whom support the cause of Khalistan, and terrorist activity has been associated with that cause. Those constituents become vulnerable under this legislation on the issue of the interpretation of reckless behaviour because they will glorify the concept of Khalistan as a legitimate objective for people within the Punjab. They might be caught out by sweeps that bring the innocent before the courts, and an inaccurate interpretation of some of this legislation might leave them vulnerable.
The reason why some of us support the Lords amendment is that—despite opposing the concept in principle—it gives more certainty that the legislation will not be used in sweeps, to arrest the innocent or cause miscarriages of justice. It is for those practical reasons that I support the Lords amendment, not for any attempt to make political capital out of the issue, which I regret has been done so far. As a Londoner, I find it distasteful that the July bombings have been used to justify some of the measures in the legislation for party political purposes, rather than for their effect.
I admit that I have been in a dilemma during much of the passage of the Bill and, at times, I believed that the Government had got it right. For example, I believe that they were probably right about 90 days, and I would certainly have voted—had I had the opportunity—for 60 days. Therefore, I looked very carefully at this issue before deciding the appropriate course of action.
If my hon. Friend Mr. Grieve had made the speech that he made today a few years ago, I would have told him to have a week's rest and a pair of aspirin, but today it rang horribly true. That is why I do not believe that the examples he gave were in any way trivial. When we make law in this place, we do not make it in a vacuum. We have to consider not only what we are doing, but the atmosphere in which the law will be implemented. We have to ask whether we have confidence that the implementation of the law will be moderated by the spirit intended, rather than simply carried out according to its letter. We have to ask whether we believe that we live in a state that is moderate, restrained and limited in the way that it intervenes in the name of law.
A few years ago, I would have said that, by and large—even then I could have thought of a few exceptions—we live in such a state. The reason that I sit on this side of the House is that I believe, both intellectually and emotionally, that the power of the state to intervene in our lives, and the power of its agents to intervene in our lives, should be as limited as is compatible with the right and just functioning of society. Today, I do not believe that we live in such a state.
We have the ludicrous examples of agents of law and order enforcement spending four days in the bushes to catch someone feeding birds. That is a ludicrous example, but it is real. A more worrying example is that the chief constable of Wales—not some misguided Mr. Plod—believes that it is appropriate to investigate the Prime Minister for making a disobliging comment to his own television set.
Vastly more worrying even than that example, as I said during the progress of the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill, is that we have seen four or five examples of the police intervening when no crime had been committed or threat uttered but a view had been expressed. My right hon. Friend Mr. Gummer gave another example. Therefore, I ask myself whether I am confident that the Bill, if we pass it today in the form in which the Government have drawn it up, will be applied with the common-sense restraint suggested by the Home Secretary. Given all the evidence that now confronts us on how law and order is being implemented, I do not have that confidence.
I have a dilemma. I appreciate that the Government believe that the other place has redrawn the provision too narrowly and that people who should be caught by the Bill will not be so caught. The Opposition contend that the Government have drawn the provision so widely that many people who should not be caught will be caught. I echo the request made by my hon. Friend Mr. Cash: if possible, we should not look at each other over gun barrels but do a bit of parleying. It seems to me that we are so close in what we want to do that we could achieve a wording that meets the objections of both sides. If we could do that, the issue would not be about who will win and who will lose but about making good law to govern our country. I believe strongly that we should make a last-ditch attempt to come up with a wording that meets the objections of both sides.
I have a further dilemma because, in an ideal world, I would like to live in a society in which one could say that Osama bin Laden was the best thing since sliced bread. I would like people to be free to say that and for it to be left to social disapproval and pressure, rather than the blunt instrument of the law, to convince them that they were wrong. However, I accept that in the circumstances that is quite impossible and that
I believe that has to be done and that what the Government are trying to do is right. I believe that we can find a form of wording that will suit us all and convince us all, and that we have a duty to do so. In the last analysis, however, especially after what has happened over the past few months, with the police knocking on people's doors claiming that they have offended against the law when all they have done is express a point of view and with those actions being upheld at the most senior level in the police instead of being derided, I have no confidence that the law will be applied with the moderation and restraint necessary to convince me that we still live in a Britain that prizes freedom above all else.
I am not a million miles from the Government's view, so it is with great reluctance that I do not support the proposed wording. I make this final plea, however: we can get there with mutually agreed wording so let us invoke the procedures that will allow us to do so.
I am saddened that we have to hold this debate, because I am not sure that it is necessary. When we discussed the matter in Committee, there were big differences and I was one of those who expressed reservations about what the Government were trying to do with the glorification offence.
I still have those reservations. Nevertheless, there was some movement by the Government between Committee and Report and we arrived at a form of words, which was still not perfect but allowed us to postpone discussion of our reservations until next year. Everything has to rely on Lord Carlile's report and in our debates we will have to reach a definition of terrorism that we think makes sense. As a result, I am not sure why the other place felt it so important to make the deletions, but equally I do not understand why the Government feel it so important to reinsert the word "glorification".
I am worried that we may be slipping back almost to the position before Report. Last week, the Prime Minister said:
"It is important that we send out a very strong signal that any group, or people, who glorify terrorism in any way at all will be committing a criminal offence and that those groups that rely on glorifying terrorism to attract recruits should not be able to operate in our society."—[Hansard, 8 February 2006; Vol. 442, c. 870.]
I find it difficult to reconcile those comments with the assurances that I and others received today from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that we are not drifting back. I appreciate those reassurances, but I am worried that the focus is starting to turn back—certainly in terms of the signals that are being sent out, although I agree with Ministers that the signals are important—to saying that if somebody says something vile or abhorrent on terrorism, priority will be given to criminalising that utterance rather than working out the most effective way of stopping the actions that the person is glorifying. My opinion about that is stronger than it was in November.
Several people have given examples that are relevant, but easy to understand, such as Nelson Mandela, Chile or Wat Tyler. I want to discuss an example that is difficult and profoundly troubling for all of us. I was one of the international observers at the recent Palestinian elections when Hamas was elected with a parliamentary majority in a free and fair vote. Members of Hamas have been responsible for some appalling attacks that are unquestionably definable as terrorist. We are all agreed about how important it is that the international community make clear our abhorrence of such attacks and what Hamas should do. When I met members of Hamas in Gaza, I told them that—as did some of my hon. Friends. I am told that those conversations played a part, albeit a small one, in convincing members of Hamas to embark on a ceasefire that has saved lives in that part of the world.
I give that example in this debate because commentators are starting to notice that even though Hamas and al-Qaeda are both terrorist, they cannot be classified in the same way. People are starting to notice that although jihadist groups are calling for violence in response to the cartoons, Hamas has called on its supporters to reject suggestions that their objections to the cartoons, which are equally as strong, should involve a violent response. I am not claiming that Hamas has suddenly stopped being terrorist or has stopped glorifying terrorism—it has not; it is still a terrorist organisation. However, if a young Muslim in the UK who hears about a Palestinian child being shot by Israeli troops—as happened a couple of weeks ago—says that he supports Hamas and that Palestinians should take up arms against Israel, I question whether the right thing for us to do would be to criminalise him and threaten him with imprisonment, rather than telling him that he is wrong and why.
From all my involvement in the issue, whether it be talking to people in the middle east or in the UK, I know that to respond by immediate criminalisation of such a young Muslim—sending out those signals—is much more likely to win recruits for terrorism than to win people away from it.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the same point applies to Northern Ireland? It would be far more damaging to demolish the war murals in west Belfast and Londonderry—free Derry—and to arrest the people who painted them than to deal with the community and promote reconciliation.
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point, which he also made in one of our earlier debates on this subject, perhaps from his own experience. It is a relevant example.
I want to make an appeal to the House. There will be a Division and I intend to abstain for the reasons that I have set out, but if we are concerned about the signals that we send from this place it is important that the Opposition and my hon. Friends who share my reservations about what the Government are doing, and indeed those who disagree even more strongly, do not over-egg their case and claim that the Bill contains something that is not there—in other words, go back to our previous debates and imply an omission of the need for a link between glorification and incitement.
I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends—especially Ministers—who support the Government not to project the debate as an argument between people who want to defeat terrorism and people who do not. The argument is about how we do it, and that is the signal that we must send out.
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are willing to do that. I simply make the point that, during the build-up to the debate, it has become harder to discuss these matters rationally, as the No. 10 propaganda machine has cranked up to a very high pitch of activity in trying to blacken the name of anyone who stands in its way. That is not conducive to sensible debate, and I for one am always happy to speak to the Home Secretary on such matters.
I am not quite sure how long we have, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I will start and stop when you tell me to do so.
In a previous debate I gave the Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety an example that I thought would fall foul of the Bill—a meeting of Chilean political refugees, deemed to be terrorists by the Pinochet regime, at which someone said, "I really value what you did in Chile. I hope that one day you can go home and seize back your country from the dictator." The Minister suggested that would not be caught by the Bill.
The Minister suggested that six hurdles would have to be overcome before anyone could be caught and convicted under the Bill. I dug out the relevant copy of Hansard —
Let us consider the first test, where someone attends a meeting and says, "I really value what you did in Chile in the fight against Pinochet, even though he has deemed you to be a terrorist now. I hope that one day you'll go back and seize your country from the dictator." That person must know that they are glorifying the actions that were taken and asking that they be emulated in the future, and the recipient of the information must also be in no doubt about that.
The second test involves the likely effect. Indeed, people may well go back and commit the actions again to achieve the desired result. The third test relates to the context. In the context of a meeting of political refugees, there can be no doubt about the meaning of those words. The fourth test is whether there is a reasonable prospect of a conviction. Of course, if there were witnesses to the conversation, there would be a reasonable prospect.
The fifth test is whether a prosecution is in the public interest. It may not be in the public interest with this Government, but it may certainly have been under previous Governments and—who knows?—under future ones. The problem is that that is a very subjective and political decision, which is not helped by the vagueness of the word "glorification."
The sixth test is whether the Director of Public Prosecutions would take action. If a crime had been committed and there were reasonable grounds to believe that a conviction could be achieved, the DPP would have little or no alternative but to proceed; he would be obliged to do so.
I have struggled with this since
The term "glorification" is so wide, so broad and lacks so much definition that it ought not to appear in the Bill. Furthermore, no Government Member has yet been able to give a single example of any organisation or individual who would be charged under the glorification cause who would not have been covered by provisions guarding against encouraging, committing, instigating or commissioning directly or indirectly acts of terror, or recruiting to a terrorist organisation, or fund raising for a terrorist organisation, or any of the measures that are already on the statute book. The provision is unnecessary. It is too wide. It is unhelpful. It will criminalise the innocent. Let us reach an agreement, find a formula and accept the Lords amendments, with the necessary changes, but let us not object to them today.
In view of the time, I shall speak briefly. The debate has demonstrated with absolute clarity the need to take back these provisions, to consider them in the recess and to propose words that will make sense and can be defined by the courts. This is not just simply a question of whether the public have a view about what is glorification. None of us in a general sense would want terrorism to be glorified, but that is not the problem.
The problem is that such words have never been construed in any court. They are incapable of being construed properly in any court, and they will lead to grave uncertainty. Indeed, to turn the Prime Minister's argument on its head, far from producing the results that he seems to want to achieve, they will almost certainly lead to the acquittal of the very persons whom he would want to be prosecuted and convicted. That is the ultimate test.
What the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have been saying today will lead to the acquittal of people on grounds under which they would have been prosecuted successfully in relation to the whole series of enactments that have been described already, including the two enactments of 1861, the Terrorism Act 2000 and a stack of others.
Such provisions are available. Including them in the Bill will create confusion and uncertainty, so they should be included in the consolidation Bill to which the Home Secretary referred the other day. In the meantime, he should go back to the drawing board and come up with proposals that both make sense and will result in what the people of this country really want.
Question accordingly agreed to.
Lords amendment disagreed to
Madam Deputy Speaker then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour.
Lords amendments Nos. 11, 15, 28, 31, 32 and 34 disagreed to.
Government amendments (a) and (b) in lieu of Lords amendments Nos. 5, 11, 15, 28, 31, 32 and 34 agreed to.