Lords reasons for insisting on amendments and disagreeing to Commons amendments, considered.
Lords reasons: 5A, 11A, 31A and 34C
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House insists on its disagreement with the Lords in their Amendments 5, 11, 31 and 34 and insists on its Amendment 34B but does not insist on its disagreement with the Lords in their Amendment 28 and proposes the following Amendment in lieu:—
No. (a), in page 6, line 24, at end insert—'(8A) The reference in subsection (8) to something that is likely to be understood as an indirect encouragement to the commission or preparation of acts of terrorism or Convention offences includes anything which is likely to be understood as—
(a) the glorification of the commission or preparation (whether in the past, in the future or generally) of such acts or such offences; and
(b) a suggestion that what is being glorified is being glorified as conduct that should be emulated in existing circumstances.'. —[Mr.Charles Clarke.]
With this we will consider the following: leave out from "following" to the end and insert in lieu amendment (b), in page 2, line 1, leave out subsection (4) and insert—
'( ) for the purposes of this section, "indirect encouragement" comprises the making of a statement referring to terrorism in such a way that the listener, reader or viewer would infer that he should emulate it.'.
Amendment (c), in page 6, line 24, at end insert—
'(8A) The reference in subsection (8) to something that is capable of being understood as an indirect encouragement to the commission or preparation of acts of terrorism or Convention offences comprises the making of a statement referring to terrorism in such a way that the listener, reader or viewer would infer that he should emulate it.'.
The effect of my motion is simple. It effectively reinstates the wording that this House has previously decided on and rejects the attempts of the other place to remove all references to glorification from the Bill. I can be brief in my remarks because I set out in detail what was wrong with the amendments made by another place when we last discussed the issue on
I am pleased to say that one objection to those amendments has been removed. Mr. Grieve has perhaps realised that his assertion that he was
"not wholly persuaded by the argument that listening cannot encompass reading."—[Hansard, 15 February 2006; Vol. 442, c. 1435.]
is not really sustainable. I accept that today's amendments from the Opposition parties do at least seek to remedy the weakness that we reflected in the debate that we had last time, but the reference solely to "listener" was not the only thing that was wrong with the amendments.
The amendments from the other place are defective because instead of containing an exemplary description of what "indirect encouragement" could be, they provide 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. To put that simply, the use of the word "describing" in the Lords amendments means that the Bill would not catch, as the original wording would, glorification, praise or celebration of an act of terrorism that does not actually describe the act. Although the amendments that have now been tabled by the Opposition parties do not rely on the word "describing", the same type of objection still applies to them. The use of the word "comprises" makes them exhaustive.
The point that I was making is that the amendment seeks to provide an exhaustive description, which, in my opinion, does not meet the original position put forward by the House. That is precisely why we think that the amendments made in the other place and the amendments tabled by the Opposition should not be accepted here.
The removal of the reference to glorification, which appears to be the purpose of the amendments made in the other place, appears to be the position of the official Opposition, although it is difficult to be sure. On Tuesday, the official Opposition tabled amendments jointly with the Liberal Democrats that included the word "glorifying", but by yesterday those amendments had been replaced by Conservative amendments that do not make reference to glorification. In the other place, those on the Conservative Front Bench urged their colleagues not to vote against the Commons on those points. No doubt we will receive some clarification on that from the Opposition spokesman.
On the whole, I am genuinely trying to see whether I can reach a consensus with the Home Secretary. For that reason, I considered whether it would be possible, within the restricted ambit of the word "comprise", to give the Prime Minister his "glorifying" word, so that his ego would be satisfied, but after I had put the amendment down on the blues— I take responsibility for this—it seemed to me, for the very reason that I gave to the Home Secretary, that I could not think of a single example of when glorification would not involve a reference to terrorism. One cannot glorify something without referring to it. In fact, in lawyers' language, the word was otiose and surplusage and I have no business tabling an amendment that includes something that is completely unnecessary and serves no purpose whatever.
What of the Liberal Democrats? No one—including them, probably—has any idea where they stand. On Tuesday they were with the Conservatives in accepting "glorifying". On Wednesday they had parted company from the Conservatives, but today they are back with the Conservatives and opposing "glorifying". It is such typical behaviour from the Liberal Democrats that perhaps it is not worth considering.
The case for including glorification is strong. It is a clear and well understood English word that captures better than any other word some of the conduct that we are trying to deal with in the Bill. As I have said, I imagine that that is why the press have picked up and focused on the word. They know what it means and they know that their readers understand it. It was and, I hope, will be perfectly clear in the Bill for the sake of the courts. It is also a word that the nations of the world were prepared to accept last September when they voted to adopt UN Security Council resolution 1624, which features that word. We should uphold it in Parliament.
As I have also pointed out before, in light of the attention given to the issue of glorification, if we were now to remove it from the Bill the courts would be fully justified in reaching one obvious conclusion—that Parliament did not intend glorification of terrorism to fall within the scope of the encouragement offence. If any hon. Members doubt that, they might like to read a judgment given by the Lords of Appeal only last week. In the course of his remarks, Lord Bingham of Cornhill said:
"There is no warrant for treating Parliament as having meant something it did not say".
That clarification, given in the case Regina on application of Gillan and another v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and another, which was given on
No, not at the moment.
The reason the Government believe that we need to deal with glorification in our law is clear. People who glorify terrorism help to create a climate in which terrorism is regarded as acceptable. They help to persuade impressionable members of their audiences that they have a moral duty to kill innocent people in pursuit of whatever ideology they have espoused.
In recent times, we have seen threats from extremists who claim to represent Islam. Leaders of the Muslim community in the UK and elsewhere have quite properly and very strongly made it clear that such views do not represent true Islam. However, there are, nevertheless, people who 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.
I should also 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. 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 this point. Glorification without intention of emulation or subjective recklessness cannot constitute an offence.
No, I will not give way.
That is a very important safeguard and gives the lie to some of the fanciful claims that have been made about perfectly innocent statements falling foul of this legislation. In part we can have such confidence because of the requirement in the Bill, as this House passed it, for the glorification to relate to conduct that could be emulated in existing circumstances. The amendments from the Opposition parties remove this requirement. I am quite willing to believe that the proposers did not intend to extend the scope of the offence in this undesirable way, but they must speak for themselves, as I am sure the hon. Member for Beaconsfield will do in a moment, and justify their own drafting.
Another important consideration in this debate is that the creation of an offence of glorification was a specific commitment in the manifesto on which my party fought and won the general election less than a year ago. That goes hand in hand with the question of which House should prevail in any dispute between the two Houses. In Committee and on Report the House voted explicitly on the question of whether this Bill should contain references to glorification. It endorsed the proposition by majorities of 16 and 25 respectively. The Bill then had an unopposed Third Reading and proceeded to another place.
The other place is a revising Chamber and can invite this House to think again. That is precisely what happened in respect of glorification, and other aspects of the Bill as well. Although I disagreed with the views of another place, I made no complaint as to its conduct up to that point. However, the Bill then returned to this House. On
The elected House must prevail and I hope that the motion standing in my name will pass by the largest possible majority, so that it is clear to Members of another place what form Members of the elected House want the legislation to take.
The Home Secretary has failed to explain the scope of his proposal, from which flow a large number of the problems with which the House is grappling. He came close to touching on that matter a moment ago, but whenever he comes close to it, he veers off, because an explanation would make nonsense of the Government's entire argument.
The glorification of terrorism is not being made an offence, thank goodness. If the glorification of terrorism on its own were made an offence, it would mean, as we have said on many occasions, that anybody who celebrates Robin Hood, the peasants revolt or Spartacus would be liable to prosecution. Furthermore, the poor old Taoiseach would be liable to prosecution when he comes over here after celebrating the Easter rising next month in Dublin, which he intends to do. Mercifully, that is not the Government's objective.
The Government's approach must be based on the Prime Minister's ego, because there is no other rational explanation. Having produced a Bill that contains draconian and powerful provisions to criminalise the indirect encouragement of terrorism—something that we support—the Home Secretary has insisted on including in clause 1(4) a most extraordinary subsection, which suggests that the courts should have particular regard to an example that he is offering: the possibility that glorification falls within the scope of indirect encouragement. At the same time, he has provided the suggestion that members of the public would reasonably be expected to infer that what is being glorified is being glorified as conduct that should be emulated by them in existing circumstances—I think that the Taoiseach would still be in some difficulty, because quite a few people in Northern Ireland think that any celebration of the Easter rising does exactly that.
The key point is that every single judge and lawyer to whom I have spoken has highlighted the fact that including such a concept is woolly, opaque and unclear, that the word, "glorify", is not known in our law and that the definition of "glorify" as praise or celebration is very poor. The provision appears to be deliberately aimed at people who might wish to celebrate as part of their culture episodes that would fall within the Government's catch-all definition of terrorism. Above all, it is entirely unnecessary in meeting the Government's objective, and the Home Secretary has said nothing this afternoon to explain why it needs to be included in the Bill.
Surely the Home Secretary's claim that judges will take it as a signal if this is cut out has no merit. The judges will know perfectly well that it was cut out because it is unnecessary given that any offence that it would catch would be caught under existing legislation.
There is no doubt that in many respects the Bill is a belt and braces job. As we pointed out to the Government, the truth is that there are perfectly good laws on the statute book that could be used instead of clause 1 or many other clauses. I must admit that I will probably not lose a huge amount of sleep over that, provided that the legislation that we enact is rational, fair, makes sense and, if I may say to the Home Secretary, does not provide a lawyer's field day of casuistic arguments whereby every person who is prosecuted under the glorification clause will take the courts up hill and down dale day after day, and eventually be acquitted, probably on the direction of a judge, because it is all completely unintelligible.
The police certainly do not need additional powers to deal with a demonstration outside the Danish embassy. I was rather depressed to read today that although some prosecutions have been started, there are problems in identifying some of the people who participated because, of course, nobody was arrested at the time or shortly thereafter. That is a policing matter, but it is not exactly encouraging for those of us who wish to see that sort of behaviour stopped—something that I suspect is true of every single hon. Member.
If nobody knows who is holding up the placard because that person is wearing a dish dash in such a way that all that can be seen is his eyes, what possible use would an identity card be? I am afraid that Government Front Benchers are living in fantasy land as regards terrorist offences, and one need only engage in any sort of debate for the fantasies that are besetting them to become increasingly apparent.
I say this to the Home Secretary: we have genuinely been trying to see whether we can reach agreement with the Government on the problem that has been posed by the Prime Minister's ego and his slavish adherence to the word "glorification". If one is French, that word does not feature in the debate at all, because the equivalent word is, "apologie", which means "vindication" and is entirely different. For those in the international community, the failure of this House to enact the glorification clause would not be the most seismic event ever, because what they actually want to see is terrorists and those who encourage terrorism brought to justice. That is the matter on which the House should be concentrating.
Mindful of that, we tried to see whether we could reach some measure of agreement. That is why the amendments that I have tabled, on which, I am glad to say, we will be able to vote before voting on the Home Secretary's proposition, would provide the framework for doing that. The Home Secretary's suggestion that the word "listening" might not encompass viewing or reading struck me as having force. Indeed, if there had been an opportunity for a full debate and vote in the House of Lords, it might have been possible to do something about that there. That classically illustrates how our parliamentary procedure does not work very well. Here we have an opportunity to remedy that minor criticism.
On top of that, as the Home Secretary will have noted, we have removed the word, "describing", in relation to terrorism because he said that it is possible to glorify terrorism without describing it—I think that it is quite difficult, but I can see that it is a drafting argument—and replaced it with the word, "referring". Can the Home Secretary give me any example of where it would be possible to glorify something without referring to it? I have to say that I do not think that that argument would get very far.
I have examined the amendments that the hon. Gentleman tabled. Will he assure us that, if they were carried, became part of the Bill and subsequently law, they could not lead to the same sort of perverse prosecutions, which, as he rightly said earlier, are possible under the glorification clause?
I believe that they will be a great improvement because they focus on what Parliament wants to achieve. My judgment is that Parliament wants to prevent people from indirectly encouraging terrorism by referring to it in such a way that the listener, reader or viewer, who heard, read or saw whatever was said would infer that he should emulate it. I have always accepted that glorification could constitute an offence if a reference to terrorism was made in such a way that a listener, reader or viewer inferred that he should emulate it. Our amendment removes the focus from a concept that should have no part in our law. People should be allowed to celebrate the Easter rising in Dublin without thinking that they are beginning to fall foul of the measure. They celebrate it not only in Dublin, but, for all I know, in west London.
The hon. Gentleman may be right—there could be more such celebrations. In my part of London, celebrations of the Easter rising will undoubtedly take place. The Irish centre is within a few hundred yards of my home.
Let me reassure the hon. Gentleman. If he accepts that indirect encouragement of terrorism should be criminalised, he should have no fear about supporting our amendment. It gets round the problem of the Government's concept.
The clause that covers proscribing organisations specifically focuses on glorification. Again, the amendment would remove that focus and provide that, if an organisation referred to terrorism in a way that made people infer that they should emulate it, it would fall foul of the proscription provision. However, simply glorifying something would not fall foul of the provision. Some glorification will undoubtedly constitute a reference to behaviour and terrorism in a way that encourages emulation but some will not. The amendment would get rid of the concept of glorification. That is a great improvement.
I am waiting for the Home Secretary to intervene because no coherent argument has been advanced for the Government's reason for getting so hooked on the inclusion of glorification. I do not know what will happen when the Bill returns to the other place. I note that, for something that has become so intimately bound up with the Prime Minister's ego, when it previously returned to the Lords, only 156 out of 208 Labour peers turned up to support the proposals, even in the Government's great heave to show their mettle. Indeed, some Labour peers supported us.
The Home Secretary can read what my noble Friend Lord Kingsland said. He took the view that the Government's slavish adherence to glorification was unproductive. He and many other peers on the Front and Back Benches criticised that. However, he said that the Opposition believed that the argument might have been exhausted and they therefore abstained on the vote. So many peers of all parties, including the Labour party, took objection to "glorification" that they defeated the Government despite the Government's turning out their troops in large numbers. That is a telling indication of the independent mindedness of the other place. For that reason, when the Bill returned here, I went to much trouble to ascertain whether there is a way in which we can square the circle.
At one stage, I drafted an amendment that made use of the words "referring or glorifying". I try to apply a bit of logic to what I do, and I hope that the Home Secretary will forgive me for saying that I could see no basis on which the word "glorifying" in that context would add anything at all to the legislation.
This is what worries me about the Government's approach. When we read the Bill, we see that the Government have created an offence and then, in a bizarre way, put in a subsection that draws specific attention to an activity that they want to criminalise or condemn. That is very bad law. It would have made sense, had the Government persevered—I am glad that they did not—and said that glorifying terrorism was in itself an offence. Mercifully, they did not go down that road, because enough people pointed out to them that that would have been a completely loopy proposal. What we have here, however, is a remnant of that loopiness. The House should not be in the business of encouraging loopy legislation.
I am following the hon. Gentleman's arguments closely. What comfort does he draw from the clear statement by Baroness Scotland, who speaks for the Government on this issue in the other place? When she was asked by my noble Friend Lord Clinton-Davis whether there would be an opportunity to revisit this matter soon, she conceded that there would be "bound to be" such an opportunity. What comfort does the hon. Gentleman draw from that?
A pretty limited amount. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Government have said that at some point—probably not in the next parliamentary Session, but possibly the one after that—there could be a huge terrorism Bill to bring together all the many terrorism and anti-terrorism Bills that the Government have enacted in the past five years. We seem to move between terrorism Bills and anti-terrorism Bills. We have heard about the possibility of such a Bill in the context of control orders. I hope that, in the course of producing such a Bill, some of the loopier things that we have done will disappear down the plughole. That would include allowing people to be deemed to be members of a proscribed organisation on the basis of the hearsay evidence of a police officer. That measure has never been used since it was introduced. There are an awful lot of added-on bits that we could get rid of. However, we are in the hands of the Government, and I can easily envisage the circumstances in which the Home Secretary—despite having been completely honest when making the point in relation to control orders—could come to the House in 18 months' time and say, "I'm sorry, but there is insufficient parliamentary time. We'll have to put this off for another two years."
In the meantime, the House should not put on the statute book a measure that is plainly idiotic and wrong. This problem could so easily be cured. If we were to cure it by adopting my amendment, the Bill would have every bit as much bite. It would be able to deal with those whom we wish to prosecute, and it would be able to help to uphold the rule of law without making us a laughing stock for having adopted a concept so opaque that it will be unintelligible when presented in court.
Hon. Members should also bear in mind the important point that certain law-abiding sections of society feel that they are being targeted by anti-terrorist activity. That is an almost inevitable consequence, but we must keep it in mind. It is my view—I wish it were the Home Secretary's view—that, in using terms such as "glorification" when they are not necessary to achieve our objective, we do ourselves no favours in the battle for hearts and minds that we have to win. That battle will have to go together with everything else that we do, if we are to curb the terrorist threat in this country.
For those reasons, I invite hon. Members to support our amendments in lieu of the Home Secretary's proposition. If we do not succeed in that regard, my colleagues and I will stand by the Lords amendments and vote against the Home Secretary's proposition.
In this debate, as in the earlier one on the Identity Cards Bill, the Government have revealed a curious attachment to a single, ill-defined word. The debate on identity cards highlighted their somewhat spectacular redefinition of the word "voluntary". Now we are dealing with a Government—or more precisely a Prime Minister—who appear to be absolutely insistent on another word, "glorification". A petulant insistence on the use of a particular word does not make good law.
The Government's position is weak on three counts. First, as was said earlier, there is no legally understood definition of the word "glorification". It confuses the law, creating unnecessary imprecision and fluidity. That should not happen to a law that deals with such an important issue as tackling terrorism. The Joint Committee on Human Rights objected to the term on exactly that ground—legal imprecision—and we have still not heard a compelling argument from the Government to refute that view.
Secondly, the provision adds nothing other than confusion to existing laws that are deployed effectively to tackle many of the problems that it is supposed to address. The arrest yesterday of a number of protesters who used sickening and inflammatory language on their placards when demonstrating against the anti-Islamic cartoons published in Denmark shows that current laws against incitement appear to be working fairly well, although there was some delay in that case.
Surely the hon. Gentleman agrees that the enormous delay in the effecting of those arrests and the very small number of people who were arrested, given the large number who were protesting, show that action has not been taken as expeditiously as we would expect—and, indeed, as we saw in the case of the counter-demonstrators who were arrested there and then, and in that of the people who protested in support of liberties in the countryside a few months ago outside the House.
The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point about the curious delay in the action taken by the police in arresting the placard protesters, but that is not really relevant to the fact that a law is already available to allow such prosecutions and arrests. There is no obvious loophole that the offence of glorification, even as a subset of indirect encouragement, is required to fill.
Thirdly and most important, the insistence on the term "glorification" will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression. It will lead, in effect, to self-censorship. Its application to any events—I think that this phrase in clause 1 is in parentheses, but it is important none the less—
"whether in the past, in the future or generally" casts the net extremely wide. Muslim communities in particular, who have an understandable interest in debating and speaking out about conflicts on the west bank or in Gaza, or in Iraq, Chechnya or Kashmir, will find themselves especially vulnerable to the loose application of a poorly worded law. Is that really what we want at a time of heightened sensitivity between Muslim and other faiths?
Of course acts of terrorism, in those places as anywhere else, are abhorrent and must be condemned; but freedom to discuss them should not, surely, be threatened by such loosely worded legislation.
Is it not bizarre that while the Home Secretary seems to think that the exclusion of the word "glorification" from the Bill will send a signal to judges—who ought to know better—that the House of Commons thinks that it is okay for people to glorify, he is not worried about the possibility that the inclusion of the word will send the communities to whom the hon. Gentleman referred a misleading signal that they should not dare to mention such subjects in a legitimate debate?
That is an excellent point. The heavy-handed indifference to the effects on our culture of freedom of speech, and particularly the effects on certain communities, is both cavalier and dangerous. We are simply not going to win the battle against terrorism by driving debate underground. That is the fundamental problem with the Government's approach, and their insistence on the use of the word "glorification".
My hon. Friend is right to say that the measure will lead to self-censorship. Those of us who have debated the issue at length know that the Government accept that. It is not that they are indifferent; they want us to be censored and self-censored. We see that in many Government proposals. It would be legitimate for the Government to take that view if they had any evidence that sacrificing a freedom would help rather than being counter-productive. There is no such evidence, and we are in danger of losing our freedoms to a Government who do not care about the importance of freedom of expression.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his observations. They strike at the heart of the imbalance in the Government's approach to tackling terrorism, which is sacrificing our cherished freedoms in the way described.
I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman, in the circumstances, for his generosity. He will be aware that a significant number of people from Darfur are in this country seeking asylum or exceptional leave to remain. Would it not be an abomination if such people—in expressing support for the Sudanese People's Liberation Army, or strong opposition to the Government of Sudan or the Arab militias—were held up as supporters of terrorism when what they really want is the opportunity to enjoy civil rights and to live in a free Darfur?
Indeed, and the grotesque effect of poorly drafted legislation that the hon. Gentleman describes is also retrospective. Those who celebrate the Easter uprising or write about the American war of independence could be scooped up by the law in a way that no reasonable person would consider desirable. That is why the amendments before us to clauses 1 and 3, on "indirect encouragement", deserve support from all parts of the House. Their wording is more precise in law, easier to read and more clearly understandable than the convoluted and garbled text on glorification.
If I may, I shall now address my remarks to the Home Secretary, who referred to the Opposition parties' attempt to find a way to satisfy the rather petulant insistence on the use of the word "glorification" by qualifying and defining it in a way that neuters its ill-judged effects. It was a serious, concerted and sincere attempt to secure agreement in all parts of the House, and if his only reaction to it is to make crass debating points, it will discourage further attempts in other situations to achieve cross-party consensus.
First, the hon. Gentleman should think carefully before describing the United Nations Security Council as petulant in its use of the word "glorification", particularly given that he represents a party that has a strong tradition of internationalism and of support for the UN. Secondly, such efforts to reach agreement involved the two Opposition parties; they did not involve the Government at all.
With the greatest respect to the Home Secretary, his reaction to our sincere and, as it happens, rather open attempts to reach agreement, as revealed by the amendment, will discourage us the next time that we wish to achieve cross-party agreement on such matters. My recollection is that the UN's use of the word "glorification" was heavily qualified by legal understandings of intention and purposeful activity in the act of glorifying—understandings that have been excluded from this Bill. So the read-across to the UN understanding of "glorification" is not entirely valid.
Surely the Home Secretary's point does not stand up, given that the word "glorification" appears nowhere in the statute book and has never been clarified by the courts. So there is a difference between what happens in diplomatic negotiations and what should be in British law.
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. I think that it was addressed to the Home Secretary, and I look forward to his providing clarification.
The Government and the Home Secretary claim that they do not intend the term "glorification", as a sub-clause to the definition of "indirect encouragement", to be used in an unduly lax or imprecise manner, so there appears to be agreement on that, at least. If so, the amendments before us deliver precisely what they want. They also include the refinements described by Mr. Grieve, which extend the wording to encompass listener, reader or viewer. There is simply no reasonable reason or excuse left for the Government not to abandon the Prime Minister's stubborn, ill-judged obsession with the word "glorification".
I shall be brief, for obvious reasons. I want the Lords to continue to oppose the inclusion of the word "glorification" on the face of the Bill. I am no more a supporter of criminal terrorist acts than is any other hon. Member, but using such loose wording in legislation could be very dangerous. It could lead to some very dangerous and perverse prosecutions.
Earlier, Mr. Grieve gave some examples of how that could happen. Over the years, I have been to many meetings when the virtues of the Easter rising have been extolled, and the speeches made at those meetings could well be construed as glorifying what some people would call a terrorist act. In my part of London, Sir Roger Casement is a figure of veneration, rather than of condemnation, and there is no doubt that that is true in many other places. I have also attended celebrations of India's independence day, when speakers have extolled the virtue of the various figures who played a part in bringing about that independence. In certain circumstances, I am sure that those speakers could be prosecuted under the Bill.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that celebrations of certain parts of Irish history could include readings from the poetry of W.B. Yeats, which could also be caught by the definition in the Bill?
I always read Yeats' great poetry to myself, quietly at home, and never in public. However, I take the point: plenty of writings extol things that could be caught by the Bill. Indeed, history is full of accounts of the dreadful things done by British forces abroad—such as massacres in India and elsewhere—that I would argue could be interpreted as terrorist acts. I am not in favour of prosecuting anyone for talking about such matters, but that is the danger of the Bill.
The Home Secretary said that the leaders of the Muslim community in this country have condemned the language used in the demonstration outside the Danish embassy. That is true, but as far as I know, they have not supported the use of the word "glorification" in the Bill, because they see the dangers that would ensue. It does not take a huge imagination to work out that utterly ridiculous and perverse prosecutions could be brought under the Bill. However, it is also possible that a very serious prosecution could be brought—for example, in respect of what an imam might have said after Friday prayers. The matter would be dragged through the courts for months. The prosecution case might collapse, or the imam might be declared innocent, but a cause célèbre and a martyr will have been created in the meantime, and community relations will have been damaged. That is the danger of having such loose wording in the Bill.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the House might be being too kind to the Government by assuming that they have a rationale for the use of the word "glorification" in the Bill? Is it not possible that the Government's aim has been to create an entirely artificial division in the mind of the public? The argument makes the Government appear to be strong on terrorism, while leaving everyone else who oppose the Government—on the Conservative, Liberal Democrat or even Labour Benches—looking somehow weak on the matter. Does he agree that this dangerous legislation could have been introduced for such cynical reasons?
No. I always want to be kind to the Government. I am sure that they would not want to promote any such cynical thoughts, although I admit that cynicism sometimes does creep into politics.
A person who plants a bomb that kills people is committing a criminal act, and I remind the House that 12 people from my borough were killed on
Does my hon. Friend not see that the problem with which the House is now grappling is not that there will be more than a maximum of one prosecution using this concept of glorification—because it will fail at the first hurdle—but rather that the impact of the concept on what I might call the "Holbeck Faults" of our society might be very grave indeed?
Absolutely. The point is that this creates an atmosphere that becomes perverse and dangerous. As has been indicated in earlier debates, my constituency, like many other London constituencies has been the home of many people who were exiled leaders of revolutionary organisations in other countries. We had the leadership of the African National Congress, the SWAPO leadership, people from the Congress party in India and many others who have been condemned for terrorism. In public meetings from time immemorial through to the present, they would make speeches about liberation struggles in other parts of the world that could be construed as glorifying terrorism. I would probably argue that that was not the case, but as has been said, it only takes the failure of one prosecution to damage the law and create martyrs.
The Bill creates an atmosphere in which people feel constrained from speaking out or discussing anything in a rational, political way. It is important that we defend the right to free speech and to discuss history. It is important for teachers and professors to deal in detail with what may or may not have happened in a historical context. Free speech is a precious and important thing.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. He made the point that the person who placed the bomb that affected his constituents was committing a criminal offence. I think that he will agree with me that the person who caused that bomb to be placed should be committing a criminal offence. That is the case because we have the incitement laws. Does he understand why the incitement laws are suddenly felt to be entirely inadequate for the purpose for which they were passed, and why they are not used to prosecute people who should be prosecuted?
I can only agree with the hon. Gentleman. It is clear that placing the bombs on the bus and the train, which killed my constituents and many others, was an illegal, criminal act. The same is true of supplying the material and planning the attack. I fail to understand how putting the word "glorification" on the face of the Bill makes anybody more secure. I think that in reality it creates a more divided community. The police say privately that what is important for security is co-operation between communities. If we reduce that co-operation by criminalising sections of the community, we are on a slippery slope.
To pursue the intervention by Mr. Heath, does my hon. Friend understand any way in which the word "glorification" will strengthen the situation that the hon. Gentleman has described? As far as I can see, it will do nothing of the sort. It does not add to the situation at all. As my hon. Friend suggested, it can only lead to fraught and unhelpful situations.
There is a feeling in Government—it is the same in all Governments—that when something awful happens, they have to be seen to be doing something. The only thing Governments can do, apart from making statements and providing resources for the forces of law and order, is to pass new legislation. So that is what they do, and I suspect, to some extent, that is what we are doing here today. I hope that the Lords stick with it on the issue of glorification. I think that Mr. Cash wants to intervene, or maybe he is just waving at me. I am not sure—[Interruption.] Oh, he is just drowning! I give way to Dr. Harris.
In partial, but only partial, defence of the Government's intention, it is fair to point out that while terrorist acts and incitement offences occur, the convention against terrorism requires the Government to introduce a measure against indirect encouragement or incitement, which is what the Bill does. However, as the Joint Committee on Human Rights pointed out, the convention does not require the inclusion of the word "glorification" for the reasons that the hon. Gentleman and other Members have given, which is that it is too vague and too broad.
I can but agree with the hon. Gentleman. If the wording is vague and too broad, we will end up with a dangerous situation.
We are all concerned about many issues in the UK and around the world. We want an inclusive society, where people feel able to express their political point of view and to represent causes all over the world. The Bill has international reach; indeed, it has global, even intergalactic, reach—it knows no limit. So let us suppose that we invited elected Members of the Palestinian Authority to address a meeting in the House, as many of us have done over the years. Their speeches describing the situation could be construed as glorifying terrorism. I do not necessarily think that would be the case, but it could happen.
We are moving into dangerous, uncharted waters with the Bill. Perverse prosecutions will bring about serious breakdowns in community relations, and I urge the Government to think carefully and seriously about such a vague and sloppy word as "glorification", when a much closer definition would meet the need for decency and security and deal with people who commit criminal acts, because that is what we are talking about.
I have been listening to the debate for some time, and if there has been any serious examination of the meaning of the word "glorification" it has escaped my notice. One might be forgiven for assuming that there was no reference to its interpretation in the Bill.
In earlier debates on the measure, I pointed out that I thought it would be extremely difficult for courts to construe a meaning. The definition in clause 20 notes that glorification
"includes any form of praise or celebration".
I think not, and that is not because I suspect that my hon. Friend will raise a point that I had not thought of.
With respect to the context of the use of the word "glorification", I entirely endorse my hon. Friend's view that the Prime Minister is on a bit of an ego trip. The Prime Minister has stuck closely to the assumption that the word has to remain in the Bill. The word is defined in various dictionaries and that, after all, is the only basis on which the courts can make a construction.
For people who are concerned about the connection between glorification and terrorism in the Islamic context, the rather dangerous first definition—from the point of view that things could spin out of control—is that the word means to praise and worship God. Those who know and understand something about the meaning of Islam and the proper reverence attached to the word "Allah" will realise that it could mean that anybody who was found to have glorified God in that context would automatically find a conflation between God on the one hand and terrorism on the other. That is an extremely difficult area.
I notice that the Home Secretary is chuntering and saying "Ridiculous". If he thinks that that was ridiculous, he should look at the dictionary. The courts will have to construe those words and that was the first definition given.
My hon. Friend is making an important point. As he is showing, one of the things that the Home Secretary has done is to give constant illustrative definitions but no comprehensive definitions, so the scope is wide. As my hon. Friend says, glorification could be much more than praise and celebration, even though praise and celebration are singled out in the Bill. Does he agree that that is part of the mischief of passing such opaque legislation? It leaves people in uncertainty, which is a bad principle on which to legislate.
I could not agree more with my hon. Friend, and I go further and say that the second definition that is given is to
"reveal the glory of God by one's actions".
Even the Home Secretary, even the Prime Minister, cannot ignore the definitions that are given, for example, in the "Oxford dictionary". When we are dealing with words, as Lewis Carroll said, words mean what we choose them to mean.
"The question is" who is
"to be master—that's all."
In that context, we know from the "Parkinson" interview where the Prime Minister puts himself in this case. He raises his eyes to heaven; he invokes God for guidance. So we are moving into very deep water here.
My next point relates to the alternative definition that is given, which is to
"describe or represent as admirable, especially unjustifiably".
If that is the definition that the Government want—I am amazed that they have not attempted to define the word "glorification" more precisely—they could have chosen that definition, which might have helped them out of some of the difficulties, but no, they insist that the only definition that they want is the one that I started off with, which merely includes any form of praise or celebration. They have moved into dangerous territory; they are actually inviting those of the Islamic fundamentalist disposition to make the worst of this when it crops up. The courts will be forced into a definition. The Government are negligent in not having provided a more precise definition. If the Government cannot come up with a precise definition, they should abandon the words and go back to the wording that has been suggested by the Conservative Front Bench.
It is perfectly simple. The Home Secretary is in a trap—the trap that has been laid for him unwittingly by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister should take note of what is being said. I have no doubt that, as a result of the lack of a definition, the Bill is seriously defective and the Lords have every right to reject the amendment if a majority in the House sends it back to them.
I shall try to be briefer than some of the speakers this afternoon, but we should think carefully before we pass a clause that is so open to misinterpretation, as hon. Members have pointed out. As my hon. Friend Mr. Grieve said, anyone celebrating the Easter rising could be subject to prosecution under the terms of this clause. Slightly closer to home and within the United Kingdom, a few years ago in Cardiff a pub opened called "The Càyo Arms", named after the leader of the Free Wales Army; I presume that under the scope of the clause, anyone who was inside, celebrating the action of the Free Wales Army, would also be subject to prosecution.
Nor is the list as narrow as some might suppose. Would my hon. Friend not accept that it is not simply a question of forming a view and commenting on particular events? People could be trapped under the provision if they were, for example, to express admiration or general support for the activities of the Karen National Liberation Army in perfectly properly resisting the oppressive state apparatus in Burma.
My hon. Friend makes an important point and he is renowned for his interest in human rights. But I think that we have a right to ask ourselves how confident we can be that a measure that will impinge on freedom of speech should be passed by a Government who have probably lost the confidence of members of the public. Two days before the Queen's Speech in 2004, which was when this Bill was first mooted, the front page of the Daily Mail contained a headline about a hijack attempt on Canary Wharf by al-Qaeda operatives. I have looked in vain ever since for any evidence of arrests or of people being charged, but there has been absolutely none.
I suggest to the Home Secretary that that article was deliberately placed into the Daily Mail before the Queen's Speech in a shoddy attempt to stoke up public opinion to get people to support this measure in the first place. [Interruption.] The Home Secretary laughs—so perhaps when he sums up, he will tell us whether or not the security services were briefed to talk to the Daily Mail. If the security services were briefed to talk to the Daily Mail, perhaps the Home Secretary could tell us why. If they were not briefed to do so, perhaps he could tell us why he did not order the same sort of investigation to hunt down the mole in MI5 or MI6 who spoke to the Daily Mail in exactly the same way as the Government shamefully hunted down—
It being one hour after the commencement of proceedings Madam Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour, pursuant to Order [
Amendment proposed: (b), in page 2, line 1, leave out subsection (4) and insert—
'( ) for the purposes of this section, "indirect encouragement" comprises the making of a statement referring to terrorism in such a way that the listener, reader or viewer would infer that he should emulate it.'.—[Mr. Grieve.]
The House divided: Ayes 230, Noes 298.