Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:36 pm on 4th March 2010.

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Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Minister of State (Home Office) (Crime and Policing) 12:36 pm, 4th March 2010

I hope that my right hon. Friend will accept that, as I said, we are aware of a range of issues in relation to that evidence about which we are unable to give details to the House. I can say, however, that we remain concerned that the activities of the organisation and its potential influence on individuals in the United Kingdom meet the legal test that we have to meet, to ensure that proscription takes place. Proscription is a tough and necessary power, but it involves specific tests that need to be met. At the beginning of my speech, I outlined the details of the particular activities that we need to consider.

I say to my right hon. Friend, and to the House as a whole, that in the event of the organisation or its agents wishing to make representations about the proscription order, it can do so following the consideration of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. If he upholds the order, the applicant can appeal to the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission, which is a special tribunal that will review whether my right hon. Friend has properly exercised his powers in refusing to de-proscribe the organisation. The commission is able to consider the sensitive material to which we have had access, which underpins proscription decisions, and a special advocate can be appointed to represent the interests of the applicant in closed sessions of the commission. We believe that the international evidence shows that there is a real need to take action against al-Shabaab. We are convinced, having looked at the evidence internally, that there is evidence which would be upheld by that legal test and which we, as a nation, could defend if the appeal came forward in due course.

I would also say to my right hon. Friend that, having considered all the evidence, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary firmly believes that al-Shabaab is currently concerned with terrorism and is involved in the activities that I have described to the House. Indeed, there is not only a concern in the United Kingdom but an international consensus of condemnation of the organisation's activities. For example-I hope that this further reassures my right hon. Friend-the organisation is already proscribed in the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Our actions today, if approved by this House and in another place later on, will help to protect the United Kingdom against terrorist activity.

We are actively examining the situation. As my right hon. Friend will know, we cannot comment directly on intelligence matters, but I have made an assessment, with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, that there is a small but genuine risk that British nationals and British interests may be harmed as a result of al-Shabaab's activities in Somalia and, indeed, in the wider region.