Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism

Part of Deferred Divisions – in the House of Commons at 7:27 pm on 4th July 2012.

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Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North 7:27 pm, 4th July 2012

I shall be brief, but I want to follow up on the comments made by the Chair of the Select Committee on Home Affairs, my right hon. Friend Keith Vaz, and the questions asked by my hon. Friend Diana Johnson, who speaks on behalf of the Opposition.

I feel that we should be cautious when we proscribe any organisation. As the Minister pointed out, the effect is that anti-terrorist law rather than normal criminal law applies to that organisation, not just in this country but in other countries. It almost ends up criminalising entire communities, as my right hon. Friend for Leicester East mentioned in the context of the Tamil community, but it affects many others too. We should not always reach out to anti-terror laws to deal with our problems in security; we should instead use the criminal law that we have.

The other effect of banning an organisation from a particular community can be to choke off perfectly open and legitimate political debate and deter people from taking part in normal political debate. It might also have the perverse effect of encouraging some people in completely the wrong direction. We should be more than slightly cautious about that.

These issues are not new and they have been raised many times. I realise than the Minister probably cannot give a full answer today, but I have asked questions concerning the Anderson inquiry and its proposals. There are a substantial number of organisations on that list and, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, the LTTE is a banned organisation although it no longer exists, so there does not seem to be a great deal of point in continuing that ban. Will the Minister give us a more specific indication than “in due course” of when he will be able to come before the House with a substantial reply to the queries of many Members about some of the organisations listed?

Will the Minister also give a strong message to the law enforcement officers in this country at all levels? If a specific organisation is banned, there is clearly a legal sanction against that organisation. However, it is not a legal sanction against all members of the community or against legitimate political debate. It is not a legal sanction against normal political discourse but, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, some people somewhere hear that the LTTE is banned and therefore believe that all Tamil activity is banned. That is obviously not the case, but it is a message that some people misunderstand, or choose to misunderstand. If the Minister would set the record right, that would be extremely helpful. I look forward to his reply, and I hope that he can give a substantial answer to the report by the Home Affairs Committee sooner rather than later. I realise that that will not be before the summer recess, but if we could at least have an indication that it would be available in early autumn that would be helpful.