Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism

Opposition Day — [Unallotted Day] — Disabled People – in the House of Commons at 6:02 pm on 10th July 2013.

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Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 6:02 pm, 10th July 2013

I beg to move,

That the draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2013, which was laid before this House on 8 July, be approved.

The Government are determined to do all they can to minimise the threat from terrorism to the UK and our interests abroad. Proscription is an important part of the Government’s strategy to tackle terrorist activities. We propose, through the order, to add both Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad, more widely known as Boko Haram, and Minbar Ansar Deen, also known as Ansar al-Sharia UK, to the list of international terrorist organisations, amending schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000. This is the 12th proscription order under that Act.

Schedule 3 of the Act provides a power for the Home Secretary to proscribe an organisation if she believes that it is currently “concerned in terrorism”. The Act specifies that an organisation is concerned in terrorism if it commits or participates in acts of terrorism, prepares for terrorism, promotes or encourages terrorism, including the unlawful glorification of terrorism, or is otherwise concerned in terrorism. If the test is met, the Home Secretary may exercise her discretion to proscribe the organisation, having taken into account a number of factors. Those factors are: the nature and scale of an organisation’s activities; the specific threat that it poses to the United Kingdom; the specific threat that it poses to British nationals overseas; the organisation’s presence in the United Kingdom; and the need to support other members of the international community in tackling terrorism.

Given the wide ranging impact of proscription, the Home Secretary exercises her power to proscribe only after thoroughly reviewing the available relevant information and evidence on the organisation. This includes open source material, intelligence material and advice that reflects consultation across Government, including with the intelligence and law enforcement agencies. These decisions are taken with great care by the Home Secretary and it is right that the case for proscribing new organisations must be approved by both Houses.

Photo of Mike Freer Mike Freer Conservative, Finchley and Golders Green

Can the Minister tell me, as someone who has been on the sharp end of attack by Muslims Against Crusades, whether having organisations out in the open where they can be monitored is preferable to proscribing organisations, which makes it harder to monitor them?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I note my hon. Friend’s comment. Clearly, his own experience was very shocking and I well understand why he would wish to intercede in the debate to make that point clearly. Proscription can be an important mechanism to disrupt activity. We therefore believe that it is an appropriate mechanism to send a strong message that terrorist organisations are not tolerated in the UK and to act as a deterrent to their operating here. It also means that an organisation is outlawed and is unable to operate.

It is a criminal offence for a person to belong to a proscribed organisation, invite support for a proscribed organisation, arrange a meeting in support of that organisation, or wear clothing or carry articles in public which arouse reasonable suspicion that they may be a member or supporter of such an organisation. We believe that proscription is a powerful mechanism to disrupt and take firm action against terrorist groups, which is why 49 international and 14 Northern Irish terrorist organisations are currently proscribed.

On the specific groups before the House this evening, having carefully considered all the evidence we firmly believe that both organisations, Boko Haram and Minbar Ansar Deen, are currently concerned in terrorism. Right hon. and hon. Members will appreciate that I am unable to comment on specific intelligence, but I can provide a brief summary of each group.

Boko Haram is a prolific terrorist organisation based in Nigeria whose ultimate goal is to establish the Islamic caliphate. Seeking to undermine democratic government through its campaign of violence and attacks, it has targeted all sections of Nigerian society—Muslims, Christians, rich, poor, civilians and members of the security forces alike—as well as members of the international community. For example, an attack near Abuja on Christmas day 2011 that killed at least 26 people, and an attack on a bus station in Kano City in March 2013 that killed over 60, were both attributed to the organisation. The organisation has also sought to attack international targets in Nigeria. In August 2011, it claimed responsibility for a suicide attack against the UN building in Abuja that killed 26. It has also targeted westerners for kidnapping in the past few years.

I stress to the House that the Government are aware of the concerns over the approach used by the Nigerian Government to defeat Boko Haram. While the UK Government continue to work with Nigeria to fight terrorism, we make it clear that human rights must be respected at all times in our work to defeat terrorism across the globe.

Photo of Richard Fuller Richard Fuller Conservative, Bedford

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for mentioning some of the disgusting attacks by Boko Haram in Nigeria. We live in an interconnected world and I am sure that the Government of Nigeria will be pleased at the action being taken by the British Government today. Has my hon. Friend had any conversations with the Nigerian Government with respect to the motion before the House?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

What I can say to my hon. Friend is that Boko Haram has carried out indiscriminate, mass-casualty attacks, and clearly we are conscious of all the events I have outlined. We believe that proscribing that organisation shows our condemnation of its activities very clearly and will prevent it operating in the UK and give the police powers to tackle any UK-based support for it, so proscription is an important step. I cannot comment on specific discussions we have had with the Nigerian Government, but clearly those continue. I stress the point I made earlier about condemning any human rights abuses in that regard. I think it is important to state that in this context.

The second group we are proscribing is Minbar Ansar Deen, a Salafist group based in the UK that promotes and encourages terrorism. It distributes material through its online forum, which promotes terrorism by encouraging individuals to travel overseas to engage in extremist activity, specifically fighting. The group is not related to Ansar al-Sharia groups in other countries. Proscribing it sends a clear message that we condemn its terrorism activities.

Decisions on when and whether to proscribe an organisation are taken only following extensive consideration and in the light of emerging intelligence. It is important that decisions are built on a robust evidence base, do not adversely impact on any ongoing investigations and support other members of the international community in the global fight against terrorism. It of course would not be appropriate for us to discuss specific intelligence that leads to any decisions to proscribe, but clearly we keep the whole area under constant focus.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

I am sure that the House will support what the Minister is proposing, so he must not take anything I say as criticism of the Government’s decision. He will know that whenever the matter has come before the House I have raised the necessity of a time limit on some of these orders and, in particular, the report by the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC. The Minister told the House almost exactly a year ago, on 4 July 2012, that the Government’s response would be published in due course. The Immigration Minister said on 22 November 2012 that it would be published shortly. When will it be published?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I know that this is an issue that the right hon. Gentleman has pursued through the Home Affairs Committee and through interventions in debates of this kind. I can tell him clearly that we have noted carefully the comments in David Anderson’s report about the de-proscription process and that we responded to the report in March. In that context, under the current regime any person affected by a proscription can submit an application to the Home Secretary requesting that she consider whether the organisation should be de-proscribed. The Home Secretary has received no de-proscription applications, and I understand that none was received by her predecessor since 2009. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that officials continue to explore options for improving the de-proscription process. That is under active consideration and we will inform Parliament of any resulting changes to the regime. Our current thinking is that there are ways in which the existing regime for de-proscription can be used effectively. We will report back to the House shortly, and I genuinely mean that—the right hon. Gentleman smiles. I assure him that this is under active consideration. There are issues that need to be worked through carefully, and we will report back to the House at the earliest opportunity. I say to him genuinely, the matter is being considered carefully and actively in the light of David Anderson’s recommendations in his report, and in looking more generally at the proscription regime, as well as de-proscription within it.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

I am sorry to do this, because I like the Minister, but he has said absolutely nothing that he did not say a year ago. It is important to distinguish between the process, which we all know about, and the issue that David Anderson has raised about time-limiting orders. The Minister has used the words “under active consideration” and said that officials are doing this or that. That is all very well, but ultimately Ministers have to make a decision. Either they are in favour of a time limit or the order will be endless, subject to somebody’s application. We need to know precisely at some stage—not today, obviously.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

As I said, we responded to David Anderson’s report in March. I understand that this matter is of concern to right hon. and hon. Members, and we are therefore examining how the existing de-proscription process can be used more effectively.

I hope that, following my comments, the House will be minded to support the proscription of both groups and support the Government’s focus and clear intent to combat terrorism in this country.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 6:16 pm, 10th July 2013

I thank the Minister for his comments and for the letter dated 8 July from the Home Secretary to the shadow Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper, setting out the Government’s proposals.

There has long been a tradition of cross-party co-operation wherever possible on issues of national security, and we are pleased to continue this by supporting the Government’s order today. As the Minister said, under section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2000 a group can be proscribed if the Home Secretary is persuaded that it

“(a) commits or participates in acts of terrorism,

(b) prepares for terrorism,

(c) promotes or encourages terrorism, or

(d) is otherwise concerned in terrorism.”

I appreciate that the Minister is restricted in what he can say about the evidence that the Home Secretary possesses about these groups. I thank him for the information that he has provided so far. On that basis, the Opposition are happy to support the order.

The Opposition are particularly pleased to support the proscription of Boko Haram. The evidence against this group is overwhelming. As the Minister said, it is responsible for several large-scale terrorist attacks, including those in Abuja and Kano, which claimed dozens of lives. It is right that the United Kingdom does everything it can to support the international efforts to combat this group. However, why has the Minister not taken action against Boko Haram earlier? In November last year, the Home Secretary laid an order to proscribe the group, Ansaru, which was debated in this House on 21 November. At that time, Ansaru had been identified as an organisation independent of Boko Haram for only 11 months, and Boko Haram had been directly implicated in several attacks at that time. In the House, I highlighted the strong links between Boko Haram and Ansaru, and asked why the Government were banning one and not the other. I am very pleased that the Government are now acting, but I would like the Minister to explain the delay. The Opposition are also happy to support the proscription of Ansar-al-Sharia on the basis that it is promoting or encouraging terrorism and therefore falls under section 3.

While we are looking at groups which promote or encourage terrorism, may I ask the Minister about Hizb ut-Tahrir? As he will be aware, over the past five years the status of Hizb ut-Tahrir has been of considerable interest in this House. In 2007, the Prime Minister, then Leader of the Opposition, repeatedly called for the group to be banned. In Prime Minister’s questions, he told the House:

“That organisation says that Jews should be killed wherever they are found. What more evidence do we need before we ban that organisation? It is poisoning the minds of young people.”—[Hansard, 4 July 2007; Vol. 462, c. 952.]

He was very clear then that he wanted the group banned, but at that time an assessment found that Hizb ut-Tahrir was not involved in terrorist activity in the United Kingdom. Since then, however, the situation has developed further. The 2011 review of the Prevent strategy identified Hizb ut-Tahrir as one of the groups targeting universities and attempting to radicalise students. Last week the Minister stated in a parliamentary written answer to me that the Government

“believe there is unambiguous evidence to indicate that some extremist organisations, including Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT), target specific universities and colleges…with the objective of influencing and recruiting students to support their agenda.”—[Hansard, 4 July 2013; Vol. 565, c. 786W.]

The horrific killing of Drummer Lee Rigby shows the danger of home-grown extremism originating from UK universities. In light of that horrific event, it is appropriate that we now review all the measures we have put in place to tackle extremism on UK campuses and look afresh at what can be done to tackle those organisations that seek to recruit students to such causes.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

I remember the very day that the Prime Minister spoke on this subject and I share my hon. Friend’s concern that this organisation has been involved in these activities. Does she agree that it is odd that the Prime Minister believes it should be proscribed, yet it has still not been proscribed?

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

The Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee makes a very good point. The Prime Minister spoke with passion and conviction about the issue in 2007 when he was Leader of the Opposition and I am surprised that, three years into this Government, the organisation has not been dealt with in the way he indicated it would be.

In the light of my comments and the reflections of the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, I urge the Minister to look again at, and to carry out an urgent review of, the status of Hizb ut-Tahrir, with a view to introducing an order to proscribe it. The Opposition would be very happy to co-operate with that course of action.

Finally, I want to return to two technical issues relating to proscription, both of which have been raised in this House on many occasions by my right hon. Friend the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, and to the recommendations of the independent reviewer of terrorism, David Anderson QC, with regard to proscription.

My first point is about the independent reviewer’s recommendation for a time limit on proscription and my second is about de-proscription. As I understand it, the only group to be de-proscribed achieved it by judicial review. The Minister has said that no applications have been made to the Home Secretary, but will he explain why there was a judicial review? It may have happened several years ago. May I also press the Minister on his assurance that we will receive a response at the earliest opportunity, to use his words? Given that time is pressing and Parliament will enter recess next week, is the Minister able to assure us that we will receive a response from the Home Office on this very important issue by the end of the year? It would be helpful to know that, rather than have to wait for a further order.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

Order. Before I call the next speaker, I should point out to the House that on page 7 of today’s Order Paper the note to the item on the prevention and suppression of terrorism—a note with which I am sure all hon. Members are entirely familiar—correctly stated at the time of publication:

“The instrument has not yet been considered by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.”

I thought it proper further to advise the House that although that was true at the time of the publication of the Order Paper the instrument has since been considered today by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments under the august chairmanship of Mr Mudie. No technical observations on the instrument have been made. I think that the House will feel that it is greatly to the credit of the Joint Committee that it has worked so expeditiously. We shall now proceed and I call Mr Patrick Mercer.

Photo of Patrick Mercer Patrick Mercer Conservative, Newark 6:24 pm, 10th July 2013

It is a great pleasure to follow Diana Johnson, and to hear the comments of the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Keith Vaz, under whom I served with great pleasure a few years ago.

No one in the House will have failed to be completely horrified by the death of Drummer Rigby a few weeks ago, in a manner that was not only bestial, but designed to shock and grab national and international headlines with the minimum amount of resource from our opponents. I fear we will see more of that. If all it takes is a sharp knife and a little twisted courage—if that is the right phrase—to carry out acts that hold international attention for several days, if not weeks, we must be prepared.

Over the years I have referred to how surprised the House, and indeed the nation, is when such an act occurs. We need only to remind ourselves that just such an act was planned three or four years ago against a Muslim soldier who had been serving in Afghanistan.

Photo of Patrick Mercer Patrick Mercer Conservative, Newark

I see the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee nodding; he and I discussed the issue at the time. That soldier was a Muslim, and on completion of his tour of duty in Afghanistan our enemies planned exactly the same sort of bestial—I use the word again—act. It is incumbent on us not to be surprised. Of course we will be horrified, but we should not be surprised. We must understand that this is about the most ghastly acts, particularly when combined with, I fear, the extraordinarily attention-grabbing technique of allowing individuals to carry out “suicide by cop”—I think that is the American phrase—by hanging around afterwards for more violence to be perpetrated and for their message to be broadcast even wider.

We have been warned. We know what attacks will be like in the future and how a small number of contorted and evil individuals can grab international headlines. That, of course, is what terrorism is about. It is not necessarily about killing or defeating; it is about terrorising, which is exactly what the very sad death of Drummer Rigby achieved for our opponents.

I commend the points the Government have made about Boko Haram, and the Opposition were correct to say that the group needs to be banned—we have perhaps been a little tardy about it in the past. If I may, I caution Opposition Members in their words of criticism for the Prime Minister over Hizb ut-Tahrir. The Chair of the Home Affairs Committee will remember that we debated that issue three or four years ago, and the then Leader of the Opposition made a precise point to the then Prime Minister about Hizb ut-Tahrir. However, with greatest respect to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North, it is not as simple as that.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I was making the point that we are now several years on, circumstances have changed, and the Prevent strategy review identified that Hizb ut-Tahrir is operating in universities. That is a concern and ought to be looked at again.

Photo of Patrick Mercer Patrick Mercer Conservative, Newark

I entirely take the hon. Lady’s point, and my comments are not meant to be inimical. The fact remains, however, that there are sometimes clear legal reasons why it is difficult to pin down such organisations. The previous Prime Minister found exactly the same situation, and there are legal reasons why it is difficult to achieve. There are also good intelligence reasons why it is sometimes necessary—or advised—to be less robust with such organisations than might otherwise be the temptation. Simply put, if Hizb ut-Tahrir were to be banned, as appears likely at the moment, it would soon spring up as “son of” or “bride of” or “ghost of” Hizb ut-Tahrir, under a different name with a different faction and a different flag. We need to be cautious in how we criticise one another’s attitudes towards these things.

We have talked about home-grown terrorism and the sad death of Drummer Rigby, but what interests me most is that, unless my ears were distracted, I do not think anybody has talked about the home-grown terrorism that we have been facing for the past several hundred years, which is republican terrorism. If I, in my ill-informed state, were to be asked which organisation posed the greatest—

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

Order. May I gently say to the hon. Gentleman that the reason why the House has not been discussing Irish terrorism is that it is not referenced in the order? I know that that is a point at which, intuitively, he would speedily have arrived in any case.

Photo of Patrick Mercer Patrick Mercer Conservative, Newark

I am most grateful, Mr Speaker. I do think that if we are talking about home-grown terrorism, we should not neglect the lessons that we have learned over the past several hundred years in facing that particular form of terrorism.

I return for a moment to the thorny issue of detention without trial. There will be temptations for the Minister to change the detention period as there are different pressures and as the different forms of terrorism to which we are subject become more and more frequent. I ask him not to give way to the temptation to do so needlessly, pointlessly and damagingly, as the previous Government did. My view is that the period is currently far too long. I ask him to understand that we combated the Irish Republican Army and Irish terrorism, or republican terrorism as I should probably call it more accurately, with a much shorter period of detention without trial. I speak from personal experience, although I entirely take the point that Mr Speaker has just made, Madam Deputy Speaker. We combated that terrorism within the law and with the principle and understanding that a man or woman is innocent until proved guilty. We did so on the basis that those who opposed us were criminals, not freedom fighters or misguided soldiers.

In this short speech, I wish to ask the Minister, if the temptation to increase the detention period arises again, to be fully cognisant of the fact that any period for which we take away a man or woman’s liberty, particularly when faced with the extraordinary difficulties and sensitivities of terrorism, means that we unintentionally add to, aid and abet terrorists’ cause. In the same way, the death of Drummer Rigby—the death of simply one man, desperately sad though it was—has drawn attention to that cause. If we make an issue of the matter again and try to turn our liberties on their head by adding to simple criminal law in the case of terrorists, we will aid and abet their cause.

I will cease on that point, but I simply say that we must not forget the lessons of the past. We must understand where terrorism will lie in the future, and the House must never be surprised by the depravity and bestiality to which these people can stoop.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee 6:33 pm, 10th July 2013

It is a real pleasure to follow Patrick Mercer, who served with great distinction on the Home Affairs Committee for five years during the last Parliament. He is regarded as the House’s expert on security matters, and when he was on the Committee he was able to bring his expertise and knowledge to a number of inquiries and reports. He is an assiduous constituency Member of Parliament, and it has been a pleasure to hear from him on this important matter.

The whole House will support the Minister in his order. That was made clear by the shadow Minister for security, and I doubt very much that anyone who speaks in this debate will disagree with the Minister. Having served in the House for a number of years and attended debates on a number of such orders, I can say that it is clear that when Ministers with the security portfolio come before the House to make a statement—some of it based on intelligence that cannot be shared with the House—the House always defers to them and accepts what they say. That is even more important when Members can consider the order, look at the organisations and support what is being done.

I want to raise a few points on how proscription affects groups and how we can improve such orders. I fully support the decision on Boko Haram and Minbar

Ansar Deen/Ansar al-Sharia, two groups that ought to be proscribed. As we heard from the shadow Minister, one is predominantly active in Nigeria, but with people in this country who support what is going on in Nigeria, north Cameroon and Niger. The other has been involved in all kinds of activities, particularly in Libya, but also in other countries that promote terrorism. In the United Kingdom, it promotes terrorism by distributing content through a forum and its website activities. It regularly advertises its involvement in these matters.

Before I turn to my specific points, I want to pay tribute to our security services for the incredible work they do on a daily basis. They work hard to keep the people of this country safe and sometimes we forget to thank them. We only thank them after there has been a great tragedy, such as the one alluded to by Patrick Mercer: the murder of Lee Rigby. Day in, day out, they work extremely hard, necessarily in the shadows, and we need to thank them for what they do.

My worry about proscription orders, especially in respect of new groups, is how the heads of those groups can be chopped off, and, amoeba-like, they can form themselves into different organisations with different names. For example, the Home Secretary proscribed Muslims Against Crusades in November 2011 on the grounds that it was simply a new name for an organisation that was already proscribed. However, as we know from other proscription orders, it is possible for Boko Haram and Ansar al-Sharia, or the people behind them, to suddenly create themselves into new organisations with new names. One example is the case of Mr Anjem Choudary, who has created numerous new organisations after his organisation was proscribed by the Home Secretary: Islam4UK, the Call to Submission, Islamic Path, the London School of Sharia and the Saved Sect, all of which have been banned. The latest is called the Islamic Emergency Defence—the IED.

When the Minister comes to reply, I want assurances that when these two groups and the people behind them form themselves into other organisations, the Government will be ready to proscribe them. This is a difficult area that requires huge expertise from the security services. It is fine for the House to proscribe, but it is a problem if groups create themselves into other organisations.

As we have heard from the shadow Minister, I am concerned, and the Prime Minister is concerned, that Hizb ut-Tahrir is still not the subject of proscription. I thought that the hon. Member for Newark was a little unfair to describe the shadow Minister’s comments as a criticism of the Prime Minister. I know how highly my hon. Friend regards the Prime Minister, and on this issue we believe he is absolutely right: this organisation ought to have been proscribed. This was a criticism not of the Prime Minister, but of the system. The Prime Minister believes, as he did in opposition, that something should be done, but somehow the system does not allow it to happen. That is still a mystery to me, but I live in hope that come 2015 and the next election, the organisation will have been banned.

Photo of Patrick Mercer Patrick Mercer Conservative, Newark

I hear everything the right hon. Gentleman says, but I think he would agree that there are extraordinary circumstances when what appears to be a clear-cut case on the surface is, for intelligence purposes, rather different.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, but I do not think the Prime Minister would have used the words he did unless he was being very careful, and he certainly would have retracted them after he became Prime Minister had he received more information indicating a problem.

We shall leave that to one side, however, as it is not the subject of the order. I am sure the Prime Minister and everyone else is fully behind the proscription of these two organisations. I was disappointed with the Minister’s response to my intervention. He is an accomplished performer at the Dispatch Box and before the Home Affairs Committee—we will be calling him again for our inquiry into international terrorism and crime—but he did not give us any answers today or take us any further on from what he told us on 4 July 2012. That was the last time such an order was put through the House.

The hon. Member for Newark—I was about to call him the Minister for Newark; of course, he ought to have been security Minister at some stage, given his knowledge of the subject, but there is still time, with two years to go—the shadow Minister and I are not suggesting it in this case, but when we proscribe, we ought to put in place a time limit for reviewing the order, not because we would want to de-proscribe as soon as we proscribe, but because it would be right to keep reviewing these organisations, just in case they turn out to be shell organisations. I have mentioned the Tamil Tigers on the two most recent occasions that we have discussed this, although the Minister was not here last time—the Immigration Minister stood in for him. The Tamil Tigers have ceased to exist—everyone in the organisation has ceased to exist—yet they are still proscribed in the United Kingdom.

The Minister invites us to make an application for de-proscription for which there is no timetable. That means, I am afraid, that the matter ends up not in this House, which is responsible for proscription, but in the courts, where organisations are able to spend a lot of money. I think of the People’s Mujahedeen. Like me, Madam Deputy Speaker, you were in the House when that happened, on the Government Benches. A Minister came before the House and said, “We are de-proscribing the People’s Mujahedeen, because they’ve gone to court and won their judicial review.” I do not want these two organisations to do the same thing, which was why I said that the Minister’s answers were unsatisfactory.

The Minister told us one year ago, on 4 July 2012, that there would be a response “in due course”. I have discovered that that is one of the Minister’s favourite sayings—I am going to look in Hansard at how many times he says it; but he was a distinguished lawyer before he came to the House, and “in due course” is something that lawyers tend to say in their arguments. On 22 November 2012, however, the Immigration Minister, who is not a lawyer, used the word “shortly” in the House. “Shortly” clearly means “not next week”, because the response came in March this year.

Indeed, the word “response” also needs to be looked at, because although the Minister said that there had been a response—you were not in the Chair at the time,

Madam Deputy Speaker, so I will not draw you into this debate—the Government’s response was to say that the report by the independent reviewer of terrorism, David Anderson, QC, had been “noted”. That is a very odd response from the Government. We are used to them saying, “A Select Committee”—or an independent reviewer—“has made a recommendation, and this is what we think about the subject.” This poor chap went through the preparation of that entire report and then waited a whole year to be told that it had been “noted”. Now we hear from the Minister, in his response to me, that he is going to respond—

[

Interruption.

]

I am afraid I have forgotten what he said—it was not “in due course” or “shortly”—and I do not have access to

Hansard

, so when he winds up, perhaps he can remind me what he said he would do.

When we proscribe, we need to be careful that we do not get organisations that can then de-proscribe. There is no point having someone as distinguished as David Anderson, QC, producing reports—poring over all the detail and providing expertise to the Government—and then the Government not responding. All I say to the Minister is this. He has told us that officials are looking into the matter. Well, hooray for officials—distinguished officials, I am sure. He has told us that they are “actively” considering the matter. What does that mean? Since I last raised the matter in the House on 4 July 2012, have officials “inactively” considered it? We have had activity and officials; what we now have are Ministers—good Ministers, such as the security Minister. He is on top of the brief—

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. The right hon. Gentleman has been going round this point for nearly five minutes now. Will he please clearly make his point? Then perhaps we can hear what the Minister has to say for himself.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

I will certainly draw my remarks to a close. I am trying to get the message across, Madam Deputy Speaker

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

I am delighted that I have got the message across to you, Madam Deputy Speaker; I hope I have got the message across to the Minister, too. We look forward to hearing his response.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 6:47 pm, 10th July 2013

I thank all right hon. and hon. Members for their contributions to the debate, which has been well informed and well focused on the tasks at hand and the specifics of the order before the House.

Let me comment at the outset on the observations made by my hon. Friend Patrick Mercer about the appalling murder in Woolwich of Drummer Lee Rigby. I am sure that all right hon. and hon. Members will join me in saying that all our thoughts and prayers are with the family in their preparation for Drummer Rigby’s funeral in just a few days’ time. Can I also echo—[Interruption.]

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. Will Bob Blackman move away from the Front Bench? Only the Minister is supposed to be standing there, no other Member.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I echo the comments of the Chair of the Select Committee on Home Affairs about the work of the Security Service, as well as the police involved in counter-terrorism work and, indeed, all officials engaged in keeping our country safe. That includes activities overseas, as well as in the United Kingdom. I wholly endorse his comments about how so much of that work necessarily has to be done out of sight. In my role as security Minister, I have the genuine privilege to have some insight into that work and to see the professionalism, focus and drive that those people have in seeking to keep all of us safe. I entirely endorse the comments that the right hon. Gentleman made in that connection.

Let me deal with a number of the points that were flagged up. On Boko Haram, we have regular dialogue with the Government of Nigeria on a broad range of mutual terrorism concerns. The Nigerians have proscribed Boko Haram and are aware of our intention to do so.

Diana Johnson asked about the timing of the order being laid before the House tonight. The decisions on whether to proscribe a particular organisation are taken after careful consideration and in the light of emerging intelligence. It is important that such decisions should be built on a robust evidence base and that they should support other members of the international community in their fight against terrorism. It would be inappropriate for me to discuss specific intelligence matters, but I can assure her that these issues are carefully considered in this context, and in the context of our broader support for others around the world in their fight against international terrorism. I note the points that she has raised, however.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newark spoke of the need for balance and the need to ensure that, when we take action, we properly consider individual freedoms as against the need for collective security. Sometimes the challenges might be pushed in one direction or the other, but I am clear that they should be mutually reinforcing. If we are to uphold our values and traditions, and uphold who we are as a country, we must ensure that we properly respect individual freedoms and liberties while providing collective security for the country as a whole.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North asked about Hizb ut-Tahrir. That organisation is not proscribed, and proscription could be considered only when the Home Secretary believed it to be involved in terrorism, as defined by the Terrorism Act 2000. However, I want to make it clear to the House that the Government have significant concerns about Hizb ut-Tahrir, and we will continue to monitor its activities closely. Such groups are not free to spread hatred and incite violence as they please. The police have comprehensive powers to take action under the criminal law to deal with people who incite hatred, and they will do so. We will seek to ensure that Hizb ut-Tahrir and groups like it cannot operate without challenge in public places in this country. We will not tolerate secret meetings behind closed doors on premises funded by the taxpayer, and we will ensure that civic organisations are made well aware of Hizb ut-Tahrir and groups like it, and of the names under which they operate and the ways in which they go about their business. It would not be right for me to comment on individual cases, but we keep all organisations of concern under review.

The hon. Lady will be aware of the taskforce that the Prime Minister has set up to examine the further options that we can take in the context of preventing terrorism. We are looking again at how we might deal with groups that fall below the current threshold for proscription but none the less espouse extremist views.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

Will the Minister tell the House how many times the taskforce has met?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The taskforce has met twice, and it has considered a wide range of issues. We are focused on taking action to build on the very good work of the Prevent strategy. An example is the work of Prevent co-ordinators in universities to provide support and advice and to highlight understanding of the potential of extremist groups to operate on university campuses. The Prime Minister made it clear in his statement on the matter that he wants to examine all the issues closely to determine what further work and action could and should be undertaken. That work is progressing, and I am sure that the Prime Minister will continue to update the House on the work of the taskforce.

Let me address the point raised by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North about the People’s Mujahedeen Organisation of Iran. That organisation was proscribed in 2001 and was de-proscribed in June 2008, following the judgments of the Proscribed Organisations Appeals Commission and the Court of Appeal. An appeals process can be undertaken in respect of a proscribed organisation.

I should perhaps have underlined in my initial response to the Chairman of the Select Committee that proscribed organisations are kept under constant review. There is a rolling 12-month basis on which those organisations are reviewed by a group that draws in experts from across government. It is not the case that an organisation that has been proscribed would have to stay proscribed, as there is an ongoing process. I am sorry if he was not satisfied with my initial response to him. The work I highlighted related to how to ensure that the process of the annual reviews and what they produce can be strengthened and developed further to give greater assurance in respect of some of the issues that he highlighted.

In conclusion, I would like to thank all right hon. and hon. Members for their considered comments. I believe that the proscription of Boko Haram will demonstrate our condemnation of that group’s activities. Proscribing it will also enable the police to carry out disruptive action against any of its supporters in the UK and ensure that they cannot operate here. The proscription of Minbar Ansar Deen will be a powerful tool for the police to help them successfully disrupt the organisation, and it will also send a powerful message that the promotion and encouragement of terrorism are not acceptable and that we will take action against organisations that partake in such activities.

On the basis of those comments, I hope that the House will support the actions proposed by the Government, and I commend the order to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That the draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2013, which was laid before this House on 8 July, be approved.