Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 8:27 pm on 26th February 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 8:27 pm, 26th February 2019

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend Joan Ryan, who has led this campaign and sought to bring this issue to light, and who I think deserves huge credit for the measure before the House tonight. It is very important that the Home Secretary is proscribing Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam Wal-Muslimin. It is important to recognise the impact that JNIM has had, in terrorist actions in Mali, Burkina Faso and elsewhere in the region. We should worry about that, and he is right to proscribe it.

Of course, the debate is about the change being made on Hezbollah. Everyone, I think, across the House is concerned about Hezbollah. It has had 30 years of terrorist attacks. Moreover, we have seen in the rhetoric of its leaders, particularly Hassan Nasrallah, a completely abhorrent antisemitic vein. For example, he has said:

“The Jews are a cancer which is liable to spread at any moment…
If they all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.”

It is an organisation that everyone should repudiate.

I therefore think that it is right that the Government have kept the proscription of the political wing of Hezbollah under review and sought to bring this measure to the House tonight. However, like Joanna Cherry, I also think that it is right that we probe the Government on why the change has been made, because Opposition parties have had to listen to the Government and follow them. The Security Minister told the House relatively recently:

“Their military wings are proscribed, but as Hezbollah forms part of the Government in Lebanon and Hamas plays an active role in its part of the region as a member of a Government, the proscription applies only to the military wing.”—[Official Report, 19 December 2017;
Vol. 633, c. 1008.]

When I intervened—other Members have questioned the Home Secretary on this point—we wanted to know why there has been a change. That is a reasonable request, because all Opposition parties have followed the Government’s position before and obviously we are keen to maintain unity on such measures. That is why these questions are so important. The hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West asked those questions, as did Crispin Blunt.

On 31 January this year, after nine months, the Government of Lebanon formed. In the new Government of Lebanon the Health Ministry is, I believe, held by a Member of Parliament from Hezbollah and the Ministry of Finance has an ally linked to Hezbollah. It is therefore not unreasonable to ask the Home Secretary, given what the Government were saying in this House last year and the year before, what has changed in that political assessment? It is very important that the Home Secretary shares with the House the change in their analysis. If he wants to take the whole House with him, and keep the House and the country together on these moves, he needs to be clearer in that position.

On the process of proscription, in my intervention on the Home Secretary I made the point that the list of proscribed organisations is getting longer and longer. Time moves on and the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Lord Anderson, made it clear that he thinks it needs to be updated and some organisations removed. I hope we can have a bit more from the Home Secretary, if he replies to the debate, on whether he will keep it under review and remove organisations. That is not helpful, given that there are very severe penalties for people who link to such organisations. If organisations should not be proscribed, people should not be in danger of being imprisoned.