– in the House of Lords at 2:45 pm on 30th October 2001.
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What action they are taking concerning identifiable members of terrorist organisations at present in the United Kingdom.
My Lords, it is an offence under the Terrorism Act 2000 to be a member of any one of the 35 organisations proscribed under Schedule 2 to the Act. Any suspected members of these terrorist organisations are therefore liable to arrest and prosecution. The provisions of the Terrorism Act of course apply to all those involved in terrorism, irrespective of whether the organisation they claim to represent is proscribed. The investigation of any such alleged criminal activity is a matter for the police.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that reply. Are the Government prepared to expel or to extradite, on a valid request, identified terrorists even though they entered the United Kingdom as asylum seekers?
My Lords, the short answer to the noble Lord's question is yes. If someone is identified as a terrorist, regardless of their country of origin, they cannot seek protection under the terms of the asylum convention. The convention is a complex instrument and covers more than the one sentence generally referred to. In such a case, we would take action. Certain caveats would apply, but I stress that this country is not a safe haven for terrorists. Asylum legislation and the convention cannot be used by anyone against whom evidence has been gathered which indicates that they have committed terrorist offences. Furthermore, the interests of national security would apply, and such people could not seek the protection of the European convention or the Human Rights Act. In the interests of our own national security, such people could still be removed.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that when apples are stored in an apple loft or shed, it is essential to lay them out carefully and then to inspect them every now and again? The rotten apples must be taken out and thrown away before they can infect the other apples. Should not the same be done with terrorists?
My Lords, yes. The noble Baroness is quite right in her analogy. However, where a person has been identified and where evidence is available, it is for the police and the prosecuting authorities to take action. There is no question about that. We will take out the rotten apples and terrorists will be arrested, whether the alleged crimes were committed in this country or abroad. Although such arrests do not take place very often, I can tell the House that, a few days ago, an Egyptian national present in this country was arrested. Early this morning he was charged with the crimes of inviting support for a terrorist organisation, inviting another to provide money for the purposes of terrorism, arranging for property to be made available for the purposes of terrorism, the publication of written material likely to stir up racial hatred and conspiracy to murder under the common law. That person has been remanded in custody.
My Lords, I think that it is first the turn of this side of the House. Perhaps we may then turn to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington.
My Lords, I very much appreciate what my noble friend said about the law covering proscribed organisations. Furthermore, I appreciate his explanation to the effect that people who are members of such organisations render themselves liable to prosecution. However, my noble friend went on to say that these would be matters for the police. Can I ask my noble friend whether the value of such legislation is measured by the number of prosecutions that are brought forward? Does he agree that that is the case, and to what extent is the law being applied?
My Lords, there have not been many prosecutions. The list of proscribed organisations now numbers 35. The legislation has a deterrent effect as well, but it is not possible fully to measure the effect of deterrence.
A few arrests have been made. In the case I mentioned in an earlier response, one of the minor charges concerned a proscribed organisation. The other charges are far more serious. It is an important weapon in our armoury against terrorism that we can charge, convict and subject to a prison term of 10 years a person who is a member of one of the proscribed organisations. That has to have a deterrent effect.
My Lords, the Egyptian Government have shown great concern about an individual in this country who has been accused of bomb attacks but has not been extradited. Are Her Majesty's Government concerned about this matter?
My Lords, he may not be the same gentleman as the one to whom the noble Lord refers, but the person in this country to whom I referred earlier is an Egyptian national.
My Lords, is the Minister aware of today's newspaper reports that at least four British subjects who have been identified as having assisted the Taliban in Afghanistan have died as a result of the American intervention? What steps are being taken to explain to members of the minority community their obligation as British subjects to show loyalty to this country?
My Lords, the noble Lord raises a very important question. I cannot comment on the newspaper reports or the individuals concerned because facts and evidence are in short supply, except to the extent that it appears that people have been killed. Treason is like an elephant on the doorstep; you recognise it when you see it. If you take up arms against your own state or against that state's agents--whether in that state or abroad--that is an offence under the 1351 Act.
My Lords, why is our proscribed terrorists' list different from the one provided by the United States?
My Lords, I am sorry, I did not hear the first part of the noble Viscount's question.
My Lords, the United States has a different list of proscribed terrorists. Why do we not harmonise our list with those of our allies and fight a concerted action against terrorists?
My Lords, it is because we are operating under British law. Under Schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act there are 35 proscribed organisations. A few--14, I think--relate to Ireland. The rest have more of an international flavour, if I may put it that way. So far as concerns the Americans, we have arrested and interviewed certain named people since the tragedies of 11th September. Most were later released. One was re-arrested and he is still on remand.