My Lords, I also thank the Minister for explaining this order. I completely agree with the words of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, on the Government appearing to fail to answer the question, “Why now?”
If somebody is demonstrating on the streets of London and there is only one flag—there are not separate flags for the military and political wings of Hezbollah—I understand that it might be difficult to prosecute them when half the organisation is proscribed and the other half is not. But the questions remains, as the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said: what has changed since January last year when the Government supported the political wing of Hezbollah being kept separate? Indeed, the Minister talked about how important it is that we support the international effort to tackle terrorism. While the US, Canada, the Netherlands and Israel all designate the whole of Hezbollah a terrorist organisation, as the noble Lord said, the European Union and Australia designate only the military wing as terrorist. What has happened?
Our other concerns are around changes that have happened very recently under the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act, which we opposed. It extends the existing offence of supporting a proscribed organisation to include recklessly expressing support for it, rather than intentionally inviting support, with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. It also extends extraterritorial jurisdiction for these offences, so British citizens and residents who express support for Hezbollah, wear clothing related to it or wave its flags in other countries can be prosecuted in the UK. This raises a serious concern: someone who does something supportive of the political wing of Hezbollah—including recklessly expressing support for it—in a country where it is not proscribed, such as in Australia, or Lebanon itself, could still be prosecuted in the UK.
In the debate on the then Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich—former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation—said that he was concerned that, while he was in post,
“at least 14 of the 74 organisations proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000 … are not concerned in terrorism and therefore do not meet the minimum statutory condition for proscription”.—[
The Minister will recall the debate, when concern was expressed that organisations were being proscribed for political reasons rather than because they fulfilled the statutory requirements for being proscribed.
Of course, one can speculate about what has changed. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, talked about a change of Home Secretary. He may not welcome my commenting that political capital has been made from the leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, having previously been a supporter of Hezbollah. Of course, the Labour Party is facing considerable issues regarding anti-Semitism, and the concerns of the Jewish community about Hezbollah are well known. But I am sure that these have nothing to do with the timing of the whole of Hezbollah being proscribed on this occasion.
We have serious concerns about the whole process, which we expressed in debates on the then Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill. However, like the formal Opposition, we will not oppose this order; we simply wish to place on the record our concerns about the process.