Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2019 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:15 pm on 28th February 2019.

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Photo of Baroness D'Souza Baroness D'Souza Non-affiliated 12:15 pm, 28th February 2019

My Lords, although I agree in principle with the order proscribing Hezbollah for precisely the reason that the noble Lord just spelled out—Hezbollah does not make a distinction between the political and military arms of its organisation—I should like to insert a tiny protection for freedom of expression. I think it is true to say that once one proscribes the political arm of any organisation, one tends to relegate the debate to more violent areas rather than encourage those disagreements to be discussed around the table.

I will cite one small example: a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union in the early 1980s or late 1970s. It concerned a small town outside Chicago, Illinois called Skokie, in which lived a number of people who were Holocaust survivors. A neo-Nazi group decided that it wanted to demonstrate in that town, which was of course highly offensive and provocative. The ACLU took the case to the Supreme Court, which ruled that the march should go ahead simply because it was entirely possible for those survivors of the Holocaust to avoid the march by closing their curtains, shutting their doors, going away for the day or whatever it might be. The reasoning behind that was that if one were to prevent the march going ahead, it might well force the marchers, rather than staging a political demonstration, to become more violent.

I say this because we must be mindful in this day and age that there are enormous and horrendous threats to free speech. We ignore them at our peril.