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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:30 pm on 28th February 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Ludford Baroness Ludford Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 12:30 pm, 28th February 2019

I also agree that the decision to proscribe Hezbollah in its entirety has logic and merit. It not only commits terrorist acts; as the noble Baroness just said, it wants to destroy not only Israel but Jews. It is wholly anti-Semitic. Like the Home Secretary, I was at last night’s Community Security Trust dinner, where everyone was aware of the rising incidence of anti-Semitic hate crime. That is a huge concern for not only the Jewish community but all of us.

Treating the two wings of Hezbollah as distinct has always been artificial. Noble Lords have described Hezbollah’s boldness and consistency in declaring itself one single entity. That raises the question of timing. I agree with my noble friend Lord Paddick and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, that the Government owe us a rather better explanation than we have had so far.

The noble Lord, Lord Polak, said that it was due to the change of personnel. If I recall his precise words, he said that the present Home Secretary, Defence Secretary and Foreign Secretary all have integrity. Does that imply that the Conservative Secretaries of the past nine years did not have integrity? That is quite a strange argument. After all, all those posts have been filled by the same party for the past nine years. It is true that just 13 months ago the Security Minister said:

“Hezbollah is anti-Semitic and wishes the destruction of … Israel”,

but he resisted the argument that the political and military wings of Hezbollah were indivisible, joined at the hip and centrally led. He said:

“Ministers do not make up proscription decisions over a cup of coffee. We make them on the recommendations submitted to us by our law enforcement agencies, security services … and intelligence services”.—[Official Report, Commons, 25/1/18; cols. 507-8.]

It is therefore fair to ask how that advice has changed.

To me, it would be a viable argument to say that it is because of the rising incidence of anti-Semitic hate crime against people and property, such as the destruction of headstones in cemeteries. Appalling things are going on both against the person and against property. In that context, it is totally unacceptable that the Metropolitan Police is unable to take action against demonstrators proclaiming their support for Hezbollah, waving the flag and putting stickers on it saying, “We are the political wing so you cannot touch us”. I would be interested to hear the argument from the Government: “It is unacceptable that on the streets of London fear should be put into the Jewish community and all of us who want to see decency and an absence of prejudice and discrimination”. But we have not heard that argument from the Government and they are being coy by not telling us what has changed. So, if I have to fall back on the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Polak, that it is because of a change of personnel, that raises interesting questions about the attitude of the holders of those offices over the past nine years.

Lastly, I want to ask how Brexit is going to affect European co-operation in counterterrorism and things such as asset freezing. Every form of Brexit will damage that co-operation, but a no-deal Brexit will damage it even more. We are to have a mega-SI from the Home Office shortly. I attended the briefing meeting kindly held by the Minister on Tuesday. However, although we have been hearing discussions about whether or not no deal is being ruled out, I have just seen a clip of the Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, who this morning is still protesting that she has total support for a no-deal Brexit. That would have a catastrophic effect on our co-operation across the European Union in exchanging vital data, working with Europol, extradition and the exchange of evidence to bring people to trial, and a whole range of counterterrorism co-operation, as well as the freezing of assets. How is the Government’s attitude to Brexit—any kind of Brexit, let alone a no-deal Brexit, which the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House of Commons are refusing to rule out absolutely—consistent with an apparent stance of wanting to do everything in our power to counter terrorist organisations? That really does not quite add up.