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Mr. Wilshire: I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for keeping his promise; it is exactly what I would expect of him and I do not wish to quarrel with the list that he brings here. May I take him back to his list and to the Terrorism Act 2000, because that is when I started to try to let him give me a chance to ask him this question?
I had expected to see the Real IRA on the list in the order because I knew that it was not in the Act, so I went back to the original list, where I saw the Irish Republican Army listed. I am confused and I should be most grateful if the right hon. Gentleman would help us with this matter, because I doubt whether there is anyone in the Chamber who would disagree with the assertion that the Real IRA should be a proscribed organisation. The Terrorism Act 2000 simply refers to the Irish Republican Army. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what that means? Does it mean the Official IRA, the Provisional IRA, the Real IRA or the Continuity IRA? Which of them is included, or are they all? The House needs to know whether any body that may have been invented this afternoon is included, because, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, those organisations dress themselves up in any sort of name to try to show that they are not the same.
Mr. Straw: I am advised by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that the Real IRA is covered, as is the Provisional IRA, by the description, "the Irish Republican Army", which appears at the beginning of schedule 2 on page 64 of the Act.
Mr. Corbyn: I thank the Home Secretary for giving way. As I understand the process, he proposes to ban 21 organisations on the basis of information that he has received from the security services and, possibly, other sources, and those decisions could go to the appeal organisations that he describes. In the event that any one of those organisations attempted to take his decision, or that of the appeal commission that he has set up, to judicial review, would the security information on which he has based his initial decision be available in open court so that it could be contested, or would it be privy to himself and the judge so that the appellant organisation would not even know what the case was against it?
Mr. Straw: First, given that the criteria on which the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission considers whether to de-proscribe an organisation can themselves come under judicial review, it is not for me to decide--
In the event that such a circumstance occurred, it would not be the case that, simply by virtue of an application or permission--as it is now called--before the administrative court being granted for judicial review, that the intelligence on which I have to some extent, but not entirely, based my decisions could be disclosed. Where such matters have arisen in the past--they do so quite frequently--the appropriate Secretary of State signs a public interest immunity certificate.
By that process, all the information that the applicant Secretary of State seeks to withhold from open court is put before the judge. The judge then decides whether to accept the PII. If the judge decides, as occasionally happens, to reject the PII application and to order that the information be disclosed, the Secretary of State must decide whether to proceed with the substance of the application. That is how the process works.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) will appreciate, as I am sure he does, that, by definition, intelligence information cannot be disclosed publicly, because doing so would render its collection impossible and put the sources of that intelligence at very serious risk. However, I understand the implication of what he says. One of the inherent problems in such a process, which we have tried to square with the SIAC and POAC processes, is that if the intelligence cannot be challenged, its veracity is more difficult to ascertain. That is why, although the information will be withheld from the applicant organisation, it will be challenged rigorously before the SIAC by the special advocate.
Mr. Hughes: The Home Secretary has confirmed, first, that even if he forms a view that an organisation is a terrorist organisation, he has discretion about whether to proscribe it. Secondly, he could have, but has not, sought the formal view of the Security and Intelligence Committee or that of any independent judicial authority, so he comes here with the proposals with no authority, other than that of his office and his Ministers. Lastly, on the question of how many of the 21 organisations, have there been formal representations from foreign Governments? In how many cases have the organisations or their representatives been asked for information before the Secretary of State made his decision?
Mr. Straw: On the hon. Gentleman's first point, I have not consulted the Security and Intelligence Committee. It knows about the process and was informed in advance of the decisions, but it has not been involved in reaching judgments. That is not its role. It would be quite
The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey asked me if I could list all the Governments who have made representations seeking to proscribe the organisations. The answer is no, but it is in the public domain that a large number of Governments in the originating territories have made public statements seeking the proscription of the equivalent of these organisations by Governments across the world.
On the hon. Gentleman's question about whether I will disclose the degree of liaison that exists with security and intelligence services overseas, for reasons that I think he will understand, the answer to that is no.
Mr. Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South): May I pursue my right hon. Friend about the point on the verification of intelligence specifically in relation to the example of the International Sikh Youth Federation that was cited? Sikhs in my constituency have made representations to me--I suspect that many other hon. Members have received similar representations--and have pointed out that Mukhtiar and Paramjit Singh, who were accused of acts of terrorism, are not members of the International Sikh Youth Federation. The organisation itself has made it clear that they are not, and have not been, members of the organisation.
The other charges that have been cited against the organisation do not make sense if the connections do not exist. Sikhs raise money in the United Kingdom, but they do so for entirely social purposes. That is consistent with other observations that there is no evidence of a threat to the west from the organisation's activities. Will my right hon. Friend tell the House how intelligence sources or representations from other Governments are checked against other sources that might provide a different picture about the credibility and integrity of that organisation?
The paragraphs in the document are based on the best information available. Is every effort made to check intelligence sources and the information derived from those sources? Yes, and to a degree that I did not anticipate before I took on this job. Very great care is taken on the assessment of intelligence. Intelligence that is wrong is worse than worthless; it can be extremely dangerous. In human organisations errors can sometimes be made, which is why we have the process that I have described beyond the decisions that I recommend to the House.
Although the criteria for appeals to the POAC are different from and narrower than the criteria for appeals to the SIAC, the process is very similar indeed. The presiding retired judges and special advocates have already shown, through the SIAC process, that they are rigorous and entirely independent of Government, and I expect the same to be true in this process.