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Mr. Denham: I shall have to reflect on that, and perhaps we will be able to return to it when the Bill comes back on Report. I do not think that there are any circumstances in which deliberately targeting civilians or non-state combatants is a good idea, although it clearly happens.
In conclusion, the Bill is needed because a new situation has arisen in the world. Terrorism is not new, but the type of terrorism associated with al-Qaeda and the tactics that are used around the world are new. If that were not the case, we would not be debating the Bill. The definition of terrorism that we use should be focused as closely as possible on the new problem that we are trying to tackle. My amendment is not perfect, but it begins to show the way forward. I hope that it will receive a positive response from the Home Secretary and that we can explore it in more detail next week.
First, whatever the final version of the Bill says, I hope that it will not prevent people from meeting those involved in terrorism. For example, Scandinavian intermediaries have often brought groups together, and that has led to settlements. It must be possible for people to make contact, as happened with the Government and the IRA. Negotiations did not take place, but contact was made.
Secondly, we must be careful about how people can interpret what is going on. I once had to take legal action against the Sunday Express. I had appeared in the same hall as a person believed to be a leading member of the IRA, and that newspaper claimed that in some way I was almost guilty of treason. I felt that I was confronting the person involved, but others preferred a different interpretation. That question of interpretation must be considered when the Bill returns on Report.
ThirdlyI do not want to make this contribution too personal, but I believe that my own experiences are relevantin my time I have met SWAPO representatives in Namibia and PLO representatives and their associates on the west bank, and I have also had in my home a person who turned out to be a youth member of ZANU-PF. That person is now strongly opposed to Mugabe, but at the time Ian Smith was Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia and it could have
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been argued that I was supporting people who wanted regime change. None of the people to whom I have referred was, as far as I knew, involved in violence, but people associated with the organisations to which they belonged certainly were.
Finally, I went on a human rights mission to El Salvador in 1978 to try to help delay the assassination of Oscar Romero. I met people clearly associated with opposition groups, at a time when that country's Government considered even Oscar Romero to be a terrorist, or nearly so. That much is clear, because that Government are correctly believed to have assassinated him.
Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Hall Green) (Lab): I want to comment briefly on amendment No. 69. I support this Bill and want it to go through, but I do not want to be placed in a position that means that, because I want legislation to tackle terrorists, I inadvertently make it more difficult to support people engaged in genuine resistance or liberation struggles. I do not want to find myself inadvertently strengthening brutal dictatorships that continue to murder their people and which find that our terrorist legislation makes it easier for them to do so.
Like other hon. Members, I believe that what we are asking for is abundantly clear. It is probable that all the amendments are imperfect, but our goal is to prevent the loophole that I have described. We must not be put in the position where our goal of trying to tackle terrorists means that we end up making it harder for genuine liberation movements to do what needs to be done. In no way do I support anyone who wants to maim, kill, engage in violence or target civilians. We are asking not be put into a position that we do not want to be in.
All that the Home Secretary needs to do tonight is to say loud and clear that he has heard us and that he will tackle the problem. There is no need for amendments to be pressed to votes, but there is a need for a total reassurance about something that affects supporters of the Bill throughout the House.
Mr. Carmichael: It is unfortunate that, because of the way in which our debate on the Bill is ordered, we have come to this debate at this stage. I think that the Minister would have had an easier time this afternoon if we had resolved on a proper definition of terrorism from the outset. I have to say to the Home Secretary that it is clearly now the settled will of the House that a definition must be properly placed on the face of the Bill, because what is there is less than adequate. I do not know whether amendment No. 69, tabled by the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) is perfect. It probably is notbut it is certainly preferable to what is in the Bill, and if he is minded to press it to a vote, my hon. Friends and I will support him.
The question of a definition is complex; there is no getting away from that. Clearly any definition will relate to the way in which an organisation conducts itself, and others have already spoken about the distinction between attacks on civilian populations and attacks on a repressive army, police force or state security force.
The other element that has to be considered in establishing the full and proper context is the nature of the regime against which the struggle is taking place.
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The regimes in Burma, Zimbabwe and Uzbekistan, for example, have been referred to repeatedly throughout the past couple of days of debate.
The right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) said that such matters were often judged historically, and he is right. Indeed, the judgment taken historically is often very different from that which was made contemporaneously. The difficulty for the Home Secretaryand, indeed, for the Committeeis that we do not have that luxury. That is why it is important to get the best possible available working definition into the Bill. If that can be achieved, many of the reservations of my party about the workability of the Bill may well be answered.
Mr. Grieve: I agree with everything that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) has just said. The right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) has done the Committee, and the House, a good service in tabling the amendment, and if he were to press it to a vote we would support it. It clearly goes a long way towards meeting the Committee's concerns. The definition may not be perfect, but because it centres on the idea of using violence against civilians and non-combatants to achieve an end, it goes to the heart of defining the sort of behaviour that we can universally deplore.
It is true that the use of force, even for legitimate ends, may lead to the unintended deaths of civilians, but one of the hallmarks of terrorism is without doubt the fact that it is usually aimed at civilianssoft targetswith the express purpose of creating terror and thereby bringing about change. I can think of no circumstance, not even in the midst of freedom fighting of the most legitimate kind, in which the targeting of civilians for that purpose can ever be justified.
John Bercow: I understand entirely the point that my hon. Friend has just made, and he is right to make itbut may I add that someone who calls himself a freedom fighter, but who nevertheless consciously targets civilians in pursuit of his noble cause, is not a freedom fighter? He may think that he is, but that is not the same thing.
I simply offer this as a thought, with reference to my intervention on the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham). It seems to me
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that however desirable the intention may be, we could get into serious difficulties. I do not mean to be dogmatic, but on Report we must be careful not to collate these ideas in terms that would include war and civil war.
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