The internet is an enormous economic and commercial opportunity for our country, but it has also become a means of carrying out economic attack and espionage and of causing harm. That is why the National Security Council was right to categorise cyber-attacks as a tier 1 threat to national security, and why the Chancellor was right to say in his speech to GCHQ last year that the starting point for the House must be that every British company and every British computer network is at risk.

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Cybercrime is not simply something that happens to other countries at other times; from the City of London to the towns, cities and villages represented in this House, the threat is real and growing, and the Bill provides this country with the vital tools it needs to protect our economy from that growing threat.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research estimates that cybercrime costs the British economy £34 billion per year, including £18 billion from lost revenue. Cybercrime includes a broad range of offences, from phishing for personal and financial information; to industrial espionage, where businesses’ intellectual property is stolen; to the disruption of this country’s critical national infrastructure, such as our banks and defence facilities.

The threats come from a wide range of actors: hostile nation states, cross-border crime syndicates, company insiders and so-called hacktivists. Those threats are growing and very real, and the Bill therefore gives the police and our security services the vital tools they need to fight back in the digital age, from intercepting data to interfering with computer equipment.

I want to give the House just one example of a recent cyber-attack to show the scale these attacks can reach. Last year, Carphone Warehouse was the victim of one of Britain’s biggest ever attacks on a business. The personal details of up to 2.4 million customers, including bank details and dates of birth, were accessed by hackers. Some 90,000 customers had their credit card details accessed. The powers in the Bill will help to prevent and detect similar episodes in the future, keeping our economy secure.

At the heart of the fight against modern economic cybercrime is the asymmetry between attack and defence. It is simply much easier and cheaper to attack a business network than to defend it, and that asymmetry is growing. A few years ago, mounting a cyber-attack meant having all the skills at every stage of the attack, but in the last few years it has become possible for all the elements of the attack to be deployed more easily. The barriers to entry for attackers are coming down, and the workload of the defenders is going up. We need to give our police and security services the tools they need to fight back in the digital age and to keep our economy secure and strong. That is what the Bill does, and that is why it deserves the support of the whole House.

6.27 pm

Byron Davies (Gower) (Con): This significant Bill has the potential to overhaul the framework that governs the use of surveillance by the intelligence, security and law enforcement agencies in obtaining the content of communications data, and it will clearly continue to garner much serious and forensic debate.

Members will clearly have their own stance on the Bill, given their knowledge of certain areas. In that vein, I would like to look at it, not as a lawyer, but as somebody who provided plenty of business to lawyers—as a former Metropolitan police counter-terrorism officer and National Crime Squad officer. I will therefore look at the issue from an organised crime and operational law enforcement perspective.

The legislation governing much of the framework on the powers of the security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies to intercept communications—the Regulation

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of Investigatory Powers Act 2000—is no longer fit for purpose. I have spent many an hour burning the midnight oil trying to construct applications under the Act, and it is not easy.

When the Act was created, broadband internet barely existed; now, we have iPhones, which were a real game-changer for law enforcement, because people could access the internet almost anywhere. Indeed, end-to-end encryption is now so widespread that it is coming to a point—indeed, it may even be at a point—where some criminals are untouchable. That simply cannot be allowed to continue.

If I do nothing else in my three minutes, I should say that equipment interference is a key part of the Bill. There are hardly any investigations into major crimes that do not require equipment interference—it is that crucial to building up a pattern of criminality, determining links between people and organisations and providing key evidence to investigate and prosecute crime. Many cases I was personally involved with used equipment interference, including cases involving major currency counterfeiting, drugs importation and firearms importation. Many of the criminals involved in such cases are not caught in a matter of days; it takes months and years to build a picture of their movements and associates, and the Bill will support that.

In 1829, one of the joint commissioners of the Metropolitan police, Sir Richard Mayne, said:

“The primary object of an efficient police is the prevention of crime”

and the detention and arrest of offenders. With that in mind, we must give law enforcement agencies the tools to do their job. There is an operational need for changes to the law. The three reviews have clearly stated that law enforcement agencies need powers to access communications and data about communications.

There has been no Paris in this country, I am pleased to say. British law enforcement is renowned as the best at intelligence gathering. If, God forbid, something did happen here, Opposition Members would be the first to ask the Government why they did not do anything. This is an opportunity to do it tonight.

6.30 pm

Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge and Malling) (Con): This debate is very much about striking a balance between privacy and security, as I understand very well. Indeed, my father wrote the book on privacy, and it is now in its third edition—if anybody would like it, it is selling for about £200. However, I have spent much of my life working on the latter.

Security is very much at the heart of what I hope our Government are bringing to the nation—not just economic security but national security. This Bill goes a long way towards achieving that. I am extremely pleased, however, that it is grounded not just in that principle but in the principle of proportionality. Indeed, proportionality is mentioned 54 times in this Bill; it is very much at its heart. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) missed that point.

The question of proportionality relates to the bulk data powers, which are about not simply collecting data on targets but protection. One of the points that has largely been missed, although my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) raised it strongly, is that

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our agencies do much more than just look after our security in the offensive sense—they also look after it defensively. GCHQ has done a huge amount to protect our country from cybercrime. Indeed, 95% of all cyber-attacks in the United Kingdom have been defended against on the basis of bulk data.

In an important speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology only last week, the head of GCHQ, Mr Robert Hannigan, commented on the need to provide proper encryption to our society in order to allow the free economic trade that we have enjoyed for so long. He also clearly stated that he was not in favour of “backdoors”, which were mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (John Glen), because they are not a protection but a threat. He said:

“I am not in favour of banning encryption just to avoid doubt. Nor am I asking for mandatory backdoors. I am puzzled by the caricatures in the current debate, where almost every attempt to tackle the misuse of encryption by criminals and terrorists is seen as a ‘backdoor’. It is an over-used metaphor, or at least mis-applied in many cases, and I think it illustrates the confusion of the ethical debate in what is a highly-charged and technically complex area.”

Having used the powers in the former investigatory powers Acts for operations in Afghanistan targeting those who were placing bombs to try to kill fellow British servicemen, I am glad that this Bill is updating those provisions. I am also glad to see that the former Director of Public Prosecutions, who has wide experience in this field, will respond for the Opposition. His experience does credit to this House, and I am delighted to see him here.

If I may be allowed just one minor criticism, it is that the word “urgent” must be tightened. The Secretary of State must be the sole decider of what is an urgent request and an urgent need, and not a judge later on, because only she or he can have that knowledge.

6.33 pm

Chris Philp (Croydon South) (Con): Clearly, when we grant the Government powers to infringe on our privacy, such powers must be deemed absolutely necessary. No case better shines a light on what may be considered necessary than one that arose in my constituency a short time ago. Barry Bednar’s 14-year-old son was groomed online over the course of some months. He was lured to the flat of someone called Lewis Daynes, where he was brutally murdered. When speaking to Barry Bednar and the boy’s mother, Lorin LaFave, it is very clear that powers such as these are absolutely necessary to protect young people like Breck from being groomed online, to help the authorities to investigate such offences, and to prevent further offences from taking place.

We always face a choice in these matters, and I choose to stand with victims like Breck. I choose to stand with Breck’s mother and father in doing everything we can to prevent, to investigate, and to catch the perpetrators of crimes like these. If the price I have to pay for that is that my internet browsing history gets stored or the authorities have certain powers to intercept my communications, then I am very happy to pay it in order to protect young men and women like Breck Bednar. That is why I will support Second Reading of the Bill. I thank the Home Secretary for taking the time to meet Barry Bednar and Lorin LaFave about two

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weeks ago. They were very grateful for the time that she took to listen to their concerns, and I want to put on record my thanks to her for doing that.

Since the shadow Home Secretary is now in his place, I will take the opportunity to respond briefly to a point that he raised in his speech. He made great play of the question of economic wellbeing, which concerned him. He mentioned an example from 1972, and the fact that he had to go back as far as 1972 to find an example tells us something. I draw his attention to clause 18(4), which I believe addresses his concern. It states that the test of economic wellbeing can be applied only to interception requests that are not in the United Kingdom. The concerns that he raised about the conduct of trade unions and so on would not apply because the test relates only to matters outside the United Kingdom. I hope that that gives him the reassurance that he requires.

I believe that the Bill is proportionate and reasonable. I am comforted by the judicial oversight that is in place, and I will most certainly support the Bill in the Division Lobby this evening.

6.36 pm

Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con): It is a great pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp). This type of Bill is always difficult in a democratic Parliament, where our wish for freedom in a democracy clashes with our need for security and to prevent harm from being done to us. At times this afternoon, the debate took me back to the seminars that I used to sit through at Warwick University, where we would sit around and discuss a moot point. This debate is not about a moot point, however, as my hon. Friend has just pointed out and as the hon. Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson) movingly said in his contribution. It is about real issues, real people and real threats to our communities with real outcomes, depending on what legislation we finally put in place, so it is not just a philosophical debate.

The alteration of our investigatory powers legislation is long overdue. My right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) pointed out that 66 pieces of legislation govern this area, and some elements of surveillance and investigatory powers in the Bill are, shall we say, being avowed in legislation for the first time. They are happening, but they are now being brought into the legal framework. For me, it is right that the Bill is being introduced.

Interestingly, we have had talk this afternoon about the amount of time that we have been given to debate the matter, but it has been over an hour since we last heard from an Opposition Member. That tells us that when time is available for contributions, Her Majesty’s Official Opposition do not use it.

To focus on the key point, I am reassured by the judicial oversight provided by the Bill, combined with the Secretary of State’s responsibilities on warrants. After a controversial use of the new powers, no Secretary of State would be able to come to Parliament and say, “I knew nothing about it.” Likewise, a warrant could not be issued if it was not proportionate, because of the need for judicial oversight. Given how strongly our judiciary has stood up to the Executive over the years

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on the use of certain powers, I do not see any reason why in this instance, the judiciary would suddenly feel compelled to give in.

A lot of the views expressed in the debate have been about details, but this is Second Reading, not Report or Third Reading. Those stages and, crucially, the Bill Committee, are yet to come. All the arguments I have heard this afternoon from hon. Members, including the Home Secretary, have been about giving the Bill a Second Reading. That will only happen if Members vote for it, rather than sitting on their hands in this Chamber.

I welcome the introduction of the Bill. There is more work to be done on it, but that is why we should give it a Second Reading, and I will certainly vote for that to happen.

6.39 pm

Mike Wood (Dudley South) (Con): I was opposed to the 2000 Act, and I had concerns about the 2014 Act. If our starting point is whether changes would make things easier or harder for some hypothetical despotic regime, both Acts clearly shifted the powers of the state and gave the security services significant new powers without providing corresponding safeguards to protect the rights and freedoms of the individual. However, with three independent reviews, three parliamentary Committees during the pre-legislative scrutiny stage and Ministers who have clearly been prepared to listen and to make changes, this Bill is far better than any previous ones.

I still have concerns about shifting the balance between individuals and the state, but I am satisfied that the proposals will introduce powers that are proportionate to the risks faced. They will bring greater transparency to the system and the process. The powers will be controlled by more effective authorisation mechanisms and independent oversight. The proposals are proportionate because, as is widely recognised, the future is increasingly digital, and we have a responsibility to respond as such.

The internet is a fantastic opportunity and it opens incredible doors—even though I think as myself as tech savvy, I find it dispiriting to see that my five-year-old son can use my iPad better than I can—but it also, of course, opens doors for those who would do us harm in relation to both national security and some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

We often hear about the precautionary principle: the idea that where there is even a small risk of great harm, it is appropriate to take whatever action might avoid it. In this case, the risk is not small or hypothetical—unfortunately, with paedophilia and child sexual exploitation, we see the risk week after week—and the Bill could help to tackle that risk. We know not just that the risk of international terrorism is significant, but that if the security services do not have the powers to tackle those threats, it is absolutely certain that we will be victims. That is why I will support the Bill this evening.

6.42 pm

Suella Fernandes (Fareham) (Con): I am not sure what the collective noun is for lawyers.

Simon Hoare: A pain.

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Suella Fernandes: It may be a pain, a chorus, a dazzle or an appeal. Whatever it is, I rise to join that group and its collective voice in favour of the Bill.

Although the Bill’s opponents brand it a snoopers charter and criticise the lack of safeguards, I disagree with them. Like several hon. Members in the Chamber today, I had the privilege of sitting on the Joint Committee, and I heard at first hand the evidence of professionals on the front line. I am convinced that they exercise their powers judiciously and carefully, and I have faith that they will apply ethical standards when it comes to employing those powers. As the shadow Home Secretary said, GCHQ has neither the resources for nor the interest in carrying out mass surveillance of innocent people.

On safeguards, warranting has traditionally been the sole concern of the Executive. To echo the sentiments of my right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson), warranting is an inherently political process. When Ministers take a decision on granting a warrant, they take into account issues of national security, diplomatic relationships and the wider context. Frankly, such factors would not be relevant to a narrow legal and judicial analysis.

The Bill incorporates judicial review as the test to which warrants are subject. As my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat) set out, judicial review incorporates a test of proportionality. That test—I speak with 10 years’ experience as a barrister specialising in judicial review in administrative law—involves four stages: first, looking at the objective in mind; secondly, assessing whether the means are directly connected to the objective; thirdly, asking whether an alternative is available; and lastly, carefully balancing intrusion against privacy. The choice is clear: do we trust our skilled professionals, or do we further disable them and let the terrorists and those who seek to destroy our society wreak havoc in this world?

6.44 pm

Keir Starmer (Holborn and St Pancras) (Lab): I pay tribute to all contributions made during this debate. Anyone who has been involved in real time in a criminal investigation knows how vital it is for the police and our security and intelligence services to have access to communications and personal data. If a child goes missing, or a planned terrorist plot is uncovered, and a suspect appears on the radar for the first time, then knowing who he is, who he has been in contact with, and when, are vital clues.

The police, and the security and intelligence services, must be able to look back as well as forward. I know that because when I was Director of Public Prosecutions, I worked with the relevant agencies in real time on real cases that involved some of the most serious and grotesque crimes, and I shared the anxiety of tracking down individuals before they committed unspeakable crimes. For me, that has always made a compelling case for retaining some communications and personal data. Whether that is done by a retention notice from the Secretary of State or through the use of bulk powers, we cannot target suspects until we know that they exist and what they have been up to.

Whether we like it or not, we need the power and capability to park data and allow access to it at some later stage on strict terms. However, that is not, and

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should never be, the end of the story. The fact that a few individuals with experience trust such an exercise is not enough for the general public. Retaining communications and personal data is highly intrusive, and accessing that data at a later stage even more so—the clearest examples of that are bulk intercept powers and equipment interference capabilities.

There have been a number of exchanges this afternoon about the words “mass surveillance”, and I do not intend to embark on that. At best, such powers could be described as “suspicionless mass retention”, but that does not mean that they cannot be justified, or that they cannot be used. It does mean, however, that the concerns raised across the House deserve careful consideration.

The terms on which we park data, what we allow to be parked and in what circumstances, and the terms in which those data can later be accessed matter in a modern democracy, and that puts the right to privacy in central place. Such powers must be set out in clear terms in law, and they must be necessary and proportionate. That first requirement that powers and capabilities be set out in law is not a legalistic tick-box exercise. In the wake of the Snowden revelations, it is clear that some investigatory powers in the UK have been and are being used more widely than was previously known, and without the safeguards in the Bill. If that is to be avoided in future, tightly drawn definitions of all powers and capabilities are needed in the Bill.

In that respect, I fear that the Government are moving in the wrong direction. The pre-scrutiny committees pointed to powers that they said were too broad and lacked clarity. Some of those powers have now been put into codes of practice, and there is nothing wrong with such codes of practice being available at this stage—we called for that, it is good to have them, and I applaud the Home Secretary for putting them before the House. However, there is a big difference between defining a power in a code of practice and defining it in statute. Even where powers are defined in the Bill, there is ambiguity.

A lot of the discussion this afternoon has been about internet connection records, and I urge Members to look again at clause 54, which is extremely vague and broad. As my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) powerfully said, the distinction between content and contact is not as easy to make as it first appears. The necessity test in relation to some of the powers has also not yet fully been made. Of particular concern are the bulk powers, which allow the security and intelligence agencies to collect large volumes of data, including communications data and contact.

Operational cases have been published. So far, they have failed to convince. They need to be independently assessed. The Home Secretary indicated that the information has been given to the Intelligence and Security Committee, and we await the outcome of that. I do not suggest they cannot be justified, but it is important for the public at large that they are justified.

On proportionality, the principle is that the most intrusive powers should be reserved for the most serious cases. There must be clear safeguards to prevent the temptations of using them for lesser offences. There can be no doubt that when a young child goes missing or the intelligence suggests a suspected terrorist attack, access to data held by the police—and, where necessary, the

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security and intelligence services—should be rapid and reliable. However, that does not justify routine resort to intrusive measures in other, less serious cases.

A lot of concern has been expressed about internet connection records. A rule that should be applied in investigatory powers cases is that the wider the set of data collected, the more careful the threshold should be and the higher the point of access. Even if the case can be made for internet connection records, that is a very, very wide dataset. This requires the threshold for access to be reconsidered and I invite the Government to consider the really serious matter of the threshold for access for internet connection records.

A fit-for-purpose 21st-century surveillance law is a prize worth fighting for and Labour will work with the Government to achieve it. For that to happen, however, the Government need to allow sufficient time for scrutiny, and, equally importantly, to shift position on a number of key issues. It is as simple as that.

6.52 pm

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Philip Hammond): This has been a good debate and I pay tribute to all contributors. We have heard a great deal of detail from a lot of very knowledgeable people. I am only grateful, Mr Speaker, that I do not have to pick up the bill at standard hourly rates for all the lawyers who have contributed to our debate tonight.

Amid all the admirable attention to detail, we must never lose sight of what this is all about: the first duty of Government is to keep us safe from serious crime, terrorism and hostile foreign powers. The Bill sets out a new framework for the use and oversight of investigatory powers by the law enforcement and security and intelligence agencies––not just those required to counter threats here at home but those supporting the vital outward-facing work of GCHQ and the Secret Intelligence Service, the two agencies for which I am responsible. I pay tribute tonight to the work of the secret intelligence agencies, the police, the National Crime Agency and all the other bodies that together do such a fantastic job of keeping us safe.

The purpose of the Bill is threefold: to bring together in one place all the powers already available to the agencies to obtain communications and data about communications; to equip us for a digital age by introducing a new power relating to the retention of internet connection records; and to overhaul the way the use of these powers is authorised and overseen. Our delivery of those three objectives has been underpinned by three principles: that the powers available to the agencies are necessary to tackle the serious threats we face; that they are proportionate, balancing the need to tackle threats with the rights to privacy of law-abiding people; and that they are subject to proper and effective authorisation and oversight.

To those who say that the Bill is rushed and that we have rushed into this without due consideration, I say, with the greatest respect, that that is nonsense. Our approach has been informed by the recommendations of no fewer than three independent reviews and three Committees, which scrutinised the draft proposals in detail. Indeed, few measures ever brought before the

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House can have been subject to such a high degree of pre-legislative scrutiny. I want to place on the record once again my and the Home Secretary’s thanks to all those involved, because their work has undoubtedly improved the Bill.

The introduction of judicial authorisation in the warrant-issuing process as part of the overarching architecture will reassure the public. I want to be clear—because concerns have been raised tonight—that the judicial commissioners will be able to consider proportionality and necessity as they exercise their double-lock function. I want to reassure hon. Members who raised this point that we are confident that this additional layer of protection can be introduced without undermining the effectiveness of the system.

This is a Second Reading debate. It is clear from remarks tonight that there is widespread acceptance across the House, including from both Opposition Front Benches, of the need for legislation, but both raised a series of points—several recurring themes arose in the debate—all of which are perfectly proper issues to raise in Committee, when a proper, detailed justification of each of the proposals in the Bill can be made and scrutinised. I am confident that all reasonable concerns and fears can be allayed as the Bill progresses.

It is important to be clear that, apart from internet connection records, all the powers in the Bill are already in use by our agencies and police forces, as they keep us remarkably safe from the myriad threats we face. Any attempt to curtail those powers, which they already have and are currently using, would make us less safe. That is something that we, on this side of the House, are simply not prepared to contemplate. I was hoping to address some of the key issues raised during the debate, but I am afraid that time does not allow it. All the issues raised, however, will be fully and exhaustively addressed in Committee.

The Bill is about backing our police and intelligence agencies with the powers they need to keep the British people safe. It is about allowing them to adapt to changing technology and the ways in which criminals and terrorists use it, but it is also about ensuring that all this is done in a proportionate way and with proper authorisation and oversight so that the British people can have absolute confidence that the powers are being appropriately used and that their privacy is being properly protected.

The Bill delivers all those objectives. The powers set out are necessary to tackle the serious threats we face, and they are proportionate, carefully balancing the need to tackle threats with people’s right to privacy. The Bill provides for a level of oversight and scrutiny that will be world leading, with the introduction of judicial oversight and the double lock—the biggest change in this area since Government avowed the very existence of the intelligence and security agencies over 20 years ago.

For too long, technological change has been moving the dial in favour of the criminal and the terrorist. The Bill is an important step in the fight back. I urge colleagues on both sides of the House to join us in taking the battle to the terrorists and the organised criminals by backing the Bill tonight.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The House divided:

Ayes 281, Noes 15.

Division No. 220]


6.59 pm


Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Allan, Lucy

Allen, Heidi

Amess, Sir David

Andrew, Stuart

Ansell, Caroline

Argar, Edward

Atkins, Victoria

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Mr Steve

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barwell, Gavin

Bellingham, Sir Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Berry, James

Bingham, Andrew

Blackman, Bob

Bone, Mr Peter

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, rh James

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Robert

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Sir Simon

Burt, rh Alistair

Cairns, Alun

Campbell, Mr Gregory

Carmichael, Neil

Cartlidge, James

Cash, Sir William

Caulfield, Maria

Chalk, Alex

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Cleverly, James

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Costa, Alberto

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, rh Stephen

Davies, Byron

Davies, Glyn

Davies, Dr James

Davies, Mims

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Donelan, Michelle

Double, Steve

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Drummond, Mrs Flick

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Sir Alan

Dunne, Mr Philip

Elliott, Tom

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Mr Nigel

Evennett, rh Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Fernandes, Suella

Field, rh Mark

Foster, Kevin

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Frazer, Lucy

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Fysh, Marcus

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, rh Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

Ghani, Nusrat

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Chris

Green, rh Damian

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, rh Robert

Hall, Luke

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, rh Matthew

Harper, rh Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Sir Oliver

Heappey, James

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Heaton-Jones, Peter

Henderson, Gordon

Herbert, rh Nick

Hermon, Lady

Hoare, Simon

Hollingbery, George

Hollinrake, Kevin

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Howell, John

Huddleston, Nigel

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, rh Sajid

Jayawardena, Mr Ranil

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Jenkyns, Andrea

Jenrick, Robert

Johnson, Boris

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, rh Mr David

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kinahan, Danny

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Knight, Julian

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Dr Phillip

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Sir Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Mackinlay, Craig

Main, Mrs Anne

Mak, Mr Alan

Malthouse, Kit

Mann, Scott

Mathias, Dr Tania

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

Menzies, Mark

Merriman, Huw

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Mrs Maria

Milling, Amanda

Mills, Nigel

Milton, rh Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, rh Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Morton, Wendy

Mundell, rh David

Murray, Mrs Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Nokes, Caroline

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Dr Matthew

Opperman, Guy

Paisley, Ian

Parish, Neil

Patel, rh Priti

Paterson, rh Mr Owen

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, rh Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Philp, Chris

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Pow, Rebecca

Prentis, Victoria

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pursglove, Tom

Quin, Jeremy

Quince, Will

Raab, Mr Dominic

Redwood, rh John

Rees-Mogg, Mr Jacob

Robinson, Gavin

Robinson, Mary

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, rh Amber

Rutley, David

Sandbach, Antoinette

Scully, Paul

Selous, Andrew

Shannon, Jim

Shapps, rh Grant

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simpson, David

Simpson, rh Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Royston

Solloway, Amanda

Soubry, rh Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Graham

Sturdy, Julian

Sunak, Rishi

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Thomas, Derek

Throup, Maggie

Timpson, Edward

Tolhurst, Kelly

Tomlinson, Justin

Tomlinson, Michael

Tracey, Craig

Tredinnick, David

Trevelyan, Mrs Anne-Marie

Tugendhat, Tom

Turner, Mr Andrew

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Warburton, David

Warman, Matt

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Wharton, James

Whately, Helen

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, rh Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Craig

Williamson, rh Gavin

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wilson, Sammy

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wood, Mike

Wragg, William

Tellers for the Ayes:

Sarah Newton


Simon Kirby


Brake, rh Tom

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Clegg, rh Mr Nick

Edwards, Jonathan

Farron, Tim

Lamb, rh Norman

Lucas, Caroline

Mulholland, Greg

Pugh, John

Saville Roberts, Liz

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Thomson, Michelle

Williams, Hywel

Williams, Mr Mark

Winnick, Mr David

Tellers for the Noes:

Ms Margaret Ritchie


Mark Durkan

Question accordingly agreed to.

15 Mar 2016 : Column 905

15 Mar 2016 : Column 906

15 Mar 2016 : Column 907

Bill read a Second time.

Mr Speaker: I remind the House that the programme motion in the Order Paper was published in error, a fact of which I informed the House some hours ago. The correct motion has been available from the Vote Office. I invite the Home Secretary to move the amended programme motion.

Investigatory Powers Bill (Programme)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),

That the following provisions shall apply to the Investigatory Powers Bill:


(1) The Bill shall be committed to a Public Bill Committee.

Proceedings in Public Bill Committee

(2) Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Thursday 5 May 2016.

(3) The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.

Proceedings on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading

(4) Proceedings on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading shall be taken in two days in accordance with the following provisions of this Order.

(5) Proceedings on Consideration and any proceedings in legislative grand committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the second day.

(6) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on the second day.

(7) Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading.

Other proceedings

(7) Any other proceedings on the Bill (including any proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments or on any further messages from the Lords) may be programmed.—(Mrs May.)

Question agreed to.

15 Mar 2016 : Column 908

Investigatory Powers Bill (Money)

Queen’s recommendation signified.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)),

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Investigatory Powers Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of:

(1) any expenditure incurred by the Secretary of State under the Act;

(2) any other expenditure incurred by a Minister of the Crown or government department by virtue of the Act;

(3) any remuneration and allowances payable under the Act to the Judicial Commissioners; and

(4) any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable by virtue of any other Act out of money so provided.—(Guy Opperman.)

Question agreed to.

Investigatory powers Bill (ways and means)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)),

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Investigatory Powers Bill, it is expedient to authorise:

(1) provision about taxation in connection with transfer schemes; and

(2) the payment of sums into the Consolidated Fund.—(Guy Opperman.)

Question agreed to.

Deferred Divisions

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 41A(3)),

That at this day’s sitting, Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply to the Motion in the name of Secretary Theresa May relating to Investigatory Powers Bill Carry-over; and the Motion relating to the Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism.—(Guy Opperman.)

Question agreed to.

Investigatory Powers Bill (Carry-over)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 80A(1)(a),

That if, at the conclusion of this Session of Parliament, proceedings on the Investigatory Powers Bill have not been completed, they shall be resumed in the next Session.—(Guy Opperman.)

Question agreed to.

Mr Speaker: Having got comfortably through that sequence—I am most grateful to the Whip on duty—we now come to the motion on prevention and suppression of terrorism and, dare I say it, to the alluring prospect of the motion being moved by the Minister for Security, the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes).

15 Mar 2016 : Column 909

Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism

7.13 pm

The Minister for Security (Mr John Hayes): I beg to move,

That the draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2016, which was laid before this House on 22 February, be moved.

I am extremely grateful to you, Mr Speaker. Alluring though the prospect might be, and as you know, it is not my habit to disappoint the House or to abbreviate my remarks when further articulation of an argument is necessary—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Order. I appreciate that Members are leaving the Chamber, but it would be appreciated if they could do so quickly and quietly. I am sure that the substantial numbers of Members who are staying will want to savour the speech by the Minister. At any rate, he deserves an attentive audience. Indeed, I am sure that he expects nothing less.

Mr Hayes: With your encouragement, Mr Speaker, I repeat that it is not my habit to disappoint the House or to be constrained by facts, believing as I do that it is a journey beyond the given in which men and women shine and soar. Nevertheless, I will be brief and factual tonight.

The International Sikh Youth Federation, a separatist movement committed to the creation of Khalistan, an independent Sikh state in the Punjab region of south Asia, was established in the 1980s. In the past, the ISYF’s attacks included assassinations, bombings and kidnappings, mainly directed against Indian officials and interests. The ISYF has been proscribed as a terrorist organisation in the UK since March 2001. The decision to proscribe the ISYF was taken after extensive consideration and in the light of a full assessment of available information and at that time, as is necessary, was approved by Parliament. It is clear that the ISYF was certainly concerned with terrorism at that time.

Having reviewed, with other countries, what information is available about the current activities of the ISYF and after careful and appropriate consideration, the Home Secretary concluded that there is not sufficient evidence to support a reasonable belief that the ISYF is currently concerned with terrorism, as defined by section 3(5) of the Terrorism Act 2000. Under section 3 of the Act, the Home Secretary has the power to remove an organisation from the list of proscribed organisations if she believes that it no longer meets the statutory test for proscription. Accordingly, the Home Secretary has brought forward this draft order, which, if approved, will mean that being a member of or providing support to this organisation will cease to be a criminal offence on the day on which the order comes into force. The decision to de-proscribe the ISYF was taken after extensive consideration and in the light of a full assessment of all the available information. The House will naturally understand that it would not be appropriate for me to discuss the specific intelligence that informed the decision-making process.

The House would also expect me to make it clear that the Government do not condone any terrorist activity or terrorism apologists. De-proscription of a proscribed group should not be interpreted as condoning the previous

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activities of the group. As I said, the decision to proscribe was taken on the basis of the information available then, and we take this decision on the basis of up-to-date information. Groups that do not meet the threshold for proscription are not free to spread hatred, fund terrorist activity or incite violence as they please.

Andy Burnham (Leigh) (Lab): I am grateful to the Minister for giving way, but some of the things that he has said tonight will be disputed by some in the Sikh community. I do not want to get into a debate about the organisation’s history, but the strong feeling in the Sikh community is that some decisions were based on diplomatic pressure from the Indian Government, rather than on the direct evidence of terrorism that he describes. I am not proving the case one way or the other, but can the Minister say without any contradiction that diplomatic pressure did not lead to the ban being maintained for so long?

Mr Hayes: I can say without equivocation, hesitation or obfuscation that a ban can apply only if there is compelling evidence to support it. Indeed, were there to be continuing compelling evidence, the ban would remain in place. When matters were reconsidered, it was clear that we could not make such a ban stand up against the criteria, which are appropriately tough, so we brought forward the draft order that we are briefly debating tonight. Pressure was certainly not put on me. Indeed, I received no overtures of the kind that he described. Had I done so, I can absolutely assure the right hon. Gentleman that my decision-making would not have been affected in any way.

Andy Burnham: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way again and I appreciate that he wants to get through his speech, but these are matters of great concern to many in the British Sikh community, so they will want to hear further answers from the Minister. He says that the Government changed their mind when the evidence was reconsidered, but that was only after they were taken all the way to the High Court and had resisted representatives of the Sikh community at every single stage. The Minister needs to remove any suggestion that the ban has been maintained for so long because of pressure from the Indian Government.

Mr Hayes: I did say, “without equivocation, hesitation or obfuscation.” I do not know how I could put it more clearly that no such representations influenced any decision I made on these matters. Let me see whether I can create a synthesis between our positions, as I do appreciate that there are strong feelings about this matter. When proscription is put in place, it is done with the utmost seriousness, as these are serious matters. Banning the membership of any organisation in a free society is a very serious business indeed. Consequently, lifting such a proscription is also a serious matter, and it warrants the kind of consideration that has been given. The fact that these matters have to be brought to this Chamber at both stages is indicative of that seriousness. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the threshold for proscription is common to both stages and applied under Governments of different colours—this was in place under Labour. It has not changed, so it is not as though the goalposts have been shifted and the criteria have altered. I can also assure him that absolute consistency applies; it

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might be argued that there had been a change of not only approach, but of the way we measure such things, and I can assure him that that has not happened either.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab) rose

Mr Hayes: I give way to the right hon. Gentleman, who chairs the Home Affairs Committee and is a great expert on all these matters.

Keith Vaz: I, of course, accept the Minister’s assurances that the Indian Government did not put pressure on Ministers—it would be wrong for them to have done so—as he has come to the House and said so. Will he just clarify something for me? The independent reviewer of terrorism legislation suggested that there should be an automatic trigger; once proscription is put in place, there should be a time specified that would enable the matter to be reviewed, so that organisations that are proscribed and do change would not have to wait an inordinate time—an indefinite length of time—before their proscription is reconsidered. Do the Government now support that position?

Mr Hayes: The right hon. Gentleman is right to say that the independent reviewer did make such an argument, and I was familiar with it. There has also been a continuing argument in favour of an annual check on these matters—I understand that argument and we are never a closed-minded Government, as I know he will appreciate. That is not the situation that pertains at the moment or in respect of this organisation, and one could not make the case that the shadow Home Secretary made if it were. There was no fixed time limit nor a predetermined idea that this ban would last for only a particular time and would then be lifted. This decision was therefore purely based on a re-examination of the facts, rather than on any consideration of how long the organisation had been banned or whether there should be an end point.

Keith Vaz: The shadow Home Secretary raised this point because there are members of the community who have suggested that there has been pressure put on, and that indicates the problem with an indefinite period. If it was not indefinite but was reviewable, as the independent reviewer has suggested, there would not be these suspicions that others had put pressure on Ministers. The Minister has made it clear that no pressure has been put on him, but that does not stop these rumours persisting, because we are talking about an indefinite period.

Mr Hayes: The right hon. Gentleman has a charming idealism, which I rather admire. It is idealistic to suppose that because something continues for some time there is likely to be the kind of pressure that he has described, whereas if something happened more suddenly, that pressure would not be applied. Rather, I think a fixed timetable might act as pressure valve, adding a greater degree of argument, debate and perhaps even lobbying of the kind that is being suggested. I am not sure that the length of time and the character of the overtures

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that might be made to Ministers can really be reconciled in the way he is describing, but, as he knows, I admire his idealism.

I say to the right hon. Gentleman and the shadow Home Secretary that the Government continue to exercise the proscription power in a proportionate manner. There has been a great deal of debate about proportionality this afternoon. In that spirit, it is important that we recognise that proscription has implications for the circumstances and entitlements of individuals and groups of individuals. It is very important that we act strictly in accordance with the law, according to those strict thresholds and proportionately.

In conclusion, we believe that it is appropriate in these circumstances to remove the ISYF from the list of proscribed organisations. I hear what the shadow Home Secretary says. These are never easy decisions, and such decisions never attract unanimity in any community, but this Government are not a Government who do what is easy—they are a Government who do what is right. We think it is right that we remove the ISYF from the list of proscribed organisations in schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000. Subject to the agreement of this House and the other place, the order will come into force on 18 March.

7.26 pm

Lyn Brown (West Ham) (Lab): We support the order. As I am sure everyone will agree, proscription is a weighty matter. National security is the foremost responsibility of any Government and, indeed, of any Opposition, and we must continue to ensure that we take national security matters very seriously indeed.

The Opposition recognise that proscription is a vital part of our national security powers, which enable us to tackle and disrupt terrorist groups, but we also have to accept that proscription is a draconian power, and with that power comes great responsibility.

Proscribing a group makes it illegal to belong to or support it any way. It is, in and of itself, a curtailment of freedom of association. It is also possible that those who have associated with a proscribed organisation will have their ability to travel or an application for citizenship disrupted. Given those civil liberties implications, any proscription order should be considered very carefully, and we also need to keep the status of proscribed groups under review.

The issue of de-proscription, however, has been fraught. It was first raised in the context of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran and a judicial review launched against its continued proscription. In 2008, the Court of Appeal found in its favour and ruled that

“an organisation that has no capacity to carry on terrorist activities and is taking no steps to acquire such capacity or otherwise to promote or encourage terrorist activities cannot be said to be ‘concerned in terrorism’”.

Although the People’s Mujahedin of Iran was subsequently de-proscribed, that has not been followed by the implementation of a proper procedure for considering other groups.

That issue was raised by the independent reviewer of terrorism, David Anderson QC, in his 2011 report and it has been highlighted repeatedly since. Indeed, it was subsequently part of the focus of an excellent Home Affairs Committee report in 2012. It has been raised by

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many hon. Members, particularly my predecessor in this post, my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, who have both addressed it in several proscription debates over the past five years.

Unfortunately, the Government have not engaged with the issue. In 2012, the then Security Minister promised the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee a response “shortly”. In 2013—a year later—the response had still not appeared. In another proscription debate, my right hon. Friend the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee made some prescient remarks about the lack of a proper de-proscription procedure. He said:

“That means, I am afraid, that the matter ends up not in this House, which is responsible for proscription, but in the courts…A Minister came before the House and said, ‘We are de-proscribing the People’s Mujahedeen, because they’ve gone to court and won their judicial review.’”—[Official Report, 10 July 2013; Vol. 566, c. 464.]

In response to that pressure, the Government did concede that 14 groups no longer met the statutory test for proscription and so proposed annual reviews to assess the status of proscribed groups, but no de-proscription orders followed. In 2014, the Government announced that they were scrapping annual reviews and replacing them with a system whereby groups could be de-proscribed.

At the same time, the Opposition raised concerns about how the system worked, because some groups had ceased to exist and it was not clear how any group could make such an application given that it was illegal to be a member of the said group.

Three members of the Sikh community applied on 4 February 2015 for the organisation to be de-proscribed, because it has not existed in the UK since March 2001 and is not concerned in terrorism. That application should have been dealt with within 90 days, but the response was not received until 31 July 2015, and when it came, it asserted that the Secretary of State maintained a reasonable belief that the International Sikh Youth Federation is concerned in terrorism. That was July last year.

The Home Secretary said in a later communication that there had been extensive consideration and a full assessment of available information. No reasons were given for the continued proscription. The applicants filed an appeal and gave as grounds the failure of the Government to give any reason for the refusal to de-proscribe, which was contrary to the rule of law, and asserted that the ISYF is not concerned in terrorism.

The Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission directed the Home Secretary to provide reasons to support her position, but on the very day that the reasons and the evidence were due, the Home Secretary informed the commission that she would not defend the decision and would lay an order for de-proscription. The Home Secretary did not suggest that there was any change in the facts between 31 July and the day of the decision, which was just six months later.

The decision is particularly important given the special nature of proscription orders and the basis on which the Home Secretary makes her decision. Again, I want to go back to a contribution made to a previous proscription

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debate by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East, the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee. He said:

“I can say that it is clear that when Ministers with the security portfolio come before the House to make a statement—some of it based on intelligence that cannot be shared with the House—the House always defers to them and accepts what they say.”—[Official Report, 10 July 2013; Vol. 566, c. 462.]

My right hon. Friend was highlighting the wrong tradition of accepting security statements from Ministers in good faith.

If we are to take Ministers’ statements on proscription in good faith, the House also needs to trust Ministers to act in the same good faith when it comes to de-proscription. I say gently to the Minister—and I hope that he sums up and comes back to me with some kind of answer—that I genuinely do not understand how this could have happened. I really think that he needs to give this House some kind of explanation as to how, in July 2015, the organisation was still being proscribed, but in December of that same year it was not.

This de-proscription of the International Sikh Youth Federation raises questions about the continued proscription of other groups, particularly the 14 groups that the Home Office has conceded may no longer meet the statutory tests. It risks undermining the confidence in this vital part of our security system. Can the Minister now confirm that the ISYF was one of the 14 groups identified as not meeting the “concerned in terrorism” test? Will funds frozen for the last 15 years belonging to the International Sikh Youth Federation now be unfrozen, and will the Home Secretary ensure that the International Sikh Youth Federation name is removed as soon as possible from lists issued by the United Nations and the EU on financial restrictions imposed following 9/11?

While I support today’s order, I strongly urge the Minister to reflect on this case and the damage done, and to introduce a proper system for considering de-proscription that can restore confidence in the whole proscription process. In particular, I urge the Minister to reconsider the merits of the annual reviews of proscribed organisations, and reinstate them.

I want to highlight the argument made by the independent reviewer, David Anderson, QC, that annual reviews of proscription orders should mirror the requirements of the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Act 2010—to review annually the necessity of continued asset freezes, which leads to the delisting of individuals on the initiative of the Treasury. Indeed, there is a strong argument that that is already a requirement of the Terrorism Act 2000. In a judgment from 2007, the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission, headed by High Court Judge Sir Harry Ognall, ruled:

“It cannot have been Parliament’s intent that an organisation which the Secretary of State historically had reasonable grounds for believing was ‘concerned in terrorism’ but for which there are no reasonable grounds for believing that it is currently ‘concerned in terrorism’ should remain on Schedule 2 for any longer than absolutely necessary. As such, it is incumbent on the Secretary of State to consider at regular intervals whether or not the power under section 3(3)(b) should be exercised. We were told in the course of argument that the Secretary of State does in fact adopt this practice and that the period between such reviews was around twelve months. We have seen no documentary evidence of such reviews in this case, but it is certainly a practice that the Secretary of State should continue to adopt. It serves to underline our view that such practice is a proper reflection of the Secretary of State’s statutory duty.”

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If the Minister does not agree with me that the Home Secretary’s duty requires annual reviews, I should be really grateful if he explained in his summing-up how else he intends to meet this duty.

I have met representatives of the UK Sikh Federation and they have told me about the real difficulties that have affected former members of the ISYF, such as difficulties around naturalisation and international travel. Now that the ISYF has finally been de-proscribed I hope that the Sikhs in our communities can look forward to a new relationship with Government. Sikhs celebrated new year yesterday. It is certainly time for a new beginning. I wish them all a happy new year.

7.38 pm

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown), who gave an excellent speech, not least because she quoted so extensively from previous speeches that I gave to the House on proscription. She reminded the House that the issues we have raised on previous occasions are still current in the proscription debate. The Minister may have changed, but the issues remain.

The Government should be commended for raising this proscription. They will find that they have the support of the whole House. These are difficult issues for Ministers, requiring careful judgments to be made, with a great deal of thought. It is right that Ministers should think carefully before they come to the House. It is also right that the House should debate these issues at length, because when the orders are placed on organisations, they have serious implications for them. At the time when the order was imposed, the House would have been unanimous, if it had come before the House, in expressing its concern about the events that led to the proscription.

But as my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham said from the Front Bench, when a proscription order is in place, surely there should be a decent, honourable and understandable way by which organisations may apply for de-proscription. As she correctly said, in previous debates, in all of which the orders have been accepted by the House without dissent, Ministers said that they would come back to the House and to the Home Affairs Committee and indicate how they would look again at those organisations that had been proscribed.

That has not happened, and the Minister said today that he still has an open mind. I believe him when he says that. If his mind is open, I hope he will go back to the Home Secretary and other colleagues and say that the House believes that the time has come for us to remove the indefinite period that applies to proscribed organisations. The implications not just for the organisations but for the wider diaspora community are quite severe. That is the point that we want to make today.

We welcome what the Government are doing after a very long time. It is a concession because of the success of the application, rather than the Minister or the Home Secretary deciding that it is time that the International Sikh Youth Federation had its proscription lifted. That was done because the organisation itself made the application and followed the process through. It appealed and the Home Secretary did not contest it.

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There are implications wider than the particular organisation. There are colleagues here from Ealing, Wolverhampton, West Ham and other places, including Scotland and Northern Ireland, where the Sikh community is represented. At every meeting that I have attended to do with the Sikh community, members of the community ask about the issue and feel that they have been discriminated against. There are 450,000 Sikhs living in the United Kingdom, and about 150 gurdwaras in the UK. In Leicester East alone we have 12,000 members of the Sikh community, who play a full part in the way our city operates and in civic life as doctors, nurses and teachers. We even have our own Sikh school which was granted by the Education Minister. Last night I spotted members of the Sikh community at the King Power stadium when Leicester beat Newcastle 1-0. They play a full part in the life of our city. Sikhs will welcome what the Government have done. Even though it is one organisation, because it has the word “Sikh” in its name, it affects other parts of the diaspora.

Finally, why do we not accept after all these years the wise words of David Anderson, the Government’s own reviewer of counter-terrorism, who suggested that there ought to be a time limit on proscription? If there were a time limit, officials in the Minister’s Department would be able to look at these cases more carefully. Of course, we accept the Minister’s assurances that no outside force was able to influence him. He is a man of huge integrity and independence and nobody would be able to influence him from outside, but the rumours persist, and the best way to dispel them is to make sure that there is a robust, understandable and coherent method of dealing with de-proscription.

Some of the 7,000 members of the Tamil community in my constituency, for example, are concerned about the fact that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam is still proscribed. Even though that organisation was abolished and destroyed years ago, they still feel under a certain amount of pressure. It is time to review. I hope that when the Minister comes to reply, he will remind us how many organisations are currently proscribed and perhaps give us a timetable for when his open mind will deliver a result that the whole House can debate.

7.44 pm

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton South West) (Lab): There are dozens of Sikhs in the Public Gallery tonight. In honour of that, I will, if I may, say the Sikh incantation:

“Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh”.

Roughly translated, and I hope hon. Members will forgive my translation, that means: “Glory to the Khalsa”—the Sikh brotherhood and sisterhood—“Glory to God. The Khalsa belongs to God. God always prevails.”

I am the chair of the all-party group for British Sikhs, but I must stress that I speak in a purely personal capacity to the House tonight. The issues we are discussing are very serious; they are taken very seriously by UK citizens, including hundreds of thousands of Sikhs. They are serious issues for our security, but proscription is also a serious issue for our liberty—for freedom of association and freedom of speech—which is curtailed by proscription, and, on occasions, that must be the right thing to do.

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The ban on the International Sikh Youth Federation in the UK in March 2001 led to the organisation being banned in India in December that year and in Canada in July 2003. If the Minister is not going to wind up, I hope he can reply in writing later to some of the questions I will be firing at him—it is a slightly strange procedure we have tonight, with all due respect, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The first question I would like to ask is, will the Government—assuming this statutory instrument goes through, as I am sure it will—formally notify the Governments of Canada and India of the UK’s decision to de-proscribe and of the reasons for it? To repeat a question that was asked earlier—it is an important question, and the Minister did answer it, but I am coming at it from a slightly different angle—have the Government had any communications with the Indian authorities on lifting the ban on the ISYF since the application to de-proscribe was made in February 2015? If there have been communications, when did they take place?

Because this issue touches on our freedoms, I would like to ask the Minister how many organisations such as the ISYF, which are proscribed, do not currently meet the statutory definition of being concerned in terrorism, which is the core part of the test. In 2013, the Home Office identified 14 proscribed organisations that in its assessment did not meet the statutory test of being concerned in terrorism. I do not know whether the ISYF was one of those 14, but if it was, I hope the Minister can explain why the ban—the proscription—was not lifted, at the latest, when the application for de-proscription was made in February 2015. If the ISYF was one of the 14 organisations the Government were saying did not meet the test any more, the Government should have given in immediately in February 2015, when three applicants made the application to de-proscribe.

What about the other 13 organisations? If the Home Office decided nearly three years ago that 14 proscribed organisations should no longer be proscribed, that further underlines the case, made so ably by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, for annual reviews of these proscriptions, because they are very serious—they are serious for our security, but they are also a serious infringement of our liberties.

It is for that reason that I am concerned that the statutory time limit for the Home Secretary to respond formally and legally to the application to de-proscribe is 90 days. It is regrettable that she appears to have taken almost twice as long to respond. That is not a technical point, because these statutory provisions exist to protect our hard-won liberties, yet the statutory provisions on the time limits, which I am sure would have been enforced had the applicants not met their 42-day time limit, appear to have been ignored with impunity by the Home Secretary. That is not just a technical matter because it relates to our freedoms.

To reinforce the point made very ably by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, I ask the Minister to explain what troubles many hon. Members and many of the large Sikh community: that is, why the Home Secretary thinks on 31 July 2015 that the ISYF did meet the criteria—as the Minister said, they are tough criteria, and that is good, because this is about our security—and should continue to be proscribed, but four and a half months later throws her hand in. In the first instance,

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she succeeds. She says, “This organisation should continue to be proscribed”, and she wins. The three applicants then put in an appeal. Leaving aside the fact that the Home Office took longer than it should have done to respond to that appeal, in mid-December—I think it was 14 December—the Home Secretary said, “I’m not going to fight this appeal any more—I’m offering no evidence.” Hence the measure before us tonight, because in the four-and-a-half month period between 31 July 2015 and 14 December 2015 the Home Secretary changed her mind.

In terms of our liberties and of respect for the large Sikh community, I think there should be an explanation for this. I appreciate that there are security concerns. If the Minister said, “I’m going to lay it all out before the House”, I would be the first in a queue with 649 other MPs saying, “No, don’t do that—this is about our security.” However, there is room for him to give a little more explanation to the three applicants, on the grounds of civility, if nothing else. As far as I know, they are all here tonight in the Public Gallery—Amrik Singh Gill, Narinderjit Singh Thandi, and Dabinderjit Singh Sidhu. They deserve the civility of that explanation, because this proscription has directly and indirectly affected them.

What concerns me is that the Home Office’s lifting of the proscription was awfully grudging. Somehow the balance tipped during the four-and-a-half period in the second half of last year. This month the Home Office put out a press statement saying: “The British Government has always been clear that the ISYF was a brutal terrorist organisation.” That may be the case, but things seem to have changed very quickly in a short period. The explanatory memorandum on the statutory instrument says at paragraph 7.4:

“An application was made to the Secretary of State for the deproscription of the International Sikh Youth Federation. The Secretary of State has now decided that there is insufficient information to conclude that the group remains concerned in terrorism.”

It may have been involved in terrorism—I do not know. There are serious questions to be asked, and serious questions were asked in March 2001 when the proscription order went through this House. However, it was awfully grudging of the Home Office to say in December, “We’re not going to provide any more evidence. We’re just going to throw our hand in and not even fight it through the legal procedures any more.”

The three applicants from the leadership of the Sikh Federation UK legally challenged the Home Secretary, risking a whole load of costs, which, I have to say to the Minister, I understand that they may not get back even though they have won their case. They persuaded the Home Secretary by the force of their argument to withdraw her appeal, because apparently the evidence she had in July was no longer there in December. That is very strange for an organisation that, by then, had not existed for over 14 years—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman is making a passionate speech and putting his points very well, but I urge him to be careful not to be repetitive.

Rob Marris: I thank you for that admonition, Madam Deputy Speaker.

15 Mar 2016 : Column 919

As I was saying, the leadership of the Sikh Federation UK legally challenged the Home Secretary and persuaded her to withdraw the appeal. The federation is widely recognised as a large and prominent Sikh organisation the UK, building democratic political engagement for the UK Sikh community. Many of its members would like a bit more information as to what suddenly changed, because it mystifies us.

When I talked to the federation again today, as I often do, it told me that it had written to, I think, every MP—certainly to many MPs—saying that the key outcome that it wanted was not only the additional information and explanation that I urged the Minister to provide, within the bounds of our national security, but a renewed and open relationship with the community, based on issues of particular importance to Sikhs living in the United Kingdom, so that we can all move forward. I hope that on behalf of the Home Secretary, the Minister will tonight make a commitment to the Sikh community and promise a fresh start for this fresh new year for Sikhs.

7.55 pm

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I thank the Minister for his opening statement. The Democratic Unionist party supports the order. It is important to put on record our thanks to those in the police, the security services and the intelligence services who have done sterling and tireless work to keep us safe. We hope that that will continue.

I want to ask the Minister a couple of questions about proscription. As he knows, because our newspapers and other media are full of such stories, people use websites and social media, such as Twitter, to try to attract vulnerable young men, young women and young girls from all over the UK. In a speech that the then Minister for Security and Immigration, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire), made on 25 March last year, he outlined clearly the steps that had been taken to address the issue of social media being used to attract young people. Unfortunately, during the past year, we have seen a continuation of that attraction, and 700 people from the UK have travelled to support or fight for jihadist organisations in Syria and Iraq. Most of them have made the journey to join a proscribed organisation such as IS or Daesh. Around half of those who left the UK have since returned, according to the BBC.

The Minister indicated at that time that

“80,000 pieces of unlawful terrorist-related content that encourages or glorifies acts of terrorism”—[Official Report, 25 March 2015; Vol. 594, c. 1540.]

had been removed from social media, and that nine Twitter accounts and one Facebook account had been closed. We regularly see that. I ask this question genuinely and sincerely. I would love Facebook and Twitter accounts and other social media to be closed down so that we do not see stories in the Sunday papers about someone saying: “Be a bride to a Daesh killer and monster.” The fact is that they try to glamorise the situation and make it attractive. Today we had occasion to speak to, and hear the accounts of, some of the Yazidi ethnic religious

15 Mar 2016 : Column 920

minorities and hear about the abuse that they went through at the hands of Daesh. There is no attraction in that. How do we stop that?

Although steps have been taken, people are still leaving, so more has to be done, particularly in tackling the lure of social media campaign videos. What are we doing to stop that? What has been done to address the problem directly? What has been done to tackle online groomers who are planted in the UK to encourage young men, and young women and girls in particular, to make the journey to Syria and Iraq? How do we protect vulnerable and impressionable young people from being targeted?

7.58 pm

Mr John Hayes: This short but exciting debate has fallen into three parts. First, we have had a wider debate about proscription more generally, and in particular about the process for proscribing and de-proscribing organisations. The current arrangement is, as has been said by the shadow Minister, a process of application. In this case, such an application was made and considered in the way in which I have described, which has led us to this outcome.

I am familiar with the argument that the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, made about the possibility of annual reviews. That does not pertain at the moment, but I am aware that that was precisely the argument used by David Anderson, the independent reviewer. I can see the point that the right hon. Gentleman made. It is not where we are now, but I think a wider discussion about proscription might facilitate just such a conversation. That is a conversation that I am always prepared to have with him and with other hon. Members. He is right, as is the shadow Minister, to say that the seriousness of these matters means that they must be dealt with in a consistent and reasonably speedy way, as I said in my opening remarks.

To that end, I come to the second part of the trilogy, which concerns the issues raised by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton South West (Rob Marris). He dealt more particularly with the circumstances of the organisation. I am glad that he welcomed the de- proscription, as have other Members, and I know that it will be welcomed in the community. By the process I have set out, the de-proscription was completed in the timeframe he described. The application was received on 6 February 2015, as he said, but as he suggested, it was identified rather later, on 14 May, than might have been ideal. Following careful consideration by the Home Secretary, a decision to maintain the group’s proscription was made in July. However, as the shadow Minister said, a subsequent appeal was lodged with the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission.

In December 2015, having undertaken a further review, with all the information available—including from other countries in which the International Sikh Youth Federation is present, and about the organisation’s current activities—the Home Secretary concluded that there was not sufficient evidence reasonably to suppose that the ISYF was currently concerned in terrorism as defined by the Terrorism Act. I will not delay the House unduly, but if you will allow me to do so, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will place in the Library of the House the Act’s precise definition of terrorism. I have that definition in front of me, but it goes on at some length.

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Rob Marris: Will the Minister tell the House not the content of any such new information, but whether any new information bearing on the decision in relation to proscription or de-proscription came to light between 31 July and 14 December 2015?

Mr Hayes: There was certainly further consideration, as I have made very clear, and a further up-to-date review of the organisation’s activities. Such matters are highly dynamic, as the hon. Gentleman will understand. As he says, I cannot go into the fine detail of the strategy. It is not our habit to give a running commentary on such matters, and I know he will respect that, as he said he would. It is certainly true that there was sufficient further consideration for us to conclude that we could not maintain the proscription. The Home Secretary has to consider various things—bits of information, pieces of intelligence and open source material—when determining whether a group is engaged in terrorism, as the hon. Gentleman will know. It would not be appropriate to discuss the specific material, but when I describe that variety of information, he will understand what happens when consideration is given to such matters.

The third part of our debate concerns the points made by the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). He spoke more widely about the way in which terrorist organisations, including proscribed ones, continue to proselytise using social media. He drew attention to the information that was made available to the House. Rather than delay the House tonight, I will go the extra mile and set out, in a further note for the House, exactly what we are doing about what he described. Again, this matter is highly dynamic—it changes almost daily—and the House is warranted in asking for up-to-date information on precisely what steps we are taking to counter the activities that the hon. Gentleman set out. They are damaging and worrying, and they are very plainly part of what those who seek to do us harm are about these days: they are using every kind of method and means to proselytise their message and to radicalise people, and to do damage accordingly. I will set that out in a further note, which I will make available to the House.

Lyn Brown: May I quickly ask whether the funds for the International Sikh Youth Federation will be released, and whether the EU and the UN will be told that it has been taken off the list?

Mr Hayes: By way of variety and excitement I will deal with those points in reverse order. Those organisations will be notified, and we have obviously consulted member states that have a direct interest in this group. We will inform them of the de-proscription if parliamentary agreement is secured in this House and the other place, and we will formally notify the European Council if a decision to de-proscribe the ISYF is agreed by Parliament.

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I will look again at the asset freeze—the hon. Lady did not use that term, but that is what it is—and return to her with a specific answer. It is a complex matter, as she implied, so I will come back to her, rather than delay the House tonight.

Rob Marris rose

Mr Hayes: I will give way to the hon. Gentleman briefly, but I do not want to detain him or others any longer than necessary.

Rob Marris: I asked the Minister a series of questions, and I hope that he will write to me about them afterwards.

Mr Hayes: Having known me for such a long time, the hon. Gentleman will know that I would not neglect to reply to him, given that he has invited me to. I will certainly write to him with those details. Moving ahead with appropriate speed, I commend this order to the House.

Question put and agreed to,


That the draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2016, which was laid before this House on 22 February, be approved.


Speed Limit in Southampton, Itchen

8.6 pm

Royston Smith (Southampton, Itchen) (Con): I rise to present a petition on behalf of 1,169 of my constituents who call on Southampton City Council to introduce 20-mile-an-hour speed limits in areas where residents request them.

The petition states:

The petition of residents of Southampton Itchen,

Declares that there should be a reduced speed limit in residential areas of 20 mph where local residents request it from their local authorities, in particular in Southampton Itchen; further that many residents fear someone will be seriously hurt or killed if action is not taken to reduce the speed limit; and further that the case for reducing the speed limit is even more serious on roads where there is no off-road parking and where cars cause blind spots and significantly increase the risk to pedestrians.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges Southampton City Council to listen to the people of Southampton Itchen and implement a programme of 20 mph speed limits in residential areas where residents request them.

And the petitioners remain, etc.


15 Mar 2016 : Column 923

Clydebank Blitz Anniversary

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Guy Opperman.)

8.7 pm

Martin Docherty-Hughes (West Dunbartonshire) (SNP): Jane Adair, John Adair, William Adair, Mary Adams, Archibald Adamson, Hannah Ahern, Isobel Aird, Marion Aird, Tomina Aird, William Aird, Joseph Allan, Andrew Anderson, Esther Anderson, George Anderson, John Anderson, Thomas Anderson, Ellen Bainbridge, Thomas Bainbridge, John Barclay, Elizabeth Baxter, Annie Beaton, Rosetta Bell, Mary Bennett, Eric Betty, Maria Bicker, Walter Bilsland, Isabella Black, James Black, Caroline Blyth, Robert Blyth, Sarah Blyth, Georgina Borland, Jessie Borland, John Borland, James Bowles, Albert Bowman, Archibald Bowman, Hannah Bowman, Lilian Bowman, James Boyd, Bridget Boyle, Elizabeth Boyle, Isabell Boyle, Margaret Boyle, Mary Boyle, William Boyle, William Boyle, William Boyle, Catherine Bradley, James Brimer, Martin Brown, Rosina Brown, Euphemia Burns, Adam Busby, Daniel Busby, Anna Cahill, Elizabeth Cahill, Wilhelmina Cahill, Wilhelmina Cahill, Mary Cairns, Margaret Cameron, Agnes Campbell, Alexander Campbell, Annie Campbell, David Campbell, Ellen Campbell, Martha Campbell, Mary Campbell, Rose Campbell, Archibald Canning, Daniel Canning, Margaret Clarkson, Agnes Clason, Elizabeth Clason, Nellie Clason, Wallace Cochrane, George Coghill, Jonina Commiskie, Mary Cook, Isabella Cooper, Minnie Cooper, James Coutts, Michael Crerand, Jane Cryan, Patrick Cullen, Patrick Curren, Samuel Currie, Thomas Currie, William Daniels, Thomas Dean, Elizabeth Deans, Thomas Deans, Thomas Deans, Euphemia Dempster, Gilbert Dempster, Mary Dempster, Mary Dempster, Jean Dennis, Samuel Dennis, Samuel Dennis, Ian Dick, William Dick, Duncan Dinning, Jane Dinning, Janet Dinning, Edward Diver, Edward Diver, Edward Diver, Edward Diver, Hugh Diver, John Diver, John Diver, Margaret Diver, Mary Diver, Mary Diver, Adam Divers, James Divers, James Divers, Margaret Divers, Rose Docherty, Evelyn Doherty, Francis Doherty, Francis Doherty, John Doherty, Margaret Doherty, Mary Doherty, Mary Dolan, Thomas Dolan, Thomas Dolan, Edward Donaldson, Hugh Donnelly, Margaret Donnelly, Mary Donnelly, Maureen Donnelly, Roseleen Donnelly, Theresa Donnelly, Charles Doran, Isabella Doran, Mary Doran, Neil Dougall, Gladys Drummond, James Drummond, Ralph Drummond, Ralph Drummond, Elizabeth Duffy, Thomas Duncan, William Duncan, James Dunleavy, Andrew Dunn, Grace Dunn, Grace Dunn, John Dunn, Mary Dunn, Mary Dunn, John Dyer, James Findlay, John Findlay, Charles Finnen, John Flemming, John Forrsester, Margaret Forrsester, Christina Fotheringham, Janet France, Margaret Fraser, John Furmage, Delia Gallacher, Margaret Gallacher, Thomas Gallagher, Thomas Galloway, Duncan Gardener, William Geddes, John Gibson, Annie Gillies, Margaret Gillies, Matthew Girvan, Elizabeth Given, Archibald Graham, Andrew Graham, Peter Graham, John Gray, Madge Guiney, Sarah Guiney, Robert Haggarty, Thomas Hamilton, Samuel Harris, Hugh Hart, James Harvey, Charlotte Heggie, Elizabeth Heggie, George Henderson, Mary Henderson, Charles Henry, Elizabeth Henry, George Hislop, Marthesa Hislop, Alexander Howie, Jane Howie, Catherine Hughes, Charles Hughes, Michael Hughes, Sarah Hughes, James Hunter, Margaret Hunter, Mary Hunter, Sarah Hunter, William Hunter, Daniel Jobling,

15 Mar 2016 : Column 924

James Jobling, John Jobling, Mary Jobling, William Jobling, Annie Johnstone, Peter Johnstone, John Jolly, Doris Kelly, Hugh Kelly, James Kelly, Mary Kelly, Sarah Kelly, Ellen Kennedy, Hugh Kennedy, Annie Kernachan, Janet Kernachan, Richard Kernachan, Jean Kidd, Agnes Kilpatrick, Andrew Kilpatrick, Helen King, James Lawrie, James Lawrie, Evelyn Lee, James Lee, Kathleen Lee, Margaret Lee, Margaret Lee, John Lindsay, Margaret Lindsay, Violet Lindsay, Alexander Lochhead, Elizabeth Lochwood, Frederick Lochwood, Margaret Lochwood, Margaret Lochwood, Joseph Logan, Mary Loughlin, Elizabeth Lyon, William Lyons, Thomas Marlin, Josephine McAulay, Joseph McBride, Marina McClelland, Marion McClelland, Annie McClory, James McClory, John McClory, Mary McClory, Matthew McClory, Sarah McClory, Hugh McConnell, Mary McConnell, Mary McConnell, James McCormack, Brenda McDonald, Christina McDonald, James McDonald, Jessie McDonald, John McDonald, Malcom McDougall, Margaret McFadden, Michael McFadden, Thomas McFadden, Robert Macfarlane, Patrick McGeady, John McGeehan, John McGill, Mary McGill, Agnes MacGregor, William MacGregor, Kathleen McGuigan, Theresa McGuigan, Donald McIntosh, Agnes McIntyre, George Mack, James Mack, John Mack, Jane McKain, Jeanie McKain, Agnes McKay, Violet McKay, Agnes McKechnie, Allan McKechnie, Emma McKechnie, Michael McKechnie, William McKechnie, Margaret McKendrick, Robert McKendrick, Thomas McKendrick, Alexander McKenzie, Angus McKenzie, John McKenzie, Margaret McKenzie, Martha McKenzie, Mary McKenzie, Murdoch McKenzie, Robert McKenzie, John McKinlay, Marion McKinlay, William McKinlay, William McKinlay, John McLafferty, George McLaren, David McLean, Edith McLean, James McLean, Jeanie McLean, John McLean, Margaret McLean, Alexander McLennan, Norman McLennan, Edward McMillan, Patrick McMorrow, Sarah McMorrow, David McNamara, Janet McPherson, Winifred McQuillan, Alexander McRae, Edward McSherry, James McSherry, Lucy McSherry, Margaret McSherry, Mary McSherry, Mary McSherry, Matthew McSherry, Sheila McSherry, Margaret Malaugh, William Malcom, Peter Marks, Archibald Marshall, Johanna Marshall, Peter Marshall, Joseph Martin, Fredrick Massey, Thomas Martin, Agnes Mealyea, Elizabeth Miller, Archibald Miller, Eileen Miller, Mary Miller, Sheila Miller, Isabella Moore, George Morrison, Helen Morrison, Helen Morrison, John Morrison, Margaret Morrison, William Morrison, John Morton, Grace Mulheron, Rebecca Mullinger, William Mullinger, Annie Nisbet, James Nisbet, James Nisbet, John Nisbet, Helen Parke, Andrew Patterson, Susanna Peddie, Elizabeth Peden, Elizabeth Peden, Robert Peden, James Peoples, James Peoples, Janet Peoples, Samuel Pillar, George Porter, Samuel Porter, Elizabeth Quigg, Samuel Ramage, Margaret Rankin, Charlotte Reavey, Agnes Reid, Alastair Reid, Annie Reid, Rachel Reid, Catherine Richmond, Catherine Richmond, Christina Richmond, Douglas Richmond, Elizabeth Richmond, Janet Richmond, John Richmond, John Richmond, Margaret Richmond, Trevor Roberts, Annie Robertson, David Robertson, Henry Robertson, Margaret Robertson, Mary McAllister Robertson, Ann Rocks, Annie Rocks, Elizabeth Rocks, Francis Rocks, James Rocks, James Rocks, John Rocks, Joseph Rocks, Margaret Rocks, Patrick Rocks, Patrick Rocks, Theresa Rocks, Thomas Rocks, Thomas Rocks, Ian Russell, Margaret Russell, Peter Russell, Thomas Rosemary, Elizabeth Scott, Morag

15 Mar 2016 : Column 925

Scott, Nathaniel Scott, Walter Scott, Emma Scrimshire, Sheila Semple, Kathleen Semple, Jeanie Sharp, Andrew Shaw, Isabella Shaw, William Shuter, Elizabeth Skinner, Joan Skinner, Joan Skinner, Margaret Skinner, Robert Skinner, Robert Skinner, Janet Slater, David Smart, Robert Smart, Susan Smart, John Spence, Cecil Stevens, James Stevens, Mary Stevenson, David Stewart, Elizabeth Stewart, Jane Strachan, Joseph Struthers, James Taylor, Margaret Thom, Rosemary Thomas, Russell Thomas, Christina Thomson, Margaret Thomson, Margaret Thomson, Williamina Thomson, John Toland, Helen Ventilla, Louis Ventilla, Michael Ventilla, Jessie Wade, Charles Waite, Annie Walker, Archibald Walker, John Walker, Catherine Walsh, Robert Wark, George Watson, George Watson, Isabella Watson, James Watson, Lillian Watson, Thomas West, Alfred Westbury, Alfred Westbury, Elizabeth Westbury, Samuel Westbury, Walter Westbury, Robert White, Jessie Williams, Annie Williamson, Catherine Williamson, James Williamson, Janetta Williamson, Archibald Wilson, David Wilson, Hugh Wood, John Wood, Margaret Wood, James Wood, Christina Wright, Dougald Wright, Maria Wright, Martha Wright, Marie Young.

An unfinished litany! Even now, in the community of Clydebank and across these islands, 75 years after the event, and with questions remaining about the official record, it is a litany that we believe could exceed 1,200—from a population of 48,000. It is now time, on the Floor of the House, to rectify a long silence and to correct the myths. The raids were supposedly a failure: that powerhouse of shipping, John Brown’s, hardly touched and factories left nearly intact. The most ridiculous proposition still exists that the Luftwaffe mistook the Forth and Clyde canal for the Clyde itself and thus were drawn away from the shipyards. Are we really proposing that the elite Pathfinder squadron KG 100 of the Luftwaffe, which had flown across Europe, over hill and glen, on a bright moonlit night, could not tell the difference?

It has been proposed—and I agree—that the target was not Clydebank’s industrial base, but her greatest asset: her people. So precise was the Luftwaffe’s delivery, in a spread-out formation, that of the thousands of bombers, only two would be shot from the sky in an valiant attempt by the crew of the Polish naval destroyer, ORP Piorun, in the dock of the greatest shipyard on the Clyde, John Brown’s.

Stephen Pound (Ealing North) (Lab): I found the service at noon today immensely moving. I am not one for greeting, and I have not a drop of Scottish blood in my body, but my eyes misted over as I heard about the heroism of those people. I realised that it was not just the ships that were made of steel in Clydebank. This debate is very much to the hon. Gentleman’s credit. On the subject of the ORP Piorun and her gallant captain, Eugeniusz Plawski, would he not agree that it was an occasion when the very close familial links between Poland and Scotland were forged—in blood?

Martin Docherty-Hughes: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who is an adopted Scotsman.

Stephen Pound: Steady!

Martin Docherty-Hughes: I know he knows my constituency, especially Clydebank, very well. The bonds forged with the Polish nation on those March evenings will be for ever in the memory of my community and the whole of Scotland.

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At 9 pm on 13 March 1941, as the wireless introduced the nightly news, over 40 air-raid sirens gave the call to shelter. At that moment, on the western fringe, the small yet not insignificant town would be held in the sights of the Luftwaffe.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I commend the hon. Gentleman for bringing this debate to the House and for the service in St Mary’s Crypt today. It was a very poignant occasion. I think that starting this debate with the names of all those people really focuses attention.

We in Northern Ireland share the pain that Clydebank has suffered when it comes to remembering the blitz. Belfast was second only to London in lives lost in the blitz. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that nationally—today’s church service provides an example—we must ensure that the story of the blitz is remembered and commemorated so that future generations know the ultimate pain and sacrifice of war, and what extremism can lead to?

Martin Docherty-Hughes: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his kind words, and I extend them to the people of Northern Ireland and particularly Belfast who suffered greatly. It was commendable when at the weekend I was joined by my close friend and colleague, the Member of the Scottish Parliament, Gil Paterson and we were indebted to the First Minister for being the first-ever Head of any Government to attend the mass grave of Clydebank.

Hannah Bardell (Livingston) (SNP): I join others in congratulating my hon. Friend on securing this debate. I grew up as a wee girl at my granny’s knee, hearing stories of watching the blitz from Hillington where she worked at Rolls-Royce and lived in Pollok. I heard the stories of her returning to work the next day, not knowing where her friends were and then going to Clydebank and seeing the sheer destruction. Does he agree that it is so important to use the tools of this Parliament to remember those who were lost—not just in the blitz, but in other conflicts?

Martin Docherty-Hughes: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention, and I could not agree with her more. The community of Europe in which we now live needs to show unity in the face of fascism and oppression.

Mhairi Black (Paisley and Renfrewshire South) (SNP): I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way, especially given the fact that I am half a Bankie with my family coming from Whitecrook. I can remember my Granny Joe telling me stories about my Auntie Mary’s friends who went to the cinema. When she went home, she discovered that her entire family had been bombed and killed, leaving her all on her own. Will my hon. Friend join me not only in paying tribute to those who lost their lives, but in giving praise where it is needed for all the people who have rebuilt Clydebank into the wonderful town it is today and which I am proud to call a second home?

Martin Docherty-Hughes: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Who would have known that night that Shirley Temple would have saved nearly 1,000 lives? Today, two of the survivors who sheltered under the balcony of the

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La Scala cinema in Graham Avenue joined us in St Mary Undercroft and the Speaker’s House. I am indebted to them; they are my aunts. Without their survival and the thousands who survived with them, Clydebank would not be the wonderful place it is today.

Several hon. Members rose

Martin Docherty-Hughes: I want to make some progress.

That Luftwaffe formation, of which I spoke a few moments ago, travelled in formation from bases in Germany and occupied north Europe, passing Dundee and Aberdeen, following the moon towards its most westerly ever target on a clear crisp March evening not so dissimilar to that of Sunday past. It turned south, heading to bonnie and innocent Loch Lomond. At its base, the planes turned left across the mighty Vale of Leven and across ancient Dumbarton. Who would have known that they would rain a blitzkrieg of fire and devastation that in the first night alone lasted over nine hours?

Over the western village of Old Kilpatrick, the incendiaries began to fall and Dante’s inferno was unleashed as high-explosive bomb after bomb set a fire of biblical proportions ablaze with the destruction of the Admiralty Oil Storage facility, then the great industrial complex of the largest sewing machine factory in the world and then one of the largest munitions complexes in the empire. With that mighty woodyard ablaze, the horror was then directed to the centre of a densely populated borough. Finally, those incendiaries generated a tryptic of fire with the whisky bond of Yoker in flames on the eastern boundary. The air was punctured by the drone of hundreds of planes, so low across the burgh that pilots and rear gunners were visible to the naked eye to those in Parkhall—leaving the swastika for ever in the minds of those who saw them.

The all-clear sounded after the seven hours of bombardment on the second day, 14 March, and the long march of exodus continued. It was a march of 40,000 souls—mothers, fathers, children, entire families, if they were the lucky ones—through the inferno and smoke to safety. They marched to Dumbarton and the Vale of Leven, and to refuge between the Clyde and the banks of Loch Lomond. They marched towards mother Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire. They sought shelter and refuge in the arms of strangers, in places from which many would not return: in Helensburgh, Renfrew, Stirling, Kilsyth, Denny, Paisley, Lanark, Hamilton, Motherwell, Airdrie and Coatbridge, to name but a few, and even in Ireland.

Brendan O’Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. He has told us that this is the first time the subject has been raised in the House, and I am sure that his constituents are enormously proud of him tonight. My neighbouring constituency includes Helensburgh and the village of Cardross, which took in hundreds of Bankies in the immediate aftermath. May I, on behalf of all of us, send sincere best wishes to the people of Clydebank, and wish them all the very best for the future? They should be assured of our continuing support, particularly on this occasion of the 75th anniversary.

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Martin Docherty-Hughes: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. I will be sure to take that message back to the entire community of West Dunbartonshire.

Never in the modern history of these islands has such an evacuation taken place, and it took place from no vast metropolis, but from a relatively modest burgh in the west of Scotland, home to 48,000 Bankies. It is now clear that, on the basis of evidence built up over seven and a half decades, we recognise the sacrifice and the loss that took place in Clydebank and across these islands. Even more, we recognise those who found the ability, through their suffering, to return to work, school and home, and to play their part in an allied victory over national socialism. I have felt no greater pride, ever, than I feel in representing them today.

8.27 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Julian Brazier): I congratulate the hon. Member for West Dunbartonshire (Martin Docherty-Hughes) on a truly remarkable speech. I apologise for having been unable to join him in the Crypt today. The Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister for Defence Procurement, my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr Dunne), were there, but unfortunately other duties prevented me from joining them.

The hon. Gentleman spoke with enormous passion. I believe that he is the grandson of someone who worked in the docks building the great Queen Mary, which brought three quarters of a million soldiers across the Atlantic to the continent during the war, in dozens of voyages. I cannot match his personal connections, but he has given us an opportunity to reflect. I am afraid that I must rely on the statistics that we have now, because at that stage people had things to do other than compile accurate statistics, but we believe that 528 people lost their lives—the hon. Gentleman read out their names—and that a further 600 were seriously injured.

It is very hard for most of us today to imagine what it must have been like to see the picture that the hon. Gentleman has so vividly painted. Eighty workers died in one shipyard shelter, and 15 members of one family—the Rocks, of No. 78 Jellicoe Street—were wiped out. Of those who were saved, three quarters—35,000 out of 47.000—found themselves homeless. Proportionally, Clydebank lost more people and more buildings than any other major community anywhere in the United Kingdom.

I think it important, however, to remember the other side of the story. First, let me say a word about the forces themselves. I am very pleased that the hon. Gentleman mentioned the heroism of those sons of Poland, but the Air Force was also engaged, including pilots from Glasgow’s own Auxiliary Air Force 602 Squadron, which went on to do such distinguished service on the occasion of, for instance, the Normandy landings. I was privileged to visit the squadron today following its assuming a new role in Glasgow last year. Across the two nights, the RAF managed to shoot down 12 Luftwaffe aircraft including four bombers. Nor should we forget the work of the anti-aircraft gunners.

The most remarkable spirit was shown by the locals themselves, under the truly horrendous conditions that the hon. Gentleman described. They included Police

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Constable Archibald Walker, who picked himself up after being knocked down by a blast that had demolished part of a two-storey tenement. He went again and again into the building to rescue survivors as the building threatened to collapse. He was quite rightly awarded the George medal.

There are so many other stories, half remembered, half recorded, of heroism. Isa McKenzie remembers an ARP lady standing near the entrance to her close and waiting for the whistle of a bomb before shouting “duck” and eventually giving the okay to rise. She never saw that lady again. And then there were the emergency services, many of them staffed by citizen volunteers as well as professionals.

Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire) (SNP): In November at our Remembrance Day service I met a firefighter who told me that he and his colleagues had cycled from Barrhead to Clydebank to help to put out the fires. He is now the only one left, and I should like to let him know that we appreciate what he and his colleagues did.

Mr Brazier: Indeed. The hon. Lady is quite right.

The emergency services and the volunteers struggled against the growing fires and explosions. Some of the craters still had unexploded bombs in them. People were straining every sinew to save lives. One man, John Woodcock, was recovered alive from under the rubble eight days later. The Glasgow Herald reported at the time:

“The cool, unwavering courage of the people is evident, and when the full story of their heroism in the face of the Luftwaffe is told, they will take their place alongside the citizens of London and Coventry.”

In fact, their suffering was proportionately slightly higher.

Perhaps the greatest tribute of all should be paid to the way in which, despite their great suffering, the men and women of Greenock and Clyde went on to make an immense contribution to the war effort. One might have expected their spirit to be shattered. In reality, the events only stiffened their resolve. Not only did many who fled the raids soon return home, but in Clydebank just a few days after the blitz, five major firms reported that out of a force of 12,300—many of whom had been killed or wounded—around two thirds were already back in work.

Within weeks of the raids, the shipyards and ordnance factories were once again up to full production and their efforts were unceasing in the years that followed, despite further Luftwaffe attacks in subsequent months.

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By 1943, some five ships per week were being completed on the Clyde. We remember Winston Churchill saying that it was the battle of the Atlantic that really kept him awake at night. That was the one struggle that he really thought might result in our losing the war. It was those ships that helped to ensure that we won it.

Stephen Pound: The Minister is making some important points. Is he aware that a few months after taking part in the defence of Clydebank, Captain Eugeniusz Plawski and the ORP Piorun were part of the destroyer flotilla that was detached to hunt down and sink the Bismarck?

Mr Brazier: I was not aware of that, but it was one of the greatest privileges of my life to have had a school teacher who had been a naval reservist and a boffin who persuaded the Navy that a particular gizmo was too complicated for the Navy. He was therefore taken to sea as a naval instructor and was decorated for gallantry in that same action.

Like the hon. Member for West Dunbartonshire, I applaud the Clydebank blitz memorial group, the town and the entire community for their immense efforts in ensuring that the story is properly commemorated. Seventy-five years on, the story of what happened on the Clyde in 1941 deserves to be remembered not just in Scotland, not just here in the Commons, but across the UK. We would do a great disservice to our history if we only taught that we won the war because of great deeds by great men. [Interruption.] And women. Indeed, but it is unfortunately so easy to read history as just great deeds and great men. We won because of the heroism and fortitude of men and women like those people on the Clyde. They should remain an inspiration not just to their generation, not just to ours, but to all who follow. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman again on bringing this debate to the House.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): I commend the hon. Member for West Dunbartonshire (Martin Docherty-Hughes) for bringing to the House this evening such a moving debate and for having brought to the Crypt this morning such a moving service. Having heard first-hand accounts from members of my family about the Clydebank blitz, it is absolutely correct that it should at last be commemorated here in this House.

Question put and agreed to.

8.35 pm

House adjourned.