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("(3A) Where a person is charged with an offence under subsection (2)(c) in respect of a private meeting it is a defence for him to prove that he had no reasonable cause to believe that the address mentioned in subsection (2)(c) would support a proscribed organisation or further its activities.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 11 to 13 take a slightly different approach from Amendments Nos. 9 and 10, which were tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, but not moved. I do not propose to say a great deal about the amendments, but I shall explain why we preferred ours to the noble Lord's.

Whereas the noble Lord's amendments rely on a public interest test, we propose a statutory defence for someone charged with an offence under Clause 12(2)(c) in respect of a private meeting, that he had no reasonable cause to believe that the address would support a proscribed organisation or further activities.

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That provides sufficient protection for arranging genuinely benign meetings while still ensuring that subsection (2)(c) will serve its basic purpose. Our main intention is unchanged. It will remain an offence, as it is under existing legislation, to arrange or manage--or to assist in the arrangement or management of--a meeting that it is known will be addressed by a person who belongs, or professes to belong, to a proscribed organisation. However, we agree that in certain cases there should be a statutory defence. Amendment No. 14 will ensure that anyone seeking to rely on that defence will have to satisfy an evidential burden only, as is the case with various other provisions in the Bill.

I trust that with that explanation, your Lordships' House will agree to our amendments. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, for not having moved his amendments. I suspect that he recognised that ours were preferable. I beg to move.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I was happy not to move my amendments because I recognise that the government amendments achieve the same substantial point. We are grateful to the Government for having taken on board the point about Clause 12(2)(c) as originally drafted and taken reasonable steps to narrow it. I am disappointed about the definition that we discussed a few minutes ago, but I am grateful to the Government for the number of amendments that they have made, which have significantly improved the Bill.

The amendments on the burden of proof have been a particularly substantial improvement to the Bill. They should avoid any problems under the Human Rights Act 1998. I am therefore happy to support the amendments.

Lord Monson: My Lords, I was thrown by the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, did not move his amendments. At first glance, it might seem that government Amendments Nos. 11 to 14 achieve much the same as Amendments Nos. 9 and 10, but in a slightly different way. However, unfortunately--I hesitate to quarrel with the legal expertise of the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart--they do not quite achieve the same effect.

I have no problem with the Government outlawing the furthering of activities of a proscribed organisation, but the government amendments go further than that because they prevent anybody who addresses a meeting from supporting such an organisation during their speech. Even in a wholly private meeting, it will not be possible for robust arguments to take place between apologists for terrorism and those who strongly oppose it.

On Report, it was significant that the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, supported a similar Liberal Democrat amendment. He knows more about terrorism first hand than most of the rest of us in the House put together. If I understood him correctly, the essence of his argument was that jaw-jaw is better than war-war. To convince terrorists of the wickedness and

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folly of their ways through argument is difficult, but it is not necessarily impossible. Conversion and repentance can occur. One thinks of Sean O'Callaghan on the republican side and one or two names on the loyalist side. The conversion in the latter cases might not have been quite so total, but it was still significant.

It is obviously too late to pursue the issue now that the amendment has not been moved, but the government amendments do not go far enough in permitting an interchange of views, none of which would further terrorism but which might allow terrorists to be argued out of their stance. However, as it is too late to go any further, that is all that I need to say.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I should explain that I was not envisaging debates to try to change the minds of terrorists, which would be unlikely to be fruitful. The problem was that Clause 12(2)(c) as drafted would cover meetings for the purpose of negotiation with a view to settling terrorist activities. That problem is dealt with by the government amendments.

Lord Monson: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that explanation. I agree that that is a valuable advance. One thinks of negotiations that have taken place between terrorists and governments, which might have been caught by the Bill as it stood.

It is unlikely that terrorists can be converted through debate, but it does happen now and again. If the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, had not spoken so strongly in favour of the Liberal Democrat amendment last time, I might not have spoken up. He knows what he is talking about and it is a pity that we cannot go any further on the issue, but so be it.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, with respect, the definition in the amendment that my noble friend Lord Goodhart did not move is preferable in some ways to that of the Government.

When a government and an armed opposition movement that has been in combat with them are brought together for conflict resolution, there is no means of knowing in advance whether the people representing the armed opposition will attempt during the conciliation meeting to argue the merits of their case or support the proscribed organisation in any other way.

I shall give the Minister a recent practical example. The Henry Dunant centre in Geneva brought together representatives of the government of Indonesia and the armed opposition in Aceh, the GAM. As a result, both parties were persuaded to sign what was called a humanitarian force. The fact that it did not work very well is neither here nor there for the merits of the argument.

The parties sat down to make an agreement that would allow the deployment of humanitarian relief efforts for the people of Aceh and a break in the armed opposition by the GAM and the armed action by the forces of the government of Indonesia against the so-called terrorists.

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The Henry Dunant centre had no means of knowing what either side would say and--this is particularly relevant in the context of the amendments--whether those representing the GAM would make remarks that could be taken as supporting that proscribed organisation or furthering its activities. My noble friend's amendment provided for an exception that such a meeting was in the public interest. The Aceh agreement was clearly in the public interest because it provided, at least for a short period, for the fighting to stop and humanitarian assistance to be delivered to the people.

The Government's wording puts an enormous burden on the organisers of such meetings to satisfy themselves in advance of what is going to be said by those who represent an armed opposition.

7 p.m.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I have to say that to some extent I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. I believe that there is a serious place and use for benign meetings of the type he described. However, I hope that the Minister will be able to encourage us by telling us that, inclusive of the government amendment, there will still be space in the Bill for such meetings, which undoubtedly are extremely useful in trying to solve any form of terrorist problem.

I was pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, withdrew his amendment. It required a lot of thought in balancing one thing with another. I was really only worried about one aspect; that is, the use of the phrase, "the public interest". I was concerned about the definition. Going back to Northern Ireland, I can think of times when PIRA protagonists might well have held public meetings within republican areas of Belfast. They could have argued that, because they were promoting Sinn Fein objectives as a terrorist organisation, their meetings were in the public interest of those people within whose area they were living and working and whose cause they believed they were promoting. The same could be said for loyalists in east Belfast. I am sure the same could apply elsewhere in the world on different occasions.

In short, that was the only reason that I was against the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, and prefer the government amendment. As I have said, I support most of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, which contained a great deal of wisdom. I hope that within the Bill it will still be possible--my reading of it is that it will be--without breaking the law, to organise benign meetings, as we have referred to them today, between terrorists, security people and probably not mainline politicians but with the support of the government of the day. I support the government amendment.

Lord Desai: My Lords, Perhaps I may mention, briefly, that I had many reservations about Clause 12(2)(c), and other matters, which I raised in

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Committee and on Report. I am grateful to the Government for amending Clause 12 so that my academic friends will now be protected.


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