|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Henley: While the Minister is thinking about that, I add one further comment: it is Wednesday evening and we are sitting tomorrow, I believe, at 11 o'clock, which presumably means we cannot go much beyond 11 o'clock tonight. I hope the Minister will be able to confirm that.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My instructions from our Chief Whip were that we would seek to make rapid
7 Dec 2005 : Column 725
progress todayand we have done very welland that we would endeavour to reach Amendment No. 116. I understand from the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, that he has concerns about that. Once I have sat down, having dealt with this amendment, I propose to confirm with the Chief Whip the progress we are intending to make, and take what further advice I can on the agreement between the Chief Whips from the other parties. That was my understanding of what was sought to be achieved through the usual channels.
I would like to deal briefly with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Elton. Essentially, I think what the noble Lord is asking is, "Why is Clause 9(4) excluded from the definition of 'public' in Clause 23?". Clause 23 provides a definition of "public" for the purposes of the Bill. However, Clause 23 does not cover the reference to "public" in Clause 9(4), and that is because the word in 9(4) is intended to be interpreted in a much more general sense than elsewhere in the Bill. So, for an offence under Clauses 9, 10 or 11 to be committed, the radioactive material in question must create a risk to the health and safety of the public at large. That is why we have used a different definition in those clauses. The noble Lord might not be satisfied with that explanation, but that is the explanation behind it.
Lord Elton: I am not quite sure I follow why this should be. If someone has a radioactive source sufficient to be a danger to the health and safety of people in, say, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Royal Courts of Justice or the House of Commons, why should that not be a grievous terrorist offence even if it was not sufficiently powerful to affect people outside?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: They are both different definitions of "public". They work for the different clauses in different ways. That is the long and short of the explanation. I suggest the noble Lord reflect on what has been said and relate those definitions more precisely to the clause. No doubt, if the noble Lord is not happy with the explanation, he can of course return to this. In the interim I will try and provide him with a rather fuller explanation.
Lord Elton: I should be happy if he would. All he has done is confirm what I thought the meaning was without giving a reason for it. The difficulty would be removed by my pressing my Amendment No. 112 and removing the exemption. I had hoped that he would be able to enlighten me before then. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 [Misuse of devices or material and misuse and damage of facilities]:
[Amendments Nos. 90 and 91 not moved.]
Clause 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 [Terrorist threats relating to devices, materials or facilities]:
[Amendments Nos. 92 and 93 not moved.]
7 Dec 2005 : Column 726
Clause 11 agreed to.
Clauses 12 and 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 [Maximum penalty for certain offences relating to nuclear material]:
[Amendments Nos. 94 and 95 not moved.]
Clause 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 agreed to.
Clause 16 [Preparatory hearings in terrorism cases]:
Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 96:
The noble Lord said: In speaking to Amendment No. 96 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 97, 108, 109, 137, 138, 140 and 141. All these amendments embody what to me is a new formulation. It may simply be that I have not been involved in legislation for a while and a new style has developed. However, it seems to me an unsatisfactory style. We are referred to the whole of another Act of Parliament for a meaning and then asked to look at one provision in it, rather than simply being referred to that section as would be normal. What I propose, therefore, is to revert to the normalsaying that the meaning of the term in this Act is the same as in a given section of another Act, and no reference to the rest of the Act to be read through to see if that holds good throughout. I beg to move.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I certainly applaud the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for his wish that the drafting of legislation should be clear and comprehensible. Nevertheless, I have to disappoint him and tell him that I cannot advise the Committee to accept the amendments. The first reason is that I do not believe there is any ambiguity in the parts of the Bill that the amendments seek to change. They all relate to the definition of terrorism and each relates back to the Terrorism Act 2000. Therefore, all the references concerned are clear on this point and there are helpful pointers to explain which sections of the Act the reader should look at. So I do not believe there can be any confusion.
Secondly, I am afraid that making these changes would be technically wrong as well. The term "terrorism" is defined for the purposes of the whole of the Terrorism Act 2000, not just Section 1 of that Act as would be the implication of the amendments. The noble Lord will understand that. Section 1 may contain a definition of terrorism, as the words in brackets help to explain, but that definition applies to the whole of the 2000 Act, as it will to the whole of Part 1 of this Act. That is a subtle but important distinction. I think, as I indicated, that the amendments are well intentioned, but perhaps when the noble Lord reflects on them he will understand why we would encourage him not to press them.
Lord Elton: I simply cannot follow the noble Lord in this at all. The whole of the statute book is littered with references to the meaning of a term in one Act of Parliament by reference to a particular section of another without any reference to the rest of the other
7 Dec 2005 : Column 727
Acts, although the definition in that second Act does apply to the whole of both Acts. There is no precedence for this that I am aware of. Indeed, it invites the lawyer or the layman reading the Bill to think that he has to read the whole of the Terrorism Act 2000, which I remind the noble Lord is a very considerable piece of legislation with many, many clauses and many, many, many pages. I am not sure that it was not two volumes. It is a very big Act. It says, "That is where you will find the meaning and you should start off by looking at Section 1".
At this time of night and speaking in my own single piping voice, I shall have to withdraw the amendment. However, I hope that people seriously involved in legislation who either hear this or read this will consider that I am right and persuade the noble Lord on Report that he is wrong. However, in the mean time and with a good grace I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 97 and 98 not moved.]
Clause 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 [Commission of offences abroad]:
Lord Kingsland moved Amendment No. 99:
(c) the action involves harm or the threat of harm to a national of the United Kingdom"
The noble Lord said: Amendment No 99 would add a new paragraph to Clause 17(1); that is, paragraph (c). The clause concerns the commission of offences abroad. As things stand, persons of any nationality who commit abroad any of the offences stipulated in the Bill will be subject to criminal prosecution if or when they come to this country. The purpose of the amendment is to limit the extra-territorialI think the expression used in another place was extra-terrestrialeffect of the Bill to those circumstances in which the offence involves,
I am aware that one of the problems we face in this Bill is that there is no international definition of terrorism; but we nevertheless have to deal with the law as we find it today.
I suspect that the answer that the Government will give me when I sit downwhich I assure the noble Baroness will be quite shortlyis that we all have the protection of the discretion of the Attorney-General; and that the Attorney-General will use his legendary common sense to make sure that prosecutions occur only in appropriate circumstances.
But the fact of the matter is that the Attorney-General's discretion in this Bill is wholly unconstrained. He can make such judgments as he thinks are expedient in the political circumstances of the time. It is not difficult to see what serious pressures he will sometimes be under. A situation may arise where a regime which is broadly friendly to the United Kingdom, but nevertheless totalitarian and repressive,
7 Dec 2005 : Column 728
is plagued by what many people would call "freedom fighters". Some of those freedom fighters may find their way to these shores. As soon as the head of the regime discovers that they are here, there is no doubt that strong representations will be made to the government of the day in the United Kingdom to bring proceedings against the freedom fighters. The Attorney-General, as the Minister responsible, will not be able to escape those pressures.
To give a completely different example, what about an asylum seeker? What about somebody who has been an opponent of a repressive regime and has said things in the course of his opposition which fall foul of the Bill, but who then comes to the United Kingdom in order to apply for asylum? He would be caught by this provision, unless our amendment is accepted.
Serious problems can arise if we do not constrain the Clause 17(1) offence in the way we suggest, or some other way that has the same effect. I beg to move.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|