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In relation to manipulation of earnings, I entirely accept that most employers would act honourably in this and seek to do the right thing. Indeed, they would see the benefit of good quality pension provision. However, to rely on the compliance regime to avoid avoidance in this area would be quite difficult because one can envisage circumstances where an employer might quite legitimately restructure the pay structure and have a range of choices. One way of doing it might have the benefit of reduced contributions under these arrangements. There might be a perfectly possible commercial—

Baroness Noakes: Will the Minister explain what is wrong with rearranging pay structures for good commercial reasons?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: There is nothing wrong with it. The noble Baroness was advancing the proposition that, if people manipulated their pay structures to reduce their contributions, the compliance regime would pick that up. However, it would be difficult to rely on the compliance regime to distinguish those situations from situations where there was a genuine commercial reason to restructure pay or a dual reason to restructure pay. That is why we do not see that as a route forward. It is a similar situation with grandfathering arrangements. You might identify up-front schemes that were okay, but there might be legitimate commercial reasons for restructuring pay down the line. I stress that I believe that there is a way through this, using mechanisms other than those that the noble Baroness has identified. We need to make sure that we achieve that.

Baroness Noakes: Those were illuminating remarks, which I look forward to reading carefully in Hansard. I made it clear when I moved the amendments that I was not proposing to divide the Committee this evening, because the issue is too important for it not to be clear that we have got the right answer. I hope that the Minister, if he was in any doubt, is now fully apprised of the fact that there is a problem and that the problem needs a solution. I hope that the Government will work hard with the industry during the summer. It is fortunate that the Recess will give everybody time to pause for reflection.

I hope that the Government will also look again at some of the assumptions that they are taking into the negotiating room about what they have to achieve. It seems that the Minister still reflects a dogmatism that will not be helpful in achieving a solution. The solution is one that helps to preserve existing good pension provision and avoids levelling down. That is something that we all want to achieve. I hope that, on Report, the Government will table agreed amendments. However, I say to the Minister that, if that does not look possible, we shall seek the least bad solution—the solution that best meets the concerns of those who have impressed on us the need to get this right. At that stage, I will seek to test the opinion of the House. So I

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say that it is over to the Minister, and I hope that the Government will find the solution. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 61 to 65 not moved.]

Clause 19 agreed to.

Clause 20 [Quality requirement: UK defined benefits schemes]:

[Amendment No. 66 not moved.]

Clause 20 agreed to.

Lord Tunnicliffe: I beg to move that the House be resumed. In moving this Motion, I suggest that the Committee stage begin again not before 8.53 pm.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2008

7.53 pm

Lord Bassam of Brighton rose to move, that the draft Order laid before the House on 21 May be approved. 21st Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the People’s Mujaheddin Organisation of Iran—the PMOI, as it is more generally known—is opposed to the Iranian Government. Its stated aim is to replace that regime with a secular democracy. Most of its members are based at Camp Ashraf, which is located in Iraq, and under Saddam’s regime it operated as a de facto wing of the Iraqi military. Although it currently describes itself as a non-violent democratic movement, there can be no doubt that the PMOI was responsible for acts of terrorism over a long period, stretching back some two decades prior to 2001. These acts were not attributed to it by the Iranian authorities: the PMOI expressly admitted responsibility for a number of horrendous crimes carried out against the Iranian people, both civilian and military targets. The PMOI is not widely supported in Iran because of those attacks and because it fought alongside Iraqi forces against Iran in the war between those countries.

The PMOI says that it decided at an internal meeting in 2001 to renounce violence and that it now seeks instead to pursue its objectives by peaceful means. It has not conducted any attacks since then, although it has not made any public statement renouncing violence. Until 2003, it maintained an extensive arsenal at Camp Ashraf, at which point it found itself surrounded by US forces and surrendered its arms.

The PMOI was added to the list of proscribed terrorist organisations in 2001. Proscription is a tough but necessary power, and its effect is that the proscribed organisation is outlawed and is unable to operate in the United Kingdom. The consequence of proscription is that specific criminal offences apply in relation to a proscribed organisation. They include membership of

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the organisation and the provision of various forms of support, including organising or addressing a meeting and wearing or displaying an article indicating membership of the organisation. Further criminal offences exist in relation to fund raising and various uses of money and property for the purposes of terrorism.

A group of 35 interested parties, comprising noble Lords and honourable Members of another place, disagreed with the PMOI’s proscription. A statutory procedure exists for any proscribed organisation or anyone affected by the proscription of an organisation to apply to the Home Secretary for that organisation to be deproscribed. Members of this group correctly followed this procedure and wrote to the Home Secretary to request that the PMOI be deproscribed. They argued that the PMOI was no longer concerned in terrorism, having renounced violence and disarmed itself, and that their desire to express their legitimate support for the PMOI and its objectives was unlawfully curtailed by its continuing proscription. The then Home Secretary carefully considered this application but continued to believe that the PMOI was concerned in terrorism, which is the statutory test for proscription. He formed that view in the light of the PMOI’s lengthy history of violence, in the absence of any public renunciation of violence and taking into account the fact that it only disarmed two years after the decision to renounce violence, when it had no choice in the face of the overwhelming force of the US military.

While accepting that there had been no attacks since 2001, the then Home Secretary took a cautious approach and was not satisfied that the renunciation of violence was more than a temporary cessation for pragmatic reasons or that the 2003 disarmament would have taken place were it not for the war in Iraq and the artificially restrictive circumstances arising from that. He was concerned that the PMOI might return to terrorism in future as a means of achieving its objectives, if the situation in Iraq were to make it possible and if it became strategically advantageous for it to do so.

Let me make it clear that this decision was not taken lightly. The Government share the desire of those 35 honourable Members and noble Lords to see the advance of democracy and the promotion of human rights around the world. Given the wide-ranging impact of proscription, we are committed to ensuring that proscription decisions are lawful and proportionate. However, the Terrorism Act 2000 sets out the definition of terrorism and the criteria for considering whether an organisation is concerned in terrorism. The Act does not refer to the motivation or political agenda of those who perpetrate acts of terrorism and, as POAC accepted, the Secretary of State is entitled to conclude that there is no right to resort to terrorism, whatever the motivation. We do not condone terrorism anywhere, whatever its justification or its target.

The Home Secretary’s refusal to deproscribe was appealed to POAC, the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission, which upheld the appeal and found that the PMOI was no longer an organisation concerned in terrorism. POAC directed that the Government lay an order before the House deproscribing the PMOI. Although POAC considered that the Government were wrong to refuse to deproscribe the PMOI in 2006, it

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agreed that the original proscription in 2001 was justified and that the PMOI was responsible for many terrorist attacks over an extended period. It also stated that the Government were entitled to give little credibility to public statements made by the PMOI, as their public statements contained spin and the evidence submitted in the course of the hearing was “contradictory and potentially misleading” and demonstrated “a shifting approach”.

8 pm

Our subsequent application for permission to appeal POAC’s ruling to the Court of Appeal was refused. Naturally, although disappointed by the decision, we have complied with the judgment and have moved quickly to lay the order that the House is debating today. It will give effect to POAC’s order and will remove the PMOI from the list of proscribed organisations.

An article in today’s Times has been drawn to my attention. It comes under the heading, “Labour stands up to judges by backing Tehran on dissidents” and makes certain suggestions about the intentions of the Prime Minister and those of the Home Secretary with regard to an organisation described as the National Resistance Army of Iran. Simply, there is no basis in fact for the conclusions that the article draws or for the headline, and we refute any of the suggestions in the article. There is no intention on the part of the Government to circumvent in any way the effect of the order to deproscribe as the article suggests. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 21 May be approved. 21st Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.—(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I can be unusually brief on this occasion. I have read most of the judgment by the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission. Much of it is the background to which the noble Lord has referred. In the circumstances, the Government have no alternative but to put the order before the House and to deproscribe this organisation. In view of the fact that no appeals are allowed to the High Court and the judgment was very clear, there is nothing that we could do or wish to say to stop the order proceeding.

I have only one question about something that is not terribly clear. The order says that it comes into being in accordance with Article 1, which says simply that the order,

Perhaps we could have a date on which it will come into effect.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, after so many years of waiting and campaigning and so many setbacks and frustrations, at last our Government have seen the light. I am therefore extremely grateful to them for this order, despite the fury of the Iranian regime and the threats of dire consequences should the order be passed. I am very proud that we do not listen to threats from such people.

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The order could not have come at a better time for the families of those who are still suffering the torments of the invidious regime in Tehran. By deproscribing the PMOI from the terror list, which in all conscience it should never have been on in the first place, this country sends this strong message to the mullahs and despotic rulers in Iran; “You must immediately cease your despicable actions against your own people and your meddling in Iraq or face the consequences of your actions in the future”. Those actions are why I have spoken in support of this organisation for a number of years now.

When I learnt that women were being flogged for not veiling in the way that the mullahs decreed and not wearing socks in public, and that clothing shops and hairdressers for women were being shut down, I despaired. However, worse—so much worse—has been happening in Iran and has been well documented by independent journalists and those who have escaped the regime. Women are denied equal rights with men in marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance. If a woman goes to court, her evidence is considered to be worth only half that given by a man. A girl under 13 can be forced to marry a much older man if her father permits it.

Women can be stoned for allegedly committing adultery, and that stoning is to be done in a very special way. A woman is buried up to her shoulders. She cannot escape. Interestingly, if a man is being punished by stoning, he is buried only up to his waist, and if he can wriggle free he is spared the stoning. No such luck for a woman. Rules govern the size of the stones that can be used as well. They must not be so small that they do not hurt, but nor must they be too large to be able to kill outright. The execution is public and children may be brought along to watch their mother’s stoning. What kind of people are these?

At last there is hope for the poor people of Iran, who have had so much to endure. The National Council of Resistance of Iran—the campaigning arm of the PMOI—is led by a charismatic woman, Mrs Maryam Rajavi, who insists that there must not be war with Iran, but nor must the mullahs be appeased. She calls for support for the Iranian people in their resistance, and is determined to bring about full democratic change in her country. We can only applaud her for this and tell her that the eyes of the world will be on her and her supporters when that day comes. We should offer our help and support to end, by severe sanctions, the regime that is clinging on to power now.

I thank the Minister for coming to this House tonight and beginning a process that I hope will rapidly see the European Union, too, deproscribing the PMOI and supporting those brave Iranians, especially those in Ashraf city, the enclave of displaced Iranians, who are forced to live under UN protection in Iraqi territory but near the Iranian border, who are fighting for the freedom of their country and who hope, one day soon, to be able to live there in peace.

Lord Slynn of Hadley: My Lords, it is plain that Governments have to deal with acts of terrorism. It is no less obvious—if it is not, it should be—that no one

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should be put on or remain on a proscribed list unless there is clear evidence to establish it. The very strong judgments of the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission, the Court of Appeal and indeed the European Court of First Instance made it utterly plain that justice required the PMOI to be taken off the list. There can be no doubt about that.

Secondly, it is of great importance that if, as I trust, this order proposed by the Minister is approved tonight both by your Lordships and by the other place, it will do a great deal to establish and underline the concept of the rule of law. To have two such excellent judgments in this country by eminent judges so clearly stated and not to approve them would be the most dreadful attack on the concept of the rule of law. I am very glad that the Minister was able to come and do this tonight. I strongly endorse his proposal that this order should be made. I would like to thank him for the clarification in his newspaper article this morning which, to me at any rate, came as a bit of a surprise. The Minister has done a great deal to take away my surprise. Therefore, I support this order.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, people can argue about what the PMOI has done in the past—and the Minister delved into history—but that is not the point. The tests here, in front of both courts, is whether the PMOI is presently—not in the past, distant or near—concerned in terrorism or preparing to be concerned in it. The Government’s argument at both the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission and the Court of Appeal can be summed up this way: once a terrorist, always a terrorist. This is a nonsense. Both courts, after considering all of the evidence, open and closed for security reasons, rejected that argument and found no evidence to support assertions that the PMOI was concerned in, or preparing to be concerned in, terrorism. This order rights a great wrong done to the 4,000 members of the PMOI, part of Iran’s resistance coalition. They sit in exile in the deserts of Iraq because the theocratic regime in Tehran has stolen their freedom and slaughtered around 120,000—yes, that is right—of their friends and supporters.

Why was this ban put in place? The then Home Secretary said it was because the mullahs insisted upon it as the price of opening talks with the EU on its nuclear weapons development programme. Ludicrously, in making the ban, the Government said that the PMOI had no presence in the UK and no record of harming British or western interests anywhere in the world. Who are the terrorists? It is not the PMOI which makes and supplies the roadside bombs which slaughter British and coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan; that is done by the mullahs' private army, The Revolutionary Guard, itself labelled as a terrorist organisation by the United States.

This resistance revealed two weeks ago that an estimated eight out of every 10 of the roadside bombs slaughtering our British troops come from Iran, smuggled across the border on 51 networks. Details of these networks and those who run them have been given by the resistance to the coalition forces and to our own Ministry of Defence. It is not the PMOI which is seeking to build nuclear weapons; it was the resistance

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which revealed the secret sites where this work was going on and, last year, corrected a wrong estimate made by the United States intelligence outfits that they had stopped work on these sites, when they had scattered this nuclear development in 12 sites around the country making it harder to monitor and inspect even when the mullahs agree.

It is hard to understand why the Government refused our request to deproscribe the PMOI. When challenged by 35 Members of your Lordships’ House and those in another place, the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission ruled that that refusal was,

Scathingly, it added that it was,

In plain English, what the POAC decided was that the Government had got the law wrong, ignored the evidence and asked the wrong questions, which led them to come to this perverse and flawed decision. When the Government appealed to the Court of Appeal, they had their nose rubbed once more in the evidence they had ignored, when the Court of Appeal said,

that is, to the Government—

That is a damning indictment of the way the Government have handled this matter. The Government now have a duty to ask the EU to remove the ban on the PMOI imposed at their request and I want to ask the Minister to tell me tonight how and when and how soon this will be done.

The order will give new hope to those millions inside Iran who cry freedom and want to see their country a respected member of the international community, rather than a pariah—a country which respects human rights, not least the rights of women, and ends its nuclear weapons development and its murderous interference in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Gaza and elsewhere. Iran will be free. Freedom may be delayed but it cannot for ever be denied.

Lord Waddington: My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, reminded us of the history of the matter; it is not a happy one. However, there is little point in my repeating it now that it has been given to your Lordships, so I shall briefly touch on another matter. Tonight may be a time less for recrimination and more for thanks to all those who have brought us to the position in which we are today. I would like us all to record our thanks to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Slynn of Hadley. To have such a distinguished lawyer on our side was an enormous bonus, and what he had to say obviously carried enormous weight. The noble Lord, Lord Corbett, should be thanked by all of us for his magnificent leadership as chairman of our committee. Then there were those who represented us in court—they did a marvellous job—and the members of the NCRI in London, who had campaigned tirelessly for years to achieve this result.

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