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Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will give way. The trouble, I understand, is that that is what the European Court of Human Rights requires. It requires that, in the event of an extension beyond four days, it must be by judicial rather than ministerial fiat. I believe that that is the problem.
While the power is there, it makes the life of the would-be terrorist in such a situation considerably more difficult. He could never lay his head on a pillow and feel that he could get a good night's sleep because the security forces on both sides would know all those people--only 200, or so--and they would also know their movements pretty accurately. They would be in a position to lift those people quickly, and the would-be terrorist would be aware of that fact. Therefore, while the Republic of Ireland keeps the right to intern on its statute book, we believe that we should do the same.
In summary, this Bill is about saving lives and protecting the fundamental rights of our society. It is not a Bill that concerns itself with ordinary crime, if I may put it that way. There is undoubtedly a need for a Bill to address the threat of terrorists in this country. Terrorism is no longer confined to the problems of Northern Ireland. I am delighted, as my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew pointed out, that Northern Ireland is not mentioned in the Title or, indeed, anywhere in the Bill, other than in Clause 8.
Terrorism is an international phenomenon of a highly sophisticated and intellectual nature. Any country that does not accept that is not doing itself justice. Terrorism is no longer confined to the bomb and the bullet; it now includes chemical attacks on food and crops and serious attacks on the worldwide web. Terrorism is about using terror as a means to achieve political ends. Every civilised country today needs powers to allow it to protect itself against modern terrorism. In principle, we welcome the Bill. But, as my right honourable friend Ann Widdecombe said in another place, we must never be prepared to compromise between democracy and terror.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I have rarely been as impressed as I was this afternoon with the quality of a debate about any subject that has been before your Lordships' House. It goes almost without saying that we have had a most insightful, useful, powerful and wide-ranging debate today. Before I respond to particular points raised during the debate--I apologise in advance if I do not cover all of them because very many points were made--perhaps I may take a few moments to make a few general remarks about the Bill.
In bringing forward permanent UK-wide legislation, the Government recognise a responsibility to achieve the balance between protecting the human rights of individual citizens and protecting the public against terrorism. Although that responsibility comes into particularly sharp focus in our consideration of this Bill, it is a balance that must be achieved in respect of all legislation. Concerns have rightly been expressed to the effect that we have not taken sufficient account of human rights issues in the case of this Bill. I understand those concerns and hope that I can allay some of them in my response. The Government certainly take seriously their responsibility to ensure that legislation is consistent with its international and other human rights obligations.
Terrorism is a fundamental threat to human rights. In seeking to use violence and fear instead of democratic means, it strikes at the heart of the foundations of government. In taking care to guard the rights of individuals to a fair trial, to freedom of association and expression, and so on, it is important for us to remember at all times the need to guard the rights of the public to go about their everyday, lawful lives free from the fear of terrorist attack or the paralysing hold that terrorist groups can have over communities.
If there was a big issue for debate this afternoon it was of course the issue encapsulated in Clause 1; namely, the question of definition. We take the view that, in many ways, the definition of "terrorism" is the explanation of the need to have new and fresh legislation. It needs to be modernised; it needs to be brought up to date; and it needs to encompass the changes that have taken place. In particular, the powers in the PTA currently apply only to Irish and international terrorism. We believe this to be inconsistent. As a noble Lord said earlier, a terrorist is a terrorist and the Bill treats all terrorists in the same way.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, struck an interesting and valuable note when he said that we must do our best with the definition. That is very sound and good advice. This afternoon we have had many examples of people who claim that they might be caught by the new definition of terrorism in the Bill. Indeed, a wide-ranging expression of concern has been voiced about the definition. The noble Lords, Lord Cope, Lord Rogan, and Lord Goodhart, the noble Baronesses, Lady Park and Lady Miller, together with my noble friends Lord Desai and Lord Ahmed, all raised concerns in different ways, as did other noble Lords. But this much needs to be said. Our intention is not to catch a latter-day Mandela, a Green activist, a GM-crop protestor or peace protestors or, indeed, those in support of the Kashmiri cause, as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Ahmed. Similarly, as the Guardian put it, it is not our intention to catch "Swampy" or a Mrs Pankhurst in our embrace under this definition.
Under the Bill, only people involved in terrorism if they use or threaten action that involves "serious violence", endangers life or creates a serious risk to public health or safety will be affected. If they are
It may be worth me spending a little time going over why it is that we approach the question of definition in this way. We started from the viewpoint that the current definition has done good service but that changes were justified. We are also firmly of the view that it is no longer defensible to confine the legislation to Irish and international terrorism and to exclude the application of the definition to acts connected solely with the affairs of the United Kingdom.
It is striking that, although there is much debate as to precisely what actions constitute so-called "domestic terrorism", it appears to be generally accepted that some such actions should be caught. In deciding upon a new definition, we obviously also considered carefully the advice of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd. He recommended that so-called "domestic terrorism" should be included and that the threshold should be raised to serious violence. His proposed definition retained the motivational element in defining an act of terrorism, but broadened the list of qualifying motivations from just the political to include religious and social. He also commented that we should try to catch the activities of terrorists who disrupt vital systems without necessarily using violence. While we have not adopted the definition of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, in every respect, I believe that we have broadly adopted the approach he proposed.
Finally, and most importantly, in working up the new definition, we bore in mind its purpose. The point bears repeating that there is no linked offence of terrorism. Most terrorists, as now, will continue to be charged with offences under the ordinary criminal law. The definition exists to trigger the availability, primarily to the police, of certain additional powers and specific offences that we believe are needed to disrupt and investigate terrorism. While I acknowledge that it would be wrong to make these additional powers available too widely--which is one reason why we have raised the threshold to serious violence--it would be a major error to adopt a definition of terrorism which was too narrow and constrained the police in their actions in fighting terrorism.
One or two specific points emerged with regard to the definition. The noble Baroness, Lady Park, asked why we had not included within the definition an expression of fear. While we believe that terror is a common by-product, we do not believe that putting
The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, asked whether the definition should cover violence against property alone. I understand fully the sensitivities with regard to including serious violence against property. But, in some cases, those involved in such violence try to draw a sharp distinction between violence against people and that solely against property. They go so far as to imply that the latter is in some circumstances morally justifiable. The Government do not think that it would be right to delete the reference to serious violence against property from the definition. I am sure that the whole House would agree that violence against property is never right. Those involved in it are vulnerable to being charged with criminal offences.
But, most importantly, we stand by our view that violence against property can be terrorism. What about the bomb in connection with which a lengthy and accurate warning is given, which, while not endangering life, nevertheless destroys buildings? It does not seem logical that empty targets could be bombed and livelihoods and communities destroyed as a result, but the police would not have at their disposal the powers and offences triggered by the definition of terrorism. We believe that the serious violence against property limb of the definition must be retained to deal with these far from fanciful examples.
The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, asked whether the definition should cover only criminal acts. On the face of it that may look like an attractive proposition. As we know to our cost, it is hard to imagine terrorist action which is not contrary to the criminal law. After all, terrorism is intended to kill, maim and destroy people's livelihoods. Terrorists are criminals. I hope I may explain to the House why the Government believe that to limit the application of the definition of terrorism to actions contrary to the criminal law will not work.
To begin with, this could be difficult in connection with overseas terrorism. It could mean that the police would be unable to act unless and until they were sure that the action in question was contrary to the criminal law in the relevant country overseas as well as here. By the time the police had made the relevant inquiries, the opportunity to use their powers could be lost. Moreover, there might be cases--perhaps rare--where to limit the definition to actions contrary to the criminal law could leave a gap in the powers. Take, for instance, the case of an employee acting to advance a political, religious or ideological cause who deliberately omitted to perform a certain work-related function which resulted in risking the health of a
Noble Lords raised many questions to which I now turn. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, asked whether the definition might be capable of covering punishment beatings and computer terrorism. We believe that it will cover both those cases. The noble Lord also asked why we should remove the derogation from the ECHR. If I understood him rightly, I believe that the noble Lord advocates the retention of ministerial detention. That point was made several times by the Benches opposite.
The Government take a contrary view. We strongly believe that matters relating to the liberty of the individual should be put in the hands of the judiciary. I do not agree that whether to have the derogation is entirely a matter of choice. A member state may derogate and maintain a derogation only when there is an emergency which threatens life and the nation. We certainly support the need for the derogation at this time. However, the Bill and the Good Friday agreement anticipate that it will be possible to bring Northern Ireland in line with the UK-wide anti-terrorism regime. I certainly hope that that will occur sooner rather than later. I ask the noble Lord to consider carefully on what basis he believes that the derogation could be maintained.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, and other noble Lords made the argument for internment. He suggested that it should feature in the Bill. The Government's position on internment is clear. We remain to be convinced that internment could play an effective role in our overall security policy. The noble Lord referred to the retention of executive detention powers in the Republic of Ireland. Perhaps it would be helpful to place on record the words of the Prime Minister during the passage of the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act 1998, which was introduced after the Omagh atrocity. The Prime Minister said,
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, also said that computers and the Internet are important in this respect. The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, echoed that sentiment. I am happy to give your Lordships' House an assurance that the Government fully agree with the importance of tackling cyber crime, including, in the context of today's Bill, cyber terrorism. Acts that are illegal offline are illegal online. A number of the offences in the Bill could be committed using electronic communications. Indeed, some of them, such as those mentioned in Clauses 54 and 58, have been drafted with just such media of communication in mind. Computer hacking which creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public is covered by the definition of terrorism in the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, asked whether consultations have been completed with Scotland and Wales. Terrorism is, of course, a reserved matter, but I can confirm that we have drawn the legislation to the attention of the Scottish and Welsh executives and detailed consultations have taken place at official level. These consultations will continue.
The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, asked why, in a sense, we had downgraded the level of consent required from Attorney-General to DPP. It is the case that the offences in the PTA and EPA are currently subject to Attorney-General consent. But in preparing the legislation we reviewed whether it was necessary to retain that level of consent. We decided that it was not. It is important that Attorney-General consent is reserved for the most sensitive and serious cases of all and that the number of categories of case he has to consider personally is kept to a manageable level so that he is able to give sufficient attention to all of them. I am sure that noble Lords will appreciate that. On balance we decided that while it is important to retain a consent to prosecution mechanism for most offences in the Bill it was not necessary for that consent to remain at Attorney-General level.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, made a very valuable and powerful contribution to the debate. Speaking on behalf of the Government I thank him for his kind words, particularly at the outset, although perhaps less so at the conclusion. Nevertheless, I believe that he will help us tremendously with this difficult piece of legislation.
I wish to respond to his point about adding international groups to the proscribed list. The Bill provides for the first time a power to proscribe organisations concerned in any form of terrorism, including international terrorism. That is one of the ways in which the Bill demonstrates our commitment to change the climate in which the supporters of terrorism seek to operate in this country. The United Kingdom has no intention of becoming a safe haven or a weakling state, which is one comment I recall, for international terrorists and their supporters. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, has observed that Schedule 2 contains only the names of those organisations currently proscribed.
The noble and learned Lord asked a longer and more complicated question as to why there was no offence of being concerned in terrorism as he proposed. I have a long explanation. I shall try briefly to work through it without boring your Lordships at great length. It is an important explanation. The noble and learned Lord proposed an offence of terrorism at least partly because, I believe, of his concern that the arrest power under the Bill would not otherwise be compliant with Article 5(1)(c) of the ECHR. The Government take a different view. In Brogan v. the United Kingdom (1988), the Government argued successfully that it was not necessary to have arrested someone under the PTA arrest power in connection with a specific offence to be compliant with Article 5(1)(c) of the convention. At that time the Government argued that the way in which the arrest power was formulated in terms of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism was compatible with the concept of an offence. The court accepted that submission and went on to say,
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, also proposed that there should be a list of offences with which terrorists are commonly charged. The Government are not convinced by that approach as we believe that potentially it could glamorise terrorist crime as being somehow different and perhaps in some way superior. It is our view and that of successive
I turn now to the general points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. She argued that we should review the legislation regularly, especially the proscription powers, and that we should try to avoid blurring the lines between protest and terrorism. I understand and entirely agree with the second point, but as regards the first, we have come to the firmly held view that the time has come to move to permanent legislation, recognising the fact that terrorism is here to stay, as I said during my opening contribution, and for the foreseeable future. But the legislation will make provision for an annual review of its operation. I believe that will provide a sufficiently robust check. I believe it is a provision that will be widely welcomed.
The noble Lords, Lord Vivian and Lord Fitt, both raised issues relating to the Northern Ireland provisions and also the Patten report. I entirely agree that provisions for Northern Ireland are needed at this time. But I have no doubt that the entire House hopes that the security situation will allow the extra measures to be removed as soon as possible. I am sure that noble Lords will appreciate that the Patten recommendations are not within my field of responsibility. However, the Government agree the Patten analysis that the implementation of some recommendations will depend to a greater or lesser degree on how the security situation develops. However, we shall not act recklessly or jeopardise the lives of the police or those in the wider community.
The noble Lord, Lord Hardy, asked a question about UK ratification of the UN convention on the suppression of the financing of terrorism. I advise the noble Lord that the United Kingdom signed that convention on 10th January of this year. The Bill includes provision aimed at enabling the UK to ratify the convention and the terrorist bombing consultation in the same way that the UK has ratified all the UN conventions in the field of counter-terrorism.
The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, referred to concerns being raised by the society of editors. I advise your Lordships that I, too, have read those concerns. I know that my honourable friend Charles Clarke in another place has had some important discussions and consultations with them. They are particularly concerned about the offence in Clause 58, which is a point which I believe the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, made. We are aware of these concerns. We have had discussions and the specific points that they raised on certain provisions are matters to which we may return at later stages.
We believe that the Bill already provides sufficient safeguards for journalists. I take the point that the noble Lord made during his contribution as to how important it is for the Government to be in a listening mode. It is certainly my intention that throughout these proceedings we shall listen very carefully indeed to points that are made to us, particularly with regard to the press.
The noble Lord, Lord Rogan, raised an interesting issue concerning the provision of cross-border security co-operation. Again, strictly speaking that is not within the terms of this legislation. However, I can assure him that the British and Irish Governments have been co-operating and will continue to co-operate on security matters. That has been demonstrated by the co-operation between the RUC and the Garda and the success that the latter organisation has had against dissident republican terrorists on a number of occasions.
Finally, I wish to reflect on some questions that the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, raised during the course of his comments. He kindly gave us advance notice of them. He asked whether it was correct that there had been no prosecutions under the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act 1998. There have not been any prosecutions, which is something I believe the noble Lord already knew. The Bill removes these provisions in Great Britain, but retains them in the part of the Bill relating to Northern Ireland, which is only temporary.
We must not forget the reasons for the powers being enacted. They were designed in the wake of the Omagh atrocity. Although I take the advice offered by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, and others about acting in haste, the powers are there for a particular purpose. It may well be that they had a value in the past and will be valuable in the future.
The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, also asked about measures to ratify the finance and bombing conventions. I have probably already covered those in my comments and observations. The noble Lord also asked whether we had consulted fully with the Northern Ireland Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the detail. I can confirm that that is the case.
As to his question about whether proscription and deproscription can be dealt with by judicial review, this is a fundamental point which has led us to go down the route of an independent commission with a special advocate type of procedure, rather than providing for cases to be heard by the ordinary courts where sensitive material is likely to be at the heart of many of the cases heard. We believe that the creation of the POAC strikes the right balance, ensuring fair and ECHR-compliant proceedings protecting sensitive material.
I apologise for my long response, but this is one of the most important pieces of legislation before your Lordships' House and we should reflect on that importance. Terrorism is a uniquely cowardly and barbaric crime. The Bill responds to the continuing need for specific powers to combat current and future threats from all kinds of terrorism. It also ensures that the UK takes a tough line against the global terrorist threat. It provides a new legal framework to deal with
This has been an important and valuable debate. There is much work to be done at Committee stage. I take very seriously the points raised in today's debate and I look forward to the contributions that noble Lords will make during the passage of the Bill. I commend the Bill to the House.