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Lord Hylton: Before the Minister replies to that, he twice mentioned the bombing of animal laboratories by night so as not to cause human casualties. I believe that he mentioned that in defence of the Government's definition. Will he accept that such actions could be properly dealt with under statutes concerned with causing explosions, arson or criminal damage? Those were the types of issue that I had in mind when I argued at Second Reading that the Bill goes unnecessarily wide.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I hope that I conveyed the impression to the Committee that we as a government have a fairly fixed view of what the definition should be, that that view is reflected in the Bill as it stands, but that, of course, we need to listen, as we always do, to the important points that are made in a debate such as this. No doubt many noble Lords are much better at definition than I am, particularly as I am a non-lawyer.
Particularly in respect of the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Cope, I have indicated that we shall look very closely at the issue of computers and whether or not they need to be enclosed specifically within the definition that we have chosen. Of course, I undertake to reflect on all the various points made by Members of the Committee in the debate.
The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, again asked a question that he raised at Second Reading, and I believe that it bears some respect. In his contribution the noble Lord challenged me to look again at the relationship between Clause 3 and the other clauses with regard to the definition. I shall give further thought to that.
I return to my point about graffiti. Although it is certainly unpleasant and unsightly, I cannot think of any circumstances, certainly as we consider the matter this evening, in which one might consider it to be a form of terrorism. However, of course, we must all take serious note of the damage and distress that it causes. In effect, in many instances it is a form of criminal damage.
This has been a useful debate. I believe that it was the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, who said that he hoped that the debate would help us to focus down rather more when we come to consider the definition at Report stage. I suspect that that is what we shall be able to do. As I said, after giving further thought to the matter, I shall come back to the issue of computers and their place in any subsequent definition. Of course, I shall look carefully at the various points that have been made during the course of this useful debate.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: I was happier with the Minister when he said that it was a thought-provoking debate and that he would give consideration to this and that than when he said to my noble friend Lord
I hope that Members of the Committee will forgive me if I refer back to some of the points. I was attracted by the use of the word "unlawful", as supported by the Liberal Democrats' amendment and in their speeches, because of what was described as the "Kosovo problem". It seems to me that that is one area where further thought needs to be given.
However, the Minister also had my support when he talked about assassination. As I see it, one of the difficulties with the Liberal Democrat amendment is that it refers only to attacks on the public or a section of the public. I do not believe that one person can be a section of the public. During the time--
Lord Goodhart: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cope, for raising that point. I believe that that is a fair criticism of our definition. If we are to bring back this matter on Report, it certainly needs to be looked at again to ensure that it covers that point.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: I was about to say that during my time as a Member of another place, four Members of Parliament were murdered by the IRA; three of them in individual assassinations, as noble Lords will recall, and one at the Grand Hotel in Brighton. Those specific assassinations were, by anyone's definition, designed absolutely for terrorist purposes.
So far as concerns the bombing of the Grand Hotel, it seems to me that that was an attack on a section of the public. The Minister seemed to suggest that it was not. It was an attack not only on members of the government and Members of Parliament, but much of the damage and several of the deaths were inflicted on people who were either supporters of the Conservative Party, attending the conference or looking after the hotel. Many of the people involved were not members of the Conservative Party but were involved in other ways with the conference. It is obviously extremely important to include an action of that kind.
Some attention has been given in the debate to the question of whether damage to property should be included in the definition only if it endangers life and not if it simply damages property. As most Members of the Committee know, on a large number of occasions property in Northern Ireland has been damaged but there has been no loss of life or injury to people because warnings have been given with the deliberate intention of permitting the building in question to be cleared. Nevertheless, the action has been terrorist in purpose and it has been applied by both sides. I do not make a partisan point, as it were, in the Northern Ireland context in drawing attention to that point.
Therefore, I believe that a considerable amount of serious damage to property takes place which nevertheless does not kill or injure people and, in fact, is not intended to do so. Of course, from time to time people have been injured or killed as a result of action which was not intended to injure or kill but did so because the warning was insufficiently specific or because of other reasons.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, mentioned the recent daubing of the statue of Sir Winston Churchill. Quite frankly, that does not seem to me to be covered by any of the definitions on offer this afternoon; nor should it be. It was, of course, highly offensive and misguided and no doubt constituted criminal damage. However, that is different from saying that it should be covered within the definition of terrorism.
In talking about electronic systems, the Minister seemed to dismiss an attack on closed circuit television systems, which are included in the definition that I have put forward of electronic systems, but are not in some of the other definitions that are available. I am sure that some Members of the Committee realise that in Northern Ireland closed circuit television has been an absolutely vital protection against attack. Every police station in Northern Ireland has elaborate systems to monitor, for example, car parks and other areas to ensure that the police are aware if a mortar is placed in a position from which it could be fired at a police station. To damage a closed circuit television system of that kind is a terrorist act.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I want to seek some clarification. Is it the noble Lord's intention to include CCTV systems with that amendment? Was that a deliberate intention in moving the amendment because that is something extra to the way in which we originally understood it?
Lord Cope of Berkeley: I think that all these electronic systems can be the subject of terrorist attack. I do not think it is simply confined to computer systems. One has to be careful because nowadays television systems are controlled by computers. More or less every electronic system, including motor cars and all sorts of things, are controlled by chips and computers and so on. A reference to computers probably covers most of those things as well.
There are also computers containing police intelligence which is an extremely important point. There was a big attack on the forensic science laboratory in Northern Ireland while I was a Minister there. That is an example of trying to attack those who are dealing with terrorism, making their lives much more difficult and their efforts less effective.
This has been an important debate and we look forward to hearing the results of the Minister's reflections. I will certainly be reflecting further on the issues that have been discussed and the points made. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 1.