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Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I found the noble and learned Lord's reply extremely depressing and unsatisfactory. I do not think that any of his arguments supported the position which he has taken. First, he said that the fact at present that you have to apply for a deproscription order means that the Secretary of State may change his mind, decide to make a deproscription order, and that that makes the procedure cheaper and simpler. Where an appeal is allowed, if the Secretary of State comes to the conclusion that he ought not to have made the order in the first place--perhaps as a result of new evidence which is shown to him--it is perfectly possible for him
Secondly, it is said that the appeal against a proscription order would not be appropriate because it would create two parallel systems and a multiplication of complexities. This is simply not true. The legislative complexity will be minimal, as seen from the fact that the amendments which I have drafted, and which I believe would be adequate for the purpose, take up no more than a few lines of text. So far as procedure is concerned, there is no reason why any different procedure should be followed before the POAC in the case of an appeal against the original proscription order from the procedure which would be followed in the case of an appeal against a refusal to deproscribe.
Thirdly, the noble and learned Lord said that it was appropriate for all organisations to be treated in the same way. That, again, seems to me to be a wholly irrelevant issue. The fact is that we have a number of organisations which have been proscribed, which could have appealed against a refusal to deproscribe, and have not done so. It seems to me that that is no argument whatsoever for depriving any future organisations which may be proscribed of the right to appeal against a proscription order.
There is also the question that proscription orders are now likely to be made against organisations whose main focus of activities is overseas. Those activities perhaps will be less familiar to the authorities in this country than the activities of those organisations which take part in terrorism in Northern Ireland, and therefore a more extensive look at the evidence may well be extremely important.
It seems to me there is a real difference of substance between a "change of spots" case and a case where an organisation should never have been proscribed in the first place. The present procedure will require an organisation, by applying for a deproscription order, in effect to admit that it was a terrorist organisation in order to be released from proscription.
I am very tempted to seek to divide the House on this important issue. The Government have been wholly unable to produce any convincing arguments to support the refusal of an appeal, with all that that means in terms of natural justice. However, this is something which can and probably will be dealt with under the Human Rights Act--if a case arises. I am
The noble Lord said: My Lords, at Committee stage we objected to paragraph (c) of Clause 12(2) and paragraph (b) of subsection (3). Of these the more important of the two was subsection (3)(b), which provided that a person committed an offence if he addressed a meeting and knew that the meeting was,
However, that still leaves subsection (2)(c), and we have some concerns about that. I have no objection to providing that it is an offence for a person to arrange a meeting to support a proscribed organisation or to further the activities of a proscribed organisation. However, the question of making it illegal to arrange a meeting which is to be addressed by a person who belongs or professes to belong to a proscribed organisation is something which one needs to look at very carefully.
But what would happen if, let us say, an organisation in this country were to arrange a meeting here between the Tamil Tigers organisation--assuming that it had been proscribed--and the Government of Sri Lanka, with a view to trying to settle the violence, the civil war effectively, in Sri Lanka? It would be most inappropriate if the arrangement of any such meeting were to be treated as a criminal offence. The Government may wish to say that a round-table conference of this kind does not involve anyone addressing a meeting--that it is a matter of discussion--but I have difficulty seeing that as a certain defence to a prosecution under the subsection.
It seems to me that Clause 12(2)(c) is still potentially objectionable because it covers meetings arranged for wholly praiseworthy purposes. I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say. I beg to move.
Lord Monson: My Lords, I support government Amendment No. 12 for the reasons already given. It is somewhat better drafted than the Liberal Democrat Amendment No. 13, and no more needs to be said about that.
I also strongly support the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, in regard to Amendment No. 11. It is funny to think that if this Bill had been enacted in its present form 30 years ago, the long arm of the law might have descended on the shoulders of certain Cabinet Ministers--both Labour and Conservative--during all their cosy, secret chats with the Provisional IRA in Downing Street and elsewhere.
On a more general point, is it not a good thing that terrorists, or apologists for terrorism, should be encouraged to try and justify themselves in front of a sceptical or hostile audience? If the audience in question were not sceptical or hostile but supportive and enthusiastic, then the organisers of the meeting would be caught by subsection (2)(a) and, in certain circumstances, by subsection (2)(b) as well. So there is no danger on that score.
The marginal note to Clause 12 is "Support". The whole thrust of these offences--which are punishable on conviction on indictment by a term of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years--is that in some way they are to do with supporting terrorism. We welcome what has been said and the fact that the Government have decided to delete Clause 12(3)(b)--no doubt because they appreciate, on consideration, that someone may be guilty of an offence under that provision without in any way supporting the aims of the proscribed organisation--but exactly the same applies to Clause 12(2)(c). In arranging, managing or assisting in arranging or managing a small meeting, the fact that one knows it is,
Lord Desai: My Lords, in the debate on Second Reading I expressed my worries about certain aspects of the Bill. I have many academic colleagues who study terrorism as a subject. Much of the knowledge we have acquired about Hezbollah, the IRA, the Tamil Tigers or any other such group is the result of study undertaken by academics, who also make it their business either to meet with representatives of those organisations or, sometimes, to invite them to present a seminar at a university. I can easily imagine my colleagues in the Department of International Relations at the London School of Economics arranging such events.
First, it would be very wrong to assume that my colleagues, by inviting such people to address seminars at the LSE, are in some way sympathising with or supporting the activities of a terrorist organisation. Secondly, unless we allow academics to continue with their work on these rather obscure topics, the Government themselves will have access to far less information about the extent of terrorism. Their own information-gathering systems are insufficient for the task.
A great many academics pursue these topics out of a desire for academic knowledge. It is important that such activities, based on a sincere desire to further knowledge and understanding, should not be stopped. I should not wish to see my colleagues go to gaol.
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