PARLIAMENT is being taken ‘into very dangerous and damaging waters,’ Labour MP Alan Simpson said yesterday.
He was speaking after the Blair government presented MPs with a list of 15 groups it wanted banned ahead of the debate on its new terrorism bill.
Simpson said parliament was being denied the right to consider the legitimacy for proscribing organisations.
‘We are not allowed to vote on the organisations one by one,’ he protested, warning of the consequences of ‘just adding names to a proscribed list without due processes of proper parliamentary scrutiny.’
He said parliament was just being asked to make ‘lumpen decisions’, rubber stamping ‘composite lists’.
‘We have a friendly proscription list for the current US administration,’ he said, adding that the list hadn’t even gone through a separate scrutiny exercise by a House of Commons committee.
Simpson demanded to know what ‘evidence’ there was, if any, that the groups on the list were a terrorist threat to the UK.
He warned: ‘Throughout the Home Secretary’s list it is littered with the words “they have the potential to”, “the capacity to’’, “it may be possible to”, “they have anti-Western views’’, “they have anti-American views’’.’
He said ‘there are an awful lot of us’ opposed to the Western and US governments, ‘but that does not make us terrorist organisations . . . I am relieved to note that the Socialist Campaign Group wasn’t on the list – yet!’
He asked why the ‘Christian fundamentalist’ group of right-wing US politician Pat Robertson was not on the list after it called for Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez to be assassinated.
He added: ‘This casts a shadow over the fairness, wisdom and even-handedness with which parliament is carrying out this process.’
Simpson asked: ‘How do we as a parliament draw up a list of organisations we’re proposing to proscribe, when we cannot even say to Members of Parliament whether we have any evidence that those that we have been arresting under our anti-terrorism legislation have any connections with the organisations on the list.’
Moving the Prevention of Terrorism Order, Home Office Minister Hazel Blears refused to give MPs the ‘evidence’ that the groups were a terrorist threat.
She said: ‘Inevitably, I am constrained by the fact that these are matters of huge sensitivity involving desperately sensitive information.’
Several MPs in the debate, including Labour MP John McDonnell and Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes backed Simpson’s protests, although the majority of MPs voted to approve the banning order.