Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2024 - Motion to Approve

– in the House of Lords am 6:12 pm ar 25 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Lord Sharpe of Epsom:

Moved by Lord Sharpe of Epsom

That the draft Order laid before the House on 22 April be approved.

Relevant document: 22nd Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My Lords, I am grateful to the House for its consideration of this draft order, which will see the Terrorgram collective proscribed. It may be helpful if I set out some background on the proscription power. Some 80 terrorist organisations are currently proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000. For an organisation to be proscribed, the Home Secretary must believe that it is concerned in terrorism as set out in Section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2000. If the statutory test is met, the Home Secretary must then consider the proportionality of proscription and decide whether or not to exercise their discretion.

Proscription is a powerful tool with severe penalties, criminalising membership and invitations of support for the organisation. It also supports other disruptive activity, including immigration disruptions and terrorist financing offences. The resources of a proscribed organisation are terrorist property and are therefore liable to be seized. The Home Secretary is supported in their decision-making advice from the cross-government Proscription Review Group. A decision to proscribe is taken only after great care and consideration, given its wide-ranging impact, and it must be approved by both Houses. Part II of the Terrorism Act 2000 contains the proscription offences in Sections 11 to 13. An organisation is proscribed if it is listed in Schedule 2 to that Act, or in most cases it operates under the same name as an organisation so listed.

The Government’s assessment is that the Terrorgram collective operates as an organisation in accordance with the guidance on the meaning of that term found in Section 121 of the Terrorism Act 2000. This is based on the level of direction provided by its core leadership for the preparation of propaganda campaigns and the co-ordination between the network to disseminate the terrorist content to advance their neofascist accelerationist ideology. Article 2 of this order adds the Terrorgram collective to the list in Schedule 2 as a new entry.

Having carefully considered all the evidence, the Home Secretary has concluded that the Terrorgram collective is concerned in terrorism and should be proscribed. I am sure noble Lords will understand that I am unable to comment on specific intelligence. Nevertheless, I can provide the House with a summary of the group’s activities. The Terrorgram collective is a transnational online network of neofascist terrorists who produce and disseminate violent propaganda, with the aim of radicalising readers and encouraging individuals to commit acts of terrorism. Its aim is to bring about the collapse of western democracy and a race war through violent acts of terrorism.

The Terrorgram collective has published three long-form magazine-style publications, as well as a 24-minute documentary video. This propaganda is designed to incite violence towards perceived representatives of the establishment, ethnic minorities and other minority or religious communities. Terrorgram also celebrates and glorifies the attacks committed by extreme right-wing terrorists, whom it considers to be saints, and encourages readers to commit similar attacks.

The propaganda also includes instructional material to build and use weapons. The Home Secretary has determined that the Terrorgram collective is an organisation which is concerned in terrorism. The Terrorgram collective is involved in preparing for terrorism through the inclusion of instructional material in its propaganda. It also promotes and encourages terrorism through its publications, which contain violent narratives and material that glorifies previous extreme right-wing attackers, such as the perpetrator of the attack on a Slovakian LGBTQ+ bar in October 2022, which resulted in the murder of two people. The perpetrator credited Terrorgram’s publications in his manifesto. The Terrorgram collective encourages those who consume the content to commit similar actions, hailing the perpetrators as saints, viewing LGBTQ+ symbols as desirable targets for such abhorrent attacks.

Terrorgram holds vile anti-Semitic views alongside other repulsive extreme right-wing ideologies. This organisation has published propaganda material with the aim of inciting violence against the Jewish community, and has celebrated Hamas’s attacks on Israel and its use of terrorist violence. It has endorsed the use of terrorism to target the Jewish community and Israel, which is completely unacceptable. According to open-source reporting, it goes so far as to advocate for attacks on Israeli critical national infrastructure and has swapped notes on how to undermine Israel’s Iron Dome air defence. This proscription will further demonstrate our unwavering commitment to fighting anti-Semitism, which has increased sharply in recent months, and our unfaltering support for the Jewish community.

Proscription is a powerful tool. It is a criminal offence for a person to belong to a proscribed organisation, invite or express support for a proscribed organisation, arrange a meeting in support of a proscribed organisation, or wear clothing or carry or display articles in public in such a way or in such circumstances as to arouse reasonable suspicion that the individual is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation. The penalties for conviction for proscription offences can be a maximum of 14 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.

The safety and security of the public is, of course, paramount. It is and always will be our number one priority. The ongoing fight to counter and contain terrorism in all its guises is an essential part of that mission, as is standing up for the values that we cherish. When our collective security and our values are threatened by groups such as the Terrorgram collective, we will not hesitate to act. We will do whatever it takes to protect our communities. I therefore urge Members to support this proscription, and I commend the order to the House.

Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Shadow Chief Whip (Lords), Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 6:15, 25 Ebrill 2024

My Lords, I will respond to the Minister’s statement by first thanking our intelligence, security and police services, as well as the Home Office staff, for their work in protecting us all. The Government’s first duty must always be to protect national security and the public. The people who undertake the challenging work of making sure we are always one step ahead of those who wish to cause us harm will always find support from these Benches.

We strongly support the introduction of this order. Terrorgram, named for its use of the online messaging platform Telegram, is an online collection of violent neofascists who distribute and promote material that incites right-wing extreme terrorist activity, both in the UK and across the world.

As the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, said, the propaganda distributed by this network targets violence against ethnic minorities, religious groups, women and the LGBT community. Telegram groups promote a dangerous, violent, misogynistic, homophobic and anti-Semitic ideology. They glorify terrorist attacks, such as those committed by Anders Breivik, incite violent terrorist attacks and distribute bomb-making guides and other dangerous instructional material designed to aid would-be attackers. The dangerous consequences of their actions occurred only recently, as the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, said, when people were murdered in the LGBT nightclub in Bratislava by a terrorist who thanked Terrorgram in his manifesto. The Government’s welcome update of the definition of terrorism and this proscription order will provide a much-needed tool to prevent such attacks from being repeated here in the UK.

In the light of evidence connecting right-wing ideologies and violent terrorist acts to misogynistic views, can the Minister expand on what more the Government can do to counter this? Are there plans to update the Prevent programme to include incel ideology and violent misogyny as extremism? How is the Home Office working to prevent young men from being exposed to extreme misogynistic ideologies at a young age? What work is being done with other government departments to combat this threat? More broadly, what are the Government doing to assess and confront the online hate and extremism that form the basis of many terrorism threats?

I would welcome the Minister speaking more about the Government’s counterextremism strategy. Beyond the list of organisations defined as terrorist that the Government have said they will release, will a full, updated counterextremism strategy also be published? The previous strategy was published in 2015. The way Terrorgram uses online networks and platforms and intersects with other violent neo-Nazi organisations across the world demonstrates the growing complexity of the threats we face. As the terrorist threat evolves and becomes harder to predict and prevent, our understanding of the causes, nature and the consequences of the threats we face must also evolve.

The Government’s hate crime strategy has also not been updated since 2015. Terrorgram’s violent, bigoted ideology sits within a context of rising levels of hate crime across the UK. Hate crimes against transgender people hit record highs in England and Wales last year, and the Community Security Trust recorded a 147% increase in anti-Semitic incidents since 7 October, compared with 2022. It is important to have proscription orders in our arsenal of weapons against hate, extremism and terrorism, but they cannot be the only weapon. Can the Minister outline whether the Government plan to publish a new hate crime strategy?

This order is very welcome. Proscription is the right response to a dangerous and complex network that threatens our way of life, our public safety and our national security. This House and the country are united in protecting us all and we fully support the order.

I have one final question for the noble Lord. This clearly is a vile, disgusting group, so why have we waited so long? Why did we not bring this order much earlier? Some of the things they have been involved in, over quite a long period, are things we all abhor. With that, I support the order.

Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank the noble Lord very much indeed for his support and the support of his party. We have covered some ground here and I will do my very best to answer the questions.

Why have we decided to proscribe the Terrogram collective now? I think I explained much of this in my opening remarks but to proscribe an organisation the Home Secretary must believe that it is concerned in terrorism and it is right that any decision to proscribe must be proportionate and necessary. As the House has heard, Terrorgram involves itself in preparing for terrorism through instruction material. It also promotes and encourages terrorism through its publications which contain violent narratives. As proscription is such a powerful counterterrorism tool, cases are scrutinised carefully to ensure that the decisions we take are lawful, consistent and proportionate. Proscription sends such a strong message of the UK’s commitment to tackling terrorism globally and calling out this activity wherever it is committed, but the evidence has to be very carefully scrutinised and that is, in essence, the reason why it has taken a while to get to this point.

The noble Lord also asked me about what is happening with the counter-extremism strategy and what has replaced the old one. The Government remain very much focused on disrupting the activities and influence of extremists, supporting those who stand up to extremism and stopping people from being drawn into terrorism. We keep our response to extremism under constant review, for the reasons the noble Lord laid out, in particular things such as the CREST research that he referred to. We have to make sure that it is best placed to tackle evolving threats. The Government’s current focus is to use existing mechanisms to analyse, prevent and disrupt the spread of high-harm extremist ideologies that can lead from community division and radicalisation into terrorism, particularly those that radicalise others but deliberately operate below counterterrorism thresholds. Where there is evidence of purposeful actions that are potentially radicalising others into terrorism or violence, proportionate disruptive action will be considered.

The noble Lord made comments on incel and misogyny. We will not tolerate the spread of the harmful ideologies that can lead to these sorts of activities. There is a wide range of offences and powers that can be used to counter the threat from these areas and we are working to maximise their use. Of course, we know, as the noble Lord said, that the extremism landscape is constantly evolving and therefore that we have to continually seek to build and refresh our knowledge of the threat it poses. From 1 April 2023, the Government instructed all police forces in England and Wales to identify any violence against the person, including stalking and harassment, or sexual offences where the crime is deemed to be motivated by a hostility towards the victim’s sex. The implementation of sex-based hostility recording illustrates the Government’s commitment to ensuring that we have a better understanding of these abhorrent crimes, and that will obviously assist us in future policy development.

I conclude by again offering my thanks for the House’s consideration of and support for this very important measure. As I have outlined, it is proportionate and necessary in our ongoing effort to tackle terrorism to protect the public and to defend our values. There is no place whatever for the vile ideology espoused by the Terrorgram collective, and we will not stand for it. We will never relent in showing up terrorism for what it is: a poisonous, corrosive force that will always fail. With that, I commend the order to the House.

Photo of Baroness Lawlor Baroness Lawlor Ceidwadwyr

My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing the statutory order. I support the addition of the Terrorgram collective to follow the recent addition of Hizb ut-Tahrir to the proscribed organisation list under this order. This online terror collective, as has been said, supported acts of terrorism in Norway and Slovakia, and incitement in the Baltimore case of attacks on power substations. In common with its immediate predecessor on the list, it seeks to incite violence against Jewish people in the State of Israel, including by supporting Hamas’s attack of 7 October.

Such a proscription therefore has my support, but it prompts a wider question about the Terrorism Act 2000, under which the proscriptions are made. That Act defines terrorism in Section 1, which includes

“the use or threat of action where … the use or threat is designed to influence the government or an international governmental organisation or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and … the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious … or ideological cause”.

In subsection (2)(d), it refers to creating

“a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public” and so on.

Therefore, I have a question for my noble friend the Minister. While proscription outlaws an organisation, it does not address the blatant advocacy on our streets during the pro-Palestine marches—actions of intimidation against the Jewish community in Israel or at home. These, in the words of the 2000 Act, create

“a serious risk to the … safety of the public or a section of the public”, and are

“designed to influence the government … or to intimidate”.

I urge my noble friend, in the same spirit of this addition to the proscribed list, to reconsider the arrangements for these marches in this context. Surely it is time for His Majesty’s Government to go beyond the standard reply that policing of marches is an operational matter for the police. Does the intimidation and threat to a section of our people—the Jewish minority here and overseas—not require a more direct address by the law, given that policing to date has proved inadequate, in addition to this proscription, which I welcome?

Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My Lords, I appreciate the sentiments behind my noble friend’s questions. I am not sure they are entirely appropriate for this format, but I will just rehash the powers conferred on the Government under the Public Order Act 1986. The Home Secretary does not have the direct power to prohibit a public procession; the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has the power to prohibit public processions under Section 13 of the Act. Before this power can be used, they must reasonably believe that the power to impose conditions under Section 12 of the Act would not be sufficient to prevent serious public disorder, and must obtain the consent of the Secretary of State. I am afraid that those are questions that would be better addressed to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

Motion agreed.

House adjourned at 6.31 pm.