Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown contributions to the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019

Mon 11th June 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Commons Chamber)
2nd reading: House of Commons
Money resolution: House of Commons
23 interactions (1,775 words)

Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
(Money resolution: House of Commons)
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Excerpts
Monday 11th June 2018

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Home Office
Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Hansard
11 Jun 2018, 5:49 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman is right to make that point. Some people have already made similar comments, but clearly that is not the intention behind the Bill, and there are safeguards in place. I welcome his overall support for the Bill. This is why it is important to debate these issues and for Parliament to come to a collective decision. I am quite open to ideas from parliamentarians, and perhaps in Committee we can look more closely at these provisions to ensure that we have the balance right.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Portrait Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con) - Hansard
11 Jun 2018, 4:34 p.m.

I can tell my right hon. Friend that he has my wholehearted support for the Bill. It is one thing to go after the people who are looking at terrorist material online, but it is another thing under clause 4 to go after people who are publishing it online. Surely, what we really need to do is get this material offline as quickly as possible. Will the Bill do anything to shut down the internet providers that allow such material to be put online?

Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Hansard

I will give my hon. Friend two responses. First, he may know that the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is looking separately at the whole issue of internet safety and potential legislation, which I am sure he will discuss with the House at the right time. Secondly, I was in silicon valley just last week to meet all the big internet and communications companies. While recognising that they have done a lot to remove terrorist content, especially in the past year, there is still a lot more that can be done. Those efforts will continue beyond the Bill, and given the meetings that the US Homeland Security Secretary and I have had with those companies, I hope that we will be able to announce in due course further measures that they will take to do just that.

Break in Debate

Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Hansard
11 Jun 2018, 6:04 p.m.

To be absolutely clear, what the right hon. Gentleman referred to as the three clicks approach—let us call it the multiple viewing approach—is absolutely the right one, which is why it is in the Bill. From the discussions that I and the Minister for Security and Economic Crime have already had with colleagues on both sides of the House, I think that it commands a wide body of support in the House, and that will of course be tested during the passage of the Bill.

The wider issues of internet regulation—those applying not just to terrorist content, but to child sexual exploitation, serious violence, gang violence and such offences—and the collective harms of some internet content are together being looked at by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, and I believe that a consultation is going on at the moment. That is the right place to look at those issues, because the kind of regulation mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman is not covered by the Bill.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Portrait Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown - Hansard
11 Jun 2018, 6:05 p.m.

I am very sorry to labour this point with my right hon. Friend, but one of the most critical aspects of defeating terrorism is getting this content off the internet as quickly as possible. Surely, a voluntary approach is better than a legislative one, so can he give the House any information from his private meetings with the internet companies? After all, Google, Facebook and others have some of the cleverest IT writers on the planet, so they should surely be able to take down this stuff almost before anybody notices it.

Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Hansard
11 Jun 2018, 6:06 p.m.

As my hon. Friend knows, because I have already said it, I met the companies he has mentioned and others last week. This was the only topic that we discussed: the meetings were very focused on terrorist content on the internet. He is right to point out that, through voluntary action and persuasion, a lot has already been achieved, and all these companies understand that legislation has not been ruled out.

My hon. Friend asked me to say a bit more about some of the newer work that the companies are doing, but I hesitate to do so. That sort of thing should be announced at the right time, because it requires international co-ordination. There is a lot more work, and I will say that a lot more effort is going into the use of both machine learning and artificial intelligence to deal with this very important issue. I must now make progress, because a number of Members wish to speak in this debate.

The Bill will extend the ability of police and prosecutors to bring charges for terrorist offences that are committed overseas. It is not of course for the law enforcement agencies in this country to police the world, but if someone travels from the UK and commits a terrorist offence abroad, it is right that they are brought to justice if they return here. This is already the case for many terrorist offences, but there are a few gaps in the coverage. That is why the Bill extends the jurisdiction of the UK courts to cover further terrorist offences that are committed abroad, including the dissemination of terrorist publications and the possession of explosives for the purposes of an act of terrorism.

Break in Debate

Ms Diane Abbott Portrait Ms Abbott - Hansard
11 Jun 2018, 6:23 p.m.

I said quite clearly that we would seek to review it. We could not at this point press the pause button, but the data we have about the effectiveness of deradicalisation programmes and what we know about how Prevent is regarded in some parts of the community means that we would want to review it.

One of the most worrying aspects of the Bill is the creation of powers of detention, interrogation, search or seizure without any suspicion whatever of crime, but simply while people are crossing borders. That is to treat anyone, British citizen or not, as a potential terrorist simply in the act of crossing the border. Such powers should be granted only with due care. All inhibitions on the rights of the citizen by the state must be based on evidence or reasonable grounds for suspicion. They must be subject to challenge—[Interruption.] I hope the House will allow me to conclude my remarks. If suspicion-free detention, interrogation and search is allowed, then it cannot be challenged. If there is no basis for challenge, there is likely to be no basis for detention. How does that accord with the Government’s claim to be building a new, global Britain?

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Portrait Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown - Hansard
11 Jun 2018, 6:25 p.m.

The director general of MI5, Andrew Parker, said in a speech in October last year that the ongoing terrorist threat was operating at a scale and pace we have not seen before. Does the right hon. Lady’s party support the Bill in principle or not?

Ms Diane Abbott Portrait Ms Abbott - Hansard
11 Jun 2018, 6:25 p.m.

I think I have said three times that we broadly support the Bill in principle, but we are Her Majesty’s Opposition and we are entitled to set out our reservations on Second Reading.

There is much in the Bill about increasing sentences for terrorism-related activity. I say seriously to the Home Secretary that he also needs to look at what more could be done to guard against radicalisation in prison. A certain amount has been done in trying to separate imams and so on from other prisoners, but the fact is that too many young men not of a Muslim background get caught up in extremist ideology while behind bars. We cannot continue to have a situation where people emerge from prison more radicalised than when they went in.

Break in Debate

Sir John Hayes Portrait Mr John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con) - Hansard
11 Jun 2018, 6:30 p.m.

Terrorism blights lives and in some cases, of course, it takes lives. We have already heard from Members on both sides of the House about the appalling events of the last year, and they will be in all our minds as we debate these measures. The right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) was right to focus on the events in Manchester, not because any terrorist event is greater or less than any other, but because of the chilling image of those children, which she rightly focused on in her remarks.

Terrorism is not just about the people whose lives are lost. All of us are affected by it, including those who are related to the people who died, those in their communities, those in the wider network of people who came into contact with these events—the emergency services have been mentioned—and others. All of us are a little diminished, are we not, when these things happen in our country? Fear is spread. Doubt is fuelled. That is part of the terrorists’ aim, of course: to intimidate us, change us and frighten us. It is right to say that in our response, we must be mindful of the need to retain the freedoms that terrorists seek to extinguish. Nevertheless, it is equally true that we must ensure that we are well equipped to deal with terrorists as they change their modus operandi.

There are two things that have altered most about terrorism in recent times. The first is the terrorists’ ability to communicate their message using modern methods—to proselytise, to convert, to recruit. They do that by messages and images, and modern media is such that it can be done much more easily than in years gone by. They are ruthless and merciless in the way they go about that business. When I was the Home Office Minister responsible for security, I was well aware of the good work that is done in Government to deal with that, but it is a constant challenge. Every day images are put up, and every day they are countered or we aim to get them taken off the internet. They only have to be there for a very short time to have their effect, or their possible effect, as they are digested by vulnerable people.

The right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington also talked about the young people who are referred to the Prevent strategy, and I want to return to that in a moment. Young people, in particular, are at the greatest risk. They are impressionable and vulnerable. They may simply be lonely and in need, and the terrorist acts much like any other kind of social or cultural predator. They recruit by corrupting. They seek to own that young person, and once they own them, they direct them with wicked purpose. There are parallels with other kinds of corruption. People are recruited in the same way by sexual predators: they are groomed. We know this from evidence that has been brought before the House, from the work of Select Committees and from the Home Office.

The Secretary of State is absolutely right to say that it is both our responsibility and our duty to ensure that all those missions to keep young people and others safe are best equipped to do so not only by their training and skills, but also by the legislation that underpins their work. Successive Governments have recognised that over time. Indeed, it is a sad strength of this country that we have more experience of dealing with terrorism than most others, because of the events in Northern Ireland. That knowledge and understanding of terrorism has allowed us to develop skills that other countries do not always have—as I said, it is a matter of sadness that we should have had to do so. None the less, those skills have to be updated and refined over time, for the other principal change in terrorism is that terrorists have become more flexible.

Countering terrorism is largely about trying to anticipate events. The Contest strategy is about prevention—it is about anticipation as well as response—and anticipating events is, in essence, rooted in the idea that patterns of behaviour and likely courses of action can be measured. When terrorists become less predictable, they are harder to counter, and they have become less predictable over time as the more recent terror events show. For example, let us take the use of vehicles as a weapon—it sounds pretty straightforward, does it not? It is horrible, of course, in its effect. Vehicles are routine things that can be obtained without too much fuss or bother, and once someone knows that they merely need a vehicle rather than a bomb, they know that they can go about their deadly business, as we saw in Westminster and elsewhere. That additional flexibility—that new approach by the terrorists—requires laws that are fit for purpose and which allow us to respond to the changing character of terrorism. That is what has been brought before the House today.

I was pleased as a Minister to bring the Investigatory Powers Bill—now the Investigatory Powers Act 2016—to the House. It was very challenging because, of course, questions were asked about it. The right hon. Lady spoke about scrutiny and the role of the Opposition. She knows that the Opposition and I worked very closely together on that Bill. The Government made key changes as the Bill made its way through the House, because we recognised that part of the Opposition’s role is to challenge and oblige Government to question themselves about the appropriateness of various aspects of what they are proposing. We ended up with a good piece of legislation, which has further enabled the security services and police to go about their business in respect not just of terrorism, but of serious organised crime. This Bill is very much in the same spirit. It updates the legislative basis on which our security services and the police can do their work by recognising the changes in the pattern of behaviour of those we face.

The Secretary of State went through the details of the legislation—I have it all here, but to do so again would both be tedious and, I suspect, would test your patience, Mr Deputy Speaker, given the overture at the beginning of the debate that many wanted to speak and none should do so for too long.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Portrait Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown - Hansard
11 Jun 2018, 6:37 p.m.

My right hon. Friend has talked about terrorist methods continually changing. Did not the situation in Northern Ireland tell us that we needed constantly to update our legislation, often by emergency legislation, to keep one step ahead of the terrorists?

Sir John Hayes Portrait Mr Hayes - Hansard
11 Jun 2018, 6:38 p.m.

Yes, that did happen, but I would go as far as to say—reflecting what Andrew Parker said—that the scale of what we now face and its character is unprecedented in modern times. I am cautious about being too definitive about these things, because it is never wise to be so, but I defer to the man who runs MI5, who is closest to these matters. I think that we are facing new challenges of the kind that we have never really seen before. To go back to my earlier remarks, when we think of Irish terrorism, there was, for the most part, a degree of predictability, and the key difference with terrorism then was that most of the terrorists did not want to risk their own lives. They wanted to save the lives of the operatives. That is a fundamental difference from the sort of terrorism that we have seen in more recent years. There are also differences in the command structure of terrorism in Ireland compared with what we now face. Many of the terrorists that we seek to counter, and which this legislation addresses, are people who have been radicalised in their own home. They are inspired by rather than part of an organised network. Given what I said about the availability of weapons, in that a vehicle can be a weapon, one can imagine the damage that an inspired terrorist, possibly unknown to the security services and police until they commit the act, might do.

Break in Debate

John Howell Portrait John Howell (Henley) (Con) - Hansard
11 Jun 2018, 7:21 p.m.

Since this is the first time that I have seen you since the weekend, Madam Deputy Speaker, may I start by congratulating you on your damehood? I am sure that it is much deserved.

The Bill follows up on the 2017 Queen’s Speech and reviews our approach to counter-terrorism. Its specific purpose is to amend certain terrorism offences to update them for the digital age, to reflect contemporary patterns of radicalisation and to close gaps. I will comment first on the potential for the prison system to add to radicalisation. I am a member of the Justice Committee, and we have never made a prison visit without raising the question of the radicalisation of prisoners, which is everywhere in the prison system. The prison officers we speak to are trying their best to deal with it, but there is great difference in the levels of success. The right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) was right to refer to the issue, which we ought to be taking seriously and considering carefully to ensure that everything is taken into account.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Portrait Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown - Hansard
11 Jun 2018, 7:23 p.m.

My hon. Friend knows that the Bill contains provisions to lengthen both the period that prisoners serve and the length of sentence for certain terrorist offences. Is he worried that that will mean that terrorists will serve more time in prison and have more time to radicalise other prisoners?

John Howell Portrait John Howell - Hansard
11 Jun 2018, 7:23 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend. In fact, in my notes for this debate I have written next to my previous point “so they will be more radicalised by spending more time in prison.” By extending prison sentences, we run the risk that prisoners will be more susceptible to the influences that will affect the radicalisation process. We need to address that matter in total from the beginning.

I was pleased to be able to intervene on the Home Secretary to get him to confirm that the Bill aims to reduce the risk from terrorism to the UK’s interests overseas. That fits in with the Contest strategy, to which the explanatory notes refer. I point to the UK’s enormous commercial interests in many parts of the world, including the middle east and Israel, that are under threat from terrorist activity. Those in Israel are under particular threat of terrorism from Lebanon. As we have discussed on many occasions, Hezbollah has long insisted that its military and non-military activities are indivisible. At the al-Quds Day rally this weekend, we saw the waving of flags of the alleged non-military wing of Hezbollah, but Hezbollah in its entirety meets the test for full proscription, which would then make it subject to the Bill. I wonder whether the Minister for Security and Economic Crime will refer to that in his summing up and mention whether an amendment to the Bill might proscribe the whole of Hezbollah. That would certainly send a strong message that, together with America, Canada and the Netherlands, we abhor terrorism in any form. It would also recognise that terrorist attacks on British interests overseas must be taken into account.

The Bill rightly points to the need to amend terrorist offences to update them for the digital age, as I said, and the need to then keep them updated. The reaction to terrorism is international, and if the Council of Europe convention on the prevention of terrorism is to mean anything, we need international co-operation and international action. If an individual commits a terrorist offence in a foreign country, they should be liable under UK law as if they had committed the offence in the UK. The explanatory notes refer to the Council of Europe’s convention, and I hope that this is last debate on this subject that does not mention the Council and its role in producing that convention. We are part of the Council of Europe—we were a founding member—and it plays an enormous role in sorting out such issues across Europe. Terrorism is a major subject for the Council of Europe, and during debates there I have been critical of the approach taken, for example, by the Belgian Government, who did not take the necessary steps to prevent terrorist activity on their own soil.

We can learn a lot from the international comparisons that we see at the Council of Europe, and I will provide a couple of examples. First, we could limit the finances of Daesh, which uses the internet to gain money and move it about. The Council has considered ways of preventing such movement. Secondly, the Council has considered cyber-attacks, which can have an enormous impact on the UK. A cyber-attack on an air traffic control system would cause absolute havoc, for example. I am also sure that everyone will agree with the Council of Europe’s “Terrorism: #NoHateNoFear” campaign.

In many ways, the opening paragraphs of the convention on the prevention of terrorism anticipate what is in the Bill, stating that no terrorist act can be justified by

“political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious”

considerations—there are no excuses for terrorism. Whatever the purpose behind an act of terrorism, we must ensure that we respect the rule of law, democracy and human rights, because otherwise we become just like the terrorists. That is a difficult thing for western democracies to do, but unless we do it, we are no better than the terrorists, and I hope we are considerably better than them.

We cannot do away with the values we hold dear in order to fight terrorism. The convention on the prevention of terrorism makes much of the need for international co-operation, and it encourages the public to provide factual help. I commend the Council of Europe’s excellent work to influence the sort of line we in the UK are taking in putting forward a strategy that is convincing in dealing with terrorism while having the necessary effect to make that help happen.

Break in Debate

Ed Davey Portrait Sir Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD) - Hansard
11 Jun 2018, 8:19 p.m.

I come to this debate wanting to be positive about attempts by the Government to give our police and security forces the powers that they need in the fight against terrorism and to balance that with the equal priority of ensuring that we do not hit our civil liberties and therefore give the terrorists a victory. Already we have heard how different aspects of this Bill will be judged by those tests.

No one who witnessed the horrors in London and Manchester last year can be in any doubt that we need to redouble our efforts to protect the public. The evidence is clear, and the terrorist threat across the UK remains severe. With that threat morphing into a diverse range of threats, including people acting alone, and with the numbers involved increasing, if anything, the terrorist threat for our security forces and the police is probably the most difficult it has ever been.

Liberal Democrats will not, at this early stage, seek to oppose this Bill, but Ministers and those watching this debate should not take that as agreement, in full or in part, to these proposed laws. We need to scrutinise the Bill to make sure that we get the balance right. It is already clear from this debate that there are serious questions whether some of these proposed laws are necessary, whether they are properly based on sound evidence and whether there are sufficient safeguards to prevent their being abused against totally innocent citizens. The Government may have a job in persuading this House and the other place that these measures should pass totally unamended in the form that we see them tonight.

In considering yet another piece of terrorism legislation, the House should recall the opinion of the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Max Hill, when he was appointed just over a year ago. He said that he thought that the UK had sufficient offences in the fight against terrorism and that we did not need any more. In a speech in October last year, he said:

“I would suggest that our legislators have provided for just about every descriptive action in relation to terrorism, so we should pause before rushing to add yet more offences to the already long list.”

In his early comments on this Bill, he has gone on to say that

“the Counter-Terrorism Bill does not contain a single new terrorist offence.”

This assessment may seem at odds with what Ministers have sought to persuade the House that they are doing and with complaints by organisations such as Liberty. How Max Hill squares this circle is quite important. He believes that the Bill is only clarifying what is meant by existing offences. Let us see in debate whether it is simply a clarification or whether we are creating new offences.

Clause 3, which is about obtaining or viewing material over the internet, brings in the three click rule that we talked about earlier. The question for the House is whether we think that the line between committing a criminal offence punishable by years in prison is one extra click of a mouse, such that someone moves from innocent at two clicks to guilty at three. There is good reason for the House to scrutinise this, because it is about the intention behind the clicks as opposed to the clicks themselves.

On one level, it might seem reasonable to question the motives of someone who continually looks at violence and hate-inciting material. But what if the intention of that person was never one of pursuing actual terrorism? Perhaps they were a journalist; we have heard that there are protections for journalists. What if the person was so shocked and appalled by the material that they were drawn to look at it again, in their disapproval? We need to make sure that genuinely innocent people are not caught. I was quite pleased by the way that the Home Secretary responded to that point, because it did appear that he was open to genuine scrutiny of it. That is very welcome.

We need to make sure that we abide by the normal ways in which we approach free speech. We usually criminalise free speech only if there is an intention to promote harm, violence and hatred, or to carry out terrorist acts as a result of viewing the material. There is potentially a danger that this proposal crosses a line, so we need to look at it in detail.

In my early reading of these proposals, I have had a few other concerns. The hon. Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster) talked about how important biometric data can be, and he is absolutely right. However—he touched on this in a very thoughtful speech—there are issues of innocent people’s biometric data being retained, such as people who have never committed a crime or people who have been unlawfully or wrongly arrested. Should their DNA—their biometric data—be kept by the police? Possibly for a short period, but what will be the rules on checking that their civil liberties and rights are not constrained and that that biometric data is disposed of in a correct and verifiable way when it is clear that they have nothing to do with any such crimes?

I am not just worried about civil liberties in this regard; I am also worried about the impact on the Government’s negotiations for an EU-UK security partnership should Brexit actually happen. Ministers will know, whether from debates over the general data protection regulation or recent European Court of Justice rulings, that the UK may struggle to get an adequacy agreement from the Commission. The recent immigration data exemption from data rights such as subject access requests are very likely—rightly, to my mind—to be sounding alarm bells at the Commission. Yet it is super-vital to our fight against terrorism and against organised crime, vital for this country’s security, that the data flows between the UK and the rest of the EU, whether the data relates to the work of Europol, Prüm, ECRIS—the European criminal records information system—or the Schengen information system II. I am not sure whether the Government, with all the different things they are doing in this area, are presenting a very strong case to our EU colleagues. Will keeping the DNA of innocent EU citizens help our case for an adequacy agreement? Will the Minister say whether an assessment has been made of how this Bill will affect the UK’s chances of securing this vital adequacy agreement, so that we can keep those data flows going to get these wicked people?

My concern about safeguards relates to the way in which the Home Office often operates. In Westminster Hall this coming Wednesday, there will be a debate about section 22, paragraph 5 of the immigration rules, whereby they are used to refuse leave to remain in this country on the basis that the applicant is somehow a threat to national security. This immigration rule has been used when applicants have committed minor tax offences—conduct that was not foreseen when Parliament gave the Home Office these powers. When we debate new rules and new powers for officials, we have to make sure that there are safeguards so that they are not used for unintended purposes.

Let me move on to the Contest, or Prevent, strategy. The Home Secretary seemed rather complacent that all was well with this strategy. When we look at the perception and experience of some people, we might think that expanding referral rights to local authorities seems a terribly modest measure—I know that the Security Minister thinks so—but the question is, how it will be perceived? Although I am sure that the Minister believes that the measure is harmless, if it is based on the assumption that there are many communities out there who think that Prevent is fine, that is an incorrect assumption. For many communities, rightly or wrongly, Prevent is a flawed programme. As I said to the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), this may be a matter of perception.

I absolutely accept that there are many successful individual projects and areas of work within the Prevent programme. No one can deny that. However, a long list of organisations inside and outside this House have pointed to how Prevent has alienated at least some communities. We should think about that before we act. The Home Affairs Committee has warned about this, as have the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the National Union of Teachers, Muslim community associations and the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. All these people have expressed worries about how the Prevent programme is seen. Given those widely held concerns, I am surprised that the Government are choosing this moment to expand the programme.

Surely it would be far better to restore confidence and trust before involving people’s local council. Many of us would support an independent review of the Prevent strategy, as the shadow Home Secretary said, and I hoped that the Government’s Commission for Countering Extremism might lead on that. I hope that the Government will reflect on that matter further before pursuing it.

There are clauses in the Bill that one really welcomes, such as clause 19, through which the Government are attempting to improve the system of insurance against terrorist acts. We have heard other Members comment on that. I want the Minister to look specifically at the problems that small businesses and larger businesses involved in hiring and leasing vans and cars are getting into. This is a real concern for them, and I know they are lobbying the Treasury on it. After relatively recent changes in the law, those businesses face unlimited liability if the person who rented or leased a van goes on to use it to commit a terrorist act. Because of the unlimited liability, those businesses’ insurers are saying, “We’re not going to insure you.” If a whole sector is hit because it cannot get insurance, that is a huge problem for our whole economy and society. There may be industry and private sector solutions—I am told that there may be a mutual arrangement in the sector—but if that does not work out, the Bill may be a vehicle to tackle that problem, so that terrorists cannot undermine our economy indirectly in that way.

The last measures I would like to talk about are clauses 1 and 2. As we have heard, clause 1 extends the existing offence of inviting support for a proscribed organisation, so that a person commits that offence if they show support for a proscribed organisation and are reckless in that expression of support. I intervened on the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) on the issue of recklessness, but he may have misunderstood me; he is not in his place, so he cannot respond. Clearly the concept of recklessness exists in law at the moment and is used particularly in relation to the actions that he cited. However, even judging whether people have behaved recklessly in physical acts of violence is pretty controversial, because it is not seen as terribly objective. Different interpretations of recklessness in relation to physical violence—the Caldwell and Cunningham versions—have been found by the courts. That test is much more difficult when applied to speech. If it is subjective with respect to actions, its subjectivity in terms of speech and the impact of that speech on other people seems very difficult to measure. We will have to look at that in some detail.

Clause 2 relates to how clothing might be linked to a proscribed organisation. My concern is how general the clause is. The Minister will know that there are 88 proscribed organisations. I think all of us would be extremely worried if people were going around with flags and encouraging people to join some of those organisations, but when was that list last looked at?

I will give one example from Sri Lanka that may be controversial among some Members. I think the last Labour Government were wrong to proscribe the LTTE, or the Tamil Tigers. It has committed some horrific acts and atrocities—there is no doubt about that—but it was involved in what many people regard as a civil war. In this country there are British Tamils who have become refugees and Sri Lankan asylum seekers who support the aims of the Tamil Tigers, but not its methods, and for them, it is a political movement. I have met young Tamils living in the UK who wear T-shirts bearing one of the emblems of the Tamil Tigers, which is a roaring tiger head with two rifles. I have refused their kind offer of such a T-shirt and have not worn one, but I do not think their offer of a T-shirt should be punishable by a prison term. Does the Minister think that wearing such a T-shirt of a proscribed organisation will result in the arrest of those people? Will individuals wearing clothing with Tamil Tiger emblems put their liberty in danger if the Bill is passed?

Those are the sorts of question we will have to subject the Bill to as it is debated. I know the Minister is a reasonable and thoughtful man who will want to avoid unintended consequences and injustices, and perhaps he will be able to satisfy us on the concerns we have raised this evening.

In concluding, I would simply like to quote from a letter to The Times last year signed by leaders of the legal professions and organisations such as Liberty and JUSTICE. They wrote:

“Suggestions made before the general election, that human rights prevent the police fighting terrorism, are misguided…Human rights exist to protect us all. Weakening human rights laws will not make us safer. Terrorists cannot take away our freedoms—and we must not do so ourselves.”

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Portrait Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con) - Hansard
11 Jun 2018, 8:34 p.m.

Thank you for allowing me to catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker. As this is the first speech I have made in the House since your colleague, the right hon. Member for Epping Forest (Dame Eleanor Laing), received her damehood, may I, in her absence from the Chair, pay tribute to her?

There is nothing more important or more serious for this House to discuss than terrorist issues, because the terrorist seeks to destroy the fundamental rights enshrined in democracy by undemocratic means, which we must do all in our power to prevent.

Before I get on to the Bill, I want to address the comments made by the hon. Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson). I totally take to heart what he said about the glorification of terrorist acts once they are, as it is called, time-expired. If I were a member of a family who had lost victims in terrorist incidents, I would feel utterly sick, and I hope that he will succeed in his aim of somehow amending the Bill to prohibit that practice. In saying that, I take to heart what he said about excesses by our military, but I think we owe it to the military—I do not suppose that this will form part of the Bill—to limit the time when a member of our armed forces can be prosecuted for events that took place while serving in a military campaign, including in Northern Ireland. I hope that the Government will somehow find a way to do that before too long.

As I mentioned in an intervention earlier, this debate takes place in the atmosphere that was described by Andrew Parker, the director general of MI5. On 17 October 2017, in a rare public speech by such an official, he described the ongoing terrorist threat as

“multi-dimensional, evolving rapidly, and operating at a scale and pace we’ve not seen”

from such threats. Indeed, in the year ending 31 December 2017, there were 412 arrests for terrorism-related offences in Great Britain, an increase of 58% on the 261 arrests in the previous year.

In his speech earlier, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said there have been 25 Islamic attacks since 2013, including four external plots since the Westminster atrocities. I therefore want to pay a sincere tribute to the police and the security and intelligence services, who often put their lives at risk in very difficult and dangerous circumstances to keep us all safe, and they do a terrific job. As if that were not enough, we then had the horrific attack on Yulia and Sergei Skripal, and indeed Sergeant Nick Bailey, on 12 March. Following those attacks, the Prime Minister announced on 14 March that, as part of a response to that incident, the Government would

“urgently develop proposals for new legislative powers to harden our defences against all forms of hostile state activity”.—[Official Report, 14 March 2018; Vol. 637, c. 856.]

I will move on to one or two of the provisions in the Bill. The first is the provision to make a temporary exclusion order to disrupt and control the return to the UK of British citizens reasonably suspected of being involved in terrorism abroad. As we have heard in the recent exchanges, that is a very difficult offence to prove, and it is clear to me that it needs tightening up. It is also clear to me that, where there is intelligence or other evidence that people have deliberately travelled abroad to take part in terrorist training or atrocities, they deserve to be prosecuted when they come back.

I was quite attracted to the idea of proscribed areas. Why would anybody want to go to Syria, for example, and put their life at risk, unless it was for a specific valid reason such as being a journalist or overseas aid worker? There is a defence in the Bill of having a reasonable excuse for having travelled to these areas, and I am very pleased to hear that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is considering such a provision as a possible amendment to the Bill.

I am also pleased that the Bill contains provisions to be inserted into the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 relating to anti-terrorism traffic regulation orders—the so-called ATTROs. As we have so sadly witnessed in the Westminster attack and others elsewhere, an ordinary car, van or lorry can be a weapon in the hands of a terrorist. The ability to prevent people from being in certain areas at certain times is a sensible one to have. In fact, we should be able to ban traffic from a wider area around any events that are likely to be attended by large numbers of people.

I was pleased to see that the Bill will extend sentences for certain terrorist offences from 10 years to 15 years, and that the sentence actually served will be longer than the norm for non-terrorist offences. As I said in an intervention on my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (John Howell), however, we will have to watch radicalisation in our prisons. I know from hearings of the Public Accounts Committee that conditions in our prisons are getting ever more difficult, including the smuggling in of more dangerous drugs and understaffing. It is very difficult to police what goes on in our prisons, but our prison warders and others have to be ever more vigilant for radicalisation taking place in our prisons, and we must do our level best to try to prevent it.

I am also pleased that the Bill contains provisions for allowing Government-backed reinsurance, so-called Pool Re, to be taken out for business interruption. Sadly, some of the small market traders in Borough were put out of business because they were unable to trade for so long.

I made several interventions earlier on the subject that I wish to concentrate on in my final remarks—terrorists’ use of the internet. As has been said, the terrorists’ modus operandi is getting ever more fleet of foot and using ever more innovative methods. We as legislators, therefore, have to be ever more fleet on our feet to counter them. Terrorists are making still greater use of the internet, and we do not yet have the powers to deal with that. I take strongly to heart the point made by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that 1.9 million items of potential terrorist material have been removed from the internet—a 17% increase on last year. The use of the internet is clearly getting greater.

It has already been possible to prosecute people for downloading offences, but it has not been possible to prosecute people for streaming and viewing possible terrorist material on the internet. I know much has been said in the debate about the three strikes approach to viewing such material. A balance has to be struck. Personally, I would make it two views. While once might be a mistake, twice almost certainly is not, and three times establishes a pattern of behaviour that clearly indicates that someone is looking at the material with some form of purpose or intent. The Bill contains a “reasonable purpose” excuse, so a journalist or researcher looking at the material would have a reasonable excuse, but it is right to make looking at it an offence.

It is also right, as the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee is doing, to look at how the internet providers can remove such material as quickly as possible. There may well be a need to legislate if that does not happen with increasing rapidity. As I said in an intervention earlier, I cannot see why the likes of Google and Facebook, which have some of the best IT writers on the planet, cannot write programs or use AI to recognise such material and take it down immediately. After all, that is the best remedy, so that people do not have the opportunity to view it. It is all very well prosecuting when they do view it, but it must be best if they do not have the opportunity. I did not want to know the precise mechanisms, because of security implications, but I was interested to know what discussions my right hon. Friend had had with internet providers in the United States on what they could do on a voluntary basis to make the withdrawal of such material much swifter and much more effective.

There are some very important provisions in the Bill, which I welcome. We need to keep ahead of the terrorists. These are some of the most vile crimes on the planet, and we need to ensure that people who contravene the norms of our democratic society are prosecuted, convicted and locked up for a long time. We need to ensure that they know that that will happen, and hopefully that will be a deterrent.

Mr Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Jun 2018, 8:46 p.m.

The first duty of any state is to protect its citizens. Historically, this has meant protecting ourselves from other states. That is still relevant today, but increasingly the threat is from terrorism, whether generated here or internationally. Is that going to diminish in the near future? Not from the evidence I have seen.

I would like to begin by adding my thanks to the members of the security and emergency services who reacted so professionally to last year’s tragic events in Manchester and London. We should not forget that members of our police, security agencies and armed forces keep us safe 24 hours a day. We should not take that for granted. The reaction to such events tends to be to want more legislation, but Dave Anderson, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, got it right when he said that the necessary legislation already exists. The intention of the Bill is to tighten up existing legislation. I broadly welcome the provisions in it.

It is clear that radicalisation is taking place through the internet. Dissemination of propaganda is not new. In times past, it would been done through pamphlets, books and meetings. In the 1790s, sedition Acts targeted radicals who argued for revolution from France. Throughout history, Governments have introduced various Acts to try to stop the spread of terrorism and what has been perceived to be radical thoughts against the interests of their citizens.

The situation today is rather different. Online radicalisation is not something we can put our hands on—we cannot put our hands on a book or a pamphlet; we cannot close down a meeting—and it is an international global phenomenon. The access point is relatively low. Sophisticated equipment is not needed to produce a video and upload it. It can be done using a smartphone or even a simple watch on one’s wrist. That is very different from what we talked about in relation to the Terrorism Act 2000. That shows the rate of change. It is right for the Government to react to this type of threat and to the changing way in which this type of radicalisation and propaganda is being put out there.

Another side to this issue, which is not covered in the Bill, although it would be interesting to know what the Government are considering, is terror and finance. I know the Government have taken some steps, but if we look at the open source literature, we see that the dark net is being used to raise money for terrorism organisations and organised crime. This is an area seen to be beyond the reach of law enforcement. In terms of extending that reach, I support the proposal in the Bill for extra-territorial reach to enable actions to be brought against those who radicalise individuals from overseas. This has been an issue. Those returning from Syria, Iraq and other places have been using that so-called safe haven to put out propaganda deliberately aimed at vulnerable people to ensure that they can be radicalised and to incite acts of terrorism here. The change in the Bill that allows those individuals to be prosecuted is right.

Many people who know me know that I am not a bleeding-heart liberal on this subject, but I am a bit concerned about some things in the Bill. There are two issues. First, are the measures practically going to make a difference? Secondly, will they give the opponents not just of this Bill, but of counter-terrorism legislation generally, a club with which to beat the Government? I think the Government have given them that on the viewing of online material, in terms of the three views. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) said, it would be illegal for someone to view something three times, but it would not be illegal, for example, for Google or another provider to host the material. The problem I have is not necessarily about whether this needs to be looked at—I think it does. However, it comes down to proportionality and whether there is the capability so that this does not overwhelm our security services and police. Clearly, if someone is viewing things on a regular basis and we can build up a picture of what they are doing, we need to have legislation or measures to take against them.

I give credit to the former Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd), for her efforts to try to get internet providers to take such material down in the first place. Hon. Members have spoken in this debate about artificial intelligence and other ways in which this may be done at a quicker pace in future—although sometimes we might want it to stay up longer, so that we can find out who is producing it. However, I want to ask the Government: how is this part of the legislation practically going to make a difference? If it is, the Government will have my 100% support for it, but I think it will be a diversion for campaigners against this entire Bill, which would be unfortunate. The right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey) is not in his place, but he talked about the issue of intent, and this is about intent. If someone is clearly downloading or sharing information that is already illegal on a regular basis, it is quite right that they are prosecuted, but I just wonder what practical effect the measures will have and whether we have the resources to police this or enact it in the first place.

I want to touch on a couple of other areas in the Bill. One is the management of those convicted of terrorism offences. Many of my constituents would think that if someone has been convicted of terrorism, they should stay in jail for life, never being released, but we know that that is just not practical. The Bill highlights an important point, which is how we manage these individuals once they have served their sentence. I asked the Home Secretary in an intervention earlier whether this would be done in the same way as it is, for example, for sex offenders who are released and monitored in the community, and he said yes. If that is the case, that is a good model, but it is expensive. If we are going to have that type of monitoring—I know it is effective and I know about the good cross-working in my area between the probation service and the local police— I just want to be sure that we have the necessary resources at local level. These individuals will need monitoring in some cases and that will be necessary and right if we are to protect our citizens. Therefore, I welcome that provision, but only with the proper resources at local level to be able to do it.

I support the provisions in the Bill that refer to Channel panels from local authorities. At the moment, the police can make referrals, but many individuals come into contact with other agencies, and there should be a mechanism for referring them to Prevent programmes. My only caveat is that training or some resource has to be provided for local authorities and others to ensure that they understand exactly how the system works.

We debated the entire Prevent programme earlier, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) said that it did not have support in certain communities. I recognise that. It is partly down to a sustained campaign by certain organisations to discredit it. I am not opposed to reviewing the situation, but what would we put in its place? There is a lot of talk about the Asian community, but people involved in potential acts of right-wing terrorism are also referred to Prevent. I congratulate the Government on their new emphasis on right-wing terrorism. It is a growing problem not only in this country but across Europe. Some of the groups across Europe are certainly not benign and they commit acts of violence and terrorism not only against local Muslim populations and other minorities but to terrorise other individuals. What then would we put in place of Prevent? I have not heard anyone answer that. I agree with the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes). Things can always been improved, and we should always look for improvements, but what would we put in its place?

I am not sure how we tackle this, but I am concerned also about the old issue of vulnerable individuals in communities. At least one of the terrorist outrages last year had a mental health element. We need a mechanism for identifying and helping at-risk individuals who do not come into the orbit of a local authority or the health service. These are very vulnerable individuals whose minds can be preyed upon and used by people with bad intentions. I am not sure how we do that, but we do need to consider it.

On ports, I agree with the hon. Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson), who covered the problems very well. I see what the Minister is trying to do, but I cannot see the need for it. It is slapped under the label of state actors, and if it is to deal with that, it has my full support, but I take on board the hon. Gentleman’s points. A related matter, and one that raises issues of entry to and exit from this country, is that of closed subjects of interest. From what I have seen, Salman Abedi travelled in and out of this country without ever appearing on any radar screen. There is, then, an issue around monitoring closed subjects and others who could be a threat as they move between countries.

Finally, I want to mention something that is not in the Bill and on which I would welcome the Minister’s response. David Anderson made some very good recommendations in his report. Some were operational issues for the security services and police, but others were around the selling of precursors for explosives, such as fertilizers and peroxide, and the hiring of vehicles. Are the Government yet in a position to look at what David Anderson said about those matters? Will they present proposals to tighten the regulation or monitoring of people who buy the precursors of potential explosive devices, or to deal with issues relating to the hiring of vehicles, which were tragically used in some of the attacks that occurred in 2017?

I broadly welcome the Bill, but it clearly needs more scrutiny. I hope the legislation that eventually emerges is proportionate and, at the end of the day, effective, because that is what we all want. I do not think we will ever be able to prevent every single act of terrorism, but our aim must be to make such acts as hard as possible to commit.