I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This country faces significant threats to our national security. The first is the ongoing threat posed by terrorism to the safety and security of our communities and to the freedoms that we cherish as a nation. Another is the threat posed by hostile state activity, which we saw most recently in Salisbury.
As has been said many times before in this House, our police and intelligence agencies are unwavering in their commitment to protecting us and to keeping the country safe. They are ready to put their own lives on the line to help to save others. It is because of this commitment and professionalism that 25 Islamist terrorist attacks have been disrupted since 2013. Four extreme right-wing plots have also been foiled since the Westminster attack. But as we know all too well, there were five terrorist attacks last year. Thirty-six people were murdered, and many more are still grieving or coming to terms with life-changing injuries as a result of the terrorist atrocities in London and Manchester. We owe it to the victims and survivors to do our very best to prevent such attacks from happening again.
Of course, as Home Secretary, I do not want to offer false hope. No Home Secretary can guarantee that there will not be another terrorist attack on their watch. It is impossible for me to promise that there will not be more grieving parents, partners and children because of some senseless act of terrorist violence in the future. But what I can do as Home Secretary is to take a long, hard, forensic look at the powers available to the police, security services, prosecutors and judiciary, and to make sure that they have what they need, including powers to tackle the evolving threat to the UK from terrorism and from hostile state activity and powers to keep the public safe and protect our national security. This is what the wide-ranging Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill is all about; it is about keeping the people of this country safe.
My right hon. Friend used the term “wide-ranging”. Is not that the key thing? The legislation should be wide-ranging and flexible because those who wish this country and our fellow citizens ill are always trying to keep one step ahead of our rules and regulations. It is important to have the flexibility to ensure that all the tools that our agents need are available to them.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He and other hon. Members will see that much of this Bill is about updating existing powers to reflect the modern age—for example, some of the powers regarding the internet and online content.
This important piece of legislation will allow the police and MI5 to disrupt threats earlier and to ensure that our laws reflect modern use of the internet. It will change existing laws to manage terrorist offenders better and it will allow for more effective investigations. It will also give police more powers to investigate hostile state activity.
My right hon. Friend may be aware that, on the previous Bill dealing with the same subject matter, I tabled an amendment relating to terrorists coming from other countries. It said, in effect, that they should not be allowed back into this country and that measures should be taken. I know that the Security Minister is aware of this matter, and I do not want to go into it in detail, but I intend to table an amendment during the Committee stage. I would be grateful if it were given careful consideration because, relying on human rights legislation, far too many people are coming back into this country and then in a position to radicalise other people in the jails.
I know that my hon. Friend has taken a great interest in these matters for many years. I will listen carefully to anything he has to say on that issue and so will the Security Minister. I look forward to seeing any amendments that he tables.
In March, we saw the attempted assassination in Salisbury of Sergei Skripal using a deadly nerve agent. That also put his daughter Yulia, Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, and many others in danger, including the brave men and women in the national health service and our frontline officers, who did all they could at the scene. They have continued to do so in the weeks and months since and have worked hard to save the Skripals. The attack was highly likely to be the work of the Russian state—a conclusion that is shared by many of our international partners. They have joined the UK in demonstrating to the Russian Government that the actions that they take are undermining the rule of law and international norms, and have serious consequences.
The events in Salisbury are part of a pattern of behaviour by the Russian Government, and the Russians are of course not alone in engaging in hostile activity that threatens our United Kingdom. So it is high time that we hardened our defences against hostile state activity.
My right hon. Friend mentioned my constituent Nick Bailey, the police officer at Salisbury. Wiltshire police have been incredibly helpful to Nick and to his family, with whom I am liaising. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that he, his Department and Wiltshire police will continue to give Nick and his family all the support that they need, given the unique circumstances of the incident and the ramifications that he and his family have had from it?
I am happy to give my hon. Friend that assurance. I think that the whole House has commended Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey for what he did and how he put himself in the line of danger just doing his job—as I am sure he would put it. We will work with him, through Wiltshire police and others, to make sure that he gets all the support that he needs.
Given what the Home Secretary is saying about Russia’s attempts to undermine our society and engage in very hostile acts such as the one in Salisbury, will he say a little about the allegations that we have read about over the weekend in The Observer, The Sunday Times and elsewhere about other Russian attempts to potentially undermine parliamentary democracy and our democracy in this country? What steps is he taking to work with other Departments—notably the Treasury and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport—the Security Service and others to ensure that Russia is not attempting to influence and carry out potentially illegal activities in other areas?
The Cabinet Office is the Department responsible for overseeing elections and looking at allegations of that type. I know that it is taking this issue seriously. Alongside my Department, it is looking at intelligence and other information it is receiving. The two Departments are working closely together on this issue. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are taking it very seriously indeed.
It is because of hostile state activity that the Bill provides new powers to stop, question, search and detain people at ports, airports and the Northern Ireland border to determine whether they are spies or engaged in other types of hostile state activity. If it is confirmed that someone is a spy, they could be refused entry, deported or have other action taken against them. Those powers will of course be subject to strict safeguards and robust oversight to assure their proper use at all times.
Yes, I can confirm that. The powers in the Bill are designed to better protect us against all types of terrorist threats, including those from overseas, and against hostile state activity.
The other provisions in the Bill are about ensuring that we can respond more effectively to the changing terrorist threat. Part of that is arresting, prosecuting and convicting terrorists and imprisoning them for longer, as well as more rigorous management of those terrorists following their release from custody to prevent reoffending. The Bill will enable us to do all those things, in part by closing gaps in a number of existing terrorism offences.
Before the Home Secretary moves on, I just want to take him back to the issue of hostile states and checks on UK borders, including the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. Can he confirm what discussions he has had with the Police Service of Northern Ireland? We talk about no border and it being as frictionless as possible, but some checks do need to be carried out for national security and safety.
I have not had a discussion directly with the PSNI on this, but the Department has had discussions with our Northern Ireland counterparts, and I believe there have been discussions with the PSNI, to ensure that the measures we are taking, on the borders in particular, take into account the needs of Northern Ireland.
In particular, the Bill will help to stop terrorists exploiting the internet. We know that terrorists are using the internet and social media to spew out vile propaganda and to call on others to follow their murderous lead. We know that online platforms are being used to spread hate and to try to recruit more people to join the ranks, and we know that people are being rapidly radicalised via the web. That is why the Bill includes measures to combat what is happening online as well as offline. For instance, the Bill will make it a criminal offence to display a terrorist flag online, in the same way that it is already a criminal offence to march down the high street waving one to show support for a terrorist organisation.
Provisions in the Bill will also make it easier to tackle those who stream or repeatedly view extremist material online. At the moment, if someone downloads a bomb-making video from the internet, they are committing a criminal offence. However, if they watch the same video by streaming it, they could escape prosecution. That is not right. The Bill criminalises the repeated viewing or streaming of terrorist material online, which will close the loophole that allows some people to watch gruesome propaganda without any fear of prosecution. The Bill will mean that people who repeatedly view terrorist content online could face up to 15 years behind bars.
The Home Secretary will know that I share his strong belief in taking strong action against the terrorist threat, but I am concerned about the wording of clause 3 and some of the other clauses. Would the clause apply if, for example, I streamed or watched on YouTube a National Action video? The Select Committee has been taking action to try to get its video removed. If, in the process of pursuing and pressurising YouTube to get the National Action video taken down, members of the Home Affairs Committee watched the video more than three times, would that mean we were guilty of a criminal offence? I can tell him that it was certainly left up there for rather more than three times and we were forced to watch it.
That is an important question from the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, and I want to be clear in my response. This would not apply in the circumstances that she describes. The objective is clearly to find and punish those with terrorist intent. There will be a reasonable excuse defence, as there is for other laws, for those who have a legitimate use; the right hon. Lady gave one example, but it could apply to academics, journalists or news organisations. That defence will exist.
Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), I support many of these measures, but why is it three times? I accept the definition in terms of academic research, a journalist or the case of the Home Affairs Committee, but what happens, for example, if a teenager or someone with mental health problems watches a video more than three times? Do they automatically fall into this category, or does the reasonableness test apply?
The objective is to allow for the fact that it is quite possible for someone to accidentally come across such a video, be curious and watch it one time and perhaps a second time. I am not pretending that there is something magical about the number three. This is an attempt to capture repeated viewing, which may suggest that the intent is not innocent. Of course, should the Bill become an Act of Parliament and someone is prosecuted under this law, that decision would be made by the police, based on evidence and working with the Crown Prosecution Service. As with other criminal offences of this type, the CPS would use its judgment to decide whether it is in the public interest to prosecute.
I am just intrigued why it is three times and whether this always has to be done in context. Clearly, if it is part of a pattern of behaviour and someone is watching not just one video three times but a series of videos, that is different but, if we are not careful, some opponents of the Bill will highlight the fact that anyone who watches such a video three times will necessarily get prosecuted, which I know is not the Home Secretary’s intention.
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.
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?
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.
It is not an offence for internet companies to stream such material under UK law—currently—and the Bill will not have an impact on that. That said, as I mentioned a moment ago in response to my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds (Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown), the Government, led by DCMS, are separately looking at what further internet safety measures may need to be taken.
The Home Secretary is being very generous in giving way. He mentioned that social media providers have taken lots of action, but it is my understanding that the Metropolitan police have asked for 400 videos to be taken off YouTube that are essentially about incitement to violence. Is this Bill not an appropriate vehicle to provide a power for all police authorities to compel social media providers to take down videos that are about incitement to violence?
The hon. Gentleman mentioned YouTube, and I think—if I remember the number correctly—that it has removed something like 300,000 pieces of terrorist material. There is, however, a lot more that needs to be done not just by YouTube, but by many other internet companies. There is already an ability for the Government or, more likely, the police and other trusted organisations to flag up certain content on the internet, whether videos, stills or other types of content. So far this year, we are seeing a marked improvement in the speed with which that content is being taken down. In many cases, it is being taken down within the hour.
The hon. Gentleman may be interested to know that what has also grown considerably in relation to taking down content is the use of machine learning—trying to have the right algorithms to take down content much more quickly. For example, Facebook removed some 1.9 million pieces of content in the first quarter of this year, which is up some 70% on the same quarter of last year. In many cases, the content is being removed within minutes, and in some cases it can be stopped even before it is uploaded.
Further to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Neil Coyle), I was very concerned to hear, when the companies appeared before the Home Affairs Committee, that they are not routinely searching even for the basic list of all proscribed organisations. I accept that some of this is stuff is in quite a grey territory and may sometimes not be picked up by machine learning, but one would expect that they, at a very basic level, would be searching for the names of proscribed organisations. I have found multiple examples of such content, including from Northern Irish terrorist organisations and others, on all these platforms that is not being removed even by the most basic checks. Why can we not compel the companies to do this?
The hon. Gentleman makes another good point in this debate. He is right to say that many leading internet organisations were not searching for proscribed organisations, or certainly not for all of them. So far this year, however, there has certainly been a significant improvement. We are monitoring this ourselves, and we are in constant dialogue with those companies. I am not going to pretend that every single one of them is doing that now, but there has been a huge improvement.
I am slightly confused about the Government’s direction of travel. I think that there is quite widespread support across the House for action against the people publishing this material, to get it before it is put up. The Government are clearly looking at that, and if they come forward with such measures, they would be welcomed. However, the Home Secretary has said of the provisions in the Bill that the Government are not sure that the three clicks approach is right because it could catch innocent people. Is it not more advisable to focus on what would actually work, solve the problem at the root cause and get support from across the House?
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.
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.
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.
Why has the Home Secretary decided not to include the Australian scheme using the declared area offence, whereby Australia deems it illegal for people to travel to certain designated terror hotspots, such as Iraq and Syria? The Minister for Security and Economic Crime has been looking at this for some time, yet it is not part of the Bill.
The hon. Gentleman mentions the Australian extraterritorial offence that has been created, and I am looking at just that. There is a bit more work to do, and it is not as straightforward as it might sound. If it is to become a legislative proposal, I obviously want to make sure that we have considered it properly. If I am persuaded by it and we can complete the work in time, I intend to bring that forward as a Government amendment to the Bill.
The Home Secretary has my support on the thrust of the Bill. However, on matters such as the one that has just been raised, will he assure me that he will ensure there are exemptions and defences for quite legitimate purposes? For example, we do not want to get into arguments about whether an aid worker has crossed a particular line when they are in an area for purposes that none of us would view as criminal.
Yes, I absolutely give my hon. Friend that assurance. As with many of these types of measures, there is always the need to consider what I would call a reasonable excuse defence.
Once we have brought terrorists to justice and secured their conviction by a jury, we want to make sure that the public are protected by locking up terrorist offenders for longer and allowing more robust supervision on their release. The punishment for terrorism must properly reflect the severity of the crime. That is why the Bill allows for the introduction of longer sentences, of up to 15 years, for a number of offences, including the collecting of terrorist information, the encouragement of terrorism and the dissemination of terrorist publications. Previously, the maximum sentence was up to 10 years for such offences.
As well as increasing the maximum length of sentences, we need to ensure that terrorist offenders are not released from custody until it is safe to do so. When they are released, they need to be subject to longer periods of supervision on licence. The Bill will achieve this by enabling the courts to impose a public protection sentence for a wider range of terrorism offences. Offenders will not be released automatically at the halfway point of their sentence, but will instead stay in prison until the Parole Board decides to release them.
We are also extending sentencing provisions to Northern Ireland that already operate in the rest of the United Kingdom. The sentences handed down by the courts in Northern Ireland have been of particular concern to some hon. Members, and the Bill will help to address that.
The Bill will make it easier to monitor terrorist offenders once they have been released by requiring them to notify the police of their bank or passport details and any vehicles that they may possess or have access to.
I support the measures that the Home Secretary is outlining. In the briefing documents he sent before the debate, he referred to this measure as being similar to the monitoring of sex offenders in the community. In those cases, there is clear joint working between the probation service and police at local level. Is he envisaging a similar system for monitoring those who have been convicted of terrorism offences?
Yes, I am.
The Bill will update the law relating to terrorism reinsurance. The attack last year on Borough market highlighted a gap in the current arrangements that the Bill now addresses. In particular, I thank the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Neil Coyle) for the important work that he has done on this issue on behalf of his constituents.
Next Tuesday will mark the anniversary of the attack outside the Finsbury Park Islamic centre last year. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Mr Makram Ali, who died on that day a year ago, just as they are with the victims and survivors of other attacks last year in Westminster, the Manchester Arena, London Bridge and Parsons Green. We cannot turn back the clock to undo what was done in those five attacks, but we can and must learn the lessons and do everything in our power to prevent such suffering from being inflicted ever again. The Bill plays an important part in ensuring we do just that and I commend it to the House.
In 2017, as the House has heard, the UK was subject to five terrorist attacks, which killed 36 people, injured many more and terrified millions. Furthermore, this year there was the shocking assassination attempt on Sergei and Yulia Skripal. So it is reasonable that the Government should review, and if necessary update, counter-terrorism legislation and arrangements for border security.
First, I want to pay tribute to the survivors and the bereaved of the terrorist atrocities in London and Manchester last year. The young girls at the Manchester Arena who came to see their favourite singer saw sights that children of that age should never have to see. I also want to pay tribute to all the brave women and men of the emergency services, who often run into danger and step forward in dreadful times. We should not forget the NHS workers—together with support from Porton Down—who were confronted with circumstances that they could never have dreamed of, but who saved the lives of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.
I turn to the Bill before us. Let me begin by saying that I agreed with the Home Secretary when he said recently that there is no binary choice between security and liberty. What makes us free is often what makes us safe. It is certainly what makes ours a country and a way of life worth serving and defending. I am not saying that just as a member of Her Majesty’s Opposition—I fought infringements of our civil liberties, together with some of his Cabinet colleagues, when a Labour Government tried to introduce them, notably ID cards and 90 days’ detention without trial. I defend civil liberties without fear or favour.
The question that arises is whether the Bill is necessary, appropriate and proportionate. Although we support the Bill overall, a careful examination will show that it does not necessarily meet all those criteria. That is why we will seek to amend clauses of the Bill in Committee.
The Home Secretary will be aware that the Home Affairs Committee said in 2001:
“This country has more anti-terrorist legislation on its statute books than almost any other developed democracy.”
In 2008, Lord Lloyd of Berwick told the other place:
“No other country in the world…has had anything like the same plethora of”
“legislation that we have had.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 8 July 2008; Vol. 703, c. 700.]
More recently, Max Hill QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said last year that Britain
“has the laws we need. We should review them and ensure they ensure remain fit for purpose, but we should have faith in our legal structures, rather than trying to create some kind of new situation where the ordinary rules are thrown out.”
To the extent that the Bill does not throw out the ordinary rules, it has our broad support.
Finally in relation to expert opinion, I turn to the review by Dave Anderson, QC, of the terrorist incidents last year in Manchester and London. He made a series of recommendations, ranging from multi-agency working to greater intelligence sharing and more consistent handling of intelligence, but there was not a single recommendation of new laws or powers.
Nevertheless, we have the Bill before us, and the Opposition broadly support it. I will now set out our reservations. First, it will update offences in a way that will potentially criminalise information seeking, playing of videos and expressions of opinion. In relation to the playing of videos, the Home Secretary will have heard the opinion of my right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) about three clicks being a significant number. We will seek to clarify the point in Committee.
On the question of expressing opinion, the Home Office says in its note on the Bill that it is
“not making it unlawful to hold a private view in support of a terrorist organisation”.
The Home Office also says:
“Operational experience has shown that there is a gap around individuals who make statements expressing their own support for terrorist organisations...but who stop short of expressly inviting others to do so”.
The Home Secretary will expect that we will press that point in Committee, because we would say that gap between having an opinion and inciting others to unlawful acts is not an anomaly but an important principle in protecting freedom of speech. We are in danger in the Bill of confusing bad thoughts with bad deeds. We hope to clarify this issue as the Bill makes progress.
Another concern about the Bill is the extent to which it allows the retention of biometric data on anyone arrested, including DNA and fingerprints, even if they are mistakenly or even unlawfully arrested. There are already abuses of the national police database, which the Government have failed to correct. The state has no business keeping records on people who are not criminals. It is an essential part of our liberty that we can go about our day-to-day lives unhindered by state agencies. That is not the case if the state can retain data on all of us. It is an even greater breach of our civil liberties if the retention is done without our knowledge.
A further concern about the Bill is what it has to say about the Prevent strategy. It proposes extending the Prevent strategy by allowing local authorities, as well as the police, to refer people to the Prevent programme. Let me be clear that there will always be a need for a programme that does what Prevent purports to do. I have met Commissioner Neil Basu and other Metropolitan police leads on Prevent, and I visited Prevent-funded programmes in Birmingham and elsewhere. I have no doubt that there is some good work being done in the name of Prevent, but Prevent as a whole is a tainted brand, particularly among sections of the Muslim community. From a recent study by the Behavioural Insights Team, commissioned by the Home Office itself, we also know that more than 95% of deradicalisation programmes are ineffective. I suggest that those two facts—that Prevent is a tainted brand and that so many of the deradicalisation programmes are ineffective—are not unrelated.
Labour is committed to a thorough review of the Prevent programme, which we believe is currently not fit for purpose. In the interests of transparency and accurate evidence-based policy making, I call on the Home Secretary today to publish the research by the Behavioural Insights Team, which has been so widely reported and seems to run counter to the claims made for the success of these programmes.
I did not intend to intervene—I will speak at length later—but is the right hon. Lady aware that about 75% of people referred to Prevent are, having been through the programme, of no further interest to the police or security services? That sounds like success to me.
I have visited Prevent programmes and I am aware that good work is being done, but the figure that 95% of deradicalisation programmes are not effective should not be put to one side. We have to address it and we have to address whether there is any connection at all with the fact that Prevent is a tainted brand among the members of some communities.
My right hon. Friend is making a fair point. I think we need some sort of Prevent strategy, so I accept the need to review it. Does the fact that over 6,000 individuals were referred through the Prevent strategy, over half of whom were under 20, show how careful we need to be in pursuing this policy, even if it is the right policy for the Government to have?
I accept the need for a programme that does what Prevent purports to do, but there is a danger. If we do not review the activities of Prevent, it may prove counterproductive in the very communities we want to work with. As for the question of local authorities becoming referral agents, at least the police have had some training in this matter, whatever we think of the programme, but local authorities have no expertise in counter-terrorism. The danger is that pointless referrals and what seems, I am afraid, to be useless deradicalisation counselling will snowball.
I am listening carefully to the right hon. Lady. Just to clarify, is she saying that she would review the Prevent strategy, or, given the data or allegations she has repeated—from, I think she said, a lawyer—that she would press the pause button on Prevent, stop it and invent something else? If it is the latter, what is the something else? I think that goes straight to the point made by the hon. Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker).
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?
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?
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.
On that point, does the right hon. Lady agree that we should be concerned by reports that emerged from Belgium that the suspect in the appalling and brutal murder of two police officers was a small-time crook who, it appears, had been radicalised in custody? Does she therefore agree that she should support all the Government’s excellent efforts to try to deal with this important issue?
I think Members are seeking to have me say what they want me to say and are not listening to my speech. What I am saying is that it is all well and good to put more people in prison for longer, but there is more we could do about radicalisation in prison. It is shocking to me to see young men, who had no connection with Islam before going into prison, coming out of prison as Islamic radicals. We can do something about that, because while they are in prison they are in the hands of the state. I think there is more that can be done.
In Dave Anderson’s review, he called for greater collaboration between the counter-terrorism police, MI5 and neighbourhood police, but—I make no apologies for repeating this—the Government have cut police numbers by 21,000. In practice, their cuts have undermined Dave Anderson’s recommendations. We cannot have greater collaboration between counter-terrorism and neighbourhood police if the numbers of neighbourhood police are being cut. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick has said that coping with counter-terrorism is putting an unsustainable strain on the police. The head of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, Sara Thornton, said:
“Fewer officers and Police Community Support Officers will cut off the intelligence that is so crucial to preventing attacks.”
New laws, whatever their merits, are no substitute for effective policing, and not just counter-terrorism policing. Ministers will tell us how much more they are spending on counter-terrorism, but almost as important as actual counter-terrorism officers is ordinary neighbourhood policing, which is our frontline against terrorism. Laws, whatever their merit, become a dead letter without enough police officers.
I completely agree with my right hon. Friend on that point. We are very lucky in Wales that, thanks to the investment from the Welsh Labour Government, we still have substantial numbers of police community support officers on our streets. They play a crucial role. All the police officers I talk to, including senior police officers, tell me about the real pressures and strains they face, and the impact of the lack of community policing on the frontline in the fight against terrorism.
I agree with my hon. Friend. That is what we are hearing from police leaders all the time. They want to do their very best against terrorism, but the cuts to the number of officers puts them under a great deal of strain.
Broadly, and in principle, we support the Bill. As the Home Secretary would expect, we will give it particularly careful scrutiny in Committee. We hope it will come out of Committee a better Bill. The safety of the nation depends on it.
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.
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?
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.
Does my right hon. Friend also agree that one acute difference between Irish terrorism and the threat today is that in the Irish situation an agreed code word was usually used to alert the security services that something was about to kick off? We do not have that today, which is why this very flexible, proactive approach to regulations required to try to keep us safe—we will not manage it in all circumstances, but we will do our damnedest—is pivotal.
The Irish people endured the horror of terrorism for a very long time, and we should not be complacent about any part of our kingdom, but there are differences with what we face now, which I have already mentioned and others will no doubt elaborate upon during the debate.
Before coming to the end of this brief speech—certainly brief by my standards—I want to deal with Prevent. I worked with Prevent and I will mention two things that the right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington said with which I fully agree and then I will deal with the things I did not agree with, as that is the polite thing to do. She is absolutely right about radicalisation in prisons. No Government have got this right. In a previous incarnation, I was the Minister responsible for prison education, would you believe? It is not an easy job, I can tell you, and I was never really satisfied that we got it right. I do not think the previous Government got it right either. This is not about party politics. We probably need to look at it afresh. I agree with her about that.
It is, in my view, a good thing, by and large, to keep people who do dreadful things in prison for longer, but the right hon. Lady is quite right that if we are keeping them in prison ever longer, and given the serious chance that they will be radicalised accordingly, there is a risk that they might do a degree in being radicalised, rather than just an A-level. I am inclined to her view that we need to look at that with even greater determination than in the past. With this Home Secretary and this Security Minister, we have the best chance ever of bringing fresh eyes to this. Proust, I think, said that there was no such thing as “new landscapes”, only “new eyes” to see them. Perhaps, in a Proustian fashion, they will look at the right hon. Lady’s suggestion.
The second thing I agree with the right hon. Lady about is the need to ensure that there is proper oversight of Prevent and that we measure its effect properly. When I was Minister, I revitalised the oversight board in the Home Office—I am sure that my successor has added even greater value than I could have hoped to add in that respect—and I was also determined to measure the effect of Prevent more routinely and more transparently.
None the less, I disagree with her about Prevent as a concept. The work of our Prevent co-ordinators, at the very frontline of radicalisation, is heroic. I met them time and again all over country. I went around the country to see the Channel operation and the Channel panels. The people who contribute to Channel and who co-ordinate and run Prevent are doing immensely good work in very difficult circumstances. I do not say that they always get it right—perhaps they do not—but I do say that without them the circumstances we face would be altogether worse. They are making a huge difference in towns and cities across the country day by day. I celebrate their achievements while never being uncritical, as in my comments on measurement and oversight.
There is an argument about how Prevent is perceived and how communities in which the co-ordinators operate understand it, and, consequently, there is an argument for promoting it more effectively—I will meet the right hon. Gentleman halfway—but do not forget that some of the critics of Prevent are people who do not want it to work. Some of its critics are critics because they do not believe in what we are trying to achieve. We have to start from the perspective that not everyone is a balanced and reasoned critic, and perceptions are, to some extent, coloured by that. I introduced the Prevent duty when I was the Minister so that local authorities, health authorities, schools, colleges and others could add value to Prevent by identifying those most at risk. Let us be clear: these are people at risk of being groomed to do wicked things.
With that and to give others a chance to speak far more persuasively than I could ever hope to do, I end by saying that our will to combat terrorism must never falter, our resolve never waver. This House must have the same kind of certain confidence as our security services and police have in their certain determination—their mission—to defeat terrorism.
It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), who made some thoughtful remarks but inexplicably failed to stick to his 15-minute time limit, which was a surprise to us all in the Chamber.
In the past couple of years, we have seen deadly terrorist attacks across the world, including in Mosul, Baghdad, Istanbul, Kabul, New York, Paris, Nice, Munich and Stockholm, and last year the UK was subjected to five terrorist attacks in London and Manchester that killed 36 innocent victims and injured many more. We may have honourable disagreements about many aspects of the Bill, but we owe it to the people affected by last year’s attacks to debate these differences as a matter of principle and efficacy rather than on the basis of petty party political interests.
Glasgow airport, in my constituency, was the target of an attempted terror attack in 2007. It came as a huge shock to all Scots given that we had had very little experience of dealing with terrorist acts on Scottish soil. It proved that nowhere and no one is immune to the threat of terrorism. With that in mind, I can assure the Minister and the House that the Scottish National party will engage in this debate in the appropriate manner, treating it with the respect and seriousness that it deserves.
In an increasingly changing and digital world, the SNP supports giving law enforcement agencies the necessary powers to fight serious crime and terrorism. The world is becoming ever more complex, and terrorists are utilising sophisticated measures to plan their attacks. As such, it is of extreme importance that we keep our response and policies under continual review to ensure that we take the most effective action possible to prevent terrorist acts from occurring, while—crucially—respecting and upholding our civil liberties.
During the debates that will follow, the SNP will judge any proposed new powers or the extension of existing ones according to whether they are appropriate, effective, proportionate and respectful of civil liberties. This is the approach we adopted during the passage of the Investigatory Powers Act, during which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) and I argued that aspects of the Bill were unlawful. We might have been defeated in this place, but we were not alone, and successful court challenges by the hon. Member for West Bromwich East (Tom Watson) West Bromwich and the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis), and subsequently by Liberty, proved that we had been right to oppose the measures. I hope that the Government have learned from that experience.
I just want to clarify the point about the Investigatory Powers Act. It is important for the House to know that in the legal challenge the Government were successful in defending the Act on three out of four measures. It was on the measure about judicial oversight that we conceded, as hon. Members will see in the Bill.
I appreciate the Minister’s intervention. As I outlined, my hon. and learned Friend made these points during the Committee stage of the 2016 Act, but I accept his point.
I hope that the Government have learned the lesson and will work with all parties to ensure that the policy can survive any potential legal challenge and carry the support of the House. There will be no petty opposition for opposition’s sake, but we will cast a critical eye on the Bill and table amendments to improve it in Committee and on Report.
After the London Bridge attack last year, the Prime Minister announced a review of the Contest strategy to establish whether the police and the security forces had the powers that they needed to tackle those who would seek to cause us harm. Following David Anderson’s very thorough review, the Bill is intended to bolster the Government’s counter-terrorism approach and strengthen a variety of measures to respond to the terrorist threat, allowing earlier intervention to disrupt terrorism.
I agree with the Government’s desire to intervene at an early stage. Such intervention is not only effective in stopping terrorist attacks, but helpful in preventing young people from becoming radicalised. Terrorist organisations are using 21st-century measures, including social media, to promote their propaganda as a means of radicalising youngsters. It is only right for the Government to review their approach to ensure that it is fit for the 21st century and future-proofed as far as is practically possible, but the internet providers and the social media companies also have a responsibility to ensure that terrorists cannot exploit their systems to promote their poisonous agenda. They must be involved in this process as well. On too many occasions they have been unwilling to take down terrorist content, and slow in doing so.
We are broadly in favour of the aims of the Bill but, while some of its provisions will attract our support, others will need to be tested in Committee. We must ensure that lowering thresholds and the burden of proof does not become so extreme that it impinges severely on civil liberties.
The Bill seeks to amend the offence of collecting terrorist information to cover the repeated viewing or streaming of material online. I accept the point that streaming material has become far more common since the previous legislation was drafted, and that we need a more robust approach. The implementation of this policy will give our police and security services the power to compel internet companies to assist them in carrying out covert surveillance on suspects streaming terror-related content. However, the way in which the process is set in motion is key.
In Committee, the Government will need to set out their case very well, explaining their proposed definition of “streaming” and the new three strikes, three clicks approach to people who stream extremist terror content. The right hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) pressed the Home Secretary on that point earlier. In all likelihood, the approach will prove to be over-simplistic. While we are sympathetic to the Government’s goal of early prevention of potential terrorist acts, we must ensure that their proposals are evidence-based, and that civil liberties are not eroded or forgotten in the process. Like others who have spoken, I feel that the Government should be doing much more to stop the material at source by placing a statutory duty on the online platforms on which the material is viewed.
The Government intend the offence to cover circumstances in which the defendant is in control of a computer but, in addition, and with a much higher degree of difficulty, circumstances in which an individual is viewing the material, for example, over the controller’s shoulder. That may prove to be impossible, and is an obvious example of parts of the Bill which, if unamended, may be open to challenge in court. Campaigners have already voiced concerns about the proposed policy, suggesting that it unfairly targets innocent people. Rachel Robinson, of Liberty, has said:
“Blurring the boundary between thought and action by locking people up simply for exploring ideas undermines the foundations of our criminal justice system. Terrorists’ primary goal is to undermine our freedom. With proposals like this, the government risks giving them exactly what they want.”
Along with the Scottish Government. we will work with the Minister to ensure that that is not the case and that we get this important part of the Bill right. Campaigners have also pointed out that an attempt to introduce a similar terror streaming law in France last year was struck down twice. I should be keen to learn from the Minister what discussions he has had with his counterparts in France about their experience of trying to introduce a similar law, and whether the Government have been able to learn any lessons from them.
The Home Secretary also seeks to amend the offence of encouragement of terrorism so that action can be taken to target those who seek to radicalise children or young people who may not understand what they are being encouraged to do. It is vital that we reassess our approach to preventing vulnerable youngsters from becoming radicalised, and send a clear message to the recruiters that they will face the full force of the law if they attempt to prey on our young people. In my role on the Justice Committee, I had a long conversation with a now convicted terrorist. That has had a profound effect on me and, in particular, on my thoughts about how we can try to protect young people from terrorist influence online.
I understand the arguments that certain provisions in this Bill unfairly target innocent individuals’ personal liberty. The fact that the Home Office guidance that accompanies the Bill also accepts that point is telling. However, it attempts to alleviate the concern by stating that it would not be
“unlawful to hold a private view in support of a terrorist organisation”;
it would be unlawful only to
“recklessly express those views, with the risk others could be influenced”.
I think that the Government will need to clarify what is meant by recklessly expressing a particular view. That seems to me to be an unnecessarily wide and vague phrase that will undoubtedly be tested later in the Bill’s progress.
There will always be a fine balance between giving the police, the security services and the judiciary enough powers to keep us safe, and liberty itself. Ultimately, it could be argued that, if we restrict our personal freedoms excessively, the terrorists have already won. The Government must tread very carefully, and engage fully not only with the Opposition, the Scottish Government and other Administrations, but with those who instinctively oppose any perceived restrictions of liberty.
The Scottish Government support giving law enforcement agencies and the intelligence services the necessary and proportionate powers that are required to fight terrorism. In the past, the UK Government have chosen not to engage with the Scottish Government before publishing Bills and guidelines on the issue. I am pleased that that has not happened in this instance. I also welcome last week’s telephone conversation with the Minister, but will he assure me that he will engage with the Scottish Government at every opportunity and throughout this process?
Keeping people safe is the primary function of any Government. By means of the Prevent strategy, the Scottish Government will continue to work with key partners to tackle all forms of violent extremism—for instance, through Police Scotland’s model of community engagement. Working with the Scottish Government will enable people to learn lessons about the range of positive work that Police Scotland and other agencies do in our local communities to keep people safe. The distinct Scottish approach to the delivery of Prevent benefits from the positive relationships that are fostered in our communities. That includes our work to develop a range of credible grassroots community-led projects that help to challenge extremist narratives, giving support and guidance to people who are potentially vulnerable to radicalisation.
The hon. Gentleman’s description of the “distinct Scottish approach” to Prevent sounded exactly like what Prevent is supposed to do. Will he elaborate on the difference between the Scottish version of Prevent—which he apparently fully supports, unlike Labour Front Benchers—and the English version?
I have already outlined in what way.
The Scottish Government recognise that resilient communities which look out for one another are key in keeping people safe and, furthermore, that communities are our greatest ally in that respect. We must ensure that the Bill takes account of the separate and distinct Scottish legal system, respecting the current devolution settlement, and is proportionate and appropriate for Scotland.
I nearly got through an entire speech without mentioning it, but a potential threat to our national security is, of course Brexit, and the loss of access to multilateral information-sharing tools that we face. Organised crime and terrorism do not respect borders, and it is essential for Police Scotland to have continued access to the information systems, support and technical expertise that are available through Europol—not only to keep Scotland safe, but to contribute to making Europe safer through cross-border collaboration. I fear that, after the UK leaves the EU, there will be a major risk that any new arrangements will be sub-optimal in comparison with those that exist at present. I hope that the Minister will give a guarantee that any new legislation will be prepared in time to fill any gaps that arise from our leaving the EU, and that he will explain, as far as possible, how he intends to ensure that that happens. We need to ensure that our law enforcement agencies can retain the level of access to Europol that they currently enjoy.
Let me end by saying that 2017 was a difficult year for the UK, and we owe it to everyone affected by last year’s attacks to work together on this important Bill to give our law enforcement agencies necessary and proportionate powers to eliminate and to prevent terrorism without eroding vital civil liberties.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands).
We meet in the shadow of a grim situation for our country. As the shadow Home Secretary said, in 2017, 36 people were killed and, since 2013 alone, some 25 terrorist plots have been foiled. I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my constituents at GCHQ, who through their hard work, dedication and professionalism have, I feel sure, contributed to the foiling of a good number of those plots both in the UK and overseas.
I entirely support the Bill, but it is absolutely right, and the duty of the Opposition and all Back Benchers, to scrutinise these matters with great care. I sense the same spirit in this House this evening as there was when it dealt with the Investigatory Powers Act 2016: a spirit of constructive discussion, and at times criticism, to ensure that the provisions we arrive at strike the balance between liberty and security. I remember being in the House listening to discussions on the Investigatory Powers Bill. I am entirely sure that the end statute was better for the process of debate that took place in this House.
I want to examine some of the provisions in the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill and explain why it is appropriate. In simple terms, the Bill serves to clarify existing measures, to extend in a common-sense way their provisions, and in appropriate circumstances to modestly strengthen penalties. I will deal with those three headings and explain why in my view the provisions are justified.
The Bill seeks to
“clarify that the existing offence of displaying in a public place an image which arouses reasonable suspicion that the person is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation covers the display of images online”
as well as in the analogue world. That is appropriate. It clarifies the position and for the position to be otherwise would make a nonsense of the digital world we are in, so I anticipate that that will not be controversial in Committee.
However, I want to deal with the point raised by the shadow Home Secretary about extending the offence of inviting support for a proscribed organisation to cover expressions of support that are reckless as to whether they will encourage others to support the organisation. The concern has been raised that moving the mens rea from intention to mere recklessness risks broadening the ambit of the offence too greatly. It is absolutely right to have this discussion because it would be a matter of grave concern if we inadvertently broadened an offence so that it unintentionally caught people within it that we were not comfortable being caught within it. Having thought about it, however, my view is this provision is on the right side of the line and I will explain why.
Let us suppose the facts were as follows. The defendant deliberately went to his friend’s house from school and said, “I really think you should be joining this proscribed organisation”—be it Isis or al-Muhajiroun—and his intention was to get that individual to sign up, but in the room at the same time was his friend’s younger brother, aged 16, and he was not in any way intending for that younger brother to be radicalised but was being reckless as to whether that would happen. In those circumstances, if the message was in fact heard by the younger brother rather than the contemporary friend, should the law have this loophole so that the defendant could not be liable in those circumstances? That would be nonsense. It would create an unconscionable loophole because the mischief at which the legislation is aimed is the propagating of propaganda material that encourages others to support proscribed organisations.
That is pretty much everywhere, and I will give the right hon. Gentleman an example. How about an allegation of assault? Let us suppose the defendant goes out in the high street in Kingston in the right hon. Gentleman’s constituency with a baseball bat and starts swinging it around outside the pub, being reckless about whether someone might be struck by it. If he does recklessly strike someone’s jaw and they have a fractured jaw, the defendant can, and will in those circumstances, be convicted of a section 20 offence of grievous bodily harm. So the law does recognise that where there is recklessness, that can be sufficient mens rea for a large number—probably even the majority—of offences against the person. So to that extent all this measure would do is make sure the new legislation chimes with existing legislation.
The second provision I want to deal with has already properly been discussed: to
“update the offence of obtaining information likely to be useful to a terrorist to cover terrorist material that is just viewed or streamed over the internet, rather than downloaded to form a permanent record”.
First, we need to consider what material is being addressed here. It could be digital copies of “Inspire”, an online publication produced by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. One edition of that publication contains material giving instructions about how to make a bomb using household materials; these are step-by-step instructions on how to manufacture an improvised explosive device with materials that we could buy in a hardware store and a regular supermarket. That is extremely serious and dangerous material if it gets into the wrong hands. Another example of the kind of material published in these online magazines is instructions on how to wreak the maximum amount of destruction using a vehicle in a crowded area.
To be caught by current provisions, such material has to be downloaded, but that creates a loophole because an individual who chooses to view this pernicious content by simply restreaming it could be outside the net. That would be ridiculous, particularly as every time one of these items is streamed, it will create digital artefacts on the computer. So an individual who downloads it—who has the full digital content on their computer—is liable to be prosecuted, but an individual who keeps streaming it, notwithstanding that that leads to some digital artefacts on their computer, would be outside the net. That would be truly perverse.
So while it is right to say that we should be mindful of the risk of people coming within the ambit of this provision, so long as the defence of reasonable excuse exists, we can be confident that that proper balance is struck.
I am not a liberal on any of these issues, but there is a problem with this. One difficulty the security services face is dealing with the amount of material that is out there and targeting the right people. If someone who has viewed such material three times can be pulled in by this provision, does that not throw the net rather wide, making it more difficult for law enforcement to target the right people?
The right hon. Gentleman is right to raise that question, but I do not think that is the case. We accept that an individual deciding to view this material online and then download it on to their computer so that they can watch it at their leisure three times commits an offence—and we do so because terrorist offences often escalate quickly from the viewing of such materials. Given that we accept that, would it not be perverse to say that an individual who simply views this material three times—and while doing so takes account of the instructions in that material to build a bomb or wreak havoc with a vehicle—would be outside the law? That would be a bizarre anomaly, and it would say more about the digital habits of that individual than the pernicious nature of the content. So while we should always be mindful of the point the right hon. Gentleman makes, in my view the risks of doing nothing simply leave open huge loopholes that terrorists, who are increasingly digitally savvy, can exploit, so this is a proportionate and appropriate step to take.
I am not going to give way again on that point.
If I may, I will move on to the issue of increasing the maximum penalty. At the moment, the maximum penalty under section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000 is just 10 years’ imprisonment. The Bill proposes to increase that to 15 years. It is important to make the point that, certainly until the recent sentencing guidelines increase, someone pleading guilty to being in possession of material that might be of assistance to a person planning an act of terrorism could expect to be sentenced to just 14 or 15 months and to be released in seven months. We have to recognise, when we are dealing with these kinds of offences, that part of the necessity for the legislation is to ensure that dangerous people are kept out of circulation. In those particulars, this proposal is necessary and proportionate.
Elsewhere in the Bill, there are common-sense extensions including the proposal to add terrorism offences to the list of offences for which an individual can be subjected to a serious crime prevention order. That makes perfect sense, because SCPOs enable the authorities to continue to manage an individual convicted of a terrorism offence. In the interest of balance, it is important to note that the proposed legislation also contains protections for individuals. For example, it introduces a statutory bar on the admissibility as evidence in a criminal trial of oral admissions made in an examination at a port under schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act, so it would be wrong to get the impression that this is one-way traffic. Overall—certainly so far as part 1 is concerned—these measures serve to clarify and to extend in a way that chimes with common sense. They update the law, and they will lead to a modest strengthening of penalties, which is a calibrated, proportionate and modernising approach that I am happy to support.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk), and I echo the spirit of consensus in which he began his contribution. I wish to speak exclusively to the extension of terror reinsurance in clause 19 in chapter 4 of the Bill. This crucial clause might appear under the miscellaneous provisions, but it offers a significant opportunity to protect businesses and people from future attacks, as well as helping those who have already experienced an attack.
The Home Secretary is no longer in the Chamber, but I would like to thank him for his kind words about my own work over the past 12 months. I speak as the representative of a constituency and community that was attacked last year in the attack on London Bridge and Borough market on 3 June. I do not wish to dwell on the barbaric and savage motives of those attackers, but clause 19 links directly to the statements from the Prime Minister and other Ministers at the time about not letting the terrorists win and about how we can combat their motives and their potential to change our way of living and working.
I would like to extend my thanks to Bishop Christopher, the Bishop of Southwark, who sits in the other place here, to the dean of Southwark cathedral, Andrew Nunn, and to their whole team for their efforts over the past year and in particular for hosting such a moving commemorative service last week. It focused on the people who had been directly affected, including the loved ones of the eight people murdered last June and those who were injured. It also provided a sense of purpose for now and the future by planting a new tree of life, whose growth will be fuelled by the compost from the flowers laid by well-wishers on London Bridge last year. That symbol of ongoing life and vibrancy in the area is genuinely well conceived and was delivered very sensitively last week. I would also like to extend my thanks to the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Home Secretary, the shadow Home Secretary and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, for attending last week’s service. I should also like to thank Southwark Council’s leader, Peter John, and its chief executive, Eleanor Kelly, for providing space on the bridge for a minute’s silence and for more flower-laying last week.
In the service, the sentiments of the local community came through very strongly. There was a sense that we must continue living our lives, but also that something had dramatically changed. A community project was run after the attacks for people to provide their own testimony and personal experience, and the words of one local resident were echoed by the Home Secretary last week. That person said that
“the terror attack changed this neighbourhood forever but not in the way the terrorists had planned. This community is going to carry on being diverse, inclusive and welcoming.”
That sentiment was echoed when the cathedral was reopened by the Archbishop of Canterbury after the attack. He stated that the terrorists had unwittingly created a “renewed sense of community”, and that is very much something that I have felt and seen in the past 12 months.
My community stood tall last year. The immediate response was incredible. The police and the NHS deserve our thanks and praise for their incredible efforts, as do the extraordinary individual people who stepped in to prevent others from being attacked and to confront the terrorists directly, putting their own safety at risk. Taxi drivers provided free transport out of the area to those who were worried. Local people opened their doors to complete strangers to allow them to charge their phones or to give them refuge, and hotels and local businesses offered overnight shelter. In the ensuing days, the public response was also incredible. Public donations of almost £50,000 were received, and support of a similar level was received from businesses. Practical support was given by Barclays on Borough High Street, which provided office space to people who could not access their own premises. Even the British Transport police opened up their counselling service to those who had been traumatised by what they had seen.
In the weeks after the reopening, the solidarity within the local community was also incredible. Businesses such as News UK and Merger Market provided vouchers to staff worth tens of thousands of pounds to use at Borough market. Southwark Council provided rates relief of more than £100,000, and Sadiq Khan freed up £300,000 from City Hall to help the local community. The funding was administered by United Saint Saviour’s, a brilliant local charity with a long history of helping the local community.
Those responses were much-needed. The attackers could not have known what a huge outpouring of solidarity they would trigger. The attack might have lasted for no longer than eight minutes, thanks to the extraordinary efforts and heroism of the police, but the cordon and the investigation closed the area for 10 days, affecting 150 local businesses. Many people will be familiar with Borough market, but it is not just a place that provides bits and bobs and personal groceries. The market has been there for 1,000 years, and tonnes of produce come into the market daily. It supplies restaurants and hotels across the capital and far beyond, and tonnes of produce were lost during the closure after the attack. Contracts to supply other restaurants were lost. Bookings at restaurants were lost. The London Bridge Experience was also directly affected and lost bookings.
The total bill for those 150 businesses is estimated to be more than £2 million. I shall give the House a couple of examples. Cannon and Cannon, a wholesaler of British charcuterie, lost about £11,000, but it was able to access compensation. Turnips, the fruit and veg distributor, lost nearly £100,000 as a direct result of the attack and the closure. Its insurer is Aviva, and Aviva has not paid out despite repeated requests to reconsider. It stands out in this regard, sadly, because it is the only insurer that has not responded with flexibility. It is the only insurer to have badly let down the local community, and I hope that its shareholders are aware of its terrible response. It is an insult to British values in the exceptional circumstances following the attack. I should add that many other insurers, including AXA, RSA and Zurich, worked flexibly to provide help, and I am grateful for their advice and support.
I should also like to thank the British Insurance Brokers Association and the Association of British Insurers for all their help over the past 12 months. I did not know about this particular area before. They all accept that clause 19 is needed, and they have worked together to get the Government to this point. Many of those organisations had already raised concerns, and I believe that the Treasury was warned about two and a half years ago. Sadly, the warnings were not heeded. The insurance challenge was recognised, as is clear from the briefings for this debate and the Home Office Bill briefing. The Government-backed pool reinsurance system set up in the 1990s covers only physical damage and not business interruption resulting from investigations into terror attacks.
I welcome the fact that the clause will close that loophole, but the Government are planning only for future incidents, despite the fact that the explanatory notes to the Bill make specific reference to Borough market and the difference that this measure could have made to those affected in my constituency last year. The Home Office has stated that this clause will not be used to help those who were so badly affected last June, and that is a bitter pill to swallow. I find it difficult to understand.
I hope that the Government will reconsider the matter and allow retrospective coverage for all of 2017, and I do so for four key reasons. First, my constituency needs it. London Bridge and Borough market need it. If it had not been for public donations, firms and jobs would have been at risk, and Treasury revenue was at risk. The owners of one microbusiness even had their home mortgage covered as a result of public donations. That situation did not need to happen.
Secondly, despite the public response, the Government were not there last year, and I find that shocking. The Prime Minister visited and showed the Australian Prime Minister around, a Business Minister came and met employers directly, and the Economic Secretary to the Treasury’s predecessor held a meeting here for some of the affected businesses. However, not a penny of central Government support came to help my local community, and clause 19 represents a chance to rectify that absence from 2017.
Thirdly, the fact that the Government were warned of the need to close the loophole, but failed to do so, is justification enough for retrofitting this scheme now with this clause. My local firms and employers were unacceptably exposed to that loophole.
Finally, Pool Re, the Government scheme, has the funds. There would be no cost to the Treasury, to insurers or to taxpayers for retrofitting coverage for last year. It is simply wilful negligence to deny help to an area so badly hit when the finances are there to allow support.
I close with a plea to the Government to extend cover to last year. I welcome clause 19, but I want coverage to be retrofitted. I hope that Ministers will be sympathetic to that aim as the Bill goes through Committee, in which I hope to participate.
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.
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?
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.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Henley (John Howell). I have enjoyed listening to a range of contributions this afternoon and this evening. A number of Members, including the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes) and the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk), have referred to the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, the Second Reading of which was on the day when Adrian Ismay, a constituent of mine, died having been subject to an under-car booby-trap bomb 11 days earlier. It was a dissident republican-inspired terrorist attack. Although the need for this Bill clearly comes from Islamic-inspired terrorism and from a change of thought, emphasis and deed in this part of our United Kingdom, I want to mention that we have not passed the worst days in Northern Ireland. There are still those who wish to use the worst messages of terrorism to change the political outlook, to change the determination of our people and to destroy our country. It is important to say that at the start of the Bill’s passage.
I will mention just three issues, two that are specifically outlined in the Bill and one, which is not considered at all in the Bill, that I would like the Minister to engage with thoughtfully. Other Members who have had the pleasure or misfortune of participating in a Public Bill Committee may know more than me about them—I have never sat on a Public Bill Committee—but I would be delighted to do so and get involved in some of these issues. Members who have sat on Public Bill Committees tell me that I am mad and that it would be the worst thing to put myself forward for, but there are provisions in the Bill that it would be incredibly useful to have the opportunity to explore in greater depth.
We need to be careful about how we proceed with the plans on border security outlined in the Bill. Although I am a Brexit-supporting Member, I think it would be irresponsible of us to consider these provisions without having at least some cognisance of the issues raised by Brexit when it comes to border security. When the right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), the shadow Home Secretary, raised her points earlier, the Secretary of State was right to indicate that schedule 3 emulates what is already provided for in the Terrorism Act 2000. That legislative provision has been in place for the past 18 years, and the only difference I can see is that, whereas the 2000 Act focuses on terrorism, schedule 3 covers “hostile acts” and talks about state party actors. I assume that is the main difference.
The most important border security provision is in paragraph 4 of schedule 3 to the Bill and in paragraph 2(4) of schedule 7 to the 2000 Act, which relates to section 40(1)(b) of that Act. Under those provisions it does not matter whether there is reasonable suspicion of engagement in terrorism or hostile activity. Both the 2000 Act and this Bill go to extraordinary lengths to outline what is meant by “terrorism,” “hostile acts,” “terrorist activity” and “state party activity,” and both pieces of legislation specifically indicate to the border officials who are asked to operate them that it does not matter whether they have reasonable grounds for suspicion. The truth is that, in both the 2000 Act and this Bill, a border official does not need to have any suspicion at all of terrorism or hostile acts. To my mind, that cannot be right.
When we consider the checks that will happen, this Bill and the 2000 Act specifically talk about travel to and from Northern Ireland, to and from Great Britain and between different parts of this United Kingdom—from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, and from the top of Great Britain to the bottom of Great Britain—but no reasonable suspicion whatever is required for a person to be stopped, questioned and potentially searched by one of our border officials.
I will not push the point much further now but, in the atmosphere created around border controls, whether on the island of Ireland or between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, we need to consider this more thoughtfully. When our Scottish brethren, of whom the Security Minister is one, complained during the 2014 referendum that it was inappropriate for a UK citizen from Scotland, when travelling to a UK airport in England, to be stopped and questioned, the answer was, “Well, this House voted for it in the Terrorism Act 2000.”
The common travel area does not allow for a person to be stopped and checked for citizenship or to be asked about their right to travel. When that happens to people travelling from Belfast to Birmingham, it is an affront to UK citizens that they are stopped by a Border Force official. Those stops, those checks and those questions, offensively, are conducted under anti-terrorism legislation, and this Bill gives us the opportunity to thoughtfully consider whether that is really what we want in this country. I will never tie the hands of a Government who want to protect us from terrorists, but is it appropriate that an average citizen from one part of the United Kingdom travelling to another part of the United Kingdom is stopped under anti-terrorism legislation? I do not think it is, and I hope that is something we can thoughtfully consider as the Bill proceeds.
Clause 7 will make terrorist connections an aggravating factor in committing another offence, and it is wonderful that Northern Ireland is being included in that provision. I am not sure why we were left out of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008—I am sure there was good reason, following political discussions in 2007, but it was not right. When a person is perceived or known to be associated with a terrorist organisation, be it an Islamist group, some other fundamentalist group or an organisation originating in Northern Ireland, whether connected to loyalism or republicanism, it is appropriate that that serves as an aggravating factor.
But again I raise the question: how does the Minister believe prosecutors will be able to convince a court that an individual has a terrorist connection? I know from my experience of the judiciary in Northern Ireland, and from my experience both as a barrister and as a politician, that it is extraordinarily difficult to ask a court to accept that a person has a terrorist connection unless, as part of either that prosecution or a previous prosecution, they have been convicted of that offence. I make the gentle point to the Minister that this undermines community confidence in policing and security in this country. People know that a provision is on the statute book saying that an association with terrorism should be an aggravating factor in sentencing. They may know as the dogs in the street know—that is what they say in Belfast—that someone is associated with or involved in paramilitarism, yet there will be no motion in court for that individual to be sentenced for an aggravating offence. Why is that? It is because either there will be an unwillingness to prove it or an inability to do so. The unwillingness will stem from our security services not wishing to share the intelligence that they have in open court. Colin Duffy walks the streets of Lurgan in Northern Ireland because of an unwillingness on the part of the judiciary in Northern Ireland to allow intelligence to remain private. Dissident republicans who have terrorised and tortured our society to this day, and are still intent on destroying Northern Ireland and taking us out of this United Kingdom, walk the streets today because of the inability to present intelligence in open court. The judiciary have said, “If you can’t do it, don’t bring it to us. If you are not prepared to show it openly, don’t bring it to us.”
So although it is wonderful that we are being included in this provision for the first time in 10 years, because Northern Ireland did not feature in this as part of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, I would like to know—I would be keen to engage with the Minister on this—just how this provision will proceed through an open court process and how such prosecutions will be made. Without going into the details, because of sub judice rules, let me say that there are cases at the moment where individuals are being prosecuted in Northern Ireland because of how they signed off a text message with a Latin phrase, “quis separabit”, which means “who shall separate us?” It is the motto of a proscribed organisation in Northern Ireland. Is that as far, without divulging intelligence, as prosecutors are going to go to try to satisfy this provision of
“membership of a proscribed organisation”
or an association with such an organisation? If it is, although it is great to be included in this provision, I suspect that no sentence given in a court in Northern Ireland will ever benefit from an aggravating feature and, thus, an increase. So I look forward to having the opportunity to meet the Minister to discuss this further.
The final part of my contribution seeks to bring to the attention of Members section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006, which dealt with encouraging support for terrorism or the glorification of it. When it was put forward in 2005 and enacted in 2006, there was some discussion not only about “encouraging” people to engage in terrorism, but about the glorification of past offences, and a 20-year limit was put on such provision. That was not done in the legislation; it was spoken about openly and formed part of the guidance to police services. The approach was, “It is okay to glorify terrorist crimes as long as they were more than 20 years ago.” That cannot be right and I hope the Minister will accept amendments to this Bill, be it in Committee or on Report, that will rectify that situation. It is appalling that people who are intent on removing life and destroying our society can legally eulogise such vile acts. I do not need to make that point from my perspective—from a Northern Ireland perspective—because we are seven years off 20 years since the 7/7 bombings. Does anyone in this Chamber think it would be appropriate for any group in this country to memorialise or eulogise the perpetrators of that vile act? We are seven years away from the potential for that happening, if the “20-year” guidance is accepted on historical acts under the 2006 Act. We should thoughtfully consider that.
Let me give the example of D company, an IRA company in Belfast who parade through its streets each and every year. They dress in paramilitary-style clothing. They wear black berets, black sunglasses, smocks over their faces and military jackets. They have flags, bands and replica arms. They are glorifying acts of terrorism. The Northern Ireland Office is responsible for a body called the Parades Commission, but does it even deem those parades sensitive, let alone ban them for breaching counter-terrorism legislation? No, it does not. It takes no interest in these parades. When we think about whether historical acts have the potential to glorify or not, we should consider this quotation from D company’s 2017 main speaker:
“British rule was wrong in 1916 and it remains wrong today in 2017. Let no one tell you different!”
D company of the IRA in west Belfast was one of the most notorious. It is attaching itself to the events in 1916 and it was responsible for historic acts during the troubles. It is making the connection very clear under the terms of the 2006 Act, saying that the same principles that applied then applied in 2017. If that is not a glorification of previous activities or an encouragement to others to recognise that the conditions under which they “proudly volunteered”—that is their view—equally apply today, and if that is not an “encouragement” under this legislation, I do not know what is. When those responsible for the Shankill bombing unveil a memorial 20 years to the day after carrying out that heinous act in 1993, we have a problem with legislation that tries to account for an historic act that cannot be seen as glorification or an encouragement. I raise this issue in hope, and I draw the analogy because not only have we had horrendous acts in the past year here in England, but we are not going to have to wait too long until it is 20 years after the 7/7 attacks. If Members in this Chamber are as horrified as I am at the prospect that such acts could be lawfully, sensibly eulogised in our society, this Bill gives us the opportunity to do something about it.
I want to thank the Minister, because he has engaged with us over the past weeks, and we have had the opportunity for briefings. I hope that during this Second Reading debate and in Committee we will get the opportunity to shape this Bill so that it does provide what we need to counter terrorism in all its forms in this country.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson), particularly as at least an element of my speech would have exhibited a degree of naivety without his. I will continue with it, but I think I should apologise for it in advance. The purpose of the first part of my speech was to juxtapose my experience of terrorism in this country with what was happening with regard to the IRA and its activities in this country. Part of my premise is that, after the Good Friday agreement we are in a position where any occurrences that happen in Northern Ireland make the news in a considerably lower-level format than they would have done during my time growing up. So it is almost easy to believe, viewing Northern Ireland from a distance, that all is well over there, peace has broken out and the world is a good place, whereas, the incident mentioned at the start of the hon. Gentleman’s speech clearly proves that that is not the case.
I was drawn towards making this comparison because it is my 50th birthday this year, the troubles started in 1968 and I wanted to talk about my experience of how they had an impact on us in this country over that time. I am not old enough to remember this, but in 1972 we might have had the first cynical ceasefire that the IRA announced over the Christmas period, and yet only a short time later we had the bombings in Birmingham.
I fully appreciate that nobody has been convicted of those bombings in Birmingham, so it is not possible for us to say so with a degree of certainty or to attribute the cause to it, but I would say that we are fairly comfortable in knowing that the IRA was responsible, and many people lost their lives at that time.
Does the hon. Gentleman share the concern of those of us on this side of the Chamber within our party, and perhaps further afield, who see glorification in a play park in Newry being named after an IRA volunteer who was involved in a campaign of murder and terrorism, and in Gaelic Athletic Association clubs naming their venues and locations after IRA men and IRA women who have been involved in terrorist activity? Does he share our concern about glorification of their activities, which, hopefully, the Bill has the power to change—making it unlawful so that it cannot happen?
I absolutely do share those concerns, and I sincerely hope that the Bill presents the opportunity to prevent that from happening. The hon. Member for Belfast East made the comparison that if we were to experience something similar in this country we would all think it an abomination, yet clearly, that is what is happening over in Northern Ireland.
Let us move through that period to come to a comparison that I want to make. In 1996 the IRA exploded in Manchester what I understand was the biggest bomb to be exploded on the mainland since the second world war—a 1,500 lb bomb. Fortunately, 90 minutes’ notice was given, and the excellent work of the emergency services allowed 75,000 people to be evacuated, although, unfortunately, those services were unable to defuse the bomb and I understand that 200 people were injured when it went off.
The cost of that bomb runs to the equivalent today of approximately £1.2 billion, I believe, but how this country responds to that sort of situation is to be celebrated. In 1996, England was hosting the European football championships. The following day, Germany was due to play Russia. That game proceeded and turned into a celebration of the fact that countries around the world would not be oppressed by terrorism and actually joined together in a celebration that said, “Terrorism will not win.”
Compare and contrast that with the bombing in Manchester last year. An Ariana Grande concert was targeted with the perpetrator knowing full well that parents would be there with very young children. It was completely despicable. My understanding is that the perpetrator, who was also killed in that attack, had been to Libya and had some Libyan connections. To draw back to that parallel, clearly Libya has been a source of great difficulty given that association and its previous association with the IRA over the suggestion of the supply of arms and a fight against what was considered British imperialism.
We need to say that we are not going to accept terrorism and that we are going to do everything we can to ensure that our laws are tidied up to prevent it. An element of that, which I would like to celebrate, is biometric data. We should celebrate the fact that, many years ago, DNA was discovered in this country, and the double helix formation was subsequently identified, but it was not until 1984 that Sir Alec Jeffreys was able to realise the benefits of using DNA to profile people and help to determine the difference between pieces of evidence.
We should celebrate that because DNA profiling is now used by 120 countries around the world, and 54 of them have DNA databases. This technology is not only used to help to identify people who are guilty; it helps those who are innocent. Its first use was in a case just two years after its discovery. It was a case in Leicester, where somebody had admitted rape and murder only to have the DNA evidence prove that they were not responsible. Some time subsequently, Colin Pitchfork was identified as the murderer as a result of DNA evidence.
It is important that we realise the benefits of modern technology and the pace with which it can change. We need to ensure in this House that the law tracks those developments, because people can now be radicalised in their home in the UK by reading literature produced in other countries. We need to ensure that we act appropriately to prevent the dissemination of that sort of information. To return to the bomber in Manchester last year, that person acting alone, thanks to the internet and those illicit sources, had the opportunity to learn how to make a bomb using items that are freely available in this country. Without physical contact with other people, they were able to garner the information, be radicalised and carry out a dreadful act. It is surely essential that we do everything we can to tidy up the law in this country to prevent that.
I want to end with a quote I heard yesterday:
“The law is reason free from passion.”
Aristotle apparently said that. I think it is important that in this House we are not totally free from passion, that we remember these dreadful atrocities that have been committed and that we ensure that we have law that prevents them.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes). I have sat here and listened to some thoughtful speeches. In particular, the hon. Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson) gave us a lot to think about on an issue that I had hoped the Home Secretary would cover in his opening remarks—the new provision on encouragement, effectively, of terrorism through statements that fall short of specifically inciting support for proscribed terrorist organisations. This is a really important provision, as the hon. Gentleman set out cogently in relation to Northern Ireland.
This is a difficult subject to raise, but I am brought back to remarks made in the past by Members who sit on the Labour Benches, some when they were MPs. We have the man who would be Chancellor of the United Kingdom having apparently, in 1986, praised the ballot, the bomb and the bullet. That is deeply, deeply serious. If my understanding of the new legislation is right, had it been in place at the time that that Member apparently made those remarks, he would have been guilty of a terrorist offence. Is the Minister able to share his understanding on that, or is he going to let me raise the matter alone? This is a serious matter in and of itself, but how wide-ranging these new powers could be deserves great thought from Members who will consider the Bill in Committee.
I want to spend a little time talking about the case of Ethan Stables, a young man from Barrow, aged 20, who has just been committed under existing terrorism legislation. On 23 June last year, Ethan Stables posted on Facebook that he was going to war, that he was preparing for a slaughter and planning to attack a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pride event at the New Empire pub. Fortunately, those posts were immediately seen by someone local. The alarm was raised and he was picked up by the police as he was walking to the New Empire pub. He was convicted of terrorism offences. It was found that he had a machete and knives in his home, that he was a neo-Nazi sympathiser and that he had googled things such as “I want to go on a killing spree” and “What is prison like for a murderer?” Clearly, the signs were all there. There is a separate question about why it took so long to pick up Mr Stables. He was literally on the verge of attacking people who were celebrating a community event in the New Empire pub. If the legislation had been in place, the fact that Mr Stables had repeatedly viewed violent videos online and looked at how to download and create his own bombs, would have made him guilty of an offence long before he got to the stage of actively planning. That in itself is surely a reason to welcome this new legislation.
The case of Mr Stables raises the wider question of resources. It is all very well having the offences in place, but the Government will need to explain how they will be able to secure prosecutions earlier on in the process, rather than finding a reason, once someone has been apprehended for other reasons, to go through their viewing history.
It is my understanding that there is no requirement, or indeed any legal possibility at the moment, for internet companies such as YouTube routinely to provide the IP addresses of people who have viewed banned material more than three times, which would make them subject to criminal action under this terrorist legislation. I am talking about videos which would potentially see YouTube found guilty of a criminal offence, or certainly a civil offence, if it kept them up after having being warned about them. Will the Minister address that matter in his summing up? Will he consider bringing that forward so that there is potential to catch more people who are online at the time they are doing this, rather than as part of some retrofitting?
The Home Affairs Committee took evidence last week from the Met police commissioner, Cressida Dick. She was quite clear about the scale of pressure that her resources are under, even at present. She went through a number of areas, including, of course, counter-terror, where more resource was needed and where the amount available was inadequate at the time. Yet this legislation creates a new tranche of offences, which, unless the Minister can explain otherwise, will not be sufficiently resourced to be properly policed.
The other major omission, which the Minister will expect me to raise as we have been backwards and forwards on it both inside and outside the House for many months now, is on the issue of returning jihadis. It is good to get the recognition from the Home Secretary in this debate that he is considering introducing the Australian-style offence at the amendment stage. I can see no other way in which the Government will be able to get close to securing sufficient evidence to prosecute people who are returning from places such as Iraq, Syria or wherever the next terror hotspot is.
The Minister knows that I was able to interview at length someone who was being held in a removal centre in Izmir, Turkey on suspicion of supporting Daesh. She was being removed back to the UK on those grounds. There was a suspicion at the time about what would happen to the woman whom we interviewed. The very tough rhetoric that we hear from the Government, which is that we always seek to prosecute individuals, is not actually commensurate with being able successfully to prosecute individuals once they are here. Clearly, people are going over. They are travelling to Syria without a specific or verifiable reason, such as being part of aid work. They are clearly not going for a valid reason, yet, at the moment, we need verifiable proof, which is very hard to find, to be able to prosecute such people.
A number of us have repeatedly pressed the Government on this. The Minister can enlighten us all on this in his closing remarks if he wishes, but for many months now the Government have refused to give the number of people who have returned from Syria who have been successfully prosecuted. The response now is that those numbers are not quantified in that fashion. Well, they were quantified in May 2016, when the Advocate General, Lord Keen, in the other place gave a written response. Back then, he said that 54 people had been successfully prosecuted, with 30 ongoing cases. Clearly, it is possible to update the House on this and the Government are choosing not to do so. Our strong suspicion is that that is because so few are able to be prosecuted—
I thank the Minister very much for updating the House. I note that 40 is fewer than the 54, the number we apparently prosecuted, according to Lord Keen, in May 2016. I need to examine those figures to see why they are different. I am grateful that, after many months of pushing, the Minister has given us a figure of 40. As he will know, the Government have said that 400 have come back, so we have been able to prosecute successfully only one 10th of those people. That is very significant.
Ministers in response are now saying that a significant proportion of the people coming back are no longer of concern to the security services. That is as may be, and we want the number of people who are no longer of concern to be as high as possible, but that does not mean that they are innocent of terrorism charges. If they have been to Iraq or Syria, have been aiding Daesh, in whatever form, and they are British citizens and they are returning, they have been aiding enemies of the British state. They are people who are wanted for enacting violence on our civilians and on our armed forces and they should be able to be prosecuted, which is why the Australian-style legislation, the declared area offence, is a step forward. It would mean that anyone who has visited a designated terror hotspot without good reason—with declarations overseen by a judge—can be prosecuted for terror offences on their return. That would go a long way towards the deterrent effect that the Government understandably want to create to stop people from taking the crazy journey into war zones to support jihadi organisations that seek to destroy our way of life.
It is a pleasure to be called to speak in this debate and particularly to follow the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock), who made a thought-provoking speech. It was certainly interesting to hear references to one or two of his party’s Front Benchers, although it is probably better that I focus on the substance of the debate than on whether I agree with his comments.
It is important to discuss how to ensure that those who actively set out to support terrorists and organisations that wish to destroy democracy, rather than to engage in debate and democracy, feel the force of the criminal law. I am pleased that this Bill will update the legislation to reflect the fact that we are now in the internet era. However, we must temper this with ensuring that nobody can innocently fall foul of the offences. That can be considered in detail in Committee. I was reassured to hear the Home Secretary’s responses to a number of interventions on this point. He said that there will almost certainly be a reasonable excuse defence for those who might stumble on material or for those who might be engaged in research that we would want them to do and that is not connected to another intention.
I am conscious that these definitions need to be drawn fairly tightly to ensure that we do not create a loophole that could be used by someone just claiming that they were engaging in research. For example, we would need them actively to show that they were part of a recognised research project. I am sure that we can sensibly work out such matters when we discuss the Bill in detail. We must always ensure that our intention is clear in the legislation that we pass, rather than hoping that the courts will listen to what we have said. It is the wording of the legislation that courts will ultimately consider when making decisions about any defence.
I am very pleased with what I have heard. It is right that we end the position whereby the law is not necessarily brought into effect by people streaming material, especially given the explosion—figuratively, not literally—of available sources. People can now stream video to their mobile devices in particular, whereas they would have downloaded material from sharing sites in the past. It is also appropriate that the protections are in place to ensure that nobody is innocently caught by such offences.
It is appropriate that more significant sentences are available to the courts for the offences listed in the Bill. Those who are looking to take part in plots to cause significant loss of life should know about the sentencing powers available to the courts and that those powers will actually be used. I was particularly interested to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) mention the possible sentence for someone who pleads guilty. This legislation is not just about everyone getting the maximum sentence, which is very unlikely to happen, but it will raise the bar for each person convicted or pleading guilty to such offences and ensure that they get time in prison that is commensurate with their offence, time in which it might also be possible for prisons to do useful work with them to turn them away from an extremist path.
We have debated Prevent. Ultimately, the motivation behind this type of behaviour does not matter. It could be the politics of the extreme left or right, or a totally perverted interpretation of a religion. I must be clear that in such cases of extremism or terrorism, the interpretation of the religion is always a perverted one. No religion genuinely backs the actions of extremists walking into a concert and blowing themselves up among women and children who are just enjoying the evening. We need provisions in place to turn people away from that path.
I have certainly found it interesting to listen to this debate. The public are clear that there should be increased sentencing provisions to allow the courts to deal with those who commit such offences. We have seen many stories over the past few years. In particular, I look back at the events of a year ago, when those who were hoping to use terror attacks to deflect from the general election campaign attacked innocent civilians. They hoped that they would somehow terrorise people to change policy or elect people to this place who might not agree with tackling such issues. In fact, all they did was strengthen the resolve of those of us who are democrats, as happened when this Parliament and its Members—some of whom are commemorated on the walls of this very Chamber—were under attack in the past. We were not deflected from our confidence in democracy then, and we will not be deflected in the 21st century from tackling those who wish to destroy democracy. We will ensure that those who believe that they can express views with impunity online that they would never think of expressing in another public forum know that the law will catch up with them.
Members have discussed the retention of materials, particularly fingerprints, as the shadow Home Secretary picked up on the point regarding biometric details. This issue clearly needs further detailed scrutiny and debate. I think that we would all say that there are legitimate intelligence grounds for the police keeping such details following an arrest in circumstances where particular conditions are met. We would not say that details should be destroyed immediately merely because an offence was not proceeded with. I accept that this needs to be balanced with the fact that those who are wholly innocent should not think that their data will always be on a database. For example, there may be a case of mistaken identity that leads to an arrest, or a piece of intelligence may be found leading to the discovery that someone is not, or is unlikely to be, guilty of an offence. It will be interesting to explore how this balance can struck in more detail in Committee. Clearly, it would not be sensible to throw away potentially valuable evidence that might at a later stage allow us to proceed on an offence, to prevent the commission of a further offence, or simply to identify someone. Again, we have to balance that against rights. The principle is right and the overall thrust of the Bill is correct in this matter, but we could explore it in more detail in Committee and on Report.
Overall, the Bill is timely. The threats against this country are growing—not just from non-state actors such as Daesh, but from rogue state actors who seek to engage in behaviour that few of us would have thought likely even a few years ago. The use of chemical weapons against two people on our soil would have been unimaginable only a decade ago. It is therefore right that our legislation is kept fully up to date. The Bill will allow the House and Parliament as a whole to review the legislation, look at it in more depth and produce an Act of Parliament that is firmly rooted in the digital era. In the past, we would have been talking about people displaying flags in public places as our main worry. Now it is about what people are displaying online, particularly under a false flag of a fake digital identity.
This has been a useful debate. I look forward to seeing the Bill progress. It has my support. It has been encouraging to hear the views from across the House that indicate that it is likely to receive cross-party support at this stage, subject to the further debate that we can have only by giving the Bill its Second Reading today.
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.”
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.
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.
This has been a wide-ranging and thoughtful debate.
Two years ago, our late friend and parliamentary colleague Jo Cox was murdered, and between March and September last year there were five terror attacks. At the forefront of our minds are those who lost their lives in the incidents at Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena, London Bridge and Borough Market, and Finsbury Park, and those who were injured at Parsons Green. We think of Jo and others who are no longer with us, and we think of the injured and their friends and families. We also think of our magnificent emergency services who, time and again, showed extraordinary bravery and courage in the most difficult circumstances.
I pay tribute to all the workers in our national health service who saved lives and treated the injured, and to all the services that were involved in the investigation and treatment of Sergei and Yulia Skripal—including Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who was rightly lauded by Members in all parts of the House during the debate. I also pay tribute to the work of our security services. We should think about what has not happened: since the terrible murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in May 2013, 25 terrorist attacks have been foiled and numerous lives have been saved.
It is in the context of those events that the Bill is to be judged. We all want effective legislation in that context. Such legislation must always keep pace with technology and the times in which we live, and we support the Government in those aims. We also, of course, want to put public safety at the centre of policy in this area, and to make it as effective as possible. Aspects of the Bill build on the recommendations of the previous independent reviewer of counter-terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC. My right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) rightly highlighted the work that David Anderson has done in this area over a number of years.
We are anxious for the wider impact of terrorist incidents on surrounding communities and businesses to be taken into account, and clause 19 is welcome in that it seeks to widen the scope of losses covered. Business interruption costs are not currently covered when there is no physical damage to the commercial premises, although we know that such interruption occurs. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Neil Coyle) for the work that he has done in that regard. We will press the Government in Committee on whether they will cover losses that have been suffered by businesses in connection with the incidents of the past 15 months, and not simply losses that will be suffered in future incidents. Will they compensate businesses that have lost out in the past when they should not have done so as a consequence of the current loophole?
We intend to table substantial amendments to the Bill in Committee. The Minister has indicated a willingness to be constructive, and I take him at his word. I hope that he will consider all our amendments in the constructive spirit in which they are intended. We will continue to make the case for proper resourcing, an issue that was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock). I myself have asked the Minister about it on a number of occasions. We will continue to hold the Government to account for their funding of our police and other emergency services, and our security services, and, indeed, for how much we pay the workers who do so much for our society.
The first three clauses seek to update terrorism offences on expressions of support for a proscribed organisation, publication of images, and obtaining or viewing material on the internet—the so-called digital fixes. We agree of course that the law should be updated and keep pace with the times, but those clauses will need work in Committee. Max Hill QC, the independent reviewer of terror legislation, has said in recent days that
“the tweaks to existing offences range from pragmatic to problematic.”
Of course, with any change in the law, we have to ensure that there is wide public consent. The independent reviewer of terror legislation said last October:
“While we can all agree that there should be nowhere for real terrorists to hide, we should also agree that legislating in the name of terrorism when the targeted activity is not actually terrorism would be quite wrong.”
That is why the legal frameworks we set in this House must be forensically considered, seeking to protect our daily lives and our values of freedom and respect. It is vital that we guard in our criminal law against any unwelcome consequences.
We will therefore be scrutinising the Government carefully on what they mean by “reckless” in the context of an expression of support for a proscribed organisation. On the photographs provision, we will want the Government to distinguish genuine threat from immature behaviour or other motives. On the streaming of material as well as downloading, I agree that the law needs to be updated in that respect, but we need to be clear about what “streaming” means. At present it is specified in the Bill as three views, but, as a number of contributions to the debate from across the House have suggested, that will need to be carefully considered. Journalists and assiduous researchers accessing material for legitimate purposes—and indeed the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee—should not be criminalised, so we will be looking at the position of the Government with regard to the “reasonable excuse” defence.
On the additional sentences in the Bill, the Sentencing Council published its guidelines for terrorism offences on 28 March, but those were based on the current maximum sentences. I would be grateful for reassurance from the Minister that the Government will work with the Sentencing Council on the new proposed maximum sentences.
The release of terrorist offenders who are subject to extended sentences will be a decision for the Parole Board. There were concerns in a different criminal context with regard to the Warboys case, but I sincerely hope that the Government will be able to give reassurances that shortcomings have now been satisfactorily resolved and that there can be wide confidence in the Parole Board as it carries out such an important task.
On data retention, we will of course look carefully at the Government’s justification as to why the collection of data from people who are arrested but not charged is necessary and proportionate, and what mechanisms are in place for wholly innocent people who wish to have their data removed.
A number of Members mentioned the extension of the Prevent programme, and clause 18 gives local authorities the power to refer to Channel panels as part of that strategy. Labour’s policy is for there to be a review of Prevent, and we will of course consider carefully the capacity of local authorities in this regard in their current funding settlements. Indeed, at Home Office questions only last week, I raised with the Minister my concerns about local authorities being given additional duties in respect of data without appropriate data security and training and the resources required.
It is entirely reasonable for the Government to be looking at border security. Clause 20 activates schedule 3, which includes the power to stop, question and detain. That is a very broad power. Paragraph 1(4) of schedule 3 states that somebody can be stopped, questioned and detained
“whether or not there are grounds for suspecting that a person is or has been engaged in hostile activity.”
In his opening remarks, the Home Secretary made it clear that there should be robust safeguards in circumstances such as these, and I absolutely agree with him. At the moment, the Bill provides for oversight by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, but I suggest that working with the independent reviewer of counter-terrorism—who is at the moment the reviewer of schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000—is going to be crucial. That relationship will need to be spelled out as the Bill proceeds.
We obviously understand the need to detain individuals in certain circumstances, particularly at airports when they are potentially posing a risk. Does my hon. Friend agree that, if we are to exercise these powers sensitively, it is crucial to have regard to compensation for those who have been stopped and subsequently found not to be guilty of any offence—for example, if they have missed their flight or had property taken off them?
I very much agree with my hon. Friend on that point. How we draw the law precisely in this area is very important. The powers will need to be backed up by appropriate safeguards and protections for those who are wholly innocent of any offence.
On the question of border security, the Bill as it stands means that a person who is detained for less than an hour will not have the right to access a solicitor, and that someone detained for more than an hour will be able to access a lawyer, but they could be required to do that within the sight and hearing of an officer. That will clearly have consequences for our cherished and valuable principle of legal professional privilege, under which people have the right to consult a lawyer and to do so in private. This is something that we will want to consider further in Committee, and I very much hope that the Government will listen to the points that have been made about the need for appropriate safeguards.
I hope that the considered nature of this debate will continue into the Committee stage. I look forward to working with colleagues on both sides of the House to scrutinise and, hopefully, improve this legislation in such a crucial policy area.
This has been a good debate, and Members on both sides of the House have demonstrated a desire to take a collaborative approach to counter-terrorism legislation. I am heartened by that, and delighted that we can start the process in that spirit. Every point that I have heard today has been made with passion, consideration and genuine belief. I might not have agreed with some of the points, but I certainly recognise that this is not about posturing or anything other than trying to make an effective piece of legislation that will make us safer. Over time, while we are doing this Bill, I intend to do as much as I can to work with Members on both sides of the House and to be as collaborative as possible. I shall work to see whether there are better ideas to improve the legislation, to ensure that we can deliver it in such a way as to enable the intelligence services, the police and local communities to feel safer than they do today.
On 22 March last year, many of us who were in the House heard shots being fired outside and heard about the horrendous events on Westminster Bridge. I was about to come into the Chamber when I heard a police officer say, “Shots fired.” We lost our friend PC Keith Palmer that day. He did his very best to defend us from a man intent on killing indiscriminately and spreading terror. On 22 May last year, in this job as Security Minister, I remember being woken just after 11.30 pm by a phone call from my office telling me of the dreadful news that a bomb had been detonated at the Manchester Arena and killed a significant number of people. Manchester is my local city, and my own daughter had been at the Arena only the week before. Those events brought home to us the vulnerability that we face.
Every one of us in the House, while not directly affected by terrorism, will have fought the general election feeling—perhaps for the first time and perhaps because of social media—the level of hate and bile that is directed at us all. I think that that made us feel a little uneasy about the society that we are in, and about what lies at the extremes behind that hate. Some of my friends on the Opposition Benches are right now under threat from the extreme right, and we remember our dear fallen colleague. Also, a good friend in my part of the world has been under real threat from some particularly nasty people. I think that we have to reflect on these issues.
There is often pressure after such attacks to have new legislation—something must be done—and I am proud that this Government did not rush to legislation. We set up several significant reviews that were consolidated into four main reviews. The operational review produced a classified report of some 1,300 pages that went into every single decision, piece of intelligence and bit of work that went on in the lead-up to some of the attacks. I read all 1,300 pages not just because I am incredibly interested and because it is my duty, but because only then could I learn what legislation will put right, what is reasonable to be asked by our security services and police and what should not necessarily need to be placed on the statute book.
We also had the Home Office’s counter-terrorism legislative review, and we reviewed Contest, pausing its relaunch to see whether anything needed to be handled. Several of those reviews were “oversighted” by David Anderson, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, or Max Hill, the current reviewer, who reviewed how police used their powers in the aftermath. That gentle but solid consideration is why we are here today with legislation that hopefully helps to answer some of the challenges we face.
When the terrorists unleashed attacks on us in 2017, that demonstrated clearly not only the empowerment that they now have through social media and encrypted communication, but how they had adapted to our statute book to find new vulnerabilities. They have shifted their ambitions to find where we are not as protected as perhaps we should be, and they have exploited that. Good terrorists do that. Terrorists are all about our soft underbelly and our vulnerability. If they cannot get an AK-47, they get a truck. If they cannot get a truck, they get a knife. That is part of what they do, and if they cannot do any of that, they intimidate and scare us with words and propaganda. They exploit our constituents, whether they are vulnerable or children.
Daesh are the among the worst. They have no fuss about who they twist and corrupt. They do not care whether they are Muslim, young, abused or vulnerable or whether they suffer from mental illness. Anyone will do to carry out their twisted, murderous campaign. Despite the loss of territory in Syria, they keep their flame alive. They are adapting, and as we speak there are people in this country planning to repeat what we saw last year. There were five attacks last year, four extreme right-wing, neo-Nazi attacks have been stopped over the past 12 months, and 25 plots have been disrupted since the murder of Lee Rigby. We have 3,000 current subjects of interest involved in nearly 500 live operations. I have never seen things at such a scale, and the threat is a great challenge not only due to encrypted communications, but due to the speed at which someone who does not mind getting caught can reach out, grab a knife, go out of their front door and literally kill people as they see fit.
I will now answer some of the points made today. The shadow Home Secretary offered some positive support for the Bill in principle, which I welcome, but she highlighted some of her concerns, which I may be able to answer. In clause 1, there was a worry about reckless encouragement, but it is our challenge to deal with people who go out to inspire others. It is no coincidence that al-Qaeda’s online publication, which contains sections such as “Just Terror Tactics”, is called “Inspire” because inspiration is one of the challenges we face. There are some very charismatic people in our communities, some of whom are currently in prison but are due to be released, who have used their presence and their inspiration to recruit without actually muttering the words, “And I want you to join Daesh, and I want you to go and fight in Syria.” That has been part of the challenge, and some of them—one individual, in particular, has been responsible for hundreds of people being drawn into extremism—have used it so well for so long, which is why we have sought to plug the gap in the space of inspiration.
I agree with a number of colleagues on both sides of the House on the substance of Prevent. Whenever I hear people criticise Prevent and I ask, “Okay, what would you do?”, they just describe Prevent, and they come back to the bit about the Prevent brand being tainted. Fine, the brand is safeguarding; I will sell safeguarding all day long. We call it Prevent, but it is about safeguarding people from being exploited.
The shadow Home Secretary is worried about whether local authorities have the expertise. They do not have expertise in counter-terrorism, but, by golly, they have expertise in safeguarding vulnerable people and children. We should put Prevent referrals in perspective. There are 9,000 Prevent referrals a year, of which half are of people aged up to young adolescence. There are 621,000 referrals a year to safeguard people from domestic abuse, sexual abuse and grooming. Let us put this in perspective. Prevent is not a Big Brother spying operation.
The end result has been that, in two years, more than 500 people about whom we had serious concerns they were on the path towards, or were about to engage in, violent extremism are now deemed no longer to be a threat. That is 500 people—it takes one man to drive a van across Westminster bridge—and, in my book, that is a success.
Yes, there are people who are worried about the branding of Prevent, about which I have two things to say. First, when I raise the extreme right or the neo-Nazis, people say, “Prevent is quite a good thing for them.” Secondly, when I look people in the eye whose families have been prevented from going to Syria, they do not argue with Prevent; they say that Prevent works. One of the reasons we publish the figures is that they put it in perspective and show that there are successes. It is not 100%, but 30% of the people it picks up need other types of safeguarding.
Often the people who attack Prevent the most are the ones who do not want Prevent to work because they are the flipside of the recruiters of extremism in this country. We should not forget that some people want the narrative to be, “Don’t trust the state. We don’t like the state, and we don’t want the state. Our way is the best way.” They peddle this myth that a child was reported to have said, “My uncle lives in a terrorist household”—we have all heard that one trotted out by the anti-Prevent lobby. What the child actually said was, “I live in a terraced house, and my uncle beats me.” It never was a Prevent referral; it was a referral because the child was being abused. The same people will peddle that myth until the cows come home.
Our ambition is to broaden Prevent, to get the local community engaged and to get local authorities alongside the police on referrals. One of the criticisms of Prevent is that it is too police-focused. Local authorities may understand some of the nuances in their community to determine whether a person is really being radicalised. If the local authority says, “We think they are being radicalised,” why should it not be allowed directly to refer that person to Channel? I think that is a good thing. It is not a step backwards; it is listening to some of those criticisms about Prevent.
My right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes) is right to talk about keeping people safe. This is about safeguarding. On whether we have too much legislation or legislation enough, there are two things to say. Britain is a world leader in counter-terrorism. All our legislation has got us to a point where most countries come to ask us how to do it. Most countries around the world are envious of what we have.
Also, unlike other countries, we have probably the most oversighted intelligence services, security services, police and law enforcement in the world. A number of the measures in the Bill were recommended by the independent reviewers. The hostile activity port stop power has been included because the independent reviewer identified two occasions on which our police were abusing the counter-terrorism power to stop people we thought were from hostile states and recommended a separate power. The Biometrics Commissioner was the one who recommended the changes to the biometrics. So the Government have listened to some of these independent reviewers and thought, “That is a good thing to do.”
May I say to the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands) that I welcome the Scottish National party’s support in principle for the Bill? Of course I will continue to work with him and the Scottish Government. I first entered the Scottish Parliament at the same time as his Justice Minister. I had a phone call with him last night. If he feels at any stage that they are not getting the engagement, he should not hesitate to get in touch and I will make sure that it is done. It is incredibly important that Contest and our counter-terrorism legislation reach all the fingertips of the United Kingdom. I note that when National Action was proscribed, something called Scottish Dawn popped up quickly—it is now proscribed, too. It is important that we do not muddy the waters where we all agree to agree.
On the issue about recklessness, part of this is about how we deal with those who are targeting people without caring whether they understand or not—I refer to the issue of vulnerability. In March, Umar Haque was convicted of trying to radicalise hundreds of children at school. He got them to swear allegiance to ISIL. He got them to re-enact the Westminster Bridge attack in their classroom and he showed them footage of people being beheaded. He said to those children, “If you tell your parents, you will go to prison.” Those people were vulnerable—they were children—and we have to find a way to make sure we close the gap in determining how much intent has to be involved and how much the receiver of that information has to know what they are getting.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk)—my learned friend—gave an excellent example about recklessness when he talked about a baseball bat. What we are dealing with here is not that different—I may disagree here with the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey)—and the law has established on a number of occasions where recklessness comes in. My notes tell me to cite R v. G and another from 2003, and I think my hon. Friend is the only person who would understand what case that refers to. It was not an enlightening note, but it shows that this has been done.
Points have been made about hostile activity stops on the border. One way we temper the no suspicion issue is by the fact that whatever oral statements are made then cannot be used in court as evidence. That is an important way to try to balance this, but there is the issue about suspicion to address. If I were an agent of a foreign country, I would be trained. I would know the law of the country I am coming into, so I would give my electronic equipment to a family member. If we had to have reasonable suspicion, we would have to have reasonable suspicion about everyone else travelling with that person; it would be harder to adapt to something as it happens.
I hear what the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) says, as he is right, about the impact the current schedule has had, including on my constituency, and the cost and what people perhaps lose when they are stopped under counter-terrorism powers. We have to look at whether we can make sure the information is provided in a timely way, so that people do not miss flights. Sometimes things are too last-minute, but this has been incredibly useful.
The hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock) talked about the challenges of dealing with foreign fighters. Some 150 people have been prevented from going to train, fight or engage in terrorism because of that schedule. We managed at the airport to stop them, and in examining their electronic devices, we saw that they were not really going on a family holiday to Turkey but were in fact, for example, taking their three young children to Raqqa. No one wants to go on such a holiday, and those three children had no say in that.
I hope and believe that the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Neil Coyle) will be meeting the Economic Secretary to discuss the issue he raised further. I hear what he says, and I also want to pay tribute to his colleague the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell), as she has talked a lot about loss of business around the Manchester Arena. It is right to raise this. I am also glad he has called out Aviva. It is important for us to remember—this is the same for our constituents going on a summer holiday—that slowly but surely over the past 10 years travel insurance firms have dropped terrorism from their coverage, yet the odds of being a victim of terrorism are still absolutely tiny. So I have asked to see what we can do with insurance companies more widely to ensure that, although people are at only a tiny, tiny risk of being a victim, this is not just casually dropped out of people’s schedules.
My hon. Friend the Member for Henley (John Howell) referenced Hezbollah. Of course we always keep proscription under review. I hear what he says about it and I understand the hurt people feel here when they see others flying flags of Hezbollah on the streets—for example, on al-Quds day. He also talked about the Council of Europe. It is absolutely the case, on the border point, that we need to engage those partnerships post Brexit. We need to make sure that we continue with all the tools that we use at the moment. The United Kingdom Government’s position is unconditional on that. That is what we would like to engage with. The question is for the European Commission—whether it would like to have that.
Security is not a competition. Trade might be, but security is not. I think that is something they understand in Europe, going by my private conversations, and I hope that, by the time we get to Brexit, we will see it in place, because that partnership, both domestically and internationally, is why we are so successful in counter-terrorism.
I can already give the hon. Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson) some good news from the Dispatch Box: there is no 20-year bar on glorification of terrorism offences, nor will there be. In that sense, hopefully, he will be able to progress and go forward.
The hon. Member for Barrow and Furness is right that we have to find ways to explore the foreign fighter challenge. That is not just us—it is the French and the Germans, too—where we might have intelligence that someone is out there engaging, but it is hard to get the evidence. During the passage of the Bill, we are going to explore new measures or other measures on which I am happy to work together that I hope will do that for us.
We have also extended extraterritorial jurisdiction, because it is ridiculous that someone can sit in Syria and try to recruit people from the United Kingdom and somehow not be prosecuted correctly.
The usual channels have taken over. I have lost the first battle.
In summing up, I apologise to the other Members who contributed so eloquently to the debate. I would, of course, be happy to meet them outside the usual channels. I should say very clearly that we owe a great duty to our intelligence services and police in thanking them for all the hard work that they do. We will progress with this legislation. I will work as much as possible in partnership with Members from all parts of the House to get a deal and a Bill that works to keep us safe.
The Chair was merely making an inquiry, and there was a question mark at the end of it, but I get the impression that the peroration was not altogether unwelcome to the House. We are very grateful to the Minister of State.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time.
COUNTER-TERRORISM AND BORDER SECURITY BILL (PROGRAMME)
Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),
That the following provisions shall apply to the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill:
(1) The Bill shall be committed to a Public Bill Committee.
Proceedings in Public Bill Committee
(2) Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Tuesday 17 July.
(3) The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.
Proceedings on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading
(4) Proceedings on Consideration and any proceedings in legislative grand committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which those proceedings are commenced.
(5) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on that day.
(6) Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading.
(7) Any other proceedings on the Bill may be programmed.—(Paul Maynard.)
Question agreed to.
Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Money)
Queen’s recommendation signified.
Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)),
That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any amounts payable by the Treasury in respect of obligations incurred, under any agreement of reinsurance or guarantee, as a result of the amendments made by the Act to the Reinsurance (Acts of Terrorism) Act 1993.—(Paul Maynard.)
Question agreed to.
Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Ways and Means)
Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)),
That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill, it is expedient to authorise the charging of fees, under amendments made by the Act to the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, in connection with traffic regulation orders or notices made or issued for the purpose of protecting events or sites from risks associated with terrorism.—(Paul Maynard.)
Question agreed to.
Women and Equalities Committee
That Teresa Pearce be discharged from the Women and Equalities Committee and Tulip Siddiq be added.—(Bill Wiggin, on behalf of the Selection Committee.)