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Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill

Volume 671: debated on Wednesday 12 February 2020

Considered in Committee (Order, this day)

[Dame Eleanor Laing in the Chair]

Clause 1

Eligibility for release on licence of terrorist prisoners: England and Wales

I beg to move amendment 3, page 1, line 8, after “force”, insert

“and notwithstanding the Human Rights Act 1998”

The intention of this Amendment is to ensure that the Bill meets the rule established by Willes J in Phillips v Eyre (1870) LR 6 QB 1 that the courts will ascribe retrospective force to new laws affecting rights if by express words or necessary implication it appears that such was the intention of the legislature.

With this it will be convenient to consider:

Amendment 4, in page 1, line 12, after “force”, insert

“and notwithstanding the Human Rights Act 1998”

The intention of this Amendment is to ensure that the Bill meets the rule established by Willes J in Phillips v Eyre (1870) LR 6 QB 1 that the courts will ascribe retrospective force to new laws affecting rights if by express words or necessary implication it appears that such was the intention of the legislature.

Amendment 1, page 2, line 34, leave out “two-thirds” and insert “nine-tenths”.

Amendment 2, page 2, line 37, leave out “two-thirds” and insert “nine-tenths”.

Clauses 1 and 2 stand part.

Amendment 5, in clause 3, page 4, line 2, after “force”, insert

“and notwithstanding the Human Rights Act 1998”.

The intention of this Amendment is to ensure that the Bill meets the rule established by Willes J in Phillips v Eyre (1870) LR 6 QB 1 that the courts will ascribe retrospective force to new laws affecting rights if by express words or necessary implication it appears that such was the intention of the legislature.

Amendment 6, page 4, line 6, after “force”, insert

“and notwithstanding the Human Rights Act 1998”.

The intention of this Amendment is to ensure that the Bill meets the rule established by Willes J in Phillips v Eyre (1870) LR 6 QB 1 that the courts will ascribe retrospective force to new laws affecting rights if by express words or necessary implication it appears that such was the intention of the legislature.

Clause 3 and 4 to 10 stand part.

That schedules 1 and 2 be the First and Second schedules to the Bill.

New clause 1—Review of prison deradicalisation programme

“(1) The Secretary of State must appoint a person to review the operation of the provisions of the prison deradicalisation programme.

(2) The person appointed under subsection (1) may enter any prison premises in order to scrutinise the operation of the prison deradicalisation programme.

(3) The person appointed under subsection (1) must make a report to the Secretary of State on the operation of the provisions of the prison deradicalisation programme before the end of the period of 6 months after the date on which this Act is passed.

(4) The person appointed must make further reports at intervals of not more than three months to the Secretary of State on the operation of the provisions of the prison deradicalisation programme.

(5) The person appointed under subsection (1) may include in any review or report under this section consideration of the adequacy of resources made available to the prison deradicalisation programme, including resources made available for the supervision of probation and rehabilitation work.

(6) On receiving a report under this section, the Secretary of State must make arrangements to lay a copy of it before each House of Parliament as soon as the Secretary of State is satisfied that doing so will not prejudice any criminal proceedings.

(7) The Secretary of State may, out of money provided by Parliament, pay a person appointed under subsection (1), such expenses and allowances as the Secretary of State determines.”

This new clause would require the appointment of an independent reviewer of the prison deradicalisation programme.

New clause 3—Review

(1) The Secretary of State must arrange for an independent review of the impact of sections 1 to 9 to be carried out in relation to the initial one-year period.

(2) The Secretary of State must, after consultation with the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, appoint a person with professional experience relating to the imprisonment for offences of terrorism to conduct the review.

(3) The review must be completed as soon as practicable after the end of the initial one-year period.

(4) As soon as practicable after a person has carried out the review in relation to a particular period, the person must—

(a) produce a report of the outcome of the review, and

(b) send a copy of the report to the Secretary of State.

(5) The Secretary of State must lay before each House of Parliament a copy of the report sent under subsection (4)(b) within one month of receiving the report.

(6) The Secretary of State may—

(a) make such payments as the Secretary of State thinks appropriate in connection with the carrying out of the review, and

(b) make such other arrangements as the Secretary of State thinks appropriate in connection with the carrying out of the review (including arrangements for the provision of staff, other resources and facilities).

(7) In this section, “initial one-year period” means the period of one year beginning with the day when this Act comes into force.”

I have already canvassed some parts of what I am about to say, but there is more to say, for a very sound reason. Parliament is full of opinions and Ministers are full of opinions. Two Ministers are sitting on the Front Bench at the moment, no doubt debating the issue before the Committee, but their opinions are not the law, and nor are those of leading counsel, whether senior Treasury counsel or those involved in academic discussion. I say that really seriously. I have been practising the law since 1967 and I know a little about how the law is interpreted. We saw the Gina Miller case the other day. How many times were we told that there was absolutely no question but that the Government were right in their interpretation? I served as the shadow Attorney General and saw the whole of the Iraq and Peter Goldsmith exercise. We were told over and again in the House this, that and the other about interpretation—“This is what will happen. This is the way it will go.” That is no way to make decisions on matters of this kind of critical importance.

There are occasions on which the question of interpretation may merely be about a modification of policy; this is actually about saving human life. I repeat that: saving human life. Where it is possible for the House to ensure that human life cannot be unreasonably and wilfully disposed of by people who are intent on murdering for no reason at all, we need to take seriously the question whether or not we can exclude the courts —because this is Parliament, not the judiciary—from making wrong decisions when matters come before them.

I heard with interest the Chairman of the Justice Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill), and the various cases he mentioned, and I have just heard the Minister refer to the Uttley case. There is also the Hogben case, which was of course in 1985, before the Human Rights Act 1998. Reference was also made to the del Río Prada case. As a matter of fact, the legislation does not depend on an interpretation of those individual cases by way of precedent, and that is not what we should be worried about; we should be thinking about the purpose and scope of the Bill and its objective, which is to do everything that we can to ensure that human life and public safety come first. I do not want this to become an argument about the interpretation of law, which is why I tabled amendment 3 to clause 1.

On the subject of opinions, does my hon. Friend intend to test the opinion of the Committee, or merely the opinion of the Minister?

That is an extremely good question on which I have already given an indication. Being a realist, I know perfectly well that this is not a Bill to which an amendment is going to be passed—certainly not today—but I did say that the House of Lords, which is where the Bill is going, is full of lawyers, some of whom I will disagree with and have disagreed with for as many years as I have been in the House, but there are others who will take a different view.

I am interested to hear the views of the House of Lords on the question of my proposal to amend clause 1. The wording of clause 1 currently refers to an offence “within subsection (2)” and a sentence imposed

“whether before or after this section comes into force”,

at which point I propose to insert the words

“and notwithstanding the Human Rights Act 1998”.

The effect of that would be to put a complete bar on the use of the Human Rights Act, by interpretation of the courts, in any attempt, whether it is regarded as misguided or is a matter of culture—there is currently a load of culture in the courts relating to human rights questions that have built up over the whole of my lifetime in the law.

I am deeply concerned that we could allow legislation to go through that could be interpreted in a way that would result in human life being lost and public safety being infringed. That is my concern. [Interruption.] I see the Minister looking at me either apprehensively or with anticipation; I am not sure which it is and I do not really care. What I am saying is that I want certainty. I know that if the words “notwithstanding the Human Rights Act” are brought into the Bill, the effect will be to exclude completely, for reasons that I am about to give, any attempt by the courts to modify the effect that the Bill otherwise would have.

I have other concerns about the Bill that I have already made clear. I do not think that offenders should be considered for release after half or two thirds of their sentence. I have a lot of sympathy for what my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne) proposes in amendment 1; he says it should be nine tenths. I do not know whether he will address that point later.

The bottom line is that we should not allow this situation if we can avoid it—and we can avoid it, because we are the Houses of Parliament, and as a result of Brexit, we have just regained an awful lot of our sovereignty. This is more a matter of the European convention on human rights than of the charter of fundamental rights—or, for that matter, of Brexit—but the amendment is an indication of the House’s determination to use our sovereignty to make law that will guarantee that we do not face people losing their life, or public safety being undermined.

If we do not include in the Bill the words that I propose in my amendment 3, I believe—as I said before with respect to the Lee Rigby case—that it is not a matter of if such a thing happens again; it is a matter of when. I concede that this is emergency legislation; that is why I support it, but it requires a full, thorough review, perhaps by the Justice Committee, to ensure that we deal with the issue properly and fully.

I applaud the Government for bringing in this Bill on an emergency basis, but I criticise the fact that the Bill does not go far enough. The Minister is, if I might say so, not a lawyer; he can only have received his information from others who are. He is taking a bit of a punt in saying that the words

“and notwithstanding the Human Rights Act 1998”

are not needed. He does not know that. I say that with not only respect, but knowledge and certainty. It is very difficult even for lawyers to be sure what the impact would be of allowing the Bill through without excluding the Human Rights Act 1998 from it.

I thank the hon. Member for giving way, despite my non-lawyer background. I am of course interested in what he says, and have been listening extremely carefully, as he has seen. How does he think his amendment would operate? In particular, does he think it would in any way disapply our ECHR treaty obligations? Even if we passed his notwithstanding amendment, could applicants not still go directly to the European Court in Strasbourg? We cannot disapply that route through this amendment.

I notice that the Minister is reading very carefully from the notes with which he has been provided, and I agree with the sentiment behind them, but I am putting the case in a different way. We are talking about serious questions of human life, and every step should be taken to preserve it. I was originally minded to use the amendment to exclude the European convention on human rights, too. I describe amendment 3 as a probing amendment, but I want proper consideration of it, not just someone saying, “I don’t think the wording would achieve the total effect that the hon. Gentleman would wish it to.”

The risk to human life is serious; we have to take every step to ensure no repetition of the instances of murder and terrorism that we have witnessed, and which, in recent times, from Lee Rigby onwards, have become more and more prevalent. We know that people are prepared to take such steps; it may be that some of them are mentally disturbed. Perhaps people do not think that these things will happen again, but as I said in debate on another counter-terrorism Bill four or five years ago, the question is not whether we have another Lee Rigby, but when. We have had one after another, at regular intervals. They are becoming more and more imminent, and more and more serious. I doubt whether this Bill, however worthy its objectives, will deal with the problem in the manner in which I am setting out and which is necessary.

There is no doubt that Parliament has the power to legislate retrospectively. I want to make that entirely clear. If the words are clear and express, whatever judges may wish to interpret is displaced by the wording that Parliament actually utters. My authority for this—there are plenty of authorities, but I will give the Committee this one—are the words of Willes J in Phillips v. Eyre. Those words boil down to this: the courts will only ascribe retrospective force to new laws affecting rights if by

“express words or necessary implication it appears that such was the intention of the legislature”.

That is supported by page 56 of Bradley and Ewing’s “Constitutional and Administrative Law”, which is the greatest constitutional authority that we have in this country and is into its 15th edition. Bradley and Ewing are quite clear that if the words are express in particular, and/or by necessary implication it appears that such was the intention of the legislature, there is no argument. The courts, quite rightly, will interpret that law in the light of those express words. This is why I propose the insertion of the words

“and notwithstanding the Human Rights Act 1998”.

We could add “or the European convention on human rights”, for that matter—to answer the Minister’s point directly. I do not mind. I am not doing this as an exercise in academic analysis; I am doing it because I do not want people to be killed and I do not want people to be released in circumstances where they might kill people. There is too much at stake.

For practical purposes, I believe that we need to have legislative clarity and the avoidance of doubt in relation to the power of Parliament to legislate retrospectively. I am not interested in the possible interpretation of leading counsel, academics, bloggers, senior Treasury counsel or, for that matter—with the greatest respect, and I really mean that—either the Chair of the Justice Committee or the Lord Chancellor himself. In this House, we make decisions about the legislation that we are going to pass. On the basis of what Willes J said in Phillips v. Eyre—and other cases—it is crystal clear that by using words that are explicit and express, we can have the effect of ensuring that human life is saved, and that is the main intention behind my amendment.

It is not for me to go into all the criticisms of the Human Rights Act 1998 that I have had over the years, but I can assure the House that an awful lot of distinguished lawyers, including the Foreign Secretary, have had a lot to say about this matter over the years, including Martin Howe QC. There is a huge body of legal opinion on both sides of the debate, and there are those who are inclined to take the view that the Human Rights Act has a lot of merit in it—and the charter of fundamental rights, for that matter, which we have now excluded by virtue of the withdrawal agreement Bill, which became the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 only about 10 days ago.

I am another layperson —a non-lawyer. Can my hon. Friend see any downside to including the set of words that he is suggesting in his amendment? Would they limit something that might otherwise not be limited? I hear very clearly his arguments about its possibly being superfluous and the legislation being subject to interpretation, but is there any downside other than it being an additional safeguard that might not have been required?

Indeed. As usual, my hon. Friend is very perceptive. This is really the main purpose of my words on the subject, because there is no downside at all in this context. I can think of circumstances where it might be arguable that there could be, because somehow or other one might be infringing some genuine human right. However, given that we are dealing with this issue for the sole purpose of preventing people from being murdered in the circumstances and in the manner of these heinous acts and for the purposes for which people indulge in them, there can be no downside in making this absolutely crystal clear, subject to comments that may be made by other lawyers as a result of what I am saying now and, for that matter, what is said in the House of Lords.

I am not pretending that I have all the answers to every question in matters of this kind, but I do think it is our duty, in the context of what we are seeking to prevent, to ensure that we are as crystal clear as we can be in our direction to the courts that they should not and must not allow human rights considerations to allow murder to take place. That is the problem and that is why I am so emphatic about it. I have noted from the Minister’s remarks and from other conversations I have had with senior Ministers that they are perhaps more interested in questions of interpretation than I am. I do not want any interpretation in this context.

The sole purpose of this Bill is to deal with people who are going to commit murder. Let us be under no misapprehension: this Bill has not been brought forward to deal with some questions relating to the whole generality of human rights law; it is specifically emergency legislation to deal specifically with preventing people who, for a variety of reasons or without reasons, intend to perpetrate murder from doing so. Human life is at risk. That is why this is such a good move on the part of the Government. There is nothing negative in my approach; it is entirely belt and braces. If the opportunity is to be given to Parliament to make sure that we have both the belt and the braces, then for heaven’s sake let us take it and not leave it to the vagaries and the uncertainties of judicial interpretation.

I have already referred to the Hogben case. I am not going to go through the analysis, because this is not something that depends on compiling a judgment about the interpretation of law based on precedents. I do not think that any case we put forward, coming back to what my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Adam Afriyie) said, could generate an upside or a downside. I just want clarity; that is the whole point. The words that I have used adopt the notwithstanding formula in section 38 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, relating to the sovereignty of Parliament. I argued this in No. 10, and the Prime Minister, to his enormous credit, completely backed me. I said, “You have to include the words ‘notwithstanding the European Communities Act 1972’.” By doing this in a certain manner, one ensures that one achieves one’s objective, without the uncertainty that can arise in the circumstances that I have described.

We need to bear in mind that the del Rio Prada case was a decision by the European Court of Human Rights. The Minister referred to the other cases. In the case of Uttley, there was an appeal on which the House of Lords concluded that article 7 would be infringed only if a sentence was imposed on a defendant that constituted a heavier penalty than that which would have been imposed at the time the offence was committed. The ECHR then declared that his application was inadmissible. The del Rio Prada case was to do with Spanish policy, but there is no doubt that part of the argument put forward by the Government today has depended on administration, rather than the object of the Bill. That is another area that needs to be carefully considered, because the question of administration should not be the basis on which we make these decisions.

There we are—I have made my case. The Government could review the situation when the Bill goes to the House of Lords, and I will be interested to see how people develop this argument from now on.

I rise to speak to new clause 1, in my name and that of my hon. and right hon. Friends, but before I do I want to commend my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Bell Ribeiro-Addy), who has had to deal with the awful incident that happened on the high street in Streatham shortly after coming into the House. On her intervention on the Minister on Second Reading, the issue of various sentencing decisions over the last 10 years was touched on in a new clause that was not selected, but more broadly I commend the idea of strategically reviewing the sentencing regime, and I hope that the Ministry of Justice will consider that.

I made it clear to the Minister previously that it is not my intention to divide the Committee on new clause 1, but scrutiny of the deradicalisation programme and giving Parliament confidence that the programme is being monitored is very important, and I hope he will address that when he responds.

The new clause specifically requires the appointment of an independent reviewer of the prison deradicalisation programme. On Second Reading, the Minister mentioned some figures with regard to resources, including £90 million on counter-terror policing and an uplift in the prison budget from £2.55 billion to £2.9 billion, but that does not tell us specifically how much is being spent on the deradicalisation programme. That is the sort of information that an independent reviewer would be able to discover and then put in a format that the House could consider.

We have already discussed Mr Ian Acheson’s review of Islamist extremism in prisons, probation and youth justice. One of his recommendations was to have an independent adviser on counter-terrorism in prisons who is accountable to the Secretary of State. My new clause goes slightly further than that recommendation. It would require the Secretary of State for Justice to appoint a person to review the operation of the prison deradicalisation programme, with the power to enter prison premises both to gather evidence and provide scrutiny. There would be a statutory requirement for a report to be laid before Parliament every three months on the programme. That could be regarded as too often, but the general point stands—this House would be in a position to properly judge the effectiveness of rehabilitation work in our prisons.

Subsection (5) of the new clause would give the independent reviewer the power to look into the resources available to the programme, including for probation and rehabilitation work. That proposal of an independent reviewer would give the opportunity for proper scrutiny of this very important programme. The Minister will be aware of the healthy identity intervention and other such programmes that currently exist. Through new clause 1, we seek to build on that and give real confidence in the Government’s work in the rehabilitation and deradicalisation space. I am not absolutely clear of the extent to which those who have perpetrated these awful atrocities in recent months took part in deradicalisation programmes, but I hope that will be considered and that the Minister will learn the lessons from that. It is vital that we use the time in prison of whatever length—I had a debate about that earlier with the right hon. Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne)—in a constructive way to protect the public.

The broader point is such an important one. I have throughout the debate indicated that, while of course there is support for the principles behind the Bill, including the principle of Parole Board involvement, there must in addition be a focus on resources and on strategy in relation to deradicalisation. The proposal I have put forward of an independent reviewer is one way of producing that, but I accept that there are others, and I look forward to hearing the remarks of the Minister.

Before the shadow Minister sits down, may I ask him a question? I am engaged in a probing exercise—I am not going to push amendment 3 to a vote—and I would like to know what the Opposition think about excluding the Human Rights Act 1998 and what reason he would give for saying that it was unnecessary.

I am delighted to have a chance to respond. I will do so in a moment, but the first thing I would say is that I remember the criticism of me and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) in the last Parliament when we were seeking disclosure of legal advice—not from the hon. Gentleman, but perhaps from others. It strikes me that Members are now discussing case law across the Floor of the House and Ministers are referring to legal advice, which perhaps shows that there is a change.

I do not support the hon. Gentleman’s amendment. First, the point made by the Minister is correct, and even if we put this into the legislation, the right to go to Strasbourg would still exist. The second reason why I am uncomfortable with what the hon. Gentleman is saying—I am quite happy to give way to him again if I am wrong in my interpretation—is that he, as I understand it, wants the House to pass legislation and then somehow prevent courts from being able to adjudicate on it, which surely is not what is meant by having a sovereign Parliament that is accountable to judges.

I can respond to that very simply by referring the hon. Gentleman to the speeches made on the introduction of the Human Rights Act 1998. I was in the House at the time, and it was made absolutely clear that this Act would not in itself impinge on the sovereignty of Parliament. That was made clear, and therefore as far as I am concerned—I understand where he is coming from, but I am afraid that his point is erroneous—it is implicit in the passing of the 1998 Act that we are able, if we wish to do so, to take the legislation that we pass in this House as the final word, and the courts are obliged to obey.

With respect to the European convention on human rights, I would simply make the point that I made just now, which is that I could have included such words—yet again, that is another part of my probing amendment—and they could have been “notwithstanding the charter of fundamental rights” as a matter of fact, but that would have been destroyed by the existence at that time of the European Communities Act 1972, which was binding on us by Act of Parliament.

With the greatest of respect to the hon. Gentleman, it is not an erroneous point. I taught the Human Rights Act for the best part of 11 or 12 years, but I will resist the temptation to give his contribution a grade. Yes, the Human Rights Act contains the power to make a declaration of incompatibility, thus preserving the concept of parliamentary sovereignty —it is absolutely right that Parliament does not have a strike-down power as, for example, the US Supreme Court does—but I have two fundamental problems with his amendment. The first problem is the one I have set out: this House passing legislation that essentially tells the courts, “Well, you can move aside: this is absolutely what we say,” without any scrutiny.

I know the hon. Gentleman nods his head, but I am not comfortable with that position.

The second point is that I firmly believe we can tackle this issue of terrorism and remain signatories to the European convention on human rights. That is essentially the Government’s position here today, and I really do not think that we need to get into this debate because the Government have clearly stated that the Act—or the Bill, as it currently is—is compliant with article 7. If people wish to challenge that in the courts, that is a matter for them, but the Government must be confident in their legal position.

Under the Human Rights Act, each Bill that comes before the House contains a sentence on its front page to show that Ministers have considered whether it is compatible with that Act. If they had wished, the Government could have stated in the Bill that they did not think it compatible with the Human Rights Act, but they wanted us to proceed regardless. They did not do that, however, and they clearly state on the Bill their belief that it is compatible with the Act. We have heard a case law of history from the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), and others, but that is the Government’s position, and for those reasons I cannot support the amendment. I understand that he will not push it to a vote, and the debate will continue in the other place, but this is not an amendment that would have found favour on the Labour Benches.

Let me return to new clause 1. I will not push the idea of an independent reviewer to the vote—I will not frustrate the passage of the Bill in that way. However, it would assist the Committee if the Minister set out how Members will be able to scrutinise the programme of deradicalisation over the next few years, and how we can have the information before us—whether from the Ministry of Justice directly or in another way—to assess how it is working.

The former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), intervened on the Justice Secretary during his opening speech and said that she felt there had been a lack of success in the deradicalisation programmes. She is right, and we need to see some success in the years ahead. I will not push new clause 1 to the vote, but I hope the Minister will provide some assurances about how such scrutiny could take place.

I do not intend to detain the Committee long, Dame Eleanor, and the Minister should consider this not so much a probing amendment as a prodding amendment—it is my intention to prod the Minister.

The purpose of my amendments is stunningly obvious. At lines 34 and 37, I wish to remove “two-thirds”, and insert the words “nine-tenths”. In reality, many sentences, even for acts of terrorism such as the possession of terrorist promotional material with intent, give rise to a surprisingly short sentence, such as four years. In such a case, the difference between half the sentence, as currently served, and two-thirds, is a mere six months. Admittedly, extending that to nine-tenths of the sentence does not address the nature of the problem—that is why this is a prodding amendment—but the fact is that sentences are too short.

There is a general problem of honesty in sentencing. When a judge hands down a sentence in court, all those in the know work out on the back of a fag packet what it means in terms of imprisonment, but the public, who are generally not in the know, do not understand that the sentence is not that at all. They would be scandalised if they knew.

Does my right hon. Friend remember a recent case of two treasure hunters who I think got as much as 10 years because they had not declared a treasure trove? Compare that with somebody who is intent on murdering people on the streets of London, or anywhere else.

That is the random caprice of the judiciary! Returning to the issue before us, on the specific point of sentencing for terrorist acts, we must be clear in our minds about what intention lies behind our whole sentencing policy. I believe that fundamentally it must be to secure the reformation of the offender before he is released. The problem is that existing strategies for reforming offenders, and de-programming them from their ideology, are somewhat untested. Those that are tested—such as the programme run in Saudi Arabia, which has been shown to be effective—take a relatively long time. I suggest, therefore, that that lends itself to an indeterminate sentence to detainment at Her Majesty’s pleasure until a licensing authority, the Parole Board, has decided that the offender is safe to be released. That is the purpose of my amendment: merely to contribute to that debate.

I am not seeking to press new clause 3, but I am seeking reassurances from the Minister relating to the purpose behind it and a commitment to post-legislative scrutiny.

In my earlier remarks, I made the point that fast law can be bad law. In the absence of an opportunity for thorough prelegislative scrutiny, we absolutely must have post-legislative scrutiny. There are relevant examples of where this has happened: the Immigration Act 2014 was controversial, so it contained the same requirement as exists in new clause 3; and the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, which was rushed in in response to a court ruling, included a sunset clause of 18 months. I am not asking for a sunset clause, but new clause 3 sets out clearly that we would like the opportunity for a statutory review after one year. The person conducting that review should be appointed after consultation with the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation and they should have professional experience relating to imprisonment for offences of terrorism.

New clause 3 does not seek to outline the scope of such a statutory review, but I would like to give the Committee some examples of the kind of matters that could be covered by it. Such a statutory review could ask whether the extra time the terrorists spend in prison is being used to deradicalise them. Are they actually receiving an effective deradicalisation programme or, on the contrary, are they potentially becoming more dangerous? It could look at whether the Parole Board has the resources to cope with the extra demands put on it. It could look at whether terrorist prisoners are being failed by the Parole Board and whether they are being released at the end of their sentence without any supervision on licence. It could look at whether the Probation Service has the staff and resources it needs to ensure effective supervision during the shorter period that offenders spend on licence. It could also perhaps look at whether the change in the release point affects the sentencing decisions made by judges.

As I said earlier, there is a risk that because of the lack of opportunity for prelegislative scrutiny there is the possibility that this becomes a law of unintended consequences. I know there are proposals for legislation down the line, but we also know that legislation can get delayed. It would be absolutely right for the House to insist on post-legislative scrutiny by virtue of a one-year statutory review. Who knows, the review might even identify things that could be included in future legislation.

I speak in sympathy with all the amendments for the reasons I shall give. In respect of the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), it is important that we anticipate the likely counters to this proposed legislation that will perhaps come from malign forces in the other place and outside it. There are people who will seek to frustrate the Government in their attempt to do the right thing.

I note that the right hon. Gentleman says there are malign forces. I ask him to recognise that there are those of us who hold public and national security front and centre in our roles in the House and that some people may be looking not to frustrate but improve the Bill by ensuring it complies with human rights law.

We do not have time, and you would not permit us, Dame Eleanor, to have a broader debate about the character of rights and human rights law, but I welcome the opportunity to do so with the hon. Lady at a place and time of her choosing. I have profound doubts about that law and the root of it, which is, essentially, the acceptance of natural rights that I do not believe in. I believe in the lawful entitlements that we call rights, of course. How they should be dealt with legally is an entirely different matter and not one pertinent to these considerations, but I look forward happily to that broader debate. Given that there will be challenges to the Government, malign and otherwise, given what she said, it seems that there is a good case for a belt-and-braces approach, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stone described it.

In the context of what is developing into a very interesting speech, I refer to Edmund Burke’s famous attack on Thomas Paine in respect of what he really thought about human rights. It was a brilliantly expressed metaphor—that we would not be “trussed” like chickens, or something of that kind, by the human rights proposals of Thomas Paine.

Now I might really test your patience, Dame Eleanor, because my hon. Friend invites me to articulate a Burkean case against natural rights, which I will be happy to do, but perhaps on another occasion. Given that I offered the hon. Member for St Albans (Daisy Cooper) the opportunity to have a debate about this, that might be the very occasion. Perhaps my hon. Friend will agree to be my seconder in such a debate—what a humbling experience that would be for me and an elevating one for him. I hope we will do that on another occasion and we can indeed explore why so many people take for granted the existence of natural rights, as though they spring from the ether. As a Christian, of course I could not possibly take that view, but now is not the time to get into that discussion.

On the specifics of the amendment, my hon. Friend makes a belt-and-braces case, as I said, for a “notwithstanding” clause. The shadow Minister made the point that that was fundamentally disagreeable and made a constitutional argument against the “notwithstanding” clause per se. However, he also went on to say that he believed the Government were right, or were likely to be right, in asserting that they were clear that, in any case, this legislation did not contradict any existing rights legislation. We heard that today from the Secretary of State and again subsequently in the debate: the Government do not feel that the proposed legislation is likely to be successfully challenged, as my hon. Friend suggested it might. We have to assume that the Government have taken legal advice to make that claim.

I should make one thing clear: obviously, I have not seen the legal advice the Government are relying on, which I am sure they have sought, quite appropriately. I merely point out that that is the Government’s view and that is what the Secretary of State has put in the Bill. On that basis, article 7 was not engaged—I want to make that point clear to the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes).

I would not have wanted to suggest anything other than that. The hon. Gentleman was very clear that he had heard what the Government said about having taken that advice and their confidence that a legal challenge would not succeed on that basis. My hon. Friend the Member for Stone may be more sceptical than others about that, but it is important to point out that the Government have made it clear that further legislation on counter-terrorism will be forthcoming. That legislation might in itself, on a primary basis, revisit the issue of how counter-terrorism measures interface with and may be contradicted by existing legislation. That would be a very fundamental debate, because of course it will oblige the consideration of exactly the kinds of points that he made. On that basis, I am happy to go with the Minister. Notwithstanding my temptation to follow the example of my esteemed hon. Friend the Member for Stone, I am happy, like the shadow Minister, to err on the side of the Government and to say that if they have taken legal advice, with the further opportunity to revisit these matters in the primary legislation that we hear will be speeding its way to the House, I am prepared to concede the argument about rights.

My right hon. Friend will accept that this is primary legislation and furthermore that I have already said I am looking forward to a proper discussion about this in the future, with a view to getting it right, because the object of the Bill is to prevent people from being killed on the streets of this country.

I am talking about the murderous intent of people I described earlier as wicked. I use that word advisedly: not all these people are mentally disturbed. Some may be, and we know from evidence that some are, but not all. Crime is not an illness to be treated; it is a malevolent choice, an act of wickedness, and wickedness is entirely different from mental illness. I know it is difficult for some to grasp that, but it is important to emphasise it.

The right hon. Gentleman is making a very good point. Of course, if an individual were mentally disordered, the pathway for their rehabilitation and punishment would be through a secure hospital, rather than prison, which would deal with that matter.

There are well-established ways of differentiating people in those terms, different ways of dealing with them in law, different ways of dealing with them once convicted, and different ways of dealing with them in the community. The psychologists and psychiatrists associated with the Probation and Prison Service are well-accustomed to that differentiation, but in the public debate we need to be bold and brave enough to say that there are some very wicked people who want to do wicked things, and it is our job not only to deal with those things by anticipating, deterring and punishing them, but to reinforce public faith in the rule of law by saying so. This is an opportunity to do so as the Bill gives that life.

The second amendment is the one proposed by the shadow Minister. Again, I have great sympathy with it. All legislation relating to such matters benefits from pre and post-legislative scrutiny, both because we need to get it right, for the obvious reasons we have debated—its salience, its significance, its importance—and because, to build the consensus necessary across the House to proceed in a way that maintains public faith, pre and post-legislative scrutiny is important. As recognised by all the contributors to this debate, the emergency we face is such that that has not been possible on this occasion. I would resist the shadow Minister’s amendment, not because I do not believe in the principle or the sentiments behind it but because there is a very good case for the Select Committees—notably the Home Affairs Committee and the Intelligence and Security Committee—to look at this matter once the Bill has become an Act. I would be surprised if they did not. I know the Minister in his winding-up speech will—I will not say “invite that kind of scrutiny”, as I am not sure it is appropriate for a Minister to ask a Select Committee to investigate or scrutinise the Government—want to say that he would be surprised if they did not. That kind of reassurance would give great comfort to the House in measuring the effect of this important legislation.

We are having a very interesting and mature debate about getting this right, and of course it is paramount that we make sure the public are safe, but I do not understand what speaks against a review to make sure we get it right. Even if other legislation comes further down the line, why not have that double security?

We have well-established mechanisms, of the kind I have just described, for doing exactly that. Sometimes the Government build a review mechanism into legislation, but much more often the Committees of this House designed for that purpose consider the effectiveness of what the Government do and how legislation is working. Our Select Committee structure is now long established in the House—even longer established than my hon. Friend the Member for Stone—and fulfils that function well. Particularly in respect of legislation relating to terrorism, the Intelligence and Security Committee has, time and again, played an important role in considering these matters, reflecting, reporting and influencing Government policy, as I know from my time in the Home Office. So I think that there is well-established practice. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

The issue is not just that there should be a review, but who should conduct that review. The right hon. Gentleman has talked about various Select Committees, which, as we know, have a very broad workload. Does he agree that it is important to ensure that there is an independent review, conducted on our behalf by someone who is independent of the House and has experience in relation to the sentencing of terrorists?

We do, in fact, have an independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. In that context, I was privileged to work with Lord Carlile—a former Liberal Democrat Member of this House, by the way. So that role exists, but I do not want to underestimate the significance or value of the Committees of this House in doing their job. The ISC in particular is a well-respected Committee of the House, which has a very strong track record of looking at these matters empirically and advising accordingly. My argument is not that we should not have that kind of scrutiny; ideally, it would have been a precursor to this legislation, but we should indeed consider allowing it through the mechanisms that I have described. I invite the Minister to embrace the spirit in which I have advanced my argument.

The third and final amendment that we have heard ably articulated during our considerations this afternoon is the one in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne). Again, I am extremely sympathetic to the purpose of the amendment. Indeed, I might even go further, and say that “nine-tenths” is too modest. However, while my right hon. Friend’s amendment is welcome and adds pressure, if I might put it that way—he said “prodding” rather than “probing”, and I have added a third “p”, “pressure”, because I know that alliteration is dear to his heart—given that the Government have made crystal clear that in forthcoming legislation they will look at three matters, minimum sentences, maximum sentences and mandatory sentences, much of what he desires should form part of that further Government policy and practice. I hope that we can increase minimum sentences, that we can increase maximum sentences and that we can tie to that—as the Government have said they will, as I note from comments made in the statement by the Secretary of State following the recent terrorist outrage—

I will just finish my sentence, and then I will give way happily to my right hon. and distinguished Friend.

The Government have said, and the Secretary of State was clear about it in the statement a few days ago, that tied to those three provisions will be the end of early release for certain kinds of prisoner. I now happily give way to my right hon. Friend before I move to my exciting peroration.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. Does he not think that whatever scheme is ultimately settled upon, there needs to remain some incentive for someone who is in prison to behave him or herself?

I note that my right hon. Friend was preoccupied with urgent meetings when I spoke earlier, but if he reads the Hansard report of my earlier contribution, he will see that I am on exactly the same page as him, not for the first time. He is absolutely right that parole has historically always been considered on the basis of an assessment of both risk and worthiness. “Good behaviour” is the term that was once routinely used in respect of parole. When people have proved, through how they behave in prison, that they no longer pose a risk to the public and that they deserve to be released early, they should be. The problem with the current arrangement is the automatic nature of early release, and I resist that per se, not just in respect of terrorist prisoners but more widely. The public would be outraged if they knew just how many people have been released early, including terrorists. Enough is enough; now the time to put an end to that. This is the beginning of it, and I happily support this legislation.

I am grateful, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I have already spoken in favour of my amendment. I have said that I do not wish to press it to a Division, but I would like to hear the Minister’s response to my suggestion about external scrutiny of the deradicalisation programme in our prisons.

I would like to respond briefly to some of the points made in Committee, as well as speaking in support of clauses 1 to 10 and schedules 1 and 2 standing part of the Bill. Perhaps I could start with the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) concerning his proposed notwithstanding amendment. I repeat the point I made earlier, which the shadow Minister also made, that the Government have received categorical advice that these proposals are article 7 compliant. Of course there may well be challenges, and I cannot guarantee what the outcome of any litigation might be, but we are confident that the proposals are compliant.

My hon. Friend said that nothing less than certainty would do in cases of public safety, and I entirely understand that sentiment. Perhaps this would best be debated at another time, but I wonder whether his amendment as written would have the effect that he intends, because I do not think that simply writing a notwithstanding clause into a piece of primary legislation would abrogate our obligations under a treaty that we have entered into or preclude an applicant or litigant going directly to the European Court of Human Rights—they might go straight to Strasbourg—even if we could somehow prevent the use of the English and Welsh courts. I do not think the amendment as drafted would actually have the legal effect intended. However, my hon. Friend has, as always, raised some interesting constitutional questions, and I am sure they will be debated in the other place in due course. In our manifesto, we said that we would have a think about the operation of the Human Rights Act 1998 and some of the issues that he referred to in his speech. There will be plenty of opportunities in due course to consider at greater length the issues that he raised. I am grateful for his undertaking not to press his amendment to a vote today, but the whole Committee has certainly heard what he had to say and will carefully reflect on it.

My right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne) gave me, in his words, a prod. Let me confirm that I am duly prodded on the questions of longer sentences for serious terrorist offenders and of their serving more of their sentence in prison. As a number of Members have said, it is our intention to bring forward a counter-terrorism, sentencing and release Bill in the relatively near future. It is also the Government’s intention to define a cohort of the most serious terrorist offenders and to seek a minimum sentence of 14 years for those serious offenders and ensure that all the sentence handed down by the judge is served in prison. I think that that will respond to the point that my right hon. Friend was making.

I am grateful to the Minister for those indications about sentencing. Does he agree that the review needs to consider all terrorist offences, including relatively minor ones—such as offences under sections 57 and 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000 relating to possession of materials—that might in and of themselves not attract a particularly long sentence? Given that they are responsible for almost half of all terrorist sentences handed out, does he agree that they need to be considered as part of the review?

We will consider all terrorist offenders as part of the review. Of course, the sentencing provisions I just described would not be appropriate for all terror offenders—just the most serious—but I assure my hon. Friend that we will be considering the totality of terror offending. Of course, the Streatham offender had committed one of the offences that my hon. Friend just described—possession of terrorist material—so we must be mindful that even when someone commits an offence that, on the face of it, is at the less serious end of the offending spectrum, they can none the less go on to do quite serious things. The Government are extremely mindful of that.

There are two points to be made in respect of what the Minister has just said. First, the vast majority of people convicted under terrorism legislation are sentenced to between one and 20 years. Now, he is talking about “the most serious”. What does he mean by “the most serious”? Secondly, a large number of people are convicted for terrorism-related offences under non-terrorism legislation—hundreds, actually, over the years. Will they be included in these considerations?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. In relation to the second part of it, terrorist-related offences do form part of this Bill. Part 2 of proposed new schedule 19ZA to the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which is found in schedule 1 to this Bill, covers terrorist-related offences under the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 and lists the various direct offences, including manslaughter, culpable homicide and kidnapping, that are terrorist-related offences. Such offences are, therefore, in the scope of this Bill, and we will carefully consider the implications for the counter-terrorism Bill that we will bring forward in due course.

Turning to the severity of offending, as I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk), we will review all types of offending, so the whole spectrum will be in scope. As for how we define that “most serious” cohort, the Government are currently thinking quite carefully about the definition. I do not want to give my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes) a definition today, because that will be a matter for the counter-terrorism Bill, but we are thinking about question extremely carefully, and the House will be able to debate it fully in due course.

The shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds), asked about a review of the effectiveness of the deradicalisation agenda. I agree that the review is critical, and several Members raised it on Second Reading. We are setting up a new counter-terrorism programmes and interventions centre within the Prisons and Probation Service that will look specifically at the deradicalisation problem. We intend to publish further research and reports in the usual way, and I expect full scrutiny from Members. As my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings said in his speech, we will fully embrace scrutiny of that description, and I would be surprised—my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill) is not in his place—if the Justice Committee did not look at this area in due course. I accept the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings that proper and deep scrutiny of this area is needed, because the deradicalisation question is so important.

The Minister is making some good points. Is there any scope to look at additional types of charges that could be laid against those who actively radicalise others in prison?

I thank the hon. Lady for her important intervention. The radicalisation of one prisoner by another is a deeply invidious phenomenon, and she is right to highlight it. The normal offences that would apply to any member of the public, including things like incitement to racial hatred, would apply to prisoners just as much. I encourage the authorities to use those laws where applicable regardless of whether the person doing the inciting, which is a criminal offence in itself, is in prison.

The hon. Member for St Albans (Daisy Cooper), in the same vein as the hon. Member for Torfaen, talked about the need to scrutinise the effect of this legislation after it has passed. Once again, I accept the thrust of what she says. It is important that we keep the effect of legislation under review, particularly where it is passed in such a necessarily expeditious fashion. I would expect the Justice Committee to take an interest in this, and the House will have a chance to take a great interest when we come to debate the counter-terrorism Bill in a few months’ time. There will then be a lot more time available for us to debate these matters and, indeed, to review the operation of this Bill, which by then will have been in effect for a few months.

In terms of an independent review that goes beyond Parliament’s Committees and, indeed, this House—as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings said in reply to an intervention by the hon. Member for St Albans—I expect that Jonathan Hall QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, will be conducting independent reviews of exactly the kind the hon. Member for St Albans described.

I think that covers many of the points raised on the various amendments and new clauses. On the substance of the Bill, it is worth briefly highlighting that clause 1 specifies the release provisions we have been talking about and the two-thirds release point for prisoners in England and Wales, at which point the Parole Board’s discretion will be applied.

Clause 1 also references schedule 1, which specifies the kinds of offences that are in scope. Part 1 of proposed new schedule 19ZA to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 defines the terrorist offences that are in scope, and part 2 defines the offences that may be determined to have a terrorist connection.

Clause 2 disapplies some historical transitional provisions dating back to the Criminal Justice Act 2003. Those are essentially technical amendments to make sure this legislation works in a way that is consistent with the Act.

Clauses 3 and 4 apply these provisions to Scotland. We are keen to make sure that the public in Scotland are protected as much as the public in England and Wales. In that context, I am grateful to the hon. Member for East Lothian (Kenny MacAskill) for his supportive remarks. I hope I can infer from his remarks that our colleagues in the Scottish Government in Holyrood are supportive of the proposals.

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s confirmation that the Scottish Government support these provisions.

Clause 5 relates to the setting of licence conditions. Clause 6 makes further consequential amendments relating to transitional cases. Clause 7 makes further consequential amendments that apply to England and Wales. Clause 8 makes transitional provisions in relation to offenders in Scotland and, again, clause 9 makes further consequential amendments that apply to Scotland.

Finally, clause 10 specifies the Bill’s territorial extent and commencement. It is worth saying that commencement will be upon Royal Assent, and we therefore hope the Bill takes effect from 27 February, which is important from the perspective of the release of certain dangerous offenders.

I hope that covers the clauses and schedules, and that they will stand part of the Bill.

As I have already made clear, I am happy to ask leave to withdraw the amendment with the restrictions and conditions that I have already imposed with regard to the House of Lords.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 1 to 10 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedules 1 and 2 agreed to.

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Third Reading

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

May I thank all Members for taking part in this important debate, on a Bill that, as Members on both sides of the House have demonstrated comprehensively, was timely and necessary? We have a proud history of coming together in times of adversity against people who seek to divide us. Together, we can make sure that the terrorists who seek to threaten our way of life will never win.

I readily acknowledge that we are passing this Bill to a very tight timescale, but the appalling attacks we witnessed at Streatham and at Fishmongers’ Hall made it plain that the time for action was now, which is why I welcome the sense of urgency that has been shared in all parts of the House. That has necessarily shortened the time available to debate these issues, but I will of course continue to engage with Members across the House on these matters. There will be further opportunities to legislate on these issues, both in our forthcoming counter-terrorism, sentencing and release Bill and, more broadly, in the sentencing Bill that we will introduce following our sentencing White Paper later this year.

We will also review the current maximum penalties and sentencing framework for terrorist offences to ensure that they are sufficient and comprehensive. Our underlying principle is this: terrorist offenders should no longer be released before the end of their custodial sentence unless the Parole Board is satisfied that they are no longer a risk to the public.

I take this opportunity to thank all the officials, not only those who have assisted us in the Box today, but all the team at the Ministry of Justice, who have worked at pace and in great detail on complex issues of national importance, to a timescale that is perhaps unusual and almost unprecedented. We do owe them a deep debt of gratitude, and I am honoured to place that formally on the record.

For now, passing this Bill will take a significant step to ensuring that the British public, whom we serve, are being given the protection they need, by ensuring that terrorist offenders spend longer in prison in all cases and are not automatically released without being fully and properly assessed.

I agree with the Secretary of State that we have had a constructive debate in the Chamber on this Bill. As I indicated at the outset, the Opposition support the idea of Parole Board involvement and, indeed, risk assessment for terrorist prisoners across the board.

Clearly, we will need to address an issue of investment in deradicalisation programmes and proper mechanisms to be able to assess how effective they are. We will be holding the Government to account on those issues in the months and years ahead. There is also a wider issue to address on sentencing. As I indicated in my earlier remarks, this of course became an emergency because of the incidents we have seen in recent months, but there does need to be greater long-term planning, which I hope the Secretary of State will be able to provide to the Department in the years ahead.

I also echo what the Secretary of State said about the officials, who obviously had to produce this Bill very quickly. I would like to thank him for his work with me on this over the past week. I also thank the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp), and all those right hon. and hon. Members who have contributed to the debate today.

I should also put on record in Hansard my thanks to Robert Keenan in my office: he has had very quickly to turn around work on the Bill on a very short-term basis since it was first published.

On that basis, I hope that the Bill will pass its Third Reading without a Division.

I echo the comments of both the Opposition spokesman and the Lord Chancellor. We have put on record the requirement for unity on this issue. I thank the Lord Chancellor and his staff for the manner in which they introduced the Bill. Legislation is never easy, and this Bill was particularly difficult with regard to the retrospectivity, but as much information as could be provided was provided. As others have done correctly, I put on record our tribute not only to those in the Government offices who have drafted the legislation, but to those involved here at Parliament, because they must have been working long into the night to make sure that information was provided for Members.

With those tributes appropriately made, I simply concur with the thanks to all involved.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.