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Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 (Foreign Travel Notification Requirements) Regulations 2009

Volume 712: debated on Thursday 2 July 2009

Motion to Approve

Moved By

That the draft regulations laid before the House on 23 June be approved.

Relevant document: 19th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.

My Lords, I beg to move that the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 (Foreign Travel Notification Requirements) Regulations 2009, which were laid in draft before this House on 23 June, be approved. Under Part 4 of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, certain convicted terrorists are required to comply with a notification scheme. This includes persons aged 16 or over who have been convicted in the United Kingdom of specified terrorism offences or offences with a terrorist connection and sentenced to 12 months’ or more imprisonment or detention, and persons convicted of similar offences overseas who are made subject to a notification order when they come to the UK. The majority of the notification requirements are set out in the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, but Section 52 allows the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring a person who is subject to the notification requirements to notify details of travel outside the United Kingdom.

Public safety is paramount and it is the responsibility of the Government and the security and law enforcement agencies to do everything possible to protect our citizens from the threats posed by terrorism. The notification requirements are an important part of our preventive measures and, as part of that, I believe that the people subject to those requirements should be obliged to notify details of their intended foreign travel plans to the police.

The information required by these regulations will mean that convicted terrorists cannot get around the notification requirements by claiming that they were overseas. It will also enable the police to share appropriate information with overseas authorities or to make a decision on whether to apply to the court for a foreign travel restriction order to stop the person travelling overseas or to particular countries.

In essence, these regulations impose notification requirements for convicted terrorists in relation to foreign travel which are very similar to those that already exist in respect of sex offenders. They require the person who is intending to travel abroad for three days or more, which we discussed on the previous order, to notify the police before they leave the United Kingdom of their intended date of departure, the country they will be travelling to, their point of arrival in that country and, where they hold the information, the points of arrival in any other country they are travelling to, the carriers they intend to use, the place they intend staying on their first night abroad and the date and place of their intended return to the UK. On return, the person will also be obliged to notify the police of the date and place they re-entered the UK, if they have not notified these details already.

The information required by these regulations will supplement the other information obligatory under Part 4 of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 in helping the police to manage the risks posed by convicted terrorists once they have been released from custody or detention. The information will, for example, enable the police to know if a convicted terrorist is intending to travel to a country where terrorist training is available. However, I should like to make it clear that, while individuals will have to disclose their travel information, the requirements will not stop the person doing anything. The requirements are not intended as a punishment and the foreign travel notification requirements do not prevent an individual from travelling overseas, nor is notification onerous on the individual. Its purpose is to provide information about the whereabouts of individuals who have been convicted for terrorist crimes that will help the police in managing the risks that they may pose to public safety.

Due to the serious consequences of a terrorist attack, the police and security service need to be given all proportionate tools to help them become and remain aware of any potential threat or compromise to our safety. Critically, we know that many countries are able to facilitate terrorism and, due to the complexity and increasing international nature of terrorist plots, it is vital to be made aware whether convicted terrorists are to travel to a country where they could prove a threat to public safety.

I believe that these measures are justified and will help in the monitoring of potentially dangerous individuals, and the security services have recently stated that they believe these regulations will be of benefit to counterterrorist policy. It is vital to strike the balance between protecting the rights of the individual subject to the requirements and mitigating any potential threat, thus ensuring the safety of the community at large. I hope that this House agrees that these draft regulations achieve this and I commend them to the House.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating that order. As far as I am concerned, the questions arising from this order arose on the previous order, so I have nothing more to ask.

My Lords, the Minister has said that these people are not being punished. Surely, whether they are being punished or not, the order rightly makes it clear that they are highly undesirable people in many countries. The only countries which probably would welcome them would be those countries which want to train them further in terrorist activity. Therefore, this seems to be a necessary but very longwinded and effuse way of making that point in the order.

My Lords, my only question is why is there a maximum five years’ imprisonment imposed for failing to do any of those things? For example, if a person comes back into this country and fails within three days to notify the police, he is subject to a potential sentence of imprisonment of up to five years. Is that the same for sex offenders when they travel abroad or is this just a figure that has been plucked from the air by the Government?

My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their contributions. On the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Oppenheim-Barnes, the truth is that we are responsible only for our citizens who live the country. They will be subject to the immigration status and visa requirements of any country to which they want to go. They will be a matter for the sovereign country that they are in. In that sense, it fits in, but I do not think that it is a longwinded way of achieving that. We want not to punish individuals who may have turned their back on any form of terrorism, but to ensure that we have the information to enable us to monitor and to protect our citizens.

The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, asked about the penalty. The penalty for breach of these regulations is up to five years, as is the case in the previous order and in the regulations for sex offenders.

Motion agreed.

Sitting suspended.