Report (2nd Day) (Continued)
Clause 21: Port and border controls
33A: Clause 21, page 22, line 19, at end insert —
“(2) The Secretary of State must lay a report annually before both Houses of Parliament setting out details of the exercise of each of the powers provided by Schedule 3 to this Act, and Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000, during the year in question.(3) For the purposes of the report in subsection (2) the details must include (but not be limited to) statistics on—(a) the religion, and(b) the ethnicity,of the persons subject to the exercise of the powers.”
My Lords, this amendment is in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee. Before I get to the substance of it, I would like to say that lacking in the debate so far today has been the recognition that it is essential that communities work together with the police and the security services in order to defeat terrorism. In fact, when I was a serving police officer and Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Grieve was the head of the counterterrorism department at New Scotland Yard, he said exactly that: it is communities that will defeat terrorism, not the police and the security services working alone.
That was back in the days of Irish republican terrorism, which, in terms of conventional ways of defeating terrorism, was an easier foe to defeat. The Irish Republican Army was a traditional hierarchical organisation that could be infiltrated, and which worked on large-scale spectacular terrorist attacks, so it was much easier to detect than the current threats we face. At the time, DAC John Grieve was talking about the fact that people from Ireland were coming over to the UK and, for example, renting garages to store large quantities of explosives and so forth, so the community could provide information to the police on that sort of activity. Now we see lone-wolf attacks or groups of friends who do not communicate with each other but come together very quickly to carry out far less sophisticated but none the less deadly attacks, regrettably, as we have seen over recent years. The support and co-operation of the public is therefore even more important now than it was when John Grieve was head of the counterterrorism department.
Trust and confidence come from confidence in what the state is doing to defeat terrorism through legislation and activity. That is why we have tabled this amendment. We have discussed at earlier stages of the Bill both Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act—which provides the power to detain people at the border and at airports in order to question them as to whether they were about to engage in terrorist activity—and Schedule 3 to this Bill, which provides an even wider power.
Our initial position was that these powers should be exercised only if there was reasonable cause to suspect that the individual being detained and questioned was involved in terrorism. The House heard compelling arguments from, among others, the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, as to why that reasonable suspicion threshold could hamper the work of those keeping us safe at the border. We still have concerns about that. The House having not accepted that that should be part of the way that Schedule 3 and Schedule 7 operate, we have tabled this amendment, which requires the Government to report on the religion and ethnicity of people who have been subject to powers under those schedules.
The Liberal Democrat Campaign for Race Equality has received a number of complaints from people who say they have been detained at airports and have even missed flights before they were allowed to go on their way, and have received no compensation. There is a feeling in some communities that Schedule 7 powers—Schedule 3 powers have yet to come into force—are being unfairly targeted on Muslims and people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. This amendment would bring transparency to the exercise of the powers under Schedules 7 and 3 by requiring the Government to produce a report detailing how those powers are being exercised, including statistics on the religion and ethnicity of the people subject to them. I beg to move.
My Lords, Amendment 33A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has considerable merit. It proposes the collection of this data, including what is set out in subsection (3) of the amendment, and laying a report before Parliament detailing the exercise of the considerable powers under Schedule 3 to the Bill and Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act during the year in question. I will be interested to hear the Government’s response. If they are not minded to accept the amendment, I hope they will give a full explanation of why this is not deemed necessary or acceptable.
My Lords, I thank both noble Lords for their points. I agree with the sentiment of what the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said about the role of communities. They are important in assisting the police and security services in countering not only terrorism but extremism. Amendment 33A would require the Home Secretary to lay a report before both Houses of Parliament each year setting out how the ports powers under Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000 and Schedule 3 to this Bill have been exercised.
Reiterating some of what I said earlier, the Government agree with the sentiment behind the amendment, but I hope the noble Lord will agree that it is unnecessary. We entirely agree that transparency and accountability are appropriate in governing the exercise of the new hostile activity ports powers, as is the case with the existing counterterrorism powers. I reiterate, however, that such mechanisms are already in place through the work of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation with respect to Schedule 7, and the future role of the IPC for Schedule 3. Part 6 of Schedule 3 already requires the IPC to review the use of the powers by making an annual report. We envisage this working in a very similar way to the role of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, who reports annually on the use of counterterrorism powers under the Terrorism Act, including those in Schedule 7.
Noble Lords should be reassured that the commissioner, like the independent reviewer, will be afforded full access to any Schedule 3 record on request and information on how the powers have been exercised. The scope and content of these reports will be at the discretion of the commissioner, as they have been for a number of years regarding Schedule 7. The annual reports by the independent reviewer are augmented by the quarterly statistical bulletins, published by the Home Office, on the operation in Great Britain of police powers under the Terrorism Act 2000. The latest bulletin was published on 6 December and, incidentally, recorded a further 25% decrease in the number of Schedule 7 examinations compared with the previous year. The number of Schedule 7 examinations has now fallen by 79% since the data was first collected in the year ending 30 September 2012. The published data already includes information about the ethnicity of examinees and the number of detentions.
As I said earlier, we are considering with the Home Office chief statistician the appropriate arrangements for publishing statistics on the exercise of the Schedule 3 powers, but we would expect to publish equivalent statistics to Schedule 7. The statistical reports in respect of Schedule 7 do not currently identify the religion of examinees, but we are ready to explore this with the Home Office chief statistician, the police and others. I hope that, on this basis, the noble Lord feels happy to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her explanation. What comes across to me in her response to this and other amendments is that there is a degree of transparency and accountability, in that the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation will look at the Schedule 7 powers and the IPC, presumably, will examine those under Schedule 3. It is all very well for the Government, the independent reviewer or the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to be satisfied that these powers are being used appropriately, but they are not the people who need to be convinced that they are being used fairly: it is the communities—particularly the Muslim community—that need to be convinced. Publishing the religion of people being subjected to these powers is crucial if we are to get the Muslim community to work with us to defeat terrorism.
As I said when I introduced the amendment, people, or groups, can switch almost overnight. For example, the attempted bombings on 21 July 2005 were a carbon copy of those on 7 July, which did not go according to plan. They were supposed to involve four bombs on the Underground, and the copycat attacks on 21 July involved three on the Underground and one on a bus because of what happened on the 7th. That is how quickly the first attack was copy-catted by another group. It is the friends, neighbours and close associates of these lone wolves and groups of friends who will pick up on the changes in their behaviour that show they are moving from being radical to being violent and potentially deadly. It is therefore absolutely essential that we do everything we possibly can to win the trust and confidence of the communities from which these people come.
I am encouraged by the Minister saying that the Home Office statistician will be looking at the issue.
The Minister said that the Government will be looking at this with the chief statistician and the police. Can she give a timeframe for that? If she cannot do so now, can she come back to the House before too long with an idea of when we might expect some further information on this work?
Amendment 33A withdrawn.
34: After Clause 21, insert the following new Clause—
“Review: national identity numbers
(1) Within the period of 2 years beginning with the day on which this Act is passed, the Secretary of State must lay a report before both Houses of Parliament reviewing the case for the introduction of national identity numbers to assist in countering terrorism and ensuring border security.(2) The review must consider whether unique national identity numbers should be linked to a secure and central database containing biometric data to assist with establishing and verifying the identity of possible terrorism suspects or those engaged in hostile state activity, accessible by the relevant national authorities.”
My Lords, this is the second time I have brought my amendment to your Lordships’ House. It fits in very well with the discussion we have had today. There has been a lot of talk about the unease that much of the anti-terror legislation we have appears to discriminate against certain groups. I understand that unease. The legislation is necessary and the threat of Islamic terrorism is sadly growing. One must feel very apprehensive in view of what has suddenly bubbled up yet again in France with the murder of five people by a lone person, probably inspired by IS, in Strasbourg in the Christmas market. We have to be completely on our guard.
I am proposing something totally non-discriminatory. It is not particularly aimed at terrorism, but it is wholly relevant to terrorism and therefore relevant to this Bill. It is essential that any state with a well-ordered government knows who its citizens are. By citizen I mean the nationals and the people living in the state. This is needed for every sort of reason, because the Government are more and more involved with their citizens. We have highly sophisticated welfare systems, health systems, tax systems and many others—control over driving licences and all the rest.
I propose something very simple. I am not asking a lot because I recognise that the Home Office has difficulty with some of these modern concepts of electronics. I sympathise in a sense because my grandchildren are much better at it than I am, but I think I am rather better at it than the Home Office.
Basically, I am asking the Government to take two years to study the possibility of having a system of identification by number, not identity cards, so that everybody has a unique number. That number, in order to make sure that it relates to the person concerned, will be linked to the biometrics of that person. They would not be on a card. That is dangerous because a good criminal terrorist or somebody like that can fake a card, including the biometrics. The biometrics would be centrally held. What the biometrics are is another matter. I know that the Home Office has been very frightened of DNA. I cannot see the difference between DNA and fingerprints, or even a photograph. Biometrics are biometrics and there are many of them, and two or three are needed for certainty.
That is part of the study referred to in the second part of my amendment. The first part is to produce:
“Within the period of 2 years beginning with the day on which this Act is passed … a report before both Houses of Parliament reviewing the case for the introduction of national identity numbers to assist in countering terrorism and ensuring border security”.
The second part of the amendment is to,
“consider whether unique national identity numbers should be linked to a secure and central database containing biometric data”.
I emphasise that it is extremely secure. It is perfectly possible to be absolutely clear who can have access for whatever purpose. All that is simple stuff now. We live in a cyber world and the British Government in many respects are absolutely in advance. GCHQ is a world leader. I think my noble friend Lord Howe will answer this debate and I pay great tribute to him because he is fully aware of things from the point of view of the Ministry of Defence. I give great plaudits to the Ministry of Defence that it is totally up to speed on this. I am afraid the Home Office is not, but I hope it will at least consider this. It is not asking very much.
Many other areas will have side benefits from such a system, particularly national insurance numbers. I have asked PQs on this: there are tens or even hundreds of thousands of extinct national insurance numbers which are still potentially in use. They enable fraudulent use to be made of the various national insurance systems. As far as the National Health Service is concerned, we all have a national health number, but as well as for processing in hospitals it is intended to tell us who is entitled to the services.
We know that the National Health Service is desperately short of funds. Part of the reason is that a lot of people who are not entitled to receive its services are getting them. We have a wonderful reciprocal scheme with Europe whereby Brits going to Europe can be treated under its health service and the British Government pay the cost. That comes to about £500 million a year. The reciprocal is that people from Europe coming to Britain have the right to be treated here and we bill them. We pay £500 million, they pay £50 million. There is something wrong with the administration of the system. When it comes to non-EU citizens and non-UK citizens, the gap is £1 billion, before going on the GP service and primary healthcare where no attempt is made to stop people who are not entitled to use it.
My system, once established, would enable the Government throughout their whole range to see that the services are used by those entitled to them and not by others. At the moment, the service which is available to those who are entitled to it is diluted to a significant extent by its use by people who are not entitled to it.
As for the security side, which is the primary function of the Bill, I think everybody would agree that it is essential that we have a secure and certain system of knowing who the citizens of this country are. I hope my noble friend will say that the Home Office will at least consider this. I beg to move.
My Lords, Amendment 34 brings the attention of the House to an important issue that the noble Lord raised in Committee. I suspect from the response given then by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, to that short debate that, unless there has been a major shift in government thinking, this amendment will make no further progress. That is not to say that the noble Lord has not raised an important issue and deserves a considered response from the Government, which I am sure he will get.
At the heart of the amendment is an attempt to protect fellow citizens and, using a review, to look beyond the introduction of national identity cards, which was my party’s policy when in government. We also looked at the advances in science. We learn on a regular basis how advances in science have brought criminals to justice, particularly those who committed the most heinous crimes many decades ago. They thought they had got away with it, but advances in science brought them to justice.
The issues raised by the noble Lord are for a wider debate on a future date on issues of science and technology and how they are used to keep us safe, while being fully aware that criminals also seek to use advances in science and technology to commit crimes, to murder people and to threaten our country and its values. I am clear that the noble Lord is asking for a review and nothing more than that. We must keep things under review. What should the state do to keep us safe? What is being done now and is it proportionate? I look forward to the Government’s response and thank the noble Lord for raising these issues.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Marlesford for once again setting out his arguments in favour of introducing national identity numbers backed up by a national identity register containing biometric data of everyone in the country, or at least the adult resident population. I recognise the constructive intentions behind this amendment. My noble friend will recall that in Committee I stated that the introduction of a national identity number and register would be prohibitively expensive and would represent a substantial erosion of civil liberties. I know that I will disappoint him by saying that this remains the Government’s position. In consequence, I remain unconvinced of the need to carry out a review to determine this.
Any measure of the kind my noble friend is proposing would have to be evidence-based. We have seen no evidence that a national identity number or biometric database would offer greater protection against terrorism or greater control at the border. As I said in Committee, although a number of European countries have national identity numbers, these have not been able to prevent terrorist atrocities from being carried out—a point well made by the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller. Indeed, even were we to imagine any of those countries having a biometric database alongside national identity numbers, it is hard to see how this would have made any difference to the ability of the police to forestall those attacks.
Resources need to be directed to where they can be relied upon to add tangible value. I am of a view that the investment we are making in security, counterterrorism, better use of intelligence and cybersecurity is a more effective use of resources to keep the country safe against the ongoing threat from terrorism and hostile state activity. I know my noble friend takes a more sanguine view than many noble Lords about the retention of biometric data, but let us think about the debates we have had during the passage of this Bill. During debate on Schedule 2, the Government have been quite properly probed by noble Lords as to whether we have got the balance right on the retention rules for fingerprints and DNA taken from persons arrested for, but not charged with, a terrorism offence. I am clear that the balance is right but the Government accept that, where someone has not been convicted of an offence, there need to be appropriate restrictions on the retention of biometric data. I believe that this view is shared by the overwhelming majority of Members of your Lordships’ House.
Against the backdrop of those debates on Schedule 2, my noble friend’s proposition appears all the starker. He is advocating a national database containing the biometrics of the whole population with, presumably, the data being deleted only on the death of an individual. In considering such a proposition, it is instructive to remind ourselves what the Constitution Committee said about the then Identity Cards Bill in March 2005—that,
“the constitutional significance of the Bill is that it adjusts the fundamental relationship between the individual and the State … the Bill seeks to create an extensive scheme for enabling more information about the lives and characteristics of the entire adult population to be recorded in a single database than has ever been considered necessary or attempted previously in the United Kingdom, or indeed in other western countries. Such a scheme may have the benefits that are claimed for it, but the existence of this extensive new database in the hands of the State makes abuse of privacy possible”.
We do not believe the case against a national identity register has changed in the intervening years.
Having said that, I hope that I have been able to reassure my noble friend that the Government take the need to counter terrorism and maintain border security very seriously; indeed, we would not be debating the Bill today if this were not the case. Having again had the opportunity to debate the issue, and with the reassurance I have offered about the Government’s commitment to protect the public, I respectfully ask my noble friend if he would be content to withdraw his amendment.
I thank my noble friend for his reply and the trouble he has taken with it, but I am not reassured at all. He started by talking about the enormous cost; I was only asking for a study. One of the things a study would reveal would be some indication of costs; that would be a criterion in knowing how to move forward. Then he produced the idea that countries which have identity systems have not been able to prevent terrorist attacks; certainly terrorist attacks have occurred in countries with those systems, but it is failing logic to say that that means they are of no use. We do not know which attacks were not successful as a result of having the system.
One could produce a great deal of evidence of cases where it would be very useful to the security services and the police, as well as the examples I gave in the wider sector, to be sure of who people are. The civil liberties argument is a real non-runner: the state already has a mass of information. All I am suggesting is that it is better organised so that it can be better used and more securely kept. I know that, as far as the Home Office is concerned, I am speaking to deaf ears but that does not mean I will cease to speak. I shall cease now, but I will certainly return to it. In the meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 34 withdrawn.
Schedule 3: Border security
34A: Schedule 3, page 38, line 41, leave out “hostile act” and insert “serious crime”
My Lords, Schedule 3 to the Bill will confer a bristling armoury of powers on ports police: the power to detain travellers for up to six hours; a requirement that questions be answered and passcodes surrendered, on pain of prosecution and possible imprisonment; powers to take samples and strip search; and the power to download and retain the entire contents of laptops and mobile phones. In Committee, I expressed unease at the prospect of some 1,400 ports officers up and down the country being entrusted with these powers and the right to use them without any need for suspicion for the purpose of determining whether members of the travelling public appear to be engaged in activity that, while reprehensible, is perfectly lawful.
At that stage, three examples were given of activity that was said to be detrimental to national security without amounting to serious crime. Each of them fell squarely within the scope of the Official Secrets Acts 1911 and 1920 and could thus have quite legitimately been the subject of questioning under a law formulated according to these amendments. I continue to believe that strong coercive powers of this nature should, as a matter of principle, be available only in the context of criminality and that the best way to address any deficit is by amendment or addition to our national security legislation. However, since Committee, two further examples have been put to me on which the Minister may choose to elaborate that suggest at least one respect in which our existing law is inadequate to protect against threats to our national security. So until that gap has been filled, a pragmatic case, I accept, has been advanced for extending the Schedule 3 power beyond serious crime.
Furthermore, government Amendment 34C has addressed the most obviously objectionable feature of the clause, and that is its unqualified recourse to the nebulous—if I may use that word—notion of threats to,
“the economic well-being of the United Kingdom”.
I understand that further assurances are to be offered in the draft code of practice that will be laid before this House after the passage of this Bill.
Finally, I take comfort from paragraph 62 of Schedule 3, which the Minister mentioned in the previous debate, which requires the Investigatory Powers Commissioner—currently Sir Adrian Fulford, a serving Lord Justice of the Court of Appeal—to keep under review the operation of the relevant provisions, and provides for the publication of the commissioner’s annual review. Annual reviews over the many years of the equivalent power under Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act have given rise to a number of changes to the code of practice and to legislation, and have been extensively relied on in the courts.
Will the Minister confirm that the necessary additional resources will be made available to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner for the performance of that task by him and his office? Will she confirm that that will be the case even if the number of stops should turn out greatly to exceed the current estimate of 100 per year? She will remember that, according to figures—provided to me by the Metropolitan Police and published in December 2016—on the intelligence reports filed after Schedule 7 stops between 2009 and 2015, an annual total of between 5% and 8% related to counterespionage and between 8% and 17% related to counterproliferation. That was despite the fact that at that stage no specific power existed for questioning travellers in order to determine whether they were spies or proliferators. It would seem that quite large numbers of people who might have fallen within those categories were stopped and questioned. If remotely accurate, those figures are suggestive of the possibility that the Schedule 3 power could be used up to a few thousand times a year rather than merely several dozen. I appreciate that the Minister does not have a crystal ball, but the need for proper resource to report on this extremely sensitive power is clear and I hope that she will acknowledge that.
On that basis, I support government Amendment 34C and do not propose to press Amendments 34A, 34B or 34D. I beg to move.
My Lords, I added my name to the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich. As he said, the Schedule 3 powers are considerable and can be exercised against someone even if the activity they are suspected of being engaged in does not amount to a serious crime. Therefore, we certainly feel that the amendments are valid. However, we accept that the noble Lord has received reassurances from the Government, which I hope the Minister will elaborate on in her response. Clearly, following the comments that we made from these Benches about actions that affect “the economic well-being of the United Kingdom”, the amendments tabled by the Minister provide reassurance on that particular issue.
My Lords, Amendment 34A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, raises the same issue that the noble Lord led on in Committee. The noble Lord quite rightly raised the issue of the words “hostile act”. The words are far too wide and give a disproportionate power to the relevant authorities. The noble Lord spoke in Committee about these strong coercive powers.
To their credit, the Government have listened to that debate and I know that they have been in discussion with a number of noble Lords around the House, as have government officials. I have found those discussions very helpful and I am persuaded that the amendments put forward by the Government in this group address the concerns raised previously, so I am content to support the Government and their amendments in this group.
My Lords, with this group of amendments we return to the question of the proper scope of the powers in Schedule 3. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, has again argued that police powers of this kind should only be available to the police to tackle criminal behaviour. As I highlighted in Committee, and would like to stress again, these new powers to examine persons at ports and the border area are specifically designed to mitigate the threat from all forms of hostile state activity. Limiting the scope of these powers would limit the range of threats that we would be able to detect, disrupt and deter, thereby leaving the country vulnerable.
The noble Lord is correct that many of the activities we are concerned about may be criminal in nature, including offences under the Official Secrets Act 1911. However, not only is this legislation generally recognised to be outdated and not fit for the modern age, but not all hostile activity would fall within scope. The noble Lord is right that we need to consider modernising the law in this area, and the House is aware that the Law Commission is undertaking a review of criminal law surrounding the protection of official data, which includes all the Official Secrets Acts, but this work will necessarily take some time to come to fruition and, until we know the outcome, it would be wrong to narrow the scope of the provisions in Schedule 3. To do so would necessarily inhibit our ability to counter hostile activity, as the police would naturally err on the side of caution when conducting stops, given the risk of challenge about whether the stop or subsequent questioning was clearly for the purpose of determining whether the examinee is, or has been, involved in serious crime.
I recognise the noble Lord’s concerns that the breadth of the power could encompass activities which are not considered crimes. If such activity threatens the safety of our citizens, our democracy and our national security, it is only right that we afford the police the powers to investigate, prevent and discourage these acts in order to protect us. Some hostile activity would not be considered criminal activity under the law as is stands—for example, the proliferation of disinformation. We know that certain states routinely use disinformation as a foreign policy tool and have seen evidence of this happening elsewhere.
In recent years, some states have attempted to influence opinions online by using human and automated troll farms to establish fake social media profiles or spread disinformation. One can imagine a scenario in which a member of one such troll farm, controlled by a foreign power that has been observed attempting to influence public debate in the UK, travels to the UK. The act of sowing discord through proliferation of disinformation is not a crime in the UK, but you can imagine a scenario in which it would threaten our national security. Under the noble Lord’s proposed amendment, police officers at ports would be rightly unwilling to ask about these activities, as they are not illegal.
Interference operations are not restricted to the online space. Suppose an individual with suspected links to a hostile foreign intelligence agency travels to the UK, with the intention of meeting parliamentarians under a benign pretext, but with the real intention of influencing them to support a particular position which would be of benefit to that state. This type of activity is not illegal in the UK; the individual is not obliged to disclose that they have an ulterior motive of seeking to influence parliamentarians, but noble Lords understand that this activity is a threat to our national security and risks undermining our parliamentary democracy. Under the noble Lord’s amendment, as this type of activity would not be classified as a crime in the UK, police officers at ports would be unable to ask questions of a sufficiently detailed nature to provide the level of insight necessary to properly understand, assess, further investigate or disrupt the threat that this activity would present.
Some individuals may not even be aware that they are acting on behalf of a hostile actor. They may think they are working for a charity or a friend. Many of the serious crimes that we would consider linking to Schedule 3 require an intention element on the part of the individual.
We have reflected carefully on comments made, including by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, about the scope of the “threatens the economic well-being of the United Kingdom” limb of the definition of a hostile act. There were concerns that legitimate business ventures would fall within scope of the power. This limb of the definition is intended to ensure that these powers can be used to mitigate hostile acts such as damaging the country’s national infrastructure or disrupting energy supplies to the UK. It is not our intention that these powers are available to examine those travelling only to conduct legitimate business.
To address these concerns, I have tabled Amendment 34C, which narrows the scope of the “economic well-being” limb. This amendment will provide that an act is a hostile act under this limb only if it threatens the economic well-being of the UK,
“in a way relevant to the interests of national security”.
The other government amendments in this group make consequential changes to other references to the economic well-being of the UK in Schedule 3.
The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, asked whether the IPC will have the resources needed to review the use of Schedule 3. The Government are committed to ensuring the Investigatory Powers Commissioner has the resources that he or she needs to fulfil all their functions, including Schedule 3 when these provisions come into force. However, I should emphasise that we expect the use of Schedule 3 powers to be very low, certainly far below the number of Schedule 7 examinations conducted in 2017.
At this point, perhaps I may remind noble Lords that the Home Office is reviewing whether there is a need for new counter hostile state activity legislation. I have already mentioned the Law Commission review of the Official Secrets Acts, but our work is not confined solely to that area of criminal law. Of course, any reforms to the Official Secrets Acts or any other new offences will require further primary legislation and, in taking this work forward, I can assure the noble Lord that we will examine as part of the work whether there are any changes that we ought to make to Schedule 3.
In taking this wider work forward, we will also have the benefit of the annual reports on the exercise of Schedule 3 powers by the IPC. I am confident that in reviewing this, having all the resources he needs in place, the commissioner will adopt the same robust approach as did the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, when he was the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. He will not hold back from making recommendations if he considers that, in the light of the experience of operating these powers, changes should be made to Schedule 3. Moreover, the provisions of the Bill will be subject to the normal five-year post-legislative review.
I hope that, given this explanation, the noble Lord will be content to withdraw his amendment. I have explained the need to maintain the current scope of the power subject to the narrowing of the “economic well-being” limb.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness for what she has said, and in particular for the constructive and successful efforts that are being made to reduce the attack surface, if I may use the intelligence jargon, of these very broad powers. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 34A withdrawn.
Amendment 34B not moved.
34C: Schedule 3, page 39, line 6, after “Kingdom” insert “in a way relevant to the interests of national security”
Amendment 34C agreed.
Amendment 34D not moved.
34E: Schedule 3, page 39, line 41, at end insert—
“(2) A person may refuse a request for documents or information under paragraph 3(1) where—(a) the information or document in question consists of journalistic material within the meaning of either section 13 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 or section 264(1) to (4) or (6) and (7) of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016;(b) the information or document in question is subject to legal privilege; or(c) the information or document in question may reveal the identity of a source of journalistic information.”
My Lords, I recognise that this amendment is not perfect and I am sure that the government draftsmen could make a better job of it, but the Government have shown that they are open to amending the Bill to improve it and to put in the necessary safeguards for journalists and others. For that reason, I ask the Minister to look again at the Schedule 3 power and to add proper oversight of its use.
The existing powers in Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act have already proved open to abuse. When David Miranda was stopped at the border on the instruction of the security services, it was because he was the partner of Glenn Greenwald, a journalist reporting on the facts released by whistleblower Edward Snowden. It is thanks to these heroic individuals that we now know the true extent to which the American National Security Agency spies on just about every person who owns a phone or a computer. David Miranda was stopped at Heathrow Airport to confiscate any documents and data that he might have been holding in relation to the whistleblowing. There was no judicial oversight and no legal protection for the sensitive journalistic information that the security services sought to confiscate.
This amendment is not just an issue that I have cooked up because I do not trust the Government or something that NGOs have asked me to bring forward. It was the judgment of the Court of Appeal in the David Miranda case, where the Master of the Rolls said that the existing Schedule 7 power, on which Schedule 3 is based, is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. It was the Court of Appeal’s conclusion that,
“in relation to journalistic material … it is not subject to adequate safeguards against its arbitrary exercise … It will be for Parliament to provide such protection. The most obvious safeguard would be some form of judicial or other independent and impartial scrutiny conducted in such a way as to protect the confidentiality in the material”.
What have the Government done to rectify this breach of human rights law? Given that the existing Schedule 7 power has already been ruled in breach of human rights by the Court of Appeal, how have the Government chosen to bring another power which replicates the breach in its entirety? In that light, how was the Minister able to put a statement on the Bill that it is in accordance with the Human Rights Act when it is not? We have to amend this provision in some way. The alternative is that we pass a measure that we know has already been declared in breach of the human rights convention and is certain to be declared so again.
Journalists do essential work. They are the lifeblood of any free country, yet they face constant threats across the world for speaking truth to power. In the USA, despite constitutional protection, they are labelled by the President as “enemies of the people”, and have had bomb scares and other threats made by the far right. In Saudi Arabia, and far too many other countries, they face arrest, violence and death. It is against this backdrop that I am grateful to the Minister for tabling a number of amendments to the Bill which seek to protect journalists and their sources from the powers contained within. However, Schedule 7—and by extension the Schedule 3 power—do not protect journalists, and expose their sources to interference by the state.
My amendment gives journalists the right to say no when asked to hand over confidential information. I recognise that this is a sticking plaster for now. The Government can and should bring their own amendment to resolve the issues in the Miranda judgment, and give proper judicial oversight of this kind of confiscation. I hope this is just an oversight, and that the Minister has not yet tabled all her amendments to Schedule 3. While we wait for those to be forthcoming, can the Minister reassure us that we will come back to this at Third Reading?
Amendment 34F builds on the points I have just made. At the moment, the Schedule 3 power at least contains a safeguard so that any statements a detainee makes while detained cannot be used in court. The same protection is not given to information or documents that are confiscated. There should be protection for journalistic material and journalists’ sources, so that they cannot be exposed in court. I look forward to seeing the Minister’s amendments, which would resolve this problem.
My Lords, I rise to support the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, at least in principle. There is clearly a conundrum here. You have people potentially being detained and questioned at ports, for up to a maximum of six hours. They may be in possession of documents that are genuinely confidential journalistic material—for example, information about journalistic sources—or they may be legal documents, subject to legal privilege. As this amendment suggests, however, to allow someone to refuse to hand over the documents or information on the basis that this is what they contain, would be open to abuse by foreign spies, or people who have adverse intentions towards the United Kingdom. There is a dilemma between protecting legally privileged material and confidential journalistic material, but at the same time—and within the timescales and practicalities of a Schedule 3 or Schedule 7 stop—finding some mechanism that protects those fundamental human rights and enables the Border Force to carry out its job in protecting the United Kingdom.
My Lords, these two amendments raise genuine points of concern. As the Bill is written, border guards and other officials are being put in a more privileged position than police forces. Under the Terrorism Act 2000, the police have to apply to a court for judicial approval of such actions, so I am supportive.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, raises important issues with these two amendments, and I am happy to give my support in principle. As the noble Baroness said herself, I am not convinced that these amendments, as written, are correct, though they certainly raise issues the Government should look at and support. All of us here would, I hope, support journalists, and a free and responsible press.
The issues raised by the amendments need looking at; I hope that the Minister will do so when she responds. Perhaps we can find a way forward, possibly at Third Reading, to address the concerns here. It is about getting the balance right between protecting our country, protecting the rights of journalists and keeping ourselves safe and secure. We need to get those issues right in the Bill. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
I agree totally with noble Lords that there is a balance to be struck between the freedom of the press and getting material that is not conducive to this country’s well-being. The amendments reflect concerns about how Schedule 3 ports powers apply to journalistic material and sources. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, spoke passionately about that issue in Committee; I hope to assure her that Schedule 3 includes a number of safeguards to protect confidential material, including confidential journalistic material.
Schedule 3 is a counter-hostile state activity power. With that in mind, it is vital that ports officers are equipped to deal with the means and methods of those engaged in such activity. I spoke in Committee about the very real threat we face from foreign intelligence officers and their agents who actively use the cover of certain professions including journalism, the law and others. That is why Schedule 3 introduces new powers to allow for action to be taken where an article that may include confidential material could be used in connection with a hostile act, presents a threat to life or could lead to significant injury.
Amendment 34E would undermine the ability of ports officers to detect, disrupt and deter hostile actors as it would allow a person simply to refuse a request for documents or information, including sources, where they claim that it consists of journalistic material, as defined by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and the Investigatory Powers Act, or is subject to legal privilege. That would prohibit the examining officer verifying that the material in question is confidential or journalistic and would require the officer to take the examinee at their word.
I have spoken before about why that would be problematic when faced with trained hostile actors who will seek to exploit any possible loophole in our legislation, yet the concerns raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, are precisely why the new retention powers in respect of confidential information require the authorisation of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, who must be satisfied that certain conditions are met before granting that authorisation. This approach protects the work of legitimate journalists and lawyers and is consistent with the Court of Appeal’s judgment in the Schedule 7 case of Miranda, to which the noble Baroness referred. In that case, the court said that,
“independent and impartial oversight … is the natural and obvious adequate safeguard”,
in examination cases involving journalistic freedom.
Amendment 34F would extend the statutory bar—which prohibits answers or information given orally by a person during an examination being used in criminal proceedings—to any information or documents given where the material is considered journalistic. Noble Lords will know that the purpose of this important safeguard, as recommended by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, is to protect an examinee against self-incrimination where they must respond to questioning under compulsion and so do not have a right to silence. The amendment would extend the statutory bar into territory it was not designed or intended to cover. It could prevent evidence of a hostile act from being used in criminal proceedings where it had been acquired through the legitimate examination of confidential material on the authorisation of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner. Accepting this amendment would undermine the ability of the police and the CPS to prosecute hostile actors, either those who have used journalistic cover to disguise their criminal activities or those whose activities might be evidenced by confidential material in the hands of a third party.
Although I do not agree with the amendments, for the reasons I have explained, I recognise the force of the noble Baroness’s arguments on the need for strong protections for journalistic material that is not confidential. I will therefore ask my officials to consider if any additional protections may be introduced through the Schedule 3 codes of practice. I can undertake to keep the noble Baroness informed of progress with this work, and of course a revised version of the draft code of practice will need to come back to this House to be approved before those provisions come into force. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving the House another opportunity to debate the appropriate safeguards for journalistic and legally privileged material under Schedule 3. In light of my undertaking to do this additional work, I hope she will feel happy to withdraw her amendment.
I thank the Minister for her response and I thank the noble Lords who supported my amendment in principle. I was going to say that I withdraw the amendment with discontent, but in fact I am absolutely delighted by the Minister’s answer, so I look forward to Third Reading. Thank you.
Amendment 34E withdrawn.
Amendment 34F not moved.
Amendments 34G to 43
34G: Schedule 3, page 44, line 16, at end insert “so far as those interests are also relevant to the interests of national security”
34H: Schedule 3, page 49, line 7, after “Kingdom” insert “so far as those interests are also relevant to the interests of national security”
34J: Schedule 3, page 49, line 23, at end insert “so far as those interests are also relevant to the interests of national security”
34K: Schedule 3, page 49, line 42, at end insert “so far as those interests are also relevant to the interests of national security”
35: Schedule 3, page 55, line 35, at end insert—
“( ) A detainee must be informed of the right under this paragraph on first being detained.”
36: Schedule 3, page 55, line 40, at end insert—
“( ) A detainee must be informed of the right under this paragraph on first being detained.”
37: Schedule 3, page 57, line 4, leave out sub-paragraphs (1) and (2) and insert—
“(1) This paragraph applies where a detainee exercises the right under paragraph 30 to consult a solicitor.(2) A police officer of at least the rank of superintendent may direct that the right—(a) may not be exercised (or further exercised) by consulting the solicitor who attends for the purpose of the consultation or who would so attend but for the giving of the direction, but(b) may instead be exercised by consulting a different solicitor of the detainee’s choosing.(2A) A direction under this paragraph may be given before or after a detainee’s consultation with a solicitor has started (and if given after it has started the right to further consult that solicitor ceases on the giving of the direction).”
38: Schedule 3, page 57, line 25, leave out sub-paragraphs (5) and (6)
39: Schedule 3, page 60, line 12, leave out “Subject to paragraph 39,”
40: Schedule 3, page 60, line 12, at end insert—
“( ) A detainee must be informed of the rights under sub-paragraphs (1) and (6) on first being detained.”
41: Schedule 3, page 60, line 31, leave out sub-paragraphs (1) and (2) and insert—
“(1) Sub-paragraph (2) applies where a detainee exercises the right under paragraph 37(6) to consult a solicitor.(2) A police officer not below the rank of superintendent may, if it appears to the officer to be necessary on one of the grounds mentioned in sub-paragraph (3), direct that the right—(a) may not be exercised (or further exercised) by consulting the solicitor who attends for the purpose of the consultation or who would so attend but for the giving of the direction, but(b) may instead be exercised by consulting a different solicitor of the detainee’s choosing.(2A) A direction under this paragraph may be given before or after a detainee’s consultation with a solicitor has started (and if given after it has started the right to further consult that solicitor ceases on the giving of the direction).”
42: Schedule 3, page 60, line 39, leave out “(1)” and insert “(2)”
43: Schedule 3, page 73, line 22, at end insert—
“( ) A person may be specified in regulations under this paragraph only if the person exercises public functions (whether or not in the United Kingdom).”
Amendments 34G to 43 agreed.
Schedule 4: Minor and consequential amendments
44: Schedule 4, page 90, line 2, at end insert—
“38A_ In Schedule 14 (exercise of officers’ powers), in paragraph 4 after sub-paragraph (2) insert—“(3) A person may be specified in an order under this paragraph only if the person exercises public functions (whether or not in the United Kingdom).””
Amendment 44 agreed.
Clause 26: Commencement
45: Clause 26, page 26, line 3, after “16” insert “, (Persons detained under port and border control powers)”
My Lords, the House will recall that on the first day on Report, a new clause was added to the Bill to strengthen the rights of persons detained under Schedule 8 to the Terrorism Act 2000 to consult a solicitor in private. Amendment 45 is consequential upon that new clause. The amendment will provide that the new clause will be commenced by regulations, rather than automatically coming into force two months after Royal Assent. This will allow time to update the code of practice under the Terrorism Act 2000 before these provisions are brought into force. I beg to move.
Amendment 45 agreed.
46: Clause 26, page 26, line 10, at end insert “, subject to subsection (3A).
(3A) Before section 19 can come into force, the Secretary of State must revise the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy and any guidance under—(a) section 29(3),(b) section 36(7), and(c) section 38(6),of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015.(3B) The revisions under subsection (3A) must ensure that—(a) there is a clear and consistent definition of when considerations other than terrorism can be considered relevant to the assessment of an individual who is thought vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism, and(b) the definition of when considerations other than terrorism can be considered relevant to the assessment of an individual who is thought vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism is bounded by the requirement to assess the risk of being drawn into terrorism under sections 26(1) and 36(1) of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015.”
My Lords, in introducing Amendment 46, I would like to put on the record my thanks to the Minister for the very useful meeting that the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, and I had with her at the beginning of the month. As a result of that meeting, I have decided not to re-table one of my Committee stage amendments. However, I think it is important to revisit the concerns I addressed in Committee through my Amendments 89 and 91, hence why I am speaking to Amendment 46 today. The basic problem addressed by my amendment is that the guidance documents that are likely to inform the implementation of the duties set out under Section 36 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, as amended by Clause 19 of the Bill before us today, uphold an inconsistent approach to the crucial question of whether—and if so, when—considerations regarding non-violent extremism are relevant.
The wording of Section 36 is very clear that it requires local authorities to assess whether people are vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism. Section 36 does not ask for an assessment to be made regarding whether people will be drawn into any other activity and, specifically, no reference is made to non-violent extremism. In this context, there must be a concern that any suggestion in the guidance that these panels should assess people for anything other than the risk of being drawn into terrorism would involve their acting beyond the parent legislation.
At this point, some might say, “So what? If a Section 36 panel assesses and sanctions interventions relating to people who engage in extremism as well as terrorism, is that such a bad thing?” To my mind, it all depends what you mean by “extremism”. If you mean violent extremism, this clearly falls within the parameters of terrorism and Section 36. Clearly, making an intervention at that point is wholly justified. However, extremism is a potentially much wider concept than violent extremism and is very much a subjective reality in the eyes of the beholder. One person’s extremism will be another’s common sense and vice versa.
Part of the genius of the British political tradition over centuries has been its capacity to make room for people with different world views, some of them more peculiar than others. In this context, it is vital that the guidance that informs the application of Section 36, as amended by Clause 19, does not encourage local authorities to stray into a general assessment of extremism in the round, because this clearly overreaches what is mandated by the legislation and because we must jealously guard our commitment to free speech.
In highlighting this concern, I am not arguing that there is an absolute divide between violent and non-violent extremism, such that it is not legitimate to consider non-violent extremism in implementing Section 36. The proper relationship between non-violent extremism and terrorism for the purposes of Section 36 has been set out very clearly by Mr Justice Ouseley in his judgment in the 2017 case of Mr Salman Butt. He says that intervention on the basis of Section 26, and thus clearly by implication Section 36, can be only in response to,
“active opposition to fundamental British values”,
“must in some respect risk drawing others into terrorism before the guidance applies to it. If there is some non-violent extremism, however intrinsically undesirable, which does not create a risk that others will be drawn into terrorism, the guidance does not apply to it”.
In other words, non-violent extremism is a relevant consideration only to the extent that it creates a risk that others will be drawn into terrorism. Non-violent extremism that does not sustain this relationship to terrorism is not engaged.
A number of counterarguments have been made in response to my highlighting these concerns. In the first instance, it has been said that the Prevent duty guidance and counterterrorism guidance are not relevant because the guidance that had been specifically developed for implementing Section 36 is the Channel duty guidance. I accept that the Channel duty guidance has been specifically drafted with Section 36 in mind. I expect that local authorities would turn to this in the first instance. What I do not think stands up to scrutiny, however, is the suggestion that local authorities will not consult other guidance documents. I will not repeat everything I said on this in Committee, but I remind the House that the Channel guidance encourages its readers to look at the Prevent duty strategy and the counterterrorism strategy under the heading “Other Useful Guidance”.
In the second instance, it has been suggested that the Channel duty guidance, the Prevent duty guidance and the counterterrorism strategy all adopt a clear and consistent approach to the relationship between terrorism and non-violent extremism, such that one can be confident that there will be no confusion about when, on the basis of Section 36, it is appropriate for a local authority to intervene. I have acknowledged that parts of these documents are clear on this question. My difficulty is that other parts are far from clear, and this is leading to confusion.
For instance, in the Prevent duty strategy, the glossary definition of extremism does not depend on any necessary connection to terrorism. It says that for the purpose of the strategy, extremism is,
“vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. We also include in our definition of extremism calls for the death of members of our Armed Forces, whether in this country or overseas”.
Although there is a reference to calling for the death of members of the Armed Forces, that is not necessary to fulfil this definition of extremism, and so it does not reflect what the law says as set out by Mr Justice Ouseley.
The counterterrorism strategy, meanwhile, provides a definition of terrorism specifically for the Channel programme that is completely beyond Mr Justice Ouseley’s definition of the law. Paragraph 124 of the strategy states:
“Channel is … run in every local authority in England and Wales, and addresses all types of extremism”.
The suggestion that Channel interventions can be made with respect to all types of extremism clearly suggests that this provides a basis for intervention in relation to non-violent extremism where there is no relationship to violent extremism and terrorism.
The Channel duty guidance is also confused. Part 4 makes the necessary connection to terrorism very clear. It states:
“Preventing terrorism will mean challenging extremist and non-violent ideas that are also part of a terrorist ideology”.
In other words, content that the state deems extreme but is itself non-violent must be connected with terrorism in that it must be part of terrorist ideology to be a relevant consideration. However, paragraph 5 then uses a different definition of extremism, in which there is no necessary connection with terrorist ideology. This seems to open the door to anything the state deems extreme without needing to be part of a terrorist ideology. This confusion is further reflected in the more detailed definition of what extremism is that is provided in paragraph 51, where again we see no necessary connection to terrorism.
The lack of any consistent clarity about when consideration of non-violent extremism is appropriate in discharging Section 36 responsibilities with respect to terrorism is a real problem, because the resulting confusion is impacting on practice, as noted by Mr Justice Ouseley in paragraph 29 of his judgment. Here he is not simply saying that he thinks there is a risk of confusion. He is saying that he is encountering that confusion as people misapply a felt obligation to prevent people being drawn into non-violent extremism. The paragraph says:
“However often that phrase is used, it starts, in my judgment, from a fundamental misreading or misunderstanding of the guidance. The guidance is about the s26 duty; it is therefore about preventing people being drawn into terrorism through non-violent extremism. Non-violent extremism which carries no risk of drawing people into terrorism is not subject to the guidance. Once the risk is established that a non-violent extremist does pose such a risk, the guidance applies. It is not at issue that preventing people being drawn into terrorism is a legitimate aim”.
In a context where the guidance on which public servants depend is so confused about when non-violent extremism can be pursued under Section 26 or Section 36, it would not be appropriate for us to accede to the demands of Clause 19, widening the application of Section 36, without first ensuring that the Channel duty guidance, the Prevent duty guidance and the counterterrorism strategy sustained a clear and consistent definition about when non-violent extremism was a relevant consideration in discharging Section 36 responsibilities. This would not require a complete rewrite of any of the guidance documents. What is needed is a clear statement at the beginning and in a glossary that any reference to extremism in the guidance is relevant only to the discharging of responsibilities in relation to the 2015 terrorism Act when the extremism in question is such that, in the words of Mr Justice Ouseley, it, “risks drawing” others into terrorism. If there is some non-violent extremism, however intrinsically undesirable, which does not create a risk that others will be drawn into terrorism, the guidance does not apply to it.
The Minister mentioned to me that the guidance would have to be updated in any event within 12 months. However, given the serious implications of the confusion that I have highlighted, it would be helpful if that review could be brought forward a little. If that is not possible, a supplementary definition of when non-violent extremism is a relevant consideration under Section 36 and when it is not would be a useful temporary solution. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am very pleased to speak in support of Amendment 46. I want also to put on the record my thanks to the Minister for facilitating the meeting with the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and me.
It is not my intention to repeat what the noble Baroness has said, but I want to say clearly that I agree with all of it. The Minister asked her and me whether we could think of any examples of confusion resulting from the inconsistent approach set out in guidance as to when non-violent extremism can be addressed in responding to the Section 36 duty, which pertains narrowly to terrorism, and when it cannot. I shall set out at least two examples.
Before I do so, however, I want to say that, even if there were no examples, it would still be important that when a lack of clarity was highlighted we did not wait for a problem before recognising the need to take action. I am a great believer in recognising where there is potential for problems before they make their presence felt and intervening to address the source of the difficulty in question.
Paragraph 129 of Mr Justice Ouseley’s judgment clearly demonstrates that he has already identified a tendency for people to misconstrue the guidance as it relates to the definition of the threshold that has to be crossed for consideration of non-violent extremism to become relevant. He states: “However often that phrase”—that is, preventing people being drawn into non-violent extremism—
“is used, it starts, in my judgment, from a fundamental misreading or misunderstanding of the guidance. The guidance is about the s26 duty; it is therefore about preventing people being drawn into terrorism through non-violent extremism. Non-violent extremism which carries no risk of drawing people into terrorism is not subject to the guidance. Once the risk is established that a non-violent extremist does pose such a risk, the guidance applies. It is not at issue that preventing people being drawn into terrorism is a legitimate aim”.
In my judgment, this is no more than sufficient justification for the Government to recognise the importance of intervening in order to bring the requisite clarity. This could be done relatively easily by employing Mr Justice Ouseley’s definition of when non-violent extremism is relevant to discharging responsibilities under the terrorism Act 2015 and when it is not.
Despite this, I will now turn to two specific examples, starting with the experience of the National Union of Teachers, which has asked:
“How are schools and sixth form colleges expected to incorporate the Prevent strategy into their existing safeguarding policies? The Prevent duty guidance is again lacking in detail on this point. It says schools ‘will need to consider the level of risk to identify the most appropriate referral, which could include Channel or Children’s Social Care, for example’. It also requires these policies to ‘set out clear protocols for ensuring that any visiting speakers—whether invited by staff or by children themselves—are suitable and appropriately supervised’”.
Crucially, however, the NUT then goes on to observe that the guidance,
“does not indicate which acts/behaviours warrant a referral to Channel or Children’s Social Care”.
This clearly illustrates the problem.
The NUT is not saying that it cannot see terrorism, which is fairly easy to identify. Its difficulty pertains to the lack of clarity regarding what else is relevant, and at the heart of that challenge is knowing what non-violent extremism is engaged and what non-violent extremism is not engaged. On the basis of some parts of the guidance, one could think that all non-violent extremism is relevant. On the basis of the legal definition in his judgment, however, Mr Justice Ouseley is very clear that non-violent extremism is relevant only if it is connected to terrorism in the sense that it,
“risks drawing others into terrorism before the guidance applies to it”.
He then, of course, looks at it from the other perspective, saying:
“If there is some non-violent extremism, however intrinsically undesirable, which does not create a risk that others will be drawn into terrorism, the guidance does not apply to it”.
These are the tests that should be being applied but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, has demonstrated, the current guidance does not uphold them and does not have a clear and consistent definition of when non-violent extremism is relevant for the purpose of discharging the Section 36 responsibilities and when it is not relevant. Having considered this NUT example, it is also helpful to have regard to the 2016 Joint Committee on Human Rights report on counter- extremism. Again in relation to education, it states, at paragraph 46, that:
“On 21 June 2016, the Times reported that ‘in schools 1,041 children were referred last year to Channel, the de-radicalisation programme; in 2012, the year it was extended nationally, only nine children were referred’. Evidence on the proportionality of such referrals is almost entirely anecdotal at this stage. Yet it is far from clear that it was envisaged that so many children would be referred. Tell MAMA has stated that it has ‘received a number of cases involving schools and where Muslim young people have been interviewed on the back of alleged comments that they have made within the school environment’. They argue that some of these individuals ‘believe that they have been targeted because of their faith’”.
In other words, the JCHR is questioning whether the scale of referrals is appropriate.
If teachers are overreferring, this is not because they are seeing lots of terrorism in our schools. It is almost certainly because they are seeing what they perceive to be non-violent extremism and think that it provides a basis for a referral. Clearly, if non-violent extremism as a whole is in play, it provides a very broad basis for making referrals that would be consistent with these numbers. This misreading is, of course, entirely consistent with Mr Justice Ouseley’s observation that preventing people being drawn into non-violent extremism arises out of,
“a fundamental misreading of the guidance”.
He is very clear that, legally, the relevant Section 26 duty—and we may add by extension the relevant Section 36 duty, since both are confined to terrorism—engages non-violent extremism only to the extent that it can be shown to be connected to terrorism by playing a part in drawing people into it.
When we are confronted by a general tendency for people to misread the guidance, we can safely assume that the guidance is not clear. That is precisely what the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, has shown, by looking at the relevant texts. The Minister told the noble Baroness and me that these concerns could be addressed within 12 months because the guidance documents would be up for review by then. However, given that there is evidence suggesting that non-violent extremism is being applied generally, without regard for the appropriate legal constraints, reviewing the guidance is now a matter of considerable urgency.
It was your Lordships’ House that set the legislative framework providing the foundations for the Prevent and Channel duty guidance when we scrutinised and passed the 2015 Act. The evidence highlighting that the guidance is not clear and that it is being misread, to allow it to be applied to non-violent extremism not licensed anywhere in the legislation that we signed off, should be a real concern to every Member of your Lordships’ House.
In this context, while I appreciate that in the normal course of events there will be an opportunity to review the guidance documents in 12 months, I am not persuaded that it is appropriate to leave the many public servants who are expected to discharge this duty with guidance that we know is vulnerable to being misread for possibly as long as another 18 months, depending how long the review lasts. Mindful of this, I ask the Minister to take this matter away between now and Third Reading to see whether, mindful of the practical implications arising out of the lack of clarity, it might be possible to bring forward a review.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, said, I do not think there is necessarily a need to rewrite the entire guidance documents. What is required is a clear statement at the start of the documents and in the glossary that says words to the effect of, “Any reference to extremism in this document must be read as engaging only non-violent extremism, to the extent that it is connected to terrorism, in the sense that it can be shown to play a part in drawing people into terrorism. Non-violent extremism which carries no risk of drawing people into terrorism is not subject to the guidance. Once the risk is established that a non-violent extremist poses such a risk, the guidance applies. It is not an issue that preventing people being drawn into terrorism is a legitimate aim”. I believe this would bring much-needed clarity. I look forward with great interest to what the Minister has to say in response.
My Lords, I cannot in any way match the forensic and destructive analysis of the present situation provided by the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and the noble Lord, Lord Morrow. I thank them for that. I think that the Minister has some serious answering to do on those very technical points—the case was argued in much detail.
I want to very briefly make a much broader point. When we make weapons of law in this place, who will wield them in the future? The very compelling point by the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, that one person’s non-violent extremism is somebody else’s common sense, is one that we ought to have very much in our minds. We should regard that as being precious and part of our heritage as citizens of this country.
It is also something that changes over time. I want to confess to the House that, on one reading of history, I am a non-violent extremist. I am a supporter of the views of Thomas Helwys, who fled this country in 1605 because of the tract that he published which stated that every man should be free to worship his own God, in his own way, whether Catholic, Jew or Muslim. He very sensibly fled to the Netherlands for four years after publishing that tract. He subsequently returned to this country, was arrested and was imprisoned for life in the Tower of London. That is an example of the fact that fashions change and things change in our own country. They also change geographically. In the European Union, 10 years ago it was perfectly safe and proper to be a lecturer at George Soros’s university. Now you are an enemy of the state.
Who holds the weapons concerning what is extreme and what is common sense? I hope the Minister will consider that point as well as the forensic and detailed critique provided by the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and the noble Lord, Lord Morrow.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and the noble Lords, Lord Morrow and Lord Stunell, for their points. All I can say on the back of the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, is: thank God we do not live in the 17th century.
I start by making it clear that when the Government refer in the various documents mentioned by the noble Baroness to Prevent applying to “all forms of extremism”, that means that Prevent applies to far-right extremism as much as it does to Islamist extremism—and, indeed, to Sikh-related extremism, Northern Ireland-related extremism, et cetera. This is a relatively new change, as the Prevent strategy pre-2011 applied only to Islamist extremism. This was clearly inequitable and not reflective of the threat, so it was changed. What is not meant by that expression is that Prevent should apply to all degrees of extremism. All our guidance has tried to be clear that Prevent is of relevance only where the extremism is such that there is a risk of people being drawn into terrorism. That is how the duties are framed in statute, and the point is made many times throughout the two pieces of statutory guidance: the Prevent duty guidance and the Channel duty guidance. I accept that there are occasions in those documents when the full formulation is not used for the sake of brevity and style. However, we believe that, when read as a whole, and in conjunction with the 2015 Act, the true meaning is clear.
I also emphasise that we have not seen any evidence to suggest that practitioners are misinterpreting the guidance documents to try to apply them to those forms of extremism which do not risk drawing people into terrorism, but I appreciate the example provided by the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, and I would be grateful if he would forward it to me. Certainly, the rigorous assessment within the Channel process ensures that no one is likely to be offered support unless that connection to being drawn into terrorism is there. We must not forget that, in any event, Channel support is entirely voluntary.
All guidance reaches a point where it needs to be updated, and we are committed to doing so when the time is right. Since the Prevent and Channel duties were introduced, there has been much good practice and many case studies which a new version would look to contain. Noble Lords may also be aware that just last week the Court of Appeal heard a case relevant to this matter and the Government eagerly await its judgment, which may well have implications for how a future revision of the guidance is drafted. But we do not know how long it will be before the judgment is handed down and it would be a mistake to attempt to revise the guidance beforehand. In addition, the drafting process, collecting good practice and going out to public consultation is likely to take several months.
The process of revising guidance is not a quick one if we are to get it right. The Government accept that it will become necessary to do so at some point in the not too distant future, but it would be damaging to what we are trying to achieve with Clause 19 should implementation of that clause be delayed while new guidance is drafted. The almost inevitable outcome, should such an amendment become law, is that the production of new guidance would be rushed so as to limit that damage, resulting in an inferior product, with much-reduced consultation and input from practitioners. Given that the guidance must be approved by Parliament before being issued, your Lordships’ House would be required to debate an inferior product that I would not wish to lay before it.
While I would not wish to commit the Government to a specific timeframe for producing new guidance, I can say that in any event the guidance will need to be reviewed as part of the post-legislative review process that takes place five years after enactment. The fact that the Act in question received Royal Assent in 2015 means that a review and revision of the guidance will happen no later than 2020. When we revise the guidance, we will be sure to take on board the comments that the noble Baroness has made and make it clear exactly what kind of extremism is covered by the Prevent duty and the guidance, and what is not. Prevent is not and never has been any form of thought police, nor has it been about suppressing dissent. It is of course, as I said earlier, about safeguarding vulnerable people.
I hope I have been able to allay the noble Baroness’s concerns and that she will feel happy to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for what she has said. I thought when I was speaking that I got an indication that there would be some action within 12 months, but as she spoke I became rather more worried by the time that everything is going to take.
All right. That is reassuring—to everyone, I hope.
I thank everyone who has taken part in the debate, and I thank the Minister herself for what she has said to us all. I certainly hope that the nature of the problems that we have highlighted during this debate is such that rather more detailed consideration might be given to bringing the whole timetable forward. That would certainly be a great help. The sooner it is done, the better, even if the timetable is really around the 12-month timing. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 46 withdrawn.
House adjourned at 9.22 pm.