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Public Bill Committees

Debated on Thursday 2 July 2020

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill (Fifth sitting)

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairs: † Steve McCabe, Mr Laurence Robertson

† Bacon, Gareth (Orpington) (Con)

† Butler, Rob (Aylesbury) (Con)

† Cadbury, Ruth (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab)

† Charalambous, Bambos (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab)

Cherry, Joanna (Edinburgh South West) (SNP)

Courts, Robert (Witney) (Con)

† Cunningham, Alex (Stockton North) (Lab)

† Dines, Miss Sarah (Derbyshire Dales) (Con)

† Everitt, Ben (Milton Keynes North) (Con)

† MacAskill, Kenny (East Lothian) (SNP)

† McGinn, Conor (St Helens North) (Lab)

Mak, Alan (Havant) (Con)

† Marson, Julie (Hertford and Stortford) (Con)

† Owatemi, Taiwo (Coventry North West) (Lab)

† Philp, Chris (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice)

† Pursglove, Tom (Corby) (Con)

† Trott, Laura (Sevenoaks) (Con)

Kevin Maddison, John-Paul Flaherty, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

Public Bill Committee

Thursday 2 July 2020

(Morning)

[Steve McCabe in the Chair]

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill

Members are free to remove their jackets, if they so wish, but must turn their electronic devices to silent. Mr Speaker does not allow tea or coffee to be consumed during sittings. Social distancing is still recommended here; we have been asked to suspend the sitting if there are any problems. Finally, will Members please give their speaking notes to the Hansard reporters? That would be very helpful. We will begin with clause 11.

Clause 11

Minimum term order for serious terrorism offenders: England and Wales

I beg to move amendment 39, in clause 11, page 12, line 42, at end insert—

“(7) Before this section comes into force, the Government must publish an analysis of the impact of the introduction of minimum term orders for terrorism offenders on sentencing for other offences.

(8) A copy of the analysis must be laid before both Houses of Parliament.”

This amendment requires the Government to publish an analysis of the impact of the minimum terms on sentencing for related offences.

It is good to see you in the Chair again, Mr McCabe. The Labour party is not in principle against a minimum 14-year sentence for those convicted of serious terrorist offences. We are aware that it is a particularly small cohort who have been found guilty of some absolutely heinous crimes in order to find themselves in this category of offender. Indeed, the Ministry of Justice’s own impact assessment sets out that as few as 50 offenders could fall into this category, although, as I have said time and again, the Ministry of Justice can provide no evidence to back up that figure. None the less, as I have said throughout our discussions, the changes to legislation that this House makes must be underpinned by supporting evidence, and the amendment would do just that.

The amendment would require the Government to publish an analysis of the impact of the introduction of minimum term orders for terrorism offenders on sentencing for other offences, and to lay a copy of the analysis before Parliament prior to this section coming into force. The impact assessment estimates that the potential impact of measures increasing minimum terms for terrorist offenders given life sentences

“may result in fewer than 50 additional prisoners…annually”.

I am not entirely convinced by that assessment and ask that the Government conduct an analysis of the measures on wider sentencing practice.

In Tuesday’s sitting, the Minister was at pains to stress the figure of 50 additional prisoners caught up by his new proposals, with only a handful of them being under the age of 21, and said he would provide the rationale behind the numbers. Nothing arrived in my inbox yesterday, so I assume it is still a work in progress for the Minister. I would have thought it perfectly easy for him to support his numbers with evidence before now, but perhaps he will provide that full explanation in his response.

I have outlined in previous sittings my concern about the impact of the creation of new offences with a terrorist connection. We all need to be satisfied that the Government have got the numbers right, because if they have not the ramifications will be considerable.

As I have said throughout our discussions, the changes to legislation that this House makes must be underpinned by supporting evidence. We need to know whether minimum terms are working effectively. Have they made our country safer? Are they really a valuable tool in working with offenders? As I have spoken about at length, our justice system does not treat everyone fairly, even if it is our intention to do so. Given that it does not treat everyone fairly, we must consider the impact of our decisions on all groups, particularly those with protected characteristics. We as lawmakers need to obtain and understand evidence that increasing the length of time that individuals spend in custody leads to significant gains in public protection beyond delaying the possibility of an offence being committed.

In its written evidence, the Prison Reform Trust stated that increasing the length of the custodial period could undermine public protection by eroding protective factors. A key example is family contact associated with a reduced risk of reoffending on release. Perhaps the Minister can answer that challenge from the Prison Reform Trust. It is of course only right that the Minister talks about the number of offenders who will be caught up in his proposed new laws, because it is important to understand how many will be subject to additional impediments to their attempts to live anywhere near a normal life when they are released on a licence of up to 25 years.

The Government’s own impact assessment specifically sets out that the MOJ is aware that separating offenders, especially younger ones, from their families will negatively impact on their rehabilitation. We need answers from the Minister on that point. Yet we face a situation where the MOJ does not know the total number of offenders who will be caught up in this cohort. In addition, the MOJ does not know how many of those offenders will be young adults or under-18s, and it cannot provide any evidence-based reason for introducing the minimum sentence. The only thing that the MOJ seems sure of is that removing protective factors can impact on rehabilitation. It is important that the Minister gets those numbers right, because they have a major impact on how offenders are managed within the system and on whether or not the system will be properly equipped to deal with them.

I believe that the Government have said that the cost of these new measures will be around £60 million a year, but how has that figure been arrived at? The Minister holds tight to his figure of £50 million a year, but even if he is right, that is £50 million every single year and the number will build up to around 700 terrorist offenders in the prison system, all of them needing particular management in an already stretched service, which so many people tell us is under-resourced, lacks the expertise it needs and has rehabilitation programmes for terrorist offenders that, at best, need considerable improvement.

The need for analysis is probably even more important for us to understand the effects on young people and the potential impact of the determinate sentences. When he spoke on Tuesday against our amendment to have specific pre-sentencing reports that take age into consideration, the Minister made much of the fact that only a very small number of young people will be caught by his new measures. I do not want to repeat myself too often, but we still await an explanation as to where the Minister gets his estimates from, even if it is a very small number of people who will be affected.

For the sake of argument, let us say that the Minister is right, and for the sake of illustration, let us assume that it is eight young people a year who will be affected. Before a young person sentenced under the Minister’s new law is released, there are likely to be more than 100 people in the prison system who have been convicted of an offence with a terrorist connection. We really need to understand what that means for the offenders, for the Prison Service and for society.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we can be assured that the Bill will have a disproportionate impact on a certain sector of people—namely, those convicted of plotting or executing mass maiming and murder?

The hon. Lady is right up to a point, but some of the people under discussion will not have been responsible for killing people. A lot of them are covered by the charge of plotting, and there is the new range of terrorist offences. The crimes to which she refers are already covered by legislation. People who commit such terrible crimes are already subject to a life sentence, so in this particular situation we are talking about a different category of people.

I was saying that we need to understand what these changes mean for offenders, the Prison Service and society. For example, does the necessary amount of specialist prison provision required to incarcerate these offenders actually exist? That is not just about the number of prison places; it is about having the expertise available to manage and engage these offenders. We heard a lot of evidence from Mark Fairhurst about the need for proper provision and the fact that, at the moment, we have only one centre to deal with these particular terrorists. We are supposed to have three such centres, but we do not yet know when the Government will come forward and tell us when the new centres will be up and running.

What are the Minister’s proposals for housing younger offenders? Again, we need the prison places, but we also need the support services. Do they already exist, or is he proposing to develop more of them? If he is going to develop more of them, when will they be available? Even in the next two or three years, based on the Minister’s numbers, perhaps 20 or 30 young people will need specialist accommodation. They need specialist support services. Where are those services coming from? They do not exist at the moment, as I hope that the Minister will acknowledge, so will he ensure that they will in future so that we can for and deal with these people appropriately? We must not have a situation in which younger offenders—albeit among the most serious ones, as described by the hon. Lady—end up in the adult prison system because there is nowhere else for them to go.

I would welcome a specific comment on the issue when the Minister responds. I know that he has some tidying-up amendments for later in the development of the Bill, but I want to understand specifically what will happen with younger offenders and whether it is possible that some of them will end up in the adult estate.

It should be clear to the Minister why he should not be shy about commissioning analysis better to understand the issues that we face. Everyone talks about the importance of data and making decisions based on evidence. The amendment provides the Minister with an opportunity to do just that, and the Opposition are pleased to offer the Minister our assistance.

Also, if the Minister had the analysis, it would be easy for him to demonstrate to the House that he had got his decisions right. When he faced challenges from the Opposition on the success or failure of his new measures, he would have the analysis at his fingertips. I know that, financially, the Justice Department is skint. It has suffered heavy cuts disproportionate to those for other Departments during the past 10 years or so, and we have seen the results of that. The latest figures show that the number of criminal cases yet to reach the courts has now exceeded half a million, with hundreds of thousands more tribunal cases also outstanding. Perhaps it is the lack of resources that has meant that the Lord Chancellor cannot crack on and plan Nightingale courts to go alongside the Nightingale hospitals—the money to do so simply is not available. He did write to me yesterday, telling me that some additional money will be available. But it is a very small amount of money compared with the challenge that the system faces. This Minister’s accepting the amendment might result in the use of some resources, but the right action in this respect could save considerable sums in the longer term, and as I have made clear, the Justice Department really needs the resources.

Our ask is simple. We believe that there are real benefits for the Government in carrying out the analysis described in the amendment. Let us have in Parliament the evidence suggesting that these measures are a necessity and actually keep the public safe. I hope that the Minister will take these points and accept that longer sentences do not necessarily reduce the risk of reoffending. Several of our witnesses made that clear and even suggested that minimum sentences may in fact be counterproductive. The Minister might be reluctant to adopt the amendment—I will be surprised if he is not—but I look to him to come up with answers to the real issues that it covers.

Good morning. It is good to see you in the Chair again, Mr McCabe. Let me start by responding specifically to the amendment, and then I will try to pick up one or two of the more general points that the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Stockton North, raised in his speech.

Amendment 39 does not propose any very wide form of analysis, aspects of which the hon. Gentleman referred to. It in fact proposes a very specific form of analysis, which is an impact assessment on the effect of these minimum term orders on other offences. It asks us to do an analysis that says, “If we introduce a minimum 14-year term to be served by those with life sentences, what effect will it have on unrelated offences? What effect will the minimum terms have on unrelated offences in relation to non-terrorist crimes?” If I may respectfully say so, given that the Bill is about terrorist offences and nothing in the Bill has any impact at all on non-terrorist offences, I do not think that the analysis proposed by amendment 39 is particularly germane. The Bill will not make any difference at all to any other, non-terrorist offences, so I do not think that analysis would have any results or effect.

I appreciate the Minister giving way so early in his speech. The Bill creates a host of new offences, which will capture more people. It is important that he addresses the effect on other offences, which could all of a sudden become terrorism-related offences and therefore be subject to a very different sentencing decision by a judge in a court.

My reading of the term “other offences” in line 3 the hon. Gentleman’s amendment is offences not caught by the scope of the Bill.

Let me turn to the questions that the hon. Gentleman asked and the numbers he raised. We have published an impact assessment and equalities assessment, as we discussed at some length in the previous sitting. He asked where I got the numbers of younger offenders from. I now have some information about the under-18 cohort, which he and other Members are concerned about. Currently, there are only three terrorist offenders in prison under the age of 18. I hope that illustrates the very small numbers involved.

On the question of whether we are unreasonably widening the scope of what constitutes a terrorist offence, my judgment is that most terrorist offences would be caught under the existing list of terrorist offences. It would be relatively unusual for a terrorist act to be committed outside the current list of offences, and for it to be necessary to make the terrorist connection. It could happen, and we are rightly legislating for that, but the existing list of terrorist offences is relatively comprehensive, so I do not think that the scope increase that the hon. Gentleman is referring to will have a dramatic impact on what are already small numbers. It is of course important that we give the judge the opportunity—the power—to make that connection where somebody commits an offence not on the current list; it is logically conceivable that that could happen.

Let me turn to the number—the 50. We can extrapolate how many of those 50 are aged between 18 and 21, as we discussed in the previous sitting. I do not think that number is the annual flow or the number of convictions per year. As I understand it, it is the impact on the total prison population. Given that these sentences are quite long, one would expect that the annual flow into the system affected by these serious terrorism sentence provisions would be somewhat lower than that.

Those numbers illustrate powerfully that we are talking about an extremely small number of people. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford said in her well-pitched intervention, we are talking about people who have committed a serious terrorist offence and have been found to be dangerous—in other words, the judge thinks that they pose an ongoing, serious risk to the public. Their actions either caused or were likely to cause multiple deaths, and, in the context of clause 11, the judge views the offence as so serious that a life sentence is appropriate. I hope that gives the Committee a clear sense that these numbers are extremely small and, thankfully, particularly small in relation to young people. We should take this opportunity to pay tribute to the tremendous work that our counter-terror police and the security services do to keep those numbers so very small.

Other remarks were made about funding. That is probably outside the scope of the clause, but I will address it very briefly, if I may have your indulgence for one minute, Mr McCabe. I am sure that if I stretch the bounds of your indulgence, you will call me to order. Counter-terrorism funding rightly increased substantially earlier this year in response to the enhanced level of threat. Spending on Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service of course includes work on rehabilitation, and that also received a significant funding increase in the spending review in September 2019. I am sure that everyone here would welcome that increase in expenditure.

The shadow Minister mentioned a number of outstanding cases in the legal system. I think the number he quoted relates to magistrates courts. Of course we are in the middle of—hopefully coming towards the end of—a serious pandemic, which inhibited the operation of the courts system. Prior to the coronavirus epidemic, waiting times in the magistrates court were about eight weeks. The outstanding case load in the Crown court was certainly a great deal lower than it was in 2010. Obviously, coronavirus has caused an increase in the outstanding case load. We are working hard to address that with the new Nightingale courts. There are, I believe, 10 sites working on extending sitting hours. By the end of July every court in the country will be back up and running, and we are rolling out the cloud video platform, so that hearings can take place by video. I commend to the Committee the court recovery plan that was published two or three days ago. I hope that that demonstrates the herculean national effort currently under way to reduce the outstanding case load that has built up during the coronavirus epidemic.

I most certainly welcome the increased expenditure in the area in question. It is essential that the Government look to increasing it further, because there is no doubt, from the evidence the Committee received, that the system is not adequate to receive the people who will be caught up in the range of new laws. It was good to hear the Minister try to clarify some of the numbers. The figure of only three people aged under 18 is significant. However, according to the analysis, there would be up to 50 people a year, over a long period. Does the Minister want to correct me?

I will double check that number, but my understanding, which I will check, is that as a consequence of the measures the total prison population will increase by 50, which is different from an extra 50 people extra flowing in each year. However, I will come back to the hon. Gentleman on that.

I appreciate that, but I thought I read it was 50 per year. I may of course be mistaken, but I look forward to the Minister clarifying that.

If the vast majority of criminal offences are committed under existing legislation, I wonder why we are here, other than to increase the determinate sentence to 14 years. Perhaps in a later speech the Minister will return to the matter. We may well return to it in future, but for the moment, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 11, as we have been discussing, amends section 323 of the sentencing code, which makes provision for the setting of a minimum term—a tariff—for discretionary life sentences. It will make sure that, where a life sentence is handed down to an adult offender who is convicted of a serious terrorist offence—which can be considered as a serious terrorism case—for the purpose of setting a minimum term, the provisions of this clause will apply.

The minimum term in a discretionary life sentence is the period that must be served in custody before an offender can be considered for release by the Parole Board. Offenders who are subject to a discretionary life sentence are subject to a life licence following the release. Clause 11 adjusts section 323 of the code so that, where the court considers an offender who requires a life sentence for their offending and has committed a serious terrorism offence, as found in schedule 17A to the sentencing code, an equivalent consideration is made to that for the serious terrorism sentence by requiring the court to consider it as a serious terrorism case.

A serious terrorism case is one where an adult offender has committed a serious terrorism offence and meets the criteria that we discussed previously for a serious terrorism sentence—that is, the court considers them dangerous; they present a serious future risk of harm, which in this context means the prospect of death or serious personal injury resulting; and in the opinion of the court they meet the risk of multiple death condition, which we discussed earlier in connection with serious terrorism sentences. The clause therefore requires the courts to set a minimum term of 14 years, unless exceptional circumstances apply.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 11 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 12

Minimum punishment part for serious terrorism offenders: Scotland

Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

This clause has the same effect as the previous clause, which applied to England and Wales. This applies to Scotland, and will have effect by inserting a new section 205ZB into the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 12 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 13

Minimum tariff for serious terrorism offenders given life sentences: Northern Ireland

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 13 has the same effect as the previous two clauses, except in relation to Northern Ireland. It will amend the Life Sentences (Northern Ireland) Order 2001.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 13 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 14

Minimum custodial period for serious terrorism offenders given indeterminate custodial sentences: Northern Ireland

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 14 also relates to Northern Ireland. In this case, it applies to Northern Irish offenders who receive an indeterminate custodial sentence, ensuring that the 14-year minimum custodial period applies to them as well. The clause will have effect by amending article 13 of the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 14 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 15

Additional offences attracting extended sentence: England and Wales

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

This clause sets out a number of offences that, from the commencement date of this provision, will be included in the list of offences eligible for receiving an extended determinate sentence in England and Wales. Adding these offences will ensure that the sentencing regime in England and Wales is consistent in the type of offences it considers serious enough to be eligible for an extended determinate sentence. To make this change, the clause adds the offences specified within the provisions to part 1 of schedule 18 of the sentencing code. These offences all carry a maximum penalty of life, and include the making of explosives, developing biological weapons, endangering the safety of aircraft, using nuclear materials and hijacking or destroying ships. As such, they are of comparable seriousness to other offences already in scope for the extended sentence. Adding these offences to the list will correct the anomaly created by their omission and will ensure that these serious offences and others are eligible for an extended sentence as well.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 15 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 16

Increase in extension period for serious terrorism offenders aged under 18: England and Wales

I beg to move amendment 40, in clause 16, page 16, line 29, at end insert—

“(4) Section 255 of the Sentencing Code is amended as follows.

(5) After subsection (2) insert—

“(3) The pre-sentence report must in the case of a serious terrorism offence under section 256(4)(b)(iii)—

(a) take account of the offender’s age;

(b) consider whether options other than an extension period of eight to ten years might be more effective at—

(i) reducing the risk of serious harm to members of the public, or

(ii) rehabilitating the offender.

(4) The court must take account of any points made by the pre-sentence report in relation to the matters in subsection (3).”

(6) The Secretary of State must at least once a year conduct and lay before Parliament a review of the effectiveness of the provisions of this section and their impact upon offenders.

(7) The report of the first review must be laid before Parliament within one year of this Act being passed.”.

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 41, in clause 17, page 17, line 4, at end insert—

“(4) Section 267 of the Sentencing Code is amended as follows.

(5) After subsection (2) insert—

“(2A) The pre-sentence report must in the case of a serious terrorism offence under section 268(4)(b)(iii)—

(a) take account of the offender’s age;

(b) consider whether options other than an extension period of eight to ten years might be more effective at—

(i) reducing the risk of serious harm to members of the public, or

(ii) rehabilitating the offender.

(2B) The court must take account of any points made by the pre-sentence report in relation to the matters in subsection (2A).”

(6) The Secretary of State must at least once a year conduct and lay before Parliament a review of the effectiveness of the provisions of this section and their impact upon offenders.

(7) The report of the first review must be laid before Parliament within one year of this Act being passed.”.

Amendments 40 and 41 serve a similar purpose to amendments 37, 45 and 46, which we debated earlier. Hon. Members will recollect that, such was our strength of feeling on the need for the age of young people to be taken into consideration in the pre-sentencing report, and then by the judge in deciding what type of sentence to impose, we put clause 37 to a vote. The decision to do so was strengthened by the Minister’s failure to justify his estimates of the numbers that would be caught by the new offences and, therefore, sentences. We talked about that earlier. He dismissed our earlier amendments by claiming that there would be only a handful of young people caught by the measures. However, as hon. Members will have heard, I addressed our concerns about the lack of evidence of the numbers when I spoke to amendment 39—though I think there is more evidence to come from the Minister on that topic.

It is worth reminding the Minister that his measures create more scope for more offences to be considered to have a terrorist link—and, contrary to what he said in the previous session, over time we will end up with many more young people in the system. I would like to quote the evidence given by Professor Acheson to the Committee the other day. He, too, had concerns about this matter and said:

“I do not want to repeat myself—I think the system is far too fractured at the moment. We are only talking about 220-odd offenders at the moment, with the Government making what I think is the fairly optimistic estimate of an extra 50 as a result of the new legislation. It will increase because of the police and security services’ ability to spot people further and further upstream from actual terrorist incidents.”––[Official Report, Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Public Bill Committee, 30 June 2020; c. 77, Q162.]

I accept that we need to clarify whether the figure is 50 a year or 50 in total impact on the system. We need to understand that, but we also need to understand the impact of people being released to serve a term on licence, which we know can be up to 25 years. Through amendments 40 and 41 we again seek to have a pre-sentence report that must take account of the offender’s age—and for that element of the report to be an essential consideration by the judge in coming to his or her sentencing decision. There are other wider considerations, too. We should consider whether options other than a serious terrorism sentence might be more effective at reducing the risk of serious harm to members of the public, or rehabilitating the offender.

When Mr Fairhurst gave his evidence, we talked very specifically about young people. I asked him whether he had any thoughts on that with regards to rehabilitation and the future of these young people. He said:

“This is another issue. If you look at people under the age of 18 and at female offenders, do we have the capability to house them in a secure environment, or are we going to throw them into the adult estate?”—[Official Report, Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Public Bill Committee, 30 June 2020; c. 71, Q149.]

I mentioned that in my contributions earlier today. Throwing a young person into an adult estate due to the nature of their offence could have an adverse effect. We need to come up with programmes for young offenders who commit terrorist crimes. I do not think that we have that capability at the moment. Rehabilitation of a young person has more chance of success than rehabilitation of someone who is seasoned and radicalised. We have a big opportunity to make a difference in that field.

In my previous remarks I made a challenge to the Minister to make a statement about specific provision for young people. He has not addressed that concern, so I hope that he will do so in his response to this point. I do not wish to repeat any more of the points I made earlier on the differences in maturity and development between young adults and those over 21. However, the points remain valid, and we should take into account such evidence and testimonies when creating legislation that might adversely affect one group over another.

The amendment also calls for the Secretary of State to commission and lay before Parliament—at least once a year—a report on the effectiveness of the provisions of this section and their impact upon offenders. Again, we are trying to be helpful to the Minister. He should not be averse to having reports commissioned to prove that his legislation is fit for purpose. Or perhaps he fears that that will not be so—and, in any case, when the chickens come home to roost, he will have moved on, maybe even to the shadow Cabinet after the 2024 General Election. There is a long history of Governments avoiding this kind of scrutiny and refusing to commit to keeping Parliament properly informed about the success or otherwise of their policies and decisions.

By way of further helping the Minister, I will give him an illustration of one set of decisions which demonstrated huge failure on the part of a Minister who believed his own numbers, refused to explain how he settled on them, fought off amendments seeking reports and found himself with egg on his face. I sat on the Bill Committee alongside my good friend, the former Member for North West Durham, Pat Glass, for the Childcare Act 2016. In fact, Mr McCabe, you may have sat on that Committee yourself. That was developed to pave the way to secure an additional entitlement of childcare support for working parents. The Act extends the entitlement to 30 hours of free childcare over 38 weeks of the year for three- and four-year-olds in families where all parents are working. Like the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill, we supported the Childcare Act 2016, but we knew that, like this Bill, it needed to be improved.

The then Minister, then Member for East Surrey, who abandoned the Tory party to take the Liberal Democrat whip and failed to be re-elected, claimed to be certain of his number, as the Minister does now. Existing providers of childcare places would invest in even more, and new providers would ensure we have sufficient places to meet the demand. That is what the former Minister believed, just as the Minister here perhaps believes we will get the investment we need in the estate to cope with this new range of prisoners.

Sadly, the former Minister got his sums wrong; no matter, he had moved on and, in time, out of the door of this place. I do not want the current Minister to fall into the same trap of believing his figures are so solid that he need not have a care in the world. If he has no care, he should subject himself to the outcome of proper analysis of the measures in today’s Bill. I suspect the Minister here is well at the back of the queue of Tory MPs contemplating a move to the Liberal Democrats, but he must stand by the decisions he is now making and subject himself to scrutiny, or his fate could be even worse.

To conclude, where we can end the cycle of crime committed by an individual through early intervention, we should do so. We should not write off young people, even those who commit the most terrible of crimes, but provide them with a small window of hope for a better life, if they recognise the gravity of their offences and change.

All we are asking is that a pre-sentencing report is conducted and made available for consideration by a judge. The report adds colour to an otherwise black-and-white situation, which can then be interpreted by our world-leading independent judiciary, which has vast experience. Is it not better for members of that judiciary to be able to come to a conclusion as to whether an extension is the right choice for an individual offender than to have the Bill dictate that that must be so, irrespective of individual circumstances?

Not all offenders are the same and extension is necessary for some; for others it could have a negative impact. I hope the Minister will accept my point that we need to respond appropriately to the individual circumstances of a young offender and seek the just way through, not just the easy way.

I must say, the shadow Minister has painted for me a truly horrifying picture, namely membership of the Liberal Democrats followed by crushing defeat at a general election. Let that be a lesson to anyone who, like my former hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey, considers anything so foolish as a move to the Liberal Democrats. Looking around this Committee, that is something we can all agree on.

The first question raised by these amendments is whether there is an option for an extension period other than eight to 10 years. I am looking at amendment 40 to clause 16(3)(b). The way the legislation is currently drafted allows the judge the discretion to choose the extension period—the licence period—of anything between one and 10 years. All that these clauses do is increase the maximum from eight years—as it is now—to 10 years, but that is not mandatory; the judge can choose to have an extension period as low as one year. The choice for judicial discretion that the shadow Minister is calling for already exists without the amendment. Instead of the choice being between one and eight years, as it is now, the choice will become between one and 10 years, as we propose, but judicial discretion will still exist.

The pre-sentence report that the amendment calls for will exist already. There is always a pre-sentence report for offences of this nature. In deciding what length of extension period is appropriate, the judge will already have due regard to that pre-sentence report. They will also have due regard to that pre-sentence report in making their finding, or otherwise, of dangerousness.

On the question of a review of how things are going, I certainly do not fear any sort of review after the event. We have a standing procedure that legislation should be reviewed after—I think, typically—three years, to see how it is functioning. I would expect this legislation, as other legislation, to be subject to that same scrutiny process. I am sure that no one in the House would be shy to propose changes if, in due course, anything appeared to be amiss.

On that basis, in particular the first two points—

I realised that the Minister was getting to the point at which he would sit down, but I asked specifically for him to address the issue of how young people who have committed this type of offence will be accommodated on the estate. Can the fears expressed by many individuals be properly addressed?

Such young people will not move on to the adult prison estate until they turn 21, so that immediately provides some reassurance, I hope. The more general point that the shadow Minister makes, and has made before—and our witnesses made—is on the importance of rehabilitation. They are points well made. We should not simply lock people up and throw away the key; even with such serious offenders, who will rightly spend a great deal of time in prison, we should work on rehabilitation.

Part of the additional resources announced in the September 2019 spending review and this year’s March Budget will go to Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service. I have spoken to the Prisons and Probation Minister about young people, an issue that my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury has also raised with me, and it is an area where effort, focus and attention are being paid, and will be further in future. That point about rehabilitation is well made, but it is being addressed. I am sure it is a topic that Members will return to. I have forgotten whether this is an intervention or a speech, but on that basis, I politely and respectfully ask the shadow Minister to withdraw the amendments.

It is lovely to have a guarantee from the Minister that no young person will end up in the adult estate—

The Minister qualifies that by saying “under the age of 21”. I appreciate that, and I assume that the word “guarantee” can be applied in this particular circumstance, despite the fact that some of our witnesses were concerned that we do not have sufficient facilities within the system to house 18 to 21-year-olds and some even younger than that.

In an earlier debate, I believe on Tuesday, the Minister appeared to accept that the pre-sentence report regime could be improved. In fact, he made a commitment to speak to his colleagues in the Home Office, to see whether they might find ways to ensure that the pre-sentence report covers some of the issues that I raised in Committee. We have not heard from the Minister about that, but perhaps in a later speech we will.

On that point, does the hon. Gentleman accept that standard practice in all pre-sentence reports is for the judge to consider not only the physical, chronological age, but maturity, so some of those concerns should, as a matter of course, be addressed?

The hon. Gentleman has greater experience of this area than I do, and I bow to his superior knowledge, but the important thing is that we look carefully at the reports, in particular in relation to that cohort of young people, to ensure that every single opportunity is presented to the judge so that the judge gets the right answer. With that, although we will return to the issue of young people at a later stage, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

As we have discussed, the clause extends the maximum possible licence period for serious terrorist offenders aged under 18 when given an extended sentence of detention. It gives the courts the option to increase the maximum—I say maximum—extended licence period from eight to 10 years.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 16 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 17

Increase in extension period for adult serious terrorism offenders aged under 21: England and Wales

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 17 has the same effect as the previous clause, but applies to offenders up to the age of 21. It does that by amending section 268(4) of the sentencing code.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 17 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 18

Increase in extension period for serious terrorism offenders aged 21 or over: England and Wales

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 18 has the same effect—raising the maximum licence period to 10 years. This time it applies to offenders aged over 21 in England and Wales, and it makes that change by amending section 281(4) of the sentencing code.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 18 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 19

Additional terrorism offences attracting extended sentence: Scotland

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The clause sets out a number of offences that will be included in the list of offences that are eligible for receiving an extended determinate sentence in Scotland, from the date of commencement. The offences to be included are terrorist offences with a maximum penalty of more than two years, which is specified in part 1 of schedule 5ZC, and non-terrorist offences carrying a maximum penalty of life, as specified in part 2 of that schedule, in cases where a terrorist connection has been found by the court under section 31 of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008. It also applies to under-18s convicted of terrorist and terrorism-related offences in Scotland. The clause makes that change by amending section 210A(10) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 and inserts a schedule into that Act.

We have talked a lot about numbers in this Committee. Will the Minister enlighten us on how many people will be caught up in these provisions?

These provisions relate to Scotland. In order to avoid providing the Committee with erroneous information, it would be safest if I write to the hon. Gentleman with that information.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 19 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 5

Terrorism offences attracting extended sentence: Scotland

Question proposed, That the schedule be the Fifth schedule to the Bill.

The schedule is consequential to the previous clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 5 accordingly agreed to.

Clause 20

Extended custodial sentences for serious terrorism offenders: Northern Ireland

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The clause does two things. First, it adds all serious terrorism offences to the scope of the extended sentencing regime. Secondly, it increases the maximum extended licence period for those who receive an extended sentence for serious terrorism offences. I should say that the clause applies to Northern Ireland, and the clause essentially does the same thing as the previous few clauses on extended sentence length and adding some additional offences. That will ensure that there is a consistent approach across the United Kingdom in terms of both offences that are tracked and extended sentences—in the case of Northern Ireland, extended custodial sentences—and that the courts may impose up to a 10-year licence period, should they find that appropriate.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 20 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 21

Offences attracting special custodial sentence for offenders of particular concern: England and Wales

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 21 substitutes schedule 6 to the Bill for schedule 13 of the sentencing code. It is designed to ensure that, in all circumstances, specified terrorist offenders will spend at least 12 months on licence following their release, even when they are released at the very end of their custodial sentence. It does that by updating the offences that attract a custodial sentence for offenders of particular concern in England and Wales—the so-called SOPC sentence. The updated schedule includes all terrorist offences that carry a maximum penalty of over two years, and it replaces the specified non-terrorist offences that can attract a SOPC when committed in a terrorist capacity with a clause that includes any offence that is determined to have a terrorist connection under section 69 of the sentencing code in the SOPC regime. The changes made to the clause are applicable to those who are convicted of an offence on or after the day on which that provision comes into force, which is the day after the Bill gains Royal Assent.

Adding those offences to the SOPC regime will mean that the court will now be required to impose such a sentence where extended determinate sentences have been considered but not imposed. All such offenders will no longer be eligible for a standard determinate sentence. That is because the time spent on licence—the Bill introduces a minimum of one year—is very important for rehabilitating offenders, as the shadow Minister has said, as well as for protecting the public.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 21 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 6

Offences attracting special custodial sentence for offenders of particular concern: England and Wales

Question proposed, That the schedule be the Sixth schedule to the Bill.

It is consequential to the previous clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 6 accordingly agreed to.

Clause 22

Special custodial sentence for certain terrorist offenders aged under 18 at time

of offence: England and Wales

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

These are relatively technical amendments. The purpose of Government amendment 16 is to apply the same period of rehabilitation to the new sentence for terrorist offenders of particular concern as that currently applied to sentences in respect of grave crimes under section 91 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000. The rehabilitation period is specified in section 5 of that Act and varies depending on the length of sentence given. It begins on the day the sentence is completed, including any time spent on licence.

Government amendment 29 amends the statutory instruments referred to above in order to align the new special sentence of detention for terrorist offenders of particular concern for under-18s with sentences imposed under section 91 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000. Those are the central amendments.

Can I just be clear? For certain offences, under-18s will be treated in exactly the same way as adults when being sentenced. If I have got that wrong, can the Minister please explain?

No. The rehabilitation periods are different and lower for children—quite rightly, for the reasons we debated earlier. All we are doing is creating consistency between the rehabilitation period for adults who commit the various offences and the rehabilitation period for children who commit various offences. We are not making the rehabilitation period the same for children as it is for adults.

The purpose of clause 22 is to address a gap in sentencing options for those under 18 who commit a terrorism offence where custodial sentencing options are limited to a maximum two-year detention and training order, due to the offender not meeting the criteria required to impose long-term detention for offences punishable by less than 14 years in custody.

The new sentence ensures that those convicted of a terrorist offence—we are talking about the serious terrorist offences—spend a substantial period of time on licence to enable that very important rehabilitative work to be undertaken in the community, and to limit the risk that they may pose to the public. That will also ensure greater consistency between the approaches towards sentence and release for under-18s and adults, although under-18s will of course be typically serving shorter prison sentences.

Under the current framework, some terrorist offences can attract only a detention and training order of up to two years, with only half that being served in detention, or an extended determinate sentence where the child is considered dangerous and the sentence is at least four years. That is a consequence of the fixed-term sentences under section 91 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000, and they are available only for specified offences. Terrorist offences are not a specified category.

As some terrorist offences carry a maximum sentence of less than 14 years, the only custodial sentencing option is therefore the detention and training order. Essentially, the clause fills the gap between those two sentences by creating the SOPC-type offence for under-18s. Of course, the length of sentence will be entirely a matter for the discretion of the judge, and the judge will have the pre-sentence report available in making that determination. As my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury said in his intervention, that pre-sentence report will include considerations regarding not just the offender’s chronological age but their mental maturity. Judges will of course continue to have discretion to ensure that they are balancing the offender’s maturity with the appropriate kind of sentence.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 22 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 23

Terrorism sentence with fixed licence period: Scotland

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 23 operates in Scotland, and essentially ensures that there is always a fixed licence period of at least one year when someone is released, so that people are not released without any licence supervision afterwards. We have talked about the reasons: both to facilitate rehabilitation and to protect the public. The clause is given effect by the insertion of new section 205ZC into the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995.

The question is that clause 23 stand part of the Bill. As many as are of that opinion, say aye.

To the contrary, no. I think the ayes have it, the ayes have it.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 23 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 7

Offences attracting terrorism sentence with fixed licence period: Scotland

Question proposed, That the schedule be the Seventh schedule to the Bill.

Very diplomatic, Mr McCabe. Schedule 7 is consequential to the previous clause. It sets out the terrorist offences within the scope of the new terrorism sentence in Scotland, and will be inserted as schedule 5ZB to the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995.

The question is that schedule 7 be the Seventh schedule to the Bill. As many as are of that opinion, say aye.

That’s certainly better. To the contrary, no. I think the ayes have it, the ayes have it.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 7 accordingly agreed to.

Clause 24

Terrorism sentence with fixed licence period: Northern Ireland

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

I thank the Committee for its rousing endorsement of the previous schedule.

The purpose of clause 24 is to make amendments to provide for a new terrorism sentence with a fixed licence period. This is necessary to ensure an approach consistent with Northern Irish law. The Treatment of Offenders Act (Northern Ireland) 1968 is amended to ensure that any offender may have the length of their terrorism sentence reduced by any relevant period spent in police detention or custody. There are further amendments, with broadly similar objectives, made to the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1978, the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 1996, the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008.

More generally, clause 24 seeks to make amendments to terrorism sentences in Northern Ireland in a way that is consistent with the measures we have discussed already. The structure of sentences is a little different in Northern Ireland, hence the slight differences in this clause, but the offer is in effect that the minimal one-year licence period is the same as those discussed already for England, Wales and Scotland.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 24 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 25

Corresponding provision under service law

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 25 introduces schedule 8, which makes the equivalent provisions under service law to certain sentencing provisions made by this part. It covers an equivalent of the serious terrorism sentence, including relevant term reductions for a guilty plea and for assistance to the prosecution, as we have discussed, as well as minimum term orders and provisions equivalent to those in clauses 8 and 9, and changes to the special custodial sentence for offenders of particular concern, including the creation of an equivalent sentence for youth offenders.

The clause is necessary to ensure that the provisions in this Bill, which strengthen counter-terrorism sentencing, are applied to all jurisdictions in the UK, including the armed forces.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 25 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 8

Corresponding provision about sentencing under service law

Question proposed, That the schedule be the Eighth schedule to the Bill.

Schedule 8 and the two Government amendments are technical changes that relate to the application of this law to the services, which I mentioned in the previous clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 8 accordingly agreed to.

Clause 26

Increase in maximum sentences for certain terrorist offences

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 26 increases the maximum penalty for three terrorism offences, to ensure that the punishment properly reflects the seriousness of the crime involved. The three offences are: membership of a proscribed organisation, under section 11 of the Terrorism Act 2000; supporting a proscribed organisation, under section 12 of that Act; and attending a place used for terrorist training, under section 8 of that Act. In all three cases the maximum penalty applicable will be increased from 10 to 14 years.

It will, of course, remain a matter for the sentencing judge to decide on the appropriate sentence, but given how serious the offences are we feel it appropriate to give the court the ability to issue a sentence of up to 14 years if, on the basis of the evidence and the pre-sentence report, the judge sees fit.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 26 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Tom Pursglove.)

Adjourned till this day at Two oclock.

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill (Sixth sitting)

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairs: Steve McCabe, † Mr Laurence Robertson

† Bacon, Gareth (Orpington) (Con)

† Butler, Rob (Aylesbury) (Con)

† Cadbury, Ruth (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab)

† Charalambous, Bambos (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab)

Cherry, Joanna (Edinburgh South West) (SNP)

† Courts, Robert (Witney) (Con)

† Cunningham, Alex (Stockton North) (Lab)

† Dines, Miss Sarah (Derbyshire Dales) (Con)

† Everitt, Ben (Milton Keynes North) (Con)

† MacAskill, Kenny (East Lothian) (SNP)

† McGinn, Conor (St Helens North) (Lab)

Mak, Alan (Havant) (Con)

† Marson, Julie (Hertford and Stortford) (Con)

† Owatemi, Taiwo (Coventry North West) (Lab)

† Philp, Chris (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice)

† Pursglove, Tom (Corby) (Con)

† Trott, Laura (Sevenoaks) (Con)

Kevin Maddison, John-Paul Flaherty, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

Public Bill Committee

Thursday 2 July 2020

(Afternoon)

[Mr Laurence Robertson in the Chair]

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill

I will make a few preliminary points. As usual, please switch electronic devices to silent, and teas and coffees are not allowed in the room. I remind the Committee of social distancing rules. The Hansard reporters would be grateful if Members sent any copies of their speaking notes to hansardnotes@parliament.uk.

Clause 27

Removal of early release for dangerous terrorist prisoners: England and Wales

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

It is a great pleasure to serve once again under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. The clause is the first clause in part 2 of the Bill, and is one of the most important sections. It removes the prospect of early release for the most dangerous terrorist offenders in England and Wales. The provision is central to the core aims of the Bill—namely, ensuring that the most dangerous offenders serve their full sentence, to reflect the serious nature of their crimes and to protect the public from them. Some of the recent terrible terrorist atrocities have powerfully demonstrated the awful consequences that can follow the early release of a terrorist offender who goes on to reoffend, sometimes with tragic and fatal effect.

The clause amends section 247A of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, under which relevant terrorist offenders are currently referred to the Parole Board at the two-thirds point of their custodial term, to be considered for discretionary early release. The clause would exclude a particular class of the most dangerous offenders from discretionary early release if they receive an extended determinate sentence; if that sentence is for a terrorist or terrorist-related offence; and if that offence carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Only if those three conditions apply is the prospect of discretionary early released removed, and those offenders instead serve their full custodial terms.

This is an important measure to protect the public. The only way to be certain that someone will not reoffend is if they are in prison. Of course, after release, offenders who have served their full custodial term under the provisions of the clause will then be subject to the extended licence period that we discussed this morning, which can now be as long as 10 years. During the extended licence period, work on rehabilitation can continue and public protection can be maintained. It is not as if offenders are simply let out and we forget about them; the licence conditions and monitoring will be extremely important. On that basis, I commend the clause to the Committee.

As the Minister said, the Bill brings a new facet to criminal justice by creating the serious terrorism sentence in an earlier clause but removing early release for those who prove to the Parole Board that they have been rehabilitated to the extent that they could be released from a custodial sentence.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) and other hon. Friends said on Second Reading, we do not oppose the changes, because they apply to the most serious offenders who pose the greatest risk to the public. However, as we heard from a number witnesses, the changes carry risks of which we should be cognisant following the adoption and implementation of the Bill. We all have experience of judicial processes and policies that have changed because of various Bills, and there has been regret because the unintended consequences were not considered fully at the time. I also have concerns that the clause applies to under-18s. That raises further issues, which my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North has already covered, about the vulnerability of young offenders and also their ability to reform.

I draw the Committee’s attention to the note on the Bill that was published by Jonathan Hall, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. He also referred to this in his evidence to the Committee last week. His note stated:

“Firstly, to the extent that the possibility of early release acted as a spur to good behaviour and reform for offenders who are going to spend the longest time in custody, that has now gone…Secondly, the opportunity to understand current and future risk at Parole Board hearings has also been removed.”

I am not clear what has replaced it, notwithstanding that early release has been removed. What is the full process to replace the Parole Board to understand current and future risk? Jonathan Hall was also concerned that

“child terrorist offenders, whose risk may be considered most susceptible to change as they mature into adults, have lost the opportunity for early release.”

Of course, they will be in their 30s by the time they are released from custody.

Peter Dawson of the Prison Reform Trust told us that the Parole Board could release early, and he pointed out that more often than not the Parole Board does not release people early. He confirmed that it is an important part of identifying terrorist risk.

Jonathan Hall also said:

“The role of the Parole Board is quite an important part of identifying terrorist risk, and if you don’t have that role then you lose that insight.”––[Official Report, Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Public Bill Committee, 25 June 2020; c. 12, Q20.]

We have also had evidence from witnesses saying that the opportunity for someone to prove that they have reformed—this is particularly true for young offenders—is removed by the changes made by the Bill.

I do not know how many Members have had a chance to look at their emails in the past couple of hours, but two and a half hours ago we received evidence from the Bar Council, which says that this clause needs to be scrutinised with particular care. It does not address many clauses, but it says that clause 27 “stands out”. It says:

“We would question how Clause 27 fits with the obligation placed on the court to have regard to the reform and rehabilitation of offenders when sentencing (s.57(2) of the Sentencing Code). This provision would not appear to be the subject of an exception to the s.57(2) obligation, in contrast with the express carve out from s.57(2) relating to the imposition of life sentences for specific terrorist offences (Clause 11).”

I return to Peter Dawson of the Prison Reform Trust, who said:

“The problem with denying all hope of release on a conditional basis by a judgment about whether the person can be released safely or not is that it denies hope and affects the whole of the prison sentence…The possibility of parole is essential to the process that reduces risk.”––[Official Report, Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Public Bill Committee, 25 June 2020; c. 32, Q72.]

In its evidence, the Prison Officers Association described graphically what the loss of hope means for prison management and for the risk of violence against prison officers.

Does the hon. Lady accept what Mr Fairhurst from the Prison Officers Association said in response to a question from me about the rehabilitation and deradicalisation programmes for terrorist offenders? He said that there needs to be a full review of those programmes, and they are exactly what one would hope would turn people around if they were to be released early. The clear sign at the moment is that they are not good enough to enable early release, so prisoners need to serve the full term in custody.

What the hon. Gentleman says would be fine if we had that review of the Prevent programme and the programmes in prison. As several of my colleagues have said, the Bill does not provide for a review of those processes, so we have one side without the other, and that is a cause of concern for me and some of the witnesses.

Further to the matter that the hon. Member for Aylesbury just raised, do we have a commitment from the Government to undertake a full review of the methods that he described?

That is what I was going to say. I think there needs to be a review of this, as and when it is implemented.

The hon. Lady is quoting from the Bar Council. I want to make the Committee aware, in reference to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, that I am a member of the Bar and have practised at the Bar of England and Wales.

The Bar Council is a very authoritative body that needs to be listened to when we are introducing legislation that affects issues such as sentencing.

On the POA point, Peter Dawson pointed out clearly, in relation to violence against prison officers, that when hope is lost and the atmosphere and the management of prisoners gets much more difficult, we have nowhere to move terrorist prisoners who are already in specialist separation centres. He said that removing hope of early release increases that risk. I would like the Government to commit to a review if the proposal is implemented in this way. Obviously, we support the motivation behind it.

I have one more question for the Minister. Might the option for this sentence, with the loss of early release, lead to unintended consequences in charging and sentencing? Would sentencers avoid it and impose a lesser sentence? I am sure that the Government do not intend that.

Let me briefly respond to one or two of the points that the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth made. She referred to the fact that if the sentence is served in full, there obviously will not be a Parole Board assessment prior to release. She asked about the risk assessment that would take place. I asked Mr Fairhurst from the Prison Officers Association about that in our evidence session on Tuesday morning. Even where there is no Parole Board involvement because release is automatic, there are a whole load of other review and evaluation mechanisms that can be used—for example, multi-agency public protection arrangements, careful monitoring by the prison staff and prison governor, and involvement by the National Probation Service in preparation for the release point. With the example of the Streatham offender, those kinds of risk-assessment measures led to a security services team monitoring him, which obviously had the result that it did. That is an example, as Mr Fairhurst said in evidence, of the risk assessment process working very effectively. That is what we would expect to happen in cases in which release is automatic.

The hon. Lady also asked: what happens when hope is lost? What if a prisoner is in prison and there is no prospect of early release? Does that not mean that it will be hard to get them to behave well? I want to make some points in response. First, the vast majority of prisoners, who have committed a range of offences, way beyond terrorist ones, are serving standard determinate sentences and are released automatically—typically at the halfway point—without any Parole Board intervention. The vast majority are subject to automatic release at a particular point. The second risk, particularly in relation to terrorist offenders, is that of false compliance, if they think that by pretending to comply with the deradicalisation programme, they might get released early. That is not necessarily an entirely healthy incentive and we should be mindful of that possibility.

The third point, however, is the most important one. The hon. Lady remarked on prisoners potentially losing hope, although there is a point, of course, at which they will be released. Against that point about hope, however, we need to balance public protection. This is a cohort of very serious offenders, as I defined earlier, and it includes people who have received the serious terrorist sentence that we discussed in earlier sittings.

We are talking about this very small cohort of the most serious offenders, and as a Committee and as Members of Parliament we must weigh very carefully the consideration of public protection. In these circumstances, we feel—rightly—that public protection is overwhelmingly served by the full sentence being served in custody.

On the hon. Lady’s final point about a review, as I have said to the shadow Minister in the past, there will be a review three years hence. It is general practice for legislation to be reviewed at that point. There is also the Prevent review, which we will talk about when we discuss a later clause. Reviewing is important; she is quite right about that. We need to be thoughtful about laws after we pass them, to make sure that they are operating in the manner that was intended, and that there are not any nasty surprises of the kind that the shadow Minister mentioned earlier—a very nasty surprise, in the case of the former hon. Member for East Surrey.

We need to be mindful and to review legislation after it is passed. We have regular mechanisms for doing that, and I have mentioned the review of the Bill three years after it has happened and the Prevent review, which will happen. I hope that that adequately addresses the hon. Lady’s concerns.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 27 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 9 agreed to.

Clause 28

Removal of early release for dangerous terrorist prisoners: Scotland

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The operative provisions of clause 28 are very similar—in fact, they are identical—to those in clause 27, except that they apply to Scotland. Practically, that is given effect by amending section 1AB of the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993. The substantive effect of this provision is exactly the same as that for clause 27, which we have just debated.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 28 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 10 agreed to.

Clause 29

Further provision about release of terrorist prisoners: Scotland

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

This is another consequential provision, which makes sure that the measure in clause 28 that we have just approved operates consistently in relation to the administration of licence periods for serious terrorism sentences and terrorism sentences for fixed licence periods in Scotland.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 29 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 30

Restricted eligibility for early release of terrorist prisoners: Northern Ireland

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

With this, it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments 33 and 34.

Clause 30 and the amendments to it essentially apply to Northern Ireland. Some months ago in Parliament, we debated the provisions to end the automatic early release of terrorist prisoners. Committee members will recall that at the time we did not apply those provisions to Northern Ireland. But having carefully considered, in particular, the European convention on human rights and common law retrospectivity provisions, we are now comfortable that those principles are not infringed by applying the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020 provisions to Northern Ireland, and this clause does so.

Amendments 33 and 34 are consequential on those changes. Amendment 33 ensures that terrorist prisoners who will serve longer in custody as a result of the Bill are not released early for the purposes of deportation under the early removal scheme in Northern Ireland. That is a consequential point. Amendment 34 ensures, for offenders who will be newly eligible for parole commissioner-considered release through the provisions of this Bill in Northern Ireland, that that is done in accordance with the parole commissioners’ existing rules. That brings Northern Ireland fully into conformity with the rest of the United Kingdom.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. The main focus of my contribution to the Committee as the shadow Security Minister will be on part 3 of the Bill, but for reasons obvious even to the untrained ear, I have been asked to speak on some of the Northern Ireland aspects of the Bill.

May I crave your indulgence for a moment, Mr Robertson? While the Committee has been sitting, it has been announced that the largest ever law enforcement operation in the UK took place today. Operation Venetic has seen 746 arrests, with £54 million of criminal cash seized, along with 77 firearms and 2 tonnes of drugs. The whole Committee will want to pay tribute to Lynne Owens and the National Crime Agency and all the police forces involved in that fantastic operation. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]

I am always concerned when I hear Ministers talk about Northern Ireland being brought into “conformity” with the rest of the United Kingdom, because although it is an integral part of the Union, and that is indisputable under the terms of the various agreements that have been reached, it is not the same as other parts of the United Kingdom, particularly when it comes to measures relating to tackling terrorism, because there is a long history there that has evolved over how to address that, particularly when it comes to sentencing, rehabilitation and the particular licensing arrangements that there are.

I have had, as I know the Minister has had, extensive discussions with the Justice Minister in the Northern Ireland Executive on this clause in particular. We have tabled a new clause to ask for all the provisions to be reviewed, so I do not intend to speak on all the Northern Ireland measures contained herein until that is debated, but I did think it important to draw attention to this matter, particularly after discussions with Naomi Long on behalf of the Northern Ireland Executive.

There is real concern about the retrospective removal of the automatic right to release. The Justice Minister in the Department is very clear that that will require amendments to sentence-calculation processes and, critically, the power of the Department to refer cases to the parole commissioners and the powers of the commissioner to direct early release for offenders subject to determinate custodial sentences. The concerns can be condensed down to some key points.

The first is about—I was interested to hear what the Minister said about this—attracting legal challenge on ECHR-compatibility grounds. There is a belief in the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland that these measures will attract that. In addition, there is concern that the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland will be a respondent to any challenge that is made in the Northern Ireland High Court or subsequent proceedings in the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal, which could be a significant drain on its resources.

There is concern about the risk of destabilising the separated regime. The Committee might not be aware that paramilitary prisoners or those convicted of terrorist offences in Northern Ireland are separated. They are held in specific circumstances and subjected to specific programmes, on the basis of their perceived paramilitary affiliation.

Another worrying element is the potential increased risk to the safety of prison staff as a result of the reaction to these measures. In recent years we have seen David Black and Adrian Ismay, two prison officers in Northern Ireland, murdered by dissident republicans. That is something that we need to be very cognisant of: in making laws here, we have a direct impact on the people who we are asking to carry them out. They have to live in the community in Northern Ireland and face the threat that they, along with our brave police officers and the Police Service of Northern Ireland, do every day.

There is also a concern—shared by colleagues from the Democratic Unionist party as well as by the Justice Minister—that this has the potential to lead to currently serving terrorist offenders being released without licence supervision. It undermines the public protection arrangements currently in place and goes against the ethos and principles of the Northern Ireland sentencing framework. In taking these measures to avoid a cliff edge in England and Wales, we may inadvertently introduce a cliff edge to Northern Ireland that is mitigated by arrangements that are already in place there.

There was a more general concern about the erosion of the principle of judicial discretion to set appropriate custodial and licence periods. I thought it important that the Committee heard those concerns, because we, as the official Opposition, share some of them and want to work, as we always have done, in a bipartisan manner—not just on issues of national security, but on matters pertaining to Northern Ireland. It was important from that perspective and because we do not have Northern Ireland Members here to make those arguments. We do have, after years of painstaking effort by Governments of all hues, the restoration of the Executive, so it was important that the Minister of Justice for Northern Ireland—in addition to the influence she is bringing to bear in discussions with the Minister—had those concerns publicly recorded with the Committee.

Let me briefly reply. I echo the hon. Member’s comments about the operations today. Our police and security services do fantastic work, and the huge operation today is an example of that work at its very best, so I join him in thanking them and congratulating them on the tremendous work they have done.

On Northern Ireland, the hon. Member is quite right: we are currently having detailed conversations with Naomi Long, the Justice Minister in Northern Ireland. As he says, it is very good news that the functioning Executive has been restored—it is good for Northern Ireland and good for us in Westminster to have a body that we can have dialogue with. Let me assure him that the dialogue is ongoing; it touches on many of the issues that he raised.

On the risk of legal challenge, the hon. Member will know that there has already been a legal challenge to the TORER Act that we passed back in February, and that is subject to a judgment that we await; I will therefore not comment on that any further. What I will say—in fact, I have said this to Naomi Long—is that we will certainly support the Northern Ireland Department of Justice in any litigation that it gets involved in. We have obviously done a great deal of work in preparing for that case; we would be happy to make that available and to support the Department in every way. We would not want it to be, as the hon. Member has suggested, burdened by having to defend cases. We will certainly stand with it and help practically with preparing for those cases, so that they do not unduly drain what I know are quite limited resources. I can give him a direct assurance on that. More generally, we are involved in detailed discussions, which are continuing.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 30 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 31

Removal of early release for dangerous terrorist prisoners: Northern Ireland

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 31 simply makes the same provisions that we discussed in clause 27 for England and in clause 28 for Scotland, applicable also to Northern Ireland. I do not propose to go over those provisions again; they are in substance the same.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 31 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 32

Polygraph licence conditions for terrorist offenders:

England and Wales

I beg to move amendment 48, in clause 32, page 28, line 22, at the end insert—

“(b) In subsection (1) at the end insert—

( ) The regulations under section 35(1) of the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Act 2020 must include provision that the following must not be used in evidence against the released person in any proceedings for an offence—

(a) any statement made by the released person while participating in a polygraph session, or

(b) any physiological reaction of the released person while being questioned in the course of a polygraph examination.”

This amendment ensures that the results of any polygraph test must not be disclosed for use in a criminal prosecution.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 49, in clause 33, page 29, line 41, leave out “may” and insert “must”

This amendment ensures that the results of any polygraph test must not be disclosed for use in a criminal prosecution.

Amendment 50, in clause 34, page 31, line 13, leave out “may” and insert “must”

This amendment ensures that the results of any polygraph test must not be disclosed for use in a criminal prosecution.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. Amendments 48, 49 and 50 were tabled in the name of Scottish National party Members but were put forward by the Law Society of Scotland, trying to achieve the best interests. That is obviously the position of the Government, but there is a distinctive legal jurisdiction. I know that yesterday the Prime Minister referred to the fact that there was no border between Scotland and England, but administratively and legally there most certainly is—the Minister has commented on that both today and yesterday.

Indeed, there is also the issue of polygraphs, which these amendments relate to. They are something that is currently unknown within the Scottish legal jurisdiction. They are something that, to be fair, the Scottish Government are sceptical about, but so are the legal profession and the judiciary. However, it is accepted that this is a reserved issue. It is a Government policy, and they are entitled to bring in that policy and it will have effect. Therefore, I think we are required to ensure that Scotland is able to deal with it adequately and appropriately.

These amendments are put forward on the basis of seeking to improve the legislation or seeking assurances from the Minister that the issues causing concern are being or will be dealt with. To be fair, the amendments are not simply tautological in any way; they are, in fact, a point of principle. We know that legislation is significant, and that the interpretation of words matters. It will produce a significant difference in the outcome, and it is not a matter that we can simply leave to a future court. In bringing the amendments forward, we seek clarification on the matters of concern. “Must”, as I say, is not tautological, in our view, but gives a clear indication that it is mandatory. “May”, while it may very well end up being the likely situation, certainly leaves it much more discretionary, even if it is not entirely absent.

As I say, the amendments were tabled on the basis of seeking clarification that Scotland will be able to act within the separate structures that we have, accepting the requirement and will of the Government, but that we take into account various issues and, in particular, the ability to protect the rights of the accused or, indeed, the released person in future issues that may come before them, to ensure that it is not counterproductive for them, and indeed that the system that we are operating is able to operate as efficiently as possible.

We welcome this amendment in the name of the hon. Members of the Scottish National party, and we agree that the results of any polygraph must not be disclosed for use in a criminal matter. Put simply, they are far too unreliable to be used as evidence or an indicator of a person having committed a crime. We do not determine a verdict by the toss of a coin and Members will recollect the oral evidence given by Professor Acheson, who, in answer to a question about our operating regime for polygraph tests from the hon. Member for East Lothian, said:

“I must say I am not a great fan of the polygraph solution. Polygraphs are a very good way to demonstrate a physiological response to nervousness. Most people who take polygraphs are going to be nervous, so it is a very inexact science. I think it is probably slightly better than tossing a coin.”––[Official Report, Counter-terrorism and Sentencing Public Bill Committee, 30 June 2020; c. 80.]

We should not be using a method as unreliable as a polygraph to determine whether a person has committed a crime. So I join the hon. Member for East Lothian in asking the Minister to give assurances here and now that the use of polygraph testing for offenders released on licence will not become a stepping-stone towards the introduction of polygraph testing across the justice system.

As colleagues may have noticed, I have submitted a new clause on the issue of polygraphs so I shall reserve most of my comments for the stand part debate later today, but we do need some clarification and assurance that we are not moving in the direction of an unreliable method of fact-finding like polygraphs.

What knowledge and evidence do the Government have on the reliability of polygraph tests, and why are they intent on their use in this context? As Professor Acheson said in his oral evidence,

“Polygraphs are a very good way to demonstrate a physiological response to nervousness”—

I am aware that I am repeating myself—and I, for one, would certainly be nervous undertaking a polygraph even if I knew I had not committed a crime, which makes me question whether polygraphs provide anywhere near the necessary level of assurance. We need a much more robust system if we are to start making decisions around a person’s future. We are not entirely dismissive of the place of polygraphs or the potential role that they can play, but we would not want to see the burden of proof rely heavily, or even moderately, on a polygraph result.

I plan to go into further detail in later examination of the Bill, once we reach the new clauses, on the impact of polygraph licence conditions on those with protected characteristics. In the meantime, it would help if the Minister were able to clarify the Government’s position on polygraph tests, including plans for future use.

On a point of order, Mr Robertson. There was an unintentional mistake earlier, about Professor Acheson saying that the polygraph was only “slightly better” than the toss of a coin. Those who were here last week listening to the professor will remember—it is in the Hansard record at column 83—that I called him out on that. He said that I was “quite right” to do so and that it was a “useful” test. It is tricky, I know, when looking back on evidence on a hot afternoon. It was a mistake, I think.

As we discussed in evidence last week, the Government—and the Committee—fully recognise that polygraph testing does not provide definitive information that meets a burden of proof that a court of law would expect to be met.

We did hear, however, compelling evidence from Professor Grubin that polygraphs provide a great deal of utility in two areas—first, in causing offenders being questioned while a polygraph is being applied to disclose more information than they otherwise would. He gave some compelling statistics, showing that a high proportion—from memory, something like two thirds—of offenders questioned with a polygraph being applied made a disclosure of information, which is a far higher figure than would ordinarily be the case. It is helpful to get people on licence to disclose information that is useful in working out whether their licence conditions are being adhered to.

Secondly, if a negative polygraph result follows in answer to particular questions, the principal consequence is further investigation by the probation service or, if appropriate, the police. Only if those further investigations yielded new evidence or new facts would further action follow. Polygraph evidence would never be admissible in a court of law, and there is no intention of that, because we heard clearly that although it is helpful, it is not definitive in a way that we would wish evidence submitted to a court of law to be definitive.

That approach is already enshrined in section 30 of the Offender Management Act 2007, expressly disallowing the admissibility of polygraph evidence in court, but it is also covered in the equivalent provisions made for the devolved Administrations in this Bill, particularly clause 33 in relation to Scotland and clause 34 in relation to Northern Ireland. The Bill and the law in general are clear about how polygraph evidence should be used.

On amendments 49 and 50, and the use of “may not” as opposed to “must not”, I think that the phrases have the same meaning. “We may not do something” means the same as “we must not do something”—it is an express prohibition. I am sure it is helpful to put my view of that on the record, and I hope that the Committee concurs. It is categoric that something that may not be used cannot be used, and must not be used in any circumstances.

In support of clause 32 standing part, this is a useful additional tool in the hands of the probation service. It is used already with sex offenders in England and Wales. Professor Grubin provided very informative evidence—certainly the most entertaining evidence that we heard during our earlier proceedings. He made a powerful case for the way in which polygraphs, used properly, carefully, with the right training and with acknowledgment of their limitations, add something to the monitoring process. Therefore I think it is appropriate to include the measures.

I am grateful for the Minister’s response. I am not going to debate “may” or “must”, which seems to be becoming a tautological argument. I am happy to accept the Minister’s assurance, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 6—Reports on polygraph licence conditions for terrorist offenders

“(1) Before section 32 comes into force the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a report in accordance with subsection (4).

(2) Before section 33 comes into force the Scottish Ministers must lay before the Scottish Parliament a report in accordance with subsection (4).

(3) Before section 34 comes into force the Department of Justice must lay before the Northern Ireland Assembly a report in accordance with subsection (4).

(4) The form of the reports is an analysis of the expected impact of the appropriate section of this Act on people with protected characteristics, including but not limited to—

(a) the impact on people from minority faith groups, including the numbers received into prison and the length of the sentence served;

(b) the impact on people from BAME communities, including the numbers received into prison and the length of the sentence served;

(c) the consequences of any disproportionate impact on people with protected characteristics on efforts by the prison authorities to rehabilitate prisoners convicted of terrorism offences; and

(d) the impact on people with physical and mental disabilities.

(5) No later than the anniversary of the appropriate section coming into force in each subsequent year, the Secretary of State, Scottish Ministers and Department of Justice must each lay a further report updating the analysis under subsection (4).”

I want to address new clause 6, and will be brief as I have covered much of what I wanted to say with reference to the SNP amendments. I will do the same on clause 35.

The new clause is simple enough. It would build in safeguards for people with protected characteristics, which includes people from minority faith groups and the BAME community, including on the numbers received into prison and the length of the sentence served, by ensuring that the Government commission reports on the impact of the relevant provisions on the distinct groups. The report would also cover the consequences of any disproportionate impact on people with protected characteristics on prison authorities’ efforts to rehabilitate prisoners convicted of terrorism offences, as well as the impact on people with physical and mental disabilities.

We can all accept—and the evidence given to the Committee bears it out—that polygraph tests are far from being the holy grail in general, never mind when they are applied to the people covered by the amendment. It is worth noting that some of the evidence contained more detail. Professor Silke—I hope I will quote him correctly this time—was clear in his evidence. He said that there could be a role for polygraph tests, but discouraged Ministers from going headlong into a full roll-out:

“There are potential benefits to using polygraphs within an enhanced framework, recognising that they do have their limits. I support the calls that are being made, if polygraphs are being introduced, for running a pilot programme first before implementing them across the estate.”––[Official Report, Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Public Bill Committee, 30 June 2020; c. 86, Q182.]

Rather than going full steam ahead and introducing a regime of polygraph testing for everyone in the category in question, will the Minister launch the pilot that Professor Silke and other witnesses favour? That would help to address some of the issues that I have been concerned about, and that I raise in the new clause.

The Minister will be pleased to hear that I shall not rehearse again the injustices against certain groups that sadly remain very much part of the justice system, but I ask him to be mindful of the reality and to recognise that data is critical if we are to overcome those injustices.

I would say two things about a pilot. First, as I said before, polygraph use has been running for a number of years now for sex offenders in England and Wales, and it has been found to be useful. It is used quite widely around the world, as Professor Grubin mentioned in his evidence.

In particular, the use of polygraphs for monitoring licence conditions is designed first to prompt the disclosure of information and secondly to provide information that might be followed up. Bearing that in mind, I do not think that the biting effect of the polygraph findings is of sufficient severity to require further pilot work, particularly as the technique is used already.

As to BAME communities, that is something we debated at some length a short time ago, as the hon. Gentleman said, but I would observe that the application of the technique applies to everyone equally, regardless of colour and creed.

In relation to the review, there is a standing convention that legislation is reviewed three years after coming into effect. I am sure that the effectiveness of the provision will form part of such a future review.

That is very helpful. I will not press the new clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 32 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 33

Polygraph licence conditions for terrorist offenders: Scotland

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 56, in clause 52, page 43, line 4, after “32” leave out “to” and insert “, 34 and”.

Amendment 57, in clause 52, page 43, line 4, at end insert—

“(3A) Section 33 comes into force on such day as Scottish Ministers may by regulations appoint.”

This would have the effect that provision in the Bill that relate to polygraph testing would only become operational if the Scottish Government asked for those provisions to be implemented.

Amendment 56 is procedural, and may well have been superseded. Amendment 57 is to do with the situation in Scotland, where we do not have any current regime for polygraphs. It has been put forward to introduce a trigger, because the numbers in the cohort referred to by the Minister are clearly going to be limited. Even during my tenure in Scotland, we had only a handful, because most of our terrorists—all but a few—have been paramilitary and Northern Ireland-related. On that basis, it may be appropriate to have a trigger and that the provision should be implemented as and when necessary, as opposed to setting up a regime that is not going to be used perhaps ever, but certainly not for a short period of time. That would give Scottish Ministers, and indeed the Scottish legal system, an opportunity to prepare.

We recognise that, as the hon. Gentleman has said, there is no operation of polygraph currently in Scotland. In considering the commencement provisions, it is the clear intention of the UK Government to work extremely closely with the Scottish Government to determine when they are operationally ready to introduce polygraph testing into the toolkit that probation services have. We would not want to trigger implementation too early.

Over the past week or so, we have heard evidence showing the benefits that polygraph testing can bring. However, we are aware that time is needed to prepare operationally for those benefits to come into effect. Although we recognise that some elements of the implementation of this are devolved—as I say, we are going to work extremely closely with the Scottish Government on those—ultimately, provision for dealing with terrorism matters remains a reserved power of the UK Government, so it is appropriate that the commencement provision remains one that is exercised by the UK Government. However, I repeat my assurance to the hon. Member for East Lothian that we will work extremely closely with his colleagues in the Scottish Government—in particular those in the Justice Directorate, his old Department—to make sure nothing is done prematurely, or without being ready for it.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 33 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 34

Polygraph licence conditions for terrorist offenders: Northern Ireland

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 34 essentially has the same operative effect as the clauses we have already discussed in relation to polygraphs, except in relation to Northern Ireland. For the benefit of anyone listening in Northern Ireland and that of the hon. Member for St Helens North, we will work very closely with Naomi Long and the Northern Ireland Government on this, in the same way that we will work very closely with the Scottish Government. We recognise that they are not doing this already, and before we commence the provisions, we will need to make sure that the Northern Ireland Government are operationally able and ready to use them.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 34 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 35

Polygraph licence conditions in terrorism cases: supplementary provision

I beg to move amendment 51, in clause 35, page 33, line 8, after “State” insert

“after consulting with Scottish Ministers and the Department of Justice”.

This amendment requires the Secretary of State to consult with the Scottish Ministers and Northern Ireland Department of Justice when making regulations under clause 35(1).

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 52, in clause 35, page 33, line 12, after “State” insert

“after consulting with Scottish Ministers and the Department of Justice”.

This amendment requires the Secretary of State to consult with the Scottish Ministers and Northern Ireland Department of Justice when making regulations under clause 35(2).

Amendment 53, in clause 35, page 33, line 17, after “qualifications” insert “training”.

This amendment adds “training” to the list of contents in regulations made under clause 35(2).

Amendment 54, in clause 35, page 33, line 19, after “keeping” insert “and confidentiality”.

This amendment ensures that regulations under clause 35(2) include provision for confidentiality of polygraph records.

Amendment 55, in clause 35, page 33, line 43, after “State” insert

“after consulting with Scottish Ministers and the Department of Justice”.

This amendment ensures that approval by the Secretary of State of polygraph equipment under clause 35(7) should take place after consultation with the Scottish Ministers and the Northern Ireland Department of Justice.

The Minister commented on amendments 51 and 52 in his previous remarks, and we accept the grace with which his assurances have been given. The remaining amendments—53, 54 and 55—again seek some assurances. I will speak from my own experiences in Scotland, not regarding polygraphs because we have never had them, but about something that is akin in some ways: fingerprint testing and the fingerprint service.

Unlike some elements of forensic science such as DNA, it seems to me that polygraphs—as with fingerprints—are not a science, but an art. They are subject to interpretation, and mistakes can be made. During my tenure as Cabinet Secretary for Justice and my service in the Scottish Parliament before that, Scottish justice was turned on its head by a manifest injustice that came about because of an error in fingerprint identification. That error shamed Scottish justice and harmed a former serving police officer. It required us to review our fingerprint service from top to bottom, bringing in an eminent judge from Northern Ireland to address it.

Polygraph is not like a DNA test, which comes back with odds of 3 million to one. People are required to look at it and consider it. It is something relatively new, although it is operating in other jurisdictions. Who trains them? Who regulates them? Who ensures that they are kept up to speed? How do we ensure that those carrying it out are properly qualified, rather than someone seeking a fast buck? Some of this is in the drill-down detail. It may be something that has to be addressed. It is coming in.

I ask the Minister to take on board what I say, in an attempt to be helpful: some things are an art, not a science. Forensic science caused us huge difficulties in Scotland. To ensure that injustices do not arise and the service is as good as possible, we require some check against delivery, a method of regulation, an understanding of who can do it and a way of holding them to account.

I thank the hon. Member for East Lothian for his comments. I wholly concur with what he said about the importance of training and carefully managing who conducts these tests and how they conduct them. In evidence, we heard from Professor Grubin in some detail of the critical importance of training. Without the proper training, method and the right questions, the entire process is essentially worthless and could potentially lead to false results. I accept the spirit of the hon. Gentleman’s comments.

To reassure the hon. Gentleman, in clause 35(3)(a) there is a reference to “other matters”. I explicitly assure him that that includes things such as training. The Secretary of State will address those matters in detail in the regulations, as they are addressed in the current regulations made under the existing legislation that applies to sex offenders. Identical or similar measures relating to training will be included in those regulations.

In relation to the question of confidentiality, which I have previously touched on, disclosure of any information obtained by polygraph testing will be shared only with governmental partners, particularly law enforcement agencies. It will not be disseminated or disclosed any more widely. I hope that assures the hon. Gentleman about the detail that the regulations made under clause 35 will go into. They will most certainly address the issues that he is properly raising.

I am happy to accept the Minister’s reassurances. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Again, I will be brief. I am aware that an amendment that I have tabled cannot be selected for debate, so I am content to address clause 35 stand part instead.

We accept that polygraphs have their uses, albeit very limited. Most notably, we recognise that polygraph examinations have been used with some success in the management of sexual offenders since 2013 by the National Probation Service. The Minister spoke about that and convinced us that, for that reason, we do not need a pilot for the Bill.

However, as has been said over and again in the evidence sessions and in debate, they are far from 100% accurate. While they give an indication, when used in the right conditions, that can detect traits associated with lying, they are far from infallible. The Bill allows the Secretary of State to impose mandatory polygraph examinations on high-risk offenders who have been convicted of terrorist offences or offences related to terrorism. Specifically, it allows for mandatory polygraphs to be taken three months post release and every six months thereafter unless the test is failed, after which the offender would have to take them more regularly.

However, the Government seem shy of spelling out the detail of how their proposed regime will work, leaving it to secondary legislation in the shape of regulations, which are mentioned in subsection (9). I, for one, am always a little wary of the Government when they opt for that route.

The Minister needs to provide a robust explanation of why he does not want that detail in the Bill. Is it a case of having insufficient detail at this stage to work out exactly what he wants to achieve with polygraph testing, or does he share everyone else’s reservations about the application of the test? I hope that he will explain why there has to be a delay. I am sure that if the Minister looked at the legislation relating to the application of polygraph tests to sex offenders, he could cut and paste the wording, and tidy it up to suit this legislation, so there is no excuse for it not being in the Bill.

The Ministry of Justice has committed to a review of the value of polygraphing terrorist offenders and those convicted of offences related to terrorism after two years, which we very much welcome. However, as I said earlier, we would welcome that kind of commitment in the Bill, and a clear statement that people with protected characteristics will be covered specifically. It would help the Committee were the Minister to spell out how he expects such a review to be conducted, what he expects out of it, and whether he would adopt the need to achieve the specific things that I have spelled out.

I reiterate that Labour does not object to the use of polygraphs as set out in the Bill, but we should see the detail from the Government on exactly what they want to do. They ought to spell it out in the Bill. I hope that the Minister will reflect on that, and perhaps accept that it would be an easy job to cut and paste from the other legislation and to table an amendment on Report that provides the clarification we seek.

The shadow Minister asks why we do not specify in the Bill the full detail about how the polygraphs will be used, and why that will be done in secondary legislation. Of course, that is extremely common. It is usual for matters of great detail to be done via secondary rather than primary legislation, in order to avoid, in the first instance, filling the Bill with a great deal of operational matters.

There is also the possibility that operational best practice may change in due course. If scientific evidence develops, or as practice evolves, there may be things that we could do differently or better. Clearly, if it was set out in primary legislation, it would take a great deal of time to change the detail. We would have to wait for a Bill to come before Parliament with the matter in scope, which could take some years. There are quite a few things that the Government have been wanting to do for a while, and we have been waiting three or four years for the right Bill to come along, including some in the Ministry of Justice. Of course, such changes can be made more deftly and more quickly by secondary legislation.

If the shadow Minister wants to see the sort of detail that he can expect, the existing regulations made under the 2007 Act to implement polygraph testing for sex offenders will give him a great deal of information. Obviously, we will study those very carefully when making regulations under clause 35. If he wants further detail, he can certainly find it in the existing regulations.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 35 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 36

Release on licence of terrorist prisoners repatriated to the United Kingdom

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 36 covers the release on licence of terrorist prisoners repatriated to the United Kingdom. The clause refers to schedule 11, which, as we shall discuss in a moment, sets out arrangements for the release on licence of terrorist prisoners repatriated to the United Kingdom, so that their release provisions are consistent with those sentenced in the United Kingdom. In essence, it extends the provisions that we have debated already to ensure that people who are repatriated to the UK are affected by those provisions just as much as people who were here when convicted and when serving their sentence. I am sure that everybody would agree that that kind of consistency is extremely welcome and extremely important.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 36 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 11

Release on licence of repatriated terrorist prisoners

Question proposed, That the schedule be the Eleventh schedule to the Bill.

Schedule 11 gives effect to the clause 36 in a number of technical ways, which I do not propose to go through in detail. It ensures that the clause has practical effect in law.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 11 accordingly agreed to.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Tom Pursglove.)

Adjourned till Tuesday 7 July at twenty-five minutes past Nine oclock.

Written evidence reported to the House

CTSB10 Dr Kyriakos N. Kotsoglou, Senior Lecturer in Law (Criminal Evidence), Northumbria University and Marion Oswald, Vice Chancellor’s Senior Fellow in Law, Northumbria University (further written evidence)