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Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill

Volume 810: debated on Thursday 11 March 2021

Third Reading


Moved by

My Lords, as the UK Government have made clear throughout all stages of the Bill, we are committed to working closely with the devolved Administrations on this legislation to ensure that the important changes made by the Bill will make the UK as safe as possible from the threats posed by terrorism.

While terrorism and national security are reserved matters, some of the provisions of this legislation engage the Sewel convention, both in Scotland and in Northern Ireland. I am pleased to confirm to the House that the Scottish Parliament, on the advice of the Scottish Government, has passed a legislative consent Motion in support of the Bill. However, despite lengthy and continued engagement with the Northern Ireland Executive, it has decided not to proceed with recommending that legislative consent be given for the Bill by the Northern Ireland Assembly.

I am grateful for the collaborative engagement from officials in both the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive’s Department of Justice, which has provided essential support in the development of this legislation. While on this occasion legislative consent has not been secured from the Northern Ireland Assembly, I reassure noble Lords that the UK Government will continue, as they always have done, to engage with the Northern Ireland Executive and seek legislative consent support for all future Bills which engage the LCM process in the Northern Ireland Assembly. On behalf of my noble and learned friend Lord Stewart of Dirleton, I beg to move that the Bill be read a third time.

Bill read a third time.


Moved by

I would like to take a brief opportunity to thank noble Lords. We have limited time, but I want to give some thanks for their interest and contributions thus far to the progress of the Bill. I am grateful to noble Lords across the House who have contributed eloquently to the debates on Second Reading, in Committee and on Report.

Some strong and differing opinions have been expressed on certain provisions in this legislation. I am grateful for the scrutiny that that has brought, and especially for the co-operative and constructive spirit in which the debates have taken place. I am equally grateful for the broad support that most of the measures in the Bill have received so far.

I particularly thank, at this point, noble Lords from the Labour and Liberal Democrat Front Benches, who contributed a number of important interventions to debates on measures in the Bill, particularly on polygraph examinations and the work to deradicalise and rehabilitate terrorist offenders in the prison estate. I am especially pleased that so many noble Lords found the discussion in the House, and the complementary briefing sessions on these subjects, both thought-provoking and helpful. I hope that the House is now confident of the intention behind these measures and is reassured that the Government keep this important work under continuous review.

Noble Lords have contributed to a rich discussion on the changes being made to terrorism prevention and investigation measures—TPIMs, as we usually call them. The Government remain clear on the importance of strengthening this vital risk management tool, and we are grateful to all Peers who have spoken on the issue, especially those on the Liberal Democrat and Labour Front Benches, and also the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, for their thoughtful contributions to debate.

The amendments made in this House to the TPIMs provisions, tabled by the Government and by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, will now be considered by the other place, and I look forward to returning to this matter when the Bill comes back to this House. Members of this House have recognised its importance, and we have discussed openly the complexity and challenges that dealing with terrorism poses.

The Government are confident that the Bill will strengthen the approach taken to the sentencing and release of terrorist offenders, by ensuring that serious and dangerous terrorist offenders will spend longer in custody, properly reflecting the seriousness of the offences they have committed. Crucially, it will improve the Government’s ability to manage and monitor terrorist offenders when they are released. This will ultimately provide better protection for the public and keep our country safe. For all these reasons, I hope that the Bill will progress quickly through the other place, and I look forward to discussing it further on its return to this House.

First, I thank the Government Front Bench, whose approach to this very serious Bill has been measured and appropriate. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart of Dirleton, and the noble Lords, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, have been incredibly open with the House, and we are very grateful for that. I cannot remember whether this is their first Bill, but they have conducted it incredibly well. May I particularly mention the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, who ended up having to take this Bill when, I think, the person originally nominated left in somewhat of a hurry? He did an incredibly good job.

We have had very open and co-operative help from the Front Bench. It is clear that we on this side of the House strongly support many of the measures. We did not reach agreement on TPIMs or polygraphs, but we have made changes, particularly in relation to TPIMs. Some were agreed by the Government, but they did not agree to all of them. I very much hope that those in the other place will consider very seriously the changes that we have made, which have focused mostly on TPIMs, and will perhaps think that we have provided appropriate protection, but in a more nuanced and better way.

My Lords, we on these Benches want to do everything we can to make the UK safer. What we sought to do in the Bill was to protect civil liberties and the rule of law. We have questioned the presumption that longer sentences, and people spending more time in prison, will make UK citizens safer. Instead, we have been trying to create a system in which prisoners stand the best chance of being deradicalised and rehabilitated.

As the noble Lord has said, terrorism prevention and investigation measures are supposed to do exactly what it says on the tin—to prevent terrorism while an investigation takes place. The changes the Government sought to bring about would have made it possible to extend TPIMs indefinitely, including what could amount to house arrest, by removing the overnight restrictions on curfews. Unless the compromise amendment forced on the Government by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, survives ping-pong, indefinite detention without trial beckons.

The Bill extends compulsory lie detector—polygraph —tests not only to convicted terrorists on licence from prison, but to subjects of TPIMs orders who are not convicted, and should have the right to silence. Instead, those unconvicted suspects face a term of imprisonment for not answering questions. The long-established right to silence has been eroded.

It is not all bad. As a result of the briefings arranged by the Government, as the Minister said, I am now convinced of the benefits of the limited use of polygraph tests for those released on licence from prison and I am reassured by the efforts being made to manage the risks presented by terrorist offenders on release from prison, although I still believe that they could be enhanced by extending the remit of the Parole Board, as sensibly proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew. On a personal level, I am very grateful for the open and engaging way in which both Ministers have interacted with us, for the engagement with like-minded noble Lords across the House and to our own and Labour’s staff members, Sarah and Grace, for the considerable help and assistance they have provided.

Finally, I would be lost without the help and support of my noble friends, in particular my noble friend Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames and my noble friend Lady Hamwee, whose contributions in the Chamber are just the tip of an iceberg of dedication, superhuman effort and selfless support for others.

My Lords, I echo the verbal applause given so eloquently by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, for the contribution and consultation given by Ministers. I have one regret about the Bill, which is that the potential role of the Parole Board is not recognised properly in it. However, with some confidence I express the hope that, outside the time pressures to complete the Bill in this Session of Parliament, Her Majesty’s Government will talk to the Parole Board at the most senior levels to ensure that best use is made of the board’s skills and of its long and successful rollout of relevant training on terrorism matters to its members. The Government should not forget that the Parole Board holds a high degree of accountability in public confidence.

I support the proportionate use of polygraphs, and I am heartened to hear that the Liberal Democrats have become converted to that use. I support it as one, but only one, of a larger set of psychological and neurological tools in assessing the risks presented by terrorist prisoners if they are released. I support the extension of TPIMs to the standard formerly available through control orders. When I was Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, I repeatedly opposed the dilution of those orders in 2010-11 by the coalition Government, and I only regret the passage of 10 years to reach today’s position. I recognise with acclaim the work of my noble friend Lord Anderson of Ipswich on raising the length and standard of proof of TPIMs to a sound and realistic level. What I believe is the now achieved compromise, the limit of five years, is acceptable, but as long as prosecution always remains the preferred option.

I could but will not say much more, other than recognising that your Lordships’ House has left a better Bill than we started with. Of course, in the years to come, we shall scrutinise the operability of the Act and not hesitate to suggest further changes.

My Lords, I am very grateful for the words expressed by all the speakers. First, I in particular thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton. He is right that I am something of a neophyte when it comes to the work of this House, so thanks from him, with his extensive experience, is especially well received. He was also correct to draw attention and pay tribute to the other two members of the ministerial team and the officials who worked on the Bill. My noble friend Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay did a lot of the heavy lifting, and my noble and learned friend Lord Stewart of Dirleton was, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew put it once in Committee, the other half of the Government’s twin strike force. I am very grateful to both my colleagues for everything they have done.

As I mentioned the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, I benefited personally—I know we all did—from his experience, both in this Chamber and in our discussions outside, and I am confident that they will continue on other legislative matters.

Finally, I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for his comments. Of course, we had some differences on certain issues in the Bill, but they were differences of principle; both sides were, I hope, well and fairly argued; and I am sure that those discussions and debates also led to a better Bill in the end. The noble Lord was part of a triple strike force, and he was right to mention his colleagues, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, who also did a lot of work in this regard. I see the time, and therefore conclude my remarks there.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.

Sitting suspended.