Clause 21 - Arrest without warrant

National Security Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:45 am ar 14 Gorffennaf 2022.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

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

Photo of Stephen McPartland Stephen McPartland Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

Currently, the police must rely on the powers of arrest and detention available under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, as we discussed earlier, when tackling state threats activity. In contrast, under the Terrorism Act 2000 the police have enhanced powers to facilitate early disruption and the investigation of acts of terrorism and terrorism-related activity.

The enhanced police powers are available for terrorism investigations and have proven very effective at tackling the threat. We consider the risks posed by state threats to be similar and to require enhanced powers and tools. Clause 21 creates a new arrest power whereby a constable can arrest without a warrant anyone who they reasonably suspect is or has been involved in foreign power threat activity. If an individual is arrested under clause 21, the further provisions in the clause and in schedule 3 will apply. We will debate the latter powers shortly.

The police must currently arrest an individual for a state threats offence under the arrest power in PACE. On arrest under PACE, the constable must specify the offence that the person is suspected of committing or being about to commit. For example, that could be foreign interference under clause 13 or obtaining or disclosing protected information under clause 1. As we all know, state threats actors are highly trained operatives, with police often needing to rely on sensitive intelligence to build their case and understand the threat that the suspect might pose to UK national security.

In some circumstances, police might have evidence to suspect an individual’s involvement in state threats activity but might not yet have the full picture to determine the intended offence. In such circumstances, where police have the intelligence to indicate that state threats activity is imminent, police can deploy the arrest power in order to prevent that person from committing the activity. That early disruption by the police is critical in saving time and ensuring that the activity is not allowed to occur. That prevents harm to UK national security and potentially prevents harm to people’s lives.

The clause is modelled on the similar arrest power that operates under the 2000 Act, which has been shown to be effective in providing the police with an early disruption tool. I ask the Committee to support the clause.

Photo of Holly Lynch Holly Lynch Shadow Minister (Home Office) 12:00, 14 Gorffennaf 2022

The clause provides a power of arrest without warrant and includes provisions about subsequent detention. The explanatory note explains that the provisions are modelled on those in section 41 of and schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000, as the Minister said, which give police officers the power to arrest persons suspected of terrorism-related offences without a warrant.

We recognise the importance of granting law enforcement officers this power. The sense within policing is that it will provide the police a window in which to work, in order to undertake the necessary analysis and investigative work needed to confirm if an act of espionage or sabotage has been committed. Once a more substantive offence is established, the person in question must then be arrested for that offence, which would trigger the further relevant detention powers.

I have a query from within law enforcement, which relates to subsection (9). If the warrant for further detention is refused, a person can still be detained in hospital or if they are removed to hospital because they needed medical treatment. I am not aware that any such provision to continue to detain someone on the basis they need medical treatment when the application has been refused exists within any other detention powers. I would be grateful if the Minister could clarify that point.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

The provisions are for very significant powers of arrest and people can remain under arrest for a quite striking period of time, so we should be cautious. The key issue for me is subsection (1), because arrest without a warrant is justified not by the suspicion of a specific event set out in the Bill, but by involvement in foreign power threat activity. Will the Minister say a little more about why that decision has been made?

We will obviously get to clause 26 and the definition of “foreign power threat activity” soon, but it is a much broader concept than being under suspicion of one of the particular offences in the Bill. It could be somebody providing assistance or support to individuals, or known to be involved in certain types of conduct. Why have these powers of arrest without warrant been drafted differently compared with the powers on search and seizure? The search-and-seizure powers relate to specific offences under the Bill. The power of arrest without warrant applies to a much broader category of people. Given the significance of the powers, and how long people can be detained for, it is important that we push the Minister a little bit further on why the Bill has been drafted in this way.

Photo of Stephen McPartland Stephen McPartland Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

I am grateful for the contributions and the general support. On safeguards, the powers mirror the powers in the Terrorism Act 2000, which are very important and have proven to be very disruptive, as well as useful and effective in keeping the country safe. It is critical that the police have strong powers of arrest and I outlined the reasons for that. Currently, a person can be detained for 24 hours. These provisions allow a detention for 48 hours, which would have to be reviewed periodically after 12 hours, so there are safeguards. The provisions mirror the 2000 Act, which has proven very effective and very disruptive.

On the question asked by the hon. Member for Halifax, the detention clock stops if the individual goes to hospital. If a warrant is refused, they can only be detained for 48 hours. These may appear to be very significant powers, but a person is not going to be held for a huge number of days.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 21 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.