Clause 41 - Variation of measures

National Security Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:30 am ar 8 Medi 2022.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

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

Photo of Rushanara Ali Rushanara Ali Llafur, Bethnal Green and Bow

With this it will be convenient to consider the following:

Clauses 42 to 44 stand part.

That schedule 6 be the Sixth schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

As the comparable sections in the terrorism prevention and investigation measures legislation make clear, clauses 41 to 44 are technical elements that improve the regime and make it work in practice. Clause 41 mirrors TPIMs by making provision for the measures imposed to be varied while they are in force. That will allow changes to be made to the restrictions where necessary, in response to changes in the individual’s personal or family circumstances or to the assessment of the risk they pose. Those provisions will be important in ensuring that the regime is able to respond dynamically and flexibly to changing circumstances, and that the individual is able to live as normal a life as is possible without posing a threat to the British people.

The provisions will also be important to securing the effective operational management of state threats prevention and investigation measures. Critically, the underlying requirement that the measures imposed must always be necessary and proportionate remains, and that is explicitly the case for any variation that has the effect of strengthening the measures imposed.

Photo of Holly Lynch Holly Lynch Shadow Minister (Home Office)

It is a pleasure to serve under you as Chair once again, Ms Ali. They say a week is a long time in politics: never has that been truer than this week. I am very pleased to see the Minister in his place, but—for the second time over the course of this Committee—not quite as pleased as the hon. Member for North Cornwall that he once again has a Minister in place. I welcome the Minister to his role; as others have said, he is the fourth Minister we have had over the course of this Bill. We welcome the opportunity to continue to work together, now that we can make some vital progress on this really important piece of legislation. I also look forward to working with him on this policy area beyond just the legislation that is in front of us.

Turning to the detail of this group of clauses, clause 41 makes provision for the measures imposed under a part 2 notice to be varied in a number of different circumstances, as the Minister has outlined. Subsection (2) makes it possible for the Secretary of State to vary a relocation measure in a part 2 notice if considered necessary

“for reasons connected with the efficient and effective use of resources in relation to the individual”.

We are satisfied with those measures, and recognise the necessity of the remaining provisions in the clause.

Clause 42 provides a power for the Secretary of State to revoke a part 2 notice at any time by serving a revocation notice, whether or not in response to a request by the individual. The Secretary of State may exercise that power where they consider it is no longer necessary for the part 2 notice and the measures imposed under it to remain in force. The explanatory notes say that

“although the measures may no longer be necessary at the time that the Part 2 notice is revoked (for example because the individual has been detained in prison), they may subsequently become necessary again (when the same individual is released from prison, perhaps following an unsuccessful prosecution for a criminal offence).”

As I have said before, the assumed prosecution rate for state threats in the Home Office impact assessment is just 33%, so I am concerned that we might need that level of flexibility, depending on the circumstances.

Subsection (6)(a) of the clause also provides a power for the Secretary of State to revive for a period of a year a notice that has previously expired without being extended, without the need for evidence of new state threat activity. Surely if a person continues to be a threat, the notice should not be allowed to expire; alternatively, if the notice has been allowed to expire because the person is no longer deemed a threat, reviving a notice without any new information surely could not be justified. On that basis, I would be keen to hear any further rationale for the provisions in subsection (6)(a).

When considering the revocation of part 2 notices, it is also worth considering what Jonathan Hall QC described as the “TPIM Catch-22” in his annual report on the terrorism equivalent of these part 2 measures:

“On the one hand, in order to test whether an individual would revert to terrorism-related activity in the absence of TPIM measures, there may be no alternative but to reduce or remove measures; for example, by allowing an individual to associate or move more freely.

“On the other hand, association and movement measures have been imposed precisely to counter the risk of terrorist-related activity. In the absence of evidence of risk reduction, to do so might put members of the public at risk of harm.”

It is not easy to step down from STPIMs once they have been imposed and there is a clock ticking on the restrictions imposed on a suspect, so what efforts are we making to establish best practice on this, so that clauses 41 and 42 can be deployed as effectively as possible?

Clauses 43 and 44, also in this group, make provision for circumstances in which a part 2 notice is “quashed” or directed to be revoked as a result of court proceedings, and schedule 6 rightly provides other circumstances in which an individual who is convicted of an offence under clause 50 has a right of appeal against that conviction.

Other than the points we have raised, we are satisfied that these measures strike an appropriate balance.

Photo of Stewart Hosie Stewart Hosie Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution)

I welcome the Minister to his place.

In this group, clause 41 allows for the variation of STPIMs, either on application by the individual on whom it has been served or by the Secretary of State, when certain circumstances apply. Most of the clauses in this group seem to make sense, but there is some slightly odd wording. I know the Minister described these measures as “technical” and said that they would improve provision, but will he give some clarity?

Clause 41(1)(c) provides the power to vary, which is available if necessary

“for purposes connected with preventing or restricting the individual’s involvement in foreign power threat activity.”

Why is that? The words “purposes connected with” appear to be a slightly odd formulation. Why is the requirement not simply to prevent or restrict involvement in “threat activity”?

That same question arises in relation to clause 41(2)(a), but in that paragraph what is meant by allowing a new relocation measure to be invoked when

“necessary for reasons connected with the efficient and effective use of resources in relation to the individual”?

What does that actually mean? The Minister described these provisions as “dynamic” and “efficient”. Are we saying that people may be moved for a second time simply to save money? The explanatory notes suggest that is the case, so I seek reassurance that such a provision will not be used unless genuinely necessary.

Clause 42 allows for the revocation of notices, including on application, but it does not appear to restrict the number or frequency of revocation applications. It also allows the Secretary of State to make a “revival notice” in regard to a part 2 notice that has expired or been revoked. It protects against expired notices already extended to the maximum limit, but it seems to leave open the possibility of revoking a four times extended part 2 notice and then reviving it, despite the time limit. That seems to be expressly permitted in clause 42(7)(b), although clause 42(9) appears to stop that. Will the Minister confirm that revival notices cannot be used to try to circumvent the absolute maximum of five years and that clause 42(9) will prevent that happening?

Turning briefly to schedule 6, which covers circumstances in which a person has been convicted of breaching a part 2 notice but the notice or extension is “quashed” so that the offence would not have been committed had it been quashed earlier. There are some very tight timescales in this schedule. For example:

“An appeal under this Schedule to the Court of Appeal against a conviction on indictment in England and Wales or Northern Ireland…may not be brought after the end of the period of 28 days beginning with the day on which the right of appeal arises”.

The same 28 days is used in relation to

“an appeal under this Schedule to the High Court of Justiciary”— the Scottish High Court of Appeal—

“against a conviction on indictment in Scotland”.

There is a 21-day deadline on

“an appeal under this Schedule to the Crown Court against a summary conviction in England and Wales”.

There is a 14-day time limit on

“an appeal under this Schedule to the Sheriff Appeal Court against a summary conviction in Scotland”.

Some of these timescales, particularly the 14 day one, are very tight and it may be very tricky to know precisely when the clock starts ticking, as that depends on when a different clock has run out.

We may be slightly over-cautious. However, it appears ridiculous if people are left with convictions for breaching what would have been illegal orders. Would it not be more sensible in those circumstances, to avoid people having to go to appeal courts of one sort or another in short timescale, simply to automatically quash them? Why is there a time limit on the ability to appeal in any circumstance?

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 11:45, 8 Medi 2022

Let me answer some of the questions that have just come up. The hon. Member for Halifax and the right hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire, if I am correct—

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

Forgive me; the right hon. Member for Dundee East. They have raised some interesting points. The first is on the notice to be revived without new evidence of a lapse. The reason for that variation is to allow for prison sentencing. Should an individual find themselves being sentenced for a crime in the middle of an STPIM, that allows the STPIM to be paused for the purpose of imprisonment and revived afterwards, without having to go through the whole process again. The purpose is practical, rather than that of having a massive legal effect. Therefore, I believe it is entirely proportionate with the requirements of security.

Photo of Stewart Hosie Stewart Hosie Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution)

That seems a slightly illogical formulation. If the prison sentence is substantially longer than the maximum the STPIM could provide for, it seems preposterous that the remainder of the STPIM’s time would be added to the end of a sentence once it was fully discharged. That does not appear to be fully thought through.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

Perhaps the hon. Member will appreciate that not everybody who spends time in prison will do so for the offence for which the STPIM might have been applied. It is perfectly possible that somebody might spend six months in prison for something completely unconnected—a driving offence, a minor theft, or whatever—and therefore a pause would be entirely in keeping with that. The STPIM is about controlling different people’s ability to move and communicate, in which circumstances prison would simply not be a relevant application because the prison sentence effectively supersedes the controls that would have been put in place. In that sense, it is merely a way of recognising that, in certain circumstances, different applications would apply.

Clause 39 requires police to keep under review criminal investigations. STPIMs are a civil measure to protect against national security threats when a criminal prosecution is not possible. They are not overlapping; they are compatible and, indeed, complementary.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 41 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 42 to 44 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 6 agreed to.