Clause 50 - Offence

National Security Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:30 pm ar 8 Medi 2022.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

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

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

The clause provides for a criminal offence of breaching a measure specified in a part 2 notice without reasonable excuse. This echoes, as do many of the provisions, a similar provision in the TPIM regime, and includes cases in which a person has permission from the Secretary of State to contravene a measure and does not adhere to the terms or conditions of that permission. For the sake of enforceability, it is vital that a part 2 notice is reinforced with effective penalties if the subject does not comply. Hence the maximum penalty on conviction is a custodial sentence not exceeding five years, unless the travel measure is breached, in which case the maximum sentence is 10 years.

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

The clause provides for an offence of contravening without reasonable excuse any measure specified in a part 2 notice. That, again, mirrors section 23 of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011. According to the Government’s most recent transparency report, in December 2020 the total number of individuals who had been served a notice since TPIMs were introduced in 2011 was 24, so compliance is relatively high. But so are the stakes when someone breaches the terms of such measures.

According to the “Statistics on the operation of police powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 and subsequent legislation” quarterly report from the Home Office, the number of people who have been prosecuted and convicted under section 23 of the TPIM Act, meaning that they contravened an order, is 10. Like TPIMs, the primary function of STPIMs is to be able to control and monitor those who represent a serious threat to our national security but cannot yet be prosecuted. We have been assured that the primary function of an STPIM is to be able to manage a person while an investigation into a part 1 offence is established, rather than simply creating a situation where a prosecutable breach is highly likely.

We note the particular focus on travel in clause 50, and that under subsection (2) an individual who travels without permission loses any reasonable excuse defence. Given that we anticipate that there might be a higher number of foreign nationals and dual nationals in this cohort due to the state threat nature of the offences, it is possible that we might have higher numbers of requests to attend overseas births and deaths of family members and loved ones among the cohort. However, the risk of permitting that travel, which might mean a return to a very hostile state that we fear is sponsoring the individual’s activity, presents a massive challenge. To ensure there are robust decision-making processes around those considerations and to have good reporting and a review of those elements of the clause would be welcome additions.

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

As the Minister said, the clause creates a criminal offence of contravening without a reasonable excuse a measure in a part 2 notice, but there is no defence of reasonable excuse if the subject leaves the UK when they are restricted from doing so. In normal circumstances, a breach of a part 2 notice would leave the individual subject to five years’ imprisonment on indictment, or 12 months’ imprisonment on a summary conviction in Scotland, but that becomes nine years’ imprisonment on indictment for a breach of a travel measure.

I wish simply to get to the bottom of why some of the breaches of a part 2 notice appear to be disproportionately harsh. The Minister said that much of this provision mirrors the provisions of TPIMs; does this bit—the doubling of the tariff for a breach of a travel measure—mirror the TPIMs provisions? If it does, how often was such a penalty imposed for such a breach under the existing provisions?

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

It is quite clear that any order given must have consequences if it is disobeyed—I do not think anyone in this room would disagree with that—and it is important that the penalties for disobedience against a lawfully given order must be proportionate. The penalties are proportionate, and it is normal to have an increased penalty for an aggravated offence, whatever that may be. In the circumstances, travelling abroad would be considered an aggravation and therefore have a greater penalty attached. That is entirely appropriate, so it is entirely reasonable to have that increased sentence.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 50 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.