Clause 6 — Training for Terrorism

Orders of the Day — Terrorism Bill — [2nd Allotted Day ] – in the House of Commons at 1:30 pm on 3rd November 2005.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General 1:30 pm, 3rd November 2005

I beg to move amendment No. 57, in page 7, line 32, leave out 'or suspects'.

The Second Deputy Chairman:

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 89, in page 7, line 32, after 'or', insert 'reasonably'.

No. 58, in page 8, line 26, at end add—

'(4A) It shall be a defence to an offence under section 6 (1), for the defendant to show that he reported any suspicion to the police or in the case of an employee to his employer or other person in authority over him.'.

No. 42, in clause 8, page 10, line 13, at end add—

'(7) It shall be a defence to a charge brought under this section for an accused person to show—

(a) that he had no reasonable grounds for believing that the place was a place used for terrorist training; or

(b) that the accused was in the place used for terrorist training for legitimate research purposes.'.

No. 59, in clause 8, page 10, line 14, at end add—

(7) It shall be a defence to an offence under this section for a defendant to show on the balance of probabilities that his attendance at any place used for terrorist training was—

(a) for the purpose of preventing the instruction or training taking place; or

(b) for the purpose of gathering information about the instruction or training; or

(c) involuntary.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

The amendments relate to clause 8 as well as clause 6. Clause 6 is entitled "Training for terrorism" and clause 8 is entitled "Attendance at a place used for terrorist training". I have no difficulty with the principle of introducing such criminal offences. However, as we have seen in our previous debates, the detail of the measures presents considerable difficulties.

May I start with training for terrorism? Clause 6 says:

"A person commits an offence if . . . he provides instruction or training in any of the skills mentioned in subsection (3); and . . . at the time he provides the instruction or training, he knows or suspects that a person receiving it intends to use the skills in which he is being instructed or trained . . . for or in connection with the commission or preparation of acts of terrorism or Convention offences; or . . . for assisting the commission or preparation by others of such acts or offences."

The Minister will acknowledge that those skills are very wide. They include:

"the making, handling or use of a noxious substance, or of substances of a description of such substances . . . the use of any method or technique for doing anything else that is capable of being done for the purposes of terrorism . . . and . . . the design or adaptation for the purposes of terrorism, or in connection with the commission or preparation of an act of terrorism or Convention offence, of any method or technique for doing anything."

The Minister will be aware of examples of the people about whom we are talking that spring to mind from experience, such as somebody who trains someone else in chemistry, which enables that person to make explosives. Another example is someone who might train someone else to fly a small aircraft, to which could be attached crop-spraying equipment through which noxious biological or chemical substances could be distributed. A further example is someone who teaches someone else to fly, and then the plane might be used as a missile, as happened in the events of 2001 in the United States. The range is vast.

I do not suppose that the House of Commons would have any trouble criminalising someone who, in the knowledge that an individual was asking for instruction in any of the areas to which I have referred, knew also that that knowledge would be used for the purposes of terrorism. There would be no difficulty in saying that such a person should be treated as a criminal if they had that knowledge. However, the way in which the Government have worded the clause means that it applies not only to someone who knows, but to someone who suspects. The use of the word "suspicion" in this instance can be very wide. Many things can give rise to suspicion, but suspicion in itself need not necessarily be grounded in fact. Someone may suspect someone else, but it may turn out that they are wrong. Suspicion is when we start feeling a little uneasy.

There are some obvious examples. There is that of a teacher of chemistry at university giving a lecture to students. The teacher is dealing with substances that could be used for explosive purposes. A student in the room asks him a question, which although it might have an innocent explanation also suggests that he might have an interest in explosive properties. Experience of chemistry students at university suggests that many of them have a great deal of interest in the explosive properties of some of the substances that they use, but for frivolous purposes rather than terrorism.

As I read the way in which the clause is drafted, unless the university lecturer immediately says to the class, "I am sorry, but this class cannot continue with the presence of the individual who asked that question", he would have committed a criminal offence. I do not think that that can be the way that the Government intend the provision to work in practice. No doubt we shall be told again about the discretion of the Director of Public Prosecutions in bringing a prosecution, but in reality we must put something into the clause that provides a safeguard for the individual.

One approach is that of amendment No. 57, which would provide that an offence cannot be committed merely on suspicion—there has to be actual knowledge. However, although that amendment is the lead amendment in the group that is before us, it is not my favoured route. The Minister will be aware that other legislation we have considered, especially money laundering provisions, also had "knows" or "suspects" as the grounds for the commission of many criminal offences—but it did at least have the saving clause that if someone believed that it was not his job to stop something, he should instead report his suspicion to a relevant authority.

That, too, is far from ideal. The point has been well made by the academic lobbies that have written, I suspect, to many right hon. and hon. Members, that to an extent university lecturers and teachers, or anyone else, will be turned into potential spies. That would be an uncomfortable situation for them.

The anxiety that has been expressed from many academic quarters—I could quote the publication if the Minister so wished—about the implications of the clause is real. Amendment No. 58 tries to deal with that by providing:

"It shall be a defence to an offence under section 6(1), for the defendant to show that he reported any suspicion to the police or in the case of an employee to his employer or other person in authority over him."

That still leaves open the criticism that the Bill will turn university lecturers into spies. It is a valid point when they say:

"We believe the fundamental bond of trust between a lecturer and their students, along with the freedom of academic inquiry, would be potentially restricted if all lecturers in certain academic fields of study were, in effect, caused to spy upon their students. They would have to make a subjective judgment about whether they had any suspicion that any of their students may use their knowledge at some point in the future to commit a terrorist act. We believe this to be too broadly written."

I look forward to hearing the Minister's response to that concern, which I think is a real one, not a frivolous one.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Labour, Rhondda 1:45 pm, 3rd November 2005

Clearly, the university lecturers are not making a frivolous point. However, at the other end of the spectrum is the chemistry lecturer or teacher who becomes convinced over time that one of the reasons for someone having joined their course is deliberately to gain information that they might then use to perpetrate terrorist offences. Would the hon. Gentleman like to rebalance a little along that spectrum?

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

That is right. We know from the past that many of the experts in weapons of mass destruction in Iraq—technical engineers—were trained at Imperial college. The foundations of the Iraqi nuclear research programme were based on the knowledge of the students who had been on the relevant courses, to such an extent that I understand that now there is an informal system of regulation to try to provide a degree of vetting of those who undertake courses that may be particularly sensitive in terms of technology being imparted to such people.

These are real issues, which I acknowledge, but we must live in the real world. A university lecturer who is delivering a course is placed in a difficult position if he begins to worry about a perfectly ordinary undergraduate. It is the same for someone who is training someone else to fly a small aircraft. The worry for him is that if something subsequently emerges about the individual, the chain will be followed up in exactly the same way as it was after the events of September 2001. He will then be questioned and might even be prosecuted and liable to 10 years' imprisonment. The Government must provide a let-out clause to ensure that people are not placed in an impossible position.

The reality of most contractual relationships is that if a student pays money to acquire a skill, the classes cannot be discontinued half way through because it is thought that he is an unsavoury character. Either there has to be a fail-safe mechanism so that the student can be reported and the teacher told whether he should continue with the classes, or there must be some protection under the law. That is what amendment No. 58 is designed to achieve.

I take amendment No. 58 seriously and regard it as more than a probing amendment. Unless the Minister can provide me with some assurance that the Government will reconsider this issue between now and next Wednesday, or can give me a positive response in this debate, I intend to put the amendment to the vote. There must be a safeguard that enables people to report to their employer or to someone in authority, saying, "I am troubled by this student but I cannot really say anything more about it." That person would know that he was protected and would not subsequently be open to prosecution.

The same thing, but in rather a different context, will apply to attendance at a terrorist training camp. I am sure that we all agree that that should be made a criminal offence. There is ample evidence that individuals have attended places that provide terrorist training—they went there because they wanted to be trained as terrorists. The difficulty arises over what happens if individuals find themselves at a place of terrorist training for good, valid or innocent reasons. There is no mechanism in clause 8 for any exoneration of such a person. The only fall-back position will be the discretion of, presumably, the Attorney-General—I hope that the terrorist training place is abroad, but I suppose that it could be in the UK—or the DPP not to prosecute. There is a way through that difficulty that improves the clause, and that is what amendment No. 59 is designed to achieved. It states:

"It shall be a defence to an offence under this section for a defendant to show on the balance of probabilities"— so the onus will be on the defendant, which is not something I usually like, but to make the Bill bite I accept that we should reverse the burden on the balance of probabilities—

"that his attendance at any place used for terrorist training was—

(a) for the purpose of preventing the instruction or training taking place; or

(b) for the purpose of gathering information about the instruction or training; or

(c) involuntary."

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Labour, Rhondda

I have some sympathy with the amendment, which is seeking to tease out the purpose of the clause. However, I am cautious about paragraph (b) because it is very broad. Anyone who merely sought instruction could use the defence that they were gathering information about instruction or training. By contrast, a journalist would be seeking to write an exposé of a training camp in another part of the world. Would the hon. Gentleman accept a different wording for his amendment?

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

A different wording is, of course, possible, and I am happy to listen to any variants that the Minister may suggest. There is nothing sacred in being a journalist, just as there is nothing sacred in being a Member of Parliament or anything else. Categorising journalists as a separate group is not necessarily helpful. Someone may wish to be present to gather information about instruction or training, and an undercover journalist is an obvious example. However, I do not see why the provision should be restricted. I fully acknowledge that it may provide a get-out clause because people could claim that they attended the camp only to gather information. A jury, however, would ask, "For what purpose?" A coherent reason would have to be provided. A BBC journalist, for example, could say that they had heard about a camp. The police were not interested, so they sent an undercover journalist to find out what was happening. If someone simply says that they went along because they were intrigued they are unlikely to be believed. Alternatively, someone could say that they heard what was going on and were worried about it, so they decided to find out what was happening before tipping off the authorities. That person needs to be covered as well as the journalist.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

Like my hon. Friend Chris Bryant, I have great deal of sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's amendment, but I am concerned about placing the onus on the defendant. A community centre—a mosque or a church, for example—could be accused of being a training centre and, indeed, nefarious activities may have taken place in part of the building. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that everyone who attends has to prove their innocence? It is a complicated area.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. I suggested that in our legal system traditionally the burden of proof lies with the prosecution who, on the whole, must prove a case. There are examples in criminal law, however, where once the main facts are established the burden of proof can be reversed, although never beyond the test of reasonable doubt. On the balance of probabilities, the defendant must give a legitimate reason for doing something. I share the hon. Gentleman's discomfort because I am not usually in favour of such legislation, but the Government have a difficulty in dealing with a particular problem. Proving beyond reasonable doubt that someone was at a camp for the purpose of gaining instruction can be a very hard test. If the purpose behind the clause is to deter people from going to camps abroad to receive terrorist training, the Government are entitled to wield a heavy club. I am not unsympathetic to their aim, but a let-out clause is needed. My amendment is to another clause so, subject to your consent, Sir Michael, unless the Minister satisfies me that my concerns will be taken on board and that the Government will return with another proposal, I am minded to seek the Committee's view and put it to the vote.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

Is the word "involuntary" in paragraph (c) of my hon. Friend's amendment intended to have a broad or narrow application? Does he mean to provide an effective defence for someone who attends a terrorist training centre after being transported there against their will, or should that defence be available to people who are employed in another part of the establishment, perhaps in an ancillary and unrelated activity?

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

I was thinking of the first group of people—I had not thought of the second. The defence of duress already exists, so the Minister may say that the term "involuntary" is unnecessary. We need to tease that out in debate, which is why I do not intend to be too prescriptive. However, reasons for attendance need to be highlighted in the Bill.

Someone might say that they did not attend a training centre voluntarily because they had been enticed there under false pretences. It was not a voluntary attendance for the purposes of the establishment. It is a difficult area, so I shall be interested to hear the views of the Minister and other Committee members. To clarify the position, the issue can be addressed without damaging the intention of the relevant clauses. In my view it must be addressed, because if it is not we will create two powers in clauses 6 and 8 with an incredibly sweeping scope that could criminalise the innocent.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I share the concerns of Mr. Grieve about clauses 6 and 8; my amendments Nos. 89 and 42 arise from the same concerns. They seek to achieve the same end by a different means, but they head in the same direction.

As for the amendment to clause 8 tabled by the hon. Member for Buckingham—

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

May I remind the hon. Gentleman that my constituency is Beaconsfield?

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

Our constituencies are not far apart.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

It is all England as far as I am concerned.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Labour, Rhondda

The hon. Gentlemen think that all England covers Scotland as well.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I disagree. My constituency is a place to the north of Scotland, which is a place just south of my constituency.

The hon. Member for Beaconsfield strikes exactly the right balance in his amendments to clause 8. The accused must show that, on the balance of probabilities, he was in a training centre for one of the three legitimate reasons given in amendment No. 59. I am concerned about the potential to fall foul of clause 6 as a result of people's suspicions. Amendment No. 42 offers a small measure of protection, because any such suspicion must be reasonable—it does not cover suspicions borne of prejudice or mere fancy. The common theme of clauses 6 and 8—we dealt with it at length yesterday—is that it is all too easy to blunder unknowingly into a situation and fall foul of the legislation. I cannot see that that is what the Government intend, but it is unfortunately the consequence of the clauses' drafting. As hon. Members said yesterday in the context of clause 1, people must be able to regulate their conduct according to this legislation, which, frankly, is not possible at the moment.

The concern that I seek to highlight in relation to clause 8 relates to "legitimate research purposes" and investigative journalism, which often performs an important function in these situations. The Government might believe that suspicions should be investigated not by journalists but by the appropriate authorities. We all know that in the real world matters can often be rather more complicated. The British Government of the day might choose, perhaps because of some wider concern, to ignore something that is going on in another country that constitutes a training place for terrorism. Yesterday, we spoke about Uzbekistan. The Government of Uzbekistan have had the benefit of a great deal of very benign doubt from the British Government, if I may put it like that. Who is to say that, if a training camp were to be established in Uzbekistan, we might not go looking too hard for it? An investigative journalist, however, might want to undertake some sort of exposé, but, under the clause, he or she could feel constrained from legitimately exercising professional freedom.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Labour, Rhondda 2:00 pm, 3rd November 2005

I was waiting to intervene because I thought that the hon. Gentleman was coming to the end of a paragraph. He refers to the term "legitimate research purposes", which is in his amendment No. 42. Are there any legitimate research purposes other than those to which he has already referred?

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I never know until I read Hansard whether I have come to the end of a paragraph. I would love to pretend that my speeches have such structure. I can anticipate some situations that would go beyond investigative journalism—some sort of academic research might need to be covered. It has to be a legitimate research purpose, and that comes back to the point made by the hon. Member for Beaconsfield—

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Or indeed, as my hon. Friend says, an NGO might be performing some legitimate research purpose.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Labour, Rhondda

The problem is the word "legitimate". The hon. Gentleman—no, it was the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) who accused the Government earlier of using inchoate language.—[Interruption.] It was Mr. Carmichael. They merge into one. The problem is that the word "legitimate" is, of itself, inchoate. It is merely a circular argument.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Legitimacy will be established according to the full facts and circumstances of any individual case. I am sorry if that sounds a little pat, but I have said that once or twice in the past.

I did not accuse the Government of using inchoate language; I commended them for using it. I thought that it was necessary. It was not the language that was inchoate, but the acts.

If there are to be various defences—it is the clause's total absence of defences that I find quite difficult—they have to be constructed in such a way that they can cover a multitude of circumstances that we might not necessarily anticipate now, and for that reason the language has to be drawn quite widely. It may not be the most elegant language, but at the end of the day I will not be pressing my amendments to a vote, although the hon. Member for Beaconsfield may well be pressing his, and if he does so, I would be minded to support him.

Photo of Sally Keeble Sally Keeble Labour, Northampton North

The hon. Gentleman referred to the different types of organisation that might be in such a place for legitimate research purposes, and he mentioned NGOs. Will he expand on his thinking on that important point?

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I do not know whether the hon. Lady was present when the hon. Member for Beaconsfield referred to people who find themselves in such a place involuntarily. Young people and children in particular may be there involuntarily. An NGO may well be there to secure their release, which I would say was an entirely legitimate purpose for an NGO. An NGO acting in that way should not fall foul of the law.

As I have already said, should the hon. Member for Beaconsfield press his amendments to a Division, for the reasons that he outlined, with which I would probably agree, the Liberal Democrats will support him.

Photo of Rob Marris Rob Marris Labour, Wolverhampton South West

I seek some reassurance from the Minister on amendment No. 58. For example, a university lecturer, lecturing in chemistry at the excellent university of Wolverhampton, could inadvertently fall foul of the clause by having suspicions but, not wishing to act on them, by ceasing to teach the pupil concerned for fear of offending the pupil. I suspect that often in such circumstances a lecturer would initially downplay his or her suspicions because they did not want to cause offence in a social sense, but they would then be committing an offence in the legal sense, and there should be a middle ground, such as is set out in amendment No. 58, although I am not sure that its wording is quite right. Such suspicions could be reported to someone in authority, with the lecturer saying, "I haven't yet confronted the student, but I want to alert you to the fact that I think that they are taking a rather unprincipled interest in the chemistry I am teaching them."

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (Education), Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Health), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

Mr. Grieve said that the range of activities is vast, and I am concerned with particular activities in Wales and north Wales, outdoor pursuit training and, pertinently in this case, white water rafting on the Tryweryn river, in which some of the people involved in the events of 7 July were engaged. The range is vast, so how will the providers of such training decide whether they should suspect someone? There is a question about the degree to which they should suspect that people engaging in otherwise entirely legitimate and innocent activities are engaged in preparation for terrorism. I understand that terrorists often engage in such innocent activities for the purposes of team building and to increase a feeling of camaraderie. They might engage in such activities as part of a larger group. There is a lack of clarity for training providers.

A further question that I worry about is not directly related to the clause, but if a group of young Asian men, possibly Muslims, turn up in white, Welsh-speaking north Wales to go white-water rafting, is the provider of the activity to suspect them merely because they are a group of young Asian males? All kinds of possibilities are opened up that are entirely undesirable.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

I support the amendments moved by the hon. Member for Beaconsfield, because I have some serious concerns about clause 6.

The Bill gives itself a universal jurisdiction and seeks to cast the net very widely over potential suspects. Many of us who represent inner-city constituencies are familiar with accusations that places such as community centres and mosques are being used for terrorist training—it is easy to make such an accusation, in the same way as it is easy for people to accuse their neighbours of being drug dealers. We must therefore be extremely careful in drawing the net so widely that people are automatically guilty by association. I appreciate that any prosecution must occur within the terms of the Attorney-General's decision, but the matter poses some serious dangers.

The Bill says that anyone who has visited a terrorist training camp anywhere in world is guilty by association, and I think that amendment No. 59 probably helps with that problem. I have visited a number of refugee camps in central America that were characterised by their opponents and neighbouring Governments as terrorist training camps. During the war in El Salvador, El Salvadorian refugee camps in Honduras were routinely accused of being terrorist training camps. I do not believe that they were terrorist training camps, but the accusation was and is made frequently. The Bill could lead to doubtful hearsay evidence of attendance at such places being used to accuse and prosecute somebody. The Minister must think carefully about amendment No. 59, which would improve clause 8.

My final point applies to the whole Bill. The tenor of the Bill is to try to charge people as widely as possible with advocacy of, preparation for or association with terrorism, which will alienate large numbers of people who already feel quite alienated from normal British society. Many young Muslims who live in inner-urban areas already feel alienated. Are they in danger of being prosecuted for attending classes in which someone speaks or going to a community centre where it is alleged that training activities have taken place? We could end up not only criminalising the innocent by detaining them for 90 days without charge, but reducing the likelihood of co-operation with the authorities on genuine cases in which someone is seriously planning to commit criminal acts either in this country or anywhere else. We should learn from the experience in Northern Ireland between 1968 and 1971, when alienation grew so rapidly that it led to 20 years of troubles. I fear that we will alienate people who do not want to be alienated and who want to live in a decent, free-speaking, democratic society, because we are in danger of driving them in the other direction.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

I congratulate you, Mr. Cook, on what I believe is a significant anniversary today. I will not reveal further details of the particular anniversary. [Hon. Members: "Go on!"] Happy birthday, Mr. Cook.

I am grateful to the hon. Members who have tabled the amendments, which highlight important aspects of the legislation. I hope that I can persuade the hon. Members for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) and for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) to alter their judgment. There are one or two issues that we can perhaps examine in greater detail, but there are other issues that we cannot.

The Committee knows that it is a requirement of the Council of Europe convention on the prevention of terrorism, to which the UK is a signatory, to criminalise terrorist training. A number of those offences are already contained within British law in section 54 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which relates to weapons training, among other things. Clause 6 adds to section 54 of the 2000 Act to close the gap on other forms of training for terrorist purposes. That includes training to use noxious or hazardous substances, providing training in certain skills, methods and techniques where one knows or suspects that the person receiving the training is doing so for the purposes of terrorism and receiving any of that training with the intention of using it for terrorist purposes. There is currently no specific offence relating to attendance at a terrorist training camp, and clause 8 is intended to close that gap by criminalising attendance at such a camp. For the sake of completeness I should stress that that does not derive from an obligation under the Council of Europe convention on the prevention of terrorism.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North 2:15 pm, 3rd November 2005

What does the Minister mean when he says, "attendance at a camp"? The danger is that the provision is so broad that it will include anyone who goes anywhere near such a camp.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

I draw my hon. Friend's attention to clause 8(1):

"A person commits an offence if he attends at any place, whether in the United Kingdom or elsewhere; while he is at that place, instruction or training of the type mentioned in section 6(1) of this Act or section 54(1) of the Terrorism Act 2000 . . . is provided there; that instruction or training is provided there wholly or partly for purposes connected with the commission or preparation of acts of terrorism or Convention offences".

I hope that that helps my hon. Friend.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

We have in mind places that train and prepare people to commit acts of terror.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

The key words are "wholly or partly". If someone attends a place where terrorist training is going on, but they know nothing about it and are training in, for example, white water rafting, they could be pulled into an incomprehensible net in which they are accused of terrorism.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

We will discuss the concept of "attending", which implies that the person who is doing the "attending" knows what they are doing. I hope that my hon. Friend is reassured that an individual must have a purpose in attending a particular place.

Amendment No. 57 removes any concept of suspicion, which, as the hon. Member for Beaconsfield has acknowledged, would significantly narrow the scope of the offence. If someone does not know that terrorist training is taking place, they will not be caught by the offence. If we remove the word, "suspects", however, the offence would not cover someone who provides training and who has every reason to suspect, but does not know as an absolute fact, that their students are planning to use their skills for terrorist purposes. What is more, that person could continue to provide such training with impunity for as long as their suspicions do not turn into certain knowledge, which is not a satisfactory situation.

The hon. Member for Beaconsfield and my hon. Friend Rob Marris have made the same point about chemistry lecturers and teachers, and I am prepared to think about that specific point a little more. But the hon. Gentleman's description of the person of unsavoury character is not specific enough. The suspicion would have to be based on specific grounds. I shall respond to him further on that point.

Amendment No. 89 takes a rather different approach. It retains, rightly, the concept of suspicion, but would qualify it with the word "reasonably". That is not necessary. Whether or not somebody suspects is simply a fact that the prosecution would have to prove in a given case.

Amendment No. 58 would provide a defence of informing the police—or, in the case of an employee, the employer—of that suspicion. I understand the intention behind it, which is to provide a defence to those who take steps to make others aware, but it is unnecessary. In reality, it is highly unlikely that someone who had been to the police and reported his suspicions would ever be prosecuted. I doubt that the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions would be forthcoming in such circumstances. However, we would certainly not want a person who had reported their suspicions to the police to have carte blanche. Their suspicions could be reported in such a way as to play those suspicions down, or they could be so ambiguous that the police would find it difficult to follow them up, and the trainer could then carry on providing the terrorist training with impunity. Even if he was given ever-stronger reasons for knowing that the training would be used for terrorist purposes, he would fall outside the scope of the clause if the amendment were to be made.

I turn to the amendments to clause 8. On amendment No. 42, it is certainly not the Government's intention to catch people who could not reasonably be expected to know that they were at a training camp. Subsection (2) provides that in order for an offence under the clause to be committed, the prosecution has to prove that the person knew or believed that training for terrorist purposes was taking place, or could not reasonably have failed to be aware of that. If the person had no reasonable grounds for believing that he was at a place where terrorist training was taking place, clearly he would not have committed any offence. The first part of the amendment is therefore unnecessary.

The second part of the amendment would provide a defence of attending a terrorist camp "for legitimate research purposes." That would create a major loophole, to say nothing of a significant definitional headache for the courts in having to interpret it. The Government do not believe that attendance at a terrorist training camp can ever be considered legitimate. It has been suggested, not least during this debate, that attendance at such a camp, perhaps by journalists or by a non-governmental organisation, may be considered valid. However, we consider that attendance at terrorist training camps by such individuals lends legitimacy to such groups and creates an environment in which terrorism may flourish. That is wholly wrong. The Government do not consider that there can be justifiable reasons for knowingly attending a terrorist training camp at which individuals are trained in acts of terror that would lead to innocent people losing their lives. Terrorism is not a valid form of political expression, in this country or abroad.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

No, because I have already heard murmurs around the Chamber of Members once again returning to the issue of the definition of terrorism. We have discussed that here today and elsewhere, and will no doubt return to it.

Until now, those who have attended terrorist training camps have been able to claim, perhaps falsely, that they were simply there in a humanitarian capacity—perhaps brewing the tea. We intend to close off such defences, which can allow people to evade punishment although they are clearly complicit in the provision of training for terrorists.

Exactly the same logic applies to much of amendment No. 59. We do not believe that those who attend terrorist training camps on the grounds that they were there just to gather information should escape the consequences of their actions.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

As regards people being accused of attending a terrorist training camp in another country, if a journalist visits that place to collect evidence and is prepared to produce it in a British court, are we then to prosecute the journalist as well as the people who have taken part in the training? That is the logic of the Minister's argument.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

I draw my hon. Friend's attention to subsection (2)(b), which says:

"a person attending at that place throughout the period of that person's attendance could not reasonably have failed to understand that instruction or training was being provided there wholly or partly for such purposes."

Nobody can unknowingly remain in that training camp—

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

No—I am trying to deal with the intervention by my hon. Friend Jeremy Corbyn. I will happily give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment.

The Government's argument to my hon. Friend is that there can be no grounds for people to attend a training camp when they know that it is a training camp and there is no legitimate purpose for them to be there. My hon. Friend may agree or disagree with that, but it is the view that the Government hold.

Photo of Robert Smith Robert Smith Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Spokesperson (Scotland)

The Minister seems unwilling to address the point that someone might be attending the terrorist camp with the express purpose of exposing it and trying to get it closed down to prevent the threat of terrorism. Under the current wording, without an amendment to provide some kind of defence, they could be found guilty of a crime when doing a public good.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

If somebody has reason to believe that they know where a training camp is, they should report it to the authorities so that they can deal with it. It is not for an individual journalist to go on a maverick expedition to ascertain the truth. If that journalist has grounds for believing that there is a training camp in place and that they are the only person to know that, they should report it to the authorities—it is not for them to undertake their own investigation.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

With the greatest respect to the Minister, it seems to me, and probably to many people, that much of the best of British journalism is indeed based on maverick expeditions. It is unwise for him to rule that out of order as a possible line of defence.

Will the Minister focus on another element of the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend Mr. Grieve—involuntary attendance? There is nothing spurious or flippant about that—it is a very important point.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

I will deal with that point specifically when I conclude my remarks.

The Opposition also suggest that there should be a defence for those who try to prevent the training. Again, we are worried that that would create a sizeable loophole. If someone knows that terrorist training is happening, the appropriate course of action is to leave that place and alert the relevant authorities.

Amendment No. 59 deals also with those who may, against their will, be at a place where terrorist training occurs. Again, I am not sure that that is necessary because clause 8 provides that a person commits an offence if he "attends" a place where training occurs. Attendance implies voluntary participation rather than being kidnapped or held against one's will. Attendance implies that the person has some intention of being there. The context is important but the change would create a loophole, which terrorists would not be slow to exploit.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

It is important to be pedantic about the matter and to explore all possible scenarios. I do not agree with the Under-Secretary about intention. There could be circumstances whereby a person is employed as part of an operation on or adjacent to the site where terrorist training takes place. The said individual could be aware of his attendance on the site but engaged in a wholly unrelated activity.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

I repeat that attendance implies a voluntary presence. That is clear. Anybody who is held against their will would not be caught by the clause. However, those who are there voluntarily, in whatever role, will be caught.

Photo of Sally Keeble Sally Keeble Labour, Northampton North 2:30 pm, 3rd November 2005

I want to consider the point about the journalists and the mad trips. If journalists had heard a rumour that something might be going on but there was no substantial suspicion, gained entry to the relevant place, found that training was happening and then left, they would not be caught by the clause because they had left and reported the matter. It would therefore be possible for journalists to act, provided that they did not knowingly enter something that was obviously a terrorist training camp. Is that how the clause would work?

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My hon. Friend is right. Journalists who found themselves in a terrorist training camp, realised what was happening, left and reported its existence to the authorities, would clearly not be caught by the offence. However, if they remained there, they could be caught. As I have made abundantly clear, if people know that terrorist training is taking place but continue to participate and be present there freely, not against their will, they could and should be caught by the clause.

I stress to the hon. Member for Beaconsfield that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I are prepared further to consider the point about the chemistry teacher or lecturer that my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West raised to ensure that the Bill contains the assurance that we all want. As to the rest, the hon. Gentleman must make his own decision.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

I have listened carefully to the Under-Secretary. He knows that I did not intend to press amendment No. 57 to the vote because I accept that "suspects" is necessary. We should therefore concentrate on the safeguards that may provide a let-out for those who would otherwise be criminalised.

I am slightly reassured by the Under-Secretary's comments on the point about the university lecturer. However, that slight reassurance is heavily tempered by his suggestion that our proposal would create ambiguity in that someone could report a suspicion to the police but continue to help in training in the knowledge that it was intended for terrorist purposes. That is rather far fetched and I am unable to accept it. Let us consider the basis for the money-laundering provisions. For all I know, solicitors or accountants may report suspicion in the belief that they could be exonerated from subsequent participation. The Under-Secretary's argument would be equally valid in that case, yet the Government were happy to provide a framework similar to our proposal.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

I wonder whether I understood my hon. Friend correctly because the scenario that he outlined is even more bizarre than I imagined. Does he suggest that the Under-Secretary depicted a scenario in which an individual is so foolish or reckless as to notify the state of the existence of a training centre of which it is not aware only to continue his nefarious activities there? He would be something of a chancer.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

The Under-Secretary certainly appeared to imply that. He argued that my suggestion that people who had a suspicion could escape prosecution by showing that they had told their employer, the head of the department where they were working in the case of the university lecturer, or the police, was somehow not appropriate because it would facilitate such training. For that reason, I intend to press amendment No. 58 to the vote because I want to encourage the Under-Secretary in the review that he will conduct between now and next Wednesday. Similarly, I shall seek to press amendment No. 59 to a vote thereafter, with your leave, Mr. Cook, because there is a real issue involved here in respect of attendance at a place where terrorist training takes place. So, with the leave of the Committee, I seek to withdraw amendment No. 57, and I hope that I shall be able, initially, to put amendment No. 58 to the vote.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: No. 58, in clause 6, page 8, line 26, at end add—

'(4A) It shall be a defence to an offence under section 6(1), for the defendant to show that he reported any suspicion to the police or in the case of an employee to his employer or other person in authority over him.'.—[Mr. Grieve.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 219, Noes 315.

Division number 76

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)

Question accordingly negatived.

Clauses 6 and 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.