I beg to move amendment 29, page 1, line 8, at end insert—
‘(2) This section shall be repealed on
(3) The date specified in a resolution of both Houses of Parliament under subsection (2) may be modified by subsequent resolutions of both Houses of Parliament.”
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Clause 1 stand part.
Amendment 17, in schedule 1, page 30, line 14, at end insert—
“(c) the individual subject whose travel document has been removed may appeal against this decision in the courts over the evidence on which conditions in paragraph 2(1)(a) and (b) of this schedule were met.”
Government amendment 13.
Schedule 1 stand part.
New clause 8—Police bail for terrorism suspects—
‘(1) Section 34 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1) after “offence” insert “or on suspicion of being a terrorist under section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000”.
(3) In subsection (2)(b) after “Act” insert “or section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000".
(4) After subsection (5) insert—
“(5A) A grant of bail under this section shall last no longer than six months from the date of release.”
As an alternative to the ad hoc passport seizure and retention scheme set out at Clause 1 and Schedule 1 of the Bill this new clause would make police bail, with conditions, available for those suspected of terrorism.
Mr Streeter, I welcome you to the Chair of the Committee. I rise on behalf of my hon. Friends to speak to amendments 29 and 17.
I hope you will allow me a little leeway, Mr Streeter, before we begin the debate. Although this Bill has nothing to do with what has happened in Sydney, Australia, I think it would be appropriate for the Committee to recognise that there has been a serious incident there and for us to express our condolences in relation to those who have died as a result. It reminds us that terrorism and terrorist activity are never far from our shores and from individuals in our communities as well. That is why it is important that we look at the new clauses and amendments before us in what will be, I hope, a positive discussion and debate.
The Government believe there is a need to legislate on counter-terrorism. There is a terrorism threat in the United Kingdom: on
Order. I am reluctant to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but a lot of background conversations are going on in the Chamber and we can hardly hear the most important speech that is being made. Will colleagues please keep the noise down?
I am grateful to you, Mr Streeter.
It is important that we recognise that terrorist attacks are, sadly, highly likely. According to the Government’s own analysis in the explanatory notes:
“Approximately 500 individuals of interest to the police and security services have travelled from the UK to Syria and the region since the start of the conflict. It is estimated half of these have returned. In the context of this heightened threat to our national security, the provisions of the Bill” are designed to address those matters.
My hon. Friends the Members for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) and for Sedgefield (Phil Wilson) and I have tabled amendments 29 and 17 because there needs to be a debate about two particular issues. If the Bill’s measures are agreed by both Houses they will become law, but there will be no end date or review date for the powers. Amendment 29 seeks to ensure that clause 1
“shall be repealed on
It goes on:
“The date specified in a resolution of both Houses of Parliament under subsection (2) may be modified by subsequent resolutions of both Houses of Parliament.”
The amendment is therefore designed to create, in effect, a sunset clause to review the legislation, which is not unusual for terrorism legislation. It would not demand that we revisit the whole clause by seeking to enact new legislation; it would simply require a resolution to allow the provisions to continue. The amendment has merit and I will willingly discuss it with the Minister.
Although I agree with the shadow Minister that that amendment does, in principle, have some merit and that it focuses the mind on the fact that we need consolidating legislation to deal with a whole range of different terrorism-related issues, does he not recognise that the raw logic of his proposal is that if such a sunset clause is agreed, the provisions could end up entirely unprotected if the Government did not introduce any new legislation at that point? That would not be a desirable state of affairs.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has looked carefully at amendment 29, which states:
“This section shall be repealed on
Therefore, it does not require new legislation; it simply requires a resolution of this House, which could be agreed in an hour-and-a-half debate, as has happened in the past. Indeed, clause 17(5) states:
“Subsections (1) to (4) are repealed on
so there is already a remit for a resolution to review the provisions. Amendment 29 has a similar purpose.
Amendment 17 is slightly different. It states that, if an individual has had their travel document removed under the provisions of clause 1 and schedule 1, they
“may appeal against this decision in the courts over the evidence on which conditions…of this schedule were met.”
At the moment there is no appeal procedure for an individual who has lost their passport, and that needs to be considered.
On amendment 29, clause 1 introduces schedule 1, which defines a number of areas and sets out a course of action relating to the seizure of a passport from a person suspected of involvement in terrorism offences. Under the heading “Interpretation”, the schedule states that immigration officers, customs officials, qualified officers and senior police officers can remove a passport from an individual. By “passport”, it means either a United Kingdom passport or one issued by another nation. The schedule defines involvement in terrorism-related activity as the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism; conduct that facilitates the commission of terrorism; conduct that gives encouragement to terrorism; and conduct that gives support or assistance to terrorism. The schedule also includes powers to search for, inspect and retain travel documents. Authorisation for that will not just be sought from a senior police officer; the schedule also includes conditions for how that authorisation will be agreed.
I refer to those points because they are definitive statements. They may or not be appropriate or work in practice, but whatever the Minister tells us today he will accept that the Prime Minister indicated in his announcement at the end of August that the measures would be introduced. It is now December, which means that the Bill has been drafted speedily. I make no general criticism of that, but even the Bill’s explanatory notes state that there has been limited consultation on a range of aspects, even though the matters covered in schedule 1 involve serious powers.
The schedule allows for the period in which the document can be removed and retained by the judicial authority to be extended from the initial 14-day period to 30 days. Paragraph 14 states:
“This paragraph applies where a person’s travel documents are retained”.
Paragraph 14(2) gives the Secretary of State a great power:
“The Secretary of State may make whatever arrangements he or she thinks appropriate in relation to the person… during the relevant period” and
“on the relevant period coming to an end.”
The Secretary of State is also bound by schedule 1 to produce a code of practice covering training, the exercise of functions by constables, the information to be given, and how and when that information is to be given. The code of practice will be published in draft and laid before this House. All those matters are covered by schedule 1.
I have gone through the schedule in detail because it covers an awful lot of potential activity that may or may not work as the Government intend it to. The purpose of our proposed sunset clause is not to say that Her Majesty’s Opposition oppose clause 1 or schedule 1, because, although some Members might, we do not. Our amendment addresses the fact that the schedule proposes creating a complex new code of practice relating to the criteria covering individual officers and others who can exercise the powers, including removing the passports of not only British citizens but citizens of foreign countries.
If we enact that in the next few weeks, it will be a serious piece of legislation. In view of the reasons the Minister has given for introducing the provisions, it would do no harm for him to consider—this is the purpose of amendment 29—a date for us formally to allow the legislation to fall, unless the House is satisfied with the original proposal. By December 2016, there will have been a general election and the House of Commons will be composed of whoever has been elected, and whoever is the Minister will be able to review the legislation to see whether it works. They would then be able to table a motion to pass a resolution allowing the legislation to continue unamended.
The shadow Minister is making some fair points and I think the whole House would broadly support the idea that we need to consider how the Bill will be applied in practice. We all recognise that the new powers raise some legitimate concerns relating to civil liberties. Rather than having a sunset clause, has the right hon. Gentleman given some thought to the idea of imposing on the Home Office an obligation, within a year of the Bill being enacted, to produce a full report on the workings of this novel change in procedure?
We did consider those matters and I originally drafted an amendment that sought to do that. I could have tabled it last Thursday but I decided to focus our debate on whether the legislation is fit for purpose. I am not saying that it is not; I am simply saying that there are severe changes in the Bill that restrict individuals, give powers to police officers and others, set out a new code of practice and give a range of powers to the Secretary of State to do what they wish with detained individuals. If the Opposition are to support the clause this evening, as we will, it must be reviewed at some point in the future. The mechanism we suggest means that a Minister, whoever that might be, must review the situation and either table a motion or, if the legislation ultimately falls, table a replacement piece of legislation in time for
I am not seeking to cause difficulties for the Minister with amendment 29. I simply want him to consider in detail his proposals in clause 1 and schedule 1 and whether we should have a sunset clause. We want such a clause because one of the gaps in the legislation means that there is no mechanism for appeal in the event of the powers in schedule 1 or clause 1 being exercised against an individual. An individual's travel documents will be removed for 14 days, and potentially for 30 days, but in the meantime there is no mechanism through which they can appeal effectively against that decision. Amendment 17 allows for an appeal in the courts on the subject of
“the evidence on which conditions in paragraph 2(1)(a) and (b) of this schedule were met”.
The Committee will agree that the right of British citizens to travel freely, unrestricted by state interference, is crucial and historical.
I welcome the hon. Gentleman back to this place, as this is the first opportunity I have had to do so. I shall wait to see what the Minister says, but I am minded to say that it is important that the right of appeal is paramount. The Minister might or might not accept the amendment and I will have to listen carefully to his argument, but if he does not accept it there will be an opportunity to test the will of the Committee should we so wish.
I was coming on to those points, but I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question. It might help if I outlined some of the circumstances. If an individual’s passport is removed, it will be because there is reasonable suspicion that he is involved in some activities that mean he should not travel abroad. That suspicion might be well founded—I am trying to be fair, and I doubt that the power would be exercised if it were not well founded—but there still might be occasions when an individual was travelling to a difficult, challenging country for a family wedding, a holiday, an employment interview, or for other perfectly legitimate reasons. The security services might wrongly identify an individual; that can occasionally happen. The individuals responsible might have challenges for a range of reasons. The information supplied to the security services—for example, by a parent whose adult child is travelling—may be wrong.
The simple point is that if that power is exercised, the individual loses their passport and their ability to travel and so might well miss a job interview, a family wedding or a holiday and might be wrongly marked out in their social circles. That could happen. I am not saying that it will, but it could. Amendment 17 is meant to ensure that if that individual feels that they have been wrongly treated, they have a right to ask for a review by a court. It is reasonable to do that under UK law.
After two weeks, the individual will get their passport back anyway. This is a really wishy-washy way of carrying on, and we should either be confident that this is a good measure or not. They will get their passport back within two weeks.
This is a very strong and effective power, which the Opposition support as it will ensure that measures are taken against individuals who might go abroad for terrorist purposes, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman accepts that one of the balances of strong powers is the right to strong redress. It might only be for 14 days, as he says, or it might be for only 30 in due course, but that could mean losing a £5,000 or £6,000 holiday with no compensation, missing a family wedding or a person’s own wedding or losing a job opportunity for what could be a case of mistaken identity.
I will let the right hon. and learned Gentleman intervene, because I know that he has expressed concerns about the power. In a very helpful article in The Guardian on
“Allowing police to confiscate passports at the UK border to prevent an aspiring young jihadi from leaving for Syria via Istanbul may be justifiable on good intelligence…But unless there is some rapid means of review there must be the likelihood that mistakes will occur as the use of this administrative power increases and perfectly innocent…people will find their travel plans wrecked.”
I expressed that concern and it remains a concern, but the interesting point about amendment 17 is that if we were to allow an appeal, as the right hon. Gentleman describes it, how quickly could such an appeal be heard and would it have a significant impact on the shortness of time in which a passport might be capable of being returned, given that we now know that there will be two weeks, or 14 days, for that return to take place? I listened carefully to what he has to say and it seems to me that he is making a good point, but I would also be interested to hear from my hon. Friend the Minister and from the right hon. Gentleman how such a system could be made to work in reality.
Thank you, Mr Streeter. I take the point made by Mr Grieve, but we are in opposition, which is a difficult and cold place. We do not have the officials that the Minister has. The principle is that we believe there should be an examination of the right of appeal on any decision that has taken. The purpose of amendment 17 is to place that argument before the Government so that they can say whether they believe there should be any right of appeal or whether they believe that 14 days or 30 days is sufficient, for the reasons given by Julian Smith and by the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield, and that there is no need for an appeal as it would not resolve the issue. It is inherent in any decision of this seriousness that an individual should be able to challenge a decision on the grounds of mistaken identity or the grounds of loss of service in a court.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way and I apologise, Mr Streeter, for taking up too much time. I shall be brief and make more frequent interventions, if I am allowed them. It seemed to me when I made that point back in September that a particular concern was somebody who might be prevented from going away for a wedding or for employment reasons and who wanted a rapid review, but I am also realistic about whether such a rapid review can be made available in practice. That was why I raised at a subsequent date the other question of whether we should consider compensation if somebody were disadvantaged.
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for that point and we probably agree on the principle. The purpose of amendment 17 is to give the Minister the opportunity to tease out the practicalities of deliverability for any form of appeal. I take the view—it may be old-fashioned, but that is not for me to say—that if someone is effectively charged with involvement in terrorism, which is why a passport will be removed, that is a serious initial action by the state against an individual. The individual might be the subject of mistaken identity or factually wrong information might have been given, whether maliciously or not. They might be travelling for perfectly legitimate purposes, as I have said. In each of those cases, they should ultimately have the right to say to a third party, “I appreciate that these facts have been put before the passport remover, but they are fundamentally wrong and I demand my passport back.” That must be possible in a more speedy and effective way than is the case under the Bill.
Is it not the case, if we believe in fairness and the rule of law, that the stronger the action taken against an individual by the state, the more powerful the argument is that the individual should have the right of appeal? Without the right of appeal, the Bill gives the state excessive powers.
That is an important point.
As the Committee will know, under schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000, there is the power to stop and question individuals who are suspected of involvement in terrorism. The annual report on the Terrorism Acts by the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC, that was published in July this year gave facts and figures about that power. It included the number and ethnicities of the people who have been examined under schedule 7 in recent years. Although he noted that there was not overwhelming evidence that the power was exercised in a “racially discriminatory manner”, he noted:
“It remains imperative that police should exercise their considerable powers in a sensitive, well-informed and unbiased manner”.
Would the proposal in amendment 17 not be stronger if there was a time limit within which the Home Office had to reply to the application to remove a passport, so that the court would have to consider the matter in a timely manner? There is a parallel in the people who are denied entry to this country or are deported from this country and who have to appeal from a third country. The fact that there is no time limit means that the injustices that such cases often involve can go on for a very long time.
That suggestion is worthy of consideration.
The official Opposition tabled an amendment to say that there should be a right of appeal for the reasons that the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield set out. That concern is shared by Members across the House. It is a basic right of appeal. We can look at how it could be exercised, as ever. We might be able to improve the amendment technically. However, if we had not tabled amendment 17, we would not be having a debate about the right to appeal against this measure. The purpose of the debate is to say to the Minister that we think there should be a right of appeal. If the Minister is sympathetic to that idea, he can take it away.
I guessed that that was the case. I was being slightly ironic. One issue with the notion that we could have appeals is that if there was a great emergency and the passports of many dozens or even many hundreds of people were seized, the appeals process would become unwieldy. One hopes that such a situation will not come about. If there was a small number of individuals at any one time, it would be quite manageable, but if there was a large number, that would make it more difficult.
We do not yet know on how many occasions the power will be exercised. I suspect that a vast number of passports will not be seized, but we cannot anticipate that. According to the Government’s explanatory notes,
“500 individuals of interest to the police…have travelled from the UK to Syria…since the start of the conflict.”
That has happened over the past 18 months to three years. The number of individuals travelling out of the UK who may be of interest might be small, but that does not mean that they should not have the right of appeal because, as I have said, mistakes can be made.
I am grateful to the shadow Minister for referring to me as his hon. Friend. I remind my right hon. Friend that, as he would have been well aware when he was in the Northern Ireland Office, under the Belfast agreement, which was signed on Good Friday, people who are born in Northern Ireland are entitled to citizenship of the Irish Republic and the United Kingdom, and to hold the passport of the United Kingdom, the passport of the Irish Republic or both. If those travel documents were confiscated, would it be the Irish passport and the British passport for those who have both? There has to be some form of appeals mechanism if they are confiscated, because the issue is even more complicated if people are leaving or entering Northern Ireland.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that comment. She will see that under paragraph 1(7) of schedule 1, passport means “a United Kingdom passport” or
“a passport issued by or on behalf of the authorities of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom, or by or on behalf of an international organisation”.
It is imperative that we consider the issue of appeals because foreign citizens or citizens of the UK might have two passports.
If information is provided about an individual, this measure will allow the serious act of removing their passport and stopping them travelling. Although it will no doubt be very well researched, very well executed and very well managed by the security services, the police, immigration officers and others who are allowed to undertake these matters under schedule 1, the possibility of wrong or disputable facts will always be there. Those wrong or disputable facts will mean that a UK citizen loses their liberty, their passport and their ability to travel. We need to be cognisant of that issue.
Further to the point that was made by Lady Hermon, if a passport that was issued by a state other than the UK was seized, does my right hon. Friend envisage that that state would seek to join the appeal against the seizure? Does he believe that Ministers have fully taken account of the diplomatic implications of that?
Again, that demonstrates why the issue of appeals is important. Paragraph 1(7) of schedule 1 refers to
“a passport issued by or on behalf of the authorities of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom”.
I can envisage a situation in which an individual who is the citizen of and holds the passport of not, dare I say it, the Irish Republic, but another country in the European Union or even a country outside the European Union, but who is resident in or travelling from the UK, is suspected for a range of reasons of involvement in terrorism-related activity under paragraph 1(10) of schedule 1. Again, the UK would be in the difficult situation of depriving an individual from another country of their passport on the basis of a range of suspicions that may or may not prove to be factual. I am in danger of repeating myself and am being careful not to do so, but we need to examine such facts carefully. The purpose of amendment 17 is to stimulate a debate about that.
Will the right hon. Gentleman clarify what is his mechanism for appeal? Surely the measure allows border control officers to take a passport without giving too many reasons and, after two weeks, for a judicial review to take place. How would his appeal process work? How would we avoid giving away intelligence during the appeal that could jeopardise the United Kingdom’s security?
That is a valid point, but judicial review is not what I would call a cheap and easy process. It could not be accessed quickly and easily by an individual who had lost their passport in the circumstances set out in schedule 1. The hon. Gentleman will see that we have included in amendment 17 a reference to appeal “in the courts”. That is intended to stimulate debate—it could be a magistrates court, a court sitting in private or a Crown court. We simply say that the appeal should be in a court. The schedule allows the Secretary of State to produce a code of practice, which could indicate which court should deal with such matters and whether it could sit in private. It would be reasonable for the code of practice to do that.
My purpose in tabling amendment 17 was to focus on the issue of appeals. I will be happy to withdraw it if the Minister provides reassurance, or we might revisit the matter in the other place. However, since the publication of the Bill and Second Reading, we have felt that we needed some mechanism for examining the case for appeals.
I have detained the House for far too long, but I wish to say two final things. First, amendment 29 is simply about a date of review and would not detract from the Bill in any way, shape or form. It would simply provide a date by which the Secretary of State would have to examine clause 1 and decide either to continue it or bring forward new legislation. One reason why we need that review is that there is no appeal mechanism, which amendment 17 would provide.
Secondly, I will listen to what Caroline Lucas has to say about her new clause 8. I have some concerns about her proposal for police bail for terrorism suspects. We need to think carefully before using police bail if a Government have decided to remove someone’s passport. I do not wish to comment further on the new clause at this point, but I will listen to her remarks.
I hope that the Committee will consider my points about the Opposition’s amendments, and I hope for a positive response from the Minister.
I would indeed like to say a few words about new clause 8, which I tabled. As we know, there will be situations in which it is necessary to prevent a person from leaving the country, but I would argue that the police already have a tried and tested way of preventing suspects from doing so—the power of arrest, combined with the ability to require passport surrender if a suspect is arrested and released without charge. However, passport surrender is not currently possible in the case of those arrested on suspicion of being a terrorist under section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000, as conditional police bail cannot be granted following such arrests. That anomaly means that there is a currently a loophole in the ability of law enforcement to require passport surrender of terrorism suspects. It would be much simpler to remove that loophole than to proceed with the convoluted passport retention scheme set out in clause 1 and schedule 1.
The safest and fairest way to prevent suspects from leaving the country to participate in terrorist activity would be for police officers to use their powers of arrest. If an individual was considered to pose an immediate risk to the country, they could be detained rather than left to roam the UK for 30 days, as would happen under the Government’s proposal. If they did not pose an immediate risk, they could be detained and bailed, and their passport could be surrendered as part of the process.
Including that provision in the Bill and removing the bar on police bail would be much simpler and fairer than a convoluted passport surrender scheme. It would deliver the same practical result as the Government seemingly wish to achieve—preventing individuals from leaving the country—but would do so in a way that, crucially, protected against misuse and discrimination.
My new clause is intended to give the police the powers they need, and to enable them to exercise them consistent with upholding suspects’ human rights. That would act as a greater deterrent, by allowing for arrest rather than summary passport seizure, and would help to overcome some of the in-built discrimination that exists in relation to stop-and-search and would inevitably be part of a stop-and-seizure approach to passports.
I do not wish to cast judgment on the two proposed processes, but does the hon. Lady not recognise that the arrest and bail process would probably involve a higher threshold than mere passport seizure? Considerably fewer people would therefore be subject to it, so it might not make the rest of us much safer. The Government’s intention in using passport seizure is to stop those who wish to escape these shores—they will not necessarily be guilty of any offence before doing so.
I thank the hon. Gentleman, but I do not think his point stands up. Under new clause 8, an individual considered to pose an immediate risk to the country could be detained rather than being left to the roam the UK, as would happen under the Government’s proposal. If they were not considered to pose an immediate risk, they could be bailed and their passport seized. Seizing a passport as part of the bail process would be more effective than what I believe he proposes.
The problem is not that there would be a risk of people roaming through the UK and being a direct and immediate risk to other UK citizens. It is that they might leave these shores to carry out terrorist activity abroad.
I do not see that as being more of a risk under my new clause, the advantage of which would be that we would not be involved in a so-called stop-and-seizure approach, which we know is often not effective. Summary stop powers do not yield effective results—Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary has found that in most years since 2001, more than 1 million people have been stopped and searched, but only 9% were subsequently arrested. If the summary sanction were the removal of a passport, that failure rate would be too high. In addition to risking injustice for the individuals concerned, such an approach would serve to perpetuate a climate of fear and suspicion rather than encourage good relations between different communities in British society.
The Home Secretary herself recently recognised the prejudicial nature of stop-and-search powers and sought to scale them back. She stated:
“Nobody wins when stop and search is misused. It can be an enormous waste of police time and damage the relationship between the public and police.”
It appears odd to legislate for a new stop-and-search-type power when the problems that such an approach causes have been clearly identified and when it is contrary to the Home Secretary’s policy on stop-and-search away from the borders.
I do not think that my suggestions in new clause 8 would reduce our ability to ensure that we are secure. On the contrary, they would make us better able to know where people are, and crucially, they would mean that we would not use so-called stop-and-seizure powers, which have been discredited and are not very effective.
I am grateful to Mr Hanson for the opportunity to debate a number of provisions relating to part 1 of the Bill, particularly the power of passport seizure and, most relevantly, schedule 1.
The right hon. Gentleman highlighted some of the real-life events that are taking place elsewhere. We will all have been shocked to see the pictures on the television screens during the past few hours. The incident in Sydney is profoundly shocking, and it is deeply distressing to hear of the fatalities that have arisen from the hostage situation. The facts are still emerging, but our thoughts are with the families of those caught up in the tragic events. We all stand with the Australian Government and the people of Australia in utterly condemning anyone who would seek to use violence to advance political ends. The incident reminds us again that we must all be vigilant.
I will turn shortly to the new clauses and amendments, including amendment 13, which is in the name of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. In the light of the debate, however, I think it will be helpful if I make some general points about the power of temporary passport seizure and its importance.
The increasing number of people travelling to engage in terrorism-related activities overseas, and returning to the UK with enhanced terrorist-related capabilities, means that we need an additional power to disrupt an individual’s ability to travel at short notice. The Government are clear: we will provide the police with the powers they need to stop people travelling to fight for terrorist organisations overseas. Clause 1 makes provision for schedule 1 to the Bill, which provides for the
“seizure and temporary retention of travel documents” at port by the police. Under the schedule the police—and designated Border Force officers at the discretion of the police—can seize and retain a travel document when they have reasonable grounds to suspect that a person at a port in Great Britain intends to leave to engage in terrorism-related activity outside the UK. That power can also be exercised at a port in the border area in Northern Ireland.
Right hon. and hon. Members have highlighted different measures, and existing powers have different tests and focus on different things. The new measure is significant because it will give the police, or Border Force officers directed by the police, power to seize travel documents, including passports and travel tickets, at a port to disrupt immediate travel—I underline that point—based on “reasonable suspicion” that an individual is travelling for terrorist-related activity. The passport is not cancelled and the document can be held for up to 14 days or, as we have heard, 30 days if the retention period is extended by a court.
This important Bill does not just apply to international terrorism, it applies to terrorism, and we in Northern Ireland have been afflicted for years by terrorism waged by dissident republicans. Will the Minister confirm whether he has been to and driven along the border between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland? How many border posts and Border Force officials did he meet on that trip?
I had the pleasure of visiting Belfast on a number of occasions when I was security Minister, but I have not travelled along the direct route that the hon. Lady highlights. The important point is that the power clearly applies to people who are seeking to leave the United Kingdom to engage in terrorist-related activity outside the UK. We are arguing for such a power because of the effective way that it can disrupt terrorist-related activity.
I am sincerely grateful to the Minister for giving way because this is a really important point. We have a very open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and we are the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a frontier with another EU member state. There is no border built; there is no wire or wall, and it is full of little lanes and easy access to the United Kingdom. I am extremely anxious to ensure that Northern Ireland does not become the soft underbelly of the rest of the United Kingdom for those who would wish us ill or want violence in this country. Will the Minister consider increasing the number of Border Force officials along the porous border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland?
I understand the hon. Lady’s sincerity and the manner with which she has advanced her point, and we must be vigilant about risks and threats that may be posed to the United Kingdom, whether in Northern Ireland or any other part of the UK. There is good work between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Garda Siochana, and the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland have a clear joint interest in ensuring border security. Indeed, we very much consider the common travel area to be an external border, which is why we work closely with the Republic of Ireland to ensure that it remains effective and in no way goes down the path mentioned by the hon. Lady. The Government must maintain that sense of vigilance and focus.
I represent a border constituency and we do not particularly want the border demarcated further in ways that applied historically. Schedule 1 defines the border area as one mile from the border with the Republic of Ireland. Is that as the crow flies, or when travelling? If there is a dispute about where the person was stopped and had their passport seized, how will the question of where the seizure took place be resolved?
Ultimately, those facts will concern any challenge that may be made, and a review may be undertaken of the proper exercise of the power and oversight provided for in the Bill. The right hon. Member for Delyn commented on the nature of the protections in the Bill. I hope that will assure Mark Durkan about the way such things would be advanced and protected, and that oversight is provided to deal with the issues he has raised.
Will the person whose passport or travel documents are removed be informed of the reason they have been taken away? The maximum time the passport can be held without going through a legal process is two weeks. When does the Minister envisage that there will be a review of that decision, and when can the person reasonably expect to get their documents back and be allowed to travel? The points made by my right hon. Friend Mr Hanson were clear—the issue is one of access to a judicial process, rather than an executive decision, which is effectively what the removal of the documents would be.
The hon. Gentleman leads me neatly to mention a number of protections in the Bill, and say how we will ensure that the exercise of this power is proportionate and suitably circumscribed by a range of stringent safeguards. Some of the points about the need for speed and assurances about the exercise of such powers have been well made. A powerful power is being advanced in schedule 1, and those who exercise it must be satisfied that it is necessary to retain the relevant documentation. The different mechanisms available to challenge a decision underscore why we regard current protections as proportionate to this power.
In essence, officers who might exercise the power would be governed by a specific code of practice that would specify how they are to use it. Paragraph 2 of schedule 1 states that the constable must have
“reasonable grounds to suspect that the person is there—” in the port—
“with the intention of leaving the United Kingdom for the purpose of involvement in terrorism-related activity”.
The officer then has to seek a further review by a senior police office of at least superintendent level to confirm that the power is appropriate in that case. There is a further review by an officer of chief superintendent rank within 72 hours of the officer’s findings, and that is referred to the chief constable who must remain satisfied with the case. Even from an administrative perspective there are a significant number of checks and balances to ensure that the power is being exercised effectively. If the documents are to be retained beyond the 14-day period, there is a court process and a review to consider how further oversight should be provided.
I completely understand why the Government have decided that within the 14-day period there should be no appeal or review, but I cannot understand why paragraph 8 of schedule 1 prohibits or prevents the judge from considering whether there is a basis for the order or retention in the first place. All the judge can do is ensure that those who are considering the matter are doing so diligently. He is not able to look at the foundation and basis for the entire retention—at whether there are reasonable grounds for suspicion.
My hon. and learned Friend highlights the mechanisms provided in paragraph 5 of schedule 1 on the manner in which the judge must be satisfied with the continued need to retain the documentation. His point is the basis or central tenet for the use of the power in the first place. Indeed, I think this relates to the point advanced by the right hon. Member for Delyn in one of his amendments. Judicial review is available to challenge the basis of the original decision. Therefore, there is a judicial right to question and challenge the basis on which the officer has used the power in the first place, as set out in paragraph 2 of schedule 1. We therefore believe there is a direct means to be able to challenge the underlying decision.
The Minister refers to a point raised by my right hon. Friend Mr Hanson. Judicial review is an extremely difficult and expensive route to secure justice. The point about magistrates, as Mr Cox says, is the diligent and expeditious use of an administrative power. Where there are grounds for a simpler right to appeal relates to a point made by Caroline Lucas, which is where someone has suffered repeated instances of having their documents taken off them. On that basis, a swift appeal system would at least give some confidence that it was not being used indiscriminately.
For the relevant document to need to be retained, the provisions in paragraph 5 of schedule 1 must remain outstanding: there must be consideration of whether the Secretary of State would use the royal prerogative, whether there are charges to be brought against that person, or whether there are other measures that may be relevant. The requirement still needs to be satisfied, which is why we have brought in the 14-day provision to ensure direct oversight and checks and balances through the mechanisms in the schedule.
On cost, following further discussions with the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice, it may be helpful to clarify and expand on the evidence I gave to the Joint Committee on Human Rights on
Legal aid would potentially be available for the magistrates court proceedings provided for in the Bill, but at present that would be a discretionary decision for the director of legal aid casework. The Government are considering whether it would be proportionate to bring those proceedings within the scope of the general legal aid scheme to put individuals’ access to legal aid, subject to the statutory means and merits tests, beyond doubt. Legal aid is available under the general civil legal aid scheme for judicial review challenges by those subject to the temporary passport seizure power and the temporary exclusion order power, subject to the statutory means and merits tests.
Returning to the provisions, a code of practice will provide clear guidance on how police and Border Force officers will exercise the powers. The Government will carefully review all responses received to the consultation that we propose to undertake in respect of the code, to ensure it contains effective guidance and provides clarity to officers on how the new powers should operate. The power is a proportionate and prudent response to the threat we face. It will allow the police to disrupt travel at short notice when there is reasonable suspicion that someone is travelling for terrorism-related purposes.
Let me now turn to the amendments before us. I shall deal first with those from the Opposition. Amendment 17 seeks to provide a process for individuals to appeal to the courts against the decision to remove their travel documents at port. As I have described, the Bill already provides a specific court procedure. In addition, the individual can decide, at any time, to seek a judicial review of the initial passport seizure in the High Court, where closed material proceedings may be available to allow consideration of any sensitive material. I do not believe, therefore, that the amendment adds a significant additional safeguard to the use of this power.
Amendment 29 seeks to introduce a sunset clause to the temporary passport provisions. Doing so may send an inadvertent message to would-be jihadist travellers of our lack of intent to deal with the threat they pose if they believed that the powers would end in two years’ time. Terrorism-related travel is a serious and ongoing issue. Our law enforcement agencies need to have a range of tools at their disposal to deal with it in a necessary and proportionate way. I wish we could be confident that the conflicts that attract these individuals will be resolved in two years, but it would be imprudent to plan on that basis.
I am glad the right hon. Gentleman raises that point. The parallel I think he seeks to draw is not relevant in this context. As he well knows, the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, to which this provision relates, contains a sunset clause because of the need to have further and wider debate on communications data. What we are talking about here is a specific and focused power to deal with the immediate operational needs of our police and law enforcement agencies at the border to disrupt terrorist travel. Therefore, the parallels he seeks to adduce between the two clauses do not actually stack up.
The Minister referred to sending out a very clear signal to jihadists who wish us ill in this country. I agree entirely and I am sure the Committee agrees too. May I invite the Minister to confirm that the Bill will also apply to dissident republicans who sit in the Republic of Ireland and wish to bomb and murder prison officers and other members of the security forces within the United Kingdom, particularly in Northern Ireland, so that the message is as loud and clear to dissident republicans as it is to jihadists?
Terrorism can take all sorts of different forms. The Bill is rightly not specific on what terrorist-related activity outside of the UK may be relevant, so I think the power is appropriately drafted.
Mark Durkan raised a point about the one-mile limit and I am conscious that I have not addressed it. The Northern Ireland border area is defined in the same terms as in other legislation, such as schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The Northern Ireland border is one mile from the Republic of Ireland as the crow flies. I hope that provides certainty.
Let me now turn to the amendments tabled by Caroline Lucas. As she has explained, they would remove the temporary passport seizure provision in its entirety. She also flagged up a point relating to the availability of police bail. I am sure the hon. Lady takes public safety extremely seriously, particularly in the current climate where we are facing the biggest challenge to our security since the horrific attacks of 9/11. The nature of terrorism-related arrests inherently means that the exact risk to the public from an individual, or their suspected involvement in a terrorist plot, may not be well understood at the early stages of an investigation. That is part of the reason why the police also have the power, 48 hours after the arrest of a terrorist suspect, to apply to the courts for a warrant of further detention to extend the initial detention up to a maximum of 14 days, subject to the seven-day review. To grant bail as the hon. Lady would want to, and at the stage she would want to when significant parts of an investigation are still ongoing, would increase the risk of potentially dangerous individuals being released before they have been sufficiently investigated. That is a risk the Government are not prepared to take.
In preparing for this debate, I noted that when the right hon. Member for Delyn was a Minister back in 2009 he made exactly the self-same point. There are certain issues we disagree on, but his statements on the record underline the issues relating to the use of police bail and other relevant factors. We continue to judge, responding to David Anderson on this very point, that the granting of bail is not appropriate.
Plenty of experts who agree that our security is the ultimate goal also see that my amendment is more robust than the Government’s proposal. With bail, one can attach a wide range of conditions, including curfews, restrictions and so on, and it is simply an anomaly for our security forces not to have this tool in their toolbox should they need it for terrorism.
The hon. Lady has made that point several times, and she has been consistent in advancing her case, but there is a balance of risk, and we judge that bail in these circumstances would not be appropriate because of our fundamental focus on protecting national security. Furthermore, the Bill provides appropriate safeguards in several different ways to ensure that it is proportionate and meets the issues of necessity.
“make it clear that the Secretary of State can comply with the obligations” in paragraph 19
“to publish a draft of the code…to consider representations, to make any appropriate modifications” in the light of those representations
“and to lay the draft before Parliament by doing so before the Bill receives Royal Assent.”
Without the amendment, it could be argued that such things would only be valid if done after the Bill becomes an Act. The amendment removes any doubt about that.
With the assurances I have given, I hope that the right hon. Member for Delyn and the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion will be minded not to press their amendments.
I am grateful to the Minister for his explanations and for reminding me that I have form on police bail as a Minister in the last Government. He will be pleased to know that although I gave Caroline Lucas the opportunity to make her case, we do not support it, having listened to it. We might have form on this issue, but that form is consistent with our approach to the matter.
Our amendment 29, on a sunset clause, and amendment 17, on the right of appeal, still bear merit. The Minister has not convinced me that a sunset clause would be damaging in the long term to the Bill. Neither, given the concerns of Members such as Mr Grieve and others about appeals, am I persuaded not to press amendment 17.
I urge the right hon. Gentleman to think carefully about pressing his amendment. What sort of message will it send to terrorists and people who threaten our country if he goes down this wishy-washy path of supporting the Bill but saying we should review it in 18 months’ time?
Having been counter-terrorism and policing Minister in the last Government, I know the extent of the threats we face, perhaps even more so than the hon. Gentleman, and I do not think that anybody has ever accused me of being wishy-washy on these matters—in fact, I have often been accused of being a little too harsh. However, it is right and proper, when we give powers to remove passports from individuals, that the House of Commons at least commits to reviewing those powers in two years—possibly to see whether we need to make them stronger; it might not mean we want to make them weaker. If he had his passport taken off him at Heathrow or Dover on spurious grounds, he would wish to have an appeal process in place. It is one of the basic tenets of this House of Commons.
So, not being wishy-washy, but being committed to tackling terrorism at its core and taking firm and effective action to reduce the threat to this country, I still believe we need to review the Bill in two years’ time and give people the right to argue their case, should they so wish, and question the grounds on which their passport has been taken from them. On that basis, I would like to press amendment 29 to a vote.