Continued participation in the European Arrest Warrant

Part of Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:15 pm on 11th September 2018.

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Photo of Nick Thomas-Symonds Nick Thomas-Symonds Shadow Solicitor General, Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Security) 6:15 pm, 11th September 2018

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have a great deal of respect for the work he does as Chair of the Justice Committee, but I simply say to him that security, which is what this Bill is about, is very much engaged in the issue of the European arrest warrant. As we look in the round at our security position, which we must do and are doing in the context of this Bill, I believe the EAW and the tools it gives us cannot be excluded from our consideration of security. That is why in my view this new clause belongs in this Bill, and why I hope that still, even at this late stage, the Security Minister might support it, because I think that deep down he agrees with it and I would like to see that reflected in the Division lobby.

I think the Security Minister and I do agree on the original clause 14. Gavin Newlands and I both tabled amendments to it in Committee. This is the part of the Bill that gives the power to impose charges on the organisers of an event for the purpose of protecting a relevant event or site from danger or damage connected to terrorism. The concern I and many others had in relation to that clause was to do with article 10 of the European convention on human rights, on freedom of expression, and arguably article 11 and the right to peaceful assembly. We did not wish to get to a position where somehow people were priced out of the right to peaceful protest. I am glad that the Government listened on that and have amended this clause so as not to impose any potential charges on those organisations that wish to gather and protest peacefully. I understand of course that the priority must be to keep citizens safe when people gather together, and that that sometimes requires infrastructure in terms of policing events, but we must strike a balance between these charges and the right to assemble. On that basis, I am pleased that the Minister has made the concession and can support that amendment.

Amendment 26 in my name addresses a specific concern that I have flagged previously with the Security Minister. It relates to border stops where there is no reasonable suspicion in relation to the individual. I previously suggested that the Investigatory Powers Commissioner be informed whenever a person is stopped under the provisions of the relevant paragraph and that there be an annual report. I have suggested this amendment again on Report because of a concern about the position in Northern Ireland, which I will come back to shortly. However, the Minister justified the power in Committee by referring to an example. An aeroplane may land at one of our airports and we may have general intelligence that someone on it poses a threat, but we do not know which person it is. That is the justification for the power and the context in which the Security Minister and I had a discussion in Committee.

This evening, however, I am seeking some reassurances about how this applies to the situation in Northern Ireland, and the Security Minister will be aware that proportionately the number of border stops is high in Northern Ireland. In 2017, that border represented 3% of the passenger numbers for the whole of the UK but 18% of the stops. In other words, people are six times more likely to be stopped there than in another part of the UK. The figures show that nobody who was stopped was detained for more than an hour, and in the rest of the UK the figure for that is 9%. But this power applies to the first place a train from the Republic stops in Northern Ireland to let passengers off, and I refer the Minister specifically to paragraph 2 of schedule 3, which states that an examining officer may question a person who is in the border area for the purpose of determining whether their presence in the area is connected with the person’s entry into or departure from Northern Ireland. This applies on the border strip and at the Newry and Portadown train stations. Under the provision as it stands, people could be stopped, questioned and detained without reasonable suspicion.

As I have said, I understand the need for that power in relation to the perpetrators of hostile activity outside the United Kingdom coming in, but we do not want through this provision to somehow create a hard border for people on the island of Ireland, between the north and south. I really hope that, even if the Minister does not respond to this at the Dispatch Box tonight, he will at least go away and look at this issue before the Bill appears in the other place, and indicate what protections he envisages in relation to that power being exercised in Northern Ireland.