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Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill — Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 4th February 2015.

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Photo of Lord Bates Lord Bates The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 7:15 pm, 4th February 2015

I will reflect again on the point about Section 202 of the 1988 Act and will see whether it is there, or whether it is, as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, suggested, implicit in our wording.

My noble friend Lord Deben talked about the importance of debate. I hope that I have gone some way to reassure him that that is entirely consistent with our view. The guidance stipulates that and it is now stipulated in the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Butler, asked about the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary can issue directions to universities and this makes a real difference. The power to issue directions will be subject to multiple layers of protection, including judicial oversight and that of the Prevent oversight board, on which my noble friend Lord Carlile provides independent representation. We agreed, following a discussion in Committee, to look again at this, and a direction will be issued only as a last resort.

A point was raised about the position of the Oxford Union and the Cambridge Union. My noble friend Lord Renfrew asked about this in Committee. They exist separately from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and as such they are not covered by the duty.

The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, asked why the Bill refers only to the 1986 and 1988 Acts. I have covered that point by saying that they are implicit.

I have a number of other points to respond to, particularly that made by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. We need Clauses 28(2) and 30 to ensure that those subject to the duties have particular regard to freedom of speech. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, asked for clarification about why the duty in Clause 28(2) requiring specified authorities to have regard to the guidance, and the duty on monitoring bodies provided for in Clause 30, are not also subject to a requirement to pay particular regard to freedom of speech. I will write to him, as suggested, but I confirm that we are satisfied that the provisions in Amendment 15D do enough to ensure that higher education and further education institutions and monitoring bodies will pay sufficient regard to the protection of freedom of speech.

My noble friend Lady Sharp asked why education for under-16s, including some sixth form colleges, is not covered in the amendment. It has been the case for many years that FE and HE institutions are bound by the duty in the Education (No. 2) Act 1986. Schools are not subject to the same duty. They are what we are debating here.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, just intervened. To be clear, the treatment of Amendment 15D does not make the Prevent duty subject to the freedom of speech duty. Instead, it provides that particular regard should be given to the freedom of speech duty. The Government are clear that this is the correct position. As the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, pointed out, it is for universities to balance each case depending on its circumstances.

I am aware that there have been many points that I have not covered in the time, but I hope that I have gone some way to reassure noble Lords on the importance of how we share the commitment to preserve free speech while at the same time being resolute in wanting to do all we can to avoid people being drawn into terrorism. In that regard, I ask the noble Lord to consider withdrawing his amendment.