Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill - Committee (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 29th October 2018.

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Photo of Lord Judge Lord Judge Judge 6:15 pm, 29th October 2018

My Lords, I respectfully introduce a note of caution about Amendments 15 and 16. We are dealing with the creation or amplification of criminal offences. The issuing of guidance by the Secretary of State in legislation of this kind would be very unusual and it would not, in the end, add certainty to the situation. Guidance has no statutory force, and someone looking at guidance might nevertheless find himself being prosecuted. Alternatively, someone who could not bring themselves within guidance might be prosecuted.

The real point is this: guidance may be helpful but if it is not statutory, it has no legal effect. If we wish to introduce issues here, we should do as my noble friend Lord Anderson does in the next clause, where he seeks to define, in primary legislation, a number of situations in which an offence is not committed.

My final point—I find this extremely alarming—is the idea that a Secretary of State, using executive powers, should issue guidance about how the law should be implemented. Either the law is clear or it is not, and guidance does not make it any clearer. Such a measure would—I think probably for the first time in criminal justice legislation—give an enormous power to the Secretary of State to say, without any parliamentary control, “This may not come within the ambit of the offence but that may”, and so on. That should not happen.