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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 29th October 2018.

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Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence, Deputy Leader of the House of Lords 6:30 pm, 29th October 2018

I expect it does, but I shall need to get my mind around the point.

Of course, the statement made by the noble Baroness has to be right, but I come back to the fact that, in practice, we have not seen any miscarriages of justice against journalists or academics, or indeed any arrests. It is therefore incumbent upon us to ask why that is so, given the certainty with which some have predicted that exactly these consequences will flow from Clause 3. Could it be because the safeguards I have outlined were operating successfully? My suggestion is that this is the case. Furthermore, as the very same safeguards will continue to apply to Section 58 as amended by Clause 3, and as Clause 3 will neither narrow them in any way nor broaden the types of material caught by Section 58, I suggest that we can take considerable comfort from this.

As well as questioning the practical necessity for these amendments, I also have some concerns about the form of Amendments 15 and 16, which require the Secretary of State to issue guidance. To place such a requirement on the Home Secretary would be novel and arguably inappropriate—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, made the point extremely well. While the Home Office has issued guidance on matters such as the operation of police powers, it is not normal to do so on how to apply investigative and prosecutorial discretion in the context of a specific offence and where there are criminal consequences for individuals affected. If such guidance is to be issued, I therefore question whether this is properly a matter for the Home Secretary. This concern could, of course, be remedied by placing the duty on someone else, such as the Director of Public Prosecutions. However, as I have sought to explain, we remain to be convinced that an amendment to Section 58 of this kind is needed.

Finally, it is worth noting that Section 58 falls within the statutory remit of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, and this will provide a further important safeguard for its operation as amended by the Bill. I am aware that the former independent reviewer, Max Hill QC, does not agree with every aspect of the Government’s approach to Clause 3. He is, of course, an extremely eminent person whose views should be taken into account. But I would point out that successive independent reviewers have never raised a concern that Section 58 in its current form is having a chilling effect, or is otherwise not being used appropriately, despite its application, as I have said, to the bulk of journalistic and academic research into Section 58 material for much of the period it has been in force.

I hope that I have been able clearly to set out the Government’s position on these matters, and to persuade the noble Lord opposite to withdraw his well-intentioned but, in my view, unnecessary amendment.