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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 29th October 2018.

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Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 7:00 pm, 29th October 2018

We have Amendment 23 in this group, which is very similar, certainly in intent, to that moved by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich. For that reason, I do not intend to speak at any great length since I support what he said.

We are aware of the reasons why the Government want to create a new offence of entering or remaining in a designated area in connection with the work of containing and combating the threat of terrorism and terrorist-related activity. However, this is once again about ensuring that those who are in a designated area on legitimate—indeed, quite possibly vital and crucial—business do not find themselves committing an offence of being or remaining in that area.

Our amendment, like that moved by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, specifically provides that an offence of being or remaining in a designated area is not committed under the Bill’s terms by those carrying out specific named activities—in our amendment, journalism, humanitarian work and family visits, for example, and any other activities provided for in the subsequent regulations. Our amendment is also based on the Australian model of including exemptions in the Bill. It also provides that a person might be required to provide evidence as to their purpose in line with what we understand to be in the Australian legislation.

The Bill will provide for a reasonable excuse defence. The difference, however, between exemptions in the Bill and a reasonable excuse would appear to be that a reasonable excuse can normally be provided only after a person has been apprehended or challenged by the authorities, with the uncertainty and stress that that can involve, whereas an exemption should ensure that matters do not progress as far as that, provided the purpose of being or remaining in a designated area is a genuine one covered by the exemptions.

Max Hill QC, in his capacity as Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, said at the Commons Public Bill Committee on this Bill in connection with another clause from the one we are considering, that,

“one way of putting it is that if we are going to have a new offence, there is an imperative to define with greater precision the ways in which somebody is not guilty of that offence. That is just as important as defining and placing in statutory form the ways in which someone is, or may be, guilty”.—[Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill Committee, 26/6/18; col. 39.]">Official Report, Commons, Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill Committee, 26/6/18; col. 39.]

The thinking behind the amendment that the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, has moved, and, indeed, our amendment, is in line with the sentiments expressed by Max Hill QC.

I hope that the Government will indicate support at least for the thrust of Amendment 17, and hopefully even for our Amendment 23, even if they want to consider further the exact wording they would consider appropriate.