Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 12th November 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development) 7:00 pm, 12th November 2018

The first part of that would not conflict with Clause 1, but the second part of that statement would, as you are then promoting it as an organisation. Perhaps we can talk about that subsequently.

I move on to Northern Ireland, because I want to talk about the amendment in that context. Any change to the current regime must be carefully considered, paying particular regard to the unique historical and current security context and challenges in that part of the United Kingdom. Paramilitary activity has a greater impact in Northern Ireland than in any other part of the UK. Because of this complex environment, proscription remains an essential tool in the wider, strategic approach to tackling the continued and widespread existence and impact of paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland.

Terrorism legislation, including the proscription regime, is of course an excepted matter in Northern Ireland—it is reserved to the UK Government—but the impact of this amendment cannot be divorced from what is happening at the devolved level. Any change to the proscription regime would have a significant impact on wider efforts to tackle paramilitary activity currently being undertaken at a devolved level and supported by the UK Government and multiple agencies and bodies through the Tackling Paramilitarism programme. A decision to change the proscription regime in Northern Ireland could not, and should not, be taken in isolation from these other initiatives and without detailed prior consultation with the devolved Administration and security partners.

Given the current suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive, the opportunity to undertake such consultation does not present itself at this time. We simply cannot ignore the operational, policy, resourcing and wider political ramifications of this amendment. These implications arise in relation to the proscription of international terrorist organisations, but are particularly acute in relation to Northern Ireland-related terrorist organisations. I know that this is a sensitive area, and that this House is rightly concerned to ensure that we strike the right balance, both in relation to the proposed new clause and to the other clauses in the Bill which amend proscription offences.

Finally, I suggest that noble Lords proceed with great caution in this area, given the considerations which I have just outlined. The learned position which the noble Lord has set out needs to be balanced against the reality that these are serious and, in some cases, unpleasant terrorist groups. They have been proscribed with good reason and the Government are anxious to ensure that they do not pose a resurgent threat to the public. I hope that, at this stage, the noble Lord will be content to withdraw the amendment.