My Lords, the amendments in this group have their origins in a fact admitted by the Government, published in more than one of my reports as Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation and, I am afraid, mentioned more than once to your Lordships: at least 14 of the 74 organisations proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000, not including the 14 Northern Irish groups, are not concerned in terrorism and therefore do not meet the minimum statutory condition for proscription.
The question is: what do we do about that mismatch between law and practice? The pertinence of that question is greatly increased by the fact that a major theme of the Bill is to widen the scope, both substantive and geographical, of the proscription offences—membership, inviting support and so on.
Amendment 32B was designed to apply the law we have, by providing for an annual review of the activities of proscribed organisations—as happened routinely until four years ago—and the de-proscription of those lacking a statutory basis for continued listing. That principled course was chosen by Theresa May, as Home Secretary in 2013, when the irregularity was brought to her attention. With Amendment 32B, action on the conclusion of such reviews would be required by statute and could not be defeated by Foreign Office policy priorities, as was the case on that occasion, and indeed previous ones, judging from my noble friend Lady Manningham-Buller’s speech in Committee.
Since that seemed not to be enough, I tabled Amendment 32A in an attempt to make things easier. This would allow organisations to be proscribed if they are or have been concerned in terrorism, so long as the Secretary of State reasonably believes it necessary for purposes connected with protecting members of the public from a risk of terrorism.
That two-stage formulation is tried and tested. It was used in the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Act 2010 and the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011. It would allow the continued proscription of groups which have a powerful history and terrorist brand, but in respect of which ongoing terrorist activity cannot be demonstrated. This could be particularly useful in Northern Ireland, where groups that have laid down their arms do not satisfy the current test but, depending on the Secretary of State’s assessment, could satisfy the new one. More fundamentally, it would have the merit of ensuring that the Government’s actions in relation to proscription are in accordance with the law; currently, they are not. This would be a useful example to set the rest of us.
I convey to the House the apologies of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, who has had to leave his place and I beg to move.