Polygraph licence conditions for terrorist offenders: Scotland

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 2nd July 2020.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Conservative, Tewkesbury

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 56, in clause 52, page 43, line 4, after “32” leave out “to” and insert “, 34 and”.

Amendment 57, in clause 52, page 43, line 4, at end insert—

“(3A) Section 33 comes into force on such day as Scottish Ministers may by regulations appoint.”

This would have the effect that provision in the Bill that relate to polygraph testing would only become operational if the Scottish Government asked for those provisions to be implemented.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice Team Member) 2:45 pm, 2nd July 2020

Amendment 56 is procedural, and may well have been superseded. Amendment 57 is to do with the situation in Scotland, where we do not have any current regime for polygraphs. It has been put forward to introduce a trigger, because the numbers in the cohort referred to by the Minister are clearly going to be limited. Even during my tenure in Scotland, we had only a handful, because most of our terrorists—all but a few—have been paramilitary and Northern Ireland-related. On that basis, it may be appropriate to have a trigger and that the provision should be implemented as and when necessary, as opposed to setting up a regime that is not going to be used perhaps ever, but certainly not for a short period of time. That would give Scottish Ministers, and indeed the Scottish legal system, an opportunity to prepare.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

We recognise that, as the hon. Gentleman has said, there is no operation of polygraph currently in Scotland. In considering the commencement provisions, it is the clear intention of the UK Government to work extremely closely with the Scottish Government to determine when they are operationally ready to introduce polygraph testing into the toolkit that probation services have. We would not want to trigger implementation too early.

Over the past week or so, we have heard evidence showing the benefits that polygraph testing can bring. However, we are aware that time is needed to prepare operationally for those benefits to come into effect. Although we recognise that some elements of the implementation of this are devolved—as I say, we are going to work extremely closely with the Scottish Government on those—ultimately, provision for dealing with terrorism matters remains a reserved power of the UK Government, so it is appropriate that the commencement provision remains one that is exercised by the UK Government. However, I repeat my assurance to the hon. Member for East Lothian that we will work extremely closely with his colleagues in the Scottish Government—in particular those in the Justice Directorate, his old Department—to make sure nothing is done prematurely, or without being ready for it.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 33 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.