There have been 11 exchanges between Mr Ben Wallace and Sir Edward Davey
|1||Tue 7th January 2020||
Middle East: Security
Ministry of Defence
|3 interactions (199 words)|
|2||Tue 9th April 2019||
Rwandan Genocide: Alleged Perpetrators
|3 interactions (259 words)|
|3||Mon 18th March 2019||
Far-right Violence and Online Extremism
|3 interactions (488 words)|
|4||Wed 30th January 2019||
Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill [Lords]
|19 interactions (4,472 words)|
|5||Tue 22nd January 2019||
Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill
|10 interactions (1,739 words)|
|6||Mon 3rd December 2018||
Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill [Lords]
|7 interactions (1,819 words)|
|7||Wed 12th September 2018||
|18 interactions (2,396 words)|
|8||Tue 11th September 2018||
Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill
|24 interactions (4,727 words)|
|9||Mon 23rd July 2018||
Foreign Fighters and the Death Penalty
|3 interactions (328 words)|
|10||Tue 22nd May 2018||
Serious Violence Strategy
|3 interactions (485 words)|
|11||Wed 28th March 2018||
|3 interactions (1,042 words)|
I thank the Secretary of State for his statement, in particular his emphasis on de-escalating tension, and acknowledge his genuine expertise on Iran. Given how damaging the Iraq war was to security in the middle east and given the Government’s support for reducing tension, will he now rule out any British involvement in any attack on any site in Iran?
The Minister is hearing from both sides of the House that we want action and that we want this investigation to happen promptly. We all know that he is not in charge of the courts and that the police are independent, but he does have the power to give extra money to the Met war crimes unit now, rather than waiting for a request. Will he not do that and send a signal from this House that we want the police to have the resources to get this investigation done soon?
I send, on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, sincere condolences to the victims, their families and all the people of New Zealand. We stand in unity with them and with all our Muslim brothers and sisters across the world.
Will the Minister condemn without reservation Islamophobic language, whether used by individuals or in the media? The Liberal Democrats have looked at the proposed definition of Islamophobia from the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims, and we think that it is a very good one and have adopted it. Will the Government do likewise?
I hope the Minister recognises that all Members on both sides of the House want to find ways of sharing data so that we can go after these wicked people who abuse children. Will he therefore tell us what efforts have been made, in discussions with our American friends, to find a treaty that deals with those crimes and others but stops short of those crimes that could result in the death penalty? What efforts have been made to carve out those crimes so that they could be dealt with in a second treaty?
I repeat that the case the Minister is making is supported on both sides of the House. I very much doubt that there will be a Division on Third Reading—certainly we on these Benches will be supporting the Bill at that time—so he does not need to make this case, because we all support him. The issue of this debate on new clause 1 and other alternatives is whether we can achieve the goals on which we all agree while also finding a way to implement existing Government policy on death penalty assurances. The Minister is recognised for working across the House—that is why he is held in such high regard—but it is our right to scrutinise legislation in this place, and in this debate we want to tease out whether we can find a way, through the treaties or through the Bill, to get those death penalty assurances that I am sure he also wants.
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The Minister is being generous in giving way. I repeat that, as he knows, both sides of the House want exactly what he has just described. However, this House’s job is to scrutinise and ensure that legislation is being done in the right way so that other parts of Government policy are also upheld. He said in response to the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), a former Attorney General, that we should not worry about this because ECHR obligations, which he read out in some detail, would prevent Ministers from not complying with this policy. Will the Minister elaborate on that for the benefit the House? When the Home Secretary recently did not seek death penalty assurances, was that decision in line with our convention obligations?
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This is a very good Bill overall. It is much needed, and it is not controversial, which is why we will not vote against its Third Reading. However, our debates have shown that there is a chance to improve the Bill. Back Benchers have been able to improve the Bill, as we have seen with the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman). I strongly support his amendments, which are well judged, and I know that the BBC supports them, too. I also support Labour’s amendment 18. It is not unreasonable to expect Government to try to ensure that there are protections for journalism and free expression in these treaties, and the world would expect Britain to uphold that. We hope to get agreement across the House on those amendments.
It is a shame that there is disagreement on the death penalty assurances. The Minister has been trying to reach out, but he will know that new clause 1 is only about seeking assurance, not receiving assurances, which is the issue at the heart of this disagreement. I intervened on the Minister earlier to ask whether there had been discussions about a carve-out for the types of offence that we are worried out. I would have thought that that would be incredibly easy, because the number of death penalty executions and cases that will result in it is tiny. I therefore would have thought that the US—a very practical people—would accept a treaty with that carve-out. The amendments tabled by my party and the Labour party would enable such a carve-out to be pushed forward. That is not unreasonable.
The Minister talks about the inequality of arms, and I get that—America is rather bigger than we are—but this is not about the Americans doing us a favour. We have data to offer them, too. It may only be 1%, but they want it. They want to catch their criminals—they want to catch the bad guys, too. We have a great record of working with them, and we should continue that. It is not as one-sided as he portrayed.
Let us remember what we are trying to achieve. A huge number of people in Congress and across America are campaigning to get rid of the death penalty. Nineteen US states no longer have the death penalty, and six of those have changed their laws since 2007 because of successful campaigning. That is one reason why we should stand up for this principle. This debate is live in the US, and it is important for not only the people we are talking about but US citizens that we send this signal. In addition to the states that have got rid of the death penalty, 11 states have not executed anyone for 10 years—it is de facto not used—so that makes 30 states. The federal Government have not executed anyone since 2003. The facts do not bear out the idea that we are pushing at a closed door and that there is massive opposition in the US political system.
I hear what the Minister says, and I know that he knows there is not a lot between us on this, because we are all trying to get to the same objectives. However, the points he makes could be argued against the US position, and because we are close allies, we could close that gap. It would not be terribly great for Senators to oppose this Bill—they have Senate ratification —as they would be held to account by their citizens for getting in the way of sharing information to catch paedophiles.
As British politicians here, from all sides and including the Minister, we should stand up for British principles. Yes, we want to catch these appalling criminals, but we must make sure that we advance justice and human rights. I do not think we should see these things as separate and deal with them separately—we can bring them together. It would be a good step for this House to stand up for this principle, which we all share and which is and has for a long time been Government policy, and say to our close friends in the US that we believe we can come to some agreement.
The Minister made it clear in his response that the treaty is still in development. The hon. Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds) talked about how a lot of people in the US, particularly in the State Department, are expecting us to do this, so it is not unreasonable that we do, and I hope that the Minister, who is highly respected across this House and whose Bill we utterly support, can understand why we are trying to make this extra push. We are doing this to help him in his negotiations.
I seek clarification. In previous debates, I understood the designated area approach to mean that just being there would create an offence, but in his response to the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock), the Minister seems to be suggesting that the prosecuting authorities would have to find evidence not just that the individual was there but that they were doing something other than what they said they were doing.
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I thank the Minister for the fact that the Government are not opposing amendment 13 made by the Opposition parties in the other place; that is very welcome. He was talking about the review he will undertake as a result of that amendment. Can he tell us a little more about the remit and timescale of the review? Perhaps he was about to do that anyway, but it would be helpful to have that on the record.
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It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands). He tempts me to talk about Brexit—[Hon. Members: “Go on!”] In relation to security and counter-terrorism, of course, Madam Deputy Speaker. I share his concerns that that has not been dealt with adequately. The political declaration is far too weak on the subject and that concerns me. If we got that right, it would go much further than the Bill can.
On border security, which the amendments cover, I was slightly amused that some of the points I made on Report, about which the Minister was not happy, had been dealt with in the other place. I pay tribute to my noble Friend Lord Paddick, who, in discussions with the Minister in the other place, clarified a point in the legislation in a very helpful way. I am grateful to the Government for conceding that point. I was concerned about the Bill’s definition of hostile activity to include anything that threatened the United Kingdom’s economic wellbeing. Although I clearly do not want anyone to threaten the United Kingdom’s wellbeing, it seemed a broad and unspecific definition. Some people would say that Brexiteers threatened the United Kingdom’s wellbeing, but I do not want to take that too far because that would be controversial. However, I was pleased that the Government have now qualified the provision with,
“in a way relevant to the interests of national security”.
That may well have been the original intention, but the Bill did not say that. That is why we raised the matter and I am pleased that the Government have seen fit to move on that.
I say gently to the Minister that if we are serious about border security, law is important, but we must have enough Border Force guards. I am worried that we do not have enough people to ensure that our borders are as safe and secure as the House wants. That resource point should not be missed as we legislate.
I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford). I think the Internet Watch Foundation does a fantastic job, and it is already saving lives, so everyone involved in the organisation deserves our thanks and gratitude. It is in that spirit that I rise to support this Bill and to say that the Minister was absolutely right to make his argument in the way that he did. The legislation goes beyond defeating the people involved in child sexual exploitation, and others committing horrendous nasty, violent crimes will also be caught by these important measures. Beyond that, the Bill will act against terrorism and so on, so the Government are absolutely right to pursue it.
All that is part of the way that we in this House need to support international co-operation against crime. Although this Bill will help to speed up the work that needs to be done via the courts to enable the investigatory bodies to get these criminals and hopefully stop such activities, I gently point out that the European Union already has many successful tools and instruments, and it is a shame that it looks like we are reducing our ability to use them.
However, in totally supporting the thrust of the Bill, I associate the Liberal Democrats with the gentle criticisms of the Labour and SNP Front-Bench spokesmen, who made important points about death penalty assurances and journalistic freedom that must be considered and put right in Committee and on Report. On the death penalty assurances, joint efforts between Labour and Liberal Democrat Lords secured that amendment, and it will take some proof to convince us that it is defective. Indeed, the Liberal Democrats would like to go further. Although the amendment was welcome, the fact that it relates to section 52 of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 means that there may well be other treaties involving the sharing of collected electronic data to which it may not apply. Given the significance of that, it is important that we go as far as we possibly can. The UK must oppose the death penalty in all circumstances, and we need an assurance from the Government that the law is extremely tight.
The Minister is being slightly sneaky. It is quite possible to take the two issues separately and deal with them separately. It is quite easy to see how one would ensure that the welcome measures in this Bill apply to the cases to which we all want them to apply while ensuring that the death penalty assurance, which ought to unite the House, is also dealt with properly.
I am sure that the Minister understands that Opposition Members in the other place and in this place are using this point to try to ensure that the Government move on this point. He will be aware of the cases of Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh from earlier this year, in which the Home Secretary—I acknowledge that this was revealed in a leaked letter—assisted the US to prosecute them without seeking death penalty assurances. That shocked people on both sides of this House, and the Minister is absolutely aware of that concern, so it is incumbent on those on the Treasury Bench to explain to and reassure this House that that cannot reoccur and that we will find ways through such issues.
I am afraid that the Minister is still trying to split hairs. I am sure that no one in this House wants to get in the way of measures that will ensure that we can work with other countries to tackle criminals. Equally, however, it is incumbent on the Government to find a way to ensure that what we heard from the Home Secretary earlier this year does not happen again. The Minister is in the Government and has the officials to come forward with proposals to be able to manage both those issues.
It does not seem beyond the wit of man and the clever officials in the Home Office to produce such proposals. If he is saying that the amendment made in the other House is defective because it has the problem he is raising with me, let Home Office Ministers come to the House in Committee or on Report to show that and to produce an alternative that deals with the matter, about which I am sure he shares my concern.
What the Opposition parties are saying very clearly to the Minister is that he has to make that case in Committee, just as the hon. Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds), the Labour party’s Front-Bench spokesman, made clear when I intervened on this very point. The Minister should make the case, but he should also explain how the Government will deal with the problem, which has arisen because of the actions of the Home Secretary not because of the actions of the Opposition.
We are concerned about the potential for this Bill to undermine protections for the freedom of the press. To be generous to the Government, what I think has happened is that, in pursuing a laudable aim that we all support, they went to the statute book and said, “Which statutes can we copy and paste to enable us to meet our objectives?” Rather than looking carefully at how, in domestic law, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 has carefully nuanced the use of the Terrorism Act 2000, Home Office officials, possibly because of the culture in the Home Office, just cut and pasted mainly from the Terrorism Act. That may have been a mistake, and there may have been no deliberate intention for it to have the consequences that now appear before us, so I gently say that I hope the Minister will go away and think about this. I invite him to meet hon. and right hon. Opposition Members, as well as representatives of the media to hear in detail the genuine concerns not just of BBC lawyers but of lawyers representing other media organisations.
We have heard from other Members about the issue of the relevant evidence test, which is in our domestic law and has been carefully developed over a period of years, but that test will not be applied to protect journalists with respect to material that comes from their investigations abroad. That is quite worrying if one looks at the practical examples. Take the case of Mark Duggan, for example. He was shot by the police in Tottenham in 2011, and the BBC obtained mobile phone footage of the aftermath from a witness. The BBC was ordered to turn over the footage and, because it was relevant evidence, the footage was handed over. Then an application was made for information that would reveal the identity of the source of that footage. The person who had shot the footage was understandably concerned for their safety, and the BBC successfully opposed the application by pointing to the relevant evidence test in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. That test is not in the Bill, so there is a clear example that, by not being as subtle in this legislation as we are in our domestic legislation, there is a danger that journalistic freedom, as exercised abroad, will be curtailed.
The point about the notices is relevant, and it should worry the Minister because the way that notices work under domestic legislation is very helpful not just to journalists but to the police. Sometimes when the police put a notice to a journalistic organisation, that organisation will go back to the police and say, “You are asking for a huge amount, and we don’t really think it is necessary for your investigation. Let us enter a dialogue with you to narrow down your search so you can get information that will really help you, and therefore you will not have to waste so much time.” The notice actually turns out to be helpful in speeding up investigations. Given that that is the whole purpose of this Bill, the Minister should go away and look at that.
Moreover, it is not just about thinking of the police’s point of view in speeding things up; it is also about making sure the police know whether the evidence exists. The way some notices work at the moment is that the police go on a fishing trip. There is the example from Durham police, which applied to the BBC without notice. Durham police was eventually told that it could not do that and that, if it had submitted a notice, it would have learned that the material no longer existed. Again, the BBC was trying to save police time.
Some of the carefully constructed domestic law needs to be put into this internationally applying legislation in order to help the police and security services, not just journalists. I am sure this is just an unintended consequence, and I am sure there is no malice, so I hope this is the sort of issue that can be settled by a few meetings and a few amendments that garner support from both sides of the House. That is how scrutiny should operate in this Parliament, and I hope the Minister, with his usual generosity, will be open-minded to that approach.
I want to take the Minister back to how we counter the Russian threat to security in this country and elsewhere. As Secretary of State for Energy in March 2015, I used powers never used before to force the sale by LetterOne of its North sea oil assets. This was in the context of Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia. Following the terrorist outrage in Salisbury, are the Government looking at using powers such as unexplained wealth orders to investigate the cronies of Putin whose presence here brings our country into disrepute and does not help the fight against Russian aggression?
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The Minister is absolutely right; I found that the legal issues around the use of such orders requires a little bit of time, and I have sympathy with him on that point. However, can he at least reassure the House that the Government are absolutely determined to use unexplained wealth orders and other powers to chase down dirty money and stop Britain being used as a haven for it?
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The Minister is describing a situation where the people who wish to do our country harm are very creative and have very expensive advisers to quickly get round the rules. Can he assure this House that the economic crime unit that he described in a previous answer to me will, within the law, be as creative as possible to chase down these people?
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As Secretary of State for Energy, working at the EU Energy Council, I helped the European Commission to draft Europe’s energy security strategy, which is very much aimed at reducing Europe’s dependence on imports of Russian fossil fuels. That is good for climate change and good for security. Can the Minister assure the House that after Brexit, that level of influence on Europe’s energy policy will be there in some other way, because by being at the table we were able to hit Putin in the pocket very effectively?
The Minister said a few moments ago that it will be for the prosecution to show that a person does not have a reasonable defence, but that is not what new clause 2 says:
“It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that the person had a reasonable excuse for entering, or remaining in, the designated area.”
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Can the Minister say where else in British law it is an offence to be located somewhere, rather than to act in a certain way in that place?
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I am just going by what the Minister has tabled today.
David Anderson, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said in 2016 of a very similar proposal that
“this offence would not be worthwhile for the UK.”
He also complained about the burden of proof being
“on the honest and worthy to show entry into the prohibited area for a legitimate purpose.”
He said that foreign terrorist fighters
“will also cite aid purposes, so the ultimate burden of proof will still demand evidence not just of presence but also of training, logistical support, or involvement in fighting”
and went on to argue that such activities are of course already covered by the law. He also looked at the practical problems, referring to the fluidity of the
“area controlled by Islamic State (Daesh)”
and how difficult it would be to fix an area in law when the task might be like mapping the shifting sands of time and reality as the space governed by such organisations changes. There are practical problems with this legislation and, like the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, the Liberal Democrats do not think that the Government have made a case for it. We want to ensure that the other place scrutinises the measure given that this House has not been given sufficient time.
Finally, Government amendments 2 and 4 seek to replace their original proposal for obtaining and viewing certain material over the internet—the so-called three-click rule—with a one-click rule and a defence of ignorance about the content of the click. I spoke against the three-click proposal on Second Reading, as did many other Members on both sides of the House, and asked Ministers to go away and think again, but I did not expect them to come up with an even worse proposal. The defence for viewing such material with good cause has actually been reduced, and I am not alone in thinking that. Amnesty International fears that there is a serious risk of a chilling effect on the freedom of inquiry, whether from journalists, academics or researchers.
I am grateful to the Minister for trying to clarify the situation, but I will let others in the House read the words on the amendment paper and reach their own conclusions. In my opinion, there is a serious concern that the definition is not wide enough and that there will be, as Amnesty International and others have said, a serious chilling effect on independent inquiry. Let us remember that it is already an offence under legislation introduced by the previous Labour Government to collect or record such information. Anyone behaving in a way to prepare for a terrorist act or to encourage such an act already, rightly, commits an offence, and there is a reason why, under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, viewing material, as opposed to collecting or recording it, was not made an offence—it is called evidence.
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I rise partly because I have been encouraged by the speech made by the Chair of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill). He made the point that this issue is central to the Brexit negotiations, so the House is grateful to the Labour Front Benchers for tabling new clause 1. I also rise because although the Government wish to sign up to some new security deal and the Minister understands the importance of the European arrest warrant, there can be no doubt that these tools are at risk. Given how significant they are, not only for the fight against terrorism, but for the fight against some of the most serious criminals in our world, many people are deeply worried.
The Government have continually made the argument—I have some sympathy with it—that the other members of the European Union will want to work with us because we have some of the best security services in the world. That is undoubtedly the case. I visited Europol and Eurojust in the Hague. When I talked with the then executive director of Europol, Rob Wainwright—he has now left and been replaced by Catherine de Bolle—he made it clear that the UK was at the heart of this crime-catching set of tools and instruments. It was clear from that and the work of the Select Committee and others who have delved into the issue that co-operation has become central to our activities to tackle criminals, whether that is organised crime, terrorists or others. If that is put at risk at any level, it should worry the House greatly.
It may be—I suspect it will be—that there is a deal on some of the most serious crimes. I would imagine that our European friends will want to co-operate with us against terrorists and other people who seek to commit mass murder. Of course they will want that co-operation, and I wish the Government well in achieving that goal. That is why it is good to see new clause 1, but I say to the Minister that there is a whole range of other serious offences that Europol, Eurojust, the European arrest warrant and the various data-sharing systems enable our forces to use. I am not yet convinced that Europeans are going to gladly throw all those open to us. There is certainly an incentive when it comes to terrorism and mass murder, but what about financial fraud? When I was at Europol, it was pretty clear that a lot of its resources were going after financial fraud in the capitals of the European Union and beyond—in Switzerland and elsewhere. I am not so sure we will be let in on that major issue, which is of crucial importance to the British economy.
If we go down the list of activities that Europol does on a day-to-day basis, it is not clear that the incentives for the Europeans to co-operate with us are as great as they are on terrorism. I am deeply troubled, because we need to deepen co-operation in tackling these organised criminals. The Government do not quite understand how these European organisations work. When Rob Wainwright, an ex-MI6 agent, was there, Britain was leading the operation at Europol. We will no longer be leading that operation, and that means a big loss of influence. We will not be in the room.
I went to Eurojust, and I saw the one floor of the office block in the Hague where it has one delegate from each country. They sit and work together to help each other deal with the different issues with criminals crossing jurisdictions, whether they are warrants for tracking mobile phones or other legal necessities required to conduct an investigation and, in some cases, a chase. They were clear that they had to be in that room, in that building. Where will the UK delegate to Eurojust be? I think that they will be outside. Furthermore, given the Government’s red line on the European Court of Justice, one really feels that the Europeans will be slightly less flexible on many aspects of these crime- fighting tools. I know that we are rightly focusing on terrorism today, but these other aspects of security link into that. The Government need to work much harder than I have seen so far to make sure that we are fully signed up members of absolutely everything and that the Europeans have an incentive to include us in on everything.
Finally, other Members have mentioned Northern Ireland. It is absolutely clear that the use of the European arrest warrant to tackle terrorists who go across the borders there is an essential tool, and it is right at the top of the concerns of the PSNI and the Garda. Whatever the scenario in the future—whether it is a no deal and a crash-out, or some other cobbled-together deal—the real concern is the European arrest warrant and whether it will operate on all these issues. I am talking about not just on suspected terrorism, but on suspected fraud and smuggling from where the terrorist organisations get their money.
Ensuring that we get the European arrest warrant sorted out in these negotiations on terrorism and on other offences could not be more important for the security of the British people. I wish the Minister and his colleagues well on this, but the Opposition are absolutely right to press this point. This could not be more central to the security of our country.
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May I take the Minister back to the point about spies from other countries and people from other security forces, whether from Russia or elsewhere? In my time in government when I was occasionally asked, as a member of the National Security Council, to sign off warrants so that the security services could search bags, tap phones and so on—even at very short notice—it was clear to me that we had powers, if we had suspicions, to do everything required to track, trace and examine the people coming into this country with hostile intent from foreign powers, and we did that on a regular basis. Will he just explain to me why the new powers are needed, given that we already have a panoply of powers?
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In his opening remarks, the Minister rightly reminded us of the terrorist outrages that have been inflicted on our country and our people. The response to those outrages brings the whole House together, and I know that the Minister and his colleagues do their very best, along with the skilled people in the security services, to keep us safe on a daily basis.
On Second Reading, I explained to the Minister why I had some concerns about individual measures in the Bill. The Liberal Democrats wanted to see whether or not they would pass through the House and emerge in a better form. I have to say that in our view, regrettably, the Bill has not improved as a result of that scrutiny, and if anything, it has got worse. I will not rehearse what I said on Report, but I will say that my criticisms referred to the comments of independent experts—independent reviewers of counter-terrorism legislation—and were not made in the absence of any evidence.
There are, of course, some good parts of the Bill. Clause 5, which extends extra-territorial jurisdiction, is very welcome, as is clause 19, which deals with terrorism reinsurance and which I discussed on Second Reading. Those welcome measures, however, have been packaged with a collection of ill-thought-through measures that will not work: they will not do what they promise to do. In its report, the Joint Committee on Human Rights concluded that
“some of these offences risk a disproportionate interference with the right to privacy, the right to freedom of thought and belief, and the right to freedom of expression.”
The Committee—a Committee of both Houses—warned us that the Bill
“strikes the wrong balance between security and liberty”
and doubted its compliance with the European convention on human rights.
My list of things that are wrong with the Bill has grown since Second Reading, and the more I have looked at those items, the more my concern about some of them has deepened. Clause 1, for instance, expands the offence of inviting support for a proscribed organisation to recklessly expressing support for such an organisation. I was too kind about that on Second Reading. I argued that the concept of recklessness already exists in criminal law in respect of physical actions and physical violence, but even in that context it is controversial, given the different legal versions of what “recklessness” actually means in respect of physical actions. How much more subjective is “recklessness” when applied to speech? Ministers have failed to defend this extension, and I think that they are in serious danger of criminalising innocent people and the naive.
Given that this is a Third Reading debate, I will not rehearse many of the other problems with the Bill, but I do want to end on one particular problem that I failed to mention on Second Reading. It relates to the border security powers we briefly discussed in the last part of our debate. What the Bill says in schedule 3 is quite chilling. It gives a lot of power to state officials, which goes beyond anything I have ever seen before. I refer what the Bill says to colleagues, because this is what they are voting on tonight. In giving powers to border security guards to stop, question and detain, the Bill does not require them to justify that at any level. It states:
“An examining officer may exercise the powers under this paragraph whether or not there are grounds for suspecting that a person is or has been engaged in hostile activity.”
It says “whether or not”; not “if” there are grounds for suspecting, but “whether or not”.
I am happy to reflect on that. As I said to the Minister in an earlier intervention, as a member of the NSC, I was often asked to sign warrants to go after some of the most wicked people and in each case I was impressed by our security services and the systems of accountability. I signed every single warrant put before me because it was very clear that the powers were proportionate and justified. I am arguing tonight that the Government are going further. I do not think it is in the traditions of British justice that we give carte blanche powers to the border security guards, and if other Opposition Members were to read this provision in detail, I do not think they would be as comfortable as they are being lured into being.
I urge colleagues even at this late hour to actually read this part of the Bill, as I think we are in danger of losing our attachment to reason. That is a dangerous position in this very important Chamber. I hope that if some of us stand up tonight and say, “These powers are overreaching,” we can send a signal to the other place that it can do its job and scrutinise this legislation in ever more depth.
In his answer to the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook), the Minister said that he was not blind to the idea of resources, particularly in relation to London and the real crisis that is happening in our city. Will he give us a little more hope because, like the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich and many London Members here, I worry about the trend continuing into the summer months?
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Mansfield (Ben Bradley)—not least because I was born in his constituency, although I am a Magpies fan rather than a Stags fan.
It is worth the whole House reflecting on the bravery of our police officers. We saw that bravery a year ago when PC Keith Palmer gave his life protecting this Palace and the people who were around it. Also in our thoughts is Nick Bailey, an officer who went to the help of the Russian people who were poisoned. I am sure that other Members attend local police award ceremonies, and hear about the bravery of policemen and women on a daily basis. Those officers have our support, our thoughts and our thanks.
The Minister for Policing and the Fire Service talked about the need for a quality debate, and I think that that is important. For instance, I think it important for us to look at the crime figures in detail, which I tried to do in my intervention on the Minister. I welcomed his admission that there are serious crimes—which are better recorded in police recorded crime data and the crime survey—that are going up. In London, we are seeing gun crime go up, knife crime go up, violent crime go up. In my constituency, we are seeing burglaries go up, and in a pretty nasty way. One or two Asian families in Tolworth have been victims of aggravated burglary: people have gone into their homes with weapons and threatened them in order to take gold from them as they sat in their own front rooms. It is quite shocking. It is necessary to focus on crime of that sort, because it is the crime that is going up.
When we talk about the need to invest in the police, we should bear in mind that it is not just about reducing crime, vital though that is, but also about solving crime. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh) was right to point out that there are 2.1 million unsolved crimes in Britain today, and the inspectorate says that we are short of 5,000 detectives. When there are so many unsolved crimes and so few detectives to solve them, that sends a very bad signal to the criminals. We can reduce crime if people realise that they will be caught. If the deterrent effect is reduced because criminals do not think they will be caught because of the lack of detectives and the number of unsolved crimes, that sows the seeds for rising crime in the future.
I thank the Minister for that clarification, but my point remains the same, and I am speaking on behalf of the inspectorate rather than from a party perspective. I hope that he will take on board what I have said.
We also need to think about the part played by the police not just in reducing and solving crime, but in preventing it. The police, and community police, have so many other roles, such as building community relations and filling in the gaps for other services that are not there. It is those functions, which cannot actually be measured, that communities so value. They are now being taken away, and people feel that quite deeply in their communities. If we are to have the serious debate that the police Minister wanted, I hope he will reflect on the other issues that are not always reflected in the figures, but are vital to our recognition of the extent to which the public value the police in the many roles that they undertake.
The crime figures show that the victims of crime are disproportionately the less well off, and disproportionately the more vulnerable. The case for investing in the police is not just about tackling the criminals; it is about social justice. There are issues that go beyond reducing crime, such as looking after the most vulnerable and the least well off in society. I hope that the Minister will take that on board as well.
Let me now say something about resources. I was pleased to hear the police Minister confirm that the number of police officers had fallen significantly. Since May 2015, my constituency has lost more than 50 officers—10% of the local police force— and people have felt the impact of that. Since returning to the House from my unintended leave of absence, and returning to work in my constituency, I have been quite surprised by the inability of the police to respond as quickly as they used to.
We have seen that in the figures on 999 and 101 calls: in London and in many other areas around England, forces are just not able to respond quickly enough, including to very serious calls. That should trouble the Minister. We also see it in severe antisocial behaviour in communities that is just being ignored. As a local Member of Parliament, I have had to get involved with housing associations, the council and the police to make them take notice of serious behaviour that is completely undermining the quality of life of many of my constituents. These are critical issues.
I intervened on the Policing Minister at the beginning of the debate to ask whether he agreed that Sir David Norgrove, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, had said on the record that the Prime Minister was misleading the public in talking about the £450 million increase. I am afraid that the Minister claimed he would deal with the issue in his later remarks, but he did not. We are talking about an important clarification from an independent statistics body about claims made not only by the Prime Minister but in tweets from the Home Office. If we are to have the serious debate that the Minister said he wanted, I hope there will be no more such false claims.