JOINT

10 clauses Government must change in Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill

12 October 2018

The Joint Committee on Human Rights is proposing significant amendments to the Counter Terrorism and Border Security Bill. The amendments will be considered and debated in the House of Lords as the Bill continues to progress through parliament in coming weeks.

Government must justify extensive powers being proposed

The Committee asks the government to justify the extensive powers being proposed in the Bill.

The report raises concerns that the Bill is legislating close to the line – or indeed crosses the line-  in breaching human rights.

In a previous report scrutinising the Bill published before the Summer, the Committee said they had ‘serious concerns’ that it did not comply with fundamental rights.

29 amendments recommended

They therefore recommend that certain clauses and schedules be removed, clarified or narrowed in order to remedy these defects.

The Committee proposes a total of 27 amendments for parliament to consider, including for example:

  • The deletion or significant amendment of Clause 1 of the Bill, which creates an offence of expressing an opinion or belief in support of a proscribed organisation. The Committee is concerned this Clause restricts free speech, including valid debates on de-proscription.
  • That the publication of images depicting clothing or other articles which arouse suspicion that the person is a member of a proscribed organisation (Clause 2)  is significantly amended to include safeguards for those involved inadvertently.
  • Clause 3, which criminalises accessing terrorist material online, on one occasion only, should be completely removed or at a minimum amended. The Committee believes that this is a breach of the right to receive information and remain concerned that this offence risks criminalising legitimate research and curiosity.
  • The circumscribing of Schedule 3, which gives broad powers to the Government to stop and search people at ports and borders without suspicion. It also imposes limitations on access to a lawyer for those questioned and detained. The Committee propose that a pre-approved vetted panel of lawyers could be made available to detainees as an alternative to limited access.  Additionally, the Committee considers that the new stop and search powers at ports and borders should be amended so that they are always necessary and proportionate
  • There is a particular concern over a new clause in the Bill has been introduced establishing a 'designated area offence' (Clause 4) which criminalises entering or remaining in an area even if this is done without any associated harm or intent to cause harm. This was done at Commons Report stage which gave limited opportunity for scrutiny in the Commons. The Committee propose amending or deleting the clause all together. 
  • The Committee remains concerned that the Biometric Commissioner appears to have their oversight removed over the retention of data for suspects who have never been charged or convicted in Clause 18 and Schedule 2. They also say that 5 years is too long a period for the retention of such data without review. 
  • That the Secretary of State must make arrangements for an independent review of the Government’s Prevent strategy for preventing people from being drawn into terrorism and for supporting those vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism within 6 months of this provision entering into force.

Bill crosses the line on human rights

Harriet Harman MP, Chair of the Committee said: 

“Despite our previous warnings, this Bill still crosses the line on human rights.

We’ve put forward a range of amendments designed to bring it in line with human rights, taking into account the wide-ranging and expert evidence we took, including from Max Hill QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism.

The government has failed to give us adequate justification for provisions which risk undermining free speech and giving them wide and unaccountable powers.

I trust the Lords will make sure the Government will now address our arguments properly.”

Further information

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