Holly Lynch – 2022 Speech on the Draft Terrorism Act

The speech made by Holly Lynch, the Labour MP for Halifax, at the Delegated Legislation Committee in the House of Commons on 13 June 2022.

It is a pleasure to serve under you in the Chair, Ms Elliott.

I thank the Minister for his opening remarks. I was listening carefully. He and his colleagues will be aware that the Opposition expressed a series of grave concerns about the Nationality and Borders Act, which allowed for these provisions, but we very much recognise the practical nature of the changes in the draft order as we work collectively to keep our nation safe. We are satisfied that changes to the code of practice for examining and review officers under schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act are proportionate and appropriate to keep the country safe from the threat of terrorism.

The Minister outlined that this draft legislation will extend existing powers for use away from UK ports in specific circumstances. We recognise that small boats continue to arrive at varied locations, including remote beaches outside established travel hubs, and that measures have to be able to respond to that challenge. As the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Jonathan Hall QC, said in his consultation response:

“In principle, people arriving irregularly in the UK, should be liable to counterterrorism examination, as much as those arriving at sea ports and airports.”

I welcome that the Government have been clear that the powers cannot be used as a mass screening mechanism and that the provisions in the new order remain entirely separate from immigration enforcement, given our staunch opposition to the immigration and asylum changes brought about by the Nationality and Borders Act. We feel that the consultation and the Government’s response to it have improved this delegated legislation, and we particularly welcome the response I mentioned provided by the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Jonathan Hall QC.

If I may, I will ask the Minister to respond to two particular points. The consultation responses highlighted the fact that clarification would be beneficial about which facilities would be included under paragraph 28 of the draft revised code, which states that the

“presence of the person in an immigration detention centre, police station or equivalent location”

in certain specified circumstances may support an officer’s belief that a schedule 7 examination can be conducted. I note that the Government recognised the calls for clarity about the use of equivalent locations but argued that for the code to exhaustively categorise or list the various types of location would risk excluding some relevant locations or facilities simply because they were not explicitly included. Saying that is particularly relevant where some facilities are operationalised or closed at short notice—for example, because of covid-19.

Needless to say, given some of the facilities that were operationalised at short notice by the Home Office during the covid pandemic, and operationalised without public health guidance being adhered to, I would have liked to see a list of suitable equivalent locations available for scrutiny and would still urge the Government to consider that further.

We endorse the recommendation that examination locations are also able to be inspected under article 4 of the optional protocol to the convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, to ensure that we are in keeping with article 6 of the European convention on human rights, and we hope that the Minister will confirm that that is the case. We also support Jonathan Hall’s recommendation that consideration should be given to training counter-terrorism police officers to deal with individuals who have arrived in the UK irregularly and therefore have special welfare considerations. We note that the Government have committed to considering that and so will the Minister update the Committee on any such discussions with the College of Policing and counter-terrorism policing in establishing training and guidance relevant to best practice in the exercise of schedule 7 powers?

We believe those recommendations to be sensible and appropriate, but I again stress that we recognise the stark reality of needing to be ever vigilant about those terrorist organisations and so-called lone actors who are ruthlessly opportunistic in seeking to exploit weaknesses in our defences. Consequently, it is right that we ensure that our national security legislation is dynamic in responding to contemporary and emerging challenges, if we are to minimise that risk.