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Paul Goggins: I congratulate you, Mr. Cook, on what I believe is a significant anniversary today. I will not reveal further details of the particular anniversary. [Hon. Members: "Go on!"] Happy birthday, Mr. Cook.
I am grateful to the hon. Members who have tabled the amendments, which highlight important aspects of the legislation. I hope that I can persuade the hon. Members for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) and for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) to alter their judgment. There are one or two issues that we can perhaps examine in greater detail, but there are other issues that we cannot.
The Committee knows that it is a requirement of the Council of Europe convention on the prevention of terrorism, to which the UK is a signatory, to criminalise terrorist training. A number of those offences are already contained within British law in section 54 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which relates to weapons training, among other things. Clause 6 adds to section 54 of the 2000 Act to close the gap on other forms of training for terrorist purposes. That includes training to use noxious or hazardous substances, providing training in certain skills, methods and techniques where one knows or suspects that the person receiving the training is doing so for the purposes of terrorism and receiving any of that training with the intention of using it for terrorist purposes. There is currently no specific offence relating to attendance at a terrorist training camp, and clause 8 is intended to close that gap by criminalising attendance at such a camp. For the sake of completeness I should stress that that does not derive from an obligation under the Council of Europe convention on the prevention of terrorism.
"A person commits an offence if he attends at any place, whether in the United Kingdom or elsewhere; while he is at that place, instruction or training of the type mentioned in section 6(1) of this Act or section 54(1) of the Terrorism Act 2000 . . . is provided there; that instruction or training is provided there wholly or partly for purposes connected with the commission or preparation of acts of terrorism or Convention offences".
Jeremy Corbyn: The key words are "wholly or partly". If someone attends a place where terrorist training is going on, but they know nothing about it and are training in, for example, white water rafting, they could be pulled into an incomprehensible net in which they are accused of terrorism.
Paul Goggins: We will discuss the concept of "attending", which implies that the person who is doing the "attending" knows what they are doing. I hope that my hon. Friend is reassured that an individual must have a purpose in attending a particular place.
Amendment No. 57 removes any concept of suspicion, which, as the hon. Member for Beaconsfield has acknowledged, would significantly narrow the scope of the offence. If someone does not know that terrorist training is taking place, they will not be caught by the offence. If we remove the word, "suspects", however, the offence would not cover someone who provides training and who has every reason to suspect, but does not know as an absolute fact, that their students are planning to use their skills for terrorist purposes. What is more, that person could continue to provide such training with impunity for as long as their suspicions do not turn into certain knowledge, which is not a satisfactory situation.
The hon. Member for Beaconsfield and my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris) have made the same point about chemistry lecturers and teachers, and I am prepared to think about that specific point a little more. But the hon. Gentleman's description of the person of unsavoury character is not specific enough. The suspicion would have to be based on specific grounds. I shall respond to him further on that point.
Amendment No. 89 takes a rather different approach. It retains, rightly, the concept of suspicion, but would qualify it with the word "reasonably". That is not necessary. Whether or not somebody suspects is simply a fact that the prosecution would have to prove in a given case.
Amendment No. 58 would provide a defence of informing the policeor, in the case of an employee, the employerof that suspicion. I understand the intention behind it, which is to provide a defence to those who take steps to make others aware, but it is unnecessary. In reality, it is highly unlikely that someone who had been to the police and reported his suspicions would ever be prosecuted. I doubt that the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions would be forthcoming in such circumstances. However, we would certainly not want a person who had reported their suspicions to the police to have carte blanche. Their suspicions could be reported in such a way as to play those suspicions down, or they could be so ambiguous that the police would find it difficult to follow them up, and the trainer could then carry on providing the terrorist training with impunity. Even if he was given ever-stronger reasons for knowing that the training would be used for terrorist purposes, he would fall outside the scope of the clause if the amendment were to be made.
I turn to the amendments to clause 8. On amendment No. 42, it is certainly not the Government's intention to catch people who could not reasonably be expected to know that they were at a training camp. Subsection (2)
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provides that in order for an offence under the clause to be committed, the prosecution has to prove that the person knew or believed that training for terrorist purposes was taking place, or could not reasonably have failed to be aware of that. If the person had no reasonable grounds for believing that he was at a place where terrorist training was taking place, clearly he would not have committed any offence. The first part of the amendment is therefore unnecessary.
The second part of the amendment would provide a defence of attending a terrorist camp "for legitimate research purposes." That would create a major loophole, to say nothing of a significant definitional headache for the courts in having to interpret it. The Government do not believe that attendance at a terrorist training camp can ever be considered legitimate. It has been suggested, not least during this debate, that attendance at such a camp, perhaps by journalists or by a non-governmental organisation, may be considered valid. However, we consider that attendance at terrorist training camps by such individuals lends legitimacy to such groups and creates an environment in which terrorism may flourish. That is wholly wrong. The Government do not consider that there can be justifiable reasons for knowingly attending a terrorist training camp at which individuals are trained in acts of terror that would lead to innocent people losing their lives. Terrorism is not a valid form of political expression, in this country or abroad.
Paul Goggins: No, because I have already heard murmurs around the Chamber of Members once again returning to the issue of the definition of terrorism. We have discussed that here today and elsewhere, and will no doubt return to it.
Until now, those who have attended terrorist training camps have been able to claim, perhaps falsely, that they were simply there in a humanitarian capacityperhaps brewing the tea. We intend to close off such defences, which can allow people to evade punishment although they are clearly complicit in the provision of training for terrorists.
Exactly the same logic applies to much of amendment No. 59. We do not believe that those who attend terrorist training camps on the grounds that they were there just to gather information should escape the consequences of their actions.
Jeremy Corbyn: As regards people being accused of attending a terrorist training camp in another country, if a journalist visits that place to collect evidence and is prepared to produce it in a British court, are we then to prosecute the journalist as well as the people who have taken part in the training? That is the logic of the Minister's argument.
"a person attending at that place throughout the period of that person's attendance could not reasonably have failed to understand that instruction or training was being provided there wholly or partly for such purposes."
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