Deferred Divisions

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 41A(3)),

That, at this day’s sitting, Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply to the Motion in the name of Secretary Theresa May relating to Dangerous Drugs.—(Damian Hinds.)

Question agreed to.

Debate resumed.

Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Pete Wishart: I thought that I was going to get one of my traditional and routine tickings-off from you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am glad that it was just an interruption for the 7 o’clock motion.

Madam Deputy Speaker: It is the season of good will, Mr Wishart.

Pete Wishart: I am grateful for the early Christmas cheer.

To return to the Bill, what new measures does it contain? I suppose that its unique selling point is the introduction of temporary exclusion orders. They are a relatively new feature, and I do not think that there has been much discussion of them. They are designed to ban British citizens who are suspected of travelling abroad to fight for terror groups from re-entering the UK, and they involve the cancellation of travel documents and the inclusion of such individuals on watch lists and no-fly lists. The Bill allows the cancellation of passports at the border for up to 30 days. The police and border forces will be able to seize the passports and tickets of British citizens if they suspect that those individuals intend to engage in terrorism-related activities at their destination.

That all moves us quite conveniently and neatly towards the idea of statelessness, which we have looked at in relation to other matters that we have debated in the House, and which seems to be the drift and the trend. I would be grateful if the Minister would tell me where we have got with the 30 days issue. I listened carefully to the Home Secretary’s speech, in which she said clearly that the Government are in control of allowing people back in. Well, we have heard about some of the difficulties with that. What happens if there is a breakdown of bilateral relationships with other nations that are not prepared to play along with the UK’s game? Surely, an effective state of statelessness will emerge.

2 Dec 2014 : Column 258

The Bill includes the stronger enforcement of TPIMs, including an ability for the authorities to force suspects to move to another part of the country, which amounts to internal exile. There is no great difference between that and the main feature of Labour’s control orders. The Bill also contains curious stuff about colleges and universities, and the expectation that our higher education institutions will prevent individuals from being drawn into terrorism. The measures include banning extremist speakers from campus grounds. How that is to be achieved without massive impacts on academic freedom and freedom of speech in higher education institutions is beyond me. I am looking forward to guidance about how those freedoms will be maintained and guaranteed. Our universities and colleges have already started to raise concerns. I listened carefully to the right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) who said that only yesterday there was concern about how the proposal would be represented in colleges and universities. We have to be careful about how we pursue such a measure.

Perhaps most controversially, the Bill contains measures to require internet service providers to retain data on internet protocol addresses to enable authorities to identify individual users. That brings us neatly to the ongoing concern about, and the trend towards, the Home Secretary’s much-coveted snoopers charter. We are all in the business of doing all that we can to keep the people of our nation safe and secure, but that does not always mean that we must necessarily agree with everything that the Home Secretary says from the Dispatch Box. Some of us might even have a different way of doing things and different suggestions about how to get the balance right between assuring our safety and security and making sure that there is no compromise on our civil liberties. That is why in Scotland, where we have specific responsibilities on that agenda, we take a different view about how it can be better progressed. In Scotland, we want to ensure that our police and our other public bodies have the tools they need not only to tackle and prevent terrorism but to maintain a community where civil liberties are respected and where measures that are introduced are proportionate and have full community support. We have our own separate and distinct legal system in Scotland, and we have a range of devolved responsibilities. We have responsibilities for delivering large parts of the agenda in the Bill, particularly on the Prevent side. Once again, we have seen an almost total lack of consultation between this Government and the Scottish Government, who have specific responsibilities for delivering large swathes of the Bill because of devolved competences.

Mr MacNeil: Does my hon. Friend think—this is emerging in his speech—that in the seven Bills he has mentioned, and in the responses of both the Labour and Conservative Governments over the years, the reaction has been, “Must do something, although we are not sure what”? That seems to be the driving policy. There is not much thought in their policy, but the policy is, “Must do something.” It is probably headlines driving the policy.

Pete Wishart: That “must do something” feeling has probably increased as we approach an election year. The Conservative Government have gone a bit more cautiously and trodden a little more gently and carefully into this area than the previous Labour Government.

2 Dec 2014 : Column 259

The Labour Government went all guns blazing straight into the Labour anti-civil libertarian state they so carefully constructed and made sure they managed so effectively. The Conservatives have played this game a little differently, but we are now into an election year. So what is a good move to get people overexcited about political issues? What is the approach to take? It is, “Get a terror Bill, to make sure you are seen to be hard on this. That will differentiate us, and challenge the Labour party and all our political opponents to say we are doing this wrong.” That is not a game we have a particular interest in playing.

So we have this idea and this conversation we are having between the Government and Scottish Ministers, but the Scottish Government did not even get sight of some of the measures in this Bill on First Reading. I know that the Minister has been in touch with our new Justice Secretary, so he will know the unhappiness there is in Scotland about some aspects of all this. The Scottish Government have said that because we have responsibility for the public bodies mentioned in so many bits of this Bill, we want proper consultation. We are not interested in this fast-tracking and getting it through as quickly as possible because it is an election year—we want to do this right. Where we have devolved responsibilities for delivering this agenda, we want to make sure that the public bodies accountable to our Parliament will be properly consulted, so that we can shape up and make sure we have a proper agenda. We have therefore asked the Minister to take Scotland out of the Prevent side of these measures. The schedules relating to Scottish public bodies have already been dropped in part of this. I suggest, and I hope the Minister may be open to this approach, that he seeks to ensure that we at least have the opportunity to engage with our public bodies and consult them properly, and to make the right decisions that suit our agenda and our responsibilities. That would be good. Sometimes we tend to look at things such as the Prevent strategy in a proper, holistic way, considering how public bodies could also promote cohesion, well-being and democracy. That is the way we differ on looking at these things, and we hope the Government follow our approach.

Let me say something about my commitment and my reason for taking this on. David Haines, the British man so brutally executed by ISIS forces in Iraq, was a constituent of mine. His family were in Perth, and I was at the memorial service that was held. His killing was an appalling act and it brought this right home to my community. The way the people of Perth responded to what they had observed—the brutal, appalling murder—was nothing short of magnificent. They made sure that David Haines was properly commemorated and that his memory will endure in Perth, and it was fantastic. So I know how these issues are brought home to specific communities and I have seen the wonderful way communities unite to make sure they gather around that family, making sure they are supported, and try to understand. But the most impressive thing for me was that I saw a real attempt to understand what was going on within this—more so than probably the Government have done. People wanted to understand why this happened in our community and what special conditions led to this happening in a small, sleepy little city such as Perth.

Every single one of us in this House has a job of work to do to keep our communities safe and to keep brave people such as David Haines safe. David Haines

2 Dec 2014 : Column 260

went out there to help the world become a better place and to ensure that communities without help and assistance could be helped and assisted. All of us have a responsibility in this regard, so I will take no lectures from anybody in this House about being soft on terrorism or about our Government taking no interest in this matter. We all have an interest in this matter. We might not all agree on everything. I vehemently disagreed with the approach of the right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles when she was in the Labour Government. I was keen on what the Conservative-led Government were doing at first, but I am less keen now. But let us all work together. We need to look at this whole thing holistically. We should take responsibility for the things that we do wrong and challenge the horrible extremism and ideology that exist in our communities, but let us do it together, do it sensibly and do it constructively.

7.10 pm

Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the speech by the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), some of which I agreed with. Let me place it on the record that I also agreed with some of the things that were said by the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood) and, of course, my Labour colleagues.

I ask the House to bear with me for a few moments while I explain what I did before I became a Member of Parliament. It is important for the House to know where I am coming from when I make the observation that I am about to make. I was a prosecutor for nearly 15 years, so I am not shy of having strong laws in the criminal justice system. I do not have a problem with people being prosecuted for crimes that they have committed and being sentenced appropriately. If people commit a serious offence, they should receive a serious sentence. I do not think there is a problem in having laws that deal with criminality.

I understand the position from which Governments approach this subject. Obviously, they have an obligation and a duty to protect their citizens. That duty must, of course, be balanced with individual rights and civil liberties. I know that it can be a difficult balance to strike, especially in these challenging times. Perhaps it is at times of pressure that a civilised society can be recognised. When a civilised society loses sight of its liberties, it is giving in to the terrorists. It is saying, “You have succeeded, because we have put up all these fences and brought in all this legislation.”

I ask the Government to consider the following points. On the issue of temporary exclusion orders, there should be proper legal and judicial oversight. There should be a categorical commitment that a UK national who is overseas will be allowed back into the country. At the end of the day, everybody knows that, under international law, a person will be stateless if they cannot come back to the country of which they are a national.

Earlier, I put a question directly to the Home Secretary. As I understand it, she said not that people would be stopped from coming back to the country, but that they would have to go on a managed programme, by which she meant that they could come back on our terms and conditions. The question is, what happens to the person who does not want to accept our terms? We can deal with them if there is evidence of criminality against

2 Dec 2014 : Column 261

them, as we can prosecute and, if necessary, imprison them. But what if no criminal allegation can be proved? What happens then if they want to return? The proposed legislation suggests that they can return only on our terms. I ask the Government to reconsider that concept in its entirety. If they want a managed return, the person who is subjected to the order should be able to go to the courts to challenge it. I do not mean the judicial review process, because that is incredibly complex and the Government have recently passed quite a lot of stringent rules about whether people can have legal aid for judicial review.

The process of challenging a managed return order should not be dissimilar to that which applies when someone is charged with a criminal offence. They can apply for legal aid, they can go to court and they can contest the allegations against them. That element should be strengthened in dealing with people who are excluded. Legal aid should be available in a very simple system, allowing people to challenge the orders in the proper courts, as opposed to having to go through the very circuitous route of judicial review. As a lawyer, I can tell hon. Members that that is not an easy route. A straightforward application to challenge orders, such as that which people would make in any other example of criminality, is the right way forward. I hope that the Home Secretary and the Opposition Front Benchers, when tabling amendments to the Bill, will consider the judicial safeguards.

The second part of the proposals involves taking away people’s passports or travel documents when they are travelling. I understand the rationale for that. A father or mother might ring up, saying that their child is travelling across the country and might be heading for somewhere they should not, and asking whether something could be done. I accept that it might not be possible, in the space of a few hours, to get a court order to ensure that there is a legal sanction behind the removal of that person’s documents. However, the proposal that the police or law enforcement agencies could keep the documents for up to 14 days—even after 14 days people might only be able to go to the courts for a judicial challenge—needs to be reconsidered.

Although there might be an urgent need for such a provision for the first few hours, or even for a day, the judicial oversight should kick in within a certain time—say 48 hours—of the stoppage taking place, rather than 14 days, which is what the Bill proposes if I understand it correctly. Even after those 14 days, the person would only be able to challenge whether the police officer had been diligent. They will say that they are diligent; what needs to be challenged is whether taking away the document was a right and proper decision. We know from history that whenever powers of stop and search are introduced, they are always abused and they are quite often never properly implemented. We therefore need to be careful about these draconian powers and how they are exercised. Adding a legal and judicial element to the process is necessary so that we have a balance between protecting the citizen from criminality and retaining people’s liberties. I hope that the Secretary of State will consider that. At the same time, it is pointless to have rights if people do not have the legal aid with which to exercise them. I hope that that will accompany this.

2 Dec 2014 : Column 262

On TPIMs, I agree with the Home Secretary’s new definition involving reasonable probability. The standard of proof has gone up, but it should be even tighter. Provisions such as TPIMs take away people’s liberties and they should be able to challenge that. I know that people can challenge those orders in law. Members might not be aware that, interestingly enough, quite a lot of people who challenged their TPIMs in court were released from those orders, and that was with a very low standard of proof, as we call it in the legal system. I am very pleased that the standard of proof will go up and I think that there should be clear judicial safeguards in this regard as well.

I now come to my final observations on a point that is causing me some concern—the provisional statutory framework for universities, prisons, schools, nurseries and so on, intended to prevent radicalisation. It always makes me uncomfortable when the state tries to enter the arena of monitoring and controlling thought and discussion. Other hon. Members have alluded to the fact that some universities are worried that that might prevent the proper, sensible discussion of issues. There are many in this country, and across the world at large, who hold views that could be called socially or morally conservative, religiously conservative, or even radical; but there is a big difference between holding socially conservative views and getting to the stage of committing a criminal offence—that is a big jump.

Although I will wait to see the Home Secretary’s guidelines, I am concerned about another proposal in the legislation. If an institution does not carry out what it has been asked to do, or fails to monitor it properly, the Secretary of State can direct them to do it. It would be helpful to know what we are talking about in relation to the guidelines. I say this not to criticise, because I know that all Governments, of whatever complexion, do this, but when this type of legislation is introduced, we should have more time to analyse and discuss the matters sensibly and get the details. Regrettably, that has not happened in this case. We have not had enough time. I know that three days will be set aside for debate in Committee of the whole House, but we really should have had more time to discuss the measures in the Bill before it came to the Chamber today. I therefore look forward to hearing the Government’s proposals in relation to libraries, universities and other institutions.

Let me move on to my concerns about the state interfering in thought processes. The provision might look, on the face of it, very comforting and reassuring, but will it actually achieve anything? Will it be effective, or are we just bringing in another layer of rules and regulations without thinking about whether they will work? I think that organisations should be told that these dangers exist, and I do not see anything wrong with sending out guidelines that say, “This is the kind of thing you’re looking for,” but I think they should be voluntary, not statutory. I think that resources should be made available to help institutions deal with radicalisation and extremist views.

Although everybody is talking about radicalisation in general, we know that we are talking about a tiny number of people who call themselves Muslims but are doing things that I can quite honestly say most of us just do not connect with in any shape or form. As the hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) said, of the 2.5 million to 3 million Muslims in this country,

2 Dec 2014 : Column 263

those people number in the hundreds. Many of them are young, and most of their information seems to come from the internet.

It is right that there should be a counter-narrative. The state should not set up a unit specifically to deal with that, but there is nothing wrong with going into a Department and putting in place funding, for example, to look at countering the narratives. Many Members have talked today about certain institutions that have been looking at radicalisation, such as the one in King’s college, but there are other people who have looked into it who, perhaps because what they say is sometimes a little broader, do not get enough attention.

A famous American academic, Professor Kundnani, has looked in detail at all aspects of radicalisation, and one of his suggestions—this is very pertinent—is that in universities and places of education there should be spaces for wide-ranging discussion of religious ideology, identity and foreign policy. Those spaces should not be undercut by the fear that expression of radical views will attract the attention of intelligence agencies or counter-terrorism police. If we scare people so that when they come out with some radical or conservative idea they will not discuss it, we will never find out what is going on in their head and never be able to challenge them and say, “Actually, your narrative is wrong.” A safe space should be allowed for that discussion to be had.

Mr Khalid Mahmood: When we start to engage with those with radical views that differ substantially from the views of the general Muslim community and of Islam, allowing them access at that level sets us back, because instead of putting their views forward, they put the whole radical doctrine and ideology forward, which weakens the entire case. We have done too much of that here in the past. We need to start to tackle those with very different and radical views that need to be addressed.

Yasmin Qureshi: I am sorry, but I respectfully disagree with my hon. Friend. Yes, some people have radical views that we would all disagree with, but unless we hear what they have to say, we cannot challenge them.

I speak to a lot of young people all the time, especially young Muslim males, and I listen to what they say. Sometimes they come out with things that do not make me think for a minute that they are going to commit a crime, but show that they have a view about certain issues. I sit there and explain to them, “That is not right and this is how it should be,” and they listen. That kind of discussion is important, and we cannot stifle it.

Jeremy Corbyn: My hon. Friend is making an interesting contribution. Does she think that young Muslims, particularly young Muslim men, sometimes feel rather patronised because the only concern of the whole world is the danger of their being radicalised? I have had many discussions with young Muslim men at mosques in my constituency, and in schools and colleges, and their concerns are jobs, housing, health, and career prospects. They sometimes feel that they are being unfairly singled out as a danger to society, when they want to make a contribution just like everybody else.

Yasmin Qureshi: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. He will not be surprised to hear that I entirely agree with him.

2 Dec 2014 : Column 264

As somebody who talks to a lot of young Muslim males, let me explain that they are very fearful and frightened at the moment. We see all the headlines in the newspapers about what happened at the school in Birmingham, for example. Yes, what happened at that school was wrong, but pictures are painted that every Muslim school in the country is acting in that way, or that every single young Muslim male is behaving in a certain way. That kind of narrative is dangerous. Sometimes we in this place need to be careful about what we say as well, because these people are very vulnerable.

While I have no doubt that people I talk to are not going to do anything stupid or wrong at all, it is appropriate to be able to discuss things. In talking about a safe space, I do not mean that people should be allowed to say things unchallenged, but that we should hear what they have to say and then challenge them and tell them that they are wrong. Unless we confront people’s difficult thoughts, we will not be able to challenge them. That is how we deal with this. Professor Kundnani has suggested that proper research should be carried out with some of the people who have returned from Syria and other places to find out their motivation for going there.

Governments and politicians can certainly do a lot more to furnish a counter-narrative. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth) said, we should see on the internet a counter-narrative to the other narrative. That is very important. As the Home Secretary has said, many imams and scholars of Islam living in this country post on websites and blogs and clearly state that the stuff that ISIL and others are doing is completely un-Islamic. It is important for the Government and institutions to push what those people and scholars have written to the forefront of the media, so that the country at large and young people can be educated by it.

Dr Julian Lewis: That is precisely the sort of role I see the Government playing—not setting themselves up as Islamic scholars, but giving support to those authentic Islamic scholars who can speak with authority.

Yasmin Qureshi: I agree. I will finish by saying that there are people in this country who can help to create the counter-narrative, which is really important. If we sort out the narrative, half of this Bill will not be necessary.

7.30 pm

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): The Home Secretary set out in her opening remarks why she believes it is necessary to introduce this Bill. She referred to the threat level, which has increased, and to the number of terrorist threats thwarted by our intelligence and security services and the police. She also referred to the need for the Bill’s additional powers to keep this country safe.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), the shadow Home Secretary, said that we will work with the Home Secretary: “We agree with her on some things, but we do not think she has got it right yet on others, and amendments are needed. Parliament as a whole must be thoughtful and responsible, because our liberty and security depend on each other. We need both in a democracy to keep us safe.”

2 Dec 2014 : Column 265

This afternoon’s debate has been very thoughtful and responsible. The contributions of Members on both sides of the House have been of very high quality, and the debate has been very well informed and knowledgeable. The former Attorney-General, the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), started with a succinct but powerful speech. The Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), reminded the House of the need for effective scrutiny of legislation and the role the Committee can play in that regard. He was followed by the right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), who is an esteemed member of the Intelligence and Security Committee. My right hon. Friend the Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears), who is also a member of the ISC and a former counter-terrorism Minister, said that the provisions were both necessary and proportionate.

I will comment on Members’ contributions when I refer to specific provisions. The hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) is another member of the ISC, and he was followed by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr Mahmood), who speaks with such authority, as a member of the Muslim community, about his own experience in Birmingham, particularly with regard to schools and Operation Trojan Horse. He was followed by the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood) and it is important to note that GCHQ is in his constituency. I think that all Members would want to pay tribute to the security and intelligence services for all the work they do, every day of the week and every week of the year, to keep us all safe. I think the hon. Gentleman is the Liberal Democrat spokesman on this issue and it was interesting to hear him say that he thought the Bill strikes broadly the right balance. He noted in particular the support for the data retention provisions.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth), who is a former Home Office Minister and another member of the ISC, spoke powerfully about radicalisation and the work of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s college to inform the debate. We then heard from the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart). We know, of course, that terrorism has touched Scotland in recent years, with the attack on Glasgow airport. Finally, my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi) spoke with her experience as a prosecutor and her knowledge of her community.

I will now briefly refer to the specific contents of the Bill to pick up some of the issues raised in the debate. Part 1, which deals with exclusion and passports, introduces new powers to deal with the emerging threat from ISIL—it is known by various names—and the British citizens and residents who have gone out to fight for it. The level of the threat is unprecedented, and we accept the need for new powers.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Salford and Eccles referred, very interestingly, to academic studies about those who go to fight but then want to return to this country, and she mentioned the three categories of the disturbed, the dangerous and the disillusioned. That will help to inform our debate on ensuring that the laws are proportionate and deal with the problems we face.

2 Dec 2014 : Column 266

As my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary set out, we have some concerns about aspects of part 1. Strong powers must be accompanied by equally strong checks and balances, but such checks and balances are absent from the Bill.

That issue was raised by the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield, who made a very interesting comparison. He used the fact that a regime was put in place to ensure that there was judicial oversight, originally for control orders and then for TPIMs, to argue very effectively that we need to do something similar for exclusion orders. He also made a point about passports and possible claims for compensation, and I hope that the Minister for Security and Immigration will respond to that. The right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife also talked at length about exclusion orders and his concerns about interfering with the right of return.

We will table amendments in Committee to strengthen part 1. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton South East asked whether we would do so, and I can reassure her that we will. We will also seek information about the exclusion power, as it is called in the Bill. As my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary mentioned, the Prime Minister originally promised to exclude people from the United Kingdom, but the Home Secretary has said that the power is in fact about managing the reintroduction of individuals into the UK on certain terms. The process is important, but many questions remain about how part 1 will work, and about whether the powers will be used proportionately.

On part 2 on TPIMs, we of course welcome the Government U-turn. Having looked at the evidence, they are reintroducing relocation powers. The Opposition have called for that to be done for several years. The last Tory Home Secretary, the noble Lord Howard, has also called for it, as have both the current and the former independent reviewers of terrorism legislation. We are therefore very pleased by that change, and we also welcome the proposals to strengthen TPIMs in various ways.

We will seek clarification from the Minister on certain issues in Committee, including the 200-mile relocation limit and firearms licences, which my right hon. Friend mentioned. There is concern about the fact that firearms licensing officers did not know in the past that someone was on a TPIM.

Mrs May indicated dissent.

Diana Johnson: I am very pleased that the Home Secretary is shaking her head, but it would be helpful if the Minister enlightened us about why the Government feel the need to make a provision specifically about that issue.

Part 3 is about data retention. We know that telephone records have always shown who receives calls and from whom, and that it has always been possible to link a number to the individual who owns the line. The Opposition think that it is appropriate for equivalent records to be kept for e-mails and peer-to-peer sharing.

As my right hon. Friend said, that issue is particularly important in relation to the National Crime Agency. It has IP addresses for about 20,000 individuals whom it suspects of accessing online child abuse images, but

2 Dec 2014 : Column 267

against whom it has not been able to follow through. We think that this power is urgently needed because, until the NCA can get the names of the 20,000 individuals, it will not know how many of them are known sex offenders, are working with children or are living with children. Those are the most basic checks that should be undertaken. The case of Myles Bradbury, which ended in the last 24 hours, should serve as an urgent reminder to the Government of the dangers of the NCA failing to follow up on leads. We accept what was said this evening about the drafting of clause 17. It should be looked at to improve the clarity.

On part 5, we welcome the fact that Prevent is being put on a statutory footing. My right hon. Friend the Member for Salford and Eccles made an excellent contribution on that and spoke, in particular, about the need for consistency and evaluation. It is important to show that whatever is put in place is working and having an effect. We are concerned that the guidance must be made available as soon as possible. Even if the guidance is in a draft format, it would be helpful to have it available when the Bill is in Committee over the next couple of weeks so that we can see what the Government’s thinking is on this issue.

There is, of course, a need for the community to develop resilience and for us to get into the DNA of the community, as a number of hon. Members said. The point has been made strongly this evening that the Department for Communities and Local Government has not taken the lead on the Prevent agenda in the way that the Home Secretary had perhaps hoped. It is therefore important that Prevent is put on a statutory footing. There are lessons to be learned from the experience of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr of schools in Birmingham in relation to Prevent and the duties that will be put on schools.

Finally, the hon. Member for New Forest East gave a thoughtful speech about the need for a counter-narrative at a national level, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley spoke about how private companies can be engaged in getting that message out. That area needs to be developed.

In conclusion, this Second Reading debate has been constructive. It has highlighted where there is support for the provisions in the Bill and where changes are needed. It has raised a series of specific questions for the Government to answer in the coming stages of the Bill’s passage. We must act proportionately, ensuring that the balance between security and liberty is dealt with properly, and that all the checks and balances are in place, in order to secure as much support as possible for the proposals.

7.42 pm

The Minister for Security and Immigration (James Brokenshire): In responding to what has been a very good debate, it is important to underline the context and background to our discussions. As the Home Secretary emphasised in opening today’s debate, the terrorism threat to the UK is considerable and as bad as it has been at any time since 9/11. That is the assessment that we have been given. It is our duty as a Parliament to ensure that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies have the tools and powers that they need to keep us safe.

2 Dec 2014 : Column 268

I am grateful to all right hon. and hon. Members who have contributed to the debate. Many of them have great knowledge of the subject matter and experience in their communities, which has ensured that the debate has had great breadth and has touched on many issues. It is notable that we have heard from four members of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, a further member of the Home Affairs Committee, a former Attorney-General and other Members who have great knowledge, expertise and experience. That has contributed enormously to the debate. I believe that if we continue in that vein and with that approach, the Bill will benefit.

It is important to underline some of the themes of the debate, such as the need to ensure both privacy and security. The right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears), my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood) and the right hon. Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth) made that point. The two things are not mutually exclusive, and should be mutually reinforcing—one goes with the other. Security brings us liberty, and liberty is basically what we are trying to provide and protect through the security arrangements.

The issues of proportionality and necessity have also been mentioned, and we believe that they are reflected in the measures in the Bill. We look forward to the House’s forthcoming scrutiny and examination of those measures. I note that, almost without exception, the right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken have recognised and understood the importance of the powers in the Bill and broadly supported them, even if some would like to see further focus and reflection on specific aspects of them. On a subject as vital as national security, and confronting and combating terrorism and the extremism that may lead to it, it is right that the House presents a united front to those who would seek to do us harm. The debate this afternoon and this evening has done precisely that.

The threat that ISIL presents to us is serious, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) said, but it is not the only threat we face. There are a range of other terrorist organisations, including Boko Haram, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and al-Shabaab, and we must also protect ourselves from the threat of home-grown extremists who have been radicalised here in the UK. I recognise some of the points that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) made, but the threat is not static. It is dynamic—it constantly evolves and changes. That is why it is right that the Government continue to challenge ourselves on what more we can do through legislation, but also through other processes such as the extremism taskforce. That is reflected in the Bill.

It important to recognise the excellent job that the police, MI5 and others do in keeping us safe through the actions that they take day in, day out and week in, week out. My hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham, who has GCHQ in his constituency, made that point well. I should put on record, as other Members have, our recognition of and thanks to all those who work so hard to ensure the security of this country.

Some broader themes were also raised, such as the issue of counter-ideology and narrative. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr Mahmood) made points about ISIL, which is clearly neither Islamic nor a state. The extremists who seek to advance its poisonous narratives do not do so in the name of Islam, which is a

2 Dec 2014 : Column 269

peaceful religion practised by millions of people around the globe. It is important to underscore that clear message from this House—we recognise the threat, but ISIL’s narrative is twisted and poisonous and does not represent Islam, which is one of the great religions.

On the issue of a counter-narrative, a number of Members, including the hon. Member for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi), mentioned communities standing up. It is important to recognise that 100 imams have stood together and signed a letter absolutely condemning the actions of ISIL and others. That has shown a community coming together, and it has used social media to do so. It has used hashtags such as #NotInMyName and #MakingAStand to ensure that a counter-message is delivered in a way that is likely to reach those who need to be reached. Of course we want more of that, but it is important to recognise the stances and responses that the community has given to confronting and combating some of the sheer evil that has been perpetrated, and how it is making a stand in a direct and powerful way.

Keith Vaz: The Minister is making a sensible and thoughtful speech and his tone is absolutely right. May I put to him a point that I put to my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears)? Has any research been done on the tipping point and the moment a law-abiding citizen suddenly becomes a radical jihadist? We have a lot of experience in counter-terrorism and have spent a huge amount of money on the issue. Are we any closer to knowing where that profile changes?

James Brokenshire: This is a complex subject and we cannot point to one individual factor for a specific individual. We can examine the profiles and backgrounds of terrorists who have been convicted for their crimes, but it is hard to generalise. We can point to individual factors or circumstances that may have contributed over a number of years, and some contributions to the debate have been about the vulnerability of certain individuals. Equally, for whatever reason, some people have sought to create an identity by allying themselves to an extremist organisation in some way. There is good understanding, but answers will be different for different circumstances and individuals, and it is important to understand the layers and complexity. Equally, we must look at the safeguarding agenda. Our work through Prevent is to ensure that front-line professionals are acutely aware of identifying any issues, so that people are directed to support and measures and do not progress down the path towards radicalisation and terrorism. We will continue that important work.

Mr Khalid Mahmood: Following on from what my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) said, a study has been done by Professor Kam Bhui of Queen Mary university of 600 people from London and Bradford—it should have been Birmingham, but it was not—on a clinical and psychological basis. That provides a certain way forward although it does not address the issue of ideology.

James Brokenshire: That is why it is so important that we continue to see that response from the community and families. The Home Secretary mentioned FAST—Families Against Stress and Trauma—and the good work

2 Dec 2014 : Column 270

it seeks to do to encourage families who are concerned about a loved one or someone they know to have the confidence to come forward to talk to someone. That may not necessarily be the police—it may be another agency or someone from the community—but where there are concerns we should act earlier to prevent someone from moving down a pathway that might lead them to be radicalised or to want to make the journey to Syria or Iraq. We must give a clear message that that is not the way to help or assist in that conflict.

On oversight and engagement, I am keen to ensure that we respond to Select Committees—indeed, I will give evidence on the Bill tomorrow morning to the Joint Committee on Human Rights. The Home Affairs Committee will also hold an evidence session tomorrow, and we will respond to inquiries from various Committees that have an interest in this matter.

Today’s main contributions have largely focused on the temporary exclusion order and Prevent, so I will concentrate my remaining remarks on those issues. On discussions with our international partners, as the Home Secretary made clear in her opening remarks we are actively engaged with a number of countries, and those discussions have been positive thus far in relation to practical operations. On the ability of someone to request a return, I point right hon. and hon. Members to clause 5(1), which states that the Secretary of State “must” issue a permit to return. The concept is of a managed return when a request is made, and the only circumstances in which a permit can be refused is if a person fails to attend an interview with a police or immigration officer. Therefore, the sense that we will deprive people of their citizenship or make them stateless does not bear examination, because they will have that right to return and the ability to make that request.

The speedier mechanisms can operate in circumstances around deportation. We will seek to cancel someone’s travel documents and to ensure that they can be put on watch lists, so that they can be met and we know when that return will take place. That is our stance. I therefore tell my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) that we are not seeking to say that someone cannot return in perpetuity. As we have made clear, those concerned will have the right to return to the UK. We believe and are confident that the measures we propose are compliant with our international obligations and relevant human rights legislation.

Sir Menzies Campbell: But an individual can return only under the terms specified by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. Can the Minister think of any other occasions or circumstances when the right of return has had conditions attached?

James Brokenshire: The power rightly reflects the challenge and threat we see from those returning from areas of conflict. They might have been radicalised and might have been acting on the instructions of a terrorist organisation. That is why we judge that the power is necessary. Equally, we know that the power deserves appropriate scrutiny, which I know the House will give the measures.

We think it is important to put Prevent on a statutory basis to ensure that there is greater consistency in the manner in which it is provided. It will also ensure that

2 Dec 2014 : Column 271

organisations recognise their responsibilities. The measure is about preventing terrorism. It is important to understand the specific frame in which Prevent exists, and to underline the work Prevent has undertaken since 2011. It has delivered 180 community-based projects; it ensures that front-line officers understand the context; and, in the 2013-14 financial year, Prevent local co-ordinators in our 30 Prevent priority areas worked with more than 250 mosques, 50 faith groups and 70 community groups.

In her opening remarks, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary addressed a concern that has been expressed about university campuses. Her point was that universities’ commitment to freedom of speech and the rationality underpinning the advancement of knowledge mean that they represent one of our most important safeguards against extremist views and ideologies. We need to ensure that they take their responsibilities seriously and have the basic framework in place. That is what the guidance will seek to enunciate. I hear and understand the point made on giving greater clarity in the guidance. It is our intention not only to publish the guidance, but to put it out to consultation, to ensure that we receive appropriate inputs.

To the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) I say that it is the Government’s intention that the measure will apply to Scotland, on the basis that counter-terrorism and national security are reserved. The provisions will be subject to further consultation and discussion with Ministers in the devolved Administrations, which is apt, right and proper.

In conclusion, I reiterate that the threat we face from terrorism is real and severe. The collapse of Syria and the emergence of ISIL in Iraq not only threatens the stability of the middle east, but presents a clear danger in the UK. The Bill will ensure that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies have the powers they need to keep us safe. I hope the House agrees that this is a matter of the utmost importance. We are seeking to ensure that the Bill is passed speedily but not over-speedily, so that there is proper consideration. We believe that the time allowed in Committee and on Report will ensure that the House can do that. We will ensure the swift passage of this vital legislation, but in a way that enables appropriate examination. We recognise and appreciate that the Opposition will, as they have said, do that constructively. We look forward to working with them in that regard. On that basis, I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill (Programme)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7),

That the following provisions shall apply to the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill:


(1) The Bill shall be committed to a Committee of the whole House.

Proceedings in Committee

(2) Proceedings in the Committee of the whole House shall be completed in three days.

(3) The proceedings shall be taken on the days shown in the first column of the following Table and in the order so shown.

2 Dec 2014 : Column 272

(4) The proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the times specified in the second column of the Table.


ProceedingsTime for conclusion of proceedings

First day

Part 2, new Clauses relating to Part 2, new Schedules relating to Part 2

Three hours after the commencement of

proceedings on the first day

Part 3, new Clauses relating to Part 3, new Schedules relating to Part 3, Part 4, new Clauses relating to Part 4, new Schedules relating to Part 4

Six hours after the commencement of those proceedings

Second day

Chapter 1 of Part 1, new Clauses relating to Chapter 1 of Part 1, new Schedules relating to Chapter 1 of Part 1

Three hours after the commencement of proceedings on the second day

Chapter 2 of Part 1, new Clauses relating to Chapter 2 of Part 1, new Schedules relating to Chapter 2 of Part 1

Six hours after the commencement of those proceedings

Third day

Clause 21, Schedule 3, Clauses 22 to 27, new Clauses relating to Chapter 1 of Part 5, new Schedules relating to Chapter 1 of Part 5, Clauses 28 to 30, Schedule 4, Clauses 31 to 33, new Clauses relating to Chapter 2 of Part 5, new Schedules relating to Chapter 2 of Part 5

Three hours after the commencement of proceedings on the third day

Part 6, new Clauses relating to Part 6, new Schedules relating to Part 6, Part 7, remaining new Clauses, remaining new Schedules, remaining proceedings on the Bill

The moment of interruption on the third day

Consideration and Third Reading

(5) Any proceedings on Consideration and proceedings on Third Reading shall be taken in two days in accordance with the following provisions of this Order.

(6) Any proceedings on Consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the second day.

(7) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on the second day.

Programming committee

(8) Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to the proceedings on the Bill in Committee of the whole House, to any proceedings on Consideration or to proceedings on Third Reading.

Other proceedings

(9) Any other proceedings on the Bill (including any proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments or on any further messages from the Lords) may be programmed. —(Harriett Baldwin.)

Question agreed to.


Queen’s recommendation signified.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)),

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, it is expedient to authorise:

2 Dec 2014 : Column 273

(1) the payment out of money provided by Parliament of:

(a) payments in respect of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board;

(b) expenditure incurred under or by virtue of the Act by the Secretary of State;

(2) any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable under any other Act out of money so provided;

(3) the payment of sums into the Consolidated Fund.—(Harriett Baldwin.)

Question agreed to.

Business without Debate

delegated legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Dangerous Drugs

That the draft Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 7 November, be approved.—(Harriett Baldwin.)

Question agreed to.

2 Dec 2014 : Column 274

Tackling Corruption

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Harriett Baldwin.)

8 pm

Stephen Barclay (North East Cambridgeshire) (Con): Tonight’s debate on the Government’s approach to tackling corruption is timely for a number of reasons. It builds on the progress and leadership given by the Prime Minister at the G8 and G20. It comes as we anticipate the long-awaited Government report into corruption, which has been delayed for a year but is due out, we understand, later this month. It comes as London is hosting a conference of 14 overseas territories discussing their approach to corruption, and it comes just a day after changes applying to extraction companies on disclosing payments came into legal force.

The debate is not just timely; it is relevant to London specifically. London is home to more than 250 foreign banks, the most of any financial centre. It is the largest currency trading centre in the world, processing 18% of cross-border transactions. In 2013, the then regulator, the Financial Services Authority, estimated that the level of money being laundered through London and the UK was between £23 billion and £57 billion. Indeed, the Home Secretary used the £23 billion figure when she gave a speech to the Royal United Services Institute, which suggests that the Government accept the scale of the challenge. To put those figures into global context, the African Union estimates the cost of corruption in Africa to be $148 billion and the World Bank estimates that up to $1 trillion is paid in bribes. We know this is a serious issue, and that is why it is timely that Parliament should address it.

I want to highlight three broad themes. The first is resourcing: how to get investigating corruption right and how we give life to the Government’s plan and address some of the challenges they face on the transfer of key personnel to the National Crime Agency. Secondly, how do we improve the policy in terms of industry, so that we move from a quantity approach, particularly on suspicious activity reports, to one based more on quality and targeted at the more serious multi-million pound cases rather than low-value transactions? Thirdly, I want to highlight a number of loopholes in the legislative framework, given that there will be the Second Reading of the Serious Crime Bill in the next week or two.

On resourcing, will the Minister clarify whether colleagues in the Department for International Development have asked for reassurance on key financial investigators moving to the NCA, particularly from the proceeds of crime unit and the City of London anti-corruption units? Is it the case that, to date, only two of the 35 key investigators have agreed to move across? Such expertise takes time to grow. If we are to have a new plan, there is clearly a risk if the experts are not there to implement it. I understand that, in a letter to the Home Secretary on 20 November, the Bond group of non-governmental organisations also highlighted this issue. Given that police officers do not TUPE across and terms and conditions are less favourable, is the Minister confident that the staff will move across? I understand that in the two years that the NCA has had the intelligence unit, not been a single investigation has resulted from that intelligence. We need to tackle the concerns about resourcing.

2 Dec 2014 : Column 275

Will the Minister update the House on the challenges of buying in resource, if that is seen as a short-term fix? The case of Malawi and “cashgate” is a good example. DFID paid for a British firm, Baker Tilly, to provide expert consultancy advice. The scandal is known as “cashgate”, but we have not recovered any cash. Has there been any enforcement? We gave £106 million—a significant amount—in aid to Malawi last year. How much has been spent on the investigation? Is it true that these consultants had no powers to require banks to disclose financial transactions or request intelligence from foreign Governments? If so, what are the constraints on using external consultants in respect of such investigations in the future?

For policy reasons, the Government have decided not to pay for law enforcement out of money recovered from corruption investigations, but given that we have fewer than 100 investigators—in the Serious Fraud Office, the proceeds of crime unit and the City of London unit—would that not make sense? It would allow us to conduct more investigations, which would be in the interests of the countries being defrauded.

Will the Serious Crime Bill deal with the evidential test? It appears to be set too high and so acts as a cost disincentive to the bringing of cases, which is compounded by the time scales. Where there is a financial institution with a complex, multi-jurisdictional case, perhaps spanning many years, law enforcement agencies have just 38 days to build a case to the satisfaction of the courts to block a payment. That is clearly insufficient. We could learn lessons from Guernsey and its approach in the Indonesian logging case. We need a mechanism of unexplained wealth orders to allow law enforcement agencies to stop the clock and allow time to investigate. Does the Minister accept that 38 days is wholly inadequate when it comes to building a complex legal case on payments?

On the relationship with industry, the suspicious activity report procedure is based on regulatory compliance, rather than investigation. The industry pays out millions of pounds for document checks on one’s granny in respect of low-value transactions, while serious cases receive little scrutiny. Of the 316,527 serious activity reports filed by banks last year, just 110 were looked at by the proceeds of crime unit. The banks do not want to exit profitable clients and see them go to other firms, so we have this defensive filing of suspicious activity reports, 95% of which are not acted on by law enforcement agencies—they just sit on file for intelligence. It is not cost-effective.

Last Thursday, on the BBC’s “Question Time”, the Chief Whip—the Whip might want to sharpen her pencil—said that Facebook had been aware of intelligence relating to a terrorist attack but had not passed it on. Do the Government know whether the 300,000 or so suspicious activity reports filed by banks include any transfers of funds to people complicit in those attacks? We do not have the mechanism for filtering them effectively. Is that an issue of concern to the Government, particularly in the light of the discussion about Facebook?

We need to shift away from this catch-all defensive policy to one based on targeting high-value corruption cases, and we need to work more in partnership with financial institutions, and combine that with a greater fear factor in respect of money laundering. Does the Minister share my concern that the current consultation relating to the Financial Conduct Authority seems to

2 Dec 2014 : Column 276

be repeating past errors? We had a Financial Services Authority report in 2011 that showed problems relating to the money laundering of banks, and two weeks ago we had an FCA report showing again that small banks were failing on money laundering. If we go back to the 1990s, 23 banks were complicit in money laundering, yet no action was taken.

It might surprise the House to know that over the last decade, only two fines appear to have been imposed against individuals for money laundering, the highest of which was for £17,500. How confident is the FCA that, particularly given the number of foreign banks in the UK, we have the right approach to money laundering even today?

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I appreciate the opportunity to intervene. The hon. Gentleman refers to money laundering. In Northern Ireland, over some 30 years of a terrorist campaign, it was clear that paramilitaries were involved in it. A wealth of experience was built up by police officers both from the Royal Ulster Constabulary and from the present Police Service of Northern Ireland. If the hon. Gentleman wants to enable more prosecutions for money laundering, does he think it might be a good idea for the Government and the Department to take on some of those officers who have now retired and take advantage of their expertise to bring more prosecutions for money laundering?

Stephen Barclay: The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point about how we learn from other jurisdictions in other territories. Italy is another example, with its experience of dealing with the mafia. The hon. Gentleman speaks from experience of the challenges within Northern Ireland where there is a great deal of expertise, from which we can learn.

On the fear factor for individuals, the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards put forward very good proposals, allowing a reversal of the burden of proof, but it is still the case that money laundering reporting officers are often not seen enough within the organisation and, not being at executive level, they often do not control the budget. That risks repeating past mistakes. Let us look at HSBC and the problems it got into in Mexico. To what extent does the Minister believe that the current regime would ensure that at a group level executives would be liable individually for fines if similar mistakes were made today?

The High Court recently heard the Nigerian OPL 245 case, which was dealt with by Lady Justice Gloster. It reveals a current impediment that applies to the judiciary, which I would like to draw to the Minister’s attention. In her ruling, Lady Justice Gloster said:

“I find as a fact that, from its incorporation and at all material times, Chief Etete had a sufficient beneficial interest in Malabu”.

She refers to the well-known case of Malabu, a $1 billion oil fraud. One can only look at that judgment, which says that if Etete had the beneficial ownership, he must have had it from the point of origin when he was the oil Minister of Nigeria. That is where the companies in beneficial ownership sat, having been set up in six days by a lawyer convicted in the French courts of money laundering. Yet Lady Justice Gloster could essentially adjudicate only over the spoils of that corruption. She had no power to do otherwise, because neither of the parties to the case claimed that the funds were corrupt.

2 Dec 2014 : Column 277

To what extent would the new plan put forward by the Government allow the judiciary greater powers where, in its judgment, a case that is being disputed is corrupt? That applies particularly in the arbitration courts, given the lack of transparency often seen in those proceedings.

Of course, non-governmental organisations could act as a friend of the courts in theory, but cost pressures invariably make that very difficult, while the likes of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 cannot be used to intervene unless there is a victim. If in this case the Nigerian Government are not of the view that they have been defrauded, very little can be done. We need to look at the way our courts operate in that regard.

Property is another area. It has been suggested that 45% of London properties valued at over £2 million are currently owned by offshore companies. The Prime Minister has taken some positive measures relating to the register of beneficial ownership, but the Minister must realise that that is null and void when it comes to those properties owned by offshore companies.

It is a well-known fact that beneficial ownership is very opaque, especially in the case of shell companies. Estate agents currently have no duties in relation to buyers, and even their duties in relation to the sellers who are their clients usually extend only to the offshore companies with which they are acting, or their lawyers. Would the Minister consider a requirement for beneficial ownership of property worth over £2 million to be disclosed to the Land Registry? She might even want to consider the imposition of a fine on offshore property-owning companies that did not wish to comply with the disclosure requirement—along the lines of those that were introduced as a result of recent banking regulatory changes—with the proceeds going to good causes. That simple measure could be applied over the next 12 months, and could bring a huge amount of transparency to the top end of the property market, where we know that money is being laundered.

Let me now ask some questions about legislation. First, will the Minister update the House on the position of the British overseas territories and Crown dependencies, given the lack of transparency surrounding their plans? Consultations in the British Virgin Islands closed 300 days ago but nothing has been reported, and the same applies to the Cayman Islands. Secondly, it is feared that industry guidance might fetter the effectiveness of new United Kingdom law relating to the transparency of payments to Governments for the extraction industry. A QC’s opinion recently raised concern in that regard. Will the Home Office be making any representations to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on the subject?

Thirdly, will the Government make it a condition that the countries to which we give aid comply with the United Nations convention against corruption? In particular, will they provide global leadership in requiring the publication of asset declarations on politically exposed persons? The UN has pressed for that, and I do not understand why we are giving aid to countries without expecting them to comply with the convention. Fourthly, will the United Kingdom introduce administrative orders, such as those introduced by Switzerland and Canada, so that we can rapidly freeze assets in post-revolutionary circumstances?

2 Dec 2014 : Column 278

Let me end by referring to the troubling case of Sergei Magnitsky, about which concern has been raised with the Government by Members in all parts of the House, and on which there appears to have been a woeful lack of progress so far. The Minister will be well aware that the 25-year-old Russian lawyer was tortured to death in a Russian jail. I know that detailed forensic information has been given to the UK Government about British nationals who were complicit in the money laundering linked to his death, and that information has been provided by Hermitage Capital Management, but the UK authorities appear to have taken no action, despite a Back-Bench debate initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab), and supported by the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) and many others.

Other Governments have given leadership, notably the United States Congress, but there has been a serious lack of action from the UK Government in relation to the proceeds of the tax fraud that was linked to Magnitsky’s torture and death. What reassurance can the Minister give that there will be a change of gear, and that amendments will be tabled to the Serious Crime Bill to give effect to it?

8.19 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Karen Bradley): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for North East Cambridgeshire (Stephen Barclay) on securing the debate. I must be honest: I will endeavour to respond to the many points that he has raised, but, given the time that is available, I suspect that I shall not be able to address them all. Let me reassure him, however, that my officials and I have heard everything that he has said, and I have already asked for a meeting with him to be arranged. I know that he has great expertise and experience in this regard, and I think it would be helpful to sit down with him and explore his comments and their practical implications. The figures he quoted in his speech show just how important it is that the Government tackle this issue, and I was interested to hear his points about the resourcing, having a targeted approach and dealing with loopholes. That offers a good structure to consider this matter by.

This Government recognise that corruption harms society, undermines economic development and threatens democracy. The impact of corruption is disproportionate to the level and the frequency at which it occurs in the United Kingdom, and often has serious ramifications in terms of public confidence across the public and private sectors. I want to make it clear that the Government are totally and absolutely committed to tackling corruption in all its forms. As my hon. Friend highlighted, this Government are doing more than any before to tackle the blight of corruption both here in the UK and around the world. In our serious and organised crime strategy, which we published last year, we set out what the Government are doing to improve our anti-corruption systems and to stop organised criminals using corruption as a tool of their trade, and in our open government partnership national action plan we acknowledged that, although the UK already has good structures and legislation in place, there was more to do to improve our standing at home and better manage our reputation for dealing with corruption and bribery offences overseas.

2 Dec 2014 : Column 279

As part of that work, we committed to publishing a robust cross-Government anti-corruption plan that will bring greater co-ordination and coherence to the work that is already ongoing and the work we plan to take, from preventing corruption in the first instance to taking effective enforcement action when it arises, as well as increasing the protection of the public and private sectors. I am pleased to tell the House that we will publish that plan very shortly.

My hon. Friend is also aware that the Prime Minister recently appointed my right hon. Friend Minister for Business and Enterprise as the Government’s anti-corruption champion, and he and I have been working together across Government to ensure that the commitments set out in our anti-corruption plan are fully implemented and make a real difference to some of the points that my hon. Friend raised tonight.

It is also important to recognise, however, that we have not simply waited to publish a plan before starting work on these important issues. We already have some of the most comprehensive anti-bribery legislation in the world, and were recently recognised as one of only four active enforcers globally by Transparency International, one of the leading non-governmental organisations working in this area. Where we have found gaps in the legislation, such as in relation to police corruption, we have brought forward new measures to address them. My hon. Friend referred to the Serious Crime Bill, which has been through the other place and which will shortly receive its Second Reading here—at some point. In working through that Bill, we will be able to debate again many of the points raised and we will be able to look at how we can tighten our legislative framework as much as possible.

My hon. Friend talked about transparency, which is also a key tool in the fight against corruption, and this Government have put transparency at the heart of our approach to reducing the opportunity for corruption. As my hon. Friend will know, measures are being taken through this House to establish a publicly accessible central register of company beneficial ownership. This will ensure that law enforcement and tax authorities have access to the information that will help them to tackle corruption, tax evasion and the laundering of the proceeds of crime. In my own professional experience before I came to this place as a tax accountant, beneficial ownership was one of those phrases I used on a frequent basis and was a great fan of. It is important to reiterate that the UK made beneficial ownership a cornerstone of our G8 presidency in 2013, so that we can tackle tax evasion and fraud and promote greater transparency of company beneficial ownership.

Despite comprehensive international rules to prevent money laundering from being in place, we recognise that some financial institutions failed to comply effectively with the requirements placed upon them, and we are determined to be a global leader in this space by taking forward legislation to ensure UK companies know who ultimately owns and controls them and that this information is made publicly available. I think we can all agree that greater transparency about who owns and controls our companies should make it more difficult to conceal an individual’s involvement in a company, and should act as a deterrent to crime. The points that my hon. Friend has made about ownership of property and other assets are vital if we are to stand as a world leader in tackling corruption.

2 Dec 2014 : Column 280

Stephen Barclay: The measures that the Government have taken on beneficial ownership are hugely positive, but does the Minister accept that if almost half of all property in London worth more than £2 million is owned offshore, the measures will not provide transparency on beneficial ownership? Does she agree that property is a particular opportunity for the Government to extend their reach?

Karen Bradley: My hon. Friend has highlighted a powerful fact, which brings home the challenge that we face. I would appreciate it if we could cover that point when we meet outside this place.

The Government have taken steps to strengthen the law enforcement response to corruption. Last year, as I have said, we established the National Crime Agency to manage the overall law enforcement response to serious and organised crime, including bribery, corruption and associated offences such as money laundering. We have introduced measures to create a new offence of police corruption, and the Home Secretary has asked Major General Chip Chapman to chair a review of the police disciplinary system.

The Government have also provided dedicated funding for UK law enforcement units to investigate illicit financial flows to the UK, which are linked to corrupt foreign officials from developing countries. My hon. Friend talked about funding from the Department for International Development for the various units, and he is right to highlight the importance of ensuring that we have a dedicated force working in that area that does not duplicate effort. In such a way, we can ensure that we get the most effective response from law enforcement specialists, who really know what they are doing and are first-class professionals in their field. That approach is recognised internationally as highly successful and innovative. To date, those units have restrained or confiscated more than £120 million of stolen funds, and further investigations and confiscations are under way. Our enforcement response must be the best that it can be, so we are reviewing the overall co-ordination and effectiveness of the UK’s enforcement response to cases of bribery and corruption. That work is ongoing, and Ministers will consider the findings in due course.

My hon. Friend raised points regarding Malawi, and I would appreciate it if we could discuss that point further. If he can provide detailed information about individuals who might be involved, or any other information, it would really assist us in our work. [Interruption.] He is making comments from a sedentary position, but I am sure that if we discussed the matter, it would assist us all.

I am conscious of the time, so I will quickly cover the suspicious activity reporting regime, which is a significant part of our work. Suspicious activity reports are a crucial source of information for law enforcement agencies, and they provide a mechanism for financial institutions and others in the regulated sector to obtain a statutory defence from a money laundering prosecution when they report their suspicions and are granted consent to proceed with a transaction by the NCA. As someone who has worked in risk management at one of the major accounting firms, I remember the joys of having to deal with such things, so I understand the criticism that my hon. Friend has highlighted. The economic crime command in the National Crime Agency is working

2 Dec 2014 : Column 281

with banks. The Home Secretary and I attended a business breakfast hosted at the Bank of England to kick off the work that we are doing with the financial institutions to find appropriate and acceptable ways to help them to deal with the bureaucracy of SARs. My hon. Friend made an important point about the profile of the issue, and all financial institutions need to raise the profile of the issue internally and see it as a key part of their own mechanisms for dealing with corruption and bribery.

My hon. Friend mentioned the proceeds of corruption, and there is much that I could say on the matter. Given the time, I will simply say that he made an important point about dealing with pre-regime changes and changes in regimes in other countries. When I attended, on behalf of the Government, the AFAR III—Arab Forum

2 Dec 2014 : Column 282

on Financial Recovery—conference about Arab countries in transition, it brought home to me the importance of making sure that we have the information that we need to enable us not only to restrain those assets but to seize them, and to return them to the countries that need the money.

I hope that my hon. Friend will acknowledge the work that the Government have done to tackle this important issue, and the improvements that we have recently initiated. I note the issues that he has raised, and I hope that our forthcoming measures will go some way towards addressing them. I look forward to debating the matter further with him.

Question put and agreed to.

8.30 pm

House adjourned.