Brian Paddick on the Counter Terrorism Bill

January 13, 2015 2:50 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Today the House of Lords considers another in a series of proposed laws designed to keep us date form terrorism. We have seen from events last week in Paris the potential danger from terrorists. More and more impressionable and disaffected young people are being brainwashed into travelling abroad to join groups such as the so-called 'Islamic State' where they are further indoctrinated, radicalised, trained and brutalised by the barbaric activities of such organisations. There is a real danger that some of these British citizens may be sent back to the UK to carry out the sort of attacks we saw in Paris last week and that we saw in London on 7 July 2005.

It is essential that our response to such tragic events is both proportionate and justified. The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill seeks to prevent people from travelling abroad to engage in terrorist activity and to manage their return to the UK. This means temporarily confiscating their passports if they are on their way out of the UK and making sure we know which flight they are on when they return so they can be assessed and any necessary action taken when they return to the UK. To ensure they do not pose a threat, existing Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (similar to the former, far more draconian, Control Orders) will be strengthened to close loopholes identified by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. At the same time, the standard of proof required before someone can be made subject to an order will be greater and the definition of terrorism will be tighter.

At the moment the police and security services who suspect someone of being involved in criminality can request telephone service providers to supply the details of which numbers have been called and at what time from a particular telephone number and where the calls were made from. Many of us are now using Skype and other ways of communicating over the internet instead. The Bill requires internet and communication service providers to keep records so that similar information to that already provided by the telephone companies can be supplied when someone is suspected of criminality.

There are other provisions designed to try to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism, placing a general duty on places like universities to prevent this and putting on a statutory basis, a previous voluntary scheme to help those at risk. Finally, our proposal for a Privacy and Civil Liberties Board to support the Independent Reviewer of Legislation, already agreed in principle by the Coalition Government, will be enshrined in legislation.

As with much legislation, the devil is in the detail and that is where the House of Lords comes into its own. We will scrutinise these proposals line-by-line, suggesting amendments where necessary, to ensure it does what is intended without unnecessarily or unreasonably interfering with our freedoms and civil liberties. Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords will ensure the right balance between security and freedom is achieved.