On 20th January 2015 the Bishop of Durham spoke in support of amendment 2 in the name of Lord Rosser to the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill 2014-15 during the Bills committee stage. The amendment relates to inserting a sunset clause into the Bill which would be reviewed by Parliament after a two-year period. Following Lord Bates’s response from the Government to the amendment Lord Rosser decided to withdraw his amendment.
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, it is worth reminding ourselves of the speed of change in the world that has led to this legislation. If these proposals had been before us even 18 months ago, I suspect that we would not even have entertained them. Therefore, the speed of change that has brought them about demands that we say that we do not wish to forgo our existing liberties, some of which would be restricted by this Act, without having recourse, in two or three years’ time, to a serious look at whether the measures are working. So I fully support the idea of a sunset clause. I am prepared to accept that two years may be rather too brief, given all the circumstances and the likelihood that we are going to live with this for some time. I would, however, encourage the House to support these amendments in some form, since I believe that the removal of our liberties that is encompassed in these clauses is so serious that we should not put them into permanent place.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): …..I will give the Committee the reasons why we have come to the position that we have on these particular amendments. The problem that we are seeking to address with these powers is not of a short-term nature—a point very well made by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. We do not know how long it is going to be there for or how the threat that we are facing might mutate into different fields and theatres. From that point of view, we felt that having a set date and time on which those powers fall would send the wrong signal. I will come back to the reasons for that. Terrorism-related travel is a serious and ongoing issue, and we can expect the threat posed by British citizens returning from fighting alongside terrorist groups abroad to be present for many years to come. It is important that our law enforcement agencies are equipped to protect the British public from individuals who pose a risk.
Amendment 2 seeks to introduce a sunset clause to the temporary passport provisions. It would ensure that the power would be repealed in two years’ time, unless both Houses pass a resolution that it should continue. The precautions we have established should ensure that the temporary passport seizure power will be used in a fair, reasonable and lawful manner. They are aimed at striking the right balance between our civil liberties—which the right reverend Prelate was absolutely right to focus on—and our right to safety and security, which a number of noble Lords, including my noble friend Lady Buscombe, referred to. The House of Commons considered these factors very carefully, as your Lordships have, and it came to an overwhelming view that it did not feel that a sunset clause was necessary in relation to Chapter 1.