Home News New security-centric Home Office legislation features in Queen’s Speech to Parliament

New security-centric Home Office legislation features in Queen’s Speech to Parliament

by Brian Sims

Security-focused legislation drafted to provide stronger powers to disrupt extremists and tackle corruption, money laundering and tax evasion was announced today in the Queen’s Speech to Parliament.

The Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill will be introduced to ‘prevent radicalisation, tackle extremism in all its forms and promote community integration’. It’s aimed at protecting the public against the most dangerous extremists and ensuring the Government and law enforcement have a full range of powers to deal with extremism.

The Bill is going to introduce a new civil order regime to restrict extremist activity (following consultation), safeguard children from extremist adults by taking powers to intervene in intensive, unregulated education settings that teach hate and drive communities apart, invoke stronger powers for the Disclosure and Barring Service and also close loopholes such that Ofcom can continue to protect consumers who watch Internet-streamed television content from outside the EU on Freeview.

In addition, the Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill will consult on powers to enable Government to intervene where councils fail to tackle extremism.

For its part, the Criminal Finances Bill will introduce legislation to tackle corruption, money-laundering and tax evasion. It will allow the Government to recoup more criminal assets by reforming the law on the proceeds of crime, including provisions to strengthen enforcement powers and protect the public.

It will also implement a more effective regime designed to support the reporting of suspicious financial activity, make it easier to seize illicit funds and improve co-ordination between the public and private sectors in order to tackle criminal financial behaviour.

The Bill will introduce a criminal offence for corporations who fail to stop their staff facilitating tax evasion and also improve the operation of the suspicious activity reports regime to encourage better use of public and private sector resources against the highest threats to target entities that carry out money laundering instead of individual transactions (and to provide the National Crime Agency with new powers).

On top of that, the Criminal Finances Bill will improve the ability of law enforcement agencies and the courts to recover criminal assets more effectively, particularly in cases such as those linked to grand corruption.

Two further Home Office Bills will continue from the 2015 to 2016 session: the Investigatory Powers Bill and the Policing and Crime Bill.

Change to threat level from Northern Ireland-related terrorism across Great Britain

Home Secretary Theresa May

Home Secretary Theresa May

MI5, the Security Service, has increased the threat level to Great Britain posed by Northern Ireland-related terrorism from ‘Moderate’ to ‘Substantial’. This means that a terrorist attack is a strong possibility and reflects the continuing threat from dissident Republican activity.

As a result of this change, the Home Office is working closely with the police service and other relevant authorities to ensure appropriate security measures are in place.

The threat level is lower than the Northern Ireland-related terrorism threat in Northern Ireland and the international terrorism threat posed to the UK as a whole. Both of these remain unchanged at ‘Severe’, which means that attacks are highly likely.

Theresa May said: “The main focus of violent dissident Republican activity continues to be in Northern Ireland, where they have targeted the brave police and prison officers who serve their communities day in and day out. The reality is that they command little support. They do not represent the views or wishes of the vast majority of people, both in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, who decisively expressed their desire for peace in the 1998 Belfast Agreement and have been transforming Northern Ireland ever since.”

The Home Secretary added: “It’s sensible that the public in Great Britain should also remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the police. We should not be alarmed by this change, though, while this alteration shouldn’t affect how we go about our daily lives.”

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