My Lords, I do not at the moment support the amendment but, from what I have just heard, I could be persuaded. It seems to me that the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act has two purposes: the first is that already discussed, which is about people’s occupation; the second is about the application for licences. For example, with a firearms licence, the person issuing the licence needs to be sure about the antecedents of the person involved.
For the reason that the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, said, you would expect that the inquiry chairman in any inquiry should know as much as possible about the subject matter. As she explained, because of the internet and many other reasons, the public may know more than the inquiry chairman. It would seem to me to be an odd conclusion if the inquiry chairman or woman were not in a position to have all the information available. Generally, we would expect that this person would be either a retired judge or someone very senior, who should be able to manage information in the most responsible way.
I could have supported the noble Baroness’s proposal if she had been able to say how she would have managed it instead. There needs to be a filter, which concerns the quality of the test which has to be applied: whether it is about necessity, which is what is proposed, or about who applies that test—a Minister or another mechanism. If not, people might think that it is an extension too far which may in future lead, if not to abuse, then certainly to people not being prepared to support public inquiries, which is the complete opposite of the intent that I think we all have.