Clause 157 - Computer information

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 16th January 2003.

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Photo of Michael Wills Michael Wills Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Criminal Justice System IT) 2:30 pm, 16th January 2003

I am happy to give the hon. Gentleman such reassurance as I can. The clause results from our desire to clarify the position after the Rottman case, as did the previous clause that we discussed.

Clause 157 echoes paragraph 5 of schedule 1 of PACE and therefore applies if material specified in an application for a production order dealt with in clauses 155 and 156 is held in electronic form. In such circumstances, the material must be produced for a constable, and access must be given to it in a form in which it can be taken away, seen and read. The hon. Gentleman will understand that we have no desire to give rise to a considerable volume of litigation. However, it is a matter of common sense that when encryption packages, for example, are widely available and can be purchased via the internet, it would make nonsense of the intent of the clause and of the Bill as a whole, if people were to produce something in encrypted form which was useless for all practical purposes. A common-sense approach would make clear what was intended by the clause.

A production order requires the subject of the order to give up excluded or special procedure material within seven days of the order being made. Perhaps it will help or reassure the hon. Gentleman if I further explain jargon. Excluded material is fully defined in section 11 of PACE, and includes any of the following that are held in confidence: personal business records, human tissue held for diagnosis, or journalistic material. Special procedure material, which is defined in section 14 of PACE, includes other material acquired or created in the course of business, also held in confidence.

Clause 171 requires the Secretary of State to issue codes of practice on the operation of the powers contained in part 4. These codes will have to be laid before Parliament and will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, so the detail will be subject to further scrutiny. We are anxious to address any further concerns that people have in this area. I hope that,

with those assurances, the Committee will see fit to agree that the clause should stand part of the Bill.