New clause 15 - Part 2: supply of information to Secretary of State etc. for verification

Sexual Offences Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:45 pm on 14th October 2003.

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'(1) This section applies to information notified to the police under—

(a) section 84, 85 or 86, or

(b) section 2(1) to (3) of the Sex Offenders Act 1997 (c.51).

(2) A person within subsection (3) may, for the purposes of the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of offences under this Part, supply information to which this section applies to—

(a) the Secretary of State,

(b) a Northern Ireland Department, or

(c) a person providing services to the Secretary of State or a Northern Ireland Department in connection with a relevant function,

for use for the purpose of verifying the information.

(3) The persons are—

(a) a chief officer of police (in Scotland, a chief constable),

(b) the Police Information Technology Organisation,

(c) the Director General of the National Criminal Intelligence Service,

(d) the Director General of the National Crime Squad.

(4) In relation to information supplied under subsection (2) to any person, the reference to verifying the information is a reference to—

(a) checking its accuracy by comparing it with information held—

(i) where the person is the Secretary of State or a Northern Ireland Department, by him or it in connection with the exercise of a relevant function, or

(ii) where the person is within subsection (2)(c), by that person in connection with the provision of services referred to there, and

(b) compiling a report of that comparison.

(5) Subject to subsection (6), the supply of information under this section is to be taken not to breach any restriction on the disclosure of information (however arising or imposed).

(6) This section does not authorise the doing of anything that contravenes the Data Protection Act 1998 (c.29).

(7) This section does not affect any power existing apart from this section to supply information.

(8) In this section—

''Northern Ireland Department'' means, the Department for Employment and Learning, the Department of the Environment or the Department for Social Development;

''relevant function'' means—

(a) a function relating to social security, child support, employment or training,

(b) a function relating to passports,

(c) a function under Part 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c.52) or Part 2 of the Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 (S.I. 1981/154 (N.I. 1)).'.—[Paul Goggins.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

With this it will be convenient to take Government new clause 16.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

I think that I can promise that we will slow the pace down just a little—for a short time at least.

New clauses 15 and 16 introduce a new power to enable information notified by sex offenders under part 2 of the Bill to be checked against details held by other specified Government agencies. That will assist the police in ensuring that offenders are notifying the correct information.

There is legitimate public concern that it should be ensured that sex offenders comply with registration requirements. As Committee members know, there is a new violent and sex offenders register—ViSOR—which will significantly improve the information on dangerous offenders that is available to the police. It is important that we include in this Bill the necessary

powers to make full use of ViSOR technology when it becomes available early next year. These new clauses provide us with such powers.

New clause 15 provides a power for the police and other law enforcement agencies to supply the dates of birth, names, addresses and national insurance numbers of sex offenders to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority, the United Kingdom Passport Service, the Department for Work and Pensions and their equivalents in Northern Ireland to check the accuracy of the information that is provided. We have identified these particular agencies because we believe that the majority of sex offenders will provide details when they apply for a new passport or to renew one, for a driving licence, or for a social security benefit or pension.

New clause 16 provides for the report that is compiled under new clause 15 to be provided to the police and other law enforcement agencies. They use that information for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of offences. I have no doubt that verification will be an important tool for the police, who will of course continue to verify details in person, but checking the records held on ViSOR against those held by the various bodies I have mentioned will bring added benefits, in that all offenders' details can be checked regularly without imposing additional burdens on the police or the offender.

It is important to assure the Committee that at all stages of the verification procedure the information will be handled in the strictest confidence. We are exploring the possibility that the information supplied by the police could be encrypted and communicated directly with computer systems in the DVLA, the Passport Service and the Department for Work and Pensions. I assure the Committee that nothing can be done under the new clause that would contravene the Data Protection Act 1998.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.