Clause 64

Part of Serious Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 5 July 2007.

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Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Crime Reduction) 10:15, 5 July 2007

I am afraid that I will have to resist amendment No. 155. Clause 64 introduces an offence for certain further disclosures of protected information, such as taxpayer information. Clause 64(1)(b)(ii) ensures that if a person receives information from a public authority, directly or indirectly, that information remains protected by the offence of wrongful disclosure. As the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham pointed out, there is a defence in clause 64(4) that somebody believed that it was lawful to disclose the information.

In the end, the point that I hope will reassure the right hon. and learned Gentleman is that it will be a matter for the prosecuting authorities to decide whether it would be in the public interest to prosecute  somebody who has disclosed that information. Otherwise, we are saying that people can disclose information on the basis that they believe that it is good journalism and that in their opinion sensitive personal information could be disclosed and put in the public arena in an inappropriate way.

Amendment No. 155 would remove an essential part of the protection that the clause provides for information being shared. It would mean that if a person made an unlawful disclosure of the information they would not be caught by the criminal offence because they were not the original recipient of the information but instead received it indirectly. That would create a loophole in the Bill that I do not think that the Committee would wish to see, so I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.