I did indeed look upon this amendment with a great deal of sympathy because I think the Committee has been united in the debates we have had on this subject over the last few weeks. There has been a very clear determination that the law in this area needs to be strengthened. I therefore sought some strong arguments as to why we should not accept this amendment. Only one thing swayed my mind and there is only one reason that I therefore ask the hon. Member for Ashford to consider withdrawing this amendment.
The advice that I have received is that there is a risk—a small risk but a risk none the less—that the courts would potentially not look favourably on our attempts to prosecute under this offence if we did not observe the convention of seeking a brief interlude in which to publicise the fact that this new offence had been introduced.
I am told that it is usual to bring in offences after a period of two months. I do not want to risk—and I am sure nobody on this Committee would wish to risk—any potential prosecution for an offence such as this going wrong because we did not observe this protocol. If the risk is there we should be alive to it. My concern is that when this offence is introduced we are able to maximise the effectiveness of our prosecutions using this offence. If there is a risk that puts that potential in jeopardy, I think I should accept that advice. Therefore I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment because the argument that has been put to me is that there may well be no interlude in which we can publicise—