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Clause 1

Part of Counter-Terrorism Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 29th April 2008.

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Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State (Security, Counter-terrorism, Crime and Policing), Home Office 10:45 am, 29th April 2008

That is an entirely reasonable point. Whenever leading in a Committee, I have tried to ensure that whatever hangs off the Christmas tree, such as subsequent codes of practice, guidance or statutory instruments, is made available at least in draft or outline form to the Committee. I give that undertaking. We will make clear the amendments to PACE in the way that has been done since it was introduced in 1984. I will eschew the offer of more primary legislation.

Under the PACE codes, the practice that will result from the adoption of the legislation is that the powers should be used only in efforts to locate evidence of offences connected with terrorism and officers should not remove any more material than necessary. That will limit, in this very serious area, the scope for the police to go fishing and say, “It’s in French. Get the lorry round and we’ll take the lot.” Members of the Committee have made an entirely serious point about that. With your indulgence, Mr. O’Hara, that is why subsequent clauses will put serious time limits on seizure. In the first instance that will be 48 hours and, by exception, it will be 96 hours. That is it. There will be no other extension beyond that. Quite rightly, there are clauses about how we will deal with documents that could accrue legal privilege. There must also be a very clear record of the seizure.

Given the limited time, it is not appropriate to talk about copies being left with the person whose documents are seized. The hon. and learned Gentleman’s notion that this is for however long the police want is simply erroneous if one reads the appropriate clause. There is, at least in part, the reasonable notion that this might be just another excuse to go fishing through the PACE codes. I take the point made by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome very seriously in that regard and will seek to bring something forward, whatever else is added on to the Christmas tree, at least in summary, if not in draft and if not in full.