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Clause 1

Part of Counter-Terrorism Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 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 11:00 am, 29th April 2008

That is entirely the point. As the hon. and learned Gentleman says, very often there will be entirely reasonable grounds. But we are talking possibly about encryption and certainly about language where we think, “Hello, it’s in Arabic so it must be suspicious.” But it could be no more than the duty free list for a flight to the Gulf or the Urdu version of the menu from the restaurant round the corner, which has kindly produced its menus in Urdu as well as English. All this does is afford the police the time—48 hours—to say, “I think, but I cannot hand on heart say, with reasonable suspicion or an appropriate belief, that this document is in accord with the warrant and the grounds for the search in the first place. May I have 48 hours and no more to explore that?”

The hon. and learned Gentleman is right. It was in the 2000 Act, but only for Northern Ireland. I had a nice chat with the hon. Member for Lancaster and Wyre last night. He told me how he routinely used this law in some of the searches in a professional context. That is fair and reasonable. All we are saying is that the Government, with cross-party support, are deconstructing the entire terrorist and security legislation framework for Northern Ireland, given the peace process. But we would be remiss and irresponsible if in the course of that process with our Northern Ireland colleagues we did not ask whether there were any elements of that security framework that would be useful and efficient in our current broader threat of and fight against terrorism. This falls into that category.