Clause 5

Counter-Terrorism Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:15 pm on 29 April 2008.

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Retention of documents

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Shadow Minister (Olympics and London), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Olympics and London)

I beg to move amendment No. 4, in clause 5, page 4, line 22, at end insert

‘, provided that he has satisfied himself that the provisions of sections 1 to 5 have been properly met.’.

The amendment is probing. We may touch on some of the ground that my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome, taking the example of a misleading record. We are trying to establish whether there is any bar in place to stop a 48-hour extension being sought if there are any breaches of the recording procedure during the original 48 hours after a document has been taken away to be considered. That could include how the document has been handled, or a privileged document being looked at by somebody who is not party to assessing whether the document is relevant.

The amendment would ensure that everything is done by the book in the first 48 hours, as one would expect. It would give the additional pressure or encouragement of the sanction that if there had been a clear breach, such as many significant mistakes in the record of removal, the extension would not be allowed. I hope that the Minister will consider the amendment and go into greater detail about how this measure will operate, such as whether there are safeguards for the first 48-hour period or sanctions if the rules are clearly breached.

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State (Security, Counter-terrorism, Crime and Policing), Home Office

I take the amendment in the spirit that it is offered. It is deficient for a reason that I will come to later. Even though we are talking about a mere 48  hours, these are important matters. I have some sympathy with the idea that it should be in the Bill that an officer from inspector upwards must clear in his or her own mind that the criteria and safeguards implicit in clauses 1, 3 and 4 have been adhered to. However, I cannot accept the amendment because I see no reason why the provisions of clause 2 on obstruction should form part of that assessment. The issue of obstruction is entirely separate, for reasons that we have discussed.

That it should be in the Bill that an officer at the rank of inspector or above should make it clear whether the provisions of clause 1, the implications for legal privilege in clause 3 and the requirements for the record of removal in clause 4 have all been followed in an appropriate fashion as part of his determination of whether there should be an extension is a fair and reasonable point. I will look at that and come back to it on Report.

I am sure that the notion that the inspector should consider in full whether there has been a crime of obstruction in that process was an inadvertent drafting error, but for that reason I cannot accept the text of the amendment. I am happy to take away its spirit and see if we can put the safeguards implied in clauses 1, 3 and 4 in the Bill as part of those criteria. That is entirely reasonable. With that assurance, I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Shadow Minister (Olympics and London), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Olympics and London)

In spite of his gruff appearance, the Minister has once again demonstrated emollience. I acknowledge the drafting error in the amendment. The Minister has correctly identified that the Committee should be concerned with only clauses 1, 3 and 4, but he has responded very positively. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.