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Clause 6

Part of Counter-Terrorism Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:30 pm 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 12:30 pm, 29th April 2008

Clause 6, as already suggested, provides that those people set out in subsection (2), or their representative, may, on request to the officer in charge of the investigation, be granted supervised access to a removed document while it is being retained. We cannot allow unfettered access to material that is the subject of a police investigation. Therefore, where granting access would affect police investigations, it is wholly appropriate to deny access to the removed material.

The hon. and learned Gentleman suggests an amendment that would insert a right of appeal to a Crown court judge should the request for access be refused. That is an unnecessary step, in the context of both the power, under which a document can be removed for a maximum of 96 hours, and of the safeguards already proposed. In addition there is the potential safeguard of a copy being provided for that limited time. In recognition that the power is wide-ranging, as we have all concurred, we have added a substantial number of safeguards—found in the clauses—which include protection for items subject to legal privilege, a requirement to make a record of the removal, strict time limits for the retention of documents under the power, access to the documents by specified persons, and prohibition on the photocopying of documents by others. In addition, I might come back with a provision regarding a copy for the individual if required, within the context of the safeguards for the police under clause 6(3). Given the proposed safeguards, we do not feel that the amendment is necessary.

I return to the example suggested by the hon. and learned Gentleman. If the documents removed dealt, in a foreign language, with a contract behind which might be a pending profit, it would be incumbent on the individual to help the police in every regard by explaining precisely what the documents are. If an entirely legitimate potential profit of, say, £50,000 was pending, I would have thought that the individual would move heaven and earth to assist the police. If, given the substance of other documents and evidence seized as part of an investigation, the police have even a remote notion that a document, once translated, and any subsequent profit, could prove to be evidence of acts preparatory or precursor activities to terrorism, it would be right and proper for them to maintain their position. In the context of the 96-hour limit, the caveats and the ability to access documents now provided for in the Bill, an appeal process to the Crown court would be a trifle excessive, so I ask him to withdraw the amendment.