Counter-Terrorism Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:30 am on 13 May 2008.

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Initial Notification

Amendments made: No. 145, in clause 44, page 32, line 17, leave out from ‘question’ to the end of line 22.

No. 146, in clause 44, page 33, line 4, at end insert—

‘( ) In the application of this section to a person dealt with for an offence before the commencement of this Part who, immediately before commencement—

(a) would be imprisoned or detained in respect of the offence but for being unlawfully at large, absent without leave, on temporary leave or leave of absence, or on bail pending an appeal, or

(b) has been released on licence, having served the whole or part of a sentence of imprisonment in respect of the offence,

the reference in subsection (1) to the day on which the person is dealt with in respect of the offence shall be read as a reference to the commencement of this Part.’. —[Mr. McNulty.]

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Liberal Democrat, Somerton and Frome

My brief question also relates to clause 52, which sets out offences relating to notification. The offence, of course, is failure without reasonable excuse to comply with initial notification as outlined in clause 44. Presumably, that offence is triggered by any failure to comply with any part of clause 44, and what worries me—it is a perfectly simple concern—is subsection (2)(b), the national insurance number. I can see that it is entirely possible for a person to comply in every respect with clause 44—to appear at the police station within the three-day period, give their date of birth and home address, which they know, and all the other details which they know, but they may not know their national insurance number. They may thus not be able to comply with clause 44.

There is no requirement to know one’s national insurance number; it is helpful if one does, but there are circumstances in which people do not know or perhaps have never been allocated one, or have been allocated two, which is sometimes the case. As the offence is non-compliance, it worries me that the compliance is absolute in terms of the whole provision, yet one element is not necessarily in the control of the individual to whom the notification order applies.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Opposition Whip (Commons)

I have a brief point on which I seek clarification. In what circumstances is it anticipated that someone who is unlawfully at large would notify their address and all the other required information to the police? I just draw attention to subsection (1)(b)(ii), which puts a duty on someone who is unlawfully at large to provide their details. I would be grateful if the Minister—[I nterruption . ] I understand that, but the punishment under the provision is five years on conviction. I would have thought that someone unlawfully at large on a conviction for being unlawfully at large would already be subject to a punishment of that order. I would be grateful for the Minister’s clarification.

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

On the point made by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome, if he had committed the Bill to memory—as no doubt he has, but has forgotten it, rather as I have—he would have rushed to clause 52, where it says very clearly under “Offences relating to notification” that a person commits an offence who

“fails without reasonable excuse to comply with...section 44”.

It would be a reasonable excuse that a person had tried and been unable to get his national insurance number from the Department for Work and Pensions or whomever, but told the police that he would try to get it as quickly as possible. That would be a reasonable excuse, so I think the interplay between the two is perfectly fair. As the hon. Gentleman says, giving a false name would be a different matter.

An individual’s being at large does not obviate the need for them to comply with the notification order. If they are unlawfully at large and have a duty to notify and fail to do so, that is an offence with a penalty of up to five years in prison, so it is proper that the words “unlawfully at large” are included. I suspect that the meaning of those words is not covered by “reasonable excuse” in terms of clause 52.

The wording of the clause makes sense, but I take the point made by the hon. Member for Reigate. The legalese says:

“A person to whom the notification requirements apply must notify the required information to the police within three  days...If the person was dealt with...before the commencement of this Part and... has been released on licence unlawfully at large” on commencement, and so on. As the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome implied, the notification elements do not disappear simply because a person is unlawfully at large; they are still germane and relevant, which is why they are mentioned in the clause. However, clause 52 answers the hon. Gentleman’s broader point.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Liberal Democrat, Somerton and Frome 11:45, 13 May 2008

I am most grateful to the Minister. I hope that every police officer who is administering that record will note carefully the Minister’s comment that if one happens not to know one’s national insurance number it is a reasonable excuse for not providing it within the three-day period.

Clause 44, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.