Clause 45

Counter-Terrorism Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 13th May 2008.

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Offences to which this Part applies: offences having a terrorist connection

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

I beg to move amendment No. 95, in clause 45, page 33, line 12, leave out ‘such a determination’ and insert ‘section 42.’.

Photo of Edward O'Hara Edward O'Hara Labour, Knowsley South

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 96, in clause 45, page 33, line 15, leave out subsection (3).

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

I would not seek to move amendment No. 96 on its own, because I think it is in fact quite clear what the clause means. Amendment No. 95 has been slightly overtaken by events, as we also have a Government motion to transfer the clause. It might therefore be sensible for me not to go into any further detail on amendment No. 95 except to say that I had difficulty reconciling clause 45 with the terms of clause 42, which was why the probing amendment was tabled. I would like the Minister to address his remarks to that. It may even be that he can properly do so by merging it with his speech in respect of transferring the clause, because I think the consequence of that will almost certainly be to make everything very much clearer, whereas I found the Bill unclear with clause 45 in its present location.

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

As the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield suggests, it might be useful if I move the motion referring to this clause at the same time, as it goes to the heart of the amendment.

Photo of Edward O'Hara Edward O'Hara Labour, Knowsley South

Order. I am advised that it would be appropriate to keep the two separate.

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

This clause was the initiative test for the Committee. Quite deliberately, it was misplaced. The challenge was for anyone to read the Bill properly and try to relate clause 45 to clause 42. The prize goes to the hon. and learned Gentleman. I would be quite worried if, by the time we got to clause 45, the Committee, including myself, read it in the context of clause 42 and let it go. The measure does not belong as clause 45 at all. It refers entirely to, and should logically follow, clause 39. If it does—I am not pre-empting our subsequent debate, though I hope and pray the Committee is with me on my motion—I think the fears and concerns with which the hon. and learned Gentleman’s amendments deal would disappear almost overnight, or a bit quicker than overnight, and logic would be restored to the Bill. The perfectly and elegantly crafted amendments Nos. 95 and 96 would then fall away as utterly irrelevant, with the one mistake in the Bill—it was quite deliberate, I  assure you, Mr. O’Hara—having been identified by the hon. and learned Gentleman, who is to be congratulated for stumbling over it.

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

I am prepared to give the Minister the benefit of the doubt. I think he is going to be enormously persuasive when he moves his motion for the transfer of the clause. For that reason, I am not minded to support the amendments at the moment, although we might of course have to return to them on Report.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

I am grateful to the Minister for his comments and grateful that my late-night reading of the Bill has had some success in identifying oddities. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s comments on the transfer of the clause. I agree that that will produce the clarity that is currently entirely absent, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 45 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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

I beg to move, That Clause 45 be transferred to end of line 24 on page 29.

This is entirely due to a sequential and printing error. Under clause 45, which is titled “Offences to which this part applies: offences having a terrorist connection”, notification requirements would apply to someone when a court finds that their offence was connected to terrorism provided they met the necessary sentence threshold. Logically, as the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield implied, the clause should follow clause 39, which sets out terrorism offences to which notification requirements would apply. We are simply making a minor, technical change that has no effect on existing policy. The clause would look rather daft if it stayed after clause 44, so I urge the Committee to agree to the transfer of the clause 45.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

May I raise one issue? I might have misunderstood this, but the Minister will be aware that the determinations in clause 45(2)—now to be transferred—appear to be governed by clause 42. Is that correct, or will other provisions also govern the need to make a notification requirement?

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

As I read the matter, that is entirely correct and addresses the cohesion of the architecture of the way in which the clauses interplay with each other—[ Interruption. ] Apparently I am wrong. The determination is made under aggravated sentencing in clause 29, apparently, and how that interplays with clause 42.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

Yes, I can see how that may be the case, as clause 29 is titled “Sentences for offences with a terrorist connection: England and Wales”. However, clause 42 is titled “Sentences or orders triggering notification requirements” and clause 45(2) relates to a

“person to whom the notification requirements apply by virtue of such a determination”.

Will the Minister go away and think about this between now and Report? I know that people have very little sympathy with lawyers, but some poor lawyers  and unhappy judges in the Crown court are going to have to wrestle with this. There seems to be a lot of cross-referencing required for the introduction of clarity.

I am confident that the Government have probably got the overall picture right, but the approach is a bit ponderous and I wonder whether it can be simplified.

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

That is a fair point and we can certainly look at that. Clause 29 sets out the schedule 2 offences that are potentially in the frame for terrorist offences and, therefore, notification. Clause 42 makes it clear that the sentence must be at least 12 months for notification to kick in.

The definition, the criteria and the notification determination order are fairly clear. If it appears that there is a lot of hopping about and cross-referencing and we can tidy that up with no significant change to the policy, which I do not think is what the hon. and learned Gentleman is seeking, I am happy to take away that principle. Having rather rapidly refreshed my memory of clauses 29 and 42, the determination of terrorist offences and the 12-month caveat for of sentence notification determination and, therefore, notification, I think that this approach is quite logical, albeit a bit clumsy. I will, as the Committee asks, look at it further, but I think that it works.

Question put and agreed to.