Schedule 6 - Fingerprints and samples

Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 30 June 2011.

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Question proposed, That the schedule be the Sixth schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Gerry Sutcliffe Gerry Sutcliffe Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I shall now ask the Minister to give us the information he was going to give us a little while ago.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Mr Scott, I believe that it would be in order for me to respond to the hon. Gentleman’s comments. We consider it important to ensure that the rules on taking and retention of biometric material from individuals subject to TPIM notices are not exceptional, but are in line with the provisions we are making elsewhere for similar cases. The schedule makes separate provision for Scotland to that for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, to ensure that it is line with the different police procedures and legislation in Scotland.

There are powers to take from a person subject to a TPIM notice both fingerprints—including palm prints—and non-intimate samples, which can include a sample of hair, a sample taken from a nail or under a nail, a swab taken from any part of the body including the mouth, saliva and a footprint or other impression of a part of the body other than the hand. The individual may be required to attend a police station for the purpose of taking fingerprints or a non-intimate sample. That material may be checked against other such material held under a variety of other powers.

As the Committee may know, in the Protection of Freedoms Bill we are introducing a new regime for the retention and destruction of such material with the aim of striking a fair balance between protection of the public and individual civil liberties. The schedule makes provision, in line with that regime, for the retention and destruction of material taken under this Bill. That means that any samples taken from the individual will be destroyed as soon as a DNA profile has been derived from that sample, or, if sooner, within six months of taking the sample. It also means that, where the individual has no relevant previous conviction, the fingerprints and DNA profile may be kept for only six months after the TPIM notice ceases to be in force, or, in a case where the notice has been quashed, until there is no further right of appeal remaining against the quashing. However, there is an exception for cases in which a chief officer of police determines that it is necessary to retain the material for national security purposes, in which case the material may be retained for up to two years. It will then be open to the chief officer to make a further determination, if necessary, that the material should be retained for a further two years. That exception for national security cases is of vital importance in supporting future counter-terrorism investigations.

We recognise that the police and other law enforcement authorities face particular difficulties when working to counter threats to national security. Counter-terrorism investigations often run for many years. As we have discussed, the threat posed by an individual who has been subject to a TPIM notice for two years may in some cases continue beyond that time, but it will be managed by other means. The retention of an individual’s fingerprints and DNA profile will support that. To apply a fixed six-month retention period alone, without any mechanism for extending retention where necessary for national security purposes, would inevitably lead to the early destruction of valuable material relating to individuals who are of continuing interest to the police and the Security Service, undermining attempts to protect the public from the threat we face.

That reflects the approach taken to national security cases in the Protection of Freedoms Bill, including the safeguards. We intend for the power to extend retention to be subject to independent oversight by the new independent commissioner for the retention and use of biometric material, and we aim to amend the Protection of Freedoms Bill to provide for that. Each national security determination that is made or renewed, and the reasons for it, must be sent to the commissioner, who will have the power to order the destruction of material that does not meet the necessary criteria. That approach will provide the right balance between national security and civil liberties by ensuring strong protection for both.

Schedule 6 will also place limitations on the uses to which biometric material taken from a person subject to a TRIM notice may be put. Again, those uses are in line with the provision being debated in the Protection of Freedoms Bill. Such uses are those in the interests of national security, those for the purposes of a terrorist investigation, those for purposes related to the prevention or detection of crime, the investigation of an offence or the conduct of a prosecution, or those for purposes related to the identification of a deceased person or of the person to whom the material relates.

I hope that with that clarification, right hon. and hon. Members will be minded to agree to schedule 6.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 6accordingly agreed to.

Clauses24and 25 ordered to stand part of the Bill.