Clause 20 - Reviews of operation of Act

Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 30 June 2011.

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Photo of Gerry Sutcliffe Gerry Sutcliffe Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 2:15, 30 June 2011

I beg to move amendment 140, in clause 20, page 12, line 7, at end insert

‘within three months of the date on which he received the report’.

Again, the amendment is self-explanatory. Clause 20 gives the Secretary of State the opportunity to appoint an independent reviewer who will prepare an annual report on the operation of the Bill and lay it before Parliament. The amendment would provide that that would have to happen within three months of the Home Secretary receiving the report. That is important because of the reduction of parliamentary scrutiny. The report will be an important indication of how things are working and the independent reviewer’s view. We believe that we should have that at the earliest opportunity, so the amendment would give the opportunity for that report to be in Parliament within three months.

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

We do not believe that it is necessary to set a maximum period by which a report from the independent reviewer must be laid before Parliament by the Secretary of State, as suggested under the amendment. I shall explain why, but the hon. Gentleman will no doubt consider further my response.

Reports by the former independent reviewer, Lord Carlile, on the operation of the 2005 Act were promptly laid before Parliament by successive Governments. As the right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles will know, they were often laid a matter of days, or at most weeks, after the receipt of the report. A similar approach is taken in respect of other reports that the independent reviewer is required to produce and the Secretary of State to publish, such as the annual report on the operation of the Terrorism Act 2000 and part 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006.

The amendment would not alter current practice. In our judgment, it is not necessary—in this or any other context in which the Secretary of State would be required to lay an annual report before Parliament—to specify a maximum time frame. Opposition Members took the same view when they passed successive pieces of legislation with almost identical provisions to those in the Bill.  I appreciate that views may change over time, but such a requirement was not seen as necessary in existing legislation under which the independent reviewer provides reports. We are not convinced of the necessity of setting a new precedent by taking a contrasting approach to that under the 2000 and 2005 Acts.

Hazel Blears rose—

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

It seems that the right hon. Lady will try to persuade me otherwise.

Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Labour, Salford and Eccles

Section 14(6) of the 2005 Act states:

“On receiving a report under subsection (4), the Secretary of State must lay a copy of it before Parliament.”

The words “on receiving” indicate a measure of immediacy, suggesting that on receipt of the report, it will be laid before Parliament. The hon. Gentleman has been keen to mirror the provisions of the 2005 Act, but he has chosen in this instance to depart from the language of immediacy, because clause 20(5) says that the Secretary of State “must lay a copy”. Why not use the language of the 2005 Act, which states that on receiving the report, it will be laid? That wording suggests a degree of urgency and immediacy. I commend the words of the 2005 Act, the provisions of which the Minister has been so keen to replicate throughout the rest of the Bill.

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

There is no desire to sit on reports. It would be foolish and inappropriate for Government to do so, particularly with a report from an independent reviewer. Members of the Committee have approached the matter in a spirit of good will, so I shall certainly consider the matter further. It is not our intention to sit on reports; that is not the practice. If it gives comfort to the Committee and to the public, reports received from the independent reviewer will be published on receipt or promptly—whatever the appropriate phrase is. That is what I expect to happen, and I would expect any successor of mine to take the same approach. In the spirit of good will, however, I shall reflect on the point made by the hon. Member for Bradford South and by the right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles.

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

There must be something in the water. In his usual fashion, the Minister is being very helpful. In light of what he has said, I shall not press the amendment to a Division, because if he follows through what he says he will do, there are sufficient safeguards. I am grateful to him, and to my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford and Eccles for pointing out the differences in the legislation. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 20 ordered to stand part of the Bill.