Clause 7

Terrorist Asset-Freezing Etc. Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:30 am on 23 November 2010.

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

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Treasury)

The clause states that where Treasury makes an interim designation, it must

“give written notice…and…take steps to publicise the designation”.

It must also decide whether the conditions that we have discussed are met, and then subsection (4) provides that

“If one or more of those conditions is met, the Treasury must inform only such persons as they consider appropriate.”

Does the Treasury make any formal record at some point of which persons are notified? Is there any subsequent  information? For example, could the Freedom of Information Act 2000 be used? Is there any subsequent publication of which individuals were informed by the Treasury?

It would be helpful if, at some point before the Bill completes its passage, the Minister gave some thought to the question at what stage, if ever, the public or a wider audience are told about who is subject the conditions in clause 7 and other provisions. I ask that because, at some point, somebody might make a freedom of information request or journalist might be interested in who has been told about the interim designation. The clause is unclear on how, where and at what stage that information becomes public in the wider sense, if ever.

I would welcome clarification from the Minister, particularly on the arrangements on cessation of an order. In general terms, when the order has ceased or is revoked, what information is put into the public domain? What information could be accessed or requested to be put into the public domain? Several parties—not least the designated person, journalists and/or others—may be interested. Clarity on those questions would be of great help. I hope that I have given the Minister sufficient time to gather a response.

Photo of Mark Hoban Mark Hoban The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman has, with immaculate timing.

The first thing to say is that, when an institution has been informed explicitly of a designation, it would be advised of revocation, exploration or variation. There is symmetry in that. Of course—the right hon. Gentleman would expect nothing less—the Treasury has a record of the people whom it has notified of a designation, and that record is maintained. That information is not automatically put in the public domain and he will appreciate why that is the case. I shall write to him about whether the information is subject to a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I am grateful to the Minister. I am particularly interested in subsection (4), which refers to

“such persons as they consider appropriate”.

I am looking at the measure from the perspective of someone who is not the designated person. That person, or a journalist, or a third party might want to find out whom the Treasury considered appropriate, but at the moment, there is no mechanism for that information to be discovered. I am keen for us to have clarity now, as we consider the Bill, about what information will go into the public domain, because that can have a material impact on a range of issues.

The Treasury might inform people about the designation whom the designated person does not want to be aware of the information, such as people who hold grudges against that individual. The Minister needs to be aware of a range of complex issues that might result from a designation. I am grateful for his willingness to respond in writing on how much of the information arising not only in connection with clause 7 but the Bill as a whole will end up in the public domain, at what stage and in what form, so that we have clarity about the freedom of information aspects. We want to know exactly what the Bill will mean in terms of information given subsequent to designations being made, and to designations being revoked or ceasing.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member)

The Minister has already said that he intends to write to the right hon. Gentleman.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 7 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.