Clause 32 - Offence of completing notifiable acquisition without approval

Part of National Security and Investment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 8th December 2020.

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Photo of Nadhim Zahawi Nadhim Zahawi Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 3:00 pm, 8th December 2020

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Part of it is the screening process and, obviously, the security agencies play a major role in that.

Under clause 35(2), it is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this clause to prove that they reasonably believe that the use or disclosure was lawful, or that the information had already and lawfully been made available to the public. I hope that hon. Members are reassured that Government are committed to the safeguarding of information collected by the regime.

Finally, clause 36 ensures that persons in authority in bodies—for example, a body corporate, such as a company, or an unincorporated body, such as a partnership—can be prosecuted under the legislation where they are responsible for an offence committed by their body. This clause therefore ensures that individuals who are responsible for offences committed by their bodies cannot simply hide behind those bodies and escape responsibility. Instead, they too will have committed an offence and can be punished for it. If you will forgive the pun, Sir Graham, if there are skeletons in the cupboard—or filing cabinets, I suppose—it is not just the bodies that can be held responsible. I hope hon. Members will agree that these clauses are both necessary and proportionate.