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Amendment made: No. 67, in page 73, line 26, at end insert—

'(c) in Part 6 of Schedule 8, the repeals in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (c.33) and in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (c.37).'.—[Mr. Pearson.]
Clause 124, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 125 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause 9

Review of sections 21 to 23

'.—(1) The Secretary of State shall appoint a person to review the operation of sections 21 to 23.

(2) The person appointed under subsection (1) shall review the operation of those sections not later than—

(a) the expiry of the period of 14 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed;

(b) one month before the expiry of a period specified in accordance with section 28(2)(b) or (c).

(3) Where that person conducts a review under subsection (2) he shall send a report to the Secretary of State as soon as is reasonably practicable.

(4) Where the Secretary of State receives a report under subsection (3) he shall lay a copy of it before Parliament as soon as is reasonably practicable.

(5) The Secretary of State may make payments to a person appointed under subsection (1).'—[Mr. Pearson.]
Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.
Bill, as amended, to be reported.
Bill, as amended in the Committee, considered.

11.19 pm

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): The amendment paper for Report is now available.

Mr. Beith: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Mr. Speaker's selection of amendments was prepared and published at 9.30 pm. After that, several provisions, including schedule 7, were not discussed. Will you and Mr. Speaker have the opportunity to reconsider your selection, given that you made the decision before you knew that several provisions would not be debated? Without a chance to debate schedule 7, hon. Members will never be told why employees of the Strategic Rail Authority should be given the power to purchase firearms. We should have that opportunity.

Madam Deputy Speaker: I would like to assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Speaker was in full knowledge of all the facts when he took this decision.

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Clause 17

Extension of existing disclosure powers

Mr. Grieve: I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 7, line 10, leave out "criminal" and insert "terrorism".

Amendment No. 1 is the same as amendment No. 85, which we wanted to discuss in Committee last week but which we did not reach. The provisions of clause 17 represent some of the most major transfers of power by the state in terms of—[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Hon. Members who do not wish to hear the remainder of the debate should leave the Chamber quietly and quickly.

Mr. Grieve: Clause 17 provides for the extension of existing disclosure powers to enable the exchange of information between Government agencies and Departments in a way that is unparalleled in our history. There is no restriction or fetter on the exchange of information, which is contained in schedule 7, and the provision can be applied in any criminal investigation from a speeding offence to high treason. Schedule 4, annexed to it, shows that the information cuts right across Government. Much of that information concerns matters that are, at present, surrounded by specific confidentiality clauses relating to the information imparted to the particular Government agency or Department.

Thus it will now be possible for the Inland Revenue to share information with any other Government agency. Medical information, including the records of individuals, will be capable of being shared. The Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974, with which I am particularly familiar, contains a specific clause which provides that statements may be obtained from individuals—indeed, they are compelled to provide them. That information, too, may now be shared, even though the 1974 Act specifically provided that it could be made available only for legal proceedings relating to the Act or in circumstances in which the individual consented.

Conservative Members wish to assist the Government in the fight against terrorism. [Interruption.] If the Home Secretary would like to stop yawning, perhaps I can proceed with the points that I wish to make. Given the short amount of time that we have, the more he yawns, the longer this will take. We wish to help the Government to fight terrorism. That is why we have tabled this short amendment, which would confine this exchange of information to terrorism and terrorist offences.

The manner in which this measure has been introduced gives rise to considerable concern. Last year, the Government attempted to do exactly this in the Criminal Justice and Police Bill, in which a very similar provision was introduced. It was hotly disputed, and by the time the Bill reached the House of Lords, the level of resistance was so great that, to save the legislation before the election, the Government agreed to drop the provision.

The other place was right to be concerned about this issue, because it concerns such a fundamental shift in the way we conduct our affairs. Historically, we have been self-regulating and that has implied a willingness by the individual to supply information to Government agencies and Departments in the belief that confidentiality would

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be maintained. Only in exceptional circumstances has interdepartmental confidentiality been broken or agreement been reached for the sharing of information.

Labour Members who may consider this a small matter should bear it in mind that the entire panoply of information sharing will be unfurled as a result of the changes and that we have been given precisely 25 minutes in which to consider them. They will not be considered in major legislation at all.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex): Has sufficient time been given to considering clause 47(1)(a), which refers to a

being guilty of an offence?

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I must remind the hon. Gentleman that that particular provision is not under discussion.

Mr. Grieve: Tempted as I am, I shall follow your recommendation, Madam Deputy Speaker, and refrain from developing what would be an interesting line of debate.

The Bill and clause 17 go further than the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001. It was at least provided in the 2001 Act that any information exchanged would be subject to the Data Protection Act 1998, but that provision will be removed under the Bill. We have had no explanation from the Government as to why that should be.

We urge the House carefully to consider the amendment. We believe that it would in no way prevent the Government from fighting terrorism, but it would prevent us from agreeing to a massive change in a brief debate on emergency legislation when the Government know that their previous attempt caused considerable concern. I commend the amendment to the House.

Simon Hughes: In the time available, it has not been possible to debate retention of data and only through the speedy footwork of the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve), his colleagues and my colleagues have we been able to bring the matter before the House for a few minutes. We are aware, too, that if we are to resolve the issue, we must finish the debate in a matter of moments so as to allow any discussion on Third Reading. Therefore, I support what the hon. Gentleman said to remind the House of what it will agree to if it does not accept the Conservative and Liberal Democrat amendment, which I believe will be supported by others.

It is proposed that the powers of disclosure be extended in relation to any public authority so that the authorised purposes will include

If that is not a wide provision, we do not know what is. The Government make it clear in schedule 4 that it already applies to 66 pieces of legislation—66 existing powers—and the clause proposes that they should by statutory instrument be able to extend it to any other legislation as well.

26 Nov 2001 : Column 793

As the hon. Member for Beaconsfield said, that is why it is no surprise that this place and the House of Lords, which had inadequate time to debate the proposal when it appeared in a straightforward criminal justice and police Bill, not a terrorism Bill or an emergency Bill, said that holding such a debate was inappropriate. Lord Cope and Lord McNally made it clear that the Bill needed to be properly considered and controlled in order for us properly to do our job as legislators.

The Cabinet Office performance and innovation unit, which is the source of the proposal, recommended that there ought to be a wider power to disclose information for the purpose of criminal investigation. To take one example, the Revenue keeps records on 32 million people, and that information could be transferred as a result of the proposal. We are not told to whom that information could be passed, at whose request, the seniority of the person making the request, to what use it would be put and for what purposes it would thereafter be used.

Even if we were happy that this power should exist, and that it is a proper power for a police Bill, a criminal evidence Bill or a criminal justice Bill, Parliament was not willing to rush this provision through last year in such legislation. I hope that the House will agree that it is entirely inappropriate to rush it through under a guillotine in an emergency anti-terrorism Bill only a few months later.

When the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) spoke on Second Reading of the Criminal Justice and Police Bill a year ago, she said that this provision should be used only in connection with serious investigations. Liberal Democrats said that it should at least require judicial authorisation. As the hon. Member for Beaconsfield said, there is not even a limit on powers such as those which allow the Data Protection Registrar to hold information. From now on, that can be passed on.

This legislation should at least require a reasonable suspicion of serious terrorism-related crime for the House sensibly to agree to the proposals. There is no prior authorisation, no subsequent checking or auditing, and no guarantee that the person to whom the information relates is ever told what is going on. I hope that, even at this late stage, the House will realise that the amendment would hugely protect the citizen and that, unamended, the clause is not justified by the original purpose of the Bill. I hope that the amendment will be agreed.

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