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Mrs. Annette L. Brooke (Mid-Dorset and North Poole): I wish to thank everyone who has served during the Bill's passage, which has been a great pleasure. I had one question at the end of Third Reading and I hope that someone will be tolerant enough to answer it. What accountability will there be for the fines imposed by accredited safety officers? Where will the money go? How will the chain of accountability work between various employers in the public and private sectorsincluding a halfway house or a housing associationand the respective police authority?
Mr. Denham: I apologise to the House for temporarily stepping outside for a moment, but I have been briefed on the issues that were raised. I am grateful to the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) and, in particular, the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins). I am sure that the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) will not mind if I congratulate his hon. Friend the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) and the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Mrs. Brooke) on their constructive role in the Bill's passage.
I do not want to over-rehearse the arguments, as I could do were I to respond to talk of a "final climbdown". I seem to remember that, six months ago, the Conservative party said that there were no circumstances whatever in which this type of interference could be justified. Now we find that the point has been conceded.
We have found a sensible way to address effectively the small number of cases where those responsible locally for ensuring that we have good policing have failed to do so. That is the defence against the argumentwhich I refute utterlythat asserts that we have been responsible for trying to undermine the tripartite arrangements. We are great believers in that arrangement as a balance between the Home Secretary, police authorities and chief
That part of the Bill has attracted the most attention during its passage. Interestingly, it will be used far less than other parts of the Bill that received less attention and which will have a greater effect in raising standards. If we have to use the power, it can only be because the other things that we have set in place, on which there has been agreement, have failed.
Mr. Paice: I do not wish to take issue with anything that the Minister has said. I want to place on record that I was briefed as to why it was necessary for him to leave the Chamber. I think that it is a tribute to his dedication that he came back in to reply to the debate, which, in my view, was unnecessary. I pay tribute to him for showing such commitment to the House.
We are bringing discussions on this Bill to a close. There is a real commitment among those who have participated in the debates to support the police in serving communities up and down this country. We have provided a Bill that will support the police as they do their job. I am grateful to everyone who has participated.
Simon Hughes: I endorse the comments of the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice), and I am grateful to the Minister. Before the Minister utters the final words on the Bill in this House, will he answer my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Mrs. Brooke), who deserves an answer for her persistence? Her question is a good one that is relevant to the matter being debated. If he cannot answer now, will he promise that she will be answered before he goes on holiday? If so, we will go away even happier than we might otherwise have done.
Mr. Denham: I am in the odd position, as sometimes happens with Ministers, of having in front me an answer for which I cannot locate the question. With that in mind, it is probably better if I write to the hon. Lady, as the hon. Gentleman suggested.
'personally or through an agent and whether in the United Kingdom or abroad'.
With due respect to the Bill, which is important, we have reached the fag end of this parliamentary Session, so I shall not delay the House for very long. I suspect that I would become deeply unpopular if I were to do so on this occasion.
The Minister will know that, on Second Reading on Monday, I said that there was strong support for the Bill among Members on both sides of the House and that there was no dispute about what the Government were trying to achieve. However, Members were concerned that, unless the Bill could be enforced more widely, it would lose some of its effectiveness.
The Bill would not curtail the big fish who are making multi-million pound sums from sending phones abroad for re-programming. They could simply circumvent the Bill by moving their activities abroad and bringing the phones back; as a consequence, they would carry on regardless. The Bill would pick up the small frythe youths or others engaged in this activitybut not the big fish. The Government, to their credit, have sought to try to pick up the big fish, not just under this Bill but under the Proceeds of Crime Bill that we debated earlier.
The amendment is an attempt to ensure that the seriousness of the issue is not neglected and that the Government pursue thoroughly contact and discussions with their EU counterparts to find a way of ensuring that people simply cannot disappear to another EU country and re-programme phones. Two days ago, I gave the example of people in Northern Irelandwhere the law is meant to apply, should it be passedwho simply cross the border to the Republic, where they are beyond the jurisdiction of the Bill. It is not simply about the EU; we need an international agreement.
I hope that the Minister has sympathy for the amendment. He may find reasons why he cannot accept itI shall not lose any sleep if that is his viewbut I hope he understands that we feel strongly that it is in the interests of the Bill, which we support. We must ensure that people engaged in this activitya multi-million pound fraudare stopped in their tracks. We do not want them to circumvent the Bill. If he cannot accept the amendment, I hope that the Minister will identify ways in which he is seeking to deal with the loophole.
Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield): I have to tell the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) that before the Committee stage of the Bill I went to the Library to see whether it could be improved. I read what was said in the other place in Committee and I have to inform the hon.
The scope of the amendment is hair-raising. If the House were to accept it, we would be legislating on unique device identifiers on behalf of the entire world. I know that at times a certain degree of megalomania prevails in this Chamber, but it would take our powers too far to criminalise the actions of those living in Borneo, the Fiji islands, central Africa or wherever else, by saying that they have no right to tamper with a unique device identifier, even if the laws of their country say that that is acceptable, so that the moment they stepped off an aeroplane on a visit to the UK the hon. Gentleman could whiz off to a magistrate and insist on the issuing of an arrest warrant. I hope that the Minister will reject the amendment in short order.
The Minister for Policing, Crime Reduction and Community Safety (Mr. John Denham): The hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) anticipated that I might find reasons not to accept his amendment, which suggests that I have form on these matters. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) for his comments. This is a short Bill, but it has been worked on by my officials, by the mobile phone industry and by the police who will be responsible for enforcing it. Much work has gone into getting the drafting right.
The amendment would add the words "through an agent" to the Bill. Of course, anyone who personally carries out reprogramming in the United Kingdom would commit an offence under clause 1. We believe that this will have a deterrent effect on those who would carry out that work, whether or not they were acting as an agent for someone else. If a person asks another, his agent, to carry out reprogramming, depending upon the precise circumstances of the case, he will be guilty of one of the offences of aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring the offence of reprogramming a mobile phone. The punishment for that is identical to that for the main offence under the Bill. Furthermore, if the person asking an agent to carry out the reprogramming supplied the equipment for that purpose, he would be committing an offence under clause 2. The words suggested in the amendment are unnecessary.
The hon. Member for Beaconsfield was right about international enforcement. On Second Reading, the Member for Lewes made a legitimate point about the international tradeand I agree with himbut the Bill cannot be used to tackle that. It would be a very big step to extend the jurisdiction of courts in the United Kingdom to cover reprogramming when it is carried out abroad. Some very serious offencessuch as piracy and aircraft hijackingcan be tried in the United Kingdom wherever they occur and whatever the nationality of the ship or aircraft, or defendants. Other offences may be tried in the United Kingdom if the defendant is a British citizen or resident. Those include murder and manslaughter on land, bigamy, offences under the Official Secrets Act 1911 and, under the War Crimes Act 1991, offences of murder committed in Germany or in German occupied areas during the second world war. The Sex Offenders Act 1997 also dealt with sex tourism by making it an offence in the UK to commit certain serious sexual offences abroad that involve young children.
It should take nothing away from the importance that I attach to the Bill to say that mobile phone reprogramming does not fall into the same category as the other offences that have international jurisdiction. Moreover, the hon. Gentleman omitted to include the usual safeguards that are put in place when extending jurisdiction. It does not, for example, limit proceedings to British citizens or residents and it does not require the conduct to be an offence under the laws of the foreign state.
I must resist the amendment, but we need to build on what we have done. As I said on Second Reading, my officials are involved in discussions about how our work can be replicated as best practice across the European Union. The hon. Gentleman mentioned Ireland, with which we share a land border, and we will have discussions with the Dublin Government to seek ways forward. It is important to tackle this as an international problem, but I invite the House to resist the amendment.