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Lord Henley: Before the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, decides how to respond to this matter, perhaps I may say that I am grateful for the Minister's assurance that the Secretary of State will use this power only in the manner in which he described it. I should be grateful if he will repeat that assurance.

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I should inform the Minister that, as I made clear on Second Reading, we shall wish to return to this matter when dealing with criminal justice legislation. We shall wish to look again at this clause because it is extremely important and unusual. The Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee was quite right to invite the House to look at it carefully. This Bill is going through very quickly and we do not wish to damage it. However, we shall wish to return to this at a later stage. That will not be on this Bill but on a Bill as yet unknown but which may appear in the programme for next year's legislation.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: That is most generous of the noble Lord, bearing in mind that we specifically decided after some thought and consultation that it should be an affirmative resolution and that I should not be in the position of being pressed by noble Lords opposite on why the Government had not gone for an affirmative resolution. I hope that in that form we have recognised the importance of the point that has been raised.

1 a.m.

Lord Hylton: The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, has referred to sexual offences. He referred to me as someone who had indirectly been connected with that legislation. I draw his attention to paragraph 9 of Schedule 1 and ask him to write to me to explain how that provision will operate and whether or not it is consistent with what he has just said in connection with the role of the Attorney-General.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I shall do that and place a copy in the Library.

Lord Monkswell: I should like to raise a slightly different issue. As I understand it, the provisions in Clauses 5 and 6 are to do with conspiracy and not a particular offence; namely, a situation in which a person conspires with others to do a particular act. My understanding is that the offence of conspiracy carries a possible life sentence and is a very serious crime. Members of the Committee on all sides have referred to the fact that the safeguard against prosecutions under these clauses is that the Attorney-General will have the final say as to whether or not a prosecution should be brought. That safeguard can be derogated by the Secretary of State on the basis of secondary legislation.

Conspiracy is a very serious offence which may result in a life sentence. On what basis do the Government suggest that the safeguard identified by the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee can be derogated by secondary legislation? I believe that that is a crucial question which the Committee faces at this stage. I welcome any assurance that the Minister can give in this respect. It may be that my interpretation of the effect of these clauses is wrong. If so, I welcome any assurance that the Minister can give but this matter gives rise to genuine concern.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am grateful to my noble friend. The purpose of the Attorney-General's fiat is not

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related to the sentence for the offence but is much more subtle; it is to do with general questions of public interest. For instance, if a person is charged with murder in this country, the mandatory sentence is life imprisonment. The Attorney-General has nothing to do with that in terms of giving his fiat or not. That is a matter for the Crown Prosecution Service. The Attorney-General's fiat arises on wider public interest matters which need to be assessed by someone with his authority in government as an independent legal officer. We believe it is right that if there is a conspiracy to commit politically-related offences abroad the Attorney-General should be involved. If there are conspiracies, for instance, to take part in drug trafficking or money laundering, the wider public interest sensitivities are not present and the involvement of the Attorney-General is not needed. That is the reason for it.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: I have already explained my reasons for opposing the clause as it stands because of the complexities that are involved in the particular offences of conspiracy as defined in this new clause.

The Government will be handing over to the Crown Prosecution Service the decision whether or not to prosecute for extra-territorial offences. It may well be that the 1996 Act permitted sexual offences abroad to be prosecuted in this country without the Attorney-General's consent. That is a matter which should be looked at again.

However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Henley, that this is not the moment to determine these matters finally. I am content, with him, to wait for further consideration at some future time. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 35 to 39 not moved.]

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Northern Ireland]:

[Amendments Nos. 40 to 45 not moved.]

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [Scotland]:

[Amendment No. 46 not moved]:

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 [Report to Parliament]:

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 47:

Page 10, line 28, leave out ("a") and insert ("an independent").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, perhaps I may speak also to Amendments Nos. 48 and 49 in my name. These amendments relate to the new Clause 8 which was accepted by the Government in another place at the last moment yesterday morning. The clause was accepted without any discussion. It states:

    "The Secretary of State shall lay before both Houses of Parliament at least once in every 12 months a report on the working of this Act".

Our concern was that we wished to see the report produced by an independent outsider. That is why these three amendments offer two alternative ways of setting about that process. We have since heard from the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, in winding up, that "traditionally" in

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these matters--I believe that that was the word he used--the Home Secretary does choose independent outsiders for the reports. I merely seek a further assurance from the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, or the noble Lord, Lord Williams, that that will be the case. I think I should like him to drop the word "traditionally" and hear an assurance that on all occasions when seeking reports the Home Secretary shall find an independent outsider of the sort we are used to in the case of these kinds of reviews of Northern Ireland legislation and one in whom we can have considerable trust. That is not in any way to denigrate the activities of officials within the Home Office who might otherwise be asked to conduct such business. I think it right to have an assurance from the Government that such a review would be conducted by an independent outsider. For that reason I ask that that assurance should drop the word "traditionally". I beg to move.

Lord Dubs: If that is a point of substance, yes.

Lord Henley: One is always grateful for absolute categoric assurances from Ministers sitting on the Government Benches. All I can say is that I am grateful to the noble Lord for that assurance. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 48 not moved.]

Clause 8 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 49 not moved.]

Clause 9 agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 50:

After Clause 9, insert the following new clause--

Expiry of sections 5 to 7 etc.

(". The following provisions of this Act shall cease to have effect on 30th November 1999--.
(a) sections 5 to 7;
(b) section 9(3);
(c) Part II of Schedule 1; and
(d) Part II of Schedule 2.")

The noble Lord said: I hope that in speaking to Amendments Nos. 50 and 51 I can be equally brief. I have noticed a considerable number of members of the Government Front Bench coming into the Chamber and I do not wish to keep them from their beds any longer than desirable.

Again, the amendments offer two alternatives to the Government. I dare say that they will not accept them, but it is a brief point that ought to be made. As I made clear in my opening remarks at Second Reading, Amendment No. 50 offers what is normally referred to in common parlance as a sunset clause. In other words, Clauses 5 to 7 will cease to have effect in roughly a year's time. We have been given an assurance that that will be the case with other parts of the Bill because they are linked with other legislation and therefore have to come up for renewal in due course. It is not that there is a sunset clause but rather that they have to be renewed along with other prevention of terrorism legislation.

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If Amendment No. 50 is too extreme in that it merely kills off those parts of the Bill, there is the alternative of Amendment No. 51 which allows the Government to renew the provisions by means of the affirmative resolution procedure. We made it clear both in another place and in my opening remarks that we had no strong objection to Clauses 5 to 7. In fact we supported similar provisions in Private Members' Bills when we were in government. But we, together with many other noble Lords from all sides of the House, behind noble Lords opposite and behind myself, made it clear that we were unhappy with the idea that Clauses 5 to 7 should be tacked on to the emergency legislation to which we generally gave support. Therefore, it was undesirable that they should be brought into effect in this way. If they were to be brought into effect, we think it right that they should cease to have effect at some stage. If not, the Government should justify their continuing use.

I doubt whether I shall receive a positive response from the Government at this hour on the amendments. In advance I should say that I shall probably accept that not very helpful response. That will no doubt please the noble Lord the Chief Whip.

In closing my remarks on the amendments, I stress that we will wish to come back to the clauses, and will do so, if and when the Government bring forward appropriate legislation of the kind that will allow us to discuss them. I imagine that will be the case with the criminal justice Bill and it is likely that that Bill will come before the House in due course. At that stage we shall return to these clauses and give them the appropriate scrutiny that we believe they deserve, as I believe most Members of the House who have spoken at considerable length on other aspects of them feel they deserve. I beg to move.

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