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Norman Baker: After that, I am tempted to ask the House to resist the amendment myself. I do not want to sound too demob happy, because the amendment has a serious point. I am happy to have had the opportunity to express that point and the Minister answered it in his remarks. I am grateful for his assurance that he will take the matter forward at European and international level, which is what I wanted placed on the record tonight. In drafting the amendment, we had little confidence that it would be accepted and therefore we did not pay as much attention as we normally would have done to its wording. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2

Possession or supply of anything for re-programming purposes

Norman Baker: I beg to move amendment No. 2, page 1, line 18, leave out from "which" to "and" in line 20 and insert—

'in conjunction with equipment capable of interfering with the operation of unique device identifier may be used for such purposes'.

The amendment seeks to reactivate the issue raised by the Minister's colleague, Lord Campbell-Savours, in the House of Lords, which I mentioned briefly on Second Reading. I remind the Minister that Lord Campbell- Savours was concerned that the word "anything" in clause 2(1)(a) would allow innocent parties to be subject to the legislation in a way that the Government did not intend. He gave the example of a cable that could be held by someone and which would leave him or her liable to action under the terms of the Bill.

Lord Campbell-Savours sought to amend the legislation in a way that did not find favour with the House of Lords, and the amendment seeks an alternative way. The object of the amendment is to prevent innocent parties from being wrongly caught up in the legislation, without weakening the purpose of the Bill which, as I have said, we entirely support. I do not know what the Minister will say in reply, but if he does not like the amendment I hope that he will at least recognise the point behind it. I would

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be grateful if he would respond to the point made by Lord Campbell-Savours that the terms of the Bill leave open the possibility that someone could be wrongly caught up in the legislation.

Mr. Grieve: In a spirit of co-operation with the Government, I have to tell the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Baker) that although I have greater sympathy with the intention behind this amendment, it does not take matters much further. Clause 2 as worded clearly requires the prosecution to prove two things, the second of which is the intention

Therefore, it is inconceivable that a person could be convicted on evidence of possession of a cable in the absence of other evidence. There would have to be a causal connection between having the cable, a screwdriver or some other implement and some other evidence that tied it in with the altering or reprogramming of telephones. In those circumstances, and subject to anything that the Minister might say, I hope that he rejects the amendment.

To save debate on clause stand part, I may say that my only query is about the heading of the clause:

However, the clause refers to a person having something

That is the correct terminology, because it has always been my understanding that the courts and Law Commission have expressed increasing unhappiness about the use of the word "possession". It may mean something more or different from having something in one's custody or under one's control. In those circumstances, I wonder why we continue to use the word "possession" in the clause heading, when it has properly been removed in the body of the clause. I am aware that it is the text of the clause that matters and not the heading, but is not it time that we buried the word "possession", because it causes some difficulties of understanding and interpretation?

Mr. Denham: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the seriousness with which he has approached what is, despite its significance, a brief Bill, and the amendments to it. In his analysis of the amendment, he could have been reading almost directly from my brief about its legal implications. He is absolutely right that the structure of the clause relies on the necessity to prove intent. The consensus of everyone who was involved in helping to shape the legislation was that to try to define this provision in terms of specific types of equipment, whichever words we used, would create more problems than using the wording that is in the Bill. There is a further concern that, inadvertently, the amendment might narrow the offence unacceptably, making it more difficult to secure prosecutions.

I believe that the balance is about right. I am certain that no innocent party could be caught up in this legislation, because of the way in which it is phrased and the fact that knowledge or belief of intent would have to be proved. However, I consider that it is a reasonable point for the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Baker) to explore.

As the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) said, the title of the clause has no legal effect. I am advised that the term "possession" appears in the title of

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the clause as shorthand, and no more than that, for what the clause is about, in the same way as "telephone" appears in the title of the Bill and that of clause 1. That is what I am advised, so I shall share my advice with the hon. Gentleman. I hope that, in light of what I have said, the hon. Member for Lewes may feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Norman Baker: I probably do feel able to withdraw, as the Minister gently puts it. I am grateful for his considered assurance that he is certain that no innocent party will be caught up in the legislation. That is the assurance that I wanted and I am happy to have that on the record. In the circumstances, I happily beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 2 and 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Order for Third Reading read.

8.43 pm

Mr. Denham: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

This is a brief but important Bill. I am grateful to hon. Members for their support for the Bill, for their contributions to the debate and for their sensible co-operation in securing the Bill's passage.

As we have established, and as the Government have said, the Bill is not a panacea. It is one of a comprehensive package of measures that the Government are putting in place to tackle mobile phone theft and, more broadly, street crime. I can reinforce that. I will not name the operator because it would be unfair—a number of companies have written—but one of the mobile phone operators has written, setting out all the measures that it has taken in terms of its own operations and in co-operation with other companies, and has told my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in that letter:

the company

That company is also backing up what we have all been doing with its own crime prevention campaign, which I also welcome.

The Bill has an important role. It is welcomed by the police and the mobile phone industry. I believe that it will also be welcomed by consumers and customers, who will know that they will be better protected as we reduce the value of a stolen mobile phone.

There are issues to take forward in the wider campaign and on the international front. There are important issues to be developed in relation to the effective enforcement of the Bill—an issue that was also raised during the earlier stages. Looking to the future, as the third generation of mobile phones comes in, we will continue our work to

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ensure that security devices are built into phones from the beginning, so that we do not have to address any problem after it has occurred. We have done a useful piece of work with the Bill tonight.

8.45 pm

Mr. Grieve: I am delighted that the Bill should pass through the House so quickly and, I hope, with proper scrutiny. There is always a slight anxiety that legislation that commands universal approbation often causes problems later on. This Bill is the complete antithesis of the Proceeds of Crime Bill, on which we laboured for so long and which we only concluded this evening.

The Minister is quite right that the Bill is not a panacea. There will a be considerable onus on the industry to ensure that reprogramming becomes more difficult in future; otherwise we shall put a large number of people in the way of temptation to do just that, and they may be willing to incur the possible criminal penalties.

It may well turn out to be very difficult to detect and arrest those who re-programme because it could turn from being a high-street activity into a back-room industry. That is plainly undesirable, but the Bill is at least a step in the right direction. On behalf of the Opposition, I welcome it, and I congratulate the Government on getting it on to the statute book so quickly.

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