Examination of witnesses (Questions 260
WEDNESDAY 14 NOVEMBER 2001
MP, MR ROBERT
260. On the question of disclosure of information,
it is widely held that having compulsory disclosure of information
in past Acts, in the Prevention of Terrorism Act, did very little
to increase the flow of information to the police. We have seen
figures somewhere that, in mainland Britain, there were only ten
convictions in about 20 years. Given that that is not a very effective
means of improving the flow of information, why do you expect
it now to be effective?
(Beverley Hughes) Disclosure of information we did
not include under the previous legislation.
(Mr Whalley) The previous legislation did not maintain
the earlier provision in the 1989 Act. That subject was dealt
with in the Lloyd report on that. The view may be now that the
circumstances of international terrorism with which we are concerned
require that issue to be looked at again, in terms that people
who have information should disclose it. That is what has brought
about the inclusion of this power.
(Beverley Hughes) My understanding is it is not something
that is on the statute book at the moment. There was an intention
to include it in legislation on the prevention of terrorism but
the decision at the end of the day was not to include it.
261. But it is in the Bill?
(Beverley Hughes) It is in the Bill now and the view
is that there must have been people who knew what those who perpetrated
11 September might have been involved in. Given the potential
for those kinds of events to cause such huge devastation and a
large number of casualties, we really need to make sure that we
can require people, when they do have information, to bring it
forward to try and prevent those actions in the future.
262. Turning to the issue of identification
and the requirement of facial covering and other ways of hiding
identity, what guidelines do you propose issuing to address the
sensitivities of this area so that it can be done respectfully
(Beverley Hughes) We will be making clear during the
passage of the Bill that we will be drawing up a protocol with
ACPO, the Association of Chief Police Officers, to make sure that
the procedures are implemented in ways that are sensitive to issues
of decency and treating people respectfully. That will be a protocol
that the police will be required to follow.
263. Finally, conspiracy. It is already an offence
to conspire to cause an explosion. I had understood that the police
were anxious to have this extended to terrorism in general. Has
the government dropped that idea?
(Beverley Hughes) Yes. The Home Secretary did say
that he was considering, as we have done right across the board,
whether any additional powers were needed in relation to conspiracy.
He did examine that but he has concluded that the existing laws
that we have, which do include conspiracy to commit terrorist
offences, are sufficient to deal with the situation and that we
do not need to strengthen those any further.
264. Which law already includes conspiracy to
commit terrorist offences?
(Mr Whalley) If it is part of the general terrorism
law, it will be in the Terrorism Act 2000 but there may obviously
be some other elements of the criminal law involved.
265. Maybe I have misunderstood the situation
but I do recollect a senior police officer telling us that this
was a power they did not have which they needed.
(Beverley Hughes) Advice to ministers is that we do
have sufficient powers under existing legislation. If you would
like, I will certainly clarify where those powers exist and write
to you as well with that.
266. Thank you.
(Mr Whalley) Mr Prosser raised a point about the penalties
for the general offence of hoaxing under the Criminal Law Act.
I am advised that the 1991 Act raised that penalty to seven years,
so it is already covered for the generality of offences. What
this does is to align that in terms of noxious substances.
Chairman: Thank you very much, Minister, for
coming along this morning. Thank you for the help you have given
us in the short time we have had to examine this legislation.
We look forward to meeting you in the chamber on Monday.