Draft Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2001

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Mr. Bradley: I apologise, Mr. Cook, for having been remiss in not welcoming you to the Chair at the beginning of the sitting.

I understand the point about our meeting at the same time as other Home Office business is being considered, but, as I am sure hon. Members appreciate, there is a great deal of Home Office business at the moment. I am sorry if the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Burnett) is upset at not being able to listen to his colleague, the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes)—others may take a different view.

I am glad that the general review of the Act has been welcomed, and I look forward to our further deliberations on the matter, at a later stage. If there are some points that I do not pick up in my response, I assure hon. Members that I shall write to them with further details.

Mr. Burnett: If the Minister writes to one of us about a particular point, will he ensure that a copy of that letter is sent to all Committee members?

Mr. Bradley: I am perfectly happy to ensure that the information that I give is forwarded to all Committee members—or those who want it.

We must strike the right balance among potential available posts. It is the level of responsibility in broad terms that we shall consider when determining the exceptions. However, I shall give the matter further consideration and provide further details.

On advertising, we would not want to prejudge someone who wants to apply for a job, but at some stage in the process, probably the shortlisting stage, people may be made aware that, because of the nature of the job, such questions may be asked.

Mr. Burnett: I ask that anyone applying for a job that is excepted from the Act should know that ab initio—right at the start.

Mr. Bradley: I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, and I shall reflect on it. However, I feel that it is up to individuals whether they want to apply for the job, and during that process they may make a determination about whether they wish to continue with the application.

Mr. Paice: I want to endorse what the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon said. Although I did not refer to the matter in my opening remarks, he is absolutely right. Following the Minister's proposed course of action, if, during the application process—for instance, at shortlisting for interview—an individual is informed that if he has an excepted conviction it must be disclosed, his withdrawal at that stage is tantamount to disclosing anyway. Although his application is no longer relevant, if he is somebody who has served his time, does not wish anybody else to know about it, and wants to get on with the rest of his life, he would probably not want to apply for such a job at all. The hon. Gentleman is therefore right that the matter should be up front, so that such an individual does not make the application in the first place, rather than withdrawing at a later stage when he effectively discloses to those in the know that he has an unspent conviction, the detail of which he does not wish to disclose.

Mr. Bradley: I understand that point clearly, but people withdraw from job applications for a variety of reasons. I am sure that many Committee members have applied for jobs and then decided that they do not want to pursue the application. That does not necessarily lead to the assumption that they have a previous conviction. Hon. Gentlemen are over-egging the pudding in that regard. As I said earlier, those matters are part of the overall review that we are undertaking, so there will be an opportunity for further consideration at that stage.

The hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire asked what powers the Treasury had. As I am sure that he really knows, those powers are under section 426 to 428 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. I am sure that that clears up that point.

On disclosure of information by the employer, it is a criminal offence to make unauthorised disclosure of that information. Under the Data Protection Act 1998, such information is sensitive personal data and strict rules surround its processing.

I think that I have covered the main points that have been raised, but I shall be happy to provide further information in writing—

Mr. Burnett: Will the Minister elaborate on the point about circumstances ancillary to conviction?

Mr. Bradley: That is exactly what I shall do. I shall provide further details in correspondence. I hope that the Committee will approve the order.

Question put and agreed to.


    That the Committee has considered the draft Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) (Amendment) (No.2) Order 2001.

        Committee rose at six minutes to Five o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Cook, Mr. Frank (Chairman)
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bradley, Mr. Keith
Brooke, Mrs.
Buck, Ms
Burnett, Mr.
Cryer, John
Djanogly, Mr.
Field, Mr. Frank
Henderson, Mr. Ivan
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mountford, Kali
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Paice, Mr.
Smith, Angela

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Prepared 26 November 2001