Draft Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000 (Information) Order 2002

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Tom Brake: I will be brief, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey and the hon. Member for Surrey Heath have outlined many of my concerns about this order. I have some increasingly rusty expertise in information technology, as I worked in the industry for 13 years before I was elected to Parliament. It seems to me that the Minister is seriously underestimating the complexity of the work that could be involved in ensuring that the data is made available—regardless of at what point in the process it is collected—at the end of the process, so that all of the information is pulled together. I ask the Minister to enter into discussions with the industry about that, because I suspect that it is concerned that the costs might be significant and that, because of the complexity, the time scales for making these changes will be quite long.

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Will the police be adequately resourced, so that they will be able to make use of the information? That question was asked by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath. There is no point in all of these changes being made if, at the end of the day, the police turn around and say, ''We are swamped. We cannot possibly cope.''

5.42 pm

Mr. Reid: I have received a letter from Caledonian MacBrayne, a ferry company that services the Hebrides and the Clyde. It says that if it were obliged to furnish details as the legislation suggests, that would involve huge additional cost and be a logistical nightmare, which would affect the operation of timetables, and so forth.

The Minister referred to accumulating information at the time of booking. She may not be aware that there is no booking on many ferry routes across the Clyde and on short journeys from the mainland to the Atlantic islands. People simply turn up on the ferry and buy a ticket for a brief journey of five or 10 minutes. This legislation gives the enforcement authorities the power to collect all the information that is lifted from any ship that travels from one part of the UK to another. That is an unnecessary power. There is no point in collecting the names and addresses of people travelling on the 10-minute passenger ferry from Gourock to Kilcreggan, for example. If a terrorist wanted to travel from Gourock to Kilcreggan, that power might inconvenience them slightly; if they wanted to avoid giving their name, they would have to take two trains and a bus. Therefore, there is no point in this information ever being requested, and there is no need for this to be in the order.

The Minister gave us various assurances that the implementation of the legislation would be incremental, sensible and practical, but why should this legislation be applied to domestic ferries that run from one part of Scotland to another? I do not see that there is any point in asking for this information. If the order were to require that such information be made available, that would concern the ferry companies. Although they will accept the Minister's assurances that this information will not be asked for tomorrow, at some point in the future law enforcement officers might send them a letter asking for this information, and therefore they will have to put procedures in place.

The Minister said that there would be no cost to the Home Office, but there could well be a substantial cost to the Scottish Executive, because it is currently undertaking a tendering exercise for the running of the Clyde and Hebridean ferries for a five-year period. When submitting tenders, shipping companies will know whether, during that five-year period, they may be asked to collect such information. In their tenders will have to be an allowance for the administrative systems that would have to be put in place if they were asked for such information. Therefore, there will be a greater cost to the Scottish Executive. Will the Minister reconsider the position and remove from the order the provision under which such information may be asked in regard to ferries that are travelling from one part of Scotland to another?

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5.45 pm

Mr. Tyrie: I find the arguments that have been advanced by Opposition Members about the problems of the measure very persuasive, especially those from the Liberal-Democrat Benches. The absence of public consultation is unacceptable, except in the most extreme circumstances that do not apply to the order. Its scope, which is often a problem with many statutory instruments, is deeply worrying. The lack of clarity about who will have access to the information is also a worry and something that touches at my libertarian sensibilities. It is only with the greatest self-discipline that I shall be able to abstain.

I emphasise the fact that no proper regulatory impact assessment has been made of the cost of the measure. What happens in Whitehall is that people have an idea that they think will look good and that may actually do some good. The question of whether it has any public expenditure costs is asked. If the answer is no, Whitehall thinks that it is a good idea, because it will have low public expenditure costs and benefit will be gained. However, there is often a lack of adequate consideration of the whole economy impact. If recouped in some other way, the economic costs of the proposals may be used more effectively through another measure that is not at present being considered.

Even if the Minister were unable to say whether a regulatory impact assessment had been made that she can put in the public domain now, does she agree to undertake such an assessment in consultation with the industry and put it up for discussion as soon as possible? Can she do that in the broadest possible sense and consider the compliance costs for the airline industry as a whole, and take into account the cost to the economy? Only if that were done will such measures receive more sensible scrutiny. I accept that the hon. Lady has made a big effort to answer the points that we have raised, but I think that she has quite a job on her hands in the few minutes left that are available to her

5.47 pm

Beverley Hughes: I shall try to deal with as many points as I can. If I inadvertently miss any, I shall contact members of the Committee after the sitting.

The hon. Member for Surrey Heath said that there has been a failure to consult properly. I do not accept that. Many meetings and visits to ports to observe and consult widely with representatives of the industry took place between the beginning of April and 26 June. As I have said frequently, that consultation was predominantly about the schedule, its proposed scope and the issues that would arise after its implementation. We now need to take forward those discussions on the basis of the significantly reduced list of data under the schedule and decide how to operationalise them in an acceptable way for the industry. Our commitment to continue such discussions has never been in doubt.

Several members of the Committee referred to the proposals of the United States of America. Indeed, other countries have made proposals to request data from carriers. The proposed visit is to discuss with the

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United States its proposals. I accept that the international community needs to accept responsibility, as it has done in principle. As much coherence as possible between the demands of different states is highly desirable. There are processes, some of which hon. Members referred to, through which an attempt to get coherence is occurring at both European and international level. I accept that that has to take place. We should allow for slight differences that justifiably reflect different circumstances in different countries. Every country wants to try to achieve a substantial core of coherence.

I am happy to put on record a guarantee of further meetings, as the hon. Member for Surrey Heath requested. They will take place from now at official level, and I indicated that Ministers would be involved. I confirm again that the implementation will be proportionate and targeted.

Several hon. Members raised questions about phasing and the regulatory impact assessment. I must tell the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) that the assessment has been published; indeed, several hon. Members referred to its contents. It is difficult to be specific about costs in the assessment because of the points that I made about wanting to work with the industry to agree the phasing of the implementation and whether certain of those data would be requested. The ability to estimate the cost impact is dependent on the extent to which the police may request items of data in the schedule and how quickly that comes on stream. As I made clear, a worst-case scenario of total implementation after 30 days will not happen. The extent to which the time scale is elongated will impact on the cost.

Mr. Hawkins: The Minister is surely not responding to my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester by saying that the couple of sentences in the explanatory memorandum headed ''Financial Effects/Impact'' are equivalent to a full regulatory impact assessment.

Beverley Hughes: I am advised that the regulatory impact assessment that I approved last week has been published. If hon. Members have not seen that, I hope that they will raise that with me after our sitting. There is a regulatory impact assessment.

Mr. Tyrie: For clarification, I have a letter dated 11 July from British Airways. It is just possible that the regulatory impact assessment was published on the day that the letter was sent. The letter says:

    ''No regulatory impact assessment on the order has been performed.''

If one of the key carriers does not think that the assessment has been started on 11 July, I am flabbergasted to hear that something worth reading has been published.

Mr. Hawkins: On a point of order, Mr. Cran. Before the Minister responds to my hon. Friend, may I say that once again I asked for all documents relating to the order? If a full regulatory impact assessment had been conducted, one would expect that to form part of ''all documents'' to be given to hon. Members. However, the assessment was not provided and,

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indeed, I heard from the carriers today that they had not seen a regulatory impact assessment.

 
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