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Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I share the concerns of my noble friend the Minister about where the amendments might lead. I have two further observations to make. First, my noble friend raised the question of the immediacy of the action that the Bill would provide. I wholeheartedly endorse the points that he made in that respect. Moreover, I would argue that the service of a fixed penalty notice at the time of an offence can only serve to reinforce the connection between the offence and the penalty. I am aware that a similar point was made in another place. I believe it to be a very valid argument. An offender receiving a fixed penalty notice through the post some days or even weeks after an offence has been committed will not be prompted to make such an immediate connection between the offence and the penalty.

I believe that the group of amendments now before us would not improve the Bill. Where there is a case of danger, as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Elliott, it is the practice for enforcement officers in such cases to ask a police officer to accompany them. However, as my noble friend the Minister said, there is the option of deciding to prosecute and, therefore, not face such a risk at that stage. Again, the matter was debated to a considerable degree on Second Reading. As I said, I believe that the amendments are not appropriate. I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw them.

Lord Elliott of Morpeth: Having heard the response from my noble friend the Minister and, indeed, the remarks made by my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 12 to 14 not moved.]

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Section 8: supplementary]:

[Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 not moved.]

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 [Powers of entry and seizure etc.]:

[Amendments Nos. 17 and 18 not moved.]

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 [Interpretation and subordinate legislation]:

On Question, Whether Clause 11 shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: The Select Committee on the scrutiny of delegated powers also questioned the need for Clause 11 (3). I have to say that, on reflection, we agree that the subsection is unnecessary and will seek to amend it on Report. I am grateful to the Select Committee for noticing that point. I hope that Members of the Committee will agree that Clause 11 should stand part, bearing in mind the fact that we shall return to the matter on Report with a view to removing Subsection (3).

Clause 11 agreed to.

Remaining clauses and schedule agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.

14 Jun 1996 : Column 2000

Sexual Offences (Incitement and Conspiracy) Bill

1.40 p.m.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time. I am pleased to have the opportunity to present the Bill to your Lordships. First, I wish to congratulate my honourable friend John Marshall, the Member for Hendon South, who originally introduced the measure in another place. I do not think any of your Lordships will question either the morality or the necessity for it. Care and regard for children is one of the essential marks of morality and true civilisation. The Bill also fulfils some of our obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Bill will make it an offence to conspire, or to incite a person to commit sexual acts abroad. As your Lordships know, one of the features of the modern world is the rapidity and ease of transport. I believe it took the Emperor Hadrian three years to travel round his empire; we could do it in as many hours. Unfortunately, this particular gift, which has been to the great benefit of civilisation, has been misused by certain people. The fact is that paedophiles travel to foreign countries to abuse children sexually. Unfortunately, many of these people are British. Their activities are deplorable and rightly are not tolerated in this country. However, their activities are no less terrible if they take place overseas. We must therefore be vigilant in ensuring that effective measures are in place to make it difficult for these people to travel abroad to commit immoral and criminal acts. To put it simply, the aim of the Bill is to make it an offence for people to plan with others or to encourage others to travel abroad to have sex with children.

Clause 1 of the Bill makes it an offence to conspire in England and Wales to commit certain sexual offences against children abroad. Conspiracy means agreement on a course of conduct. This definition of conspiracy would certainly include an arrangement between a tour operator and a client to provide travel facilities where the acknowledged purpose of the trip was the sexual abuse of children. However, it goes wider than that. Many of these people, although they make their own arrangements for travel and accommodation, nonetheless plan their trips with others of their kind before they go. Such activity may well amount to conspiracy and fall within the scope of the Bill.

Clause 1 also sets certain conditions which must be satisfied before the conspiracy amounts to an offence under our laws. The conspiracy must lead to an act or event taking place outside the United Kingdom. This, of course, is what the Bill is all about. If the act or event contemplated takes place in this country the conspiracy is already an offence. The act or event must be an offence in the country where it is intended to take place as well as in our own country. This is the so-called dual criminality test. It is, I suggest, an important safeguard.

We in Parliament rightly consider that it is our function to pass laws which apply in the territory of the United Kingdom. We would rightly take great exception

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if the law-making body of another country attempted to pass laws which would apply here. Equally, therefore, we must not attempt to export our laws overseas. The dual criminality test avoids that trap. The intended act must amount to conduct which falls within the scope of the sexual offences against children set out in the schedule to this Bill. The final condition is that some part of the conspiracy--but not necessarily all of the conduct which constitutes the offence--must take place in England or Wales.

Clause 2 makes it an offence to incite another person to commit certain sexual acts against children abroad. Incitement is the act of encouraging others to do something. It could include advertising material in the case of tour operators. But, again, if two or more potential offenders are discussing where to go to indulge in their activities, any encouragement that one gave the other could well amount to incitement. Conditions are set out in Clause 2 which must be satisfied before incitement in these circumstances would amount to an offence under the provisions of the Bill. The conditions are similar to those which I described a moment ago in relation to conspiracy.

Clause 2 also extends, for the purposes of the Bill, the scope of incitement to ensure that any incitement by means of a telephone call, fax, Internet message or similar method is deemed to take place in England and Wales if the message is received in England and Wales. Thus, if someone sent a fax to England inciting someone here to commit an offence, the originator of the fax commits an offence because the effect--the incitement--is felt here.

Clause 3 makes supplementary provisions to those in the first two clauses. Most importantly it provides that the dual criminality test is satisfied unless the defence shows grounds that it is not, in which case the clause leaves it to the judge to decide. The clause also ensures that provisions relating to offences of incitement and conspiracy in other legislation apply to the offences created by the Bill. This ensures, for example, that provisions relating to the anonymity of victims of sexual offences apply to the provisions in the Bill.

Clause 4 applies the provisions of the Bill to Northern Ireland. Clause 5 introduces the schedule to the Bill which sets out the conduct in England, Wales and Northern Ireland which is covered by the Bill. If the conduct intended or encouraged amounts to one of these offences, then the provisions of the Bill will apply if the other conditions are also met. The Bill is intended to protect children. Its extent is therefore limited to general sexual offences where the victims or intended victims are under the age of 16. As there is a dual criminality test, and this is the general age of consent in this country, 16 has been proposed as the limit which should apply to the provisions in the Bill.

Clause 6 contains the Scottish provisions. These are framed slightly differently from those applying in other United Kingdom jurisdictions because of certain differences in Scots law. For instance, several of the offences caught by the Bill in Scotland are common law rather than statutory offences. However, the effect of the Bill is essentially the same in all three jurisdictions.

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Clause 7 makes the necessary provisions for commencement and extent. The offences created by the Bill are those of conspiracy and incitement. The maximum penalties for those offences are the same as those for the substantive offence which is being planned or encouraged. Thus conspiracy to rape would carry a maximum life sentence, as would conspiracy to commit intercourse with a girl under the age of 13.

I hope that I have given a fair and accurate description of the aims, principles and contents of the Bill. I realise, as your Lordships realise, that in itself this Bill will not solve the problem of child sex tourism. That requires the will and firm action of the tourist receiving countries. But the Bill sends a warning to all those who perpetrate these acts that if they do anything in relation to their activities abroad in this country, then our authorities can and will act. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time--(Lord Pilkington of Oxenford.)

1.50 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, from these Benches, first, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, on his initiative, and the excellent way in which he has spoken to the House, clearly, precisely and, I detect, with great compassion. We also congratulate our honourable friend in another place, Mr. John Marshall, on the initiative that he has taken.

It is a long road. It is a dreadful situation. We do not have to go abroad to find terrible scenes. The announcement yesterday by the Prime Minister of an investigation into the possibilities that little children in this country have been abused, sexually and in other ways, is a timely warning to us that there is a sad decline in morals and morality. If this Bill reaches the statute book it will be an additional weapon in the hands of the legislators and the police.

I sat in this House when the War Crimes Bill went through this Chamber. I fully supported it. That legislation dealt not with a comparable situation but with the question of jurisdiction exercised by law enforcers in this country for crimes not committed in this country. There is an analogy.

We should not underestimate the enormous difficulties of, first, obtaining evidence, secondly, bringing it to court and, thirdly, gaining a conviction in all the circumstances outlined. No doubt some may consider the Bill puny and ineffective. However, the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, used words of great emphasis when he said that it was a warning. Offences, terrible as they are, may not be committed if the consequences in this legislation are likely to follow.

I am conscious of the stage that we have reached in the parliamentary timetable. Therefore I shall not go into the detail of the Bill. However, we should not be inhibited from taking the opportunity to say to the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, and others in another place, that we are as one in both Houses, in all parties, and as regards every individual who can speak, in doing everything we possibly can to protect children, wherever

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they are, who may be exploited dreadfully by people over whom we have some jurisdiction and can convict of an offence.

I congratulate the noble Lord. Anything that we on these Benches can do to speed the passage of the Bill will be done. We are grateful to the noble Lord.

1.54 p.m.

The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, first, I agree with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, said. I greatly appreciate the support that my noble friend Lord Pilkington of Oxenford will receive from him and his party.

I support this Bill on behalf of the Government. First, I must congratulate my honourable friend, John Marshall, for so skilfully piloting this legislation through another place. I am also grateful to my noble friend Lord Pilkington of Oxenford for introducing the Bill into your Lordships' House. I should like to congratulate him on his clear explanation of the Bill's provisions.

The Government fully support the measures contained in this Bill. They will give the police and courts an additional weapon to use against child molesters. It is a matter of deep concern to the Government that British people are involved in supporting this terrible trade--sex tourism. It is right that Parliament should enact measures which penalise preparatory acts committed in this country in support of those perverted activities abroad.

The provisions in this Bill will supplement the other actions which the Government are taking to discourage child prostitution worldwide. For example, the Overseas Development Agency provides assistance to several non-governmental organisations which are rehabilitating street children and tackling the associated problems of prostitution, drug abuse and violence. The Government also support the valuable participation of the police service in the work of the Interpol Standing Working Party on Offences against Minors and the contribution of those officers who are working closely with their counterparts in the developing countries.

We stand ready to extradite our own nationals to stand trial for offences committed abroad--subject to the usual safeguards which include the principle of dual criminality. We can also provide assistance to foreign authorities to help them investigate such matters.

Some noble Lords today have urged the Government to go further than the measures contained in this Bill and take extraterritorial jurisdiction over child sex offences. I understand the desire--it has been expressed in previous debates on the subject--that we take the widest possible action against these perverted people. But the Government must ensure that any legislation which is enacted is effective. The Government are not convinced that extraterritorial jurisdiction can be implemented effectively.

Despite those doubts, the Government are concerned to investigate all the options. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary announced on 1st February a review of extraterritorial jurisdiction, which is looking at the implications for our criminal justice system of extending

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the range of offences for which such jurisdiction is taken--including an extension to cover sexual offences against children. The report of that review will be considered carefully by the Government, but I am sure that, if the review concludes that a wider jurisdiction can be enforced against child sex offenders, the Government will not be slow to act.

The measures in this Bill represent a further weapon which can be used against child molesters. Therefore, the Government warmly welcome this Bill. We wish it, and the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, well during its remaining stages in this House.

1.57 p.m.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, I thank the noble Lords for those kind words, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Graham, for the support that he is able to give the Bill. I also thank the noble Earl for saying that the Government will support and encourage the Bill through the House.

I conclude briefly. These are more than offences against the law. They are offences against the very natural law that governs the whole of human nature. Cicero said this years ago about those who offend against natural law:

    "Whoever is disobedient"--
to those laws which are placed there by God--

    "is fleeing from himself and denying his human nature, and by reason of this very fact he will suffer the worst penalties, even if he escapes what is commonly considered punishment".

We are dealing with beastly and horrible things and, therefore, it is important that the Bill is passed. It will make some effort in warning these people and in protecting children. I commend that the Bill be read a second time.

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