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Lord Cameron of Lochbroom: It seems to me from discussions that have taken place today and on previous occasions that the need for harmony between the relevant offences that will constitute requirement for notification is very important. One point that the noble and learned Lord the Minister made when I last spoke to an amendment was that the Scottish Parliament had, as recently as 23rd March this year, introduced a section that dealt with the trafficking offences that are now being considered in Clauses 61 to 63. I pause to point out that those offences fall within Schedule 3, as far as England, Wales and Northern Ireland are concerned, but form no part of the offences that would apply in Scotland's case. No doubt, that is a different area, but it shows the importance of the three jurisdictions marching together, especially in an issue such as this, which is of notification and involves there being clear understanding within the public of what offences are covered by the requirements for notification.
Baroness Blatch: I support my noble friend Lord Astor as well as the remarks made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Cameron of Lochbroom. I notice that a message has come down from the box. Can I assume that this is a reserved rather than a devolved matter? If that is the case, it is even more important, given that the issue is UK-wide and that harmony between the various jurisdictions is essential. We need to have that confirmed. It would be interesting to go back historicallythat is something I shall have to do myselfto find out why this should be a reserved matter.
The Bill is deemed, by virtue of Clause 127(5), to be a pre-commencement enactment. That means that any reference to the Secretary of State is translated to mean "Scottish Ministers" by Section 53 of the Scotland Act 1998. Where the subject matter relates to a devolved area of lawwhich this is, as my noble friend Lord Bassam told the Committee a few moments agothis Parliament legislates in an area with the agreement of the Scottish Parliament. That agreement is formally given by a Sewel Motion.
For Scotland, that means that the regulations and amending orders to which the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Astor, refers, will be made not by the Secretary of State but by Scottish Ministers and laid by the Scottish Parliament. That being the position, an amendment that proposes consulting with the Scottish Ministers falls away, as it will be those very Ministers who will make the relevant regulations under the Bill. I hope that, in the light of that explanation, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Cameron of Lochbroom: Before the Minister sits down, perhaps I should intimate in the light of what he has just said, that he makes it unnecessary for me to move the last amendment on the list, because that fully answers the point that I was seeking to draw from him.
Lord Astor of Hever: I am grateful for the support from my noble friend Lady Blatch and from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Cameron. I agree with him about the importance of the harmony of the various offences and that the three jurisdictions should march together. I was grateful for the response from the Minister which answered the points which we were trying to make. In the light of that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: There is a loophole in our legal system whereby sexual offenders on the sex offenders register do not have to notify the police if they travel abroad for less than eight days. That is quite long enough for offenders to abuse children overseas. UNICEF has proposed that the length of time that sex offenders can travel abroad so that they have to notify the police when leaving the UK should be reduced to 72 hours. We do not believe that that would be too
Lord Monson: The noble Lord, Lord Astor, says that travelling abroad from the United Kingdom is expensive. There are a number of people, possibly sex offenders among them, who live in County Fermanagh, South Down or Armagh who cross the border every day to workpossibly on foot. He ought to bear that in mind when speaking to the amendment.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I am grateful for the amendment because it is an opportunity to say that we are consulting on this. The consultation ended on 21st March. It looked at all of the aspects of the requirements, not just the number of days an offender can intend to travel abroad before being required to notify. The consultation was very useful and we are grateful to everybody who replied, including all the major charities working in the fieldECPAT, WorldVision and others. We are also grateful to the travel industry, the police and probation services and representatives from other government departments.
We have considered carefully the range of views expressed during the consultation, taking into account the need to balance the risks to children overseas against the additional burdens on the police and offenders that would arise from any change to the requirements. As a result of that consideration we intend to amend the regulations on foreign travel notifications as follows: to reduce the period sex offenders can intend to spend abroad before they need to notify the police from the current eight days to three days and to require offenders to notify the police seven days in advance of their intended travel (as opposed to the maximum of 48 hours in advance at present). Where an offender needs to travel at short notice, or
This change is particularly important because it will give the police more time to notify other jurisdictions or to apply for a foreign travel order if required. I am sure that our intentions will be broadly welcomed and that with the other measures proposed in the Bill they will help us to stop sex offenders from this country preying on children overseas.
I cannot accept the amendments as proposed. We would like to make the changes I have outlined by amending the current regulations covering foreign travel notification rather than specifying the three-day period on the face of the Bill. We would hope to do that as soon as the Bill comes into force so that we can introduce the new requirements as soon as possible.
There are two reasons why we want regulations rather than to use the Bill. First, it will enable us to amend the requirements in future without the need for primary legislation. That would not be an underhand way of changing the period back to eight daysI have already made clear the Government's intention in that regardbut it would enable us to fine-tune the requirements in future if required. For example, there was some discussion during the consultation on whether the new requirements should apply to children. That may be something that we would wish to consider further with interested parties. Having the requirements in regulations would enable us to make such a change in future if that was appropriate.
The second reason why we would prefer to bring the changes into effect through the regulations is that it will enable us to co-ordinate their introduction with Scotlandco-ordination is vital, as the previous group of amendments revealedwhere the requirements are covered by separate regulations. I would therefore ask noble Lords not to press the amendment. However, as I made absolutely clear, we support the purpose behind it and intend to give effect to it by other means.
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