Schedule 8 — Repeals and revocations
Commission for the Compact
Amendments made: 137, page 181, line 3, at end insert—
|'Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 1985 (c. 66)||In section 31A(1), the word "and" at the end of paragraph (b).|
|Insolvency Act 1986 (c. 45)||In section 306A(1), the word "and" at the end of paragraph (b).|
|Insolvency (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 (S.I. 1989/3405 (N.I. 19))||In Article 279A(1), the word "and" at the end of sub-paragraph (b).'.|
Amendment 138, page 181, line 12, at end insert—
|'In section 419(2), the word "or" at the end of paragraph (a).|
|In section 422(2), the word "or" at the end of paragraph (a).|
|In section 427(3), the word "or" at the end of paragraph (a).|
|In section 429(3), the word "or" at the end of paragraph (a).'.|
Amendment 139, page 181, line 12, at end insert—
|'Access to Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 (S.I. 2003/435 (N.I. 10))||In Schedule 2, the word"or" at the end of paragraph 2(d)(xii).'.|
Amendment 140, page 181, line 13, at end insert—
|'In Schedule 8, paragraphs 150, 151 and 154.'.|
Amendment 141, page 182, line 7, at end insert—
— (Mr. Alan Campbell.)
Jacqui Smith (Home Secretary; Redditch, Labour)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
Protecting the public, tackling crime and antisocial behaviour, and ensuring an effective but responsive police force are key issues for the people whom we serve. I therefore welcome the positive and constructive manner in which the Bill has been addressed during its passage. There have been lively debates, not just today, but in Committee, and I would like to put on record my thanks to my ministerial colleagues—
my hon. Friend the Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Mr. Campbell, and the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend Jim Fitzpatrick. I also thank the Whips and the Parliamentary Private Secretaries, who worked so hard in Committee, and the civil service team, who also approached the issues with energy and commitment.
Opposition Members, too, have been willing to support much. That constructive approach has helped us find consensus on several issues, and I believe that the Bill is the better for it.
Crime has fallen, and continues to fall, in this country. That is due in no small part to the hard work and expertise of our police force. Locally, nationally and internationally, the Government's increased investment in policing is being used to good effect and felt in every community. However, in every community people also need to be able to have their say about what the police should focus on locally, and hear how their concerns have been addressed.
The Bill, alongside monthly crime information meetings, will ensure that that happens around the country. The measure has also ensured that local people can have a say when lap-dancing clubs are proposed.
Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham, Labour)
Will my right hon. Friend say a little more about how the public might have a say on whether a temporary event notice is granted for a lap-dancing event? Will she consider enabling local people to have a say, not only through their councillors but perhaps, for example, a by means of a community call to action, to push the council in a particular direction?
Jacqui Smith (Home Secretary; Redditch, Labour)
My hon. Friend and my hon. Friend Lynda Waltho have assiduously pushed that point. As we have already said today, there may well be an opportunity in proposals that are now being considered—not least those of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee—for a greater role for councillors in lobbying, particularly against temporary event notices. I can certainly give her a commitment that we will continue to consider, as the Bill progresses in another place, how we can ensure that the public have a meaningful say, even when temporary event notices have led to an exemption.
We expect much of our police, so we must ensure that they have the tools to keep us safe, to catch the guilty and to clear the innocent. That includes our world-leading use of DNA. Some have argued today that we should delay making the proposed changes. I do not believe that we should. Following the consultation, we will be in a position to move quickly, not only to meet our commitment to the European Court, but to ensure a fair, balanced and proportionate response to the difficulties of balancing the rights of the individual with the rights of society to protect itself from murderers, rapists and other criminals.
As the Bill has progressed through this House, I have been pleased that we have acted quickly in providing for new powers to control gang members. I have seen the good work of the police and their partners in places such as Birmingham in using every method that they can to protect their communities from gang violence. We owe it to them to find a way through difficult legal territory, as we are doing in this Bill. With stronger powers to tackle problem drinking and new powers to deal with sex offenders, we are learning from what has worked in tackling antisocial behaviour and protecting the vulnerable, and building on that where needed.
However, in some areas of the Bill we are taking a radical new approach, setting a new path to tackle social issues that have been the subject of debate for years, if not centuries. As we have heard today, prostitution can not only blight communities, but be a terrible trap for the most vulnerable in our society. That is why the Bill contains provisions to tackle the most exploitative elements of prostitution. Placing a new responsibility on those who pay for sex is a radical shift in policy in this country. It is vital that we get it right, and that is why we have undertaken today to continue our discussions, including those in another place, on how we get the definition right.
Bob Spink (Castle Point, Independent)
I congratulate the Home Secretary on pressing on with the strict liability offence. The whole country will agree with the Government that women and children who are vulnerable need and deserve protection much more than do the men who would use and abuse them.
Jacqui Smith (Home Secretary; Redditch, Labour)
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The most important point to bear in mind is that some of those women do not have a choice. The people who use the services of prostitutes do have a choice, so my argument is simple. Those with the choice need to think carefully about the consequences of their actions, and where their actions lead to exploitation, they must face the consequences of that.
I have been encouraged by our debate, not just today but throughout the Committee stage. It has been wide-ranging and there have been important amendments along the way. Delivering practical legislation with practical applications will help protect the people whom we serve. This Bill will help us to build stronger, safer and more confident communities, and I commend it to the House.
Chris Grayling (Shadow Home Secretary, Home Affairs; Epsom and Ewell, Conservative)
Let me start my remarks by echoing the Home Secretary's words of thanks to those who served on the Committee and those who have been involved in steering the Bill through the House. In particular, I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Hornchurch (James Brokenshire) and for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Ruffley), as well as our Whip, my hon. Friend Mr. Burns, for the work that they have done in scrutinising the Government's proposals.
For all the Home Secretary's enthusiasm for the Bill, it reeks of a decaying Government. Instead of a systematic approach to tackling crime and antisocial behaviour, we are left with a sort of closing-down sale of everything that the right hon. Lady found at the back of the Home Office policy cupboard. The Bill contains a whole series of missed opportunities. Where we could have had a fresh approach to gang crime, we have a hotch-potch of measures, some of which do not even apply to people under the age of 18. Where we could have had measures to make crime statistics believable by making them independent, we have a blank space. Where we could have had a review of the problems with our 24-hour drinking laws, we have a code. Where we could have secured an absolute preservation of the principle of innocent until proven guilty, we will still have people's DNA held for many years, even though they have committed no crime, and perhaps not even been charged with any crime.
Moreover, there are a number of measures on which, had the Home Secretary been sufficiently bold, we would have supported her. We would have welcomed detailed measures to cut police red tape and get officers back on the beat. We would also have welcomed proposals for directly elected police commissioners. The reason why we would have welcomed those measures is that the Government have continued to fail on crime. Where they promised to be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime, they have actually been soft on crime. Their legislative hyperactivity has been an alibi for their failure to get at the roots of crime in Britain today.
I shall turn to the specifics of the Bill. It could and should have been an opportunity for the Government to do the right thing and preserve absolutely the principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty, but they have not done that. Ministers are still trying to get away with doing as little as they possibly can, instead of taking real action to remove innocent people from the DNA database. The indefinite retention on the national database of the DNA of people who have never been charged with any crime, or have been acquitted by a court, is unacceptable in a society founded on the basis that someone is innocent until proven guilty.
Under the national DNA database as currently constituted, however, that presumption is reversed. A person is always regarded as potentially guilty unless shown to be innocent. Everyone is a potential suspect. Instead of thinking through the DNA issue before the Bill came to the House, the Government sought a legislative blank cheque, so that once they had finally made up their minds following their consultation they could do what they liked, with little parliamentary scrutiny. We retain significant misgivings about the approach that they are taking and the length of time involved. We do not share their views on this matter. In government, we would follow a system based on the Scottish model, and we believe that the present Government should do the same.
Another missed opportunity in the Bill concerns people's use of alcohol. When 24-hour drinking was introduced, we were promised a continental café culture. We have certainly ended up with drinking in the street, but not quite in the way we imagined. There are still too many things wrong with our licensing system. In particular, we need stronger powers to ensure that retailers who systematically break licensing laws are closed, permanently. Those powers need to be simple and they need to be quick. We cannot allow the culture of public binge drinking and the resulting public nuisance to continue unchallenged.
Back in the days when the content of the Bill was merely a Green Paper, the Government trumpeted their plans for more democracy in the governance of policing. To quote them directly:
"The Government believe that Crime and Policing Representatives will provide clear and transparent governance structures that will simplify the system so the public can readily understand how to influence their policing and will be able to do so."
They also noted that the Association of Police Authorities' own polling showed that 55 per cent. actively supported that policy and only 19 per cent. disagreed with it. Sadly, however, that proposal has gone. It has disappeared, and it will be left to a future Conservative Government to bring to local communities the accountability on policing that the Government promised but failed to deliver.
Perhaps the Government's biggest mistake has been to tie the hands of police officers with targets and bureaucracy. The Bill could have been a real opportunity to get to grips with the byzantine bureaucracy that keeps the police off the streets. My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds has advanced a comprehensive programme for freeing up the police and getting them back on the beat. The Government could have used the Bill to look at ways of changing the hugely time-consuming disclosure process that takes up so much time in our police stations. The Bill could also have abolished statutory charging for more offences, which would have given back to custody sergeants the power to charge offenders so that they no longer had to fill in forms seeking approval from the Crown Prosecution Service. The Bill could have cut the unnecessary requirements imposed on police to fill in regulation of investigatory powers forms before conducting routine police surveillance and investigations. Instead, as a consequence of this Bill, the police will spend little more time on the beat than they do at the moment.
The Government could also have used the Bill to get to grips with antisocial behaviour. The number of young people entering the criminal justice system has gone up by a fifth in five years. In 2007-08 more than 93,000 youngsters aged 10 to 17 received their first caution or conviction, up from 78,000 five years ago. At the moment the tools given to the police by this Government have proved largely ineffective. Just about the only power in the Bill that is designed to deal with antisocial behaviour will mean that the police can move on 10-year-olds if they are causing trouble in the evenings. I do not think we should be shifting 10-year-olds out of their home areas; I think we should be sending them home to bed.
The Bill is the product of a tired Government who are scratching around for ideas. They have already run out of ideas, and very soon they will run out of road. It is time for a change.
Christopher Huhne (Eastleigh, Liberal Democrat)
This is a mixed bag of a Bill. We have seen it passing like the proverbial bus, loaded with the various parcels that the Government have seen fit to put on it. We certainly welcome some of its provisions, including those on the extension of foreign travel orders for sex offenders, which seem proportionate and sensible. We support the Government on that issue. New clause 22, which amends the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 in relation to penalties for encrypted data involving indecent images of children, is also to be welcomed as useful for tackling the terrible crime of child pornography. The new sex encounter establishment licensing regime is also a useful development that we welcome. It will allow lap-dancing premises to be considered as such for licensing purposes, which will allow local authorities to make decisions based on their own situations, which we very much welcome.
Against the positive aspects of this portmanteau Bill, however, we must set a number of real problems. The Government are proposing to address the S and Marper judgment on the DNA database in the wrong way and by using the wrong principles. They are the wrong principles because the proposal they have brought forward seriously questions the long-standing commitment of our judicial system to the principle that everyone should be presumed innocent until they are proven to be guilty; and it is the wrong way because the Government propose to use secondary legislation—statutory instruments—for a change that is of such significance and controversy that it should be properly debated on the Floor of the House and implemented through primary legislation. The precedent is provided in the Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Act 2008, which was a response to another court judgment. There is absolutely no reason for the Government to go ahead in the manner they are suggesting.
There are also missed opportunities in the Bill, particularly on police reform. My party has long been committed to putting more police on the beat and to an increase in police officers. We are still an under-policed society, in comparison with other western democracies, but even more importantly, we are a society for which policing could be much more effective than it is. The discrepancies between the best performing and the worst performing police forces are enormous, yet there is no suggestion in the Bill to allow police authorities to pressure forces that are underperforming to reach best practice.
We need real police reform and a move towards real local accountability—not elected sheriffs, on the model proposed by the Conservative Front-Bench team, because that would not adequately represent minorities in important parts of the country. If we are going to get better policing, what we need are directly elected and accountable police authorities. Yes, there is a cross-party consensus on dealing with the issue of police bureaucracy, but let us not disguise the fact that there is a massive difference, for example, between the effectiveness of the best performing police force in North Yorkshire, with a 67 per cent. clear-up rate of violent crime, and the 36 per cent. for the Metropolitan police. We have to find ways of improving police performance towards best practice. That, I am afraid, is a opportunity missed in the Bill.
I believe that the measures personally championed by the Home Secretary on sex offences and prostitution are misguided. They are misguided because they introduce something that the House should always set its face against: a strict liability offence. There are many basic principles of legislation that we abandon at our peril. One is obviously retrospection, but another is the strict liability offence. The reason is simply that people do not know when they are committing a strict liability offence; and if they do not know, anybody deciding whether that offence has been committed—whether it be a magistrate or a more serious court—will regard the offence as unfair.
What we always see with strict liability offences of the sort in the Bill is that the penalties are absolutely puny. Why? It is precisely because of the unfairness of the original offence. That is why I very much hope that when the other place considers our deliberation on the Bill and reflects on how it has been hammered through this Chamber with many parts completely unconsidered, it will amend it and do its absolute worst.
What we have seen is a Bill that has some good elements, but others that are frankly against many of the fundamental principles that this House ought to hold dear. We have heard all the usual tough talk, rather than tough action, from the Government about tackling crime, and we have seen a failure to get to grips with some of the real problems of fighting crime in this country—notably, police reform and police accountability. I very much hope that our colleagues in the other place will look at the record of our deliberations—outrageously truncated as they have been by the timetable motion pushed through earlier today—and then very substantially amend the provisions. On that basis, we will not press for a Division, but we will hope for a very substantial degree of amendment in the other place.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.