Power of Police Authority to Retain Unclaimed Property

Part of Orders of the Day — Police (Property) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:45 pm on 7 February 1997.

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Photo of David Evennett David Evennett , Erith and Crayford 12:45, 7 February 1997

I am grateful for an opportunity to say a few words on the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Merchant)—who is a neighbour, and a very good neighbour, to my constituency in south-east London—for giving us some ammunition and an opportunity to rethink the issue. He and I normally agree on politics, on government and on many other matters but I must disappoint him on this occasion and say that I cannot accept his argument or his amendment.

My right hon. Friend the Minister—who I am delighted to have with us today—has made a very powerful case. In London, under the Metropolitan police, there have been some very successful trawls—such as Bumblebee, which he highlighted—to recover property. It would not be in the interests of the police or of the public if the police had to keep that property for a further six months before they could dispose of it. Time is important to the police, and they have a very difficult and important job to do. Our duty is to help them, and I believe that all hon. Members believe that they should be supported.

I think that 12 months, as specified in the Bill, is a fair and reasonable time for people to come forward to claim their property, if they want to do so. It would be wrong to change that provision now, not only because of the practical difficulties caused to the police, but because it would be out of line with the 1897 Act, which originally set the 12-month period. Therefore, I cannot accept the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham. It has given us an opportunity to highlight the reason why we wanted the 12-month period in the Bill, but I very much hope that he will withdraw it.