New Clause 26 — Criminal Record Certificates: Amendments of Part 5 of Police Act 1997

Criminal Justice Bill — [3rd Alloted Day] – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 20th May 2003.

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'Schedule (Criminal record certificates: amendments of Part 5 of Police Act 1997) (which contains amendments of Part 5 of the Police Act 1997) shall have effect.'.—[Paul Goggins.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Government new schedule 1—Criminal record certificates: amendments of Part 5 of Police Act 1997—and amendment (a) thereto.

Government amendment No. 196.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

New clause 26 and new schedule 1 make a number of amendments to part 5 of the Police Act 1997, which sets out the statutory framework under which the Criminal Records Bureau operates. Amendment No. 196 makes a consequential amendment to the long title.

The House will be aware of the difficulties faced by the Criminal Records Bureau in the first few months following the launch of the disclosure service in March 2002. As a result of those difficulties, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary appointed an independent review team to take a fundamental look at the operations of the Criminal Records Bureau. These new additions to the Bill flow directly from the review team's recommendations.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way so early in his remarks. He referred to some difficulties. In fact, it was a total debacle, was it not? Will he confirm that Capita has been required to pay £1.8 million in penalties for non-compliance with the requirements of the system? Will he confirm or deny that the charges for individual users of the checks will go up threefold, from £12 to more than £30?

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

I can confirm the first of the hon. Gentleman's questions. Capita has been ordered to pay about £1.8 million in fines. That was because of its poor performance. There has been some correspondence between my predecessor, my hon. Friend Hilary Benn and one of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues. I am happy to say that that exchange has been concluded with a written answer to a question, which was one of the early responsibilities that I had to meet.

It is important to stress that the independent review team's recommendations should be viewed against the backdrop of a sustained improvement in the Criminal Record Bureau's performance since last autumn. The bureau is now issuing an average of 40,000 disclosures a week, compared with 24,500 last August, and the average turn-around time for new applications is now less than five weeks. We cannot, however, be complacent. We need to build on these improvements in performance and ensure that the Criminal Records Bureau has the necessary capacity to meet all the demand for its services, particularly in relation to higher-level disclosures.

That is where the review team's recommendations and the amendments to the Police Act 1997 come in. The Criminal Records Bureau is a vital element of the Government's programme to improve the protection of children and vulnerable adults from those who might wish to harm them. To meet that objective, the Criminal Records Bureau must be placed on a sounder footing.

The amendments to the 1997 Act give effect to four of the review team's recommendations. First, they recognise and upgrade the critical role of registered bodies. The Criminal Records Bureau is too remote from an applicant for a disclosure to carry out the identity validation process effectively. This role—

It being five and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings, Mr. Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Questions necessary to dispose of business to be concluded at that hour pursuant to Orders [2 April and 19 May]

Motion made, and Question put, That new clauses 26 and 40 and new schedules 1 to 3 be added to the Bill:—

The House proceeded to a Division.

Joan Ryan and Charlotte Atkins were appointed Tellers for the Ayes; but no Member being willing to act as Teller for the Noes, Mr. Deputy Speaker declared that the Ayes had it.

Clause 26 read a Second time, and added to the Bill.