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Crime and Security Bill

Part of Bill Presented — Pedicabs Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:26 pm on 18th January 2010.

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Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 4:26 pm, 18th January 2010

That will be an interesting subject for debate in the Tea Room later. We were so confused by some of the Home Secretary's remarks that I am not entirely surprised that my hon. Friend may have overlooked a comment slipped in. I leave it to him and the hon. Lady to discuss what really happened.

The Government's track record of running the Home Office has been a chapter of disasters. Successive Ministers have struggled to get to grips with the challenges that we face and the briefs that they have. Time and again they have failed to do so. They even tried splitting the Department in half to make things easier, and still it did not work. We have had fiasco after fiasco-the foreign prisoner releases, yobs to be marched to cash points, illegal immigrants working in the Home Office canteen, and the abortive attempt to merge police forces, yet under the Government's stewardship we have seen Britain become a more violent society.

Last year more than a million violent crimes were recorded by the police. We have seen antisocial behaviour become more and more endemic in communities throughout the country. We have seen our police spending more and more time on process rather than policing. All that has happened while the principles on which our criminal justice system is founded have been steadily eroded. This is a Government who do not believe that someone is innocent until proven guilty, who do not understand how much damage is done to the principles of democracy when traditional freedoms are curtailed in the name of security, and who knowingly allow their tough new anti-terror powers to be used for routine policing. In many ways it is not surprising that the Bill is a collection of odds and sods, combined with yet another failure to understand the importance of civil liberties. There is no vision and no strategy-more evidence of a Government who are out of ideas and out of time.

The Bill has aspects on which we can agree, however. The measures on stop and search are a step in the right direction, and they come after years of pressure from Conservative Members on the scale of police bureaucracies. We do not actually believe that our police officers like spending time in police stations in the warm; we think that they want to get out on to the streets and do the job, but that the bureaucracy that this Government impose keeps them in police stations.

Keith Vaz, the Chairman of the Select Committee on Home Affairs, made a valuable point: a number of changes could be made without primary legislation. The Government have a habit of introducing laws in this House to create a headline-to create a sense of their doing something-but what that does is create more and more laws. There is then more and more confusion, and, actually, we add to the bureaucracy that our front-line professionals end up dealing with.

Even the proposals on stop and search do not go far enough, though, because the Bill will only reduce the procedure's reporting requirements. The Home Secretary struggled with, and was unclear about, the issue of four people in a car who are subject to a stop-and-search procedure; in fact, he even appeared to suggest that if there was no car, the form for a car would still have to be filled in. The reality is that the current process is much too complex.

I do not know whether the Home Secretary has ever stood on the street with a police officer who is trying to grapple with current stop-and-search procedures. Why does not the Home Secretary adopt our proposals to scrap the form altogether? Officers could radio in the basic search details, creating a taped or transcribed police log at the centre without the need to fill in official forms. The Bill simplifies an extremely complex situation; it does not make the scale of change that we could genuinely make.

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