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Crime and Security Bill

Part of Bill Presented — Pedicabs Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:19 pm on 18th January 2010.

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Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Shadow Home Secretary 5:19 pm, 18th January 2010

I am always delighted to follow Keith Vaz, who speaks a lot of wise words on this subject, and on many others. He has certainly elucidated matters of evidence for the House this afternoon. I cannot say that about Chris Grayling, however, or about the Home Secretary. Earlier, we heard a slightly unedifying spat about whether crime figures had been falling or not. The hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell knows perfectly well that the figures that Conservative Home Secretaries were pleased to use when the Conservatives were last in government were those of the British crime survey. Those figures show incontrovertibly that there has indeed been a fall in crime. Before the Home Secretary thinks I am sidling up to him on this issue and before he decides to take credit for this development, however, let me point out that crime has fallen in every single western European country except Belgium. I am not quite sure what the Belgians are doing wrong, but this fall is certainly not something that the Labour Government can realistically claim credit for. If the Home Office had not ended its research on model building-I am delighted to see that the Justice Department is now doing this again-it would have known that all sorts of other factors, including technology, technological development and, of course, demographic factors, play a part in the crime trends.

This is an omnibus Bill. As such, it is a random cross-section of measures that have been thrown together for no greater reason than the fact that they happened to be hanging around at the bus stop at the time when the Bill was going past. There are some pleasant-looking passengers dotted around the bus, but the overall impression is, I fear, tainted by the leering ogre picking its teeth on the front seat on the top deck-namely the Government's proposals for the DNA database. Although a comb has been raked through this beast's tangle since the White Paper, the effect is scarcely pleasing.

It is the dominance of those proposals that will determine the fate of the Bill, at least as far as Liberal Democrat Members are concerned. If the Government do not accept dramatic amendments in Committee, we will be entitled to draw the conclusion that they are merely cocking a snook at the European Court of Human Rights judgment in the S and Marper case. That would be entirely unacceptable, and we would not only oppose the Bill on Third Reading, but would do our utmost to beach it like a whale during wash-up.

I have spoken before about the ministerial tendency to overdose on legislative laxatives. This is the 69th home affairs Bill since 1997 and the 60th criminal justice Bill. The Government are the proud father and mother of more than 3,600 new criminal offences. Even those in favour of law, as I am, recognise that it is possible to have too much of a good thing. This legislative diarrhoea is, frankly, a conspiracy between Ministers who want to leave their footprints in the legislative sand and civil servants who recognise that the fast track to promotion is to spend time with Ministers discussing their pet legislative proposals.

Even for this Government, this Bill breaks new ground. It amends the Policing and Crime Act 2009, which received Royal Assent just 13 days before the current Bill was announced. The Home Office Bill team have really outdone themselves on this occasion, and I think we can be sure that there is at least one part of the public sector where there can be no doubt about productivity performance, even if there remains some doubt-if I read what is happening across the House-about the quality of the product.

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