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Protection of Freedoms Bill

Part of Resource Extraction (Transparency and Reporting) – in the House of Commons at 5:37 pm on 1st March 2011.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department 5:37 pm, 1st March 2011

The hon. Gentleman’s previous intervention was extremely helpful in supporting parts of the Bill. Members might wish to discuss that issue in Committee. It has been suggested that the Information Commissioner should be responsible to Parliament. The role goes rather wider than Parliament, however, which is why it has been placed where it has. We intend to increase the commissioner’s independence, so I am sure that the issue will be debated and discussed in Committee.

Finally, the Bill protects one of the most historic freedoms and liberties enjoyed by the British people: the right to trial by jury. The Bill repeals section 43 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which allows the prosecution to apply for a serious or complex fraud trial to proceed in the absence of a jury. We sacrifice the cornerstones of our justice system at our peril.

I have told the House today that the Bill contains a number of provisions that put into effect commitments contained in the coalition agreement, but that does not mean that it should fail to gain support from across the House. Indeed, a number of positive statements have been made by hon. and right hon. Opposition Members.

Any Government and any Parliament must seek to protect not only the security of the British public but the freedoms that we hold dear. The Bill achieves those aims. All those who believe in liberty and the rights of the individual should support the Bill, and I commend it to the House.