Police (Detention and Bail) Bill

Part of Business of the House (Police (Detention and Bail) Bill) – in the House of Commons at 2:48 pm on 7th July 2011.

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Photo of Nick Herbert Nick Herbert The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice, The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice 2:48 pm, 7th July 2011

Frank Dobson began his speech by reminding the House of the impact of 7/7, on this, the anniversary of that atrocity. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary also paid her tribute to the victims of that crime this morning. It is a sobering reminder of the continuing importance of public protection, which is what we are debating today. I am grateful that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House have supported the need for this emergency legislation. Certain issues have been raised, and I shall try to deal with them briefly now. It is important to note, however, that there was no dissent over the principle behind the legislation. It is widely accepted that there needs to be a correction to the rather extraordinary judgment of the High Court, which overturned 25 years of practice and legal understanding.

The Government are grateful to all parties for the support expressed, particularly the official Opposition for their support in enabling this emergency legislation to go forward, and I am also grateful for the support of Liberal Democrat Members. There is unanimity on the need to deal with this situation as swiftly as possible.

I begin by clearing up one or two of the more technical issues. My hon. Friend Dr Huppert asked a specific question about when the Bill could be expected to receive Royal Assent. Subject to the Bill being approved by both Houses, we aim to secure Royal Assent before the other place rises on Tuesday 12 July. The legal change will then come into effect immediately. I hope that that answers the point.

For the record, I would like to clear up issues raised by the shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, and by the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, Keith Vaz, about the role of the Law Officers in this matter. Although the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford said—I hope I quote her accurately—that it is common for Ministers to say whether they have had advice from Law Officers, page 447 of “Erskine May” states:

“By longstanding convention observed by successive Governments, the fact of, and substance of advice from, the law officers of the Crown is not disclosed outside Government”.

I hope that that helps to clarify the matter.

It is nevertheless important to reassure the House that the Crown Prosecution Service was involved in discussions with ACPO and officials soon after the written judgment was received. I hope that the Chairman of the Select Committee—he is not in his place at the moment—will be reassured when he reads what I had to say. The CPS has certainly been involved in trying to assess the legal implications at the same time as ACPO was trying to assess the practical implications.

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Richard Taylor
Posted on 7 Nov 2011 2:06 am (Report this annotation)

The Minister Nick Herbert has accurately quoted Erskine May, but he has omitted some of the relevant section, it concludes:

"...but if a Minister deems it expedient that such opinions should be made known for the information of the House, the Speaker has ruled that the orders of the House are in no way involved in the proceeding."

I think this means the speaker has ruled that if a Minister decides to make his legal advice known to Parliament he is free to do so. It's not written in very clear language though, it's not obvious what "are no way involved in the proceeding" actually means, but I presume it means "do not preclude it".

http://www.rtaylor.co.uk/erskine-might.html