Amendments made: 72, page 167, line 23, leave out ‘Section 10(4) and (6)(d).’.
Amendment 73, page 167, line 28, leave out ‘21.’ and insert ‘19.
—[ James Brokenshire.]
Amendment made: 75, line 8 leave out
‘provide for a maximum detention period of 14 days’
‘amend the maximum detention period’.—(James Brokenshire .)
Queen’s consent signified .
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
The first responsibility of any Government is to keep the British public safe and free. That means protecting them from crime, terrorism and other threats, but it also means defending our democratic institutions, our liberties and our way of life. This Government are determined to cut crime and reduce the risk of terrorism, at the same time as we restore the freedoms and liberties that define British society.
I can never resist my hon. Friend, although I give way always with a certain degree of trepidation and a suspicion that one word will always come into his question.
I am grateful to the Home Secretary—and may I congratulate her on her staunch statement at the party conference on the repeal of the Human Rights Act? As she has not yet an opportunity to do so, would she like to reaffirm on the Floor of the House that she would like to see it repealed?
I am happy to confirm that to my hon. Friend. At the general election, Conservative Members, of course, stood on a manifesto that promised to do just that. As I have said, we will also bring forward some changes to the immigration rules to ensure what we consider to be the correct balance in the operation of article 8 of the human rights convention.
My hon. Friend Mr Cash was trying to tempt me to go down a road that I know I should not go down any further on Third Reading of this Bill. Let me return to the point I was making about the balance between keeping the public safe and defending our liberties.
For 13 years the previous Administration chipped away at those freedoms and liberties, and in doing so, they did not protect the public. They chipped away at the notion that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Not only did they fail to take the DNA profiles of all of those guilty of a crime; they also provided for the indefinite retention of the DNA profiles of more than 1 million innocent people. They treated more than a quarter of the whole work force—some 11 million people—as potential abusers of children and vulnerable adults, by requiring them to be monitored as part of an overbearing vetting and barring system.
The previous Government chipped away at the right to liberty by seeking to extend the maximum period of pre-charge detention to 42 and even 90 days—until forced by the will of this Parliament to settle for 28 days. They then made 28 days the norm rather than the exception. They chipped away at the historic right of trial by jury; they chipped away at the notion that people should be able to live in safety and security in their own homes by creating hundreds of new powers of entry; and they chipped away at our right to privacy by creating a number of enormous Government databases—the national identity register and ContactPoint being but the worst examples.
The Bill continues the work of this Government in repairing the damage done to our traditional freedoms and historic civil liberties, while at the same time taking a careful and proportionate approach to protecting the public. In adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the national DNA database, it strikes the right balance between protecting our communities and protecting the rights of the innocent. When people are convicted or cautioned for a recordable offence, their DNA and fingerprints will be retained indefinitely, exactly as happens now. In all cases in which DNA and fingerprints are taken on arrest, they will be subject to a speculative search so that past offenders cannot evade justice, exactly as happens now. Under this Government, criminals who leave their DNA at a crime scene will not be able to escape justice if they are arrested again.
Moreover, we are now taking the DNA of all convicted prisoners, including hundreds who were convicted for the most serious offences such as murder and rape. That is something that the last Government failed to do. In June last year, we started a programme to identify individuals in the community who have previously been convicted of either a sexual offence or homicide, and whom the last Government failed to place on the DNA database. That process has so far identified more than 13,000 people whose identities have been passed to local police forces, and we are now working with the police to find the individuals and obtain samples. When someone is not convicted of an offence, however, there will be strict limits on the period during which that person’s DNA and fingerprints can be retained. That is exactly as it should be: justice is not served, and our communities are not made safer, by the stockpiling of the DNA and fingerprints of hundreds of thousands of innocent people for year after year.
The Bill includes sensible measures to help to maintain public confidence in the use of CCTV and automatic number plate recognition systems. CCTV is a valuable crime-fighting tool, which also helps to reduce the fear of crime—we saw that most recently after the summer’s riots—but it will not be able to continue to deliver such benefits if cameras are perceived to be spying on communities, or if they simply do not work as they should. We saw that most recently in the west midlands, where the installation of CCTV systems without the support of the local community meant that public confidence was lost and the cause of community safety was set back. By providing for a code of practice overseen by a new surveillance camera commissioner, the Bill will help to ensure that CCTV retains public support and therefore continues to be an effective tool in fighting crime.
The Bill also applies much-needed common sense to the criminal records regime and the vetting and barring scheme. Let me make one thing absolutely clear: the protection of children and vulnerable adults is of paramount importance to this Government, and robust systems for employment vetting play a vital part in ensuring that it is provided, but tying up employers and voluntary organisations in red tape and bureaucracy does no one any good. I do not think it is sensible to force some 11 million people to register with a Government agency, and I do not really think—and I doubt that Yvette Cooper really thinks—that 11 million people should be continually monitored.
There was a real danger that the very scale of the vetting and barring scheme designed by the previous Administration would create a culture of irresponsibility in which employers felt that it was not up to them to protect children or vulnerable adults in their care. Employers must take their responsibilities seriously, and when innocent people are treated like suspects, it is society that suffers.
The Bill has been much improved by the process of scrutiny undertaken by this House. I thank all the members of the Public Bill Committee for their detailed and forensic examination of it, and I thank all Members who contributed to the debates on Report.
Unfortunately we did not manage to complete our scrutiny, because of the timetabling of the Bill. One issue that was brought to my attention by Universities UK was the potential for application of the Freedom of Information Act to impede international collaboration in research. That was dealt with in the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, and I tried to insert a parallel provision in this Bill. Will the right hon. Lady instruct the appropriate Minister to meet representatives of Universities UK to discuss the issue as a matter of urgency?
Order. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are discussing the Bill as it is now, not the new clauses that were not reached.
I think the hon. Gentleman, and I take a different view on the issue he raises about scientific research and the application of freedom of information provisions. However, although we disagree, I am happy to ensure that an appropriate Minister will be available to meet Universities UK and discuss this matter with it.
I have already paid tribute to the members of the Committee and to all Members who have contributed to our various debates on the Bill. I wish to pay particular tribute to the tireless and sterling work done by the Department’s Under-Secretaries, my hon. Friends the Members for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire) and for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone). They have steered the Bill through its parliamentary stages with great skill—and, I must say, significant patience in dealing with all the issues that have been raised. I also thank all the officials who have worked on the Bill.
As a result of Members’ scrutiny, the Committee and subsequently the House have agreed a number of important changes to the Bill. We have clarified the circumstances in which DNA may be retained for a period where someone has been arrested for, but not charged with, a serious offence. We have further clarified the extent of regulated activity, including bringing those working with 16 and 17-year-olds within scope and making provision for statutory guidance to be issued to regulated activity providers. We have also provided for the establishment of the new disclosure and barring service to give a more efficient end-to-end service to employers and voluntary organisations. Further, we have strengthened the protection for motorists in private car parks at the same time as we have provided further help for landowners to combat unauthorised parking.
We are fortunate that in this country, it has not taken bloody wars and violent revolutions to weave into the very fabric of our society and parliamentary democracy the freedoms and liberties that we hold so dear. We take them for granted at our peril. Once lost, they are not easily regained. They need to be nurtured and protected. It is in this spirit that I wholeheartedly commend the Protection of Freedoms Bill to the House, and look forward to its safe and speedy passage through the other place.
I join the Home Secretary in thanking all hon. Members who have toiled throughout the passage of the Bill, and pay tribute to my hon. Friend Vernon Coaker, whom I congratulate on his appointment to the shadow Cabinet, and my hon. Friend Clive Efford, who, conveniently, has been moved to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport just in time for the Olympics. I also thank my hon. Friend Diana Johnson, who has done important work particularly on child protection, and my hon. Friend Mark Tami, who has kept us all in order. I thank, too, my right hon. Friend Mr Hanson and my hon. Friend Chris Bryant, who in the last couple of days have stepped in admirably to steer the debate through its final stages in this House.
There are sensible measures in the Bill that we support, such as removing old convictions for gay sex, removing restrictions on marriage, adding sensible extensions to freedom of information and putting in place tighter restrictions on the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and stop and search powers. We also welcome the action on rogue wheel clampers, but we would have preferred the Government to have gone further by taking further action on rogue ticketers. We agree, too, with the principle of moving down to 14 days of pre-charge detention. However, the Home Secretary was unwise not to have made changes as a result of the last debate, in which Members from both sides of the House who served on the Joint Committee that she set up raised concerns that the mechanism that she has put in place to deal with emergencies will be impractical and unworkable. Why did she set up a Committee if she was just going to ignore its expert views?
We have some serious and deep concerns about the Bill, however, which mean that we cannot support it tonight. We agree with making changes to child protection, especially now that Criminal Records Bureau checks can be made portable, but it is vital that as we do so, we make sure this House can reassure parents throughout the country that sensible and strong safeguards are still in place to protect their children.
The Government cannot now do that, as a result of this Bill, because they are creating serious loopholes in child protection. They have been urged to close them not just by our Front-Bench team but by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Action for Children, the Children’s Society, the Government’s own Children’s Commissioner, the Scouts, the Rugby Football Union, UK Athletics and many more sports organisations. The Government have consistently ignored their advice.
I wonder how many Conservative Members realise what they voted for in the Lobby this afternoon. They voted to stop someone who has committed a sexual offence against children being automatically barred from working with them in future. Conservative Members voted today to stand up for the right of convicted child rapists not to be included on a barred list: that is what they voted for. The Bill also means that if someone who has been barred for grooming a child applies for a supervised post working with children, the organiser will not be told that they have been barred.
The Government have chosen to stand up for the privacy of people who have been barred by the experts from working with children, against the concerns of head teachers, sports organisations, children’s charities and, above all, parents who want to know that their children are safe. I say to the Home Secretary very strongly, as a parent, that parents across this country do not want to discover that a voluntary teaching assistant or a supervised sports coach who spends hours with their child has, in fact, been barred by the experts from ever working with children again, but that—thanks to the Home Secretary’s decision to protect that person’s privacy—nobody was told. That is the consequence of her Bill; it is the decision that Government Members have just voted to support.
It is not just on child protection that the Government are getting the balance wrong. The Home Secretary’s decisions on DNA will also make it harder, not easier, for the police to fight crime. She has talked with pride about the 13,000 convicted criminals that she wants to put on the DNA database, but what she fails to point out is that taking retrospective DNA, which we strongly agree with, was made possible only by Labour’s Crime and Security Act 2010, which was passed before the general election and which she opposed. Not only did she oppose the whole Bill then, but she failed to enact those provisions when that should have happened, straight after the general election. She waited for a year to get round to it, and she still has not enacted the provisions in Labour’s Act to take DNA from people who commit crimes abroad.
As for the provisions in this Bill, the Home Secretary is ignoring the evidence. She is ignoring not only the evidence from the police, who estimate that 1,000 fewer crimes will be solved every year as a result of these measures, and the wise words from my right hon. Friend Alan Johnson, who tabled amendments, but the evidence that Ministers tried to hide, which was produced by their own Department. It shows that every year crimes will be committed by 23,000 people who would have been on the DNA database under Labour’s plans but will not be on it under her plans. We are talking about 23,000 criminals each year, and these are cases in which she wants to make it harder for the police to bring them to justice. Some 17,000 rape suspects will be taken off the database straight away as a result of these measures.
I will give way to the hon. and learned Gentleman, but I ask him whether he can give a good reason for removing those 17,000 rape suspects so swiftly from the database, against the advice and the pleas from Rape Crisis.
I am grateful for the right hon. Lady’s anticipation of what my intervention might be. What would she say, and what would her party say, to the millions of innocent people who regard it as offensive that their DNA is retained when they have never been convicted of any crime whatsoever? Is that really the policy that the Labour party thinks ought to be pursued in this country?
I point out to the hon. and learned Gentleman that that is his policy and that of his party. That is what he has voted for. People will be on the DNA database who have not been convicted of any crime, but his party wants to hold their DNA for three years, based on no evidence whatsoever, whereas we believe that it should be held for six years, based on the evidence, because that is the best way to ensure that we get the balance right between protecting people’s civil liberties and ensuring that we can take the action needed to solve crime. The hon. and learned Gentleman has not given an answer to Rape Crisis and others who are deeply concerned about the impact of these measures on our ability to prevent rapes and to solve rapes in future.
We know that every year there are nearly 5,000 cases in which someone has been arrested on suspicion of rape and the police believe that there is a case to answer and have passed the file to the Crown Prosecution Service, but the CPS has decided—we know that rape cases can be complex—not to charge. In all such cases, the DNA will be wiped straight away under this Government’s proposals, despite the fact that there is considerable evidence, as well as the concerns raised by organisations such as Rape Crisis, that more, not less, needs to be done to tackle the crime of rape and to bring more rapists to justice.
Government Members have their priorities wrong if they think that it is more important to keep people’s DNA for three years rather than six than it is to solve 1,000 more crimes, that it is more important to do that than to have DNA matches for 23,000 more criminals each year, and that it is more important to protect the rights of a rape suspect to keep their DNA code off the database altogether than to take the action that Rape Crisis has called for to make it easier to catch rapists in future.
Finally, on CCTV, which was critical in identifying the culprits in the riots, the Bill adds layers of bureaucracy that make it harder for the police to do their job.
We believe that it is important to protect people’s freedom, but protecting people’s freedom means not just protecting them against unwarranted interference by the police or by the state but protecting them against unwarranted interference, abuse or violence by other people. Freedom means protecting people from crime, too. The measures to which the Home Secretary objected in her speech helped cut crime by 40% and mean that there are now millions fewer victims of crime each year because we brought crime down. Yes, balancing acts and difficult decisions are required, and the freedom of victims of crime as well as the freedom of crime suspects should be considered. Decisions should be based on evidence, and time and again the Government have either ditched or denied the evidence in front of them.
The Home Secretary has made great play of attacking the Human Rights Act 1998, which at its heart includes protection for people’s freedom against oppression or abuse, but we should be clear that it is not the Human Rights Act that is putting privacy for child sex offenders ahead of sensible child protection measures, or putting the privacy of rape suspects above action to prevent rape in future, but this Government. It is not the Human Rights Act that is putting three years of holding DNA above action to solve 1,000 crimes a year, but a Conservative-led Government. Although the Home Secretary is very keen to be tough on the Human Rights Act, it would be rather more effective if she were tougher on crime and made it easier for the police to do their job.
We believe that this is a risky Bill that puts at risk freedom for crime victims, makes it harder for the police to do their job and ignores important evidence about the way in which crimes need to be solved. That is why we cannot support it on Third Reading, and will vote against it tonight.
In some respects, this is a Christmas tree of a Bill, but given that each bauble on the tree represents one of our cherished and fundamental freedoms, we can forgive the Home Office for that. Given the extent and range of its measures, it goes a long way towards restoring many of our most fundamental freedoms. Pre-charge detention is reduced to 14 days and the indiscriminate and in many ways ineffective use of stop and search is ended.
Chris Bryant said that he did not like the concept of balancing civil liberties and security because he felt that they were intertwined. I agree; the DNA measures ensure that we intertwine civil liberties and people’s safety. Clearly that is an issue on which the Government and the Opposition will continue to disagree. Liberal Democrats understand victims’ concerns, but there is little evidence that the Opposition have any real appreciation of civil liberties and civil liberty concerns. On far too many occasions, Opposition spokesmen have in effect written the headlines for some of our tabloid newspapers, which I find somewhat distasteful.
On CCTV, the Government propose regulation, not obstruction. The Opposition have sought to make the point that the Government actively seek to oppose CCTV, but that is clearly not the Government’s intention. Rather, it is their intention, as reflected in the Bill, to ensure that CCTV is deployed in a way that secures public support. Clearly, there is a huge amount of public support for it, but Members will be aware of at least one occasion on which that public support was not there because there was some subterfuge around the reasons for the deployment of CCTV.
As the Home Secretary has said, subjecting 11 million people to a vetting and barring scheme would be deemed by most people in most countries to have a real impact on people’s civil liberties, and operating a system that captured the details of many hundreds of thousands of people who would not present any threat would have real practical implications. The Government have reminded organisations of the need to maintain vigilance—that they should actively consider scenarios and the circumstances in which people work and accept that they have a responsibility to ensure that appropriate safeguards and monitoring of staff are in place.
I am sure that every hon. Member has had cases of wheel-clamping raised with them. I had a particularly disturbing case involving a woman whose vehicle was clamped on her own estate when she accidentally failed to display the appropriate permit. She ended up recovering her vehicle from a site about 15 miles away, which she had to go to with her young child. She managed to secure the vehicle, but only after handing over a large sum of money to men with large Doberman dogs. I am sure that other hon. Members have had similar experiences reported to them.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the danger of the Bill is that those same people become rogue ticketers rather than rogue clampers?
Clearly, that is a risk, although as we heard yesterday, in practice that did not happen in Scotland. If parking operators want keepers’ details from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, they have to be members of the British Parking Association, which will ensure a high standard. If there are issues around BPA members, I am sure that the Government will want actively to take that up with the BPA to ensure that its standards are enhanced.
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that there has been no issue or contention about the proposed measures in Scotland, as is the case with DNA retention, regardless of what we heard from the former Home Secretary. We in the SNP will support the Government this evening. Anything that tackles Labour’s anti-civil libertarian state deserves the support of the House.
However, will the right hon. Gentleman assure me that, as a Liberal Democrat, he will do all that he can to ensure that the Conservatives remain on this road and that we continue to have good civil liberties and do not go back to the bad old days of Labour?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention—for once a helpful intervention from the Opposition Benches. I assure him that I am confident that the coalition Government want to maintain a strong and direct focus on the whole issue of civil liberties.
It seems to me that the use of fingerprinting and biometrics in schools was one of the things that just slipped through and that no one in the Opposition, when in government, had thought about whether it was okay for children to have their fingerprints taken. It required the coalition Government to step in and say that parents should be able to express a view on the taking of personal biometric data from children, rather than having it imposed by schools.
Disregarding convictions for consensual gay sex is another significant step forwards for gay rights, which I am pleased the Government appear intent on pursuing in relation to gay marriage. Datasets being available for reuse will improve transparency in government.
I will point out one bauble that was missing from the Christmas tree: provisions on insulting and section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. Even if that is missing, I am pleased that the Government are fully committed to a consultation on that, because it is something I want changed. We should be able to insult people as freely as we like, as we do all the time in the House, so long as we do not incite hatred. We need to make that distinction and I hope that that change will be forthcoming.
I am very proud that the Bill will be one of the first that the coalition Government put on the statute book. We have proved without a shadow of a doubt that, where there is a will, Governments can strengthen civil liberties and safeguard safety and security—a fact that we had forgotten after 13 years of Labour rule.
I rise to support the Bill. I am very pleased that the Government wish to strengthen our civil liberties. It is the prime duty of this House to be the fount of our democracy and its principal defender, and part of our democracy is the right to a fair trial, the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and the right to be treated with respect as a citizen of this country. Many of us feel that in recent years too many powers have been taken away from our citizens and that the presumption of guilt was visited upon those who had not stood a fair trial. Indeed, some people were detained with no trial ever in prospect, which I found profoundly shocking.
As someone who is well aware of the threat of terrorism, having been on terrorist death lists when we had a different kind of terrorism, I understand the need to tackle it, but I have never felt that we should tackle it at the expense of the civil liberties of the British people. Having watched this House give away all too many of its powers to do good to the Brussels bureaucracy, I find it an extraordinary paradox that that went alongside taking away more and more powers and rights from the British people, when we should have been the very origin of their liberties and the first line of defence of their freedoms.
I take issue with only one thing the Home Secretary said in her admirable speech: she said that liberties had not only been taken for granted, but been achieved without violence. Unfortunately they had to be fought for in this country, but it was so long ago that we no longer remember those who died in those conflicts. There was a civil war in this country in support of freedoms and rights, there were other battles, riots and rebellions, and over the years the British people expressed their democratic wish. At the heart of that democracy was not only this representative democracy here in Westminster, but the fundamental liberties of the British people: the right to a fair trial and the right not to be detained by the strength and might of the state without cause being given and without movement to trial on a speedy basis.
Of all the measures set out in the Bill, I am proudest of the Government’s decision to roll back the number of days of detention that is permitted without due cause being given, and I hope that the Government will always want to ensure that they arrest and detain people only when they have reasonable evidence and when they intend to move quickly to trial. If the Government are still, understandably, worried about terrorism, surely it is better that we put people under surveillance from a distance, do not arrest them until we are absolutely sure of their part in the potential terrorist cell or threat, and then make the arrest and bring the case. I am distrustful of arresting people on poor suspicion and then not being able to bring any case against them in a court of law. I thought that we were fighting for a democracy where such things did not happen, so I find it unacceptable that for a period of years they did happen in our country, whatever good or well intentioned reason lay behind it.
I am also pleased that the Bill has tackled other irritations and annoyances in our bureaucracy. The Home Secretary is quite right that 1,200 separate powers of entry into our households is unacceptable in a free society, so I am pleased that the Bill makes a modest start in trying to roll them back, but it gives the House an enabling power to get rid of some of those powers of entry by subsequent order. The list in the legislation is small, on the whole historical and will not have much impact, so I hope that my right hon. Friend and her dedicated team of enthusiastic Ministers will now go out and cull that list of 1,200 entry powers and not only agree with me that such activity should not take place in a free society, but be brave enough to come forward with a list of a few hundred such entry powers that we can do without.
An Englishman or Englishwoman should not have to fear the knock at the door. I used to read about that sort of thing in Russian novels, and I do not expect it in my own country, but too many decent, law-abiding, taxpaying and hard-working citizens do now fear the call of the bureaucrat, because they think that some of the legislation is too pernickety, not well intentioned and will be enforced perversely against them—[ Interruption. ] If Mr Campbell would like to intervene and share his dissent, I shall be very happy to give way, but I hope that he, like me, wishes to belong to a free society and feels that people should be innocent until proven guilty.
I apply exactly the same rules and philosophy to miners as to anybody else. If things were done wrongly, it is quite wrong that they were so done, and the hon. Gentleman would need to show evidence and case, but I believe in the freedoms of the British people. There are too many inspectors who can come to call and too many rights of entry, so we do not just need this piece of legislation. We need to pursue it, coming forward with a sensible list of proposals under this law, so that we can reduce the incursions upon our freedom.
I am delighted that the Home Secretary has listened to the complaints about the way in which some car parks are administered. People are not serious criminals if they have broken parking rules, and sometimes the responses by private operators, whom the Bill addresses, have been way over the top. They can also be over the top from public sector operators, who are meant after all to help the public, not to stop them driving to the shops because of their heavy bags or whatever they need to do. We need a sense of proportion in parking rules, regulations and enforcement, and the Bill makes a welcome contribution to dealing with the issue.
It is also important that the Government have listened to the many representations that we have all received over the months since Labour made proposals concerning the administration of Criminal Records Bureau checks. The thing that caused me most concern about the previous Government’s proposals was the lack of a passport—the lack of common sense. One could have a perfectly good peripatetic teacher, who was going to spend two weeks in one school, three weeks in another and all the rest of it, but they apparently had to go through the cost and palaver of being checked over each time for each assignment, when any sensible person would have issued them with a letter or certificate at the beginning, saying, “This is a peripatetic teacher, at this date they were all clear.”
Obviously, we might want to check up on such people at periodic intervals, but not every fortnight or every three weeks when they change school. The situation was completely crazy, so I am glad that we have a passport and that the Home Secretary has also found a way to reduce the number of such people from 11 million, given that many grandparents, uncles and aunts were tied up in the crazy process because they were trying to help not just the children of their own family, but their children’s friends, and fell foul of the regulations. We needed some common sense and proportionality in all that.
CCTV can play an important role, but I was pleased when the tactics of the police changed in response to the recent looting and rioting. They decided that it was probably easier to arrest people at the scene of the crime so that they were their own witnesses; if several police say that a person was involved and they arrest them on the spot, the court will believe them. That is better than trying to work out who the person was a week or two later from CCTV images that might not have caught the person’s face to best effect.
I am just making the point that there was an easier way of capturing a lot of those criminals and that what the police decided to do was welcome. I am not saying that there should be no CCTV in future, and I do not believe that that is the intention behind the Bill; its use, however, should be proportionate and sensible.
CCTV should be used in such a way that the law-abiding community feel that it is in their interests and not being used against them. There are now cases in which the law-abiding community feels that CCTV is too intrusive and does not help tackle crime as they would like. Some of that can be tackled by the welcome change in police tactics that we saw recently. It will not all be tackled in that way, because there will be cases in which the robbing, rioting or looting is spontaneous and the police are not there immediately when it breaks out. In those circumstances, CCTV can help.
Constituents have put to me the case against and in favour; it depends where the CCTV is, what it is going to be used for, whether it is going to be effective and whether it provides value for money. It needs to be properly appraised and used so that people feel that it makes a contribution.
I am also glad that the Government have had another look at stop-and-search; we want stop-and-search powers to be used only when the police have good reason to be suspicious and the response is therefore proportionate. Abusing or over-using the power is not proportionate. Good police would not do that, but the Bill makes the Government’s intentions clear.
I know that other Members wish to speak in the limited time available, so I shall sum up. The Bill is an extremely welcome contribution to restoring the liberties of the British people, and it should be our prime duty to uphold those. I have identified some that I think are most important. If I had to single out just one, it would be the change in the approach to detention without trial or without a proper charge having being made; that is absolutely fundamental to our civil liberties.
The Government can go much further on the intrusion and powers of entry, which have got out of control. One of the reasons why we have so many criminals now is that we have so many laws that make people criminals. It would be welcome if there were fewer crimes in our laws and if we concentrated on the really serious crimes instead of giving the state enormous powers to turn anybody’s conduct into a crime if they do not happen to agree with a particular part of the bureaucracy or if they make a mistake under the bureaucrats’ methods of procedure.
If overall crime is falling, that is extremely welcome news, although there are disputes about the figures. But it is obvious that the last Government created an enormous number of new offences, without which we lived perfectly well for hundreds of years. We need to review how many criminal offences are on the statute book.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that we probably did not need the new criminal offence, introduced by the last Government, of impeding an apricot orchard inspector in the course of his duties?
My hon. and learned Friend has come up with an admirable example that I did not know about; there are many others, but we do not have the time to list them all. I hope that the Home Secretary and her colleagues will review the number of crimes so that we can concentrate on the serious ones—the ones that most people consider to be proper crimes—rather than spending so much time arguing about and enforcing things of rather less significance, for the convenience of some bureaucrats and not others.
I know that others wish to speak, Mr Speaker—
Order. May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman? It is always a great pleasure to listen to his mellifluous tones and the content of his argument. I simply say to him that he is not under any obligation to conclude if he does not wish to. If he does wish to, however, he can.
I rise to speak as someone who was a member of the Committee scrutinising the Bill. It is the first Bill that I have followed through from beginning to end and the experience has been, in equal measure, a joy, an insight, and, at times, a disappointment.
Starting with DNA, there has been a lot of talk about the need to balance the rights of victims and the civil liberties of the public, but there has not been a lot of balanced rhetoric in those discussions. Nobody doubts that DNA is a crucial investigatory tool for the police, but it is just one of the tools at their discretion. One of the pieces of evidence given to the Home Affairs Committee when it looked into the issue was that an average of 0.67% of convictions rely on DNA evidence. It is important to remember that when the Opposition cite endless cases in which they say that otherwise people would not have been brought to book.
I accept the point that the hon. Lady is trying to make, but would it not be fairer to say that in serious crimes the percentage will be a great deal higher than 0.67%? If one takes all crime into consideration, then DNA will not count for much, but when it comes to murder and suchlike, the percentage will be a great deal higher.
I take all issues of crime and the victims of crime extremely seriously, and so must this House. I would not distinguish between them in that way.
I move on to the question of a six-year limit versus a three-year limit. The Opposition have decided to lay the accusation that their choice of six years is based on secure evidence, but one of their pieces of so-called statistical evidence was based on an extremely small sample that was carried out by the Jill Dando Institute for Crime Science. Its director later noted, in September 2009, that that research study
“was probably a mistake with hindsight, we should have just said ‘you might as well just stick your finger in the air and think of a number’”.
Does my hon. Friend agree that there is no magic in six years, as Yvette Cooper would have us believe? There is no significant or substantial evidence that supports six years; it is a number that has simply been plucked from the air in an opportunistic attempt to attack the Bill.
The decision to go for three years is based on the recommendation of the Home Affairs Committee, which took extensive evidence on the issue. Three years versus six years is merely a matter of judgment. Furthermore, it will be three years plus an extension of two years, to ensure that there would be the option of retaining the DNA for five years. I weigh that against the fact that the Bill will remove the DNA of 1 million innocent people from the database—people who feel that they have been criminalised by the system that was put in place. It was done with the best of intentions, to ensure that victims are protected—that is well understood—but it is important to bring proportion into the system, and that is what the Government’s proposals are designed to do.
I will move on to CCTV, as another colleague wishes to speak.
No one is claiming that CCTV does not have a valuable role to play. The claim that violent criminals will go free because the Government intend to reduce the number of CCTV cameras by introducing a voluntary regulatory code is unimaginably inaccurate. The regulatory code is intended to ensure that it is possible to know where cameras will be placed. There will be consultation with the community so that there can be support from the community. Given that a major concern is the fear of crime and the escalation of the fear of crime, I feel that this is a move in the right direction.
One concern that police have raised is that they struggle to deal with many CCTV cameras being turned in the wrong direction, switched off or not functioning properly. A regulatory framework will give the opportunity to improve quality across the CCTV network and ensure that we improve crime detection by having a CCTV network that is functioning properly across the board.
The concern of everybody in this House is first and foremost the protection of children. There is not one Member of this House who does not want to ensure that children are protected in every possible way. There is no doubt that that is the case, but even with the current vetting and barring system, under which 9.3 million people are routinely monitored, problems of child protection have persisted. I was particularly concerned by evidence given to the Public Bill Committee that the Independent Safeguarding Authority has not been passing on to the police concerns that it has received about individuals or information about individuals who have been barred. People in schools who have had concerns passed to them have also not been passing those concerns on to the police, although that might be because of concerns about children’s privacy or their being upset. I welcome the Government’s move to produce guidance and I urge that that guidance be written in the strongest possible terms, because I find it inexplicable that the ISA has not considered it a primary duty routinely to inform the police of its concerns about child protection.
Of course, I also welcome the reforms of stop and search, the reduction of pre-charge detention periods and the requirement for consent to use biometrics in schools. I cannot imagine why anybody would want to take fingerprints or obtain biometric information from children in schools.
I know that another colleague wishes to speak, so I will conclude by saying that over the past 10 years, the Labour party has given away liberties without evidence, as far as I can see, that doing so would make us safer. Our democracy and our people’s confidence in their country is weaker for that. I am happy to support the Bill.
I rise, of course, to lend my support to this welcome Bill and to thank the Government for starting to deal with the plethora of inroads into our civil liberties that were made by the last Labour Administration.
My right hon. Friend Tom Brake said that this is a Christmas tree of a Bill. It deals with a number of separate matters or, as he described them, baubles on the tree. It is none the less welcome for the simple reason, of which the House will be aware, that inroads into the fundamental freedoms that this House exists to protect and that we have taken for granted for the entirety of our lives and our history need only be made, in short order, for us to subsequently to see further inroads made into those liberties, in a way that none of us in this House ought to welcome.
One has only to consider the point I put to Yvette Cooper about the retention of the DNA of innocent persons to know that the last Labour Government struck the wrong balance. The proposals in the Bill, in my judgment—and it is a question of judgment, as my hon. Friend Nicola Blackwood made clear a few moments ago—strike the right balance.
The hon. and learned Gentleman is mathematically wrong. It is not a question of judgment, it is a matter of probability, tending towards certainty, because 23,000 people will now be out there with the potential to commit crimes.
It is an exercise of judgment, and in my judgment and that of the Government whom I support, three years is sufficient to retain DNA. Making inroads into the civil liberties that we have come to expect and respect, and that we wish to have in this country, is not a reason to go beyond three years. The hon. Gentleman debates whether to retain for three or six years, but I ask him and the whole House, where is the magic in the six-year figure? If six years, why not nine? If nine, why not 15? If 15, why not retain the DNA of 11 million people never convicted of a crime for the entirety of their lives and into the future?
Simply because the curve produced by the self-same Home Office as produced the Bill demonstrates what the former Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend Alan Johnson, said: that there is a clear mathematical relationship and in six years we have a way of dealing very neatly with a substantially greater number of potential criminals than the three-year period offers.
So there we are, the House has it—it is a curve. Does that not savour of the statistics, initiatives, targets and strategies that we had from the last Government? Is it not about time that hon. Members started exercising judgment with regard to what is important? In my judgment, what is important is that the British people are entitled to have their liberties respected. They were not respected under the last Government, and this coalition Government are beginning to address the inroads that the last Government made into the liberties of the British people.
I am going to draw my remarks to a close—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] Well, I am pleased to have some assent from the Opposition Benches. We have a Bill before the House of which we can all be proud, and I urge right hon. and hon. Members on the Opposition Benches who sat idly by while the liberties of the British people were not respected to go through the Aye Lobby tonight and give the Bill the Third Reading it deserves.