Clause 1 — Power to destroy or otherwise dispose of property

Part of Mental Health (Discrimination) (No. 2) Bill – in the House of Commons at 10:45 am on 30th November 2012.

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Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley 10:45 am, 30th November 2012

My hon. Friend kindly says that he has been “gently supportive” of my amendments. He could have fooled me! I have heard nothing but criticism from him so far, so I would hate to think what he would have said if he had disagreed with me. I ought to be grateful that he is gently supportive. He makes a good point; we might well want to avoid enabling the scenario that he mentions. I am sure that he would acknowledge, however, that it would be a travesty if an item that contained evidence of a serious offence could no longer be used by the authorities because it had been disposed of. The prison authorities could find themselves in an embarrassing situation if the perpetrators of a serious offence had been recorded on a device, and that device had been tossed away without giving any thought to the possibility of it containing such evidence. We could all end up looking rather silly if that were to happen.

Amendment 9 would protect the data on phones, for example. If the measure looked likely to result in a significant reduction in the number of items being disposed of, it might be sufficient to say that an expert should remove all the data from the device and assess it. The device could then be disposed of.

I do not really know what happens at the moment. This is an important issue for this particular amendment. I do not know—perhaps the Minister can explain it—whether or not all illegal phones or unauthorised phones that are confiscated in prisons or any other recording devices or whatever are scoured for evidence or intelligence whenever they are confiscated. I do not know whether that is a natural practice that happens in prisons. I absolutely hope that that is what happens when these things are confiscated. I hope that we do not have some sort of ridiculous human rights law stopping prison officers and prison governors from looking into these things to see whether they have confiscated contains any evidence. If it does already happen as a matter of course, I would be the first to concede that the amendment might not be necessary. If that is not happening, however, and if the Government are not giving out that guidance to prisons or other laws are preventing that from happening, I would like to think that my amendment is an essential safeguard to stop any particular offence going undetected.

In a nutshell, those are my amendments. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey on his Bill, which I warmly support. I hope that my amendments will not be seen as trying to ruin the Bill; I hope my hon. Friend sees that I am trying to strengthen it. His heart is absolutely in the right place with this Bill. I simply think that my amendments would improve it further.