Criminal Justice Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

– in the House of Commons at 1:09 pm on 15 May 2024.

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Motion made, and Question proposed,

That the Order of 28 November 2023 (Criminal Justice Bill: Programme) be varied as follows:

(1) Paragraphs (4) and (5) of the Order shall be omitted.

(2) Proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading shall be taken in two days in accordance with the following provisions of this Order.

(3) Proceedings on Consideration—

(a) shall be taken on each of those days in the order shown in the first column of the following Table, and

(b) shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the times specified in the second column of the Table.

ProceedingsTime for conclusion of proceedings
First day
New clauses and new Schedules, other than new clauses and new Schedules to be taken on the second day; amendments to clauses 1 to 17, clauses 28 to 36 and Schedules 1 and 2, other than amendments relating to abortion.Six hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order
Second day
New clauses and new Schedules relating to the police, policing and police powers, the prevention, detection and reporting of offences, management of offenders, proceeds of crime and property connected with criminal behaviour, serious crime prevention orders, begging, rough sleeping, anti-social behaviour, crime and disorder strategies, public order, retail crime or conversion practices, other than new clauses and new Schedules relating to abortion; amendments to clauses 18 to 27, clauses 37 to 89 and Schedules 3 to 9, other than amendments relating to abortion.Three hours after the commencement of proceedings on Consideration on the second day
New clauses and new Schedules relating to abortion; amendments relating to abortion; remaining proceedings on Consideration.Six hours after the commencement of proceedings on Consideration on the second day

(4) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement.—(Joy Morrissey.)

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) 1:20, 15 May 2024

It is an honour to open this debate and bring the Criminal Justice Bill back to the House for consideration on Report. This important legislation is focused—

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Deputy Speaker

Order. We are considering the programme motion. Does the Minister wish to speak to the programme motion?

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Deputy Speaker

Does anybody else wish to speak to the programme motion?

Photo of Apsana Begum Apsana Begum Labour, Poplar and Limehouse 1:21, 15 May 2024

I rise to speak to the programme motion, which was tabled yesterday shortly before the rise of the House. It relates to the consideration of hundreds of amendments and new clauses to a serious and substantial Bill. Indeed, they relate to some of the most fundamental issues affecting our constituents. Today there is a debate on amendments and new clauses that cover domestic abuse, human trafficking and the transfer of prisoners to foreign prisons, yet the House was made aware of that only yesterday evening. I am sure that Members across the House will have been up late trying their best to prepare, as I was, but my duty to my constituents compels me to place on the record my shock and worry about what this means, not only for parliamentary democracy but for the quality of legislation that will be passed.

Last week there was an absurd situation when we had a deadline for tabling amendments and new clauses, yet we did not know what business the debate would cover. Then, at my last count, 134 Government amendments were tabled virtually at the last minute. Those are not unsubstantial or merely technical amendments, but include measures relating to new offences that would have potentially significant and wider reaching consequences for our civil liberties, and could even result in imprisonment.

These measures include further powers for the police to exercise without accountability. I do not need to remind the House that many of our constituents are very worried about the powers that the police already have and how they use them. It is no secret that trust in the police is already low, particularly among women, survivors and people from diverse backgrounds. Whatever the different views across the House, surely there is a consensus that measures of such significance, which could have severe and potentially life-changing consequences for our constituents, should not be passed without appropriate scrutiny, and without many of us even knowing of their existence. Accordingly, there has certainly been very little public awareness or debate.

As Members of Parliament, we have a profound duty to those who elect us regarding the scrutiny of legislation. This is not only about having a functioning democracy; this is about having workable and functioning laws. There are many questions about impact assessments, and we do not know what the full disabilities and equalities implications will be. For example, Government new clause 96 prohibits wearing or otherwise using an item for

“the purpose of concealing…identity” in a locality designated by the police. Before even getting to a fundamental assessment of the measure as a whole, there are many questions and points of clarity that my constituents would want, at the very least, to be publicly established. For example, how will the provision impact Muslim women who wear the hijab or the niqab, because the phrasing refers to using an item “wholly or mainly” for such a purpose?

In closing, let me place on the record my alarm at this Government’s now fairly frequent tabling of large numbers of amendments on Report, and at the short notice, compressed time for debate and scrutiny, and what many of us experience as utter confusion regarding timetabling. That is a dangerous precedent to set, and it is not in the spirit of parliamentary democracy. I urge the Government to withdraw the extra substantial amendments and allow for the proper, democratic, sensible and transparent scrutiny that our constituents expect of us.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke 1:25, 15 May 2024

I rise to follow Apsana Begum. I understand the point she makes, but we would of course want to ensure that people listening to the debate are aware that there are two days of debate on the Bill—this week and next week—which I hope will afford some of the scrutiny that she is rightly calling for. I gently suggest to those on the Treasury Bench that they may want to hold one-to-one meetings with those of us who are interested in a number of the areas on which the Government have now tabled amendments, just a couple of days before this important Report stage, so that we can get a proper understanding of what they are trying to do. It would perhaps have been prudent to do so before Report.

Question put and agreed to.