My Lords, the Home Office and its partners are confronted with a rapidly changing world with increasing demands for a more efficient, more publicly accountable and more effective response to crime and disorder, all the way from our local streets to the regional and the international level. Inevitably, that leads to a Policing and Crime Bill with wide-ranging measures. For that I make no apologies.
Facing up to those challenges means helping police forces to improve their leadership, strengthen their ability to collaborate with each other and yet be more accountable to the local public whom they serve. It also means providing them and their partners with a framework that will help them gather the evidence against criminals while ensuring that the rights of individuals and society are properly respected, and it means providing them with the right tools to tackle effectively the fresh challenges confronting them on our streets today, from low-level alcohol-fuelled disorder to serious gang-related violence.
The world is changing, and crime and fighting crime is no different. We must keep pace with those changes. That means, for example, changes to ensure that all criminals, often serious criminals, can be fairly extradited so that they can be fairly dealt with and cannot escape justice for their crimes, wherever they may have been committed. We must also keep pace with the increasingly clever ways in which criminals can exploit and benefit from the proceeds of their crimes.
However, the mark of any civilised society is not just how it tackles and treats its criminals but how it helps protect its most vulnerable—from children who can fall prey to either ordinary criminals or the most vile offenders seeking to abuse them, to women who are forced, threatened or deceived into a life of misery and suffering as prostitutes. Meeting those challenges head on are noble aspirations to build strong and secure communities. There is no reason why we cannot achieve that. The Bill is our part in that endeavour.
I turn now to some of the key provisions in the Bill in more detail. Part 1 relates to police reform. The police services face different challenges from those of even a decade ago. Much of what we have already in place is sound and effective in meeting those demands, but the public rightly demand more. Part 1 provides the necessary legislative measures to meet those demands.
The Green Paper From the Neighbourhood to the National: Policing our Communities Together, published last year, set out a radical programme of reform that will transform policing in England and Wales. A cornerstone of that programme is to respond to the need, identified in the Flanagan and Casey Reviews, to improve the visibility of police authorities and to make the police service in general more visible and more accountable to the public it serves.
That work is well under way already, by introducing an independent inspection regime for police authorities and working towards the creation of a blueprint for an effective police authority. The Bill complements that work by strengthening the Police Act 1996, by placing a duty on police authorities to consider the views of the public in the discharging of all or any of their functions. It further supplements the existing framework by specifically asking HM Inspectorate of Constabulary to consider, when police authorities are inspected, the extent to which they have achieved that.
Publicly accountable policing must go hand in hand with more effective policing, and this must be not just at the local but at the regional and national level. It is the Government's role to ensure clarity in the legal and governance frameworks that facilitate that. That is why the Bill contains provisions to strengthen the legislation through which the police collaborate in the interests of greater efficiency and effectiveness. That meets the very clear demand from the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Association of Police Authorities and individual forces and authorities, especially those already working in collaboration with each other, to bring the legislative framework for joint working to be brought up to date, especially as the joint delivery of policing services is becoming more widespread. The measures will help support the outcome of the review by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary into what is known as subsidiarity—or the level at which particular services should be delivered—including the development of more strategic collaborative structures.
Of course, the efficiency and effectiveness of any organisation is only as good as those people who work in it. Police forces are no different. The Bill therefore contains provisions which will strengthen the independence and status of the senior appointments panel for chief officers, including changes to create a better, more proactive system for senior appointments. It is widely acknowledged that those changes are necessary to enable better management of talent and development opportunities for aspiring and existing chief officers.
I move on to DNA. In order efficiently and effectively to tackle criminals, the police and their partners also need the basic tools to identify and build the evidence against such criminals. Everyone, I think, recognises the importance of DNA in the fight against crime. As to the retention of DNA from those not convicted, we know from research that between May 2001 and
Nevertheless, I am sure much will be said today and subsequently about the DNA provisions that we have brought forward in Clauses 96 to 98 in Part 8, so I want to take a little time to remind us of the facts of what we are actually doing and why we are doing it. What is the current position? Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, the DNA and fingerprints taken from people on arrest can be retained indefinitely, whether or not they are convicted of an offence. At present, PACE provides that retained biometric data can be used only for purposes connected to the prevention or detection of crime, but the period of retention is at the discretion of the chief constable of each force area. There is currently nothing in statute setting out a retention framework.
Why do we need to change the law now? Many Members of this House will be aware of the case of S and Marper v the United Kingdom over the retention of biometric data, including DNA, from those who have not been convicted of an offence. We argued in the European Court of Human Rights in that case that DNA and fingerprint evidence were critical to the prevention and detection of crime, including very serious crimes that would not otherwise have been solved, set against the lack of detriment to the applicants or others in their position. We also pointed to the substantial safeguards and controls that exist which meant that retention was only of practical consequence for the individual whose records were on the database if a match from a criminal investigation occurred. We also noted that the use of DNA provided speedy exculpation of the innocent as well as identification of a suspect. Further, the domestic courts, including the House of Lords, had all found that the retention of fingerprints and DNA was acceptable, proportionate, commensurate with a civilised and democratic society and in compliance with the Human Rights Act.
We were therefore disappointed with the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights on
A change is therefore needed, and it is needed now. We are committed to complying with the European Court of Human Rights ruling and to doing so as quickly but effectively as possible. That is why the public consultation paper published on
What are the Government doing? In the Bill, we are providing for an enabling power to make regulations for the retention and destruction of DNA. The public consultation paper sets out what we expect those regulations to comprise of, and we have published a version of those regulations. The final draft version will, of course, be subject to the outcome of the consultation paper and follow our discussions with the Committee of Ministers, but what is clear from the consultation paper is that we have provided evidence to support the case for the retention of data for those arrested and not convicted and to support the proposed periods of retention.
We are proposing significant evidence-based changes. First, all DNA samples—in other words, the actual biological material such as hair or a swab of saliva—for all persons, whether arrested and not convicted or arrested and convicted, are to be destroyed. That means that around 4.5 million legacy samples will be destroyed and future samples will be destroyed as soon as possible and may be held for a maximum period of six months to ensure that a suitable profile is put on the National DNA Database. This is a major step on our part and recognises the significant public concern about "living" samples being held within the criminal justice system.
Secondly, we propose to retain for six years the DNA profile of people arrested but not convicted of a recordable offence, except in the cases of violent, sexual or terrorist-related offences, for which we propose a retention period of 12 years.
Thirdly, we propose to delete DNA profiles of people aged 10 to 18 who have been arrested and not convicted, and those arrested and convicted after six years or on their 18th birthday, whichever is sooner, unless their arrest or conviction is related to a violent, sexual or terrorist offence or they have been subject to a subsequent arrest or to a conviction for another offence.
Finally, we need to remind ourselves of what happens if the Government do not do this now. Aside from the fact that we need to have made significant progress towards implementing a European Court of Human Rights judgment in a reasonable time, which we are advised is about 12 months from the date of the judgment, delaying a change in legislation in England and Wales will build uncertainty and confusion among the public and police forces. It also creates the potential for legal challenge in the courts. We want to avoid these situations.
Our approach will enable a timely and effective programme of implementation by the police service and the introduction of a retention framework that minimises operational disruption. At the same time, the introduction of regulations will give members of the public who have been arrested certainty about what will happen to their data and when they can expect them to be deleted.
There are also wider issues around public protection. Our approach is to look to raise public protection while protecting the safeguards for the individual. That is an important balance to maintain, and our public consultation and regulatory process not only achieve that but actually enhance it.
I recognise that some Members of this House are likely to share the concerns expressed in the other place that the Bill does not go far enough in setting out the details or that Parliament is not being given sufficient opportunity to scrutinise them. I assure the House that we are not taking this matter lightly. Public support for and engagement in a retention framework are important elements of implementing the judgment by the European courts. Therefore, we have published the consultation paper to hear what the public have to say, and we will use those responses to inform draft regulations that are put before this House. The consultation ends on
We have also placed in the House Libraries, for information, an indicative draft of what the regulations could look like, so that all Members can have the fullest possible details of our proposals; and, in the other place, we amended the DNA measures in the Bill to ensure that before the first and any subsequent draft regulations are laid before Parliament, statutory consultees must also be consulted further on those regulations.
We must put in place the ability now to implement the European court's judgment. We must do so in such a way that the public have had their say in how they want the retention regime to work. We are doing all we can to engage the public and Members of this House so that they can have their say on such an important issue. I make no apologies for going on at length about that, because it is such an important issue and we have already had a number of discussions about it on the Floor of the House.
On Part 2, more effective and efficient policing is but one side of the equation when it comes to fighting crime. On the other side of the equation are those unfortunate few on whom the criminals prey, and how it protects its most vulnerable people is the mark of any civilised society. That is why the Government undertook a review on tackling the demand for prostitution last year. Lest we forget, most prostitutes are more victims than volunteers. That review concluded that to curb prostitution and tackle the most exploitative elements of prostitution, including trafficking, enforcement activity should be focused not just on those involved in the organisation of sexual exploitation but on those who contribute to the demand by paying for sex.
This approach is supported by ACPO and a number of organisations working with victims of trafficking and campaigning on women's rights. In particular, Rights of Women, Eaves housing, the POPPY Project, and Toynbee Hall support the approach that we are taking in Clause 13. That is why this Bill provides a new offence of paying for sex with a prostitute who has been subjected to force, threat or deception. There was much debate in the other place on ensuring that these measures do not inadvertently capture circumstances in which prostitutes are willingly in a voluntary business such as a relationship with a third party. That has never been our intention. Clause 13, following amendments in the other place, helps to clarify that by narrowing and tightening the scope of the offence.
Alongside the new offence in Clause 13, the Bill provides for the removal of the term "persistent" from the existing offences of kerb crawling and soliciting to allow police greater powers to tackle kerb crawlers who create the demand for street prostitution and provides police powers to close down premises where they have evidence that they are being used for activities connected with prostitution or pornography-related offences.
These measures must be part of a comprehensive approach that recognises the importance of providing routes out for those who want to leave prostitution. For this reason the Bill includes a new rehabilitative sentence for those prostitutes convicted of loitering or soliciting as an alternative to a fine and it seeks to remove the term "persistent" from that offence, as part of an approach that shifts the emphasis away from punitive issues much more towards more supportive ones.
Children are among the most vulnerable members of our society. I am sure all sides of the House agree that we must do all that we can to strengthen our already very robust system of managing sex offenders. Feedback from groups such as the Association of Chief Police Officers has helped the Government to identify practical steps to strengthen these measures. This Bill will enhance the protection of children by assisting the police in their efforts to restrict the ability of child sex offenders to harm children, both in the UK and abroad. For example, it will strengthen the protection afforded by foreign travel orders by increasing their duration, by ensuring that foreign travel orders can be made against an individual if the young person who could be abused by that individual was under the age of 18 and not just under 16, and by enabling the automatic removal of passports from individuals who are subject to a foreign travel order prohibiting them from travelling anywhere in the world.
Our communities must also be further empowered and feel their views are heard. The increase in lap dancing clubs in towns and cities across the United Kingdom, for example, is an issue of concern for many local communities. To address this issue the Bill will reclassify lap dancing clubs as sex establishments, giving local people a stronger say over whether these clubs are set up in their communities or not. These powers were requested by the majority of local authorities which responded to the Government when they sought views on this issue. The need to respond to the concerns of communities in relation to lap dancing clubs has been highlighted by organisations such as the Fawcett Society and Object.
Many communities are blighted by alcohol-fuelled low-level crime and disorder, particularly as a result of unsupervised under-18s drinking alcohol in public. Of course, most people drink alcohol responsibly, but in some communities alcohol-related crime and disorder has become a significant problem. The police already have a range of powers for dealing with this alcohol misuse. Part 3 includes measures to amend some of these existing powers, as well as introducing a new offence of persistent possession of alcohol, in order to ensure these problems can be tackled even more effectively. We will continue to do more to enforce existing laws around the sale of alcohol, but this activity should not be at the expense of the alcohol industry playing its part. An independent review of the industry's voluntary standards has shown them to be ineffective in reducing alcohol-related crime and disorder.
The Bill seeks to enable the drawing up of a revised code of practice with some conditions that will be mandatory for all licensed premises and others which licensing authorities can use at their discretion to target premises in areas experiencing problems. In establishing the framework for a code of practice for the irresponsible sale of alcohol, we will also ensure a safe, sensible yet social approach to preventing alcohol-fuelled crime and disorder. We are currently consulting more widely on the code of practice, copies of which are available in the Libraries, and my noble colleagues can and should participate in that consultation. The consultation code makes it clear how we propose to tackle alcohol misuse by banning the most irresponsible promotions and encouraging good management practices.
Low-level crime and disorder is not the only new phenomenon confronting our law enforcement colleagues on the streets today. There is also the more violent end of the spectrum of crime on our streets, perpetrated by young thugs in criminal gangs, which is addressed in Part 4. The police and their partners need the tools to tackle the unique challenges posed by this phenomenon and I believe the measures around gangs' injunctions in this Bill meet that demand. We have learnt lessons from the way in which Birmingham City Council applied for civil injunctions against known gang members and from the subsequent Court of Appeal judgment in the case of Shafi and Ellis. That is why, in developing these provisions, we have worked closely with not only Birmingham, but other local authorities and police forces, to ensure that they can tackle this unique gang problem in an effective way, delivering not only the immediate injunctive relief demonstrated by Birmingham, but also offering a preventive and rehabilitative approach to the gang problem. These injunctions will provide the police with a tool that is set firmly in statute, that avoids overlap with other similar tools, such as ASBOs, and that is quicker, more flexible and proven to be effective in managing such gang members, protecting both themselves and members of the public from the serious violence that they unleash.
These measures are not, and never have been, about organised criminals or aimed at groups of youths hanging around on street corners carrying out low-level anti-social behaviour—we already have measures on statute elsewhere that focus on that. However, we have listened to Members' concerns in the other place, in particular whether the measures inadvertently could be used against the latter groups of youth, and so Clause 33 now clearly characterises gangs and gang-related violence for the purposes of these injunctions to clarify this matter. It is also entirely reasonable for authorities applying for these injunctions to consult more widely when making the application. Again this was a point raised by Members in the other place and the changes have been made. I believe that with these changes the measures are now much stronger and clearer.
In Part 5 we go into the proceeds of crime. Of course, local communities also suffer at the hands of other criminals, including more serious and organised criminals. The recovery of criminal assets is one of our most powerful tools in fighting all levels of crime and is one of the Government's top priorities for law enforcement. We already have a strong array of powers and tools to recover criminal proceeds which the law enforcement agencies and prosecutors are using to very good effect. The asset recovery action plan, which was consulted on in 2007, included proposals to further drive up our asset recovery work. The measures in the Bill flow directly from proposals in that consultation exercise and also from suggestions made by the police to further improve existing powers. For example, the new power in this Bill to seize goods on arrest, or later, for acquisitive crime when a confiscation order is expected, will prevent assets being dissipated and send a powerful signal to communities that criminals will not be able to flaunt their illegally gained assets.
However, a fair society must also insist that those who enforce the law use their powers proportionately. The Bill therefore includes safeguards to ensure that the new search and seizure powers are used appropriately, with judicial oversight, and that certain essential items of property and equipment are exempt from seizure.
Overall, the package of measures in this Bill will speed up the enforcement of asset recovery cases and will help to increase the total amount taken from criminals, thereby further depriving them of capital, reducing the incentives for crime and the harm caused by crime, as well as further promoting fairness and confidence in the criminal justice system.
In Part 6 of the Bill we move to extradition. Crime, particularly serious and organised crime, continues to evolve and has become increasingly global and increasingly sophisticated. While the Extradition Act 2003 streamlined and modernised the UK's extradition system, it is vital that we ensure that our extradition legislation continues to meet these new challenges. The measures in the Bill will not only help us to meet our international obligations but also help to meet the demands of a range of departments, services and agencies involved in the United Kingdom's extradition system, including SOCA, the CPS, police forces and the Courts Service. In doing so, they will provide vital operational benefits for United Kingdom authorities.
One such benefit is the power for United Kingdom law enforcement bodies to deal with requests for extradition circulated by our European partners using the second generation Schengen information system, SIS II. It is estimated that the ability to deal with these additional alerts will allow law enforcement authorities in the United Kingdom to make an additional 1,200 arrests of people subject to European arrest warrants each year. The public safety implications of this change are therefore quite significant.
The provisions will also ensure that our extradition system continues to be efficient, effective and fair and prevents serious criminals evading justice merely by crossing an international border. For example, the provisions will close a potential loophole in the current law as a result of which it is currently possible for someone wanted in connection with a serious crime committed in the United Kingdom or already serving a sentence imposed here, by voluntarily consenting to their extradition, say, for a lesser crime abroad, to evade facing the charge or serving out their sentence here, thereby evading justice in the United Kingdom. The Bill will also ensure that where a person serving a sentence in the United Kingdom is wanted for offences committed overseas, they can be extradited to face justice in that country but still be required, if necessary, to serve the full term of their UK sentence when they return.
In Part 7, we move on to aviation security. Building secure communities means enhancing security for all aspects of those communities. That is why the Bill will also enhance the delivery of security at airports by providing an overarching strategy and structure for doing so. This is the result of nearly two years' work with industry and the police, and builds on the Stephen Boys Smith and Sir John Wheeler reviews, both of whom saw that policing could not be isolated from airport security and that risk assessment and airport security planning needed to be embedded at all airports.
The Bill will seek to introduce structures that reflect the holistic nature of airport security and a risk-based approach to deliver a safe and secure environment for all by developing stronger relationships among all those involved in airport security and improving transparency through greater co-operation, closer working and mutual understanding; establishing much clearer roles and responsibilities; more robust security planning, embedding processes to ensure a consistent and thorough approach; and a fairer funding process, removing the outdated system of designation so that all operators pay for any agreed dedicated policing requirement at airports. Both industry and the police have welcomed the value and necessity of multi-agency co-operation, transparency and clarity over roles and responsibilities, which the new security planning framework will provide.
Part 8 covers miscellaneous items. It deals with a range of provisions to improve the efficiency of the Criminal Records Bureau and the planned vetting and barring scheme. There are also provisions to strengthen the powers of Customs, and now the UKBA, at the frontier by clarifying Customs powers to help tackle crime at our borders. The Bill will also seek to ensure that those subject to football banning orders in England and Wales will also be banned from attending regulated football matches in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
I have no doubt that there are many issues in the Bill that will be scrutinised and debated by Members of this House with their usual perspicacity and robustness. I would expect no less, and I look forward to the coming debates. However, I hope that we do not lose sight of the need for practical measures that have practical applications to meet the challenges of crime-fighting today, measures that must balance the need to provide effective tools for our law enforcement agencies to fight crime, as well as measures to protect those who are the most vulnerable to those crimes, against the need to protect the rights of individuals in our society more widely. That is always a very difficult balance. I believe that the Bill does just that and will help us to build stronger, safer and more confident communities.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his comprehensive introduction of the Bill. I am afraid, though, that some of his enthusiasm is misplaced. As he suspected, we believe that there are many areas where it could be improved.
We agree with much of what he said about the aims of the Bill. For example, we agree entirely about the desperate need for proper measures to be taken to prevent those who have been involved first of all in the awful crime of human trafficking from then being exploited in prostitution. We also agree that alcohol abuse is a rising problem in the United Kingdom, especially among young people, and that serious measures need to be taken to change that behaviour. However, whether the proposed measures and the new code of practice will achieve that in a way that will receive the full measure of support is something that we will need to test in Committee and, if necessary, at later stages. The Minister will be aware that there is considerable disquiet, particularly among those in the retail industry, that another burden of regulation is about to fall on their heads. We must be sure that what is proposed is necessary and likely to be justified.
Once again, we are confronting a Home Office Bill that touches on a large number of issues, some of which are already the subject of legislation—pretty recent legislation in some cases—but that seems to do little to achieve its aims or enhance the situation practically or sensibly. It is again a hotchpotch of largely unrelated matters—a potpourri of matters left lying around since previous efforts.
My noble friend Lord Bridgeman will make our points on Parts 1, 2 and 5 in his winding-up speech and in Committee. My noble friend Lady Neville-Jones will be involved in the detail of Part 7, which, as the Minister indicated, relates to airport security.
There is no doubt that there is still a great deal of work to be done to combat crime in this country, some of it petty and annoying, but some of it, such as drugs and knife crime, serious and insidious. There is much still to be done to ease the burden of red tape on the police and to ensure that they police the streets rather than police stations. It is extraordinary that the report from Sir Ronald Flanagan seems to have had only a feather-light impact on this legislation.
I turn to the detail of the Bill. In Part 3, the Government are unsurprisingly seeking to sound strong on the disastrous rise in binge-drinking and alcohol abuse among young people that has occurred in the past decade. The figures on alcohol-related crime, injuries and diseases among both adults and children are appalling and getting worse. We are, therefore, not against a tougher code to prevent the irresponsible sale of alcohol. Unfortunately, that code has only just been released, but I hope that we shall have an opportunity to discuss some of the proposals during the time spent on this Bill. We shall also be concerned to see how the nine mandatory clauses, which are now being consulted on, will either ameliorate or prevent the perceived problems. I am sure that we shall want to discuss the code in detail, not only the mandatory clauses but also those that are discretionary.
While we supported creating a penalty for drinking alcohol in a public place in the previous legislation, we cannot see the purpose of raising the maximum penalty so soon after its implementation, when the largest fine yet levied has been only half the current limit. The legislation is in place and it can be used. We shall want to discuss in considerable detail whether it is necessary to extend it. We feel similarly about a new power to allow the police to move on children over 10 who congregate in a public place for the purpose of consuming alcohol, the age being reduced from 16 in the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006. It is pretty appalling to think that there are children between 10 and 16 who are doing just this, but the police already have power under previous legislation not just to move on children of this age but to take them home. It appears that the Government are once again willing to criminalise young people rather than to take care of them. I hope that we shall be able to discuss that and the implications of the reduction in age in Committee. We are unable to explain how the new offence will help to resolve the difficulty of unruly and intimidating young people gathering in gangs or groups. There is also the question of ensuring that children as young as 10 are not left at risk following the intervention of the police.
On Part 4, we are all well aware of the problems of gang-related activity. The provisions being introduced will enable the police to seek injunctions against those suspected of or perpetrating gang-related violence. The debates in this House over the introduction of anti-social behaviour orders look set to be repeated. As with those, the new measures mean that the civil courts are being asked once again to do the job of the criminal courts. These injunctions go further than anti-social behaviour orders in that they allow for certain actions to be required of the person concerned, as well as others listed in the Bill that prohibit certain activities. There are grave concerns about the appropriateness of imposing requirements, which include having to be in a certain place at a given time or having to undertake activities, on a person without the safeguards that criminal proceedings would ensure. The provisions are extremely ill defined and I am sure that some time will be spent in probing exactly what is being proposed.
The Minister has given some explanation of the European arrest warrant provisions under Part 6, but the Government have again ducked the serious issues around the warrant, such as the removal of dual criminality, the need for a prima facie case to be made before an arrest warrant is issued—that is now no longer the case—and the questions of inequities and the burden of proof required in bilateral treaties, which the Government seem happy to ignore. None of those has been dealt with. The new provisions in the Bill, some of which have been the subject of concern for the Joint Committee on Human Rights, are about the condition of those arrested and reciprocal arrangements for returning those serving sentences. As the Minister described, there are also provisions about those who are accused of crime in other countries. Each raises questions. I anticipate that those provisions will take some considerable time to scrutinise and I look forward to the debates around them.
I turn to Part 8, where the Minister started, which contains one of the most important issues in the Bill and one of the most egregious examples of government wriggling that I have seen. The Minister has drawn attention to the code that has just been issued. It was not available in the other place while the discussions on DNA were taking place and I hope that we will have the opportunity to take part in such discussions during the coming weeks. I do not believe that anybody objects to the taking of DNA for criminal purposes; the problem is with the retention of the samples and the information that is taken from them, particularly for those proved to be innocent. The fact that the Government have been forced into taking action as a result of the European Court of Human Rights is important—and it is important how they implement the judgment. That is what the code is all about. There are still concerns about the amount of time that the Government propose that samples should be kept for. We will want to look at that and discuss the issue.
The House has attempted many times over the past few years to address the whole problem around the retention of DNA. Everybody understands the value that has come from the use of DNA in certain criminal investigations, but I underline that it is the retention of DNA of people who have been proved innocent that remains the problem. During the passage of the Counter-Terrorism Bill last Session, I tabled an amendment that gained the support of my noble friends and noble Lords on my right and which would have met the ECHR's requirements fully. Although we managed to insert it into the Bill, the Government, who may rue it now, rejected it in another place. So it has been left for other action to be taken.
The arguments are clear. Whatever benefits some people feel might come from a universal DNA base—and I am extremely sceptical of those benefits—there can be no excuse for the current system. The retention of DNA samples from people who have never been charged with, let alone convicted of, a crime is wrong. In his introduction, the Minister finally admitted that. Yet it appears that even now the Government have not fully appreciated that the details of their proposals are still unclear. Now that the code of conduct has been published, we look forward to discussing it more fully, as I said. I understand that the actual samples might no longer be held—the prohibitive costs of keeping them no doubt led to that conclusion—but much in the government proposals, such as the retention of information for up to 12 years where there has been no prosecution, is still quite unacceptable.
It is clear that approaching this issue by secondary legislation is not the way forward. We shall be seeking not only to ensure that the Government comply fully with the spirit and letter of the ECHR judgment but also to insert more detail into the Bill. I am confident that once again we will have a strong cross-party consensus on the best way forward. Perhaps this time we will be able to make our amendments stick.
There is work to be done to ensure that this legislation has some useful purpose. We agree with the Government on some areas and we feel that other areas would probably be improved by amendment. My noble friend Lord Bridgeman, as I indicated, will deal with the other parts of the Bill when he winds up, so I have not addressed those, but I look forward very much to the debates to come that he and I will take part in.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing the Bill in his customary detailed way. I sympathise with him because I feel that this has become a legacy Bill now that the Home Secretary has announced her resignation. Every Home Secretary since 1997 has wanted to appear tough. In office, they instigate ideas that later in the cool light of the real world they realise are a big mistake. One example would be David Blunkett and ID cards. That wish to act tough has led the Government to put through more legislation, criminalising more and more actions. The first woman Home Secretary might have changed that, but she did not.
The Bill is the 66th criminal justice Bill since 1997. Between them, they have created 3,600 new criminal offences. We feel that the Government have still failed to understand that you cannot solve social problems by making criminal offences of them; you simply fill up our courts and prisons. The prison population has reflected this, increasing from 61,114 in 1997 to 82,586 in February 2009, an increase of 35 per cent. The Bill does nothing to solve that situation.
On the matter of principle, the Bill further blurs the line between civil and criminal sanctions by imposing orders, which, when not complied with, tip the individual from a civil sanction into the criminal. That is one of the reasons the courts and prisons are filling up.
With regard to this Bill, it is sad—I would say even tragic—that the legacy of our first woman Home Secretary will be some legislation that unless we defeat it here makes the lives of some 80,000 women in this country more dangerous. I talk of course of women in the sex industry, working and selling sex. Institutions as diverse as the Royal College of Nursing and the YWCA oppose the legislation and the approach that the Government are taking, as do we.
Far from making women safer, this legislation will force many back on to the streets, leave them more liable to be in prison, separating them from their children, causing those children to go into care and creating exactly the sort of vicious circle that should be avoided. We will oppose the Government's approach.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. Perhaps I may draw her attention to a debate in the other place on
"if someone wishes to pay for sex, they must recognise that in doing so they take on a particular burden"; and he concluded with a question:
"Is it not reasonable in a civilised society to say to people whose very act of paying for sex is exploitative, at least to some extent ... 'Cave emptor. You have to make the decision, and the responsibility is with you'? Yes, it is true that we probably would not do this in almost any other circumstance in a free society, but we are not talking about any other circumstance. We are talking about the exploitation of one human being by another".—[Hansard, Commons, 19/5/09; col. 1438-39.]
I believe that those remarks adequately and very movingly sum up the reasons why the provisions in Part 2 are essential.
My Lords, I would certainly pay tribute to the noble Baroness's record on women's issues, particularly the issue of women in prison. Of course I have read the debates in the other place, and, as I was about to say, trafficking is an appalling crime. Exploited women who are trafficked need the full protection of the law, but legislation already exists to address the issue of trafficking. Is further criminalisation of women working in the industry the way to address the issue? She talked about the issue of men buying sex, but she is being extremely optimistic if she thinks that this legislation will solve a problem that has been around for 3,000 years. We are angry that the Government have not looked at the evidence of what works. Ministers have chosen to turn a blind eye to the constructive approach taken in New Zealand, for example, which has decriminalised prostitution and treats it as the social and health issue that it is. Five years of evidence show that that was a good move.
Nor does the Bill take the right approach to the exploited children in the sex trade. Instead of treating them as the victims they are, it leaves the under-18s to be treated as criminals. That attitude really worries us and will do nothing to help the exploited children in this country or, by example, in the rest of the world. All too often young street-working children in the rest of the world are treated as criminals simply for selling themselves for sex in order eat. We do not want to replicate that problem here in the UK.
My noble friend Lady Walmsley will outline in more detail our thoughts on how the Bill deals with children, and my noble friends Lord Bradshaw and Lady Harris of Richmond will dissect whether the clauses contain anything worth while to address police accountability. We believe that accountability is an immensely important issue, especially as the Government have given the police so many more powers. As the Minister will know from our many debates, the powers under the police counterterrorism legislation have worried us. They were largely rushed through Parliament, and are sometimes now used in non-terrorist situations. We shall certainly want to look at how accountable the police should be under, for example, Section 44 of the Terrorism Act, which allows very wide stop and search powers akin to the old discredited sus laws. Communities are actually barred from knowing in which parts of cities or to which other places Section 44 applies, so it is impossible to know whether it is being used correctly. Such use must at the very least be balanced by proper accountability, an issue which my noble friends will talk about. These Benches will be seeking to amend the legislation so that such powers cannot be misused easily.
In the Bill the Government rightly turn their attention to alcohol misuse, a tremendously serious problem for society in health terms and a driver behind the violence that wrecks some people's Saturday nights and other people's lives. However, as a legislative response, it uses curtailment of individual rights rather than addressing some of the very simple measures that both police and A&E departments say would most improve the situation. For example, a change in the law to allow licensing authorities to require, when appropriate, that substitute materials for glass should be used is a simple one, giving power to local people to solve the problem locally. We will table such an amendment. The Government should listen to the LGA's reservations of these clauses; its members are the licensing authorities and have a realistic view of the locality for which they are responsible. They say that the creation of mandatory licensing conditions will impose blanket regulations across the board that will not take account of local conditions.
The Government should also take as a warning what they did under the Licensing Act 2003, which had such an adverse effect of many small community centres and village halls, by imposing significant burdens on these locally run organisations. The Bill is in danger of doing exactly the same. We hope that it is not another example, but we fear that it is, of the Home Office undermining some of the work of other departments like the DCMS and the DCLG, which are busy trying to support and fund such organisations.
The Government also address the serious issue of gang violence in the Bill. The loss of life of young people caught up in gang violence is obviously incredibly tragic. The fact that many others live in terror is appalling. We on these Benches believe in trying to work with the Government to address these issues but have grave concerns about the legislative response in the Bill. These measures appear to be aimed at the over-18s, but can the Minister say when they would be used against the under-18s? Four in every 10 muggings in Britain are committed by children under 16. The most likely person to carry a knife is a boy between 14 and 19. There is a real issue here. We do not want to curtail the liberties of children but, at the same time, what is the point of introducing measures that do not address the very age group with the problem?
We are concerned that the injunctions are in effect very like control orders, which can be used against individuals without any evidence of their guilt. There is more of a parallel with control orders than ASBOs. One of the worst aspects of this provision, which needs wide debate, is that it was not debated at all in the Commons on Report. We will have to remedy that here.
The wording in these clauses is very loose. It talks of "association", which could simply be being related to, or a friend of, a gang member. The individual themselves might have absolutely no wish or intention to be part of a gang. We will want to establish the Government's evidence base that, where such measures have been used, they have been effective at diminishing the violence associated with gang membership. After all, only the violence should be targeted. There is nothing wrong with belonging to a gang in itself; the intimidation and violence is the problem.
Cybercrime is not in the Bill, but again last week it was highlighted as a major national and international crime issue. In my response to the gracious Speech on
I would not have expected the Minister to have taken my advice when I talked about it back in December. Now, however, he might like to take a leaf out of President Obama's book. He talked about cybercrime last week and announced that he will take a new cyber tsar to press for action. He said:
"It's now clear that this cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation. We're not as prepared as we should be, as a government or as a country".
The UK is certainly not prepared. The Government have spent time appeasing the right-wing press through introducing certain sections in the Bill—time which could have been spent tackling this very serious threat to individuals and to the UK as a whole.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. I am particularly interested in the point that she makes about cybercrime. Having looked at the matter extensively, I should be interested to know precisely what legislative proposals she feels could helpfully be inserted in the Bill.
My Lords, the noble Lord will discover in Committee exactly what our proposals are, if they are permitted by the Public Bill Office. Unlike the noble Baroness who intervened earlier, I hope that he will remain in the Chamber. I welcome interventions as they make the debate livelier but they are good only if those who make them stay to hear the reply.
My noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford will speak about the extradition provisions. We believe that there is a big problem with the Extradition Act 2003, which leaves untouched the most controversial aspect of our extradition arrangements; namely, the imbalance between the United Kingdom and the United States, whereby a mere statement is adequate in the case of the American authorities but prima facie evidence is required in ours. My noble friend will deal with that aspect of the Bill and the seizure of criminal assets in Committee. The seizure of criminal assets would benefit from judicial oversight being applied to that power.
The Minister will not be surprised to hear that we will table a lot of amendments to the Bill. The way in which the Government treated the Bill in another place on Report made a mockery of the democratic process. Issues of major principle were not even debated at all, including the retention of DNA samples, profiles and fingerprints. The Minister can be assured that we will join with the other opposition party here to remedy many of the deficiencies in the part of the Bill that addresses that incredibly important issue. It is far too important simply to be left to secondary legislation. Some of the principles that are not in the Bill must be spelt out. I appreciate that the Government needed to respond to the European Court of Human Rights and of course we on these Benches accept that DNA has a major role to play in the detection of crime, but we need to get the legislative response right. The technology has grown at a far quicker rate than the legislative framework. We need to ensure that the police have the right tools but we also need to ensure the right safeguards are in place for the public. We will examine the Government's approach to living samples, which sounds as though it is going in the right direction. However, we will scrutinise in great detail all the provisions that the Government are bringing forward and the guidance and the code that the Minister mentioned. I must emphasise that the fact that the other place will not have a chance to do this unless we pass an amendment here weighs very heavily with these Benches. We have a duty in this House to pass such an amendment so that the other place can debate these provisions.
The Minister will be aware that the Report stage in the other place lasted less than six hours—if you take into account voting time. It is appalling to have less than six hours' debate on a Bill that amends more than 20 pieces of criminal legislation, including such important ones as we are discussing. We shall redress that lack of scrutiny and bring forward a series of amendments that we believe will strengthen the Bill.
My Lords, I should like to say something about Part 3 of the Bill and in doing so I declare an interest as a serving officer in the Metropolitan Police.
There are good reasons why policy makers and practitioners should continue to be concerned about the misuse of alcohol by children and young persons. Although fewer young people are drinking alcohol, those who are appear to be doing so more frequently and in larger quantities. Average weekly consumption by 11 to 15 year-olds who drink alcohol doubled from five units per week in 1990 to 10 units in 2000 and has remained at similar levels ever since.
Alcohol-related hospital admissions for children have risen by a third in six years with an average of 40 under 18s taken to hospital each day in England. These figures reflect only the most serious cases where the child is admitted for at least one night and exclude those treated in accident and emergency departments and then discharged. Almost 1,000 admissions involved children under the age of 10, and the United Kingdom has the highest admission rate in the European Union for those aged 15 to 16.
The European School Survey Project, which collects data on substance use by 15 and 16 year-olds, measures the number of children reporting that they have been drunk in the past 30 days, and levels of heavy episodic drinking, where five or more drinks are consumed on each occasion. The UK is one of only three countries which scores high on both measures. A recent NHS survey reported that 17 per cent of 11 to 15 year-olds thought that it was all right to get drunk at least once a week, and the British Medical Association has noted an associated increase in drinking to get drunk, with 35 per cent of 11 to 15 year-olds who had consumed alcohol in the previous four weeks having done so with that objective. The BMA also found that heavy episodic drinking was common among young people and was a rising trend, with 50 per cent of 15 to 16 year-olds reporting having drunk heavily in the past 30 days. If that were not worrying enough, it is younger teenagers who are drinking more. While levels of consumption by older adolescents who drink have remained fairly consistent, the level of consumption by 11 to 13 year-olds has risen from 5.6 units a week in 2001 to 10.1 units in 2006.
Such excessive drinking can have negative consequences for young people and their relative immaturity makes it more likely that they will engage in unacceptable behaviour or put themselves or others at risk. There is compelling evidence of damage to their short-term and long-term health, with significant increases in liver cirrhosis among 20 year-olds, almost certainly linked to heavy alcohol consumption in teenage years. There are also strong associations between alcohol use and accidents involving young people, particularly on the roads, but more generally also. The harmful effect of alcohol on a young person's long-term memory has been noted and there is new evidence that it can significantly impair adolescent brain development. Excessive drinking is also strongly associated with a range of other problems adversely affecting the welfare of teenagers, including unprotected sex, teenage pregnancies, truancy, poor performance at school and the use of illicit drugs.
In his most recent annual report the Chief Medical Officer referred to the notion of "passive drinking", commenting that the second-hand effect of alcohol was more wide ranging in its impact than passive smoking. It is certainly the case that young people who drink too much put not only their own health at risk but may behave in an antisocial manner and contribute to insecurity on the streets. This is associated in part with a shift in where their alcohol consumption occurs.
In 1999, 21 per cent of 11 to 15 year-olds who drank did so in open public places; by 2006 this figure had risen to 31 per cent. Unsupervised drinking by under-18 year-olds in public places has the closest link to crime and antisocial behaviour and causes most public concern. More than half the people who witnessed drunken or rowdy behaviour said that it was due to young people drinking in public places, and such drinking is most likely to put young people at risk of being a victim of violent crime. A recent study in the north-west of England found that 40 per cent of young people who drank outside in public had experienced alcohol-related violence, either as a victim or a perpetrator. Alcohol consumption is indeed one of the key factors associated with young people committing criminal offences, with 10 to 15 year-olds who have been drunk once a month or more in the past year twice as likely to commit offences as those who had not. The pattern of drinking is significant, with heavy episodic drinking and crime being particularly closely related. The most recent British Crime Survey estimated that alcohol-related crime and disorder in England and Wales cost between £9 billion and £15 billion a year, and that between £915 million and £1.15 billion of that was due to drinking by those under 18.
Drinking by young people is also associated with violence. In a recent study, only 15 per cent of respondents aged 10 to 17 drank once a week or more, yet they were responsible for 34 per cent of all violent crime committed by that age group. A high prevalence of alcohol-related violence within an area not only increases victimisation but also affects quality of life, reducing community cohesion, increasing fear of crime and preventing people visiting public spaces associated with disorder. It is in that context that the Bill proposes specific measures to deal with some particular problems associated with young people and alcohol.
During 29 years' service as a police officer, like many colleagues, I have been on the receiving end of a fair amount of alcohol-related violence and therefore I am realistic about the need for some coercive powers. On balance, I believe that the proposals in Clause 28 may well be of some benefit in targeting irresponsible retailers who continue to sell to those under the age of 18, although I recognise that progress has already been made, with failure rates in test purchase operations reducing from 50 per cent in 2004 to 15 per cent in 2007. The amendments proposed in Clause 29 may also have some practical utility as an immediate operational response.
However, the powers in Clause 31 will need to be exercised in a particularly discerning and proportionate way if they are not to produce undesirable consequences. While it is just about possible to imagine circumstances in which it would be appropriate to direct a child as young as 10 to leave a locality, officers will need to think very carefully whether the matter would not more appropriately be addressed under child protection legislation and whether the consequence of such a direction might be to move the child to an area where he or she will be less safe.
Similarly, in Clause 30 it will be important, if children are inappropriately gaining access to alcohol, to distinguish between the child as a potential offender and a child with welfare needs. Putting them all into the criminal justice system will certainly not assist in reaching the intended objective, and repeated confiscations are unlikely to address the root cause of the problem or lead to enduring behavioural change.
There is a growing consensus that alcohol misuse by young people will be addressed only by a coherent, sustained and strategic approach delivered through strong local partnerships where communities are mobilised and stakeholders work together. Young people need to be supported and encouraged to make the right decisions about alcohol and they need accurate information about its effects. Alcohol education in schools is crucial, well before patterns of regular drinking become established, encouraging young people to delay the age at which they start drinking and to drink at lower levels of risk when they do. Parents too have an important part to play in raising sensible drinkers and they, too, need clearer advice.
I very much hope therefore that the Government will continue to emphasise the preventive measures outlined in the youth alcohol action plan and that the debate does not become disproportionately located in a criminal justice context.
The challenge for us all is to prevent dangerous drinking patterns becoming embedded in youth culture but to avoid adding to what the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child described as the United Kingdom's prevailing climate of intolerance and negative public attitudes towards children, especially adolescents. A well co-ordinated, evidence-based approach offers the best chance of achieving this.
My Lords, the juggernaut of Home Office legislation trundles its way relentlessly along, despite the Minister's very spirited introduction. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, has already indicated that more than 60 Bills on criminal justice since 1997 have added a further 3,600 criminal offences to the statute book. It is astonishing. We are liable to imagine that every problem, irritation or fault in our society can be solved, soothed or improved by legislation, but it is not so.
The difficulty is that every Bill before us, like this compendium of assorted and unrelated issues, contains many good intentions and some good proposals. We can and should prevent the worst consequences of bad behaviour affecting others adversely and diminishing the peace and security of our society, but we seem to have drifted into imagining that the law can stimulate good behaviour. We are even tempted into thinking that acting within the rules and under the law is sufficient evidence in itself of moral rectitude. When we legislate as much and at the speed that we do, the consequences are not as we would wish. Living under too many rules, regulations and laws does not coerce people into good behaviour; it can cause anger, resentment and bitterness. Coercion cramps conscience. What we are doing also means that an increasing proportion of people in our society are criminalised. Thousands more criminal offences have consequences, such as the clogging of the judicial system and the burgeoning of our prison population. One of the dangers of the proposals, especially as they target young people, is that they may create a more criminalised society.
Let us take, for example, Clause 29. Good intentions lie behind it, as we have heard. We want to discourage children from drinking alcohol. Good. We want to discourage them from drinking alcohol in public places, with all the consequences for disruption and uncontrolled behaviour that may follow. Good. That is what caused this House to approve the Confiscation of Alcohol (Young Persons) Act 1997. It enabled the police to confiscate alcohol from young people in public places if they were consuming it or if the police could show that they intended to consume it in that public place. Now we are proposing to abolish the doctrine of intention. I am rather keen on doctrines. Possession is enough. The 15 year-old boy, given a celebratory bottle after passing some examinations, and which he could legally drink at home, might have the bottle taken off him for possessing it in the street.
The doctrine of intention is important in relation to crime, but possession is easier to determine. We are in the Bill lowering the barrier of criminality. We seem to be saying that if we catch the unwary, that is the price we will have to pay. The danger is that young people may be criminalised much more easily than we imagine for something that they cannot comprehend should put them on the wrong side of the law at all. We therefore increase their anger and impatience with the law and authority. We may even reduce the stigma of criminality itself and make the high spirited young seem more wayward as a result. What will we have achieved?
Let us take Clause 27. The maximum fine for consuming alcohol in a designated public place will rise from £500 to £2,500. Why? Will it matter whether it is £2,500, £25,000 or £125,000? Why would it matter to some offenders whose whole income is spent on drink and drugs? Is not one of the problems with these great portmanteau justice Bills that we have not always decided what we want the law to do in each case—and in each clause? Are we seeking to deter? Are we seeking to extract retribution? Are we encouraging reformation of manners and behaviour? I doubt whether what is proposed in Clause 29, for example, will deter or extract retribution and I am absolutely certain that it will not amend behaviour. So what is it for?
We also seem to move into punishment mode too swiftly when dealing with children and young people who misbehave. Disordered juvenile lives are best dealt with by welfare provision, not criminalisation. Sometimes, we seem to put the two together. Then the welfare seems like punishment, which absolutely ensures non-compliance. It is a depressing in the extreme that Clause 31 proposes the extension of the directions to leave power to include children as young as 10. Is it any wonder that, as the Good Childhood inquiry revealed, so many of our children feel so unhappy and uncherished in this country—more so than in any comparable European country?
The Government's continued determination to criminalise young people engaged in prostitution is a case in point. It is argued that we need the criminal law to enable such young people to access support, but that runs directly contrary to the views of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. It is the outworking of a culture that resorts to the criminal law far too quickly for our own or our children's good.
The good intentions behind the Bill are again evident in the proposals regarding prostitution. The declared strategy that the Government have followed since 2006 has included prevention—stopping people from getting involved in prostitution—tackling demand, developing routes out of prostitution, bringing to justice those who exploit the vulnerable, and tackling off-street prostitution, especially where young and trafficked people are involved. That is a commendable strategy, which the Church of England supports. The difficulty, which is well illustrated here, is how to translate it adequately into legislation. Should we criminalise payment for sexual services to a prostitute who is subject to force, deception and threats? It seems entirely right to shift the blame from the victim—as the prostitute often is—to the purchaser of the services. Apart from the question of strict liability, will the provision make it easier or harder to discover who is being exploited?
I am a patron of the Magdalene Group in Norwich, a charity that works to help those involved in prostitution. Its staff tell me that even they sometimes find it difficult to know for sure how far some prostitutes with whom they have built a relationship are truly being controlled or coerced. While some prostitutes may have originally been subject to force or deception, they get into a prostitution lifestyle. They may then cease to be subject to force or threats, but simply do not have the emotional, physical or spiritual energy to get out of it. Are we talking about contemporary force, threats and deception? How historic might it be? If what we really want to do is to make it illegal to pay for sexual services, should we not simply do so? I am very sympathetic to the Government's intentions here, but am concerned that even those working for the welfare of prostitutes are uncertain how the proposals would benefit those for whom they care.
I have a final few words about the provisions relating to gang culture and violence. When the extension of the use of control orders under the Prevention of Terrorism Act was debated in this House a couple of months ago, I said there was a danger that the Secretary of State would be tempted to extend more widely that sort of arbitrary power. My concern about the use of injunctions here is the sheer breadth of control they permit. How do we ensure that the provisions are not used arbitrarily or restrictively to control behaviour? Will they not simply deal with the symptoms of gang culture rather than the causes? Those causes often relate to family breakdown and chaotic lives, to which gangs offer an attractive, if illusory, answer. We will not address that issue by criminal legislation alone. It is changed minds and hearts that alter things.
Many of the problems addressed in the Bill arose and arise because too many people in our society believe themselves to be unloved and unlovable. That is the cause. Society does not become more loving by making more laws; it becomes more fearful. Perhaps in this House we might consider more fully how more loving support and welfare structures can be created for young people in trouble, sex workers or gang members. That might just bear more fruit than our legislative programme.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich, who always manages to hit the nail on the head about what is and is not good legislation. This is the 20th Bill involving policing on which I have had the pleasure of speaking in your Lordships' House in the 10 years that I have been here. It seems that every time we have a new Queen's Speech, we have a number of new Bills on policing to add to the pot of the many that have gone before. I sometimes wonder whether we could more usefully spend our time consolidating these Bills rather than adding to their number. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, touched on that at the beginning of her speech. It would, in many ways, be far more constructive. However, here we are again.
At the beginning, I should once more declare my interest. It is some time ago now, but I was for 20 years a member of my county's police authority and for about eight years was its chair, as well as being on a number of other policing bodies—the Police Negotiating Board and the National Crime Squad Service Authority—and a deputy chair of the Association of Police Authorities, of which I am currently a vice-president.
I will be speaking almost entirely on Part 1, which deals with police reform, although I will also speak briefly about gang-related violence and injunctions and touch on the retention and destruction of samples. I apologise for my voice; I have a bit of an infection.
One of my first impressions on reading the Bill was that it contains a large number of wide-ranging regulation and order-making powers for the Secretary of State. We have been here many times. I had fondly hoped that this Bill would be about reducing bureaucracy, not adding to it. Why does the Secretary of State need all these powers? Many of them seem so wide that it is not clear what they are trying to achieve.
Clause 3 in Part 1, which pertains to regulations about senior officers, is a good example of what I have just been saying. This clause is not precise and could be interpreted in many ways. What are the limitations on these powers? How might they be used in future? Could they be used in ways that are not intended? How many of these powers are truly necessary and, if they are so important, why are they not placed in primary legislation?
It is the police authority's role to appoint senior officers of forces and I am very concerned that the wide-ranging powers proposed for the Secretary of State could be used to water down this role and/or to increase the influence of the centre, which would fatally unbalance the tripartite structure. Significant powers for the Secretary of State already exist in Section 50 of the Police Act 1996 to make regulations about,
"government, administration and conditions of service", so why are new powers so necessary? Does not the Government's own Green Paper suggest that there ought to be greater devolution in policing? Then why bring in powers that seem to be designed to increase central control and micromanagement? They appear throughout the Bill and I will address them in more detail in Committee.
Clause 5 is on police collaboration. The Association of Police Authorities believes strongly that an incentive-driven approach to collaboration is likely to be more effective than the direction-driven approach set out in this clause. Specifically, I note the Secretary of State's order-making powers—yet again—to be consulted on collaboration agreements involving more than six parties. What on earth is the point of that? Surely it is not beyond the wit of police authorities and their forces to enter into joint agreements. They have been doing this for a very long time. There is clearly a fundamental misunderstanding about how these work. Most collaboration, as the APA reminds us, will involve both operational and support services; trying to separate them out into two different parts would be virtually unworkable.
The powers to direct, prevent, alter or terminate collaboration agreements are wide-ranging and open to abuse, with far-reaching consequences under future Secretaries of State or Governments. It is sensible, then, to limit these powers to guard against this. How much better it would be to define powers more tightly by reference to efficiency and effectiveness and then to make them capable of being exercised following advice from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary.
I shall now touch on the thorny matter of best value, another area about which I appear to have been speaking almost exclusively to myself over the years. I hope most sincerely that the Home Office will now look carefully at the possibility of producing an amendment at some stage during the passage of this Bill to achieve greater clarity in this field. Legislation surrounding best value has been amended, counter-amended and partially disapplied and then reapplied, and I wonder whether anyone understands at all where we are. This would be a wonderful opportunity to streamline the reasoning behind best value. The original aims were entirely laudable but, as I have suggested, they have somehow got lost along the way. I am sure that working with the APA and the Local Government Association would produce the clarity that we now need and I urge the Government to seek an early opportunity to be the instigator of really useful legislation.
A large number of organisations have a role in the policing landscape, which can lead to confusion about who is responsible for what. I will name some of these organisations, but I am sure that your Lordships will recall others. There is the Serious Organised Crime Agency; the National Policing Improvement Agency, two branches of which I visited recently and was extremely impressed with what I saw; the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre; the National Fraud Strategic Authority; and the Forensic Science Service. Overarching all this is the Home Office and HMIC. There is a lot of policing work going on all over the country and I worry that this rather piecemeal approach to police reform can lead to confused accountability and increased centralisation by stealth. I was therefore disappointed to see yet another statutory body proposed in the form of a senior appointments panel. I will leave detailed analysis of that until Committee. I was disappointed further when there was no reference at all to the policing powers in relation to protest and disorder; we may need to address that, too, in Committee.
Using injunctions to control bad behaviour is a very bad idea. In the past, as we on these Benches have predicted, ASBOs have been used inappropriately, sometimes attempting to control the behaviour of people with mental illness or people whose lifestyle choices do not appeal to the majority of citizens. It is almost inevitable that injunctions will impact disproportionately on young black and minority ethnic communities—a very bad idea.
Finally, I want to mention the retention and destruction of samples under Clauses 96 to 98. My noble friend Lady Miller and the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, have raised this as a matter of grave concern. Again, I fought a rearguard action over a number of years to persuade the Government that the taking of these samples needed to be treated with diligence and, above all, seriousness. These matters should not be dealt with by secondary legislation, especially as the DNA profiles of people not convicted of any offence could be held for up to 12 years. It is imperative that Parliament scrutinises this scheme and ensures that, if amendments need to be made, they will be. That is impossible under this proposal, which should be removed from the Bill.
We have a chance to modernise policing for years to come. This Bill will in part enable some of that to happen, but it needs careful amending. I look forward to playing my part in proposing some of those amendments, which I hope will lead to the improvements that we seek.
My Lords, this is another of those Bills from the Home Office which turns its attention to a range of social problems and then tries to find a law-enforcement way of dealing with them. As such, it is rather to be regretted than welcomed, not because social problems do not need to be solved but—here I echo the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich—because social problems are rarely solved by law enforcement measures and when they are it is for only the short term.
In particular, the Government have set their sights on prostitution, too much drinking by young people and membership of gangs, all of which fit neatly into the definition of social problems for which the solution is not more law, more law enforcement, more police powers and more criminalised people pushed into the ranks of the socially excluded. The answer is more social measures that deal with the drivers of these social problems, preferably by strengthening the role of local agencies rather than dictating from the centre.
I am grateful to the Minister for his thoughtful and full introduction to the Bill, but I am afraid that I was not convinced that there is any evidence that the measures proposed in these areas will be effective. Effectiveness is one line of argument. These measures are not likely to work. For example, criminalising parents who cannot get their children to go to school, so that single mothers end up in prison, did not deal with the problem of truanting children, as we have been able to see quite clearly in the eight years since that measure has been on the statute book. The measures I am concentrating on today will not only be ineffective, they are also unsatisfactory in legal and human rights terms, and will give law enforcers powers that it is not desirable for them to have.
"I am pretty clear that without a demand for prostitution, particularly the sort of prostitution that involves exploited or trafficked women, there would be less of it".—[Hansard, Commons, 19/1/09; col. 526.]
It is clearly a sensible policy aim to shift away from the criminalisation of women involved in prostitution. Many would agree with that proposition. The Home Secretary is right when she says that, without a demand for prostitution, there would be less of it. The proposition is unarguable. It is also unarguable that we should be concerned about trafficking for sexual exploitation. But we need to consider whether these proposals will have these effects. Can the law reduce demand for prostitution or will these measures be counterproductive? I share the view of many who fear that they will be counterproductive.
Regarding the offence of paying for sex, even in the new circumstances defined by the amendment in the other place of force, threats or deception, there are widespread concerns. For example, there are concerns about the strict liability offence. The Joint Committee on Human Rights in its 10th report said that,
"the offence in its current form is overbroad and lacks certainty".
But there are other arguments, too, against this provision. Increasing the elements of criminality and possible law enforcement in the transaction between sex worker and client increases the danger for the sex workers, who are already, as the Minister said, a very vulnerable group.
When I was a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights we visited Italy in connection with an inquiry into human trafficking to look at the arrangements there. The system there did not aim to reduce demand—it was felt to have been an unfulfillable aim—but was concerned to protect women, to rescue them from coerced situations and to catch, prosecute and deal with traffickers. There was an anonymous phone line for anyone to ring who suspected that a sex worker was trafficked. Does the Minister think that many people would ring such a line or get in touch with the police if they felt they would then be charged with committing a criminal offence? Is it likely to protect trafficked women?
I turn to the orders requiring attendance at meetings with a named supervisor which can be used by courts for those convicted of loitering and soliciting. The aim is to help people to get out of prostitution—an extremely worthwhile aim—but the Minister will no doubt be aware that there is a great deal of opposition to these proposals also. Once again, it is the right thing being done in the wrong way. Routes out of prostitution are needed and many organisations do superb work and achieve a great deal. The Government seem to have the view—I assume that this is the case—that it is the threat of punishment that motivates people to do what is good for them. Could the Minister for a moment consider what the life has been like of the women for whom these provisions are intended? Does he not think that their lives have already had more than their quota of punishment? Why does he believe that threats and punishment are more likely to work than support, encouragement and practical, no-strings help, given with understanding and a commitment to persevere even when there are relapses and crises?
The third measure in Clause 20 gives the courts the power to make premises closure orders where there is evidence that the premises are being used for activities relating to certain prostitution and pornography offences. Here, too, the safety of the women is put at risk. All the evidence suggests that women are safer working from premises than working on the street. At a meeting I was able to attend with the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, we heard from sex workers and their maids, who are the gatekeepers, of the security that they can use in a flat to ensure that violent and threatening clients do not get in. They have CCTV and doors that they can control. This is not so easy to do on the street if they have been thrown out of their premises.
I suggest that more safeguards are needed to restrict the use of this measure to protect any vulnerable people in the household who will be affected. The Standing Committee for Youth Justice suggests that the Government should give assurances that the local authority must first take into account the needs of any children who may be adversely affected as a result of a closure order. I hope the Minister will look favourably on that suggestion in the later stages.
I also hope that at the next stage of the Bill we shall be able to persuade the Government that these offences should not apply to young people aged under 18. Young people engaged in prostitution are victims, not criminals, and criminalising them is objectionable. I support very much the words of the right reverend Prelate. I suggest that the Minister's reply to the Joint Committee on Human Rights that criminalisation is helpful in getting children engaged in prostitution access to the services they need is a sad reflection on the state of services for very vulnerable young people. The Government's argument in response to the Joint Committee on Human Rights that, if we decriminalise prostitution for those under 18, we are sending out a message that for under-18s to engage in prostitution is acceptable seems to me totally fatuous. Are the Government really so out of touch with the realities of the life of those young people who end up on the streets?
The measures on alcohol misuse are similarly problematic. A number of organisations—I have heard from the Alcohol Health Alliance, the Standing Committee for Youth Justice and others—are concerned that the offence of persistently possessing alcohol in a public place, in Clause 30, will result in the unnecessary criminalisation of large numbers of young people, whose drinking needs to be dealt with but not in this way. I endorse the thoughtful contribution made by the noble Earl, Lord Rosslyn, on this matter.
The clause might also give smart young people a very bad impression of the rule of law, and will not contribute to their respect for it if they are subject to laws that make something illegal only if it is done once every four months within one year; it is not illegal the first time they do it, nor the second, and they could get away with it a third time if they waited one more month until the following year. It does not give a good impression of the thoughtfulness of the legislature.
I turn to the injunctions to prevent gang-related violence, a proposal which, as Liberty says, continues the worrying trend of blurring the divide between the criminal and civil law which risks stigmatising and punishing the innocent along with the guilty. In effect, these are a mix of control orders and ASBOs for anyone suspected of engaging in, encouraging or assisting gang-related violence. I have watched the growth of ASBOs over the years with great concern and noted the limited evidence of their effectiveness. I have followed the development of the control order regime, and have always had great anxieties about that. In that context, these new powers seem to be a further slide downwards into giving the law enforcement agencies unacceptable powers outside a proper criminal justice framework.
There seems to be little evidence that these measures will be effective in dealing with gang-related violence. Before coming up with these measures, did Home Office Ministers go to Glasgow and look at the community initiative to reduce violence that brings all the services in Glasgow together with the police to deal with the gang as a unit? As I understand it, gang members are invited to meetings that lead to routes out of violence and into education, healthcare and work. It seems to be working very well. Should we not be looking more closely at effective measures rather than at more laws that erode many of the legal protections that we have fought for over centuries?
My Lords, I need to declare that I am closely involved with the Police Federation of England and Wales, because matters arising from the Bill will affect officers concerned with a number of areas within it.
The Bill is long and detailed and covers numerous matters but, as I will be addressing only a couple of items, in practical terms I will not be speaking for long. It is the knock-on effect on the police when the Bill is enacted that should be taken into account.
We have heard a number of noble Lords speaking about Part 2, and I will continue to talk about it. It deals with sexual offences and sexual establishments, and follows a public consultation. The Home Secretary is to be praised for trying to get on to the statute book the various matters included in this part. It is the intention of the Bill to provide protection to prostitutes, who are often young and vulnerable and are themselves victims who have been forced into the oldest profession by the criminal fraternity or by some form of exploitation.
But how, I wonder, will the practicalities involved in determining sufficient evidence for a conviction be managed without creating a chain of additional bureaucratic burdens? Some of the evidence trail could easily extend across Europe and beyond, which would be hugely time-consuming for the police. There is a risk that local problems could be displaced, which, I suspect, is not what the police or the public want. Police officers work hard in local communities where prostitution is an issue and deliver some excellent results. It is often difficult enough a task without additional requirements which may mean including other officers in the various teams. It reminds me of the Hunting Act, which required officers to attend hunts in an attempt to enforce the law and which proved to be unsuccessful. This Bill will be difficult to enforce and presents many challenges for local policing teams, which, if asked, would indicate that they preferred to target their scarce resources elsewhere to meet many other pressures and demands in the community.
Chapter 2 of Part 8 concerns DNA. The European Court of Human Rights has given judgment on the policy of retaining DNA and fingerprints. I am in complete agreement with its decision that the retention of fingerprints and DNA of people arrested but not convicted of any offence should not take place. Equally, it is my contention that, where a crime has been committed, a conviction proven and a sentence passed—of any kind—the samples of DNA and fingerprints lawfully taken by the police should be retained, contrary to the European court's judgment. I am conscious that such samples should be used for police purposes only in the prevention of crime and the apprehension of offenders.
In very recent times, there have been a number of high-profile cases in which DNA evidence has proved invaluable to police in solving serious crimes, sometimes committed many decades ago. If DNA samples and fingerprints had been deleted after a specified period, as indicated in the Bill, some people would in all probability have continued to avoid detection for those horrendous crimes. I think that the public would be angered if such offenders could evade justice in this manner. It is with regret that I disagree with my noble friend on this point, but there are two points of view on the retention of DNA and nothing in between. As with the intended identity cards, you are either for or against them. However, a judgment by the European court has forced us to change our long held practice of retaining DNA. In this instance, I would love it if its decision could be ignored. I wish the Bill well.
My Lords, I am happy to follow the noble Viscount and agree with him that many of the provisions in the Bill would be very difficult to enforce. Similarly, the noble Earl, Lord Rosslyn, pointed out in his most thought-provoking speech how difficult it will be for the police to enforce some of those measures where policing powers meet child protection powers. I hope that the whole House, including the Minister, listened very carefully to what the noble Earl, with his 29 years of experience in the Met, had to say about these issues. Even though the police are paid by us to deal with these difficult problems, I have great sympathy with them on this one in particular.
That having been said, I have no declarations of interest, save in the subject itself, although I am interested in finding out just how much the many criminal justice-related measures pushed through your Lordships' House and another place, of which this is but the latest in a list that now reaches 66, have cost. Tens of millions of pounds of Civil Service and drafting time must have been spent in their preparation, money which might well have been spent on the front line in policing, or the front line in childcare and other social service and agency work. I suspect that if I put down a Question to this end, or tabled Written Questions concerning each individual Bill, Answers there would come back to me that the level of cost could be provided only at disproportionate cost, so I shall not trouble the Treasury. It would be the same if I asked for an evaluation of the effectiveness of each criminal justice measure. However, the Minister does owe it us to tell us how much the preparation of this Bill by hard-working Home Office civil servants, who have too often been too freely traduced, has cost in pounds sterling. I look to him to do that; it is a perfectly proper question. I spare him my follow-up question, however, regarding its likely effectiveness.
I turn instead to just two examples of why the Bill will largely be ineffective—public accountability and alcohol misuse in public places. On the first point, in Part 1, on the duties now proposed for police authorities to have regard to public views of policing, we have a classic case before your Lordships of a great waste of public money and Civil Service time as the Bill has proceeded through Parliament thus far. I take as my text whatever Robert Peel more or less said to the effect that the police are the public and the public are the police. Police forces by definition have to take good account of the public and public views all the time, and doubtless would do so even more if they had any time left over from trying to digest the latest legislative offering in the blizzard of 66 Bills that has hit them around the head since 1997. The Inspectorate of Constabulary equally knows well that it must look to the public interest in that respect during its inspections. No police authority can be effective without taking into account public views.
At least the Government have been forced to drop the idea of elected police authorities, originally proposed in this measure. A silver stake needs to be permanently driven into the political heart of that line of thinking. Such bodies, to cite but three of many points, would first of all have encouraged confrontational politics in an area in which—as in the running of our Armed Forces, as the noble Lord knows—they are not needed and would be damaging. At worst, they might have led to the taking over of police authorities by single-issue extremist groups—you know, "BNP for better policing", or whatever—which we would deplore. Finally, as elections tend to do, they might have produced local authorities in one form of political control and a police authority in another, when we need strong local co-operation not local conflict.
Having an interest in these sorts of issues, I looked around me in the area where I live to try to find someone from the Labour Party to discuss this issue with in the pursuit of proper political dialogue and discourse. In my part of the West Country we have county council elections tomorrow. I can find Liberals all over the place, much to my regret, but there is absolutely no one who can be my counterpart in such a dialogue from the Labour Party. There are no Labour candidates of any sort on any ballot paper for hundreds of square miles around the area where I am seated, as they used to say in your Lordships' House, in the West Country. It is as though some party-selective neutron weapon had carefully targeted the Labour Party in the south-west. It is a terrible position to find that party in.
All that we now have left of the original damaging proposal to have elected police authorities is a fig-leaf to cover the retreating idea originally coined by our equally retreating Home Secretary—that police authorities must now just have regard to the public reviews on policing. Either this is a mere pious exhortation—and the right reverend Prelate knows that pious exhortations do not do much good—that will be left lying dormant on the face of an eventual Act, perhaps subject to some time and money-consuming box-ticking exercise by the inspectorate; or, if that is not the case and this is actually going to be a live measure, do the Government expect full-bore consultation exercises to underpin this duty? If so, who is going to pay for them, and how much? What a diversion of police time and activity that would be in the process, in its turn, of the invariably costly displacement activity that such consultation processes turn out to be, as the same old so-called stakeholders are gathered around the same old meeting tables to discuss the design of the next paradigm shift, or whatever the impenetrable public service jargon turns out to be on that particular day.
It would be much better if there were an elected police commissioner in each area—truly accountable—to whom people could complain directly; someone subject to rerun provisions, who could ensure the open and transparent publication of crime statistics ward by ward with the sort of regular open meetings that are real consultation and not phoney stakeholder consultation. What is Labour's view on that? We do not know because the review commissioned last year by the outgoing Home Secretary from one of her predecessors, Mr David Blunkett, into police accountability has not yet appeared. I ask the Minister why the delay, because when it was announced in a blaze of publicity before Christmas, this review of police accountability by Mr Blunkett was promised to inform policy-making "before the next election". Had the new Home Secretary better not ask Mr Blunkett to get his reviewing skates on in case he misses the last chance to shine in this context?
I turn to my second and last illustration. The Bill represents a waste of Civil Service and police time. I just look at one clause in Part 3, Clause 27 on alcohol abuse. We all know that there is an alcohol problem—at least outside your Lordships' House. We know that alcohol is about two-thirds more affordable than it was when Labour came to power, with own-brand beer in some supermarkets being cheaper than imported French mineral water per litre sold. That is a remarkable state of affairs, both in terms of the availability of alcohol and in the curious cultural habit that makes people want to spend so much money on water.
Alcohol is not just an issue for the city centres, where half the crimes of violence are very often alcohol-related; it is also so in some market towns and rural areas. Indeed, in my own part of the West Country when some local dwellers get well cidered up it can present a considerable problem for those living in the area. Against all this, just what good will the legislation do? I take one example: Clause 27—already highlighted so clearly by my noble friend Lady Hanham in her penetrating speech—increases the penalty for consuming alcohol in a designated public place. Will the Minister guarantee to me tonight that that provision will reduce alcohol-related crime? What is it intended to do? As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich said, what difference does upping the ante by so many thousand pounds actually do? It does nothing. It is just like provisions introduced with a fanfare, photo calls and all the rest of the spin-driven approach to law and order issues that has been the hallmark of this Administration since 1997.
Does the Minister expect this provision to make a whit of difference? If so, how? He is always very straightforward in responding to noble Lords. I have asked him a direct question. I will happily give way now if he would like me to, so that he can explain to your Lordships—in the time for my speech—how this increase in a level of fines is going to stop drunkenness. No, he wishes to reflect on this issue and respond to me in his wind-up speech. I wait with pleasure for that.
Will the Minister explain why—by January, this year at least—under earlier criminal justice legislation there has not yet been one designation of the alcohol disorder zones that the Home Office introduced not long ago? Here is alcohol disorder being a great problem—all that is in this Bill—and it is going to be got rid of by increasing a fine from this level to that level. Why has previous legislation that is on the statute book not even been used to deal with these issues? I am lost for an explanation, but I know that the noble Lord will explain it all to me with great clarity.
This is a power to tackle anti-social behaviour that will be introduced with a fanfare and then briskly forgotten. Why? It is because the police have no time to use their panoply of powers. Despite five red-tape reviews, less than 20 per cent of police time is spent on front-line activities now. When the noble Lord was in the armed services, he did not have every operational decision of his smothered in red tape; he led people who were getting on with the job, and he led them well from all that I hear. I only wish that some who inhabit the fortified bunker—and it is fortified—of New Scotland Yard would leave its walls and share at night the walk home with me from your Lordships' House along Victoria Street. A few yards across the road, and also by the piazza in front of the cathedral, within sight of the windows of New Scotland Yard, there are to be found young and old rough sleepers, very often as much in need of help and preventive work as anything else, as the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, has taught over the years, including from the mental health world. On other occasions there is behaviour connected with alcohol abuse. But it is quite clear that, in this respect, unused provisions from earlier Acts will not help to clean up Victoria Street 20 yards away from New Scotland Yard—and it is pretty shaming on the Metropolitan Police that such conditions exist 20 yards away—nor will provisions such as Clause 27, which are a waste of legislative time and will by extra burdens reduce even further police effectiveness.
Lastly, why does the noble Lord not say what he really thinks about all this legislation in his usual blunt-spoken way? He certainly would not be at any risk at all if he stood up and told your Lordships what I suspect he really thinks. He is perfectly safe in his post—after all, he is one of the last Ministers left standing in the Government and there seems to be no one to replace him here in your Lordships' House. Indeed, I am sorry to say that with his commanding bearing, clarity of voice and clear-sightedness, he is in grave risk of becoming the next Home Secretary. I think that it would be much better, whether he or someone else is Home Secretary in the future, if they encouraged the police to apply such laws as are already on the statute book, did not introduce a further legislative avalanche and looked for ways of lifting the burdens preventing the police from putting the front line first. That could help to deal practically with some of the problems that the Bill tries to deal with in a theoretical, seminar-room, legislative way rather than the practical way that many noble Lords on all Benches have pointed out this afternoon.
My Lords, I must first declare an interest as the president of the Association of Police Authorities and as the chair of the Security Industry Authority. This is a very wide-ranging Bill and I want to confine my remarks mostly to the policing issues in Part 1.
Like the previous speaker, I think that it is worth at the outset celebrating what is no longer in the Bill. Along with the Association of Police Authorities, the Local Government Association, Liberty and other noble Lords, I welcome the removal of the proposal to hold direct elections to police authorities. In my view, that would have taken us back at least 20 years to the era of highly politicised police committees rather than the focused, politically balanced and much more effective police authorities that we have now. I am very encouraged that there is cross-party support on this issue—though not, I hasten to add, on the ludicrous idea of elected police commissioners, which I believe is an American import that would politicise policing far more even than elected police authorities. Many Americans who admire the British policing system have said to me that they are amazed that the Conservatives are even advocating such a measure.
The prime job of the police authority is to hold the chief constable and his senior team to account on behalf of local people, to help to formulate policing strategies for their areas and to ensure high-quality scrutiny of performance data and crime statistics on which the force bases its policing plans. Therefore, I have no problems with the Bill placing a duty on police authorities to have regard to the views of the public, except to say that every police authority that I know, which is pretty much all of them, already engages in regular and extensive consultation with its local communities about the policing precept, local policing plans and a host of other issues. I know that authorities would be happy to take on this additional duty.
More important, however, we are moving to a situation where confidence in the police service that is delivered to local people is to become the key policing measure and the only numerical target to be imposed in the future by government. The police do not, and cannot, operate effectively, display a hands-on approach and can-do attitude, deliver results and generate confidence all on their own. They go a long way but, to be successful, they have to work with other delivery partners and, crucially, with local councils. It will therefore be imperative that a duty is also placed on local partners, particularly local councils, to co-operate with the police in delivering the local confidence target, just as the police and police authorities are under a duty to co-operate with local authorities in helping them to deliver local area agreement targets.
While we are on the subject of local accountability, given that we all want to see continuous improvement in the performance and capacity of police authorities, which will certainly be helped very much by the inspection regime that is soon to begin, the Association of Police Authorities and the Local Government Association need to work with government to ensure that councils have regard to some key criteria in nominating councillors to police authorities. Great weight should be placed on an interest in policing, involvement in local policing consultative bodies, experience in scrutiny and performance management issues and analysis of performance data, which I see as particularly relevant skills for councillor members of police authorities to possess.
I had the pleasure of representing the Association of Police Authorities on the senior appointments panel for about three years, from the time that it was established. Indeed, I am probably the only member of your Lordships' House who has had extensive experience of the way in which this body operates. While we are told that the reason for the proposal to make it a statutory body is to give it more independence, I have been around Whitehall for too long to be fully reassured by this explanation of potential benefits. Indeed, I can rather see some dangers stemming from this proposal. The Home Secretary of the day and senior Home Office officials, through the power of appointment to the senior appointments panel, will acquire much greater powers to direct this body to do what they want, including exercising disproportionate influence over appointments at senior police level.
My experience of this body was that it worked pretty well. There were issues and concerns but, in general, the balance between the Home Office, ACPO and police authority representatives was maintained. Decisions were well judged and vigorously debated but then agreed in a consensual way under the watchful eye of the inspectorate of police. The Home Secretary got involved rarely, but then decisively. My job was to ensure that police authorities had confidence in the long-listing process for senior appointments and in the order of appointments. We must never forget that chief constables are locally accountable and need to be chosen by local police authorities to suit the needs and preferences of local communities. Needs and preferences should not be imposed from the centre.
The senior appointments panel ensured that balance in the face of continuing, strong Home Office pressure to gain control of the process and to move a cadre of senior officers around the country to serve a national and not a local agenda. At the moment, as it is constituted, the senior appointments panel ensures that the appropriate balance between national needs and local accountability is maintained. I want to ensure that no changes proposed in the Bill will upset this vital but delicate equilibrium between national and local that gives British policing so much of its strength and credibility.
Lastly, we are told that the purpose of the collaboration clauses is to improve the co-operation of forces and authorities at regional and national level, which, of course, we must try to do. However, these clauses are trying to make the best of an unsatisfactory situation. I remind your Lordships that I was a strong supporter of the concept of larger strategic police forces two to three years ago and I still think that this is the right way to go. Everything that is happening in the world today reinforces the reality that we have too many police forces and that they lack resilience. Somehow we must make them work together and put in place coherent operational and support arrangements to deal with serious and organised crime threats, but how do you make this collaboration effective? I observe that the proposals in the Bill are framed as directions. My experience of the world is that individuals and organisations work best when they respond to incentives and the opportunity to operate flexibly, rather than to instructions delivered from the centre. In general terms I am worried that the way in which these proposals are framed will prove to be both objectionable and potentially unworkable, as the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, argued.
As the Bill goes through the House, we will need to look closely at the Home Secretary's proposed powers in relation to collaboration arrangements and to limit them more tightly so that they are capable of being exercised only by reference to efficiency and effectiveness and only following advice from HMIC. That would follow the precedent of recent police legislation, which I think should be followed in this Bill. The Secretary of State should also be able to direct chief officers in relation to collaboration arrangements through police authorities only on the advice of the inspectorate. Again, I think that this is a very important provision.
These proposals on collaboration will, I think, prove to be unworkable because—as has been said—of the fundamental error of assuming that all collaboration agreements will be capable of being neatly pigeonholed into either police force or authority collaboration agreements. We know already from what is happening in this area that effective collaboration needs forces and authorities to work together. Too much rigidity and too much separating out will undermine effectiveness and make successful collaboration much more difficult to achieve. I sense that these proposals do not recognise the realities of how things work on the ground. They risk undermining a lot of good practice that is already ongoing in this area between forces and authorities. Therefore, this is a part of the Bill that I will certainly want to scrutinise much more closely as it passes through the House.
I end by welcoming the proposals to reduce alcohol-related harm and to tighten controls on the sale and availability of alcohol to young people. Much has been eloquently said on this topic and I agree with the concerns that have been expressed. Again, however, we need to balance directives with incentives if we really want to achieve our objective of getting young people to drink responsibly. I am the patron of a wonderful charity, Rock Challenge UK, under whose auspices up to 40,000 teenagers every year perform dance and drama on a professional stage, having agreed in advance not to drink alcohol or to take drugs. Such young people themselves are the most effective advocates of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. I hope that in our efforts to combat excess drinking we will work with them and with all the sensible and sober teenagers like them—there are a lot of them—and involve them as our ambassadors in developing our policies and our campaigns to reduce alcohol abuse and the disorder and medical problems that it provokes, because these young people will do as much if not more than we will to persuade their fellows to change their ways.
My Lords, like my noble friend Lady Harris, I have been a Member of this House for 10 years. When I first came here, I learnt that you should never talk about anything you do not know something about. I feel moved to speak in the debate because I was a member of the Thames Valley Police Authority from 1993 to 1995 and from 1997 to 2008—13 years. During that time the authority had three chief constables and three out of six women holding ACPO officer rank. Yet I can remember the days when Michael Howard, who I have not heard mentioned, was Home Secretary. He came to Thames Valley and told us that we had to lose 200 officers—that is 7 per cent of our constables. I should like the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, when he sums up, to tell us that that is not on the agenda of the Conservative Party, and that we shall not very quickly see a return to form and a reduction in police availability.
I have also witnessed many initiatives attempting to increase efficiency. I must say that most of these have led to more bureaucracy and centralisation. I am fairly independent on who I criticise. I remember Jack Straw and David Blunkett. I remember the despair in the authority surrounding each measure that they proposed to introduce, the huge amount of work it meant and the huge amount of police resources that were taken from actually doing a policing job to responding to new legislative proposals.
I am also very much in the court of the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, in thinking that an elected commissioner would be absolutely awful. I cannot see who will vote in an election for that position other than various extremists, the sort of people who would probably elect people dressed in monkey suits and so on.
It is fashionable to think of the police as thugs, social workers as soft, and politicians as crooks. That seems to be the mood of the moment. Of course, we are also asked to believe that all journalists are saints. However, most policemen are honest and are keen to do a good job. Most of them join the force to spend their time catching villains, not filling out forms and responding to various consultation documents. They dislike paperwork and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, said, the police should be visible on the streets, so that the public, who are paying for them, know what they are actually doing.
I have witnessed increased centralisation, direction and interference from the Home Office; an increased tendency to load the police with greater responsibilities; and, particularly latterly—noble Lords have referred to the alcohol problem—a total distortion in the deployment of resources that is necessary to police alcohol problems experienced in our city and town centres at weekends. I am sorry that I am giving noble Lords a lecture on what I can remember, but I remember the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, introducing the Licensing Bill and telling us that we would move to a "café culture", as on the continent. I ask the Minister if he has been walking around the streets of our inner cities late on Friday and Saturday nights to see whether what goes on there—which I can assure him is squalid, violent and degraded—has anything to do with the café culture. How proud is the Labour Party that it has left us with this legacy? It may not be proud of other things, of course.
I have recently observed that the police force increasingly feels that it is the fourth emergency service. In fact, many people, including county council workers, go home on a Friday night, but the police happen to be on duty all the time. Anyone who has ever been to a police control centre and listened to the calls that come in will know that most are not about someone being attacked, for example, but are from people seeking access to various social services which only the police are there to answer for.
On the composition of police authorities, I have also seen a large number of women join; and in Thames Valley Police Authority, as it was when I left it last year, three out of 19 members were from ethnic minorities, including the chairman. I have also seen—the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, referred to this—much more independence from the political process among members of the authorities. I believe that more responsibility needs to be invested in police authorities. They know about local priorities. Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Patten, said, they are involved in a huge amount of consultation with all sorts of people right down to the neighbourhood action groups, as well as with business and local councils. The chief constable spent a huge amount of time visiting people and even taking the maps, to which the noble Lord, Lord Patten, referred, showing the violence ward by ward. I just say to the Minister that the police authorities know what they are doing, as do the chief constables, the ACPO rank officers and the chief superintendents.
I share the reservations expressed by my noble friend Lady Harris about value for money. Huge amounts of consultants' time was taken up in value-for-money exercises, which quite honestly in many cases could have been done by one intelligent person in a day, and a huge amount of money was spent. Although this has nothing to do with the Bill, I refer in passing to the county of Surrey, which is being capped. It has an elected police authority, and many of its members have to face elections this week. If the people of Surrey do not like those members asking for more money, they can of course reject them at the election. That is probably the best way in democratic terms, as opposed to the Home Secretary imposing from on high his or her view of what should happen. One has to understand that an authority such as Surrey is close to the Met. Every officer there can transfer to the Met and get more salary and more pension, and therefore that authority is constantly losing people. I ask the Minister whether anything is being done to effect some form of transfer fee for the forces around London, which train people in, for example, firearms and investigation, and then lose them to the Met on transfer and have to start all over again.
I believe that the changes in Part 1 are unnecessary, as it is possible to increase efficiency and facilitate co-operation without this Bill. For example, we appointed a joint IT team for the Thames Valley and Hampshire, and we had an arrangement with Bedfordshire whereby we looked after the vehicles. It is possible to do these things and directions do not need to be given.
I believe that independence is needed in the selection of chief constables and ACPO ranks. We get good advice from HMIC and the Association of Police Authorities. I have taken part in a lot of interviews, and we choose the people who are best for the job. They may not always be right at the top of the list because to some extent it has to be a case of horses for courses: policing is different in different areas, and the police authorities are well aware of that.
I wonder why the Government always reach for bureaucratic tools, vast computer systems and monitoring bodies, rather than facilitating getting on with the job, which I think most people want. I said that we will resist any further centralisation in the Bill. We will facilitate rather than prescribe collaboration, and obviously we are open to listening to any sensible proposals about alcohol misuse.
The proceeds of crime section of the Bill has many welcome intentions. However, I remind Members of the House that we passed the Proceeds of Crime Act in 2002 and there are now 45 pages in this Bill amending the Act that we passed only a few years ago. That does not say very much for the drafting of the original Bill. Furthermore, of course, the Government resisted a huge number of the amendments that were put forward during the consideration of that legislation.
Airport security is an area to which I will turn in Committee. There is a very bad arrangement whereby the chief constable decides what is necessary at an airport and the airport pays. There appears to be very little discussion and the arrangements for resolving disputes are unsatisfactory. Of course, airports are under huge financial pressure at the moment. Their revenue is falling, they are going to pay passenger tax and their policing costs are going up. Serious consideration needs to be given to an arrangement such as exists between the railway network and the British Transport Police. There are genuine negotiations between the train operating companies and Network Rail as to what policing and security are necessary, and who is going to pay for that. I cannot accept that we should just take the word of a policeman, who probably views an airport as a big target and therefore wants to deploy a lot of people there. Railway stations are also big targets but we see much more negotiation there.
I shall mention just one or two other things. I wish that the Government would address the question of police service. The luxury of retiring after 30 years' service may have been appropriate when policemen were expected to chase criminals down the street. However, I have seen people leaving the police force with a very good pension at the age of 51 or 52 and then marching into another job with a big salary. The Government have to consider extending the time spent in the police force. People are living longer and I think that they should contribute more.
I shall leave it at that but we look forward to many more debates as we progress through the Bill.
My Lords, if, like me, you are interested in penal affairs, and in particular in the protection of the public by the successful rehabilitation of offenders, you are inevitably drawn into membership of a very wide number of adjacent hunts. First, and in line with the famous, but sadly disregarded, statement of the former Prime Minister, you must take account not just of crime but of the causes of crime, which, as we all know, are all around us in society: poverty, unemployment, homelessness, ill health, social neglect, and so on. Then you are interested in all those things that prevent people leading law-abiding and useful lives in the community—lack of education, lack of job skills, lack of social skills, mental and physical ill health and substance abuse—and how they might be overcome. Then, of course, you are interested in the treatment of and conditions for people serving sentences, both in prison and in the community, and the provision that is made for rectifying the deficiencies that have prevented them living responsible lives thus far. That leads on to their transition back into the community. Among all that, you are interested in the treatment of and conditions for individual vulnerable groups and their particular routes into, passage through and exit from the criminal justice system—women, children and young people, the elderly, the mentally disordered, the disabled, foreign nationals, and so on.
Looked at like that, I hope that your Lordships will understand why I make such frequent reference to the need for an overall strategy covering how all these aspects and problems should be tackled, not forgetting the leadership and professional development of those whom the state employs to deliver the many and varied services that the management of penal affairs requires.
In that connection, I was once challenged by a senior official in the Home Office who said that she wished that I would stop banging on about strategy. She said, "We don't need strategy; all we need is strategic direction". When I asked what she meant, she replied, "Top down, of course". I then told her that that approach of automatically responding to top-down ministerial direction without relating it to either an overall strategy or testing it against common sense was precisely why so much was wrong with how government was currently being conducted. In particular, people needed to consider the amount of legislation being introduced because inevitably it resulted in an increase in bureaucracy that impacted on those responsible for day-to-day contact with offenders, and potential offenders, by deflecting them from their main purpose.
I suspect that, like mine, your Lordships' desks are cluttered with Explanatory Notes, legislative scrutinies and countless briefs, let alone Bills such as the Coroners and Justice Bill, the Welfare Reform Bill, the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill and now the Policing and Crime Bill, not to mention the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill, whose return from the other place we await, and the vast Equality Bill, which has yet to arrive. That is all on top of a vast amount of previous legislation on the same subjects in the context of a Government and Parliament with a finite life, quite apart from the local difficulties which both are currently facing.
As a young officer, I was brought up to ask myself and others, the question "So what?" when considering any proposed course of action. Because that process is now ingrained in me, one of the first things I do is to consider the impact assessment of a Bill in the hope that Ministers will have demanded that their officials conduct a detailed "so what?" of each clause and schedule. I have to admit, however, that more often than not, I am acutely disappointed because what I find—going back to my conversation with the Home Office civil servant—is not so much a "so what?" of the implications on those on the receiving end of legislation, including those responsible for actually doing the work required, but rather a statement by Ministers that what is proposed is the only way of doing something.
In the case of the mountain of legislation currently on noble Lords' desks, and in the context of strategy, I have to question whether anyone in any of the ministries concerned has done a "so what?" on the implications of its Bills or any others being put forward by other ministries. This is, of course, what should happen if overarching strategies were in place, because everyone involved would be aware of their role and their required contribution. But, as is so apparent in what we now have before us, that cannot happen in an environment of disconnected individual top-down directions.
Let me give two examples of what I mean. For some months now, the Government have encouraged us to await the excellent report of the noble Lord, Lord Bradley, on the diversion of those suffering from mental health problems or learning disabilities from prison to other services. Because the process of diversion starts in police stations, I would have expected something to be included in the Policing and Crime Bill. But no, mental health is a Department of Health not a Home Office responsibility, although nothing was said about diversion in the recent health and social care legislation. Because courts are the other point of diversion, I would then have expected something in the catch-all Coroners and Justice Bill. But no. In fact the only way in which those of us who are concerned about this issue can raise it in current legislation is in the context of the Welfare Reform Bill, led by the Department for Work and Pensions, in the context of the conditionality of benefits to those suffering from such problems.
Secondly, the Welfare Reform Bill also includes conditions on benefits for drug addicts attending for treatment, but there are simply not enough treatment centres or workers available to treat all those affected. Again, no provision to increase the number was made in the recent health and social care legislation. As for the Ministry of Justice, 80 per cent of those under probation supervision are substance misusers and the probation service warns that, if denied benefits, they will turn to crime to survive. Those awarded community sentences are unlikely to receive the required supervision because of cuts in the probation service, and many will therefore end up in prison. The Government have introduced 1,036 new imprisonable offences, resulting in inevitable overcrowding in the prison system. They are reducing the availability of courses, including drug treatment, and the Treasury is now imposing severe cuts on both the probation and Prison Service.
Meanwhile, with regard to the apprehension of defaulters, and therefore the Home Office, we learn that the chief constable of Surrey has been forced to cut 50 key operational posts, on top of the 144 he was required to cut last year, following direction from the Local Government Minister that the Surrey Police Authority would have to set a lower council tax. So Surrey's ability to deal with the impact of a direction from the Department for Work and Pensions is undermined by the Treasury, the Department of Health and the Ministry of Justice. Surely all this should have been thought through before being included in legislation. All this frenetic legislative activity would not be so bad if noble Lords could be assured that new legislation came to this House properly scrutinised in the other place. But that simply is not happening. My noble friend Lord Neill pointed out on Second Reading of the Coroners and Justice Bill that, as a revising and not a legislating Chamber, we were being asked to act unconstitutionally.
Bearing in mind the 17 days that the Marine and Coastal Access Bill will have occupied before its passage through the House is complete, and the number of days work that will be required by the size and complexity of the Bills currently before us, I wonder whether there ever was the slightest possibility that they would receive the essential scrutiny and revision in the time available in either House. In an ideal world I wonder whether the Government might not consider withdrawing them all for strategic scrutiny, putting what could be implemented without impacting on others into separate Bills, and reserving the rest until their mutual impact had been properly assessed. In that way, they could avoid dropping parts, such as the prostitution clauses, which are back with us, albeit with clauses dropped from what we were denied considering previously.
Considering all that, I reflected on the life cycle of the bamboo. Noble Lords will know that it flowers only once in its life, just before it dies, when it explodes its seeds as far as its energy allows in the hope that some of them will germinate. I put it to you that what we have before us is a bamboo-like explosion of legislation from a dying Government who hope that some of it may take root before the seeds themselves die.
Other noble Lords have already spoken far more eloquently than me on parts of this Bill in which I have an interest. I shall want to join in the challenge to some of the clauses on prostitution, quoting the experiences of a remarkable young woman, Laura Seebohm, who is running a drop-in centre as part of a support service for women involved in prostitution in Newcastle upon Tyne. This has evolved into a wider support service for vulnerable women, including those in prison, in partnership with other organisations and part-funded by the Ministry of Justice.
I wonder whether the Home Office has taken that kind of initiative into account when introducing its impractical supervision plans. I shall also want to focus on the extradition of foreign national prisoners from this country and British nationals serving sentences abroad. I shall be drawing on the marvellous work of the charity, Prisoners Abroad, the only organisation in the country working in this field, which helps 1,600 UK national prisoners per year, meeting the 300 who arrive on deportation, and catering for their basic needs, such as food, clothing and housing, as well as arranging for social security benefits. It also maintains contact with 700 families of those serving sentences abroad, and yet the Ministry of Justice has warned that, in the interests of contestability, the funding of this unique operation is at riskbecause a required competition exercise must be conducted. Competition with whom? I submit that that is yet another example of a failure to think through legislation before enactment.
I look forward to contributing in any way that I can to the passage of this vast Bill—although not of course all its parts. I realise that it is unlikely that the words of a humble Cross-Bencher will resonate in the corridors of power, but I ask the Minister to try to impress on his colleagues in government that a little bit of military or naval discipline on the introduction of legislation would not come amiss. In particular, I suspect that it would be welcomed by those on whom it impacts most: those who have to enact and act on all that the Policing and Crime Bill entails.
My Lords, I first apologise to my noble friend and the House for my unavoidable late arrival, which meant that I missed some of what my noble friend had to say, although I had the benefit of discussing the Bill with him on an earlier occasion. For the record, I also state that I am a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, vice-president of the Association of Police Authorities and chair of the All-Party Group on Policing.
This is a valuable and worthwhile Bill, although I acknowledge the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, that it may have a few bamboo tendencies within it. There are many important clauses within the Bill, especially those that modernise the law on prostitution and sexual offences. However, in my remarks this afternoon, I want to focus narrowly on the way in which the Bill increases effectiveness and public accountability of policing.
In particular, I give a hearty welcome to Clause 1, which places a new duty on police authorities to have regard to the views of the public in exercising their functions. That adds enormously to the role that police authorities follow. They already have a duty to obtain the views of the public. The Bill helpfully states that police authorities should not only obtain the views of the public but should have regard to them. I trust that most of my colleagues in police authorities, who fulfil their duty admirably in obtaining those views, are also having regard to them when they exercise their functions.
None the less, that is important, because it makes it explicit that the purpose of consulting and listening to people's views is to take note of them and to modify plans accordingly. When I was involved in health service matters, it was expected that consultation began only once a decision had been made. The important point about the clause is that it makes it clear that when we seek the views of the public, we do so with a genuinely open mind, listen to what emerges and take it into account.
Given that I suspect that police authorities will embrace that and do it automatically, I am not quite sure why Clause 1(2), giving Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary the explicit power to inspect the performance of police authorities in respect of that duty, is necessary. Police authorities will be doing that as part of their natural work. Given that that has been specifically selected for Her Majesty's inspectorate to consider, along with all the other things that it is supposed to consider in respect of police authorities, can my noble friend explain why there is no mention of the Audit Commission in the process, given that there is now an expectation of joint inspection by Her Majesty's inspectorate and the Audit Commission of the work of police authorities?
None the less, this is a helpful and useful clause and one that builds on the work of police authorities. To give one example of why that role of external engagement and listening can be so important, earlier, the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, referred to Section 44 of the Terrorism Act. As a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, I led a major exercise three years ago in listening to the views of Londoners about the implications of counterterrorism measures taken by the police service. There was a major engagement with lots of focus groups, inviting young people—young Muslims in particular—to meet a panel of police authority members. There were very lively sessions, not all of them easy.
Several issues emerged from that, for example, about the use of the Section 44 power under the Terrorism Act. As a result of that consultation and the work that was done, significant changes are being put in place in the way that that power is being used in the Metropolitan Police district. That is a consequence of police authorities going out, listening to people, having regard to the views expressed and articulating the point by working with the police service in pursuing its strategy—in an area which is recognised to be difficult, about which there are strong feelings and about which there are felt to be strong operational necessities in the use of Section 44.
Clause 5 sets out a new legal basis for collaboration across police force areas. Again, that is welcome. In the absence of legislation before us to merge those police force areas which are less viable than others, to recognise the fact that some police force areas are too small, there needs to be a sound basis for collaboration. In the discussions that I have been involved in about the organisation of services relating to counterterrorism and the need for national co-ordination, I have been aware of how complicated discussions between police forces can be, especially given the particular responsibilities of chief constables in the management of police forces and officers in their area, although it may be an operation directed from elsewhere. It is very important that those collaborative arrangements are clear.
Having said that—I appreciate that there has been enormous effort to try to get this right—I am not clear that the current drafting necessarily deals with all the points. It seems to separate police authorities on the one hand and chief officers of police on the other. It seems to create a distinction between collaboration between police forces and collaboration between police authorities. I wonder whether that is helpful.
To pick up the point that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, was making earlier, as we know, the Police Act 1996, which anyone interested in policing has by their side constantly, is amended by Parliament at least once a year. It was as recently as 2006 that the Section 8 of the Police and Justice Act inserted a new section into the Police Act 1996, Section 6ZA—the fact that it is Section 6ZA is an indication of the sheer number of changes made adjacent to Section 6—which confers the power on the Secretary of State to make an order requiring police authorities,.
"to secure that arrangements are made for that force to co-operate with other police forces whenever necessary or expedient".
It is difficult to track down, because all the changes to the Act have not yet been consolidated into one single version of the Police Act 1996—at least, not one that is readily accessible using the parliamentary internet—but that section may not yet have been implemented, even though it has been languishing on the statute book for the best part of three years.
I wonder whether building on that basis, rather than on the set of clauses in the Bill, might be a better way forward. In particular, I am slightly concerned that what we have before us in the Bill may conflict with that section, should it be implemented in future. The precise way in which the provision works to avoid duplication and conflict between the role of police authorities and chief officers of police is important. There should be clarity as to who is responsible for driving through the arrangements for collaboration.
I shall briefly touch on two other aspects of the Bill. The first relates to Clauses 6 to 8 on the cross-authorisations in the regulation of investigatory powers. I commend these provisions to your Lordships. A police officer in force A, who is engaged in a joint operation involving a number of police officers, has to obtain an authorisation under the strict terms of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act from an officer in the same force rather than from the officer who has responsibility for that joint operation in the first instance. The way the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act operates at the moment, as I understand it, can be quite bureaucratic and delaying because an officer who may not be involved in the operation concerned is required to give authorisation without knowledge of the facts of the matter. It seems to me that this streamlining arrangement will facilitate the use of certain techniques by collaborative units, for example, the East Midlands Special Operations Unit or the counterterrorism units to which I referred.
Finally, I shall say a word about Clauses 77 and 78 on aviation security. These are long overdue. I take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, who is perhaps coloured by the collaborative relationship that exists between the railways and the British Transport Police, and thinks that in this legislation we are trying to create something that is too onerous on the airports. My understanding of most British airports is that they are major multiple retail outlets in which people are obliged to spend long periods of time before they can get on their plane. They are major revenue-driving operations for the companies that own them. That one or two of the companies are having financial difficulties and some of them have been sold overseas is another matter.
If you want to operate an airport, it is surely a requirement upon you that you ensure that there is adequate security. At the moment, unless an airport is designated, it is possible for an airport operator to resist paying for any of the policing that goes with providing a safe and secure airport. I do not believe that that can be right. What concerns me about these clauses is not that they are there at all, but that they may be making it too easy for some airport operators to string out the process before they start paying for the costs of the policing to make those airports secure. There are considerable doubts about the proposals regarding the arbitration procedures. It looks to me as though they could result in significant delays to agreeing the plans in respect of particular airports. When my noble friend responds, I should like to hear a suggestion that a time limit might be imposed on the arbitration process, perhaps limiting it to a matter of a few weeks, so that we do not get a situation in which airport operators avoid paying for the costs of securing the people whom they corral in their airport so that they can spend a lot more money in the shops and outlets there.
I think this is a worth while Bill. It contains many valuable elements, and I am happy to support it.
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, he made an important point in relation to Section 44 and spoke about consultation with various groups, including focus group consultation. Has it really made any impact in relation to stop and search of black people in this country?
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for making that point. It is important to draw distinctions between the different sorts of stop and search. It was not the main focus of the consultation, but a strong element that emerged from it was about the powers under Section 44. Much of the disparity in terms of ethnicity occurs in respect of stops that take place under other sections, which were not the focus. That is a matter on which the police authority of which I am a member has been engaged over many years. Progress has been made, in particular, about the use of local consultation by police services on the circumstances in which blanket stops—Section 60 stops—are necessary and the way in which those stops are implemented. Progress has been made and that underlines the importance of proper consultation and of responding and changing policy as a result of that consultation.
My Lords, I welcome the Bill, as there is a general consensus that crime and policing legislation is in need of greater development. The Bill has the potential to introduce reforms that will not only result in the betterment of British society but may extend beyond our shores.
I acknowledge the measures taken since 1997 to provide greater policing accountability at community level. I had hoped that they would result in more officers out on the beat patrolling our streets. However, the statistics reveal that the majority of police officers spend only 14 per cent of their time on patrol, whereas paperwork accounts for approximately 20 per cent of their time. The Bill does not appear to make provision for a reduction in the time that the police spend on office administration. A real opportunity has been missed to address this issue. Very few police officers will testify to having entered the force because they were drawn by the prospect of being stuck in an office with paperwork. Evidence submitted to Sir Ronnie Flanagan's review of policing stated that in 2006 officers produced in excess of 79,000 stop-and-account forms, which took an estimated 25 minutes each to complete. I hope that the Bill will be strengthened during its passage through this Chamber to ensure that police officers are relieved of the bureaucratic burden so that they can carry out their many laudable duties.
I have previously spoken in your Lordships' House on the problem of human trafficking and I welcome measures to combat this evil practice. I think that we all agree that human trafficking is equivalent to modern-day slavery. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime not only prohibits human trafficking but actively requires countries to strive towards addressing the demand for sexual exploitation.
I support Clause 13, as it will ensure that those who engage in sexual activities with trafficked individuals receive tougher sentences. This is crucial and we hope that it will work as a deterrent to those who are tempted to engage in undesirable relations or in the exploitation of vulnerable people. It is safe to say that a large proportion of society views forced prostitution and human trafficking as wholly abhorrent practices.
With regard to strict liability, this may create some difficulties in enforcement. I would have thought that a serious crime of this nature required the mens rea element of criminal law. The absence of this condition may not sit well with some individuals. My concern is how a man establishes whether a woman has been forced into prostitution. He may not know the owner of the establishment or have met the woman before. We therefore need to look at these provisions fully in Committee.
I support the provision in Clause 20 that will enable courts to issue closure orders where there is evidence that premises are being used for activities relating to certain prostitution and pornography offences. This will help to eliminate undesirable activities and perhaps act as a deterrent to others. I also welcome Clause 18, which creates a new offence of soliciting to replace the existing offence of kerb-crawling. These provisions will, we hope, make our streets safe and stop decent women being accosted.
It is important that we take an holistic view of the problems of human trafficking and look at ways of protecting and rehabilitating women and children who have been subjected to trickery, intimidation and force. I would like to see more provision in this Bill for women who want to leave the sex industry generally. The average age of those who enter prostitution in Europe is frightfully low, at 14 years. Narcotic abuse is also a recurrent theme in the lives of most prostitutes, with a high proportion addicted to class A drugs. A vocal minority extols the virtues of prostitution and feels that it should be legalised, but I disagree with this contention.
I welcome Clause 25, as it increases the penalty for the encryption of indecent images of children from two years' to five years' imprisonment in cases of indecency in relation to children or of child exploitation. The abuse of minors in any shape or form is truly heinous; I am pleased that those who engage in this practice will be subject to tougher penalties. I express my gratitude to the Conservative Member for Mole Valley in the other place for his prudent stewardship of this item.
I also welcome Clause 28, which strives to lower the threshold of punishment for vendors who supply alcohol to minors. The provision will mean that an offence is committed if alcohol is sold to an individual under the age of 18 on two or more occasions within three months rather than on three or more occasions. However, this proposal is not far-reaching enough. Shopkeepers who persistently sell alcohol to children should be made aware that this behaviour may result in the permanent closure of their premises. Further measures must be put in place to encourage sensible drinking, as alcohol abuse has a direct impact on crime.
Approximately 1 million people were subjected to alcohol-related violence in 2007 and 2008, according to the British Crime Survey. This figure is compounded by the 26 per cent increase in alcohol-related admissions to A&E between 2005 and 2007. I strongly welcome the stance taken by Her Majesty's Official Opposition that local authorities should be given the power to apply 24-hour drinking laws at their own discretion. I have previously spoken in your Lordships' House on binge drinking. Binge drinking is a blight on our society, as it not only damages health and results in accidents and violence but breaks families and makes our streets unsafe in the evenings.
Clauses 96 and 97 relate to the provisions on the retention and destruction of DNA samples. I am aware that instances may arise when the retention of DNA samples contributes to protecting the public from danger, as identified by the Metropolitan Police. I acknowledge that the Government have made attempts to amend this provision in accordance with the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, but it is probable that the proposed retention periods will cause disquiet in certain quarters. To hold the DNA of individuals who have been arrested without charge on the presumption that they may commit an offence in the future could have undesirable implications, particularly for ethnic minorities.
I asked a Question in this Chamber exactly one month ago about the disproportionate number of black people who are stopped and searched compared with white citizens. Unfortunately, this trend is reflected in the DNA database, which contains information on approximately 40 per cent of black males in Britain compared with 9 per cent of their white counterparts. I therefore urge the police to exercise their powers with care and caution and ensure that there are reasonable grounds for arrest before taking anyone's DNA.
The retention of DNA generally needs to be scrutinised fully at later stages of the Bill. The powers that the police have under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act have already been criticised, as it is felt that a high proportion of people from the ethnic minorities have been stopped and searched under those provisions. We need to re-examine these powers when we consider the Bill's provisions to ensure that they are fair and equitable.
The Labour Party manifesto of 1997 famously espoused the maxim:
"Tough on crime and ... the causes of crime".
Twelve years have elapsed and there is very little evidence that this promise has been honoured. Violent crime has increased by almost 80 per cent since 1998, with an average of 400 knife crimes committed per week. I gain no pleasure from describing the disturbing situation in which we find ourselves. Crime and policing should not be party-political issues; it is in the best interests of society as a whole that we propose amendments and scrutinise this Bill, as that will produce tangible results.
My Lords, I would like to address some of the issues in the Bill that relate to children and young people. Clauses 29 to 32 relate to children and alcohol; Clauses 33 to 41 relate to gang-related violence; and Clauses 79 to 90 relate to the Independent Barring Board, which is now to be known as the Independent Safeguarding Authority, and its functions.
I shall deal first with the measures relating to children and alcohol. The noble Earl, Lord Rosslyn, made clear what a very serious issue this is in his excellent and very sensible speech, and I am delighted to find myself in very good company on this matter. I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich; it is nice to have the blessing of the Almighty. The whole approach of this part of the Bill is wrong-headed. It will probably be ineffective and could actually be harmful. I think I know how the UN's Committee on the Rights of the Child will judge it the next time it scrutinises UK compliance with the convention.
I refer first to the clauses that allow the police to confiscate sealed containers of alcohol from young people in a public place, the offence of persistently possessing alcohol in a public place, and extending the directions to leave a public place to children as young as 10 years old. We on these Benches believe that children and young people who drink in a public place should not be dragged into the criminal justice system. Giving them a criminal record will damage their future prospects for employment and will be little deterrent against what is fairly common teenage behaviour. Education and a welfare-oriented approach will be much more effective than criminal sanctions. The danger is that children who want to drink will be more likely to seek out quiet isolated locations in which to do it, which may put them at great risk, particularly at night.
I am also concerned that Clause 29 requires children to give their name and address to police, which will be used as evidence against them for the persistent possession offence in Clause 30. This requires them to incriminate themselves without an appropriate adult present, the significance of which they will probably not be warned about and certainly will not realise. Some of them may incriminate a completely innocent other young person by giving a false name and address, making it very difficult for the other teenager to disprove them.
Clause 30 also contains the words "reasonable excuse", which means that an individual police officer will have to use his own judgment as to what such an excuse is. Will the Minister tell us what the Government have in mind? Would a child taking groceries for his mother to his grandmother be committing an offence if there was a bottle of Guinness in the bag? Clause 30 is unprecedented in that it criminalises something done a certain number of times, which may not in itself be criminal. For example, if the child takes his grandmother a bottle of Guinness once or twice he does not commit an offence, but to do it three times would get him a criminal record. That is over the top.
Alcohol misuse is a serious health and social matter. I do not want to understate its seriousness, but I want to do what works. There are good examples of good practice that approach the problem in a very different way. Police in Lancashire have been accompanied by a nurse on their patrols of areas frequented by young people. She can provide health advice to young drinkers and help access to ongoing support. In Sefton, Merseyside, police and community wardens have litmus strips to test cans of soft drink for hidden alcohol. The parents of any young person found concealing alcohol like this will receive a letter from the local council's anti-social behaviour prevention team. Initial evaluation of this scheme suggests that it has reduced the number of young people involved in street drinking and has enabled persistent offenders to be offered real help and assistance. Surely measures like this are better than the early criminalisation of children.
Clause 31 extends the police power to issue "directions to leave" to children aged between 10 and 15. There is no requirement for the child to be drinking alcohol or be drunk or disorderly. I have great welfare and safeguarding concerns about this. There seems to be no obligation to take the child home or to a place of safety, as in other legislation about dispersal. The welfare of the child should be paramount in these situations. How can that be guaranteed if a child aged 10 is just moved on? In any case, other legislation already gives the police powers to take a child home or to a place of safety if he commits a breach of the peace or carries out threatening or abusive behaviour, or is found roaming the streets in the early hours of the morning. There are also curfew measures available. Why do the Government think it necessary to add to these existing powers?
I support measures to ensure that young people find it very difficult to buy alcohol. I realise that it can be quite difficult for shopkeepers, especially in supermarkets where the child is not known and may look older than his age. In my local shop, the shopkeepers know most of the children, so it is not quite so difficult for them. They have no excuse. I endorse the voluntary proof-of-age schemes. I also endorse the many very good alcohol education programmes available to schools, such as those produced by Tacade, a not-for-profit organisation of which I am pleased to be a patron. These are the ways to go.
I accept that we have a problem with gangs and some of them involve violence. Just the fear of violence that some gangs engender in local communities is a serious issue that damages the lives of law-abiding people. I understand that the Government are obliged to address the matter seriously. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich was right in suggesting that we should address the cause rather than the effect. This is a social problem. I believe that these measures go beyond what is appropriate for an injunction and are, in effect, an attempt to bypass the due process of the criminal justice system by using the civil courts. In doing so, they replicate some of the problems of other existing control orders and ASBOs. It is worth considering the purpose of an injunction. It is to restrain specified unlawful behaviour where the court is satisfied that it is ongoing or threatened and there is no alternative. It is entirely inappropriate to use an injunction to create an individual code of behaviour for a person to restrict their liberties and force them to behave in a certain way, particularly if they have not committed a crime.
These clauses are very widely drawn. The description of a gang in these clauses might apply to any neighbourhood football team or even something as innocent as a youth choir. Perhaps those of us who are sceptical about this part of the Bill should gang together under that very dangerous gang leader, the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and call ourselves the Bamboo Tendency. Seriously, I fear that these orders will be used disproportionately against young men, particularly black and ethnic-minority young men, as my noble friend Lady Harris of Richmond has pointed out. The police need to be very careful that these powers are used only where there is genuine violence or a serious provable threat.
There are serious doubts that Part 4 would be found to be compatible with the ECHR in domestic proceedings. In the case of McCann in relation to an ASBO, the House of Lords held that, given the seriousness of the matters involved, at least some reference to the heightened civil standard of proof should apply. It was decided that it was pragmatic that the criminal standard of proof should be indistinguishable from the heightened civil standard and that this should be applied in the case of ASBOs. Injunctions to prevent gang-related violence will in many cases involve more serious matters than those raised in ASBO applications, which are usually just neighbour nuisance and minor disorder. It is therefore not appropriate for a lower standard of proof to apply to gangs. Since these injunctions are not enforceable against children, it is really not appropriate to enforce them on adults for their own protection as we find in Clause 33(3)(b). It is also worth emphasising that contempt of such an injunction could lead to imprisonment. These sanctions are very serious, especially when the definition of violence in this case could refer just to damage to property, such as graffiti. Again, it is the usual hammer to crack a nut that we find from this Government. What evidence is there that these measures will be effective? Similar things have been done in the United States and not only have they not worked, they have been counterproductive and led to discrimination and stigmatisation of many innocent young people.
I have little problem with the powers of the new Independent Safeguarding Authority, other than those we rehearsed many times during the proceedings of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act. We still have misgivings that matters such as unsubstantiated allegations can be revealed to prospective employers and that there is no right of appeal in certain cases. I have no doubt that we will discuss them again in detail in Committee. The Government are already familiar with those arguments from these Benches. In the mean time, I hope that the Government will heed the many voices raised in concern about the inappropriate criminalisation of children in this Bill.
My Lords, like many other noble Lords who have spoken, I shall repeat much of the same ground because I want to comment on the provisions for alcohol. I support the notion of a mandatory code of practice because we need to do something about binge drinking. However, like so many who have already spoken, I have grave concerns about criminalising, in particular, those aged under 18. I fear that it might be counterproductive and could rebound quite badly. Between 2007 and 2008, there were almost 900,000 hospital admissions attributable to alcohol. About 87,000 incidents related to glasses and bottles, and about 70 per cent of accident and emergency attendances between midnight and 5 am, were attributable to alcohol. Although there has been a report of a fall in violent crime between 2001 and 2008, the proportion of alcohol-related violent crime sadly remains static.
We have heard many facts today. I will not repeat them all because there is no point. They will all be in Hansard for everyone to read. But we cannot get away from the fact that alcohol impacts on our health and behaviour in a very adverse way. It is alcohol misuse, not its appropriate use, which is the problem. In opening this Second Reading, the Minister outlined the proposed mandatory code of practice for licensed retailers, which includes pubs, clubs, supermarkets and off-licences. Particularly at a time of economic crisis, it is plausible to anticipate a lethal cocktail of increased alcohol consumption among consumers, combined with a stronger desire to purchase it cheaply. People might buy discounted alcohol in bulk wherever they can and then binge drink at home even before heading out for an evening. It is an awful sight to see youngsters going out on an empty stomach, half drunk and clutching a bottle. These over-18 year-olds can walk down the street, but if you look you will see a bottle poking out.
I feel for the landlord of a well run pub or licensed premises because he has a vested interest in ensuring that his customers are not completely intoxicated and do not impact adversely on others there. That incentive does not exist for the person on the supermarket check-out. The most vulnerable in our society—our children—are far more conspicuous in a local pub than they are in a supermarket check-out queue, where they can easily look older than they are and present fake identification. I welcome the Government's extension of the mandatory code beyond pubs and clubs, as do bodies such as the BMA, the Royal College of Physicians and other organisations.
I am concerned that well run establishments, many of which are finding it difficult to survive in the current economic climate when they are locked into already financially crippling franchise agreements, will find it potentially punitive and feel that they are further stigmatised within society, rather than being built on as a way of helping people understand how to drink socially and responsibly.
We need to ban irresponsible promotions such as "All you can drink for £10" or speed-drinking competitions. I do not know how many noble Lords have been at student events where the students spend a lot of money on their tickets, get dressed up, and then sit around the table having speed-drinking competitions, knocking back glass after glass until one of them finally falls over on the floor. They are then banned from the hotel, or wherever they have been, and they almost take a pride in the number of hotels and establishments that they have been banned from. Some of them, of course, end up in A&E and occasionally some of them die. Some of them fall under tube trains if they are in London, or fall out into the road and under vehicles if they are in other parts of the UK.
The mandatory code must tackle some of the socially embedded behaviours that encourage binge drinking. It must ensure that tap water is freely available everywhere people are drinking, that online and mail order outlets have robust age verification systems in place, and that smaller measures are available when people are buying their drinks.
The noble Earl, Lord Rosslyn, dealt comprehensively and superbly with the issues for children and I commend him on his speech. The real problem is that many of the children who are out there drinking come from chaotic home environments of low socio-economic status. If we drive them away from public places, we drive them into dangerous and secretive areas—perhaps along the sides of railway lines, behind high-rise blocks or in car parks—to drink in isolation where they are even more vulnerable. I worry that we are not changing the culture of youth drinking but driving young people into a criminalised fraternity, rather than rescuing them from a social environment that has promoted their drinking in the first place.
Children are sometimes under enormous peer pressure to drink and can develop a pride in having some kind of police record. We should empower the police to develop the "escort to home" policy, which they implement, humanely and brilliantly, on many occasions. They are then able to see what the child's home is like and possibly become the first point of alert that the child is in an emotionally and psychologically dangerous environment.
I welcome the Bill's attempt to tackle the culture of binge drinking, which is devastating not only to the individual but to our society at large. When we talk of cost, the price of alcohol misuse extends far beyond economic arguments to our most invaluable commodities: our health, our children and the very fabric of our society. We need to support the fabric for the future generation and not risk a situation arising where the police are faced with charging the younger brothers and sisters of those they have already charged for drinking in a public place.
My Lords, I intend to concentrate on Part 2, but first I welcome Clauses 104 to 108 relating to the football banning orders. I do not think that anyone has mentioned them so far, apart from my noble friend the Minister in opening the debate. They will ensure that those people who are banned from attending matches in England and Wales will also be banned from attending all regulated football matches in Scotland and Northern Ireland. This puts right an anomaly that has existed since the banning orders were first introduced in England and Wales in 2000. I commend the Government for including the proposal in this Bill. It is a most desirable change and will mean that the police will no longer have to obtain a banning order in more than one jurisdiction against any one individual.
I give notice that I intend to speak in Committee about Part 7, which deals with airport security. I shall argue in Committee—I shall not do so today—that the Bill provides an opportunity to extend the jurisdiction of the British Transport Police to operate within airports. The BTP is our only national police force which deals exclusively with the transport industry and I plan to table amendments which will allow your Lordships to consider this. I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, is vigorously nodding his head in approval.
Turning to Part 2, there has been no shortage of attempts over the years to reform the law on prostitution and sexual offences. I have raised these issues in the House on a number of occasions over the past eight years. I first did so during the passage of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001, which imposed new restrictions on "carding", the practice of placing cards advertising sexual services in phone boxes. That Act, I am afraid, had the effect of making it harder for women working in the relative safety of their own flats to receive clients safely, with the consequence that many were tempted to resume soliciting on the streets where the risk of serious assault is 10 times greater. I shall come back to that theme in a moment as I develop my argument.
That Act was followed in 2004 by the publication of the Government's consultation paper, Paying the Price, which, on looking back, is probably the most thoughtful contribution we have had as an attempt to look at the law on prostitution and to reform it sensibly. That consultation paper gave serious consideration to the possibility that local authorities would be allowed to sanction red light toleration zones, with sex workers licensed and regular health checks introduced. This approach is followed in a number of other countries, including Australia and Holland.
Paying the Price was followed by a White Paper in January 2006 and then, in 2008, by the criminal justice Bill which, in its original form, would have introduced compulsory rehabilitation under threat of imprisonment. On the surface, this appeared as a well-meaning effort to try to get people out of the sex industry. It was, however, opposed vigorously by a body called the Safety First coalition, which came into being after the dreadful murders in Ipswich. It is a remarkable collection of individuals and organisations, including religious groups such as Zacchaeus 2000, the Royal College of Nursing, the National Association of Probation Officers, Women Against Rape and the English Collective of Prostitutes.
The purpose of the coalition was to win support for the view that everyone deserves to be safe, regardless of gender, race, occupation or lifestyle. There was general agreement that tackling rape and violent crime are the real priorities and that decriminalising prostitution will assist with that. I spoke against the inclusion of the supervision orders at the Second Reading of the Bill in 2008, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, and happily, after a number of meetings with my noble friends who were then Ministers in the Home Office, it was decided to remove those clauses from that Bill and we saw no more of the proposal.
However, I am baffled that that provision is now back in this Bill. It means that anyone arrested for loitering or soliciting would have to attend three meetings with a supervisor approved by the court. It is not an alternative to a fine as failure to comply may result in a summons back to court and 72 hours in gaol. So you can envisage a situation where women could end up on a treadmill of broken supervision meetings, court orders and imprisonment. We must bear in mind that the sort of women who are working on the streets and are likely to be picked up are leading dysfunctional and disorganised lives. We are talking not about a regulated sex industry but about a very dysfunctional group of people.
Imprisoning women for this sort of offence goes totally against the recommendations contained in the report written by my noble friend Lady Corston in March 2007. I am sorry that she has not stayed for the debate; she made an interesting intervention early on and I want to answer the point that she made about Ipswich. If she reads this report, she will have the opportunity to see what I said, which is that the Safety First coalition was an Ipswich-based initiative and its approach is widely supported by the people of that town.
Clause 16 is being introduced with Clause 15, which widens the definition of "soliciting". It will make it easier for the police to arrest street workers and at the same time—this is the one welcome aspect of the clause—will abolish the definition "common prostitute". The other aspects of these two clauses, however, are undesirable. I do not see how the Government can justify defining soliciting as "persistent" when it takes place twice in three months, which is the provision in the Bill. "Occasional" would be a more accurate definition.
The question that we should always be asking ourselves, when looking at any legislative proposals on this subject, is: do they increase or diminish the safety of the women who are involved in the sex industry? To say that we want sex workers to be safe is not to condone their way of life, still less to express approval of it. But who are we to cast the first stone? What do we know of the considerations that make a mother or a young woman take such a step, especially during a recession? Is it not better to acknowledge that, whatever these considerations may be, sex workers are entitled, like the rest of us, to receive the security that the law can give them?
It is in that context that I ask my noble friend to look again at the "controlled for gain" provisions in Clauses 13 and 14 and the penalties contained within them. These clauses were significantly amended by the Government just prior to Report in the other place. Originally, it was to be an absolute criminal offence for a man to have sex with a person "controlled for gain" whether he knew it or not. This was based on a wholly misguided attempt to criminalise the clients of prostitutes, and drew heavily on the experience of Sweden, which has attempted something similar and where the results are far less successful than some people have claimed. Many commentators and academics, as well as police officers, take the view, and I agree with them, that criminalising clients drives prostitution underground and increases the dangers that women sex workers face.
In the new versions of these clauses, "controlled for gain" is replaced with "force, deception or threats", which is certainly an improvement. That is intended to help women who are trafficked or coerced into prostitution. I support what the Government are attempting to achieve here, because tackling the exploitation and trafficking of women and children is extremely important. I am concerned, however, that the offence will not help to tackle the problem of trafficking, and that it may diminish the responsibility of those who knowingly have sex with a trafficked woman. One of the main priorities in tackling human trafficking is targeting those people who orchestrate, control and coerce and, in doing so, profit from what is modern-day slavery.
The clauses as they stand provide for a person guilty of the proposed new offence only to be fined up to £1,000. Knowingly having sex with a woman who has been trafficked, and who is acting under coercion and not truly consenting, is akin to rape. The difficulty is—this was very much the view in debates in the other place—that a prosecution for rape in the circumstances where a prostitute is the victim, whether she is trafficked or coerced or not, would be most unlikely to succeed. It is extremely important not to treat trafficked women as a "no-go zone" for rape prosecutions simply because investigating the offence may be difficult.
What is indisputable, though, is that a £1,000 fine is a wholly inadequate penalty for an offence where a third person is forcing a prostitute to have sex with a client. It is not a minor offence. I support the view that has been expressed to a number of your Lordships by Liberty: that Clauses 13 and 14 should be withdrawn and the Government should consult on whether a new offence is necessary, which would have a more appropriate and proportionate penalty attached to it, and look at what is needed to enable successful prosecutions for rape, kidnapping, false imprisonment or any other relevant charges to be brought in against those who take advantage of vulnerable women. There is a huge difference between consensual situations where sex workers are working voluntarily and situations where women are being coerced and suffer violence.
Clause 20 and Schedule 2 amend the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to give police the power to issue a temporary closure notice in respect of any premises if the officer reasonably believes that within the previous three months the premises had been used for activities related to particular offences and the closure is believed to be necessary. I am concerned that here the Bill is strengthening the proceeds of crime powers without any consideration for the vested interest it promotes, since the police get to keep 25 per cent of any money seized during raids and prosecutions. This establishes the possibility of conflicts of interest that will be very difficult to resolve.
Safe premises are already being targeted. In December police raided premises in Soho, threatening receptionists with being charged with "controlling prostitution for gain". Receptionists are sex workers' first line of defence against violent attacks and exploitation, and if they are prosecuted, women will be left to work alone. This is something that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, and I saw together when we visited premises in Soho earlier this year. That would take us into the opposite direction to that where we should be heading. I would much prefer us to follow New Zealand's example and decriminalise all prostitution, both indoors and on the street. In the six years that their law has been in operation, women are safer and there is little evidence that I have seen which suggests that there has been an increase in prostitution.
I conclude on the question of premises with some words sent to me by a branch secretary from the Royal College of Nursing. She is called Carol Watts and is from Cambridgeshire, and she has given me permission to quote from the e-mail she sent to me and to a number of your Lordships last week:
"I am writing to you following our meeting of RCN Congress last week at Harrogate. During Congress I proposed a motion on behalf of Cambridgeshire branch 'that this meeting of RCN Congress would urge RCN council to lobby local government to allow up to 4 sex workers to work together legally before requiring a licence'. The proposal was for members to consider the impact that de-criminalising prostitution would have on these workers' access to healthcare and personal safety. The resolution was passed by 93.46 per cent to 6.54 per cent of all voting members, representing the whole of the UK".
I agree with her, and if amendments are tabled in Committee that would give effect to what this lady has written to me about, I shall support them.
My Lords, I welcome the Policing and Crime Bill and fully support its important provisions. Given my background of 35 years in the police service, your Lordships will not be surprised to hear that I shall concentrate first on those provisions concerned with the management of our police service.
Policing, like politics, is rarely out of the headlines. It is one of those community activities which while quietly getting on with the job of keeping us safe and secure can easily be taken for granted. It is when things go wrong that the police, for whatever reason, are perceived to be wanting. Critical headlines and columns of newsprint are then written. That is why it is so important for police officers, like politicians, to be accountable to the public whom they serve.
Policing is very important to the security and well-being of everyone in this country. However, the police service must operate within the rule of law. As we know, officers who overstep the mark could well find themselves, quite rightly, before the courts. The police are accountable to the law.
The job of policing has become far more difficult since I was policing demonstrations and interrogating suspects. The advance of science has made policing far more effective in many ways, with 17,500 crimes being detected by matching DNA in 2007-08, including no fewer than 83 homicides and 184 rapes. However, intrusive cameras can also be used to film the police at demonstrations, watching for every hint of overstepping the mark and being used, quite rightly, to call the police to account. Similarly, interrogations are now routinely recorded and filmed, thereby eliminating allegations that police officers have "verballed" suspects to get a conviction. But still there are demands for more accountability.
In this country, we police with the consent of the public. We do so as civilians in uniform, generally unarmed, with very few greater powers than has the average citizen in the street. But do we really know what the public want? In my experience, the expectations and demands differ from area to area. Noisy youths congregating and making noise and threats may be a problem in one community, whereas a spate of house burglaries and sneak-in thefts are causing a problem in another. Similarly, traffic congestion or road accidents at a local black spot may excite a village, whereas youths riding bicycles on pavements or jumping traffic lights can cause annoyance in a town centre.
There are now more than 14,000 more police officers and 16,000 community support officers than in 1997. This is money well spent, but we need to do more. Police can be made still more accountable and effective by getting them out of offices and reducing the volume of paperwork that they have to deal with. I welcome the work that is going on in this area.
I also welcome the provisions in the Bill that place a duty on police authorities to have regard to the views of the public on the execution of all their functions in their area. The new obligation placed on Her Majesty's inspectorate to monitor how police authorities perform this role is also to be welcomed.
I believe that the country that we live in has the finest police forces in the world and we should be vigilant to keep it that way. I forget who it was—it was perhaps a right reverend Prelate—who said, "In heaven, the cooks are French, the lovers are Italian, the police are British and the Germans organise everything; whereas in hell, the cooks are German, the lovers are British, the police are French and the Italians organise everything". Make of that what you will.
DNA has been mentioned. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, said that the problem is with the retention of DNA samples, which of course it is, because it is the samples retained on a database that we match against people who commit future crimes. Without the database, it would be very difficult to detect the cold-case crimes and the very serious crimes of murder. It would be helpful to learn from my noble friend the Minister how many serious criminal convictions have been obtained by matching against unconvicted people on the register—that is the nub of the argument. The retention of DNA also assists in clearing innocent people, which is quite often forgotten. It is not just about convicting the guilty, but clearing the innocent. We have seen the reversal of one or two miscarriages of justice assisted by DNA.
I now turn to the provisions on paedophiles, an area of the Bill which is extremely important for the protection of children. In my years as president of the Police Superintendents' Association, some 11 or 12 years ago, I campaigned vigorously for the setting-up of a register of paedophiles. It seemed to me to be critical to keep a tab on those who prey on vulnerable youngsters. To his credit, Michael Howard, the then Home Secretary, listened to the powerful arguments and the Sex Offenders Act 1997 was introduced. My right honourable friend Jack Straw then became Home Secretary and carried on the important work in this area.
Paedophiles cannot be treated or cured; they can only be controlled. Many of them welcome intervention to prevent their offending behaviour recurring. Where better to get access to youngsters than through a job in one of the caring services. We have seen the scandals that have taken place over the years, with young lives being destroyed by molestation by the very people whom they trust. It is a complete betrayal. I welcome, therefore, the provisions to simplify the process for employers to check individuals applying for work, paid or unpaid, with children or vulnerable adults. Red tape should not be allowed to obstruct the protection of children.
Paedophiles, like all other citizens, can now travel speedily to all parts of the world. They often network online, plying their vile trade and exchanging images. I therefore welcome the provisions to widen the circumstances in which sex offender prevention orders and foreign travel orders can be applied for. In this connection, I ask the Minister whether there are any proposals to create a European or even international paedophile register. Does he agree with me that the biometric passport will assist in monitoring the movement of such people?
Some 20 years ago, I spent some time with the FBI, particularly in the area of Los Angeles. I was very interested in the control of street gangs, which were causing tremendous problems. The problems seemed to reduce quickly. I asked one of the officers with whom I was working how they had managed to make an indentation into the problem of gang warfare in Los Angeles. Your Lordships will not be surprised to learn that it was through the use of civil injunctions. I therefore welcome the provisions on civil injunctions, which have worked in America. I hope that we can learn from the experience of the Americans. It is important that we learn from other nations and not just look within our own shores.
I conclude by seeking an assurance from the Minister that the monitoring of predatory paedophiles by police and other authorities will not diminish, as reported widely in the press last week. I hope that that does not occur; it is very important that people who prey on children are kept under the public eye. The police and the other authorities should be able to spend time keeping tabs on them. I commend the Bill to the House.
My Lords, we now come to the concluding part of the debate. I thank the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, for introducing this Bill. I have taken an interest in almost all Bills relating to the police and criminal justice in the past 10 years. I was therefore delighted that my noble friend Lady Miller invited me to take part by winding up this debate. In that time, I have seen the comings and going at the Home Office, with the departures of Jack Straw, David Blunkett, Charles Clarke and—please attach no blame, since I am on the Front Bench today—Jacqui Smith. The present Bill follows the same pattern that I have seen previously, with more legislation creating more criminal offences. I accept that some policing matters reflected in the Flanagan report need legislation, but the Bill lacks a clear strategy on matters of crime.
Two things stand out clearly. First, there is an insatiable appetite on the part of the Government to produce more criminal justice legislation. This has become a routine; we continue to increase the number of criminal offences, which directly affects all parts of the criminal justice system, including our prisons. The reason why the Bill lacks a clear strategy is that it is a collection of unrelated issues being brought together—a hodgepodge, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, described it. The examples are very clear: there are measures on police reforms, collaborative working among police forces and police authorities, prostitution, aviation security, alcohol-related disorder, and assets and extradition. Those are just a few of the many issues reflected in this Bill.
It would be helpful, if the Minister could give us some indication, to know how many new criminal offences are to be introduced by the Bill. It is a frightening thought, but I suppose that we can expect nothing less, since custodial options are often seen as a solution to combating crime. My noble friend Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer reflected on that in her contribution, so ably backed by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich.
Your Lordships' House is well aware that at almost all stages of previous Bills we have pressed the Government to look at what is appropriate and relevant. We believed that many of the measures introduced might not be activated or were not relevant. I am pleased that the Government have at last heeded this advice and that the Bill seeks to repeal unused or uncommenced legislation. I hope that we can continue to keep an eye on previous legislation and see whether there are other measures falling into that category. I suspect that this pattern will continue in future years, because badly and hastily produced legislation is difficult to implement and public confidence can be shaped only by the quality and not the quantity of legislation that the Government have produced. The latter seems to be the hallmark of this Government.
What will happen to national targets for policing, which were introduced in the Police Reform Act 2002? Many noble Lords have spoken today about Part 1 of the Bill. I single out my noble friends Lady Harris and Lord Bradshaw, as well as the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, the noble Lord, Lord Patten, who was a Minister at the Home Office, and the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey. They have more experience between them, I suspect, than those who have drafted Part 1 of the Bill. I hope that the Minister will take serious note of the comments—some of them positive but many negative—about the provision that we face in this legislation. I was delighted by the contribution from noble Lords with experience in policing matters, but there are other former senior police officers in your Lordships' House and it would be a privilege to hear their point of view when the Bill reaches its later stages.
I have some questions. Who is in charge of exercising the powers that the Home Secretary exercised until now in relation to performance targets? It looks as if we have turned full circle and are now back with the arrangements in the Police Act 1996. I have another concern about Part 1 on police reform. The Bill hardly represents the direction that the Government set out in the Green Paper. At that time, we welcomed the proposals, but what happened to them? What has happened to localism? Where is local accountability? Where do police authorities feature in the process? Where is more local democracy holding police forces to account?
I welcome the provision to take account of local views. Great play has been made of that approach, but it sounds hollow, since it cannot be enforced. It remains down to the generosity of police authorities to be able to undertake that task. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Patten, for his contribution on that point. What we are left with is that the Home Secretary has the power to give directions from the centre. This again smacks of centralised control. We would certainly wish to ensure that the Bill places a duty to collaborate where it would be beneficial to the local communities involved.
I now confine my remarks to one or two other issues—the Bill's provisions relating to soliciting and the introduction of a new form of criminal record certificate, a point touched on by my noble friend Lady Walmsley.
I welcome the general intentions behind the provisions of Part 2. It has always been indefensible that the law should prosecute, fine and, when fines are not paid, imprison prostitutes for soliciting but should take no action against those who use prostitutes and create the demand for their services. It has been particularly indefensible that women who were victims of sex trafficking have often faced deportation, whereas those who have colluded with this trade by using their services have faced no sanction.
This is where the arguments become very complex, because we tend to look for easy solutions. I support the intention behind the new offence of paying for sex with someone who is controlled for gain, in order to provide a deterrent that will reduce the demand. However, we should exercise great caution, as there are some important questions relating to the scope and enforceability of the provision. We can explore these in Committee. In particular, we should take note of the contribution on that point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, and the issues that she identifies.
There is a need to take a careful look at the convention on trafficking. Women who are trafficked are often in need of support and assistance. We must exercise great care to ensure that the action that we take does not drive prostitution underground. Is there any evidence that criminalising all men who use prostitutes will help the authorities to find and rescue those women in need of help? It might be helpful at some stage if such evidence were produced by the Home Office. If the legislation is devised as part of a co-ordinated approach that tackles demand but helps those who wish to escape the misery of prostitution, the situation will need careful monitoring. I ask the Minister to look at the international dimensions of this issue—the example cited was New Zealand—as almost all western countries are affected, to ensure that we do not add to the difficulties that women already face.
Clause 15, which abolishes the insulting legal term "common prostitute", is a welcome measure. I note that Clause 16 will enable courts to order a woman to attend three meetings with a supervisor, who can explore ways of helping her to find a way out of prostitution. That sounds very good, but let us not forget that we are dealing with those caught in a cycle of deprivation, who are often exploited and frequently victims of violence, poverty and abuse. Do they see such meetings as relevant to their life chances? There is of course a need for a constructive approach rather than fining prostitutes, which simply pushes them quickly back on the street to earn money to pay the fine. I am concerned about whether we have thought out our approach on this issue.
I question one aspect of Clause 18—the removal of the requirement for persistence before someone can be prosecuted for soliciting. We are talking about a group of women, and sometimes young men, who usually have a drug habit, are often homeless or victims of abuse and may have a range of health problems. Surely it is preferable to use cautioning, coupled where possible with constructive diversion programmes, on the first one or two occasions when they are found soliciting rather than prosecuting them and giving them a criminal conviction for their first or second offence. I appreciate why the Government want to remove the requirement for persistence before prosecuting kerb-crawlers, but I believe that different considerations should apply to prosecutions for soliciting.
I now turn to a different issue: criminal record certificates. The Bill amends the Police Act 1997 to enable the Criminal Records Bureau to supply a new form of criminal record certificate—the basic disclosure certificate—to employers with details of applicants who are seeking employment. The Police Act 1997 contained provision for three kinds of criminal record certificate: enhanced disclosure, standard disclosure and basic disclosure. The first two have been introduced and are widely used. They apply to people applying to work in sensitive occupations, such as work involving unsupervised contact with children and vulnerable adults, jobs related to national security, professions in areas such as health and the law, and senior managers in banking and financial services.
Basic disclosures have not yet been introduced but I understand that the Government intend to introduce them next year. When they are introduced, any employer could require any applicant for any type of job to produce a basic disclosure certificate. There is a real danger that that could lead to a large increase in discrimination against ex-offenders across the whole range of work opportunities. Some employers may refuse to employ applicants with a criminal record, whether or not the record is relevant to the job for which they are applying. If that happens, it will increase reoffending. Research studies show that ex-offenders who get and keep a job are between a third and a half less likely to reoffend than those who remain unemployed.
After the Police Act 1997 was passed, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research carried out a study asking employers about the likely effect of basic disclosure certificates. Employers said that they were likely to use basic disclosures for between 45 to 56 per cent of their vacancies. They said that they would reject applicants with criminal records for half these vacancies. Those with convictions that are more serious would be rejected for 90 per cent of vacancies. The research concluded that basic disclosure was likely severely to reduce employment opportunities for people with criminal records.
A study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation around the same time found that 41 per cent of employers thought that it was very likely and 31 per cent thought that it was quite likely that they would require basic disclosure certificates from job applicants. I raise the issue because the study strongly suggested that basic disclosure would heighten discrimination against ex-offenders. I ask the Government to think again about the wisdom of introducing a measure that could so easily cause more crime than it prevents.
If, however, the Government are determined to go ahead with this misguided measure, the argument for early reform of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act will be greatly strengthened. Basic disclosure certificates will not include details of spent convictions, so shortening the time after which offences become spent would at least go some way towards mitigating the damage that the introduction of those certificates could otherwise cause. I intend to introduce a Private Member's Bill in the autumn to reform the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. I trust that the Government, who have expressed support for reform, will support my Bill's passage on to the statute book and ensure that it is implemented before embarking on the introduction of basic disclosure certificates.
Over the years, we have created an oppressive criminal justice system. As we travel to different parts of the world, it becomes clear that we are criminalising more people at a relatively young age. That may satisfy the tabloids and gain a few more votes, but the price that we pay will be very high. There is a crying need to give leadership at the highest level to shape public opinion and not to follow it for short-term gains.
My Lords, the hour is getting on and I shall not detain your Lordships too long. This has been a very interesting debate. I thank the Minister for his very comprehensive introduction to the Bill, and, indeed, all noble Lords who have made such meaningful contributions.
As my noble friend Lady Hanham indicated, I shall concentrate my remarks on Parts 1 and 2 of the Bill, but I am afraid that I will be echoing my noble friend's concerns that the Bill misses many changes that are necessary to address the very real problems we are facing.
Part 1 is particularly frustrating in that regard. On these Benches, we have spoken a great deal about the need to improve the accountability of the police. We feel that the local community, including local businesses as well as the wider public, need to have a much increased role in the behaviour of the police force that is intended to protect them. My noble friend Lord Patten has spoken of his wish to see police authorities replaced with directly elected commissioners. My party adopts that policy.
I was pleased to see in the Green Paper From the Neighbourhood to the National, which addresses the Flanagan and Casey reports, the headings of empowering citizens and professionalising and freeing up the police.
In another place, the Minister made the usual Labour accusation that the Conservatives' desire to be fiscally responsible means that we are planning to cut thousands of police officers. Of course this is nonsense; we are actually planning to cut thousands of metres of red tape—something the Government are perfectly aware could be done, if only they put their mind to it, as their own figures show. The Home Office budget must not be wasted on management consultants; nor must police officer man-hours be wasted on form-filling, a point that has been gone into in some detail by my noble friend Lord Sheikh.
Of course, we are pleased to see the new duty in Clause 1, although it is not as much as we had hoped. However, we have concerns about the new statutory nature of ACPO. At Second Reading in another place, my honourable friend Chris Grayling referred to the role of ACPO. He asked:
"Is it an external reference group for Home Office Ministers, or a professional association protecting senior officers' interests? Is it a national policing agency, or is it a pressure group arguing for greater police powers?".—[Hansard, Commons, 19/1/09; col. 528.]
I hope that that subject will be addressed in Committee.
Similarly, although we are pleased to see the Government taking steps to encourage collaboration between forces, we are disappointed by their continual failure to address the burden of bureaucracy about which I have just spoken.
On Part 2, I completely agree with noble Lords who have shown their concern at the growing number of women and children trafficked into prostitution in this country. More must be done to punish those benefiting from this disgusting trade, and those being exploited must be rescued. Once again, however, we are presented not with a comprehensive set of measures which will make a genuine difference to those who are suffering but with a policy that has run into such controversy that the Government have already been forced to make similar changes to their initial proposals and are likely to have to make several more before the Bill's proceedings are completed.
We are particularly glad that the Bill contains a much more precise definition of what being controlled for gain comprises and the associated question of strict liability. There are, as your Lordships have mentioned, other concerns about the implementation of this offence. For one, the penalty seems extraordinarily low for the crime—a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner. The Bill's other provisions will also need to be looked at carefully to ensure that they do not have the unintended consequence of driving women on to the street or of discouraging children from seeking the help that they need.
On the overall subject of Part 2, my noble friend Lord Sheikh and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich pointed out that one criticism of this part of the Bill could be that there is a tendency to resort to further legislation as a solution to the age-old problems posed by prostitution. Surely we must look for more imaginative and community-based solutions, a subject to which the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, has given such thoughtful consideration. I must pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, for his very thoughtful intervention on the whole question of prostitution.
I shall not say much about Part 3 except that the interventions of the noble Earl, Lord Rosslyn, the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and my noble friend Lord Patten on the issue of alcohol-related behaviour have just highlighted the expertise in this House on the subject of how to address it. The issue will need to be further fleshed out in Committee, and we shall take a large part in that.
As I and my noble friend said, the Government have missed yet another opportunity to implement genuinely effective policies in these areas. As my noble friend said, we are again being presented with a patchwork of disparate measures. However, I am sure that the House will seek to exercise its customary role to scrutinise and improve the legislation, possibly in the pious hope that this Bill will not need the improvements and adjustments in the future that it is in fact making to previous legislation. Not for the first time, we shall seek to insert in the later stages of the Bill the most important of the provisions that the Government have left out.
I look forward to the Minister's response to the many points raised in the debate, and I look forward to the Committee proceedings.
My Lords, this debate has, as usual, been very constructive, and I thank all noble Lords who have taken part. I have to say as a relative newcomer to this House that I agree with a number of the speakers. I am surprised at how little time seems to be given to some legislation in the other place. It is a very important function of this place to provide some. I am glad that we can give these Bills more time and look at them in great detail. Today's contributions have already demonstrated the remarkable depth of knowledge in a number of areas. It is important that we can take these matters into account. It is also not surprising that there have been all these inputs because the Bill is important and wide-ranging. The Bill has been called a hotchpotch but, as I said, it contains different and important provisions. As has been highlighted, we will go into some of them in great deal in Committee and on Report. I welcome that. It is important that it should happen.
Before going any further I should mention that my noble friend Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate talked about the complexity of policing now. I think that all noble Lords would agree that we have the most remarkable police force. One can always highlight problems here, there and everywhere, but we are supported by the most remarkable police force. I think that we all have nothing but admiration for the vast majority of them and the amazingly difficult job they do, which is increasingly difficult in this modern age.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, ran through a number of issues which other speakers covered later. She expressed nervousness about the issue of gangs, gang-related activity and the fact that the Bill provides for a civil order. However, the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, said from his experience of talking to the Americans that civil orders work well against gangs. When I travel round the country talking to local authorities and local groups I find that some local people regard ASBOs, which are similar to civil orders, as very successful.
The noble Baroness also touched on extradition and the JCHR's concerns there. I think that there will be a considerable and reasoned debate on the issue but I shall not go into it now. A number of speakers also touched on the issue of DNA. My view on this issue is very different from that of some people, but, judging by the comments made today, I think that we will have a useful exploration of it. There is no doubt that many feel very passionately about it. I could produce one family after another who could tell your Lordships that the only reason why the murderer or rapist of their loved one was caught was access to DNA held on the database. The person may not have been found guilty after the DNA was taken but it was still sitting there on the database. There are some truly emotive issues here and they need to be developed.
The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, touched on the Home Secretary's resignation. I have to say that I have been very impressed by the Home Secretary and have liked working for her. She has had a focused bad press, and I fear that part of the reason for it is the fact that she is a woman. She is the first woman to have held the job, which is remarkable and a great achievement. In a few years' time, when all the froth, phlegm and everything else dies down, the situation can be looked at properly and I think that she will be seen as a good Home Secretary. She is also the first woman to have done it. It is unfortunate that there has been such a focus against her. She is a good woman and I have enjoyed working with her.
The noble Baroness mentioned that we cannot solve problems by locking people up. I could not agree more. This point was touched on by a number of speakers. That is certainly not what we are trying to do. There has to be a balance between the public's demand that those who commit crimes should be caught and punished and trying to give people opportunities to develop, to look after them and to bring them on. I understand that. It is certainly not our intention to criminalise everything and to try to put ever more people into prison. Overall, however, apart from some serious aspects of crime on which the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, touched, crime has dramatically decreased over the past 10 years or so. We have had success in this area.
The noble Baroness also touched on Clause 2 and the sex industry, as did a number of other speakers. There are some really big issues here which need to be developed and I have considerable sympathy with some of the views expressed. We have to ensure that we make these women safer, not less safe. We also have to stop trafficking, rules on which are already in place. We have to look at it very carefully. The intervention from the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, demonstrated that there are different views on the issue. We need a real debate on it and to go into it in depth. I welcome that as well.
I was specifically asked whether the gang provisions will be used against under-18s. They will not. They are aimed very much at the very serious gangs identified in the Bill. They are aimed very much at the sort of people who carried out that shooting on the M4, where they shot a chap in the head. It is those sorts of gangs, not the gangs on the street corners in Hackney where I have visited. The provisions are aimed not at those youngsters but specifically at these very serious gangs who are a real worry to the police, who have to do something. As I say, my noble friend Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate described how in America they have resolved this issue in a similar way. We have also found the experience in Birmingham useful, which has encouraged us to go down this route.
The noble Baroness also touched on cybercrime, where we have really got our act together now; we had not two years ago. A huge amount of work has gone on. I chaired the national security forum the other day, where we looked at this. It is going to NSID, the Cabinet committee that looks after our security. We are now well on track on this, and there will be some interesting work on it coming out this summer based on that.
I cannot agree on the issue of US/UK extradition. The difference of guilt required used to be very unbalanced. It is now very closely balanced, but we can debate that when we get to this point in Committee and on Report. There was also some talk, as touched on by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich, of these things being rather like control orders. They are very different, and I could go through a whole list of the reasons why; I will not because we will no doubt do so in Committee.
I thank the noble Earl, Lord Rosslyn for his input. It was a remarkable tour de force on the problem of alcoholism, which a number of other speakers touched on. It is really awful. In parts of Britain at times it is like Hogarth's engraving "Gin Lane". I know from my time in the Navy that about 90 per cent of serious crimes that I saw at my table had alcohol as part of the problem. I am afraid that the same is true in civil life. It is a difficult area and we are trying to get to grips with it.
I understand the issues of, and concerns about, child protection. We will have to tease out the real issues there during the passage of the Bill. We must try to get to grips with it. We are taking a comprehensive approach with our alcohol action plan, but we must make absolutely certain that we do not put very young children in danger by moving them on—I will go into more detail on this a little later, if necessary. We will ensure that the police are aware of these risks. They have other abilities to ensure that these youngsters are looked after and taken home, or whatever, so that that does not need to happen.
I agree absolutely with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich that legislation cannot solve everything. However, we have had a major impact on the reduction of crime—not by criminalising everything, but there is an element of being quite hard and focused on ensuring that people are punished if they have done something wrong. However, we have also done other things to make life better, to look after people and to drag them out of poverty. Sadly, we are in a world with a requirement for punishment; I do not think that there is a nirvana where that does not exist. With the prostitution measure, we are trying to look at rehabilitation much more. If we are not achieving that, I hope that it will be debated and come out in Committee. I could go on at great length about Clause 29 lowering the bounds of criminality and things like that but, looking at the time, these things will come out in Committee.
The noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, talked about a consolidation Bill. I have sympathy with this. There has been a huge amount of legislation. I would rather like some way of simplifying and consolidating it, as the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, also mentioned. However, I am afraid that I cannot promise that something like that is happening. We intend doing it on immigration, and there would be a lot of merit in doing so here but it is not happening at the moment.
As has been touched on by a lot of speakers, we are doing a great deal of work to reduce police bureaucracy and red tape. A lot of these things were identified in the Green Paper and other studies, by Flanagan and others. We are still not there, but we have done a great deal and intend to do even more. However, we should be proud of the fact that we have put huge investment into the police. There has been a dramatic increase in numbers from when we came into power in 1997.
A lot of the stuff we are doing in collaboration and police careers is because, when it is looked at locally, people do not see the overall picture. I have noticed in the military, for example, that we spot young officers, grow them, send them to the right slots and say, "This man could be an admiral one day". We do that very carefully, but it is not really done in the police because it is so broken up. That needs to be done, and we hope that this will help us to move down that sort of route. It is the same with senior appointments, where one can look at what this means for jobs that they might do in the future.
The noble Baroness, Lady Stern, touched on the issue of the prostitution measures being counterproductive —I think I have covered that—and the concern of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. Again, we will have to address exactly what it has raised on these issues. She eloquently showed the real issues of being trafficked and the real problems that these poor women have to get into the position that they are in. As I say, we are aiming more at rehabilitation. We will have to debate whether we are actually achieving that. The noble Baroness also asked me whether I had been up to Glasgow. I was educated in Clydebank, but I am afraid that I have not been up to look at the set-up there. I will certainly find out about it. Some good things are clearly being done there.
I have a number of answers I could go through on aspects of collaboration using the current Section 23 and the fact that the Secretary of State already has a power to mandate collaboration. There is no point in going into this because we will debate these issues at length. Similarly, on the issue of the clauses giving too much power to the Secretary of State, there already is a senior appointments panel. Putting it on a statutory footing will increase its independence. Again, however, we will have more of a debate about that.
The noble Baroness asked me if anyone would phone anonymously on the prostitution issue. I think that they might do because, of course, it is anonymous, and they would therefore not be giving anything way—but one cannot be absolutely sure of that. Our aim is to do more on supporting routes out of prostitution. Perhaps we are not doing enough, and this can come out in Committee. My noble friend Lord Simon really raised the same issues on prostitution that have been covered by a number of other noble Lords. As I say, this will have to be debated.
The noble Lord, Lord Patten, asked about the cost of civil servants' time. It is a good question. When I was a younger officer in the MoD in the 1980s and early 1990s, people were not putting in the order for the amphibious shipping that I felt was absolutely essential. It was delayed year on year and I kept trying to find the details of that cost. I think the noble Lord knows that getting those costs out of the Civil Service is remarkably difficult, so I cannot give him precise costs for that Civil Service time—plus ça change.
The noble Lord talked about reducing red tape. As I have said, we have done a great deal on that. I have great faith in the police's adaptability and ability to look at legislation and use it in a sensible way, rather than as if they have been driven down a particular route. I share the noble Lord's view that large swathes of the West Country do not seem to have any Labour councillors. Clearly, he feels that this is a great loss and we will have to do something about that.
The noble Lord, Lord Patten, talked about whether this large package of measures will actually make any difference at all. They will. I believe that the measures to toughen the offence of having alcohol and being moved on—the £2,500—will. There will be signs saying how much it is. It brings it in line with the maximum penalty for similar offences. It will play a small part in the totality of all these things. I think that it will make a difference. I can honestly say to the noble Lord that I have absolutely no desire to be the Home Secretary. I say that quite happily on the Floor of the House and he can quote me on that as much as he likes. However, I thank him for all the praise that he lavished on me as he was leading me down that route.
As regards the Blunkett review on police accountability, I understand that the findings of the report on how to make the police more accountable will feature in the Labour Party manifesto. I could go into a whole raft of issues about reducing bureaucracy and red tape but I do not think tonight is the time to do that. As I say, I think we have quite a good record on that but we can do more, and we must do more. Some of the statistics touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, and others regarding the percentage of time people spend filling out forms show that something is wrong. We need to get people out on the beat doing things.
I strongly support the views expressed by my noble friend Lady Henig about selecting commissioners. I know the policy of those opposite on this matter. It sounds a bit like sheriffs and what is happening in America and I cannot say that I think it is a particularly good idea. I also agree with her about the problems we have with our 43 police forces and some of the small ones and getting them to work together. We are trying to achieve something in that area.
It is useful to have noble Lords with a depth of knowledge such as the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, acquired during his time with the Thames Valley Police. He spoke about the number of officers who were removed from that area by the previous Government. I think he would be the first to agree that we have put huge resources into that area. There is a huge number of extra police there. If we can drive down the red tape more, that will be even better and the police will work better. The noble Lord asked whether I had visited inner-city areas and seen what they were like. I live in Hackney and I regularly walk down through to get the Bethnal Green tube, and I go to Stepney and Shoreditch. Therefore, I do know those areas. Although at certain times of night and at the weekend things can be a little bit tricky, compared with the situation when I went there many years ago, lots of things are much better. There are lots of areas in our inner cities where things are better. There are still some horrible parts but I do not think that we need to talk ourselves down too much in this regard. We have done a lot to improve some parts and that is a good thing. Going back 40 years, there were areas that were horrible ghettos where no one ever went to and no one could really get out of. Therefore, we had no visibility of them. That has changed now and that is a good thing.
As regards Surrey, which is not part of the Bill, all I would say is that it is a good aspiration to keep council tax down. Only two forces in the country have not been able to do that and keep within the cap—Surrey is one of those. The other police forces in the doughnut surrounding London do not have the same problem, so I am not completely convinced about the problems that noble Lords have talked about. I know that we have debated that on the Floor of the House.
The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, mentioned speaking to the Home Office about strategy and things. I personally am a great believer in mission command. One should make very clear to the people who work for you what your head mark and main aim is and then let them get on with it. That is a very good way of doing things and if they get it wrong, you chop their legs off. One of the problems in government is that it is very difficult to chop people's legs off for doing things; it was much easier in the military. However, I am not saying that I should go around chopping people's legs off. The noble Lord raised the very valid issue of co-ordination, but, my goodness me, it is complex and very difficult. However, it is a very good point. I would like to think that I have done this in the counterterrorist arena over the past two years, but it is not easy. It is a very difficult thing, but with counterterrorism, in terms of all the bits and pieces, it is easier to achieve this with than all of the issues that the noble Lord was talking about. But I think that we have to try to go down that route. It is a good point and we have to think very hard about trying to achieve that. The noble Lord also touched on Surrey, but he has heard what I have said on that. Whenever I think of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, I now have this vision of a panda because when bamboo flowers, that is when the pandas eat it. So I have this vision of a panda whenever I think of him. I have to say that I have never thought of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, as a humble Cross-Bencher. That had never really struck me, but still.
My noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey made an eloquent speech on Part 1 in which his experience in the Metropolitan Police Authority was clearly shown. He asked why the Audit Commission was not on the face of the Bill. That is because it gets its power of inspection through local government legislation while HMIC gets it through the Police Act. That is the reason for that. He also touched on the dangers of the measure conflicting with other Acts. That is something we will have to look at but I was grateful for his support for the airport security measures, which I think are important. He asked about the time limit on arbitration. We need timely resolutions. The matter is flexible but we might need to address that.
The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, spoke eloquently of her concerns about children, alcohol and reasonable excuse. This is a very difficult matter. I have been given examples by officials in the Box of a young person having a part-time job that required him to deliver alcohol—that would be a reasonable excuse—or helping a family member or another to transport alcohol. However, I accept and understand what she is saying. This is a difficult matter. I have faith in the police to apply those sort of things sensibly but I understand where she is coming from on that. The noble Baroness touched on gangs and youngsters. But, as I say, the gang measure is very much aimed at these very specific, very serious gangs. The Bill explains what they are like. We are not really going for the small groups of youngsters on street corners. As I say, we have found that this gangs measure was very valuable in Birmingham. The noble Baroness asked whether that was the case. She asked why we thought that we needed to issue directions to someone to leave a place in Clause 31 given the availability of other curfew powers. Sometimes it is more appropriate to use the light touch power to move people on rather than institute a curfew or invoke the other powers. Again, it is a question of balance in dealing with both those things. In terms of alcohol related directions to leave a place, I think it is probably best to leave this to Committee as there is a long, complex argument on why this makes sense. I think that it makes sense to wait until then.
The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, went into the whole issue of alcohol. I got the feeling that she supported the fact that we are trying to do something there and that we are not trying to get at people who drink normally. I enjoy a drink and I think that most people do. It is a matter of doing it sensibly. The problem is the heavily focused binge drinking, which is disastrous. I was very glad of the noble Baroness's general support for those various measures.
A number of noble Lords asked about what, I suppose, is a carrot-and-stick approach to things, and whether we are just focusing on punishing people or whether it goes a little wider. The answer is that we are looking at things like personal, social and health education, and education on alcohol. We launched a £4 million media campaign to challenge attitudes to drink; so we are trying to do a lot of things in the alcohol arena.
I thank my noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester for his general support for some of these measures, but I absolutely take his point on Part 2, which a number of noble Lords touched on. It is an issue on which there will be a long and interesting debate.
I have already thanked my noble friend Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate for his support, and I assure him that we are continuing the monitoring of predatory paedophiles. That will not reduce. I gave some figures in my opening address, but as a guide in rough-handful terms, as regards the retained DNA of people who had not been found guilty of anything, between April 2004 and 2005 about 3,000 offences were matched, and a lot of those were very serious.
The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, very eloquently rounded up on a number of issues that had been touched on in the debate. He talked about national targets, police reform and what had come out of the Green Paper. As we look at Part 1 in Committee, we can develop the arguments on those important issues. Again, he raised the issue of Part 2 and prostitution, and we shall have to debate that. All of us are completely against trafficking and the exploitation of women in this way; they are treated really badly. It is a question of how we can best handle that to make them safer and to solve some of these problems. We must not drive this under ground. The points that the noble Lord raised on the CRB and disclosures was interesting, and there will be an interesting debate on that. On the Private Member's Bill on rehabilitation of offenders, I get into enough trouble as it is. If I stood here and said, "Yes, the Government will support it", I would be terribly told off, so I had better not say anything at the moment. However, I await with interest to see how that goes.
The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, mentioned red tape. We have actually dramatically driven down the number of management consultants we use in the Home Office. I think that too many consultants are used across government, so I have instituted something whereby every month my man who is responsible for contracts comes to tell me how he has reduced the number. We have some very good people and we do not want to keep using consultants and paying them flipping great wodges of cash, so I am driving the number down. I think that we have done quite a lot there. I look forward to a very interesting debate on the status of ACPO—as I am sure ACPO will. One always gets different views from ACPO, so it is always interesting dealing with it. The noble Viscount was absolutely right to raise the danger of unintended consequences; we have to be really careful about that and it always has to be thought about.
I know that I have not specifically answered every question. I could have done, but I hope that I have given a flavour of where I am coming from. I thank all noble Lords for the part that they have played in this debate. It has been very enlightening and shows this House at its best by exposing those issues at Second Reading. Strangely, I actually look forward to continuing our discussions in Committee. I commend the Bill.
Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.