Clause 17 - Inspections

Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:15 pm on 11 January 2005.

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Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 5:15, 11 January 2005

I beg to move amendment No. 88, in clause 17, page 9, line 37, leave out 'jointly by HMIC and'.

The amendment deals with the arrangements for Scotland where there is an inspection of SOCA's activities conducted entirely in Scotland. The provisions of subsection (3) require that:

''Any inspection under this section must be carried out jointly by HMIC and the Scottish inspectors . . . if it is carried out wholly in Scotland, or . . . in a case where it is carried out partly in Scotland, to the extent that it is carried out there.''

If this is to be a joint affair, I can see no justification for the inspectors in Scotland not to be wholly responsible for what takes place in Scotland. Indeed, it is an extraordinary extension of the powers of HIMC for England and Wales that it should have any responsibility for activities that take place wholly in Scotland. It is therefore much more appropriate that the reference to ''jointly by HMIC'' should be left out of the arrangement. It is quite clear that HMIC and the Scottish inspectors will co-operate to a very great extent in their inspection regimes for SOCA, and it is quite appropriate that both should be involved when an inspection covers both England and Scotland, but it   is entirely inappropriate that HMIC should expressly be involved in inspection arrangements for matters that take place entirely in Scotland under Scottish law with constables who are trained, as we are told, to Scottish legal requirements. I do not believe that HMIC has a locus in such matters, which is the basis on which I propose the amendment.

Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) 5:30, 11 January 2005

I hope that my comments will reassure the hon. Gentleman about why we consider joint arrangements practical and in the interests of inspection. SOCA will be a UK-wide body and we have sought to put in place UK-wide arrangements, wherever possible. As we have said before, criminals have no respect for internal borders, let alone international borders. It would be artificial and counter-productive to have separate inspection arrangements in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on the one hand and in Scotland on the other. However, I fully accept that, as they will have the appropriate knowledge of Scottish police forces and of the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency. Scottish inspectors have a role to play relevant to an inspection of SOCA's activities in Scotland. The Bill therefore provides for joint inspections by Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary and its Scottish counterpart. That is a sensible and workable arrangement that we have agreed with the Scottish Executive.

We want to encourage close collaboration between the various criminal justice inspectorates rather than reinforce the existing division of responsibilities. As such, the amendment would be detrimental to the arrangements for monitoring the efficiency and effectiveness of SOCA, so I invite the hon. Gentleman withdraw it.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Devolution obviously goes only so far. HMIC inspectors from London, England, will go out to make sure that the Scottish inspectors know what they are doing. I do not find that entirely satisfactory, and were I a Scottish MP, I would find it repugnant. However, the silence from those quarters suggests the Scottish members of the Committee have been whipped into line and are not willing to express an opinion on behalf of their constituents. In the circumstances, it seems appropriate that I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 17 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 18 to 21 ordered to stand part of the Bill.