Clause 11 - Obstruction etc. of officers

Health Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:30 pm on 13th December 2005.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health)

I hope that I am making my intentions more and more apparent and springing to my feet with greater and greater alacrity, despite the fact that we are nearly finished.

The clause is reasonably straightforward. It concerns the obstruction of officers, which we have dealt with to some extent. We are all worried about the possible effects of the Bill on those who are entrusted with its enforcement. That point is worth restating. My only other point is a question about subsection (4). Again, it brings us back to where we peg the offence on   the standard scale. It is set at level 3. Can the Minister justify that, because it is fairly high? We do not seem to be talking necessarily about visiting physical violence on people, but merely being obstructive and, in other words, not being helpful. Some explanation of that would be helpful.

Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health)

The offence has been set at that level because it is in line with advice from the Home Office about other occasions when people obstruct the course of justice and refuse to comply by providing information. It is as straightforward as that. While I accept that we are not necessarily talking about a violent situation—although some comments have suggested that a huge amount of violence will be encountered in trying to enforce the Bill—regardless of an offence, whether it is violent or not, to obstruct the course of justice is a serious matter. We should therefore have parity with the levels that apply to the offence in other circumstances, particularly when someone is trying, in good faith, to carry out their responsibilities under the law.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 11 ordered to stand part of the Bill.