Clause 6

Serious Crime Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 28 June 2007.

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Type of provision that may be made by orders

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

I beg to move amendment No. 96, in clause 6, page 5, leave out lines 22 to 24 and insert—

‘(1) The Court may make orders specified in subsections (3), (4) and (5) below.’.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 97, in clause 6, page 5, line 29, leave out ‘Examples of’.

No. 98, in clause 6, page 5, line 31, after ‘orders’, insert ‘may’.

No. 99, in clause 6, page 5, line 40, leave out ‘Examples of’.

No. 100, in clause 6, page 5, line 42, after ‘orders’, insert ‘may’.

No. 101, in clause 6, page 6, line 4, leave out ‘Examples of’.

No. 102, in clause 6, page 6, line 5, after ‘orders’, insert ‘may’.

No. 103, in clause 6, page 6, line 25, leave out from ‘orders’ to ‘prohibitions’ in line 27 and insert ‘may not include’.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

The purpose of these amendments is effectively twofold. It is to strike out subsection (1) and to modify subsection (3).

May I remind the Committee that—[Interruption.] Was it my handkerchief or am I perambulating?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

Order. It was the handkerchief that caught my eye. [ Laughte r .] The right hon. and learned Gentleman was not out of order but he was not perhaps quite as sartorially elegant as he ordinarily is. [ Laughter .]

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

I was wondering whether I was strolling around the place. [ Laughter .]

Anyway, the purpose of this group is twofold: to strike out subsection (1) and to modify subsection (3).

I remind the Committee that the definition of serious crime includes anything that the court wishes to treat as a serious crime. We have already had that debate. The language will be found in clause 2(2)(b).

We need to keep it in mind that the background is not just the defined offences but any other offence that the court thinks appropriate. Then one goes to clause 6(6) and we find something rather similar, because the various specific powers that are referred to in clause 6(3)—which are draconian, and have already been referred to by various hon. Members—are only examples. We are not confining the power of the court to the categories that are set out. The court can, in fact, make any order that it thinks appropriate; we go back to the language of clause 6(1). The various examples are but examples and they extend right across the spectrum of human activity: who the person meets; where they go; the type of business that they undertake; what they do with their financial arrangements, and this and that. It extends to the power to prevent a person from living in a particular place, or requiring a person to live in a particular place. I think that it would enable the court to impose curfew orders, which, as we know, are a form of house arrest.

There is no limitation to these powers, which is, of course, one of the reasons why in previous debatesI have tried to introduce the criteria of justness, proportionality and reasonableness, but I failed. This is an important clause, because it gives the power to the court to do anything that the court thinks appropriate. I cannot, cannot, cannot believe that that is right, and I really think that if this House understood what was being said and done in this Committee it would be deeply shocked.

The truth is, Mr. Bercow—you and I know this, as we have been in the House a very long time—that most Members do not read Bills, and they do not read Committee proceedings either. Most Members do not know what is happening and the Executive can do pretty well what it pleases, because of the rubber stamp procedures that, I am afraid to say, we have created in this place. I happen to believe that this Bill is a scandal and I really believe that a House of Commons that was unfettered and voting freely, probably secretly, would never pass this sort of thing. I very much hope that the  Minister will reflect on whether it is right to give the court the power to make any order, of which this measure is but an illustration.

Photo of Nick Herbert Nick Herbert Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I rise once again to support my right hon. and learned Friend’s amendments. We, too, have concerns about the broad scope of the provisions in clause 6(3) and the extent to which the prohibitions that are set out are only examples of conduct and activity that may be prohibited or restricted or the requirements that may be imposed under the serious crime prevention order. It is a non-exhaustive list and the purpose of the amendments, as my right hon. and learned Friend explained, is to make it an exhaustive list.

The restrictions in the making of control orders are similar to those set out in the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005. There are close analogies between control orders and the serious crime prevention orders proposed in the Bill. In considering whether the restrictions are reasonable, it is important to look at  how control orders have been interpreted by the courts, how they have fared and, in particular, their use in relation to detaining people in their homes, which is the subject of huge controversy and is permitted in relation to serious crime prevention orders in the Bill.

There is an important difference, to which the hon. Member for Wrexham drew attention, in that the serious crime prevention orders are made by the courts and not by the Executive, although my right hon. and learned Friend explained the extent to which the Executive has an important role in all this. By contrast, control orders are made by the Executive.

It is also important to note the absence of a safeguard in making these very onerous restrictions in clause 6(3): under the control order legislation in section 8 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the prosecution—

It being twenty-five minutes past Ten o’clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at Two o’clock.