New Clause 5

Serious Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:45 am on 10 July 2007.

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Central record of serious crime prevention orders

‘A detailed central record shall be kept of every order made, varied or discharged under Part 1.’.—[James Brokenshire.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

We seek certain protections and assurances by virtue of this and other new clauses that we that we would like to add to the Bill. New clause 5 imposes a requirement for serious crime prevention orders to be recorded on a central register and for any order made to vary or discharge such orders also to be recorded on that register. We believe that that would be sensible, given the wide-ranging powers that the Government seek to take in relation to the Bill.

The Committee will be aware of the reservations that have been expressed by various hon. Members about the serious crime prevention orders. We need to ensure that a clear record is kept of how many of these orders are issued, given that only around 30 of them are expected to be allowed each year. We also need to monitor closely who is receiving the orders and what restrictions and terms are being imposed as a consequence.

As I have said, concerns have been expressed about the practicalities of what will happen if the orders are passed into law. Effective measures need to be in place to ensure that the Bill is not applied in a way that might subvert the criminal justice system. The Minister clearly said that the Bill is intended to be about protection, not prosecution. In other words, serious crime prevention orders are not intended to be an alternative prosecution system. In that context there needs to be a process to record and therefore to review how many orders are being given and on what terms. The best way to do that is to ensure that the orders are recorded in one place and so are readily available for that review and examination. On that basis I hope that the Committee will be minded to consider new clause 5 favourably.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Crime Reduction)

May I thank the hon. Member for Hornchurch and his colleagues for tabling this new clause because it gives me the opportunity to reiterate the commitment that was made by Lord Bassam in another place? In order for truly effective use of these orders, there will need to be a central record of appropriate information in relation to their use, especially for co-ordination between different branches of law enforcement and the different applicant authorities. In order for the record to be an effective tool, there will need to be extensive consultation with stakeholders to make sure that their needs are taken into account. We will also need to consult with the judiciary and we would want to ensure that any recording of the details of the operation of these orders would be entirely in accordance with data protection principles.

It would be inappropriate to include such a general provision in the Bill without having consulted those various bodies. If we are to come back to this on  Report after the summer recess I hope to have completed this process of consideration and to be able to inform the House of how this will be done. In the light of the commitment to a record being kept that was made in another place and now in this House, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will understand why I will resist the amendment and why I will ask him to consider its withdrawal.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

Can the Minister give any further details of the consultation that is taking place? While his acknowledgment that there is a need for a central register to be maintained is positive news, it would be helpful for the Committee to understand what the timing of the consultation is intended to be. He has mentioned certain stakeholders. But we need to be certain that the matter will be addressed by no later than Report stage to ensure that the protections that he has described are properly reflected in the Bill.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Crime Reduction)

I am trying to give the hon. Gentleman the reassurance that he seeks. We need to consult with the various stakeholders that I have mentioned. We want to bring something back on Report that reflects the new clause but we need to do so in liaison and consultation with our stakeholders. Given that the Report stage might well be after the summer recess, the consultation will have to take place in that period. That is our aim. The specifics of the consultation will depend on the sort of central record that would be appropriate. It should not be overly bureaucratic and should achieve our aims and those of the hon. Gentleman. We commit to return to the issue on Report. With those assurances, I hope that the hon. Gentleman feels able to withdraw his—if I may say—useful new clause.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

In the light of the Minister’s helpful and, if I may say, kindly comments, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.