Schedule 6

Part of Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 7:15 pm on 20 November 2007.

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Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Shadow Minister (Justice) 7:15, 20 November 2007

The amendments all deal with the parliamentary accountability of the commissioner or, as is currently presented in the Bill, the absence of such parliamentary accountability. Some of us who were at the evidence session before the end of the last Session of Parliament will remember when I asked the commissioner whether he would prefer his reports to be laid before Parliament rather than given to the Secretary of State. I asked whether he would prefer to be in a similar position to an ombudsman or even a judge. Thereby, although he would be paid for and appointed by either the Crown or Government, the line of accountability would go directly from him to Parliament, not to a Minister.

That is why I have tabled the amendments, which would change the situation so that the commissioner would lay a copy of his report before both Houses of Parliament. They would delete the reference to the Secretary of State in that regard. It is a matter of constitutional accountability. That would undermine the work of neither the commissioner, nor the Secretary of State. It would get the Secretary of State’s fingers off the report so that they could not edit it before it gets to Parliament.

Under the Bill as it is currently drafted, a report from the commissioner will get before Parliament, but not before the Secretary of State has had a look at it. I think that the Secretary of State has no business interfering with the terms, wording or conclusion of any report that he may have. He can answer in Parliament for any remarks that the commissioner might make, but he should be given no editorial role or power to interfere between the completion of the commissioner’s report and its presentation to Parliament.