– in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 26th February 2009.

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Amendment made: 307, in title, line 6, after ‘2006’ insert

‘and the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (Northern Ireland) Order 2007’.—(Mr. Coaker.)

This amendment is consequential on amendments 38, 40, and 42.


That certain written evidence already reported to the House be appended to the proceedings of the Committee.—(Mr. Coaker.)

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Crime & Security)

On a point of order, Mr. Bayley, I know that everybody wishes to get away, but may I take a minute or two to thank people? This has been an extremely good Committee and the quality of debate has generally been very good. Sometimes, when debate is good-natured, even when there is disagreement, it helps the world go round, and this has been a good Committee from that point of view.

I thank the doorkeepers, the police, the staff of the House, the Clerks and the Hansard reporters for their efforts with the Bill’s delivery. I also thank my officials and my office for putting various briefings together for me and for helping me understand, as I have told members of the Committee, the issue of extradition, which I find difficult. I know that the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon loves it, but it is a bit of a trial for the rest of us.

Thank you, Mr. Bayley, for your chairmanship, and pass on my thanks to your co-Chairman, Sir Nicholas. I thank my fellow Ministers, my hon. Friends the Members for Tynemouth and for Poplar and Canning Town, for their support and assistance with the Bill. The contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town was a long time coming, but it was worth waiting for, and I appreciate it. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, North for his role as the Government Whip on the Committee and the way in which he conducted his work. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield, who is sitting behind me. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North made the point—[Interruption.] I am going to refer to her, because I do not want to miss anyone out—[Interruption.] Do not worry, I will mention others too. I wish to thank my hon. Friend, because she pointed out—I am familiar with this from my time on the Back Benches—that  Ministers tend to thank everyone apart from their Back Benchers. I used to sit there fuming about that, and actually took the matter up with one or two Ministers. That made me determined not to do it if I found myself in their position. May I therefore thank my hon. Friends the Members for City of Durham, for Brigg and Goole, for Northampton, North and for Stourbridge? They are not here, but I thank them for their help.

I thank the hon. Members for Hornchurch and for Bury St. Edmunds—[Interruption.] I have thanked my hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham, but I am grateful for the reminder. I thank the Opposition spokesmen for the way in which they conducted the debate. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds once said to me, when talking about the Committee, that they would not mess about. That is an extremely reasonable statement and I hope he does not mind me saying that in front of people—it is an extremely appropriate attitude. The hon. Member for Hornchurch and I have spent many an hour—many a week and many a month, it seems—on Bills of various sorts, and I appreciate the way in which he and his colleague conducted themselves, with the support of their Back Benchers. It has been a pleasure to have them here as well.

Before I move on from the Opposition, I thank the hon. Member for West Chelmsford. I would like to say formally, on the record that, although it is inappropriate to mention a couple of things—and I mean this in all seriousness—some difficult arrangements have had to be made between him and my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, North. If it had not been for his co-operation and help we would have had, through nobody’s fault, some very real difficulty. It is a great tribute to him that he has not tried to mess about. He has recognised the serious situation a couple of my hon. Friends were in and I thank him very much for his co-operation and help, without which it would have been extremely difficult—I just put that on the record.

I thank, too, the hon. Members for Chesterfield and for Oxford, West and Abingdon for their contributions. The hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon and I often debate human rights issues of one sort or another, and I try to take them into account. I thank the hon. Member for Chesterfield, too, for his contributions to the debate. I think that I have thanked everyone. Auntie Sylvia or Uncle Frank will appear somewhere, Mr. Bayley. [Interruption.] We will bring that forward in an order-making power by affirmative resolution! To be serious, I have enjoyed the Committee: it has been an excellent Committee. and I thank everyone who has contributed to our deliberations.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

That was not really a point of order.

Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

Further to that point of order, I thought that when the Minister stood up, he was going to have a Kate Winslet moment. If I may be permitted to extend the analogy, his was a  very great performance. There should be an Oscar for the scriptwriters on both sides. The Minister made a very good point: he relied on, or got support and advice from, his officials who, from what I have seen in the Committee, are extremely dedicated, professional and thorough, and they should be congratulated.

The advisers and supporters on this side should also be congratulated—those who assist me, my excellent and eloquent hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch and, of course, the Back Bench support from my irreplaceable hon. Friends the Members for Mid-Bedfordshire and for Bromsgrove. To pursue the analogy, we do not need scriptwriters all the time, because what was evident from the debate—so far as the contributions from the Liberal Democrat spokesman, the Minister, and from Conservative Members were concerned—was that there was a bit of thinking on one’s feet, a bit of debate and a bit of exploring what the issues were all about without relying on the textbook answers. That is why my scriptwriting Oscar analogy is, on reflection, probably inappropriate. This has been a very good-natured, but also serious-minded, debate on a raft of issues. The Minister referred to a conversation that we had before this debate, so I shall repay him in kind by referring to one that we had in the first week or so of our proceedings. He passed on intelligence to me that those who have been following our proceedings—not only those in the police service, but the wider policing family and those supporting it—have remarked on the fact that this has been a grown-up debate.

Where necessary, we have disagreed on ideological, party-political lines. However, we have also found common centre ground where non-ideological issues have been at stake and where the Minister and Conservative and Liberal Democrat Members just wanted to find the best answer—that is to say, the best form of words and law that the Committee could produce to assist the police service of this country. I want to end on that note. At the end of the day, the Committee has been trying to achieve a safer country, a better criminal justice system and more effective law and order. Without those things, nothing else can really happen in this country.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

On behalf of Sir Nicholas and myself, I thank hon. Members for their kind remarks. In particular, I thank Mr. Kennon and Mr. Shaw, the Clerks of the Committee, without whom I would have been completely at sea and the Committee would have been an utter mess. I thank them for their support. I also thank the Hansard writers for producing a record of our proceedings, which is important. I agree that our proceedings have been serious with some extremely good debates and some serious questions to be resolved; they were resolved with good humour and a very high quality of debate. It has been a real pleasure for me to sit in the Chair. I have learned much from Members on both sides of the House, and I thank them.

Bill, as amended, to be reported.

Committee rose.