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Clause 4 - Relationships between NCA and other agencies: tasking etc

Part of Crime and Courts Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:30 pm on 24th January 2013.

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Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department 12:30 pm, 24th January 2013

I shall answer that extremely good point once I have finished this passage of my response to the hon. Lady, because I would not want to break off halfway through explaining, for the benefit of her and other members of the Committee, why the test for exercising these important powers that the director general needs to meet is onerous, given that the way in which the power could apply to their individual police forces could concern members of the Committee.

I was saying that the director general will, of course, have to demonstrate that the threefold test is met, but a further safeguard is outlined in schedule 1: the director general must personally exercise the power, and may only delegate it in his absence to a senior NCA officer who would be nominated for that purpose. That is an important point, because I know that Members sometimes raise concerns about who will exercise such powers, because even if that is done in the name of the most important officer or official in an organisation, is it done in practice by that person? In this case, the power will be exercised at that highest level, and it may only be delegated in the director general’s absence to a very senior NCA officer.

To respond to my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central, SOCA does not currently have the power to task other agencies, so this will be a new power. That gets to the nub of why the NCA is a wider-reaching organisation than SOCA, because it has the ability—the valuable ability, as the former Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Blackburn, recognised—to take a broad, overarching approach to the threat of national, and in some cases international, serious and organised crime. That is a bit of a departure, and although we recognise that in the vast majority of cases the tasking will be voluntary, we have put in place safeguards to ensure that in the rare cases when it is directed, it is done appropriately.

I am not persuaded that the amendment is necessary in the light of the existing stringent test for which the Bill already provides. On that basis, I ask the hon. Lady to withdraw her amendment.