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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 12:45 pm on 24th January 2013.

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Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department 12:45 pm, 24th January 2013

As the hon. Lady explained, amendment 31 would place a statutory duty on the Government to report annually to Parliament on the use of the directed tasking powers in the Bill. I agree with her that it is vital that the director general is properly held to account for the National Crime Agency’s tasking and co-ordination functions and will be held to account by the Home Secretary, who is in turn accountable to Parliament. Indeed, I would expect the director general to report on the NCA’s co-ordination and tasking remit in his annual report, which will be laid before Parliament.

However, I remain unconvinced that it is necessary, or indeed appropriate, to place a statutory duty on the Government to report annually on the number of times and to whom a direction has been issued. First, robust legal safeguards are already in place around directed tasking to prevent misuse, which I already outlined in response to the previous amendment.

In addition to the safeguards, the director general will, under the terms of the framework document, be required to notify the relevant police and crime commissioner and the Home Secretary as soon as is feasible if he or she issues a direction to a police force to perform a task or to provide assistance, so that information will be available to the people who provide the strategic direction of those forces. That will enable the police and crime commissioner and the Home Secretary to hold the chief constable and director general to account for the issuing of the direction.

Secondly, reporting on the number of times a directed power has been issued and to whom, without the context and detail of the specific circumstances surrounding the direction, could be misleading. For example, when issuing a direction, the director general will have taken several factors into account, some of which would relate to specific operational details around the capacity and capability of individual agencies. That type of information will be operationally sensitive and, as such, should not be made public. Without the context of why a direction was issued, however, the information could be open to misinterpretation.