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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

Let me check the details of FOI-ability—if that is a word. I will shed a bit more light on this. The type of operations that we are talking about may well be those where the NCA is working on trying to gather intelligence and apprehend a violent, dangerous, serious crime group who are, for example, intent on committing a series of armed robberies that are a major threat to the public. They are doing that, working with police forces in the relevant areas where it is thought that those crimes are likely to be committed and in other areas where the guns that will be used for these armed robberies are being smuggled—or bought and sold—by organised criminal gangs.

In some circumstances, it may be that directed tasking is required to make sure that there is no missing link in that operation, although we would envisage that, by and large, the arrangements would be voluntary because it would be in the interests of all of the police forces—those where the guns are being smuggled or bought and sold and those where they may actually be used for armed robbery—to be working seamlessly with the National Crime Agency. I doubt whether we then want to make available more detail than is necessary—indeed, to the gangs themselves.

At the moment, while there are all kinds of covert operations going on to try to keep the public safe, we have a debate going on in the Chamber about whether the voting age should be 16. Details of those operations are not routinely reported to Parliament because successive Governments have recognised that the nature of some of this material may not be appropriate for the public arena.

I do not think that the hon. Lady is on to as much as she seems to think she is when she says that there is some great act of concealment going on here. We already said that it would be rare to have directed tasking, but, as the right hon. Member for Blackburn made clear, in some circumstances it may be necessary. That power will be used sparingly and, when that power is used, the police and crime commissioner and the Home Secretary will be notified. That is the right way to proceed.