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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

The hon. Lady keeps saying that she is on to something, but because she says it with great fervour does not mean it is true; what she means is that she is getting more and more excitable about not being on to something.

I accept that voluntary arrangements will deal with serious and organised crime, and directed arrangements will deal with serious and organised crime. That is because the nature of the NCA is to deal with serious and organised crime. The hon. Lady’s amendment says:

“The Government will report annually to Parliament on the number of times a direction has been issued and to whom”.

It does not talk about the voluntary aspects. I am doing the hon. Lady the credit of dealing with her point about direction and I say that PCCs and the Home Secretary will be notified if a directed act of tasking  takes place; and that the NCA is exempt from freedom of information, assuming the Bill goes through as envisaged by the Government.

As for the arrangements of PCCs, that is covered elsewhere and is not the responsibility of this Bill. However, to try to be helpful and go beyond my remit—because I want to be a co-operative Minister—I could envisage the circumstances where the PCC may apply successfully for an exemption from freedom of information if the FOI request was about an extremely sensitive operation in collaboration with other bodies to try and tackle serious and organised crime in their area.

I fear that I cannot do more to be helpful, however much I try. While I accept the need for cross-checks and balances around the use of directed assistance and tasking powers and the need for transparency, we must take into account the need to protect sensitive operational information. On that basis, I hope that the hon. Lady will agree to withdraw her amendment.