Schedule 8 - Abolition of SOCA and NPIA

Crime and Courts Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 29th January 2013.

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Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department 11:15 am, 29th January 2013

I beg to move amendment 45, in schedule 8, page 91, line 5, leave out ‘under a staff transfer scheme’.

Photo of Nadine Dorries Nadine Dorries Conservative, Mid Bedfordshire

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments 46 to 48.

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department

These are all essentially technical amendments, so unless the Committee would like a detailed explanation, I propose that they be made.

Amendment 45 agreed to.

Amendments made: 46, in schedule 8, page 98, line 14, at end insert—

(aa) in paragraph (bfa) (inserted by Schedule 1 to the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 (Consequential Provisions and Modifications) Order 2013), in sub-paragraph (vi), for “member of staff of SOCA” substitute “National Crime Agency officer”.’.

Amendment 47,in schedule 8, page 98, line 18, leave out paragraph (a) and insert—

(a) for paragraph (c) substitute—

“(c) in relation to any such service as is mentioned in subsection (1)(bfa)(vi) or subsection (1)(ca) above, or  any service of the kind described in section 97(1)(cj) of the Police Act 1996, “police pension authority” means the Director General of the National Crime Agency and “pension supervising authority” means the Secretary of State;”;’.

Amendment 48, in schedule 8, page 112, line 29, at end insert—

‘(2) In Schedule 3 to that Act (handling of complaints and conduct matters etc), in paragraph 19F(7), for paragraph (b) substitute—

(b) the National Crime Agency.”’.—(Mr Browne.)

Question proposed, That the schedule, as amended, be the Eighth schedule to the Bill.

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

Schedule 8 currently excludes the National Crime Agency from the operation of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Again, I have some sympathy with that because for some issues involving the security service, the intelligence service, GCHQ and national criminal intelligence, that is appropriate. There are also policing issues for which it is appropriate, but the National Crime Agency will now undertake work from the border force, and immigration and customs services are not exempt from the Act.

Will the Minister clarify how it will work in practice? If an FOI application is made about aspects such as immigration and customs work, will it be refused on grounds of national security, which effectively apply to other areas? I ask not because I am particularly interested in the point—I think that the National Crime Agency should be able to get on with its work—but because Liberty has put it to me that the agencies covering the work of the former agencies must be subject to the same FOI regime as previously, and schedule 8 might change that.

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department

We envisage the NCA having a pooled information-gathering capacity, so it would be difficult for freedom of information measures to apply to some parts of the NCA but not others. Information about one part of the NCA will lead to information being garnered about another part, which it would not be in the public interest to disclose.

That is the reason for the overall exemption in the clause, but I reassure the Committee that the duty to publish an annual report and other publishing requirements mean that the Government will be keen to share knowledge that it is entirely reasonable for the public to know about the NCA without having insights into its intelligence or operational practices, which could compromise the security of its operations.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 8, as amended, accordingly agreed to.