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Commons Chamber

Volume 405: debated on Monday 19 May 2003

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House Of Commons

Monday 19 May 2003

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Culture, Media And Sport

The Secretary of State was asked

Iraq

1.

If she will make a statement about cultural objects recently stolen from Iraq. [113826]

The Government deplore the criminal looting and theft of Iraq's cultural heritage. The treasures belong to the Iraqi people and form a vital part of their democratic future. With other countries, we are engaged in a range of measures to safeguard against further theft, to see the return of stolen artefacts and to develop an international database of stolen items. We also support domestic legislation, introduced by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan), to create a new criminal offence of dealing in stolen treasure.

I welcome that response, but the Secretary of State will be aware that the director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, wrote in the New Statesman this week that he frantically telephoned No. 10, the Secretary of State for Defence and herself before the war to say that measures should be in place to protect Iraq's cultural heritage. He said that the response was nothing in particular and his calls did not lead to any action. Will the Secretary of State give the House an account of the response? Can we now have a co-ordinated worldwide effort to recover the artefacts? Has she spoken to her US counterpart about US citizens, including soldiers, who may have stolen these items? Could they be prosecuted under UK law?

I thank my hon. Friend for his continuing interest in this important issue. Having read the director's interview, rather than the authored piece in the New Statesman, I simply do not recognise the attributed comments from the many conversations that I have had with him, or from the collaboration with the Government that he has so fulsomely praised. Yes, there is an international effort to achieve the restitution of stolen artefacts, to repair the destroyed treasures and to support the Iraqi teams in Baghdad and other parts of the country to restore the cultural heritage. We are wholly committed to that purpose and we will do everything necessary to achieve it. As part of that effort, I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary for undertaking to ensure that a new draft resolution under discussion includes proper protection, in the event of sanctions being lifted, for stolen and looted treasure.

In view of the heavy lobbying before the war by powerful organisations representing American collectors for what was euphemistically called a "less retentionist" policy towards treasures in Iraq—and given the vital importance of the treasures in rebuilding the Iraqi tourist industry after the war—what steps will the Secretary of State take to ensure that we have a policy of 100 per cent. retention of Iraq's treasures, whether stolen or not?

I hope that the House can unite in affirming that artefacts from the Baghdad, Basra or Mosul museums are the property of the Iraqi people. Where, by whatever route, they have been removed from Iraq—either before or since the conflict—they should be returned. At the international level, action is being taken, particularly through UNESCO, to secure that outcome. Measures are being taken to produce a database of stolen artefacts, and we shall soon have in place domestic legislation that closes an outstanding loophole and makes dealing in stolen or looted artefacts a criminal offence.

What protest has the Secretary of State made to the US Administration about the way in which American troops burst into the great museum in Baghdad, making its contents a prey for looters, organised art thieves and—if precedents following the second world war and the invasion of Grenada are anything to go by—American troops? If that is George Bush's new world order, what hope is there for civilised values?

I thank my right hon. Friend for that question. In fact, the account of the events that led up to the looting of the Baghdad museum is slightly different from the account that he provides. The account by Donny George, the director of the Baghdad museum, sets out three material facts. First—it is worth recording this—something like 90 per cent. of the 170 artefacts taken from the museum were removed for safekeeping before the action started. Secondly, there was clear evidence of theft by organised criminal gangs of a number of the remaining treasures. Thirdly, of course, there was the despicable looting, and it will be for history to judge whether sufficient steps were taken to protect the museum during those critical days. We are now where we are, though, and I hope that the House will accept the assurances that I have given and the undertakings, given through UNESCO, that the world is united in its determination to repatriate stolen artefacts and to support the Iraqis in the restoration of their cultural heritage—a crucial part of a free Iraq in the future.

I welcome the steps that the Government have taken, and in particular the positive response to the Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan), but will the Secretary of State pursue further her dialogue with the Treasury about our Customs precautions? In particular, will she urge officials to contrast the steps being taken in America, where a lot of information is coming from the Government about the import or smuggling of cultural artefacts, with our own precautions, as it seems to be assumed that passengers are responsible for acquainting themselves with the regulations? More vigilance is needed.

We will pursue the case for vigilance in any areas where it is shown that loopholes still exist, and I have written to my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to raise precisely the importance of vigilance by Customs and Excise in the event of attempts to import stolen artefacts into this country. Similarly, the British Art Market Foundation and the trade organisations have promised their unstinting collaboration, but where loopholes exist we will seek to close them.

What is the truth or otherwise of reports that the 6,000-year-old ziggurat at Ur has been sprayed with paint? Is not the uncomfortable truth that, whereas British forces have been very disciplined, American forces have often behaved like yobs?

We are in the process of securing reports and feedback from those on the ground about what has happened, not only to Baghdad museum but to other museums and sacred sites. An official from my Department is already based in the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance to help to ensure that that co-operative assessment is undertaken. This is a matter of great concern to many in the House, and I will take all the steps that I can to ensure that, as more information becomes available, I keep the House informed.

I refer the House to my declaration in the Register of Members' Interests. The Secretary of State has talked about establishing a database. Given the fact that the ministerial advisory panel on illicit trade recommended, back in December 2000, that there should be such a database and given the fact that, in March 2001, that was accepted by the then Minister of State, does she not feel that her Department could have done something more between then and now? Can she assure the House that she has sufficient resources and the determination to see this through? Does she not believe that if she had done something earlier we could have done something to avoid this cultural catastrophe in the aftermath in Baghdad?

No, I do not think that the action that the hon. Gentleman outlines would have prevented what Neil MacGregor describes as a catastrophe in Baghdad. Yes, I think that more progress should have been made in establishing the domestic database to which he refers, but we are in negotiation with UNESCO and the other countries represented in UNESCO to secure the establishment of an international database. I simply reiterate that we have moved very fast, both domestically and with other countries, to take the necessary measures to safeguard the Iraqi treasures leaving Iraq and to ensure that we have the necessary mechanisms in place to maximise the chances of their being returned if they turn up here or in any other country that is a member of UNESCO.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a cross-party group of Back Benchers recently visited the British Museum to see some of the Iraqi treasures that it acquired at a period when the policy may have been less retentionist and that, during that visit, the director of the museum expressed particular concern about the lack of co-operation with UNESCO from the Americans in Iraq, especially their refusal to allow access to the site at Ur? Is UNESCO now being granted full access to all cultural sites in Iraq?

I am not aware of any obstacles to UNESCO's access, but as I said earlier, the situation is constantly developing as more facts become clear. I shall ensure that I keep the House informed of both problems and progress, as they occur.

Lottery Funding

2.

What proportion of lottery funding has been spent on projects and good causes in the constituency of Chesham and Amersham in each of the last five years; and if she will make a statement. [113827]

The following figures are the amounts awarded for the hon. Lady's constituency in each of the last five years. In 1999, the amount was £1.775 million; in 2000, it was £423,000; in 2001, £1.272 million; in 2002, £398,000; and in 2003, £380,000. That puts her constituency 134th from the bottom of the per capita table of constituencies.

I thank the Minister for that answer, but is he aware that smaller charities in Chesham and Amersham find increasingly that bureaucracy and the length of time that it takes to leap through the hoops set up by the various distributing bodies are a positive disincentive to applying for lottery funding? Will he consider our proposal, which would give a fair deal to smaller charities by allowing players to specify a local charity on their lottery ticket, or by turning it into a gift token that could be given to a local charity of the player's choice? I hope that the Secretary of State is giving the Minister the inspiration that he needs to answer my question.

I do not need inspiration, as it was my right hon. Friend's idea and we put it out for consultation some months ago. Indeed, we have pronounced on the matter on several occasions and we shall report to the House in due course. While I am on my feet, I can point out that the hon. Lady's constituents did far better under Labour than under the previous Administration; between 1995 and 1998, the figures were considerably lower.

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's remarks, but does he accept that one of the problems is that people purchasing lottery tickets in Chesham and Amersham, as elsewhere, are losing confidence that the money for good causes will actually reach genuine good causes? Our proposal is that people should be able to indicate specific local charities, rather than the tick-box scheme that the Government were suggesting, so that people can have complete confidence that they know where the money is going. I hope that he will give that proposal some consideration.

We will give the proposal consideration, just as we have given consideration to the wide-ranging consultation and the responses to it. As I said, we shall report back, and I hope that hon. Members will engage in constructive debate. I think that all Members appreciate the institution of the lottery for the role that it plays, so I hope that we can have constructive dialogue and discussion about how to proceed when we make our report to the House.

Libraries

3.

What action she is taking to encourage public lending libraries to open at times suitable for (a) working people and (b) parents of school age children. [113828]

On 10 February, we published the first ever national strategy for public libraries, "Framework for the Future". The whole thrust of that strategy is that local authorities must ensure that they meet the needs of their local communities and that consultation takes place. Opening times are always a prime concern of users.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Norfolk county council has recently announced a package to increase access for working people at some libraries in the county, which is welcome. However, will he join me in condemning that same council for announcing the imminent closure of Bradwell parish council library, which will take away access not only for working people but for the elderly, the young and the disabled? Bradwell parish council has set up a steering committee in an attempt to reopen the library, but the county council appears constantly to be moving the goalposts. For example, the county council has informed us that it has removed not only the computers and books but the shelving, too, leaving the building an empty shell.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in making a last-minute plea—

I answered a similar question from my hon. Friend previously. I must repeat what I said then: the responsibility for the operations of libraries is with the local authority. We have looked at the case that he has raised, and it is not in contravention of its legal responsibilities. We are trying, however, through "Framework for the Future", to make sure that we can respond to the needs of his constituents and others in ensuring that the library service is flexible and meets their requirements. I hope that the county council will revisit its decision.

Does the Minister agree that public lending libraries now do a great deal more than lend books? Evesham public library, for example, is home to one of the Learn Direct centres, which is intended to help mothers of school age children who may wish to return to work and retrain. Against that background, will he do all that he can to ensure that county councils and other library authorities throughout the country understand the importance of offering the kind of hours that enable such people to attend?

I very much agree with what the hon. Gentleman says, which is absolutely true. Many local authorities have taken the opportunity offered by the ideas in "Framework for the Future" and are using them extremely creatively. For example, in Stockton-on-Tees, the library service is helping to break the cycle of offending by working with inmates and their families on reading skills. That is very important in enabling them to come back into society. A number of libraries are now opening on a Sunday, too, to fit in with the communities that they serve. Many good examples exist, and I hope that libraries examine those, as they are doing through the various professional bodies, so that we have not only libraries in the conventional sense but major resource centres for the communities that they serve.

Arts Funding

4.

What support her Department is giving to arts centres and theatres in smaller towns in the north-west. [113829]

My hon. Friend knows that this Government have done more to support the arts in this country than any of our predecessors. He also knows that Arts Council England North West will see its overall allocation increase from £20.8 million to £28.4 million by 2005–06, which is an increase of 37 per cent. That new money will benefit a wide range of artists, organisations and communities across the region, including those in Burnley.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Does he accept, however, that it is important that not only big cities but small non-unitary authorities, such as Burnley, have arts centres and theatres? We find it difficult to preserve what we have: an excellent theatre, the Mechanics, and the Mid-Pennine Arts Centre. With small budgets, non-unitary authorities have extreme difficulties in that regard.

Yes, there is a problem, and it is often a problem of knowing how to frame bids and having the aspirations to bid in the first place. Knowing what support is available, and ensuring that the expertise exists to help excellent small theatres such as those in my hon. Friend's constituency to make those bids is a real problem, which we recognise. We are making sure that the organisation is aware of those deficiencies in some areas and that it does all that it can to help people to make those bids.

Will the Minister go further and share my concern that in many places, in small towns such as Macclesfield and Burnley and the surrounding areas of those towns, a huge wealth of artistic talent exists that is not able to display itself because of the lack of adequate theatres to put on amateur productions? Cannot the Government act directly, or through the lottery, to provide more funds for the establishment of adequate theatres, so that the United Kingdom can display its huge wealth of talent?

That was a passionate defence of some of the excellent theatres in the north-west. I remind the hon. Gentleman, however, that there has never been as much money for theatres, whether in the regions, in rural areas, in small towns or big cities, as is available at the moment. Combined with that is the fact that many of those theatre companies have recognised that they have a great task in trying to tap the talent, about which he has spoken so eloquently, in our schools and in our communities generally. That is where much of the money is being directed. It is not simply about being able to put on great performances in theatres, or even about the upkeep of the theatres themselves. It is also about trying to nurture that talent so that the next generation of actors, directors and writers can emerge. If we do not do that, we kill great theatre at birth.

Will my hon. Friend offer his full support to Friends of the Winter Gardens theatre in Morecambe, who have been campaigning for years to restore the town's theatre? Does he accept that it is important for a seaside resort to have a theatre? I know that he is aware of the Winter Gardens theatre, because he visited it when he visited Morecambe recently.

The theatre is a magnificent building and has been kept in that state mainly by the work of volunteers. I know that my hon. Friend has been active in that respect. The theatre is also in a unique position, with a magnificent view across to Lakeland. Nevertheless, all funding agencies have to be extremely careful about the allocation of large amounts of capital money, in view of the record of buildings being financed in the absence of plans to build up audiences and make performances sustainable. If the theatre in Morecambe could be rejuvenated in every sense, it could be one of the great attractions of a town that has been one of the north-west's great resorts over the years. I know that my hon. Friend is speaking to a great many people about how it can be part of a more holistic approach to redeveloping that resort, which she has the privilege to represent.

Licensed Premises (Children)

5.

What recent discussions she has had with child welfare organisations about children's access to licensed premises. [113830]

In March I convened two meetings with children's organisations, including the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the Children's Society, and the police, to discuss children's access to licensed premises and the implications of the Licensing Bill. Officials from my Department held a further meeting with the relevant organisations. The outcome of those meetings was an agreed way forward on an issue that everybody regards as sensitive. That is reflected in the Bill as currently drafted, and also in the statutory guidance that will accompany the Bill. In practical and effective form, it achieves a means of protecting children from harm—one of the four key objectives of the Licensing Bill.

Traditionally, many political and social clubs, including Labour clubs in my constituency, welcome families with children on Sundays. I am sure my right hon. Friend knows that some of those clubs are in financial difficulty. Is she aware that the statement that she has just made will be welcomed by those clubs if it means that that tradition is not in jeopardy?

I can assure my hon. Friend that that tradition is not in jeopardy. It would be extraordinarily unlikely that, for any pub or club where there have not been any problems in the past, there would be any greater restriction on the terms of licensing in the future. I hope that he will be reassured by that.

As a modern and socially liberal Tory, may I put it to the right hon. Lady that it is modernisation and social liberalism taken to absurd lengths to suppose that children should be allowed to enter licensed premises entirely unsupervised?

I think that the hon. Gentleman is making a long journey to cross the Floor of the Chamber. He will be welcome on the Government Benches whenever he chooses to join us.

It seems that the hon. Gentleman misunderstands the present situation. Any child of five or over can enter, unsupervised, any licensed premises as long as that child does not go into the bar area. Some of the absurdities of the existing regime that we are seeking to address include, for instance, the circumstance where a young child can go unsupervised into a pub and then be bought by an adult a gin and tonic, a whisky, or anything else that would be unsuitable to be consumed by a young child. Such instances do not happen more often because at present, and in future, admission of children into a pub is at the licensee's discretion.

We have worked hard with children's charities and with the police to develop the right sort of statutory framework that addresses the need for different approaches in different circumstances. There needs to be a different regime to protect children in pubs or clubs in the middle of Soho, as opposed to children who may live next door to a country pub. The regime that we have proposed reflects precisely that discretion and that flexibility.

In the Licensing Bill as it stands, and as the Secretary of State has said, the presumption is in favour of allowing children of any age unaccompanied access to licensed premises unless the licensee is either unwilling or unable to guarantee their protection from harm. Should it not be the other way round?

The hon. Gentleman must understand that in the licence application the licensee must make it clear how he will protect children if they come into his pub or other licensed premises. In the statutory guidance, as I have already stated, we have proposed four different sorts of premises, ranging from those where there should be a presumption by the licensing authority that unsupervised children will not be allowed access, to those where there is an expectation that children will be welcome. It is precisely that sort of flexible approach that will ensure that children are properly protected.

Press Complaints Commission

6.

If she will make a statement on her meeting with the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission to discuss its work. [113831]

I met Sir Christopher Meyer, the new chairman of the PCC, on 7 April, and we discussed a number of ways in which the PCC might improve self-regulation. Sir Christopher has recently announced a list of eight proposals, which I am glad to say broadly concur with the issues that we discussed, including areas for reform. He has made clear his open-mindedness on the case for reform and his wish to canvass opinion on that and other suggested areas for improvement.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the efforts that she has made. Did she tell Sir Christopher that the PCC will continue to fail to inspire public confidence until such time as it changes the committee that writes the code so that we no longer have it made up of 100 per cent. newspaper employees? Secondly, does she agree that the commission should develop a proactive stance so that members of the public can begin to have a reasonable expectation that what they read in news columns will have at least some accuracy and some impartiality, with creative literature being kept to the comment columns?

I thank my hon. Friend and pay tribute to him for his staunch and long-standing defence of press freedom, and for the way in which he has campaigned over many years.

My discussion with Sir Christopher Meyer was broadly in the terms that my hon. Friend suggests. It took place within a context that recognises clearly that self-regulation is just that. The Government have no intention of seeking to interfere with the self-regulation of the press—that is a matter for the press—but in parallel with that, as my hon. Friend describes, is the importance of public confidence and trust in self-regulation. Sir Christopher took both those points seriously.

Creative Partnerships Scheme

7.

What plans she has to extend the creative partnerships scheme. [113832]

The creative partnerships programme is giving children and teachers in 16 pilot areas in England the opportunity to develop their creative talents by working on sustained projects with creative professionals. The programme has been warmly welcomed both by schools and the cultural community, and more areas are eager to join in. We have pledged to double the size of the programme by 2006, and investment in creative partnerships is set to grow from £25 million in the current year to about £50 million in 2005–06.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. As he knows, Barnsley is at the forefront in putting creativity at the very centre of the educational experience for children. May I very quickly tell him about three projects in my constituency? At Worsborough primary school, children are designing a learning environment extending from the classroom to the playground; at Hoyland, children are working with the Barnsley performing arts department to increase and improve communication; and at Springvale in Penistone, a multi-faceted approach has been taken in which children are working with film, sculpture and storytelling to explore the ideas and life of a man called Saunders, a 17th century mathematician from the area. That clearly shows that creativity at the centre of educational experience is worth while. Will my hon. Friend therefore work with the Department for Education and Skills to ensure that creativity is bedded down in the curriculum so that it can give all children the benefit of such experience?

I am glad to hear that my hon. Friend is so enthusiastic about those projects, which are very important. I heard some sneers from the Opposition Benches as he spoke, but the creative industries in this country are responsible for hundreds of thousands of jobs and for earning billions of pounds of revenue. Opposition Members might sneer at that because they are living in the 19th century, not the 20th century. [HON. MEMBERS: "21st."] We are in the 21st century; they are not even in the 20th. Like my constituency, Barnsley has suffered enormously as a result of the decline of heavy industry, but is rebuilding its own future. It is doing much of that on the basis of creative industries. I congratulate teachers, pupils and parents in his constituency on embracing this great programme and taking it forward very successfully.

What about some lessons in creative brevity?

I was waiting for somebody to say that, but I did not think that it would be the hon. Gentleman. The cheap cracks are always the ones that get into the news, and I expect that that is why he made that one.

Bearing in mind the success of Barnsley, will my hon. Friend consider rolling out the project to areas such as Bassetlaw, which are crying out to redress the balance in terms of the lack of creative input in schools over recent decades and could happily mirror the brilliant success of the partnership in Barnsley?

I have no doubt that the brilliance of Yorkshire will carry that success forward out of Barnsley and into Bassetlaw.

Olympic Games

8.

If she will make a statement on the Government's policy on a London bid for the Olympic games. [113833]

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that I made a statement to the House last Thursday announcing the Government's wholehearted backing for an Olympic bid to bring the games to London in 2012.

I welcome that and I think that we are all looking forward to a successful Olympic bid, but there will be huge opportunities across the rest of Britain, as countries competing in the Olympics will need training camps. What will the Secretary of State do to ensure that those camps are spread across the UK? May I recommend Herefordshire and Worcestershire as excellent places where they may be situated?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. Had he been in the House for my statement last Thursday, he would have heard me say that we want the whole country to benefit from the Olympics. One of the practical ways in which the whole country can benefit is to locate training camps in different parts of the United Kingdom for athletes before the games, which will benefit their communities afterwards.

May I inform my right hon. Friend that not all Members are jumping for joy at the idea of an Olympic bid? Many of us are concerned that areas such as the north-west will lose out because of the bid, so can she assure me that sports funding will be maintained in those regions during the course of the bid?

The opinion polling that the Government undertook before announcing the Olympic bid showed a wide measure of support, including in the north-west, for bidding for the Olympics. However, my hon. Friend has underlined the important point that although the games would be held in London they must be games for the whole United Kingdom. That is why, in our costing of the Olympics, we took care to ensure that, in addition to the development of elite facilities in London, all parts of the country would benefit from facilities for their grass-roots sports.

May I reiterate the support of the Conservative party for the bid? Can the Secretary of State say anything further about the cross-party ministerial group that I suggested to her some weeks ago? Is she prepared to authorise briefings to shadow Ministers about the bid, and when does she expect to introduce legislation specifically to provide for a new lottery game? If the House gave its support to such a game, that would demonstrate to the country and the world at large that our bid is a serious one.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. We will introduce at the earliest opportunity legislation for a new lottery game, some details of which Camelot have announced today. The hon. Gentleman or one of his hon. Friends raised the issue of a cross-ministerial group with me on Thursday but I am sure that he accepts that in the intervening three days I have had a heavy reading load, provided by the Treasury, of 18 studies on the euro. However, as a matter of priority, I shall certainly turn my attention to the important issue of ensuring that cross-party support for the Olympic bid is maintained as much as possible.

I am delighted that we are going ahead with the bid, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her decision. Given that we have the only royal harbour in the country and also have expertise in hosting world championship sailing events, can she assure me that she has already pencilled in Ramsgate for the sailing?

In the event that the Secretary of State has not yet done that, how will decisions be made about the ancillary events? Will that be done behind closed doors or will there be an opportunity for the public to express their own ideas and for local communities to make bids?

I thank my hon. Friend, and am struck by the number of hon. Members who have world-class sailing facilities in their constituencies. I am sure that my hon. Friend will ensure that the facilities in his constituency are considered, when the time comes, as part of the array of Olympic facilities that will have to be put in place. He made an important point about the transparency of decisions, which will be an important part of ensuring that the games are not just for London but involve the constituents of right hon. and hon. Members across the country.

Libraries

9.

What plans she has for improvements in library services. [113834]

I note in passing that my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) asks that the sailing should be in the royal docks.

We want to help library services transform themselves to meet the needs of the public and prospective users in the 21st century. Many public libraries are developing new ideas and offer an excellent service. As I said earlier, we want to spread good practice. Public libraries now offer computer and internet access for everyone, and are ideally placed to help deliver improvements in reading and other skills. As I said when answering an earlier question, they can be major resource centres for the communities in which they are located.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. I acknowledge the progress that has been made, especially in providing internet access, but coming as I do from a town that had one of the first public libraries in the country, I still believe that libraries are primarily about books. Does he agree that owing to years of underinvestment, most of the book stock is in a very dilapidated and unattractive condition? What can be done to encourage more investment in providing a good book stock in libraries to encourage all the people who are attracted in to do more reading?

It is up to local authorities to dispense the moneys that are available. Some £780 million is invested annually into our library service, and it is incumbent on local authorities to make judgments on where that money should go. I accept what my hon. Friend says. However, within the resources that they have available, some libraries are trying to ensure that they present a first-class service—for example, by using the internet and other developments to access books that are out of publication. As I say, three-quarters of a billion pounds annually is invested into our library service.

Church Commissioners

The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked

Redundant Churches

21.

How many redundant churches there are in the Greater London area. [113816]

Since 1969, a total of 131 churches have been declared redundant in the diocese of London, 72 in the diocese of Southwark, 27 in the diocese of Chelmsford and five in the diocese of Rochester.

I note my hon. Friend's reply. In many parts of London—certainly in my constituency—there are religious groups that are extremely popular within our communities, but the sad fact is that it is often very difficult for them to find suitable premises to follow their beliefs and to develop their congregations. Will my hon. Friend stress to the Church Commissioners that instead of letting empty and redundant churches stay in that condition for long periods, they should offer them to our religious groups? That would be greatly appreciated by those groups, by their local communities and most certainly by the local Members of Parliament.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He will be happy to know that more than 900 former churches have been found new uses. More than two-thirds of those continue to serve the community by providing facilities for worship, social facilities, educational opportunities or low-cost housing. Uses by another Christian body or for wider community purposes are generally regarded as the most suitable. I shall be happy to consider whether we can be helpful in that respect in my hon. Friend's constituency.

Employment Tribunals

22.

If he will make a statement about the use of employment tribunals for clergy. [113817]

At present, the jurisdiction of employment tribunals does not apply to the majority of clergy, because they have the status of office holders in law and are not employees.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that reply. Can he give me an assurance that employment tribunals will not get dragged into ruling on doctrinal matters in disputes between clergy and churches? Can he also assure me that clergy will not have to stay in parishes where there has been a clear case of pastoral breakdown, which would be inappropriate both for the parish and for the clergy concerned?

The question of pastoral breakdown is probably not for the Church Commissioners, but I shall refer the hon. Gentleman's question and view to the Archbishops Council. On the point about employment tribunals and any review of employment law, the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal took the view in the past that clergy were ecclesiastical office holders, not employees. We welcome the review under the auspices of the Department of Trade and Industry. The cure of souls in parishes and employment rights are not mutually exclusive, and the Church will do what it can to bring the two together.

Employment tribunals are only one aspect of the Employment Rights Act 1996 that does not apply to the clergy. Many hon. Members believe that that should be corrected as soon as possible. When is the McClean committee, which the Archbishops Council set up, likely to report? Will the hon. Gentleman accept that many of us would like it to be soon?

My hon. Friend knows that I pay close attention to those matters. I also take account of the campaign that he has maintained since 1997. The McClean committee will provide its conclusions soon; it has already been made a submission to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. I am confident that we will reach some conclusions that take into account the unique role of a parish priest and employment rights and tribunals.

I welcome my hon. Friend's answer. Does he agree that an excessively rigid contractual relationship for the clergy could damage the sense of vocation and duty that is so important to many ministers?

That is certainly the case, and the Church is dealing with that problem through its review group and subsequently the Department of Trade and Industry.

Electoral Commission Committee

The hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, was asked

Turnout

24.

What recent representations the Electoral Commission has received on voter turnout at elections. [113819]

In conducting its statutory reviews of the conduct and administration of elections, the commission has received representations from a range of organisations, academics and individuals on turnout and what might be done to improve it.

Is the hon. Gentleman and the commission aware that on Wednesday, the Hansard Society is holding a seminar to examine the difference in attitudes between people who are interested in politics but do not watch "Big Brother" and those who watch "Big Brother" but have no interest in politics to ascertain whether there are any lessons on turnout in the fact that fewer people voted in the recent local elections than in many reality TV game shows? Do the Electoral Commission or the hon. Gentleman have any views on whether we have anything to learn from reality TV game shows in trying to improve turnout in elections?

An interesting question. In its statutory report on the 2001 general election, in which it tried to learn lessons from the turnout, the commission presented the view that the main responsibility for persuading the public of the relevance of voting must rest with politicians. They must make it interesting and attractive for individuals to vote.

Before we follow the route of reality TV shows, in which one can vote once or 100 times for the same contestant, can we consider improving voter turnout through more traditional means, including postal votes and holding elections on other days such as Saturdays and Sundays and siting polling stations in non-traditional places such as supermarkets? Surely that would help improve the turnout, which was low in the recent Welsh Assembly elections.

Indeed, the purpose of the pilots that took place in local government elections is to test the way in which different voting systems can encourage turnout and thereby participation. The commission believes that changes in process have a role in making voting more convenient. However, it is important to be realistic about what that can achieve on turnout, given that many other factors have an impact on that.

Will the hon. Gentleman draw to the Electoral Commission's attention the experiment in Chester-le-Street and Derwentside in the recent local elections? Turnout increased by 20 per cent. through a postal ballot. An experiment in electronic counting meant that the count was covered in less than half an hour. Will the hon. Gentleman ensure that the Electoral Commission evaluates the experiments?

The Electoral Commission will present its conclusions on the pilots that were held in the May elections. It will publish the results on 31 July.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the integrity of the electoral process is even more important than the turnout, and will he bear in mind that large-scale postal voting is open to abuse?

Obviously the risk of abuse is one factor that the commission takes into account, but there has been no evidence of widespread abuse.

Postal Voting

25.

What comparative research has been commissioned by the Electoral Commission on the levels of postal voting in (a) local and (b) parliamentary elections (i) in this country and (ii) overseas. [113821]

The commission has examined levels of postal voting at local and parliamentary elections, and its report "Absent voting in Great Britain" was published in March. A copy has been placed in the Library. No detailed research into comparisons with overseas levels of postal voting has been undertaken, partly because the legal framework of postal voting varies significantly between countries.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that since the publication of that report in March the May local elections have shown a dramatic increase in turnout, from around 30 per cent. to 50 per cent. in areas with all-postal ballots—including Derwentside, mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr. Jones)?

Although the level of postal voting has nearly doubled, from about 4 per cent. to 8 per cent., there is scope for a far greater increase—in some countries it is over 30 per cent.—through the simple expedient of allowing people to vote wherever they are in the country on polling day, at a local post office.

The hon. Gentleman has made some good points. There has been a significant increase in the uptake of postal voting since it first became available in Great Britain early in 2001. At the 2001 general election, the number of postal votes issued was almost double the number issued at the 1997 election, as the hon. Gentleman said—rising from less than 1 million to more than 1.75 million. At the 2002 local elections some 7.7 per cent. of the electorate cast their votes by post. That is almost double the proportion of such votes in England in the 2001 general election, and probably three times the proportion at the previous local elections.

I unreservedly welcome the greater availability of postal voting, but will the commission bear in mind that all postal ballots deny the electorate the opportunity to choose how to convey their votes? Some will want the privacy that they may not necessarily have in their own homes. Can my hon. Friend assure us that the commission will not just take account of a higher turnout?

I am confident that the commission will bear that in mind. A number of factors are involved: for instance, any move to all-postal voting would no doubt change the pace of a general election, which would no longer reach a climax at the end of the campaign.

I hope the Electoral Commission will not go over the top with postal voting. There should be as common a system as possible in the United Kingdom, but in Northern Ireland, because of fraud problems, there has been a move towards photo-identity cards at polling stations. Should that not be taken into account within the general pattern?

Indeed. Let me repeat the timing of the Electoral Commission's plans. It will produce its report on the local election pilots on 31 July. That will give the House, and all who are interested, an opportunity to consider carefully whether it is appropriate to table the primary legislation that will be needed if changes are to be made.

Can my hon. Friend assure us—or, if that is not possible, pass the question to the appropriate quarters—that come the next general election, whatever method or process is used will be uniform throughout the 659 parliamentary divisions in the United Kingdom?

Parliamentary Constituencies

26.

What plans the Commission has to discuss with the boundary commissions the population sizes of parliamentary constituencies. [113822]

None, because, as the hon. Gentleman will know, the commission has no responsibility for the matter at present. Section 16 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 provides for the transfer of the boundary commissions' functions to the commission, but those provisions have not yet been implemented.

The commission will eventually have this power, though. We should look forward 10 years. Is it not about time that—in the review that follows what is now being enacted—we did away with the disproportionate effect that the geographical criterion has on our constituency boundaries? Surely there should be just one commission for the United Kingdom, rather than four for the four nations. How can we justify the existence of constituencies with 100,000 voters along with others with only 21,000 or 33,000? Surely everyone's vote should be of equal value in the ballot box. We really should not have the disparities that are caused by some spurious geographical consideration. If a person represents a large area, he should be given more sledge teams and dogs.

Order. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could apply for an Adjournment debate.

As I have already explained, the Electoral Commission currently has no responsibility in this field, but that did not prevent the hon. Gentleman from making his point forcefully in his usual way.

On the population of constituencies, does the hon. Gentleman agree that the identification of constituency boundaries is most important, so that the electorate can identify with certain boundaries and therefore take a greater interest in the activity of the constituency in question? Does he therefore accept that the Boundary Commission should take greater cognisance of constituency boundaries when reviewing constituencies?

The hon. Gentleman has expressed his point of view on this issue before, and I know that we all very much value the cohesion of the areas that we represent.

Church Commissioners

The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked

Church Repairs (Vat)

27.

What recent discussions the Commissioners have had with the Government on revision of the sixth VAT directive. [113823]

As the hon. Lady knows, we have made a detailed submission via the Churches Main Committee to the European Commission and we have had briefings with interested MPs, MEPs and EU officials.

Could the hon. Gentleman possibly move things along a little further, because, as yet, we have had no decision? As he has explained, the churches are being put off by the mountain of bureaucratic paperwork involved in applying for the grants relating to this measure. Will he please press the Chancellor to act quickly to reduce VAT on church repairs?

I am grateful for the hon. Lady's tenacity. All I can say is that, if the European Commission had such tenacity, we would be further along the road than we are now.

Point Of Order

3.31 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you know, parliamentary awaydays are all the rage at the moment. Could you possibly organise an awayday for Cabinet Ministers, so that they can learn how to be a bit more succinct in their responses to questions in the House? In that way, more Back-Bench Members could contribute to Question Time, which might also improve the turnout in the House.

Perhaps when the Ministers have an awayday, they will invite the Speaker along. I can tell them that we are not getting through the questions fast enough. May I say that they are far too long-winded? Sometimes the questioners can also be too long-winded. We have to get down the Order Paper; it is only fair to those who have bothered to put their names into the ballot and who appear on the Order Paper that they should be called. I hope that the awayday takes place in the not too distant future.

Criminal Justice Bill (Programme) (No 5)

3.32 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department
(Mr. Paul Goggins)

I beg to move,

That, in accordance with the Resolution of the Programming Committee of 14th May, the Order of the House of 2nd April 2003 (Proceedings on consideration and Third Reading of the Criminal Justice Bill) be amended by omitting the entries in the Table for the second and third day and inserting the following:
TABLE
DayProceedingsTime for conclusion of proceedings
Second dayNew Clauses relating to Part 1, Clause No. 7, Clauses Nos. 9 and 10.One and a quarter hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion for this Order.
New Clauses relating to Part 2, Clauses Nos. 11 to 17, New Clauses relating to Part 5, Clauses Nos. 27 to 34, New Clauses relating to Part 9, Clauses Nos. 50 to 62.Two hours after the commencement of those proceedings.
New Clauses relating to Part 7, Clauses Nos. 36 to 43.Four and a half hours after the commencement of those proceedings.
Clause No. 63, Schedule No. 4, Clauses Nos. 64 to 81, New Clauses relating to Part 10.Six and a half hours after the commencement of those proceedings.
Third dayNew Clauses Nos. 30 to 39 and 46 to 51.Two and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Bill.
Remaining New Clauses relating to Part 12, Clauses Nos. 127 to 163, Schedule No. 7, Clause No. 164, Schedule No. 8, Clauses Nos. 165 to 171, Schedule No. 9, Clauses Nos. 172 to 176, Schedule No. 10, Clauses Nos. 177 to 201, Schedule No. 11, Clauses Nos. 202 to 206, Schedule No. 12, Clauses Nos. 207 to 211, Schedules Nos. 13 and 14, Clause No. 212, Schedule No. 15, Clauses Nos. 213, to 221, Schedule No. 16, Clauses Nos. 222 to 246, Schedule No. 17, Clause No. 247, Schedule No. 18, Clause No. 248, Schedules Nos. 19 and 20, Clauses Nos. 249 to 251, Schedule No. 21, Clause No. 252, Schedule No. 22, Clauses Nos. 253 and 254, Schedule No. 23, Clauses Nos. 255 to 258, Schedule No. 24, Clause No. 259, New Clauses relating to Part 6, Clause No. 35, Schedule No. 3, Clauses Nos. 260 to 265, Schedule No. 25, Clauses Nos. 266 to 268, Schedule No. 26, Clauses Nos. 269 to 273, Schedule No. 27, ClauseFour hours after the commencement of those proceedings.
No. 274, Schedule No. 28, Clause No. 275, Schedule No. 29, Clauses Nos. 276 to 280.
Remaining New Clauses, New Schedules, any remaining proceedings on the Bill.Five and a half hours after the commencement of those proceedings.
It is probably good advice for new Ministers speaking in that capacity for the first time to keep their contributions short. The House will be pleased to know that I intend to follow that advice, not just for the obvious reasons but because I believe that we need to get on and debate the many important issues before us over the next two days. Indeed, the proposed programme has been drawn up to help the House make the best use of the 13 hours of debate on the Bill that we shall have today and tomorrow. These 13 hours follow the six and a half hours on 2 April, as well as 32 sittings in the Standing Committee. In that connection, I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in recording our appreciation for the part played in those deliberations by the Minister of State, Department for International Development, my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Hilary Benn).

I am reliably informed that few Bills have had as many days as this on the Floor of the House on Report. It is important, therefore, that we should use the time wisely to debate the substance of the Bill, rather than lingering on procedure. The Government have tabled several new amendments and policy provisions. In some cases, the timing was unavoidable—for example, the murder sentencing provisions respond to a court ruling at the turn of the year. In others, the amendments respond to the valuable and constructive points raised on both sides of the Standing Committee. I am thinking here, for example, of measures relating to the Sentencing Guidelines Council and to retrial for serious offences.

I believe that the programme motion strikes the right balance, and I commend it to the House.

3.34 pm

First, I welcome the Minister to his appointment and congratulate him on it. If he can conduct his relations with the opposition parties in the manner of his predecessor, amicable relations in all parts of the House will be maintained.

The hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Hilary Benn) will be missed very much. We certainly appreciated his approach to consideration of the Bill and the conciliatory way in which he dealt with timetables and matters in Committee. With a certain note of sorrow, therefore, I have to say to the Minister that, despite fully accepting that the Government have sought to cooperate with the Opposition in allowing time for proper scrutiny, so many more proposals have been tabled by the Government that, perhaps inevitably, the allocation of three days for consideration on Report, which was a generous offer when it was made, is, I am afraid, insufficient.

After considering the number of amendments before us and the number that we have to debate tomorrow, I am sure that the Minister will acknowledge that, in reality, we have a grossly overloaded timetable. I might say that that is no fault of the Government Whip, who has done his very best throughout to squeeze the quart into the pint pot, but the truth is that the quart will not go into the pint pot. There is insufficient time to do justice to the legislation.

In particular, one has only to consider the diversity of the amendments to realise that tomorrow, as will be the case today, we face a situation in which very different proposals are grouped, which will inevitably result in a lack of focus during the debate. I regret that because there are important matters to discuss. Therefore, although we have sought to co-operate with the Government in managing the Bill's timetable, this is an occasion on which we part company with them. I do not want to take up much of the House's time as I want to get on with the debate, but we shall oppose the timetable motion.

3.37 pm

I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) in his welcome for the Minister and his comments on the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Hilary Benn), who did an excellent job in Committee. I wish him well in his new responsibilities.

Having said that, I entirely accord with the view that the programme motion is an admission of defeat by the Government in that it is clear that this important measure—what we are told is the flagship criminal justice Bill of this Parliament—will not receive the scrutiny it requires. It was already a substantial Bill of 280 clauses and 29 schedules, so it was always going to be difficult to give these important matters proper scrutiny, even in the three days originally allotted. Since then, the Government have come back to the House, with the result that there are nearly 500 amendments before us, and 28 Government new clauses.

These are not lightweight matters of detail. They include fingerprint and DNA samples, sentencing for murder, gun crime, increases in the penalty for causing death by dangerous driving, membership of the Sentencing Guidelines Council, abolition of committal proceedings, reporting restrictions, jury service, outraging public decency, the Criminal Records Bureau and extending powers of detention without charge. Those are matters of life and liberty. They deserve the House's proper attention, which is precisely what they will not receive under the programme motion.

Like the hon. Member for Beaconsfield, I do not want to take up valuable debating time, but the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short) was absolutely right last Monday when she referred to
"increasingly poor policy initiatives being rammed through Parliament".—[Official Report, 12 May 2003; Vol. 405, c. 38.]
QED, this is an example of exactly the tendency to which she drew attention, and we must do everything we can to resist it in this Chamber.

3.39 pm

Last Thursday, at business questions, the Leader of the House made it plain that he was willing to look again at programming. He said that there should be a little more time for consideration, so as to reflect on our experiences. I hope that when he comes to do that, he will reflect on what will happen with this Bill, which incidentally will replicate what happened with the Finance Bill last week.

It is inevitable that many important new clauses and amendments will not be discussed in this place; they will go to the other place wholly undiscussed. As the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) and my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) have said, those matters are of considerable importance. They include, and I will cite just three, jury trials, the way we deal with those sentenced for murder, and corporate manslaughter, the latter being the subject of a Back-Bench amendment.

Apart from the general points that I usually make on these occasions, there are others points that we should keep in mind. For many of us, this is the first opportunity to participate in debate on the detail of the Bill. It will perhaps be revealing a secret when I say that I volunteered to serve on the Standing Committee. The Whips did not find my offer very attractive and I do not wholly blame them. I was one of those who was willing, on my own terms, to serve on the Standing Committee and I was rejected, but now I would like to participate fully in the debate and I find that the Government timetable motion prevents me from doing so.

As one who was similarly underprivileged and down-trodden to the extent that I was denied a place on the Standing Committee upon the Bill, and in view of the importance of the public understanding why we are inveighing against the programme motion, will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that, even if we were to have six and a half hours uninterrupted debate without a single vote, which is wholly implausible, there would be under two minutes to debate each of the almost 200 amendments and new clauses today?

I am sure that my hon. Friend will not misunderstand me when I say that I do not suppose that six and a half hours would entirely accommodate my hon. Friend. I see why our Front-Bench team was uneasy at the prospect of a Hogg-Bercow axis. None the less, we are here today and we want to participate in the debate.

There are other serious points. I do not think that it is right to allow the Executive to determine the business of the House. They are entitled to come before the House and to place legislation before it, but what they are not entitled to do is to regulate the timetable. That seems to be a matter for us. I hope that, in the fullness of time, a business committee of the House, not the Executive, will regulate the timetable.

While I recognise that there are discussions between the Front-Bench teams as to what particular clauses and new clauses people want to focus on, Back Benchers do not always agree with Front Benchers. Therefore, it is important when the timetable is being regulated, that the interests of all hon. Members, Back Bench, Front Bench and minority parties as well, be properly taken into account. That is not happening in these timetable motions.

I see, Mr. Speaker, that you are going to call me to order in a moment. I come back directly to the question. A lot of important matters will remain unaddressed. We will send them to the other place undiscussed. That is a denial of democracy. Ultimately, we bring democracy into disrepute.

3.45 pm

My colleagues from the Ulster Unionist party are with me in spirit, although not in reality. On this occasion, they are united with me. I welcome the Minister to the Dispatch Box and am delighted to see him here today. However, I wish to commend warmly his predecessor, now the Minister of State, Department for International Development, the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Hilary Benn). When we began the 30 or so sittings in Committee—for which I had the great privilege to be selected—I was not familiar with the criminal law, but I came away from it greatly educated on double jeopardy, hearsay evidence and other matters, thanks to the Minister's predecessor.

My concern with the motion relates to the amendments on Northern Ireland. Five months ago in Committee—plus two or three days—the then Under-Secretary said:

"I confirm … that Northern Ireland Ministers intend that the Bill should apply to Northern Ireland".—[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 16 January 2003; c. 390.]
As I understand it, only part 10 of the Bill will extend to Northern Ireland. It grieves me terribly, on behalf of the 1.6 million people of Northern Ireland, that we are only today—five months later—seeing the amendments extended to Northern Ireland, and done so selectively. I urge the Home Office to think about joined-up government, involving Northern Ireland Ministers and Home Office Ministers. Other parts of the Bill should be extended to Northern Ireland and should have been extended to it in good time.

3.47 pm

Unlike the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) and the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow), I did not volunteer to serve on the Standing Committee, because I fully expected, as a Back Bencher, to be given the opportunity to talk about the Bill, the 500 amendments and 25 Government new clauses. To be denied that, means that Back Benchers have been denied the opportunity of voicing the criticisms and concerns of constituents on vital issues that will affect many of them for years to come.

Surely it is to neglect the responsibilities of the House towards the general population to have the debate curtailed in such a way and for so many important issues to be squeezed out. As the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham said, many of the amendments will not even be discussed in this place. That cannot be doing justice to the Bill. If the Bill is to do justice to the nation, the House should at least be given the courtesy of doing justice to it.

3.48 pm

This brief debate has already produced three rather interesting contributions. The first—from the Minister, whom we all welcome most warmly—was extremely brief, concise and to the point. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) then revealed something of which I was not aware: that there are occasions on which Whips can be truly discerning. There was also a remarkable contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for North Down (Lady Hermon), who revealed something even more unusual; that there are occasions on which the Ulster Unionist party can be united. I suspect that that is because she spoke for them; the others are all absent.

We are debating an extremely serious matter this afternoon; the Government's timetable, which was never generous, but has been transformed into a guillotine of severe proportions. The subjects that the House will be called upon to debate today and tomorrow are so important that none of us should speak in this debate for more than a few seconds or minutes. However, we will not be able to go back to our constituents this weekend and say that there was a proper discussion on trial by jury and the other important matters, a litany of which were read out by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) in his pertinent contribution.

Frankly, this is a disgrace. The Executive should not be able to put the Commons in a straitjacket in this manner. In future, if we are to have proper programming of Bills that allows adequate discussions of important issues, the timetables must be properly agreed. There must be flexibility if the Government subject us to an avalanche of extra amendments. Otherwise, we are going to turn this place into a total non-entity, which it is close to being already.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 283, Noes 160.

Division No. 202]

[3:50 pm

AYES

Ainger, NickBrown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, DouglasBrowne, Desmond
Allen, GrahamBryant, Chris
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)Burden, Richard
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Armstrong, rh Ms HilaryByers, rh Stephen
Atherton, Ms CandyCairns, David
Austin, JohnCampbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Bailey, AdrianCaplin, Ivor
Baird, VeraCasale, Roger
Banks, TonyCawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Battle, JohnChallen, Colin
Bayley, HughChapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Beard, NigelChaytor, David
Beckett, rh MargaretClapham, Michael
Begg, Miss AnneClark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Bell, StuartClark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Benn, HilaryClark, Paul (Gillingham)
Benton, Joe (Bootle)Clarke, rh Charles (Norwich S)
Berry, RogerClarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms HazelClarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Blizzard, BobClelland, David
Blunkett, rh DavidClwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Boateng, rh PaulCoaker, Vernon
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)Coffey, Ms Ann
Bradshaw, BenCohen, Harry
Brennan, KevinColeman, Iain

Colman, TonyHughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cooper, YvetteHurst, Alan (Braintree)
Corston, JeanHutton, rh John
Cousins, JimIddon, Dr. Brian
Cox, Tom (Tooting)Ingram, rh Adam
Crausby, DavidIrranca-Davies, Huw
Cruddas, JonJackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs ClaireJones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Dalyell, TamJones, Kevan (N Durham)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)Jowell, rh Tessa
Davidson, IanJoyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)Kaufman, rh Gerald
Dean, Mrs JanetKeeble, Ms Sally
Denham, rh JohnKeen, Ann (Brentford)
Dhanda, ParmjitKemp, Fraser
Dismore, AndrewKennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)Khabra, Piara S.
Donohoe, Brian H.Kidney, David
Doran, FrankKilfoyle, Peter
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)King, Andy (Rugby)
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)King, Ms Oona Bethnal Green & Bow)
Eagle, Maria (L"pool Garston)
Efford, CliveKnight, Jim (S Dorset)
Ellman, Mrs LouiseKumar, Dr. Ashok
Etherington, BillLadyman, Dr. Stephen
Farrelly, PaulLammy, David
Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Fisher, MarkLazarowicz, Mark
Fitzpatrick, JimLevitt, Tom (High Peak)
Flynn, Paul (Newport W)Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Foster, Michael (Worcester)Liddell, rh Mrs Helen
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)Linton Martin
Love, Andrew
Foulkes, rh GeorgeLucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)McAvoy, Thomas
Gardiner, BarryMcCafferty, Chris
Gerrard, NeilMcDonagh, Siobhain
Gibson, Dr. IanMacDougall, John
Gilroy, LindaMcGuire, Mrs Anne
Goggins, PaulMcIsaac, Shona
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)McKechin, Ann
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)Mackinlay, Andrew
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)McNulty, Tony
Grogan, JohnMahon, Mrs Alice
Hain, rh PeterMandelson, rh Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Hanson, DavidMarsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Harman, rh Ms HarrietMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)Martlew, Eric
Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)Meacher, rh Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Healey, JohnMiliband, David
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)Miller, Andrew
Hendrick, MarkMoffatt, Laura
Hepburn, StephenMole, Chris
Heppell, JohnMorley, Elliot
Hesford, StephenMullin, Chris
Hewitt, rh Ms PatriciaMunn, Ms Meg
Heyes, DavidMurphy, rh Paul (Torfaen)
Hill, Keith (Streatham)Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
Hodge, MargaretO'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)Olner, Bill
Hood, Jimmy (Clydesdale)O'Neill, Martin
Hope, Phil (Corby)Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)Palmer, Dr. Nick
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)Pearson, Ian
Perham, Linda

Pickthall, ColinSteinberg, Gerry
Pike, Peter (Burnley)Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, KerryStinchcombe, Paul
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)Stoate, Dr. Howard
Pound, StephenStrang, rh Dr. Gavin
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Primarolo, rh DawnSutcliffe, Gerry
Purnell, JamesTami, Mark (Alyn)
Quin, rh JoyceTaylor, rh Ann (Dewsbury)
Quinn, LawrieTaylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Rammell, BillTaylor, David (NW Leics)
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Raynsford, rh NickThomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)Timms, Stephen
Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N & Bellshill)Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Trickett, Jon
Roche, Mrs BarbaraTurner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Rooney, TerryTurner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Ruane, ChrisTurner, Neil (Wigan)
Ruddock, JoanTwigg, Derek (Halton)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Salter, MartinTynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Sarwar, MohammadVis, Dr. Rudi
Savidge, MalcolmWareing, Robert N.
Sawford, PhilWatson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Sedgemore, BrianWatts, David
Shaw, JonathanWhite, Brian
Sheerman, BarryWhitehead, Dr. Alan
Shipley, Ms DebraWicks, Malcolm
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)Winnick, David
Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)Wright, David (Telford)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Helen

Tellers for the Ayes:

Squire, Rachel

Mr. Jim Murphy and

Starkey, Dr. Phyllis

Charlotte Atkins

NOES

Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)Cash, William
Allan, RichardChapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Ancram, rh Michael
Arbuthnot, rh JamesChidgey, David
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Chope, Christopher
Bacon, RichardClappison, James
Baldry, TonyConway, Derek
Barker, GregoryCormack, Sir Patrick
Baron, John (Billericay)Cotter, Brian
Bercow, JohnDavey, Edward (Kingston)
Beresford, Sir PaulDavies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)Davis, rh David (Haltemprice & Howden)
Brady, Graham
Brake, Tom (Carshalton)Djanogly, Jonathan
Brazier, JulianDoughty, Sue
Brooke, Mrs Annette L.Evans, Nigel
Browning, Mrs AngelaFabricant, Michael
Burnett, JohnFlight, Howard
Burns, SimonFlook, Adrian
Burstow, PaulForth, rh Eric
Burt, AlistairFrancois, Mark
Butterfill, JohnGale, Roger (N Thanet)
Cable, Dr. VincentGibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
Calton, Mrs PatsyGidley, Sandra
Cameron, DavidGillan, Mrs Cheryl
Carmichael, AlistairGray, James (N Wilts)

Green, Damian (Ashford)Pickles, Eric
Greenway, JohnPrisk, Mark (Hertford)
Grieve, DominicPugh, Dr. John
Gummer, rh JohnRandall, John
Hague, rh WilliamRedwood, rh John
Hammond, PhilipReid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Hancock, MikeRendel, David
Harvey, NickRobertson, Angus (Moray)
Hawkins, NickRobertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Hayes, John (S Holland)Roe, Mrs Marion
Heald, OliverRosindell, Andrew
Heath, DavidRussell, Bob (Colchester)
Heathcoat-Amory, rh DavidSanders, Adrian
Hendry, CharlesSayeed, Jonathan
Hermon, LadySelous, Andrew
Hoban, Mark (Fareham)Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian
Hogg, rh DouglasSimmonds, Mark
Holmes, PaulSimpson, Keith (M-Norfolk)
Horam, John (Orpington)Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)Smyth, Rev. Martin (Belfast S)
Jack, rh MichaelSpicer, Sir Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)Spink, Bob (Castle Point
Jenkin, BernardSpring, Richard
Keetch, PaulStanley, rh Sir John
Key, Robert (Salisbury)Streeter, Gary
Laing, Mrs EleanorStunell, Andrew
Lait, Mrs JacquiSwire, Hugo (E Devon)
Lamb, NormanSyms, Robert
Lansley, AndrewTapsell, Sir Peter
Laws, David (Yeovil)Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Leigh, EdwardTaylor, John (Solihull)
Letwin, rh OliverTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Liddell-Grainger, IanTonge, Dr. Jenny
Lidington, DavidTredinnick, David
Lilley, rh PeterTrend, Michael
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Llwyd, ElfynTyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Loughton, TimViggers, Peter
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)Walter, Robert
McIntosh, Miss AnneWaterson, Nigel
Mackay, rh AndrewWatkinson, Angela
Maclean, rh DavidWebb, Steve (Northavon)
McLoughlin, PatrickWhittingdale, John
Malins, HumfreyWiddecombe, rh Miss Ann
Marshall-Andrews, RobertWiggin, Bill
Mawhinney, rh Sir BrianWilkinson, John
May, Mrs TheresaWilletts, David
Mercer, PatrickWilshire, David
Moss, MalcolmWinterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Oaten, Mark (Winchester)Wishart, Pete
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)Young, rh Sir George
Öpik, Lembit
Page, Richard

Tellers for the Noes:

Paice, James

Hugh Robertson and

Paterson, Owen

Mr. Desmond Swayne

Question accordingly agreed to.

Orders Of The Day

Criminal Justice Bill

[2nd Allotted Day]

As amended in the Standing Committee, further considered.

Government New Clause 14

Taking Fingerprints Without Consent

(1) Section 61 of the 1984 Act (fingerprinting) is amended as follows.

(2) For subsections (3) and (4) (taking of fingerprints without appropriate consent) there is substituted—

"(3) The fingerprints of a person detained at a police station may be taken without the appropriate consent if—

  • (a) he is detained in consequence of his arrest for a recordable offence; and
  • (b) he has not had his fingerprints taken in the course of the investigation of the offence by the police.
  • (4) The fingerprints of a person detained at a police station may be taken without the appropriate consent if—

  • (a) he has been charged with a recordable offence or informed that he will be reported for such an offence; and
  • (b) he has not had his fingerprints taken in the course of the investigation of the offence by the police."
  • (3) In subsection (3A) (disregard of incomplete or unsatisfactory fingerprints) for the words from the beginning to "subsection (3) above" there is substituted "Where a person mentioned in paragraph (a) of subsection (3) or (4) has already had his fingerprints taken in the course of the investigation of the offence by the police".

    (4) In subsection (5) (authorisation to be given or confirmed in writing) for "subsection (3)(a) or (4A)" there is substituted "subsection (4A)".

    (5) In subsection (7) (reasons for taking of fingerprints without consent) for "subsection (3) or (6)" there is substituted "subsection (3), (4) or (6)".'.

    [Mr.Bob Ainsworth.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    4.3 pm

    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department
    (Mr. Bob Ainsworth)

    I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

    Amendment (a) to the proposed new clause, in subsection (3)(a) after "offence', inserts

    'and an officer of at least the rank of inspector authorises them to be taken'.

    Government new clause 15— Taking non-intimate samples without consent

  • '(1) Section 63 of the 1984 Act (other samples) is amended as follows.
  • (2) After subsection (2) (consent to be given in writing) there is inserted—
  • "(2A) A non-intimate sample may be taken from a person without the appropriate consent if two conditions are satisfied.
  • (2B) The first is that the person is in police detention in consequence of his arrest for a recordable offence.
  • (2C) The second is that—
  • (a) he has not had a non-intimate sample of the same type and from the same part of the body taken in the course of the investigation of the offence by the police, or
  • (b) he has had such a sample taken but it proved insufficient."
  • (3) In subsection (3)(a) (taking of samples without appropriate consent) the words "is in police detention or" are omitted.
  • (4) In subsection (3A) (taking of samples without appropriate consent after charge) for "(whether or not he falls within subsection (3)(a) above)" there is substituted "(whether or not he is in police detention or held in custody by the police on the authority of a court)".
  • (5) In subsection (8A) (reasons for taking of samples without consent) for "subsection (3A)" there is substituted "subsection (2A), (3A)".'.
  • And the following amendments thereto: (a), in subsection (2A), after 'appropriate consent if' leave out 'two' and insert 'three'.

    (b), at end of (2C) insert

    '(2D) The third is that an officer of at least the rank of inspector authorises them to be taken.'.

    New clause 20— Arrest without warrant for arrestable offences

    '.—After subsection (5) of section 24 of the 1984 Act there is inserted—
    "(5A) Any person may arrest, without warrant, any person who is accused by an apparently credible witness of having committed an arrestable offence shortly before the accusation is made.".'.

    New clause 55— Destruction of fingerprints and samples

    '(1) Section 64 of the 1984 Act (destruction of fingerprints and samples) is amended as follows:

    (2) In subsection (3) the words', except as provided in the following provisions of this section,' are omitted.

    (3) Subsections (3AA), (3AB) and (3AC) are omitted.'.

    Amendment No. 122, in page 5, line 18 [Clause 7], leave out "and' and insert—

  • "(ba) The Law Society of England and Wales,
  • (bb) The Bar Council,
  • (bc) The Institute of Legal Executives, and'.
  • Amendment No. 167, in page 5, line 18 [Clause 7], leave out 'and' and insert—

    "(ba) the Home Affairs Committee'.

    Amendment No. 54, in page 5, line 21 [Clause 7], at end insert—

    '(6) No code or revised code issued under this section shall have effect until approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.'.

    Amendment No. 55, in page 5, line 36 [Clause 7], at end insert—

    '(7A) No code or revised code issued under this section shall have effect until approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.'.

    Amendment No. 169, in page 6, line 2, leave out clause 9.

    Amendment No. 57, in page 6, line 7 [Clause 9], leave out second "a' and insert 'such'.

    Amendment No. 58, in page 6, line 7 [Clause 9], leave out second "drug' and insert 'drugs'.

    Amendment No. 59, in page 6, line 8 [Clause 9], at end insert—

    "as are identified as cannabis or cannabis resin'.

    Amendment No. 170, in page 6, line 41 [Clause 10], leave out 'different' and insert 'higher'.

    Government amendments Nos. 231 and 109.

    I shall speak mainly to Government new clauses 14 and 15 and Government amendments Nos. 231 and 109, and deal with the other amendments in a diverse group as briefly as I can.

    Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, the police may currently take fingerprints from all those charged with, informed that they will be reported for, or convicted of, a recordable offence. With the authority of an inspector, the police may also take fingerprints from those suspected of a criminal offence where there are reasonable grounds for believing that the fingerprints will tend to confirm or disprove the suspect's involvement.

    PACE also permits the police to take a person's fingerprints when they have reason to believe that they will confirm, disprove or assist in ascertaining the suspect's identity. An inspector's authority is required and the person must have refused to identify himself or herself or the officer must have reasonable grounds to suspect that the person is not who they claim to be. So the police can miss the opportunity to establish a detained person's true identity if they lie about who they are and the police have no reason to suspect that they have lied.

    The problem presents itself even more acutely now that we have the new Livescan technology, which can check a fingerprint against national records while the detained person can be reasonably expected to be in custody. New clause 14 will enable those who seek to evade justice by giving the police a false identity to be properly identified and dealt with through the due process of law. There will be a link to the police national computer, which may reveal whether the person is believed to be a danger to themselves or to others, or perhaps requires medication or an appropriate adult to be present during an interview.

    New clause 14 has been welcomed by the police. The power to take fingerprints pre-charge has civil liberties implications. I recognise those concerns, but the intrusion on personal liberty is both necessary and proportionate to the benefits for the victims of crime and society generally, in detecting crime and protecting the public from criminals.

    The Court of Appeal has recently considered those issues in a judicial review brought by a juvenile known as S and an individual known as Michael Marper against the chief constable of South Yorkshire. Both had their fingerprints and a sample of DNA taken when they were charged and each asked the chief constable to destroy their fingerprints and DNA samples and to remove their DNA profile from the national database. When proceedings against them had finished, the chief constable decided to retain the fingerprints. The Court of Appeal found that, although limited interference under article 8(1) of the European convention on human rights took place, it was proportionate to the benefits that accrue to the victims of crime and society as a whole and to the prevention and detection of crime.

    New clause 15 would allow non-intimate samples to be taken from anyone arrested for a recordable offence and detained in a police station. A non-intimate sample is defined by section 65 of PACE and includes hair, mouth swabs, saliva and skin impressions. Currently, the police may take non-intimate samples from all those charged with, informed that they will be reported for, or convicted of a recordable offence. On the authority of an inspector, a non-intimate sample may be taken from those suspected of a recordable offence where reasonable grounds exist to believe that the sample will tend to confirm or disprove the suspect's identity.

    The new power to take non-intimate samples from people arrested for a recordable offence and detained at a police station will enable a DNA profile to be obtained and a search to be made on the database for matches with a crime-scene stain.

    If this problem has been known for some time, why was not such a clause included in the original Bill or introduced in Committee?

    New clauses 14 and 15 have been introduced after discussions with the police. I have talked about the new fingerprinting technology that is now available, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would agree, if he agrees that the proportionality is reasonable, that we should not delay introducing these changes because they will clearly help in the detection of crime.

    So that hon. Members on both sides of the House are clear about this, may I say that this issue was raised in Committee? I did so myself, and the Minister of State, Department for International Development, my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Hilary Benn)—who conducted himself so superbly in Committee—agreed that the Government would consider it, so I am very grateful to them for introducing the proposal.

    I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. He had the benefit of serving on the Standing Committee. Of course I did not do so. Knowing that the issue was discussed with some concern in Committee adds to my argument for us to get on and deal with it.

    Are there not two issues? The first is the propriety of taking samples, whether DNA or fingerprints, from someone who has been arrested but not charged, for the purpose of checking whether they might be wanted for, or implicated in, some other offence. The second is the decision to add that material to a national DNA database. If what we are really doing is extending the criteria for addition to the DNA database to people who have been arrested and not charged, would it not be better simply to say that it is the Government's view that everybody in the country should provide fingerprints and DNA samples for crime-prevention purposes? That is in fact what the Government are slowly moving towards by stealth.

    There is no justification for saying that. I read out the decision taken by the Court of Appeal on the retention of fingerprints. I see no reason, in principle, why the same decision would not be reached on DNA. There is a good case for taking samples, whether DNA or fingerprints, in the circumstances that have been described. Having taken them, should they be destroyed? Other evidence gathered in the course of an investigation is not necessarily destroyed. It would be a big step to move from that to the hon. Gentleman's idea that there should be a complete database with everybody's fingerprints and DNA. There are wholly different issues to think about in that regard.

    In a completely non-partisan context, may I raise a different matter that relates to the experience of one of my constituents? My constituent lost his daughter in a road accident in 1984 as a result of reckless driving. On the occasion of the accident, the person who was subsequently proved to have been the culprit was, for a relatively brief period, unconscious. Under the law, was it right—my constituent does not think so—that there was no subsequent opportunity to breathalyse the defendant, who was subsequently convicted of dangerous driving? My constituent will never know whether, as he suspects, the man concerned was under the influence. I am not saying that that is the point of the provision, but is there any intention to address that issue?

    We have talked about such issues and tried to deal with them. I am not insensitive to the issue raised by the hon. Gentleman, but we have only a relatively short time to debate this group of amendments, after Opposition Members discussed the programme motion and voted against it. I have taken interventions, and I do not want to extend the debate to an issue that is not covered by the amendments and new clauses that we are discussing.

    I will give way to the hon. Gentleman but then I must make some progress, as other Members want to contribute.

    May I take the Minister back to an earlier point that is central to the debate? Will he explain why someone who is not convicted of a criminal offence, and someone who is arrested but against whom no further action is taken and who is thus also not convicted of a criminal offence, should be treated differently in the criminal justice system? Why should the state record details in one case where a person who is completely innocent and not in the other? What is the logic?

    The logic is to provide proportionality and to deal with crime and to protect our communities from crime. The hon. Gentleman cannot have been listening when I read out the Court of Appeal decision in the judicial review of decisions to retain the DNA and fingerprints of the two individuals concerned. The Court of Appeal does not find that problem insurmountable, even if he does so, there is no huge matter of principle. The point is whether it is proportionate to the size of the problem to allow those records to be kept. I believe that it is, and that a clear case can be made for keeping both DNA samples and fingerprints. For the reasons that I set out in relation to the new clause on fingerprints, the extension of police powers to retain DNA samples is both necessary and proportionate.

    4.15 pm

    I now turn to the Opposition amendments to new clause 14. In response to amendment (a), it is important that the police can act quickly and systematically, and the amendment would introduce an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. The same applies to amendments (a) and (b) to new clause 15. Imposing a restriction whereby the taking of a sample must be authorised by an inspector or above could result in crimes going undetected and introduce an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.

    On Opposition new clause 55, which deals with destroying fingerprints and samples, it is important for the police to be able to retain all the information assembled during an investigation of an offence, not least to enable them to investigate a possible miscarriage of justice in the future. The police can already retain other information gathered as part of an investigation, such as witness statements, photographs and so on, and samples and fingerprints taken from a person who has been arrested during an investigation are not fundamentally different from those. Samples will be available to the police in the event of that suspect committing an offence in the future. Law-abiding citizens should have nothing to fear, as they will be used only for the prevention and the investigation of crime.

    I have given way a great deal, and I need to get on and deal with this group of amendments, to allow other Members, perhaps including the hon. Gentleman, to speak.

    In relation to new clause 20, on citizen's arrest, it seeks to extend the circumstances in which a citizen may make an arrest. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 already allows a citizen's arrest in circumstances in which an arrestable offence has in fact been committed. The new clause could be interpreted as extending that scope for arrest to cover circumstances in which there is no certainty that an arrestable offence had been committed, but only a believable accusation. Powers to arrest when there is merely a suspicion are best left to the judgment and experience of a police officer.

    Amendment No. 54 would require the retention of the affirmative resolution procedure for new and revised PACE codes. I understand that there was extensive discussion of the issue in Committee, and following that discussion, trying to take into account the views of the Home Affairs Committee, we have considered the procedural options for dealing with new and amended codes. We accept that the affirmative procedure is justified for new codes and for significant amendments. We have been trying, however, to devise a quicker route for handling minor and straightforward changes. We have looked at the scope for involving the Home Affairs Committee in advising on whether specific changes warrant detailed parliamentary scrutiny, but substantial difficulties exist in terms of specifying a role for the Committee in the Bill.

    A more workable alternative might be to amend the legislation so that there is effectively a choice between affirmative resolution and merely laying any proposed changes before Parliament. Ministers could then undertake in Parliament to seek to be bound by the Home Affairs Committee advice in each individual case. That might effectively ensure that the Committee had oversight of which procedure should be adopted, without referring to the Committee in the Bill, and might be a way of resolving the conflict between the need for flexibility and the need for proper scrutiny. It is therefore a difficult problem, which needs more consideration. We would be grateful to hear further views in the light of what I have just suggested, and against that background I would ask that the amendments be withdrawn, although we would be happy to return to the issue to deal with other Members' views in another place.

    Amendment No. 55 would require the affirmative resolution procedure for analogous codes covering the work of military police forces. Currently, such codes are subject only to negative resolution. They tend to follow the PACE codes, and we think that there is a good case for exempting them from specific parliamentary procedure. I therefore ask the Opposition to withdraw the amendment.

    The Minister says that the military code tends to follow PACE. If so, I follow his points, but given the degree to which it diverges from PACE, it seems that the Minister is on a bad point.

    I have said that, by and large, the code tends to follow PACE. I do not know whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman considers it useful to take up the time of the House discussing what are effectively duplications in most cases. I shall be happy to listen to views on that. However, we do not believe that there is a case for the affirmative resolution procedure to be used, certainly in regard to analogous codes.

    On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister has repeatedly adverted to the inadequacy of the timetable motion. Is there any way in which the Minister and the Government can return to a further programming committee to seek more time so that we can properly debate the Bill? The Minister keeps saying that inadequate time is the reason for not debating matters in this place. That is the message that is coming from the horse's mouth. Can you help the Government out of the fix of their own making?

    It is not a matter for the Minister because the House has decided to agree to the programme motion, and therefore it is the property of the House.

    The hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) should listen to what I say. I was talking about whether it would be useful for the House to spend time discussing changes to the military codes in future. I was not talking about the time that we spend dealing with the Bill now. We would have had a little more time today if Members had not spoken against the programme motion and divided on it. We would have had an extra hour and a quarter to discuss these matters rather than the truncated debate that will now take place.

    As for amendment No. 122, we believe that it is sensible to extend the consultation requirements to the Law Society and the Bar Council but that it is unnecessary to extend them to the Institute of Legal Executives. The Law Society and the Bar Council adequately represent a broad range of legal perspectives. The institute could be consulted where a particular need arose.

    Amendment No. 167 relates to consulting the Home Affairs Committee. That needs to be considered in line with what I said earlier about potential changes to the code.

    I would like to give way to the hon. Gentleman, but Conservative Back Benchers are demanding that I take less time at the Dispatch Box. The hon. Gentleman speaks for the Opposition Front Bench, and I will give way to him if he wishes me to do so. However, I hope that I do not get—

    I will not give way. I shall make some progress.

    I move on to the amendments to clause 9, which deals with powers of arrest for possession of class C drugs. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced his intention to bring forward reclassification of cannabis from class B to class C under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. In conjunction with that, my right hon. Friend announced that the police would continue to be able to arrest persons for offences of possession of cannabis where public order was threatened.

    Under guidance issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers, for most offences of cannabis possession, a police warning will be sufficient along with confiscation of the drug. However, where there is a public order problem or where children are at risk, the result could be an arrest. We do not believe that clause 9 sends mixed messages. The message that we are sending is that cannabis is harmful, but not as harmful as other class A or B drugs. That is reflected in law enforcement. The power of arrest for possession of cannabis will be used sparingly, and the penalties are different.

    On amendments Nos. 57 to 59, it would be inconsistent with the principles underlying the classification structure of the Misuse of Drugs Act to have a specific law for cannabis. The Government believe that it is right that cannabis should be in class C. The power of arrest would be used only in limited circumstances. In practice, we envisage very few cases indeed where the power of arrest would be appropriate in relation to other class C drugs. The problem is more apparent than real.

    With regard to new clauses 14 and 15, the Opposition fully understand the concern of the police that it may be a powerful tool in the detection of crime if they have the opportunity, when somebody is arrested and brought into the police station for another matter, to obtain, prior to charge, non-intimate DNA samples and to take fingerprints, so as to check whether that person might be wanted in connection with some other, possibly far more serious, matter. It is a pragmatic approach, but it is based on the knowledge that often, when police officers pick up somebody for some minor matter, something far more serious may be lurking behind.

    If that were the sole purpose of the new clauses, we would be willing to go along with it. But the Government are seeking through the new clauses to add to a mischief that they introduced in the 2001 Act and to provide that, although somebody may have no criminal conviction against their name and may never even have been charged with any offence, the material collected from them by way of a non-intimate DNA sample or by way of fingerprint when they are brought into the police station will be retained and added to the national database. That potentially involves a very large number of people. Some 1.2 million people per annum are arrested for possible recordable offences, although that does not mean that that number are charged.

    The Minister seemed to miss the point when he answered the intervention earlier. There may well be a thoroughly sound argument that matters have moved on so much in the possibilities of scientific analysis and detection that the time has come when, for the sake of the prevention of crime, all of us, law-abiding and non-law-abiding, should voluntarily or compulsorily provide our DNA and our fingerprints to the state, so that if an offence is committed, rapid checks can be carried out. There are some who would oppose that on civil liberties grounds. It would undoubtedly be a considerable intrusion into civil liberties, but it is perfectly capable of rational justification, if that is what the Minister wishes to do.

    However, what is being done through the new clauses is yet again to create a new category of—excuse me using the word—Untermenschen, a sort of sub-people who, although they may have done nothing wrong, must figure in the national database, whereas other people are excluded from it. I find that, as a philosophical position, deeply unsatisfactory and offensive. The Conservatives objected to the 2001 extension for that reason. Whatever the Court of Appeal may say or do, I disagree with it. The court is there to interpret the law. Parliament passed the law. In this context, it was a thoroughly bad law, and now the Minister's proposals would compound the matter.

    Law-abiding people who have never been in trouble with the police in their life, who were taken into the police station for some minor matter from which they may be totally exonerated half an hour or 45 minutes later, will find, to their deep resentment that their DNA and fingerprints have been added to the national database. The opportunities for abuse of the measure are obvious. The police can easily arrest somebody and release them afterwards. The chances of anybody having some subsequent recourse or bringing proceedings are slight. People do not normally act in that way. I say to the Minister that there will be a new class of people who are dissatisfied and discontented with the way in which policing is carried out in this country. As my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) recently pointed out, the state is good on the easy cases—it arrests and criminalises people who are usually law-abiding—but poor at dealing with those whom society requires should be dealt with. For those reasons, we object to the new clause, and if the Government are not prepared to accept an amendment ensuring that the DNA and fingerprints would be destroyed, we will oppose it.

    4.30 pm

    As the hon. Gentleman, too, was present at the many Standing Committee sittings, he will recall clearly that the Minister who was then responsible for the Bill frequently prayed in aid experience, practice and procedure in other common-law jurisdictions. Is he aware of any other common-law jurisdiction in which such provision is the practice or procedure?

    I am not aware of any such jurisdiction. Indeed, on normal common-law principles, the provision is highly offensive. It runs contrary to every aspect of our national tradition, because law-abiding individuals who do not bring themselves into trouble by being successfully prosecuted and convicted should not have any personal details about them retained on police files—in particular, their fingerprints and DNA.

    I object fundamentally to the proposal and I do not understand the rationale behind it. Indeed, when I met the Association of Chief Police Officers to discuss the proposal when it was first raised, it did not suggest that such material had to be retained. It wanted power to obtain fingerprints and DNA to make the comparison, but there was no suggestion that it wanted to add those data to the national database.

    Might I suggest what may be a motive and is undoubtedly a vice? On recognising that the new clauses allow the acquisition of non-intimate samples and/or fingerprints, the police might go on a fishing expedition and make an arrest for which there is no adequate justification in order to use the powers and obtain the samples to further their inquiries. While there may be a case for such an approach, if it is to be taken, it needs to be made overt. The provision is a panacea for fishing.

    I agree entirely with my right hon. and learned Friend. Indeed, I sought to make that very point earlier. The system could be open to abuse and lead to claims that people have been persecuted for the sake of getting them into the police station under a pretext of arrest.

    In the limited time available, I shall not speak any further about new clauses 14 and 15, except to say that we oppose them and will press new clause 15 to a vote. I wish now to turn to the other matters that have been touched on, as there are other very important matters to be considered, although, frankly, we do not have the opportunity to do them justice.

    I am delighted to hear from the Minister that he is in favour of consultation with groups about any changes to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. He specifically mentioned the Bar Council and the Law Society. Am I to take it that the Government propose to table an amendment in another place specifically to provide that they should be consulted? I see the Minister nodding, but he had better put it on record.

    I make it clear that, if the hon. Gentleman does not press his amendment, we will table an amendment to do precisely that.

    I am grateful to the Minister. I appreciate the point that he makes, but the reason why we seek to add the Institute of Legal Executives to the list is that those who attend at police stations for the interview of suspects are frequently members of that organisation and not qualified solicitors. In those circumstances, people in that single category probably have the most experience of the way in which the police operate PACE on a daily basis. Of course, the Bar may be involved in unravelling the problems of PACE if there is a challenge in the courts afterwards, and there will be occasions when solicitors attend. We will not press the amendment to a vote. I am grateful to the Minister, but I urge him to think about the Institute of Legal Executives. I think that the Government will find that they have to consult it during any revision of the codes, because it plays an important part in their operation.

    As my hon. Friend is talking about reviewing the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, does he agree with new clause 20, which is in my name and would ensure a proper review of security guards' powers of arrest? It is clear that they have the power to arrest someone when they see an offence committed, but it is not clear whether they would be able to do so if another security guard saw it on closed circuit television. Does my hon. Friend agree that this is an important issue? If we are to crack down on shoplifting, the Government should give my new clause a fair hearing, not the time that we have been allowed this afternoon.

    I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. I did not take his new clause in sequence, because I wanted to leave it to the end and take more time over it. As he has raised it, I might as well deal with it now.

    My hon. Friend raises an important point. We talk about the police officer being a citizen in uniform, but we give the police very great powers reasonably to carry out an arrest on suspicion. We are very short of police officers at the moment—

    We are very short of police officers who can carry out the necessary work of policing, but we are disempowering individuals so that they cannot take perfectly reasonable action to prevent crime or apprehend criminals.

    My hon. Friend's new clause merits serious consideration. It would certainly make it easier for someone to carry out a citizen's arrest. After all, the Minister and the Government have been extending the categories in which hearsay evidence is allowed in court. Oddly enough, however, if one's granny says that she has been mugged, but one was not at the scene and did not witness the mugging, one's ability to arrest the individual will be limited. That is an important matter, and we cannot do justice to it in the time available.

    In one of his amendments, the hon. Gentleman wants to give powers of consultation to his own trade union—the Bar Council. Would he like to extend such powers to the shop workers' trade union—the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers?

    That needs to be debated at greater length, which shows what a mockery the timetable is. However, let me move on, because I want to give other hon. Members time to speak.

    On the approval of the codes, I am grateful to the Minister for accepting the strong representations that the Opposition made in Committee on the need for the affirmative procedure. I am delighted about that, and I shall say no more about the issue. We shall look at the details when they appear in the other place.

    Finally, I turn to the question of class C drugs. I do not want to get bogged down on whether cannabis should be a class B or a class C drug. The Government have made their decision, which has been both criticised and approved, depending on people's standpoint. What is extraordinary, however, is that by moving cannabis into the class C category, the Government have made all offences involving class C drugs arrestable. That is complete nonsense because those offences encompass such banal things as walking around in the street with ordinary prescription drugs or, indeed, drugs that may be banned nationally, such as steroids, which are not exactly abused on a large scale. There is absolutely no justification for making such things arrestable, when the Government accepted in Committee the fact that other class C drugs were not arrestable and had never caused a problem. Indeed, in the last year for which figures were available, there were only, prior to cannabis being made a class C drug, 450 prosecutions for possession of a class C drug in England and Wales. The problem is minute, and the Government are taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

    Surely the hon. Gentleman accepts that we are giving a power of arrest that will have to be limited in its use by guidance to be drawn up by ACPO. The problem that he raises is an apparent problem only, in that I cannot envisage circumstances in which the power of arrest will be used for any other class C drug. He should address the reality of what is being done, not seek to dress it up differently.

    The Minister is doing something that the Government do all the time nowadays. They say, "This is a power that we need to have, but it will be exercised in a particular way." I see no reason why they should take a power that they do not intend to exercise. The class C list includes 117 substances other than cannabis and cannabis resin, and more have been added in the past week or two. Having moved cannabis and cannabis resin to class C, the Government are completely distorting the mechanisms of class C to accommodate it. Much better than that ludicrous tinkering would be simply to make cannabis and cannabis resin a discrete drug that is arrestable within class C.

    Does my hon. Friend agree that what the Minister said—namely, that the power of arrest shall depend on ACPO, an unaccountable body—is deeply offensive to this House?

    I entirely agree with my right hon. and learned Friend. That is why we would have sought, but probably will not have the opportunity, to put our amendments to the vote.

    The folly of the timetable is clearly demonstrated by the fact that we have six minutes left with many hon. Members wishing to contribute to the debate on a group of amendments that covers fingerprints, citizen's arrest, retention of DNA samples, consultation, the important disputed issue of drugs—about which we should like to say a great deal more—and the rules under which PACE will operate.

    The Government may have a case for testing prior to charge for DNA samples or for fingerprints. They do not, however, have a case for retaining that evidence solely for those who happen to have crossed the portals of a police station under arrest, but not for the rest of the population. One is either innocent or not innocent: we cannot establish a new category of people whom we do not like the look of and on whom we will retain evidence sine die for use on a future occasion. The problem is that the police will inevitably use that provision, which is on a par with those in the rest of the Bill. Increasingly, someone who has been convicted of an offence that may or may not be relevant, accused of or charged with an offence, or arrested is considered to be the likely suspect and no longer has the same standards of liberty as the rest of the population. I know that the Home Secretary has a somewhat Laodicean view of human rights, but that is not good enough, and it is time that the House made that clear. If a national database is to be established, let the Government come clean and say that that is what they intend.

    Would a national database established under independent auspices, rather than the auspices of the state or the police, allay some of the hon Gentleman's fears? Would he consider allowing voluntary entries to the DNA database so that people could be checked when necessary? I hope that he would concede that a lot of good has come from DNA testing.

    Of course I would concede the latter point. We need to have a debate about the matter. It is interesting that when it was first raised in 2001, police officers were invited to provide DNA samples. A great number did not wish to do so: perhaps that tells its own story. I do not accept, however, the halfway house that the Government propose.

    The group covers other important matters. We have already debated future procedure for amendments to codes of conduct under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. The Government are moving in the direction that we wanted, for which I am grateful. I look forward to the outcome of those deliberations. The Minister rejected my view that an inspector's agreement should be required for taking samples in a police station. That is the position under PACE. The Minister claims that it is bureaucratic and unnecessary, but I believe that it may be a useful safeguard.

    4.45 pm

    I want to speak briefly about amendments Nos. 169 and 170, which Liberal Democrat Members tabled. They relate to the point that the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) made about the unholy mess that the Government have made of their position on drugs law. Irrespective of one's views on cannabis reclassification, it is especially absurd that at the same time as the Government do that, they introduce it as an arrestable offence together with possession of a variety of other substances that should never be included in that category.

    We support a clearly defined drugs policy, with objectives that people understand, that is not undermined by inconsistency but that points people in the direction of the treatment that they need. The Bill does nothing to help that process. If we have the opportunity, we should like to test hon. Members' opinion of amendment No. 169. The debate has been wholly inadequate on such an important subject. It underlines the inadequacy of today's programme motion.

    We need a national debate on DNA and whether there should be a national database. We should also hold a further debate, which I hope the Government will sponsor, on whether we can extend DNA databases on a voluntary basis.

    I want to reinforce the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) on new clause 15, which will enable the police to go on fishing expeditions. When I first became a Member of Parliament, there was much debate about the vagrancy Acts and the power to arrest people on suspicion. We are now giving the police precisely the same sort of power, which they will use to obtain fingerprints and/or intimate or non-intimate samples from people against whom there is insufficient evidence.

    It being one and a quarter hours after the commencement of proceedings on the programme motion, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER, pursuant to Orders [4 February, 5 March, 2 April and this day] put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

    Question accordingly agreed to.

    Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

    MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour.

    Amendment proposed: No. 169, in page 6, line 2, leave out Clause 9— [Mr. Heath.]

    The House divided: Ayes 40, Noes 317.

    Division No. 203]

    [4:47 pm

    AYES

    Allan, RichardLaws, David (Yeovil)
    Brake, Tom (Carshalton)Llwyd, Elfyn
    Bruce, MalcolmOaten, Mark (Winchester)
    Burnett, JohnÖpik, Lembit
    Burnside, DavidPugh, Dr. John
    Burstow, PaulRendel, David
    Cable, Dr. VincentRussell, Bob (Colchester)
    Calton, Mrs PatsySanders, Adrian
    Carmichael, AlistairShepherd, Richard
    Chidgey, DavidSmith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
    Cotter, Brian
    Davey, Edward (Kingston)Smyth, Rev. Martin (Belfast S)
    Doughty, SueStunell, Andrew
    Gidley, SandraTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
    Hancock, MikeThomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
    Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon)Tonge, Dr. Jenny
    Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
    Harvey, NickWebb, Steve (Northavon)
    Heath, DavidWillis, Phil
    Holmes, Paul
    Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)

    Tellers for the Ayes:

    Keetch, Paul

    Mrs. Annette L. Brooke and

    Lamb, Norman

    Mr. Alan Reid

    NOES

    Abbott, Ms DianeCampbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
    Ainger, NickCampbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
    Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)Caplin, Ivor
    Alexander, DouglasCasale, Roger
    Allen, GrahamCawsey, Ian (Brigg)
    Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)Challen, Colin
    Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
    Chaytor, David
    Armstrong, rh Ms HilaryClark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
    Atherton, Ms CandyClark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
    Austin, John
    Bailey, AdrianClark, Paul (Gillingham)
    Baird, VeraClarke, rh Charles (Norwich S)
    Banks, TonyClarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
    Barnes, Harry
    Battle, JohnClarke, Tony (Northampton S)
    Bayley, HughClelland, David
    Beard, NigelClwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
    Beckett, rh MargaretCoaker, Vernon
    Begg, Miss AnneCoffey, Ms Ann
    Bell, StuartColeman, Iain
    Benn, HilaryColman, Tony
    Benton, Joe (Bootle)Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
    Berry, RogerCook, rh Robin (Livingston)
    Blackman, LizCooper, Yvette
    Blears, Ms HazelCorbyn, Jeremy
    Blizzard, BobCorston, Jean
    Blunkett, rh DavidCousins, Jim
    Boateng, rh PaulCox, Tom (Tooting)
    Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)Crausby, David
    Bradshaw, BenCruddas, Jon
    Brennan, KevinCryer, John (Hornchurch)
    Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)
    Browne, DesmondCunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
    Bryant, ChrisCunningham, Tony (Workington)
    Burden, RichardCurtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
    Burgon, ColinDalyell, Tam
    Burnham, AndyDavey, Valerie (Bristol W)
    Byers, rh StephenDavidson, Ian
    Caborn, rh RichardDavies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
    Cairns, DavidDawson, Hilton
    Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)Dean, Mrs Janet

    Denham, rh JohnJohnson, Alan (Hull W)
    Dhanda, ParmjitJones, Helen (Warrington N)
    Dismore, AndrewJones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
    Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
    Donohoe, Brian H.Jowell, rh Tessa
    Doran, FrankJoyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
    Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)Kaufman, rh Gerald
    Drew, David (Stroud)Keeble, Ms Sally
    Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)Keen, Ann (Brentford)
    Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)Kemp, Fraser
    Edwards, HuwKennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
    Efford, CliveKhabra, Piara S.
    Ellman, Mrs LouiseKidney, David
    Etherington, BillKilfoyle, Peter
    Farrelly, PaulKing, Andy (Rugby)
    Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
    Fisher, Mark
    Fitzpatrick, JimKnight, Jim (S Dorset)
    Flynn, Paul (Newport W)Kumar, Dr. Ashok
    Follett, BarbaraLadyman, Dr. Stephen
    Foster, rh DerekLammy, David
    Foster, Michael (Worcester)Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
    Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)Lazarowicz, Mark
    Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
    Foulkes, rh GeorgeLewis, Terry (Worsley)
    Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)Linton, Martin
    Gardiner, BarryLove, Andrew
    Gerrard, NeilLucas, Ian (Wrexham)
    Gibson, Dr. IanMcAvoy, Thomas
    Gilroy, LindaMcCabe, Stephen
    Godsiff, RogerMcCafferty, Chris
    Goggins, PaulMcCartney, rh Ian
    Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)McDonagh, Siobhain
    Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)McDonnell, John
    Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)MacDougall, John
    Grogan, JohnMcGuire, Mrs Anne
    Hain, rh PeterMcIsaac, Shona
    Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)McKechin, Ann
    Hall, Patrick (Bedford)Mackinlay, Andrew
    Hamilton, David (Midlothian)McNamara, Kevin
    Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)McNulty, Tony
    Hanson, DavidMcWilliam, John
    Harman, rh Ms HarrietMahon, Mrs Alice
    Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)Mallaber, Judy
    Healey, JohnMandelson, rh Peter
    Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
    Hendrick, MarkMarris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
    Hepburn, StephenMarsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
    Heppell, JohnMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
    Hermon, LadyMarshall-Andrews, Robert
    Hesford, StephenMartlew, Eric
    Hewitt, rh Ms PatriciaMeacher, rh Michael
    Heyes, DavidMerron, Gillian
    Hill, Keith (Streatham)Michael, rh Alun
    Hinchliffe, DavidMiliband, David
    Hodge, MargaretMiller, Andrew
    Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)Moffatt, Laura
    Hood, Jimmy (Clydesdale)Mole, Chris
    Hope, Phil (Corby)Moonie, Dr. Lewis
    Hopkins, KelvinMorley, Elliot
    Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)Mullin, Chris
    Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)Munn, Ms Meg
    Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
    Howells, Dr. KimMurphy, rh Paul (Torfaen)
    Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)Naysmith, Dr. Doug
    Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
    Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
    Hurst, Alan (Braintree)Olner, Bill
    Hutton, rh JohnO'Neill, Martin
    Iddon, Dr. BrianOrgan, Diana
    Ingram, rh AdamOsborne, Sandra (Ayr)
    Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)Palmer, Dr. Nick
    Pearson, Ian
    Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)Perham, Linda
    Jamieson, DavidPicking, Anne
    Jenkins, BrianPickthall, Colin

    Pike, Peter (Burnley)Steinberg, Gerry
    Plaskitt, JamesStewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
    Pollard, Kerry
    Pond, Chris (Gravesham)Stinchcombe, Paul
    Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)Stoate, Dr. Howard
    Pound, StephenStrang, rh Dr. Gavin
    Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)Stringer, Graham
    Stuart, Ms Gisela
    Primarolo, rh DawnSutcliffe, Gerry
    Purnell, JamesTami, Mark (Alyn)
    Quin, rh JoyceTaylor, rh Ann (Dewsbury)
    Quinn, LawrieTaylor, Dari (Stockton S)
    Rammell, BillTaylor, David (NW Leics)
    Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
    Raynsford, rh NickThomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
    Reed, Andy (Loughborough)Timms, Stephen
    Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N & Bellshill)Tipping, Paddy
    Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
    Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
    Trickett, Jon
    Roche, Mrs BarbaraTruswell, Paul
    Rooney, TerryTurner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
    Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
    Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
    Ruane, ChrisTurner, Neil (Wigan)
    Ruddock, JoanTwigg, Derek (Halton)
    Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
    Salter, MartinTynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
    Sarwar, MohammadVis, Dr. Rudi
    Savidge, MalcolmWalley, Ms Joan
    Sawford, PhilWareing, Robert N.
    Sedgemore, BrianWatson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
    Shaw, JonathanWatts, David
    Sheerman, BarryWhite, Brian
    Sheridan, JimWhitehead, Dr. Alan
    Shipley, Ms DebraWicks, Malcolm
    Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
    Singh, MarshaWills, Michael
    Winnick, David
    Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
    Smith, Angela (Basildon)
    Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)Woodward, Shaun
    Woolas, Phil
    Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)Worthington, Tony
    Smith, John (Glamorgan)Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
    Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
    Soley, CliveWright, David (Telford)
    Southworth, Helen
    Spellar, rh John

    Tellers for the Noes:

    Squire, Rachel

    Charlotte Atkins and

    Starkey, Dr. Phyllis

    Mr. Jim Murphy

    Question accordingly negatived.

    New Clause 15

    Taking Non-Intimate Samples Without Consent

    "(1) Section 63 of the 1984 Act (other samples) is amended as follows.

    (2) After subsection (2) (consent to be given in writing) there is inserted—

    "(2A) A non-intimate sample may be taken from a person without the appropriate consent if two conditions are satisfied.

    (2B) The first is that the person is in police detention in consequence of his arrest for a recordable offence.

    (2C) The second is that—

  • (a) he has not had a non-intimate sample of the same type and from the same part of the body taken in the course of the investigation of the offence by the police, or
  • (b) he has had such a sample taken but it proved insufficient."
  • (3) In subsection (3)(a) (taking of samples without appropriate consent) the words "is in police detention or" are omitted.

    (4) In subsection (3A) (taking of samples without appropriate consent after charge) for "(whether or not he falls within subsection (3)(a) above)" there is substituted "(whether or not he is in police detention or held in custody by the police on the authority of a court)".

    (5) In subsection (8A) (reasons for taking of samples without consent) for "subsection (3A)" there is substituted "subsection (2A), (3A)".".

    [Mr. Bob Ainsworth.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    Motion made, and Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

    The House divided: Ayes 323, Noes 178.

    Division No. 204]

    [5:02 pm

    AYES

    Abbott, Ms DianeClark, Paul (Gillingham)
    Ainger, NickClarke, rh Charles (Norwich S)
    Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
    Alexander, Douglas
    Allen, GrahamClarke, Tony (Northampton S)
    Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)Clelland, David
    Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
    Coaker, Vernon
    Armstrong, rh Ms HilaryCoffey, Ms Ann
    Atherton, Ms CandyCohen, Harry
    Austin, JohnColeman, Iain
    Bailey, AdrianColman, Tony
    Baird, VeraCook, Frank (Stockton N)
    Banks, TonyCook, rh Robin (Livingston)
    Barnes, HarryCooper, Yvette
    Battle, JohnCorbyn, Jeremy
    Bayley, HughCorston, Jean
    Beard, NigelCousins, Jim
    Beckett, rh MargaretCox, Tom (Tooting)
    Begg, Miss AnneCrausby, David
    Bell, StuartCruddas, Jon
    Benn, HilaryCryer, John (Hornchurch)
    Benton, Joe (Bootle)Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)
    Berry, Roger
    Blackman, LizCunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
    Blears, Ms HazelCunningham, Tony (Workington)
    Blizzard, BobCurtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
    Blunkett, rh DavidDalyell, Tam
    Boateng, rh PaulDavey, Valerie (Bristol W)
    Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)Davidson, Ian
    Bradshaw, BenDavies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
    Brennan, KevinDawson, Hilton
    Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)Dean, Mrs Janet
    Denham, rh John
    Brown, Russell (Dumfries)Dhanda, Parmjit
    Browne, DesmondDismore, Andrew
    Bryant, ChrisDobbin, Jim (Heywood)
    Buck, Ms KarenDonohoe, Brian H.
    Burden, RichardDoran, Frank
    Burgon, ColinDowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
    Burnham, AndyDrew, David (Stroud)
    Byers, rh StephenEagle, Angela (Wallasey)
    Caborn, rh RichardEagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
    Cairns, DavidEdwards, Huw
    Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)Efford, Clive
    Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Ellman, Mrs Louise
    Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)Etherington, Bill
    Caplin, IvorFarrelly, Paul
    Casale, RogerField, rh Frank (Birkenhead)
    Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)Fisher, Mark
    Challen, ColinFitzpatrick, Jim
    Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
    Chaytor, DavidFollett, Barbara
    Clapham, MichaelFoster, rh Derek
    Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)Foster, Michael (Worcester)
    Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)

    Foulkes, rh GeorgeLaxton, Bob (Derby N)
    Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)Lazarowicz, Mark
    Gardiner, BarryLevitt, Tom (High Peak)
    Gerrard, NeilLewis, Terry (Worsley)
    Gibson, Dr. IanLinton, Martin
    Gilroy, LindaLove, Andrew
    Godsiff, RogerLucas, Ian (Wrexham)
    Goggins, PaulMcAvoy, Thomas
    Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)McCabe, Stephen
    Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)McCafferty, Chris
    Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)McCartney, rh Ian
    Grogan, JohnMcDonagh, Siobhain
    Hain, rh PeterMcDonnell, John
    Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)MacDougall, John
    Hall, Patrick (Bedford)McGuire, Mrs Anne
    Hamilton, David (Midlothian)McIsaac, Shona
    Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)McKechin, Ann
    Hanson, DavidMackinlay, Andrew
    Harman, rh Ms HarrietMcNamara, Kevin
    Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)McNulty, Tony
    Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)McWilliam, John
    Mahon, Mrs Alice
    Healey, JohnMallaber, Judy
    Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)Mandelson, rh Peter
    Hendrick, MarkMann, John (Bassetlaw)
    Hepburn, StephenMarris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
    Heppell, JohnMarsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
    Hesford, StephenMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
    Hewitt, rh Ms PatriciaMarshall-Andrews, Robert
    Heyes, DavidMartlew, Eric
    Hill, Keith (Streatham)Meacher, rh Michael
    Hinchliffe, DavidMerron, Gillian
    Hodge, MargaretMichael, rh Alun
    Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)Miliband, David
    Hood, Jimmy (Clydesdale)Miller, Andrew
    Hope, Phil (Corby)Moffatt, Laura
    Hopkins, KelvinMole, Chris
    Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)Moonie, Dr. Lewis
    Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)Morley, Elliot
    Mullin, Chris
    Howells, Dr. KimMunn, Ms Meg
    Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
    Murphy, rh Paul (Torfaen)
    Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)Naysmith, Dr. Doug
    Humble, Mrs JoanNorris, Dan (Wansdyke)
    Hurst, Alan (Braintree)O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
    Hutton, rh JohnOlner, Bill
    Iddon, Dr. BrianOrgan, Diana
    Ingram, rh AdamOsborne, Sandra (Ayr)
    Irranca-Davies, HuwPalmer, Dr. Nick
    Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)Pearson, Ian
    Perham, Linda
    Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)Picking, Anne
    Jamieson, DavidPickthall, Colin
    Jenkins, BrianPike, Peter (Burnley)
    Johnson, Alan (Hull W)Plaskitt, James
    Jones, Helen (Warrington N)Pollard, Kerry
    Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
    Jones, Kevan (N Durham)Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
    Jowell, rh TessaPound, Stephen
    Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
    Kaufman, rh Gerald
    Keeble, Ms SallyPrimarolo, rh Dawn
    Keen, Ann (Brentford)Purnell, James
    Kemp, FraserQuin, rh Joyce
    Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)Quinn, Lawrie
    Khabra, Piara S.Rammell, Bill
    Kidney, DavidRapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
    Kilfoyle, PeterRaynsford, rh Nick
    King, Andy (Rugby)Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
    King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
    Knight, Jim (S Dorset)Roche, Mrs Barbara
    Kumar, Dr. AshokRooney, Terry
    Ladyman, Dr. StephenRoss, Ernie (Dundee W)
    Lammy, DavidRoy, Frank (Motherwell)

    Ruane, ChrisTaylor, David (NW Leics)
    Ruddock, JoanThomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
    Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
    Salter, MartinTimms, Stephen
    Sarwar, MohammadTipping, Paddy
    Savidge, MalcolmTodd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
    Sawford, PhilTouhig, Don (Islwyn)
    Sedgemore, BrianTrickett, Jon
    Shaw, JonathanTruswell, Paul
    Sheerman, BarryTurner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
    Sheridan, JimTurner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
    Shipley, Ms Debra
    Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)Turner, Neil (Wigan)
    Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)Twigg, Derek (Halton)
    Singh, MarshaTwigg, Stephen (Enfield)
    Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
    Smith, Angela (Basildon)Vis, Dr. Rudi
    Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)Wallely, Ms Joan
    Wareing, Robert N.
    Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
    Smith, John (Glamorgan)White, Brian
    Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)Whitehead, Dr. Alan
    Soley, CliveWicks, Malcolm
    Southworth, HelenWilliams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
    Spellar, rh JohnWills, Michael
    Squire, RachelWilson, Brian
    Starkey, Dr. PhyllisWinnick, David
    Steinberg, GerryWinterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
    Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)Woodward, Shaun
    Stinchcombe, PaulWoolas, Phil
    Stoate, Dr. HowardWorthington, Tony
    Strang, rh Dr. GavinWright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
    Stringer, GrahamWright, David (Telford)
    Stuart, Ms GiselaWright, Tony (Cannock)
    Sutcliffe, Gerry
    Tami, Mark (Alyn)

    Tellers for the Ayes:

    Taylor, rh Ann (Dewsbury)

    Charlotte Atkins and

    Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)

    Mr. Jim Murphy

    NOES

    Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)Cameron, David
    Allan, RichardCarmichael, Alistair
    Amess, DavidCash, William
    Ancram, rh MichaelChapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
    Arbuthnot, rh James
    Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Chidgey, David
    Bacon, RichardChope, Christopher
    Baldry, TonyClappison, James
    Barker, GregoryClarke, rh Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
    Baron, John (Billericay)Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
    Barrett, JohnConway, Derek
    Beith, rh A. J.Cormack, Sir Patrick
    Bellingham, HenryCotter, Brian
    Bercow, JohnDavey, Edward (Kingston)
    Beresford, Sir PaulDavies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)
    Blunt, Crispin
    Boswell, TimDavis, rh David (Haltemprice & Howden)
    Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
    Bottomley, rh Virginia (SW Surrey)Djanogly, Jonathan
    Doughty, Sue
    Brady, GrahamDuncan Smith, rh Iain
    Brake, Tom (Carshalton)Evans, Nigel
    Brazier, JulianFabricant, Michael
    Brooke, Mrs Annette L.Fallon, Michael
    Browning, Mrs AngelaField, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster)
    Bruce, Malcolm
    Burnett, JohnFlight, Howard
    Burns, SimonFlook, Adrian
    Burnside, DavidForth, rh Eric
    Burstow, PaulFrancois, Mark
    Burt, AlistairGale, Roger (N Thanet)
    Butterfill, JohnGibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
    Cable, Dr. VincentGidley, Sandra
    Calton, Mrs PatsyGillan, Mrs Cheryl

    Goodman, PaulPaterson, Owen
    Gray, James (N Wilts)Pickles, Eric
    Green, Damian (Ashford)Prisk, Mark (Hertford)
    Green, Matthew (Ludlow)Pugh, Dr. John
    Greenway, JohnRandall, John
    Grieve, DominicRedwood, rh John
    Gummer, rh JohnReid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
    Hammond, PhilipRendel, David
    Hancock, MikeRobathan, Andrew
    Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon)Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
    Roe, Mrs Marion
    Harvey, NickRosindell, Andrew
    Hawkins, NickRussell, Bob (Colchester)
    Hayes, John (S Holland)Sanders, Adrian
    Heald, OliverSayeed, Jonathan
    Heath, DavidSelous, Andrew
    Hendry, CharlesShephard, rh Mrs Gillian
    Hermon, LadyShepherd, Richard
    Hoban, Mark (Fareham)Simmonds, Mark
    Hogg, rh DouglasSimpson, Keith (M-Norfolk)
    Holmes, PaulSmith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
    Horam, John (Orpington)
    Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)Smyth, Rev. Martin (Belfast S)
    Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)Spicer, Sir Michael
    Hunter, AndrewSpink, Bob (Castle Point)
    Jack, rh MichaelSpring, Richard
    Jackson, Robert (Wantage)Stanley, rh Sir John
    Jenkin, BernardStreeter, Gary
    Keetch, PaulStunell, Andrew
    Key, Robert (Salisbury)Swire, Hugo (E Devon)
    Laing, Mrs EleanorSyms, Robert
    Lait, Mrs JacquiTapsell, Sir Peter
    Lamb, NormanTaylor, Ian (Esher)
    Lansley, AndrewTaylor, John (Solihull)
    Laws, David (Yeovil)Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
    Leigh, EdwardThomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
    Letwin, rh OliverTonge, Dr. Jenny
    Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)Tredinnick, David
    Liddell-Grainger, IanTurner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
    Lidington, DavidTyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
    Lilley, rh PeterTyrie, Andrew
    Llwyd, ElfynViggers, Peter
    Loughton, TimWalter, Robert
    Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)Waterson, Nigel
    McIntosh, Miss AnneWatkinson, Angela
    Mackay, rh AndrewWebb, Steve (Northavon)
    Maclean, rh DavidWhittingdale, John
    McLoughlin, PatrickWiddecombe, rh Miss Ann
    Malins, HumfreyWiggin, Bill
    Maples, JohnWilkinson, John
    Mawhinney, rh Sir BrianWilletts, David
    May, Mrs TheresaWillis, Phil
    Mercer, PatrickWilshire, David
    Moss, MalcolmWinterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
    Murrison, Dr. Andrew
    Oaten, Mark (Winchester)Yeo, Tim (S Suffolk)
    O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)Young, rh Sir George
    Öpik, Lembit
    Ottaway, Richard

    Tellers for the Noes:

    Page, Richard

    Mr. Desmond Swayne and

    Paice, James

    Hugh Robertson

    Question accordingly agreed to.

    Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

    New Clause 52

    Absconding By Persons Released On Bail

    "(1) For paragraph 6 of Part 1 of Schedule 1 to the 1976 Act (defendant need not be granted bail if having been released on bail he has been arrested in pursuance of section 7) there is substituted—

    "6 (1) If the defendant falls within this paragraph, he may not be granted bail unless the court is satisfied that there is no significant risk that, if released on bail (whether subject to conditions or not), he would fail to surrender to custody; but this does not require the court, if so satisfied, to grant bail (disregarding other considerations).

    (2) Subject to subparagraph (3) below, the defendant falls within this paragraph if—

  • (a) he is aged 18 or over, and
  • (b) it appears to the court that, having been released on bail in or in connection with the proceedings for the offence, he failed to surrender to custody.
  • (3) Where it appears to the court that the defendant had reasonable cause for his failure to surrender to custody, he does not fall within this paragraph unless it also appears to the court that he failed to surrender to custody at the appointed place as soon as reasonably practicable after the appointed time.

    (4) For the purposes of subparagraph (3) above, a failure to give to the defendant a copy of the record of the decision to grant him bail shall not constitute a reasonable cause for his failure to surrender to custody."

    (2) In section 6 of the 1976 Act (offence of absconding by person released on bail) after subsection (9) there is inserted—

    "(10) Section 127 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 shall not apply in relation to an offence under subsection(1)or(2) above.

    (11) Where a person has been released on bail in criminal proceedings and that bail was granted by a constable, a magistrates' court shall not try that person for an offence under subsection (1) or (2) above in relation to that bail (the "relevant offence") unless subsection (12) or (13) below applies.

    (12) This subsection applies if an information is laid for the relevant offence within 6 months from the time of the commission of the relevant offence.

    (13) This subsection applies if—

  • (a) subsection (12) above does not apply,
  • (b) none of the events mentioned in subsection (14) below occurs during the period mentioned in subsection (12) above, and
  • (c) no later than 3 months from the time of the occurrence of the first of those events to occur after the end of that period, an information is laid for the relevant offence.
  • (14) Those events are—

  • (a) the person surrenders to custody at the appointed place;
  • (b) the person is arrested, or attends at a police station, in connection with the relevant offence or the offence for which he was granted bail;
  • (c) the person appears or is brought before a court in connection with the relevant offence or the offence for which he was granted bail.""
  • [The Solicitor-General.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    5.15 pm

    I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

    With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

    The following amendments to the proposed new clause:

    Amendment (a), in proposed new paragraph 6(1), leave out from 'custody' to the end of the paragraph.

    Amendment (b), leave out proposed new paragraph 6(4).

    Government new clause 53—Supplementary amendments to the Bail Act 1976.

    Government amendments Nos. 443 to 448, 232 and 449.

    Amendment No. 171, in page 12, clause 16, line 20, leave out 'not' and insert 'only'.

    Amendment No. 172, in page 12, clause 16, line 20, leave out 'unless' and insert 'if'.

    Government amendments Nos. 450 to 454.

    It is not as bad as it sounds, Madam Deputy Speaker. I shall speak to new clauses 52 and 53, together with a number of consequential and technical Government amendments, and comment on the relevant Opposition amendments.

    New clauses 52 and 53 tighten up bail for people who have been granted bail but breach it. They are being introduced at this stage because this issue has been raised under the street crime initiative and brought to the fore by those considering how to tackle street crime. I know that hon. Members are familiar with the issue and that it will have been raised with them.

    The problem is that people feel strongly when someone is granted bail by the court but then breaches it. Nearly one defendant in four offends while on bail, and one in eight fails to turn up in court. That wastes time and resources, but more importantly it leads to delays that frustrate and often upset victims and witnesses. Victims, in particular, find it hard to understand how, despite all the efforts invested by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service in apprehending and charging the alleged perpetrator of a crime, he can fail to appear and yet be given bail again. Basically, they turn up but he does not, which undermines public confidence in the criminal justice system.

    At the moment, a defendant arrested for breach of bail loses the usual presumption in favour of bail, but the Government believe that it is necessary to send a more powerful deterrent message to defendants who, for no good reason, do not turn up in court. New clause 52(1) therefore goes one step further than the current position by creating a presumption against bail in those circumstances. It requires the court to refuse bail to an adult defendant—this applies only to adults—who fails without reasonable cause to surrender to custody in answer to bail in the same proceedings, unless the court is satisfied that there is no significant risk that he would again fail to surrender if released on bail.

    Conscious as we are of our obligations under the European convention on human rights, the Government are satisfied that the proposal is compatible with those obligations.

    My right hon. and learned Friend says that the measure relates to adult offenders; will she take evidence from me, as it were, on this issue? I met senior police officers on Friday and asked them what their most frustrating experiences with the criminal justice system were. In particular, they named young offenders who refuse to attend, or for some other reason do not attend, a court hearing when everyone else is present and ready to go, and the fact that such offenders can laugh at the court and just be given another date.

    My hon. Friend is well aware of the challenge of young offenders as he raised it on many occasions in Committee, in which he played an active part. Like other hon. Members who served in Committee, he will know that many parts of the Bill seek to deal with the difficulty of tackling offending behaviour early on in a young person's life. However, we though it right to apply this new clause, which reverses the presumption of bail and requires the court to make a presumption that bail will not be granted, to adults and leave the situation as it is in respect of breach of bail for under-18s.

    Will the Solicitor-General explain why it is necessary to make that distinction? I find it very difficult to understand why a 17-year-old should not be expected to behave in exactly the same way as an 18-year-old in this regard. It is all very well saying that the Government think it right, but I cannot understand on what possible grounds they can do so; perhaps she might explain to the House why she thinks it right. I think it wrong, and that the measure should apply to all persons who are given bail.

    The point that the right hon. Gentleman raises—it is the same as that made by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North (Mr.Allen)—is an important one. All I can say is that no amendment before the House now would have that effect, but the Bill will go to the other place and it might be possible to consider the point there. For the moment I want to make it clear that the proposals currently before us deal with adults. If an amendment to make the bail regime much tougher on juveniles were necessary, my ministerial colleagues in the Home Office would want to reflect on it: it might then be available for discussion in the other place.

    Would my right hon. and learned Friend allow me to write to her so that she can advise me on the best way to proceed—perhaps, for example, by a pilot scheme for young offenders on bail? It might be helpful to develop the policy in that way.

    I am sure that my colleagues in the Home Office would welcome a letter from my hon. Friend, putting forward that point for their consideration.

    The Solicitor-General will know that I am a parliamentary virgin on this matter, because, as I explained earlier, I did not have the good fortune to sit on the Standing Committee that considered the Bill. I am flummoxed, but I am sure that the Solicitor-General is about to release me from my state of ignorance. Did the Government not consider the position of 17-year-olds, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) referred, or did they consider the matter and not think it worthy of inclusion? I am perspiring to know which is the case?

    The Government considered it, of course, but decided to introduce the new clause in its current form, which does not apply to juveniles. Provisions on juveniles have not been brought before the House, but that does not mean that further consideration cannot be urged in future. I say no more than that.

    Refusal of bail will not be automatic, because the court will still have to consider the risk that the defendant will again fail to appear. A previous failure to surrender to custody is not, of itself, reason for refusing bail, but it is highly relevant to assessing that risk.

    It may be convenient to deal with amendments (a) and (b), tabled by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes), who has yet to speak.

    I am most grateful to the Solicitor-General for taking another intervention. I listened carefully to her introductory words, in which she said that, when people do not appear after being released on bail, it undermines public confidence and that a more powerful deterrent message should be sent out. I could not agree more. In those circumstances, given that we have again—quite rightly, in my view—suspended elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly, making it impossible to devolve criminal justice and policing to the Assembly in the foreseeable future, will the Solicitor-General give an assurance that the bail provisions will be extended to Northern Ireland?

    I shall have to come back to the hon. Lady on that. She has made her point and I shall try to be forthcoming with an answer in due course.

    Before the Solicitor-General moves on to the most important amendments, she described other amendments, such as amendment No. 232, as "tidying-up" measures? Amendment No. 232, which deals with drug offenders on bail, would add "(or both)" to "assistance or treatment". Is not such tidying up sheer nonsense, because the term "(or both)" is already contained in the meaning? What is required is the replacement of the word "or" with "and", because any drug offender requires medical treatment. Leaving the probation service or other qualified persons with an option not to incorporate medical treatment will only make re-offending more likely.

    I shall deal with my hon. Friend's points when I come to the amendment in a moment. For the sake of those who are not as deeply cognisant of the issues as my hon. Friend, I shall continue with questions surrounding the presumption of bail, and return to his points later.

    Will the Solicitor-General assist the House by giving the Government's estimate of the increase in the remand prison population that will result from the amendments restricting access to bail? That information would be useful, if the Government have made such an estimate—and I hope they have.

    The intention is that fewer people will be on remand, because the message will be clearly sent out that people cannot take a risk by not turning up to court, because it will be one strike if they are out, so to speak. There will be no misunderstanding in the minds of defendants, because it will be clear that if they have been granted bail by the court to return on a certain day, they have to return on that day. Otherwise, when they are later arrested and brought before the court, they will be remanded in custody. The aim is that people will be clear about the need to turn up to court. The aim is to bring offenders to justice so that the courts can deal with cases, instead of having more people on remand in custody.

    We do not want a situation in which the police witnesses, the lay witnesses, the victim and the prosecution are all present, and the only person missing is the defendant, so the case has to be adjourned. That undermines public confidence in the system, which is why we have brought the provision before the House. Those who advise clients can be clear that the presumption will be that the defendant will not get bail, unless they can show some good, overriding reason why they were not able to attend, such as being locked up somewhere else. With a really good reason, the person may escape being remanded in custody; otherwise, failure to appear will be an offence that is dealt with by imprisonment.

    Amendments (a) and (b) were tabled by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey and others. It might help if I explain the Government's view, although I anticipate that the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) will speak to the amendments. I hope that I do not pre-empt him too much by saying that the amendments are modest, but—without wishing to exaggerate matters—they would certainly do some damage to the Bill.

    Amendment (a) would remove words that are designed to make it clear that when a court is satisfied that there is no significant risk of a defendant failing to appear, it is not under an obligation to grant bail irrespective of other considerations. That must make sense. If there are reasons for refusing bail other than the question of absconding—for example, a risk of interference with witnesses—the provision as it stands makes it clear to the court that it retains the power to refuse bail, notwithstanding that the defendant is not considered likely to abscond again. We did not want to create a situation in which, on clear evidence, it was apparent that a defendant was not likely to abscond again, and the court therefore felt that it should grant bail, irrespective of other issues that should have led it to refuse bail.

    I am grateful to the Solicitor-General for giving way, because this may be the only opportunity that I have to speak on the amendments. We have some sympathy with what the Government are trying to do, but we wanted to retain at least some vestige of the presumption in favour of bail and give the courts the discretion to make the decision. The problem with the Government's interpretation is that it reduces the discretion to a nugatory amount.

    Clearly, if the hon. Gentleman's desire is to retain the presumption in favour of bail, I shall disappoint him because the whole point of new clause 52 is that, if someone is arrested, charged, brought before the court and bailed to appear on another day but simply fails to turn up, they will not have the presumption in their favour that bail will be granted. At that point, the presumption will be that bail will not be granted.

    5.30 pm

    The hon. Gentleman also mentions the court's discretion. Of course the court will still have discretion. If the defendant can show reasonable cause for his not turning up, he can rebut that presumption. So the presumption is rebuttable, but it must be included in the Bill. That is what new clause 52 will do, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman must think that that is right. People find it very undermining when the same issue is simply played over and again, but the presumption is still in favour of granting bail.

    Amendment (b) would remove the provision that states:
    "a failure to give to the defendant a copy of the record of the decision to grant him bail shall not constitute a reasonable cause for his failure to surrender to custody."
    Those words merely replicate those already used in section 6(4) of the Bail Act 1976 and are intended to avoid technical arguments that a defendant could not have been expected to know his bail date because the court had failed to give him the required copy.

    New clause 52(2) deals with a technical obstacle to proceeding against defendants who fail to answer to bail granted by the police. In those cases, unlike those involving police bail, section 127 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 applies. That prevents summary proceedings from being instituted more than six months after the commission of an offence, so if a Bail Act offence is committed and the offender manages to stay out of sight of the police for more than six months, it is not possible to prosecute that Bail Act offence. Surely that cannot be right. Therefore, subsection (2) will disapply section 127 in respect of offences under section 6 of the Bail Act 1976 and apply a new limitation period of three months from the defendant's surrender to custody, arrest or court appearance. So the time limit is three months from when the person is apprehended.

    Amendment No. 445 would insert into clause 12 a new provision—

    On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I believe that time has now run out for this group of about 40 amendments, most of which are Government amendments, but the Solicitor-General has not even been able fully to explain important Government amendments to the House, leaving aside the amendments tabled by the official Opposition or the Liberal Demorats. Can any protection be provided to the House to enable us to give some rudimentary consideration to important measures, rather than being left with this complete pantomime, which brings the House into disrepute?

    Order. I shall respond to the point of order, but I am required under the programme motion to put the Question at this time. My reply to the hon. Gentleman is that, of course, I am governed by the programme motion, which was duly agreed to by the House, and I must therefore follow the directions in that motion.

    Order. I must put the Question now, but I will come back to the hon. Gentleman afterwards.

    It being two hours after the commencement of proceedings on the programme motion, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER, pursuant to Orders [4 February, 5 March, 2 April and this day], put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

    Question accordingly agreed to.

    Clause read a Second time and added to the Bill.