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Bichard Inquiry

Volume 447: debated on Wednesday 14 June 2006

Q1. If he will reconvene the Bichard inquiry team to consider how its recommendations may be implemented more quickly. (77004)

Twenty-one out of the 31 Bichard recommendations have now been implemented. The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill, which will put into place the new vetting and barring scheme, has completed its passage through the House of Lords and will have its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 19 June. We are reporting progress regularly to Parliament, most recently on 25 May, and we see no need at present to reconvene the inquiry team.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. As he knows, it is now two years since Sir Michael Bichard made his central recommendation for the police national information technology system. That system will not be available, if at all, until after 2010, and some of the latest cost estimates are up around the £2 billion mark. Will my right hon. Friend reconsider recalling Sir Michael Bichard, first, to allow him to judge progress against his recommendations, and secondly, to ensure that his recommendations do not go the same way as those that came from Dunblane?

I entirely understand why my hon. Friend raises this. It is very important to say that although the full impact recommendations will not come in until later, the data-sharing arrangements, including the sharing of intelligence, will come in next year. We will certainly look at how we can speed up the recommendations. However, as my hon. Friend rightly says, this is going to be difficult and complicated. It requires a lot of changes, not only in police practice but elsewhere, and we have to ensure that we get the delivery of this programme right. I ask him to bear in mind that, as I say, from the end of next year we should have the main data-sharing arrangements in place. If we can possibly speed that up—if necessary, we are perfectly happy to reconvene the inquiry team if that helps, but at the moment we do not think that it would—then we will of course do so.

The Prime Minister has no doubt heard, as we all have, reference to Departments being not fit for purpose, most notably the recent reference to the Home Office. Could he tell the House—

Order. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would be experienced enough to know that this is a closed question. I call Joan Walley.