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Volume 448: debated on Wednesday 28 June 2006

I beg to move,

That the draft Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Code of Practice C and Code of Practice H) Order 2006, which was laid before this House on 14th June, be approved.

I am sure that hon. Members will recall the debates that we had during the passage of what became the Terrorism Act 2006—in particular, the lengthy debates on section 23, which amends schedule 8 to the Terrorism Act 2000 to extend the maximum period of detention of terrorist suspects from 14 to 28 days. Members will know that the purpose of the order is not to revisit that debate or its substance, but is specific to the code of practice under PACE—the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984—and I want to concentrate on that.

Colleagues will remember that the issue in relation to pre-charge detention was that the changing nature of terrorist activity meant that the existing maximum period of detention, 14 days, was no longer considered adequate. The strong advice that we received from the police was that terrorist investigations are now more complex. They may involve, for example, the need to de-encrypt computer equipment or to obtain evidence from overseas; they may require the translation of large numbers of documents. This led the police to conclude that they might need to hold terrorist suspects for up to 90 days. I say that purely by way of context, rather than to reopen the debate on that matter. Following a debate in Parliament—a debate that I am sure we all remember with acute fondness—it was agreed to extend the maximum period of detention available to the police to 28 days.

The subject today is limited to the new code of practice on the detention of terrorist suspects. The Government agreed during the debates on the Terrorism Act 2006 that a new PACE code of practice would be issued before the extended period of detention was brought into force. It was agreed that there should be a new code of practice rather than an amendment to the existing PACE code of practice on the detention, treatment and questioning of persons by police officers—code C—because it was felt that the procedures around holding terrorist suspects were different enough to justify a separate code.

The Minister has been clear about his wish not to revisit the time periods; I understand that. But will he confirm that if this House did not approve the codes, it would not be possible for him to move from the existing period of detention to the extended one?

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for staying within the strictures of the debate, although it is tempting to do otherwise. I can confirm, as I believe we have already clearly stated, that the new code of practice should be laid before the commencement of the new order to increase the period from 14 to 28 days.

I am sorry to interrupt, but I believe that it goes further than that. My understanding of the statute and of the Government’s commitment is that the period of detention will not and cannot be extended unless the House approves the code.

I am sorry, but that is exactly what I have already said. That is entirely the position. As it says on the tail end of the code rather than the order, the extension from 14 to 28 days will come into effect only the day after the code of practice has been laid for the requisite time—to 24 July, I believe. The link between the two is exactly what the Government promised, and that is what has prevailed. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is right in that regard.

Within that context, it was felt right and proper that, rather than amend the existing code C, we should bring in an entirely new code of practice—code H—not least because we were exhorted to do so by the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve). The proposal for a new code was supported by Opposition Members, and rightly reflected the fact that in this area detailed guidance to the police was required—a point with which we concur.

The order before us today brings into force a new PACE code of practice on the detention, treatment and questioning of terrorist suspects arrested under section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The new PACE code is to be known as code H. I hope that hon. Members will not press me on why H, rather than a letter between C and H, was chosen; I can find out but I do not know off the top of my head. The order also brings into force a revised version of PACE code C. At the moment, as I said, code C deals with the detention, treatment and questioning of both terrorist suspects arrested under section 41 and non-terrorist suspects. The order simply removes all reference to terrorist suspects from code C, which still prevails for all non-terrorist suspects.

The new PACE code that deals with terrorist suspects arrested under section 41 recognises the special arrangements needed for the effective investigation and welfare of those detainees, which was the import of our deliberations on the issue. It reflects the results of a consultation held between 2 May and 23 May—a necessarily truncated consultation that took place with the indulgence of Opposition parties. We received a total of 26 responses to the consultation from a number of organisations and individuals, including the Association of Chief Police Officers, Liberty, the Law Society, the Criminal Bar Association and Lord Carlile. The overall response to the draft code was positive. The main points raised related to the security of investigations, the provision of medical attention and the transfer of detainees to prison.

The security of operations is, of course, paramount and we have included an extra note for guidance to clarify an important difference between the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the provisions of the Terrorism Act 2000. That recognises that a reason for arrest must always be given, but that there may be circumstances in which it is not appropriate to disclose sensitive details.

We believe that the provisions for medical attention are robust. Detainees are subject to initial and ongoing assessment by custody officers, who must ensure that they receive appropriate clinical attention where necessary. The draft code expands on existing provisions by ensuring that detainees receive a routine daily health care visit after the first 96 hours in police custody.

Will the Minister say more about the human rights implications of code H, and its compatibility with the Human Rights Act 1998?

I would like to say that I am shocked to hear the hon. Gentleman raise the Human Rights Act, but I am not. I am not surprised, and it is a fair question. Of course, no Government Minister, as far as I am aware, stands at the Dispatch Box to promote any legislation of any description without it being duly compatible with all the assorted human rights provisions in statute, including the European convention on human rights and the Human Rights Act 1998. That is entirely the case, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for teasing such an admission out of me. I have no doubt that he will refer to it again subsequently when he gets his chance, as I hope he will, to contribute to our very narrow debate on the codes of practice before us.

As I said, the draft code expands on existing provisions, and a number of respondents, quite fairly, mentioned the potential effect of prolonged detention on the reliability of a detainee’s answers during interview. Annexe (g) of the new code H contains general guidance to help police officers and health care professionals assess whether a detainee might be at risk in an interview, which emphasises the importance of ascertaining a detainee’s fitness to be interviewed.

The parts about transfer to prison produced a number of responses, some in favour and some against. Transfer to prison will ensure that detainees are held in establishments that have the experience and facilities to deal with prolonged detention. The proposal is strongly recommended by Lord Carlile, owing to concerns that police stations are not intended or suitable for detention beyond the current maximum of 14 days. As a result of the consultation, we have included an additional requirement for police to inform a detainee’s legal adviser before transfer to prison takes place and for efforts to be made to inform any other persons who may have been informed previously of the person’s detention.

With those changes, we believe that the new code ensures that detainees are treated properly, while at the same time enabling investigations to be carried out effectively. Terrorism remains a huge international challenge, particularly for democracies, which must strive to protect individual liberties while at the same time ensuring collective security. I hope that the House agrees that the codes that we are planning to introduce get that balance right within the narrow confines of the narrow debate on the code of practice that applies when we move from 14 to 28 days—[Interruption.] However narrowly or otherwise, I commend the order to the House.

I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation of the purpose of the codes. This order concerns the most serious matters that the House could discuss: the prevention of terrorism and the extent to which the deprivation of liberty, sanctioned by the state, is justified to ensure that aim. We all agree about the need to counter the very serious threat of terrorism facing this country, and we all agree that ensuring the safety of the public must be the first duty of any Government.

I agree with the Minister that there is no need to rehearse the debate about whether detaining terrorist suspects without charge for 90 days was justified. The Government lost the argument and lost the vote, but in the furore caused by that proposal, it is often overlooked that Parliament agreed to a significant extension of the period of time for which terrorist suspects can be detained without charge. In fact, we agreed to double the period from 14 to 28 days.

Let me remind the House of why these new codes of practice are being discussed. It was the official Opposition who called for them. In Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) called for

“a completely separate set of PACE codes to cover terrorist cases in which detention is to last more than seven days”,

pointing out that the current codes were

“not designed to deal with people under long-term detention.”—[Official Report, 2 November 2005; Vol. 438, c. 901.]

The then Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke) replied that he understood the points being made and was

“ready to come back to the House with a solution that will deal with this in an effective way. We recognise that the concerns raised by Opposition Front Benchers are genuine...I am prepared to give an assurance that we will consider the issues that have been raised.”—[Official Report, 2 November 2006; Vol. 438, c. 919.]

A week later, on Report, the Home Secretary said:

“We welcome that suggestion... we can see grounds for having a separate code”,

and agreed with what my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield had argued, saying:

“Such a code would be laid before Parliament and be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure...I can give a firm guarantee that the appropriate codes and their equivalents will be brought forward.”—[Official Report, 9 November 2005; Vol. 439, c. 329.]

The then Home Secretary gave a “firm guarantee” back in November. The Government had almost five months between then and the Terrorism Bill receiving Royal Assent on 30 March to prepare a consultation paper on the draft code. Why was that consultation paper not published immediately after the Bill received Royal Assent? It took until May before the Home Office got round to consulting on the code at all. The code is certainly important, which is why we suggested its revision, but it has not been controversial. The need for it was agreed on all sides. As the Minister said, the Home Office received 26 responses to its consultation paper and they were described as generally “positive”. So why the delay?

After my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) raised the matter on 8 June, the Prime Minister claimed:

“The reason that we are unable to introduce it”—

the 28-day provision—

“quickly is that the Conservatives insisted on a longer consultation period, which prevented us from doing that.”—[Official Report, 14 June 2006; Vol. 447, c. 763.]

How could he possibly claim that? We did not insist on a longer consultation period. We said that a new code of practice would be needed. Are the Government now saying that they would have preferred to introduce 28-day detention without the safeguard of a code?

The delay has been unnecessary and is the result of the now all too familiar Home Office incompetence. Consequently, one year after the atrocities on 7 July and almost eight months after the Home Secretary’s “guarantee”, the provisions on the extension of detention without trial will still not be in force. The Prime Minister claimed that powers to detain terrorist suspects for longer were

“responsible, right and necessary to protect this country’s security.”—[Official Report, 9 November 2005; Vol. 439, c. 299.]

In that case, was not it responsible, right and necessary to introduce the code without delay so that the new powers could be implemented?

The Prime Minister first revealed that the Government were considering a longer period to detain suspects without charge at his infamous press conference on 5 August last year. From that point, it should have been obvious to the Government that safeguards would be necessary to ensure the proper treatment of people detained for unprecedented periods of time. Why did not work on those safeguards begin then? Why were they not included when the draft Terrorism Bill was published in September?

The Government cannot claim that somehow we caused the delay by opposing the provision to detain suspects for 90 days. First, we supported 28 days. Secondly, whatever the extended length of detention beyond the current 14 days, it should have been clear that a new code was needed to ensure proper safeguards.

My hon. Friend says that we supported 28 days. That is true in a limited sense. We opposed 90 days and 60 days. Many of us would have preferred the existing 14 days. My hon. Friends who supported 28 days did so only to avoid the longer period.

I respect my right hon. and learned Friend’s point of view on the matter. He has clearly and consistently made known his objections to any extension beyond 14 days. Nevertheless, it was the official Opposition’s position that we would support 28 days, and we did that.

Let us consider the practical consequences of delay. The suspects who were detained after the police raids in Forrest Gate earlier this month have now been released. There appears to be no evidence linking them to terrorist acts that would justify their detention. However, what if that had not been the case? What if police intelligence, which, in the words of the Assistant Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis,

“raised serious concerns for public safety” ,

had been correct? What if the police had needed to hold the suspects for longer than 14 days to gather evidence and perhaps prevent another atrocity? They would not have been able to do so. [Interruption.] If the Home Secretary disagrees, he should intervene. Surely the police could not have detained the suspects for longer than 14 days. It is self-evident, because the order has not commenced.

The House agreed the necessity for a longer period of detention in November. Eight months later, the measure remains unavailable to the police. The delay, according to the Prime Minister’s argument, has put national security at risk. That is consistent with the Government’s record on law and order—long on grandstanding gestures to capture headlines, short on the practical measures of ordinary competence that are necessary to ensure public safety.

The Home Secretary has conceded that

“from time to time”

the Home Office

“is dysfunctional in the sense that it does not work”.

Rather than blaming officials, when will the Government accept that Ministers have responsibility for their Departments, and are responsible for the delay?

I have two specific questions about the operation of the new code H. It provides for the transfer to a designated prison

“as soon as is practicable”

of suspects for whom a warrant has been issued authorising detention for more than 14 days, unless the detainee requests to remain in a police station, or it would otherwise hinder or delay the investigation. The Minister explained that Lord Carlile, the Government’s adviser, strongly recommended the provision. Why 14 days, which appears to be an arbitrary limit? Half the respondents to the consultation were in favour of the ability to transfer prisoners to a prison, but half were against.

Justice stated:

“Although we recognise that police detention facilities are not suited for prolonged detention, imprisoning persons who have not been charged with a criminal offence seems to us to blur a fundamental distinction between pre-charge detention and detention on remand. In practical terms, we are also concerned that it could lead to interference with a suspect’s right to access legal advice”.

Will the Minister confirm whether that is the case? How will the proper legal requirements for the conduct of interviews and so on be ensured in prison? Will prisoners have to be transferred back to properly equipped police cells for interviews?

Secondly, the code provides that detainees may receive visits from friends, family or others, at the custody officer’s discretion. To what extent will that provision be subject to supervision or review? Should such visits be left to the discretion of a single custody officer? What appeal procedure will be available if the custody officer decides not to allow the visits?

The Minister will appreciate that the detention of suspects for such periods will inevitably be controversial. We need only look back a few weeks to the detention of the suspects in Forest Gate to realise that that is the case. Granting visits to suspects will therefore be important, and there should be proper accountability and supervision.

I hope that the Minister can answer our constructive questions and that the House will support the code so that the powers, which the House has agreed are needed to counter terrorism, can be brought into force without further delay.

Liberal Democrats strongly opposed the extension of detention without charge from 14 days to 90 days. We voted against the measure on Second Reading principally because we regarded the proposal as a breach of the ancient and fundamental right of habeas corpus, and the right to know the basis on which one is held and to challenge it in the courts.

The terrorism that threatens the safety of our citizens at this time in history has meant an uneasy rebalancing of the scales. The Government’s desire for 90-day detention was not supported by any case that was made sufficiently satisfactorily to gain the votes of a majority of hon. Members, and the provision fell. The 28-day detention period is the limit to which Liberal Democrats felt able to go without abdicating our commitment to civil liberties, which we in the United Kingdom value so deeply. It represents a doubling of existing police powers—it is quite an extension.

Although I shall restrict myself narrowly, in the way in which the Minister desires us to do, I must stress that we voiced concerns about the original proposal. The longer that a person is held in custody, the greater the likelihood that a court will eventually realise that any evidence was obtained under duress. Code H is therefore important because whatever evidence is obtained must be valuable and valid in order to be presented in a court.

I agree with the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) that, for something that was so urgent and pressing, the extraordinary delay in its implementation beggars belief. The Government explain it by citing work and consultation on the code of practice, but I understand that the work did not even commence until a month after Royal Assent.

We have previously agreed that a separate code of practice should be produced for those detained after arrest under section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Given that that has been done, we are minded to support the Government. However, I should like the Minister to expand on some aspects of the code.

Will there be extra training for those who supervise the detention or will they simply receive normal prison training? What supervision will there be of what happens to detainees during their sojourn before charge? To whom will relatives complain or present their problems? How will we know about such matters? Will those detained under the 28-day rule come under the inspection regime of the prison or will there be a special inspection for them?

It is crucial that individuals held for 28 days be treated in such a way that their detention does not inflame the sensitivities of the communities from which they are likely—at least at present—to come. While it may be necessary—and we have now agreed to it—to remove liberty before charge for 28 days to gather evidence, it is crucial that the conduct of that detention should not exacerbate the present tinderbox situation. We have all seen the events in Forest Gate. I support the police going in to investigate, but it is crucial that their behaviour does not further damage community relations.

On the issue of the detention of those younger than usual, I refer to the recent arrest and detention of two 16-year-olds. The Minister indicates that it was only one, but the principle is the same, whether it is one, two or 10. Will he say how younger people will be supported during the period of detention? Will they be flanked by adults to support them while providing evidence?

If the Minister can give satisfactory answers to those questions, the Liberal Democrats will support the motion, and if and when detention for 28 days without charge comes into practice, I hope that it is used appropriately and professionally.

Much of the ground has been covered in the substantive debates on the Terrorism Act 2006, so I shall be brief. My hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) said that he hoped that the code would be passed by the House, but I take a different view, not because of the contents of the code, but because the passage of the code is a condition present to the extension of the time period for detention from 14 days to 28 days. If one takes the view, as I do, that we should not extend the period of detention, one inevitably has to oppose the code, even if it is an improvement on the current position.

My hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) was right to secure an undertaking from the Government that a code would be published and brought to the Floor of the House. He should be commended for that, but the essential point is whether we want to extend the period of detention. If the answer is no, the House should not pass the code. It is not necessary, desirable, just or proportionate to increase the period of detention from 14 days to 28 days. It also increases the risk of injustice. Anyone who practises in the criminal courts, as I do regularly, knows very well that the period of detention is a time of great stress for the detained person. If the period is an extended one, those detained are capable of wrongly incriminating themselves. We are embarking on a course of action that is likely to have that effect, and it is primarily for that reason that I opposed the extension of the detention period when we debated it last year.

I have also expressed, on many occasions, my dissatisfaction with the process. Statutory instruments and codes are not amendable, but they can have a heavy impact on the rights of citizens. This code is an important document. It has been the subject of consultation, and one is grateful for that, but the House cannot amend it. We must either approve it as a whole or reject it. Matters of this kind should be amendable, which could be achieved by putting them into the schedule of the Bill. I regard this as a very unsatisfactory process. Matters of this kind should be dealt with under primary legislation, and when they are detailed and complex they should be included in schedules, so that they are amendable.

I am aware—we have just heard so from the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone)—that there will be no support for voting to oppose the order. I therefore do not propose to divide the House, but I do protest against what we are doing and against the extension of the detention period. To anybody who says that the Conservative party signed up to 28 days, I admit that that is true, as my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs said in terms. But we did so because a 28-day period was a darn sight better than 90 or 60 days. It was the best deal that we could make. That is not an assertion of principle, but of pragmatic fact, and—speaking for myself—I am thoroughly against an extension of the detention period to 28 days.

My heart sank when my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) said that he did not propose to divide the House on this matter. I support the arguments that he advanced, especially on the relationship of statutory instruments to primary legislation and the fact that they are not available at the time of consideration of the original legislation. In fact, the Modernisation Committee is considering the process of legislation and may make recommendations on that point.

I shall concentrate on the issue of civil liberties, paragraphs 7.2 and 7.3 in the guidance notes, and on the statement made by the Minister of State that

“In my view the provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Code of Practice C and Code of Practice H) Order 2006 are compatible with the Convention rights.”

I asked him about that and, like most Ministers nowadays, he gaily asserted that it is a matter of routine. My objections, like those of my right hon. and learned Friend, revolve around the most basic concepts of what Britain stands for and our civil liberties. It is unconscionable that a person should be held without charge for 28 days. Fourteen days is an awfully long time, but we are talking about six weeks in the life of an individual. If the provisions are misused, careers will be wrecked, families may be broken up and great financial burdens will be imposed.

It is cynically suggested that we should accept such provisions because they will eventually be shipwrecked in the House of Lords by a judgment declaring their incompatibility. However, the statutory instrument gives us an opportunity to reflect on the provision’s incompatibility with the European convention on human rights and the possibility that the Law Lords will rule in that way. That is the judgment of many well-regarded lawyers. I suggest that it is cynical to fail to address head-on the relationship between the case law and the status of the European Court of Justice, because that is what the Government are doing. They are playing with the themes. They have brought us to the point where British citizens may be held for up to 28 days without knowing what they are charged with. That is contrary to the traditions of our common law and our history of liberty, and it is very difficult for people in those circumstances to mount a defence.

I am opposed to the code of practice—both emotionally and because of who I am and whom I represent—because I believe that the Government’s declaration of compatibility is fraudulent.

Order. I must intervene, as we are not discussing the period of detention but rather the code of practice that applies to legislation already agreed in the House.

I understand, Madam Deputy Speaker. That is why I have tried to focus on the fact that the code is a crucial part of the 2006 Act, and a requirement of it. A successful vote against the motion would shipwreck the concept of 28 days. However, I know that that concept will inevitably be shipwrecked in any case, under the existing arrangements that the Government have put in place to protect Britain, by the European Court of Human Rights.

With the leave of the House, I shall try and deal with some of the points raised in this appropriately narrow debate. I do not want to attack or challenge the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) or the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg). They have merely been consistent in wanting to kick against a trend that they think they have detected. They believe that important matters are increasingly dealt with through statutory instruments, codes of practice and so on rather than in primary legislation. I do not agree with that, but I accept the broad parliamentary point.

I also accept the consequence of consistency—that those who oppose the original proposition in a Bill are being entirely consistent when they oppose it when it crops up in a statutory instrument or code of practice that flows from the Bill. I do not underestimate the integrity of the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills or of the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham. What they say is entirely fair and reasonable. I do not agree with them, about either the parliamentary or the substantive point, but I admire them for their consistency.

In passing, even in my short time in the House I heard those views expressed extremely eloquently many times by the late right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst. The position is perfectly acceptable, it is just that I do not agree with it. However, I appreciate that it is right and proper to express those views in the narrow confines of this debate—which was spoiled only when the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) came clodhopping in with his attempt to make it far broader than had been intended.

I turn now to some of the specific questions that were raised. It is of course envisaged that, if the police need to interview detainees after they have been transferred to prison, arrangements will be made for them to be moved back to the appropriate police station. That is entirely in keeping with the needs of an investigation, and there is no restriction of access to legal advice when a detainee is in prison. The hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) asked about that and I hope that my response has reassured him.

The hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone) asked about terrorist detainees in prison. As with all prisoners, they will come under the regime of Her Majesty’s inspector of prisons. Importantly, Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, has said that he will take a close interest in all aspects of the proposed extended detention. I welcome that, given that his original brief was to oversee all aspects of the legislation.

Usually, a very detailed record is kept of what happens when a prisoner is detained in a police station. It is very useful, as any allegation of duress, or that a confession was obtained under pressure, can be refuted by allowing the prosecution to look at the record. However, I am concerned that that record will not be kept in the same way when a person is detained in prison. As a result, the prosecution might be at a considerable disadvantage if it is alleged that pressure has been applied through some mechanism while that person was in prison.

That is an entirely reasonable point, although it may not be germane to the integrity of the code of practice. However, it may be worth pursuing, and I accept that custodial records and the evidentiary base available when a person is detained in a police station will be markedly different from what happens in a prison. I shall therefore explore the implications and get back to the hon. Gentleman on that.

I come now to the question of the 14-day period before transfer to prison. The initial period of detention is often the time when the police need immediate and direct access to the person detained, and the present period of 14 days in police detention has been shown to work adequately. Even Lord Carlile was more concerned about what happens after the 14-day period, during the extended period up to the 28-day limit, as it is clear that police cells are not built to cope with a doubling of the detention period.

Our experience is that the problems are not as marked with detention periods of up to 14 days as may be the case with the longer period. Although I recognise Lord Carlile’s point, I do not think that the 14-day cut-off point is arbitrary, as it is based on experience. We recognise that the exceptional nature of the extension introduced by the 2006 Act requires an extra safeguard, and that is why we regard the 14-day cut-off as an appropriate time for transfer.

I mean no disrespect to the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs, but it is not really appropriate to go on about how long it has taken to bring the code before the House. Royal Assent was secured for the 2006 Act only on 30 March this year. By any standard, given the necessity of detailed assessment of the points raised in the consultation process and the urgency of the matter at hand, the Government have been rather speedy in getting the code before the House. It is very easy to ask why it could not have been written and subject to consultation before the Bill was secured, but that would have been rather presumptuous—after all, the Bill could have been changed markedly as a result of the deliberations in this House and the other place.

I have heard people reminisce wistfully about the debates that we had on the Bill, which could never have been called non-contentious. It could never have been claimed that the Government would be able to secure their business come what may—and that indeed turned out not to be the case—so it was never going to be possible to have written the code of practice and subjected it to consultation long before the Bill even came before the House.

The Government lost the odd vote on the Bill, which was highly contentious. It was therefore right and proper for us to wait until it secured full assent. I do not recall exactly how the votes went, but we could have been left with a pre-charge detention period lasting 14 days, 28 days—or no days at all. Any result different from what was obtained would have made a difference to the code of practice, or put in doubt whether we needed one at all.

I want to say, in the nicest possible way, that the remarks made by the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs were unbecoming. I shall not go anywhere near describing the most unbecoming rant of the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May), who purports to be the shadow Leader of the House. Given the investigations that were going on at the time, I am sure that she will agree, on reflection, that it would have been better if she had not said what she did say.

In passing, it might also have been nice if the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs had, when talking about the incident at Forest Gate, said clearly and on the record that he fully supported the police in their actions in carrying out the raid. We cannot second-guess what the police seek to do before or after an event, particularly afterwards when we have the benefit of hindsight. I accept that it is perfectly in order to comment on Forest Gate, but it might have been useful if the hon. Gentleman had prefaced what he said with remarks endorsing what the police did.

None the less, for all the cheapish comments—

It is far from that. “Cheapish” is right this time. There was some value, so his remarks were not just cheap, but they were unnecessarily partisan and—

Order. As the Minister said, this is a very narrow debate—[Laughter.] Perhaps we might return to the code of practice.

Thank you very much indeed, Madam Deputy Speaker, for intervening to get me off that track. I suppose I should draw the lesson that when I mean to insult someone I should just do it rather than trying to insult them politely.

I resent the charge from the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) that national security and public safety were somehow put at risk because of the consultation period on the code of practice. That is simply not the case.

In my next breath, however, let me say that the Bill is in a far, far better place than it was because of the hon. Gentleman’s suggestion that there should be a code of practice and that it should be separate from the regular PACE code. In both regards, he was entirely right and I am pleased that my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke) endorsed what he said so that we could come back today. That shows how we can move forward on a consensual basis to improve the lot of people who will be affected. It is important that matters should be dealt with in this way.

I make no charge against the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham and the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills because I fully accept their integrity and the legitimacy of their reasons.

I beg the hon Gentlemen’s pardon.

The Minister has not responded to the issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone) about training. Does he expect custody officers in each police force to be trained in the new code, or will someone held under the code be transferred to a police force with appropriate facilities and custody officers?

I suspect and hope it will be the latter. If, not because of the Bill but because of other activity, we need the equivalent of Paddington Green-type stations everywhere, that would imply a huge increase in activity among those likely to be charged under the code. Separate expert facilities, such as those at Paddington Green, will, at least at first, be the way to go. In the broader context of police restructuring—I am not seeking to provoke anyone by mentioning level 2, closing the gap and counter-terrorism provision—all that is being looked at, away and aside from the whole restructuring debate. That may result in there being equivalents of Paddington Green elsewhere. If, as I suspect, every force eventually needs the equivalent of a Paddington Green, I am sure that training will be forthcoming.

Building on the point made by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) and adopting the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve), where the detained person is held in a prison rather than in a police station, questions of appointing and training prison officers to serve as custody officers might arise. Clearly, if a detained person is to be held for an extended period, many of the considerations that could arise in a police station will arise in the prison. I hope that the Minister will consider that and the implications for the Prison Service and training.

I have already said to the hon. Member for Beaconsfield that that is a fair point and that I will look at it. In the main, however, in terms of individuals detained, the norm would be, as with the 14-day period, that they be returned to the safe and secure police facility for interviewing. I take the point about evidentiary trails and the role of custody officers in police stations being rather different from their equivalents in prisons. That is worthy of exploration, and I will get back to the House through a response to the hon. Member for Beaconsfield.

Without wishing unnecessarily to prolong matters or to go off on another insulting and inarticulate—

I am very grateful. I hope that the Minister will forgive my interruption; I had thought him on the cusp of winding up. I shall not be provoked by his comments on police amalgamation, but given his generous recognition that my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) suggested that the revised codes should be put in place, does he also concede that the Prime Minister’s contention that the reason why the Government were unable to introduce the 28-day provision quickly was that we, the official Opposition, insisted on a longer consultation period for the code is simply not the case?

I, too, will not be provoked. Let me get back to my failed attempt at a peroration which, as I attempted not to insult anyone else and to exhort everyone else to be narrow, slipped into my broadening the base of the debate myself.

There are, as I have said, points of wider political debate around the order, and those may well be points for another time and another place. On the substance of the code of practice and the changed code for non-terrorist suspects, there is broad consensus in the House. Having smelled that consensus, I shall sit down before I provoke its breakdown.

Question put and agreed to.


That the draft Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Code of Practice C and Code of Practice H) Order 2006, which was laid before this House on 14th June, be approved.