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Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

Volume 568: debated on Monday 14 October 2013

I beg to move,

That the following provisions shall apply to the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, in place of paragraphs (4) and (5) of the Order of 10 June 2013:

(1) Proceedings on Consideration and proceedings on Third Reading shall be taken in two days in accordance with the following provisions of this Order.

(2) Proceedings on Consideration–

(a) shall be taken on the days and in the order shown in the Table

(b) shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the times shown.



Time for conclusion of proceedings

New Clauses and new Schedules relating to the protection of persons from harm of a sexual nature or relating to violent offender orders.

7.00pm on the first day

New Clauses and new Schedules relating to Parts 1 to 6 or otherwise relating to anti-social behaviour; amendments to Parts 1 to 6; new Clauses and new Schedules relating to firearms; amendments to Part 8.

10.00pm on the first day

Remaining new Clauses and new Schedules, except those relating to the control of dogs; amendments to Parts 9 to 13.

2.30pm on the second day

New Clauses and new Schedules relating to the control of dogs; amendments to Part 7; remaining proceedings on Consideration.

4.30pm on the second day

(3) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 5.30pm on the second day.

I start by congratulating the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) on his appointment as the new shadow Policing Minister and wishing him well. I am sure that he and I will spend many happy hours debating this important issue. I wish him many happy years on the Opposition Front Bench.

The programme motion extends the time available for consideration on Report from one day to two days. Among the new clauses that have been tabled is new clause 5, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Nicola Blackwood) and co-sponsored by 67 other right hon. and hon. Members. It seeks to provide for a new child sexual abuse prevention order. The Government agree that the civil prevention orders under part 2 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 are in need of reform and have therefore also tabled some substantial amendments on the issue.

Given the level of support for new clause 5 and the serious issues it seeks to address, it is right that the House should be afforded sufficient time to debate these provisions. The programme motion accordingly provides that we have until 7 pm today to debate the new clause and the associated Government amendments. Thereafter, it provides for the Bill’s antisocial behaviour and firearms provisions and the related new clauses to be considered on this first day on Report, while all other provisions, including those relating to schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000, extradition and dangerous dogs, will be considered tomorrow.

I am glad that we have more time available for debate, but does the Minister share my concern that the debate on schedule 7 to the 2000 Act, which we are supposed to have tomorrow, along with many other matters, from the Opposition’s proposals to ban synthetic caffeine through to much else, have at most a two-hour slot until 2.30 pm? Is there any way we could save time on the Deep Sea Mining Bill and have more time to discuss those matters?

I do not agree with my hon. Friend that there is an unfair allocation of time, either between this Bill and others, as he mentioned, or within the provisions of the Bill. I think that we have achieved a fair allocation of time among the many important issues the Bill addresses. That should allow the House sufficient opportunity to consider both the Government amendments and others that have been tabled. As I have said, underlying the programme motion is the fact that we have extended the time the House has to consider the Bill on Report from one day to two days. I hope that the House will agree to the motion quickly so that we can get on to debating the many substantive issues before us.

I thank the Minister for his kind comments and pay tribute to my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson), in whose giant footsteps I am privileged to walk. He has been an outstanding Minister and shadow Minister, a great champion of the police service and one of the finest Members this House has seen in many years.

I rise to urge the House to reject the programme motion. I do so not because programme motions are inappropriate in general—far from it—but because in this case the programme motion is being used to curtail debate and because the Government are running scared after having lost a number of votes in Committee, and a Whip and a Minister, during the deliberations on this Bill.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) pointed out on Second Reading, while there are measures in this Bill that we support—crucially, the new child protection measures—it is a Christmas-tree Bill with a bit on a number of measures. There is a bit on police standards, a bit on guns and a bit on dogs, but in none of those areas does the Bill go far enough, and it is weak on tackling antisocial behaviour. It weakens antisocial behaviour powers at a time when the Office for National Statistics shows there is concern among the public that antisocial behaviour is increasing, with eight in 10 telling the ONS it has increased in their direct experience over the past year.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a great deal of support for the point of view he is expressing, not least from my constituency on the issue of protecting children from sexual exploitation? Will he therefore feel very confident in promoting the case he is now putting?

This issue will be addressed shortly, and there is widespread consensus across the House on the importance of strengthening powers to protect children.

It is with this in mind that we express our concern about the programme motion, which will curtail debate on important measures, such as our proposals on dangerous dogs and measures on protection for public-facing workers, undercover policing and guns and also issues put forward by Members on the Government Benches, like extradition.

There are 89 pages of amendments and new clauses, many of which have been tabled by the Government at the last minute as, sadly, has often become the case with this Government. As a direct result, there will be little time to debate many of these important issues that we and Members on the Government Benches have put forward. For absolute clarity, I should state that the Opposition were asked whether we would support an extension of time for debate today and tomorrow, only for the Government then to cut the time for debate tomorrow. What is most worrying is the sense that the Government are using the programme motion because they are running scared of losing a vote on dangerous dogs, not least because many of their Members will be partying at a social occasion elsewhere.

Earlier today I met Michael Anderson, a fine man whose 14-year-old daughter Jade was killed by four dangerous dogs. He came to this House hoping that we would properly debate taking tough action so that, as he said, no father would ever again suffer what he has suffered. This Bill offered the Government the perfect opportunity finally to bring forward the kind of tough legislation necessary to deal with dangerous dogs and irresponsible owners, but, despite support for action from MPs on both sides of the House, they failed to act.

My hon. Friend highlights a very sad and tragic case extremely well to make his point. The point my constituents have made to me about both dangerous dogs and gun crime is that they are incredibly difficult subjects that need to be examined in great detail in order to get changes in the law right. Anything rushed or done without proper consideration runs the risk of not making things better, and possibly making them worse.

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. This is not just about the tough action that is necessary but about getting the right kind of action, and that can be ensured only by way of proper debate in this House.

The Government gave a commitment in Committee that they would review the maximum penalties for an aggravated offence under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, but last week they waited until a few minutes after the deadline for tabling new amendments to the Bill, then let the House know that they would bring forward proposals on Report despite previous assurances to the contrary. Having failed to act, the Government now propose to fix the timetable so that our proposals for robust action in the form of dog control notices, which have worked so effectively in Scotland, will not receive proper debate, and to ensure that they do not lose the vote—a decision condemned by Michael Anderson.

It may be that I am naturally suspicious, but in the Government’s conduct over dangerous dogs, I smell a rat. First, we had the removal of the Minister who promised that the Government would review action on dangerous dogs and bring back proposals on Report, and then the new Minister, the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), last week waited until after the deadline for tabling amendments to inform the House that the Government will be doing no such thing. Now the Government want to fix the timetable to avoid debate and losing a vote. The Minister knows a thing or two about conspiracy theories, but I am sure he did not expect to be involved in one quite so quickly. Despite his being responsible for dogs and ASBOs, the Government do not even list him as a speaker in the debate. It would appear that he has been silenced less than a week into his tenure of office. I would urge him to investigate.

I urge the House to reject the programme motion and encourage the Government to allocate more time for debate. Any Government’s first duty to their citizens is to ensure their safety and security. Our citizens would expect nothing less than these very important measures, but the motion fails to ensure that they are properly debated in this House.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) on his new role and on his powerful speech, which came across very well and covered issues that he clearly cares about. However, I do not agree with his factual interpretation. If we do not pass this programme motion, we will be left with the programme motion that we passed unanimously in this House previously, which means that we will have only the rest of today for debate. I am afraid that the outcome of his suggestion is that we would have only five and a quarter hours to continue the debate, and I hope that we will not take up too much of it with this discussion. I understand the reason for his proposal, but unfortunately it suffers from the fact that it would curtail debate. He made an important point about having time to discuss dogs, and I am pleased to see that two hours are protected for that purpose. If we voted against this motion, we would risk having no debate on that issue at all.

My concern about the programme motion relates to the section covering the period until 2.30 pm on the second day, which deals with a whole collection of new clauses and new schedules on matters other than dogs, with a maximum of two hours available for debate. They include forced marriage in Scotland, on which I will not claim to be an expert, court fees and compensation, and a collection of policing and offences issues, including several that I would like to raise about schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000, which needs to be curtailed. There are a range of other issues about drugs policy and a section on extradition. For all that, we have available a maximum of two hours, which would be limited even further in the event of any statements or urgent questions. I can accept voting for this motion because I have not tabled an amendment, and nor has anybody else, that would protect that time. However, in the event of there being statements or other things that delayed progress, will the Minister make sure that we have time to debate these very important subjects? Will he at least discuss with his colleagues whether there could be an amendment to the programme motion tomorrow to ensure that that crucial time, which many of us care about, is protected?

First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) on, and welcome him to, his new Front-Bench position. He has said that he has nothing in principle against programme motions, but had he been in the House before the last election he would have had to sit through the long debates in which Members who now sit on the Government Front Bench used to argue that programme motions were an evil of our age. They have not taken long to embrace programme motions or to use them as a way of curtailing debate.

It is universally acknowledged that the Queen’s Speech was not jam-packed with proposed legislation, to the extent that we now routinely have Back-Bench business debates and Opposition days. This Government are reluctant to ensure that this House properly scrutinises Bills. If that is to happen, time has to be provided for it.

A number of Bills have been rushed through this place with undue haste this Session, only to then be filleted in the other place, where more time is given for scrutiny. Sometimes that has been down to bad draftsmanship, and this Bill is a good example of that. My hon. Friend has already referred to the 89 pages of amendments and new clauses that have been tabled, which smacks to me of there being something wrong with the drafting of the Bill.

My hon. Friend said that this is a Christmas tree Bill, but I would say that it is a dog’s breakfast—a dangerous dog’s breakfast—of a Bill. If we look back at previous attempts to legislate on the serious issue of dangerous dogs, we will see that getting it wrong can cost lives, so it is very important that we get it right this time. That can only be done through proper scrutiny by the House.

In the absence of any amendment to the programme motion, what could the House possibly gain from voting against it? If we did so we would, in effect, lose a whole day.

I welcome the hon. Gentleman, whose presence in the House has been limited because of illness, to his place. The fact is that there is a general trend under this Government to limit the time to consider all Bills, not just this one.

The Bill raises serious issues and has a wide scope, as the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) has said. It covers everything from the important issue of dangerous dogs to forced marriage and major issues of police reform, including a provision allowing foreigners to become police chiefs. Also—I know this is an issue of huge concern to some Government Members—it relates to the Terrorism Act 2000 and extradition. If we are to have a serious debate about such issues and ensure public confidence in us, we need more time than that allotted by the programme motion.

The Minister has said that the programme motion is generous because it gives us an extra day, but that is not the case, unless the Minister’s day usually finishes at 5.30 pm on a Tuesday. Why can we not extend the time available for consideration until the usual time of 7 pm, which would at least give us nearly two extra hours? I understand that Government Members are keen to attend to certain social engagements. I was surprised to read in the press at the weekend that the Opposition had agreed to the programme motion when they clearly had not. It has been a trend of this Government to believe that if they say something, it must be true, and if they keep saying something, it most definitely is true.

This House must do a proper job of scrutinising this large piece of legislation, which contains some crucial issues that will affect our constituents directly. The allocated time is not sufficient to ensure that we do that.

I want briefly to put on the record my concern that the programme motion does not allow for proper debate and scrutiny of the Executive, in particular in relation to the extradition clauses and amendments.

I appreciate that there are limitations on the number of Back-Bench amendments that can be considered during the Report stage of any Bill. However, yet again, substantive clauses on extradition reform that were tabled in Committee risk not being properly scrutinised by the House. The extradition proposals make up the last of four clusters of amendments to be debated tomorrow between 2.30 and 4.30 pm, so the chances are that we will have no time to debate them.

This is not the first time that that has happened. The Government’s new forum test for US and EU extradition was tabled during the Committee stage of the Crime and Courts Bill earlier this year. The House was again timed out of any consideration on Report back in March.

The broader context is that the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have loudly promised extradition reform. It is in the coalition programme, no less. The legislative proposals follow an independent inquiry by Sir Scott Baker, which was conducted at great public expense. It is surely vital that we properly consider the case for reform and deliver on the promises that have been made.

Unbelievably, the Government’s forum clause, which was slipped into the Crime and Courts Bill and which becomes law today, is worse than the status quo. It makes the repetition of unjust cases, such as those of Gary McKinnon and Richard O’Dwyer, more likely, not less. We have had no chance to debate the substance of those proposals on the Floor of the House. They have had precious little critical, substantive scrutiny.

The proposed safeguards for the European arrest warrant in this Bill are more positive, but they are still too weak. Again, they were introduced in Committee and the whole House should have an opportunity to consider amendments to strengthen them, not least because they will form the basis of the Government’s case for opting back into the European arrest warrant later this year. The programme motion makes it highly likely that we will be timed out again. I fear that that will weaken the Government’s case for opting back into the European arrest warrant, when I believe the intention was to strengthen the case.

It may be a clever device to avoid proper scrutiny, but it comes at a price to our democracy. First, it means that Parliament is not properly scrutinising the powers that the Executive wield over innocent British citizens. Secondly, the lack of scrutiny leaves empty and undelivered the heady political promises that have been made about extradition reform by politicians across this House. I urge the Government to think again and to guarantee enough time for even a short, modest debate about these important clauses.

The Minister will know that the city of Nottingham has a very good record of tackling antisocial behaviour, built on the alliance between the police, police community support officers and community protection officers. He will know that because I have written to him on several occasions about the issue.

Does the Minister think that we will have sufficient time to discuss the police’s powers of direction, which the city of Nottingham would like to extend in part to PCSOs and CPOs? Not every city is prepared to take on those powers, but the cities that are would find them of great benefit in the continuing battle against antisocial behaviour, which is taking place in Nottingham and beyond.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab), who covered some of my points about why I will find it difficult to support the programme motion. I wish to speak specifically to the time allocated for debating the European arrest warrant, which is of considerable interest to my constituent Andrew Symeou, by whom my view is informed and who has been a victim of a failed and flawed process.

The significance of the issue means that we require more time to debate it. Although the House has had many debates on the subject of the European arrest warrant and extradition, at no point has it had the chance to debate the extensive Scott Baker report that the Home Secretary commissioned, yet we are expected to have an informed opinion on detailed new clauses that are effectively the Government’s response to that report and that set out our future extradition policy.

The lack of time means that we will have no chance to examine how effective the reforms are, including those in the new clauses. My hon. Friend has tabled a significant number of amendments and new clauses that I believe would strengthen the European arrest warrant and protect the rights of the British citizen, while still broadly supporting the principle of opting back into it. Those amendments have drawn cross-party support, so it is regrettable that we will probably not have the chance to address them because of the order in which the groups of amendments will be taken tomorrow. Whatever the reason behind that order, we need to discuss the issues of temporary extradition, which sounds good but could be strengthened to protect our constituents; of proportionality; and of whether we should discuss the use of extradition as a last resort, not the first resort. Its use as the first resort has plagued the lives of many citizens of this country who have been wrongfully extradited.

My constituent Andrew Symeou spent two years out of the country as part of a four-year period of great disruption to his and his family’s life, including one year in jail. He was then rightly returned to this country when the Greek authorities finally threw out his case after four years. I made him a promise that during my time in the House, I would fight to ensure that others did not go through what he did. We had the opportunity to take that fight to the Floor of the House and discuss in detail how to make the situation better. Unfortunately, through the programme motion, the House has denied him the right to have it discussed and denied me the right to be his voice. That is a matter of regret and will make it difficult for me to form a positive judgment about opting back into the European arrest warrant, since the House has been denied the opportunity to challenge, probe and, hopefully, improve it.

I will not detain the House long, particularly while we are discussing the lack of time to debate the Bill, but I wanted to add my concern about the Government’s decision to curtail debate tomorrow. I fail to see what could be more important than debating issues of life and death.

My constituent Royston Brett set off on Friday and has cycled almost 250 miles from Atherton to Westminster to add his voice to those demanding more action to prevent dog attacks. He was supported on his journey by Michael Anderson, the father of Jade Lomas Anderson, who was tragically killed by four out-of-control dogs in March. When Michael and Royston cycled into New Palace Yard at 1 o’clock today, they were extremely upset to learn that the Government were curtailing the debate. They do not understand how they can spend three days making such a heroic effort to raise the issue of dangerous dogs, cycling in atrocious weather and sleeping in the car, but MPs cannot be bothered to work through until the normal hour tomorrow.

The Government should rethink their strategy for the Bill and ensure that we have adequate time to discuss the 211 or so amendments. Jade and many thousands of other victims of dog attacks deserve nothing less.

Order. I do not think that it is required for the Minister to respond, but if he wishes to say some further words, he can.

With the leave of the House, I will, Mr Speaker.

I detect just the faintest whiff of synthetic indignation in the air. I remind the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) that the Opposition did not vote against Second Reading, or against the original programme motion, which provided for just one day on Report. They are objecting to having two days allowed for the Bill, but they did not object to having one day. Proceedings in Committee finished ahead of schedule, and on Report the Opposition Front Benchers have tabled just one amendment to the Bill’s 142 clauses, as well as five new clauses.

In opposing this second programme motion, the official Opposition are opposing the extra time on Report that the Government have volunteered. The Opposition did not request extra time, but they now argue there is not enough. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) rightly pointed out, if the Opposition succeed, the time devoted to discussing these important issues will be reduced rather than increased. [Interruption.] The Opposition Whip can continue chuntering from a sedentary position as much as he likes, but he has left himself in the ridiculous position of voting for the Bill to have less time devoted to it, rather than more. That is not effective opposition or Opposition whipping.

Perhaps I may correct one factual point. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington said that the Government waited until after the tabling deadline to announce that they would not be tabling amendments on the maximum sentence in section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. That is not the case. The Minister of State, Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), wrote to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Richard Fuller) on that issue last Thursday, and the tabling deadline for amendments to be debated tomorrow was last Friday. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford has tabled amendments on that issue, so we can debate it tomorrow.

I take the point raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab) and for Enfield North (Nick de Bois). Progress through the amendments tomorrow will be a matter for the House, but I see no reason why there should not be an opportunity to debate the important reforms to our extradition arrangements. The protestations from the Opposition simply do not add up.

We have often been in this situation and found that we have not had enough time to debate important amendments. Would the Minister have any objection to some of the important amendments being put to the vote if the guillotine falls before we have had time to debate them?

As my hon. Friend knows, it is not for Ministers to decide whether things are put to the vote; that is up to the Chair.

The hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) prayed in aid what happened in previous Parliaments. As I have said, this programme motion provides for additional time on Report. Indeed, this is the sixth Bill this Session that has received multiple days for its remaining stages. That is in stark contrast to the previous Government whom the hon. Gentleman supported and who routinely provided for only one day on Report and Third Reading. There is much more scrutiny of Bills under this Government than there was under the previous Government, and if the Opposition succeed there will be less parliamentary discussion—as is characteristic of the Labour party—rather than more, which is what the coalition Government have introduced.

On reflection, I hope the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington will reconsider his position and allow the programme motion to pass without further ado so that we can get on with the substantive issues before the House.

Question put.