House of Commons
Monday 13 June 2016
The House met at half-past Two o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked—
Border Force Personnel
1. What estimate she has made of changes in the number of Border Force personnel over the course of this Parliament. 
4. What estimate she has made of changes in the number of Border Force personnel over the course of this Parliament. 
I recognise that there is an urgent question on the tragic circumstances of Orlando later, but I am sure that the thoughts and prayers of the whole House are with the victims of this appalling terrorist attack and their families.
Over the course of the financial year, the number of full-time equivalent staff in Border Force is expected to remain flat. Budgets have not been finalised beyond the current financial year, so I am unable to provide an estimate of staffing levels for subsequent years.
I thank the Home Secretary for that reply and I endorse her sentiments about the appalling events in Orlando.
What impression of the UK does the right hon. Lady feel people get at our airports when faced with huge immigration queues, yet vast numbers of immigration officers’ desks are unoccupied? Does the Home Office not know what is going on, or does it not care? What is she going to do about it?
I am pleased to say that we have made a significant difference over recent years in how Border Force manages its workforce. When we came into power, we discovered that under the last Labour Government, the workforce schedules did not match the peak requirements of people arriving at the airports. We have changed that, and we have significantly increased the number of e-gates, which means that people do not have to go through the individually manned desks because they can go through the e-gates instead.
Ports such as Hull are being targeted by traffickers and illegal immigrants, as was shown in February when 18 illegal immigrants were found on the dockside in Hull. Many staff have contacted me to say that, as a result of the cuts, they are worried because they are unable to provide the level of service that they want to at the border. What extra resources will places such as Hull and other ports around the country get to help them to do the job they want to do?
We are very clear that Border Force has sufficient resources in place to carry out its mandated duties at ports across Humberside and to mount effective operations to identify and intercept smuggled contraband goods and clandestine migrants. What Border Force has done is to ensure that there is a greater flexibility in the workforce, so it can be managed rather better according to risk and need.
One thing that makes Border Force more effective in protecting the border in Kent is the ability to operate in Calais rather than in Dover as it used to do. Does my right hon. Friend agree that anything that gave the French the temptation to move our border back to Dover would serve to weaken our borders?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. As not only a former Immigration Minister but a Kent MP, he is aware of the importance of our juxtaposed controls in France. I am very clear that those juxtaposed controls are a significant benefit. They help us to secure our border and we wish them to stay in place.
Following on from the question put by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), I welcome the greater flexibility in Border Force’s approach, but businesses and residents in the Humber region are extremely concerned, following the report recently issued by the National Crime Agency. I recently met the Immigration Minister, who provided some reassurance, but can the Home Secretary give an absolute assurance that additional resources will be put into Humber ports, if required?
My hon. Friend makes an important point and I hope I can reassure him. We have announced that Border Force will be provided with £31 million over the next four years to deploy more staff to undertake counter-smuggling work at ports across the country. This will lead to the deployment of more Border Force staff at maritime ports, including those on Humberside.
I congratulate the Home Secretary on passing another milestone and becoming the third longest-serving Home Secretary in history. The number three is very important, because it is the number of Border Force vessels available to patrol 7,223 miles of coastland, whereas the Italians have 600. Will she look further at the need to provide more resources? I know she has talked about the £31 million, but at this moment criminal gangs are targeting the English channel and going into small ports with their cargo. May we have action much sooner than in the few years that she mentioned?
I suspect that the right hon. Gentleman may very well be the longest-serving Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee. I apologise for not having looked in the record books yet, but perhaps that fact can enter them now.
In comparing the number of Italian vessels with the number of Border Force vessels, the right hon. Gentleman is not comparing like with like. In Border Force, we have given consideration to the suitability of vessels and what vessels are required, which is why there will be some changes. In the strategic defence and security review that was published last November it was announced that we would seek to ensure that all maritime assets could be deployed most effectively in dealing with risks and threats of this kind.
Will the Home Secretary publish the internal review by the National Crime Agency which highlighted the weaknesses in patrols at our small ports and marinas? My constituency contains the closest channel port to London. Will the Home Secretary now, as a matter of urgency, tell the House what she will do to reconfigure the way in which Border Force patrols beaches and inlets, particularly those in the south-east of England, which are now very vulnerable to people traffickers coming here directly from the continent?
It is important to bear in mind that dealing with the potential threat of people trying to enter the United Kingdom clandestinely through smaller ports is not just about physical policing of the coastline, but about understanding intelligence, and, in particular, about the work that is being done to counter organised criminal gangs. The National Crime Agency has set up an organised immigration crime taskforce, which is working not just here in the United Kingdom but with its French counterparts and elsewhere on the continent to ensure that we can stop those movements before they reach our shores.
Calais and Dunkirk Camps
2. What discussions she has had with charities and non-governmental organisations on conditions in the camps at Calais and Dunkirk. 
While the management of the camps is a matter for the French Government, there is close engagement between the United Kingdom and France on all matters relating to the migration situation in Calais. Through the August 2015 joint declaration, the Home Secretary and the French Interior Minister set up a project that is being delivered by the French non-governmental organisation France terre d’asile to identify vulnerable migrants and direct them towards existing protection, support and advice.
May I associate myself and my colleagues with the Home Secretary’s earlier comments about the dreadful killings in Orlando?
The Red Cross has issued the following recommendation:
“The UK Government should be proactive in identifying unaccompanied minors with a UK connection and help guide them through the process of finding protection in the UK”.
What exactly are the Government doing to comply with that, and what have the results been so far?
As I have said, France terre d’asile, to which the United Kingdom Government is giving financial support, is doing precisely that. It is going into the camps to identify young people and to ensure that we have a good understanding of the work that is being done there. Separately, our own advisers are going into the camps to provide appropriate advice. What is of key importance, however, is getting those young people into the French asylum system.
On behalf of Labour Members, may I echo the Home Secretary’s comments about Orlando?
Research published this week by UNICEF shows that children in refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirk are experiencing violence, sexual exploitation and abuse on a daily basis. Clearly, for those who are entitled to be reunified with their families, speed is of the essence, but UNICEF estimates that, at the current rate, it could take up to a year to process the children who are already in Calais and Dunkirk and who have a legal right to be reunited with their relations in the United Kingdom. What steps are the Government taking to address that, and can the Minister tell me how many Home Office staff are currently based in France and working to speed up the process?
I entirely agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman about the need to ensure that those cases are processed as quickly as possible. The most effective way to do that is to provide teams that link up with the best expertise on both sides of the channel, and that is exactly what we have done with the French authorities. The process will not take as long as he suggested. We are seeing cases being processed in a matter of weeks, which is precisely what we want.
Migrants: Illegal Working
3. What steps she is taking to ensure that illegal migrants cannot profit from working in the UK. 
The Government are committed to tackling illegal working. The Immigration Act 2016 makes illegal working a criminal offence in its own right, which ensures that wages paid to illegal migrants can be seized as the proceeds of crime, and assets may be confiscated on conviction. The Government are prioritising the implementation of that provision, which will take place on 12 July.
Does my right hon. Friend consider that tackling illegal working has been made easier or harder by the 2014 judgment of the European Court, which forbids the United Kingdom from requiring migrants to have documentation issued by the British Government, although a High Court judge has said that documents issued by other EU member states are systematically forged?
I can reassure my hon. Friend on the steps that Border Force takes to check documentation and the fact that under this Government we have 100% checks of all scheduled passengers arriving here precisely to identify where fraudulent documents are used. The most important thing is the join-up across government in identifying where these activities are taking place, which is precisely what is happening.
On 11 May I wrote to the Home Secretary regarding an illegal worker in the care sector in the UK. I have not received a reply to that letter, but over a month later can the Minister or Home Secretary explain why that illegal worker is still working in the United Kingdom and why anyone seeking to report illegal workers is referred by the Home Office to Crimestoppers rather than the Department dealing with it itself?
I can certainly assure the hon. Gentleman of the steps that immigration enforcement is taking in a number of sectors where abuse has been highlighted, including construction and the care sector. I will certainly follow up on the point he raised about the letter he has sent to ensure that it is being appropriately followed up.
Mark Garnier. Not here. [Interruption.] I have no idea about the whereabouts of the chappie, but we must move on.
Unaccompanied Children (Family Reunification)
6. What steps her Department is taking to accelerate the family reunification process for unaccompanied children in Europe with family in the UK. 
Ministers and senior officials have formally opened consultations with Greece, Italy and France to identify and transfer to the UK unaccompanied refugee children where it is in their best interests. We are also consulting local authorities, non-governmental organisations and UNHCR. In addition, we have worked with France to improve the operation of the Dublin family reunification process.
May I associate myself with the comments of the Home Secretary and other hon. Members on the homophobic, hate-based atrocity that has taken place in Orlando this week?
International Red Cross has stated its concern for children in Dunkirk. It has highlighted the length of the asylum process, the lack of official information and the domination of smugglers as factors that prevent the Dublin system from even getting off the ground. What progress is being made in overcoming these challenges to ensure that children are swiftly reunited with family in the UK?
I can assure the hon. Lady that we are doing all we can to get children in the asylum system and, once they are in the system, to make sure the procedure happens as quickly as possible. We are having regular meetings with the relevant NGOs, including quite a big one on Thursday, to find out how we can speed this up. The records show that the system is operating much faster and with many more numbers than in 2015, and we are doing our absolute best to speed it up as much as we can.
What progress have we made in despatching the 75 experts to Greece, into the hotspots around Europe and also into Calais to ensure that there is robustness and confidence in the process of vulnerable children going into the system and then having their family reunion application processed, rather than going into the hands of the smugglers and traffickers?
On the officials due to go out to the hotspots, that is well under way. Many have already gone and a lot more will be going in the next few weeks. My hon. Friend has taken a keen interest in this and I am very pleased that, along with my right hon. Friend the Immigration Minister, we have worked together on many things. We take this very seriously. We are putting a lot of resource into it, and I hope in future to be able to report to the House the positive results that I know my hon. Friend wants.
How many unaccompanied children from France have been admitted since the Minister took on this role?
The most recent figures published are that, I believe, more than 30 children from France have come over here—that is in the period up to April 2016—and I can assure the right hon. Lady that we are expecting this to increase very significantly. But we cannot take these duties lightly. For example, we have carefully read the survey, or census as it calls it, by terre d’asile on most of the Calais camp. It identified about 180 children of which 50 claim family reunion connections with the UK. We are doing everything we can to quantify exactly who are the ones with family reunification links with this country, and doing our best to speed up reunions. However, I am sure the right hon. Lady will agree that we have to take this seriously and make sure that they have proper connections with the UK, and if it is proved that they do, which is a very quick process, that they are brought over here very quickly.
20. Further to the question from the right hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), does the Minister think that 30 is an adequate number? How quickly does he think he can get the children who have been identified reunited with their families?
As I explained to the right hon. Lady, I think the number will be increasing significantly in the future. The most significant thing is the speed this takes once a child claims asylum; it takes a short period— in many cases, it is two weeks—and I am hoping to improve on that.
8. What steps she is taking to ensure the security of the UK border at Newhaven port. 
Border Force officers in Newhaven maintain 100% checks of arriving passengers and undertake intelligence-led activity to tackle both people-based and commodity-based threats. They collaborate effectively with the police, the National Crime Agency and their French counterparts in Dieppe to identify and disrupt attempts to smuggle migrants and commodities into the UK illegally through that port.
I thank the Minister for his reply. I recently met Newhaven Port Authority to discuss the future of the Newhaven ferry, and I was told that last year was its most successful ever, with a 50% increase in passengers and freight. That is welcome, but it is putting extreme pressure on the existing Border Force officials. Will the Minister reassure me that this Government are doing everything they can to ensure that this vital travel and trade link is kept secure?
I congratulate the port operators on the work they have done to see the success that my hon. Friend has highlighted, and I am sure her work has given them support, too. I assure her that Border Force’s model operates not only to ensure that we have the necessary core team to tackle business-as-usual activity, but to surge additional resource, in line with intelligence, where we have identified particular threats.
Newhaven is a considerable distance from the constituency of the hon. Gentleman, but I am sure his ingenuity will avail him.
Principal ports—major ferry ports—such as Newhaven and Holyhead in my area are under extreme pressure because Border Force vessels are used in smaller ports in close proximity. May I help the Minister by suggesting that offshore vessels that are not used in the North sea on wind farms could be adapted by Border Force to close these gaps?
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his ingenuity in asking the question. The Home Secretary has already responded on the strategic review that is being undertaken, and we are looking at all available Government assets to ensure that we pull them together. The National Maritime Information Centre is designed to assist with that, and we will continue with that work.
The hon. Gentleman is going to tell us about Stranraer I dare say.
The previous coalition Government removed the Border Force staff from my home port of Stranraer, in my constituency, a number of years ago. Given the increased threats that we face from contraband and puppy smuggling from the rest of the European Union, will the Secretary of State commit to re-examine that decision, so that we can have appropriate defences at our port in Stranraer?
The Home Secretary has already indicated that £63 million of additional resource is being made available precisely to focus on smuggling. I am happy to discuss further with the hon. Gentleman any particular issues he may have, but I can assure him about the intelligence-led approach that Border Force takes and how we will deploy resources dynamically to meet any challenges.
9. What steps she is taking to ensure that police forces implement reforms to increase their effectiveness. 
We have established and continue to strengthen the system whereby police and crime commissioners provide real local accountability on how chief constables’ forces perform. Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary inspects efficiency and the effectiveness of force activity, and the College of Policing creates an evidence base as to best practice and sets out professional standards.
Will my right hon. Friend please comment on the reform of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, whose processes have caused some issues for officers in my constituency and whose effectiveness is vital for public confidence in the police?
With the Policing and Crime Bill that is going through the House at the moment, we intend to instil that confidence in the IPCC not just by changing its name, but by strengthening its role. It is absolutely imperative that the public have confidence in the police, as the vast majority of them do a fantastic job.
Will these reforms help solve unsolved crimes? Nobody who grew up in Dudley will forget the shocking murder of 13-year-old paperboy Carl Bridgewater, and no one who watched last night’s documentary on the case will believe that the new evidence it revealed should not be looked at. Will the Minister and the Home Secretary ask the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to review the new evidence to see whether this case can finally be solved and whoever was responsible be brought to justice?
No one will forget that terrible case, no matter how long ago it was, and our thoughts are still with the parents. It is not the role of the IPCC to instruct the police how to investigate, but we will look at the case and at the ongoing evidence. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman and I could meet to discuss it further.
Having pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Justin Skrebowski claiming diminished responsibility, Trevor Joyce was sentenced last week to life imprisonment. Justin’s brave widow, Gulsen Alkan, has already met Ministers in her campaign against knife crime, but this case also raises questions about how well mental health services work with the police. What steps are the Government taking to improve that, and will the Minister please meet us once more to prove that lessons can be learned from this case, and that such a horrific case can never happen again?
I am pleased that the family has the courage to want to campaign on knife crime. It is very important that victims feel that they have the confidence to come forward. I am sure that either the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire Moorlands (Karen Bradley), or I will be more than happy to meet to discuss this matter. The issue around mental health is at the core of the Bill that is going through the House at the moment. The police must be used as a last resort when it comes to safety. We must make sure that we have a better understanding of mental health issues. Street triage and other such work that is going on at the moment has really helped us with the type of policing that we want to see in the 21st century.
One thing that makes the police extremely effective is the co-operation that we receive from our European partners. What will the Minister say on 25 June if we are no longer eligible to be in Europol?
We will work with our European partners and other partners around the world to ensure that our criminal justice system works.
To be effective, the police need to be trusted by the community that they serve. Truth is built by being honest about the past. Will the Home Secretary finally do the right thing and grant the request of the Orgreave Truth and Justice campaign and nearly 100 cross-party MPs for a full inquiry into what exactly happened on 18 June 32 years ago in the battle of Orgreave?
The hon. Lady raises a very, very important point, and, as Hillsborough has proved, the Home Secretary has a track record of looking at that sort of thing with a very open mind and in a way that perhaps no Home Secretary has ever done. We will look at Orgreave—indeed we are looking at it at the moment. Confidence in our police can be there only if we have a transparent system for dealing with complaints, and that is exactly what the Bill that is going through the House is all about.
10. What steps the Government are taking to tackle cybercrime. 
This Government take the threat of cybercrime very seriously, which is why, through the national cyber-security programme, we invested more than £90 million during the previous Parliament to build specialist capabilities and improve the law enforcement response at local, regional and national levels, and we will continue to invest. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced last November, this Government have committed to spending £1.9 billion on cyber-security, which includes tackling cybercrime, over the next five years.
Leicestershire police, whose hard-working officers I shadowed on patrol last Friday, provide a range of cybercrime information on their website. Does my hon. Friend agree that effective partnership between the police and other agencies is key to maintaining adequate defences against the growing and real threats that cybercrime poses to our society?
My hon. Friend makes an incredibly important point. It is vital that we work with the police and others. Leicestershire police are a shining example of proactive working to ensure that people understand the threats, understand the risks and understand how to stay safe online.
Operation Vigo saw British nationals based in Spain who were mugging online British businesses and British pensioners brought to justice. Does the Minister agree that, whether it means combating rapidly growing cybercrime, counter-terrorism, human trafficking or the drugs trade, or ensuring that there is no hiding place in Europe for Europe’s most serious criminals, European collaboration, including with the European arrest warrant, is absolutely key?
I do agree with the hon. Gentleman. He is absolutely right. I visited Spain when that operation was tackling the boiler room fraud that was going on in Spain, and only because of that co-operation and bilateral work, using European Union mechanisms, were we able to have such success in that operation.
There are currently 30 pieces of legislation being used against online crimes. There is clearly a need to consolidate and simplify offences, so that the legislation that is effective is more likely to be used to ensure justice. Will the Minister meet me to discuss this further? Important amendments tabled for debate this afternoon would provide part of the solution. We need far more co-ordination, and I am sure that the Minister would benefit from further discussions with other stakeholders on this issue.
My right hon. Friend and I had a conversation about this earlier with reference to the debate that will happen later, and I am more than happy to meet her, with my noble Friend Baroness Shields, who has responsibility for digital security on the internet.
According to Childnet, 82% of children between the ages of 13 and 17 have seen hateful things on the internet. In addition, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children is saying that children as young as 11 have been victims of revenge porn, so what more can the Minister do, and what assurances can she give to the House that children will always be protected from the worst aspects of the internet?
The hon. Gentleman raises an incredibly important issue. The internet provides a fantastic opportunity for us all, and it is amazing that my children can play games with friends hundreds of miles away and across the world. That is an amazing opportunity, but there are risks and threats to being on the internet. That is why we are legislating to insist on age verification for pornographic websites, so that children do not have access to them, and that is why we are working with colleagues across the Government—with the Departments for Education and for Culture, Media and Sport, in particular—to ensure that we do everything we can, working with industry, to keep children safe online.
Extremism and Radicalisation
11. What progress the Government are making in tackling extremism and radicalisation. 
We have improved our understanding of extremism and radicalisation. We have built partnerships with over 350 community groups and introduced the Prevent duty, and trained over 450,000 people since 2011. I have excluded over 100 hate preachers and worked with social media providers to remove over 180,000 pieces of terrorism-related content online since 2010.
I am grateful to the Home Secretary for that response. Ofsted admitted to me in a letter that it failed properly to inspect the Zakaria Muslim Girls High School in Batley in October 2015, run by a conservative Muslim sect, because the inspector felt unable to speak to pupils or staff—apparently, the inspector was told that it was Eid, when it was not actually Eid—despite the fact that the report commented on the school’s policies on radicalisation. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need to ensure that all Government agencies use every means at their disposal to drive out extremism from every corner of society?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend, and the point of putting the Prevent duty on a statutory basis is to ensure that people in the public sector recognise their responsibility in dealing with extremism, in identifying extremism and ensuring that action is taken. We have seen from the Trojan horse example in education how important it is that all those responsible for ensuring that what is happening in schools is right and proper and that British values are being taught take that responsibility seriously and can fulfil it.
Will the Secretary of State explain why the Government have placed female genital mutilation, forced marriage and honour-based violence in the UK counter-extremism strategy?
Yes. It is because we have looked at ways in which people can operate within communities to try to create an attitude, particularly towards women in those communities, that effectively treats women as second-class citizens, which is counter to the British values that we have in our society as a whole. We take issues associated with forced marriage, so-called honour-based violence and female genital mutilation extremely seriously, and we have taken action against these issues. We want to see more action being taken in order to bring more prosecutions in these areas, but it is important that we recognise that there are some attitudes that help to create divisions in society. We do not want those divisions; we want to ensure that there is proper respect, regardless of gender, faith, background, class or ethnicity.
One of the best ways to stop extremism and radicalisation is to keep radicals and extremists out of the country in the first place. Often these people have a criminal record, although they may not necessarily show up on lists of terrorists. Can the Home Secretary confirm that when an EU citizen arrives at one of our borders, their passport is checked against the criminal record check bureau of their own country? Is that happening?
I have made it plain to my hon. Friend on a number of occasions that the information we have at our borders through our membership of Schengen Information System II in the European Union is an important strand of information which enables our border officials and others to make decisions about individuals who are coming across the border. I am sure that, as my hon. Friend says, he does not want people who are preaching extremism to come into the United Kingdom, so I hope that he will congratulate the Government on the fact that as Home Secretary I have excluded more hate preachers from this country than any previous Home Secretary.
First, may I join others in condemning the despicable acts in Orlando? We should be clear that these are homophobic and criminal acts.
There is ongoing concern that rather than defeating Daesh, the military action in Syria has merely displaced criminals and terrorists to other parts of the region and in many ways encouraged people to engage in acts closer to home. What action has been taken to address these developments? Can we be reassured that action to tackle such behaviour will not wholly eclipse the good efforts of many to prevent extremism at source in this country?
The hon. Lady is right to say that there are many good efforts being made in communities to prevent extremism within communities. The Government want to support that and to give voice to those mainstream voices working to promote the values that we share across our society. In relation to the threat from Daesh and the threat from Islamist terrorism, we of course watch carefully how matters are developing. It is the case that the threat arises from specific groups, from people who are inspired by groups, not just Daesh but al-Qaeda as well, and people who may be inspired online on the internet. That is why it is so important that we deal not just with physical presence, but with the bigoted ideology that underlies the terrorist threat, because it is only by dealing with that ideology that we will be able to deal with the terrorist threat.
In the light of last week’s conviction of the man who launched an unprovoked knife attack at Leytonstone tube station, and some unverified reports that the Orlando shooter suffered from bipolar disorder, we should be mindful of the Royal United Services Institute’s estimate that in 35% of cases of lone wolf terrorism, there was an indication of a mental health disorder. What action has the Home Secretary taken, and what information and guidance have been issued to GPs and other health professionals on assessing the risks of radicalisation of their patients?
I referred earlier to the Prevent duty, which covers the whole of the public sector. That is why we have been conducting significant training within the public sector, including in the health service, about issues associated with radicalisation. Alongside that, I am sure that, given her question, the hon. Lady will welcome the parity of esteem that the Government are now giving to mental health and physical health inside the NHS.
Violent Acid Attacks
12. What steps the Government are taking to reduce the number of violent acid attacks. 
I am very aware of the life-changing impact and distress to victims caused by acid attacks, and I am currently working with retailers to identify the best means of restricting sales of products with a high acidic content.
Attacks involving acid are, by their very nature, particularly nasty offences. Will the Minister please assure the House that she will work with the Ministry of Justice to ensure not only that adequate resources are made available to tackle the problem, but that deterrent sentences are imposed that properly reflect the life-changing nature of these offences?
I assure my hon. Friend that I do work closely with the Ministry of Justice. In fact, my right hon. Friend the Policing Minister, who is also a Justice Minister, is on the Front Bench, and I can assure my hon. Friend that we work very closely on this issue. He is right to say that not only do we want the perpetrators caught and stopped but we want appropriate sentences for this behaviour.
Juxtaposed Border Controls
13. What steps the Government have taken to improve checks at juxtaposed border controls in preparation for the summer. 
We have invested tens of millions of pounds to reinforce border security at the juxtaposed ports, including through the installation of security fencing, floodlighting, anti-intrusion detection technology, and additional freight-searching contractors, dogs and security personnel. This has been complemented by increased French police numbers.
I welcome the UK border enhancements over the coming summer period. Will there be an exchange of information about those leaving the UK as well as those entering it?
My hon. Friend makes an important point about the sharing of information and intelligence between the UK and France, and it is an essential point to stress in the context of organised immigration crime that may be taking place across the channel. We have significantly stepped up our activities with the French authorities, and that will have a continuing impact in the fight against those who are simply seeking to traffic people into this country.
The school summer holidays are also known to some as the “cutting season”, when young girls can be flown from the UK to have female genital mutilation forced on them in other countries. What steps are the Government taking to ensure that Border Force is equipped to stop young girls being flown out of the UK to be mutilated?
The hon. Lady makes a compelling and important point—indeed, I understand that it may well be debated in this afternoon’s consideration of the Policing and Crime Bill. I will certainly continue to discuss the issue with colleagues across the Home Office, but I can assure her that steps are being taken to ensure that Border Force officers are trained and that we recognise this really appalling crime to a much greater extent.
Given England’s inevitable progression towards the Euro 2016 final, will the Minister reassure me that the juxtaposed border controls will have the resources they need to deal with the number of fans who want to go to France, and to work with the French authorities to deal with the morons who have shamed our country over the last week?
I am sure that all of us would absolutely condemn the actions of anyone who has gone not to watch football but to become involved in violence. We also want to see all the home nations do well in the days and weeks ahead. However, my hon. Friend makes a point about security, and security is being maintained. We have stepped up security screening externally as well as internally, and the French authorities have maintained security at the juxtaposed ports at this increasingly challenging time for the French Government.
Please will the Minister join me, as a Member from Wales, in commending Wales as the first home nation to win its first game at the European championships? Does he believe that the exchange of information with our allies will be improved or worsened by Britain voting to leave the European Union on 23 June?
I think I commended all the home nations in my initial contribution. The point the hon. Gentleman makes is important: we benefit from being able to use European systems to screen people at the border and from being able to have Europol working with joint investigation teams and with police and law enforcement agencies across Europe. I absolutely believe that our position in terms of safety and security is strengthened by being part of those mechanisms and being part of the EU.
Immigration Rules (Constituent Parts of the UK)
14. If she will make an assessment of the potential merits of applying different immigration rules to Scotland and other constituent parts of the UK. 
Our immigration system is designed to work for the whole of the United Kingdom. Applying different rules would lead to migrants applying in one part of the UK and then moving to another, as happened—as the Scottish Government’s own research shows—with the “fresh talent” scheme.
That is the scheme that the Government abolished. I thank the Minister, but that was an inadequate answer, quite frankly. I draw his attention to the fact that Australia and Canada have introduced substate immigration rules to ensure that migrants are encouraged to live where they are most needed. Will the Government look seriously at how this can be implemented in the UK, as the Justice Secretary has suggested today in Scotland?
Experience of the “fresh talent” scheme indicated that only 44% of applicants had remained in Scotland at the end of their two years’ leave on the scheme. We asked the Migration Advisory Committee to look at whether differentials would work in terms of the overall salary thresholds, but it advised that that would not be appropriate and, indeed, that it would lead to the setting of higher salary thresholds in Scotland as contrasted with the rest of the UK, therefore not achieving the objective for which I think the hon. Gentleman is trying to argue.
Scotland needs different immigration rules because it faces very different demographic challenges from those in London and the south-east, yet the needs of London and the south-east determine British immigration policy. Why will not the Government exclude Scotland from the net migration target and work with the Scottish Government to pursue policies that are tailored for Scotland’s needs?
I do not agree with the hon. and learned Lady’s analysis. The shortage occupation list recognises the different skills shortages that may need to be addressed in Scotland. Under the Scotland Act 2016, the Scottish Government have new powers to make Scotland a more attractive place to come to, live in and work in, in order to boost the tax take and grow the population. I encourage the Scottish Government to use those powers.
As the Minister very well knows, immigration is still a reserved matter. I am interested to hear that he accepts the principle that different rules can apply to different parts of the UK by highlighting differences in the shortage occupation list. Having accepted that principle, why will he not work with the Scottish Government to pursue other policies that are designed to meet the specific demographic challenges that Scotland faces?
I did not say what the hon. and learned Lady suggested. We always welcome the opportunity to continue discussions with the Scottish Government on these issues, recognising that immigration remains a reserved matter. We will look carefully at the Scottish Affairs Committee’s report and respond to it shortly. We are very clear that there needs to be a policy for immigration across the UK, and that is what this Government will continue to adopt.
T1. If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities. 
The violence in Marseilles surrounding England’s match against Russia was deeply disturbing. Seven English fans are still in hospital, two with very severe injuries, and our thoughts are with them. The French authorities had to deal with trouble involving England supporters on Thursday, Friday and Saturday around the city, and there were alarming clashes inside the stadium at the end of the match. The French and UEFA will rightly be asking themselves searching questions about how the segregation of fans within the Vélodrome stadium broke down. There will be lessons to be learned surrounding the wider policing operation. I am in no doubt that co-ordinated groups of Russian supporters bear a heavy responsibility for instigating violence.
We must also ensure, however, that we have our own house in order. Some among the England contingent in Marseilles behaved inexcusably. Anyone who has travelled to France to cause trouble has let down their nation and does a disservice to all genuine England fans. In co-operation with the French Government, we are going to do all we can to ensure that such scenes are not repeated. I have spoken to the Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve. Plans are in place to ensure that there are more British police spotters in Lens for the match between England and Wales. We have prevented nearly 1,400 people with a history of football-related violence from travelling, and an extension of the ban on alcohol sales around key matches announced yesterday is a positive step. Above all, I appeal to the English and Welsh fans travelling to Lens this Thursday. UEFA has made it clear that the penalties for bad behaviour for individuals and for the teams they support will be severe. I have every confidence that the fans will respond in the right spirit and we can all get back to enjoying the tournament.
As a former barrister who specialised in insolvency law, I understand the civil remedies available to make recoveries from those involved in fraud. The economic crime prevention group has recovered £1.1 million and led to 10 disqualifications of directors since the insolvency pilot began in 2013. Does the Home Secretary plan to continue the pilot?
My hon. and learned Friend is right to point to the work that has been done so far by the ECPG, which is a joint public and private sector group across various agencies; indeed, the National Crime Agency is one of its sponsors. A report on the insolvency scheme to which she referred is due shortly, and the future of the project is being considered. The outcome of that report will be part of those considerations.
I gently remind Front Benchers that we must accommodate Back Benchers. I am not having the time eaten up by Front Benchers.
The Home Secretary is right: the terrible scenes of violence in Marseille this weekend have soured what should have been a great celebration of football. As ever, the vast majority have been let down by a hard-core minority, and their actions are all the more inexcusable given the serious terror threat hanging over the tournament. Although, as the Home Secretary has said, the England fans are not blameless, it is also the case that they were the subject of extreme provocation and that there were severe failings inside the stadium and concerns about policing. Given that this is a complex matter and that we need to establish all the facts ahead of the England-Wales game on Thursday, will the Home Secretary commit to making a fuller statement at her earliest opportunity, to ensure people’s safety and that there is no repeat?
The right hon. Gentleman is right: we obviously want to ensure that there are no repeats of the scenes we saw in Marseilles. That is precisely why work is ongoing between the UK Government and the French Government to look at the steps that need to be taken, particularly in Lens, where the England-Wales match will take place, and Lille, where Russia will play very close to that time, and that work will continue.
Let me turn to Hillsborough and mention that I wrote to all parties in the House, asking for their support in making it a moment of real change. One of the reasons that the Hillsborough injustice stood for so long was the inadequacy of the original inquest, which imposed the 3.15 pm cut-off and at which families had to scrabble around to raise funds for their own legal representation. The truth is that similar injustices are still happening today. Bereaved families are all too frequently thrown into courtrooms, raw with grief, to face adversarial questioning from highly paid QCs hired by the police and other public bodies. Later today I will put a proposal to this House to create parity of legal funding for families on the simple principle that public money should fund the truth, not the protection of vested interests. Will the Home Secretary say why she is opposing that move and whether she is prepared to work with us to establish that important principle?
The right hon. Gentleman has rightly raised an issue that has been a matter of significant concern to the families who were victims of the terrible tragedy in Hillsborough. He is right to say that the original inquest system did not serve those families well. I am pleased that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), the former Attorney General, was able to reopen the inquest, with the results and verdicts that we have seen. I have asked Bishop James Jones, who chaired the independent panel that looked into the Hillsborough incident and who has also been chairing the family forums and has been my adviser on this matter, to work with the families, to hear directly from them their experiences. I expect experiences about the inquest process to be part of that, which is why I wish to look at this issue once we have the full picture from the families as a result of the review by Bishop James Jones. The right hon. Gentleman has raised a very important and valid point, but I think that we need to look at the issue in a wider sense and get all the experience from the Hillsborough families before we look at the inquest process.
T2. The four agriculture students from Cirencester who were accused of rape prove that one does not have to be a celebrity to suffer the trauma of a case going on in the full glare of publicity. What protection can the Home Secretary give defendants, as is the case with the accuser, so that there is some sort of equality? 
My hon. Friend raises a very important point that he has raised with me personally on a number of occasions, and the case to which he refers has brought it into sharp focus. The usual practice is that the police do not identify people before charge. However, we had a long debate on this issue about five years ago and there are cases where the identification of somebody can bring forward other victims and enhance the case against them, so this is not an easy area in which to operate.
T3. There have been grave reports by asylum seekers detained in immigration removal centres of sexual assault. What risk management measures have been put in place for vulnerable detainees, who may already have histories of trauma but who are detained alongside foreign national offenders who have histories of violence? 
We take our duties in relation to the operation of immigration removal centres extremely seriously. That is why, under the Home Secretary, we engaged in the Shaw review and report on how we can better identify those who are vulnerable. We will implement further changes in the months ahead to ensure that those issues are very much brought to the fore.
T4. The internet has brought with it great opportunities but also, sadly, a much darker side and threats. What work is being done to ensure that paedophiles who operate anonymously online are brought to justice? 
My hon. Friend raises an incredibly important point. We need to make sure that there is no safe place for paedophiles to operate. I am sure she knows that all 43 forces have signed up to the child abuse image database that this Government introduced and that the Prime Minister instigated. It is really starting to get results in identifying and safeguarding child victims, finding perpetrators and making sure that they can be brought to justice.
T8. Yesterday saw even more newspaper revelations about serious problems with COMPASS asylum accommodation contracts in Glasgow, yet emails from senior G4S staff and minutes of Home Office meetings suggest that these contracts are to be extended come hell or high water. Will not the Home Office at least have enough respect to wait for the Select Committee on Home Affairs to complete its inquiry before making any such decisions? 
We are carefully considering the extension of the existing contracts in accordance with their terms. The introduction of the COMPASS contracts has improved the standards of accommodation, but where there are failings we will take action.
T5. Last Monday, my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Crispin Blunt) asked how many EU citizens had been deported during the last four years. Now, as I understand it, the question has been answered and we are told that only 102 EU citizens have been deported. Does the Minister acknowledge that the deportation of such a small number is rather poor? 
I remind my hon. Friend that the Government have removed more than 30,000 foreign national offenders since 2010. The number of offenders from EU countries who have been removed has more than tripled from 1,000 in 2010-11 to more than 3,400 in 2015-16.
The Home Secretary will have seen the recent reports that Eliza Manningham-Buller, when she was head of MI5, wrote to the then Prime Minister protesting about MI6 involvement in rendition. This becomes particularly concerning in view of the reasons given by the Crown Prosecution Service last week for declining to prosecute a senior officer of MI6. Will the Home Secretary confirm that that letter was written by Eliza Manningham-Buller, and will she commit to having it put into the public domain?
The right hon. Gentleman will know that we do not comment on documents that have apparently been leaked from Government. That is the position, as it always has been.
T6. I have been contacted by a number of my constituents who have expressed concerns about the balance between privacy and security in the Investigatory Powers Bill. Will the Home Secretary explain how the implementation of the Bill will provide that balance but will also provide essential protections against terrorism? 
My hon. Friend is right to mention this very important Bill. The measures in the Bill are essential to enable both law enforcement and our security and intelligence agencies to protect us from not only terrorism but serious and organised crime, paedophiles and others. I assure her that we are putting in place world-leading safeguards and oversight arrangements, which will ensure that the balance between privacy and the need to exercise these powers is properly kept.
Several hon. Members rose—
If she can ask her question in one short sentence, I shall call Carol Monaghan.
Will the Secretary of State work with organisations such as the Red Cross to explore alternative ways of submitting family reunion applications, to avoid dangerous journeys to third-party countries?
The Minister has less than 15 seconds to respond.
I think I can safely say yes.
I am extremely grateful to the Minister. This shows what we can do when we try.
In respectful memory of the victims of the homophobic terrorist slaughter in Orlando, I should like to request of colleagues that at 3.30 we observe one minute’s silence. Thank you.
The House observed a minute’s silence.
Colleagues and all of those observing our proceedings—thank you for that display of respect.
Orlando Attack: UK Security Measures
(Urgent Question): To ask the Home Secretary to make a statement on the terrorism threat and on wider security measures in the UK in the light of the horrific attacks on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Orlando, USA.
The attacks in Orlando on Saturday night were utterly evil and the Government condemn them completely. At least 49 people were murdered and a further 53 people were injured, many of them seriously. Those people were enjoying a night out when the attacks took place, and our hearts go out to them, their families and their friends. This is the deadliest mass shooting in US history. It was an outrage committed to spread fear and born out of hatred. As President Obama has said, the US authorities are treating it as a terrorist attack and Daesh has claimed responsibility. It is clear that such an attack has its roots in a twisted ideology which counts homophobia as a cornerstone of its warped world view.
This was not just an act of terror, but an act of homophobic hatred and I want to make it clear to all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Britain and around the world that we will not tolerate such bigotry and violence. We will work closely with the United States and we will continue to offer them our assistance and support. We stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies and friends in the global fight against terrorism, fear and hatred. As the investigation into the attack continues, more information will emerge. However, we are not aware of any British nationals being caught up in the events on Saturday night. As should be expected in the light of this attack, UK police forces will be further reviewing plans for large-scale and other public events over the coming days and weeks. The police have not advised any organisers to cancel or postpone any LGBT-related events.
Hon. Members will be aware that since the start of 2015 we have seen 16 terrorist attacks in Europe including those in Brussels and Paris, as well as the atrocity in Tunisia, in which British people have been killed or injured. There have also been many attacks further afield, including in Bangladesh over the weekend. In the last 18 months, the police and security services have disrupted seven terrorist plots to attack the UK. All were either linked to or inspired by Daesh and its propaganda. The threat from international terrorism, set independently of Ministers by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, remains at severe, meaning that an attack is highly likely. In March, the murder of prison officer Adrian Ismay reminded us that the threat from Northern Ireland-related terrorism also remains.
Each time I come before the House following a terrorist attack, I do so in the knowledge that people have died and others are suffering. I know that this House, and people around the world of all faiths and none, will want to join me in condemning this attack. This Government are determined to defeat the insidious ideologies that drive extremists. Let us be clear. There can be no justification for the mindless slaughter of innocent people. There can be no hiding place for those who perpetrate these acts. And there is no doubt that we will fight and that we will prevail against the doctrines of hate and fear that lie behind such attacks.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question today. I thank the Home Secretary for her statement.
We think we are making progress, and then we are faced with horrors such as this—an unspeakable act of both homophobia and terror, of murder and of hate, and an attack on the LGBT community, who are now mourning their loved ones in Orlando, and on equal love and equality worldwide. Orlando, we stand with you in this House. I stand with you as a gay man, and I know that millions across this country, of all faiths and of none, will do the same.
For all our progress, far too many around this world suffer death and attack every day in the LGBT community. There have been other attacks in the United States, such as the attempted firebombing in Seattle in 2014 or the horrific death of Matthew Shepard. Many have been thrown off buildings in Syria, whipped and chemically castrated in Saudi Arabia, tortured in Iran or Cameroon, and attacked in Uganda or Ethiopia and by right-wing death squads in Brazil and Mexico, and across many countries in the middle east and Africa—let alone those denied basic rights in so many other countries, and even still in parts of our own.
While our gut instinct is often, quite frankly, to stand up boldly to the homophobes, the transphobes, the haters and the terrorists—to go out in Pride, to go to our clubs and to stand with our partners—many will, understandably, be worried about our own safety. From the horrific Admiral Duncan attacks to the many reported and unreported hate crimes against LGBT+ people in this country, we all know that it could have been us.
I therefore want ask the Home Secretary three specific questions. She has quite rightly acknowledged that homophobia, transphobia and hate appear to have played a key part in this horrific attack, alongside terrorist motives, so will she look carefully at the threats to our own communities from all sources, not least the increase in hate crimes in this country? In 2014-15, there were 5,597 hate crimes against people because of their sexual orientation and 605 against people because of their transgender status. Will she ask all police forces to work closely with their communities, and especially with Prides, to support community safety—not just at specific events, but in the daily fight against hate crime? Will she outline what steps she will take on a pan-European basis to tackle any current or emerging threats, not least to stop the trafficking of assault weapons or any other weapon we have rightly banned in this country but which, tragically, are available in the United States.
Every bit of hate we chip away and replace with love is helping to change our world for the better, so we must never forget that love wins in the end, even in dark, horrific times. We should go out proud and march in Pride, hold hands with our loved ones, kiss them, stand up against the haters, the killers and the bigots, and never forget the slain of Orlando or so many who have stood up bravely in the cause of equality and love throughout our history.
May I commend the hon. Gentleman for the remarks he has just made? He has spoken movingly on this issue, and I am sure the thoughts he has expressed are shared across the whole of this House. He is right: it is not just a question of standing in this Chamber and making statements; it is a question of how we approach these issues more widely, and of what we do in our day-to-day interactions with fellow citizens and other individuals.
The hon. Gentleman asked me three specific questions. Certainly, we of course look at all sorts of threats that could pose a risk to the lives of, or could endanger, our fellow citizens. In relation to hate crime, he is right that the figures have gone up. Certainly, a lot of that will be from increased reporting, and it is important that people have the confidence to feel able to report these crimes. On the other side of it, he mentioned police forces’ reaction and interaction with groups, and that is important. It is of course important that the police understand the issues and are able to deal with them appropriately when those crimes are reported to them, and I think progress is being made in that area.
Finally, the hon. Gentleman asked me about firearms. We have been working across the European Union on this issue. An enhanced weapons directive was discussed at the Justice and Home Affairs Council on Friday. We have been encouraging and working with Europol in relation to its work on the trafficking of firearms. The National Crime Agency had a very successful case last year involving the interdiction of firearms, and there have been significant sentences off the back of that case. But, of course, we have to do more. It is important that we work co-operatively with others in looking at where firearms might be originating from, and ensuring that law enforcement agencies are taking appropriate action.
The freedom to be oneself has been hard won in this country over 60 years. As such, freedoms for LGBT people are symbolic of liberty in this country, as indeed is this place, and the armed forces, police services and security services who defend those liberties. Will the Home Secretary ensure that all those symbols of our freedom receive the necessary protection, because undoubtedly they are under threat, as symbols of everything that we have achieved as a country?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. All those right hon. Members and hon. Members across the House who have stood up and proclaimed themselves as gay are an important symbol of freedom. That has been a very important statement for people outside this House, as well. I believe that we have more openly gay MPs in this House than there are in any other legislative Chamber in the world. That is something to be proud of.
The words of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) were powerful and intensely moving, and will reach well beyond this House. I echo everything that he has just said—and indeed that the Home Secretary has said—in condemning, on behalf of the Opposition, this sickening attack. The grief of the friends and families of those who died will be unbearable, and we send them our deepest sympathy and solidarity at this time.
This was an act of terrorism that targeted the gay community. As such, it brings back memories of the horrific bombing 17 years ago of the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho, in the heart of London’s gay village. That too targeted innocent people, and today we think of everyone affected by it.
If yesterday’s attack is eventually linked to Daesh, that will raise concerns among the LGBT community here and across the world about their safety. With that in mind, will the Home Secretary assure the House that the police and security services keep the safety of all communities, but the LGBT community in particular, under review? Will she tell us whether she has received any intelligence that something similar might happen here?
Over the weeks ahead, many Pride celebrations are planned across the UK, including large-scale events in London, Brighton and Manchester. People will rightly be concerned about the security of those events. They are planned and staffed by volunteers, and most Pride organisations pay for security themselves from the funds that they raise. Will the Home Secretary ensure that organisers receive updated advice, support and, where necessary, additional security, to provide reassurance that Pride events will be as safe as possible for all those attending this year?
It seems to be a facet of our times that rising hate, discrimination and inflammatory language are re-entering political discourse. Will the Home Secretary say whether she has seen a poster circulated this afternoon by Leave.EU, which sought to use events in Orlando for its own purposes? Will she join me in condemning that highly offensive piece of propaganda?
Terrorists want to divide our communities, and turn one set of people against another. Let everyone in this House say to them today that we will never, ever let them succeed in inciting hatred against the Muslim community or the LGBT community. We celebrate diversity and community in this country. We will not allow the haters and terrorists to foment division. Whatever it takes, we stand resolutely alongside the LGBT community and continue to fight hate and homophobia in all their forms.
The right hon. Gentleman rightly asked me about the police response. As I indicated in my response to the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), the police’s position at the moment is that they have no plans to cancel or postpone any LGBT events due to take place over the coming days and weeks. They will constantly assess that position, and if they need to give additional advice or take additional action, they will of course do so. Local police forces work very closely with Pride organisers to ensure that there is appropriate and proper security for Pride events.
The right hon. Gentleman also asked about the Leave.EU poster. I was shown a picture of it just before I came into the Chamber. I think it is utterly irresponsible. What took place is a terrible and horrific homophobic terrorist attack; attempts to link it into the issue of membership or otherwise of the European Union should rightly be condemned on all sides of this House.
My stomach turned when I saw the scenes emerging from Orlando, and the brutal slaughter of so many innocent people, and I think I speak for the whole House when I say that today we are all LGBT, irrespective of our sexuality. I am reassured by what the Home Secretary said about future festivities and Gay Pride, whether in London or other parts of the United Kingdom. Gay people need to feel safe when they go out in the evening or on festivities, and like many other MPs, I will be going to Soho later this evening to stand vigil in memory of those who were slaughtered.
The Home Secretary rightly spoke about sending a message throughout the world. A couple of years ago I asked for the Gay Pride flag to be flown above embassies and high commissions during Gay Pride Week, but that did not happen. Will she talk to Cabinet colleagues and the Foreign Secretary to see that that does now happen, so that we can send out a message of support for LGBT people throughout the world?
I am happy to raise that matter with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and to ask it to look specifically at that proposal.
The hon. Gentleman will be reassured to know that the rainbow flag will fly about Portcullis House throughout the appropriate weekend. That was decided some time ago; it is not something that I needed to announce, but it is pertinent to the point he has raised.
On behalf of the Scottish National party, I extend my heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the dead and to the injured in Orlando, and I condemn this terrible outrage unreservedly. I congratulate the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) on securing this urgent question and on his moving words, and I thank the Home Secretary for acknowledging that these attacks were motivated by homophobia. Does she agree that it is important for everyone to acknowledge that these attacks were motivated by homophobia, both out of respect for the dead and injured, and in recognition of the very real threat of similar attacks on the LGBTI community?
I am proud to be a member of the LGBTI community. In years gone by, and when I came out 30 years ago, we used to be afraid of going into clubs and bars for fear of insults and violence from onlookers. We had hoped that those days were long gone, but this attack shows that there are still those out there who wish to attack our hard-won rights to coexist peacefully. As the Home Secretary will understand, we need to know that the authorities will take particular precautions to protect the LGBTI community from homophobic attacks, especially during the Pride season that is about to start across the United Kingdom. Will she reassure us that those precautions will be taken?
I entirely agree with the hon. and learned Lady, and it is important to recognise the homophobic nature of the attack that took place in Orlando. As I indicated earlier, it is right that the police consider security arrangements for the various Pride events that take place, and they will also assess at local level any other events that take place, or particular venues that are frequented by large numbers of people from the LGBT community. If additional action is necessary, they will of course take it.
The attacks on Saturday were deplorable. Will my right hon. Friend reassure us that although we must remain alert to such attacks, we must not allow them to alarm us and we must continue with our daily lives? The greatest thing that terrorists are looking for is to unnerve us and to spoil what we take to be our normal routines of life.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. If we ceased to go about our business in the normal way, and if people from any community felt that they could not carry on living their life as they wished to do so, the terrorists will have won. That is why it is so important to be clear in our condemnation of these attacks, and—as has been shown across the House—clear in our intention to fight against the terrible ideology that is fuelling these attacks and to prevail against it.
The whole House will want to associate itself with the comments of the Home Secretary and shadow Home Secretary. It is early days but claims have been made that the suspect in this terrible attack had been interviewed three times by the FBI. Does the Home Secretary agree that monitoring suspects is the highest possible priority for our security services but that they cannot do it on their own—they need the support of communities—and therefore any information about people behaving in a way that is not in the norm should be reported to the authorities and carefully monitored? The public might not know whether it is important, but the security services certainly will.
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct to say that we need to ensure that information from communities is made available to the authorities, where there are concerns about the behaviour of individuals. As we have seen from attacks in various parts of the world, this is not just about groups of people planning attacks; it can just be about an individual who might show signs, through their behaviour, of a changed attitude and approach. I encourage communities, where they have concerns, to make those views known to the authorities, so that, even if there is nothing of concern, at least it can be looked at and that that can be ensured.
As the first openly gay Conservative MP, may I welcome the absolute and total unanimity of the House in sending a message of support and sympathy to the victims and the people of Orlando? May we hope that America is listening and fully understands the genuine nature of what we are trying to say!
I absolutely commend my right hon. Friend for his remarks. He took an important step many years ago—I remember because I was party chairman at the time. It was a significant step for him, for the Conservative party and for politics in general in the UK. As he says, our thoughts are with the people of Orlando at this time.
If memory serves me, it was in July 2002, so the 14th anniversary thereof will soon be upon us.
The intended targets of this vicious and homophobic attack might have been the LGBT community of Orlando, but we should regard it as an attack on us all. In a free society, when a group is attacked because they are different and a minority, it is an attack on us all, and that is how we should see it. This is a time for mourning, but that time will pass eventually, and when it does, should the opportunity present itself to the Home Secretary, I hope that she will say, as a candid friend to our friends in America, that they really need to look again at the availability of guns in their country.
The right hon. Gentleman is right that this was an attack on the values we all share and an attempt to create division and hatred in society and between communities. We must all resist and fight against that and ensure that communities can come together with one voice and condemn such attacks. I think he will find that many people will be raising the issue of gun control in the United States.
One of the most poignant comments I have read on the atrocity in Orlando came from the mother of a young man who is currently unaccounted for. She said: “We have relatively few years on this planet. Why do we spend so much time hating each other?” This atrocity has a terrorist link, but so many attacks on us do not. Will the Home Secretary reassure me that she will work with colleagues in Government to do everything possible across government to stamp out homophobia and transphobia through things such as school anti-bullying programmes? It is so important.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right: this issue has a wider resonance, and we must do everything we can. Much has already been done but I suggest that we will never be able to say that we have done all the work we need to. Throughout the education system and in our attitudes and approaches as a Government and as politicians, we must show that we are all one community and that we must resist those who attempt to divide us and sow hatred, of whatever sort, in our communities.
I want to express the sympathies of the Democratic Unionist party; our thoughts and prayers are very much with those affected by this dreadful atrocity. I commend the work of those on the ground who offered first aid and tried to prevent more deaths. The FBI had marked Omar Mateen as presenting a low security risk, and did not know that he would carry out unspeakable murder. This is the latest example of people who are only noted on the radar but then go on to commit murder or join Daesh. Those known to the security services, but who are seen as a low-security risk, are, more than ever, resorting to wicked and evil criminality. Is it now time to review the security system, especially with respect to those who feature on the so-called lower levels?
The hon. Gentleman is right. The job done by the security services, day in and day out, is a difficult and complex one. By definition, they have to decide who presents the greatest risk of taking action, but the task is made more difficult by the fact that people simply sitting at home, looking at things on the internet, can then be inspired to go out and commit terrible atrocities. It is a job that our security services and law enforcement agencies do very well every day of the week. They keep us safe, and I think Members should thank them and show our gratitude to them for all they do.
I am sure the Home Secretary will agree that using this incident as means of debating border controls ignores the fact that this was an attack in the United States by a US citizen who was able to give vent to his murderous hatred because of the availability of firearms that results from the lack of US gun control. Does she agree that the key is to tackle the sort of ignorance that drives the prejudice that turns into hatred, and that our Government will continue to do that in this country?
My hon. Friend puts it extremely well. He is absolutely right that dealing with that level of ignorance is crucial to ensuring that we do not see these sorts of attitudes and that we are able to deal with them.
On gun controls, are we not fortunate that legislation was brought in during the closing years of the last century, which has, to say the least, been very good for the country? I am glad that the Home Secretary mentioned Bangladesh. Is it not the case that in recent weeks, gays, atheists and free thinkers have all been murdered? While deploring the terrible atrocity that happened in the US on Sunday, we should not forget for a moment what has been happening in Bangladesh and other places—people murdered by Islamists just because those Islamists disagree with their sexuality or lack of religion, as the case may be.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. We have some of the toughest, if not the toughest, gun controls in the world. Those, of course, were born out of tragedy here in the United Kingdom. The hon. Gentleman is also right that although the size of the attack in Orlando was significant—the biggest loss of life in a mass shooting in the US—atrocities are also being undertaken elsewhere in the world in the name of this terrible warped Islamist ideology. That is why it is so important for us to defeat that ideology.
Homophobia can, sadly, be part of the daily reality for LGBT people at home and abroad. What makes this attack particularly upsetting is that it took place in a gay club—a place where LGBT people can feel safe to love the person they love quite publicly. As we approach Pride season, what reassurance can the right hon. Lady give my constituents that it is safe to take part in the celebrations of our diverse community? What conversations is she having with the Secretary of State for Education to tackle homophobia in schools and to have comprehensive sex and relationships education that says love is stronger than hate?
I can give the reassurance again that the police will, of course, be making very careful assessments of security issues relating to events in particular, but also venues, for people from the LGBT community. Obviously, if any specific action is necessary, they will take that action.
The Secretary of State for Education was present earlier, and will have heard some of the questions that have been asked. She is also the Minister for Women and Equalities and I know that she takes her responsibility for equalities very seriously. I used to have that responsibility myself, and I can assure the hon. Lady that in considering issues relating to those who wish to divide our communities and sow hatred, we work very closely with the Department for Education.
May I associate myself with the Home Secretary’s comments and those of other Members? As an out and proud gay woman, I know that the atrocities in Orlando were directed at members of the LGBT community—my community; our communities. This act of clear homophobic hate crime in Orlando must be challenged. It is a stark reminder of the prejudice and discrimination that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people continue to face. It serves to remind us how far we have come, and how far we still have to go. Does the Home Secretary agree that we must make every effort to challenge all forms of homophobic hate crime, and must agree that #loveislove?
I entirely agree with the comments that the hon. Lady has put on the record. I think it important for all of us to take that message out and about, and for the whole House to make it clear that, as she has said, we absolutely condemn this sort of hatred.
In my constituency, Muslims do not murder gay people; they elect them.
I know that I speak on behalf of all the diverse faith communities in my constituency in expressing my solidarity with the LGBT community in Orlando. The truth is, however, that this attacker was not a lone wolf when it comes to hatred of LGBT people. It may be an uncomfortable truth for some people in this country and around the world, but the fact that he carried bullets does not mean that the prejudice that they carry makes them any better.
May I ask the Home Secretary to work with the Secretary of State for Education to ensure that the excellent work that is taking place in schools to tackle homophobic and transphobic bullying continues, and is built on further to ensure that all children, irrespective of their backgrounds and the types of school that they attend, are taught that in this country, in standing up for human rights, we do not tolerate or in any way accept discrimination against people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. We must ensure—and this is part of the work that the Government are trying to do in the Home Office, in the Department for Education and elsewhere—that we send that clear message about the values that underpin our society here in the United Kingdom and make it such a great place to live, one of which is absolute respect for everyone, regardless of their sexuality, background, ethnicity, faith or none. It is important for us to ensure that those are the values that are being taught.
The Home Secretary has, I think, expressed the views of us all. The unanimity of the House has been impressive, and I think we should communicate that to all the people who have lost loved ones in this atrocity.
It is true that the motivation for the outrage was hatred and terror, but what enabled it to happen was the availability of guns. More American citizens have been murdered in mass shootings than all the Americans who were killed in wars between the end of the civil war and the war in Iraq. Will the Home Secretary personally commit herself to conveying to the American Government our fear that if they continue not to act, they will lose more of their citizens to this hatred and terror?
The right hon. Lady is absolutely right. Gun availability is an important part of the overall issue. As I said earlier, we hear many voices in the United States—sadly—on both sides of the argument, because there are those who strongly claim that the right to carry arms should enable guns of this sort to be more freely available and ever present. I should be happy to raise the issue with the American Administration, because I think it important that we can see the dangers. We have suffered a tragedy here that led to the tightening of our gun laws, and I think we are all grateful for the fact that we now have the toughest, or some of the toughest, gun laws in the world.
I am a gay man, and let us all say unambiguously what happened in Orlando yesterday: it was a premeditated slaughter of gay people because they were gay by a man who we are told had been outraged because he recently saw two men kissing. It was the worst mass killing of gay people in our lifetime. Does the Home Secretary agree that homophobia is not intrinsic to the human condition? It is too often taught in homes, in school classrooms and playgrounds and in places of worship. Anyone who has ever winced when they saw two men kissing, muttered loathing when they saw two women holding hands or who has invoked God in justification for a human prejudice is complicit in creating a climate of poisonous intolerance. Will the Home Secretary therefore agree that love and tolerance should serve as the epitaph for those who have died so monstrously?
The hon. Gentleman is right, and I think we should take that message of love and tolerance, and we should be very clear that we condemn these sorts of prejudices that, as he says, can be taught and encouraged and sadly in some places are being taught and encouraged. They are not part of the society that we wish to live in, the values we share and the tolerance and respect for others that we want to see across the whole of the United Kingdom.
I want to place on record my condemnation of the terrible attacks in Orlando. It seems that ISIS is being pushed back in certain parts of the middle east and we are seeing fighters fleeing from its strongholds, a number of whom are coming across to Europe, and some may come back to the UK, Given that, is the Secretary of State satisfied that extra measures are in place to deal with this possible influx of additional ISIS fighters coming back to Europe and that co-operation is of a sufficient level with other European countries?
Yes, of course we look at people who are returning on a case-by-case basis to see what action is necessary. We increased the powers of the police in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, not least with the temporary exclusion orders that enable the police to work with other countries, in Europe particularly, and with places in the UK where someone might be returning to from Syria. They help to manage the return of any such individuals, and we do co-operate very closely with EU colleagues on these matters.
In the light of this horrific homophobic attack in Orlando, will the Home Secretary urgently support the call from across the House for compulsory sex and relationships education in all our schools, to educate everyone that love is love and it is okay to be yourself? No one should fear coming out or being themselves, especially after this horrific event, so does she agree that we need to take every opportunity to educate our children so that extremist prejudice does not take hold?
It is very important in education to make sure that we do everything we can to see that extremist prejudice does not take hold. This is something that I know the Secretary of State for Education is looking at very closely.
The Defence Secretary has written to me to say that 850 UK-linked individuals of national security concern have travelled to take part in the Syrian conflict and just under half have returned. In light of the Home Secretary’s answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Derek Twigg), could she say how many of those over 400 citizens are on that managed return scheme she talked about, making sure we know who they are talking to and what they are doing?
I fear that there may be a misunderstanding of what the managed return scheme is about: that is about the managed return of an individual where it is felt necessary to manage their return across the border. The issue of what action is taken for an individual once they have returned to the UK, which is determined on a case-by-case basis, is a separate matter.
I would like to associate myself with the collegiate views of this House. Given the atrocity in Orlando, home-grown terrorism has been recognised as a significant risk. Reports indicate that radicalisation may be occurring in UK prisons, with young men who have histories of violence. What policies are being introduced to address this very important issue?
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Justice has initiated a review of the issue of extremism in prisons, and the Home Office will be working with the Ministry of Justice when it is possible to work on the recommendations from that review. We are all very clear that, in an environment where it is possible for terrorist offenders to come into contact with serious and organised criminals, it is important to ensure not only that that is managed very carefully, but that we deal with the potential for radicalisation and extremism.
A number of countries have sent messages of solidarity with the United States and the people of Orlando, but some of those countries, including Egypt and Saudia Arabia, themselves have the death penalty for homosexuality and have arrested hundreds of people in the past two years. Is it not time that all those countries came into the 21st century and recognised that they have to match their words with deeds and legislation?
I am very clear in my views—and I am sure other Members of this House are clear in theirs—on issues associated with the death penalty, including the death penalty for the sort of issue the hon. Gentleman has raised. This is of course a matter for those countries themselves, but these subjects are regularly raised by British Ministers when they are in discussion with those countries.
May I begin by thanking you, Mr Speaker, for the extraordinary leadership you have shown, not only on the back of these events, but more widely, with the way in which you have absolutely established yourself as a friend of the LGBT community? The ostentatious flair of my community may be slightly restrained for the next few days as we think of those who were needlessly taken from us, but despite that the rainbow flag still flies high and proud over Pride season. It flies high because too long has passed between now and the days gone by when we spent time living anonymously and in fear. Solidarity is stronger than fear, so will the Home Secretary join me in encouraging all our friends and allies around the country to go to a Pride march this summer, to give money to an LGBT charity, to stand up for the kid in your school who is being picked on? Those kinds of acts, I promise, you will not regret.
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point, which goes to the heart of the initial comments made by the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), who said that it is not just about standing up and saying things—it is actually about doing as well. There are many ways in which people can show their solidarity with members of the LGBT community, and I would encourage them to do so.
I thank the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), the Home Secretary, the shadow Home Secretary, the spokesperson for the Scottish National party and all colleagues for what they have said over the past 40 minutes or so and for the obviously sincere, eloquent and compelling way in which they have said it. I hope that in the light of the sentiments expressed by colleagues, they will approve when I say that, on their behalf and in all of our names, I intend to write to the Mayor of Orlando. In doing so, I write both to convey our profound shock and absolute sympathy, and to underline the fact of our complete solidarity with the LGBTI community in Orlando, with the LGBTI community across the United States, and indeed with all the people of the United States at this exceptionally difficult and trying time.
Point of Order
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am delighted to see the Minister for Immigration in his place, because I wish to refer to his response to an urgent question on 26 May. When he responded to me, he indicated in good faith that the Brain family had come to the United Kingdom after the post-study work visa had been removed. I wish to ask him to clarify his remarks, because the family were granted a visa to come to the United Kingdom on 20 December 2010—before the post-study work visa had expired. That is a crucial point, because I have always argued that the family should be given the right to work here while they fulfil the demands of the tier 2 work visa, and that point is instrumental to the case that they are bringing. I ask your forbearance, Mr Speaker, as I seek to bring this matter to the attention of the House and have the Minister correct the record, if he is prepared to do so.
I have sought to display my usual generosity of spirit to an exceptionally dedicated and assiduous constituency Member, which the hon. Gentleman undoubtedly is. However, I hope that he will take it in the right spirit if I say that that was not a point of order. Moreover, it was patently not addressed in any meaningful sense to, and could not be intended for, the Chair. It was really a request to the Minister on the Treasury Bench. Accordingly, it is best communicated directly to the Minister in writing or through a meeting, rather than across the Floor of the House. On this one occasion, and this one occasion only—I realise the seriousness of the matter—I will say that if the Minister wants very briefly to respond, even if only to indicate a willingness to engage, so be it, but he is under no obligation to do so. In future, the hon. Gentleman should give me notice of an intention to raise such a point of order, in which case I will wisely counsel him against doing so.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I am content to write to the hon. Gentleman in respect of the point that he has raised so that I am able to consider it properly.
I hope that the hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford) is satisfied for now.
Policing and Crime Bill
[2nd Allocated Day]
Further consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee.
New Clause 48
Inspection of fire and rescue authorities
“(1) The Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 is amended as follows.
(2) In section 28 (inspectors), before subsection (1) insert—
‘(A1) Her Majesty may appoint such number of inspectors of fire and rescue authorities in England (the ‘English inspectors’) as the Secretary of State may determine.
(A2) Of the persons appointed under subsection (A1) one is to be appointed as the chief fire and rescue inspector for England.
(A3) The English inspectors must inspect, and report on the efficiency and effectiveness of, fire and rescue authorities in England.
(A4) The English inspectors must carry out such other duties for the purpose of furthering the efficiency and effectiveness of fire and rescue authorities in England as the Secretary of State may from time to time direct.
(A5) The chief fire and rescue inspector for England may appoint assistant inspectors and other officers for the purpose of assisting the English inspectors.
(A6) When carrying out an inspection under subsection (A3) of a fire and rescue authority created by an order under section 4A, an English inspector must not review or scrutinise decisions made, or other action taken, by the fire and rescue authority in connection with the discharge of an excluded function.
(A7) For the purposes of subsection (A6), the following are excluded functions in relation to a fire and rescue authority—
(a) the function of preparing a fire and rescue plan and a fire and rescue statement (within the meaning of Schedule A2);
(b) the functions that the authority has in its capacity as a major precepting authority for the purposes of Part 1 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992;
(c) the function of appointing a chief finance officer under section 4D(4);
(d) where functions of the authority have been delegated to a chief constable under an order under section 4H, the functions conferred on the authority by section 4J(4) and (5);
(e) functions specified, or of a description specified, in relation to that authority in an order made by the Secretary of State.
(A8) The power under subsection (A7)(e) may be exercised in relation to—
(a) all fire and rescue authorities created by an order under section 4A,
(b) a particular fire and rescue authority created by an order under section 4A, or
(c) a particular description of fire and rescue authorities created by an order under section 4A.
(A9) Schedule A3 makes further provision in relation to the English inspectors.’
(3) In section 28, in subsection (1)(a), after “fire and rescue authorities” insert “in Wales”.
(4) After section 28 insert—
“28A Inspection programme and inspection framework etc: England
(1) The chief fire and rescue inspector for England must from time to time prepare—
(a) a document setting out what inspections of fire and rescue authorities in England the English inspectors propose to carry out under section 28(A3) (an ‘inspection programme’);
(b) a document setting out the manner in which the English inspectors propose to carry out the function conferred on them by section 28(A3) (an ‘inspection framework’).
(2) The chief fire and rescue inspector for England must obtain the approval of the Secretary of State to an inspection programme or inspection framework before the English inspectors act in accordance with it.
(3) The Secretary of State may at any time require the chief fire and rescue inspector for England to carry out, or arrange for another English inspector to carry out, an inspection under section 28(A3) of—
(a) a fire and rescue authority in England;
(b) all fire and rescue authorities in England;
(c) all fire and rescue authorities in England of a particular type.
(4) A requirement imposed under subsection (3) may limit the inspection to a particular matter.
(5) The chief fire and rescue inspector for England or, at the request of that inspector, any other English inspector may carry out an inspection under section 28(A3) of a fire and rescue authority in England that has not been set out in an inspection programme (and has not been required under subsection (3)).
(6) Before deciding to carry out, or to request another English inspector to carry out, an inspection of a fire and rescue authority in England that has not been set out in an inspection programme, the chief fire and rescue inspector for England must consult the Secretary of State.
(7) Nothing in an inspection programme or inspection framework is to be read as preventing an English inspector from making a visit without notice.
(8) In this section ‘English inspector’ means an inspector appointed under section 28(A1).”
(5) After section 28A (as inserted by subsection (4)) insert—
“28B Publication of inspection reports etc: England
(1) The chief fire and rescue inspector for England must arrange for a report prepared under section 28(A3) to be published in such manner as appears to him or her to be appropriate.
(2) But the chief fire and rescue inspector for England must exclude from publication under subsection (1) anything that he or she considers—
(a) would be against the interests of national security, or
(b) might jeopardise the safety of any person.
(3) The chief fire and rescue inspector for England must—
(a) send a copy of the published report to the Secretary of State, and
(b) disclose to the Secretary of State anything excluded from publication by virtue of subsection (2).
(4) The chief fire and rescue inspector for England must in each year submit to the Secretary of State a report on the carrying out of inspections under section 28(A3) (during the period since the last report).
(5) A report under subsection (4) must include the chief fire and rescue inspector for England’s assessment of the efficiency and effectiveness of fire and rescue authorities in England for the period in respect of which the report is prepared.
(6) The chief fire and rescue inspector for England must lay before Parliament a copy of a report submitted under subsection (4).
(7) In this section ‘English inspector’ means an inspector appointed under section 28(A1).”
(6) In Schedule A2 (application of legislation relating to police and crime commissioners) (as inserted by Schedule 1 to this Act), in paragraph 8(2) (powers of police and crime panels: modifications of section 28 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011), after paragraph (c) insert—
“(ca) the references in subsection (6) to the commissioner’s functions were to the functions of the relevant fire and rescue authority that are excluded functions for the purposes of section 28(A6) of this Act (see section 28(A7)),”
(7) After Schedule A2 insert the new Schedule A3 set out in Schedule (Schedule to be inserted as Schedule A3 to the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004) to this Act.
(8) A person appointed, before the coming into force of this section, under section 28 of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 for the purpose of obtaining information in relation to the functions of fire and rescue authorities in England (including a person taken to have been so appointed by virtue of subsection (3) of that section) is to be taken—
(a) if an inspector, to have been appointed under subsection (A1) of that section, and
(b) if an assistant inspector or other officer, to have been appointed under subsection (A5) of that section.” —(Mike Penning.)
The new clause amends, in relation to England, the provision in the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 about inspections. New subsections (A1), (A2) and (A5) change the process for appointing inspectors, assistant inspectors and other officers and provide for one of the inspectors appointed to be the chief fire and rescue inspector for England. That person will have to prepare documents setting out details of proposed inspections (see new section 28A). New section 28B of the 2004 Act will impose new reporting requirements
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Government new schedule 1—Schedule to be inserted as Schedule A3 to the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004.
Government new clause 30—Public records.
New clause 63—Police and Crime Commissioners: parity of funding between police and families at inquests—
“(1) A police and crime commissioner has the duties set out in this section when the police force they are responsible for is a Properly Interested Person for the purposes of—
(a) an inquest into the death of a member of an individual’s family, or
(b) an inquest into the deaths of members of a group of families,
under the Coroners Act 1988.
(2) The police and crime commissioner must make recommendations to the Secretary of State as to whether the individual’s family or the group of families at the inquest require financial support to ensure parity of legal representation between parties to the inquest.
(3) If a police and crime commissioner makes a recommendation under subsection (2) then the Secretary of State must provide financial assistance to the individual’s family or the group of families to ensure parity of funding between families and the police.
(4) The individual’s family or the group of families may use funding authorised under this section solely for the purpose of funding legal representation at the inquest.”
This new clause would put into law the principle of parity of funding between police and families at inquests. It would ensure that funding to a bereaved family, or a group of bereaved families, for purposes of legal representation during an inquest is an amount broadly equal to the level of funding that the police force receives. This new clause seeks to place an obligation on the PCC to recommend to the Home Secretary as to whether a bereaved family, or a group of bereaved families requires funding to support their legal representation at the inquest. The Home Secretary must provide such funding if it is recommended.
New clause 64—Police complaints and the media—
“(1) Subject to subsection (3), the Prime Minister must commission an independent inquiry into the operation of the police complaints system in respect of relationships between the police and media.
(2) The inquiry must include, but is not limited, to—
(a) how adequately police forces investigated complaints about police officers in dealing with people working within, or connected to, media organisations,
(b) the thoroughness of any reviews by police forces into complaints specified in subsection (a),
(c) in the cases where a complaint in subsection (a) led to a criminal investigation, the conduct of prosecuting authorities in investigating the allegation,
(d) the extent to which police officers took illegal payment to suppress investigations of complaints of relationships between police officers and people working within, or connected to, media organisations,
(e) the implications of subsections (a) to (d) for the relationships between media organisations and the police, prosecuting authorities, and relevant regulatory bodies, and recommended actions.
(3) The inquiry can only commence once the Secretary of State is satisfied that it would not prejudice any ongoing relevant legal cases.”
This new clause would compel the Prime Minister to instigate an independent inquiry such as Leveson 2 into the relationships between the press and police and the extent to which that has operated in the public interest.
New clause 65—IPCC functions following complaints about the police’s handling of an event which has led to large scale loss of life—
“(1) The Independent Police Complaints Commission (the ‘Commission’) shall undertake the functions set out in subsection (3) to (5) when—
(a) there has been an event which has led to large scale loss of life, and
(b) the conditions in subsection (2) have been met.
(2) Subsection (1) applies when, for that event—
(a) the Commission has received complaints of a serious nature about the actions of the police either before, during or in response to the event, or as part of a police investigation into the event,
(b) the Commission has been asked to undertake such action by fifty per cent plus one or more of the total of—
(i) representatives of those deceased due to the event, and
(ii) any injured survivors of the event.
(3) The Commission shall report to the individuals identified in section 2(b) during any police investigation into the disaster regarding the progress of the investigation, and how the individuals identified in section 2(b) can assist with it, including, if there are no lawyers representing the individuals identified in section 2(b), the implications of engaging lawyers at that stage.
(4) Following a further request to the Commission by fifty percent plus one or more of the representatives of those deceased due to the event, the Commission shall set up a panel (the “Commission’s Panel“) which shall register as a data controller under the Data Protection Act 1998 and review all documentation relating to the event, the deceased and the representatives and report thereon.
(5) In establishing the Commission’s Panel under subsection (4), the Commission must consult the individuals identified in subsection 2(b).
(6) The Secretary of State must lay a copy of the report in subsection (4) before Parliament.
(7) While a review under subsection (4) is in progress, the Commission’s Panel must report to the individuals identified in section 2(b) every three months on the progress of the review.”
Government amendments 85, 22 to 30, 86, 87 and 31.
Amendment 126, in clause 27, page 42, line 38, leave out from “(a)” to end of subsection, and insert—
“(iii) but the period between the allegation first coming to the attention of a person mentioned in paragraph (a) and any initiation of disciplinary proceedings does not exceed the period specified in the regulations.
(3A) The regulations under this section must specify that there is no maximum period time after which historic allegation of misconduct cannot be investigated for cases which meet the following conditions—
(a) the case involves allegations of gross misconduct,
(b) the case is certified by the Secretary of State to be liable to lead to serious loss of confidence in the police service and the Secretary of State determines that investigating and, if appropriate, hearing the case is necessary and proportionate.
(3AA) The provisions of this section apply where the alleged misconduct, inefficiency or ineffectiveness took place prior to this Act coming into force.
(3AB) Regulations under this section must include sanctions for disciplinary proceedings in respect of a person defined under subsection (3A).”
This amendment would provide for disciplinary proceedings to take place a specified period after the allegation first comes to light, instead of a limit based on when the person concerned left a police force. It would also provide for this time period to be extended in cases of serious misconduct. It would also allow for proceedings to apply to retrospective cases and provides for sanctions for disciplinary proceedings.
Amendment 127, in clause 31, page 48, line 24, after “the”, insert “Independent”.
This amendment would retain the word “Independent” in the Office for Police Conduct (the new title for the current Independent Police Complaints Commission).
Amendment 128, page 48, line 28, after “The”, insert “Independent”.
Please see explanatory statement for Amendment 127.
Amendment 129, page 48, line 33, after “the”, insert “Independent”.
Please see explanatory statement for Amendment 127.
Amendment 131, page 49, line 6, leave out subsection (6) and insert—
“(6) In subsection leave out “chairman of the Commission, or as another member of the Commission” and insert “Director General, or as another member of the Office”.
This amendment would ensure that both the Director General of the Independent Office for Police Conduct, and any member of the Office, must not have held any of the roles set out in Section 9(3) of the Police Reform Act 2002.
Amendment 130, page 49, line 14, after “the”, insert “Independent”.
Please see explanatory statement for Amendment 127.
Government amendments 32 to 61, 88, 63 to 84 and 14 to 17.
Government new clause 49—Retention of fingerprints and DNA profiles: PACE.
Government new clause 50—Retention of fingerprints and DNA profiles: Terrorism Act 2000.
Government new clause 51—Extension of cross-border powers of arrest: urgent cases.
Government new clause 52—Cross-border enforcement: powers of entry to effect arrest.
Government new clause 53—Cross-border enforcement: minor and consequential amendments.
New clause 12—Deaths in custody: mental health—
“(1) Section 1 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 is amended as follows.
(2) In Section 1(2)(c), at end insert ‘other than while deprived of their liberty under Schedule A1 to the Mental Capacity Act 2005.’”
New clause 22—Surrender of travel documentation—
“(1) This section applies where—
(a) a person is arrested under section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, or under article 26 of the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 (S.I. 1989/1341 (N.I.12) S.I. 1989/1341 (N.I.12), in respect of an offence mentioned in section 41(1) or (2) of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008,
(b) the person is released without charge and on bail under Part 4 of the 1984 Act or (as the case may be) Part 5 of the 1989 Order, and
(c) the release on bail is subject to a travel restriction condition.
(2) If police are satisfied that a person is in possession of travel documents, as a pre-condition of release from custody, the person must surrender their travel documentation.”
This amendment would require terrorist suspects to surrender passports and any other travel documentation as a condition of release from custody.
New clause 23—Powers to require removal of disguises—
“(1) The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is amended as follows.
(2) Omit section 60AA (Powers to require removal of disguises) and insert—
‘Section 60AA Powers to require removal of disguises.’
(1) Where a constable in uniform reasonably believes that an offence has been, or is being, committed he may—
(a) require any person to remove any item which the constable reasonably believes that person is wearing wholly or mainly for the purpose of concealing his identity;
(b) seize any item which the constable reasonably believes any person intends to wear wholly or mainly for that purpose.
(2) A person who fails to remove an item worn by him or her when required to do so by a constable in the exercise of his power under this section shall be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month or to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale, or to both.
(3) The powers conferred by this section are in addition to, and not in derogation of, any power otherwise conferred.
(4) This section does not extend to Scotland.’”
This new clause would remove the requirement for prior authorisation in existing section 60AA so that where a constable reasonably believes that an offence has been, or is being, committed they may require the removal of items where they are used wholly or mainly for the purpose of concealing identity.
New clause 24—Access to Independent Mental Health Advocates—
“(1) A person detained in a place of safety under section 135 or 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 shall have the right to an independent mental health advocate (see section 130A of the Mental Health Act 1983).”
This new clause would extend the right to an independent mental health advocate to those detained under sections 135 or 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983.
New clause 25—Child sexual exploitation: duty to share information—
“The local policing body that maintains a police force shall have a duty to disclose information about children who are victims of sexual exploitation or other forms of abuse to relevant child mental health service commissioners in England and Wales.”
This new clause would place a duty on local police forces to store information with their local commissioners of child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) to improve local commissioning of mental health support for victims of child sexual exploitation.
New clause 26—Detention under the Mental Health Act 1983: training—
“(1) The chief police officer of every police force must ensure that provision is made for training police officers in the exercise the powers granted to them by sections 136 and 137 of the Mental Health Act 1983.
(2) The training provided under subsection (1) must include material on—
(a) diversity and equality, and
(b) cultural issues that police officers should be aware of when exercising power under the Mental Health Act 1983.
(3) The chief police officer of each police force must make an annual report to the Home Secretary on the provision they have made to comply with the requirements of this section.”
This new clause would require each police force to provide its officers with training on how to exercise power under the Mental Health Act, with particular reference to diversity issues.
New clause 29—Access to legal advice—
“(1) A person detained against their will in a place of safety under section 135 or 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 shall have the right to ask for and receive independent legal advice.”
This new Clause would ensure the individual detained under section 135 or 136 of the Mental Health Act has access to legal advice.
New clause 40—Disallowing use of tasers on psychiatric wards—
“A police officer may not use a taser or electroshock weapon during a deployment on a psychiatric ward.”
This new clause would prohibit the use of tasers by police officers on psychiatric wards.
New clause 42—Deployment of police officers on psychiatric wards: reporting—
“(1) Any incident of police officers being deployed on a psychiatric ward must be reported to the Home Secretary by the chief police officer of the relevant force within one week of the incident.
(2) The report under subsection (1) must contain the following information—
(a) the nature of the incident,
(b) the number of police officers who were deployed,
(c) the actions taken by the officers during their deployment, and
(d) the outcome of the incident.”
This new clause would require the Home Secretary to be notified whenever police officers are deployed on psychiatric wards.
New clause 43—Use of tasers on psychiatric wards: reporting—
“(1) Any incident of a police officer using a taser during a deployment on a psychiatric ward must be reported to the Home Secretary by the chief police officer of the relevant force within one week of the incident.
(2) The report under subsection (1) must contain the following information—
(a) the reason for the use of the taser,
(b) the action taken following the use of the taser, and
(c) the process that will be followed for reviewing the incident.”
This new clause would require the Home Secretary to be notified whenever a police officer uses a taser on a psychiatric ward.
New clause 45—Child sexual exploitation: assessment of needs for therapeutic support—
“(1) Where the police or a local authority have a reasonable belief that a child has been sexually exploited or subject to other forms of child abuse, the police or local authority must refer the child to a named mental health service.
(2) The named mental health service must conduct an assessment of the child’s needs and where appropriate make necessary arrangements for the child’s treatment or care.
(3) The Secretary of State must by regulations—
(a) define ‘named mental health service’ for the purpose of this section;
(b) specify a minimum level of “necessary arrangements” for the purpose of the section.”
This new clause would place a duty on the police or local authority to ensure that children who are believed to have experienced sexual abuse or exploitation are referred to an appropriate mental health service for assessment and appropriate support.
New clause 58—Prohibition on using a person’s home as a place of safety—
“(1) The Mental Health Act 1983 is amended as follows.
(2) In section 136, leave out subsection (1) and insert—
“(1) If a person appears to a constable to be suffering from mental disorder and to be in immediate need of care or control, the constable may, if he thinks it necessary to do so in the interests of that person or for the protection of other persons—
(a) remove the person to a place of safety within the meaning of section 135, or
(b) if the person is already at a place of safety within the meaning of that section, keep the person at that place or remove the person to another place of safety.
(c) For the purposes of this subsection, a suitable place as defined by section 135(6) shall not include a house, flat or room where a person is living.””
This amendment would prevent a person’s home from being used as places of safety for the purposes of section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983.
New clause 59—Detention under the Mental Health Act 1983: Access to an appropriate adult—
“(1) A person detained in a place of safety under section 135 or 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 shall have the right to an appropriate adult.
(2) For the purposes of subsection 1, ‘appropriate adult’ means:
(a) a relative, guardian or other person responsible for the detained person’s care;
(b) someone experienced in dealing with mentally disordered or mentally vulnerable people but who is not a police officer or employed by the police; or
(c) some other responsible adult aged 18 or over who is not a police officer or employed by the police.”
This new clause would extend the right to an appropriate adult to those detained under sections 135 or 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983.
Government new schedule 2—Cross-border enforcement: minor and consequential amendments.
Government amendments 89 to 95.
Amendment 123, in clause 75, page 92, line 1, leave out subsection (2) and insert—
“(2) In section 135 (warrant to search for and remove patients), leave out subsection (6) and insert—
“(6) Subject to section 136A, in this section “place of safety” means residential accommodation provided by a local social services authority under Part III of the National Assistance Act 1948, a hospital as defined by this Act, an independent hospital or care home for mentally disordered persons or any other suitable place.””
This amendment is consequential to amendment 124.
Amendment 124, page 92, line 33, leave out subsection (6) and insert—
“(6) After section 136 insert—
‘136A Prohibition on using police stations as places of safety
(1) A person may not, in the exercise of a power to which this section applies, be removed to, kept at or taken to a police station as a place of safety.
(2) The powers to which this section applies are—
(a) the power to remove a person to a place of safety under a warrant issued under section 135(1);
(b) the power to take a person to a place of safety under section 135(3A);
(c) the power to remove a person to, or to keep a person at, a place of safety under section 136(1);
(d) the power to take a person to a place of safety under section 136(3).
(3) In this section “person” means a person of any age.’”
This amendment would prevent a police station from being used as a place of safety for the purposes of sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983.
Amendment 125, in clause 76, page 93, line 25, leave out sub paragraph (i) and insert—
“(i) In a case where the person is removed to a place of safety, the time when the constable takes that person into custody (within the meaning of section 137 of the Mental Health Act 1983) in order to remove them to that place.”
This amendment would meant that the period of detention started at the point a person was detained rather than the time they arrived at a place of safety.
Government amendments 96 to 106, 109, 110, 117 and 118.
New clause 66—Guidance: unattributable briefings—
“(1) The College of Policing shall issue a code of practice relating to police-media relations.
(2) This code should set out clear guidance to ensure that all police media communications are reportable, quotable and attributable unless in exceptional circumstances.
(3) The code of practice shall be issued in line with requirements of section 39A of the Police Act 1996.”
This new clause would require The College of Policing to issue a code of practice relating to police-media relations. The aim of this clause is to ensure that all police media communications should be reportable, quotable and attributable unless in exceptional circumstances.
May I start by saying, genuinely, that this Bill has progressed with the will, respect and the help of Members on both sides of the House? As there are several new Government amendments in this group, I thought it only right and proper that I address some of them. I will also address some of the amendments tabled by the shadow Secretary of State. We have had numerous meetings, and we have tried to work our way through all of this, so let us see whether we can carry that forward as best we can.
It is our intention to introduce a robust and independent inspection regime for fire and rescue authorities in England. New clause 48 and new schedule 1 will support that objective by strengthening the inspection framework currently provided for in the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004. The amendments provide for the appointment of a chief fire and rescue inspector, who will be required to prepare a programme for the inspection of fire and rescue services. The Secretary of State will have the power to require inspections outside the published programme if necessary.
Fire and rescue inspectors will be required to produce reports on their inspections, and the chief inspector will make an annual report to Parliament—something that does not currently take place. We will enable fire inspectors to carry out joint inspections with Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary. That will be particularly important where police and crime commissioners and metro mayors take on the responsibilities of fire and rescue authorities.
Finally, these provisions will ensure that inspectors have access to the information they need to undertake a rigorous and independent examination of fire and rescue authorities and the persons employed by them. That means that no door will be locked and all information will be available to the inspector.
Although we believe that the vast majority of inspections will be undertaken by consent, we need to be alert to the fact that additional powers might be needed. If inspectors do not feel that they are getting the access that they deserve and need to produce reports, they will have the power to ask for such things. These amendments will help fire and rescue authorities be more transparent and more accountable.
May I say to my right hon. Friend that, as a former holder of this part of his post, I entirely welcome and support these amendments? The inspectorate is a thoroughly good idea, but may I raise one technical issue? There is provision for delegation to another public body. Many of us think that it would be much better if new schedule 1 were phrased so as to permit the use of external contractors to carry out certain elements of the inspection on behalf of inspectors where outside expertise may not be readily available in a public body. At the moment, the wording of new clause 48 and new schedule 1 does not appear to permit delegation to external contractors, who may well have expertise in operational audit, which is precisely what we need to make inspections robust and independent. Will he reflect on that?
Order. No one could accuse the hon. Gentleman of excluding from his intervention anything that he thought might at any time, in any way, to any degree be material, and I have a sense that when he practised law regularly he operated in a similar vein.
I understand exactly where my hon. Friend is coming from, especially on the point about audit. However, at the moment, we do not feel that there is a need to use external specialists in that way; if we find out later that there is, the inspector could ask the Home Secretary for those specific measures. The fire service has enough expertise to ensure that the regime works. It will be completely different from the current regime.
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way to another former Fire Minister. There used to be an honourable tradition that Fire Ministers were West Ham United supporters, but sadly that was broken by the right hon. Gentleman.
We have gone from the fire services inspectorate to the National Audit Office and then to nothing, and we are now going back to the fire services inspectorate. Has the Minister taken into account, for example, the United Kingdom Accreditation Service, which could give external advice to the new inspectorate, very much along the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill)? Will the new chief inspector also be the national adviser for fire? I would be grateful if the Minister explained a little of the background.
I am conscious that I am in the hands of experts who were Ministers long before I was, but as an ex-firefighter, I was really quite surprised to see how the inspections took place when I came into the role. They did not take place as envisaged by my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) when he introduced the relevant legislation. There was a genuine feeling that we had to address the costs and how the inspections were done. To be perfectly honest, the system has not worked. We cannot continue with the situation where one fire and rescue force inspects another and they tell each other what they can and cannot inspect.
This proposal is separate, which is why we have put the new inspector alongside Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary. They will tell us exactly what expertise they require. As ex-firefighters, the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) and I can assume what they will need to look at, but I accept that some fire and rescues services will need to draw on financial expertise from other areas.
I promise to try not to trouble my right hon. Friend anymore, but will he clarify something? I agree with his response to the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick), but is he saying that if evidence is presented, Ministers will not rule out making an appropriate arrangement whereby commissioning can take place if the chief inspector thinks it appropriate in relation to any inspection without us being required to make further legislative arrangements in the House? I am sure he will understand that the need for further legislation would defeat our objective.
Absolutely. I can say categorically that we do not want to handcuff the inspector. If an inspector needs to bring in further expertise, whether from UKAS or others, they will be able to bring that to the attention of the Ministers responsible. There will not be a requirement to come to the House.
This is a really positive move for the fire service, and the chiefs have welcomed it. They have been supportive in the meetings that I have had with them. I am not sure whether they all support the proposal, because the ones who do not support it might not have been banging on my door quite as hard as the ones who do. Naturally, I will come back to the issue in responding to the debate if we have time.
I will touch briefly on DNA and fingerprint retention, which is an extremely important and sensitive topic. New clauses 49 and 50 will help the prevention and detection of crime by enabling DNA profiles and fingerprints to be retained on the basis of convictions outside England and Wales, in the same way as the material could be used if the offence had taken place in England and Wales. We are trying to protect the public. The measures, which have been requested, will apply specifically to offences committed outside England and Wales that would be offences in England and Wales. The amendments made by new clauses 40 and 50 to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the Terrorism Act 2000 will enhance the effectiveness of the national DNA and fingerprint databases and help our police keep us safe, which we all want, especially in the light of the heightened threat.
New clauses 51, 52 and 53 and new schedule 2 will strengthen the existing cross-border powers of arrest provided for in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and appear to be supported across the House.
I want to listen to the shadow Home Secretary’s comments, so I will touch only briefly on the new clauses that he has tabled, which we have discussed together with the shadow Policing Minister, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey). I know that the Home Secretary, too, has discussed them with the shadow Home Secretary. It may assist the House if I say a few words about them now. As I said earlier, we welcome the constructive approach from the Opposition, and in particular from the Hillsborough families and the campaign group. We would not be discussing these issues now without their bravery, for which I praise them. The work carries on; it will not stop, whatever happens today.
The Minister mentioned the Hillsborough families, some of whom are here today to hear his words. Will he give categorical assurances to them and to other campaigners on historical injustices that that sort of thing could never happen again once new clause 63 becomes law?
No Minister could stand at the Dispatch Box in any Parliament in the world and give such a categorical assurance. We have moved an enormous way forward, through the perseverance of the Home Secretary and the shadow Home Secretary. Although we are trying as hard as we can, without consequential effects on other legislation, to make sure that a terrible situation such as Hillsborough never happens again, I cannot categorically give the hon. Gentleman the assurance he asks for. I know that that will disappoint him, but he will understand where I am coming from. All through today’s debate and beyond, when the Bill goes to the other House, I will be as helpful as I can.
We recognise the strength of feeling on these issues, and particularly the public concern to ensure that police officers who commit the most serious acts of wrongdoing can be held to account for their actions, no matter when they come to light. We are talking here not about criminal actions, for which criminal proceedings can be brought against individuals, but about disciplinary action against a police officer.
Having looked carefully at the new clauses tabled by the shadow Home Secretary, and following discussions that I have had with the shadow Policing Minister, we will table an amendment in the House of Lords to allow, in exceptional circumstances, an unlimited extension of the 12-month time limit that we propose in the Bill. It is understood that that does not apply to every offence. We will work with the shadow Home Secretary and his team—and, I hope, the Hillsborough families and Bishop James—on the drafting of the relevant regulations so that we can make sure that they do what it says on the tin. We will keep the 12-month rule, but in exceptional circumstances, based on regulations, we will be able to look at historical cases—not criminal cases—and take action against a former police officer. The 12-month time limit will remain, but we will work on the regulations. That is a significant move on our part.
The measure will apply to police officers serving with a police force at the point at which the provisions come into force. In line with established principles, we do not believe that it would be appropriate to apply such a provision retrospectively. However, this is a significant move so that, as the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram) suggests, families will have further protection in future.
On new clause 66, which is about the police and the media, I assure the House that the consultation that is going on with the College of Policing, which we have discussed with the shadow ministerial team, is actively looking at the guidance on the issue. I am not going to predict exactly what the college will come forward with, but it would not be actively looking at the issue if it was not there, and we will wait for the college to come forward.
New clauses 63 and 65 are about support for bereaved families. That is a really important area, and we are looking at it. The Home Secretary has asked Bishop James to compile a report on not just the financial issue but the whole aspect of how we could improve things so that families do not go through a situation such as Hillsborough ever again. I am not ruling anything out or anything in—we will wait for Bishop James’s report.
Whatever happens in the House this afternoon—I do not know whether Her Majesty’s Opposition will divide the House on the issue, but we will wait and see—the matter will not stop there. We will still work with Bishop James and wait for the report, before going forward depending on the will of the House.
On new clause 64, which is about Leveson part 2, the Government have made it clear on many occasions—not least at the Dispatch Box—that we will wait for the criminal proceedings that are still ongoing to come to a conclusion, and then the Home Secretary will move forward.
I have tried to highlight some of the issues involved in these amendments. There are a lot of other proposals that we can discuss this afternoon, but I wanted to set out the Government’s position on some of the Opposition’s new clauses and on some of the amendments and new clauses that I have tabled.
I would like to begin by agreeing with the Minister that some good progress has been made in the course of our deliberations on the Bill. There have been improvements, which we will discuss later, on tackling child sexual exploitation and on the police bail regime—particularly as it applies to those suspected of being involved in terrorism activity. As he has just indicated, there has also been progress on police misconduct, which I will come to.
However, the Bill presents an opportunity to do much more to improve police accountability, and that is an opportunity that we in the House now need to grab. Today, I want to present a package of proposals that respond to the historic verdict of the Hillsborough inquest, which finally concluded, after 27 years, that, as the families had known from day one, the loss of their loved ones was not an accident and they had been unlawfully killed, but that that fact had been covered up for all those years.
This package seeks to rebalance this country and to make it fairer. It seeks to rebalance it away from the establishment and in favour of ordinary families. It is a package that will stand as a permanent tribute to the dignity and determination of the Hillsborough families. Knowing them as I do, they would want nothing more than that no other family in the future should go through what they have gone through.
Let me take the House briefly through this package of proposals. New clause 63 would give bereaved families equal funding for legal representation at inquests where the police are involved. It seeks to establish the crucial principle that there should be parity between the two sides. The reason that is important is that it says very clearly that the public interest lies in finding the truth. That is how public resources should be directed: they should not be directed towards creating an unbalanced contest at an inquest, with public money used to protect vested interests in the public sector.
I am happy to confirm that the Liberal Democrats will support this proposal. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, had it been in place at the time of the first inquest, the truth might have emerged at that stage, and the families would not have had to go through such a dire long wait to get to the truth?
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his support. He is absolutely right. I will come on to explain precisely how this would have helped to even the playing field and give the families the chance to get truth at the first time of asking. The original inquest catastrophically failed on that account, and that needs to be very clearly understood as we consider this amendment.
Amendment 126 seeks to close the long-standing loophole of retirement being used by police officers as a route to evade misconduct proceedings. New clause 64 seeks to hold the Government to their promise to the victims of press intrusion to hold a second-stage inquiry looking at the culture of relations between police and the press. New clause 66 seeks to legislate for a code of practice with regard to the media relations policy of each police force, and to spell out that attributable briefing by police forces, which was so damaging in the case of Hillsborough, is not permitted unless it is in the most exceptional circumstances. Amendments 127 and 128 seek to strengthen the Independent Police Complaints Commission. New clause 67, which will be considered later, seeks to strengthen the offence of misconduct in public office.
Let me start with the area where there is greatest consensus—police misconduct. I listened carefully to what the Minister said, and I am grateful for the movement that he indicated to the shadow Policing Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey), in Committee whereby there should not merely be an arbitrary 12-month period after retirement, because, as we know, police wrongdoing may come to light much later. We are glad that the Government have indicated that they are prepared to move on this matter in the other place and table an amendment to that effect. While I will not press my amendment to a vote, I would still like to press the Minister a little further on this point. He is saying that this should be applied only in the most exceptional circumstances, but that potentially rules out many people who might be guilty of gross misconduct but would not be caught by his “exceptional” test. He needs to reassure the House on this point.
That is why I offered to work closely with colleagues across the House on the regulations, which will be very important. We do not include everybody, because then there is no point in having exceptional cases, but it is very important to understand what “exceptional” means.
That is a good offer and I thank the Minister for it. I think we can move forward on that basis. I hope we all know what we are trying to achieve—that is, if serious wrongdoing comes to light about an individual who is beyond 12 months retired, it must be possible for misconduct or disciplinary proceedings to be initiated against them. Our amendment says that there should then also be sanctions that are able to be applied against that individual. I say to the Minister that we will want to insist on that point as well.
If we can agree to move forward on that basis, that is a considerable example of progress that matters greatly to the Hillsborough families, who, as they were continuing their 27-year struggle, felt very aggrieved when they saw individuals who had retired on a full pension and who they felt were beyond reach and could not be held to account. I believe that this should apply retrospectively. Misconduct is misconduct whenever it occurred, and people should be held to account for their actions.
I thank the Minister for coming partly towards the position that we believe should be taken, but can we clarify one point? We are talking about serious wrongdoing—malfeasance and gross misconduct —by police officers. We have mentioned Hillsborough, so many people will spin that with regard to the conduct of officers—ordinary officers—at that disaster in 1989. There are no accusations against many of the ordinary officers, who performed heroically: it was the senior officers who let people down, and then, in some cases, took the opportunity to get away scot free through the cop-out of using ill health—
Order. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to make a speech, he can stand up to indicate when he wishes to do so, but this an intervention, and interventions must be a little shorter.
It was a long intervention, Madam Deputy Speaker, but it was a good one. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram) makes a very important point. I do not think that any attempt is being made to blame ordinary policemen and women. That is not the purpose of the amendment. It is important for me to say very clearly to those police officers who are out there keeping the streets safe that this is not an attack on them. The package is about not allowing the misdeeds of the past to taint the present and those police officers who are working today. That is such a crucial point, because if we do not deal properly with such allegations, we allow the situation to contaminate the present and to corrode trust in today’s police service. None of us in this House wants that, so my hon. Friend is absolutely right to make that point, which cannot be stressed enough.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for being so generous in giving way. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram) is absolutely right. If we had not included the point about exceptional circumstances, those sorts of people could have been captured, and that is not what we want. We are not looking at an officer who commits a speeding offence just before he retires; we are looking at those people who should be brought to justice, and that is exactly what we should be doing.
That is right. This is about people who have been guilty of serious misconduct in public office, and it is crucial that they cannot use retirement as a means of evading accountability for that misconduct. The change to which the Minister appears to be agreeing closes a long-standing loophole and frustration for members of the public. It exposes the police to a considerably more challenging regime, but rightly so. Any profession needs to be held accountable to the highest standards. We will work with the Minister to get it right. I believe that we can do so, but I stress that this is about upholding the reputation of the vast majority of police officers, who serve the public with distinction.
The issue of police-press relations is the biggest area of unfinished business, although, in fact, we have not even really started to make any changes with respect to putting right the wrongs of Hillsborough. As we know, the briefing of the press in those first days after the tragedy caused incalculable harm and damage, not just to the families who had lost loved ones, but to the thousands of people, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton, who had returned from the match in a state of trauma, only to read a couple of days later that the police were blaming them for the deaths of their friends and family.
That is why feelings are so strong, not just in Merseyside but across the country. It simply cannot be right that a police force is able, unattributably, to brief malicious and unproven information to a newspaper. We need a stronger and more transparent regime for press relations, so that false impressions cannot be put out there with the intention of setting a narrative about a particular incident. Families who are fighting for justice often find that it is very difficult to overturn the false version of events. That was certainly the case for the Hillsborough families.
I totally agree with the points that my right hon. Friend is making. Does he agree that among the problems with Hillsborough were not only the off-the-record briefings that took place later, but the on-the-record briefings to get the narrative right from the beginning?
I agree on both levels. This was a cover-up perpetrated on the record, off the record and in the Committee rooms of this House. It went to the very top—even to 10 Downing Street, where the head of press at the time briefed that a “tanked-up mob” caused the disaster. This cover-up went to the highest level. What chance did ordinary families have when faced with the might of the establishment seeking to perpetrate a lie on that scale? It has been a 27-year fight, as we now know.
This whole area is a major piece of unfinished business, and it is why we have suggested new clause 66. I think I heard the Minister say that he would work with us, with the College of Policing and with the National Police Chiefs Council on new clause 66 to get this right. I believe my hon. Friend the shadow Policing Minister is having some useful discussions with them. They have responded to Labour’s initiative in this area and have already begun working on a code of conduct for police-press relations. We want to work with the Minister to get this absolutely right, because there has been a common thread in a number of injustices down the years: an unhealthy relationship between police and press can sow the seeds for a cover-up that is difficult to overturn.
New clause 64 invites the House to reinforce the promise made by the Prime Minister to the victims of press intrusion. Let me go back to what the Prime Minister said in November 2012:
“When I set up the inquiry,”—
the Leveson inquiry—
“I also said that there would be a second part to investigate wrongdoing in the press and the police…we remain committed to the inquiry as it was first established.”—[Official Report, 29 November 2012; Vol. 554, c. 446.]
He also said:
“It is right that it should go ahead, and that is fully our intention.”—[Official Report, 29 November 2012; Vol. 554, c. 458.]
It has been put to me that that promise was made face to face with some of the victims of hacking and press intrusion—people such as the McCanns and Milly Dowler’s family. It seems to Labour Members as though the Government have subtly shifted their position in the intervening years. As we heard a moment ago from the Minister, it is no longer a question of when the inquiry will go ahead; it is a question of whether it will go ahead. The Government now say that following the conclusion of the outstanding investigations on the matter, they will take a decision on whether the second stage of the inquiry will go ahead.
That promise was made not just to the victims and their families but to the Chairs of three Select Committees in the Prime Minister’s room before the inquiry was announced. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that it is important that we get Leveson 2—perhaps not with Leveson, because he has moved on to do other things, but with somebody else. There is nothing wrong with the Government beginning the process, choosing a chair of the committee and getting the mechanics together. We do not really have to wait until the end of the criminal proceedings.
I wholeheartedly agree with my right hon. Friend. There is a huge amount of unfinished business. These issues are present in so many of the injustices that we have seen, where there has been inappropriate contact between police and press. We await the conclusions of the Daniel Morgan panel, for instance, which might best illustrate some of these issues.
That is true of other events as well. We remember the way in which the media were manipulated in the case of the Shrewsbury 24, for example. There have been many examples of this over time. Indeed, part 1 of the Leveson inquiry found unhealthy links between senior Met officers and newspaper executives, which led to the resignation of the then Met police chief and others. The issue cannot be left there. Public officials and police officers have also been convicted of offences related to these matters.
The Minister really needs to provide an explicit answer on this specific point today. He cannot wriggle out of this commitment. It is not the kind of commitment you can wriggle out of, given everything that those people have been through. A promise should be a promise, when it is made to people who have suffered in the way that many of the victims of press intrusion have suffered. I know that the Hillsborough families feel exactly the same. They were the victims of the biggest example of inappropriate police briefing of newspapers—and it was not just one newspaper. People think it was just one newspaper that reported the lies, but many of them reported the lies that were given to Whites news agency in Sheffield, and those lies went round the world. Only this week, I had an email from someone in the United States saying that they were astonished to find out the truth when they watched the recent BBC2 documentary on Hillsborough, and that for 27 years they had thought that the events were the result of hooliganism. It is impossible to exaggerate the harm that those lies caused.
I say to the Minister tonight that we need a better answer. If he were to stand up now at the Dispatch Box and say clearly to the House that there will be a second-stage inquiry into the culture of relations between the police and the press, I would be the first to say that we would not press our new clause 64 to a vote. However, there is growing suspicion among organisations—Hacked Off, obviously, but others too—and campaigners for justice that they are slowly being let down and that this matter is being slowly slid into the long grass. We have had anonymous briefings from people close to the Culture Secretary and others in Government to suggest that it has already been canned. Well, we on the Labour Benches are not prepared to accept that, so I say clearly to the Minister that unless he can provide a much more direct reassurance, we will push the matter to a vote this evening to force the Prime Minister to honour his own promise—it is not our promise; it is his promise—to the victims of press intrusion and hacking.
In March 2013, the Prime Minister said that Leveson 2 should go ahead without further delay. The Secretary of State told the Select Committee that he was awaiting a further Government statement. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the three years that have passed since the Prime Minister’s promise have been far too long for many of the victims of press intrusion?
I would certainly say so. I cannot understand why there is any doubt about this, given the clarity of the Prime Minister’s statements, which I have read out, and given that the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), has just said that the promise was made not only to the victims but to senior parliamentarians. I do not see how this commitment can be negotiable.
The Culture Secretary—he was the Chair of the Culture Select Committee at the time—was in the room, so he was very clear that a promise was made.
Well, there you go. That says it all really. The right hon. Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale) seems to be in a different mode these days. One wonders what deals have been done by the Government if they are preparing to unpick this agreement, and we will watch them very carefully.
The Minister makes a fair point that there are ongoing investigations. I take his point that some of the investigations will have a material impact on issues that we are considering. We are not saying that we want the inquiry to start right now. We accept that there are matters to be concluded in the courts before it can proceed. What we are after is the removal of any doubt that it will proceed at the appropriate moment and that the promise the Prime Minister gave to those victims will be honoured. That is what we are seeking to establish tonight. That is what we are asking the Minister to lay down very clearly.
This goes beyond party politics. The victims and their families have suffered enough, and Members on both sides of the House owe it to them to make good on the promise that was given to them. That is why I look forward to Members from both sides of the House joining us in the Lobby tonight, because it clearly looks as though the Government are not going to give way.
These families have suffered enough—we in this Chamber are united on that—so does my right hon. Friend agree that a statement from the Minister today saying that the second inquiry will go ahead would put an end to their suffering? They have suffered enough. Let this be the end.
My hon. Friend puts it very well. That is what I have seen when working with the Hillsborough families, as have others when they have been fighting for justice. Those people are affected not just by the original trauma they suffered, but by how the system grinds them down afterwards, making them fight for everything, not giving them an inch and slowly draining the life out of them. How cruel is that? It is just wrong—is it not?—that the government machine thinks it can operate in that way. As I will move on to say, I spoke today to a family about going to meetings with 14 lawyers sitting around the table and just a couple of family members. That is just not right. We all know it is not right. Any of us who have been Ministers will have seen that style of meeting, and it is just not right. It is time to change it. We should not make these families fight for everything, but support them, and tip the scales in their favour and away from the powerful. Why not do so?
May I just tell the right hon. Gentleman that I do not know what has happened with other Ministers, but I have never sat in such a meeting and anyone who has had a meeting with me as a Minister will know, as right hon. and hon. Members know, that that is not the way I operate and that I never have operated in that way?
I have a lot of time for the Minister, as he knows, but such people are listening to this debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) is not in her place, but if the victims of contaminated blood are listening to this debate, they will immediately recognise what I am saying. If the victims of organophosphates—sheep dip—poisoning are listening today, they will understand what I am saying. If the people waiting for the announcement about the battle of Orgreave investigation are listening, they will understand what I am saying. There are so many people who have not been given justice by the system, and that just is not right. It really is not right, and that is why I keep saying that we must make Hillsborough a moment of change when we can tip the scales in favour of ordinary families and away from the establishment.
In an attempt to act as a peace broker, given that the positions of both sides have been made perfectly clear, may I ask whether the shadow Home Secretary will accept a commitment to proceed with Leveson 2 after the investigations have taken place and whether, if that is acceptable, the Minister could make such a commitment today?
That is a good point. It would be good enough if we got a cast-iron commitment. Ministers have reintroduced a doubt—in media briefings, they have said, “Oh, it probably won’t go ahead now”—and have muddied the waters. If they clarified that tonight, that would be good enough. If they said, “It will go ahead after the proper time has elapsed, given the criminal proceedings that are still outstanding”, that would be fine and everyone would understand it. If they gave that commitment tonight, there would be no need for a vote because we would have done our job, but if they cannot give such a commitment, that would be revealing in itself. If the Minister cannot stand at the Dispatch Box and give such a clear commitment, or rather reaffirm it to the people to whom Ministers have already made it, that would be revealing in itself and we would be right to force a vote in those circumstances. In that case, people will not be strung along and left hoping that there will be a Leveson 2 one day; we will have forced the issue so that Ministers are held to account for their promise. That is what we are doing tonight. Ministers have the chance to do the right thing: to stand at the Dispatch Box and say, “Yes, we will do it. We will honour what we said.” If they do not do so, we will ask Members of decency and integrity on both sides of the House to stand with us and to go through the Lobby with us tonight to hold Ministers to account for the promise they made.
Finally, let me turn to our new clause 63 on parity. The new clause seeks to establish the principle of parity of legal funding for bereaved families at inquests involving the police. In introducing it, I want to say that it is very important that people do not see Hillsborough as a one-off belonging to a bygone era. To be honest, many bereaved families still face a very similar experience when they go to an inquest. They often find themselves pitched into an adversarial and aggressive courtroom when they are still raw with grief. They are unable to match the spending of the police or the public sector in what they spend on their own legal representation. Those families find their lives picked apart. They are made to look like they are perpetrators, not victims. That is a very common experience. Many people who suffer it do not have the huge support that the Hillsborough families had. They are ordinary families battling away on their own, with no one else coming to support them. That is why the principle of parity is so tremendously important.
My right hon. Friend’s remarks will be heard by Rachel Gumbs, the daughter of Philmore Mills, who died in hospital while being restrained by the police. Another constituent has raised an issue relating to his mum. Her children were abducted by their father, and she has spent nearly two decades without being able to contact them. My constituent is in litigation against the police, and feels a similar kind of bereavement, as he has been kept away from his brothers and sisters. He hopes that the approach we are discussing could enable people like him, who are taking cases against the police, to get access to some kind of resources. Would that be possible?
That is exactly what lies behind the new clause. My right hon. Friend has just made my point. We will all have examples from our experience as constituency MPs. We know families who have been at inquests that have been highly unsatisfactory experiences, and where they did not get legal support. I will come to a few examples, to show how unfair it is. The public sector spends taxpayers’ money like water on hiring the best QCs to line up in the courtroom and defend its reputation. Ordinary families are scrabbling around, re-mortgaging their houses and doing whatever they can to try to put up some kind of fight against that. How wrong is that?
Public money should pay to establish the truth. That means that there should be parity between the two sides in that process. It should not be the case that the public sector packs a courtroom with highly paid QCs. That is such an important principle to establish coming out of Hillsborough—to be honest, if there is to be one lasting legacy from Hillsborough, that should be it. I was tempted by the right hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) to make this point before. The Hillsborough families were represented by Michael Mansfield at the recent inquest. If that had been the case back in 1990, there is no chance on God’s earth that the cruel and inhumane 3.15 pm cut-off time would have been allowed to stand. Have we ever had a situation in this country before where bereaved families have been told that they cannot have information about what happened to their loved ones in their dying minutes? That was the case here. Have we ever had a situation before where only after 27 years are families finally told who gave their loved ones the kiss of life and carried them over the pitch? What an affront to natural justice that is. Yet it was allowed to stand, because those families did not have someone who could challenge it.
A few weeks ago, Margaret Aspinall, chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, came to Parliament to deliver a very personal reflection on what it was like all those years ago. I am very grateful to all right hon. and hon. Members who attended; I am sure they will agree that it was an intensely moving occasion. Margaret described the indescribable pain and hurt she felt when she was sent a cheque of just over £1,000, which was supposedly compensation for the life of her son James. She said she had to put it towards the legal fund that the group was asking members to contribute to. In itself that was not enough because she had the cost of travelling to the inquest in Sheffield every day. She was living on the breadline and having to borrow money from her family and her mum to make it all work. How can it be right that families in such circumstances, who have not done anything wrong, find themselves in that situation? It cannot be right that they should be scrimping, saving and doing all those things, when taxpayers’ money is being paid for the other side to do them down.
The right hon. Gentleman is entirely right to highlight the inequality of arms between families and the state, and he will know that INQUEST has campaigned tirelessly on that issue. He should also consider the time that it takes for an inquest to happen, and how those delays are recorded. An inquest may not happen for five or six years, in which time all sorts of untruths can flourish, but it will be recorded in the statistics as having taken only a year.
That is right, and as has been hinted at, that delay is often used to grind people down even further. It really does not work, and Parliament must decide whether we are prepared to let people carry on going through such an entirely unsatisfactory process. I do not think we should.
In people’s experiences today we can see parallels with those of the Hillsborough families. To give a current example, a young boy, Zane Gbangbola, died in 2014 in the floods in his home in Surrey. The family contest that hydrogen cyanide was brought into the house from a former landfill site that had not been properly sealed. It is a high-profile case, yet the family have been turned down three times for legal aid. This ordinary family were just going about their business, and all of a sudden their son is dead and Mr Gbangbola is permanently in a wheelchair. The inquest starts today, and the only reason that the family have quality legal representation is because they were given an anonymous £25,000 donation on Friday. That cannot possibly be right.
The right hon. Gentleman will also know that when being assessed for financial support, it is not just the immediate family who have their finances looked at, but also the extended family, which is extraordinarily unfair.
That is extraordinarily unfair, although this Government have made things even more unfair with their cuts to legal aid. People are not getting through and they are not getting funding when they apply in the way that they would have done in the past. They are unrepresented at these inquests, which cannot be right.
I accept that cases such as Hillsborough required a lot of input from lawyers. Asking as someone who has a knee-jerk reaction that we should not be feeding lawyers, is it possible for the Chief Coroner to lay down rules in some of these cases so that if a public authority comes forward with banks of lawyers, the other side should be given legal representation, or the public authority told that those lawyers are not needed?
The amendment is designed to develop the same effect and to state that there should be parity of legal funding. That is an incentive for the public sector not to spend too much on its own. If it has to fund families as well, that might bring down the legal bill—it might not add any further costs.
We now have the Chief Coroner. In the past a lot was wrong—I sat on the Coroners and Justice Bill Committee, and changes could still be made to the coroners service in this country. Some recognition of the parity that my right hon. Friend refers to would be welcome, but as I know from local government and other sectors, the knee-jerk reaction these days is to get a lawyer involved and, in some cases, I am not sure that we necessarily need that.
We need inquisitorial inquests rather than adversarial inquests. In the case of Hillsborough, the Lord Chief Justice made a specific ruling when he quashed the original inquest. He hoped, given that the police had clearly tainted the evidence, that the new inquest would not degenerate into an adversarial battle, but—I am afraid to say—that is exactly what happened. At public expense, one individual in particular, hired to represent the former officers, a Mr John Beggs, went into the courtroom and repeated all kinds of lies and innuendo about supporters of Liverpool football club. My hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) and I were there; we witnessed it—and it was a particularly unpleasant thing to witness. It is even more galling to think that we were paying for that.
It is not just the cost but how people are questioned that is gross and unjust. I will give one final example to illustrate. The House will know that, after a long fight by her family, an inquest was recently held into the death of Cheryl James, who died at the Deepcut barracks in Surrey. The QC acting for Surrey police was the same Mr John Beggs. I know, from speaking to Cheryl’s father, that the family were deeply hurt by an intrusive and aggressive line of questioning that focused on several very personal questions. They were particularly hurt by one untrue allegation levelled at them. According to Mr Beggs, Mr James, in making inquiries to Surrey police, had distracted the latter from the Milly Dowler investigation. Can Members imagine how he felt when he heard that? In trying to get to the truth about what happened to his daughter, he found himself the subject of an outrageous, appalling slur, which the Dowler family, such is their decency, stepped in to correct.
It should not be like this. It must not be like this. It is well known that police forces are instructed to hire this individual if they feel in a tight spot, and they pay huge amounts of public money to do so. It should not be allowed to carry on. We should call time on it today.
My right hon. Friend is making a very good point—that kind of adversarial inquest is wrong—but, to repeat, could not the Chief Coroner lay something down in guidance to coroners to stop such behaviour? Not only is it not good for families; it does not help get to the truth either.
No, it does not. My hon. Friend makes a good point, and I cannot see why that should not happen. Equally, I cannot see why the Government would not accept the Bill, proposed by Lord Wills in another place, to create a national office to support bereaved families so that each family does not have to reinvent the wheel and go through all the learning needed to get ready for an inquest. That is another good proposal.
To finish, we are seeking to establish a simple principle. In the words of Mr James, this is about “parity of arms”—if it has to be like that. If there is to be an adversarial battle in the courtroom, we should at least give bereaved families the same ability as the public sector to defend themselves. That is an unanswerable principle, and I am sorry the Government have decided they cannot support it tonight. I know they are saying they are waiting for the conclusion of Bishop James’s report, but this is bigger than Hillsborough—it is very much evident in Hillsborough, but it is much bigger—and concerns a number of families facing a similar injustice today.
Is it not the case that public money should fund the establishment of the truth and, in particular, help people to get to the truth at the first time of asking, so that the truth can be used by public bodies to learn—to look at where they went wrong and see how they can improve? Instead, they do the opposite. They go into those courtrooms to defend themselves and reputations, spending large amounts of taxpayers’ money in doing so. I hope that the Government would agree with the spirit of what I am saying tonight. If they do, I would hope for a clear commitment this evening that they support the aim of parity of funding for families at inquests. From there, I hope we might be able to move forward. From what I can gather, however, the Government have not done enough, and unless the Minister is able to provide this level of reassurance, we will press the new clause to a vote.
We are determined to make Hillsborough a moment of real change in this country. It must be a watershed, after which power shifts into the hands of ordinary people and away from those in positions of power. That is what people expect this Parliament to do. We cannot face a 27-year injustice and then feel that we do not have to act or that we can carry on as we were. We cannot. Ordinary families are facing injustices today and are being ground down as they battle to get the truth and justice. Let us do the right thing. I call on all Members to support the package that we are putting forward. Let us finally make this a fairer country, in which power is more evenly shared among people from all backgrounds.
Several hon. Members rose—
Order. We have about an hour and a half before the winding-up speeches start, and there are eight Members wishing to speak. If we can keep to about 10 or so minutes, everyone should be able to contribute.
I would not criticise for a moment the shadow Home Secretary for speaking for 45 minutes. He had a lot to say and spoke with great passion. He knows a lot about the bereaved Hillsborough families and all the associated issues, so I do not want to criticise him. If I may, however, before coming on to talk about new clause 23, I would like to say something gently to the right hon. Gentleman.
I do not know the Silk—I have never met him—to whom he twice referred and accused of unattractive conduct. That Silk was speaking on instructions, and I assume that, in line with the traditions and professional standards of the Bar, he did not set out deliberately to attack people. He was acting for the two relevant public authorities on the two separate occasions. It was his duty to put the cases for those clients. The cases might well have been unattractive and might well have come across as deeply upsetting to the people who were cross-examined, but it was his professional duty to act in that way. Another barrister might have done it differently or another client might have given different instructions, but it is a bit mean, if I may say so, to call out a particular barrister here in the House of Commons.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?
I do not want to be distracted when we have so little time. I just wanted to defend the method by which members of the profession have to represent their clients. That aside, there is little on which I wish to criticise the shadow Home Secretary.
In the short time available I want to speak to new clause 23, which removes the requirement for prior authorisation in section 60AA of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, so that
“Where a constable…reasonably believes that an offence has been, or is being, committed he may…require any person to remove any item”
when it is used
“wholly or mainly for the purpose of concealing identity”.
The context in which I tabled the new clause—with about 22 other right hon. and hon. Members—goes back, as I said, to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Section 60 states:
“If a police officer of or above the rank of inspector reasonably believes…that incidents involving serious violence may take place in any locality in his police area, and that it is expedient to give an authorisation under this section to prevent their occurrence, or…that persons are carrying dangerous instruments or offensive weapons in any locality in his police area without good reason, he may give an authorisation that the powers conferred by this section are to be exercisable at any place within that locality for a specified period not exceeding 24 hours.”
That section gave the police a geographically limited and time-limited power to do certain things. That was extended in 2001 by the addition of section 60AA, which gave the police a power, in that geographical area and for that limited time, to require the removal of disguises. Provided that there was prior authorisation, provided that that authorisation was written, and provided that it was for 24 hours unless extended by another officer for a further 24 hours, within that limited location, the constable in uniform was enabled to
“require any person to remove any item which the constable reasonably believes that person is wearing wholly or mainly for the purpose of concealing his identity”
“seize any item which the constable reasonably believes any person intends to wear wholly or mainly for that purpose.”
So it was not until 2001 that the 1994 Act was amended to allow the police, in certain limited circumstances, to be authorised to deal with disguises.
As the House will recall, in August 2011 there were widespread riots throughout the country, following which the Government issued a consultation paper to consider whether three things needed to be looked at: the use of the word “insulting” in the 1994 Act, new powers to request the removal of face coverings, and new powers to impose curfews. The Government thought it appropriate to consult about new powers relating to such matters as disguises, saying:
“The…consultation aims to progress the commitment made by the Prime Minister following the recent disorder in respect of new powers to request the removal of face coverings. After the ransacking and arson by looters wearing masks to conceal identification, the Government announced that the police would be given extended powers to demand the removal of face coverings under any circumstances, where there was reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.”
Interestingly, the Government did not respond to the consultation other than in relation to “insulting words or behaviour”; the law was amended in that regard. In respect of the power to require the removal of face coverings, the law remains as it was in 2001. As I have said, that power is geographically limited and time-limited, and requires prior authorisation.
I have had the benefit of two meetings with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, Fire, Criminal Justice and Victims, who generously allowed me, and two of my hon. Friends, to try to persuade him that the law needed to be changed. On that occasion there were only eight officials in the room, but he seemed to be unpersuaded, on the basis of the advice that he had been given by officials and police officers, that a change in the law was necessary. Indeed, I think it was suggested to me that our new clause would weaken the powers of the police to remove disguises.
We need to recognise that the people who attend demonstrations wearing balaclavas or other face coverings are not doing that simply to prevent their identities from being discovered. Clearly, if a demonstration involves unlawful activity and the police are able to film it, or it is covered by local authority CCTV cameras, there is no better way for people to avoid detection, or avoid being caught, than disguising their faces. In most, although not all, criminal cases, the identity of the perpetrator is a fairly central part of the prosecution case. I am reasonably sure that in the olden days when robbers used to run into banks with shotguns and hold them up, normally wearing stockings over their faces, they were not wearing silk stockings on their heads because they liked the feeling of silk on their faces; they were wearing those silk stockings—or even tights, in which case it would be nylon on their faces—in order to prevent themselves from being discovered.
The same thing, I suspect, goes for people who are intent on pretty unattractive behaviour in the streets here in London, and in Manchester at last year’s Conservative party conference, where people in masks spat at delegates going into the conference hall, but they also do it to intimidate. There is nothing more intimidating than seeing somebody covered like that coming at you or demonstrating with a view to causing trouble. Yes, of course, there are laws already on the statute book or, no doubt, under common law which make it possible for a police officer to arrest somebody wearing a face mask if they are committing an offence. But in the event that there is a large-scale demonstration and there are not enough police officers to make it safe or practical for the police officer to go in, and therefore the police need to rely upon video evidence or film evidence of the perpetrator, it strikes me as unreal for a police officer to rely upon the existing power, which is geographically limited and time-limited, in order to deal with the matter.
Is my right hon. Friend getting restless?
I am just conscious that I may not have enough time to cover everything in my winding-up speech. My right hon. and learned Friend indicated earlier that I was not persuaded. I did listen to the police officers, but a review of the PACE code A is coming through for stop-and-search later this year. We will insert face coverings into that review so we have a better understanding, and if a change is necessary, that will take place. I think that is a significant concession.
That is a change of attitude, and I am grateful for it, but I am not sure that a review is what we need; what we need is action. My understanding is that the police do not want this change because they think—at least some of them do—that the power they have is adequate for what they need to do, but it is not, because these events are happening. People are being terrified, and people are being inhibited from going about their lawful business in the countryside and in urban areas, and it is not good enough for us to rely on a change in the PACE code or following some review.
The Government did not reply to their own consultation in 2011, and I do need to press them a little harder to ensure that this matter is properly ventilated. One of my jobs as a Member of Parliament is to express the concerns of the public from my constituency, and from other parts of the country as well, who are dissatisfied about the level of policing for this sort of behaviour.
I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend realises that a review of PACE is nothing to do with what the police want. We did a review of stop-and-search because it was being inappropriately used by the police, and that is why we changed the rules. If we find during the PACE review that the legislation is not being used in the way our constituents would expect, PACE will be changed. That is why we are doing the review. PACE reviews do not come up very often; this is a golden opportunity.
I look forward to seeing the terms of the review, and I trust the Minister when he says it is going to be useful, but right now constituents in rural and urban areas are very distressed at the way in which face masks are used to terrify and to hide the identity of criminals. The sooner this matter is debated—with reasonable time to conclude it—on the Floor of this House or in the other place—
I am one of the co-signatories of my right hon. and learned Friend’s new clause. The problem with the situation at the moment is that the constable on duty may require a face covering to be removed but he does then require post-authorisation from a senior officer on duty. In the Blackpool case and in my own case on the badger culls, where someone was parked in a car late at night for several nights with masks on deliberately to intimidate the residents inside the nearest farmhouse, I am not sure whether the constables on duty knew whether they would or would not get that prior authorisation or post-authorisation, and my right hon. and learned Friend’s new clause will make this crystal clear if it becomes part of the Bill.
I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s support, and I hope our new clause will make it easier for the police to do what the public require them to do, which is arrest frightening people who are intent on doing criminal things.
The problem in respect of sections 60 and 60AA, one that will be removed by our new clause, is that prior authorisation is needed. It may well be that as a matter of practice that is ignored. If it is ignored by the police, that suggests to me that they are probably behaving unlawfully when they give themselves authority afterwards, writing it down in a notebook. That is not what the scheme behind the current legislation requires. We need to bring this debate to a close now and ensure that the police are given the powers that the public believe they should have in order to prevent this disgusting behaviour from continuing.
I rise to speak for the Scottish National party principally in order to place on the record our unending admiration for the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) and other Members on both sides of the Chamber who have fought this righteous fight for so many years and for so many people who have been lied to and been subject to the most horrendous cover-up. I echo pretty much all the words the right hon. Gentleman said at the Dispatch Box earlier.
Football is very important to people in Scotland, as the right hon. Gentleman will understand; every weekend we send more people to football games per head of population than anywhere else in the UK does. Everybody in Scotland can understand the fear of their loved ones not returning from watching what is just a game of football; we had the Ibrox disaster in 1971 and there is still a scar deep in the Scottish consciousness. We are completely committed in principle to helping the right hon. Gentleman with whatever he needs to try to get justice for those people. Unfortunately, the police system in Scotland is devolved so we are perhaps not able to offer any support this evening, other than in principle, but I would like to place that on the record, and wish him and his colleagues all the best in the fight for justice.
I wish to speak to new clauses 26, 29, 42 and 43, all of which stand in my name. I will try to be brief. First, I thank the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire Moorlands (Karen Bradley), for all the time she has taken over the past few weeks to discuss my concerns with me. I also wish to thank the Minister for Policing, Fire, Criminal Justice and Victims, who has made himself available to me, and the Home Secretary. As hon. Members will know, there is significant concern about the interaction between policing and mental health services, and I wish to turn my attention to that issue.
New clause 26 would place an obligation on chief constables to ensure that their police officers were properly trained in diversity and equality in relation to mental health issues, and specifically issues that relate to ethnic minorities. I have worked closely with Black Mental Health UK over the past five years, and it has raised concerns directly with the Home Office and Members for a number of years. I want to read out a paragraph from its briefing. It states:
“The joint Home Office and Department of Health review of sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 acknowledged that ‘in particular Black African Caribbean men—are disproportionately over-represented in S136 detentions compared to the general population’ and that ‘Black African Caribbean men in particular reported that the use of force was more likely to be used against them by the police.’”
These are legitimate and real concerns, they have been subject to academic research and they need to be addressed.
Nearly three years ago, the Home Secretary co-hosted a fantastic conference at the QEII Centre with Black Mental Health UK, and my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, Fire, Criminal Justice and Victims spoke at it. Great strides are being made, but we need to ensure that further progress happens in the months and years ahead. New clause 26 would therefore require chief police officers to make an annual report to the Home Secretary on what progress has been made in relation to diversity and equality training. I will not push it to a vote tonight, as I have had assurances from Ministers that the matter will be looked at seriously.
This issue goes to the heart of the concept of policing by consent. I do not think that anybody who has had any involvement in policing will be unaware of the friction that exists between policing and many members of the UK’s black communities. Does my hon. Friend agree that an explicit step in the direction he suggests will go a long way towards building bridges between UK policing and a very significant minority group in the UK?
I agree with my hon. Friend, which is why I am delighted that my concerns have received such close attention from Ministers and will continue to receive attention. I look forward to further updates. The Government are working very closely with Black Mental Health UK and its director Matilda MacAttram, and I hope that those conversations will continue.
I said that I would try to speak for only five minutes, but I might have to stray a little bit over that, Madam Deputy Speaker.
New clause 29 relates to access to legal advice before someone is detained under the Mental Health Act 1983. I know that the Opposition have tabled new clause 24, on advocacy, but mine is a probing new clause. The removal of someone’s liberty should never happen lightly. Again, there is great concern among the African-Caribbean community and Black Mental Health UK that a young black male is more likely than other people to have their liberty removed. New clause 29 is a genuine request to address a genuine concern, but I am not sure whether it is deliverable.
At the point of sectioning, the situation is almost always highly stressed. The needs of the individual who is ill should be central to that sectioning. There is very real concern about this situation. I am interested in the Opposition’s new clause 24 in relation to advocacy. Advocacy is often talked about but has not been delivered in the way that it should be. Again, my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench are aware of that issue.
New clauses 42 and 43 relate to the deployment of police officers on wards and the use of Tasers. I am well aware that the right hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) will be speaking to new clause 40 on Tasers. I cannot be absolutist in my approach. I know that Black Mental Health UK never wants to see police officers used on mental health wards, and I share that view, but there will always be occasions where that possibility remains. When police officers are deployed to mental health wards, there should be an almost immediate notification to the police and crime commissioner and the Independent Police Complaints Commission that that deployment has taken place. I know that Home Office Ministers are working closely with the Department of Health on collating better statistics about the use of force and restraint, but we cannot wait 365 days before receiving that information. When police are deployed on mental health wards, that information needs to be made available immediately. Again I have received assurances from Ministers that work will be done on that matter. I know that time is short, but when the Minister sums up, I hope that he will again reassure me and Matilda MacAttram that that work will be done.
Finally, I turn to the use of Tasers on mental health wards. The right hon. Member for North Norfolk will argue, with great justification and passion, that Tasers should never be used on mental health wards. My heart is with him, but my head says that there may be some highly charged situations where a Taser needs to be used. Right now, we know that Tasers are being used, but we are not collating or collecting the information, and there is no way for the House to know what is going on, or for concerned individuals to find out what is going on. When a Taser is used—I hope that they will never be used—a report needs to be made within a week to the police and crime commissioner and the IPCC. I am not suggesting for a minute that any police officer will take the action of using a Taser lightly, but we must remember that we are talking about Tasers and force being used in safe hospital environments. Again, I have received assurances from Ministers in relation to the issue, and I hope that the Minister will refer to those assurances in responding to the debate.
Finally, I draw the Minister’s attention to a trial in Los Angeles, where Tasers are linked to body cameras by Bluetooth, so that the camera starts recording immediately when a Taser is drawn. It does not need to be manually started by the police officer. Perhaps the Home Office would like to look at that.
I apologise for having spoken for a little longer than I said I would, Madam Deputy Speaker.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker), who has raised so many important issues. He and the House have insufficient time to discuss all these issues, so I want to confine my remarks to just a couple of aspects of this group of amendments, the first of which relates to the Government’s decision to accept the recommendations of the Home Affairs Committee to place an initial 28-day limit on pre-charge bail.
I am sorry that the Minister for Policing, Fire, Criminal Justice and Victims has left the Chamber, because I wanted to pay tribute to him for being one of the very few Ministers we have encountered who writes back to the Committee and says that the Government will adopt some of our recommendations. He did so in respect of a 28-day limit on pre-charge bail, an issue that we have raised on a number of occasions. Most recently, in our report on police bail, we considered the case of Mr Paul Gambaccini and the need to prevent police bail from going on and on without limit. The limit is very welcome and very important.
I want to concentrate next on new clause 22, which relates to the surrender of travel documentation. I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) will speak to that new clause when he makes his winding-up speech, but I support it very strongly. It will go a long way towards addressing in the law our concern about terrorist suspects who can leave the country because they have not given up their passports or even been asked for them.
In the Home Affairs Committee’s review of counter-terrorism, we took interesting evidence from the sister of Siddhartha Dhar. Mr Dhar fled the United Kingdom while on police bail and despite being asked politely by the police to send in his passport. In fact, he never received the polite letter that the Metropolitan police sent to him asking him to hand in his passport, because he left the country when he was released from custody. He was already in Syria when that letter was sent.
What the Government propose in the Bill is welcome, but new clause 22 goes a little further. I very much hope that the Government will change their mind and accept it, because it is in keeping with the evidence given to us by the head of counter-terrorism, Mark Rowley, who said that when someone surrenders a passport immediately, the police and the security services know where that passport is and that, if someone breaches that requirement —in other words, if they do not hand over their passport—they should be in breach of their bail conditions.
I understand that, in my absence, the right hon. Gentleman might have said something nice about me, so it was probably a good job that I was not here.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the police have the power now to go with an individual when granting bail and physically take their passport or travel document before they release them?
They do indeed, but they did not do so in the case that I mentioned, which is the problem. We do not know how many other such cases there have been. We know about that case because it came into the public domain, and Mr Dhar ended up on a YouTube video telling us what he was doing. There might be other cases, but people are not very open about admitting mistakes. I accept that the power the Minister mentions may have been used before, but enshrining it in legislation as proposed in new clause 22 would be helpful.
My final point relates to new clause 64, tabled by the shadow Home Secretary, on the importance of Leveson 2. I was one of the Chairs of Select Committees who met the Prime Minister, along with the then Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, who is now the Secretary of State, and Sir Alan Beith—now Lord Beith —when he chaired the Justice Committee. We were called to see the Prime Minister when he was about to announce the establishment of Leveson 1. He made very good arguments, which we accepted, that we should have two inquiries rather than one, and he promised that we would have a second inquiry once Leveson 1 had been completed.
Before Leveson 1 started, I went to see Lord Justice Leveson, who said that he did not think he would be around in the same role for Leveson 2, so if there is to be a Leveson 2 inquiry, it will be without Leveson, as he is doing other things that will take a number of years. When the Home Secretary gave evidence to our Committee on 16 December, she said that there were two cases outstanding and that she did not think Leveson 2 could start until those two cases were dealt with. Although I accept that, we have now found out that there are still outstanding matters that need to be considered. I do not know whether those are the two cases to which the Home Secretary referred. Perhaps the Minister who winds up the debate can tell us the number.
That situation could go on forever. There is no reason why we should not have a second Leveson inquiry, or Leveson 2 without Leveson, as I said. We could start the process of appointing a chairman and initiating the mechanics, perhaps with a panel, as was the case with Leveson 1, and when the legal proceedings have concluded, the Home Secretary or the Prime Minister could come to the House and say, “We will now start the second inquiry”. Why wait for all those proceedings to be concluded before starting that process?
That would give comfort not just to those who fought so hard in the Hillsborough case, but to other members of the public, some of whom have had helicopters flying over their houses when they happened to be abroad because of the relationship between the police and the press—we only get to know about the high-profile cases. There is a very good reason why we should have the second inquiry, and I hope very much that that will be done.
In a highly unusual move, with the Scottish National party acting as the honest broker between the Government and the Opposition, the hon. Member for Dumfries and Galloway (Richard Arkless), who has left the Chamber, came up with a form of words that the shadow Home Secretary was prepared to accept. How wonderful! I do not know whether there will be discussions behind the Chair, but there is an opportunity to avert a vote if the Government say, “We are going to have it, but we are not going to have it yet.” That is all they need to say. Judging by what the shadow Home Secretary said, the Government will accept that, and we can proceed with Report and Third Reading without dividing the House on the important changes in policing law that the Government are proposing, many of which we accept—I certainly do—as being part and parcel of modernising our police force.
It is appropriate that I follow the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, as I am conscious of the fact that my predecessor as Chair of the Justice Committee was present when those assurances were given. I do not doubt the good intentions of the Minister and I am prepared to cut the Government slack over the matter, but there is an important point that the right hon. Gentleman has just made: it is not purely the high profile cases that are of concern to many professionals in the criminal justice system.
The shadow Home Secretary spoke movingly and passionately about the impact of Hillsborough and other such scandals, but of equal concern to lawyers such as me—I have had 25 years in the criminal courts—is the long-term day-to-day cosiness of relationships that, I am sorry to say, develop between police officers, not necessarily at the highest level but at an operational level, and reporters. Unless something is done to deal with that, there is a risk of miscarriages of justice. However these things are done, they do not come purely on the back of headline catching; there is a more insidious culture in some ways, which can be dealt with only through very firm management by the leadership of the police service, and if that is lacking it needs to be looked at appropriately.
I accept the concern about outstanding cases, but there is no doubt that this issue is potentially important. Any practitioner at the Bar will know of any number of occasions where the local press—this is not just about the nationals—has been aware, surprisingly, that a particular person was going to be arrested or that a particular search was going to be carried out. I am afraid that that cannot happen accidentally, so there is an issue here of general concern.
Let me turn briefly to new clause 23, to which I am a signatory. Again, I accept that the Minister wants to take the issue forward, but I agree with the sentiments expressed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir Edward Garnier). There is inevitably a reluctance among officials—I used to find that as a Minister—and senior officers to complicate regulations if they think that what they have got will do. I do not doubt that the advice the Minister has been given was given in good faith, but I say as a London MP who speaks to officers on the beat—on the frontline—in my constituency that their concerns about the inadequacy of the current provisions are genuine, and their experience perhaps does not mirror the advice the Minister may be getting from some of the top brass in the service. That advice may also not always mirror the concerns of my constituents, who go up to London to work and who are sometimes caught in these particularly unpleasant and intimidating demonstrations. My right hon. and learned Friend therefore makes an important point in his new clause.
Let me turn now to the main issue I wanted to raise, which I hinted at in my two interventions on the Minister: new clause 48 and the fire inspection regime. As I said to the Minister, who was generous in his responses to me, I welcome the change. In some ways, I wish I had been able to bring it in when I was the Minister responsible for the fire services, but the political and administrative climate was not there for it to be done, so I genuinely congratulate him on introducing it. He has more front-line experience of the fire services than I do, having actually done the job of putting fires out. My involvement with the fire services goes back to my involvement with the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) some—I hate to say it—30 years ago, when I was the leader of the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority, immediately after the abolition of the Greater London Council. I would like to say that I lied about my age to join up, but that was not quite the case. However, I have been involved with the fire services in one way or another ever since.
At the time, we had the old-school inspectorate. Then we moved to an arrangement with a chief adviser. I think we all hoped that peer review and the work of bodies such as the Chief Fire Officers Association and others would achieve improvement from within. However, the Minister is right to have concluded that that arrangement is not delivering all that we want, and the recent evidence in the Public Accounts Committee report sets that out very clearly. It is therefore right to move to the inspectorate, and I warmly support it.
The reason I have raised what seems an arcane and technical point is this. I have taken on board what the Minister has said, but I want to amplify why I think it is right. One problem with the old inspectorate was that it tended to be a bit of an old boys’ club for retired senior officers. Almost invariably, the inspectors and the assistant and acting inspectors came from a very narrow group of retired senior officers, and there was a bit of a revolving door. There were therefore real questions about the inspectorate being up to the minute in its knowledge and about the degree of independence that it would bring. An inspector can have to say pretty hard things to a chief officer and his management team, and that is not too easy if someone has come fairly recently from within the ranks of a fairly close-knit service.
That is why there should, where appropriate, be greater flexibility to bring in a contractor with expertise in the appropriate fields. That may not be for the whole of an inspection, but it could be for a specific part. The obvious example is in relation to financial matters, but this would also work in relation to things such as the assurance of operational resilience, because there is now expertise in the private sector, as well as in the public sector, that can appropriately be brought to bear.
In the new environment where we are encouraging greater collaboration between the blue-light services, might the fire inspectorate not also want to lean on senior members of the other uniformed blue-light services to add their expertise and to support the inspectorate as part of this multi-agency working?
My hon. Friend is also the former chair of a London fire and emergency planning authority, and he makes an important point. All of us who have taken an interest in fire services over the years favour greater collaboration between the blue-light services, and I know that that is where the Minister wants to go. We all want a formula that will achieve that, but my concern is that the current wording of the Bill might make that harder, although I have absolutely no doubt that that is not the intention of Ministers. The reason I raise this concern is that, as it reads, proposed new subsection (A5), which will be placed in section 28 of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004, does not seem to cover the use of contractors.
I will look very carefully at this issue during the Bill’s passage from this House, should it get a Third Reading this evening, to the Lords. If I need to clarify the position, I will do so by means of a Government amendment in the Lords.
I am immensely grateful to the Minister for that. That shortens greatly what I have to say. To fortify my right hon. Friend in what he says, let me say that the Public Accounts Committee found evidence that the Chief Fire Officers Association and the Local Government Association did not regard the peer review process as an adequate self-improvement tool. If he is happy to continue to talk to those with an interest in the sector and to deal with what might be an unintended lacuna, I and many others who wish him well in this endeavour, and who wish the fire and rescue services well, will be very happy to work with him to achieve that objective.
New clause 12, which stands in my name, would amend section 1 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. It would scrap the distressing rules that provide that dementia sufferers who die in care homes while subject to a deprivation of liberty safeguard are classed as being in state detention.
I first took this issue up after being contacted by families who told me of their distress at having to wait to bury their loved ones because inquests are required into the deaths of dementia sufferers who are subject to a DoLS, irrespective of the circumstances of their death.
Councils were inundated with DoLS applications from care homes after a Supreme Court ruling in 2014, which effectively lowered the threshold for what constitutes deprivation of liberty in care. Guidance issued by the Chief Coroner to local coroners following the Supreme Court judgment said that all persons who died subject to a DoLS order must be the subject of a coroner’s investigation, whether or not their death was from natural causes, because such persons are deemed for the purposes of the 2009 Act to be in state detention.
The new clause was suggested by the Chief Coroner himself in response to, and in recognition of, the distress caused to relatives. The Chief Coroner indicated to the Law Commission and the Government that a simple amendment to the 2009 Act might solve the problem of unnecessary cases being reported to the coroner, at least in the short term. The amendment proposed by the Chief Coroner said:
“For the purposes of this Act, a person who dies while subject to an authorisation granted under Schedule A1 to the Mental Capacity Act 2005 depriving that person of his or her liberty and detaining him or her in a hospital or care home does not die while in custody or otherwise in state detention.”
Constituents have contacted me, including one woman who wrote after her mother died in a nursing home. She told me:
“My mum suffered from dementia and other health problems and we sat with her for four days and nights before she passed away. Within one hour of her death, uniformed police arrived and we were asked to leave the room.”
I have had a very similar case of a constituent whose mother was in a nursing home and died. Almost immediately, the police came, and for 10 days had hold of her body. Does that not cause great distress to people at a time of mourning, and is it not why we really need to tighten up the rules regarding deprivation of liberty?
My hon. Friend is right. Many people across the country have experienced that kind of unnecessary distress and trauma.
Since the tabling of this amendment on 25 May, the Law Commission issued its interim statement, “Mental Capacity and Deprivation of Liberty”, which said that there is a compelling case for replacing DoLS and that the Coroners and Justice Act should be amended to remove the proposed new scheme from the definition of “state detention”. I quote:
“The current law—which requires an inquest where a person dies while under a DoLS even if the cause of their death was entirely natural—was seen to be causing unnecessary work for corners and upset to families. We received reports, for example, of police arriving at the deceased’s deathbed; one consultee reported their impression of a ‘crime scene’; another referred to issues over whether the deceased’s body should be taken to the official mortuary rather than by the family’s preferred funeral director.”
The Law Commission has therefore recommended that the Coroners and Justice Act be amended when the new system is introduced. I am proposing that we take the opportunity to amend it now, through this Bill. The Law Commission’s report is an interim one, so we will have to wait for the final report, and then for legislation to be drafted and enacted. That could take up to two years, during which many more families will continue to suffer distress.
We talk a lot about supporting carers. I know from my own personal experience how distressing it can be to watch a loved relative struggle to cope with dementia and their families struggle to support them. It is heartless then to put relatives who have cared to the limits of their emotional capacity through this further trauma at the time of the death of their loved one.
I am not going to press the amendment, but I hope that the Minister has heard what I have said and that he will talk to his colleagues in the Department of Health.