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Mr. Rowe: Those figures are notional indeed. Surely it would not be beyond the wit of man to devise a system whereby voluntary organisations would be able to claim money back only if a volunteer were shown to be in the category for which checks were required.

Mr. Kirkhope: Yes, but I was about to say that there is also the question of practicality--the very point that has just been raised. If we had accepted the amendments passed in another place, not only would provision have had to be made for the costs of the checks themselves, it would also have been necessary to put in place complex administrative arrangements to filter out particular types of check.

There would have to be a list of all organisations that might be likely to appoint volunteers, and each application would need to be screened to ensure that

19 Mar 1997 : Column 921

the statement waiving the fee was from a bona fide voluntary organisation. The type of post being applied for would also require close scrutiny--my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) has already suggested that we might differentiate between various posts--so that the agency could satisfy itself that the applicant would not be receiving any remuneration other than expenses.

Those procedures would be time consuming and require the agency to take on additional staff. That would all add to the costs to be met either from the public purse or by increasing considerably the charges levied on other users of the Criminal Records Agency.

That brings me to equity. As the agency was envisaged as being self-financing, and as there are no funds in existing budgets for free checks, the money to pay for them could be found only by diverting funds from elsewhere or by charging non-volunteer applicants more for their checks. We do not think that that would be fair, especially as if we redistributed the costs in that way it is likely that the charges incurred by other users could double.

Many of those eligible for the more detailed and costly checks are in relatively low-paid jobs associated with the caring professions, while many of those who would require criminal conviction certificates could be the unemployed who were seeking work. Hon. Members have already said that such categories of people may be deterred from volunteering, but what about those seeking certificates for the purposes of finding work?

It cannot be right to expect people on low incomes to subsidise all volunteers, as many of the volunteers may be much better off than they are. If fees were waived for volunteers, the Government would come under considerable pressure to waive the fees for low-income groups and the unemployed, increasing further the amount that would have to be taken from public funds.

The fairest way of meeting the costs therefore continues to be to spread them across all those using the agency. Such an approach means that the fees charged can be kept as low as possible. As I am sure the House is aware, the cost envisaged for a criminal conviction certificate or criminal record certificate is about £5 or £6.

Sir Donald Thompson (Calder Valley): When all that is finished, who will own the licence, the agency or the individual?

Mr. Kirkhope: The certificate to be applied for, certainly at the basic level--the CCC--will belong to the individual, who can therefore prove his status to those who might need to know it.

As I have said, the costs are low--£5 or £6 for a basic certificate, and for an enhanced certificate between £8 and £10. In our view, that should not prove burdensome for most volunteers, and it should not discourage them from continuing to make their valuable contribution to the community through their voluntary work.

We recognise, however, as the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth has been fair enough to say, that there is a need for flexibility. We do not want to

19 Mar 1997 : Column 922

rule out the possibility of providing free checks for deserving groups at some point in the future. That is why we tabled an amendment in Committee to provide a power to allow certain groups, such as volunteers, to be exempted from paying fees for criminal record checks.

The measures in part V put in place a long-awaited improved system of access to criminal record checks that will undoubtedly offer better protection to vulnerable groups such as children, and will provide reassurance to those who appoint people to positions of trust. Voluntary organisations working with children and other vulnerable people have been among those who have most particularly sought access to checks. It was in direct response to them that we included the provisions in the Bill, and it would be a great pity if speedy implementation of the necessary measures were delayed because money is not available to cover the costs of free checks for volunteers.

The amendment would require the regulations in which the fees and forms for criminal record certificates are prescribed to be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure rather than the negative procedure, as is provided in the Bill.

As with all regulations that deal with fees or the form of applications, it is necessary to provide for routine changes that are always necessary--to take account of inflation, for example. It is not possible to justify the use of the affirmative procedure for that purpose. We would be setting an undesirable precedent if regulations specifying the modest sums of money involved in the fees, or the form applications must take, had to occupy the time of both Houses every time a small adjustment was needed. That process is not necessary, because we are already making the regulations subject to the negative resolution procedure, thus providing the opportunity for scrutiny by Parliament.

I believe that the present provisions are sufficient to meet the concerns of right hon. and hon. Members, and I urge that the amendment be withdrawn.

Mr. Beith: The Minister has enumerated many reasons why he believes the Government will not assist charities with the costs of the checks that they will have to carry out. The existence of a power in the Bill to do so appears to be no more than a nominal concession. Because of the concern among charities and the sums of money involved, I ask hon. Members to ensure that the House must debate the scale of charges when it is introduced. At that point we shall be able to bring to bear again the concerns of the charities. We should give the next Parliament the opportunity to ensure that charities are not faced with a cost that they cannot bear, and which could destroy the enormously valuable work that they do. I shall therefore press the amendment to a Division.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 38, Noes 267.

Division No. 98
[6.6 pm


AYES


Alton, David
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Beggs, Roy
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Carlile, Alex (Montgomery)
Davies, Chris (Littleborough)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Forsythe, Clifford (S Antrim)
Foster, Don (Bath)
Godman, Dr Norman A
Harvey, Nick
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Kirkwood, Archy
Llwyd, Elfyn
McCrea, Rev William
McGrady, Eddie
Mackinlay, Andrew
Maclennan, Robert
McNamara, Kevin
Mallon, Seamus
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)
Molyneaux, Rt Hon Sir James
Nicholson, Miss Emma (W Devon)
Paisley, Rev Ian
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Skinner, Dennis
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangf'd)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thurnham, Peter
Tyler, Paul
Walker, A Cecil (Belfast N)
Wallace, James
Wigley, Dafydd

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mrs. Diana Maddock and
Ms Liz Lynne.


NOES


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan
Alexander, Richard
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)
Allason, Rupert (Torbay)
Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, James
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Ashby, David
Atkins, Rt Hon Robert
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Banks, Matthew (Southport)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Bates, Michael
Bellingham, Henry
Bendall, Vivian
Biffen, Rt Hon John
Body, Sir Richard
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Booth, Hartley
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Bowis, John
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes
Brandreth, Gyles
Brazier, Julian
Bright, Sir Graham
Brown, Michael (Brigg Cl'thorpes)
Browning, Mrs Angela
Budgen, Nicholas
Burns, Simon
Burt, Alistair
Butcher, John
Butler, Peter
Butterfill, John
Carlisle, John (Luton N)
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Linc'n)
Carrington, Matthew
Carttiss, Michael
Cash, William
Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Clappison, James
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochf'd)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
(Rushcliffe)
Coe, Sebastian
Colvin, Michael
Congdon, David
Conway, Derek
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Couchman, James
Cran, James
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davies, Quentin (Stamf'd)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Boothferry)
Day, Stephen
Deva, Nirj Joseph
Douglas-Hamilton,
Rt Hon Lord James
Dover, Den
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, Iain
Dunn, Bob
Durant, Sir Anthony
Dykes, Hugh
Eggar, Rt Hon Tim
Elletson, Harold
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'ld)
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Evans, Nigel (Ribble V)
Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Evennett, David
Faber, David
Fabricant, Michael
Fenner, Dame Peggy
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Fishburn, Dudley
Forman, Nigel
Forsyth, Rt Hon Michael (Stirling)
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Fox, Rt Hon Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
French, Douglas
Fry, Sir Peter
Gale, Roger
Gallie, Phil
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Garnier, Edward
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gorst, Sir John
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Grylls, Sir Michael
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Hampson, Dr Keith
Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy
Hannam, Sir John
Hargreaves, Andrew
Harris, David
Haselhurst, Sir Alan
Hawkins, Nick
Hawksley, Warren
Hayes, Jerry
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Hendry, Charles
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence
Hill, Sir James (Southampton Test)
Horam, John
Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Hunter, Andrew
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jenkin, Bernard (Colchester N)
Jessel, Toby
Johnson Smith,
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Jones, Robert B (W Herts)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom
Kirkhope, Timothy
Knight, Rt Hon Greg (Derby N)
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Knox, Sir David
Kynoch, George
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Legg, Barry
Leigh, Edward
Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark
Lester, Sir Jim (Broxtowe)
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Lord, Michael
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
MacKay, Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Madel, Sir David
Maitland, Lady Olga
Malone, Gerald
Mans, Keith
Marland, Paul
Marlow, Tony
Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Mates, Michael
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Merchant, Piers
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants)
Moate, Sir Roger
Monro, Rt Hon Sir Hector
Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Moss, Malcolm
Nelson, Anthony
Neubert, Sir Michael
Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Norris, Steve
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Oppenheim, Phillip
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Patnick, Sir Irvine
Patten, Rt Hon John
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Pawsey, James
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Pickles, Eric
Porter, David
Powell, William (Corby)
Rathbone, Tim
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Richards, Rod
Riddick, Graham
Robathan, Andrew
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Robertson, Raymond S (Ab'd'n S)
Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Roe, Mrs Marion
Rowe, Andrew
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Sackville, Tom
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy
Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Shaw, David (Dover)
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Shepherd, Sir Colin (Heref'd)
Shersby, Sir Michael
Sims, Sir Roger
Skeet, Sir Trevor
Smith, Tim (Beaconsf'ld)
Speed, Sir Keith
Spencer, Sir Derek
Spicer, Sir Jim (W Dorset)
Spicer, Sir Michael (S Worcs)
Spink, Dr Robert
Spring, Richard
Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Stephen, Michael
Stern, Michael
Stewart, Allan
Streeter, Gary
Sumberg, David
Sweeney, Walter
Sykes, John
Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomason, Roy
Thompson, Sir Donald (Calder V)
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Townend, John (Bridlington)
Townsend, Sir Cyril (Bexl'yh'th)
Tracey, Richard
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Trotter, Neville
Twinn, Dr Ian
Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Walden, George
Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Waller, Gary
Watts, John
Wells, Bowen
Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Wilshire, David
Wolfson, Mark
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. Timothy Wood and
Mr. Roger Knapman.

Question accordingly negatived.

19 Mar 1997 : Column 925

19 Mar 1997 : Column 926

Clause 129

Change of name or description of certain police areas

6.18 pm

Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe): I beg to move, a manuscript amendment: in page 56, leave out lines 27 and 28.

I would like to express my gratitude to the Speaker for selecting the amendment which--as a manuscript amendment--is unusual at this stage. But when I explain the circumstances in which I asked the Speaker to accept the amendment, hon. Members will understand why I thought it important to give the House an opportunity to debate an issue that will affect the people in my constituency--and every constituency covered by Humberside police--because of the impact of a change that took place yesterday in Committee.

In some ways, I am sorry to speak against the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown), who moved that amendment in Committee. On many occasions, he, my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) and I have worked together to represent the interests of north and north-east Lincolnshire, but on this occasion I cannot support him, and I shall explain why.

Hon. Members from all parties should support my amendment, which would delete the amendment agreed to in Committee yesterday to change the name of Humberside police to Humber police. Hon. Members might ask themselves what is so important about changing the name and that is a good question. Humber police is not a great name, is it? We do not call the Metropolitan police the Thames police, or the Merseyside police, the Mersey police. The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes sounds as if he wants the police to concentrate on police boats going up and down the river Humber checking shipping. The name is not sensible.


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