Vehicles (Crime) Bill

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Mr. Bercow: I listened closely to the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford and I know that he has a long-standing interest in the subject. Notwithstanding that, I feel that he errs on the side of pessimism and I am not sure that his pessimism as to the prospects of success via this clause is justified. Frankly, he was very defeatist about it. I note what said about the pilot scheme and I accept that all eyes should be focused upon that and that one can learn from it. I do not intend to dilate further on the arguments, although we might do so on Report.

My only criticism of what the Minister has offered is that the Bill as it stands, even without the new clause, provides for exchanges of information and therefore it contains the scope for multi-agency approaches. Although the onus and responsibility in the new clause is on local authorities, it is not to be supposed that local authorities would be acting entirely without access to information and assistance from other authorities. I am not sure that it is entirely the stand-alone offering that the Minister is suggesting.

Mr. Clarke: My point is that we wish to learn from the Medway experience before deciding on what is exactly the right legislative form of those multi-agency relationships.

Mr. Bercow: I am interested in what the Minister says, as it follows from his argument that a new piece of legislation would be required to give effect either to the specific form of the pilot scheme or to a variant thereof. We are saying is that our proposal could be effective and could be tacked on to the Bill. It seems there is a difference between us there, but I shall not labour the point, as we have had a good rehearsal of the arguments on this and a great many other matters today.

I am happy to withdraw my new clause, which is the last new clause and matter of substantive debate. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause by leave, withdrawn.

6 pm

Mr. Clarke: On a point of order, Mr. O'Brien. With your permission, I should like to thank you and your fellow Chairmen for the way in which you have conducted our business, which has been admirably even-handed throughout. It was occasionally peppery, but that was no doubt deserved because of the various diversions from order, particularly by the Opposition.

I thank the Clerks for the work that they have done to ensure that we consider everything in good order, as we need to. As always, the Hansard staff enabled us to read what we said—often at great length—very rapidly afterwards. I thank the Badge Messengers for their advice, which kept us going.

I should very much like to thank my Bill team. On behalf of the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill), I thank his colleagues for the work that they did to ensure that we considered the Bill in good order. As always, I thank the Whips on both sides of the Committee for their admirable understanding and all members of the Committee for the way in which business has been conducted.

We have listened to the debates carefully and will table amendments later in the light of amendments that have been moved by Members on both sides of the Committee. I hope that we can go forward in that spirit.

Mr. Bercow: Further to that point of order, Mr. O'Brien. I echo the tributes that the Minister has rightly and graciously paid to you and your fellow Chairmen, and to the Clerks, who have done a truly outstanding job in your support and ours. I also pay tribute to the Hansard writers, the Badge Messengers and, indeed, to all members of the Committee. In the past, I served on three or four Bill Committees from the Back Benches, and this has been as good-natured a Committee as I have had the privilege to witness.

The Minister's temper varied a little during the two weeks of our considerations, but he has on the whole been pretty amicable and has given fair wind to the various points that my hon. Friends and I made. It is right to place it on the record that his standing—Mr. John Kampfner described him as a prospective leader of the Labour party—has not been damaged or compromised by the Committee's deliberations. Among the other runners and riders, the Minister is still in quite a strong position.

I thank and pay tribute to the Under-Secretary for his robust contributions, courtesy and good humour, which were much appreciated. I also thank the Whips on both sides of the Committee, whose presence has been worth while. They are usually silent, but not invariably so, and we acknowledge that they have a role to play.

I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Simpson), for Vale of York and for Lichfield for their contributions and for stoically putting up with my first attempt at leadership from the Front Bench in a Standing Committee.

I should like to compliment all members of the Committee who actively contributed. There were occasionally peppery exchanges between Conservatives and Liberal Democrat Members, but they have been active in the Committee. On the whole, there has been a good interchange of arguments both among hon. Members on the Opposition Benches and between Opposition and Government Members.

I note what the Minister has said about prospective new amendments and possibly new clauses at a later stage. We will consider them with interest and decide how to debate them accordingly. We reiterate that the central purpose of the Bill is valid; the argument is about how to make it effective. I hope that the Committee has profited from our consideration of the Bill, which I very much enjoyed.

Mr. Chidgey: Further to that point of order, Mr. O'Brien. I echo the sentiments expressed by the Minister and the hon. Member for Buckingham in thanking all those who took part in the proceedings, especially the officials, your good self, Mr. O'Brien, and your co-Chairman, who steered the Committee with deftness, clarity and purpose. You always made sure that we kept more or less to the straight and narrow.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Russell) who so robustly stood in for me and advanced the Liberal Democrats' arguments during my enforced absence last week in a frozen part of northern Europe. I was sad to have missed my hon. Friend's contribution, although the record makes delightful reading.

I have been Front Bench spokesman for the Liberal Democrats in Committee in four or five Bills in this Parliament and this Committee has been the most constructive on which I have been privileged to serve. The debate was levelled at the issues in the Bill and rarely strayed into point-scoring or petty competition. That was most refreshing; I was glad the Minister said that Members' efforts would be reflected in the Bill's modification and amendment.

There are differences between the Government and Opposition parties on some issues in the Bill; the Minister said that he would table amendments and I therefore make a final plea that he does so quickly so that we have time to consider them before the Bill is considered on Report next Tuesday; that is only two parliamentary days hence, as the House is not sitting on Friday.

I look forward to seeing the Bill in its reshaped, modified and improved form and to engaging in debate with the Government and the other Opposition parties at a later stage. The Bill will be an important and welcome addition to the statute book.

The Chairman: On behalf of my co-Chairman and myself, I thank those on the platform and others who have worked to make the Committee a success; I also thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks.

I thank all members of the Committee for their help and co-operation; the debates make interesting reading. I take great pleasure in listening to the arguments and in keeping Members in check, which is the job of the Chairman. On behalf of my co-Chairman and others, I thank hon. Members for their kind remarks and for their co-operation and help throughout the proceedings.

Bill to be reported, without amendment.

Committee rose at eight minutes past Six o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
O'Brien, Mr. Bill (Chairman)
Bercow, Mr.
Chidgey, Mr.
Clarke, Mr. Charles
Fabricant, Mr.
Gilroy, Mrs.
Hill, Mr.
Jones, Helen
Kidney, Mr.
McIntosh, Miss
Miller, Mr.
Pope, Mr.
Russell, Mr. Bob
Shaw, Mr.
Thomas, Mr. Gareth R.

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Prepared 23 January 2001