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Traveller Law Reform

Mr. David Atkinson accordingly presented a Bill to reform the law in England and Wales as it applies to gypsies and travellers: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 19 July, and to be printed [Bill 171].


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 107 (Welsh Grand Committee (matters relating exclusively to Wales)),

Question agreed to.

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Police Reform Bill [Lords] (Programme) (No. 3)

4.56 pm

The Minister for Policing, Crime Reduction and Community Safety (Mr. John Denham): I beg to move,

Briefly, there was discussion yesterday on allowing flexibility because of today's statement. The motion will achieve that.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): I rise, as I did yesterday, to speak to the timetable motion.

This is the third programme motion relating to the Bill. The previous one was discussed yesterday, when I set out my objections to timetable motions, both in general and in particular. Therefore, I do not intend to repeat my arguments at any great length. However, it would not be right to give the Government any credit for this timetable motion, notwithstanding the fact that it moves one of the knives from 6 to 7 o'clock.

The reason why it would not be right to give the Government any credit is as follows. If there were no timetable motion in the first place, we would not have needed the supplementary second and third motions. Owing to the intolerable habit of imposing timetable motions, the Government are obliged to come back and waste yet more time with a further such motion.

The first decision was wrong in principle and unnecessary in practice for the reasons that I set out yesterday. Furthermore, it showed incompetence on the Government's part, because they must have known full well yesterday, when we debated the No. 2 timetable motion, that the Home Secretary would make a statement today. I was in government for many years and I have been a Member of the House for even longer, so I know perfectly well that the Government knew yesterday that the Home Secretary would make a lengthy statement today. Why on earth did yesterday's timetable motion not make proper provision, if that be what this is, for today's debate? So, we are dealing with incompetence as well as wrongness in principle.

In any case, why should we assume that the time permitted under the No. 3 timetable motion is sufficient? On any view of the matter, the issues that we are debating are important, but we are being given just two hours in which to discuss significant constitutional measures involving a raft of amendments. Who has decided that such time is sufficient? Not us. Oh no, the Government have decided.

What we have here is the Government coming to the House to tell us how long we, the legislature, should spend scrutinising their activities. There is absolutely no point saying that hon. Members make those decisions, because having regard to the strength of the party whip in this place, we know full well that the Executive made this decision. So, we have the profoundly unattractive

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spectacle of an Executive telling the legislature how long it may spend on constitutional matters of some importance.

Mrs. Claire Curtis-Thomas (Crosby): Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman be kind enough to inform me whether he expressed any of his concerns to any member of the Standing Committee that considered the Bill?

Mr. Hogg: If the hon. Lady had heard my speech yesterday, she would appreciate that I was extremely concerned not just about the terms of the Bill but about the underlying legislation to which it refers. If she was not here yesterday, she would do well to read Hansard. If she had already done so, she would not have made an intervention that she thought would entertain the House.

The plain truth is that this is yet another case of an oppressive and incompetent Government coming here, demanding a bit of credit, and deserving none—and we should give them none.

5 pm

Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North): Your predecessor in the Chair yesterday, Mr. Deputy Speaker, kindly directed me to Hansard for the purposes of calculating the amount of time the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) has wasted in complaining about programme motions. A very rough calculation suggested that it was 12 hours 56 minutes, but I think I should now amend that to 13 hours.

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I congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He complains about the House's time being wasted, but he is the main culprit. I wish he would be quiet and let Members get on with the Bill.

5.2 pm

Norman Baker (Lewes): I thank the Minister for responding positively to suggestions made yesterday by both Conservative and Liberal Democrat Front Benchers. He moved the programme motion in just one sentence, but he has been accused of wasting yet more time, whereas the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) took three or four minutes to make a point he had already made on a number of occasions.

5.3 pm

Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal): I would have had no intention of bothering the House but for the remarks of the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen).

No job done by a Member of Parliament is more important than that of reminding the Executive that the House is supposed to scrutinise it. I understand that the hon. Gentleman has written a book—I have started reading it, but have not got very far—about how we need a House of Commons and a system more redolent of the needs of the people. He might start by asking the House to do its proper job, and provide enough time for us to talk about the issues that really matter. He should be ashamed of himself for attacking my right hon. and learned Friend for performing a public good and a public service.

Question put and agreed to.

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10 Jul 2002 : Column 911

Orders of the Day

Police Reform Bill [Lords]

[2nd allotted day]

As amended in the Committee, further considered.

New Clause 1

Improvement action plans

'After section 41 of the 1996 Act there shall be inserted—
"41A Improvement Action Plans
(1) This section applies where the Secretary of State, as a consequence of a report under section 54, is satisfied in relation to any police force maintained for any police area—
(a) that the whole or any part of the force is, whether generally or in particular respects, not efficient or not effective; or
(b) that the whole or part of the force will cease to be efficient or effective, whether generally or in particular respects, unless remedial measures are taken.
(2) The Secretary of State shall send a copy of the report prepared under section 54 to the police authority which maintains the force in question, together with his reasons for considering that the conditions of subsection (1) are satisfied.
(3) The police authority on receipt of the report, shall require the chief officer to prepare a plan ('an Improvement Action Plan') for taking remedial measures in relation to anything contained in the report.
(4) An Improvement Action Plan shall not relate to any matters other than those in relation to which functions fall to be discharged by the chief officer of the force in question.
(5) Any plan produced under subsection (3) shall include—
(a) provision for setting targets for addressing the issues raised in the report under section 54;
(b) provision for setting time limits in achieving those targets;
(c) provision for the making of progress reports to the police authority maintaining the force in question; and
(d) provision for the duration of the plan.
(6) The chief officer shall provide a copy of the plan to the police authority within twelve weeks of the issuing of the requirement by the authority under subsection (3).
(7) Within twelve weeks of the end of the duration of the plan the chief officer shall report to the police authority who shall provide a copy of the report to the Secretary of State.
(8) Any report under subsection (7) shall include—
(a) an assessment of the performance of the force, in whole or in part as appropriate, against the targets set in the plan; and
(b) an assessment of the impact of the plan on the efficiency or effectiveness of the force.".'.—[Mr. Letwin.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

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