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2 Apr 2003 : Column 950—continued

Mr. Bercow: A most untypical case.

Hilary Benn: Oh, I do not know about that, although needle and blue cotton thread may not be in all hon. Members' bags.

If all the property were put into a big, strong plastic container, which was sealed and signed by the defendant and the custody sergeant, that would be a much more

2 Apr 2003 : Column 951

sensible way to hold the property, rather than listing it at great length. The current law would not permit that to happen, which is why we have included clause 6, because that is exactly what it will allow. The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome said what a jolly good idea and asked why the Government did not go down that road, but clause 6 does go down that road by making possible the use of a plastic bag, which is not currently the case.

The hon. Gentleman also made an important point about certain items, such as money and other valuables, and it is certainly our intention that those should continue to be recorded. Indeed, we will refer to that issue in the guidance on dealing with detained persons' property that we will provide to the police, assuming that the clause forms part of the final Act, as I hope that it will.

Denzil Davies (Llanelli): As I understand it, the Government are replacing a legislative provision with what is called guidance. What is the status, if any, of this guidance? Is it to be a piece of delegated legislation? If it is breached, what is the sanction? If there is no sanction, what is the point of the guidance?

2.30 pm

Hilary Benn: The purpose of the guidance is to assist the police in giving effect to the change that they have asked for for the reasons that I have advanced. As I have said, in their view it is not necessary in all cases to list every item that people have in their possession when they are arrested. The guidance would go to the police. It would be expected that the police would follow that guidance—it would not have the same force as PACE—in operating the policy and in exercising the discretion available to them when deciding in precisely what form the property should be recorded.

Denzil Davies: My hon. Friend has been helpful. He says that the guidance would indicate what procedures should be followed, but what if the police do not follow the procedures? What then is the sanction?

Hilary Benn : In the circumstances to which my right hon. Friend alludes, it would depend on precisely which way the police had not followed the procedures. I was about to say that I undertake to reflect upon that. The issue relates to the point that the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) raised, where there are circumstances in which an individual is anxious that it should be recorded that he or she had in their possession certain items at the time when they were arrested.

Two arguments have been advanced about why difficulties might be created from an evidential point of view, which is the point on which the hon. Member for Beaconsfield focused when indicating that he was unhappy about the proposed provision. I undertake to reflect on the situation where an individual is especially anxious that it should be recorded that he or she had something on them. It seems that that could appropriately be covered in the guidance.

I shall complete the point about evidential value. PACE already allows for the investigating officers—obviously not the custody sergeant, who is undertaking a clerical recording task—to examine the person's belongings if they think that they are pertinent to the investigation, and it will continue to do so.

2 Apr 2003 : Column 952

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Redcar suggested that perhaps the bag could be left on one side, for the full list of property to be written out at a later date, but I envisage a practical difficulty with that. Under the current arrangements, the average length of time that people are detained is about five hours. What will happen if the person is to be released and his or her property has not been recorded in detail because the police have had to devote time and effort to other priorities? That would be a difficulty in operating such a policy.

Mr. Grieve: I take the Minister's point that it would always be possible for the investigating officer to go back, as it were, to have a look later. However, there are two points. First, if the person has been released following charge and the property was not retained, it would be impossible to make the record. The property would have disappeared. If it had been fully recorded, it might still be possible to establish what was on the defendant even though the property itself had gone.

Secondly, in reality in many cases, reading the custody record sheet has alerted me to the existence of property that had not been searched for by the investigating officers. If we are to say, whenever there is a prosecution, "Please look in the property bag as a matter of routine," that will add to the bureaucracy.

Hilary Benn: It is not the intention that the proposed change should add to the current bureaucracy. In the end, we are trying to strike a balance. The view has been put to the Government by the police and the PACE review that to ascertain and record every item in every case, as the law currently provides, is over-prescriptive for the reasons that the police have advanced. They would like to have greater flexibility, and we have discussed a number of ways to achieve that that would seem to be satisfactory. We are balancing that with the arguments that I hear frequently and forcefully put by Opposition Members about bureaucracy bearing upon police officers. Before us is a sensible and pragmatic anti-bureaucracy measure for which the police have asked.

Mr. Bercow: I am not a lawyer, and I say that as a matter of pride. However, I am interested in the rights of the suspect. As the Minister says, the arguments are finely balanced. I ask the hon. Gentleman further to explain what he appeared to be suggesting a few moments ago whereby the detained person might be required to specify something that he or she particularly wanted to be recorded. Given that the Minister said in an earlier debate that someone might be incapable either because of alcohol consumption or drug absorption from conducting himself properly, is that not a potential conflict? If the problem can be easily resolved or if I have misunderstood the Minister, no doubt he will explain.

Hilary Benn: In circumstances where someone is intoxicated, it will be difficult to get much sense out of them, whether that is in relation to the custody record or their possessions at the time of arrest. That would also apply to anything else that the police might wish to ask them about the circumstances that led to their arrest. In responding to the debate, I was trying to make the point that it should be possible—as I have said, I undertake to

2 Apr 2003 : Column 953

consider the matter—within the guidance to respond to the point made by the hon. Member for Beaconsfield, where an individual is anxious that it should be recorded that they had a particular item of property in their possession at that moment. He gave the example of a business card. The hon. Gentleman has made a fair point and I undertake to respond to it so as to make the new system operational.

The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) was gracious enough to acknowledge that we are balancing different arguments in trying to reach a sensible way forward. I hope that the House will accept that the reason for the clause is the proposed change, which will reduce bureaucracy, as the police request. That reduction in bureaucracy can be combined with other ways of securing property. A plastic bag with a seal and two signatures is an effective system to ensure that arguments such as "Did you have this in your possession?" or "Did the police add something to what were alleged to be your possessions?" would be overcome. At the same time, through the guidance, we would provide for continued recording of items such as money and other valuable items in the circumstances that I have outlined.

Lady Hermon: I was hoping that the Minister would address the serious matter raised by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) about the compatibility of clause 6 with human rights obligations under the first protocol of article 1. Is the hon. Gentleman convinced that the clause is compatible with our obligations regarding the peaceful enjoyment of people's possessions?

Hilary Benn: We think that the clause is compatible with those rights, and that is the view that we have expressed.

Mr. Heath: I find it a little difficult to understand how confiscation without record is compatible with the peaceful enjoyment of property. Even setting that aside, the Minister has failed to persuade elements of the House that a sensible way forward is to take away all the protections that are available under PACE, which, as the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) said, is law, and replace it with something that the Minister has not yet worked out, which will be put forward as guidance and expected to do the same job. I am not persuaded of that. I do not think that many Members will be persuaded of that. Therefore, I intend to press the matter to a Division.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 166, Noes 291.

Division No. 155
[2:39 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Allan, Richard
Amess, David
Arbuthnot, rh James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bacon, Richard
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, John (Billericay)
Beggs, Roy (E Antrim)
Beith, rh A. J.
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, rh Virginia (SW Surrey)
Brady, Graham
Brake, Tom (Carshalton)
Brazier, Julian
Breed, Colin
Browning, Mrs Angela
Burnett, John
Burns, Simon
Burnside, David
Burstow, Paul
Burt, Alistair
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Cameron, David
Carmichael, Alistair
Cash, William
Chidgey, David
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Collins, Tim
Cotter, Brian
Curry, rh David
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice & Howden)
Djanogly, Jonathan
Dodds, Nigel
Doughty, Sue
Duncan, Alan (Rutland)
Evans, Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster)
Flight, Howard
Flook, Adrian
Forth, rh Eric
Foster, Don (Bath)
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mark
Gale, Roger (N Thanet)
Garnier, Edward
George, Andrew (St. Ives)
Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Goodman, Paul
Gray, James (N Wilts)
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Hague, rh William
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Heald, Oliver
Heath, David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh David
Hendry, Charles
Hermon, Lady
Hoban, Mark (Fareham)
Hogg, rh Douglas
Horam, John (Orpington)
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, rh Michael
Johnson, Boris (Henley)
Kennedy, rh Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness)
Key, Robert (Salisbury)
Kirkwood, Sir Archy
Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lansley, Andrew
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, rh Oliver
Lidington, David
Lilley, rh Peter
Llwyd, Elfyn
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Maclean, rh David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Maples, John
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury & Atcham)
Mates, Michael
Maude, rh Francis
May, Mrs Theresa
Mercer, Patrick
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)
Moore, Michael
Moss, Malcolm
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Oaten, Mark (Winchester)
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Pickles, Eric
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Prisk, Mark (Hertford)
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, John
Redwood, rh John
Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Rendel, David
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham & M-Kent)
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian
Sayeed, Jonathan
Selous, Andrew
Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
Soames, Nicholas
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Spring, Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Desmond
Swire, Hugo (E Devon)
Syms, Robert
Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Taylor, Dr. Richard (Wyre F)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Thurso, John
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Trend, Michael
Viggers, Peter
Waterson, Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve (Northavon)
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Willis, Phil
Yeo, Tim (S Suffolk)
Young, rh Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Richard Younger-Ross and
Mrs. Annette L. Brooke


Adams, Irene (Paisley N)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Bailey, Adrian
Barnes, Harry
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, Hilary
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe (Bootle)
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blair, rh Tony
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Boateng, rh Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burnham, Andy
Byers, rh Stephen
Cairns, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
David, Wayne
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, rh John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Brian H.
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drew, David (Stroud)
Drown, Ms Julia
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Healey, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Hinchliffe, David
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
Hood, Jimmy (Clydesdale)
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan (Braintree)
Hutton, rh John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
Kaufman, rh Gerald
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Keen, Ann (Brentford)
Kelly, Ruth (Bolton W)
Kemp, Fraser
Khabra, Piara S.
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Liddell, rh Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Luke, Iain (Dundee E)
Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCartney, rh Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
MacDougall, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacShane, Denis
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, rh Peter
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Meacher, rh Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, David
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Morley, Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Diana
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Perham, Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Purnell, James
Quin, rh Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N & Bellshill)
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Sheridan, Jim
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh John
Squire, Rachel
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Robert N.
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Williams, Betty (Conwy)
Wilson, Brian
Winnick, David
Wood, Mike (Batley)
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Nick Ainger and
Dan Norris

Question accordingly negatived.

2 Apr 2003 : Column 957

Schedule 1

Amendments Related to Part 1

Hilary Benn: I beg to move amendment No. 104, in page 160, line 10, leave out paragraph 17.

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