Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill

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Clause 32

Disclosure of information by SOCA

Amendment made: No. 27, in clause 32, page 18, line 39, at end insert


    (c) a disclosure in contravention of section [Restrictions on further disclosure](2).'.


    (c) a disclosure in contravention of section [Restrictions on further disclosure](2).'.—[Caroline Flint.]

Clause 32, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 33 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 34

Disclosure of police information to SOCA

6.15 pm

Mr. Heath: I beg to move amendment No. 90, in clause 34, page 19, line 17, at end insert—

    '(1A) The chief officer of a special police force must keep SOCA informed of any information relating to crime that appears to him likely to be relevant to the exercise by SOCA of any of its functions.'.

There is a curious omission in the Bill. The clause imposes a duty, which seems a perfectly sensible provision. It is a new duty for a police constable, but it is none the worse for that. It is odd, however, that the same thing does not apply to what is termed ''a special police force''. To remind the Committee, this part of the Bill defines the following as special police forces: the Ministry of Defence police, the British Transport police, the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency.

I cannot for the life of me see why it should be right for the chief constable of Avon and Somerset to pass on information to SOCA while it should not be necessary for the chief constable of the British Transport police to do so if that seems relevant to SOCA's functions. I am sure that is just an omission, and I hope that my amendment is helpful in drawing attention to it.

Caroline Flint: I am happy to accept the amendment in principle. However, I cannot advise the Committee to accept it as drafted because one of the special police forces defined in clause 3—the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency—is headed by a director rather than a chief officer. If the hon. Gentleman agrees to withdraw the amendment, I shall undertake to introduce an appropriately worded Government amendment on Report.

Mr. Heath: I am most grateful to the Minister for that. I thought there was a definition somewhere saying that a chief officer is defined as a director, but I
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shall have to search further for that accessory definition. It is nice to have a win, even at this late stage, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 34 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 35 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 36


Amendment made: No. 28, in clause 36, page 19, line 30, after 'State', insert

    'or by the Scottish Ministers'.—[Caroline Flint.]

Clause 36, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 37 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 38

Designation of SOCA staff as persons

having powers of constable etc.

Mr. Heath: I beg to move amendment No. 93, in clause 38, page 21, line 6, after 'it,' insert

    'the areas in which such powers may be exercised,'.

The amendment deals with the designation of a person as having the power of a constable, and it would distinguish between a person exercising that power in Scotland and someone doing so in the rest of the country. The Minister has already addressed the issue to a certain extent, and she has given some helpful assurances on the necessary training. She explicitly said that no one will exercise the power of constable in Scotland unless they have the appropriate training to understand what the responsibilities and duties of a constable in Scotland are, as opposed to what they are in England and Wales.

The power to confer the powers of a constable in the clause can be limited, but the one area in which it cannot be explicitly limited is in relation to the geographical extent within which that power can be exercised. To meet some genuine concerns about the applicability of SOCA and its operations to Scotland, it might be sensible for the power of designation to include the ability to distinguish Scotland from England and Wales for the purposes of this clause and others. That is what the amendment would do.

Caroline Flint: I agree that the director general might wish to restrict the exercise of powers by a designated person to a part of the United Kingdom. Clauses 41 and 42 make separate provision for the exercise of police powers in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. As a result, a designation might need to limit the exercise of powers to, say, England and Wales, to Great Britain or to the United Kingdom.

That said, although I understand the valid point that the hon. Gentleman makes, we do not feel that the amendment is necessary to achieve the aim that he wants. Subsection (2) already provides that a designation
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    ''may be made subject to any limitations specified in the designation''.

Such limitations may relate to the powers exercisable by virtue of that designation,

    ''the purposes for which they are exercisable or otherwise''.

We believe that ''or otherwise'' covers, among other things, any geographical limitations. I hope that, with that explanation, the hon. Gentleman accepts that the amendment, although well meaning, is unnecessary and will therefore withdraw it.

Mr. Heath: I am grateful to the Minister for giving me the assurance I seek. However, I am not entirely convinced that ''or otherwise'' in the provision she mentioned would normally be construed in the way she described, so I hope she will satisfy herself that that is the case. Perhaps that is a matter on which Ministers in Scotland may have an opinion as well. However, the intention is clearly in accordance with what I want to achieve, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Heath: I beg to move amendment No. 94, in clause 38, page 21, line 20, leave out from beginning to end of line 22 and insert—

    'he shall continue to hold that office until (unless he returns to service in the same office) he ceases to be so employed.'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Amendment No. 75, in clause 38, page 21, line 21, after 'revives', insert

    ', together with any associated terms and conditions of any contract of employment under which he was employed prior to his employment with SOCA which are associated with the revived office.'.

Amendment No. 76, in clause 38, page 21, line 25, at end add—

    '(7) References in this Act to ''employee'' are to an individual who has entered into or works under (or where the employment has ceased, worked under) a contract of employment.

    (8) References in this Act to ''employment'' are to employment under a contract of employment.'.

Clause 50 stand part.

Schedule 2 be the Second schedule to the Bill.

Amendment No. 102, in schedule 3, page 128, line 27, leave out 'may' and insert 'shall'.

Amendment No. 103, in schedule 3, page 128, line 36, at end insert—

    '(5) The scheme shall provide that the terms and conditions of employment of a person on a relevant appointment under section 9 or 55, as to the manner and circumstances on which his appointment may be terminated, shall have effect as the terms and conditions of employment with SOCA, and that any refusal by that person to accept any amendment to any such terms shall not be grounds to dismiss that person lawfully.

Amendment No. 104, in schedule 3, page 129, line 8, leave out 'may' and insert 'shall'.

Amendment No. 105, in schedule 3, page 129, line 9, at end insert

    'which shall (subject to any necessary modifications) be the same terms and conditions by virtue of which the person holds a relevant appointment.'.

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    Amendment No. 106, in schedule 3, page 129, line 37, at end insert

      'except an appointment of a police member under section 9 or section 55 of the Police Act 1997.'.

    Amendment No. 107, in schedule 3, page 130, line 42, at end insert—

      '11A The Secretary of State must consult persons representing the interests of persons who are police members of the National Crime Squad and National Criminal Intelligence Service before making a transfer scheme which contains any provision—

      (a) relating to the transfer of such a person to the employment of SOCA; or

      (b) providing for the secondment of such a person to have effect as a secondment to SOCA.'.

    New clause 6—Complaints and misconduct (No. 2)—

      '(1) The jurisdiction of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (''the IPCC'') in relation to SOCA shall be restricted to those members of the staff of SOCA who have the powers of a constable.

      (2) In relation to those persons, the powers of the IPCC shall be restricted to the deprivation of other persons of the powers of a constable.

      (3) Any other investigations relating to the conduct of a member of the staff of SOCA shall be undertaken solely by SOCA.'.

    Mr. Heath: We return to the vexed question of the office of constable, albeit from the opposite direction. We are dealing not with the appointment or designation of a person who is an employee of SOCA in the post of constable, but with what happens to a constable who joins SOCA. Does that person retain the office of constable when he is employed in SOCA?

    I do not want to cover exactly the same ground that we covered earlier, because that would be pointless. The Minister explained why it is inherently better that all officers in SOCA should have a homogenous designation. My concern is to ensure that good police officers are not deterred from joining SOCA because they would thereby lose the office of constable that they believe they deserve. I would be much happier for those entering SOCA to retain the status of officer, irrespective of whether they operate in the normal understanding of the office of constable, until they leave the service or return to either the police force from whence they came or a different police force.

    That is the purpose of the amendment, which says that such a person would continue in the office that they held when they entered the service of SOCA for the period of that service. In other words, a constable—someone who has been trained as a constable, attested as a constable and sworn in as a constable, and who therefore is a constable—could not be told that they were no longer a constable simply because they were employed in a different capacity while working for SOCA. That would be in the interest of the service, despite the Minister's concerns about having multi-tier officers in SOCA.

    In the same way, someone employed as a doctor in an administrative post, even as a Member of Parliament, would not cease to be a doctor by virtue of the fact that they no longer exercised their function as a doctor, whether of medicine or of philosophy. So
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    it should be with a constable. Someone who attains the specific office of constable should be able to retain it even if they work in an organisation where the specific duties and responsibilities of a constable are not part of the day-to-day operation.

    That is the purpose of my amendment, which returns to an issue that we have already debated at length. That is why it is not appropriate to have an extensive debate on the subject now. However, I firmly believe that it is in the interest of SOCA to attract constables, at whatever rank, from the police service. Whatever the Minister may say about members of existing squads not being deterred at present from expressing an interest in SOCA, it is a fact, subjectively and anecdotally, that many serving officers are extremely concerned that when they enter SOCA they will no longer be constables, as they were when they applied to join.

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    Prepared 11 January 2005