|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Clarke): Counter-terrorism has been a top priority for this EU Presidency even before the July attacks in London, in the belief that international co-operation is absolutely essential to combat terrorism. Key areas of work include agreeing framework decisions on the European evidence warrant, simplifying the exchange of information and dealing with the retention of telecommunications data. While the prime responsibility for protection of citizens remains a national one, effective EU co-operation is a key element in the fight against terrorism.
Jim Dobbin: As a member of the European Scrutiny Committee, I took part in a European Parliament justice and home affairs debate on the European arrest warrant. The impression was given during that debate the Interpol and Europol do not have a strong and close working relationship. What is my right hon. Friend going to do to try to improve that relationship, particularly in respect of counter-terrorism?
Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend is entirely correct to identify the issue of co-operation between police forces and international organisations. I am glad to say a recent agreement between Europol and Interpol has led to a tangible increase in strategic co-operation. They now have joint incident response teams and are involved in joint contingency planning for terrorist attacks. This country is working to support such co-operation, and two members of the National Crime Squad are working in Europol's national liaison unit to achieve better relations overall. The deputy director of Europol is at Interpol today, discussing matters of mutual interest. I acknowledge the thrust of my hon. Friend's question, but things are improving.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome)
(LD): The Home Secretary mentioned that he has been actively seeking agreement on the issue of data retention by mobile phone companies. We read that he has now concluded a British agreement with O 2 . Will that agreement survive any takeoverindeed, perhaps it may be extended to other Telefonica-owned companies;
7 Nov 2005 : Column 9
will the same terms be available to other companies; and does this mean that he accepts that he will not secure an agreement during the British EU Presidency?
Mr. Clarke: On the contrary, this Government, like other Governments, have agreements with telecommunications companies on the retention of data. The Council of Ministers has said that an agreement will be reached by the end of this year, and I am confident that that will be the case. I am working to extend that agreement to the European Parliament, so that it, too, is part of the process. The message will be much stronger if all institutionsthe Commission, the Council and the European Parliamentwork jointly to fight terrorism. That is what I am seeking to achieve, and I am confident that we will do so.
Mr. David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): Part of the response in countering terrorism is the introduction of identity cards. Will the Home Secretary comment on this weekend's London School of Economics report, which states that the cost of ID cards will rocket even higher than the figure predicted before the recess?
Mr. Clarke: I have a simple, one-word comment on the LSE report, and it is the same as that on its previous report: nonsensea load of nonsense. We have set out the figures very clearly, and ID cards contribute to our ability to defend ourselves against terrorism and serious and organised crime. That is one reason why we are promoting the Bill before the House of Lords.
Mr. Clarke: As the hon. Gentleman, who is a distinguished parliamentarian, will know, the legal systems of the various EU countries are very different indeed. As the Foreign Office report indicated, the answer to that question is up to four yearsdepending on which country one is talking aboutunder a system of investigating judges and magistrates, which, as I said, is a different situation. Such long periods of detention in those countries need to be borne in mind when we consider the form of such legislation in this country.
Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): There is no doubt that wider international, as well as EU, co-operation is essential in dealing with terrorism. But does the Home Secretary accept that the Prime Minister's somewhat petulant statement this morning on the 90-day detention proposal undermines the Home Secretary's authority and his rather more rational approach to counter-terrorism law, and damages his ability to advance EU co-operation on counter-terrorism?
The hon. Gentleman says that, but the fact is that the police and some three quarters of
7 Nov 2005 : Column 10
the people of this country think that we need to be able to deal with the situation properly. He may disagree, but we do not. Returning to the question, international co-operation is important, which is why we are trying to work very closely internationally. That is the right way for us to proceed.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart): The national delivery plan for domestic violence, published in March 2005, sets out eight performance indicators that are used at national, police force and local level to monitor the impact of action against domestic violence. The plan is performance managed by the inter-ministerial group on domestic violence and reviewed quarterly. The number of domestic violence cases that result in successful prosecutions has risen from 53 per cent. in 200405 to 59 per cent. in the first two quarters of the present year.
Lyn Brown: In March, the Home Office released a report that mentioned specialist courts for domestic violence cases to enable more support for victims and better advocacy. Will the Minister tell us how those courts are now delivering?
Fiona Mactaggart: This year we will be rolling out 25 specialist courts and eight are already in place. The pilot, which revealed what those courts could achieve, showed that in Caerphilly, guilty pleas increased from 21 to 27 per cent. and by September this year they had averaged 61 per cent.an indication of their increasing success. Convictions in court went up from 8 per cent. to 19 per cent. in the pilot period and they have now reached 32 per cent. Victim withdrawals, which have been a particular problem with domestic violence cases, went down from 53 to 27 per cent. in the pilot period and have now decreased further to 17 per cent. In addition, together with the specialist courts, domestic violence advocates help women to go through all the complications of the different bits of the system that deal with domestic violenceensuring not only that they get successful convictions, but that the system meets those women's needs rather than their having to meet its needs.
Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): According to the British crime survey, nearly a third of domestic violence casesmore than 300,000 incidents a yeartake place under the influence of alcohol and the average number of attacks that a victim suffers before calling the police is 35. While some excellent work is being done to make perpetrators confront their behaviour, do not those figures underline the importance of giving effect to sections in the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004, which make assault an arrestable offence and make breach of injunctions a criminal offence? Why have they not yet been brought into effect and when will they become enforceable?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that under serious organised crime legislation, not just
7 Nov 2005 : Column 11
those but all offences will be given arrestable effect, and that will be happening shortly. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that that we need effective procedures to help reduce repeat victimisation. If we look at the impact of what we have already donemuch more dynamic than anything done for a very long timewe can see that repeat victimisation is being reduced and that women are being made safer. The present proposal, which will be brought into effect in due course, is adding to what is already an effective programme of action to protect women and men against domestic violence.
Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North) (Lab): Would my hon. Friend accept that domestic violence can remain an issue long after the separation of the partners? There is a concern at present about contact orders between estranged partners being the subject of continued exploitation within the family relationships. Does she accept that the Children and Adoption Bill may provide an opportunity to improve the level of assessment that takes place in respect of former partners who have been guilty of domestic violence in the past? Will she look into that matter carefully?
Fiona Mactaggart: My hon. Friend will be aware that the courts inspection looked into issues surrounding the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service with the aim of ensuring that the right of parents to have access to their children does not put those children at risk. The Government are looking carefully at the recommendations and reflecting on whether any amendments to the Children and Adoption Bill, which is currently before the other place, might be necessary to protect children more effectively from the risk of domestic violence being committed by one of their parents.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|