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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Andy Burnham): I am today placing in the Libraries of both Houses recently issued guidance from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to Chief Officers on the consideration of applications for the removal, in exceptional circumstances only, of DNA and fingerprints from the respective databases. There has been considerable recent interest in the policy and operation of the National DNA Database (NDNAD), particularly in relation to juveniles and those arrested but subsequently not proceeded against. This statement and accompanying guidance is intended to inform that debate.
Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984, as amended, the police may take without consent a non-intimate DNA sample and fingerprints from all persons arrested for, informed they will be reported for, or charged with a Recordable offence and detained in a police station. Since May 2001, the police have been able to retain the DNA samples and fingerprints taken from persons who have not been convicted of such an offence. That change in legislation was itself challenged by judicial review and in July 2004 a judicial committee of the House of Lords found that the retention of DNA samples and fingerprints in these circumstances was proportionate and justified. The police may also take
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and retain DNA and fingerprints from persons convicted of a Recordable offence. The amendment to PACE to allow the police to take and retain DNA and fingerprints from arrested persons is contained in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 which was considered carefully by Parliament.
Since the amendment to PACE in 2001, about 200,000 DNA samples have been retained that would previously have had to be destroyed and of these, over 8,000 have been matched with crime scene stains involving nearly 14,000 offences, including murder, rape and other sexual offences. Early research has also shown that sampling persons who have been arrested but not proceeded against has yielded a "match" with a crime scene stain in over 3,000 offences, again including murder, manslaughter and rape. These links may never have been made had the police not been given their current powers to take and retain DNA. In relation to the 24,168 under-18s who have been arrested but not charged, which include 23 arrests for murder and 288 for rape, 541 have been matched to crime scenes profiles for unsolved crimes.
I wish to draw Members' attention to two important points in relation to juveniles under 10. First, there are no under-10s on the NDNAD where the sample has been taken without the consent of a parent or legal guardian, and in fact there are no powers to do so without such consent. Secondly, it is possible for anyone to apply to their Chief Constable to have their or their child's DNA or fingerprints removed from the databases and the ACPO guidance sets out the process for doing that.
Tony Lake, Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police Force and Chairman of the National DNA Database Strategy Board has emphasised the value of DNA evidence and the importance of the database to the criminal justice service.
New Governance arrangements for the NDNAD were introduced in December 2005 following the transformation of the Forensic Science Service to a Government owned Company. A new Delivery Unit, which will initially be part of the Home Office, is responsible for the standard setting and oversight of the NDNAD, ensuring quality and integrity of the service. It will be overseen by the National DNA Database Strategic Board, a tripartite Board composed of representatives from the Home Office, ACPO and the Association of Police Authorities. Representation at meetings of the Board by the Human Genetics Commission is being increased from one to two persons in order to strengthen lay representation and the Government are additionally looking to establish a dedicated ethics group to provide independent oversight of Board decision making.
Inclusion on the NDNAD does not signify a criminal record and there is no personal cost or material disadvantage to the individual simply by being on it. Given this, and the clear evidence showing the substantial public benefit in relation to the detection of serious crime, it is the judgment of the Government that the existing policy is justified. However, we accept the need for on-going accountability to the public and the NDNAD Annual Report, which publishes details of its activities and will be laid before Parliament, is an
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important part of the aim to increase transparency and maintain and improve public confidence in the oversight, management and operations of the NDNAD.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Hain): Later today I will be introducing a Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which will, amongst other things, pave the way for future devolution of policing and justice in Northern Ireland. I am introducing this enabling legislation now because I want to send out a clear message: I believe that responsibility for policing and justice in Northern Ireland should properly lie with a Northern Ireland Assembly, directly accountable to the people of Northern Ireland.
Devolution of policing and justice cannot happen until the Assembly is restored and requests devolution of these functions, and until Parliament agrees it. But although this may be some way off, it is important that we start discussing now, with all the parties, how devolution of policing and justice can work most effectively for the people of Northern Ireland.
We need to ensure that we are agreed on the model for the new department or departments. We need to develop a shared understanding of exactly what will be devolved and how it will operate. And we need to make sure that a future Northern Ireland Assembly has the tools it needs to deliver policing and justice effectively, for example giving the Assembly the power to raise revenue for policing from a policing precept, as is the case in England, Scotland and Wales.
The discussion paper is intended to initiate and facilitate those discussions. It sets out what the Government believe is a sensible and pragmatic framework for policing and justice in Northern Ireland under an Assembly. It sets out which specific powers we think should be devolved and how these could operate. It also identifies particular areas where further thinking is needed.
The paper is not a blueprint but a discussion document. It is an opportunity for all those with an interest, but particularly the political parties in Northern Ireland, to engage with the Government and, together, work out how devolution of policing and justice should work.
The Bill contains a number of provisions in addition to those providing for future devolution of policing and justice, including provisions relating to elections in Northern Ireland, a power to create a wholesale electricity market for the island of Ireland and provision to facilitate the funding of sustainable energy development in Northern Ireland.
The various policies in the Bill have been equality screened to assess whether they impact adversely on any of the nine equality groups in Northern Ireland. The assessment is that no such adverse impact arises. Steps are being taken to draw the Bill and the discussion paper to the attention of representative groups.
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The Minister for Trade (Ian Pearson): I would like to update the House on how the UK has sought to deliver its position on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) that are currently being negotiated between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and also to highlight our objectives in 2006, which is a critical year for the EPA process. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Department for International Development (DFID) published a position paper in March 2005 called "Making EPAs Deliver for Development", which was outlined in a ministerial statement made by Patricia Hewitt, then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, on 22 March 2005. That statement set out the Government's view that EPAs should be designed to deliver long-term development, economic growth and poverty reduction, and that in its work on EPAs, the EU should take a non-mercantilist approach and not pursue any offensive interests. Since then, we have made progress in taking forward some of these goals, particularly in reinforcing the underpinning principle that these trade agreements should be tools for development in the ACP.
The UK position paper has helped to give EPAs a much higher profile among EU Member States. During 2005, we used our presidency of the EU to ensure that there was more and better dialogue on EPAs both with other EU member states and with the European Commission about the shape these agreements should take. At ministerial and official levels where we aimed to ensure that the crucial role of EPAs in development was fully recognised, and that the trade and development aspects of EPAs are discussed coherently.
We established a technical "EPA Expert Group", involving trade and development officials which is chaired by the Commission. We have also established an informal EPA network of EU development officials which facilitates informal dialogue on the critical issues and helps us work more closely with other EU member states. EPAs were discussed at the first meeting of Director-Generals of Trade and Development in the EU, and at the informal meeting of EU development ministers. We have been pleased to see a more pro-development approach reflected, for example in the European Commission Staff Paper, "Trade and Development Aspects of the EPA Negotiations" published in November 2005, as well as in the EU-Africa Strategic Partnership agreed at the European Council in December 2005.
The UK Government have continued to work closely with the ACP countries in order to understand their views and help support their development interests in the EU policy debate. For example, my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for International Development, met with the chief ACP negotiators in
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October 2005, where he listened to their concerns on the slow disbursements of development assistance for EPAs. Since then, the Government have agreed with several other EU member states and the European Commission that we will jointly work to co-ordinate our bilateral and multilateral development assistance for EPAs. DFID has been continually developing their EPA research programme to provide new evidence to inform the policy dialogue. This research is practical and policy-oriented and includes exploring how ACP countries can ensure that any liberalisation that they undergo is paced and designed in a way that works for them. DFID has also expanded its technical assistance programme to support the ACP and promote a more level playing field in the negotiations. For example, DFID is helping the Caribbean region to decide how to structure their offer to the EU on market access in goods. This support has been well-received by the ACP and we have received very positive feedback from the ACP negotiators.
During 2006, we will build on the progress achieved so far, and continually press for agreements that are in the interests of ACP countries' development, economic growth and poverty reduction. We will also push to ensure that the review of the negotiations provided for in the Cotonou Agreement is both comprehensive and fully involves the participation of the ACP. From a UK perspective, we believe that the review should firstly aim to take stock of progress across all the ACP regions on specific priority issues and confirm that each ACP regional group can make its own decisions on the timing, pace, sequencing, and product coverage of market opening. The review should also help steer the EPA process during 2007 towards the conclusion of the negotiations. We continue to develop our specific priorities based on the principles above, in response to discussions with the ACP.
We will also work to ensure there is more systematic assessment of whether development aspects are properly incorporated into EPAs, as well as to check that the impact of implementing the agreements does not cause harm to ACP countries in the longer term. To this end, we will support the establishment of an improved monitoring mechanism that will check progress against development objectives.
We will continue to work closely with the Commission, other EU member states and the ACP as the negotiations continue. Obviously the Commission is charged with representing the balance of EU opinion, but we will prioritise our objectives and advance clearly on our pro-development approach, ensuring that the UK voice carries the maximum weight.
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