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Public Bill Committee Debates

Draft Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) (Amendment No. 2) (England and Wales) Order 2006

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Dr. William McCrea
Blunt, Mr. Crispin (Reigate) (Con)
Campbell, Mr. Alan (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)
Clegg, Mr. Nick (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD)
Coaker, Mr. Vernon (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department)
Farrelly, Paul (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab)
Field, Mr. Mark (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con)
Garnier, Mr. Edward (Harborough) (Con)
Gauke, Mr. David (South-West Hertfordshire) (Con)
Goodman, Helen (Bishop Auckland) (Lab)
Gwynne, Andrew (Denton and Reddish) (Lab)
Hunter, Mark (Cheadle) (LD)
Jack, Mr. Michael (Fylde) (Con)
Jones, Lynne (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab)
McCarthy, Kerry (Bristol, East) (Lab)
Morley, Mr. Elliot (Scunthorpe) (Lab)
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock) (Lab)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton, South) (Lab)
John Benger, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee

Sixth Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 5 December 2006

[Dr. William McCrea in the Chair]

Draft Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) (Amendment No. 2) (England and Wales) Order 2006

4.30 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Vernon Coaker): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dr. McCrea. I think that this is the first time that I have done so, and it is a privilege.
A draft of the order was laid before Parliament on 16 November. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 allows ex-offenders not to disclose certain old, spent convictions in an effort to improve their employment opportunities and reduce reoffending. The 1974 Act grants the Secretary of State the power to exclude the application of those general rules in relation to questions by particular employers, bodies and proceedings. That is intended to ensure that employers and bodies that offer positions, professions and licences of a more sensitive nature can assess an applicant’s full criminal history before making a decision.
The power was exercised in 1975, when the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 came into force. The 1975 order has been amended periodically to ensure that the criminal disclosure regime keeps pace with changes in employment and public risk, and the most recent amendment was made in July 2006.
The current amendment will make minor changes that relate to football. In September 2005, Ministers gave a commitment to exempt some in-house football stewards from the need to be licensed by making regulations under section 4 of the Private Security Industry Act 2001. Those regulations could be made only where suitable alternative and equivalent arrangements were in place to require Criminal Records Bureau checks to be undertaken on behalf of the football authorities. The 1975 order was therefore amended in July 2006 to give the CRB the power to undertake checks on football security staff on behalf the Football Association and the premier league for the purposes of granting that exemption.
After undertaking a public consultation over the summer via a partial regulatory impact assessment on the regulation of sports and events security staff, Ministers decided to exempt in-house football security staff by primary legislation. That was done in response to an amendment to that effect to the Violent Crime Reduction Bill, which was tabled by Lord Pendry and covered a number of sports besides football. Some of those sports could not be granted an exemption by regulation because they did not have equivalent arrangements in place. By contrast, the exemption proposed by Lord Pendry did not require equivalent arrangements to be in place.
Having considered the responses to the consultation, we decided that football should be treated in the same way as other sports. The full regulatory impact assessment was published, and copies were placed in the Libraries of both Houses on 16 November. Football security staff are now exempt from the licensing requirement under section 4 of the 2001 Act, as amended by the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006, rather than by regulations made under that section. That provision came into effect when the 2006 Act received Royal Assent on 8 November.
Even though the amendment to section 4 of the 2001 Act does not impose a legal requirement on the football sector to have suitable alternative arrangements in place, the sector has none the less undertaken to work voluntarily to the standards that would have applied under the exemption regulations and, therefore, voluntarily to undertake CRB checks. An amendment needs to be made to the 1975 order to enable such voluntary checks to take place.
The only other small change is that the order that was made in July gave the CRB the power to undertake checks on behalf of the Football Association and the Football Association premier league, and we have now also added the Football League to the order.
4.34 pm
Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): I join the Minister in welcoming you to our Committee, Dr. McCrea. I know that you and many other members of the Committee had hoped to see a premier division debate. I have read columns 1016-17 in Hansard for 4 December in the other place and I find Lord Bassam of Brighton, the Minister, gave reasons for the order almost identical to those given by the Minister this afternoon—though they are none the worse for that. My noble Friend Viscount Bridgeman was commendably brief in his remarks, and I shall quote only one aspect of them before I sit down. Right at the end of his speech at column 1018, he said, “We support the order.” So do we.
4.35 pm
Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): I think that I can be briefer still. I should, however, like to mention my noble Friend Lord Dholakia’s citation of another of my noble Friends, Lord Addington, who commented on Report, when amendment No. 55 to the Violent Crime Reduction Bill was being debated:
“We are talking here about correcting one of the cock-ups of history”.—[Official Report, House of Lords, 16 October 2006; Vol. 685, c. 636.]
That seems a somewhat exaggerated, almost apocalyptic description of what I understand to be a logical and straightforward tying up of loose ends—namely that there should be provision for voluntary checks by the CRB in the football sector, and for the Football League to be included in the provisions. With that caveat to my noble Friend’s breathless rhetoric, I support the motion.
4.36 pm
Mr. Coaker: I thank the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam for most of the points that he made and for his general support for the order. I also thank the hon. and learned Member for Harborough for the most brilliant speech that I have ever heard.
Question put and agreed to.
Committee rose at twenty-three minutes to Five o’clock.

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Prepared 6 December 2006