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29 Mar 2007 : Column 1645

It is simple facts such as those that are the first step towards a rational discussion. If the hon. Gentleman wants to learn the facts, I will invite him in, but I ask him please not to base his arguments on spurious and misrepresentative reports in the press.

Finally, if the hon. Gentleman thinks that it is a good idea to have a ministry of justice, by definition, that would leave the Home Office refocused on those elements that are not part of the ministry of justice. That is precisely the position that I have arrived at. I know he finds it difficult, but there is an old rule: do not ask for something unless you consider the fact that you might get it. He has just got it. He might welcome it.

Mr. John Denham (Southampton, Itchen) (Lab): I welcome what my right hon. Friend has said about co-ordination of terrorism policy. Does he accept that today’s decision leaves criminal justice spread across two Government Departments? I hope that he will come to the Select Committee at an early opportunity to discuss how that will work in practice, but for today can he tell the House which Department—the Home Office or the ministry of justice—will take responsibility for introducing criminal justice Acts? Which Department will take responsibility for the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984? How will we ensure that organisations such as the police know who it is they have to deal with and do not have to run around Whitehall trying to find the right civil servant to lobby?

John Reid: I agree entirely with the points made by my right hon. Friend. It is important that we co-ordinate. I have said to my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke), the former Secretary of State, that we have different judgments on the matter. I do not regard all my judgments to be right, or all his to be wrong. It is perfectly possible for those of us who have the responsibility of government— [Interruption.] Of course, if one does not have the responsibility of government, it is possible always to be right because all one has to do is criticise everyone else. For those of us who are interested in actually governing the country, it is possible for two men of equal weight and sincerity to make different judgments on a set of facts. Those are important judgments.

I do bear the burden of the point that my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) is making, which is that there has to be an understanding that the Home Office will be responsible not just for counter-terrorism and security. There will also be the responsibility for antisocial behaviour. We intend that neighbourhood policing and the British style of policing will stay the British style of policing. Immigration will also be a responsibility. Those responsiblities will be co-ordinated throughout that Department. In response to his second point, the National Criminal Justice Board will also act on co-ordination across the criminal justice system.

In answer to my right hon. Friend’s third point, of course I will come and explain these matters to his Select Committee at the earliest date. He asked about who will bring forward legislation in relation to the
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operations of the executive agencies inside the Home Office, the answer to that is the Home Office.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): Answer the actual question.

John Reid: I have now answered all my right hon. Friend’s points. All the legislation relating to the executive functions of those agencies, including the police, that operate inside the Home Office will be brought forward by the Home Office. The Bill teams will act out of the Home Office.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): We know that we will still have all the problems there, but we are not confident from what the Home Secretary has said that we will have the proper solutions. Does not he remember how, on one busy afternoon, the Prime Minister created the Department for Constitutional Affairs on the back of an envelope and sought to get rid of the Lord Chancellor? He then found that what he was proposing was entirely unworkable and unrealistic. What confidence can we now have that the new ministry of justice, created without proper consultation with Parliament, is going to be up to the job? Why on earth did not the Prime Minister have the respect for Parliament to come here today and explain in detail what he has in mind?

John Reid: On the process point, I have already explained the matter. In fact, at the risk of boring the hon. Gentleman, there were 10 occasions on which the previous Administration did not even deign to come to Parliament with an oral statement. On some occasions they did not even issue a written ministerial statement. They changed the machinery of government by a press release from Downing street.

The Prime Minister made a written ministerial statement this morning. I have come here in response to the urgent question. I am more than happy to go through all the elements with hon. Members in a search for consensus. Of course with any of these things there are judgments to be made. Of course there is controversy, but the idea that, by preserving the present structure, we have some benign recipe for perfect co-ordination and operations within the Home Office does not strike me as self-evidently true on the basis of history. It may have been true, but as I have said, each of the units of the Home Office already has a plan for reform. I have introduced three of them, and several were introduced by my predecessor. They are being worked through, including the National Offender Management System. All those elements will continue. This reconfiguration is not a substitute for improving the quality of each of the constituent elements. It will not involve the expense that the Liberal Democrat spokesman, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Clegg), expects. It will be accomplished within the existing budgets of the Home Office and the DCA. The change will not require the expenditure of time, energy or resources that is anticipated. If hon. Gentlemen will give us time to go through that, I am more than open to discussing that continually with them.

Several hon. Members rose

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Mr. Speaker: Order. If I am going to be able to call some Back Benchers, I must have one supplementary question and a brief response.

Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): Splitting the Home Office may make sense, but as a former police Minister I am worried about the message to the police of some of the detail in my right hon. Friend's reply today. Will not the changes appear to downgrade the Government's successful focus on cutting crime and disorder and antisocial behaviour, on police community support work and on crime reduction partnerships? Having a department of homeland security may make sense, but it appears to downgrade the emphasis on local policing. Can he reassure us on that?

John Reid: On the first point, let me offer a correction: it will not be a Department for homeland security. That, by definition, would fragment our counter-terrorist and security effort because of the misapprehension that we can neatly segregate the current threat into foreign affairs, defence affairs and domestic affairs. One of the reasons why we need not only a longer term strategic response but a better integrated one is that the threat is now seamless. It is a seamless threat that runs through foreign and defence affairs and affairs at home. That is another reason why the Opposition’s recommendation does nothing to address the current threat.

I can give an assurance that neighbourhood policing—the British style of policing, which has been rolled out through the country—will not only remain in the Home Office but will be a very high priority, as will antisocial behaviour. While some elements of legislation—such as police and criminal evidence legislation—will remain with the Home Office, other elements, such as criminal justice Bills, will pass to the ministry for justice. Therefore there will be a partnership approach.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): I worked in the Home Office for three years, and I say to the Secretary of State that there was nothing inherently dysfunctional about it at that time, and that splitting Departments will not address the problems that exist, which are essentially ones of leadership.

Let me also say that having Ministers with responsibility for justice in the other place rather than in this House is profoundly unacceptable. It is not right that the two Ministers of justice—the Attorney-General and the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs—will be in the other place. That must be rectified.

John Reid: I understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s point, and I think that that will probably be rectified after the transitional period, although that will be a matter for the Prime Minister—whoever might be the next Prime Minister.

Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): As a former shadow Home Secretary—I was also shadow almost everything else without achieving the substance, as the current shadow Home Secretary will find out over long years of opposition—may I make the point
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to my right hon. Friend that the effectiveness of the machinery of Government depends on whether it works? It has been found in the past—for example, when the Conservative Government took broadcasting away from the Home Office—that the machinery of Government must work. Also, as a former Conservative Home Secretary found, prisons policy can be a mess if it is not properly administered. Does my right hon. Friend therefore agree that the key issue is not the boundaries of Government, but whether the structure works?

John Reid: I agree 100 per cent. One of the reasons why I have come to the conclusion that I have is that it seems to me that although we can improve the constituent elements of work within the Home Office, because of the magnitude of the challenge of three or four elements, the work on them cannot be carried out properly unless we concentrate and refocus on them and shift the other elements to a different dimension or Department. This change is being made because of practical reasons to do with responding to the current challenges of mass immigration, international crime and counter-terrorism, as well as to the policing and antisocial behaviour problems that we have. I say that with sincerity as both the current Secretary of State at the Home Office and in the past as Secretary of State for almost everything else.

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): My right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) asked the Home Secretary what the cost of the restructuring was, and the Home Secretary failed to answer. He must know the figure. Will he share it with the House?

John Reid: No, what I was asked about was the additional cost of this change. I said that that cost will be met from within the existing budgets of the Home Office and the Department for Constitutional Affairs. That is possible because the magnitude of the change is hugely exaggerated. All that is happening is that the National Offender Management Service element and criminal justice system element of the Home Office will now be the responsibility of another Minister.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): Is not the truth of the matter that the Home Office has caused endless embarrassment to successive Governments—I can recall Henry Brooke’s career being destroyed when he was Home Secretary in the 1960s—and that the Department is currently far too large to be properly organised and maintained either by the permanent secretary or, even more importantly, by the Home Secretary of the moment? Therefore the reforms and changes are welcome.

John Reid: I am glad that the reforms are welcomed by my hon. Friend. I pay tribute to the permanent secretary and all the staff who have been working on this proposal and on the improvement and reform plans of each of the constituent elements. I am the last person in the world to deny that we have had the odd problem in the Home Office; I have probably been more open in acknowledging problems to do with my own Department than any other Cabinet Minister. However, I assure Members that that is not the driving
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force behind these changes. The driving force behind them is the magnitude of the challenges of mass migration, international crime and countering international terrorism. That is why this has been done. It has been done not to avoid embarrassment, nor as a job creation scheme for a Cabinet Minister, nor for elongating anyone’s career. It has been done in the national interest, not in any departmental or person interest.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): What discussions has the Secretary of State had with Scottish Ministers and relevant agencies and bodies in Scotland about how their key functions will fit in with this new structure? Can he assure me that crucial work in Scotland on immigration, counter-terrorism and international crime will not be compromised by what is proposed?

John Reid: Most of the material and the structures and functions that will be affected are reserved areas. Obviously, the Scots have control over their policing and legal system through the Scottish Executive, but the other areas—counter-terrorism, mass migration, immigration—are dealt with on a reserved basis. We will consult, of course; I will consult Cathy Jamieson on this, as I do on other issues, to make sure that our response in all the areas involved is as seamless and integrated as possible, given the autonomy in many areas of the Scottish Executive.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): Will prostitution policy be a matter for the Home Office or for the new department of justice? Will there be a Cabinet Minister in this House or the other House?

John Reid: In either case, there will in due course be a Cabinet Minister in this House, I think. I think that the Minister of justice will probably return here, although I cannot guarantee that because it will be a matter for the Prime Minister of the time.

Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes) (Con): In the 200th anniversary year of the abolition of slavery, will the Home Secretary confirm that the restructuring of the Home Office will allow for there to be centrally prepared data on, for example, the number of children trafficked into the United Kingdom? Also, what will happen to the children who are not granted asylum, and what will happen to children who disappear while in the care of a local authority?

John Reid: Before I answer those questions, let me say in response to the previous one that I would have thought that prostitution as a policy area will come under the ministry of justice, although the policing of any such matters will of course come under the Home Office.

The co-ordination and partnership that will apply to any areas, including the compilation of statistics, will not change in functional terms from what is the current position. Statistics will be compiled by the Home Office or the ministry of justice as appropriate, and the relationship or partnership with local government will continue. Obligations that we have signed up to—such
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as the European convention on human trafficking—will be carried forward by the Government.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle) (Lab): It is regrettable that there will be no detailed parliamentary scrutiny of the changes to the machinery of Government. Those changes have, according to my friend, gone off at half-cock, and that was the case when the Conservative Government were in power as well as under this Government. We have had four transport Departments since 1997, and we had a Department for Productivity, Energy and Industry which lasted five minutes.

May I take my friend back to the central issue of costs? The Cabinet Secretary told me three or four weeks ago in an evidence session to the Public Administration Committee that the costs of the change would be met from within the departmental budget. My question is simple: can we have the figures here and now?

John Reid: I have already made it absolutely plain that the costs will be borne from inside the budget, alongside other ongoing efficiency savings. The cost will be small. There is no need to build new buildings, and no need for a massive reallocation, for a massive restructuring of departmental organisations, or for consultancy fees. This is a merger of an existing, coherent unit—NOMS and the criminal justice section—with the Department for Constitutional Affairs, so the costs are in no way prohibitive and will be met inside our budgets as a normal, routine managerial expense.

Mr. Humfrey Malins (Woking) (Con): The Home Secretary will recognise the importance of effective border controls. Will today’s changes enable his Department to close the Brussels-Lille loophole whereby, if a Eurostar passenger at Brussels buys a ticket only for Lille, they are not subject to juxtaposed and other controls and merely stay on the train at Lille, arriving at Waterloo without any documents?

John Reid: I am not going to respond here to the question of the detailed travel arrangements of this hypothetical passenger, but I will look into this issue and write to the hon. Gentleman. He will know that this week, the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Byrne), proposed yet another step change in our immigration and enforcement policy. Through exporting our borders, by the end of next year the people of more than 100 countries will require visas to come here; and the introduction of biometrics, fingerprint and identity management will enable us to track people in and out of the country. I ask Opposition Members to reconsider their opposition to identity management. Without it, we will never be able to counter fraud and terrorism or to track immigration. The hon. Gentleman is on the wrong side of this argument.

Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): I welcome the long overdue proposal to create a new ministry of justice, and I commend the Home Secretary on dealing with what must have been very difficult negotiations. However, what are the implications for the role of the Attorney-General, who is the third part of the criminal
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justice system? It is important that a statement be made to the House about this matter—especially as the Select Committee is looking at the Attorney-General’s role—and that a Minister from that department also be on the Front Bench. Could we please have an urgent debate on this issue?

John Reid: The short answer to my right hon. Friend’s question is that there is no significant change to the Attorney-General’s role that I am aware of. The trilateral arrangements will still pertain, and the Attorney-General will certainly still be on the National Criminal Justice Board, on which we all sit in an attempt to co-ordinate matters across the criminal justice system. So I think that there is no significant change.

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): Does the Home Secretary know which items will have to be cut from the Home Office in order to make this change, and will he share that information with us?

John Reid: I am not quite sure what the hon. Gentleman means.

Bob Spink: The financial cuts.

John Reid: What the hon. Gentleman does not seem to realise is that a massive efficiency, improvement and reform plan is under way in almost every area. For instance, a staff reduction of 1,600 in NOMS alone is envisaged over the coming period, so compared with the reductions, improvements and efficiency measures taking place, the cost of this change is, as I said, very small. There will be no cuts, but a reallocation and a refocus toward immigration, international crime and international terrorism. The British people’s three priorities, according to every single opinion poll of the last three years, are fair and effective control of immigration, countering crime and countering terrorism. These are responses not only to changes in the world, but to what people in our communities want us to focus on.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) (Con): What the Home Secretary has just said is incoherent. The money has to come from somewhere, so why will he not list the programmes that will inevitably be reduced to pay for this change?

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