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I am concerned about the extent and scope of “or otherwise”. Perhaps, when the Under-Secretary replies to the debate, he can confirm whether it is intended to have a much broader application than the original section 435—in other words, whether “or otherwise” covers all the relevant duties of the directors in all their contexts.

Clearly, amendment No. 27 is another late amendment. A change of approach was felt to be required to section 435 of the 2002 Act, given that it was meant to be deleted, not used, at the outset. It would be interesting if the Under-Secretary shed some light on the reason for the change of approach. Why is the sharing of information felt to be required now when it was not believed to be necessary previously?

I appreciate that the amendment’s application to several different bodies reflects the way in which the Assets Recovery Agency has been divided—its authorisations do not go to only one body but several different ones. From an enforcement perspective, the relevant directors to which subsection (4) of proposed new section 435 applies reflect the intended expansion of the enforcement agencies and bodies. However, there remains a question about whether the amendment proposes an appropriate or reasonable use or expansion of the previous power, which would have been limited to those under the 2002 Act.

The proposed new section is much more wide ranging—there appears to be no limit on the use to which information gained under the 2002 Act can be put. That may be appropriate for ensuring that illegal acts or information relevant to other prosecutions and proceedings are discovered through the powers granted by the 2002 Act. However, it is a change to the previous position and it would therefore be helpful to inform the House of the intention of the proposed new section. Is it intended to be all encompassing? Are any protections intended? Will any limits be applied? Is the amendment as wide ranging as the words “or otherwise” suggest?

We need to understand more clearly the Under-Secretary’s intention in amendment No. 27. We need to know its scope and I hope that he can answer the points that have been highlighted because it would be
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helpful to know the extent of the information-sharing powers and the use to which the information will be put so that we can properly understand the exact purpose of amendment No. 27.

Mr. Coaker: Let me revert to the question of the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Stewart Hosie) about Scotland. He will be pleased to know that we have consulted the Scottish Executive to ensure that the status quo in relation to the Lord Advocate and Scottish Ministers is preserved. That ensures that there is no need for a legislative consent motion. Amendments Nos. 39 and 40 relate especially to Scotland. They would ensure that disclosures between SOCA, the Lord Advocate and Scottish Ministers will be tackled under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 for SOCA’s Proceeds of Crime Act functions, and under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 for SOCA’s other functions.

Disclosures by the other enforcement authorities are mainly tackled in the 2002 Act. Taxation information is covered in section 33 of the 2005 Act. Schedule 8(170) of the measure that we are considering also preserves the status quo. I hope that that helps the hon. Gentleman and that the answer is as illuminating to him as I am sure that it is to everyone else. Seriously, I hope that it is helpful. If any element of doubt remains, the hon. Gentleman should write to me or have a word with me afterwards and I shall ensure that we clarify anything that needs it.

Let me deal with the points that the hon. Member for Hornchurch (James Brokenshire) made. I am pleased about his general welcome for the proposals. We identified a gap, which we sought to fill, so I appreciate his comments. However, we are continually trying to ascertain whether we can improve the operation of the civil recovery regime under the 2002 Act. In discussions with the Assets Recovery Agency and SOCA about the transfer of civil recovery powers to SOCA and other enforcement agencies, as the Bill sets out, we identified—at a late stage, it has to be said—the need for the new receiver. Experience of civil recovery shows that appointing an interim receiver, who has management, investigation and reporting functions, is unnecessary as well as expensive, but there is none the less a need for some sort of management role. We have tried to provide for that. At present, the civil recovery of the proceeds of crime in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is the responsibility of the Assets Recovery Agency, as the hon. Gentleman knows. As he said, under the Bill those functions will be undertaken by a number of agencies—the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Revenue and Customs Prosecution Office, the Serious Fraud Office and the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland. Indeed, he pointed out the authorisations in proposed new section 435(4) of the 2002 Act.

6 pm

Bringing forward proposals on the disclosure of information at this late stage is the right outcome for Government policy. That inevitably makes the legislative changes complex, but the important point is that we have brought forward the amendments to ensure that
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all the relevant agencies are able to receive, and disclose to each other, information to assist them in their functions under the 2002 Act with respect to the changes that we have made. ARA has similar powers to disclose information in civil recovery cases. We are not breaking new ground; we are just trying to ensure that all the new agencies have the powers that ARA has had, so that the Bill works in practice. We were not in a position to bring forward the amendments earlier, because we were in discussions with each of the organisations identified in the Bill, to ensure that we got the provisions right. That took some time to achieve.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether the provisions went too far, in giving the enforcement authorities almost a completely free hand, as he seemed to imply they do. However, we do not intend to give any of the enforcement authorities a completely free hand to disclose information. The proposals are essentially supporting provisions, to ensure that the new agencies can effectively pursue civil recovery. That is the whole point of what we are doing. If bodies are to be able to carry out their functions effectively, they will need information from other authorities. The 2002 Act already has provisions allowing for the disclosure of information to and by the director of ARA. Those provisions were developed in 2001-02, taking into account concerns raised by the Information Commissioner. The amendments in the group effectively reproduce the existing provisions for the agencies that will now pursue civil recovery.

Importantly, the effect of the provisions is that the enforcement authorities will receive only the information that they need to carry out their civil recovery functions. Bodies will disclose only the relevant information that is permitted by the gateways. The provisions are not intended to circumvent restrictions on disclosure between other bodies. Disclosures that contravene the Data Protection Act 1998 or part 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 are not permitted. That is an important protection, as the hon. Gentleman will know. The provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998 will also apply to any disclosure. With those reassurances, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will feel able to accept the new clause. I welcome his general commitment to addressing the gap that we identified and to the way in which we are trying to improve the Bill, even at this late stage.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 9

Incidents involving serious violence: powers to stop and search

‘(1) In section 60(1) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (c. 33) (powers to authorise stop and search if reasonable belief that there may be incidents involving serious violence etc.), before the word “or” at the end of paragraph (a), insert—

“(aa) that—

(i) an incident involving serious violence has taken place in England and Wales in his police area;

(ii) a dangerous instrument or offensive weapon used in the incident is being carried in any locality in his police area by a person; and

(iii) it is expedient to give an authorisation under this section to find the instrument or weapon;”.

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(2) In section 60(9) of that Act (authorisation must be in writing), at the beginning, insert “Subject to subsection (9ZA),”.

(3) After section 60(9) of that Act insert—

“(9ZA) An authorisation under subsection (1)(aa) need not be given in writing where it is not practicable to do so but any oral authorisation must state the matters which would otherwise have to be specified under subsection (9) and must be recorded in writing as soon as it is practicable to do so.”

(4) In section 60(9A) of that Act (application to British Transport Police)—

(a) after “place” insert “in England and Wales”; and

(b) after “2003” insert “and as if the reference in subsection (1)(aa)(i) above to his police area were a reference to any place falling within section 31(1)(a) to (f) of the Act of 2003”.

(5) In section 60(11) of that Act (definitions), in the definition of “offensive weapon”, after “1995” insert “; but in subsections (1)(aa), (4), (5) and (6) above and subsection (11A) below includes, in the case of an incident of the kind mentioned in subsection (1)(aa)(i) above, any article used in the incident to cause or threaten injury to any person or otherwise to intimidate”.

(6) In the heading to section 60 of that Act after “of” insert “, or after,”.’.— [Mr. Coaker.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Coaker: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 8— Stop and Search Power

‘(1) If a police officer of or above the rank of sergeant reasonably believes—

(a) that incidents involving serious violence may take place in any locality in his police area, and that it is expedient to give an authorisation under this section to prevent their occurrence, or

(b) that persons are carrying offensive weapons or dangerous instruments without good reason in any locality in his police area,

he may give an authorisation that the powers conferred by this section are to be exercisable at any place within that locality for a specified period not exceeding—

(c) 6 hours in the case of an officer of the rank of sergeant; and

(d) 24 hours in the case of an officer of the rank of inspector or above.

(2) If it appears to an officer of or above the rank of superintendent that it is expedient to do so, having regard to—

(a) the need to prevent injury or loss of life;

(b) offences which have, or are reasonably suspected to have, been committed in connection with any activity falling within the authorisation; and

(c) all relevant information giving rise to the belief of the relevant police officer specified in subsection (1),

he may direct that the specified period during which the authorisation conferred under subsection (1) shall be extended to a period not exceeding a maximum of 48 hours.

(3) If a police officer gives an authorisation under subsection (1) he must, as soon as it is practicable to do so, cause an officer of or above the rank of superintendent to be informed.

(4) This section confers on any constable in uniform power—

(a) to stop any pedestrian and search him or anything carried by him for offensive weapons or dangerous instruments;

(b) to stop any vehicle and search the vehicle, its driver and any passenger for offensive weapons or dangerous instruments.

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(5) A constable may, in the exercise of the powers conferred by subsection (4) stop any person or vehicle and make any search he thinks fit whether or not he has any grounds for suspecting that the person or vehicle is carrying weapons or articles of that kind.

(6) If, in the course of a search under this section, a constable discovers a dangerous instrument or an article which he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be an offensive weapon, he may seize it.

(7) A person who fails to stop, or to stop a vehicle, when required to do so by a constable in the exercise of his powers under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month or to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale or both.

(8) Any authorisation under this section shall—

(a) be given in writing signed by the officer giving it or, where that is not practicable, recorded in writing as soon as it is practicable to do so, and

(b) specify—

(i) the grounds on which it is given,

(ii) the period during which the powers conferred by this section are exercisable, and

(iii) the locality in which the powers conferred by this section are exercisable.

(9) The provisions of this section, so far as they relate to an authorisation by a member of the British Transport Police (including one who for the time being has the same powers and privileges as a member of a police force for a police area), shall have effect as if the references to a locality in his police area were references to any locality in or in the vicinity of any policed premises, or to the whole or any part of any such premises.

(10) Where a vehicle is stopped by a constable under this section, the driver shall be entitled to obtain a written statement that the vehicle was stopped under the powers conferred by this section if he applies for such a statement not later than the end of the period of 12 months from the day on which the vehicle was stopped.

(11) A person who is searched by a constable under this section shall be entitled to obtain a written statement that he was searched under the powers conferred by this section if he applies for such a statement not later than the end of the period of 12 months from the day on which he was searched.

(12) Where a constable has carried out a search in the exercise of the power under subsection (4) he shall make a record of it in writing unless it is not practicable to do so in which case he shall make such written record as soon as practicable after the completion of the search.

(13) Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is hereby repealed.

(14) In this section—

“British Transport Police Force” means the constables appointed under section 53 of the British Transport Commission Act 1949;

“dangerous instruments” means instruments which have a blade or are sharply pointed;

“locality” means any place or area which at the time the authorisation under this section is given the public or any section of the public has access, on payment or otherwise, as of right or by virtue of express or implied permission or any other place to which people have ready access which is not a dwelling;

“offensive weapon” has the meaning given by section 1(9) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 or, in relation to Scotland, section 47(4) of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995; and

“policed premises”, in relation to England and Wales, has the meaning given by section 53(3) of the British Transport Commission Act 1949 and, in relation to Scotland, means those places where members of the British Transport Police Force have the powers, protection and privileges of a constable under section 53(4)(a) of that Act (as it relates to Scotland).

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(15) For the purposes of this section, a person carries a dangerous instrument or an offensive weapon if he has it in his possession.

(16) The powers conferred by this section are in addition to and not in derogation of, any power otherwise conferred.’.

Government amendments Nos. 85 and 86.

Mr. Coaker: We come to an important group, as all hon. Members would agree. New clause 9 concerns police powers of stop-and-search for dangerous instruments and offensive weapons. The issue is one about which we all share a deep concern, particularly in the wake of tragedies such as the murders of 11-year-old Rhys Jones and of 15-year-old Jessie James in Manchester just over a year ago, the fatal knifing of the promising young footballer Kiyan Prince in May 2006, and the thankfully non-fatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy in Manchester only this weekend.

Notwithstanding any differences that we might have about the issue, I do not for one moment belittle the contribution that any hon. Member makes on it. I do not for one minute believe that any hon. Member has anything other than the desire to try to do what we can to prevent more tragedies and awful events from taking place on our streets. That is an important comment to make, given the heat that is sometimes generated around such debates, and one that hon. Members will understand, given the atmosphere in the Committee as we took the Bill through.

The Government have responded to those tragedies and those concerns by investing £1 million in the tackling gangs action programme—a programme of focused work in areas of London, Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool where gun crime and gangs are a particular issue—which was launched on 9 September. The programme’s aim is to reduce serious violence, particularly that involving the use of firearms by young people as part of gang-related activity. The Home Office is working with police and local authorities to design packages that will be most effective in each area, which will include both enforcement and preventive work, and will be delivered in partnership with a range of local agencies.

New clause 9 would extend the stop-and-search powers contained in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Hon. Members will know that the hon. Member for Hornchurch (James Brokenshire) and his hon. Friends have tabled a related amendment, which I am unable to recommend that we support, as I shall explain. Although the police have routine powers of stop-and-search in situations where they have a reasonable suspicion that a person is carrying certain items, section 60 of the 1994 Act provides exceptional powers for the police to authorise the stopping and searching of persons and vehicles in a locality for knives and offensive weapons—in England and Wales that includes firearms intended to be used to cause injury—without requiring reasonable suspicion. The police may use that power when they believe that a serious violent incident is likely to take place or that persons are carrying weapons in the locality. That provides a preventive power that addresses situations where an anticipated incident has not yet happened or where public order is threatened by weapon carrying en masse.

The new clause would add a third scenario in which the power could be used, which is where a serious violent incident has taken place, and where the power
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would be useful in locating and taking out of circulation the weapon used in the incident and in apprehending the perpetrator. The existing preventive powers in section 60 of the 1994 Act require written authorisation, but the police would be able to make an oral authorisation to use the proposed additional power, so as to avoid any delay in the crucial moments following a violent incident.

James Brokenshire: The Minister has referred to the new scenario, which he described as being one where a serious violent incident has occurred. Presumably there must have been a reasonable belief in those circumstances that persons had been carrying an offensive weapon in that locality without due authorisation, so surely the second limb of section 60 of the 1994 Act would apply.

Mr. Coaker: The hon. Gentleman knows that what we are extending is the right to stop and search either people or vehicles without reasonable suspicion in the locality of the persons concerned. What the new clause will do is increase the power available in a proportionate way. Indeed, the police have said that they welcome the addition to the stop-and-search powers under the 1994 Act.

The effect of the new clause would be to fill a small gap, whereby the police are currently unable to use their section 60 powers following a serious violent incident if they do not anticipate a further incident taking place. Knife and gun crimes are often isolated incidents and are often not followed by any further incidents. The extension of the section 60 powers that we propose would cover that scenario and allow the police to make full use of the powers to locate the weapon quickly and take it out of circulation, and to apprehend the offenders.

The safeguards already contained in section 60 of the 1994 Act relating to the rank of an officer who may make the authorisation and the length of the authorisation will remain in force, and will serve to ensure that the new extension to the powers is used only in a way that is necessary and proportionate. I am sure that hon. Members will agree that this extended power will provide the police with a useful additional tool in the fight against crime involving knives, guns and other weapons.

Mr. Geoffrey Cox (Torridge and West Devon) (Con): Will the Minister tell us in what kind of circumstances this power would be useful?

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