House of Commons
|Session 2007 - 08|
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General Committee Debates
Crimninal Justice and Immigration Bill
Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Alan Sandall, Committee Clerk
attended the Committee
Public Bill Committee
Thursday 22 November 2007
[Mr. Edward O'Hara in the Chair]
Clauses 39 to 41 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Working with other ombudsmen etc.
Amendments made: No. 298, in clause 42, page 30, line 11, leave out from beginning of line to this in line 12 and insert
The power under section 123(2)(c) to make consequential provision in an order under subsection (8) includes power to modify.
No. 299, in clause 42, page 30, line 13, at end insert , whenever passed or made.[Maria Eagle.]
Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): I welcome you back, Mr. OHara. I also welcome the Conservative Opposition and Government Members. I have just a couple of questions on clause 42, which relate to listed persons under subsection (6). I appreciate that this list is capable of extension, but in the first instance I want to ask whether the Minister considered the view that the Police Complaints Authority should be part of the list. If she did, why did she reject that view? It seems a very obvious body that should be listed for this degree of co-operation and the potential to carry out joint investigations, particularly in the context of our consideration this morning. I am genuinely surprised that the Police Complaints Authority is not listed. It looks to me as though it may be an omission.
I shall be more diffident in making my next suggestion. I am sure that I will display my ignorance here, but I am not sure what the interface might be for those in detention with the military police authorities and whether the Provost Marshal should be listed, because there will be circumstances in which civilians are apprehended through the military police, or in which a prisoner who has been dealt with through a court martial might be transferred to the civilian estate, or in which a service person is before a civilian court. I can conceive of circumstances in which the Provost Marshal or a complaints body that might apply in the context of the military systemI am not sure that one exists at the moment, but one might exist of which I am not awareshould be a listed body, as well.
I wonder who would be the appropriate body in the case of a similar position in Scotland. The Scottish public services ombudsman is listed, but nobody is who has a direct remit in the investigation of matters within the penal system in Scotland. I do not know enough
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Maria Eagle): May I join the hon. Gentleman in welcoming you back to the Chair, Mr. OHara? We missed you on Tuesday.
Maria Eagle: Exactly. We are glad that you missed us too, Mr. OHara, but Mr. Cook, who stepped into the breech, did a magnificent job.
I shall try to deal with the points made by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome. The clause is about provisions for co-operation and joint working between the commissioner and the other main statutory public sector ombudsmen in England and Wales, which is why it focuses on how they will work together to ensure that there is no unhelpful overlap between jurisdictions, as we discussed, and that we have smooth working together rather than muddle. The co-operation functions described in the clause reflect and reciprocate the ombudsmens needs as they themselves have expressed, and the measures do not create new powers or duties for ombudsmen to consult one another. We hope that that is the best way to ensure and enable smooth joint working, and that the measure works in the way that we want it to.
We are hoping to include the Independent Police Complaints Commission by order at commencement. Obviously, there are ongoing discussions about the way in which that commission should fit in. It is not technically an ombudsman in the normal sense, but clearly it should fit into the framework. The IPCC has now agreed that it ought to be involved.
In Scotland, the Lord Advocate and procurator fiscal are generally responsible for investigating deaths, and the clause does not change that. On the deaths remit, as it wereit is a horrible phrase that becomes worse the more often one hears it, but it is helpful shorthandthe commissioner will have a limited role in investigating complaints in Scotland. Essentially and in practice, he will investigate complaints from detainees in Dungavel immigration removal centre. We believe that the arrangements will be suitable and correct in terms of the listings in the clause.
I am not in a position to deal in detail with the hon. Gentlemans point regarding the extent to which it might be necessary to list the military authorities. Obviously, they are not involved, as far as I understand, in the public service ombudsmens current remit. It is possible, subject to discussions, that some future arrangement could be made that involved them, but we are not at that point yet. Any such discussions would doubtless in part deal with ensuring that the relevant official or complaints arrangement was placed
Mr. Heath: I am grateful to the Minister and I do not wish to pursue the matter further. I understand from what she said that the IPCC was to be added to the Bill, rather than adding it by order in future, which seems sensible, if only for the sake of efficiency. The clause title mentions ombudsmen etc., which I presume was intended to accommodate exactly such circumstances.
Maria Eagle: I am certainly happy to look at the practicalities of the hon. Gentlemans suggestion and to come back to the Committee on the matter. I understand his point, but I hope that that convinces him.
Clause 42, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 43 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Disclosure of information etc.
Maria Eagle: I beg to move amendment No. 300, in clause 44, page 31, line 41, leave out subsection (8).
Maria Eagle: This is an extremely minor drafting change to remove the provision in subsection (8), on notification to the police and other authorities, from its incorrect location in clause 44, which is really about the disclosure of protected informationit is as simple as that. The subsection properly belongs in clause 46 and amendments Nos. 300 and 301 would put it there.
Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): I am happy that what I am about to say will conclude our deliberations on clauses 44 to 46. I would like to ask the Minister, using the excuse of these amendments, about the power in clause 45(1) for the Secretary of State to
give a notice to the Commissioner
the disclosure of
(a) any document or information specified in the notice, or
(b) any description of document or information so specified.
Is that decision by the Secretary of State challengeable, or does the Secretary of States view that the disclosure of the document would
prejudice national security or would otherwise be contrary to the public interest
mean that the decision cannot be challenged, and that that would be it? I have not expressed my question very lucidly, but I hope that the Minister understands what I am trying to ask. Is the Secretary of States opinion unchallengeable, or can the courts review that decision?
Maria Eagle: As far as I am aware, the normal rules would apply. A Secretary of States judgment is always challengeable in the courts, on the basis of judicial review, unless we were looking at something like certified public interests. My understanding is that such a decision is not intended to be out of the normal run of challengeable decisions; it ought to be challengeable in all the normal ways. I hope that that reassures the hon. and learned Gentleman. There is certainly no intention in this clause to have any special rules or to suggest that the Secretary of States decision is final and cannot be challenged.
Mr. Garnier: I do not want to hold up the Committees deliberations. I therefore wonder whether the Minister could write to me about that matter and circulate the letter to the Chairman and to other members of the Committee, so that there is clarity about the intention behind the measure.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 44, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 45 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Notification of matters of potential concern to the police or other authorities
Amendment made: No. 301, in clause 46, page 32, line 27, at end add
(3) Information obtained from a listed person (within the meaning of section 42) must not be notified under this section unless the Commissioner has consulted the listed person..[Maria Eagle.]
Clause 46, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 47 and 4 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Schedule 9 agreed to.
Clause 49 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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