Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T.C. Davies), who speaks with such authority on these issues because of his experience as a special constable. It is also a pleasure to be the concluding Back-Bench speaker in this wide-ranging debate. Of course, it has had to be wide ranging, because we are discussing 46 clauses that cover all sorts of issues.
During these final few minutes of the debate I want to talk about an issue that is not on the face of the Bill. It is based on a press release that the Ministry of Justice issued today, which was mentioned by the Home Secretary during his speech, on the new support for victims of terrorism overseas. I should make it clear that I declare an interest, in that, sadly, I lost my brother in the Bali bombing of 2002. I welcome the proposal and, in fact, I have been campaigning very hard for such an initiative for some time. My worry is that the Bill is so busy and so complicated that it might not pass through its stages in time for this provision to reach the statute book.
My experience in Bali when I lost my brother-he was a teacher based in Vietnam who died along with 201 others-was one of absolute confusion and devastation. He left the hotel he was staying in to join some friends in the Sari club, and at 11.5 pm the first bomb exploded in Paddy's bar opposite. People left the Sari club to see what was going on, and that was when the second bomb-the killer bomb-exploded and took out most of the 202 people.
Absolute confusion followed. A lady called Lucy, a Briton, who was in Paddy's bar, had fortunately gone to the toilet the moment before the bomb struck. She was in a cubicle made of concrete, which saved her life, but when she came out she found that the three Australians whom she had met half an hour before had been blown apart. Lucy suffered no injuries but she received no compensation or support to help her through these difficult times. She is traumatised by that incident.
Another person, who has become a friend of mine, Paul, lost his left arm in the incident. He has had to pay for his own prosthesis because when he returned to England, he found that there was no support. Insurance companies do not pay out for terrorist attacks. The fact that the terrorist attack took place abroad meant there was no compensation from the criminal injuries compensation scheme.
There was total chaos, to the point where no help was provided by the British embassy. I flew out there and had to do a lot of the work myself, including managing the process of my brother's repatriation, which included sealing the lid of the coffin myself with a Black & Decker drill. That is just one example of the absence of support during that horrible incident.
I am pleased to say that the Government have done wonders in correcting many of those failings by setting up emergency response teams based at various embassies across the world that are able to move rapidly to a location when a disaster takes place, and through improvements to the website. The final, missing part of the jigsaw is the compensation for overseas victims of terror. They are not hit because of the person they are. They are being used as a pawn to send a message to the Government. That is why the Government have a responsibility to ensure that they are looked after.
It is interesting to make a comparison with the events of 7/7 here in London, where, regardless of the victims' nationality, the compensation scheme made sure that everybody was looked after and compensated, no matter the scale of their injuries or whether the families of those who were killed also needed looking after. That was the level of care that we provided here in the UK. Unfortunately, up to now, once one goes past Dover, all that support disappears.
We have been late in catching up with many other countries across the world-including Spain, France, the United States and Australia-in bringing our laws up to date to make sure that we provide the necessary assistance. It is all very well introducing another Bill that builds the walls around us higher and higher-yet another Bill that provides more ways of chasing the terrorists-but we must be able to protect the small number of people who are affected when those laws do not work. When those walls are not high enough, the Government have a responsibility to make sure that British civilians are looked after.
I am pleased with the legislation proposed today. My worry is that there may not be enough time to ensure that it reaches the statute book. There has been huge frustration among the survivors and families of British victims of terrorism overseas. On the one hand, we see the energy and determination expended to fight terrorism, which in many cases has not been matched by countries overseas. On the other hand, the energy and determination to prevent the bomb going off in the first place is not matched by the commitment and support to the victims once the bomb has gone off. I am therefore pleased that the terrorism proposal has been put forward.
If the blanket of security fails, Britons need to be assured that the Government will ensure that appropriate mechanisms are in place. I hope that, thanks to the new counter-terrorism legislation, we will feel a little safer; and that, when exposed to the same dangers when
disembarking at the other end of an aircraft journey, we will now be able to gain the support we expect. Terrorism does not recognise borders, and nor should our support for Britons. Although I disagree with other aspects of the Bill, I certainly commend the proposal to the House.
James Brokenshire (Hornchurch) (Con): This has been a wide-ranging, well-informed and passionate debate. I had intended to deal with overseas victims later in my contribution, but in the light of the eloquent, measured and passionate speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood), I will start with that. It was very moving to hear his contribution, describing the direct impact that terrorism can have on individuals. He spoke from the heart about his real-life experience, including the trauma, the issues that are thrown up and the unfairness of the current system in terms of compensation. I say to him and to the right hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) that we will look closely and carefully at the Government's proposals. They are not in the Bill, so it is difficult to comment on them specifically, but the right hon. Gentleman certainly has my assurance that the issue will not be treated as a political football. It is too important, too serious and touches the lives of far too many people to be treated in that way, so we will look carefully at what transpires in the Government's proposals.
Mr. McCartney: I call the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) my hon. Friend, because we have worked on the issue closely, and I thank the hon. Member for Hornchurch (James Brokenshire) for what he has said so far. Whatever happens with this Bill, and whatever comes out of the discussions, all I ask is that every Front Bencher concerned ensures that the propositions are preserved so that the families can move on from the tragedies they have had to bear since 2002.
This has been an important debate, because at its core have been the concepts of individual freedom, personal liberty and the scope and extent of the power of the state: the balance between the collective desire to retain and control information, ostensibly for collective interest and protection, and the right of the individual to control the most personal information that the state retains on them. With DNA, that issue could not be more sensitive. It is at the heart of an individual's genetic make-up-the coding to our being and our family. It is, one could almost say, our very essence.
We are all aware of cases in which evidence provided by DNA forensics has played an important part in securing the convictions of serious criminals who have committed heinous crimes, and we have heard several examples today. DNA information can also be important in showing that someone was not involved in acts of criminality, or in securing identification evidence; and we agree that DNA samples can be an important evidential tool in prosecuting and bringing crimes to justice. However, we have to acknowledge that there are limits to its effectiveness and, if we go too far, to its acceptability.
Many Members have made important and telling contributions, describing the impact that such measures may have on people's trust and confidence in policing and in our whole criminal justice system. The right hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz), the Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, highlighted that disproportionate aspect, and we look forward with interest to his Committee's work and report. I hope we have an opportunity to reflect on it as the Bill progresses in Committee and through the House.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Ms Smith) also made the point about the Bill not having gone far enough on the European Court of Human Rights judgment, and she accepted that the issue is complex. It certainly is, and there are balances to be struck and judgments to be made, but that is necessarily part and parcel of the debate.
The hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Gerrard) also highlighted the over-representation of black and minority ethnic communities-the fact that there are more young black men on the DNA database and the implications that that may have for certain communities' trust in law and order and in the police, and for their chances of being dealt with appropriately. The hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) made some similar points.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) made a powerful and passionate speech, analysing the evidence-or lack of it-in terms of performance data. The Government have sought to back up the Bill's proposals, in part, through their re-arrest hazard rate analysis, which they have used to justify the six-year period on which they have alighted. Heavy caveats are being applied even in that report, which was generated by the Home Office. The report says that the lines used are measured with "some degree of uncertainty" and that information is being "extrapolated". It goes on to say that
"The comparison arrest rate for the general population is...not known".
There is also a whole host of different points, including the use of proxy measures. Even on the basis of that analysis, there is not the firm and undisputed support for a six-year period in the way that might have been suggested.
My hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T.C. Davies) made his point very well. However, a balance has to be struck between the individual, and safety and security. If we do not strike that balance appropriately-and we argue that this Bill does not-trust and confidence in the police, the criminal justice system and all the things we hold dear will be eroded.
Let us be clear. The number of profiles stored on the DNA database by police forces in England and Wales has topped 10 per cent. of the population; more than 5.5 million individual profiles are held on the database by police forces in England and Wales. Furthermore, the database continues to grow at an exceptional rate. Some 32,467 profiles were added in November 2009 alone.
Yet despite that growth, the proportion of crimes detected by DNA has fallen, although one might have thought that it would have increased given how science has moved on. In fact, two years ago the figure was 0.76 per cent. and in the past year it was 0.67 per cent. Similarly, the proportion of crimes detected in which a
DNA match was available was 36.5 per cent. two years ago and 32.4 per cent. last year. The Government cannot argue that the change is due to a reduction in crime; the proportions do not justify the statement made about effectiveness.
The status of DNA obviously has particular significance. The retention of cellular samples is particularly intrusive given the wealth of genetic and health information contained therein. There is, however, a point of agreement across the House this evening; we welcome the fact that the Government are saying that they would destroy the forensic samples, and we understand that some of the time periods relate to the specific coding information on the DNA database.
However, we need to consider carefully the potentially conflicting interests of the state and the individual. It is welcome that the Government should have undergone some movement and conversion, in that they now accept that their previous Big Brother approach to DNA retention is not acceptable. But let us not forget the background to where we are today. As a matter of principle and policy, the Government had wanted to grow the DNA database for the sake of it. They now cannot do that. They wanted to retain for ever and a day the DNA profiles on those arrested but never charged or convicted for any offence. They have grudgingly accepted that they can no longer do that, either. They then tried to hide DNA retention powers away in an order-making power that gave huge discretion to Ministers, but they were thwarted in that regard, too. After that, they wanted to retain for 12 years the DNA profiles of those arrested but never convicted of an offence. They have now backed away from that position.
In this Bill, we have ended up with new proposals on DNA retention, but the Government still have not got it right. We believe that they have failed to strike a proper balance on DNA retention. Even with the proposals outlined in the Bill, they continue to be on the wrong side of the line regarding what is proportionate and justified. As some Members have said this evening, questions still remain about whether even these revised proposals satisfy the Court judgment.
The Bill also contains a whole raft of other proposals. On antisocial behaviour, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Flello) mentioned the lack of a toolkit-the fact that there are so many provisions that many agencies do not know how to use them. We could make the same point about compulsory parenting orders for children who breach ASBOs, the latest proposal on antisocial behaviour. These powers are aimed at the parents of 10 to 15-year-olds who breach their antisocial behaviour orders. Ministers claim that such measures would help to prevent young people from being sucked into a life of crime, but the reality is that even if they were put on to the statute book, hardly anyone would receive them. The Bill's regulatory impact assessment shows that ASBOs have fallen so far out of favour that fewer and fewer are being issued, and consequently fewer are being breached. Mandatory parenting orders apply only well after ingrained problem behaviour has occurred, and even then they will apply only to a small number of parents. I have to say in all honesty to the Home Secretary and to the Government that they are deluding themselves if they think these proposals will make any significant material or sustained difference in preventing antisocial behaviour or in getting parents to take responsibility for delinquent children.
We then move on to the proposals for gang-related injunctions, which take a similar approach to those set out in the Policing and Crime Act 2009. Clearly, gang violence blights too many communities across the country. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough discussed this serious issue very effectively in her speech. The recent Catch 22 study on the impact of crime on young people highlights the challenge. It paints a dark picture, with more than a quarter of young people having been threatened with a gun or a knife, and one in six having had a weapon used against them. The children's charity, Action for Children, reports that becoming a victim of crime, particularly violent crime, is a real fear for children and young people growing up in the UK today, and gang-based violence is very much part of this disturbing picture.
However, simply doing a cut-and-paste exercise on provisions from the previous Act, thereby bypassing the youth court, makes a significant change to youth justice that has not been properly considered. Indeed, during the passage of that Act the same point was made in relation to these injunctions, and Ministers accepted that it was a relevant and serious point. It is therefore surprising that it has not been catered for in the Bill, which means that breaches will go not to the youth court but to civil courts. That is a serious issue that requires further detailed examination and review as to its likely effects.
We welcome the Government's recognition of the level of bureaucracy and the paperwork it has wrapped the police up in. The Government are right to examine the paperwork surrounding stop and search. Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary estimates that recording and administration takes 25 minutes per form. The problem is that the Government's proposals do not go far enough. It is right that stop and search information be recorded, but the Government would make a more significant impact on police bureaucracy and form filling if they allowed it to be recorded by radioing it into the control room, instead of wasting police time on filling out paperwork.
The Government had the opportunity to address other problems connected with stop and search. The hon. Member for Walthamstow raised some relevant points about this. The case of Gillan and Quinton has seen the Government on the wrong side of the law yet again, and they had the opportunity to address the court's judgment in the Bill. Rather than take that step, however, they have said that they will appeal the judgment even though there are legal questions about the grounds available for them to do so. This leaves the police in a period of considerable uncertainty, partly reflected by the actions of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner in scaling back the use of stop and search under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. However, that does not meet the requirements of the ECHR judgment. This period of uncertainty should be limited, and direction should be given to the police to address the concerns that have been expressed.
The principle of an order to enable a victim of domestic violence to have relief from abuse for a period to consider their options, free from pressure from the alleged perpetrator, is well understood, as the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South said, and such orders
are in operation in many other countries. However, the telling contributions by my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) and the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy illustrated the fact that there is overlap with existing laws, and we need better to understand what difference these provisions would make over and above those laws.
My hon. Friends the Members for Banbury (Tony Baldry) and for Ilford, North (Mr. Scott) made some useful and powerful remarks on wheel-clamping, rightly describing it as being, in certain circumstances, extortion. We also heard a welcome contribution on the subject from the right hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty). I find such abuses intolerable-they represent extortion. I have heard of pensioners who have gone to pick up their pension but have landed a £300 bill simply for parking in the wrong place. Such a thing is unacceptable and must be addressed.
Ultimately, the retention of DNA and issues of personal rights and freedoms are at the heart of the debate. If the Government were prepared to accept their responsibilities and to act by realising that the DNA records of the innocent should not be retained, it would be a step forward. It would also be a step forward if they were to recognise that the Scottish system works and is effective. However, while they retain their standpoint that, for the DNA database, the presumption of innocence is reversed, meaning that a person is presumed guilty unless the contrary can be shown, we would be failing in our duty to the House, the British people and the liberties of our country if we were to let this Bill pass-and we will not do it.
The Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism (Mr. David Hanson): I thank right hon. and hon. Members for their contributions. Those who were present at the start, when we heard the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), might have thought that the debate was solely about DNA, which was also raised by the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne) and formed a key part of all the opening speeches. However, those who, like me, have been in the Chamber for the past five and a half hours will know that a wide range of issues have been raised across the spectrum of the Bill. Hon. Members have focused on key aspects of it, and I wish to talk about them, as well as the question of DNA.
There have been two notable aspects of the debate. The hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood), to whom I pay tribute, spoke about funding help and support for the victims of overseas terrorism, which was also raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney). The hon. Gentleman spoke powerfully from his personal experience, and whatever the outcome of our debates on the rest of the Bill, I know that he will support the Government's approach on that issue, given his experience.