|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
The new clauses tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (James Brokenshire) are very important. I return to the question of the wash-up and the extent to which we stand firm on these questions in the interests of our constituents. Our job is to protect them and to ensure that they get a proper and a fair deal, not an unreasonable subjection to principles of proportionality,
or other principles, and a whole series of decisions that come from the Strasbourg Court. Nor do we want to find, as the charter of fundamental rights-the Lisbon treaty-begins to work its way into our legislative arrangements, that we are having to accept those principles.
I repudiate the arguments of the hon. Member for Eastleigh because they are based on abstract principles that are, I am afraid, inherited from a period that has long since gone by. We helped to write and produce the European convention on human rights-and, indeed, the charter of the United Nations-because in those days we were repudiating fascism and the surveillance society that went with it. All that came from our tradition, and that is what we in this House should stick to rather than having a kneejerk reaction in going back to principles that were enunciated all those years ago.
Mr. Hanson: I thank colleagues for a useful and reflective debate on some important and key issues for the House as a whole. We had a long and detailed debate on these matters in Committee. I am grateful to all right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken in this debate for ensuring that those matters came before the House today.
If I can summarise, two clear positions have been stated from the Opposition Front Benches. The hon. Member for Hornchurch (James Brokenshire) said that he supports the three-year period for retention in relation to serious offences, based on the Scottish model. As I said in Committee and repeat today, we have a principled position from the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne), who does not believe that the DNA of anybody not convicted of crimes should be kept. We have heard important contributions from my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz), who has brought to bear the conclusions of the Home Affairs Committee. I am grateful to members of the Committee for their consideration of these matters.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) commented on the views of the Joint Committee on Human Rights and has tabled some amendments, to which I shall speak shortly. The right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) made a thoughtful speech that summarised some of the dilemmas that we face in balancing the need to protect our citizens with the need to gain their consent, and in doing so in the legal framework within which we have to work.
The hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) made the case, in part, for a full DNA database. We need to ensure that that is considered, and there are arguments for it, but the Government have had to take a proportionate view and have settled on the position that is before the House today as meeting our legal obligations. The hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) talked about the primacy of this House in making decisions and expressed what I can only say are long-held concerns about the operation of these matters which are not new to anybody in the House.
There is honest disagreement about the DNA database, and I believe ultimately that the hon. Members for Hornchurch and for Eastleigh are on the wrong side of the argument for the British public. We are trying to ensure that we take a proportionate approach that meets the legal obligations that my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon mentioned and works within the
legal framework that the hon. Member for Stone and the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham talked about, but that ultimately protects the British public, deters individuals from committing crime and supports the prevention of crime by ensuring that we have a database that is operationally efficient. There is honest disagreement, but I believe that we are proposing a proportionate system and working within the judgments of the Council of Ministers on Marper. We are trying to ensure that the six-year period that we have suggested meets our obligations in a fair and effective way.
I shall speak in due course to Government amendments 8 to 16, in the name of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. As I tried to explain in Committee, the Opposition amendments would remove the proposed framework for the retention and destruction of DNA and adopt a variant on the Scottish model. The hon. Member for Eastleigh would have a model that did not allow for the retention of matters relating to the DNA of innocent individuals at all.
I begin with Government amendments 14 to 16. We listened to the debates in Committee, as I hope the hon. Member for Hornchurch and others recognise. Issues that were raised there are partly reflected in the reports produced by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East. I will consult my right hon. Friend's Committee, but we have tried to ensure that we consider both the need for consistency and how individual approaches to the database can be made.
One key issue that has been raised, which is addressed in amendments 14 to 16, is ensuring that we do not have postcode lottery on the implementation of the proposals before the House. In tabling the amendments, the Government decided on a new early deletion procedure, with the National DNA Database Strategy Board being a single point of contact for both members of the public and constituency MPs instead of their having to go to individual police forces. That was a key issue in Committee, and I know that the hon. Member for Hornchurch was concerned about it. I hope that the amendments will ensure that we have consistency across the board in relation to early deletion. Once the board receives a request, the case will be handled by a central team, which will collate the case file, offer advice and consider, based on previous decisions, whether a deletion can be agreed to. If so, it will arrange for it to be implemented.
Amendment 14 will place the responsibility for those arrangements on the board, which, as the House will be aware, has existed since 2007. It will oversee the operation of the database and technical standards in relation to DNA. The board's core membership will be drawn from the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Association of Police Authorities and the Home Office, but it will include independent elements such as the Information Commissioner, the forensic science regulator and the National DNA Database Ethics Group.
Government amendment 14 will also mean that chief police officers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland must follow that guidance. It is crucial that the removal process is consistent, and I hope that the House welcomes that amendment.
On Government amendments 15 and 16, we listened to what was said in Committee with regard to parliamentary scrutiny over the board and the reports it produces. I thank the hon. Member for Hornchurch for raising that in Committee. Again, I believe that there is now a consensus to amend the Bill to allow that parliamentary scrutiny of the board.
Ultimately, there is a disagreement between the Government, and the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Front Benchers on these matters. New clause 1 and associated Opposition proposals return us to the fundamental questions of the length of time for retention, and whether we achieve a balance for the protection of the community at large with the Government's proposals or with the Scottish model, as the hon. Member for Hornchurch proposes.
We believe that we have the evidence and the support, that we meet our legal obligations and that the six-year retention period-regardless of the seriousness of the offence for which a person has been arrested-will lead to the prevention of crime, and ultimately and accordingly to the solving of crimes. That is important, and we have taken that view very strongly. As the House will know from discussions in Committee, we believe that rapes, murders or manslaughter cases in England and Wales have been matched to the DNA database and the DNA profiles of individuals who have been arrested but not convicted of any crime.
Mr. Hanson: The hon. Gentleman will have an answer to his parliamentary question as quickly as possible, but we need to check the information for him to ensure that what I say in the House is correct. However, in 2008-09, 79 rape, murder or manslaughter cases were matched to the DNA database, and 36 were found to have a specific and direct value to those investigations.
Chris Huhne: It is very important that the House hears what the Minister just admitted. He admitted that the information on which he has been making his case has not been checked, which is why he has been unable to answer my parliamentary question.
Mr. Hanson: The hon. Gentleman is making it up as he goes along. I have told the House that I will respond to his parliamentary question in due course. When I do so, I want to ensure that I check that the information in my answer is sufficient to answer his question. I am telling House today that 79 rape, murder or manslaughter cases in England and Wales were matched to the DNA database, and that 36 were found to have a direct or specific value to those investigations.
Do not just listen to me. The president of ACPO, Sir Hugh Orde, has said that he believes that the database is of value in helping to secure criminal convictions, preventing crime, and in ensuring, as the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham said, that innocent people are acquitted of crimes, as they are on occasion. There is an honest disagreement
between the Government, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, which I suspect will be tested in a Division very shortly.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon proposes new clause 9, which forwards the underlying principle of independent oversight. As he is aware, we have given a commitment to look at the creation of an independent oversight role on such matters, which we are doing. I cannot accept his proposal today, but we are aware of the need for such oversight. We are considering whether to introduce amendments in due course to meet those obligations.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights is also behind proposed amendments 35 to 42, which would substitute the Government's proposals for a Scottish model. My arguments on that relate to those I made to the hon. Members for Hornchurch and for Eastleigh. We have had to make judgments on these matters, and I believe we have made them in support of crime prevention. I commend the Government amendments, but I ask the hon. Member for Hornchurch to withdraw his proposal, because I believe that it is not in the interests of the prevention of crime. The Conservatives are on the wrong side of the argument, and I hope the House rejects the hon. Gentleman's proposals should he not withdraw them.
James Brokenshire: We have had an interesting debate on this important subject. The framing of today's debate with the publication of the Select Committee's report has been helpful in highlighting some of the issues, which were raised by the Chairman. It is interesting to note that the Committee did not support the Government's approach to the six-year retention period. The Committee believes that that is too long-much of the other evidence supports that-and argues for a three-year retention period. I note the points that the right hon. Gentleman made about the disproportionate impact on minority communities, and we will need to maintain our focus on that issue.
I respect the approach taken by the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne) and the purity of his logic, although we see the need for pragmatism in striking the balance between the interests of citizens and protecting them from the risk of crime. I support the points that he made about the evidential approach that the Government have taken and the holes in their analysis.
The hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) set out clearly the problem of stigma that can occur in relation to the retention of a DNA profile and the impact that that might have on an individual. That stigma has been rightly highlighted in several cases, and the House will be concerned by the individual case that the hon. Gentleman brought up this afternoon and the tragic circumstances involved.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) makes the case in relation to a universal database, although I would mention the issues of cost and practicality. I take a different view when it comes to the benign nature of the state. I do not agree with the universal approach, but I do agree with my right hon. and learned Friend about the need for DNA forensics and proper cold case databases so that information can be matched speedily and effectively. It is an important detection tool, and he
also mentioned the deterrent effect. Crime scene forensics and DNA records must be retained, so that they can be matched against DNA profiles taken on arrest for unconnected offences.
My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) highlighted the issue of justice, and that is why we support the use of DNA forensics in the detecting of crimes and bringing perpetrators to justice. That overlaps with some of the points made earlier in the debate, but I am clear that the use of the DNA database should be for the detection and prosecution of crime and for no other purpose. A universal database of the kind that my hon. Friend suggests would be disproportionate, for reasons of cost and security. The Government do not have the strongest of records when it comes to keeping information safe, and that would be even more of an issue if the database were to be extended as my hon. Friend suggests.
I appreciated the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) in making the case for the basic period of three years and about the primacy of Parliament. He mentioned his concerns about the surveillance society, which is a wider issue albeit connected to several of the contributions we have heard in this debate.
I acknowledge some of the changes that the Minister has made following our discussions in Committee on oversight and the scrutiny by Parliament. He has also recognised the need to be able to take samples from visitors from overseas should it be discovered, once they are here, that they have committed serious offences overseas. I welcome the changes that the Minister has brought forward, but I return to the issue of balance and judgment. We must take a proportionate approach to the retention of DNA records for those who have never been convicted of an offence. We must respect the basic principle that someone is innocent unless proven guilty, and we must not discount the stigma that can be attached to someone if those principles are breached. Therefore, I wish to test the opinion of the House on new clause 1, and see whether we do in fact respect those fundamental principles that I and my colleagues hold dear.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|