|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
I have considered the matter extremely carefully and I still come to the conclusion that the hon. Members for Hornchurch and for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne) are on the
wrong side of the argument for giving justice to victims and for ensuring that people who could and should be in jail for serious crimes are in jail. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) is chuntering on the Front Bench about this serious issue. If he wants to intervene, I will happily give way. If he intervenes, I will say to him, as I have already said to his colleagues, that he is on the wrong side of the argument. I am absolutely amazed that the party which for so many years called itself the party of law and order will not allow the use of DNA for between three and six years to bring to justice people who have committed terrible crimes and indeed to prevent future victims by ensuring that people are in jail earlier than they would have been if we did not have the provision in place.
I accept that we have had to make judgments; that is one of the balances that ministerial life brings. I accept that there will be some people on the DNA database who have not committed a crime, who are innocent, who will remain innocent during the six-year period, and who may never commit a crime, but if I have to balance that against potentially bringing to justice somebody who has committed a serious crime and could commit further serious crimes, and bringing justice to victims, my hon. Friends and I will be on the side of victims and ensuring that justice. We will have to accept the consequences, which are that some individuals will feel aggrieved.
On DNA, we have tried to fulfil-and, I believe, are fulfilling-our legal obligations under human rights legislation both in this House and abroad. We are looking at whether we can meet the requirements of the Marper judgment, and we are in discussion with the Council of Ministers. The Liberal Democrats and the Conservative party take honourable positions on the subject, but I believe that the people outside this building will be on the side of the Government. We have a clear position on bringing individuals to justice, and on justice in relation to those issues. The hon. Members for Hornchurch, and for Eastleigh, have put their positions strongly, but at the end of the day, they are simply not ones that I believe that the House will support.
I hope that the hon. Member for Hornchurch fulfils his commitment and votes against the Bill this evening. He has argued against it all the way. I say to him: see that through. In voting against Third Reading, he will be voting against not just the DNA provisions. In turning down the Bill tonight, let the Conservatives vote against the provisions on mobile phones, wheel-clamping, antisocial behaviour, and gang injunctions-serious issues. We believe that the provisions will help to prevent further crime.
Let me say in these proceedings on the final crime Bill of this Parliament that this Labour Government's record has, in every constituency, been one of reduced crime, of less chance of being a victim, of stronger confidence in policing, and of ensuring that we deal with justice in an effective way, on behalf of the victim and the service recipient, not on behalf of the criminal. The measures strengthen that will and look forward to the future, and I commend them to the House.
I have previously described this Bill as the Christmas tree Bill to top all Christmas tree Bills, with more bits dangled off it than legislative
branches to hold it all together. Indeed, with a Ways and Means resolution and an instruction motion having been required from the House even during Committee, the Government have been forced to do some significant building work even as the Bill progressed.
Coming as it does on top of all the criminal justice Bills that the Government have introduced, this is a hotch-potch of a pre-election Bill, with a broad spread of unconnected measures cobbled together without giving any meaningful sense of an overarching strategy, purpose or direction on the part of the Government. It takes us from car-clamping to clamping down on mobile phones in prisons; from domestic violence to the non-domestic human impact of terrorist actions abroad; and from stop-and-search to stopping some licensed premises from opening in the small hours of the morning.
For a Government who are rightly criticised for box-ticking, they have certainly excelled themselves in trying to tick the boxes of as many different interest groups as possible. In some instances, the significant problem for the Government is that they have not ticked the boxes when it comes to ensuring that the measures are proportionate and sustainable, and will make a difference.
As a result of the speed with which the Bill has been put together, questions remain as to whether a number of the provisions will actually work. As we have heard this evening, the youth gang injunctions import a whole new concept-the concept of the civil courts having sanctions, including youth custody, which was previously reserved for the youth courts. That is intended to be tested not through legislation, but through a pilot. The interrelationship between domestic violence notices, domestic violence orders and other parallel criminal provisions appears potentially problematic, and the practical application of the measures appears to have been put off, again to allow for the proposed piloting of the measures. It has certainly been the hallmark of this Government that they appear to have more pilots than a number of airlines.
Then, there is the question of what practical or meaningful difference other provisions will make. The mandatory parenting orders of children who breach their ASBOs would appear to apply only to a small handful of parents who have already been considered unsuitable for a parenting order. The new criminal offence of a person failing to take reasonable precautions to prevent a minor from having an air weapon is so subjective that it is difficult to see the Crown Prosecution Service making a number of cases out, however desirable that might be. The apparent new rights for councils to stop licensed premises opening from 3 am until 6 am overlooks the fact that most of the binge drinking leading to problems for the police and ambulance service in the small hours of the morning will have occurred much earlier. In any event, the hurdle that councils have to climb even to use the powers seems, as we have heard tonight, to make them virtually impossible to use.
The Government have brought forward reasonable proposals, such as those on the bureaucracy behind the recording of stop and search and on regulating the unacceptable actions of car clampers, but Her Majesty's Opposition have been calling for such measures for some time. We have sought to be constructive in trying to improve the measures in the Bill. To be fair to the Minister and to his earlier comments, we recognise that the Government have been prepared to accept a number
of the points that we have raised. I want to put on record my thanks for the support that I have received from my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell). He has proposed a number of constructive measures, notably on the definition of mobile equipment in prisons. We are pleased that the Government recognised and accepted that proposal through the amendments tabled tonight.
We have sought to make improvements and to make changes such as ensuring that the police can take DNA samples from those in this country who have been convicted of offences overseas, improved the accountability of the DNA strategy board to Parliament, and clarified the requirements for the court in considering a gang injunction to receive a pre-sentence report from the youth offending team and for the court to give its reasons in open court should it believe that a sentence of detention is appropriate for a breach of those orders by young people. Despite those improvements, in our judgment the Bill needs further careful and close scrutiny.
Despite our misgivings about the effectiveness and enforceability of a number of the provisions contained in the Bill, we would be prepared to let them pass, but the issue of principle on DNA retention remains. As the debate earlier showed, there are strong feelings in the House. We believe that the Government's proposals as set out in the Bill fail to strike the right balance between the rights of the individual and the collective right to protection from crime. We believe that the Government remain on the wrong side of the argument.
We have set out our position on a workable solution to deal with that issue which protects the public and respects the concept of innocent until proven guilty. We believe that to be a pretty fundamental concept that should not be discarded lightly. Despite the Government's best efforts to bring forward cases to prove the contrary, they have not succeeded.
The Bill has no chance of being considered fully by the other place and therefore can only become law through the wash-up process. It will therefore require co-operation if it is to have any chance of becoming law. Let me be clear: we will not allow the Bill to proceed in the other place with the Government's proposals in their current form. In our approach to this Bill, we have sought to move things forward and even at this stage the Government have the opportunity to adopt a similar approach on this issue. The Home Affairs Committee's report has produced a number of interesting recommendations on an all-party basis. It was interesting to note that the Chairman of that Committee, the right hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz), talked about the need for consensus to try to move things forward on this issue, too.
We believe that the Government should reflect on that point, as we will too, and in the spirit of wishing other provisions on compensation for the victims of overseas terrorism, on car clamping, on domestic violence and on other matters to succeed, we would be prepared to meet the Government and other Opposition parties to discuss a way forward on an all-party basis after tonight and to see whether agreement can be reached. We will do that on the basis that we expect the Government to move from their rigid, authoritarian, big brother-database stance. In the spirit of reaching such an agreement, and as a mark of good will, we are prepared to let the Bill pass tonight, but they should be in no doubt that if
there is no movement from them-if they insist on maintaining the measures on DNA retention-we will not hesitate to prevent the Bill from making further progress. The Government would then, by their actions, have stopped other important measures that could do a great deal to protect the interests of our communities and our constituents, and that would be on their shoulders.
Mr. Frank Field: I rise to give almost unqualified support to the Bill. Given the list of measures for which the Government seek powers I find it strange that the Opposition have deserted their traditional role on law and order. I thought that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism was already reaching across to the Opposition in the spirit of compromise when he said that the measures would be supported strongly by our voters around the country. The list that he read out will probably be supported even more strongly by Tory voters than by Labour voters, so if the Opposition wish to play funny things with the Bill, the electorate will have that very fresh in their minds when they come to vote, we hope, in May.
I said that I am giving the Bill almost unqualified support because I am bearing in mind the fact that I cannot speak to measures that are not in it. I had hoped that there would be a further adjustment in the criminal injuries compensation measures in the Bill, which my right hon. Friend has pointed out is the last crime Bill of this Parliament. I welcome what the Government are doing in extending the measures to people who are on the wicked receiving end of terrorist outrages when they are going about their business or holidaying abroad, but there is a related issue that we cannot settle in their lordships' House and that will not be dealt with in the wash-up period, although I had hoped that it would be, so we will need to return to it some day.
I have a constituent who was brutally blown apart by the July bombings in London. Although he, his wife and his family are given measured support under the existing scheme, there is a cap of £250,000 on the scheme. I am talking about someone whose bravery is beyond description. His legs were blown away, and his life and the lives of his wife and family have changed in a way that is difficult for us even to contemplate. The current scheme, welcome as it is, has a cap, and there is no way that we can put my constituent's life nearly back to what it was before those wicked bombers detonated those bombs, so affecting him and many other of our constituents from around the country, but particularly from London. I hope that we can get an undertaking from the Government that when the Bill is properly discussed in the other place-we have quite a lot of time before the election will be called-the Government will consider the proposals to raise the cap to £2 million, as well as the proposals that were previously put to my right hon. Friend the then Home Secretary, who is now the Justice Secretary, about how that small but important increase could be met through our national insurance scheme. I am not part of the campaign that thinks that we can propose measures without saying where the money should come from.
So it is with nearly good heart that I support the Bill tonight. It addresses a huge number of issues on which our constituents are grateful that the Government have, practically in each year of this Parliament, listened to them and weighed in on their behalf against people who do bad deeds in our communities and across the country. My only regret is that although I have welcomed all those other measures, I cannot welcome the Bill wholeheartedly because there is one gap in it. It was the one issue of substance which, for very good reasons, we did not have time to debate on the Floor of the House. I hope that it will be debated properly in the other Chamber, and I hope that when it comes to the other place, the Government will look seriously at the amendments that I tabled, but which could not be called this evening.
Chris Huhne: I shall be brief, because we have made our position clear as we have debated the various groups of amendments this evening. The Bill is the usual random collection of measures-very much an omnibus Bill. Some are more unpalatable than others, and there are some good aspects which we have been pleased to support, such as compensation for the victims of overseas terrorism.
The big problem for us-one which, as I understand it from the speech of the hon. Member for Hornchurch (James Brokenshire), the Conservatives also have-continues to be the DNA provisions. I have spoken at length about them today so I shall not do so again, except to reiterate that we do not have a unicameral legislature in this country. The other place will scrutinise the Bill.
Once the legal expertise in the other place gets its teeth into the Bill, the chances of its agreeing the DNA provisions tabled by the Government are risibly small, not least because it is clear that there will be another appeal to the European Court of Human Rights and another judgment against the Government. I do not know of any serious independent human rights lawyer who believes that the proposals are consistent with the European convention.
There are many good things in the Bill, however, including the provisions on communication devices in prisons, air weapons and compensation for victims of overseas terrorism. For that reason, we do not intend to divide the House tonight, but I repeat the point made by the hon. Member for Hornchurch: if the Government are to get a long-lasting reform to the DNA database through both Houses, they will have to compromise. At this stage of the electoral cycle, with the Bill heading inexorably for wash-up, it would make sense to have the all-party discussions that the hon. Gentleman suggested in the hope that we can reach some compromise and solution.
My party's proposal is that there should be a clear dividing line between innocence and guilt for those who are on the DNA database. We will compromise, however, and I hope the Government will do so as well. The Scottish system has the enormous benefit of being tried and tested, and the world has not ended north of the border. Indeed, the justice system north of the border seems to be rather effective and, in many ways, in better health than in England and Wales. I therefore commend that solution to Ministers when they are considering what they can realistically get through both Houses.
Mr. Hanson: With the leave of the House, may I respond to the points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field)? As he will appreciate, it is difficult to legislate retrospectively on those matters, but I will draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.
That the draft Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 (Renewal of Temporary Provisions) Order 2010, which was laid before this House on 3 February, be approved.-( Mary Creagh .)
That the draft Occupational and Personal Pension Schemes (Automatic Enrolment) Regulations 2010, which were laid before this House on 27 January, be approved.-( Mary Creagh.)
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|