1 Mar 2011 : Column 185

Intercity Express and Rail Electrification

4.31 pm

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Philip Hammond): With permission, Mr Speaker, I shall make a statement on the Government’s plans for extension of the electrification of the Great Western main line and for the procurement of a replacement for the existing diesel inter-city trains. The two issues are closely connected. First, I shall address the provision of a new generation of inter-city 125 mph trains to take advantage of the electrification of the Great Western main line and to allow the phasing out of most of the ageing diesel InterCity 125s.

In February 2009, the intercity express programme, launched by the previous Government, identified Agility Trains, a consortium of Hitachi Rail and John Laing plc, as the preferred bidder to provide a new fleet of inter-city trains. Subsequently, the previous Government placed the process on hold and ordered a review of the procurement by Sir Andrew Foster. Last summer, recognising the fiscal challenges that the UK faces and the impact of the new Government’s plans for high-speed rail to Leeds and Manchester, Agility put forward an improved, lower-cost proposal to provide the required service through a mixed IEP fleet with some all-electric trains and some with a combination of electric and diesel power, allowing it to operate through services beyond the electrified railway. The proposal retained the more modern electric InterCity 225s on the east coast main line, as the previous Administration had proposed.

We have reviewed the proposal against the alternative of an all-electric fleet, with purpose-built diesel locomotives coupled to trains to haul them beyond the electrified railway. Either way, it would represent a multi-billion pound investment for this country, underpinning the operation of inter-city services on the conventional railway for many years to come, and it is imperative that the right choice be made.

As I said at the time of my statement to the House on 25 November, there were complex legal, technical and commercial issues to be addressed and both the Government and Agility Trains, as preferred bidder, recognised that. Over the past few months, we have worked together on these issues and I can now announce that I am resuming the IEP procurement and proceeding with the proposal that Agility Trains has put forward as preferred bidder. We will now work with Agility Trains with a view to reaching financial close by the end of this year. That is, of course, subject to the Government’s continuing to be satisfied that the proposal offers value for money as the commercial negotiations are concluded and that the final arrangements are compliant with the United Kingdom’s European Union obligations. This deal will allow us to provide better, faster, more comfortable services and to continue providing through journeys between London and parts of the rail network that are not electrified. In total, there will be over 11,000 more peak-time seats each day on the Great Western main line and the east coast main line post-IEP compared with today.

Hitachi is today confirming its plans to locate its European train manufacturing and assembly centre at Newton Aycliffe in County Durham. That investment is

1 Mar 2011 : Column 186

expected to create at least 500 direct permanent jobs, as well as hundreds of temporary construction jobs. Thousands more job opportunities will be created in the UK manufacturing and service supply chains. Coming just days after the news of the reopening of the Redcar steelworks, this is a massive and very welcome shot in the arm for the skilled work forces of the north-east’s industrial heartland.

I turn now to the related issue of electrification of the Great Western main line. I announced to the House on 25 November that, over the next six years, Network Rail will electrify the commuter services on the Great Western main line from London to Didcot, Oxford and Newbury. I recognise that this announcement, although welcomed in the Thames valley, left unanswered the clear aspirations of rail users further west for the extension of electrification to Bristol and into Wales. I and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales have subsequently considered the options for extending electrification, alongside the Government’s consideration of the proposals for replacement of the current diesel InterCity trains, and in close consultation with the Welsh Assembly Government.

We have concluded that there is a case for extending electrification westwards to Bristol and Cardiff, and I am today asking Network Rail to add that major extension to its electrification programme immediately. This is good news for Wales and the south-west against a backdrop of public spending constraint as we deal with the legacy of debt that we inherited. Bringing electrification to Cardiff will mean that we are linking, for the first time, the capital cities of England, Scotland and Wales by electrified rail. These measures will deliver a London to Cardiff journey time of 1 hour and 42 minutes and will shave 22 minutes off the London to Bristol journey.

I have received representations calling for the electrification of the Great Western main line to be extended as far west as Swansea and we have looked carefully at the arguments. The business case for electrification is heavily dependent on the frequency of service. Services between London and Swansea currently operate at a frequency of only one train an hour off-peak. There is no evidence of a pattern of demand that would be likely to lead imminently to an increase in this frequency. Consequently, I regret to have to say that there is not, at present, a viable business case for electrification of the main line between Cardiff and Swansea.

However, because of the decision to proceed with Agility’s proposal for a bi-mode train, journey times from London to Swansea will be shortened to 2 hours and 39 minutes—20 minutes faster than today—with trains switching automatically to diesel power as they leave Cardiff. As the constraining factor on the south Wales main line is speed limitations dictated by the geometry of the line, there would be no time-saving benefits from electrifying the line from Cardiff to Swansea. However, the policy of the Government is to support a progressive electrification of the rail network in England and Wales, for environmental reasons among others. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I will therefore keep under active review the business case for future electrification of the Great Western main line between Cardiff and Swansea in the light of developing future service patterns.

1 Mar 2011 : Column 187

I have a further announcement to make to the House. In the course of the examination of the case for electrification in south Wales that I and my right hon. Friend have undertaken, we have established, at an initial high level, that there appears to be a good case for electrifying the key valley commuter lines north of Cardiff via Pontypridd and Caerphilly to Treherbert, Aberdare, Merthyr Tydfil, Coryton and Rhymney, as well as the lines to Penarth and Barry Island to the west. My Department will therefore work with the Welsh Assembly Government to develop a full business case for the electrification of the Cardiff valley lines during the next rail investment control period beginning in 2014. The Welsh Assembly Government will need, in parallel, to consider the case for specifying suitable electric trains for those routes when the Wales and Borders franchise is re-let in 2018. That would, of course, be a prerequisite for electrification proceeding, and the timetable for franchise re-letting and re-specification necessarily dictates the time scale of the proposed electrification.

On the basis of our preliminary evaluation, the valleys electrification represents the best value for money rail electrification investment that can be made in Wales. It promises to bring all the benefits of electric commuter trains—faster acceleration, greater comfort, cleaner and greener travel, and greater reliability—to rail users in south Wales. It would have a significant effect on the economy of Cardiff and the valleys by deepening labour markets, improving connectivity and significantly enhancing the attractiveness of the area to investors. Coupled with the electrification of the Great Western main line, it would represent a major boost to the economy of south Wales as a whole. These three decisions—on the intercity express programme, on Great Western main line electrification and on building the business case for electrification of the valleys commuter lines—represent a major further investment in UK rail infrastructure. They follow the announcements that I have already made on Crossrail, Thameslink, tube upgrades, Thames valley and north western electrification and additional rolling stock.

The decisions sit alongside the Government’s proposals for high-speed rail, the consultation on which I announced to the House in a written statement yesterday, as testimony to this Government’s commitment to investment in the future of Britain’s railways. They represent excellent news for passengers on the Great Western main line and the east coast main line, for commuters on the Cardiff valley lines and for the economies of south Wales and north-east England as a whole. I commend this statement to the House.

Maria Eagle (Garston and Halewood) (Lab): I thank the Secretary of State for the early sight of his statement—he actually sent me two statements, although they appear to be the same. I will begin by welcoming the much delayed green light that he has today given to the new intercity express programme, which was launched by Labour before the last election. That this programme is now to go ahead, with the significant boost for jobs that he referred to, is testament to the tenacity and tireless campaigning of my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Phil Wilson), The Northern Echo, the local community trade unions, particularly Unite, and the local work force. I congratulate them all on what has been an incredible triumph for their campaign.

1 Mar 2011 : Column 188

Can the Secretary of State confirm when passengers will first be able to enjoy these new trains? Have the delays in making the announcement had any impact on the delivery date for the trains? Will he confirm whether he has made any other changes to the contract, for example to the number of trains or the cascading plan for the existing rolling stock, as a result of today’s announcement?

The Opposition obviously welcome the decision to go ahead with the electrification of a further stretch of the Great Western main line to Cardiff. It is the result of the commitment we made in government and also the efforts made since the Secretary of State’s last statement in November by my right hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr Hain), my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Owen Smith), the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, other MPs and Assembly Members, and the business community across south Wales. I am glad that the Secretary of State has listened to them about the vital need for modernisation, which will speed up the journey time between our capitals from 2 hours five minutes to 1 hour 40 minutes, which has to be welcome. It is a real boost to business, with the potential for investment and jobs, and to Wales.

However, does the Secretary of State understand the deep upset that will be felt by people in Swansea and across Wales at the St David’s day disappointment that the electrification will not continue as far as Swansea, as Labour had intended? He has broken his manifesto commitment to

“support the electrification of the Great Western line to South Wales.”

The Secretary of State for Wales, who I am glad to see is in her place, was pretty quiet yesterday when the Transport Secretary confirmed plans for a high-speed rail route through her constituency, which she previously said she could not support. The people of south Wales will expect her to be more vocal today in explaining why the Government have let down the people and businesses that are further south and west than Cardiff.

The Transport Secretary has just extolled the virtues of electrification, including, in his own words, its “significant effect on the economy of Cardiff and the valleys—deepening labour markets, improving connectivity and significantly enhancing the attractiveness of the area to investors.” Why cannot the people of Swansea, and of west Wales beyond Swansea, also have that advantage? Can he confirm when the electrification of the line to Cardiff will be completed, and why, as far as he is concerned, electrifying just 40 more miles of track to Swansea appears to be such a bad idea?

Is it not true that the case for electrification was previously approved by the Treasury? Anybody who has dealt with the Treasury, as we now all have, knows that the rate of return would have had to meet its tough criteria, so why does the right hon. Gentleman continue to suggest that there is no proper business case for electrification all the way to Swansea? Does he accept that, if Swansea is not a part of the single roll-out construction programme, the Government will incur 20% additional costs to stop construction and then take it up again? He is in fact saying that the stretch of line from Cardiff to Swansea will not be electrified at all—except by incurring unnecessarily high extra costs.

I welcome in the right hon. Gentleman’s statement the part about looking at further electrification in Wales on the valleys train lines, but he is holding out the

1 Mar 2011 : Column 189

promise of potentially producing a post-dated cheque at a later date, because there is no funding available in this spending review period. He says that he has made a decision about the matter, but his only decision has been to look at whether there is a business case, so there is no guarantee of his carrying out the project. Perhaps he is trying to deflect attention from the fact that he is failing to meet his manifesto commitment to take electrification all the way to Swansea.

Will the right hon. Gentleman update the House on where his Department is with the procurement of the 1,200 new carriages for Thameslink? We still have not heard about that major project, in which many UK jobs are at stake, and it would be good if we did not have to put up with Thameslink being hit by the same delays that have beset the IEP project. Does he have an updated time scale for when the new Thameslink and Crossrail trains will benefit passengers by actually being in service? Will he explain what impact the delay will have on the plans for cascading the existing rolling stock?

Why, when the right hon. Gentleman must have known that he was making a statement today, did he choose yesterday to slip out by written answer—without informing the media or the House—a decision to end all funding for local rail schemes that local authorities and integrated transport authorities develop? His decision means that no new schemes will be able to go ahead between now and April 2015. Can he explain why that decision was not made in the comprehensive spending review, and why he put it out yesterday under cover of his publication of the high-speed rail consultation?

As I have made clear, I welcome today’s confirmation of the investment in the rail network that Labour planned and announced when in government. The additional electrification and the major project to replace our outdated inter-city fleet will significantly improve the passenger experience on our rail network and bring economic benefits to the country. However, the unnecessary delays in bringing forward those plans, and the decision to bring disappointment to south Wales on St David’s day, are just further evidence of the dither and delay that seems to grip the right hon. Gentleman’s Department. Both of his announcements today imply more delay than the original plans. His third announcement on further electrification in Wales is another example of jam tomorrow but no money today, and no guarantee of progress. In the end, he will be judged on what he delivers, and Labour Members will be looking closely at that.

Mr Hammond: We have been treated to a classic rant. There are two types of people in this world: the glass-half-full brigade and the glass-half-empty brigade—and let us guess which one the hon. Lady belongs to. She is determined resolutely to find bad news even in a statement about massive investment at a time of constrained public spending.

The hon. Lady, apart from treating us to a read-out of her contacts book, which was fascinating, had the nerve to accuse us of unnecessary delays. I would like to remind her that it was the previous Administration who pulled the IEP procurement and asked Sir Andrew Foster to review it, reopening the issues. I can tell her today that trains will start to be delivered to the Great Western main line from 2016 and on to the east coast main line from 2018.

1 Mar 2011 : Column 190

On the question of electrification, the hon. Lady mentioned the right hon. Member for Neath (Mr Hain), the man who talks a good talk about electrification but was, if I remember rightly, Secretary of State for Wales in the previous Administration—an Administration who, in 13 years, did not manage to electrify a single inch of railway in the Principality. A couple of weeks ago, the hon. Lady, who is now so keen on electrification in Wales, was telling us that Labour had no commitment to electrification in Wales because it was conducting a spending review and everything was up for grabs. That was until the very same right hon. Member for Neath came along and slapped her down, and made her change her tune.

The hon. Lady talked about our manifesto commitment at the last general election. I can tell her—[ Interruption. ] I have it right here; I will quote it back to her in a minute if she wants. Our manifesto commitment at the last general election was to electrify the railway into south Wales. I know that she is not shadow Secretary of State for Wales, but even she should know that Cardiff is in south Wales. We have delivered today on the commitment that we made.

The hon. Lady made a plea for electrification to Swansea. I understand that people in Swansea will be disappointed by the announcement that I have made today because of the expectations that the previous Government raised without bothering to establish that there was a sound business case for the proposed expenditure. However, she has not, at any point, made a logical argument for the electrification that she pleads for. I have told her that the bi-mode trains that we are procuring will deliver a journey time saving of 20 minutes to Swansea—the same journey time saving that the previous Government were promising through electrification. We will deliver the benefits to the people of Swansea from electrification to Cardiff and continuing bi-mode train operation onward from Cardiff to Swansea. She asked me about the electrification to Cardiff. That will be completed in 2017.

On the valleys electrification, the hon. Lady says that there is no funding in the spending review. I am disappointed that she has not yet grasped the complexities of rail capital funding. Network Rail funds electrification through its regulated asset base. The investment programme is set in control periods, the next of which starts in 2014. What I have announced today is that we have established that there is, on the face of it, a strong business case for this investment in the valleys electrification. We will work it up with Network Rail and the Welsh Assembly Government, with a view to including it in the next investment programme period.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order. A lot of Members wish to get in on this statement, so single and short questions would be welcome.

Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): In the face of gloom, doom and whingeing from the Opposition, this is really good news for Wales. St David’s day will be toasted with a full glass in Cardiff and a nearly full glass in Swansea. I am pleased that the

1 Mar 2011 : Column 191

Secretary of State said that he will continue to review the case for electrification to Swansea. Will he confirm that he will do so?

Mr Hammond: As I have said, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I will continue actively to look at the case for electrification to Swansea. I said that we would do so in the light of developing service patterns. The important point is that once the valleys lines are electrified, it is quite possible that new electric services could be provided that head through Cardiff and to the west, which might change the economics, and thus the business case, for the Cardiff to Swansea section.

Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) (Lab): I congratulate the Secretary of State on his announcement on the intercity express programme. As he knows, the investment and jobs involved are very important for my constituents in north-east England. Will he join me in congratulating the Back on Track campaign, which was led by T he Northern Echo, Durham county council, the chamber of commerce and the northern TUC? Will he also congratulate my constituents on the way in which they brought this matter to the attention of the Department for Transport, and helped it to make the right decision?

Mr Hammond: I am happy to acknowledge the hon. Gentleman’s tireless battle for the IEP. He has arranged for various worthies from his constituency to visit me and the Department to make the case. This has been a complex process with legal, technical, financial and commercial issues to resolve. We have worked closely with Hitachi to get to this point. I understand that he wanted us to get here more quickly, but I assure him that we have progressed as fast as possible.

Jonathan Evans (Cardiff North) (Con): As a Cardiff Member of Parliament, I thank my right hon. Friend unequivocally for today’s announcement. I also congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, who has fought her corner wonderfully. Making the case for the electrification of the valley lines in the announcement was something that Opposition Members did not expect and that they were never committed to. From June 2009, they were supposedly committed to electrification, and yet nothing whatsoever was done. Will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport commit to ensuring that this announcement is carried forward, unlike the announcements that were made by those who are now on the Opposition Benches?

Mr Hammond: Absolutely; I give my hon. Friend that commitment. The hon. Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) used most of her time in responding to the statement by talking about Swansea. The evidence shows that there is a much stronger business case for the electrification of the valley lines. When a limited amount of public money is available, it is absolutely incumbent on us—she can ask her sister about this—to ensure that it is spent on the areas that deliver the best value for money to the Exchequer.

Mrs Siân C. James (Swansea East) (Lab): Having fought a long and hard campaign to get rail electrification in Swansea, I congratulate Cardiff and the valleys because their glass is very much full at the moment—I will raise

1 Mar 2011 : Column 192

a glass to them. Unfortunately, I will have to go back to my constituents in Swansea and explain that they are not as important. I will have to explain that modern transport and infrastructure, and opportunities for investment and tourism are not on the cards for them. The Secretary of State spoke about there being no good financial case for rail electrification to Swansea. All the trains along the south Wales main line—I will talk slowly to make this point—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order. I know how passionate the hon. Lady is about this matter, but please can we have single, short questions, because a lot of Members wish to get in?

Mrs James: Most of the trains along the south Wales main line have to go to Swansea, because it is a turnaround point. How can we increase the pattern of trains to Swansea if we have already said that trains do not go there as often as we need them?

Mr Hammond: Obviously I understand that the hon. Lady is disappointed. She has made her pitch to me repeatedly, having caught me every time I have passed behind the Chair over the past few months. I am sorry that I have had to be rather uncommunicative, but she will understand the reasons. I am disappointed that she has not acknowledged that the huge time-saving benefit from electrification will be delivered through the introduction of bi-mode IEP trains and the electrification of the route as far as Cardiff. Because of the line speed restrictions, there would be no further time savings for Swansea even if we electrified the rest of the line. Huge benefits will be delivered to Swansea—a 20 minute time saving is extremely significant. I hope she will at least acknowledge that that will be a huge benefit for the area that she represents.

Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): I warmly welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement this afternoon. Will he confirm my memory that Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Great Western main line runs from Swindon, through Chippenham and Bath, to Bristol Temple Meads, not on the branch line from Bristol Parkway and onwards to Wales? Does he intend to allow the electrification of the line to Bristol Temple Meads, as well as the branch line to Wales?

Mr Hammond: I am not sure whether I mentioned this in my statement, but my hon. Friend is absolutely correct—the electrification will include the line through Bath to Bristol Temple Meads and also the line from Bristol Parkway to Bristol Temple Meads. That will ensure that we can increase the frequency of London-Bristol Temple Meads trains to four per hour and shave 20 minutes off the journey time to Bristol Temple Meads from London, using the Bristol Parkway route rather than the Bath route to get the additional time saving.

Mr Elfyn Llwyd (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) (PC): I fully appreciate the announcement as far as Cardiff and the valley lines are concerned, and I congratulate the Government on it. In a spirit of, I hope, reasonable suggestion, may I ask the Government to ensure that work is done urgently to see how the line speed from Cardiff to Swansea can be improved in due course, so that electrification can be taken across to Swansea with, I am sure, a good business case?

1 Mar 2011 : Column 193

Mr Hammond: I welcome the right hon. Gentleman’s comment, because it is at least a constructive comment that plays into the need to develop a proper business case for a proposal. We can consider line speed improvements, and indeed the current rail investment programme includes a significant number of them, including some on the network in south Wales. However, I understand that the geography of the area creates some difficulties and potentially some very significant expense in enhancing the line speed between Cardiff and Swansea.

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): Having travelled the Great Western main line this morning, may I welcome the statement warmly? It promises far more quiet, efficient, reliable and energy-efficient trains for my constituents and many others than the last Government ever delivered. It is good news for English and Welsh jobs, and incidentally it makes an even stronger case for the redoubling of the Swindon to Kemble line, which would add resilience.

In the Department’s long-term thinking, will Ministers still look favourably on eventual electrification to Swansea and on longer franchises for train operators, which might in time enable them to specify their own rolling stock? That would add even more to an increasingly bright future for Britain’s railways.

Mr Hammond: As the hon. Gentleman will know, we have already announced that we intend to operate a longer default franchise period of 15 years, to start to stimulate exactly the type of behaviour that he talks about.

It is the Government’s policy to support a progressive electrification of the railway throughout England and Wales—Scotland makes its own rail infrastructure investment decisions—not only because of time savings but because of the environmental case for an electric railway. Through progressive investment control periods, we will continue to look to roll out the electrification of the railway across England and Wales.

Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op): This is a sad and disappointing St David’s day for Swansea—[Hon. Members: “Ah!”] Well, it is, particularly in the light of the fact that the Secretary of State denied a meeting with private sector stakeholders and Swansea university, alongside the MPs of Swansea and west Wales, to examine the business case for inward investment in further electrification. Given that Swansea is the second worst-hit city in the UK from Government cuts, will he undertake to have that meeting at long last with those stakeholders, including the university, even though he has made the decision already? That would enable them to discuss the co-operation and inward investment of Rolls-Royce, Tata, Boots and other companies that are coming to Swansea. They would have made that case had he been bothered to have a meeting with them.

Mr Hammond: I can tell the hon. Gentleman that my officials discussed the business case for electrification to Swansea with Welsh Assembly Government officials exhaustively, but he misses the fundamental point. He talks about Rolls-Royce and Tata, and if they are looking at rail investment as a criterion for investment, they will be examining journey time savings. The IEP announcement that I have just made introduces a journey time saving of 20 minutes to Swansea. He should go back to Swansea,

1 Mar 2011 : Column 194

rejoice in that saving and pick up the phone to Rolls-Royce and Tata to tell them how it improves the case for investment in his city.

Alun Cairns (Vale of Glamorgan) (Con): This is a first-class announcement on St David’s day for my constituency and the whole south Wales economy. Announcing electrification of just the main line would have been good, but to consider the valleys lines and the line to Barry Island, which is in my constituency, gives the statement gravitas.

My right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary has mentioned the inaction of the former Secretary of State for Wales, but will he outline what action was taken by the current Secretary of State for Wales in bringing about pressure for this announcement?

Mr Hammond: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I discuss such matters all the time—I always discuss with them matters that trespass into the jurisdictions of my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Wales and for Scotland—but it would be inappropriate for me to give the House details of discussions that occur between Cabinet colleagues.

Mrs Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): I welcome the announcement of major investment in rail, although there is considerable disappointment in relation to Swansea. Will the Secretary of State indicate what the benefits of that investment will be in terms of jobs and economic growth, and when does he expect them to materialise?

Mr Hammond: If the hon. Lady is talking about the wider package, I can tell her that there are obviously many components to it. Jobs will be created through the electrification process over a number of years as Network Rail gears up to deliver that programme, and others will be created at Newton Aycliffe for the IEP. Further jobs—thousands of jobs—will be created in the UK supply chain that will support that major investment which, incidentally, is not just about delivering the UK IEP, but about Hitachi’s manufacturing and development base for its involvement in European rail in future.

In addition, of course, there will be huge benefits in the south Wales area from the electrification of the valleys lines—what economists like to call agglomeration benefits, meaning the reinforcement of the economy that happens when connectivity is improved and labour markets are deepened. Those will allow people in towns up the valleys lines, some of which, frankly, are among the most deprived in Wales, more readily to access the markets and economy of Cardiff, which is a powerhouse for the area. That will bring significantly increasing prosperity and wider opportunities for people who live in the Cardiff hinterland.

David T. C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): Had the Secretary of State announced that he was electrifying and putting a high-speed train on every branch line in Wales, Opposition Members would still object. Will he instead accept the congratulations of all those who are worried that some want Wales to become more separate? His statement is a tangible way of putting Wales at the heart of the UK. Dewi Sant will be looking down today with a glass not half full, but almost overflowing.

1 Mar 2011 : Column 195

Mr Hammond: My hon. Friend puts it very eloquently. He has clearly spotted the glass-half-empty tendency of Opposition Members, which disappoints me. I cannot think why they would wish to score political points today.

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): The Secretary of State probably knows that the first steam trains were made in Shildon, so it is quite right that the skills of the County Durham work force should be recognised in his statement. He says that he will work for financial close over the course of this year, but can he say when jobs will materialise?

Mr Hammond: I understand that Hitachi will issue a press release broadly simultaneously with my statement that will set out more details of its plans, but clearly, it will be unable to start building factories until financial close occurs later this year. There will then be a factory to build, which will create hundreds of temporary jobs in the area. I have heard that the owners of the industrial estate on which the factory will be built have also indicated that they will expect to build other units simultaneously on a speculative basis in anticipation of suppliers to Hitachi wanting to locate around the factory. I therefore hope that there will be significant construction job creation quite early in the programme. Then, of course, Hitachi will begin recruiting for the permanent jobs for the actual building of the trains—my guess is that this will happen later next year, but it is for the company to confirm.

Duncan Hames (Chippenham) (LD): I welcome the Secretary of State’s clarification that electrification to Bristol will also take in the line through Bath and Chippenham. Can he confirm my estimation that this proposal might even bring down journey times from London Paddington to Chippenham to less than one hour?

Mr Hammond: It may surprise the hon. Gentleman to know that among the many destinations for which I have journey time savings, Chippenham does not appear, I am afraid. However, I will be very happy to get back to him immediately after this statement.

Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): My constituents will be very disappointed that electrification will be starting in Cardiff, but not in Swansea. However, will the Secretary of State look into the franchising agreement and consider whether anything can be done so that my constituents can benefit more from reductions in journey times by having more through bi-mode trains that go all the way from London to Llanelli, Kidwelly and beyond to the Irish ferries, rather than having to change? That is the case with nearly all the trains at the moment, and it involves an enormous amount of delay and wasted time.

Mr Hammond: I am happy to look at the issues that the hon. Lady raises. Of course, responsibility for franchised operations is shared between the UK Government, in respect of the through services from London, and the Welsh Assembly Government, in respect of locally originating services. However, I will certainly consider her point. The IEP train fleet will give us greater flexibility.

1 Mar 2011 : Column 196

Mr Rob Wilson (Reading East) (Con): I welcome the statement, particularly the increase in passenger capacity that will result. My right hon. Friend will be aware that over the next five years Reading station will undergo a major redevelopment through Government investment. Will he ensure that all necessary works for IEP and electrification are undertaken alongside the alterations made to Reading station, because I am sure that it would result in cost savings?

Mr Hammond: My hon. Friend makes a very sensible point. I will raise it at my next meeting with the chief executive of Network Rail, and ensure that it is being done in a properly co-ordinated manner.

Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab): I welcome today’s announcement on the intercity express programme, and I look forward to welcoming the trains themselves to Newcastle in due course. Will the Secretary of State confirm that he will work with his colleagues across Government to ensure that local communities, businesses, universities and further education colleges receive the kind of support that they need to ensure that the Hitachi centre can be a platform for jobs and growth for the region as a whole?

Mr Hammond: The hon. Lady is absolutely right that when we get such an opportunity to reinforce our skills base and move up the value-adding curve with our work force, we have to seize it. There is already a project in Nottingham that I am hoping to visit very shortly that involves rail engineering apprenticeships, and there is another project in Crewe that I have been invited to go and see. We need to generate more of these projects in response to the investment opportunities arising. I agree completely with the sentiment that she expresses.

Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) (Con): I welcome unequivocally my right hon. Friend’s statement and its excellent news for rail infrastructure. He will be aware that ongoing designs for existing platforms are usually more cost-effective than new designs. Will he confirm to the House, therefore, that the revised Agility proposal represents better value for the British taxpayer both in what it represents and in cost terms?

Mr Hammond: The value-for-money appraisal certainly shows that the revised Agility proposal represents the highest value for money of the proposals that we have considered for the replacement of the inter-city diesel express trains. It represents a strong value-for-money case and is affordable. Hitachi has responded in an exemplary way to the Government’s commitment to high-speed rail—that changes the dynamics—and to the UK’s fiscal situation in order to ensure that we can go ahead with the programme.

Stewart Hosie (Dundee East) (SNP): I welcome both the statement and having had early sight of it. I agree with the Secretary of State that the purchase of the locomotives will represent a multi-billion pound investment that, as he said, will underpin the provision of inter-city services. May I ask him whether the decision is for bi-mode hybrid trains or for a mixed fleet of diesel and electric trains, and whether sufficient numbers will be bought on time to guarantee the continuity and frequency

1 Mar 2011 : Column 197

of direct services from London on the east coast main line north of Edinburgh, through Fife, Dundee, Angus and Aberdeen?

Mr Hammond: It is not about diesels. There will be no diesel traction locomotives in the mix; there will be bi-mode electric-diesel trains and all-electric trains. The services to Aberdeen and Inverness will be provided by the bi-mode trains, running straight off the wires at Edinburgh and on to the existing routes, so that service will be protected.

Mr Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): In the spirit of St David’s day, I respectfully remind the Secretary of State that St David probably lived in west Wales. Has he made any assessment of the extent to which west Wales and Swansea will lose out from his partial electrification of the south Wales line?

Mr Hammond: Many people coming from England will access west Wales through Cardiff, and journey times to Cardiff are being reduced. Everybody would like a high-speed railway running right to their front door, but as we—[ Interruption. ] Okay, to the next street. As we progressively modernise our infrastructure with electrification and new train services, the impact will be felt by all locations. Even those locations not directly benefiting from the new, faster services will benefit from the savings in time, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman’s constituents in west Wales will benefit significantly from today’s announcement.

Neil Carmichael (Stroud) (Con): In congratulating the Secretary of State on a first-class example of investment in infrastructure that, in the context of protecting the environment, will bring jobs and further growth, may I remind him that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood) said, it also strengthens the case for taking action to continue doubling the line from Swindon up to Kemble and Stroud?

Mr Hammond: I am well aware of the vigorous campaign to redouble the Kemble to Swindon link, and I know that the case will continue to be made for it as a major investment programme, and also for its possible inclusion in Network Rail’s next control period.

Gavin Shuker (Luton South) (Lab/Co-op): Following the delivery of the IEP, will the Secretary of State tell the House how many ageing InterCity 125s will still be on the network and for how long?

Mr Hammond: Only a small number of diesel 125s will remain on the network, and they will be serving the route down to Penzance in Cornwall. All the other 125s will be replaced by bi-mode trains under today’s proposal. I cannot say for how long those diesel 125s will remain on the network. There are no specific proposals to replace them at the moment, but I would remind the hon. Gentleman that the intercity express programme was always conceived as a commitment to a firm fleet of trains as the first phase, with options on further trains for future phases. It will therefore be for my successors at some point in the future to consider whether the remaining InterCity 125s should in due course be replaced by bi-mode IEPs.

1 Mar 2011 : Column 198

James Wharton (Stockton South) (Con): It is a matter for hon. Members whether they see their glasses as half empty or half full, but I am pleased to see the Government busily topping glasses up. As a representative of a north-east constituency, I am also pleased to say that last week we had the excellent news that Teesside Cast Products was being sold to SSI—Sahaviriya Steel Industries—and now we have today’s announcement from the Government. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is a vote of confidence—not just by the private sector, but by the Government—in the skills and abilities of those working in manufacturing right across the north-east?

Mr Hammond: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend: it is a vote of confidence in UK manufacturing. This Government are committed to rebalancing the economy, reviving manufacturing and reasserting the value of Britain’s manufacturing skills base, and both announcements play to that theme.

Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab): Let me bring the Secretary of State to the question of the midland main line—the forgotten line in this country—and ask him about the ageing high-speed trains, as my hon. Friend the Member for Luton South (Gavin Shuker) has just done. Those trains were second-hand when they were introduced on the line. Can he give a commitment that we will actually see bi-mode trains introduced on the midland main line? We have the immediate advantage of being able to use the electric line up to Bedford, allowing electrification of the rest of the line progressively and incrementally in the future.

Mr Hammond: The announcement today does not include provision for the midland main line. The hon. Gentleman mentioned bi-mode trains, and I am sure that he has also been lobbying for the electrification of the line, as have many other midlands Members. The debate about the line’s future also has to take account of the implications of High Speed 2, however. Once the High Speed 2 consultation, which began yesterday, has been completed and the Government have announced their definitive plans later this year, it will be much easier to plan for the long-term future of the midland main line.

Karl McCartney (Lincoln) (Con): This might not be quite as headline-grabbing as my right hon. Friend’s statement today, but he will be aware that, on 22 May this year, my constituents will see the reintroduction of a direct link to London. However, this will be only a single daily service—once up and down. Does he think that the old diesel stock whose replacement he has announced today could be put to good use in increasing the level of service to and from my constituency?

Mr Hammond: My hon. Friend is certainly right to say that one of the benefits of any announcement of new rolling stock is that it creates a larger pool of retired rolling stock and thus creates greater opportunities for train operators to acquire rolling stock leases at sensible prices. This helps to change the dynamics of the rolling stock market for the benefit of passengers and train operators.

1 Mar 2011 : Column 199

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): A word of croeso for the report, but my constituents are still greatly irritated by the fact that the Ebbw Vale to Cardiff line, which was reopened by the previous Government and is hugely successful, passes through the city of Newport but does not stop at the main station there. This affects many passengers who normally commute to Newport and whose access to the shopping centre there is now being denied. When can the appropriate link be put in place?

Mr Hammond: I am looking at my map, and, as the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mrs Villiers) reminds me, it is a matter for the Welsh Assembly Government to specify services on the Wales and west franchise.

Mr Edward Timpson (Crewe and Nantwich) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend ensure that, should the preferred consortium for the IEP contract be unable to deliver all that is has offered, other bidders in the procurement process, including Bombardier Transportation, which has a site in my constituency, will be given due and proper consideration in any future procurement that might result from such a situation? Will he also ensure that its strong, advanced technical expertise is taken into account?

Mr Hammond: My hon. Friend makes a plea for Bombardier, which has a site in his constituency. Bombardier is involved in programmes for the delivery of other trains in the United Kingdom, and I think that it has a very bright future in the UK train market. The IEP project is a train availability contract to supply trains, ready for use and fully maintained. Hitachi or the Agility consortium will therefore be entering into an obligation to deliver specified numbers of trains ready and available for use in accordance with that contract, and it will be a matter for them to ensure that those trains are made available.

1 Mar 2011 : Column 200

Stephen Williams (Bristol West) (LD): This statement will be warmly welcomed in Bristol. As an émigré valleys boy, may I also point out that it will be welcomed in my home village of Abercynon, where the world’s first railway journey ended in 1804? The Secretary of State mentioned that the line from Bristol Temple Meads to Bristol Parkway was to be included in the electrification plans. Will that open the window for looking at the business case for electrifying the Severn Beach line, which the Rail Minister will be visiting with me on Friday?

Mr Hammond: I always learn something in these situations. I thought that the world’s first railway journey started somewhere up near Darlington, so if it ended in the Welsh valleys, it was doing extremely well. My right hon. Friend the Rail Minister will be happy to discuss this matter further with my hon. Friend. I know that she has already discussed the proposal with him and is looking at the business case for it with a view to its inclusion in future programmes.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): May I press the case for the midland main line and encourage the Secretary of State to look at the introduction of upgraded, bi-mode inter-city trains on that line, not least because that might well facilitate the reintroduction of an inter-city service between Kettering and London, which was taken away when it was effectively downgraded to an outer suburban service?

Mr Hammond: I can only say to my hon. Friend what I said to the hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts)—that the future use of the midland main line is bound to change if the high-speed rail network proposal goes ahead. By the end of this year—once the high-speed network is to be built, if that is the decision taken, following the consultation—we will be in a much better position to talk about the future plans for the midland main line and, indeed, for the east coast and west coast main lines.

1 Mar 2011 : Column 201

Point of Order

5.25 pm

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Some months ago, the Foreign Secretary announced a cut to the funding of the BBC’s World Service and devolved the budget to the BBC itself. The first wave of cuts to the World Service’s services has now been announced and they apply to Africa, Latin America and eastern Europe. Those cuts have consequences not just for job losses but for the role of the World Service in purveying independent information in those world regions.

I would have expected—and I think the House would have expected—a statement from the Foreign Secretary to inform us about this wave of cuts, so that we could debate them. At the very least, we should have had a written statement, but no statement of any kind has been provided for Members. May I, through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, express the House’s concern that a Minister has not kept Members informed of these important decisions and say that, in future, Members should be afforded at least a written ministerial statement, even if not an oral one in which we could question a Minister?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): I have been given no indication of any statement today on the World Service. Although this is not a matter for the Chair, I am sure that those on the Treasury Bench will have heard the hon. Gentleman’s remarks on the World Service.

1 Mar 2011 : Column 202

Resource Extraction (Transparency and Reporting)

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23 )

5.26 pm

Anas Sarwar (Glasgow Central) (Lab): I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require certain companies engaged in oil or gas extraction, and other mining activities, to disclose the type and total amount of payments made to any national government, or any company wholly or partly owned by a national government; and for connected purposes.

This Bill is designed to make it a legally binding requirement for companies involved in natural resource extraction that are listed on the London stock exchange to provide in their annual report details of the payments they have made to national Governments on a project-by-project and country-by-country basis.

I am a passionate believer in international development because I deeply believe in the principles of equality and social justice, both at home and abroad. That is why, on entering the House, I immediately put myself forward for election to the International Development Committee.

I hope you will indulge me for a moment, Mr Deputy Speaker, if I ask you to picture a country filled with vast areas of natural beauty and heritage—a country in which there is an abundance of natural resources. You will be surprised at my next request when I ask you to picture that very same country as being home to some of the most impoverished and poorest people in the world. Sadly, there are many countries around the world where this is precisely the case—countries that have significant natural resource wealth in terms of oil, gas and precious metal reserves but for which this natural wealth has not translated into the economic prosperity that it should have.

Right hon. and hon. Members may have heard this situation described as “the resource curse”. In the absence of strong democratic institutions and strong governance, the people of these countries are unable to hold corrupt officials to account, as those officials siphon off public money for their own benefit instead of using it for the public good.

The figures from Equatorial Guinea display just one example. Equatorial Guinea had the 12th highest gross domestic product in the world in 2008, with more than $30,000 per capita. However, it also ranked 121st out of 177 countries on the United Nations human development index. Africa as a whole exported over £400 billion-worth of oil and minerals in 2008—nearly nine times the value of international aid to the continent, yet millions still struggle to survive.

One major problem is a lack of transparency. As Paul Collier, the director of Oxford university’s centre for the study of African economics points out, the sale of natural resource extraction rights in the developing world has so far

“been spectacularly deficient in respect of transparency”.

In recent years, the UK has been a leader in the promotion of corporate transparency. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) put tax transparency on the agenda for the G20 in 2009. The international extractive industries transparency

1 Mar 2011 : Column 203

initiative, EITI, launched by the former Member for Sedgefield when he was Prime Minister, has also played a fantastic role in improving voluntary transparency in the extractive industries.

This time, however, America is blazing the trail for improvements in tax transparency. The bipartisan Cardin-Lugar amendment to the Dodd-Frank Bill, passed in the United States last year, has given the voluntary rules of the EITI the force of law in the US. Backing that amendment, President Obama said:

“We know that countries are more likely to prosper when governments are accountable to their people…That’s why we now require oil, gas and mining companies that raise capital in the United States to disclose all payments they make to foreign governments”.

It represents a long-awaited regulatory change, championed globally by a 600-strong group of non-governmental organisations and charities known as Publish What You Pay, and could ultimately improve the lives of millions of people in developing countries that are consistently resource-rich but cash-poor.

In effect, the Bill would replicate the measures in the Cardin-Lugar amendment for UK listed extractive companies, supporting the move towards a global standard on the issue and a first step towards full tax justice for developing countries. The changes would enable civil society and NGOs to hold Governments to account. Albert Oduman, Uganda’s shadow Minister for Finance, in a recent video interview for the ONE campaign, expressed incredibly powerfully his support and appreciation for the new global transparency efforts, which will empower him with the information to challenge corruption in his own country.

In one of my first speeches in the House, I emphasised the importance of aid in the developing world. At the same time, however, I stressed the need to promote stronger governance through an accountable state-citizen relationship. The Bill seeks to do precisely that, and the potential benefits are huge. Transparent, effective tax systems and the reduction of corruption could allow money otherwise lost to be spent on schools, doctors, clean water and infrastructure—exactly the kind of projects on which British aid money is spent now. Improving access to their own wealth could lead many developing countries out of poverty, away from aid dependency, and into self-sufficiency and sustainable growth—the ultimate development goal.

With more than 80 extractive companies listed on the London stock exchange, representing more than £1 trillion of capital, the UK has a responsibility to take action on the issue, for the benefit not only of the developing world but of UK business. Many of the British companies that would be caught by a UK rule are already listed on the New York stock exchange, and therefore will already be providing the information in the near future. Bringing the London stock exchange in line with the New York stock exchange would level the playing field for those organisations already reporting, by requiring the remaining companies in the UK extractive sector to do exactly the same.

Transparent disclosure of payments will also help responsible companies reduce the reputational risk in operating in unstable nations and states where false accusations of supporting corruption are only too easily made. Transparency would also help UK investors to

1 Mar 2011 : Column 204

value companies and evaluate regulatory, taxation and geopolitical risks, while enhancing company accountability and governance. The improved stability that we hope would develop in resource-rich nations would also provide a better environment for investment, both for British business ventures and UK-sponsored aid projects.

Although I have been working on the Bill for several months, its introduction could not have come at a much better time. During the recess, we had the welcome news that the Chancellor and the Business Secretary are backing President Sarkozy’s plans for Europe-wide rules on the issue. I believe that EU legislation is crucial if the global drive for increased transparency in the extractive industries is to be truly successful. That is why I anxiously await a statement in the House from the Chancellor, clarifying what active steps the Government will take to ensure swift progress at EU level.

However, potential EU regulation should not be seen as a reason for us to withhold from legislating independently. Natural resources are finite, and obtaining EU approval and implementation of such rules could take a considerable time. The amount of money disappearing every day could translate into lifting millions of people out of poverty in developing countries. Independent action by the UK would not jeopardise EU progress, but would strengthen the campaign by setting an important example. It would represent a big contribution to international development at little or no cost, while at the same time promoting the kind of corporate social responsibility of which we can all be proud.

I am delighted to say that the Bill enjoys strong support from all three main political parties. As with many development issues, it can be said genuinely to transcend party politics. I thank all the Members who have shown their support by being present today, and I especially thank those who have agreed to sponsor the Bill.

This Bill has the support of non-governmental organisations, independent economists, and leaders of the developing world and developing countries. It has cross-party support in the House, and above all it has the support of the British people. In the last 10 days alone, nearly 9,000 people have signed a ONE campaign petition on the issue with which it deals. The Financial Times has said that the United States has shone a light into an area that is widely considered to be shrouded in mystery, and has applauded the brave leadership that it has demonstrated on the issue. It is now up to us to show similar leadership here in Europe.

International development is not just about cash and “percentage of GDP” commitments; it is also about leading by example and setting global standards. The developing world does not have time to wait for Europe to catch up. A genuinely sustainable and cost-effective approach to international development demands that the UK Government act now.

Question put and agreed to.


That Anas Sarwar, Tony Baldry, Fiona Bruce, Malcolm Bruce, Richard Burden, Mr Tom Clarke, Mr Tobias Ellwood, John Glen, Eric Joyce, Jeremy Lefroy, Catherine McKinnell and John Thurso present the Bill.

Anas Sarwar accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 17 June, and to be printed (Bill 156).

1 Mar 2011 : Column 205

Protection of Freedoms Bill

5.37 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Today we have a rare opportunity. The Bill gives us a chance to roll back the creeping intrusion of the state into our everyday lives, and to return individual freedoms to the heart of our legislation. Under the last Government, we saw a steady erosion of traditional British liberties and a slow march towards authoritarian government. They presented us with a false choice between our future security and our historic liberties, disregarding any notion of balance between the two.

The House rejected that choice on many noble occasions, notably when an extraordinary attempt was made to increase the period of pre-charge detention of terrorist suspects to 90 days. On other occasions, illiberal laws were passed, and on yet others, well-intentioned schemes were left open to abuse. The Bill gives us an opportunity to redress the balance and to right some of those wrongs, although it is not the only such opportunity. We have already repealed some measures, and we will repeal others.

Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend be kind enough to give way?

Mrs May: I will happily—I will give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr Cash: I note that my right hon. Friend did not actually say that she would be happy to do so.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that however good the intentions may be, one of the great problems with the Bill is that it serially adopts, endorses and puts into British legislation European Court rulings, and that that in itself runs counter to the sentiments expressed only a few weeks ago when the House voted against a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights by 222 votes to 15?

Mrs May: My hon. Friend is right, I am afraid; but I almost said I was happy to give way to him. I am not going to rehearse all the arguments we have had on the issue he raises. I am well aware of the vote in the House on the Backbench Business Committee motion on prisoner votes, and the Government have made it absolutely clear that we are not happy about having to give prisoners votes and we will be looking to do so in the most minimal way possible.

The first issue the Bill addresses is DNA. The police national DNA database, established in 1995, has led to a great many criminals being convicted who otherwise would not have been caught, and I am sure all sensible people support it, but in a democracy there must be limits to any such form of police power, and we simply do not accept that innocent people’s DNA should be kept for ever on a database, as the last Government seemed to think was appropriate. Storing indefinitely the DNA and fingerprints of more than 1 million innocent people undermines public trust in policing

1 Mar 2011 : Column 206

and goes against any sense of natural justice, so we will be taking innocent people off the DNA database and putting guilty people on.

The Bill introduces a new regime, whereby retention periods depend on a number of different factors, including the age of the individual concerned, the seriousness of the offence or alleged offence, whether they have been convicted, and, for under-18s, whether it is a first conviction. So in future, as now, an adult who is convicted or cautioned will have their fingerprints and DNA profile retained indefinitely, and we will take steps to plug the inexcusable gaps in the DNA database where the profiles of those who have previously been convicted of a serious offence are not currently included on the database.

David T. C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): Although I recognise the Home Secretary’s concerns about privacy, does she accept that these moves will inevitably mean—this should be stated—that some people who have committed crimes will not be caught and convicted?

Mrs May: No I do not agree, and my hon. Friend will see that that will not be the case if he looks at the many provisions in the Bill setting out the circumstances in which people’s DNA can be retained. I come back to the fundamental issue, which is whether we think it is right for the DNA profile of innocent people to be retained on the database. Before and since the election, both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties have consistently taken the view that it is not right for the DNA of innocent people to be retained on the database, but that it is right for guilty people’s DNA to be retained. The last Labour Government did not do that.

Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab): Will the Home Secretary confirm that under her proposals the DNA of innocent people will be kept on the database? She is not removing from the database the DNA of everyone who has not been convicted.

Mrs May: Indeed, the police will be able to apply for the DNA of some people who are arrested but not charged to be retained. I would expect that application to be made in certain circumstances, such as when the victim has been vulnerable, which may mean there is very good evidence that the individual concerned has committed a crime but the victim is not able or not willing to come forward and see that case through.

I also say this to the right hon. Lady: the last Government wanted the DNA of all innocent people to be retained on the database indefinitely. We do not think that is a proportionate response, and what we are introducing today is a proportionate response. We would expect the DNA of the majority of the 1 million innocent people on the database would now to be removed from it.

An adult who is charged with, but not convicted of, a serious offence will have their fingerprints and DNA profile retained for three years, with the option of a single extension for two years with the approval of a district judge in the magistrates court, and an adult who is arrested for a minor offence but not convicted will have their fingerprints and DNA profile destroyed as soon as possible once a decision has been taken not to charge them or once they have been found not guilty by the courts. Different arrangements will apply for under-18s who

1 Mar 2011 : Column 207

are convicted of a first minor offence, and there will be special provisions for DNA and fingerprints to be retained for national security purposes. If the police believe there are sufficient public protection grounds to justify the retention of material following an arrest for a qualifying offence that does not lead to a charge, the Bill allows them to apply to the new commissioner for the retention and use of biometric material, who will decide whether retention of the DNA profile and fingerprints of the arrested person is justified.

We must protect the most vulnerable in society, so when the victim of the alleged offence is under 18, vulnerable or in a close personal relationship with the arrested person the expectation is that the police will apply to the commissioner for retention. I believe that these rules give the police the tools they need without putting the DNA of a large number of innocent people on the database. In all cases, the DNA profile and fingerprints of any person arrested for a recordable offence will be subjected to a speculative search against the national databases. That means that those who have committed crimes in the past and have left their DNA or fingerprints at the scene will not escape justice.

The Bill also fulfils our coalition agreement commitment to outlaw the fingerprinting of children at school without parental permission. I must say that I found it amazing that any school ever thought it appropriate to fingerprint schoolchildren without their parents’ permission. The Bill will contain a double lock, whereby a school or college must obtain the consent of the parents and the child before processing their biometric data. If either opts out, the school or college must ensure that reasonable arrangements are in place to enable the child to access the full range of school services.

I shall deal now with surveillance. As with DNA, it is clear that CCTV can act as a deterrent to criminals, can help to convict the guilty and is warmly welcomed by many communities. This Government wholeheartedly support the use of CCTV and DNA to fight crime.

Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con): On this sensitive issue of surveillance, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is being abused by local authorities which have taken it upon themselves to film such things as dog fouling and littering? Were the measures not introduced to deal with far graver issues?

Mrs May: I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I will be referring specifically to the abuse of powers by local authorities, so if he could be a little patient, I will deal with that point. On the specific issue of CCTV, it is not right that surveillance cameras are being used without a proper regulatory framework. That is why the Bill will place a duty on the Secretary of State to prepare and publish a code of practice, which will contain guidance on surveillance camera systems. I have today launched the consultation on what that code of practice should contain. Local authorities and chief officers of police will be required to have regard to the code and, over time, we will consider extending this duty to other operators of CCTV and automatic number plate recognition systems. The Bill will also allow for the appointment of a surveillance camera commissioner responsible for encouraging compliance with the code of practice, reviewing

1 Mar 2011 : Column 208

its operation and providing advice on it, including on any changes that might be necessary. This sensible and measured approach will help to ensure that CCTV is used proportionately and best serves the purpose for which it was designed: tackling crime.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood) mentioned local authorities. I think that the public have been disturbed by the many stories of councils using intrusive techniques, under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, to deal with trivial offences. Breaching school catchment area rules and dog fouling are not offences that warrant being subject to surveillance. These tactics are more appropriately used for tackling serious crime and terrorism, and it was irresponsible of the Labour Government not to put in place stronger safeguards for their use. That is why the coalition agreement contained a commitment to ban the use of these powers by councils unless they are signed off by a magistrate and are required to stop serious crime. The Bill enacts that commitment because it will require local authorities’ use of the powers to be subject to approval by a magistrate. In parallel with the passage of this Bill, an order will be made to introduce a seriousness threshold for the use of the most controversial power: directed surveillance. Local authorities will be authorised to use directed surveillance only for offences that carry a maximum custodial sentence of at least six months. Subject to limited exemptions relating to the under-age sale of alcohol and tobacco, this measure will restrict local authorities’ use of surveillance to serious cases.

As we restrict state powers of surveillance to serious offences, we should also ensure that state powers of entry into people’s homes or business premises are reasonable and proportionate. There has been a huge increase in the number of powers of entry in recent years, and there are now some 1,200 separate powers of entry. That means there are 1,200 reasons why state agencies or other bodies can invade people’s privacy. We need to protect the privacy of home owners, so we will remove unjustified powers and ensure that the remainder are subject to appropriate safeguards.

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): This is all wonderful news and I am a strong supporter of the Bill. Given that there are 1,200 such powers, will my right hon. Friend make sure that her Cabinet colleagues are assiduous in rooting out dozens or hundreds of them, not just a handful, so that we make a real impact on this disgrace?

Mrs May: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his intervention and I absolutely agree with him. We will provide three order-making powers in the Bill to allow the repeal of unnecessary powers of entry, the addition of safeguards and the rewriting of powers of entry with a view to consolidating a number of powers in a similar area coupled with the inclusion of extra safeguards. Within two years of Royal Assent, the Government will be required to carry out a review of all existing powers of entry and to report the findings to Parliament. Provision will also be made for a code of practice for powers of entry, adding further protections for home owners.

Mr Cash: Will my right hon. Friend note that the Library research paper on the Bill indicates that a third of all powers of entry are based on EU requirements?

1 Mar 2011 : Column 209

Will she explain why and how she is going to repeal the provisions that are entrenched in our legislation through the European Communities Act 1972? What formula will she use—will it be the “notwithstanding” formula?

Mrs May: When I gave way to my hon. Friend, I almost said I had a deep suspicion that I knew what he was going to say, and I was absolutely right. Of course we will not be able to get rid of all powers of entry, nor would that be appropriate. It will be appropriate to keep some, and with others we will need to look at the implementation of a request or desire to gain entry in relation to what is at stake, what is the most appropriate use of power and how that power should be used. The process will take some time, but it is essential that the Government are committed to reducing the number of powers of entry, whereas the previous Government oversaw a significant increase in that number.

Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend reassure the House that at the end of this process the number of powers will be sufficiently small and simple that home owners will be able to determine for themselves whether someone who knocks on the door has a right to enter?

Mrs May: That would certainly be our aim and we will try to ensure that home owners are well aware of exactly who has a right of entry to their property.

Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Lab): Has the Home Secretary had discussions with Ministers and the Justice Secretary about the overlap with issues relating to bailiffs and credit enforcement agencies and their rights of entry?

Mrs May: I have been in touch with colleagues across Departments about powers of entry, because they are found in all sorts of places. All Departments will be required to review powers of entry, and duplication is exactly the sort of issue we will be looking at.

We know that powers of entry are of great concern to the public, and another issue of great concern is wheel-clamping. The Bill will protect motorists from cowboy clampers, making it a criminal offence to immobilise, move or restrict the movement of a vehicle without lawful authority. For too long, motorists have fallen victim to extortion and abuse from rogue clamping companies. We have heard stories of drivers being frogmarched to cash points late at night or left stranded by rogue operators who have towed their vehicle away. Clearly that is unacceptable.

Gavin Shuker (Luton South) (Lab/Co-op): There will be support from across the House for measures to restrict the efforts of cowboy clampers, but what would the Home Secretary say to my constituent Mary Harrison, who has concerns about her residential area being overrun with cars because the existing structures to enforce parking restrictions are not sufficient?

Mrs May: Other powers will be available to control parking, such as barriers and ticketing. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman point out to his constituent the experience in Scotland, where such clamping was banned in 1992, I think. No problems have arisen from that change, so that is a good example for him to consider.

1 Mar 2011 : Column 210

Mr Tom Watson (West Bromwich East) (Lab): I just want to say that this part of the Bill is fantastic and that the Home Secretary has my full support for it. [Hon. Members: “Where’s the barb?”] There is none—I just want to be nice. The thousands of people who signed my cowboy clampers petition will thank her for finally listening to the people of West Bromwich.

Mrs May: I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for those remarks. It is good to have cross-party support on such issues as this one, which affects many MPs whose constituents have suffered from cowboy clampers. By criminalising clamping and towing without lawful authority, the Government are committing rogue clampers to history and putting an end to intimidation and excessive charges once and for all.

Gavin Barwell (Croydon Central) (Con): Further to my right hon. Friend’s answer to the hon. Member for Luton South (Gavin Shuker), will she confirm that local authorities will continue to have the power to clamp on the public highway? Will residents in private developments be able to contract with their local authority to clamp on private developments? I have been contacted by a large number of people in my constituency who have tried ticketing and barriers but found that they do not work close to the town centre and public transport hubs. Could local authorities continue to clamp on private land?

Mrs May: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. Local authorities already have the ability to take a controlling interest and to run parking on private land, subject to the agreement and request of the landowner, although that facility has not been much used.

To ensure continued access to key buildings, existing powers for the police to remove vehicles that are illegally, dangerously or obstructively parked on roads will be extended to other land. The registered keeper of a vehicle will also be made liable, in certain circumstances, for charges incurred as a result of parking on private land.

Let me address the counter-terrorism measures in the Bill, starting with pre-charge detention. Both coalition parties and many Opposition Members are clear that in the area of counter-terrorism legislation the previous Government went too far. I have already announced to the House the outcome of our review of counter-terrorism and security powers, and the Bill puts many of those changes into practice. I announced that we would not renew current legislation on the 28-day pre-charge detention period, which means that the sunset clause inserted by the previous Government has now brought the maximum period of pre-charge detention down to 14 days. The Bill will finally repeal the power to increase the maximum period of pre-charge detention to 28 days by means of secondary legislation. As I said to the House in January, police, prosecutors and the Government are clear that the normal maximum period of pre-charge detention should be 14 days, but we recognise that in exceptional circumstances that might need to be temporarily increased to 28 days. I have therefore published draft legislation that could be introduced to Parliament only in such circumstances. The draft Detention of Terrorist Suspects (Temporary Extension) Bills will be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny, the arrangements for which will be discussed through the usual channels.

1 Mar 2011 : Column 211

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): This has been asked before, but what will happen during parliamentary recesses? What if the right hon. Lady was seeking that extension on 30 July when Parliament was in recess? Will she expect to recall Parliament?

Mrs May: I will not expect to recall Parliament every time a recess is called. We are talking about exceptional circumstances and I hope that Members will recognise that in exceptional circumstances it might be necessary to recall Parliament to put these powers in place.

Mr Jack Straw (Blackburn) (Lab): My question follows that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson). I had to propose a recall of Parliament, to which the Prime Minister and the Speaker agreed, to introduce emergency legislation following the Omagh bombing. The bombing took place on 15 August 1998, but with the very best will in the world we were not able to get a recall for almost three weeks, so Parliament was not recalled until 3 September, as the right hon. Lady might remember. That was a three-week period. If the prosecutors have a suspect whom they wish to continue to question, how in practice will the Home Secretary be able to shorten that time? The right hon. Lady shakes her head. I promise her that we were seeking the shortest possible time, and it is very complicated. How far has she thought about that?

Mrs May: I understand the point that the right hon. Gentleman is making about his experience in relation to the Omagh bombing. I believe that it is possible to shorten that period to ensure that we can recall Parliament in such exceptional circumstances if that is needed. It would be wrong for hon. Members to expect that the only circumstances in which that would be required would be towards the end of a 14-day period of pre-charge detention. The period that would be available for the recall and for the new measures to be put through might be a little longer than the right hon. Gentleman is considering.

I want to move on to stop and search, which is the other aspect of counter-terrorism legislation that we will deal with in the Bill. As well as scaling back the excessive counter-terrorism legislation of the past, we need to stop the misuse of these laws. The extensive and disproportionate use of stop-and-search powers under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 is one example of that misuse. It has eroded public trust and dented public confidence. But the evidence, particularly in Northern Ireland, has demonstrated that when there is a credible threat of an imminent terrorist attack, the absence of such powers might create a gap in the ability of the police to protect the public.

The Bill therefore repeals section 44 and replaces it with a tightly defined power which would allow a senior police officer to make a targeted authorisation of much more limited scope and duration for no-suspicion stop-and-search powers. These would be authorised to prevent a terrorist attack only when there is a specific threat. The new power to search a person or vehicle would be subject to a number of additional safeguards, including a requirement that a senior police officer should reasonably suspect that an act of terrorism would take place and that the use of these powers was necessary to prevent the act of terrorism. The duration of any authorisation must now be no longer and no greater than is necessary to prevent the act of terrorism.

1 Mar 2011 : Column 212

The purposes for which an officer may search a person or vehicle will be limited to looking for evidence that the individual is a terrorist or that a vehicle is being used for the purposes of terrorism. The Secretary of State would have the option of amending the authorisation, rather than only accepting or refusing it, as previously. Finally, the Secretary of State will be required to prepare a code of practice containing guidance on the use of the powers. These changes will provide the police with the powers that they need to deal with terrorist threats, while also ensuring that the public are not needlessly stopped and searched. The measures will also prevent the misuse of stop-and-search powers against photographers, which I know was a significant concern with the previous regime.

As recommended by the counter-terrorism powers review, I have considered whether the police need these revised powers more quickly than the Bill would allow. Given the current threat environment, I have concluded that they do. The most appropriate way of meeting the legal and operational requirements is to make an urgent remedial order under section 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998 to make immediate changes to the legislation. I will be doing this shortly. This is only an interim solution. The proposed new powers will remain in the Bill to ensure full scrutiny of the provisions.

Another important area where we will roll back the state’s power to common-sense levels is in the vetting and barring and criminal records regimes. The previous Government created the vetting and barring scheme with reasonable intentions, but, as with much that they did, their implementation was disproportionate and over-reliant on the state. There is no doubt that a small minority pose a risk to vulnerable people, including children, but requiring more than 9 million people to register and be monitored is not an appropriate response. We should be encouraging volunteers, not treating them like criminals.

The Bill will therefore introduce a new regime, whereby employers will be given a much more central role in ensuring safe recruitment practices, supported by a proportionate central barring scheme. We will retain the sensible features of the vetting and barring scheme, but will not require registration or monitoring, which means that there will no longer be an intrusive state-run database containing the details of 9.3 million people. The scheme will cover only those who have regular or close contact with vulnerable groups. This will create a more convenient and proportionate system for both employers and voluntary organisations and the people seeking to work or volunteer with children or vulnerable adults.

On the criminal records regime specifically, the Bill will enable criminal records disclosures to become portable, through a system which allows for continuous updating. This would enable an employer to establish whether new information had been recorded since the certificate was issued. It will also remove the provision requiring a copy of a certificate to be sent directly to an employer. This will allow an applicant legitimately to dispute the information released on the certificate, without this information already having been seen by the employer.

To administer the new scheme, the Criminal Records Bureau and the Independent Safeguarding Authority will be merged into a single, new organisation. These changes will ensure the continued protection of vulnerable

1 Mar 2011 : Column 213

people and children, while at the same time allowing those who want to volunteer to do so without fear or suspicion. It will end the unnecessary state scrutiny of law-abiding people.

As well as dealing with recent illiberal laws, today’s Bill rights historic wrongs. Consensual sex between men over the age of consent was decriminalised in 1967, yet more than 40 years on, gay men can still be penalised and discriminated against because of convictions for conduct which is now perfectly lawful. It is right that we should change the law and wipe the slate clean. The Bill establishes a scheme whereby an individual with a conviction that would today not be considered an offence would be able to apply to the Home Office to have the conviction and caution disregarded. If an application were approved, details of the conviction or caution would be removed from police records and the individual would be able legally to conceal their previous conviction in any circumstances. It would also no longer appear on a criminal record disclosure.

Greater transparency is at the heart of our commitment to open up government to greater scrutiny and to allow public authorities to be held to account, so the Bill makes a number of changes to the Freedom of Information Act to extend its provisions. We will consult the House authorities on these provisions before the Committee stage to ensure that parliamentary copyright is properly safeguarded. The Bill also makes changes to the Freedom of Information Act and to the Data Protection Act to enhance the independence of the Information Commissioner.

Mr David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) (Lab): The Home Secretary will be surprised to hear that I agree with quite a lot of the Bill, but on data protection, will she consider a constituent of mine who is extremely worried about the amount of information being collected about him and retained? For privacy reasons, I will not give his name, but let us call him Mr N Clegg. He is worried that in the next four weeks information will be gathered from him which he does not wish to give and which he does not wish the Government to retain. It is called the census. What advice would the right hon. Lady give to my constituent in such circumstances?

Mrs May: I was waiting for the dénouement of the right hon. Gentleman’s question. There is a requirement for people to fill in the census. It is an extremely useful tool for Government. Previous Governments wanted a census because it informs Government in the production of policy. What I would say to the right hon. Gentleman’s constituent is that the census can provide useful information better to inform Government to produce better policy.

David T. C. Davies rose

Mrs May: I will give way for the last time.

David T. C. Davies: I am grateful to the Home Secretary. I was waiting for her to be specific about surveillance cameras. I understand that it will be much harder for the police and local authorities to use them. Will newspaper editors be subject to the same restrictions?

Mrs May: I always wait with interest and occasionally trepidation for the points that my hon. Friend makes. [Interruption] I could make a response to the sedentary

1 Mar 2011 : Column 214

comment by the hon. Member for Eltham (Clive Efford), but it would probably be better not to do so in the context of the Chamber of the House.

On the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies), the Bill contains a great number of significant measures that will be to the benefit of the people of this country and will ensure that surveillance cameras are used for the proper purposes for which they were introduced.

Mr Watson rose

Mrs May: I am being incredibly generous. I had said that I was giving way for the last time, but I will give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr Watson: The Home Secretary is indeed being incredibly generous. What will be her approach in Committee to the Information Commissioner’s powers? The relevant clause seems rather weak. Part of it mentions hearings for the appointment, but it does not really free the commissioner from a Department. The commissioner is currently under the yoke of the Ministry of Justice, but previous Select Committees have recommended that the commissioner be answerable to Parliament, not a Department. Will she take a generous approach in Committee to helpful amendments on those provisions?

Mrs May: The hon. Gentleman’s previous intervention was extremely helpful in supporting parts of the Bill. Members might wish to discuss that issue in Committee. It has been suggested that the Information Commissioner should be responsible to Parliament. The role goes rather wider than Parliament, however, which is why it has been placed where it has. We intend to increase the commissioner’s independence, so I am sure that the issue will be debated and discussed in Committee.

Finally, the Bill protects one of the most historic freedoms and liberties enjoyed by the British people: the right to trial by jury. The Bill repeals section 43 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which allows the prosecution to apply for a serious or complex fraud trial to proceed in the absence of a jury. We sacrifice the cornerstones of our justice system at our peril.

I have told the House today that the Bill contains a number of provisions that put into effect commitments contained in the coalition agreement, but that does not mean that it should fail to gain support from across the House. Indeed, a number of positive statements have been made by hon. and right hon. Opposition Members.

Any Government and any Parliament must seek to protect not only the security of the British public but the freedoms that we hold dear. The Bill achieves those aims. All those who believe in liberty and the rights of the individual should support the Bill, and I commend it to the House.

6.12 pm

Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab): I suggest to the Home Secretary that some of the rhetoric in her speech was perhaps unwise. She is probably still thinking too much like an Opposition politician three months before an election, and not enough like a Home Secretary less than a year into a Parliament who will have to live with the consequences of her decisions and the laws that she changes.

1 Mar 2011 : Column 215

There are difficult balances to be struck between protecting people’s freedoms from police or Government interference and protecting their freedom not to become victims of interference or violence by criminals and terrorists. Those balances should be guided by the evidence, not by the political rhetoric that she has used today about the march to authoritarianism or the ending of British liberties. Although some of the measures that she is introducing are perfectly sensible—we will support many of the sensible measures and arrangements—they are not, as the Deputy Prime Minister has tried to claim, a fundamental rolling back of the powers of the state. There are other areas where we think she has got the balance wrong.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): Will the right hon. Lady tell Members what evidence there was for 90-day pre-charge detention?

Yvette Cooper: As I have said before, I do not think that it was right to go for 90-day detention and it was not justified by the evidence. There will always be areas where Governments need to be cautious in getting the balance right. Equally, however, they must be cautious not to over-hype the rhetoric and inappropriately claim that problems will somehow be easily solved. There is always a difficult balance to be struck.

I hope that the right hon. Lady, in her tenure as Home Secretary, will not have to deal with some of the extremely difficult and dangerous terrorist incidents that her Labour predecessors had to cope with, such as the Omagh bombing, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) referred, and the London 7/7 bombings, that led to many of the stronger counter-terrorism measures that her predecessors introduced. I also hope that she will rarely have to deal with some of the deeply disturbing and serious crimes, such as the Soham case, which led to the new procedures on vetting and barring.

The Home Secretary will know that when in the Home Office one can never predict what is coming around the corner, what problems might be uncovered or how one might need to respond in order to protect people’s freedom not to become victims of crime or terrorist threats. In those circumstances, it is wise to build consensus, rather than engaging in the kind of over-simplified political rhetoric that will make it more difficult to strike the right balance in future.

Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con): Does the shadow Home Secretary think it right that the details of 1 million innocent people should be on the DNA database, which is exactly what the 2009 report stated? Can that possibly be right?

Yvette Cooper rose—

Michael Ellis: Is that not a damning indictment of Labour’s record on civil liberties?

Mr Speaker: Order. May I say from an advisory point of view that Members normally make one intervention at a time? They cannot suddenly pop up again when they remember a point that momentarily eluded them.

1 Mar 2011 : Column 216

Yvette Cooper: I will discuss the DNA database later. It is important to have safeguards, but it is equally important to ensure that proper processes are in place to protect people against crime.

Mr Blunkett: I want to reassure my right hon. Friend that my DNA is on the database, and I have never been arrested or convicted of anything. I was proud to do that because I thought that it was an example that would encourage people not to see the database as something that should be feared, but as a safeguard and a real asset to policing and security.

Yvette Cooper: My right hon. Friend makes an interesting point. In many cases, the DNA database is also a way of protecting the innocent by ensuring that they are not wrongfully convicted of crimes. DNA evidence will ensure that the person who is guilty of the crime is convicted.

Let me cover some of the areas of the Bill where we agree with the Government. We agree wholeheartedly with removing old convictions for gay sex, which is now legal. We think that it is right to remove them, just as we thought that it was right to abolish section 28 and introduce civil partnerships. We also agree that we should remove the restrictions on when people can get married or become civil partners. If people want to get married at 2 o’clock in the morning and can find someone nocturnal enough to conduct the ceremony, Parliament should not prevent them from doing so.

We support sensible extensions to the Freedom of Information Act 2000. As the party that introduced that Act, we believe that it is a vital way of ensuring proper transparency and accountability. In passing, I would appreciate it if the Home Secretary would have a word with the Chancellor and ask him to stop blocking my freedom of information requests on the impact of his changes on women.

We agree that action was needed against rogue car clampers. In fact, the Opposition Chief Whip, my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster Central (Ms Winterton), has run some fantastic campaigns against wheel-clamping bullies. Some action had been taken to legislate for new licensing measures, but we are ready to support alternatives that work and will discuss those in Committee.

We also agree with tighter restrictions on stop-and- search powers, which were being used more widely than originally intended under the legislation. The Home Secretary will be aware that her predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson), had already taken some action in that area and that the provisional data had shown a significant drop in stop-and-search cases in 2009-10, but we are ready to support sensible changes that bring the legislation more closely in line with the original intention. As I have said to the Home Secretary before, I am still worried about the implications in Northern Ireland. I hope that she will be able to reassure me, and the shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, about the measures that she is taking in those areas.

For all those reasons, we will not oppose the Bill on Second Reading, although we have serious concerns about some elements and believe that significant amendments will be needed in Committee.

1 Mar 2011 : Column 217

I also agree that in some cases the implementation of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 has gone beyond Parliament’s original intention and that further safeguards are needed. Again, we will scrutinise the detail, as it is important that the new procedures are not so bureaucratic that they prevent councils from doing a sensible job. We believe that communities across the country will be concerned if they find that a new code of practice makes it harder to get the CCTV they have been campaigning for, because they know it is critical to preventing crime and antisocial behaviour in their areas.

There is a massive contradiction in the Government’s approach to councils’ powers and abilities. In the Bill before us, the Home Secretary wants to make it harder for councils to gather information or to use surveillance. Yet, in her other Home Office Bill, the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, which is also going through the House at the moment, she wants to give local councils extra powers to seize people’s property if byelaws are breached. So she does not want council officers watching people, but she does not seem to mind them taking people’s property away.

The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill states that byelaws will be able to

“include provision for or in connection with the seizure and retention of any property in connection with any contravention of the byelaw”.

Local councils have byelaws on things such as dog fouling, mud falling on roads, music outside churches or, in the case of Westminster, giving out free refreshment, all of which could be covered by future byelaw seizure powers. The Bill before us contains an entire clause entitled “Protection of Property from Disproportionate Enforcement Action”, but at the very same time disproportionate enforcement action is being actively encouraged in the other Bill. Imagine: a council cannot monitor the noise from a nuisance neighbour, but it can, if a child is playing a tune in the church square, seize the recorder; it cannot check if any dog fouling is taking place, but, if an officer happens to pass by at the critical moment, they can confiscate the dog.

So what on earth are the Government up to? We are used to chaos and confusion in this Government, but that is usually because the Deputy Prime Minister says one thing while the Home Secretary does another: he abolishes control orders; she renames them; he abolishes antisocial behaviour orders; she introduces criminal behaviour orders. We know that she does not agree with lots of what the Deputy Prime Minister says and does, but now it seems that she does not even agree with herself. Such chaos and confusion is absurd when it comes to council byelaws, but it is rather more worrying when it comes to counter-terrorism, because the process has been chaotic from beginning to end.

We can agree to support limiting pre-charge detention to 14 rather than 28 days, on the basis of the evidence from experts, but we also take very seriously the conclusion of the Home Secretary’s own counter-terrorism review, which states that the Government must provide for the possibility of needing to hold someone for longer in exceptional circumstances.

The right hon. Lady’s original plan was to allow the old limit of 28 days to lapse without even showing us the review or telling us the Government’s plans. Then, the Immigration Minister told the House that the draft emergency legislation would be put directly in the Library.

1 Mar 2011 : Column 218

Then, the Home Secretary said that it would not and the order-making power to increase detention to 28 days would suffice. Then, we learned that the Government’s own review stated that the order-making power would not be fast enough. Then, the Home Secretary said that she would consult the Opposition on the emergency legislation so that it could be agreed as soon as possible. We are still waiting on that one. The legislation has finally been published, but, while the draft Bill refers to three months, the explanatory notes refer to six months, and the Government’s intention is still not clear.

Mr Ellwood: The right hon. Lady has rattled on a bit, but I wonder whether I can take her back to 90 days, because she did not really answer the question about the evidence on which that limit was based. I have taken a personal interest in the matter and in the issue of 14 and 28 days. When there is a case for more than 14 days but there are difficulties in recalling Parliament, officers can choose to put forward a lesser charge that can result in a conviction, thus allowing the person to be detained. The police say that that is easy to do, rather than having to go for the super-charge that would result in the major conviction. It is a simple solution to an easy problem.

Yvette Cooper: That might be possible in some cases, and officers might be able to use it, but there is an issue, because, although it is right to make 14 days the norm, it is also right to have the provision to move to 28 days if needed. Doing so through emergency legislation, as the Government propose, however, raises some significant difficulties.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn has raised the question of what happens if Parliament is not sitting, and whether it will be possible in those circumstances to move fast enough. The Home Secretary says, “Well, it’ll be all right because we’ll find out on day one whether we might need longer,” but we might not. We might not find out until day 10 of an interrogation that, in fact, a longer period is required.

Let us suppose, for example, that the police have a serious case, including credible intelligence on an imminent terrorist attack or some extreme situation. After 10 days it becomes clear that they need more time before they can charge, but they are afraid of releasing the suspect because they might abscond abroad or even trigger the attack. What happens in those circumstances? The Home Secretary will come to Parliament and say, “We need emergency legislation,” but neither she nor anyone else in the House will be able to discuss why we need it, for fear of prejudicing an investigation or a possible trial. Parliamentary scrutiny will be very difficult, so, given how difficult and risky it might prove, I urge her to look again at options such as special bail conditions, which could reduce the need for emergency legislation.

Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab): I have listened to my right hon. Friend’s reservations, which I share: I am very much in favour of a reduction from 28 to 14 days; that goes without saying. Leaving aside whether the House is to be recalled, and assuming that it is sitting, what details will be given to us about those whom it is felt should be held for longer than 14 days? If we cannot have the relevant information because it will prejudice any proceedings that will take place if the person is charged, what are we supposed to do? Are we

1 Mar 2011 : Column 219

just supposed to nod our approval? If we are not, and the details are given out, it will be argued in any later court proceedings that the House has prejudiced the case.

Yvette Cooper: My hon. Friend makes a really important point that goes to the heart of the problem. The reason for emergency legislation through primary legislation to change those powers is, in theory, to give Parliament the chance to scrutinise, debate and decide whether the action is reasonable. In practice, however, it is very hard to see how Parliament will be able to discuss the detail at all without being at serious risk of prejudicing a potentially dangerous investigation and important case, which we would all want to see go properly through the courts, with the proper judicial process followed.

That is why I say to the Home Secretary that it seems sensible to explore whether there are alternatives, such as bail conditions and other procedures with a judicial process, that might be used in such extreme circumstances. We all hope that the circumstances do not arise, but those alternatives would reduce our need to use emergency legislation.

Mr Cash: Has it occurred to the right hon. Lady or, indeed, to those on the Government Front Bench that we have habeas corpus, and that in such conditions it is the first duty of any judge to give effect to that provision? It does not matter what statute says; habeas corpus comes first, unless it has been expressly excluded by statute.

Yvette Cooper: The hon. Gentleman has considerable legal expertise, and I shall not attempt to get into a detailed debate about that point, but the critical issue is the complicated interaction between not only the work of the police and the role of Parliament, but the necessary role of the judiciary, and the alternatives merit more thoughtful debate, so that we do not prejudice individual cases or put the House in a difficult position.

Mrs May: Given what the right hon. Lady says about our proposals for emergency legislation on 28 days, will she explain why the previous Government put on the stocks emergency legislation for 42 days?

Yvette Cooper: Legislation is not the right way to respond in such extreme circumstances. In the end, it might be the backstop that the right hon. Lady needs, but she should do more to avoid the situation arising. She is not even looking at what the appropriate special bail conditions might be, for example, or at other measures that could prevent her from ever needing to use emergency legislation in the middle of an extreme situation. She should look at the possible alternatives.

Part 5 makes significant changes to the vetting and barring regime, which works to protect children from abuse. As the Home Secretary knows, the Labour Government said that changes were needed to the system to ensure the right balance between protecting children and vulnerable adults without being unnecessarily burdensome. Indeed, Sir Roger Singleton recommended removing a series of unnecessary checks, and we welcome the recent technological developments that will enable portable Criminal Records Bureau checks and substantially simplify the system.

1 Mar 2011 : Column 220

Some practical issues have been raised, and we will want to pursue those further in Committee.

We think that this is an important development. However, the Home Secretary’s proposals go too far. She is creating a series of loopholes in child protection that parents will rightly be very worried about. The evidence from the NSPCC makes that clear. It says that her proposals leave

“a disturbing gap in the planned legislation that could put children at harm.”

Under these plans, it will be possible for people to spend long hours in positions of authority and in regular intensive contact with children without being covered by the barring arrangements because someone else is in a supervisory role. For example, voluntary teaching assistants may well not be covered. As the NSPCC points out,

“supervised employees and volunteers are still able to develop and exploit relationships with children…A volunteer part time teaching assistant in a classroom of 30 children with only light touch supervision by the classroom teacher has plenty of opportunity to develop inappropriate relationships and groom children.”

Mrs May: Perhaps I can help the right hon. Lady and the House. This afternoon, the Minister for Equalities, my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone), who is responsible for criminal information matters, had a meeting with a number of children’s charities, including the NSPCC, and was able to reassure them on that precise point. The employer will be able to get an enhanced CRB check for an individual who is volunteering in a capacity such as a teaching assistant, which will contain the same information that has been available in making the decision on the barring of that individual. The employer will therefore be able to make a decision based on exactly the same information as that on which the decision on barring was taken.

Yvette Cooper: If the Home Secretary is changing her policy, perhaps she will take the opportunity to intervene again to clarify this point. Will somebody in these circumstances—

Mrs May rose

Yvette Cooper: Let me ask the question. Will somebody in these circumstances be able to find out whether the Independent Safeguarding Authority has made the judgment that somebody should be barred?

Mrs May: I am very happy to intervene again on the right hon. Lady, but may I just correct her on one thing? I have not changed the policy. The policy remains exactly as it was, and the Bill remains exactly as it was. A misinterpretation of what was in the Bill has led to the comments from the NSPCC, which, as I said, is one of the children’s charities to which my hon. Friend the Minister has been speaking today. In the circumstances that the right hon. Lady outlines, the fact of the barring will not be available to the employer, but the information that led to the decision on the barring will be available to the employer. We take a slightly different position from that of the right hon. Lady and her party—that the employer must then take some responsibility for making a decision as to who it is appropriate to have potentially dealing with children in the classroom.

1 Mar 2011 : Column 221

Yvette Cooper: This is really weird. It means that somebody—a teacher, for example—who has been working with children and has been barred for grooming a child, may then apply for a job, perhaps a voluntary post as a teaching assistant, and the school will not be told whether they are barred, but the Home Secretary thinks that that is okay because the school may be able to get some of the information that led to the barring in the first place if it is summarised on the CRB check. Why not give the school the information about the fact that someone has been previously barred?

The Home Office guidance says:

“Some people who may previously have been barred…may be able to gain posts in other areas where they are able to work less closely with children or adults. It will be up to employers to weigh up the risks involved”,

but let us think of the position in which that puts employers. They will not even know if they have got the full information; nor will they have the judgment of the experts at the safeguarding authority who have made a decision, based on their professional experience and expertise, that the person should be barred. The guidance also says that

“employers will not be able to find out the barred status of people who are not working in regulated activity roles.”

A lot of parents will find this puzzling and worrying. Why should they not be able to find out whether someone has previously been barred for working with children if they are going to be working with children again in a similar way?

Let us consider the other consequences. If a voluntary teaching assistant is caught grooming a child, then as long as they have never been a teacher, worked in regulated activity, or expressed a desire to do so in future, they will not even be added to the barred list. So two years later they can apply for teacher training and no one will know that they were kicked out of another school for deeply inappropriate behaviour. Future employers may be able to get a criminal records check but, as the NSPCC has made clear,

“This is highly concerning as most people who pose a risk to children are not prosecuted, and thus future employers may not be alerted to the risks they pose.”

I have to say to the Home Secretary that most parents will not just think that it is “highly concerning”—they will think, like me, that it is wrong.

Mr Watson: My right hon. Friend is right that this is a complex and puzzling piece of the Bill, and the devil will be in the detail when it comes before the Committee. I hope that the Home Secretary is in no doubt, though, that what is very clear is that if a child is harmed as a result of this deregulatory measure, she will carry the responsibility for it.

Yvette Cooper: The Home Secretary needs to think again about this matter and take responsibility for the changes that she is making. As parents, we want to be sure that someone who has a history of inappropriate behaviour towards children will not end up as a voluntary teaching assistant in our child’s class. The Deputy Prime Minister has described the proposed new arrangements as common sense. I am afraid that the truth is that they look, at best, naive and confused, and at worst, extremely irresponsible. I urge the Home Secretary to change this proposal and not to put political rhetoric above the safety of children.

1 Mar 2011 : Column 222

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): Although there are many excellent things in the Bill that I welcome, the right hon. Lady is absolutely right on this point. When it comes to the protection of children and to giving confidence to parents, is it not right always to err on the side of caution?

Yvette Cooper: The right hon. Gentleman is right. This is a difficult area. People will raise concerns if they feel that there are inappropriate burdens in reporting arrangements, and of course it is right to try to reduce those and to prevent inappropriate checks or bureaucracy, but it is also right to put safeguards for our children at the heart of the measures that we set out, and not to do things that feel inappropriate given the potential risks, given the evidence, and given the security that parents want for their children.

Robert Flello: My right hon. Friend is talking about the incredibly important issue of safeguarding our children. Given what we have seen in the media over the past week about the risks to vulnerable adults, would she care to comment on the fact that, although those of us who are parents are deeply concerned about children, including other people’s children, there are serious implications for vulnerable adults too?

Yvette Cooper: My hon. Friend is right. Some cases of very distressing abuse have taken place involving vulnerable adults, and it is important that they, too, should have protection against that. The key is to ensure that if one authority or organisation knows that somebody has a history of abuse, that person should not be allowed to work again in a position where they may put vulnerable adults or children at risk in a way that other authorities, or the families, were not aware of, and which might lead to harm.

I want finally to turn to DNA, which is another area where we believe that the Government are going too far. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle had already legislated for safeguards on DNA use, including a six-year limit on retention for those who were not convicted. He based those safeguards on analysis of reoffending rates and the benefits in terms of preventing and solving crimes. The Government have decided to reject those safeguards and to go much further in restricting the use of DNA, but not on the basis of evidence. Some people object, as a matter of principle, to DNA being held at all if the person has not been convicted. I do not agree with that, but neither does the Home Secretary. She claimed that nobody’s DNA should be kept at all if they were innocent, but that is not what the proposals in her Bill achieve. Rightly, she recognises that there must be a balance that supports the needs to prevent crime and to ensure that crimes are solved. A balance needs to be struck, but she is not striking the right one. The changes go too far in restricting the use of DNA and will make it harder for the police to solve and prevent serious crimes.

This is a particular problem in rape cases. As the Home Secretary knows, rape cases not only have a notoriously low conviction rate, but a notoriously low charge rate. That is because the trauma for the victim is so great and because of problems with evidence. Many perpetrators of serious sexual crimes are not brought to justice for their first offence. In about 70% of cases in which a rape suspect is arrested, there is no charge.

1 Mar 2011 : Column 223

According to Home Office papers, in cases where there is no charge, DNA will be kept only in very limited circumstances, so in most of these cases the DNA will be destroyed, even though it might be critical in catching a repeat offender for a nasty and violent sexual offence.

The Home Secretary will know that a considerable number of cases have been solved because of DNA. Kensley Larrier was arrested in 2002 for the possession of an offensive weapon. The case never reached court, but two years later he raped someone and was found because of a DNA match. Lee and Stephen Ainsby raped and kidnapped a 17-year-old girl in Barnsley. A match with Lee Ainsby’s DNA was found years later in a case review. It had been taken because he had been arrested for being drunk and disorderly. Under the Home Secretary’s system, his DNA would not have been kept. Without that DNA, those two men would still be free, and justice for that young girl would not have been done. Abdul Azad was arrested for violent disorder in Birmingham in February 2005, but released without charge, according to the Forensic Science Service. In July 2005, he raped somebody in Stafford and was identified only because the police had his DNA. The senior investigating officer for the case said:

“We would never have caught him had his DNA not already been on the database—he didn’t even live locally so we had no intelligence leads either.”

Case after case would have been much harder for the police to solve under the Home Secretary’s new rules. Yes, she has an obligation to ensure that individuals are protected from unjustified interference, but she also has an obligation to protect people from crime and to deliver justice for the victims of horrific crimes.

Mr Cash: I am sure that the right hon. Lady will appreciate, given the importance of this debate, that many of the points that she has made about those cases derive from European rulings and the European convention on human rights. The problem with almost everything she has said is that it was her Government who were responsible for bringing in and endorsing many of these provisions, including through the Human Rights Act 1998. Does she not accept that there is a dilemma, which has to be resolved in Committee, about whether we should go down the human rights route and follow article 8 or legislate in this House to ensure that we achieve justice for the people concerned?

Yvette Cooper: The Crime and Security Act 2010, which was passed before the election, addressed many of those issues and concerns. A wider discussion, which we will not stray into, is about whether one of the benefits of the Human Rights Act is that it refers issues back to Parliament and allows it to respond.

Mr Hanson: Is my right hon. Friend aware that when my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr Campbell) and I took the DNA provisions through this House at the beginning of last year, the then Opposition did not oppose the six-year retention period? That was because they recognised that many murderers, rapists, sexual offenders and others were caught after committing crimes because of DNA profiles, meaning that other victims were not created. Does she agree that the proposals threaten to create more victims?

1 Mar 2011 : Column 224

Yvette Cooper: My right hon. Friend is right about the importance of protecting victims, as well as protecting other people. It is a shame that the Government, having supported the measures in the 2010 Act and allowed it to go through, have not chosen to implement it. The revised measures will take much longer to put in place.

Mr Watson: I was not aware of the cases that my right hon. Friend raised. Before we decide where we stand on this matter, I think that the people of Stafford, Birmingham and Barnsley deserve an explanation from the Home Secretary about why these measures would have allowed serious criminals to remain free.

Yvette Cooper: My hon. Friend raises an important point. If these restrictions go through and make it harder for the police to solve serious crimes, the Home Secretary will have to explain to the victims of crime and those who are worried about serious crimes and offences why she has chosen to draw the line where she has, and to strike the balance in a way that will mean that more victims will not get the justice that they deserve and that we have a responsibility to pursue on their behalf.

Protecting freedom means getting the balance right. It means protecting the freedom of victims as well as protecting everyone else from unnecessary suspicion or interference. It means making sure that there are safeguards, checks and balances that protect people’s freedoms and protect the innocent. It also means making sure that the police have the tools they need to fight and prevent crime that hurts innocent people.

In reality, what are the Home Secretary and her Government doing? Their record on protecting freedoms and ensuring checks and balances is a mass of confusion and contradiction that makes a mockery of their rhetoric: new powers of confiscation for local councils; restrictions on protest in Parliament square and powers for non-warranted officers to move people on physically; substantial powers over the police concentrated in the hands of a single politician—the police commissioner; and a populist assault on the courts and the Human Rights Act, which play an important role in preventing arbitrary state power. The Government are not putting in place checks and balances or protecting freedoms. At the same time, they are making it harder, not easier, for the police to fight crime and bring offenders to justice—through restrictions on DNA, loopholes in child protection, weakening the sex offenders register, ending antisocial behaviour orders, weakening control orders and by having more than 10,000 fewer police officers thanks to the 20% front-loaded cuts. That is not a good list.

The Bill does not do what it says on the tin. It does not deliver a fundamental change in the protection of freedom for the innocent, and it does not protect the freedom of victims. The Home Secretary has given in to the rhetoric of the Deputy Prime Minister and she will be judged by the reality of her decisions today. She is getting some of those decisions wrong.

6.47 pm

Mr Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): I welcome the Bill. How could one not support clamping down on the wheel clampers? Some of my constituents have had terrible experiences at their hands.

1 Mar 2011 : Column 225

Although I listened carefully to the shadow Home Secretary’s arguments, and although she made some fair points about DNA, one cannot, on civil liberties grounds, oppose removing the DNA of innocent people from the DNA database. It is a fundamental principle of British law that when people are found innocent by the courts, they are innocent.

My speech will be rather like the speeches that we used to have at Conservative party conferences, which said that the motion was fine, but did not go nearly far enough. Much of the Bill is, frankly, pretty unexceptional. Compared with the Deputy Prime Minister’s rhetoric last year about bringing in a Bill to

“protect our hard won liberties”

much of it is a bit tame. What happened, I wonder, to the 14,000 ideas that were suggested by members of the public via the “Your Freedom” consultation? It is like a scene from “Yes Minister”. An enthusiastic new Minister says, “I want to have a Freedom Bill,” and 14,000 replies come in. One can imagine Sir Humphrey, in his most mellifluous tone, advising the Minister that freedom can be a very incendiary device when it comes to Government.

I suggest that the Bill should go further, and I hope that I will get support not only from those on the Government Benches, but from Opposition Members. The Leader of the Opposition has admitted that Labour was

“too draconian on aspects of our civil liberties”.

Where can we go further? I am particularly worried about freedom of speech. I believe that political speech and debate, even in this place, are becoming very bland. There is a chilling effect on free speech, because people are discouraged from expressing unpopular opinions that do not fit with the winds of political fashion. Did not George Orwell once say:

“Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”?

I would add that the right to speak against received wisdom is the only way to make social progress, as I hope many Opposition Members would agree. We have to protect the ability to express widely differing opinions in strong terms in the public square.

One reason why I was worried about the Phil Woolas case, as I said at the time on the Floor of the House, is that if someone has a British National party candidate standing against them, for example, they have to be able to denounce them for what they are without fearing legal sanctions. We have a more and more active and activist judiciary, not just in the Supreme Court and the lower courts but in the European Court of Human Rights. Again, that has a somewhat chilling effect. We should examine some of the debates that there used to be during general elections, certainly 100 years ago but even 50 or 40 years ago. They were a lot more robust than they are now.

With that in mind, and in the spirit of warm and cosy friendship with my Liberal Democrat friends, I wish to try to persuade the Home Secretary to give some thought to adopting a Liberal Democrat proposal for inclusion in the Bill. It was made by Dr Evan Harris, who at the time was the Member for Oxford West and Abingdon. May I say how much we all miss him? Although I disagreed with him on virtually everything, he was a kind of foil to some of my arguments. In March 2009,

1 Mar 2011 : Column 226

he tabled an interesting proposal to amend the Public Order Act 1986. He wanted to delete the word “insulting” from section 5, because he was concerned that that section was being used to trample on free speech. As I have said, I did not agree with a lot of what he said, but I did agree with that.

Mr Cash: Is my hon. Friend aware that the said Evan Harris, on one occasion in the House, referred to those of my hon. Friends with my inclination in these matters as the “odious right”?

Mr Leigh: I am reminded of that Somerset Maugham story in which two old men hate each other and argue all the time, and then one dies and the other one fades away. I feel that a bit about Dr Evan Harris leaving the House.

Mr Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): Does my hon. Friend remember the Hayes dictum, named after my hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes)? It was that if a Member was in the same Lobby as Dr Evan Harris, they were in the wrong Lobby.

Mr Leigh: That is enough about our friend, I think.

Section 5 of the 1986 Act outlaws