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Clause 144

Power to seize property

Amendments made: 57, page 97, line 6, leave out

‘The constable or authorised officer’

and insert ‘A constable’.

Amendment 58, page 97, line 7, leave out from ‘under’ to end of line 8 and insert ‘this section’.—(James Brokenshire.)

Schedule 17

Temporary class drug orders

Amendments made: 53, page 215, line 26, after first ‘that’, insert ‘—

(a) the Secretary of State has consulted in accordance with section 2B and has determined that the order should be made, or

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(b) the Secretary of State has received a recommendation under that section that the order should be made.

‘(3A) The Secretary of State may make the determination mentioned in subsection (3)(a) only if’.

Amendment 54, page 216, line 6, at end insert—

‘(6A) The power of the Secretary of State to make an order under this section is subject to section 2B.’.

Amendment 55, page 216, line 10, at end insert—

‘2B Orders under section 2A: role of Advisory Council etc

(1) Before making an order under section 2A the Secretary of State—

(a) must consult as mentioned in subsection (2), or

(b) must have received a recommendation from the Advisory Council to make the order.

(2) The Secretary of State must consult—

(a) the Advisory Council, or

(b) if the order is to be made under section 2A(1) and the urgency condition applies, the person mentioned in subsection (3).

(3) The person referred to in subsection (2)(b) is—

(a) the person who is for the time being the chairman of the Advisory Council appointed under paragraph 1(3) of Schedule 1, or

(b) if that person has delegated the function of responding to consultation under subsection (1)(a) to another member of the Advisory Council, that other member.

(4) The “urgency condition” applies if it appears to the Secretary of State that the misuse of the substance or product to be specified in the order as a drug subject to temporary control, or the likelihood of its misuse, poses an urgent and significant threat to public safety or health.

(5) The duty of the Advisory Council or any other person consulted under subsection (1)(a) is limited to giving to the Secretary of State that person’s opinion as to whether the order in question should be made.

(6) A recommendation under subsection (1)(b) that a temporary class drug order should be made may be given by the Advisory Council only if it appears to the Council that—

(a) the substance or product is a drug that is being, or is likely to be, misused, and

(b) that misuse is having, or is capable of having, harmful effects.’.

Amendment 59, page 219, line 24, after ‘2A,’ insert ‘2B,’.—(James Brokenshire.)


Amendment made: 56, line 3 after ‘alcohol’, insert ‘, and for the repeal of provisions about alcohol disorder zones;’.—(James Brokenshire.)

Third Reading

5.24 pm

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

I start by thanking the hon. Members who sat on the Public Bill Committee for the scrutiny they have given this important piece of legislation. I thank in particular my ministerial colleagues, the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice and the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire), for their work in Committee. I also thank all hon. Members who contributed on Report, when we had further detailed debate about the impact and implications of the Bill. In

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addition, I thank all the officials and Officers and staff of the House who have enabled the Committee’s work to take place.

The Prime Minister recently said that we had the best police force in the world, and I agree, but that does not mean that there is no room for improvement. The Bill will help our courageous police in the fight against crime, and police and crime commissioners will reconnect the police with the public they serve. An overhaul of the licensing regime will help the police and local communities to crack down on problem drinking premises, and temporary banning powers will stop the harm from so-called legal highs. Powers to deal with permanent encampments will give Parliament square back to the British public and a fairer process for universal jurisdiction arrest warrants will allow Britain to engage properly with prominent international statesmen.

Mark Tami: Bearing in mind the reorganisation and costs involved, will the Home Secretary confirm that she will be at Monday’s debate on police cuts?

Mrs May: Yes; what a strange question.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab) rose

Mrs May: I have been generous in giving way once already, but I can never resist giving way to the hon. Gentleman.

Chris Bryant: Those words will not do her any good I am afraid, but I am grateful to the Home Secretary for giving way.

I am sure we all agree that we have the best police force in the world. Has the Home Secretary come across Chief Constable Steve Finnigan of the Lancashire constabulary, who has said that

“we can do an awful lot of work around back-office, around efficiency, around bureaucracy and certainly in Lancashire, in my force, we are doing a lot of that, but we cannot leave the frontline untouched and that is because of the scale of the cuts”?

Will the Home Secretary be straight with the British people and say that there are going to be front-line cuts because of what she is bringing in?

Mrs May: Many chief constables have made the point that what is happening will not mean that there will be no change to front-line services but that they can protect front-line services. That is exactly what chief constables such as the chief constable of Greater Manchester have made clear. There might need to be reform in front-line services, but that does not mean a reduction in the front-line services available to members of the public.

Directly elected police and crime commissioners will bring real accountability to local policing. They will ensure that the police focus on what local people want and not on what the national Government think they want.

Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab) rose

Mrs May: I see that the piece of paper has been passed to the right hon. Lady, so I will give way to her.

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Yvette Cooper: I want to follow up that point with the Home Secretary. She is right, I have the full quote to which my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) referred, which was from the “Today” programme. Chief Constable Finnigan was asked:

“You are chief constable of Lancashire which has a bit of both”—

meaning urban and rural areas—

“are you going to have to reduce frontline policing in order to meet the budget cuts that the government wants to see?”

His answer was: “I absolutely am”. Faced with that categorical statement from a chief constable, will she admit that front-line services are being hit as a result of her decisions?

Mrs May: I have to say to the right hon. Lady that her intervention and that of the hon. Member for Rhondda betray the difficulty that the Labour party has had, both in government and in opposition, with this issue of front-line services. Chief constables such as Chief Constable Steve Finnigan have said that they are determined to protect the front-line service that is provided to members of the public. There is a difference between the service that can be provided and the number of police who are there, and the trouble with Labour is that it has always focused on numbers. What we have seen recently is that there are great variations in, for example, invisibility and availability of the police who are out there on the streets being seen by members of the public. Percentages can vary from 9% of police being available and visible to the public to 17%, as in Merseyside. If that highest figure was followed by every force, then just under 8,000 more officers would be visible and available to members of the public. This is about the efficient use of resources. Police and crime commissioners, as I have said, will bring accountability to local policing.

Mr Elfyn Llwyd (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) (PC) rose

Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op) rose

Mrs May: I might be able to help the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman in a few minutes, as I am going to make a specific comment in relation to Wales. I suspect that they are going to ask me about Wales, so it might be in their interest to wait until then before they intervene.

Penny Mordaunt: I have been through police numbers with my chief constable in Hampshire, and there is not going to be any change to police numbers in community policing and in the policing of serious crime, or in the number of police who deal with sex offenders.

Mrs May: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. That is a good example, and there are other examples of forces such as Gloucestershire, where the number of officers visible and available has been increased by the chief constable as a result of what he has been able to do in other ways to deal with his budget.

We have already given communities across England and Wales access to detailed street-level crime and antisocial behaviour data. Only two months after launching the country’s first ever nationwide street-level crime maps, the website has received over 400 million hits, so

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we are already giving power back to the public. The Bill takes that local accountability to the next stage. The Association of Chief Police Officers has been fully engaged in the process of refining our proposals. We have listened to its suggestions, and to those of hon. Members. We have responded and been able to accommodate some of those suggestions.

We have included provision for each chief officer to become a corporation sole, which will allow them to employ staff and will give them greater control over their own force. We have strengthened the proposed oversight arrangements by including provisions for candidates to be subject to confirmation hearings by police and crime panels, who will be able to veto an appointment with a three-quarters majority. We have amended the Bill so that anyone who has been convicted of an imprisonable offence at any time will be unable to stand as a PCC. Any PCC convicted of such an offence would automatically be disqualified from office.

We have made a commitment with ACPO, the Association of Police Authorities and the Association of Police Authority Chief Executives to develop a protocol setting out the distinct role and powers of chief officers, PCCs and other bodies in the new policing landscape. It will be my responsibility as Home Secretary to issue a strategic policing requirement for the response to national threats. These are all sensible and constructive changes that will give us a better Bill and ultimately an even better police service. I thank ACPO and hon. Members for their help with that.

I am delighted that in Committee, the Opposition conceded the principle of democratic reform in policing. Unfortunately, they are still suggesting the wrong type of reform. Only 7% of people have even heard of police authorities, and only 8% of local authority wards in England and Wales are represented on their police authority. Police authorities are not effective at doing what they are supposed to do. Fewer than one in three police authorities inspected last year were found to be performing well. They have neither the democratic mandate to set police priorities nor the capability to scrutinise police performance, so tinkering at the edges of police authorities, as the Opposition spokesmen seemed to suggest in Committee, will not do.

Geraint Davies: On democratic accountability, does the Home Secretary accept that voter turnout is likely to be much higher in low-crime, leafy suburbs than in high-crime, poorer areas, so the democratic mandate is likely to contradict directly the need to prioritise the focus on crime? What is more, people will lose access to the interface with MPs, Assembly Members, councillors and so on, so there will be less democracy, less crime prevention and more cost.

Mrs May: I completely reject what the hon. Gentleman says, particularly the idea that people who live in high-crime areas will somehow have less incentive to take an interest in the way in which their local area is policed or in going out to vote for PCCs. It is in precisely those areas that people are concerned about what is happening to local policing. We need a properly elected and accountable individual, with the mandate, the capabilities and the powers to set police priorities locally and to hold their chief constable to account for police performance.

Steve McCabe rose—

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Mrs May: If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I am conscious of time and wish to make a little more progress.

The Opposition’s scepticism about the merits of directly elected police and crime commissioners will be tested when it comes to deciding whether to field candidates for the elections next year. Indeed, according to media reports, the former Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, intends to run as a candidate. Before moving on, I would like to make it clear that responsibility for policing and policing governance in Wales is reserved to this House. This House has determined that the provisions for police and crime commissioners should be implemented in Wales and in England. There cannot be two tiers of governance for a police service whose officers and assets so regularly cross the regional boundary between England and Wales in tackling crime.

Mr Llwyd: Will the Home Secretary give way?

Mrs May: The right hon. Gentleman may wish to intervene after I have completed my point about the vote that took place in the National Assembly for Wales. I think that it is regrettable that the Assembly did not agree to the legislative consent motion that would have allowed police and crime panels to reflect the unique nature of local government in Wales, as we wanted. That would have included giving the Welsh Assembly Government a seat on the police and crime panels in Wales.

Mr Llwyd: The reason why Assembly Members did not endorse it is quite simply because they do not believe in the idea of a directly elected police commissioner. They did not want the panels and so voted against the proposal. Unfortunately, this place decided to ride roughshod over their wishes and the wishes of democratically elected people in Wales, thus showing little of the respect agenda and acting in a hugely undemocratic way.

Mrs May: That is not correct. It is precisely because we respect the Assembly’s decision that we are removing police and crime panels from local government structures in Wales. The Assembly had the opportunity to put in place a legislative consent motion that would have enabled that to take place. Such a motion was tabled by the Welsh Assembly Government, but they then chose not to support it, even though they had put it forward. As a result, the view of the Welsh Assembly was that police and crime panels should not form part of the local government structure in Wales. Instead, the PCPs will be freestanding bodies.

I want to make it clear that in taking a power to appoint those freestanding bodies I will not be telling, instructing or forcing any authority to do anything. I will invite local authorities to nominate a member to the PCP for each force area, and if an authority fails to nominate a member, I will invite members directly while having regard to the political balance within the force area. I think that the amendments will ensure that the appropriate checks and balances on police and crime commissioners can apply in all force areas in England and in Wales.

Mr Speaker: Order. I am listening carefully to the Home Secretary, who has given way generously, which is appreciated by the House, but I gently point out to

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both Front Benches that there are some Back Benchers who would like the chance of a snippet as well if the opportunity presents itself.

Mrs May: Thank you, Mr Speaker.

We have also taken the opportunity in the Bill, as Members can see, to make improvements to the police complaints system. There are of course other important aspects to the Bill, notably those relating to licensing. I think that Labour’s disastrous Licensing Act 2003 made the problem of binge drinking in this country worse, not better. Far from giving us the continental café culture that we were promised at the time, the Act did nothing to help police and local communities in their ongoing fight against alcohol-fuelled crime and disorder. That is why the Bill will help to turn the tide by ensuring that all those affected by licensed premises have a chance to have a say in the licensing process, allowing early morning restriction orders and the late-night levy on licensed premises opening after midnight to help pay for late-night policing and other services, such as taxi marshals or street wardens.

We have brought forward an amendment to introduce locally set licensing fees so that the fees can achieve what they were intended to, which is to recover fully the costs of licensing authorities in discharging their duties. I think that local government will feel that this is long overdue. We have also repealed the previous Administration’s legislation on alcohol disorder zones, and there was overwhelming support in our consultation for doing that. Those measures, together with a number of others, show that we are committed to stopping the harm caused by alcohol abuse.

As well as measures to tackle alcohol abuse, we will be providing powers to crack down on the damage caused by so-called legal highs. The Bill introduces the power to make year-long temporary class drug orders, which will allow us to take swift action to ban temporarily substances that have been specifically developed to get around existing drugs legislation but that can still cause significant harm.

I hope that the whole House will agree that for too long Parliament square has been subjected to unacceptable disruption and damage from the long-term encampment.

John McDonnell: No.

Mrs May: No, the whole House does not agree, and I should have pointed out that the hon. Gentleman made his views very clear in our previous debate and through the amendments that he spoke to.

The Bill contains, I think, a tough but proportionate package of measures to deal with encampments and other disruptive activity, and we have responded to Members’ concerns about the powers for authorised officers.

The Bill also makes sensible changes to the procedures for obtaining an arrest warrant for universal jurisdiction offences. We have heard the objections from a small number of hon. Members on the matter, but the Government continue to believe that the requirement to

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seek the agreement of the Director of Public Prosecutions that a case has a realistic chance of success is a fair and proportionate measure.

The Bill is a balanced package of measures to tackle real problems in our society. It includes directly elected police and crime commissioners, to give people back power over policing locally and to help to cut crime; tougher rules on licensing and drugs to help stop the harm that alcohol-fuelled disorder and legal highs can cause; and appropriate powers to restore the right to peaceful protest outside the mother of Parliaments, while removing the long-term encampments that cause so much damage, disruption and distress. We have had very good scrutiny of, and good debates about, the Bill. I believe that it is a very good Bill, and I commend it to the House.

5.40 pm

Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab): After 50 hours of debate and evidence, the Commons stage of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill has come to a close. The Members from all parts who endured the Committee stage will doubtless be delighted that in 19 minutes they will be released from custody. The Policing and Criminal Justice Minister will, I am sure, be relieved to have reached the end of this round of interrogation and hope to be released without charge, with his DNA destroyed and his fingerprints wiped.

I thank all Opposition Members for their work, but I pay particular tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker), aka Station Sergeant Coaker, who has ably led our investigative team, and of course to my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami), Custody Sergeant Tami, who has granted but few bail applications and always on the toughest terms.

Members have had the pleasure of debating the details of pub drinking, the definitions of a duvet and whether a toothbrush counts as sleeping equipment, and during the passage of the Bill we have welcomed some of the Government’s measures to which the Home Secretary referred, such as those on supporting local government, on licensing and on universal jurisdiction.

Other measures still have us baffled, however. The last time the Home Secretary spoke in the House on legislation she told us that the Government offered

“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.”—[Official Report, 1 March 2011; Vol. 524, c. 205.]

Today, she has defended a Bill that lets councils leap to the barricades when their byelaws are breached. She will support them in confiscating dogs that foul verges, guitars that are played near churches and even shoes that leave mud on the pavements. More importantly, she has supported a Bill that puts at risk centuries of independent policing, free from political interference, and concentrates considerable policing powers in the hands of one individual with hardly any checks and balances. That is hardly a defence of traditional British liberties.

Mrs May: I hesitate to interrupt what started as a comic turn by the right hon. Lady, but she knows full well that throughout the debate on the Bill we have been

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at great pains to ensure that there is operational independence for chief officers and for forces. We will defend that operational independence. The police and crime commissioners do not have policing powers; they have powers to ensure that the police are accountable, and respond to local people.

Yvette Cooper: That is what the right hon. Lady says, but where is the protocol? Time and again we have been told that there will be some sort of code of practice or some kind of protocol to reassure people that there will be operational independence, but where is it? We have not yet seen it, and the House is being asked to let the Bill go through without being given the opportunity to vote on such a protocol or agreement when it is reached. A draft has been given to the Association of Chief Police Officers, yet this week ACPO still raised some serious concerns about the way in which impartial policing will be protected, and that leaves us with considerable suspicions that she is not yet close to reaching an agreement with ACPO about how the operational protocol will perform. I have to say to the Home Secretary that asking the House to give consent to this Bill without providing crucial reassurances about the operational independence of our police is frankly irresponsible in the light of the traditional and historic British liberties that she has previously been so keen to defend.

During these 50 hours of debate, the Bill has not changed in its fundamentals. This period follows one in which crime fell by over 40%, public confidence in policing went up, and substantial improvements were made in the fight against crime. Yet instead of building on those improvements made under the Labour Government, this Government instead want to launch a massive experiment in governance alongside the steepest cuts in many generations.

The Government are putting considerable policing powers in the hands of individual politicians without any of the serious safeguards or checks and balances that are needed. We do not support the approach of elected police commissioners. During the passage of the Bill, we have tried to suggest ways of limiting the damage and providing additional checks and balances, yet each time they have been rejected. People want responsive and accountable policing, but they also want impartial policing that is accountable to the rule of law—a tradition secured in Britain since Peel. The Government face a grave challenge from the most senior police officers in the country, who have argued this week that that tradition is being put at risk by the Bill. ACPO said that

“the developing framework of safeguards is too undeveloped and uncertain, and in several respects too weak, to be confident that it will effectively ensure that this Peelian principle will not be compromised.”

That is a very serious charge.

We still wait for the protocol and for other explanations of how this will work. This is about the impartiality of our police force and the public perception of that impartiality. For the first time, policing powers will be concentrated in the hands of individual politicians, with hardly any checks and balances on what they do. The Home Secretary at least has to answer to Parliament. She has to persuade her Cabinet colleagues. She can be scrutinised, she can be challenged, and she can even be

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sacked if she makes a real mess of it—which I am sure, of course, that she will not—but a police and crime commissioner is there for four years, with just a toothless watchdog to keep guard in between.

Mrs May: The right hon. Lady is continuing to use the term “policing powers” in relation to the responsibilities of the police and crime commissioners. That is inaccurate and wrong. These individuals will not be “policing”—they will be elected to hold the chief constable to account to ensure that the local voice is heard and that what local people want in policing is being undertaken. There will be checks and balances through the police and crime panels. She talks about politicians having a relationship with the chief constable in relation to operational independence. Politicians already have a relationship with the chief constable through the police authority.

Yvette Cooper: Unfortunately, none of those reassurances has been enough to convince the most senior chief constables in the land that their operational independence will be safeguarded. That is the primary issue that this House should be worried about. We do not think that the Home Secretary has done enough to, for example, provide enough powers for the police and crime panels to allow them a stronger role as checks and balances in the system. Time and again, she has not provided enough safeguards for national policing. She will know that some experts have raised concerns about corruption, too. Of course, the public do not want this either. A YouGov poll commissioned for Liberty found that 65% of people preferred to have a chief constable reporting to a police authority, compared with 15% who wanted her reforms.

Then, of course, there is the cost: £100 million to be spent on elections and bureaucracy at a time when 2,000 of the most experienced officers are being forced into early retirement. If she ditched the police and crime commissioners and put that money back into policing, she could save almost a third of those jobs.

The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (Nick Herbert) rose

Yvette Cooper: I will give way if the right hon. Gentleman will tell us what he would do to safeguard the jobs of the 2,000 experienced police officers whom he is pushing off the front line as a result of his cuts.

Nick Herbert: The right hon. Lady challenged us on cost. Can she tell us how much her proposal for directly elected police authority chairs would cost, and is she aware that it would cost considerably more than our proposal?

Yvette Cooper: My proposal is to ditch all of it, and that would save £100 million. [ Interruption. ] I am afraid that it is. We have offered Government Members several ways to limit the damage of their proposals if they want to protect British freedoms. If they really want to do something sensible, they should save £100 million by ditching it altogether. That is what we will be voting for this evening.

Most importantly, this drastic re-engineering at the top of policing—this massive experiment in governance—comes in the middle of the deepest cuts that police

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forces have had to face for many generations; at a time when 12,500 officers and 15,000 police staff will go; at a time when a report by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary shows that 95% of police officers are not in back-office work; and at a time when front-line services across the country are being hit. If the Home Secretary and the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice continue to deny that front-line services are being hit, they will just show how out of touch they are, not just with the police but with communities across the country who can already see changes happening in their areas and know exactly who is to blame. We know that neighbourhood police officers who want to stay in their jobs are being cut, and that steep cuts are being made in probation, youth services and action to prevent crime.

We know why the Home Secretary really wants police and crime commissioners: so she has someone else to blame when it all goes badly wrong. These policies were not the Home Secretary’s idea. It was not her idea to cut 20% from the police—it was the Chancellor’s, but she did not fight to stop it. It was not her idea to bring in police and crime commissioners—it was the Prime Minister’s, but she did not stand up against it. It was not her proposal to cut DNA use and limit the power of the police—it was the Deputy Prime Minister’s, but she did not prevent it. She is ducking the big battles and is not standing up for people across the country, who need a Home Secretary who will defend their views. She is the Home Secretary, and in the end she carries the can. On Second Reading, she claimed that that crime would be cut as a result of these reforms. The truth is that she is starting to fear that the opposite is happening, and she needs someone to blame.

The clouds are gathering over the Government’s crime and policing plans, and we have raised the warning. We will vote against these plans today, just as we will vote against the police cuts next week. Ministers are creating a perfect storm; at some point it will blow, and it will be communities across the country who pay the price.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. A number of Members still wish to contribute and time is extremely limited. I appeal to the next Member who speaks to show consideration for others who wish to contribute.

5.52 pm

Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (Con): As the only Member of this House who is a member of a police authority, I congratulate Ministers on this Bill and welcome it. The Home Secretary made it clear on Monday that she wanted elected commissioners “in charge”. She said just now that commissioners will make sure that what local people want to happen in policing will happen. That is to be welcomed.

Unfortunately, Opposition Members are on the wrong side of this debate. The shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker), said that

“ACPO is clearly telling the Minister that he needs to amend the Bill”—[Official Report, 30 March 2011; Vol. 526, c. 404.]

Apparently, the Association of Chief Police Officers thinks that

“the Bill places too much emphasis on local considerations giving disproportionate power to the”

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elected commissioner. But it is this House that decides, not ACPO. The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice has said that we have to rebalance the tripartite system and put greater emphasis on the local and democratic element because too much power has gone to the centre. He was too diplomatic to say it, but ACPO has taken that power as much as the Home Office, and it needs to be rebalanced.

We will attempt to reach agreement on this protocol, and Ministers are no doubt working hard on that. We believe, of course, that in individual investigations and arrests there has to be complete independence for the police, and that politicians should have no influence in that. However, in wider issues such as policing policy, the budget and the priorities, it is surely right that there should be democratic control and oversight.

Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con): I welcome my hon. Friend’s remarks, and associate myself with them. I also welcome the way that he set out the law on operational independence yesterday. Does he agree that it is vital that senior police officers and Opposition Members accept the legitimacy of elected representatives ensuring that the public get the policing that they deserve?

Mark Reckless: Of course I accept that, and I thank my hon. Friend for his comments.

In the short time available, I want to make one point about an aspect of the Bill that I disagree with and how it is to be implemented, and that is the setting of the precept. There is a great focus on having more local democratic control, but there is perhaps some misunderstanding about how the panel will work in relation to the precept.

We have heard that Liberal Democrat Members want a strong panel, and that there is currently something called a veto in the Bill. However, the small print shows that the panel will have no veto on the precept. All that it will get to do is say, “We don’t like this.” The elected commissioner will have to take into account what it has said, but he can then impose what he wants. At the moment, it is the Secretary of State who is to have the power to intervene and hold a referendum, not the local panel. I hope that will be reconsidered and changed in the other place.

When the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice explained the relevant regulations on Report, he said it would be for the panel to put forward an alternative, and then the public would decide. In Committee, however, he said that it would be for the police and crime commissioner to give an alternative that was not excessive, and then the referendum would be to choose between the two. The local people should be in charge—that is the focus of the Bill, and I hope the matter will be considered in the other place. I commend the Bill.

5.55 pm

Mr David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) (Lab): Who would ever have believed that it would be a Conservative Home Secretary who took the Home Office back to the pre-Michael Howard era, when there was an overwhelming belief that neither the Home Secretary nor the Home Office had any part to play in reducing crime, co-ordination across boundaries or understanding the sophistication of organised criminality? Today, of course, e-crime and cybercrime can be added to that list.

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Who would have believed that a Conservative Home Secretary would oversee a 20% cut in policing in this country, or chide a Labour Opposition for being obsessed with police numbers? I was proud to be the Home Secretary for the four years when we increased the uniformed police service by 15,000 officers. That was what the communities that we represented were demanding, and that was what they got. That was why there was a 43% reduction in overall crime in this country, and a much greater reduction in burglary and car crime.

Perhaps the Home Secretary could never in her wildest dreams have realised that she was going to come to the House and say that she could not present a protocol for the relationship between the new elected police and crime commissioners and chief constables, because the Government had not yet managed to put it together. They do not know what the relationship is going to be.

The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice rightly quoted the document about accountability that I presented to the last Home Secretary but one. He was right to say that I was concerned about power lying where accountability was held, and that, of course, is with the chief constable, the leadership team and the neighbourhood commanders who respond directly to the neighbourhood that they represent. I was proud to introduce the neighbourhood beat teams and police community support officers, which brought us close to our neighbourhoods.

Now we are going to see total confusion, with policy decided by an elected police commissioner and delivery decided by a chief constable who has to do as they are told, and with no proper, organised cross-boundary working. There will be a breakdown of direct accountability, including in the role of elected councillors, and of the partnership approach that is so crucial to the reduction of crime and the engagement of the citizenry. That engagement is part of the process needed to ensure that we can continue to have the tremendous legacy that we left the current Government.

5.58 pm

Dr Huppert: I will try to be very brief. I thank Ministers for the helpful discussions that they have had with us and for the fact that we have managed to improve the Bill. I thank them for agreeing to our suggestions on removing the power for council officials to use reasonable force in protests and on ensuring that the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs plays a role in assisting on temporary banning orders. I thank them very much for agreeing to those requests, because that has improved the Bill.

There are still some issues to discuss as the Bill continues through the Lords, but it is very good. Liberal Democrats stood on a manifesto commitment to bring democracy into such matters. Unlike the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), I think the public should have their say. Democracy is very important.

I am particularly pleased that the Government propose to use a preferential voting system to elect the commissioner. That is a much fairer way of electing people who have such a critical role.

I am also pleased that we are unwinding some of the disgraceful measures introduced by the previous Government to stop protests in Parliament square. Unlike the right hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr MacShane),

31 Mar 2011 : Column 634

I do not believe that Parliament should be protected from the public. Parliament and the police should be accountable to them, which is what will now happen.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The House divided:

Ayes 274, Noes 161.

Division No. 249]

[5.59 pm


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Amess, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Binley, Mr Brian

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman, Bob

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Brine, Mr Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Malcolm

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burt, Alistair

Byles, Dan

Cable, rh Vince

Cairns, Alun

Carmichael, Neil

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crouch, Tracey

Davey, Mr Edward

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Dorries, Nadine

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mr Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Gale, Mr Roger

Garnier, Mr Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Damian

Greening, Justine

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, Robert

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hancock, Mr Mike

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Nick

Hayes, Mr John

Heald, Mr Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Henderson, Gordon

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Howarth, Mr Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Huhne, rh Chris

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Hunter, Mark

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lancaster, Mark

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Mr Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

Main, Mrs Anne

Maude, rh Mr Francis

May, rh Mrs Theresa

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, Esther

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Munt, Tessa

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, Mr Stephen

Offord, Mr Matthew

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, Richard

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reid, Mr Alan

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rudd, Amber

Russell, Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Iain

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Thurso, John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walter, Mr Robert

Watkinson, Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Norman Lamb and

Mr Robert Goodwill


Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Bayley, Hugh

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, rh Mr Gordon

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Coaker, Vernon

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobbin, Jim

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Eagle, Ms Angela

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Gapes, Mike

Gilmore, Sheila

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Goodman, Helen

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hilling, Julie

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Jackson, Glenda

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Mr Kevan

Joyce, Eric

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Leslie, Chris

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Love, Mr Andrew

MacShane, rh Mr Denis

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Mr Alan

Mearns, Ian

Miliband, rh David

Miller, Andrew

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Munn, Meg

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Pearce, Teresa

Phillipson, Bridget

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reynolds, Emma

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruddock, rh Joan

Sarwar, Anas

Seabeck, Alison

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Twigg, Derek

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Wicks, rh Malcolm

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wood, Mike

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Noes:

Mark Tami and

David Wright

Question accordingly agreed to.

31 Mar 2011 : Column 635

31 Mar 2011 : Column 636

31 Mar 2011 : Column 637

Bill read the Third time and passed.

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether you have had a request for a statement, either tonight or tomorrow morning, from the Minister of State, Cabinet Office. In response to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray), he told the Environmental Audit Committee this afternoon:

“we took the view collectively in Cabinet that we faced an immediate national crisis in the form of less growth and jobs than we needed”,

in relation to the recent Budget. We were not aware of those conditions before the Budget vote on Tuesday. The Minister accepts that we have an “immediate national crisis”, so has he given any indication of the need for a statement? We face unemployment at a 17-year high, a contracting economy, increasing VAT, and a jobs growth crisis in Britain. If the Minister is discussing with the Environmental Audit Committee, he should come to the House to explain himself.

31 Mar 2011 : Column 638

Mr Speaker: I have received no request for any such statement, but I am reminded of why it was that the right hon. Gentleman once served as the Parliamentary Private Secretary to a former Prime Minister. I think we will leave it at that.

Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) (Lab): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I was serving on the Environmental Audit Committee this afternoon. Given collective Cabinet responsibility and the admission of a national crisis, I wonder whether you could help us new Members of the House by saying whether, under the circumstances, Cobra should meet.

Mr Speaker: I have no knowledge of, intelligence about or opinion to volunteer on that matter, but I think that the hon. Gentleman is enjoying playing on the training ground, if I can put it like that.

Business without Debate

European Union Documents

Passenger Name Record

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 119 (11)),

That this House takes note of European Union Document No. 6007/11, and the Addenda 1 and 2, relating to the draft Directive on the use of Passenger Name Record data for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and serious crimes; welcomes the opportunity to hold a Parliamentary debate on the criteria the Government will take into account when making its opt-in decision within the three month deadline under Protocol 21 to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the Treaty on the European Union; and endorses the Government’s aim of working with other Member States to strengthen the security of EU citizens whilst also protecting their data by developing an effective EU passenger name record system. —( Mr Dunne .)

Question agreed to.

31 Mar 2011 : Column 639

Zurbaran Paintings (Auckland Castle)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Mr Dunne.)

6.13 pm

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): When I requested this debate I did not know about the Church Commissioners’ announcement, and I wondered whether there should be a question mark in the title. However, I was just looking at the Order Paper, and I see that we now have a full stop, which is the right thing to have. I am absolutely delighted by the announcement that the Church Commissioners have made to secure in perpetuity the Zurbarans at Auckland castle.

Every politician dreams of receiving a brown envelope containing leaked documents that they can reveal to the press, but when I received mine and saw that it contained proposals for the sale of these national treasures in my constituency I was really alarmed. I was clear that I did not want my constituency to be asset-stripped. Equally, I do not hold to the view that every cultural icon should reside within the orbit of the M25.

Jonathan Ruffer has most generously provided the money to keep the Zurbarans in Auckland castle. When I read the interview with him in The Spectator and saw his emotional response to the story, I felt vindicated that I had given the documents to The Northern Echo. I hope that the Under-Secretary will note the importance of having a free, independent-minded press that can speak up for local communities at all times.

Many people have been thanked over the past 24 hours, but I particularly want to thank the anonymous person who sent me those documents. We will never know who it was, but they took a risk, and it was definitely a risk worth taking. I know that their action annoyed the Church Commissioners, and I can understand that, but the time and effort that have gone into solving the problem mean that we now have a much better solution than we would have had a year ago. I hope that the Church Commissioners feel that as well. Obviously, it is the mission of the Church to provide pastoral care at parish level, but it is also its mission to speak the great truths about humanity and to use art and stories to do that. Now we have the opportunity to do both those things.

In making the case for keeping the pictures in Auckland castle, and setting out our vision for a regenerated Bishop Auckland, we knocked on many doors. We were immensely strengthened and supported by the sympathetic hearing that we received from everyone from the Archbishop of Canterbury down. All the bishops were immensely supportive, as were the directors of the British Museum and the National Gallery. Another positive outcome is the fact that we have built up a well of support that will help us in progressing the project to create something very beautiful in Bishop Auckland.

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): I want to assure the hon. Lady that there is equal delight right across the north-east that this wonderful philanthropic gesture has been made, and that this happy outcome has been secured.

Helen Goodman: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his support; I know that he has spoken about this matter in our region.

31 Mar 2011 : Column 640

This is an important day, because the pictures have historical significance. Francisco de Zurbaran was a Spanish counter-reformation painter whose paintings can be seen across the world. I went to Chartres in the new year and saw one of his paintings there. Of course, it was in the bishop’s residence. The collection in Auckland castle is particularly special because 12 of the 13 paintings belong together. The series is known as Jacob and his 12 sons. The long dining room at the castle was specially modified to hold the pictures.

Bishop Trevor, who bought the pictures, had previously lived in Downing street, but he became Bishop of Durham in the middle of the 18th century. He did a lot of work at Auckland castle. He built a deer house, which probably meant that the deer were better housed than the tenants at that time, and he bought those fantastic pictures. It is believed that he did that out of solidarity with the Jewish community. Like all the Anglican bishops, he supported the legislation to extend the civil rights of the Jewish community, and he preached on the suffering of those in the Jewish diaspora. When the so-called Jew Bill was repealed by the Tories, the bishop bought the pictures and hung them in the long dining room at Auckland castle.

The director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, who had the paintings displayed in London in 1994, has called them the

“first multicultural document of Britain”.

That is why, if these paintings had been lost, moved or exported, it would have been a loss not only to the town of Bishop Auckland and our region, but to the nation. That is why I am extremely grateful to Jonathan Ruffer for his extraordinary generosity, which has enabled the establishment of a trust that will keep the paintings in the castle in perpetuity.

I would like to ask the Second Church Estates Commissioner, the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry), if he has any more details about the objects of the trust or who the trustees might be. Does he know how many of the priests employed through the money that Mr Ruffer donated will be in the Durham diocese?

The research undertaken by John McDonnell, QC, in recent months has shown that Bishop Trevor undoubtedly intended the pictures to stay at Auckland castle. As a result of this development, the legal issues surrounding the pictures will not be tested at this juncture. I want to note, however, that the case for incorporating the pictures as part of the grade I listing at Auckland castle still stands.

I want to pay particular tribute to Bob McManners, who is the chair of the Bishop Auckland Civic Society. He wrote a book about the history of the paintings and it turned out to be a fantastically valuable campaigning tool, which played a vital part in the success of this campaign.

The importance of inter-faith dialogue has obviously grown in the last 250 years, while our understanding of the difficulties and dilemmas of building a successful multicultural society has also developed. As well as having the paintings in Auckland castle as a symbol of commitment to inter-faith dialogue and multiculturalism, I hope there will also be space to allow people of all different faiths to meet together.

The land on which Auckland castle stands was gifted by King Canute to the Church. I particularly like this detail, because my mum, who is Danish, comes from

31 Mar 2011 : Column 641

the same village as King Canute. Since 1138, the bishops of Durham have made Auckland castle their first residence. Over the years, the bishops of Durham grew in power and authority, and temporal power backed up spiritual power. County Durham was the last place in England to send Members of Parliament to Westminster. Some people think that politics in our area is still somewhat behind that of the rest of the country!

What will attract people to visit the castle is not just its very interesting history, as the main reason people will come is that it is in a fantastically beautiful spot. Auckland castle is a Gothic building, with probably the largest private chapel in Europe, and it is situated in beautiful park land on a wooded promontory overlooking the river Wear.

The partnership proposed between Durham county council and the National Trust is a really positive development, alongside the generous donations of other individuals and other institutions. Another question for the Second Church Estates Commissioner is whether the Church Commissioners will be open to the possibility of involving other people in the partnership. I am thinking, in particular, of the contribution that the World Monuments Fund might be able to make.

I had originally thought that the Second Church Estates Commissioner rather than the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey), would respond to this debate. I hope that the Minister is in his place to tell us that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is going to make a financial contribution as well as a moral one, so I look forward to hearing what he has to say.

The attraction of this project is that it is multi-layered: it is of historic interest, religious interest and artistic interest. Particularly exciting is the offer made by the director of the National Gallery, Dr Nicholas Penny, to lend paintings to Auckland castle so that we can turn it into an artistic centre.

For the people of Bishop Auckland this is obviously a question of identity, but it also presents a great opportunity to regenerate a town that has suffered significantly in recent years. Unemployment has been high, and several of our wards are among the 10% that are the most deprived in the country. It is easy to underestimate the number of jobs that can be created from tourism because they are generally in small businesses, but there are already 12,000 such jobs in County Durham, and tourism brings in £650 million a year. I am sure that we can we build on that. It would be fantastic if we could create a trail from Lindisfarne down through Jarrow to Durham and on to Bishop Auckland, repeating the journey of St Cuthbert’s shrine.

I want to thank many people for contributing to today’s happy outcome, not least the Second Church Estates Commissioner—as well as the secretary to the Church Commissioners, whom I see sitting in the Box. They came to Bishop Auckland in the snow, they pushed my car, and they listened to what was said by people in Woodhouse Close about why they wanted to hold on the paintings and have public access to the castle.

I thank my parliamentary colleagues in both Houses for their support, and I thank Durham county council, which has done a great deal of work but has a great deal more to do. I thank people throughout the country who

31 Mar 2011 : Column 642

have written to us and prayed for us. I thank Barbara Laurie, Marjorie Kellett, Ann Golightly and the many others who organised the petition. Most of all, however, I thank my constituents for defending their heritage so staunchly. After 900 years a Bishop of Durham will still live at the heart of our community, which is fantastic, because you can’t take the Bishop out of Bishop Auckland.

6.27 pm

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Tony Baldry): I congratulate the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) on securing this timely debate, and thank her for her kind personal comments. She has been a tireless and dedicated campaigner on this issue on behalf of those who live close to Auckland castle and those who come to enjoy it, its grounds and, especially, its paintings. As she made clear, both she and the people of Bishop Auckland, along with those in the wider region, are delighted about today’s announcement by the Church Commissioners that they are working to keep the Zurbaran paintings in Auckland Castle.

As Second Church Estates Commissioner, I am well aware of the strength and intensity of feeling that the castle and its paintings inspire in the hon. Lady and her constituents, and indeed in the diocese and the wider Church. It has been my pleasure to work with the hon. Lady on this issue in recent months. I was privileged to visit her constituency last November to view the paintings, along with other representatives of the Church Commissioners.

As the hon. Lady said, it is proposed that the 13 paintings by the Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbaran that currently hang in the Long Dining Room of Bishop Auckland castle should stay there, thanks to—I do not think that we can underline this too much—an extraordinary act of generosity by Jonathan Ruffer, chief executive of Ruffer. The paintings will be sold to a new trust, which will have a specific obligation to ensure their preservation and continued public display at Auckland castle. We are immensely grateful to him for an act of generosity that will ensure continued public access to those works of art in their natural home.

While I am giving credit where it is due, let me take the opportunity to thank Sir Paul Nicholson, Lord Lieutenant of Durham, for his chairmanship of the working party; Christopher Higgins, Vice-Chancellor and warden of Durham university; the Right Rev. Mark Bryant, Bishop of Jarrow; and all the others whose help, advice and assistance in recent months have proved invaluable in securing this resolution. I also thank my fellow Church Commissioners who have engaged so actively in the matter.

Although the Church Commissioners are significant owners of land and property, they are not, by and large, in the business of owning, maintaining and displaying paintings. I have made that point in the House before during questions on this issue, and I will return to it in a moment. However, I should first make a short detour. The Church Commissioners as we know them today came about in 1948 as the result of the merger of two bodies: Queen Anne’s Bounty and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The older of these, Queen Anne’s Bounty, was created in 1704 out of concern for the poverty of the clergy and the disrepair of their parsonages. Over a

31 Mar 2011 : Column 643

century later, Parliament created the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to manage the historic assets in order to make financial provision for the Church’s mission in areas of need and opportunity as well as to fund bishops and some cathedral costs, and in order to oversee a reorganisation of dioceses and cathedrals. Financing clergy pensions came much later.

The theme running throughout our 300-year history, which is very much alive today, is of supporting the Church’s mission throughout England. Today, the commissioners are responsible for all clergy pensions earned up to 1998, the stipends and working costs of all the Church of England’s bishops, the housing costs of all diocesan bishops and support of their local and national ministries, cathedral grants, stipends to cathedral deans and canons—and the list goes on. Currently, the Church Commissioners manage an investment portfolio of about £5 billion, largely in property and shares, which is derived from the Church’s historic resources. From this sum, they are able to contribute about 16p in every pound to the cost of the Church of England’s mission, with most of the balance coming from the generous giving of today’s parishioners. The majority of the commissioners’ other assets are in land and property, and as such they are not readily available to fund the day-to-day running of the Church of England. As a result of their investment performance, the Church Commissioners have distributed £31 million more each year to the Church for the past 10 years than if they had performed as an average fund. The point I would make in connection with all of this is that, although the Church of England owns and maintains about 16,000 places of worship and is responsible for 45% of this country’s grade I listed buildings—and so is arguably the nation’s leading heritage organisation, a point my hon. Friend the Minister and colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport well understand—the holding of heritage assets, of which the Zurbaran paintings are a prime example, has never been central to the commissioners’ asset portfolio.

The hon. Lady described very well the history of how the Zurbarans came to Auckland castle. The £125 spent by Bishop Trevor in 1756 was clearly a very worthwhile investment, because what it bought is now worth £15 million. With the moneys released by the sale of the Zurbaran paintings to the proposed trust, it will be possible to fund 10 additional clergy in perpetuity and to offer ministry to deprived areas of the nation. Doubtless some of the benefit of this arrangement will be enjoyed by communities in the north-east.

It is a matter of public record that the Church Commissioners have been reviewing the suitability of Auckland castle as the home of the Bishop of Durham and as the base for his local and national ministry. As part of this, the commissioners have been in discussions with representatives of the diocese and other local people. With the question of the Zurbaran paintings settled, the Church Commissioners now intend to work towards a future for the castle that not only maintains the strong and historic working link between it, the Bishop and the diocese, but that helps the site become, in the words of the hon. Lady herself,

“the focus for the development of tourism and an engine of regeneration.”

31 Mar 2011 : Column 644

I look forward to working with her as future plans develop, and with heritage bodies, the county council, the people of Bishop Auckland and the Heritage Lottery Fund. The hon. Lady mentioned other organisations, and, indeed, other heritage organisations wish to be involved with this regeneration project, which I am sure would be welcomed.

I should stress that Auckland castle will remain the base for the Bishop of Durham’s ministry; he will continue to work there and pray in the chapel there, so it will be the centre of his work. I should also stress that what happens at Auckland castle sets no precedent in respect of the continued assessments and feasibility studies of all bishops’ residences. The commissioners continue to have a responsibility to ensure that the Church’s diocesan bishops are housed appropriately so as to enable them to fulfil their ministry locally and nationally. They are subject to a regular review process, and that process will continue, with decisions made on an individual basis.

I conclude by quoting from a letter that appeared in the Church Times on 25 March 2011 from the Rev. Richard Deimel, a local vicar in Bishop Auckland. Having been unhelpfully misquoted by a different newspaper—we might all sympathise with that—he wanted to set the record straight. Given that he makes some insightful and eminently sensible points, they are worth repeating. He said:

“The question of the sale of the Zurbarán paintings from Auckland Castle is complex and sensitive. I am a Vicar of five parishes from the edge of Bishop Auckland to Hamsterley forest. People here feel that they have very little significant heritage or art or architecture in their community. Many are very proud of the paintings and the castle. They find meaning and identity in their story. It would be incredibly damaging, indeed a bit like a kick in the teeth from the church and the state, if these left the North East or went into private hands.

I fully support attempts to build a partnership to retain them in some kind of shared ownership. This would be a real boost to the local community and economy. It would, also release the Church from the responsibility of being a custodian of heritage, because that is not the purpose of the Church.”

I agree with all those sentiments and I hope that those in the north-east will feel that that is what we have managed to deliver on. I have confidence that what the commissioners have announced today will reassure not only Rev. Richard Deimel, but the hon. Lady and her constituents, and all those petitioners in the region and beyond who have made their concerns known. What has been achieved is, I hope, in the best interests of the north-east, the Church and the Church in the north-east.

6.36 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (Mr Edward Vaizey): This is one of those rare debates when the House can unite in unalloyed joy and pay tribute to the extraordinary efforts of a number of people and organisations in producing an extraordinarily good news story. Some of the speeches we have heard have, to a certain extent, sounded like Oscar speeches, because many people have had to be thanked. Of course the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) could not thank herself, so let me thank her for all her efforts in securing Zurbaran’s paintings. I had not quite appreciated the vigour of her campaign and I listened to her speech with great joy as I heard what an extraordinary campaign

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she had led. When the roll call—perhaps I should say the battle honours—of those who saved the Zurbaran paintings comes to be written, I hope that her name will be prominent.

Francisco de Zurbaran, a contemporary of Velazquez and El Greco, was honorary painter to King Philip IV of Spain, who hailed him as the king of painters. Although fashion turned against him, his reputation was restored by Napoleon Bonaparte, who acquired many of his paintings, some of which are on display in the Louvre. As the hon. Lady pointed out, the Zurbarans at Auckland castle came there by way of Bishop Trevor. They were completed in the 1640s and turned up again only in 1720, in the possession of Sir William Chapman, a director of the ill-fated South Sea Company. So sometimes a financial crash can have a silver lining, because they were auctioned in 1756 and bought by Bishop Trevor, the Bishop of Durham.

As the hon. Lady pointed out, Bishop Trevor had persuaded his fellow bishops in the House of Lords to support the “Jew Bill”—the Jewish Naturalisation Bill—which would allow Jewish immigrants to naturalise as British citizens. The support of the bishops proved crucial to the Bill being passed. Bishop Trevor bought 12 of the 13 Zurbarans now on display in Auckland castle for £124 to demonstrate his sympathy for the disfranchised Jews following the repeal of that legislation in 1755. Somehow one painting—the painting of Benjamin—eluded him. Bishop Trevor was so desperate to complete his set of Zurbarans that he commissioned the foremost portrait painter of the day, Arthur Pond, to paint a facsimile of the final one in the series, for which he paid £21.

I know that the Church Commissioners understood the important considerations and strength of public feeling over the future of the paintings, so I was as delighted as anyone to learn what had happened. The Church Commissioners have announced that they are working on exciting new plans for the future of Auckland castle and I do not think we should lose sight of that. Not only have the Zurbaran paintings been saved, but the partnership with Durham county council and the National Trust will, we hope, establish innovative uses for the castle and grounds in a new venture that would not only continue to care for the paintings but enable much greater public access for a wider range of activities.

I must obviously take this opportunity to express official thanks on behalf of the Government to Jonathan Ruffer for his donation. It is particularly astonishing

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given that, according to the article in today’s edition of



he brought them sight unseen, but I gather he is in the north-east this weekend and will see the paintings he has saved for the nation and the north-east. I commend the article in

The Spectator

as showing an example of what it means to be a philanthropist.

May I also thank the Rothschild Foundation, which has donated £1 million towards an endowment for Auckland castle, and Lord Rothschild himself? The cultural life of this nation would be significantly poorer without the work of someone like Jacob Rothschild, not only because of the money that he gives but because of the money that he encourages others to give. I do not know Jonathan Ruffer, but he is a self-effacing man and he said of Jacob Rothschild in the interview today:

“The battle honours in all of this go to him, not me”.

There is certainly some truth in that, because Jacob Rothschild has been at the heart of our cultural world for many decades and continues to be an incredibly important figure.

May I also thank the National Gallery, which I know is looking to help and support this venture—possibly with loans from its collection? I also thank the Church Commissioners, who continue to be in conversation with the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and a number of other parties to consider how further funds can be raised. My Department, I am afraid, is not in a position to give direct financial support, but we have been kept closely in touch with developments and we will continue to work with all parties to broker some support. It might also be appropriate to pay tribute to Hillary Bauer, who is herself a cultural icon in my Department and has done a great deal to support these developments.

This is an unequivocally good news story. Joy has almost come out of the heavens, one could say. Jonathan Ruffer stands testament to philanthropy in this country; the hon. Lady stands testament as a campaigning MP for her constituency; the Church Commissioners stand testament as an organisation that is prepared to listen and negotiate before making a final decision; and the work of Durham county council, the National Trust, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and everyone else involved stands testament to what can be achieved by co-operation.

Question put and agreed to.

6.42 pm

House adjourned.