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Lord Donoughue: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may ask this question. He questioned my figure, which was roughly half a billion. Since nothing has been announced to the public, perhaps he could be helpful to the House. We are led to believe that the commission has put a maximum of some £200 million on the expenditure; the Deputy Prime Minister is attempting to raise large sums from private industry. Will he help us with what will be the sum that will be spent on this project? Is there a maximum, and what is it? Can he guarantee that it will be less than half a billion pounds?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I am advised that the cost of the exhibition, which does not include the cost of the infrastructure or the decontamination work, is likely to be of the order of £350 million.
Lord Monkswell: My Lords, the Minister said earlier that a planning application had been submitted. Later he said that there would be the building of a dome and a car park. Are not the Government prejudging the outcome of the decision on the planning application?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I hope that I made it clear that the uses to be made of the site were a matter for the London Borough of Greenwich. I have a copy of the consultation document which has been circulated to many thousands of those living in the borough.
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, perhaps your Lordships will permit me to speak again, because it will be helpful to the House. Can we confirm that what the Minister has said is that the cost of the temporary structures will be no more than £350 million? Did he say earlier that the cost of decontamination would be about £400 million? If that is the case, does that make three-quarters of a billion pounds?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the arithmetic in which the noble Lord has engaged comes to approximately three-quarters of a billion pounds, but the figures that he has given are not those directly relevant to the points that he made. It is my understanding that the cost of the exhibition, which includes the construction of the various buildings and decking them out---if that is the right phrase--amounts to about £350 million. I am not in a position to give your Lordships an exact figure for the cost of the decontamination, the installation of the infrastructure and any improvements that may be necessary to the Tube system.
This Bill represents a further major step forward in the fight against organised crime. It will give the police, working together with other enforcement agencies, the national structures which they need to tackle serious and organised crime even more effectively. It will establish a statutory authorisation process for the use of essential surveillance techniques which the police and Customs need to investigate serious crime. It will put the Police Information Technology Organisation on an independent statutory footing and so ensure that the police have the best computer and communications systems available. And it will help to protect the public and build a safer Britain by giving employers better access to the criminal records of those wishing to work with children or seek other positions of trust.
Before I describe the Bill's provisions in greater detail, it may help if I briefly explain the background. The police have always had to deal with organised and violent criminals. But modern organised criminals are better resourced, more sophisticated and even more ruthless than the public image of organised crime represented by the Krays or Richardsons. They operate across local, regional and international borders. They use the very latest technology to support their criminal activities. They create complex webs of illegal and legitimate businesses to hide their ill-gotten gains and to give the impression that their hands are clean. And they are well aware of normal policing methods and use anti-surveillance techniques to avoid being caught.
The National Criminal Intelligence Service and the regional crime squads have already achieved some impressive results. I pay tribute to their work. But we need to strengthen our capacity to tackle organised crime. We must harness the intelligence, the technology and the resources of the police, Customs and other agencies in a carefully co-ordinated national approach. We need a national response, in harmony with the local basis of policing in this country, to threats on a national scale.
I stress the importance of preserving our local system of policing. We are not proposing a British equivalent of the FBI. There will be no "federal crimes" over which the new organisations will have exclusive jurisdiction. The public will continue to report all crimes to their local police forces. There will be no direct recruitment of police officers to either body: police officers will continue to be seconded or recruited from police forces.
The new bodies will be firmly rooted in the traditions of British policing with its tripartite accountability arrangements. This means that the National Criminal Intelligence Service covering the UK and the National Crime Squad covering England and Wales will continue to support local police forces, as they do now. And local representation will be a key element of the arrangements for overseeing the new bodies and setting their strategic direction.
I turn now to the detailed provisions of the Bill. It may be helpful to your Lordships if I deal together with Parts I and II relating to the National Criminal Intelligence Service and the National Crime Squad. The provisions in both parts are very similar and indeed the two organisations share some common features and will of course work very closely together.
The Bill provides for the creation of two bodies corporate: one, with 19 members, called the Service Authority for the National Criminal Intelligence Service; and the other, with 17 members, called the Service Authority for the National Crime Squad. These bodies will maintain the two services. The National Criminal Intelligence Service will provide criminal intelligence to police forces throughout the UK, to the National Crime Squad and to other law enforcement agencies, principally Customs, in this country and from overseas. In addition, in fulfilment of our undertaking during the passage of the Security Service Act 1996, the Bill provides for the Director General of the National Criminal Intelligence Service to be responsible for co-ordinating Security Service activities in support of the law enforcement agencies investigating serious crime.
The function of the National Crime Squad will be to prevent and detect serious crime which is of relevance to one or more police areas in England and Wales. It will also be able to target major criminals and, at the request of chief constables, to support local police forces in England and Wales and other law enforcement agencies here and from overseas in the prevention and detection of serious crime. In particular, it will preserve the close links which the regional crime squads already have with the Scottish crime squad and the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
The membership of the service authorities seeks to reflect the tripartite structure on which our system of policing is based while recognising the national role of both services. Each service authority will be made up of independent, police authority and police service members, plus one Home Office representative. The service authority for the National Criminal Intelligence Service, because of its UK and multi-agency remit, will also include representatives of the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Northern Ireland, police authorities and police forces in Scotland and Northern Ireland and a representative of Customs and Excise.
Although independent of each other, the two authorities would have a common core membership of 10 in order to ensure a shared strategic direction for the National Criminal Intelligence Service and the National Crime Squad. The core membership would include three independent members appointed by the Home Secretary, one of whom would be appointed to chair both service authorities. These are key appointments to positions with responsibility for important national services. In these circumstances, we believe that it is reasonable for the Home Secretary to choose the independent chairman. As with police authorities, the independent members would bring a wider perspective to the management of the two services than might be obtained
In line with the arrangements for local forces, both service authorities will have to set objectives to secure the efficiency and effectiveness of the services they maintain. They will be required to publish service plans, similar to policing plans for individual forces, and to report performance in annual reports. The director general of each service will be required to report annually on the activities of the services they manage. Their reports will also be published.
The role of the Home Secretary, in consultation with the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Northern Ireland in relation to the National Criminal Intelligence Service, will reflect his responsibilities for the police service generally. It will include the power to determine key objectives for each service, to call for reports, to hold an inquiry and require Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary to carry out inspections.
Each service authority will appoint, from a short-list approved by the Secretary of State, a director general to run the service it maintains. Both appointees will have to be chief constables or eligible for promotion to chief constable.
The staff of the two services will comprise police and other members. Police members will be seconded police officers on relevant service or, in the case of Association of Chief Police Officers ranks, they will normally be appointed. Other members will be direct employees of the services or will be seconded or loaned from organisations such as Customs and Excise in the case of NCIS. All the staff in each organisation will be under the direction and control of the relevant director general.
The Bill includes power for regulations to be made governing the handling of complaints against the staff of both services. In relation to the National Criminal Intelligence Service, a member of the public may not know whether his or her complaint is against a police officer, Customs officer or some other member of the civil staff. It is essential that the arrangements are clear and that all complaints can be properly investigated. For that reason, we propose to ensure that all staff in both services will be subject to a consistent complaints system reflecting existing police procedures.
Each service authority will levy police authorities in England and Wales for the costs of the service they maintain. These levies, which will be subject to approval and possible adjustment by the Home Secretary, will provide the majority of the income for the two services. Contributions to the costs of the National Criminal Intelligence Service will also be made by the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Northern Ireland.
We believe that decisions on the levy should be strongly influenced by locally elected members of the service authorities, as levies will affect local budgets. For this reason, proposals for the levies will be prepared by the police authority members from England and Wales and the independent members only. The police authority group voting on a levy will have at least one more member than the independent group.
Once the service authority has settled a budget and determined a levy, it will be considered by a tripartite group. This group will consider the levies in the context of overall spending on the police and proposed expenditure on centrally provided services such as police training. The tripartite group will advise the Home Secretary about the appropriateness of the proposed levy. He will then either approve the levy or instruct the service authority to adjust it. His decision will be final and the service authority will not be able to exceed the levy.
Part III contains provision to regulate the use of intrusive surveillance techniques by the police and Her Majesty's Customs and Excise. The use of these technical devices can often provide the crucial piece of the jigsaw in breaking organised criminal activity. I have no doubt about their value.
The debates on last Session's Security Service Bill highlighted the question of how best to regulate the use by the police and customs of intrusive surveillance techniques. Police surveillance operations are presently authorised by chief officers in accordance with administrative arrangements outlined in a long-standing Home Office circular. Similar guidelines apply in Northern Ireland, Scotland and for Her Majesty's Customs and Excise. The existing guidelines impose a tightly controlled system which has served us well and I know that chief officers take their responsibilities very seriously. The courts recognise and accept evidence obtained in this way. But there is a strong case--which the Government have accepted--for putting the authorisation system on a statutory footing. This will establish greater clarity in the way this crucial activity is controlled.
We believe that the best option is to build on the successful experience of the present system but to formalise authorisation by chief officers. This would be fully consistent with their operational independence. It would not result in delays in processing applications for authorisations which might hamper these serious investigations. And it would be more bureaucratic than the current arrangements.
I have already acknowledged the seriousness with which chief officers take these responsibilities. But it is also essential that there are safeguards to ensure the integrity of the authorisation process and that it is carried out properly.
The Bill includes a number of safeguards. It requires that the authorising officer is satisfied that the surveillance is likely to be of substantial value in the prevention or detection of serious crime and that what the action seeks to achieve cannot reasonably be achieved by other means. The new procedures reflect the fact that authorising officers wish to maintain personal responsibility for the use of these techniques.
There will also be an important independent scrutiny of the process. The Bill makes provision for the appointment of a new surveillance commissioner. The commissioner will be independent; a person who holds or has held high judicial office. His functions will be two-fold: to review authorisations and to investigate complaints of improper authorisations. He will be provided with specific powers in the event of his finding in favour of a complainant.
I believe that our approach strikes the right balance of equipping the police with the essential techniques to tackle the ever increasing sophistication of our most serious and organised criminals, while providing adequate safeguards against the unnecessary intrusion on the privacy of the public.
Part IV of the Bill establishes the police information technology organisation as an executive non-departmental public body. PITO was set up on an interim, non-statutory basis on 1st April this year, although the Home Office has been providing national information technology services for the police for over 20 years.
Our aim in establishing PITO was to create a more customer-focused organisation, by bringing chief officers and police authorities into the heart of decision making. There are sound economic and operational reasons for the greater central provision of information technology. But it must be accompanied by a new partnership approach, in which all those with an interest in policing have a sense of common ownership of national computer and communications services.
PITO has three main functions. It is responsible for promoting the delivery of national information technology services in support of the police, such as the Police National Computer; securing a co-ordinated approach to the development and delivery of local information technology systems in England and Wales through the implementation of the national strategy for police information systems; and providing a procurement service for the police in areas where national supply arrangements are appropriate.
Under the new arrangements, the strategic management of PITO will be the responsibility of a tri-partite board whose membership will be drawn from chief constables, police authorities and the Home Office and Scottish and Northern Ireland departments.
The creation of PITO and its establishment as an independent statutory body offers the prospect of the improved delivery of cost effective, timely and responsive IT to the police, an objective in which we can all share.
A new criminal records agency will be established as part of the Home Office to undertake this work for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland the work will be undertaken by the Scottish Criminal Record Office. Individuals will be able to obtain information about their criminal records. In carefully defined circumstances and with the consent of the individual, this will also be provided to those bodies which are registered with the agency which will include employers, licensing bodies and voluntary organisations.
The Bill proposes three types of certificate. The first, a criminal conviction certificate, will be issued only to individuals. It will state whether they have convictions recorded in central police records which are not spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.
The second certificate, a criminal record certificate described as a "full" check in the White Paper, will be available for occupations which are exceptions to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. A joint application will be made by the individual and organisation which is seeking the check. Information will be provided from central police records about spent and un-spent convictions and about cautions.
The third certificate, an enhanced criminal record certificate described as an "enhanced" check in the White Paper, will be restricted to those working on a regular, unsupervised basis with children; for certain licensing purposes; and, prior to appointment, judges and magistrates. An enhanced certificate will include the information contained in a criminal record certificate, plus information from local police records. Where relevant, non-conviction information might be supplied. Very exceptionally this could be provided to the employer but not the individual. This would only happen where the information might prejudice an ongoing or future investigation.
We expect individuals to meet the cost of the checks although employers or others could reimburse them if they wished to do so. The cost of criminal conviction certificates and criminal record certificates is estimated at about £5 or £6. An enhanced criminal record certificate would cost about £8 to £10.
Bodies eligible to receive criminal record or enhanced criminal record certificates must register with the agency. A registration fee will be payable which we expect to be about £15 to £20. A condition of registration is that organisations should follow a code of practice. We will shortly be publishing responses to the consultation exercise which was undertaken on the draft code. Some of the responses have already led directly to the inclusion of provisions within the Bill but some further consultation will be required with interested parties before the code can be finalised.
We recognise that there are important civil liberties issues connected with criminal record checks. What we have tried to do is to strike a balance between the need to protect vulnerable members of society, particularly children, while avoiding the need for intrusive checks. That is particularly so when we come to information which has not been tested before the courts. That is why we have felt it important to restrict the use of non-conviction information to situations where children
The Bill will strengthen the fight against serious and organised crime. It will ensure that the efforts of the police and other law enforcement and intelligence agencies can be organised more effectively. It will mean that resources needed to combat national and international crime can be focused more effectively. These new arrangements build upon and complement our system of local policing. That combination of partnership with local communities and effective co-ordination of national resources will create a powerful new alliance in the fight against organised crime. I look forward to hearing the views of your Lordships on its provision. I commend the Bill to the House.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the House will be grateful to the Minister for the clear way in which she introduced this complex and important Bill. I must begin with an apology. As the Minister knows, when there was a choice of dates for this Second Reading, this was not my first choice. I shall have to leave to take the chair at an important college meeting at about 6.30 this evening. I apologise to the House generally and to those noble Lords whose speeches I shall not be able to hear. Fortunately, I shall be able to hear--and I very much look forward to hearing--the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Warwick, who brings professional expertise to this subject. I am sure that he will make a valuable contribution to the debates of the House on this and other subjects.
In the consideration of the Bill, our starting point was made clear when we debated the Security Service Bill last year. As noble Lords will recall, that Bill was one part of the range of measures which the Home Secretary announced in his speech to the Conservative Party Conference in 1995. Although we had difficulties with some parts of the Security Service Bill, I made it clear at that time that we are in general support of the measures which he announced. That means that in particular we are in general support of those parts of the Bill which relate to the National Criminal Intelligence Service and the national crime squad. There are other elements in the Bill relating to criminal records and surveillance which deserve separate attention.
As regards Part I and II, I have only a few general points to make because my noble friend Lady Hilton of Eggardon, who knows far more about those matters than I do, will comment in more detail on some of the aspects. However, in so far as the Bill provides for a continuation of the tripartite system for the control of
The structure proposed for the two service authorities goes a good deal further in enhancing the role of the Home Secretary than I would have thought, bearing in mind the debates that your Lordships had on the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994. Noble Lords will recall that when we came to debate that legislation there was strong opposition from all parts of the House, not least from well-informed and senior members of the Conservative Party, to the proposals for the Home Secretary to have, for example, the power to nominate the chairman of police authorities; and, indeed, to the way in which independent members of the police authorities were to be selected. Your Lordships persuaded the Government--or at least the threat of Divisions on the matter frequently persuaded the Government--that the role of local authorities in police authorities should be greater than was originally proposed in the Bill. So it came about.
We seem to be going backwards. When you have a National Criminal Intelligence Service and a national crime squad, no one doubts the fact that the Home Secretary has particular responsibilities which ought to be reflected in the service authorities. Therefore, we are not saying that the Home Secretary should not be represented. But if we look at the core service authority for the two bodies, it will be seen that three members are to be appointed directly by the Home Secretary at will; one member is to be appointed by the Home Secretary in his role as the employer of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police; and one member is to be appointed as a Crown servant, also by the Home Secretary. So five out of the 10 core members, as well as the chairman, are to be appointed by the Home Secretary. We think that that is going too far. We believe that the role of local authority members and of chief constables ought to be greater in this authority because, after all--as the Minister rightly said--what is proposed here is not an FBI or, still worse, a CRS. What is proposed is a body which will be acting in support of the operations of local police forces. Surely in those circumstances their role should be very much greater than is proposed in the Bill.
The latter is enhanced by the arrangements which are proposed for funding. At present, the non-statutory National Criminal Intelligence Service is funded by a Home Office Vote. However, it is now proposed that both of the new statutory bodies should be funded by a levy on the police authorities. The Minister went into great detail--in fact, she went too fast for me and I shall have to try to catch up afterwards--into the nature of the funding arrangements and how the budgets will be arrived at.
It appears that these new bodies will be funded fundamentally from the rates, from the council tax and through police authorities with local authority members serving on them. Under those circumstances, I should have thought that, again, the role of local authority members on the core committee and on the separate committees for the two national bodies ought to be increased. We welcome what the Minister said about the
Particular questions have been raised with the Home Secretary by the Police Federation. I draw attention to them now so as to give notice that they will undoubtedly be raised in Committee. The first concern of the Police Federation is that seconded officers will not fall under the protection of police regulations, in contrast with what now happens with the regional crime squads, and that the service authorities will themselves set terms and conditions for those officers. Secondly, the federation is concerned that the Police Complaints Authority will have control not only of police staff but also of other civilian staff. All I am asking at present is that the Minister should give an undertaking that there will be consultation with the Police Federation before such matters are further determined.
Leaving more detailed consideration on Parts I and II of the Bill to my noble friend Lady Hilton, I move to Part III which relates to intrusive surveillance. Again, our position is as we stated it when the Security Service Act was under deliberation. At that time, we noted that there was no statutory basis for police surveillance either in the form of bugging or of telephone tapping. We believed--and, indeed, we said so--that it should be on a statutory basis. Therefore, we welcome the provision that such surveillance shall be on a statutory basis.
We also welcome the fact that it is the chief police officer rather than the Home Secretary, as is the case with the security services, who is to be responsible for decisions on such surveillance. However, there are a number of questions still arising about the nature of the judicial authority over chief police officers. We hear what the Minister says about the commissioner, who holds high judicial office. That clearly is welcome. We look forward to the publication of the code of practice; and I am grateful for the assurance that it will be available in time for the Committee stage. Perhaps I may push the matter a little further and say that I hope the document will be available in time for us to table amendments for the Committee stage, if necessary. All of that sounds all right.
Nevertheless, there are still nagging doubts. We appear to be setting up a different regime of control for placing bugs in a person's home and for a search for which provision is already made. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, will no doubt be intervening on that point. However, on the face of it, I can see no reason why there should be lesser control over intrusion to place bugs--to place electronic equipment--from the control which is necessary for searching premises. After the noble and learned Lord has spoken, I hope that we shall have a reasoned reply from the Minister in her concluding speech.
We accept that all those intrusions are necessary, but the principles on which they are based ought to be firmly set out and as clearly defined as possible. I am not certain that the current wording of the Bill is right. The principle of proportionality is provided for in the legislation by saying that there has to be an assurance
The 1984 Home Office guidelines on the matter went further. They talked about the requirement that other less intrusive means should have been tried and failed or that, in the nature of things, there should be a presumption that if they were tried they would fail. It is possible that it would be appropriate to table amendments in Committee to achieve that objective. Again, looking at Part III of the Bill, we welcome placing these powers under statutory control, but a number of detailed issues will have to be dealt with in Committee.
I move rapidly over Part IV which seems to me, perhaps wrongly, to be uncontroversial. Part V of the Bill is the last substantive element of the Bill. What is being attempted under Part V is, of course, right. It is right that children and other vulnerable groups should be protected as regards people who are put in a position of authority over them or who have regular and unsupervised contact with them. There is a great need to prevent such people exploiting children and other vulnerable groups. In so far as Clauses 101, 102 and later clauses provide that protection--which they do substantially--they have our full support. However, there are problems with Clause 100 which deals with criminal conviction certificates. That clause provides that all individuals should have access to those records. It is implicit in that that any employer, whether or not an employee is to deal with children or vulnerable groups, could be subject to a demand for access to such a certificate.
The agency will have to provide large numbers of certificates. There could be millions of such certificates, compared with possibly half a million now. I should have thought the Government would wish to give priority to the protection of vulnerable groups by, first, establishing provisions for the full and enhanced certificates which were envisaged in the White Paper. I shall not take a firm view on that matter until I hear the Government's response to that suggestion, but it worries me that Clause 100 could be in conflict with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. I should like to receive assurances from the Government that it is not in conflict with that Act, and that the balance between the needs of employers and those of the public and the rehabilitation of offenders has been correctly drawn. If that means that there should be further codes of practice, that may be one solution. If it means that there should be amendments to the text of the Bill, we shall consider that possibility too.
It is not as if our rehabilitation of offenders legislation was more wide-ranging than that of other countries. After all, we already exclude from the possibility of spent sentences any sentence of more than two-and-a-half years' imprisonment. As far as I know, no other nation in Europe does the same. Article 8.5 of the European Union data protection directive requires that there should be specific safeguards as regards discrimination against ex-offenders whose offences indicate no evidence of danger to others. I question whether some of the provisions in the Bill conform to the European Union data protection directive. There are also areas where it does not go far enough. There is no reference here to the private security industry, for example, where clearly it is in the interests of clients of that industry, which include the public sector, that there should be an assurance that the industry is not employing ex-criminals who might be suspect in this regard. After all, these people have access to premises and to personal property. They have access to records which might be sensitive. If there is no assurance that the private security industry is required--not just requested--to take action to ensure that it is not employing anyone who is dangerous as regards the service it is providing, perhaps we are not going far enough. It makes me wonder whether there is a need not just for vetting employees but also for vetting employers, and whether there should be an amendment along those lines.
The Minister has given us better estimates than we have had hitherto as regards the likely costs of the criminal conviction certificates and of the full and enhanced certificates. We are grateful to her for that. However, she will know that many of the organisations which represent the voluntary sector have expressed great concern about the funding of the agency and its need to be self-supporting, and therefore the need to charge for issuing the certificates. The national council of voluntary child welfare organisations, the national centre for volunteering, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the YMCA and NACAB have all expressed great concern about the potential cost to them of being required to obtain certificates for large numbers of voluntary organisations. The Scout Association estimates that it will cost £½ million; the guides estimate it will cost £450,000; the Women's Royal Voluntary Service estimates that it will cost £1.25 million. The Government ought to consider taking responsibility for the costs of the screening, in particular of volunteers.
As I said at the beginning, this is a complex Bill. It contains a number of separate matters, all, I acknowledge, directed to the same end. We yield to no one in our support for an effective and responsive police force and for them to have the tools that they need to do their job. In that sense we strongly support this Bill. Our amendments and our activities in Committee, and in the later stages of the Bill, should not be taken to derogate from that support. What we are trying to do is to help the Government to have the best possible piece of legislation.
Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, I agree very much with what the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, has said; namely, that this Bill has every merit in its intention in that it is designed to help the prevention and detection of serious and organised crime, and as such it should certainly command broad support in this House. However, there is a cause for serious concern in some of its details, and it will be properly the subject of careful scrutiny and, where appropriate, amendment at the Committee and further stages.
I mentioned in a debate on the Address--I hope that your Lordships will not mind my reminding the House of this--that it is important that we continue to give detailed scrutiny to the Bills which come before us, even when there is much to recommend them to the House. We are, after all, a revising Chamber, and if we fail to carry out that function properly, irrespective of the purpose of a Bill, we shall fall short of our proper duty as the second Chamber of Parliament. However, co-operation and a speedy passage of any Bill involves the Government in being willing to make concessions and not simply the Opposition parties ceasing to present their case. As I have already said, there is widespread concern about the need for some of the safeguards in the Bill. That concern has been expressed by outside organisations, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has made clear. I am certainly concerned about the police powers in Part III of the Bill, although I am open to persuasion. There are many points to be considered as regards the availability of criminal records in Part IV. I hope very much that the Minister will be willing to accept amendments even without a Division, and will respond of her own volition to views expressed in the House during debate on the Bill.
As the Minister said, Part I of the Bill has been presaged for some time. I have an uneasy feeling that the present proposed arrangements will not last and will provide only a half-way house to a British equivalent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said, that is not what we are dealing with at present in the text of the Bill. I do not take a view about the direction in which we should move in future. However, it is important to recognise that the steps in Parts I and II are major and may well lead to further developments. I believe that the two new bodies proposed in Parts I and II are like Siamese twins: they are joined together by a common chairman and a common core membership, not easily separated, but they may not have a long life together. We should bear that in mind whatever their merits may be.
I am concerned about some aspects of the present proposals. First, the two tier membership could lead to first class and second class members. The Minister referred to the strategic role of the core members. I would not dispute that. But if they have a strategic role, it suggests that other members--I call them for convenience second class members--may not share that role. I am surprised at the additional cost to public expenditure. It is put at £1,050,000. I hope that the figure is as low as that. However I hope that that figure will not restrict the two organisations in their proper role. I share some of the anxieties expressed by the
I may be wrong--perhaps the Minister will tell me so when she winds up the debate--but I am surprised at the unusual further powers given to the Secretary of State in Clauses 29 and 73 of the Bill. Those clauses refer to the role of the Home Secretary and state that the Secretary of State may require each authority to exercise its power to sack the director general. I find that a highly prescriptive requirement which diminishes the independence of each authority. I am sure that there must be precedents. I should like to know what they are; and what is the significance of the inclusion of those clauses in the Bill.
That leads me to a larger issue which I have not fully understood. In introducing the debate, the Minister referred to the two bodies as bodies corporate. The noble Baroness referred, as I understood it, to their responsibility to their Minister. Will she be kind enough to explain more fully--it may perhaps be for my enlightenment; other noble Lords may understand the position--exactly what is a body corporate. It is not a body within the Home Office; but is it outside the Home Office? If so, are bodies corporate executive agencies? If they are not executive agencies, precisely what are they? Again, I should like to know the precedents for those organisations, and the similarities between those and comparable bodies.
Perhaps I may ask the Minister--I believe that the question has a bearing on status and accountability--whether Members of Parliament will be able to ask Parliamentary Questions about the operational role of those bodies. If the answer is yes, presumably those matters will be addressed to the Home Secretary. Bringing the matter nearer home, to whom should noble Lords address their letters in due course? Should they address them to the Home Secretary, the chairman or the director general? What assurance will we have as regards the possible confusion between policy and operational responsibilities such as we have experienced all too often and unfortunately with the Prison Service? There may be easy answers, but your Lordships deserve to know them.
Part III concerns entry into property, or--to put it more bluntly--police bugging. As the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said, and it was referred to by the Minister, I believe, the powers now proposed in the Bill are meant to give statutory authority to a long-standing practice. In the debate on the Security Service Bill, there was a general welcome to the statutory backing that would be given to the guidelines. However, that begs an important question. If we are to give statutory backing to the guidelines, we have to be sure that the guidelines are right. In addition, we have to decide whether the stamp of permanent approval should or should not be put on them. It is sometimes arguable that it is better to retain guidelines which are flexible and easily changed than to put something in black and white in a statute.
--meaning the options as regards who should authorise the intrusive surveillance operations by the police. I do not say that her present proposals are unacceptable; it may well be that they should stand. But perhaps she will help the house by explaining exactly to which options careful consideration was being given.
Those are wide powers. If we are to incorporate them in statute, we should be absolutely clear that that should be done. The Minister said that she had no doubt about the crucial value of the present surveillance methods. She may well be right, but I should like confirmation that there is firm evidence to justify what is, and has to be seen to be, an invasion into the privacy of the individual. The case has to be made for this part of the Bill. We must not take it for granted.
Like the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, I am tempted to pass quickly over Part IV of the Bill, because I do not fully understand it. But why is there a separate body? Under Parts I and II we already have two bodies. Precisely what is the status of the body proposed in Part IV? The Minister says that it is an executive non-departmental body. But how is that distinct from the corporate bodies set up under Parts I and II of the Bill? If it is not an executive agency but it is executive, how executive is it? To whom is it responsible? Can it be accountable to Parliament? If it is accountable to Parliament, through what route?
I note in passing--it is a matter for Committee stage--that the chairman and members are appointed by the Secretary of State who then maintains an even tighter control over staff appointments. So far as I can see, no such provision has been proposed in the clauses dealing with the NCIS and the NCS. The control by the Home Secretary extends even to the appointment of committees. I should be grateful if the noble Baroness would tell us, if not today at a later stage, precisely why that is so.
I think we all recognise that Part V of the Bill may well occupy the most time in Committee. I do not intend to rehearse again all the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, which seem to me to be valid. In so far as criminal checking applies to the special protection of vulnerable groups, and in particular to children, it is acceptable as an unfortunate necessity. From these Benches we support it. However, beyond that it is deeply disturbing and alarming in its consequences. It is a radical measure to which I am instinctively opposed, and I shall briefly state the reasons.
It will reinforce discrimination against those with a criminal record who may be trying to go straight. It will unbalance relationships which today are expected to be more equal in a number of very important respects between employees and employers, while giving no protection with regard to the behaviour and record of employers to those who are involved with them in business dealings, especially the self-employed. There is huge scope for forgery and fraud. There will be many false certificates showing nil convictions circulating like promissory notes. There will be huge opportunity for blackmail. There is the possibility, which we must all accept, of inaccurate information causing great damage to both employees and employers.
I should be grateful for advice from the Minister, not necessarily today but at a later stage, as to what redress there will be. Must it be through the courts? How immediate can it be if inaccurate information has caused damage to an individual in a way that may affect his or her employment prospects and involves that person in major cost? As I understand it, those who lose certificates or have them stolen will be penalised. Is that just; is it consistent with the purpose of the Bill; and is it not likely to lead to more difficulties than it removes? Finally--and I regret to say that the list could be a great deal longer--as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said, the provisions of the Bill place a financial burden on the unemployed and voluntary organisations that may be very considerable.
The proposals, apart from that which deals very specifically with organisations--for example, those dealing with vulnerable children--are on the face of it cumbersome, slow-moving and bureaucratic, with great room for abuse and error. They are an intrusion into our liberties, and I can see nothing in the Bill at the moment which involves effective and regular parliamentary scrutiny. We heard how likely it is that many hundreds of thousands of certificates will shortly be in circulation. The logic is that half the population will be carrying around certificates in their pockets rather like a driving licence. I suggest to the Minister, with my tongue only half in my cheek, that it might be a good idea to suggest to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nolan, that prospective parliamentary candidates should be included and should be required to produce a certificate on their nomination to Parliament. If the measure is to apply to employees in the private sector, why should it not apply to those who seek in the public interest to serve the nation? I am profoundly unhappy with this part of the Bill as it stands. I shall, however, listen very carefully to the Minister today and on future occasions, and I very much hope that reassurances will be given.
There is nothing, or at least very little, in the Bill that could not have been introduced earlier in this Parliament. Some of the measures are retrospective and give statutory backing to existing practices. I regret that we have to deal with this legislation in an inevitably fetid pre-election atmosphere. However, from these Benches we shall deal with it strictly on its merits. To be fair, the tone of the Minister's remarks and those from the Labour Benches suggest that it will be treated
Lord Taylor of Warwick: My Lords, I crave the indulgence of the House for this, my maiden speech. It is with much humility that I rise to speak. I hope that my words prove worthy of the debate. I feel especially privileged to speak on a day when this House remembers the victims of two world wars and other conflicts. I appreciate the warm and friendly reception that I have received from all sides of the House--why, it is just like being in Cheltenham!
I understand that I am one of the youngest Members of this place. My younger daughter is only two, but I should formally deny the story that I asked one of your Lordships whether this House had any creche facilities, and received the reply: "What, for your daughter, or for you?".
As a lawyer, I have a particular interest in this Bill. Indeed, I once had a client who went to prison for something that he and the police knew that he did not do: he did not wipe his fingerprints off the safe in the bank that he robbed!
Without an effective police force, stopping criminals, especially in the "big league" of crime, is like trying to catch the wind in a net. We have the best police force in the world; but there is always room for improvement. Nothing is harder on our laurels than resting on them. That is why I fully support the arguments of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, in advancing the progress of the Bill.
The power of an idea can be measured by the people it touches. Ultimately, the people who will benefit from the Bill will be victims of crime. They are central to this debate. Anything that can help victims--by solving crime more quickly, or even preventing it from happening in the first place--must be encouraged. Criminals have a choice; many victims do not.
The Bill targets organised crime such as drug trafficking. That is an increasing threat, so we need to develop a more nationally co-ordinated response to combat it. Too many young people are exposed to drugs, and the bait hides the hook of addiction. Those potential victims need protection. The Police Bill will establish a national crime squad with the police at the helm. It would help if self-confessed drug users such as Liam Gallagher, of the pop group Oasis, were not portrayed as heroes by the media. Surely the young need better role models.
As we heard, the Bill will also build on measures set out in the Security Service Act 1996, which allows the Security Service to support the police. The service has a proven record of providing long-term surveillance, intelligence gathering and analysis. Those are precisely the skills that are needed against organised crime. There are huge amounts of money to be made in the criminal
I had to represent such a man, who ran a car import/export business. He owned homes and nightclubs around the world. He was very good at buying and selling cars. The only problem was that they tended to be stolen cars. The case was in for plea and directions at the Crown Court. He arrived, asking me whether the hearing would take long because his Rolls Royce was on a meter and his chauffeur was waiting! After the case I stood outside the court at a bus stop, chastising myself for having forgotten my umbrella as the rain was pouring down. A few minutes later a blue Rolls Royce cruised by and the electric-powered, darkened window slid down. As the rain poured down my miserable face, my client cheerily asked me whether I wanted a lift. I declined politely through gritted teeth. The case against that man eventually collapsed because there were technical, albeit important, gaps in the evidence that the police could not fill. I believe that this Police Bill will make it easier for the police to gather evidence required to convict in these more complex cases.
The Bill will also enable employers to check employees' criminal records more easily. That is especially needed to vet those who seek to work closely with children. Preventing child abuse is vital because the damaged child can become the dangerous adult. Echoing the words of John Milton:
The days of Dixon of Dock Green are long gone. We need a police force which is able to deal with the criminal of the 21st century. That is what this Bill is all about. I support the Police Bill and hope it will continue to proceed in an orderly direction.
Lord Merlyn-Rees: My Lords, I have been singularly unlucky in the National Lottery in that over two years I have won nothing. In the four and a half years that I have been in your Lordships' House I have often wondered when I would have the privilege of being able to respond to, and congratulate, a maiden speaker. This lottery has turned up quickly for me and I am privileged today to have the opportunity to praise the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Warwick, for the content of his speech and the facility with which he made it.
The noble Lord has a background in the media and the law. He is one of those new constitutional beings, a special adviser to Ministers, which the textbooks have not yet got round to. He has been a special adviser to the Home Secretary and Ministers of State. If he had carried on with that, some of the work in this Bill might have been his. In terms of the work that this House is best at--namely, revising legislation--he comes well prepared. On behalf of your Lordships, I wish him well.
I am concerned about aspects of the criminal record agency, about which I have read in correspondence with interested bodies, but I can find no mention of it in the Bill. I am not sure what has happened to that agency. If it exists, is it a different kind of agency from those referred to in the text of the Bill?
The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Warwick, mentioned child abuse. I too am concerned about that. It is much more prevalent than I had thought. I have no doubt that it has been prevalent for years. In so far as this Bill deals with child abuse, I greatly welcome that.
I have for many years been firmly against having a national police force, though I realise that national structures are required as crime reaches out from local and regional areas. I welcome the fact that this Bill does not opt for a national police force but deals with the needs of the situation with regard to crime. For that reason, I welcome what is embodied in this Bill.
There are a number of fundamental questions I should like to ask in preparation for the Committee stage. I often wonder whether briefing papers could be provided in relation to a Bill such as this which will receive general approbation. Obtaining information on this Bill has not been easy. There are aspects of it that I still do not understand. However, I leave that matter there.
The Home Secretary will be a key player when this Bill becomes an Act, as will the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Secretary of State for Scotland. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is Home Secretary for Northern Ireland, and the Secretary of State for Scotland is Home Secretary for Scotland. I do not see the distinction in the Bill, which seems to relate to London and the Home Office. Where does the Scottish Office come in? I shall try to develop that point in the course of my remarks. Where does responsibility lie for the NCIS and the NCS, particularly in view of the fact that those two Secretaries of State are involved? What part will they play? Where will parliamentary accountability lie, particularly as the Director General is to be independent? I am not clear what "independent" means in this context. Will the individual Secretaries of State be responsible to Parliament? Can Members in the other place or we in this House question a representative of the Scottish Office on certain aspects of this Bill? Can the various reports be debated in Parliament? How involved will the various departments of state be?
I particularly welcome the provision for a national crime squad. The staff of that squad will consist of policemen and policewomen and also civil servants. How will the civil servants fit in? I know about the Police Department at the Home Office; it is one of the best departments there. Information will have to be gathered. Policemen know what to do with information that they gather; but what part will the civil servants play? The director general is to be a policeman or policewoman. How is he or she to be appointed? We had an explanation from the noble Baroness about that. However, chief constables in England and Wales are chosen by the police authorities from a shortlist of five or six names drawn up by the Home Secretary. Will the Home Office draw up the list from which the director general is to be appointed? A name will not just come out of the air.
There have been questions about finance. I am not clear about that; nor was the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank. The NCIS will be able to levy police authorities. Does that mean that the levy can be questioned locally? In West Yorkshire, which I know best, can the police authority question the levy? Police authorities have always been able to question on finance matters. Will Parliament be able to question the levy? Can the matter be discussed by the Home Office Select Committee?
It has taken 20 to 25 years to build the Police Complaints Authority. I understand that the proposed new bodies will work to that authority. Has provision for that been clearly drawn up? Is it only in the legislation? Has the Police Complaints Authority the staff to deal with complaints from these new bodies set up by the Bill?
There is a curious provision in the Bill relating to reinforcement. Reinforcements to the police in various parts of the country have been a feature of police legislation for many years. There was a provision in the Police Act 1964. Clause 23 of the current Bill provides:
(a) the chief officer of police of a police force in England and Wales,
(b) the chief constable of a police force in Scotland,
(c) the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, or
(d) the Director General of the National Crime Squad,
My Lords, why is that necessary? The reinforcement concept has been implicit in police legislation for many decades. Why is it necessary? There are other questions also that we could ask, but it is only on that matter that I wish to speak today. Accountability matters. I am firmly against a national police force because the tripartite system has been tried and tested over time. This Bill may weaken accountability. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, that questioning of the police force is not so much a matter of the actual operations but of policy. I do not wish to get into that curious argument that we had recently about the Prison Service.
It is quite proper for elected bodies to question the authorities--the Home Secretary, the Northern Ireland Secretary, the Secretary of State for Scotland and no doubt others--on the policies that are being followed. Given the delicate nature of the areas into which the Bill moves, it is vitally necessary that there should be such questioning.
Lord Blaker: My Lords, it gives me great pleasure from these Benches to congratulate my noble friend Lord Taylor of Warwick on an excellent maiden speech. He spoke with humour and authority on today's subject. I have the feeling that he will speak with equal humour and authority on other subjects also. His presence adds
As the only Member of your Lordships' House on the Intelligence and Security Committee, it is appropriate that I say a few words about the Bill. The remit of the committee is to oversee the expenditure, administration and policy of the intelligence services. I cannot speak for the committee, of course. I speak only for myself. I certainly wish to express my welcome for the Bill. I believe that it will strengthen the fight against serious organised crime.
Three parts of the Bill will be of interest to the committee: Parts I, II and III, dealing with the NCIS, the national crime squad and intrusive surveillance. The committee has taken an interest in the help which the Security Service can give in the fight against serious organised crime since 1995, before the Security Service Bill was published. In its annual report for 1995, the committee concluded that the Security Service could bring a distinct package of skills to that arena.
The committee made the point that in relation to its previous statutory functions, the Security Service is essentially a self-tasking organisation and that therefore any legislation should make it clear that the service, in its work on serious organised crime, would be acting in support of the law enforcement organisations. Indeed, that is what the Security Service Act 1996 does. In addition, that Act gives to the Director General of the Security Service the duty of ensuring that there are arrangements, agreed with the person designated by the Secretary of State, for co-ordinating the activities of the service in connection with the fight against serious organised crime with the activities of police forces and other law enforcement agencies. This Bill makes it clear that the person designated by the Secretary of State will be the director general of the National Criminal Intelligence Service.
So the effect of the Security Service Act 1996 and this Bill is to lay a duty on the directors general of the Security Service and the NCIS in respect of co-ordination between the Security Service and the law enforcement agencies, which include Customs and Excise. The Intelligence and Security Committee will thus, I believe, be interested in seeing how that co-ordination works and how the relationship between the Security Service and the NCIS continues to develop. I believe that it will also be interested in how the service authority for the NCIS fulfils its role. That is a matter which could have a key impact on the activities of the intelligence and security services.
With regard to Part II of the Bill, parliamentary scrutiny of the national crime squad will primarily be the responsibility of the Home Affairs Select Committee. The interest of the Intelligence and Security Committee will be to see that the working arrangements for the squad enable the intelligence and security agencies to pursue their supporting roles effectively.
I welcome the fact that Part III of the Bill makes statutory the authority to grant intrusive surveillance warrants. I believe that is overdue. The Intelligence and Security Committee, in its annual report in 1995, drew
The question that I wish to address to my noble friend the Minister is whether that could lead, where the Security Service and the police are both working on a criminal case, to a tendency for it to be agreed between them that the police will seek authorisation in a situation in which it would be more appropriate for the request to come from the Security Service. Might such a bias develop?
The Bill provides for the appointment of a commissioner to review the exercise of the authorisation powers and for the Secretary of State to issue a code of practice in connection with the exercise of the powers in Part III of the Bill. Those two proposals will provide substantial safeguards. But I should be grateful if my noble friend the Minister when replying will deal with what I suspect will be a point of genuine interest to the committee.
Lord Browne-Wilkinson: My Lords, I join with others in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Warwick, on his attractive and interesting maiden speech. Obviously, he will have a big contribution to make to this House in the future.
I fear that I may inject for the first time in this debate a less welcoming note than your Lordships have so far heard. I want to address Part III of the Bill, which confers on the police powers to surveil by bugging and to otherwise deal with private property. Let me make quite clear--I hope there is no doubt about it--that I support fully the thinking behind the Bill. The menace of serious organised crime, in particular drug related crime, requires that the police should have powers additional to those which they currently enjoy at law. Against true serious crime they must be able to conduct covert operations.
Moreover, we learn with increasing frankness that the police have been conducting such operations for some time. The Minister employed a euphemism which I think was called "under administrative procedures". If those are administrative procedures that are lawful, I should be very grateful if she could tell me why and how they have been lawful. I shall revert to that point in a moment.
My difficulty is not with the objective of giving the police the powers necessary to deal with serious crime, my difficulty is with the method that is proposed by the Bill for conferring the necessary powers. It has been the proud boast of Englishmen for centuries that they enjoy freedom--an Englishman's home is his castle--and that has been no empty boast. Indeed, this country and its inhabitants have enjoyed freedom untrammelled by executive action. But I remind your Lordships of the foundation upon which that freedom was built.
We have no written constitution. We do not enjoy specific constitutional rights against the state. Our freedom depends, and depends only, on the fact that no Minister, no administrator and no member of the police has any greater power or any greater right than any other citizen to enter our property or to seize our person. In particular, the state and its officers have no power to enter our houses or workplaces or to seize our property. Such conduct is unlawful and the administrative action which is apparently being pursued has been, subject to any explanation given by the Minister, unlawful conduct on the part of the police.
That basic freedom which we enjoy because the executive does not have power over us has been established by the common law for over 200 years. It is one of the foundations of our freedoms. Until the passing of the Security Service Act earlier this year--a Bill about which at the time I was not enthusiastic--there was only one exception to immunity from police invasion of our privacy; that is, a search warrant granted by an independent court and not by the executive. In relation to matters of national security we tolerated (with our eyes half-closed because it was such an awkward subject) bugging and entering in the interests of protecting national security. But now, following from the Security Service Act, we are sanctioning the entry onto our premises for police purposes not under warrant of the court or under any independent warrant, but under administrative action.
The common law freedoms to which I referred can be curtailed and taken away by Parliament, since Parliament is sovereign. If Parliament enacts, as the Bill proposes, that it be lawful for the police to enter, bug and search our homes, there is nothing that the courts will, in the future, be able to do to protect us from those rights of the state. The bulwark of our freedom will have gone, and not just for the time being but for ever. The powers will be exercisable against us all--the guilty and innocent alike, in any circumstances which fall within the extraordinarily wide words of the Bill. We will be subject to executive inroads on our freedoms.
Although the Bill is presented simply as one step in the battle against organised crime, it raises--I hope your Lordships will consider this fact at Committee stage--issues of fundamental constitutional importance. I hope your Lordships will not allow it to slip into law without a careful examination of what it provides, so as to ensure that it erodes our individual freedoms no more than is necessary to achieve its limited objective.
At first sight the Bill does a great deal more than that. I will not seek to take up your Lordships' time at this stage with a minute section of the Bill. However, perhaps I can point to one or two of the more glaring ways in which our traditional liberties are being curtailed. If the requirements in Clause 89 are satisfied--that is to say, the right of, for instance, the chief constable to make an order--what is authorised is,
Those powers are exercisable not only against villains. Everything that has been said in your Lordships' House today is on the assumption that we are only entering the homes of villains; that we can be penal against them. I am not sure that that is right anyway. I feel that even villains have certain rights which should be protected. But in my mind that is not the right reading of the Bill. The powers conferred by the Bill, if passed, are exercisable in relation to any property, to whoever it belongs; it does not have to be the property of a villain.
It is clear from Clause 94(2) that it is envisaged at the least that orders will be made authorising the entering and bugging of the employer's premises, because there is a right to compensation linked to it. We are therefore talking about a Bill which, on its face, authorises not just the pursuit of the rogue, but intrusion into the individual freedoms of people who happen to cross the rogue's path. Again, the Bill provides no protection for the confidentiality of the press; it offers no protection for legal professional privilege, which has been treated throughout as one of the major safeguards of individual freedom. Most fundamentally, in my view, the whole procedure under the Bill is activated, authorised and carried out within one police force.
The Security Service Act took the first step down this road in extending powers of this draconian nature to the security services in the exercise of their police functions; but at least that Act required the personal authority of the Secretary of State. It did not involve one police force authorising itself to do these things. All that we have to protect us is the provision for a commissioner, whose powers are extremely limited, to review retrospectively--not prior, but retrospectively--to say whether or not there has been an intrusion on our premises. What is needed, I suggest--it may be that the Minister is able to explain in due course why it is not possible--is prior consent to the invasion of our property such as is required for a search warrant. As I see this case at present, it seems to me that judicial search warrants will become things of the past. Why should not the chief constable grant his own force the right to go in and take action in relation to the property in question?
I do not wish to detain your Lordships more than necessary, but perhaps I can give two examples of the type of thing that may happen as I see it under the Bill and, for the comfort of the Minister, I do not expect her to respond to these examples on this occasion. There may be a later stage in Committee when she can.
in the prevention or detection of such comparatively minor offences if his force can bug and search the house of Mr. A, the protestor. He authorises such bugging and searching and the removal of documents from Mr. A's house. The evidence available to the chief constable before he does that would not be sufficient for him to obtain a search warrant from the court. The chief constable has reason to believe that Mr. A may be operating not only from home but from his place of work. He therefore authorises entry into and the bugging of Mr. A's employer's premises. From the bugging of Mr. A's own premises, he discovers that Mr. A has telephoned his solicitor and he reaches the not unreasonable view that Mr. A's solicitor may be able to cast light on the matter. So he gets an authority to enter and bug the solicitor's office--unhappily, he may be one of your Lordships' solicitors--and then gains knowledge not only of Mr. A's activities but of the activities of one of your Lordships.
As I read the Bill, all such actions will be lawful. Why should they be? Why should it not be a requirement that there should be a prior authority? This is not serious crime at all in that sense. Legal privilege seems to have no protection.
The second example with which I shall detain your Lordships very shortly looks at another matter. Let us consider Mr. X, an investigative journalist. He writes a fascinating article dealing with drug dealing or money laundering which is published in a newspaper. In accordance with normal journalistic practice, Mr. X refuses to reveal to the police the sources of his information. The chief constable, not unreasonably, thinks that if he could find out the source of that information he would advance the police investigation. He therefore authorises the entry into and bugging of Mr. X's premises. He can also perfectly lawfully authorise the entry into the premises of the Daily Post where Mr. X is employed or any other premises in which the police think they may find the source of that story.
I have given these examples--they are not entirely over the top; they are extreme--as illustrations of the fact that the desirable objective sought by Part III of the Bill has been expressed in such general words that it is capable of appalling abuse. What I hope your Lordships will do at the Committee stage is to look at the Bill not with a view to defeating the sense of the proposals but to cutting down the powers to the minimum. If your Lordships or Parliament do not do that, we shall be eroding slowly--and now, if I may say so, fast--the only protection we have from abuse by the state. I hope that at the Committee stage these powers will be looked at closely.
Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, I am speaking today not from any direct experience of the police, nor with any experience of the working of organised crime, but solely because I have come to realise that for far too long people like me have been unaware of the ramifications of organised global and national crime; nor are they really conscious of the huge resources that are required to deal with it.
Organised global and national crime is one of those great areas that some of us do not want to know about. Anything to do with violence gets switched off on my TV and I usually gloss over any description of organised crime in the newspaper. I put it in the "all too horrible" basket. That is an abrogation of responsibility because each one of us should be both aware of the immensity of the situation and be prepared to support whatever measures are proposed to deal with it provided the measures seem sensible and are the best possible proposals.
At this stage I should like to say that when I looked at the Bill I did not deal with Part III. However, I was very interested in the comments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, and I am sure that when we come to the Committee stage we shall overcome some of these difficult problems.
We cannot know whether the measures proposed are adequate, relevant and workable unless we take some time to try to get to understand the basics of the situation and appreciate the problems facing those who combat crime on our behalf and on behalf of all the citizens of this country. Organised crime is a huge business. Unfortunately, it is a very successful business in terms of growth and profits. Its tentacles reach a long way; its tentacles actually probably impinge even on Members of your Lordships' House--without their knowledge, I hasten to add. Certainly in business circles--I mean legitimate business circles--the tentacles of organised crime have manifested themselves and are likely to continue to manifest themselves.
The police in this country have shown enormous dedication, energy, determination and brilliance in dealing with organised crime. But sometimes their success can be seen to be despite the structures within which they work rather than due to them. The measures contained in the Bill before us are designed to bring greater efficiency of operation in the battle against organised crime. Because of that, and because they seem in themselves to be eminently sensible, I support them wholeheartedly.
The concept in Part I of the Bill to strengthen the National Criminal Intelligence Service is particularly worthy. It is a natural progression from the setting up of the service in 1992. I support the placing of the service on a statutory footing, separate from the Home Office. It really is an umbrella body to co-ordinate activity of the Security Service to assist the separate units of the police, Customs and Excise and other law enforcement agencies. The very act of centralising the processing of intelligence from all quarters which will be accessible to each of the various agencies--the provision of strategic analysis and information and the setting of standards and
On the question of systems, I should be grateful if my noble friend the Minister could give us some assurance that the mistakes of the past have been taken on board and that in future there will be a nationwide computer system for this area--indeed, for all areas of police activity--which, even if not the same in terms of software, is compatible and easily accessed throughout the regions. On the face of it, this might seem an obvious requirement but, sadly, experience has taught me that far too little overall planning in the area of systems has led to monumental problems in large business organisations. I believe that the police have not been immune to this either.
In Part II the proposal to create a national crime squad seems eminently sensible and falls into the category of, "Why didn't someone propose this when the regional crime squads--all six of them--were set up in 1965?". I suppose one answer to that could be that organised crime, although a threat even then, was on nothing like the same scale as it is now. Another answer could be that the initiative of setting up the regional squads was of itself novel and unproved and to have a national crime squad put on top of that could have been seen as yet another administrative layer. But the success of the regional crime squads is universally acknowledged and I see the proposal to set up the national crime squad as a natural evolutionary development which of itself should increase still further the efficiency of all in tackling the serious tasks which confront them. The proposal seems to embody the latest principles of making people on the ground--in this case, in the individual regions--as involved as ever in the battle against organised crime while adding to their knowledge base by the provision of intelligence information on cases where organised crime is operating across regional boundaries. It is therefore eminently sensible.
Although there currently exists a national co-ordinator of the existing regional crime squads, the Bill will give that co-ordination role more teeth. I was pleased to note in Clause 51(3) that the director general of the national crime squad will be eligible only if he or she--the subsection does not give a female option--holds the rank of chief constable in a police force in Great Britain or in the Royal Ulster Constabulary; in other words, professionals leading a co-ordinating body to ensure that there is increased professionalism, a most worthy and efficient objective.
I should like briefly to turn to Part V of the Bill, which is entitled "Certificates of Criminal Records, &c.". Although the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, majored on the question of the application of Part V to vulnerable groups and to people involved with children, he also mentioned the private security sector. I was glad to hear the noble Lord do so because prior to that point it seemed as though he was indicating that the provision should be limited only to the issue of children on the basis that otherwise there could be a requirement for millions of certificates.
I am sure that the world of business and commerce will welcome the measures contained in this part of the Bill, and particularly the concept of record checks. The proposals will certainly help to improve the vetting procedures for job applicants. An example of where the proposals could prove to be a much better system than that currently in use is at our airports. Currently applicants for a pass to permit someone to work or, indeed, even to venture on foot or by car to what is called "airside"--that is, the area of the airport where the 'planes are parked, loaded and unloaded--have to produce references going back some 20 years. Such references can at worst be forged or at best be superficial, omitting specific problems encountered by a previous employer in the hope that that particular staff member will be taken off that employer's hands by an unsuspecting potential employer. It happens--frequently. Under the proposed legislation there would be an opportunity to remove some of the ambiguity present in the current system--and that would certainly be welcome.
Similarly, in jobs dealing with cash handling, security personnel guarding premises and other what I would call "high risk/high temptation" jobs, the Bill should make it easier for potential employers to feel a greater sense of confidence about their choice.
My only concern on reading the Bill was the question: is every other country embarked on such a systematic uprating of its procedures and processes to try to combat the increasingly sophisticated and deadly business of organised crime? Crime on the scale that has developed knows no boundaries. We all know that drug trafficking knows no frontiers. A major crime can be perpetrated here today and by tomorrow the criminals can be on the other side of the world. Indeed, in less than two hours they can be in another country.
By its very nature cracking down on crime is secretive and it could well be that the measures proposed in the Bill are universally employed in those countries which either export their criminals, drugs and other menaces to us or, in turn, import a similar list of depravity from us--but it would be nice to know. The Security Service Act, which was debated in this House earlier this year, gave some comfort about liaison, but it would be good to know that the evolutionary steps proposed in this Bill are mirrored elsewhere or are likely to be. Global crime must be stamped out, but I am a realist and, if it is not possible to stamp it out, it certainly must be curtailed and reduced from its present level.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, when we debated the Security Service Bill I was concerned about the diversion of scarce resources from the Security Service to help the police to fight serious and largely international crime. Although I welcome this new Police Bill, I remain concerned especially about human resources given the significant renewal of IRA activity based on long-laid strategic plans, and the increase in power and status of the KGB's successor services in Russia.
However, there is no doubt of the importance and value of the task of attacking international crime, particularly drugs. Hit the drugs and you will often hit the IRA which from time to time relies on drugs to finance its operations while simultaneously, and rather cynically, setting up anti-drug "people's militias" to secure the support of the local population at the expense of the police to whom those people should be turning and with whom they should be working.
I welcome the Bill's provisions to bring together regional crime squads, although I think that there could be some danger in too much centralisation. I welcome particularly the Bill's moves to rationalise information systems on criminals so that knowledge can be widely and quickly made available. Equally, the NCIS and the CRA together should make it possible to deal fast and effectively with other national police forces on such cross-border and trans-national issues as paedophilia, drugs and the money-laundering activities of the Russian mafia in particular. Schengen has made their life much easier.
Therefore, I welcome those provisions, although they will presumably call for significant capital spending on equipment which cannot be expected to come from individual forces. I wonder how effective the safeguards will be against hacking by expert criminal gangs into the operational information networks and the CRA; and, a different but equally potent threat, the possible introduction of viruses which could destroy the database.
I realise that those are obvious dangers which the Government will certainly have considered and provided for; I mention them because adequate professional safeguards and back-up systems all cost money and it would be tragic for a sensible new national system to fail because of lack of funds. I raise this in the context of the indication that the NCIS and the national crime squad are to fund themselves through a compulsory levy on police authorities. That is surely running the risk that the whole thing could go disastrously wrong. I was, however, partly reassured by my noble friend's statements and her indication of how the system will work.
I wish, too, that the RUC did not have to be put in the same category as the British Transport Police and users from overseas and be expected, like them, to pay the costs of the services provided by the NCIS and the crime squads through a system of direct charges. The RUC is surely a part of the UK police network like any other. My noble friend the Minister will no doubt point out that there are special and separate financial arrangements in Northern Ireland, but I believe that on so vital a matter as police co-operation between British police forces the RUC should not be treated as a foreign force.
Turning briefly to the proposed criminal records agency, I was uneasy about taking such vital and delicate work away from the police, who are public servants, and creating yet another agency. However, I understood from what my noble friend said today that the agency will be under the Home Office. I hope that it stays there and is not privatised. I hope that there will
Finally, perhaps I may urge the Government in establishing stringent checks covering those who work with children, which we must all welcome most warmly, to consider the need for similar checks on those who work with the old and the mentally handicapped as they too are very vulnerable. I believe that if choices have to be made between the need to protect civil liberties and the need to protect vulnerable children, old people and the mentally handicapped, those three groups need to be put first.
I see the need for, and the value of, this Bill and I welcome the general intention to equip the police, with the same but I hope not too much help to the NCIS from the Security Service, to fight international crime and particularly drug traffickers effectively. I felt some concern about the points raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, but they will clearly be dealt with in Committee. At present the NCIS, the police and the Security Service among them appear to be doing rather well against both the IRA and drug traffickers. I hope that this Bill will help them do better still. I have considerable faith in the usual professional and meticulous approach to the Bill that has been displayed, not for the first time, by my noble friend the Minister.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, first I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Warwick, on his excellent maiden speech earlier this afternoon in which he combined ability, insight and humour in ways that suggested that we shall all be anxious to hear him again.
Some years ago I had the opportunity to visit the National Reporting Centre then in operation at Scotland Yard. There seemed to me to be nothing wrong with mobilising the police on a national basis, except that in the case of the National Reporting Centre, because it had allegedly not been established by the Home Office, there was no accountability to Parliament for the way the NRC operated. That criticism has always been levelled against the establishment on an ad hoc basis of a way of helping the police to operate nationally. Therefore, I welcome this Bill which will help to establish a national crime squad and an NCIS in ways that I hope will ensure that the operation of those two bodies will be accountable to Parliament in the appropriate manner.
I deal first with volunteers. Some years ago when I was with the Refugee Council and not in this House I attended an interesting presentation by the Home Office about an initiative to encourage greater use of volunteers throughout the voluntary sector. It was a good initiative which pointed the way to many organisations that had not already adopted that particular path. I have been approached by a number of bodies, in particular the National Centre for Volunteering, who are concerned that the checks under the Bill will impose serious financial burdens on organisations that employ reasonably large numbers of volunteers. By their very nature, volunteers normally represent a higher turnover of people than paid staff. Therefore, the costs of getting checks on volunteers can be disproportionately high.
My noble friend Lord McIntosh has already quoted some of the figures, but I should like to say a little more about them. On the assumption that the cost will be £10 per check for people who work with children--I believe that the Minister said that for enhanced checks the cost would be between £8 and £10--the Scout Association with its 110,000-odd adult volunteers may well have to pay up to £500,000. On top of that, the scouts use perhaps three million regular helpers and supporters who may themselves be subject to checks. The figures for the Guide Association is a little lower. But on the basis of £10 per check, the estimated cost is £450,000. My noble friend Lord McIntosh mentioned the WRVS. That organisation may have to pay £1,250,000 for the checks on its volunteers. There are smaller bodies. The Abbeyfield Society has 12,000 to 15,000 volunteers; the Duke of Edinburgh Trust has 60,000 volunteers. These checks represent very large sums indeed. They could be penal on those organisations that enlist a large number of volunteers to work on local and national projects. We shall deal with this matter at Committee stage. However, one wonders whether it is possible to consider exempting registered charities from payments, not the checks. Nobody argues that these checks should not take place. When people work with children, one needs the strongest possible safeguards. I welcome what the Bill does in this respect, but I am worried about the financial implications for charitable organisations which use volunteers in a purposeful way.
I turn to my concerns about ex-offenders and whether this Bill will make it more difficult for them to get jobs than is now the case. The Minister has already referred to the three categories of check. I shall refer to the details in a moment. The figures relating to offences committed by young people are quite frightening. Thirty-five per cent. of men and 8 per cent. of women under the age of 35 have some kind of criminal record. One is talking of a substantial part of the population. The pattern seems to be--one does not like to use the word "normal"--that a large proportion of young people who offend get over it and do not re-offend. That is typical of those who have some kind of criminal record. It is important to ensure that we make the circumstances for returning to work such that these people are not prevented from getting into employment. I understand that according to the Apex Trust, a body that deals with ex-offenders, ex-offenders without suitable work are three times more likely to re-offend than those in work. I believe that society is much safer if those who have indulged in criminal behaviour end up getting jobs and are helped to become law-abiding citizens. It is good that the present hotch-potch practice is to be replaced in the Bill by a proper system for reporting records. The present system is a combination of Home Office circulars, legislation and case-by-case decisions by the police. That is an improvement.
I should like to deal with my concerns about getting ex-offenders into work. First, the important concept is whether the offence that has been committed is relevant to the job being sought. Where it is, it is important that the relevant information should be available; but where the offender has committed an offence that is not relevant to the job being sought, I hope that the code of practice will be tough enough to prevent discrimination. The bottom line in all this is that where an employer has the choice of a number of employees all equally capable of doing the job and one of them has a criminal record--no matter how unrelated to the job--and the others do not, it is more likely than not that the employer will say that he does not want the applicant with the criminal record. No matter what the code of practice says, it is all too easy for an employer to say that he will not be interested in that particular applicant. I do not say that it will happen in all cases. I express a concern.
My second concern is whether the information will be accurate. One knows of instances where the information is not accurate, particularly where one is dealing with information that is less tangible than actual criminal convictions. One wonders what safeguards there can be for a job applicant should the information not be accurate.
My third concern is about the code of practice, which in principle I welcome. Why can it not be applicable to all categories of check? I understand that the code of practice applies only to full checks and enhanced checks, not basic checks. I believe that it would be more sensible if it applied to all of them.
My fourth concern is that cautions are now to be brought in. Cautions are not convictions but admissions without legal representation and advice, possibly by individuals who do not understand their long-term
My fifth concern when we are dealing with untested information--possibly acquittals or other sorts of information--which the police may have on their records, relates to how it will be used. At one level every employer wants the maximum information about a future employee. That is why employers take up references from previous employers about their experience of an individual. But I am worried that information that has not been tested, information which may be based more on rumour or hearsay--properly kept by the police, I accept--might debar a person from obtaining a job.
Those are a number of concerns. Perhaps I may conclude by saying that it is my fear, as I said earlier, that where an employer has an equal choice between employees, being human the tendency will be to say that the person with the criminal record, no matter how remote from the job under consideration, is better not employed. My fear is that that will do enormous damage to the prospects of young offenders of getting into employment and helping them, as it were, to lead lawful lives. I wonder whether there might be some way in which the information could be vetted or monitored by someone or some body independent of the employer as regards the relevance of the conviction or the offence to the job in prospect.
I do not want to set up new structures in a Second Reading debate, but that might mean that the potential employee could have the matter referred to an independent body which would say to the employer, "No, that is not relevant. You can consider this potential employee along with all the others", or, "Yes, that is relevant. You need to have all the information".
The Bill has a large number of good points. I have expressed a number of concerns, because I believe that if we deal with them we can make the Bill a better one before it finishes its passage through this House.
Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak in this Second Reading debate on the Police Bill--a Bill which is at the forefront of the programme to tackle serious national and international crime. I should like to spend a few moments on organised crime. Organised crime is an international growing and increasingly sophisticated menace to our society. In the UK it is centred principally around drugs. However, fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting, illegal immigrant racketeering, arms dealing and vehicle theft are also major avenues for organised crime.
All crime is wrong. All crime ruins lives--those of the criminals, and, more importantly, those of the victims. It is timely that we are debating crime today, the date of the AGM of Victim Support, the organisation which does so much to help victims around the country.
There is something deeply sinister and dangerous about organised crime. Where the forces of law and order do not have the right powers and means to combat organised crime effectively it grows, it spreads, and its tentacles reach across frontiers, across cultures, and, of course, across police force areas.
Organised criminals trade in misery. They enrich themselves by peddling poison to addicts and by exploiting the naivety and curiosity of our youth to whom they sell drugs in clubs and schools up and down the country.
As I said in the debate on the gracious Speech, many of our communities are threatened more by the poison peddled by drug dealers than they are from the missiles or tanks of another country. As a matter of urgency we need to co-ordinate as effective a national strategy against the drug menace and menace of organised crime as we have done in the past to combat the external foes who have threatened us. The Police Bill, following the Security Service Act, will help to do that. It will create a national crime squad so that we have a more effective national response to organised crime.
We have a tradition of local policing in this country. Across police force area co-operation is at present based on voluntary co-operation through the six regional crime squads that exist at present. Last year 3,180 people were arrested and drugs worth over £252 million at street value were seized, thanks to their efforts. Those results could be even better and with a national crime squad should be.
To catch serious criminals law enforcers need good intelligence. To convict them, they need to have solid evidence. In 1992 NCIS was set up to gather and disseminate intelligence on criminal activity for law enforcers, such as the police and Customs. So far it has yielded some impressive results; for example, last year 1,378 major criminals were arrested thanks to its work. Its role should be strengthened. The Bill will do that by putting the service on a statutory footing and by allowing it to develop separately from the Home Office of which it is currently a part.
A more effective NCIS will mean more effective intelligence and therefore more evidence to convict more perpetrators of organised crime. Organised crime is the opposite of opportunity crime. It is well planned and deviously carried out. To fight it law enforcers often have to play a game of cat and mouse. Their investigations often involve months of careful vigilance and surveillance. Intrusive surveillance is an essential element of the work of our law enforcers. It often provides the vital intelligence or the crucial piece of the jigsaw to catch and convict organised criminals.
I am aware that there has been some concern about the lack of statutory control over intrusive surveillance operations. The Bill will rectify that. Intrusive surveillance operations will in future be based on a statutory authorisation by chief constables. I welcome
I welcome also the Bill's proposal to establish service authorities along the lines of police authorities to manage the national crime squad and NCIS. I support the Bill's proposals to enable employers to check prospective employees' criminal records more easily by creating the three categories of criminal record checks. There are many professions, particularly in the private security industry, where there is a need for greater examination of an employee's past.
The Police Bill will give our law enforcement agencies such as the police and Customs, the structure they need to step up the heat on organised national and international crime. We need the Bill for that very reason. I welcome it, and I encourage your Lordships to support it.
Lord Vivian: My Lords, I welcome the Bill and believe sincerely that the steps outlined in it are needed urgently if we are to win the battle against organised crime. I am concerned that the proposals in the Bill have not been the subject of legislation before. The police forces of England and Wales to which it relates are to be congratulated on the many successes they have achieved to far.
It is hoped that this new legislation will make all police work against organised crime even more efficient. There is an urgent need to fight these criminals with up-to-date methods if we are to bring about successful prosecutions.
The Security Service, about which we have heard today from many speakers, will now support the police and the Customs and Excise, but it is not a law enforcement agency. The organisation will be a great help to the police and to the Customs as it is expert in long-term intelligence gathering and analysis, which should release some in the police to undertake other vital tasks.
I shall not speak on many aspects of the Bill but limit my remarks to Part I, which deals with the National Criminal Intelligence Service; to Part II, which deals with the national crime squad; and to Part III, which deals with the provisions of authorised entry and interference with property, among other subjects.
I start with the National Criminal Intelligence Service, which is playing an increasingly important and successful role. Its tasks are similar to any intelligence service and include the gathering, analysing, storing and timely dissemination of intelligence, among other roles such as co-ordination and the strategic analysis of the threat from organised crime.
No campaign can be carried out effectively without the best possible intelligence service, and I believe that if we are to be successful in our fight against organised crime the police must be able to co-ordinate it themselves. Important aspects of the Bill will also make the National Criminal Intelligence Service responsible for co-ordinating Security Service activities in support
The proposed national crime squad, which has been in operation since 1965, will bring together the six regional crime squads in a single body to investigate national and international organised crime. This national squad will complement local policing, and members of the public will still report crime to their local police force. The organisation will have much improved flexibility and quicker response, provided by the integration and co-ordination of the greatly enhanced systems of communication and up-to-date computerisation. The Bill will set the Police Information Technology Organisation on a statutory footing. As we have heard, the national crime squad will not be a type of FBI and it will not end the tradition of local policing, which is an important point.
Speed of reaction in the campaign against organised crime is vital; otherwise criminals can be several steps ahead. We can no longer afford the niceties of the six regional crime squads working on the basis of voluntary co-operation between police forces. It is essential to have a nationally co-ordinated and properly resourced national crime squad which will speed up reaction and put those involved in organised crime on the defensive. Part II of the Bill will enable that to happen.
I turn to surveillance, which can involve entry into property and interference with property or telephones for the purpose of detecting or preventing serious crime, but here I bear in mind the concerns of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Browne-Wilkinson. However, a great deal of intelligence is gained from such surveillance. Without it the NCIS would not be an effective organisation and without an effective intelligence organisation there will be little hope of defeating organised crime.
In reality, what is happening is that the very carefully controlled and authorised current surveillance operations will be given greater democratic safeguards, as this Bill will place them on a statutory basis, providing greater parliamentary openness and accountability. Having worked in an intelligence service many years ago, I cannot impress strongly enough on your Lordships how frequently a vital piece of information to solve the puzzle stems from these covert operations. They are essential, but of course they must be properly controlled. I am convinced that chief police officers are the right people to authorise surveillance operations, and in order to protect the system it is a wise and necessary move to establish an independent commission to review authorisations and investigate complaints.
In conclusion, organised crime is becoming more and more sophisticated daily. It has virtually unlimited funds at its disposal and uses up-to-date technology, which is for ever being improved. If we are to overcome organised crime and bring successful prosecutions against these evil people, many of whom have an outward respectability and live very comfortable lives, the police and the Customs and Excise must be given the fullest support. They must be fully resourced and
I wish to pay tribute to our brave and courageous police officers who operate daily without concern for their personal safety and who provide a magnificent service to the general public. It behoves us in your Lordships' House to provide them with all the support and help that they need to defeat and overcome all criminals. I strongly support the Bill.
Lord Rix: My Lords, in a previous existence I appeared in many a late night charity show. I was often late on the bill and had to listen to all the previous acts to ensure that when I went on I did not repeat much that had been said. I fear that such a fate befalls me today as 13th speaker in your Lordships' House. Much of what I wanted to say and many of the figures that I wanted to quote have been spoken to by the noble Lords, Lord McIntosh and Lord Dubs, and therefore I shall do my best to avoid repetition.
I wish to speak only briefly on the Bill and in particular on the criminal records agency and access to the criminal records of those who wish to work with vulnerable children and adults. I wish to highlight two areas of concern but perhaps I may begin by saying that I welcome the creation of the criminal records agency. The measures on police checks are a marked advance on what has gone before.
However, I am concerned that vulnerable adults will not receive as much protection as children. At page 11, the White Paper, On the Record, states that enhanced police checks will be available for prospective employees, trainees and volunteers who have regular unsupervised contact with children and young people under 18. No mention is made of vulnerable adults. The most severely disabled people acquire adult status after their 18th birthday but they retain from their childhood the same need for personal care and support and the same vulnerability. To the extent that they are not supported exclusively within families, they may be heavily dependent on both professional and other formal carers and on unpaid volunteers.
One of the sadder learning experiences of recent years has been that people who are clearly more vulnerable to abuse than their non-disabled peers actually suffer that abuse; that is, emotional, financial, physical and sexual. I believe that at the very least the Government should be ensuring that there is equal protection for these vulnerable adults. The case reported last week from Scotland proves that point only too well and I welcome the support of the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, in this regard.
I turn to the issue of costs, which was touched upon by the noble Lords, Lord McIntosh and Lord Dubs. We all understand that the criminal records agency will be self-financing and will therefore levy a charge for each check undertaken. As chairman of MENCAP, I am only too well aware of the valuable work that the volunteers undertake in a wide variety of settings and of the number of volunteers who work with MENCAP.
I hope that I and other noble Lords have illustrated that the Bill in its present form, excellent though it may be in many aspects, will create a further major obstacle to volunteering at time when the Government are seeking to encourage it through their "Make a Difference" initiative. Furthermore, it could well divert money and resources away from the development of good practice which is essential over and above criminal record checks.
Lord Cullen's report on the public inquiry into the shooting at the Dunblane Primary School on 13th March 1996, noted in paragraph 11.43 that the costs of his proposals for protecting children should be kept within the limits of what organisations can afford and should be subsidised by government if necessary. I hope that the Minister will accept that recommendation but apply it to those for whom MENCAP is concerned--tens of thousands of vulnerable adults. Even though I am the 13th speaker, I hope that I shall be lucky and I look forward to the Minister's response.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, in rising to welcome this Bill, I have in mind a consensus view which I recall hearing a while ago that international criminals expressed the opinion that if they were caught, the country in which they would prefer to be caught is the United Kingdom. That was not because of the, shall we say, rather good level of aftercare which they might enjoy if convicted. Rather, it was because they felt that because of the complexities of court procedures in this country, they had a better chance of getting away altogether. Had the provisions of this Bill been in place, I wonder whether the car-dealing client of my noble friend Lord Taylor, whose maiden speech I applaud, might not have found himself enjoying that level of aftercare which seemed to me to have been rather more appropriate than what actually happened.
Crime today is more organised but not only that, it is more mobile, as we all are. Two hours on the motorway will take you 150 miles away from where you have committed a crime. If you are prepared to commit a fairly serious crime, the speed limit is not much of a deterrent. Three hours and you can be on the mainland of Europe from many parts of this country. If you are prepared to use the airports, six hours will take you to a continent beyond Europe. And crime is organised to take that into account. We need to organise our criminal fighting services to make sure that they can also recognise that reality.
In particular, I welcome the establishment of a national crime squad because it builds on what exists already. As I understand matters, when the national crime squad comes into being, police who are currently involved with the regional crime squads, which are drawn from the existing local police forces, will be transferred immediately to the national crime squad. The future basis of manning for the national crime squad will draw on existing police services.
That guarantees the continuation of local police force involvement, which is the basis of British policing. Not only that, it guarantees also a continuation of local police forces because it puts in being an organisation that is created and established to deal with crime as it is today in the wider sphere, which of course the local traditional forces are unable to handle. But, nevertheless, they are very important to us.
In addition to that, the National Criminal Intelligence Service comes out of Home Office control and in effect is established with the national crime squad as another separate police authority. Each of those two new service authorities will operate under a chief constable. He may be called something else but, in effect, he will be a chief constable. That maintains the traditional tripartite interest, with the Home Office representing the national interest, the service authority representing the community interest and the service itself being responsible for and taking care of operations. That is a system which has served this country extremely well and it is good to see it continuing.
Having said all that, I have one or two constitutional questions which come to mind when looking at the way in which the service authorities are established. In Schedule 1, among the core members of a service authority I find included two chief constables. I believe that that is the first time when one chief constable has, so to speak, been invited to sit in superior judgment as an administrator above another who is responsible for operations. As far as I am aware, where that situation is likely to arise, normal practice is that the chief constables would be present on another authority in an advisory capacity. That may be a small point, but I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say in her reply to the debate as to the justification for that.
Beyond that, I find also in the constitution of the service authorities a classification called "Crown servants". I am not quite sure what a Crown servant is, but if that is a device whereby someone from Customs and Excise, or indeed the Security Services, can sit on the service authorities, perhaps that is a justification. Again, I look forward to clarification. It may be that a Crown servant is simply a civil servant. I find at paragraph 14 of Schedule 2--and this deals with eligibility to vote--that a member appointed under paragraph 6, 7(f) or 8(1)(h) of Schedule 1 (who are all Crown servants) shall not be entitled to vote at any meetings of the authority or its committees. It may be that such members are there in an advisory capacity; I do not know. But I find it slightly odd that one should take the trouble to appoint a full member to an authority of this nature and then deprive him of the right to vote on its decisions. I ask myself what the poor dears have done wrong. But, again, perhaps the Minister will provide me with an explanation which will put my mind at rest.
I shall have to listen to what the Minister says about financial arrangements because I read the Bill fairly carefully and I must admit that I am not completely clear about them. I understand well enough that the Home Office is to deal with the matter of the establishment costs for these new authorities. That is straightforward. But the matter of the running costs
That will then be parcelled out in the form of levies to all of the police authorities across the country, which will then, having received the levy, send back the appropriate check. I wonder whether a different practice, which is used in other areas of local government, might not be more appropriate in this instance; namely, top-slicing. I wonder whether it would not be better to have the service authority's funding top-sliced from the Home Office grant, which I believe is still 52 per cent. of police relevant expenditure, to be paid to all police authorities so that instead of 30 or 40 cheques going backwards and forwards across the country, after agreement is reached, one cheque could go from the Home Office to the service authority. That seems to me to be a much more streamlined way of doing business, provided of course that agreement is reached in the first instance.
The Bill is thoroughly welcome. As I said, it moves our police services forward to meet the changing nature of criminal activity. I am glad that the Bill is here. I wholly support it and look forward to hearing the response of my noble friend the Minister.
Lord Milverton: My Lords, the Bill seems to have a sure and good basis and foundation which brings some sound sense in enabling a coherent whole of information to be at hand. That can then be passed on to the various forces rather than each force having to gather material for itself. It may even help the regional bodies at the same time. As I understand it, those provisions apply particularly in respect of Parts I, II and IV of the Bill.
Those provisions will enable the police, and the law, to keep ahead of the criminal. People would like to see the screw tightened on those who are a law unto themselves and who seem to have no respect--and, indeed, show no respect--for people be it a girl, a boy, a man or a woman. That is why there has had to be so much legislation on law and order. Many of us admire the Home Secretary's courage on the subject. The Bill as a whole seems very practical in its other details and in its thoroughness with safeguards.
As has been mentioned, protecting the vulnerable is important. But that should not prevent measures being taken to catch the highly sophisticated criminal who uses modern high technology. However, there are times when we must be prepared to have our freedom encroached upon if the police are to catch the criminal with our help. I remember reading a book written by a professor from Edinburgh University in which that point is mentioned. It is entitled Conditions of Liberty and it is a book to which I often return.
Finally, I should like to say how refreshing and lovely it was to hear the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Taylor of Warwick. Behind the simplicity of his speech was great depth. Indeed, often true depth is found in simplicity and I believe that that came forward from his speech. As has been said, I am sure that we will often hear from my noble friend in the future and that will be a great help in our debates.
As I said, I wholeheartedly support the Bill. If any amendments are put forward by noble Lords opposite or even from these Benches provided they are good enough, I may support them. However, they will have to be far better than anything my noble friend the Minister proposes. I am thoroughly behind the Bill, my noble friend the Minister and, indeed, the Home Secretary. May this Bill have a good passage.
Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: My Lords, we have had an interesting debate and one which was enlivened by an agreeable and thoughtful maiden speech from a new Member to this House, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. As my noble friend Lord McIntosh said--as, indeed, did other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank--we welcome the broad objectives of the Bill. In particular, we welcome the provision in Part I of a statutory framework for the National Crime Intelligence Service, which has been operating effectively without legal authority since 1992.
As several speakers have said, there are serious crimes, such as drug dealing which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Park, pointed out, have helped finance the IRA in Northern Ireland, the Russian mafia and the forces currently fighting in Afghanistan. There are also other offences such as paedophilia, money laundering and serious fraud which transcend not only the boundaries of the police forces in this country but also national and international boundaries. Moreover, modern means of transport and communication mean that crimes can be planned and executed across great distances. Football hooligans, as well as drug dealers, are now international travellers. It is, therefore, essential to have prime intelligence systems that integrate and disseminate information throughout this country and will mesh effectively into other intelligence systems both in this country and abroad. Even within this country, relations between the police and Customs and Excise, for example, have not in the past been remarkable for a smooth transition system of information. Now we all hope that the regular grinding of gears and total stalling of relations will be a thing of the past and that they will be characteristics of outdated, earlier models of co-operation.
Many people--my noble friend Lord Merlyn-Rees referred to this--are uncomfortable about the establishment of any form of national police service that is centrally directed. But, in this particular instance, I believe that we are in a state in relation to certain crimes where such a national force is inevitable. Serious crime is now more mobile and technologically proficient--major criminals use mobile telephones, the Internet, offshore bank accounts and executive jets--and, therefore, that degree of sophistication has to be matched by a similar sophistication on the side of the police service.
Part III of the Bill is clearly one of the more controversial aspects as it deals with electronic surveillance. It is to be welcomed that the use of electronic bugs will now be given a statutory framework as opposed to secret Home Office guidelines. However, I share the qualms of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, about the breadth of the provisions. I await the code of practice with interest. Moreover, I am concerned that the complaints mechanism against the unlawful placing of electronic devices in one's home or other properties only allows for appeal to a commissioner. There is no provision for appeals to go beyond that commissioner to any court. I feel that there should be some judicial overview in the ultimate regarding appeals against the unlawful bugging of one's home or property.
Part IV of the Bill deals with the uniformity of supply and procurement of police equipment and technology. That is something which I have been advocating for the past 15 years, both within and without the police service. Therefore, I particularly welcome this part of the Bill. I am sure that it will make the police service of this country much more effective and more able to combat crime.
Part V of the Bill has been extensively discussed by a number of noble Lords. The noble Baroness, Lady Park, and the noble Lord, Lord Rix, pointed out in particular that vulnerable groups other than children are not dealt with under the provisions of Part V, which seems to apply only to children under 18 and not to the old and those with disabilities.
My noble friend Lord Dubs raised concerns about that part of the Bill. I share a number of those. I am concerned about the possible bar to the rehabilitation and employment of ex-offenders who may have only minor convictions and may not perhaps be able to obtain jobs and lead an honest and upright life if they have to produce certificates. I am also concerned about the problems of keeping criminal conviction certificates up to date. People who are unemployed for a long time may have to make many applications for jobs as they may be
One or two noble Lords have referred obliquely to the problem of forgery of these certificates. I am quite sure that sophisticated criminals, and the paedophile rings about which we are so concerned, will soon establish a trade in forged certificates. That is a serious problem and I am not sure how it can be overcome. It is not a reason for not having certificates but it undermines to a large extent one of the major objectives of establishing this system. The problem of the organisations that employ large numbers of volunteers has been dealt with by a number of noble Lords. I, too, have received communications from a number of those organisations. Even if the costs do not fall directly upon them, they are conscious that pressures from insurance companies, trustees and parents may well require them to seek certificates from all their volunteers. That may in itself be a considerable deterrent to volunteers--some of whom may have minor convictions--from working as volunteers with many of these organisations. Although the costs--except the bureaucratic, administrative costs--may not fall directly upon the organisations, nevertheless the provision may constitute a disincentive for the many thousands of people who do good work for various organisations up and down the country.
I am also concerned about the provision on information which is not on the level of a conviction, for example cautions--not all cautions are administered to the same standard--and other information that in an officer's opinion might be relevant. That seems to me such a broad category that it would allow almost anything to be included. It would be much better if there were some standard of proof, or some level of information which should be supplied; namely, that it should be evidence which could tend towards a conviction, and not just be local gossip about someone. However, my overall feeling is that in the end there may be too much reliance upon these certificates.
Paedophiles in particular often do not have previous convictions. They have often worked with children and have perhaps been sacked from a variety of previous jobs, but without anyone being willing to make a formal record of why they have been required to leave. Unless job references are taken up efficiently and thoroughly in relation to work with children, the fact that someone can produce a certificate, possibly a forged one, should not be a substitute for proper employment practices and the pursuance of references for people seeking jobs not only with children but also with other vulnerable groups and with the aged. Nothing substitutes for good employment practices. I am concerned that people may rely upon a bureaucratic piece of paper when employing people for those sorts of jobs.
Overall, I have a general worry about the centralisation of power. I do not have such a great concern as regards the establishment of the squads. However, as in previous Bills that we have dealt with concerning the security services and in the previous police Act, I am concerned about the extent to which the Home Secretary will have a controlling role. He will appoint five out of the 10 core members of the authorities. I was slightly puzzled to hear the Minister refer to those members that the Home Secretary appoints as being independent members. They are perhaps independent of the police service but they are not in any sense independent of the Home Secretary. It would have been agreeable if members of the new service authorities had included some of the independent members of the police authorities and not just the local authority members. They would then have been genuinely independent and representative of the local community and not just representative of the Home Secretary.
I am also concerned about--and view with my usual trepidation--the fact that the Home Secretary will set objectives for the new organisations and will also set performance indicators. I realise that it will not be possible for a draft order to be put before us because written onto the face of the Bill--which I welcome--is the provision that the Home Secretary will have to consult a large number of people before he sets those objectives. Clearly, until these organisations are set up, the Home Secretary cannot consult with them. Therefore we cannot ask to see draft objectives or draft performance indicators. However, I am concerned that the Home Secretary is reserving for himself such a large element of control in the running of those organisations.
I am also worried about a matter which may constitute a total misreading on my part. I rely upon Second Readings of Bills to instruct me in what Bills are about. Clauses 6(5) and 51(5) provide for the director-general of NCIS and NCS to be sworn in as constables. That implies that the director-generals of those two organisations may not be serving police officers. If my reading of that provision is correct, I believe it may open a back-door for NCIS to be run by an MI5 officer and for the national crime squad to be run perhaps by a retired senior Army officer. I wonder why there is this curious provision for swearing in as a constable the director-generals of those two organisations. If the director-generals are serving police officers, they will already have the powers of a constable. Therefore I am disturbed by the provision that appears to be on the face of the Bill. I should be grateful if the Minister can enlighten me on that point. I believe there are serious principles involved here as regards democracy. I do not believe I am speaking in this regard merely out of partisanship for the police service. If those organisations were run by people other than police officers, I believe that would constitute a serious democratic point. I hope the Minister will enlighten me on the provision concerning the swearing in as a constable.
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