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Business

Lord Carter: My Lords, I can only apologise for the fact that my noble friend Lord Bassam is not present to introduce the Second Reading of the Criminal Justice and Police Bill. He was standing beside me only two minutes ago and I informed him that debate on the regulations was ending. I do not want to adjourn the House during pleasure unless noble Lords wish me to do so.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I am sure that the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and I could continue our debate.

Lord Carter: My Lords, if the noble Earl were still in his place, he could explain why he did not want to move his amendment. However, my noble friend is entering the Chamber now.

Criminal Justice and Police Bill

6.6 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): My Lords, I apologise to the House for not being in my place.

I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

The Bill that comes before your Lordships is a set of substantial and hard-hitting measures that cut right across the boundaries of our law enforcement process. With your Lordships' support, the Bill will fundamentally change the way in which the police and the criminal justice system operate. It will help us with our goal of building a more just, safe and tolerant society.

The Bill will hit hard at the yob elements in society who show no restraint in public. It will give practical protection on the ground to those vulnerable elements of our society, whether they are at risk when they try to give evidence at a court hearing, or whether they are

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being unjustly harassed in their own homes by the activities of animal rights "terrorists". It will rein in those young people making others' lives a misery, whether they are acting like bandits while on bail or whether they are in need of curfew orders to protect themselves and those around them.

The Bill offers a wide range of measures to drive down crime. It provides: improved measures in respect of fingerprints and DNA, to ensure that we make best use of the latest crime fighting technology; improved powers for the police and judiciary in respect of alcohol related disorder, search and seizure and sharing of information; and improved measures to modernise police organisation and training. These all combine to make this a highly practical and effective piece of legislation.

Perhaps I may briefly set out the main proposals in turn. Part I of the Bill contains measures for combating crime and disorder. Chapter 1 of Part I sets out our proposals on penalty notices. Penalty notices, in Clauses 1 to 11, are a practical measure which enjoys the support of the Association of Chief Police Officers. They will help our policemen and women to deal quickly and firmly with aspects of minor disorder, freeing officers up from paperwork to get back on the streets fighting crime.

Penalty notices were well debated in the other place. I was glad to see that the Official Opposition had no objection in principle but were more concerned with points of detail--over which much debate took place. I welcome any constructive debate in this House that ensures that these measures operate to their full capacity.

Chapter 2 of the Bill contains a number of measures targeted at alcohol related crime and disorder. In short, these measures will enable swifter action to be taken in terms of closing certain licensed premises due to disorder or excessive noise and closing places which sell alcohol without a licence. The provisions will also strengthen the law to prevent the sale of alcohol to minors. I have had a constructive meeting with those noble Lords and honourable Members of another place who sit on the Parliamentary Beer Group to discuss these measures.

I hope that, following our debate, those concerned will feel able to put their full weight behind the proposals. I was glad to see that the alcohol measures and many of the other measures that I shall mention shortly--subject to points of detail--were broadly supported by Members on all sides in another place.

Chapter 3 of Part 1 completes the package of measures to combat crime and disorder. Restrictions on drug trafficking offenders in Clauses 33 to 37 will be an effective tool in restricting the activities of those who deal in drugs, while those measures (in Clauses 38 to 40) to protect witnesses will make it safer for those law-abiding members of the public who seek to give evidence in court. Again, I was glad to note that these measures received broad support in the other place.

Our strengthening of child curfews is significant, as set out in Clauses 45 and 46. I imagine that some noble Lords--perhaps of a Liberal Democrat

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persuasion--may be concerned about the principles involved. I should merely argue that these measures will be fundamental in protecting people in their own homes. We must act to protect those who are afraid to leave their front doors because of the gangs of youths that are known to stalk, and sometimes maraud around, the streets of many estates.

In response to the harassment and intimidation suffered by members of the scientific community at the hands of animal rights extremists, the Government inserted further measures in the Bill (Clauses 41 to 44) during the Committee and Report stages in another place. These amendments attracted wide support of both Conservative and Liberal Democrat Members.

I am sure that many noble Lords will be all too familiar with some of the unpleasant practices that have been used by animal rights extremists to terrorise law-abiding citizens in their own homes. Indeed, on a number of occasions in your Lordships' House good examples have been given of those practices. Many noble Lords have spoken powerfully on behalf of those seeking to advance animal scientific experimentation in controlled circumstances, quite properly, and have argued for their protection.

I am proud to say that the laws we have to protect animals in this country in relation to experimentation are the toughest in the world. The measures in Chapter 3 in respect of harassment at home, malicious communication, collective harassment and the disclosure of the home addresses of directors and secretaries of companies will protect those who are legitimately and lawfully going about their day-to-day business. It is only right that this House should also be seen to be fully behind this package of proposals.

Clauses 47 to 50 in Part 2 of the Bill deal with disclosure of information for the purposes of criminal proceedings. These provisions will improve the ability of government bodies to disclose information for specific crime-related purposes. We have to recognise the difficulty of fighting crime if potentially useful sources of information are not available to law enforcers.

The Government also see the information disclosure provisions as a key way to improve international co-operation in the fight against anti-competitive behaviour. We have listened carefully and closely to the CBI's concerns on those proposals. Safeguards have been put in place. These safeguards include the power of the Secretary of State to prohibit overseas information disclosure in cases that ought to be dealt with in the United Kingdom or a third country.

Part 3 of the Bill gives the police and the other law enforcement agencies powers to seize material and remove it for sifting elsewhere. The new clauses have two separate aims. First, the clauses give the police and other law enforcement agencies powers to remove material from premises for examination where it is not reasonably possible to carry out the process on the premises due to constraints of time or technology. Secondly, the clauses deal with problems arising where investigators need to seize material that is inextricably

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linked to other material that they would not currently be entitled to retain. For example, it may be impossible to separate specific items of information held on computer without losing critical data about when they were created, amended or deleted.

In Clauses 72 to 87, Part 4 makes a number of provisions in respect of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the Terrorism Act 2000. Some of these measures, such as powers of arrest for hit and run, kerb crawling, making the importation of indecent and obscene material a serious arrestable offence and the execution of process, received widespread support in the other place.

Measures in respect of detention hearings for terrorist suspects by video link will fine tune provision within the Terrorism Act 2000 to make a practical improvement in the way that terrorist suspects are dealt with. Those in respect of access to special procedure material will give DTI investigators powers that are already available to the police and Customs and Excise investigators.

Some of the most important measures within Part 4 relate to the taking of DNA samples and fingerprints. If enacted, they will give the criminal justice system a significant lever in the fight against crime. The measures will permit all fingerprints and DNA samples, taken on suspicion of involvement in an offence, to be retained. Currently Section 64 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act specifies that, where a person is not prosecuted or is acquitted of the offence, the sample must be destroyed and the information derived from it cannot be used.

The need for this provision arises as a result of two recent cases--R v Weir and R v B. Compelling DNA evidence that linked one suspect to a rape and the other to a murder could not be used, and neither could be convicted. This was because at the time that the matches were made both defendants had either been acquitted, or a decision had been made not to proceed with the offences for which the DNA profiles were taken. The subsequent decision of the House of Lords, published on 14th December of last year, stated that where a DNA sample fell to be destroyed but had not been, although Section 64 of PACE prohibited its use in the investigation of any other offence, it did not make evidence obtained as a failure to comply with that prohibition inadmissible but left it to the discretion of the trial judge.

The position was unsatisfactory and the law clearly needed clarification. The Government decided that rather than live with a situation that might appear to encourage the police to retain DNA samples unlawfully, it would be preferable to put retention on a proper legal footing--hence the inclusion of these provisions in the Bill. These measures will also allow fingerprints or samples given voluntarily for the purposes of elimination, such as DNA intelligence screens, to be retained where the volunteer gives his written consent. The re-taking of fingerprints and samples in certain circumstances would also be permitted and the position on the exchange of information held on the fingerprint and DNA databases would be clarified.

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In bringing forward and proposing these measures we have carefully considered the rights of the individual and the broader rights that members of society have to be protected. We must be able to make the fullest use of the technology available to prevent and punish crime.

Other measures in Part 4 will include provision for remote reviews of detention to be conducted by video link--in certain circumstances by telephone--and for some other custody decisions to be undertaken by video link. I am confident that these measures will improve the efficiency of the review and custody system by enabling an expert custody officer to apply his knowledge to decisions that may need to be carried out at a distance.

Part 5 of the Bill introduces new arrangements for police training. It creates a new central police training and development authority as a non-departmental public body, whose primary aim will be delivering top-class training to police officers in England and Wales. Part 5 also includes measures to improve and modernise police training by introducing a mandatory core curriculum and qualifications for the police. It will improve the quality of training by the closer involvement of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary. Those provisions are widely supported, practical measures to ensure that the police have the best possible training to support them in their work.

Part 6 deals with a number of provisions to improve the way in which the police service is organised. It makes small amendments governing police authorities and the service authorities for the National Crime Squad and the National Criminal Intelligence Service. They will permit the statutory appointment of vice chairmen, remove the maximum age limit for membership and permit these authorities to devise their own schemes for payment of allowances. It also introduces new funding arrangements for the National Crime Squad and the National Criminal Intelligence Service. Such provisions will remove the existing cumbersome and time-consuming arrangements for funding by means of contributions from police authorities, with direct funding from the Government. There are also some changes to the service authorities to make them more inclusive, and to streamline them by reducing the number of members.

Part 6 also contains a number of other straightforward changes to the organisation of the police. It re-introduces the ranks of deputy chief constable and chief superintendent, and the equivalent ranks in the Metropolitan Police, as well as making provisions about the role and appointment of deputy chief constables. It removes an anomaly in police disciplinary proceedings so that officers in those proceedings are subject to the new caution introduced in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. This allows inferences to be drawn from a refusal to answer questions. Finally, it makes some small, but essential, changes to the pension arrangements for senior police officers with fixed term appointment

As well as dealing with miscellaneous and supplemental matters, the final part of the Bill, Part 7, contains important provisions in three areas. The first

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is in relation to the treatment of young offenders who are at risk of re-offending. The Bill, as drafted, will extend secure remand criteria, introduce electronic monitoring for juveniles on bail and remanded to local authority accommodation, and allow local authority remandees to be placed in secure training centres. These measures are essential in preventing juveniles from committing further offences while passing through the criminal justice system.

Secondly, this part of the Bill will provide additional safeguards for the vulnerable by helping the Criminal Records Bureau to prevent unsuitable people from becoming registered to countersign applications, a critical position of trust in the bureau's operational arrangements.

Thirdly, and finally, it will amend the Bail Act 1976 so that the courts will be required to give reasons for granting bail where the prosecutor makes representations against so doing.

The Government believe that this Bill is fundamental to building a safe, just and tolerant society. It gives valuable tools to the police, delivers a range of improvements to the criminal justice system and ensures that the public continue to receive the fullest protection. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

6.21 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I am delighted that it now seems we are to have plenty of time to discuss the Bill as there is not to be an early general election. That seems to be one of the few good things to have come out of the foot and mouth outbreak. The Bill was only partly discussed in another place; indeed, whole parts of the Bill were not discussed at all in Committee or on Report.

This is the sixth Home Office Bill of the Session, not counting the one we heard about this afternoon that is to come before us in a day or two. Some of the others have required hundreds of amendments. The present Home Secretary has an exceptional ability to influence decisions on the Government's legislative programme, which has normally been thought of as overladen, but no corresponding influence over the appointment of sufficient departmental lawyers and parliamentary draftsmen, or, for that matter, officials, to prepare the legislation properly. I may be doing them an injustice. Perhaps it is a case of Ministers not being able to make up their minds sufficiently clearly, but either way it gives your Lordships' House an extra responsibility to scrutinise the proposals properly.

As became clear while the Minister spoke--if it was not clear before--this Bill is one of the Home Office's miscellaneous "ragbag" Bills. It has no theme. As far as I can see, it is made up like crazy paving rather than a mosaic with a clear picture emerging. I have the impression that Ministers sat around like customers in a pub chewing over events and the latest disaster on the

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television, saying, "Disgraceful--there ought to be a law against it". Except, of course, that Home Office officials immediately create such a law.

One consequence is that my speech will have no theme either. Before I launch into the details of the Bill, I welcome the interim report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights. I believe that this is the first Bill on which we have had a report from this new Joint Committee. It is a welcome development. As far as I am aware, the committee has not yet given its conclusions on the Bill. However, it has published a large amount of evidence it received, including from the Home Office, and the accounts of witnesses. That information is helpful, particularly when considering the human rights aspect of the Bill.

Part 1 of the Bill is a mini-ragbag in itself. It comprises on the spot penalties; alcohol offences related to public order; travel restrictions on drug dealers; intimidation of witnesses in civil proceedings and child curfew schemes for the under 16s. I am not altogether happy about the selection of offences to be the subject of fixed penalty notices. The fixed penalty notice will need, quite rightly, to state the offence and the alleged circumstances of the offence. For that reason it is no good using that procedure for offences which will require the policeman to write an essay there and then in the street describing the offence on the notice before he hands it to the individual concerned.

The main object, of course, is to speed up the whole process of bringing offenders to justice and to save bureaucracy. However, if the measure is used for the wrong offences, particularly for offences where the policeman's judgment on the spot is crucial as to someone's behaviour and whether or not that constitutes an offence, it will not achieve its object. On the other hand, there are some offences which are not at present included--and which it has been suggested might be--to which we shall need to give attention. Two examples are prostitutes' cards in telephone boxes and urinating in the street. Both of those are fairly clear offences which one would have thought might be the subject of measures of this kind.

I note that the Home Secretary can, by affirmative order, with the permission of Parliament, add any other offence to the list, though presumably he does not have any particular ones in mind at the moment or he would have included them in the Bill in the first place. I am interested to know why that power applies, apparently, only to those over 18. There is a separate provision for curfews for those under 16, but in practice it is quite often those aged 16 and 17 who are involved in the kind of offences we are talking about. They were discussed earlier in the consultation on the provisions but, as far as I can see, are not included in the Bill. I also note that if these offenders are challenged and given a ticket and do not pay the penalty, they end up in the magistrates' court anyway for non-payment of a fine.

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I have other questions with regard to records. The Society of Editors is concerned that it should know who has been fined. I am not sure about that. But the point is certainly worth considering. If someone is taken to court for these kinds of offences, the reporter at the local magistrates' court can make a note of the person's name and act as he or she thinks right. In effect, the use of these powers will be conducted in confidence between the offender concerned and the police unless the offender fails to pay and appears in court anyway for non-payment of the fine.

There is also the question of whether there will be a criminal record. As I understand it, there will not be a criminal record for anyone who is awarded a fixed penalty in these circumstances. However, it is important that there should be some kind of record. If an offender continues to display drunken behaviour, or whatever the offence is, the police will want to know that and to have a proper record of the fact that someone has been stopped for the same offence a number of times in the recent past. They can then consider whether to charge that person with a more serious offence or take him or her to court rather than issue a fixed penalty notice.

Part 1 contains a clause which concerns the names and addresses of directors and secretaries. This is obviously a welcome measure. I refer to the notorious case of Huntingdon Life Sciences, but a number of other people have found themselves in a similar situation. The clause provides for directors' and secretaries' private addresses to be concealed in the future. However, it does not address the fact that their private addresses are already on the record. It does not stop Companies House disclosing the addresses on previous annual returns. Therefore until the directors or secretary of the company change, their private addresses will remain well known. The provision does nothing for shareholders who have had similar problems.

It is not only the directors and secretaries of companies involved in scientific research, and so on, who are concerned, having been the subject of attacks from violent activists, but also farmers and others involved in GM crops and hunt staff. Although the law is strengthened a little in the Bill, those actions are thoroughly against the current law. The strongest police action is required.

Part 2 of the Bill relates to disclosure of information. It contains a clause allowing the tax authorities--Inland Revenue and the Customs--to disclose the secrets of tax returns. Until now they have always been regarded as some of the most confidential documents in the country. There are now to be extremely wide powers for information from tax returns, and other information gained by the tax authorities, to be disclosed. However, from correspondence and background information, I understand that they will be carried out only where serious crimes are involved. But that is not stated in the Bill. It is what is known in the tax jargon as a concession. The Revenue will not disclose all kinds of information. Where it wishes to do so, it will disclose the information only in serious cases.

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Under Clause 48 the Secretary of State can give a direction restricting the power but only where the offence is capable of being tried in a United Kingdom court or in a third country. I do not understand Clause 48(3)(c) but we shall come to that in due course.

For example, a resident of Iraqi origin may be publishing a dissident magazine in the United Kingdom criticising the Iraqi government. I believe that it is not intended that the Revenue report that information--it may arise when considering his tax returns--to the Iraqi government. I understand that such criticism is thoroughly against the law in Iraq. Although that is not the intention, it is possible under the provisions of the Bill. Not to do so is only at the discretion of the Revenue or the Customs authorities.

A Chinese national resident in the United Kingdom might also be running a business in China through which he was evading a certain amount of Chinese tax. Again one might think that it was fair for the Revenue to report that to the Chinese authorities. However, the penalty in China for tax evasion in some circumstances is the death penalty. So in reporting an individual, the Revenue might bring him in danger of the death penalty. Those are somewhat extreme cases about which there is no apparent restriction in the Bill.

Part 3 relates to the seizure and retention of property by the police. There are serious issues regarding lawyer/client confidentiality in general, and legal/professional privilege in particular. The Law Society was most concerned about what it saw as lack of proper consultation. That was a surprise to me; there had been previously quite a lot of consultation but not apparently at the last minute. In practice, there has been a procedure known as bagging up. When the police raid premises and collect papers, the lawyer for the individual whose premises are being raided is entitled, by general practice, to say, "There are some legal papers there". They are then sealed in a bag and taken to the police station. The bag is then opened only in the presence of the lawyer who is able to extract any papers to which legal privilege attaches. The different sides can argue in court later if there is some dispute as to whether legal privilege attaches to certain papers. But it means that the papers are not disclosed to the police, and legal professional privilege, which we all support, is in place. The system of bagging up--I gather that it works well in most cases and had been accepted as adequate until a recent case--has not provided the model on which the Bill is based. One wonders why.

There are concerns about journalistic material from the Society of Editors. There is talk of a code of practice. I am not sure what that would mean in practice. Editors and journalists in general are extremely protective of journalistic material for reasons which we well understand. But included in this part of the Bill are provisions relating to retention of DNA and fingerprint information. In many respects, that is clearly a very large step in the direction of Big Brother. The problem is whether the proposals will mean that people are less likely to co-operate with the police in big cases. A few years ago when I was a Member of another place, there was a particularly

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horrible murder of a young lady on her way home from a dance at one o'clock in the morning. She was abducted and murdered. It proved difficult to catch the individual. There was more and more publicity locally. For reasons which were well understood a huge number of fingerprints and DNA samples were taken from a large proportion of the local male population who could conceivably have been involved. Most people were entirely willing to give their samples and to be eliminated from the inquiry, helping the police to do all they could to catch the murderer.

Should there be similar cases--we have no wish to see them--in other parts of the country, it would not be many years before there was a national DNA database which included us all. I do not think that the Government are aiming at that but I should like reassurance. Guidance on the Bill suggests that the DNA of those who come forward voluntarily in a case such as the one to which I referred will not be retained. The Bill does not seem to allow for that. It is important for public confidence to know what will happen to the particulars obtained in that way. Everyone wants to catch such a criminal, and criminals generally. We do not want to put people off as a result of the retention provisions in Part 3.

Part 4 concerns PACE and related matters. I wish to refer to the use of video and telephone links for decisions about detention. I am not sure how that will work. Will the inspector talk over the telephone to the suspect or his legal adviser as well as to the police about his decision to extend custody? Will he be able to have a video conference with the accused and his legal adviser to decide whether it is right to extend the detention? Or will he talk only to the custody officer and other policemen involved in the case?

The provision for such work to be done at a distance is a tacit admission by the Government of the overstretch that police inspectors in particular have been talking about recently. There are 1,385 fewer inspectors in this country now than there were about six years ago. They are feeling the overstretch very severely. The Bill makes many provisions that require the permission of a police inspector or someone of more senior rank. If they are thin on the ground and trying to cover ever more boroughs in London, for example, it will be difficult for them to do their job properly or to give proper attention, when they are in the middle of one case, to whether to detain somebody in a different case.

Part 5 is about training. It is entirely appropriate that the Bill should include a section on police training. It concerns changes to the central training authority and changes in the financing, as the Minister said. But the whole Bill will require considerable effort to retrain the police and others concerned with the criminal justice system in the new provisions. I sometimes wonder whether Ministers realise the retraining effort required by such a huge Bill, particularly when it is one of six Bills so far this year--or this half-year. An awful lot of paper and overtime are required to keep up with all the changes in the law. We need to think carefully

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about that when bringing about desirable changes to the law at such a furious pace as we have been doing recently.

Part 6 is about police organisation and bringing back the ranks of deputy chief constable and chief superintendent--moving the chairs round again, as it were. It also makes provision for police disciplinary proceedings and the inference to be drawn from silence. That is a difficult provision that requires consideration, given that a lower standard of proof is required in police disciplinary matters to that required in criminal matters--the balance of probabilities rather than beyond all reasonable doubt. The inference to be drawn from silence is therefore not the same as in criminal cases.

Part 7 is described as, "Miscellaneous and Supplemental", but it contains not only the usual interpretation and commencement provisions, but also important changes to bail, secure remand, electronic tagging and criminal records.

The Bill seems to contain the sweepings from the Home Office pigeon holes. I must warn the Minister that Home Office pigeon holes are rather like the automat cafes of some years ago in America. The customer opened a glass door and took out their choice of meal whereupon a secret door immediately opened at the back and the slot was filled up again. Home Office pigeon holes are never empty. In time, some of the provisions in the Bill will prove valuable additions to the armoury of the criminal justice system while others clutter up the statute book and lead to waste time being wasted on retraining policemen and rearranging the chairs. The challenge in Committee will be to try to work out which are which.

6.44 p.m.

Lord McNally: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Cope, described the Bill as a ragbag without a theme. I hope that my response will have a theme: that Parliament, and this House in particular, has a solemn duty to resist bounced, hasty, ill-considered legislation. It has a duty to resist the sweepings from Home Office pigeon holes, to use the phrase of the noble Lord, Lord Cope. I hope that Ministers will not represent us as in any way soft on crime for insisting on a full and thorough examination of the Bill. Earlier this afternoon, before the Minister joined us, we heard a powerful speech from the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, about the nightmare of living cheek by jowl with the feckless, the violent and the criminally inclined. No party in any part of this House or in any Chamber of this Parliament is anything other than totally committed to providing our citizens with the basic right to freedom from fear--fear of their neighbours and fear of the young and violent.

The Minister said, with a slight tone of condescension, that certain of the proposals dealing with the yob culture would attract some concern among the Liberal Democrats. Yes, we are concerned about the implication once again that the only responses to certain problems are ever more draconian

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laws and ever more draconian policing, when it has been proved beyond peradventure that on many sink estates the provision of a youth club, after-school facilities or sporting facilities--the provision of some hope--has at least as much impact on overall crime as ever more serious criminal sanctions.

As the noble Lord, Lord Cope, said, this is a big, wide-ranging Bill. It would be proper to treat it with due solemnity if it was the Home Office's first effort, but this is something like the 16th Home Office Bill that we have had in just over a Session and a half. The problem is that the Home Office has had a seamless succession from Michael Howard to Jack Straw. They both believe that a succession of measures to show a macho approach to crime and criminals is the way ahead.

One reason why Parliament, and this House in particular, should be concerned is that we have had a ratchet effect, with successive Bills chipping away at civil liberties. When they do not produce a magic impact on the crime statistics, another Bill is brought forward and the ratchet is moved another notch. It is not as though the Liberal Democrats have not warned the Government. We warned them against the erosion of police numbers and proposed various community and other measures to take the pressure off the police and allow them to do their core jobs. We have argued for alternatives to prison, instead of the continuation of this country's appalling record of putting ever more young offenders into young offender institutions, which even the Government's own inspectors see as nothing more than universities of crime. Anyone who enters such an institution drug-free is very unlikely to emerge drug-free. But time and time again the Government bring before us legislation which inflicts yet one more turn of the screw.

Nothing better illustrates that than the curfew proposal. We thoroughly debated proposals in relation to curfews for children up to the age of 10, but none of them was taken up and nothing happened. So what do we do? We return with proposals for 16 year-olds. I quote from the Parliamentary Monitor of January 2001:


    "The home secretary, Jack Straw, has admitted that the age limit of 10 for child curfews is too low. He blamed himself for the decision, saying that he went 'with caution' by not including older children. The fact that there has not yet been a single curfew applied was the fault of 'the conservativism of the social services departments' and he has called on them to use the full panoply of powers available to tackle unruly behaviour.


    New fines for anti-social behaviour will also be introduced, although the government has retreated from 'marching yobs to cashpoint' machines in order to pay them".

We all remember when the Prime Minister had a blank page in a speech. He put in that proposal in order to catch that evening's news headlines.

That has been the pattern. There has been no admission of having got things wrong, and, too often, proposals have been brought forward not with a long-term theme or strategy but with the sole purpose of catching the evening's news or following day's headlines.

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Another example is the new proposal for the remand of children in secure accommodation. This is what the Law Society brief says in relation to that:


    "The treatment and care of children, whatever their offending history, is a sensitive matter and should be subject to public scrutiny and debate prior to legislative change".

Then we come to the real point:


    "The late timing of the changes to the Bill was surely due to the recent publicity that the government was behind target in their pledge to reduce the case progression times for children identified as Persistent Young Offenders".

That is the exact point that I am making. A piece of legislation is brought forward not to deal with any long-term problem or to provide a long-term solution but for the purpose of a little quick-fix media manipulation.

Therefore, I believe that Parliament is right to be sceptical about a Government who are prone to cheap populism and too prone to quick fixes. We have seen that in the legislation that has been brought forward: a bomb explodes and new terrorism legislation is rushed through this House; football hooligans rampage and we have a football hooligan Bill; and the same has occurred with regard to animal rights protestors.

The problem is that a response to a particular problem is given in legislative terms but the general principle embodied in that legislation remains and has wider implications. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cope, that it would be much more reassuring to have a theme and philosophy in Home Office legislation rather than a simple deluge of Bills and rapid responses to headlines, which has been the practice.

We all know why that occurs. We are told that, whatever the outcome of the general election, Jack Straw will be moving on. He will be able to do so with an absolutely perfect record: on no single issue has he ever been outflanked to the right by either Michael Howard or Ann Widdecombe--something of which I am sure he is considerably proud.

Therefore, we need less legislation from the Home Office. We on these Benches advise more pilot projects for some of the schemes that appear out of the pigeon holes. We also put forward the idea of establishing a Select Committee with the ability to take external evidence in examining some Home Office Bills in draft form. The human rights committee procedure would appear to be a good procedure for certain Bills.

We must get out of the habit of believing that, unless legislation is passed immediately, this day or at once, civilisation as we know it will come to an end. That is the recipe for ill considered and bad legislation. We must build into our procedures a process for taking a more measured look at proposals and for ensuring that outside interests, expert groups and others who are directly involved have a chance to provide input on legislation. The scattergun approach is not succeeding, as evidenced by the Home Office returning time and again with different wheezes in order to deal with problems.

I referred to a "scattergun" approach, and it would therefore be rather surprising if parts of the Bill did not hit the target. We welcome the measures on the various

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abuses of alcohol. I believe that we face a national schizophrenia in relation to alcohol. Only recently we passed a statutory instrument which greatly relaxed opening times. We live in an age in which both the relative price of alcohol and its availability to all sections of the community means that it is more accessible than at probably any time during the past century.

On television there is a much greater acceptance of alcohol abuse than there is of smoking. Now, one rarely sees a key character in a television play who smokes. Yet whole television series are built around men behaving badly and laddish behaviour. Such programmes are aimed mainly at the vulnerable, 15 to 20 year-old age groups. The proponents are usually on the verge of middle age but still cling on to the laddish image. Alcopops, again, can only be aimed at young drinkers, and sometimes advertisers take an irresponsible attitude. Therefore, I believe that more needs to be done, not least by the industry itself, in relation to alcohol and its connection with anti-social behaviour.

We support the measures in relation to drug traffickers and the protection of witnesses. We fully appreciate and support--and, indeed, have advocated--the need to break into the drugs supply line at a higher point. As the Minister knows, we have called for tougher action to be taken against money launderers--the people who often lubricate the drug trade.

We also welcome the measures against animal rights extremists. That leads me to an issue with which I believe society as a whole must come to terms. In the United States, and to a certain extent in this country, we have come across people who feel strongly about a single issue and believe that their strength of feeling puts them above the law. I refer to animal rights extremists, people who are anti-abortion, people who feel strongly about the environment, and people who simply believe that capitalism is wicked and that all capitalists are "fat cats".

However, the attitude which leads people to say, "My individual belief is so strong that I am against the law", cannot be accepted in a democratic society where a parliamentary process changes laws. I believe that that applies in all directions. If Parliament in its wisdom bans hunting, I shall look to people who want to hunt to accept that law, too. That cuts in all directions. We change our laws--our society--here in Parliament, not by intimidation or by breaking the law.

Our concerns are not unlike those of the noble Lord, Lord Cope. That reaffirms the need for a thorough Committee stage. We are concerned about the DNA database, and whether a move to a national DNA database may be involved; the use of curfews, which I discussed earlier; video-conferencing in relation to PACE; the lacuna involving 16 to 17 year-olds and fixed penalty notices; and aspects of police training, which my noble friend Lady Harris will discuss in

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detail. My noble friends Lord Dholakia and Lord Phillips of Sudbury--the fact that he is absent from these Benches does not mean that he is not interested--


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