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Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, before my noble friend concludes his remarks, will he comment on the co-operation which currently exists between our police forces and other agencies and the international law enforcement agencies? I understand that the situation is satisfactory but not beyond improvement.
Lord Filkin: My Lords, I shall seek to respond to my noble friend's questions in the course of my responses. I will not rise to the temptation to talk in detail about the Criminal Justice Bill or any amendments which might be, but as yet have not been, tabled to it. We will have plenty of opportunity to debate those issues and I am sure that this House as ever will give them full measure as a consequence of its scrutiny processes. I am advised that the amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill to which reference was made has not yet been tabled. I note the points about minimum advocacy standards and I shall leave it to my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton to respond to those issues when the Bill is introduced into this House.
Lord Renton: My Lords, before moving on, would the noble Lord be good enough to answer a question? It seems to be the Government's intention to get this Bill, which is urgently needed, through Parliament as soon as possible. However, the new Criminal Justice Bill has not yet been introduced and there could be a big gap between obtaining Royal Assent to each of the two Bills.
Lord Filkin: My Lords, I should be pleased if we were able to pass a Bill with which this House was content. We are not making too bad progress, while giving it further and proper testing. As regards the noble Lord's proper anxiety that we might be slow on the Criminal Justice Bill, I am confident that we shall be seeing the Bill in all its glory before not too long. There will not be massive delays between the two Bills. This House and the other place permitting, the intention is that they will be passed within this current Session of Parliament.
The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, asked about the national firearm forensic intelligence data base. A new computerised Home Office funded data base is being established which will help trace guns used in crime. It is being set up with £1.4 million of Home Office
I have signalled the prospective measures in the CJS Bill and do not want to excite the House to debate them further. I want to comment, as required, in response to the questions asked by my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis about international co-operation. I shall comment briefly on Interpol and firearms. As part of Interpol's anti-terrorism branch, the arms section was initiated to suppress international firearms proliferation. The arms section focused on joining with Interpol member countries to create an atmosphere of sharing information that will result in the elimination of firearms trafficking and the violent crime associated with it.
An example of Interpol's international co-operation exchange of information to combat firearms proliferation is the Interpol weapons and explosives tracking system, commonly referred to as IWETS. It is the only international analytic data base designed to collate information on illegal firearms trafficking and it provides current indexes of firearms manufacturers and other information that facilitates the identification of firearms.
My noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis clearly signalled that there is always more that can be done. I do not challenge that for a second. I do not believe that the concern in the Home Office at present mirrors the concerns felt in large parts of British civil society; that we do not like what we are seeing in terms of the increased casual carrying of guns by young people which, in a sense, is as bad as the regular use of them in criminal activity. That is why we believe that the CJS Bill is needed, but I shall leave that for another day.
In terms of other general co-operation, the UK passes intelligence to Europol on a regular basis and clearly Europol and Interpol work closely on these issues. I could speak longer but the House would not thank me for doing do. I respect the intention behind this short debate but do not believe that this is the place for legislative changes. There may be subsequent opportunities to discuss them, but I fully recognise the need for the Government to continue to bear down on this issue with maximum energy.
Lord Sandberg: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, will he clear up a point he made earlier in regard to international problems? I could understand his references to Jamaica and Colombia; however, I could not quite understand his reference to Pakistan. Please will he clarify that point?
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his response, although it is disappointing in some respects. This is an amendment that gathered momentum in its progress through Grand Committee and subsequently today.
On an important matter of detail, I thank the Minister for his care in answering the further questions that I put today with regard to the national firearms intelligence database. I welcome his offer to write to me as regards the budget for that, which will be most helpful.
I thank the Minister for his comments on policy generally with regard to the holding of firearms particularly illegal firearmsand for the fact that the Government are on the alert with regard to the possible dumping of firearms as a result of the UN protocol. These are uncharted waters, if I may mix my metaphors somewhat badly. It is a matter of needing to be on the alert. We shall naturally be asking particular questions about that as the time proves right.
I am grateful to the Minister for the limited comments he was able to make on the important matter of the amnesty announced today. That does not get round the general principle underlying the amendment; namely, the provision of a constructive framework within which there is a clear direction to the Home Secretary as to how he should act in these important matters.
I was grateful to my noble friends Lord Renton and Lady Carnegy, to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, and to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, for their support. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, made the point that the amendment gives the House an opportunity to show support and express its concern on these matters, and the fact that it is to the illegal importation of firearms that we need to direct our attention as much as anything else. That is an important issue.
I understood exactly the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. He was careful to say that the aspiration of the clause is a good one. But he argued, as the Minister did, that the amendment does not need to be on the face of the Bill because it will be done anyway.
The Minister will be aware that the Government have sometimes taken the opportunity to "Christmas tree" the Bill, but in a very proper way. We supported them on their amendments relating to terrorism property freezing orders, which were not to the core of the original purpose of the Bill but properly came within the Long Title. We wholly supported the Government's activity in that area. The Minister said in Grand Committee that it was appropriate to take the opportunity, when a Bill such as this came along, to do something that was right. I agree with him, and I have to take exactly the same line with regard to this amendment. I believe that it is right and I should like to test the opinion of the House.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.