Criminal Justice and Police Bill

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Mr. Sutcliffe: Certainly not. That intervention illustrates the problem that the Committee has faced because of the Opposition's deeply held view that the sittings motion did not offer ample time.

Given what the hon. Member for Taunton said about making progress in the time that we have, I want to move on. I rise to speak because the usual channels, although courteous in discussion, have faced the problem that from the Opposition's point of view, we have not been given sufficient sittings. I noticed that the Opposition Deputy Chief Whip was around during the Programming Sub-Committee. I hate to say this, because the camaraderie among Whips is well known, but we have a new Opposition Whip who appears to take instruction from the Deputy Chief Whip on the basis of the Opposition's wider position on programming.

The Chairman: Order. If I may say so, those black arts are rather removed from the substance of the motion before the Committee. It would be better if the matter were left there.

Mr. Sutcliffe: I just want to finish by placing the issue on the record.

Mr. Gray: The hon. Gentleman mentioned me. The presence of the Deputy Chief Whip was nothing to do with the fact that I have some six months standing in the Whips Office—quite a long time, compared with some Labour Whips—but was the result of the fact that he has seen from on high the disgraceful nature of what is occurring here today. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that throughout our discussions, at no stage have we disagreed? At no stage did the Government ask me for anything that we have not delivered. Throughout our discussions through the usual channels we have agreed entirely. At no stage have we had a disagreement in which I said, ``No, we won't do that.'' We have agreed to absolutely everything that the hon. Gentleman has asked me for.

Mr. Sutcliffe: As the Chairman has said, we will keep those discussions under the protocol that applies to them. I will not enter a discussion about who said what in the Corridor.

Mr. Gray: You raised it.

The Chairman: Order. Mr. Sutcliffe.

Mr. Sutcliffe: I feel that the issue raised in the Programming Sub-Committee of the number of sittings needs to be on the record. I believed that we had an agreement with an Opposition Whip about a hospital appointment that reduced the number of sittings. We entered into negotiations to put those sittings back. I am told by the Opposition that that was not their understanding. I acknowledge the spirit of what they are saying, but I want to place on the record the fact that I believed that I had an agreement with the hon. Member for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Simpson) when he was the Opposition Whip.

Mr. Blunt: This is a suitable moment to sit back and reflect on what nonsense the whole process has become. Yesterday, the Committee passed 25 clauses and the whole of part III without our being able to make any observations on them. The Minister has said that my contributions to the Committee have throughout our proceedings, without exception, been constructive and to the point. I hope that the Minister and Government Members will listen to my remarks, and I hope that you, Mr. Gale, will report back to the Chairman of Ways and Means. We are sent here to do a job, and one of the most important aspects of our jobs is properly to scrutinise legislation. We should take that responsibility seriously, but yesterday was farcical.

I understand the proposal that my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire made to the Programming Sub-Committee that we sit this afternoon and all through the night tonight. That is an effort to ensure that the Bill receives some sort of scrutiny. It is disgraceful that we are reduced to tabling such proposals. It is impossible to do our job properly and to give proper scrutiny to measures in such a way.

Mr. McCabe: Can the hon. Gentleman tell us of what benefit to scrutiny of the Bill were the following remarks by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins)?

    ``I think that what my hon. Friend intended to say was that the Labour party may superficially be pretending to be more respectable. Does he agree that the most interesting thing to come out of this debate was the hon. Member for Taunton pointing out that the most wonderful training for becoming a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament was hanging around on the streets doing little of any use?''——[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 1 March 2001; c. 406.]

The Chairman: Order. If the hon. Gentleman sought to do so, I would rule him out of order. It is not relevant to the matter that we are discussing. Mr. Blunt.

Mr. Blunt: It is clear that such a complex Bill, with 130 clauses that deal with a considerable number of different matters, will require proper time to be debated. The Government showed the utmost arrogance by tabling a programming motion immediately after the Bill received its Second Reading. That was wrong. The Committee has proceeded in such a lamentable way because the Government have had to reconsider the whole process and come forward with a date for the end of the Bill's consideration in Committee. We have betrayed the duty that we owe the people of this country to scrutinise the Bill properly.

If no end date is set for when a Bill's consideration must finish in Committee, people will be able to make a proper judgment of its proceedings, not least the Government Whips and the usual channels, and decide whether it has been scrutinised properly. My hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath cited the example of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, which comprises experts in a particular subject who will be affected by the Government's legislation. It is a serious, responsible organisation. It needed time to put together authoritative submissions to Committee members to enable those submissions to be turned into amendments, so that such views could be put forward.

We have done ourselves no credit. An extra two hours tomorrow is not sufficient time in which to consider the Bill properly. It should not be guillotined. Such action should be considered only when it becomes clear that Committee members are obstructing the Government in the proper execution of their duty. That has not happened.

Question put and agreed to.


    That the Programming Order of the Committee of 6th February, as amended by the order of the Committee of 1st March, be amended by leaving out lines 27 to 43 of the Table and inserting—

13thClauses 70 to 761 pm
14thClauses 77 to 86, Schedule 4, Clauses 87 to 101, Schedule 5, Clauses 102 to 106, Schedule 6, Clauses 107 to 127, Schedule 7, Clauses 128 to 131, Schedule 8, Clause 132, new Schedules
15thClause 77 to 86, Schedule 4, Clauses 87 to 101, Schedule 5, Clauses 102 to 106, Schedule 6, Clauses 107 to 127, Schedule 7, Clauses 128 to 131, Schedule 8, Clause 132, new Schedules.7 pm''

The Chairman: We shall now return to consideration of the Bill. I was asked a question during that short debate. I shall make observations in due course to the Chairman of Ways and Means. He, in turn, will carry forward the views from members on both sides of the Committee to the Modernisation Committee.

Amendments made: No. 248, in page 59, line 17, leave out `section' and insert `subsection'.

No. 249, in page 60, line 37, after `in', insert `a'.

No. 250, in page 60, line 37, after `in', insert `a'.—[Mr. Hawkins.]

The Chairman, being of the opinion that the principle of the clause and any matters arising thereon had been adequately discussed in the course of debate on the amendments proposed thereto, forthwith put the Question, pursuant to Standing Orders Nos. 68 and 69, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 2.

Division No. 29]

Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Clark, Mr. Paul
Clarke, Mr. Charles
Grogan, Mr. John
McCabe, Mr. Stephen
McDonagh, Siobhain
Smith, Miss Geraldine
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry

Ballard, Jackie
Hughes, Mr. Simon

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 72, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 73

Authorisation for delay in notifying arrest

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Heald: The clause downgrades the authorisation powers from superintendent rank to that of inspector. The inspectors central committee and the Police Federation are concerned about that because of the extra work load that will fall on inspectors. Figures given recently by the Minister show that the number of inspectors has fallen by 272 and the number of chief inspectors in England and Wales by 121 since March 1997. Those figures appeared in Hansard on 8 February, at column 663W.

The Kent county constabulary inspectors' branch expressed the same concern in a letter to me. The letter states:

    ``The reduction in numbers is not matched by any reduction in our members' workloads; indeed a parallel reduction in the numbers of Superintendents has resulted in increased responsibilities for fewer inspectors. Overstretching and overloading management does not make for good decision making or effective leadership.''

Will the Minister explain how inspectors will meet the challenge posed by the Bill of meeting extra responsibilities with fewer men?

12.30 pm

Mr. Simon Hughes: We are uncomfortable with the idea of a downgrading of the rank of the police officer who must make the decision to delay the defendant's being allowed to notify someone of where he is and of his arrest. It is one of the issues that was considered comprehensively in the context of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Logically, it would be given comprehensive consideration if the Bill addressed the structure of the police to a significant degree. The reality is that the police have different capacities at different levels.

The hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire referred to figures on the number of inspectors. Inspectors have a particular concern about restructuring in the police, the number of inspectors in relation to the number of superintendents and so on. In different parts of the country, such as Northern Ireland, there is a different balance of people at different ranks.

We are uncomfortable with the Government's proposal being within a narrow review of certain issues. This part of the Bill is about changing the facility for dealing with people after they have been detained. That does not necessarily require a change in the status and rank of police officers, although I recognise that that gives the Government more flexibility. However, the burden is on the Government to justify it. Until they have done so, we are minded not to support the proposal.

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