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Session 2001- 02
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Standing Committee Debates
Police Reform Bill [Lords]

Police Reform Bill [Lords]

Standing Committee A

Thursday 23 May 2002

(Morning)

Mr. George Stevenson

Police Reform Bill [Lords]

9.30 am

The Minister for Policing, Crime Reduction and Community Safety (Mr. John Denham): I beg to move,

    That—

    (1) during proceedings on the Police Reform Bill [Lords] the Standing Committee do meet when the House is sitting—

    (a) on Tuesdays at half-past Ten o'clock and at half-past Four o'clock, and

    (b) on Thursdays at half-past Nine o'clock and half-past Two o'clock,

    except that on Tuesday, 11th June 2002 and on Tuesday, 18th June 2002 the Committee shall not meet at half-past Ten o'clock;

    (2) the proceedings shall be taken in the following order, namely, Clauses 1 to 7, Schedule 1, New Clauses and New Schedules relating to Part 1, Clause 8, Schedule 2, Clauses 9 to 12, Schedule 3, Clauses 13 to 35, Schedule 4, Clauses 36 and 37, Schedule 5, Clauses 38 to 42, New Clauses and New Schedules relating to Chapter 1 of Part 4, Clause 43, Schedule 6, Clauses 44 to 91, Schedules 7 and 8, Clause 92, remaining New Clauses, remaining New Schedules;

    (3) the proceedings on Clauses 1 to 7, Schedule 1 and New Clauses and New Schedules relating to Part 1 (so far as not previously concluded) shall be brought to a conclusion at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, 11th June 2002;

    (4) the proceedings on Clause 8, Schedule 2, Clauses 9 to 12, Schedule 3 and Clauses 13 to 27 (so far as not previously concluded) shall be brought to a conclusion at 5 p.m. on Thursday, 13th June 2002;

    (5) the proceedings on Clauses 28 to 34 (so far as not previously concluded) shall be brought to a conclusion at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, 18th June 2002;

    (6) the proceedings on Clause 35, Schedule 4, Clauses 36 and 37, Schedule 5, Clauses 38 to 42 and New Clauses and New Schedules relating to Chapter 1 of Part 4 (so far as not previously concluded) shall be brought to a conclusion at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, 25th June 2002;

    (7) the proceedings on Clause 43, Schedule 6 and Clauses 44 to 62 (so far as not previously concluded) shall be brought to a conclusion at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, 25th June 2002; and

    (8) the remaining proceedings on the Bill (so far as not previously concluded) shall be brought to a conclusion at 5 p.m. on Thursday, 27th June 2002.

We look forward to serving on the Committee under your chairmanship, Mr. Stevenson. I have done so before, and I am confident that we shall make good and orderly progress. Although there is broad agreement throughout the House on many of the key objectives and principles of the Bill, the Committee will want to consider it in detail. Judging from the debates on Second Reading and in the other place, there are two contentious parts under part 1 and chapter 1 of part 4. The programme motion will allow adequate time for careful consideration of those provisions and the time that has been agreed through the usual channels will ensure that the Bill, as a whole, is properly scrutinised.

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It has been 16 days since the Bill was debated on Second Reading, so there has been considerable scope for tabling amendments, an opportunity that has not been lost on Opposition Members, and the two-week Whitsun recess will provide a further opening for members of the Committee to table amendments before we resume our proceedings on 11 June. I hope that we can agree the programme motion.

Mr. James Paice (South-East Cambridgeshire): I endorse the Minister's welcome to you, Mr. Stevenson. I, too, have served on Committees under your chairmanship and I am pleased to have the opportunity to do so again. I extend in absentia a welcome to Miss Widdecombe, who will also Chair some of our sittings.

The Minister was right to say that the Bill has received a large measure of support—perhaps more so from Opposition Members than from Labour Members. It is the absence of certain provisions from the Bill that the Government are unhappy about. They want to put those back, whereas we are more content with the Bill in its current form. We shall obviously table minor amendments as well as amendments to the more major provisions to which the Minister has referred, and I share his view that there is time under the programme motion to do that.

The Minister said that there have been 16 days since the Bill was discussed on Second Reading, but there is a dearth of Government amendments. I accept that he has concentrated on amendments to part 1, which we shall discuss today and at our first sitting after the recess, but I look forward to the Government tabling those amendments that he prefaced in his speech on Second Reading. Obviously, we shall need adequate time to discuss not only those amendments that were referred to in another place, but those that deal with sex offenders and the other issues that have been promised, and which will be new to the debate. I hope that the hon. Gentleman can give us plenty of time to study them and perhaps table amendments to those amendments.

Although, we shall examine all the Bill's provisions in Committee, we shall deal with the contentious issues to which the Minister referred on a wider scale when the Bill is discussed on Report. I accept that it is outside your purview, Mr. Stevenson, and that of members of the Committee, but I wish to put it on the record that we hope that some issues can be returned to at that time.

I appreciate the way in which the Ministers in the other place responded to the amendments tabled by the Opposition. That welcoming approach means that, setting aside the big issues, the Bill is considerably better. There were amendments to a whole raft of different clauses that were not in the original draft. The Government listened, and conceded the amendments.

I hope that we will continue to take the same consensual approach, and I am encouraged in that by the Secretary of State's speech to the Police Federation of England and Wales conference last week, when he apologised and said, ''I have made mistakes.'' So say all of us. Therefore, I hope that the Home Office approaches this stage of the Bill with a degree of

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chagrin and, perhaps, a willingness to listen to the pertinent arguments of Opposition Members. With those remarks, I am content to support the programme motion, and I look forward to the Committee stage.

Norman Baker (Lewes): I, too, welcome you, Mr. Stevenson. We know each other from other avenues, but I look forward to your chairmanship and that of Miss Widdecombe. Given her personality and knowledge of this subject area, I suspect that she may find it difficult to keep her opinions to herself as we proceed.

It is nice to begin on a note of harmony and agreement. We agree on most of the Bill, especially as it has been amended. We also agree about where we disagree, which is useful. Ministers in the other place, and, indeed, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Ainsworth), have responded in a productive and sensible way to some of the concerns expressed, and I look forward to further useful exchanges as the Bill progresses. When we debated the Proceeds of Crime Bill, the Under-Secretary showed a willingness to listen and respond to genuine concerns, and I am confident that he will show the same response to this Bill.

On a personal note, I thank hon. Members who congratulated me on my recent wedding, which took place last Saturday. The hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) tells me that he has already done 30 years without remission, but we can get time off for good conduct if that is appropriate. I take issue with one Conservative Member, who suggested that I should have been at the Programming Sub-Committee on Monday rather than on my honeymoon. I had other priorities on Monday and that would have been taking duty a little too far.

There are only one or two issues of substance on which there is disagreement between the parties. I hope very seriously that the Government will listen to those issues and not railroad something through simply because that is the position that they have hitherto adopted. I am confident that Opposition Members will be putting forward good arguments, and, with a degree of flexibility and understanding, we may yet find our way through to an agreement. Certainly, that is the intention of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Mrs. Brooke) and myself.

Hon. Members who attended the Programming Sub-Committee will know that we suggested an alternative programme motion in respect of the last sitting, which we think is too long. We would have preferred more time on one of the earlier sittings. I do not intend to push the matter again this morning, simply to register it for the benefit of the Committee. On the last day, 27 June 2002, there may not be enough business to keep us going. Then again, I am always surprised by the ability of hon. Members to fill space whenever it is provided, so perhaps my fear will be unfounded.

Question put and agreed to.

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The Chairman: I remind the Committee that there is a money resolution in connection with the Bill, copies of which are available in the Room. I also remind hon. Members that adequate notice should be given of amendments. As a general rule, my co-Chairman and I do not intend to call starred amendments, including any that might be reached during an afternoon sitting. Finally, I remind hon. Members that the Committee will not be meeting on the mornings of Tuesday 11 June or Tuesday 18 June.

Clause 1

National Policing Plan

Norman Baker: I beg to move amendment No. 132, in page 2, line 23, at end insert—

    '(vi) the setting of any objectives under sections 26 or 71 of the Police Act 1997 (c.50); and

    (vii) the setting of any objectives under section 89 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 (c. 16).'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 133, in page 2, line 24, leave out ', plans and advice'.

No. 76, in page 2, line 26, at end insert—

    '(d) must contain the appropriate information on financial resources and constraints as may be provided by the Secretary of State.'.

 
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