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Lord Thomas of Gresford: The Minister is going rather fast. Why do you have to employ a private company to sort out the Criminal Records Bureau? Why do you not just get it to work properly?

Lord Filkin: The noble Lord knows that from the establishment of the system, Capita was contracted by the Home Office as part of the operation of the Criminal Records Bureau service. The Criminal Records Bureau agency had employed Capita as part of the system from the beginning; it is not bringing in Capita now to sort out the system, but trying to improve the way in which the agency and Capita work so that the functions for which the CRB is responsible are effectively carried out. They have been there from the beginning.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: Are they still there after the complete failure of the system? I would be grateful for some help.

Lord Filkin: Yes, they are still there. These amendments and powers are, in part, intended to deal with these issues to ensure that there are mechanisms in place and more effective working between the Criminal Records Bureau and Capita in fulfilment of their contractual obligations to the Home Office.

Earl Russell: I believe I am right in understanding that the discipline of the private sector is competition. Where does Capita face any competition?

Lord Filkin: I was not involved in that process in any detail—I am looking for any signs of life in the Box. There would undoubtedly have been a public procurement process. I would have expected that more

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than one tender was submitted as a result of that public procurement. I am assured that there was competition—there was a competitive process.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: How many fingers?

Lord Filkin: I could not see how many fingers there were.

Earl Russell: I beg the Minister's pardon for coming back. Clearly there must have been competition in the appointment process, but did it continue after Capita was awarded the contract?

Lord Filkin: The short answer is no. After someone has won a competition on very large procurements—I am speaking in generalities—there is usually a fairly complex negotiation to go from the competition into a final contract. When that contract is let, its terms apply for the period of the contract as it runs. There are always, in such cases, processes for revision and alteration to the contract.

I have been in danger of going on at length but I felt it was important that I set out why this is necessary. Let me turn to some of the other questions that have been raised.

I was asked if the delegation of power is subject to any parliamentary procedure. The straight answer is no: the power to delegate the Secretary of State's functions under Part 5 of the Police Act 1997 is not subject to parliamentary procedure. No objection to this was raised by the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform.

In response to an implied question by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, the contract was for 10 years, after which time it will be retendered.

In short—perhaps in long—those are the main issues to which I have sought to respond. I have sought to explain why these powers are necessary and why we believe they will help to improve the service to the bodies that require it, therefore improving public protection, which is, of course, what this is all about.

Lord Hunt of Wirral: I had not intended to intervene, but I am driven to do so by having considered the debate in the other place. I recall an earlier exchange in this House in which my noble friend Lady Blatch pointed out the problems that this House has when clauses and schedules are not debated properly in the other place. I was enjoying listening to the Minister when he was reading out his speaking note, because it followed, almost exactly, the speech made on 20th May in the other place by Mr Paul Goggins, except that the Minister was able to complete his remarks. Mr Goggins was rudely interrupted by his own guillotine Motion. He had started:

    "The amendments to the 1997 Act give effect to four of the review team's recommendations . . . This role—"[Official Report, Commons, 20/5/03; col. 955.]

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Nothing more was heard by the other place. A guillotine Motion deprived the other place of debating this at all. Fortunately we have now had the conclusion—or, indeed, the substantial part—of what Mr Goggins intended to say.

I am concerned about the way in which the focus has been on blaming individuals who have tried to do what the Government have asked them to do when I believe the real blame is with the Government themselves. I would like to put that on the record. It is very easy to do so, because all I have to do is quote the present Lord Chancellor, now the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, from a speech made on 11th March in a debate with the very erudite and efficient Winifred Robinson on the "Today" programme. He said:

    "We tried to do too much too early. We should have introduced the checks on a gradual basis. . . . The consequence of trying to do everything too early was we ended up in a situation where the CRB wasn't able to cope".

He continued:

    "We've now stabilised what the CRB does".

However, the problems continue. We constantly hear press reports about how employees have been forced to wait months before starting new jobs.

I felt I had to put the record straight. I believe that the Government made a series of errors in setting up and demanding that the CRB should carry out these functions. I just hope that the Government will have an efficiency scrutiny of their activity in demanding the impossible as the review team now seeks to see its recommendations implemented. There is a lot to learn from this mess, and I hope the Government will learn the lessons.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Filkin: I hope that I was clear when I introduced my remarks by indicating that not for one second did the Government seek to claim that they did not have responsibilities for how this process unrolled, even though others may have had responsibility as well. It does us no credit to pretend that we are not at fault.

As to lessons learnt, I recollect from the time when I was in the Home Office—not so long ago—that both Ministers and officials were seriously aware that they had learnt a lot about how to handle major projects of this sort so that they reduced the likelihood of such problems happening in the future.

Having said that, I think the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is slightly uncharitable; the situation is nothing like as bad as it was a year ago. It certainly should not be as bad as it was a year ago because that was unacceptable. Substantial progress has been made and it is very important that we continue to sustain that rate of progress, which is why we believe these powers are necessary.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: It seems to me that it just shows that parliamentary accountability does not work. This has been a mess. The civil servants are unsure about their position, as the noble Baroness,

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Lady Gibson, told us. The other place had an explanation that was cut short by a guillotine. We come here today, in a small Committee, to discuss this issue in the way that we have. It is really is not very satisfactory, and I will come back to this issue on Report.

Clause 298 agreed to.

Lord Hunt of Wirral moved Amendment No. 239ZB:

    After Clause 298, insert the following new clause—

(1) A person who has been convicted of a criminal offence before a relevant court shall have no civil action for damages in respect of personal injury caused by the victim of the offence for which that person has been convicted unless the court considers that it is in the interests of justice that such action can be brought.
(2) Subsection (1) shall only apply to personal injuries caused during the circumstances of the offence for which the person was convicted.
(3) For the purpose of subsection (1) "victim" is defined as any person natural or corporate—
(a) whose interests were affected or threatened by the relevant offender, or
(b) who believed on reasonable grounds that their interests were affected or threatened by the relevant offender, or
(c) who was, at the time of the offence, a servant or agent of any person falling within paragraph (a) or (b) and who either knew or reasonably believed that the person's interest were so affected or threatened by the relevant offender.
(4) For the purposes of subsection (3) "interests" includes—
(a) any proprietary interest;
(b) a personal interest in avoiding physical injury.
(5) For the purpose of subsection (1) "damages in respect of personal injury" shall be defined to include all consequential loss suffered by the offender."

The noble Lord said: Earlier in this evening's proceedings, we received an assurance from the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, that a unit within her department was monitoring carefully every commitment made by a Minister to ensure that it was then implemented. I would be greatly reassured by her comments were it not for the fact that I am now being forced to introduce a new clause to exclude civil liability of victims of crime when last February the Home Secretary had a discussion with my right honourable friend Oliver Letwin, on the "Today" programme. In recognising the importance of the points being made by Mr Letwin, Mr Blunkett said that he would find a solution. The Home Office did not appear to have found a solution in May, even though it was said that a new clause would be put forward in this place. We are now on the final day of the Committee stage—sadly, because there is so much that we should have debated, and we have not had time properly to consider the Bill. We move towards Report stage on further days, and we have not had a new clause from the Government, which is why I am moving this new clause.

There has been public outrage about the fact that there appeared to be a situation in the legal system whereby a burglar could sue his or her victim and

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recover damages with the benefit of legal aid. It is probably a euphemism to use the phrase "public outrage". That marvellous campaigning newspaper, the Daily Mail, has highlighted it on many occasions, as have the BBC and others.

The new clause raises the issue of civil proceedings brought by criminals against their victims after their conviction and arising out of the circumstances in which they committed the offence. The clause would wholly deprive anyone convicted of a crime of the right to sue or bring civil proceedings against their victim on the basis of the circumstances in which they committed the offence. In many ways, we on these Benches are seeking to turn the Home Secretary's words into action, given the lack of any response from the Government in moving a new clause, as was originally promised.

We are all aware of the extent to which the current system has given rise to that serious public disquiet. There have been a number of high profile cases, the most notable of which is probably that of Mr Tony Martin. I do not want to make a comparison with that case, because it is certainly not acceptable in any way to use excessive force. However, there are provisions in the existing system, in the criminal law, to deal with the situation.

The public, and many noble Lords, feel most strongly about the issue of compensation, for several reasons. First, if a criminal commences civil litigation, public money is often put at his disposal—a fact that is widely reported by the press. Secondly, the present system does not allow many victims of crime to receive compensation. Obviously, if they suffer injury, they are entitled to go to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. However, very often there are material losses to the victims—usually the poorest, who are often uninsured. It is often hard or even impossible for them to recover from those losses.

The law as regards self-defence, which should also be considered with regard to the new clause, is also unsatisfactory. What constitutes reasonable force, with which one is legally allowed to defend oneself, one's family and one's home, is decided in accordance with the facts of each case. However, from the way in which cases are reported in the press, it is now unclear to most people in the country whether they can defend their homes or themselves without problems or the fear of being sued. That is surely an untenable situation.

I hope that the Government respond positively to the new clause and enable law-abiding people to feel that they can defend their homes without the fear that they may be punished twice. I beg to move.

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