Draft National Crime Agency (Directed Tasking) Order 2023

Edward Timpson Excerpts
Wednesday 24th April 2024

(1 month ago)

General Committees
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Tom Tugendhat Portrait The Minister for Security (Tom Tugendhat)
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I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft National Crime Agency (Directed Tasking) Order 2023.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Twigg. I will start with the context in which we are introducing the order. Hon. Members will no doubt know that the impact of serious and organised crime on the United Kingdom is significant and growing. Put simply, it poses a threat to our national security and prosperity.

In partnership with law enforcement and industry, the Government have taken concerted action to tackle economic crime, fraud, bribery and corruption, all of which severely harm the economy and cause significant suffering. If we are to keep pace with those threats properly and effectively, only a system-wide response will do.

To that end, the Government announced, as part of the 2023 serious and organised crime strategy, their intention to amend section 5(5) of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 to allow the director general of the National Crime Agency to direct the director of the Serious Fraud Office on matters relating to the investigation of suspected incidents of serious or complex fraud, bribery and corruption. This change will support strong, ongoing collaboration between the NCA and the SFO by enabling the director general of the NCA to direct the director of the SFO when the NCA requires the assistance, skills and expertise of the SFO, and satisfactory arrangements cannot be made under the existing voluntary tasking of the arrangement.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson (Eddisbury) (Con)
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Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Tom Tugendhat Portrait Tom Tugendhat
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I would be honoured.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson
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It may be that my right hon. Friend will come on to this point, so I apologise in advance if he was going to, but I am just interested to know about the process for the NCA, given the workload that already exists for the SFO, its budget, its capacity, and also the prospects of a potential successful prosecution, when deciding whether to make a direction, so as not to overload the SFO and perhaps end up with less success as a consequence.

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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Let me make some progress if I may.

We have been clear that the power to remove unaccompanied children would be exercised only in very limited circumstances: principally for the purposes of effecting a family reunion or to return someone to their safe country of origin. Government amendment 174 makes this clear in the Bill while futureproofing the Bill against the risk that the people smugglers will seek to endanger more young lives and break up more families by loading yet more unaccompanied children on to the small boats.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson (Eddisbury) (Con)
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On the face of it, I, too, welcome Government amendment 174 on the limitations to the removal of children and the prescription that is put within it. However, my right hon. Friend has alluded to the fact that, further down in that amendment, it sets out that the Home Secretary can pass regulations to set out any other circumstances at a later date. Is he referring to changes in the way that people smugglers may operate? Will this be an affirmative procedure in Parliament, and what sort of circumstances does he anticipate that we may be dealing with?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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What we do know is that this situation is fast moving and that the people smugglers are individuals and businesses that will stop at nothing and stoop to any low. We want to retain a degree of discretion, of course accountable to Parliament, and we would ensure that it is an affirmative procedure, giving Parliament at least an opportunity to debate it should there be concerns with the approach of any Home Secretary. But let me be clear that the Government’s position is that we see the use of this power only for those two very limited, but understandable and sensible, suggestions. They are two routes that are used today judiciously. We do—although it is very hard to do—seek to reunify unaccompanied minors with their family members, and succeed in a small number of cases. We also remove minors from the UK back home to safe countries, always making sure that social services or appropriate authorities are awaiting them on their return. Those things happen today and we want to see that they continue and, if anything, that we take further advantage of them.

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Tim Loughton Portrait Tim Loughton
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It is difficult to know in five minutes how to address the five amendments with my name at the top, including the two that have been leapfrogged by the Home Secretary. I have spent many hours cossetted with the Minister for Immigration and others to try to get some of the adjustments being made, and I am grateful for the time he has spent to try to get us to a better place. I certainly do not have time to respond to the extensive assurances that he aimed to give me from the Dispatch Box earlier.

I support safe and legal routes. I am glad we will now have them on the face of the Bill. We need a balance. I support this Bill, but if we are to be tough on the abusers of our immigration system, we also have to ensure we are open and generous to genuine asylum seekers, to whom we owe a duty of care. The amendments on safe and legal routes are also timely because we needed to address the question that I posed to the Home Secretary some months ago about how the 16-year-old orphan from east Africa with relations in the UK would make it to the UK. This week, that apocryphal scenario became a reality. The measures that the Immigration Minister will be bringing forward need to address that question.

It is essential that the Immigration Minister consults local authorities about capacity, but he also needs to consult refugee organisations and others about the type of schemes with which we will come forward. How will they operate? Who will qualify for them? How will people access them? Let us make sure that those schemes are in place sooner rather than later in 2024, although I would have liked them to be contemporaneous. We have a deal on safe and legal routes, but we need to see some real workable details in the coming months and as the Bill goes through the Lords.

I have no time to talk about amendment 181 on the return of children or amendment 182 on best interest and welfare checks. My real concern has been on child detention, so I was grateful for the assurances that the Immigration Minister gave me, because the measures as they stand do not differentiate between children and adults in detention terms. They ride roughshod through the safeguards on child detention under the Immigration Bill 2014, through which this Government specified the 24-hour limit, and the Government have not even offered to put the maximum detention times for children in this Bill. That is a must when it comes to any amendments that the Minister can bring forward in the House of Lords.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson
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I very much agree with the points that my hon. Friend makes in support of children. Does he also agree that we need absolute clarity on the responsibilities under the Children Act 1989 in all circumstances where a child is on these shores, and in particular where the Home Office itself has some responsibility?

Illegal Migration Update

Edward Timpson Excerpts
Wednesday 29th March 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson (Eddisbury) (Con)
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Are there any circumstances in which my right hon. Friend would envisage children being placed in any of the sites that he has announced? To ensure that they can be moved as swiftly as possible into local authority care, may I encourage him to use the welcome additional funding that has been announced for local councils to cope with accommodation, so that they have an incentive to ensure that accommodation is available to children as a priority?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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It is not my intention to house minors on those sites. It is right that we ensure that minors and families are properly supported. Those sites will be used for single adult males, and will act as a serious deterrent to those people coming to this country.

Apsana Begum Portrait Apsana Begum (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab)
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I support the amendments on the rights of children, because the Bill punishes children just for being refugees and puts unaccompanied children at risk. There is not enough time to go through every clause, but I will highlight some of the many cruelties.

The measures before the Committee today not only abolish the protections afforded to children but allow unaccompanied children to be routinely detained beyond the 24-hour time limit, and to be detained anywhere the Secretary of State considers appropriate. Detaining children for prolonged periods is utterly unacceptable and poses serious risks to their health, safety and protection.

Clauses 2 to 10 will create a large and permanent population of people, including children with families and unaccompanied children, living in limbo for the rest of their lives. Clause 3 could see a child who arrives alone, fleeing war and persecution, being allowed to integrate into UK society, only to be forcibly removed from the UK as soon as they turn 18.

Clauses 15 to 20 give the Secretary of State a range of astonishingly far-reaching powers, including the power to terminate a child’s looked-after care status and the key legal protections provided by local authorities.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson (Eddisbury) (Con)
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I am pleased that the hon. Lady has raised these clauses. Having spoken to the Minister, I know he is keen to ensure that we have clarity on this issue so that when the Home Office provides appropriate accommodation for children, in addition to the other care and support required, we know what that means in practice. We also need to understand the justification and reasons for enabling the Home Secretary to remove a child from local authority care under the vice versa clause, clause 16. At the moment, the explanatory notes do not seem to give any reason why the power is needed.

Apsana Begum Portrait Apsana Begum
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I hope the Minister will address the hon. and learned Gentleman’s point.

There is an array of evidence on the significant harm facing unaccompanied children who are accommodated by the Home Office in hotels. For vulnerable children, this Bill denies refugee and human rights protections and recovery from trafficking, and it prolongs their fears and insecurity by denying them the reassurance that they have found safety.

This Government are not only targeting children. They are removing almost all protections for victims of modern slavery and trafficking who are targeted for removal. As such, I also support the amendments on equalities and human rights, including my new clause 20, because the Bill will be disastrous for disabled and LGBTQ+ children and adults. Women fleeing persecution will be prevented from claiming asylum and will be detained indefinitely, with no exemption for those who are pregnant. Indeed, clause 11 will enable the Home Secretary to enforce the indefinite detention of children and pregnant women in camps such as Manston on a statutory basis. That goes back to what was happening before 2016, when pregnant women were being detained for weeks on end, and in some cases months, with no idea when they would be released. This is utterly disgraceful.

How can it be right that people are to have their human rights ripped away because they are from a different place? Surely human rights are inalienable and universal. Persecuting some of the most vulnerable people fleeing torture, war or oppression during a climate of increasing anti-migrant hostility, with attacks on hotels housing asylum seekers and a growth in far-right activity, is cowardly and dangerous.

The Illegal Migration Bill will be marked for years to come as an extraordinary and chilling attack on our values and way of life. Not in my name. I oppose the Government’s clauses before the Committee today. I reject their purpose and principle in their entirety, because all human beings are born free and equal in dignity, and with rights. In the words of article 2 of the universal declaration of human rights:

“Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs”.

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Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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Nobody could dispute the seriousness with which I took the situation at Manston in the autumn, or dispute that the situation we are in today is incomparably different. Manston is a well-run facility, led by a superb former Army officer, Major General Capps, and we are ensuring that the site is both decent and legal. Responsibility for the failures at Manston in the autumn of last year does not rest with the Government. It does not rest with the people who work at Manston. It rests with the people smugglers and the human traffickers. It was a direct result of tens of thousands of people coming into our country illegally in a short period of time.

I can tell the hon. Lady that the same thing will happen again if we do not break the cycle and stop the boats. More people will come later this year. She knows that the numbers are estimated to rise this year unless we take robust action. That is what this Bill sets out to achieve. If we take this action, fewer people will put themselves in danger and fewer children will be in this situation. That is what I want to see, and I think that is what the British public want to see as well.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson
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On unaccompanied children, may I ask the Minister to address the point I raised about the power in clause 16 for the Secretary of State to remove a child from local authority care, when the Secretary of State does not have powers under the Children Act and the responsibilities that follow? Will he set out the reasons behind that—if not in full now, certainly before Report?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that comment. As an important aside that relates to other issues he has raised, nothing in the Bill disapplies the Children Act, which will continue to apply in all respects with regard to the children we deal with in this situation. In answer to his particular point, we are taking this power so that in the very small number of judicious cases in which we set out to remove a child, we can take them from the care of the local authority into the responsibility of the Home Office for the short period before they are removed from the country. I have given two examples of situations in which we would use that power, and I will happily give them again. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) is concerned about this point.

The first situation is where we are seeking to return a young person to their relatives in another country. I think it is incredibly important that we keep the ability to do so, because that does happen occasionally. It is obviously the right thing to do to return somebody to their mother, their father, their uncle or the support network that they have in another country.

The other situation is where we are removing somebody who has arrived as an unaccompanied minor to another safe country, where we are confident that they will be met on arrival by social services and provided with all the support that one would expect. That happens all the time here with unaccompanied minors; I think the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) mentioned, drawing on his experience as a local Member of Parliament around Heathrow, that it happens regularly. It is important that we continue to have that option, because we should not be bringing people into local authority care for long periods in the UK when we can safely return them home, either to their relatives or to their home country, where they can be safeguarded appropriately.

Unaccompanied Asylum-seeking Children

Edward Timpson Excerpts
Tuesday 24th January 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

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Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I gave the figures the Home Office has at the start of this urgent question. Of the 4,600 unaccompanied children who have been accommodated in hotels since July 2021, 440 have gone missing at one point and 200 remain missing, so I am afraid the statistics the right hon. Lady quotes are not those that I have been given by the Home Office.

On press reports that individuals have been abducted outside the hotel, those are very serious allegations. I specifically asked the officials who run the hotel whether they have seen evidence of that, and I also asked the senior leadership of Brighton and Hove Council. I have not been presented with evidence that that has happened, but I will continue to make inquiries. Senior officials from my Department are meeting the Mitie security team in the coming days to ask them whether they have seen any occurrences, whether the individual quoted in the press as a whistleblower raised issues with Mitie, and, if they did, why those issues were not subsequently passed on to the Home Office. The right hon. Lady has my assurance that I will not let the matter drop. I am also going to meet a number of staff who work at the site in the coming days to take their opinions and reflections.

On the broader point the right hon. Lady makes about our policy, she is incorrect when she says the NCA is insufficiently financed. The Prime Minister announced at the end of last year that we would step up NCA funding. In fact, I visited the NCA just last week to be briefed on the work it is doing upstream throughout Europe and into Turkey, Iraq and a number of other countries. There is very significant activity happening to tackle the evil people-smuggling gangs.

The problem the right hon. Lady has is that she does not support any of the measures the Government bring forward to stop the trade. She votes against every Bill we bring forward to try to address this challenge. There is nothing compassionate about allowing unsecure borders and allowing growing numbers of people, including young people, to cross the channel. She will have an opportunity to put her money where mouth is when we bring forward further legislation in the weeks ahead.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson (Eddisbury) (Con)
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What assessment has my right hon. Friend’s Department made of the availability of specialist foster carers able to accommodate unaccompanied asylum-seeking children? In light of the Abdulrahimzai case reported today, can he reassure the House that foster carers are provided with the information and support they need to keep both themselves and any young person in their care safe?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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My hon. and learned Friend raises a very important issue. There is, as he knows as well as almost anyone in this House, a lack of capacity in relation to specialist foster carers. That is why the Department for Education conducted its care review, is considering the findings, and will be bringing forward recommendations in due course. Most young people in the hotels we are discussing today are older—predominantly 16 and 17-year-olds—so it is about a national lack not only of foster care capacity, but of supported accommodation and the kind of settings that a 17-year-old, for example, might be placed in for a relatively short period of time before they move forward with their life. Those issues are very important to us, which is why, for my part, I have made available significantly increased funding for local authorities so they can, for example, use that money to procure more supported accommodation.

On the case my hon. and learned Friend referred to, that is a truly shocking case. We are reviewing how it has happened and how the individual was able to enter the UK posing as a minor. We will learn the lessons and set out more in due course.

National Security Bill

Edward Timpson Excerpts
2nd reading
Monday 6th June 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jeremy Wright Portrait Sir Jeremy Wright (Kenilworth and Southam) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to follow my fellow new member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, the hon. Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle). I agree with what she said and what other members of the Committee have said. As she did, I will also try not to repeat absolutely everything that they said, although I confess that there may be some overlap.

I will speak about two things that are missing from the Bill but should be included, and two things that are in it but do not need to be. Let me begin with the things that are missing. As others have pointed out, the Bill proposes no reform of the Official Secrets Act 1989, as opposed to other Official Secrets Acts. I think that everyone who has spoken accepts that such reform is necessary, and the Government accept that it is essential. As we have heard, that Act deals with unauthorised disclosures of sensitive information and requires, for successful prosecution of offences, that it can be shown that damage has been done by the disclosure. The problem being, as my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) set out, that evidence of that damage is often impossible to present without causing more damage. That makes it counterproductive to prosecute such cases at all.

That problem is not solved by the Bill, but frankly it should be. It is not addressed by the new espionage offences in the Bill, which are targeted elsewhere and largely require intent to assist foreign intelligence services or that the action in question is carried out on behalf of a foreign power. Disclosures that are made with different motives, however misguided, will remain to be dealt with under the flawed regime in the 1989 Act. That regime will have to be reformed at some point, and comprehensively. That may well best be done with the creation of broad offences of disclosure and specific public interest defences. It seems to me that the attraction of that approach is twofold. First, as I suggested to the Home Secretary when she generously took my intervention, it is a recognition of current reality. Juries are already applying their own versions of public interest defences to the case they try without the benefit of clearly defined defences in law. Secondly, creating a straightforward offence of disclosure committed where relevant defences do not apply gives the prosecution less to prove, with less risk of further damaging disclosure by the state, and allows Parliament to define public interest defences as widely or as narrowly as we think appropriate. That has to be a better and more rational approach.

We should also consider further the Law Commission’s recommendation of a commissioner who would provide those in government or the intelligence agencies who are contemplating a disclosure of material to the public with another way to raise their concerns. The existence of such a route as an alternative may well make it harder to establish a public interest defence in court. I would argue that the Government should address the deficiencies of the 1989 Act while they have the legislative opportunity to do so in the Bill.

As others have said, another thing missing from the Bill is provision for a foreign influence registration scheme. I recognise and welcome the fact that the Government have said they intend to bring such a scheme forward by amendments to the Bill, but like others I hope they will do so soon, as the disadvantage of making substantial changes in amendments is that we have less time to consider them. It will be important that we consider the details of such a scheme and any unintended consequences of it. For example, the scheme needs to capture significant or substantial interventions on behalf of foreign powers, rather than those that are insignificant or incidental, and we need to consider carefully how a list of countries to which the scheme will apply will be managed and updated in practice. Of course, we cannot do any of that until we see precisely what the Government propose.

I mention in passing that I welcome the clauses on trade secrets, although I suspect, as do others, that the definitions involved will need tightening or clarifying, and I welcome the further clauses on sabotage and foreign influence. That brings me to the things that I think the Bill could do without.

The first, as the hon. Member for Garston and Halewood pointed out in detail, is clause 23, for which at the very least the Government will need to offer further justification. It amends schedule 4 to the Serious Crime Act 2007, which contains offences of assisting or encouraging the commission of a criminal offence abroad. As the hon. Lady said, the Bill will disapply those offences if the actions were necessary for the

“proper exercise of any function”

of the security services or the armed forces. That is a sweeping exclusion from liability for criminal offences. It is not yet clear to me why that is necessary. A defence of acting reasonably is already included in the 2007 Act, and I do not immediately see what the difference is between an argument of acting reasonably and an argument of acting in the proper exercise of someone’s function, which is what clause 23 would add. As the hon. Lady mentioned, we already have the backstop protection of section 7 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994. Ministers will need to explain, as the Bill progresses, why we need further legislative provision on that point.

Finally, I come to the clauses at the end of the Bill that deal with civil damages and legal aid for those with terrorist convictions. I also make it clear that I give my own views on this, not the views of the Intelligence and Security Committee. I have far fewer concerns about the reduction or non-payment of damages in cases where those damages may be used to fund terrorism; in those cases, decisions can be taken by a court, which in essence can already decide the size of award that would be just in all the circumstances. However, I am frankly worried about the Bill’s proposals on legal aid. This House has debated in the past, sometimes fiercely, which types of legal action should be eligible for legal aid and what level of wealth or poverty should be needed to get it, but I do not think we have ever before contemplated determining someone’s eligibility for civil legal aid based on previous criminal behaviour. Prisoners serving sentences, let alone those whose sentences have been served, do not lose all their rights in our society. It is the criminal justice system that exists to reflect our collective disapproval of and sanction for criminal behaviour. The civil justice system is not set up to do so—certainly not in perpetuity thereafter.

Is there any logic in leaving convicted terrorists eligible for criminal legal aid in relation to future allegations against them, as they will rightly remain if this Bill passes, but ineligible for civil legal aid? What that means for a formerly convicted terrorist is that legal aid will be available to them if the question before the court is whether they have again infringed the rights of others in a criminal way, but not if the question is whether others have infringed their rights, perhaps seriously. I am not sure that is right or sensible.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson (Eddisbury) (Con)
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I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on his recent honour, and I share some of his concerns about the widening of the eligibility around civil legal aid in these matters. Does he have any other mechanism by which he thinks this could be addressed in the Bill, to ensure that the Government’s concerns are taken into account?

Jeremy Wright Portrait Sir Jeremy Wright
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As I say, I can understand the logic of the Government’s position when it comes to the restriction or even non-payment of damages in civil cases where the court believes that those damages may be used in a terrorist cause. That seems a sensible additional provision. It is more difficult where, outside a court—because of course decisions on legal aid are made not by judges, but by officials elsewhere—those judgments are to be made in the context that the Government propose. That seems to me a step too far, and another potential illogicality in the Government’s position is that there does not seem to me to be very much difference on a moral basis between terrorism offences and other serious criminal offences, such as child murder, serial rape or any number of others we might think of, to explain why only offences of terrorism would merit the removal of civil legal aid eligibility.

These measures need considerably more thought and justification. I am also not satisfied that they sit well in a Bill that contains largely necessary and sensible measures that are rightly likely, as we can see in this debate, to command significant cross-party support.

Public Order Bill

Edward Timpson Excerpts
2nd reading
Monday 23rd May 2022

(2 years ago)

Commons Chamber
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Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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First, let me thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. If I may, I am going to offer him the chance to come and have a conversation with me about local policing in his area. There are a couple of points I want to make here first. He asks a useful question about structuring policing. A lot of work is taking place right now on domestic abuse and domestic violence. We want consistency across all police forces on how victims are treated, how to address the whole issue around perpetrators, the support that goes directly to the frontline and raising the bar. He is very welcome to come and have further conversations about that but, in the context of the Bill, if the police were not having to use the amount of resourcing that these protesters are consuming, there would be more policing in the community and more support for his and all our constituents. That is something we would all welcome.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson (Eddisbury) (Con)
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Five years ago, in the run-up to the 2017 general election, an organised group of people forced their way on to my property, where my family were living. We had just had a baby and we were forced out for three days under police protection while the group stayed on top of our roof with loudhailers. Unfortunately, the police were not able to move them on because at that time trespass was just a civil matter. Although we have strengthened the law since then, what is in the Bill that could help people who may find themselves in, if not exactly that situation, a similar situation, which is very distressing and harassing for people on their own private property?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I thank my hon. Friend for his question. He highlights the appalling nature of what we see. That is not peaceful protest at all, but threatening and intimidating. He will know only too well, as someone in public life, the implications of that. He asks directly about the Bill. Serious disruption prevention orders will help hugely with that, which is why the Bill is so significant. Protesters have routes to have their voices heard, and with that better routes and avenues to change policy, and they know that.

A free society does not tolerate interference in our democratic free press, and in the printing or distribution of our newspapers. As we know, we have also seen that in the last few years. Nobody civilised would dream of stopping someone getting to work or children going to school, let alone blocking ambulances. I am afraid we have seen all those examples all too frequently. So we will not be deterred from backing the police and standing up for the law-abiding majority, and that is what this Public Order Bill does.

First, the Bill introduces a new offence for locking on and going equipped to lock on, criminalising the protest tactic of people intentionally causing pandemonium by locking themselves on to busy roads, a building or scaffolding. Locking on can be an extremely dangerous and disruptive tactic. Protesters locking on from great heights place at risk not only themselves but police removal teams. I spent a great deal of time with specialist, highly trained and equipped police removal teams. The tactics they are experiencing are heavily dangerous and, as we touched on, drain a significant amount of police time and resources.

Preventing Crime and Delivering Justice

Edward Timpson Excerpts
Wednesday 11th May 2022

(2 years ago)

Commons Chamber
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Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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First, the hon. Lady and her party spend a great deal of time voting against the measures that we do bring forward on this. Secondly, the passage of the Online Safety Bill will give her and her party every opportunity to support us in keeping the public safe through some of the new offences that will be brought in.

This Government were elected with a manifesto commitment to update the Human Rights Act 1998 so that we enjoy the right balance between the rights of individuals, national security, and effective government. The UK is a global leader with ancient and proud traditions of freedom and human rights. Our Bill of Rights will reinforce freedom of speech and recognise trial by jury. It will strengthen our common-law traditions and reduce our reliance on Strasbourg case law. Crucially, the Bill of Rights will restore public confidence and curb the abuse of the human rights framework by criminals. This is a welcome and much-needed update, 20 years after the Human Rights Act came into force, and it will apply to the whole of the United Kingdom. Human rights are not something that should only be extended to criminals. In what has to be the most twisted logic I have seen as Home Secretary, I have lost count of the number of representations I have received from immigration lawyers and Labour Members begging me not to deport dangerous foreign criminals. The Conservative party stands firmly with the law-abiding majority.

The most vulnerable among us are not murderers, sex offenders and violent thugs, but their victims. Our victims Bill will mean that victims are at the heart of the criminal justice system, that they will get the right support at the right time, and that when they report a crime, the system will deliver a fair and speedy outcome. The victims code will be placed into law, giving a clear signal of what they have a right to expect. There will be more transparent and better oversight of how criminal justice agencies support victims so that we can identify problems, drive up standards, and give the public confidence. We are increasing the funding for victim support services to £185 million by 2024-25. That will mean more independent sexual and domestic violence advisers and new key services such as a crisis helpline.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson (Eddisbury) (Con)
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I very much welcome the measures to put the victims code on a statutory footing, because these are very basic rights that need to be upheld for anyone who is a victim of crime. One of the other consequences of being a victim of crime is often the mental health fall-out from being involved in that crime and what follows afterwards—the trial or other matters. During what is Mental Health Awareness Week, I ask: what can be done to add to the victims code to ensure that those who find themselves in that unenviable position get the support they need so that they can get their mental health back as well as the rest of their life?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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My hon. Friend makes probably one of the most important points about support for victims, and also about how we can help victims to rebuild their lives and live their lives with confidence going forward.

Within this work and the framework is the question of how we integrate many of our mental health service supports and the NHS more widely. The funding for victims, particularly in the areas of independent sexual violence and domestic violence advisers, is just one part of that. Legislation is only part of the solution. It is about how we deliver integrated services within our communities and also how much of the triaging takes place, whether that is through police and crime commissioners, the Victims’ Commissioner or even local policing, as well as mental health services in the community.

Oral Answers to Questions

Edward Timpson Excerpts
Monday 8th February 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I very much refer the hon. Gentleman to the comments that I have just made: a lot of work is taking place with social media platforms. False information, disinformation and manipulated information are intended to deceive and mislead people, and when it comes to the vaccine that is going to risk lives. The Government are very clear about that, which is why action is taking place across all Government Departments, as I have outlined.

It is worth nothing that Ofcom’s latest research shows that the NHS remains the most trusted source of information on covid-19, and therefore it is right that we continue absolutely to put pressure on social media platforms when disinformation materialises, but also make sure that we maximise the right kind of information going out about the vaccine through respected channels of communication.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson (Eddisbury) (Con)
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What steps her Department is taking to reduce knife crime.

Victoria Atkins Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Victoria Atkins) [V]
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After a very difficult weekend in London, our thoughts are with the families, friends and neighbourhoods affected by those incidents of violent crime. Across England and Wales we are increasing police capacity in the forces most affected by violent crime, investing £176 million over two years. We have recently consulted on serious violence reduction orders, which will give the police stop-and-search powers to target individuals previously convicted of knife offences, and we are investing many millions of pounds in early intervention schemes to stop young people being drawn into violence in the first place.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson [V]
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After the recent tragic knife-related murder of a young man in Winsford, Cheshire police have secured funding for 25 16 to 18-year-olds to take part in an employment mentoring programme led by We Mind The Gap, as well as identifying a former community centre to deliver youth and apprenticeship activities. Will my hon. Friend congratulate Cheshire police on a constructive and long-term problem-solving approach to this issue and ensure that they have the funding necessary to prevent knife crime from happening in the first place?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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My hon. Friend has a distinguished record of helping the most vulnerable children in our society, and I join him in welcoming the investment in this and other intervention projects in Cheshire to tackle the root causes of violent crime. I commend the work of Cheshire police in supporting such projects. In this financial year, Cheshire police will receive up to £219 million in funding, and it has already recruited 91 additional officers under the police uplift programme.

DRAFT REHABILITATION OF OFFENDERS ACT 1974 (EXCEPTIONS) ORDER 1975 (AMENDMENT) (ENGLAND AND WALES) ORDER 2020 DRAFT POLICE ACT 1997 (CRIMINAL RECORD CERTIFICATES: RELEVANT MATTERS) (AMENDMENT) (ENGLAND AND WALES) ORDER 2020

Edward Timpson Excerpts
Monday 14th September 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

General Committees
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Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I am so pleased that the right hon. Gentleman has raised that point. He has a particular interest in this matter, and I answer many of his parliamentary questions on it, so I know that it is an area in which he is an expert and to which he is very committed.

Although I do not want to go into the details of all the cases that were joined together, the reason that the Government took those cases to the Supreme Court was that there were many important principles of law to be tested. All along, we have reviewed those rules and done as we thought right. We cannot hide from the fact that the reason that the Disclosure and Barring Service regime and its predecessor were set up in the first place was to protect the most vulnerable in our society. It is right that the Supreme Court was asked to look at the regime as a whole. It found that the regime was satisfactory and within the bounds of article 8 and other measures within the convention, but it drew two points to our attention. We have gone into great detail to ensure that we can bring about a system to enact the observations in the ruling by the Supreme Court, but to do so in a way that keeps the purpose of the regime in place.

The orders before the Committee will not change the purpose of the disclosure regime. The disclosure rules will continue to ensure that children and vulnerable people are protected from dangerous offenders. However, the Supreme Court judgment made it clear that these two areas of concern are disproportionate as currently framed, so the orders will ensure that there is a balance between the safeguarding aims and supporting people who have offended in the past to move into employment and move on with their lives.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson (Eddisbury) (Con)
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I very much welcome these orders—not least for people who had a difficult childhood, potentially in care, and who carried with them through to adulthood a criminal history that has followed them ever since, potentially disproportionately, for the reasons that we have heard. Can the Minister enlighten me about the impact on businesses? Have the Government considered whether the orders will give businesses more reasons to look harder at the potential of employing people who in the past would have had their criminal history disclosed?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I thank my hon. Friend. He was the Minister of State with responsibility for children and families over many years—I think some six or seven years.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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Forgive me, five years. My Hon. Friend had an incredibly positive effect on the lives of many thousands of children across our country, including the most vulnerable. He is absolutely right to raise the issue of businesses, because the disclosure regime—both the order that we are dealing with, in terms of people having to disclose their convictions, and the Disclosure and Barring Service regime itself—is about putting the responsibility for making considered employment decisions on employers. With the exception of the barred list, it is not for the DBS to say, “This person shouldn’t be employed in this particular role.” It is for the employer to make that assessment.

Frankly, I hope that having this debate and the debates we have in the House and in the media really helps to highlight the vital role that employers play in giving young people a second chance, which we all know is so key to their rehabilitating and moving on with their lives. As I say, I am very pleased that the orders will have the effect that, unless affected by other disclosure rules, youth cautions and multiple convictions no longer have to be disclosed when a person is asked about them, and they will no longer be subject to automatic disclosure on standard and enhanced criminal record certificates.

I turn now to the technical parts of the orders. The draft Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 (Amendment) (England and Wales) Order 2020 amends articles 2(2) and (4) of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 to change the definition of a “protected caution” to include all those given where a person was under 18 at the time. The order also amends articles 2(5) and (6) to change the definition of a “protected conviction” by removing the multiple conviction rule exemption from the scope of the definition. The effect of the order is that an individual with a youth reprimand, warning or caution, or those with more than one conviction, will no longer have to self-disclose their criminal record when applying for a role that is eligible for a standard or enhanced DBS check, unless one of the other disclosure rules in engaged.

The draft Police Act 1997 (Criminal Record Certificates: Relevant Matters) (Amendment) (England and Wales) Order 2020 amends the definition of “relevant matter” by excluding the multiple conviction rule and youth cautions, including reprimands and warnings, from the scope of that definition. A “relevant matter” is a matter that must be disclosed by the Disclosure and Barring Service in response to an application for a standard or enhanced criminal record certificate. The effect of the order is that, where not affected by any other rule, youth reprimands, warnings and cautions and multiple convictions will no longer be subject to automatic disclosure in criminal record certificates issued by the DBS.

I emphasise, however, that the Government are clear on their responsibilities to safeguard the public, particularly children and vulnerable adults. Where an offence has been committed, we will want to ensure that the public are adequately safeguarded by enabling employers to make informed recruitment decisions through the disclosure of appropriate and relevant information, particularly for roles that involve close contact with children and vulnerable adults or a high level of public trust.

Convictions and adult cautions will still be disclosed on DBS certificates if they are recent; if they were received for a specified violent or sexual offence; or if a custodial sentence was imposed. Furthermore, the statutory disclosure regime enables chief police officers to disclose any information they consider to be relevant to the purpose of the certificate and in the chief officer’s opinion ought to be included in the certificate. To that end, we intend to publish the associated Home Office statutory guidance for the police alongside this legislative change, to reflect that information about convictions and cautions not automatically disclosed under the rules can, in principle, be included in a certificate in the same way as other police information reasonably believed to be relevant for the purpose for which the certificate is sought.

We are confident that these changes, if agreed, will still enable employers to make informed recruitment decisions, but in a way that enables those who committed minor offences and who offended long ago to move away from their past and on with their lives. This will particularly benefit those with childhood cautions.

I hope the Committee will support the two orders to ensure compatibility with article 8 while continuing to support effective protection for children and vulnerable adults. I commend these orders to the Committee.