HC Deb 10 July 2002 vol 388 cc980-98
Mr. Paice

I beg to move amendment No. 7, in page 145, line 15, leave out paragraph 2.

I do not intend to detain the House long. Those who have followed the proceedings of the Bill know that what the Minister says is more important than the amendment. The House knows that the power of detention to be given to civilians is highly controversial. The other place rejected it; it was re-inserted by the Government in Committee, and the amendment seeks to reverse that and restore the schedule to the state in which it returned to this place.

The heart of the matter is whether we should allow civilians to be so intrusive into civil rights as to detain somebody for 30 minutes. There are many practical issues, such as what happens if a police officer does not arrive within 30 minutes, and what happens if, when he does arrive, he does not agree with the decision to detain the individual. There are issues such as the principle of policing whereby after a person is detained or arrested, he is removed from the street as soon as possible, so that he does not become the focus of further agitation, disruption or disorder. All those are serious problems.

I shall not rehearse the arguments, as they have been thoroughly rehearsed before. When we debated the matter in Committee, I acknowledged that at least one sector of the police force—the Metropolitan police—wants to be able to give the power to some of its civilian officers. We have made a point of listening to the various voices of the police throughout the country. We recognise that there is a demand for the power of detention, but we remain immensely concerned.

I suggested that if the Minister were prepared to consider some sort of pilot arrangements, we would view them favourably. I am anxious to hear whether, after much deliberation, he intends to present such proposals. We remain of the view that the power of detention generally should not be available to civilians, but we are prepared to consider some form of test process.

Mr. Denham

I shall not speak long, as a number of Back-Bench Members wish to speak in the debate. It would be helpful to place on the record the intention-indeed, the commitment—of the Government with regard to the introduction of community support officers with the power to detain with reasonable force, and how we will approach the matter of piloting. I do not wish to rehearse the debate about the powers themselves other than to say that I fully recognise that concerns have been expressed about CSOs' power to detain with reasonable force.

In the light of those concerns, the Government have considered how we can ensure that the power is introduced in a controlled manner. We want to allow for it to be tested in practice in a sufficient number of varied forces to gain experience of its operation before it is made available to all police forces in England and Wales. First, we invited Sir Keith Povey, Her Majesty's chief inspector of constabulary—and he agreed—to monitor and to take responsibility for evaluating the use of the power in the first two years after the commencement of this part of the Act. Secondly, during the first two years after the commencement of the Act, the maximum number of forces that will be allowed to deploy CSOs with the power to use detention with reasonable force will be six. We settled on that number following consultation with the chief inspector of constabulary. We will use the commencement powers in clause 103 to enforce that limit. Thirdly, no other forces will be allowed to deploy CSOs with the power of detention until the report of the chief inspector's evaluation has been published and laid before the House, allowing chief officers in particular—as well as others, of course—to consider its conclusions before deciding whether to deploy CSOs with those powers. I should make it clear that that approach would not preclude other police forces from employing CSOs, but without the power of detention with reasonable force.

One of the forces that wishes to deploy CSOs with that power is the Metropolitan police service, which in itself constitutes a significant part of the police service in England and Wales. I have discussed with the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis how widely he expects to deploy CSOs with that power over the next two years. Understandably, he does not wish to impose an arbitrary limit, especially given the interest shown by a number of boroughs in working with the MPS to provide additional CSOs. To avoid confusion, the commissioner wishes all CSOs based in the community in London to have the same powers. With the exception of those employed on transport routes in conjunction with Transport for London, CSOs will normally be deployed in one particular borough by agreement with the local authority. It is difficult at the present time to estimate the level of take-up, but there is nothing to suggest that any more than half the boroughs—that is, 16—will take up the option within the next two years, and I believe that the figure may be somewhat lower than that. That is the best indication that I can give of the position in London.

I hope that in the light of such undertakings hon. Members will feel that rather than delete the power entirely from the Bill, this framework will allow the pilots to take place and to be evaluated independently of Ministers, and for the results of that evaluation to be released before the power is made more generally available across the police service, which would itself depend on the outcome of the evaluation.

Norman Baker

The Minister will know that there has been considerable disquiet about the suggestion that non-police officers should have the power to detain. That has been expressed not only by Liberal Democrat and Conservative Members, but by the Association of Chief Police Officers and by police officers around the country. It is therefore welcome that the Government have listened. It is welcome that they have removed detention powers from accredited officers. It is also sensible that they have decided not to go hell for leather in going as far as they can with CSOs in the initial stages. It may seem churlish to say that we cannot support what the Government have done because we would like them to go further. We are in favour of a pilot scheme, but one that tries out CSOs without the power of detention, and then allows police forces to say that they have not worked without the power of detention. That would be a safer route than trying them with the power of detention.

The hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) rehearsed some of the arguments as to why there is significant opposition to giving the power of detention to people who are not police officers. There is insufficient time to go through those arguments again, as there is only five minutes to go before the guillotine comes down. However, the fact that neither the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire nor I have rehearsed the objections does not undermine their validity because they are serious and widely held. By giving non-police officers the power to detain, we cross the rubicon, and we are unhappy about that.

The Minister said that there would be some safeguards. I welcome the involvement, as far as it goes, of the chief inspector of constabulary. That is a sensible move. I also welcome the fact that a maximum number of forces will be involved. However, I am bound to say that the opposition to CSOs generally, which chief constables throughout the country have expressed, means that it is unlikely that more than six forces will wish to have them, let alone those with the power to detain. The Minister scrabbles around, mentions the Met and Northamptonshire and subsequently runs out of places that have expressed a wish for CSOs without having their arms twisted. He will be hard pushed to find more than six forces to accept them; he has not therefore made that much of a concession.

The Minister has accepted some of the legitimate arguments against the power to detain. I acknowledge that he has tried to devise a compromise that allays anxieties. I welcome the distance that he has travelled, but I regret that he has not gone far enough for my Liberal Democrat colleagues and me. We cannot accept the principle of giving non-police officers the power to detain.

Mr. Llwyd

I agree with the comments of the hon Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), although I welcome the pilot scheme and fact that it will be evaluated. However, the possible conflicts that CSOs with the power of detention will face may prove overwhelming. They will often have to deal with antisocial behaviour and drunkenness, from which aggression and violence can emanate. That is a mistake, and I believe that the pilot scheme will show that. However, I give the Government due credit.

Any practitioner in criminal law will say that reasonable force is a difficult concept. There are so many precedents and cases determined on the phrase that it will be difficult for a person with less training than an ordinary police officer to decide when to "balance it to a nicety", in the words of an established case. The power of detention will give rise to court cases, and I believe that it may fall into disrepute. It involves great dangers and I am therefore wary of it. It will not be widely used and it will ultimately die, but I am pleased that the Government are prepared to consider it in pilot form.

Mr. Paice

The hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) said that he believed that the power of detention by non-police officers would prove a mistake, and he may be right. Like the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), we have always maintained that it is not necessary to give CSOs the power to detain. However, I acknowledge that there are those in the Met—and probably only in the Met—who want such powers, and I do not want to deny them the opportunity of at least trying them out.

I welcome the Minister's comments. However, I suspect that we have won what may prove to be a pyrrhic victory. The hon. Member for Lewes is probably right that the Government will not find more than six forces that want the powers. Nevertheless, I welcome the fact that the Minister has listened to the arguments and recognised the genuine anxieties that not only Conservative Members but the Police Federation and almost everyone in the police, apart from the Met, have expressed. I am now placed in something of a quandary, because in my view, the Minister has given me what I wanted to get out of this debate: a very clear pledge for pilot schemes. What he has said is all on record, and I welcome his comments. I also welcome the role of the chief inspector of constabulary.

Throughout our proceedings on the Bill, as the Minister knows, the Liberal Democrats and the official Opposition have taken the same view on the issue with which the amendment deals. I do not wish my colleagues to support the amendment, as I believe that the Minister has gone far enough, but in deference to its fellow signatories, I shall not ask leave to withdraw it, as I know that they wish to pursue the matter and I would rather not be put into the position of having my request for withdrawal opposed. That may sound pusillanimous, but I am trying to be fair to everybody, and I conclude by thanking the Minister, as I welcome the commitments that he has made.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 54, Noes 294.

Division No. 306] [9 pm
Allan, Richard Kirkwood, Archy
Baker, Norman Lamb, Norman
Barrett, John Laws, David
Beith, Rt Hon A J Llwyd, Elfyn
Brake, Tom Moore, Michael
Breed, Colin Oaten, Mark
Bruce, Malcolm Öpik, Lembit
Burnett, John Price, Adam
Calton, Mrs Palsy Pugh, Dr John
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife) Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Rendel, David
Carmichael, Alistair Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Chidgey, David Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Cotter, Brian Sanders, Adrian
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Stunell, Andrew
Doughty, Sue Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Ewing, Annabelle Thomas, Simon (Ceredigbn)
Foster, Don (Bath) Thurso, John
George, Andrew (St lves) Tonge, Dr Jenny
Gidley, Sandra Tyler, Paul
Green, Matthew (Ludlow) Webb, Steve
Hancock, Mike Weir, Michael
Harris, Dr Evan (Oxford W) Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Harvey, Nick Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Heath, David Willis, Phil
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas Younger-Ross, Richard
Holmes, Paul
Hughes, Simon (Southward N) Tellers for the Ayes:
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W) Mrs. Annette L. Brooke and
Sir Robert Smith.
Abbott, Ms Diane Atherton, Ms Candy
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Atkins, Charlotte
Ainger, Nick Austin, John
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE) Bailey, Adrian
Alexander, Douglas Banks, Tony
Allen, Graham Barnes, Harry
Anderson, Rt Hon Donald (Swansea E) Barron, Rt Hon Kevin
Battle, John
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Begg, Miss Anne
Beggs, Roy Fitzpatrick, Jim
Bennett, Andrew Flint, Caroline
Benton, Joe Flynn, Paul
Berry, Roger Follett, Barbara
Betts, Clive Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Blackman, Liz Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Blears, Ms Hazel Francis, Dr Hywel
Blizzard, Bob Gapes, Mike
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul Gardiner Barry
Borrow, David Gerrard Neil
Bradley, Rt Hon Keith (Withington) Gibson Dr lan
Bradshaw, Ben Gilroy, Linda
Brennan Kevin Godsiff, Roger
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Goggins, Paul
Bryant, Chris Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Burgon, Colin Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Burnham Andy Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Burnside, David Grogan, John
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard Hall Patrick (Bedford)
Cairns David Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Hanson, David
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Healey John
Caplin Ivor Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Casale, Roger Hendrick, Mark
Caton, Martin Heppell, John
Cawsey, Ian Hermon, Lady
Challen, Colin Heyes, David
Chaytor, David Hodge, Margaret
Clapham, Michael Hoey, Kate
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands) Hood, Jimmy
Hope, Phil
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Hopkins, Kelvin
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Clelland, David Howells, Dr Kim
Clwyd, Ann Hoyle, Lindsay
Coaker, Vernon Hughes, Beverley (Stretford)
Coffey, Ms Ann Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cohen, Harry Humble, Mrs Joan
Coleman, lain Hurst, Alan
Colman, Tony Hutton, Rt Hon John
Corston, Jean Iddon Dr Brian
Cousins, Jim lllsley Eric
Cox, Tom Irranca—Davies, Huw
Crausby, David Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Cruddas, Jon Jamieson, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley) Jenkins Brian
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Jones Helen (Warrington N)
Cummings, John Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington) Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire Joyce, Eric
Dalyell, Tam
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W) Keen, Ann (Brentford & lsleworth)
Daivd, Wayne Kemp, Fraser
Davidson, lan Kennedy Jane (Wavertree)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H) Kidney, David
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Dawson.Hilton Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Dean, Mrs Janet Kumar, Dr Ashok
Denham, Rt Hon John Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Dhanda, Parmjit Lammy, David
Dismore Andrew Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Dobbin, Jim Laxton, Bob
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank Lepper, David
Dodds, Nigel Leslie, Christopher
Doran, Frank Levitt, Tom
Dowd, Jim Lewis, lvan (Bury S)
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Edwards, Huw Linton, Martin
Efford, Clive Lloyd, Tony
Ennis, Jeff Love, Andrew
Etherington, Bill Lucas, Ian
Luke, lain Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Lyons, John
McAvoy, Thomas Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
McCabe, Stephen Robinson, Mrs Iris (Strangford)
McCafferty, Chris Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian Ross, Ernie
MacDonald, Calum Roy, Frank
McDonnell, John Ruane, Chris
MacDougall, John Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
McFall, John Sarwar, Mohammad
McGuire, Mrs Anne Savidge, Malcolm
McIsaac, Shona Sawford, Phil
McKechin, Ann Sedgemore, Brian
McKenna, Rosemary Shaw, Jonathan
Mackinlay, Andrew Sheridan, Jim
McNamara, Kevin Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
McNulty, Tony Singh, Marsha
Mactaggart, Fiona Skinner, Dennis
McWalter, Tony Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Mahmood, Khalid Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe)
Mahon, Mrs Alice Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Mallaber, Judy Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Mann, John Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Marris, Rob Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Soley, Clive
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Southworth, Helen
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Squire, Rachel
Marshall-Andrews, Robert Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Martlew, Eric Steinberg, Gerry
Merron, Gillian Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Miliband, David Stinchcombe, Paul
Miller, Andrew Stoate, Dr Howard
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Tami, Mari
Moffatt Laura Taylor, Rt Hon Ann (Dewsbury)
Mole Chris Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Morgan Julie Thomas' Gareth (Harrow W
Morley, Elliot Tipping, Paddy
Mountford.Kali Todd, Mark
Mullin, Chris Touhig, Don
Munn, Ms Meg Trickett, Jon
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Tumer Dr Desmon (Kemptown)
Murphy Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen) Tumer, Neil (Wigan)
Naysmrth DrDoug Twigg, Derek (Halton)
O Hara, Edward Tynan, Bill
Olner, Bill Vaz, Keith
Olner, Bill Vis, Dr Rudi
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr) Walley, Ms Joan
Owen, Albert Wareing, Robert N
Palmer, Dr Nick Watson, Tom
Picking, Anne Watts David
Pickthall, Colin White, Brian
Pike, Peter Whitehead, Dr Alan
Plaskitt, James Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Pope, Greg Winnick, David
Pound, Stephen Woodward, Shaun
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Woolas, Phil
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Worthington, Tony
Prosser, Gwyn Wray, James
Purchase, Ken Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Purnell, James Wright, David (Telford)
Quin, Rt Hon Joyce Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, Rt Hon Nick Tellers for the Noes:
Reed, Andy (Loughbotough) Mr. Ian Pearson and
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N) Joan Ryan.

Question accordingly negatived.

It being after Nine o'clock, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Questions necessary to dispose of the business at that hour, pursuant to Order [this day].

Remaining Government amendments agreed to.

Order for Third Reading read.

9.11 pm
Mr. Denham

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

We are quite close to the end of a process that began for me about a year ago, just after the general election, when my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I picked up the mantle of police reform. I thank all Members who contributed to debates during the Bill's passage through the House—in particular, the members of the Home Affairs Committee, whose report was extremely useful. The Committee carried out a valuable inquiry, which was perhaps not entirely pre-legislative scrutiny because the Committee did not have the full legislation to scrutinise in the way that it might have liked. None the less, it was very helpful in drawing out the major issues

From the Opposition Front Benches, the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) and the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) have contributed fully, particularly during discussions in the main Chamber. I especially want to acknowledge the work of the hon. Members for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice), for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins), for Lewes (Norman Baker) and for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Mrs. Brooke), who carried the bulk of the debate in Committee—though not all of it, of course—for their respective parties. I am also grateful for the thoughtful and well-informed interventions from the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon), who made a valuable contribution in Committee and, indeed, throughout proceedings.

Several of my colleagues on the Government Benches took part, including, among others, my hon. Friends the Members for Wellingborough (Mr. Stinchcombe), for North Durham (Mr. Jones) and for Lewisham, East (Ms Prentice) as well as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Redcar (Vera Baird). I am particularly grateful to the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Ainsworth), who ably took on part 2 of the Bill in Committee.

The Bill arrived in the House much amended from discussions in another place, and it has been further amended here. I have no embarrassment in saying—no Minister ever should—that the Bill is better today than when the Government published it. I am one of those who believes in the role of parliamentary scrutiny. While one or two things that have happened in the closing stages reflect other realities, much change results from careful scrutiny in the House and in another place.

As many Members have said, there is a great deal of agreement on the Bill. I shall outline briefly its main purposes and how we believe that it will work. It is worth acknowledging that, in addition to some initial aims, we have achieved significant changes that will help the police service and others to fight crime. In Committee there was a warm welcome for the provisions on sex offender orders, which will provide better protection for vulnerable people against convicted sex offenders. We have also brought police officers under the protection of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, which was one of the recommendations of the Home Affairs Select Committee. I feel that the Bill now has much to commend it.

In his introduction to the police reform White Paper published before Christmas, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said of the police reform process in general: Our task is clear. We want to prevent, detect, apprehend and convict the perpetrators of crime. We need and will have a process that enables those undertaking the basic task of protecting our homes, our streets, and our persons, to do the job more effectively. Whether in dramatically slimming down bureaucracy and reassigning tasks in a way that frees up police officers to do their real job more effectively, or in extending what we are calling the 'police family' to engage others in policing, or in adopting more modern techniques: we will bring about change.

My right hon. Friend concluded In the end, it will not be the statistics on crime falling, or targets met for burglary or vehicle crime, but rather the difference felt in the neighbourhood and community itself which will be judge and jury of these reforms. It is time to focus on preventing crime and protecting the victims, and to place the weight of society behind this drive to reform the police. I think the Home Secretary was right to be realistic and honest when identifying the "judge and jury" of the reforms, not all of which require legislation but some of which have been dealt with in the Bill.

We have set out to continue the reduction in crime, to tackle persistent offenders more effectively, to improve detection and conviction rates, to tackle antisocial behaviour, to reduce the fear of crime, to provide support for victims of crime, and to rebuild confidence in key aspects of the police service. The Bill contains a series of measures enabling us to do all that. It gives us a framework for the promotion of best practice through the introduction of a national policing plan setting out—after consultation—the Government's priorities for policing and how they are to be delivered. There is a three-tier approach to good practice with regulations, codes of practice and guidance to ensure that good operational and management policies for policing can be adopted throughout the service.

The Bill meets a long-standing demand from many quarters for an Independent Police Complaints Commission, not to harry the police but to ensure that there is public confidence in them, and to ensure that they themselves feel they are being fairly treated if complaints are made against them. That is another important piece of work.

We have modernised the system for the removal, suspension and disciplining of police officers. In a crucial part of the Bill that we have discussed at length, we have set a framework for the extended police family—not just through the creation of community support officers and accredited community safety officers, but by giving other civilians limited police powers so that police officers are free to perform wider duties. I think that in years to come the role of civilians properly designated to perform escort, detention and investigative work will be seen as an important innovation allowing much more flexibility in the deployment of police officers.

Mr. Allen

Those were wise words from the Home Secretary. The Bill, or the process, will indeed be judged on the basis of its impact on communities and neighbourhoods in terms of their experience of policing.

I hope my right hon. Friend will remember his political roots. I hope that not just the granting of more resources than ever before, and the presence of more police on duty than ever before, but the number of officers visible on the streets and estates of our communities will, at a general election, provide the judge and jury mentioned earlier.

Mr. Denham

My hon. Friend raises a significant point. Visibility is enormously important, but so is visibility with a clear purpose. Through the wider police reform programme, we are anxious to encourage the deployment across all police forces of the national intelligence model. Through that model officers can, in addition to being deployed in visible roles, bring method and focus to their work. Combining those two policing elements—good intelligence, information and deployment of officers, together with high visibility—is very important indeed.

Of course, part of the background to the Bill is our substantial investment in police resources. We have reversed the long-term decline in police numbers that was initiated under the previous Conservative Government, and we now have record police numbers, which will rise to 130,000 next spring. Through local authorities, we have also invested substantially in crime and disorder reduction. The work of crime and disorder reduction partnerships—through which local authorities and other agencies work alongside the police—is also essential if we are to prove successful in the fight against crime, antisocial behaviour and the fear of crime.

Party political views have been expressed throughout this debate, but in a constructive way, so I shall mention only in passing that crime doubled under the previous Conservative Government, and that police officer numbers fell steadily at the end of their time in office. That is an important consideration. We have committed ourselves to fighting crime in every way necessary. I am convinced that, by underpinning reform of the police service and ensuring that police officers have the support necessary to do the job, we are taking that fight forward in an effective way through the passage of this Bill.

9.22 pm
Mr. Paice

I am sorry that the Minister had to resort to party politics at the end of his otherwise well-thought-out and well-presented Third Reading speech, which, until that point, had followed many of the traditional patterns. I cannot but note that my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) is sitting on the Bench behind me—unlike the Home Secretary, who is doubtless touring every media studio, defending his drugs policy against the onslaught that he has unleashed from all those who, like us, recognise it as nonsense.

As the Minister said, the Bill has had a very long passage, which is nearly—but not quite—over. It must go to the other place, and it remains to be seen what the Lords will make of the considerable number of amendments to it. Although virtually all of them are non-controversial, they will none the less have to be considered, and we will see what happens.

I am pleased to say that, with a few notable exceptions, the debates on the Bill—at least, those in which I have participated—have been a good example of parliamentary scrutiny, through which we have discussed many issues. That contrasts with other, fairly torrid Bill proceedings in which I have participated in my time, both in opposition and in government. The Police Reform Bill has been much more enjoyable and constructive than many others.

It is certainly a very much better Bill now than the one that was introduced in the other place many months ago. It is much better because, to be fair, the Government have made several concessions in the light of arguments that we advanced in both Houses.

I was slightly let down by the Minister's admitting last night that, at least in respect of the Henry VIII clause, he was acknowledging the arithmetic—or mathematics, as he described it—of the other place. I am sorry that he resorted to that admission; we like to believe that he was influenced by our strength of argument on the issues. Nevertheless, in the spirit of good will, I recognise that the Government have made significant compromises on the Henry VIII clause in particular, and on clause 5, which we discussed earlier this evening.

Equally, as the Minister will accept, the Opposition have made significant concessions. It is no secret that had we started with a clean sheet of paper, we would not have invented community support officers. We would have preferred to adopt another route, using the special constabulary. However, we recognise the need for considerable assistance for the police through the civilian route, and we have supported CSOs throughout. The only issue has been what powers they should be given, and there, too, we accepted the inevitability that certain powers would be given. I again welcome the commitment that the Minister made on pilot schemes for detention.

Many of the measures in the Bill have gone through almost without debate. Some hon. Members, and some outsiders too, may say that that shows that Parliament is not working. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) is not here today; otherwise he might have something to say on the subject. I contend, however, that the reason why so many issues went through almost, although not totally, undiscussed supports the contention of my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset that we agreed with 98 per cent. of the Bill from the outset. I am sorry, I should not have called him my hon. Friend, because one of the things that has happened during the passage of the Bill is that he has become my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset.

Norman Baker

Entirely unconnected.

Mr. Paice

I like to believe that the two are connected; my job would not be worth doing if I did not.

I shall remind the House of some of the issues that have gone through almost unnoticed: the plans for regulations on common use of equipment, the codes of practice, the principle of the independent commission, and the measures supplementing police powers, especially in connection with antisocial behaviour orders. We welcome the improvements to ASBOs; so far they have not been the raging success that the Government initially said they would be. We also welcome the changes to the legislation on sex offenders, although, as my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) said when we discussed the matter last night, we look forward to the Government's further consideration of the whole panoply of issues relating to sex crime.

I notice that my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) is here tonight, and we also strongly welcome the changes to the law on blood tests for people who are unconscious and unable to give consent.

As the Bill has progressed, the negotiations with the Police Federation on pay and conditions have been going on. The changes were all part of the great reform package that the Home Secretary announced last year, but then he had to go to the Police Federation conference and apologise for the tensions that he had caused with his proposals for alterations to pay and conditions.

The Opposition have consistently accepted the need for, and wanted to see, improvements in police performance in many areas. The introduction to the White Paper that the Minister quoted in his speech was uncontentious. We entirely agree with the gist of it, about the need to detect and drive down crime, and improve police performance. We can never achieve the ultimate perfection; there is always room for improvement.

Yes, we have had differences of opinion about how that can be done. We remain of the view that the independence of individual constabularies and chief officers is paramount, and we have sought to protect that throughout the debates on the Bill. We also believe that we need to consider further ways of increasing that independence and enhancing local accountability—but that is a debate for another time.

Like the Minister, I want to thank those who have been so helpful and constructive during the passage of the Bill. I shall identify the outside organisations without which, as the Minister, having been in opposition, well knows, opposition would be even more difficult than it is. I thank the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Chief Police Officers Staff Association, the Police Superintendents Association, the Police Federation, the Association of Police Authorities and many individual police officers of all ranks for all the advice and assistance that they have given to the Opposition throughout the passage of the Bill.

I also wish to recognise the constructive approach that the Minister has taken. Despite his occasional lapses into political rhetoric—including the example of a few moments ago—he has addressed the issue with considerable responsibility and command of his subject. I have immense respect for the Minister's command of his subject, and I congratulate him on it. I also recognise and respect the huge contributions made by the hon. Members for Lewes (Norman Baker), for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Mrs. Brooke) and for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes), who have driven the issue forward for the Liberal Democrats.

I also endorse the Minister's comments about the Committee. On our side, we had my hon. Friends the Members for Tatton (Mr. Osborne), for Henley (Mr. Johnson) and for Newark (Patrick Mercer), as well as the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon). All of them made significant contributions. I recall at one stage the Minister conjuring up the vision of a CSO attempting to apprehend my hon. Friend the Member for Henley when he was in a condition of disrepute, shall we say, after a good night out. It was one of the lighter moments in Committee.

Most of the Bill is welcomed by the Opposition. Inevitably, we would prefer that some bits were not in it, and the vexed issue of clause 5 remains. I strongly welcome the Minister's remarks this evening and the amendments that he has proposed to clause 5. We are much closer to solving the outstanding problems and I look forward to a full resolution in the near future. The Minister will understand that, as that resolution has not yet been achieved, I cannot undertake to support the Bill in the Lobby tonight, but I suspect that the opportunity will not arise. However, we would not dream of opposing the Bill, because it contains many measures that we wholly welcome and support. We hope that it will soon pass into legislation, and face the real test of whether all those hopes and expectations can be met by the police and the many civilians who will be brought into the police family. I thank the Minister and the House for the opportunity to consider the Bill. We look forward to seeing it in action.

9.32 pm
Mr. Kevan Jones

I concur with the sentiments expressed by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary: the judge and jury on the success of the Bill will be the people in constituencies such as mine. One of the key issues is not the dry statistics—the public are now bored with politicians from all parties talking about those—but the effectiveness of the measures in local communities. Fear of crime is a major issue in my constituency, and many others. The CSOs will do much, judging by the experiment that has been carried out in my constituency, to allay that fear. The extension of powers and in the use of antisocial behaviour orders will make a real difference and will be very welcome.

I have enjoyed serving in Committee and contributing to debate. I will miss the interventions of the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne) and his quotations from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, which the hon. Gentleman appears to have catalogued assiduously over the past few weeks.

Mr. George Osborne

I've got more.

Mr. Jones

As the hon. Gentleman's remark shows, the debate has been good-natured. If my questioning of the hon. Members for Lewes (Norman Baker) and for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Mrs. Brooke) has seemed tough at times. I apologise, but I see it as my role to try to pin the Liberal Democrats down to a policy occasionally. I know that that is difficult for them.

Mr. Paice

Has the hon. Gentleman noticed that the Liberal Democrats have managed to have two policies on one issue during the consideration of the Bill? He will recall that on the last day in Committee they tabled an amendment to abolish the Riot (Damages) Act 1886. Last night, in the House of Lords, they voted against abolishing that Act.

Mr. Jones

I am grateful for that intervention. On one occasion, Liberal Democrat Members had three different policies on the same day. They argued that the Home Secretary should have more powers, and then that the local authority should have independence. However, we will not dwell on that.

This is a very good Bill, and it will make a difference in communities throughout the country. I hope that, when CSOs have proved to be electorally popular, they will be enthusiastically endorsed by Liberal Democrat Members.

9.35 pm
Norman Baker

I do not think that the Third Reading debate should be used to pick on Liberal Democrats. That is very unfair, although I must confess that I did not know about the Riot (Damages) Act 1886.

The Minister can sit easy on his Bench, as we have no intention of dividing the House on Third Reading. The Government Whip will be pleased to know that, too. Those hon. Members enjoying the all-party parliamentary beer group dinner can continue to do so, while those of us assiduously carrying out our parliamentary duties here will miss it this year.

I thank the Minister for his contribution to our debates, which has usually been good humoured. He has certainly been in command of his subject, as the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) said. I thank Conservative Front. Benchers for their constructive approach. It has been useful to work with them and the Government team during the Bill's progress through the House. That shows that hon. Members can behave in a mature way to find common ground where possible, and yet not sacrifice the principles that they hold dear.

I want to thank the Clerks and the other Officers of the House who have been so helpful throughout our deliberations, and the pressure groups outside the House. I must also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Poole and North Dorset—I apologise, it is the other way around: she is my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Mrs. Brooke). There may be two policies on her constituency, but she has been of great assistance on the Bill.

The Bill has been improved by the parliamentary process. That is a cliché, but in this case it is true. The Bill is markedly better as a result of the process, partly because of the force of the arguments deployed, and partly because of the arithmetic involved. Whatever the reason, the result shows that parliamentary scrutiny works. The House can take pride in the fact that the Bill has been improved, and hon. Members collectively can congratulate themselves that a Bill will reach the statute book that we all think will improve matters for policing and for law and order.

I do not agree with 98 per cent. of the Bill, as the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) appears to, but I am pleased that the Government have introduced it. My approval rating for it is certainly in the 90s now, which is higher than it was originally.

As has been said, the Bill contains many good things. I shall not go into detail now, but there is no doubt that much of the Bill will improve matters, nor that it commands support among hon. Members of all three main parties. The sex offenders orders were completely uncontroversial, and they will go along way towards dealing with a matter about which many hon. Members have had grave reservations. In addition, I am pleased with the introduction of the independent police complaints commission. Even if it does not cover Tesco-type police, it will deal with all other officers. It is a welcome innovation that will be support by the public at large. In the long term, it will go a long way towards improving public confidence in the police, as all hon. Members want.

Few issues remain unresolved for the House of Lords to deal with. I suspect that my colleagues and I will not be entirely satisfied with the proposals on CSOs when the Bill finally receives Royal Assent, but we can probably live with that. Overall, the Bill will improve policing and we are pleased to support it.

I thank all those hon. Members in the Select Committee on Home Affairs and in Standing Committee A who have helped with the Bill, and those people outside the House who also made a contribution. I am pleased to have played a small role, along with other hon. Members, in producing legislation that will benefit the country at large.

I have one small gripe with the ministerial team on this Bill, who were reasonably non-partisan in Committee and, to a lesser extent, on the Floor of the House. However, it is very rare that Opposition amendments are accepted, although those often tend to be produced by pressure groups that, equally, produce amendments that the Government are happy to accept. The Government would get more credit if they sometimes accepted Opposition amendments and showed more willingness to agree that the fount of all knowledge may not rest with them but that, occasionally, Opposition Members have good ideas that should be incorporated. If the Government say so, we should not exploit that by claiming massive victories but accept that we have gone forward in a spirit of compromise and good will.

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to make these comments. I wish the Bill well in the House of Lords.

9.40 pm
Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton)

I would like to use this opportunity to put on record my thanks and those of my constituents, Mr. and Mrs. Yeoman, the parents of a young nurse, Charis Yeoman, who was killed by a drunk driver while driving her car. On 6 June 2000, I secured an Adjournment debate in Westminster Hall, and the then Minister of State at the Home Office, the right hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke), said that he recognised that there was a loophole in the law, and pledged to close it. The Bill does just that.

I thank all Home Office Ministers and officials for bringing about the very difficult negotiations between the police force and those in the medical profession. Having met the BMA ethics committee before I brought the matter to the attention of the House, I know how difficult it has been for those two bodies to reach a compromise. However, that has been achieved, and it would be remiss of me not to say thank you. I believe that this will enable the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to bring to justice people who, through their wanton behaviour of drink-driving, kill innocent people such as Charis Yeoman. So, on my constituents' behalf, I thank the Minister that this provision is in the Bill.

Finally, I hope that when the Bill receives Royal Assent there will not be a long delay in implementing this part of it. Quite a long time can pass before certain parts of a Bill are implemented, and I hope that the Minister can reassure me on that matter.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord)

David Cameron. [Interruption.] I am sorry-George Osborne.

9.42 pm
Mr. George Osborne

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) and I are often confused for each other. Indeed, he has taken an active part in these debates.

I should like to take part in this mutual round of self-congratulation. It has been a great pleasure taking part in these debates. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) for the way in which he has achieved exactly what he set out to achieve He is expert at filleting Home Office Bills and proves that opposition is sometimes more effective with a scalpel than a blunderbuss. Indeed, he is teaching that to the rest of my party.

I also pay tribute to the Minister for the intelligent and gracious way in which he has steered the Bill through its stages. He dealt with some tricky interventions—usually from the hon. and learned Member for Redcar (Vera Baird). She raised some tricky legal questions, which he dealt with pretty well.

I pay special tribute to my Front-Bench team. Being a junior Front-Bench spokesman in any Parliament, whoever is in government, is a pretty difficult and miserable job, and my hon. Friends the Members for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) and for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice), as well as the Whip, who is not here at present, did it extremely well. Without them, there would be no proper parliamentary process.

I have enjoyed sparring with the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr. Jones). I will now throw away my copy of the Second Reading debate of the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994 and the various quotes from the right hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) before he was Prime Minister. I note in passing that it was the right hon. Gentleman who came up with the innovation of the Opposition not voting against major criminal justice legislation, for which he got a lot of credit at the time. So we remember that Act.

As many hon. Members have said, the Bill is better than when it was first published. The best bits, such as the Independent Police Complaints Commission, have remained largely unaltered, although it is a shame that the chairman of the Home Affairs Committee could not do a bit of empire-building earlier this evening.

Some new good bits have been added during the debates on the Bill, particularly the provisions that will give social landlords the power to issue antisocial behaviour orders, which will make a difference in my constituency and, I imagine, most others. The worst bits of the Bill have been considerably improved, particularly clause 5 and the powers for CSOs.

All in all, good things have come from this process, which has been a pleasure to watch. The Bill is still more prescriptive and centralising than I would like, but there we go. I remain sceptical about CSOs, but as the hon. Member for North Durham said, the proof of the pudding will come later—on the streets of our country and we will all watch to see what happens.

9.45 pm
Lady Hermon

It is indeed a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne).

On Second Reading, I warned the Minister that police reform is notoriously difficult to manage. I pay tribute to him for heeding the warning, as did the Home Secretary. Our experience in Northern Ireland has been most unfortunate. When the Patten report was published, the issue was handled with great insensitivity. Reforms were necessary, but they were handled very badly, which resulted in widespread disillusionment among the police force.

Patten recommended that our regular police force should stand at 7,500 over 10 years, but it has dropped dramatically to below 6,900 in less than two and a half years. I urge the Minister and the Home Secretary to continue their consultations with the rank and file members and the Police Federation throughout the land. It is important to maintain the morale of rank and file members.

I pay tribute, as other hon. Members have done, to the Minister and his ministerial colleagues. They were very courteous, patient and efficient throughout the progress of the Bill, and I mean that most sincerely. In Committee on 20 June, I asked the Minister a question regarding the human rights training of community support officers. I should like to place on record the fact that he sent me a very full reply within days in which he explained: The Metropolitan Police have confirmed that their CSO training will include training on the Human Rights Act. He continued: The Human Rights Act is important legislation. All CSOs will be required to understand and act within it at all times, in the same professional manner as police officers do. I commend him on the speed with which he was able to follow up undertakings to write to hon. Members on that and subsequent occasions, and I am sure that I speak for other hon. Members who served on the Committee.

The theme of human rights was mentioned by many hon. Members in Committee. After the Minister has had a good night's sleep—he has worked very hard this evening—I should like him to reflect on another example from Northern Ireland: the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. The commission advises the Assembly on the adequacy and effectiveness of the laws and practice in relation to the protection of human rights. It staves off a lot of criticism and avoids problems before they end up in legislative form. I commend the good work of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. Although there are differences about the appointment of its members, it need not be dreaded. Indeed, it could be very helpful in future.

It would be most remiss of me to omit paying tribute to all hon. Members who served on the Committee. I very much regretted the fact that I had to absent myself on various occasions because of commitments in North Down.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) is not present. I did not agree with a word that he said on the vast majority of occasions, but we all found him exceedingly entertaining. I also pay tribute to the officials who were also involved in the Committee. They were exceedingly kind and helpful to me when I brought various drafting queries to their attention.

May I leave the Minister or his officials with a little query? I hope that he will answer a question, and I am sure that he will write to me by tomorrow. This evening, we voted through Government amendment No. 52, which amended paragraph 6(1) of schedule 1. I shall read, at this late hour, paragraph 6(1) as we have amended it: Section 80 shall become subsection (1) of that section, and in that section, after that subsection, there shall be inserted—". I look forward to the Minister's response to and interpretation of that little amendment that we have voted through this evening.

I commend the Bill to the House. There is much to be said for the police reforms that have been introduced. I repeat my plea that the Government carry the rank and file with them through consultation.

9.50 pm
Angela Watkinson

I am pleased to add my support to the broad cross-party support that the Bill has received. In a way, it is a shame that I am going to concentrate on the detention powers of community support officers, which has been the most controversial element of the Bill. As the Minister has said, however, the matter has been well rehearsed in Standing Committee but not on the Floor of the House.

The Metropolitan police is one of the few forces to have supported this move. In a briefing note to the Home Affairs Committee, it described a hypothetical situation in which a community support officer has detained someone who refuses to give their personal details: He tells the offender they must wait there with him until a police officer arrives, and puts in a call on his radio for a police officer to join him". I venture to suggest that that would be a very good moment for the suspect to make his escape. It continues: The police dispatcher, knowing that having a person detained in a public place is a challenging situation with potential for disorder, gives the call priority and an officer arrives within a few minutes. A miracle indeed. If there were enough police officers available to respond so quickly, CSOs would not be needed. It continues: Perhaps the offender objects to being detained and tries to leave … The CSO uses his or her training in the minimum use of force to prevent this, while, at the same time, putting in a further radio call to emphasise the urgency. That is pure fantasy. It would be funny if it were not so serious. I wonder whether the author of the briefing document has ever been on the streets.

The detention of an unco-operative person is a difficult and possibly dangerous task. Will CSOs be required to inform the person that their powers of detention are limited to 30 minutes? What will happen on the 31st minute if a real constable has not attended the scene in time to make an arrest? Will it be necessary to let the suspect go? If so, the credibility of CSOs will be undermined in no time. What will happen if the CSO is assaulted or injured, as seems highly probable?

The number of applications to the Metropolitan police from people wanting to be CSOs has been unexpectedly high, but the main reason given for not wanting to be a police officer is very worrying—they think that the job is too dangerous, and they do not want the responsibility. How, I wonder, will they cope?

There is also a serious issue of recognition. The uniformed constable is easily recognised and impersonation of a police officer is an offence. CSOs would, therefore, need a uniform that is easily distinguishable from that of a proper police officer. The public would need to know exactly what powers were invested in whom. I understand that the original plan for the Metropolitan police was to give them a uniform that was almost the same as, or barely distinguishable from, a police officer's uniform. I was reassured this week that they will wear a light blue uniform, and that they will therefore be easily distinguishable.

In some areas, however, including Upminster in the London borough of Havering, community wardens are already employed by the council. They work in co-operation with the police, providing local intelligence and information. They are easily recognisable and nobody confuses them with the police. The introduction of yet another type of warden would cause confusion among members of the public.

In evidence to the Select Committee, the Police Federation, the Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Police Authorities all raised their concerns about CSOs. I share those concerns. The potential for problems with CSOs in dangerous and difficult situations is obvious, and the operational gain from four fully trained constables compared to six CSOs is enormous.

Mr. Kevan Jones

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Angela Watkinson

I am sorry, but I do not have time.

I have been assured by the Prime Minister at Question Time and by the Minister in Select Committee that CSOs will not be imposed. However, the enthusiasm that the Prime Minister has subsequently shown for CSOs has made me less sure about the proposed funding arrangements. If the adoption of CSOs is to be truly optional, no form of ring-fenced funding should be used to penalise those police authorities that choose not to adopt them. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure me and police authorities on that particular point in his summing up. The Metropolitan police is already busy recruiting CSOs.

Mrs. Brooke

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Angela Watkinson

I am afraid that I do not have the time.

The alarming rise in street and gun crime has added yet more urgent priorities to the tasks of the Metropolitan police. It is unable to respond to calls from the public about the youth disturbances, vandalism and graffiti that are low-level crime in police terms, but affect very seriously the quality of life of law-abiding people. The answer is not CSOs—it is more police constables. I would like the status of community policing to be raised within police forces with the reintroduction of beat policing, which my constituents ask for continually.

The Metropolitan police in outer London boroughs also suffer from abstraction of their already inadequate numbers because of the need to help to police high-profile events in central London. That seriously affects the service to the public in constituencies, such as Upminster, where a visible uniformed presence cannot be sustained. Again, the answer is not CSOs—it is more police constables.

To stem the tide of rising crime, we need police forces that new recruits want to join and in which experienced officers want to stay. Morale was holed below the waterline by the accusation in the Macpherson report that the police were "institutionally racist"—an accusation that was deeply offensive to the vast majority of officers. If the police are to move forward and tackle the enormous increase in violent and drug-related crime, they need the confidence of the public and the backing of the criminal justice system and the Government. The Bill, in its amended form, will help them to do just that.

9.58 pm
Vernon Coaker (Gedling)

I briefly wish to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister on the Bill. I have followed it from afar and listened to one or two of the debates over the past couple of days. As he knows, the particular problem that I always raise is antisocial behaviour. Will he therefore undertake to keep under review the measures in the Bill that deal with that problem and ensure that we enforce the new provisions so that they work properly?

9.59 pm
Mr. Denham

With the leave of the House, I am pleased to say that we want to ensure that the new antisocial behaviour order provisions work effectively. To coincide with the commencement of the measures, we will introduce new guidance. I hope that it will also simplify procedures.

I will not attempt to reply to the debate, but I am grateful to those hon. Members who thought that I was in command of my brief. This is the appropriate moment to thank my officials. As the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) will know, the difference between giving and not giving the impression that one is in control of one's brief depends largely on the work of the officials who keep us informed before our debates.

I also wish to thank and pay tribute to the men and women who work in the police service. The debate is about them. They do a fantastic job, and we must be judged on whether the measures that we have agreed will help them to do their vital work in communities throughout the country in the weeks and months to come.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed, with amendments.