HC Deb 19 May 2003 vol 405 cc697-713

(1) Section 61 of the 1984 Act (fingerprinting) is amended as follows.

(2) For subsections (3) and (4) (taking of fingerprints without appropriate consent) there is substituted—

"(3) The fingerprints of a person detained at a police station may be taken without the appropriate consent if—

  1. (a) he is detained in consequence of his arrest for a recordable offence; and
  2. (b) he has not had his fingerprints taken in the course of the investigation of the offence by the police.

(4) The fingerprints of a person detained at a police station may be taken without the appropriate consent if—

  1. (a) he has been charged with a recordable offence or informed that he will be reported for such an offence; and
  2. (b) he has not had his fingerprints taken in the course of the investigation of the offence by the police."

(3) In subsection (3A) (disregard of incomplete or unsatisfactory fingerprints) for the words from the beginning to "subsection (3) above" there is substituted "Where a person mentioned in paragraph (a) of subsection (3) or (4) has already had his fingerprints taken in the course of the investigation of the offence by the police".

(4) In subsection (5) (authorisation to be given or confirmed in writing) for "subsection (3)(a) or (4A)" there is substituted "subsection (4A)".

(5) In subsection (7) (reasons for taking of fingerprints without consent) for "subsection (3) or (6)" there is substituted "subsection (3), (4) or (6)".'.

[Mr.Bob Ainsworth.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

4.3 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Bob Ainsworth)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment (a) to the proposed new clause, in subsection (3)(a) after "offence', inserts 'and an officer of at least the rank of inspector authorises them to be taken'.

Government new clause 15—Taking non-intimate samples without consent

  1. '(1) Section 63 of the 1984 Act (other samples) is amended as follows.
  2. (2) After subsection (2) (consent to be given in writing) there is inserted—
    1. "(2A) A non-intimate sample may be taken from a person without the appropriate consent if two conditions are satisfied.
    2. (2B) The first is that the person is in police detention in consequence of his arrest for a recordable offence.
    3. 698
    4. (2C) The second is that—
      1. (a) he has not had a non-intimate sample of the same type and from the same part of the body taken in the course of the investigation of the offence by the police, or
      2. (b) he has had such a sample taken but it proved insufficient."
  3. (3) In subsection (3)(a) (taking of samples without appropriate consent) the words "is in police detention or" are omitted.
  4. (4) In subsection (3A) (taking of samples without appropriate consent after charge) for "(whether or not he falls within subsection (3)(a) above)" there is substituted "(whether or not he is in police detention or held in custody by the police on the authority of a court)".
  5. (5) In subsection (8A) (reasons for taking of samples without consent) for "subsection (3A)" there is substituted "subsection (2A), (3A)".'.

And the following amendments thereto: (a), in subsection (2A), after 'appropriate consent if' leave out 'two' and insert 'three'.

(b), at end of (2C) insert '(2D) The third is that an officer of at least the rank of inspector authorises them to be taken.'.

New clause 20—Arrest without warrant for arrestable offences'.—After subsection (5) of section 24 of the 1984 Act there is inserted— (5A) Any person may arrest, without warrant, any person who is accused by an apparently credible witness of having committed an arrestable offence shortly before the accusation is made.".'.

New clause 55—Destruction of fingerprints and samples

'(1) Section 64 of the 1984 Act (destruction of fingerprints and samples) is amended as follows:

(2) In subsection (3) the words', except as provided in the following provisions of this section,' are omitted.

(3) Subsections (3AA), (3AB) and (3AC) are omitted.'.

Amendment No. 122, in page 5, line 18 [Clause 7], leave out "and' and insert—

  1. "(ba) The Law Society of England and Wales,
  2. (bb) The Bar Council,
  3. (bc) The Institute of Legal Executives, and'.

Amendment No. 167, in page 5, line 18 [Clause 7], leave out 'and' and insert— (ba) the Home Affairs Committee'.

Amendment No. 54, in page 5, line 21 [Clause 7], at end insert— '(6) No code or revised code issued under this section shall have effect until approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.'.

Amendment No. 55, in page 5, line 36 [Clause 7], at end insert— '(7A) No code or revised code issued under this section shall have effect until approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.'.

Amendment No. 169, in page 6, line 2, leave out clause 9.

Amendment No. 57, in page 6, line 7 [Clause 9], leave out second "a' and insert 'such'.

Amendment No. 58, in page 6, line 7 [Clause 9], leave out second "drug' and insert 'drugs'.

Amendment No. 59, in page 6, line 8 [Clause 9], at end insert— as are identified as cannabis or cannabis resin'.

Amendment No. 170, in page 6, line 41 [Clause 10], leave out 'different' and insert 'higher'.

Government amendments Nos. 231 and 109.

Mr. Ainsworth

I shall speak mainly to Government new clauses 14 and 15 and Government amendments Nos. 231 and 109, and deal with the other amendments in a diverse group as briefly as I can.

Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, the police may currently take fingerprints from all those charged with, informed that they will be reported for, or convicted of, a recordable offence. With the authority of an inspector, the police may also take fingerprints from those suspected of a criminal offence where there are reasonable grounds for believing that the fingerprints will tend to confirm or disprove the suspect's involvement.

PACE also permits the police to take a person's fingerprints when they have reason to believe that they will confirm, disprove or assist in ascertaining the suspect's identity. An inspector's authority is required and the person must have refused to identify himself or herself or the officer must have reasonable grounds to suspect that the person is not who they claim to be. So the police can miss the opportunity to establish a detained person's true identity if they lie about who they are and the police have no reason to suspect that they have lied.

The problem presents itself even more acutely now that we have the new Livescan technology, which can check a fingerprint against national records while the detained person can be reasonably expected to be in custody. New clause 14 will enable those who seek to evade justice by giving the police a false identity to be properly identified and dealt with through the due process of law. There will be a link to the police national computer, which may reveal whether the person is believed to be a danger to themselves or to others, or perhaps requires medication or an appropriate adult to be present during an interview.

New clause 14 has been welcomed by the police. The power to take fingerprints pre-charge has civil liberties implications. I recognise those concerns, but the intrusion on personal liberty is both necessary and proportionate to the benefits for the victims of crime and society generally, in detecting crime and protecting the public from criminals.

The Court of Appeal has recently considered those issues in a judicial review brought by a juvenile known as S and an individual known as Michael Marper against the chief constable of South Yorkshire. Both had their fingerprints and a sample of DNA taken when they were charged and each asked the chief constable to destroy their fingerprints and DNA samples and to remove their DNA profile from the national database. When proceedings against them had finished, the chief constable decided to retain the fingerprints. The Court of Appeal found that, although limited interference under article 8(1) of the European convention on human rights took place, it was proportionate to the benefits that accrue to the victims of crime and society as a whole and to the prevention and detection of crime.

New clause 15 would allow non-intimate samples to be taken from anyone arrested for a recordable offence and detained in a police station. A non-intimate sample is defined by section 65 of PACE and includes hair, mouth swabs, saliva and skin impressions. Currently, the police may take non-intimate samples from all those charged with, informed that they will be reported for, or convicted of a recordable offence. On the authority of an inspector, a non-intimate sample may be taken from those suspected of a recordable offence where reasonable grounds exist to believe that the sample will tend to confirm or disprove the suspect's identity.

The new power to take non-intimate samples from people arrested for a recordable offence and detained at a police station will enable a DNA profile to be obtained and a search to be made on the database for matches with a crime-scene stain.

Mr. Humfrey Malins (Woking)

If this problem has been known for some time, why was not such a clause included in the original Bill or introduced in Committee?

Mr. Ainsworth

New clauses 14 and 15 have been introduced after discussions with the police. I have talked about the new fingerprinting technology that is now available, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would agree, if he agrees that the proportionality is reasonable, that we should not delay introducing these changes because they will clearly help in the detection of crime.

Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North)

So that hon. Members on both sides of the House are clear about this, may I say that this issue was raised in Committee? I did so myself, and the Minister of State, Department for International Development, my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Hilary Benn)—who conducted himself so superbly in Committee—agreed that the Government would consider it, so I am very grateful to them for introducing the proposal.

Mr. Ainsworth

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. He had the benefit of serving on the Standing Committee. Of course I did not do so. Knowing that the issue was discussed with some concern in Committee adds to my argument for us to get on and deal with it.

Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield)

Are there not two issues? The first is the propriety of taking samples, whether DNA or fingerprints, from someone who has been arrested but not charged, for the purpose of checking whether they might be wanted for, or implicated in, some other offence. The second is the decision to add that material to a national DNA database. If what we are really doing is extending the criteria for addition to the DNA database to people who have been arrested and not charged, would it not be better simply to say that it is the Government's view that everybody in the country should provide fingerprints and DNA samples for crime-prevention purposes? That is in fact what the Government are slowly moving towards by stealth.

Mr. Ainsworth

There is no justification for saying that. I read out the decision taken by the Court of Appeal on the retention of fingerprints. I see no reason, in principle, why the same decision would not be reached on DNA. There is a good case for taking samples, whether DNA or fingerprints, in the circumstances that have been described. Having taken them, should they be destroyed? Other evidence gathered in the course of an investigation is not necessarily destroyed. It would be a big step to move from that to the hon. Gentleman's idea that there should be a complete database with everybody's fingerprints and DNA. There are wholly different issues to think about in that regard.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

In a completely non-partisan context, may I raise a different matter that relates to the experience of one of my constituents? My constituent lost his daughter in a road accident in 1984 as a result of reckless driving. On the occasion of the accident, the person who was subsequently proved to have been the culprit was, for a relatively brief period, unconscious. Under the law, was it right—my constituent does not think so—that there was no subsequent opportunity to breathalyse the defendant, who was subsequently convicted of dangerous driving? My constituent will never know whether, as he suspects, the man concerned was under the influence. I am not saying that that is the point of the provision, but is there any intention to address that issue?

Mr. Ainsworth

We have talked about such issues and tried to deal with them. I am not insensitive to the issue raised by the hon. Gentleman, but we have only a relatively short time to debate this group of amendments, after Opposition Members discussed the programme motion and voted against it. I have taken interventions, and I do not want to extend the debate to an issue that is not covered by the amendments and new clauses that we are discussing.

Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey)


Mr. Ainsworth

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman but then I must make some progress, as other Members want to contribute.

Simon Hughes

May I take the Minister back to an earlier point that is central to the debate? Will he explain why someone who is not convicted of a criminal offence, and someone who is arrested but against whom no further action is taken and who is thus also not convicted of a criminal offence, should be treated differently in the criminal justice system? Why should the state record details in one case where a person who is completely innocent and not in the other? What is the logic?

Mr. Ainsworth

The logic is to provide proportionality and to deal with crime and to protect our communities from crime. The hon. Gentleman cannot have been listening when I read out the Court of Appeal decision in the judicial review of decisions to retain the DNA and fingerprints of the two individuals concerned. The Court of Appeal does not find that problem insurmountable, even if he does so, there is no huge matter of principle. The point is whether it is proportionate to the size of the problem to allow those records to be kept. I believe that it is, and that a clear case can be made for keeping both DNA samples and fingerprints. For the reasons that I set out in relation to the new clause on fingerprints, the extension of police powers to retain DNA samples is both necessary and proportionate.

4.15 pm

I now turn to the Opposition amendments to new clause 14. In response to amendment (a), it is important that the police can act quickly and systematically, and the amendment would introduce an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. The same applies to amendments (a) and (b) to new clause 15. Imposing a restriction whereby the taking of a sample must be authorised by an inspector or above could result in crimes going undetected and introduce an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.

On Opposition new clause 55, which deals with destroying fingerprints and samples, it is important for the police to be able to retain all the information assembled during an investigation of an offence, not least to enable them to investigate a possible miscarriage of justice in the future. The police can already retain other information gathered as part of an investigation, such as witness statements, photographs and so on, and samples and fingerprints taken from a person who has been arrested during an investigation are not fundamentally different from those. Samples will be available to the police in the event of that suspect committing an offence in the future. Law-abiding citizens should have nothing to fear, as they will be used only for the prevention and the investigation of crime.

Mr. Mike Hancock (Portsmouth, South)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Ainsworth

I have given way a great deal, and I need to get on and deal with this group of amendments, to allow other Members, perhaps including the hon. Gentleman, to speak.

In relation to new clause 20, on citizen's arrest, it seeks to extend the circumstances in which a citizen may make an arrest. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 already allows a citizen's arrest in circumstances in which an arrestable offence has in fact been committed. The new clause could be interpreted as extending that scope for arrest to cover circumstances in which there is no certainty that an arrestable offence had been committed, but only a believable accusation. Powers to arrest when there is merely a suspicion are best left to the judgment and experience of a police officer.

Amendment No. 54 would require the retention of the affirmative resolution procedure for new and revised PACE codes. I understand that there was extensive discussion of the issue in Committee, and following that discussion, trying to take into account the views of the Home Affairs Committee, we have considered the procedural options for dealing with new and amended codes. We accept that the affirmative procedure is justified for new codes and for significant amendments. We have been trying, however, to devise a quicker route for handling minor and straightforward changes. We have looked at the scope for involving the Home Affairs Committee in advising on whether specific changes warrant detailed parliamentary scrutiny, but substantial difficulties exist in terms of specifying a role for the Committee in the Bill.

A more workable alternative might be to amend the legislation so that there is effectively a choice between affirmative resolution and merely laying any proposed changes before Parliament. Ministers could then undertake in Parliament to seek to be bound by the Home Affairs Committee advice in each individual case. That might effectively ensure that the Committee had oversight of which procedure should be adopted, without referring to the Committee in the Bill, and might be a way of resolving the conflict between the need for flexibility and the need for proper scrutiny. It is therefore a difficult problem, which needs more consideration. We would be grateful to hear further views in the light of what I have just suggested, and against that background I would ask that the amendments be withdrawn, although we would be happy to return to the issue to deal with other Members' views in another place.

Amendment No. 55 would require the affirmative resolution procedure for analogous codes covering the work of military police forces. Currently, such codes are subject only to negative resolution. They tend to follow the PACE codes, and we think that there is a good case for exempting them from specific parliamentary procedure. I therefore ask the Opposition to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)

The Minister says that the military code tends to follow PACE. If so, I follow his points, but given the degree to which it diverges from PACE, it seems that the Minister is on a bad point.

Mr. Ainsworth

I have said that, by and large, the code tends to follow PACE. I do not know whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman considers it useful to take up the time of the House discussing what are effectively duplications in most cases. I shall be happy to listen to views on that. However, we do not believe that there is a case for the affirmative resolution procedure to be used, certainly in regard to analogous codes.

Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister has repeatedly adverted to the inadequacy of the timetable motion. Is there any way in which the Minister and the Government can return to a further programming committee to seek more time so that we can properly debate the Bill? The Minister keeps saying that inadequate time is the reason for not debating matters in this place. That is the message that is coming from the horse's mouth. Can you help the Government out of the fix of their own making?

Mr. Speaker

It is not a matter for the Minister because the House has decided to agree to the programme motion, and therefore it is the property of the House.

Mr. Ainsworth

The hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) should listen to what I say. I was talking about whether it would be useful for the House to spend time discussing changes to the military codes in future. I was not talking about the time that we spend dealing with the Bill now. We would have had a little more time today if Members had not spoken against the programme motion and divided on it. We would have had an extra hour and a quarter to discuss these matters rather than the truncated debate that will now take place.

As for amendment No. 122, we believe that it is sensible to extend the consultation requirements to the Law Society and the Bar Council but that it is unnecessary to extend them to the Institute of Legal Executives. The Law Society and the Bar Council adequately represent a broad range of legal perspectives. The institute could be consulted where a particular need arose.

Amendment No. 167 relates to consulting the Home Affairs Committee. That needs to be considered in line with what I said earlier about potential changes to the code.

Mr. Grieve

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Ainsworth

I would like to give way to the hon. Gentleman, but Conservative Back Benchers are demanding that I take less time at the Dispatch Box. The hon. Gentleman speaks for the Opposition Front Bench, and I will give way to him if he wishes me to do so. However, I hope that I do not get—

Mr. Grieve

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Ainsworth

I will not give way. I shall make some progress.

I move on to the amendments to clause 9, which deals with powers of arrest for possession of class C drugs. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced his intention to bring forward reclassification of cannabis from class B to class C under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. In conjunction with that, my right hon. Friend announced that the police would continue to be able to arrest persons for offences of possession of cannabis where public order was threatened.

Under guidance issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers, for most offences of cannabis possession, a police warning will be sufficient along with confiscation of the drug. However, where there is a public order problem or where children are at risk, the result could be an arrest. We do not believe that clause 9 sends mixed messages. The message that we are sending is that cannabis is harmful, but not as harmful as other class A or B drugs. That is reflected in law enforcement. The power of arrest for possession of cannabis will be used sparingly, and the penalties are different.

On amendments Nos. 57 to 59, it would be inconsistent with the principles underlying the classification structure of the Misuse of Drugs Act to have a specific law for cannabis. The Government believe that it is right that cannabis should be in class C. The power of arrest would be used only in limited circumstances. In practice, we envisage very few cases indeed where the power of arrest would be appropriate in relation to other class C drugs. The problem is more apparent than real.

Mr. Grieve

With regard to new clauses 14 and 15, the Opposition fully understand the concern of the police that it may be a powerful tool in the detection of crime if they have the opportunity, when somebody is arrested and brought into the police station for another matter, to obtain, prior to charge, non-intimate DNA samples and to take fingerprints, so as to check whether that person might be wanted in connection with some other, possibly far more serious, matter. It is a pragmatic approach, but it is based on the knowledge that often, when police officers pick up somebody for some minor matter, something far more serious may be lurking behind.

If that were the sole purpose of the new clauses, we would be willing to go along with it. But the Government are seeking through the new clauses to add to a mischief that they introduced in the 2001 Act and to provide that, although somebody may have no criminal conviction against their name and may never even have been charged with any offence, the material collected from them by way of a non-intimate DNA sample or by way of fingerprint when they are brought into the police station will be retained and added to the national database. That potentially involves a very large number of people. Some 1.2 million people per annum are arrested for possible recordable offences, although that does not mean that that number are charged.

The Minister seemed to miss the point when he answered the intervention earlier. There may well be a thoroughly sound argument that matters have moved on so much in the possibilities of scientific analysis and detection that the time has come when, for the sake of the prevention of crime, all of us, law-abiding and non-law-abiding, should voluntarily or compulsorily provide our DNA and our fingerprints to the state, so that if an offence is committed, rapid checks can be carried out. There are some who would oppose that on civil liberties grounds. It would undoubtedly be a considerable intrusion into civil liberties, but it is perfectly capable of rational justification, if that is what the Minister wishes to do.

However, what is being done through the new clauses is yet again to create a new category of—excuse me using the word—Untermenschen, a sort of sub-people who, although they may have done nothing wrong, must figure in the national database, whereas other people are excluded from it. I find that, as a philosophical position, deeply unsatisfactory and offensive. The Conservatives objected to the 2001 extension for that reason. Whatever the Court of Appeal may say or do, I disagree with it. The court is there to interpret the law. Parliament passed the law. In this context, it was a thoroughly bad law, and now the Minister's proposals would compound the matter.

Law-abiding people who have never been in trouble with the police in their life, who were taken into the police station for some minor matter from which they may be totally exonerated half an hour or 45 minutes later, will find, to their deep resentment that their DNA and fingerprints have been added to the national database. The opportunities for abuse of the measure are obvious. The police can easily arrest somebody and release them afterwards. The chances of anybody having some subsequent recourse or bringing proceedings are slight. People do not normally act in that way. I say to the Minister that there will be a new class of people who are dissatisfied and discontented with the way in which policing is carried out in this country. As my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) recently pointed out, the state is good on the easy cases—it arrests and criminalises people who are usually law-abiding—but poor at dealing with those whom society requires should be dealt with. For those reasons, we object to the new clause, and if the Government are not prepared to accept an amendment ensuring that the DNA and fingerprints would be destroyed, we will oppose it.

4.30 pm
Lady Hermon (North Down)

As the hon. Gentleman, too, was present at the many Standing Committee sittings, he will recall clearly that the Minister who was then responsible for the Bill frequently prayed in aid experience, practice and procedure in other common-law jurisdictions. Is he aware of any other common-law jurisdiction in which such provision is the practice or procedure?

Mr. Grieve

I am not aware of any such jurisdiction. Indeed, on normal common-law principles, the provision is highly offensive. It runs contrary to every aspect of our national tradition, because law-abiding individuals who do not bring themselves into trouble by being successfully prosecuted and convicted should not have any personal details about them retained on police files—in particular, their fingerprints and DNA.

I object fundamentally to the proposal and I do not understand the rationale behind it. Indeed, when I met the Association of Chief Police Officers to discuss the proposal when it was first raised, it did not suggest that such material had to be retained. It wanted power to obtain fingerprints and DNA to make the comparison, but there was no suggestion that it wanted to add those data to the national database.

Mr. Hogg

Might I suggest what may be a motive and is undoubtedly a vice? On recognising that the new clauses allow the acquisition of non-intimate samples and/or fingerprints, the police might go on a fishing expedition and make an arrest for which there is no adequate justification in order to use the powers and obtain the samples to further their inquiries. While there may be a case for such an approach, if it is to be taken, it needs to be made overt. The provision is a panacea for fishing.

Mr. Grieve

I agree entirely with my right hon. and learned Friend. Indeed, I sought to make that very point earlier. The system could be open to abuse and lead to claims that people have been persecuted for the sake of getting them into the police station under a pretext of arrest.

In the limited time available, I shall not speak any further about new clauses 14 and 15, except to say that we oppose them and will press new clause 15 to a vote. I wish now to turn to the other matters that have been touched on, as there are other very important matters to be considered, although, frankly, we do not have the opportunity to do them justice.

I am delighted to hear from the Minister that he is in favour of consultation with groups about any changes to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. He specifically mentioned the Bar Council and the Law Society. Am I to take it that the Government propose to table an amendment in another place specifically to provide that they should be consulted? I see the Minister nodding, but he had better put it on record.

Mr. Bob Ainsworth

I make it clear that, if the hon. Gentleman does not press his amendment, we will table an amendment to do precisely that.

Mr. Grieve

I am grateful to the Minister. I appreciate the point that he makes, but the reason why we seek to add the Institute of Legal Executives to the list is that those who attend at police stations for the interview of suspects are frequently members of that organisation and not qualified solicitors. In those circumstances, people in that single category probably have the most experience of the way in which the police operate PACE on a daily basis. Of course, the Bar may be involved in unravelling the problems of PACE if there is a challenge in the courts afterwards, and there will be occasions when solicitors attend. We will not press the amendment to a vote. I am grateful to the Minister, but I urge him to think about the Institute of Legal Executives. I think that the Government will find that they have to consult it during any revision of the codes, because it plays an important part in their operation.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney)

As my hon. Friend is talking about reviewing the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, does he agree with new clause 20, which is in my name and would ensure a proper review of security guards' powers of arrest? It is clear that they have the power to arrest someone when they see an offence committed, but it is not clear whether they would be able to do so if another security guard saw it on closed circuit television. Does my hon. Friend agree that this is an important issue? If we are to crack down on shoplifting, the Government should give my new clause a fair hearing, not the time that we have been allowed this afternoon.

Mr. Grieve

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. I did not take his new clause in sequence, because I wanted to leave it to the end and take more time over it. As he has raised it, I might as well deal with it now.

My hon. Friend raises an important point. We talk about the police officer being a citizen in uniform, but we give the police very great powers reasonably to carry out an arrest on suspicion. We are very short of police officers at the moment—

Ian Lucas (Wrexham)

There are more now than there have ever been.

Mr. Grieve

We are very short of police officers who can carry out the necessary work of policing, but we are disempowering individuals so that they cannot take perfectly reasonable action to prevent crime or apprehend criminals.

My hon. Friend's new clause merits serious consideration. It would certainly make it easier for someone to carry out a citizen's arrest. After all, the Minister and the Government have been extending the categories in which hearsay evidence is allowed in court. Oddly enough, however, if one's granny says that she has been mugged, but one was not at the scene and did not witness the mugging, one's ability to arrest the individual will be limited. That is an important matter, and we cannot do justice to it in the time available.

John Mann (Bassetlaw)

In one of his amendments, the hon. Gentleman wants to give powers of consultation to his own trade union—the Bar Council. Would he like to extend such powers to the shop workers' trade union—the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers?

Mr. Grieve

That needs to be debated at greater length, which shows what a mockery the timetable is. However, let me move on, because I want to give other hon. Members time to speak.

On the approval of the codes, I am grateful to the Minister for accepting the strong representations that the Opposition made in Committee on the need for the affirmative procedure. I am delighted about that, and I shall say no more about the issue. We shall look at the details when they appear in the other place.

Finally, I turn to the question of class C drugs. I do not want to get bogged down on whether cannabis should be a class B or a class C drug. The Government have made their decision, which has been both criticised and approved, depending on people's standpoint. What is extraordinary, however, is that by moving cannabis into the class C category, the Government have made all offences involving class C drugs arrestable. That is complete nonsense because those offences encompass such banal things as walking around in the street with ordinary prescription drugs or, indeed, drugs that may be banned nationally, such as steroids, which are not exactly abused on a large scale. There is absolutely no justification for making such things arrestable, when the Government accepted in Committee the fact that other class C drugs were not arrestable and had never caused a problem. Indeed, in the last year for which figures were available, there were only, prior to cannabis being made a class C drug, 450 prosecutions for possession of a class C drug in England and Wales. The problem is minute, and the Government are taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Mr. Ainsworth

Surely the hon. Gentleman accepts that we are giving a power of arrest that will have to be limited in its use by guidance to be drawn up by ACPO. The problem that he raises is an apparent problem only, in that I cannot envisage circumstances in which the power of arrest will be used for any other class C drug. He should address the reality of what is being done, not seek to dress it up differently.

Mr. Grieve

The Minister is doing something that the Government do all the time nowadays. They say, "This is a power that we need to have, but it will be exercised in a particular way." I see no reason why they should take a power that they do not intend to exercise. The class C list includes 117 substances other than cannabis and cannabis resin, and more have been added in the past week or two. Having moved cannabis and cannabis resin to class C, the Government are completely distorting the mechanisms of class C to accommodate it. Much better than that ludicrous tinkering would be simply to make cannabis and cannabis resin a discrete drug that is arrestable within class C.

Mr. Hogg

Does my hon. Friend agree that what the Minister said—namely, that the power of arrest shall depend on ACPO, an unaccountable body—is deeply offensive to this House?

Mr. Grieve

I entirely agree with my right hon. and learned Friend. That is why we would have sought, but probably will not have the opportunity, to put our amendments to the vote.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome)

The folly of the timetable is clearly demonstrated by the fact that we have six minutes left with many hon. Members wishing to contribute to the debate on a group of amendments that covers fingerprints, citizen's arrest, retention of DNA samples, consultation, the important disputed issue of drugs—about which we should like to say a great deal more—and the rules under which PACE will operate.

The Government may have a case for testing prior to charge for DNA samples or for fingerprints. They do not, however, have a case for retaining that evidence solely for those who happen to have crossed the portals of a police station under arrest, but not for the rest of the population. One is either innocent or not innocent: we cannot establish a new category of people whom we do not like the look of and on whom we will retain evidence sine die for use on a future occasion. The problem is that the police will inevitably use that provision, which is on a par with those in the rest of the Bill. Increasingly, someone who has been convicted of an offence that may or may not be relevant, accused of or charged with an offence, or arrested is considered to be the likely suspect and no longer has the same standards of liberty as the rest of the population. I know that the Home Secretary has a somewhat Laodicean view of human rights, but that is not good enough, and it is time that the House made that clear. If a national database is to be established, let the Government come clean and say that that is what they intend.

Mr. Allen

Would a national database established under independent auspices, rather than the auspices of the state or the police, allay some of the hon Gentleman's fears? Would he consider allowing voluntary entries to the DNA database so that people could be checked when necessary? I hope that he would concede that a lot of good has come from DNA testing.

Mr. Heath

Of course I would concede the latter point. We need to have a debate about the matter. It is interesting that when it was first raised in 2001, police officers were invited to provide DNA samples. A great number did not wish to do so: perhaps that tells its own story. I do not accept, however, the halfway house that the Government propose.

The group covers other important matters. We have already debated future procedure for amendments to codes of conduct under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. The Government are moving in the direction that we wanted, for which I am grateful. I look forward to the outcome of those deliberations. The Minister rejected my view that an inspector's agreement should be required for taking samples in a police station. That is the position under PACE. The Minister claims that it is bureaucratic and unnecessary, but I believe that it may be a useful safeguard.

4.45 pm

I want to speak briefly about amendments Nos. 169 and 170, which Liberal Democrat Members tabled. They relate to the point that the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) made about the unholy mess that the Government have made of their position on drugs law. Irrespective of one's views on cannabis reclassification, it is especially absurd that at the same time as the Government do that, they introduce it as an arrestable offence together with possession of a variety of other substances that should never be included in that category.

We support a clearly defined drugs policy, with objectives that people understand, that is not undermined by inconsistency but that points people in the direction of the treatment that they need. The Bill does nothing to help that process. If we have the opportunity, we should like to test hon. Members' opinion of amendment No. 169. The debate has been wholly inadequate on such an important subject. It underlines the inadequacy of today's programme motion.

Mr. Allen

We need a national debate on DNA and whether there should be a national database. We should also hold a further debate, which I hope the Government will sponsor, on whether we can extend DNA databases on a voluntary basis.

Mr. Hogg

I want to reinforce the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) on new clause 15, which will enable the police to go on fishing expeditions. When I first became a Member of Parliament, there was much debate about the vagrancy Acts and the power to arrest people on suspicion. We are now giving the police precisely the same sort of power, which they will use to obtain fingerprints and/or intimate or non-intimate samples from people against whom there is insufficient evidence.

It being one and a quarter hours after the commencement of proceedings on the programme motion, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER, pursuant to Orders [4 February, 5 March, 2 April and this day] put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour.

Amendment proposed: No. 169, in page 6, line 2, leave out Clause 9—[Mr. Heath.]

The House divided: Ayes 40, Noes 317.

Division No. 203] [4:47 pm
Allan, Richard Laws, David (Yeovil)
Brake, Tom (Carshalton) Llwyd, Elfyn
Bruce, Malcolm Oaten, Mark (Winchester)
Burnett, John Öpik, Lembit
Burnside, David Pugh, Dr. John
Burstow, Paul Rendel, David
Cable, Dr. Vincent Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Calton, Mrs Patsy Sanders, Adrian
Carmichael, Alistair Shepherd, Richard
Chidgey, David Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
Cotter, Brian
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Smyth, Rev. Martin (Belfast S)
Doughty, Sue Stunell, Andrew
Gidley, Sandra Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Hancock, Mike Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon) Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Harvey, Nick Webb, Steve (Northavon)
Heath, David Willis, Phil
Holmes, Paul
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N) Tellers for the Ayes:
Keetch, Paul Mrs. Annette L. Brooke and
Lamb, Norman Mr. Alan Reid
Abbott, Ms Diane Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Ainger, Nick Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE) Caplin, Ivor
Alexander, Douglas Casale, Roger
Allen, Graham Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E) Challen, Colin
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen) Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Atherton, Ms Candy Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Baird, Vera Clarke, rh Charles (Norwich S)
Banks, Tony Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Barnes, Harry
Battle, John Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Bayley, Hugh Clelland, David
Beard, Nigel Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Beckett, rh Margaret Coaker, Vernon
Begg, Miss Anne Coffey, Ms Ann
Bell, Stuart Coleman, Iain
Benn, Hilary Colman, Tony
Benton, Joe (Bootle) Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Berry, Roger Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)
Blackman, Liz Cooper, Yvette
Blears, Ms Hazel Corbyn, Jeremy
Blizzard, Bob Corston, Jean
Blunkett, rh David Cousins, Jim
Boateng, rh Paul Cox, Tom (Tooting)
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington) Crausby, David
Bradshaw, Ben Cruddas, Jon
Brennan, Kevin Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend) Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)
Browne, Desmond Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Bryant, Chris Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Burden, Richard Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Burgon, Colin Dalyell, Tam
Burnham, Andy Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Byers, rh Stephen Davidson, Ian
Caborn, rh Richard Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
Cairns, David Dawson, Hilton
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, rh John Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Dhanda, Parmjit Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Dismore, Andrew Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood) Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Donohoe, Brian H. Jowell, rh Tessa
Doran, Frank Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W) Kaufman, rh Gerald
Drew, David (Stroud) Keeble, Ms Sally
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) Keen, Ann (Brentford)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) Kemp, Fraser
Edwards, Huw Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Efford, Clive Khabra, Piara S.
Ellman, Mrs Louise Kidney, David
Etherington, Bill Kilfoyle, Peter
Farrelly, Paul King, Andy (Rugby)
Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead) King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Flynn, Paul (Newport W) Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Follett, Barbara Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Foster, rh Derek Lammy, David
Foster, Michael (Worcester) Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye) Lazarowicz, Mark
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Foulkes, rh George Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S) Linton, Martin
Gardiner, Barry Love, Andrew
Gerrard, Neil Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Gibson, Dr. Ian McAvoy, Thomas
Gilroy, Linda McCabe, Stephen
Godsiff, Roger McCafferty, Chris
Goggins, Paul McCartney, rh Ian
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) McDonagh, Siobhain
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) McDonnell, John
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) MacDougall, John
Grogan, John McGuire, Mrs Anne
Hain, rh Peter McIsaac, Shona
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) McKechin, Ann
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) Mackinlay, Andrew
Hamilton, David (Midlothian) McNamara, Kevin
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE) McNulty, Tony
Hanson, David McWilliam, John
Harman, rh Ms Harriet Mahon, Mrs Alice
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart) Mallaber, Judy
Healey, John Mandelson, rh Peter
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Hendrick, Mark Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Hepburn, Stephen Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Heppell, John Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Hermon, Lady Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Hesford, Stephen Martlew, Eric
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia Meacher, rh Michael
Heyes, David Merron, Gillian
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Michael, rh Alun
Hinchliffe, David Miliband, David
Hodge, Margaret Miller, Andrew
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall) Moffatt, Laura
Hood, Jimmy (Clydesdale) Mole, Chris
Hope, Phil (Corby) Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Hopkins, Kelvin Morley, Elliot
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E) Mullin, Chris
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E) Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Howells, Dr. Kim Murphy, rh Paul (Torfaen)
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston) Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Hurst, Alan (Braintree) Olner, Bill
Hutton, rh John O'Neill, Martin
Iddon, Dr. Brian Organ, Diana
Ingram, rh Adam Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate) Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) Perham, Linda
Jamieson, David Picking, Anne
Jenkins, Brian Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley) Steinberg, Gerry
Plaskitt, James Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris (Gravesham) Stinchcombe, Paul
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn) Stoate, Dr. Howard
Pound, Stephen Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Primarolo, rh Dawn Sutcliffe, Gerry
Purnell, James Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Quin, rh Joyce Taylor, rh Ann (Dewsbury)
Quinn, Lawrie Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Rammell, Bill Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N) Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Raynsford, rh Nick Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Reed, Andy (Loughborough) Timms, Stephen
Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N & Bellshill) Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW) Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Trickett, Jon
Roche, Mrs Barbara Truswell, Paul
Rooney, Terry Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Ruane, Chris Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Ruddock, Joan Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N) Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Salter, Martin Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Sarwar, Mohammad Vis, Dr. Rudi
Savidge, Malcolm Walley, Ms Joan
Sawford, Phil Wareing, Robert N.
Sedgemore, Brian Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Shaw, Jonathan Watts, David
Sheerman, Barry White, Brian
Sheridan, Jim Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Shipley, Ms Debra Wicks, Malcolm
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S) Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Singh, Marsha Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E) Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale) Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch) Worthington, Tony
Smith, John (Glamorgan) Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive Wright, David (Telford)
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh John Tellers for the Noes:
Squire, Rachel Charlotte Atkins and
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis Mr. Jim Murphy

Question accordingly negatived.

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