Clause 42

Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 1:00 pm ar 22 Tachwedd 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Working with other ombudsmen etc.

Amendments made: No. 298, in clause 42, page 30, line 11, leave out from beginning of line to ‘this’ in line 12 and insert

‘The power under section 123(2)(c) to make consequential provision in an order under subsection (8) includes power to modify’.

No. 299, in clause 42, page 30, line 13, at end insert ‘, whenever passed or made’.—[Maria Eagle.]

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I welcome you back, Mr. O’Hara. I also welcome the Conservative Opposition and Government Members. I have just a couple of questions on clause 42, which relate to listed persons under subsection (6). I appreciate that this list is capable of extension, but in the first instance I want to ask whether the Minister considered the view that the Police Complaints Authority should be part of the list. If she did, why did she reject that view? It seems a very obvious body that should be listed for this degree of co-operation and the potential to carry out joint investigations, particularly in the context of our consideration this morning. I am genuinely surprised that the Police Complaints Authority is not listed. It looks to me as though it may be an omission.

I shall be more diffident in making my next suggestion. I am sure that I will display my ignorance here, but I am not sure what the interface might be for those in detention with the military police authorities and whether the Provost Marshal should be listed, because there will be circumstances in which civilians are apprehended through the military police, or in which a prisoner who has been dealt with through a court martial might be transferred to the civilian estate, or in which a service person is before a civilian court. I can conceive of circumstances in which the Provost Marshal or a complaints body that might apply in the context of the military system—I am not sure that one exists at the moment, but one might exist of which I am not aware—should be a listed body, as well.

I wonder who would be the appropriate body in the case of a similar position in Scotland. The Scottish public services ombudsman is listed, but nobody is who has a direct remit in the investigation of matters within the penal system in Scotland. I do not know enough  about Scots law and Scottish arrangements to know who that would be—whether the issue would be directly investigated by the Advocate-General or under the Advocate-General’s supervision, or whether it would be a matter for a procurator fiscal. There may well be occasions when a joint investigation or the sharing of data and, potentially, a joint report, might be appropriate. I would be grateful if the Minister commented on those thoughts.

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

May I join the hon. Gentleman in welcoming you back to the Chair, Mr. O’Hara? We missed you on Tuesday.

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

Exactly. We are glad that you missed us too, Mr. O’Hara, but Mr. Cook, who stepped into the breech, did a magnificent job.

I shall try to deal with the points made by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome. The clause is about provisions for co-operation and joint working between the commissioner and the other main statutory public sector ombudsmen in England and Wales, which is why it focuses on how they will work together to ensure that there is no unhelpful overlap between jurisdictions, as we discussed, and that we have smooth working together rather than muddle. The co-operation functions described in the clause reflect and reciprocate the ombudsmen’s needs as they themselves have expressed, and the measures do not create new powers or duties for ombudsmen to consult one another. We hope that that is the best way to ensure and enable smooth joint working, and that the measure works in the way that we want it to.

We are hoping to include the Independent Police Complaints Commission by order at commencement. Obviously, there are ongoing discussions about the way in which that commission should fit in. It is not technically an ombudsman in the normal sense, but clearly it should fit into the framework. The IPCC has now agreed that it ought to be involved.

In Scotland, the Lord Advocate and procurator fiscal are generally responsible for investigating deaths, and the clause does not change that. On the deaths remit, as it were—it is a horrible phrase that becomes worse the more often one hears it, but it is helpful shorthand—the commissioner will have a limited role in investigating complaints in Scotland. Essentially and in practice, he will investigate complaints from detainees in Dungavel immigration removal centre. We believe that the arrangements will be suitable and correct in terms of the listings in the clause.

I am not in a position to deal in detail with the hon. Gentleman’s point regarding the extent to which it might be necessary to list the military authorities. Obviously, they are not involved, as far as I understand, in the public service ombudsmen’s current remit. It is possible, subject to discussions, that some future arrangement could be made that involved them, but we are not at that point yet. Any such discussions would doubtless in part deal with ensuring that the relevant official or complaints arrangement was placed  on the statute at the relevant time. Such a situation is not envisaged at present, but it is not ruled out for the future.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I am grateful to the Minister and I do not wish to pursue the matter further. I understand from what she said that the IPCC was to be added to the Bill, rather than adding it by order in future, which seems sensible, if only for the sake of efficiency. The clause title mentions “ombudsmen etc.”, which I presume was intended to accommodate exactly such circumstances.

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

I am certainly happy to look at the practicalities of the hon. Gentleman’s suggestion and to come back to the Committee on the matter. I understand his point, but I hope that that convinces him.

Clause 42, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 43 ordered to stand part of the Bill.