Clause 5 - Duty to publish information

Crime and Courts Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:00 pm ar 24 Ionawr 2013.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 3:00, 24 Ionawr 2013

I beg to move amendment 32, in clause 5, page 5, line 7, at end insert—

‘( ) The Secretary of State must—

(a) report annually to Parliament on the progress of the NCA and its partner agencies in reducing the cost and threat to consumers, government and armed forces of cybercrime.’.

Photo of Martin Caton Martin Caton Llafur, Gŵyr

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 33, in clause 5, page 5, line 7, at end insert—

‘(b) report annually to Parliament on the progress of the NCA and its partner agencies in eliminating the sexual abuse of children and combating human trafficking.’.

New clause 1—Review of NCA functions—

‘(1) The Secretary of State shall commission a review of the NCA functions to report no later than one year following commencement of this Act.

(2) The review shall report on the appropriateness of the modification of NCA functions, in particular in relation to—

(a) provision about NCA counter-terrorism functions;

(b) provision about NCA public order functions; and

(c) other national response coordination functions.’.

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

Having revealed myself to be a fan of transport and defence issues, I add to those questions of governance and accountability, which is perhaps a hangover from being a local councillor and having had to implement Government policy—or perhaps it is a hangover from being on the Public Accounts Committee and being obsessed with value for money. Above all else, it is a hangover from being concerned about some of the new challenges that our society faces. These amendments, and the information they seek, speak directly to those concerns.

All three amendments reflect a concern about accountability and partnership in addressing the key challenges that our society faces. First and foremost, there is the threat of cybercrime, about which I feel passionate—I am revealing a large compendium of slightly obscure interests this afternoon, and no doubt Government Members will have something to say about that.

How will the proposals affect child protection? All of us as MPs will have dealt with child protection cases and will be desperately concerned to ensure that this country has the highest standards in detecting and preventing child abuse, whether online, offline or involving trafficking.

Finally, new clause 1 in particular would ensure that there is a moment to review exactly what the new National Crime Agency will do, particularly on the vexed question of its relationship to the management of terrorism in this country.

Amendment 32 addresses cybercrime, which is mentioned in passing as though we are all supposed to know exactly what we are talking about. Again, cybercrime is in the legislation and it has been in some of the speeches, but there has been little detail. Given that our online economy is now worth £82 billion a year, it seems strange not to have more thorough scrutiny of how the new National Crime Agency will affect our ability to detect and prevent cybercrime.

There is also widespread concern about the UK’s preparedness for a cyber-attack or cybercrime. The Select Committee on Defence recently called cyberspace the “fifth domain” of warfare. This is a new and important debate for Parliament, and we are not only talking about people receiving the odd e-mail selling rather questionable details. I am sure several Government Members might be able to offer illumination on that.

Ross Anderson of the Cambridge computer laboratory, who is an expert on these issues, talks about mapping and measuring cybercrime in the UK:

“Since…2004, volume crime has arrived on the Internet. All of a sudden, criminals who were carrying out card fraud and attacks on electronic banking got organised, thanks to a handful of criminal organisations and a number of chat-rooms and other electronic fora where criminals can trade stolen card and bank account data, hacking tools and other services. Hacking has  turned from a sport into a business, and its tools are becoming increasingly commoditised. There has been an explosion of crimeware—malicious software used to perpetrate a variety of online crimes. Keyloggers, data theft tools and even phishing sites can be constructed using toolkits complete with sophisticated graphical user interfaces. The ‘quality’ of these tools is improving rapidly, as their authors invest in proper research, development, quality control and customer service.”

That is clearly an issue for those affected, but it is also an issue for us in the UK, because we are one of the major sites of cybercrime in the world. Symantec, the security software company, estimates that in 2010 the UK was the second-largest user of the underground economy, where people are buying and selling the tools to conduct such fraudulent activities, which generate some £200 million a year.

What sort of malware, tools and services are for sale? A botnet can be bought for £150 on those sites. Phishing services are advertised for a mere £7, and there are keystroke loggers for an average of £15.

I will gladly take interventions from anyone who is not quite clear on what I am talking about.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Llafur, Wythenshawe and Sale East

My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. Is she as surprised as I am that she has not had any interventions from Government Members? I think we would all agree that this is an area in which the Government have done a very good job. They have allocated some £650 million of additional resources, and the Foreign Secretary has played an excellent role internationally. Is she not surprised that Government supporters were not faster to their feet to praise the Government?

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

Actually, I was a little concerned that Government Members might be searching for the underground economy on their iPads to see quite how quickly they could purchase some of these tools for securing people’s information.

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Ceidwadwyr, Macclesfield 3:15, 24 Ionawr 2013

I take a keen interest in what the hon. Lady is saying, and it is interesting to find out what her interests are, wide-ranging as they may be. I absolutely share her concerns about cybercrime, sexual abuse and protecting children, but let us not forget that the NCA will also cover border command and organised crime, for which the hon. Lady is not requesting detailed updates. Given that there will be changing priorities—there always are—I think that the best approach is to stick with what is in the Bill already, which is a general requirement to provide an update on the director general’s duties.

I respect the hon. Lady’s interests, but let us not focus on them. Let us focus on the Bill right now and the fact that we want a general update for all the duties that the director general is supposed to be doing, which is already in the Bill.

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I am only just getting started. The hon. Gentleman will have to wait for me to get to the point that I want to make about cybercrime.

I am concerned by what the hon. Gentleman said, because one of the central reasons for tabling the amendment and for ensuring that Parliament is able to  hold the Government to account for how they deal with cybercrime is precisely the attitude that he has just expressed. I have some concerns about how the Government are dealing with cybercrime and understanding its true scale, and how we co-ordinate and collaborate across different Departments in dealing with it. My concern, which I think is echoed in the industry, is that there are many chiefs and no king to deal with some of the issues. Given the severity of cybercrime and the threat that we face from it, that is not appropriate.

One of the things that I want to expand on in my comments is where I see that threat coming from. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that cybercrime is an extremely important priority, given the threat that we now face from it. The problem here is understanding the scale of it and who is responsible for which elements of it.

When we talk about something that costs our economy £27 billion a year—that is just a low estimate, because it is impossible to estimate its true scale—we have to recognise the challenge that we face. It is not the same as border control, important though that may be, and it calls for a new form of partnership. The Bill will give the NCA some of the responsibility, and I want to test how the Government envisage it working and to ensure that we are on the same page in making sure that we have a priority, a strategic response and the ability to interact with our international partners on such issues.

The majority of costings that we have on cybercrime at the moment are about intellectual property theft. One concern that many of us have is that a huge amount of personal cybercrime is taking place: people’s details being stolen and malicious software on people’s computers taking data—crimes that are not reported to the police or understood but which are a facet of serious and organised crime in this country.

Intellectual property theft has been costed at around £9.2 billion; industrial espionage at around £7.6 billion; and extortion at around £2.2 billion. Those are minute amounts compared with the amount that people are losing online, with their own costs that they pay with their banking, and with the impact on business and on our national security. General Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, which oversees the US cyber command, warned that cyber-attacks are causing

“the greatest transfer of wealth in history.”

It is identity theft and online scams that affect individuals. To give just one example, one Essex gang was making £2 million a month by stealing log-in details for bank accounts, using a single laptop to co-ordinate that crime. The problem is huge; it is serious, and it needs direction.

Given that 91% of UK businesses are online and 73% of UK households have internet access, it is our daily lives that the crime is filtering into and existing in. A 2012 PricewaterhouseCoopers survey showed that 93% of large corporations and 76% of small businesses had suffered a cyber-security breach in the past year. The cost of that breach to large businesses was between £110,000 and £250,000, and for small businesses it was between £15,000 and £30,000. That is even before we understand the concept of fiscal fraud committed against the Government. SOCA itself is well aware of the issue, having been subject to a denial-of-service attack. It is important to understand that a denial-of-service attack is not necessarily about making money, but about denying  a service and disrupting daily life. The types of cybercrime we have to deal with are not just acquisitive, but about terrorism, espionage and activism that is negative on society.

Photo of Charlie Elphicke Charlie Elphicke Ceidwadwyr, Dover

The hon. Lady makes a powerful point, particularly on cybercrime and intellectual property. Does she accept that the problem is much harder to combat when, in many cases, that cybercrime is state-sponsored?

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. That is exactly why I am concerned to ensure that we do not draw an artificial distinction between cyber-security and cybercrime. We need to understand how those technologies are used and the nature of the threat. We need to make sure people are aware of the threat and act accordingly. That is why I am keen that the Government have a co-ordinated approach. In the debate today, I want to make sure that that is what we are going to get from the new system.

It is also worth looking at the types of cybercrime that we do not always talk about when we talk about cyber-security and cybercrime, in particular the prevalence of cyber-stalking, which many people in our constituencies have experienced. Indeed, of the stalking incidents dealt with by the Crown Prosecution Service in 2010, 33% were via e-mail and 32% were via text message. Back in 2010 only 10% of people were on social networks—I am sure that number will be a lot higher this year. We know that this type of cybercrime affects the victims’ daily lives. Many people who have been cyber-stalked give up their social activities in their offline lives, and do not go out.

Understanding the ways in which technology is changing crime is absolutely key. Therefore, the Government’s and the NCA’s contributions to preventing those crimes are also key. The NCA will not only lead action on serious organised crime, but it will be charged with training local police forces to be able to respond better to these types of crime. It is therefore important that parliamentarians understand the responsibility that entails.

As Ross Anderson also argues:

“Systems often fail because the organisations that defend them do not bear the full costs of failure. For example, in countries with lax banking regulation, banks can pass more of the cost of fraud on to customers and merchants, which undermines their own incentive to protect payment systems properly…In addition, so long as anti-virus software is left to individuals to purchase and install, there may be a less than optimal level of protection—as infected machines typically cause trouble for other machines rather than their owners.”

In that sense, acting to co-ordinate and collaborate on the detection and prevention of these problems is key to their elimination. There is a risk at present that without better co-ordination by Government we will all bear the full costs of failure.

Part of the challenge—the hon. Gentleman’s view reflects this—is that we do not have those full-scale data. I look to the NCA to try to get a better picture of the data we need. We know that the data collected by the police suffer due to under-reporting. We know that many businesses do not report security breaches because they are frightened of reputational impact. The Federation of Small Businesses reported that in 2011, about 40% of  the cybercrime that its members experienced was under-reported. Under-reporting is not restricted to organisations. Only 37% of households in the British crime survey reported experiencing computer viruses to anybody. Only 9% reported the virus to their internet service provider, and only 1% reported it to the police. Yet we know that those viruses can contain trojans, which collect people’s bank details, so that crimes can be committed. We know that they are often organised by serious crime organisations.

Under-reporting further compounds the problems that the NCA will face. If those issues are not reported, or if they are reported to local police forces that do not understand the severity of what they are being told, it will be assumed that they are isolated. Patterns will not be sought, people will not look to see who else is prosecuting them to understand that gangs with one single laptop can create £2 million-worth of benefit a month. The current police system does not record those data. I hope the Minister, in responding to the amendment, will tell the Committee whether the NCA will collate such data and research to get a better picture of criminality on the internet.

Yet, even if we have a body that collates data, we also need to understand how to respond. Again, I return to my passion for public value for money. The Government are spending a lot of money—as previous Governments did—on security systems. Indeed, all western Governments are. One of the reasons why we have some frankly inflated figures about the costs of cybercrime is that they have come from the security systems companies themselves, which tell countries that they need to get these systems. When it is considered that western Governments spend about £35 billion a year on security systems and anti-virus software, and the private sector spends about £51 billion a year, the size of the industry becomes clear.

I welcome the fact that the Government are putting money into cybercrime strategy—my right hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East said it is about £650 million—but I want to see that money well spent. I am concerned that there are a number of agencies within the Government that currently hold responsibility for cybercrime and cyber-security. As we know, all too often in Government Departments, when everybody holds responsibility, no one holds responsibility.

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Ceidwadwyr, Macclesfield

I can see the passion that the hon. Lady has for the subject, but in making her case she has not persuaded me that—

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Ceidwadwyr, Macclesfield

But that is what we are encouraging. The hon. Lady has not persuaded me, or the rest of the Committee, I am sure, that we should enshrine that course in legislation. Earlier in the week, my near neighbour, the right hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East, moved an amendment that recognised that there could be changes in priorities; if there were to be, he wanted to see the Home Secretary come forward with a statutory instrument. If there could be changes, why focus on that specific thing? Important as it is,  other priorities could emerge. It would be good if the hon. Lady got to the point of why it is so important to have this matter in legislation and not the other aspects of what the NCA will be doing.

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I am so sorry that I am not entertaining the hon. Gentleman, if he does not have the patience to listen to the case that I want to make about co-ordination and collaboration. Otherwise, I cannot understand the nature of his comments, because he seems to be suggesting that there is not a debate to be had. I want to suggest to the contrary.

May I now talk about the national cyber-security programme, which is the key Government proposal for dealing with cyber-security and cybercrime? [Interruption.] Yes, I will do, because I hope that will convince the hon. Gentleman that his complacency about cybercrime is not well-founded. The amendment is about ensuring that this country cannot be accused of complacency.

The national cyber-security programme is managed by the Cabinet Office but, according to its own strategy document, the Home Office will get only 10% of its total budget for tackling cybercrime. The Ministry of Defence will also create a new defence cyber-operations group, with a joint cyber-unit at GCHQ, and that will get half of the £650 million budget. Yet I am confused how that will fit with the NCA, which is supposed to act as a national capability to deal with the most serious national-level cybercrime and to be part of the response to major incidents, as well as driving up the capacity of other police forces to deal with cybercrime.

We are already looking at four different agencies with responsibility for cybercrime: GCHQ, the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, the police central e-crime unit and SOCA. Merging the police central e-crime unit and SOCA together in the NCA is welcome, but it is still unclear to me how that will cut across different Departments. Who will take responsibility for cybercrime? We are also talking about a strategy that involves the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office and the Home Office, let alone the National Fraud Authority and the City of London police, who contribute to the cybercrime unit and to the economic crime command of the NCA. Thirty-eight different partners are involved in that aspect of the work alone.

The Government have announced plans to develop a UK national computer emergency response team as a focus for international work. Again, it is unclear to me how the NCA will work with that body. The Ministry of Defence is talking about recruiting its own cyber-reservists. How will they fit with the NCA specialist scheme? Might we see different Departments competing for the same specialists and the same set of skills? The Government are talking about—

Photo of Martin Caton Martin Caton Llafur, Gŵyr

Order. The hon. Lady is talking very generally, and not specifically on reviews.

Photo of Martin Caton Martin Caton Llafur, Gŵyr

I should be very grateful if the hon. Lady would home in on the subject of reviews.

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I am ever so sorry, Mr Caton, if I was not entirely clear. I would expect the review to address the sorts of questions that I was discussing—how the Government are dealing with cybercrime and the role of the NCA within that. In particular, will the NCA work with the cyber-growth partnership, and how will it work with the Cabinet Office cyber-security strategy? How will it work with the Ministry of Defence? The Defence Committee recently said that the Government need to put in place the

“mechanisms, people, education, skills…and policies which take into account both the opportunities and the vulnerabilities which cyberspace presents.”

We need to understand how the NCA will fit into that.

We also need to understand how the NCA—I hope that the review will cover this issue—will address what I call the Henry Kissinger question, because cybercrime covers many different territories. If there is a cybercrime matter in America, who will they pick up the phone to in the UK to talk about the people who are committing it? As the Committee knows, much cybercrime is committed on our own shores.

Clearly, there is a tension within Government between their partner agencies in dealing with cyber-security and cybercrime. In moving the amendment, I am seeking details on how the Minister will address that and on what information we would have annually on how the Government are co-ordinating on cybercrime, which is separate from the issues that the cyber-security strategy comes up with, because we are discussing the role of the NCA in detecting cybercrime. The amendment is about not only who is in charge but how such issues are resolved, and the international concerns. That gang making £2 million a month in Essex had links to eastern Europe. Clearly, how we negotiate with the European Cybercrime Centre is important. To ask for Parliament to be updated annually on this important issue is not too much to ask. There is no clarity about whether these issues will be covered in the annual report. My point in tabling these amendments is to get the Minister to set out more clearly, in a way that the Government have not done yet, precisely the role of the NCA in detecting and preventing cybercrime.

We have to remember how quickly these types of crimes move and how quickly the internet moves. The domain Google was registered in 1997, Facebook in 2004, YouTube in 2005 and Twitter in 2006. While the Government are setting up centres in universities, businesses are moving to cloud-based services. All that could lead to new forms of crime. We need to understand how the NCA will get to grips with that and work with its partners in other agencies. The trends for security risks this year are mobile phones. Again, what role will the NCA have in working with some of the mobile phone operating companies? When will we get updates on that?

On working with local police forces, some Members may well have seen the YouTube video “Who Pays For Petrol Anyway?” Yet there is no team in the police at the moment with expertise in tackling and detecting crime on YouTube. It is not unfair to ask the Government to provide further information on all those questions, given  that we are told that the NCA will offer that step change in how the Government deal with cybercrime at both local and organised international level.

Let me deal with amendment 33 and the role of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre. Many people here will have tremendous respect for CEOP, launched in 2006 as a UK-wide agency. We all recognise the benefits of the way in which it has worked in tackling child exploitation and in online protection. We know that it is critical that it operates on a multi-agency basis, including working with a small team of social workers from the NSPCC as well as several partner organisations. In general, it works with a wide range of high-risk child protection cases. To do so, it does more than simply detect crime; it also works on the child protection issues that working with such a vulnerable group of young people generates. Therefore, it is about not just criminal aspects of child protection, but collaboration with social services, health care and a range of expert partner agencies to detect and prevent those types of crime.

We all know that CEOP has been very successful. Since it was set up, it has dealt with more than 1,000 children subject to safeguarding or protection activity. It has had 1,644 suspects arrested and nearly 400 high-risk sex offender networks disrupted. It is clearly a successful model. It is completely understandable that several concerns have been raised about how these new forms of operation will work. The amendment is about reviewing that and making sure that we can be confident that all the gains built up from working in this partnership way will not be lost under the new command. It is certainly clear that people have justifiable concerns, not least the former chief executive, Jim Gamble, who resigned from CEOP as a result of the proposals.

When he gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, he said:

“If you want the new National Crime Agency to have the focus that it needs to deliver an improved service against organised crime assets, then you cannot use it like a Christmas tree and hang different baubles on to apparently de-clutter the police landscape… It is not about where CEOP sits in the hierarchy of issues around this. It is about where CEOP sits and the appropriate governance that makes sure that we continually focus on what is best for children, that we're not fighting for airtime among drugs, counter-terrorism, organised crime, guns and gangs because, having been the Head of Counter-Terrorism in Belfast… I can tell you that they do not sit as easy bedfellows…

Pushing us into a National Crime Agency, where the culture will invariably be different, is not going to be best for children nor other vulnerable victims who find themselves part of these crimes.”

It is a fear for many that the resources required to do this work will be diverted when the two are collapsed into the same command. There are some suggestions that this may already be happening. I would welcome some clarification from the Minister. These are exactly the sort of issues I would expect a review to cover—the work of the specialist child abuse investigators from the police forces in England and Wales who have been diverted to the ongoing investigation into child abuse in north Wales. Senior police officers and experts working with abuse victims have raised concerns that this diversion of limited resources from live investigations to a historical case has already put children at risk. One of those involved says:

“Officers in forces are trying to deal with these massive numbers of cases. If you take away your best people to investigate a historical case, what you have left back in the force are the live cases where a child is being abused tonight.”

None of us can prejudge what is happening with that kind of investigation in north Wales, but these concerns that collapsing the CEOP command, rather than having a separate body and a separately resourced organisation, may lead to such a situation are not unfounded.

The Home Secretary, in discussing the case and the decision to give it to the Serious Organised Crime Agency, said that

“other investigative assets as necessary”—[Official Report, 6 November 2012; Vol. 552, c. 733.]

would be deployed to the CEOP unit to investigate this case. However, those assets have been drawn from other forces across the country and, as one officer put it, they are “like gold dust”. The problem for all of us is that these resources are limited, so when they are being pulled in different directions it is very clear that there could be the risks that people are concerned about, especially when police forces are having to make cuts of 20% to their budgets. Indeed, Alan Earl, who is a member of the CEOP advisory board, has said that the outreach work being done to protect children online is already being affected by these changes.

This situation comes at a time when there has never been a higher understanding or awareness of child abuse and the need to support child protection. The NSPCC reports that, from September 2012—prior to the Jimmy Savile case coming to national attention—to October 2012, it saw an increase of 200% in advice calls about sexual abuse; those were calls about both past and present abuse. During October and November 2012, the NSPCC referred 788 more children to the police or social services for all types of abuse than it did for the same time period in 2011. It also received nearly 250 calls directly relating to Jimmy Savile.

The NSPCC fears that, under the new structure, these issues may not be given the same prominence as CEOP allowed them to be given, and that fear is made even greater by the fact that there is not a separate role for CEOP. Indeed, the NSPCC is also concerned about the lack of accountability of the CEOP board. I appreciate that we had a debate on Tuesday about the importance of advisory boards. However, I will just point out to the Minister that CEOP has a board that is currently run by Francis Plowden and that, under the new structure, that board would not have the same level of power and authority in directing what the CEOP command does as it currently has under the existing structure. If that happens, we may lose some of the benefits that come from that system in providing the challenge and scrutiny about how best to get child protection right in a policing context, in particular monitoring the resources and how they are deployed to deliver the strategy.

CEOP has pioneered a model of multi-agency partnership. The report that we suggest that the Government should be required to produce would allow us all to have confidence that the things that we fear might happen if this new body comes into being do not materialise. I am sure that Members from all parties would want to be certain that such fears would not materialise.

The report that we propose would also help us understand the role that the new command would play in dealing with trafficking. There is a genuine concern that, under the current arrangements, there will be a division of responsibility between internal trafficking of children and those children being trafficked into the  UK for sexual exploitation, because of the difference between the CEOP command and the UK Human Trafficking Centre, which is also part of the NCA. Some help from the Minister on how that process will be managed, and what responsibility will be taken for trafficking, would be very helpful too.

Finally, new clause 1 is about reviewing the nature of the NCA, and about precisely the issues that we have discussed today, including how the NCA is operating to deal with some of the criminal issues that we face in the year ahead. The report that we propose would be very different from an annual report. I am sure that we have all produced annual reports ourselves and they may not have been the reflection, and reflective moment, that people wanted them to be. The point about new clause 1 is that it would ensure a proper moment for review and scrutiny of the new body, because it is a substantial change to the policing landscape in the UK. Nowhere do we see that more than in the original proposals that the Government brought forward about how the new body would manage terrorism and the role that it would play.

The original clause 2 would have allowed modifications to the NCA to allow it specifically to take over counter-terrorism functions. It was proposed that the NCA would be able to do that without parliamentary scrutiny of the idea and without proper due process, simply through a statutory order. Counter-terrorism is a hugely significant part of citizens’ safety, and currently the Metropolitan police is known to be the expert on counter-terrorism and known to have the skills and—crucially—the relationships, which are particularly important in dealing with some of the terrorism issues that we have to deal with in all our communities. The Metropolitan police has the relationships with the communities and the community leaders that it needs to investigate these issues.

The 2,000-strong counter-terrorism command at the Met has been around for many years; it has that expertise and those relationships that I talked about. Crucially, however, it also has stability, at a time when we face an unprecedented level of threat in our society. So there was a genuine concern, expressed by many in the other House and particularly by those with previous policing experience, that simply transferring those powers to the new NCA in the year that it was being set up, and without any proper scrutiny of that transfer or any concern or about how it might work, could be disastrous.

In particular, both Lord Condon and Lord Blair spoke out against this change. They were not arguing that this way could never possibly be the right way to go; they were simply asking the NCA not to run before it could walk, and saying that for the NCA to deal with an issue as sensitive and complex as terrorism was not appropriate.

Another possibly interested party is Commander Bernard Hogan-Howe of the Met. I am sure that the Minister will take the Mandy Rice-Davies approach and say, “Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?” However, as Commander Hogan-Howe said:

“The NCA as of yet is not up and running…I am sure everyone will need to think how that…will work with its original responsibilities—as well as considering the new possibility”.

In its gestation period and infancy, I suspect that it would not be able to pick up and run with the complexities and importance of counter-terrorism. However, there  might come a time when that case can be made—I do not say that it will be made, but it might be made. It is both sensible and proper that we should be able to legislate to move counter-terrorism from the Metropolitan police to the NCA if the case is proven. It is about having the opportunity to debate properly and appropriately how those new, very serious powers will be taken on by the NCA, rather than simply pushing them through. The fact that the Government have dropped the clause, having been defeated in the other place, is a welcome recognition that it was not an appropriate way to deal with the issue. The new clause would allow the Government the appropriate time to have that conversation and to update Parliament, to ensure that we have scrutiny of any such decision.

Given that the proposed review of counter-terrorism arrangements after the London 2012 Olympics does not appear to have taken place, it would also be helpful if the Minister could confirm when that will take place, because it could inform the review as well. I wonder whether the Minister could say a little about that, and finally a little about his internal processes of consideration—of where terrorism lies in his thinking—so that we can understand, when considering the new NCA, what future role it might play.

I appreciate the Committee’s patience. We need to get right those three issues because they are very important for our society. The purpose behind the proposals for a review is to ensure that there is continual parliamentary scrutiny of and reflection on all of them. I hope that Members will take this in the spirit intended.

We have seen several changes to the policing landscape over the past 18 months, and several proposals that have been radical in intent and botched in delivery. It is vital when dealing with issues such as cybercrime, child protection and terrorism that we have a more measured and considered approach. Perhaps after the debacle following one policy change over police reform, the Government will pause and reflect. The amendments give them the space to do so. We would all welcome that, and I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department 3:30, 24 Ionawr 2013

I do not know whether I can replicate the sustained passion of the hon. Lady, but I will do my best to engage the Committee.

Before I start, I should first agree with the right hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East, who was right to draw the Committee’s attention to the Government’s excessive modesty, and to say that we should dwell much more often on our achievements in office.

Given that we are considering the Crime and Courts Bill this afternoon, it is appropriate that I should briefly bring to the Committee’s attention the fact that we have announced today the lowest levels of crime since the Crime Survey for England and Wales began in 1981, 32 years ago. Under this Government, there was a fall of 8% in the last year, and a 7% fall in recorded police crime statistics, showing a sustained fall in crime since the Government took office in May 2010. That rather goes against the passionate but misguided expectations of Opposition Members, who keep telling us that the consequence of all our policies is that crime will inexorably rise, and then always look glum-faced when their constituents experience less and less crime.

Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

This analysis of why crime decreases is very interesting. I was listening to Radio 4 the other morning, to a programme which referred to an article from The Daily Telegraph . It said that the reason why violent crime has dropped so significantly across the UK over the past 40 years is because of the reduction in the use of lead in petrol: it was no longer being ingested by people. When they analysed—this is a serious point, coming from a university professor from Oxford no less—those countries where lead is used less, they found that crime falls, and it is very little to do with policing and policemen.

Photo of Martin Caton Martin Caton Llafur, Gŵyr

Order. I heard the Radio 4 item as well and it is fascinating, but it is not really to do with the amendment. Minister.

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department 3:45, 24 Ionawr 2013

I am grateful for that guidance, Mr Caton. You would not want me to observe that categories of crime including vandalism and break-ins from cars and household burglary are also falling dramatically. As you rightly say, Mr Caton, we have other opportunities to celebrate the achievements of the Government, and we should concentrate narrowly on celebrating the achievement of bringing the National Crime Agency into being, and particularly on amendments 32 and 33 and new clause 1, which I will address now.

The hon. Member for Walthamstow raises important issues through her amendments on cybercrime, and on child sexual exploitation and human trafficking. They refer to some of the most harmful and damaging crimes perpetrated against some of the most vulnerable people in our society, exactly the types of criminality which the NCA—alongside its partners—will be fighting. It is right that Parliament should be kept informed of the NCA’s progress in leading the national response to those crimes.

The Government’s national security strategy explicitly recognises cyber-threats as one of the four tier 1 risks to the UK’s security. In response to this, the “Cyber Security–A new national programme” report, published in 2011, sets out the cross-Government approach to reducing the cost and threat of cybercrime to the United Kingdom. While by no means the only contributor to this effort the NCA, and in particular its national cyber crime unit, will play a key role in delivering this strategy. It will bring a step change to our national capability of tackling the growing threat from cybercrime. It will lead the NCA’s response to the most sophisticated forms of cybercrime, delivering upstream interventions against the most serious computer intrusions, including malicious attacks, which can be used to steal personal data, and denial-of-service attacks. It will also provide specialist operational support to National Crime Agency command and other law enforcement partners, assisting them in tackling cyber-enabled crimes. The NCA’s cyber crime unit also acts as a centre of excellence, dedicated to strengthening the capabilities of police forces and other partners, and delivering prevention work that makes it harder for criminals to commit cybercrime.

I will come to the second of the issues raised by the hon. Lady, and then to some further points from her amendments. The second of the points she raises is the Government’s duty to protect the nation’s children from  abuse. I can reassure the Committee that the National Crime Agency will play a vital role in tackling child sexual exploitation and abuse, with CEOP sitting at its heart. The NCA will use its enhanced intelligence capabilities and co-ordination functions to target the individuals and criminal gangs involved in perpetrating these crimes, wherever they are.

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department

I was only just getting into my stride, but yes, I will.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Llafur, Wythenshawe and Sale East

That is all very interesting, and we are all very reassured that CEOP will be at the heart of this task, but that is not what the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow actually says. Amendment 33 simply asks that there be an annual report on the work of the National Crime Agency in relation to protecting children from sexual abuse. Given that the other day I was able to draw extensively from the latest annual review of CEOP—including the commitment by the Home Secretary to make sure that CEOP keeps its own independent brand and maintains operational independence—the request put forward by my hon. Friend is a very modest one: that the annual report it already publishes be required by this legislation. We can then all be satisfied with the work that CEOP does to protect our children.

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department

I am sorry about that; I was trying to help the Committee. If the hon. Member for Walthamstow had stood up and asked whether there was going to be an annual report and then sat down, I would have felt I could match her brevity, but I do not want to show a deficit of compassion on this side after an extended period of emotional intensity from the opposite Front Bench. I thought it was right to bring to the Committee’s attention—although with greater brevity than we had from the previous speaker—some of the important tasks that the NCA will be doing, before I get to the rather limited scope of the amendment.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Llafur, Wythenshawe and Sale East

I am simply making the point that I hope the Minister will be able to match my hon. Friend’s passion for this issue, although I suspect that maybe he will fall slightly short. In addition to giving us all these reassurances about what CEOP will do and what the NCA will do, I ask him whether he will simply say yes to my hon. Friend’s sensible request that there be an annual report to Parliament.

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department

Let me get to that very point, but I think it is important to explain the context within which we make wise decisions in government; otherwise, members of the Committee may not feel that they can support the Government when or if these amendments are pressed to a vote.

The National Crime Agency, in addition to all the excellent work that I have already explained to the Committee, will use its new wider remit to go further. It will improve the response at our borders, it will disrupt the activities of traffickers and child sex offenders who travel from or into the UK—this is very relevant to this area—and it will join up work to disrupt the activities  of local organised crime groups, who may also be sexually exploiting young people. It will use its single national intelligence picture to prioritise action and co-ordinate the law enforcement response, resulting in a stronger response against the increasingly complex problems of child sexual abuse, trafficking and exploitation. So the fact that CEOP is sitting within the NCA—a wider organisation with a range of capabilities—will, we hope, lead to enhanced protection for children. The law enforcement response to human trafficking will likewise be further strengthened by the incorporation of the UK Human Trafficking Centre—the central co-ordination point for human trafficking in the UK—into the NCA.

The hon. Lady’s amendments place a statutory requirement that progress made in specific areas by the NCA and its partners should be the subject of bespoke annual reports. I hope that, on reflection, she and all members of the Committee will agree that that is not necessary. The hon. Lady will be aware that there is already significant cross-Government reporting on such matters. For example, the Government have committed to reporting annually on the cyber security strategy, to which the national cyber crime unit will undoubtedly make a significant contribution.

Elsewhere, the interdepartmental ministerial group on human trafficking published its first report on progress on combating human trafficking in October 2012 and it will continue to do so annually. To add additional reporting requirements would be unnecessarily bureaucratic.

CEOP also communicates publicly on its performance and activities, providing information and advice, including its thematic assessments and education products, and through its web presence. We expect each of these types of information to continue. Moreover, the National Crime Agency will be an open and transparent organisation, sharing as much information about its work as is operationally possible with Parliament and the public. In addition to its statutory annual report, I expect the NCA to provide information on a more frequent basis through its “duty to publish”, as set out in clause 5, cementing the Government’s commitment to an open and transparent NCA.

I therefore hope that hon. Members are satisfied that sufficient mechanisms are already in place to report the progress that we are making in the fight against crime. In my time as a Minister, there seem to have been huge numbers of reports published and assessments on progress made. I do not know how carefully all those reports are scrutinised by 650 Members of Parliament. I fear that some of them might not be read in their entirety by every Member of the House, but we are certainly providing huge rafts of information and it is envisaged that the NCA will do that to the satisfaction of all those who wish to understand more about the excellent work it is doing to fight serious and organised crime, including in the areas covered in amendments 32 and 33.

Turning to new clause 1, the hon. Lady was seeking a statutory review to ascertain whether counter-terrorism and other national co-ordinating functions, including in respect of public order, should be conferred on the NCA. That debate has been rather discrete. It is a separate debate, if I may so, Mr Caton. The grouping with the other two amendments was slightly surprising, because the matter has been treated as a sort of stand-alone subject of interest, but it was an extremely wise grouping nevertheless. I am only starting to get to the point where  I learn how wise such groupings are. For a beginner like me it seems slightly strange. Nevertheless, we are in a position to discuss the amendments together.

We touched on the issue briefly on Tuesday in relation to the debate on amendment 21. Let me be clear: neither the criminal intelligence function nor the reference to

“any other kind of crime” in clause 1(5)(b) can be used to confer counter-terrorism policing functions on the agency by the back door. I hope that reassures the Committee.

As the Government have been clear from the outset, we are building an agency that will lead the national response to serious, organised and complex crime. I am sure hon. Members will agree it is vital that we give the National Crime Agency the space to design and build within that clear remit and the capabilities and responsibilities that come from its precursor bodies. That is not to say that there are not additional roles, responsibilities or capabilities that may be considered as appropriate for the agency to take on in the future. However, in scrutinising the Bill, I think our first responsibility is to ensure that the agency has a clear mandate in respect of tackling serious, organised and complex crime. That will be a significant challenge for the new agency when it is formally established later this year.

However, in the same way that the agency needs the flexibility to enable it to respond quickly to the changing threat picture, so it is right that the Government too are afforded flexibility to consider whether it is right that the agency should take on additional responsibilities in future.

As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has repeatedly made clear, the Government have made no decision on whether the NCA should have a counter-terrorism role. She has also made it clear that it is right that such matters should be considered when the agency is up and running, and after a review. Our commitment to undertake such a review was first made in the NCA plan in June 2011, and has been repeated on several subsequent occasions both in this House and the other place. We do not need to clutter up the statute book by enshrining such reviews in legislation.

However, providing a ready mechanism to give effect to the outcome of such a review is a different matter. There are several precedents whereby the statutory functions of a public body can be amended or augmented through secondary legislation. That was why the Bill, on introduction in the other place, included a power to confer by order counter-terrorism policing functions on the NCA. Clearly, their lordships took a different view of the appropriateness of including such an order-making power under the Bill. We are continuing to reflect on the debate in the other place, and it has been helpful to hear the views of hon. Members and to know details of the wider debate that has taken place. We will not be seeking in our proceedings to reinstate the order-making power into the Bill, but members of the Committee should not take that to be an indication that the Government have decided such matters one way or the other.

As I have said, we need a little more time to consider our approach. We shall therefore set out our intentions in advance of the Bill being discussed on Report. I note that the new clause refers to “public order functions” as well as

“other national response coordination functions”,

and would require the review to consider the appropriateness of a role for the NCA in those additional areas. I do not know whether to be impressed or daunted by the scale of the ambition of Labour Members for the NCA, but it is not our ambition at the moment to take on those tasks.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I am grateful to be able to intervene in the debate between my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow and the Minister. What the hon. Gentleman said about terrorism is important. It was an issue of some controversy in the other place. Will he clarify whether he intends to table an amendment on Report, so that we can consider the matter then, or will the review take place post Royal Assent?

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department

The review will take place post Royal Assent. Assuming that the Bill has progressed through Parliament and that the NCA comes into being later this year, it will exist without the counter-terrorism function. In time, when the NCA is bedded in, the review will ascertain whether counter-terrorism measures can be achieved more effectively through the NCA or will best be achieved under the existing mechanisms.

As for how such matters will be given legal force, we will not introduce the mechanism in Committee and overturn the decision taken in the other place. We are still assessing whether we will take such action in advance of the Bill being discussed on Report.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

With due respect to the Minister, the measure was in the Bill in another place. Such a provision was removed during its consideration of the Bill. If the hon. Gentleman was saying that he will allow us to continue to debate matters in Committee and not fulfil our function, but then introduce on Report a new clause that reflects the provision that was removed in another place, and just have it debated on the Floor of House before the Bill returns to another place, he really is messing with the legitimate right of the Committee to scrutinise the Bill.

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department

Well, we will set out our intention ahead of the Bill being discussed on Report, and it might not be to introduce such a measure on Report. We will, of course, act entirely within the processes and procedures that have existed in Parliament for much longer than I can remember.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Llafur, Wythenshawe and Sale East

Mr Caton, this Committee is conducting itself in a perfectly reasonable normal way. We are testing out the Minister. He is responding to us, and explaining his views. Amendments are generally being withdrawn, which is how procedures in Committee work. There has been no debate on Second Reading and no substantial amendment to debate in Committee, so if he is offering the prospect to the House of Commons that he will, perhaps a day or two before Report, publish the Government’s new thinking on this and re-enter the amendment that was thrown out by the other place, that would be utterly unacceptable and outrageous.

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department 4:00, 24 Ionawr 2013

Let me take members of the Committee back a stage or two. In the Government’s view, we have an effective counter-terrorism presence at the moment, and the leading body is the Metropolitan police. The hon. Member for Walthamstow cited a number of former very senior Metropolitan police officers who believe the Metropolitan police is the best body for exercising those duties.

The case has been made, and it is a perfectly reasonable case, that the NCA will have the scope and talent at its disposal to exercise those powers effectively to protect the people of the United Kingdom. The Government want counter-terrorism to be as effective as possible. We are open-minded about how that can best be achieved. The NCA needs to bed in and establish itself before it would be appropriate to consider whether it is a better vehicle for such responsibilities than the existing vehicles. The question arises separately, and the Government are still open on that point. Others might have views, and they may make speeches or submit those views in writing to the Home Secretary—I am sure she would be grateful to receive them. That is an open debate, and there are pros and cons in different directions.

There is a second issue, which is, were we to go down the path of giving the NCA responsibility for counter-terrorism—that decision has not been made—should we have legislation in this Bill to create a power to do so in future, or should we do it through discrete legislation? We have not yet made a decision on whether to go ahead with that course of action, so we have not introduced a mechanism to include it in the Bill. Before Report, when all Members may contribute, we will set out our intentions. Obviously, there may be corresponding legislation or changes to the Bill, but I am not yet in a position to say what they are.

Photo of Charlie Elphicke Charlie Elphicke Ceidwadwyr, Dover

In my, albeit short, time in the House, I have noticed that it is normal for Bills to be living things and for amendments to be tabled on Report following an airing in Committee such as we are having. Indeed, I remember that the previous Government would virtually rewrite Finance Bills on Report; it is not uncommon, and it is not a bad way to go.

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department

Indeed, I was only a Member of the third of the three Labour Parliaments, but people used to say to me that in the previous two Parliaments, when Labour had very big majorities, such mechanisms were airily put through the House with virtually no regard for the views of Opposition Members. I have tried to take serious regard of all the points that have been made. Of course, the provision was struck out of the Bill in the House of Lords with the votes of, among others, Labour peers. In Committee we could have put the measure straight back in, and I suppose a Government with a majority of this House—if I were able to convince my hon. Friends—would have reinstated it, but we wanted to consider seriously all the points that have been made and to see how the power could best be exercised. That is exactly what we are doing. The clause is not about a review but about giving effect to the conclusions of any such review. We have not yet concluded our review, of course, so we are not in a position to give effect to its conclusions.

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

The Minister makes the case that the power is not one that has not been thought through. He recognises that the other place did not feel it was an appropriate power to include in the Bill. The other place gave the Bill proper scrutiny, but by not re-tabling the power, he is denying the Committee the opportunity to scrutinise how it might be constructed under the alternative proposals. He is now summarily suggesting that the Government might bring back the power on Report. Will he assure the Committee that there will be proper legislative scrutiny in the House—not on Report, but proper legislative scrutiny—of the implications of such a major change in how we deal with such a sensitive and complex issue? Yes or no?

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department

I cannot bring such a provision to the Committee when we have not made a decision about whether we wish to bring it to Parliament at all. We in Government will consider what we believe to be the most appropriate means for protecting the public, and there will be a review, once the NCA is established, of how that can be done. We will see how we can best give it legislative effect. When we are in a position to invite Members of Parliament to make a decision we will do so, but as we do not have a decision to invite them to consider at this stage, we cannot.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Llafur, Wythenshawe and Sale East

The Minister’s hon. Friend the Member for Dover was right: amendments are of course brought in at each and every stage of a Bill. I am hoping, based on our debates, that the Minister will come back on Report with revisions and amendments on a whole range of things. However, the point being made is that the issue is fundamentally important to the Bill, and the provision was thrown out in the other place. If the Minister is seriously thinking that he can go through Second Reading and the whole Committee stage without bringing forward any proposition from Government, and then sneaking it in at the last possible minute and trying to ram it through with a Government majority, it is—I will not say a dishonest form of politics, because you might pull me up, Mr Caton—certainly not a straightforward way of doing things. It would be treating the House with utter contempt. That is the point that, forcefully, my right hon. and hon. Friends and I want to make.

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department

I understand the point that the right hon. Gentleman is making, but at the risk of slightly going over the ground again, the Government introduced the Bill, which contained that power, to Parliament as a whole. The other place is not constructed entirely to my liking, but that is a different issue on which Parliament has given its view. There it is: we are where we are. The other end of Parliament considered the Bill as a whole, including this proposal. They, not the Government, decided to take out the provision, so we cannot discuss it here because it is no longer in the Bill.

There is an Opposition amendment, which anybody who chooses to observe our deliberations can see we are certainly debating, but the Bill no longer contains that particular proposal because Parliament removed it. Rather than us just bringing it straight back in, in a Committee where the Government have an in-built majority and a fairly reasonable expectation that we would be able to reinstate it if we chose—assuming that I am able to  command the support of my right hon. and hon. Friends, and perhaps the support of Opposition Members who share my passion for defending people from serious and organised crime—we are reflecting upon the decisions made by those in the other place. Decisions made by Parliament. We will continue to reflect upon them, and if we wish to go ahead with some sort of change, we will make our approach clear before Report and there will be an opportunity, it having been discussed at length at the other end of Parliament, for it to be discussed at this end, on top of the discussion we are now having.

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

Can I just be clear? The Minister is essentially saying that he did not want to table an amendment for the Committee, which he could have done if he is so convinced that the Government’s original thinking on the proposal that caused them to include it in the Bill in the first place was correct. He could have done that after it was defeated in the Lords, in order to bring it to be considered by the Committee. What message does that send about his presumptions about the ability of the Committee to debate things?

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department

I do not think it says anything. Again, we are going over things, but there are two separate points. One is whether we wish the NCA to be responsible for counter-terrorism. No decision has been made on whether we wish that to be the case. We cannot invite the Committee to endorse a decision that we are reflecting on, based on all kinds of interesting insights and representations that could come from Opposition Members. Separate from that are what parliamentary mechanisms would be put in place to give legal force to that change, were that to be the path the Government wished to go down at some future point. All I am saying is that we will make all those matters clear before Report, so that there is plenty of opportunity for scrutiny. There has been, however, a lot of parliamentary scrutiny already in the other place.

Photo of Charlie Elphicke Charlie Elphicke Ceidwadwyr, Dover

Just so that I fully understand, the Minister is being berated for not bringing back a provision that was voted against by Labour peers and not tabled as an amendment by Labour MPs in Committee. Is it not odd for them to attack him for choosing to pause and reflect on what the House of Lords decided? If they feel so strongly about the issue, they could have tabled an amendment.

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department

Indeed. I share the views of the Deputy Prime Minister about the construction of the House of Lords, but it is still the House of Lords. At the moment, it is the revising Chamber. It decided to change the Bill, with the support of Labour peers, and we are reflecting on that, as Governments are normally invited to do when changes are made by Parliament. It is difficult; sometimes you cannot win either way, can you, Mr Caton? We are doing our best and maybe having come close to exhausting this aspect of the conversation, the hon. Lady will consider withdrawing her amendment.

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

The Minister would get further with the Opposition if he focused less on the pejorative language of how women speak in Parliament and more on the specific detail. Suggesting that I am emotional or excitable does not do him any favours in making his case. I hope that he will reflect on how he has behaved today and what that says about this Parliament.

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I said pejorative language, because I consider it to be pejorative to suggest that someone is emotional or excitable for raising an issue and to restrict those comments only to when women are speaking.

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department

The hon. Lady said that she was passionate about the issues, and I said that she was passionate about the issues. I cannot remember which derogatory word she used, but if I have the energy, I will read about it in Hansard tomorrow. If she looks back at what she has said about me in her speeches—if she wants to go tit for tat—she was saying all kinds of things, but I will not get too upset about them and maybe we can call it quits.

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I think the Minister will find that he said that I was emotional and said in the earlier sitting that I was excitable. I suggest that he reflects on what message that sends about the debates that we have here. We are discussing serious issues and in tabling the amendments, I requested specific detail.

Responding to the first amendment, which would create a review of how the NCA is helping us tackle cybercrime, the Minister made no mention of how it would work for GCHQ, or how the NCA would work with the Ministry of Defence. In my speech, I talked about the artificial distinction between cyber-security and cybercrime. I was hoping that the Minister would give us a little more clarity on how the NCA will fulfil the national level role that all the briefings say it will have, how it will tackle those issues and how we can be confident as a society that there is co-ordination across Government.

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Ceidwadwyr, Macclesfield

I am following the debate with keen interest. I recognise the hon. Lady’s enthusiasm—that is the important word—for these matters.

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Ceidwadwyr, Macclesfield

And expertise. Given that expertise—a very good word—will the hon. Member for Walthamstow make her case even stronger by setting out what success criteria she would like to see in the reports and what key metrics should be enclosed in them? That will give the Minister the best possible chance to reflect on what she is saying, if that suggestion meets with her approval.

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 4:15, 24 Ionawr 2013

Absolutely. It is pleasant finally to hear a question from the hon. Gentleman that is about the issue in hand. The amendment raises a number of issues around cost and threat and, in particular, how the NCA works with its partner agencies. The amendment was trying to get at that challenge of co-ordination and what success might look like. Earlier, I mentioned cyber specials, who the Ministry of Defence is looking to recruit. The Bill will allow the NCA to recruit specials to work on cybercrime. Success would come not from the Government trying to compete among themselves, but from collaboration between individuals. For example, were a new form of malware to be developed that  required specialist knowledge about how it was transmitted, I would not want separate work going on in the MOD and in the NCA to address the impact it might have.

Industrial espionage, which the hon. Member for Dover mentioned, may have state sponsors. That cuts across the boundaries between commercial and industrial crime and national security. One of the successes I would like to see is evidence of greater co-operation. That is precisely why the amendment talks about relationships with partner agencies.

I am disappointed that the Minister did not refer to how the NCA might work with GCHQ or the MOD, or what role the Cabinet Office would play. He referred to the national defence cyber-security strategy, which comes from the Cabinet Office, yet here we are talking about the NCA and the role that it will play in tackling cybercrime.

I also talked about reducing the cost and threat of cybercrime and the requirement to hold on to data about its nature. Again the Minister made no reference to that or to the importance of accurate data so that we could see the impact of some of the changes on how cybercrime occurs in the UK, and the cost to all of us, whether individuals or businesses, or to national security.

I hope that I have set out for the Minister some suggestions about the sorts of things an annual review could look at, such as how different Government agencies were looking at the problem. Of course different capabilities will be required in the MOD, and of course there will be different issues about how we work with businesses, but the Government are setting up the NCA, which will have a key role in tackling cybercrime, yet they have not clearly set out what it will mean for all of us. At worst, there is a risk of replication as we see silos within Departments dealing with such issues, but at best, there could be a real step change in our understanding of the level of threat we face, the artificial distinction between the nature and type of attacks undertaken, the specialist knowledge required, and how partner agencies work at ground level. For example, if the police are teaching other police about how to deal with viruses, we also need to look at how we work with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to deal with viruses and train businesses in security software.

Given that nearly £1 billion of security software is at stake, I hope that the Minister will agree that reviewing how the agencies will operate is very important. I am sad that he did not see fit to show a commitment to the co-ordination needed to ensure that we are not wasting public money and that we are, as the amendment would require, reducing the cost and threat of cybercrime to consumers, the Government and the armed forces.

Our amendment 34 relates to CEOP’s budget. Again, the Minister did not detail the specifics that many of us are concerned about. We are already starting to see where the bauble approach—as Jim Gamble described it—to bringing the commands together may inadvertently lead to a loss of expertise, resource and priority in child protection. I do not think anyone in the Committee wishes that to happen; I am convinced that everyone would like CEOP to be as successful as it has been. I encourage the Minister to think further about how, when we come to that amendment, he can satisfy some of the concerns that we all have.

As for new clause 1, words fail me in describing the Minister’s attitude to the role that the Committee can play. He summarily announced that he may or may not table a new clause or amendment to provide for a power that had been removed from the Bill on Report in the other place. New clause 1 is about proper parliamentary scrutiny of such a substantial change. Getting counter-terrorism right, given the threats that we face in this country, is paramount. To suggest simply that the Minister can sneak in a power on Third Reading, when we will have a number of other issues to deal with, is extremely destabilising to the Met and to all those doing the planning for the NCA. It is extremely concerning to all of us who live in communities affected by the issues.

I am disappointed that the Minister has taken such a strategy towards the Committee. The Whips and all of us will reflect on what that says about what he thinks of our powers to offer effective guidance on how the power in the Bill might be used. Given that the other House rejected that power, with a number of serious concerns about what would happen, I hoped for more from the Minister.

I shall not press the Committee to a vote on the amendments, but I must say that the temper of the debate was disappointing to all of us who hoped that this afternoon we could have a constructive debate about how policing moves forward in this country and addresses three very serious issues. I hope we do better on Tuesday.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.