Clause 7 - Other functions etc

Part of Crime and Courts Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:15 pm ar 24 Ionawr 2013.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department 4:15, 24 Ionawr 2013

As we have heard from the hon. Lady, the amendment seeks to ring-fence the funding for CEOP within the NCA.

As I have done throughout our discussion in Committee, I can certainly assure the hon. Lady that the National Crime Agency will play a vital role in tackling child sexual exploitation and abuse. The hon. Lady is, I hope, well aware of the Government’s strong and continuing commitment to CEOP. We want to build on its successes to date and to ensure that children are even better protected in future. Reflecting that commitment, the six principles that underpin the transition of CEOP into the NCA will, as I have said, be set out in the framework document, to which the Home Secretary and the NCA director general will have a statutory duty to have regard. On how CEOP’s important work load is funded, the document will cement the Government commitment that CEOP will continue to have

“clear, delegated authority for its budget”,

as well as being able to

“continue its innovative partnerships with the public, private and third sector and have the ability to raise and hold funds from donors”.

Going to the nub of the point made, however, we do not believe that proceeding further, by providing for the statutory ring-fencing of one element of the NCA budget, would support the efficient and effective management of the organisation, including its ability to respond to changing circumstances in-year. Indeed, across government, budgets are not in practice ring-fenced by statute. A commitment might be given by a Secretary of State or a Prime Minister to ring-fence a particular budget, but not in statute, because that does not allow for the necessary flexibility to respond to changing priorities within the financial year. As to how the director general reports on the work of CEOP in the NCA annual report, I suggest that we can also leave that to the director general’s good judgment, rather than introducing additional statutory duties.

I wholeheartedly share all hon. Members’ desire to ensure that CEOP is properly resourced. Incorporating it in the NCA will enable it to draw on the wider resources of the organisation that are not allocated to one of the four commands. CEOP’s work will not be diluted in the NCA. Rather, CEOP will be able to do  even more to protect children—the point I was making a few moments ago—with border police and others bringing extra resource and expertise to bear.

On Tuesday, we touched on the issue of CEOP staff transferring to the NCA. With your permission, Mr Caton, I want to take this opportunity to provide a fuller answer to the hon. Member for Walsall South on that point. She asked whether all the staff from CEOP would go over to the NCA. I said at the time that that was my understanding, and I confirm that all staff currently employed by CEOP will transfer to the NCA. It is envisaged that secondees in CEOP will similarly transfer to the NCA; the Bill therefore provides that their secondment will have effect as if it were a secondment to the NCA. Secondees who do not want to transfer will, of course, be able to return to their parent organisation. The transfer process to the NCA from precursor organisations is currently being discussed with staff, but no staff will be lost in the process. As we build the agency, the objective is to ensure that CEOP can do more to protect children as a fully integrated command within the NCA, drawing on the agency’s enhanced intelligence, its operational crime-fighting capabilities and its strong relationships with partners. CEOP within the NCA will mean no lessening of the focus on tackling child sexual exploitation and abuse.

Returning to amendment 34, I hope to persuade the Committee that enshrining the six principles in the framework document is the appropriate way to safeguard the position of CEOP, not by imposing statutory straitjackets, which are not typical elsewhere in legislation, whether under this Government or previous ones. I therefore ask the hon. Member for Walthamstow to withdraw the amendment.