Protection of Freedoms Bill committee stage: day two

07 December 2011

The House of Lords completed the first part of committee stage on the Protection of Freedoms Bill with line by line examination in the Chamber on Tuesday 6 December

A proposal (amendment 70) seeking to make stalking a criminal offence. Currently, stalking is prosecuted under harassment laws.

Committee stage on the Bill has been divided in two. Now that the Bill has completed two days in a Committee of the Whole House, line by line examination will continue in Grand Committee – scheduled to begin on Tuesday 13 December.

The clauses on vetting checks on people working with children and vulnerable adults, and criminal records were also discussed. Amendments included proposals to allow for flexibility in checking criminal records in order for exceptions – additional vetting – to be made in certain circumstances.

On 8 November the House of Lords agreed to an extremely rare motion – a vote – to divide the committee stage of the Bill into two, allowing the more contentious sections of the Bill to be considered in the main Chamber, while the rest of the Bill will go to a Grand Committee.

A Committee of the Whole House, which takes place in the House of Lords Chamber, allows Members of the Lords to ‘test the opinion of the House’ – insist on a vote on an amendment (a proposal for changes to the Bill).

The House of Lords does not vote on amendments to a Bill during Grand Committee. Amendments in Grand Committee are agreed to or rejected without voting, and usually concern issues which the House unanimously agrees with. If the House of Lords is not able to reach a decision on an amendment in Grand Committee, the amendment can be discussed again at the next stage of the Bill – report stage.

About the Bill

The wide ranging Bill, which aims to address civil liberties issues and government intrusion into the lives of individuals, introduces a broad scope of provisions that include measures concerning CCTV, DNA retention, fingerprinting children in schools, powers of entry, detention without charge, wheel clamping and serious fraud trials.

The key aims are to:

  • bring in a new framework for police retention of fingerprints and DNA data, and requires schools to get parents’ consent before processing children’s biometric information
  • introduce a code of practice for surveillance camera systems and provide for judicial approval of certain surveillance activities by local authorities
  • provide for a code of practice to cover officials’ powers of entry, with these powers being subject to review and repeal
  • outlaw wheel-clamping on private land
  • introduce a new regime for police stops and searches under the Terrorism Act 2000 and reduces the maximum pre-charge detention period under that Act from 28 to 14 days
  • restrict the scope of the 'vetting and barring' scheme for protecting vulnerable groups and makes changes to the system of criminal records checks
  • enable those with convictions for consensual sexual relations between men aged 16 or over (which have since been decriminalised) to apply to have them disregarded
  • extend Freedom of Information rights by requiring datasets to be available in a re-usable format
  • repeal provisions (never brought into force) which would have allowed trial without a jury in complex fraud cases
  • remove time restrictions on when marriage or civil partnership ceremonies may take place.

The Bill which started in the Commons, had its second reading in the House of Lords – debate on the purpose and principles – on 9 November.

Further information

Detailed line by line examination of the separate parts (clauses and schedules) of the Bill takes place during committee stage. Any Member of the Lords can table amendments to make changes to the Bill.

Amendments can allow the House of Lords to make revisions to Government Bills (plans for laws). Members of the Lords, often with specialist knowledge or experience of the subject, submit amendments to explore possible effects of the planned law and the policy that lies behind it.

Image: PA

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