Stalking Protection Bill: Applications for orders

It is a pleasure and privilege to speak on Report. I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend
the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) on promoting such an important Bill. I steered a private Member’s Bill through this place in my first year as a Member, so I know the many demands that can suddenly appear in the inbox and arrive down the telephone line the moment one is draw in the ballot, as there are any number of competing calls from non-governmental organisations and campaign groups. I can think of very few issues that are more worthy to pursue than the one that my hon. Friend has chosen.

It was a particular privilege to serve on the Bill Committee with my hon. Friend and to hear some of the examples from Members on both sides of the House. The core purpose of the Bill is to fill gaps in existing legislation and to ensure that our laws keep up with the changing pattern of stalking offences and developments in our understanding of them. It is a testament to the skill with which my hon. Friend has steered the Bill that it received overwhelming support from both sides of the House and that our proceedings in Committee were so straightforward. There was strong support for both the principle and the detail. She has rightly continued to work to ensure that every t is crossed and every i is dotted so that the Bill can fulfil its potential.

I join my hon. Friend
the Member for Mid Worcestershire (Nigel Huddleston) in speaking very briefly to the amendments, which will make this very good Bill even better. I think that most Members will welcome amendments 1, 2 and 6 as common-sense clarifications. We would expect most applications for protection orders to involve police forces that cover geographical areas in England and Wales, but it would clearly be undesirable to allow specific cases to fall between the gaps purely because the jurisdiction they occurred under was covered by the British Transport police or the military police. As my hon. Friend
the Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster) suggested, the Civil Nuclear constabulary would be a sensible addition to those bodies, should the opportunity arise at a later stage of the Bill’s passage. Those three amendments clarify that the orders are not confined purely to what we might think of as police forces, but cover all parts of our police service.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire pointed out, when one of the core provisions of the orders is notification requirements, it is very important that those notification requirements are sensible and comprehensive. It would be frankly absurd to preclude people covered by the orders from being able to notify the appropriate authorities before they changed their name or address, but the Bill as originally drafted could easily have been interpreted as saying that the sole period within which people could make notifications was during the three days immediately after the changes came into effect. In tabling her amendments, my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes has provided clarification and brought forward what most Members would see as common-sense provisions. Similarly, there is further clarification on people without a home address—particularly those of no fixed abode—and clearly, it would not be fit the purpose of the Bill if orders could not apply to people in such circumstances.

I think that this is an extremely important and welcome Bill, and the amendments will make it even better. I hope to catch your eye on Third Reading, Madam Deputy Speaker, to speak about the Bill more generally.