By Jonathan Isaby
Yesterday was Yvette Cooper's first outing in the Commons as the new shadow home secretary after her husband, Ed Balls, was shifted from the job to replace Alan Johnson as shadow chancellor.
Here are the questions she raised at Home Office Questions:
Yvette Cooper: The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice said that there is no link between the number of police officers and the level of crime. However, the Birmingham Mail has reported that some parts of Birmingham have already seen a recruitment freeze, a cut in the number of officers in the neighbourhood team and a significant increase in the number of burglaries in the past nine months. The local police, who are being put in a very difficult position by the Government, have said that they are struggling to fight crime in the area as a result. Does he still stand by his claim or will he admit, to the police and the public, that he has got it wrong?
Nick Herbert: May I first welcome the right hon. Lady to her post? I look forward to debating these issues with her, although I hope she will not follow the poor example of her successor- [Laughter.] I mean her predecessor. I hope that she will not follow his poor example by partially quoting Government Members. I did not say that there was no link, and she should know that. Instead, I should point out something said by somebody with whom I believe she has regular conversations: that this was a tighter environment for police spending, and would be under any Government. That was what the new shadow Chancellor said to the Home Affairs Committee on 22 November 2010, when he was shadow Home Secretary.
Yvette Cooper: I shall ask the Home Secretary about the counter-terrorism review. On Thursday, the Minister for Immigration had to be dragged to the House to tell us Government policy on pre-trial detention. He told us that emergency legislation would be kept on hand in the Library of the House. The old powers lapse at midnight, yet as of half an hour ago, there was still no draft emergency legislation in the Library. On Sunday, the Deputy Prime Minister told the media that control orders were being abolished and at lunch time today, the BBC-not this House-was briefed that the new measures would include tagging and overnight residence requirements and would look a lot like control orders. This is a chaotic, shambolic and cavalier process. Where is the draft legislation? Will the Home Secretary now tell us what is happening with the legislation and with control orders, and will she take the opportunity to apologise for this shambolic process on such an important issue?
Theresa May: First, may I welcome the right hon. Lady to her new post as shadow Home Secretary? I am sure that she will enjoy the post. She is the third shadow Home Secretary I have faced in my nine months as Home Secretary. For her sake, I hope that she stays longer in the role than her predecessors have. The right hon. Lady makes a point about process and refers to the 28-day pre-charge detention issue. May I say to her that the previous shadow Home Secretary clearly supported the Government on taking pre-charge detention down from 28 days to 14 days? Earlier today, the shadow Home Secretary was unfortunately unable to answer the question whether she supported 14 days' pre-charge detention. If she is interested in chaos, she should look at sorting out her own policy.
Cooper took another bite of the cherry via point of order at 3.30pm:
"This Chamber was told on Thursday that the draft emergency legislation would be placed in the Library of the House. The matter was raised in an urgent question and on a point of order from my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford South (Mr Sutcliffe), yet it is not there. The BBC has been told that the counter-terrorism review is now complete. What can you do to assist the House and to get the Home Secretary to give a statement to the House this afternoon, not on Wednesday, on the counter-terrorism review and the location of the emergency draft legislation before the old powers run out at midnight tonight?"
Theresa May replied thus:
"I am grateful for the opportunity to do so. We will place draft emergency legislation in the Library of the House- [Hon. Members: "When?"] We did not say that it would be placed in the Library before the current legislation lapsed. Emergency legislation is available for the use of this House in the intervening period, if necessary, and that is section 25 of the Terrorism Act 2006. The correct legal process for reducing the period from 28 days to 14 days is to allow the existing legislation to lapse because that was the sunset clause put in the legislation by the last Labour Government."
No killer blows from either side on this occasion, but it will be fascinating to see how the Cooper v May encounters develop.