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Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Bill [HL]

Volume 692: debated on Wednesday 13 June 2007

Report received.

Clause 1 [Protection against forced marriage: England and Wales]:

1: Clause 1, page 1, line 15, leave out “deciding” and insert “ascertaining”

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I will also speak to Amendment No. 6. Amendment No. 1 makes changes to the England and Wales provisions which set out that the court must have regard to a person’s well-being and the need to secure it when considering whether to make a forced marriage protection order. The amendment replaces the word “deciding” with the word “ascertaining”. Amendment No. 6 makes the same amendment to the corresponding provisions in Schedule 1 dealing with the content of orders in Northern Ireland.

In deciding whether to make a forced marriage protection order and what form that order should take, the court must go through a two-stage process. The first stage is the evaluation of the victim’s well-being; the second is the decision whether to exercise its powers to make an order. The High Court judges whom we consulted on the Bill suggested that the word “ascertaining” better describes this first stage and captures the notion of assessing a person’s well-being.

I consider that the drafting change made by these amendments better expresses our purpose and is necessary for the clarity of the Bill. I am grateful to the judges for their support. I hope that noble Lords will feel able to support these changes. I beg to move.

My Lords, these Benches welcome the amendment, which improves the original drafting. We should be grateful that the High Court judges were consulted and were on hand to give this advice. The delayed Grand Committee and Report enabled them to do so, thereby providing your Lordships with their much respected wisdom and knowledge on these matters.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

2: Clause 1, page 2, line 22, leave out from “who” to “marriage” in line 29 and insert “are, or may become, involved in other respects as well as (or instead of) respondents who force or attempt to force, or may force or attempt to force, a person to enter into a marriage;

(c) other persons who are, or may become, involved in other respects as well as respondents of any kind. (3) For the purposes of subsection (2) examples of involvement in other respects are—

(a) aiding, abetting, counselling, procuring, encouraging or assisting another person to force, or to attempt to force, a person to enter into a marriage; or(b) conspiring to force, or to attempt to force, a person to enter into a”

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I will also speak to Amendments Nos. 3 and 7. The Bill gives the courts a wide discretion in the type of injunctions they can make for the purpose of protecting a person from a forced marriage. This approach is important in ensuring that the courts are able to deal flexibly and sensitively with cases as their individual circumstances demand.

New Section 63B(2) provides for orders to be directed either at named respondents in a primary role forcing or attempting to force a person into marriage or to other named respondents in a secondary role, for example, aiding and abetting.

Through consultation on the Bill with the High Court judges who deal with forced marriage cases, we have become aware that enabling orders to be directed only to named respondents might be too restrictive. The Bill provides that third parties who are not named in an order, but who undermine the effect of an order by taking action to force a marriage on behalf of others, are subject to the power of arrest. However, senior members of the judiciary have suggested that this might not at present be sufficiently clear either to deter would-be perpetrators or to ensure that police officers arrested them when necessary, and it could therefore prove ineffective.

Amendment No. 2 addresses this issue by amending new Section 63B to enable orders to be addressed to a third category of unnamed persons who are, or may become, involved in other respects. This will mean that orders may be addressed to any person or indeed to categories of person, such as the family, who are, or may become, involved in other respects in relation to a forced marriage. The order must be for the purposes of protection as specified in Section 63A(1). As in the current draft of the Bill, the amendment sets out that involvement in other respects would include actions such as aiding, abetting, counselling, procuring or encouraging another person to force, or to attempt to force, someone into marriage.

Amendment No. 3 amends Section 63H so that powers of arrest may be attached to orders addressed to any person who is not a respondent but to whom an order is directed, as long as the tests in Section 63H(4) are met. The amendment therefore clarifies the policy already embodied in the Bill regarding the actions of third parties.

Amendment No. 7 makes the same changes as Amendment No. 2 to the provisions in Schedule 1 dealing with forced marriage protection orders in Northern Ireland. There is no need for an equivalent to Amendment No. 3 in Northern Ireland, as breach of an order in Northern Ireland is a criminal offence. The amendments are intended to replicate the scope of orders that have already been made by the High Court within the inherent jurisdiction and the wardship jurisdiction in relation to forced marriage cases.

I will say a few words about how orders to un-named parties will work in practice, as I am sure that will interest noble Lords. It will be for the court to decide in each individual case whether it is necessary to extend an order to the third category of un-named persons. That would be likely to be in circumstances where there was evidence that members of the extended family or the wider community might be involved in forcing a marriage, meaning that it was not possible to identify all the possible respondents. Noble Lords will be aware that orders under Part 4 are always made against named parties. Enforcement of those orders relies on the ability to prove that the respondent is aware of the terms of the order. When it is attached to an order, a power of arrest is delivered to the local police station together with a statement showing that the respondent has been served with the order or informed of its terms. Orders made against named parties under Part 4A will follow that procedure.

The position in the law regarding orders made against un-named respondents will remain that a person may be committed for contempt only if they are aware of the order that they are breaching. As orders made against unnamed respondents cannot be personally served, it will be for the courts to decide, on evidence, whether the person is aware of an order and is in contempt. The mechanics of serving the order will be set out in rules of court, and that could be supported by a practice direction setting out standard terms of an order and practice.

The power of arrest will also be subject to certain safeguards to ensure that it is used appropriately. Once arrested, the person must be brought before the court within 24 hours, and it will be for the court to decide on the evidence available whether it considers that the person was aware of the contents of the order. There will also be a right of appeal. I hope that noble Lords are assured that we have given careful consideration to putting in place the necessary safeguards to ensure that those provisions work in practice. The amendments make important changes to strengthen and clarify the protection that the Bill offers to those threatened by a forced marriage, and I hope that they will be supported in this House. I beg to move.

My Lords, although this is in form my Bill, a Private Member’s Bill, I am glad to say that in substance it has become not my property but that of the House and is really a Ministry of Justice Bill. It has been very much improved. I want to try to explain the welcome shift that these amendments make. In the original design of the Bill, I envisaged some new civil wrong, or tort, with a right to claim compensation under a new head. I was persuaded that that was wrong and that it was more sensible to have a Bill that was preventative and not one that provided for new money claims. The object is preventative or prophylactic, so it is important to spread the definition of who may be caught by the Bill widely, so that the courts, in their flexible jurisdiction, can deal with them.

In the Spycatcher case, the courts were concerned about the effect on third parties, especially the media, in relation to injunctions, and they began to develop a wider notion of contempt of court. It is very important that that not be left vague in this Bill. Legal certainty should apply and everyone should know that they are subject to the jurisdiction of the county courts as well as the High Court. It is why I very much welcome that this is being spelled out clearly as a signal to everyone who might be involved in the deeply antisocial practices involved in forcing marriages.

I echo what the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, said in welcoming the fact that judges have been consulted about this. I pay tribute to Sir Mark Potter, the president of the Family Division, and to Mr Justice Munby and Mr Justice Singer, who have particular experience. I welcome the consultation with the Family Law Practitioners’ Association. As a Back-Bencher, my “attorney-general” on this Bill has been Sapnara Khatun, who I am glad to see present today. She is a very experienced practitioner who has given advice throughout. I support these amendments, based on her assurance that they make sense.

My Lords, the noble Lord knows that a number of people believe that forced marriage should be criminalised and that offering civil remedies is insufficient. After all, it is an act surrounded by criminality. Often it is preceded by kidnapping; the act itself involves rape, which is a crime; thereafter, there is often domestic violence; and, as we noted from yesterday’s newspaper reports, so-called honour killings can follow. As I understand it, my noble friend has chosen this route because the Government have accepted that it is a viable route for legislation but do not yet feel that an attempt to criminalise would be the proper course to take. Is that correct?

My Lords, it is not really correct. The decision to seek civil protection rather than new crimes was not taken because I felt that that was the Government’s position; it was taken after the Government decided not to create new criminal offences. But I thought that they were right in reaching that conclusion. The tragic case to which my noble friend referred, that of Banaz Mahmod, who was murdered by way of what is called an honour killing, illustrates the problems of using the criminal process as the main way of tackling a major social evil.

There is already plenty of criminal law to tackle murder, kidnapping, abduction, rape and all the other evil manifestations associated with forcing people into marriage against their will. Terrible things follow in some of these appalling cases. The problem with the criminal process is that, although there is plenty of existing criminal law, there is a criminal burden of proof and a criminal standard of proof; the court is a criminal court and is held in public, with police and a jury brought into play. It has not proved to be an effective way of tackling a major social problem.

People who deal with these cases daily tell me that often the victim does not want to dishonour her family by having a public and punitive hearing. One of the great advantages of the family law approach is that the court can sit in private, sensitively and in a way that will, I hope, reconcile the victim with her or his family, while providing effective protection to put a stop to a course of conduct that may lead to real tragedy. It was originally my decision to move into the civil area, not because I thought that the Government could not be persuaded in any particular way but because I thought that it was the right approach. That approach was supported, not just by me—I am a white man, the least qualified person to make judgments of that kind—but by the Southall Black Sisters, a whole variety of women’s organisations, including Asian women’s organisations, and children’s organisations. If that had not been the case, I would not have pushed the Bill any further.

I hope that is an adequate explanation. I am not saying it would be inconceivable to have a new crime; other countries have done that. Although female genital mutilation is a crime, there has not been a single prosecution, for all kinds of reasons. This shows that the criminal process is not the best process, even though, with forced marriages and honour killings, one needs to have serious crimes for serious wrongs. I hope that that answers the question.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend, but it is not right to give the impression that there is unanimity in the view that this matter should not be criminalised. There are a number of significant people who work in the area, both in the police and among the NGOs, who feel that that is the right course.

My Lords, I fully accept that. But the spirit of liberty is the spirit that is not too sure that it is right.

My Lords, this is a vital addition to the Bill. It will ensure that a clear message is sent out to all those who may be involved in the wider context of forcing an individual into marriage that the victim will have the protection of the law from all those who carry out coercion and violence in order to bring about a forced marriage. We on these Benches welcome this addition to the Bill.

My Lords, I echo what the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, said about Sapnara Khatun, who has done noble work in relation to this Bill, and with whom I also have been in frequent contact.

This series of amendments, accepted by the Government, is exactly what is needed. It shows a very useful co-operation between the High Court judiciary and those in Parliament wishing to get the best out of a Bill. This degree of co-operation is enormously valuable. These amendments widen the scope of the Bill and will meet a need. If anyone has any concern that someone who is not entirely aware of a particular order might be found guilty of contempt of court, they can be utterly assured—I declare an interest as a former judge—that a judge will not find anybody guilty of contempt, or send anybody to prison, unless the criminal standard of proof has been reached. If a third party is caught by an order and can show that they really did not know, or there is the possibility that they did not know, I do not think the force of the Contempt of Court Act would apply. But it is an excellent series of amendments.

Finally, should this be a criminal rather than a civil matter? I had thought at one stage that it should be criminal. I was persuaded by the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, that it should not. Having heard of the Southall Black Sisters, it became obvious that it should not. If it is to gain widespread support, it is better to be a civil matter; it is better for the victims. But it does not mean that the criminal law does not apply. If a girl is kept prisoner in her room, or she is intimidated, or she is assaulted, or a number of other acts are performed that are capable of being treated as part of offences against the law, the criminal law will intervene. Nowadays, the police are well aware of the seriousness of honour killings—there was the Kurd case yesterday, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill—and I know that they are anxious to co-operate. Consequently, I have very little doubt that the rigour of the criminal law will be applied to any case in which the victim is prepared to take part. But, again, as the noble Lord, Lord Lester, said, it is rare for a victim to wish to have her family sent to prison. What she wants is not to be forced into a marriage against her will. That is what the Bill is aiming to do, and I unreservedly support the amendments.

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to everyone who has contributed to the debate. I add my thanks to Sapnara Khatun. Obviously, we should not acknowledge people who are visiting us in the Chamber but, at the same time, it is great to watch someone squirm with embarrassment.

I agree with the remarks about the judiciary and the support that it has given. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Russell-Johnston, that here the noble Lord, Lord Lester, has not followed the Government but the Government have followed him.

I approached this matter by being open-minded about which way we should go. The advantage of this Bill was brought home to me in the consultations that I undertook with those involved in the judiciary, with legal practitioners, with voluntary organisations and, perhaps most importantly, with the victims themselves.

The Bill provides us with three special and important things. First, having within the Family Law Act the idea that forced marriage is wrong may help us with the most important thing of all, which is to deter people from doing it: it is an offence; it is not allowed; and it should not be practised. That will be significant in preventing people from even thinking that somehow this practice may be acceptable in our society.

The second benefit of the Bill is that such cases will take place in the family courts, which means that discussions can be held in private. That will enable what we and many of the victims want to see brought about: forms of reconciliation with their families. The judge will be able to explain what cannot and will not be allowed, and that will happen not by being broadcast within a community but quietly and privately. At the same time, as the noble and learned Baroness said, the offence will carry the full weight of the law behind it and, of course, if a criminal offence is committed, the criminal law will be brought in.

When I talked to the people whom I had the privilege of consulting, it became clear to me that the outcome of the Home Office consultation on whether we should introduce this as a criminal offence was correct. It was clear that that would not command support and, perhaps more importantly, going back to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lester, it would not be used and therefore would not have the value that we would wish to see it have. We hope that this measure will provide great benefit and we will monitor the situation. I hope that the noble Lord will feel reassured by that. I know that he has taken a great interest in this issue for many years and I pay tribute to him for that. I hope that, in strengthening the legislation, the amendments will be acceptable.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

3: Clause 1, page 5, line 36, at end insert—

“( ) In this section “respondent” includes any person who is not a respondent but to whom an order is directed.”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

4: Clause 1, page 6, line 27, leave out “or”

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 5. These amendments make changes to Section 63J, which provides that, if a person has failed to comply with a forced marriage protection order where a power of arrest is not attached, an interested party may apply for a warrant for their arrest. The section currently provides that an interested party is either the person protected by the order or a third party who applied for the order on their behalf.

Following further consideration of this section and, again, in consultation with the High Court judges who hear these cases, we have identified that an amendment is needed to extend the categories of persons who can apply for an arrest warrant. Under the current provision, if a third party had applied for the order but was not available to apply for the arrest warrant, the only person left who could apply would be the victim. If a victim did not apply for the original order, perhaps because of fear, intimidation or because they did not want to get the family into trouble, they are extremely unlikely to apply for a warrant of arrest, regardless of whether there had been a breach of the order.

The amendment provides for a further category of applicant who can make an application with the leave of the court. Requiring leave will mean that the court must be satisfied that the person applying has sufficient interest in the case for the application to proceed. This provision would also mirror the categories of person who can apply for an order in the first place.

Noble Lords will note that no equivalent amendment has been proposed in relation to Northern Ireland because the methods for dealing with a breach of order in Northern Ireland are different from those in England and Wales. It is therefore not necessary to replicate the provision for Northern Ireland.

I hope that noble Lords will agree that this change is necessary to offer the best protection to the victim. I beg to move.

My Lords, with Amendments Nos. 2, 3 and 7, what would have been a dangerous loophole has now been closed. We have supported the Bill from Second Reading onwards, and we support the additions that are being made at this stage by the noble Baroness. The Minister and her team are working hard to transform this Bill into a workable and durable piece of legislation. That in itself is to be supported. I urge the Government to allow the proper amount of time to be spent on this Bill in another place.

A number of serious additions have been made both at this stage and, on the independence for the judiciary, in Grand Committee. That is testament to the House that however valuable the principles behind a Bill, just as in this case on the important effects of this Bill, a rushed Bill runs the serious risk of being insufficient. I commend the improvements that have been made to it so far, and the important and constructive debate that we have had across the House. I believe that all noble Lords have sought to achieve the very best outcome for those whose lives will be affected and, I sincerely hope, improved by the measures in the Bill. I should like to send the Bill to another place with my recommendations, but with a warning that it must be considered seriously and given proper parliamentary time.

My Lords, I put my name to the amendments and I agree with them. I shall leave the valedictory part of my remarks until later in the debate. I am glad that the Official Opposition supported my original Bill on Second Reading, and I am glad that although there was a certain degree of what I termed grumpiness at a particular stage, that subsequently disappeared.

My Lords, in addressing the issue of sufficient time, I shall also leave my valedictory stuff until later. I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, and to the team on the Benches opposite in another place who have offered time to ensure that there will be sufficient scrutiny of this legislation. I am extremely grateful to them for doing so.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

5: Clause 1, page 6, line 28, at end insert “; or

(c) any other person;but no application may be made under subsection (2) by a person falling within paragraph (c) without the leave of the relevant judge”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

My Lords, before calling Amendment No. 5A, I advise your Lordships that in Amendment No. 5B, which has been grouped with Amendment No. 5A, there is an error. In the second line of the text of the amendment, after the words “expenditure on” there should be inserted “training and guidance”.

5A: Clause 1, page 8, line 29, at end insert—

“63PA Applications

The Secretary of State shall compile and publish annually a report recording the number and cost of applications in the preceding financial year.”

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I tabled the amendment in response to the Minister’s comments in Committee that the number of applications made could be recorded centrally to allow the Government to ascertain the volume and use of the orders. The Minister noted that such records are already kept for domestic violence applications and that they could be used for the orders in this legislation.

The amendment would place a duty on the Secretary of State to publish an annual report on the volume and cost of applications made during the year. The amendment has been tabled simply to enable debate on the subject. It is important to ensure that we are sending this legislation to the other place in good health and well considered. It is important to consider the long-term implementation of these orders and the long-term accountability of the success of the legislation. We must not be frightened to admit that there may be some problems with implementing it on the ground. It is important to anticipate such problems and seek assurances that they do not occur. I suggest that the Government could in addition collate the costs of processing applications in order that resources allocated to the prevention of forced marriage—if they are to be allocated for that specific purpose—will be used most cost-effectively. I await the Minister’s response with interest. I beg to move.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her amendment. In terms of procedure, I think that she has de-grouped Amendments Nos. 5A and 5B, so I will take them separately—at least, that is what I assume has happened.

As with any piece of legislation, implementation of the Bill requires a significant programme of work. Monitoring and evaluation of the applications made under new Part 4A will be an important part of implementation. The Government are committed to ensuring that appropriate monitoring of the number of applications and their cost is carried out. This is standard practice in the implementation of any key piece of legislation. The number of non-molestation and occupation orders made each year is published annually in the judicial statistics report by my department. Similar data will be made available for orders made under new Part 4A. This will give an important indication of the scale of the problem, which we do not have at present, and of how these applications are being dealt with in the courts.

As I have already touched on implementation, it may be helpful if I speak a little more generally about the Government’s implementation plans and what arrangements will be put in place to ensure that this information can be collected. The first task will be to develop the necessary court rules which will put in place the procedure for dealing with these cases. My department will take forward drafting of the rules and necessary court forms in conjunction with the Family Procedure Rule Committee, an experienced body of judiciary and practitioners who are experts in family law matters. The rules and forms will also be consulted on before they are finalised. Another key part of implementation will be to ensure that the appropriate IT is in place in the courts, so that court staff can process applications, deal with them effectively and collate the necessary statistics needed for monitoring. My officials are exploring the specific IT requirements and assessing the costs of those changes.

It is difficult to predict exactly what the volume of applications will be under the new legislation. The indication is that it will be relatively small, and the impact on the legal aid budget will therefore be minimal. My officials will work with the Legal Services Commission to assess the likely impact on legal aid of the new legislation. I hope that that gives the noble Baroness a sense of the implementation process and programme we have in place, that it reassures her that the issues she raises regarding the need to monitor and make available data on the number of applications will be taken forward, and that she will be able to withdraw her amendment.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her response. I will look closely in Hansard at what she has said and am grateful that she takes my amendment seriously. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5B: Clause 1, page 9, line 11, at end insert—

“63RA Training and guidance

The Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament biannually a report detailing the expenditure on for the preceding two years and projected expenditure for the next year.”

My Lords, I apologise to the House for inadvertently grouping Amendments Nos. 5A and 5B, which I now understand have been de-grouped. For the record, I advise the House that there is an error in the second line of the text. After the words “expenditure on”, there should be inserted “training and guidance”.

My Lords, the amendment would place a requirement on the Secretary of State to publish a report every two years, detailing expenditure on training and guidance for the previous two years and providing a forecast of the projected guidance and expenditure that will be given for the next year. While I realise that the amendment may leave something to be desired in terms of technical drafting, it serves its purpose at this stage as a probing amendment, tabled in response to the broad concerns that became apparent from my reading of the consultation documents published just before the Whitsun Recess. I thank the Odysseus Trust for making those documents available. I was glad to have the chance to look at them, if not before Committee, then in time for Report.

The purpose of the amendment is to probe the Government’s plans on the provision of guidance and training. Who do they anticipate will be given guidance, and how will it be disseminated? Does the Minister anticipate that that guidance will be mandatory in all police forces? Will there be police officers with special responsibility for or knowledge of forced marriage? Does the Department for Education and Skills support the dissemination to schools of information about forced marriages? The matter of country-wide guidance could be important, given the rapidity of movement in cases such as these. If a victim were to flee to another part of the country for safety, a part of the country that was not accustomed to the culture surrounding forced marriages, it would be important that his or her claims were taken seriously. The terrible, tragic case of Banaz Mahmod will undoubtedly focus our minds on the importance of swift, effective and well understood action by the police when such cases are reported.

I hope that in setting up the provisions for training and guidance, the Government will ensure that voluntary, locally based organisations are included and that guidance is implemented in co-operation with the communities it seeks to help. It is important to remember the double-edged nature of this issue. While the threat in cases of forced marriage may well come from within the communities themselves, it is often people in those communities who are most keen to protect and ensure the safety of young women and men who may face coercion or the threat of violence.

The sensitive handling of these cases on the ground will be the true test of the mettle of this legislation. I welcome the comments made by the Minister in Committee that the Government understand that it is essential to deliver the message that,

“we want to deal with criminals, not criminalise communities”.—[Official Report, 10/5/07; col. GC 267.]

Even there, we must tread carefully and be careful that this legislation is not designed to criminalise but to protect.

I was grateful to the Minister for her remarks in a meeting when she stated that the Government would publish a report on the progress of training and guidance. That will be valuable to all concerned, who will make great use of the information available. I look forward to the Minister’s response. I hope that it will provide your Lordships’ House with a more detailed description of the plans for establishing and integrating guidance and training at all levels of the community. I beg to move.

My Lords, I think this will be the last time that I speak on the Bill because Third Reading will be formal. I begin by paying tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Verma. I appreciate her reasons for tabling this amendment, and I am grateful that she mentioned the Odysseus Trust because Kate Beattie, in particular, has done an enormous amount of work—through consultation and otherwise—and it is right to mention that.

It is excellent that the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, is in her place. She runs the Judicial Appointments Commission and no doubt has more expertise about training than most. As a former part-time judge, I say that the Judicial Studies Board now has an extremely well developed programme for training. When I came to the Bar a depressingly long time ago, the idea that judges needed training was considered to be blasphemy or sacrilege. These days all senior judges, and junior ones too, realise that they need all the help they can get to develop skills with new legislation. In this case, it is particularly important because the expertise has remained within the High Court, and I suspect that County Court judges will be on the receiving end of most cases because those are the most user-friendly courts where there is access to justice. Those judges will require the kind of training from which I benefited when I sat as a judge. I was very impressed by the Government’s training programmes on the Human Rights Act and the Civil Partnership Act which were run by the Judicial Studies Board. They were most beneficial. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say about judicial training. It is not the business of the Government; it is simply the business of the Government to help the training to take place.

The Forced Marriage Unit has admirable guidance, but it is not statutory. As we discovered when we went around the country, one of the problems was that although the guidance was good, it lacked impact and force. I welcome the fact that the guidance will now be given real force and will not be bureaucratically handled. I very much hope that the Minister will be able to deal with that.

Perhaps I may make one other valedictory comment. At the end of the Second Reading debate on 26 January—a remarkable debate in which so many noble Lords spoke and ensured that this House would be a catalyst for reform, which is one of our vital functions in addition to scrutiny; I do not think that such a debate would have taken place in the other place in the same way—after saying that the Bill could be improved, I said:

“We hope that the Bill will be supported from all sides of the House and that the Government will recognise the need to enact this measure urgently as a matter of high parliamentary priority so that it may become law by the end of this year. We have waited too long, and too many vulnerable children and young adults have been grossly abused for us to delay further”.—[Official Report, 26/1/07; col. 1324.]

I believe that those concluding words will now come to pass. They will do so because the Minister, in particular, has been more than a midwife. Her team, in what is now the Ministry of Justice, has been brilliant and outstanding in taking a simple idea and writing what was five pages in 18 pages in much better form.

The Official Opposition have been co-operative throughout, and my party has been generous enough not to seek to make narrow party-political capital out of this being called a Liberal Democrat measure. We welcome the fact that the Government will effectively make this a government Bill in the other place. The Prime Minister personally has had conversations in particular with the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, to whom I also pay tribute—she has been a silent and strong supporter of the Bill. All of that means that there is a very real chance that a Private Member’s Bill will become the law of the land very quickly. For all of that, I express my gratitude.

My Lords, it has crossed my mind that this is an egg that has been fertilized and placed in the embryo of the Government with very happy results. It is a combination of not only the Judicial Studies Board but also, no doubt, a practice direction from the president of the Family Division which could guide the judges to a proper way of dealing with the Bill when, as I hope, the other place finds time to make it law.

I assume from what the Minister has said that the Family Procedure Rules Committee will be looking at the rules. It seems to me likely that the president will produce some sort of practice direction that could then be used by the Judicial Studies Board in its training of circuit judges to the appropriate standard. But it seems to me that today is a very happy day.

I begin by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, for her amendment. She has rightly cited the need for proper training and guidance as a critical issue if we are going to tackle the problem of forced marriage and ensure that the Bill is implemented successfully. The Bill provides a power for the Secretary of State to issue guidance on the Bill and on the issue of forced marriage generally. That will enable us, first, to put the guidance already issued by the Forced Marriage Unit—to which I have paid tribute many times before, but I shall continue to do so as long as I possibly can—on a statutory footing.

It might be helpful if I say a little on the work that is already carried out by the Forced Marriage Unit on issuing guidance. In the past year, the Forced Marriage Unit has issued guidance to health professionals, and it has undertaken an awareness-raising campaign for registrars. Guidance was issued to social workers in 2004, followed by guidance for police and teachers in 2005. Revised guidelines for social workers are due to be out before the end of the year, and will be in two volumes: one for social workers for dealing with children and young people; and one for social workers dealing with vulnerable adults. The guidelines are disseminated at outreach events, conferences and workshops organised by the Forced Marriage Unit, and are also available for downloading from its website.

In practice, the power to issue guidance is likely to mean republishing existing guidance to place it on a statutory footing, for the reasons that your Lordships have already given. The costs associated with re-publication should be small, but we will keep that under review. Fresh guidance published by the Forced Marriage Unit once the new Bill comes into force will usually be issued under this new power. We will also keep under review any additional costs associated with guidance specific to the Bill, which will be a matter for my department in consultation with the Home Office, the Foreign Office, the Forced Marriage Unit and other relevant departments, including the Department for Education and Skills. The DfES has supported the Bill, and we will in the usual course of events discuss with it its work in issuing guidance to schools.

Training, particularly judicial training, which the noble and learned Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Lester, mentioned, will be built into our wider plans for implementing the provisions that extend jurisdiction to the county courts. As noble Lords will know from our discussions in Committee, it is important to provide for county courts to have the jurisdiction to hear forced marriage cases to make it easier for victims to get the protection that they need. At the same time, it is extremely important that we ensure that cases heard in the county courts receive expert and sensitive treatment; the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, alluded to this when she spoke to her amendments.

Officials in the department are already considering how we might undertake a phased rollout of the jurisdiction to the county courts. The aim of such an approach is to enable us to focus initially on a limited number of courts in different regions across the country, building up expertise in these areas. The number of cases that are brought will be a determining factor in deciding how many courts we will eventually need to handle all the cases efficiently and effectively. The approach taken in implementing the provisions that enable civil partnerships to be dissolved is an example of this type of approach. The noble Lord, Lord Lester, referred to that legislation. In this case, my department agreed with the president of the Family Division that initially 10 centres across England and Wales would be able to deal with dissolution. We shall similarly consult the president on the number and location of county courts initially able to hear forced marriage cases, ensuring that we have a spread of county courts across the country and in urban areas where the demand is likely to be higher.

We anticipate that the Judicial Studies Board, which is responsible for judicial training, will undertake the necessary training for judges in these courts. My officials will discuss with the board the cost of training and the provision of funding. I will ask the JSB to consider, in the light of its other training plans, how it could incorporate within its existing provisions the training that it considers to be necessary. After initial training, it is likely that forced marriage training will be included in the usual refresher courses. The board publishes an annual report that sets out how much has been spent on judicial training. This will ensure that the cost of judicial training associated with the Bill is transparent, as the noble Baroness would wish. In addition to formal JSB training, the judges whom we have consulted on the Bill have suggested that forced marriage cases might be a good candidate for a practice direction, as the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, has suggested. Such a direction would provide guidance on the best practice for hearing these cases. As the noble and learned Baroness has said, this will be a matter for the president of the Family Division.

Training for court staff will be a matter for my department and Her Majesty’s Courts Service, as is standard practice for the implementation of new legislation that affects the courts. This will include the drafting of staff training materials, the delivery of training to court staff, and the development of information leaflets, court forms and web information for the public and court users. We will work closely with the Forced Marriage Unit to ensure that this guidance is consistent with its guidelines on forced marriages.

The noble Baroness also asked about training for community and voluntary organisations. The Forced Marriage Unit already provides training on forced marriages to statutory agencies and voluntary organisations as part of its awareness-raising remit. My department will liaise with the unit on how the provisions in the Bill should be communicated, as part of both the implementation programme for the Bill and the unit’s existing awareness-raising programme. The noble Baroness also asked about the police. As she will know, domestic violence crime and hate crimes are generally handled by police community safety units, and we anticipate that forced marriages will be dealt with in the same way. She also asked me whether the guidance would be mandatory for police forces. Training on forced marriages is already delivered to police forces across the UK. Therefore, it already is in existence across the system.

Finally, because this might be the last time on which I speak, I want to pay tribute to all those—

My Lords, before the Minister reaches her valedictory, perhaps she will say something about the circulation of information in schools, which the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, mentioned. I know to some extent that is already done, but it is sometimes sporadic. I recall that when I raised honour killings, a number of voluntary organisations came to me and said that it was not done as well or as continuously as it should be.

My Lords, one of the statistics that has stayed with me during my discussions with organisations on this legislation was that in 2006 the Crown Prosecution Service reported that 250 girls aged 13 to 16 did not return to the school roll in Bradford after an extended period of absence during the summer holidays. Some of those would have been due to perfectly legitimate reasons, such as moving house. But the noble Lord will know why that statistic particularly struck me. I have no doubt of the importance of schools.

One issue raised by the victims of forced marriages to whom I spoke was the need to be able to talk to their friends and perhaps to people who they felt they could trust who are outside their own communities. It will be no surprise to the noble Lord that after victims, the highest percentage of those who call the Forced Marriage Unit helpline are teachers in schools. I could not agree more with the thrust of what the noble Lord is saying. Schools and education are critical. We need to discuss with our colleagues in the Department for Education and Skills how best we achieve that. It will be a combination of the citizenship programme and the opportunity to deliver, as we do on domestic violence already, these issues as part of the curriculum. It will be about offering advice and support to teachers who come across this, which is part of the guidance of the Forced Marriage Unit and its work right across the system. It will also be about the opportunities to make sure all young people are aware of this problem, so that those who may be victims, or those whose friends may be victims, know what to do and who to turn to. Again, I could not agree more. The Forced Marriage Unit speaks to schools extremely regularly. It is a combination of all those things. I take that point very seriously and I hope that I have addressed it.

With permission, I am on my valedictory now. I want to pay tribute to my team, which has been nothing short of magnificent. We have all worked together across your Lordships' House because this is such an important issue to deal with. It has been extremely important for me. I have learnt a huge amount. This is incredibly important legislation, but more than anything for me, this is the House of Lords at its best.

My Lords, before the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, responds to the amendment, I wish to add thanks from this Front Bench to my noble friend Lord Lester for the effort he has made. Five or six years ago, when I first joined the forced marriage working party at the Home Office, it was easy to identify the problem but one had no idea of the solutions. I am delighted that with his help, the help of so many external organisations and the contributions made by the Minister and the Opposition, we are now proceeding. If I am right, it must be a record that a Private Member’s Bill should be taken over by the Government in the other place. Let us hope that before long, it will be on the statute book. All those who have participated can take a tremendous pride in trying to solve a very complex social problem.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her detailed and reassuring response. I should also like to thank the Bill team for the work they have put into making this Bill workable. I join the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, in saying that today is a very happy occasion. We are sending this Bill to another place in a well-founded and healthy condition.

I end on a certain note. We use the term “honour killings”, but there is no honour in killing. I always find the phrase very difficult to accept. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lester, for introducing the Bill and I am reassured that the whole House has supported it from the start, even though we have had some difficulties in getting to where we are now. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 1 [Protection against forced marriage: Northern Ireland]:

6: Schedule 1, page 12, line 15, leave out “deciding” and insert “ascertaining”

7: Schedule 1, page 13, line 4, leave out from “who” to “marriage” in line 11 and insert “are, or may become, involved in other respects as well as (or instead of) respondents who force or attempt to force, or may force or attempt to force, a person to enter into a marriage;

(c) other persons who are, or may become, involved in other respects as well as respondents of any kind.(3) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (2) examples of involvement in other respects are—

(a) aiding, abetting, counselling, procuring, encouraging or assisting another person to force, or to attempt to force, a person to enter into a marriage; or(b) conspiring to force, or to attempt to force, a person to enter into a”

On Question, amendments agreed to.

House adjourned at 7.30 pm.