House of Lords
Monday, 6 July 2009.
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Exeter
Death of a Member: Lord Murton of Lindisfarne
EU: Lisbon Treaty
My Lords, Parliament has decided on the Lisbon treaty. The treaty was debated in detail in Parliament over 25 days and both Houses voted strongly in favour at every stage. Both Houses rejected, by clear majorities, amendments proposing to decide by referendum. The UK considers and decides on the British national interest through our Parliament, as Governments of all political complexions acknowledge and as Parliament has done with every previous EU amending treaty.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Does he accept that, since Parliament debated this matter, in the recent European elections the majority of UK MEPs were elected on manifestos opposed to the Lisbon treaty? Given that and the concern for democratic renewal, is there not a case for saying that those in favour of the Lisbon treaty would now be well served by calling for a referendum in order to put beyond doubt its legitimacy and democratic mandate?
My Lords, obviously we all respect the vote in the European Parliament elections but it is up to the national Parliament—the UK Parliament—to decide on the treaty. To unpick done business in this way would not be a good precedent for parliamentary government.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, if we have daft electoral systems for the European elections, we sometimes get daft results and so we should not get too obsessed by them? Equally, will he point out to the noble Lord who raised the question that the issue concerning the referendum is abundantly clear: there is no need for one; there is no majority support in this country for one; it is an issue on which the will of Parliament should prevail; and that will happen as far as we are concerned?
My Lords, is the Minister not puzzled by this continued and artificial anxiety among a small number of Eurosceptics? Only recently the Karlsruhe constitutional court said that the EU was broadly a democratic structure anyway because it represented a collection of sovereign member states, with their own national sovereignties as individual countries. Only Ireland had to have a referendum because that is built into its constitution. Why do these anxieties persist, other than to make mischief, when what is needed above all now, particularly in view of recent events, is building up the authority of Parliament and its rights?
My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend can help me, particularly in view of the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway. Have we received any indication from what might be an alternative Government after the election about whether they propose holding a referendum in the event that the treaty has been implemented?
My Lords, we have made it clear that if the treaty is not ratified, we will of course have a referendum, when the vast majority will turn it down. However, has the Minister noted the remarks of the outgoing Irish Commissioner, Charles McCreevy, who observed that, if there had been referenda in the 27 member countries of the European Union, 95 per cent of them would have delivered a no result? Does that not make him think a bit about the question of keeping close to the people and obeying the democratic will?
My Lords, with the greatest respect to the noble Lord, just in case he has to occupy the ministerial Box in the future, I do not think that he completely answered the question that was asked from behind me. On referenda, I am sure that there are many policies that Parliaments and Governments are forced to take for which instant popularity is not the proper judge. I hope that there is no suggestion that all decisions, popular and unpopular, should rest on the decisions of referenda in future.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, asked persuasively for a referendum in order to put the matter beyond doubt, but does my noble friend recollect that there has already been one referendum on the European Union, as well as several others about the Scottish Parliament and so forth, and that the losers have never once accepted the result?
My Lords, I certainly agree that there has been a history of continued challenge to the outcome on Europe, whatever it has been. After all, in 1992 we faced a situation in Denmark analogous to that in Ireland now and the Tory Government of the time felt that they could proceed without a referendum on the assurances given to Denmark.
My Lords, I say in passing that my late noble kinsman was responsible for the referendum to which the noble Lord has just referred. Is it because the Minister was living across the Atlantic in 2005 that there was no reference to the Labour Party manifesto in his initial Answer?
My Lords, the noble Lord makes a telling point. Indeed, he is right that I was living across the Atlantic, but, as he is well aware, the issue was whether Lisbon was a constitution or just a treaty; the referendum pledge applied to a constitution, which is not ultimately what was adopted.
My Lords, will the Minister take the opportunity to put the remarks of his noble friend Lord Tomlinson into perspective by agreeing that all polls taken in the United Kingdom put support for a referendum on Lisbon at around 70 per cent and that a recent poll in Germany puts German support for a referendum on Lisbon at no less than 77 per cent?
My Lords, I would certainly never think that all polls agree with each other, so I am sure that such a blanket statement is not correct. However, the noble Lord has a point—there is no doubt that polls have shown considerable expressions of opposition to the treaty. Again, it is the job of government to lead and to win the debate in this House and the other place, which we have done.
We are in the ninth minute, my Lords, and should move on.
Immigration: Heathrow Airport
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether it is the responsibility of the UK Border Agency or the British Airports Authority to ensure that actions recommended by the independent monitoring board for Heathrow Airport, in particular for the provision of proper washing facilities in the terminals’ holding rooms and for repair and maintenance of the detention accommodation generally, are implemented.
My Lords, the BAA is responsible for the provision and maintenance of holding rooms at Heathrow Airport, including providing basic facilities such as rest rooms. We are aware that the independent monitoring board does not consider the current facilities to be adequate. Since its report was written, we have opened Cayley House, which provides better facilities, including showers. The United Kingdom Border Agency and its contractors are committed to providing as comfortable an environment as is reasonably possible, and have been working with the IMB to consider its report’s recommendations in further detail.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. What direct relationship is there between the Home Office and the British Airports Authority to ensure not only that these facilities are adequate, particularly when children are being held in them for several days, as is often the case, but that the standards required by the monitoring board are in fact met?
My Lords, I know that the noble Baroness takes a particular interest in this important issue. When I visited one of these holding rooms at Gatwick, I have to say that I was not overimpressed. There have been two reports; the first made 34 recommendations, and we accepted 32 of them, and out of the second report’s 47 recommendations, 38 were accepted. That shows that there is a lot to be done. In concert with BAA, we have produced an action plan; it was sent to the IMB on 29 May, and a copy has been placed in the House Library. We work very closely with BAA and, of course, G4S, which implements a lot of the personnel issues; the co-ordination now works well. I believe that we are putting right some of the faults that existed and are well on track to recover from the position we were in.
My Lords, there has been no response from the Home Office, UKBA or G4S to the report on the appalling conditions in these facilities. Does not the noble Lord think that in the circumstances, an instruction should be given to UKBA that no one is to be detained overnight in places that have no accommodation for sleeping and scarcely any facilities for washing and cleaning oneself? Could not the Government ensure that any detainee who is held temporarily in these places is transferred before 24 hours has expired to a proper place of detention?
My Lords, as I said, I think that the provision of Cayley House at Heathrow resolves that situation. It is not as though we provide nothing: we provide toiletry packs, clothes, blankets, newspapers, magazines, hot and cold food, eye masks in places where the lighting is difficult, family areas, telephones without SIM cards which people can use, DVD players, DVDs and baby changing facilities. We provide a lot, and it is getting better. We are meeting all these commitments, and I do not believe that there is a need for a statutory obligation. In close co-ordination, we are arriving at the right answer.
My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the contract for running the Heathrow centres expires in April 2010, and that the independent monitoring board has recommended some changes to the contract, such as a prohibition on moving families in caged vehicles and a requirement that a female officer is always present when women are detained? Can the Minister assure the House that these requirements will be in the new contract?
My Lords, I am not aware of all the details of the new contract being negotiated. As for there not being enough women officers, I am aware of that as an issue; there were not enough, and G4S is actively recruiting people to get around that problem. I should like to get back to the noble Baroness with details of the specific contract.
My Lords, the United Kingdom Border Agency’s response to many of the recommendations in the action plan is that recent changes in the G4S management structure at Heathrow will ensure contractual compliance. Can the Minister tell us today what these changes are and what it is hoped they will achieve?
My Lords, as the third partner, G4S has instigated its own action plan. It has changed its senior management; clearly, it was not providing the right answer. It addresses such things as appropriate stock levels for consumables, welfare items and so on. There is a training course for its staff because one of the issues that was picked up was the attitude of detention staff to detainees, which was not appropriate. There is one-to-one training for staff to make sure that their attitude is correct. Pressure has been put on G4S to improve collection times. Clearly, those times were not as good as they should have been. In one case, collection took something like 12 and a half hours; now the average is one and a half hours, and we are improving that so that detainees can be moved on to other facilities. All of those issues have shown a marked improvement, which gives a flavour of the sort of improvements that G4S has made.
My Lords, the sort of issues and facilities that I have mentioned are being dealt with. What is extremely difficult—because the terminals have already been built—is, for example, providing showers and shower rooms. That is why we have constructed Cayley House, which has plenty of space and shower facilities. Therefore, we would move people from more cramped places to Cayley House if they are to be held for longer periods. At the moment, there are no plans to put showers in the terminals because Cayley House has been constructed and people can be moved there.
My Lords, is the Minister aware of the concern raised in the report that pregnant women due for removal from this country were spending nine or more hours in the airport before their departure, when the target time is between three and seven hours? Are there instructions on this matter?
My Lords, I was aware of this issue and the length of time that removal was taking. Each woman is assessed on a case-by-case basis because pregnant women are not, of course, ill—they are just pregnant. Issues such as concern and timing depend on the stage of her pregnancy. There is no doubt that some cases were taking too long and shortening those timescales is one of the issues that is being addressed.
My Lords, does the Minister accept that in many of these cases, interpreters are needed to ensure that detainees can communicate with the person dealing with their case? How much of the long time that some detainees spend in the holding centres is due to delay in providing an interpreter, and are there plans to improve the situation?
My Lords, we have not capped the UK’s payments to the UN for assessed payments, since these are legal obligations, but as part of the 2007 CSR settlement for conflict funding from 2008 to 2011 the call on the Treasury reserve for peacekeeping is currently set at £374 million annually. Therefore, when assessed UN peacekeeping costs rise, the overall UN conflict budget has less funding available for discretionary conflict prevention activity. To help mitigate this, this year the FCO, DfID and the MoD provided an additional £71 million for discretionary conflict activity.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply and for confirming that we are indeed standing by our international legal obligations. Does his Answer not lead him to regret or reconsider the decision to put assessed peacekeeping contributions into the same pot as discretionary spending, with the result that, if the UN—as, alas, all too often happens—does more in-year, or the British exchange rate moves in the wrong direction, the squeeze will be exclusively on discretionary spending? Is this not a case for reconsidering this, and reverting to a situation where the peacekeeping assessment, if it overspent in-year, was met under a formula known—after my noble friend Lord Armstrong—as the Armstrong formula, meaning that it came out of the contingency reserve, and the discretionary spending was ring-fenced?
My Lords, the noble Lord makes a very powerful point. There is no doubt that when we engage in multilateral peacekeeping, which is often more cost-effective than a direct bilateral operation of our own, we are engaged in meeting a national security goal, as my noble friend’s report again confirmed just last week. Therefore, on the face of it, it appears anomalous that multilateral activities are subject to this cost control in a way that bilateral ones are not. However, the Treasury understandably feels very strongly that to control public spending it is important to set targets in an area like this and hold the department—in this case, the FCO—accountable for that.
My Lords, is there not a case for separating out the contributions the Government have to make to international organisations, which, as the Minister emphasised, are legal obligations, from departmental budgets? Particularly for those departments such as the FCO that have very small budgets, our multilateral legal obligations can end up squeezing out other departmental needs if the exchange rate moves against us or if there are particular needs in peacekeeping.
My Lords, the noble Lord is completely correct, and this year has demonstrated that fact, as we have ended up spending a lot more on peacekeeping. We have gone into the budgets of the FCO, DfID and the MoD to make up the shortfall created by just the squeeze he describes. Yet even with that, we have seen discretionary spending having to fall. It has been an expensive year for peacekeeping and a bad year for currencies. I hope that the Government will keep the noble Lord’s point under review.
My Lords, my noble friend will be aware of the simulation exercise carried out by the Carnegie foundation after the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, which concluded that a timely intervention could have prevented that enormous loss of life. Do these sorts of consideration enter into the Government’s thoughts when they look at the costs; namely, that a timely intervention might save finance and enormous human suffering in the longer term?
My Lords, I reassure my noble friend that I have been absolutely adamant in decision-making across government on peacekeeping that the political, security and strategic arguments for a peacekeeping operation must always prevail and that we must work out how to pay for it subsequently. Otherwise, we would have a terrible inversion of the priorities we must have when moving on peacekeeping operations. The best comparison to Rwanda today is Somalia, where at the moment we believe there is not a case for an immediate UN peacekeeping operation. However, were that moment to arrive, it would have an entirely damaging and deleterious effect on an already overstretched peacekeeping budget.
My Lords, we all know that the Treasury is desperately short of funds for these purposes, however worthy. As the noble Lord indicated, when the currency goes down and the pound is weak, things become very much more difficult. However, when and if the happy time comes when funds become more available for international contributions, will he bear in mind the need not only to meet our UN obligations but to push more funds in the direction of the Commonwealth, which is grievously short of funds, and yet is carrying out a range of operations across the globe which help maintain peace and promote and protect this country’s interests as well?
My Lords, I, too, acknowledge the important role of the Commonwealth, particularly in conflict resolution and mediation, which has headed off conflicts which might otherwise have later called on UN peacekeeping forces. I remind the noble Lord that we have recently increased our share of the Commonwealth budget from 30 to 31 per cent.
Peru: Indigenous People
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, following the statement by the European Heads of Mission on the recent violence and loss of life in the Peruvian Amazon, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Rights and Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples will investigate the background to those events.
My Lords, we are very concerned by the events in Bagua and welcome the Peruvian Government’s invitation to the United Nations special rapporteur on the situation on human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people to investigate the recent violence in the Peruvian Amazon. We look forward to receiving his report into events. We condone any excessive use of force and urge the full protection of indigenous people’s rights. We are very concerned by reports that people are still missing.
My Lords, since I tabled this Question, the UN rapporteur has, in fact, visited Peru and we understand that he has recommended an independent inquiry into these events, with participation by the indigenous people’s representatives and the international community. Can the Minister say whether this is going ahead? What is the Government’s policy on the issue underlying the disturbance, which is that the agreements between Andean states and the European Union appear to give carte blanche to multinational companies developing oil and mineral resources in the Andean region at the expense of the indigenous inhabitants?
My Lords, as to the noble Lord’s second point, there is a genuine long-term need for dialogue between the Government and indigenous groups about the social and economic development of the Amazon region of Peru. This has been a long-standing sore in the political life of the country, and the disturbance is just the latest tragic expression of that. On the noble Lord’s first point on the report of the special rapporteur, I am afraid that he is ahead of me, as it has not yet been received. While the rapporteur, Mr James Anaya, made some comments while he was there and encouraged the creation of an independent commission, as the noble Lord said, we must wait until we get the official report before we know exactly what the Government of Peru should do to implement it.
My Lords, the position of the indigenous Peruvian Amazonians may seem a little remote from our immediate national interest, but given the current negotiations between ourselves, via the EU, and Peru on a free-trade area agreement, do we not have a considerable interest in maintaining the stability and development of the minorities in Peru and elsewhere? Will the Minister ensure that in our connections with the Peruvian Government we encourage them in their stance to ensure the rights—particularly the property rights—of these indigenous people, and that they continue to be involved fairly in a way that gives them respect?
My Lords, the noble Lord is completely correct. It was indeed a free-trade agreement—not the one with Europe—which prompted this dispute that led to the loss of 33 lives. It came precisely because the Government exercised powers to overrule existing legislation on landholdings and other related issues. The overruling has been reversed, which shows the need to deal with this issue with great delicacy, not just on behalf of the Government of Peru, but for outsiders like ourselves.
My Lords, will the Minister consider making representations—or persuading HMG to make representations—to the European Union, and possibly to the United States, about the extent to which the protection of indigenous people in the Amazon is very much part of a green agenda? The indigenous people have resisted massive logging in the Amazon and have done their best to protect the biological resources in that huge forest, often for very exciting new cures for diseases. Has not that issue become bigger than the question of one small tribe in Peru, and is it not one that the Government should address?
My Lords, the noble Baroness is completely correct—it is part of a broader issue. The rights of indigenous people throughout the Amazon and the Andes is an increasingly important political issue in the region in terms of its development and in terms of the need to include those people in the political dispensation of those countries and support them in their need to assert control and sustainable usage over the natural resources that are the basis of their livelihoods.
My Lords, given the UK’s position as the second largest foreign investor in Peru, what advice is given through the British embassy in Lima and other government agencies to potential British investors about the importance of prior consultation with local, especially indigenous, communities throughout Peru before final investment decisions are made?
My Lords, I hope that the advice is to be careful, sympathetic and fully conscious of the issues—to be good corporate social citizens with the kind of investment programmes, and the kind of respect for corporate social responsibility standards, that will ensure that such investments do not become a source of political confrontation and controversy. I will take the question of the right reverend Prelate also as advice, and make sure that that is what we are saying.
My Lords, one method that is essential if indigenous people are to be able to assert their rights is an effective system of mapping, so that they know the exact boundaries of where they are entitled to their rights, and where people who are seeking to develop the resources of the area can do so. Is it not clear that accurate mapping must be part of any solution to the problem that has been discussed?
My Lords, I suspect that the noble Lord is completely correct. Many of these land claims are disputed and were asserted when accurate mapping was not possible. Therefore, there is a lot of history to work through in dealing with the claims, which would no doubt form part of a good mapping exercise.
My Lords, does the Minister have any concerns about the character of the military in Peru, which has only recently come through some years of very heavy criticism of its behaviour? Does he feel that the military is now properly under the control of the civil authorities?
My Lords, as far as concerns this incident, of the 33 known deaths, 20 were of police who were involved in seeking to suppress the incidents. There is a report just out by the ombudsman of Peru—a well regarded, independent figure—and there will be the report of the UN special rapporteur. We will have to see whether the police in this case acted in any way extra-legally. At the moment, there is no confirmation of that.
My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of the Cusichaca project in the Andes for 20 years. Would the Minister pay tribute to the contribution made by British non-government bodies towards relations with Peruvians in a series of similar episodes across the country?
My Lords, perhaps I should have declared an interest, because I lived and worked in Peru at one point in my life. That gave me the privilege of seeing the extraordinary role of the British NGO and civil-society community around these issues in Peru.
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, with the leave of the House, my noble friend Lord Davies of Abersoch will repeat as a Statement an Urgent Question allowed in the other place, asking the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills if he will make a Statement on the Companies Act inquiry into the collapse of MG Rover, including an explanation of why the results of the lengthy government investigation cannot be made public in whole or in part.
Immediately after this Statement, my noble friend Lord Brett will repeat a Statement on the White Paper on international development, Building our Common Future. To prevent a clash between the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills Statement on MG Rover and the same department’s business in Grand Committee, the start of Grand Committee proceedings will be postponed until five minutes after the end of the proceedings on the MG Rover Statement.
This may also be a convenient moment for me to inform the House of the arrangements for tabling Committee stage amendments to the Parliamentary Standards Bill. The Second Reading of the Bill is scheduled for Wednesday 8 July. To assist the House with scrutiny of the Bill, the usual channels have agreed that amendments may be tabled in advance of Second Reading. The Public Bill Office will, from today, accept amendments for Committee, and any amendments tabled will be printed as usual on daily sheets. I hope that these arrangements will be welcomed by the whole House and I am very grateful to the Public Bill Office for facilitating this innovation.
Green Energy (Definition and Promotion) Bill
The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.
Deputy Chairmen of Committees
Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee
Policing and Crime Bill
Committee (3rd Day)
Clause 18 : Soliciting: England and Wales
Debate on whether Clause 18 should stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 18 and 19 will create an offence of soliciting—that is, by potential clients of street prostitutes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively. We fully recognise the negative impact that kerb-crawling can have in some areas, and the concerns that local residents might understandably have about it, but we do not support the creation of these offences. We feel the criminalisation of kerb-crawlers will do nothing to deter those with little respect for the law and is likely to lead to an increase in violence against sex workers. Like other prohibitory measures, it is likely to push street prostitution into more isolated areas.
We have talked about the need to make prostitutes safer and we feel that these provisions will make them less safe. We also emphasise that the measure against brothels in this Bill, which we will discuss shortly, will make prostitutes more likely to engage in street sex work. There are likely to be more street workers as a result of the Bill so these provisions are particularly crucial to get right. We are therefore suggesting that Clause 18 should not stand part of the Bill. We think that decriminalisation should be accompanied by the powers to enforce appropriate zoning so that street prostitution and kerb-crawling could take place only in designated areas. That is a very difficult issue which we need to debate. I know that some brave local authorities have already grappled with it.
We could be guided by the example from Scotland of the Scottish Prostitutes Education Project. When we asked what the effect of the kerb-crawling legislation in Edinburgh had been, we were told that women are working in isolation more, which is more dangerous for them, and that there are not as many clients around, but that the ones who are there are the more difficult and dangerous ones. The women felt that an alternative approach would be to get rid of the offence of loitering and replace it with an offence of breach of the peace—causing fear or alarm, for example. They were certain that the legislation had had a negative impact on the women they work with, but they did not feel the number of women on the streets had decreased significantly. We were told that there is more competition among the women and, crucially, they are often out for longer. Naturally, they need to make the same amount of money. In our debates about rehabilitation we have talked about why they need to make that money—whether they have a drug habit or they lack the education to get better jobs and so on. The fact is that the women who do that need the money and will keep on doing it. The critical thing is to make them safer.
Traditionally, there has not been a huge amount of pimping on the streets of Edinburgh, and that has not changed, but the project feels that the streets are much more deserted than when the legislation first came in. It also feels that legalising brothels will not get women off the streets, because two totally different groups of women are involved. But doing what the Government are proposing in the Bill is likely to close down more brothels and will push more women onto the streets.
How many prosecutions have there been? Thirty men were charged in Edinburgh over the course of the year since the legislation was introduced. There have been only six complaints from residents in the year. Is the legislation enforceable there? There are no jury trials in Scotland; there are sheriff's reviews only. One woman was given an ASBO on no more evidence than that she was seen getting out of a car driven by a man. She was banned from entering the area, including access to the Scottish Prostitutes Education Project advice centre. Another woman, in front of a different sheriff for shouting in an area, was given an ASBO preventing her from shouting in the area, which was much more specific. I make the point that this is a particularly difficult area of the law in which to impose quite brutal criminal charges on women when they are not even entitled to a jury trial.
Clients are unlikely to get a jail sentence. Even in Sweden, from which the Government have taken their example, no one has been jailed. People have just been fined. We feel that the clauses are moving in entirely the wrong direction. We need to protect women better, encouraging them to go to advice centres and remaining visible where they are not in danger. If the Government say that much of the motivation for the clauses came from the Ipswich murders, they are moving in the wrong direction.
We support the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. We agree that the effect of the Bill is very likely to be to take women on to the streets from reasonably safe places, as the provisions that we shall debate later emphasise. What is the definition of a public place?
I, too, support the proposal of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, and the observations that she made in her powerful speech. Clause 18 would remove the criterion of persistence from the offences of kerb crawling and soliciting as currently defined in Sections 1 and 2 of the Sexual Offences Act 1985? The criterion of persistence serves a valuable purpose. That is not because there is any right to solicit for the purposes of prostitution; it is because the criterion of persistence helps to ensure that there is no room for misunderstanding or doubt about the defendant’s intentions. After all, this is an area of human conduct where there is ample room for ambiguity and a real danger of miscarriages of justice. I would welcome the Minister's explanation of why, in the light of that, it is thought appropriate to remove the criterion of persistence.
I, too, support the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, and thank her for the amount of information that she has put on record.
The Minister will know that the United Kingdom Network of Sex Work Projects, which represents 63 projects offering front-line services to sex workers, gave evidence to the Public Bill Committee. It seemed to me that it would be worth having that on the record. The UK network said of Clause 18:
“Research evidence and reports of projects working with street sex workers demonstrate that rigorous enforcement of legislation against both soliciting and kerb-crawling results in street sex workers operating in more isolated, unfamiliar and unsafe areas to avoid police surveillance, and less time to assess or negotiate with clients”.
It went on to say that these measures mean that sex workers have to work longer hours to get their money, which brings them into more conflict with the residents of the area, and exposes them to more risks in health and personal safety. It pushes them toward dispersing; they are therefore more isolated and unable to call on others for help. It also pushes them out of the orbit of organisations that go around trying to encourage them to seek help. Altogether, it makes the life of the street sex worker much more dangerous. I very much support what the noble Baroness said.
I appreciate the contributions from noble Lords to this debate on whether Clause 18 shall stand part of the Bill. Clause 18 replaces the two offences of kerb-crawling and soliciting found in the Sexual Offences Act 1985. Kerb-crawling is therefore already a criminal offence and, as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, pointed out, we are removing the requirement for persistence rather than creating a totally new offence. Unlike the existing offence, the new one will allow the police to prosecute an offender on the first occasion that they are found to be kerb-crawling or soliciting, without the need to prove persistent behaviour or, in the case of kerb-crawling, that the behaviour is likely to cause annoyance to the person solicited or to others in the neighbourhood.
Responses to Paying the Price, the Government’s consultation paper on prostitution published in 2004, highlighted that kerb-crawling was a considerable source of nuisance to many communities. Issues of concern ranged from unwanted propositioning of local residents, including young people, to congestion caused by slow-moving traffic. Building on what was learnt from that consultation, the prostitution strategy acknowledged the impact of street prostitution and made enforcement against kerb-crawling a key priority. In addition, based on responses to the consultation, the strategy emphasised the need to tackle demand in order to achieve an overall reduction in street prostitution. Subsequently, the Government’s Tackling the Demand review recommended that, as part of the wider package of measures to target those who pay for sex, kerb-crawling or soliciting for prostitutes should be made punishable on the first occasion when it occurs.
I respect the view of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, on decriminalising prostitution. That does not, of course, conform to the views of the UK Government or with what we are seeking to achieve in this clause or, indeed, in the Bill. We have looked at the question of managed areas, which is an option. The fact is that there is no real evidence that formally managed areas can deliver what we want; to improve the safety of those involved in prostitution and the safety of communities. We believe that we should challenge the existence of street prostitution, not imply through the development of managed areas that it is acceptable or that its existence should be tolerated.
The question was also raised of the definition of a public place. Whether a place is public is a question of fact and degree; cases have defined it as a place where the public go, whether or not they have a right to go there. There may also be a public place even where there is a right to exclude particular members of the public. We believe, therefore, that this clause moves in the direction of the Government’s general intent in looking at the prostitution and curbing demand. On that basis, we believe that it is a message which we want to carry forward. Therefore we believe that the power to prosecute kerb-crawlers and those who solicit on the street or in a public place without the need to prove persistence will make the offence easier to prosecute and send a strong message of deterrence to offenders, who are of course the kerb-crawlers.
There was a very high-profile case in Manchester a few years ago of someone stopping to ask the way to a perfectly legitimate address on the edge of what he was not to know was a known red light district in a city of which he had no knowledge. He just happened to ask a prostitute. What would happen in those circumstances if it was the very first time that that had happened?
I thank the noble Baroness for that question. The answer is that it would be for the police to seek to prosecute and to bring the issue before the courts. It would be evidential and it would be for the courts—in this case, the magistrates’ court—to decide. We are not talking about on-the-spot fines or the individual being unable to challenge the decision to prosecute.
The noble Baroness presumes that a constable would decide of their own volition that this was not an innocent question. We are talking about an offence and removing the persistence element. We are not suggesting that innocent people will be prosecuted for an offence; we are suggesting that the person who is being charged is soliciting. The person in the case which the noble Baroness mentioned is not soliciting and is therefore not committing an offence. Therefore, I cannot see why, in those circumstances, the noble Baroness should be so concerned that the individual will be subject to prosecution.
As I was saying before the noble Baroness intervened, removing the need to prove persistence will make the offence easier to prosecute and will send a strong message of deterrence to offenders—that is, kerb-crawlers—thereby contributing to a reduction in demand for street prostitution. I therefore recommend that Clause 18 and Clause 19, which simply replicates Clause 18 so that these charges will apply in Northern Ireland, stand part of the Bill.
Will the Minister confirm that it is overwhelmingly probable that no prosecution will be brought in this difficult and sensitive area unless there is evidence of persistent conduct? If that is right, surely it is inappropriate for the Committee to be asked to remove the element of persistence from this offence.
It is with great trepidation that I question the noble Lord, whose knowledge of the law is infinitely greater than mine. To my simple mind, there are occasions when a constable or other police officer knows that a person is making a soliciting comment because he can be seen and overheard and is judged because he can be seen and heard, not just seen without being heard. It is not a question of someone making a presumed judgment from a distance, so I see no reason why, if a prosecution was brought, someone would not be judged and found, fairly, to be innocent or guilty by a magistrates’ court.
Does the Minister accept that this will inevitably push women to places where there are fewer CCTV cameras and where the police patrol less? To follow on from the interesting point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Bolton, what happens when every client starts their conversation with, “Can you tell me the way to X?”? That will make it very difficult. It will be like a code, but on the other hand how can you possibly prosecute?
The noble Baroness seems to be going to great lengths to protect the person who under previous laws could be caught for persistently soliciting and now, for the first time, can be caught for soliciting on the first occasion. That is the key; if they are asking an innocent question, they are not soliciting and there is no basis for a prosecution. We also have to take account of the feelings of people whose lives are interrupted by people kerb-crawling down streets in their locality and propositioning young people, wives, sisters, mothers and others who live in that community. We have to take a more balanced approach.
There is no reason to think that there will be prosecutions where there is no persistence. The prosecutor will have to prove each case of kerb-crawling. Unless we have a total lack of faith in our magistrates’ courts, that should be a sufficient defence. We have to strike a balance between the safety of sex workers, who for whatever reason indulge in street prostitution, and the people who live in the locality. The proposal in the clause takes a correct view of that balance.
The Minister did not comment at all on the evidence from Scotland that I raised. I am sure that he has had some comment, given that there has been some time to look at the change in the law. I gave a number of examples of where the education project in Scotland found that this approach had not worked well. Would he look more closely at that?
I am unaware of the cases that the noble Baroness cites. I am more than happy to look at them, but I see no reason why they would fundamentally change the situation at the moment, which is that if there is an offence, it goes to prosecution; if there is a conviction, it goes to a fine. In the mean time, if we manage by this to deter both kerb-crawling and the imposition that that puts on local communities, we will be moving in the right direction.
Clause 18 agreed.
Clause 19 agreed.
My Lords, with your permission, I will now repeat an Answer made by my honourable friend the Minister for Business, Regulatory Reform and Employment Relations in the other place in response to an Urgent Question:
“On 31 May 2005, the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry appointed Guy Newey QC and Gervase MacGregor, forensic accountant at BDO Stoy Hayward, to examine the issues raised by the Financial Reporting Review Panel and the events leading up to the appointment of administrators on 8 April 2005.
After the collapse of MG Rover, a number of factors concerning the affairs of the company, including issues raised by the Financial Reporting Review Panel, which examined the published accounts of the Rover Group, resulted in the Secretary of State deciding to appoint Companies Act inspectors to carry out a thorough investigation.
The inspectors were appointed under Section 432 of the Companies Act and had wide powers to require documents and the attendance of witnesses, including directors, officers and agents of the company. They investigated the affairs of MGRG, its parent company, Phoenix Venture Holdings, and MGR Capital Ltd between the purchase of MGRG from BMW in May 2000 and the date of it entering administration. The inspectors are independent of the department.
The inspectors carried out a thorough review and delivered their report to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills on 11 June 2009. The Secretary of State has studied the report in full and has taken legal advice on the next steps. After considering the report in its entirety, the Secretary of State has asked the Serious Fraud Office to review the report and consider whether there are any grounds for a criminal investigation. Following legal advice, this report will not now be published at this time, in order to ensure that any criminal investigation or prosecution that the SFO may decide to take is not prejudiced. Publication now could also prejudice the possibility of a fair trial.
The discretion of the Secretary of State to publish a Companies Act report where inspectors are appointed under Section 432 is only to publish the whole report. The legislation does not provide for the report to be published in part”.
My Lords, that concludes the Answer.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. It is particularly gratifying given that I had tabled a Private Notice Question this morning on the same subject. It should have been clear to everyone involved that such an important announcement could not be swept under the carpet by means of a short Written Statement. I am also disappointed that the First Secretary of State is not in his place to answer questions on the matter. Although my noble friend Lord Hunt has been caught unawares by the Written Statement and was therefore unfortunately unable to return in time, the Secretary of State can have no such excuse; his department has been sitting on the original report for more than a month and had complete control over the release of this information. Furthermore, I see that he had time to be interviewed on Sky TV this afternoon.
Further delays to any understanding of what actually happened in the lead-up to Rover's collapse, although not surprising, remain deeply disappointing, especially for the 6,500 former workers who must now wait a further indeterminate period before they can receive any of the modest sums of compensation due to them.
The Government have played a questionable role in MG Rover and its collapse. There is ongoing uncertainty as to the grounds of accepting the original £10 bid, for example. There was also the scandal of the Government paying out a £6.5 million bridging loan weeks before the last general election, despite written warnings that it would not save the company.
In 1998, the Secretary of State, who is now the First Secretary of State, stated that he considered Rover capable of,
“a commercially successful, viable, profitable future”.—[Official Report, Commons, 21/10/98; col. 1284.]
Seven years later under a Labour Government it went into administration. The lessons to be learnt from that disastrous record are even more important today; once again the question has arisen of government aid to a struggling motor industry. Without proper understanding of these failings the last time around, how can the noble Lord expect us to have any faith in their competence today?
Further questions have arisen over the inquiry that was meant to shed some light on the whole sorry incident. Not only has it taken four years and nearly £16 million for the inquiry to finish, complete with embarrassing reports of more than £100,000 being spent on accommodation and £30,000 on food and drink, but the end result has been promptly hidden away.
Now, more than a month after the report should have been published, we learn that there will be further delay. One cannot help but notice that once again a general election is on the horizon, and once again the Government’s failure to manage the economy and support British industry is a topic of intense interest to the general public. Of course, if there is evidence of criminal activity, the police must get involved. But, unless the Minister is implying that government involvement also warrants a police investigation, burying those parts of the report looks less like an attempt to avoid commenting on an ongoing investigation and more like yet another ploy to avoid public disclosure of the incompetence of the Government until after a general election.
It has apparently taken the Minister’s department a month to read the report and to identify possible grounds for a criminal prosecution. How long does he expect it to take the SFO to decide whether to investigate? If it decides to prosecute, will the Government use that as an excuse to delay the release of any part of the report until a final judgment is reached? What will happen to the compensation payments in that case? If there is a criminal case to answer, the Government should look carefully at the report and publish those parts that do not relate to that case. As he finished, the Minister said that the legislation does not provide for the report to be published in part. Although the Government do not have a duty to publish the whole, they most certainly have the power to publish in part.
There are many questions to be answered that do not relate to criminal activity, but are extremely pertinent to an assessment of the Government’s competence. In 2005, when launching the inquiry, the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Alan Johnson, said:
“People want to know what happened”.
They still want to know what happened—now more than ever—but once again, the Government are trying their hardest to make sure that they do not find out.
My Lords, I join the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, in thanking the Minister for repeating the Statement made in another place. It is clearly much more sensible to have a Statement on this important issue, rather than having to deal with it in the noble Lord’s Private Notice Question. We are grateful for that.
The noble Lord touched on the substance of his Private Notice Question. What action will the Government be taking to help ex-employees of MG Rover who may be entitled to payments from the trust fund set up to help ex-employees in the event of the firm’s collapse? Payments have been pending publication of the report. This is an important issue for ex-employees. Will the Minister explain the Government’s view on this?
I follow a number of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley. Could the Minister answer the questions rather than just accept the general criticism coming from the Conservative Benches? Why has it taken four years for the Government to conclude that the investigation into the collapse of Rover merits a reference to the SFO? It is almost beyond belief that in the past four years there were no discussions between the ministry, Ministers and the people doing the inquiry which would have indicated at an early stage an issue that ought to be referred to the SFO.
That leads to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley; there is a suspicion of what is going on here. It is in the Government’s interest for the report to have been delayed for four years and for it then to be kicked into the long grass politically by a reference to the SFO. Unless we can deal with the matter quickly, this will inevitably result in the facts not being known until after the general election. Why does the Minister believe it has taken four years? Can he confirm the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, that the investigation has so far cost £16 million? Is that press report true? If it is not £16 million, what does the Minister believe it has so far cost?
In the context of a suspicion that this is government attempting to delay the whole issue until after the general election because of potential criticism of government action, why have the Government chosen to refer this to the SFO when they had the original report prepared by Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the administrators of Rover, concluding that there was no improper conduct? What weight are the Government now putting on the report by PWC? Why do two separate firms of consultants appear to have reached diametrically opposed conclusions on the need to refer to the SFO?
Finally, touching on a point that has already been made, when matters affect the individual rights of people who could be under potential criminal prosecution, there is clearly a necessity for some material not to get into the public arena. As an aside, I might say that I am significantly sceptical that we will not read about this in the pages of the Telegraph over the next few weeks, but that is not a matter for the Government. Are the Government prepared to meet the understandable concerns of the public, opposition parties and maybe even members of the Minister’s own party to ensure that as much is published as conceivably can be of the evidence and conclusions of this report? To what extent can it be made public without jeopardising the interests of those who may be subject to prosecution?
My Lords, the noble Lord has raised a range of issues. It is intended that when the report is published it will be made available online and free of charge. It is important to state that this was an arm’s-length, independent and thorough investigation and review of a complex and detailed issue. This was not just one company because there were about 33 subsidiaries and related companies. Some £1.3 billion of creditor money was owed and around 6,000 jobs were directly involved, with a further 12,500 indirectly. Not that many independent reviews of this nature have been done. Apart from Lonrho and Guinness, I think that since 1992, seven inspections have been carried out under Section 432 of the Companies Act 1985. They do not have cost and time limits as such, and given the credibility of the people involved in producing this report, it was up to them to continue a dialogue with the government department, which they did. The cost as of 31 May 2009 was £15.9 million. The Serious Fraud Office now has four years’ worth of interviews, witness statements and the report in its totality to evaluate. It has a body of evidence to consider, one hopes, very quickly.
I would also say that this is not a cover-up, but a thorough and independent investigation into what was a very difficult corporate collapse. Given the complexity and the timescale, it is important that we do not prejudice any possible action or next steps by the Serious Fraud Office, so in any statements we make we have to be careful that we do not create problems as regards any further investigations.
I want to make one other comment, which is that given the sensitive nature of the issue, there has been continuous dialogue. While I accept that it has taken a long time, it is important that an investigation of this type is independent, thorough and done properly. That is exactly what has happened in this case.
My Lords, I ought to declare an interest as a former Minister who dealt with company inquiries. Is it not right that a delay is inevitable whenever company inquiries are considered? It is unusual for a delay of three to four years to take place, but not inevitable. Am I not right in thinking that every company inquiry is subject to some delay, perhaps of two or three years? Is it not also considered acceptable for the Government to take some time to consider the report, and that a period of one month should be acceptable? My final question is this: does the Minister agree that it is wholly undesirable to publish this sort of report in part? Is it not inevitable that the Government will be accused of partiality?
My Lords, my noble friend has made a number of interesting comments. We only received this report on 11 June and, given the complexity and seriousness of this issue, the Government’s response has been very speedy. Given also the infrequency of such reviews and inquiries, there will always be lessons to be learnt on timescale and cost, but overall I repeat that we must make sure that we do not prejudice any action that may be forthcoming from the Serious Fraud Office. This has been a thorough investigation and review.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a former West Midlands MP who was involved slightly in the early stages. I hope that the Minister recognises how strong feelings are in the West Midlands. The collapse of the company meant the virtual end of the British-owned motor industry. I understand the point that the Minister makes on the effect that this could have on prosecution, but is there any reason why we should not know the official advice to Ministers in this matter, and on the manner and way they chose to rescue this company? In other words, was it a ministerial decision taken in line with departmental advice, or a decision taken in spite of that advice?
My Lords, first, I disagree with the noble Lord on one issue. The automotive industry remains the key industry for the UK. Whether that involves advance engineering or the automotive industry in general, the collapse and problems around MG Rover were not the end of the industry in the UK—far from it. We remain a huge producer of car engines, and it is a very important industry for us.
The First Secretary of State received the report and took legal counsel on its receipt. It was considered appropriate after that legal advice to present the report in totality to the Serious Fraud Office. I accept that the report now needs to be considered by the SFO before we make any comments on individual parts of it, or how it affects government.
My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall now repeat a Statement made in the other place. The Statement is as follows.
“I wish to make a Statement about the White Paper on International Development published today. We stand at a critical juncture for international development. While millions have been lifted out of poverty over the past decade, thanks to sustained economic growth, reforming Governments, debt relief and increases in aid, much of the progress that we have seen is now imperilled. The global recession, the climate-change crisis, and the ongoing conflict and fragility in many countries threaten to turn back the development gains made since the turn of the century.
The White Paper sets out how this Government will pursue the fight against global poverty, and places new emphasis on four key areas: supporting growth; tackling climate change; tackling conflict and fragility and improving the international system. I will say more about each of these areas in turn, but I will first set out the context for the White Paper.
The past decade has seen real achievements in the fight against poverty. Aid increases and debt cancellation have helped to get 40 million more children into school. The number of people with access to AIDS treatment has increased from 100,000 to more than 3 million. The proportion of the world’s population living in poverty has fallen from a third to a quarter. Yet it is clear—with 9 million children dying each year, 70 million denied the opportunity to go to school, and a billion people around the world without enough food—that the world remains far from meeting the millennium development goals.
The global recession now threatens to trap as many as 90 million people in poverty, which would push back progress by as much as three years towards the first millennium development goal to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. The likely impact of the economic crisis is a stark reminder that the gains made in moving towards the MDGs can be fragile. Those gains are also threatened by the advance of climate change. If temperatures continue to rise at current levels, an extra 600 million people will be affected by malnutrition by the end of the century. Those gains are threatened by the effects of conflict and poor governance. Each year, at least 740,000 people are killed as a result of armed violence, with many more injured or disabled.
Unless all three of these global challenges—the recession, climate change and conflict—are tackled, the MDGs will be pushed far out of reach. Now is not the time to turn away from the mission to tackle global poverty. We are keeping the promises that we made to dedicate 0.7 per cent of national income to development assistance by 2013. By next year our assistance will be equivalent to 0.56 per cent of national income, which is in line with the European Union’s collective commitment, and by next year, we will have nearly trebled our bilateral and multilateral aid to Africa since 2004.
Half our global bilateral aid will be invested in public services, helping to get 8 million children into school across Africa and delivering not only our promised 20 million malaria bed nets by next year but an additional 30 million bed nets by 2013. We will work with others to help developing countries provide free healthcare to their citizens and we will press the international community for more support to save 6 million mothers and babies by 2015. We will continue to tackle sickness, hunger and illiteracy across the developing world. We will also support developing countries to pursue economic growth, to protect their citizens from the impact of climate change, to help resolve conflicts and to build capable, accountable and responsive states.
Let me take each of those in turn. Growth is the exit route out of poverty and aid dependence. Fifty years ago, income rates in east Asia were equivalent to those in Africa; today, income rates in east Asia are five times higher. In the midst of this recession we will help to protect 50 million poor people, in more than 20 countries, from the worst effects of the downturn. We will press for the rapid delivery of the commitments made by the G20 at the London summit to provide further financial assistance to the poorest countries.
We will work towards concluding a Doha deal that would boost the global economy by over $150 billion a year. We will help developing countries to build more fair and sustainable economic growth, double our agricultural research funding and provide investment for infrastructure and reforms that will help African countries to trade with each other and with the world. The Fairtrade label now certifies more than £1 billion worth of goods, helping over 7 million producers and their families. We will continue to support this success story and, indeed, quadruple our support for Fairtrade and ethical trading.
We will advance our work with law enforcement agencies to clamp down on bribery and corruption, which have a parasitic effect on any economy. DfID support to the Metropolitan Police has already led to the recovery of £20 million and the freezing of £131 million-worth of assets. We will now triple our investment in these efforts, supporting the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Crown Prosecution Service and helping the Met to pursue investigations across more countries.
If the scale of the economic crisis and its impact on the developing world is now clear, climate change presents, if anything, an even greater long-term threat to the prospects of alleviating poverty in the developing world. Two weeks ago my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change launched the UK’s Copenhagen manifesto, setting out our proposals for an ambitious climate deal. This White Paper will ensure that new and additional finance will be made available over and above our aid commitments to reach 0.7 per cent of gross national income. We will also increase our investment in helping developing countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change but set a limit of up to 10 per cent of official development assistance.
We will also give countries practical support to help them adapt, including by supporting the Hadley Centre to model the effects of climate change in developing countries. We will also encourage low carbon development by investing in clean technology and forests.
Alongside the climate and financial crises, the third great threat to continued progress in reducing global poverty is the continuing level of conflict and state fragility. One-third of the poorest people in the world live in countries affected by conflict or in fragile countries. Half of all children’s deaths before the age of five occur in such places. If we are to make further progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals we must work differently in these countries and directly address the causes of war and weak government.
Half of all our new bilateral aid will go to fragile and conflict-affected countries. We will place security and justice alongside basic services, tripling spending on these areas and addressing violence against women as a priority. We will create jobs benefiting 7.5 million people in five fragile countries by 2013. In all fragile countries we will develop joint strategies with the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence, and internationally we will press for the UN, the World Bank and the European Union to provide rapid assistance in the aftermath of conflict.
With regard to international institutions, it is increasingly clear that global challenges demand global solutions, and that if we want to make real progress in solving the economic crisis, the climate crisis and the persistence of ongoing conflict, we will need to work more through the international system. But if international institutions are to live up to these new responsibilities, they must become more accountable, more responsive to current challenges and more representative of all their constituents.
This White Paper sets out our strategy for improving the effectiveness of international institutions in tackling global poverty in the years ahead. We will invest a higher proportion of our new aid resources through the international system in return for securing key reforms.
Our funding for the UN will be subject to performance and increasingly channelled in ways that encourage UN agencies to deliver as one. We will push for the creation of a single powerful UN agency for women by merging the structures that exist, and we will at least double our core funding for work on gender equality in the United Nations.
In Europe, we will press for the EU to create a single development commissioner to reprioritise resources on fragile countries in Asia and the Middle East and make poverty reduction a primary aim of all EU external policies, such as climate and security.
We will press for improved governance and performance of the World Bank, the IMF and regional development banks so that they do more to support poor countries during the downturn. To meet growing humanitarian demands, we will lobby internationally for a stronger humanitarian system and humanitarian access, including through increasing the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund.
We will transform our impact and ensure value for money. We will maintain our own rigorous focus on the effectiveness of DfID as an organisation in delivering on its mission. In this time of economic adversity, we will work harder than ever to ensure that every pound of UK aid contributes towards direct and tangible results. We will prioritise our efforts, and work in fewer countries. We will deliver an additional £155 million of efficiency savings by next year by making value-for-money improvements in our research budget and in other areas.
As well as meeting our commitments on aid effectiveness made in the Paris declaration and in the Accra agenda for action, we will further improve the transparency of the projects that we fund through a new searchable database on our website. We will set aside at least 5 per cent of budget support funds to help developing-country Governments in turn to improve accountability to their citizens.
We will establish deeper and broader partnerships with civil society organisations and the private sector, doubling our central support to civil society to £300 million a year and launching a new innovation fund to help community groups and individuals in the UK to support small but innovative projects overseas.
Finally, as the IDC noted in its recent report, signs that the downturn is beginning to undermine previously strong UK support for aid are a cause for concern. This White Paper sets out our plans to do more to show the UK public how government assistance is helping to fight poverty, including through the use of a new UKAid logo, to increase the visibility of our work.
The mission of the Department for International Development, as clearly set out in this White Paper, will remain reducing poverty and supporting sustainable development. A world where too many continue to lack not only the basics of life but the opportunity to fulfil their aspirations diminishes us all. For this Government, and for many people across the United Kingdom, this is a profoundly moral cause—but in the 21st century, development is not merely a moral cause; it is also a common cause.
It has become increasingly apparent at the start of this century that we are ever more interdependent. The evidence of this is all around us, from the internet to the financial crisis, from the label that says “made in China” to the swine flu pandemic that began in Mexico. Our common prosperity demands and depends on shared sustainable growth. Our common security depends on the emergence of effective and peaceful states around the world. Our common climate requires us to take steps now to safeguard the planet for our children.
None of this will be easy, but it is in all of our interests that we grasp the opportunity to bring about real and lasting change. More than ever before, our future prospects are linked to those of the poorest people in the world, and the Government remain committed to building a safer, more secure and more sustainable world for all. I commend this Statement to the House”.
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
My Lords, we are all deeply grateful to the Minister for repeating that full and helpful Statement, made in another place by the Secretary of State. There is much in this White Paper which we welcome, not least since it adopts a number of themes and specific ideas which we on this side of the House have been championing for more than four years. In this time of economic crisis, which particularly affects the world’s poor, it is a time not to withdraw our support but to redouble our international development efforts. Poverty breeds extremism, incubates disease and drives migration and conflict. So tackling poverty and deprivation is not just a moral duty, it is also in our own very best national interest.
It is a matter of relief for many of our fellow citizens that it is no longer a Labour or Conservative agenda, but a British agenda, which commands widespread support. The Government are clearly listening to the Conservative arguments on international development, particularly on the need to improve our performance in fragile states.
One of our recurring concerns is the intense difficulty of operating effectively in conflict-affected environments. Security costs are often astronomical. The capacity of the Governments we are working with is frequently, by definition, very low or non-existent. Insecurity makes monitoring and evaluation difficult. The risk of corruption is high; local politics are often opaque and complex, and there is a real risk of aid exacerbating tensions. As the recent highly critical evaluation of DfID’s performance in Afghanistan has shown, we need a dramatic improvement in the effectiveness of our aid in war zones. We pay tribute to DfID’s brave staff, who put themselves in harm’s way in places of conflict. What estimate have Her Majesty's Government made of the increased security costs to this department of working more in fragile states, many of them showcases of despair?
The Minister will be well aware of the National Audit Office report which found that only half of DfID’s projects in the most insecure countries achieve their aims and almost a quarter suffer from fraud or financial problems. Does he accept that if we are to get value for money from our spending in these countries, we need radically to improve the quality of our aid effort and demonstrate this through independent assessment and validation so that lessons can be learnt?
The Minister is rightly keen to raise the profile and visibility of British aid, but he will be aware that in this age of austerity, spending on rebranding will be carefully scrutinised. How much does he estimate the rebranding exercise will cost? What value-for-money inquiries and cost-benefit analysis did he undertake before announcing this policy? Does he recognise the risk that UKAid could be confused with USAID? The similarity of the two names could pander to the critics who claim that our foreign policy is already too influenced by Washington. Does he agree that the most effective way to raise awareness of public support for British aid is to focus on the outcomes and achievements it generates, rather than the inputs so beloved of this Government? Security is all-important, but can the Minister tell the House whether money for these new projects is being diverted from the health and education budget?
The White Paper has been launched during the dying days of this Labour Government. The country and Britain’s international development effort need a new sense of direction. There are some good points and sensible suggestions in the White Paper, not least because many of them came from this side of the House. I hope that we will have the opportunity to debate them further over the coming months. The prize for a more effective British international development effort is clear: a better life for millions of people and a safer world for Britain.
My Lords, I apologise for anticipating that the earlier Statement would have involved more people and more discussion. Therefore, it involved a delay in my reaching the Chamber. I also thank the noble Lord for repeating the Statement and welcome DfID’s new White Paper. Clearly, a lot of work has gone into it, and I have been well aware of that over the past few months.
We welcome the Government’s stated commitment to fighting for global justice. The recession must not see the bottom billion increase even further, though we see quite a lot of evidence of that already. This must, of course, be countered as far as possible at the upcoming G8. I ask for the Minister’s comments on what is proposed for the G8. I welcome the commitment to fighting climate change; it is extremely important to recognise that climate change poses a great danger to us all, but to the poorest first. The fragile states that are made more fragile are a risk to us in Britain, either through terror or migration, as is made plain in the White Paper and the Statement. Again, I welcome the paper’s stated emphasis on women and trust that this will convert into reality. DfID has a strong reputation in this regard, but it has not always translated into a change on the ground in terms of programmes.
What would be the impact of continued cuts in staff at DfID at the same time as increasing its budget? What does this mean? We have seen a loss of expertise. I have also raised the question of what DfID is doing as regards women. We see sometimes that those programmes are under threat. Where will the efficiency savings that the Minister mentioned fall? He mentioned pulling back from countries; how many countries do the Government intend to pull back from and which countries—or in which areas—might these be? Do we know that working closely with the FCO and the MoD, which is stressed in the paper, is not a way of shifting resources to those other departments, especially in relation to Afghanistan?
In February—and this was announced as we went into the February half-term Recess—a DfID statement showed a shift of £20 million from DfID to the MoD. When I asked about this in a series of Written Questions, I was told that such exchanges between the FCO, the MoD and DfID often occurred, so I tabled further Questions about what the pattern had been in the past. I was struck by the fact that there were no transfers in the other direction. Although I was told that this was the case, I could not see a pattern of money shifting to DfID from the MoD and the FCO on such a scale, but it was going in the other direction. We all know about the commitment in Afghanistan and the pressure on all departments. We all hear that DfID is one department that will not be under such pressure, so is that a way of shifting money from a department that is not under pressure to ones that are clearly under pressure? I wonder whether the Minister would comment on that. Is it a problem, too, of DfID being unable to deal, because of cuts of 25 per cent in its staff, with an increased budget—though I am of course pleased that its budget has been increased in the way that it has? Now we hear that 10 per cent will go to DECC. Obviously it is very good that the departments are working with each other, but is this a case of DECC being underfunded and DfID’s budget being raided?
There is a strong emphasis in the paper on supporting fragile states. I would like to know a little more about how these are to be defined. Are they largely in or post-conflict? There are obviously other fragile states—ones, as we see at the moment, with economies that are reliant on a single primary commodity and which will be particularly hit by the economic downturn. Other countries are particularly fragile because of climate change. I would like to know a little more about how fragile states are defined, especially given my concern about the potential shift of money into Afghanistan via the MoD. Is Afghanistan sucking out an awful lot of the money from DfID?
This paper is about what the UK is doing. It talks of international co-operation through the EU, UN, IMF and so on, but there is the wider field. What we are doing in Africa may be significant but it is not half as significant as what China is doing in Africa, for better or for worse. Given the vital impact of some of these emergent economies on some of the poorest developing countries, I would very much like to know where the United Kingdom stands in relation to that. As the paper makes clear, and I am sure most people would agree, countries will pull their people out of poverty through the growth of their economies. Therefore, what is happening within those economies and within the Doha round is vital. I share the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, about the potential shift of funding from education, which has always been seen as extremely important in ensuring that developing countries pull out of poverty. The Africa Commission report of 2005 emphasised higher education as extremely important for developing countries in terms of their future global trade prospects.
The paper talks about a shift from bilateral aid towards multilateral aid and mentions half of all our new bilateral aid in that regard. I would like to know how much is involved in that shift. The paper also says that a higher proportion of our new aid will be put into the international system. Is this to be paid for by reducing bilateral aid? We also note the rebranding that was covered this weekend by the Independent. The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, mentioned this. Again, I would like to know the cost of this. Around the world you see the rebranding of aid into UKAid. It looks nice with the crest and what have you, but around the world you see flags on aid projects. There is concern about too much emphasis being laid on which country gives the aid, whether it is the right aid for the recipient country and whether that country is paying too much attention to what donors want as opposed to what it should be doing in the best interests of its people. I am a little concerned about that and I would certainly like to know about the cost of that rebranding. I welcome the commitment to the figure of 0.7 per cent by 2013, but what will be the stages over the years to bring it up to that level?
I hope that the Minister will comment on one or two other stories that emerged at the weekend. There is pressure in the Conservative Party to cut back on its development plans. Can he comment on the rumoured consideration of aid vouchers and private schools? Would these fit into the White Paper as laid out? In the downturn and in uncertain political times, the UK commitment to development is indeed morally right and in our best interests, as the Minister says. I hope that there is cross-party support, not lip service, in this vital area.
My Lords, I thank both noble Baronesses for their contributions, which I think add up to substantial support for the White Paper. However, they posed pertinent questions. The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, said that some elements of the paper resemble proposals from her party. I welcome the continued endorsement of the figure of 0.7 per cent as a policy not only of the United Kingdom Government but of the opposition. When I worked in the United Nations, it was very beneficial to have countries with a political consensus in this regard as it gave confidence to international institutions and recipient countries that aid would not disappear with a change of government. There were 2,500 contributions, of which I am sure more than one mentioned the requirement to look at evaluation and other areas. We are not churlish and we are grateful for all the contributions which have produced a White Paper that is better than otherwise might have been the case.
A number of points were made; I always find it easier to deal with the last one first, but I shall try to resist that. DfID operates in 150 countries; it has 64 overseas offices with 2,600 staff. It is true that we are cutting back; we have closed a number of offices in the past few years. We are looking in the next two or three years at other areas. It is a question of concentrating where we think that we can make the greatest impact.
The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, made an important point that it is risky and expensive to work in fragile states. By the way, we see 46 states as being fragile—but not all for the same reasons. Some are fragile because of poor governance in the past few years—one can think of Zimbabwe in those terms. Some are fragile because of instability. Some are fragile because of the very real dangers as regards climate change—one had only to read the comments of the Prime Minister of Mauritius at the weekend to know that. Some are fragile because of other matters that could be put right with greater co-ordination—they do not consult sufficiently within their societies. Some are not even democracies. Basically, we think that it is better, although it is expensive and harder, to work in fragile states. Ignoring them would be far riskier, certainly harm the achievements of the MDGs and create the conditions for humanitarian disasters in lawless spaces, with knock-on effects in neighbouring countries. Our common security clearly depends on there being effective and peaceful states around the world.
The question of evaluation was raised. This is an important issue to which we give considerable attention. It is not true to say that we are lax in that area. We are stepping up evaluation of our work, identifying the results of our efforts and learning the lessons of what does and does not work. That is important for both accountability and making the most of future spending. A major DfID evaluation policy has been launched, which sets out new standards of quality and independence. DfID will support at least 40 evaluations of its country work, policies and success over the next four years. This is in addition to regular internal reviews and independent audits. We will respond to and address concerns raised by independent evaluators to ensure that aid continues to be used and is as effective as possible.
I was asked how we will reach the 0.7 per cent spending commitment. We will increase spending to 0.56 per cent in 2010—I believe that that is the right figure. In 2008-09, DfID was directly responsible for £5.8 billion of UK public expenditure; almost all of this was classed as ODA. That figure has reached £6.3 billion, representing 0.43 per cent, and will increase to £6.8 billion in 2009-10 and £7.8 billion in 2011. Efficiency savings, which were mentioned, were identified as £155 million in the 2009 Budget. That means that we can meet just over £1 billion of additional expenditure and achieve the £155 million of efficiency savings, because of the increasing envelope occasioned by our moving towards the agreed target for 2013. The total spending figure for 2010-11 will be £9.1 billion.
Noble Lords will recall that we started from a premise of spending only 0.36 per cent. Within our new and enhanced aid budget, we have already targeted certain parts of the world. Our aid to Africa is set to double from £1.3 billion in 2004 to £3 billion in 2010. Over half the UK budget—58 per cent in 2007-08—goes to developing countries, either directly or through an international body. The point has been made about the proportion that we are spending bilaterally and internationally; international funding is very efficient, but one has to make sure that the organisations delivering it—the UN agencies and the UN itself—are as efficient as they can be. After 14 years as a policy-maker and a member of staff of one of those agencies, I confess that there are efficiencies to be made. There is a tendency, not invented here, for agencies to pursue their independence. They have to justify it by being different. We want them to work much more as a single force. We particularly encourage countrywide forces under a single person who can, in the event of an emergency or indeed in general, bring together a team that meets the needs of the country. There is movement in that direction within the United Nations and within agencies—although the movement is greater in some than others. We believe that our pressure should continue. What we are prepared to invest in those agencies should be determined by their willingness to take on reform and to deliver more efficiently—something with which all noble Lords will agree.
I have first-hand experience of the question of the cost of developing UK aid. This month my daughter is in South Africa, doing voluntary work. Last summer she did voluntary work in Thailand. She is 19. On more than one occasion, she said to me, both when I was in my previous job and when I was in your Lordships’ House and taking an interest in this subject, “What is it that you do?”. I talked about bilateral and multilateral aid. She said, “Dad, where do you spend the money? What is our money being spent on? What is it achieving?”. Those simple questions are the ones that you get asked. There is an advantage to being able to put a UKAid label on. I take the point about USAID. I take the point also that we may have circumstances in which we do not want to put “UKAid” on a piece of humanitarian relief, perhaps to protect the people whom are seeking help.
We are also spending a considerable sum of money improving our support for fair trade and ethical trading. My nearest town is Brampton in Cumbria. The political complexion of Brampton will bring far greater comfort to noble Lords opposite than it does to me. Having said that, the sign as you enter the town says, “Brampton—A Fair Trade Town”. Within the British community—this is not the property of any single party or group—no less than two-thirds of people see a requirement for us to do things to support the poor in our own interests. That is very encouraging.
The cost of rebranding has been £97,480—I do not know the figure for pence. That is very competitive when compared to the £400,000 BBC Three logo and the £400,000 London 2012 logo. Now we must discuss it with partner organisations so that it is not used solely as an advertisement for UK plc, but sensitively in a way that confers the greatest advantage without providing any downsides.
It is estimated that the money that we spend brings 3 million people out of poverty every year. That is why we are particularly keen to ensure that we get value for money. We seek to ensure that the increase in funding is matched by an increase in efficiency. This brings me to the subject of working across government departments. The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, expressed the fear that money might be moved out of DfID funding into other forms of spending such as defence. It is not intended that that should be the case. It is intended that DfID funding will go to one purpose only: reducing poverty. However, we need greater co-ordination between the FCO and the Ministry of Defence, particularly as we are introducing the question of justice and security.
People in poor countries want to sleep peacefully at night, and to sleep on a full stomach. We have a long way to go before we can provide the full stomachs, but we can do a lot to provide security. Training police is something that the UK does particularly well. That is taking place already in a number of countries, including Nigeria and several other African countries. The task that we have set ourselves is ambitious, and I urge all Members to read the White Paper in detail. It sets out a continuum from where we started.
I have one final point. It is not for me to comment on what might be in any publication by another party, but we have applied voucher schemes where they are appropriate. There is evidence that using them in, for example, a post-conflict situation to provide seed is very efficient. We are far more concerned about their use in education and health. The truth is that if there is not a state system able to sustain the spend, there is a danger that vouchers will just become another currency. What is not achieved by the vouchers is an improvement in education or health. I hope I have covered the points made by both the noble Baronesses. I would be more than happy to supply any information if, having read the White Paper in the detail that I have had the opportunity to do over the weekend, there are other queries that they would like to raise.
My Lords, I welcome the White Paper and I thank the noble Lord for repeating the Statement. I endorse all that my noble friend Lady Rawlings said. I particularly welcome in this White Paper the new emphasis on greater support to fragile states, civic society organisations and non-governmental organisations. That is not explicit but I think it is intended in what I have been able to read so far. Would the noble Lord tell us whether there will be increased capacity-building for local economic development? The advocacy of expanding business partnerships at a local level can make a huge difference and is actually easier to do than some of the big schemes that often do not succeed. Also, does he intend there to be greater capacity-building for the delivery of those aspects of the millennium development goals which are way behind their target dates? This is not the time to press him on UN efficiency but that is something to which we really must return, with the many different UN organisations sometimes being counterproductive, as he knows from his own experience. Finally, can he give us an assurance that the Government will provide proper time for a full debate in the coming months? This is a worthy document and, although we may have some questions, we need to build on it and make UK aid even better.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her comments, particularly as they come from a distinguished speaker who has spent many years fighting to ensure that aid is both achieving its objectives and spent efficiently. What we are seeking to do in increasing the funding to the smallest civil society organisations is to encourage some of the smaller NGOs to come forward, subject to evaluation, to sponsor smaller projects—projects which, at national level, may appear too small in cost or too great in administration, but which the private sector and the NGO community can do particularly well. The noble Baroness is absolutely right that capacity-building for entrepreneurship and a whole series of other areas would command support. She is also right that we need to pay particular attention to those millennium development goals which are falling behind. It is wise to take this White Paper now because in a year’s time we will be seeking to look at those millennium development goals and review how we get to them beyond 2015, unfortunately, if current progress is maintained.
That brings me to the noble Baroness’s final point. I certainly endorse the value of having a full debate on this issue in your Lordships’ House, in part because of the expertise noble Lords bring. I note that we do not have with us today one or two of our colleagues on the Cross Benches—the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, to name but one—who have shown considerable interest and support. This is a question for the usual channels and not in my gift, but I hope we will have an early opportunity to debate this, because it is a valuable document and is worthy of considerable consideration.
My Lords, what has happened to the annual report of the Department for International Development, which last year came out in May? We have not yet seen it this year. I remind the Minister that, despite the proposed change of name to UKAid, the Department for International Development is highly regarded and revered throughout the world—certainly in all the countries I have been to. It would be very sad to see DfID disappear.
I am sure that the Minister knows that 30 million women suffer each year from childbirth: they die, suffer permanent disability, or suffer poor physical and mental health. Women—healthy women—are essential for a decent society and for the prevention of conflict. Can the Minister assure us that money will not be transferred from the reproductive health budget, which is so necessary to achieve the second target of millennium development goal 5, to which DfID was pledged last year? Can he assure us that that money will not be touched and that the Government realise that the prevention of conflict depends on healthy women able to play their part in society?
My Lords, I bring the noble Baroness good news on two certain points and one on which I give her an assurance but will follow up in writing if any explanation is required. First, I assure her that we are not changing the name of the Department for International Development. We are seeking a name that will be recognisable to show those both inside this country and in the countries that we seek to help that something is provided from the UK, not for the boast of putting a flag on it. I must say as an aside that I think that the United Kingdom system of partnerships over a period with member states and of agreements is infinitely superior to the project and flag-based approach of some other nations, which shall remain nameless. The second piece of good news that I bring her is that the annual report of DfID will be published before the Summer Recess, which, on this occasion, does not make a promise too far that we cannot expect to deliver.
On the third point, I assure the noble Baroness on the basis that I see no proposals to transfer monies in that area, as she suggested, but I will check. If it is not in the small print, I will find out and write to her.
My Lords, first, I join in thanking the Minister for his Statement, and for the thoughtful way in which he is answering the points made. Like my noble friends, I am struck by the emphasis that the White Paper evidently places on fragile states—it is not a new emphasis, but it may be a little more emphatic. That comes as some reassurance to those of us who have been worried by what has in some cases been a divorce between the British aid programme and British foreign policy, perhaps arising from a rather too absolute interpretation in some quarters of the wording of the 2000 Act and the concept of poverty reduction, which the Minister restated.
I ask two specific questions in that context. The Minister mentioned joint strategies between DfID, the FCO, and the Ministry of Defence. “Strategies” is a greatly overused word. Is it more just the occasional meeting of officials in Whitehall? I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, on her research about the transfer of budgets. I look at that in a rather more welcoming way than she did. The Minister will know that, from time to time, there have been ideas of unifying the British overseas effort in budgetary terms. We started thinking about that a long time ago. Lately, there has been a publication to which several noble Lords put their name suggesting that. If the transfers of budgets discussed today are a movement in that direction, so that in Afghanistan, for example, the money goes to those who can carry out the effort most effectively, that is very welcome. Can the Minister say anything more about that?
My Lords, on joint strategies between departments, there are two arenas in which those are essential. One is in areas where we are seeking to provide beyond just traditional humanitarian aid, where we are looking at justice and security. The other is in strategically considering the new players, the big players who are providing international and national assistance. One thinks immediately of China; if China and the UK are large contributors to alleviating poverty in Africa, it therefore makes every sense for those two nations to have a strategic approach ensuring that they maximise the achievements in reducing poverty, but that they do so in a way that is non-competitive and not necessarily duplicating.
On the precise point of working across Government, by June 2010 we will have joint strategies between DfID, the MoD and the FCO in all fragile countries where the UK has significant development programmes. That could include Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Joint strategies across UK departments already exist, but not necessarily in fragile countries. This will help us to co-ordinate diplomatic, military and development efforts. It does not mean that political or security objectives will determine DfID funding allocations. The strategy will be agreed within the framework of departmental mandates and capacities; for DfID, the priority remains poverty reduction.
I take it that the noble Lord, who was a distinguished Foreign Secretary, has knowledge of these issues that is rather greater than mine. Clearly, in almost any circumstances co-ordination can be improved, and I hope that what we are seeking on this occasion will help to bring better policies than in the past, with greater co-ordination in all those fragile states where we seek to help.
My Lords, perhaps the Minister might forgive me for having missed the first minutes of his Statement. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, I was late in getting here. I thank him for the Statement, which is a step in the right direction; certainly, the recognition that fragile states damage the scope for development, and therefore that before you can achieve sustainable development you have to stabilise the situation, must be right.
Here, however, I go along the same road where the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, has just gone; will this Statement take some of the strain off the discretionary spending on conflict prevention and resolution, which the House was discussing at Question Time this afternoon, by ensuring that some projects in fragile states will be able to move ahead with proper funding even if they do not meet the precise developmental criteria laid down some time ago? If not, I frankly do not understand where the improvement comes from. Perhaps the Minister could clarify that point.
Secondly, I thank the Minister for his emphasis on what is called “One UN”—that is to say, unifying the UN offices in developing countries. When the Secretary-General launched that idea some years ago, it was extremely disappointing that there was so much resistance from developing countries. I hope that was not entirely associated with the number of Ministers, friends and cousins—Ministers of those countries, I hasten to add—who were employed in different UN offices within those countries. The result, however, was that only a rather limited number of pilot projects were started. Does he have any information about how that programme is going, what the future prospects are, what the UN’s priorities are for extending the One UN programme, and what the British Government, as a major donor, are doing to ensure that that excellent initiative does not run into the sands?
My Lords, on the noble Lord’s latter point, we have to recognise that when any initiative is taken, when there are 190-plus members, it will meet some form of resistance. I recognise from personal experience some of his points about the attempt to expand the resident co-ordinator post in a country; some agencies, because they were not in every country, felt threatened that they would therefore be excluded. Others claimed that the resident co-ordinators who were there were not necessarily trained to carry out the role that was sought for them, as the leader of a UN team in a country. The UK Government have been anxious to allay that, partly by providing assistance to ensure that people are trained and that we get the right quality people in that very important role. That will continue, and the Government will continue their efforts to persuade others in the UN system not necessarily to understand the principle, which seems to be fairly accepted, but to move with greater speed from principle to practice.
The answer to the first point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, to be brutally honest, is probably in my brief, but rather than give an off-the-cuff answer I will write to him in greater detail, if I may.
My Lords, in the Statement—I apologise for missing the opening sentences—the Minister referred to partnerships with civil society organisations and business. Will he say a little more about the partnership with business? I signed up my business, KPMG—one of the big four accountancy firms—to the Business Call to Action on 6 May last year. It has probably been an exercise in shadow-boxing since then to get out of DfID a serious amount of engagement with the business community. Will he say more about what those business partnerships will look like specifically in the future? There was a summit at the UN last September, but it has often been the businesses chasing DfID for engagement, not DfID wanting to engage with businesses, which have often taken separate paths and looked to DfID for leadership.
My Lords, primarily, we are looking to partnerships with business, entrepreneurs and civil society in countries that we are seeking to assist. The noble Lord, in a perhaps roundabout and oblique way, declared an interest. I would rather take his question on board, because I do not have a direct answer to it. I have heard criticism abroad in the past about the British Government not being prepared to do anything but talk Government to Government. We think that that has been resolved to a great extent in respect of civil society, trade unions and, I hope, business. However, I happily take the point on board and, if the noble Lord will drop me a note or have a word with me afterwards, I will investigate the matter.
My Lords, I add my voice to those who have welcomed everything that the Minister has said. As my noble friend Lord Hurd and others have said—indeed, as the Minister has said—the biggest cause of poverty and degradation in the world in the past few years has been conflict and war. The Minister has said everything that one would wish to hear about co-ordination between the Department for International Development, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence. I hope he understands that he will have the support of those on all sides of the House if that aspiration is translated into action.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord. It is the Government’s view that all the policies—not aspirations—that are set out in the White Paper are serious and are intended to be put into effect. The Government must persuade all those who need to be persuaded, and must be determined to persuade those who appear not to be prepared to carry this through.
It remains the fact that we have a national interest as well as an international responsibility. That is why we say that this is a moral cause but also a common one. Let us take climate change. The Maldives are worried about disappearing for ever. Even in 2007, the summer floods cost the not-so-badly-affected United Kingdom £3 billion, so we have a vested interest, whether that is in climate change or in fragile states. Eight out of 10 refugees who seek to come to this country in whatever form come from failing or fragile states. Again, we have a declared self-interest, but that interest is also moral.
We are therefore pressing for progress on education, health, basic services and the alleviation of hunger and, lately, for an understanding of the food crisis of 2008 in the developing world. There is a need to double food production in the next 20 years, which means using centres of excellence in this country to gather expertise—the Hadley Centre, in this case—to assist the development of agriculture in the developing world. That has to be set against a background in which the problems of water supply are in many cases becoming more difficult.
It is a gigantic task. I hope that the warm welcome in principle and, in most cases, in general, for the White Paper means that the views of this House about what we should do as a nation are supported by our colleagues not only in the United Kingdom, but in the United Nations.
My Lords, I, too, apologise for not being present to hear the Statement, but I have had a good chance to flick through the book. What is the standing of this document in terms of the entirety of DfID? It seems that there is a lot in here and much of this is mainline work of DfID, and I applaud that. I do not see any reference to the dependent overseas territories: St Helena, Montserrat, or Pitcairn Island. It is the first call of DfID to consider the requirements of those very small places. I do not see any reference to this in this book; so is that to be somewhere else?
I like the heading to chapter 5, “Keeping our Promises in a Downturn”. That would be a particularly attractive mantra to those who are looking for an airport in St Helena.
My Lords, with one or two noble Lords when they enter your Lordships’ House, I know that every road leads to Rome. I guessed that this flight—or rather, it cannot be a flight; it must be a boat journey—would lead to St Helena. I can give an assurance that overseas dependent territories continue to have first call. I had the whole of Sunday to read the White Paper, and they are mentioned in there. The question of an airport on St Helena remains under review, I hope to be concluded by the end of the year. That is what my brief actually says—I anticipated that one.
I want to come back to the point made earlier, because I did not do justice to the question of the role of business and of growth. Growth is the key. Growth is the exit route and the role of the private sector is crucial to that. We are talking about supporting people through social assistance measures, but also putting £1 billion into support of growth and trade, working for a global trade deal, supporting sound tax systems and having an international growth centre to transform long-term growth. This, I think, is an area where we can guarantee that we cannot do it alone. In fact, the message from the White Paper is that this is not for Governments alone; it is for business, Governments and all of us.
Policing and Crime Bill
Committee (3rd Day) (Continued)
71: After Clause 19, insert the following new Clause—
“Decriminalisation of associated workers in brothels
(1) The Sexual Offences Act 1956 (c. 69) is amended as follows.
(2) After section 33A insert—
“33B Associated workers in brothels
For the purposes of sections 33 and 33A, a person who is not directly involved in the provision of sexual services is not to be treated as assisting in the management of a brothel by reason only of being employed in a brothel.””
With Amendment 71, we are looking at the issue of the decriminalisation of associated workers in brothels. This is another step on our road to try to decriminalise as much of this as possible. In introducing these amendments, I commend the Minister for his versatility and energy. He had a lot more consensus, I think, on the Statement just now than he will find from any of us with this Bill. Nevertheless, I shall press on with the amendments in the hope that he will agree with us on some things.
Our first amendment is to decriminalise the associated workers. They are extremely important. The women who work as receptionists or maids are essentially there to keep the sex workers safe, to raise the alarm if something very untoward happens and even to provide company in extremely dull times when there are no customers. None of those should be criminal acts and their presence when they might come across violent clients is essential. Of all the things I saw when we were invited to visit some of the premises in Soho, one of the most shocking was the safe room where women go when they are threatened with violence. There is a steel door and several bolts. It is not used frequently but frequently enough. Something so real as that was, for me, a salutary illustration that these women often face violence. It can appear when they are at their most defenceless.
Amendment 72 concerns the definition of a brothel. I originally tabled this amendment to suggest that the premises should not be regarded as a brothel where there are no more than two prostitutes. The Minister will have noticed that I changed this late last week to four because I reread the Royal College of Nursing’s submission on this subject. With all the experience of nurses as health workers, they felt that four was the right number, so I decided to go for their recommendation.
The Minister has heard me talk before about New Zealand so he will not be surprised to hear me say that, in New Zealand, the law makes a distinction between a small, collectively run brothel of up to four people working together and larger brothels which must be licensed. Reports from New Zealand say that the new legislation has increased the safety and security of women by enabling them to work in this way. By contrast, there is no evidence that it has made life more difficult for those hoping to license the larger brothels, that it leads to more disorder or anything of that kind.
We are simply asking in the proposed new clause for recognition of the reality that, as long as women work in the sex trade, they should be kept as safe as possible. We aim to give the Government a chance to honour their commitment made on 17 January 2006. Fiona Mactaggart, then Minister of State at the Home Office, launched the Government’s Coordinated Prostitution Strategy. The strategy document said that the present definition of a brothel ran counter to the advice that the Government and others provide—that, in the interest of safety, women should not sell sex alone. It said:
“The Government will make proposals for an amendment to the definition of a brothel so that two (or three) individuals may work together”.
With this amendment I invite the Minister to go back to the commitment made at that time. I beg to move.
We support the amendments. I hope the Minister will be able to reassure us that nothing in this Bill would go against the safeguards that her new clauses seek to insert.
Amendment 71 raises an important point about those people working in incidental jobs in premises which are closed down. There is nothing to be gained by criminalising those who have done nothing wrong but work at a business that is later proved to be a front for an illegal brothel.
Amendment 72 rightly raises the concern that this new power will, if used inappropriately, drive prostitutes out of relatively safe brothels and on to the streets. We have all heard the statistics of violence and abuse against prostitutes. It would be entirely wrong to force prostitutes out of their private premises in order to expose them to more of these attacks. As the noble Baroness highlights, even the Home Office accepts that the current definition of brothel goes against common sense. Why have the Government continued with this harmful definition?
I resist these amendments and hope to persuade noble Lords why Amendment 71 will not achieve its aim and why the Government do not support Amendment 72. Amendment 71 seeks to amend the offence of keeping a brothel used for prostitution by exempting those who do not own the brothel, but are employed there not directly in the provision of sexual services. We do not believe this would be appropriate. However, the amendment could prevent the prosecution of someone who knowingly takes an active part in the running of a brothel. Existing case law already excludes people involved in purely menial and routine duties such as cleaning the stairs or answering the door. We consider it appropriate that someone can be prosecuted for managing or taking part in the running of a business where they have some control over it, even if they are not the owner. The classic example might be a man who has control and ownership of a brothel and employs his brother or friend to manage it. We are therefore not inclined to amend case law in this area by means of legislation.
Amendment 72 also seeks to amend the law in relation to brothels by amending the definition of a brothel to ensure that where one or two prostitutes—the amendment provides for up to four—work together at a premises, whether with or without a maid, the premises will not be considered to be a brothel as long as the prostitutes retain control of their earnings from that prostitution. This definition could apply to a number of offences in the Sexual Offences Act 1956 such as the offence of keeping a brothel. The question of the term “brothel” is defined by case law as a house,
“resorted to or used by more than one woman for the purposes of fornication”.
This covers two or more prostitutes working together at a premises even if only one of the prostitutes uses the premises at any given time.
The noble Baroness referred to opinions expressed by a previous Minister, and it is true that our Coordinated Prostitution Strategy, published in 2006, sets out a commitment to amend the definition of a brothel so as to allow two or three individuals to work together. This remains part of the prostitution strategy, and during the passage of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill last year, we made a commitment to consult before any change to the definition was made. Following the publication of the strategy, we received considerable feedback about the negative impact such a move might have on the ability of enforcement agencies to identify and deal with prostitution involving trafficked victims, the under-18s or those who have been exploited, as well as concerns from communities about the impact on local neighbourhoods. Furthermore, the recommendations arising from the Government’s review, Tackling The Demand For Prostitution, published in November 2008, make it clear that the priority of the Government should be to focus on measures that address demand. The Government fully accept the findings of that review, and Part 2 of this Bill includes measures to implement some of its specific recommendations. These measures, combined with the non-legislative recommendations made in the review, form the immediate priorities of the Government.
While we still accept that there are arguments in favour of allowing two women to work together in one premises, I am concerned that there could be problems with such a move. Instead, the Government intend to focus their efforts on tackling demand and reducing exploitation. On that basis, I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.
Having listened to both sides of the debate, I concede that there is some weakness in Amendment 71 for the reasons advanced by the Minister, although it could be redrafted for the next stage so as to eliminate the aspects he mentioned. However, I do not think that the case he has made against Amendment 72 stands up at all. This is a thin Chamber at the moment and obviously there is no question of the noble Baroness deciding to divide the Committee, but the case she and the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, have made for Amendment 72 is very strong. I hope that she will think seriously about bringing it back at the next stage.
I was a little late for the start of this debate and had not realised that it would end as quickly as this. I very much support the amendment and I find it quite extraordinary that it is being resisted in this way. What is being asked for here is the introduction of safer ways for people in this trade of selling themselves, if you like—whatever it is and for whatever reason. It would at least be safer for them under these circumstances. I am not at all convinced by what the Minister has said and I hope that the noble Baroness will bring the issue back on Report, if not sooner.
I am certainly tempted to test the opinion of the House sooner, given the amount of informed support that I have had, but I shall resist that in the hope that the Government, having heard it, and the kind offer of help with drafting so that I can table a perfect amendment on Report, will encourage me to do that. I warmly thank all noble Lords who have spoken.
The Minister’s only real argument in resisting Amendment 72 was considerable feedback from the enforcement authorities, but that is only one side of the equation. They are not concerned with health, and calling them enforcement authorities suggests that they are not concerned as much with women’s safety in this instance either. I hope that between now and Report—it is getting ever further away because we have a Statement or even two every day and are making slow progress—the Government will have plenty of time to rethink. In the mean time I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 71 withdrawn.
Amendment 72 not moved.
Clause 20 agreed.
Schedule 2 : Closure orders
73: Schedule 2, page 142, line 23, at end insert “, and
(c) that any persons identified under paragraph (b) have been consulted”
Amendments 73, 75, 78 and 80 concern what happens when a closure order is issued against premises. Amendment 73 would ensure that at least if a closure order is offered, it is done fairly by consulting those who should be consulted. Amendment 75 refers to the authorising officer having regard to the views of those consulted, and Amendment 78 is concerned with other measures that could be taken but the police decide for their own reasons that it would be much easier to issue a closure order than to undertake the other more onerous and difficult measures. I invite the Minister to put on record where closure orders should lie in the system of priorities.
We believe that they should be a last resort, particularly when bearing in mind that such premises may be people’s homes and children may be adversely affected. The closure order should be undertaken seriously. The Minister in another place talked about it being necessary to disrupt criminal activity and exploitation. Obviously there must be a level of evidence that serious criminal activity, such as violent pornography or class A drug-taking, is happening on the premises, but the Bill does not say that closure orders should be made only as a last resort, which is worrying.
That brings me to my last point, on proportionality. We should aim to ensure that only proportional action is taken. For example, a closure order was issued this year in Soho against premises, and it was thrown out of court. It was not found to stand up at all, and there was no good reason for issuing it. Had that gone through, the effect on the lives of the women would have been devastating, so obviously the courts came to a very sensible judgment. They looked at the evidence and decided that it would not stand up. We do not want to be drafting a Bill that would make that situation likely to fall the other way, so that people who have committed no serious crime but who have some hearsay evidence against them would face disruption to their lives and those of their dependants that would result from a closure order. I beg to move.
Again, we have sympathy with these amendments. They would add an important requirement to ensure that the police operate with the safety of those working within the brothels in mind. As previous debates have highlighted, it is often unclear where the line of exploitation is to be drawn. As the noble Baroness emphasised, it is imperative that when considering a closure order the police should talk to and listen to those in whose interests they are meant to be acting.
I support the amendments. The problem with these clauses brings us once again to the realities of work in the sex industry. While I am sure we all welcome the aim of combating trafficking and child exploitation, these provisions, once again, have unintended consequences. We know beyond any shadow of a doubt that sex workers are safer inside than outside—the research suggests 10 times safer—and so measures that drive sex workers out of their premises and on to the street are not desirable.
The noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, mentioned the closure order that was taken out in Soho at the time we were visiting for meetings with the people who work there. Although in that case the order was not brought into effect, it is important to note that the women who lived there had prompt access to lawyers, who took action immediately. This is unlikely to be the case with many people in that situation. It is very important that the orders are used only for their avowed purpose of dealing with trafficking and exploitation.
It is worth putting on record the comments of the Joint Committee on Human Rights that these provisions carry a real risk of violations of the right to family life and respect for the home under Article 8 of the ECHR, and the protection of property under Article 1 of Protocol 1 where the premises are privately owned. The Joint Committee on Human Rights corresponded with Ministers about safeguards on these provisions but was not satisfied with the assurances. The replies led the JCHR to say that when designing policy,
“the state is required, as part of the proportionality exercise, to take the least restrictive measures to achieve its aim”.
This would mean that closure orders should be made only as a last resort when other methods have been tried and failed.
The JCHR also notes that there is no specific requirement in the Bill for the authorising officer or the court to consider whether an order would make someone homeless and, if so, if they could find alternative accommodation. That, too, leads the JCHR to feel that these measures need amendment. I very much support the noble Baroness.
I shall not add much to what has been said because my noble friend Lady Stern and the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, have put the case extremely well. Having had conversations with some of the sex workers who were here last week, it is quite clear that there is still huge concern about the actions that can be taken—and, indeed, are sometimes taken—under these circumstances. As we all know, children as well as the sex workers themselves can be made homeless, and it is important that the Government take this fully into account when proposing legislation of this kind.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, for trying to expedite our procedures. We seem to have a single grouping now that previously was two groupings. I shall try to respond to all the amendments because, as the noble Baroness said, there is a certain logic in moving them en bloc.
Amendments 73 and 75 are the first of a number of amendments that relate to Schedule 2, which sets up the process for imposing the closure of premises to stop activities relating to certain pornography-related and prostitution-related offences from taking place. Indeed, as the noble Baroness has pointed out, Amendments 73, 75, 78, 80 and 82 have been recommended by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which has commented on the need for appropriate safeguards in these provisions to prevent the inappropriate use of closure orders. We take seriously the points raised by the committee, and I assure the noble Baroness that we share her aim of ensuring that these orders are targeted only at premises where serious criminal activity involving prostitution or child pornography has taken place.
We understand the reasons underlying the committee’s concerns but we do not believe that its particular concerns relating to the closure orders are justified. While I also appreciate the points that the noble Baronesses have raised on this issue, I assure them that the amendments are unnecessary. We believe that the provisions already contain sufficient safeguards against the inappropriate use of closure orders.
It is important to reiterate why these new powers are so important. Currently, if the police suspect that premises are being used for activities related to prostitution or child pornography offences, the police may enter the premises and arrest those who are committing the offences. However, unless the premises are associated with the use of class A drugs, persistent disorder or nuisance, the police are powerless to prevent the premises from reopening once they have left. The provisions are intended to address that issue.
Amendments 73 and 75 would oblige the police to ensure that consultation has taken place with and that they have regard to the views of people identified as having an interest in the premises before they issue a closure notice. There is already a requirement for the authorising officer to be satisfied that reasonable steps have been taken to identify such people. While clearly well intentioned, these amendments could prevent such orders from working effectively. The point of a closure notice procedure is to ensure that premises can be shut quickly without tipping off those responsible for the prostitution-related or pornography-related offences that the notice is about to be served. Closure notices may well be used following covert surveillance on particular premises. It would therefore be inappropriate to go in beforehand and try to consult interested parties, albeit that some of those people may be victims rather than the perpetrators of the offence. Aside from disrupting the covert operations and the potential to obtain evidence to convict those who have committed the offences, it could also allow those involved time to organise themselves and take action to make it more difficult for the police to enforce closure notices.
I emphasise that within 48 hours of a closure notice being served, a magistrate’s court must hold a hearing to decide whether a closure order should be made. Any person who resides at the property or who has control of or responsibility for it or any other person with an interest in it may make representations to the court at the hearing. The court may also adjourn the hearing to allow such representations to be made. Such people also have the right to appeal against the making of a closure order and can apply for it to be discharged at any time. In addition, the schedule allows for compensation to be paid to those who incur financial loss as the result of a closure order or notice in appropriate circumstances.
A point was made about the offence in Soho, but that offence seems to prove the point. There was a closure order, it went to a court, the court did not accept the argument and the case was dismissed. That is what courts are supposed to be doing. I do not see that there is any need to be fearful; rather, it is reassuring.
Amendment 78 seeks to ensure that closure orders can be imposed only in circumstances where no other measure will prevent activity relating to the relevant child pornography or prostitution offences taking place. The fact that the order needs to be necessary should be sufficient safeguard to ensure that they are not used where other reasonably practicable steps could be taken by the police to prevent the use of premises or activities relating to specified prostitution or child pornography offences. There may be other measures that could be taken to prevent the use of the premises for such activities, but these may be within the power of the owner or the occupier rather than the police. Equally, measures that the police could take may not be reasonably practicable. For example, putting a police officer on the door of premises 24 hours a day may deter criminal activity but would clearly be very costly and could prevent the police dealing with other priorities in the area. However, we will make it clear in the guidance that police should consider what other steps they could take to prevent the premises being used before issuing a closure notice.
The purpose of Amendment 80 is to ensure that before authorising a closure order, a court must consider the effect that making such an order would have on the human rights of any person who owns or resides at the premises, or anyone likely to be affected by the order. We do not feel that that is necessary or appropriate. The police have to take reasonable steps to establish the identity of who resides in the premises, has control of or is responsible for the premises or has an interest in the premises. It is difficult to see how this would not involve them giving consideration to who could be affected by the order. A closure notice would have to be served on these people, who would have the opportunity to make representations to the court as to why the order should not be made. While we understand the desire to see safeguards in the Bill, it does not appear that this amendment provides a more structured approach to the requirement already imposed on the police and the courts as a public authority under Section 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 to act in a way which is compatible with convention rights. Therefore, I hope that I can persuade the noble Baroness not to pursue that amendment.
Amendment 82 would omit the proposed new Section 136Q of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. This section gives the Secretary of State order-making powers to extend the power to issue a closure notice to persons other than police officers. That has not been referred to, so although it was mentioned in what I might call the supergrouping, it may be something to which the noble Baroness wishes to return and perhaps I should not proceed.
I accept that invitation. As I have said, the power in proposed new Section 136Q gives the Secretary of State order-making powers to extend the power to issue closure notices to people other than police officers. Although we have no current intention of extending these powers beyond the police, it will be necessary to review the situation on the basis of operational experience once the orders have been implemented. If the Secretary of State should decide to exercise the power provided by new Section 136Q, Parliament will, of course, have the opportunity to scrutinise the order exercising the powers; as such, the order will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. Therefore, I hope, although I do not expect, that the noble Baroness will be reassured that any attempt to widen these powers will receive sufficient parliamentary scrutiny and will be content not to press her amendments.
Finally, the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, spoke about off-street prostitution and about providing a safer environment. In the Government’s view, it is not necessarily a safer environment. Operation Pentameter, a national police operation targeted at trafficking for sexual exploitation, identified 167 adult victims located in different types of premises. This has highlighted the nature of the conditions in which some people are involved in off-street prostitution. In terms of safety, the difference between off-street prostitution and street prostitution can be exaggerated.
Does the Minister accept that there is a considerable difference between those who have been trafficked and are held against their will and the vast number of people who, for various, multifarious reasons, have decided to take up this work because that is how they can best make a living? We are in no way trying to reduce the importance of the numbers of those who are under coercion when talking about the effects that these measures might have on the large number of people who have chosen to do this work and are trying to do it as safely as possible.
I know what the noble Baroness is saying but I will avoid a temptation that will lead me into an argument that proved so unfruitful the other evening when we argued about statistics. I have offered to try to provide some information. There are parallels to an extension of the powers, which would be subject to an affirmative resolution. For example, local authorities already have the power to issue closure notices in relation to premises associated with persistent disorder or nuisance. Although we have no intention yet of so doing because circumstances do not suggest that it is necessary, we ask for this power so that the necessary view, based on operational experience, can be taken once the orders have been implemented.
I would be most grateful if the noble Lord could give a little more help. I heard what he said in reply to the points raised but the indication was that the 167 people who were found in the premises were being exploited. How many of them were trafficked? Does the Minister have the figures? That would be helpful.
I thank all noble Lords who have spoken, particularly the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. The Government will get a strong message from the joint opposition to these clauses. The Minister made a comment about the relative safety of women working on or off the street. There have been about 60 murders of sex workers over the past 10 years. Of those 60, can the Minister tell the Committee how many were murdered while working on the street, and how many were murdered while working in brothels? As the Minister knows, I was not immensely happy with the replies to many of my points but I am afraid it went from bad to worse. The idea that we would want something of the nature that he suggested before this House by affirmative resolution is, given the breadth of problems that it might produce, something that we will be likely to resist very strongly. Before I finally withdraw the amendment, I invite the Minister to inform the Committee, if he has the figures.
No, I do not have the figures. I was seeking confirmation that the 167 persons mentioned in respect of Operation Pentameter were all victims of trafficking, indicating that brothels are not necessarily safe places. I take the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, that there is perhaps a distinction to be made on occasion between those who are forced and those who are not forced. I do not have the statistics on the number of murders, but I suspect that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, may have them, since she collects them with an avid interest. I will, of course, endeavour to look at them. The noble Baroness comes from a position that favours decriminalisation, which is not shared by the Government, so it is not surprising that there is not a meeting of minds on some of the amendments.
I thank the Minister. I do not have the figures for the division; it was not a trick question. Perhaps the Minister will find the figures easier to get than I would. I certainly would not want to suggest with any of our amendments that we underestimate the destructive, terrible and appalling nature of trafficking. Obviously, where that is the real reason for a closure order, it might be a substantial reason for issuing it. However, we still have doubts regarding the way the measure is drafted and the assessment of its impact on the lives of the people involved. A woman who is suspected of having committed one of the specified offences and whose premises are closed cannot even enter them to pick up her spectacles. The premises are closed there and then. She cannot collect her belongings and is excluded, as are any of her relations, dependants or people with whom she works. The English Collective of Prostitutes has called it a very violent psychological experience. The women who underwent such an experience recently in Soho had to withstand mutterings from hostile neighbours in addition to undergoing violent psychological trauma. This issue needs to be handled correctly. I hope that we can discuss it before Report. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 73 withdrawn.
74: Schedule 2, page 142, leave out lines 24 to 27
Amendments 74 and 79 are probing amendments to find out what this schedule is intended to achieve. These provisions are very similar to those relating to closure orders for anti-social behaviour and drug offences. It is particularly important that they are proportionate. I share the concerns raised by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in relation to the previous group of amendments that the Bill’s wording is pretty wide. For example, new Section 136B(8) states that,
“it does not matter whether the officer believes that the offence or offences in question have been committed or that they will be committed”.
That is extraordinary wording to have in a Bill in relation to an offence. All the officer has to have is “reasonable grounds”. I would like the Minister to tell us what constitutes reasonable grounds. If it does not matter whether the officer believes that the offence has been committed or will be committed, what would constitute those grounds?
Amendment 79 seeks to remove the words in new Section 136D(10),
“it does not matter whether the court is satisfied that the offence or offences in question have been committed or that they will be committed”.
That is incredibly wide drafting. I beg to move.
The noble Baroness has tabled important amendments with which we once again have considerable sympathy. I, too, invite the Minister to agree that, as drafted, the Bill gives great power to police to close brothels on nothing but speculation and rumour. We agree with the noble Baroness that brothels should not be closed without good reason, with all the associated danger for prostitutes working there, which was highlighted in the debates on previous clauses.
Amendments 74 and 79 relate to the issuing of a closure notice by a constable or a closure order by a court. As has been said, they would remove new Sections 136B(8) and (10), which Schedule 2 inserts into the Sexual Offences Act 2003. These subsections are intended to ensure that premises can be closed where the offences have not yet been committed as well as where offences have been committed.
The conditions for issuing a closure notice or making a closure order focus on whether activities related to the relevant prostitution or pornography offence have taken place on the premises rather than whether all the elements of the offence have yet been committed by a particular person. This means, for example, that where premises are being used for controlling prostitutes for gain, it is enough that the officer reasonably believes that sexual services are being provided at the particular premises. It is not necessary for the police officer to have reasonable grounds to believe that all the elements of the offence of controlling a prostitute for gain have yet been committed, so for example, they will not have to believe or prove that the controllers have yet received a gain from their activities. We believe, therefore, that these subsections are necessary to clarify the meaning of the conditions governing the issuing of a closure notice or the making of a closure order.
We share with the noble Baroness, and no doubt many of your Lordships, the aim of ensuring that appropriate safeguards are in place to protect individuals from their premises being closed arbitrarily. However, given the important issues that these orders aim to tackle, we also need to ensure that the police have the necessary powers to respond rapidly when they have reasonable grounds for believing that it is necessary to close premises to avoid future offences occurring. On that basis, I would ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment. I think that I have defined “reasonable” as it is seen in the Government’s eyes.
I will read the Minister’s reply and before Report ask my noble and learned friends’ advice about whether the Bill as drafted should pass into law, given the reservations I expressed when moving the amendment. I hear what the Minister says but I still have considerable doubts. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 74 withdrawn.
Amendment 75 not moved.
76: Schedule 2, page 142, line 39, leave out “regularly”
In moving this amendment I, too, want to make it clear that we would be very concerned if the police did not know that somebody working in a brothel had been trafficked. However, none of us is talking about those people. We are talking entirely about people who voluntarily and willingly exercise this trade. We may not particularly like it, but that is not our job; our job is to ensure that legislation does not target people unnecessarily.
This is a probing amendment. New Section 136C(1) states:
“A closure notice must—
(a) state that no-one other than a person who regularly resides on, or owns, the premises may enter or remain on them”.
I am not sure how anybody is going to identify whether somebody is regularly on the premises. We need to establish what inquiries will be made to find out whether somebody is on the premises continuously, every night or whether they use the premises occasionally but are still part and parcel of what is going on there. How will those inquiries be made? The Minister said earlier that inquiries would be made to ascertain who the people were, whether they were connected with criminal activity and whether such activity was taking place.
As I say, new Section 136C(1) says:
“A closure notice must—
(a) state that no-one other than a person who regularly resides on, or owns, the premises may enter or remain on them”.
Therefore, under this provision some people may be entitled to stay on the premises. To whom would that apply? Would people not engaged in illegal activity be allowed to go back; for example, prostitutes who are voluntarily there and are not acting illegally? Would they be able to return or would everyone be pushed out and made homeless? Will other agencies be able to help people in that situation? However, new Section 136D(2) states absolutely categorically:
“A closure order is an order that the premises in respect of which the order is made are closed to all persons”.
It cannot be both; either some people are allowed to remain for legitimate purposes or nobody is allowed to remain. It is not unfair to ask which this will be. I would certainly feel more comfortable with all this about the closure order if I felt that illegal activity, which we are all against, was being closed down.
All of this, as we have said, is about the voluntary aspect of this, and people being thrown out of their business or work premises, or whatever, for at least three months, and having to go to court as a result, because they are doing something illegal—which they may not be. We need to be clear about getting this definition right; that we are all talking about the same people, and we are not talking about those who are engaged in illegal activity. No one here would support any of that, but we would like to know what happens to those who are perfectly legitimately doing what they are doing, which no legislation stops them from doing, and how they will be supported by other agencies while their premises are closed. I beg to move.
I will seek to explain successfully what we are seeking to achieve and I hope that if I fail I will have the opportunity to write. I am pretty sure that I understand where we are, but I am not 100 per cent sure on the point that has been raised.
However, Amendment 76 would remove the word “regularly” from new Section 136C which deals with the content and service of a closure notice. A closure notice is issued by the police before an order can be applied for from the court. Under the current provisions, this must state that only those who regularly reside on or own the premises may remain on them.
The amendment would have the effect of allowing people who reside on the premises to visit the premises on an occasional basis. We believe that this widening is not appropriate. It could lead to people who had been using the place for prostitution staying overnight—perhaps on a visit from another city—claiming that that they could stay because they had visited the place before. That is not our purpose. The amendment would also make the closure notice more difficult to police because of difficulties in establishing who could be said to reside at the premises, however infrequently.
We believe that in circumstances where a closure notice has been issued—namely where a police officer has reasonable grounds for believing that the premises are associated with certain serious criminal offences—it is reasonable to expect people for whom the premises are not a sole or main residence to refrain from entering the premises. For these reasons, we resist the amendment.
I shall seek to deal with the precise point made by the noble Baroness. When a closure notice is made, those who regularly reside on the premises can remain there. In other words, in the period between the notice and the court’s decision, the owners or people who regularly reside there can stay. However, if the court makes a full closure order, no one is then allowed to remain. The court will of course consider representations from those affected. As I have said, people are free to go back to the court within the three-month period.
Closure orders are more likely to be used when police have covertly surveilled the premises and, therefore, may well have knowledge of those living on the premises as a result of that surveillance and other inquiries made during the investigation. We do not believe that the amendment is necessary; it would widen the aspects, and there is a distinction between the two parts of the legislation—between notice being given and court appearance, when there is a closure order. If that is not absolutely correct or clear, I will seek to write to the noble Baroness in greater detail.
Perhaps I may press the Minister further, because I hope that I asked—I meant to, if I did not—what agencies will be involved other than the court agencies? Earlier in the Bill it is stated that local authorities will have to be consulted. You can consult a local authority for all sorts of reasons. One may simply be to ask whether it knows of the premises, and whether it is bothered about it or has had concerns. Another reason might be that it is perfectly possible that people will be evicted or be out of the premises for two or three months—people may be on drugs and will need care. Who else will be involved? You cannot just tip people out; if you are going to make a closure order, you are going to prosecute because you are concerned about the nature of the activities that have taken place, which are likely to have been illegal—that, as I understand it, is the reason for the closure order—but you may also find that there are people there who are not acting illegally. What other agencies will provide support to the police? I am certain that a court would want to know the answers to these questions.
The answer in terms of how these orders are implemented in practice will lie in guidance to be issued. It would seem reasonable to say that the relevant social security or other agencies are to be alerted and able to assist people who are not directly to be prosecuted and who are thought not to be directly involved, but are put to hardship. I will seek to confirm that in writing to the noble Baroness.
Amendment 76 withdrawn.
77: Schedule 2, page 143, line 43, leave out “two” and insert “three”
This amendment seeks to ensure that all three of the conditions, instead of just two—which is all that the Bill requires at the moment—are satisfied before a closure order can be authorised. For example, what would happen if, as regards the third condition, reasonable steps had not been taken to establish the identity of any persons residing on the premises? You might be closing the premises although you had the wrong person. I should like to probe the Minister on why only two out of the three conditions apply, although the Bill specifies that three conditions need to be met. Why is it reasonable to revert to only two of them? We have specified in Amendment 81 that:
“The third condition is that the court is satisfied that the authorising officer has satisfied himself of the identity of the … parties”.
This may be a technicality which the Minister can answer quite satisfactorily. I beg to move.
This goes on a little further from my previous probing question. I hope that the Minister can reassure the Committee that closure orders will not be imposed out of the blue. Closure orders, as we have said, are very blunt instruments and, given the limited nature of the order, will not prevent the exploitation moving elsewhere. Can he give us a little more information on the closure orders being imposed, particularly with regard to drug offences, and how they will be accompanied by arrests and convictions?
One of the conditions that will have to be met before the police can issue a closure notice is that reasonable steps have been taken to establish the identity of any person who resides on the premises or who has control of, or responsibility for, or an interest in, the premises. The closure notice must then be served on those people who have been identified. If the police have failed to serve the closure notice on those who appear to have an interest in the property or they fail to take reasonable steps to identify such people, the notice will not have been validly served and the court would be expected to refuse to entertain the application for a closure order on those grounds. In this respect, the provisions are the same as those found in Schedule 20 to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 for premises associated with persistent disorder or nuisance.
We may have a straw man here. If it went to court in the manner that has been suggested, the court would not find it difficult to come to the view that the order had not been served correctly, and would dismiss the claim. Had there been a financial loss to the organisation or persons responsible, they would be able to raise that issue as well.
I shall read carefully what the Minister said. I understand that he is disputing the fact that my amendment would mean that it is more likely that the closure notice would be properly served. He is saying that, as the Bill is drafted, it would be certain that the notice would be properly served. I am still puzzled. If there are three conditions that should be satisfied, why does the Bill specify two out of three? However, I will read the Minister’s comments carefully.
Before the noble Baroness withdraws her amendment, I will respond to a point that I missed. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, asked what the courts would do in relation to drug offences. The offences covered in this part of the legislation relate only to prostitution and pornography, not to drugs.
The trouble with a debate like this is that it raises questions as you go along. I want to check whether the Minister said that the closure order notice has to be served on everybody in the premises—if I sound questioning, it is because I am—because that is not what the legislation says. The legislation says what a closure notice must state, but does not say who it must be served on—just that it must be fixed to the door. Is everybody on the premises served with the notice before the closure order is made? Is it the owner of the premises? Who is the responsible recipient of a notice? I may have misheard the noble Lord, but I think that he said that everybody had a notice served on them. That is not what is set out in the legislation.
For the record, I shall repeat what I said. It is necessary for the police, before they can issue a closure notice, to take reasonable steps to establish the identity of any person who resides on the premises, or who has control of, or responsibility for, or an interest in the premises. The closure notice will then be served on those people who have been identified.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, has put her finger on the point. I, too, am confused. The Minister is saying one thing—perhaps it is an interpretation—but our reading of the Bill is completely different. This does not seem to be what the Bill says. I am encouraged because the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, with all her expertise on the Bench and so on, is probably much better at interpreting this than I am. If she, too, is puzzled, then we have a problem.
Amendment 77 withdrawn.
78: Schedule 2, page 144, line 17, at end insert “, and that no other measures will prevent the premises from being used for such activities”
For a reason that I cannot identify, I have already spoken to this amendment, and the Minister replied to both Amendments 78 and 80, although they are clearly in this group. I shall not weary the House by repeating what I said—and I think that the Minister replied. In case he has anything to add, I beg to move.
I pointed out, when the noble Baroness moved Amendment 73, that she had also sensibly grouped with her contribution Amendments 75, 78, 80 and 82. They were not in one group, but in two groups of two and a singleton. However, I answered them all, and I recall that she included Amendment 82. I take it that the debate on these issues has been concluded.
The confusion deepens, because I did not speak to Amendment 82—I will do that when we get to it. I may correct myself. We have another amendment to debate before that one. I will look again at my notes. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 78 withdrawn.
Amendments 79 to 81 not moved.
81A: Schedule 2, page 144, line 24, at end insert—
“( ) If a child under 18 is resident on the premises, no action shall be taken until a multi-agency assessment of the child’s needs has taken place.”
The Minister will be glad to hear that this modest probing amendment will give him the opportunity to put on the record what plans there are to meet the needs of children who are resident in premises that are closed by a closure order. This is a particular concern of the Standing Committee on Youth Justice.
It is accepted entirely that closing, temporarily or permanently, premises used for trafficking or for the sexual exploitation of children is required by the Council of Europe conventions on trafficking, and has a role to play in safeguarding children who would otherwise be victims of exploitation. However, children need special protection under the Government’s view about safeguarding children, and our international human rights obligations. The amendment suggests that the Government may wish to ensure that, before any children are made homeless by the closure provisions, an assessment is made by the local authority involving a number of agencies to ensure that the arrangements made will leave the children in a better position than they were in before. It would be helpful if the Minister would give the Committee an indication of whether that is what the Government intend—and, if so, where it will be made clear. I beg to move.
I hope to satisfy the noble Baroness in respect of her probing amendment. Its effect would be that a closure order could not be made in relation to premises where a child is resident unless a multi-agency assessment of that child’s needs has taken place. We recognise that it is important that these orders are not used inappropriately, and that the impact of any closure order on those living at the premises is considered carefully, particularly when those people are children. However, we believe that there are already sufficient safeguards within these provisions and other relevant legislation to ensure that the needs of children are considered fully.
As I have noted, a closure order will be made only if a court believes that it is necessary to prevent the premises being used for activities related to one or more specified offences of prostitution or pornography. If these offences are being committed on premises where children are resident, it should be a priority to take whatever action is necessary to prevent these offences occurring. In some cases, the child will be a victim of the offence. In such circumstances, it is clearly imperative to take all necessary steps to prevent the activity continuing and to remove the child to a place of safety as soon as possible, using powers available under the Children Act 1989. In such circumstances, a multi-agency needs assessment should be conducted at the earliest opportunity, and we do not believe that a court should be prevented from taking any action that could help the child until such an assessment has been conducted.
The police are under a general duty to have regard to the need to safeguard and protect the welfare of children under the Children Act 2004 when exercising their functions. This would include the exercise of their powers under closure order provisions. Guidance on the premises closure orders introduced by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 draws attention to this general duty, and states that children’s services should be involved from an early stage in action which may result in a closure order being made. Statutory guidance on the closure orders made under these provisions will echo these statements. I hope this satisfies the noble Baroness and that she will be able to withdraw her amendment.
Can I ask the Minister a question before the noble Baroness comes to reply to his assessment of the situation? We are assuming, with the Minister’s reply, that the premises are pretty small, but they could be enormous and multifloored with only one door. The children may be living far away from the offences and have no part in them at all, but by virtue of the closure order—I seem to remember when the Minister was replying to a much earlier amendment he said it might be a matter of great urgency and the closure order would have to be issued then and there—the children would become homeless and so would their parents. The likelihood is that they would be taken into care, which is pretty traumatic. Obviously, if the child is the victim in this situation, that is one thing, but if this is just somewhere the child lives and they are not involved in any of the activity, surely that is a completely different case.
The noble Baroness is building a hypothesis. The police will be raiding premises such as this only either on the basis of covert surveillance or because they have identified the people resident within it. It would make every sense for the police, recognising their responsibilities under the Children Act, to ensure that they made contact with the children’s department of the local authority to discuss with it the likely outcome in terms of homelessness for the people concerned. While the noble Baroness raises a point, the reality is likely to be somewhat different. I think removing the child without any unnecessary delay would be sensible. I do not see too many brothels being likely to provide crèches and facilities that segregate children, as the people who run those kinds of organisations do not tend to have that degree of scruple.
I am grateful to all those who have spoken and to the Minister for his reply. I have to admit that I feel that the complexities of what is likely to happen when there is a closure order are being oversimplified to suggest that all will be well for any children who happen to live there. I am not sure that it is completely fair to talk about crèches in brothels. People who work in this industry may well have children and work hard to keep them separate from whatever it is they are doing, but they may need to share a front door. To that extent, I am not sure that we have got to the point of feeling content that all children will be protected. However, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment and reflect a little further.
Amendment 81A withdrawn.
82: Schedule 2, page 151, leave out lines 13 to 20
Amendment 82 not moved.
Schedule 2 agreed.
Clauses 21 to 25 agreed.
82A: After Clause 25, insert the following new Clause—
“Amendment of Licensing Act 2003
(1) The Licensing Act 2003 (c. 17) is amended as follows.
(2) In section 4 (general duties of licensing authorities) after subsection (3) insert—
“(4) In this section—
“public safety” may include the safety of performers appearing at any premises,
“public nuisance” may include—
(a) low-level nuisance affecting a few people living locally,(b) the reduction in living and working amenity and environment of interested parties in the vicinity,“protection of children from harm” may include the protection of children from moral, psychological and physical harm.”
(3) In section 5 (statement of licensing policy) after subsection (7) insert—
“(8) A licensing authority may publish a special policy for an area creating a rebuttable presumption that applications for new licenses that are likely to add to the existing cumulative impact will normally be refused unless the applicant can demonstrate in their operating schedule that there will be no negative cumulative impact on one or more of the licensing objectives.”
(4) In section 18 (determination of application for premises licence) after subsection (7) insert—
“(7A) When considering whether to make a representation, any responsible authority included in paragraph 13(4)(f) must assess what moral, psychological and physical harm the grant of the premises licence will have on children.”
(5) After section 21 (mandatory condition: door supervision) insert—
“21A Mandatory conditions where licence authorises adult entertainment
(1) Where a premises licence authorises adult entertainment, the licence must include a condition requiring an approved code of conduct.
(2) The code of conduct may include measures relating to—
(a) conditions of employment for performers,(b) codes of conduct for customers and performers,(c) the outward appearance of the premises.(3) When approving a code of conduct, the licence authority must have regard to—
(a) any representations made by an interested party,(b) the character of the relevant locality,(c) the use to which any premises in the vicinity are put,(d) the layout, character or condition of the premises in respect of which the application is made.””
With some relief we move on to a slightly different aspect. Before we start on Clause 26, I would like to proffer an alternative to what is being proposed in this legislation. I tabled Amendment 82A to probe exactly what the Government are seeking to do through Clause 26 and to explore whether their concerns with the current legislation cannot be met through the Licensing Act 2003.
As I understand it, the motivation for Clause 26 and the associated schedule is to address the understandable concern that local authorities and licensing authorities do not have the means available to refuse licence applications or modifications that allow adult entertainment. Quite rightly, the Government are seeking to give local residents a powerful voice in raising concerns about the establishment of lap-dancing clubs on their doorstep, and we continue to support that. We believe that residents have a strong role in this. There are many reasons to be concerned about lap-dancing clubs, and I have great sympathy with the organisations which have worked so hard to highlight examples of exploitation within that industry and sought to protect the women working in it. It is also clear that many people have understandable moral qualms about the sort of behaviour that such clubs are reputed to encourage and are worried about behaviour spilling out beyond their four walls.
As my amendment indicates, I do not believe that we need to use a 25 year-old piece of legislation to achieve a reduction in this. By my reading, the Licensing Act’s objectives are more than adequate to deal with the concerns. If they are not, there is already the precedent of the mandatory conditions for certain licences within it to fill the gaps. My proposed new subsection (4) quotes liberally from guidance to the Licensing Act issued by the Government. It makes clear that the licensing objectives of preventing public nuisance or protecting children from harm are directly relevant to the concerns that have been raised. If there is evidence that having a lap-dancing club near a school or college leads to harassment of the pupils or students, why is that not already taken into account under the protection of children from physical, moral and psychological harm? If a new lap-dancing club would cause an unwelcome change in the tone of a residential area, why is the licensing authority not taking account of the reduction in the living amenity of interested parties in the vicinity?
Local residents may find themselves unable to raise their concerns about a licence application. This appears to be the case from the debates in another place. I strongly encourage the Minister to bring forward amendments to the Licensing Act to address this. Nothing in that Act was intended to exclude residents’ or local organisations’ voices, so it is clear there is a wider problem. I would be very glad to work with the Minister to improve this part of the Bill, although there might be some concerns about scope and departmental responsibility because this would straddle out of our area.
Another useful part of the Government’s guidance was the detailed chapter on cumulative impact, which I have incorporated into my proposed new subsection (3). Licensing authorities are already allowed to establish a special policy around an area where they feel the number of licences being applied for is giving rise to an unwelcome cumulative impact. This is obviously relevant in areas where there is a growth of clubs or bars. There is no reason why it should not be applicable to lap-dancing clubs, too. The development of an area into a quasi red-light district, if that is what is being expected, is obviously one the licensing authority should have the power to control. This is a problem the Government are trying to address through the use of quotas for the licensing of lap dancing. We will come to the quotas in more detail later. In the mean time, does the Minister not accept that the cumulative impact guidance already given to licensing authorities gives them the power to refuse applications when they contribute to a negative cumulative impact?
We turn to the code of conduct. So far the parts of my proposed new clause that I have discussed are merely explanations and clarifications of the existing law. Licensing authorities are already actively encouraged by the Government to interpret the provisions this way. Proposed new subsection (5) in my amendment describes the one area where I feel that the Licensing Act may be deficient in protecting against inappropriate adult entertainment—or adult entertainment in general, because it may not be inappropriate. In speaking to outside groups on the matter, it became clear that although some premises licences specifically cover adult entertainment and include a number of safeguards and restrictions, others did not mention it at all, and it became permissible almost by accident. That is clearly not desirable, so I have inserted a new mandatory condition following the precedent of the licences that permit alcohol to be sold or films to be shown. A mandatory condition would ensure that adult entertainment is properly regulated with a binding code of conduct. In that way, the valid concerns about the exploitation of workers and the behaviour of customers and performers can be met through those representations.
Much of subsection (3) of my proposed new section, for example, is taken directly from the Local Government Act 1982. The criteria seem entirely appropriate in that regard and would be a useful addition to the Licensing Act. It allows for local premises such as schools or charities to be taken into account, as well as controlling the outward appearance of the club, thus adding to existing legislation on indecency and obscenity.
There are a great many advantages to using the Licensing Act, rather than proceeding to introduce a lot more cumbersome legislation. The following groups of amendments that we have proposed go into much more detail about our concern with the provisions as drafted, so this is an alternative to the rest. My amendment is an attempt to find a consistent, clear and easily understandable way forward to address valid concerns. I declare my interest as a member of a local authority, although I am not on the licensing committee so I would not be involved. I will be interested to hear from the Minister why this approach was not considered or preferred before the Bill was proposed. I beg to move.
The amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, offers a far more appropriate solution to what is undoubtedly a problem that the Government are right to address.
I like several things about the amendment. The local authority is absolutely the right place to have such debate and discussion. Licensing committee members are trained and updated regularly on everything that they need to consider. They are well able to weigh the sort of balances that they will have to in such cases. It is undoubtedly difficult to do so for a community where the spectrum of what are called lap-dancing clubs is so wide, from reputable premises that are very well run and causing no aggravation to neighbours—and probably contributing to the life of the community and employment opportunities—to the most seedy, exploitative establishment that it is possible to imagine, including everything in between. It is impossible to legislate for that entire spectrum, but we can empower local authorities to make those decisions.
I know that there has been criticism of that approach from some quarters, saying that we would end up with a postcode lottery, instead of taking a more centralised approach. All parties have talked about localism and empowering local communities, and that is exactly what we should aim to do here. What might go down okay in—it is hard to pick a town without causing offence, so I will take the town about which the leader of my party in this House speaks a lot, so I will rightly get into trouble if I get it wrong—Blackpool might not go down well in a small rural town in Suffolk, for example. The licensing authority should be the place to have those debates, so that it can lay down the conditions it considers appropriate. There may be one or two small drafting differences between us, but, on the whole, I support the amendment.
I support the amendment. It draws attention to this whole area. We must not forget that lap dancing is a relatively new development that has become increasingly popular. Without wanting to spoil the fun of people who enjoy that sort of thing, there are obviously sides of it that are less than desirable. One has seen examples of that in the press. I will certainly be interested to hear what the Minister has to say about the proposal. Normally, this would fall under local licensing authorities, so I await with interest what I shall hear from him.
I thank the noble Baroness for her clear exposition of what she seeks to achieve in the amendment. She asked an appropriate question about why the Government are using the 1982 Act, a 27 year-old Act—although she did use part of it in her amendment, but I shall ignore that. The answer is that we considered using the Licensing Act 2003, but local authorities told us that they wanted the 1982 Act to be used. I shall seek to explain why and answer the points that the noble Baroness raised.
Although the noble Baroness’s amendment is aimed at dealing with issues specifically arising from the provision of adult entertainment, I fear that it would have a wider impact on all applications considered under the Licensing Act 2003. First, the amendment attempts to state in the Bill how three of the four licensing objectives should be interpreted, using definitions from the statutory guidance issued to licensing authorities under Section 182 of the 2003 Act. As the definitions used in the amendment are already contained in the statutory guidance, the Government do not believe that their inclusion in the Act would add substantially to the powers available to local authorities or change how the licensing objectives are currently interpreted. It has been the experience of numerous local authorities that the powers available under the 2003 Act have not been sufficient to control lap-dancing clubs opening against the interests of local communities. Therefore, more extensive amendments are required.
Secondly, the amendment would provide local authorities with power to publish a special policy creating a rebuttal presumption and applications would be refused if they were likely to add to the cumulative impact on one or more of the licensing objections in a certain area and the applicant could not demonstrate in his operating schedule that there had been no such impact. Although I understand the intention behind the provision, again, I do not believe that it would add to the existing powers available to local authorities. One of the difficulties with the current regime is that local people and responsible authorities may have concerns about lap-dancing clubs that are not covered by the four licensing objectives.
Thirdly, the amendment introduces a requirement for any premises authorising adult entertainment to contain a condition requiring the premises to have a code of conduct approved by the licensing authority. Again, the Government have some sympathy with the concept of a code of conduct for lap-dancing clubs, but we need to be sure that such a code can be enforced. Under the 1982 Act, the local authority can impose standard conditions on sex-encounter venue licences. The standard conditions should cover those measures that are expected to be included in the code of conduct. It would be a criminal offence to contravene those conditions without reasonable excuse.
On the other hand, it is unclear what the sanctions could be for a breach of the code of conduct as proposed by the noble Baroness. The licensing authority would not be able to review the licence on the basis of the code of conduct having been breached, unless the conditions in the code were relevant to one or more of the licensing objectives. The code proposed under the amendment would also fail to deal with the issue of whether the premises should be granted a licence in the first place. The facts to which the licensing authority should have regard when approving the code of conduct tend towards that issue, rather than to how the premises should operate as a sex-encounter venue once licensed.
The impetus behind the reforms proposed in the Bill is a recognition that the existing regulatory framework provided by the 2003 Act has been unable to address the particular concerns that the presence of lap-dancing clubs raises for many local communities. Under the 2003 Act, objections made by local people on which local authorities can act must be based on the four licensing objections. Those, as we know, are the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, the prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm. The experience of many local communities in recent years has been that widespread objections based on the impact that a lap-dancing club might have on an area’s character or the inappropriateness of such clubs being located in certain largely residential areas have been disregarded, not because the concerns are invalid but because the 2003 Act does not recognise objections on those grounds.
Situations have therefore arisen where lap-dancing clubs have been opened in the face of widespread local opposition. Clause 26 seeks to address that situation, whereas Amendment 82A would, indeed, retain the status quo. Given that the Licensing Act 2003 aimed to create an integrated framework for the licensing of entertainment venues, I can understand the appeal of attempting to address the issue of lap-dancing clubs within the scope of the legislation. However the Government believe that, as with licensed gambling, certain venues require additional controls specific to the form of entertainment that they provide.
For lap-dancing clubs and similar venues, we firmly believe that the necessary controls are best provided by Schedule 3 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982, and local authorities are certainly supportive of that approach. While I therefore certainly understand the intention behind the amendment, I hope that I have explained why the Government are not able to accept it and that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw it.
I thank the Minister for his reply. I am not entirely surprised by his rejection of the amendment, because I suspect that some thought has probably been given to that. As we go through the other amendments, however, we may very well come back to the fact that this legislation would have been, and is, perfectly adequate if amended to include lap dancing. One real advantage in this, as was pointed out by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, is that it makes it very local; it means that something which affects local people, as the licensing of any premises does, can be dealt with against a local background. That is very important, while the number of premises—which we shall, again, be coming to—should also be in the hands of the local authority.
We would quite readily accept that a number—and probably the great majority—of these premises are extremely well run. They do not cause a problem, and there are actually few complaints about them from anywhere. The people who know about that are, again, local and able to comment or not as the situation arises. For today’s purposes, I shall not pursue this but will probably come back to it in the light of the response to the other amendments that we move to the Government’s own legislation. Let us see where the flaws in one are against the benefits of the other. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 82A withdrawn.
Clause 26 : Regulation of lap dancing and other sex encounter venues etc
83: Clause 26, page 22, line 26, leave out subsection (2)
Amendment 83 is a probing amendment on the name that the Government have decided to impose on lap-dancing clubs. The amendments in this group proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, would appear to be based on exactly the same concerns. I would much prefer to see “adult entertainment venue” in place of “sex encounter venue”.
My concerns about “sex encounter venue” are precisely those that the Minister claimed were behind Clause 15 —the stigma that a name can give. The Minister has, quite rightly, argued that the phrase “common prostitute” bears with it a stigma that is often inaccurate and unfair. It will almost always lead to prejudice in future life; for example, in job interviews. That is, of course, true, so it is astonishing to see that the Government are happy to label a large number of dancers who have never participated in prostitution as “sex encounter workers”. How does the Minister expect a lap dancer ever to break into a more socially respectable line of dancing with that on her CV?
Not only is the Government’s choice of title prejudicial to the women involved, it could be downright dangerous. The Government appear to be instilling an expectation among the customers that they are, in fact, entering a lap-dancing club to engage in a sex encounter. Since many of those clubs have a strict no-touching rule, the Government appear to be raising the most perverse expectations among lap-dancing clientele, which could result in considerable disaffection.
I am sure that the Minister would not deliberately suggest that lap dancers should be stigmatised as sex workers or, even worse, should be expected to participate in sex acts or encounters. I therefore recommend to him the alternatives proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, as a far more appropriate title for these sorts of venues. So many of the provisions in the Bill have the laudable intention of enhancing the dignity of women, but I suggest that Clause 26(2) could well achieve precisely the opposite effect. I beg to move.
I should tell the Committee that in the event that this amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment 84 by reason of pre-emption.
We have a number of amendments grouped with the amendment so ably moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. He made his points very well. We received strong representations, for example, from Equity, which feels that its members working in that field are being completely misrepresented if they are portrayed as working in the sex industry; they actually work in the entertainment industry. In any case, we are probably starting from the wrong place with the first name of lap dancing which is, I think, an American term implying something to do with sitting on laps. In the world of entertainment in this country there is a strict “no touching” rule anyway, so we might have to step back even further and address the whole way that we talk about this business, because we need to draw clear lines of definition.
Nor does this provision do any service to our overseas visitors who come over here and might be interested in going to an adult entertainment venue, quite possibly with their wives or girlfriends, but would absolutely not dream of going to a sex encounter venue. When they are told that something is classified as that, how on earth are they supposed to know that it is a perfectly respectable burlesque venue? On the other hand, if they are looking for a sex encounter and turn up at the perfectly respectable burlesque venue, they will be mightily disappointed. Calling it such an inappropriate name does no service to those who work in it; neither does it to the customers who have every right to expect it to be accurately labelled for what it is. That should start in the legislation, so I hope that the Government will think about renaming those venues.
Having listened to what has been said, I support these amendments. While I accept that it would cause an awful lot of rewriting concerning the Bill, since “sex encounter” seems to have taken root in quite a number of its pages, adult entertainment is a well accepted term. Everybody knows what adult means and I should have thought that it would be very much better to stick to that and to encourage the side of things that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, pointed out, is part of how we have interpreted the whole of that scene, given the no-touching requirements that are part of the lap dancing culture. I hope that the Minister will give serious consideration to this change and meet everybody’s good wishes.
Alas, alas. Noble Lords have made a number of interesting points. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, suggested that we are using the wrong term by using the term “lap dancing” at all. In that case, what is the Lap Dancing Association doing about it, given that it has chosen to call itself the Lap Dancing Association—an association that represents the owners of these establishments? I suggest that lap dancing, which covers pole dancing and other similar activities, is not an inappropriate name in itself.
As the noble Baroness says, the amendments in the group seek something of the same end. Amendment 83 reflects concerns about the term “sex encounter venue”. If it were accepted, sex encounter venues would not fall under the definition of a sex establishment under the 1982 Act. There is, however, no requirement in the clause for a lap dancing establishment to call itself a sex encounter venue. If it chose to advertise itself as such when it did not provide that, trade descriptions legislation might be a better way of dealing with that. In truth, this is how they are described in licensing terms, not how they are described in public relations or advertising terms.
The point has been made that the word “encounter” could give the impression that lap dancing clubs and similar venues offer sex for sale and by implication stigmatise those who work at such venues. We take this concern seriously. We are aware of our responsibility to those who are employed in the industry not to represent them unfairly and the work that they do. However, we believe that the term “sex encounter” accurately reflects the nature of the entertainment that is provided. We do not accept that the impression is given, or that it will be reasonably assumed, that sex is for sale, particularly as we do not require the term “sex encounter” to be used publicly by the establishment that is so licensed.
We also think that “adult entertainment” would be an inappropriate name as it is not clear, despite what the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, says, that it could apply only to venues that provide entertainment with a sexual content. Other forms of entertainment, such as horror films, have been called adult entertainment, without any obvious sexual content at all.
We are looking at what Clause 26 attempts to target. The definition of “relevant entertainment” is clearly that, to qualify as a sex encounter venue, the entertainment must be,
“any live performance; or … any live display of nudity; which is of such a nature that … it must reasonably be assumed to be provided solely or principally for the purpose of sexually stimulating any member of the audience”.
Where that definition does not apply, such venues will not be classed as sex encounter venues. The definition does not suggest that these are premises where sex is being sold, as criminal law rather than licensing law steps in to deal with those establishments.
The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, made the plea that we should not use the term “sex encounter”. He is much senior to me both in experience and wisdom, and can probably recall the term being brought into effect in 1986 by a Government who are familiar to Members on the Benches opposite. It has been used to define venues such as peep shows in London since 1986. Again, these are not places where sex is for sale, but they are described in legislation as sex encounter venues.
I therefore think that I have explained clearly why the Government believe that the existing name is appropriate for the purpose of regulating lap dancing clubs, and I hope that the noble Lords will not press their amendments.
I listened to the arguments made by Members on both sides of the Committee with great interest, and I thought that the Minister’s answer was pretty miserable. It repeated all the reasons that civil servants give for keeping this kind of wording. As the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, has said, the words “adult entertainment” are known, but the words “sex encounter” are not. If you are told that you are going to a sex encounter place, it is pretty obvious that you expect to encounter sex and have some kind of relationship if you so want it. It is a most disagreeable title, and very misleading. I think the Minister said that if you go to a sex encounter place you could be sexually stimulated, but you can be sexually stimulated without ever having a sexual encounter. The term is most misleading and I hope that he will think about it again.
As people know from when I dealt with the nationality Bill, I am never oversold on particular names if more acceptable names can be found. However, we are looking for a term that describes how this will be dealt with in law, not for a term that will be used on the outside of public houses, lap dancing clubs or anywhere else. Therefore, does it matter?
On the question of what employees would put on their CV, they are not required to put on a CV that they were employed in a sex encounter venue. Presumably they would be happy to apply for employment on the basis of having been employed as a lap dancer in a lap dancing establishment.
I am not entirely happy with the Minister’s reply. The Lap Dancing Association is very concerned about the reputation of its dancers. Unfortunately, if the legislation remains as it stands, a large number of dancers will be stigmatised career-long for truthfully putting this on their CV. This will affect their future employment throughout their careers. I shall look again very carefully at the Minister’s reply, but in the mean time I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 83 withdrawn.
Amendments 84 to 86 not moved.
86A: Clause 26, page 22, line 34, leave out “or” and insert “and”