House of Lords
Thursday, 12 February 2015.
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Worcester.
The following Acts and Measures were given Royal Assent:
Stamp Duty Land Tax Act,
Criminal Justice and Courts Act,
Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Act,
National Insurance Contributions Act,
Counter-Terrorism and Security Act,
Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction (Amendment) Measure,
Ecclesiastical Property Measure,
Church of England Pensions (Amendment) Measure.
The Government have not carried out an evaluation of the use of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 against buskers. We have made it clear in the statutory guidance for front-line professionals that they should not use the new powers to stop reasonable activities such as busking or other forms of street entertainment that are not causing anti-social behaviour.
I thought that the mention of Canterbury might raise some interest, my Lords. The information note that the Home Office published was very explicit about the fact that the powers should not be used to stop or prevent appropriate busking. The statutory guidance is not quite so clear. If further evidence emerges of the inappropriate use of these powers, will the Government amend the statutory guidance?
My Lords, I never realised that Canterbury was such a hotbed of anti-social behaviour, or indeed busking. The community protection notices to which, I think, my noble friend refers are there to deal with anti-social behaviour issues and not the busking itself.
My Lords, does not the Minister believe that there should be a national set of busking guidelines, based perhaps on the guidelines currently being developed by the GLA and elsewhere, with legislation that deals with specific offences incorporated into such guidelines, which would not then include catch-all legislation such as the anti-social behaviour Act?
My Lords, the busking task force has been set up in London—it is not about national busking guidelines—by the GLA, London boroughs and the Metropolitan Police together with the Musicians’ Union. The aim is to set up a voluntary code of practice so that busking can be enjoyed and not some of the effects of busking, which can be a detriment to people’s peaceful lives.
My Lords, speaking as an old busker myself, may I ask the Minister whether she would not regret it if in, say, Eastgate Street in Chester, the heart and hub of a historic city, there were not the often wonderful sounds and noises of people busking and entertaining the crowds who are buying lots of things in Chester, which is the most senior shopping centre outside London?
My Lords, of course busking is entertaining in many senses, as we have borne witness to this morning, but there is a serious point behind this. Frequently, young musicians are engaged in very long periods of training, during which they are often short of money. It is often a pleasure to hear very talented people playing on the streets for money that they undoubtedly need. There is a difference between that kind of busking and the sort that does occasionally cause upset, when people use very loud amplified sound.
The noble Baroness has got to the nub of the point. I often enjoy listening to some of the buskers in Underground stations. They really enhance the journey, and calm people down on their way to and from work; I find that they do. It is nice to hear people singing and playing music, and that should not be mixed up with people who genuinely cause distress and disturbance to others.
One organisation that has done a lot to allow and promote busking is London Underground. The House may not be aware that my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe was largely responsible for that when he was in charge of London Underground. He can indeed be described as the buskers’ friend. I would like to follow up on one point, because I was not quite clear what the Minister’s response was to the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, when he said that the statutory guidance was not as clear as it might be. I think that he asked for an assurance that it would be looked at again if it was shown not to be adequate, and he referred to the situation in Canterbury. What was the Minister’s response to that? Did she say that the statutory guidance would be reconsidered if it proved inadequate, as the noble Lord suggested that it was?
My Lords, we have no plans to issue guidance in relation to how the two existing Acts are applied to buskers. I am sure that the guidance would be looked at if a problem were found. The task force wants to develop a voluntary code of practice, and that will be very helpful both to buskers and to local authorities, not just in London but around the country.
My Lords, on 1 February, new providers began delivering probation services for low and medium-risk offenders, working alongside the National Probation Service. We conducted comprehensive testing at each key stage of the reforms, reporting and managing risks as appropriate and proceeding to the next stage only when we considered it safe. With the new system established, the National Offender Management Service is providing robust oversight and management of providers to ensure that the public are kept safe.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. When I was Chief Inspector of Prisons, I used to tell Ministers that they could accept either observed facts from me or unobserved fudge from officials, but that improvements could follow only on facts. Since the Secretary of State denied parliamentary approval of the rushed Transforming Rehabilitation timetable, it has slipped. Among many other problems, community rehabilitation companies have been given only a bare five weeks to mobilise when they say that they need six months, and community probation service officers, for example, are having to perform tasks with high-risk offenders for which they are not qualified. Clearly, all is not well. Will the Minister please tell the House when the Government will give the public the facts rather than fudge about the delivery of probation services?
My Lords, I do not accept the characterisation given by the noble Lord. The suggestion that Parliament has not had the opportunity to consider this is not borne out by the fact that there were 50 hours of debate in Parliament, including debates on the Bill and a Westminster Hall debate. We have given information to Parliament and the public at every stage of the process, placing key documents in the Libraries of both Houses, including draft contracts, the staff transfer scheme and details of successful bidders. The matter has also been considered by the Justice Select Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. I also do not accept the noble Lord’s characterisation that there are problems. The issue has been carefully monitored. Of course, there may be some difficulties, and we are happy to hear any representations from anybody about how we can respond to these.
My Lords, it is understood that in the course of court hearings over a challenge to the legality of the Government’s proceeding with the contracts for the 21 community rehabilitation companies, a number of concerns were raised. These related to problems with IT, the management of sensitive victim information, lost records of offender contacts, staff shortages, delays in pre-sentence and standard reports, and more besides. To what extent have these issues been resolved and what arrangements are in place to ensure regular monitoring of the situation?
I presume that the noble Lord is referring to the judicial review instituted by NAPO that was withdrawn by NAPO, which was ordered to pay the substantive costs of that judicial review. As to pre-sentence reports, there is a 97% response rate of timely reports. As all those who have had to sentence offenders will appreciate, from time to time before this transformation there were delays in these reports. It is greatly to the credit of the probation service that it has maintained this standard. It is to be congratulated on the hard work that it is doing in coping with this transformation.
My Lords, can my noble friend the Minister tell the House what progress is being made by the Probation Institute—the professional body for which many of us argued and which was established last year by the Probation Chiefs Association, the Probation Association and the two trade unions NAPO and UNISON? What role do the Government believe this institution might have in ensuring the continuing delivery of effective probation services?
My noble friend is quite right to draw the House’s attention to the Probation Institute, which, as well as providing assurance that existing standards are to be maintained when the various bodies to which he referred are combining, is also there to capture the innovation that we hope will follow the Transforming Rehabilitation programme. It has been going for a year, involves all those concerned with probation, and will help with training, research and the establishment of good practice.
My Lords, has an assessment been made of the impact of the reforms on the continuity of relationship between probationer and probation officer? In particular, there has been concern that higher-risk individuals moving to a lower risk might suffer from some discontinuity of relationship. Has there been an assessment of this important issue?
This is an important issue and there are no absolute answers to particular problems. However, all those involved, by their contractual obligations and their general responsibility to adhere to good practice, will try to maintain continuity where possible and ensure that there is not inappropriate transfer between the various categories.
My Lords, the noble Lord has emphasised that robust measures will be in place to ensure the safety of the public. However, does he not agree that the ultimate objective of the probation service is to enable people to become rehabilitated, good citizens? Will robust measures be put in place to make sure that the deliverers of service have got their eye on this, and not just on the profit?
I entirely agree with the noble Lord. What this transformation is achieving for the first time is the ability for offenders who have received sentences of imprisonment of less than 12 months to receive through-the-gate support for a period of 12 months and assistance before their release from prison, as opposed to being released with a mere £46 in their pocket and no support. This should be celebrated on all sides of the House and provide genuine rehabilitation, reduce reoffending and enable offenders to take their full part in society.
My Lords, because the Minister used the word “transformation”—which it really is to the probation service as it entails enormous change—it is in the interests of us all that the service is effective and does its job well. Will the noble Lord assure the House that the Government will continue to monitor carefully how these changes are implemented so that we know that they are working at the grass roots?
I entirely agree with the noble Lord about the importance of maintaining proper oversight in the way in which this transformation is effected. The Government are committed to doing that, and whatever the shape of the Government after May, I am sure that that commitment will be maintained.
Vacant Residential Properties
My Lords, this Government have provided the tools and incentives to tackle empty properties. The number of homes empty for more than six months is now at a record low. This Government have achieved a year-on-year reduction in long-term empty homes through incentives such as the new homes bonus, changes to council tax and by providing over £200 million of empty homes programme funding.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for the Answer but, frankly, it is not good enough. There is still widespread anger at the number of empty properties in this country, especially in London, where developers build luxury properties and market them abroad to people who simply use them as an investment and not for housing. Surely what we need is more power for local authorities to impose swingeing rates of council tax on properties left empty for a long time and to make sure that those local authorities use it.
The Government have taken stringent action. The noble Lord talks about London. In Wandsworth, for example, we have seen the number of empty homes come down from 85,000 in 2009 to 59,000 in 2013. In addition, we have provided over £3.4 billion to local authorities, in recognition of delivery of over 700,000 new homes, of which 100,000 have been empty homes. He talks of council tax. Councils can also now charge—and we have empowered them to do so—up to 150% council tax for homes empty for more than two years.
We have been working very closely with local authorities and the private sector. In doing so, in the public sector we have ensured that incentives provided to local authorities do determine that, but increasingly we are finding the balance is towards the private rented sector. That balance can fluctuate. We have new figures on empty homes coming out later, in which we will assess exactly how home one-for-one replacement works. However, there is a proportion to be struck between the private rented sector and the local authority sector. The main headline is that we are seeing record reductions in the number of empty homes.
My Lords, following that last question, is the Minister aware that the NHS property agency—a government agency—holds many homes in its portfolio? Could he confirm that and say what they are doing to make those homes available in one way or another for people to let or buy?
Would my noble friend concur with the widely held belief that a high proportion of the foreign purchasers of very expensive London properties are crooks and that they are using the safety of this country in a very cynical way? Has any investigation been made of that? If so, is any action in the pipeline to prevent it?
I cannot agree with my noble friend. London is an incredible place and we want to attract investment. What the Government should be doing—and are doing—is ensuring that we tackle tax avoidance. For example, we have raised the threshold of capital gains tax for people who own properties but are not resident in the UK. That is the way to strike the right balance to ensure that London is a magnet and rightly holds its position as a leading city on the world stage.
My Lords, does the Minister appreciate that there is another aspect of empty housing—that is, holiday cottages? In our national parks especially, we have a situation where holiday cottages stand empty for a number of months a year. There is not a large enough resident population, so things such as doctors’ surgeries are now under pressure because there are insufficient permanent residents. Would the Minister be prepared to meet the local authorities in national parks and discuss the possibility of allowing them to register and, on occasions, restrict the number of rented properties?
My Lords, does the Minister not realise that what people would really object to would be a lot of ordinary houses that people needed being empty? That would be a very bad thing. But when these very big, grand houses held by foreigners are empty, what people really mind is that they are not making a proper contribution through the council tax system. A £20 million penthouse pays only three times what the humblest dwelling pays. Does he recognise that my Private Member’s Bill to reform that so that it becomes 42 times that would be a much better solution to the present situation, which is untenable and unsustainable, and certainly much better than the mansion tax, which is unworkable?
My Lords, the contributions already made have underlined the importance of this and the potential for tackling some of the issues in the housing market and the lack of housing. While this may be a relatively small part of that, is the Minister aware of schemes such as the Houses into Homes initiative in Wales, which uses recyclable loans mainly to private individuals and has managed to return some 2,000 empty homes to use since 2012? Do the Government have further plans to encourage such initiatives, particularly those that are at a local level and involve private individuals and the voluntary sector?
The right reverend Prelate highlights a key area. As I alluded to in my original Answer, we have made £200 million available to support innovative schemes run by community groups, councils and housing associations, such as the one he mentioned. Even in my own patch, we have St Mungo’s Broadway, which receives £372,000 from the empty homes community fund and has now bought back 14 empty homes in the local area. The Government are keen to see how we can encourage such innovative schemes at a local level.
My Lords, I think that the entire House knows that we have a housing crisis in that young people cannot afford to buy, there is not enough social housing to rent and the private rented sector is now so expensive that it is fast driving up housing benefit bills, which are paid by the rest of us. Is the noble Lord willing to ask his department to reconsider the decision made by the DCLG to release builders from the requirement, on small sites, to provide housing for social rent as part of their Section 106 planning obligations? Unless that change is removed, I can promise the noble Lord that very little affordable housing will be built in rural areas.
The noble Baroness raises a specific issue on planning. It is important that such changes are reflected at a local level and that local development plans reflect affordable housing provision. Under the right-to-buy scheme, for example, 30,000 people have come into house ownership since 2012. Under that scheme, every council home will be replaced by a new affordable home on a one-to-one basis. Of the 167 councils with such stock, 165 have already signed up to the one-to-one replacement scheme.
My Lords, a stand-off between Greece and the eurozone is the greatest risk to the global economy. We urge Greece to act responsibly, and it is important that the eurozone has a better plan for jobs and growth. The best way to insulate the United Kingdom economy from any such instability is to stick to our long-term economic plan, with the United Kingdom forecast to be the fastest-growing major advanced economy in 2014.
I thank the Minister for that Answer. I hope he will agree that there is no need for HMG to be deterred by yesterday’s set-back. According to his Answer, there is still now ample opportunity for HMG to have a leading role as a leading member state of the EU in reconciling the huge sacrifices made by Greece—with eight parliamentary votes in favour of massive austerity—with the continuing need for eurozone cohesion and discipline. Will he promise that the Government will make an extra input into this effort?
My Lords, the settlement of the issue is primarily for the eurozone and Greece. However, we note that yesterday there were intense discussions among eurogroup Finance Ministers. According to the chairman, the Dutch Finance Minister, Mr Dijsselbloem, they progressed with intense discussions which covered a lot of ground. We remain hopeful of a positive outcome.
My Lords, has my noble friend seen the remarks of the former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank in America, Mr Alan Greenspan, in which he points out that any bailout proposals or any other changes for rescue and so on are not likely to provide a long-term solution to the Greek problems so long as they are based on an exchange rate in the eurozone? Is it not inconceivable that Greece will become competitive at the present exchange rate, and that therefore the best negotiations that could take place would be on an orderly withdrawal of Greece from the eurozone?
My Lords, the Government’s view is that:
“If Greece left the euro that would create real instability”.
That statement was made by the Chancellor, who went on to say that, frankly, a Greek exit would cause ructions. We obviously take seriously anything that Alan Greenspan says but we remain hopeful that there can be a settlement, because it would be bad news for the United Kingdom and certainly bad news for Europe if no agreement could be reached within the eurozone.
My Lords, does the Minister not understand that the proper response to the desire for growth and improving jobs is a capital markets union, which is being supported by our own Commissioner, Jonathan Hill—the noble Lord, Lord Hill—and a recognition that Juncker’s plan for investment in Europe applies to all 28 members of the European Union, including the United Kingdom?
My Lords, the specific question of the settlement of the Greek position is clearly a matter for the eurozone, and the United Kingdom is not a member of that group. We remain of the view that our best plan for the economy is to insulate us as far as possible from what is happening within the eurozone. That is why we have the fastest-growing economy in the G7—both the OECD and the IMF project it to be so. It is also why we have the highest level of employment ever, with low inflation and low mortgage rates. That is the way to proceed.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, did not answer my question on 3 February in a similar debate, may I put it slightly differently to the noble Lord, and following his answer to the noble Lord, Lord Higgins? Would it not be in the long-term interests of Greece, including her ability eventually to repay her debt, if she were to abandon the euro and adopt a devalued drachma supported by the IMF? If the resultant success of Greece encouraged Portugal and others to follow suit, might that not lead to the collapse of whole unfortunate project of European integration, and would that not be rather a good thing? The question the noble Baroness refused to answer is,
“what is now the point of the European Union and its … euro?”.—[Official Report, 3/2/15; col. 541.]
My Lords, the noble Lord’s crusade is well known but we do not associate ourselves with that in any way at all. I am here to answer not for the long-term interests of Greece but for the long-term interests of the United Kingdom, which are very much about having a settlement of this question within the eurozone.
My Lords, according to the PA:
“David Cameron will tell his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras he needs to end the stand-off with the eurozone amid fears the uncertainty could damage the British economy”.
Is that real? The Prime Minister of Greece has a crisis on his hands and has really big problems. Does he need to be lectured about the problems of the British economy? Surely our Prime Minister should be going there with constructive ideas to help Greece, not to lecture it on getting its own things sorted out. Is that not another example of the attitude to Europe—standing on the sidelines, wringing hands?
First, I would not believe everything you see as speculation. The Prime Minister is going there with the very clear message that a settlement on this issue is in the best interests of the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe. The noble Lord talks of the problems of the British economy; we would have problems if we were back in the old days when we had the worst financial crisis since World War II and the largest deficit since then. I am not sure what problems he is referring to. The fastest growth of any major country in the G7? The highest employment rate ever? The lowest inflation or lowest mortgage rates? That is a success story.
Modern Slavery Bill
Order of Consideration Motion
British Nationality (General) (Amendment) Regulations 2015
Immigration (Biometric Registration) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2015
Immigration (Provision of Physical Data) (Amendment) Regulations 2015
Immigration (Biometric Registration) (Amendment) Regulations 2015
Immigration (Leave to Enter and Remain) (Amendment) Order 2015
Motions to Approve
That the draft Regulations and draft Order laid before the House on 19 January and 17 December 2014 be approved.
Relevant documents: 17th, 18th and 20th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, 25th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. Considered in Grand Committee on 10 February.
Tax Credits Up-rating Regulations 2015
Guardian’s Allowance Up-rating Order 2015
Guardian’s Allowance Up-rating (Northern Ireland) Order 2015
Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) Order 2015
Motions to Approve
Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill
My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill, has consented to place her prerogative, so far is it is affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
My Lords, this Bill will enable female diocesan bishops of the Church of England to become Lords Spiritual sooner than they would under current rules.
The Government have introduced the Bill in response to the welcome change in the law to allow women to be consecrated bishops. That has been a long time coming. As far back as 1975, the General Synod of the Church of England recognised the possibility that women might be ordained ministers. The first female deacons were ordained in 1987 and the first female priests in 1994.
The decision of the General Synod last year finally to allow women to serve as bishops was widely welcomed. The necessary measure was considered by your Lordships last October, when several noble Lords looked forward to the day when we would welcome the first female bishops to this House.
The legislation was completed by the General Synod on 17 November last year and just one month later it was announced that the Reverend Libby Lane would serve as the suffragan Bishop of Stockport. Her consecration on 26 January was an historic occasion in two respects. Not only was it the first consecration of a woman as a bishop of the Church of England, it was the first to be broadcast live on television.
As a suffragan, not a diocesan, bishop, the Right Reverend Libby Lane is not eligible to attend this House as a Lord spiritual. As your Lordships are probably well aware, the 26 bishops who sit here are determined under the Bishoprics Act 1878. They are the most reverend Primates the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York, the right reverend Prelates the Bishop of London, the Bishop of Durham and the Bishop of Winchester, and the 21 longest-serving diocesan bishops of the Church of England.
The Government look forward to the appointment of the first female diocesan bishop. However, under the current rules, it would be many years before she would be able to join the Lords spiritual Bench as one of the 21 longest-serving bishops. Having already waited a long time to benefit from the leadership of female bishops in the church, we would still have to wait some years more to benefit from their presence in this Chamber.
The Government’s Bill addresses this situation. It has been introduced at the request of the most reverend Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury, on behalf of the church and with the support of Her Majesty’s Opposition. The Bill would alter, for the next 10 years, the operation of the 1878 Act. During that time any vacancy arising among the 21 Lords spiritual whose places are currently determined by seniority would be filled by the most senior female diocesan bishop available. If there are no eligible female bishops, the vacancy would be filled by the most senior male diocesan bishop, as it is under the current arrangement.
This is, as noble Lords will no doubt have noticed, an exceptionally brief Bill. It is also an important and historic one. It does not seek to make changes or reforms to the composition of this House; it simply provides that female bishops will join the Lords spiritual slightly sooner than they would otherwise have done. Not only are the 26 Lords spiritual active and valued Members of this House, but their presence reflects the enduring constitutional arrangement of an established Church of England with the monarch and head of state as its Supreme Governor.
Bishops sit as independent Members of this House. As well as leading the Chamber in prayer at the start of each sitting day, they seek to be a voice both for people of faith and for the communities they serve. Their presence in the Lords is an extension of the Church of England’s general vocation in its role as the established church. In fulfilling its national mission, it is right that the church should, at all levels, seek to reflect the nation that it serves. That is why we welcome the decision to allow women as well as men to be bishops, and why we believe it right to make arrangements for female bishops to sit as Lords spiritual as soon as possible.
The continued presence of bishops in this Chamber was explicitly recommended by the Wakeham commission. The Government’s House of Lords Reform Bill in 2012 would have retained the seats of the Lords spiritual in this House, although it would have reduced their number in recognition of the reduction in the overall number of Peers provided for in the Bill. Those provisions were endorsed by the Joint Committee’s report on the Bill.
We greatly appreciate the wisdom and valued contributions of the Lords spiritual Bench to this Chamber. On behalf of the Government, I extend special thanks today to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester for their support and assistance to the Government in bringing forward this legislation. We are grateful to the Bishops’ Bench for their ministry in the Chamber. This Bill will strengthen and enrich that ministry by the addition of female Lords spiritual as soon as possible. I warmly congratulate the church on extending its leadership to include women, who have already provided valuable service for many years, and look forward to the day when we will benefit from the presence of female bishops in this House. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for those opening remarks. I wish to put on record my personal thanks and those of the church to the Government for securing the time to bring this Bill forward, and to the Opposition for giving their support to the proposal. All those on this Bench—we are reasonably numerous today for some reason—are deeply conscious of the privilege that we enjoy of sitting in this House. It is invariably educational and occasionally striking. I have to say, though, that I will go away today with a lasting sense of worry that the busking in Canterbury about which we heard earlier was in fact my sermon on Christmas Eve in the open air.
This Bill, if passed, will mean that at last this will be the last Parliament where any Bench of either House is occupied solely by men. A little under four months ago I sought the approval of this House for the measure that the synod had passed to enable women to become bishops in the Church of England. That process was completed in November, and as the Minister has already indicated, late in January we had the wonderful occasion at York Minster where Libby Lane was consecrated a bishop.
The two clauses that form the Bill reflect the settled view of the Lords Spiritual, the House of Bishops and those senior women who were part of the consultative process. During our discussions a number of options were considered on how best to effect these changes, with the proposals set out in the Bill commanding the widest consensus. Incidentally, for those in your Lordships’ House who may be wondering why we are debating a government Bill and not a Church of England measure, the answer of course is that membership of the House of Lords is entirely a matter for Parliament and as such lies outside the legislative powers devolved to the General Synod.
The Minister has set out clearly the rationale for the Bill. There are likely to be some women bishops, as there are some men, for whom membership of the Lords becomes a significant part of their ministry, yet a seniority system inevitably discriminates against those who arrive later. Without this Bill, on appointment a woman diocesan bishop would effectively be asked to join the back of a queue of up to 14 places to get into this House. At anticipated rates of retirement, that would mean that if a woman were appointed this year to one of the sees currently vacant, she would not reach this House in the lifetime of the next Parliament. We would be in the bizarre situation that women would be actively and visibly involved as bishops of the Church of England in all aspects of our national ministry except here, as Members of the Bishops’ Bench, so long as that is the case.
The 1878 Act continued the system begun four decades earlier by the Bishopric of Manchester Act 1847, in which the number of seats for Lords Spiritual was fixed at 26—the number it had been since the Reformation. This was barely 15 years after the opposition of many prelates to the Great Reform Bill, when such was the popularity of the stance taken by the Bishops’ Benches that my predecessor, William Howley, was attacked in his carriage in that notable city of disorder, Canterbury. The account, which may be apocryphal, has Howley’s chaplain exclaiming, “Your Grace, they have thrown a dead cat at me!”, to which the archbishop replied, “You may thank God, sir, it was not a live one”.
So the queue was created not out of a desire for bishops to spend their first few years finding their feet in their dioceses, but simply because there were going to be more people than places. In the case of the occupants of the five senior sees not affected by this Bill, we have continued to enter automatically. I did so when appointed to Durham, without any previous service as a bishop. So, too, did my colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester, who is in his place today. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London had been a suffragan bishop in Stepney but took charge of our largest diocese by population and became a Member of this House at the same time.
I doubt whether the Bill will prevent any man bishop eventually taking up his seat, although it will lengthen the period of waiting. The first man likely to be affected by the Bill, should it receive Royal Assent before the election, will be the Bishop of Lincoln, who is now first in the queue. It is worth quoting his response after the Bill was published:
“On the one hand, this is quite frustrating, because greater Lincolnshire is under-represented in the House of Lords … However, far more frustrating has been the wait for women to be able to be ordained bishop, and for an anachronism to be consigned to history. For that to happen completely, it is absolutely right that women bishops are fully represented in all levels of society, parliament and the Church, and I look forward very much to seeing that happen”.
I am aware that some Members of the House wonder whether 10 years is too much time or too little—we have had expressions of both—to achieve a better balance between the sexes on these Benches. The period is a matter of judgment. The view of the church was that it needed to be long enough to make a real difference but not so long that a temporary departure from the normal principles of non-discrimination became semi-permanent. A decade has the virtue of being both the average length of time in office for a diocesan bishop, and the length of two fixed-term Parliaments. By then, I believe that we shall have achieved much more diversity on these Benches.
Quite what the pattern of appointments will be over the next few years remains to be seen. Once things have settled down, my expectation would be that many women who become diocesan bishops will, like their male colleagues, learn the ropes first by suffering—
By serving as suffragans—I always have trouble with that. Suffering as servants or serving as suffragans—it works either way. However, that is far from the universal pattern among men, and I shall be very disappointed indeed in these early years if we do not see a number of very experienced and qualified senior women priests move straight into diocesan posts. That is not because we are going to operate any kind of quota system. It will simply be that the consequence of removing a barrier means that their skills and experience, which have not been deployed as they should have been, will then be available.
Before I conclude my remarks, I will briefly say a word about recent events and their relevance to enabling the Church of England to remain a broad church. The arrangements agreed by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York for the consecration service for the new Bishop of Burnley, a traditional Catholic, were the subject of criticism from some quarters for reasons which I entirely understand. However, like the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York, I believe that the five principles in the House of Bishops’ declaration, which formed part of the General Synod’s agreement to women bishops, require a degree of gracious restraint and forbearance on all sides. They commit the church to seeking the flourishing of all parts of the church, whatever their views on this question. They are not one-way traffic—far from it. The fact that the new Bishop of Burnley attended the consecration of the Bishop of Stockport and that she then attended his consecration despite their theological differences over women’s ministry is precisely the sort of mutual flourishing that we are seeking to promote. The photograph of them giving each other a good hug after his consecration was worth a thousand words—and might be a lesson for this House.
Enabling women to join these Benches as soon as possible can only be a positive step for this House, for Parliament and for all those who welcome the many blessings that female leadership in ministry will bring to our national life. This is a simple, straightforward and necessary Bill. I wholeheartedly support it and commend it to the House.
My Lords, I support everything that the most reverend Primate has said. I find it extremely difficult to add anything, just as I found it difficult last time round when we were considering the measure in October. But there is this difference between now and then: on that occasion, the debate had been long expected. It followed a natural sequence of events going back to the discussion of women priests.
Today is different, because I think that none of us can have expected the contents of this Bill now before us. I know that I certainly did not. I cannot remember when it was that I first heard of the idea; all I can remember is that it struck me then as being absolutely right and necessary, and that is still my view.
The Ecclesiastical Committee of course has no function in relation to this Bill, but, from time to time, the subject has come up in general conversation. I never heard any doubts expressed about the desirability of the Bill. The only possible concern that I have ever heard mentioned is that the Bill is discriminatory. That is not the case. I have heard it suggested that the Bill might be resented by the next diocesan bishops in line, who will have to wait. I wish only to add to what the most reverend Primate said in that I know that it will not be resented. We live in Sussex and it so happens that the Bishop of Chichester is next in line after the Bishop of Lincoln, as the most reverend Primate has already mentioned. The Bishop of Chichester is a good friend of ours. Not long ago, he came to stay at home and unfortunately when he left he forgot to take with him his folding bicycle, which he had brought with him. Without his folding bicycle, the business of the Diocese of Chichester comes to a pause. We managed to return his folding bicycle. Even if the Bishop of Chichester had not been a bishop, I can say from my own knowledge of him that he would have been the very last person to feel any sense of a grievance at being, as it were, passed over. As a bishop, he must feel even less aggrieved—I am not sure of the logic of this argument—because he knows that it is for the good of the church.
Lastly, I come to the Bill itself. On the face of it, the Bill is ingenious. I do not wish to discuss its detail— I am not sure whether I could—but I do wish to congratulate most warmly those who have been responsible for drafting it. I know what is involved in drafting a Bill of this kind and it seems to me that they have done a magnificent job. I also want to add a word of congratulation in favour of the usual channels, which is perhaps an unusual thing to do. They have brought the Bill before us on time, and on an all-party basis. What more could one ask of them? It shows what Parliament can do, when it has a mind to do it, in a good cause. There could be no better cause than this, and I give it the warmest possible support.
My Lords, a large part of the function of a Second Reading speech is normally for a Member of this House to voice his own reservations and give notice of questions which he will want to go into thoroughly in Committee. I start by thanking the most reverend Primate and his right reverend friends for the thoroughness with which they have explained the contents of the Bill and the patience and clarity with which they have done it. The result is that I have no such issues to raise.
My views on the Bill have changed since I first read it, not as a result of those kind ministrations but of my own reflections. I thought at first blush that it was evidence of unseemly haste; it now seems to be an eminently sensible recognition of what is actually needed. It is needed by this House as well as it is needed by the church and by this country because the clergy of the Church of England are a voice not only for their own faith but for other faiths as well and are valued almost more highly by the leaders of the other faiths than by the members of their own. That is a growing need and it is important that that voice should come from people who are of a nature with the rest of the country. In other words, it is not right to have a monosexual voice—no, that is going to lapse into unfortunate language. It should be men and women who speak for and advise the men and women of this country.
This is a poignant occasion in only one sense. The most reverend Primate referred to this gently and guardedly. It is a pity that there are those who still resent the ordination of women into the priesthood at all and that they are on the edge of leaving us. That is the greatest pity and the symbolic hug referred to by the most reverend Primate seems to me the perfect indication of its unnecessity. I hope that they stay with us. We love them; let them love us.
I have nothing else serious to say but I have one little, secular regret. It is that Osbert Lancaster is no longer with us. I would so have loved to see his female equivalent to Canon Fontwater and to know whether Maudie Littlehampton’s daughter eventually took orders, and if so with what reaction from her parents. I thank all concerned for bringing the Bill in in time to make it law for the next Parliament so that we do not have to wait through another for all things to be made clear.
My Lords, it is a very great pleasure to contribute to this Second Reading debate on this important and very welcome Bill. Like others, I take this opportunity to offer the Bill my support unreservedly. That being so, my observations will be brief and confined to four simple points.
First, the Bill seems to have been a very long time in coming to us, given that women have been ordained in the priesthood, I think, since 1994, and what a remarkable contribution they make. It might have been expected that a Bill along these lines would have come to the House rather earlier, but that comment does not have even a hint of criticism in it. On the contrary, many of us have just a little understanding of the variety and seriousness of the issues that have had to be settled. The time taken to get this Bill before us makes it all the more welcome. I take the opportunity to offer the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, his fellow bishops and the General Synod my warmest and heartfelt congratulations on their achievements. Together they deserve our grateful thanks.
My second point, although I admit it is not directly related to the Bill but I am comforted that the most reverend Primate referred to it, is that while many of us understand the point about gracious restraint in the consecration of female bishops, it is to be hoped that sooner, rather than later, that will no longer be necessary so the church can continue its search for equality of opportunity.
Mention of graciousness brings me to my third point which is simply to record that graciousness is so well demonstrated in the generosity of the Bishop of Lincoln, the right reverend Christopher Lowson, in overcoming any frustration and disappointment he may have felt for the diocese of Lincoln. He has been mindful of the greater good of the church, Parliament and us all in ensuring that we do not have to wait even beyond the next Parliament before we have the benefit of women Bishops in this House. This House provides daily a clear demonstration of the enormous contributions made by hugely capable women, except sadly on the Bishops’ Benches, and we look forward to that being rectified as soon as possible.
Finally, this Bill achieved the support of the other place in almost record time—perhaps completely in record time so far as I can recall. We may not match that, but I hope nothing will be done to create any delay. Rather, let us wholeheartedly welcome the Bill and, to coin a phrase, wish it godspeed.
My Lords, it is a relief to sit down to write a speech on this issue and think that just about everything has been said, so I shall be succinct but expand briefly on a point I have raised before. As I have lived in Stockport and fought in vain to represent it in the other place, I was particularly pleased to see that the first woman bishop to be appointed was the Bishop of Stockport.
I welcome this legislation as I wrote to this effect in The House Magazine many months ago outlining that whatever one’s view might be on church governance, the nation’s legislature is a different matter and women must be represented. I am grateful for the previous debates on this matter as they have enabled me to hear from my noble friend Lady Perry and others who have fought this battle for many years with compassion and grace. The next generation like me can sometimes forget how hard the going has been on an issue like this. This issue is also important due to the global nature of the Anglican communion and, of course, there are women bishops in many provinces already. I learnt from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark that sometimes diocesan bishops are requested to travel overseas as somewhat of a representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury, such as his recent trip with the Holy See delegation to the Middle East. It would be such a powerful statement if on such occasions in the future the representative of the most reverend Primate is a woman.
However, you sometimes have to be careful about what you wish for as bringing in women could leave the major metropolitan centres of the north-west unrepresented for many years. The representative nature of the Bishops’ Benches is one of the things the Church of England prides itself on, so I hope that the fine tuning of the system to add Bishops to the Lords spiritual can be done in the same manner as the changes the House is gradually making before the whole Chamber is reformed. Is it really appropriate in the 21st century not to bring in automatically Birmingham and either Liverpool or Manchester over the diocese of Winchester which includes, merely legally at the moment, the Channel Islands, which are not part of the United Kingdom?
I turn now to the matter I wish to expand upon. The photograph of the bishops taken at the consecration of the Bishop of Stockport unfortunately raises a further issue for the Lords spiritual, which is the lack of racial diversity. In October 2015, it was a privilege to witness the most reverend Primate address 40,000 people at the ExCeL centre from the Redeemed Christian Church of God, a Nigerian-based denomination which is the fastest growing church in the UK. His apology and request for forgiveness for the past behaviour of some of the Anglican Church towards Britain’s black community was most moving. I hope it will lead to a true partnership and perhaps to leaders for the Anglican Church coming through joint initiatives with RCCG and Pastor Agu Irukwu, who I suspect the most reverend Primate would poach for the Anglican Church, given half a chance.
Is this issue of the lack of racial diversity unconnected to the matter I raised previously of the lack of diversity of educational and social background of diocesan leaders? Much of the racial diversity of our independent schools comes from overseas students who, of course, would be good to recruit, but surely not alone. Does this stone not need fully unturning and looking at? I am sorry to say that I was not entirely satisfied with the response of the most reverend Primate in a previous debate who said that when he has been involved in selection, background is never raised. As many noble Lords will have experienced, the issues are unconscious bias and barriers to entry. At the very least, they are worthy of investigation. Would the church not benefit from something like Vicar First mirroring Teach First for graduates? Not all the people I knew when I left university were able, through contacts, to raise a year or so’s support. Is the most reverend Primate satisfied that all the apprentices or volunteers that many churches have are on the London living wage as recommended by the Church of England? Of course, no one is asked outright what their dad did for a living or what type of school they went to. To use the analogy of racism again, I have had direct experience of people anglicising their names and suddenly finding that the same CV gets them a job interview. Both barriers to entry and unconscious bias are worthy of inquiry. I welcome the transparency that the Green proposals will bring, but without investigation, I remain to be convinced that the lack of social and educational diversity is not linked to the lack of racial diversity.
Finally, it may be time for us to stop speaking but not to down tools. The Anglican Church’s attitude to women is about more than allowing women bishops. It is so encouraging to see females in senior management roles in Lambeth Palace—Kay Brock is chief of staff, Jo Bailey Wells is chaplain and Ailsa Anderson is head of media, but it may be harder and take longer to change the culture within some parts of the Anglican Church. I hope to see that institution one day mirror the respect and value for my opinion displayed by the Lords spiritual. It is sometimes rather odd to be a younger person in a workplace such as this and to refer to your colleagues as bishops. I hope that attitude of respect and valuing opinion will find its way all the way down to the pews in the Anglican Church.
My Lords, I rise to speak only briefly, but very definitely in support of the Bill. In doing so, I suppose it is only honest of me to say that in past years I had some personal doubts about the whole issue of women priests and all that was likely to follow from that. My early concerns were based not on any antagonism to women in that role but on what seemed to me to be the historic teaching and doctrine of the Church of England, with which I had been imbued at school during my formative years. I had been happy to accept them, but things change and if the views of the church on these matters can develop and change so, obviously, can mine. I have got to know and admire a number of women priests, not only in the Anglican Church but also in the Church of Scotland and the Scottish Episcopal Church. So I readily acknowledge the successful role that women in the priesthood play. As a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee I warmly supported the subsequent legislation on women bishops as a natural extension of what had begun earlier.
I suppose that I am naturally cautious about amending historic process, in this case the Bishoprics Act 1878, effectively to introduce what some might describe as a form of positive discrimination, even if it contributes towards gender balance, without careful consideration. However, the significance of the agreement, so widely supported throughout the country, to sanction the appointment of women bishops does have an important bearing on the contributions from the Bishops’ Benches in this House. So it seems to me to be absolutely right that, so as to provide us with the opportunity to have contributions from a woman diocesan bishop rather sooner than might otherwise be the case, a time-limited change to the 1878 Act is justified. Apart from anything else, it would be odd not to accept that part of any bishop’s wider ministry comes from what can be powerfully expressed in your Lordships’ House when the opportunity arises, and we should not be denied longer than is necessary such contributions from a woman diocesan bishop when one is appointed.
I am also glad to know that those current diocesan bishops—of whom the Bishop of Lincoln, as we have heard, is the most immediately affected—who might be somewhat delayed, or further delayed, in receiving a Writ of Summons as a result of this Bill, are content with what is proposed. I certainly feel that that shows much Christian and practical magnanimity.
I support the Bill wholeheartedly and wish it a speedy passage on to the statute book.
My Lords, I am sure that we are all extremely sorry that the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, is not able to take part in this debate, because I am sure that she would have added enormously to it.
I speak with a degree of diffidence. As I made plain when we debated the ordination of women bishops Measure just before Christmas, I think it was, I am a member of what is loosely called the traditional integrity within the church; and I am one of those who takes some comfort from the fact that the Catholic Church in general, embracing the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church, does take that traditional line. But I fully accept, as I made plain then, that the Church of England has, by a large majority—not an overwhelming but a very large majority—decided that it is right to have women bishops. There is a significant minority, and I stress it is a minority, within the Church of England which takes a different line. I think it behoves all of us to be gracious and to accept the differences between us, but that there is a unity that unites us which is far deeper than any superficial difference. That is why I was so glad that we had those scenes at the consecration of the first woman bishop, the Bishop of Stockport, and also that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York behaved with such appreciative sensitivity both at the consecration of Libby Lane and at the consecration of the Bishop of Burnley. It was also very good to see those two bishops embrace each other in Christian love and charity and mutual understanding.
I completely accept that this is a decision that has been made, first of all, in the church, and particularly in the House of Bishops. I salute my very good friend the Bishop of Lincoln for his extremely magnanimous statement. When he does come to this House, he will add significantly to the breadth and quality of our debates, and he will indeed be a splendid spokesman for greater Lincolnshire, which, as he himself whimsically remarked, is not overrepresented in your Lordships’ House. He has very generously made the statement that he has, quoted today by the most reverend Primate in his very cogent and admirable speech.
I will make three points that it is important for us to bear in mind. First, we are endorsing a measure of positive discrimination. There may be very good reasons for that, but no one can deny that that is what we are doing in approving the Bill.
Secondly, we have to bear in mind that very few men attain the rank of diocesan bishop within 20 years of ordination, and it is only just over 20 years since women were ordained priests. We should also bear in mind that most bishops—the most reverend Primate the Archbishop is a notable exception—have a period as a suffragan bishop before they take on the responsibilities of a diocese. Therefore, to have a number of women bishops appointed in the near future is entirely right and proper in view of the line the Church of England has taken, and I utterly and completely accept that. However, it is also right that a number of them should be appointed—as has the right reverend Libby Lane—to suffragan bishoprics.
I now come to my final point. Of course I look forward to the day when the serried ranks, of which we have a large number today—the collective noun cannot be “a Bench” as we have three Benches of Bishops—are augmented by women bishops. However, it is important that there is total equality among bishops. That was repeated in debates in Synod and in this place and, therefore, if there is to be total equality, we have to recognise that a woman becoming a diocesan bishop will, as a bishop said to me not very long ago, be confronted with a wholly different set of challenges that are not faced by a priest, an archdeacon, a dean or any other of the eminent positions within the Church of England that women honourably, and in many cases extremely successfully, fill at the moment but with a whole range of new challenges. I put it to your Lordships that to add to those responsibilities the responsibility of being a national figure in your Lordships’ House will be a significant extra challenge for someone who, by very definition, cannot have been ordained for more than 20 years.
I have no intention of opposing the Bill; I am merely putting forward points that the House, which is a debating Chamber, should properly address. We must recognise that those women, as they come, will need from among those of us who are members of the Anglican Church our prayers and from all of us in this House our welcome and our understanding. Inevitably, they will come in for criticism that they are spending too much time here and not enough time in the diocese, or the other way round. We have to bear those points in mind as we pass the Bill—as I believe and hope we will.
I hope that we are not going to start saying that it will be much more difficult for a woman to become a bishop than it was for a woman to get a senior position in the Army or the Air Force, or indeed in business. I was the first woman on many boards I sat on, and of course I felt nervous, but that was not because I was a woman. I just thought, “This is a new experience”. Anybody coming into this House, even a man, will find it hard. I can see it—they wobble. Every man I have spoken to about his maiden speech said it was the worst experience in his life. They will not find it more difficult because they are a member of the church.
No, but a first is a first. I speak as someone who voted for the first woman leader of my party and who rejoiced in her success as Prime Minister, as well as someone who rejoiced in the success of the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, as one of the most eminent Speakers that the other place has ever had. Oh, she is here! I am delighted that she heard that. Nevertheless, it is important that we recognise some of the points that I made. As I said, this is a debating Chamber and, when there are reservations, it is incumbent on those who have them to voice them—I hope, graciously, but to voice them.
I hope that the noble Lord will forgive my intervening, but perhaps he would reflect on what he has just said about the two women to whom he referred and note that neither of them has yet been succeeded by another woman. One of the virtues of this Bill is that it protects the women who come forward and are ordained bishops from the possibility that there will only ever be one of them on these Benches.
I do not want to prolong this. I end where I began. Positive discrimination is something that we all have to take carefully into account. Without putting words into her mouth—because I would hate to do so, especially in her presence—I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, has always had views on that, as indeed did Margaret Thatcher. Let us make sure that those who are appointed are appointed on merit. Let us welcome them when they come and let us give them a forum here. I do not wish to say any more, but I think that it is important to put these things on the record.
My Lords, I am glad to follow the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, who is a long-standing friend, although he and I do not entirely agree on this particular issue. I support the Bill, and the objective of fast-tracking women diocesan bishops to the House of Lords in the next decade, wholeheartedly. On behalf of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, who asked me to apologise for the fact that she has withdrawn from the debate, I should say that she has gone to chair a working party in Westminster Abbey. As I am high steward of the abbey, I wholly approve of what she is doing. I should say that she strongly supports the Bill—I think the Chamber would be surprised if she did not.
I declare an interest as chair of the Crown Nominations Commission for the See of Canterbury in 2012. Of course, that commission nominated the most reverend Primate in November of that year. I take this chance to thank him for the leadership that he has shown in the church in general and on this particular issue. It was only a few days after his nomination that there was a setback in the General Synod in November of that year. But if I may say so, he and his colleagues have moved with great care and sensitivity in this challenge. The most reverend Primate and his colleagues have shown how to manage big differences of opinion in the right spirit. For that, I thank him.
As we all know, this is a culmination of a very long and agonising debate, which goes back to the early 1990s with the ordination of women. I should like to say to the Church of England that perhaps my family ought to make amends to the church for one of my forebears, Richard de Lucy, who was Chief Justiciar under Henry II. He was the main author of the Constitutions of Clarendon of 1164. Contrary to the views of Archbishop Becket, this law ensured that clerics convicted of felony in ecclesiastic courts should be punished by the lay authority instead of the church. My forebear was then excommunicated but, just before he died, he did penance and founded Lesnes Abbey in Kent. I cannot afford to continue with that tradition by founding an abbey, but I would like to do my family’s penance by supporting the Bill most strongly.
As noble Lords have said, there are only two points at issue. Is it right to have positive discrimination to fast-track women diocesan bishops? And therefore, as a consequence, is it right to delay male diocesan bishops from coming here? I conclude without any hesitation that, yes, it must be right to rectify a historical discrimination against women. It is essential, too, to have a diverse contribution from the church in the Lords at the present, when the church is under immense challenge. We cannot afford to wait six or seven years.
The Crown Nominations Commission has the task of selecting women on merit, and I am sure it will continue to do that. Anyone who observes the church will know that there is a pool of highly talented women ready for promotion when the commission takes those decisions. There will be vacancies, we have been told, in Nottingham, Oxford and Gloucester. So there will be two or three in the next Parliament, and that will give the commission opportunities to proceed.
As I have said, this measure will help to redress a historical discrimination against women, and it will strengthen the Lords at a critical time. It is important to acknowledge that it will therefore mean a delay for some very distinguished male diocesan bishops. I appreciate the gracious contribution of the Bishop of Lincoln, which the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, has already mentioned. I would also like to reinforce the remark made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick. There are many men of Sussex in the Chamber today, and as a part of the diocese of Chichester I acknowledge that it is, of course, known that successive bishops of Chichester, including the present one, have opposed the appointment of women bishops. However, the present Bishop of Chichester has shown immense leadership. He has been a unifying force in the diocese of Chichester: that needs to be said in this Chamber. When he eventually joins us, he will have a distinctive and important contribution to make.
I welcome the Bill. I am glad that it has cross-party support, and that our aim is to pass it before the Dissolution of Parliament, because I believe it will strengthen the role of bishops in the Lords. I hope it will make it easier for the most reverend Primate and his colleagues to continue with the vital task of inspiring Christian values in this country, because the challenge is enormous.
My Lords, it is with great pleasure that I add my wholehearted support to the Bill. In welcoming the provisions for women diocesan bishops to take their place in this House, I add my voice to those who have paid tribute to the generous spirit in which that has been accepted by the male bishops who are affected by the provision. It is never easy to stand aside and let someone else get in front of us in the queue, and no doubt there will be some sad feelings among those who were expecting to come into this House in the next few years. Their generosity, and in particular the generous words of the Bishop of Lincoln, which we have heard today, are a reassuring symptom of the way in which the Church of England has welcomed the measure.
It has been a long journey for the women priests who felt called to ministry. Many waited long years as deacons for the right to be ordained as priests. Despite the huge value they brought to the priesthood, they again waited long years for the church to accept that their vocation extended to the episcopate. When, as I hope will happen soon, a woman diocesan bishop is appointed, it will add a valuable element to the episcopate nationally, and will provide a most welcome model of leadership in the church to the priests in their parishes and to both women and men in the pews.
Those of us who are the voice from the pews are, as I often remind my clergy friends, the largest constituency of the Church of England, and very many of us have hugely benefited from the ministry of women priests. All of us—women and men—wish to be fully represented by those who sit here on the Bishops’ Benches. However, some in the country and in this House question the continued presence of Bishops in Parliament.
As an Anglican, I am proud of the work that my church does in communities throughout the country. I am pleased, too, that the voice of my church is heard in Parliament through the contribution of the right reverend Prelates. Even though society has veered towards the secular in recent years, I am convinced that the church has a right to be represented in the work of this House. Why do I believe this? The Church of England has a very large role in education at all levels, including in higher education, and its charitable work is immense. No other institution or organisation has the presence in every community that the Church of England has in cities, towns and villages throughout the land. The leader of our church—the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury—stands seventh in the order of precedence in England. His influence in public debate is widely recognised, as has been very vividly brought to mind by the contribution of our current most reverend Primate. He and the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York, together with the 24 diocesan bishops—the leaders of the Church of England—rightly, therefore, have a voice and place in the deliberations of Parliament.
It is undoubtedly right that the voice of some appointed female bishops should now be added to the deliberations of this House. Those women who are called and appointed to the vocation of a bishop must be able, in their turn, to contribute to the work of the episcopate in Parliament, as their male forebears have done for many centuries. I am confident that they will fulfil their role here with wit, wisdom and warmth. For these reasons, I welcome the Bill wholeheartedly.
My Lords, I, too, should declare an interest as a vice-president of WATCH—Women and the Church—which has campaigned for women clergy and bishops for more years than most of us care to remember.
I, too, congratulate the Government on bringing this Bill to the House so quickly after we debated the Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure in October last year. During that debate, as we have already heard from him, the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury—the right honourable Justin Welby—assured us that the swift promotion of women to this House was a matter close to his heart. He has clearly shown us that. Even better, the Government have fully supported him, and one gathers through the usual channels that so do all sides of the House.
I gather that some in the church and the press—and even, it would appear, in this House—are concerned that the pressures on a new woman diocesan bishop in managing the role of being a bishop and Member of the House of Lords would be too great. I should have thought that the vast majority of your Lordships are in no doubt at all that the talented and long-serving senior women in the church are more than capable of undertaking those roles. They have long faced scrutiny, criticism and worse, and will no doubt be well prepared by those experiences for their duties in both their diocese and in Parliament.
I particularly congratulate the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York—the right honourable Dr John Sentamu—on the wonderful service of consecration of the new Bishop of Stockport, the right reverend Libby Lane, on 26 January in York Minster. Many of us watched the service, although most of us may have done so from a distance. It was an overwhelmingly joyful occasion in which both the archbishops and virtually all the bishops of the Church of England laid on hands, as well as a large number of retired bishops, along with visiting women bishops from the Anglican Communion overseas and from the Porvoo and Meissen churches. The number of bishops present must have exceeded 150—almost as many as we have here with us today.
Given the great pleasure of seeing the first female bishop consecrated in the Church of England recently, it was sad that within a week the underlying divisions within the Church of England had begun to emerge once again. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester will remember that in October last year I asked the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury in this House whether archbishops would continue to consecrate all bishops in their respective provinces. From his response and further debate in the other place I understood,
“that in the normal course of events, archbishops will consecrate all bishops, but … there will be circumstances when an archbishop is ill or overseas”.—[Official Report, Commons, 20/10/14; col. 724.]
Then, he might delegate.
Yet only one week after the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York had consecrated the first female bishop through the laying on of hands, he chose not to put his hands on the new Bishop of Burnley, although he was present at the time. He invited, as noble Lords will know, other bishops who were “acceptable” to the new bishop to lay on hands in his place. There were only three such bishops. Thus, the contrast between the two services in that sense could not have been greater.
This is still an important matter. Indeed, the issue of whether archbishops would consecrate all bishops in their provinces was a key issue for the General Synod when it considered the legislation on women bishops. It was not able to agree on that, or even to reach a compromise. The archbishops then issued a statement that they would take each consecration on a case-by-case basis. Put simply, there are those in the Church of England who hold that once a bishop has laid hands on a female priest in ordination or on a female bishop in consecration he is no longer acceptable to consecrate members of the self-styled “traditional Catholic” wing of the church. This is a notion of “taint”, however it is described by those who propose it.
We should not forget that it has been a source of anguish among all women in the church since alternative arrangements were introduced for ordination under the Act of Synod 1993. The risk in all this is that, far from achieving the “highest degree of communion” between those who accept and those who do not accept the priestly or episcopal orders of women, the church may find that it has created two quite separate genealogies. There is a further risk that the precedent set in York Minster may become the new normal when consecrating traditional Catholic bishops.
Finally, in this context, I hope that as I am lucky enough to be speaking just before the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester, he could give us his views on what level of confidence women and their supporters can expect in relation to the first primate who is a woman—in particular, whether she will truly be free to take each consecration on its particular merits in the way in which the archbishop and the Second Estates Commissioner described last October. Or might her discretion, in effect, be fettered by precedent? If the archbishops are willing to refrain from consecrating traditional Catholic bishops, might they not be creating a reasonable expectation on the part of the traditional Catholic wing that this practice will continue? I hope that if he has time, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester will be able to reassure me on these points.
In conclusion, I pay tribute and give particular credit to the nearly 8,000 women priests up and down this country who serve their parishes and communities brilliantly and will no doubt take inspiration from finally seeing female bishops take their place in your Lordships’ House. May we wholeheartedly support the Bill to enable this day to come soon.
My Lords, I know I speak for all of us on this Bench in wanting to express our appreciation to your Lordships’ House for the serious, thoughtful and supportive way that your Lordships have considered this legislation, and to rehearse the most reverend Primate’s appreciation to the Government and Opposition Benches, and to the usual channels, for making it possible for the Bill to reach this stage so quickly.
It is a great privilege to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and to have the opportunity to address briefly the important issues she raised, although they do not bear, either directly or indirectly, on the substance of the legislation before us. The main point that it might be helpful to make is that the archbishops are guided by five fundamental principles that have been set before the House of Bishops and the General Synod, which are designed to ensure that the church can be what it is intended to be: a movement of people with different views who are united in following the same Lord. A church cannot behave like a political party or a tribe; it is an association of people whose differences are respected and among whom room is made for difference.
The particular guiding principles that relate to this, if I can ask your Lordships’ forbearance, are these. Since the Church of England will continue to share the historical episcopate with other churches—including the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and those provinces of the Anglican communion that continue to ordain only men as priests or bishops—it will acknowledge that its own clear decision on ministry and gender is set within a broader process of discernment within the Anglican communion and the whole church of God. Secondly, since those within the Church of England who, on grounds of theological conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests will continue to be within the spectrum of teaching and tradition of the Anglican communion, the Church of England will remain committed to enabling them to flourish within its life and structures. I am sure that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York was bearing those principles in mind when he came to his conclusions about the ordination of the Bishop of Burnley.
The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, asked me to speculate whether a future woman Archbishop of Canterbury might take the same view. That is asking a lot. What we can notice is that in recent years opinion has been moving quite quickly in the church, as some of your Lordships have noted, and I have no doubt it will continue to do so. It is impossible to be certain about what the position may be in five or 10 years—to my most reverend friend I say, “It’s all right brother”—but it is quite possible that no such provision will be needed at that time. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York has made it clear that the decision he made in this particular case should not be regarded as setting any precedent for future action.
I wonder if I could briefly pick up one or two other points raised in the debate. The noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, asked whether the major regional dioceses—she mentioned Birmingham and Manchester—should not automatically be sees attached to the Lords spiritual Bench, as London, Durham and so on all are. That point was raised in the discussion on the last round of Lords reform consideration and in the Select Committee on which I served. I have no doubt that that question will come before us again in the event of future reform of this House leading to a reduction in the number of Lords spiritual proportionate to a reduction in the size of the House.
As to the noble Baroness’s point about diversity of appointments, she will know that that is a matter receiving immediate consideration in the Church of England at the moment. The House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council are progressing a major report on the development of clergy towards senior leadership to ensure that it is more representative of the population as a whole and more diverse.
The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, raised a concern about positive discrimination. We have tended to think in terms of “corrective action”. What is happening here is intended to correct positive discrimination against women—a situation that has gone on for too long—and a fixed period during which corrective action puts the compass needle back to where it should be clearly commands overwhelming support.
A number of other speakers have referred to the capacity of women to rise to the challenge of serving effectively in your Lordships’ House and becoming diocesan bishops. I assure your Lordships that our parliamentary unit has already started to put in place high-quality induction programmes and procedures that will offer the best possible support to any women diocesan bishop who is appointed in the near future.
I think that I have dealt with most of the significant points that may require some response. The purpose of bringing forward this Bill is not to serve the interests of the Church of England but to serve the interests of the nation and its good governance so that, as others have said, the voice of women bishops can properly be heard here. We are absolutely confident that they will make a major contribution.
I joined the Movement for the Ordination of Women in 1974. It took a further two decades before the first women were ordained priests—as it happens, at almost exactly the point at which I was ordained a bishop, so I then spent the next two decades longing for the moment when the women would join me in that gathering.
I shall be retiring in July this year. It is unlikely that the diocesan Bishops’ Benches will have a woman joining us then but it is very likely that a woman diocesan bishop will be appointed in the near future. I would be very touched and moved if she were able to occupy the seat that I shall be vacating later this year, and I am confident that today the House will come to the same conclusion.
My Lords, with permission, I am speaking in the gap, mainly because I am 92 years old and I thought that, as such, I was entitled to represent those women who are not here today in welcoming the future bishop, in whose elevation we are rejoicing at this moment. We have heard one or two excellent speeches from women but there is room for more, and I am, very inadequately, representing them—I hope, wholeheartedly—in our welcome. We look forward to seeing her in person.
A long time ago when I first came here, Lord Hailsham was on the Woolsack and for some unknown reason there were about 11 Bishops on the Benches. It so happened that Lord Hailsham sneezed. There was a very short pause, then he turned to the Bishops and said, “Won’t any of you bless me?”.
Be that as it may, things have moved on since those days. Certainly in 1988, when I first came here, a woman bishop would have been unthinkable. However, the House has put up with the likes of me for all these years and I am very grateful, as we all are. I wish the future bishop the greatest good fortune. I hope that when she enters this Chamber, even though it will not be to the sound of real trumpets, there will be trumpets sounding somewhere.
My Lords, what a lovely debate. I should say at the outset that the Opposition are very supportive of this legislation. This is a concise, narrowly focused Bill that does just one thing very well. In that respect I commend it to parliamentary draftspeople everywhere. Today we have the chance to support a Bill that could mean that this is the last Parliament ever where one set of Benches is open only to men. I can assure the church and the Government of our full support in getting this on to the statute book with all possible haste.
As an Anglican I was delighted when the church and then Parliament made the decision that all orders of ministry in the Church of England would be open to women. But, of course, today is not really about that at all. It is not about whether women can or should be bishops—or, indeed, how soon they should be bishops. It is simply about whether women diocesan bishops once appointed should be able to enter this House a little bit more quickly than they otherwise would. There are only two questions that need answering: is action of this kind needed at all, and, if so, is it a fair and proportionate way to do it? On the first, I am personally persuaded that we have heard a very compelling case today that it is necessary to take some kind of action.
When the first measure failed to go through synod in 2012, there was genuine outrage around the country, revealing in the process a heartening and rather higher level of investment in the Church of England and its affairs than many of us might have expected. There was also outrage within Parliament. Given that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has explained that it could take seven years to get a woman on to his Benches, that is something that Parliament would not regard as acceptable, and which people outside Parliament would regard as frankly incomprehensible. So action clearly is needed.
Is the proposal fair and proportionate? The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, quite properly took the opportunity to set out the reservations some people have about this process. I should like to address that briefly. He described this as positive discrimination but I rather prefer the term of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester. Whenever positive discrimination is proposed, there are usually two standard challenges to it. First, will there be enough candidates of the right calibre? Secondly, is it unfair to those who are not being fast-tracked?
So, will there be enough candidates of the right calibre? Women now make up 44% of the ordained clergy of the Church of England—and, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Luce, there are now women at every single level of the church with the exception of diocesan bishops. So there is a strong chance that we would find among their number women of the right calibre. If the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, is worried, he should know that four years ago I acquired a new diocesan bishop. Obviously, to my shock, it was someone who had been ordained for only 20 years. He had not even been a suffragan bishop and he did not even stay in the job for two years—but he is a rather fine Archbishop of Canterbury, so I can perhaps reassure him that he need not worry too much on that score.
It is worth thinking about the fact that if we are worried about whether this is fair to men, obviously the measure does not exclude men from becoming bishops. In fact, we have just had a new diocesan bishop appointed in Southwell and Nottingham when in fact there could have been a woman. It does not mean that there will not be plenty of males—probably at least half—on the Bishops’ Benches at the end of the 10-year period, since 14 of the 26 current members of the Bishops’ Benches are at least 10 years away from retirement. So I do not think that the girls are going to take over any time soon.
There is the question of whether it is unfair to individual women, which was touched on by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, and mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. I am with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, on this. But in the end, an episcopal ministry, like any Christian ministry, is a calling and not a career. Anyone called into that ministry will recognise that it is his or her role to serve the church and not to be served by the church. The example of the Bishop of Lincoln has shown us all the way in that respect. I was pleased to hear the recognition from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester of the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, about regional representation. Maybe in time the church can reflect on how best to hear the voices from those parts of the country that are not automatically represented.
The concerns, generally speaking, seem to have been addressed very well indeed. Will the Minister say why the Government decided not to include a review in this and simply went for a sunset clause? An opportunity might have been created there, and I should be interested in her reflections on that. We on these Benches are just very glad to support the Bill. As various noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, pointed out, the church may have taken a bit of time getting to this point in proceedings, but I think it has rather speeded up of late. Since 1994, thousands of women have been ordained.
When the Bill was debated in another place, my honourable friend Stephen Twigg noted that there was about the same proportion of women in stipendiary ministry as there were Members of Parliament in the other place. As he pointed out, that meant that the church had got to a place in 20 years that had taken the Commons over 100 years to reach. So he can take some comfort from that. As has been noted, it is only three months since the law was changed to allow women bishops. By December, Libby Lane had been nominated and by January she had been consecrated as Bishop of Stockport in a ceremony that certainly brought tears to my eyes, as I am sure it did to many other people’s.
The way that the church has gone about this process has been very good indeed. I commend the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and his colleagues for their determination to pursue this so quickly and for proceeding with sensitivity to those who find this a difficult time in their life within the Church of England. The church led the way in showing us during the whole process how to disagree while being able to be committed still to the mutual flourishing of all. In doing so it set an example to all of us.
The photograph of Libby Lane with Philip North was wonderful, but I hope the most reverend Primate will forgive me if, despite his urgings, I do not end the debate by hugging the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, as a way of drawing the proceedings to a close. That does not mean in any way that I am not committed to the five principles or to the idea of mutual flourishing—and I wish him well from a safe distance.
I do not want to say any more than this. With the noble Lord, Lord Elton, I think that Parliament needs this every bit as much as the church does. I so look forward to the day that we will see a woman on the Bishops’ Benches and I know that she will be as much of a blessing to us as she will to the church. We are pleased to support this.
My Lords, I am delighted to have the opportunity to respond to this debate, and I thank my noble friend Lord Faulks for his willingness to share Front-Bench responsibilities for such a significant Bill. In your Lordships’ House, I am the government spokesperson for women and equalities. I happen also to be a woman and an Anglican so, both personally and professionally, I warmly welcome the contributions today and the support for the Bill.
Equality of opportunities for women calls for outstanding, pioneering women, and there is certainly no shortage of outstanding women in the Church of England. However, such women arise also when men have the sense of fairness and generosity of spirit to share roles which have historically been exclusively theirs. We have certainly seen fairness and generosity of spirit among the senior bishops. We have heard from a number of noble Lords—including, first of all, the most reverend Primate—about the Bishop of Lincoln, who is the first in line, but there are others behind him, too, whose entry to this House will be delayed. The Bishop of Lincoln has the very good fortune to count my noble friends Lord Cormack and the Chief Whip among his flock, so it is a happy area that he controls there. His gracious words have certainly set the standard for the response from those bishops who find themselves further down the line in terms of coming here.
As noble Lords have said, this is the right thing to do. It follows logically from the church’s decision to allow women to become bishops. It is right for the church and it is certainly right for this House. The Bill does not seek to make any changes to the relationship between the church and Parliament or membership of this House. The selection of candidates for the appointment of bishops will of course remain a matter for the church. Bishops will continue to be appointed on merit and according to the needs of the diocese in which they serve.
As there was a great deal of consensus in the contributions, I shall not seek on this occasion to respond to each noble Lord individually. The questions raised in the debate were mainly matters for the most reverend Primate, who has addressed them accordingly. However, if I have inadvertently missed any parliamentary matters, I will of course respond in writing. The noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, asked me about the review. It was agreed quite happily in the Commons that the 10-year span of the Bill was sufficient to provide the space needed to look at how well the legislation was working and what would happen thereafter; so we should be content to follow that as well.
I pay particular tribute to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has not let the grass grow under his feet since his appointment. We might all do well to take forward his message of less confrontation and more hugs. He and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester have been of great support and assistance in bringing forward this Bill. Indeed, we have seen valuable support from all the Lords Spiritual, and I take this opportunity to thank them for all the work that they do for this House both inside the Chamber and outside it.
As we have heard, the Bill will not necessarily mean the end of the debate over women bishops, but it is another important step along the way. We look forward to seeing the Bishops’ Bench reflecting the gender diversity in evidence elsewhere in this House, and seeing it sooner rather than later, thanks to the provisions in this Bill.
I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken today; it has been a real privilege to be part of the debate. It is with very great pleasure that I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.
Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
Care and Support Regulations
Motion to Take Note
My Lords, following last week’s consideration of the affirmative regulations, I very much welcome the opportunity for further discussion and scrutiny of the implementation of the Care Act. These 17 draft regulations range widely across key aspects of the implementation: the updated assessment process for care and support for adults and carers; the charging, personal budget and direct payment arrangements, and deferred payments; and the NHS/local authority interface for providing care and support, particularly continuity of care. These are important issues and our consideration of them is also very timely, with the publication last week of the Government’s consultation on the draft regulations bringing in phase 2 of the Care Act implementation, on the cap on care costs. I do not intend to go into any of the details of the consultation today; suffice it to note that, at this stage, the closing date for responses to the phase 2 consultation is 30 March 2015—with, of course, the small matter of a general election in between.
For the record, too, this is the third debate we have had on regulations implementing the Act. My noble friend Lord Lipsey, who unfortunately cannot be in his place today, raised a number of key issues in relation to the deferred payment regulations in a debate in the House before Christmas. I do not intend to repeat that debate today, other than to remind the House about my noble friend’s continued concerns over the confusion he fears will be caused by bringing in the regulations this April rather than under the phase 2 implementation of the cap on care costs in April 2016. I also underline the widespread frustration of care and support organisations, and of many noble Lords, that the take-up of the scheme is likely, in reality, to be pretty low because of the Government’s decision to limit it to those with less than £23,250 in non-housing assets.
I begin today’s consideration of the regulations by underlining that, while I was very happy to expedite the business of the House by taking all 17 regulations together, I hope that the House will bear with me again as there are a number of areas to cover in relation to both the implementation of the Care Act and some of the individual SIs. I also take the opportunity to thank the Minister for his very helpful follow-up letter responding to issues raised during consideration of the affirmative regulations that he did not have time to address.
I turn first to the regulations on the assessments for adults and carers, which update the process to reflect the focus on outcomes on the basis of best practice, existing policy and consultation. These regulations improve and develop previous guidelines, particularly the requirement for the assessment to consider the impact of the person whose care needs are being assessed on their carer and their family. I know I would say this, but it is so important to ensure that the carer’s physical, mental and emotional well-being are part of the assessment of an adult’s need for care, as well as the impact of caring on the family as a whole. There are still concerns about how the provisions for local authorities to delegate the carrying out of and decision-making on carers’ assessments will work in practice and on the issue of charging a carer for support to meet their needs, but my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley will address these in her contribution.
We also welcome the specific reference in the assessment regulations to the assessment of people with fluctuating health conditions such as MS and Parkinson’s disease, where symptoms can vary unpredictably by the month, day and week. My noble friends Lord Dubs and Lady Gale advocated this strongly during the passage of the Bill, and we welcome the duty placed on local authorities to ensure that assessments for these and similar conditions take account of the person’s state of health over a period of time. Parkinson’s UK is concerned to ensure that local authorities interpret this provision in terms of months rather than weeks, to establish patterns of care need as well as more rapid fluctuations over a 24-hour period. I would welcome the Minister’s reassurances on this.
As with a number of other conditions, everyone’s experience of Parkinson’s is different and may include, at a particular stage in time, motor symptoms, slowness or rigidity, physical symptoms such as pain, fatigue or bladder or bowel problems, and mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression. It is very important to have the person’s condition assessed over a suitable period.
During the pre-Christmas debate on deferred payments, my noble friend Lord Hunt raised our concern that assessments should be retrospective to the date on which the applicant makes his or her submission for an assessment, rather than on the date that the local authority conducts it, which could be delayed due the authority being overwhelmed with applications and lacking the capacity to deal quickly with them. We were thankful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, for clarifying this in her letter of 12 January, which stated:
“If a local authority was delayed in performing a person’s assessment, their progress towards the (care) cap would apply retrospectively and be backdated accordingly to ensure they were not worse off as a result”.
We were grateful for this important reassurance, but I am not sure that local authorities are clear on this and on when backdating takes effect. They continue to be concerned at the prospect of having to assess whether need would have met the threshold at the time of application. Can the Minister further reassure the House that the Government’s clarification on this matter will be contained in national guidance and that it will not just be left to local discretion or interpretation? Consistency across local authorities on the basis for recording information and data on care accounts is vital.
Finally, on capacity, we need to come back again to local authorities’ continuing concern about the adequacy of funding for phase 1 of the Care Act’s implementation in the face of modelling that shows increasing support needs for councils around IT, workforce and information advice. As careful as the modelling work undertaken by the joint LGA/ADASS/Department of Health programme management office has been, the fact is that take-up on assessments, particularly from self-funders wishing to start the process rolling for costs to be counted towards the cap, can only really be estimates at this stage.
I know from personal experience and from speaking to other carers caring for people with significant care and support needs that the questionnaire for assessment of applicants with complex needs and their carers is on average 40 pages long, taking two or three face-to-face briefings and interviews with a social services team member. There are a number of follow-up processes, too, such as the verification documentation for any agency provider of care; health and welfare assessments; medical management assessments; moving, handling and safeguarding assessments, and so on. Then the all-important financial assessment process is to be faced. These are processes that need to be thorough; they are not simple, quick and straightforward administrative processes for councils. However, I recognise that many assessments will be more light-touch self-assessments, for individuals concerned with getting their details “logged” so that their accrued costs can begin counting towards the cap.
The LGA has called for financial compensation for councils that are shown under the monitoring framework being developed by ADASS to have incurred extra implementation costs over and above their 2015-16 allocation. The Minister’s correspondence assures me that monitoring data on this will be collected during 2015-16 to determine whether the estimated costs outlined in the impact assessment are accurate, and that additional funding costs would be considered as part of the next Government’s spending review—so we will leave it at that at this stage.
The regulations covering the charging and assessment of resources are more than 20 pages long and are not for the faint-hearted. They broadly follow the previous process for calculating what a person can afford to contribute towards the cost of their care, setting out the £23,250 cap on local authority contributions towards residential care but now also providing for councils to be able to pay towards the cost of care and support of a home care user or carer whose savings total more than this amount.
This extension to the home care situation is welcome, as is the setting of the minimum income requirement on a regulatory basis for those in non-care accommodation and, as I understand it, their carers. The specific thresholds for this reflect income support thresholds, but may I ask the Minister why the previous practice of the thresholds being adjusted annually for inflation has not been followed? Is this now being left to local authority discretion?
On pensions, I notice in Regulation 16 of the charging and assessment of resources regulations the reference to pension annuity payments being treated as income. While this reflects current practice, it brings us back once again to the thorny issue of the interaction of pension flexibilities under the Pension Schemes Bill with the benefits and social care means tests, and how pension pots will in future be treated for assessment of care and support. The Minister will recall that I questioned him last week on the Department of Health’s involvement in ongoing discussions on this following the dogged attempts made by noble friends on this side to get Ministers dealing with the Bill to acknowledge and address this problem.
I understand from the response of the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Newby, at Third Reading that in relation to means-testing for benefits or care and support we are now in the position that, if cash is drawn from a pension pot, it will not be dealt with as income. However, ISA savings will be counted as capital unless transferred to a pension pot, and not be deemed as deprivation of assets if the funds are so transmitted. The Minister has confirmed this to me in his letter. According to the noble Lord, Lord Newby, the Government intend to issue what they call “clear guidance” on the treatment of pension pots in income-related benefits in advance of April, when the new pension provisions come in, and thereafter to monitor the situation and, “respond proportionately if we need to”, in the words of the Minister.
The letter of the Minister, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, reassures noble Lords concerning the Department of Health’s involvement in the development of the Pension Wise service, which will issue guidance on these key areas. He is also confident that the duty placed on local authorities to facilitate independent financial information and advice will enable them to provide the support that people need to make informed choices. However, these are very complex issues and the advice across government departments and from local authorities needs to be clear and consistent. I would welcome the Minister’s assurance that he has full confidence that this will happen.
The final batch of regulations deal with important interface issues between the NHS and local authorities, such as: hospital discharges to local authority care; interaction between clinical commissioning groups and councils; the provision of NHS continuing care; and ensuring continuity of care when an individual receiving care and support intends to move from one local authority to another—the portability provisions so hard fought for by the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, who is unfortunately unable to be in her place today. Overall, these regulations are important to the improvement of NHS and local authority co-operation and joint working, which are so vital to the future successful integration of care and support. I was pleased to see that, under the hospital discharge regulations, the fines that the NHS can impose on local authorities for delayed discharges of patients from acute hospitals are now optional rather than obligatory, reflecting the fact that most hospitals apparently no longer impose these fines anyway. This is a welcome change as, in the past, too many patients and families have been caught in the middle of some very unpleasant rows between hospital and council over funding responsibility. That is a very upsetting place to be at a time of great uncertainty and trauma for the patient, carer and family.
I want to raise an important issue on the question of care and support regarding ordinary residence. The Care Act regulations extend types of accommodation where a person’s ordinary residence would be deemed to remain with the original authority to cover shared life schemes and supported living, which provide excellent support for people with complex care and support needs. These regulations are designed to resolve disputes between authorities but will do so only if it is clear and unambiguous who is and is not covered. Section 39(1) states that an adult is covered by this only if their needs can be met in specified circumstances.
However, the Care & Support Alliance is concerned that there is a significant risk that local authorities will dispute whether needs can be met only in such accommodation, which will still leave many people with high support needs as the subject of disputes about which council will fund their support. Section 39(3) allows for the making of regulations to clarify this, but these powers do not appear to have been used in the regulations covering the ordinary residence position. Are the Government confident that the definitions in the Care Act regulations are clear enough to prevent disputes between local authorities? Why are the powers in Section 39(3) not being used to clarify Section 39(1)? Does the Minister acknowledge that the reference in the latter subsection to,
“needs for care and support which can be met only if the adult is living in accommodation of a type specified in the regulations”,
will cause confusion and disputes unless properly clarified?
I have one more important issue to address before I conclude. What role do the Government expect health and well-being boards to play in overseeing the implementation of the Care Act? I ask this because we would have expected the role to be a key and strategic one. Yet both the feedback from local authorities and the comments in the King’s Fund’s recent review, The NHS under the Coalition Government, about the current readiness of many health and well-being boards to tackle the key strategic issues facing them, are deeply disappointing and disturbing. HWBs have been operational for more than 20 months and were to be the key vehicle for integration and collaboration under the Government’s restructured NHS.
The House will recall that we strongly supported those boards and advocated increased powers to give them the vital leadership, impetus and support to joint working and co-operation across health and social care that was needed. Yet the King’s Fund’s assessment of their performance so far is pretty stark:
“While the creation of health and wellbeing boards was widely welcomed, their impact and influence has been variable, and generally limited ... Boards have shown few signs of being able to provide the collective leadership needed to tackle the urgent issues facing their local systems, and have often chosen to prioritise other issues ahead of promoting integrated care”.
Of course, we know that a number of boards have been working hard on key priority areas such as joint strategic needs assessments, the better care fund and public health but many are still establishing themselves and surely we should expect health and well-being boards by this time to be playing a major role in such key areas as Care Act implementation. Can the Minister tell the House what action the Government are taking to ensure that health and well-being boards undertake the key functions and duties expected of them, and how the Government will ensure that they discharge their responsibility for overseeing the Care Act implementation, particularly as it enters into the first phase in just two months’ time?
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Wheeler for the clear way in which she set out her concerns about these regulations and her tenacity in pursuing this issue. I want to comment on two parts that are of particular interest to carers: first, the delegation of assessments and, secondly, concerns about charging carers. The Minister will know that I have always warmly welcomed the Care Act, which showed a hugely significant development for carers, giving them the clearest rights ever to an assessment of their caring role.
Although it is already possible for local authorities to delegate the carrying out of a carer’s assessment, from April they will be able to delegate the carrying out of the assessment and, for the first time, the decision on whether the carer is eligible for support. This is a significant change and local authorities are considering whether to delegate their assessments in future. I have a number of concerns about this. Considering a carer’s assessment in isolation from the assessment of the person they are caring for will make it difficult for those making eligibility decisions to consider the family’s situation in the round—as my noble friend has reminded us—and is unlikely in my view to result in the best outcomes being identified for that family or the right action taken to achieve these outcomes. Moreover, the complaints and appeals system will be at arm’s length from the local authority, making it more difficult for families to get redress if they have complaints about the way in which an assessment is carried out or the decision made on eligibility. What measures have the Government put in place to avoid or mitigate these unintended consequences of delegating carers’ assessments? I stress that I understand that they are unintended consequences.
I am also concerned about charging carers for services. The Care Act retains the current power allowing local authorities to charge for services provided to carers. It also confers a new power to charge carers for arranging services for them if they request the local authority to do so. Currently very few local authorities charge for carers’ services but, with increasing pressures on budgets and the new duty to provide services to carers, we know that some local authorities are considering charging carers for the first time, perhaps not surprisingly. This would be an unintended and very unwelcome consequence of the new legislation. I recognise that the Government have further strengthened the statutory guidance on charging carers, but I am still concerned that the Care Act will result in an increase in the number of local authorities which make charges for services to carers. Perhaps I do not need to remind the House, because I have done it so often, that carers contribute a huge amount often at a great personal cost as caring has a negative impact on their finances, their health and well-being and opportunities to engage in work, leisure and education. That figure that I always quote is that carers save the Exchequer £119 billion. Charging a carer for support to meet their needs, often in order to help them to continue caring, risks being counterproductive by preventing carers from accessing services and may even discourage carers from seeking support. The adoption of charging policies might very well result in additional—not fewer—costs to local authorities. A carer and the person they are looking after—sometimes they look after more than one—may not have the same income. In many cases, carers have given up work or live on a reduced income as a result of their caring responsibilities, so will the Government commit to monitor the extent to which local authorities are charging for services provided to carers and publish the results as part of their evaluation of the impact of the Care Act? We should all bear in mind that this could have consequences way beyond the initial discomfort for the carer, in that many carers may then choose not to take up the caring role. I will be glad of the Minister’s response.
My Lords, I thank both noble Baronesses for their thoughtful questions and comments. I will seek to address as many as possible today and respond to others in writing as need be.
These 17 sets of regulations give full expression to many of the key aspects of the reformed care and support system envisaged by the Care Act. First, there are two sets of regulations that set out important details of people’s rights as they progress through the pathway of care and support envisaged by the Care Act. The assessment regulations specify further matters about carrying out an assessment under Section 9 of the Care Act, while the direct payment regulations largely replicate the existing regulatory framework around this, but with some changes to make the framework more flexible and less bureaucratic.
The noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, asked about charging for carers’ assessments. The joint implementation programme has commissioned the ADASS carers policy network to produce a document on the economic case for investment in carers which will expand on the case set out in the Care Act statutory guidance that charging carers for services needs to be considered carefully. It can often be a false economy to charge carers beyond, of course, the moral case for recognising and supporting the extraordinary contribution that carers make to our society. We are putting in place a robust set of measures to monitor the implementation of the Care Act and I will of course keep this matter under review, as will my department.
There are five sets of regulations that help to ensure that people pay a fair amount for their care and support and have adequate choice in the way their care and support needs are met. The charging and assessment of resources regulations set out how a local authority must conduct a financial assessment when seeking to calculate what a person can afford to contribute towards the cost of their care and support. The choice of accommodation regulations set out conditions regarding the choice of placement in residential care. The deferred payment regulations set out the circumstances in which local authorities may or must enter into deferred payment agreements. They also make provision as to the operation and content of the agreement. As the noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler, mentioned, these regulations were the subject of a specific debate in your Lordships’ House in December, following two Motions tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey. In addition, there are two smaller sets of regulations that specify whether certain types of services can be charged for and on certain costs to be excluded from personal budgets.
There are a further four sets of regulations that relate to general local authority responsibilities, as opposed to duties regarding individual people set out elsewhere, such as in the assessment regulations. The advocacy regulations set out the considerations for determining whether a person would experience substantial difficulty in doing certain things connected with being involved in the care and support process, which may trigger a local authority’s duty to provide an independent advocate. The instrument also establishes the requirements of an advocate and the manner in which they must carry out their functions.
The market oversight information regulations make provision for the Care Quality Commission to obtain information to help it assess the financial sustainability of providers. The sight-impaired and severely sight-impaired adults regulations specify the persons who are to be treated as such for the purposes of local authorities’ duty to maintain registers of these groups.
There are a further two statutory instruments that set out important details of local authorities’ interaction with NHS bodies. The provision of health services regulations essentially set the boundary between care and support functions on the one hand and healthcare on the other, while the discharge of hospital patients regulations cover the details of the regulatory framework for the discharge of hospital patients with care and support needs.
I come last to the five statutory instruments that relate to ensuring there are clear procedures and responsibilities when people move between areas. The first two primarily concern ordinary residence, which is a mechanism for allocating responsibility between local authorities for meeting needs. The ordinary residence specified accommodation regulations make provision about the types of accommodation to which provisions in the Act deeming ordinary residence apply, while the ordinary residence disputes regulations set out the procedures that must be followed if a dispute concerning ordinary residence, continuity of care or provider failure arises.
There are a further two statutory instruments that make provision about similar issues, but arising from a placement from one UK country into another, rather than within England. The first sets out how disputes will be handled, while the second makes provision around business failure duties for Scotland, broadly to ensure reciprocity of duties across the UK.
Lastly, the continuity of care regulations set out the matters that a local authority must consider in fulfilling its duty to meet the care and support needs when a person moves home to its area, where the authority of previous residence was meeting such needs and a new assessment has not been conducted.
The noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler, asked me about the reference in the ordinary residence regulations to the phrase “needs can only be met”. The guidance makes clear that needs should be judged to be able to be met through a specified type of accommodation only where the local authority has made this decision following an assessment and the care and support planning process involving the person.
I wanted to make noble Lords aware that we propose to introduce a short set of amending regulations to make several small changes to some of the regulations I have described; and, in answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler, that includes the uprating of certain allowances in the charging regulations in line with existing practice on annual uprating of figures and some minor corrections of cross-references and terminology in two of the regulations. We are also making a change to the deferred payment regulations to make clearer that the provisions concerning disposable income do not apply if the local authority ceases to make deferrals. We will make a change to the list of local authorities that may make a direct payment for accommodation in a care home to reflect developments in the pilot scheme relating to this.
We will make a change to the regulations on specified accommodation so that the ordinary residence deeming principles apply only from the date a person living in the accommodation receives care and support under the Act. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the deeming rule does not apply when a person is living in a specified type of accommodation, such as a care home, before they begin to receive care and support from the local authority. In such a situation the normal ordinary residence rules should apply. That is the position under the current legislation and it has always been the intention that the Care Act should not change this.
The noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler, asked me whether guidance will be clear that local authorities should backdate the care account if an assessment is delayed. We will ensure that guidance provides clarity on this point. If I can elaborate on that in a letter I will certainly be happy to do so.
I hope I have been able to address at least some of the main points raised today, but as I said at the beginning, I shall write after this debate to noble Lords with any further points that I have not been able to cover.
I thank the Minister for his response. It is customary to say, “It has been an excellent debate”, but since only three of us spoke I will say that it has been informative, very valuable, and that all contributions have been excellent. I particularly welcome the Minister’s comments around the carers’ organisations and that he will keep that situation under review. I am sure that he will meet carers’ organisations if he needs to, if there are continuing concerns.
I will finish by reiterating our strong support for the key principles of the Care Act. The majority of the foundations of the Act build on work started by Labour—the personalisation of care agenda, personal budgets and direct payments, independent living, the national carers strategy, and the groundbreaking work of the Law Commission to consolidate six years of fragmented social care legislation—and of course carried through by this Government. However, we said from the outset that implementing the Act in the face of significant funding cuts and financial pressures faced by local authorities would be a huge challenge, and so it is proving. It will be particularly so for the phase 2 implementation of the cap on care costs. Whichever party is in office after May will need to work closely with local authorities and with care and support users and organisations to monitor implementation of the Act and make decisions accordingly.
House adjourned at 1.46 pm.