Wednesday, 11 March 2015.
Arrangement of Business
Good afternoon, my Lords. I should start with the announcement that if there is a Division in the House, the Committee will adjourn for 10 minutes.
Legal Services Act 2007 (Warrant) (Approved Regulator) Regulations 2015
Motion to Consider
My Lords, I shall speak also to the draft Legal Services Act 2007 (Warrant) (Licensing Authority) Regulations 2015.
By way of background, as noble Lords will know, the Legal Services Act 2007—the 2007 Act—governs the regulation of legal services in England and Wales and established a new regulatory framework for legal services. The 2007 Act enabled the widening of the legal services market to allow for different regulators to regulate legal services and for different types of legal businesses to provide those services.
The intention of the 2007 Act was to put the consumer at the heart of legal services and deliver a more effective and competitive market. It established a number of regulatory objectives which the Legal Services Board and the approved regulators must promote, including protecting and promoting the public interest and the interests of consumers, encouraging an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession and promoting competition in the provision of legal services by authorised persons.
The Legal Services Board was established under the 2007 Act to be the independent oversight regulator with responsibility for overseeing the approved regulators. Under the 2007 Act, approved regulators are under a duty to act in a way that is compatible with the regulatory objectives set out in the Act. Where acts or omissions of an approved regulator are likely to have an adverse impact on these regulatory objectives, the LSB has a range of enforcement powers that it can exercise, including issuing performance targets and directions, public censure and imposing financial penalties.
Where an approved regulator’s acts or omissions cannot be adequately addressed by these other enforcement powers the LSB can, in appropriate cases, issue an intervention direction providing for certain functions of the approved regulator to be exercised by the LSB or a person nominated by it; or it can recommend to the Lord Chancellor that he cancel the approved regulator’s designation. Similarly, the LSB may recommend that the Lord Chancellor cancel an approved regulator’s designation as a licensing authority in relation to one or more reserved legal activities, but only if it is satisfied that it cannot address the issue through its other enforcement powers. This is intended to ensure that the power to issue an intervention direction or to cancel a designation remains reserved for the most serious or persistent infractions.
Where an intervention direction is made under Section 41 of the 2007 Act or an approved regulator’s designation is cancelled under Section 45, the LSB or a new regulator will assume some or all of the approved regulator’s functions. In order to provide continuity of regulation in these circumstances, the LSB, or a person nominated by it, can apply for a search warrant for the approved regulator’s premises under Sections 42 or 48, as appropriate.
Section 79 makes similar provision for licensing authorities to that made by Section 48 for approved regulators, in that it makes provision for search warrants which may be issued following the cancellation of a designation. It applies where a body has had its designation as a licensing authority cancelled, either automatically under Section 75 of the Act because its designation as an approved regulator has been cancelled under Section 45, or by an order made by the Lord Chancellor under Section 76 of the Act.
The 2007 Act permits the LSB to apply for a warrant in certain circumstances authorising it to enter and search the premises of an approved regulator or licensing authority and take possession of any written or electronic records found on the premises. There are two separate powers under the 2007 Act which are set out in Sections 42 and 48. These allow search warrants to be issued for an approved regulator’s premises, and one power in Section 79 which allows search warrants to be issued for a licensing authority’s premises. Regulations must be made by the Lord Chancellor under each of those three sections specifying further matters which a judge or justice of the peace must be satisfied of or have regard to before issuing a warrant, and also regulating the exercise of a power conferred by the warrant. That is the purpose of these two sets of regulations before the Committee, one of which relates to approved regulator warrants and one to licensing authority warrants.
The intention in exercising a warrant under Sections 42, 48 or 79 will be to provide continuity of regulation in specific circumstances of regulatory failure by an approved regulator or licensing authority. If both sets of these regulations come into force, they will enable the LSB or a person appointed by it to apply for warrants as part of its enforcement strategy. As required under the 2007 Act, the Lord Chancellor has also formally consulted the LSB about the making of these regulations.
Finally, I regret to say that there is a small error in the version of the approved regulator regulations before the House—the result of a computer glitch. In Regulation 1(2) the paragraph lettering is incorrect in that it runs through from (a) to (g) rather than restarting for each definition. I take it that no confusion has been caused. This error will be corrected in the final “made” version of the regulations.
In conclusion, these regulations enable the LSB or a person appointed by it to apply for a warrant as part of its enforcement strategy, enabling the LSB to assume effectively the functions of the relevant regulator. Overall, this has the potential to act as a deterrent against poor regulation, to improve the standard of regulatory practice and to strengthen the LSB’s regulatory powers, leading to greater consistency and better protections for consumers. I commend both sets of regulations to the Committee and beg to move.
My Lords, I can say at the outset that we are not opposing either of these two sets of regulations. As the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, has outlined for the Grand Committee, the Legal Services Act 2007 permits the Legal Services Board to apply for a warrant in certain circumstances authorising it to enter and search the premises of an approved regulator or licensing authority. The Lord Chancellor must make regulations specifying further matters which a judge or justice of the peace must be satisfied of, or have regard to, before issuing a warrant and regulating the exercise of a power conferred by a warrant.
I am aware from the guidance that a previous draft of these regulations was originally laid in February 2010 and then withdrawn. That was at the end of the last Parliament and here we are, five years and one month later at the end of this Parliament, with another set of regulations that we are seeking to put through. Quite a lot of time has elapsed. I understand and accept that sometimes when things are drafted, that can highlight problems and defects, but it would be useful if in his response the noble Lord could outline in some detail why have we waited so long for these regulations to be brought back. We are literally in the last few days of this Parliament. It would also be helpful if he could say something about the nature of the problems which have been uncovered.
In looking at the regulations and the helpful Explanatory Memorandum, it appears to me that they have been quite tightly drawn up to limit the circumstances in which they can be used and to ensure that the issue of these warrants is a matter of last resort. That seems right and sensible to me. However, is the noble Lord satisfied that the regulations are proportionate and strike the right balance? Have any problems been caused to the Legal Services Board in exercising its regulatory duties over the past few years by not having these powers? If he is satisfied that there are no problems, perhaps he would inform the Committee of how he has come to that conclusion. With those points, I am happy to support the regulations.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for his consideration of these regulations and for his observations in general about them. He asked why there has been effectively a delay in these matters and also asked me to say a little more about whether I was satisfied with the various safeguards which exist.
In a sense both those questions have a common answer, which is that these powers are very much ones of last resort. They follow from the Act; Parliament expressed the view that there should be this residuary power but the circumstances in which the super-regulator—if one can call it that—would actually wish to step into the shoes of the regulator are very hard to foresee. I believe Parliament felt that there should be that power at least, hence the existence of the regulations. This is not, I think, something the absence of which has caused the LSB any difficulty at all in the delay during the five years since the replacement regulations were drafted.
The powers are not to be used, of course, until after all the other LSB powers have been utilised, and the noble Lord and the Committee will realise that there are a range of other powers short of these last-resort powers which the LSB can exercise. It was in those circumstances that these powers were prioritised below other more immediately required orders such as those required in the implementation of the Act and subsequently those recommended by the LSB. As outlined in the memorandum accompanying the regulations, we have produced 11 other legal services statutory instruments since 2013, which perhaps gives the Committee an idea of the scale of recent work. We have therefore prioritised our resources.
Progress on the approved regulator draft has continued steadily. For example we have consulted twice on the content of the regulations with the stakeholders—and there are a considerable number of stakeholders—who will be affected by them. We have made numerous changes as a result and taken their comments into account. The licensing authority regulations have also been drafted during this period allowing the two sets of regulations to be consulted on and progress through Parliament together, given how similar they are. I think the noble Lord will understand that regulators were likely to express a view as to whether the super-regulator should be allowed these powers and if so the appropriate restrictions on them. There is perhaps, one might say, a healthy tension between the interests of the regulators and the super-regulator, which, I think, provides some explanation.
In terms of the safeguards, the word “necessary” or “desirable” is an important one for the exercise of a regulatory function. A judicial officer must be satisfied before issuing a warrant. Specifically, the regulations allow a judicial officer to issue a warrant only if satisfied that the LSB has made reasonable attempts to obtain the records sought by other means. This would be likely to result in the records being removed, hidden, tampered with or destroyed. There is also provision to prevent repeat applications where another of the same substance was refused. There are other safeguards providing for the return of seized documents. A key safeguard is that a warrant may not be used to take possession of or copy records subject to legal professional privilege. That matter was drawn to the attention of the regulators by the Bar Standards Board as a matter of importance and that finds its way into the regulations, as the noble Lord will have seen. Any such record which is taken or copied in error must be returned.
These regulations were drafted in consultation with the approved regulators, whose suggestions were incorporated in the way that I have indicated to achieve the desired balance. I hope I can satisfy the Committee that there are these appropriate safeguards. I do not think it could be said that the LSB is champing at the bit to exercise these regulations—it is unlikely it will do so—but Parliament has envisaged that it should have its power. By providing these regulations, albeit they have taken a little time to produce, we are acting in a way that is faithful to Parliament’s intention. In those circumstances, I hope the regulations can be approved.
Legal Services Act 2007 (Warrant) (Licensing Authority) Regulations 2015
Motion to Consider
Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Procedure) (Amendment) Rules 2015
Motion to Consider
The draft rules amend the Special Immigration Appeals Commission—which I will call SIAC—rules of procedure, giving effect to two provisions contained within the Immigration Act 2014. These are straight- forward—being consequential to the new Act—but, none the less, important amendments. One will amend a current right of appeal to SIAC and introduce a new power of statutory review to ensure that all cases that should be dealt with by SIAC remain there, while the other will tighten up its bail processes.
Your Lordships will be aware from previous debates that SIAC is a specialist tribunal dealing with the most serious immigration and asylum appeals where there are issues of national security or other matters of public interest. For instance, it has heard cases under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 by persons certified as suspected international terrorists. SIAC heard the deportation case of Abu Qatada, for example. Unlike other immigration tribunals, it has processes in place designed to control the disclosure of material which, if released into the public domain, could be damaging. These are its closed material procedure and its use of special advocates, whereby some of the Home Secretary’s evidence is withheld from the appellant and his representatives. The purpose in both instances is to avoid compromising intelligence sources and the UK’s national security. The appellant’s interests are instead represented by a special advocate—a lawyer of the highest experience and ability and who has access to all the material withheld from the appellant.
The Immigration Act 2014 is being implemented by the Home Office on a phased basis, starting last July, with full and final implementation on 6 April this year. It contains a number of provisions to improve and streamline immigration processes. We have already considered and debated all of the Act’s provisions during its passage last year, so today is not about revisiting those, but rather about the consequential procedural rule amendments that are now required.
The Immigration Act provides that there will be a right of appeal to a tribunal only where fundamental rights are involved. From next month, the Act will remove the current right of appeal to SIAC against deportation decisions where the individual does not claim that removal would breach their human rights. Although it is likely that an individual will claim deportation would breach their human rights, there may still be cases where an appellant does not want to challenge their deportation on that basis, but rather that the reasoning behind the deportation decision itself is flawed. The Act allows for that by introducing a further power of statutory review to SIAC’s jurisdiction.
The number of cases that we are talking about is likely to be very small indeed. SIAC is a low-volume jurisdiction: it currently has only 17 appeals, although it has some other work. Although this does not represent a significant extension to the use of the closed material procedure, we must still make provision to allow SIAC to continue to consider these cases. Without the new review, the only route of challenge once the statutory appeal is removed would be by way of a judicial review to the High Court. This would not be satisfactory for two reasons. First, the High Court has only limited provision for the closed material procedure. Secondly, SIAC is the tribunal with the greatest judicial and panel member expertise in immigration matters and national security cases, and is the specialist in deciding and using closed material procedure.
SIAC is a superior court of record. It is presided over by a senior and experienced judge of the High Court, so this is not a lesser option. SIAC already deals with two other types of statutory review: to set aside a direction by the Home Secretary to exclude a non-EEA national from the UK and to set aside a decision by the Home Secretary in relation to naturalisation and citizenship applications. In both instances, SIAC is required under primary legislation to apply the same principles that would apply in judicial review proceedings; namely, the principles of natural justice and general public law. This further statutory review will also apply these principles, so SIAC will, as it does now, give full and proper consideration to any request for the closed material procedure.
In mandating those two statutory reviews in SIAC, Parliament has decided that it is the appropriate forum for all immigration challenges involving matters of national security or other public interest. I am sure noble Lords will agree that we would not want to go back on that decision when deciding whether to approve this amendment today.
The Immigration Act also tackles repeated bail applications, which are often made in an effort to delay someone’s removal from the United Kingdom. Before the new Immigration Act there was no limit on the number of bail applications that someone could make, and an identical application could be filed the day after one had been refused. These all currently require a hearing, which can be costly and time consuming. From April, these draft amendment rules will allow SIAC to dismiss a repeat application without a hearing if it is made within 28 days of an earlier unsuccessful application and there has been no material change in the applicant’s circumstances. Similar rules are in place in the First-tier Tribunal Immigration and Asylum Chamber, as required by the Immigration Act provisions which were commenced in October last year, so these amendments provide parity in the rules of procedure.
The draft rules have been produced on behalf of the Lord Chancellor following a short period of consultation by the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice with several of the bodies most familiar with SIAC, including the Law Society, the Bar Council, special advocates and the SIAC chairman and judiciary. We are therefore satisfied that they meet the needs of SIAC users and adjudicators.
The rules before us represent straightforward changes but, as I have outlined, they are critical in preserving our national security. Decisions made by the Home Secretary in reliance on sensitive and potentially damaging material should continue to be challenged at SIAC rather than the High Court. SIAC’s hearing time is best saved for dealing with such matters and for the appellants who genuinely need it, rather than being spent on unmeritorious applications for bail. I therefore commend these rules to the Committee, and I beg to move.
My Lords, as the Minister has outlined, these rules make amendments to bring the 2003 rules into line with the provisions of the Immigration Act 2014. The first change to the rules is the removal of the current right of appeal to SIAC against deportation decisions where there are no human rights grounds and the application of a new section of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act 1997 allowing SIAC to deal with these by way of a statutory review. Appeal rights properly and rightly remain for human rights matters. Will the Minister comment on whether any thought has been given to whether the restriction of these appeal rights is likely to increase the number of cases claiming human rights as a reason? Has any further work been done on the potential cost in that case? Have the Government taken account of those costs when they looked at the savings they think they will make?
On the forum for appeals, we are always concerned when there is an extension of the use of closed material procedures. Will the Minister say something further about the matters that will be dealt with by SIAC rather than the High Court by a process of statutory review rather than by judicial review? I assume that the terms will be of a similar effect. I was pleased when the Minister confirmed that asylum will be looked at on human rights grounds, using the same criteria as the High Court. I agree with his comments about the members of the judiciary who work in that court.
On the question of bail, some concerns have been raised as to what constitutes material change. Could the Minister say a bit more about that as well? I get his point about renewed bail applications being permitted only when there has been material change. I assume that I am right in thinking that a procedural defect would be a very serious material change. Could he outline any further things that would constitute material change? With that, I accept that these are important and serious matters and matters of national security and I am happy to support the rules.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for his observations and for his acceptance, for the most part, of what lies behind these rules. He makes a valuable point in asking whether there could be a perverse incentive for somebody to claim that there were human rights violations and therefore get themselves within SIAC. That is, with respect, a little unlikely. In fact, the purport of the regulations is to embrace those cases where national security is an issue but the person is not relying on human rights grounds. Classically, that would happen on the grounds of Article 3 or Article 8 of the European convention. It has to fall within SIAC because of the national security arguments; it is not a simple incantation of a human-rights based challenge.
I caused some inquiries to be made as to precisely what cases might come within the regulation when somebody was not claiming human rights grounds and would therefore be covered by this measure. I was given to understand that the likely applicant would be someone who was before the court in relation to espionage, who would not want to rely ex hypothesi on Articles 3 or 8 but might want to challenge the underlying assertion that they were, in effect, a spy. In that way, they would still come within the national security ambit of SIAC, involving all the closed material procedures with which we are familiar—the special advocates and well travelled range of things—and not rely on human rights matters.
The noble Lord asked about costs. I do not believe that the human rights element of itself would cause additional costs. In relation to the rules amendment costs, there are minimal costs on the work of drafting and laying the amendment rules and no costs to the SIAC administrator or Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service in introducing this new statutory review. They already deal with other statutory reviews, so forms, guidance and IT are not affected. The bail amendments will reduce costs for SIAC, because they will save hearing time from being used on unmeritorious applications.
The question of material changes is a fairly well travelled doctrine in terms of bail applications generally, and judges will be familiar with that. It involves something material, as the adjective suggests, not just a minor change that warrants an application—something that may have an effect on personal circumstances, such as their address, giving the court grounds for thinking that the risk was somewhat less than originally appreciated. It might be a matter for SIAC to give further guidance, but of course material change of circumstance is the sort of thing that courts are used to addressing in a number of circumstances. Indeed, the noble Lord may be familiar with it in his guise as a magistrate, with frequent bail applications—although I may be wrong in thinking that he is a magistrate. It might be something that affects the range of considerations which the tribunal thought important when the previous bail application was decided. I would be reluctant to specify precisely what might constitute material circumstances, but it does not mean de minimis matters, things that do not really alter the basis of the application. It would be a matter for the court on the particular facts of the case to decide whether there had been a material change.
I hope that, with those assurances, the Committee is content that the rules should proceed, and I beg to move.
Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 (Code of Practice) Order 2015
Motion to Consider
My Lords, the purpose of this order is to bring into force a revised code of practice under the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996, setting out the manner in which police officers are to record, retain and reveal to the prosecutor material obtained in a criminal investigation.
The revised code that this order will bring into force replaces the current one that was introduced in 2005. The changes to the code are not extensive but they are a crucial element in an initiative that is designed to make summary justice more efficient. This is the transforming summary justice programme—TSJ for short.
The objective of TSJ is to enable guilty plea cases to be dealt with wherever possible in one hearing, and contested cases to be properly managed at the first hearing and actively progressed and disposed of at the second. One of the elements of TSJ is that summary cases that are likely to be guilty pleas and those that are expected to be contested should be treated differently, the former being listed for a hearing after 14 days, the latter after 28 days.
Last May, the senior presiding judge received the report of a review that he had asked His Honour Judge Kinch and the chief magistrate, Senior District Judge Riddle, to carry out into disclosure of unused material in summary cases. This magistrates’ court disclosure review made several recommendations that complement TSJ, including that the relevant code of practice should be amended to enable a streamlined but proportionate procedure to be used in disclosing unused material in summary cases.
The review endorsed the separate treatment of likely guilty and not guilty cases. It recommended that the code should be amended to remove any implication that a guilty plea might be expected simply on the basis of the defendant not having denied the offence. However, where a guilty plea was expected with good reason—typically because the defendant had admitted the offence—then a schedule of unused material need not be served.
Even in these cases, however, there remains a duty on the prosecution at common law to disclose any material that might assist the defendant in a bail application or in preparing his case. This is often referred to as “ex parte Lee disclosure”, after the case in which the principle was set out. It is perhaps unlikely to be required in a straightforward summary case, but the review recommended that in the rare cases where the need for such disclosure arises, the police must draw the material to the attention of the prosecutor. Where on the other hand there is nothing to disclose, as will ordinarily be the position, that fact should be declared.
These recommendations are reflected in the revised code. Annexed to the code are three forms, the first of which is for use in cases where a guilty plea is anticipated, declaring that there is nothing to disclose at common law.
The review noted the intention of the CPS,
“to replace the unused schedule with a short disclosure report in anticipated not guilty plea summary cases”,
which it observed would require an amendment to the code of practice. This, too, is reflected in the new code and in the second and third forms annexed to it. These are streamlined certificates for use in anticipated not guilty cases, one certifying that there is nothing to disclose under the 1996 Act or at common law, the other certifying that there is disclosable material and specifying what it is. These forms are quicker, simpler and less bureaucratic than the ones they replace.
The amendments incorporated in the revised code were drafted in consultation with the national police lead on unused material, as well as with representatives of the Law Society, HM Courts and Tribunals Service and the office of the senior presiding judge. In accordance with the process set out in the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996, the revised code was published in draft for consultation in October last year. Six responses were received, and the draft was further slightly revised in the light of them.
The resulting revised code was laid on 28 January and the draft order to bring it into force, which your Lordships are considering today, was laid the following day. This slightly unusual process is in accordance with Section 77(5) of the 1996 Act. The order was subject to scrutiny by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and has been amended slightly in the light of it. The code will come into force on the day after the day on which the order has been approved by whichever House approves it last.
The revised code introduced by the order under consideration today does not alter the criteria for disclosure. Rather, it seeks to help to ensure that defendants receive the disclosure to which they are entitled earlier than at present, including an assurance that the prosecution’s obligations at common law have been met. As the review observes, late compliance with disclosure obligations, or failure to comply with them,
“frequently leads to ineffective trials, delay and the incumbent costs in both financial and human terms … Many practitioners observe that there is a procedural rather than substance difficulty in most cases. The material listed on the unused schedule (and often any items disclosed) frequently has limited, if any, bearing on the outcome of cases tried summarily. With that in mind, it is all the more frustrating for procedural failures in the disclosure process to lead to a case collapsing, or suffering delay”.
The purpose of the revised code is to prevent such procedural failures and to reinforce the effect of the TSJ programme in speeding up summary justice. I beg to move.
My Lords, the order before us today replaces the code of practice issued in 2005 under the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996. I understand it is being brought forward following the Magistrates’ Court Disclosure Review in 2014, which recommended the adoption of a streamlined procedure in summary cases and, I think, in those either-way cases that are likely to remain in the magistrates’ court, so that a schedule of unused material need not be served in such cases, when it is anticipated that a guilty plea is going to be entered.
The present procedure is outlined in the magistrates’ court review, which I have looked at, with particular reference to paragraph 49. The recommendation that this order is seeking to bring into effect is listed as point 220 in the summary of recommendations. It would be helpful if the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, could just set out for us how we get to this position of an anticipated guilty plea. Clearly, someone can admit, at the first opportunity, that they have committed the offence and are guilty, but what about other cases? What sort of assessment will actually take place? Is there an expectation or assumption that, on the evidence already there, they will be getting legal advice from their own solicitor that the wisest course of action for them would be to submit a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity? I just want to be clear on the process that will be followed.
It would also be helpful if the noble Lord could just outline for us what will happen if the anticipated guilty plea does not materialise after all that. As the noble Lord said, I have served as a magistrate. I was on the Coventry bench for many years, and most cases that come before you, especially summary offences, result in a guilty plea and there are very few trials. However, things do not always go to plan, and it would be useful for that to be outlined for the Grand Committee.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for confirming when he spoke earlier that material that is of assistance to the defence and that meets the appropriate tests must be disclosed to the defence. As he said, that is the rule of common law disclosure. He referred to the ex parte Lee case, which is helpful in this respect. With those few points, I am very happy to support the order.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for his careful consideration of the order, informed of course by his own experience as a magistrate. He is quite right that the question of a plea is not simply a binary one or an automatic process at a particular juncture. People change their minds, and it is important that their right to do that is respected by the procedure rules and that we do not become too much a servant of process, at the risk of in any way jeopardising the important choice that a defendant has. Of course, it is important to stress in that context that defendants, whatever their intended plea, are entitled to know the case against them. They receive that in the form of the initial details of the prosecution case. Under the proposed arrangements they will receive that information earlier.
This is about disclosure of unused material. However, as I have endeavoured to stress, defendants are still entitled through the ex parte Lee case to the disclosure of material by common law which might potentially assist them. If, for example, a witness had a previous relevant conviction or had refused to give a statement, the police would have to reveal that before or at the first hearing. Such information is vital for the defence in making a bail application—quite apart from anything else—and the amended code reminds the police of the importance of making such disclosures even in a guilty plea case.
The noble Lord asked what would happen if an expected guilty plea did not materialise. In those circumstances the appropriate certificate must be prepared and served as soon as possible. The procedure is outlined in paragraph 6.4 of the code, which embraces the possibility quite reasonably and sensibly suggested by the noble Lord. Experience tells him that defendants sometimes get cold feet for one reason or another.
The importance of the order is that the defendant will be protected by this process. Important material which may assist will still be disclosed, but not a considerable amount of unused material which would have no relevance to a decision or to the outcome or strength of a case. Such material would simply slow up the process, causing additional expense and inconvenience, not only to the court but, importantly, to the defendant.
This order meets the desire to streamline the process —the transforming summary justice programme. It means that there will be fewer hearings but none the less protects the defendant and his or her freedom to choose whether to plead guilty or not guilty.
Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 (Disclosure of Revenue Information) Regulations 2015
Motion to Consider
My Lords, these regulations represent the sixth occasion on which the data sharing powers in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 have been used. They are designed to meet demands for the development of a single official house price index, as well as work being taken forward by the Census Transformation Programme to improve population and housing statistics. Statistics on house prices are of key importance to policymakers, including those setting interest rates, carrying out economic analysis and developing housing policies. Statistics on population and housing underpin resource allocation, policy formulation, decision-making, research and outcome monitoring across the public, private and voluntary sectors.
The feasibility work undertaken by the Office for National Statistics has provided the basis for identifying the information that is needed for research and analytical purposes. The data will be taken from information collected by valuation officers and held by the Valuation Office Agency for the administration of council tax. The information required for each residential property in England and Wales includes the following: the address of the property, the date of allocation to a council tax band, the date of the last inspection by the Valuation Office Agency, and property attributes such as total floor area and number of rooms. These details are required to create, for the first time, a single official house price index and to support the programme of research for the census and future provision of population statistics in England and Wales.
The ability to take forward work on a single official house price index will satisfy requirements identified by the National Statistician and provide a better basis for understanding and monitoring changes in house prices. The new index will be able to represent the prevailing market price of residential property at completion of sale, measure both house prices and house price inflation based on the price paid for transacted properties, have UK coverage, provide a consistent index to enable trend analysis, offer robust sub-regional estimates, and provide comparable estimates for subsets of transactions or properties.
Access to data on residential properties will contribute to the comprehensive programme of research, testing and evaluation being taken forward as part of the Census Transformation Programme. It is anticipated that the data will be used for the following purposes: to help develop an address register; to replace or supplement characteristics information traditionally collected in the census such as statistics on type of accommodation, number of rooms and central heating, and to produce new statistics such as information on the age of buildings.
The 2021 census will be online first. The address register will be central to a successful operation. The physical attributes of properties such as floor level and type of use will be invaluable in building the address register. Census statistics provide objective evidence to support decision-making processes and funding allocations across the public, private and voluntary sectors. For example, housing data from the census play a part in prioritising approximately £4 billion of annual capital spend by local authorities on housing. Furthermore, planning decisions on housing are frequently underpinned by the use of census data to ensure that optimal decisions are made based on local need.
In accordance with Regulation 4 of the instrument we are debating, the information may be used only by the Statistics Board, which is now referred to as the UK Statistics Authority, for its statistical functions. The ONS is committed to safeguarding all the data it uses to carry out its statistical functions, and perhaps I may assure noble Lords that full account has been given to specific statutory obligations, including those in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007, the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Human Rights Act 1998. A privacy impact assessment for this proposed data share has been published. This confirms that the proposed disclosure is lawful and will not breach any statutory requirements in respect of the processing, transfer or handling of the required data. In all cases, the ONS complies with government standards for data transfer and handling. No data will be transferred to the ONS until both the Valuation Office Agency and the ONS are satisfied that appropriate arrangements have been agreed and confirmed in a data access agreement.
I hope that the need for and benefits of the proposed regulations are clear, and for those reasons I ask the Committee to support and accept them. I beg to move.
My Lords, I must thank the Minister for that. I tried very hard to get hold of the Statistics Board to ask it to send me information and completely failed to get anything from it, so I am delighted by the clarity with which he explained these regulations. This is a slight but sensible measure, which we are happy to agree to. As he said, it will allow Valuation Office Agency to pass house price data to the UK Statistics Authority. We are supportive of any better use of government data because we understand the benefits that can bring. We certainly need to be able to draw upon as accurate a picture as we can of the housing market, partly because of the incredibly important role it plays in the lives of a huge number of people but also because the market can be dysfunctional.
I shall ask the Minister a couple of questions. He answered quite a few as he was going through, but there are a couple left. In his introduction, he mentioned some of the safeguards about privacy. Clearly, data anonymity is crucial. The last thing homeowners want is any data being allow out there which would enable them to be identified. Although the Minister said there would be agreements, I was not quite clear what will be in them that will ensure that the information remains anonymous, particularly if the data sent over, when combined with other data, could become more identifiable than when they exist on their own. Perhaps he will be able to confirm that there is absolutely no way in which anyone’s data could be identifiable.
We are aware of the importance of the housing market to the lives of people who live in the homes and to the macroeconomic health of the nation. We know, as I am sure the Minister knows, that housebuilding is probably at its lowest level since the 1920s. If we are returned to office, we are committed to increase housebuilding to 200,000 a year, so we will need to get this right before we build all those new houses. We are therefore very interested in the supply side of the housing market. One of our criticisms of the Government’s current measures is that they have been aimed at the demand side of the housing market rather than supply side, which might fuel inflation rather than housebuilding. Therefore, these attempts to get better data on existing housing have to be to the good because they will help a concentration on the supply side of housing.
We also need, as I think the Minister suggested, government policy to keep a close eye on supply and prices. The future housing market turning into a bubble and collapsing is something on which we need better data, and I think we probably did not have it at the time of the last recession. It sounds as if this will help us towards that. Indeed, the lack of a definitive official index for house prices has been a problem. We have tended to have to rely on information provided by private companies, such as Halifax or Rightmove, or partial government statistics, so a much better official index will be of considerable use. We note that when the consultation on this measure took place, the majority welcomed the proposal for a single house price index and the clarity it would bring to the use of house price statistics. We agree strongly with that, but perhaps the Minister can say whether other datasets such as the Land Registry’s price-paid dataset will be used alongside this or is it going to be subsumed in it? I think, from what he said, it was going to be subsumed, but maybe he could just confirm that for me.
The Minister also said that this is part of the process of looking at whether part of the census could be undertaken electronically. While I completely understand the idea that this might help the address register for the census, I was slightly less clear on how the details regarding the amount of floor space, if it is unrelated to the number of people living there, were going to play a part in the census. I assume the aim is not to improve the comprehensiveness and quality of the census, but if it is, perhaps the Minister can spell out how those improvements could be made.
The population and housing statistics are obviously subject to an enormous amount of churn so again this index is going to be welcome, though it may have some of the statisticians running to keep up with change. We wish them luck in that. We support the statutory instrument and hope that it will contribute to a more accurate and comprehensive house price index, which will therefore be—as the Minister indicated—of much greater to use to policymakers in the future.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her broad support for these measures. She is absolutely right that these are sensible measures and it is very important—to use her words—that we make better use of data and create an accurate picture. These regulations are designed to ensure that. The noble Baroness is absolutely right to emphasise the importance of safeguards. The data access agreements will specify that the information is to be used for statistical purposes only. The ONS is not authorised to disclose personal information—indeed, that is a criminal offence under Section 39 of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007. The safety and security of personal information is of paramount importance to the Office for National Statistics. It has stringent procedures in place to protect confidentiality and to safeguard the security of personal information on addresses.
As I have said, the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 contains a confidentiality obligation, with a potential criminal sanction for revealing or sharing personal information unlawfully. Anyone found guilty of unlawfully disclosing information will be liable to a term of imprisonment of up to two years, a fine or both. The body responsible is absolutely clear about the need for safeguards, and I emphasised the importance of that in my introductory words.
The noble Baroness also asked about the Land Registry. The Land Registry’s price-paid data will be used in the new index, so it will be subsumed into that. The noble Baroness is absolutely right about formulation of policy. The whole purpose of this is to help us with policy formulation. I am not going to engage in trading statistics on housing, but clearly the housing of people who live in this country is of huge importance, and a range of housing units needs to be available for people around cities and in rural areas. I feel very strongly about rural housing and that villages should continue to be vibrant.
How will all this help and support the census in 2021? Census field operations are underpinned by the address register, with coverage checks and quality assurance. Details of property attributes will inform design and processing arrangements, particularly through requiring the identification of mixed-use properties: for example, obviously, shops where there are also dwellings, flats and other properties with restricted access, and communal establishments such as nursing or care homes.
The noble Baroness asked about the details of floor space and how that will play a part in the census. Details of total floor area will be provided to inform work on the house price index. The size of a property, for instance, influences its price, which is one reason why that was included. I recall from filling in census forms before—if I remember rightly—that the number of rooms has always been part of the census on property and that certain rooms should be included and others not.
I will obviously look at Hansard to see whether there are any outstanding points, but I think that I have covered all the issues raised and I hope that the Committee will agree to these regulations.
Drug Driving (Specified Limits) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2015
Motion to Consider
My Lords, this instrument is being made to include amphetamine with a limit of 250 micrograms per litre of blood in the new drug-driving offence of driving with a specified drug in the body above a specified limit. The new offence was made in the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which inserted a new Section 5A into the Road Traffic Act 1988.
The Drug Driving (Specified Limits) (England and Wales) Regulations 2014 were made on 24 October 2014 and specified 16 other drugs and their limits, and the new offence came into force in England and Wales on 2 March. As noble Lords are aware, the Report on the Review of Drink and Drug Driving Law by Sir Peter North concluded that there was,
“a significant drug driving problem”,
and recommended the new offence and the inclusion of amphetamine. The expert panel, in its report published in March 2013, also recommended the inclusion of amphetamine in the new drug-driving offence. It quoted the Driving Under the Influence of Drugs, Alcohol and Medicines project—the European DRUID project—suggesting that amphetamine represents a medium to high risk of a traffic accident. The DRUID researchers did not find an impairment effect at therapeutic doses, but a negative driving performance could be detected at high doses.
As noble Lords are probably aware, the Government have considered carefully what the appropriate level should be for amphetamine. The expert panel recommended a limit of 600 micrograms per litre of blood if we were to take an approach where the risk of a road traffic collision is most likely to occur. However, while amphetamine has significant medical use, the Government had concerns over the amount of illegal use. The expert panel described it as,
“an illicit substance, a long standing member of the drug scene”.
The approach to setting a limit for this drug was therefore not as clear cut as for others. A zero-tolerance approach to illegal drugs such as cannabis and cocaine was taken, while a road safety risk approach was taken to drugs more associated with medical use. The Government therefore used the consultation in summer 2013 to seek further views and evidence on what a suitable limit might be.
Many of the responses proposed a limit much closer to the zero-tolerance approach, so we reconsulted on a limit of 50 micrograms per litre of blood from December 2013 to the end of January 2014. However, we received several objections from the medical profession to the proposed limit. In particular, specialists in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, more commonly known as ADHD, for which amphetamine is a recognised treatment—many have told me that it is a primary treatment—argued that the condition affects the ability to concentrate, and while patients represent an increased road safety risk when unmedicated, they are just as safe as the general population when taking their medication. These respondents backed up their arguments with research. Their concern was that prescribers and ADHD patients must not be discouraged from prescribing medication or taking it. We recognise that adult ADHD often goes undiagnosed or treatment of it is stopped after having it as a child. This represents real road safety risks, which need to be addressed through treatment. We therefore concluded that the proposed limit of 50 micrograms might discourage those with ADHD seeking or continuing with treatment. It is therefore much more appropriate to set a limit that is above the therapeutic range that ADHD sufferers are most likely to be prescribed and below the level of those most likely to be abusing medication.
After holding extensive informal discussions with specialists in ADHD and with the Secretary of State’s honorary medical advisory panel on alcohol, drugs and substance misuse and driving, we have agreed that a limit of 250 micrograms per litre of blood is the most appropriate limit. The advisory panel quoted the analysis of 2,995 blood samples taken between 2008 and 2012 across the UK in suspected drug-driving cases showing that median and average concentrations of amphetamine were 270 and 456 micrograms per litre of blood respectively. The Government have, therefore, concluded from their consultation with the above ADHD specialists and the advisory panel that the level of 250 micrograms would successfully balance the legitimate use of amphetamine for medical purposes against its abuse by those who represent a risk on the road as a result of taking amphetamine.
I recognise that in July and September last year, during the debates on the regulations that specified the other 16 drugs and their limits, the Government indicated that they intended to reconsult on a limit for amphetamine, but given the extensive discussions that we have held with medical stakeholders, we take the view that we have now had sufficient opportunity to consider the views of all of the relevant parties and that conducting a third formal consultation on a limit for amphetamine is no longer appropriate or necessary.
As the new drug-driving offence commenced on 2 March, the Government believe that it is important that amphetamine is added to the list of drugs as soon as possible so that those who abuse amphetamine and who continue to drive and put lives at risk can expect to be caught and prosecuted for the new offence. I acknowledge that there is not a roadside screening device for amphetamine, only for cannabis and cocaine, but should there be any suspicion of the consumption of this drug or any other specified drug, a blood test can be administered and a blood concentration level of above the specified limit will result in prosecution. Specifying amphetamine will create certainty in the market and enable manufacturers to consider research and development of roadside screeners for this drug, which is one of the more prevalent drugs in drug-driving cases. I urge noble Lords to agree to include amphetamine at the limit proposed so we send a strong message that this House, Parliament and wider society will not tolerate those who persist in drug-driving and the threat they pose to other road users. I therefore recommend approval of these regulations. I beg to move.
My Lords, all of us will welcome these new regulations, which my noble friend presents. We know already that there are two patterns; the first is that of those who have been prescribed amphetamine medically, whose level will almost certainly be under 200 micrograms per litre of blood tested; the second is that of those taking illicit drugs, normally in excess of 270 micrograms per litre of blood. Therefore, it makes sense, as my noble friend points out, and as the regulations stipulate, to have a limit of 250 micrograms per litre of blood—below the second measure and well above the first.
On saving lives and reducing road accidents caused by drugs, other recent interventions are also to be welcomed. These include the recent publicity campaign as well as new screening devices for drugs. However, there are still far too many road accidents. As we are aware, a high proportion is caused by drivers between 18 and 25 years of age. Will my noble friend say what action she and her colleagues might be prepared to take? One such, which has proved to work well in Australia as well as in a number of other states, is a restriction on carrying passengers applied to those in their early of years of driving.
Will the Minister also say what plans we have to help raise road standards, both here and internationally? In the World Health Organization, there is now a technical consultation committee on drugs and driving. Might its focus be widened to include drink as well as drugs; and apart from those substances, could international scrutiny be developed to compare notes on all pragmatic measures to help reduce accidents?
In Europe we have the DRUID project, to which my noble friend referred. What has this achieved lately? Which further steps, initiatives and co-ordination may be desirable to improve its results?
I thank the Minister for her explanation of the regulations, which specify amphetamine as a controlled drug for the purposes of drug-driving and sets a limit above which it will be an offence to drive. We support the regulation but I have one or two questions about the Explanatory Memorandum—which, before I go any further, I accept may reveal that I have not understood it.
Paragraph 7.3 of the Explanatory Memorandum says:
“Fewer than 2,200 proceedings were brought in 2013 under the existing section 4 impairment offence, with the proportion of guilty findings from the proceedings at only around 54%. This is compared to the 44,700 proceedings for the section 5 drink driving offence and the 96% proportion of guilty findings”.
However, the Explanatory Memorandum for the Crime and Courts Act 2013 (Consequential Amendments) (No 2) Order 2015, which deals with penalties and was debated on 24 February, contains other figures. I am not clear on this. Can the Minister indicate whether I am comparing apples with apples or apples with pears? Paragraph 7.1 of that Explanatory Memorandum says:
“Fewer than 1,200 proceedings were brought in 2013 under the existing section 4 RTA ‘impairment offence’”.
It goes on to refer to the proportion of guilty findings from the proceedings of being unfit through drugs as being only around 72%, whereas the Explanatory Memorandum for these regulations quotes a figure of 54%. Today’s regulations refer to a comparison of 44,700 proceedings for the Section 5 drink driving offence, whereas the February order said this is compared to the nearly 47,000 proceedings in relation to that RTA offence. I fully accept that I may not be comparing like with like, but I would be grateful if the Minister could comment on the different figures and whether I am making a fair comparison—in which case I am asking why they are different—or whether the figures relate to different issues, in which case it would be helpful if the Minister could explain in what way they differ.
In her detailed and thorough explanation of the background to these regulations, the Minister made reference to the increase in the original intended limit of 50 micrograms per litre of blood to 250 micrograms, and gave the reasons for it. The reasons for it, basically, were to address the point of not discouraging the legitimate use of amphetamine for medical purposes. Bearing in mind the original limit of 50 micrograms, which I think the document says was favoured in a majority of responses, I am not clear about to what extent one would expect an individual’s driving to be further impaired if they were at the new proposed limit of 250 micrograms per litre of blood rather than 50 micrograms. I appreciate that the Minister sought to address this in her introduction, but I would like a bit more clarity.
What I am trying to get at is whether there is not a great deal of difference between 50 and 250 micrograms when it comes to the level at which driving may be impaired or whether, in fact, there is a considerable difference in the effect that it would have on the individual’s driving. Obviously, if it is the latter—I do not know, which is why I am asking the question—the increase to the higher limit increases the risk to other road users, including pedestrians, as well as to the individual himself or herself. Although the Minister sought to comment on the issue in her introduction, I am not sure that the evaluation of the increased risk is dealt with in the Explanatory Memorandum. I would be grateful if the Minister could comment on what effect the increase from 50 to 250 micrograms could have on an individual’s driving. How much more is it impaired while still being within the limit?
The Minister also raised the issue of the further consultation. It would have been the third formal consultation, I think, and was intended for September last year, but it did not proceed on the basis that extensive discussions had already been held with medical stakeholders. So when was the decision not to reconsult on a limit for amphetamines made, as had originally been indicated would happen, and why has it taken so long since September 2014 to bring forward this order? A formal consultation could have been held since then and we could still have this order today, as we are six months on from September 2014.
I think this is being said slightly with tongue in cheek, so no doubt the Minister can take it in that regard, but paragraph 10.2 of the Explanatory Memorandum says:
“The cost will be offset by casualty savings where we estimate 84 fewer fatalities, 331 fewer serious injuries and 843 fewer slight casualties over a 20 year period”.
Those are remarkably precise figures for somebody making an estimate of what is going to happen over the next 20 years. I simply ask the Minister what credibility she attaches to figures that are quite so precise as to what will happen over that period.
One other thing I wanted to do was to ask for clarification as much as anything on Paragraph 8.2, which says:
“The Government informally consulted with the medical community, particularly those specialising in the treatment of ADHD based at Kings College London, regarding what amphetamine blood concentration levels would typically result from legitimate medicinal usage and based on that advice has concluded that a limit of 250 micrograms,
per litre of blood, should be the limit. That does not actually say what answer was given to the question that was asked of the medical community regarding what amphetamine blood concentration levels would typically result from legitimate medicinal usage. What was the specific answer to that question, on which the Government came to the conclusion that the limit should be 250 micrograms? Was the answer 250 micrograms, or was it a different figure to the one that the Government have now fixed the limit at?
My Lords, the Minister gave a very interesting outline to the order and, as usual, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked some very interesting questions. I do not intend to ask any further questions but, purely out of academic interest, it may amuse the Minister to learn that last week I happened to be in the garage of a police traffic centre where they were giving instructions on the use of the drug-screening equipment. I was present for the whole course, and the inspector said that I had passed. He said that each kit cost £16 and therefore that they would not be used very often, because they cost so much. So who knows when they will be used. However, if they are used and they fail, they can still be used under the old legislation.
My Lords, thank you very much. I shall talk through the questions in reverse order, with the latest being freshest in my mind. I can say to the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, that the cost of these screening devices is around £16 or £17—obviously there is some variation in price. He will be glad to know that at this point 35 of the 43 forces have purchased mobile screening devices, with 5,000 purchased in total. He is right that it is more expensive than testing for drink-driving, which costs something around 17p or 18p per device. I think that the normal pattern will be to test for drink-driving but, in those cases where drink-driving is not established as the cause of concern, police forces may well choose—on many fewer occasions—to then do a roadside test for drug-driving, the penalties being identical. They can of course always require the individual to go to the police station for a blood test. Indeed, the blood test is always a necessary step when there is a prosecution. With that kind of gradation, police forces should find this to be an affordable strategy. In fact, the feedback that we have is that they are very pleased to have a tool to help them to deal with drug-driving, which is an issue of very significant concern.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, raised several issues. I think he has heard me speak many times on the issue of precision in forecasts. I do not think that there is any such thing as precision in forecasts, and I sometimes wonder why we do not generally round numbers up, although in this case we did not go to the right of the decimal point. However, a forecast enables people to get in the ballpark, to use an American term, of what we think that the impact will be. That is an important piece of information to include when we do an assessment.
The noble Lord asked why we have not had a third consultation. I am afraid that I cannot tell him the exact date we decided that it would be too frustrating to go ahead with the third consultation. There was a general awareness that, having asked people the same question twice, we were unlikely to get a different answer when we went back for a third time. Informal consultations had been happening on an ongoing basis, making it even more redundant. However, more to the point, as he will know, the offence came into force under Section 5A on 2 March, and going through a round of consultation and then creating a much greater gap before amphetamines came on to the list seemed the greater evil. A third consultation would essentially confirm the information that had already been extensively received. It strikes me that it was a rather logical decision of the kind that government sometimes does not make.
My point was that if the conclusion was reached in September 2014 or shortly afterwards that there was no need for a third formal consultation, why have we waited until now to have this order? The second consultation was apparently conducted between 17 December 2013 and 3 January 2014, in something like six weeks over the Christmas and New Year period, so a further consultation could presumably have been completed in something like a month if it was not being held over Christmas and New Year. That is the bit that I cannot quite follow. It seems to have taken a very long time to conclude that a third consultation was not necessary, yet presumably all the information was available.
My Lords, there is a Division in the Chamber so the Committee will stand adjourned for 10 minutes.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked why we were not at 50 rather than 250 micrograms, what risk there is because we are going with the higher limit and how we got there. Having consulted on these issues twice, it became very evident that there were complex issues involved in setting a limit for amphetamine, more so than with other drugs that we have been working on. If people with ADHD drive unmedicated, and are not therefore trapped by any of these regulations, there is a very high risk that they drive unsafely. That is very much associated with that condition. However, research shows that if they are taking proper medication, they are as safe as the rest of the population. Therefore, it is very important that people with ADHD are entirely comfortable with the idea that they can take their medication and not be excluded from driving and that their doctors know that they can prescribe medication and that those individuals will not be precluded from driving. That was an added degree of complexity in setting these limits.
Is the argument that if one fixes the limit at 50 micrograms, one is liable to be in a situation where the driving of an individual who is sticking to that limit is likely to be more impaired, for the reasons the Minister just mentioned, than if the limit is fixed at 250 and they are driving with, say, 249?
It is only part of the argument because that would be true for ADHD patients. We took the issues back to the expert panel, which clarified that the point at which driving risk becomes significant with amphetamine is 270 micrograms. We did not want to set a line at 270. We wanted to have a little bit of a margin. The medical community felt that doctors could safely prescribe within 250. With 270 defined by the expert panel as the level at which risk would significantly increase, the Government coalesced around the 250 number. Obviously many people looking at enforcement discourage the use of amphetamine at all, and that is one of the attractions of using the lower number. In the process of pursuing all this, we recognised that setting it at 50, which had been one of our early thoughts in this process, was too low. We were not gaining anything in terms of safety, other than the deterrent effect, and we were potentially encouraging wrong decisions by people who have ADHD and need to take medication. They might end up not taking it because of their concerns over the benchmark.
Going back to the expert panel that advised the Secretary of State took a significant amount of time. That is what brought us much closer to this deadline. With the law going into effect on 2 March, it is appropriate for us to come forward with the decision rather than go through a consultation that we have no reason to believe will yield any information that we have not already received in the course of the first two consultations and the informal work that has taken place.
I agree very much that that has been a complicated process. It is difficult to describe and sometimes frustrating to have to listen to, so I apologise for that.
I also have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, that—as always—he has picked up on a genuine typo and error within one of the explanatory memoranda, although I am now uncertain which one it is. We can confirm it later. He was talking about the percentage of convictions. The figure 72% applies to 2013—it is a typo in whichever document that said it was 2012. The figure 54% applied to 2012, so it was a failure to change the date from one document to the other. If he would like, I am happy to ask officials to write to him just to provide some clarification. This has been a very good lesson in the need to double check numbers although I have to say that, given the complexity of this, officials have done some brilliant work.
I have covered the key questions from the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. I now come to those from my noble friend Lord Dundee who raised the question of how to improve road safety standards here and internationally, with drug-driving as an element of that. In the Deregulation Bill we removed some loopholes around drug-driving and drink-driving provisions that allowed people to disregard roadside screening and insist on a blood test, during which time their levels could have changed. Loopholes like that have been removed within by Deregulation Bill.
I have spoken in debates in the House about whether we should be taking further actions to limit the circumstances in which young or new drivers can drive. It has also been a difficult balancing act because access to training, education and jobs frequently requires young people to drive. Indeed, we also want them to participate in the workplace more generally. The direction that we have chosen to go in is that rather than restricting the passengers they can carry or various other kinds of restrictions, we are looking at trialling work going on now with the insurance companies looking at the use of telematics. I can send the noble Lord all the details. As I have described in the House, telematics is a gizmo which sits in the vehicle and communicates with the insurance company to give an ongoing, running assessment of the quality of driving. Is it speeding, is it rough, is it erratic? All those kinds of behaviour can be fed back into the car itself. Anyone looking to purchase insurance and going on to the various insurance websites will find that if they permit telematics to be installed in their car they will in fact nearly always get a much cheaper insurance package. That looks to be the direction. We are trying to verify that there is a genuine relationship between the feedback from the telematics and safer driving. As we get the answers to that, that may well provide us with the direction to go so that we let young people have their freedom but yet have ways of ensuring that driving standards improve.
I am most grateful to my noble friend. I am interested to hear about that process from which, as she points out, sooner or later there will some analysis. That will help us to know what is good about it. Are any other states doing the same or are we the first country to do this?
I cannot properly answer that question. Certainly we are one of the leading countries in telematics. I will be glad to write to my noble friend to cover these issues, which are of interest, significance and importance.
My noble friend Lord Dundee also raised the question of international standards and the role that the Government play through international organisations to impact on those standards. Departmental officials are part of the WHO technical consultation group on drug use and road safety, of which representatives of the DRUID project are a part. This group first met in December 2014 and the WHO now recognises that more needs to be done globally to combat drug-driving. It has informed the DfT that this new offence and our extended THINK! campaign—which I will mention in a safety context in a moment—are excellent examples for other countries. Approximately 20% of countries have no drug-driving offence whereas virtually every country has a drink-driving offence. This offence is not yet internationally accepted.
Our THINK! campaign is targeted particularly at those groups of the population which we know from historical experience are more likely to take the risk of drug-driving—young men, I am afraid—and communicates with them through their chosen media and the way in which it focuses its messaging. We are using that important mechanism of communication so that people know that this is an offence and that they are a risk in that sense, and to help them understand the risks associated with drug-driving.
On the issue of international efforts, comparisons and best practice, the technical committee of the World Health Organization is to do with substances. The DRUID project’s focus may be wider—I do not know. It might simply be to encourage a comparison of notes to reduce accidents in whatever way that can be done. Apart from the DRUID initiative in Europe and the World Health Organization’s international one for substances, there could even be a third process internationally that seeks to bring together representatives from a number of countries to talk through what they think could work best and how there might be convergence. Can my noble friend say what is happening in this way and distinguish between various endeavours?
I think we have exhausted my capacity for guidance. However, these are important issues. My noble friend is right, the international exchange of information is always significant: we learn from others and share what we learn with others. There is satisfaction in being praised by the WHO for the direction that we have taken. I am sure that others will watch this process as closely as we watch their processes. If my noble friend will indulge me, I will follow up with a letter. That will be more appropriate and will ensure that I am not misleading him or leaving out important information.
Perhaps I may establish whether I have understood the point correctly. We support the order and are not opposing it. We have discussed the issue of amphetamine being taken for medical reasons, but do I take it that the Government’s position in relation to people who are not taking it for medical reasons but are taking it illegally is that increasing the limit from 50 to 250 micrograms does not represent a significant worsening of the impairment in the driving of the individual?
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has accurately reflected the circumstances. The advice that we received ultimately from the expert panel after sifting through all the evidence it received is that 270 micrograms per litre of blood moves an individual into the serious risk environment. Therefore, setting the limit at 250 met the test of falling below that level but still allowed doctors to prescribe appropriately to patients with ADHD. We were looking at 50 micrograms but got it wrong. That is why one goes through consultations, to learn and understand. The noble Lord will know that the enforcement community is attracted by 50 micrograms because of its deterrent effect. However, after putting all the pieces together, there is no additional significant risk associated with going from 50 to 250, as we understand it from the expert witnesses.
Committee adjourned at 5.35 pm.