House of Lords
Wednesday, 4 November 2015.
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Sheffield.
My Lords, the Government are committed to moving from a high-welfare, high- tax, low-wage economy to a lower-welfare, lower-tax, higher-wage society. As the Chancellor has made clear, the Government will set out in the Autumn Statement how we plan to achieve the same goal of reforming tax credits and saving the money we need to save to secure our economy while, at the same time, giving help in the transition, including to families with children.
When the leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister a question about this matter this morning, he made reference to increases in the minimum wage and personal tax allowance, due next year. Does the Minister accept that those measures will do little to prevent the 200,000 increase in child poverty figures, forecast by the Resolution Foundation, if the tax credit cuts go ahead? They cannot target support on children and will not, in any case, be of benefit to many of those affected by the cuts.
My Lords, we believe that work is the best way to help children. There is evidence to support the fact that children in workless households do worse than those in working ones. In addition, we are helping families with children. We are doubling free childcare and, under universal credit, we will support the increase to cover up to 85% of childcare costs where all parents are in work, regardless of the number of hours worked. The early years pupil premium provides £50 million in extra funding. We are currently providing free school meals for all infant school pupils in the first three years and we are introducing tax-free childcare from 2017.
My Lords, I thank the Chancellor for listening to the debate on tax credits. Will exemptions be made for the child element within tax credits, particularly in exceptional cases: for instance, where there is domestic abuse in a family with more than three children; where a family with more than two children face the bereavement of the person who is working; or a family where the third child is disabled? I would welcome the Minister’s assurance that the Government are listening to this.
My Lords, I am afraid that I am going to have to disappoint the noble Baroness. The Autumn Statement is when the Chancellor will announce what he is going to do about the transition and what will happen to the tax credit position following the events of last week. It is worth repeating what the Chancellor said.
The noble Lord may not want to hear it but I will tell him anyway:
“We will continue to reform tax credits and save the money needed so that Britain lives within its means while at the same time lessening the impact on families during the transition”.—[Official Report, Commons, 27/10/15; col 177.]
The Chancellor has said that he will set out those plans in the Autumn Statement.
My Lords, does the Minister have an estimate of the number of disabled children whose families will be driven into debt as a result of the planned tax credit cuts? Will he give the House an assurance that he will put pressure on the Chancellor to mitigate these quite appalling consequences in his Autumn Statement?
My Lords, I am not quite sure what the planned tax credits are now, which is why we will wait until the Autumn Statement. However, I can say that for disabled people we have until now protected those benefits related to the additional costs of disability and we will continue to do so.
My Lords, is it not shown by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission that 7 million children will suffer as a result of the cuts in tax credits and that the income of 45% of working families will go down? This is not a constitutional crisis, it is a humanitarian crisis, for which the savage and shameful policy of the Government is solely responsible.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that, following an exchange in the debate we had last week, his noble friend, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, sent a communication to my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours? I have permission to quote that communication, in which the noble Earl says:
“The plans in the draft regulations would mean that, from April 2016, a family with children who are in receipt of child tax credits would receive those tax credits elements at the same rate of payment as currently applies in respect of those children”.
How does the Minister justify that as a true and fair view? What is paid in terms of tax credits reflects not only the various elements—the building blocks—but the net effect of applying the income threshold and the taper. The former has been dramatically lowered and the taper accelerated. So why will the Government not come clean? This does mean that there will be reductions in child tax credits and working tax credits.
My Lords, the noble Lord is referring to a television programme with David Dimbleby. The PM said that,
“child tax credit, we increased by £450”.
The presenter asked:
“And it’s not going to fall?”.
The PM confirmed:
“It’s not going to fall”.
The award has not changed. It is £2,780 and it was before.
My Lords, my noble friend’s question slightly moves away from tax credits on to the welfare Bill, which this House is going to consider in a couple of weeks’ time. We are working to end child poverty, and until now, the talk about poverty has been caught up in the old mindset of an arbitrary limit, and this needs to change. The existing statutory framework, which was set around four income-related targets, is flawed because it focuses the government action on tackling the symptoms, rather than the root causes, of child poverty. This new system will focus on the root causes of poverty: there will be two new measures—educational attainment and the number of children in workless households—plus various non-statutory life-chance indicators. The Second Reading of the welfare Bill is on 17 November.
The Government believe that our best schools should play a leading role in training new teachers, so that they are fully equipped to succeed in the classroom. Many schools are actively choosing to work closely with universities in delivering teacher training, recognising the benefits that they can bring. We are committed to ensuring that the teaching profession can attract and retain the very best people. We now have more, better-qualified teachers in England’s classrooms than ever before.
I thank the Minister for her reply, and I know that this is not her area of direct responsibility. However, she must be aware that we have an unstable teacher supply framework, that there are going to be shortages of teachers in some regions in both the short term and the medium term and that the unstable income stream for higher education might mean that some universities—particularly those in the Russell Group—will opt out of the connection with teacher education altogether. Does she really think that that adds up to a good policy for this Government?
I thank the noble Baroness for her question. She is right that we are moving to a school-led teacher training system, but that involves collaboration between universities and schools. A teacher-led or school-led system does not mean a university-excluded system, and we are seeing great collaboration whereby, for example, 70% of School Direct places are actually being delivered by universities. It is improving the link between schools and universities, but also putting in charge of teacher training those who know best what they want in their schools—the head teachers.
My Lords, in light of the proposal to make the EBacc compulsory, and of the welcome inclusion of statutory foreign languages at key stage 2, what specific steps do Her Majesty’s Government plan to take to reverse the shortfall of modern language teachers, which last year was 21% according to DfE figures? With the falling numbers of students taking a modern language degree, does the Minister agree that the supply chain for future languages NQTs needs urgent attention if government policies are going to be successfully implemented?
We certainly recognise that teacher recruitment is challenging. As the economy grows, graduates are in ever-increasing demand, and there are certain subjects where this is particularly challenging. That is why we are taking a broad approach, offering training bursaries and salary grants to the best graduates and career changers, putting schools at the centre of teacher training and trying to tackle the problems that teachers tell us bothered them the most once they were in posts, which were unnecessary workloads and poor pupil behaviour. We recognise that there are challenges ahead, but we also recognise that teaching is an extremely attractive profession, and is very fulfilling for those graduates who decide to take it up.
I reassure the noble Baroness that this year we recruited the number of primary school teaching graduates that we wished to. That is very good news. We are increasing bursaries in a number of key subjects. From next year, there will be £30,000 bursaries for graduates who are going into teaching in some of the most difficult subjects.
The new national teaching service is looking to help those schools that are struggling to recruit teachers in some of our most challenging areas. By 2020, we intend and hope to recruit and relocate 1,500 outstanding teachers to help underperforming schools. They will relocate for up to three years to help to improve those schools and to offer inspirational teaching to young people in those areas.
My Lords, will the noble Baroness agree that it is as important to retain teachers once they have been recruited as it is to recruit them in the first place? I think she will, because she mentioned it already in one of her answers. Does she think that the current system of inspection and monitoring of teachers is conducive to their retention, and to their growing and developing into the kind of creative and innovative teachers that we need in the future?
I entirely agree with the noble Baroness that teacher retention is crucial. I put on record that some of the scare statistics on the number of teachers leaving the profession are simply untrue. In fact, the latest figures show that 90% of teachers are still teaching after their first year. More than three-quarters are teaching after five years. This shows the dedication of our teachers and the great rewards that teaching can bring.
My Lords, is it not a reality that, when we speak about adequately trained teachers, we are talking about a profession where 70% of teachers are not professionally trained? I do not want to decry those who, some after taking Mickey Mouse degrees, move into teaching and spend a year there when they cannot find anything else to do—there are many good people who have moved—but there are many failures who move in through the one-year supplementary course. Our primary schools are being abandoned by professionalism.
I am afraid I do not recognise the figures that the noble Lord used. In fact, 96% of teachers in the state sector are qualified. It is also right that head teachers have the chance to ask a RADA-trained actor to teach some drama to their young children, or perhaps have Premiership sports coaches come and teach PE. We want teachers who inspire young people. Of course they have to be trained and have the skills to do it, but anything that encourages a love of learning is something we should welcome in our schools.
My Lords, between May 2005 and 2010, the number of British nationals employed fell by 455,000. Since 2010, the number of employed British nationals has risen by 1.1 million.
I would be delighted to tell my noble friend. Since 2010, the number of women in work has risen by 920,000. The female employment rate has increased by 3.3 percentage points to a record level of 68.8%. By contrast, between 2005 and 2010, the employment rate for women fell by 1.3 percentage points.
My Lords, however good those figures are, is the noble Baroness aware that the black cloud of unemployment hangs like a shroud over thousands of families, and the whole community, in Redcar on Teesside? Is she aware that this is a huge site of eight square miles, with a blast furnace as big as St Paul’s Cathedral, and that it will take a great deal to bring it back into use after the facilities have been demolished? There is a site next door—also of eight square miles—with another steelworks whose future is also in doubt. Down in Ebbsfleet in Kent, the Government have given £200 million to rehabilitate the site. Will they look at the figure given for the Redcar site of £80 million, £20 million of which is going on redundancy payments, to see if it can be increased, and bring together a task force to do something for that community?
My Lords, we understand that the position in Redcar is terribly distressing for all the families involved, and the Government are already addressing this issue. There are measures already in place to help the workers affected to retrain. The Government are committed to full employment, and there are record numbers of people in work. We have had tremendous success in helping people back into work and we will continue to do that for Redcar and around the country
My Lords, the Minister did not mention that over a third of the new jobs created between 2010 and 2014 were people becoming self-employed, and that those jobs tend to be less secure and lower paid. Will the Minister therefore confirm that self-employed people will not benefit from what the Government call the new living wage—the higher minimum rate for the over-25s—and yet will still lose through the changes to tax credits? What are the Government doing to compensate them?
My Lords, self-employment is a very important route into work for many people, particularly many women, and we have set up, under Julie Dean, an independent review of any barriers to self-employment that may exist. We will also continue to work with the noble Baroness, Lady Mone, in supporting start-ups for disadvantaged communities.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the problems of the steel industry have been greatly exacerbated by our inability to deal with dumping from China because of our membership of the European Union and the huge levies imposed on high-energy businesses as part of the green agenda, promoted by the Liberals with such vigour?
Does my noble friend agree that the great success this Government have had in creating new jobs goes wider than simply the economy? Does she also agree that rising employment is the only permanent way to tackle poverty, that it is the best way to keep families together, and that there is a distinctive, powerful and important moral reason for continuing this Government’s successful economic policies?
I certainly agree with that. The Government are on the road to achieving their target of full employment. The employment rate is at a record high, and there are nearly 740,000 vacancies in the economy, which is much higher than before the recession. We therefore have a record to be proud of in this regard.
My Lords, perhaps I can assist the Minister by giving her the opportunity to acknowledge that the Labour Government actually introduced the minimum wage—let alone anything else—and when we introduced it, we were told it would finish off industry because companies would not be able to afford it. However, I want to push her on other things she has been talking about. I agree that economic opportunity is at the core of good family and community life. Redcar, which we have been discussing, is in the north-east, which still has the highest unemployment in the country and will suffer, I suspect, more from changes in the tax credit regime—whatever they are—than anywhere else in the country. The Government are therefore piling on top of each other lots of things that will bring my region real problems. What are she and the Government going to do to tackle them?
My Lords, as I said, the Government are rolling out their policies, which have created and will continue to create new jobs at a record rate. The northern powerhouse will be powerful in ensuring that the benefits are spread more widely. As to the initial point, we were talking here about the national living wage rather than the minimum wage.
Criminal Justice: Transgender People
My Lords, criminal justice agencies are mindful of their duties under the Equality Act 2010. In particular, the National Offender Management Service policy on the care and management of transsexual prisoners states that prisoners are normally placed according to their “legally recognised gender”. The guidelines allow, however, some room for discretion and in such cases senior prison management will review the circumstances with relevant experts to protect the prisoner’s safety and well-being, and those of other prisoners.
My Lords, Tara Hudson—a woman, after six years of gender reconstruction—was originally imprisoned at HMP Bristol, a tough prison for 600 men, causing her great distress. She was moved to a women’s prison only after the judges considering her appeal suggested that the Prison Service reconsider. How can prison allocation be so insensitive to transgender offenders, particularly in the light of the Minister’s Answer? Will his department ensure that in future, if a transgender defendant is at risk of a custodial sentence, full and careful thought will be given to allocation before sentence rather than after placement?
I am slightly surprised that the noble Lord has commented in such detail on Tara Hudson; he will be aware of the obligations under the Data Protection Act and the Gender Recognition Act 2004, which place restrictions on the disclosure of information relating to prisoners. As noble Lords will be aware, it is the policy of the Ministry of Justice and its executive agencies never to discuss individual cases. However, without breaching any of the obligations under those Acts, I can assure the House that she is being held in an appropriate environment and is receiving the care that she needs.
My Lords, I agree entirely with the Minister on the approach to anonymity but, in this and other cases, there is deep concern about treatment within the criminal justice system. There are, however, good works being undertaken, such as at Her Majesty’s Prison Stafford. Will he reassure the House that there is ongoing training and awareness-raising of the issues of transsexuality, particularly when aspects of the criminal justice system are outsourced?
The noble Lord makes an important point. There is an emphasis in the prison officer training, which has been extended in its length and its content refreshed, on respecting the needs and rights of each individual prisoner in their care. There is a component of the mandatory training that addresses the Equality Act and the nine characteristics protected under that legislation, of which gender reassignment is one. Probation officer training has a consistent emphasis on meaningful engagement with individual offenders to support their rehabilitation.
My Lords, if the key issue is legal recognition, why, in the care and management of transsexual detainees for immigration purposes, does the Home Office manual state that it is appropriate to place transsexuals in the estate of their acquired gender,
“even if the law does not recognise them in their acquired gender”,
and why can that not be applied to the Prison Service as well?
As I indicated, the Prison Service tends to—correctly, I suggest—allocate prisoners according to their legally recognised gender, but there is a discretion to respond to the individual circumstances of a case, which is often as a result of a thorough risk assessment involving both the prisoner and other prisoners. Often, a multiagency panel will be involved. It is indeed the policy of NOMS to make sure that these matters are dealt with sensitively.
My Lords, returning to what the noble Lord, Lord Marks, said, the Minister seemed to suggest that this happens at the point of prison, which really is too late. Surely, when a person is leaving court, they need to be in the right van to go to the right prison. Should the decision not be taken earlier, before they leave court? Can he assure us that the staff there are properly trained and that the decision is taken at the right point?
The noble Baroness makes an important point and the National Offender Management Service is currently looking at ways to facilitate the proper recording of this information through the introduction of an equalities self-declaration form to be completed by all defendants who are adjourned for the preparation of a pre-sentence report. These details are very difficult to obtain while adopting appropriate sensitivity and recognising the obligations under the Gender Recognition Act.
The Gender Recognition Act is generally considered to be working well. It is not something to be undertaken lightly. Gender recognition certificates are granted by the gender recognition panel and I understand that there is no great criticism of the process. It is an important step forward from where the law was reluctant to recognise change of gender hitherto.
Does the Minister agree that, while all the issues he has put forward are very practical and implementable, the problem is that the prison system is bursting at the seams? We have more than 86,000 prisoners and staff numbers have been cut year on year. How will officers prevent the homophobic attacks that have been occurring a lot in prisons, and how will they support the systems the Minister has put forward to help?
Our prison officers face a great many challenges and they perform their duties with admirable resolve and skill in often challenging circumstances. They have duties to all prisoners but particular duties to those who may be undergoing gender recognition. They are particularly aware of those challenges and will treat those prisoners with appropriate sensitivity.
My noble friend Lord Patel raised an important issue about overcrowding in prisons. Under those circumstances, the sensitive consideration of to which prison a prisoner is to be allocated is made much more difficult simply because there are not enough vacant prison places for the allocation to take place.
In deciding on the appropriate allocation, there must sometimes be a period of hiatus. Where it is unclear what physical and anatomical risks an individual may present in their contact with other prisoners, they are often held in a secure environment away from other prisoners while their circumstances are clarified, so that a considered decision may be made after advice has been received from appropriate professionals.
Bank of England and Financial Services Bill [HL]
Order of Consideration Motion
That it be an instruction to the Committee of the Whole House to which the Bank of England and Financial Services Bill [HL] has been committed that they consider the bill in the following order:
Clauses 1 to 13, Schedule 1, Clauses 14 to 16, Schedule 2, Clause 17, Schedule 3, Clause 18, Schedule 4, Clauses 19 to 30, Title.
Energy Bill [HL]
Clause 7: Contracting out of functions to the OGA
1: Clause 7, page 5, line 12, leave out “This section” and insert “Subsection (2)”
My Lords, before I address the government amendments, I thank the Bill team, my Whip, my noble friend Lord Younger, and the ministerial team in the department for their help and support. I also thank all those who have scrutinised the Bill. I am extremely grateful to noble Lords for their participation in our proceedings in discussions in the Chamber and indeed outside the Chamber, which have been very helpful.
Although I know that there are points on which some of us do not agree, the debate on the content of this Bill has greatly benefited from the wisdom, experience and insight that a number of noble Lords, sitting on all Benches, have brought to deliberations. I also thank specifically the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, for her contribution to the debate and wish her well in her future endeavours as she steps down from the Opposition Front Bench. She has shown incredible commitment and great brio and has made many very valid points, and I am sure that she will continue to do so from the opposition Benches.
This is an important Bill and although, as I say, we have not agreed on key elements—particularly the early closure of the renewables obligation for onshore wind—we have agreed on many issues, including the need to tackle the threat that climate change constitutes to the environment, our security and our economic prosperity. The Government will decarbonise the economy and will do so cost-effectively.
We have had a substantial measure of agreement on carbon capture and storage. If nothing else, I think I can take great credit for bringing together my noble friends Lord Ridley and Lord Deben and Members of all sides of the House on the importance of carbon capture and storage. I am most grateful in particular to the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, for agreeing to head a parliamentary advisory group on carbon capture and storage. This will provide advice to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd, within 12 months of the Act coming into force. I would feel less guilty if I did not know that if I am taking him away from anything, it is from orienteering with his family in his spare time. I know just how busy and able he is, so I am most grateful for that.
Government Amendment 1 is a minor and technical amendment to Clause 7, which reflects an error that has occurred as a result of other government amendments made on Report. The purpose of Clause 7 is to ensure that where functions are contracted out to the Oil and Gas Authority by relying on Section 69 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994, they may be contracted out for a period exceeding 10 years. Clause 7 also provides that Welsh Ministers may enter into a contract with the Oil and Gas Authority, authorising that body to exercise the functions of Welsh Ministers.
Clause 7(1) limits the effect of the rest of the clause to circumstances where the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 has conferred functions on the Oil and Gas Authority. However, the subsections inserted by our amendments on Report are intended to deal with a set of circumstances where that Act does not apply—that is, a power for Welsh Ministers to enter into an agreement with the Oil and Gas Authority authorising that body to exercise the functions of Welsh Ministers. With that in mind, subsection (1) should apply only to subsection (2) rather than to the whole of the clause. This amendment corrects that error.
Government Amendment 2 is a minor and technical amendment to ensure that the levy to fund the Oil and Gas Authority is not payable in respect of functions that it carries out under agreement with Welsh Ministers. This is achieved by inserting wording into the list of matters in Clause 14 that the Secretary of State must ensure are not covered when making regulations on the levy. This provides consistency with the current provision which excludes the levy from being charged in respect of functions carried out under Section 69 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994, for example on behalf of Scottish Ministers. It is also consistent with the approach taken towards fees under Clause 13, where the Oil and Gas Authority will not be able to charge fees for the exercise of functions that it is authorised to exercise either on behalf of the Scottish Government or by virtue of an agreement with Welsh Ministers.
Government Amendment 4 updates the Bill’s Long Title to ensure that it complies with the parliamentary convention that Bills should leave this House and move to the other place in a proper state. I beg to move.
My Lords, I do not wish to detain the House other than to respond to the opening remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, and to express gratitude and appreciation for his willingness to engage during the passage of the Bill. On many occasions he was left in an unfortunate position which was not of his own doing—for example, amendments coming in late and assessments not being available—but he has engaged, certainly with my party, in a most courteous manner. Although we were not able to agree on the earlier closure of the onshore wind renewables obligation, our discussions were nevertheless very useful and have no doubt paved the way for further discussions when the Bill reaches another place and comes back to your Lordships’ House.
The amendments the Minister has just moved are technical and sensible updating measures, but very much appreciated. The first Part of the Bill implements the proposals of the review by Sir Ian Wood, which we were committed to doing when in coalition government. I welcome the fact that this is now taking shape in statutory form, and thank the Minister for his engagement with the Bill.
My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for the way he has conducted the debate inside and outside the Chamber. It has been a genuine pleasure to work with him.
When the Bill arrived, it appeared relatively simple but did not seem to flow from the understanding we now have of the energy trilemma: having to balance the need for reliable, resilient energy systems with affordability and decarbonisation. The Bill focused almost exclusively on extraction of fossil fuels—something we will continue to do—but contained nothing about the other elements of the trilemma, other than two short clauses on onshore wind. I hope that, following the scrutiny it has received, we now have a better balanced Bill, due in part to the contributions from all sides of the House but also to the way the Minister has engaged, so I thank him for that.
This is going to be my last official opportunity to speak as the shadow Minister, so I take this opportunity to thank all my colleagues who have worked with me not just on this Bill but on the previous one—this in fact is my second energy Bill. I particularly thank Catherine Johnson, of our research team. This has been a tricky Bill to work on, with lots of detail and condensed timescales, and she has dealt with everything we have thrown at her admirably. I also thank my Whip, the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, all my colleagues on the Front Bench and my colleagues in the shadow DECC team in the other place.
Everyone knows that energy and climate change are passions of mine, and I have found it an absolute privilege to work on two significant pieces of legislation. We have not always agreed and we have differences, but there is a common core aim: to decarbonise our economy, as the Minister has reiterated. That, we know, is certain, and we seek to do so cost-effectively and with a reliable outcome. The challenge is in working out exactly how to achieve that, and the Bill now is testimony to the subtleties involved in that complex challenge. It has been a great privilege to be part of that remarkable process.
I shall be moving on, although not very far. I shall return to the Back Benches and follow the passage of this and subsequent Bills that will address this topic, because this is a multi-decadal challenge and no country has all the answers. We are at the forefront of trying to work through some of these difficult issues. As the Minister said yesterday:
“There is no silver bullet”.—[Official Report, 3/10/15; col. 1591.]
There is no blueprint we can simply pick up and follow. We are inventing the rules as we go. We will make mistakes and will have to revisit issues, but I hope that this House in particular will do so in the spirit of shared endeavour, as we seek to decarbonise cost effectively and to create a reliable system. I hope that we will continue to revisit this issue, improve policy and, most importantly, send clear signals to the outside world, bringing investors with us, maintaining investor confidence and moving forward as a country, united in this endeavour.
The amendments the Minister has introduced are technical—I am particularly pleased to see that the Long Title is changing to reflect the more balanced approach to the energy trilemma we are grappling with—and I am very grateful to him for tabling them.
My Lords, perhaps I may say how sorry I am to hear that the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, is leaving the Front Bench; it is news to me. I have learnt a lot from listening to her. I do not agree with everything she says, but her grasp of climate issues is unquestioned and she has added a great deal to the debate.
I also thank my noble friend for the way he has conducted this complex debate. I hope that the Bill goes to the other place with the clear message from our debates on it, and from yesterday’s debate on electricity resilience, that the whole of our energy policy needs rebalancing. Not that one necessarily wants a lot more energy Bills to come through your Lordships’ House, but I hope that this is just the beginning of a move to a better balance than the current position, which has led to some quite serious muddles. The noble Baroness mentioned one of those last night: that, in our attempts to establish good capacity three, four and five years out, we appear to be ending up with a lot more diesel engines, which is the opposite of what was intended. That arises from the lack of balance between subsidies for wind, which we discussed, and the unwillingness of people to invest in new combined cycle gas turbines.
That is not strictly connected to the government amendments, but I thought I should register my admiration of the amazing grasp that the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, has of this very complicated subject.
My Lords, I think I speak on behalf of all my colleagues on the Back Benches who have sat through debates on the Bill when I say that we, too, will miss the enthusiasm and inspiration of my noble friend Lady Worthington on the Front Bench, but we know that she will still be with us in different ways, and we look forward to that.
As I am on my feet, I take this opportunity to ask the Minister to explain. Perhaps I have missed it, but I am still not exactly sure that he has explained when and how the Government will respond to the decision of the House of Lords on the former Clause 66, so that the uncertainty in the industry can be lifted. I hope that he will give us some indication of when and how the Government will respond when he replies.
My Lords, first, I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, for his most kind comments. It was a pleasure working with him and his colleagues, as it was with the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington. They were not difficult colleagues to deal with on the Bill, and I am sure that it is in many respects a better Bill than it was.
I also thank my noble friend Lord Howell for his comments and echo what he said about the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington. I am not sure that I can echo what he said about more energy Bills—I think I heard a thud from the Bill team behind me when he said that, as they thought of another energy Bill coming down the tracks—but we are looking at crafting a fresh approach on energy policy. This is a fresh Government, so you would expect that. At the moment we are in the middle of a spending review, but we are very conscious as a ministerial team of the importance of crafting a vision on energy policy bearing in mind the three issues that we need to address in the trilemma which is at the heart of our policy.
In response to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, we responded immediately in a statement. The democratic House of Commons will look at it. I am not a Member of the House of Commons, and it is a matter for the House of Commons. As I made clear, we regard this as a manifesto commitment and all noble Lords will agree that the elected House will express its will and the matter will come back to us in due course.
The Minister is not naive; I have worked with him before he became a Minister and I know that he has a lot of experience and knowledge of these matters. He knows that whatever is put to the House of Commons will be put to it by the Government, and he is a member of the Government, so he must have some idea what they propose and how it will be dealt with.
My Lords, I cannot make it any clearer. It is very clear what we are proposing. It was what we proposed to this House and it is what we will be proposing to the other House, as a Government. It is then for the House of Commons to give its view as the democratic Chamber on that issue. I beg to move.
Amendment 1 agreed.
Clause 14: Levy on licence holders
2: Clause 14, page 10, line 3, at end insert “or an agreement under section 7(3) of this Act”
Amendment 2 agreed.
3: After Clause 70, insert the following new Clause—
“Carbon capture and storage strategy
(1) It is the duty of the Secretary of State to—
(a) develop, promote and implement a comprehensive national strategy for carbon capture and storage (CCS) to deliver the emissions reductions required to meet the fifth, and subsequent, carbon budgets at the scale and pace required;(b) develop that strategy in consultation with HM Treasury, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Oil and Gas Authority and other relevant stakeholders including the CCS industry; and(c) have that strategy in place by June 2017 and report to Parliament on the progress of its implementation every three years thereafter.(2) The strategy provided for by subsection (1) shall, amongst other things, include—
(a) the development of infrastructure for carbon dioxide transport and storage;(b) a funding strategy for implementation including provision of market signals sufficient to build confidence for private investment in the CCS industry;(c) priorities for such action in the immediate future as may be necessary to allow the orderly and timely development and deployment of CCS after 2020;(d) promotion of cost-effective innovation in CCS; and(e) clarification of the responsibilities of government departments with respect to the implementation of the strategy.”
My Lords, I, too, would like to pay tribute to the Minister himself for the courtesy and patience which he has displayed in dealing with the myriad matters that have been raised. I join the other speakers in expressing my gratitude to him. Equally I would like to offer my best wishes to the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington. She will certainly be missed. Her wisdom and her comments—sharp and to the point—will be missed as well.
The issues to which Amendment 3 is addressed remain important, but it is a tribute to the Minister’s persuasive legal tongue that in the time between Report and now he has persuaded me that the same objectives can be substantially achieved by a different route. Although I prefer the approach that was proposed in the amendment, I will be happy to withdraw it.
My Lords, I also add my thanks to the Minister for the way in which he has dealt with us all through some tricky times, as is always the case with energy Bills in my experience. I also pass on my best wishes to the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington. We will certainly miss her knowledge and her boundless enthusiasm, whatever time of night we are here. We will certainly miss that.
I am really pleased, having heard the opening comments of the Minister, and the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, that the Government are taking seriously the issue of carbon capture and storage. I am not sure that we felt that that was the case when we began this Bill, so I am very pleased that the Minister has been able to move other minds as well on this. I hope that we will hear in due course very good outcomes from the proposals he has made.
My Lords, I add a final word on carbon capture and storage before the amendment is withdrawn. My noble friend Lord Oxburgh has been second to none in bringing home the huge significance of commercial CCS: this would be the way in which the fossil fuels could continue to be burnt without CO2 emissions. That would be a great reassurance. We can look forward to the affordability, reliability and decarbonisation of our energy system.
I hope I will not strike too sour a note in noting that we learned in earlier parts of the debate that the amount of taxpayers’ money being set aside by the Government for the promotion and experimentation and development of CCS was £1 billion—that is, £1,000 million. That is the most enormous sum of money. It is rather more than the entire budget of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office—and all directed, not to the generality of decarbonisation, but to one technology. It is a sobering thought, if my memory serves me right, that under the Labour Government before 2010 there was an intention to make that figure £3 billion or £4 billion. These are vast sums.
All I would add is the thought, as this Bill goes on its way, that we at least should remember not only the importance of the climate problem—the importance of achieving affordable and reliable energy and electricity resilience—but we should think about cost. We should always keep in mind that the costs are there and have got to be weighed all the time against the objectives we are trying to achieve. A billion pounds is a lot of money in anybody’s currency, in any language, and at any time—particularly at times when we are struggling in several other areas of public policy to find money desperately to help extremely worthy causes.
With that marker to this discussion of CCS, about which we have learned as much as we have given in the debates—it is a fascinating subject—I would just end by saying: please let us remember costs as well as benefits.
I hesitated whether to enter into this debate but, on the basis of the last remark, I think that I would like to. I am certainly not rising to my feet to oppose carbon capture and storage, only to make the comment that it has proved an elusive goal, despite significant amounts of time and effort spent on research and development. I make no more comment than that.
In this complex area of energy, I seek an assurance from the Minister on two points. On North Sea oil and gas, we have already lost something like 75,000 jobs in the past year, in the situation where the oil price has halved and the number of new wells—well, you could probably count them on the fingers of two hands. There are still something like 350,000 to 450,000 jobs across that sector, including the supply chains. I would welcome an assurance from the Minister that we will not lose an important focus on doing what we can to rescue a vitally important part of the industry.
We will still be reliant on fossil fuels for a significant period of time. I have a significant interest in gas; we know that we will require it for something like the next 30 or so years. We rely on most of it from overseas sources now, with a significant amount from a pipeline from Norway, and we are still reliant on Qatar for something like 20% of our supplies, which come in a liquid form—so it is not the ideal situation in terms of how it is produced.
That brings me back to the question of the importance of ensuring that we have secure energy supplies and make the most of developing those that occur naturally in this country—of course, I refer to fracking. I would welcome some comment from the Minister that we understand the importance of developing this part of our energy policy. If we take into account the recent situation at Redcar, we know that the cost of energy is an important factor in our ability to produce things such as steel, and for other vital industries. I welcome a ministerial response on that.
I join my colleagues in wishing our Front Bench spokesperson, my noble friend Lady Worthington, all the best for the future.
I thank my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, for tabling the amendment and for pursuing this aspect of our discussions to this point. I am very grateful to hear from the Minister what I think will be a very effective way forward in the creation of an expert group that will report to the Secretary of State. That is a very welcome development. It seems to be the season of paying tributes, and I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, who, not just through the passage of this Bill but for many years has been a fantastic champion of CCS and the group of technologies that falls within that. I know that he is stepping down as the chairperson of the CCSA fairly soon, but he has played a pivotal role in bringing this technology to the minds of policymakers and decision-makers. I thank and congratulate him for that.
It is right that we have a brief discussion about CCS in this debate today, because of the Redcar situation, as my noble friend pointed out, which illustrates how important it is that we get our energy and industrial strategy right. There is a risk to dragging our feet and there is an urgency involved in sorting out our policies on how we are going to not just maintain but actively attract industrial players back to the UK to reindustrialise our nation.
We are home to brilliant engineers and bright graduates, and we have a skilled workforce. We have and need the infrastructure that requires us to have a vibrant primary industry. There are ways in which we can rekindle that industry, but it will not be through trying to push back the tide of green policy, trying to deny that climate change is happening or blaming green taxation for our woes; it will be the reverse. It is like a judo role. We have to go into this subject in a positive way and not just accept that we are going to decarbonise but do so with conviction. If we do that, if we embrace the fact that of course there are engineering solutions that will allow us to continue to produce steel but without the emissions, we can go forward with a positive investment agenda, attract European money and external investment, and persuade Tata that this is the country where it should be developing the steel production plants of tomorrow, now.
We can do that, because we can act without fear of falling foul of state aid. With every rescue package we try to put together that denies the reality of climate change or seeks to bail out companies that are failing for global trade reasons, rather than anything to do with carbon pricing, we will fall foul of state aid. If, however, we embrace the fact that we need inward investment into zero-carbon and low-carbon production, Europe will be on our side. We can then draw down funds, apply our own funds, and recycle funds out of our carbon pricing policies into an inward investment programme.
We have a policy tool almost readily designed to do that, in the form of contracts for difference. As they were introduced in the Energy Act 2013, contracts for difference were designed for power investment and power projects. They can be adapted. We can create a contract for difference, strike off the carbon price and make it available to industrial investors. That would derisk the investment and give a guaranteed income to people, so that they could see for certain that they will be able to come to the UK and that at least one of the factors that controls whether or not they will be profitable will be taken care of. If we move with the agenda of Europe towards decarbonisation and take CCS seriously, that is the way out of this problem. To do anything else would simply be to stick our finger into a dyke that will burst: there is no escape from the inexorable move towards a low-carbon agenda. If we want to maintain our industrial activities and investment, we have got to have technologies that allow us to do that with low carbon—and that means CCS. It does not just mean CCS on its own; it can be combined with electrification, once we have a low-carbon power system. But CCS is going to play a huge role.
As we have discussed previously in this debate, by CCS we do not just mean one technology. It is very similar to renewables; a whole group of technologies falls under that category, some of which produce a usable product. Carbon capture and utilisation is also grouped within this. I am very much looking forward to the creation of this expert group. We could not have chosen a better chairperson for that endeavour, and I hope that I might be able to play a part in my new role as a Back-Bencher. We can explore these issues; we have an opportunity here and should grasp it. We are almost on our own in Europe in understanding how important CCS is and having a populace that supports us in that. Germany needs it but cannot deliver it. The only other countries that are close to us in terms of understanding are Holland and Norway. We can work with them to form a North Sea alliance to make this happen. There is huge potential: the UK is blessed in terms of its ability to embrace this technology. I hope that that endeavour, led by the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, will lead to concrete changes in policy, a new approach, with new vigour and energy, and ultimately to UK plc becoming once again the home of industrial innovation and engineering excellence that will lift people in those communities currently suffering job losses, give them hope for the future and bring all the social and economic benefits that come from that.
I shall not detain the House any longer, although I am tempted because this is one of the topics I like to talk about a lot. I wish the Minister well in the remaining stages of the Bill and in the associated regulations and legislation that will come his way. There is a lot more work to be done. Some of the topics we have touched on, including the recalibration of the capacity mechanism, are urgent and outstanding areas of work. We look forward to hearing more about the CFD allocations in the autumn. There are big challenges outside the UK that the Minister and his department will be grappling with. Paris is upon us, and I am looking forward to that being a historic move forward in the world starting to take this issue seriously and moving forward on a united front. Europe has a huge part to play in this.
My final word is that on energy policy the best way to engage with Europe is to engage positively with new ideas, take our vision to Europe and persuade it that our technology-neutral, all-of-the-above, focus-on-least-cost way is the right way to do this. We have some great tools and great examples of policies that work. We must work with Europe and persuade our colleagues that ours is the right path. We should not seek to disengage. We can benefit hugely from Europe, and it can benefit from us. I hope that that will be the basis on which we continue. For now, I say thank you and goodbye.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh. As has been indicated, the noble Lord is the right person to chair this group and I have no doubt that he will do so in the very fair way that he approaches all these proceedings. The remit of the committee has been worked through with the noble Lord, and it is for him to decide who goes on to it, but I am sure it will be done on a cross-party basis. I very much hope that the noble Baroness can be a part of it, but that is entirely a matter for the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh.
I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, for her kind comments. I agree with my noble friend Lord Howell that a lot of money is being put into carbon capture and storage. That is because the department regards it as a top priority. We have made sure that that is reflected in the Bill. I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Young, and I am glad he has come in with words of support for the main aim of the Bill which is to maximise economic recovery in the North Sea. That remains very much the thrust of what the Wood review sought to do, and it is an important part of moving us to a low-carbon future. We cannot get there instantly and we are going to have to depend on gas. It is far better that it is British gas with British jobs and all the safety features and so on that we ensure through the North Sea. It also provides us with an historic opportunity for CCS. We have already invested £130 million in this since 2011, and we are committed to spending a lot more during this Parliament. We already have two projects—White Rose and Peterhead—moving forward. CCS is a proven technology. There are 14 plants globally and a further eight under construction.
The noble Baroness’s contribution was a typical tour de force. It is absolutely right that we have to see how we can provide incentives for the steel industry to decarbonise, but I am sure she recognises that the trilemma is never more evident than in dealing with the steel industry. I know because I have been at meetings where a lot of MPs of all parties, including the Labour Party, have been pressing us to do something about the energy price. It is a factor, but it is certainly not the only factor. The noble Baroness is right that there are many other factors in play and we have to move towards a low-carbon solution. I am sure that she understands that we have to do what we can through Europe to see how we can provide assistance, but she is right that this is not the sum total of what needs to be done. I believe that much more can be done on the procurement front. In the department, we are looking at what we can do about public procurement with the much more relaxed rules that are now adopted in Europe. I think the UK has been the first country to have its rules cleared through this new procedure.
We have an opportunity to ensure that there is much more procurement of British steel. We also have some very good object lessons to which we can look. Crossrail, for example, has, I think, a supply chain that is 97% British. We are endeavouring, as a Government, to see what we can learn from that. Of course, there is also the National Infrastructure Commission headed by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, which I am sure will be looking at issues of procurement.
There is much that can be done. Decarbonisation is important. That is now a feature of this Bill through CCS, but of course the Government have to grapple with the everyday issues, which we touched on yesterday, of affordability and security as well as sustainability. It is a massive challenge. As I said yesterday, there is no silver bullet, but I am most grateful to the noble Lord for saying that he will withdraw his amendment. We very much look forward to his report and the advice that he will be providing to the Secretary of State and the ministerial team. I know that he will be meeting the Secretary of State in short order when we can organise that to ensure that we talk through this procedure.
I should say that the letter that I sent to the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, and the terms of reference are deposited in the Library, but I will also endeavour to ensure that they are sent to noble Lords who participated in the debate.
My Lords, I had not expected this amendment to give rise to the little discussion that we have had. It has of course reminded me that I ought, once again, to have declared my interest as president of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association.
I respectfully remind the noble Lord, Lord Howell, with whom I so commonly agree on these matters, that CCS is expensive, but if we turn our thoughts back to the report of my noble friend Lord Stern, the sum which is committed to CCS is a tiny fraction of the sums that will be at risk if we do not. It is not nice to have to spend money, but it is the lesser of two evils.
I conclude by thanking noble Lords on all sides for the kind remarks that they have made and by endorsing the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington. It is essential that we be seen in Europe and, more widely, abroad to have embraced the low-carbon agenda, and that we are not being dragged, screaming and kicking, into that area, because we will have much more influence in that case. Indeed, it will be much better for British industry, for which there will be many opportunities if we get this technology right, and get it right quickly.
A succession of Governments has not been, shall I say, all that dextrous in handling CCS in this country. I think that, had things been handled a little differently, not just by the previous Government but by the Government before that, we would not be in this situation today. However, we are where we are, and so we must press on with enthusiasm and good grace. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 3 withdrawn.
In the Title
line 8, after “power;” insert “to make provision about the crediting to and debiting from the net UK carbon account of carbon units;”
Title, as amended, agreed.
A privilege amendment was made.
Bill passed and sent to the Commons.
Draft Investigatory Powers Bill
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in the House of Commons earlier today.
“I should like to make a Statement about the draft investigatory powers Bill and our commitment to providing a new law consolidating and updating our investigatory powers, strengthening our safeguards, and establishing a world-leading oversight regime.
We live in a digital age. Technology is having a profound effect on society. Computers are central to our everyday lives. Big data are reshaping the way we live and work. The internet has brought us tremendous opportunities to prosper and interact with others. But a digital society also presents us with challenges. The same benefits enjoyed by us all are being exploited by serious and organised criminals, online fraudsters and terrorists.
The threat is clear. In the past 12 months alone, six significant terrorist plots have been disrupted here in the UK, as well as a number of further plots overseas. The frequency and cost of cyberattacks are increasing, with 90% of large organisations suffering an information security breach last year. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre estimates that 50,000 people in this country are downloading indecent images of children.
The task of law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies has become vastly more demanding in this digital age. It is right, therefore, that those who are charged with protecting us should have the powers they need to do so, but it is the role of government and Parliament to ensure that there are limits to those powers.
Let me be clear: the draft Bill that we are publishing today is not a return to the draft communications data Bill of 2012. It will not include powers to force UK companies to capture and retain third-party internet traffic from companies based overseas. It will not compel overseas communications service providers to meet our domestic retention obligations for communications data. And it will not ban encryption or do anything to undermine the security of people’s data. The substance of all of the recommendations by the joint scrutiny committee that examined that draft Bill has been accepted.
Today’s Bill represents a significant departure from the proposals of the past. Today, we are setting out a modern, legal framework that brings together current powers in a clear and comprehensible way. It is a new Bill that provides some of the strongest protections and safeguards anywhere in the democratic world and an approach that sets new standards for openness, transparency and oversight. This new legislation will underpin the work of law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies for years to come. It is their licence to operate, with the democratic approval of Parliament, to protect our national security and the public’s safety.
This Bill responds to three independent reviews published earlier this year: the first from the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament; the second from David Anderson QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation; and the third from the Independent Surveillance Review convened by the Royal United Services Institute. All three reviews made it clear that the use of investigatory powers is a vital part of protecting the public. They all endorsed the current powers available to the police and law enforcement agencies as both necessary and proportionate, and they all agreed that the legal framework governing those powers needed updating. While considering those reviews, we have engaged with technical experts, academics, civil liberties groups and communications service providers in the UK and overseas. I also met charities supporting people affected by the crimes that these powers are used to investigate.
Copies of the draft Bill will be available in the Vote Office. Our proposals will now be subject to further consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee of Parliament. A revised Bill will then be introduced to Parliament in the spring, where it will receive careful parliamentary scrutiny.
As the House knows, the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act contains a sunset clause which means that legislation will cease to have effect from 31 December 2016. It is our intention to pass the new law before that date.
This Bill will govern all the powers available to law enforcement, the security and intelligence agencies and the Armed Forces to acquire the content of communications or communications data. These include the ability to retain and acquire communications data to be used as evidence in court and to advance investigations; the ability to intercept the contents of communications in order to acquire sensitive intelligence to tackle terrorist plots and serious and organised crimes; the use of equipment interference powers to obtain data covertly from computers; and the use of these powers by the security and intelligence agencies in bulk to identify the most serious threats to the UK from overseas and to rapidly establish links between suspects in the UK.
It cannot be right that, today, the police could find an abducted child if the suspects were using mobile phones to co-ordinate their crime, but if they were using social media or communications apps they would be out of reach. Such an approach defies all logic and ignores the realities of today’s digital age. So this Bill will also allow the police to identify which communications services a person or device has connected to—so-called internet connection records. Some have characterised this power as law enforcement having access to people’s full web browsing histories. Let me be clear: this is simply wrong. An internet connection record is a record of the communications service that a person has used, not a record of every web page they have accessed. So, if someone has visited a social media website, an internet connection record will show only that they accessed that site, not the particular pages they looked at, who they communicated with or what was said. It is simply the modern equivalent of an itemised phone bill. Law enforcement agencies would not be able to make a request for the purpose of determining, for example, whether someone had visited a mental health website, a medical website or even a news website. They would be able to make a request only for the purpose of determining whether someone had accessed a communications website or an illegal website or to resolve an IP address, where it is necessary and proportionate to do so in the course of a specific investigation. Strict limits will apply to when and how those data can be accessed, over and above those safeguards that apply to other forms of communications data, and we will ban local authorities from accessing such data.
I have announced today our intention to ensure that the powers available to law enforcement and the agencies are clear for everyone to understand. The transparency report that I am publishing today will help, and copies of that will also be available in the Vote Office. However, there remain some powers that successive Governments have considered too sensitive to disclose for fear of revealing capabilities to those who mean us harm. I am clear that we must now reconcile this with our ambition to deliver greater openness and transparency. So the Bill will make explicit provision for all of the powers available to the security and intelligence agencies to acquire data in bulk. That will include, not only bulk interception provided under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and which is vital to the work of GCHQ, but also the acquisition of bulk communications data, relating to both the UK and overseas.
This is not a new power. It will replace the power under Section 94 of the Telecommunications Act 1984, under which successive Governments have approved the security and intelligence agencies’ access to such communications data from communication service providers. This has allowed them to thwart a number of attacks here in the UK. In 2010, when a group of terrorists was plotting attacks in the UK, including on the London Stock Exchange, the use of bulk communications data played a key role in MI5’s investigation. It allowed investigators to uncover the terrorist network and to understand its plans. This led to the disruption of its activities and successful convictions against all the group’s members.
I have also published the agencies’ handling arrangements relating to this power, which set out the existing robust safeguards and independent oversight. These make clear that the data do not include the content of communications or internet connection records. The Bill will put this power on a more explicit footing and it will be subject to the same robust safeguards that apply to other bulk powers.
The House will know that the powers I have described today are currently overseen by the Interception of Communications Commissioner, the Intelligence Services Commissioner and the Chief Surveillance Commissioner, all of whom are serving or former senior judges. This regime worked in the past, but I am clear that we need to significantly strengthen it to govern how these powers are authorised and overseen in the future. So we will replace the existing oversight with a powerful and independent investigatory powers commissioner. This will be a senior judge, supported by a team of expert inspectors with the authority and resources to effectively, and visibly, hold the intelligence agencies and law enforcement to account. These will be world-leading oversight arrangements.
Finally, I turn to authorisation. Authorising warrants is one of the most important means by which I and other Secretaries of State hold the security and intelligence agencies to account for their actions. In turn, we are accountable to this House and, through its elected representatives, to the public. As the House knows, the first duty of government is the protection of the public, and it is a responsibility this Government take extremely seriously. While there was a good deal of agreement in the three independent reviews I have referenced, all three reached different conclusions on the question of who should authorise interception warrants. The Intelligence and Security Committee supported authorisation by a Secretary of State; David Anderson said judges should carry out the authorisation; and RUSI said the authorisation of warrants should have a judicial element, but also recognised the important role of the Secretary of State. I have considered the very good arguments put forward by the three reviews. My response is one that I hope the House agrees will provide the reassurance of both democratic accountability and judicial accountability.
As now, the Secretary of State will need to be satisfied that an activity is necessary and proportionate before a warrant can be issued. But in future, the warrant will not come into force until it has been formally approved by a judge. This will place a double lock on the authorisation of our most intrusive investigatory powers: democratic accountability, through the Secretary of State, to ensure that our intelligence agencies operate in the interests of the citizens of this country; and the public reassurance of independent, judicial authorisation. This will be one of the strongest authorisation regimes anywhere in the world.
For parliamentarians, we will go even further. The Bill will for the first time put into law the Prime Minister’s commitment that in any case where it is proposed to intercept the communications of a parliamentarian—including Members of the House of Commons, Members of the House of Lords, UK MEPs and the Members of the devolved legislatures—the Prime Minister would also be consulted.
The legislation we are proposing today is unprecedented. It will provide unparalleled openness and transparency about our investigatory powers. It will provide the strongest safeguards and world-leading oversight arrangements. And it will give the men and women of our security and intelligence agencies and our law enforcement agencies, who do so much to keep us safe and secure, the powers they need to protect our country.
I commend the Statement to the House”.
I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in the Commons earlier today on the draft investigatory powers Bill, which the Government intend should receive Royal Assent before the sunset clause in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 comes into effect at the end of next year. An important stage in the consideration of this Bill will be undertaken by the pre-legislative scrutiny committee and its findings will, I am sure, be awaited with considerable interest.
We have also had a number of different reports on this issue in the last few months including from, but by no means only from, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, the Intelligence and Security Committee, and the review convened by the Royal United Services Institute. All three of those reports supported an overall review of the current legislative framework for the use of investigatory powers and the replacement of legislation such as the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
The Anderson report was commissioned on the basis of an opposition amendment when Parliament was asked to legislate very quickly to introduce the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014. We argued then that it was the right time for a thorough review of the existing legal framework to be conducted as we, and others, no longer felt that the current arrangements were fit for purpose. Fast-developing technology and the growing threats we face internationally and domestically have left our fragmented laws behind and made the job of our police and security services, to whom we all owe a considerable debt of gratitude, harder.
We support the Government in their attempt to update the law in this important and sensitive area, particularly since the Statement appears to indicate that the Government have listened to at least some of the concerns that were expressed about the original proposed legislation put forward during the last Parliament. However, we hope that this Statement and the draft legislation does not prove to be a bit like some Budget speeches where it is only afterwards that some of the detail proves to put a rather less acceptable gloss on aspects of some of the changes and measures proposed.
Although it is becoming something of a cliché, the need is to secure the appropriate balance between the requirement to safeguard national security and the safety of our citizens, and the requirement to protect civil liberties and personal privacy, which is surely one of the hallmarks of a democracy compared to a dictatorship. The extent to which the proposals set out in the Statement, and in the draft legislation, achieve that difficult balance is clearly going to be the subject of much discussion during the consideration of the Bill. However, the Statement indicates stronger safeguards than were previously being proposed, including in the important area of judicial authorisation, and it appears as though in broad terms that difficult balance may be about right. We will examine carefully the detail of the Bill and where necessary seek to improve the safeguards to increase the all-important factor of public trust.
The proposals set out today do not of course relate just to national security. They also have relevance to preventing serious and abhorrent crimes and apprehending those who commit them, including murder, major fraud and child sexual exploitation. In that regard, can the Minister confirm that the far-reaching powers of content interception will be used only for the most serious crimes, as applies under RIPA? The Statement indicated that the detailed web browsing of individuals will not be accessible, which we support, but will the Minister set out precisely what internet activity of an individual will be accessible without a warrant?
Clearly, vulnerability of information has gone up the agenda of public concern in light of the attack on TalkTalk. Since data retention and bulk storage were referred to in the Statement, what steps do the Government intend to take to ensure the security of bulk storage of data by public and private bodies?
The Statement referred to the change of approach on encryption from the possible ban previously mentioned by the Prime Minister, and reference was also made to communication providers and legal duties. Are the Government satisfied that they can make any such legal requirements stick against some of the largest and most popular online names, many of whom have headquarters overseas?
The Statement also referred to the protection of communications for parliamentarians. Will that protection also apply to people communicating with parliamentarians, whether on personal matters or on providing information? What protection arrangements will there be for sources of information used by journalists? The Statement said that, if it were proposed to intercept the communications of a parliamentarian, the Prime Minister would also be consulted. What in this context does “consult” mean? Does it mean that the Prime Minister would have to give his or her agreement?
The Statement also addressed the issue of authorisation, and set out a two-stage process which is clearly intended to address the twin points of accountability to Parliament on the one hand and sufficient independence from the political process on the other in order to build trust—an issue referred to by David Anderson QC in his report. What will be the powers of the judges involved in the authorisation of warrants process in view of the reference in the Statement to a warrant being “formally” approved by a judge, and will judges have to sign off warrants in all cases? Will the information made available to the judge in order to make his or her decision be the same as the information made available to the Home Secretary? Will the criteria against which the judge will make a decision be the same as the criteria against which the Home Secretary makes her decision, or will the judge have a different remit? Who, or what body, will appoint the judges who will be involved in the authorisation of warrants process? How long is it expected to take to go through the double-lock authorisation process outlined in the Statement, and what will happen if there is an emergency requiring immediate authorisation of a warrant?
One of the key themes of the report by David Anderson was that a core objective for the renewal of legislation concerning investigatory powers ought to be public trust from all sections of our community in the use of those powers by government agencies, since public consent to intrusive laws depends on people trusting the authorities to keep them safe and not to spy needlessly on them. That in turn, as David Anderson said in his report, requires knowledge, at least in outline, of what powers are liable to be used, and visible authorisation and oversight mechanisms in which the wider public can have confidence.
The Bill will go through its stages in the Commons before coming to this House. It is, of course, a matter for the other place to determine, but one can only express the hope that a Bill of this importance will have received full and proper consideration before it gets to this House, although I am sure there will be no lack of willingness in this place to make up for any deficiencies in that regard and to ensure that the powers being sought are necessary and proportionate in relation to the issues and potential dangers they are intended to combat and address.
My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made by the Home Secretary in the other place. Clearly, we would like to be reassured by the Home Secretary’s claim that the draft Bill is not a return to the draft Communications Data Bill 2012, which the Liberal Democrats in the coalition Government quite rightly blocked, and from which this Government now appear to want to distance themselves.
There are some clear and very welcome changes proposed, including judicial authorisation of interception warrants and a promise not to interfere with encryption, but we must look very carefully at the detail of what is being proposed, particularly in relation to what the Home Secretary calls, “internet connection records”. Clearly, there has been a great deal of concern about communications service providers storing everyone’s web browsing history and handing over this information to the police and the security services. While the Home Secretary says that the proposed Bill would not allow that, I will probe very gently whether that is the case, so as to dispel concerns that this is just smoke and mirrors.
Intuitively, the Home Secretary must be right that if the police can use mobile phone data to find an abducted child, they should be able to do so if criminals are now using social media or communication apps instead of cellular data. Our concerns are: first, whether this is technically feasible; secondly, whether it is technically feasible without prohibitive costs to communications service providers; and, thirdly, whether it is possible without the risk of disproportionate intrusion into innocent people’s privacy, whether by the forces of good or by hackers such as those who breached TalkTalk’s security, as the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned.
Talking to experts, I was told that communications service providers would be unable to tell the police or the security services whether someone had used the internet to communicate, as opposed to just browsing, without storing content. This requires billions of pounds of hardware investment, and even then it may not be possible to tell the difference between browsing and communication. Determined suppliers of applications that enable people to communicate covertly could disguise internet communication as passive browsing, for example. Will the Minister say whether the Government know that it is technically possible for internet service providers to provide a record of the communications services a person has used without a record of every page they have accessed? What would be the cost to communications providers? Has a risk assessment been undertaken of the possibility that, having stored sensitive personal information, that information might be accessed unlawfully?
Finally, in 2005 the police, backed by the then Labour Government, asked for a power to detain terror suspects without charge for up to 90 days—a power that the security services did not ask for and that Parliament, quite rightly, rejected. Will the Minister also confirm whether the requirement to store internet communication records has come from the police alone or from the police and the security services?
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for his broad welcome of this. He is right to point to the antecedents of this whole process. It rests very much in a cross-party approach. We recognise the seriousness of the problems we face. This legislation is important to see in a context. Although it is very different from the draft communications data Bill in 2012, it is part of a long string and timeline of argument and debate that we have had. All of the recommendations in the report of my noble friend Lord Blencathra’s Joint Committee on that Bill have been accepted here. More than 200 recommendations were made in the three reviews to which the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, referred. They are also reflected in the draft Bill. He is absolutely right on that.
I turn specifically to the questions that the noble Lord asked. He asked whether the serious crime threshold will still be there. The answer is yes, absolutely. Warrantry will be undertaken in the same way as it currently is. There is no change in that. Bulk storage of data is a critical issue currently being discussed with the communications service providers. That covers some of the points that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, raised. I will come back to that. We are in constant dialogue with them. My noble friend Lady Shields, who is the Minister for Internet Safety and Security, plays a crucial role in that dialogue, as did Sir Nigel Sheinwald, who produced his report last year. That work with the industry is ongoing.
In respect of parliamentarians, there was the Wilson doctrine in 1966, which was about wire-tapping. I do not want to have a whole debate about that but it is quite interesting to go back and look at what the Wilson doctrine actually was: effectively a requirement, as I understand it, for the Prime Minister to make a statement when communications had been intercepted, at a time when it was appropriate for national security to allow him to do so. That additional element—requiring the Prime Minister to be consulted—is a very real safeguard. In terms of the appointment of judges, we are in dialogue with the Ministry of Justice, as would be expected, and also with the Lord Chief Justice, to ensure that the appointments process is done correctly and we identify the specific skills that we are looking for in the team of judges. We anticipate that about seven judges—judicial commissioners—will be required.
On the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, about social media, what we are really getting at here—what the police and the security services are saying—is that wireless telephony, in the space of just five years, has gone from a position where a mobile phone was the way in which people communicated, to one in which they now use Skype, WhatsApp and other social media. A third of calls are made through internet service providers, and everything suggests that that proportion will increase. That is why the argument for going for the internet records—specifically which app or site they were using to communicate—is so important.
The noble Lord’s question quite rightly referred to the fact that when David Anderson did his review he said, “If the case was made”. The noble Lord is right to pick up on that point: we discussed it a lot. That is why the operational case for the powers that was put forward by the police is also being published today. It is available on the website, but I can make sure that copies are available in the Printed Paper Office, if that is helpful.
In regard to the costs of doing this, an impact assessment accompanies the Bill. That puts the cost to the industry at about £174 million over 10 years. Those costs, and the impact assessment, will be precisely the types of detail that the process of pre-legislative scrutiny should thrash out and test. I hope that it will do so.
My Lords, I start on a rather personal note by saying to my noble friend how pleased I am—I think that the House will be too—that he is still in the job that he was doing so well before the last election. The House knows the care and consideration that he gives to this extremely difficult issue. Those of us who have tried to accelerate the process to get to where he is trying to get to now recognise the tremendous efforts that he made at that time.
I think that the House had better be ready for a pretty busy July and October, because the interest in this Bill is going to be massive. If we have a joint scrutiny committee of both Houses, then it goes to the Commons and then comes to the Lords, I think that the end of the summer is the earliest we can expect to see it here. My worry all the way through has been about the delay this involves and the risks facing this country. I was struck by the fact that two speakers on the Front Benches opposite both referred to TalkTalk, as though this was an interesting new development illustrating a new problem. I wonder what else may have happened before July and October that will condition our thinking about the range and number of threats that we face. I hope that I am not being too pessimistic, but we know that this is an extremely dangerous world.
I support the introduction of judicial authorisation, but, as somebody who used to sign a number of these warrants in my executive capacity as Secretary of State, the judges will, without question, need help in the early stages in understanding some of the background issues about national security with which they may not initially be familiar.
I am grateful to my noble friend. Of course, I recognise the work that he undertook, not only as chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, which led a lot of the work on this area, but thinking back to those heady days earlier this year when we were taking through the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, which is now on the statute book. He is right about the urgency. DRIPA has a sunset clause of December. Sometimes I think that the House is at its best when its mind is focused. I think there is a general consensus that we need to get this in place so that those powers continue to be available and that they are strengthened and made more accountable. I believe the timetable that has been set out is quite achievable but it will require a lot of focus.
My Lords, I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord King, about the Minister. I am very glad that he is here. He has heard all the arguments before; he is familiar with the pressure from people who have been involved in these sorts of operations. The issue that the House will have to be absolutely clear on is the matter of trust. Do the public trust the idea that these data about internet access are safe? The worst thing that could happen is that those data could be penetrated and leaked. When we and the various committees come to consider this, that aspect of the security of the data that are being retained by the state or the internet service providers will be crucial in defining whether or not the public trust what the Government, the agencies and the police are doing. Without that public trust, we fail.
The noble Lord is absolutely right, of course, and brings his wealth of experience to this area. That is why David Anderson was absolutely right when he titled his report, which has been so influential on our thinking, A Question of Trust. He said that that went to the heart of it. It is also worth noting that, on page 33 of that report, David Anderson reflected some opinion poll data, which showed that there was a very high level of public trust when it came to prioritising,
“reducing the threat posed by terrorists and serious criminals”—
71% supported the initiatives that were being taken. However, we cannot take that support for granted. The transparency and openness of the process through this stage of the legislation will be important in strengthening it.
My Lords, I think it is necessary that we take the new powers and I broadly welcome the additional safeguards that the Minister has outlined, but can I ask him specifically about the process of authorising interception warrants? Just like the noble Lord, Lord King, I have had responsibility for signing these warrants in the past, and I would like to know why the Minister and his colleagues in government have felt unable to accept the recommendations of the Intelligence and Security Committee in this regard. I believe that issues of national security are properly matters for Ministers, and I am not entirely sure that it makes sense to ask the judges to stand in the shoes of Ministers when it comes to important decisions about national security. Far from this being a double lock, it is quite clear from what the Home Secretary has said in the other place that in future it will be judges, not Ministers, who decide whether or not these warrants in relation to national security matters are going to be brought into effect. I am not persuaded that that is the right decision.
In many ways, we are starting from similar positions. The noble Lord believes that the people who are accountable to the public for the decision, if it goes right or wrong, should be the ones who sign the paper. However, it was very clear through the process of the reviews, which we have listened to, and the other work that previous committees have done in looking at this matter that the level of public confidence would be strengthened if there was a judicial element to it. If there were an imminent threat, the Home Secretary would retain the right to be able to issue the warrant herself, but it would be subject to a judicial review within five days. That ability is there and the two-pronged approach is probably about the right level, considering where the public mood is at this time.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for his kind remarks about the Joint Committee I was privileged to chair four years ago. I think we were the first to point out that RIPA was not longer fit for purpose. It is clear from the Home Secretary’s Statement, from glancing at the section headings in the Bill and from looking at the adoption of the Anderson report and the other independent reports, that this Bill is a far cry from the original Bill that we scrutinised. To me, the crucial thing is that any extraordinary powers we grant to the security services and the police are not wrapped up and hidden in some obscure clause so that we are not quite sure what we are voting for, but are set out clearly so that Members in both Houses have a chance to vote for or against them as the case may be. That transparency should reassure the public that we are giving the security services and the police the appropriate powers, approved by Parliament.
Will the Minister consider a couple of additions I have spotted at the moment? I think we need a technical advisory committee that will look rapidly for new technological or internet gizmos or whatsits and be able to recommend to the commissioners that the Bill needs to be amended. Then we need something, such as the super-affirmative procedure, to amend the Act rapidly. Otherwise we will be in the same position as with RIPA, which gets older and older and is not updated all the time. We need those changes, I suggest.
My noble friend is right, but that might not be necessary. I appreciate that the Bill has only just been published and is 300 pages long, but it has been worded as far as possible to allow for future proofing of the legislation. My noble friend Lady Shields plays an important role as a Minister looking at this area with her immense technical knowledge. I personally have benefitted from that knowledge in preparing for the Statement. A final point is that we have a plethora of different powers spread across different bits of legislation and a key driver of the Bill is that it is a great opportunity to bring them into one place so that they can be subject to that kind of scrutiny. I think that that is another element that we will strengthen along the lines of what my noble friend proposed.
My Lords, I, too, welcome the continuity and the expertise that the Minister brings, as well as his charity fundraising. Perhaps I may just pick up on a point that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, touched on: what exactly will the judicial powers be, and what evidence will the judges have? It was suggested today that the judge will be able to reject only on judicial review principles—that is, to ensure that the procedure was correct—but will not be able to look at the substantive evidence available to the Home Secretary. Will the Minister please clarify that? Secondly, and continuing a point that my noble friend Lord Paddick made, what confidence do the Government have that all ISPs can maintain the security of data?
In terms of the judicial role, the judge will have sight of the same information as the Secretary of State currently has—which is the justification. Of course, the judge will be able to subject that justification to testing and review in terms of the process and content and ask them to go back and get more if required. That is certainly what the Secretary of State does at present. Those elements will be important in strengthening that part of the process. Again, however, that can be fleshed out in the pre-legislative scrutiny.
My Lords, perhaps I may remind my noble friend and the House that there are four parliamentarians who would have wished to engage in these debates but are not able to do so: Airey Neave, the Reverend Robert Bradford, Tony Berry and Ian Gow. I hope it will be remembered by all Members of this House that they have no human rights whatever. They were all extinguished by a lack of the intelligence to prevent their murder.
My noble friend is absolutely right. We talk a lot about liberty and security but in order to enjoy our liberty we must first have security. That is what this is about. I mentioned in the Statement that six terrorist attacks have been thwarted by the outstanding work of our security and law enforcement services over the past year alone. The transparency report which I am publishing here today shows that some 299 people have been arrested in the past year on terrorism-related offences. It shows that the threat is real and the powers are necessary.
My Lords, although I agree with the noble Lord, Lord King, that it is a delight to have the Minister in his post, I would have preferred to be in that post myself after the election—but that is a different issue.
This is not before time. It has taken a long time, but we should all celebrate today, as this is good news. We hopefully get rid of the old RIPA, which is discredited—not surprisingly, because it is so old—and of emergency legislation which we passed only because we got ourselves in such a muddle about this. Here is a real opportunity for us to set a gold standard in the ability to protect our people and ensure that we can track these ghastly people who wish to kill us and do us harm, but also to pay due regard to the privacy of the individual. With pre-legislative scrutiny of all the issues we have been discussing and a White Paper, and with sufficient time, there is no reason why we should not be able to do this. We have to realise that we must not delude ourselves: there are people out there who wish to kill us. We know they want to kill us, and there are a large number of them. This is a real threat. Not doing this would be madness.
I get annoyed, I am afraid, by some comments which seem to indicate that our own security forces and agencies are the bad guys and the ones who are threatening us. That is just not true. Some people use emotive language, such as “snoopers’ charter”. The emotive language I would use is that if we do not do something like this, those people are giving the people who wish to kill us a licence to kill—but let us not use emotive language and instead look at this in a balanced way. It has to be done and it is very important that it is done.
Have we really thought about some way of ensuring that there is better data protection, not just in this Bill, but more broadly? We are not as good at it as we should be, which is a real worry. We have to make sure we do it, because people are concerned when data are held anywhere. It is no reason not to do this, but we do need to have some way of making sure that is dealt with.
The noble Lord is absolutely right. This is why it is important to work with communication service providers: this has to be a partnership between the industry, the law enforcement agencies and the Government to make sure that we get this right and that there is a way of doing it which is secure. He is right about the threat being real. I have heard some of the reports from meetings which the Home Secretary has had with families who have been victims of the online sexual exploitation of children. They feel exactly the same way as my noble friend Lord Tebbit feels in terms of the actions which could be taken to ensure that their children and their loved ones do not have to suffer the exploitation which they have suffered at the hands of these heinous criminals.
My Lords, this has been described as a tidying-up Bill, and the reason for it is that the security services and the police have overstepped the mark and misused their past powers. The noble Lord, Lord Blair, talked about trust. What guarantees can the Government give that the security services and the police will not overstep these powers as well?
That is one of the reasons why we have put in place a much stronger, clearer and well-resourced investigatory powers commissioner. That will also give an opportunity for cases to be brought to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal. There will be more transparency and openness there for people to take advantage of if they feel that we have got the decision wrong.
Can I press the Minister on what the Government intend by judicial authorisation? The Statement that the Minister repeated says that,
“in future, the warrant will not come into force until it has been formally approved by a judge”.
However, in Clause 19 and many other places, the Bill speaks of a judicial review test, which, as has already been explained, is a matter of assessing reasonableness and the formality of procedures. The real question is whether the Government intend that the judge will have the power to countermand the initial decision of the Secretary of State if the judge considers that the warrant is either unnecessary or disproportionate.
We have stated that there is a double lock, and it is just that. Without both the judge and the Secretary of State giving their approval, it simply cannot happen. Some details are being published today in terms of draft codes of practice, and more information will be fleshed out, in co-operation with the Ministry of Justice, the Lord Chief Justice and, crucially of course, the judicial commissioners themselves, as to how this process will work in an effective and speedy way.
Accountability lies in that it was the Secretary of State, first, who made the decision and that is then checked by a judge. That would be the element of public accountability in that circumstance, but we are talking particularly about warrants which are required in relation to intercept, which is the most intrusive form of investigation power, not necessarily the communications data.
My Lords, shortly after being introduced to this House I had the temerity to start raising concerns about the plethora of unfit legislation covering digital surveillance powers and the ineffective controls and oversight over their use. Initially, my questions in this Chamber were met with a mixture of stonewalling by Ministers and ridicule from certain noble Lords connected to the security establishment.
It will come. I am gratified to see that all parts of the House now recognise that the current laws are hopelessly flawed and that we need to start with a clean sheet of paper to build a fresh legislative framework to cover this important and contentious area. When I start to read this 370-page document I shall do so in the hope that the detail can live up to the billing the Home Secretary gave it a few hours ago. From listening to her replies to questions, I know already that there are several concerns, including a forthcoming deadly embrace with the industry over encryption.
The Joint Committee is in the process of being formed, through the usual channels. It is hoped that that will happen in the next few weeks. It is hoped that it will have produced its report by the spring and that a revised Bill, if it is necessary to revise the Bill, will then be published for consideration in the other place.
We talked about trust and getting the balance right in the Bill, but it works both ways. Yes, of course, the public have a right to feel confident that there will be controls on the way in which these investigatory powers are used, but they are just as concerned, as the Minister said, to ensure that we understand the very real threats to the security of this country, not just from terrorism or paedophilia, but from significant areas of crime where the internet is being used almost unchecked at the moment. It is not a question of our security services overstepping the mark; with the current legislation they do not have the ability to deal with the very real threats. When we talk about balance and trust, it is on both sides. I would welcome the Minister’s views.
I totally agree—that is why the police have put out such a thorough operational case for this. It is very important that, as well as explaining the threats we face, whether they be terrorist, child sexual exploitation or financial crime, we point out that the process through which this legislation is going is almost unprecedented in its openness and transparency. What will come thereafter, should the Bill pass all its stages through the House, will be a much strengthened, much more clear and transparent approach in which we can all have trust and confidence.
European Union Referendum Bill
Committee (3rd Day)
Relevant documents: 5th Report from the Constitution Committee, 9th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee
Clause 3 agreed.
33: Schedule 1, page 8, line 5, leave out “Schedule” and insert “Act”
My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 41 and 42, 44, 47 to 49 and 62, which are all in my name. They all relate to the donations and loans controls that will apply to campaigners at the referendum.
Amendment 33 is a technical amendment which, alongside Amendments 47 and 62, ensures that the Bill will contain one definition of “referendum period” rather than multiple, identical definitions. These minor amendments are necessary as a result of a more substantive amendment, Amendment 48.
Amendment 48 addresses an issue with the rules relating to loans and other financial transactions that benefit political parties that register as permitted participants at the referendum. To keep matters straightforward, I will henceforth refer to these transactions simply as loans.
Political parties are eligible to become permitted participants at referendums under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000—PPERA. If they do, they will be subject to the same controls on referendum spending as apply to other permitted participants, but the major parties will not be subject to the same controls on donations and loans. This is simply because political parties other than minor parties are already subject to ongoing controls on donations and loans under PPERA. The exclusion of these political parties from the donation and loan rules at referendums is not a reflection of their having a different status to other permitted participants at a referendum. It is merely an administrative measure to avoid double counting and excessive compliance burdens, given their ongoing requirements in relation to donations and loans.
Under PPERA, the list of those eligible to make donations or loans to political parties is the same as the list of those who are eligible donors and lenders in relation to permitted participants. However, for the EU referendum, the Bill adds to the list of those eligible to make donations to permitted participants. It does this at the recommendation of the Electoral Commission, to bring the list into line with the list of non-party campaigners who are eligible to register under PPERA for election purposes, as amended by the Transparency of Lobbying Act. The list has also been extended to take account of the inclusion of Gibraltar in the referendum. For example, Gibraltar electors will be eligible to make donations to permitted participants, as will royal chartered bodies and Scottish partnerships.
The Bill also introduces controls on loans to permitted participants. The list of eligible lenders is the same as that for eligible donors for the purpose of the referendum. As political parties are regulated separately, it is necessary similarly to extend the list of eligible donors and lenders to political parties that register as permitted participants. An amendment made in the other place effected this measure in relation to donations. This now forms paragraph 22 of Schedule 1. Amendment 48 completes this work by extending the eligibility to make loans to political parties acting as permitted participants to the newly added individuals and bodies. As with the rules for donations to political parties, this eligibility will be time limited and will apply only during the referendum period.
This is about having a level playing field in the run-up to the referendum. It must be right that political parties that register to campaign be able to accept donations and loans from the same sources that are available to other permitted participants.
Amendment 48 contains an additional control to prevent the terms of a loan agreement allowed under it being varied to increase the value of the loan. This aims to prevent political parties using loans entered into as a permitted participant as a means of borrowing more money after the referendum, which they would not normally be able to receive in their capacity as a political party under the ongoing party funding rules.
Amendment 42 relates to the changes made through Amendment 48, which I have just spoken to, and the similar amendment made in the other place in relation to donations to political parties. These ensure that the rules on who can donate and lend money to political parties that register as permitted participants are the same as for all other permitted participants. In effect, however, this means that during the referendum period, political parties that register as permitted participants will be able to receive funding from otherwise ineligible sources.
Noble Lords will appreciate the risk that any money donated or loaned to political parties by the newly added individuals or bodies could be used for wider political purposes, rather than for referendum purposes. For this reason, Amendment 42 adds a safeguard. It prevents a political party accepting funding from the newly added categories of eligible donors or lenders that would, in aggregate, exceed the party’s spending limit for the referendum. This follows the existing approach taken in PPERA for UK political parties that intend to contest European parliamentary elections in the South West Region, which includes Gibraltar. Amendment 42 will therefore help to preserve the integrity of the existing party funding rules through introducing proportionate, practical and sensible controls.
Amendment 49 relates to the regulations controlling who has access to the register of electors in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The relevant regulations control who can access the register and the purposes for which they can use it. These controls are necessary to ensure that people can access information in the register that they need to comply with election and referendum regulations, whilst ensuring that electoral data cannot be misused. It is a criminal offence to use information in the register for a purpose other than that specified in the regulations. This amendment will ensure that those who register as permitted participants for the EU referendum will have access to the electoral registers in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for the purposes of complying with referendum donations and loans rules. Among those eligible to donate or lend to permitted participants are individuals registered on a UK or Gibraltar register. Permitted participants therefore need access to the registers to confirm a donor’s eligibility. The Government of Gibraltar will be enacting similar provisions enabling access to the Gibraltar register.
Those amendments are technical, but I now turn to those that are perhaps even more technical. Amendment 41 ensures that, during the referendum period, the rules for bequests from Gibraltar electors to UK political parties that register as permitted participants are the same as for bequests from UK electors. Amendment 44 corrects some incorrect cross-references in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 relating to the controls on donations that apply to permitted participants. This amendment has no effect on the policy that applies to donations to permitted participants. It will ensure that the policy is implemented properly and that campaigners are certain how they are expected to comply with the donations rules. I beg to move.
My Lords, I ask the Minister to address one very simple point. She referred to the advice of the Electoral Commission in relation to Amendment 48. I am more concerned with Amendment 49, which is extremely important to all those who are going to be involved in this exercise. She will be only too well aware that, during the debate on Tuesday evening, various Ministers were extremely effective in rubbishing the advice of the Electoral Commission. Would I be right in thinking that, on this issue, they have taken the advice of the commission? This will be extremely important for all those involved in this exercise, and Amendment 49, on the face of it, is actually quite difficult to understand. I hope she can give your Lordships’ House that reassurance.
The Minister was relatively explicit about this, but I have a question in relation to Amendment 49 and the operation of the requirement to check registers in Gibraltar. I hear what she said about this being passed through the appropriate parliamentary procedures in Gibraltar, but it is a bit unique that we have another Government doing something. Of course, compliance with donations will require political parties to check properly. I wanted to be absolutely certain that we will be properly advised as to when that approval is given.
My Lords, that is a very reasonable point to make. As I mentioned earlier, with regard to Amendment 49, it is a matter on which the Gibraltar Government will bring forward legislation —not only in respect of this but on the wider issues of Gibraltar being part of the referendum franchise. I will happily undertake to inform the noble Lord by letter when that legislation goes through, and I shall pop it to other noble Lords who have taken an interest.
My Lords, I had never realised before this Bill came along how important Gibraltar was, and I am impressed by the number of references to it in our amendments today, as in earlier days. I once spent an entire afternoon in Gibraltar and felt that I had got to know it rather well. There are some 22,000 voters in Gibraltar, so it is very good that we pay so much attention to them.
Amendment 33 agreed.
34: Schedule 1, page 12, line 8, at end insert—
“Designation of organisation for only one of the possible outcomesSection 108 of the 2000 Act (assistance for designated organisations) has effect for the purposes of the referendum as if—
(a) at the end of subsection (2)(a), for “but” there were substituted “or”; and(b) for subsection (2)(b) there were substituted—“(b) may designate a permitted participant in relation to only one of the possible outcomes.””
My Lords, I rise to move this highly technical amendment. Other Members of the House may have as much difficulty as I do in understanding the precise wording. As very often is the case when we are working with reference to other bits of legislation, it is a bit abstruse. However, rather than subject the House to yet another lengthy dissertation from myself, I shall read from the Constitution Committee’s report on this point. The committee said that the 2000 Act,
“provides for a designated organisation to be appointed by the Electoral Commission as a lead campaign group for each side of the referendum debate. It does not allow the Electoral Commission to designate one organisation only; for there to be any designated organisations in a referendum campaign at least one from each side must apply … This arguably allows one side in a campaign to ‘game’ the system. If they are well funded but do not want the other campaign to receive the financial and other advantages of designation, then they simply fail to apply for designation. Notably, there was no designation in the Welsh referendum in 2011 because the Electoral Commission took the view that there were no lead campaigners that met the statutory test of adequately representing the ‘No’ side. The danger of gaming was also raised in the context of the Scottish independence referendum. The Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013 attempted to overcome this potential problem by allowing for the designation of one side only, although in the end two campaigns did indeed apply for recognition … Whilst we consider it likely that there will indeed be applications for designation by each side, the House may wish to consider whether the Bill should be amended to avoid a situation where one side could, in effect, prevent the lead campaign group on the other side from being designated”—
and, of course, from getting funds.
My amendment simply uses the wording of the amendment in the Scottish Act, which the Government agreed to put into the Scottish Act; it is replicated here, I hope in the correct place and the correct way, to have exactly the same effect as took place in Scotland.
It will not have escaped your Lordships’ notice that it never had to be used in Scotland. That is the purpose of moving this amendment. If it is accepted by the Government and put on the face of the Bill, there will not be a problem, because the certainty that one side can get itself designated even if the other side does not, and can therefore be a recipient of funds, will mean that the other side has no interest whatever in gaming the system. So I hope that this can be discussed on a totally technical, non-political basis, because I think that the Bill will be improved by the inclusion of this provision—and once we have included it, we can just forget all about it.
My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 37 in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, and also to say how much I support the amendment just proposed by the noble Lord. I think that this might be a first in consideration of this Bill, but I think that it is a very sensible proposal.
Amendment 37 is following the same theme, which is ensuring that there is fairness in the conduct of the campaign. I was rather shocked this morning to read Hansard from the other place, where Mr Chope asked the Deputy Leader of the House of Commons to,
“confirm that the real reason why three independently minded former Ministers are being purged”,
from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe,
“is because we voted in favour of a free and fair EU referendum with a strict 28-day purdah period, as recommended by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission and our Electoral Commission?”.—[Official Report, Commons, 3/11/15; col. 887.]
I do not want to get involved in that particular row, except to say that Christopher Chope, Sir Edward Leigh and Cheryl Gillan are three very distinguished former Ministers, and I am very shocked that they should be removed from the Council of Europe, and even more shocked that it should be suggested that that is the reason for their removal.
I emphasise this point because, whatever the outcome of the referendum, it is important that at the end of it people feel that the Government did not abuse their position—whatever their position turns out to be—and that the campaign was conducted in a fair and balanced way. This, presumably, is why we have the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.
My amendment seeks to remove from political parties their ability, which arises from the 2000 Act, to spend money on the campaign itself. I thought that the whole point of having an Electoral Commission—which, incidentally, costs half the cost of the entire Royal Family—was to ensure that we had fair and balanced conduct of elections and referenda. That is what I thought it was about. I thought the whole purpose in having a designated campaign on each side with limitations on their expenses was to ensure fairness. But what do I find? I find that the Government have brought into the Bill the ability of the political parties to spend money in addition to the designated campaigns. In the case of the designated “in” campaign, it can spend £7 million; in the case of the “out” campaign, it can spend £7 million. That is fair enough; but then on the inside, the Labour Party can spend £7 million; the Liberal Democrats can spend £3 million; the Greens can spend £700,000 and the CBI and other organisations can spend £700,000.
The Conservatives have said that they will remain neutral—and it is very considerably to the credit of the Conservative board that it took that decision.
Did I not hear the noble Lord say that he thinks the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, is fair and reasonable because it is not right that people game certain situations? Political parties have a right to campaign on issues that they feel united about and on which they have had support from the electorate. If there is a problem with the Conservative Party, I do not see why the noble Lord should take that view and extend it to other political parties.
The Labour Party’s policy is perfectly clear. The problem we have in this debate is that the Conservative Party does not have a clear policy. I do not see why the noble Lord should impose, through his amendment, his problems on to other political parties, including the Scottish nationalists and other major parties.
The noble Lord is suffering from the disadvantage of not having listened to what I am going to say. Perhaps when I have said it, he might want to come back on that point. I am simply pointing out that all these political parties have the ability to spend money in addition to the designated campaigns. If you add that up as it is set out in the Bill, those who wish us to remain inside the European Union will be able to spend £25.5 million and those who wish us to leave, together with the political parties—because UKIP will be able to spend £4 million—will be able to spend £11 million. That seems to me to be a tad unbalanced.
As the noble Lord knows, all political parties have people with different views on this matter. That is why we need to have a designated campaign, so that people of all political parties and persuasions can join together and make their case, whatever it is. This Bill, which raises the limits, makes the position even more unfair. Before the Bill, under the rules set out under the 2000 Act, the “in” campaign could have spent £20 million and the “out” campaign £10 million: twice as much for those who wish to maintain the status quo. As a result of this Bill, the figures are £25.4 million and £11 million —2.3 times as much. That simply is not fair. At the end of the day, as we know from American elections and elsewhere, the ability to spend money can have a marked effect on the result. If the campaign to stay in is successful, the last thing we want is people arguing that the referendum result was bought, that it was unfair and that it was led by big business and big money. I am surprised that the Labour Party, of all parties, is seeking to defend this position.
It is tempting to come back by asking what happened in the 2015 general election. Who had the most money? Do we call that into question? Who paid for it? I know exactly how much the unions gave the Labour Party, and I know how that money was collected. The corporate hedge funds gave money to the Conservative Party and enabled it to outspend every other party. Does the noble Lord not feel that that was unfair?
My Lords, I know the noble Lord has never stood for election, so perhaps he is unfamiliar with this, but we have strict rules governing how much the parties can spend in general election campaigns. They are designed to ensure that we have fairness. What I am complaining about is that the rules in the Bill give an unfair and disproportionate advantage, and that the amendment to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act makes that even worse. That seems completely unfair, which is why I suggest that we reduce the figures that can be spent by the various political parties. In the 2000 Act, that is done as a percentage of the vote. Originally, it was £5 million if a party exceeded 30% of the vote, £4 million if it exceeded 20% but not 30%, £3 million if it got 10%, £2 million if it got 5% but not more than 10%, and £500,000 if it got not more than 5%. If we reduce all these numbers to zero, we will have a fair and balanced campaign, which is what my amendment seeks to do. I would have thought that everyone in this House would be in favour of that.
The point is that the Conservative Party, under the PPERA, is able to spend up to £7 million on the referendum if it chooses to, as a registered participant. If it decides not to register, why should its decision impact on other parties which have policies and desires to campaign for in this referendum? That sounds undemocratic.
The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has a lot of logic. I was amused, however, when he referred to how difficult it is to understand legislation that refers back to previous legislation. Exactly—and that is what a lot of us complain about with the European Union. The noble Lord may remember that, when the constitutional treaty had to be ratified by national parliaments, no comprehensive single version was available. Everybody had to refer back to previous legislation. In the case of the Czech Republic, the relevant documents had not even been translated into the national language.
That said, I very much agree with the points the noble Lord made, and I support his amendment. I would, however, very much like to support my noble friend Lord Forsyth. I am somewhat bemused by the intervention from the noble Lord, Lord Collins, who does not seem to take on board that we are talking about funding: about limits laid down by Parliament on the funding of both sides of the referendum. What surprises me—this is the issue I would like my noble friend to address—is that the Government simply decided to consolidate the PPERA into this legislation and did not introduce their own. They have, after all, amended various parts of the PPERA; they do not have to accept what is written into it as if it were tablets of stone.
I followed the debate in the House of Commons, which touched on this issue. The Minister in the Commons said that it is a good thing—that this is the first time we have had such comprehensive and far-reaching limits. Okay, but if you have limits they ought to be fair to the two sides of the referendum. Otherwise, why have limits at all? Would it not be better to let both sides raise what money they can and spend it? It seems to me there is a fundamental flaw in the proposal. The whole point of referenda is to deal with issues that cut across political parties; that is partly why we have them. I very much doubt we would have referenda if there were not constitutional issues that cut across different political parties. It seems perverse to say, just because a political party in a general election some time ago got 30% of the vote, it is entitled to X amount of money; and another party, which came third the time before and second last time, is allowed Y proportion of money. Why?
I will give way in a minute. If you are going to impose limits on spending, let them be fair between the two sides. After all, the government grant is equal for each side, and the limit on what the designated organisations can do is equal, one with the other, so why bring in political parties? Why say that because the Conservative Party won 30-plus% of the vote it is allowed to spend £7 million, because the Labour Party scored about 30%, it is allowed to spend £7 million, because UKIP got above 10% of the vote it is allowed to spend £4 million and because the Liberals, scored somewhere around 10%, they are allowed to spend £3 million? Of course, as my noble friend Lord Forsyth said, when you add them all up—let us exclude the Conservative Party, because it has said it is not going to fund either side in the organisation—there is a huge inequity between the limit on one side and the limit on the other. I find it very difficult to understand how this can be justified. I do not see the necessity of it. It would have been extremely simple, if the Government insist on having a cap on spending in the campaign, to have it the same for both sides. The noble Lord wanted to intervene.
I am glad that I have his agreement—or perhaps I have not, but we shall hear in a minute. The provision seems fundamentally flawed. I do not see why the Government just picked up that legislation and incorporated it into this. It seems not to make any sense whatever.
My Lords, Amendment 58 is in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Liddle, who apologises that he cannot be present today. Before I address the substance of the amendment, perhaps I may say how much I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, in his amendment and therefore agree with what the noble Lords, Lord Lamont and Lord Forsyth, said about it—that is an interesting axis of agreement across the Floor of the Chamber which does not often occur.
The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, asked why we should bring in political parties. I was astonished by that. No one is bringing in political parties; political parties are there; political parties are part of our democracy; political parties are part of every sophisticated democracy in the world. Political parties expect to take part in political campaigns, in elections or in referenda. It would be quite extraordinary if a political party was not interested in a major political campaign.
I am sure that the noble Lord does not mean to misrepresent me. I was not suggesting that political parties should not participate—I defer to his experience of political parties, which is greater than mine—but I was referring to the fact that we should not have to bring in expenses from political parties.
I have an interesting experience of political parties. I have talked for some time about that in the past, but I shall not delay the Committee on that subject today.
I was actually quoting the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, who asked, “Why bring in political parties?”. That was an extraordinary thing to say, because political parties are part of the structure of our system and part of our national life. It is inconceivable to me that you could have a body of men and women—
I will give way in a second, but let me just complete my sentence, or my paragraph.
It would be extraordinary if you had a body of men and women who were interested in public life and the choices facing the nation and who wanted to play their part in determining the future history of our country, and a big referendum of the importance which this referendum represents came along and they did not take part in that campaign or have any views at all. The Conservative Party has of course decided to opt out of this campaign, but that is because of the peculiar situation in which it finds itself where the leadership of the party is terrified by the Eurosceptics. That has been the history of our relationship with the European Union during the past five years: everything is vetoed by the Eurosceptics and the Government are often paralysed by them. The Government are continually coming up with some ploy to buy off the Eurosceptics and, on this occasion, the Government have decided not to have their own party take part in a campaign. It is an extraordinarily anomalous position, in which a major party is supposedly silent on the great issue of the day. Just because the Conservative Party has got itself into this mess and this absurdity is no reason to deny the important role of political parties generally in a democracy or to handicap other political parties that are in no way responsible for the shambles of the Conservative Party and prevent them doing what they should have a natural right to do in any democratic election or electoral campaign.
I was not aware that the noble Lord was the Speaker yet, but I am grateful to him for giving way. It was a very long paragraph; perhaps he should have a few more paragraphs in his prose.
No one is saying in supporting this amendment that political parties should not campaign vigorously or be a very important part of the referendum argument. What we are saying is that the spending limits on either side in a referendum should not be related to political parties nor to some historic measure of how the parties fared in the previous election.
That is not a sensible argument. If they are going to campaign, political parties need money. Campaigning needs money, so political parties will need money if they take part in it. If their members and supporters are willing to dig into their pockets and give them money, it would be quite absurd, in a democracy, if we used the legislature to try to prevent people campaigning in that fashion. The real problem is that the noble Lord cannot reconcile himself to the fact that there are more political parties in this country which support our membership of the European Union than there are which are against it. That is very unfortunate for him, but I have not created the situation, nor has he and nor has the legislature. It is a fact of life and it reflects the will of the people. They have decided to join parties, a numerical majority of which actually support our membership of the Union. They should be allowed to raise a reasonable amount of money in order to pursue the campaign and to continue to make sure that political parties play the part in our democratic life that they are entitled to. It ends up with the kind of arithmetic which he was quoting, except that the arithmetic used by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, was completely artificial because it left out the Conservative Party’s potential use of £7 million. It is entirely a matter for that party if it decides not to use it and this cannot be blamed on anyone else.
Does the noble Lord remember that the party to which he belongs had an election for its new leader not very long ago? It elected, overwhelmingly, a man who wanted to leave the European Union. How has it come about that the noble Lord now says that he belongs to a party which wants to stay in the Union?
That is an extraordinary question to ask me. I am the living embodiment of the fact that one can change one’s mind. I believe that Mr Corbyn has, in the light of events, learned wisdom which he did not possess 10 or 20 years ago. I assure the noble Lord that that wisdom consists in supporting—I repeat, supporting—our membership of the European Union. That is the official position of the Labour Party and will, of course, remain so.
The noble Lord must be aware that a large number of members of the Labour Party—among those who are left—happen to have views about EU membership which are not that supportive. Although the Labour politicians at Westminster may or may not have strong views, they control the spend and the members of the Labour Party are not going to be very happy if the party spends all their money campaigning in a direction which they may not support.
I do not think that the noble Lord is a great expert on the views of the Labour Party. I would be delighted to take him to some party meetings in Lincolnshire where he would find enormous support for our membership of the European Union from people in all walks of life. The fact remains that the Labour Party supports our Members of Parliament in the other place who, by an overwhelming majority, have voted, and will continue to vote for our policy of believing that it is fundamentally in this country’s interests to remain part of the European Union.
I must move on to speak to Amendment 58. If there is a discordant element in my sudden change of subject, I say, in anticipation of someone rising to complain, that I am not responsible for the grouping of amendments.
Will the noble Lord enlighten your Lordships as to whether he would be taking the same attitude on the last amendment if the Labour Party was as split on this matter as the Conservative Party? UKIP got 8% of the electorate voting for it in the last general election, against 24% for the Conservatives—one third of their vote. We all know that the Conservative Party is pretty split on this issue. Would the noble Lord, Lord Davies, be taking the same attitude if his party was in the same position?
In relation to the principles of our public life and our constitution, I like to think that I take positions that are consistent. Therefore my answer to the question must be yes. Political parties have an essential part to play in our democracy and their position should be respected. They should not be in any way suffocated by being told that they cannot have any money for a campaign that they genuinely believe in and where their members are willing to support them financially.
As for the complaints that the noble Lord always makes about the treatment of UKIP, in this case he does not have the ground that he normally has for complaint, because the amount of money available to UKIP—
I must finish my sentence—and it will only be a sentence on this occasion. The amount of money available to the noble Lord’s party in the referendum campaign will be a function of the votes cast for his party and not a function of the number of MPs elected with his party label. If that was the case, he really would be in a bad situation. I give way once again to the noble Lord, Lord Lamont.
I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Again I stress that this amendment I have been supporting has nothing to do with political parties participating. It has everything to do with spending limits. My question to the noble Lord is: if in a general election the laws provided that what each party could spend in a general election was related to how it had done last time, would he think that that was fair?
We could argue this for a very long time but we actually have a consensus. Until this issue arose, there was a general consensus in public life in favour of the 2000 Act. Therefore, it is quite right that we should base ourselves in this campaign on that consensus and on the practice over the last 15 years. With that, I will leave that subject—I will not take any more interventions on anything else—and turn to Amendment 58.
Amendment 58 is very important because it is all about the Government being straight with the public—which I do not think they are planning to be at the moment. They have launched a very complicated negotiation, which many of us have many thoughts about, and they hope that it will result in a deal. If it results in a deal, they intend to call a referendum and to advise the public to vote for that deal. If they do not get the deal, of course none of those things will happen.
I totally understand that while the Government are negotiating they do not want to give a running commentary—that is the Government’s phrase, not mine. I even understand why they are a bit reticent about saying exactly what their aims are in the negotiation. In fact, Eurosceptics will always say that they are not aiming high enough and will always say that whatever they get is not adequate. So they are wasting their time, but I can understand why they have got themselves in this position.
However, I cannot understand any hesitation about the Government’s duty, once they have a deal—if they have a deal—to be absolutely straight with the British public about what that deal is and to make an official, authoritative declaration to the British public of what that deal consists of. We cannot possibly have a situation in which knowledge of the deal comes out through unattributed and deniable press briefings from special advisers and spin doctors and so on. We need a clear government document when the day comes, if that deal arises.
I will not give way for a moment. I will continue and give way later in my remarks. If, as a result of the deal, the Government call a referendum, they should give advice to the British public and the electorate. They owe to the public the duty of their judgment and the duty of declaring the facts. If they do that, it is important that they do that in a public, authoritative document and not by the back-stairs methods or spinning methods that are so beloved of this Government. That is the point of the amendment in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Liddle. When we come to the referendum campaign, if the Government recommend, as they did in 1975, a yes vote, they should explain to the British public in an authoritative document why they are making that recommendation and set out what they consider to be the essential facts on which that recommendation is based. At this point, I will give way to the noble Lord.
I am most grateful to the noble Lord and I know how passionately he feels about these matters. But does he feel that his case is so weak that he is arguing that it is necessary to rig the whole thing in favour of his point of view? Looking at Amendment 58, he is suggesting that a statement from the campaign to leave, a statement from the campaign to stay and a statement from the Government, which may be to leave or to stay, should be sent to every household. From the point of view of people receiving this material, it is unbalanced. Why is the noble Lord so concerned about his case that he feels that it is necessary to have an unbalanced position in respect of his own amendment and in his opposition to mine?
For the first time since I debated on these matters with the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, I am very surprised at the gaps in his historical knowledge, which normally is extremely extensive and accurate, and often brought to bear very effectively in debates in this House. He seems to have forgotten what happened in 1975, which I am old enough to remember. I had my first political campaign; I was part of the City in Europe campaign, and I am very proud of it. I have not rigged or invented anything. In this amendment, I am following precisely the wording we had in the Act which set out the basis for the 1975 referendum and entirely the practice that was followed. I am being the most rigorous constitutionalist. I hope that the noble Lord will approve of that—I think he normally does. I am following precedent and I am suggesting that precedent lays down the basis for fairness, and is always a good basis for credibility and legitimacy in public life. I will give way again, although I cannot go on giving way or I will be trying the patience of the House with the time that I am taking up.
The noble Lord will never try the patience of the House. Perhaps he is a little older than me. I can just remember the 1975 campaign and voting in it. But is he suggesting that during that campaign, every household got a leaflet from a campaign to stay in the European Union, a leaflet from a campaign to leave the European Union and a leaflet from the Government saying that we should stay in the European Economic Community, or the Common Market, as it was then, all at public expense? I do not think that that is what happened at all. But that is what his amendment proposes.
It is very unusual that I am able to answer a quite lengthy intervention from the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, more than satisfactorily with a single word—yes. That is exactly what happened in 1975, exactly what my amendment calls for and exactly what I think is required on this occasion. I will give way to the noble Lord.
I merely intervene to say that I must be older than the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, because I played an active part in the 1975 referendum. It was not a leaflet that was put out from each side and from the Government: there were three little booklets. Does the noble Lord, Lord Davies, agree with that?
I am most grateful for that intervention. I know that the noble Lord has a very long history of public life in local government before he came here and takes a great interest in these matters. He is absolutely right. Exactly what I have in mind is something that is an intelligent summary of the case which sets out the essential facts. There is far too much spin in the political world in which we live. We know that there is far too much dishonesty, suppression of material fact for the convenience of Governments and far too many back-stairs, deniable, non-attributable briefings and so on.
We want a situation in which any household in this country can have access if they wish to intelligent arguments both ways and can make up their own minds on that basis. Not only do I think that this would be an important element in the campaign and a great contribution to democratic transparency and democratic involvement, it would be a very good thing to go back to some of those first principles which we had in 1975 and make sure that this campaign involves serious consideration by as many people as possible of the real issues—albeit that we know that some people will be influenced by prejudices and emotive language, and some by the tabloids. But we hope that the number of those people is small in relation to our total democracy and that we have intelligent discussion, debate and consideration before we take a dramatic decision about our nation’s future.
My Lords, I have listened to my noble friends Lord Forsyth and Lord Lamont. I say to my noble friends that if my preamble takes more than 11 minutes, please move a Motion that I no longer be heard ever again. This is a relatively simple matter. In any United Kingdom election involving the four countries of the union, there will be about a dozen major political parties and thousands of fringe candidates. Between them, the major parties will offer hundreds of different policies, and it is right that they have spending limits and are able to advance their arguments for all those hundreds of policies. That is why the political parties need to spend money arguing totally different cases.
However, in the case of this referendum, there are only two campaigns: one to remain and one to leave. In those circumstances, I cannot understand why the political parties will also get money to spend on campaigns. There is nothing to stop the Labour Party or the Conservative Party or any other party campaigning: let them join the “remain” campaign or the “leave” campaign. Let them put all their effort into helping those two options: leave or remain. In those circumstances, it is grossly unfair and illogical that the political parties are getting money to spend, based on their last election results, to campaign on a simple question: do we remain in the European Union or do we leave the European Union? Let the political parties weigh in behind either campaign, and keep it simple and fair.
My Lords, I was not going to intervene but I really felt that I had to do so to support the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford. He will be surprised at that, perhaps—but he was absolutely right when he said that three documents were issued at the 1975 referendum. One was from the in campaign; one was from the out campaign; and one was from the Government, with a preface by Harold Wilson. The Government recommended that we should remain in and, of course, they gave their reasons for it. Unfortunately, the Government’s reasons turned out to be rather suspect, because one of the claims that they made was that they had ruled out the prospect of economic and monetary union. We now know that that was a false statement because we have got economic and monetary union. Although we are not members of the euro, we are, in fact, members of EMU. I hope that that was a little help to the noble Lord, Lord Davies.
I hesitate to put words into the noble Lord’s mouth, and I freely acknowledge that I was wrong on the matter that, in the 1975 campaign, there were two leaflets that argued the position in favour of remaining in the European Community and only one against. The noble Lord says that he will support the noble Lord, Lord Davies, but he has spent almost a lifetime arguing that the wrong decision was made and that people were misinformed about the position. Was it not wrong, actually, for there to be two leaflets on one side as opposed to one on the other?
Yes, I agree with that. I was only confirming that the noble Lord, Lord Davies, was correct in saying that there were three pamphlets. At the time, the Labour Party was in favour of coming out. Unfortunately, the Labour Government were in favour of staying in. We are almost getting into the same situation now, although in reverse, as we approach the next referendum. That is all I wish to say about it.
My Lords, as we are in Committee, I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Davies, can prevent me from saying what I wanted to say at the end of the first part of his recent peroration. I would just like to confirm that I was not complaining about UKIP’s possible position, and I would like to correct the record. Of the votes cast at the last general election, the Conservatives got 36.9%, the Labour Party got 30.4%, UKIP got 12.6%—not a mere 10%, as the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, suggested—and the Liberal Democrats got all of 7.9%. Those are the correct figures.
Turning to the present amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Davies, I have to disagree with him in his suggestion that there should be a statement from the Government, not only for the reasons just put forward by my noble friend Lord Stoddart, but also, more generally, because I do not think that the British people are going to be able to trust the Government’s statement on this referendum any more than they could on the last one. I will add another example to the deception that my noble friend Lord Stoddart mentioned as regards the last referendum. In 1975, the Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, made a promise that if we voted to stay in the then Common Market,
“there would be no loss of essential national sovereignty”.
Of course, we all thought that he meant that there would be no loss of sovereignty whatever, because we all thought that all sovereignty was essential. However, in a somewhat subtle—to put it politely—way, he did not mean that at all. What he meant was that there would be no loss of any sovereignty that he thought was essential. Since then, the British people have discovered that we have lost most of the sovereignty that he promised we would retain. So I really do not think that we want a statement from the Government, as in this amendment, but it would be perfectly in order to have a statement from each side.
I just want to correct a figure. It has been mentioned several times that the Labour Party will have the ability to spend £7 million, but, of course, the figures on the popular vote are slightly adjusted because of the Labour and Co-op Members, where there are joint parties standing. Therefore, the figure for Labour, according to the Electoral Commission, is 29.3%, which would give it £5.5 million. According to this, UKIP would have the ability to spend £4 million. Am I to understand that the noble Lord is in favour of his party, UKIP, being limited to spending £10,000?
My Lords, my party would like to spend as much money on this campaign as it can. I was looking at the suggestion that we should have 12.6%’s worth, that being our share of the votes cast in the last election. Personally, I am in favour of that, of course.
My Lords, we have heard a lot of history this afternoon. Although the lessons of 1975 might be of interest, they are, in fact, history, and we are debating a Bill for a future referendum, rather than the past. I am speaking on behalf of the Liberal Democrats to support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, as this amendment fits with the views of the Constitution Committee and appears to be very sensible. As to the role of political parties and how much they are funded, although it is very easy to look back and say, “Well, in 1975 this happened, that happened and the other happened”, since that time we have passed the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act. The Bill relates to and amends that legislation. My party has no objection to the Government’s position on that.
The final amendment that I want to speak to in this group is Amendment 58, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Liddle and Lord Davies. Although I can see an intuitive allure in the amendment, there is another issue here which goes back to the PPERA question and pre-empts Amendment 55, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, on purdah. It is clearly in the interest of everyone to understand the Government’s position. At Second Reading in the other place, the right honourable Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, talked about wanting to suspend Section 125 of the Act because the Government would want to come back and sell the deal that they had renegotiated. In practice, if purdah is in place the assumption will be that circulating three documents—remain, leave and the Government putting forward their own case—is in danger of breaching purdah rules. Although Amendment 58 sounds intuitively interesting, it is quite difficult to support it as currently drafted.
My Lords, what the noble Baroness says is right. This would offend against the purdah rules. Even more, how will the Government produce a leaflet to set out their position? Would they set out the position of the majority in the Cabinet, or the position of two groups in the Cabinet? It would be a jolly task, would it not, to set out the views of the Eurosceptics in the Cabinet, as well as the—
I am grateful to the noble Lord. The honest answer to his question, and certainly the answer that I have always envisaged, is that we should follow the precedent of 1975, when a single, coherent pamphlet was produced by the Government, justifying their recommendation of a yes vote.
The noble Lord is terribly attached to this precedent. It is only one precedent from one occasion ever. To suggest that we cannot change anything that was done then because that set the precedent is totally absurd. I am a Conservative, but even I would not suggest that what had been done once would always have to be done again and again in vaguely similar circumstances. It is quite improper.
Is the noble Lord suggesting that the Prime Minister, when he goes to negotiate on behalf of the United Kingdom, will say to the other Governments, “By the way, I’m only representing half my Government; the other half may have a different view”? How does he expect the Government to conclude negotiations?
I am terribly sorry, but I am afraid that the noble Lord misunderstands it. When the Prime Minister negotiates he speaks for the Government as a whole, but his evaluation of whether the negotiation is sufficiently good for us to remain in the European Union is another matter.
There will be views and views within the Cabinet—we are pretty sure about that. It is highly likely, is it not? We would have to have a leaflet that said, “The position of the majority of the Cabinet”—or the majority of Ministers, perhaps. I do not know whether it would include PPSs and all sorts of other people. Perhaps we could add in the spads, I do not know. However, it would have to say that there are others who take a different view. It is total nonsense. It is the product of a mindset that wants to set the thing up to be biased in one direction time and time again. Lord knows that the Bill as drafted is bad enough, but it would be a darned sight worse if we were to accept the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Davies.
My Lords, I campaigned in the 1975 referendum to stay in the Common Market. To criticise the precedent, I well remember that we thought we had been rather clever because we had the establishment onside and we had 2:1 of the brochures sent to people. The whole objective was to marginalise the campaign of those who were not in favour of staying in. It was, in essence, a scheme to rig the whole vote.
I very much agree with my noble friend Lord Flight. Just because Harold Wilson rigged the 1975 referendum so that my noble friend Lord Forsyth and I—and indeed my noble friend Lord Flight—were conned into supporting staying in the EU, is that a reason for rigging this one? That is the question we have to ask.
The House will have noticed Amendment 40 in my name. Even my closest friends advise me that this amendment is rubbish. All I say to my noble friend the Minister is that I will not press my amendment. She will not have to spend any time telling the House that my amendment is rubbish because I agree with that anyway.
The point of my amendment—here I pick up on my noble friend Lord Forsyth’s amendment—is that we need to cap the expenditure of both sides. It is absolute nonsense to talk about the percentages of votes that people had in the last election. Let us be honest: this referendum will be decided roughly half and half by the voters of this country. Some 10% either way will make the decision. Ultimately, some Labour voters will vote to come out; even some UKIP voters will vote to stay in. A lot of Liberal Democrats in the West Country will vote to come out because they vote Liberal Democrat because they are anti-establishment. Their chapel is nothing to do with the Eurofanaticism their leaders have in this place.
Lots of people will vote in different directions. It will ultimately be quite a close vote; very roughly, it will split down the middle. So why do we not just divide the expenditure that can be spent by either camp equally? I tabled a £20 million cap in my amendment. I do not have any great feeling that it should be £20 million, £30 million or £10 million, but it should be equal on both sides.
All the way through this legislation the Government have gone out of their way to say that they are trying to level the playing field. As we noted earlier, it is not level. If the Government decide to recommend to the country that we stay in—it is still possible that they will not—they have the choice of date when that should happen. That slants the playing field in favour of those who want to stay in anyway. Why are we further slanting this by having a funding formula that gives so much money to the in campaign to the detriment of the out? This is not fair. It will not be seen by the country to be fair. If we have a result that the country votes to stay in, I can tell noble Lords now that all those who wanted to come out will cry foul and not accept the verdict of the referendum.
My Lords, I am well aware that the political definition of a level playing field is a field in which, when the ball is placed in the centre, it rolls naturally towards your opponent’s goal. That is one of the problems with trying to define a level playing field.
I am fascinated to hear so many Conservative Peers speaking in favour of an expenditure cap to ensure that one side in a campaign does not spend more than another. I look forward to the speeches that will come from those Benches the next time we discuss political party funding. Perhaps they will support a similar principle then. The Conservative Party spent a great deal more than any other party in the recent election. I do not recall any complaints from Conservatives on that—whatever position they take on the European Union—either then or since.
I am simply remarking that principles should apply across the field. I am strongly in favour of greater control over political parties’ spending, which the Conservative Party has resisted extremely strongly. I just remarked that we need to be a little more consistent than we were being.
I will make one other point relating to this group of amendments and to the next.
May I continue? I will give way to the noble Lord in a minute or two.
There is a principle that we have a Government. We are not like the United States, where Congress can stop the Government taking everything through if it wants As we were told with reference to the House of Lords’ vote last week, the principle is that the Government must be allowed to get their business through and must be able to say what they think is in the national interest. At the end of this negotiation, the Prime Minister has to be able to say, on behalf of the Government, what he now considers to be in the national interest. I note that a number of noble Lords think that the Prime Minister should not be able to make that case. That seems to me to be moving towards the sort of deadlock between Congress and the presidency seen in the United States, where what the President says has no impact at all. This is a renegotiation. At the end of the renegotiation, the Government are entitled, under our constitutional arrangements, to say what they think is in the national interest. I trust that they will do so.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I actually said that I would be perfectly happy with no cap: I was not talking about caps and supporting them in the way that he suggested. However, would the noble Lord be quite content if there were caps in the general election and the Liberal party were capped at less than half the spending allowed to the Conservative and Labour parties because it got less than half the votes of those parties at the previous election?
My Lords, I have some familiarity with the previous negotiations on political funding and whether there should be a state contribution. The discussions on whether there should be public support for political parties had indeed taken on board the issue of how many votes each party got in the previous election, so the principle might well be taken, but the issue of caps on expenditure is not really one for a referendum which, I think, the out camp fears it may lose. It is a wider issue.
My Lords, it has been an interesting debate. One of the problems with referenda is that they assume there are simply two sides to an argument, when actually there are often lots of different opinions and reasons why people may wish, in the case of the European Union, to stay in or to leave. The interesting thing in this debate is that we have heard that UKIP will wish to argue its case strongly as a political party. We have heard the Conservative Party saying no, we are not going to do that. In effect, the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, will limit UKIP to £10,000—it will not be able to spend more than that—while if, for example, Unite registered as a participant, it could spend £700,000, as could any other organisation or individual if they registered properly as a participant.
The real issue here is how we have a fair political debate: how we ensure that all the different views in favour of remaining or leaving are properly expressed. It is clear, as we have heard, that there is a problem among those who want to leave. They do not appear able to reconcile their differences and come together as one—perhaps because they have absolutely different views about why Britain should leave. The Conservative Party has clearly not been very keen to sit on platforms with UKIP to argue its case, and certainly individuals within the party have not been keen to join in. The idea that political parties should absent themselves from this campaign is purely ridiculous.
The noble Lord keeps repeating this. Nobody is suggesting that political parties absent themselves. I am listening carefully to his argument. If you decide to have a cap on expenditure, it has to be fair to both sides. If the noble Lord is arguing that there should be no cap, that is an entirely different position. The Government’s position—arising from the 2000 Act—is that there should be a cap. Therefore, it is not that the political parties cannot participate, but that the vehicle through which they participate consists of the two campaigns. If the noble Lord is arguing that there should be no cap, I can see where he is coming from, but he seems to be arguing that there should be a cap and that the available expenditure should be unbalanced. That is ridiculous.
Actually, I am arguing that all participants in the referendum should properly account for what they raise and what they spend, and that that be recorded and sent to the Electoral Commission. That is what I am arguing for. We have heard in the debate that somehow you can create a level playing field by setting a cap on the total amount spent. What, then, is the noble Lord saying: that the “remain” campaign and the “leave” campaign agree beforehand exactly what they are going to spend and then say that is what they are going to do?
I know what caps do. I, too, have had a debate about political funding, and some dialogue with the Conservative Party about funding election campaigns. The caps on spending were important in trying to stop this continual outbidding of each other, but no political party has ever reached the cap that has been set in general elections. The Conservative Party has consistently outspent the Labour Party in general elections. There certainly has not been a level playing field. There is only one way to achieve a level playing field: by saying that £20 million from the government purse will be provided for this campaign and that it should be divided equally and then spent.
I do not, however, think that that is what noble Lords want. What noble Lords want is a fair and open debate. Political parties have an important role in that and the idea that you can cap the Labour Party’s spending to £10,000 on arguing its policy—and it does and will have a policy—is absolutely ridiculous. It is not right or fair to the democratic process. My opinion is not simply that of my party; it is also that of the Electoral Commission. The commission says, first, that, irrespective of the cap, there can be no certainty that there will be equal resources. This is a bit like a general election, where we have had caps on spending but there has been no level playing field in respect of the money that can be spent.
The other aspect of this is that everybody’s talking as if £7 million, and £5 million, is going to be available. Political parties, however, will have to raise the money. They will have to account for it. This is what all the amendments in the first group were about: transparency. The public will be more interested in transparency than the notional caps that the noble Lords opposite are talking about. People will certainly want to know who is funding the yes campaign, but they will also want to know who is funding the no campaign—who is behind it: perhaps the hedge funds or the businesses that simply see an interest in being outside.
All these things are important, but, as the Electoral Commission has said, the number of participants on each side should not be artificially limited by rules. We have seen that UKIP will want to play its part in the referendum campaign and to put its case, irrespective of whether it participates in a joint campaign. I know that the Labour Party will want to put its case strongly in respect of the social dimension to Europe and how Europe has defended workers’ rights. I do not think that the Prime Minister will necessarily wish to be part of that campaign. We will put our case, and the idea that you simply limit the Labour Party’s spending to £10,000 is not acceptable.
I strongly support the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, not least because—this is the strongest case for it—when this was considered previously it was thought appropriate to put it in the Scottish referendum. If it was appropriate for Scotland, why is it unnecessary for this referendum? Clearly, it is.
Regarding my noble friend’s amendment—we raised this issue in Committee on Monday—the Government will come to a decision. They will need to report that decision to the people of this country. It is important that the Government’s decision is not mediated solely through these campaigns, which noble Lords opposite seem to think will have a clear view about the reasons for leaving or staying. It is really important that the Government communicate with the electorate, so they understand what the Government have negotiated and can come to a conclusion. The argument that it can be mediated only through a yes campaign or a no campaign is not acceptable. The Minister may not accept my noble friend’s amendment but I hope the Government will think seriously about how the conclusions of the negotiations are communicated properly to the electorate without being mediated through a third party.
If you are not a permitted participant in the referendum, under PPERA you are limited to £10,000. That amount is also recorded in the Electoral Commission’s briefing, and I know that the noble Lord is very keen to support the role of the Electoral Commission.
Political parties are treated differently, as the Minister indicated at the outset. The fact is, they are different. They are covered, as she said, by separate elements of PPERA. If political parties do not register as participants in the referendum, they will be limited to spending £10,000. I do not have to answer for the Conservative Party but, in effect, by advocating this amendment noble Lords are saying to local Conservative associations, “You cannot use your office, your staff or your resources in this referendum campaign because if you exceed £10,000, the Conservative Party will be acting illegally”.
I have tried very hard to follow the noble Lord’s speech. I still do not understand the £10,000 figure, but going back a bit in his speech, he expressed himself as being strongly in favour of caps in general elections—fair enough. If we are to have caps in general elections, should they not be the same for all political parties?