House of Lords
Wednesday 12 September 2018
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Birmingham.
Eating Disorders: Medical Training
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, following the publication of research in the Postgraduate Medical Journal that on average medical students receive less than two hours of training on eating disorders, whether they plan to make representations to the General Medical Council on conducting a review of the training on this subject provided to medical students and junior doctors; and if so, when.
My Lords, diagnosing and treating eating disorders is an important area for medical practice. It is included in the curriculum for training all doctors, including GPs, where most eating disorders initially present, and in more depth in training psychiatrists, particularly those who specialise in children and adolescents. However, Health Education England, or HEE, is considering how the existing workforce can be used more innovatively and whether any workforce planning interventions can increase specialism in the treating of eating disorders.
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s recent report, How NHS eating disorder services are failing patients, concluded that the GMC should conduct a review of all medical training for junior doctors on eating disorders. Does the Minister agree with the independent ombudsman?
My Lords, yes, I do agree. Indeed, the undergraduate curriculum is reviewed by medical schools to standards set by the GMC. Health Education England is currently undertaking a review of the two-year foundation programme, and the curricula for speciality training are currently being reviewed by the GMC and Health Education England and their counterparts in the devolved Administrations. The review is expected to be completed by 2020-21.
My Lords, bearing in mind the enormous costs of training medical students, is it not time we looked at the system in Singapore, where it is a requirement that all junior doctors, once they qualify, must stay in the health service or otherwise repay the costs of part or the whole of their medical training?
My Lords, following on from the very valuable Question about eating disorders and training, I ask the Minister what is being done now to retrain the medical profession in areas of diet generally, given the increase in diet-related disease. Some GPs estimate that it accounts for 80% of the people who come through their door, and they obviously cannot just be given a pill. The medical profession in America and, indeed, some individual GPs here are retraining doctors in this vital area, and I would like to know whether the Government are proposing to do something similar.
My Lords, HEE, along with the Royal College of General Practitioners, is encouraging GPs to undertake further enhanced primary care mental health skills by doing an extra qualification in psychiatry and eating disorders, and hopefully this will bear fruit. However, I take the point the noble Baroness makes about nutrition and health. I agree with her that better education in this area is vital, and Public Health England is doing a lot of work in that regard.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that, while diagnosis and treatment are obviously very important, so is prevention? There are certain key indicators—such as adverse life events, including bullying—that can, if not accurately predict then certainly give rise to a presumption that an eating disorder could follow. It is important that health professionals and others, including teachers, are aware that that is a possibility when young people, particularly but not exclusively girls, are in distress of various kinds.
I entirely agree with the noble Baroness. The Government recognise that poor body image is a common problem—approximately 70% of adolescent girls and 45% of adolescent boys want to change their body weight or shape, and body image dissatisfaction can be a factor in relation to mental health problems. As such, the department is taking clear steps to improve outcomes. Back in 2014, we made available £150 million to ensure that we can put more money into these kinds of services.
My Lords, will the Minister widen her reply? It is not just eating disorders: the amount of medical education on all dietetic areas is woefully inadequate. I would like to see a commitment to a much wider and broader education on the implications of diet for all medical students, so that they have a better understanding of how to tackle obesity and the many other dietary matters that are brought into day surgeries today.
My Lords, many people with an eating disorder suffer in silence without receiving a diagnosis, yet research by the Postgraduate Medical Journal found that half of the universities that responded did not include questions on eating disorders in their final undergraduate exams, and only two universities included a specific requirement to assess clinical skills in eating disorders before graduation. So there is a real need for a review to consider the extent to which eating disorders are covered in the assessment of medical students and junior doctors. I was not clear from the Minister’s reply whether she accepted the premise of the Question from the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter. Will she clarify the Government’s position on a review and further undertake to ensure that other key health professionals such as nurses, dieticians and occupational therapists also receive sufficient training to enable them to diagnose and support those with eating disorders?
My apologies to the noble Lord if I was not clear. In addition to medical school training at undergraduate level, there is a further two-year training at foundation level where students undertake a four-month rotation in psychiatry and a four-month rotation in general practice. Then there is further training at speciality level in psychiatry, and there are modules to do with diet, further education and eating disorders. As I have already mentioned, HEE is working very closely with the devolved Administrations to ensure that the review is completed by 2021 on what further can be done.
Health: Neural Tube Defects
My Lords, the Government recommend that all women should take a daily supplement of 400 micrograms of folic acid while they are trying to get pregnant and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, when the baby’s spinal cord and spine are developing, to prevent spina bifida and other neural tube defects—NTDs. Public Health England has published resources for local maternity systems and runs the Start4Life campaign for parents-to-be to raise awareness of planning and preparing for pregnancy.
Half our pregnancies are unplanned. Is the Minister aware that in the United States of America there are three births with spina bifida per 10,000 live births? The NHS figure for England is six births per 10,000 live births—double. Is she aware that the United States officially put down the reason for their lower level since 1998 to the fact that they have fortified flour with folic acid based on the research of the UK Medical Research Council? More than 80 countries, all four chief medical officers and the Daily Mail support the policy, so why do we not get some action?
The noble Lord is right that around 55% of pregnancies are unplanned. No other EU country has fortified flour with folic acid, but a range of other countries have. The noble Lord mentioned one, the USA, where there has been mandatory fortification since 1998, as he said. There was an immediate and stable 28% reduction in NTDs and no clear evidence of an increase in the prevalence of B12 deficiency.
My Lords, neural tube defects occur in the first days to four or five weeks of pregnancy, often before the woman even realises that she is pregnant. The Government’s advice to women to take folic acid is not happening out in society. With the number of neural tube defects occurring, it has been estimated that the average lifetime cost to the NHS could be as high as £500,000. Even though some of these women go on to terminate their pregnancy, the emotional trauma to them of taking that decision is phenomenal and the emotional and physical difficulties in a family of coping with a defect that is completely preventable do not support the Government’s current policy.
My Lords, I fully understand the strength of feeling in the House about this important issue. The issue of the health of pregnant women and their unborn children is one that the Government take very seriously. I realise that noble Lords may have been hoping for a more definitive response from me today. All I can say is that the decision is with Ministers who are considering the issue very carefully.
My Lords, the evidence is clear for all to see. The number of neural tube defects in Canada halved in six years when flour was fortified with folic acid. Our own Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition concluded in 2006, again in 2009 and last year that what others have been doing for years, adding folic acid to flour, prevents neural tube defects. What is preventing Her Majesty’s Government taking the same decision?
The noble Baroness is right that the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition—SACN—has recommended mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid since 2006. The Committee on Toxicity—COT—is currently reviewing the maximum recommendation level and has noted that negative effects are unlikely to occur at a level below the current value. However, its work is unlikely to be completed before winter 2018. I am sorry that there is nothing I can add to that.
My Lords, to my knowledge, my noble friend Lord Rooker has raised the issue with Ministers and in this Chamber probably 15 times. What are Ministers doing with it—leaving it at home? As someone who has given birth to a stillborn child, I say to the Minister that we should do everything we can to protect women from that trauma.
I entirely agree with the noble Baroness that we should do everything in our power to protect all women from all trauma. But I am afraid that I cannot add anything more other than to say that the decision is with Ministers and that I am hopeful that there will be an answer in the not-too-distant future.
My Lords, six months ago on 1 March, the Minister’s colleague, the noble Baroness, Lady Chisholm, said that,
“the Secretary of State is very keen to make progress and any delay is not intended”.—[Official Report, 1/3/18; col. 759.]
This is what we hear every six months—and every six months, 500 families are devastated by a diagnosis that means that 400 of them have an unwanted termination and 100 of them have a child with a lifelong disability. May I make a helpful suggestion? I know that the Minister understands both the science and the morality of this. Why not have a public consultation on the issue? If the Government cannot make up their mind, let other people say what they think and see the evidence.
As always, the noble Baroness has some insightful views. She is right that there is significant support for the mandatory introduction of folic acid supplements. Indeed, the devolved Governments are very supportive of folic acid. However, there is not yet universal support for mandatory fortification, partly due to public acceptability because of the possible adverse effects of very high folic acid levels in some people, which can mask vitamin B12 deficiency. However, I personally will take back the strength of feeling in this House, and hopefully we can look forward to an outcome in the not-too-distant future.
My Lords, the growth of online gambling has seen increased advertising for these products on TV and in social media. There are strict controls on the content and targeting of gambling advertising. A survey of evidence found that its impact on problem gambling was likely to be relatively small. We have set out a range of measures to strengthen protections further, including new guidance and research and tougher sanctions for breaches of the advertising codes.
I thank the Minister for his reply. The extent of the social problems caused by problem gambling has become clear and is widely reported by all sorts of people. Indeed, last week the chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, raised the issue of the huge cost of problem gambling to the NHS. In the light of this and other concerns, is it not time to bring in tougher regulation for online advertising and reconsider a mandatory levy on gambling companies to contribute to the cost of treating gambling addiction?
Specialist treatment for gambling addiction, including the NHS national problem gambling clinic, is funded by GambleAware. We believe that this is a valuable addition to publicly funded treatment for other addictions and mental health conditions. GambleAware has published its donations and pledges covering the first quarter of the year. On the right reverend Prelate’s question about a levy, we are very clear that if the voluntary system does not provide sufficient funding, we will consider all options, including a mandatory levy.
My Lords, there have been many questions in both this House and the other place, as well as my noble friend Lord Chadlington’s excellent debate on the subject. The time for talking is past. When will we follow the lead provided by Italy this summer in banning all gambling advertisements on TV, on radio and online?
I know about the examples in Italy and Australia. I start by saying that gambling is a legitimate leisure pursuit, so it can be advertised. However, as I said, we have strict rules about content and targeting of advertisements. We have outlined a package of measures to strengthen protections further and we will continue to monitor the situation carefully, particularly with respect to children. That is very important.
My Lords, is it not deplorable that television companies, such as Sky, actively encourage and pressure betting companies to maximise their adverts on television? Incidentally, these companies made profits of £162 million through this last year. Is it not appalling that they also use presenters of sports programmes to present these gambling adverts, as though they were one and the same, as they did in spoiling the coverage of the recent test matches?
As with advertising, sponsorship arrangements must be socially responsible. They must never be targeted at children. The gambling industry code requires that gambling logos must not appear on any merchandise. However, I take note of the noble Lord’s points. There are strict controls and, indeed, some sanctions have been imposed.
My Lords, has not the noble Lord, Lord Morgan, absolutely hit the point? Not only was the Gambling Commission’s report into online gambling in March inadequate but the forthcoming licence conditions and codes of practice will be inadequate, because they do not deal with the volume of advertising, particularly on live sporting events, whether online or on television. Why cannot the Minister pledge to review those licence conditions in the light of what has been said today?
As my noble friend Lord Ashton has said, what counts is what is effective. All operators offering gambling services to customers in Great Britain must be licensed by the Gambling Commission, regardless of where they are based. If licence conditions are breached, operators can be fined and their licences can even be revoked. There have been some prosecutions and penalties of up to £18 million have been imposed.
My Lords, the noble Viscount said in his earlier reply that he was particularly concerned about the targeting of children. Has he had a chance to look at the social responsibility code that goes in the gambling guidelines? Can he bring in line both remote and non-remote forms of gambling so that children are protected from being targeted in this way?
The noble Lord makes a good point. I deliberately mentioned children earlier because the advertising codes include strict controls. Adverts must not be targeted to children, appeal particularly to children or young people or exploit vulnerable people or those for whom gambling may lead to financial, social or emotional harm. This is something that we take extremely seriously and continue to look at.
My Lords, years ago the UK abolished the advertising of tobacco in any form. When it is so evident that problem gambling and gambling among young people, according to recent evidence, are generating so much tragedy and potential disaster for individuals and families, why can we not now, in 2018, do the same with gambling?
I say to the noble Lord what has been said in the House before: problem gambling has stayed static, at under 1% of adults, despite a steep rise in advertising since 2007. However, this is not the end of the story, because we are seeking more research. More work needs to be done. A major research survey by Per Binde in 2014 concluded that the impact was not particularly big, but he is doing more research as we speak.
My Lords, is not the substantive problem here that the advertising issues that need to be regulated should be dealt with by an independent statutory agency, whereas they are currently the responsibility of a body that is sponsored and funded by the industry that would be affected by such regulations?
As I said, we believe that the voluntary approach is right. The Committees of Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice rightly maintain the advertising codes. The rules are, of course, enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority.
My Lords, over the past 12 months, the Minister and fellow Ministers have on numerous occasions indicated that government policy is to reduce the exposure of young people to gambling advertising. What evidence can he give to the House that he is having any success whatever with that objective?
My Lords, the public consultation on the Windrush compensation scheme runs until 11 October. We will announce details of the final scheme and how to apply as soon as possible after the public consultation has ended. The review carried out by Sir Alex Allan was an internal review commissioned by the Permanent Secretary. The Home Secretary is considering whether a redacted version of the report can be published.
I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for her reply. Does she agree that justice for those damaged by the Windrush scandal, as well as the urgent need to restore public trust in the Home Office, require that Sir Alex Allan’s report be published without further delay? It is always cover-up that causes the most harm, and full disclosure is now required. My right honourable friend Amber Rudd resigned as a result of what took place. If there is any sense that the Civil Service is closing ranks to protect its own, there could be a serious loss of public confidence.
My noble friend makes two very good points, the first being about justice being seen to be served for the Windrush generation, to which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is utterly committed. To that end, he has asked Wendy Williams to conduct a review and report back by March. I agree with my noble friend, too, that clarity for both our elected officials and unelected officials gives the public confidence in Parliament. The Prime Minister said earlier today:
“I reassure my right hon. Friend that the Home Secretary has been looking at this issue, and the Cabinet Secretary is looking at this. We are committed to publication, but the form of that is currently being considered”.
My Lords, the action of the Home Office in relation to the Windrush generation may be welcome, but how many others who were legally in this country but without documentation from areas other than the Caribbean have been similarly wrongly deported or deprived of the means to live in this country? What assurance can the Minister give that the appalling treatment of the Windrush generation has not been repeated in relation to others?
The noble Lord makes a point that he has made before, and it is a very good one. Certainly, the review being carried out by Wendy Williams will teach us some lessons for the future to ensure that this never happens again. In addition, as I think I mentioned the other day, this issue makes clear the importance now of identity assurance.
My Lords, I cannot second-guess the thinking behind some of the decision-making, but it might be to protect some people’s names. However, as I have just said, the Prime Minister has committed to publication, whether in a redacted form or not.
The noble Lord brings this up again and it is an important point, because we have heard anecdotal evidence of hardship. The Home Secretary recognises that. His immediate priority has been to help some of those affected to establish their immigration status but also to support people in advance of the compensation scheme being put in place. Where there is an immediate need—he outlined such a case to me the other day—we are supporting people to access housing and benefits and deal with immediate problems while removing immigration obstacles to their finding work. In addition, the noble Lord might want to know that we have signed an agreement with Citizens Advice, which can provide some of the professional bespoke advice that people might need.
My Lords, I declare an interest as the son of an Admiralty civil servant. I do not believe for a second that this disaster can be put at the door of civil servants. It lies elsewhere. Generally, civil servants perform in an admirable and loyal way and do as they are told by their political masters.
My Lords, I hope that I have not conflated the two issues. The disaster of Windrush happened over decades under successive Governments. The Alex Allan review is entirely different, looking into what happened around the time of the former Home Secretary’s appearance before HASC.
Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill
The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.
Middle Level Bill
Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.
Non-Domestic Rating (Nursery Grounds) Bill
Committed to Committee
House of Lords (Hereditary Peers) (Abolition of By-Elections) Bill [HL]
Committed to Committee
That the bill be reported from the Committee of the Whole House in respect of proceedings up to amendment 35A; and that, for the remainder of the bill, the order of commitment of 8 September 2017 be discharged and the bill be committed to a Grand Committee.
My Lords, as we have heard, this Motion relates to the House of Lords (Hereditary Peers) (Abolition of By-Elections) Bill, with which the House will be familiar. The Motion is simple. It asks the House to transfer the remaining consideration in Committee from the Floor of the House to Grand Committee. I want to explain why I think this is highly desirable.
My Bill came first in the Private Members’ Bill ballot that many noble Lords entered at the beginning of this Session, meaning that it was allocated time for consideration. It is the first time I have ever come first in a ballot, so maybe there is a certain amount of sympathy for me on that basis—but that is about all the achievement I can list, because the progress of the Bill since then has been as follows. It received its Second Reading on 8 September 2017, just over a year ago. The first day of Committee was on 23 March this year and the second day last Friday—not a day that will go down as one of the greatest in the annals of this House. The Bill has had around six hours of debate so far, two hours of which have been spent deciding whether it should continue in Committee. When votes have occurred, the House has given its overwhelming support to the objectives of the Bill.
It is a simple, two-clause Bill. So far, it has attracted 75 amendments, 55 of them from just two Peers. The net result is that, a year after its Second Reading, we still have not completed the first clause. I am all for the thorough examination of Bills, but that is beyond ridiculous. If the Bill were to remain on the Floor of the House in Committee, at least three more precious Fridays would be taken up in consideration of a simple, two-clause Bill. This is not fair to other Members who have been successful lower down in the ballot and who are waiting in the queue to have their Bill considered—and, if I may say so, it is also not very fair to me.
When the House votes for a Second Reading, by implication quite clearly it is voting to ensure that it will consider the Bill in Committee. If the House does not want the Bill to be considered in Committee, it votes against the Second Reading. But that was not done—it was an unopposed Second Reading. So I say to that very small minority of Peers who want to block the Bill that they should do it not by making a pantomime about procedure as they have been doing in Committee, but, if they so desire, by voting against it on Third Reading, as is their right and which is the proper way to consider a Bill. They can then kill the Bill—but I would not put great odds on them winning that vote.
My Motion proposes simply that we should go ahead and complete Committee in Grand Committee; no more, no less. It is important that we get on with this and do it quickly. Since we started Committee, as I said, on 23 March this year, there have been two further instances of these ludicrous by-elections. As noble Lords know, that is in complete violation of the Burns report, which has been supported by the House, which says that we should proceed to reduce the size of the House on the ratio of two out, one in. That applies to all of us apart from the hereditary Peers system, which provides for two out, two in. That means that that section of the peerage cannot possibly reduce in number without a change in the law such as the one I am proposing. So it is important that we do it quickly. Passing this Motion today will allow us to get on with the Bill without further undue delay. I commend it to the House and beg to move.
My Lords, this is a very important Motion. I am not absolutely certain that it will necessarily speed the passage of the Bill—but that is a matter for the noble Lord, Lord Grocott. However, I am very satisfied that the Bill, as long as it is heard in the House on a Friday in Committee, is holding back other Bills that are scheduled for a Committee hearing. All of us who have an interest in these Bills—I happen to have an interest in one or two of them—are being deprived of that as a result of the Bill being heard in the Chamber.
I therefore hope that the House will support the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, without a Division, on the view that it can only be of help to others who are waiting and that it can be of no harm whatever to anybody else in relation to the way the Bill is handled. If it does any harm at all, it will be that the Bill in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, may take slightly longer by this route that it might take otherwise—but I am not enough of a betting man to put any odds on that.
Therefore, the only tangible evidence is that if the Motion is not passed, other noble Lords waiting for their Bills to be heard in Committee on a Friday in the usual way are being held up. I have had the honour of being present at all the proceedings so far, and I must say that the responsibility for delay cannot be handed out to any particular individuals, because we have had some discussions that were of a rather fringe quality in relation to the full text of the Bill. But the important thing is that if the Bill continues here, it will hold up others, and I see no reason why that should happen.
My Lords, I will make one very brief comment. If this is the problem, why can we not move all these Private Members’ Bills to the Moses Room? Maybe they could move there and that would also unblock it; I do not see why this particular one has to go there.
The challenge with the Bill is that it is antidemocratic. It does not propose—noble Lords should read the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis—that we are replaced with a democratically elected House, which was in the agreement when the hereditary Peers came here. It mainly achieves an appointed House through the back door, steadily over time. That is a huge matter of principle and should not be brushed under the table.
My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Grocott and will say, in a slightly lighter vein, that it was not just the reputation of this House that was damaged last Friday, when I was present—it was the attractiveness to those across the world who wish to use the British private education system, because I have never heard such a load of rubbish in my life coming from those who benefited from that education system many years ago.
Police Forces: Financial Stability
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat in the form of a Statement the Answer given to an Urgent Question answered earlier by my right honourable friend the Minister for Policing. The Statement is as follows:
“The NAO does incredibly important work and the Government are grateful for their work on police financial sustainability. The Home Secretary made clear to the Police Superintendents’ Association conference that we understand and agree that the police are under pressure and we are determined to support them. I am hugely appreciative of the hard work our police officers put in daily to keep the public safe.
I should say to this House that I do not recognise the suggestion that Ministers do not understand the pressures on the police. Last year, I personally spoke to all 43 police forces in England and Wales, including front-line officers, and I commissioned analysis to improve our understanding of police demand and resilience. I did explain our findings before this House last year at the time of the provisional police funding settlement. We recognised the pressures on the police, including from complex crime and the threat of terrorism. We provided a funding settlement which is increasing total investment in the police system by over £460 million in 2018-19. This includes £50 million for counterterrorism, £130 million for national priorities and £280 million in force funding from increases in precept income.
We are not stopping there. I have already indicated that we will afford the police the same precept flexibility in 2019-20, subject to them meeting productivity and efficiency asks. We are working closely with the police to jointly build the evidence base on police demand, resilience and capability ahead of the spending review.
The report is valuable in highlighting pressure on the police, but we do not believe it gives weight to these issues: first, the strength of the local accountability structure through PCCs, which were introduced by this Government; secondly, our support to the independent inspectorate in developing force management statements—a key tool in getting better data to identify and manage future demand; thirdly, we monitor effectiveness publicly through HMICFRS, whose independent authority we have strengthened; fourthly, we have asked the police to reform themselves and, as such, it is appropriate that the police have their own strategy in their Policing Vision 2025.
We take the report extremely seriously and our Permanent Secretary has written to the NAO to accept these points. However, the House should be under no illusion: this Government remain extremely committed to ensuring that forces have the resources they need to do the important work that they do”.
My Lords, there is a bit of a conflict. On the one hand, the NAO report is recognised and accepted but, on the other, the Home Secretary immediately says that he does not recognise the picture that it paints. But the NAO says, on its good evidence, that the Home Office,
“lacks a long-term plan for policing”,
“does not know if the police system is financially sustainable”,
and does not understand the pressures on our police forces. I accept what the NAO says more than what the Home Secretary does. Will the Minister confirm that police funding has fallen by 19% in real terms since 2010-11? Will she accept that forces are finding it harder and harder to deliver an effective service?
To address the last question first, both the Policing Minister and the Home Secretary recognise the demands on the police. They have said it before and my right honourable friend the Policing Minister said it again today. Not only is the picture of crime changing, but the police have had to deal—so bravely—with the various terrorist attacks we have had over the past year. When it comes to understanding demand, I have said before that my right honourable friend the Policing Minister visited all 43 forces in England and Wales leading up to the comprehensive settlement for 2018-19, which provided that £460 million increase. Looking forward to the next spending review, he stated in December last year that he would revisit plans to change the funding formula at the time of the next spending review. I have outlined the 2018 settlement, but in 2019-20 he will seek to maintain the protection of the broadly flat police grant, alongside the same flexibility of the precept that happened this year.
My Lords, the NAO report finds that central government funding for the police service has fallen by 30% in real terms since 2010-11, resulting between March 2010 and March 2018 in a 15% reduction in police officers, a 40% reduction in PCSOs and a 21% reduction in other police staff. Despite what the Minister has just said, the NAO says the Government have,
“no national picture of what forces need”.
Do the Government agree with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, who said yesterday:
“This is not a service that needs reform, this is a service that needs support and needs resources … the NAO report shows this”?
Will the Minister finally admit that the Government can no longer argue that the police service has sufficient resources to deliver an effective service? The NAO says that the Government do not have a clue whether or not the police service has sufficient resources.
As I said to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, the Policing Minister visited every single police force in England and Wales to establish what the demands on the police were before he announced the increase in overall funding for this year. He has made some commitments towards the spending review. With regard to a national plan, Policing Vision 2025 is the plan for the police, and we are supporting them to achieve it. On funding, we arrived at the figure for this year because the police told us they wanted to put an extra 5,000 police in place. The settlement we arrived at allowed for an additional 11,000 police officers—if every police force maximised its precept.
My Lords, the Minister, for whom we have a high regard, knows of my concerns and, I suspect, those of others, about the rather soft approach of the Home Office towards police services in creating, at the centre, this gap in the knowledge of what is actually happening on the ground. I have a number of concerns in the social care field about what is happening. In particular, the Minister knows that I am deeply concerned about the future of the specialist child protection teams, which are so vital in the protection of children.
I always take what the noble Lord says seriously, particularly in relation to child social care. I have not got a particular answer about specialist child protection officers, but I will certainly take that back to the department. In terms of a gap in knowledge at the centre, this autonomy for the police was a deliberate move towards much more local accountability—something that had been called for for a long time. We expect PCCs to have that local knowledge and put forward their plans in light of it.
My Lords, it is good to hear about the 5,000 extra police, but I wonder whether the Government have a particular dimension of policing in mind when they arrive at the figures they think are appropriate. When one asks Government whether what we have is appropriate, since the number is smaller than we used to have, the answer is that equipment and deployment will solve the problems. It does not solve the problem of public disorder, where we need boots on the ground—and we need them in quantity. Will the Minister ask her colleagues to ask the police forces of this country to cast their minds back over the last 20 years and consider whether they could contain the public disorder that occurred over those 20 years with the equipment they have now, bearing in mind that communications have changed and they are faced with disorder that is co-ordinated by means of WhatsApp, which cannot be penetrated by the police?
My noble friend makes a very good point about the changing face of crime in the light of technology. Of course, we have the recent rise in knife crime. In terms of whether the police have the equipment they need, or whether we have enough boots on the ground to tackle crime, it is up to local police forces to decide the number of police they need in relation to the demands they face and the crime patterns in their area. For some police, gang violence is a particular problem; in other areas, it might be knife crime; and where I live in London, in Camden, moped crime is a particular problem. Resource need is something that needs to be locally determined.
The Minister has referred at least twice, or perhaps three times, to the incredible efforts of her colleague the Policing Minister in going round all 43 forces. Can she tell the House how many of the police and crime commissioners, whom he no doubt met on those visits, expressed support for the current level of policing resources that was available to them and what proportion of the population they represent? Further to the question that has just been asked about public order, given that the police were barely able to cope with the disorder that happened in 2011, what level of policing numbers are there now, even with this extra 5,000, compared to the numbers then, and would the police be able to cope with a similar incident in the future?
The noble Lord will probably know that I have not got an answer off the top of my head about what PCCs said to the Policing Minister about the financial settlement. In terms of whether the policing numbers that existed in 2011 would be able to cope with some of the demands now, it is not an entirely simple equation to say that numbers equal resilience to cope, though I am certainly not dismissing what the noble Lord says. All I can say is that, when the Policing Minister went round all the police forces, he did ask specifically about the numbers necessary to meet demand.
Committee (2nd Day)
Relevant document: 31st Report from the Delegated Powers Committee
Clause 12: Offence of breaching the prohibition or causing or facilitating a breach
36: Clause 12, page 8, line 7, leave out subsection (2)
My Lords, Amendment 36 would remove the defence of ignorance for those found to be in breach of the Act. At Second Reading numerous concerns were raised about how unsuspecting members of the public could accidentally flout the ivory ban. There was much discussion about selling an item found in grandma’s attic or at a car boot sale that, unbeknown to them, contained ivory. Of course some of this challenge comes down to publicity and communication. As with all new legislation, there is a need to make the public aware of their new responsibilities, and indeed progress has already been made. As we discussed, the consultation received a record number of responses, which is indicative of public and industry awareness. This will undoubtedly grow when the UK hosts the international Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference, at which the Secretary of State has already made it clear that he intends to highlight this flagship legislation. So really everyone should know the situation regarding the sale of goods containing ivory and understand that it has changed. Meanwhile the National Wildlife Crime Unit will have to focus its scarce resources very carefully. It simply will not have the staff to visit car boot sales on the off-chance of a transgression. As the unit itself has made clear, it will,
“deal with the ones who have a complete disregard for policy protocol legislation … who are deceptive, who lie and who want to make money out of this”.
While we understand the principle behind this subsection, we believe that genuine accidental transgressions of this type can be dealt with lightly through an enforcement undertaking with no monetary penalty, and that this provision is therefore unnecessary. We are concerned that unscrupulous traders could exploit this loophole so that they could continue to deal in ivory with impunity, only to feign ignorance if they are caught. We know that new elephant ivory is offered for sale and is often mislabelled as antique ivory, ivory from other species or other material altogether, such as bone. In some instances this may have been due to genuine unawareness, although deliberately mislabelling it is a well-known tactic in the illegal ivory trade. For the ban to be effective, it is imperative that any exemptions are narrowly defined and that breaches can and will be enforced. That is why we believe the defence of ignorance would undermine the intention and effectiveness of the Bill. I hope noble Lords understand the point that I am making and will support this view. I beg to move.
My Lords, I reiterate my declaration of interest as chairman of LAPADA, the art and antiques dealers’ trade association. We have worked closely with BADA, the other major trade association.
On the face of it, Clause 12(2) provides protection against prosecution for those people who are not aware that the item they are handling contains elements of ivory. That they may be prosecuted only if it can be shown that they knew or suspected, or ought to have known or suspected, that an item was made from ivory appears to me to be reasonable. I suppose that I could see that the interaction between this subsection and Clause 35(4) could cause confusion and potentially prove unjust. As I understand it, Clause 35(4) means there is the presumption that, if a material can be proved to be ivory of any animal, it can be assumed to be the ivory of an elephant unless proved otherwise. If one takes the case of someone who genuinely believes an item to be made from the ivory of another species and not from elephant ivory, I am not sure whether they would receive the protection of Clause 12 because it does not refer specifically to elephant ivory. I wonder whether the Minister can shed any light on this point.
My Lords, this amendment would mean that persons could not use a defence that they did not know or suspect, or ought to know or suspect, the item was ivory. I should therefore explain why this provision was included and how it would be applied.
This provision has been included to help tackle the problem of illegal ivory items being deliberately mislabelled as another substance, such as bovine bone. It is also to protect those who fall victim of mislabelling of ivory and who, and I underline this, genuinely did not know that the item they were buying contained ivory. The purpose of the Bill is not to penalise or criminalise unnecessarily people who have made a genuine mistake. This provision also allows the police, enforcement bodies and courts to use their professional discretion when considering the most appropriate approach to deploy for individual defendants.
The issue of labelling ivory as another substance when it is sold is a common one. Illegal ivory items are often deliberately mislabelled as another substance, such as bovine bone, in order to evade existing restrictions on ivory sales. For this reason, the Bill ensures it is an offence to deal in ivory where that person knew or suspected, or ought to have known or suspected, that it was ivory. In practice, this means that, where it is clear that a person is deliberately mislabelling ivory as some other substance in order to attempt to circumvent this ban, this will be an offence. Likewise, anyone buying items of mislabelled ivory who could reasonably be expected to know it is elephant ivory will also be liable.
The enforcement bodies and courts will consider the position of the person when taking a view as to whether they should have known or suspected the item was ivory; for instance, if the person is an antiques dealer or a member of the public. They may also, for example, take into account if it is a repeat offence or if the seller deliberately mislabelled the item and then provided other information to indicate more discreetly to potential buyers that the item was in fact ivory. For example, sellers have been known to include close-up photographs in order to show the tell-tale lines or crosshatching, which are characteristic of ivory.
I will need to reflect on what on my noble friend Lord De Mauley said, but the Bill at this moment relates to elephant ivory. We will come on to further amendments that relate to the ability of this legislation potentially to extend to other species. For the moment, the Bill is dealing with elephant ivory.
Clause 12(2) is phrased to capture some instances of genuine mislabelling, where there was no intention to breach the ban and where the person could not reasonably be expected to know the item was ivory. This element of the Bill is designed to protect such people, who may be buyers, sellers or those facilitating a sale or purchase and whose prosecution I think your Lordships would accept is not what we are seeking in this legislation. I hope for those reasons the noble Baroness is able to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I think that we want to achieve the same thing here. It is a question of whether the existing wording achieves what the Minister has outlined. We do not want to penalise or take to court any innocent person who is trapped in this way. That is not our intention and clearly it is not the Government’s intention. However, I do not know how you can prove that someone genuinely did not know that something had ivory in it. I have a feeling that we are trying to prove a negative here, which in terms of enforcement will be quite difficult.
Therefore, we are in the game of asking how you prove that somebody ought to know and how you prove that somebody could not possibly have known. It is quite unusual to have a get-out clause in a Bill that says, “If you didn’t know about it, we’ll let you off”. With most legislation—it might be banning smoking in cars—it is not normally a defence to say, “I didn’t know”. Equally, I find it odd that the Bill is introducing a situation where someone can say, “I didn’t know, so maybe I should be let off on this occasion”.
I think that we want to achieve the same thing; I just do not feel that the wording here delivers what the Minister is trying to get at, and I would like to reflect a little more on his response. I hope that, in return, he will listen to what I am saying because, as I said, I am not sure that this wording delivers his exact intent. Maybe there is another way through this but, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 36 withdrawn.
37: Clause 12, page 8, line 20, leave out “six months” and insert “12 months”
Member’s explanatory statement
This is a probing amendment concerning the discrepancy between the maximum term of imprisonment for breaching the prohibition in Northern Ireland compared to England and Wales, and Scotland.
My Lords, this is very brief probing amendment. It concerns the discrepancy between the maximum term of imprisonment for breaching the prohibition in Northern Ireland compared to England, Wales and Scotland.
The Bill states that the criminal sanction for breaching the legislation in Scotland, England and Wales is 12 months’ imprisonment, whereas it is just six months in Northern Ireland. Can the Minister confirm that this discrepancy reflects the fact that the United Kingdom does not have a single legal system? Is the law somehow different in Northern Ireland or is this simply a drafting error? On the face of it, the current wording does not seem fair or logical. I look forward to the Minister’s response and beg to move.
My Lords, I support the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, on this probing amendment. Although I accept and respect that it is for the devolved Administrations to set their own penalties, we must keep in mind the difficulties that this will cause. As we all know, the devolved arrangements in Northern Ireland have broken down and there appears to be little prospect of them resuming in the near future. This would leave a situation where the penalties in one part of the UK were lighter than in the rest.
Those seeking to circumnavigate the law and benefit from the proceeds of trading ivory might be prepared to risk a six-month imprisonment term instead of 12 months. These are, after all, hardened criminals. It would be extremely unfortunate if the trafficking in illegal ivory and ivory products were shifted to Northern Ireland because the penalties there were more lenient. I respect completely what the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, said, and I am sure that the Minister will give clarification—but I wonder whether the Government and the Secretary of State might consider having uniformity of sentencing across the UK.
My Lords, the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, seeks to increase the maximum prison term for breaching the prohibition in Northern Ireland. As a result of the devolution settlement, Northern Ireland has the power to adopt practices concerning criminal justice that are different from those in England and Wales. The sentence that would apply in Northern Ireland is up to six months and is set out in the laws applying to that nation.
In England and Wales, Section 154(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which would increase the maximum sentence available on summary conviction from six months to 12 months, has not been commenced. This means that currently the maximum sentence available in England and Wales on summary conviction is six months. Therefore, the two are in alignment and thus the penalties are the same across the UK. Should the relevant section be commenced for England and Wales, the maximum available prison sentence would increase to 12 months—the Bill provides for that—and the two would no longer be in alignment. With that explanation, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that explanation. We were just trying to establish the facts of the case, and she has clearly set them out. Obviously we will respect the devolution package and we certainly do not want to force something on Northern Ireland where it thinks it has some control of its own in these matters. I am grateful for that clarification and need not say anything more on it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 37 withdrawn.
Clause 12 agreed.
Clause 13 agreed.
38: After Clause 13, insert the following new Clause—
“Report on enforcement resources
(1) Within 12 months of section 12 of this Act coming into force, the Secretary of State must make an assessment of the resources available to enforce the prohibition.(2) The report must consider in particular—(a) the resources allocated or planned to be allocated towards enforcing the prohibition,(b) the potential impact of any change in resources so allocated or planned to be allocated, and(c) the impact on other law or border enforcement activities of the resources so allocated or planned to be allocated.(3) The Secretary of State must lay a report of the assessment under this section before each House of Parliament as soon as practicable after its completion.”Member’s explanatory statement
This new Clause requires an assessment to be made and laid before Parliament regarding the level of resources allocated or proposed to be allocated to enforcing the prohibition against dealing in ivory.
My Lords, I rise to move Amendment 38 in the name of my noble friend Lady Jones and to speak to Amendments 59 and 60 in this group. Enforcement is a critical part of achieving the aims of the legislation and must not be neglected. This new clause would require an assessment to be made and laid before Parliament on the level of resources allocated, or proposed to be allocated, to enforcement of the prohibition in ivory dealing. The Minister’s department must demonstrate determination to enforce the provisions of the Bill to underline its commitment.
As noble Lords will appreciate, enforcement is a resource-intensive undertaking. However, many of the agencies and authorities we expect to be involved with enforcement of the Bill are already struggling. Home Office statistics show that the number of police officers fell from 143,734 in March 2010 to 123,142 in March 2017. The CITES Border Force team has just 10 members, who carry out more than 1,000 seizures a year, each one generating months of work. The National Wildlife Crime Unit has only 12 members of staff, including administrative staff, to cover the entirety of its work across the UK. The team not only carries out investigations referred from the Border Force but works right across all the UK wildlife crime priority areas, which is a significant remit outside CITES and includes domestic wildlife, bats, badgers, and prosecutions relating to birds of prey, freshwater pearl mussels and poaching. All of these sit within the UK’s strategic priorities, and the work of the National Wildlife Crime Unit is split right across all these areas.
Ivory products are the most popular wildlife item on the international market, despite a global ban on ivory sales imposed by the 180-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. This legislation could therefore increase the Wildlife Crime Unit’s work exponentially. A strong commitment to future funding is vital if that important work is to continue. We have heard that the funding is committed until 2020 but, beyond that, the National Wildlife Crime Unit has had no formal indication that there will be continued funding, which clearly causes concern. It is unable to plan or commit to long-term strategies. It is very difficult for any agency to form business plans when, in 20 months’ time, it may not exist at all.
The APHA, an executive agency with an existing wide-ranging remit, will be responsible for administering and enforcing the registration and certification scheme. The Minister has previously confirmed that the APHA will be responsible for conducting spot checks on items registered, to check for accuracy and compliance, and will be working with the police and others to enable them to carry out any enforcement and monitoring action necessary. This is a key and very necessary part of the regulations, so it should be carried out by skilled members of staff trained to identify ivory. Has the Minister’s department carried out a budget and manpower review of the Bill’s implications for the APHA?
Finally, the Minister has advised that the regulator—the Office for Product Safety and Standards—will also play a role in enforcement. There was very little scrutiny in the other place of why this BEIS agency has been selected to oversee most of the enforcement of the Act under civil penalty provisions. Will the Minister explain why the OPSS has been chosen, given that the Ivory Act will form part of the global wildlife protection legislation that is administered by Defra? The OPSS has no expertise in wildlife regulation and there is concern that it will be preoccupied by its other work. Will the Minister assure the House that there will be sufficient funding for specially trained and dedicated staff at the OPSS to work on enforcing the ban on dealing with ivory?
Will the Minister also spell out how the OPSS will operate alongside the police, the CITES border force and the National Wildlife Crime Unit? How will the responsible areas be defined and split between the agencies when the regulator will be in another department? Will the Minister explain how the enforcement will be structured? I trust that the Government will commit to ensuring sufficient manpower and resources, otherwise the Bill will be toothless and treated merely as non-binding guidance, and the public will interpret from this that the Government are not committed to taking the measure seriously.
Amendments 59 and 60 call for a report on the impact of the Act on the ivory market. I may respond later to the remarks from the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan. At this stage, I will comment only that Amendment 59 seems to focus more widely on the international market, whereas Amendment 60 in the name of my noble friend Lady Jones is focused on the domestic market—albeit that both call also for a report from DfID to be included explaining how the work of the department has contributed to the aims of the Bill.
In Committee in the House on Monday, the Government were conducive towards Amendment 35 on producing a report on exemptions to the ivory ban. They intended to share publicly information on how the ivory ban was working in practice. It seems logical to press the Government to go further and report more widely on the domestic ivory market as well and, by extension, include how the Department for International Development has worked with communities overseas that are on the front line in the battle against ivory poaching.
The proposed new clause in Amendment 60 provides for a practical analysis of the impact of the Bill in its ultimate purpose to reduce the illegal trade in ivory and to save the elephant from further slaughter. Importantly, the report should consider the impact on nations and communities that generate income from the trade, given that the Bill responds to calls from African nations that stand as one to demand an end to the market for ivory across the globe that fuels the drive for poaching. As we have argued throughout the passage of the Bill, reducing demand is the key tenet of a wider strategy. It will place the Bill alongside the activities of other nations to provide leadership on an international scale which the Secretary of State can underline when he hosts the illegal wildlife conference in London in October. I beg to move.
My Lords, I follow the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, in speaking to Amendment 59. No one who listened to the Second Reading debate in another place can be in doubt of the Government’s determination to eliminate the criminal trade in ivory. This concerns at least three government departments. We have not yet heard from the international development side of the story and I have not so far spoken, but I will not delay the Bill by repeating what was said at Second Reading.
My primary interest is not in the ivory trade, although I sympathise with many of the concerns expressed, but in the communities where elephants and people live and how they will be affected—or assisted—by the Bill. Several MPs have tried to amend the Bill on their behalf and to widen it to include the protection of other endangered species, listed in CITES, such as rhinos and even tigers and snow leopards. I am not, however, going quite that far today. That is the subject of a later amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones.
People are saying different things on the Bill. In Committee, I have been struck by the occasional polarisation of opinion. For example, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, said on Monday that she was protecting elephants, while the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and others were protecting inanimate objects. My noble friend Lord Berkeley said that some of the resources required in monitoring the ivory trade would surely be much better directed towards the problem itself—towards protecting elephants and prosecuting the criminals who try to make money out of ivory. I sympathise with him.
Ivory may not be seen with quite the same reverence at a local level in Africa or Asia. Elephants, on the other hand, especially those that still have their tusks and their teeth intact, are highly respected. There are some robust programmes targeting poachers and dealers, many of whom, as in any crime, are inevitably seeking a way out of poverty. When it comes to the need for human survival, desperation can easily lure people into crime, so poverty alleviation and sustainable development must always be partners of human and animal rights.
One must not be too pious about this. We have to be aware that corruption goes a lot higher than poachers and dealers. In some communities, the elephant is quite unromantic and can become the enemy of development. I have witnessed a dangerous bull elephant in South Africa—I expect a lot of people have. Anyone in Assam will remind you that elephants never forget and wreak terrible and regular vengeance.
DfID already focuses on alternative livelihoods as part of the UK campaign to end the ivory trade. I warmly welcome that. All too often, criminal activity is seen as an easy alternative to low pay and lack of opportunity. There are many organisations tackling this, such as the African Wildlife Foundation, which combines preventing trade in ivory with development projects in local communities. The AWF, for example, has a programme to bring wildlife criminals to justice through the training of rangers and prosecutors. It has had much success with sniffer dogs at Nairobi and Entebbe airports. In the same region, the charity Save the Elephants has recruited Turkana and Samburu women to help to track elephants in its campaign to stop poaching.
The World Wide Fund for Nature has a worldwide scheme to support rangers who carry out essential protection of endangered species, directly benefiting local families as well as elephants. It is monitoring herds, training community rangers and protecting habitats. In safeguarding elephants, it is also helping to support local communities through measures to reduce human-elephant conflict and initiatives to support local livelihoods.
I recognise that the Government have made extensive preparations for the IWT conference next month, but DfID, since it works overseas, always appears to be a junior ministry in these joined-up initiatives. I have looked at its website in relation to elephants. Inevitably, there will be a lot of variety in different countries’ responses to the illegal trade and the conference will doubtless show that there is no simple development formula. This affects how you assess the effect of these programmes. There is no simple development formula beyond the rule of law but, knowing DfID’s investment in the programme, it would be reasonable to ask for some impact assessment.
All that I am seeking with this amendment is a recognition of the work of DfID and its in-country partners through an annual report that makes some assessment of success in both protection and development alongside trade bans. The Government have given huge sums to this and launched impressive targets, but it is important for us to judge how effective these targets are going to be and how they will benefit local people.
There was a degree of euphoria in another place during discussion of the Bill. The ivory campaign inevitably has widespread support on all sides. Nevertheless, we must be aware that, while we can and must reduce the international trade in ivory, the real problems are not taking place on this island and we need a formal assessment of the impact on the people most directly affected. I thank the Opposition Front Bench for presenting a comparable amendment and I hope that we can carry this through to later stages of the Bill.
My Lords, I apologise for not having taken part in the Second Reading debate on the Bill. I was unable to do so, but, having seen the amendment put down by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, I was moved to add my name. I will take a few minutes to say why I thought that that was necessary.
The aim of the Bill is well and good within itself and I support it wholeheartedly. The success of the Bill in reducing poaching will, we all hope, lead to a rise in elephant numbers and it therefore makes sense that we should also be alive to any unintended consequences that could arise. That is why I have added my name to the amendment in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. I am most concerned about the consequences for developing communities in countries where the elephants are found.
The Minister will know—we have already heard about this from around the Chamber this afternoon—that human-elephant conflict is a real and growing issue in regions where elephants and humans live in close proximity. Indeed, the issue has its own acronym—it is frequently referred to as HEC. Smaller farms risk crops being devastated by elephants and the wrath of farmers can translate into hostility towards elephants and the granting of licences to poachers, which rather defeats the purpose of the Bill, as the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, mentioned. In addition, heedless large agribusiness, of the type that Africa is in dire need of, can cut swathes through traditional elephant corridors to food and water, causing major conflict.
The abhorrent practice of destroying majestic, intelligent creatures must be put to a stop, but it must be done so that it is permanently sustainable. If we are serious about the endeavour, we must be proactive in identifying areas where challenges will arise and take action to meet them. Some excellent work being done in this field has highlighted the important insights that local communities can provide, so it is crucial that those communities are involved in designing the initiatives for crop protection that will lead to elephant conservation. It is important that this is done by DfID, because it is best placed and has the best know-how and it will be able to take the lead in efforts to mitigate the impact of rising elephant numbers on the countries where elephants live and, in particular on the local communities, particularly farming communities, that may be adversely affected.
In conclusion, peaceful coexistence of humans and elephants is eminently possible through effective and sensible land management. However, we must be alive to the dangerous unintended consequences and must not neglect to give this issue sufficient attention.
My Lords, I declare an interest as president of the British Art Market Federation, as I did on the first day in Committee.
May I ask the Minister about the comments about resources that the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, made at the beginning of his speech? On the first day in Committee I moved an amendment that the noble Lord will remember, about the requirement to register Clause 7—de minimis—exemptions. These exemptions, in the words of the Explanatory Memorandum, are there because they in no way, either directly or indirectly, contribute to the poaching of wild elephants. At the same time, the Minister told the House that government policy had been prepared with the benefit of the widest consultation, with all the relevant interest groups, including the wildlife interest groups. That being the case, having heard the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, surely it must follow, given the very small number of resources that are available to deal with the problems of ivory, that this stipulation that de minimis exemptions need to be registered is a serious misallocation of resources. The Government admit that they are not contributing to the destruction of wild elephants. Therefore, if it is an offence not to register, they are deflecting resources that could otherwise be put to better purpose. If the noble Lord says that it will not lead to any change or misallocation of resources, I will ask him what the purpose is of having that stipulation in the legislation at all, because it is conceded that it is not achieving anything.
My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Sandwich. I declare an interest as a longstanding trustee of the Tusk Trust, which has not just been looking to address the chronic problem of poachers and dealers but to assist in educating local communities about the importance of ecotourism. In this regard, it is important to consider an impact assessment report, which would help DfID to support local communities in their education efforts. I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, that enforcement is crucial. Without enforcement the Bill would be toothless.
My Lords, I am afraid I am going to strike a rather discordant note. I want to focus on Amendments 59 and 60. It is widely accepted that by far the most significant markets for ivory are in the Far East. The Secretary of State acknowledged in his impact assessment that the United Kingdom ivory market has not been linked to the trade in recently poached ivory. There are many other factors at play in the illicit international trade in wildlife that will have a far greater impact on demand for ivory than the trade in antiques here in the United Kingdom.
With respect to the noble Lords who have moved these amendments, I therefore struggle to understand how the requirements proposed in Amendments 59 and 60—to report on the impact of this Bill on the elephant populations in Africa and on the demand for ivory in other countries—would be carried out. How exactly would one attribute to the Bill a change in the demand in Hong Kong for raw ivory, for example?
With respect to the noble Lords who have proposed these reports, there appears to be a premise behind both amendments that the UK’s fairly minimal international trade in objects made from ivory is encouraging the demand for ivory in the countries of the Far East. As I explained on Monday in Committee, if we exclude piano keys, the total number of antiques incorporating ivory exported from the UK to the entire world amounted to 766 items in 2016 and just over 1,000 last year. The exported objects comprise a mixture of both solid ivory carvings and objects that incorporate ivory, such as musical instruments or furniture with inlay. The latter are of no interest to buyers in the Far East. As I have previously said, these numbers are small fry when compared to the volumes of ivory traded in the ivory consumer markets.
I was tempted to support these amendments so that afterwards I could say, “I told you so”, but I do not believe that we should spend taxpayers’ money in that way, especially when I know the answer already. We have to recognise the most significant factor in stopping the trade in poached ivory is not whether the UK is selling antiques or not, but whether the restrictions promised by China and Hong Kong are effectively enforced and whether it is possible to prevent the market from transferring to neighbouring countries in the region.
My Lords, I support this small group of amendments. As the Minister has said in the past, the Bill has been prepared with great care and knowledge, with one aim and one aim only: to protect the African and Asian elephant. This will be achieved by taking the value out of trading in ivory, prosecuting those who break the law and making the poaching of elephants for their ivory uneconomical. While the fees charged for certification will help to cover some of the costs of setting up the registration and certification process, they will not cover them all at first. It is important that parliamentarians and the public—who, as was clearly demonstrated during Second Reading, care very much about the plight of the elephant—are reassured that sufficient resources have been allocated to enforcement. If the enforcement of the measures set out in the Bill is not properly funded, it is unlikely it will have the desired effect.
We welcome the suggestion of a public awareness campaign to inform potential buyers and sellers of the requirements of the registration system; we recommend that this be done to ensure that robust monitoring and evaluation measures are put in place by the appropriate agencies, and not left to individuals with financial motivations. Guidelines and an honesty-based system will not be enough. Applications will need to be checked.
The annual report to Parliament on the operation of the Act should include information on the number and categories of certified and registered exemptions, civil penalties imposed, criminal prosecutions undertaken and work happening overseas to conserve elephants in which the UK is playing an important role. This amendment could also allow the Government to commission a report from a suitably qualified NGO, utilising official data.
Transparency will be everything in ensuring that the UK becomes a world leader in protecting the elephant. Being able to demonstrate that adequate resources have been allocated to back up our enforcement measures will be key in demonstrating to the rest of the world that we are serious in our efforts. The Government will need to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. As the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, has said, communities which are the subject of poaching will need to be supported to achieve sources of income and to continue economically. I full support this group of amendments.
My Lords, I had not intended to take part in this brief debate. I do not support the amendments, which will not cause any great surprise. Not for the first time, I am rather provoked by the noble Baroness who has just spoken.
I do not believe that this Bill is the result of great care and massive consultation. This is hogwash, if one looks at the number of responses—and I will read these into the record yet again. First, the paper which went out did not state information for and against a total ban on ivory. That could have helped those who were genuinely concerned to come to an informed conclusion. Of the responses, 39,485—almost 40,000—were identical emails from members of the Stop Ivory campaign. Another 66,472—52%—responded to a 38 Degrees campaign. They would only have signed if they supported a total ban.
I come back to the point that those of us who believe that this is an example of gesture politics have made time and again. No single living elephant—all of which any sane, sensible person would wish to preserve—is going to be helped by this stringent, draconian ban on the sale of antique ivory. We are creating a massive and unnecessary bureaucracy which would merely be compounded by the passage of any of the three amendments that have been spoken to. I put this on record, though it will come as no surprise to any Member of your Lordships’ House to know that I feel very strongly on this issue. This legislation is entirely well motivated but ill conceived.
My Lords, this group of amendments relates to reporting on enforcement resources and the impact of the UK ivory ban on international ivory markets.
Before I turn to the amendments, I should like to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, that my noble friend Lord Gardiner will respond to the points he raised about the operation and funding of the enforcement system in a group that noble Lords will come to later this afternoon. I will focus my remarks specifically on the reporting element of the amendments.
Amendment 38 raises the critical issue of ensuring effective enforcement of the ban. I assure your Lordships that this issue is of foremost concern to the Government, and I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, that it will not be neglected.
I take this opportunity to give credit to the police, including the National Wildlife Crime Unit, and the Border Force for the work they already do in tackling the abhorrent illegal trade in wildlife. During the Commons Committee stage, we heard that the Border Force CITES team is recognised as,
“one of the best in the world at enforcing controls against the illegal wildlife trade”.—[Official Report, Commons, Ivory Bill Committee, 19/6/18; col. 129.]
Both the Border Force team and the National Wildlife Crime Unit are sharing their valuable expertise with other countries all over the world.
Provisions in the Bill provide that police and customs officials will be supported in the enforcement of the ivory ban by accredited civilian officers from the Office for Product Safety and Standards. The OPSS will be responsible primarily for improving compliance with the provisions in the Bill, with a programme of engagement and awareness raising, and for enforcing lower-level or more minor offences. The police will deal with higher-level or more serious offences, such as those involving serious organised crime. For clarity, the APHA will administer the database and will refer any suspicious activity to the OPSS or the police as the seriousness of the offence allows.
I reassure noble Lords that, in developing and implementing the compliance processes necessary for the ban, the Government will assess the necessary resources required, in line with the additional work that will need to be undertaken, and we will monitor the effective application of these resources over time. On the suggestion for a review within 12 months—
I am sorry. This may be the only intervention that I will make in this Bill but I would like to understand is how you are going to measure and assess the seriousness of the crime, particularly at an early stage in the investigation. Surely it will be quite critical to do so at that point.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, for his intervention. As I stated at the start, the operation of the enforcement system will be a topic for discussion later today, as there are many more amendments dealing with that. This is purely about reporting on the enforcement. As I said, the Government will monitor the effective application of resources over time.
Turning to the reporting, the amendment suggests that a review might be undertaken within 12 months of the Bill’s provisions being commenced. I suggest that this might not provide an adequate assessment, as it is likely that different levels of resources will be required in the early stages of enforcement, particularly for the early engagement and awareness-raising phase, and it is likely to take at least a year and probably more to understand the steady-state financial resources that are required to effectively police and enforce the ban in the longer term.
Therefore, we do not believe that a resources assessment on a specified date should be included in the Bill. The Government will, as a matter of course, assess the implementation of the ban over time—in particular, its enforcement. Much of this information will be available in the public domain and will be subject to public scrutiny. Therefore, a separate report is unnecessary and a drain on resources. We therefore do not believe that this matter needs to be addressed in the Bill.
I turn to the other two amendments in this group, the intention of which is for the Government to provide an update to Parliament, and the public, on the impact of the new Ivory Act, if passed, on the domestic and international ivory trade. Although the intention is commendable, we do not envisage that the full impact of the legislation, particularly on international markets, will be measurable in isolation within the first 12 months of it coming into force. It is logical that the international impact of the UK ivory ban—in reduced flows of ivory from the UK to the Far East or reduced prices—will be seen over a much longer term.
The Government have made it clear that they believe that the UK’s ivory ban, along with the fourth international Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in October, will encourage other countries to follow the UK’s lead and implement their own bans. This will, in turn, further reduce demand and prices and, therefore, the poaching and killing of elephants. Again, the impact on international markets and the poaching and killing of elephants will be seen over a long period.
I am conscious that the proposed undertakings may, in effect, duplicate some of the work done under the auspices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species—CITES—and would therefore be an unnecessary drain on resources. CITES reports on the illegal killing of elephants and the trade in ivory are presented every three years to the CITES Conference of the Parties. All countries implicated in the ivory trade, including the UK, appear in the cluster analysis of the ivory trade reports. These reports are the Monitoring of Illegal Trade in Ivory and Other Elephant Specimens and the Elephant Trade Information System.
The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, mentioned the enormous and ongoing commitment by DfID to tackle poaching. It is true that DfID is very involved in the tackling of the poaching of elephants but the funding is often inextricably linked to other illegal wildlife trading interventions, which are often undertaken with other nations’ programmes within these larger international umbrella schemes. For example, DfID and Defra announced back in July that they had helped secure an increase of £27 million, but this was from international partners; all of it was put into the Global Environment Facility’s Global Wildlife Program. Again, that programme is subject to rigorous scrutiny and stringent reporting requirements. I fear that we could end up with a reporting overload, and trying to narrow it down to one particular species from one particular country might not be the best use of time or resources. The obligation to produce additional and unnecessary reports would be a considerable and potentially expensive undertaking, and one which Defra is not particularly qualified to undertake. An objective report on the impact of the UK ban on the illegal wildlife trade would be best carried out by an organisation outside government; as I have explained, this is already the case.
For the reasons I have outlined, I cannot agree to these amendments. However, their intention has merit and we will consider the ways in which we make sure that the public have the right information about the impact of the ban and, indeed, the work that DfID and other parts of government are doing to tackle the poaching of elephants. I hope that the noble Lord feels able to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. I apologise for any confusion. I was unaware that some of my remarks might have been covered in later amendments, so we look forward to understanding those a little better. On Amendment 38, we need to show commitment; the initial load may diminish after the bulk of the registrations has occurred. But we share with the Government the objective of making this legislation a success and the Minister’s confidence in the wildlife crime unit and CITES.
On the later amendments—which I will certainly not be moving—I listened carefully to what the Minister said. I reiterate that this is a clear opportunity for joined-up government to be demonstrated. However, I recognise that the work of DfID involves a wide range of other agencies. I stress again that the value of elephant tourism is extremely high, with an elephant worth 76 times more alive in the savannah than dead in the marketplace. I am heartened that the Government are showing commitment to closely monitoring the impact of the Bill on the international market and to working more widely with the agencies and communities that will be most affected by the ivory ban. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 38 withdrawn.
Clause 14: Power to stop and search persons
39: Clause 14, page 9, line 5, at end insert “, such officer to have specific expertise and training in identifying ivory items”
My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendments 39 and 40. Starting with Amendment 39, Clause 14 grants National Crime Agency officers powers to stop and search someone when they have “reasonable grounds” to believe that an offence may have been committed. This could, for example, include an alleged offence connected to the registration of an antique with a low ivory content—not just an ivory carving. NCA officers are not police or customs officers and it is not entirely clear to me why they should be granted the same powers as police officers—unless, perhaps, they are qualified to assess whether an item is made from ivory and falls under the Act.
For instance, would they have sufficient understanding of the operation of the Act to be able to identify when the proportion of ivory in an object comprises more or less than the 10% threshold, or the 20% threshold in the case of a musical instrument? To carry out their duties properly, they should surely have some expertise in judging whether an item is of the correct date. The purpose of the amendment therefore is to ensure that NCA officers are properly trained for the job they are undertaking.
On Amendment 40, while there are misgivings about the extent of the role and powers of accredited civilian officers, one of their jobs is to raise awareness and understanding of the provisions in the Bill in order to facilitate and assess compliance. This being the case, there is nothing in the Bill to require sufficient knowledge of ivory on the part of an accredited civilian officer. It is important that they possess the skills and knowledge to equip them to make sound judgments, and to understand the information presented to them, when viewing antiques which may contain ivory. Unless this is the case, searches of dealers’ and auctioneers’ premises could result in inaccurate and misguided reports being submitted, alleging breaches of the provisions of the Bill. When appointing these officers, the Secretary of State should be under an obligation to ensure that the appointees have demonstrable knowledge of antique and modern elephant ivory in its various forms, and an ability to identify it. I beg to move.
My Lords, my noble friend’s first proposed amendment would require police or customs officers to undertake specific training in identifying ivory items before exercising the enforcement powers provided in the Bill. The CITES border force team is recognised as one of the best in the world at enforcing controls against illegal wildlife trade. Both the CITES border force team and the National Wildlife Crime Unit are experienced in identifying illegal wildlife products, including ivory, and already lend their expertise to police forces across the country. The skills of the CITES border force team in detecting illegal wildlife products are in demand internationally and the team regularly undertakes training with their counterparts around the world.
As needed, police forces also seek the opinion of experts, including APHA wildlife inspectors. Before the Bill comes into force, we intend to run an awareness raising campaign around its provisions. We will work closely with the police to ensure that wildlife crime officers in police forces nationwide are apprised of these measures.
The second amendment in this group would require accredited civil officers to have,
“proven knowledge of and expertise in identifying ivory”.
In the next group of amendments I will spend a little time in my reply outlining the work of the Office for Product Safety and Standards. The accredited civilian officers from the Office for Product Safety and Standards —OPSS—which is part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, will work alongside the police and customs officers to help enforce the ivory ban. While I will expand more fully, perhaps in the next group of amendment, on the important task of enforcement arrangements, the OPSS officers will be tasked primarily with raising awareness and ensuring that sellers are able to comply with the ban. They will also be responsible for checking that items for sale have the correct registration documents.
On the particular point about expertise in ivory, I can reassure my noble friend that an appropriate training programme for OPSS officers will be developed and implemented before the Bill is commenced to ensure that they are equipped with the skills and expertise required to help enforce the ban. This will include, for instance, the ability to recognise the distinctive Schreger lines, the visible cross-hatching that identifies a substance as ivory. It is worth mentioning that, as needed—for example, with serious offences—officers would normally refer the items to expert witnesses. I understand the points that my noble friend made, but I hope that, with that explanation, he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
Amendment 39 withdrawn.
Clause 14 agreed.
Clauses 15 and 16 agreed.
Clause 17: Powers to enter and search premises
Amendment 40 not moved.
Debate on whether Clause 17 should stand part of the Bill.
Member’s explanatory statement
Leaving out Clause 17 would prevent the appointment of accredited civilian officers with powers of entry and seizure by the Minister.
My Lords, I apologise to the Committee for having failed to address the issue involved in this legislation at an earlier stage. In the past few weeks, I have had two meetings with Ministers, and I thank them very much for their courtesy and patience in having listened to me. I beg leave to oppose the Question that Clause 17 should stand part of the Bill. There is cross-party support for this amendment, and, as the Committee will appreciate just by looking at the Marshalled List, each supporting name on the Marshalled List is that of a member of the Constitution Committee.
Before I come to the amendment, I would like to emphasise that the broad objectives of this Bill have my complete support. The slaughter of a single elephant diminishes us all. You do not have to have seen an elephant in the wild; it is enough to look at it on the television. When the tusks of a lifeless elephant, killed for ornament or vanity or perhaps for investment purposes, are worth more than the noble magnificence of a living creature trundling about in its natural environment in an organised herd or as a solitary elephant, we know that values have become inverted.
It follows from what I have just said that my support for the broad objectives means that I entirely agree that a Bill that does not have provisions for enforcement is pointless, and I agree that the provisions in this Bill should be properly enforced. This amendment is concerned, when one analyses it, with three words in the enforcement process—three simple little words. What a lot of fuss about three words. The three words are “accredited civilian officer”. Those words create a new enforcement body additional to the police but not subject, as the police are, to police discipline, answerable to a chief constable or equivalent and ultimately answerable to a complaints procedure or its equivalent.
I am going to read the Bill, because I am going to be hearing later on this afternoon all about Explanatory Memoranda, possibly ministerial letters, possibly ministerial assurances in this House:
“In this Act … ‘accredited civilian officer’ means an officer of the Secretary of State who is authorised by the Secretary of State for the purposes of this Act”.
No more, no less. No single embellishment. Absolutely stark. No other safeguarding. No other provision of any kind. He or she will be, if this Bill comes to pass, a civil servant authorised by a Secretary of State and accountable to him. This individual, man or woman, will effectively, if one studies the Bill, have the same powers as a police officer with no provision for oversight, for control, for discipline—all ultimately, in the Bill, left to the Minister.
Clause 17 is troublesome enough, but I accept that it has some limitations on it. It cannot be operated without notice. The Minister’s officer may enter premises for the purpose of,
“promoting awareness and understanding of the provisions of this Act”,
which means that you will get a pep talk, or,
“assessing compliance with those provisions”,
which means rather more. Clause 17 is clear that he may search premises: “any place”, except a dwelling-house. Fair enough. However, that includes any office, factory, shop and, presumably, any garage that is not physically attached to somebody’s dwelling-house, which may be searched for items made of ivory, or containing an appropriate level of ivory.
Given the way the Bill is drafted, we might think that that is it; that is what the accredited officer will do. Indeed, some of the observations I have heard from the Minister rather imply that this is going to be low-level work, not quite as high as that of the police. But if you thought that, and thought that Clause 17 was the end of it, you would miss the subsequent provisions and all the wider powers that are being granted.
I do not want to bore noble Lords, but Clause 18 equates this body of civil servants with the police. On the authorisation of a grade 7 civil servant—that is what the Bill means, though it does not say the words “civil servant”, but only “grade 7”—an application may be made for a search warrant. This time, the search warrant can encompass a dwelling-house as well as all the other premises covered by the previous clause. It may be granted to an accredited civilian officer. Lo and behold, if we read more deeply into this provision, the authorisation may extend to an individual who is not in fact an accredited civilian officer. On the basis of the warrant, that individual will have the same powers as an ACO, who has the same powers as a police officer.
If we go through the provisions in Clauses 20 and 21, they would enable that individual, on entering the house, to examine anything in the home and to carry out tests on any object, while causing the least possible damage, whatever that may mean—what an argument lies ahead about whether this was the least possible damage. However, it is causing damage to somebody’s property. The officer,
“may break open any container”—
they may, therefore, open any drawer; they may require the production of documents; they may,
“seize and detain or remove”,
any item, as they think appropriate in the context of the Bill, from your home, your office or your shop. They may also use “reasonable force, if necessary” to achieve the objective. In other words, if you object, they may use reasonable force to take the item away from you.
If this was a series of powers granted to a police officer, I would have no objection. That is consistent with our having police officers who act independently of Ministers and are answerable for their conduct. However, if this applies to civil servants answerable to a Minister, and subject ultimately to his approval, I respectfully suggest to the Committee that it is a very serious provision. Entering your home and seizing your property may be fine, if justified. It may be fine if subject to limits that we in Parliament put on; but what are the limits here? I can go only by the passages that I have read in the Bill that is before us. I am sorry to sound discourteous, but I do not attach any significance to an Explanatory Memorandum or to a ministerial letter—which are of no relevance whatever in assessing what the powers are—or, indeed, as I have said, to ministerial assurances here, though I mean no discourtesy to the Minister. Of course, it will not be used for this purpose or that purpose or the other purpose.
This Bill has come from the House of Commons and is being proposed or countenanced in Great Britain in our name. It proposes that we should give these powers to such officials. If noble Lords read about this happening in a country that they were fond of—let us say, for the sake of argument, Australia, New Zealand, Canada or France, or wherever it might be—and heard that an Act, passed by whatever the legislative assembly might be, gave a Minister in what they thought was a democracy, anxious to protect its liberties, the power to deploy civil servants in the way in which this Bill proposes, they would be immensely troubled.
We can look at this as a ministry “taskforce”, but if it were happening abroad, “taskforce” would not be the kind of word that we would use. We would use words that indicated a much deeper degree of trouble and concern. We would have to recognise that, as the Bill stands, it is a ministry’s private law enforcement body. This is not our way. This simply will not do, and we must not let it do. I beg to move.
My Lords, my name is attached to all the other amendments in the group. I need to say very little, because the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, has spoken with passion and eloquence. He has made a case that is impossible to refute. The noble and learned Lord has done many services to your Lordships’ House. Many times, he has drawn attention to Henry VIII clauses. Many times, he has drawn attention to giving by those means and others more and more power to the Executive in the person of their Ministers.
This is a most alarming example of passing power from Parliament to the Executive—in fact, to a Minister’s nark who will have invested in him or her all the powers rightly possessed by the police and perhaps more. There are implications for our society and our democracy in a clause such as this being accepted in a Bill which everybody accepts has noble intentions. Some of us have sought to demonstrate that it is not a very well-conceived Bill, but whatever view one takes on the importance of antique ivory, which I and other noble friends have been talking about on Monday and today, this issue is wholly separate. It concerns the independence of the citizen and his right to retain his private property and not to have it molested by those who would not ordinarily be in a position to examine it. The provision to allow the use of minimum force is again alarming. That is why I went through the Bill and deleted every reference I could see to those three very innocent-sounding but alarming words, “accredited civilian officer”.
I do not want to over-dramatise, but this is Orwellian. We should not have anything to do with this in either House of Parliament. I am astonished that this should have come from the other place. It illustrates, if anything is needed to illustrate it, how important it is that we have a more dispassionate assembly to scrutinise our legislation. It also illustrates how exceptionally fortunate we are to have in your Lordships’ House those who have no party political affiliation, who cannot by any stretch of the imagination or vocabulary be accused of making a political point. We have in this House Cross-Benchers, among whom are some of the finest lawyers in the land.
Forget this Bill and forget our differences on other aspects of it. We would be doing a grave disservice to our democracy if we allowed this Bill to proceed with these words in it. I devoutly hope that my noble friend will be able to give a much more encouraging answer to this group of amendments than he has given to other amendments, and I hope very much that we will not have to return to this subject on Report. I hope that it will have been dealt with by that answer. But if it is still in the Bill, it is your Lordships’ duty at that stage to take it out of the Bill.
My Lords, I do not wish to detain the House long, because the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, has set out very clearly the reasons—elaborated on by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack—for the concerns that this clause and ensuing clauses, which refer to an “accredited civilian officer”, have given rise to. Like the noble and learned Lord, I very much share the objectives of the Bill. Indeed, as the Constitution Committee said in its brief report published at the outset of the Summer Recess, we do not wish the progress of the Bill to be delayed as its fundamental objective was widely welcomed at Second Reading.
However, we are concerned that the important policing functions, including powers of entry, search and seizure, are to be exercised by civilian officers working directly for the Minister. As the noble and learned Lord has indicated, the Bill as it stands makes it very clear that the accredited civilian officer is an officer of the Secretary of State, authorised by the Secretary of State for particular purposes. There are no qualifications for that, although I anticipate that when he comes to reply, the Minister will elaborate on that—he gave us a foretaste when he replied to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, in the previous group. But that is only elaboration; it is not in the Bill.
We can anticipate some things. Indeed, we will be told, as stated in the letter from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, David Rutley, to Mr Alex Chalk MP, which has been put in the Libraries of both Houses, that,
“the Office for Product Safety and Standards … which is part of BEIS”,
will be the enforcement body and will be “the Office”. But there is no reference to that body in the Bill, its power and what it does. Again, we will be told that,
“the Office will fully adhere to the provisions of the Regulators’ Code”.
What is the regulators’ code? Parliament cannot see what it is in the Bill; nor is there even any reference to it. No doubt we will get explanations and elaborations as to the intention, but we should not easily pass legislation without any reference to it. There are serious concerns because of that absence. Even if there is reference to it, fundamental points have been made about wide-ranging powers being given to civilian officers—people who, no matter what might be said about how it would happen, ultimately will be the appointees of the Secretary of State. That is a matter of fundamental principle which the Government need to address and justify.
In conclusion, in the letter to which I have referred, the Minister said:
“We envisage close working of the Office with other enforcement bodies. The Office will use civil sanctions and criminal sanctions are likely to fall to the Police”.
The implication is that in not all circumstances will criminal sanctions fall to the police; they could fall to this body. That is quite significant: criminal sanctions might fall to a body that is appointed by the Secretary of State, without more. Some considerable reassurance will therefore be required when the Minister replies.
My Lords, I, too, have signed to give notice of opposition to the clause standing part of the Bill. I endorse the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, with whom I agree totally. Like him, I have no problems with what the Bill seeks to achieve; the principle is wholly worthy. Indeed, I have no problem with other parts of the Bill either. My concern is with this clause. I do not see why it cannot be excised from the Bill leaving the other parts in place.
Given the clauses that precede and succeed it, I do not see why this clause is necessary. It confers a particular power on civilian officers and civil servants in a way that is remarkable. The Explanatory Notes seek to claim that the powers conferred in the clause are not unusual, but they cite only one example as a means of doing that. One example is not sufficient to demonstrate that this is “not unusual”. It strikes me that these are remarkable powers in themselves, which means that there would have to be a compelling case for this House to go along with them.
There is already a problem with the actual powers, therefore, but then, as the noble and learned Lord indicated, we have to look at what they are designed to achieve. Subsection (2)(a) is free-standing. It confers on civil servants the power to enter purely for the purpose, as the noble and learned Lord put it, of giving a pep talk. I would be rather amazed if even police officers wanted the power to come in and simply give one a pep talk, so to confer that power on civil servants strikes me as remarkable. It is not linked to the enforcement powers; it is simply to go in and, effectively, to seek to educate people about the provisions of the Bill.
Therefore, the power of entry is remarkable but so is what it is used for. Perhaps the Minister can tell us whether there are provisions in any other Acts that confer on officials powers of this sort to go in and simply remonstrate or give a pep talk to those whom they feel need to be educated. I am at a loss to understand why the clause is in the Bill, given the other provisions that it contains.
My Lords, we very much welcome the interventions by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, members of the Constitution Committee and other noble Lords who have raised concerns about the status and powers of accredited civilian officers. The noble and learned Lord has done a fantastic demolition job on the provisions in the existing clause. I also welcome his overall support for the objectives of the Bill, which are indeed very welcome.
While we have argued throughout that there need to be robust enforcement mechanisms in the Bill, we equally accept that the creation of a new breed of civilian enforcers, with the widespread powers envisaged in the Bill, goes far too far. We would have hoped that providing extra resources for the National Wildlife Crime Unit would provide a more acceptable alternative to the challenge of effective enforcement.
I do not intend to say a great deal because I know that the Minister is keen to find a way to resolve these concerns. I hope that he is able to reassure us that the Government will be tabling their own amendments to bring enforcement back in line with the practice of legal enforcement using comparative situations. I therefore look forward to hearing his response.
My Lords, I express my gratitude to the Constitution Committee for publishing its valuable report, which raised some important points regarding the powers conferred by the Bill on accredited civilian officers. I place on record that I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, for meeting me and officials so that we could discuss and, in turn, reflect on the concerns that he and the committee expressed. I am also mindful of the amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Cormack.
The issue of enforcement is critical and I am sure that the Committee would agree that it is paramount that the enforcement of the ivory ban must be both proportionate and robust. As noble Lords will be aware, when I refer to accredited civilian officers, I am referring to the officers of the regulator, which will be the Office for Product Safety and Standards. OPSS is part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It is an experienced enforcement body that currently enforces a range of regulations on behalf of the Government, including regulations on timber, biodiversity, waste and chemicals, and carbon reduction. For example, OPSS ensures that timber traders are complying with the regulations to ensure that their products are made from legally sourced timber.
OPSS also has experience of co-working with the police, the National Wildlife Crime Unit and Border Force, which will also play a critical role in the enforcement of the ivory ban so that we make sure that the enforcement is effective and that all parties are clear on their role and remit. For all those reasons it was considered to be the most appropriate regulator.
I am interested to hear examples of the work set out in the letter to which I referred, but can the Minister tell us—this reflects the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Norton—about the underpinning statutory basis? Which Acts relate to, for example, EU timber regulation, which underpin any work done by the Office for Product Safety and Standards?
I am waiting for some assistance to give some precise detail, but clearly, with the timber trade, there must be some legislative basis on which we ensure that timber is legally sourced. If I do not receive the full detail for the noble and learned Lord, I will of course write to him and place a copy of my letter to him in the Library.
Our intention is the ensure that the Ivory Act will be well understood and abided by and, to that end, to define clear roles for the accredited civilian officers, police officers and customs officers. For example, we expect accredited civilian officers to raise awareness and assess compliance with the ban. As such, they will play a critical but distinct role from the police. It is our intention that the accredited civilian officers will focus on low-level offences, while the police will be responsible for pursuing higher-level offences and all criminal offences. Clear protocols between the enforcement bodies will be in place ahead of the commencement and will underpin effective joint working to ensure the effectiveness of the Ivory Act.
The Constitution Committee’s report provided a number of extremely useful recommendations on how we could more clearly define the role of accredited officers in helping to enforce the ivory ban. I would like to assure all noble Lords that we are fully seized of the importance of this issue and are looking carefully at how we might consider these points further on Report.
The Constitution Committee’s recommendations also included a point about the Regulators’ Code. This is a statutory code of practice provided for by the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006. It sets out the Government’s expectations of how regulators will behave and expands on the statutory principles of good regulation. For example, regulators subject to the code must ensure that activities are carried out in a way that is transparent, accountable, proportionate and consistent, while regulatory activities should be targeted only in respect of cases where action is needed.
In practice, either a regulator or the piece of legislation that is being regulated can be listed under this Act via secondary legislation under Section 24(2) and therefore be subject to the code. A number of existing pieces of legislation that OPSS regulates—I am waiting on the detail for the noble and learned Lord—are subject to the Regulators’ Code and therefore OPSS adheres to the code in these cases. We are considering further the recommendation raised by the Constitution Committee with regard to the Regulators’ Code.
In addition to my meeting with the noble and learned Lord, I wanted to take the opportunity of hearing this debate on the amendments tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and my noble friend Lord Cormack and indeed the interventions made by other noble Lords. First, the Government understand the points that have been made by the Constitution Committee and today in the Chamber. I hope that what I am going to say will be understood, but these are the words that I should say at this point. I look forward to a continued dialogue after Committee, with the hope of finding a resolution before Report. I understand the points that have been made across the House. If noble Lords will accept this, I can assure them of the bona fides of the Government in this case, although I am also absolutely clear about the points that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, made about how good Governments change and come and go. Our bona fides is that we want to have enforcement of this legislation, so it is important that we get it right. However, for this afternoon, I hope that the reassurances I am able to give at this stage will be helpful to the noble and learned Lord so that he may feel in a position to withdraw his amendment.
If it would be helpful, as part of BEIS, OPSS does not have a legal identity of its own, as it falls under the Secretary of State for BEIS. Perhaps that is the reason why it is not named in the Bill in its own right. I will reflect on what my noble friend said, but that is the position on the matter.
Having heard the Minister’s remarks, it struck me that when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, concluded, he said “This just will not do”, and he is right—it will not do. But having then heard what the Minister told us, I was unclear as to whether he will, in the period between now and Report, directly address the issues raised by the noble and learned Lord. His response struck me as being that of somebody interested in administration in reply to the noble and learned Lord, who was putting some specific constitutional questions to him.
I am grateful to my noble friend for permitting me to re-emphasise not only that the Government will consider what has happened during this debate but also the recommendations of the Constitution Committee. I cannot be fairer than that at this stage, as my noble friend should know.
My Lords, I am always willing to talk to the Minister, but the courteous way in which both Ministers have treated me during our discussions would make it extraordinary if I did not come straightaway when they were ready. However, the issue that has to be addressed is a simple one, which, unless something is done about it, will eventually lead me to invite the House at a later stage to consider its view. We cannot have a ministerial task force with these powers. That is what is not acceptable. Beyond putting that marker down for myself, I am willing to talk at any time, but for the purposes of today, I withdraw my opposition to Clause 17 standing part of the Bill.
Clause 17 agreed.
Clause 18: Warrants authorising entry and search of premises
Amendments 41 to 45 not moved.
Clause 18 agreed.
Clause 19: Further provision about search warrants
Amendments 46 to 50 not moved.
Clause 19 agreed.
Clauses 20 and 21 agreed.
Clause 22: Powers of seizure etc
51: Clause 22, page 14, line 8, at end insert—
“( ) In respect of a seizure or detention under subsection (2) an officer must take account of the item’s physical nature and must exercise all reasonable care to avoid damage to the item.”
My Lords, I will also speak to Amendments 52, 54, 56, 57 and 58 in this group. Many antiques, regardless of the materials used in their construction, can be fragile and need to be handled with care. For example, ivory is sometimes incorporated into bronze sculptures. To the uninitiated, bronze may seem a strong material, capable of withstanding a gentle knock or two. However, one important feature of bronze sculptures is the patina of their surface. Application of a sticky label in the wrong way or allowing a metal watchstrap to rub against the surface could damage it, destroying the sculpture’s integrity and thus reducing its value. Antique dealers spend a fortune purchasing professional packing services when moving or shipping antiques and the handling of antiques is a specialist skill in its own right.
A badly informed officer, believing that he is seizing an ivory item that breaches the provisions of the Bill, may treat the item casually, even before it has been properly assessed by someone with knowledge and understanding of antiques. Ivory in particular can be brittle and will not take kindly to rough handling. What we need to avoid is antiques being seized, subsequently found to be compliant and then returned damaged to their owners. This amendment is intended to place an obligation on officers to take extra care when handling the antiques that they have seized.
On Amendments 52 and 54, as drafted Clause 29 allows not just the Secretary of State but also police officers and accredited civilian officers to decide the fate of cultural property that has been seized. The factors that need to be considered in disposing of a cultural artefact differ greatly from those that apply to endangered species that do not also possess cultural and historical attributes. A seized item may well be an object of cultural significance that a museum may wish to acquire and, consequently, a decision about its future should involve the input of people possessing specialist knowledge of objects of the same type. This is knowledge that police officers and accredited civilian officers will not have. For this reason, the amendments would limit the decision about the fate of seized objects to the Secretary of State alone and require him or her to take the advice of someone who is able to provide specialist advice, such as a museum curator or art market professional.
I turn finally to Amendments 56, 57 and 58. The aim of amending Clause 31 is similar to that of amending Clause 29. In this case, it concerns the people who are granted the power to decide the fate of previously seized objects where the person entitled to the object cannot be traced. At present this power is granted to a police or customs officer, as well as the Secretary of State. For the reasons that I referred to on Clause 29, the decision should be limited to the Secretary of State alone and be taken on the advice of someone familiar with the type of ivory object whose return has been attempted. I beg to move.
My Lords, I will make just a few brief comments in response to the noble Lord’s amendments, which seem in the main unnecessary. First, it is self-evident that the officers would take care to avoid damaging seized items. This would apply equally to the process of seizing other high-value goods including stolen artworks, with which they would be familiar. I am not convinced that the need for that level of care needs to spelled out in the Bill, given they have that specialist training.
Secondly, we have already addressed the concern about the role of accredited civilian officers, but it does not seem practical or sensible that the only person able to determine how a piece should be disposed of should be the Secretary of State. Thirdly, as we discussed earlier, we would expect a decision to dispose of an item to be taken with guidance from individuals with clear expertise in this area. Again, we are not convinced this needs to be in the Bill. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s undertaking on how these disposals will work in practice and hope that he will be able to reassure his noble friend that these amendments are not necessary.
My Lords, the first amendment in this group would require police and customs officers to take account of an item’s physical nature and exercise reasonable care when searching premises under the powers in the Bill. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that officers must always have regard to their surroundings and the objects therein when conducting a search and should not wilfully damage anything. Police and customs officers have vast experience of conducting searches in many different types of premises and for a wide range of items—valuable, delicate, dangerous or otherwise. I therefore do not think it necessary to include wording to that effect in the Bill. Indeed, it may be counterproductive. For example, if it is omitted from other Bills in future involving similarly delicate items, will it be assumed that care is not needed in those cases?
The other amendments in this group remove the discretion from police and customs officers to dispose of seized or forfeited items and instead require the Secretary of State to consult an expert in ivory items before making decisions on the disposal of such items. Police forces have well-established processes for dealing with seized property of all types. In the first instance, owners have the opportunity to appeal against a seizure and therefore the item may be returned. But if the seized item cannot be returned to the original owner, there are well-established methods for its disposal.
There are many possible uses for seized items containing ivory that cannot be returned to the original owner. For example, they may be used for educational, training and research purposes, when it is in the public interest to do so. Ivory items seized by police and customs officers in recent years have been used for training officers in the identification of ivory products or donated to accredited museums or to conservation bodies for awareness raising. Zoos, for example, might display examples of illegal wildlife trade products made from endangered species.
I hope that this explanation will be sufficient to satisfy my noble friend and that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for her response. I am pleased to hear of her confidence in the care to be taken by police officers and others. Towards the end, she perhaps answered a question that I had not actually put. Nevertheless, today I am happy to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 51 withdrawn.
Clause 22 agreed.
Clauses 23 to 28 agreed.
Clause 29: Forfeiture of seized items by court on application
Amendments 52 to 54 not moved.
Clause 29 agreed.
Clause 30: Appeal against decision under section 29
Amendment 55 not moved.
Clause 30 agreed.
Clause 31: Return of item to person entitled to it, or disposal if return impracticable
Amendments 56 to 58 not moved.
Clause 31 agreed.
Clause 32 agreed.
Amendments 59 and 60 not moved.
Clauses 33 and 34 agreed.
Clause 35: Meaning of “ivory”
61: Clause 35, page 21, line 3, at end insert—
“( ) As soon as practicable after this Act is passed, the Secretary of State must consult on amending subsection (1) to include ivory from other animals and species including—(a) hippopotami;(b) narwhals; and(c) walruses.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to consult on extending the ivory ban to the other ivory bearing animals listed as soon as practical after the Act is passed.
My Lords, Amendment 61 is also in the name of my noble friend Lady Jones. As drafted, the Bill has a narrow focus only on elephants. Labour believes that broadening the definition of “ivory” is necessary not only because many CITES species are at risk of becoming endangered but to prevent the narrow focus on elephant ivory, which may unintentionally displace poachers towards hunting other animals with ivory.
Like elephant tusks, hippo teeth are hard-wearing and can be worked into curios and ornaments. According to CITES, since 1975 more than 770 tonnes of hippo teeth have been sold, the bulk from Tanzania and Uganda. The black market’s insatiable demand for ivory has already turned towards hippos. Since the international ban on elephant ivory came into effect, they offer a cheaper and in many ways easier ivory option. Illicit hippo teeth are also far easier to smuggle because of their size and are subject to less protection and awareness. As a result, the number of hippos has declined by 12% to about 100,000 in the past decade—just a quarter of the elephant population. Experts have cited a rise in the demand for hippo teeth as the main reason threatening the mammal with extinction.
Narwhals and walruses are also now considered at risk of being near-threatened. In practice, this means that they could soon become vulnerable because of the changes in their natural environment and the impact of hunting. We need to be aware that this Bill could, counterintuitively, become a factor.
The Bill has a narrow focus on elephants. To speed it towards enactment, its extension to other species would be best enhanced through further consultation. In July, the Secretary of State recognised that consideration needed to be given to this extension, announcing a further consultation to extend the provisions in the Bill to include hippos, walruses and narwhal ivory. This amendment puts that commitment on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, in this amendment. At Second Reading, the Minister gave an undertaking that there would be consultation on the animals listed in the amendment after the Bill had received Royal Assent. It is a great pity that we were not able to include hippopotami, narwhals and walruses within this Bill once it had started its passage, but I understand the reasons for it. I welcome the fact that an undertaking has already been given and hope that, as soon as Royal Assent has been given, consultation will be ready to begin.
My Lords, the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, seeks to insert into the Bill a commitment that the Secretary of State would consult on extending the scope of the ban to include ivory from hippopotamus, walrus and narwhal as soon as practicable after Royal Assent. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester and to the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, for their remarks.
As noble Lords will be aware, this matter was discussed at some length in the other place. I want to reassure the noble Lord and the noble Baroness of the Government’s intention on this point and to explain how the existing provision in the Bill may be applied. The Bill will prohibit the commercial dealing in living species of elephant—namely African and Asian elephants. Clause 35 provides a delegated power to allow the Secretary of State to extend the Bill to cover other ivory-bearing species through a regulation. We recognise concerns that, by banning the trade in elephant ivory, there may be an unintended consequence of trade displacement on to other ivory-bearing species, such as hippopotamus, putting these species at greater risk, as the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester has outlined. It may be appropriate to use this power to protect these species if the evidence gathered supports such actions.
The Government have committed in the other place and in a public announcement that the Secretary of State will conduct an evidence-gathering exercise—for example, a public consultation—on or as soon as practicable after Royal Assent. It is in the Government’s interest to launch this exercise within this period. However, we will ensure this does not impact our timetable to get the elephant ivory ban in place. The representatives from the conservation NGOs which gave evidence during Committee in the House of Commons emphasised that, at this time, the Government’s priority should be the ban on elephant ivory.
I shall have to take myself on a course of expertise. If through use of this power it was deemed, because of the consultation and the evidence that we had, that other ivory-bearing species should be encompassed in some form of legislation—which would clearly come before your Lordships for affirmative resolution—there would definitely need to be some understanding on the part of the enforcement officers as to differentiation and whether certain other species should be added. However, I must not take myself down a route of conjecture, although it is very a very valuable and important point. Perhaps after the enactment I should undertake myself some better understanding of the definition.
We should not act unless we have informed evidence—I think this is a point my noble friend Lord Deben would very much approve—so we can make a proper decision on whether the scope of the Bill should be extended to another species. As noble Lords will be aware, as a result of the government amendment in the other place, this delegated power has been extended from applying only to ivory-bearing species listed under CITES to applying to any ivory-bearing species. The CITES-listed species are currently narwhal, killer whale, sperm whale, walrus, and hippopotamus. The amendment brought all ivory-bearing species—for instance, the warthog—into the scope of the delegated power. All those species are therefore in scope of the delegated power and may, therefore, be subject to an evidence-gathering exercise.
As I have said, we have committed to carrying out an evidence-gathering exercise on or as soon as practicable after Royal Assent. To clarify an important point, and reassure the noble Lord, the delegated power also enables the Secretary of State to take action in the future. That is very important because of what your Lordships have already said about the possible unintended consequence of other species becoming poached because of the elephant ivory ban. For instance, a subsequent evidence-gathering exercise could be carried out on the scope of the ban if necessary. This is an important element of us ensuring that, on all ivory-bearing species, we will have the ability to act through this legislation, although this legislation before us today is precisely about the African and the Asian elephant.
I hope that, with the explanation I have given, the noble Lord feels reassured that the Government are committed to carrying out an evidence-gathering exercise on or as soon as practicable after Royal Assent, and that this will consider extending the scope of the ban to other ivory-bearing species. On that basis, I hope the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.
I thank the Minister for that reply and recognise that the legislation contains the visions that he suggested, although it could perhaps be more emphatically stated. I appreciate his repeated commitment that the Government will follow up on the extension of the ivory ban to other animals through the consultation. With that in mind, I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.
Amendment 61 withdrawn.
Clause 35 agreed.
Clauses 36 to 42 agreed.
Schedule 1 agreed.
Schedule 2: Search warrants: England and Wales and Northern Ireland
Amendments 62 and 63 not moved.
Schedule 2 agreed.
64: Insert the following Preamble—
“Whereas the 1989 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) agreed to ban the international trade in African elephant ivory; and the resolution adopted at the 2016 Conference of Parties to CITES agreed to phase out domestic ivory markets which contributed to poaching or illegal trade in ivory:
And whereas it is expedient to give effect in the United Kingdom to the restrictions on domestic trade:”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would insert a Preamble linking the Bill to the resolution adopted unanimously by governments at the 2016 Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which called on all governments to close domestic ivory markets which contribute to poaching or illegal trade in ivory.
My Lords, this amendment would insert a preamble linking the Bill to the resolution adopted unanimously by Governments at the 2016 Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES. This called on all Governments to close domestic ivory markets which contribute to the poaching of, or illegal trade in, ivory.
Unfortunately, the government amendment introduced on Report in another place had the accidental consequence of removing the only explicit link between this Bill and CITES. There is now nothing in the Bill to make it clear that this legislation was drafted partly in response to the resolution adopted unanimously at the 2016 Conference of the Parties to CITES.
An amendment of this type was specifically requested by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and the Born Free Foundation, which shared our concern that the link to the conference commitment had been deleted. We believe that such a preamble would strengthen the Act against possible judicial and equalities challenges by confirming that the legislation enables the UK to comply with international obligations to control domestic ivory markets under a UN-backed treaty. There are already precedents for this, notably in the original legislation to implement CITES in the UK—the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act 1976—so this amendment would protect the Government’s resolve to comply with international treaties and strengthen their legal defence. I hope that noble Lords and the Minister will see the sense of the amendment and feel able to support it. I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Baroness’s amendment would insert a preamble at the beginning of the Bill to draw a link between the provisions in the Bill and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
The United Kingdom is a party to CITES in its own right and will continue to be bound by and committed to its obligations under this important convention. Indeed, the UK is a very active participant in CITES. At the last CITES Conference of the Parties in 2016, the UK played a major role in achieving strong outcomes for endangered species, which will help ensure their survival in the wild. The UK ivory ban is consistent with both CITES and the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations. Under the withdrawal Act, these regulations will become part of UK domestic law. The UK ivory ban goes further than CITES and the EU in restricting commercial dealing in ivory.
Clause 35, which deals with the definition of ivory, previously referred to CITES for a specific reason—in order to limit the future application of the Bill to CITES-listed ivory-bearing species. As I alluded to in the previous group, the amendment made in the other place made it possible to broaden the scope of the Bill in the future to all ivory-bearing species, thus removing the need for a reference to CITES. No other provision in the Bill could be limited by a reference to CITES.
The Ivory Bill will apply alongside our existing obligations under CITES and the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations, and therefore there is no need to reference CITES or indeed the regulations in the Bill. As is customary, the Long Title of the Bill outlines the matters covered by it. As I said, we are acknowledged as one of the strongest participants in CITES but, given the amendment introduced in the other place, we do not think that CITES requires to be cited in this Bill. For the reasons I have set out, I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.
I thank the Minister for that explanation. The purpose of the amendment was to strengthen our hand in the Bill so as to avoid legal challenges that might otherwise have been made. In seeking to insert this preamble, I do not think that it was ever our intention to restrict what the Bill could achieve in terms of broadening out beyond CITES-specified endangered species. Nevertheless, I hear what the Minister says. I will again reflect on his views and his response, and I will take some soundings from those who have encouraged us to put forward this amendment. However, for the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 64 withdrawn.
Bill reported without amendment.
Justice: Women’s Centres
Question for Short Debate
My Lords, it is a great honour and privilege to introduce this debate. I thank all noble Lords who have agreed to contribute to it; I am especially grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Sater, for choosing to make her maiden speech in it. I know that her extensive experience in business and the charitable sector, as well as her time working on the Youth Justice Board and as a magistrate, will inform many excellent contributions to this House. I look forward to her speech.
My interest in this issue flows not least from my experience in the diocese of Gloucester, which has one of the country’s 12 women’s prisons—HMP Eastwood Park—and the women’s centre, run by the Nelson Trust, whose work is exemplary. I now support the Bishop of Rochester in his role as Bishop to Her Majesty’s Prisons with regards to the female estate, and I recently visited Anawim, the superb women’s centre in Birmingham. As a Christian, I believe that our humanity and flourishing is rooted in relationships. I also believe that transformation is possible, both in the lives of individuals and in systems. I will come back to these themes.
There are approximately 4,000 women in prison, which is about 5% of the total prison population. Although this is a relatively small percentage, these women present a distinct set of needs and their imprisonment has a significant impact on communities and society as a whole. The long-awaited female offender strategy recognises the vulnerabilities and challenges of women in prison. It builds on the tireless work of the noble Baroness, Lady Corston. I would like to express my sincere thanks to her and to those who contributed to that strategy, not least Dr Phillip Lee, prior to his resignation. However, I fear that, 11 years after the Corston report, the strategy simply does not go far enough. We know that women’s centres work and it is time for proper investment.
I want to return to those themes of relationships and transformation. People of all ages thrive and flourish in healthy, loving relationships. Unfortunately, the majority of women offenders have experienced some sort of abuse, whether from a partner or a family member. According to the excellent organisation Women in Prison, 53% of women in prison report having experienced physical, emotional or sexual abuse during childhood; 46% report having suffered domestic violence; and over 30% spent time in local authority care as a child.
Where healing and rehabilitation take place, it comes from a place of trust in a relationship. As a member of the clergy, I have often been trusted with people’s most intimate personal information and it usually takes a strong relationship of trust for a woman to discuss an abusive relationship, a problem with drugs or alcohol, or a mental health problem. To that end, prison is rarely the most appropriate or effective place for these issues to be addressed, not least because so many women are assigned short sentences. On the other hand, a short stay in prison can dramatically affect a woman’s relationship with her children, harming both the mother and the child. Of course, that has an impact on the wider community. I am particularly grateful to Dr Shona Minson for her research and all that she is doing to inform magistrates and judges.
Women’s centres provide an opportunity for a different path. The Nelson Trust recently shared Sue’s story with me. Sue was sentenced to eight months for theft. She had been taking cash from the shop where she worked, in order to pay off her debts and fund her alcohol and drug addiction. She had a painful history and her daughter had been taken into foster care. While Sue was in prison she was fortunate enough to make contact with the Nelson Trust. She began to develop a trusting relationship. When she came out of prison the Nelson Trust worked with Sue. It obtained rented accommodation for her and she began participating in various courses, including on crime and its impact, preventing relapse, and self-esteem and confidence building.
When Sue was investigated for another offence, committed at the time of her initial offence, she immediately admitted it and was supported by her key worker through meetings with solicitors and another trip to court. She pleaded guilty and the women’s centre was able to give the court a full picture of how Sue had been engaging with services. Instead of going back through the revolving door of prison and risking undoing months of hard work, Sue was given a community order involving unpaid work hours, many now spent at the women’s centre where she is making a difference to the lives of other women. Sue has not used drugs since she left prison 18 months ago. The Nelson Trust is supporting her towards potential future contact with her daughter.
This example shows that women’s centres can give judges and magistrates the information they need to make effective sentencing decisions and give women the tools they need truly to transform their lives. None of this would be possible without the relationship Sue has with the women’s centre—doing things with her and not to her. This is just one of many stories from the Nelson Trust and Anawim.
I am grateful that the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, will be conducting an independent review into how we can better support female offenders’ relationships with their families. All too frequently, magistrates do not have informative probation reports before sentencing. Action must be taken to review how women interact with the justice system and how they are sentenced, particularly by magistrates. It may be that a presumption against short sentences, as in the Scottish system, would be desirable, particularly given that in 2017, almost half of such women were given a short custodial sentence for shop theft.
We know that women get caught in the so-called revolving door with short prison sentences. They lose their homes and often lose custody of their children, even to adoption. This often exacerbates that downward spiral into more serious offences and an inability to secure employment. This is why a focus on women’s centres is needed: in their daily provision and where possible, appropriate residential provision, they can provide that place of relationship and trust. Properly resourced women’s centres can provide everything from early intervention right through to supporting women through the entire criminal justice system. For women who are already in prison, centres such as the Nelson Trust and Anawim have teams who engage with women in prison and then through the gate.
This is not simply about tackling the presenting offending—the “what”—but rather, providing a holistic trauma-informed approach which focuses on the “why”. Caseworkers in a place of relationship focus on getting to the heart of the women’s story in order to address what are often complex needs. A number of reports have shown that women’s centres offer an inspiring and effective alternative to custody, not least in their multi-agency work. However, they have been operating on a shoestring and, at present, there simply is not enough resource. If the Government are committed to transforming the justice system, as the female offender strategy suggests, they need to commit and invest in it. We know it costs approximately £47,000 per year to keep a woman in prison, and yet we know that women’s centres can work effectively with approximately £4,000 per year per individual. Moreover, the benefits of women’s centres are multiplied if they can operate as a network so that women can stay close to their families. If we do not have a whole network of women’s centres, we will not see the fruit of provision.
I would like to encourage the Government to dream a bit bigger and be a bit bolder. Similarly, I hope that all parties will commit to properly funding this network. In 2017-18, we spent more than £400 million on probation and services for women; £5 million for women’s centres is a drop in the bucket and will not be enough to transform the system. Let us give a proper network of women’s centres a proper go.
Shortly after Dr Phillip Lee’s resignation, when the female offender strategy was published, he shared his concerns about the failure to secure all the funding required. He also made it clear that he had full faith in the Secretary of State to navigate the Government’s spending review in order to benefit vulnerable women caught up in the criminal justice system. I am hugely encouraged by this and by the appointment of Ed Argar, and I look forward with hope to seeing the funding for women’s centres secured.
There need to be enough women’s centres, and they need to be appropriately funded so that magistrates and the public can trust that they can improve outcomes in the justice system. I hope that the Government will back this strategy with vision and proper investment, and with a focus on relationship and transformation.
My Lords, I congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester on securing this debate. I was absolutely delighted when she was appointed Bishop to women’s prisons. It is a post that she has embraced with commitment and enthusiasm.
There are currently just under 4,000 women in our prisons. They serve short sentences. In 2016, 271 of them served sentences of less than two weeks. Some 45% of those on remand do not get a custodial sentence. Six weeks on remand is long enough for them to lose both home and children—and they often get neither back. Nearly three-quarters of them have a mental health condition. Their addictions encompass alcohol and prescription and illegal substances, and sometimes a combination of all three. At least half of them are victims of sexual and domestic violence. They are 30 times more likely than women in the general population to commit suicide on release. In 2016, 22 women took their lives in our prisons, the highest number for years. Their self-harm rates are shocking. Every year, 17,000 children are affected by their mother’s imprisonment. These women are troubled, not troublesome. Prison does not and cannot do anything for them.
My report was published 11 years ago, in 2007. I recommended that our women’s prisons should be closed and that we should have a network of women’s centres and small custodial units. There was a handful of centres in 2006. When Jack Straw was the Home Secretary, £15.6 million was committed as seed corn money to build a network of women’s centres, and there are now more than 50. The reduction in the subsequent numbers of women in prison enabled the following Government to close two women’s prisons and save a lot of money. Centres have admirable recidivism rates, which were acknowledged by the Ministry of Justice a couple of years after my report. Centres deal with all the issues arising from these women’s chaotic lives all under one roof: debt, mental health, addiction, parenting, abuse and cooking. It is harder than being in prison; let no one think this is a soft option.
I remember visiting a centre and meeting a woman who was 41. She had been in and out of trouble with the police since she was 15 years old. I asked her why she was there, and she said that some magistrate had realised that it was pointless to keep sending her to prison. She said that she had forgotten how many times she was in prison, but every time she had been in prison there was someone she could blame: “If my mother had protected me, if my stepfather hadn’t done that to me, if I hadn’t had to run away from home, if I hadn’t been pimped into prostitution, if I hadn’t become a drug addict, if I hadn’t started assaulting people in the street for money—every single time, I could blame someone else”. She said, “Coming here, the centre has challenged me and said, ‘But what is your role? What have you done that makes you end up here, losing two of your children to adoption without consent and the possibility of living with your little boy of three?’”.
I asked her what her experience had been. She said, “It is much, much harder than being in prison”. A lot of people think this is a ridiculous question, but it is one I often ask women in prison. I said, “Have you always liked yourself?” She said, “No”. “Do you like yourself now?” She thought for a bit and said, “Yes”. I said, “In that case, you are going to be all right”.
About seven years ago, I was listening to “Weekend Woman’s Hour” on a Saturday afternoon. There was an item about two women who had been in women’s centres. They were asked about what happened and they said that, on reception, they had to fill in a form which they thought was total rubbish. It asked questions such as, “What did you want to be when you grew up? Are your children proud of you? Are you still in touch with your school friends?” They went through the women’s centre regime, and one was now in full-time education and the other was in work, in her own accommodation with one of her children. The interviewer asked the right last question—lawyers know that sometimes your last question can defeat your case. This interviewer asked, “You told me that these forms were rubbish. What has happened to them?” One had it on her fridge, and the other had it on her bedroom wall. I think that illustrates that those women understood what those centres had done for them.
When I was conducting my review, I asked the number cruncher in the Home Office—the department then responsible for the women’s estate—how much it cost to keep a woman in prison for a year. He told me £70,000. At that time, a place in the Asha Centre in Worcester—which has since closed because of the effect of Transforming Rehabilitation—was £750 a year. I know which was the more effective. Unfortunately, Transforming Rehabilitation has had a dire effect on many women’s centres. The contracts which community rehabilitation companies impose on them are oppressive, with gagging clauses and £10,000 fees to alter a clause. Many, such as Alana House in Reading, have stopped working with women offenders because they cannot comply with this regime. We need this Government to acknowledge the success of women’s centres and to recognise that, in Scotland, they are doing what I suggested and that they are working.
Finally, I offer my very best wishes to the noble Baroness, Lady Sater, for her maiden speech.
My Lords, it is an honour and I am most grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate today, which touches on many issues with which I have been closely aligned before coming to this House. First, I would like to thank everyone in this House from all sides for their kindness and support. Black Rod and her staff, the doorkeepers, the attendants and the police officers have been incredibly helpful and given me so much guidance and direction. I cannot thank them enough.
My induction into this House, although a nerve-wracking and humbling experience, was made less stressful by my wonderful supporters—the noble Lord, Lord Carrington of Fulham, who has been a friend and mentor to me for too many years to mention, and the noble Baroness, Lady Chisholm of Owlpen, who not only took on the role of supporter but wanted even more punishment as my mentor. Thank you both. I am truly grateful.
I have been involved with the justice system for nearly a quarter of a century, much of it as a magistrate. One of the most difficult duties of a JP is, where there is no alternative, to send an offender to custody. It is not a decision that is taken lightly. This is particularly the case when imprisoning women because of the impact that such a sentence has not just on them but, all too often, on their children and families.
None the less, in order to ensure that public safety remains a top priority and to address the rightful needs of victims, prison is and will continue to be the only appropriate option for those women who commit the most serious crimes. For other women offenders—those who commit the less serious, non-violent offences—there are alternatives. This is why I believe strongly in the ability of women’s centres to improve outcomes in the justice system. I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester for introducing this debate, not least because we know that the reoffending rate, after a custodial sentence of less than 12 months, is far too high.
All too often, I have seen at first hand, not only as a magistrate but as a former trustee of Addaction, the impact on women and children of not having had the start or support in life to help them with the many difficult challenges and trauma that come from being victims of domestic abuse, sexual abuse and exploitation, or from suffering from poor mental health or addiction to drugs or alcohol. Regrettably and sadly, these circumstances often lead to a downward spiral into criminality. Women’s centres provide specialist treatment services to help precisely those women whose lives have taken a wrong turn and who need to get back on track.
During a recent visit to the Nelson Trust women’s centre in Gloucester, it was evident that female offenders are frequently among the most vulnerable individuals in society with very complex needs. I was extremely impressed by the successes achieved as the result of the tireless work of those working at the trust. There are many others like them who dedicate their lives to helping vulnerable women in need and I pay tribute to them all.
I therefore welcome the Government’s decision to pilot residential women’s centres. They will provide an additional option to manage women in the community on a sentence that is more intense and robust but that enables them to maintain their ties with their families and support them to stay in stable housing and employment. Such centres can provide the wide-ranging and holistic services that are now the norm for young offenders, both female and male.
Of course, the ideal would be to tackle issues before they lead to criminality. During the three years that I recently spent as a member of the Youth Justice Board, I worked to improve early interventions and rehabilitation for children and to give them an opportunity to live crime-free lives. One area that I believe offers great benefits and potential for both adult and child offenders to find new opportunities as well as to improve their health and well-being is sport. In my case, tennis played a significant part in my childhood, growing up in Wales. Playing competitively provided life skills and confidence from which I have benefited greatly, even if I was no Virginia Wade.
In turn, I have been keen throughout my career to turn my personal sporting experience to the benefit of others, not least to provide them with similar opportunities to get on in life and to reach their full potential. It was through the Youth Justice Board, under the chairmanship of my friend the noble Lord, Lord McNally, that I was introduced to StreetGames and subsequently became its chairman. The charity delivers sports into disadvantaged communities, giving children real opportunities to develop life skills and confidence and eventually to improve their prospects of employment. If we can help youngsters before they take the wrong turn, how much better off they are and how much better off society is.
For now, though, we must accept the reality that there are young and adult women who have, for whatever reason, committed offences. It behoves us to treat them as individuals and provide the most appropriate place to address their needs. Women’s centres can and should play a critical part in their rehabilitation. It has been a privilege to contribute to the broad criminal justice system, whether as a magistrate, working with those with addiction or affording opportunities through sport. It is an honour now to have the opportunity to play a role, however small, in your Lordships’ House.
My Lords, the House will need no convincing that my noble friend Lady Sater has made an outstanding maiden speech, and we look forward to her further contributions in the weeks, months, years and decades ahead. Her speech was based on personal experience, pragmatism and principle. She has courage and compassion. I have known her for some years, and I was delighted when I heard that she was to come to this place. We will benefit greatly from her and all that she can offer. Her being a Welsh national or a county tennis champion daunts me somewhat, but it suggests she has a great deal of stamina and power in her, and we should all beware—as well as greatly appreciating her words.
I share much of her experience—at Addaction and the British Lung Foundation, which are important charities. She has been on the Youth Justice Board with the noble Lord, and the Metropolitan Police Authority. She has a commitment to StreetGames and the Queen’s Club Foundation, and most particularly as a magistrate. I was a magistrate for many years before I joined another place and had to step down because I did not feel it was compatible to have a party-political role as well as being chairman of a juvenile court, in my case. But it really prepared one to understand the realities of life for those who were given a short straw: a chaotic upbringing, few resources and few champions in their life. That will benefit us all as she continues to speak.
Let me also join others in my congratulations to the right reverend Prelate. She will always be a heroine in my mind for being the first female Lord spiritual to take her place in this House. She was a long time a-coming and for me she can do very little wrong. Just being here is such a triumph and a step forward.
This is an extraordinarily important debate on a critically sensitive subject. Many points have been made. Some 60% of female offenders suffer domestic abuse. They suffer substance abuse, mental illness and trauma. They have few role models and few champions. The situation for women in the criminal justice system is appalling. I pay tribute to the fact that the numbers have fallen so far: 5% of prisoners, 4,000 people. It was 17% at the beginning of the last century.
But women do pay the double penalty. William Shakespeare said:
“The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children”.
Well, the sins of the mother are laid upon the children, and those 17,000 children caught up in this pay a price that is not justified. I am delighted that my noble friend Lord Farmer is reviewing family ties—the quarter of female offenders who have dependent children. The shocking recidivism rates have been mentioned—70% compared to 62% for people who have been in prison for less than 12 months.
I think that all of us feel that the Secretary of State for Justice, in the female offender strategy, holds out a great promise for recognising the issues involved in this uniquely complex group of people. I bear great hope from the first woman President of the Supreme Court, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Hale. All those years ago I used to say that we needed an evidence base in the juvenile court. I sat with a stipendiary who was always saying that “in the public interest” some youngster should be sent to a detention centre. As a social scientist, I would say, “What is the evidence that this is in the public interest when we know that 80% of these young people will reoffend within the year?” Anyone who reads the President of the Supreme Court’s Longford lecture of 2005 will feel confident that her sensitivity for women and girls who fall foul of the criminal justice system is a great encouragement.
Women’s centres are a great step forward and I would not in any way detract from them. The splendid Centre for Criminology at the University of Hull produced a report in 2015 by Brennan, Green and Sturgeon-Adams. They attributed great value in diverting low-severity female offenders from custody to a women’s centre. The Together Women Project in Sheffield evaluated a 46% reduction in the reoffending rate for women who attended its project over a 12-month follow-up period.
We have talked about the huge cost of incarceration compared with the cost either of help in the community or of a women’s centre. However, it is very often the case that the women—like children and others—who drift into the criminal justice system are those who have been failed by their own social services, health or education departments. There is a real danger that the Ministry of Justice begins to pick up the cost that the services in their home area should have been funding. I have long advocated a penalty on local authorities who have females or young people in a custodial provision, because there is a great deal of cost shunting and magistrates such as myself can remember that the social reports had little to offer—in other words, they needed to go to an institution to save the great cost locally. So there are serious financial components in how these decisions are made.
I want to refer to three other organisations that I think make a splendid contribution. Working Chance, run by Jocelyn Hillman, is a recruitment agency—I declare an interest—for helping female ex-offenders and care leavers. Working Chance is extraordinary: it places 200 women each year into quality paid work, maintaining a consistent reoffending rate of less than 3%. Some 85% of its candidates are still in work after six months. Jocelyn Hillman complains that, too often, women are described as victims. Yes, they want to feel stronger, but they also want paid work to restore their dignity in the community. Similarly, Pimlico Opera, founded by Wasfi Kani, and the Watts Gallery, which does art work in prisons, help people to grow in confidence, excel and feel proud of their achievements.
This is a critically important debate. I believe that we are seeing real progress and I welcome the Government’s commitment. As the Minister knows, there are many in this House, especially my noble friend Lady Sater, who are going to be pushing for consistent progress.
My Lords, I echo others who thanked the right reverend Prelate for drawing our attention to the important contribution that women’s centres make in society today. I would also like to congratulate my noble friend on an excellent maiden speech; she will bring great energy and experience to this House.
We have around 3,800 women in our prisons, the vast majority held for non-violent offences. Many of them are serving short-term sentences; many go on to reoffend; and many are mothers. It is a destructive and costly cycle for the victims, the women involved, their children and society as a whole. The reoffending rates alone are truly shocking. The Prison Reform Trust says that 48% of women are reconvicted within a year of leaving prison, and that rises to 61% for sentences of less than 12 months. Many of the women we speak of are among the most vulnerable in our society and face a range of problems: financial trouble, homelessness and debt dependency. Some 60% have experienced domestic abuse; 66% are also mothers, many in sole charge of their children. What happens to those children when their mothers are sent to prison? Kate Paradine of Women in Prison suggests that only 5% of them remain in their own home, so a sentence for a mother often spells a broken home for her dependants. Evidence shows that the children of offenders are often more likely to go on to offend themselves, thus entrenching the problem for future generations.
There will always be a balance between punishment, protection of the public and rehabilitation in the criminal justice system. In the case of these women, we seem to be failing on all fronts. It is right, therefore, that we ask ourselves how best to break the cycle. That is a question the Government’s female offender strategy rightly seeks to answer. I commend its ambition and welcome its support for women’s centres. I also look forward to hearing more from my noble friend Lord Farmer on the strengthening of family ties, where fresh thinking would be welcome.
What are the solutions? I certainly agree that short custodial orders should be a last resort, that we must seek alternatives in the community where appropriate and that, in an ideal world, we would see fewer women come into the justice system in the first place. To make this a reality, we need to build a support structure around these women, especially when they are at their most vulnerable. For many women that is at the point of release, when they may have no job or home to return to. Women’s centres have a great deal to offer here. No doubt they could do more, providing support on a wide range of issues, including sensitive ones such as mental health, about which women often feel reluctant to share too much with the criminal justice system.
Evidence shows the worth of women’s centres: recent Ministry of Justice data shows a 5% reduction in reoffending rates among women who have used them. However, if we are to lean on women’s centres, we need to get behind them. We must ensure that they offer a consistently high standard of care across the country and are joined up with the criminal justice system, so that referrals are made and best practice is shared.
With this in mind, I was greatly impressed by the Government’s proposals to pilot five new residential centres; 24/7 support of this nature may well help women at their most vulnerable. Do these pilots include provision for women with infants, who may also benefit from support at this crucial time? Overall, I believe that we should do more to support women who are caught up in the criminal justice system or on the verge of being so, especially those with dependants. Through women’s centres and other schemes, we should give them and their families support in the community where we can, try to keep them out of prison in the first place and support them if we fail. We should try to break the destructive cycle for their sakes, for those of their family and for that of society as a whole.
My Lords, let me thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester for securing this debate. I add my congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Sater, for her excellent maiden contribution.
We are told that at any one time, there are around 4,000 women in prison, but we are not told that the number of women in prison has doubled since 1993. Most of these women are not serious offenders. The available statistics are very frightening: more than half received short sentences of six months or less; more than one third had no previous convictions; a substantial number are in prison for non-violent offences; and around a quarter of the women imprisoned each year are jailed for shoplifting.
Women in prison typically have a wide range of serious welfare problems. Imprisoned women are five times more likely to have a mental health problem than women in the general population, with 78% showing signs of psychological disturbance when they enter prison. I have checked the latest available figures, which are seriously concerning: 75% of women in prison used illegal drugs in the sixth months before imprisonment; 58% used drugs every day during those six months; 37% previously attempted suicide; over half have suffered domestic violence; and one in three has experienced sexual abuse.
The incidence and, to a lesser extent, the nature of crime may vary from place to place and from generation to generation, but crime is something with which all societies have to come to terms in their own way. The underlying causes of crime and the effectiveness of punishment and treatments will continue to be debated. We now have ample evidence that overreliance on prison as a way of dealing with offenders has not helped. Priority must be given to crime prevention in its broadest sense and to schemes for diverting as many young offenders as possible from the criminal justice system. There is nothing soft about this sort of approach: it is an entirely realistic appraisal of the strictly limited contribution that courts and prisons can make to reducing crime. Equally, we as a society should be aiming to send fewer people to prison.
I was delighted by the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Corston. There was a strong message in her review about vulnerable women in the criminal justice system:
“Community solutions for non-violent women offenders should be the norm … There must be a strong consistent message right from the top of government, with full reasons given, in support of its stated policy that prison is not the right place for women offenders who pose no risk to the public”.
We should endorse this principle, backed by many Court of Appeal judgments that the courts should send to prison only those whose offending makes any other course unacceptable, and that those who are sent to prison should not stay there any longer than is strictly necessary.
In last week’s debate on rehabilitation, secured by the noble Lord, Lord Bird, we were clear that one of the prime concerns of prison was to prepare inmates for their eventual release. Prisons have a poor record on reducing reoffending. Nearly half of adults are reconvicted within one year of release. The record for women is not inspiring: 48% are reconvicted within one year of leaving prison. Short prison sentences, as almost every speaker has said, are less effective in reducing reoffending than community sentences.
Public confidence is shaped by the quality of service that our prisons can provide. Recent reports on our prisons are a matter of serious concern. Locking up inmates for a long time daily is unlikely to build the confidence that is needed to achieve effective rehabilitation.
The number of prisoners in our institutions and the lack of resources required to maintain decent standards calls for a strategy to look at alternatives to the slogan, “prison works”. It does not. The Government’s commitment to seeking community solutions for most women offenders is welcome. However, the limited resources allocated to support women’s centres and the lack of a timetable to drive progress remain matters of serious concern.
Establishing a network of women’s community projects with adequate funding from the Ministry of Justice is a way forward. These projects are run by voluntary organisations in partnership with the probation service. They operate as one-stop-shop centres, providing a range of services, and have proved highly effective in keeping women out of custody while providing the support and help they need to avoid reoffending.
Many women have been referred to the projects since they were established. The analysis of the help provided is there for all to see. Many needed help such as counselling, and with behavioural needs. Help is provided on health, accommodation, employment and training, finance and debts, drugs and alcohol, and children and family issues. A good proportion needed support in connection with experiences of abuse, rape and domestic violence. I hope no obstacles will be placed in the way of this work being carried out.
One of the Government’s successes has been the establishment of the Youth Justice Board. I am delighted that my colleague, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, was once its chairman. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has advocated a similar arrangement for a women’s justice board. We were told that the reason why we do not have a separate framework in law for women is that we have a different structure for them.
Will the Minister look at this matter again to see whether such a board can be established? This would not marginalise women in the criminal justice system, but rather mainstream their provision and ensure that under the national offender management structure, ample priority is given to service provision for, and management of, women offenders.
My Lords, I first add my congratulations to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester on securing this important debate. I also thank all noble Lords, whatever their gender, for their contributions to it.
I particularly wish to note the contribution of my noble friend Lady Sater, who is clearly eminently qualified to make a contribution by way of her maiden speech in this debate. I look forward to her further contributions in this House.
I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, for coming to speak to me. I am grateful for her having shared her knowledge and experience in this area with me. I am equally grateful for her not having shared her severe cold with me, but I hope she is recovering.
Various statistics have been noted, but clearly we understand that, although far fewer women are represented in the criminal justice system, those who are there and who come into contact with it are among some of the most vulnerable women in society. Many face complex circumstances, including histories of abuse, mental health issues, low income, unstable accommodation and, of course, in many cases, the experience of domestic violence and the disruption which that engenders.
It is a recognition of this vulnerability and need that underpins our Female Offender Strategy, which was published in June. I pause to acknowledge the work of my honourable friend Phillip Lee in respect of that matter. Our strategy sets out the Government’s intent for improving outcomes for women in contact with the justice system based on a vision that fewer women should come into the criminal justice system and in custody, especially on short-term sentences. We want to see a greater proportion of women managed in the community and managed successfully. We want to see better conditions for women who, for safety or other reasons, need to be held in custody.
If we are to achieve the aims of such a strategy, then we must recognise that community services lie at the heart of our approach. We know that the third-sector-led women’s centres can offer valuable support to help vulnerable women address their needs and turn their lives around, thereby reducing the risk of offending—examples have been given by a number of noble Lords. Women’s centres are often at the heart of the multiagency whole-system approaches to female offenders. These aim to provide holistic, gender-informed support to women, from first contact with the police and at all points of the justice system.
I referred to gender-informed support, and the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, raised the question of gender-informed probation services. That is a matter of training and experience: it is a matter of ensuring that those engaged in the provision of probation services understand the particular and peculiar needs of women in the justice system. Certainly, that is something that we aim to ensure going forward.
The right reverend Prelate asked what assessment has been made of the ability of women’s centres to improve outcomes for women in the justice system. It would be difficult to undertake a full assessment, as women’s centres offer support to women with a wide range of issues and needs, not all of whom have been referred by—or, indeed come into contact with—the criminal justice system. We also know that women may be supported by other local agencies. We estimate that there are approximately 80 women’s centres in England and Wales. More than 50 of these support women in the criminal justice system, with more than 30 being engaged with community rehabilitation company contracts.
I note the comments that have been made about some of the difficulties surrounding those contracts and those engagements. Noble Lords will be aware that we are addressing the issue of existing CRC contracts: they are intended to be terminated and reviewed going forward, and it is our intention to ensure that the community rehabilitation companies understand the need to engage with the voluntary sector, and in particular these centres, as part of their supply chain.
Data from some centres has clearly found the way in which they have been effective. Women supported by women’s centres contracted to CRCs clearly have a lower reoffending rate than those who have no contact with the centres. Data from the Brighton Women’s Centre found that, for every 100 women supported by the centre, there was a reduction in the frequency of reoffending by between 27 and 29 offences.
Alongside the work that women’s centres do, there are many other community services that are effective in supporting the complex needs of female offenders. As set out in our strategy, we are encouraging local areas to adopt new ways of working by developing a multiagency approach to these issues—often termed a whole-system approach. We hope that the whole-system model brings together local agencies, criminal justice and both statutory and voluntary organisations. Together, they should be capable of providing the sort of targeted support that female offenders need. That has to be complemented by the National Probation Service and community rehabilitation companies, which are clearly going to be key partners in ensuring that female offenders receive targeted support, not only through the gate but once they are back in the community.
To give an example, the whole-system approach set up in Greater Manchester in 2014 has provided effective outcomes for female offenders. We know, however, that the availability of women’s community services across England and Wales does not always match the demand for those services. We want to see a sustainable network of women’s community services and centres embedded as an integral partner in the delivery of public services for female offenders, making better use of their potential as places where support and interventions can be delivered in an appropriate form and at an appropriate time.
Clearly, such a network cannot be delivered without funding. We know that women’s centres have a wide range of funding streams, but that they often face issues of sustainability, creating uncertainty for staff and putting services at risk. If we are to deliver the commitments in our strategy, we need to ensure that we have sustainable community provision that will meet demand. That is why the strategy announced the investment of £5 million of cross-government funding over two years in community provision.
As part of this investment, we have launched an initial £3.5 million grant funding competition for 2018-19 and 2019-20 to sustain and increase community provision, including whole-system approach models, for female offenders. This community provision is intended to include women’s centres and we hope that the funding will also help providers to leverage additional funding from other sources.
Some concerns have been raised at the level of this funding, which builds on the £1 million seed funding that we are investing in the whole-system approaches between 2016 and 2020. The Government are committed to ensuring that there is sufficient funding for the female offenders strategy, and this is the start of a new and significant programme of work to deliver better outcomes. We will have the opportunity to revisit funding issues as we take that work forward.
We know that a truly sustainable network of community provision requires the support and involvement of many partners, not just of government. Our strategy therefore announced that we will work across government and with other partners to develop and agree a national concordat on female offenders. This will set out a cross-government approach to addressing the needs of this cohort of vulnerable women. Importantly, it will also seek to provide the leadership that stakeholders tell us is necessary to bring about change at local level. The concordat will act as a statement of intent, agreement and understanding about how statutory and third-sector services should come together to provide what I would term a joined-up response to supporting vulnerable women in this context. Through early intervention, we want to see fewer women coming in to the justice system.
For those women who do offend, we want to provide support from first contact with the police and at all stages of the justice system so that we can effectively address the factors that lie beneath their offending behaviour and thereby reduce the risk of reoffending. It is important to acknowledge that women’s centres must be supported in their work with female offenders by an effective probation system, which sees offenders regularly, identifies their particular rehabilitative needs and secures access for them to the right forms of support. Equally, it is vital that courts have confidence in the probation services delivering those services in order that they can give proper consideration to effective community sentences, as distinct from custodial sentences.
We also recognise that the probation system needs to improve. We are taking decisive action to stabilise and improve the delivery of probation services by setting out our intention to end the current CRC contracts early and put in place new arrangements, as I mentioned, from 2020. We are consulting on our proposals and look forward to hearing the views of a range of stakeholders, including how probation services can best meet the needs of female offenders.
Alongside that, we want to explore what more we can do to improve outcomes for female offenders. The strategy has committed us to working with local and national partners to develop a residential women’s centre pilot in at least five centres in England and Wales. Through the pilot, we hope to develop a robust evidence base for what could be an effective, sustainable and scalable model for improving outcomes for female offenders. We will take that consultative approach to designing and delivering the pilot models, engaging with potential providers, partners and investors, both nationally and locally. We want to ensure that the models we take forward are appropriate for the local context of each site. I look forward to sharing more details with noble Lords as that work progresses.
For the moment, I thank noble Lords again for their contributions to this debate, and I reiterate our commitment as expressed in the female offender strategy that we recently published.
House adjourned at 7.48 pm.