House of Lords
Monday 1 February 2021
The House met in a hybrid proceeding.
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Salisbury.
Introduction: Lord Godson
Dean Aaron Godson, having been created Baron Godson, of Thorney Island in the City of Westminster, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord Strathclyde and Lord Howard of Lympne, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.
Introduction: Lord Hannan of Kingsclere
Daniel John Hannan, having been created Baron Hannan of Kingsclere, of Kingsclere in the County of Hampshire, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord Borwick and Lord Leigh of Hurley, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, the Hybrid Sitting of the House will now begin. Some Members are here in the Chamber, while others are participating remotely, but all Members will be treated equally. I ask all Members to respect social distancing. If the capacity of the Chamber is exceeded, I will immediately adjourn the House.
Oral Questions will now commence. Please can those asking supplementary questions keep them to no longer than 30 seconds and confined to two points? I ask that Ministers’ answers are also brief.
British Armed Forces: Iraqi Interpreters
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that Iraqi interpreters are being targeted by militia groups because of their work with foreign militaries; and what steps they are taking to protect such interpreters who have worked for the British Armed Forces.
My Lords, although the Ministry of Defence does not employ interpreters directly in Iraq, its contractors are held to the highest standards. The MoD takes any breach of personal security extremely seriously, and we are currently investigating the allegations.
My Lords, last year’s breach of security data revealed interpreters’ IDs and car number plates, increasing their exposure to death threats, including at Covid-19 checkpoints. Can the Minister confirm that the private contractors who should be responsible for the interpreters’ safety are included within the scope of the investigation? Also, will she persuade her Home Office colleagues to upgrade their assessment of the risk to interpreters, currently rated as low, so that those who want a UK visa stand a chance of getting one?
I can confirm to the noble Baroness that the investigation will involve speaking to the contractor. Steps have already been taken to interview personnel concerned with Operation Shader who were in the camp between January and March 2020. The position is a little complicated in that the contractor changed, and therefore it is necessary to speak to the former contractor as well. We hope to be able to give an update by the end of February, and I undertake to report to the noble Baroness at that time. We constantly assess the risk that our interpreters are exposed to, and we have protections in place with our contractor to ensure that the best possible safeguards are afforded to them.
My Lords, life for Iraqi British Army interpreters has always been terrifyingly hazardous. At least 40 have been brutally murdered by militia groups. They are targets only because they work side by side with British soldiers. We know that and we should have the evidence to prove it. The resettlement scheme that they might have used closed in 2010, and now they have no accessible visa or asylum route to safety. They deserve real and prompt action, not just words. I invite the Minister to contrast the treatment of Iraqi interpreters with that of those who have British national overseas status in Hong Kong. Why can they not be offered equal treatment?
I confirm to the noble Lord that when the MoD uses a third-party contractor to source interpreting services, strict conditions of contract apply, and these are incorporated into the contract. These are standards set down by the MoD for contracting requirements and deployed operations. Very particularly, they require that the operational circumstances within which the contractor capabilities are delivered to the MoD must be as safe, secure and reasonable as possible for the workforce. They set out obligations both for the MoD and the contractor to ensure that that happens, and we take those obligations very seriously.
My Lords, these brave people have already put themselves in harm’s way. Can the noble Baroness say how many Iraqi interpreters and their families are at risk of retribution in Iraq? Can she confirm to your Lordships’ House that the British Government owe a duty of care to those who have provided such a valuable service to British forces in times of conflict?
I cannot give the historic number of interpreters employed in Iraq, but I understand that at the time of this incident, which is currently being investigated, there were eight UK national interpreters in Iraq and eight locally recruited interpreters.
My Lords, may I first welcome the Minister to answering this Question? Given that she had a jab only a few hours ago, she looks remarkably well.
Perhaps I may follow the previous question in relation to the families of the interpreters. Surely the Government have an obligation not only to the interpreters, many of whom have been killed, as has been identified, but to their families, to provide some form of assistance to them as well.
[Inaudible.]—and I recommend that everyone should get it done the moment they get the invitation.
We take these obligations very seriously. In Iraq, as has been referred to, a scheme to cover the tranche of interpreters who were employed directly by the Government closed in 2016. Schemes in Afghanistan, where we also relied heavily on interpreters, have continued with the Afghanistan ex gratia scheme, which has enabled relocation of, so far, more than 1,300 Afghans to the UK with their dependants. We are currently about to launch the Afghan relocation assistance policy in April, which will have regard to the wider interests of the interpreters and their families.
My Lords, in raising this issue, I am very conscious of the dedication that our late noble friend Lord Ashdown showed over many years to ensure that the UK did right by Iraqi interpreters. This is a reminder of how long this issue has gone on for. Will the Minister tell us what contact has there been with the 16 people whom she referenced, who have been providing interpretation to our forces? Have the Government assessed their security protection, and will they look at granting them immediate visas to the UK?
I cannot pre-empt or prejudge the outcome of the inquiry that is currently taking place. I have already offered to update the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, and I can update the Chamber as well, by the end of February, I hope, on the progress of the investigation.
My Lords, I start by recognising what great champions the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, have been for the rights of interpreters for many years, as I experienced myself during my time as a Defence Minister. While I understand why the Government have delegated the responsibility of contracting interpreters to private companies, such as thebigword, will my noble friend reassure me that the Government have not also delegated their duty of care?
Yes, I will I certainly offer that reassurance to my noble friend. Part of the reason that we are currently carrying out this investigation is that we want to know what happened and, if unacceptable breaches took place, why they happened and how they came about. We share a duty to our interpreters who are employed by a contractor, and the measures in place ensure that if contractors assess that the measures are not sufficient, they are entitled to highlight these immediately to the MoD. Ultimately, if these concerns are not addressed, they can withdraw their workforce without penalty. However, we hope that that situation would never arise. We take our responsibilities very seriously.
My Lords, the Minister has said that the Government hold the contractors to the highest standards. What mechanisms and processes are in place to ensure that this is sustained over the long term? Threats to interpreters can arise some years after their employment; meanwhile, the contracting company may well have changed. Who then is responsible for their safety and support? I have some difficulty in seeing how this will work in practice.
Mindful of the vital job that interpreters do when they assist our Armed Forces on overseas operations, we would be very vigilant in trying to ensure that they were not placed at a disadvantage. The noble and gallant Lord focuses on an important point, which is part of what we consider to be our wider responsibilities. We would expect interpreters to express their concerns to us, even if they were no longer working for the contractor within the country. We still have a diplomatic presence and we would expect interpreters who were concerned to communicate either with the MoD or with the diplomatic presence.
I am grateful to the Minister for confirming that the Government accept that they owe a duty of care to the Iraqi interpreters we are talking about. But does she believe that the US air strikes against a top Iranian military commander and Iraqi militia leader last year have made it more dangerous not only for Iraqi interpreters but for UK personnel in Iraq?
As a previous Member has highlighted, 40 Iraqi interpreters who worked with the British Army have been killed since the fall of Saddam Hussein. What support, if any, has been provided for their families in Iraq? If private contractors that are now employing interpreters have been found to breach the data in any way, no matter how unwillingly, how will Her Majesty’s Government hold them accountable?
International Year of Health and Care Workers
My Lords, to celebrate the work of health and care workers, there are symbolic interventions, such as the social care workforce CARE brand for shared identity and our powerful recruitment advertising, which highlights the remarkable contribution of health and care workers. However, the most important celebrations are tangible: the investment in new recruitment, the £30 million fund for those seeking mental and occupational health support, and the people plan, which is addressing the practical and cultural challenges that workers face in the workplace.
I thank the Minister for that very positive response and I agree with him about concrete measures. The World Health Organization has adopted the slogan “protect, invest, together”, which is very powerful and sets out the priorities very well for this year. The Minister will no doubt be aware that there is discussion at the World Health Organization and elsewhere about the need for a new societal compact with health and care workers to whom we owe so much, perhaps similar to the military covenant. Would Her Majesty’s Government support the creation of a compact or covenant setting out our responsibilities to health and care workers, which mirror and match their professional responsibilities and duties towards us? If they have not considered this, will they do so?
My Lords, I applaud the WHO’s values of “protect, invest, together”. One of the commendable things during this awful pandemic has been the way in which British society has reconnected with the values of the healthcare community. It has rediscovered the contribution of nurses, doctors, healthcare workers and those in social care. A new relationship has been forged between civic society and healthcare; this is commendable and we should build on it. On the idea for a compact, it is not something that we are working on at the moment as far as I am aware, but I would be glad to take his idea away and find out whether we can develop it any further.
My Lords, HMG have supposedly funded 85 schemes with EYN UK to develop a vaccine passport, yet they say they have no plans for one. Will they rethink their no plan-policy and collaborate with the World Health Organization in its International Year of Health and Care Workers by producing a worldwide WHO vaccine passport, perhaps even as an app?
My Lords, the Minister for Vaccines has been clear on this: the Government are not currently undertaking work on vaccine certification. However, the noble Baroness makes the case well. Certainly, those who have had the vaccine are very anxious to ensure that they have the correct documentation, and we will ensure that that is in place.
My Lords, I declare my roles at Cardiff University. Will the Government create a range of funding streams as overseas aid to ensure that UK universities’ successful distance learning programmes in practical health and care specialities and generalist care are affordable and supported in those countries? Will they work with me and others to invest in better provision of public health, infectious disease control, maternity services, dermatology, palliative care and other services around the globe?
My Lords, I pay tribute to the work of the noble Baroness in this important area. Her implied insight is exactly correct. We cannot be healthy and safe here in Britain if there are diseases raging around the world. It is both in our pragmatic self-interest and aligned with our values of partnership with other countries that we should indeed invest in the kind of training and support to which the noble Baroness alluded. I will definitely look into how we could do this better.
My Lords, the WHO puts health and care workers in the same category. Does the Minister agree that we in the UK do not see them as the same, since workers in the care sector are habitually worse paid, less recognised and more poorly trained and supported than those who work in the NHS? Would not the best way to celebrate care workers be to remedy these discrepancies in the proposals for the reform of social care, which the Minister has assured the House will be brought forward this year?
My Lords, the noble Baroness makes a completely fair point. Her observation is entirely right and her recommendation is one that the Prime Minister has made clear is part of his thinking. Social care workers have done a phenomenal job during this pandemic. Their role in supporting the elderly and infirm is extremely valuable to the whole country. It is only right that they should be treated fairly; a review of their pay and circumstances will be part of the social care package when that is announced.
My Lords, the WHO notes with concern the increase in international health worker migration; there are also concerns about their workplace treatment in their host countries. The 14% of brilliant non-British NHS staff are essential in holding up our healthcare systems, as has been especially evident during this pandemic. Last week, there were worrying press reports that hospital trusts were telling non-UK NHS staff without NHS numbers that they were not eligible for the Covid vaccine. Please, can the Minister say whether all NHS staff are eligible for the vaccine—and if he cannot, will he explain why not?
I take this opportunity to confirm to the noble Baroness that all NHS staff qualify for the vaccine. I would be very grateful if she could communicate to me any incidents where an NHS trust has said otherwise. We are enormously grateful in this country to all those who migrate to support our social care services. We are profoundly grateful for those efforts, and I want to ensure that everyone is treated well in their workplace. Generally, those in the social care workplace are treated well; there are exceptions, and we crack down on those exceptions extremely hard.
My Lords, I express our strong support for the WHO statement in recognition of the selfless dedication of health and social care staff to providing care during and despite Covid-19. Following on from the comments of my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley, the WHO statement draws attention to the importance of workforce readiness, education and learning to manage the pandemic and its consequences. Will the Minister explain how the Government are ensuring that both health and social care staff on the front line of social care—particularly care staff, providing vital domiciliary care in the home and in the community—are being given this key support?
The noble Baroness is right. Those involved in domiciliary care, particularly part-time, make an extremely important contribution. We are naturally concerned about how they are contracted and their educational needs supported. We would like to think more about how part-time domiciliary care staff in particular, who make such a valuable contribution, can be further supported.
My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister recognise that nurses remain at the heart of the world’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic? As key to the restoration of health systems that have been neglected during the crisis, will the Government support calls by the International Council of Nurses fundamentally to reset preparedness and response systems and work towards the global requirement for an additional 10 million nurses by 2030?
My Lords, we massively value the contribution of nurses from all areas. In fact, that recognition has manifested itself in practical terms; we are growing the nursing workforce and are committed to delivering 50,000 more nurses, putting the NHS on a trajectory for sustainable long-term supply in the future. That journey includes giving eligible nursing students an additional £5,000 of funding per academic year. I cannot say more clearly or loudly how much the contribution of nurses to our healthcare system is appreciated. We will do everything we can to ensure that it is recognised.
My Lords, in Salisbury we have had good reason to recognise the dedication and sacrifice of health and care workers, both at the time of the Novichok poisonings and in this present pandemic. The use of Salisbury and other cathedrals and churches as vaccination centres indicates a partnership between spirituality and health care, so will the Minister join me in thanking chaplains, among all the dedicated healthcare workers at this time? What we see in this country is in marked contrast with the poorest parts of the world, as in Sudan and South Sudan, with which this diocese is linked. Given that this is a global pandemic, when might the Government recognise the self-interest involved in overseas aid and move to restore the 0.7% of GDP commitment? No one will be safe until everyone is safe.
My Lords, the image of the vaccination work in Salisbury cathedral must surely be one of the most powerful images of our times. I found it an extremely touching picture to see those seeking solace in the cathedral and also their vaccination at the same time. I give praise to all those involved. Britain has been utterly emphatic in its contribution to global vaccination. We have given £574 million to developing countries to support those vaccinations. We do that for two reasons. One is self-interest, and the other is to ensure a fair distribution of the vaccines.
My Lords, we have made progress in many of the areas covered by the noble Lord, Lord Dunlop, and we will set out the Government’s response in full when we publish the review, shortly.
My Lords, does the Minister recall that it was way back on 4 July 2019 that the noble Lord, Lord Dunlop, was asked to produce a report on measures to strengthen and sustain the union? He delivered his report within six months, and the very Minister who is answering this Question told me, in answer to my Question on 19 November last year, that the report and the Government’s response would be published by the end of that year. So how can we have any confidence in his answer today, that it will be published soon? Why are the Government afraid, or unwilling, to publish this report and their response?
My Lords, there is no question of fear—although I always rise to answer the noble Lord with some trepidation. I give the House the best advice I can at the time, and the hope then was to publish by the end of the year. We want to ensure that we provide as full a response to the noble Lord, Lord Dunlop, as possible. As I have told the House before, the key component of that is related to the review of inter-governmental relations, and we are hoping to carry both those strands forward at the same time.
My Lords, the problems concerning vaccinations that have arisen in recent days clearly demonstrate that it has never been more important to strengthen the bonds that unite the four nations of our United Kingdom. Does the Minister agree that when taking steps to implement the Dunlop review, the Government should seek to remove the serious impediments to trading goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland resulting from the application of Article 5 of the protocol? Does he accept that if agreement is not reached on these matters at the EU-UK joint committee, it may be necessary to invoke Article 16?
My Lords, I can certainly tell the noble Lord that we attach the profoundest importance to all parts of the United Kingdom, particularly Northern Ireland, to which he refers. I do not wish to go into what 1066 and All That would have called the unfortunate events of the weekend, but I assure the noble Lord that we believe that all action in relation to the protocol must be proportionate, and that discussions on this matter will continue.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that if we do not make an effort, Scotland will become a republic separated from the United Kingdom, not because the majority—the moderate majority—want that, but because, to misquote Daniel O’Connell, England’s difficulty is Scotland’s opportunity? Are not the unionists from every part of the United Kingdom letting Ms Sturgeon—Glasgow’s de Valera—hold the floor because they fear confusing English nationalism with patriotic unionism, and are thus failing to make the powerful emotional and obvious economic case for the union?
My Lords, in answer to my noble and learned friend’s opening remark about a republic, I cannot conceive that anyone would wish to remove Her Majesty the Queen as our Head of State. As for the other part of his question, everybody should advocate the United Kingdom and our union, and should have no fear in doing so. That goes from the lowest to the highest in the land, and in every corner of our kingdom.
My Lords, the Dunlop review is about meeting the challenge of strengthening and maintaining the union. As each day passes, that task, as seen from Scotland, becomes more and more difficult, and constitutional changes will take time to deliver. Do the Government appreciate that they need to do much more now—from within Scotland, not just from Westminster—to make their voice heard there and their message understood?
The noble and learned Lord makes a very strong point. I agree with him—and, indeed, with the preceding question—that that voice for the union of the United Kingdom should be heard. We recognise that political differences exist between the Administration in Scotland and our Government, but our ambition remains to conclude jointly the inter-governmental relations review. That is one of the important strands behind this Question.
My Lords, the Dunlop review was completed before the United Kingdom Internal Market Act, so it may already be out of date. The chairs of the Scottish Affairs, Welsh Affairs and Northern Ireland Affairs Committees are as much in the dark as the rest of us. Can the Minister explain how Michael Gove can already be implementing the Dunlop recommendations when he has not even shared the report with the devolved Administrations?
My Lords, my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is second to none in his commitment to reinforce the United Kingdom and to carry that work forward. So, almost by definition, he is acting constantly every day in line with the aspirations of the Dunlop report.
My Lords, sadly, the Prime Minister shows scant understanding of or respect for devolution. At the same time, the First Minister is obsessed with an independence referendum ahead of pandemic recovery but has no coherent or credible plan for how to achieve it. Is not this the moment to publish the Dunlop report and set out how the UK can move forward as four nations working together? How can we have confidence that the Government are implementing the report if they do not publish it?
My Lords, I have asked for a little patience from your Lordships’ House, but it will have been noted that you are asking for an early publication. What I would underline is what I said before: that we are working positively with the devolved Administrations in many of the areas covered by Dunlop, particularly to establish new intergovernmental structures. The Prime Minister has established the union policy implementation committee—a Cabinet committee to ensure that the Government’s priorities in relation to the United Kingdom are delivered—and work is going on.
My Lords, the Dunlop review also includes Northern Ireland. Notwithstanding the findings of some recent internet polls that use a self-selecting online sample, does it remain the Government’s view that a clear majority of the people of Northern Ireland continue to support the union, and that the requirements for a border poll are not satisfied? In the event of such a poll, would it be the policy of this Conservative and Unionist Government to use their union capability to campaign actively to keep Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom?
My Lords, the Government are fully committed to the Belfast agreement, which sets out the circumstances that would require a border poll. Those are that, if at any time it appears likely that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the UK, they are obliged to call a referendum. The Government continue to monitor the evidence in this regard, but I can tell my noble friend that there is no clear evidence to support the idea that that is the case at this time. I can assure him that, were that ever to happen, this Government would campaign on the basis that the United Kingdom is a family of nations that works for everyone.
My Lords, those of us who so strongly support the union and its continuation know that it depends on trust, good will and understanding. Does the Minister think that those are helped by what appears to be a suppression of a report on the working of the union?
If it were characterised in that way, I do not think it would help. There is certainly no intention to suppress the report; it will be published, as I have told the House. The Government have been involved in constructive discussions with the devolved Administrations on how we secure continuing intergovernmental relations and good institutions to provide for that. I hope to be able to advise the House further on this shortly.
The BBC, funded by the United Kingdom taxpayer, has reduced the exposure of UK Ministers to television and radio audiences in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but has greatly increased the exposure of Ministers of the devolved Administrations. This strengthens the perception of separateness and has contributed to a diminution of a feeling of Britishness and an increase in support for independence. Does the Minister not agree that in all parts of the UK much more airtime should be given to UK Ministers, and will he ensure that the incoming chairman and director-general of the BBC will correct the current harmful balance?
My Lords, I am not going to issue directions to anyone in terms of the BBC but I will say that some people have certainly found aspects of the coverage confusing and, indeed, perhaps not as optimistic as it might be in certain circumstances. I believe that the nation needs optimism and hope; there should be more emphasis on the joint efforts of the National Health Service, the British Army and other armed services and volunteers right across this country, which deserve the fullest exposure, publicity and support.
UK Logistics Industry
My Lords, the Government have been working closely with the logistics industry over a number of years to understand and minimise the potential impacts of transition, updating assumptions and refining the Government’s policy and support as new information has become available. In response, we have rolled out a multimillion-pound haulier communications campaign and opened 46 information and advice sites around the UK.
My Lords, the Government refuse to properly fund the essential new border infrastructure at our ports to minimise delays caused by the new Brexit red tape. Does the Minister accept the massive impact this is having on the haulage industry and on import and export businesses generally? Can she explain why the Government are not fully funding the border changes needed to reduce delays?
I am struggling to understand the evidence behind the noble Baroness’s question. On the funding side, the Government have made available up to £200 million from the Port Infrastructure Fund, which was set aside and given to ports specifically for the things that she has outlined. On the customs side, the Government have made available up to £80 million of support for IT training and recruitment. She talks about delays for hauliers but there are very few such delays at the moment, as the empty car parks in Kent will attest.
My Lords, the Minister has just said that there are very few traffic delays at the moment going to Dover, so when did the Government decide to build a third inland border facility—called White Cliffs, although of course it is nowhere near the white cliffs—on a 100-acre greenfield site on the A20? Why were residents only told about this by a ministerial letter on 31 December? Will the noble Baroness confirm that the Government will commission a full environmental impact assessment before submitting a planning application—to themselves, in this case? Why is it necessary to have a third one when there are two already apparently empty ones on the M20?
My Lords, the site to which the noble Lord refers is indeed called White Cliffs. It is not a traffic management site and is not intended to be so. It will have capacity for up to 1,200 HGVs for maybe up to five years and will serve two functions: first, for customs checks, and, secondly, for sanitary and phytosanitary checks, which are undertaken by Defra. At the moment there is a statutory engagement period for the site: it started on 13 January and closes on 10 February, and I encourage all members of the local community to respond to it so that they can have their say.
Freight flows are returning to normal, having suffered a significant reduction over the Christmas period when Covid testing was introduced. I can assure the noble Lord that on the outbound we are basically at around 85% of flows from last year, while on the inbound we are at 95% of flows from last year. There has been some change with hauliers seeking other routes because they may be more convenient, but nothing that we would not have expected.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that we have the solution and we have the technology—distributed ledger, AI, internet of things, all elements of the fourth industrial revolution, many of which Great Britain is at the leading edge of? I was involved with the reducing friction in international trade project, whose proof of concept was cited in the new border strategy—on page 40, just for interest. Will my noble friend tell the House that the Government are doing everything to ensure that we are looking at all elements of technology in order to have the best border in the world—if you will, the “white cliffs of technology”?
I reassure my noble friend that of course we look at all possible technological interventions. Three end-to-end systems have been put in place to assist industry with all the new requirements. They are working well and are helping traders. We look at all possible technologies in order to develop friction-free trade as much as possible.
My Lords, the Road Haulage Association says that before Brexit around 18% of lorries delivering from the EU to the UK returned empty. They say that figure has now risen to around 50%. Apart from the difficulties that that implies for UK exporters, it is clearly at odds with ambitions to mitigate climate change. How will the Minister reduce the number of journeys by empty lorries?
It is the case that some lorries return empty. The noble Baroness quoted a figure of 50% but the Government’s figures are actually 30%. That is a bit higher than it has been in the past but over the coming weeks and months the haulage system in general will readjust, particularly in terms of the requirements of the trade and co-operation agreement regarding cabotage and cross-trade. I would expect to see fewer empty lorries going back.
My Lords, there are repeated reports of UK companies switching and looking to switch at least part of their operations to countries inside the EU in order to overcome additional regulations, customs checks and costs of transporting goods to the EU following our departure from it. Is this a development that the Government are encouraging and supporting, despite the potential adverse impact on jobs, economic activity—including the logistics industry—and tax revenue in the UK?
I think the noble Lord is referring to some individual anecdotes. We are not aware that this is part of a systematic picture of a substantial shift. The vast majority of traders within Great Britain and Northern Ireland are ready to meet the new requirements at the border and are trading successfully.
My Lords, the British Ports Association is reporting that its members are telling it that the current rules are constantly changing and highly complex. They are also saying that guidance is not forthcoming for exporters and that they are unable to get answers from government officials. When might they expect this situation to improve?
All information related to trading with the EU is published on the GOV.UK website. In the first three weeks of January there were 3.35 million visits to transition content and 470,000 visits to business pages specifically. The Government have published a haulier handbook in 14 languages specifically for hauliers. I am sure that noble Lords will have seen that a haulier handbook focusing specifically on Northern Ireland was published today.
My Lords, does my noble friend share my concern that the reason there are no queues at ports in relation to farm goods and fish products is because many of them are stuck on the continental port side? We have 100,000 pigs still stuck on farms, poultry is down by 20%, and the fish scenario will be familiar to her. What efforts can the Government make to ensure that these products can reach the ports, whether they are northern, east coast or southern coast ports, so that they can access the European market as quickly as possible?
We recognise the need to continue working closely with businesses and certifiers as they adapt to the new requirements. It is vital that traders ensure that UK hauliers have the correct paperwork for new animal and animal product checks when they cross the EU border. There is extensive advice and support available. There has been relatively little disruption at the border so far, but we are seeing regulations interpreted in different ways by member states. The Government are working incredibly hard to address these differentials with those member states.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that it is more economical for companies in Northern Ireland to ship goods via sea from Rosslare in the Republic of Ireland to Zeebrugge, a journey of 38.5 hours, than via the UK land bridge to Calais, a journey taking 10 hours? This has a knock-on impact on investment and jobs in Liverpool and Folkestone and compounds the pressure on Eurotunnel. What can be done to remedy this situation?
I am not entirely sure why a journey of 10 hours would be worse than a journey of 38 hours. Some hauliers will decide to go by other routes, certainly; however, we are not seeing a large-scale shift. Given that there are no delays at the border at the moment, we expect many of those hauliers to return.
Private Notice Question
My Lords, the second dose completes the course and is vital for long-term protection. That is why all patients will be offered a second dose between 77 and 84 days after receiving their first. We have already vaccinated almost 9 million people, with the ambition to reach the 15 million people in the most vulnerable groups 1 to 4 by the middle of February.
I thank the noble Lord for his partial reassurance; however, the question is actually whether there will be a supply available in the timeframe. Given that any unvaccinated area provides a potential pool for new strains of Covid to develop and re-infect the world, extending immunisation to the whole world is not
“only a matter of altruistic engagement,”
but “of enlightened self-interest,” to quote Tony Blair. Does the noble Lord agree that countries must come together to reject vaccine nationalism in favour of co-operation? At what point in terms of vaccination of priority groups will the UK be able to make vaccinations available to other countries that are in need?
I completely agree with both the noble Baroness and the former Prime Minister Tony Blair on this matter. Not only must we vaccinate our own country, but we are not safe until the whole world is vaccinated. That is a basic public health and epidemiological observation. It is why we are very committed to international efforts—to CEPI, Gavi, COVAX and ACT. They are all working hard to get fair distribution of vaccines. We have also put £571 million into the funds at COVAX to support vaccines for the developing world. However, we have to start at home and it is not possible to make a commitment on the schedule for when we will be in a position to think about exporting vaccines until that is completed. When it is completed, I will update the House accordingly.
My Lords, we welcome the efficiency with which the UK is providing vaccines, but vaccines affect only part of the problem. As my noble friend Lady Thornton and the Minister said, this is indeed a global issue. Prompt diagnosis and early treatment with antivirals will become vital. Time is limited. Can the Minister inform the House what measures the Government are taking to stimulate investment and make urgent research into effective antiviral drugs specifically designed against SARS-CoV-2, which are likely to be easier to distribute in many countries?
The noble Lord is entirely right: the vaccines are a hugely important development, but so is investment in all therapeutic drugs. We are extremely blessed to have had a contribution towards dexamethasone, tocilizumab and other therapeutic drugs which have greatly improved outcomes for patients in hospitals. He is right that antivirals also present an opportunity. The reason we have supported research into antivirals through the urgent regime in our clinical trials is to ensure that there is sufficient commitment in hospitals and primary care on antivirals. We are tasking the Therapeutics Taskforce with a specific mandate to look at antivirals and whether we should give greater resources to this avenue of therapeutic development.
My Lords, having the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines in the right quantities in the right place at the right time is vital. Will the Minister guarantee that people will be able to get their second dose of it at the local GP hub where they had their first dose administered without being directed to a mass vaccination centre to receive it?
In response to the noble Baroness, I said that we were confident that we had the supplies of the vaccines to do the second dose. It is not our policy that anyone has the second dose of anything other than the vaccine they had the first dose of. We will work with people to give them the most convenient place to have the vaccine, but I cannot offer the guarantee that the noble Lord seeks.
My Lords, while it is important to extend vaccination programmes at home and abroad, the recent reports of emerging mutations of the virus—the South African, Brazilian and the recent Californian mutations—risk significantly increasing transmissibility and serious illness, particularly in younger people. It is extremely worrying, and it may lead to the virus getting around the vaccine-related immunity. We need to be ahead of the curve if we are to avoid serious illness and deaths in the young. What plans do the Government have to mitigate against this?
The noble Lord is entirely right; the threat of a vaccine-escaping mutation is very present on our minds. I pay tribute to the word of Sir Patrick Vallance, Clive Dix and all those who are working on this issue in the expert advisory group on vaccines. The noble Lord mentioned the threat of transmissibility among the young. We have already made the commitment of offering a vaccine to all ages. He is entirely right that we may reach a point where it is particularly important to ensure that young people have the vaccine so that they are not responsible for transmitting the disease to those who are more vulnerable.
My Lords, I congratulate the Government on their very impressive vaccine rollout. Bringing in retired doctors, nurses and non-healthcare professionals to be part of the national vaccination effort will be vital to being able to continue to deliver all doses of the vaccine at scale—and, of course, it will help to relieve the pressure on our hard-working NHS workers. Can my noble friend the Minister update the House on the progress of these applications?
My Lords, we have tens of thousands—38,000, I think—currently employed by the NHS delivering the vaccine: a remarkable army of people. We have had further offers from hundreds of thousands of people—300,000, I believe—to support the vaccination effort. Those offers are being processed by voluntary groups; I pay particular tribute to the St John Ambulance, which runs an extremely good training programme and has enabled tens of thousands of people to join the vaccination effort. We continue to engage with those offering to help to ensure that they get the training and opportunities to help wherever they can.
How can the Government ensure that the second dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is delivered to patients within 12 weeks? I do not think the Minister answered that part of my noble friend Lady Thornton’s Question. What steps are the Government taking to ensure that this is done, and are there any circumstances in which vaccines would be mixed at the second dose?
When you go to have your vaccine, as several noble Lords have done, you are given a card like the one I am holding, on the back of which the date of your second dose is printed. That is how we ensure that people know where and when to go for their second dose. We are working extremely hard to ensure that there are supplies of the second dose, and I am confident that we have the arrangements in place. It is not our policy to give anyone a second dose of an alternative vaccine to their first dose.
My Lords, how can the Minister overcome the reported suspicion of the Covid vaccines among ethnic minorities and, of course, the anti-vaxxers, no doubt fuelled by President Macron’s unfounded attack on the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine?
My Lords, the noble Baroness is entirely right to be concerned, but I can report from the front line that concerns about the impact of anti-vaxxers have not materialised in a huge impact on confidence. I pay enormous tribute to all those in civic society and religious groups in all parts of Britain who have done a tremendous job of ensuring that groups and communities who might once have been suspicious of a vaccine supplied by the British Government have instead turned up in droves. I am extremely confident that the message has got across: this is a safe vaccine, everyone who qualifies should take it, and you should trust the Government and the NHS to supply it.
My Lords, I join my noble friend Lady Sugg in congratulating the Government on their outstanding work in rolling out this vaccine programme. As I am a bear of very little brain, can I ask my noble friend to explain: if we are to maintain the current level of first vaccinations and at the same time start giving second doses to those who have had their first, will we not have to double our capacity to give vaccinations over the next month or six weeks? Are the Government confident that they can achieve that?
My noble friend is entirely right: from March, we will have considerably more work both to deploy the second dosage and to supply it. We have those plans absolutely in place: the supply of the vaccine has been put in place to ensure that we have a sufficient number of doses, and the workforce and locations are in place to ensure that we can deliver them.
My Lords, among Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann’s many achievements since the start of the pandemic, he has overseen the establishment of seven regional centres across the Province where the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is now administered. I understand that a further significant consignment of the AstraZeneca vaccine is due in Northern Ireland this week for distribution to general practitioners. Can the Minister assure me that the Province’s stocks of the Pfizer vaccine are also being replenished to allow the regional centres to continue their excellent work at the fastest possible pace, including the delivery of a second dose?
I join the noble Lord in paying tribute to the good work of the Northern Ireland Health Minister, Robin Swann, whom I commend for his collaborative approach during this entire pandemic. I reassure the noble Lord that we are allocating doses on the business-as-usual, Barnett formula split, with 2.85% going to Northern Ireland. I pay tribute to the NHS there, where 214,601 people have had their first dose. A further 24,323 have had their second dose, and I reassure the noble Lord that we will maintain that velocity of delivery in the weeks to come.
My Lords, when I received the Pfizer vaccine, I was given a leaflet that stated
“you should receive a second dose of the same vaccine … 21 days later to complete the vaccination series. Protection against COVID-19 disease may not be … effective until at least 7 days after the second dose.”
Now that 21 days has been extended to 77 to 84 days, what is the efficacy of the vaccine after a gap of six weeks and three months?
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord on having his vaccine so early, and I share his concern on this matter because those who had their first dose early received a leaflet of exactly the kind he described, and, since then, the CMO’s advice has changed. I reassure him that, using data for those cases observed between days 15 and 21, efficacy against symptomatic Covid-19 for the Pfizer vaccine was estimated at 89%. Those kinds of statistics reassured the CMO to change the date to three months, and I reassure the noble Lord that he is in safe hands.
My Lords, I am perfectly happy with waiting for the three months, but I am concerned about people over the age of 80 who are living in their own homes, rather than retirement homes, who I understand are not yet receiving the vaccine. I can understand that it would be difficult to go to individual homes, but can my noble friend tell me what the position is?
I reassure my noble friend that we have put in place a systematic arrangement to visit care homes and those living at home with domiciliary care in order to bring the vaccine to their homes. That system includes GPs, community pharmacists and, where necessary, mobile vaccination units. It is proving to be extremely effective. The big numbers will be delivered by the mass vaccination centres, but we will not overlook those who cannot move from their home.
My Lords, what information does the Minister have about individuals who may have tested positive for Covid-19 after their first vaccination, either because they are a carrier but healthy or because the first vaccination—which statistically is not 100% successful—did not work?
My Lords, the noble and gallant Lord touches on a number of connected issues. The first vaccination does take a little bit of time; depending on which vaccination is administered, it takes between one and three weeks before it is truly in the system and protects the patient most effectively. It is, of course, possible to subsequently catch the disease without showing symptoms. One of the most emphatic results of having a vaccination is not necessarily that you do not catch the disease but that it saves you from serious disease and hospitalisation. That is where the vaccines are making a massive difference. We are expecting a dramatic fall in the number of hospitalisations and deaths as a result, but it is possible that people will still carry the disease. That is why the advice to all people, including noble Lords, is that just because you have had the vaccine, it does not mean that you can travel around the community as you did previously.
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, the Hybrid Sitting of the House will now resume. I ask all Members to respect social distancing. I will call Members to speak in the order listed in the annexe to today’s list. Members are not permitted to intervene spontaneously; the Chair calls each speaker. Interventions during speeches or “before the noble Lord sits down” are not permitted. During the debate on each group, I invite Members, including Members in the Chamber, to email the clerk if they wish to speak after the Minister. I will call Members to speak in order of request. I will call the Minister to reply each time. The groupings are binding, and it is not possible to degroup an amendment for separate debate. A participant who might wish to press an amendment other than the lead amendment in the group to a Division must give notice, either in the debate or by emailing the clerk. Leave should be given to withdraw amendments. When putting the question, I will collect voices in the Chamber only. If a Member taking part remotely wants their voice accounted for if the question is put, they must make this clear when speaking on the group.
Domestic Abuse Bill
Committee (3rd Day)
Relevant documents: 21st and 28th Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee
Clause 17: Disclosure of information
55: Clause 17, page 11, line 29, at end insert—
“(aa) the disclosure of any immigration information (see subsection (5A));”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment, along with the other amendment in the name of Baroness Hamwee to Clause 17, would ensure that the bill did not authorise the disclosure of any immigration information.
My Lords, we have Amendments 55 and 56 in this group, and my name is also to Amendment 154 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher.
From the moment the Data Protection Bill, as it was, arrived in this House, we opposed paragraph 4 of Schedule 2, which exempts data processed for purposes relating to “effective immigration control” from the protection provisions. Our reasons range from the ethical, for instance, solicitors being unable to obtain what the Home Office knows or thinks it knows about a client; to the humanitarian, for instance, deterring asylum seekers from seeking assistance to which they are entitled; to the practical, for instance, there are obvious implications for public health if people seek to stay under the radar.
The vulnerability of migrants subjected to domestic abuse is recognised by the commissioner-designate, and we have more amendments to come on different issues. It is recognised by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, who has recently said:
“Victims should have every confidence in approaching the police for protection. They should expect and receive protection at times when they are vulnerable and so desperately need the assistance of the agents of the state. Victims should never be in a position where they fear the actions of the police could unintentionally but severely intensify their vulnerability and thereby strengthen the hands of organised criminals and others whose motives and objectives are to inspire fear and do them harm.”
There is an obvious read-across from that. The vulnerability and fragility I mentioned are also recognised by the Government, but by way of a pilot.
As well as the stand-alone proposed new clause, which is Amendment 154, it seems to us necessary to address the issue in the specific clause regarding disclosure of information both by and to the commissioner. Patient information is dealt with; nothing requires or authorises its disclosure, and that is right. Nothing requires or authorises disclosure that would contravene data protection legislation. That does not preclude processing—the term used—of personal data for
“the investigation or detection of activities that would undermine the maintenance of effective immigration control.”
We very much support Amendment 154, whose authors have thought through many aspects of this. They urge that we do not put the commissioner in a position where information may not, out of fear, be confided in her, or where she is required to disclose immigration information. As so often happens when one returns to an amendment, I can see Amendments 55 and 56 might be more nuanced and detailed, but it is important, at this point, to get the matter on to the table. I beg to move Amendment 55.
My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 154 in my name. I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Wilcox and Lady Hamwee, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London for supporting it.
The key point is that victims of domestic abuse and their witnesses must be able to divulge personal data in the context of seeking or receiving support or assistance related to domestic abuse without the risk that such data may be used for immigration control purposes. Proposed new subsections (1) and (2) require the Secretary of State to make arrangements to honour this key principle and proposed new subsection (4) requires them to issue guidance to relevant officials and others affected by the new clause.
Migrant women with insecure immigration status are, in my view very understandably, reluctant to report domestic abuse to the statutory services. Would you, one might ask, particularly to the police? This reluctance is due to the current data-sharing agreements between statutory services, including the police and the Home Office, for immigration control purposes. This means that women affected cannot seek support or a safe place to go, with the most appalling consequences, as one can very easily imagine. Perpetrators are not being brought to justice.
In 2019, the Step Up Migrant Women campaign found that half of migrant women with insecure immigration status do not report abuse to the police for fear of detention and deportation. The use of insecure immigration status by perpetrators as a tool of coercive control has been highlighted for many years. CEDAW highlights this problem and calls on states to repeal restrictive immigration laws that leave migrant domestic workers vulnerable in this way. Imkaan’s vital statistics report shows that no less than 92% of migrant women have reported deportation threats from their perpetrator.
The Government’s draft statutory guidance framework for the Bill recognises the situation; indeed, it recognises the need for more support if these women are to seek help, but this support is not available in this Bill. The Government’s response has been to announce a pilot scheme to assess the needs of migrant women and provide those with no recourse to public funds with emergency accommodation. This is really concerning. As I have said, we know very well what the issues are and their consequences for migrant women. We know perfectly well what their needs are—the same as those of other women or men subject to domestic abuse—so I do not believe that we need this pilot. We need legislative protection for the women involved. If the Bill is passed without a solution to this problem, it could be years before the next appropriate piece of legislation. I really hope the Minister will agree that the proposed pilot is redundant and therefore not appropriate at this point.
The briefing sent to us by Step Up Migrant Women and others includes a number of heart-rending cases—I am very happy to pass them on to the Minister, but I have a feeling she already has them. She might want to make that clear.
In view of the serious crimes that go unpunished because of the fears of women with insecure migrant status, it is not surprising that the Equality and Human Rights Commission supports this and related amendments. The EHRC refers to a joint report of several policing bodies, including the HMICFRS, which found that victims of crime with insecure or uncertain immigration status are fearful that, if they report crimes to the police, their information will be shared with the Home Office. It concluded that the current system of information sharing between the police and the Home Office was causing significant harm to the public interest. I hope the Minister will respond to this particular concern in her response.
I put on record that, in 2019, the draft Bill committee made a clear recommendation to the Government to establish
“a firewall at the levels of policy and practice to separate reporting of crime and access to support services from immigration control”.
That is exactly what this amendment seeks to do.
Finally, as the Minister knows, without this amendment, and no doubt others, the measures in this Bill will not be compliant with Article 4(3) of the Istanbul convention, which states that
“provisions of this Convention by the Parties, in particular measures to protect the rights of victims, shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as … national or social origin … migrant or refugee status”.
The Minister will know that, in December 2019, the Government stood on a manifesto pledging to support all victims of domestic abuse. Can we discuss how to deal with this before Report? I am tremendously aware that she is responsible for, I think, three Bills—overwhelming, I must say—and is clearly extremely busy, but I would very much welcome even 10 or 15 minutes to try to clarify where we might go on Report. I realise that these are complex issues but very much hope that the Minister will work with her colleagues to achieve government support for this amendment or something like it.
My Lords, it is an absolute pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, who has such knowledge and experience of these issues as a former social worker, and to speak in support of her Amendment 154, calling on the Government to ensure that the personal data of a victim of domestic abuse in the UK is processed only for the purpose of that person requesting or receiving support or assistance related to domestic abuse and not for immigration control. We need to separate these distinct areas of immigration enforcement and the necessary protection of victims of domestic abuse. We cannot continue to ignore this perilous area where migrant women are put at continuing risk from their perpetrators while fearing deportation.
During the research for this amendment, I read moving testimony from many women, some of whom have been helped by Safety4Sisters in the north-west—a small, committed group of Manchester-based feminist and anti-racist activists. They speak to many migrant women who continue to receive piecemeal, inconsistent and, on occasion, downright dangerous responses from state and non-state agencies. I was particularly moved by the response of one of their clients, who summed up her experience so succinctly yet so movingly:
“We just have humiliations, a lack of dignity, we are powerless next to the man abusing you.”
The organisation offered a place to migrant women where they were treated with dignity and respect, and as citizens. Women talked frequently about feeling that they were not seen as human beings, either by family or by external agencies. Being treated as illegal was an all-too-frequent experience, which acted as a powerful deterrent to asserting their rights and engaging with wider society. It also acted as a label that had a profound effect on the women’s sense of self-worth, intensifying the threatening messages that violent partners and families had already employed to control the women and keep them from leaving. Time and again, migrant women reported that as part of the pattern of violence, abusers would constantly state that they were worth nothing and threaten that the authorities would deport them and remove their children if they reported the violence. By positioning women as outsiders, abusers were able to maintain their power over their victims.
Freedom of information requests in recent years to the 45 police forces around Wales and England found that 27 forces had shared victims’ details with the Home Office for immigration control purposes, while only three forces responded that they did not hand over victims’ information. The rest of the forces responded with neither “yes” nor “no”, while some said that they did not have any information. These figures show that there are no clear rules or guidance for forces on how to treat the potential immigration offences of victims of crime. Some forces identified that it depended on individual police officers to refer victims to immigration control, while others advised that they would do so only if the victim posed a significant risk. As a result, there is no consistency in practice, and victims are reluctant to come forward due to lack of trust in the police. This situation surely cannot continue to be supported.
In terms of community support from the police, I had the pleasure of working closely in partnership for many years with Gwent Police when I was leader of Newport City Council. Indeed, we are extremely fortunate to have an excellent chief constable and a police and crime commissioner who both recognise, validate and foster community working. It cannot be easy for them to determine what to do in cases of abuse of migrant women when there is no clear guidance for police forces. These amendments would ensure that this support would be in place and that there was clarity. It is imperative that the Government and public agencies understand that when victims leave an abusive situation and report abuse, they are more likely to be harmed or murdered by the perpetrator. It is therefore essential that the Government put in place a safe reporting mechanism and put an end to data-sharing policies when victims approach the police.
The police should then comply with their duty to prevent serious harm and crime, and prosecute perpetrators of this violence. Systems can facilitate abuse and unintentional and collateral damage can be used by perpetrators as tools to inflict suffering. Victims should be treated with respect in a non-discriminatory way. Articles 4 and 59 of the Istanbul convention, which the Government have signed and are committed to ratifying—this year, I hope—require victims to be protected regardless of their immigration status. We need to establish safe reporting mechanisms that will give victims the confidence to report perpetrators and allow them to access support from statutory services and safeguarding.
We have an unacceptable gap in the legislation. The Government are aware of the struggle of migrant victims, but their response falls short of guaranteeing that all victims of domestic abuse can access support and protection equally, regardless of their immigration status. In this House, we can close that gap in protection and by doing so ensure that the United Kingdom meets the highest internationally recognised standards for the protection of women, as enshrined in the Istanbul convention.
My Lords, I add my voice to those of noble Lords who have welcomed this Bill. I thank the Minister for all her work in this area. As other noble Lords have already said, this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address the crime of domestic abuse, which affects more than 2 million people a year in the United Kingdom. However, the Bill continues to overlook one of the most vulnerable groups affected by this form of violence against women and girls—migrant women. I too will address Amendment 154, which calls for the Secretary of State to ensure that the personal data of victims of domestic abuse in the UK is processed only for the purpose of that person requesting or receiving support or assistance relating to domestic abuse, not for immigration control.
Government policy is clear that victims of crime should be treated without discrimination. Therefore, the separation of immigration enforcement and protection of domestic abuse victims who are migrant women must be delineated. Failure to do this puts migrant women at risk of a double jeopardy of danger from their abuser and fear of deportation. As has already been highlighted, the Istanbul convention, the landmark international treaty on violence against women and girls, which the Government have signed and are committed to ratifying, requires in Articles 5 and 59 that victims are protected regardless of their immigration status.
However, freedom of information requests reveal that 60% of police forces in England and Wales share victims’ details with the Home Office, prioritising immigration control over the victims’ safety and access to justice. While some services may need to share data to ascertain an individual’s immigration status and right to access services—some NHS services for example—there is no legal requirement for any data sharing with the Home Office relating to domestic abuse victims. As we have already heard, without any national policy guidance on this practice the police approach to safeguarding migrant victims of crime will remain inconsistent.
The blind spots in this Bill are resolved by this amendment. Organisations such as the Latin American Women’s Rights Service have been in touch with me to highlight evidence from people whose stories demonstrate the benefits of this amendment. One Ecuadorian woman who came to the UK in 2014 met her partner at work and later came to know how controlling he was and that he continually lied to her about her immigration status. In 2019, violence escalated when she became pregnant. During this time, isolation, emotional abuse and manipulation were exerted in addition to threats of deportation and separation from her child if she reported the abuse to the police. Although she has since received some support from specialist organisations such as the Latin American Women’s Rights Service, she has not yet reported the abuse to the police since she is too fearful of deportation and possible separation from her child.
I fear that this blind spot enables offenders and abusers to use police involvement as a threat to their victims, rather than the source of protection that it should be. Various countries around the world have demonstrated that firewalls can be and are being implemented in different ways to create separation between public services and immigration enforcement. It is entirely possible that the training and cross-sector relationships that we are calling for through this Bill can establish safe reporting pathways that include access to specialist support and legal advice to address a victim’s immigration status as necessary.
One of the other consequences of putting immigration control above the safety of victims is that perpetrators can commit these crimes with impunity. This is a risk not only for survivors but the wider community. Better trust in the police to protect victims of abuse and investigate crime against migrant women will improve responses for all survivors and the public. Like my co-sponsors, I call on the Government to establish safe reporting pathways by incorporating a clear statutory obligation that prevents public authorities and other support services sharing data with the Home Office for the purpose of immigration control. Will the Minister ensure that safe reporting will be established for all women, regardless of their immigration status?
The direction of the Bill is hopeful, and I look forward to the Minister’s response and to discussions with the Government before Report regarding the specific action taken on this amendment.
My Lords, I am pleased to support the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, on Amendment 154. I do not want to appear negative, but I had a year at the Home Office dealing with immigration, nationality and citizenship, and while I well understand the pressures on civil servants, I do not think that the Home Office is as trusted as it used to be. We can go back to the hostile environment started by Theresa May which led to Windrush. The Home Office has a long way to go before it builds up trust again. The key thrust of this amendment provides a chance for the Home Office to send a signal to other public bodies that the Home Office is not going to abuse or misuse information on domestic abuse for immigration control purposes. It is bad enough that the staff of the commissioner will be Home Office civil servants, and that the accounting officer for the whole function is still going to be the Home Secretary. The Home Office has some way to go in distancing itself from the misuse of information on domestic abuse for immigration purposes.
I know that civil servants will want to make the system work, but there is a lack of trust and some big moves need to be made to rebuild it. Accepting an amendment such as this would go some way to sending a signal to the police, the immigration authorities, social services and others dealing with domestic abuse and immigration issues to realise that a massive wall has been built between the two. The Bill will fail unless an amendment such as this is accepted.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to offer the strong support of the Green group for, and to speak in favour of, the amendments tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Hamwee and Lady Meacher. I associate myself with powerful contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox of Newport, particularly her focus on the Istanbul convention, the importance of which was also highlighted by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. All the speakers before me have covered the issue in depth and with clarity and power, so I will be brief.
I begin by noting the widespread support for this Bill from all sides of the House and the Government’s stated commitment to protecting victims of domestic abuse and ensuring that the law does not act as a facilitator of abuse. If ensuring that domestic abuse victims have a route to safety and perpetrators are brought to justice is the highest government priority, they need to ensure that not just those who might be subjected to immigration control but those who might fear being subjected to it, whether rightly or not, are not prevented from accessing the protections. Immigration status is a complex area and we know from the tragedy of Windrush that even citizenship is not always an adequate protection from detention and deportation.
It is not just those who might face immigration controls who need the reassurance of these amendments, but those who fear becoming entangled in the horrors of the Home Office’s hostile environment as a result of reporting abuse or seeking help. They might have no real reason to fear that, but history will tell them that there is cause for concern. We need not only to protect them and make sure they are safe but to ensure, by stating it loudly and clearly in the Bill, that reporting abuse and seeking safety and justice will not entangle them in that hostile environment. This needs to be set out in government publicity so that there is a clear understanding across the community.
My Lords, I wish to support in particular Amendment 154 in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Hamwee and Lady Meacher, my noble friend Lady Wilcox of Newport and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. I also welcome the important contributions that have been made on this group of amendments.
Recently, Gill, an abused Brazilian woman of insecure immigration status, spent three days in the middle of winter sleeping on our streets with one of her children. How she got there is a heartbreaking tale of police misunderstanding of the guidance, Home Office incompetence and, indeed, laws that are not fit for purpose. Gill’s is one of several case studies presented to us by the Latin American Women’s Rights Service, which is constantly seeing migrant victims of domestic abuse, as the right reverend Prelate has said. It sees the lack of trust and confidence that these victims have in our institutions, which are meant to protect them but often end up only harming them further. It knows, as does anyone who originates from a diaspora, that trust is a rare commodity and has to be built up step by step and law by law, as my noble friend Lord Rooker suggested in his reflections on the Home Office and the hostile environment.
Migrant women face many additional barriers to safety because, as has been said, abusers commonly use women’s fears of immigration enforcement and separation from their children to control them. The End Violence Against Women Coalition has pointed to the particular vulnerabilities experienced by migrant women: no recourse to public funds, homelessness, the financial impact of the inability to work due to their immigration status, forced marriage, so-called honour-based violence and much more. Add to that the harm that this amendment seeks to address, which is the fear that their information will be passed on by the police and other organisations to Immigration Enforcement, and it is no wonder that many, including the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, my noble friend Lady Wilcox and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London do not believe that the Bill in its present form—however much we welcome it, and I certainly do—is compliant with the requirements of Article 4, paragraph 3 of the Istanbul convention.
During the passage of the Bill in the Commons, MPs, including the Minister, stated that all victims of domestic abuse are treated first and foremost as victims, regardless of their immigration status. However, for that to happen certain things have to change. Accepting this amendment would be a good place to start, backed up by the conclusions of the super-complaint investigation by Liberty and Southall Black Sisters on policing and insecure immigration status. The report on this was published in December 2020 in collaboration with the College of Policing and the Independent Office for Police Conduct. The super-complaint has been taken seriously by the police because it underlines, among other things, the ongoing danger to public safety of migrant victims’ perpetrators, who are sometimes part of criminal gangs, going free and undetected outside the law because their victims fear reporting them to the police. The super-complaint concludes that for victims of domestic abuse, a complete separation or firewall must be in place between the police response to a victim who is reporting domestic abuse and the handling of their immigration status, as is provided for in the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher.
While the amendment obviously goes further than interaction with the police, the focus of the super-complaint and its call for all chief constables to stop immediately the sharing of information on domestic abuse victims with Immigration Enforcement provides welcome ballast for this important amendment. I hope that the Minister sees the need to accept the amendment and will not wait for the findings of the support for migrant victims scheme.
My Lords, I refer to my interests on the register. I support Amendments 55, 56 and 154. My main concerns relate to victims of modern slavery and of forced marriage who are from overseas. Some victims of modern slavery suffer from domestic abuse and may not go through the NRM. If they do not, their immigrant status will be not just uncertain but probably not acceptable. It may not be safe for them to be returned to their own country.
I refer particularly to a group of foreign wives who marry men in this country but whose marriages are not registered. An example, but not the only example, is a nikah in a Muslim marriage. If that marriage is not registered, as everyone knows, it is not legal in English law. Consequently, wives will not receive the spousal visa or have the protection of being a wife—although they believe of course that they are wives. This is very serious, and I ask the Minister to look at this group of women, some of whom may be in a forced marriage, while others may be in a perfectly good arranged marriage where the husband has walked out on them or turfed them out and they are completely lost, because they do not have the appropriate immigration status as a wife.
My Lords, as my noble friend Lady Hamwee has explained, our Amendments 55 and 56 in this group are designed to prevent information about victims of domestic abuse that could be used for immigration control being disclosed by the domestic abuse commissioner. These amendments go further than Amendment 154, as they talk about information provided to the domestic abuse commissioner whether a request for support has been made or not.
The danger is that the information, supplied by either the domestic abuse commissioner or somebody seeking support, is shared with the police. There have been numerous reported examples where the police have passed the details of victims and witnesses of crime to immigration officials, including a case in 2017 of a woman who alleged she was raped and kidnapped. She was first taken to a haven, a centre for victims of sexual assault, but was subsequently arrested and questioned about her immigration status.
In 2015, the last year for which I can find figures, police tip-offs to the immigration service of the details of crime victims and witnesses occurred on over 3,000 occasions—in one year. As the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, said, such sharing of information makes genuine victims of domestic abuse less likely to come forward to receive the help and support that they so desperately need. These victims are likely to be even more vulnerable to coercive control than those with regular immigration status.
Amendment 154 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, similarly requires the Secretary of State to make arrangements to ensure that personal data of a victim of domestic abuse that is processed for the purpose of requesting or receiving support is not used for immigration control purposes, along with domestic abuse witness and victim data. We support these attempts to prevent the disclosure of this information for immigration control purposes.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baronesses, Lady Hamwee and Lady Meacher, for setting out the case for these amendments, which seek to prevent personal information about victims of domestic abuse being shared for the purposes of immigration control. I recognise that the effect of Amendments 55 and 56 is more narrowly focused on the sharing of information under Part 2 but, in responding to these amendments and Amendment 154, I will focus my remarks on the broader issue.
I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, will understand that I will leave the debate on migrant women, who feature in Amendment 148, until we get to it, because this group is about data sharing. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, I point out that “hostile environment” was of course coined by the Labour Government back in 2007, not under my right honourable friend Theresa May.
The main purpose of these amendments is to make sure that migrant victims of domestic abuse are not deterred from reporting that abuse or seeking support for fear that immigration enforcement action will be taken against them. I want to be absolutely clear: our main priority is to protect the public and all victims of crime, regardless of their immigration status.
A number of noble Lords mentioned guidance on this. In our response to the Joint Committee in July 2019, the Government were clear that all victims of domestic abuse should be treated as victims first and foremost. This is set out in relevant guidance from the National Police Chiefs’ Council—in answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox.
In addition, assistant commissioner Louisa Rolfe, the national policing lead on domestic abuse, in giving oral evidence to the Public Bill Committee in the House of Commons, was clear that there will be circumstances where information sharing between the police and immigration authorities is in the interests of safeguarding a victim of abuse. There can be many benefits to sharing information, as it can help to resolve a victim’s uncertainty about their immigration status—referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley—but, most importantly, it can remove the desperate situation in which the perpetrator’s controlling and manipulative behaviour continues because of their status: this too was referred to by the noble Baroness. When victims come forward for support, sharing information can help prevent them facing enforcement action, if they are identified by immigration enforcement in an unrelated setting.
To ensure that victims’ needs are put first, the National Police Chiefs’ Council strengthened its guidance in 2020, setting out a clear position on exchanging information about victims of crime with immigration enforcement to encourage a consistent approach across the country. This gives us confidence that data sharing will operate in the interests of the victim.
Alongside our duties to protect victims of crime, the Government are equally duty bound to maintain an effective immigration system, not only to protect our public services but to safeguard the most vulnerable from exploitation because of their insecure immigration status. The public rightly expect that individuals in this country should be subject to our laws, and it is right that, when individuals with an irregular immigration status are identified, they should be supported to come forward under our immigration system and, where possible, to regularise their stay. This data exchange is processed on the basis of public interest, as laid out in Articles 6 and 9 of the general data protection regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018.
The noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, also referred to the outcome of the super-complaint relating to police data that is shared for immigration purposes. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services published its report into the super-complaint in December last year and made a number of recommendations, which we are carefully considering and to which we will respond in due course. It is right that we properly take account of the recommendations in this report. In response to the report, we have committed to review the current arrangements and to publishing the outcome of the review within the six months set by the inspectorate, which is by June. I expect the outcome of this review to be implemented through further updates to the NPCC guidance or other administrative means, and that primary legislation will not be required. To enable us to complete this review in line with the inspectorate’s recommendations, I ask that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, withdraws her amendment.
My Lords, I do not think this is going to be the end of our discussion regarding victims whose immigration status is insecure, or they believe to be insecure. The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, talked about a “tool of coercive control” and someone else—I am afraid I did not make a note who, but it might have been the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox—talked about the power of an abuser. We should not be contributing to the power of the abuser, nor contributing a tool to the abuser.
The Minister has confirmed, and I am glad to hear it, that the Home Office’s approach is to treat an abused person as a victim first, but this needs to be followed through. Providing data to police or other authorities does not answer the issue to which noble Lords have been speaking. What if the victim knows that she or he is unlikely to be able to regularise their status? The Minister referred to the HMI report following the super-complaint. As stated in its press release, the investigation’s recommendations included:
“the Home Office should review the relevant legal framework and policy to establish sound and fair priorities regarding migrant victims of crime and migrant witnesses to crime, with insecure or uncertain immigration status”.
The Home Office is reviewing that. But this is the opportunity to deal with the matter in legislation and surely, given our data protection legislation, it needs primary legislation and not just guidance. I believe we will come back to this amendment on Report, but for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw it.
Amendment 55 withdrawn.
Amendment 56 not moved.
Clause 17 agreed.
Clauses 18 to 20 agreed.
We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 57. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. Anyone wishing to press this or any other amendment in this group to a Division must make that clear in debate. I should inform the Committee that if Amendment 57 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment 58.
Clause 21: Provision that may be made by notices
57: Clause 21, page 13, line 21, leave out from “any” to end of line 22 and insert “specified premises in England and Wales.”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would enable a notice to apply in respect of non-residential premises.
My Lords, we have Amendment 57 in this group—or clutch—of amendments, pushing what I hope is an open door: the need for protection of abused or allegedly abused people not only at home. The Government have an amendment extending prohibition to other places, and another amendment relating to the workplace or educational establishment, and those are welcome. Other noble Lords will speak to their amendments using terminology about where the abuser or alleged abuser lives or works. Amendment 79 would allow for discretion when both parties worked in the same place.
Our Amendment 57 is similar to the Government’s amendment, but it applies to domestic abuse protection notices, whereas the Government’s amendment is about domestic abuse protection orders. I regard notices as preventative—not leading inevitably to an order. It is far better, to state the obvious, if one can head off abuse by a notice. Perhaps I am naive in hoping so, but I note that the Minister’s letter or the draft guidance recently circulated—I cannot remember which one—makes the same point. In any event, reasons for including the workplace and other premises as prohibited, apart from the home, can surely apply when a notice is given as well as subsequently. As a matter of drafting, I wondered why Clause 21(2) was necessary, since it seems to be covered by Clause 21(1), but that is not the issue and it certainly makes the point as to what is covered. I suspect that others are going to make very similar points, but I beg to move Amendment 57.
My Lords, Amendments 58, 59, 60, 74, 76, 77 and 79 are tabled in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have signed up to speak in support of them, in particular the noble Baronesses, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick and Lady Newlove.
These workplace amendments were discussed in the other place and it is right that we make it absolutely clear in the Bill that domestic abuse protection orders and the notices that precede them can cover a victim’s workplace as well as their home. Presently, the Bill says only that a perpetrator can be prevented from coming within a certain distance of where a victim lives. I acknowledge that the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, has tabled Amendment 75, which uses the term “specified premises”, but I would prefer the word “workplace” in the Bill, as that is stronger. The amendments I am proposing would ensure that those making domestic abuse protection notices and orders had the discretion to consider the workplace as well as the home.
The Government have said that they would expect a domestic abuse protection order to include restrictions on a perpetrator’s access to where the victim works if the court considered it necessary. However, expectation is not strong enough; the workplace should be referred to explicitly. Work is an important part of people’s lives; other than their home, it is the one place where they are present during fixed hours, normally in a fixed place. That makes a person vulnerable and victims need the added protection that my group of amendments would bring.
There is also the issue of the perpetrator seeking to drive a victim out of work to wreck their economic circumstances, as well as the other horrors they are seeking to inflict on a victim. Women have been murdered at work and the Government have a responsibility to ensure that victims are protected in all aspects of their lives. In 2005, Clare Bernal was killed by her ex-boyfriend—who worked on the same premises as she did—while she was at work. In 2010, Jane Clough was murdered by her ex-boyfriend as she walked into work. In 2014, Hollie Gazzard was murdered by her partner at her place of work. In 2016, four women were murdered in their workplaces by men. All these women would have benefited from stronger workplace protections.
The TUC undertook a survey and found that 47.3% of respondents said that their abusive partner turned up at their workplace and 43.6% said that they stalked them outside their workplace. Without the scope to extend domestic abuse protection orders to the workplace, victims will continue to be harassed, threatened and assaulted at work by abusive partners. Their job prospects and safety will continue to be threatened, and, tragically, as we have heard, in some cases they will be murdered.
Government Amendment 78 states that domestic abuse protection orders should avoid interfering with the perpetrator’s work, rather than, more specifically, their usual times of work. This should mean that in cases where a perpetrator and victim share a place of work, the perpetrator’s work patterns can be adapted to ensure the victim remains in work safely. It will be helpful if the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, can confirm that that is the intention when he responds at the end of this debate, and that that will be made clear in any guidance issued by the Government.
This is a really important issue; victims need certainty and clarity to provide them with the protection they need. I hope that at the end of this debate we can get a positive statement that we need to look at this further and come back to it on Report.
My Lords, I was very glad to add my name to my noble friend’s amendments on the workplace. I am grateful to Unison, of which I am a member, for its briefing on this.
Like my noble friend, I am convinced of the need to ensure that victims of domestic abuse are protected at work and that their employers do everything that they can to support them. Domestic abuse is a trade union and workplace issue, as much as any other form of abuse that affects workers’ conditions and income. Home and work issues cannot always be neatly separated. Abusive and violent behaviour does not take place only in the home, but frequently crosses over into the workplace, where victims can experience stalking, threats, harassment and worse. Equally, work can be a lifeline to independent survival for victims of domestic abuse, as they ought to be able to leave their home and maintain a level of income independent from the perpetrator.
All victims should feel safe in the knowledge that they can take action to put their lives back on track with their employment secure, and to be protected while they are at work. This is an important area on which the Government must focus more. I would like to see the remit of domestic abuse protection orders explicitly extended to cover the workplace. They are, after all, intended to secure the immediate protection of a victim from a suspected perpetrator and set out the prohibitions and requirements necessary to do so. Under the current wording of the Bill, an order may prohibit a perpetrator from coming within a certain distance of the premises lived in by the victim. However, as we heard from my noble friend, there is no mention of the victim’s workplace. Originally, the Government said that they would expect a DAPO to include restrictions on a perpetrator’s access to where the victim worked only if the court considered it necessary, which is not explicit.
My noble friend has referred already to a TUC survey from 2015 which found that one in 10 of those who experienced domestic violence reported that the violence continued in the workplace. We surely must do more to ensure that victims will not be harassed at work by abusive partners threatening their job prospects—the importance of which I have referred to—and their safety.
At Second Reading, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, referred to the announcement last June that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was undertaking a review of support in the workplace for victims of domestic abuse. Very recently, the key findings from that review were published, alongside the areas of work that the Government will take forward as a result. The report identifies that an effective employer response is founded on being able to spot the signs of domestic abuse and know how to signpost to specialist services. It also sets out the steps which the Government will take to work with employers to raise awareness of domestic abuse as a workplace issue. This is obviously very important. The outcome of the review also focuses on what best practice looks like and the positive role that employers can play. It also discusses the role that employment rights can play in giving employers and employees the certainty that they need.
The Government have promised to consider through a consultation the steps which can be taken for victims of domestic abuse, as well as to consult on taking forward their manifesto commitment to
“encourage flexible working and consult on making it the default unless employers have good reasons not to.”
This is clearly progress. I welcome it, and the amendment from the Government in this group that enables a court making a domestic abuse protection order to prohibit the person against whom it is made from coming within a specified distance of other premises, in addition to those where the person to be protected by the order lives. This is in parallel to the other amendment from the Government, which makes it clear that the requirements imposed on a person by a domestic abuse protection order, so far as practicable, must not interfere with the person’s work or their attendance at an educational establishment.
I welcome those amendments, but we come back to the major question asked by my noble friend Lord Kennedy: why have the Government chosen not to specify workplaces directly on the face of the legislation? We want a culture in which workplaces are actively considered, not where they are an afterthought or only occasionally thought about. Work is where we spend the majority of our time, and it is essential for giving victims an independent source of income. The amendments that we have put forward would remove ambiguity and strengthen the Bill, highlighting that domestic abuse is a workplace issue and emphasising the responsibility of employers to protect victims from domestic abuse, at home and in the workplace. I hope that between now and Report the Government will give this further consideration.
My Lords, I agree entirely with the points made by my noble friends Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. In some ways I applaud the Government’s amendments, and want to elaborate on one aspect—that of not being restrictive of the location, giving an example regarding education establishments.
Going back a long time to around the early 1990s, I had a couple of constituency cases which might in modern times amount to sheer stalking. The two unconnected complaints from constituents were that the perpetrator—we will use that term—was loitering outside the college where they had gone to do a course. One of them said that she was not really that interested in the course, but it gave her a regular place outside the house, which was good. The perpetrator would loiter on the public highway, particularly at break times, and she said, “He was trying to see if I spoke to anyone, because I am not supposed to speak to anybody other than him.” Now we know more about coercive control and widespread domestic abuse. While the definitions of “educational establishments” or “work” might be a bit tricky, this cannot just be confined to the home, because, as both my noble friends have said, people can leave their home to go to work for financial independence, but my example was of someone who decided to do a course because it was regular and got them out of the home. Because it was a regular place the perpetrator knew where they were going, and therefore that ought to be included when the Minister thinks about this and comes back on Report.
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, particularly on this subject. I believe that there is an open door here when talking about the protection of abused people. At Second Reading, I stated that the Domestic Abuse Bill has the potential to deliver a step change in the national response to domestic abuse but that the legislation requires significant change to tackle gaps in the system and ensure equal protection and support for all survivors. I believe that this suite of amendments offers in a small way the opportunity to protect those who have been abused.
I support the amendments in this group in the names of my noble friends Lord Kennedy and Lord Hunt, as well as those from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, as they are trying to strengthen the powers for dealing with domestic abuse.
Many people are abused not only at their place of residence but also at their place of work. In many instances, prior to the pandemic, people spent longer at work or an educational institution each day than at home. Strict provisions need to be put in statute to ensure that the person who is abused feels safe and is protected. If they have children at home, they should also be protected and should not be exposed to the type of abuse levelled at their mother, or be caught up in the tension that the abuse engenders. In particular, I refer to the amendments in the names of my noble friends Lord Kennedy and Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, which seek to ensure that those who make domestic abuse protection orders have discretion to consider the workplace as well as the home.
In many cases, the perpetrator will also seek out the person they wish to abuse, whether a former partner or an existing partner, in their place of work. I have some direct experience, involving an employee, of where the legislation was too weak. A lady who was a cleaner for us was deeply frightened and obviously did not wish to talk about it. The person carrying out the abuse stalked her place of work, waiting for her to go into and come out of work, and was quite intrusive when we were dealing with constituents who came into the office. Noble Lords can imagine that that type of abuse was levelled not only at his partner but at other people. The nature of the cleaner’s work meant that she worked in other places, and he followed her there and waited outside those houses until she came out. She was therefore continuously abused at her places of work. People in these circumstances deserve full protection under the provisions that may be made by the notices, and careful attention must be given to further provisions in the requirements that may be imposed by orders.
The Minister’s amendment, Amendment 75, while important and a welcome development, should include the workplace. I have no doubt that my noble friends Lord Kennedy and Lord Hunt will return to this issue on Report, when I shall be very happy to support them. Perhaps in winding up, the Minister can open the door further and accept these amendments as a means of trying to protect the abused person in the workplace and in educational establishments and to stamp out that level of heinous abuse.
My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, who spoke with such passion on this group. I shall speak specifically to Amendments 75 and 78, and I congratulate the Government on tabling them as they will strengthen the actions against a perpetrator.
On a strict reading of Amendment 75, it would appear that its wording would cover work premises—an issue raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lords, Lord Kennedy and Lord Hunt. I think that is the Government’s intention in including the words
“may not come within a specified distance of … other specified premises”.
It would be helpful to know that to put noble Lords’ minds at rest.
I particularly want to raise issues that are in the briefing from Refuge, for which I am extremely grateful. As the implementation of the new DAPO is likely to be complex, Refuge supports it being piloted. It will be interesting to hear how it will be piloted. Does the Minister share my view that in Amendments 75 and 78, which I welcome, we recognise that more DAPOs will be issued? Refuge has suggested that this is an area where we should look at adequate training and investment in police forces to ensure that they are using DAPOs wherever appropriate, that perpetrators are arrested and charged when these are breached, that the guidance is sufficiently clear and that the police are sufficiently familiar with how DAPOs are meant to work, which would be the case if there was a pilot in which any teething problems could be ironed out.
I commend Amendments 75 and 78 and thank the Government and my noble friends for tabling them. I will be interested to hear whether the Government look warmly on the suggestions I have made.
My Lords, I support the amendments in this group, particularly Amendments 57, 58, 59 and 60, that seek to enable the consideration of the inclusion of workplaces in domestic abuse protection orders. It is a truly important and obvious step, which the Government have acknowledged, at least in principle, in Amendment 75.
The introduction of domestic violence protection notices and then domestic abuse protection orders heralded a real shift, or an intended shift, to the perpetrator being excluded and barred from entering the home and the breaking of such an order becoming a criminal offence. But as we have become more aware of the nature of domestic abuse, beyond just the physical—be it psychological and financial abuse, or coercion—we have addressed such issues as stalking and have, thankfully, moved to become more victim-centred, so that the victim can live their life and stay at home, rather than always having to go to a refuge, and the perpetrator is prohibited.
The Bill gives us the opportunity to move this agenda further forward and to protect the victim in their place of work. In a situation of domestic abuse, the workplace can be a refuge and a place of safety for the victim, but, sadly, that is often not the case. It is not uncommon for a victim to find that the abuse follows them to work—sometimes literally, by being physically followed, but often by abusive emails or phone calls, or the fear of the abuser turning up at the workplace, knowing what time the victim finishes. It is even more difficult if the abusing partner works at the same place. It does not stop at the victim; colleagues can find that they are bombarded with questions about the victim, have to cover for a victim’s absences or are threatened with harm. While all organisations and firms should have a domestic abuse policy in place, an order that would prohibit a perpetrator contacting the victim at their place of work or going to their place of work specifically, as noble Lords have mentioned, is a logical step to deepen the protection around the victim.
As was raised, the TUC has an excellent document, Domestic Violence and the Workplace, a very comprehensive survey of what is happening and what is needed for the victim and their co-workers. One example it gives is that 25% of respondents report that their co-workers were harmed or threatened. That is huge, and apart from the experience of the actual victim themselves. It is common sense that an abusive partner in a relationship may perpetrate that abuse in the workplace, whether by, as we have said, emails, phone calls, in person or waiting for the victim to emerge. Can you imagine how terrifying and how controlling that must be? There have been high-profile cases and murders, as was raised, those of Clare Bernal and Hollie Gazzard among them. However, that is when there has been a murder and it makes the news. The untold persecutions that stop short of murder are many, and the victims are undefended in their workplace.
I hope the Government will be sympathetic to this and will have listened to the reasons for the need for specificity as opposed to simply saying, “Well, we leave it to the courts to place a restriction on any building”. I welcome that as well but, as has been said, the workplace is so central to people’s lives. It is so important for the victim to be able to go to work safely to earn an income and to give the independence so often missing in these cases. I therefore look forward to Minister’s response in due course and very much hope that the Government will bring this back as an amendment which raises the workplace as a specific consideration.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Featherstone, on a powerful speech in which she made some extremely important points, as have all the speakers.
I referred to this in the past as a landmark Bill, and it will be judged by the success, effectiveness and degree of protection it affords victims. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, was, I think, the first person to make the point that most waking hours are spent at a workplace, and that place should be a place of safety. As for the perpetrator, he or she should have no hiding place and should not be able to pursue the victim when the victim is at work or going to work.
It is clear from the amendment tabled by my noble friend the Minister that the Government recognise much of this. However, I believe the Bill will be improved by referring specifically to “place of work” on its face. It will help to make sure that there is indeed no hiding place for the perpetrator and no place that is not a place of safety for the victim. I want the Bill to bring that message to all people in a completely unambiguous and all-embracing way. I am glad to give my support to these amendments.
My Lords, I speak in support of the group of amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark. I will keep my speech very short, as other noble Lords have made excellent speeches as to why it is essential that the word “workplace” be specified and stipulated when DAPOs are made. As the former Victims’ Commissioner I also met the families of Jane Clough and Hollie Gazzard. Their pain and sorrow have never left me. I have also received many emails about victims being threatened within the estate of their workplace and perpetrators stalking their victims on a daily basis. Their fear and the persecution which means that they have to look over their shoulders are shameful and saddening, as their vulnerabilities are shredded even more to pieces.
I therefore ask the Minister, even though the Government are making strides to recognise this, to look again and maybe accept these amendments. I ask that those who make the DAPOs use their discretion and common sense to specify that the victim’s workplace is protected as well as their home, so that no more lives are brutally taken from loved families. As the noble Baroness, Lady Featherstone, said, many of these cases do not make the headlines. Our workplace is somewhere we go to do our job, and lives are very stressful as they are. For these victims, who constantly have to watch over their shoulder, please can the Government look at specifying the word “workplace” to give them the safety that they should have in their workplace?
My Lords, Clause 21 sets out what provisions can be made in a domestic abuse protection notice. Clause 21(1)(b) allows that a person may not come within a specified distance of where the victim lives. However, as my noble friend Lady Hamwee explained, this means that the perpetrator could abuse the victim at work, at the school where their child is a pupil or at a place of worship, to give but a few examples. Our Amendment 57 allows for the prevention of coming within a specified distance to apply to any specified premises in England and Wales. As such, I believe that our amendment also covers the circumstances covered by Amendments 58, 59 and 60, which refer to the victim’s place of work. I will return to that in a moment.
The Government’s Amendment 75 makes similar provision to our amendment for domestic abuse protection orders in that our Amendment 21 applies to domestic abuse protection notices and the Government’s amendment applies to domestic abuse protection orders. As such, I believe that the Government’s amendment covers the circumstances addressed by Amendments 74, 76 and 77.
Contrary to the view of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, I am not convinced that specifying “workplace” is stronger than Amendments 75 or 57. It is certainly more restricted than “any specified premises”. I understand trade unions focusing on workplace protections but the issue is wider than workplaces. In future groups we will come to duties being placed on employers. We have to broaden our outlook here. What about unemployed victims, victims in full-time education or victims whose main support comes from a religious community in a church, mosque, synagogue or temple? Protection in the workplace is important but it is not the only place that should be a place of safety for victims of domestic abuse.
Government Amendment 78 means that the requirements imposed by a domestic abuse protection order must, as far as practicable, be such as to avoid interfering with the perpetrator’s work or the person’s attendance at an educational establishment. It will be a fine judgment in some cases whether to make the person covered by the order unemployed or unable to continue a course of education, as well as potentially homeless, but the safety of the victim of domestic abuse must be paramount.
Amendment 79 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, seeks to ensure that this is the case by removing the requirement contained in government Amendment 78 to avoid interference with the perpetrator’s work or education if the victim works at the same place as the perpetrator, or, potentially, works at a place where the perpetrator is studying.
The seriousness of domestic abuse, the impact it can have on the victim, and the very serious consequences for the perpetrator if it is reported, beyond any criminal sanction, need to be made clear to perpetrators. It could result in you losing your job or your place in education, as well as your home.
My Lords, the provisions in Clause 33 provide that a domestic abuse protection order—DAPO—may impose any requirements that the court considers necessary to protect the victim from domestic abuse or the risk of domestic abuse, including requirements that prohibit the perpetrator coming within a specified distance of any premises in which the victim lives.
However, as noble Lords have, rightly, pointed out again today, we recognise that perpetrators of domestic abuse commonly target victims outside the home intentionally to cause distress, exercise coercive control and, in some cases, even to harm their victim physically. As has been noted, during the Bill’s passage in another place, the honourable Member for Birmingham Yardley tabled amendments seeking to strengthen the protection afforded by a DAPO against workplace abuse, and my honourable friend the Minister for Safeguarding undertook to consider those amendments. She has done so, and government Amendment 75, which comes from that, would make it explicit that a DAPO can include a requirement prohibiting the perpetrator coming within a specified distance of any other specified premises, or premises of a specified description, such as the victim’s place of work.
Much of the debate today has revolved around whether it is right to put the workplace, and the definition that we have chosen, specifically on the face of the Bill. The government amendment is deliberately broad so that it covers not only the victim’s place of work—in response to my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering, I want to be very clear that the amendment does include a person’s place of work—but other places where the victim might regularly be found, such as their place of worship or their children’s school. The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, mentioned the importance of training colleges in enabling victims to re-establish some independence, to get out of the house and to find support, whether that involves going back to work, going into training or finding support through religious institutions. Those are all hugely important to people as they rebuild their lives.
The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, is right that we need to look more broadly and not just at places of work. Of course, people’s patterns of work are very variable. Some people have one static work location but many are peripatetic—perhaps supply teachers, cleaners or carers visiting people in their own home. The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, gave an example of someone who works in multiple locations. My noble friend Lord Cormack said that he wants the Bill to be unambiguous, and that is what we are trying to achieve in the breadth of the government amendment—to give the power to specify whatever that location might be. To answer the question from the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, we will also make it clear in the guidance that places of work should certainly be considered.
As a consequence of the amendment to Clause 33, Amendment 78 to Clause 34 makes it clear that any requirements imposed on a person which prohibit the person from coming within a specified distance of any specific premises should not, as far as practicable, interfere with the person’s work or their attendance at an educational establishment. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, agrees that these government amendments achieve the same outcome that he seeks with his Amendments 74, 76, 77 and 79.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, asked about the duties of employers. As the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, noted, we will debate that more fully when we come to Amendment 174. My noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering asked about the pilot of the DAPO scheme. We are developing plans for a pilot of the DAPO, which will start as soon as practicable. We will address the training and guidance points before it begins, and of course the pilot scheme will inform the wider implementation of the policy.
With regard to the domestic abuse protection notice—the subject of Amendments 57 to 60—Clause 20 sets out that a notice automatically prohibits the perpetrator from being abusive towards the person to be protected by the notice. Additionally, Clause 21 provides that a notice may prevent the perpetrator contacting the victim. Both those provisions can include the victim’s workplace, or any other non-residential property or location. We believe that these provisions in the Bill are sufficient to protect victims at their place of work and are appropriate for a police-issued notice, pending the making of a substantive court order.
I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken on this important issue today. I trust that the two government amendments, along with my explanation of them and of domestic abuse protection notices, will provide the clarity they are seeking and that the noble Baroness will be content to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I make it clear, if it was not already, that of course we welcome Amendment 75. I thought that naming victims who have been murdered at work or on their way to work makes the point very vividly. Rightly, it has been said that work can be a place of refuge when one’s home is not, but it is not the only place that should be specified, as noble Lords—particularly my noble friend Lord Paddick—have made very clear.
The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, referred to attendance at college, but a child’s school, when it is known that the other parent will be there at the start or end of a day, is also an issue. We have already talked during the passage of the Bill about a child being a witness and therefore also a victim, being drawn into the abuse. It strikes me, too, that in some circumstances it might well be helpful to a school to know that there is a prohibition on approaching the school premises.
If I may say so, the Minister’s explanation does not seem to answer the point. Clause 21 contains the words “may not contact the person”, but contact is different from coming within a given distance of a premises. Certainly the Government’s drafting for the order is better than the one that we put forward for notices, because it refers to premises of a specified description rather than requiring a particular address. That, as I say, is better, but having that in that part of the Bill must surely throw into doubt whether notices which are not just silent on the point but refer to premises in which the abused person lives can extend as far as my noble friend and I would wish, and, by implication, from what other noble Lords have said, as far as what they, too, regard as not just desirable but essential, given the detail into which the Bill goes. We welcome that but we would welcome more the bit in our amendment being added to it.
However, for the moment, I of course beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 57 withdrawn.
Amendments 58 to 60 not moved.
Clause 21 agreed.
We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 61. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. Anyone wishing to press this, or anything else in this group, to a Division, must make that clear in debate.
Clause 22: Matters to be considered before giving a notice
61: Clause 22, page 13, line 37, at end insert “and its provisions;”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment probes whether representations may be made about particular provisions of a notice.
My Lords, we have Amendments 61, 65, 66, 67 and 70 in this group and support Amendment 63, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, requiring a risk assessment, which I would have thought should be an automatic item on a check list.
Clause 22 deals with matters to be considered before giving a notice. We support a police officer being required, under the clause, to consider any representations about the giving of the notice—to use the words in the Bill—by the person to whom it is to be given. Amendment 61 is to establish that representations must be considered regarding the provisions of the notice. If that is not so, an officer could simply ignore representations about specific provisions, for instance—harking back to the previous debate—“But I work in the same building” as him or her.
Amendments 65, 66 and 67 are amendments to Clause 24, which deals with breach of a notice. Regarding Amendment 65, is it appropriate that, if it is believed that there is a breach of a notice and a person is arrested, he or she is automatically held in custody, albeit for a very short period—possibly overnight, sometimes over a weekend? I have not discussed this with my noble friend Lord Paddick, but is there a risk of the use of custody as a punishment in itself—“Let’s put him in a cell to cool down”, that sort of thing? Should this not, however, be at the discretion of the officer?
Clause 24(7) allows the court to impose requirements when remanding on bail. Amendment 66 probes whether a domestic abuse protection notice continues in any event, with its requirements, or are these transferred to become conditions of bail if the court so decides?
Amendment 67 addresses “interference” with witnesses. I guess that this term has a history in legislation, but the amendment probes whether it means or covers direct or indirect contact with witnesses, for instance via a third party or social media. The same point would apply, in the last of our amendments, to Clause 38. I beg to move.
My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 63 which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, would ensure that a risk assessment is carried out. That would consider any risk to the victim which was likely to occur due to the perpetrator being given notice that a DAPO is likely to be given to the perpetrator.
I presume that the amendments in this group are probing amendments—mine certainly is—going into the detail of how the DAPOs and notices are to be administered. It is right that these are only probing amendments because each case is different and, while there should be comprehensive guidelines on the way that the police operate these procedures, they need to be sufficiently flexible for police officers to make reasoned judgments. There is a very real point about risk assessments: it could be that the victim is put at greater risk through the perpetrator receiving a notice. Counter to that, it could also help the victim if an order is put on without her consent—but that is a matter for a separate amendment in a later group.
I support all the probing amendments in this group, and I look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, for reasons of brevity and clarity, I will refer to person to whom a domestic abuse protection notice is given as the “perpetrator”, rather than the “alleged perpetrator” or “defendant”, and the person the notice seeks to protect as the “victim”, rather than the “complainant”, the “alleged victim” or “plaintiff”. Clearly it will be for the court to decide, ultimately, whether they are in fact perpetrator and victim.
As my noble friend Lady Hamwee outlined, Amendment 61 proposes the common-sense change to ensure that the victim is consulted not only about whether a domestic abuse prevention notice should be given but about what restrictions it should contain. The person to be protected is likely to be in the best position to advise the senior police officer as to the circumstances in which she may be vulnerable.
Amendment 65 questions whether someone arrested for breach of a domestic abuse protection notice, which is discretionary, in that a constable “may” arrest the person, must be held in custody until they are brought before a court, which would be mandatory. My noble friend is right: we did not collude on what we were going to say on this, but we come to the same conclusion. Surely there may be circumstances where the arrest of the individual has a sufficiently salutary effect as to make further breach unlikely and, therefore, remand in custody unnecessary. I will return to that in a moment.
If the person breaches the domestic abuse prevention notice, if they are arrested and taken before a court, the court may impose conditions to ensure that the person does not interfere with witnesses or otherwise obstruct the course of justice. But Amendment 66 asks whether these conditions are in addition to, or replace, those set out in the DAPN. I am assuming that they are additional, in that the DAPN is designed to protect the victim, not just protect the course of justice. In that case, does the court need to ensure that the conditions it imposes are compatible with those of the DAPN, and does that need to be stated on the face of the Bill? As my noble friend explained, for completeness, our Amendments 67 and 70 suggest that the perpetrator should not contact witnesses, either directly or indirectly.
Amendment 63 is also in this group. I recall research in the United States some time ago, which found that the involvement of the police in cases of domestic abuse generally had a salutary effect on professional classes, who felt shame at their actions being made public, but an unwelcome effect on lower socio-economic groups, who were enraged that the police had become involved in their private business. I am not sure whether the class divide aspects are useful, but the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, has a point, and this should be taken into account by the police. My noble friend and I did not collude, I promise. I would hope that most senior police officers would automatically take this into account, particularly as they need to seek the opinion of the victim as to whether a notice should be served—a conversation that should draw out such risk factors. I am not sure that it needs to be on the face of the Bill.
My Lords, these probing amendments relate to the operation of domestic abuse protection notices. Clause 22 sets out the matters which the police must consider before issuing a notice. Among other things, the police must consider any representations made by the person on whom the notice is to be served. Amendment 61 seeks to probe whether any such representations can extend to the provisions included in the notice.
I agree fully with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that the police should give full consideration to any representations on all parts of the notice, including any of the restrictions, as listed in Clause 21, that they consider imposing.
The draft statutory guidance, published in advance of the Committee stage, covers the considerations that the police must make before a notice is authorised. Although the current draft makes no specific reference to the consideration of representations in respect of individual provisions to be included in a notice, I would be happy to ensure that this point is addressed in the final form of the guidance.
Amendment 63, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, seeks to ensure that a risk assessment is carried out before a notice is given by the police to an alleged perpetrator. I fully support the intention of this amendment, which is to ensure that full consideration is given to the risks to victims when deciding whether to issue a notice. I think that probably brings into relief the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. Sadly, police enforcement action against a domestic abuse perpetrator can lead to the perpetrator blaming the victim and seeking to retaliate. That is why it so important that these notices and orders do not require the victim’s consent and that victims can therefore distance themselves from police action against the perpetrator. It is why it is extremely important that the notice can be used to provide immediate protection to the victim. In the aftermath of an incident, police can use a notice to evict the perpetrator from the victim’s home and prohibit the perpetrator from contacting the victim for up to 48 hours. Last Wednesday, I inadvertently referred to 24 hours, for which I apologise. This provides the victim with breathing space to consider their options and for police and specialist services to support the victim with safety planning.
The notice is followed by an application for a DAPO which is designed to provide longer-term protection and can be tailored to respond to the level of risk to the victim. Therefore, if police involvement in the case and the giving of a notice to the perpetrator have led to an escalation of risk to the victim, the DAPO can include provisions to address this risk.
Robust risk assessment is central to the police response to domestic abuse. The College of Policing guidance on domestic abuse stipulates that a risk assessment must be carried out in all domestic abuse cases. The importance of risk assessment when using a DAPN or order is also set out in the draft statutory guidance for police which has been published ahead of Committee. This guidance makes it clear that it is essential that police use appropriate specialist domestic abuse risk assessment or screening tools in consultation with partner agencies to safeguard the victim and reduce the risk of further harm by the perpetrator. The guidance also includes information on safety planning action that police should undertake alongside the notice and order.
Amendments 65, 66 and 67 deal with breach of a notice. Clause 24 provides that, where there are reasonable grounds for believing that a person is in breach of a notice, they can be arrested without warrant, held in custody and brought before a magistrate’s court within 24 hours, or in time to attend the scheduled hearing of the application for a domestic abuse protection order—whichever is sooner.
Amendment 65 would make the process of holding the perpetrator in custody following arrest for breach of a DAPN an optional matter for the police. Although I understand noble Lords’ concerns regarding the blanket nature of this provision, this amendment could put a victim at increased risk of harm, coercion or retribution once an alleged perpetrator is released. The amendment could lead to further breaches occurring while the court hearing is pending and increase the need for protective measures for victims during that period.
Clause 24 also provides that if the court decides to remand the person on bail, it can attach any conditions that are necessary to prevent the person obstructing the course of justice, for example interfering with witnesses. These are standard provisions, which largely replicate the approach taken for remand following breaches of protective orders, such as non-molestation orders, occupation orders and anti-social behaviour injunctions.
Amendment 66 seeks to test whether a notice would continue in force following the court imposing bail conditions under Clause 24. I can advise the noble Lord that if a court were to remand a person on bail under Clause 24, the notice would continue in effect until the application for a domestic abuse protection order had been determined or withdrawn.
Amendments 67 and 70 seek to probe what constitutes interference with a witness. The term “interference”, which is used in other legislation relating to bail requirements, would capture direct or indirect contact with the witness and is intended to protect against someone influencing a witness’s evidence, or dissuading a witness from giving evidence, for example.
I hope that those two explanations satisfy noble Lords and that consequently the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, will be happy to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, these are indeed probing amendments. With our amendment to Clause 24, by using the term “may” rather than “must” about custody, we were proposing discretion, not precluding custody.
I am grateful to the Minister for her confirmation of various points and for her suggestion that the guidance is adjusted to cover the point made at the start of the debate. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 61.
Amendment 61 withdrawn.
Amendment 62 not moved.
Clause 22 agreed.
Clause 23: Further requirements in relation to notices
Amendment 63 not moved.
We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 64. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division must make that clear in the debate.
64: Clause 23, page 14, line 23, leave out from “given” to the end of line 24 and insert “a notice of the hearing of any application for a domestic abuse protection order.”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the name of Lord Paddick to Clause 26(3).
My Lords, we have Amendments 64, 68 and 69. Clause 26 takes us fully into the area of protection orders. Of course, we have been referring to them this afternoon. We are particularly concerned about how the Bill is constructed to mean—as I read it—that there is an inevitability about a protection order following a protection notice. I appreciate that there are stand-alone protection orders: those are not the ones I am referring to here.
Under Clause 26(3), the police must apply for an order if they have given a notice. Our Amendment 68 would change that “must” to “may”. Clause 27(1), to which we have tabled Amendment 69, makes a similar point. The wording in the Bill is “required … to apply”. Amendment 64 anticipates those two amendments. Of course, we are not arguing that there should never be protection orders, but does the Bill have the right balance? It seems to me that the Minister’s descriptions, in response to the last group of amendments, of situations in which a protection order could be used, make that point very well. I find it quite depressing to see that notices would always be regarded as precursors to an order. Do notices not have their own place in prevention? In other words, this group of amendments asks: is the balance in the Bill right? I beg to move.
My Lords, I support Amendment 68. This is really a very short point; it is a question of flexibility. There may be circumstances where a protection order has been issued, but by the time it comes to a senior officer, circumstances have changed and it would be far better not to have it go forward. It would be wise, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said—I realise that this is a probing amendment—to have the flexibility in the Bill so that it is not the case that, if an order is issued by someone of junior rank, it is automatically supported by someone more senior.
My Lords, as my noble friend Lady Hamwee said, Clause 26(3) states that if a domestic abuse protection notice is given by the police under Clause 20, the chief police officer must apply for a domestic abuse protection order. As the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, just said, what if it transpires that the circumstances have changed or that the police officer who gave the notice, for example, made a mistake? What if further evidence becomes apparent that means a domestic abuse protection order should not have been given or is no longer required? Can the Minister explain why the issuing of a domestic abuse protection notice is discretionary, but the application for a domestic abuse protection order, once a notice has been served, is mandatory? Hence our Amendment 68. As my noble friend explained, Amendments 64 and 69 are consequential.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, explained, these probing amendments explore whether an application for a domestic abuse protection order should be an automatic consequence of the police issuing a domestic abuse protection notice. Although I fully understand the motivation behind this—namely, to build further flexibility into these provisions—these amendments would remove a key strength of the process as we envisage it. The domestic abuse protection notice is designed to give victims immediate protection and breathing space from the perpetrator following a crisis incident. If it has been judged necessary to issue a notice, it will be evident from the situation that the victim needs longer-term protection. Consequently, it is right that, once a notice has been issued, an application for an order should follow automatically within 48 hours.
The perpetrator will, of course, be able to challenge in court whether it is necessary and proportionate for an order to be made to protect the victim from the risk of abuse and make representations about the duration of such an order. That is the time when some of the issues raised by noble Lords in this brief debate can be aired. This approach reflects the existing position with the domestic violence protection notice and order; as such, we see no good reason to change that approach with the new notice and order. It was welcomed by a number of organisations when the Bill was explored in the other place. The Magistrates Association, for example, in its written evidence, said that the approach had the potential to take the burden away from the victim of having to apply for the order; that, in some circumstances, will clearly be beneficial. I hope, therefore, that noble Lords will accept that this is a valuable part of process and central to the core objective of providing protection to victims for as long as it is needed. I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, the amendment has been described as probing, which it was in the sense of my wanting to understand the thinking behind the phraseology in the Bill. A probing amendment can, in the course of a Bill’s various stages, become substantive. The Minister says that the strength of the process is to provide a breathing space. We are not suggesting, in these amendments, that that should not be possible; we are suggesting that it should be a matter of discretion. It occurs to me that not making it discretionary could itself be a deterrent to a notice being issued. The provisions for protection of the victim and for taking the burden away from the victim are not affected by these amendments. I heard what the Minister had to say and we are not going to progress the matter with this toing and froing, so I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 64.
Amendment 64 withdrawn.
Clause 23 agreed.
Clause 24: Breach of notice
Amendments 65 to 67 not moved.
Clause 24 agreed.
Clause 25 agreed.
Clause 26: Meaning of “domestic abuse protection order”
Amendment 68 not moved.
Clause 26 agreed.
Clause 27: Applications where domestic abuse protection notice has been given
Amendment 69 not moved.
Clause 27 agreed.
Clause 28: Remand under section 27(8) of person arrested for breach of notice
Amendment 70 not moved.
Clause 28 agreed.
Clauses 29 to 31 agreed.
My Lords, we now come to the group beginning with Amendment 71. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division must make that clear in the debate.
Clause 32: Making of orders without notice
71: Clause 32, page 20, line 21, leave out “just and convenient” and insert “practical and within five working days”
Member’s explanatory statement
This would ensure there is a maximum time (within 5 working days) in which a contested DAPO which was made without notice is brought back to court.
My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 71, 72 and 73. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, for putting his name to Amendment 71; I thank both him and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, for putting their names to Amendments 72 and 73.
These amendments as a group look at time limits and prohibitive requirements. Amendment 71 would ensure a maximum timeframe—five working days—within which a contested DAPO made without notice was brought back to court. There may be cases where a particular programme has to be assessed but the police may not know whether it is readily available, and it may take a certain amount of time to get an assessment for a programme. The purpose of this amendment is to put a time limit on that rather than it dragging on for a longer period.
Amendments 72 and 73 address the same issue but from a different perspective: that is, if there is a positive requirement as part of a DAPO, either to go on a course or to go to drug rehabilitation, the person who is to be submitted to the DAPO should agree to go on that course. While I understand that putting negative requirements on alleged perpetrators is something one can do without their permission, positive requirements will have a far greater likelihood of success if, first, they have been assessed and, secondly, the person agrees to go on whatever course it may be. There could be a number of different elements to this. I have mentioned drug and alcohol and domestic abuse courses, but there are also mental health issues with a number of the alleged perpetrators. All this needs to be taken into account, and that is the purpose of this group of amendments. I beg to move.
My Lords, I welcome the introduction of DAPOs but believe that, in certain respects, clearer rules are required to ensure that they are used in a practical and proportionate manner. It is in this constructive—I hope—spirit that I have put my name to the amendments in this group.
The potential scope of a DAPO is extraordinarily wide. Under Clause 33, it may include any prohibition or restriction considered necessary to protect a person from the risk of domestic abuse, expressly not limited to what are referred to as the “examples” of non-contact, residence and tagging provisions in subsections (4) to (6). I remind the Committee that even the types of measure that can be imposed on suspected terrorists under the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011—TPIMs—are exhaustively spelled out in the Schedule to that Act. They include some measures that one assumes would never be imposed in the context of domestic abuse, but the contrast in approach is striking none the less. With such a powerful and open-ended instrument as the DAPO, it is important that we get the safeguards right.
Of course, it will sometimes be necessary to impose the DAPO without notice. Amendment 71 would ensure that those cases did not fall between the cracks and were brought back to court as soon as practical, and in any event within five days. That matters for the reasons given just now by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and more broadly because DAPOs are highly personalised and highly intrusive. Without the presence of the person against whom the order is made, no one can be sure that the most effective and appropriate DAPO will have been arrived at first time around. Indeed, Clauses 31 and 34 acknowledge the principle that, if DAPOs are to be effective, they must be suitable and enforceable having regard to such matters as the work and educational commitments of their subjects, any other court orders or injunctions which may apply to them, and the interests of other persons including children.
As to Amendments 72 and 73, I comment only that in my days as a Crown Court recorder, it was axiomatic that one did not impose a positive requirement, such as a drug or alcohol rehabilitation order, or a mental health programme, in the absence of the intended subject of that requirement. These interventions are costly and, if they are to be effective, they require not just the presence but the consent and indeed the commitment of the subject. I have strayed there into Amendment 81, which we will come to shortly.
Self-evident as these matters may be to some, there is an advantage to putting them clearly in statute so that magistrates and their clerks are in no doubt as to the position. The amendments in this group are particularly compelling to me because they are supported by the Magistrates Association and by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, in his capacity as a magistrate with current front-line experience. I hope that the Minister will look favourably on them.
My Lords, I support all the amendments in this group; I put my name to the ones that I thought were more appropriate for me but I agree with them all. As the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, has said, it is of course true that these amendments are supported by the Magistrates Association. My reason for supporting them, apart from the fact that I am convinced that they are right, is that they come from the Magistrates Association, of which I had the honour to be president for almost 10 years. However, that experience is rather elderly and I am therefore very happy that these amendments are supported by an active, front-line, authoritative magistrate today.
My Lords, we are doing very well this afternoon so I will try not to delay your Lordships’ House very long. As the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, said, one of the great advantages of being on the front line as a magistrate at the moment, as in the case of my noble friend Lord Ponsonby, is that you literally have current hands-on experience. One of the burdens you carry as a former Home Secretary—including one who had what is now the justice ministry under that umbrella—is that you ask yourself, “What would I do if I were the Home Secretary today?”
My response would be something like this. The amendments are logical, rational, humane and very difficult to argue with, but the one relating to a five-day timeframe is in the present circumstances unrealistic. We currently have a backlog of 64,000 outstanding cases, including many people on remand. We have a justice system that has been described in this House over recent days as being “justice delayed, justice denied”. I do not think it is realistic to specify five days, although there should be a timeframe within which the response is required in court with the person present.
That leads me to the second element. I want to come back and speak on Amendment 81 but, for now, I will just reflect. When I had responsibility for drugs policy, I was very clear that you needed the consent and commitment of the individual if they were to be offered treatment as opposed to punishment. However, when you offer people a positive road forward and require their genuine commitment to taking that up, you also need a fallback position when they do not do so. I hope that the Minister, when she responds, will be able to reflect on how we might meet the genuine rights of individuals in this case, with the imperative not to be taken for a ride.
My Lords, we support the approach of the amendments. As has been said, they are to be taken seriously; of course, all amendments are, but these not only incorporate theory but reflect practice. The comments of the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, about positive responses reminded me of how, in this situation as in many others unrelated to domestic abuse, there may be what I understand is called a “teachable moment”, when the person who can or should benefit from some sort of support or assistance is most receptive to it.
As we have made clear, and as I hope is implicit in all our amendments, we believe that the judicial process must be seen to be fair to both parties, otherwise confidence is rapidly lost. Giving a defendant an opportunity to make representations is part of that. I read that as part of the thrust of these amendments to what I think we all regard as very wide provisions. We are pleased that they have been brought forward and supported by such eminent signatories.
My Lords, it is a privilege to take part briefly in a debate led by the noble Lords, Lord Ponsonby and Lord Anderson, and by my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern. I would sum up this debate by saying that we have heard some very wise words. The noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, said that these amendments were logical, rational and humane. He also entered the Covid caveat, and obviously we need a degree of flexibility over timing, bearing in mind the extraordinary overburdening of the justice system at the moment. I cannot help but refer your Lordships to the Times today, which lists the extremely large number of people being drafted in to be judges without any previous experience. We have to bear that in mind—but I endorse the spirit behind the amendments, and I will say no more.
My Lords, Amendment 71, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, would make the very sensible change from the vague requirement to allow the alleged perpetrator to make representations about the issue of a domestic abuse protection order from
“as soon as just and convenient”
in Clause 32(4)(a) to the more usual and precise “as soon as practicable”—or perhaps it should be “as soon as reasonably practicable”—to which Amendment 71 would add, “within five working days.” In addition to the reasons given by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, I would say that such orders can have profound, and not immediately obvious, unacceptable consequences for the perpetrator, alleged or otherwise—as my noble friend Lady Hamwee mentioned when she said that the process needed to be fair to both sides.
Amendments 72 and 73 limit conditions imposed by a domestic violence protection order granted without notice to only negative or prohibitive requirements, not positive ones. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, drew the comparison with TPIMs; I shall draw a different comparison. This legislation appears to be similar to that governing knife crime prevention orders made under the Offensive Weapons Act 2019. In the absence of the defendant, when an order is made without notice, only an interim knife crime prevention order can be granted, under Section 16(3)(a) of the 2019 Act, with proceedings on the knife crime prevention order itself being adjourned. The interim order can impose prohibitions that may be imposed under a full order, but none of the positive requirements. Why not here?
I ask the Minister, in support of this amendment, why such a distinction between, say, an interim domestic violence protection order and a full order is not part of this Bill. Consistency in legislation, particularly in the criminal law, where people must be able to understand clearly what is expected of them—an important part of the rule of law, to which this Government appear to be paying scant regard, judging by recent form—is important. It is not inconceivable that someone who is or has been subject to a knife crime prevention order may, at some stage, be subject to a domestic violence prevention order. Inconsistency such as that between this Bill and such recent legislation as the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 is unhelpful and unwelcome.
As the amendments have the support of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, of an active magistrate, of a former Crown Court recorder and of a former Home Secretary, it would, at least in normal times, be difficult for the Minister to disagree. But I am sure he will.
My Lords, in response to that last comment, it is almost impossible for me not to rise to the occasion. First, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, for setting out his case for the amendments. Of course I have listened carefully to everything in the debate, particularly because, as the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, said, the points have been put in a constructive spirit. I take on board, of course, the point made by a number of speakers, including in particular the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, that the amendments have the support of the Magistrates Association.
Clause 32 sets out when the court can make a domestic abuse protection order without prior notice of the proceedings having been given to the alleged perpetrator. Typically, as is also the case with existing protective orders, the courts will provide the alleged perpetrator with prior notice of an application for a domestic abuse protection order and of the hearing. However, like existing protective orders, a DAPO can be made without prior notification if there is an urgent need. Clause 32 sets out that a court may make such an order without prior notification
“where it is just and convenient to do so”.
That is in subsection (1).
Clause 32 also specifies, in subsection (3), that before making an order without prior notice,
“the court must have regard to all the circumstances”
of the case. Without limiting the breadth of that requirement, the clause then goes on to list a number of specific factors, three of which I will draw attention to. The first is
“any risk that, if the order is not made immediately,”
the alleged perpetrator will cause significant harm to the victim. The second is whether the victim is likely to be
“deterred or prevented from pursuing the application if an order is not made immediately”.
The third is
“whether there is reason to believe that”
the alleged perpetrator
“is aware of the proceedings but is deliberately evading service”.
Those provisions are crucial for ensuring that the victim can obtain the protection they need in all circumstances.
However, we agree, of course, that the alleged perpetrator should be able to exercise their right to make a representation to the court after such an order—an order without notice—has been made. That is a basic principle of justice: courts normally operate on what has traditionally been called audi alteram partem—it is a pleasure that one can still use Latin in the court of Parliament, even if you cannot use it in the courts of justice any more—which obviously means “both sides must be heard”. Where that has not been the case, for reasons of urgency or otherwise, a hearing where both or all parties are present is then convened. Therefore, Clause 32 already specifies that, when the court makes an order without prior notice, a return hearing must be scheduled
“as soon as just and convenient”.
I recognise that the noble Lord’s Amendment 71 sets a time limit of five working days; I understand his reasons for doing this, but there are a number of problems with this approach, and I shall set out three. First, the amendment would make our approach inconsistent with other protective orders, which require return hearings to take place as soon as is just and convenient. We do not see reason to take a different approach on that point for DAPOs.
Having said that, each sort of protective order must be looked at in its own circumstances, along with the mischief and harm that the order is seeking to address. Therefore, on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick—that there should be a direct read-across from knife crime prevention orders as to positive and negative factors or the phrase “as soon as practicable”—the problem with such analogies is that they are different. One must look at each sort of order on its own terms.
Secondly, the period of five days is somewhat arbitrary. As the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, pointed out, in the current circumstances five days might or might not be realistic. I will resist the opportunity to respond to his points about backlogs in the justice system in this short debate; I have done so elsewhere. I will also resist responding to my noble friend Lord Cormack’s point about the article in the Times, which I have only skimmed and have not had a chance to read in detail. I suggest that it is better to have a just and convenient timescale.
This leads me to my third point: we would not want a court to be, or to feel, forced to hold a hearing within the five-day period if a slightly longer period might be more suitable—for example, if the respondent’s preferred counsel were available on the sixth day but not the fifth. Another example might be the judge who granted the initial order being available on the sixth day but not the fifth, when it might well be in the interests of the parties and the justice system for the same judge to hear the matter on an all-parties basis. Therefore, for those reasons, while recognising the reasons behind the amendment, we are not persuaded that it is required.
I now turn to Amendments 72 and 73 to Clause 33. The existing provisions in Clause 33 enable the court to impose “any requirements … necessary” for the protection of the victim from domestic abuse or the risk of domestic abuse. This includes both prohibitions and positive requirements. Any order the court makes must be necessary and proportionate to protect the victim. Although I, of course, respect the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, while sitting as a recorder, that one would not normally make a positive order in the absence of a perpetrator, it may be important to do so in certain circumstances, and the courts should have the flexibility so to act.
I agree with the noble Lord’s view that, while it is important that the court can impose the necessary requirements by making a DAPO, we must ensure that the alleged perpetrator is not punished for breaching any requirements they were not aware of. This is especially the case as a breach of positive or restrictive requirements may be a criminal offence. In this context, it is important to take on board the point of the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, that we must not, if I may adapt his phrase, be taken for a ride in this important area.
For this reason, Clause 37 sets out that, where an order is made in the alleged perpetrator’s absence, the person does not commit an offence as regards breach of any of the requirements imposed by the order, whether restrictive or positive, until that person is aware of the existence of the order. This approach is consistent with other orders in this area. I assure all noble Lords, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, who made this point, that these are serious amendments, as has been said. We have considered them extremely carefully.
In the light of the explanations I have given this afternoon, I hope that the noble Lord is now content to withdraw his amendment.
I have received a request to speak after the Minister from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his application, but I have to confess to being slightly confused or, at least, lacking some detail from his arguments. At one point, he said that the wording in the Bill is similar to other protective orders and that is why the Government do not support the amendments; yet, at others, he said that the reason why it is not consistent with other protective orders is that they are different.
I do not expect the noble Lord to be able to give me chapter and verse here and now as to why knife crime protection orders are different from domestic abuse protection orders, but I would be very grateful if he could write to me to explain why, on the one hand, the Government argue that the wording needs to be the same as other protective orders, while on the other, they argue that the amendments are faulty because they are different from other protective orders.
My Lords, there will be correlations and differences between various orders in this context. I can certainly undertake to write to the noble Lord on this point, but I hope I can go one better: if, in addition to a letter, a conversation would be helpful, I am very happy to offer that as well.
My Lords, I will start with the point that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has just made about the read-across between knife crime prevention orders and DAPOs. I would certainly be very interested in attending the meeting that the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, has just offered because the earlier point that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, made was strong: that it is reasonably likely that perpetrators might be subject to both of those orders, so there is merit in having a similar approach, whether it is a knife crime prevention order or a DAPO. I would be very happy to join the meeting that the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, has offered.
I thank all noble Lords who have spoken on this group. I was interested in the comparison made by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, between these orders and TPIMs. He said that these are much more widely drawn, which was an important point. The noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, sought to contrast treatment and punishment, which, I suppose, is a theme here—although we are not dealing with convicted criminals but prevention orders. The point I invariably make when I am sentencing in court or making an order like this is that, even if it is a punishment, it is for the benefit of the people who have positive requirements made of them in whatever that sentence might be. When I make that point, I invariably get a nod from the person I am sentencing, so people understand that point, in my experience.
I listened carefully to the explanation and summary given by the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, but I think I have quite a strong pack of cards, if I can put it like that, and although I will withdraw my amendment I may consider coming back at a later stage.
Amendment 71 withdrawn.
Clause 32 agreed.
Clause 33: Provision that may be made by orders
Amendments 72 to 74 not moved.
75: Clause 33, page 20, line 39, at end insert—
“(c) may not come within a specified distance of any other specified premises, or any other premises of a specified description, in England or Wales.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment enables a court making a domestic abuse protection order to prohibit the person against whom it is made from coming within a specified distance of other premises, in addition to those where the person to be protected by the order lives.
Amendment 75 agreed.
Amendments 76 and 77 not moved.
Clause 33, as amended, agreed.
Clause 34: Further provision about requirements that may be imposed by orders.
78: Clause 34, page 21, line 12, leave out from “with” to “an” in line 13 and insert “the person’s work or with the person’s attendance at”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment makes clear that requirements imposed on a person by a domestic abuse protection order (such as, for example, requirements prohibiting the person from coming within a specified distance of particular premises) must, so far as practicable, not interfere with the person’s work or with the person’s attendance at an educational establishment.
Amendment 78 agreed.
Amendment 79 not moved.
We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 80. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division must make that clear during the debate.
80: Clause 34, page 21, line 21, at end insert “and probation or youth offending teams, as appropriate.”
Member’s explanatory statement
This would provide that evidence provided to courts includes evidence from probation or youth offending teams.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 80, 81 and 82. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, who have also put their names to them. Amendment 80 would ensure that evidence which is provided to the courts before imposing a DAPO includes evidence from probation or youth offending teams where appropriate. Amendment 81 would provide that drug, alcohol and mental health treatment should be imposed as a requirement only where the recipient has agreed to attend, as referred to in an earlier group. I believe that that would maximise the effectiveness of any such programmes.
Amendments 83 and 84 would prevent an indefinite DAPO being imposed and place a limit of two years on them, which could provide for extensions to be made on application. This would also, if they so wished, allow courts to put in place a review of hearings if appropriate. In the court system we have restraining orders and non-molestation orders which can be, and usually are, imposed for a limited period, but they can be imposed for an unlimited period. It is certainly my experience that practices vary across different courts. There may be reasons for that: for example, when sitting in a domestic abuse court, a more arduous restraining order might be put in place than in a court that does not specialise in domestic abuse. Either way, we are not talking about people who are convicted of offences—it may be somebody who is of good character.
To put a maximum of two years in place would be a safeguard, particularly since a further application can always be made and so that these orders do not just run on and on. I had an individual come to court with a restraining order on him that he wanted taken off. His problem was that he did not know the address of his former partner, so he had no way of contacting her to apply to get the restraining order removed, and we could do nothing to help him. Given that we are not dealing with convicted offenders, a two-year limit would be appropriate for the DAPO. I beg to move.
I support these amendments, which are supported by the Magistrates’ Association, because it is very clear that they will have taken the view of a number of experienced magistrates in what they have formulated. It is in the nature of this order that it is an interim order, because it is made on the basis that it will be reconsidered after the representations, if any, that the respondent makes. It is essential that in due course an opportunity is given for that as part of the order. In due course, as we suggested in a previous group of amendments, it will be modified to five days and that is going to happen. Therefore, it is an interim order in its nature, even if it is not called that in these proposals.
It is important to note that this application continuation will take place in a hearing which will normally be extremely short. It will not be in the same set of court cases involving any kind of substantial and long hearing and is not likely to be very much affected by the present situation with regard to criminal cases.
The noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, mentioned being taken for a ride. It is also possible, at least with some of these orders, that a person may be very willing to take it on. I had experience, a long time ago now, of a case in which a young mother in Glasgow undertook to attend a very good programme for dealing with addiction. I am certain that she was determined to go through with it, because it was much better than having a sentence which might involve separation from her child. However, I learned some time after I had made the arrangements with her and got her fervent consent, that she had left the programme. That can happen, not as a deliberate act, but as a consequence of the power of addiction to alter a person’s will at a particular time.
I support these amendments and I am glad that they are supported by an active and leading magistrate who has current experience of these matters.
My Lords, I have put my name to Amendments 81, 83 and 84. I addressed Amendment 81 when speaking to Amendments 72 and 73 in the last group. The Minister suggested in response that there were certain circumstances in which it might be appropriate to impose a drugs or alcohol rehabilitation order, or a mental health disposal, without the commitment, consent or even knowledge of the intended subject—at least, I think that is what he said. I should be interested to hear him elaborate on the sort of circumstances he has in mind.
As to the proposal of a statutory time limit in Amendments 83 and 84, I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, has said from experience about the practice in comparable contexts, and what the Magistrates’ Association has said about the desirability of allowing the court to put in place review hearings if appropriate. I will add one or two further points.
Clause 36(5) recognises that an electronic monitoring requirement should be authorised for no more than 12 months, yet there is no time limit on the other provisions of a DAPO despite their unlimited range. I expect the Minister will refer to the right of a person to apply for the variation or discharge of a DAPO under Clause 42, but that is a haphazard safeguard and one that the Bill itself acknowledges is not sufficient where tagging is concerned. Something more is required, and I suggest that the amendments provide it.
Finally, there also seems to be force in the other amendments in this group. The case for Amendment 86 in particular seems unanswerable. I know from our time together at the Bar that the Minister is more than capable of rising to any occasion, but I hope that in relation to this group he will find at least some of the amendments to be uncontentious.
My Lords, we are happy again to be working alongside the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby. We have Amendments 82 and 85 to 88 in this group.
Amendment 82 is about choreography. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, has just referred to Clause 42, which provides for the variation of orders as well as their discharge, and Clause 36, as has been discussed, provides for their duration. This amendment would establish—I am seeking to avoid the word “probe”—whether the new order under Clause 36(2) could have different provisions from the original. I assume that it could and that there could be variations. Could there be overlapping orders? Again, I assume that is possible, though it would be confusing. Could there be a lacuna—a gap? Obviously an order could end and new abuse give rise to a new order, so could that be an unintended gap? That is unlikely, I guess, because the Bill seems to have been meticulously drafted, but I do want to be sure.
Amendment 85 is one of our most significant amendments. A protection notice may be given by a police officer who
“has reasonable grounds for believing that P has been abusive”
within the meaning of the Bill, and that the notice is necessary. An officer who
“has reasonable grounds for believing”—
the same terminology—that P is in breach of a notice may arrest him, and that leads on to a hearing before the magistrates. The court may make a civil order if it is satisfied, this time “on the balance of probabilities”—that is, the civil standard—that an order is necessary and appropriate.
It is what follows from that which is the subject of Amendment 85. Under Clause 37, P commits an offence if, without reasonable excuse, P fails to comply with the requirement of an order. The penalties are up to five years imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both. Our amendment would require the court to be satisfied “beyond reasonable doubt”—the criminal standard—that P has, without reasonable excuse, failed to comply with the requirement of an order. I am aware that the Stalking Protection Act 2019 is not dissimilar from this Bill in its approach; indeed, there is a good deal of other legislation in the same sort of area and I have no doubt that my noble friend Lord Paddick will refer to it, but that does not allay our concerns.
I hope it will be understood that we are looking at the issue neutrally. The Minister can advise me whether the term “audi alteram partem” is appropriate here. We do not take the side of the perpetrator, but we want to explore what the appropriate burden of proof is when one gets to an order and its breach—and indeed, I have to say, to explore what the standard of proof is, because the law should be both fair and clear. The legislation is silent; no doubt that means that we should understand it. I am sure there is a Latin tag for that as well.
I have assumed that there is no requirement for the criminal standard since nothing is spelled out. When my noble friend and I discussed this with the Minister, it was on the basis of a civil standard, which I think he was also working to, although it was a very rushed discussion. Whatever I am pointed to, I am very uneasy about the application of significant penalties on the basis of the civil standard—or is it the civil standard? The letter dated 26 January that noble Lords received from the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said:
“Criminal sanctions will only be imposed following a conviction for the breach offence in the criminal court, which would need to be proved to the criminal standard in the usual way.”
That was in correspondence. I do not think it is referred to in the draft guidance that we have seen but, whether it is in correspondence or in guidance, I believe that the legislation should be completely clear.
Amendment 87 is in the same area. It would import “reasonably believes” into an application for a warrant for arrest for a breach under Clause 38, as for a breach of notice under Clause 24, rather than simply the term “considers”.
I turn to Amendment 86. Under Clause 37, for there to be an offence of breach the person must be aware of the existence of an order. The amendment would add that P must be aware of the requirements of the order if he is liable to be convicted of breaching a requirement—for instance, approaching particular premises—because he may be unaware of the requirements. The Minister may tell us that this is implied and that no court would convict if the defendant, or whatever I should be calling him in this situation, were not aware—in which case, of course, why not say so? Or would he say that this would call into question equivalent provisions elsewhere?
Finally, I turn to Amendment 88. Clause 42, to which we have referred, deals with the variation and discharge of orders. The court must hear from a person for whose protection the order was made. That was referred to earlier today as potentially being a burden on that person. We suggest that this should depend on whether the person wishes to be heard; that is the formula that applies to the police here. Are the Government not confident that the court would be able to decide for itself that it was not necessary? Are they not confident that the person may be able to determine this for herself or himself? We accept that a person may be vulnerable and require support or special measures, but it seems a little patronising to deal with the matter in this way. We would like to think that the person’s agency was respected. In fact, the letter from the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, which I have just mentioned, and the Bill recognise this by referring to contempt of court as “an alternative”. Can the Minister tell the Committee what the impact would be of proceeding on the basis of contempt of court? Is this a model used elsewhere, and what is the experience of it?
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for the second time today. She talked about being fair and clear. I say to her that fairness and clarity are two of the hallmarks that I associate with her. She is certainly one of the most industrious Members of your Lordships’ House, and she has made some extremely telling points.
I want briefly to address some remarks to the Minister. Although he is extremely eloquent, I thought he was a little dismissive of the force and candour of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, when he introduced the last amendment, and did not pay sufficient regard to my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern and the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, with their amazingly comprehensive experience. He was also a little dismissive of the fact that these amendments, like the last ones, come with the endorsement of the Magistrates Association—and of course the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, is himself an active magistrate. Those who are doing these things on the front line bring a real experience that should not be lightly dismissed.
I suggest to the Minister that the amendments are eminently fair, reasonable and sensible and that, although he may not wish to accept them all, their spirit should be incorporated in the Bill; I think that would make it a better one. I speak as a non-lawyer and as someone who has never been a magistrate but who, as a constituency Member of Parliament for 40 years, saw quite a number of people who would have fallen within the scope of this Bill when it becomes an Act of Parliament.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. I will make a rare comment for Committee: I think the clauses are very well written and could go unamended. They do what needs to be done and do it well, so I congratulate the Minister and officials on them. I hope they will make it easier and more straightforward for people to get legal protections against an abusive partner or ex-partner.
The one area I am a bit concerned about—which might be because I do not understand its import—is Amendment 81 from the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby. I feel it is inappropriate to put any sort of coercive requirement on people to attend drug, alcohol and mental health programmes. These are things that people should enter into willingly; it would be dangerous to start imposing criminal penalties on people for not taking them up. I do not understand this amendment, because they are made to go to them only if they agree to them. I would like a bit of explanation on this.
Although drugs and mental health can be causative factors in domestic abuse, it is better to place the restrictions on the abusive behaviours themselves rather than to try to force people to obtain help. This is especially true as the success of these programmes can be quite variable. Merely attending a programme is not a magic cure for addictions or mental illness; it is much better to focus on outcomes and effects rather than simply forcing someone to follow a set process. This is not to say that these programmes should not be well supported and strongly encouraged—they absolutely should—but criminalising addiction and mental illness is a dangerous and, I think, unhappy policy to pursue. I look forward to the Minister providing assurances on this issue.
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, particularly when she is in full approval mode—I have no problem agreeing with her. I also have no problem agreeing with her concerns around Amendment 81. I am in two minds on this; like her, I wish to hear my noble friend give examples of where these courses might be necessary for those who do not volunteer for them. I can understand that the effectiveness of a course is not always guaranteed and that, if someone goes on it unwillingly, that does not necessarily mean that they will benefit from it, although they might. I would like to probe that; I heard what was said in the previous group on this, but I ask for a little further clarification.
My Lords, I apologise to the Committee for the length of my speech; there are too many issues to reasonably consider in one group.
Amendments 80 and 81 add to the requirement to receive evidence about the suitability and enforceability of a requirement for the perpetrator to do something under the domestic abuse protection order from the person responsible for supervising compliance with that requirement. Amendment 80 suggests that probation or youth offending teams should give evidence as appropriate and Amendment 81 suggests, if the requirement is to attend substance misuse or mental health programmes, that these can be imposed only with the consent of the perpetrator.
On Amendment 80, it is a requirement under Sections 15(5) and 20(2) of the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 that the youth offending team—established under Section 39 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998—in whose area it appears to the prosecution that the defendant lives is consulted before making an application for a knife crime prevention order. Why not have that in this Bill and why not, as Amendment 80 suggests, consult the probation service in relation to adult offenders? Can the Minister yet again explain the inconsistency in approach between this Bill and the Offensive Weapons Act 2019? I hear what he says about protective orders being different, but both DAPOs and offensive weapon prevention orders are violence prevention orders, potentially aimed at similar offenders and more alike than perhaps he would want to admit.
On Amendment 81, I agree that enforced substance misuse programmes are less likely to be successful, although I am not sure about compulsory mental health programmes. In either case, surely any suitable person designated as being responsible for supervising compliance will have knowledge and expertise in these areas and will be able to advise the court as to whether they are likely to be suitable if the perpetrator does not agree to comply with them. As such, I am not sure it is necessary to include these amendments in the Bill.
Clause 42 allows for a domestic abuse protection order to be varied or discharged. If a magistrates’ court made the order, the change can made by a magistrates’ court in the same local justice area; otherwise, generally speaking, it must be made by the court that imposed it. Clause 36(1) and (2) state that a domestic abuse protection order takes effect on the day it is made unless there is already one in force, in which case it can take effect when the existing order ends. So, it can come into effect on a future date if required.
Amendment 82, as my noble friend Lady Hamwee explained, is probing to ask whether a DAPO with the same conditions would be dealt with under Clause 42—the variation—rather than Clause 36, to which the answer is presumably that it depends on whether it is being imposed by the same court or a different one. If it is the same court, it can be dealt with under Clause 42, but if it is a different court—for example, a family court or the High Court—which believes the order should continue after the date an order imposed by a magistrates’ court ends, it can do so under Clause 36. I will be interested to hear the Minister’s view.
Amendments 83 and 84 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, place a limit of two years on a domestic abuse protection order, instead of one that can be in place indefinitely, and the order may be reviewed at review hearings which the recipient can be required to attend. Times and circumstances change. For example, the victim may move away and any restriction preventing the perpetrator visiting her home may become redundant. It also allows for rehabilitation of the perpetrator who moves on with their life and no longer presents a danger to the victim. I accept that it is open to the court to discharge the order on application from an interested party, but this safeguard would ensure that domestic violence protection orders are not allowed to continue through neglect rather than because they are necessary.
The Offensive Weapons Act 2019, Section 23(3), states:
“A knife crime prevention order must specify the period for which it has effect, which must be a fixed period of at least 6 months, and not more than 2 years”.
Why do we not have the same for domestic abuse protection orders? We support these amendments.
Clause 37(2) rightly states that the perpetrator does not commit an offence of engaging in behaviour contrary to the requirements imposed by a domestic violence protection order unless he
“was aware of the existence of the order”.
The perpetrator may be aware that a DAPO is in existence but may not know the requirements in that order. Our Amendment 86 just as rightly suggests that the perpetrator needs to be aware of the restrictions before he can be found guilty of breaching them, not simply that an order is in existence, as my noble friend Lady Hamwee has explained.
The crucial question for the Minister is this. An offence is committed by a person who is subject to a domestic abuse protection order if, without reasonable excuse, the person fails to comply with any requirement imposed by the order; so if our Amendment 86 is not necessary, because it would be a reasonable excuse if the perpetrator did not know what the requirements were, why is Clause 37(2) necessary? Surely, not knowing that a DAPO exists is also a reasonable excuse for not complying with it. The Minister might say that if the perpetrator knows that an order is in place but does not know the requirements, he is under an obligation to find out, but he may have heard of the existence of the order from someone who does not know the details.
In short, should it not simply be left to a court to decide whether a perpetrator has a reasonable excuse for breaching a DAPO, where not knowing of the order’s existence or not knowing its requirements are simply examples of what amounts to a reasonable excuse? Our Amendment 85 clarifies that the criminal offence of a breach of a DAPO needs to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
When we debated knife crime prevention orders, we discussed whether the breach of what is effectively a civil order, granted on the balance of probabilities, should result in a criminal offence rather than a fine or term of imprisonment for contempt of court, but without a criminal conviction being recorded against the perpetrator. As we discussed then, Parliament changed a similar regime introduced under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, whereby breach of civil orders resulted in the criminalisation of many young people with no previous convictions. Parliament replaced ASBOs with anti-social behaviour injunctions and community protection notices, by means of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. Only breach of a criminal behaviour order, which can be made only after a person has been convicted of an offence, is in itself a criminal offence.
No doubt the Minister will quote from a High Court case in which the right to convict someone of a criminal offence for breach of a civil order, potentially based on hearsay evidence, was challenged but was not successful, on the basis that the validity of that hearsay evidence can be challenged when the criminal case is considered. But Parliament ignored that case and prohibited the criminal conviction of someone for breaching a civil order, in 2014, in relation to anti-social behaviour. The Minister might further say that contempt of court can have sanctions similar to those imposed following a criminal conviction, in that a fine or imprisonment could follow, but the difference is that there is no criminal record created as a result of breaching a civil order.
Based on hearsay evidence and potentially a malicious allegation, someone could be given a domestic abuse protection order, breach of which may result in a criminal conviction, an unlimited fine and a substantial prison sentence, as my noble friend pointed out. When the same point was debated in relation to knife crime prevention orders, the Government claimed that the police said that a criminal sanction was necessary, rather than a civil penalty. Again, the Government acted on the uncorroborated assertion of an operational partner, as we have recently seen in the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill. Can the Minister explain why it is necessary for a criminal record to be created when there is a breach of the civil domestic abuse protection order, when it is not necessary in relation to anti-social behaviour injunctions and community protection notices?
Our Amendment 87 is on the separate issue of the degree of certainty that a person must have that the perpetrator has breached a domestic violence protection order before they can apply to the relevant judge for a warrant to arrest the perpetrator for failing to comply with the order, or is otherwise in contempt of court in relation to the order. Clause 38(3) states that the applicant “considers” that the perpetrator has breached the order, whereas we suggest an objective test of “reasonably believes” is more appropriate. The issue of the warrant is a matter for the relevant judge on the basis of “reasonable grounds for believing”.
I question whether arrest by warrant is necessary or desirable. It could take some time, and money if the victim is to be represented in court and is not in receipt of legal aid, and could be daunting if the victim is to represent herself. The purpose of a domestic violence protection order is to impose any requirement necessary to protect the victim from domestic abuse or the risk of abuse. Section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 provides that a constable who
“has reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence has been committed … may arrest without a warrant anyone whom he has reasonable grounds to suspect of being guilty of”
that offence if, among other things, it is necessary
“to protect a child or other vulnerable person from the person in question”.
The subject of a DAPO is already considered by a court to be vulnerable—vulnerable to domestic abuse.
Another reason to arrest without warrant might be that it is necessary to allow the prompt investigation of the offence or the conduct of the person in question. Surely, if the victim under the protection of a DAPO, or anyone else with relevant information, believes that the perpetrator has breached the order, they should inform the police, who have ample powers to take immediate steps to arrest the perpetrator. Any delay, such as would occur if a warrant has to be applied for, could place the victim in danger. The very existence of this application for a warrant route could endanger victims. Can the Minister explain why this provision is included in the Bill?
Where a variation or discharge of an order is sought, Clause 42(4)(b) states that, where the victim protected by a DAPO
“is seeking to discharge the order, or to remove or make less onerous any requirement imposed by the order”,
the court must hear from her. Our Amendment 88 makes two points. First, can the Minister reassure the Committee that a victim or potential victim of domestic abuse is not going to be forced to appear in court? The clause says the court must hear from her. I understand that it is important that the court receive a reassurance that the victim is happy for the order to be weakened or removed, but surely her views can be represented by way of a statement read out in court.
Secondly, if the victim wishes to make representations, she must be heard whatever the variations are, including those that impose further restrictions or make them more onerous. Her testimony could make the difference between the stricter measures being agreed to or not. Conversely, it could be within her knowledge alone that the proposed stricter measures might tip the perpetrator over the edge in terms of non-compliance and, therefore, increase the danger she is in.
I apologise for the time I have taken, but as I said at the beginning, there are too many issues in this group to be debated together. I would welcome the Minister’s response in writing, as I think it may be unreasonable to expect him to respond now to every point on which I seek answers from the Government.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have spoken to these amendments. Perhaps I may be forgiven for taking up the invitation from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, to write to him. He is, with respect, entirely correct that there are a number of issues here. He asked specific questions to which he is entitled to receive specific answers. While I will do my best to answer some of his questions in my remarks, I will need to go through Hansard to pick up others and write to him.
These amendments relate to different aspects of how the domestic abuse protection order will be made. To be clear, and in response to a point made by my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern, these amendments relate to how DAPOs will operate when they are made normally, not only in the exceptional case when they are made on a “without notice” basis. I hope the Committee will permit me to go through the amendments in turn.
I hope that nobody understood my comments in the last debate to be dismissive, to use the word of my noble friend Lord Cormack. I referred to the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, as a recorder, the vast experience of my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern, and the fact that the amendments are supported by the Magistrates’ Association to underline that we have given these amendments the most careful consideration. I am sure that all noble Lords who have had significant engagement with my noble friend Lady Williams and me will accept we have gone out of our way to hear their concerns and engage with them.
On Amendments 80 and 81, Clause 34 sets out that a responsible person must be specified for each positive requirement imposed by a DAPO. The responsible person will have a duty to make the necessary arrangements to deliver the requirement, promote compliance and inform the police of any breaches.
Clause 34 also sets out that the courts must receive evidence about the suitability and enforceability of positive requirements from the responsible person before making an order. The responsible person will typically be a representative from the organisation delivering the particular programme that the person subject to the DAPO is required to complete, such as an organisation that delivers a perpetrator behaviour change programme or a drugs or alcohol treatment programme.
Amendment 80 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, would require the court also to consider evidence from probation or youth offending teams as appropriate, alongside evidence provided by the responsible person. While I agree with the noble Lord that the court should consider all the evidence necessary prior to making an order, I consider that the evidence provided by the responsible person will be sufficient to establish the suitability and enforceability of positive requirements without the specific requirement for further evidence from probation or youth offending teams. We do not consider it appropriate to require evidence from youth offending teams, as a DAPO cannot be made against a person below the age of 18.
I agree with the general aim of Amendment 81, which is to maximise the effectiveness of the requirement to attend drug, alcohol or mental health programmes. However, as I have just mentioned, Clause 34 already specifies that the court must consider the evidence provided by the responsible person in relation to the suitability and enforceability of the requirements prior to making a DAPO that imposes positive requirements. I understood that to be a point also made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. The court will also be able to take into consideration any representations made by the person against whom the order is to be made, which I hope that responds to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. Given these provisions, I do not believe that the specific agreement of the alleged perpetrator is also required to maximise the effectiveness of such programmes. I hope that that responds to one of the points of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich.
Amendment 82 relates to Clause 36, subsection (1) of which provides:
“A domestic abuse protection order takes effect on the day on which it is made.”
Clause 36(2) provides that where a DAPO already exists, the courts may make the new DAPO take effect when the existing DAPO ceases to have effect. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that there should be no gap in the protection provided where there is a transition from an old to a new DAPO. However, as Clause 36 already provides for this, we do not see reason to make the change proposed in Amendment 82.
As for the explanatory statement to the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, on whether the same provisions could be imposed under both orders, that is a matter for the court, which would look at all the circumstances of the case. One must remember in this context that the two orders might be sought and obtained by different applicants. I hope that that also answers the points of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, but if, on a reading of the debate, it does not, I will, if I may, write to her with any additional points.
On Amendments 83 and 84, Clause 36 also provides that the DAPO can be flexible in duration, so that longer-term protection can be provided to victims if needed. I understand the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and other noble Lords about DAPOs being applied indefinitely, but the flexibility of the DAPO, including its duration, is central to its effectiveness, particularly when compared to existing orders. By contrast, the two-year limit proposed by the noble Lord is both hard-edged and somewhat arbitrary.
It is vital that victims can be provided with longer-term protection when needed. Clause 36 gives the court several options so that it may determine the duration of each DAPO based on the facts of the case before it. The order can therefore be in place for a specified period until the occurrence of a specified event or further order of the court. To give noble Lords a simple example: the victim is attending a course of study, which has two years and three months to go. Is she to be required to obtain a two-year order, which might prevent the perpetrator going near that place of study, then have to come back to obtain a further order for three months? If that were to be the case, one would ask, rhetorically, why it should be so.
As set out in Clause 36, the court may specify within the DAPO itself different durations for different requirements imposed by the order. The courts may also vary or remove certain requirements or discharge the order entirely where it is satisfied that the order is no longer necessary for the protection of the victim. It is important to note that the Bill already contains various mechanisms to protect the right of the person subject to the DAPO. Under Clause 33, the court can only impose requirements that it considers necessary to protect the victim from domestic abuse or the risk of domestic abuse. Clause 34 requires the court to avoid, so far as is practicable, imposing any requirements that conflict with the person’s religious beliefs or interfere with their work or attendance at an educational establishment. Clause 36, as the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, noted, provide a maximum duration for any electronic monitoring requirements of 12 months.
I move on to Amendments 85 and 87 to Clause 37. The clause provides that failure to comply with any requirement imposed by a DAPO without reasonable excuse is a criminal offence carrying a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment, or a fine, or both. That sends a strong message to perpetrators that non-compliance will not be tolerated. As specified in Clause 37, where a DAPO has been made without notice, the behaviour of the perpetrator can be considered a breach only if, at the time of the behaviour, the alleged perpetrator was aware of the existence of the DAPO.
I agree with the general aims of the amendments proposed by the noble Lord to Clause 37, which are to ensure procedural fairness so that criminal liability and punishment for breach of a DAPO will oc