House of Lords
Wednesday 21 April 2021
The House met in a hybrid proceeding.
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of London.
Arrangement of Business
Election of Lord Speaker
The Clerk of the Parliaments announced the result of the election for the office of Lord Speaker. The successful candidate was Lord McFall of Alcluith.
Message from the Queen
My Lords, I have the honour to notify your Lordships that Her Majesty the Queen, having been informed that your Lordships have elected the Lord McFall of Alcluith to be Lord Speaker, has pleasure in confirming your Lordships’ choice.
Furthermore, I have the honour to present to your Lordships a message from Her Majesty the Queen, signed by her own hand. The message is as follows:
“I thank you most sincerely for your expression of sympathy in the great loss which I have sustained by the death of my beloved husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. I am greatly moved by your kind comments and by your sincere condolences, which bring me comfort at this time”.
Election of Lord Speaker
My Lords, on behalf of the whole House I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McFall of Alcluith, on being elected Lord Speaker, and I look forward to working with him in his new role. I also offer our thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter of Kentish Town, and the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, for standing in this election. As with everything else over the last year, this election was impacted by Covid, but all three candidates rose admirably to the challenge of remote campaigning.
I also take the opportunity on behalf of the House to thank all members of staff, and the Hansard Society, who made the election possible and ran the process so smoothly. There will be a proper occasion for tributes to be made to the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, after he retires as Lord Speaker, so I will save mine until that time. But on behalf of the House, I would like to thank him for all his service to this House.
My Lords, I concur with the comments of the Lord Privy Seal and offer our congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord McFall, on his election as the next Lord Speaker of your Lordships’ House.
Noble Lords including the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, may recall that, when he was newly elected, we congratulated the Lord Speaker on breaking through the glass ceiling as the first male occupant of that post —there are very few times that us women can say that. There will be time later to pay proper tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, but at this stage I want to thank him for his service to this House. We look forward to the opportunity to pay tribute to his work.
This was an unusual election and I think that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Evans, said, the whole House will want to thank the officials of the House, the Hansard Society, and Mark D’Arcy and Jackie Ashley for hosting the hustings. I also want to thank the other candidates; I am sure the noble Lord, Lord McFall, will join me in this and has probably been in touch already. It was a difficult election and all the candidates showed the best of your Lordships’ House. As those of us who have done so in other lives know, standing for election is always difficult; you want to win and need to be prepared to lose. They all showed this House at its best and showed themselves at their best. They gave us an excellent and difficult choice, but from these Benches we send our warm congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord McFall. I have worked with him for many years already, but look forward to working with him in his new role.
My Lords, if I may add this briefly, I first met the noble Lord, Lord McFall, in the House of Commons when he came up to congratulate me on a political book that I had written. I of course immediately recognised him as a man of sound judgment and discernment. But over almost the last five years, I have recognised him as a man of action who brings forward his plans to completion and success. No Lord Speaker could have had a better or more loyal deputy, and no Lord Speaker has ever had a better preparation for the Woolsack as the noble Lord, Lord McFall. I congratulate all three candidates on the way that they have conducted their campaigns but, today, I congratulate him most sincerely and wish him the very best of luck for the future.
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, Oral Questions will now commence. Some Members are here in the Chamber, others are participating remotely, but all Members will be treated equally. Please can those asking supplementary questions keep them short and confined to two points, and I ask that Ministers’ answers are also brief.
Mobile Telephones: Public Emergency Alert System
My Lords, the Cabinet Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport are developing a cell broadcast alert system to enable people whose lives are at risk in an emergency to be rapidly contacted via their mobile phone. We are currently at the testing phase and, subject to successful progress, we hope to launch a service soon.
My Lords, the Cabinet Office successfully tested the use of emergency text alerts in 2013. Last month, according to the Daily Telegraph, a cell broadcasting system was trialled in Reading, 12 years after the technology was adopted in Australia and subsequently by many other countries. Can the noble Lord tell us whether this long-awaited further trial, which surprisingly he did not mention, was regarded as a success? Progress in rolling out a cell broadcast system nationwide is welcome but is not flexible enough for every emergency. France is to have a hybrid system using locality-based SMS as well. This would, for example, have better protected residents of Grenfell Tower and told them that the evacuation advice had changed. The successful tenderer to roll out a nationwide service could provide a hybrid system. Is that under consideration?
My Lords, I gave the noble Lord a brief response and will reiterate the point. The project is at the stage where plans for public trials are now being drawn up. We are ensuring that the timing is carefully aligned with the Covid-19 strategy, to avoid any confusion.
My Lords, I commend the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for pursuing with such vigour the recommendations of his report published nearly five years ago. I recall some difficult times at the Dispatch Box trying to answer his questions. Since the report, we have had 4G, and now 5G, more people have mobile phones, the terrorist threat has not gone away, and the pandemic has identified new uses for this initiative. Can my noble friend give us a target date for when it will be rolled out in this country?
My Lords, I cannot give a specific target date, for the reasons I have given. I said that we are ensuring the timing is carefully aligned with the Covid-19 strategy to avoid confusion. However, my noble friend is absolutely correct: technology advances. Our anticipation is that somewhere between 60% and 80% of phones may be contactable by this system when it comes in. As he and the noble Lord opposite said, we also have to be aware that anything which is broadcast is also able to be received by terrorists.
My Lords, given the imminent obsolescence of the country’s analogue PSTN system, what assessment have the Government made of the impact their plans will have on the rollout of a voice over internet protocol technology and other communication systems, such as the red button alarm which is relied on by so many elderly people?
My Lords, of course a public emergency alert system is very important, but so too is a prompt response from the ground to any crisis. In the light of the pandemic, has the time come to update the national community resilience framework, which is, after all, just a framework, to a proper network, perhaps with the creation of a civilian reserve?
My Lords, I again agree with those who have spoken that the ongoing response to Covid-19 demonstrates the value of a whole-community approach when responding to emergencies. As envisaged in the framework, to which my noble friend referred, we have seen how collaboration between local government and central government, statutory responders, businesses, volunteers and community networks have all been critical to the response. While there are no current plans to review the 2019 framework, we continue to learn lessons and evolve processes and guidance as appropriate.
But, my Lords, as we have heard, this has been going on for years. Meanwhile, the Government have been caught unaware by Russian poisoners, by floods and by the Grenfell disaster, not to mention the pandemic. What is causing the dithering and delay?
My Lords, I do not acknowledge myself to be a ditherer or a delayer. So far as I am concerned, I am satisfied that progress is being made, since I am answering to your Lordships. I repeat what I have said: we hope to make an announcement on public trials very soon.
My Lords, I was the telecoms Minister when this issue was first raised, so I am delighted to see the Cabinet Office take all the blame for the dither and delay. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Harris, who has indeed campaigned on this issue for many years. I am delighted to hear that we are making progress. Does my noble friend agree that it is very important that we get the protocols right for when this system is used? It is a concern of the operators that it is not used with gay abandon, but assiduously and carefully.
I agree with my noble friend and pay tribute to him, and all those who have spoken, for their interest in nudging—I guess that is the word—this forward. My noble friend is quite right to say that alerts must not scare or alarm people. The Government intend to launch a nationwide public information campaign to support the rollout of the service, to familiarise people with the look, sound and feel of the alert, and to inform them when it will be used and how it works.
It is great to have a public information system, but we do not know what it is for. This issue is so important because it is about managing risk. One of the problems at the moment is that it is not always clear where, in government, that responsibility lies. On 3 March, the Government said that they were actively
“reviewing where responsibility for biological security and the strategy sits within Government.”
The Minister said today that he understands the seriousness and urgency of these issues, and that he is satisfied with the progress, so can he update the House now, or write to me if he does not know, on whether a decision has been made and where that issue sits within the Government? If not, when can they tell us?
The intention is for this to be a cell notice. There will be no charges for receipt of this service. The noble Lord makes a point about penetration and the capabilities of different telephones, and some people do not have or want a telephone at all. I assure him that the Government are taking all those matters into account.
My Lords, in light of the recent record, can the Minister assure the House that the Government will now proceed with the implementation of a public alert system for mobile phones, which could have an important use in any pandemic and emergency, now that we have 4G and will soon have 5G technology?
My Lords, I have given that assurance to the House. As I said in my Answer, the timing has to be carefully aligned with the Covid-19 strategy to avoid confusion. The proposition is for a cell message that drops down and does not collect any personal information from those who receive it. It is a specific approach.
My Lords, it is extremely important, if we have a public emergency alert system, that it works in rural and upland areas, as well as elsewhere. I am excited that we can now piggyback mobile phones on to emergency services. Will my noble friend take this opportunity to ensure that mobile phone connectivity is improved by, for example, piggybacking on North Yorkshire Police and other emergency services, so that such a system of using emergency alerts works across the country, in rural as well as urban areas?
My Lords, that is slightly wider than my responsibility, but the Government are committed to extending coverage as far and as fast as they possibly can. On the specific question, emergency alerts will be available for the whole United Kingdom. Telecoms is a reserved matter, but the Government intend to work with the DAs to enable them to use this new capability within their own jurisdictions to save lives in an emergency.
Latin America: Future Foreign Policy
My Lords, Latin America is an increasingly important partner for the UK’s global ambitions. It is one of the regions most aligned to UK values. Our relationships are based on democratic values, sustainable, inclusive and resilient economic growth, and the championing of free trade. We also have strong people-to-people links and effective co-operation on innovation, health and climate change.
My Lords, despite the Minister’s positive words, Latin America gets just two brief paragraphs in the recent integrated review. As well as the scope for export growth, there is huge potential for UK influence and global leadership on climate change and human rights, not least in Colombia, where the UK is the UN penholder for the peace process. Will the Minister ensure that future FCDO policy does not short-change itself by ignoring Latin America?
My Lords, I recognise the work that the noble Baroness does in this region. I reassure her and your Lordships’ House that Latin America continues to be an important partner for the UK. The priorities set out in the integrated review, such as climate change, trade, supporting open societies and human rights, are all relevant to the region. It has three countries in the G20, more than 400 million inhabitants and strong commercial and cultural links across the globe, so I assure her that Latin America is a region where we have strategic allies on issues that matter most to us.
My Lords, I support the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, and urge the Minister to work with the new US Administration and our partners in the Commonwealth on relations with Latin America, including on trade, the environment, security and foreign policy. Will the Minister also confirm that the Government are not involved in some zero-sum game here and are fully committed to facilitating, not hampering, trade and foreign policy co-operation with our nearest European neighbours?
My Lords, I assure the noble Baroness that the essence of the integrated review is to lay out the strategy of the United Kingdom post our exit from the European Union. In doing so, a number of our key priorities remain closely aligned with those of our European Union neighbours and partners, as they are with those of other countries, including those in Latin America.
My Lords, with vaccine diplomacy tipping Latin American countries further into China’s influence, is the Minister concerned about the current Peruvian elections, where the far-left front-runner admires Venezuela; that Chile may soon have a leader who favours China; and that Brazil’s climate and Covid crises threaten world stability? To follow up on the previous question, is this not a strange time to reduce our influence by disconnecting from our European allies? There is an EU-shaped hole in the integrated review.
My Lords, let me correct the noble Baroness. As I am sure she appreciates, on a number of occasions I have stressed the importance of engagement with the European Union to our future, whether on human rights or climate change. Many issues that impact those within the European continent impact the United Kingdom, and we will continue to have a strong relationship with our EU partners. On her other point on the context of Latin America, we have strong relationships with different countries and will continue to explore trade opportunities and the challenges of climate change across Latin America, but will continue to be a strong advocate for human rights.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that demands on the world’s supply of lithium and copper will increase with our dependence on digital and battery technology? Given that Latin American countries, especially Chile, Peru and Bolivia, have some of the world’s greatest resources of these precious metals, does he also agree that we should nurture our relationships with them, based on our historic links and the huge good will there, just as how in the past our relations with oil-rich countries were built up because of our oil energy needs?
My Lords, I agree with my noble friend and assure her about the agreements being signed. The full implementation of trade agreements with Andean countries and central America, Chile, CARIFORUM and Mexico, and the negotiation of new agreements with CPTPP and Mexico this year, have paved the way for a UK-Mercosur FTA in the future. We will continue to work closely with the region.
My Lords, the Minister referred to economic growth and trade opportunities. Some say, I think rightly, that prioritising a trade-corridor strategy is optimum. As it has the current presidency of the Pacific Alliance, have we sat with Colombia to determine how best to maximise opportunities for the UK? If so, what might they be and what is the best mechanism to achieve them?
My Lords, we work very closely with Colombia on a range of priorities, as we do with other Latin American countries and partners. We are looking to strengthen our ties across the region, as he rightly points out, by creating the trade corridors that we require and are in the interests of the region, as well as the United Kingdom.
My Lords, on 29 March, Carlos Vidal became the latest trade unionist to be killed in Colombia. At least 18 trade unionists were killed in 2020 and, according to the UN verification mission, a total of 133 human rights defenders were murdered. So what steps are the Government taking to ensure that the Minister’s Colombian counterparts address this issue with a public policy to dismantle criminal organisations, including paramilitary successor groups, as stipulated by the peace agreement? Also, what is the Minister’s response to the call for the Security Council, which is today considering Colombia, to create a group of technical experts to assist in that?
My Lords, the noble Lord is right to point out the challenges that remain within Colombia, which is an FCDO human rights priority country. Indeed, in my virtual visit, the issues that he raised were raised directly by myself with the Justice Minister of Colombia. In terms of the UN Security Council, the noble Lord is again correct. It is meeting today and will be hearing from the UN Secretary-General’s special rapporteur, who will present her quarterly report. We will remain invested in Colombia, both in the peace process and in the defence of human rights.
My Lords, I remind the House of my registered interest as president of the Peru Support Group. Given the serious misjudgment by the Blair Administration when they withdrew interest, involvement and resources from Latin America in favour of building up a friendship with China, is it not disappointing that, further to the increasing influence of China, there is so little mention of the region in the integrated review? The Minister has said that there is a real commitment to relationships with Latin America, so how does he explain to the House this minimalist comment in the integrated review on our strategic interests in Latin America?
My Lords, I hope that the responses that I have given already, including today, will address some of those concerns. The noble Lord mentioned Peru among other South American countries, and I shall give him a practical example. The United Kingdom recently signed a second Government-to-Government contract with Peru worth over £100 million, which is helping to rebuild schools and hospitals in that country that were damaged back in the 2017 flooding. That is just one practical example of the strengthening relationship between the UK and Latin America.
My Lords, as chairman of the UK branch of Plan International, a charity, for about 20 years, I have regularly visited most of the countries in Latin America. The major problem always was that people obtained all sorts of wonderful things and shelves were stocked but no one knew how to use them. That was rather wasteful and we wanted to do something about that. Can the Government, given that development is now included in the Minister’s portfolio, assure me that the experience of non-governmental bodies that already work in Latin America will be involved in any plans, as their experience is invaluable in providing insight into opportunities and areas of need? The lesson that I learned was that it was important to have someone explain how to use things, not just to present them and then hope that people would be able to put together a prefab school or all sorts of things for educational use. In the light of the—
My Lords, I picked up the gist of my noble friend’s question when she began and can give her a very to-the-point response. Of course, the importance of civil society remains part and parcel of the delivery of our programme. As regards my portfolio on human rights, we work closely across the regions, particularly in countries such as Colombia.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the report by the World Obesity Federation COVID-19 and Obesity: The 2021 Atlas, published on 4 March, which shows a correlation between obesity rates and COVID-19 death rates; and what steps they intend to take in response.
My Lords, the World Obesity Federation’s Covid-19 report makes stark reading for us all. It is clear that excess weight is one of the few modifiable factors that contribute to severe symptoms of Covid and, very sadly in some cases, to death. This is a wake-up call. Britain is clearly carrying too much weight. That is why the Government are committed to helping the country reduce obesity and get fit and healthy.
My Lords, I am delighted to hear my noble friend’s response because this research shows that being obese is a huge factor in deaths from Covid, second only to old age. It was described as a wake-up call to Governments by the head of the WHO, and last week the British Heart Foundation published research that showed that 31,000 deaths per year from heart conditions are caused by excess weight. The Prime Minister has said that it was obesity that nearly killed him with Covid last year. I welcome the steps that the Government are taking over junk food, but what further action can they take so that everyone, especially those in leadership roles—be it in schools, the NHS or, indeed, Parliament—understands that being obese should not be socially acceptable, because obesity is killing people?
My Lords, I completely agree with my noble friend that obesity has been a sad and tragic driver of death from Covid. Overweight people are 67% more likely to need intensive care from Covid than those who are not overweight. The list of the measures that we have in place is extensive—there are 17 in number before me—and we are not going to stop there. This is a really important project for the Government. It is not our business to shame those who are overweight, but it is our business to enable those who seek to lead fit and healthy lives to take the necessary steps to reach that objective.
My Lords, the reduced use of school space during lockdown highlighted an opportunity for us to make use of school kitchens as community kitchens. This holds real potential for addressing multiple issues such as poverty, obesity, lack of food or loneliness, all at one time. Will the Government consider supporting school kitchens to become community kitchens when not in use by students in order to tackle obesity in underserved neighbourhoods where people often have limited choices in their nutritional options?
My Lords, as we know, there are no real redeeming features to Covid but, my goodness, it has managed to magnify the obesity problem in this country. As my noble friend said, it is a real wake-up call. Does the Minister feel, like me, that we have had enough initiatives that last for a period and then disappear without any real success? Is it time to put someone in charge of this serious health problem who has time and real clout to take on the food industry, tackle the root causes and work with all government departments to deliver change?
I do agree with my noble friend that the answer to this issue is sustained action. This is not something where snazzy initiatives are going to have the necessary impact. But the key to our efforts is creating cross-governmental co-ordination—that very difficult thing to achieve. We are working extremely hard with other departments, particularly with DCMS and DCLG, in order to address the kind of housing, cultural, advertising and nutritional issues at the heart of this problem.
My Lords, the UK has among the highest rates of obesity in the whole world— 28% compared with the benchmark, Japan, at 4%. We know, however, that payback on public health investment is high—witness our historic success with cigarettes, safety belts and AIDS. All of us are painfully aware of how difficult it is to control our weight, but does the Minister not agree that we need a massive and truly transformative programme of public health and education to reverse this deadly trend?
As the noble Lord rightly points out, the cost is enormous: £27 billion is the estimated cost to society, and 64% of people are classified as overweight. The challenge is enormous. We have to strike the right balance between government action and personal agency. The noble Lord is right that the return on investment is huge, but the Government cannot lose weight for people on their behalf. No amount of government initiative will shed the pounds. We have to get people to change their behaviours. We are trying to understand what the right measures are to give people the inspiration and information they need to take the right steps.
My Lords, this Government’s proposal is the 14th government obesity strategy since 1992. Despite 689 policies having been introduced in the past 29 years, obesity rates have increased. Another major indicator is deprivation. Children from deprived areas are twice as likely to be obese as children from the richest areas, as acknowledged by the Government’s strategy. However, the strategy was criticised for not going far enough on poverty. Healthy foods are three times more expensive per calorie than less healthy foods. Can the Minister address this grave and vital matter of people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds not having access to, and being unable to afford, healthy and nutritious food?
My Lords, I agree with the correlation pointed out by the noble Baroness. We must acknowledge and address the fact that areas of deprivation undoubtedly have higher levels of obesity. However, we have to be careful about taking away people’s sense of agency. It is possible to buy affordable healthy foods at any price point. Food has never been cheaper than it is today. We must put into people’s hands the knowledge and inspiration to take the steps necessary to shed the pounds that need to be shed.
My Lords, can the Minister assure me that the Government will not renege on their promise to ban the advertising of high-fat, high-sugar and high-salt foods online? Will he ignore the objections of junk food producers and advertisers, and remind them of the similar ban on Transport for London when the amount of advertising actually went up? Reformulated and low-calorie options generate revenue too.
My Lords, the Government take the advertising of unhealthy foods seriously, which is why we have commissioned this consultation. It has not finished yet so it is not possible for me to pronounce on its findings, but I assure the noble Baroness that we are looking at this issue extremely carefully indeed.
Does my noble friend agree that the determination of the opposition parties and much of the media to pin the blame for the high level of deaths in this country from Covid on the Government has obscured the fact that the major reason why we suffer from a high mortality rate, compared with other countries, is that we are fatter than other countries? Nearly two-thirds of adults in this country are overweight, and the number of obese people in this country is six times the proportion of obese people in Japan. Can we give those facts to people? They can then make their own decision on whether to take this risk or not.
I thank my noble friend for his question. It is for others in the post-mortem process to pronounce on the exact cause of deaths during Covid, but it is an unavoidable fact that, of the 2.5 million Covid deaths reported by the end of February, 2.2 million were in countries where more than half of the population is classified as overweight; that includes Britain. This is a stark fact that, as my noble friend rightly points out, is sinking in among the British public. We want to use this fact as an inflection point—it is an opportunity —to give people the inspiration they need to take the necessary steps towards healthy and fit living.
Is it not important to bear in mind the fact that people who are poor and obese are living in a permanent emergency? That emergency starts in the early years of their lives and carries on; they take food and do many short-term things. We must break this emergency and remove the poor from it through education, social opportunity and giving people jobs that raise their wages. Also, social security is often used as a way of saying, “Go over there and we’ll forget about you for a certain period of time.” It is the emergency that they live in that we have to challenge.
My Lords, I defer to the noble Lord’s expertise and authority in speaking on behalf of those who live in deprivation. He is a valued spokesman for people in such conditions. However, on his analysis, I do not think that poor people cannot lead healthy and fit lives. I do not believe that they cannot make the right decisions for their futures. I have the utmost respect for those who live in poverty; it is for us to give them the inspiration and knowledge that they need to make the right decisions.
Care Homes: Guidance
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of their guidance Visits out of care homes, last updated on 7 April, and in particular the requirement that residents making a visit out of a care home should isolate for 14 days on their return.
My Lords, the Government do not underestimate the heavy burden of infection protocols on those who live in social care and on their loved ones. However, the public health advice is clear: once an infection enters a closed environment such as a social care home, it spreads far and fast, as we found out last year. We hope that the vaccines will change this and we keep the policy under review but, until the evidence is conclusive, the safety of residents remains our priority.
My Lords, care home residents have been cooped up for more than a year. Most of them have received two doses of the vaccine and many are becoming depressed at not being allowed to go for a walk with a family member, or even to vote in person at the polls. At a recent sitting of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the pressure group Rights for Residents told the committee that
“the Government’s guidance on visiting out of care homes … is blatant human rights abuse”.
As the situation is easing somewhat, when do the Government expect to reassess that guidance?
My Lords, the noble Baroness puts the case extremely well. I do not deny her suggestion that this is a huge burden on those involved. However, data from the ONS makes it clear that, across care homes, when one case of coronavirus is reported, an estimated 20% of residents typically subsequently test positive for Covid—even under the current state of the vaccine rollout. We remember Holmesley care home in Sidford, Devon, where there were 11 deaths because of a major outbreak. We are still in the middle of the pandemic. The vaccine is making progress, but we have to take things one step at a time.
Can the Minister explain why the visiting out guidance is not aligned with the road map for the national lockdown? Is there not a gaping discrepancy between the advice for care home residents, who are advised to keep the number of contacts to a minimum, and the advice for care workers, who can go to the hairdresser’s, sit outside a pub, meet up in groups of six and then go back into a care home to provide personal care?
My Lords, these protocols are not tied to the road map because we hold them under constant review. We hear loud and clear the case made by the noble Baroness and others who make the case for change. We are open to making that change when the evidence says that the situation is ready. We expect care home workers to behave in a way that is responsible and keeps infections to a minimum, but we cannot have protocols for every aspect of their lives.
My Lords, I declare an interest: I have a close family member who is a care home resident. People living in care have endured over a year of rules keeping them separated from family and friends, with the double isolation of relatives being unable to go into the home and residents being unable to leave. Although I welcome the recent relaxation of the rules on visiting out of care homes, the guidance states that the requirement for a 14-day isolation period on return
“is likely to mean that many residents will not wish to make a visit out of the home.”
What is the point of pretending that it is being allowed? Does the Minister understand why imposing a blanket quarantine on visits out feels to many arbitrary, unfair and as though it is interfering with their liberty? Can he explain why it is not possible for a resident who has been outside for visits to be tested on return and again after a specified number of days, rather than enduring a 14-day isolation during which they are often confined to a small room?
I can only express complete sympathy for the noble Baroness’s points. She puts them extremely well. Undoubtedly, the pressure put on residents and their family members is profound and I regret it enormously. However, this is not an arbitrary or thoughtless measure from the Government; it is to protect residents who have shown themselves to be highly susceptible to the disease. We have instances of serious illness and death to remind us how important these measures are. The noble Baroness is entirely right that the protocols are in place in order to deter external visits. In terms of testing, the unfortunate truth is that the virus can harbour in someone’s body, undetectable, for days. We know from protocols around international travel that pre-travel testing catches only about 15% or 20% of those with the disease and it is for that reason that we cannot turn to testing as an alternative.
My Lords, grass-roots relatives’ campaigns such as Rights for Residents, John’s Campaign and Care Unlocked describe this guidance as “false imprisonment”, “barbaric”, “cruel”, “treating residents as second-class citizens” and “more scandalous than any Greensill revelations”. I want to press the Minister. Can he really explain from a virus control point of view, as the noble Baroness asked, what the risk difference is between care home workers who leave those care homes, go about their business and then return and give personal care in the same home and a vaccinated care home resident who, after a family day out to the seaside, has to endure 14 days of solitary confinement? From a risk point of view, it makes no sense.
My Lords, there are two points of difference. One is that we can take certain measures to guide the behaviours of care home workers but we cannot mandate for every aspect of their lives. Secondly, care home workers wear PPE and that significantly reduces their infectiousness. We do not ask care home residents to wear PPE. Were we to do so, I think it would provoke suitable concern among residents and their families. As a result, we have to have these isolation protocols in place to avoid the spread of the virus.
My Lords, I am a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which has been concerned about the treatment of care home residents over the past year. It is continuing its inquiry with an evidence session this afternoon. As colleagues have asked, are not the Government sabotaging the chance for care home residents to have a trip outside, especially given that staff are coming and going without quarantine? The Government’s guidance says that they “recognise how important” outside trips are
“for residents’ health and well-being”.
At the same time, and as the Minister has affirmed in his answers today, they recognise that their requirement for a 14-day isolation period
“is likely to mean that many residents will not wish to make a visit out of the home.”
This is insulting and treats care home residents and their families like children, not as responsible adults.
I completely sympathise with the noble Baroness’s point. She is right: this puts huge pressure on residents and their families. I am heartfelt when I say that I completely agree with her that this has an impact on the mental health and well-being of residents. However, their health, their safety and their actual lives take priority, I am afraid. We are at a moment where, even with the rollout of the vaccine, there is still a high infection rate in the country. If the virus gets into a home it has a potentially devasting effect, spreading very quickly within the confined spaces of the home among people who, typically, are highly vulnerable. That is why we have to put in place these serious protocols. This is done with huge regret and we review it constantly. It is my sincere hope that we can lift these protocols as soon as we possibly can, but until the day when the evidence is conclusive, we have to have them in place in order to protect lives.
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, the Hybrid Sitting of the House will now resume. I ask Members to respect social distancing.
Commons Urgent Question
The following Answer to an Urgent Question was given in the House of Commons on Tuesday 20 April.
“Following the shocking attacks of September 11 2001, NATO allies invoked Article 5 of the Washington treaty. An attack on one was an attack on us all. In Afghanistan over the two decades since, NATO has shown extraordinary resolve in a country where the soldiering is tough and operational success is very hard won. Some 150,610 UK service personnel have served in Afghanistan over the last 20 years. Hundreds of our troops have suffered life-changing injuries, and 457 of our young men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country. I pay tribute to their service and their sacrifice. They will not be forgotten.
I served in Afghanistan on two tours—the first, to Kabul in 2005, and the second, to Sangin, in 2009. My battalion lost 13 men on that second tour, with many more killed in our wider battlegroup. I have friends who will walk on prosthetic limbs for the rest of their lives, and I know people who suffered severe mental pain that tragically caused them to subsequently take their own lives. Like every other Afghanistan veteran, when I heard NATO’s decision last week, I could not help but ask myself whether it was all worth it.
We went into Afghanistan to disrupt a global terrorist threat and to deny al-Qaeda the opportunity to use that nation as a base for mounting further international attacks. In that mission, we were successful. By fighting the insurgency in its heartlands in the south and east of the country, NATO created space for the machinery of the Afghan government to be established and strengthened. Afghan civil society flourished. Schools reopened and girls enjoyed education just as boys did. There is a vibrant and free media. Women are not only valued and respected but are working in Afghan academia, healthcare and politics. Over 20 years we have developed and then partnered the brave men and women of the Afghan national security forces. They are now a proud army with the capacity to keep the peace in Afghanistan if empowered to do so by future Governments in Kabul.
Those of us who have served very rarely get to reflect on an absolute victory; only in the most binary of state-on-state wars can the military instrument alone be decisive. But two generations of Afghan children have now grown up with access to education. The Afghan people have tasted freedom and democracy, and they have an expectation of what life in their country should be like in the future. The Taliban, apparently, have no appetite to be an international pariah like they were in the late 1990s. Our endeavours over the past two decades have created those conditions and have given Afghanistan every chance of maintaining peace within its own borders. We will continue to support the Afghan Government in delivering that, but our military could not stay in Afghanistan indefinitely, and so we will leave, in line with NATO allies, by September. Nothing in the future of Afghanistan is guaranteed, but the bravery, determination and sacrifice of so many British soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen has given Afghanistan every possible chance of success.”
My Lords, I join Ministers in paying tribute to the British Armed Forces who have served in Afghanistan, and especially to the 454 personnel who have lost their lives. We honour their service and their sacrifice. With the full withdrawal of NATO troops, it is hard to see a future without bloodier conflict, wider Taliban control and greater jeopardy for former interpreters and women. The Chief of the Defence Staff said that this was
“not a decision we had hoped for”.
Did the UK try to stop the US taking this decision? What steps will NATO allies now take to ensure that Afghanistan does not again become a breeding ground for terrorism, and what ongoing support will the Government provide to personnel and veterans who have been injured in Afghanistan?
I thank the noble Lord for his tribute to our Armed Forces and particularly for his acknowledgement of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. I entirely endorse his welcome and kind remarks. In response to his question, the United Kingdom has regular conversations with US counterparts on a range of issues, and we consult closely. As the noble Lord is aware, this is a NATO mission in Afghanistan and we were always clear that we would proceed in concert with our NATO allies and partners, which we have done. Regarding the noble Lord’s apprehensions, our support of the NATO mission has brought Afghanistan to a much better place than it was in 2001.
My Lords, I too pay tribute to our service personnel who have served in Afghanistan, particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. In his Answer, the Secretary of State said that we could not stay in Afghanistan indefinitely, but are there ways in which the MoD would envisage supporting the Afghan national security forces going forward, perhaps in the sense of training or other forms of co-operation?
We are looking at the start of a new chapter for Afghanistan. We look forward to consulting closely our NATO allies and partners on the way forward. Afghanistan is now shifting the focus to the political process, which is an important component in its journey forwards, hopefully towards peace.
My Lords, I too pay tribute to the brave contribution and sacrifices made by our British forces in Afghanistan. I would question the evidence of the Taliban changing its stance. One has only to consider the escalating violence in the country in recent months, and in areas where it holds control, girls’ schools are already closing. How will we ensure that human rights, and particularly women’s rights, are protected? If we do not, all those women who have stepped forward to take part in public life will be left at risk.
We will continue to stand with the people of Afghanistan to support a more stable, peaceful future for the country, and we wholeheartedly support the United States-led efforts to energise the peace process. We have been clear that the Taliban must engage meaningfully in a dialogue with the Afghan Government. We have been equally clear that, in going forward, the Afghan Government must respect and protect the advances which have been made in respect of women and children.
My Lords, troop withdrawal is guaranteed to exacerbate the danger to Afghan interpreters who have helped our Armed Forces. The new relocation and assistance policy is welcome, but can the Minister reassure the House that the embassy staff administering it will proactively identify interpreters needing protection who could be in danger if they approach the embassy for help? Can she also confirm that the new scheme covers family members and that it will absolutely not be contracted out to a private company?
The noble Baroness makes a very important point. I have paid tribute before and do so again to her enduring interest in this issue. The relocations and assistance policy, which as she knows was updated last year and launched at the beginning of this month, is open to all our current and former locally employed staff in Afghanistan, irrespective of date, role or length of service. As she is aware, they must satisfy certain criteria, but it is important that any of these staff feeling anxious should contact the embassy in Kabul however they can. I also assure her that eligible locally employed staff can bring certain family members with them to the UK.
My Lords, I salute the efforts of our Armed Forces and of those development and humanitarian workers who have been injured or have lost their lives doing dangerous work in Afghanistan over these past 20 years. That work will become even more vital as NATO troops leave the country. How then can the Government justify the reduction in overseas development assistance? By how much will programmes in Afghanistan be cut and what analysis has been carried out to support the decision to reduce such programmes at this critical time?
I thank the noble Lord for his welcome tribute to humanitarian relief workers, who have indeed made huge sacrifices. I am sure that the Chamber would absolutely endorse his remarks. As I indicated earlier, what is currently happening in Afghanistan is predicated on a wider NATO allies and partners collaboration to assess the situation and to look to the future. We are committed to continuing to work together in NATO to support Afghanistan during and beyond withdrawal. The noble Lord is correct that much of the UK’s support for sustaining the Afghan national security forces is provided as ODA. Ministers are currently finalising the allocation of ODA for 2021-22, so decisions on individual budget allocations have not yet been taken. I think that he will acknowledge that much excellent work has been achieved by the United Kingdom in concert with our other NATO partners.
Like many who served in Afghanistan, it is impossible not to have mixed feelings about this week’s news. However, it is nearly seven years since UK forces engaged in combat operations in Afghanistan. I feel that their departure is less of a question than the sustainability of the legacy of the institutions that we have tried to build there. On paper—I emphasise, on paper—the Afghan national army is 185,000 strong and funded almost entirely to date by the US. Is my noble friend confident that the structure, size and capability of the Afghan national army are sustainable in the long run?
As I indicated earlier, this is the start of a new chapter. The focus now will be on the political process within Afghanistan. The responsibility to take all necessary decisions to support the journey towards peace will rest with the Afghan Government, including whatever decisions they feel they need to take in relation to their defence and security measures.
My Lords, President Biden inherited a decision to reduce US forces in theatre. Either that process had to continue or force levels had to be increased with no end date in sight. Would sustaining increased force levels indefinitely in theatre have been a viable option for the UK, given our other overseas commitments and the decision to reduce the current combat strength of our Armed Forces?
The United Kingdom was always clear that we went into Afghanistan alongside our NATO allies. We have adjusted together, and now we will leave together. This has not been a unilateral United Kingdom decision. As I said to my noble friend Lord Lancaster, alongside our NATO allies and partners, we shall consult closely on the way forward as the focus turns to Afghanistan itself, the Afghan Government and the political journey forwards.
My Lords, I join my noble friends in paying tribute to our Armed Forces and remembering those who paid the ultimate price. My noble friend said that the Taliban have no appetite to be an international pariah, yet in the past year they have waged a campaign of targeted assassinations against journalists, judges, doctors and health workers and have targeted women in public life in particular. Do we not see that as the act of pariahs? Do these killings not warn against any idea that we can rely on the Taliban to keep its promises and not roll back human rights or maintain links with terrorist organisations?
The Taliban, if it seeks to realise its political goals, has to play a political role in a more stable and secure Afghanistan. It must meaningfully engage in that process. It seeks international recognition, and the only way it can achieve that is through following through on its commitment to engage with peace. That is what we shall look to it to do and hold it to account on.
My Lords, the time allowed for this question has now passed. My apologies to the noble Lords, Lord West and Lord Loomba. We will take a moment to allow the pieces on the board to be reshuffled.
Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities
The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Tuesday 20 April.
“With permission, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on our work to examine inequality across the population and set out a new, positive agenda for change.
The Government are committed to building a fairer Britain and taking the action needed to promote equality and opportunity for all. We do, however, recognise that serious disparities exist across our society, and are determined to take the action that is required to address them. Following the events of last summer, our nation has engaged in a serious examination of the issue of race inequality, and the Government have been determined to respond by carefully examining the evidence and data. We need to recognise progress where it has been made, but we also need to tackle barriers where they remain. That was why, last summer, the Prime Minister established the independent Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. It was tasked with informing our national conversation on race by carrying out a deeper examination of why disparities exist and considering how we can reduce them.
After careful study, the commission made evidence-based recommendations for action across government, the private sector and other public bodies. The commission was established with 10 experts drawn from a variety of fields, spanning science, education, economics, broadcasting, medicine and policing. With one exception, all are from ethnic-minority backgrounds. The chair, Dr Sewell, has dedicated his life to education and to supporting young people from socially deprived back- grounds to reach their full potential. This distinguished group was tasked with reviewing inequality in the UK, and it focused on education, employment, crime and policing, and health.
As this House will be aware, on 31 March, the commission published its independent report. I will now turn to its findings. It is right to say that the picture painted by this report is complex, particularly in comparison with the way that issues of race are often presented. The report shows that disparities do persist, that racism and discrimination remain a factor in shaping people’s life outcomes, and it is clear about the fact that abhorrent racist attitudes continue in society, within institutions and increasingly online. It calls for action to tackle this.
However, the report also points out that, while disparities between ethnic groups exist across numerous areas, many factors other than racism are often the root cause. Among these are geography, deprivation and family structure. For example, a black Caribbean child is 10 times more likely than an Indian child to grow up in a lone parent household. Disparities exist in different directions. People from south Asian and Chinese ethnic groups have better outcomes than the white population in more than half of the top 25 causes of premature death.
The report also highlights the progress that Britain has made in tackling racism, and the report’s data reveal a range of success stories. For example, it underlines the significant progress achieved in educational attainment, with most ethnic-minority groups now outperforming their white British peers at GCSE level. The report also delves into the causes and drivers of some of the most persistent and enduring issues. For example, the commission has identified the disproportionate rate of black men convicted of class B drug offences.
Let me be clear: the report does not deny that institutional racism exists in the UK. Rather the report did not find conclusive evidence of it in the specific areas it examined. It reaffirms the Macpherson report’s definition of the term, but argues that it should be applied more carefully and always based on evidence.
The commission made 24 evidence-based and practical recommendations. These have been grouped into four broad themes: to build trust; promote fairness; create agency; and achieve inclusivity.
There are many things that unite this House. A shared commitment to making Britain fairer for everyone is one of them. In the light of that fact, I urge right honourable and honourable Members to take the time to read the report’s 258 pages. There is also another thing that I am sure unites this House, which is abhorrence of the appalling abuse meted out to the commissioners and the false assertions made about their work in the past three weeks. It is true that this landmark analysis challenges a number of strongly held beliefs about the extent and influence of racism in Britain today. The commissioners have followed the evidence and drawn conclusions that challenge orthodoxy, and they were prepared for a robust and constructive debate. However, they were not prepared for the wilful misrepresentation of the report that occurred following its publication, such as false accusations that they denied racism exists, or that they wished to put a positive spin on the atrocities of slavery, or false statements that commissioners did not read or sign off their own report, or that they are breaking ranks. I have been informed by the chair and by individual members that the commission remains united and stands by its report.
This Government welcome legitimate disagreement and debate, but firmly reject bad-faith attempts to undermine the credibility of this report. Doing so risks undermining the vital work that we are trying to do to understand and address the causes of inequality in the UK, and any other positive work that results from it. For that reason it is necessary to set the record straight. This report makes it clear that the UK is not a post-racial society and that racism is still a real force that has the power to deny opportunity and painfully disrupt lives. That is why the first recommendation of the commission is to challenge racist and discriminatory actions. The report calls on the Government to increase funding to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to make greater use of
“its compliance, enforcement and litigation powers to challenge policies or practices that…cause…unjust racial disadvantage, or arise from racial discrimination.”
The Government even more firmly condemn the deeply personal and racialised attacks against the commissioners, which have included death threats. In fact, one Opposition Member presented commissioners as members of the Ku Klux Klan—an example of the very online racial hatred and abuse on which the report itself recommended more action be taken by the Government.
It is, of course, to be expected that Members will disagree about how to address racial inequality and the kinds of policies that the Government should enact. However, it is wrong to accuse those who argue for a different approach of being racism deniers or race traitors. It is even more irresponsible—dangerously so—to call ethnic-minority people racial slurs like “Uncle Toms”, “coconuts”, “house slaves” or “house negroes” for daring to think differently.
Such deplorable tactics are designed to intimidate ethnic-minority people away from their right to express legitimate views. This House depends on robust debate and diversity of thought. Too many ethnic-minority people have to put up with this shameful treatment every day, as some of my fellow MPs and I know too well. The House should condemn it and reprimand those who continue with such behaviour.
The commissioners’ experience since publication only reinforces the need for informed debate on race based on mutual respect and a nuanced understanding of the evidence. The Government will now consider the report in detail and assess the next steps for future policy. In recognition of the extensive scope of recommendations, the Prime Minister has established a new inter-ministerial group to review the recommendations. It will ensure that action is taken to continue progress to create a fairer society. As sponsoring Minister, I will provide strategic direction with support from my officials in the Race Disparity Unit. The group will be chaired by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
On that note, on behalf of the Prime Minister, I would like to thank the commissioners once again for all that they have done. They have generously volunteered their time, unpaid, to lead this important piece of work, and the Government welcome their thoughtful, balanced and evidence-based findings and analysis.
The Government will now work at pace to produce a response to the report this summer. I assure the House that it will be ambitious about tackling negative disparities where they exist and building on successes. It will play a significant part in this Government’s mission to level up and unite the country, and ensure equality and opportunity for all, whatever their race, ethnicity or socioeconomic background. I commend this Statement to the House.”
President Joe Biden said today that the conviction of a former police office in the killing of George Floyd can be a giant step forward in the march towards justice in America, but he warned, “We can’t stop here”. I would add that neither can the United Kingdom.
Following the Black Lives Matter movement, the commission that produced this report had an opportunity meaningfully to engage with structural inequality and racism in the UK. Disappointingly, and incredulously, they have produced a divisive and downright offensive piece of material. It seems to glorify slavery and within the underplay of institutional racism appears to blame ethnic minorities for their own disadvantage. This report must be rigorously challenged to prevent the decades of progress that we have made in our efforts to develop race equality in the UK. Since its publication, the report has garnered widespread criticism from groups and individuals such as the BMA, Professor Michael Marmot, all of our major trade unions, which represent over five million workers, and human rights experts at the UN who state that the report has misrepresented data, shoe-horned conclusions and misquoted academics. My noble friend Lady Lawrence said it gave
“a green light to racists.”
The data is misleading and incoherent, and its conclusions are ideologically motivated and divisive. I have many questions to ask the Minister in my speech, and I will be content to receive written responses from her, as it may be difficult to answer every one I pose in the Chamber today. These questions need resolution and reflection on this highly contentious government report.
Despite the overwhelming body of evidence, why does this report seek to downplay the role of institutional and structural racism in the UK? Does the Government share its view? It was reported that a number of commissioners say that No. 10 intervened in the writing of the report and failed to give them sight of the final copy. These are serious accusations that call into question the credibility and independence of the report. Can the Minister whether her Government intervened in the work of the independent commission and rewrote any part of the final report?
Does the Minister agree with the foreword by the chair of the report? There he remarks:
“There is a new story about the Caribbean experience which speaks to the slave period not only being about profit and suffering but how culturally African people transformed themselves into a re-modelled African/Britain.”
Will her Government reject these abhorrent remarks? The report attempts to construct a false binary between socio-economic inequality and racial inequality, suggesting that racism has less of a role than class to play in producing inequalities. Does the Minister agree this is disingenuous and divisive given that so many ethnic minority people are part of the working class struggling after more than a decade of Tory austerity?
The report appears to soften the role of structural racism in the labour market, but the latest ONS unemployment figures show that the unemployment rate for ethnic minorities is more than 9.5%—more than double the rate for white people at 4.5%. What steps, therefore, will the Government take to address structural racism in the labour market? Will the Minister commit to publishing equality impact assessments of job creation schemes?
Many of the recommendations in this report lack teeth. They are repetitions or rely too much on individual discretion. Some simply ask the Government to undo the damage they have done since 2010. Proposals to fund the EHRC and to establish an office for health disparities are particularly ironic, given that the Conservatives have slashed EHRC funding by £43 million since 2010 and abolished Public Health England. Does the Minister regret these cuts, and does she have any plans to restore this funding?
The report appeared to downplay the role of structural racism in health inequalities despite the hugely disproportionate number of deaths of black and Asian people from Covid-19 over the past year and is out of step with the analysis of the ONS. Does the Minister agree that this section is an insult to black, Asian and ethnic minority people who have suffered the worst fatal and financial consequences of the pandemic?
The report also downplays the role of structural inequalities in our education system, despite very recent data that shows that black Caribbean children are more than five times more likely to be excluded from school in parts of the UK. There have been 60,000 racist incidents in schools in the past five years. What steps will the Minister take to address the deep-rooted, structural racial inequalities within the education system?
The report contained minimal information and recommendations on social security, despite this being a key mechanism to end socio-economic and racial inequalities. What steps is the Minister taking to address structural inequalities of race and ethnicity in the social security system?
Finally, the language in the report appears to regress to blame black, Asian and ethnic minority people for their own disadvantage. Mentions of family structure and culture misrepresent the reality of structural racism and turn back the clock on how we talk about race and structural inequality. Will the Minister reject this report before us today in this Chamber?
I am afraid the next speaker, the noble Baroness, Lady Hussein-Ece, is not present in the Chamber or in the ether, so we will not be able to hear from her and we will go straight to the Minister.
My Lords, the Government will not be rejecting this report outright. When I began to read this report, it did not match, in my view, what had been reported in some parts of the media about it. I commend it to noble Lords to read. It is 258 pages long, so it will take a bit of diary time to do that. It is an evidence-based report; it is our first official attempt to look at ethnic disadvantages and advantages. First, dealing with the theme of the noble Baroness’s speech regarding structural racism, the report commends and stands by the Macpherson definition of institutional racism. As we stand here, the day before Stephen Lawrence Day, I think it is important to recognise that. It has stood the test of time.
In the areas the commission was reporting on, the evidence base did not support structural racism findings. However, the report is incredibly clear that racist incidents, racist prejudice and racism exist today in this country and should be dealt with and condemned wherever they are found. It is not an offensive report. It does not glorify racism but stands against it. The noble Baroness recognised that we are not the Britain of the 1950s and 1960s. That is not to say we are a perfect country. As the report outlines, the commission hopes that it is
“a road map for racial fairness.”
We are still on a journey in relation to this.
The 10 commissioners did this report as volunteers. They were not paid to do it and are all present, as commissioners, standing by the report. They did not seek to blame ethnic-minority individuals for their lot in life. I regret to say that that is a misrepresentation of the report.
In relation to the criticism that the United Nations has made of the report, unusually, the UK Government have responded to say that, again, that is a misrepresentation of the report. I do not mean to do a disservice to the report but, compared with the media reporting, it is a tad dull in the way its narrative is written. It is not the stuff of the headlines. The UN response has misrepresented it. It is not a matter of disagreement here, which we all welcome around reports put into the public domain, but when that strays into the line of misrepresenting the evidence and the findings, we have to speak out. The Minister for Equalities in the other place will write to the United Nations group to outline what we believe is a misrepresentation of this report.
I can quite categorically say to the noble Baroness that no, No. 10 Downing Street did not write the report. The communication strategy was by an independent person not connected to No. 10. There is no false binary here in the report. It is evidence based. It commissioned research from the University of Oxford. It included the white-majority population for the first time in a report such as this. Within our population, it attempted to separate out different groups with different experiences.
The noble Baroness is, though, right to draw attention to the fact that, unfortunately, Covid has led to a recent increase in young, black unemployment. We are looking at the response to that. There are various initiatives, funded particularly with some London boroughs, trying to redress that. With Brent and Newham, we are looking at the Black Training and Enterprise Group and the Moving Up programme. There are also, of course, some geographical disparities in where job losses have been, so we have to look at the granular data as to why that has been an outcome at the moment, and at the causes of that, to redress it. Obviously, across the whole population of this country, we are trying to drive up the skills base and increase the profile of apprenticeships in order for people to get the skills that they need.
It is important to outline the commission’s response to the criticism of its remarks about slavery. It says this:
“There has … been a wilful misrepresentation by some people of the Commission’s view on the history of slavery. The idea that the Commission would downplay the atrocities of slavery is as absurd as it is offensive to every one of us. The report merely says that in the face of the inhumanity of slavery, African people preserved their humanity and culture. The Commission’s recommendation for Government to create inclusive curriculum resources is about teaching these histories which often do not get the attention they deserve.”
It is important to put accurate comments on the record in relation to the commission’s remarks on slavery.
We are looking seriously at the 24 recommendations. A group has been formed within the Cabinet Office, chaired by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to look at the recommendations put forward.
In relation to the role of the family, the commission is very clear:
“We reject both the stigmatisation of single mothers and the turning of a blind eye to the impact of family breakdown on the life chances of children.”
That is a balanced statement. This is the first commission to look at the effect of family structure. Like me, many noble Lords will know of families who have lost the other parent due to death. To suggest that we would say to them that there is not a huge impact on their children puts the matter in a less political context.
I have to disagree with the noble Baroness. As noble Lords will be aware, I often stand at this Dispatch Box on behalf of the Department for Education. There have been incredible achievements across education among certain ethnic groups. We have seen an incredible rise in particular in the number of black African boys going on to higher education at the moment. I do not recognise the noble Baroness’s characterisation of structural racism across our system. That is not to say that there are not incidents within our schools that need to be dealt with as and when they happen, and we would of course expect any member of teaching staff treating any pupil in that way to be subject to disciplinary measures.
The report is a careful, evidence-based piece of work that we will look at. It is very illustrative of the different achievements in different sectors of ethnic-minority groups—for instance, the incredible educational performance of some second-generation British south-east Asian communities—but that is not to say that we do not have issues to deal with around educational participation in, for instance, the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. It is a complex and nuanced picture that is Britain and England today, and we will look at the recommendations carefully.
My Lords, we come to the 20 minutes for Back-Bench questions. There are 16 Back-Bench speakers, so noble Lords can do the arithmetic; if they can keep questions focused, we would be very much obliged.
My Lords, will my noble friend join me in thanking all those millions of people who, over the last 50 years that I have been politically conscious, have made this country a much friendlier place for ethnic minorities? The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, reports that, on average, there is one report of a racial incident at a school every two and a half years—it would have been more like every two and a half hours when I was young. Does my noble friend share my commitment to living up to the commission’s vision of how Britain can continue to do better—a vision of unity and equity, and of shared values, history, culture and future? Will she look carefully at all the ways in which the state is supporting the philosophies that seek to set us against each other?
My Lords, yes, the Government commend the ambition of this report, which is for us to use it as
“a road map for racial fairness.”
I hope noble Lords have understood that, although we are not the country we were, and we are not in a perfect place—the commission does not say that—we want to work together. We applaud all those people who have stood against the injustices that we have seen decline over the years. We recognise that anywhere racist incidents exist, we all have a responsibility. It is not just government; wherever we see such incidents—many of us will have seen them in our own lives on public transport and places such as that—we must all speak up. We all have a responsibility to get to a racially fair society.
My Lords, the CBI, of which I am president, recently launched Change the Race Ratio, an initiative to promote ethnic-minority participation in business. The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities made 24 recommendations. However, the disclosure of the ethnicity pay gap—one of the most transformative steps a company can take to address race inequality at work—was not one of them. Surely this should be a recommendation, as closing the UK’s ethnicity pay gap is about making our society fairer and more inclusive. Do the Government not agree that diverse companies perform better on every metric and that transparency should be the watch- word? While progress has been made on race inequality over the past few decades, there is still a long way to go.
My Lords, yes, diversity of governing boards and businesses is indeed a strength. We obviously agree that people should be paid in accordance with their work and that there should not be an ethnic pay gap. However, it is the mechanism by which we get there that I believe we are in disagreement on. The report states that, when companies publish ethnicity pay gaps, they should also publish action plans and diagnoses as to how they are going to close that gap.
My Lords, I am sure the Minister recognises that the ideology that puts race and gender as always subservient to economics and class, which seems to underlie this report, was developed in the now discredited and defunct Revolutionary Communist Party. Given that the commission was appointed by No. 10, is the Minister proud that it is the ideology of the RCP that is now driving social policy at the centre of this Government? It does not understand what is going on in our society and people are rather offended by that.
My Lords, as I have outlined, there will be detailed analysis of the recommendations that are given. The methodology that the noble Baroness outlines is not one that I recognise from the parts of the report that I have read. It is an evidence-based piece of work that looks at the causes of disparity and at other factors such as cultural issues, family, social class and geography. I will pass on her comments to the commission about the methodology.
My Lords, the Statement does nothing to allay the fears of the black and ethnic minority community about this report. We seem to have come full circle from the report on the Brixton disorders by Lord Scarman. A lot of research has been done since then that clearly identifies that racism and racial discrimination are a daily reality in the lives of the black and ethnic minority community in Britain. Socially and economically they occupy the same place that was allocated to them in the earlier days, and institutions and organisations have little awareness of our culturally different communities. Will the Minister examine some of the reports by the Commission for Racial Equality, which was responsible for issuing legally enforceable non-discrimination notices to some of our institutions? Equality has no meaning unless it is properly and ethnically monitored. I want to see the day when black and brown faces in this country do not have to look over their shoulder to see if they are welcome.
My Lords, I can allay the fears that the noble Lord outlines, as the report recognises that:
“Outright racism still exists in the UK”.
It does not detract from that. I will ask officials to look at the reports that the noble Lord has outlined. One report that has been drawn to my attention and that is in a similar vein was by the Runnymede Trust in the early 2000s; the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, was involved in writing it. We need to look at the causes of these disparities. We will not change the outcomes for people if we do not diagnose the causes properly. Then, we can get the right solution and change the outcomes. That is what we are passionate to do for better outcomes for all the communities that the noble Lord outlines.
My Lords, I must commend the Government on their considered response to this careful and measured report. I have two questions. First, will sufficient time be given here to debate the issues that it raises, and early enough to inform the Government’s deliberations? Secondly, will the Government emulate the commissioners’ courage by acting on evidence about the benefits of stable family structures and being proactive about preventing family breakdown where possible, because of its myriad contributions to poor outcomes for children?
My Lords, it will be a matter for the parliamentary authorities and the usual channels as to whether time is allowed for debate, but of course, noble Lords have that opportunity as well. Yes, the response will take seriously the recommendation —I think it is framed as a “Support for Families” review—to look in more detail at the effect that family structure can have on someone’s outcomes, particularly educationally and economically.
My Lords, yesterday was a momentous day. Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd. President Biden responded by stating that we must acknowledge and confront systemic racism. In spite of the overwhelming evidence from many, including the medical association, representing 150,000 doctors, Dr Sewell’s report stated that the evidence they found did not show systemic racism. Furthermore, hundreds of thousands of black and white young people who took to the streets to protest for Black Lives Matter were dismissed in the report as well-meaning idealists but wrong in their assertion of systemic racism.
Yesterday the government Minister Kemi Badenoch, who seemed to attack anyone who did not agree with her, including the excellent race equality organisation the Runnymede Trust, none the less stated, to my great relief, that no one, not least the Government, is denying institutional racism as distinct from verbal racism. She went on to say that it is not everywhere, and I think we can all agree with that. But the report said, and the Minister confirmed, that Dr Sewell and his commissioners did not find systemic racism in this report from the deluge of evidence, including from myself. Given that dramatic but welcome U-turn in acknowledging systemic race inequalities, were the commissioners incompetent or in wilful denial?
My Lords, as I have outlined, the evidence that was considered by the commissioners, as we understand it, is that they did not find institutional racism in any of the sectors. I will come back to the specific comments from the other place that the noble Lord has raised but I understand that context to be, as I have outlined, that institutional racism is a concept that we respect and understand, and the commission stood by the Macpherson definition, but there was not the evidence base here. Of course it is difficult when feelings are running high—obviously, I note that it is an important day today, particularly for the criminal justice system in America—but when the evidence does not lead you to that conclusion then we have to respect that. As I said to the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, a critique of the methodology may be wanted, but these are the conclusions of 10 respected commissioners: that the evidence did not lead to that conclusion, as uncomfortable as that can sometimes be.
My Lords, in this report of over 250 pages I read two perfunctory narrative mentions of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller ethnic minority groups—arguably the most discriminated against in the UK—and a few insertions in the Department for Education tables. They are absent from the sections on health, employment and criminal justice, where data exists, often explicitly racist. The report’s conclusions ignore their situation. Did the commissioners speak to anyone, or take any evidence, from these communities? Does the Minister concede that this kind of omission can only, sadly, reinforce the superficial and unscholarly aspects of the report?
My Lords, with regard to Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, the report makes the specific recommendation that the Government should improve the way in which they collect ethnicity data. As I understand it, and I will write if I am incorrect in saying this, the commission worked with MHCLG, which, as the noble Baroness is aware, is working on a strategy that is soon to be launched in relation to GRT. That will be the main government action on GRT. I know from past experience that the noble Baroness will welcome the action that we need to take on GRT, particularly on educational underperformance.
My Lords, the report cites the evidence that you are six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police if you are black than if you are white; that the vast majority of stop and searches are for drugs, not weapons; and that as a result class B drug offences amount to nearly half of prosecutions of all ethnic minority groups. This evidence gives rise to the perception, which the report fails to mention or address, that the police are there to target black people, not protect them. As the Minister mentioned, Stephen Lawrence Day is tomorrow. A witness to the Macpherson inquiry into his tragic death 20 years ago said that the black community felt overpoliced and underprotected. What has changed? How can progress be made if black people do not have confidence in the report?
My Lords, in the report there are a number of recommendations in relation to crime and policing. One is about setting up independent safeguarding partnerships locally. There is also, obviously, the recommendation that police forces should reflect the communities they serve. On the point specifically raised by the noble Lord, there is an innovative recommendation that exposed the commissioners to an allegation that they supported the legalisation of drugs because they wanted to see the increased use of out-of-court penalties for the kind of class B possession that they outlined in the report. We are looking seriously at those recommendations but obviously, we know that our police forces should reflect the communities that they serve and that everyone should have confidence that the police are there to protect them, not target them.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it is important to consistently measure progress, or the lack of it, as we do with gender? This Government have been at the forefront of challenging companies and public sector organisations on gender issues. The report agrees that racism is still deeply imbedded and, exists across many sectors of life, and that the colour of your skin remains a big issue. I have grown up in this country; I know what it feels like to be discriminated against and called names. It is important that we start by examining how employment across Whitehall is monitored and ensure that career support is provided for people entering with non-traditional qualifications. Will she look at why, in authorities like mine in Leicester city where more than 50% of the population is non-white, there seems to be not one person of colour in a director role at the local authority offices?
I am grateful to the noble Baroness for outlining the non-traditional qualifications route to a career in Whitehall. We have recently announced the delivery of 30,000 apprenticeships by next April, and we will look seriously at the commission’s recommendation to have a targeted campaign or initiative in relation to the take-up of apprenticeships. There is a consultation out currently—I think it was launched only yesterday—on flexible apprenticeships, to try and make those more available. I cannot comment on the employment statistics of a local authority.
My Lords, in 2020 the big four accountancy firms had 11 black partners out of a total of 3,000. Deloitte had one, Ernst & Young and KPMG had two each and PricewaterhouseCoopers had 6. The big eight accountancy firms have only 17 black partners out of a total of 4,000. There is also an ethnicity pay gap of up to 37%. Is the noble Baroness concerned? If so, will she order an independent investigation into big accountancy firms?
My Lords, yes, of course I am concerned about figures showing a lack of representation like that. There have been various initiatives such as the Parker review and the review conducted by the noble Baroness, Lady McGregor-Smith. We have been working closely in government on the Hampton-Alexander review and are looking at that piece of work. I will note the statistics the noble Lord outlines when we are looking at that review.
My Lords, to an extraordinary degree we see racial questions in this country through the prism of the American south—a subculture anomalous within North America, let alone within the wider English-speaking world. We saw that in some of the atrocious and shocking language directed at the authors of this report. One MP posted a picture of a Klansman and the authors were called “Uncle Toms” and worse. These are not words with cultural resonance in this country. Will the Minister join me in thanking the authors for giving up their time from a sheer sense of service and patriotism to produce this forensic and factual paper? Will she add her voice to mine in saying how important it is that these issues are not be left to race professionals, but should allow people like the authors of this report—who have distinguished themselves as scientists, educators, economists, and in all the fields that enrich our national life—to have their voices heard?
My Lords, as I have outlined, robust disagreements in this scenario sadly descended into abuse of the commissioners, which is not acceptable. The first recommendation ironically outlines more work needing to be done on online abuse. I am concerned that the treatment of these commissioners may mean we see people less likely to come forward to volunteer for public services, if that is the treatment that they expect.
My Lords, I echo the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, and the noble Lords, Lord Dholakia and Lord Woolley. Since Scarman, again and again reports have reiterated that we live in an inherently unequal society predicated on race, gender, religion and socioeconomic conditions such as class and wealth, as well as access. Work undertaken by the right honourable David Lammy and recently by my noble friend Lady Lawrence directly challenges the Government’s assessment and findings, and asks for immediate long-term action to address structural discrimination and inequalities as they impact our citizens of minority heritage. I join my colleagues in this House and the other place, alongside thousands of British experts, including highly respected academics, in making clear that this shocking attempt to misrepresent and deny experiences of racism and islamophobia will be challenged so that justice prevails. Will the Minister consider urgently meeting Members of this House as a way forward?
My Lords, the commission outlined a number of reviews, including those that the noble Baroness outlined, and they were broadly in agreement with many of them. They took the recommendations of the Lammy review seriously, many of which have already been put into effect and others are in train. I shall come back to her on her kind offer of a meeting.
My Lords, I will go back to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Hannan. Do the Government regret the manner in which this report was pre-briefed by No. 10 in what looked like a deliberate attempt to stir up controversy with independent scholars and lifelong campaigners who have worked to eradicate the scourge of racism from our society? What is to be gained by pursuing these culture wars? Should action in future not be based on objective evidence? If that is the case and we are basing action on objective evidence, why did the Minister not welcome the plea from the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, for companies to be required to publish data on ethnic-minority pay gaps between people with equivalent qualifications and abilities? Surely we have to make progress this way.
My Lords, it is deeply regrettable, as I have outlined, that reading many of the media reports and the commission’s report is like moving from one planet to another. The commission had its own independent communications advice and no one wants to see an issue go from robust disagreement —which is what we have always had a strong history of in this country—to personal abuse directed at various individuals who have given their time for nothing. As I have outlined, we agree that there should not be an ethnicity pay gap, but we disagree about the mechanism to change that. The history of our politics is that we agree on the ends, but disagree on the means to get there.
My Lords, the time allowed for this Statement has now elapsed. My apologies to the three noble Lords who were not called.
Arrangement of Business
For the consideration of the Commons reasons and amendments on the Domestic Abuse Bill, proceedings will follow guidance issued by the Procedure and Privileges Committee. Where there are no counter- propositions, as for Motion A, the only speakers will be those listed, who may be in the Chamber or participating remotely. When there are counterpropositions, any Member in the Chamber may speak, subject to the usual seating arrangements and the capacity of the Chamber. Anyone intending to do so should email the clerk or indicate when asked. Members who are not intending to speak on a group should make room for Members who are. All speakers will be called by the Chair. Short questions of elucidation after the Minister’s response are permitted but discouraged. A Member wishing to ask such a question, including Members in the Chamber, must email the clerk. Leave should be given to withdraw Motions. When putting the Question, I will collect voices in the Chamber only. Where there is no counterproposition, the Minister’s Motion may not be opposed. A participant, whether present or participating remotely, who might wish to press a proposition other than the lead counter- proposition to a Division must give notice to the Chair, either in the debate or by emailing the clerk—this arises only on Motion F. 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. Noble Lords following proceedings remotely but not speaking may submit their voice, content or not content, to the collection of the voices by emailing the clerk during the debate. Members cannot vote by email. The way to vote will be via the remote voting system.
Domestic Abuse Bill
Commons Reasons and Amendments
1A: Because it is inappropriate to extend the definition of “domestic abuse” in the Bill to include abuse carried out against a disabled person by the person’s carer.
2A: Because it is inappropriate to extend the definition of “domestic abuse” in the Bill to include abuse carried out against a disabled person by the person’s carer.
3A: Because it is inappropriate to extend the definition of “domestic abuse” in the Bill to include abuse carried out against a disabled person by the person’s carer.
My Lords, the House will recall that these amendments sought to bring all carers within the definition of domestic abuse that applies for the purposes of the Bill. This would include carers who are unpaid, such as neighbours and friends, as well as paid-for carers and people in a position of trust who care for disabled people. The noble Baronesses, Lady Campbell of Surbiton and Lady Grey-Thompson, and others were right to bring the issue of carer abuse to the attention of the House, and I was most grateful to have a discussion with both of them this morning. I just hope that, this afternoon, the tech of the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, works so that we all have the benefit of her quite considerable expertise.
I fully accept that disabled people who are abused by a paid or volunteer carer are just as in need of effective protection and support as someone who is abused by an intimate partner or family member. We remain firmly of the view that the focus of the Bill should continue to be on domestic abuse as the term is internationally recognised in the Istanbul convention and elsewhere. The elected House has agreed that we need to maintain this focus and disagreed with Amendment 1 by a substantial majority of 139.
None the less, the Government have reflected carefully on the earlier debates in this House, and we want to ensure that the justice system and social care sector deal with carer abuse effectively, while preserving the definition of domestic abuse in the Bill as originally introduced. The Government are therefore committing to a review of the protections and support available to victims of carer abuse. The review will access existing criminal laws, safeguarding legislation, regulation by the Care Quality Commission, the protections available for non-regulated care and the support available for victims of carer abuse, including local authority and voluntary sector support. We would aim to complete the review within 12 months.
Of course, there will be an opportunity—we discussed this this morning—for organisations representing disabled people and others to engage in the review, and naturally we will want to discuss the details of the review with the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell. I will confirm something that I said this morning: we will not just do a series of round tables. I agree with her that data is absolutely key to underpinning some of the work that might need to go forward. The review’s intention is to address the concerns raised regarding the adequacy or otherwise of the current protections and the support for victims of carer abuse. I hope that, with the discussion that we had this morning and the undertakings this afternoon, the noble Baroness and indeed the House will be content to support the Motion and not insist on the amendments.
My Lords, I will speak to Lords Amendments 1, 2 and 3 and Motion A, moved by the Minister. As I have stated, I will not oppose the Motion.
First, I thank the Minister for our helpful meeting today; despite the technological challenges, we had a very good exchange. At that meeting, I explained why I have decided not to pursue further attempts to incorporate carer abuse of disabled people in the Bill. Although I think we all agree that the abuse of disabled people frequently takes place within a domestic setting, it has become clear that the Bill is confined to abuse by an intimate partner or family member. There is no appetite to widen its scope at this stage.
In addition, this long-awaited Bill, with its multi- functional role, will demand a great deal of resources to change the domestic abuse culture. I would not wish to hold up the task of addressing the horrendous domestic abuse experienced by thousands of adults and children every day—no way.
I am currently confident—especially after our conversation this morning—that the Government have taken on board the deep concerns expressed across this House at the exclusion of disabled people from the Bill. I believe that they are committed to finding alternative means to address carer abuse, as the current protections are clearly inadequate.
I was therefore very pleased that, in the consideration of Lords Amendments in another place, the Minister, Victoria Atkins, announced in response to my amendments that
“the Government abhor all abuse, and we have every sympathy for the spirit of these amendments”
in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell.
“Abuse of disabled people by their carers must be called out and acted upon ... we have listened carefully to the experiences and concerns raised in this House and the other place ... That is why the Government intend to carry out a review of the protections for people at risk of carer abuse. We will engage with ... the disabled sector on the scope of the review, but it would broadly seek to examine the protections offered against carer abuse and the support available to victims. We have listened and we will act.”—[Official Report, Commons, 15/4/21; col. 519.]
I should be grateful if all sides of the House would strongly support and engage with this review. I hope it will not keep anything off the table, including further legislative protections if necessary. I hope that the review will commence as soon as possible. Of course, I shall be chasing it and look forward to working with the Government and especially with disabled people’s organisations.
Carer abuse—as evidenced throughout the pandemic and during earlier debates and pre-legislative scrutiny—must not continue unchecked. Disabled people deserve to have equivalent protection—no less.
My Lords, I am very disappointed at the outcome of this amendment. I pay tribute to the hard work of the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, and many others in bringing it forward.
In the Commons, the Minister, Victoria Atkins, said:
“We should steer away from diluting the purpose of the Bill.”—[Official Report, Commons, 15/4/21; col 519.]
She has promised a government review, pledging to engage with the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell of Surbiton, and the disabled sector to examine the protections offered and support available for this kind of domestic abuse.
Abuse by a paid or unpaid carer in the home constitutes domestic abuse. If it is not domestic abuse, then what is it? In responding to Victoria Atkins, Jess Phillips said that
“abuse of trust and power is experienced in exactly the same way as that perpetrated by a mother, a father or a partner”.—[Official Report, Commons, 15/4/21; col. 526.]
If it looks like domestic abuse and it takes place in the home by an individual—paid or unpaid—who is intimately involved with the victim, what else is it if not domestic abuse?
I sincerely hope that the promised review is not a sop to enable the Government to kick this really important issue into the long grass. I appreciate all the Minister’s efforts—even this morning. I welcome any assurances that she can give as to how and when this review will take place. Some of the most vulnerable people in this country are depending on it.
My Lords, I am disappointed that these amendments will not remain in the Bill, despite the tremendous work initiated by the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell. She has worked tirelessly to bring these issues to the forefront during the debate on this landmark Bill. In mitigation, however, I welcome the Government’s commitment to conduct a review.
Trusting someone enough to let them provide either personal care, or support with day-to-day tasks or communication, is in itself an emotionally intimate act which creates a close bond but also the risk of abuse. It is not infrequent for abusers to target the disabled person and befriend them. They persuade the disabled person that this is done for altruistic motives while, at the same time, they exploit and abuse them. The victim will experience the same ambiguity about power and control versus emotional attachment as any other victim of domestic abuse.
I should stress that we will expect everything that is usually asked for in such a review. The Government must get on with it. They must ensure they are led by experts in the field—including engaging with services such as Stay Safe East which work with victims on the front line. The authentic voices of disabled victims must be heard. It is vital that carer abuse is recognised and tackled, and that no victim of abuse is left without support. We therefore support the Motion and the review.
My Lords, first I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, for her words. This morning, I stressed that I was concerned about all the abuse taking place behind closed doors throughout the pandemic. Carer abuse is not exempt from that. The noble Baroness, Lady Burt, asked, “what else is it, if not domestic abuse”? It is abuse which happens and about which we have been very concerned during the last 12 months. With the lifting of restrictions, this is a timely opportunity to look into carer abuse.
Noble Lords have asked about timings. These will be announced shortly. As we undertake the review, we intend to engage with the disability sector about its scope. If it is to be meaningful, we must listen to those who have lived experiences. The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, asked if we shall talk to experts such as Stay Safe East. Yes, we will. The review will be open, with no preconceived outcomes. The Government will await its findings before deciding next steps. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, and other noble Lords that we will keep all options under review.
Motion A agreed.
9A: Because it is unnecessary to provide for the accreditation of child contact centres by local authorities.
My Lords, the elected House has disagreed with Amendment 9 by a substantial majority of 130. The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, has subsequently tabled Amendment 9B. While removing the requirement for accreditation of child contact centres and services in relation to public and private family law cases, it still requires the Government to introduce a set of national standards to which organisations and individuals would be required to adhere—in effect, a form of indirect accreditation.
I am grateful to the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay and Lady Burt of Solihull, my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering and the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, for taking the time yesterday to speak with me about the revised amendment. While the Government recognise that the provision of child contact centres and services is vital in supporting families and enabling parents to have contact with their children, this amendment remains problematic for a number of reasons.
First, there is not an issue in relation to private law cases of parties being referred to non-accredited child contact centres. That is because there are protocols in place, involving the judiciary, magistrates and Cafcass family court advisers, which require them only to refer parties in private law cases to NACCC-accredited child contact centres when referring parties in those private law proceedings for supported, supervised contact and handover contact. That protocol has been in place with the NACCC since 2000 and was revised a few years ago, in 2017. The memorandum of understanding between Cafcass and the NACCC has been in place since 2018. Cafcass has assured the Government, as well as NACCC, that it is compliant with that memorandum of understanding.
However, in light of what was said on Report, I have written to the President of the Family Division and to the CEO of Cafcass requesting that they raise awareness amongst their colleagues and officials of the judicial protocol and memorandum of understanding which has been agreed. I understand that the NACCC is updating that judicial protocol. It will be agreed with the President of the Family Division and reissued to the judiciary and magistrates.
Further to that, Jacky Tiotto, the chief executive of Cafcass, has responded to my letter to her confirming that she will write to all Cafcass operational managers and family court advisers, reminding them of the importance of the memorandum of understanding. While she is unaware of any evidence to suggest that Cafcass staff are not complying with the requirements, she emphasised that Cafcass is committed to working effectively with the NACCC to ensure that every child receives the best possible service.
That is in relation to private family law. I turn now to public law family cases where children are in the care of the local authority. Comprehensive statutory provisions are already in place determining how local authorities should discharge their duties, including in relation to meeting statutory requirements to maintain contact between a child and their family.
In that context, Section 22 of the Children Act 1989 places a general statutory duty on the local authority in relation to children looked after by it to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare. Section 34 of that Act establishes the presumption that there should be continued contact between the child and their family while the child is in the care of the local authority. It places a duty on local authorities, subject to certain provisions and to their duty to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare, to allow contact between a child in care and their parents. Details of contact are set out in a child’s care plan, which is governed by the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010. Those regulations set out the role of independent review officers to ensure that contact is supported. They will consider whether contact commitments in care plans have been implemented and whether the child is happy. In 2015, the Department for Education published guidance on care planning, placement and case review; further statutory guidance was published in 2018. That is the statutory architecture.
I turn now to the safeguards in place before each contact between a looked-after child and a parent is made. Whenever contact is arranged by a local authority, the social worker should undertake a full safeguarding risk assessment, meeting the requirements of the guidance for the assessment of contact produced by each local authority. A broad range of factors is looked at: the risk of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, including domestic abuse, and neglect; the risk of abduction; whether there is a history of violent or aggressive behaviour and whether the child or supervisor is at risk; and the parent’s ability to prioritise the children’s needs above their own. In outlining all that, I seek to reassure the House that there is already adequate statutory and regulatory provision in place.
I have spoken about private and public law proceedings. In addition, I should mention that parents can self-refer to contact centre services. NACCC officials themselves have suggested that very few parents actually do that, so any concerns that parents may be self-referring to non-accredited centres are not borne out by the evidence, and certainly not to any significant scale.
What is the essential argument behind the amendment? Those supporting it argue that there are large numbers of unaccredited child contact centres and services, posing significant risk to children and parents around safeguarding and the risk of domestic abuse. The NACCC provided some initial data on the number of unaccredited contact centres, but the current evidence base is insufficiently robust to support legislating on the issue. While I am grateful to the NACCC for compiling the data, I have to note that some of the “unaccredited” contact centres initially identified by it in fact turned out to be regulated by Ofsted or the Care Quality Commission. There is plainly more work to be done to understand the issue. The Government remain ready to work with the NACCC in this regard, but outside this Bill. In particular, I am ready to explore further whether there is a case for ensuring that there are appropriate arrangements in place for anyone who seeks to set themselves up as a provider of child contact services to be subject to criminal record checks.
I can therefore assure your Lordships’ House that the Government are committed to ensuring the highest levels of care and safeguarding where circumstances have necessitated involvement with the family justice system. However, given existing mechanisms within private and public family law, and the extensive regulatory environment which I have set out, without further evidence of a problem we do not believe that this amendment is warranted at this time.
Given my commitment to continue to work with the NACCC on this issue, and to explore further the question of criminal record checks for freelance providers, I respectfully urge the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, and all noble Lords, not to insist on their amendment. I beg to move.
Motion B1 (as an amendment to Motion B)
9B: In Clause 55, page 35, line 19, at end insert—
“( ) ensure all child contact centres and organisations that offer child contact services regularly check their employees, agency workers and volunteers for compliance with national standards in relation to safeguarding and preventing domestic abuse as specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State.””
My Lords, the amendment I have tabled is a modified and simplified version of the previous amendment regarding child contact centres. I am most grateful to the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, for meeting the noble Baronesses, Lady McIntosh of Pickering and Lady Burt of Solihull, the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, and me yesterday. We were hopeful that the Government would want to commit to making regulations rapidly, but, alas, no.
In redrafting I have taken into account the concern expressed by the Minister in the other place that a statutory framework governing local authorities could be costly and bureaucratic. However, I take issue with the statement that the Government have not seen evidence to suggest that the framework used by the National Association of Child Contact Centres—or NACCC, as I will call it for short—and agreed with Cafcass through a memorandum of understanding, is not needed. A lack of evidence being brought forward does not mean that a problem does not exist; it simply means that it is currently going undetected.
I share with the House the words of our previous Prime Minister, the right honourable Theresa May, who said on this issue in the other place:
“May I say to the Minister that from my experience of more than 20 years as a constituency MP, telling me that CAFCASS has an involvement in something does not necessarily fill me with reassurance?”
She went on to say that
“it is important to make sure that those protocols are sufficient and that they are doing the job that needs to be done.”—[Official Report, Commons, 15/4/21; col. 531.]
Unfortunately, because there is no statutory requirement, such monitoring is left to voluntary sector services such as the NACCC.
There are individual cases of concern, but it is not appropriate to go into such details at this stage. Yet the Government’s own recent harm report, which assessed the risk of harm to children and parents in private law children cases, identified that professionals involved in child arrangement cases show a
“lack of understanding of the different forms that domestic abuse takes, and of the ongoing impacts of abuse on children and victim parents”.
The report identified systematic minimisation of abuse and unsightly, unsafe child arrangements in an adversarial system with silo working. Some respondents felt the risk-assessment processes to be inadequate, providing examples of courts bypassing risk assessments altogether and simply ordering contact without assessing the ongoing risk for the non-abusive parent, without considering the risk of potential future harm and without consultation with the child. Surely the Government can see that their own report highlights that staff need specific training on domestic abuse.
That is why I find the Government’s email to me today about my amendment deeply worrying. In it, the Government recognise that individuals can set themselves up outside NACCC-regulated or Ofsted-regulated activities such as childminding. These people are not even eligible to seek such a certificate on criminal record should they wish to demonstrate their commitment to the welfare of those for whom they are providing a contact service. Parents using such contact services have no assurance that these people, who have not been screened by enhanced criminal record disclosure and barring service checks, do not have unspent or spent convictions and cautions. Those of malintent towards children and others who are vulnerable can hide.
The Government said that local authority arrangements safeguard public law cases, and in private law cases they did show that protocols are in place—but, again, there is anecdotal evidence that some parts of the judiciary are unaware off the full content of the judicial protocol and the memorandum of understanding between NACCC and Cafcass. In some communities where there is greatest suspicion of statutory bodies, child contact services may be harder to monitor and are not necessarily focused on a child contact centre. An individual may be complicit in abusive behaviours being perpetrated or have a history of inappropriate behaviour towards children that has gone unnoticed.
My amendment simply gives the Government powers to make regulation as they wish to ensure that all child contact centres and organisations offering child contact services regularly check for employees’, agency workers’ and volunteers’ full compliance with national standards in relation to safeguarding and preventing domestic abuse. At a minimum it is essential so that these vulnerable children are not exposed to further danger. All the personnel involved should have, as a minimum, the enhanced disclosure and barring service checks, and I hope the Government would also require them to have up-to-date specialist domestic violence training to be able to detect and appropriately manage situations of ongoing abuse.
We must not let domestic abuse legislation go through and leave a loophole in our protection of children who are victims. It is consistent with the approach in the Department for Education document Working Together to Safeguard Children and with the welcome given by the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, to the Botulinum Toxin and Cosmetic Fillers (Children) Bill, debated last Friday in the House. The Minister said then that
“the provisions in the Bill will ensure that young people are accorded the highest protections to safeguard their physical and psychological health.”—[Official Report, 16/4/21; col. 1579.]
In January 2021, the Government published their tackling child sexual abuse strategy. So, I ask, when will the Government make sure that all those working with children and vulnerable people are subject to enhanced DBS checks? Can the Minister explain why the Government are resistant to providing the highest protections to children who are victims of domestic abuse and potentially open to ongoing abuse or even predatory activities from people with criminal intent who could masquerade as providing child contact services?
Unless I have a firm and comprehensive assurance from the Government that this loophole will be closed, and of when it will be closed, I will seek the opinion of the House, as I believe this House is committed to the welfare of children. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and I congratulate her on the work she has done in this regard and on bringing forward a revised amendment at this stage. I declare my interests: I am vice-president of the National Association of Child Contact Centres; I am co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Child Contact Centres; and I am a non-practising Scottish advocate, so I did have some limited experience of family case law at the Scottish Bar.
I thank the Minister for meeting us on a number of occasions—most recently yesterday. I took great heart from his confirmation, which his official gave us on the call, that the Government indeed have the power to make the regulations we are requesting, so that this amendment would not be needed. I draw attention to the letter sent by email today following the meeting yesterday, which states:
“At the meeting yesterday I indicated that my officials would look at the DBS regulations, to assess whether these could be amended to apply to individuals setting up contact centres and services, outside of the NACCC accredited services, in order to provide a level of safeguarding for both children and parents.”
I would like to know why the Minister has drawn back from what I understood was a clear commitment to make these regulations.
I remind the Minister that this is my second attempt at supporting this amendment. I had a Private Member’s Bill some two Parliaments ago as a relatively new Member of this House on this precise point. I welcome the fact that the Minister and others spoke in previous stages in support of this amendment, including the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay and Lady Burt, and the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby. Our starting point is simply, as the Minister explained, that we want to ensure that in a family breakdown, the break-up of a marriage or any other relationship, the absent parent—normally the father, but possibly the mother—will continue to have contact with the child. It is extremely important for both the family and society that that is the case. I care passionately about families, and family law is at the heart of British society.
I will put a point to the Minister today that he has not answered to my satisfaction. GOV.UK states:
“You will need to have an enhanced check with barred lists from the Disclosure and Barring Service, if you want to look after children for a living … Who needs to be checked …You may need to go through a DBS check if you work directly with children or run the childcare organisation, for example as a … childminder … childminding assistant … nanny … playgroup owner … children’s home director”.
So I ask my noble friend a very simple, direct and straight question: why are those either working at child contact centres or offering services of contact being put in a less safe situation in relation to the children they are going to be dealing with than every other person working with children?
Let me remind the House that the noble Baroness, Lady Blower, has a Private Member’s Bill going through this House at the moment looking to close a similar loophole in the provision of education to children aged between 16 and 19, and I support that Bill. That loophole shows that safeguarding should extend to 16 to 19 year-olds, and the Government are seeking to close that loophole for a very good reason: nobody wants a terrible incident to happen, leading to a potential court case and huge trauma for all concerned, not least the Government, whose responsibility it is to protect 16 to 19 year-olds in education or enjoying educational services in any setting. So for what reason, as we seek to close that loophole for 16 to 19 year-olds, is a child or family in this case not enjoying the same level of protection as they do with every other category of a person providing a service?
I would like to humbly correct the Minister on one point. He stated that those supporting the amendment were claiming that there are large numbers of unaccredited centres at risk of domestic abuse. That has never been our claim. Our claim is that this small category is unacceptable because it is putting children at risk, and they are the most vulnerable in society. I would just like to correct my noble friend on that single point.
As for the judicial protocol, the very fact that it is being revised by the National Association of Child Contact Centres goes to the heart of the fact that it is not working. As all those involved in the judicial protocol agree, including Cafcass and the Family Division, it is not working as intended. I welcome the fact that it is under review, but we have to pause and point out to my noble friend that it is not working as it should. I think we have established that there are instances where it could work better, and that is of great concern to us and raises questions as to why the MoU is perhaps not being as respected as all those involved would hope.
Regarding the allegations that we have not put sufficient evidence, to my noble friend’s satisfaction, in the public domain as to why the amendment is needed, I make a plea to his human side and hope he will realise that this is a deeply sensitive area. It is very difficult, given the nature of some of these issues— I know that the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, is well versed in them, as a practitioner—to put many of these cases in the public domain and, in the limited time available, we have refrained from doing so. Perhaps the Government should take it upon themselves to look for this evidence, rather than a cash-strapped voluntary organisation such as the National Association of Child Contact Centres, which is working to keep our children safe.
I am clearly disappointed at the Government’s apparently dismissive refusal to recognise this issue. This amendment is actually doing the Government and families a great service by pointing out a loophole in the law, as we have done previously. The type of screening that the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, has encapsulated in this amendment is precisely what is needed to close the loophole and to ensure that those working in the public setting, through local authorities, and the private setting, to which the Minister referred, are covered by the same provisions. As I have informed those who need to know, I will support this if it is pressed to a vote.
My Lords, I support the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay of Llandaff and Lady McIntosh of Pickering, particularly Lady McIntosh in what she has said about child contact centres and organisations offering child contact which are not accredited. It seems to me, as a matter of principle, that all contact centres and organisations involved in providing this crucial service should be accredited in some way or another. As for the idea that they can set up without anybody having to check, it seems blindingly obvious that this should not happen.
As a judge, I used to be very involved with the National Association of Child Contact Centres, and with individual contact centres. I was a patron of several of them, so I have some knowledge of the importance of child contact centres as places where children can meet their parents or parent. It is crucial that the safeguarding issue be recognised in such a way that no one can fall through the gap, so I support this amendment.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay of Llandaff and Lady McIntosh of Pickering, and to others whose knowledge far exceeds my own, for all their efforts to bring this amendment forward. I have to join my cross-party colleagues in expressing disappointment at the Government’s eventual response to this amendment, despite the undoubted work and good will of the Minister.
The Minister in the Commons, Victoria Atkins, seemed to consider that a letter from the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, to the President of the Family Division and the chief officer of Cafcass requesting that they “raise awareness” would resolve the issue. It will not. The problem here is that the Government are talking about one thing, the formal requests from the family courts—not that they are all up to speed in using registered child contact centres—while the main problem lies elsewhere, in less formally constituted organisations sent by local authorities and other cash-strapped bodies. The Government seem to think that the existing guidelines will filter through by osmosis to everyone who is commissioning a child contact. There is a lack of awareness on the part of courts and local authorities and, if an unfortunate incident occurs because centre staff have not been trained properly and a child suffers or is put in jeopardy, the likely outcome is that the matter will be hushed up. We will not hear about it in the public domain, which is why it is difficult to provide evidence on the extent of the problem.
The revised amendment we are discussing today is far less prescriptive than its predecessor previously discussed by your Lordships. As noble Lords have said, it simply applies the same criteria to child contact centre staff as to anyone working with children— for example, a DBS check. The requirement for a register is gone. No protocol and no policies are being stipulated: that will be down to the Government themselves. A child minder or a nursery assistant will have the same requirement imposed on them. These are national standards for anyone working with children, so who could argue that this bare minimum should not be applied to child contact centre staff, volunteers or agency workers? The national standards and regulations would be for the Government to determine.
For goodness’ sake, let us at least weed out the bad people, so that we do not expose our children to them at arguably the most vulnerable time of their lives. For that reason, if the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, decides to test the opinion of the House, I and my party will support her.
My Lords, as is often the case, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, put the point simply and persuasively: that there should be common standards for all those who provide services under child contact centres.
We have heard about the welcome exchange of views between the signatories to this amendment and the Minister. In the email we received from him, he seemed to acknowledge that the DBS regulations should be assessed, and potentially amended, to see whether they apply to individuals setting up contact centres—so, he has acknowledged that deficiency in the existing arrangements. Further to that, in the concluding paragraph of the Minister’s email he undertakes to ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place for anyone who seeks to set up as a provider, and to explore further whether that is indeed the case.
The starting point is that there are uneven levels of regulation across the network of child contact centre providers. I accept what the Minister has said regarding private law in our courts and that the existing memorandum of understanding is going to be updated and revised, but that very fact may be an acknowledgement that improvements are needed. I have to say, speaking as a family magistrate, that all the child contact centres I have ever referred children to have been accredited by the NACCC. The Minister also set out the existing public law statutory architecture, which is more complex, but as so many speakers have said in this debate, we are talking about private providers—providers who may come and go and may come from particular communities which do not trust existing services. Those are the difficult cases that we are seeking to include in this extension of regulation.
As the Minister will be aware, we are talking about some very difficult cases—cases which are difficult to put in the public domain—and a few cases, not the many cases which he claimed. The Bill is an opportunity to close this loophole. We on the Labour Benches will support the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, if she chooses to press it to a vote.
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I am mindful of the views which have been expressed across the House. I start with a point on behalf of the Government and of myself. So far as the Government are concerned, like the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, they are committed to the welfare of children—that is not a phrase with which any of us would disagree. For myself, if I may accept the point put by my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering, I do have a human side. Notwithstanding that I am a lawyer and a Government Minister, something of a human side still pokes through occasionally.
There is nothing between us on the aim; what is between us is the means. I therefore remind the House of two points. First, of course anything said by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, in this area has to be heard with care and listened to diligently, but it is the case already that the vast majority of people in child contact centres will have to have certain checks through NACCC accreditation and because of the local authority obligations. That is the first general point.
The second general point in response to one of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, is that the fact that the memorandum of understanding is being updated and revised is no indication whatever that there is a problem with it. For example, one of the revisions which is being made is to substitute the name of the previous President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, with the name of the new president, Sir Andrew McFarlane. Updating and revision of an MoU does not indicate that there is a problem. A lot of very good documents are continually updated and revised.
One is therefore back to the essential point, which is: what is the evidence which underpins the proposed amendment? It is all very well to talk of a loophole, but the real question is whether there is an underlying problem. It is the evidence base with which we have concerns. I say with genuine respect to the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, that anecdotal evidence is not a sufficient basis in this area on which we should be legislating. Of course, staff must be trained and we must look to see whether there are legislative gaps, but we have to proceed on proper evidence.
So far as my email is concerned, I do not pull back from that at all; I stand by every single word of it. In particular, with regard to DBS checks, I am happy to repeat from the Dispatch Box precisely what I said in the email: “I am ready to explore whether there is a case for ensuring that there are appropriate arrangements in place for anyone who seeks to set themselves up as a provider of child contact centres to be subject to criminal record checks. The issue is that the regulations with regard to DBS are about eligibility for DBS checks, not whether they are mandatory.”
I suspect that where we end up is on the question of whether there is a proper basis to legislate in this space, given my assurances that we would be looking at the DBS point and that there is no cogent evidence that the current system is not working. The protocol is in place and has been endorsed at the highest level by the judiciary and Cafcass. There are statutory and regulatory requirements in the public law cases. Indeed, the only first-hand evidence which we have heard this afternoon from the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, has been that the matter is working well. As he confirmed, he sends his cases to an accredited centre only.
That is the position. Even at this late stage, I respectfully invite the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I am most grateful to all who have spoken, and particularly to my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss for her support, which I view as weighty. I stress to the House that a call for common standards seems to have come through in all the speeches in support of my amendment. I am slightly concerned that the Government decry an evidence base because I have seen no evidence that they have undertaken a systematic review of the standards of all the child contact centres and services around, nor have they looked at them systematically. When they asked for evidence, we brought it, and did what we could in the time available, and now it is being dismissed as anecdotal. We have gone round in circles and I therefore wish to test the opinion of the House.
33A: Because it is unnecessary and is contrary to the principle of judicial independence.
My Lords, the elected House has disagreed with Amendment 33 and by a substantial majority, in this case of 143. In inviting this House not to insist on the amendment, I first take the opportunity to underline the Government’s recognition that comprehensive, high-quality and up-to-date training on domestic abuse is of critical importance for judges and magistrates involved in family proceedings.
Perhaps I may also take a moment again to record my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, and other noble Lords who have taken time to discuss this matter with me, including most recently on a call to which the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, was also party. While the Government recognise that victims and survivors of domestic abuse can face difficulty in the family justice system, especially during proceedings and in particular when giving evidence in them, there are serious and fundamental concerns with regard to the substance of Amendment 33.
The first point is a constitutional one, which I have made on previous occasions but reiterate today. Training for the judiciary is the responsibility not of the Government but of the Lord Chief Justice—not the Lord Chancellor. The elected House disagreed with this amendment on the basis—correctly, I would submit—that it fundamentally undermines the important constitutional principle of judicial independence. We have a number of constitutional principles in this country; some have been debated in your Lordships’ House in the last several months. But perhaps I may venture that judicial independence is among the most important principles, if not the most important.
The statutory responsibility for ensuring that the judiciary in England and Wales is properly trained rightly sits with the Lord Chief Justice and is exercised by way of the Judicial College. My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor does not have a role beyond providing the resources required by the judiciary, through which the Judicial College is funded. As such, the Lord Chancellor simply cannot direct the judiciary on training with either a strategy or timetable, as would be required by this amendment.
Amendment 33B would therefore replace the reference to the Secretary of State in the original amendment with one to the Lord Chancellor. That correctly reflects the constitutional role of the Lord Chancellor, who, as opposed to the Secretary of State, has duties in respect of the judiciary. The amendment also adds the Lord Chief Justice to the list of those who must be consulted before the strategy and timetable are published. However, it does not alter the fundamental way in which these amendments impinge, I suggest, on the independence of the judiciary. That is the first point and it is an important constitutional proposition.
The second is a practical point. It is already mandatory for any judge or magistrate to have training in domestic abuse before they hear cases in the family court. More than 50% of the content of private law induction training for judges is now focused on domestic abuse, such is the judiciary’s recognition of its importance. There is not only induction training but ongoing training as well. Continuation training annually is compulsory for judges and any judge authorised to hear public family law cases must also attend the appropriate seminar for that authorisation at least once every three years.
Domestic abuse is covered in all family law cases run by the Judicial College, and training reflects the wide nature of domestic abuse. Therefore, it covers all areas recognised by the Government as abuse, ranging from serious sexual and other assaults, emotional abuse to coercive or controlling behaviour, including financial coercion and control. Let me explain what the training includes. This is not just one judge talking to other judges. The training includes practical exercises and role play and is delivered by a wide range of experts, including academics and experts in psychiatry, psychology and other professions and agencies working in this area, as well as victims. The Judicial College also advocates the use of specialists to co-train and provide an annexe of specialist organisations. In the e-learning, SafeLives, Cafcass and Cafcass Cymru and IDVAs have all contributed to the films provided to the Judicial College.
Thirdly—and importantly going forward—the Judicial College is committed to reviewing and improving training on domestic abuse for both the judiciary and the magistracy. The senior judiciary, including both the President of the Family Division and Lady Justice King, the chair of the Judicial College, both acting on behalf of the Lord Chief Justice, are working to further develop domestic abuse training.
As part of my departmental responsibilities, I meet regularly—albeit at the moment virtually—with the President of the Family Division. My last such meeting was, in fact, yesterday and we discussed judicial training on domestic abuse in the context of this amendment. He has given me his categoric assurance about the importance he places on effective training in the area of domestic abuse. He has said that the training will continue and, importantly, that it will be updated in light of the Bill, the harm panel, and the recent Court of Appeal judgments in four conjoined domestic abuse cases. Lady Justice King has given me the same assurances. Specifically, I have been assured that the Judicial College already has in hand the training that will be required as a result of this Bill, which is a landmark piece of legislation, as we all agree.
While I respectfully commend my noble friend Lady Helic for raising this important issue, for the reasons I have set out, specifically the constitutional and practical reasons, I respectfully ask her and all noble Lords not to insist on Amendment 33 or to press new Amendment 33B in its stead. I beg to move.
Motion C1 (as an amendment to Motion C)
33B: After Clause 64, insert the following new Clause—
(1) The Lord Chancellor must within six months of the passage of this Act publish—
(a) a strategy for providing specialist training for all magistrates and judges hearing cases in family proceedings in the Family Courts concerning rape, sexual and domestic abuse and coercive control; and
(b) a timetable for the delivery of the training mentioned in subsection (1)(a), to include the training of all judges and magistrates who are already hearing or who are to be appointed to hear Family cases and to include continuing professional development training for all such judges and magistrates.
(2) The training mentioned in subsection (1)(a) must include but is not limited to training concerning—
(a) the impact upon victims and witnesses, both adults and children, of the trauma of rape, sexual and domestic abuse and coercive control;
(b) the risks and difficulties for victims and witnesses in giving evidence and taking part in proceedings concerning rape, sexual and domestic abuse and coercive control;
(c) the risks and difficulties for victims and witnesses of being involved in proceedings where one or more other parties may be the perpetrators of rape, sexual and domestic abuse and coercive control or persons connected to such perpetrators.
(3) Before publishing the strategy and timetable mentioned in subsection (1)(a) and (b) the Lord Chancellor must consult—
(a) the Lord Chief Justice;
(b) the Chairman of the Board of the Judicial College;
(c) the President of the Family Division;
(d) the Chief Executive of the Magistrates Association; and
(e) the Domestic Abuse Commissioner.
(4) After commencement of this subsection, which must be not more than two years after the passing of this Act, the Lord Chancellor must ensure that no Family cases are heard by judges or magistrates who have not successfully completed the training mentioned in subsection (1).””
My Lords, I express my thanks to everyone who has supported this amendment in its previous guises, especially the noble Lord, Lord Marks, my co-sponsor; the London Victims’ Commissioner, who played an instrumental role in its early stages; and the domestic abuse commissioner-designate.
I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for meeting me several times and engaging with what I have had to say, even if he does not agree with it. He raised two fundamental objections: that the amendment is unnecessary, and that it is contrary to the principle of judicial independence. I am yet to be convinced of either of those points. We are assured that all judges and magistrates already undergo training on domestic abuse, but there is very little transparency around the form of the existing training. I am grateful to my noble friend for offering more detail than we have previously heard on this point.
I am pleased that domestic abuse makes up more than 50% of the content of private law induction training. However, I am afraid, that makes the case for this amendment only stronger. Based on the real evidence that comes out of the family courts day in, day out, the existing training is simply not working. Judges and magistrates do not have the necessary understanding of domestic abuse. We still hear of judges who do not believe in coercive control, do not recognise domestic abuse unless it leaves physical injury, and say that there was no conviction for abuse so therefore there was no abuse. Survivors—both men and women—are unable to trust the courts and are afraid to go to them. Abusers know that they can use the courts to continue their abuse.
If the existing training is not working, we must reform and improve it. That is why the requirement to consult the domestic abuse commissioner is so important. I am pleased to hear that the senior judiciary takes this issue seriously but, when the system is so flawed, it is hard for effective change to come from within it. If the Judicial College could open itself up to and work with experts such as the domestic abuse commissioner, that would make a real difference. It is the sort of commitment that we need but which we have not yet heard. It is worth stressing this point: without specific detail on the nature of training, it is hard for specialist organisations to assess whether it is up to date and appropriate. I hope that my noble friend, and indeed the senior judiciary, will look hard for ways to improve the transparency around training and engage with a wider range of experts and organisations in providing that training.
On the question of judicial independence, of course I recognise that my noble friend is right to be cautious. Judicial independence is hugely important and I would not want to suggest anything to undermine it. However, I do not accept that this amendment does that; I hope that I have made this even clearer in its revised version in Motion C1. The Lord Chancellor is sworn to defend the independence of the judiciary. In drawing up a strategy for training, he would have to act within the terms of that oath. The amendment also makes clear the important roles of the Lord Chief Justice, the chairman of the board of the Judicial College, the President of the Family Division and the chief executive of the Magistrates’ Association. That is a powerful judicial voice in the process.
I know that my noble friend the Minister recognises that training is necessary to make all the provisions in the Bill work as they ought to—as we hope they will. I am grateful to him for raising this with the President of the Family Division and the head of the Judicial College, and I am pleased to hear their assurances on reform. I note, however, that we have heard similar assurances for some time now without seeing real change. For example, the harm panel implementation plan made commitments on training that we have not yet seen implemented. This is why I still believe that legislation is an appropriate and necessary route in delivering the improved training that we both think is required. If my noble friend cannot accept this, I hope that he will prove me wrong. Perhaps he could play a convening role, bringing together judges and domestic abuse experts. I hope that he will continue to make the views of your Lordships’ House, which contains eminent lawyers and former judges who support this amendment, very clear to the senior judiciary.
The current training is not working. Reform is desperately needed. If we hope to build a system that works for victims and survivors—not their abusers—we must not forget that.
My Lords, I will speak briefly on this Motion because we are well on course to achieve what we set out to do. I commend the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, for the commitment and assiduity with which she has pursued this topic in the face of assurances that, at times, have seemed to her complacent and misplaced. The seriousness with which this topic is now being addressed is a credit to her and many others.
I understand and accept entirely the Government’s concerns about judicial independence. Indeed, noble Lords will know that I have argued the case for it on any number of occasions in this House. I am not sure that either the amendment we put forward or the Motion that is now there in its place would have compromised judicial independence to the extent that the Government thought. However, we accept that judicial training is a matter for the judiciary. We also accept that, for many years, judicial training has been mandatory on induction and on a continuing basis for judges sitting in family cases, but it is important to ensure that such training is comprehensive, up to date and, above all, successful. That, I believe, is an objective we all share.
It is also important to recognise that there has been a problem with domestic violence victims feeling that they have been treated unsympathetically by the courts in the past. There is a deeply held feeling that the trauma that they have suffered has been insufficiently recognised, and that the particular trauma involved in court processes and reliving the violence that they have suffered has not been properly addressed. A great deal of evidence to that effect has been given in speeches to this House during the passage of the Bill.
We have made significant progress with the Bill towards making the courts more humane places for domestic violence victims. We have been assisted enormously by the many groups and individuals who have briefed us, particularly Women’s Aid, Claire Waxman —the Victims’ Commissioner for London—and many others. We are very grateful to all of them for their insights and suggestions.
There is room for much more progress. I am particularly concerned to see faster progress towards more judicial diversity. Throughout the debates on this Bill, it has been clear to all of us that ethnic-minority victims and parties to proceedings have suffered unduly from the difficulties and hardships caused by domestic violence. I believe that many share my view that a judiciary that more clearly represents the people who appear before it—in colour, background, age and gender—would appear, and be, more attuned to the challenges and traumas that victims face.
Throughout this process the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, has been ready to meet us and listen to the concerns expressed. I am extremely grateful to him for all his help. We are particularly heartened by his assurances today, passed on through him from the senior judiciary, not only to the effect that there is a strong commitment to improved judicial training but also to the effect that considerable emphasis is placed on domestic abuse training. Particularly important is his telling us that the Judicial College already has in hand arrangements for judicial training in the light of both the provisions of the Bill and, no doubt, the discussions in this House and the other place concerning them.
In the clear expectation that judicial training directed at addressing the particular difficulties facing domestic violence victims is a high priority, I welcome the progress that we have made and agree with the decision made by the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, not to divide the House on this Motion.
My Lords, this amendment is understandable but misconceived and I am relieved that it will not be put to a vote. I declare an interest as a former chairman of the Family Committee of the Judicial Studies Board, which was the forerunner of the Judicial College.
I have recently been in touch with the Judicial College to find out what training there is at the moment and what is intended when the Bill becomes law. I hope that the House will bear with me as I bring noble Lords up to date. I propose to say quite a lot, despite noble Lords having heard from the Minister. I do not accept that the current training is not working. The Judicial College trains all judges at every level and all magistrates sitting in the criminal and civil courts. Judges and magistrates are identified as appropriate to sit in particular work such as domestic abuse, and they are ticketed to do so only after they have had sufficient training. They are not allowed to sit until they have had that training. The training involves a three-day induction course in a residential setting, followed by continual professional residential training throughout their time as a magistrate or judge.
The training in domestic abuse includes hearing from victims and victim organisations. A lot of online extra information and advice is also sent to judges and magistrates. However, the Judicial College is only part of the training. The president sets out instructions to judges in practice directions. PD12J, updated in 2017, which I have no doubt will be updated again, sets out how family cases involving domestic abuse should be tried. The Court of Appeal sets out instructions and advice on how to approach and try domestic abuse cases. An important judgment for the Court of Appeal, Re H-N and Others (children) (domestic abuse: finding of fact hearings), was given earlier this year. The three members of the court were the President of the Family Division, the chairman of the Judicial College and a member of the criminal sentencing panel, all of whom are involved in the training of family and criminal judges and magistrates. The president himself takes a personal interest in the training of family judges.
The House may be interested to know that in the H-N case, the Court of Appeal invited the various victims’ organisations, such as Women’s Aid, to be represented at the court and to give their views, which were carefully listened to by the court—and that was shown in the judgments. In the H-N case, the president set out some statistics which showed that 1,582 full-time family judges, some part-time family judges and 2,744 family magistrates sat in family cases in England and Wales. The president said that it is thought that domestic abuse allegations are raised in at least 40% of cases in which parents dispute the future of their children. That means that domestic abuse issues are raised in about 22,000 child cases each year. In addition, the courts received last year 29,285 applications for injunction orders seeking protection from domestic abuse.
It is obvious, as we have heard during proceedings on the Bill, that some judges get it wrong. That is obvious from the H-N case, where in four cases things went wrong. It is helpful that the Court of Appeal saw that and put it right. However, from the large number of cases tried by the courts, there are very few appeals to the Court of Appeal and I would suggest, despite what has been said—particularly by the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, who said that the training is not working—that only a comparatively small number of people have in fact had bad experiences and that most judges have got it right.
I am told by the Judicial College that the domestic abuse training is being updated in the light of the forthcoming Act and instructions from the most recent Court of Appeal cases such as H-N and several others. The new Act will become an integral part of the family training of judges at every level, and of magistrates. It will form part of the courses taken by the judges and magistrates trying criminal cases as well. It is across the board. The president has also set up a private law working group which includes domestic abuse. There is, therefore, a great deal of information, guidance and instruction to judges and magistrates on how to try domestic abuse cases, which it is their duty to follow, and they are given the training to do so.
It is not in my view that there is a lack of good training; it is that some judges do not seem to have benefited from it. I cannot see how any statutory guidance from the Lord Chancellor will improve how judges deal with such cases. It is a matter of trying to make sure that the limited number of judges who do not do well enough will do better. Much of that comes from appeals to the Court of Appeal, which can put the matter right and give sensible and helpful advice.
I am relieved that this matter will not go to a vote because, although I have not dealt with it, this is also, as the Minister has said, a constitutional issue of judicial independence. I hope that the House will now be satisfied that the Judicial College is doing the best job that it possibly can and will, with the new Act, do somewhat better.
Does anyone else in the Chamber wish to speak? No? I call the next speaker on the list, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick.
My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, has said, with the best will in the world, much of the legislation that this House passes will be ineffective if judges do not understand the issues. Sadly, in some cases—albeit a limited number—it is clear that they do not understand the issues surrounding domestic abuse, in particular, coercive control, rape and sexual abuse, despite current training.
To the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, I would say that there is a difference between outputs and outcomes. I am not sure whether this is an appropriate analogy, but I know from my own experience of race relations training, for example, that the cultural shift needed is difficult to achieve. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and, at times, the training of the judiciary has failed the test. Despite the Minister’s assertion, I fail to understand how mandating such training without dictating the specific content can be contrary to the principle of judicial independence, as my noble friend Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames has said.
However, we are grateful for the reassurances that the Government have given as a result of the concerted efforts by the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, and my noble friend Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames.
My Lords, we on these Benches support the intention behind the noble Baroness’s amendment. The case for improved training is well made. The amendment’s wording does not dictate what the training should be but puts the requirement for it in the Bill. Around the House, I think that we can all agree on the need for updated, quality training and to ensure that it happens.
I have said many times that this is a good Bill and will be a good Act of Parliament, but it is important that everything is done to ensure that all aspects of the law are correct. That includes ensuring that our judges and magistrates are properly trained. We owe that to victims, because domestic abuse is something that we now talk about in the country and in the House. That was not the case many years ago and we should not just assume that judges and magistrates completely understand the issues. That is why it is important that we get the training right.
I accept entirely the point the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, makes about judicial independence. I think we all support that, but there have been one or two occasions at the other end of the building when other parts of the Conservative Party were not so keen on judicial independence, when the judge made a decision that they did not like—we should get that on the record. It is not always the case that there is a great call of support for judicial independence, but I will leave the point there. I do not in any way bring the noble Lord into that; I have the highest respect for him.
It is important that people fully understand the effect of domestic abuse on victims and on witnesses. That is why this amendment was brought forward. I thank the noble Lord for his reassurances. From the discussions he has already had on these issues, how does he think he will ensure that the work the Judicial College will do will bring about that change, so that all judges and magistrates fully understand this horrific crime, in all its many facets, and take that into account properly when doing their work in our courts? With that, I thank the noble Lord for his response and look forward to hearing what he says.
My Lords, I am again grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I first pick up the contribution from the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. On the previous Motion I respectfully commended her experience. Even though I lost that vote, I do so again, because she has given the House a lot of detail as to the training that is actually provided. The House now ought to be reassured that, right from the top of the judiciary through to the Judicial College, there is a commitment to the importance of training, to ongoing training, to training from a variety of providers and not just judges, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, picked up, to specific training on the Domestic Abuse Bill—or, as I hope it will soon be, the Domestic Abuse Act. I hope that that level of detail has been helpful to the House and, in particular, helpful and reassuring to my noble friend Lady Helic.
I also tried—I hope I succeeded, to an extent—to reassure my noble friend as to the extent and content of the judicial training. I repeat the constitutional point that we cannot force the judiciary on the nature, content or extent of that training. But there is, as I have said, commitment from the very top to make sure that the Judicial College fulfils its role and that all judges and magistrates are properly trained on domestic abuse generally, and specifically on this Act. The House can be assured that in my ongoing discussions and meetings with senior judiciary, including the President of the Family Division, I will keep the question of training on domestic abuse on the agenda. Even if I did not, the President of the Family Division would be totally focused on it anyway, but none the less I will ensure that it is part of our discussions.
I also respectfully agree with the point make by the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, that we must remember the particular difficulties—and the judiciary is increasingly aware of this—that victims of domestic abuse have in court proceedings. The House will be aware that we have made a number of other provisions in this Bill to do with witnesses, parties and cross-examination that will improve the lot of victims of domestic abuse in our courts. That is something I personally am very conscious of and focused on. Courts can be intimidating places at the best of times, and if you are a victim you can double, quadruple or quintuple the amount of intimidation you feel merely from the process. We have made some good improvements there.
The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, correctly says that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The danger with metaphors is stretching them too far, but in this context we are all committed to making the best possible pudding. The way you do that, if I can stretch the metaphor, is to have the best set of ingredients. That is why the Judicial College, in its training, has already engaged, and will continue to engage, training from a wide variety of providers—though the decision as to who those providers are has to be ultimately that of the Judicial College.
I hope I have dealt with all the points raised in this debate. I will take literally 30 seconds to respond to the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, on the judicial independence point. It is such an important point that I must not let it go past, if the House will indulge me. My approach to judicial independence is really very simple: you can disagree with the decision but you respect the decision-maker. It really is as simple as that. I fear that, for the second time this afternoon, I have touched on points of important constitutional principle. I will not continue the lecture any further. I hope that my noble friend Lady Helic will indeed withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I will be brief. I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed and agree with a great deal of what has been said. The noble Lord, Lord Marks, has been an invaluable support throughout this process, not least on navigating the constitutional issues, and I commend his words on the feelings of survivors and the importance of up-to-date training.
The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, has been a powerful voice on training across all stages of this Bill. I am pleased we agree on the importance of training, even if we do not agree on the mechanism for reform. Her update on the specifics of training is very interesting. It is reassuring that the courts are at least heading in the right direction, even if I believe that there is still some way to go.
The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, makes the important point that not all training is equal. It is not enough to have training; it needs to be good training. That is why reform is important. The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, adds his support for updated, quality training. This really is a cross-party issue, and I hope that this will be noted by the judiciary, which I hope is following these debates.
My noble friend the Minister has been generous with his time and in his response. I also value his role as an intermediary with the judiciary. It is very good to hear from him that reform is under way. I hope he will continue to raise this issue in his meetings with the President of the Family Division and others, and to keep an eye on training, even if the Government will not direct it. I am certainly grateful for the assurances he has offered us today.
I hope that, in debating judicial training, we have helped raise its status as an issue and made clear to the Government and the judiciary how important it is in tackling domestic abuse. The greater detail on existing training that my noble friend offered was important. The assurances and commitments we are hearing from him, and from the judiciary via him, are very welcome. There is much more work to be done. I hope that this can be the beginning of a process, rather than the end. For now, I will withdraw the Motion.
Motion C1 withdrawn.
Motion C agreed.
37A: Because it is inappropriate to extend the so-called ‘householder defence’ to victims of domestic abuse who use disproportionate force against their abusers in self-defence.
38A: Because it is inappropriate to provide a new defence for victims of domestic abuse who are compelled to commit an offence as a result of such abuse, as the existing common law defence of duress is sufficient.
83A: Because it is inappropriate to provide a new defence for victims of domestic abuse who are compelled to commit an offence as a result of such abuse, as the existing common law defence of duress is sufficient.
My Lords, the elected House disagreed with these amendments by a substantial majority. In inviting this House not to insist on these amendments, I remind noble Lords that the amendments seek to create two new statutory defences. Although the Government are sympathetic to the aims behind the new defences, we were, and we remain, entirely unconvinced of their necessity.
Amendment 37 sought to extend the provisions contained in Section 76 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. In effect, if I can shorten what is a bit of lengthy law, the amendment essentially seeks to extend the special householder defence, where force is used for the purposes of self-defence. Amendment 37 sought to extend those provisions to any person who is, or has been, a victim of domestic abuse and who has been accused of a crime involving the use of force against their abuser. The current householder defence in Section 76 recognises the acute circumstances of dealing with an unexpected intruder and makes it lawful to use disproportionate force. Amendment 37, however, made the disproportionate use of force defence available at any time and any place if the person accused has suffered domestic abuse at the hands of the person they assaulted.
Although the Government are sympathetic to the aim behind Amendment 37, we remain unpersuaded of its necessity. We are not aware of any significant evidence that demonstrates that the panoply of the current full and partial legal defences available are failing those accused of crimes where being a victim of domestic abuse is a factor to be taken into consideration. Full defences, such as the defence of self-defence, are defences to any crime and, if pleaded successfully, result in an acquittal. In the circumstances of domestic abuse, there are partial defences available relating to loss of control or diminished responsibility that can be argued. Additionally, the fact that an accused is also a victim of domestic abuse will be considered throughout the criminal justice system process, from the police investigation through to any CPS charging decision, down to defences deployed at trial under the existing law and, if relevant, as a mitigating factor in sentencing. We are also concerned that the proposed defence could, because it provides a full defence to murder, be open to misuse, potentially even by an abuser who sought to claim that they were the victim of domestic abuse—which is very widely defined in this Bill, which is a very good thing—rather than the actual victim.
Turning to Lords Amendment 38, I remind the House this sought to create a new statutory defence for victims of domestic abuse who, by reference to a reasonable person in the same situation as the victim and having the victim’s relevant characteristics, are compelled to commit certain crimes on the basis of having no realistic alternative. Amendment 83, which would insert a rather long and somewhat intimidating schedule, set out the offences to which this proposed defence would not be available, but even though that schedule is long, it would still mean that the defence would be available for many serious criminal offences, such as drug dealing, serious assaults occasioning actual bodily harm and most non-fatal driving offences. Although, again, the Government absolutely understand that victims of domestic abuse may also be compelled to resort to crime, we are not persuaded that the model on which this amendment is based, which is Section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, is either apt or effective with regard to domestic abuse. As I have stated previously, we have several concerns in relation to this amendment in terms of the nature of the defence itself and the nature of the offences for which this would be a defence. I will not detain the House by setting them out again, especially as the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, has now put forward an alternative amendment, Amendment 37B. It instead calls for independent review of the defences available to the victims of domestic abuse. However, I thought was worth briefly restating our arguments against the original Lords amendments because we contend that the existing full and partial defences are up to the task, and because of that, we have significant doubts about the case for a review of the kind proposed in Amendment 37B.
We are of course aware of the horrific impact and often devastation posed by domestic abuse, not only for direct victims but also indirect victims, such as children and the wider family and the House has noted the way the early clauses of the Bill have been drafted with that in mind.
We also recognise that there are some women offenders who have been subject to domestic abuse and have been compelled to commit crime as a result of their involvement in an abusive relationship. The Government have, therefore, given a commitment—and this is, I hope, an important point—to a review of sentencing in domestic homicide cases. The parameters and details of that review are currently being refined, but we intend to explore the use of sentencing legislation and guidelines in relation to use of a weapon, how aggravating and mitigating circumstances are taken into account, particularly those relevant to domestic abuse and, to the extent possible, the way in which defences to charges of murder or manslaughter affect sentencing, in both cases with a prior history of domestic abuse and those without. By undertaking that review, we will gain a greater understanding of how sentencing in domestic homicide cases works in practice, while avoiding a rush to make changes that could have unintended consequences. With respect to the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, we feel that this is a more appropriate response, both to the original Lords Amendments 37, 38 and 83 and also, if I may say, to her latest Amendment 37B. For those reasons, I believe the principles and ethos behind this Bill will improve and provide better support for victims of domestic abuse and highlight the impact of offensive behaviour. We have raised the profile of domestic abuse. We will, obviously, continue to work in this area but, for the reasons I have set out, the Government are unable to support Amendment 37B, and I therefore beg to move Motion D.
As tabled, this new amendment, is in lieu of my earlier amendments which sought to create statutory defences for survivors who offend due to their experience of domestic abuse. One of the devasting impacts of domestic abuse is the unjust criminalisation of the victim. This is a landmark Bill, and I pay tribute to all who have been perfecting it and adding to it. I think it will be a hugely important piece of legislation, but I am afraid it does not prevent this criminalisation of victims.
I am not resisting the Motion, but my new amendment would commit the Government to establishing an independent review of the effectiveness of self-defence. It is my view, as a barrister in the courts who has done homicide cases involving domestic violence where the victim has killed her abuser, that there is need for legislative reform. A great deal of research has now been done. A study recently conducted by the Centre for Women’s Justice has produced a very persuasive report concerning the limitations of the defences available to women and, particularly, how self-defence fails women because often, in circumstance where their abuser is not using a weapon, they reach for a weapon. This is then deemed to be disproportionate to the threat, but in the circumstances, and the fear created in her is so great, and she is so unmatched physically with abuser, that she will often reach for a weapon where others might not. The report produced by the Centre for Women’s Justice calls into question the ability of self-defence to cover many of the women, and it provides serious evidence of that.
Equally, the Prison Reform Trust has done a great deal of research into women in custody, serving sentences in our prison estate, many of whom have been forced to commit crimes by their abusers.
We hope that this review might be added to the review that has just been mentioned by the Minister. The fact that sentencing is being looked at is welcome, but that does not deal with the fact that women unable to avail themselves of self-defence are often being left with a conviction. This has serious consequences for people’s lives, even if they are dealt with more compassionately by a court because of their history of abuse that the court has heard.
I ask that this review be undertaken in conjunction with the review on sentencing in homicide cases. I remind the House that the Lord Chancellor is contemplating such a review on homicide cases because, having spoken to the Victims’ Commissioner and the domestic violence commissioner, who explained to him the ways in which women might seem to take disproportionate action because of their physical disadvantage, he felt compelled to. I would not have thought that it was particularly complicated to add to the review the issue of whether the matter of self-defence and duress works for women and men experiencing domestic violence.
My amendment seeks a formal response from the Minister to my suggestion. I will not be pushing the amendment to a vote. My earlier amendments would have provided effective defences for survivors of domestic abuse who, as a result of the appalling experience, are driven to use force in self-defence or are coerced by their abuser into offending. The amendments were based on legal precedents already in place to protect other groups. Since we already make this special concession for householders facing an intruder, I cannot understand why the same kind of concession in seeking proper justice cannot be made available to victims of domestic abuse.
One might also look at how victims of trafficking who are compelled to offend are dealt with, as suggested by the statutory defence in the second of the two propositions that I put before the House. They would have provided equivalent protection to survivors who, far from receiving protection and support, as this Bill seeks to ensure, find themselves in the dock for offences that they had no realistic alternative but to commit.
When the Minister and I met last week to discuss these proposals with members of the Centre for Women’s Justice, we were joined by a survivor who spoke powerfully of her experience of terrible abuse, including how she was coerced by her terrifying abuser into handling stolen goods. I feel sure that the Minister would agree that there is no material difference between the circumstances that led her to offend and the way in which victims of trafficking are coerced into offending. Yet, had she been caught, it is highly likely that she would have received a caution or conviction, given the impossibly high threshold required for the defence of duress, and that she would have gone to prison.
This is far from being an isolated case. Many other examples, including cases in which self-defence has failed, have been collated and presented to the Government. The misery and injustice faced by victims in these cases will simply go on and on until reforms are implemented. Other common-law jurisdictions have dealt with these challenges through legislation, and I have never been more convinced than now that we need legislation in this jurisdiction to ensure that these cases are dealt with justly. I know that the Minister disagrees, but I also know that he sympathises with our aims. I hope therefore that he will take action today by confirming that the Government will hold an independent review of this matter, and do so in conjunction with the review of sentencing, as he has already outlined.
My Lords, I speak in favour of Amendment 37B, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, having supported her in earlier amendments on Report.
I always think that it is a danger for a non-lawyer to get involved in some of these discussions. I remember that very often people asked why we had so many lawyers in the House of Commons, and when I got there I realised that it was because we make laws. This of course is a good example of why we need the great legal brains that this Chamber has in plenty. So I feel a little in awe not only of the noble Baroness but of my noble friend the Minister.
I declare an interest as the deputy chairman of the Human Trafficking Foundation. There is a similarity with the Modern Slavery Act, which covers people who commit crimes under duress because they have been trafficked or are enslaved, although my noble friend the Minister does not think so. I find it difficult not to see it, and it is a shame. The last thing we need is to fill up our prisons with people who should not be there and who committed a crime only because they were forced to. I heard what the Minister said, and what the noble Baroness said. It would be very useful if he could move a little more and extend that review to look at the issues that the noble Baroness mentioned. I heard what the noble Baroness said about the meeting that she had with my noble friend and the fact that there was a survivor there. I have always believed that listening to survivors, whether of domestic abuse or modern slavery, normally for me swings the balance in favour of the victims. Those poor, innocent people who have had to endure so much should not have to face criminal proceedings as a result of their abuse.
I look forward to hearing what my noble friend the Minister says in winding up this debate. I fear that I may be disappointed, but I hope that perhaps at the last minute there will be a glimmer of hope.
My Lords, I support this amendment, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy. In Committee and on Report, I spoke in favour of amendments to this Bill that proposed a statutory defence of domestic abuse, recognising the significant number of women coming into contact with the criminal justice system who have experienced domestic abuse and previous trauma, and how that becomes a driver for their offending. I do not want to repeat all that the noble Baroness has said, but I will highlight again the statistic of almost 60% of women supervised in the community or in custody who have an assessment have experienced domestic abuse—and the true figure is likely to be much higher.
Regrettably, these amendments have not been included in the Bill, and I therefore strongly support the call to hold an independent review of the effectiveness of existing defences, as proposed by this amendment.
My Lords, I had a few calm sentences worked out in response to this Motion, and completely scrapped them once I read the Commons disagreement amendments in lieu and reasons, because the reasons that the Commons have given for rejecting our amendments are absolutely pathetic.
I disagree strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, of whom I am very fond, when he says that non-lawyers should not get involved in lawyerly debates. Here in your Lordships’ House I see lawyers arguing ferociously about tiny issues on opposite sides of the Chamber. Lawyers often do not agree, and therefore at times we have to have some common sense.
It is no secret, or at least it might not be, that I am extremely intolerant of this Government. Quite honestly, the Minister referring to a “substantial majority” in the other place cuts no ice here when the Government have an 80-plus majority as well as some quite unsavoury little people from other parties.
I am sorry, but I now just have scribbled notes on these sheets of paper because of my fury at what I have heard. One of the points about lawyers in the other place is that they have given up their practices to become MPs. That means they are relatively inexperienced, whereas here we have experienced lawyers who do their best to give the Government good advice, but somehow that is very rarely enough.
The Commons reason for disagreeing with Amendment 37 is:
“Because it is inappropriate to extend the so-called ‘householder defence’ to victims of domestic abuse who use disproportionate force against their abusers in self-defence.”
I would argue that inherent in that phrase is the deep misogyny that we see all through society, because a householder who uses force against an intruder is almost invariably going to be a man while the person who attacks their abuser is almost invariably going to be a woman. Misogyny is written into that wording.
The Commons disagree with Lords Amendment 38:
“Because it is inappropriate to provide a new defence for victims of domestic abuse who are compelled to commit an offence as a result of such abuse, as the existing common law defence of duress is sufficient.”
That is clearly not true because women are still being sent to prison for, in many cases, quite justified aggression against their abusers. The same claim is repeated later in rejecting other amendments of ours. I just do not see how the Government can persist in their blindness towards what is happening in society and not at least try to make it a bit better. I fully realise that the Bill is a very valuable one and we absolutely need it, but why not make it as good as we possibly can?
I very much support the new amendment by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws. I am very glad that she has persisted on this issue. I hope the Minister will actually listen to what we are saying now and take back to—I was going to say “his masters”, but your Lordships know what I mean—his department the fact that this would be a good addition to the Government’s review of sentencing. I cannot say that forcefully enough.
I just have one question—well, I have lots of questions, including “Why won’t the Government see sense?”—but this particular question is: when will the Government’s review of sentencing actually report?
I must ask at this point: does anyone in the Chamber wish to speak? No? In that case it is over to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick.
My Lords, it really is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, for reasons that will become apparent, not least because we are three non-lawyers in a row.
On Report, the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, wondered whether I was accusing the Government of being misogynistic, following on from what the noble Baroness has just said. I say very clearly that that is not what I said or intended to say. I shall clarify. The essence of misogyny, as I understand it, is hatred of women who fail to comply with the sexist stereotype of a compliant, subordinate woman—hatred of women who stand up for themselves. I am not accusing the Government of hating women, but in my opinion there are echoes of that view of women being subordinate in their approach to this issue.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, has said, on the face of it the Government’s refusal to extend the so-called householder defence to victims of domestic abuse who use disproportionate force against their abusers in self-defence in the same way that a householder is allowed to use disproportionate force against an intruder appears to smack of the view that men should stand and fight but women should run away.
I do not intend to go over the arguments that I made at previous stages of the Bill; suffice it to say that I do not believe the Government’s arguments hold water. As a result, I am led to the conclusions that I have expressed. I would not be averse to the Government repealing the so-called householder defence, but I believe that to allow predominantly male householders to avail themselves of such a defence while not extending it to predominantly women victims of domestic abuse is inconsistent and incompatible.
While I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, about Lords Amendment 38, in my view the Government’s approach is again inconsistent. The law specifically provides a statutory defence to victims of modern slavery when those victims are compelled to commit an offence, even though there is an existing common-law defence of duress. When it comes to victims of domestic abuse who are compelled to commit an offence as a result of such abuse, the Government argue that the existing common-law defence of duress is sufficient. Either the existing common-law defence of duress is sufficient for both victims of domestic abuse and victims of modern slavery or it is not. In my view, the Government should not be able to have it both ways.
Clearly, these anomalies need to be addressed. Motion D1 provides for an independent review of defences for those who offend due to domestic abuse, which we support. The review of sentencing as suggested by the Government does not appear to us to go far enough.
My Lords, my noble friend Lady Kennedy of The Shaws set out in detail the case for her amendments in Committee and on Report, and it is disappointing that they have been rejected by the other place. In response, she has tabled Motion D1 in her name. As we have heard, she is seeking an independent review to look at the issues that we have been talking about throughout our consideration of these matters. I think that is the right way forward.
I am conscious that the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, is resisting the new Motion from my noble friend, but she made the point, as have others, that if the Government are resisting the issues raised in the amendment, he ought to address the question of whether they could be looked at by the review of sentencing—or is that a step too far for the Government?
There is a huge issue here. I recall the debates that we had when my noble friend and others presented harrowing cases. There is a real point here: if there is an intruder in someone’s house then, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said, often a male can defend himself there and has a defence, but a woman attacked by her partner in her own home, which should be a place of safety, cannot rely on such a defence. That cannot be right.
The Bill is seeking to address the whole issue of domestic abuse in all its various facets. It is a good Bill, but it would be an even better one if we could make sure that all the gaps were plugged here. The fact is that women in their own homes, their place of safety, can often find themselves in very dangerous situations. If they have to defend themselves and end up injuring or killing their partner, we should understand that and ensure that they have the proper defences to take account of the difficult situation that they have found themselves in, often over many years. After all, these things escalate; they do not happen overnight.
My noble friend has identified an important point here, and I hope that when the Minister responds he can address it. We need to find a way to look at the issues that my noble friend raised in the review of sentencing, as he referred to in his earlier remarks.
My Lords, I am again grateful to noble Lords who have contributed to these exchanges. Right at the start, I say that the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, was spot on when she characterised my position as disagreeing but sympathising—that is absolutely right. For the reasons that I have set out, I disagree but sympathise with the aims of the amendments.
Like the noble Baroness, I found the meeting with the representatives from the Centre for Women’s Justice extremely helpful. I have read a lot of material that they have produced, and, in particular, like her, I found the conversation with the survivor who joined us extremely powerful. Like my noble friend Lord Randall of Uxbridge, we have to remember that, while we may be debating what sometimes seem here to be quite dry and technical issues of law, there are real people—if I may use that terrible phrase—and, in this case, real victims of domestic abuse, who are affected. The House can be assured that I have that at the very front of my thinking.
I will not go over the substantive points that I made—I hope I am excused for that. As I explained, the review is of sentencing in domestic homicide cases, but it is a broad review. The terms of reference are still being developed, but it will look at the impact of defences on sentencing, and, while I appreciate that that is not as far as the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, would like me to go, I hope that it is an indication of the seriousness with which the Government take this matter and, in particular, the review of sentencing.
I pick up the point of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. We respectfully disagree that there is a read-over to either the householder or the trafficking issue. As to the latter, I have made clear on previous occasions that we have concerns with the way that that defence is used in practice. Indeed, if I remember correctly, one of Her Majesty’s judges recently explained that in a case that he was hearing in, I think, Bradford—I may be misremembering that. As such, there is an issue as to how that trafficking offence is applied in practice.
Like the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester, I am well aware that there is a substantial proportion of women in prison who have themselves been victims of domestic abuse—that is of course why a review of sentencing is so important. Without being trite, they are in prison because they were given a prison sentence; therefore, a focus on sentencing in the review is entirely appropriate.
I do not know whether there is anything I can do to help the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, in her apparent dichotomy between lawyers on the one hand and common sense on the other. The point I was making about the majority in the other place was actually that it was not the standard government majority, so to speak: it was a significant majority—with the greatest respect, that is something that this House ought to bear in mind. However, my noble friend Lord Randall of Uxbridge did perhaps solve an age-old conundrum about a justification for the existence of lawyers, particularly in Parliament. He even came close to giving an explanation for their possible utility, so I am grateful to him for that.
My noble friend was also right when he said that people should not go to prison if they have been convicted of a crime that they were forced to commit—“forced” is a critical word, and that is where you get into the defence of duress. However, as I said, it is not only the question of the defence of duress: if there is a conviction, the nature of the force—if it does not amount to a defence—would still be relevant to sentencing and to mitigation.
As such, I hope that I have set out the reasons why the Government disagree. I hope that I have also responded to the particular point put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, on the scope of the review. However, for the reasons that I have set out, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, will indeed not press her amendment.
I have received no requests to speak after the Minister. I beg your pardon; I see that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, wishes to speak.
As I explained, the review’s terms of reference are being set out. The date will depend on how broad the review is, which will obviously affect the date by which it reports. Certainly, as soon as there is a date fixed or anticipated, I can perhaps write to the noble Baroness to inform her of it.
My Lords, I am of course disappointed that there has not been any movement—because the suggestion of there being a review in relation to the defences was posited last week, and I had hoped that, in the interim, we might have heard that some movement had taken place behind the scenes. Given that the terms of reference have not been finalised, I will write to the Lord Chancellor and seek to persuade him that the terms of reference might extend to a look at the defences as well as the sentencing in homicide cases where there is a background of domestic violence or abuse.
As I indicated, I will not press this Motion. I beg leave to withdraw it, but I ask that the good offices of the Lord Chancellor’s Department might be open to some reconsideration.
Motion D1 withdrawn.
Motion D agreed.
40A: Because the Government has committed to reviewing the processing of migrant victims’ personal data for the purposes of immigration control in response to the report on Liberty and Southall Black Sisters’ super-complaint on policing and immigration status published by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary on 17 December 2020, and the Commons consider that the Amendment would preempt the outcome of that review.
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Williams of Trafford, I beg to move Motion E—that this House does not insist on its Amendment 40. Noble Lords will recall that this amendment seeks to establish a firewall so that the personal data of victims of domestic abuse that are given or used for the purposes of their seeking or receiving support are not used for immigration control purposes.
While we appreciate the case that noble Lords have made throughout the passage of the Bill, the Government remain of the view that what is provided for in Amendment 40 would actually be detrimental to the safeguarding of victims of domestic abuse—and that it is premature, given the process set out by the policing inspectorate, following its report in December on the super-complaint made by Liberty and Southall Black Sisters. This view was shared in another place, where your Lordships’ amendment was disagreed by a majority of 80.
None the less, the Government have of course reflected carefully on our earlier debates on this issue. We want to ensure that all victims of crime are able to come forward to report such crimes to the police, regardless of their immigration status, and that they are not deterred from doing so because of concerns that immigration enforcement action may be taken against them. As I have previously made clear, our overriding priority is to protect the public and all victims of crime, regardless of their immigration status. Guidance issued by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, which was updated last year, makes clear that victims of domestic abuse should be treated as victims first and foremost.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council remains clear in its view that information-sharing between the police and Immigration Enforcement is in the interest of the victim. Assistant Commissioner Louisa Rolfe, the national policing lead on domestic abuse, concurred with this view when she gave oral evidence to the Public Bill Committee in another place.
There can be many benefits to sharing information, as it can establish whether a victim has a status of which they are unaware. It can also help to prevent perpetrators of abuse from coercing or controlling their victims because of their insecure immigration status. In cases like these, bringing the victim into the immigration system and providing them with a clearer understanding of their status can only help them, enabling them to obtain appropriate legal advice to regularise their stay if necessary.
I hope that noble Lords will also appreciate that the Government are duty bound to maintain an effective immigration system, to protect our public services and safeguard the most vulnerable people from exploitation due to their immigration status. The public rightly expect that everyone in this country should be subject to our laws. It is right that, when people with an irregular immigration status are identified, they should be supported to come under our immigration system and, where possible, to regularise their stay. Immigration Enforcement staff routinely help migrant victims of crime by directing them to legal advice to help them regularise their stay.
Since April 2020, Immigration Enforcement has improved its data collection and has recorded crime type on all victim referrals from the police. Between April and December last year, 128 victims of domestic abuse were referred to Immigration Enforcement. Of those 128, 75—just under 60%—already had legal status in the UK, of which some of them may have been unaware. Only 32 of these referrals—25% of them—had enforcement action taken in the form of the serving of papers to notify them of their immigration status. This was often days after the initial referral and once the individual had been safeguarded by police officers. Records show that none of the individuals has been detained and none has been removed from the United Kingdom. I hope that noble Lords will agree that these findings demonstrate some of the misconceptions which have arisen regarding the actions that Immigration Enforcement takes with migrant victims of abuse.
We understand the concerns raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, about migrant victims who do not feel safe reporting their abusers to the authorities for fear of enforcement action being taken. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the time she made yesterday to discuss this, and her amendments, with me. As part of our review, we will engage with domestic abuse sector organisations better to understand those concerns and assess what more we can do to allay such fears. We are also engaging closely with the domestic abuse commissioner’s office throughout the review.
The amendment would also have wider-reaching impacts on domestic abuse victims receiving the NHS treatment they are entitled to. The NHS can seek information from the Home Office about a person’s immigration status to inform its assessment of their eligibility for free treatment. Data sharing of this kind may help some victims of domestic abuse to establish their eligibility for free NHS treatment when seeking treatment not covered already covered by the exemption for medical conditions caused by domestic violence.
Finally, and perhaps most pertinently, as the Commons set out in their reason for disagreeing with your Lordships, this amendment is pre-empting the super-complaint process. The outcome of the super-complaint was published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services in December last year and made eight recommendations. It is only right that we properly take account of the recommendations in this report, not least as this is the first ever super-complaint made under the provisions of the Policing and Crime Act 2017, which were supported on all sides of your Lordships’ House.
In response to the report of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, we have committed to review the current arrangements. We remain on track to publish the outcome of that review by the end of June, as I previously set out. To legislate now would pre-empt the outcome of that review. Moreover, it is highly probable that the outcome of the review can be implemented through further updates to the National Police Chiefs’ Council guidance or other non-legislative means. If legislation is needed, there will be other opportunities, including the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which has already been introduced to Parliament.
I ask the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and indeed the whole of your Lordships’ House, to support Motion E so that we can complete the review in line with the inspectorate’s findings and recommendations. I beg to move.
Motion E1 (as an amendment to Motion E)
40B: After Clause 72, insert the following new Clause—
“Victims of domestic abuse: data-sharing for immigration purposes
(1) The Secretary of State must make arrangements to ensure that personal data of a victim of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom that is processed for the purpose of that person requesting or receiving support or assistance related to domestic abuse is not used for any immigration control purpose.
(2) The Secretary of State must make arrangements to ensure that the personal data of a witness to domestic abuse in the United Kingdom that is processed for the purpose of that person giving information or evidence to assist the investigation or prosecution of that abuse, or to assist the victim of that abuse in any legal proceedings, is not used for any immigration control purpose.
(3) Paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 to the Data Protection Act 2018 shall not apply to the personal data to which subsection (1) or (2) applies.
(4) For the purposes of this section, the Secretary of State must issue guidance to—
(a) persons from whom support or assistance may be requested or received by a victim of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom;
(b) persons exercising any function of the Secretary of State in relation to immigration, asylum or nationality; and
(c) persons exercising any function conferred by or by virtue of the Immigration Acts on an immigration officer.
(5) For the purposes of this section—
“immigration control purpose” means any purpose of the functions to which subsection (4)(b) and (c) refers;
“support or assistance” includes the provision of accommodation, banking services, education, employment, financial or social assistance, healthcare and policing services; and any function of a court or prosecuting authority;
“victim” includes any dependent of a person, at whom the domestic abuse is directed, where that dependent is affected by that abuse.”
40C: In Clause 79, after subsection (7) insert—
“(7A) Regulations under this section bringing section (Victims of domestic abuse: data-sharing for immigration purposes) into force may not be made until both Houses of Parliament have approved a resolution to the effect that it should be brought into force, moved either after debate in that House of any publication of the outcome of a review by the Secretary of State of existing data-sharing procedures in relation to victims of domestic abuse for purposes of immigration control, or after 1 July 2021, whichever is the sooner.””
My Lords, I rise to move Amendments 40B and 40C, which need to be taken together. Again, I thank supporters across the House, including the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, for their support and I thank the Minister for our very helpful meeting yesterday. I was very grateful for a very open discussion about the issues.
The purpose of our original Amendment 40 was to protect victims of domestic abuse whose migration status is uncertain. About half of these victims are too afraid to report the crimes committed against them. Their perpetrators threaten that the victim will be detained or deported if they report the abuse. Irrespective of what their immigration status is, it is a very useful threat for perpetrators to use. The victims have good reason to be afraid because, at present, if the victim reports a crime of domestic abuse to the police, there is every reason the police may pass that information along to the immigration authorities. This is at a moment of crisis for the victim, when they have quite likely been made homeless, they may have been thrown out of their home and are completely vulnerable. The idea that the immigration authorities begin to look for them at that point is utterly inappropriate.
To make clear what we were trying to achieve: our amendment was intended to prevent information about the victim, or any witnesses, being passed from the police to the immigration services. I understand the reasons for the Commons’ rejection of the amendment. They argue that the Government have committed to the review that the Minister has referred to about the processing of migrant victims’ personal data for the purposes of immigration control and that the amendment would pre-empt the outcome of that review. I totally understand that.
Incidentally, the Minister referred to the need for information to be passed to the NHS. We agree with that and we are not talking about blocking the sharing of information with the NHS; we are simply talking about the police passing information to the immigration services, which is a completely different issue.
Our compromise amendment fully respects the Government’s position and takes account of it. The only reason given by the Commons for rejecting the amendment was the fact that the review is ongoing. Amendment 40C, linked with Amendment 40B, makes clear that regulations under this section will not come into force
“until both Houses of Parliament have approved a resolution to the effect … after … any publication of the outcome of a review … or after 1 July 2021, whichever is the sooner.”
As the Minister has explained, it is expected that the review will be published in June. Therefore, the review will need to be completed, and it will need resolutions from both Houses before these protections could be introduced. So we are allowing time for the review to be completed and also putting quite an onerous block in the way of this reform by saying “we need a resolution from both Houses.”
The Minister referred to the National Police Chiefs’ Council guidance, but I am told that the guidance is implemented very unevenly across the country. If we simply enhance the guidance, that is no guarantee that these victims of domestic abuse will be protected. It simply is not sufficient or strong enough.
The Minister explained to me that, if protection of domestic abuse victims is needed, there may be a Bill in the next Session. However, these things are very uncertain, and all we are doing is leaving open the option of resolutions of both Houses. If there is an alternative Bill, then clearly this matter could be picked up in that Bill. The Government rightly said that the original amendment was not acceptable because it pre-empted the review, so we have taken that on board fully.
One of the issues is that the review will need to illustrate that there is a problem with these victims of domestic abuse having such fear that they do not report the crimes committed against them. I worry that the review sounds as though it will be focusing on the positive experiences of some domestic abuse victims whose immigration status is settled or quite straight- forward.
In our meeting the Minister referred, as he did today, to the 128 domestic abuse victims who are in touch with immigration officials. About 60% of them have settled status and the remaining 30%-plus have not been detained or deported. This is welcome information, but we have no idea whether those 128 represent 1% or 10% of these migrant women who are victims of domestic abuse. It would be extremely helpful if the review tried to identify this cohort of about half of domestic abuse victims who have an immigration status issue to find out exactly what is happening to them. I ask the Minister to make sure that the review adequately covers that half of the cohort about which we are talking.
The compromise amendment would await the outcome of the review and leave the Government in control, as Governments understandably need and like to be. It recognises the need for the review to report but also provides an avenue for the protection of these extraordinarily vulnerable domestic abuse victims to be put in place if the review shows a need for that protection. We know there is a need. The question is whether the review will throw up that evidence and information.