House of Lords
Tuesday 27 April 2021
The House met in a hybrid proceeding.
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Rochester.
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, the Hybrid Sitting of the House will now begin. Some Members are here in the Chamber while others are participating remotely, but all Members will be treated equally. Oral Questions will now commence. Please can those asking supplementary questions keep them brief and confined to two points. I ask that Ministers’ answers are also brief.
My Lords, cyclists, like all road users, have a responsibility to behave in a safe and responsible manner. Rule 66 of the Highway Code recommends that bells are fitted and used as necessary, and all new bikes must be sold with a bell fitted.
My Lords, what can be done about the huge number of cyclists without bells, which does not lack aggressive and foul-mouthed elements? Some of them seem to prefer pavements to their designated cycle lanes, having presumably discarded the bells which, as my noble friend has said, are required by law when bicycles are first sold. Is this not completely irresponsible?
My Lords, I am going to try very hard not to make this a pro- and anti-cycling Question, because there are many people on our roads—pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders, motorcyclists and drivers of motorised vehicles—and we must ensure that each considers their impact on other road users. My noble friend is right that we must do something. The core is education and training. In the Government’s cycling strategy, Gear Change: A Bold Vision for Cycling and Walking, we said that every adult and child who wants it can be trained on how to ride a bicycle safely.
My Lords, some time ago, I had a near-encounter with a cyclist. He did not have a bell and I did not see him coming, but an accident was avoided because he shouted “ding ding” as he approached me. Like many colleagues, I have done much more walking during the pandemic, and had many close encounters. While it is argued that cyclists should not rely unduly on bells as a means of avoiding hazards, in almost every case it is the only warning that the pedestrian has. Surely all cyclists should be required to have bells on their bicycles and should not be allowed on the road without them.
My Lords, the Government are not about to mandate bells on bicycles. That would be disproportionate, and it is unlikely that any enforcement would be a police priority. However, cyclists must take responsibility for their actions. A little “ding ding” on a bell on a bridleway is perfectly fine, but if you are travelling in central London, it will get you nowhere, and in those circumstances, a shout is probably preferable. I am afraid that the Government will not be mandating bells at the present time.
My Lords, I welcome the huge increase in cycling, but millions of people will never get on a bicycle, and millions of pedestrians on pavements feel intimated and threatened by that small minority of anti-social cyclists. Has the Minister given any thought to how we can identify those anti-social cyclists who head off very speedily? Could they all have something that shows who they are, so that they can be identified?
My Lords, the Government looked very closely at the issue of safety. In the cycling and walking safety review of 2018 we looked at licensing, but we concluded that the costs would outweigh the benefits of getting more people on to a bike. However, I am sure the noble Baroness is aware that it is an offence to cycle on the pavements, under Section 72 of the Highways Act 1835. Enforcement is an operational matter for local police forces.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a runner clocking up 20 miles a week. I can testify that cyclists can be a real danger to stand-up sportsmen, and very few of the MAMILs have bells. They claim that they interfere with the aerodynamics, which is really just vanity. Outside England, bells are required under the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic 1968, so why do we not have that requirement in England as well? Also, will my noble friend the Minister look at supporting a Bill to regulate pedicabs, which is going to fail in this Session?
I thank my noble friend for his questions and congratulate him on his running. The Government take an interest in how pedicabs will be regulated, and we will look favourably on any Bills that might come forward. I think I have answered the question about mandating cycle bells, but we have just closed a consultation on the Highway Code. We want to ensure that those who can cause the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce danger or threat. In those circumstances, a cyclist would have the responsibility to a pedestrian or a runner to ensure that they were safe and did not feel intimidated.
My Lords, arguably e-scooters pose an even greater threat than cycles. The Government’s policy seems to be to normalise these by stealth. About 300,000 have been sold for illegal private use, and on sites such as Amazon or eBay you can find them with a top speed of 50 mph, marketed as “great for commuting” despite it being illegal to ride them on public roads, let alone pavements. There is no enforcement whatever. They are almost silent, such that pedestrians, especially those with vision impairment, are hugely at risk. What are the Government doing to protect pedestrians, especially vulnerable ones, from e-scooters?
I refer the noble Baroness to the answers to the Question on e-scooters that I answered last week for more context on that. It is illegal to ride a privately owned e-scooter on a public road, and where there are e-scooter trials, all the e-scooters within those trials are fitted with a bell or a horn.
My Lords, I have been cycling a lot during the pandemic and have become very aware of problems both caused by and faced by cyclists, including not using their bells to alert others to their approach or finding that those others are so immersed in their headphones that they would fail to be alerted by the crack of doom. Might the Minister consider a campaign, perhaps in partnership with leading cycling bodies, to raise awareness of good cycling —and, indeed, scootering—behaviour as part of her welcome commitment to training and guidance?
I reassure the noble Lord that we not only support a campaign but are taking action on this. We will be investing £18 million in the current financial year on Bikeability training for both adults and children. The noble Lord might be interested to know that role 4 of the government-backed national standard cycling training curriculum, which replaced the cycling proficiency test—which I am sure noble Lords are familiar with—has an entire topic about riding
“safely and responsibly in the traffic system.”
It is not about the cyclists in isolation but about how they interact with all elements within the traffic system, whether that be pedestrians or those using motorised vehicles.
My Lords, first, I reiterate my thanks to my noble friend Lord Lexden for his very generous sponsorship of a charity bike ride that I did some five years ago round the Somme. Of course, cyclists should behave responsibly, legally and courteously but pedestrians very often do not hear nor react to bicycle bells, as indeed the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has just said, and motorists invariably do not. In a collision with a car or a pedestrian, a cyclist is likely to come off worse because he has further to fall. The problem is not with vulnerable cyclists but with motor vehicles and sometimes pedestrians who are not paying attention or taking sufficient care. Will my noble friend, as a start, encourage the police to take action against motorists who, for instance, block and occupy advance stop lines provided for cyclists at junctions?
I agree with my noble friend that perhaps a little more could be done around making sure that motorists do not stop in those boxes because they are really key for cyclists. It is about educating the drivers of motor vehicles as well. I reassure my noble friend that this goes back to the hierarchy of road users, about which we have consulted. We have got 21,000 responses on that. That has the capacity to fundamentally change the way we think about fellow road users, in whichever mode they choose to travel, and how we keep ourselves—and them—safe.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that the biggest hazard for cyclists is actually unsafe drivers? They may be anti-social and some of the cyclists are anti-social, as other noble Lords have said. Does she agree that the common problem is the silent approach, be it by cyclists or electric cars? Surely the answer there is to make people use bells. Personally, I use a horn when I can because it is even better. It wakes up people who are probably on a mobile phone in their car.
I very much hope that they are not on their mobile phone in their car; otherwise, I shall have words. The noble Lord makes some incredibly important points. It is a question of making sure that the balance is right between the actions of the motorist and the actions of the cyclist. I think I have been able to set out what the Government are doing. We are focused on ensuring that the right balance is achieved and we need to make sure that motorists as well as cyclists behave in the way that they should.
Transport: Zero Carbon Target
My Lords, the recent energy White Paper, published in December, considered the potential future reliance of transport on electricity and clean hydrogen. It also included nearly £500 million of funding that will be made available in the next four years to build an internationally competitive electric vehicle supply chain.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply and the energy White Paper is certainly a contribution. Does it include all the power needed not only to produce batteries but to source the raw materials? The demand for lithium, one of the main contributors, is forecast to go up by 10 times, I think, in five years. Manufacture of hydrogen takes double the amount of electricity than it would it if you just drove a train or anything else directly by electricity. Then there are all the changes to the grid required. Can the Minister confirm that all this is included in the White Paper?
I can confirm that all these things are under consideration at the current time. It is a complex picture and there are many uncertainties as to what we will need our energy for. We are absolutely committed to ensuring a sufficient supply of low-carbon electricity. We need to ensure that the grid can cope and that we make the best use of smart energy solutions that are able to make use of plentiful renewable supply.
According to a widely accepted analysis, the electrification of transport would require a 75% increase in generating capacity. The decarbonisation of the economy will create numerous additional demands. However, the energy White Paper proposes a doubling of the capacity by 2050 in the context of a reduction of a third in overall energy consumption. This would have to be accompanied by the continued deindustrialisation of the economy, a virtual cessation of manufacturing and the immiseration of much of Britain’s working population. How do the Government react to these inescapable conclusions?
I am afraid I have not read the report to which the noble Viscount refers. But it seems obvious that, over time, motors et cetera will become more efficient. It could be therefore that the amount of energy used will decline on a relative basis. The Government are also focused on flexibility. Flexibility is key, which is why we need smart technology that will centre on storage, demand-side responses and interconnectors to make sure we get the power to where it needs to be when it needs to be there.
My Lords, the number of electric vehicle charging points on motorways is already inadequate. To achieve the Government’s targets for increasing EV sales, there must be a massive expansion of the number of motorway charging points, but motorway services are often in rural areas where the electricity grid is already stretched. What work have the Government done so far to ensure that motorway service stations will have the electrical capacity that they will require, and what specifically do they plan to do in the next two years?
I would like to reassure the noble Baroness that, if she is on the strategic road network, she should be no more than 20 miles from an electric vehicle charger. I would also like to reassure her that the Government have this in their sights. Of the £1.3 billion the Government are investing in EV charging points, £950 million is looking at future-proofing electricity capacity on the strategic road network, because we recognise that this will be a key way to recharge both electric vehicles and, in certain circumstances, freight vehicles.
My Lords, I declare an interest in energy, as in the register. Is not the real bottleneck in this whole programme the existing lithium ion batteries and their sheer weight and extensive mined metals content, including cobalt, copper, nickel, manganese and of course refined lithium—not to mention their very heavy carbon emissions in manufacture, large costs and long charge times? Can we be assured that the Government will encourage the new solid-state battery production, which requires far less electricity, as well as using fewer metals and being safer, cheaper, lighter, cleaner and quicker charging? Can we ensure that we secure reliable supply lines from Asia, where these new batteries are now mostly produced?
The Government are of course focusing on our supply lines from Asia, but also on what we can do domestically. Recent experiences have shown us that being overreliant on any particular country is possibly not the wisest idea. The Government are investing £318 million in the Faraday battery challenge. Part of that is the amount of money we are investing in the Faraday Institution, which within two years has become a world leader in electrochemical energy storage research. There are 400 researchers there, looking at batteries with longer range; they are lighter, faster charging, durable, safer and sustainable. Allied to that, we will look at the supply chain for the constituent elements that need to go into those batteries.
My Lords, I declare my interests as in the register. In my mind, the Question from the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, is a good illustration of why a whole-systems approach is needed to tackle net zero. Can the Minister say what steps the Government are taking to address the problem of silos inherent in individual departmental responsibilities—for example, in BEIS and DfT? Does she agree with me that a cross-departmental delivery body sitting below the Cabinet committees is required to properly implement a systems approach to net zero?
It is probably above my pay grade to try to reorganise government from the Dispatch Box, but the noble Lord is absolutely right that numerous government departments have a very strong interest in what we are doing. For example, the Department for Transport will publish its transport decarbonisation plan in the coming weeks. As part of that, we will set out what we will do when it comes to hydrogen technology. Subsequent to that, BEIS will publish the UK hydrogen strategy, which will of course talk about how we can focus on the low-carbon production of hydrogen. We are capable of working together across departments and are doing so well so far, but the noble Lord may be right; something may be set up in future.
My Lords, despite recent progress on transport electrification, heavy goods vehicles remain difficult to electrify due to their weight. The Climate Change Committee has recommended a 2040 ban on diesel heavy vehicles. Will the Government act on this recommendation?
I agree with the noble Lord; heavy goods vehicles will be one of the harder-to-reach elements for us to decarbonise. It could be that hydrogen plays a much bigger role for HGVs. We are about to consult on the date for starting to phase out the sale of diesel HGVs, and recently launched a £20 million trial of zero-emission road freight vehicles that will look at hydrogen and battery electric. It will also look at catenary systems to see whether they might work. All in all, it will advance research and development on all low-carbon fuel sources for HGVs.
Of course, hydrogen vehicles are better for the environment only if the hydrogen is green hydrogen and made from renewable energy in the first place. We do understand that economic incentives may be required to encourage people to look at hydrogen but, at the end of the day, it is not an “either battery electric or hydrogen” situation; we will probably need both in great quantities, and indeed any other low-carbon energy systems that might become available. The Government will think about the financial support they might offer to encourage the take-up of those as they become available.
My Lords, the Government’s investment in the Holyhead hydrogen hub is welcome, as is the hydrogen transport hub on Teesside, but can the Minister confirm that further plans are in development to create additional hydrogen hubs across Wales and the UK? These will help unlock the potential of the hydrogen economy. As so many of our current electricity generation plants will be closed by 2050, will enough new capacity be brought forward to facilitate this?
Unfortunately, I cannot fully answer the noble Lord’s question. Much of our hydrogen strategy will be in the transport decarbonisation plan, followed by the UK hydrogen strategy, so I cannot say now where new hydrogen hubs will be set up. But the Government are very focused on ensuring that we have access to good hydrogen, because it is a suitable, flexible energy source that can be used across transport, heat and power.
Kalifa Review of UK Fintech
My Lords, the Government welcome the Kalifa Review of UK Fintech. The Chancellor recently set out the Government’s response at UK FinTech Week. This includes plans to take forward a regulatory scale box for growing firms; government support for an industry-led centre for finance, innovation and technology; improvements to tech visas to attract global talent; and plans to make the UK a more attractive location for public listings.
My Lords, fintech has a critical role to play in our Covid recovery, in enabling financial inclusion and in levelling up, not least through the nations’ and regions’ fintech clusters. Does my noble friend the Minister agree? What is the Government’s plan to make these criticalities a reality?
My Lords, the Government recognise the importance of fintech in our economy. Indeed, that needs to flow through to the curriculum; we have extended the number of pupils studying computer science at A-level, for example. In the Cabinet Office, in my role overseeing the Government Digital Service I pushed that out to Bristol and Manchester to engage much more closely with FE and HE in those cities. My noble friend is absolutely right; continual focus on this is needed.
My Lords, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said at the UK FinTech Week conference that the Government would
“push the boundaries of digital finance”.
Does the Minister acknowledge the risk that, in cheerleading the latest technology, the Government will fail to count the costs of runaway financial innovation: both the obvious environmental costs—Bitcoin climate emissions are equivalent to those of the whole nation of Norway—and the dangers to the security of our real economy and lives? This was the world experience of 2007 and 2008, which they risk forgetting.
My Lords, I refer to my interests as set out in the register. Has the Treasury given any consideration to the specific recommendation to amend the EIS, SEIS and VCT rules to make it easier to attract investment into these start-ups and to retain the tax reliefs when the business models evolve into more regulated activities? This would cost the Treasury very little but unlock a potentially substantial amount of capital.
My noble friend raises important points. These matters are always under discussion in the Treasury, although it is important to stress that there is a large amount of capital out there to support early-stage businesses. We see that in the valuations these businesses are achieving, even at an early stage. However, we will keep it under review.
My Lords, while it is encouraging to see the Chancellor’s commitment to the scale-up visa scheme, what are the Government doing to ensure that our education system is updated to bring in financial, digital and business skills to encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators?
My Lords, as I touched on in answer to an earlier question, we absolutely recognise how important is to get our young people enthused by this industry of the future. I referred to computer science, and we are certainly looking at increasing the number of maths teachers so that children can be more enthused at an early age. I hope to meet the Israeli ambassador shortly in order to understand more about Israel’s Magshimim programme, which gets 14 year-olds involved in a career in cybersecurity.
My Lords, this is an important report, laying down the way to go in this area, but what I find lacking is consideration of how it will affect the consumer of financial services. It is important not to fall into stereotypes, but there is a real problem with the digital exclusion of some consumers across all sections of our society. Will the Minister assure the House that, hand in hand with the development of financial technology, consideration will be given to ensuring the widest possible sharing of the benefits by consumers?
The noble Lord is right: we do not want to see citizens excluded from the digital world into which we are heading, and that matter is under continual consideration. It is also worth stressing that, as a country, we are very much innovators and our consumers are keen for the sort of products that are coming out. For example, 2.5 million UK consumers and businesses now use open banking-enabled products; indeed, we were the first country to develop open banking standards, in 2018.
Scale-up for our fintech sector requires access to international markets. The Government overlooked this in Brexit negotiations and equivalence from the EU now looks unattainable. Fintech is problematic in trade negotiations with the US because the UK industry risks being swamped. How will this Government deliver access for fintech to major and key international markets?
My Lords, the Department for International Trade has just announced two initiatives which I hope will help to address the noble Baroness’s concerns: a new fintech cohort within the DIT Export Academy initiative to provide bespoke one-to-one advice to eligible UK fintechs that are ready to scale into key markets, and a DIT-led fintech champions scheme to promote UK fintech overseas and support UK fintechs to grow internationally through mentoring and peer-to-peer learning.
My Lords, fintech has much to offer. I am pleased that, when I was on the board, Transport for London united its huge customer base with the banks to introduce and deliver contactless payment to this country—well ahead of the United States, it should be said. However, finance remains a risky business. Does my noble friend agree that we should not be led astray by the glitz of the new, that the underlying financial transactions are broadly what they always were, and that the financial risks, particular and systemic, remain essentially the same?
My noble friend is right that finance is an inherently risky business; my great-plus-three grandfather and his two brothers founded Close Brothers, so risk is certainly in my genes. That is one reason why we are introducing the sandbox concept, whereby this technology can be tested in a safe environment without exposing the economy to any risk.
My Lords, in the Chancellor’s recent Written Statement on fintech, he speaks of a “scale-up visa stream” allowing qualification for a fast-track visa without the need for sponsorship or third-party endorsement. What criteria was used to select fintech for this fast track, and where else in the economy is it envisaged that scale-up visas will be introduced?
My Lords, these concepts are still being designed and I will be very happy to update the noble Lord when more information is available. However, the key emphasis of scale-up is to attract global talent and boost the fintech workforce, so it will be focused on the skills these people can offer our country.
The CBI, of which I am president, welcomes the recommendations set out in my friend Ron Kalifa’s fintech review to ensure the UK’s position as the best place in the world to start and grow fintech business. Do the Government agree that having a proportionate, innovation-friendly regulatory framework will help support economic growth, facilitate access to global markets and enhance competition? Do they also agree with the review’s recommendation that a centre for finance, innovation and technology be created?
My Lords, we are certainly keen to support the creation of a centre for finance, innovation and technology. In UK FinTech Week the Chancellor announced his support for the industry, and we certainly recognise a private sector-led centre for finance, innovation and technology’s potential as an accelerator of fintech sector growth. This can be achieved through research, thought leadership and working with regional fintech hubs and national fintech bodies. The Government are committed to working with industry to make this a reality.
My Lords, as we have just heard, the Government welcomed the recommendations of the Kalifa review, which has diagnosed the ingredients, including the EIS, that have led to the UK economy blossoming over the last decade, especially the SME sector. I have been chairman of the EIS Association during this time. The UK is recognised as the best place to start and scale up a business. What aspects of the findings of the Kalifa report do the Government view as the most important?
I gave noble Lords a sense of the key findings in my opening answer, but there are several others that I can make my noble friend aware of: for example, a task force led by the Treasury and the Bank of England to co-ordinate exploration of a potential UK central bank digital currency, and a new Bank of England account type that will allow innovative financial market infrastructures to provide enhanced wholesale payments and settlements. There are also the DIT initiatives that I mentioned earlier.
Music Festivals: Covid-19-related Cancellations
My Lords, the Government recognise the importance of the UK’s live music sector. More than £21 million from the Culture Recovery Fund has supported over 100 music festivals to ensure that they survive and can put on events in future. We are aware of the sector’s concern about securing indemnity insurance, and we continue to assess all available options to provide further support as the public health context evolves.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that providing Covid insurance would help various groups of people—the creative sector, of course, and local communities, but, perhaps most importantly, the festival-going public, including many young people? The Government have provided indemnity for film and TV. They urgently need to do so for live events and save our festivals this summer.
The Government are extremely keen that the festival-going public should have a chance to enjoy live events as quickly as possible, and that is what is behind our events research programme, but we need to be absolutely confident that any scheme would result in an increase in activity.
My Lords, I declare my interest as chairman of the Royal College of Music. My noble friend will be aware that many students rely on performances outside term time for income, which is vital to support their studies, and have therefore been particularly hard hit in this last year. Will she take the plight of students and recent graduates specifically into account when further considering this issue in order to ensure that the income of young performers is protected as far as possible this summer?
My Lords, I share the suggestion from my noble friend Lord Clancarty for help to jumpstart the insurance for live events. Is the Minister able to update us at all on bilateral talks involving work permits and visas? That is another aspect of a musician’s life that, combined with Covid, has created a very difficult position, as the Minister knows.
I can reassure the noble Lord that we are in conversations with individual member states focusing particularly on improving guidance regarding entry and work permit regulations. We are also looking carefully at proposals for a new export office to support this sector.
My Lords, the Budget extended the film and television insurance scheme to its present level of £2.8 billion, and it has supported 200 productions and saved an estimated 24,000 jobs. It therefore seems a little strange to recall that only yesterday the Minister said that the Government
“are trying to understand the market failure and how it impacts on different forms of live events.”—[Official Report, 26/4/21; col. 2074.]
She did not repeat that when she responded to the Question today. Will she explain what specific issues the department does not understand about this process?
I am extremely happy to clarify those points. There are a number of interlocking issues—the noble Lord smiles, but it is true—into which we are carrying out reviews. I refer to the events research programme to understand the impact on public health as a result of those events; our review on social distancing; our review on certification and, which is connected, the global travel review.
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, pointed out, the sector has already been impacted by the failure of the Brexit negotiations to protect the creative industries. In the Minister’s reply today, she did not say no—she said perhaps. Is it not time to stop squirming? We are now into April and this sector needs a decision.
My Lords, the Minister is of course right that we should be continually guided by data, but slippage in the Government’s Covid road map will have a significant effect and impact this summer on staging music and other cultural festivals as well as large-scale sporting events, such as July’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone. I remind the Minister that the Chancellor said that when it came to economic support he would do whatever it takes, so why are the Government dragging their feet on matters such as insurance, leaving promoters and fans alike in limbo and unable to plan ahead?
I can only repeat that the Government are not dragging their feet. We have research pilots running in April and May that include an outdoor music festival in Sefton, and these will feed into decisions on step 4 of the road map in June. The evidence that we are gathering is aligned with the dates for the road map, but we cannot anticipate what that evidence will show.
My Lords, I want to follow on from the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, in relation to sporting events in general rather than high-profile ones. There are many lower-profile sporting events that require the booking of hundreds of hotel rooms and other facilities. If they cannot get insurance then those sporting events cannot take place, and they are planned literally years ahead.
My noble friend is right that the issue of indemnity cover cuts across a range of sectors. The Government have supported the sports sector both by allowing events to take place behind closed doors and through the £600 million sport survival fund.
My Lords, in response to my Question yesterday, as the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson mentioned, the Minister said that the Government were
“aware of the wider concerns around indemnity for live events and are trying to understand the market failure and how it impacts on different forms of live events.”—[Official Report, 26/4/21; col. 2074.]
Is it not simple? Does not this admission of market failure mean that intervention can be justified and should be acted upon?
I am sure the noble Baroness would agree that before taking that decision we need to understand the impact on infection rates of removing or amending social distancing, not using masks, the role of certification and the impact of allowing global travel, which all have a bearing on the viability of these events.
My Lords, while I appreciate what my noble friend is seeking to do, will she accept that musicians face a triple whammy? First, if the festivals cannot be insured, they cannot perform at them; secondly, many of them are self-employed but do not benefit from the provisions that are designed to help the self-employed; and, thirdly, the visa problem compounds these others.
The Government have been very clear in acknowledging the multiple challenges that my noble friend has outlined. That is why we have announced major funding for the sector, particularly through the Culture Recovery Fund and, most recently, in the expansion of the self-employed income support scheme. We continue to work closely with the sector to ensure that we can respond as needed.
I declare my interest as a theatre producer and as chair of a leading live entertainment marketing company. The theatre sector—certainly the whole of the commercial sector—depends to a large extent on angels investing. Angels have always invested on the basis that a show can get business interruption insurance. I do not understand, and I wonder whether the Minister could explain, why the Government cannot prevail on insurance companies to do what their business is, which is to insure people. There may be an additional cost, but it seems to me that the problem lies with the insurance companies, not the Government.
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, I thought it might be helpful to make a short statement about the arrangement of business today and tomorrow. We expect to receive a message from the Commons in respect of the Fire Safety Bill in time for us to consider the Bill again at a convenient point after 4.40 pm today, as set out on the Order Paper. Should everything go to plan, we expect the window for noble Lords to table Motions or amendments to be open between 3.15 pm and 4.15 pm. I urge noble Lords to keep an eye on the annunciator for any updates and to consult the Legislation Office at the earliest opportunity should they need further information.
In addition to the business already set down for tomorrow, we will consider the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill again. The message from the Commons should arrive today and the window for noble Lords to table Motions or amendments will remain open until 11 am tomorrow. Subject to the progress of business in both Houses, we may consider further Commons messages tomorrow. I will update the House at the earliest opportunity if that is the case.
My Lords, does the Government Chief Whip agree that this is going to cause tremendous problems for people working remotely, and that it underlines the unsatisfactory nature of hybrid proceedings? How are they going to find time or know how they can table amendments within that one-hour period? Will the Government Chief Whip, through the usual channels, look at every possible way to get this House back to working normally, so that everyone can participate fully—particularly during this time of ping-pong, which is a very important time for final discussion and debate on vital amendments? People who are not able to come here in person are at a real disadvantage. I hope the Government Chief Whip will use the usual channels to find a way to get us back to normal as quickly as possible.
Further to what my noble friend the Chief Whip has said, would he accept that it is essential that, from 21 June at the latest, it is expected that parliamentarians should be in Parliament? We should conduct business as normally as possible, in a self-regulating House, from that date. Could my noble friend give an assurance that that is indeed what the Government wish to do?
My Lords, I take the point that it is difficult at this stage with short timetables. Noble Lords do not have very much time to table amendments, but I think that is always the case in ping-pong: it comes back at short notice between the two Houses. It is the way that we have to resolve issues between the two Houses. To a certain extent, whether this happens is not entirely in the gift of the Government —it depends on how long amendments keep on being pushed. I accept that it is difficult and that the hybrid House is not completely as we want it. However, given the circumstances of the pandemic, it is a tribute to the House and the officials who run it that we are able to do business at all. This has been a tremendous achievement and we have done it as well as, if not better than, the other place.
Both noble Lords made a point about coming back to “normal”. I absolutely agree that we want to come back to normal as soon as possible. That is not entirely a matter for the Government or the Chief Whip, because this is a self-regulating House. We have to look at the data and wait for the social distancing review—that is the absolutely critical matter in coming back. As far as the Government and the Leader are concerned, I can say that we want to come back. I agree with my noble friend that parliamentarians should be in Parliament.
Arrangement of Business
Covid-19: Support for India
Private Notice Question
My Lords, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has said:
“We stand side by side with India as a friend and partner … in the fight against Covid-19.”
I am sure I speak for the whole House when I say we send our solidarity and condolences to the Indian people at this most difficult of times. The United Kingdom is providing life-saving medical equipment including hundreds of oxygen concentrators and ventilators. The first shipment arrived in India in the early hours of this morning, and there is more to follow.
I thank my noble friend for that response. India’s giant second wave is a disaster, not just for India but for the whole world. It has shown that this global pandemic is relentless and knows no bounds. It would be a mounting challenge for any healthcare system in the world to deal with the Covid-19 cases India is currently experiencing, with its population of 1.3 billion. However, to date, India has been the world’s pharmacy and has provided 60% of the world’s vaccines—exporting them to over 100 countries, including here in the United Kingdom—along with providing PPE and even paracetamol during our severe first wave last year. Does the Minister agree that the time has come for us to reciprocate that good will and not forget the invaluable partnership that the UK and India have demonstrated over the last year in tackling this global pandemic together?
My Lords, I agree with my noble friend. As I said in my original Answer, let me reassure him that we are very much working around the clock in assisting India directly. We are liaising with the Indian Government and the authorities, as we did over this weekend, to ensure we meet their requirements. India is an important friend and a key partner in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. My noble friend is also correct that it is commonly known as the pharmacy of the world. India is in need and we will help our friend at this time.
The noble Lord, Lord Popat, is absolutely right about India’s contribution in tackling the pandemic. The UK’s response, together with the news of support from the US, France and Germany, is very welcome. Can the Minister tell us what mechanism is in place to ensure proper co-ordination of the global response to ensure that India gets what it needs most and in the right place?
My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right to raise co-ordination. Anyone who has worked on any aid relief knows that everyone is well intentioned, but it is about getting the right items to the right place at the right time. In this respect, we are working directly with the Indian authorities. I am in constant liaison with the Indian high commissioner, as well our own high commissioner, on the ground in Delhi. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has spoken to his opposite number, Dr Jaishankar, the Foreign Minister of India. The Health Secretary has also spoken to Harsh Vardhan, the Health Minister of India, to ensure that their priorities are reflected in the support we provide.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that the catastrophe in India could soon spread wider in the region and globally? It is therefore vital that vaccination is rolled out globally, and at a much faster rate than now. What action are the Government taking to step this up globally?
My Lords, the noble Baroness is quite right. Again, I reiterate the point that I think every noble Lord would express: we will not beat this virus until the whole world is vaccinated effectively. The noble Baroness will be aware of our efforts working on this through the COVAX Facility in particular, which, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has said repeatedly, remains the primary source of ensuring equitable access around the world.
My Lords, I commend the UK Government for providing this timely support, and the UK for standing by India. Yesterday, in my capacity as the UK chair of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, I participated in a meeting organised by the Indian and UK high commissions to assess specific requirements, what businesses can offer, and how best to mobilise and co-ordinate so that there is no supply and demand mismatch. The response was heartening. Will the Minister agree that it is highly commendable that steps are being taken to match specific needs and demands with relevant supply? Can the Government please ensure that, apart from meeting immediate and urgent needs, assessment of and support for medium and long-term needs in not overlooked?
My Lords, would my noble friend tell the House how the Government are co-ordinating with organisations such as BAPS, Sewa, Go Dharmic and many others that are all doing things to ensure they support the people of India? He has talked about co-ordination with other Governments and with India, but it is also about making sure that help coming from here is not piecemeal and can support what the Government are doing.
I acknowledge my noble friend’s work in this respect. She is totally correct: we need to ensure that we co-ordinate the impact and really leverage the strength of the British-Indian diaspora. I assure her that we are doing just that. The noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, mentioned a meeting that took place yesterday. Similar meetings are being arranged to ensure that we meet the needs and requirements of India at the appropriate time. Many people are coming forward to provide support, but it must be the right kind of support at the right time.
My Lords, the real extent of deaths due to coronavirus is unlikely ever to be known. We have seen television pictures of funeral pyres and patients clutching empty oxygen cylinders. The efforts to assist from the British Government, countries in Europe and the United States are praiseworthy. Is the Minister in discussion with other countries to ensure that help is sent to India as far as it is possible to do so? Secondly, there is a large Indian diaspora in this country that is raising a substantial amount of money to be sent to India. Can his department offer any advice on where such charitable help should be sent so that areas in greatest need benefit most?
My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right. All of us have been impacted by the scenes on our screens of people taking, in some tragic cases, their very last breaths because they cannot get oxygen. I assure the noble Lord that we are co-ordinating our efforts. Indeed, the shipment of the first tranche of assistance went across in co-ordination with our European partners specifically. I suggest that the noble Lord co-ordinates on what he is asking for in the medium and longer-term. The Indian high commission has specific individuals and has identified organisations. That should be one of the first channels or courses of support that should be provided.
My Lords, I declare my interest in the register. I applaud the aid that the UK Government have already sent to India. As we all know, vaccination is the biggest weapon in the fight against Covid-19. If the Loomba Foundation raises substantial funds from the Indian diaspora in the UK, will the FCDO match the amount? It will be used to buy vaccines for India or to support Indian vaccine manufacturers to increase their production.
My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord will appreciate that I cannot give him the assurance of match funding, but I can share that the support we have provided thus far has been in the form of donations directly from Her Majesty’s Government. That was arranged by the FCDO.
Now that the Government have run an incredibly successful UK vaccination campaign, does my noble friend agree that we can reach out and help other countries without harming a single UK subject or slowing down our own vaccination effort? Will he put India at the top of the list and give it all possible help, now and for as long as is necessary, since it is a member of our Commonwealth family and sheer Christian humanity compels us to help those who are in such desperate need?
My Lords, let me assure my noble friend in relation to all countries that require support, since he is right to point out that it is about not just getting the vaccines but having the ability to distribute them. A number of countries have received them through the COVAX Facility but, given the expiry dates, they must ensure equitable distribution. We are working with not just India but other countries. I assure him, as both the Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the Minister responsible for our relations with India, that those issues remain high up my priority list.
My Lords, India has brilliant scientists and the largest vaccine-making and exporting facility in the world yet its Government, referring to Muslims as termites, seem to be more focused on creating a Hindu India than battling the Covid crisis. Will the Minister agree that while we should continue sending welcome medical supplies, we should also urge our Commonwealth partner to allow India’s scientific and medical talent to take the lead in logistics, safety precautions and treatment to combat the deadly pandemic?
My Lords, the noble Lord referred to the academic nature of India; the ability and expertise there within science and academia are well known. Indeed, our country, the United Kingdom, benefits incredibly from that very contribution. It is therefore right that we stand shoulder to shoulder with India at this time, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has said. On the noble Lord’s earlier point, as someone who is Muslim by faith and Indian by heritage, I value and celebrate India’s rich diversity. Yes, it has challenges and issues, as every country does, but it is a strong democracy where each religion and community has the constitutional protection that it deserves. It is important that we recognise that, particularly at this time of great challenge for India.
My Lords, I congratulate the Government on their urgent remitting of vital supplies to India in this emergency. I also encourage my noble friend to continue to ensure that any medications or treatments for Covid-19 are sent to India because, clearly, with an aim of 300 million vaccinations per quarter—and only 1% or 2% of the population having received both shots—there is a long road to go for the vaccine itself to work. In that connection, I commend the Government on our own successful rollout.
I thank my noble friend for her remarks and, of course, I recognise that the issue of remdesivir supplies, for example, is one of India’s requirements. I assure her that, as I said, what we have delivered thus far is just the first tranche of our support. We are working closely with the Indian authorities to identify when and how we can access what is required and then support them accordingly.
My Lords, just two months ago, there were fewer than 100 sad deaths a day in a country of 1.4 billion people—and here we are, two months later, with this awful and tragic situation. Do the Government agree that the way that the Indian high commissioner and the UK high commissioner organised and co-ordinated so many organisations, including the CBI—of which I am president—the CII, FICCI, the British Asian Trust and others, is commendable? We are all working at speed to procure oxygen concentrators, generators, remdesivir and lateral flow tests. Would the Minister also agree that, at this time of extreme crisis, it shows how important our partnership with India is, including the 1.5 million in the living bridge of the Indian diaspora here—and that this is a special relationship in all areas, well beyond just trade and investment?
My Lords, I totally agree with the noble Lord. He pointed to the living bridge, and I welcomed his contributions to that meeting yesterday; he is a fine example of that very bridge, but a living bridge has to be alive. Yesterday again demonstrated very strongly that given the response we have seen from the British Indian diaspora, and the British people as a whole, we are truly an example of a living bridge between two countries.
My Lords, I congratulate the Government on their aid response to India and hope that support will continue for as long as it is needed. Are the Government also providing advice in relation to the reports that political rallies and religious festivals may have been two of the largest contributing factors to the current Covid crisis? What advice, learning and experience are the Government sharing with the Government of India to assist them in their understanding and handling of this crisis?
My Lords, my noble friend is right to raise the issue of large public gatherings as our own experience demonstrates the fact that, when you curb large gatherings, you see an impact in relation to curbing the spread of the pandemic. Throughout the pandemic I think that, all countries, including ourselves and India, are learning lessons from the challenge of Covid-19. However, undoubtedly, one thing is clear, and we are sharing our experiences and insights on this: large gatherings should not be held during a pandemic. We hope that countries looking at the situation globally will realise that it is important that we practise social distancing and prevent large gatherings taking place, particularly when the pandemic is still very much alive.
Commons Urgent Question
The following Answer to an Urgent Question was given in the House of Commons on Monday 26 April.
“The Ministerial Code is the responsibility of the Prime Minister of the day. It is customarily updated and issued to Ministers upon their assuming or returning to office. The code sets out the behaviour expected of all those who serve in government. It provides guidance to Ministers on how they should act and arrange their affairs to uphold those standards. The code exists and should be read alongside the overarching duty on Ministers to comply with the law and to protect the integrity of public life.
The current version of the code was issued by the Prime Minister in August 2019 shortly after he assumed office. While the code sets out standards and offers guidance, it is Ministers who are personally responsible for deciding how to act and conduct themselves in light of the code, and, of course, for justifying their actions and conduct to Parliament and to the public. That is as it should be in a robust democracy such as ours. Ministers are not employees of the Government, but rather officeholders who hold their office for as long as they have the confidence of the Prime Minister as the Head of Government. It is always, therefore, the Prime Minister who is the ultimate judge of the standards of behaviour expected of an individual Minister and of the appropriate consequences were a breach of those standards to occur.
The code also sets out a role for an independent adviser on Ministers’ interests. It is an important role, the principal duty of which is to provide independent advice to Ministers on the arrangement of their private interests. The independent adviser also has a role in investigating alleged breaches of the Ministerial Code. As the House will be aware, Sir Alex Allan stepped down from his role towards the end of last year. Following the practice of successive Administrations, the Prime Minister will appoint a successor to Sir Alex. The House will understand that the process of identifying the right candidate for such a role can take time. However, an appointment is expected to be announced shortly. The House will be informed in the usual way as soon as that appointment is confirmed. It will clearly be an early priority for the new independent adviser to oversee the publication of an updated list of Ministers’ interests. I expect that that will be published shortly after a new independent adviser is appointed.
I can, of course, reassure the House that the process of managing Ministers’ interests has continued in the absence of an independent adviser, in line with the Ministerial Code, which sets out that the Permanent Secretary in each department and the Cabinet Office overall have a role. Ministers remain able to seek advice on their interests from their Permanent Secretary and from the Cabinet Office. The Ministerial Code has served successive Administrations well and has been an important tool in upholding standards in public life. It will continue to do so.”
My Lords, there is a flaw in the Ministerial Code because, as the Statement says, the Prime Minister is the “ultimate judge” of the standards expected—but who judges the judges? Who will judge the Prime Minister as to whether he acts with the selflessness, integrity, honesty and openness demanded in the code? Only Parliament can judge. Will the Government provide all the information sought on lobbying and on the payments, including loans, for the No. 10 flat, so that we can end the innuendo and allow Parliament to judge on the basis of facts?
My Lords, I assert again the importance of the Ministerial Code, which, as the noble Baroness said, is the responsibility of the Prime Minister of the day. The fact is that Ministers remain in office only for as long as they retain the confidence of the Prime Minister, whose constitutional role means that the management of ministerial appointments is his and is separate from the legislature. On the general running interest that there appears to be in the refurbishment of the Prime Minister’s flat, the costs of the wider refurbishment have been personally met by the Prime Minister. As has been said, the Government have been considering the merits of whether works on parts, or all, of the Downing Street estate could be funded by a trust, and this work is ongoing.
My Lords, the Statement refers to Britain as a “robust democracy”. We have done without a written constitution because we have rested on the honour and good conduct of our Ministers and, above all, our Prime Ministers. Can the Minister name any other constitutional democracy, or any other democracy in the world, in which the Prime Minister decides on the rules of ministerial conduct and appoints his own independent adviser without checks and balances from the justiciary or his legislature? Should we not now have to move towards an explicitly constitutional democracy, or risk drifting towards a people’s democracy?
My Lords, I am rather old and to me “people’s democracy” conjures up the old eastern bloc. I am interested in high-quality, high-integrity government. The Ministerial Code is the foundation of that. But I must repeat to noble Lords, as I did to the noble Baroness opposite: the constitutional reality is that the appointment of Ministers is in the hands of the Prime Minister of the day. The Government are not considering a change to that position.
My Lords, as the noble Baroness opposite did, my noble friend raises an important point. The noble Lord, Lord Evans, the chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, has made a number of thoughtful recommendations about the role of the independent adviser. I know that the Prime Minister has asked the Cabinet Secretary, as part of the process of identifying a candidate, to look at how the remit might be amended. We will announce any changes alongside the appointment.
Is the Minister as baffled as I am that the state does not pay more for the regular refurbishment of the residential parts of that most iconic building, 10 Downing Street? Vice-chancellors and trade union chiefs get far bigger sums spent on their official residences. The Guardian reported that £117,000 was spent on the house of the Speaker of the Commons within a few months of him taking up the post. Will the Minister press for the rules to be changed? Catering services ought to be offered, too.
My Lords, many have expressed views similar to those of the noble Baroness. Other countries have slightly different practices on this, but, as I said in response to an earlier question, I am interested in practices in this country. Chequers and Dorneywood are operated in long-standing ways, reducing the need for subsidy from the public purse. These matters are complex, and policy development is ongoing. The Government did engage with the leader of the Opposition’s office on such proposals in July.
My Lords, I will not advise on internal decorations, but I observe that, by virtue of being here, we are all inhabitants of glass houses. We note the adage that being in a glass house makes us visible, so it is wise to behave in ways that do not disgrace this place or ourselves. We often hear words from or about Ministers and others in public office to the effect that he or she did not “break the rules”. Is that not to set the bar fairly low? Does the Minister agree that, while we are all fallible human beings, we, in public office, should aspire to the highest possible standards of probity and behaviour and not simply settle for keeping the rules? If we do not, public opinion will lead to ever tighter rules.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, has missed the point. Does the Minister not recall, as I do, that in the past Ministers, both Conservative and Labour, have resigned immediately when it has been clear that just one aspect of the Nolan principles, which include integrity, honesty—that is telling lies, by the way—and transparency, has been transgressed, particularly where Ministers have found advantage for themselves, their friends or their families? How many of these principles need to be transgressed these days before a Minister, and the Prime Minister in particular, will even consider resigning?
My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister agree that while Westminster and the mainstream media are getting excited about things such as the decoration of the Prime Minister’s flat and who said what to whom in texts, away from the Westminster bubble, people are much more interested in getting their vaccinations, getting back together with their families and friends and getting the recovery of the economy under way?
I do agree with my noble friend. The Prime Minister, in denying one of the more absurd allegations, made the same point. If I am allowed a personal comment: I have the privilege of having my second vaccination tomorrow thanks to a modern miracle of science. We should all be profoundly grateful for that and the way it has been carried through in this country.
My Lords, Mr Johnson seems to suffer from severe memory loss when it comes to recalling what he has said or written, not least with regard to the commitments he gave in his introduction to the code, when he vowed Ministers would all avoid
“actual or perceived conflicts of interest.”
Given his cavalier approach, is it any wonder that Ministers appear to regard its obligations as entirely voluntary? Can the Minister assure us that he has never infringed the requirements of the code?
I am not sure who the “he” is in that question. If the “he” is me: I have always sought to adhere to the Ministerial Code. If the “he” is the Prime Minister: I have said I believe the Prime Minister conducts himself in accordance with all the principles of public life.
My Lords, we need proper rules, transparency and accountability, but does my noble friend agree that when the Civil Service faces such significant capability gaps—as we have seen, for instance, in the difficulties experienced by successive Governments in delivering major projects —we also need good people to be able to come into government and help? We must not make that excessively hard. After all, if that had not been the case for the vaccine rollout and delivery, we might not have procured those vaccines in the first place.
My Lords, I certainly agree that we need a measure of objectivity on this, echoing the words of the right reverend Prelate. It is important that any malpractice should be dealt with. Transparency is important. As the noble Baroness asked, any reportable benefits will be recorded in the list of ministerial interests on the advice of the independent advisers. So far as broader Civil Service arrangements are concerned, my noble friend will know that Mr Boardman is looking into the matters in relation to Greensill. It is better to await the outcome of that inquiry. But, of course, I take note of what my noble friend said.
Overseas Development Assistance: Budget
Commons Urgent Question
The following Answer to an Urgent Question was given in the House of Commons on Monday 26 April.
“The pandemic has resulted in the biggest drop in UK economic output in 300 years, and it has had a major impact on public finances; the deficit this year is projected to be double its peak during the financial crisis. That is why we had to take the tough—but, I assure the House, temporary—decision at the end of last year to reduce the official development assistance target from 0.7% of GNI to 0.5%.
In spite of that, the UK will spend £10 billion on aid in 2021, making us the third largest donor in the G7 as a percentage of our gross national income. Not only that, but we will be the third largest bilateral humanitarian donor, spending at least £906 million this year, and we will invest at least £400 million bilaterally on girls’ education in over 25 countries. We will deliver £534 million of bilateral spend on climate and biodiversity, a doubling of the average spend between 2016 and 2020. We have committed £548 million to COVAX to provide vaccines for poorer countries, and we are multiplying our impact by integrating our aid spend with our diplomatic network, our science and technology expertise and our economic partnerships.
This Government’s commitment to the UK being a leader in development has not changed. The integrated review reaffirmed our pledge to fight against global poverty and to achieve the UN sustainable development goals by 2030, and we reiterate our commitment to return to 0.7% when the fiscal situation allows. This week’s new allocations show that we are following through with the vision that the Prime Minister set out in the integrated review. The way that the UK applies our world- leading investment and our expertise must be strategic, in line with the approach defined by the integrated review; it must represent best value for tax- payers’ money; and it must deliver results by tackling poverty and improving people’s lives around the world.
To achieve this, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has conducted a thorough review of aid spending to ensure that we target every penny at the highest-priority global challenges. The Foreign Secretary’s Written Statement to the House last week set out how this sharpened focus of the FCDO’s aid portfolio lies behind seven strategic priorities for poverty reduction. These are: climate and biodiversity, Covid-19 and global health security, girls’ education, humanitarian preparedness and response, science and technology, open societies and conflict resolution, and economic development and trade. We believe that this plan will deliver the greatest impact where it matters most.”
My Lords, last Thursday, I asked about country-by-country allocations and how much the cuts would affect bilateral nutrition portfolios. Yesterday, Sarah Champion, chair of the IDC, repeated the question to James Cleverly. As she put it, the Government were determined to avoid scrutiny of exactly where these cuts will land. I hope the Minister will do better than the Minister in the other place and answer the question of when FCDO country office budgets for 2021 will be made public. Can he also confirm that impact assessments for each country will be released?
My Lords, our country teams are discussing programme plans with host Governments and suppliers. We will publish the 2021-22 country allocations later in 2021 as part of our annual report and accounts. I point the noble Lord to the fact that the programme-by-programme information will be published on DevTracker throughout the year.
My Lords, I know that the Minister respects the breadth and depth of experience in this House on international affairs and development. Over 60 Peers have now joined the Peers for Development liaison group that the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg, and I have established. Will the Minister facilitate a meeting between the Peers for Development group and the Foreign Secretary and himself to discuss the implications of the cuts that have been announced and the issue of timeliness, as has been raised, in the need for transparency around country allocations?
I can certainly confirm that I would be happy to meet the group, and I will take the request back to my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. I stand by the noble Lord’s assessment; this House is full of wisdom, not just on ODA but across many areas.
My Lords, I regret that girls’ education has had less funding allocated this year because of the cuts; that shows that, with the scale of the cuts, even that priority is suffering. On cuts to sexual and reproductive health spending, I understand that the UK flagship programme WISH is being closed and that there will be significant reductions—in the region of 70% to 80%—to reproductive health supplies. Can my noble friend the Minister tell me how much funding will be allocated to sexual and reproductive health and rights spending this year?
My Lords, on the thematic issues, we are finalising our health spending across all areas, including sexual and reproductive health. I assure my noble friend at this juncture that this remains something I am very much focused on, not least in my role as the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict.
My Lords, I declare my interest on malaria and neglected tropical diseases as set out in the register. Does the Minister accept that in-year cuts are particularly damaging and wasteful of public money already spent? Yet NTD programmes look to be facing total and immediate devastation and deep cuts are in train for crucial ongoing malaria work, notably in Nigeria. Given the disproportionate burden of malaria on that country, what assessment have the Government made of the effects of such cuts on the CHOGM commitment made in London in 2018 to halve malaria in the Commonwealth by 2023?
My Lords, on the final point, the challenges of the last year have of course quite severely impacted the fight against not just malaria but other diseases. That is why the Government have stood firm in our support of multilateral organisations and initiatives such as Gavi and CEPI. We continue to invest in research and development on malaria specifically; as I am sure the noble Baroness will acknowledge, that was primarily responsible for the world’s first antimalarial drug, which has saved more than 1 million lives. However, I fully accept that the challenges to programmes are severe—I do not shy away from that. We will work with organisations and countries to see how we can manage the impact of the cuts being made.
The Minister will be aware that we are already in the financial year in which the reductions in budget are meant to take place. I note from an answer to an earlier question his commitment and desire to inform the House as soon as possible of the nature of the cuts in funding and how they will affect various development and aid projects. Does he agree that to implement a 25% reduction in the annual budget if one is, for example, three months into the financial year would amount to reducing by a third the funds remaining? This causes greater dislocation to whichever activity is supported than implementing planned funding before the financial year commences.
My Lords, the right reverend Prelate raises an important point about the impact of funding over the course of the whole year. I can assure him that we have not been working in a vacuum on this; we have been working directly and liaising with organisations and institutions which are impacted, and with countries directly. Over the last couple of days, I have had various conversations with key partners, including those within multilateral organisations.
My Lords, I note my register of interests. It is an absolute disgrace that, four weeks into the financial year, the Government are still hiding the figures for the organisations and projects that are normally supported through our official development assistance. That will impact on education in particular. I have heard the Prime Minister speak eloquently and passionately about his commitment to girls’ education, and he wrote it into the Conservative manifesto in December 2019. And yet its budget will be cut by 25%—embarrassing our allies in Kenya, with whom we are holding a joint education summit in July 2021. Will the Government commit at that summit to £600 million, as originally planned, for the Global Partnership for Education, to make sure that those girls and boys around the world who need an education after this pandemic can actually get one?
My Lords, as the noble Lord articulates, the importance of girls’ education is key for this Government and our Prime Minister. However, the challenging situation means that we have had to look at all elements of our ODA spend. I assure him that we will invest at least £400 million in girls’ education, which will have a really progressive impact in over 25 countries.
My Lords, the VSO was told last Friday that its volunteering for development grant would get a one-year extension, amounting to a 45% cut. How does this represent either protection for the VSO, which the Foreign Secretary promised, or help for 4 million of the world’s poorest and most marginalised, whose services from the VSO will now have to be scrapped? Will the Government reconsider the terms of the VSO grant?
My Lords, we are working very closely with the VSO. We are proud that the FCDO and the VSO were able to work together to pivot over 80% of programme funding to the pandemic response. On managing the current budgets, I assure the noble Baroness that we are working very closely with the VSO to ensure that any impacts of any reduction in funding are managed. I stress that this is a settlement for this year; we are looking at how we can best manage the impact on programmes for the medium and longer term directly with the VSO.
My Lords, my noble friend speaks with great insight and expertise on this subject. I note very carefully what she has said. The underlying base on which we will return to 0.7%—again, the reduction to 0.5% is temporary—is, as my noble friend suggests, the prevailing economic conditions and fiscal conditions at that time. I note what she has said. We and our colleagues in the Treasury will keep a very firm eye on that.
My Lords, I know from my time at DfID the impact that UK aid has had. However, I, like many of the general public, have some sympathy with the position the Government have taken, on the condition that it is only temporary. Can my noble friend tell me why the cuts or reductions in spending seem to have fallen disproportionately on bilateral rather than multilateral aid?
My Lords, the reductions are being finalised. I assure my noble friend that in the work we do with our multilateral organisations, as I have seen directly as Minister for the Commonwealth and Minister for the United Nations, the positive impact of the sum of the whole—if I may put it that way—is often greater. Nevertheless, our funding to multilateral organisations and bilaterally is due to the overall impact assessment we make of a country’s requirements. That will continue to be the case. However, we are having to make reductions in our multilateral support, as well as in the support we extend on a bilateral basis.
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, hybrid proceedings will now resume. If the capacity of the Chamber is exceeded, I will immediately adjourn the House.
These proceedings will follow guidance issued by the Procedure and Privileges Committee. When there are no counterpropositions, for Motions A, B and C, the only speakers are those listed, who may be in the Chamber or participating remotely. When there are counterpropositions, for Motion D, any Member in the Chamber may speak, subject to the usual seating arrangements and the capacity of the Chamber. Any Member intending to do so should email the clerk or indicate when asked. Members not intending to speak on a group should make room for Members who do. 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. 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. Those Lords following proceedings remotely but not speaking may submit their voice, Content or Not Content, to the collection of 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 Amendments and Reason
9C: Page 57, line 36, at end insert the following new Clause—
Report on the use of contact centres in England
(1) The Secretary of State must, before the end of the relevant period, prepare and publish a report about the extent to which individuals, when they are using contact centres in England, are protected from the risk of domestic abuse or, in the case of children, other harm.
(2) “The relevant period” means the period of 2 years beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.
(3) In this section “contact centre” means a place that is used for the facilitation of contact between a child and an individual with whom the child is not, or will not be, living (including the handover of the child to that individual).”
9D: Page 59, line 8, after “72” insert “, (Report on the use of contact centres in England)”
9E: Page 60, line 32, at end insert—
“( ) section (Report on the use of contact centres in England);”
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Wolfson of Tredegar much regrets that he is not able to move this Motion himself; he is giving evidence to the Justice Select Committee in another place. As I am sure noble Lords will appreciate, this is another important part of his work and accountability to Parliament. He is very grateful to noble Lords who have engaged with him on this issue since our last debates on the matter.
Since then, the elected House has disagreed with Amendment 9B—as it did with the previous Amendment 9 —by a significant majority of 133. Noble Lords will recall that Amendment 9B would require the Government to introduce a set of national standards for child contact centres and services to which organisations and individuals would be required to adhere. This would, in effect, be a form of indirect accreditation which the previous Amendment 9, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, and debated on Report, explicitly sought to establish.
When we debated Amendment 9B last Wednesday, my noble friend Lord Wolfson was very clear that there is nothing between the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and other noble Lords who have supported these amendments, and the Government when it comes to our commitment to the protection of vulnerable children and the victims of domestic abuse. These are absolute priorities for Her Majesty’s Government. That is why we have listened intently during the passage of this Bill to the arguments made both in your Lordships’ House and in another place and have acted to strengthen the Bill in a significant number of ways. That is also why we have established the expert panel on harm in the family courts, and why we are now acting on its recommendations better to protect domestic abuse victims in the family courts. Where we have been persuaded of the case for change, we have acted, and will continue to act, in the interests of victims.
In this instance, the problem we face is one of evidence, as we have stressed previously. We have explained in detail the safeguards that are in place in relation to child contact centres and services in both public and private law and the steps that are being taken with the President of the Family Division and the chief executive of Cafcass to reinforce existing expectations. I hope noble Lords will forgive me for not repeating the detail of those safeguards again on this occasion, as I hope my noble friend has covered them in adequate detail previously and I believe that our time would be better served by outlining the steps the Government now propose to take.
As I say, my noble friend is very grateful for the constructive way in which the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering and other noble Lords have engaged with him and others on this matter. We are also grateful for the evidence provided to the NACCC in support of Amendments 9 and 9B. While we remain of the view that the evidence provided so far is insufficiently robust to justify new statutory requirements, we are also keenly aware of the limited time which has been available to investigate this matter systematically in order to build a more convincing evidence base—a point made last week by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, in her concluding remarks.
We are also drawn heavily towards the comments made by my noble friend Lady McIntosh last Wednesday, when she suggested that the Government might investigate the evidence available themselves rather than the NACCC which, as she rightly said, should focus its efforts on the protection of children. We agree. We accept that if there is a demonstrable problem here, the risks to children are real. But if a demonstrable problem does exist, we would also need to understand fully how prevalent it is and how it manifests itself in order to understand how we can address it effectively and proportionately. Without this research, any measures seeking to address the perceived problem may not be effective and may have unintended consequences. It is for this reason that the Government have tabled their Amendments 9C to 9E, which were agreed by another place yesterday, in lieu of Amendment 9B.
Amendment 9C would place a duty on the Secretary of State to prepare and publish a report about the extent to which individuals are protected from the risk of domestic abuse when they use a contact centre or, in the case of children, other harms. The amendment draws the definition of a “contact centre” widely to include any place used to facilitate contact between a child and an individual with whom they do not or will not live. The scope of the amendment goes beyond a formal child contact centre accredited by the NACCC to include more informal arrangements, in order to address the issues at the centre of noble Lords’ concerns.
The amendment requires that the results of the review be published within two years of the Bill being passed. I want to make it categorically clear that this timescale, which some might argue is too long, does not mean that the Government are not serious about this review. It is already clear that it is not easy to gather evidence in this area, and it is important that we take time to investigate thoroughly in order to reach meaningful and robust conclusions. We will proceed with the review as quickly as possible after Royal Assent and publish its findings. I also give the Government’s commitment to act appropriately in response to those findings.
I am sure that noble Lords will understand that, before the review is launched, there is more work to do on establishing its precise terms of reference, scope and exact timescales. We will want to consult with experts in this area—including, for example, the NACCC, the judiciary, Cafcass, local government and victims’ groups—before reaching final decisions on these points.
However, I reassure your Lordships, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh, that the scope will be sufficiently broad to cover both private and public law and circumstances where parents may decide to approach those providing child contact services outside court proceedings. It will also include an external consultation to gather information from key parties.
I repeat the commitment my noble friend Lord Wolfson gave in our debate on 21 April: that we are ready to explore, as part of the review, whether there is a case for ensuring that appropriate arrangements are in place whereby anyone who seeks to set themselves up as a provider of child contact centres would be subject to criminal record checks. Indeed, the Home Office and Ministry of Justice are already exploring the feasibility of extending eligibility for higher-level criminal record checks to the self-employed.
In developing the terms of the review, I also commit explicitly to engaging further with the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh. The Government would welcome the noble Baronesses’ input in establishing the review, given their commitment and interest in this area, and I am sure that they will have valuable evidence to contribute—all the more so, given the additional time that the review will afford.
In conclusion, I hope your Lordships’ House will agree that in bringing forward our amendments in lieu, the Government have shown their commitment to giving this important issue the detailed consideration it deserves. We can build a robust evidence base concerning the scale of any problem with regulating those providing child contact centres, so that we can reach a fully informed decision on any further steps which may be necessary. I put on record again our appreciation of the dedication shown by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh on this subject. I ask them and the rest of your Lordships’ House to accept the Commons amendments in lieu and to agree Motion A. I beg to move.
My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 9C and its consequential Amendments 9D and 9E, which the Government have tabled in place of my original Amendments 9 and 9B, which had support across this House.
I am most grateful to the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, who has met with me and colleagues across the House and spoken with us on several occasions about this issue. He clearly has listened to our concerns. We are of course disappointed that our amendments have not been accepted but appreciate that this is such an important Bill that we must not jeopardise its passage at this stage in the Session. I have the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, ringing in my ears from an earlier meeting at which she expressed just this fear.
I have three questions for the Minister. First, can he confirm that the term “contact centre” means the people who work in a place or use a place for facilitating contact between a child and the person they are not living with? A place could be an empty building or open parkland. It is the way that a place is used by people that matters—and it was the people involved who were the subject of my Amendment 9B.
Secondly, can the Minister confirm that the spirit of Amendment 9B is encapsulated in proposed new subsection (1) of the government amendment, where it is stipulated that a report must explicitly tackle the extent to which individuals are protected from the risk of domestic abuse or, in the case of children, other harm. All we have asked is that, as outlined by Sir James Munby in his statement in support of our previous amendment, the
“standards in child contact centres and services are consistent and high, and domestic abuse and safeguarding is appropriately handled through high quality staff training to protect those children and families who find themselves involved with the family justice system.”
These vulnerable children must have the same standard of safeguarding as other children, such as those going to childminders, those in nurseries and those aged 16 to 19 in education.
Thirdly, can the Minister confirm that the judicial protocol on child contact will be actively promoted across all family courts to ensure that it is properly used in practice?
Jess Phillips MP, shadow Minister with responsibility for domestic violence and safeguarding, recounted in the other place yesterday that she has heard of case after case where there is poor practice, bad handovers and perpetrators can access victims. Now, all this evidence must be gathered in one place. It must be clear and publicised to whom such evidence is to be addressed, as some people reporting may feel intimidated at drawing attention to a problem, particularly in small and somewhat closed communities.
All those involved in this debate will, I am sure, be entering a date in our diaries two years hence when we expect the report to be published. We all hope sincerely that no disasters will happen between now and then. We all believe that there is a loophole that must be closed. Let me be clear: I welcome the proposed investigation by the Secretary of State and greatly appreciate all the work the Minister has put into this to date. In the meantime, we appreciate the government Amendments 9C to 9E.
My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, and thank her for all the work and passion that she has shown in bringing this series of amendments to the House. I am also grateful for the support shown across the House, especially by the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and others on all Benches. I also thank and pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Wolfson of Tredegar in his absence. Without his particular personal interest in the issues before us we would not be where we are today. I therefore ask my noble friend Lord Parkinson to pay fulsome thanks to him.
It is important to welcome the fact that there will be some movement. I say that especially as vice-president of the National Association of Child Contact Centres and co-chair of the All-Party Group on Child Contact Centres. However, I regret that, under the terms of the amendments before us in the name of my noble friend on the Front Bench, it may be two years before we see any change whatever. It is welcome that all of us across the House are united in wanting to ensure that children can continue to see absent parents in the event of a family breakdown in safety.
However, I regret that there is no sense of urgency, such as that which we have seen with the Private Member’s Bill that will go through in this parliamentary Session, which makes sure that there are national standards and safeguards for all those working with 16 to 19 year-olds. It is bizarre and slightly concerning that they are being treated preferentially as compared with those in a younger age group, infants and those possibly up to the age of 18, seeking to meet parents in child contact centres and settings.
It is important that we establish that contact centres and services, as outlined by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, are subject to the same basic minimum safe- guarding, training, DBS and criminal checks, and enhanced checks as all others working with children, including childminders and nurseries. The Bill will leave the House today with the addition of these amendments, which I welcome in so far as they go, but it does not go as far as it should.
I shall quote the statement issued yesterday by Sir James Munby, as president of the National Association of Child Contact Centres, and former President of the Family Division. He stated:
“The government’s reservation to support Baroness Finlay’s amendment, which has been drafted in partnership with the National Association of Child Contact Centres, would be a missed opportunity to address an anomaly in safeguarding children and improving standards in general and specifically in regard to domestic abuse…The amendment is seeking is to ensure the same standards of safeguarding, accreditation, checks and training for all child contact centres and services whether in a public or private setting, and on the same basis as those who work with children as child minders, in nurseries and now with 16-19 years olds in education.”
Perhaps the most disappointing omission in the Government’s amendments is that we have failed to alert them to certain essential facts. DBS checks already apply to those setting up contact centres through an accredited service. However, if one is not accredited, one can go ahead without getting DBS checks. Therefore, amending the regulations will not move matters forward. That applies also to enhanced DBS checks. About one-third of families who attend child contact centres are self-referrals, so they have no-one to guide them to an accredited centre unless they go on to the NACCC website. Also, in tune with what the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, said, the weight placed on the judicial protocol means that guidance will need to change to the equivalent of a requirement to ensure that it can support the expectation being placed upon it. The essential fact is this: if there is no one to check whether someone has DBS certificates, how would anyone know whether they have them or not?
I simply end with a question to my noble friend. If evidence comes to light within the two-year period he has allowed for the review, which is welcome, will the regulations that the Government are empowered to apply through the Ministry of Justice be put in place? Secondly, why is a higher bar being asked for in the evidence required for the younger age group of infants to 18 year-olds than that required in the Private Member’s Bill introducing safeguards for 16 to 19 year-olds? However, I welcome the movement that has been made and hope that we can work together with the departments concerned in this regard.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay of Llandaff and Lady McIntosh of Pickering, for their tenacity in protecting the interests of vulnerable children and abuse victims. Their knowledge and experience have fuelled their tenacity and insistence that a solution be found. The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, has used his great experience in the family courts, and I have had, if not exactly the same level of experience, raw enthusiasm in backing the cause.
However, that would have all been to no avail if the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, had not only seen what we were trying to achieve but gone the extra mile in seeking a solution, despite the fact that we did not have all the incontrovertible evidence he sought. I am sorry that he is not in his place, but I know that the Minister will pass on these remarks. When we suggested that the Government, not the NACCC, should obtain the evidence, he has come up with the amendment, which I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, will be minded to accept, to go and get the evidence. The widening of the definition of a child contact centre will catch many informal organisations—those that we are most concerned about—in the net.
All that any of us wants is to protect our children at a most difficult and vulnerable time, to ensure that unskilled and even unscrupulous people do not get anywhere near those children, and that those children are received into a welcoming environment manned by skilled, trained and compassionate people. We are not there yet and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, said, the movers of the original amendment will be setting two-year reminders in their diaries after the passing of the Bill, so the Government can expect timely reminders if the report has not appeared as the deadline looms.
My Lords, I too pay tribute to the tenacity of the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay of Llandaff and Lady McIntosh of Pickering. Although I have experience in the family courts and was aware of the child contact centres, I was not as well briefed on this issue as I am now, given the noble Baronesses’ backgrounds on this matter, particularly the legislative history of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh.
I should also pay fulsome tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, who is relatively new to our House. We met him a number of times; he has properly engaged on the issues and expressed scepticism, which is sometimes helpful to people moving amendments. He has come up with a solution. Although, as the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, said, it may fall short of what we were hoping for, it nevertheless provides a road ahead for addressing the concerns that he expressed. He has potentially come up with a proper solution for the various loopholes in the child contact centre system, if I can put it like that.
As the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, said in his introduction, the Government’s problem was one of evidence. As we repeated in numerous meetings, it is very difficult to get evidence of contact centres that come and go, perhaps operating in particular communities and essentially functioning under the radar. I am glad that the Government appreciated that point to the extent that they are willing to take on the responsibility of seeing whether this is a real problem and whether appropriate measures can be put in place to protect children who go to these child contact centres.
The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, asked three good questions for the Minister to answer. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, went on to quote Sir James Munby’s support for the earlier amendments. Sir James Munby has unequalled experience in these matters, so the Government should listen to what he says.
In conclusion, the noble Baroness, Lady Burt of Solihull, and I have sat on a lot of committees together over the last couple of years and she has always been sensible in her support of the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay and Lady McIntosh. As she said, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, accepts the Government’s amendments and that we continue to work together for the next couple of years to ensure that the Government follow through on their promise to review the existing provision.
My Lords, first, I thank and agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, and the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, in paying tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh for their tenacity in pursuing this issue in the interests of vulnerable children. We have all been mindful of that throughout these discussions and are grateful to them. I am also grateful to noble Lords for their tributes to my noble friend Lord Wolfson. I will pass on their thanks and appreciation, and I know that he would have liked to have been here to see the conclusion of this important matter. But I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, for saying that my noble friend went the extra mile. That has been the Government’s approach to the Bill throughout and, even those provisions that will not be in the Bill have launched some important work, which will continue to bear fruit and help victims of domestic abuse, whether legislatively or not.
The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, asked three questions on which I hope I can provide reassurance. Her first was about whether contact centres mean the people who work in the place. Yes, we are going to review the way that a place is used, rather than a building, which may be empty. Her second was about the spirit of the amendment. Again, yes, we want to build an evidence base through the review that assesses the need for regulation, along the lines that the noble Baroness proposed. Her third was about promoting the judicial protocol. That protocol is being updated and will be communicated by the judiciary, not Her Majesty’s Government. That will provide an opportunity for its promotion but, as I am sure she and other noble Lords understand, that is a matter for the judiciary.
My noble friend Lady McIntosh asked some questions about the review. As I say, we want to establish a robust evidence base about the scale of the problem, so that we reach a fully informed decision about any further steps necessary. We would welcome her input and that of others into establishing the terms of the review. We will also be engaging the judiciary, among others, so the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, about Sir James Munby is well heard.
That has answered all the questions raised. Again, we are very grateful to all noble Lords for their engagement on this and hope that it is a sensible resolution. I hope that noble Lords support Motion A.
Motion A agreed.
40D: Page 57, line 36, at end insert the following new Clause—
“Data processing for immigration purposes
Review of processing of victims’ personal data for immigration purposes
(1) The Secretary of State must before the end of the relevant period—
(a) review the processing of domestic abuse data carried out by specified public authorities for immigration purposes,
(b) prepare and publish a report setting out the findings of the review, and
(c) lay a copy of the report before Parliament.
(2) In carrying out the review, the Secretary of State must have regard to the recommendations of the HMIC Report.
(3) In subsection (1), the “relevant period” means the period beginning with the day on which this section comes into force and ending with 30 June 2021 (but see subsection (4)).
(4) The Secretary of State may by regulations extend the relevant period by a further period of up to 6 months.
(5) The power conferred by subsection (4) may be exercised only once.
(6) In this section—
“domestic abuse data” means personal data obtained for the purposes of, or in connection with, the provision of support in relation to domestic abuse to victims of domestic abuse or their children;
“the HMIC Report” means 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;
“immigration purposes” means the purposes of—
(a) the maintenance of effective immigration control, or
(b) the investigation or detection of activities that would undermine the maintenance of effective immigration control;
“immigration officer” means a person appointed as an immigration officer under paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971;
“personal data” has the meaning given by section 3(2) of the Data Protection Act 2018;
“processing” has the meaning given by section 3(4) of that Act; “specified public authority” means—
(a) a chief officer of police of a police force maintained for a police area in England and Wales;
(b) the chief constable of the Police Service of Scotland;
(c) the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland;
(d) the Chief Constable of the British Transport Police Force;
(e) the Chief Constable of the Ministry of Defence Police;
(f) an immigration officer or other official of the Secretary of State exercising functions in relation to immigration or asylum.”
40E: Page 57, line 36, at end insert the following new Clause—
“Code of practice
(1) The Secretary of State may issue a code of practice relating to the processing of domestic abuse data for immigration purposes.
(2) A code of practice issued under this section—
(a) must be kept under review;
(b) may be revised or replaced.
(3) A person to whom a code of practice issued under this section applies must have regard to it in processing domestic abuse data for immigration purposes.
(4) In preparing, revising or replacing a code, the Secretary of State must consult—
(a) the Domestic Abuse Commissioner,
(b) the Information Commissioner, and
(c) such other persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.
(5) Before issuing a code (or a revised code) under this section, the Secretary of State must lay the code before Parliament.
(6) If, within the 40-day period, either House of Parliament resolves not to approve the code—
(a) the code is not to be issued, and
(b) the Secretary of State may prepare another code.
(7) If no such resolution is passed within the 40-day period, the Secretary of State may issue the code.
(8) In this section, the “40-day period” is the period of 40 days beginning with the day on which the code is laid before Parliament (or, if it is not laid before each House of Parliament on the same day, the later of the 2 days on which it is laid).
(9) In calculating the 40-day period, no account is to be taken of any period during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than 4 days.
(10) In this section—
“domestic abuse data” has the same meaning as in section (Review of processing of victims’ personal data for immigration purposes);
“immigration purposes” has the same meaning as in section (Review of processing of victims’ personal data for immigration purposes);
“personal data” has the meaning given by section 3(2) of the Data Protection Act 2018;
“processing” has the meaning given by section 3(4) of that Act.”
40F: Page 58, line 36, leave out “or 72” and insert “, 72, (Review of processing of victims’ personal data for immigration purposes) or (Code of practice)”
40G: Page 59, line 8, after “72” insert “, (Review of processing of victims’ personal data for immigration purposes), (Code of practice)”
40H: Page 59, line 36, after “35(7),” insert “(Review of processing of victims’ personal data for immigration purposes)(4),”
40J: Page 60, line 15, at end insert—
“( ) sections (Review of processing of victims’ personal data for immigration purposes) and (Code of practice),”
40K: Page 60, line 32, at end insert—
“( ) section (Review of processing of victims’ personal data for immigration purposes);”
Noble Lords are aware that Amendment 40B seeks to create a data-sharing firewall, so that the personal data of victims of domestic abuse that is given or used for the purposes of their seeking or receiving support is not used for immigration control purposes. Amendment 40C introduces a conditional commencement procedure, so that the firewall comes into force only once the review into current data-sharing procedures has been completed and following a vote in both Houses.
While I appreciate the case that the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and other noble Lords have been making, the Government remain of the view that Amendments 40B and 40C are premature, pending the outcome of the review of the current data-sharing arrangements, as recommended by the policing inspectorate following its December report on the super-complaint from Liberty and Southall Black Sisters.
In an effort to meet the noble Baroness half way, the Government tabled Amendments 40D, 40E, 40F, 40G, 40H, 40J and 40K in lieu to which the Commons has agreed. Amendment 40D places our review of data-sharing arrangements on to a statutory footing, with a duty to lay a report before Parliament on the outcome of the review by 30 June, a little over two months away.
In addition, Amendment 40E confers a power on the Secretary of State to issue a code of practice relating to the processing of domestic abuse data for immigration control purposes by specified public authorities. Persons to whom the code is issued, notably the police and Home Office immigration staff, would be required to have regard to that code. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, that although the new clause provides for a power rather than imposes a duty to issue a code, it is the Government’s firm intention to issue such a code, following the completion of the review. Noble Lords will note too that Amendment E also places an obligation on the Secretary of State to consult the domestic abuse commissioner, the Information Commissioner and others before issuing the code.
We are on track to publish the outcome of our review by the end of June. As part of our review, we have given a commitment to engage with domestic abuse sector organisations and the domestic abuse commissioner to better understand concerns about why migrant victims might not feel safe in reporting their abusers to the authorities for fear of enforcement action being taken. We have tabled amendments, now agreed by another place, to place the review on to a statutory footing and to provide for a statutory code of practice relating to the processing of domestic abuse data for immigration purposes.
I hope noble Lords will see that we have listened and acted. I ask the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and the whole of your Lordships’ House to support Motion B.
My Lords, I shall respond to the Minister and the Government’s amendment on the safe reporting of crimes by domestic abuse victims who have uncertain immigration status. I am very grateful to our Ministers for their sympathetic handling of this Bill and for the incredibly helpful meetings that we have had with all of them in previous weeks, and to the Government for tabling the compromise amendment. Of course, it does not achieve the reassurance that we sought with our original amendment, but it paves a way forward that could help these most vulnerable of women.
I welcome the fact that the report on the government review of this issue will be laid before Parliament and that this is put in statute by the Government’s amendment. That is definitely a step forward. I hope that the Minister can assure the House that the review will seek to identify the depth of fear of many of the victims of concern here. That is important—about half do not report crimes because they are too frightened, in particular in situations of modern slavery, for example. A concern in the field is that the six-month possible extension for the publication of the review could be used by the Government to prevent anyone making progress in the meantime. Three months would be greatly preferable. Does the Minister have any comment on that? Do they really need six months to complete this? If it means that they will do a more thorough job, I suppose we must be grateful.
Turning to the code of practice, I am concerned about subsection (1) of the proposed new clause, which says that the Secretary of State
“may issue a code of practice”
rather than that they “shall” issue such a code. Again, I am grateful to the Minister for emphasising in his remarks that the Government have a clear intention to issue such a code. It would also be helpful if he could indicate in his closing comments a timeline for the code of practice and confirm its purpose—again, this is an important point—to provide protection from the immigration system for vulnerable victims of domestic abuse whose immigration status is uncertain.
The amendment makes it clear that the domestic abuse commissioner, the Information Commissioner and
“such other persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate”
must be consulted in relation to this code of practice. I put on record the importance of consulting survivors and specialist organisations such as the Step Up Migrant Women campaign, which, incidentally, apart from doing a huge amount of work to support these women, has been a pillar of strength in the background, behind these debates in this House. It would be very helpful if the Minister could confirm that those survivors and organisations will be consulted. With the hope that the Minister can provide some assurance on these points, I will not oppose the Government’s Motion.
My Lords, the essence of this Motion is to ensure that victims of domestic abuse, whoever they are, are not afraid to come forward to report the matter to the police without fear of being reported to immigration enforcement. No review or code of practice will reassure them without an undertaking that enforcement action will not be taken. The Government know this, and I therefore conclude that they place more importance on immigration enforcement than on protecting the victims of domestic abuse—a disgraceful position for the Government to take. We will not allow this matter to rest here, even though we are unable to take it further today.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, has received strong support from the Opposition Benches throughout the progress of this important Bill, and that support is not diminished at this final stage. We will continue to press the Government on this very serious issue, to make sure victims can feel safe coming forward to report abuse. It has been a pleasure to learn from her and work with her on this amendment. The noble Baroness’s amendment provided for the circumstances where victims’ data cannot be shared for immigration purposes if they come forward to report abuse. She is content to agree the important concessions that she has obtained from the Government on her amendment and, to that end, it just leaves me to thank her and all noble Lords who have spoken so eloquently and with passion throughout the passage of the Bill.
In the other place yesterday, the shadow Minister spoke movingly about her own experiences and reiterated her thanks for some movement by the Government on this amendment. But I echo her remarks of concern by asking the Minister if we can ensure that there are buy-in services for the very victims we are talking about, that they are consulted throughout the process, and that the whole point of the code is explicitly there to ensure that data can be shared only to enable victims to receive protection and safety. We now have mention of a victims’ code, so what happens when there is a breach of the code? We need clarity; we seek to have things written into primary legislation so that there is no doubt when barriers are crossed.
I eagerly await the translation into law of this landmark legislation. I thank my Opposition Front Bench colleagues and the staff team who have so ably guided me through my first major Bill in this House; what a maiden Bill it has been to have contributed to. My thanks go to the Minister and others who have listened and acted upon amendments to make better laws alongside our charities, support organisations and, indeed, the brave survivors whose lived experiences and testimonies have spoken out loudly and clearly throughout the course of the Bill: stand up to domestic abuse.
My Lords, I again applaud and thank the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, for her tenacity on this point in standing up for another vulnerable group of victims. I thank her for the time that she has spent engaging with me on this point since your Lordships last debated it. I am grateful that she sees the amendments that we have put forward in lieu as a step forward, and want to reassure her on the points that she raised; as I said previously, one of the frustrations in this area is not knowing what we do not know about the depth of fear among those who may be reluctant to come forward. That is why we are engaging with domestic abuse sector organisations to better understand the scale of that problem and to allay any concerns that people have. I am pleased to say that engagement with those groups is beginning next month.
The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, asked about the timeline for the code; we would seek to have that in place as soon as is practicable after the completion of the review. We would of course need time to consult the domestic abuse commissioner and the Information Commissioner’s Office. The power to extend the deadline is purely precautionary, as, alas, the experience of the pandemic over the last year or so has shown the need to expect the unexpected, but it is our intention to proceed swiftly on this. As the noble Baroness noted, despite the word “may” rather than “shall”, it is our firm intention to issue such a code, so I reiterate that for her reassurance. We will look at enforcement issues when drawing up the code.
The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, suggested that we are approaching these issues the wrong way round. I hope people appreciate that the Government have a statutory obligation under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 to maintain an effective immigration system, but we have been clear throughout that both the police and immigration enforcement officials deal with victims as victims first and foremost. We are very mindful of that. With those answers, and in reiterating my thanks in particular to the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, I urge noble Lords to support Motion B.
Motion B agreed.
41C: Because the Amendment would involve a charge on public funds, and the Commons do not offer any further Reason, trusting that this Reason may be deemed sufficient.
My Lords, to recap, Amendment 41B seeks to lift the no recourse to public funds condition for migrant victims of domestic abuse until the conclusion of the support for migrant victims scheme. The amendment also provides that, within two months of the scheme’s conclusion, the Secretary of State must consult the domestic abuse commissioner and specialist sector, and publish a strategy for the long-term provision for victims who do not have leave, or have leave subject to the no recourse to public funds condition. I am conscious that after two full debates, in Committee and on Report, along with our consideration last week of the Commons reasons, we are all likely to be well versed in the points that I have highlighted and will highlight now, and those which proponents of Amendment 41B will outline. For that reason, I will try to make my points relatively short.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester knows how much I respect her, and I share her commitment to providing protection and support for migrant victims of domestic abuse. But I still do not believe that Amendment 41B represents the appropriate course of action. The other place likewise disagreed with this amendment, again on the basis of financial privilege. Waiving the no recourse to public funds condition for 12 months—double the six months provided for in the earlier Amendment 41, which sought an extension to the DDVC—would clearly involve a significant charge on the public purse.
As I have emphasised previously, there is a clear precedent for our current position regarding the no recourse to public funds condition. Successive Governments have taken the view that access to publicly funded benefits and services should normally reflect the strength of a migrant’s connection to the UK. We continue to believe that such access should become available to migrants only once they have settled here. There is a clear rationale for this policy; namely, that it seeks to assure the public of the benefits to our country that controlled immigration can yield, to ensure that public funds remain protected for permanent residents, and to manage the UK’s finite resources. Automatically waiving the no recourse to public funds condition irrespective of the diverse financial circumstances of victims is not a desirable or necessary outcome.
Moving beyond the precedent for our position, Amendment 41B presents other significant difficulties. Leave and access to public funds cannot be separated as easily as it suggests. As I highlighted last week, to provide access to public funds, one must also necessarily confer leave. We have launched the support for migrant victims scheme because it can provide support for migrant victims of domestic abuse who have no recourse to public funds by funding the required support directly from Southall Black Sisters and its delivery partners, bypassing the need to access public funds. To reiterate, the support for migrant victims scheme will provide support to this vulnerable cohort.
As I have highlighted many times during the passage of the Bill, the support for migrant victims scheme is designed to provide support to those individuals who fall through the gaps of other support mechanisms, such as the DDVC. It provides a safety net of support through provision of accommodation in a refuge or other relevant safe accommodation. Additionally, the scheme can provide wraparound provisions, including practical support such as immigration advice. The support provided by the scheme can be tailored to the needs of the individual victim much more than a blanket automatic granting of public funds.
I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester for her continued commitment to the cause of migrant victims of domestic abuse. It truly is a cause that I share. However, while we seek a similar outcome, we have different ways of getting there. I hope that noble Lords are mindful of the votes in the elected House, along with the reasons given for disagreeing with this amendment, and are content to agree Motion C. We must now ensure that the Bill is enacted and implemented. I assure noble Lords that this Government have not, and will not, forget about migrant victims of domestic abuse. I have no doubt that the right reverend Prelate will continue, rightly, to press us to act on the outcome of the support for migrant victims scheme in the months to come. I beg to move.
My Lords, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester, who moved the successful amendment on migrant women and recourse to public funds during the first stage of ping-pong in this House on the Domestic Abuse Bill last Wednesday, regrets that she cannot be here in person today. I pay tribute to the work that she has done—and will, I am sure, continue to do—on this issue. On her behalf, I have been asked to say the following, which also reflects my feelings:
“I would urge the Government to consider all victims of domestic abuse as victims first. It is therefore regrettable that recourse to public funds has not been made available to a small but extremely vulnerable group of migrant victims. That said, at this stage, we accept that it has not been possible to add this to the Bill. We hope that when the pilot scheme comes to an end, careful note will be taken of the results. The organisations providing support and hope to these migrant victims must be consulted, and we would do well to listen well to their experience.”
My Lords, I too pay tribute to the right reverend Prelate for championing this issue.
Again, I will boil this down to its essence. The refusal of the Government to offer equal protection to all victims of domestic abuse, whatever their status, which is the effect of their rejection of the Lords amendment, is a clear breach of the Istanbul convention. As I said when we considered these matters last time, this Government cannot claim that this is a landmark Bill when they continue to treat those with irregular immigration status less favourably. These are some of the most vulnerable victims of domestic abuse.
We are unable to take this matter further today, but the Government cannot avoid ratifying the Istanbul convention much longer without serious reputational damage.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have taken part in this debate and pay tribute to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester for her work on this Bill. I hope I have made it clear throughout the passage of the Bill, including in my introductory remarks today, that people—women mostly—who are victims of domestic abuse should get the support that they need when they need it.
On the Istanbul convention, as set out in our latest annual report on our progress towards ratification of it, published last October, the position on whether or not we are compliant with Article 43 of the convention, to the extent that it relates to non-discrimination on the grounds of migrant or refugee status, and with Article 59 relating to resident status, is under review, pending the findings of the evaluation of the support for migrant victims scheme. We will consider compliance with Article 59 in parallel with Article 43. As such, it also depends on the outcome of the support for migrant victims scheme. Far from not being compliant, we are working towards that compliance. I hope that noble Lords are content with what I have set out today and in previous stages of the Bill.
Motion C agreed.
42G: Page 53, line 10, at end insert the following new Clause—
“Strategy for prosecution and management of offenders
(1) The Secretary of State must, before the end of the period of 12 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed, prepare and publish a document setting out a strategy for—
(a) detecting, investigating and prosecuting offences involving domestic abuse,
(b) assessing and managing the risks posed by individuals who commit offences involving domestic abuse, including (among others) risks associated with stalking, and
(c) reducing the risk that such individuals commit further offences involving domestic abuse.
(2) The Secretary of State—
(a) must keep the strategy under review;
(b) may revise it.
(3) If the Secretary of State revises the strategy, the Secretary of State must publish a document setting out the revised strategy.
(4) In preparing or revising a strategy under this section, the Secretary of State must consult—
(a) the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, and
(b) such other persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.
(5) Subsection (4) does not apply in relation to any revisions of the strategy if the Secretary of State considers the proposed revisions of the strategy are insubstantial.
(6) In this section, the reference to “risks associated with stalking” is to be read in accordance with section 1(4) of the Stalking Protection Act 2019.”
42H: Page 59, line 8, after “section” insert “(Strategy for prosecution and management of offenders),”
42J: Page 60, line 32, at end insert—
“( ) section (Strategy for prosecution and management of offenders);”
My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Baronesses, Lady Royall and Lady Brinton, and the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, for the very constructive discussions that we had on this matter at the end of last week and this morning, to make some final adjustments to what I think we all agree is a very good Bill.
Amendment 42D, put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, seeks to amend the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to provide for a new category of offender to be managed under multiagency public protection arrangements, known as MAPPA. The intention is then that such offenders are recorded on ViSOR—the dangerous persons database—although this is not set out in the amendment. The new category would cover perpetrators who have either been convicted—and “convicted” is the operative word—on two or more occasions of a relevant domestic abuse-related or stalking offence, or have been convicted of a single such offence and have been assessed as presenting a high risk of serious harm.
The elected House has now disagreed with noble Lords’ amendments on this issue for a second time, and again by a substantial margin. That said, we agree that more needs to be done, but we do not think that this amendment is the right way forward. Many have asked why the Government will not support the amendment, and the simple and honest answer is that we do not think it will be effective in securing the changes that we all want to happen. As I have said before, if we did, we would have no hesitation in supporting it. When the Bill was last in this House, I set out in detail our concerns surrounding the amendment and I will not go through them again. In essence, I do not think it adds anything substantial to the current legislative landscape around MAPPA.
Much has been said during the course of our debates and in the media about what this amendment will achieve. An example of this is that it will create a register; it does not. In fact, the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, and others have said that that is not what they wish to achieve. Equally, it does not address the issue of perpetrators not being charged and convicted of the offences they have committed. We should not lose sight of the fact that MAPPA is a framework for the management of convicted offenders, and a good number of the cases cited of failures to intervene relate to perpetrators who had not been convicted of an offence. I want to take a moment to place both these points on the record, because any miscommunication on this highly important issue feels deeply unfair to victims. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, would not want any such misunderstandings to take root.
This is a very sensitive and difficult issue and there is no easy solution to it. However, I want to stop focusing on—and noble Lords will know I have done this the whole way through the Bill—where we do not agree and instead put our focus on the many areas where we do agree. Everything I have heard during the passage of this Bill continues to lead me to the firm belief that the issue we need to address is not the legislative framework but how offenders are brought to justice and, once convicted, how MAPPA operates on the ground to ensure that agencies actively identify those offenders who pose the highest risk and then manage them effectively.
I reassure the House that we are undertaking a substantial programme of work to tackle this issue from multiple angles to make a real difference to the outcomes for victims. I will take the opportunity briefly to go over these again and to provide some further updates on developments. We will refresh and strengthen the MAPPA statutory guidance to make it clear that convicted offenders who demonstrate a pattern of offending behaviour that indicates either serious harm or an escalation in the risk of serious harm, related to domestic abuse or stalking, which is not reflected in the charge for which they were actually convicted, should be considered for category 3 management. The guidance will set out the importance of being mindful of the totality of an offender’s behaviour in domestic abuse and stalking cases. I know that this is an important point for the noble Baroness.
The strengthened guidance will ensure that all agencies involved take steps to identify offenders who are domestic abuse perpetrators whose risk requires active multiagency management and take action based on that risk, no matter what the category. The guidance is statutory, which means that agencies must have due regard to it. It is in no sense voluntary. I should add that the updated guidance will be dynamic. We will keep it under regular review to ensure that it reflects developing good practice.
We will consult MAPPA-responsible authorities and agencies with a duty to co-operate on the updated guidance by the Summer Recess and, once we have their views, we will also share a draft with the noble Baronesses, Lady Royall and Lady Brinton, and the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool. We will also consult both the domestic abuse and victims’ commissioners. Once the revised guidance is settled, we will promulgate it through a Written Ministerial Statement, and this will provide an opportunity to update the House on the delivery of the other commitments I have set out. Noble Lords talked about having some sort of debate in this place, perhaps after the Summer Recess. I am very happy with that—the beauty of this place is that we can organise debates through noble Lords.
We will have oversight of and monitor the impact of the updated guidance through the responsible authority national steering group. This group is chaired jointly by the chief constable who is the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead for MAPPA and by the public protection group director of HM Prison and Probation Service. The group provides strategic direction for MAPPA-responsible authorities and partner agencies and monitors key aspects of their performance. Senior nominated representatives of the police, National Probation Service and HM Prison Service, as well as specialist representatives from the Youth Justice Board, the Department of Health and Social Care, the Home Office and the Parole Board are members of the group.
In addition to the role of the responsible authority national steering group, I have no doubt that the domestic abuse commissioner and the victims’ commissioner will also be monitoring the impact of the strengthened guidance and the other actions we are taking. In addition, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary has the police response to domestic abuse as part of its thematic inspection programme for 2021-22. The inspectorate will also continue to monitor progress made by policing against recommendations from its previous thematic inspections of the police approach to tackling harassment and stalking. There will also be a continuing role here for the prisons and probation inspectorates.
In the case of the domestic abuse commissioner, I remind noble Lords of the powers available to her under Part 2 of the Bill. In particular, the police and others are under a duty to co-operate with the commissioner, and this includes the provision of information. Moreover, the commissioner can make recommendations to Ministers, the police and others subject to the duty to co-operate, and they will be required to respond to these within 56 days. Taken together, Part 2 affords the commissioner important powers to monitor progress in strengthening the management of perpetrators, whether under MAPPA or other arrangements.
In addition to the statutory guidance—and to ensure maximum accessibility and clarity—we will publish a succinct thresholding document to guide practitioners in deciding on the most appropriate level of management. The different levels of management under MAPPA are set to ensure that resources are properly targeted at those offenders who pose the highest risk and are the most complex to manage.
However, we need to be sure that action is taken where there are indicators of escalating harm for those managed at the least intensive level. Therefore, HM Prison and Probation Service will issue a policy framework for its staff setting out clear requirements for their management of all cases at MAPPA level 1. This will further help improve the quality of information sharing, the consistency and regularity of reviews and, importantly, the identification of cases where additional risk management activity is required. Both the policy frame- work and the thresholding document will include specific reference to domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators. We will decommission ViSOR, which is now almost 20 years old, and bring in the new multiagency public protection system, which will be piloted from next year.
We will bring forward a new statutory domestic abuse perpetrator strategy as part of a holistic domestic abuse strategy to be published later this year. Following discussions last Friday with the noble Baronesses, Lady Royall and Lady Brinton, and the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, we have modified the government amendment in lieu to expressly reference stalking that occurs within a domestic abuse context. As I have indicated, I believe the MAPPA guidance—the perpetrator strategy—is the appropriate place to address the issue of risk assessments taking into account past patterns of behaviour, rather than Amendment 42G.
In the last debate the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, asked about the dual strategy approach. In the summer the Government will publish a tackling violence against women and girls strategy, and further to the Government’s amendments in the Bill we will also bring forward our complementary domestic abuse strategy. This approach will allow us to focus on lesser-understood violence against women and girls crimes, while a dedicated strategy on domestic abuse, given its high-volume, high-harm nature, will ensure it gets the attention it deserves.
The VAWG strategy will include a perpetrator strategy pillar, which will, among other things, address stalking perpetrators. I should clarify that “violence against women and girls” is an umbrella term and, while we know that these crimes disproportionately affect women and girls, we recognise that men and boys also experience them. We will therefore consider this as part of the VAWG strategy, alongside updating the male victims position statement.
We are also legislating already in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to put beyond doubt the powers of duty to co-operate agencies to share information under MAPPA by clarifying existing information-sharing provisions. We are investing new resources to tackle perpetrators, with an additional £25 million committed this year.
While we might not agree with the approach set out in Amendment 42D, we do not shy away from taking action to tackle this issue. The last time the Bill was in the House, many noble Lords—including the noble Baroness, Lady Royall—agreed that these actions we have set out are tangible and would make a real difference in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of current offender management arrangements. I hope the noble Baroness and the whole House will support Motion D so that we can pass this truly landmark Bill and it can be enacted. I beg to move.
Motion D1 (as an amendment to Motion D)
42K: Before Clause 69, insert the following new Clause—
“Strategy for prosecution and management of offenders
(1) The Secretary of State must, before the end of the period of 12 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed, prepare and publish a document setting out a strategy for—
(a) detecting, investigating and prosecuting offences involving domestic abuse,
(b) assessing and managing the risks posed by individuals who commit offences involving domestic abuse, including (among others) risks associated with stalking and an individual’s past pattern of behaviour; and
(c) reducing the risk that such individuals commit further offences involving domestic abuse.
(2) The Secretary of State—
(a) must keep the strategy under review;
(b) may revise it.
(3) If the Secretary of State revises the strategy, the Secretary of State must publish a document setting out the revised strategy.
(4) In preparing or revising a strategy under this section, the Secretary of State must consult—
(a) the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, and
(b) such other persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.
(5) The Secretary of State must, before the end of the period of 3 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed, publish revised statutory guidance on Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements to provide that—
(a) a person assessed by the responsible authority to pose a high risk of stalking; or
(b) a person assessed by the responsible authority to pose a high risk of domestic abuse,
must be placed under Category 3 in Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements.
(6) When assessing a risk of stalking or repeated domestic abuse the Responsible Authority must take into consideration a person’s past patterns of behaviour involving stalking or domestic abuse.
(7) The Secretary of State must make arrangements to require—
(a) an individual who is convicted on more than one occasion of a specified domestic abuse offence;
(b) an individual who is convicted on one or more occasions of a specified stalking offence,
to be automatically risk-assessed in Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements.
(8) Where a person is—
(a) risk-assessed under Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements; or
(b) placed under Category 3 in Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements
as a result of offending which involves either domestic abuse or stalking, notice of this must be given to the Domestic Abuse Commissioner for the purposes of a report on these decisions to inform the strategy on an annual basis.
(9) Subsection (4) does not apply in relation to any revisions of the strategy if the Secretary of State considers the proposed revisions of the strategy are insubstantial.
(10) In this section, the reference to “risks associated with stalking” is to be read in accordance with section 1(4) of the Stalking Protection Act 2019.
(11) In this section—
“responsible authority” has the same meaning as in section 325 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003;
“specified domestic abuse offence” means an offence where it is alleged that the behaviour of the accused amounted to domestic abuse within the meaning defined in section 1 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021;
“specified stalking offence” means an offence contrary to section 2A or section 4A of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.”
42L: Page 59, line 8, after “section” insert “(Strategy for prosecution and management of offenders),”
42M: Page 60, line 32, at end insert—
“( ) section (Strategy for prosecution and management of offenders);””
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her full response, including to my amendment, which followed the Government’s revised amendment passed in the Commons last night. I am also grateful to her for our very constructive meeting and for the letter responding to the issues raised by me and my colleagues in our meeting; I think it was last Friday, but it feels a long time ago.
Yes, we have come a long way with this very good Bill, and indeed on the perpetrator strategy on both stalking and domestic abuse. I am glad our various debates have highlighted the fact that the current system is not working. Indeed, it is indefensible and leads to thousands of women living in fear and hundreds murdered. It is for this reason that the noble Baroness and I are in complete agreement that there must be a change. The change that I believe would be most effective, and will continue to argue in favour of, is the inclusion on the new database of all serious and serial high-risk perpetrators of stalking and domestic abuse. I am perplexed by the articles in the press—I think it was in the Times at the weekend—suggesting that a comprehensive database would soon be forthcoming. Nothing has been said at the Dispatch Box in either your Lordships’ House or the Commons to confirm this. I leave that to one side.
I was confused last night when listening to the Minister in the Commons address the issue of the MAPPA categories, although the noble Baroness the Minister has been much clearer and more explicit. The new policy framework is welcome, but can the noble Baroness again confirm that domestic abuse and stalking will be flagged in category 1, so that when assessing risk or managing a sex offender, consideration will have to be given to whether he poses a domestic abuse or stalking threat? I believe that to be the case, but I would like her to make that point once more. I am grateful for her assurance in writing that all category 3 offenders will be on ViSOR and therefore on MAPPS.
Listening to the Minister in the Commons last night, my biggest concern was that she did not propose a significant expansion to category 3—quite the contrary; she rejected the repeated suggestions from my right honourable friend Yvette Cooper. She repeated the current practice: that it will be up to the professional judgment and professional curiosity—I find that quite a strange and unfortunate phrase—of the relevant authorities as to whether they think a domestic abuse or stalking case could benefit from being managed through MAPPA. That is not good enough.
The Minister spoke of the flexibility of MAPPA 3, which, as my honourable friend Jess Phillips pointed out, was part of the problem, in that there is no proper direction for its use, and the resources are so stretched that the authorities cannot use their professional judgment. But that flexibility is also part of the solution, in that its use will now be expanded. It is very good to hear that category 3 will not be restricted to people who have been sentenced for one year or more. I believe that to be the case and would like the Minister to reiterate that. We all agree that that is a major gap: that people who have not been sentenced but are serial perpetrators and whose actions escalate into heinous crimes are still out there, and no information about them is being exchanged.
Adequate resources are critical. If sufficient funding is not available, the people making the decisions will be constrained in their actions. Last night the Minister mentioned an additional £25 million. Will any of that be ring-fenced for MAPPA 3? If not, what additional resources will be specifically allocated to MAPPA 3?
Currently there are only 330 offenders in total under category 3 MAPPA, compared with more than 60,000 in category 1 and more than 20,000 in category 2. MAPPA includes all offences, but in future it absolutely must include the thousands of high-harm repeat perpetrators of stalking and domestic violence. The Minister has been very clear that when assessing a risk of stalking or repeated domestic abuse, there must be consideration of a person’s past patterns of behaviour involving stalking or domestic abuse. That is a major step forward and is very welcome.
It is only with the new guidance mentioned by the noble Baroness that we can ensure that practice really is changed, so that serial and high-harm domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators are flagged to MAPPA and heard there. But that guidance must be informed by experts, by the people who will use the guidance, who are frustrated that the current system is not working. Everyone using the new guidance must be trained in order to effect the change so desperately needed. That must be included in the guidance and the requisite funds made available. We expect the head of MAPPA to ensure that this happens. The ever-vigilant noble Lord, Lord Russell, noticed that NOMS is looking for a new head of MAPPA. I am sure he will speak to this, but I merely urge that the current job description be updated to reflect the changes being introduced in this Bill.
I am glad to hear that the guidance will be dynamic. A debate on the guidance in the autumn is an excellent idea. May I also have an assurance from the noble Baroness that specialist domestic abuse and stalking services will be invited to attend MAPPA? Timing is of the essence. The Minister has given her assurance that the MAPPA guidance will be revised before the Summer Recess; I thank her.
I am grateful for the explanation of the current plan, that oversight will be undertaken through the responsible authority national steering group. I may be wrong, but it does not sound as if that is an impartial body. It sounds as if it will be required to mark its own homework, and we believe that the oversight must be independent. The Minister said,
“I have no doubt that the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and the Victims’ Commissioner will also be monitoring the impact of the strengthened guidance and the other actions we are taking.”
However, I firmly believe that the independent monitoring and oversight must be undertaken by the domestic abuse commissioner, who clearly has the powers and must have systematic access to all the information relating not just to people included in MAPPA 3 but to those whom she might believe should be included in MAPPA 3. In this way the commissioner, your Lordships and the wider world will be able to measure and judge the success of the actions outlined by the Minister, including the strategy and the revised guidance. I beg to move.
My Lords, I too wish to start by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, for her helpful speech from the Dispatch Box this afternoon and for the repeated emails and meetings with some of us to try to progress matters. We recognise that some of the things we would like to see in this Bill are better placed in statutory guidance and I thank the Minister for her reassurance and the offer of showing us that draft statutory guidance to bring these perpetrators to justice. It was also encouraging to hear details about the thresholding document.
Herein lies the problem, which the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, referred to in part. We need to substantially change the culture and practice inside the criminal justice system to tackle these particular perpetrators. We have said repeatedly that the consequence is that these fixated, obsessive, serial and high-risk perpetrators escalate their behaviour—far too often resulting in serious violence and murder. That is why we welcome the changes to the current arrangements for a perpetrator to be considered for MAPPA category 3. The assessment of past patterns of behaviour is vital—something we asked for in the stalking law reforms of 2012—including convictions at a lesser level. I thank the Minister for her words on that.
One of the consequences of an effective risk assessment for these serial and high-risk perpetrators is that MAPPA teams need more resources than they currently receive. It should not be possible for these cases to be disregarded because of resources. I echo the question that the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, asked about how much of the extra perpetrator funding the Minister outlined during the passage of the Bill will be dedicated resource for local MAPPA areas to manage a larger numbers of offenders. This is one of those few times when it will be good to see numbers going up, because it will provide reassurance that these perpetrators are being managed properly. This Bill and these arrangements will fail without those resources—and this Bill must not fail.
The noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, cannot be in her place today, but she specifically asked me to make the following points to your Lordships’ House on her behalf. She joins those of us who signed the amendment on Report in expressing concern that serial and serious high-risk perpetrators of domestic abuse and stalking must be included and therefore on the database.
Can the Minister give the House some assurance that domestic abuse and stalking experts and agencies will be included as a matter of course in the MAPP meetings? Their expertise at a local level will be vital; risk assessments of patterns of past fixated behaviour will not be effective without their input. It is the early identification of these patterns of behaviour that can change the experience of the victim and, with appropriate support, can help the perpetrator too.
The noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, also asks whether the domestic abuse commissioner and the Victims’ Commissioner will have access to MAPPA data— especially, but not only, that relating to those serial and high-risk stalking and domestic abuse perpetrators. It is vital for them to be able to hold those making decisions inside the criminal justice system to account. She makes the point that this is particularly important because, until the victims law the Government have promised comes into force, it will provide powers for the Victims’ Commissioner. Until then, there will be no powers for the Victims’ Commissioner to perform that role. It is vital that both the domestic abuse commissioner and the Victims’ Commissioner have similar powers to hold the Government and agencies to account.
I will end by looking both backwards and towards the future. This month marks the 16th anniversary of the start of the harassment and stalking campaign of which I was the principal target. It took three years before the perpetrator was caught and my many discussions with the police mirrored far too many of the cases we have heard of elsewhere. I swore to myself that no one should have to repeatedly explain incident after incident to the police as if each one were the first—but that is still the case far too often.
During the passage of this Bill we have all spoken of the tragic deaths of far too many women at the hands of stalkers and abusers—currently between two and five per week. This morning on Radio 4’s “Today” programme Zoe Dronfield spoke movingly of her own experience. She discovered, after escaping a violent attack with her life, that her previous partner had stalked and attacked a dozen women before her. This Bill and the arrangements for the statutory guidance the Minister outlined have the capacity to start to change the experience of victims such as Zoe, but only if every single part of the criminal justice system engages with these changes to make them work. That is why the expertise that exists in pockets of good practice in the police and probation needs to be mainstreamed into MAPPA—and the work before MAPPA in call centres, front-line policing and the court system—with effective training throughout to watch for the red signals and pick up on this type of behaviour.
I want Parliament to hear of reductions in attacks and murders, of an increase in the number of offenders successfully managed by MAPPA, and a world where victims can start to live their lives no longer in fear—knowing that they can turn to the police and others for help. This Bill is the start of a very long journey to be continued in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and the domestic violence and violence against women and girls strategies. We will watch with interest and, in fulfilling our duty, we will return to challenge and scrutinise how these important changes are being effected. At the end of the day, lives depend on the Government and everyone in the police and criminal justice system getting it right.
My Lords, at the last stage of the Bill I started by saying it felt dangerously like
“déjà vu all over again”.—[Official Report, 21/4/21; col. 1935.]
I am very pleased to announce this afternoon that it does not feel like déjà vu any longer. I think we are in mortal danger of actually moving forward—for which I thank the Minister very warmly.
It is perhaps no coincidence that this group of amendments, which in many ways is at the heart of the Bill, is coming right at the very end of it. The reason for that is that it is probably the most difficult part of the Bill to deal with. Almost all the excellent work done in both Houses up until this point has been dealing with some of the effects and after-effects of domestic abuse. What we are talking about in this group is trying to identify the causes and early signs of domestic abuse: in other words, trying to stop it happening rather more efficiently and effectively than we have done in the past.
To the Government’s credit—and this is not easy to admit—they have admitted that the current system is not working well. You just have to look at the weekly litany of deaths and some of the stories behind them to realise that it is not working. But it still takes a certain amount of courage to admit that one has not got it right and that one needs to change—so I am very grateful for that.
Although I have played an insignificant part, I am also extremely grateful to the noble Baronesses, Lady Royall and Lady Brinton, the latter of whom is an expert on stalking, for putting forward such compelling arguments for stalking to be included that the Government have acceded to the strength of their arguments. I am extremely grateful for that.
I am also grateful that new statutory guidance will be forthcoming. But at this point I want to issue a very strong health warning. I apologise to the Minister, who heard me go on a bit about this earlier this morning. For any new guidance to be effective, it must be created and then applied in a fundamentally different way from the way it has been done in the past. Part of that is that it needs different voices and experiences around the table. The individuals responsible for MAPPA at a national level and in the 42 different MAPPA areas all around the country—effectively, each police force—are largely the same group of people from the same organisations that have been responsible for trying to make the MAPPA system work over all these years.
However, part of the Government’s recognition of the complexity behind the causes of domestic abuse—in particular the addition of stalking—means that there is a compelling need to bring these new experiences and knowledge to the table. They have to become an integral part of MAPPA. They must have the same power of voice and vote around the table. Part of what needs to happen is for MAPPA to evolve and develop a different way of looking at all this. It needs to develop a new language, and new forms of assessment and forecasting, and to do so in a dynamic way, not looking at things every six months or every two years. It has admitted that part of the reason why the statutory guidance is now online rather than printed is that it has probably already been out of date by the time it has been printed. Putting it online means that it can be updated constantly; I genuinely welcome that.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, said, I managed, by googling away, to find the job description for the new head of MAPPA, who Her Majesty’s Government are currently seeking. Some of your Lordships may have seen a slip of paper in the past couple of weeks, before the election of the Lord Speaker, where, after 30 or so years of being a head-hunter, I put pen to paper—actually finger to iPad—and wrote a brief description of some of the attributes I thought were important in the role, as well as, very importantly, some of the deliverables. The glaring omission in the job specification for the head of MAPPA is any definition of relevant experience. There is nothing whatever to indicate what type of prior experience and knowledge would qualify the candidates to be on that shortlist. I put it to the Minister that whoever becomes the next head of MAPPA must have a breadth of knowledge, an openness of mind, and an ability to manage and argue compellingly for change of a different order of magnitude from what has been required before. That will be absolutely fundamental.
I finish my rant by again thanking the Minister very much indeed. We have made considerable progress. I look forward to not forgetting about the rear-view mirror —as a dedicated cyclist I know that would be extremely dangerous; indeed I have rear-view mirrors on both of my bicycles. I congratulate the Government on the progress they have made, but I ask them to take what I have said seriously to heart and to try to make sure that we get it right this time. The test will be when the awful metronomic death toll of the work done week in, week out by the Counting Dead Women initiative starts going down, and the number of people on the MAPPA system starts going up with the right sort of people. At that point we can feel that we are actually doing something that all these victims and their families have been looking for, for so many years; that will be really good news.
A Member in the Chamber has indicated his wish to speak. I call the noble Lord, Lord Paddick.
My Lords, I should be sitting on a Back Bench, but there is no space on our Back Benches. Noble Lords might perhaps just assume that I am speaking from the Back Benches.
I have not spoken on this issue before but, as a former senior police officer, I feel that I should say a few words. I agree with the Minister that this is largely a failure of implementation rather than of legislation, but the movers of these amendments have had to resort to legislation due to frustration with the lack of progress in improving the situation. This could potentially be the result of a lack of resources, or, as my noble friend Lady Brinton said, there is a need for a change of culture—something to which the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, also alluded. It is very welcome that the Government are looking to refresh and strengthen the MAPPA statutory guidance. I recommend that, if at all possible, they consult with Laura Richards; I was going to say that she is an acknowledged expert, but she is the expert in this area.
One question I have for the Minister that causes me some concern relates to her remarks about stalking “within a domestic abuse context”. Stalking needs to be addressed both within and without the domestic abuse context. Can she please reassure us on that point?
Does anyone else in the Chamber wish to speak? No? Then I call the noble Baroness, Lady Burt of Solihull.
My Lords, my group and I wish to avoid putting this Bill in jeopardy by doing our own bit of disagreeing with the Government and forcing another round of ping-pong just before Parliament is dissolved. We have achieved so much for victims in this Bill, with the exception, yet again, through the Government agreeing to Motion C, of failing to treat all victims equally and thereby failing to meet the criteria of the Istanbul convention, as my noble friend Lord Paddick said. The right reverend Prelate must be as disappointed, as so many of us are, that this was the only amendment to “go the distance” and be substantially modified, but still get no movement from the Government. Anyway, I digress; I have no wish to detain the House.
I feel reassured at the Minister’s words regarding Amendment 42. If I have misunderstood anything that she has said at the Dispatch Box, will she please disabuse me in her final remarks? My understanding is that, first, experts in domestic abuse and stalking will be included in the MAPPA process, assessing patterns of behaviour to decide which category an offender should be placed in. I particularly welcome the wise words of the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, on how MAPPA should change the way it works.
Secondly, I understand that the assessment of MAPPA categories will depend on patterns of behaviour, not on the sentence received—I was going to say, “if any”, but from what the Minister said I understand that there must have been a conviction, not necessarily with the one-year criteria.
Thirdly, I understand that the domestic abuse commissioner and the Victims’ Commissioner will get access to the figures on stalking and domestic abuse from MAPPA under the duty in this Bill to co-operate. References to the inclusion of stalking by the Minister have been heard loud and clear.
Finally, I reiterate what my noble friend Lady Brinton said: we are at only the start of this process. We have heard so many stories from victims of how their repeated calls for help have been ignored and threats and actions underplayed until the worst happened. Our culture must change; our responses must improve. Only then will we be able to say that the Bill has achieved its purpose. However, it is a great tribute to the Minister and her ministerial colleagues that we are where we are on the Bill today.
My Lords, we on these Benches are grateful for the movement from the Government that we have heard in the debate, including the inclusion of domestic abuse-related stalking in the perpetrator strategy. I pay tribute to the Minister for all her work on the Bill and for the many welcome changes, including these, that have been made during its passage. That is not to say that we do not still have some concerns that the proposed changes to the MAPPA guidance will not be strong enough. We welcome the idea of a debate in the autumn on the effectiveness of the guidance.
I pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Royall of Blaisdon for all her work on the issue of stalking, not only in the context of this Bill but over many years of campaigning in this House. The progress that we have made to date would not have been possible without her work. I also pay tribute to the work and support of the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, and many others in this House.
I think we have all accepted that the system as it stands is not working—it is not catching the perpetrators where the Minister claims it should be. I would like her to be clear about what it is specifically about this change to the guidance that will make it work. If it is simply about a change in the guidance, we could have done that before. What is it about this amendment to the guidance that is going to deliver change?
Like the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, I listened to the “Today” programme this morning and heard the contribution from Zoe Dronfield; I do not know if other Members have. It was harrowing to listen to what that poor woman has gone through. She met someone and, after a few weeks, thought it was going to work, but then there were all the phone calls, the texts, the knock on the door and then her front door being kicked in. At no point did she get help from anyone—the police said, “He hasn’t really done anything, has he?”—and it had to get to the point where he nearly killed her before action was taken. That is totally wrong. These amendments are trying to stop the situation where you have to be nearly killed before any action is taken. We need a guarantee that serial and high-risk offenders will be risk-assessed and, where the risk of harm is identified, be included under MAPPA —otherwise, what is changing?
The noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, is right that the death toll has to come down for us to see that the guidance and the Act are working. If we do not see that happen then we are failing victims, their families and campaigners. In the weeks and months ahead we have to see effects from this. If we do not then we have failed in our duty.
It is key that an offender’s past behaviour must be considered. Zoe Dronfield told the “Today” programme that she was not the first case; the person who attacked her had previously abused and attacked 12 other women, but she knew nothing about it. We have to ensure that the system starts to recognise the reality of these crimes and where the risk escalates—otherwise, what are we doing here today?
My noble friend Lady Royall has asked a number of detailed questions and I am sure the Minister will respond to them. The debates that we have had, particularly on this issue, have shed light on the failures of the past and current failures, and we all agree that we have to do better. I look forward to seeing the effective action that is going to happen.
I know that my noble friend and other campaigners, in this House and elsewhere, will be back if this does not work. We have the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, as well as other debates and issues—this is not going to go away; for too long victims have wanted to get this sorted out. The Government have done loads of good work on this and a good job with the Bill, which we are very happy with. But if there are issues that have not been sorted out, we will be back to ensure that they are, because we owe that to the victims and their families.
My Lords, to take the words that the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, has just spoken, I would expect the House to be back if the measures that we have put into the Bill and the accompanying guidance and practice around them were not working. He asked what it was about this Bill that would change things. The noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, has said that this last bit is the hard yards, because it asks the question: where in practice will what is in the Bill change things? That is absolutely the right thing.
In no particular order, I shall go through the various questions that noble Lords have asked. The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, asked about domestic abuse and stalking in category 1. The revised guidance will address the management of domestic abuse perpetrators at level 1 for category 1 sexual offences. In addition to guidance, and to ensure that there is maximum accessibility and clarity, we will, as I have said, publish a succinct thresholding document to guide practitioners in deciding on the most appropriate level of management. The different levels of management under MAPPA are set to ensure that resources are directed to, and properly targeted at, those offenders who pose the highest risk and are the most complex to manage. However, we need to ensure that action is taken where there are indicators of escalating harm, as a number of noble Lords have mentioned, for those managed at the least intensive level. HMP Prison and Probation Service will therefore issue a policy framework for its staff setting out clear requirements for their management of all cases at MAPPA level 1.
On the question about a person not being sentenced for something, and therefore where the information is, the guidance will make very clear that convicted offenders who demonstrate a pattern of offending behaviour that indicates either serious harm or an escalation in the risk of serious harm relating to domestic abuse or stalking but which is not reflected in the charge for which they were actually convicted—I think this is what the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, was referring to—should be considered for category 3 management. The guidance will set out the importance of being mindful of the totality of an offender’s behaviour in domestic abuse and stalking cases. The noble Baroness reiterated her points, and I know this is an important issue for her. She wanted me to say it again, and I hope she is happy with that.
On MAPPA category 3, there is no minimum sentence for those who can be managed under that category. On commissioners monitoring the impact of the actions that I have outlined, they are independent but I am certain that they will be monitoring the impact of those actions, because one of the first things that will be on the commissioner’s desk when she is formerly in post is the Domestic Abuse Act and the implications and practices arising out of it.
The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, talked about the very important issue of the sharing of information. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill specifically clarifies that information can be shared with non-duty-to-co-operate agencies—for example, specialist domestic abuse organisations—if they can contribute to the risk management plan.
The noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, talked about the job description for the head of MAPPA. He said that whoever does it will need a breadth of knowledge and a broadness of mind. Perhaps they might refer to Hansard for inspiration from the passage of this Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked whether stalking was covered within and outwith domestic abuse. The answer to that is yes.
The last thing that I must talk about is funding. Funding was set out in the Budget but MAPPA is clearly a set of arrangements for managing high-harm offenders and, as such, is resourced from within the existing budgets of responsible authorities. However, the Government are committed to an additional 20,000 police officers, of which 6,600 have already been recruited. As I have already said, we are investing £25 million in additional funding to tackle perpetrators in 2021-22. We will continue to work with specialist domestic abuse organisations and the domestic abuse commissioner to ensure that that funding is spent effectively. We will continue to push to maintain that investment in perpetrator programmes as part of the next spending review.
As a House of Lords, we have come a long way with this Bill. We have revised it for the better. The Government have acquiesced to virtually all that noble Lords have asked in order to make this the excellent Bill that it now is. I hope that noble Lords will not divide on this matter and that they wish to see this Bill pass. The test will be the difference it makes to the lives of so many women and children.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have participated in this hugely important debate. I thank the Minister for her responses to this most difficult part of the Bill. The thresholding document she mentioned will be extremely important, as will the policy framework.
The guidance is critical. I am grateful to the Minister for saying that we will have this before the summer, and we look forward to being consulted. It is crucial that we see it before the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill reaches this House. If it is seen to be in any way inadequate, and if it is not accompanied by a statement of the funding allocated to its implementation —including for training—we will revisit this issue then.
The noble Baroness suggested that funding came from various departments. I accept this answer, but it is not enough. Some funding needs to be ring-fenced. This will ensure that MAPPA 3 can be implemented, as we all believe it should be, in order to increase the number of perpetrators encompassed by MAPPA 3 who are assessed and managed accordingly.
The Minister has made many commitments, for which I am grateful. We will continue to follow their realisation closely. In a year’s time, my noble friends and I will table a debate to enable a progress report. We expect to see that the number of murders has greatly diminished.
The noble Baronesses, Lady Brinton and Lady Newlove, and the noble Lords, Lord Russell of Liverpool and Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, are most definitely my noble friends in this context. I thank them for their support. We shall continue to work together, doing everything possible to ensure that the perpetrators of domestic abuse and stalking are identified, assessed and managed, so that their actions are not repeated and escalated. We wish to bring about the necessary change in culture. The number of people in MAPPA 3 must go up and the number of murders must go down.
The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, spoke about Laura Richards, the global expert on stalking. She is the most extraordinary woman who should be consulted at every step of the way.
I thank all the brave women, such as Zoe Dronfield and Rachel Riley, who have come forward to tell us of their appalling experiences. I thank the families of victims who have used their pain and grief to campaign for change which will benefit others—the Cloughs, the Ruggles, the Gazzards of this world, and many more.
I also thank the Minister for her amazing work on this excellent Bill, for the progress she has made and for her time and shared determination to bring about change. This will prevent women living in fear and prevent murder.
As so many noble Lords have said, this is the beginning. We have much work to do, but together we can do it. The debate today is another step in the building block towards bringing about the necessary change. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Motion D1 withdrawn.
Motion D agreed.
Global Anti-Corruption Sanctions
The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Monday 26 April.
“With permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I should like to make a Statement on our new global anti-corruption sanctions regulations.
Corruption has an immensely corrosive effect on the rule of law and trust in institutions. It slows development, drains the wealth of poorer nations and keeps their people trapped in poverty. It poisons the well of democracy around the world. Whistleblowers and those who seek to expose corruption are targeted, and some have paid the ultimate price with their lives, including, of course, Sergei Magnitsky himself, the inspiration for our human rights sanctions regime. But his courage was not in vain. The framework of sanctions that we are launching today, shared by some of our partners around the world, flows directly from his decision to take a brave stance against injustice, and that will not be forgotten.
This country has an important role to play in the fight against corruption. Our status as a global financial centre makes us an attractive location for investment, and we are proud of that and welcome it. But it also makes us a honey pot—a lightning rod—for corrupt actors who seek to launder their dirty money through British banks or British businesses. That is why we have already taken steps to become a global leader in tackling corruption and illicit finance. Our law enforcement agencies are recognised as some of the most effective in the world. The National Crime Agency’s international corruption unit and its predecessors have restrained, confiscated or returned well over £1 billion of assets stolen from developing countries since 2006. My department continues to provide funding for this vital work.
The Bribery Act 2010 criminalises bribery and the failure of businesses to prevent bribery from happening in the first place. In April 2016, the UK was the first in the G20 to establish a public register of the beneficial owners of companies and similar legal entities. That was an important first step in tackling the use of anonymous shell companies to move corrupt money around the world. I can tell the House that more than 4.5 million companies are now listed on that register.
In 2017, we adopted the ambitious five-year anti-corruption strategy, bringing in measures such as unexplained wealth orders, account freezing orders and the like, and that year, we also established the International Anti-Corruption Co-ordination Centre in London, which has helped to freeze more than £300 million of suspected corrupt assets worldwide and led to dozens of arrests. According to Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index, those actions—our commitment to tackling corruption—have seen the UK rise from a global ranking of 20th in 2010 to 11th place in 2020, out of