House of Lords
Monday 17 January 2022
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Birmingham.
Deaths of Members
My Lords, I regret to inform the House of the death of the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover, on 14 January. On behalf of the House, I extend our condolences to the noble Lord’s family and friends.
I also regret to inform the House of the death of the noble Lord, Lord Myners, on 16 January. On behalf of the House, I extend our condolences to the noble Lord’s family and friends.
We are working to ensure that people of all ages with an eating disorder, or who are at risk of developing one, have access to the right support in the right place and at the right time. We are delivering on the ambitious transformation plans outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan and children and young people’s mental health Green Paper and provided additional investment this year to address pressures arising during the pandemic.
Does the Minister agree that improving support for eating disorders depends on improving understanding of their causes, prevention and treatment? Eating disorders account for 9% of mental health conditions in the UK but receive only 1% of mental health research funding. This leads not only to major evidence gaps but to fewer researchers, less research and the ongoing stigmatisation of the illnesses as a niche concern. Will the Minister’s department consider working with the NIHR on a long-term eating disorder research strategy to break this underfunding cycle, as it has for other health challenges, so that more effective support can be targeted on their prevention and treatment?
First, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness for all the work she has done in this area, making sure that we are all aware of this issue and keeping it on the agenda. In answer to her specific question, the department has invested nearly £110 million in mental health research, including research on eating disorders through the NIHR, as she mentioned. This includes the Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative and a systemic review led by the Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre. UKRI has announced funding for a £3.8 million study on eating disorders to inform prevention and early prevention in young people. This research is being led by King’s College London and the University of Edinburgh.
My Lords, the latest NHS data shows a continuing increase in the number of people being hospitalised for eating disorders, mainly in the 18 to 39 age group, yet there is still no adult waiting time standard for people with eating disorders. This is despite knowing that access to quality community care can reduce the number of hospitalisations and unnecessary deaths. When are this Government going to introduce an adult waiting time standard for people accessing treatment for serious eating disorders?
As noble Lords can imagine, because of the pandemic, sadly, waiting times have gone up, but we are making sure that we are doing as much as we can to address that. Longer term, we are focusing on prevention, not only cure. We are also making sure that we are able to understand the various forms of eating disorder better. It is very simple to lump them all together, but there are different elements and you can distinguish between them. Then we will, I hope, be able to tackle that as much as possible.
My Lords, given that many young people with eating disorders find it very difficult to seek help and identify themselves, what specific additional resources have been provided for schools to help and support young people with this actually life- threatening illness?
The noble Baroness raises a very important point about how we identify children and young people who are suffering from these disorders or may be a few steps away from it. We know that there are programmes from the Department for Education and our department to tackle mental health issues in schools, identifying pupils and encouraging them to come forward, to talk to a counsellor in the school, and making sure that there is signposting in the right place to ensure that we can tackle their issues.
My Lords, the Minister mentioned that eating disorders do not always present in the same way. He will be aware that some fluctuate, moving from chronic to acute over a period and back again. When people seek treatment for eating disorders, at the moment those who can afford it are not even able to access treatment in the private sector. If they were able to, however, would they then be able to access NHS treatments at a later date, for example, should they not be able to afford to continue with private treatment?
The noble Baroness raises a really important point. It is an issue that was raised over the weekend, in an individual case. I know that we are always advised as Ministers not to get involved in individual clinical decisions, but in this this case a child had not yet got a bed and the parents wanted to take them out for private treatment until a bed became available. They were told that if they went to use the private sector they would be put at the back of the list. I am trying to get more details on this but it seems a lack of common sense. I want to understand why it is happening, but I have not had an answer yet.
My Lords, what are the Government doing with regard to working with industry, particularly the fashion industry? At the moment, there is great emphasis on size-zero models, which cannot really be helpful when linking it to the question that the noble Baroness asked previously. It is not a good image, or setting the right image for people—that is, for boys and girls.
The issue of poor body image that my noble friend raises is very important. The Government are addressing known risk factors through both universal and targeted interventions. At the top level, that means looking at the Better Health and Every Mind Matters content, which focuses on support for mental health and well-being. Poor body image and low self-esteem are topics addressed there. It is also about looking at what pupils expect and at the prevention concordat for better mental health programmes, as well as working as part of the anti-obesity strategy to make sure that we get the right balance. Sometimes when you focus on information on packets, for example, it can have unintended consequences for those with eating disorders. Every time we look at labelling, we have to make sure that we have addressed those unintended consequences on people with eating disorders, so that they do not react negatively to it and perhaps indulge in behaviour that we do not want to see them indulging in.
My Lords, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has warned that the hidden epidemic of eating disorders has surged during the pandemic, with many community services overstretched and unable to treat the number of people who need help. Will the Minister publish data about the number of people waiting for eating disorder treatment better to understand and meet the scale of the demand? Will he deliver a workforce plan to tackle staff shortages in eating disorder services so that it may be possible to treat everyone who desperately needs this help?
I thank the noble Baroness for raising the issue of the backlog as a result of the pandemic. We have seen eating disorder services continue to face increasing demand, especially as a result of lockdown and its mental health impact. The number of young people entering urgent treatment has increased by 73% between 2019-20 and 2021, and the numbers waiting for treatment have also increased from 561 to 2,083. To make sure that we meet the standard and get those waiting times down, we have invested an extra £79 million this financial year, and we are working with systems across the country to see how we can make sure that we address young people and adults who need access to this treatment.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is a very serious condition that 71% of the British people over the age of 30 are obese or overweight? The problem with this is that it interferes with the immune system, which makes them much more vulnerable to all kinds of diseases, not least infections. If we want to deal with the next pandemic now, we have to get people to reduce their weight so that obesity does not interfere with their immune systems.
The question from my noble friend highlights the difficulty of dealing with such a sensitive area. You have to be very careful how you address the issue of obesity. For example, it is quite right that we want to get the rates of obesity down, because it does lead to a number of other conditions that we have discussed many times here. One thing that you have to look at, however, is the unintended consequence of any laws. One possible unintended consequence is that some of the measures to tackle obesity, such as looking at food labelling, might affect people who have eating disorders. Every time we look at the obesity strategy, therefore, we make sure that we consult charities that look after people with eating disorders to ensure that we have the right balance. We will not always get it perfectly right, but we will try our best.
My Lords, anorexia nervosa is one of the most pervasive of mental health disorders. It can sometimes be successfully treated only in specialist in-patient units. What plans are there to grow the number of specialist in-patient beds? In 2019, the Government promised that people would not be sent to out-of-area beds after 2021, but I do not believe that that is currently the case.
I am sure that the noble Baroness will appreciate that we had a strategy to tackle obesity, but some of it has been knocked back a bit by Covid and having to tackle the backlog. However, we are looking at ways to ensure that the strategy gets back on track as we emerge from lockdown and there is, we hope, less pressure on the NHS.
National Living Wage
My Lords, on 1 April 2022, the Government will increase the national living wage by 6.6% to £9.50. Following this increase, the annual earnings of a full-time worker on the national living wage will have increased by around £5,000 since 2015. The Government are committed to further increasing the national living wage in line with their manifesto commitment to equal two-thirds of median earnings by 2024, and we are on track to achieve this ambitious target.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer, but given that it was in September 2016 that the Living Wage Commission published its findings, that the Government took six years to raise the minimum wage to the recommended living wage, and that national insurance contributions will increase in April, are the Government, in their levelling-up agenda, going to match their rhetoric on income inequality?
I pay tribute to the work that the noble and right reverend Lord does on these matters, and it is important that he raises them; we are grateful for that. As the noble and right reverend Lord is aware, we take advice from the Low Pay Commission—comprising business representatives, worker representatives and independent members—on the appropriate increases, taking into account all the various issues: what is affordable for business, rates of inflation, et cetera. I am proud of the record that we have in increasing the national minimum wage.
My Lords, families with children have been suffering some of the worst in-work poverty and hardship. As wages cannot and should not take account of family size, what are the Government doing to make good the cuts in financial support for children, including child benefit, since 2010?
Of course, we are here discussing the national minimum wage. As the noble Baroness is aware, benefits, universal credit, et cetera, are a separate issue—it is important, but it is a separate issue. On increases in the national minimum wage, since it was introduced in 2016 it has given the lowest earners the fastest pay rise in almost 20 years, something this Government are very proud of.
My Lords, some 9,000 employers across the United Kingdom pay the real living wage as calculated by the Living Wage Foundation. From April it will be 40p more an hour than the Government’s national living wage. What steps are the Government taking to persuade more employers to pay the real living wage, which virtually everyone accepts is much closer to reality in assessing the cost of living, especially at a time of inflation?
Of course, I completely agree with the noble Baroness that, where it is possible to do so, employers should pay the higher rates for the living wage that she referenced. We want to see as many employers as possible doing that, but when the Low Pay Commission makes recommendations—and it has representations from all sides of the industrial sectors—it takes into account business affordability. I am sure the noble Baroness would not want to see the rise in unemployment that might result from unrealistic increases in the minimum wage.
My Lords, of course, any increase in wages tends to get passed on to customers. Is my noble friend the Minister aware of studies that show that these increases are disproportionately felt by people on low incomes? If you have a higher wage cost which pushes up prices in a fast food joint, it is not generally investment bankers who are impacted. At a time of rising living costs, what assessment have the Government made of the inflationary impact of repeatedly raising the living wage faster than wages generally?
My noble friend makes an important point. I am disappointed by some of the responses from the Opposition Benches. As always with these matters, it is a question of getting the balance right. Of course, we all want to see the lowest paid in society paid more—nobody would want to see that more than I would and I am sure my noble friend feels the same way—but we have to bear in mind the importance of considering whether it is affordable for business. That is why we have the independent Low Pay Commission that makes recommendations on the maximum level of increase that can be afforded without undue inflationary impacts and is affordable for business.
I remind noble Lords—before the Minister takes too much credit for it—that it was the Labour Government who introduced the national minimum wage and that it was introduced against universal hostility from the Tory Opposition. Given the doubling of energy prices expected in April, does the Minister believe that the rise in the minimum wage to £9.50 an hour will be sufficient for ordinary household budgets to cope?
Indeed, I am happy to pay credit to the Labour Government of the time for introducing the national minimum wage and I am happy to take credit for the biggest increases in the national minimum wage that we, as a Conservative Government and a Conservative-led Government, have implemented since we came to power. As I said, these are difficult issues. We all want to see it increasing; that is why we have the independent Low Pay Commission to provide independent advice to the Government on what is affordable for business. We are working towards the manifesto commitment to increase the level to two-thirds of national median pay.
My Lords, I am absolutely delighted to see this rise in the national living wage, but is the Minister aware that if one works a 35-hour week at £9.50 an hour, that makes a weekly total of £332.50? If it is the national living wage, has anybody in the Government actually tried living on it for a week?
I know the noble Baroness feels passionately about this and, as I said in response to earlier questions, I think the whole House is united in wanting to see increases in the minimum wage and the living wage as much as possible. However, it benefits nobody if it drives people into unemployment and further poverty. We want to see increases in the national minimum wage, but we want to see them on a sustainable basis.
My Lords, listening to these questions, is my noble friend satisfied that the Bank of England is correct in assuming that inflation is going to be a transient phenomenon? Was it not a mistake that it continued with its programme of QE even when the economy was growing rapidly? If people push for wage increases, that is how inflation takes off, and it will be very difficult for the Bank of England to control it.
My noble friend also makes an important point. Inflation has a pernicious impact on the economy and, of course, it impacts most on the lowest paid. I am sure the Bank of England wants to take all these factors into account. I will not stand here and give it advice on this matter, but it is important that we take account of inflation in calculating the minimum wage, and that is exactly what the Low Pay Commission does.
I am grateful to the Minister for reminding us that it was a Labour Government who introduced the national minimum wage. He did not remind us that it was done in the teeth of Tory opposition, and neither did he remind us that the principal argument used by the Tories at the time was that any introduction of a national minimum wage would inevitably result in a huge increase in unemployment— 2 million, I think, was the figure most frequently quoted. Will he now acknowledge at least that whoever was doing the Tory forecasting at the time had not the faintest idea what they were talking about?
Obviously I was not in government at the time but, looking back at the debate, a lot of independent economists were concerned about the possible impact. As I indicated in previous answers, nobody wants to see rises in unemployment. At the end of the day, low pay is better than no pay at all. But I am delighted to say that with the increases in the national minimum wage—and our record on this is second to none—we have seen the national living wage outpace the rate of inflation by over 20 percentage points since we have been in power. That is a good thing: it has not resulted in a rise in unemployment, and I think that is something we should all welcome.
My Lords, the Minister takes credit for the increases the Government have introduced. Given the cost of energy and foodstuffs to low-income families, does he think the increase that he is taking credit for will compensate those families for the increases they now face?
We take credit because the Government accepted the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission, which, as I have indicated, was set up to consider all these matters. But I agree with the noble Lord: it is going to be difficult—the cost of living is going to increase substantially, probably, over the next few months, with food and energy prices. It comes back to the points made by some of my noble friends earlier: it is important that we get a grip on inflation because that is something that affects the lowest paid the most.
Covid-19: Vaccinations for School Pupils
The Covid-19 vaccination programme continues rapidly, with nearly 52% of 12 to 15 year-olds vaccinated as of 15 January 2022. We vaccinated over 372,000 12 to 15 year-olds in England between 17 December 2021 and 15 January 2022—that is nearly 400,000 in a month, which included the Christmas break. Vaccinations for children aged 12 to 15 can be booked in out-of-school settings through the national booking service, alongside the ongoing school-based offer. We currently have 314 sites offering appointments that can be booked via the national booking service.
I thank the Minister for that very full response but the figures he has quoted are at odds with those issued just last week by the Department for Education on the vaccination of 12 to 17 year-olds. The number of pupils absent from school with a confirmed contraction of coronavirus was up by nearly 50% over the figure for December. It cannot be a coincidence that only 40% of 12 to 17 year- olds, in the DfE’s own figures, have been vaccinated. This shows, whether it is the Department of Health or the Department for Education, that the Government have really failed to get a grip on the measures necessary to keep children learning—whether it is the supply of testing kits or classroom ventilation. I ask the Minister: what urgent action will the Government take to increase the level of vaccination among school pupils?
I think the noble Lord is being slightly unfair in the sentiment of his question. We have to remember that, when it came to vaccinating children, there was a huge debate around, first, whether it was ethical to do so and, secondly, whether the vaccines used for adults were effective in children. We could not really do any of that until we had sufficient data. It would have been irresponsible just to have pushed ahead without the data. Once we got the data, we started the vaccination programme for 16 and 17 year-olds and then for 12 to 15 year-olds, and we are pushing through as much as possible. Parents can book for their children on a national booking service. We expect many more parents to do so.
My Lords, many parents are still saying that they have not heard when their clinically extremely vulnerable five to 11 year-olds will get their vaccinations, despite the JCVI saying that they should. Last week’s update to the GP green book now includes severely CEV children as eligible for the third primary dose, which is progress. However, there is no news for CEV young children not classed as severe, so can the Minister please say what he will do to ensure that GPs will call all these children for their vaccinations as soon as possible?
As the noble Baroness says, the JCVI advised on 22 December that children aged five to 11 in a clinical risk group, or who are a household contact of someone who is immunosuppressed, should be vaccinated. GPs and hospital consultants are now urgently identifying the children eligible, and we expect rollout to have started by the end of this month, with children and parents starting to be called up for appointments by the NHS locally. The message here is that there is no need for parents to contact the NHS; the NHS will make contact with the parents or carers of those eligible. Just to further reassure parents, we will be using a paediatric Pfizer vaccine authorised by the MHRA for use in this age group.
My Lords, given that it is safest to administer the vaccinations in a school setting, and unlikely that this round of vaccinations is the last one, has the Minister given any consideration to expanding the specialist community health nurses, commonly known as school nurses? Their numbers have been decreasing over the last 10 years. They could play a role in the future administration of vaccines in school settings.
My noble friend raises a very important point, which I know a number of other noble Lords have also raised. In a free society, we have to get the balance right between freedom of speech and ensuring that people have a right to say even those things with which we may disagree fundamentally, while ensuring that misinformation is not spread. The department has now provided information and guidance to schools on how to handle any misinformation, and who to contact if there are protests which step beyond the line of acceptability and contravene the law. The police now have comprehensive power to deal with the activities, especially those which spread hate or deliberately raise tensions through violence or public disorder. I am sure many people will be aware of the attacks on vaccination centres in Truro in October and in north Wales and at the Bromley Civic Centre earlier this month. That was going way too far on freedom of speech, and we want to make sure that we deal with the people who take part in these acts.
My Lords, does the Minister agree with the World Health Organization that the vaccination of children in the wealthy world should not be at the expense of the vaccination of health workers and vulnerable adults in the developing world? If so, what more can the UK do to ensure that the developing world has access to vaccines and the capacity to manufacture them?
I once again pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Boateng, for raising this issue and for the number of times he has raised similar issues about the developing world over the years. Since I became a junior Minister of Health, I have been involved in many meetings with the G7 and G20, and in bilateral meetings with other Health Ministers. This item always comes up on the agenda and is something that the British Government have pushed. We are leading donors to the international COVAX programme and are working across the world, with other countries and with manufacturers, to make sure that we get the vaccines to those who really need them. While we here in this country complain about third and fourth doses, for example, there are still many people in many countries who have not even had their first vaccine. In the longer term, that is not right for anyone.
My Lords, would the Minister give us a little bit more of an insight into the general policy for vaccination of children at schools? Although we have problems here, we have a history of people resisting and giving bad information. Is there a coherent strategy that will come out for school-age vaccination that we can refer back to as a model for the future?
One of the important things we all have to learn, from what we have been through and are still going through, are lessons for the future—not only for future Covid vaccines there may need to be but for all vaccination programmes and, perhaps, future pandemics. One of the really important things about this is making sure we get the right information. We are working with schools to make sure teachers and parents have the right information and also know the risks. Many people will know that, over the weekend, 16 and 17-year-olds were called for their booster if there was a sufficient space since their last dose, and we are now looking at how we vaccinate 12 to 15 year- olds. We are looking in more detail at whether it is safe for five to 11-year-olds, but at the moment the advice is not there.
My Lords, as my noble friend has said, this country is behind some other countries in rolling out vaccinations to five to 11 year-olds. He will also be aware that the extent of Covid in that age group is a major source of infection for parents and, therefore, society as a whole. Have the Government taken account, or will they take account, of the wider social and economic benefits of vaccinating that age group and weigh them up alongside the medical evidence?
The JCVI will continue to look at the new data as it emerges and recommend whether we boost 12 to 15 year-olds. But when we look at the vaccination strategy, we look not only at the tackling of the specific coronavirus or variant but also at the wider implications. For example, many noble Lords have spoken eloquently about the unintended consequences for mental health issues of lockdown. Beyond that, we have to look at societal and social issues and the way people, businesses, charities, et cetera are affected in doing their work. We always make sure we take a balanced approach, looking at the science, the wider medical issues and the unintended consequences.
My Lords, the House is united on the importance of children’s education continuing, but it is the lack of vaccinations not just among children but among the teaching workforce that may interrupt their education. Do the Government have any estimate of the proportion of the teaching workforce that has not yet been vaccinated or is off work for Covid-related reasons?
The noble Viscount raises an important point. As we are expecting our children to be vaccinated, it is important that teachers are also vaccinated. It is one of the reasons we are looking at VCOD—vaccination as a condition of deployment—in the health service. In answer to the noble Viscount’s specific question, I am afraid I do not have the information with me, but I will try to speak to the Department for Education and write to him.
The CIPD report makes a number of interesting points on SSP, many of which had been raised previously by other stakeholders and continue to be assessed by officials. Last year, the Government made clear that the pandemic was not the right time to introduce changes to the rate of SSP or its eligibility criteria. However, as we learn to live with Covid-19, we are able to step back and take a broader look at the role of statutory sick pay. I can confirm to noble Lords and the House that this work is ongoing, but I am not able to give a timescale for when it will be completed.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for her Answer, but the fact is that nobody can live on £96.35 per week—the rate of statutory sick pay—and the lower earnings limit excludes 2 million workers from receiving even this. Both features pose a public health risk by disincentivising those sick or who should be self-isolating from staying away from work. The report of the CIPD, a highly respected body representing human resource professionals, is formidable. It finds that 62% of British employers think that SSP is inadequate. In the light of that, will the Minister agree to look into increasing the rate of SSP and at the other recommendations? There are too many to summarise now, but they include removing the lower earnings limit, improving employer compliance and including the self-employed.
I understand exactly the sentiment the noble Lord raises his question with. I can confirm again that work is ongoing to look at the role of SSP and all the CIPD recommendations. As I said, I am not able to give a timeline for this, but I will go back to the department and stress the noble Lord’s keenness to do this work.
My Lords, since we cannot look at this long term, many look at it short term, and in particular at the plight of many businesses, especially small ones, which find it difficult to keep their heads above water in any case and then find that they have workers isolating for Covid-related reasons. Can any help at all be given to firms in this parlous position?
Throughout the pandemic the Government have demonstrated that they can respond proportionately to the changing path of the virus, in particular through supporting jobs and businesses, and we will continue to do that. As increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases means that more workers take time off and there is an impact on business, the Government are reintroducing the statutory sick pay rebate scheme. That will mean that small and medium-sized businesses can be reimbursed for the cost of SSP for Covid-related absences for up to two weeks per employee.
My Lords, statutory sick pay is around 27% of the minimum wage. Can the Minister please explain why it is set at such a low amount, and can she say whether it is tested on Ministers to see whether they can survive on it? At the very least, that would generate some sympathy for the poor.
The noble Lord is very eloquent in the way he holds the Government to account. I cannot say that it has been tested on Ministers, but I will go back to the department to understand how that figure has been arrived at and then write to the noble Lord and place a copy in the Library.
My Lords, I am glad that the Government are thinking about this, but they have been doing so for a very long time. They have consulted more than once on this but they simply say, yet again, as they did last year, that it is not the right time. If the pandemic taught us anything it is that if you are on low wages, in insecure work or self-employed, you cannot afford to get sick and you cannot afford to do the right thing. Rather than wait for the next pandemic, the next bout of flu or the next difficult infectious disease to hit our country, can we please do something to enable people to do the right thing? We are a rich country; surely people should not have to go to work when they are sick.
I completely agree with the noble Baroness that people should not be forced to go to work when they are sick, especially with Covid, given the danger of it spreading. I know it probably will not go down very well, but I can confirm that this is in train, and I am dreadfully sorry that I cannot say when it will be done. When I go back and talk to the department about the keenness and urgency of Lord Hendy, I shall certainly add that to the shopping list.
My Lords, could the noble Baroness tell us her response to the postcode lottery of the test and trace support payment, revealed in the CIPD report, where 75% of Camden applicants received payments but only 23% did so in Liverpool and just 16% in Sandwell? Could she comment on whether she thinks people in hard-pressed poorer areas are being doubly disadvantaged by the Government’s scheme?
I can confirm to the noble Baroness that there is no intention on the Government’s part to penalise anybody for where they live. The noble Baroness has asked quite a detailed question and, if it is acceptable to her, I will go away and find out the answer and write to her with it.
My Lords, new analysis from the TUC today estimates that a quarter of a million private sector workers were self-isolating last month with no decent sick pay or with no pay at all. Will the Minister commit to meeting with some urgency with the TUC to move forward on the ideas already expressed from these Benches?
While the pandemic was going on, with businesses under pressure, individuals sick and the NHS understandably struggling, we did not feel it was the right time. I think the noble Baroness is saying to me that the time has come, and that is supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, and anyone else who is really worked up about this. I can only go back to the department and do my best.
My Lords, the Government say they are committed to levelling up. Given the fact that most high-paid workers will receive their salary when they are off sick but low-paid workers are left with £90-odd a week, is this not a prime example of where the Government could introduce something to level up in this area?
I am sure the Government appreciate the point that the noble Lord makes. I cannot today give any commitment. I am very sorry, but, as I have said before on numerous occasions, I will go back to the department, where I am sure they will read Hansard with great interest and, I hope, act upon it.
Education (Careers Guidance in Schools) Bill
The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.
Local Government (Disqualification) Bill
The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.
Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Act 2021 (Airspace Change Directions) (Determination of Turnover for Penalties) Regulations 2022
Merchant Shipping (Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments) Order 2022
International Organization for Marine Aids to Navigation (Legal Capacities) Order 2022
Motions to Approve
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Report (6th Day)
Relevant documents: 1st, 2nd, 4th and 6th Reports from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, 6th, 13th, 15th and 16th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee, 7th Report from the Constitution Committee
109B: After Clause 55, insert the following new Clause—
“Code of practice relating to non-criminal hate incidents
(1) The Secretary of State may issue a code of practice about the processing by a relevant person of personal data relating to a hate incident.(2) In this section “hate incident” means an incident or alleged incident which involves or is alleged to involve an act by a person (“the alleged perpetrator”) which is perceived by a person other than the alleged perpetrator to be motivated (wholly or partly) by hostility or prejudice towards persons with a particular characteristic.(3) The provision that may be made by a code of practice under this section includes, in particular, provision about—(a) whether and how personal data relating to a hate incident should be recorded;(b) the persons who are to process such personal data;(c) the circumstances in which a data subject should be notified of the processing of such personal data;(d) the retention of such personal data, including the period for which it should be retained and the circumstances in which and the procedures by which that period might be changed;(e) the consideration by a relevant person of requests by the data subject relating to such personal data.(4) But a code of practice under this section must not make provision about—(a) the processing of personal data for the purposes of a criminal investigation, or (b) the processing of personal data relating to the alleged perpetrator of a hate incident at any time after they have been charged with an offence relating to the hate incident.(5) A code of practice under this section may make different provision for different purposes.(6) A relevant person must have regard to the code of practice that is for the time being in force under this section in processing personal data relating to a hate incident.(7) In this section—“data subject” has the meaning given by section 3(5) of the Data Protection Act 2018;“personal data” has the meaning given by section 3(2) of that Act;“processing” has the meaning given by section 3(4) of that Act.(8) In this section “relevant person” means—(a) a member of a police force in England and Wales,(b) a special constable appointed under section 27 of the Police Act 1996,(c) a member of staff appointed by the chief officer of police of a police force in England and Wales,(d) a person designated as a community support volunteer or a policing support volunteer under section 38 of the Police Reform Act 2002,(e) an employee of the Common Council of the City of London who is under the direction and control of a chief officer of police,(f) a constable of the British Transport Police Force,(g) a special constable of the British Transport Police Force appointed under section 25 of the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003,(h) an employee of the British Transport Police Authority appointed under section 27 of that Act,(i) a person designated as a community support volunteer or a policing support volunteer under section 38 of the Police Reform Act 2002 as applied by section 28 of the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003, or(j) a National Crime Agency officer.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment confers power on the Secretary of State to issue a code of practice about the processing by the police of personal data relating to a hate incident other than for the purposes of a criminal investigation.
My Lords, Amendment 109B standing in my name is on the topic of non-crime hate incidents. In my opening remarks, I will also speak to the related government Amendment 109F. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Moylan for tabling amendments in Committee that related to ensuring that guidance on the recording of non-crime hate incidents, and the retention of personal data in relation to these incidents, was subject to parliamentary oversight.
The Government understand the strength of feeling of many noble Lords on this matter, and I am grateful to all who expressed their views during the debate on this topic on 1 November. Having listened to the compelling arguments, we have tabled Amendments 109B and 109F, which draw strongly from my noble friend’s amendment in Committee. I am very confident that the government amendments reflect the spirit of his proposals in his original amendment and address the House’s concerns in relation to this matter.
I reiterate that the collection of non-crime hate incident data is a key legacy of the Macpherson inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, and is intended to give the police the means to understand tensions within communities before they escalate into serious harm. This data pertains to incidents which are not crimes. It can include location data, to know where repeat incidents of apparent tension and hostility may occur. In this respect, the data is vital for helping the police to build intelligence to understand where they must target resources to prevent serious crimes which may later occur.
The importance of such intelligence has been illustrated where it could have prevented real harm. The tragic case of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter, subjected to persistent abuse and in which the police failed to draw the links to repeated incidents of harassment until she felt forced to take her own life and the life of her daughter, is one such example. Of course, non-crime hate incidents may also include the collection of personal data. Some of these records will include an accusation of hate crime which has been made against a person but was not proven.
To address concerns relating to the collection of this data, the government amendments will ensure that the police’s processing of personal data in non-crime hate incident records is subject to a code of practice issued by the Home Secretary. The code will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny, with its first iteration being subject to the affirmative procedure, with the negative procedure applying thereafter.
The College of Policing is currently responsible for producing non-statutory hate crime operational guidance for the police to follow when processing data on hate crimes and non-crime hate incidents. The statutory code of practice, once in effect, will replace the relevant section of this guidance on non-crime hate incidents. The college’s guidance will remain in place until the new code enters into effect.
The code will apply only to incidents which the police have designated to be non-crime hate incidents. Where the police are carrying out investigations with a view to there being a prosecution, or where they assess that a prosecution is likely, the code will not apply. It is vital to ensure that the code will not inhibit the police’s abilities to gather evidence that is fundamental to the role of policing. My noble friend’s original amendment included a similar exception. The code will also not apply to data which contains no personal data at all; for instance, location data would not be in scope.
Amendment 109B provides the Secretary of State with the power to issue the code and prescribes some of the key provisions that will be addressed in it. The amendment provides that the code may cover whether personal data relating to a hate incident should be recorded; the persons who are to process such personal data; the circumstances in which a data subject should be notified of the processing of such personal data; the retention of such personal data, including the period for which it should be retained; the circumstances in which, and the procedures by which, that period might be changed; and the consideration by a relevant person of requests by the data subject relating to such personal data. This is not an exhaustive list and it might be expanded or amended during the formulation of the code of practice or in the future.
The precise content of the code of practice will be decided at a later stage. The Government will work closely with policing partners, including the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs’ Council, when drafting the code to ensure that it meets operational requirements. Decisions relating to existing non-crime hate incident data will also be decided in due course as the process of drafting the new code begins.
We will also ensure that the content of the code fully reflects the recent Court of Appeal judgment in the Harry Miller v College of Policing case that was handed down on 20 December. The court found that the recording of NCHIs is lawful provided there are robust safeguards in place so that the interference with freedom of expression is proportionate. This is a very important point. The court did not consider that the recording of NCHI data was of itself unlawful; rather, it concluded that extra safeguards were necessary to ensure the protection of rights. The approach that the Government are adopting is absolutely in line with that. I can assure the House that this judgment will be reflected in the code.
As I said at the beginning, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Moylan for bringing this important issue to the Government’s attention. I hope that he will see that the Government have taken these issues very seriously. The government amendments will address a significant number of the concerns raised by bringing parliamentary oversight to this process and enabling the production of a code of practice that will respect the operational importance of the police recording non-crime hate incidents to help keep vulnerable people and communities safe, while balancing this with the need to protect freedom of expression.
My noble friends Lord Moylan and Lord Blencathra have various amendments in this group, including to government Amendment 109B. It would be helpful to hear from them and other noble Lords before I respond. For now, I beg to move.
109C: After Clause 55, in subsection (1), leave out “may” and insert “must”
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for being a listening Minister and for the hard work she has put into bringing forward this amendment. She has explained what government Amendment 109B does. Essentially, it brings the guidance under which non-crime hate incident records are made by the police under statutory guidance to be issued by the Secretary of State. That is very welcome, but I have some questions to ask about the amendment and some points to make that appeared in my original amendment but do not figure in Amendment 109B.
The first is my Amendment 109C, which would make it mandatory for the Secretary of State to issue this guidance. That was the sense of the Committee when we debated it: that the Secretary of State should do this, not that the Secretary of State should have the option of doing it. But in the very first line of proposed new subsection (1) “may” appears, which I think should be “must”.
I will make it clear at this point that it is not my intention to press any of my amendments to a Division or to seek the opinion of the House, but I would like to hear my noble friend’s explanation of why “may” is, in her view, an appropriate word here when the sense of the Committee was that it should be “must”. The anxiety is not that the current Secretary of State will fail to issue the code of practice because, quite clearly, having brought forward the amendment it would be very strange if she did not act. The anxiety is that a future Secretary of State could, using “may”, revert to the status quo if they wished because there would be no obligation on them to maintain the code of practice. I would like to hear some assurance from my noble friend, and possibly even a word that she might bring forward this modest change at Third Reading.
My Amendment 109E affirms the importance of freedom of expression, especially in the light of the recent Court of Appeal decision in the Miller case. In the interests of brevity, I will not comment on this amendment further but leave it to more qualified noble Lords who might wish to comment on it after me, because I know that we have a very heavy day.
My Amendment 114E relates to the disclosure of non-crime hate incidents in response to a request for an enhanced criminal records check. Noble Lords will be clear, I am sure, that the question of recording these incidents is a wholly separate matter from their disclosure in response to the criminal record check. The government case on this point—if I may anticipate what my noble friend will say—seems to be that statutory guidance already covers disclosure and is more or less adequate the way it stands.
That is not entirely the case; not everyone is convinced. I will take a modest example. In arguments before the Court of the Appeal in the recent Miller case, counsel for the College of Policing said clearly that their client, the college, took the view that there were circumstances in which it would have been appropriate for the relevant police force to disclose this non-crime hate incident if Mr Miller had applied for certain jobs, for example working with transgender children. But of course the state of affairs today is such that any child is potentially a transgender child, so they were saying, effectively, that he would have been barred—because of the fluidity of a child’s decision-making about their gender—from working with children, because of this tweet that was objected to but which the court did not entirely agree should come under this restriction.
So, if the Government are not minded to adopt my suggestion in Amendment 114E, there is, at the very least, a strong case for them to review the existing statutory guidance to ensure that it is fully in line with the findings of the Court of Appeal—and on that matter again I would be very grateful for an assurance from my noble friend.
Amendment 109D, in the name of my noble friend Lord Blencathra, is one I have general sympathy with, but the noble Lord can surely make the case for it much better than I can, so I shall pass on. Perhaps I may make a helpful suggestion. It used to be the case—perhaps it still is—that a very large number of complaints that reach police forces are purportedly about fraud. A little while ago, to help police forces manage these complaints, many of which are not about fraud at all, the Home Office set up a central unit, Action Fraud, to which the complaints are referred before they are investigated, so that more expert eyes can look at them and, if they have substance, refer them back to the relevant police force for investigation. This is a model that perhaps could be applied to non-crime hate incidents. Again, I do not expect a commitment today from my noble friend, but something of this sort could make the system a great deal less variable and uncertain, which is one of the problems that afflicts it at the moment. Again, I would be grateful to hear anything the Minister might have to say on that.
Finally, before I sit down, I will ask my noble friend, when she wraps up, to answer two questions. First, will the Home Office ensure that the College of Policing ceases the practice set out in its current guidance, so that no more incidents are recorded while the new guidance is pending? Alternatively, what does the Minister envisage for this period, when we are waiting for the new guidance? Secondly, when the new guidance comes into effect—presumably with different criteria from the current guidance—what will happen to existing historic cases of non-crime hate incident records? Will they be retained as they are, will they be extinguished or will they be reviewed and modified in the light of the new guidance?
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, and to have put my name to his amendments both in Committee and here.
Those of us who put our names to these amendments, discussing the matter before Committee, had a number of concerns: first, the lack of any parliamentary oversight over a system in which the police were creating hate records against the names of people who had committed, it was agreed, no crime; secondly, that these records were categorised as hate incidents purely according to the perception of the complainant and that no other evidence or real inquiry was required; thirdly, that these records were disclosable in some circumstances, for example to potential employers, with all the damage that could imply for the subject of the record; and fourthly, and perhaps most importantly for some of us, that the creation of such records in such large numbers—some 120,000 over four years—without any effective oversight, and flowing from entirely lawful speech, would surely have a chilling effect on the exercise of free speech and therefore on public debate generally.
This is surely one of the most egregious potential consequences of such a process if it is not properly controlled. The case of Harry Miller demonstrates that, but there are many others, including that of a social worker called Rachel Meade who, the Times reported only last week, was facing disciplinary action and the sack for Facebook posts expressing gender-critical views. I observe that these have clearly been stated by the Court of Appeal to be protected beliefs under the Equality Act—so this is not a problem that has gone away.
The Minister mentioned the Harry Miller Court of Appeal judgment. I will quote from it briefly. The court said that
“the recording of non-crime hate incidents is plainly an interference with freedom of expression and knowledge that such matters are being recorded and stored in a police database is likely to have a serious ‘chilling effect’ on public debate.”
The court went on:
“The concept of a chilling effect in the context of freedom of expression is an extremely important one. It often arises in discussions about what if any restrictions on journalistic activity are lawful; but … it is equally important when considering the rights of private citizens to express their views within the limits of the law, including and one might say in particular, on controversial matters of public interest.”
This is why Amendment 109E is before your Lordships’ House. It is to assert the primary importance of the Home Secretary’s code of conduct when it is drafted, stressing—and, indeed, insisting on—a proper respect for the fundamentals of free expression whenever the police are considering recording a non-crime hate incident. Those of us who support this amendment do so because we believe it is so important in the protection of public debate and free expression rights generally that your Lordships should insist that the principle is enshrined in terms in the legislation. The Minister may argue that this is taken as read and that this amendment is in some way otiose. I say in response that experience to date demonstrates the exact opposite.
My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 109D to remove the negative procedure for all subsequent revisions of this guidance. I shall do that in my capacity as chair of the Delegated Powers Committee, but first I want to make some brief comments in a personal capacity on this whole, in my view, iniquitous concept of innocent people being put on a criminal records database.
As other noble Lords have said, it seems that there are 120,000 people who have not committed any crime, have not been found guilty by a court of any description and yet are held on a database with other people who have been convicted of terrorism, paedophilia, rape, murder, armed robbery and every crime on our statute book. Some may argue that it is not really a criminal record, but if an employer asks for an enhanced criminal record check, the police hand over the names of innocent people whom the police have tried and convicted. I am not convinced that their system of control is as accurate as they claim it is.
If someone complains that they have encountered a hate incident—and we see a growing mountain of these bogus claims—the police investigate. Even when no crime has been committed, the police may decide that the person should be convicted of having done a non-crime hate incident—no magistrate, no proper judge, no jury, just the police.
I will now return to the amendment in front of us in my capacity as chair of the Delegated Powers Committee —your Lordships will be relieved to know that I am being relieved of that position on Wednesday of this week when a new chair is appointed. I welcome the Home Office taking responsibility for these guidelines. If we are going to put innocent people on a criminal records list, it must be done under regulations which have proper parliamentary scrutiny every time—as these will have, at least the first time they are made.
When the Court of Appeal in the Miller case announced that the College of Policing—not a statutory body but a private limited company, as we discussed last week—had produced and implemented partly unlawful guidance, the comment from an assistant chief constable at the college was:
“We will listen to, reflect on, and review this judgment carefully and make any changes that are necessary.”
That is all right then. There is no need to bother 650 MPs or 800 Peers; this assistant chief constable will write our laws. Thank goodness the Home Office realised that it is completely wrong for the liberty and reputation of the individual to be subject to rules written by a private limited company. Thus, I partly welcome—no, largely welcome—the Home Office amendment before us today, but I am afraid it adopts the usual ploy that the Delegated Powers Committee sees in so many Bills, namely the first-time affirmative ploy. This means that the Bill says that the first set of regulations will be made by the affirmative procedure but subsequent revisions will inevitably be minor and technical. Therefore, we need not worry our pretty little parliamentary heads about them and the negative procedure will suffice.
We have seen no evidence to suggest that any subsequent revisions to this guidance will be minor or technical. Indeed, they could be substantial. Suppose, in a hypothetical instance, that the first set of regulations stipulates that these records for non-crime shall be retained for two years. A year later the Home Office issues a revised set with just one word changed: delete “two years” and substitute “10 years” or “25 years”.
The Minister may say—we get this a lot from all departments—that Ministers have no intention whatever of doing that and in the Delegated Powers Committee we always say that the intention of the current Minister is irrelevant and what the law permits them to do is the only thing that matters.
This business of recording non-crimes is such a contentious matter that we suggest that the affirmative procedure must be used on every occasion. The net result of that will be that any time the guidance is revised a Minister—usually a Lords Minister as the Commons will probably bounce it through on the nod—may have to do a 90-minute debate in your Lordships’ House. It is not a very heavy burden to impose on the Government.
The Court of Appeal said:
“The net for ‘non-crime hate speech’ is an exceptionally wide one which is designed to capture speech which is perceived to be motivated by hostility ... regardless of whether there is evidence that the speech is motivated by such hostility … There is nothing in the guidance about excluding irrational complaints, including those where there is no evidence of hostility and little, if anything, to address the chilling effect which this may have on the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression.”
I simply say that so long as these rules remain, Parliament must approve all regulations on this matter, whether it is the first set of regulations, the second, the 10th or the 50th iteration of them.
My Lords, as other noble Lords have said, this is a contentious issue. The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, may recall from his time in a previous role a report from the probation service called From Murmur to Murder—the noble Lord is nodding—when those in the probation service decided that they would engage with racist clients to challenge their abhorrent views, because of where it might lead.
From stalking to domestic violence, to murder motivated by hatred, including terrorism, we know that non-crime activity can provide indications of individuals’ journeys towards serious violence, but the recording of such intelligence must be subject to a statutory code of practice. I have sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, in insisting on the affirmative procedure for any changes once the original guidance is issued. We welcome the government amendments and thank the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, for raising the issue.
My Lords, I begin by saying how grateful I am to my noble friend Lady Williams of Trafford for the time that she has given me, and others, since the debate in Committee on 1 November and for bringing forward these amendments. Having said that, I have some observations to make, in particular about freedom of expression.
Events since the debate in November have made the need for proper regulation even more pressing. Since that debate, as we have heard, the Court of Appeal in Miller has stressed the danger of the chilling effect of police intervention on individuals minded to speak on controversial public topics. The president of the Queen’s Bench Division, in her very powerful judgment, said that the revised guidance published by the College of Policing, which was then before the court, did not
“go very far, or not nearly far enough to address the chilling effect of perception-based recording more generally.”
She emphasised that
“additional safeguards should be put in place so that the incursion into freedom of expression is no more than strictly necessary.”
Finally, she said:
“Guidance should truly reflect what the police are expected to do and should not mislead by omission either the police who have to use it or the public.”
At much the same time as that judgment was being written, a similar matter came before the court in Strasbourg—the case of Dr Pal. It was decided against the United Kingdom on 30 November 2021—just two months ago. Dr Pal, a journalist, was arrested, detained and charged with hate speech in respect of a person called AB. Only when it came to the magistrates’ court did the CPS abandon the prosecution. Dr Pal then brought proceedings for wrongful arrest, or false imprisonment. The Strasbourg court observed that the arresting officer’s decision to arrest
“appears to have been based on the subjective viewpoint of AB”—
that is, the complainant himself —
“without any acknowledgement of the fact that the right to freedom of expression extends to information or ideas that defend, shock or disturb.”
The court said that
“there is no evidence that the criteria … relevant to the balancing of the rights to freedom of expression and the right to respect for private life … were taken into account prior to the applicant’s arrest. In particular, no consideration appears to have been given to the subject matter … and whether they could be said to have contributed to a debate of general interest.”
In short, there have been two important decisions from very senior courts which have stressed the vital importance of paying proper regard to freedom expression and to the need for those in authority to understand and reflect that the right to freedom of expression extends to ideas that may shock or disturb others. There must be fresh guidance, it must reflect those observations, it must be clear and decisive—and it must be soon.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing her two amendments, which we welcome. It was fair of her to point out the legacy of the recording of non-crime hate incidents and the legacy of the Macpherson report on Stephen Lawrence’s murder. We welcome that the existing guidance will be turned into statutory guidance. I have one question for the Minister: what is the likely timetable for that statutory guidance to be available to be reviewed by Parliament?
On Amendment 114E in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, I have a genuine question, and this is not a party-political point: how would his amendment have an impact on domestic abuse cases? As I have said before to the House, I sit as a magistrate in both family court and the criminal court, and I deal with a lot of cases related to domestic abuse. While non-hate crime incidents are not recorded on the police national computer, we see information on call-outs and it is common to see information on text records between the parties, usually a man and a woman. Sometimes those text records go on for pages and are relentlessly abusive. How would that information be affected by his amendment?
Without having myself looked at the wording of the amendment, the original wording, which I think is preserved in the current amendment, would have excluded disclosure in relation to individuals but not in relation to groups. In the context of the original amendment, therefore, I think that point would have been covered. The noble Lord makes a very good point, and if I were pressing the amendment or the Government were intending to take it forward in any way, of course it would need to be reviewed to ensure that his point was properly addressed.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friends for setting out their amendments. I shall respond to them in turn. Amendment 109C seeks to impose a duty on the Home Secretary to issue a code of practice, while our amendment provides her with the power to do so. My noble friend Lord Moylan has pressed me on this issue. I assure the House that we certainly will issue such a code of practice; indeed, Home Office officials will shortly begin the process of drafting the aforementioned code. The permissible language in Amendment 109C is a common drafting approach but, as I have said, it is our firm intention to prepare and issue a code relating to non-crime hate incidents. As I said earlier, I can assure the House that decisions relating to existing non-crime hate incident data will also be made in due course as the process of drafting the new code begins.
My noble friend asked me if the College of Policing would pause the recording of NCHIs, as they are called, while the guidance was being formulated. The current non-statutory guidance on NCHIs will remain in place until the new code of practice enters into effect.
The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, asked about the timing of the amendment and when it would come into force. The reason why we have not issued a timescale is that the code will require careful drafting to ensure that it both meets the needs of the police and protects the public. Furthermore, as noble Lords will know, the Court of Appeal has only recently handed down its judgment in the Miller case and the code will have to account for that ruling. We do not wish to impose unduly restrictive timeframes on the process of drafting and publishing a code that will fully align with these objectives.
My noble friend has suggested, previously and again today, that a unit of some description could be set up to provide advice to police forces on whether specific incidents should be investigated by the police force as non-crime hate incidents. That suggestion requires further consideration, and I will try to give it my full consideration in due course.
My noble friend Lord Blencathra raised concerns that the amendments provide that the first iteration of the code is subject to the affirmative procedure, with the negative procedure applying thereafter. This point has been raised by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, which he chairs so ably; I am sorry that he will be stepping down. We take the committee’s views very seriously. I will set out why we have adopted this approach.
As I have already indicated, in framing the code, we need to ensure that we have given effect to the ruling by the Court of Appeal in the Miller case. By ensuring that the first iteration is subject to the affirmative procedure, we are enabling both Houses expressly to approve the code, thus ensuring that this House can confirm that it is content that the code reflects that judgment.
It is appropriate that further iterations of the code are then subject to the negative procedure. We do not think there will be any further major rulings on the topic of non-crime hate incidents. Any further changes will thus simply reflect the routine need periodically to review such guidance. It would be disproportionate to require the affirmative procedure for every dot and comma change in further future iterations; indeed, the fundamental premise of the code will already have been expressly agreed by Parliament. We therefore do not believe that the affirmative procedure for future iterations would be an effective or necessary use of parliamentary time. I also confirm to my noble friend that we will respond to the DPRRC shortly.
Amendment 109E seeks to incorporate a specific reference to the importance of the right to freedom of expression within the list of matters that may be addressed in the code. When discharging her functions, including preparing this new code of practice, the Home Secretary must already act in compatibility with convention rights; a number of noble Lords rightly asked about this. That includes Article 10, which ensures a right to freedom of expression. It is therefore not necessary to include a reference to the importance of the right to freedom of expression, because this is already a given under the Human Rights Act. None the less, I assure noble Lords that the code will address issues around freedom of expression. Indeed, in my opening remarks, I noted that we will ensure that the content of the code fully reflects the recent Court of Appeal judgment in the Miller case.
Finally, Amendment 114E would prohibit the disclosure of non-crime hate incident personal data on an enhanced criminal record certificate. I cannot support such a blanket prohibition. The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, illustrated one of the reasons why. First, non-crime hate incidents are simply one form of police intelligence that sit alongside many others—missing persons data, evidence of anti-social behaviour, unproven allegations of sexual assault and perhaps domestic abuse. They exist in line with the police’s common-law powers to prevent crime and keep the Queen’s peace. There are rightfully circumstances in which police non-conviction information of various kinds will be considered for disclosure in enhanced checks which are used in relation to roles involving close working with vulnerable adults or children. Maintaining this regime is essential for safeguarding purposes.
Secondly, the rules surrounding disclosure of this type of data are already governed by the statutory disclosure guidance produced by the Home Office. The third edition of this guidance came into force on 16 November last year. Non-crime hate incident intelligence is not an exceptional form of police intelligence; it is simply a type of non-crime incident data collected by the police to prevent crime. That is why it is covered in the same statutory guidance. The statutory disclosure guidance has been tested by the courts and assists chief officers of police in making fair, proportionate and consistent decisions in determining when local police information should be included in enhanced criminal record certificates. Singling out this category of police data for non-disclosure would be inconsistent with the principles set out in the statutory guidance and, as such, unnecessary and disproportionate.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, since the guidance was published before the Court of Appeal decision, the guidance on disclosure should at least be reviewed in the light of the court decision and the reference to “chilling effect”, to ensure that it is fully compatible? Since that was so much part of the debate in the Court of Appeal—not simply recording but also disclosure—would it not make sense to review it?
My noble friend has jumped the gun on what I was going to say. We are confident that the statutory disclosure guidance, the latest version of which was published on 16 November, sets out clearly the criteria and principles which chief officers must have regard to in making decisions to disclose non-conviction information.
The safeguards in the statutory disclosure guidance are very robust. Should a chief officer consider that information ought to be disclosed in line with the guidance, the applicant is invited to make representations. Should the decision to disclose be confirmed following any representations given, that information will be included on the certificate that is sent to the applicant only. Importantly, the applicant also has a right to appeal that disclosure through the independent monitor, who considers cases where an individual believes that the information disclosed within an enhanced criminal records certificate is either not relevant to the workforce they are applying for or that it ought not to be disclosed.
A question was asked earlier about what will happen to people who already have their information—what can we do about that? It is important that drafting takes time; in Committee I spoke about the problem of the drafting of these guidelines and said I wanted good drafting. But I was a bit concerned, as the Minister said that free speech is already protected by the Human Rights Act, but that does not console me because free speech is under attack. We have heard of many instances of where non-crime hate incidents are being used to chill free speech and this—
On Report, questions and interventions are generally for points of elucidation and the Back-Bencher will have spoken before the Minister. That aside, in terms of what happens to historic cases, I think that will be determined upon the updating of the guidance. I will write to noble Lords as I think it is an important point as there may be many examples of it. I will write to the noble Baroness and put a copy in the Library because it is an important point of clarification.
Getting back to what I was saying about the safeguards, it is important that they balance the rights of job applicants with those of the vulnerable people they might have contact with. This goes back again to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby. Alongside the existence of this strict statutory disclosure guidance, I can reassure noble Lords further. As I mentioned in the previous debate, DBS records suggest that, in any event, it is rare for non-crime police information of any sort to appear on an enhanced criminal records certificate supplied to a potential employer. This type of information featured in only 0.1% of the 3.9 million enhanced checks issued by the DBS between April 2019 and March 2020.
My noble friend has also, helpfully, raised with me before today whether the government amendment may encompass disclosure within its remit by referring to the processing of data. While the Home Secretary’s code will set out the rules for those who process NCHI data, there is no obligation for the code to address every conceivable act of processing. We have been clear that the Government’s intention is to not include disclosure within the code of practice; as such, the issue of disclosure will not be covered or referenced in any way in the code of practice.
It is imperative that we do not set an unhelpful precedent by legislating in such a way as to undermine the police’s ability to build intelligence on possible offending and risk to life more broadly. I stress again the often vital role that this data plays in helping to safeguard the vulnerable. It is not there to enforce correct opinions—referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Fox—nor is it there to serve a purpose unconnected with policing; rather, it is part of the police’s function to prevent crime.
In conclusion, again, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Moylan for raising these important issues. I hope that he can see that the Government have taken him very seriously; the government amendments, together with the assurances that I have given in response to Amendments 109C and 109E, will, I think, address the concerns raised, by bringing parliamentary oversight to this process while protecting fundamental police functions that are already subject to strong safeguards. I hope, therefore, that he will see fit not to press his amendment—he has indicated that he will not—and that he will support the government amendments as drafted. I beg to move.
Amendment 109C (to Amendment 109B) withdrawn.
Amendments 109D and 109E (to Amendment 109B) not moved.
Amendment 109B agreed.
109F: After Clause 55, insert the following new Clause—
“Further provision about a code of practice under section (Code of practice relating to non-criminal hate incidents)
(1) The Secretary of State may not issue a code of practice under section (Code of practice relating to non-criminal hate incidents) unless a draft of the code has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.(2) The Secretary of State may from time to time revise and reissue a code of practice under section (Code of practice relating to non-criminal hate incidents).(3) Before reissuing a code of practice the Secretary of State must lay a draft of the code as proposed to be reissued before Parliament.(4) If, within the 40-day period, either House of Parliament resolves not to approve the code of practice laid under subsection (3)—(a) the code is not to be reissued, and(b) the Secretary of State may prepare another code.(5) If no such resolution is passed within the 40-day period, the Secretary of State may reissue the code of practice.(6) In this section “the 40-day period” means—(a) the period of 40 days beginning with the day on which the draft is laid before Parliament, or (b) if the draft is not laid before each House on the same day, the period of 40 days beginning with the later of the days on which it is laid before Parliament.(7) 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 of Parliament are adjourned for more than 4 days.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment makes provision about the Parliamentary procedure applying to a code of practice issued by the Secretary of State under the new Clause in the name of Baroness Williams of Trafford to be inserted after Clause 55 and dealing with codes of practice relating to non-criminal hate incidents.
Amendment 109F agreed.
109G: After Clause 55, insert the following new Clause—
“Increase in penalty for offences related to game etc
(1) Section 1 of the Night Poaching Act 1828 (taking or destroying game or rabbits by night or entering land for that purpose) is amended in accordance with subsections (2) to (4).(2) The existing text becomes subsection (1).(3) In that subsection—(a) after “conviction” insert “to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks,”, and(b) for “not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale” substitute “or to both”.(4) After that subsection insert—“(2) In relation to an offence committed before the coming into force of section 281(5) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (alteration of penalties for certain summary offences: England and Wales), the reference in subsection (1) to 51 weeks is to be read as a reference to 6 months.”(5) Section 30 of the Game Act 1831 (trespass in daytime in search of game etc) is amended in accordance with subsections (6) to (8).(6) The existing text becomes subsection (1).(7) In that subsection—(a) for the words from “conviction”, in the first place it occurs, to “seem meet”, in the second place it occurs, substitute “summary conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks, to a fine or to both”, and(b) for “each of the two offences” substitute “the offence”.(8) After that subsection insert—“(2) In relation to an offence committed before the coming into force of section 281(5) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (alteration of penalties for certain summary offences: England and Wales), the reference in subsection (1) to 51 weeks is to be read as a reference to 6 months.”(9) In section 4A of the Game Laws (Amendment) Act 1960 (forfeiture of vehicles), in subsection (1), omit “as one of five or more persons liable under that section”.(10) The amendments made by this section have effect only in relation to offences committed on or after the day on which this section comes into force.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment increases the penalty for committing an offence under section 1 of the Night Poaching Act 1828 (taking or destroying game or rabbits by night or entering land for that purpose) or under section 30 of the Game Act 1831 (trespass in daytime in search of game etc).
My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans for bringing these important matters to the attention of the House. I declare an interest here, as I am a member of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, which is a member of the hare-coursing coalition.
In Committee, many noble Lords emphasised the need for early action to crack down further on illegal hare coursing. We have heard eloquent testimony to the cruelty involved and the harm and distress which this activity can cause to rural communities. As we have made clear, the Government are determined to take action. That is why we are taking an early opportunity to act by tabling these government amendments, which, I trust, following on from the debate in Committee, will be widely welcomed. They address most of the issues raised by the right reverend Prelate and, indeed, go further by introducing additional measures besides. It may be helpful to the House if I briefly outline them.
The purpose of our amendments is to broaden the circumstances in which the police can investigate and bring charges for activity related to hare coursing and to increase the powers of the courts for dealing with this activity on conviction. They do this by increasing the severity of the penalties for the relevant offences under the game Acts; introducing new criminal offences relating to trespassing on land with the intention of searching for or pursuing a hare with a dog; and giving the courts new powers to make orders on conviction in relation to the reimbursement of the costs of kennelling seized and detained dogs and the disqualification of offenders from owning or keeping a dog.
Let me set out the effect of the government amendments in a little more detail. First, Amendment 109G will increase the maximum penalties for committing an offence under Section 1 of the Night Poaching Act 1828 or under Section 30 of the Game Act 1831, and will remove the current difference in the maximum penalty that can apply, based on the number of people involved in committing the offence. These are offences most often used to prosecute hare-coursing-related activity, and it is therefore important that the courts should have available to them sentences appropriate to the severity of the harms which can be caused by such activity. In all cases, therefore, the maximum penalty will be increased to an unlimited fine and/or—for the first time—a custodial sentence of up to six months’ imprisonment.
Connected to this, we will also amend Section 4A of the Game Laws (Amendment) Act 1960 to give the court powers to order the forfeiture of a vehicle used in cases where fewer than five people are involved in committing an offence. That is important because of the essential role of vehicles in hare-coursing-related activity.
Turning now from existing to new law, Amendment 109H creates new offences relating to trespassing on land: specifically, trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or to pursue a hare; facilitating or encouraging the use of a dog to search for or to pursue a hare; or enabling another person to observe the use of a dog to search for or to pursue a hare.
Amendment 109J provides for a further new offence of “being equipped” to commit one of these new trespass- related offences that I have just described. It will therefore be an offence for a person to have an article with them, when not at a dwelling, with the intention that it will be used in the course of, or in connection with, the commission by any person of the new trespass-related offence. These new offences will be punishable by an unlimited fine and/or up to six months’ imprisonment. The purpose of this new “being equipped” offence is to provide a basis for bringing charges in circumstances where someone possesses articles that are associated with hare-coursing and there is clear intention to engage in that activity but there is no element of trespass, because, for example, they are on the public highway. Together, these new offences are designed to increase the circumstances in which hare-coursing-related activity can be investigated and prosecuted. They have been developed in consultation with the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, and welcomed by them as a useful supplement to the legislation currently available.
I turn next to measures relating to the dogs used in hare-coursing. Amendments 109KA, 109L, 109M, 109N, 109PA and 109R strengthen the powers of the courts to make orders in relation to those convicted of certain hare-coursing-related offences. Dogs are a key element in hare-coursing-related activity, and these orders play an important part in addressing the availability of dogs for such activity.
First, Amendment 109KA provides for the court to order the recovery of kennelling costs incurred where a dog has been lawfully seized and detained in connection with certain hare-coursing-related offences. Kennelling costs can be very high. By providing for their reimbursement, we are seeking to reduce obstacles to the lawful seizure and detention of dogs used in connection with hare-coursing-related activity by the police. Such a recovery order can be made by the court whether or not it deals with the offender in any other way, such as through a fine or custodial sentence.
Secondly, Amendments 109L, 109M, 109N, 109PA and 109R provide new powers for the court relating to owning and keeping a dog. The court will be able to make a disqualification order on conviction, for such period of time as it thinks fit, preventing an offender owning and/or keeping a dog where they have been convicted of certain hare-coursing-related offences involving dogs. The amendments relating to dog disqualification orders contain provisions that aim to ensure their fair and effective operation. These include requirements and powers relating to the disposal of dogs, to termination of the orders and to safeguarding the rights of owners who are not the offender.
As many have noted, dogs are central to hare-coursing-related activity. The introduction of orders relating to dog disqualification therefore goes to the heart of the problem by making it possible to remove from convicted offenders access to a means of further offending. I hope that the right reverend Prelate will feel content that the government amendments substantially deliver his ambitions in relation to hare-coursing and that, on this basis, he and other noble Lords would be content to support the government amendments. I beg to move.
My Lords, I declare my interest as president of the Rural Coalition. It is a great delight to stand in the House and congratulate the Government on tabling these amendments to address this very serious rural problem of hare-coursing, which has affected so many landowners and farmers across these islands. In particular, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe of Epsom, who really listened to the debate, when people from every part of the Chamber spoke. I know that he has taken that back to others. I am hugely grateful to him for doing that.
I know that this is something that the Government were keen to do and that the consultations with Defra and others were ongoing during the passage of the Bill, so I am grateful that we will not see the delay we thought we would face and that we can offer protection to rural communities and, indeed, hares. I will not say much about the actual amendments—they have been laid out already before us—but I note that the changes the Government are bringing forward are the result of a long-running campaign. I pay tribute to organisations such as the NFU, the CLA and others, which have continually raised this issue and campaigned for a change in the law.
I also pay tribute to our rural police forces and our rural police and crime commissioners. I have been speaking to those in my area who work in my diocese, and this has been a real issue for them. It has been very helpful that they have provided input and feedback on the sort of legislative changes that would be most useful to assist them to be more assiduous in combating hare-coursing. I hope these amendments will go a long way to assist the police to do this.
Of course, there will be some other problems beyond the legislative changes, such as with local police resources and their ability to arrive on time and in sufficient numbers to deal with it. That being said, this is a victory for rural communities, rural police forces, hares and, I believe, Her Majesty’s Government; I strongly welcome it.
My Lords, I commend the government amendments, and congratulate the right reverend Prelate on his successful campaigning and all those behind it. It is great that we are seeing an awareness of the huge issues around wildlife crime, but this is very much a piecemeal approach, addressing one small element of wildlife crime, as important as it is. As the right reverend Prelate said, this is about the welfare of hares, as well as what is happening to people living in the countryside.
I ask the Minister—if he cannot respond now, I would appreciate a response by letter—whether the Government are considering doing something about the welfare of hares, particularly those being caught in spring and snare traps. There is a particular issue around Fenn traps approached by tunnels. There is guidance that says they should be restricted in size to the target species, but there is no legal provision on that. I am afraid there is some very disturbing documentation of hares, and pieces of hares, being found in such traps, and in Perdix traps. Think about what happens to an animal trapped by a paw and left to die, possibly for days, in terror and pain; I hope that that is something the Government are thinking about dealing with.
Briefly, on the wider issue of wildlife crime, I point any noble Lords interested in this to the Wildlife and Countryside Link’s annual report—there have been four of them now—on wildlife crime. It is the only summary available on the scale of the problem. As pointed out by that organisation, which is a coalition of 64 groups around the country, there is currently no recording of wildlife crime as a special category by the Home Office. That group is campaigning for that to happen. I hope the Minister might think about taking action on that.
Finally, we have a very solid law against the persecution of raptors, but we have to think about the use and application of that law, given that 60 hen harriers have been killed illegally or disappeared under suspicious circumstances on and around grouse moors since 2018.
My Lords, I congratulate the right reverend Prelate on his success in persuading the Government to change the rather difficult attitude they had in Committee towards his amendment. I also congratulate my noble friend on the Front Bench on his work in getting these amendments on the Order Paper. Amendment 109H refers to hares, but if somebody is accused of searching for or pursuing a hare and defends himself by saying, “Actually, it was a rabbit I was after”, what action can be taken? Does the word “etc” in the title of the new clause,
“pursue hares with dogs, etc”
cover the case of hares, squirrels or any other excuse that somebody might have?
I also follow the right reverend Prelate in congratulating and paying tribute to our police forces, who have a very difficult time. They will be at the sharp end of seizing and detaining dogs. Can my noble friend assure me that those who go in to seize and detain dogs will be given adequate protection? The people they are dealing with are some very nasty criminals, where high-money stakes are being played for, and in many cases they will stop at virtually nothing in order to get the dogs back, so the protection of those who go in to do that work is very important.
My Lords, we welcome these amendments, although, considering that the Government’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare, published early last year, said that the Government would bring in legislation to crack down on the illegal practice of hare coursing, it was a little disappointing that this was not included in the Bill from the very start. We too offer our congratulations to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans on his sterling work in bringing forward amendments and continuing to press the Government on this issue. Also, as he and others have done, we praise organisations such as the NFU and CLA for their campaigning over many years on this issue. Also, the police: alongside the other issues noble Lords have spoken about, can the Minister confirm that the police will have the resources they need, not just financial but with numbers of wildlife officers, which is a problem? But, as I say, we welcome these amendments; it is good that our brown hare populations and our rural communities can now be better protected from this really barbaric practice.
I thank all noble Lords for their warm words, and in particular the right reverend Prelate for his—they are much appreciated. I also join in the general congratulations from around the House on the operations and the work of police forces, in particular—although it is always invidious to single anybody out—Lincolnshire police, who have been leading on Operation Galileo. In answer to the specific question from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, I cannot comment on police staffing, but I am sure that rural police forces will warmly welcome these amendments and take the appropriate measures.
In answer to my noble friend Lord Caithness, the decision to prosecute is a matter for the Crown Prosecution Service. In line with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, prosecutors considering whether to prosecute for any offence must consider whether the evidence can be used and is reliable and must be satisfied that there is enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.
In the circumstances my noble friend outlines, and depending on the available evidence, if the CPS is not satisfied that there is a realistic prospect of conviction for the offence of trespassing on land with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare, it could still make a decision to prosecute for an offence under Section 30 of the Game Act 1831 or Section 1 of the Night Poaching Act 1828. These are not specific to hares but apply to any game and, in most circumstances, rabbits. Through these amendments these offences would carry the same penalties as the new trespass offence.
My noble friend’s second question was about who will keep the dogs under the offences outlined in Amendment 109. Again, it will be the court to decide, in making an order under Amendment 109M, who should keep the dogs. We would expect this usually to be the police or an animal welfare organisation. They do work closely together on such matters. The welfare of the dogs is obviously paramount. The police have made it clear that it will be a priority to ensure that dogs remain secure and protected at all times.
I cannot, I am afraid, answer the specific question from the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, about traps. I am sure she is not particularly surprised about that. But I do warmly welcome her contribution to this wildlife-related debate.
Amendment 109G agreed.
Amendments 109H and 109J
109H: After Clause 55, insert the following new Clause—
“Trespass with intent to search for or to pursue hares with dogs etc
(1) A person commits an offence if they trespass on land with the intention of—(a) using a dog to search for or to pursue a hare,(b) facilitating or encouraging the use of a dog to search for or to pursue a hare, or (c) enabling another person to observe the use of a dog to search for or to pursue a hare.(2) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under subsection (1) to prove that they had a reasonable excuse for the trespass mentioned in that subsection.(3) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks, to a fine or to both.(4) In relation to an offence committed before the coming into force of section 281(5) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (alteration of penalties for certain summary offences: England and Wales), the reference in subsection (3) to 51 weeks is to be read as a reference to 6 months.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment creates a new offence of trespassing on land with the intention of using a dog to search for or to pursue a hare or with the intention of facilitating, encouraging or enabling another person to observe the use of a dog to search for or to pursue a hare.
109J: After Clause 55, insert the following new Clause—
“Being equipped for searching for or pursuing hares with dogs etc
(1) A person commits an offence if they have an article with them in a place other than a dwelling with the intention that it will be used in the course of or in connection with the commission by any person of an offence under section (Trespass with intent to search for or to pursue hares with dogs etc) (trespass with intent to search for or to pursue hares with dogs etc).(2) Where a person is charged with an offence under subsection (1), proof that the person had with them any article made or adapted for use in committing an offence under section (Trespass with intent to search for or to pursue hares with dogs etc) is evidence that the person had it with them with the intention that it would be used in the course of or in connection with the commission by any person of an offence under that section.(3) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks, to a fine or to both.(4) In relation to an offence committed before the coming into force of section 281(5) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (alteration of penalties for certain summary offences: England and Wales), the reference in subsection (3) to 51 weeks is to be read as a reference to 6 months.(5) In this section—“article” includes a vehicle and, except in subsection (2), an animal;“dwelling” means—(a) a building or structure which is used as a dwelling, or(b) a part of a building or structure, if the part is used as a dwelling,and includes any yard, garden, garage or outhouse belonging to and used with a dwelling.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment creates a new offence where a person has an article with them in a place other than a dwelling with the intention that it will be used in the course of or in connection with the commission by any person of an offence under the new Clause in the name of Baroness Williams of Trafford to be inserted after Clause 55 and relating to trespass with intent to search for or to pursue hares with dogs etc.
Amendments 109H and 109J agreed.
Amendment 109K had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
Amendments 109KA to 109N
109KA: After Clause 55, insert the following new Clause—
“Recovery order on conviction for certain offences involving dogs
(1) This section applies where—(a) a person is convicted of an offence within subsection (5) which was committed on or after the day on which this section comes into force,(b) a dog was used in or was present at the commission of the offence, and(c) the dog was lawfully seized and detained in connection with the offence.(2) The court may make an order (a “recovery order”) requiring the offender to pay all the expenses incurred by reason of the dog’s seizure and detention.(3) Any sum required to be paid under subsection (2) is to be treated for the purposes of enforcement as if it were a fine imposed on conviction.(4) Where a recovery order is available for an offence, the court may make such an order whether or not it deals with the offender in any other way for the offence.(5) The following offences are within this subsection—(a) an offence under section 1 of the Night Poaching Act 1828 (taking or destroying game or rabbits by night or entering land for that purpose);(b) an offence under section 30 of the Game Act 1831 (trespass in daytime in search of game etc);(c) an offence under section (Trespass with intent to search for or to pursue hares with dogs etc) (trespass with intent to search for or to pursue hares with dogs etc);(d) an offence under section (Being equipped for searching for or pursuing hares with dogs etc) (being equipped for searching for or pursuing hares with dogs etc).”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment provides for a court to order an offender to pay for the costs of seizing and detaining a dog where the dog has been lawfully seized and detained in connection with certain offences involving dogs.
109L: After Clause 55, insert the following new Clause—
“Disqualification order on conviction for certain offences involving dogs
(1) This section applies where—(a) a person is convicted of an offence within subsection (9) which was committed on or after the day on which this section comes into force, and(b) a dog was used in or was present at the commission of the offence.(2) The court may make an order (a “disqualification order”) disqualifying the offender, for such period as the court thinks fit, from—(a) owning dogs,(b) keeping dogs, or(c) both.(3) The disqualification order may specify a period during which the offender may not make an application under section (Termination of disqualification order) to terminate the order.(4) The court may, where it appears to the court that the offender owns or keeps a dog, suspend the operation of the disqualification order for such period as it thinks necessary for enabling alternative arrangements to be made in respect of the dog. (5) Where a court makes a disqualification order, it must—(a) give its reasons for making the order in open court, and(b) cause them to be entered in the register of its proceedings.(6) A person who breaches a disqualification order commits an offence.(7) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (6) is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.(8) Where a disqualification order is available for an offence, the court may make such an order whether or not it deals with the offender in any other way for the offence.(9) The following offences are within this subsection—(a) an offence under section 1 of the Night Poaching Act 1828 (taking or destroying game or rabbits by night or entering land for that purpose);(b) an offence under section 30 of the Game Act 1831 (trespass in daytime in search of game etc);(c) an offence under section (Trespass with intent to search for or to pursue hares with dogs etc) (trespass with intent to search for or to pursue hares with dogs etc);(d) an offence under section (Being equipped for searching for or pursuing hares with dogs etc) (being equipped for searching for or pursuing hares with dogs etc).(10) In section 171 of the Sentencing Code (offences relating to animals), after subsection (2) insert—“(3) See section (Disqualification order on conviction for certain offences involving dogs) of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 (disqualification order on conviction for certain offences involving dogs) for orders relating to disqualification in the case of offences involving dogs under that Act, the Night Poaching Act 1828 and the Game Act 1831.””Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment provides for a court to make a disqualification order preventing an offender from owning or keeping a dog where the offender is convicted of certain offences involving dogs.
109M: After Clause 55, insert the following new Clause—
“Seizure and disposal of dogs in connection with disqualification order
(1) Where, on a court making a disqualification order, it appears to the court that the person to whom the order applies owns or keeps a dog contrary to the order, the court may order that the dog be taken into possession.(2) Where a person is convicted of an offence under section (Disqualification order on conviction for certain offences involving dogs) (6) by reason of owning or keeping a dog in breach of a disqualification order, the court by which the person is convicted may order that all dogs owned or kept in breach of the order be taken into possession.(3) An order under subsection (1) or (2), so far as relating to any dog owned by the person to whom the disqualification order applies, must make provision for disposal of the dog.(4) Any dog taken into possession in pursuance of an order under subsection (1) or (2) that is not owned by the person subject to the disqualification order is to be dealt with in such manner as an appropriate court may order.(5) But an order under subsection (4) may not provide for the dog to be—(a) destroyed, or(b) disposed of for the purposes of vivisection.(6) A court may not make an order for disposal of the dog under subsection (4) unless— (a) it has given the owner of the dog an opportunity to be heard, or(b) it is satisfied that it is not reasonably practicable to communicate with the owner.(7) Where a court makes an order under subsection (4) for the disposal of the dog, the owner of the dog may appeal against the order to the Crown Court.(8) In this section—“appropriate court” means—(a) the magistrates’ court which made the order under subsection (1) or (2), or(b) another magistrates’ court acting for the same local justice area as that court;“disqualification order” has the same meaning as in section (Disqualification order on conviction for certain offences involving dogs).(9) In this section references to disposing of a dog do not include—(a) destroying it, or(b) disposing of it for the purposes of vivisection.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment provides for a court to make an order for a dog to be taken into possession where a person owns or keeps the dog in contravention of a disqualification order made under the new Clause in the name of Baroness Williams of Trafford to be inserted after Clause 55 and relating to disqualification orders on conviction for certain offences involving dogs.
109N: After Clause 55, insert the following new Clause—
“Termination of disqualification order
(1) A person who is subject to a disqualification order may apply to an appropriate court for the order to be terminated.(2) No application under subsection (1) may be made—(a) before the end of the period of one year beginning with the date on which the disqualification order was made,(b) where a previous application under that subsection has been made in relation to the same order, before the end of the period of one year beginning with the date on which the previous application was determined, or(c) before the end of any period specified under section (Disqualification order on conviction for certain offences involving dogs) (3), or subsection (5), in relation to the order.(3) On an application under subsection (1), the court may—(a) terminate the disqualification order,(b) vary the order so as to make it less onerous, or(c) refuse the application.(4) When determining an application under subsection (1), the court is to have regard to—(a) the character of the applicant,(b) the applicant’s conduct since the disqualification order was made, and(c) any other relevant circumstances.(5) Where the court refuses an application under subsection (1) or varies a disqualification order on such an application, it may specify a period during which the applicant may not make a further application under that subsection in relation to the order concerned.(6) The court may order an applicant to pay all or part of the costs of an application.(7) In this section—“appropriate court” means—(a) the magistrates’ court which made the disqualification order, or (b) another magistrates’ court acting for the same local justice area as that court;“disqualification order” has the same meaning as in section (Disqualification order on conviction for certain offences involving dogs).”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment makes provision in relation to the termination or variation of a disqualification order made under the new Clause in the name of Baroness Williams of Trafford to be inserted after Clause 55 and relating to disqualification orders on conviction for certain offences involving dogs.
Amendments 109KA to 109N agreed.
Amendment 109P had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
109PA: After Clause 55, insert the following new Clause—
“Section (Seizure and disposal of dogs in connection with disqualification order): supplementary
(1) The court by which an order under section (Seizure and disposal of dogs in connection with disqualification order) is made may—(a) appoint a person to carry out, or arrange for the carrying out of, the order;(b) require any person who has possession of a dog to which the order applies to deliver it up to enable the order to be carried out;(c) give directions with respect to the carrying out of the order;(d) confer additional powers (including power to enter premises where a dog to which the order applies is being kept) for the purpose of, or in connection with, the carrying out of the order;(e) order the person who committed the offence in relation to which the order was made, or another person, to reimburse the expenses of carrying out the order.(2) A person who fails to comply with a requirement imposed under subsection (1)(b) commits an offence.(3) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (2) is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.(4) Directions under subsection (1)(c) may—(a) specify the manner in which a dog is to be disposed of, or(b) delegate the decision about the manner in which a dog is to be disposed of to a person appointed under subsection (1)(a).(5) In determining how to exercise its powers under section (Seizure and disposal of dogs in connection with disqualification order) and this section the court is to have regard (amongst other things) to—(a) the desirability of protecting the value of any dog to which the order under section (Seizure and disposal of dogs in connection with disqualification order) applies, and(b) the desirability of avoiding increasing any expenses which a person may be ordered to reimburse.(6) In determining how to exercise a power delegated under subsection (4)(b), a person is to have regard, amongst other things, to the things mentioned in subsection (5)(a) and (b).(7) If the owner of a dog ordered to be disposed of under section (Seizure and disposal of dogs in connection with disqualification order) is subject to a liability by virtue of subsection (1)(e), any amount to which the owner is entitled as a result of sale of the dog may be reduced by an amount equal to that liability.(8) Any sum ordered to be paid under subsection (1)(e) is to be treated for the purposes of enforcement as if it were a fine imposed on conviction.(9) In this section references to disposing of a dog do not include—(a) destroying it, or(b) disposing of it for the purposes of vivisection.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment contains supplementary provisions in relation to a court making an order under the new clause in the name of Baroness Williams of Trafford to be inserted after Clause 55 and relating to seizure and disposal of dogs in connection with disqualification orders.
Amendment 109PA agreed.
Amendment 109Q had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
109R: After Clause 55, insert the following new Clause—
“Disqualification orders: appeals
(1) Nothing may be done under an order under section (Disqualification order on conviction for certain offences involving dogs) or (Seizure and disposal of dogs in connection with disqualification order) with respect to a dog unless—(a) the period for giving notice of appeal against the order has expired,(b) the period for giving notice of appeal against the conviction on which the order was made has expired, and(c) if the order or conviction is the subject of an appeal, the appeal has been determined or withdrawn.(2) Where the effect of an order is suspended under subsection (1)—(a) no requirement imposed or directions given in connection with the order have effect, but(b) the court may give directions about how any dog to which the order applies is to be dealt with during the suspension.(3) Directions under subsection (2)(b) may, in particular—(a) authorise the dog to be taken into possession;(b) authorise the dog to be cared for either on the premises where it was being kept when it was taken into possession or at some other place;(c) appoint a person to carry out, or arrange for the carrying out of, the directions;(d) require any person who has possession of the dog to deliver it up for the purposes of the directions;(e) confer additional powers (including power to enter premises where the dog is being kept) for the purpose of, or in connection with, the carrying out of the directions;(f) provide for the recovery of any expenses in relation to the removal or care of the dog which are incurred in carrying out the directions.(4) A person who fails to comply with a requirement imposed under subsection (3)(d) commits an offence.(5) A person guilty an offence under subsection (4) is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale. (6) Any sum directed to be paid under subsection (3)(f) is to be treated for the purposes of enforcement as if it were a fine imposed on conviction.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment makes provision in connection with appeals in relation to orders made under the new clauses in the name of Baroness Williams of Trafford to be inserted after Clause 55 and relating to disqualification orders on conviction for certain offences involving dogs and seizure and disposal of dogs in connection with disqualification orders.
Amendment 109R agreed.
Amendments 110 and 111 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
Amendment 112 not moved.
Amendment 113 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
Amendment 114 not moved.
114A: After Clause 55, insert the following new Clause—
“Urgent review of offences under section 61 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003
(1) The Secretary of State must establish a review into the prevalence of, and the response of the criminal justice system to, the offence of administering a substance with intent under section 61 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, within one month of the day on which this Act is passed.(2) A review under this section must consider—(a) incidence rates and rates of reporting by victims;(b) charging and prosecution rates for the offence;(c) the adequacy of sentencing guidelines for the offence;(d) the adequacy of police investigations into reports of the offence;(e) reoffending rates, and rates of offenders who commit one or more other sexual offences following a charge or sentence for administering a substance with intent;(f) the impact of the offence on victims.(3) A report on the findings of the review under this section, and any associated recommendations, must be published within six months of the day on which this Act is passed.(4) Where a report is published under subsection (3) a Minister of the Crown must make a statement to each House of Parliament on the contents of the report and associated recommendations.(5) Within three months of a report being published under subsection (3) a Minister of the Crown must make a statement to each House of Parliament on action that has been taken in response to recommendations made.”
My Lords, this amendment was debated on Wednesday, so I intend to speak very briefly to it. The purpose of the amendment is to ask the Government to set up a review of drinks spiking and needle spiking in pubs and clubs. In her response, the Minister said that the Home Secretary has asked the National Police Chiefs’ Council to review the scale of needle spiking. My amendment is very modest; all it does is require the Government to go one step further and set up a review of this practice, about which there is much public concern. I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Amendment 114B not moved.
114C: After Clause 55, insert the following new Clause—
“Accountability of public authorities: duties on police workforce
(1) Members of the police workforce have a duty at all times to act within their powers—(a) in the public interest, and(b) with transparency, candour and frankness.(2) Members of the police workforce have a duty to assist court proceedings, official inquiries and investigations—(a) relating to their own activities, or(b) where their acts or omissions are or may be relevant.(3) In discharging the duty under subsection (2), members of the police workforce must—(a) act with proper expedition,(b) act with transparency, candour and frankness,(c) act without favour to their own position,(d) make full disclosure of relevant documents, material and facts,(e) set out their position on the relevant matters at the outset of the proceedings, inquiry or investigation, and(f) provide further information and clarification as ordered by a court or inquiry.(4) In discharging their duty under subsection (2), members of the police workforce must have regard to the pleadings, allegations, terms of reference and parameters of the relevant proceedings, inquiry or investigation, but are not limited by them, in particular where they hold information which might change the ambit of the proceedings, inquiry or investigation.(5) The duties in subsections (1) and (2) are subject to existing laws relating to privacy, data protection and national security.(6) The duties in subsections (1) and (2) are enforceable—(a) by application to the relevant court or inquiry chairperson by any person affected by the alleged breach, or(b) by the court or inquiry of its own motion, or(c) where there are no extant court or inquiry proceedings, by judicial review proceedings in the High Court.”Member’s explanatory statement
This would establish a duty of candour on members of the police workforce.
Amendment 114C would place a statutory duty of candour on members of the police workforce. It would create a duty on law enforcement to act at all times in the public interest and with transparency, candour and frankness, and to assist in court proceedings, official inquiries and investigations where the activities of members of the police workforce, including omissions, may be relevant. The issue was discussed at some length in Committee and I certainly do not intend to repeat all that was said then.
In his 2017 report on the pain and suffering of the Hillsborough families, Bishop James Jones proposed a duty of candour to address
“the unacceptable behaviour of police officers—serving or retired—who fail to cooperate fully with investigations into alleged criminal offences or misconduct.”
In June 2021, the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel, which I believe took eight years to report, found:
“There was not insignificant obstruction to the Panel’s work … the Metropolitan Police did not approach the Panel’s scrutiny with candour, in an open, honest and transparent way”.
The panel recommended
“the creation of a statutory duty of candour, to be owed by all law enforcement agencies to those whom they serve”.
The chair of the panel, the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, said in this House that
“the creation of the duty of candour in matters such as this is vital for the integrity and effectiveness of policing”.—[Official Report, 22/6/21; col. 134.]
Last June, the Government told us in this House that they were still considering the duty of candour in response to Bishop James Jones’s report four years earlier. We now have before us a flagship home affairs and justice Bill from this Government, which prioritises new offences against those who protest but is silent on the failures of justice highlighted in the Bishop Jones report and by the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel and the resulting call, both in the report and by the panel, for the statutory duty of candour provided for in this amendment. It is time for action and a decision, and an end to this seemingly never-ending continuing government consideration of this issue. I beg to move.
I have added my name to this amendment for four reasons. First, the need is clear: we need complete protection of victims and the public interest, and to make certain that recalcitrant are no longer able to delay. Secondly, the duty of candour is clear: there is no doubt about what it entails. Thirdly, the remedies provided in the proposed new clause are extensive and proportionate. Finally, there can be no reason for delay. Why does it need consultation? It does not. The proposed new clause and the need are clear; we should pass this amendment.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Paddick, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, for tabling this amendment.
Briefly, a duty of candour would bring about a change of mindset and culture by requiring openness and transparency about what has happened in investigations. It would lead to a more efficient deployment of resources, which would have a beneficial impact on the public purse. It could very much help to contradict allegations of police corruption and will grow confidence in the leadership of the police service because there would be a statutory obligation of openness and transparency, and therefore an assumption there would be compliance with the law rather than a suspicion of cover-up or, even worse, corruption. The amendment is framed to protect all necessary matters but to enable a different positive approach to the delivery of policing. I support the amendment.
My Lords, I welcome that the opposition is united in support of this amendment.
The police have failed to own up to many of their mistakes. I personally have experienced police evasion, police spying and police deceit. It beggars belief that there is no duty of candour on our police force already. It actually imposes their own idea of what the law says and this is completely wrong, so I very much support this amendment.
My Lords, as a former police officer, I must tell the House that leaving the failure to abide by such a duty of candour to the police misconduct process, as the Government are asking us to do, is inadequate, as the decision on whether to investigate or take misconduct proceedings will be left in the hands of the police themselves.
If it is in the interest of the police that something is covered up, they will not investigate and they will not take action against the officers responsible. As the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, has just explained, her experience of the inquiry into the Daniel Morgan murder demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt the need for this amendment, and we support it.
My Lords, I have not thought an awful lot about this, but the principle, which seems unarguable, is that police officers should have a duty of candour. They are not the only ones who should; many other groups might want to adopt a similar approach, but so far as the police service is concerned, which is what this amendment is about, it is rather unarguable. How it works ought to be clearly thought through, which I guess is why the Government are consulting on it. The only question I had, which I have just discussed briefly with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, is how this would work with the criminal disclosure process and how that would impact on any ongoing prosecution or, obviously, any separate public inquiry. However, that is a matter of implementation rather than of principle. In general terms, I see no reason why it should not be implemented for the police; perhaps others may consider it too.
My Lords, in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, one of the challenges we faced was that the police were investigating the police—they were marking their own homework. Although Kent Police did a fantastic job, nevertheless there were areas where they could not quite press hard enough. They were very good in what they did, but it was not adequate, and therefore we proposed in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry that, whenever there is an incident, it should be investigated by an independent body.
This amendment would enhance that on the whole question of duty of candour. Again, during that inquiry we were given all the papers. There was no hidden stuff, so for that I must again congratulate the Met. However, this amendment is vital in order to support independent police inquiries, whenever there are areas of great concern. I hope nobody sees this as either intrusive or doubting that most of our police forces really want to do the best for their communities and places. Nevertheless, a duty of candour would impose a very good way of saying what concerns some people about the police, so I support the amendment.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Paddick, for affording us this further opportunity to debate the case for a statutory duty of candour. They have rightly highlighted the importance of the police’s openness and transparency, which is a very serious matter. It is at the heart of public confidence in policing and ensures that the police are held to the highest standards; this is crucial to maintaining that confidence.
As I did in Committee, I start by highlighting the extensive work that has already been done and is ongoing to improve integrity and openness in policing. Back in February 2020, we introduced a statutory duty of co-operation for serving police officers as part of wider integrity reforms. This duty forms part of the standards of professional behaviour set out in Schedule 2 to the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2020 and, in so doing, has the force of law. It is worth quoting in full the relevant paragraph:
“Police officers have a responsibility to give appropriate cooperation during investigations, inquiries and formal proceedings, participating openly and professionally in line with the expectations of a police officer when identified as a witness.”
A failure to co-operate in this way constitutes a breach of the statutory standards of professional behaviour, by which all officers must abide, and could therefore result in a formal disciplinary sanction. I put it to the House at this point that this duty to co-operate puts a greater onus on officers than the duty of candour provided for in this amendment, as they could ultimately be dismissed for a breach.
The duty to co-operate has been introduced since the issues that were highlighted in the Bishop James Jones report concerning the bereaved Hillsborough families’ experiences, and the issues relating to the work of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel, which were later highlighted in its report. We are keen that this duty becomes fully embedded within the police workforce. The recently announced inquiry, chaired by the right honourable Dame Elish Angiolini QC, will provide a further test of this duty.
In addition to the standards of professional behaviour, the College of Policing’s code of ethics delivers a set of policing principles and ensures that ethics are at the centre of all policing decisions. The college is currently reviewing the code and intends to further promote a policing culture of openness and accountability. The Government are confident that the work of the college will ensure that candour is directly addressed through this review.
Noble Lords will be aware that a response to the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel and Bishop James Jones report concerning the bereaved Hillsborough families’ experiences will provide a government view on a wider duty of candour for all public authorities. Before the Government respond to these reports, it is clearly imperative that the Hillsborough families are given the opportunity to share their views. We hope that this happens as soon as is practicable.
Bishop James’s report also encouraged public bodies to sign the proposed charter for bereaved families. This has now been signed by the NPCC, on behalf of police forces, so that the perspective of the bereaved families is never lost. The charter commits forces to acting with candour, and in an open, honest, and transparent way, when facing public scrutiny, for example through public inquiries.
Regarding the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, the decision on disciplinary action is not just for forces. Of course, the IOPC can also call it in.
In conclusion, we believe that the existing legislation requiring officers to co-operate already amounts to a duty of candour, and this is complemented by the further commitments that policing has made to transparency and openness. That being the case—
The Minister has described a duty of co-operation, which is not the same as the duty described by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and others, in the amendment. It is not fair to explain that they are the same and that a duty of co-operation goes further than a duty of candour. They are two different duties and the obligation to comply with charters and standards is very different from the obligation to comply with the statutory duty.
I was making the point that, in some ways, the duty of co-operation goes further because of the sanctions afforded to it, though I know that the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, for whom I have the greatest respect, disagrees with me.
Regarding an officer resigning or retiring, if he or she is found to have committed gross misconduct, the chair of proceedings can decide that they would have been dismissed if they had not already left the force, so leaving the force is no longer a way out, since this automatically places the officer on the College of Policing’s barred list, preventing them from working in policing again.
I know that the noble Baroness does not agree, but I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment, although I am not sure that he will.
I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, for adding their names to the amendment. I also thank the Minister, speaking on behalf of the Government, for the Government’s response.
The fact that we are now four years on from Bishop James Jones’s report and the Government are still considering their response to the call for a duty of candour simply indicates what a relatively low priority this issue must be for the Government. The Government said in Committee, and indeed the Minister repeated it today, that:
“The Government have already made significant changes to ensure that officers can be disciplined if they mislead the public, and we are committed to properly consider and respond to the recommendations for a duty of candour, as highlighted in Bishop James Jones’s report.”—[Official Report, 3/11/21; col. 1255.]
In the light of what the Government have just had to say, which appears to be that they think that the steps they have taken are more significant than a duty of candour, there must surely now be a real likelihood that the Government will eventually decide against a statutory duty of candour, deciding that internal disciplinary codes and practices are sufficient, when, as the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, and others have said, they clearly are not. We now have a statutory duty of candour in the National Health Service.
I conclude by quoting the words of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, in Committee, on 3 November 2021, which can be read in Hansard:
“The statutory duty of candour is vital not just to affect the culture of the police and enhance public confidence in policing but to give confidence to those police officers who face enormous internal pressures from their colleagues not to be candid. They need support; they need a statutory regime they can point to in order to justify to their colleagues what is required.”—[Official Report, 3/11/21; col. 1253.]
I wish to test the opinion of the House.
114D: After Clause 55, insert the following new Clause—
“Training on stalking
The Secretary of State must seek to ensure that every professional in the criminal justice system, including staff of the Crown Prosecution Service, probation officers, police officers, and other relevant public officials involved in any investigation or legal proceedings involving stalking, has attended and completed relevant specialist training.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment aims to promote the early identification of stalking, and better investigation and prosecution of the crime, by requiring the Government to implement the adoption of specialised stalking training for relevant public officials which is currently not mandated.
My Lords, I start by thanking several noble Baronesses who, for many years, have been trying to persuade Her Majesty’s Government to address stalking and understand it rather better than we have done hitherto. In no particular order, I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Royall, Lady Brinton—who we will be hearing from in a minute—and Lady Newlove, and pay tribute to them for their persistence.
This is a simple and brief amendment, designed to ensure that the many agencies and individuals that encounter different forms of stalking know better what it is they are dealing with. There are two key messages that we need to take on board. The first is that stalking is carried out in England and Wales on an industrial scale. There were 1.5 million victims of stalking in 2019-20 in England and Wales. Only 0.1% of those instances resulted in a conviction. Around 77% of that 1.5 million experienced an average of over 100 stalking incidents before they actually plucked up the courage to report it to the police. For those noble Lords of a mathematical bent, 77% of 1.5 million is not a million miles away from 1 million, and if you multiply that by 100, you start to get some sense of the scale of what we are talking about. It is staggering.
The second point that it would be helpful to take on board is the complexity of stalking. Forensic psychologists and psychiatrists have developed the “stalking risk profile”, the authoritative tool used to understand and codify the different types of stalking. It outlines five different stalker types, and I shall briefly take noble Lords through them and explain why as I do it.
The five types are broken down by the prevalence of each in a clinical setting. What is relevant for today’s amendment is not the first and predominant stalker type, known as the rejected stalker, which has the highest prevalence of violence and will pursue the victim, often a former partner, for either reconciliation or revenge. The rejected stalker type is responsible for 54% of stalking incidents—by a strange coincidence, almost exactly the estimated amount of stalking incidents that are domestic-abuse related.
How about the other 46%? Before I go on to that, I pay tribute to the Government, the NPCC and College of Policing for the new national framework for delivery for policing violence against women and girls announced by Maggie Blyth last month. It is genuinely a very positive leap forward for dealing with stalking, primarily domestic stalking. However, even domestic abuse stalking is complex. Alongside the framework, as you can see on the College of Policing website, is a document called the “framework toolkit”, which breaks down by type of incident all the different types of stalking and harassment that are likely to take place; it then subdivides them into the myriad different laws and types of guidance that the police should consider when trying to work out what type of stalking incident this is. I am a lay man and I know a certain amount about it, but my observation would be that, in many cases, one would require a PhD in criminology to follow the decision tree of all the ways in which one might respond to an incident, and how best to deal with it.
What about the other four stalker types? We have the resentful stalker, which is about 15% of that 1.5 million. They often have a deliberate intent to cause fear or distress to a victim in response to perceived mistreatment. Legal sanctions often exacerbate their behaviour, and they frequently require psychiatric treatment. I would venture to guess that the resentful stalker is in many cases responsible for the shameful incidents that we hear about, whereby leading politicians, particularly female politicians in this country, from the other end of the Palace of Westminster, receive frequently hateful and disturbing threats to themselves and their safety, as well as that of their families and staff. Some 15% of stalkers are doing that.
The next category is the intimacy-seeking stalker. This is somebody who is quite frequently mentally unstable and wants to have an intimate relationship with the person they are stalking. You may recall one or two quite well-known women, usually, in the public eye, perhaps well-known journalists—in one instance, somebody who not infrequently appears on “Newsnight”, who has had the experience of being stalked by somebody in this category since they met briefly many years ago at university. I suspect that that individual has received not just 100 instances of stalking by this individual— I imagine it probably goes into the thousands.
The next category is the wonderfully named incompetent stalker, which represents about 11% of the 1.5 million. This individual tries to forge a relationship with the victim in socially inappropriate ways. Again, frequently, psychiatric help is required to try to make them understand what it is that they are doing.
In the fifth and last category is the predatory stalker. They stalk victims for sexual gratification, often in preparation for an assault, and sex offender treatment may be required. I suspect that in that category goes a certain rather infamous gentleman who until recently was in the police force but is now a guest at Her Majesty’s pleasure for a very long time indeed.
So how can the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office help those charged with protecting these 1.5 million victims, particularly the substantial number—46%—who are not being targeted by the rejected, domestic abuse-type stalker? The new framework makes a good start, but it does not make use of some of the very effective initiatives that are out there, such as MASIP, which I discussed briefly with the Minister this morning, or Lifeline, a specialist training course for individuals who have to look at stalking developed by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. It is extraordinarily effective, and dovetails very effectively into Domestic Abuse Matters, which is the predominant domestic abuse training that police and other agencies are receiving.
I do not expect the Minister to stand up at the end of this and say, “Lord Russell and all the rest of you, you’re completely right, we’ve totally taken it on board and we’re going to do exactly what you ask”. I would be rather alarmed if she did. But what I would ask her and her colleagues and advisers to do is to carefully consider this problem—the scale and the sheer complexity of stalking, particularly non-domestic abuse stalking—because it not going to go away.
The reaction of the Government and statutory agencies to the incidence of violence against women and girls over the last three or four years strongly reminds me of the fable about the frog who was burned alive sitting in water that was gradually heating up, as incident after incident, story after story, heats up in this case the political temperature, until the politician in the bath suddenly finds that they are soon going to be in need of medical help, because they have allowed this situation to develop. Stalking has similar characteristics; it is not going to go away.
Many people in public life, especially the lady politicians we were referring to earlier, know exactly what it feels like to be stalked. Based on the law of averages, I would be astonished if some of the Ministers dealing with this, their advisers and extended teams, have not themselves personally experienced stalking in some form or another. Stalking is not selective when it chooses its victims.
This amendment is designed to strongly suggest to Her Majesty’s Government that, in order to avoid the equivalent of a dreadful Sarah Everard moment that is very specifically related to stalking, they should voluntarily choose to act proactively and put in place an effective and comprehensive approach to enable the sheer complexity and scale of stalking to be understood better—and they should do that now. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Russell, for his comprehensive introduction to this amendment and his explanation of the different types of stalking.
When Gracie Spinks was stalked and then murdered in June by a non-partner, her case was made infinitely worse by the behaviour of the police both before and after she died. In February, she had reported the worrying behaviour of Michael Sellers to her local police. Despite his behaviour escalating, she had no support from them. There are also issues about the behaviour of officers after her murder, and five have now been issued with IOPC disciplinary notices.
As the noble Lord, Lord Russell, outlined, the 2019-20 Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated that 3.6% of adults had experienced stalking in the last year. The noble Lord said that amounted to about 1.5 million people, of whom just under 1 million were women and over half a million were men. As around 46% of stalking is carried out by non-partners or former non-partners of the person, it is not covered by the domestic abuse legislation nor, because a large number of men are involved, the violence against women and girls legislation, and is therefore not covered by the new framework. The amendment asks for a strategy on stalking to ensure that front-line staff throughout the criminal justice system are trained and can identify, and respond appropriately to, potential and actual stalking cases.
I and others have been asking for a strategy and for comprehensive training on stalking for over a decade. Earlier this year, during the passage of the Domestic Abuse Bill, the Minister was kind enough to say that that Bill was not an appropriate vehicle for amendments about stalking because almost half of stalkers are not partners or former partners of the person they are stalking, and she proposed that we should table some amendments to this Bill. Yet at every stage the Government have resisted this.
For anyone, such as myself, who has been stalked or who knows the damage done to family and friends who have been stalked, it seems as if things are now going backwards. The case of Gracie Spinks, brutally murdered four months after she had reported the worrying and escalating behaviour of her stalker, demonstrates why training for front-line staff, including police, and an integrated strategy for managing the early identification of stalking and, particularly, fixated and obsessed people, are so important.
It is good that the Government have moved on domestic abuse and on violence against women and girls, and I thank them for it, but until this Government understand that stalkers continue to ruin their victims’ lives with escalating behaviour, resulting in cases of violence and murder, unfortunately they will not change anything on the front line for those trying to help these victims, who are mainly women.
I hope the Minister is able to help take this issue forward. Could she please say when is actually a good time to bring something forward? Ten years of warm words from Ministers is just not enough when staff in the criminal justice system are still not being trained even to recognise, let alone handle, stalking.
My Lords, I am proud to have added my name to this amendment, which I believe is vital. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Russell, for his kind words but, most importantly, for giving the stalking facts and figures, which are truly startling. The scale is huge and the complexity daunting, and he gave a brilliant and well-informed exposé of the problem.
It is true, as noble Lords have said, that great progress has been made in the last 10 years since stalking was first recognised as an offence. I am grateful to the Minister for her work and to noble Lords on all sides of the Chamber who have pursued this issue. I must also mention the indefatigable work and campaigning of Laura Richards, our mutual friend John Clough, the families of victims, and courageous survivors. My work at Oxford, for which I refer noble Lords to my interests as set out in the register, brings me into contact daily with staff and students who suffer from the insidious crime of non-domestic violence-related stalking. They live in constant fear alongside the 1.5 million other victims.
Among the progress that has been made, I am of course delighted that there is now a national strategy for the policing of violence against women and girls but, as has been said, that does not cover the vast number of people who are being stalked where the stalking does not relate to domestic violence. However, it is brilliant that violence against women and girls must now be a strategic priority for all police forces and that they will be assisted by a new local duty to tackle it as part of any work in partnership with other parts of the criminal justice system and all parts of the policing landscape. I celebrate that at last there is a truly national approach that should lead to the identification of the most dangerous and serial perpetrators of violence, more focused investigations, an increase in prosecutions and a reduction in the murder of women, serious harm and repeat victimisation.
Of course, there is a “but”, hence the amendment. We desperately need a strategy for all categories of stalking, and I endorse the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, and the noble Lord, Lord Russell. When are we going to have a more global strategy in relation to stalking?
Strategies are crucial and welcome but, like legislation, they have to be implemented in order to have their desired, much-needed effect. That requires systematic specialist training. As noble Lords will be only too aware, my long-standing concern has been about stalking in all its forms, not just that which involves domestic stalking. Training must be provided relating to all forms of stalking. There must be a national approach so that no matter where a victim seeks help and reports an incident, and wherever a perpetrator is apprehended, those who answer the phone and take whatever steps are necessary to support the victim and investigate a case must have similar experience.
As we know from the excellent inspections by HMICFRS, reports by experts and the evidence of survivors and the friends and families of victims, to date that has not been the case. These women, and sometimes men, have been utterly failed by the piecemeal approach to training. It is no exaggeration to say that countless women, such as Hollie Gazzard, would be still alive if there had been appropriate training, if their calls had been responded to in the proper manner and if the people answering the calls had understood what stalking was. Helen Pearson called the police 144 times over five years. If they had understood that she was a victim and was not wasting the police’s time, her situation could have been properly dealt with.
My strong preference would be to have a regulation in the Bill to provide for mandatory training, but I know from long experience that that would not be accepted by the Government. I first spoke about this in moving an amendment in February 2012, supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, when we secured agreement to create the offence of stalking. I have been told on countless occasions since then that the appropriate place for training requirements is in guidance—but guidance has ensured that only a few police forces have taken the need for training seriously and most have not, and women have been murdered and others have had their own lives and those of their families destroyed. Over the years it has been cruelly apparent that guidance is not enough.
With the ever-increasing focus on and understanding of the extent of the appalling violence against women and girls, including stalking, and with the appointment of Maggie Blyth to spearhead the policing strategy, I hope that the need for quality nationwide training will be understood and that it will be implemented. However, I would like an assurance from the Minister that the Secretary of State really will seek to ensure that the training takes place and, vitally, that there will be the necessary funding to enable it. I would also be grateful if she could explain what mechanism is or will be in place for that to be monitored, and how we as a Parliament can hold the Government to account on this vital issue.
My Lords, I pay tribute to the tireless work over many years of all three noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. Stalking remains widely misunderstood by many in the criminal justice system—specifically, how serious and complex it can be and how widespread it is, as noble Lords have explained. The amendment aims to remedy that situation, and we support it.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Russell, for tabling this amendment. I praise the tireless work of the noble Baronesses, Lady Royall and Lady Brinton, in this area. I am delighted to put my name to the amendment because of the work of Laura Richards, who has also worked tirelessly. Even though she is not in the UK, she still works tirelessly on podcasts, which I suggest that everyone listens to; they are brilliant in the stories that they cover, but it is very sad to hear the journeys that some women go through.
I will not add much more to what my colleagues have said. Stalking, on its own, is horrific. I really welcome what we now have on domestic abuse stalking and I thank the Minister for the conversations we have had. However, it scares me that this piece of legislation has been left to wander in the fields again. I feel we have taken 10 steps forward and 50 back. Listening to victims of this horrendous crime in my former role as Victims’ Commissioner—victims I am still listening to—I know that the problem with stalking is that you cannot see it. If you had a scab on your hand and we could see it, we could then do something tangible. Stalking is horrific and coercive, both mentally and physically.
When we look at amending and putting this legislation into place, the default is that we must train better. Now we are asking that we have a standard of training for non-domestic abuse stalking. I believe that every word from the noble Lord, Lord Russell, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Brinton and Lady Royall, adds to the quality of what this training should be. Unfortunately, if a stalking victim phones up, it will not be the first time; they will be at the end of their tether. In society and under Governments past and present, we have waited until somebody is murdered brutally—taken. That should not be the case, as the horse has already bolted.
I ask the Government to look at this again: please put this national strategy for non-domestic abuse stalking right next to domestic abuse stalking. Then it will not be piecemeal and all these agencies will fully get what happens to victims of stalking.
My Lords, the first Bill I can remember that dealt with this subject did so under the name of “harassment”. That was before 1997. This whole evil has grown extraordinarily since then. I am not aware of any real analysis of the reason for that exponential growth, but it is certainly important that the people who have to deal with it understand what is involved. Unless and until that is developed fully, the problem will probably continue to increase.
In the list of people in this amendment, I do not see mention of the judiciary. Does the noble Lord, Lord Russell, have it in mind? Obviously, judges have to understand lots of different things that come before them and the judicial training system has been developed very much over a number of years. It is very effective. If it is intended to include the judiciary, it would be very advisable to say that, because the judicial training system would take account of that and, no doubt, as he said, look for the resources required to do it properly.
My Lords, I add our strong support for this amendment. I pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Royall, the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Newlove and Lady Brinton, along with many others, for their tireless efforts and leadership on this issue and their informative and inspirational words this afternoon.
The crucial point is that stalking is an offence that escalates. Victims and their families are being let down to an extent by the failure to recognise the seriousness of this crime—although, to be fair, that is improving—and the failure to manage serial and dangerous offenders. This Chamber has supported stronger action to tackle stalking perpetrators and protect victims in multiple pieces of legislation over the past few years, yet we find ourselves having to raise it again.
As the noble Lord, Lord Russell, pointed out, the amendment is a fairly moderate ask. Having said that, it is exceptionally important; it will make a huge difference to ensure that those interacting with stalking victims and investigating these offences have specialist training. The Minister should accept it and the Government should go even further in tackling this vile, criminal behaviour, on which the whole Chamber is united.
My Lords, I join others in paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, and his ongoing determination on this subject. The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, must also be commended as she not only educated me on the whole subject, way back when, but has shown that same tenacity—ditto the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, who regularly shares her story with us. I join the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, in commending John Clough and others for their untiring campaigning on this. I have met John Clough; he is a truly wonderful man.
I totally get the sentiment of what the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, and the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, are saying. He and I spoke earlier; we reflected on the journey we have come on, since I got into your Lordships’ House almost 10 years ago, in terms of the perception and awareness of and attitudes towards domestic violence, domestic abuse and stalking. While domestic abuse was certainly on the radar, there was a clunking attitude towards dealing with it; stalking is one step behind it, but to say we have gone backwards is just not the case—we have made great progress. However, I acknowledge—I think he sees this—that we have further to go, particularly in training on stalking and domestic abuse. It is a most dreadful crime; the impact on victims can be so dreadful.
I talked at length in Committee about the many actions to address stalking that we are taking through the tackling violence against women and girls strategy. I will not go through them all again, but the Government are totally committed to protecting and supporting the victims of stalking. We are determined to do everything we can to stop perpetrators at the earliest opportunity. On the point of the noble Lord, Lord Russell, that the VAWG strategy does not deal with male victims, I say that it makes it clear that, while the term “violence against women and girls” is used throughout the document, it refers to all victims of the relevant offences, including stalking. I am glad he raised that, as it allows me to clarify it.
The noble Lord also brought up the point that stalking is not only an awful crime but a very complex and multifaceted one. We talked about that earlier as well—the resentful stalker who may go after politicians, the intimacy-seeking stalker, the incompetent stalker and the predatory stalker. They come in all forms. As he said, many are not former partners of their victims, including so-called intimacy seekers and predatory stalkers. Within each category, there is a wide range of different types of stalking behaviour. Therefore, the Government totally acknowledge that the police need to be well informed about the many characteristics of stalking and the stalker to effectively investigate stalking cases. He can rest assured—I know he does—that it is a priority for the Government. I empathise with the aim of this amendment, but it is important to acknowledge the progress that is being made in the work we are doing.
It is vital that the police are provided with the correct materials and training to deal with stalking cases appropriately. That is why, in 2019, the College of Policing released a set of new advice products on stalking for police first responders, call handlers and investigators. These make clear, for example—I say this in response to my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern—the key differences between stalking and harassment. A range of advice and guidance products has been published by the College of Policing for forces to deliver locally to help responders to investigate stalking effectively, understand risks and respond appropriately to stalking cases. I know that training is also available to the police from providers in the charitable and private sectors. The noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, and I talked earlier about the work of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which runs the National Stalking Helpline and has been piloting a new training course for police called “Stalking Matters”.
Within Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, all new probation staff and prison offender managers are required to complete mandatory domestic abuse awareness online learning, which includes a specific module on stalking. The module has recently been updated and rewritten, based on current research, by subject matter and academic experts within HM Prison and Probation Service. A process map has been developed to set out a consistent approach to working with stalking in the probation service, which provides links to relevant support and guidance documents, as well as learning that staff can complete. Furthermore, the stalking practitioner guidance is being finalised; this aims to raise awareness of the nature of, and various risks associated with, stalking. It will also direct practitioners to the support that is available within HM Prison and Probation Service when working with perpetrators of stalking.
When we had an opportunity to speak earlier, the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, and I talked about the complexity involved; while the report from Maggie Blyth was excellent, there is complexity in practitioner understanding. I will take that away and we can perhaps discuss it further; there is no point having these things if they are not readily and easily understandable.
I now come to training within the CPS. E-learning modules are available to prosecutors; these cover the stalking and harassment offences, with emphasis on building a strong case, working closely with the police and engaging with victims throughout the legal process. Alongside the online course, elements of stalking and harassment are also covered in tutor-led mandatory training on proactive disclosure and hate crime. This training supports the Crown Prosecution Service’s legal guidance on stalking and harassment and restraining orders, the joint stalking and harassment protocol, and the associated checklist that must be used by police and prosecutors to ensure that they are taking the correct action in stalking cases.
The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, talked about police resources. She will know that we have a substantial police settlement for 2022-23 but her underlying point, I think, is that we have to put it to good use, and that the Government’s priorities need to be reflected in the work that the police do. She and the noble Lord, Lord Russell, also talked about the importance of data, the monitoring of ongoing work and Parliament’s duty to hold the Government to account on the policies that they make.
Of course, the police, the CPS and the probation service are operationally independent of government. The noble Lord, Lord Russell, and I discussed earlier the issue of mandating what training they should receive, especially, as I have just set out, when there is so much good work happening already. There is always more to do, but I do not think that the mandating of training is the best way of doing this, given the good work that is going on. There is also a very real risk that, if we were to legislate for one crime type, it might then suggest to law enforcement agencies that it should be prioritised over others. I know that that is not what the noble Lord and the noble Baroness seek. Appropriate training for criminal justice system professionals on tackling stalking is vital, but so too is training on tackling domestic abuse, sexual offences and other crime types. We do not regard these as less important; neither, I know, do the noble Lord or the noble Baroness.
In acknowledging and empathising with the sentiment behind the amendment put forward by the noble Lord, I assure him that the training provided to professionals working with the criminal justice system on stalking is robust and helps to address issues such as early identification of stalking cases—but I also acknowledge that there is more work to be done. I hope that the noble Lord will be content to withdraw his amendment in the knowledge that I have addressed his concerns as far as I can, and acknowledging the work that has been done. I know that we will come back to these matters at a future occasion.
My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for what she said. As usual, she has been thorough and comprehensive. She said what I would have expected her to say, and I thank her for that. I understand that there is a certain point beyond which she is unable to go; I will come back to that in a minute.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, for reminding us—and me—that stalking affects a very large number of men, as well as women. It is easy to forget that, as there has been so much focus on violence against women and girls. The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, reminded us that we are at about our 10-year anniversary of trying to get Her Majesty’s Government to focus on this and acknowledge that it will not go away. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, said, it ain’t getting better, it is getting worse, and we do not completely understand why this is so badly the case.
The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, was able to remind us from his own experience that guidance is not enough, in and of itself. The noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, reminded us of the role of champions such as Laura Richards, and others, who have been speaking up very effectively for the many victims—giving them a voice, trying to make us understand how they feel and what they have gone through. As she said, stalking is insidious. I suspect that, by the law of averages, we all probably know somebody who has been stalked, albeit that it is probably not a subject that we would readily raise around the dinner table. I suspect that, if we spoke to such people who we know—if they were prepared to open up about what their experience was like—and listened to them and watched the look in their eyes as they spoke about it, it would be pretty wrenching; that is the reality of it.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, made a very good point about the judiciary, with which I absolutely agree; the judiciary needs training just as much as the rest of us. However, for the judiciary to be able to exercise its duties properly, it is incredibly important that among all the different bodies charged with identifying when a case of stalking is serious enough to become the subject of a prosecution, the way that this is pursued and the case is put together, by people who know what they are doing, is as watertight as it is humanly possible to be. However well intended and well trained, if a judge is faced with a prosecution case that, frankly, is not watertight, then, however strongly he or she may feel that an injustice is being done, if the case being put forward is inadequate, the law must follow its duty, possibly deciding not in favour of the victim—and it would not be the victim’s fault. That is the essence of what we are trying to avoid; it is going on and it will continue to go on until we really grasp it.
I will not detain your Lordships. I had hoped that we would do this in 30 minutes, but we will do it in under 45 minutes. I thank the Minister again for what she said, and the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. There is a huge focus on the inputs in many of these interactions from the Front Bench: there is a long list of money for this, an initiative for that, this service having this and that service having that. To come back to the issue of data, in the future I would like to hear less about inputs and more about outputs. We need the evidence that these input are actually working and making a difference. I know we will come back to this subject, but I genuinely believe that, until and unless all the different bodies dealing with these distraught victims, who come to the police perhaps after 100 instances of insidious stalking, are equipped with the knowledge and experience they need to really grab hold of it and give victims some justice, it will continue to haunt us and, indeed, stalk us. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 114D withdrawn.
Amendment 114E not moved.
114F: After Clause 55, insert the following new Clause—
“Offences motivated by hostility towards the sex or gender of the victim
(1) In this section—“relevant crime” means a reported crime in which—(a) the victim or any other person perceived the alleged offender, at the time of or immediately before or after the offence, to demonstrate hostility or prejudice based on sex, or(b) the victim or any other person perceived the crime to be motivated (wholly or partly) by hostility or prejudice towards persons who are of a particular sex; “sex” has the same meaning as in section 11 of the Equality Act 2010 (sex).(2) The Secretary of State must make regulations requiring the chief officer of police of any police force to provide information relating to—(a) the number of relevant crimes reported to the police force, and(b) the number of those crimes which, in the opinion of the chief officer of police, would be subject to subsection (4).(3) A court considering the seriousness of an offence arising from a relevant crime not included in subsection (4) must treat the fact that the offence is aggravated by hostility or prejudice towards sex or gender as an aggravating factor when determining a sentence.(4) Subsection (3) does not apply to—(a) an offence under the law of England and Wales which is for the time being specified in Schedule 3 to the Sexual Offences Act 2003, other than the offence specified in paragraph 14 of that Schedule (fraudulent evasion of excise duty),(b) an offence under the law of England and Wales which is for the time being specified in Part 6 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, or(c) an offence under the law of England and Wales which is defined in section 1 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 as “domestic abuse”.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would require police forces to record data on crimes motivated by hostility towards the victim’s sex or gender, as well as requiring courts to take into account this hostility as an aggravating factor when deciding the seriousness of cases which are not sexual or domestic offences.
My Lords, one of the themes that has come up again and again when we debate this Bill has been the need to do more to protect women and girls from the violence they face on an all too frequent basis. I start by paying tribute to my noble friend Lady Bertin and others across the House who have already made some tangible improvements to the Bill to ensure it does more to tackle violence against women and girls. Today, I hope we can provide a platform to underpin this work by recognising the cause of much of this violence: the hatred, abuse and entitlement, the misogyny—for that is what it is—that some hold in their hearts towards women. If we want to restore confidence for women that the police and the criminal justice system want to keep them safe from those who would do them harm, we need to start by naming it and then doing something about it.
In January 2021, UN Women UK showed in a poll of 1,000 UK women that although 80% of women of all ages said that they had experienced sexual harassment in public places, 96% of respondents did not report these incidents and 45% said that was because it would not change anything. Too often when it comes to violence against women, society demands the perfect victim before we act. We question women. We talk of self-defence lessons and, most recently, flagging down buses if they are worried. We ask, “What were you wearing? Had you been drinking? Where were you going?” We make the violence and abuse they experienced about them and whether they have provoked, or what they did to keep themselves safe.
Amendment 114F seeks to flip the script and ask what the police and the criminal justice system can do to catch those who put women at risk—to stop making women responsible and to hold those who commit these crimes accountable. It would do this by building on years of policing good practice. It is perverse that, despite 3 million crimes being committed against women in just three years, our legal and policing systems do not routinely recognise what we all know is blindingly obvious: the deep-rooted hostility towards women that motivates many of these crimes. As a society we have rightly taken steps to acknowledge the severity of racist or homophobic crimes, but have not yet acted on crimes driven by hatred of women.
Those who have listened to previous debates on this matter will know of the work started in Nottingham to address this issue, driven by the former police chief constable, Sue Fish, and rolled out to other police forces in England and Wales, including North Yorkshire, and Avon and Somerset. By recording when crimes are motivated by misogyny and training officers to recognise and record it, they have seen a substantial increase in the confidence of women to come forward and report crimes—not catcalling, although we know that shouting abuse in the street is a criminal offence, but rapes, sexual assault and harassment. This is the case not just in Nottingham. Women’s Aid reports that police forces that are now recording misogyny have not seen an influx in reporting of wolf-whistling, but instead receive a growing number of reports of serious crimes—a sign of the challenge we face and the value in recognising misogyny as a problem.
My amendment is in two parts. The first should be uncontroversial, as it simply seeks to guarantee what the Government have already promised: that all police forces will collect and report data on crimes motivated by hostility towards the sex or gender of the victim. This means that crimes motivated by misandry could also be recorded, but the evidence from those areas taking this approach is that between 80% and 90% of the victims are women.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council has, in its new violence against women and girls framework, recognised the need to target resources on high-risk spaces. It has also supported this approach and included sex or gender in hate crime reporting. It knows that data is a central part of the fight against any kind of crime. Without it, police forces are left stumbling in the dark with no way of knowing where or how to best deploy their resources to keep people safe. Noble Lords will remember that, during the passage of the Domestic Abuse Bill, the Minister promised that this would happen by autumn 2021, yet here we are in 2022, albeit in January, still waiting for it to happen. With a quarter of all forces already doing this, the three-quarters of women in England and Wales who live in the other areas have a right to expect better. Putting this in the Bill will ensure that we get it right.
The second part of the amendment would use this information in our criminal justice system by allowing courts to consider whether misogyny—or misandry for that matter—was an aggravating factor when an offence was committed. Hate crime legislation protects people targeted because of their identity. We use it to send a powerful message that attacking someone simply because you do not like the colour of their skin or their sexuality is not acceptable and to give higher sentences accordingly. Yet hate crime law recognises that someone can be a victim of more than one type of hate crime, except if the part of their identity being targeted is their being a woman. Muslim women may be victims of hate crime because they are Muslim and because they are women. Some 42% of black and ethnic minority women aged between 14 and 21 report experiencing unwanted attention at least once a month. Many women and girls with intellectual disabilities also experience abuse for the dual reasons of their disability and their sex or gender. Including sex or gender in the list of characteristics protected, as this amendment would do, would close that loophole and mean that victims of these crimes would not have to fit a tick box to be seen.
Finally, the amendment would also ensure that this approach does not lead to lower sentences for offences involving serious sexual violence or domestic abuse. Building on the work done by my noble friend Lady Bertin and the clear definitions provided of serious offences involving violence against women and girls in this legislation, Amendment 114F specifically disapplies the sentencing provisions from serious sexual and domestic offences. For the avoidance of doubt, that is not because these crimes cannot be motivated by misogyny. We carve out certain offences from other hate crime laws around religion and racial hatred to ensure that sentences are not inadvertently reduced; rather, they are enhanced when tariffs are applied in court.
This carve-out also answers the concern the Law Commission set out: that in recognising how misogyny drives crime in our criminal justice system, there is no hierarchy of offences. I know that some of my colleagues around the Chamber will want to ask why we are using the phrase “sex or gender”. This is because our focus is on the perpetrator, not the victim. Currently, the Crown Prosecution Service says that a hate crime is
“any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice”.
Perception matters in hate crimes. Whether someone is born a woman or becomes one, if they are targeted for being a woman, being able to record that motivation will help tackle the cause and find those responsible for the harm. Excluding some women from this could give perpetrators a free pass. It risks valuable information about offending patterns being missed, and potentially gives perpetrators a chance further to demean a victim by claiming that they cannot experience misogyny because they are trans.
For too long, violence against women and girls has been consigned to the “too difficult” box and gone unaddressed. The police have started to recognise that this must change, led by the formidable work of Maggie Blyth, Sue Fish and others across the country. Now we must do the same. This amendment is our chance to show the same intent to tackle violence against women and girls wherever it occurs, rather than to continue to defer action; to learn from what works; and to ensure that the law is on the side of women, rather than on that of those who seek to abuse and harass them. It is time for deeds, not words. I beg to move.
Amendment 114G (to Amendment 114F)
114G: After Clause 55, in subsection (3), leave out “or gender”
My Lords, my Amendment 114G amends my noble friend Lady Newlove’s amendment and removes “or gender” from subsection (3) of her proposed new clause. When my noble friend tabled a different misogyny amendment in Committee, she constructed it using the formula “sex or gender”, and I argued against that formulation.
My noble friend’s new clause is headed “Offences motivated by hostility towards the sex or gender of the victim”, but the text of the clause is puzzling. Subsection (1) defines “relevant crime”, for the purposes of the new clause, in terms of
“hostility or prejudice based on sex”—
not on sex or gender. Of course, because it is the perception, that would also cover the perception of trans people. Sex has a definition, which picks up on that of the Equality Act 2010. When we get to subsection (2), which is about the recording of relevant crimes, that, too, because it makes no reference to gender, would clearly apply only to relevant crimes expressed in terms of sex, as set out in subsection (1).
Those of us who received the briefing this afternoon from the honourable Stella Creasy MP will have noted that it claims that this amendment refers throughout to sex and gender, but it quite clearly does not. Subsection (1), which governs subsection (2), refers only to prejudice or hostility based on sex. The problem is when we get to subsection (3), which is where my amendment bites. It states:
“A court considering the seriousness of an offence arising from a relevant crime”—
remember that a relevant crime is expressed in terms of hostility or prejudice based on sex—
“must treat the fact that the offence is aggravated by hostility or prejudice towards sex or gender as an aggravating factor”.
I really do not understand how that is supposed to work, and I do not think that “or gender” can fit with the definition of “relevant crime”, as it has been defined wholly in relation to sex in subsection (1).
In addition, gender is not defined in the proposed new clause. Sex is defined, in subsection (1), although sex is actually a relatively easy concept, for which most of us could provide a ready definition, but gender is a much more difficult concept. My amendment would remove “or gender” from subsection (3) of the proposed new clause, to make all of it make sense and not have an extraneous “or gender”.
We do not have time today to debate how “gender” is creeping into our language in a way which undermines women and women’s rights. I believe that it would be a mistake to add gender to the hate crime framework. That is because transgender people are already covered by the transgender identity element of existing hate crime law, so the use of “sex or gender” must mean that gender has a wider meaning, but there is no recognised wider meaning for gender—nor, as I pointed out, is one provided in the new clause. Legislating for gender separately from transgender identity, which already exists in hate crime legislation, will open up a Pandora’s box of gender identity which will have repercussions for women. I believe that it is best avoided.
To that extent, I disagree with the Law Commission’s recent report on hate crime, which tends towards adding gender to sex. The Law Commission’s final report is much more nuanced than its earlier report, and I am sure that that is the result of its consultation, to which it had very many responses, but I believe that the Law Commission has still only scratched the surface of the issues that will come in general once we start inserting gender alongside sex in our laws, because of the vagueness of the concept and its capability of meaning so many different things, many of which will undermine the position of women in our protection frameworks.
I do, however, agree with the Law Commission that the case has not been made for extending hate crime law in this area. The Law Commission expressly recommended against the part of Amendment 114F which would make hostility or prejudice an aggravating factor in sentencing. The consultation responses to the Law Commission’s draft report did not support making these changes, even with—or, in some cases, especially because of—the domestic violence and sexual offences carve-outs, which, as my noble friend Lady Newlove explained, have been incorporated in her new clause by virtue of subsection (4). The carve-outs themselves were found, inter alia, to add complexity to how the law worked and to be tokenistic; many other reasons were given by the Law Commission.
The Law Commission would probably approve of the additional recording that is contained in Amendment 114F, because it found that the evidence base supporting a change in the law is currently very thin. In Committee, several noble Lords cited with approval the recording initiative of Nottinghamshire Police, and my noble friend Lady Newlove has referred to it again, but the Law Commission’s report is clear about what has come from that exercise so far and that it is of very low evidential value, for various reasons explained in its report. So we still have a largely evidence-free area in the context of trying to make significant new laws. I am not clear that subsection (2) adds anything to what the Government have already said that they are prepared to do in respect of requiring further reporting by police forces.
When we debated this in Committee, I argued that we should not legislate until we had received the Law Commission’s report, and that we should also allow the Government to respond to that report. Of course, we now have the Law Commission’s very substantial final report, and it clearly recommends that misogyny should not be added to the hate crime laws. It suggests some alternative ways of dealing with the underlying problem. I hope that any noble Lord thinking of voting for my noble friend’s amendment today has had a chance to have a look at the very significant analysis included in the Law Commission’s report on this subject.
We also ought to allow the Government time to respond to the report. It has been out for only five or six weeks, and we cannot realistically expect a response to a very significant report, running to 600 pages, so soon. I look forward to what the Minister has to say about timing when she responds this afternoon. It clearly is important to get the Government’s response, but I do believe that we should wait for it, especially in the context of the fact that the Law Commission has not recommended that we go down the route proposed in Amendment 114F.
Those who want to make misogyny a hate crime believe that the treatment of women in our society remains a big issue that needs to be dealt with—and so do I. I just do not believe that Amendment 114F is the right solution at the right time. If, however, Amendment 114F is pressed to a Division, I believe it should be amended by my Amendment 114G in order to make it make sense. I beg to move.
My Lords, I rise to support the original amendment, moved so ably by the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, and to oppose the amendment to the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, which she moved just now. I hope she will forgive me for saying that her introduction of her amendment displayed a great deal of confusion, which is being much magnified in debate, about the differences, in so far as they exist, between the words “sex” and “gender”.
Gender is causing no confusion in the law, but I would urge the noble Baroness and others to take the trouble to have a look at the first legal textbook written on this subject, called A Practical Guide to Transsexual Law; it is authored by Robin White of Old Square Chambers in London, who is a trans woman herself and extremely expert in cases arising from trans issues, and her colleague in the same chambers, Nicola Newbegin. If noble Lords are suspicious about a lawyer in your Lordships’ number recommending the reading of a legal textbook, I reassure them that it is not because I want to make them go to sleep while doing their reading before they go to bed at night; it is actually one of the most fascinating textbooks written in recent years—and it has the virtue of being short as well.
The issues described in that book, which have interested me since I introduced the first transsexual rights Bill in the other place when I was a Member there, have evolved greatly over the years. I would say to those who are suspicious or uncomfortable about these issues that young people—people born after 1995, to date at random—they do not understand the problem. To them, trans people are included among their friends, and it is “just a thing, not an issue”, to quote one of my own daughters on the subject. It is becoming increasingly common for young people to move in circles where trans men and women, and, for that matter, gender diverse men and women, are absolutely standard parts of the community.
The Equality Act, which has been in existence for a considerable time, says that you must not be discriminated against because of your gender reassignment as a transsexual and that you may prefer the description “transgender person” or “trans male” or “female”. There is much more I could read out to your Lordships that illustrates that the law has been in place and has been well understood for a long time.
Let us just consider what the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, is trying to achieve in subsection (3) of her proposed new clause. I need to confess a sort of interest at this point, in that I am married to a circuit judge who tries criminal cases only. So perhaps I have a little bit more evidence in my mind—she certainly does not agree with everything I say, by any means— on how judges behave not just from my own practice but from a lot of discussion about these issues. The amendment provides:
“A court considering the seriousness of an offence … must treat the fact that the offence is aggravated by hostility or prejudice towards sex or gender as an aggravating factor when determining a sentence.”
Can one seriously suggest that a circuit judge, or a magistrate for that matter, does not understand what that means? If the judge understands what that means, surely it is as just as any other aggravating factor.
Let us look at it down the other end of the telescope. Five or six young women go out for a night out, and during the course of that night out an offence takes place in which there is hostility or prejudice towards the one of them who is a trans woman. Would it really be right for the other five to have an aggravated sentence brought upon the offender, if the hostility was towards them as women on the grounds of sex, but not that trans woman, if the hostility was shown to them on the grounds of gender? It is a nonsensical suggestion, and what is in the noble Baroness’s proposed new subsection (3) is just common sense—the sort of common sense that judges apply in the courts every day. So I would urge your Lordships to take the view that the use of the phrase “sex or gender” in this amendment is just good 2022 common sense and, if one is minded to support the amendment, one should support it in its original form.
My Lords, I want to take a slightly different view of this. We support misogyny being treated as a hate crime and, personally, I do not understand the arguments of the Law Commission in relation to domestic violence and sexual offences. The same objections could be made to existing hate crimes such as homophobia, but they exist alongside these serious offences without difficulty. I wonder whether proposed new subsection (4) in the amendment is necessary.
May I suggest an alternative way out of the gender debate? I wonder whether, in line with the Law Commission’s report on hate crime in relation to other aspects of hate crime, the words in brackets—“or perceived sex”—should be added to the word “sex” at the end of new subsections (1)(a) and (1)(b) proposed by the amendment. I am thinking of the following hypothetical example. A man who shouts demeaning and derogatory terms for a woman, indicating a hatred of women, and who without provocation attacks a stranger in the street, indicating that the attack is motivated by a hatred of women, should be charged with the aggravated misogyny offence, whether the assailant is mistaken in identifying the victim as a woman or not. It should not matter whether the victim is a woman or not; it is the motivation of the attacker that is important. If that motivation is hatred of women, it should be an aggravating factor.
However, despite my concerns about the wording of the amendment, we have waited long enough for this important and necessary change in the law. Any defect in the wording of the amendment can be addressed in the other place, and if the noble Baroness divides the House, we will support her.
My Lords, I raised my opposition to a version of this amendment previously. For once, I was planning to keep out of the gender identity argument—although I agree with both the speech and the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes—but I feel I must make some response to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, who said that the concept of gender is causing no problems in the law or among judges. I am delighted about that, but let me tell you that the concept of gender is causing a huge number of problems for many women.
The judge advises that we need to talk to young people who include trans people among their friends. I point out that I have trans people among my friends and spend a huge amount of time talking to young people. There is not just one view on this; there are lots of views. One of the problems we have to recognise is that open debate about gender and trans issues is often chilled, for fear of accusations of hate or bigotry—and, ironically, most of the misogynistic abuse that I and other women have received in recent months and years has been on this issue of being gender-critical.
I will now go back to what I was going to say. My opposition to this amendment is based on a key concern: the need to avoid fuelling a narrative of fear that posits the idea that terrible and unimaginably horrific, but rare, instances of sexual violence and murder are part of a continuum of widespread misogynistic attitudes. This can too easily align everything from online trolling and catcalling to rape and domestic abuse under the label of misogyny—hatred of women.
There is limited time because we have very major things to discuss, so I will focus my remarks. I appreciate that the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, explicitly distinguishes between sexual violence crimes and other forms of crime that may be motivated by misogynistic intent, and that it is not an attempt to create any new criminal offences, being more concerned with the police recording and reporting of the number of crimes motivated by hostility towards sex and, sometimes, gender. This, we are told, is crucial to identifying patterns of behaviour and targeting police resources, so that we can build a national picture of violence against women and girls. However, hate crime legislation generally, as echoed in this amendment, in fact means that the data collected is based almost entirely on subjective perceptions and will not allow an accurate picture to emerge.
The amendment talks of a reported crime in which
“(a) the victim or any other person perceived the alleged offender, at the time of or immediately before or after the offence, to demonstrate hostility or prejudice based on sex, or (b) the victim or any other person perceived the crime to be motivated (wholly or partly) by hostility or prejudice towards persons who are of a particular sex”.
So this amendment would not help us understand data as fact but more how victims—or any other third parties—subjectively see either the motivation of the alleged offenders or the crime. To compound the issue, there is no legal or formal definition of “hostility”, so the CPS suggests that we use the everyday understanding of the word, which includes ill will, spite, contempt, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment and dislike. This can lead only to the possibility of an ever- widening set of crimes being badged as misogynistic, with the only evidence being subjective.
The practical outcomes could be severe and serious, as the amendment would alter sentencing. This means, essentially, that, if someone thinks or feels that someone else is being hateful towards them, and the hostility in carrying out the crime is based on sex and explains their offence, that is enough for that person to be locked up in prison for longer. There is also a more insidious punishment: this amendment might mean that more and more behaviour—we know that we mean especially that of men and boys—is deemed to be misogynistic, destroying the reputation of those people once they are labelled as bigots who hate women, according to this categorisation, without necessarily being branded as such in reality.
According to the campaign literature sent out ahead of this discussion, this label of hostility via sex can be used to imply far more than hostility. However minor the original crime, if it is labelled as sex-based hostility we are told that it is an almost inevitable slippery slope and that this is the kind of person who will carry out, if they are not stopped, the most heinous crimes, such as rape, sexual violence and murder. Meanwhile, HOPE not Hate sent round a missive saying that this kind of sex-hostility is a slip road to far-right extremism.
Finally, the Fawcett Society claims that this amendment will give women protection from crime and help ensure the safety of women and girls. I say that it will not: if anything, it could distract the police from the practical, difficult but essential work of on-the-ground patrolling of streets, painstaking investigations, and so on, and the courage to see through those investigations and prosecutions. It might take valuable resources for the police away from policing if they are tangled up in the reporting and monitoring of staff and data which I do not think, as I have shown, is reliable. Consider one of the most gross examples of the abuse of women and girls: the grooming gangs that operated in parts of the north-west of England. Those women and girls would not have been helped one iota had those crimes been called misogynistic. The shameful neglect in the investigation and prosecution of that incident was surely not about whether it was seen as being driven by hostility to sex. This amendment avoids the real problem, is tokenistic and will not help women at all.
My Lords, I have put my name to this amendment and will speak very briefly, not least because I have the privilege of being one of the Deputy Speakers of this House. I would just remind noble Lords that we are at Report, and at Report we are not meant to give either Second Reading or Committee speeches—it is a discourtesy to the House to be discursive. That is all that needs to be said on that.
Some noble Lords may be familiar with a newspaper that is normally far too left-wing for me, the Daily Telegraph. There is an article in today’s paper by a gentleman called Charles Hymas, which says—and I have no reason to believe it is not true, since I understand that there are fairly close links between the aforementioned organ and the party in government—that there are quite a few quite senior Back-Benchers in another place who are very keen to use this amendment, assuming your Lordships pass it, to enable them to have a proper discussion in another place about this issue and to decide then, as our elected representatives, whether this case has sufficient merit to be put into law and in what manner and form that should happen. I suggest that they are rather better qualified to do that than we are.
Having said that, my Lords, I will support this amendment. I think we should send it back to another place for them to have another look. The other place is also a better place to have what can be an extremely contorted and overimaginative debate about gender and the relative merits of sex and gender.
As others have said, I am not sure that generationally we are the best-equipped assembly to opine on these subjects. That does not mean that we are not able to have a point of view, and I am aware that some noble Lords and noble Baronesses have a very strong point of view. I simply point out that, however strongly they may feel, there are a great many others of a younger generation, and down the other end, who feel differently. I support this amendment, because I think your Lordships should give the other place a chance to decide for itself.
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord does not think I am being discourteous to the House by making a short intervention in this important debate. We have to be very careful about legal definitions of sex and gender. Primarily, the definitions are not legal but are in fact biological, as I have said in this Chamber before. That is a problem. That is one of the reasons why I agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, just said. For example, we have to understand that there are situations in which there might well be problems with—whatever you call it—misogyny or hate. Take a transgender woman who was originally assigned as a male and still has the genes of a male, and possibly some of the hormonal function of a male, who competes in a sporting event. That is a difficult issue that has not yet been properly dealt with. Clearly, it is quite likely that from time to time those sorts of situations will cause considerable anger, hostility and all sorts of effects that might be an offence under the Bill. We at least need to record that and decide how we deal with it.
My Lords, I support the amendment, and I want to deal with one or two things that have come up in this discussion. The noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, suggested that the evidence base is very thin. The evidence base of women receiving threatening and abusive behaviour and sometimes assault, accompanied by expressions that make it very clear that it is directed at them as women, is substantial. I have just been receiving evidence for a working party in Scotland, and over this past year it has been shocking to see the extent to which this is a serious problem for girls and women. It should not be underestimated, and of course it is accelerated by social media, which is encouraging the kind of verbal assault that is so disgusting and disgraceful that it is hard to imagine women and girls having to deal with it in their daily lives. It really is endemic, so I do not think that what we are trying to do here can be minimised.
As for suggesting that we introduce a complicated debate about the comparatively very few women who are trans women and might be included in this, that seems just extraordinary to me. It is a diversion from the fact that women, who make up more than 50% of the population and are not a minority, are experiencing this on a daily basis. Let us get real about it.
The noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, has pointedly made something part of her amendment. She says that the focus of this is on the perpetrator. How does it come about that an aggravation is used? It is because there is evidence, in addition to the evidence of a regular crime, that it has been motivated by antagonism and hatred towards women.
Of course, misogyny is wider than simple, old-fashioned hating. It is about a sense of entitlement, usually by young men, towards women and their bodies. The ways in which women have to experience verbal nastiness of a high level undermine their self-confidence and self-expression, so this is really damaging in our society. The noble Baroness, Lady Fox, says it is a nonsense to suggest that this leads on to more grievous crime. I am afraid that it is not a nonsense, because we know that it normalises certain kinds of behaviours that then go undetected by the police.
I really want us to think seriously about how we stop this happening. When women say this has to stop, what is the answer? A misogynistic aggravation is not the answer; it will not solve all the problems, but it is a starting point to let women know that misogyny is taken seriously by the legislature. That is why I support this amendment to the Bill.
I did the first international case, with the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, on transgender/transsexual persons wanting to be treated equally, so I know the suffering there is for trans people. But I also know that a trans woman going about her business in the example given can experience exactly the same kind of abuse and threatening and abusive behaviour as any woman who was born a woman. That distinction is really not worth our diverting our attention from the generality that something pernicious happens towards women in our society and undermines equality and the gaining of equality that we are all struggling towards.
My Lords, acutely aware of the time, I will be extremely brief. It is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, and to agree with everything she just said.
I pick up a really important point from the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool. So many people have been campaigning on this issue for so long, with the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, being such a powerful champion, and many other Members of your Lordships’ House as well. But I think we are looking tonight at two different kinds of amendments and two different structural issues. It is really important that we make it clear to those outside this Chamber that, as the noble Lord, Lord Russell, said, if we support Amendment 114F —I strongly support it—that will create the chance to have a debate in the other place. I want to make it clear to people that this is different from other amendments that will be considered later this evening.
My simple message to campaigners is that if Amendment 114F passes, as I hope it will, this is an opportunity for you to really make your voice heard in the other place. Write to your MP; make this a place where this debate is finally settled. I made a contribution in Committee, and back in March I made a contribution on the same issue on the then Domestic Abuse Bill. We really need to make progress, and this is an opportunity for this House and for people out there to get into this debate.
My Lords, I will be very brief, since I supported an amendment in November attempting to achieve a similar outcome. I commend the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, on her tenacity in pursuing this issue. This amendment simply builds on best practice already established in policing, where forces need to recognise the causes of violence against women. It attempts to fill a gap in our hate crime legislation, where sex and gender are the only protected characteristics not recognised, and to send a clear message that women’s safety matters. I simply reinforce those points and all those that the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, made. I support her amendment.
I was not going to intervene in this debate, but I will do so briefly. First, I will not stand behind anyone else in a queue of people showing respect and admiration to my noble friend Lady Newlove, so it pains me when I find myself on the opposite side of an argument to her. That said, I agree with so much that she said in the way she described the crimes and assaults that many women experience. I also agree with a lot of what the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, said.
I do not want to get involved in any kind of discussion about the difference between sex and gender. The point that I want to put on the record, not least because of what the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, said, is that there is not a consensus among women that misogyny should be introduced as a hate crime. I would be very concerned if that were to happen, not because I am in any way not concerned about the violence, the hatred and some of the discrimination that women face but because I do not want us to cultivate a society in which women are universally seen as victims and all men as aggressors. That is a risk and a potential consequence of us pursuing this course. I put that on record and look forward to the way in which my noble friend the Minister responds to this debate.
My Lords, I too shall make a very brief intervention, in agreement with my noble friend Lady Stowell. I have some concerns that this is not the way to solve the problem of violence against women. I absolutely accept that misogyny does exist, I think women have good cause to be aggrieved about the increasing challenges we all face and the idea of misogyny as a hate crime certainly sounds attractive, but at a time when I have never known women angrier and more afraid, I think we have to ask whether this is really the right legislation to deal with our grievances. From my experience, women want better conviction rates for rape, better protection against domestic abuse and violence, and to be able to go for runs outside without fear of attack or even murder. With an average of two women murdered every week, that is what they want the police to focus on.
The Law Commission report says
“while we consider that there is a serious problem of crime that is connected to misogyny”—
I accept that too—
“we have concluded that the particular model of hate crime laws is unlikely to prove an effective response to misogynistic offending, and may prove more harmful than helpful, both to victims of violence against women and girls, and also to efforts to tackle hate crime more broadly. We suggest that reforms in other areas are more likely to result in tangible positive results.”
I agree, and I think there is a danger: we need to be careful what we wish for. There is every possibility that this kind of crime will get bogged down by bureaucracy and endless debate, none of which will improve the lives of women at all. The law of intended consequences may well be part of this. I just say to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, that surely the example he gave is not correct, because transgender identity is already a protected characteristic. I was confused by that.
My Lords, I will not take up too much of the House’s time. I am a Covid baby—I have learned the culture of this House via screens—so I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I get the protocol incorrect, but I consider you all my noble friends. I am really struck by the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, and support it wholeheartedly because I have seen the benefit of hate crime legislation and the benefit of aggravated offences on the grounds of sexuality, disability and race. It is illogical to me that that is not extended to women when it exists for every other protected characteristic.
On a personal note, this issue of sex and gender is something that I have been researching for a very long time. I am the former CEO of Stonewall—since 2019 I have been free—but I have been thinking about these issues since 1998, when, as a student at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, we were debating whether transwomen should be allowed in that women-only college. So, I am slightly a 1980s baby, but have thought about these issues for a very long time.
I am often thought to be trans. I am not, but I am often thought to be. I do not have my tie on this evening because it is going to be a long night—and if, unlike the gentlemen, I have the option to drop it, I will—but when a woman has been told for most of her adult life to accessorise, she does get attracted to the tie racks in Liberty as an option for those accessories. I experience discrimination on the grounds of my gender, sometimes on the basis of my sex—because I am a woman and perceived to be a woman—but often on the grounds of my gender, my gender identity and my gender presentation. These things are complicated; they do not lend themselves to pithy statements.
I have huge sympathy with those who have very different views from mine on trans issues and I think there is probably more that we can talk about together than what divides us. We have become caricatures of ourselves by the medium of social media and I have a huge amount of respect for the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, and the work she has done around women in politics, but I know we disagree on this. I hope we can find ways to come together, but I think this amendment referring to sex and gender is wholly beneficial to women. I hope to support it, hope to see it taken back to the other place, and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Russell, for his support.
My Lords, we strongly support the amendment in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, and my noble friend Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede. We strongly support the amendment because, as my noble friend Lady Kennedy pointed out, misogyny sits behind much harassment and intimidating behaviour that, unfortunately, many women experience as a reality every day in our communities. It fuels behaviour that, far too often, escalates into serious offences. We have to repeat, again and again, that violence against women and girls does not occur in a vacuum.
I agree very much with what the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, was alluding to and am proud of my own local police in Nottinghamshire, who have been leaders in this area, as the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, pointed out. It was the first force, in 2016, to record misogyny as a hate crime. I can tell the Chamber that it made a very real difference in Nottinghamshire when the chief constable, Sue Fish, stood up and said she was going to make it a priority for her officers. It spoke to her officers in terms of how they dealt with it, but it also spoke to the women and girls, and indeed the men of Nottinghamshire, about the priority that was going to be given. It made a very real difference and continues to do so. Sue Fish should be congratulated on being the leader that she was and is.
This campaign to recognise misogyny as an aggravating factor in the same way that we recognise hostility against a person due to disability, race or other characteristics has been running for years. Now is the time for all of us to show some leadership, to close the gap in our law and to state clearly that we do not accept the status quo and that things must change. There is much support for this change and the Government should take this opportunity, an opportunity that exists for us now and that we should take.
My Lords, I was quite pleased to hear noble Lords saying that your Lordships’ House should curtail debate this evening: I have never experienced it in all my time as a Minister.
I start by thanking my noble friend Lady Newlove and the noble Lords, Lord Russell of Liverpool and Lord Ponsonby, for this amendment. It speaks to their continued commitment to tackling violence against women and girls and I know they have campaigned tirelessly on this issue. Given their sincerity and their deep and obvious desire to do what is best in this sphere, I am saddened that I am not going to give them much comfort on this amendment, and I shall explain why.
As noble Lords may be aware, last month the Law Commission published its final report, Hate Crime Laws. It is a weighty tome—some 545 pages—and, as always with the Law Commission, it is a thoughtful and well-argued document that warrants very close reading. On behalf of the Government, I thank the Law Commission for the thorough and intelligent way in which it approached the task that it was given. I assure noble Lords that the Government will give all the recommendations, of which there are 34, very detailed consideration. As is customary, a full government response will be published in due course; it will address each of the recommendations and I do not want to pre-empt that process.
However, ahead of that I should just draw noble Lords’ attention to what the Law Commission said on the specific issue which Amendment 114F addresses; namely, adding sex and gender to hate crime laws or, in common parlance, “making misogyny a hate crime”. In its report, the Law Commission was unequivocal that the course of action represented by this amendment would not be appropriate, as it would potentially prove detrimental to women and girls. Indeed, it noted that to add these characteristics to the hate crime legislative framework
“may prove more harmful than helpful”
and would be
“the wrong solution to a very real problem.”
I add that transgender identity is already covered in hate crime laws.
In coming to the conclusion it did, the Law Commission applied its usual rigour, dedicating almost three years of thought and careful deliberation to its work. It did so by examining, in exhaustive fashion, whether any legal models would be appropriate to making misogyny a hate crime. It did so on the premise that
“violence against women and girls is extremely prevalent and harmful”,
as noble Lords have said—eliminating all doubt, if there was any, that it did not in good faith stretch every sinew to find an appropriate solution through the hate crime framework. Finally, it did so while listening to and acknowledging the voices of many practitioners who are dedicated to tackling violence against women and girls before making its recommendations, independent of government or political considerations. In this regard, there are few greater examples of what might be called evidence-based policy-making.
Turning now to the report itself, it noted that the majority of consultation respondents opposed adding the characteristics of sex and gender to these laws. A majority of specialist organisations which responded to the consultation were also opposed in one way or another. It noted, for example, that the largest sexual violence support organisation in England and Wales, Rape Crisis, rejected proposals to recognise sex and gender in any format within hate crime laws. Other women’s advocacy organisations made support conditional on certain models being pushed that meant, as the commission puts it—and I think this goes to the heart of the matter—
“Even amongst those who supported hate crime recognition in this area, there was very little consensus as to what form it should take.”
My noble friend Lady Stowell of Beeston echoed that point.
I sense from our own previous debates on this matter that consensus on the seriousness of the problem obscures the huge complexity over its solutions, and this debate demonstrates that. On terminology alone, a majority of the Law Commission’s consultation respondents opposed the inclusion of both sex and gender. Others stated they would prefer excluding such characteristics altogether unless they focused solely on women. It is clear that there is little agreement on how to implement change here in a manner that is widely accepted and fair. Amendment 114G, in the name of my noble friend Lady Noakes, serves only to illustrate all too well the lack of agreement on this question.
Understandably, this House ought to make the distinction between what might be popular and what might be necessary. However, the principal problem the commission found is that each possible option for adding sex and gender to hate crime presented unacceptable trade-offs. That is why there is so little agreement on the specifics, even among advocates. One key stakeholder concern was the finding that simply adding these characteristics in the same manner as those already represented would make it harder to prosecute crimes that disproportionately affect women and girls, like rape and domestic abuse. I do not need to explain to noble Lords why that is an intolerable unintended consequence.
I mentioned that the Law Commission was thorough. Inevitably, then, it turned its attention to legal models which might exclude some types of crimes and include others only where misogynistic hostility might be more apparent or did not include the same risks to prosecutions—public harassment, for example. This created a not unsubstantial problem that one of the central drivers of the review was to create parity across groups protected by hate crime laws. Creating a system where some crimes were excluded only as they concerned sex or gender runs directly contrary to this. None the less, the commission explored the possibilities.
This brings me to what I suspect Amendment 114F seeks to get at. It too applies the recognition of these characteristics only to certain offences. The Law Commission’s assessment of a number of models—akin to what is tabled here—similarly found them to be unsuitable. Specifically, it notes that recognising sex or gender only as it concerns certain offences gives rise to at least four problems. First, it would risk suggesting the excluded offences, such as domestic abuse, are by default not misogynistic or are somehow less important. Secondly, it is tokenistic to apply hate crime laws only to certain offences and especially where to do so would exclude the vast majority of most harmful crimes impacting women and girls. Thirdly, it would make the law more complex when a central aim of the review was to simplify it. Fourthly, it would treat sex and gender differently to the other protected groups in hate crime laws and therefore simply repeat the same principal problems of inequality that prompted the review in the first place.
I also want to address the elements of this amendment that concentrate on regulations for the collection of police data on such crimes. I can confirm that such provisions are unnecessary. There is already the capability for the Home Office to ask forces to collect data, subject to a dialogue with them about the feasibility of its collection. It is noteworthy, however, that the received wisdom about the success of pilots by forces to collect this data on their own initiative was not backed by the Law Commission’s review. Nottinghamshire, which the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, mentioned, had not been associated with increased reporting of hate crimes, and that is disappointing.
I know we all share a commitment to tackling violence and abuse against women and girls. That is not in question here tonight. The proposal to make misogyny a hate crime is a well-intentioned expression of this aim. But, in the face of a clear and objective analysis of the issue by a panel of experts, which has unequivocally recommended against a change in the law of this kind, and ahead of the wider government response to the detailed report, I cannot advise your Lordships to accept this amendment. Instead, I ask my noble friend to withdraw it.
I believe I should deal with my amendment to my noble friend’s amendment before she gets into winding up. Much as I would love to wind up the whole debate, I will confine my remarks to my amendment, which simply sought to remove “or gender”. I think that is the smaller issue that we are dealing with today. The bigger issue is whether this is an appropriate addition to our hate crime framework in law. I will leave my noble friend to wind up on that, and I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 114G (to Amendment 114F) withdrawn.
My Lords, I will get it right this time—I have only been here 12 years.
I thank everybody who has participated in this amendment. I just want to say that this amendment has no bearing on the definitions of sex and gender. It creates no new criminal offences at all. As with religion, which is certainly not biological, targeted hostility would aggravate an existing and proven offence and with the courts deciding that aggravation has been proven as a fact, the courts are capable of dealing with it. I thank the Minister but, unfortunately, I still wish to test the opinion of the House.
Clause 56: Imposing conditions on public processions
115: Clause 56, page 48, line 29, leave out subsections (2) and (3)
My Lords, I move this amendment on behalf of my noble friend Lord Rosser; it is also in the names of my noble friend Lord Dubs and the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross. I will be reasonably brief on this group of amendments, because, unlike the ones we are to reach later today, we have had prior debates on, and scrutiny of, some of these provisions.
The group covers the existing protest provisions in the Bill, but this amendment focuses on one particular priority issue, namely, the imposition on public processions conditions related to noise. Indeed, the clause targets protests for being too noisy. It provides a trigger for imposing conditions on public assemblies, public processions and one-person protests if a protest is too noisy. Many noble Lords in this Chamber will know that many people would have fallen foul of the conditions in this proposed new legislation had it indeed been the law at the time. I certainly have been on numerous demonstrations, as have many noble Lords behind me —and, I am sure, some in front of me—
Whatever: they will have been on various demonstrations. Whether they were on behalf of the Countryside Alliance or not, the principle would have been the same and noise would have been a part of them. Has democracy collapsed in the face of noisy protests over the last couple of centuries? It has not. At some of the protests that I have been on—and, I am sure, at those that many noble Lords have been on—the noise has been phenomenal. It has been part of the object of them. Never have any Government of any colour sought to ban protests on the basis of noise or to put conditions on the basis of noise.
Protests are noisy—whether it is local families protesting the closure of a leisure centre or a march in front of this Parliament, protests make noise. The more well attended a protest is, the more popular support an issue has, in general, the noisier it will be. These clauses do not restrict protests for being violent or out of control or for causing damage; these are peaceful protests, but they can be restricted because somebody, in someone’s mind, is too noisy. The clause provides that a protest can trigger these conditions if the noise generated might cause
“serious unease, alarm or distress”.
It is an exceptionally low and vague threshold, as many noble Lords pointed out in Committee.
The Government have sought to do something about that. They have recognised it and thought, “This is a bit of a problem; they are quite right about some of the vagueness of this and about some of the definitions”, so the Government have brought forward a series of amendments, which are in this group. Without reading this to noble Lords—because they can read it for themselves—we can look at proposed new subsection (2ZC) in government Amendment 116, I will just leave this open and hanging in the air. If that clarifies what “noisy” means in the context of a protest, when it talks about people connected to organisations in the vicinity,
“not being reasonably able, for a prolonged period of time, to carry on”
their activities, the courts are going to have a field day. That is the clarification; that is the way in which the Government seek to do something about it. Even the Government recognise that vagueness is a problem. They are trying to do something about vagueness with a clarification that is equally vague, but which allows them to say that they have tried to address the problems raised in Committee.
Of course, the Government always have to balance protests with the rights of people to go about their lawful business. Balance is always important, but the right to protest in this country has never, ever had to have a condition placed upon it that is about noise. It never has. The noise generated at protests that I have been on has been immense, but never have the Government turned round or panicked and said that they needed to impose conditions on that in some way in order to do something about the protests. These are very serious amendments that we have put forward. These are very serious debates that will take place from now on, on the existing clauses and then on the new clauses. They involve the fundamental right of people to protest. Making noise is a fundamental part of the freedom to protest properly in a democracy.
My Lords, I also put my name to Amendments 115 and 123, because I am still concerned about the Minister’s assurance in Committee on Clauses 56 and 57 that the threshold for the police to impose these conditions on noise would be very high. However, the threshold in Clause 56(3) that the noise caused by protesters could cause reasonably firm people to suffer serious unease seems subjective, and a low threshold. I fear that it will put the police in an invidious position.
I refer the House to the JCHR report recommendations on these clauses. It says:
“Using multiple terms that are open to wide interpretation, such as ‘intensity’ and ‘serious unease’, leaves an excessive degree of judgment in the hands of a police officer … It will also give rise to uncertainty for those organising and participating in demonstrations and fails to provide convincing safeguards against arbitrary or discriminatory use of these powers.”
I urge your Lordships to support Amendments 115 and 123.
My Lords, I rise to support the Government on this matter. It rather caught me by surprise that I was going to but, having studied the amendments with some care, I am on their side. As regards Amendment 116, these provisions are a serious improvement on what went before. I am bound to say that I was very uneasy with what went before but Amendment 116 addresses some of the concerns. I have two drafting points to make, which could be addressed in the House of Commons if the Government were so minded.
First, I absolutely agree with those who worry about the word “significant”. “Significant” is pretty trivial; it is not “substantial” or “serious” and, speaking for myself, I rather hope that the Government substitute “substantial” or “serious” when the Bill gets to the House of Commons.
My second point concerns proposed new subsection (2ZC). Here, I do not think that the Government have gone far enough, because what is being contemplated in that provision as it stands—I am sorry, I simply do not agree with the noble Lord who spoke from the Opposition Benches on this—is a total inability to carry on the work in the vicinity of the noise. But we should also address circumstances where there is a considerable inconvenience to ordinary citizens, which takes me to my fundamental point: of course demonstrators have the right to demonstrate, but ordinary citizens also have rights to go about their ordinary business, to work, to enjoy reasonable tranquillity and to expect others to respect that. It seems that the law has gone too far in favour of a demonstration, and that is very unfortunate. On the whole, I therefore support the Government in this matter.
It is true that if I was drafting this thing, I would have done it slightly differently. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, about unease. What does unease mean? The noble Viscount, Lord Colville, makes the same point and I agree. I also agree on the concept of not being able to carry on proper business. That is slightly doubtful to my way of thinking as well. However, on the whole, although I came initially to think these things had gone too far, I now think that the Government are broadly speaking right in trying to bring about a better balance between the rights of demonstrators and ordinary citizens.
Could I just mention to the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, that these are ordinary people who protest? These are people who quite often just do not agree with the Government. I support a lot of protests that happen at the moment; there are sometimes protests that I do not support, but I support those people’s right to protest. On noise, I agree completely with the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. How do the Government seriously think that protest is going to happen without noise? That is a fundamental part of it, whether it is drums, chanting or singing, or just talking through a megaphone. These provisions really are so oppressive. I have attached my name to Amendments 122, 133 and 147. These clauses should be deleted from the Bill. They are repressive and plain nasty, and they really have to go.
My Lords, I have added my name to the amendments in this group standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, particularly those related to striking out Clauses 56, 57, 58 and 62. Briefly, in my view the Bill represents the biggest threat to the right to dissent and non-violent protest in my lifetime. It is deeply reactionary. It is an authoritarian attack on the fundamental liberties of our citizens.
If enacted in past generations, it would have throttled the suffragettes and blocked their ability to rattle Parliament’s cage to secure votes for women. It would have prevented antifascists stopping Mosley’s bullying, anti-Semitic blackshirts at Cable Street in the East End of London in 1936. It would have thwarted anti-apartheid protests that I led, in 1969 and 1970, which successfully stopped all white South African sports tours—a success which Nelson Mandela, then on Robben Island, hailed as a vital stepping stone in the ultimate defeat of apartheid. It would have prevented the Anti-Nazi League protests that stopped a resurgent and anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and fascist National Front in its tracks between 1977 and 1980, and in the early 1990s, similarly, the BNP. If Boris Johnson and Priti Patel want to be on the wrong side of history, the Bill is certainly the way to do it. I hope that this House will resist them.
My Lords, if one is going to make a change of this kind, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, says, has not happened before, one has to have a very good reason for it. The Government have produced no good reason for it. What they have said is that there are many protests which are very difficult and awkward. There are protests which have embarrassed me considerably as chairman of the Climate Change Committee, because I have had to explain that they are right about what they are protesting against but should not be doing it in the way they are, so I think it reasonable for me to say that these amendments go far too far. We are a democratic society and if I cannot go outside here and make a noise to point out that I think a whole range of things that the Government —or any Government—are doing are unacceptable, then my human rights are very seriously impugned.
When I came into this House, I said that there were three things I wanted to talk about: the environment, Europe and human rights. I want to be able to go on protesting about the ludicrous policies on Europe. I want to go on protesting about some of the things which have not been done, and ought to be done, about the environment. I want to congratulate the Government on many of the things they have done on the environment and climate change, but I need also to have the opportunity of making it clear when one believes that what they have done is wrong. Dissent and protest are essential parts of democracy. These provisions go too far.
My Lords, I have a number of problems with this part of the Bill that are to do with form and content. The fact that these amendments were brought in at the stage they were seems an abuse of parliamentary scrutiny. Some of the debates we are having could have been sorted out had they been addressed in the normal way. That fits into a pattern of intimations about breaking the rule of law and the authoritarian complexion of the way in which some things are being done in, through or around Parliament. That is my problem with form.
On content, it seems that we would have to remove the statues of Gandhi and Mandela from Parliament Square were these provisions to go through. You cannot laud people later as being great and prophetic actors by exercising the right to dissent, at the same time as clamping down on that in the building over the road. We have heard a lot in recent debates about freedom, particularly in relation to Covid, freedom passes and things like that, but we cannot just pick and choose which freedoms are convenient to us in a democracy.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Hain, that the dry run for Cable Street was actually the week before, in Holbeck Moor in Leeds. It would have been ruled out as well. There is a significant point to make about the word “significant”, which was mentioned earlier. How is it that in legislation we are able to use words that are so incapable of definition? If something is significant, it is “significant of” something. It is not just significant; that is meaningless as a definition. That is like when people write that something is incredible, which, if it was, would have no credibility; they actually mean the opposite. You can get away with it in ordinary parlance but not in legislation.
My Lords, I am fully in support of the amendment, of course, to which I have put my name. I have served on the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and we have condemned this provision and said that it should not be part of the Bill because it is a breach of fundamental human rights. I have been on quite a lot of demos, and I would probably run foul of this legislation if it went through unamended. I cannot think of any demo that I have been on where we did not try to make noise, because that is part of what being on a demo means. I wonder whether the people who drafted the wording have ever been on a demo themselves—I do not believe it. Those of us who have been on demos know that the noise is encouraging; it tells spectators, who often join in support anyway, what we are about and what we seek to do. This is an absurd idea.
I think of the span of history—my noble friend Lord Hain contributed to this discussion—and there are so many important changes that started with noisy demos. How did some of those changes happen? Without noisy demos, a lot of changes do not happen. One looks at the suffragettes and all sorts of important demos; this is the nature of our democracy, and this Government are trying to trample all over it.