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Public Bill Committees

Debated on Tuesday 12 December 2023

Media Bill (Fifth sitting)

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairs: † Judith Cummins, Martin Vickers

† Baynes, Simon (Clwyd South) (Con)

† Blackman, Kirsty (Aberdeen North) (SNP)

Bradshaw, Mr Ben (Exeter) (Lab)

† Butler, Rob (Aylesbury) (Con)

† Carter, Andy (Warrington South) (Con)

† Collins, Damian (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con)

† Efford, Clive (Eltham) (Lab)

† Foster, Kevin (Torbay) (Con)

Green, Chris (Bolton West) (Con)

† Hunt, Tom (Ipswich) (Con)

† Owen, Sarah (Luton North) (Lab)

† Peacock, Stephanie (Barnsley East) (Lab)

† Tuckwell, Steve (Uxbridge and South Ruislip) (Con)

† Western, Andrew (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab)

† Whittingdale, Sir John (Minister for Media, Tourism and Creative Industries)

† Williams, Hywel (Arfon) (PC)

† Wood, Mike (Lord Commissioner of His Majesty's Treasury)

Huw Yardley, Kevin Candy, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

Public Bill Committee

Tuesday 12 December 2023

(Morning)

[Judith Cummins in the Chair]

Media Bill

Before we begin, I remind Members that Hansard colleagues will be very grateful indeed if you email your speaking notes to them. I remind everyone to please switch their devices to silent, and that tea and coffee are not allowed during sittings.

Clause 48

Regulation of radio selection services

I beg to move amendment 42, in clause 48, page 88, line 17, at end insert—

“(b) an in-car entertainment system.”

This amendment and Amendments 43 and 44 would expand the scope of the definition of a “radio selection service” to include non-voice activated in-car entertainment systems.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 43, in clause 48, page 88, line 17, at end insert—

“(1A) For the purposes of this Part, “in-car entertainment system” means any equipment designed or adapted for use in a motor vehicle that enables, or among other things enables, a user of the equipment to use it to give instructions to a radio selection service, whether by giving spoken commands that are recorded by the equipment or otherwise.”

See explanatory statement to Amendment 42.

Amendment 44, in clause 48, page 94, line 13, leave out from “giving” to the end and insert

“instructions to the service (whether by spoken commands that are recorded by equipment connected to the internet or otherwise)”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 42.

It is a pleasure to take part in this Committee stage of the Media Bill today. I will not talk for too long on these amendments, which I tabled after conversations, particularly with Radiocentre, about how in-car entertainment systems work. These days, the reality is that an awful lot of people are using those in-car systems by navigating through screens or pressing on their mobile phone, in advance of actually driving the car. I myself tend to use the buttons on my screen when I am listening to stuff in the car.

Nine out of 10 UK adults—a significant proportion—listen to commercial radio or BBC radio every week. That is where a massive number of people get their local news, hear updates on what is going on, and listen to all sorts of genres of music. It is incredibly important for people. Even though in a lot of places we are moving away from cars and taking more public transport, people who use cars generally have some sort of sound on when they are driving. An awful lot of the time that is either commercial radio or BBC radio.

Commercial radio is already highly regulated. The adverts available on commercial radio that can be heard over DAB, for example, are checked. They have to meet high standards, not have false claims in them, and be pre-checked in advance of being broadcast. Radio stations have to ensure that they cover certain genres, although that is set to change as a consequence of this Bill. That makes a huge amount of sense, given the increase in the availability of services and the fact that there are not just one or two radio stations available to listen to and get signal for on AM or FM. There is the whole gamut of digital or internet radio.

We spoke last week about resilience and public reliance on hearing public sector broadcasts. The Minister himself made the point that radio is a good way for people to get updates on things happening in the local area, particularly if there is some sort of emergency. When we were talking about terrestrial television, the Minister made that point clear, and I absolutely agree with him. In the event that there is flooding in a local area, people often tune in to their local stations. In Aberdeen, that is Northsound 1, Original 106, or shmuFM—Station House Media Unit, an excellent community-run radio station. Those are all things people will use to they increase their resilience and ensure that they are aware of any emergencies.

To ensure that this is future-proofed and that the Bill makes sense and works in the way that the Government intend, I have tabled the amendments 42, 43 and 44 in relation to radio selection services, specifically to include non-voice-activated in-car entertainment systems. Not all cars rely on voice activation, and lots of people do not like voice activation; even though 53% of people now have smart speakers, a proportion are still not keen. As someone pointed out to me recently, the level of tolerance in relation to these things is pretty low. When someone says, “Alexa, please could you do this,” and it does not do it, they get frustrated fairly quickly, because the technology does not necessarily behave itself. For various reasons, some people choose to use the physical buttons or the screen selection services. Radiocentre and I believe that those people should also get the service that they are looking for, and that when they press those buttons in the car, they should get whichever radio station they want on whichever player they are looking for. It is important, therefore, that the Government consider this matter and whether something else could be done, particularly in this clause, to ensure that in-car entertainment systems are accessible to the public; to ensure that they are able to find the BBC, or BBC iPlayer if they are streaming through an internet service; and to ensure that they are able to listen to digital radio and to Northsound, if that is what they want to listen to on that morning.

I hope Minister will be able to give me a significant degree of comfort on this and convince me that this is something that the Government are considering and taking account of, something that they recognise is important and that they do expect people to be able to find the radio stations they want.

A not insignificant amount of listening—around a quarter of all radio listening—still takes place in the car, so it is a really important area for voice activation. It is really important that the Government look closely at this.

I absolutely agree. It is really important for voice activation. It is also really important for physical activation as well in terms of on-screen navigation, because of that massively high proportion of listening that takes place in the car.

For an awful lot of people, that is the only way that they hear news. They are not listening to the radio to hear news; they are listening to the radio to hear music, but they catch news bulletins on commercial radio. By the way, commercial radio stations put an awful lot of time, effort and journalism hours into ensuring that they have accurate news bulletins and that they are providing updates. For a significant proportion of people, that is the only form of news that they hear, and they hear international and national news as well as local news on those services. Therefore, it is important not just from an entertainment point of view, but from a resilience and an information point of view.

We have talked already about democracy and access to democracy and democratic services. Some people only get those updates from the radio; they only know that a general election has been called because local radio has told them. [Interruption.] Don’t worry, a general election has not been called this morning—I am sure that Government Members would know before I did, anyway. [Interruption.] I am sure that some Government Members would know before I did, anyway.

I would like the Minister to be very clear that he attaches importance to radio and to commercial radio and that he understands the ways that people use it. I would also like him to commit to giving some consideration to how this Bill could be future-proofed to ensure that those screen and button navigations also allow people to get the service that they want and that they do not have to use voice activation. If he can give me that reassurance, I may not push the amendments to a vote.

As I mentioned on Second Reading, part 6 is one of the most contentious parts of the Media Bill. The Culture, Media and Sport Committee picked up on it immediately and published a dedicated report on the radio clauses prior to its report on the Bill more broadly. The report highlighted issues with the drafting as well as with the content, which I will speak about in more detail as we debate the various aspects of, and additions to, this part. It also expressed full support for the inclusion of measures intended to protect our treasured radio services. I wanted to mention that at the beginning of my remarks.

I have been extremely supportive of radio and the principles of inclusion, but I know that platforms are extremely concerned. A few weeks ago, I hosted a roundtable with radio services and platforms and we had a really constructive discussion about the Bill. It was one of the first times that stakeholders had been invited together to have a discussion, albeit a virtual one. During the discussion, it was clear that platforms were largely happier, albeit to varying degrees, with the latest version of the Bill compared with the draft. That is to the credit of the Committee and the Department, which took seriously the matter of rectifying some of the problems with the Bill while maintaining a commitment to the importance of the part and radio as a whole. I believe the Bill is all the better for it. We are now on a much better footing for discussing some of the remaining issues in the clause. We can focus on the nuances, rather than discussing whether our radio services should be protected.

I therefore approach the amendments today keeping in mind the fact that a good balance has been struck. My overwhelming priority is to ensure that radio services get the protections they have been waiting for. I do not wish to cause any major further disruption to a part of the Bill that has been fine-tuned, to the benefit of both radio and platforms.

To address amendments 42 to 44 specifically, as with the smart speakers explicitly included in the Bill, car entertainment systems are a platform that have the potential to make it hard for users to find radio services. Some sophisticated car entertainment systems, for example, have the ability to preference their own content over radio services, to force users to swipe through pages of options to find their favourite radio station, or indeed to refuse to offer radio, full stop. Radiocentre claims that some recent models of Tesla cars do not have a broadcast radio at all, and though it is theoretically possible to stream radio through an interface on such models, no protections are in place to ensure that that will remain the case in a genuinely accessible and convenient way.

That issue is only more worrying when coupled with the reality that listening via car entertainment systems is on the rise, in particular among younger people. Ofcom reports that 9% of people listen to a streaming service via an in-car system, rising to 19% in the 16-to-24 age group. I therefore ask the Minister why such car systems were not considered for inclusion in the initial definition in the Bill alongside smart speakers. The CMS Committee report said that

“the Government may have overestimated the extent to which listeners are easily able to find their preferred stations in in-car systems.”

I agree with that statement and with the Committee’s recommendation to the Minister and Ofcom that they keep the issue under “close review”.

The Government agreed to that in their response to the Committee report, so how do they actively plan to do it? At what threshold will they consider extending the regime to cars or to any other device that poses similar problems? While I am in favour of exploring the inclusion of car entertainment systems, given the scope in the Bill to extend the regime, I think it is important that any extension is properly consulted on; in particular, car manufacturers themselves will need to be consulted.

Similar to the prominence regime for public service broadcasters, , it is right the Bill should be future-proofed so that new technologies can be accounted for, not just with cars, but further into the future. I hope that the Minister will consider that and will explain with clarity how we can be sure the Bill does enough to protect radio not just in today’s world, but in the years to come.

I apologise to the Committee for croaking a little. I also declare that on Sunday I attended the Jingle Bell ball with Capital Radio, which is organised by Global Media. In between some excellent performances, we talked briefly about the Media Bill.

The hon. Member for Barnsley East described part 6 of the Bill as perhaps one of the more contentious ones, although in fact I think that there is widespread agreement in Committee. On Thursday, we spoke about the importance of radio and how it continues to achieve a significant proportion of listening, despite having been written off a number of times in the past years. Part 6 of the Bill relates to the recognition that the way in which people access radio is changing. We spoke for a bit of time about updating the regime governing broadcast television to take account of the move to digital so, similarly, this part of the Bill is concerned with the fact that a growing proportion of radio listening is done through smart speakers.

The amendment moved by the hon. Member for Aberdeen North relates to cars in particular, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South pointed out, listening to the radio in cars represents a significant proportion of radio listening. Research carried out in 2021 by WorldDAB Forum, which is the international standards and co-ordination body for digital radio, showed that more than 90% of prospective car buyers across a range of international markets say that a broadcast radio tuner should be standard equipment in every car. Research has also found that 82% of potential car buyers say they would be less likely to buy or lease a vehicle that is not equipped with a built-in radio tuner. Consumer demand for new cars to have a radio installed as standard remains powerful.

I am not aware that I have ever bought a new car, but if I were to, I would probably not think to ask, “Does it have a radio?” I would just assume that it would have a radio, and then I would buy the car and be utterly shocked if I did not have access to radio. Maybe a kind of future-proofing, or at least leaning on the car manufacturers to say, “Radio is really important. Please could you include this?” would be a key way to go forward here.

I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady about encouraging manufacturers to include a radio. We would be very happy to do that. At the moment, it is almost unheard of not to include a radio—indeed, we encouraged manufacturers to install DAB sets. Older cars had traditional analogue sets, but in 2020 the Government actually brought in regulations to ensure that all radios installed in cars had a DAB tuner. That was a big step along the road to switching radio listening from analogue to digital, and the result now is that virtually all new cars in the UK have a DAB tuner installed, which allows the receipt of a large range of radio stations on the road. As noted by the digital radio and audio review carried out by the Department in 2021, audio and entertainment systems in cars are evolving rapidly, giving opportunities for car manufacturers to develop partnerships to provide or support other types of audio services, whether that is Bluetooth connectivity to connect mobile phones, or integrated systems including those that use or support Amazon, Google or Apple in-car systems.

In the terms of this Bill, part 6 applies to “radio selection services”, and it is device-neutral. While smart speakers represent a significant and growing proportion of radio listening, for the benefit of Members today and for Hansard, I would like to be clear that the term we have used in the legislation is “radio selection service”, through which the provisions could extend to any device with a microphone, including in-car systems that can respond to a spoken command requesting a radio station to be played. While I am sure that we will go on using smart speaker as a short-hand term, it is important to bear in mind that the requirements in part 6 apply to “designated radio selection services”, which is a service used by a significant number of people. We have made clear in new section 362BB that in assessing whether the use of the service is significant, we can consider the context, particularly where the service is used in a vehicle.

Amendments 42 to 44 seek to extend protections for radio into other audio systems provided by car manufacturers, whether these systems are voice controlled or not. However, our approach to developing these provisions has been to assess the potential risk from platforms being able to take a gatekeeper role, and to have targeted and appropriate measures that enable Ofcom to deal with any concerns. Individual systems provided by car manufacturers and which facilitate access to audio services or support this via connectivity links do not provide any way to disrupt access to radio services. We are, however, conscious about the longer-term issue raised with us by UK radio operators that at some point in the future radio might be designed out of cars and other vehicles. We absolutely accept that this would be a very regrettable development and that, given the importance of radio to listeners, we would need to look at it.

Say that a car manufacturer or a significant number of car manufacturers had a deal with Apple, and that their vehicles played only Apple services, or it was very difficult to find services other than Apple ones. Is that the point at which the Government would begin to look at a change? The relationship between the tech platforms and radio is good—I do not want to give the impression that it is not—but the tech platforms’ potential monopoly or domination of the market is significant, and therefore the risk is there.

I completely understand the hon. Lady’s concern, and I will say a little more about our approach to that issue in some detail. Essentially, we recognise that we need to keep a close eye on the issue. At the moment, given the very high level of consumer support, it seems unlikely that the car manufacturers would want to alienate new customers by not having the equipment that car buyers now regard as standard. In our view, a better approach is to support the very effective partnerships between the radio industry and the car industry. An example is Radioplayer, which is a major initiative between the BBC—[Interruption.]

Sitting suspended.

On resuming

I was just saying that the Government’s approach to the issue is to encourage the existing good partnerships between the radio sector and car manufacturers. Radioplayer is an initiative by the BBC and commercial radio that supports the use of common standards and technology, to make it much easier for partner manufacturers to integrate radio into car entertainment systems. The BBC and commercial radio recently announced new investment to expand that work, to support and build Radioplayer in the UK and to continue the development of partnerships across Europe. Radioplayer has partnerships with manufacturers including Volkswagen Group, BMW and Renault, which together represent over 40% of all European car sales, and it recently announced a long-term extension and expansion of its partnership with VW Group’s automated software company. A range of other companies also provide integration services. That prevents car manufacturers from having to bear all the research and development costs as systems develop.

I thank the Minister for noting all those car manufacturers. As the representative of Luton North, I would like to include van manufacturers as well, particularly Vauxhall.

I have no doubt that van drivers spend as much time listening to the radio as car drivers do, so the hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight vans.

Turning back to the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Aberdeen North, we believe that existing partnerships are the most effective way forward. However, we still have power to intervene—by, for instance, changing the definition of a radio selection service to include different ways in which radio stations are selected, if a clear need arises in the future. We will continue to support efforts by the radio industry to develop partnerships with car manufacturers, which, as I say, have produced good results. We will also keep these issues under review, as she requests. I hope that will go some way towards reassuring her, and that she is willing to withdraw her amendment.

I accept and understand the Minister’s reassurances. I am pleased to hear his support for radio, and his understanding of its importance, particularly in relation to car and van use. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment 32, in clause 48, page 89, line 21, at end insert—

“(4A) A statutory instrument containing regulations under subsection (1) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.”

This amendment would ensure that regulations which designate and specify descriptions of radio selection services are subject to the affirmative procedure.

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 33, in clause 48, page 89, line 25, at end insert—

“(5A) Before making regulations under subsection (5), the Secretary of State must consult—

(a) persons who appear to the Secretary of State to represent providers of radio selection services;

(b) persons who appear to the Secretary of State to represent providers of internet radio services;

(c) such other persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.”

This amendment would ensure that the Secretary of State would have to consult before making regulations adding or removing a condition that must be satisfied before a radio selection service may be designated.

I will speak in much more detail about my support for clause 48, and for protecting radio services, in various other debates on this part of the Bill, but here I will focus on two areas where increased scrutiny is needed, both of which will be important for the integrity of the regime. In the initial drafting of the Bill, there were many areas in which the Government had not incorporated sufficient scrutiny of powers to create secondary legislation. That was picked up by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which made various recommendations to do with strengthening scrutiny requirements and ensuring that power was not concentrated in the hands of the Secretary of State where that was not necessary.

Many of those suggestions were accepted by Government, but in the area of designated radio selection services, the Government chose not to follow the relevant recommendations. Indeed, it is understandable that the Government have chosen not to determine in the Bill which radio selection services will be regulated, and are instead leaving the definition broad, so as to include those that are

“used by a significant number of members of the public”.

That will ensure that the decision on which platforms are in scope can be informed by the recommendations of Ofcom, and that the list can be amended in the future to fit the needs of the regime.

However, given that flexibility to set and amend the definition outside the Bill, there should be appropriate safeguards, and avenues for Parliamentary scrutiny. Instead, the Bill seems to allow the Secretary of State to avoid accountability far too often. First, in setting the initial statutory conditions for a designated radio selection service, the Minister is given power to ignore Ofcom’s recommendations, as well as to present those statutory conditions to Parliament through the negative procedure, potentially avoiding any kind of debate on the matter. I tabled amendment 32 to improve the situation; it would change that to the affirmative procedure.

Likewise, where the Secretary of State has power to change the statutory conditions for designating radio selection services, they are not required to consult Ofcom and industry stakeholders on the new definition. I tabled amendment 33, which matches the Select Committee’s recommendation, to ensure that consultation takes place. As I have said, it is understandable that the Bill does not contain all the detail; that allows us to future-proof the regime, but to do so, we must ensure that designations are subject to scrutiny when they are proposed.

These amendments would ensure that the regulations were subject to the affirmative procedure when they were first created, and advance consultation on any changes to those regulations. Have I got that correct? If so, I am happy to support the hon. Lady.

Yes. We understand why the Bill is not prescriptive in setting out designated radio selection services, but if that is to change, there should be further parliamentary scrutiny.

On amendment 32, the hon. Lady and I have debated the secondary legislation provided for in this Bill, and in other Bills in the past. In this case, we do not agree that the affirmative procedure is appropriate. As the Bill sets out, the designation of a radio selection service will reflect the fact that it is used by a significant number of people who access radio services. Advice on what level of use is significant, and which services cross that threshold, is a matter for Ofcom in its role as independent regulator.

As is set out in proposed new section 362BB(3) to the Communications Act 2003, the Secretary of State must have received a report from Ofcom before making the relevant designation regulations. The framework for designation is therefore set by this Bill, and advice on which services are used by significant numbers of people will be provided by Ofcom. On receipt of Ofcom’s advice, the Secretary of State must consult with radio selection services and the radio industry, as well as others whom they consider appropriate, in accordance with proposed new section 362BB(4), before coming to a decision. They can disagree with Ofcom’s recommendation, as provided for in proposed new section 362BC(6), but must provide reasons for doing so.

The order-making power relates to orders confirming the Secretary of State’s decision to designate a platform or platforms. The order will be laid before Parliament and follow the negative procedure. We felt that the affirmative procedure, which would trigger a debate in both Houses, was not appropriate, given that the exercise of this power relates to decisions affecting one or more companies. I hope that the hon. Member for Barnsley East will accept that in this case, a negative resolution is sufficient.

I am extremely grateful to the hon. Member for Barnsley East for tabling amendment 33, and I absolutely recognise the intention behind it: to ensure that the Secretary of State consults before making regulations adding, removing or altering a condition that that must be satisfied before a radio selection service may be designated. A similar consultation requirement is imposed by proposed new section 362BB(4) before the Secretary of State can make regulations designating a radio selection service.

I acknowledge that it is reasonable to seek an equivalent requirement with regard to making any changes to the conditions that need to be satisfied before a service may be designated. However, the full impact of the amendment’s wording will need to be looked at by parliamentary counsel. In particular, the hon. Lady’s proposal will need to be considered in the context of subsection (4) of proposed new section 362BB to the Communications Act 2003. I hope that she is willing to withdraw the amendment, on the understanding that the Government will consider the matter further before Report.

I thought for a moment that the Minister was going to support my amendment. However, I am happy with his explanation, and so am willing not to move amendment 33. On amendment 32, I am afraid that once again we disagree on the statutory instrument, and once again I am not comfortable with the fact that Ofcom’s recommendations can be ignored, with no subsequent debate. For that reason, I will press the amendment to a vote.

I beg to move amendment 45, in clause 48, page 91, line 26, at end insert

“, or

(b) is a UK on-demand sound service and is provided by the BBC or by a person who holds a licence under Part 3 of the 1990 Act or Part 2 of the 1996 Act.”

This amendment and Amendments 46 and 47 would expand the scope of “internet radio service” to include on-demand and internet only content provided by the BBC or Ofcom-licenced radio stations.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 46, in clause 48, page 91, line 33, at end insert—

“(3) In this section a “UK on-demand sound service” means a service whose principal purpose is, or whose principal purposes include, the provision of programmes consisting wholly of sound and which has the following characteristics—

(a) its content is aimed mainly at audiences in the United Kingdom;

(b) access to it is on-demand;

(c) there is a person who has editorial responsibility for it; and

(d) it is made available by that person for use by members of the public (whether or not for payment).”

See explanatory statement to Amendment 45.

Amendment 47, in clause 48, page 91, line 34, leave out from beginning to end of line 12 on page 93 and insert—

“362BG Meaning of “relevant internet radio service”

(1) In this Part, “relevant internet radio service” means an internet radio service for the time being included in the list maintained by OFCOM under subsection (2).

(2) OFCOM must establish and maintain an up to date list of the internet radio services in relation to which the condition in subsection (3) is satisfied and their providers.

(3) The condition in this subsection is that the provider of an internet radio service—

(a) has given notice to OFCOM requesting that the service be included in the list, and

(b) has not since then given notice to OFCOM under subsection (4) or (5).

(4) The provider of an internet radio service included in the list may give notice to OFCOM requesting that the service be removed from the list.

(5) The provider of an internet radio service included in the list must give notice to OFCOM if—

(a) that person ceases to be the provider of the service,

(b) that person ceases to be the provider of the UK radio service to which it relates, or

(c) the service ceases to be provided.

(6) A notice given to OFCOM under this section must—

(a) be sent in such manner as OFCOM may require;

(b) contain such information as OFCOM may require.

(7) OFCOM must publish the list on a publicly accessible part of their website.”

See explanatory statement to Amendment 45.

Amendment 51, in clause 48, page 92, line 11, after “time” insert

“to a material extent only”.

This amendment would make the definition of an “internet radio service” less restrictive so that it can account for time lags or small differences in output.

New clause 3—Regulation of selection services for on demand and online-only content

“(1) Within three months of the passage of this Act, the Secretary of State must by regulations provide for the regulation of selection services for on demand and online-only content equivalent to the regulation of radio selection services provided for by section 48 and Schedule 9 of this Act.

(2) Regulations under subsection (1) may amend primary legislation.”

I will be fairly brief. Amendment 45 is about the scope of regulation of the selection services, and about internet radio services, including on-demand and internet-only content provided by the BBC or Ofcom-licensed radio stations.

There are some issues with the definition, given the changing nature of radio and listening; the fact that people listen to services on demand and to internet radio; and the possibility of a time lag between internet or digital radio broadcasting, and broadcasting on analogue services. Some services are in scope only if they are broadcast on digital radio at the same time as being broadcast on the internet. If there is a time lag between the two, then they are not broadcast at the same time—and they may be broadcast only a few seconds apart. I would like clarity from the Minister on whether “at the same time” means “sort of at the same time.” If someone accidentally listens to the radio via two different methods at once, they may find that what is being played is slightly out of sync. I might do that when I move between the car and the house, or move between listening on my mobile phone to listening on my television. I may have different ways of listening to a service.

To be fair, I do not differentiate between listening on the internet and listening to digital audio broadcasting radio. If someone asked me whether what was coming through my car speakers was being streamed through the internet, coming from DAB or on an analogue service, I probably could not say. All I know is that I am listening to Northsound Radio, or BBC Radio Scotland; the method I am using does not make a difference to me.

There is also some stuff here about Ofcom-licensed radio that is broadcast only on the internet. That is also important, because again, people listening to Classic FM have no idea whether the programme is available only on DAB or on the internet. They just know that they are listening to Classic FM. For those people, the definitions do not matter; nor do they matter for licensing. Classic FM and BBC radio are licensed in the same way, through Ofcom, whether people listen to them online or via DAB. They are held to the same standards. The question is therefore whether the Bill does what the Minister and the Government intend: ensure that regulations and protections are in place, whether programmes are broadcast via digital radio, the internet or analogue services.

I will begin by addressing amendments 45 to 47 and new clause 3, which I tabled. I am disappointed that on-demand and podcast listening appear to have been excluded from the new radio protections. As the BBC points out, it is somewhat unusual that the Government have recognised the need to legislate in the Bill for on-demand TV content, and acknowledge its growing role in people’s viewing habits, yet have neglected to recognise the same patterns emerging for audio content and the rise of podcasts, and are failing to provide appropriate protections as a result. Some 10 million adults listen to podcasts every week, and there are estimates that in just 3 years’ time, there will be more than 28 million podcast listeners in the UK. Likewise, of BBC Sounds’ 417 million plays between October and December 2022, 193 million were on demand. It seems somewhat counterintuitive, therefore, that the Bill tries to protect the future of radio through a clause that does not pay any attention to one of the fastest growing ways of listening to audio.

To use an example provided by Radiocentre, under the current system, a user would be able to tune in to the LBC breakfast show with Nick Ferrari but could not be guaranteed access to the hugely popular podcast “The News Agents”. The same applies to on-demand radio: a user could listen to “World at One” or “Today in Parliament” live, but cannot be sure of catch-up access. Of course, given the breadth of podcasts available, it makes sense that any change might begin with ensuring access to podcasts associated with Ofcom-regulated stations. That would give a reasonable limit, so that platforms are not given the extra burden of onboarding a number of unregulated services that are not already within scope of the Bill. However, given the popularity of podcasts and the Government’s intention to protect valuable UK audio content, excluding podcasts altogether seems like missing a huge opportunity. I hope that the Minister understands that that is a contradiction, and will lend his support to some of the amendments.

My new clause 3, and amendments 45 to 47, make very similar requests of the Government on this topic, though new clause 3 is less prescriptive. If the Minister chooses not to support these amendments, it would at least be a good opportunity for him to explain why podcast services have been excluded. I point out again that the last chance we had to create media legislation was 20 years ago. What if another opportunity does not arise for 20 years? Does he not think that it will seem rather out of place for there to be no protection for on-demand audio content? Many measures in the Bill were crafted specifically to allow for future-proofing and a forward-looking vision. This is one area where such a vision has unfortunately been lacking, and I hope to rectify that through the amendments, with the support and co-operation of the Committee; I know that many of its members are in agreement with me on this.

On amendment 51, there have been various concerns, during the Bill’s formation, about the definition of an internet radio service, and the reference to programmes being provided in the same way and at the same time as the broadcast service. I am therefore glad that since the draft Bill, tweaks have been made to ensure that adverts are disregarded when it comes to considering whether a programme is being provided at the same time as a broadcast service. That change will have come as a great relief to providers of radio services that rely on a certain level of customisation when it comes to adverts. However, I know that Radiocentre and others still have concerns that the Bill does not account for minor differences in output, or time lags. Will a small difference, such as a time lag between a broadcast and an online radio station’s output, be considered a breach of the definition, and exclude a station from being designated as an internet radio service? At the very least, I hope that that was not the intention of the wording. It is important to clarify that explicitly in the Bill.

I understand the intention behind the amendments, but the purpose of the Bill is to protect the public value of live licensed radio, as secured within the regulatory framework. The effect of the measure proposed by the hon. Member for Barnsley East would extend the scope of the regime to content that, notwithstanding its source, is unregulated. That would significantly broaden the scope of the legislation and risk placing disproportionate burdens on the platforms, as well as potentially delaying the implementation of the regime by Ofcom. It would also exclude similar content produced by independent producers and distributed as podcasts.

The hon. Lady raised the issue that Nick Ferrari’s show on LBC might fall within the regulatory framework, but that Jon Sopel and Emily Maitlis might fall outside it. The effect of the hon. Lady’s proposal would be to bring “The News Agents” within the scope of the framework, because it is produced by Global, but “The Rest is Politics” with Rory Stewart and Mr Campbell would be outside the regulatory framework because it is produced by Goalhanger and is therefore not captured by the measure.

I want to set out where I think there may be problems. Historically, many radio stations have created what is called “split content”. That could be during ad breaks, for example—if someone is listening on FM, they would hear one set of adverts, but if they are listening on AM, they would hear a different set of adverts. In the situation where a radio station decides to broadcast a set of adverts on FM—perhaps a local set of adverts aimed at Warrington—but decides to put national adverts on its internet streaming platform, because it is heard all over the UK, there would be two very different programmes going out for two or three minutes. That is where there is some concern about different content for a period of time; while it is being broadcast live, different content is inserted into the stream. That is somewhere where there is slight confusion.

I understand the point that my hon. Friend is getting at, but the provisions of the Bill are about live radio, and I think that the example he gave would be captured, because it is still live radio. The provision relates to non-live radio in the form of podcasts. I take the point that my hon. Friend makes, and I am happy to follow it up with a bit more detail, if that would be helpful.

As I said, the purpose of the Bill is about live radio, which remains the main way in which audio content is consumed. The Government committed, in their response to the digital radio and audio review, to revisiting those issues.

We understand that public service broadcasters, whether they are providing that public service on radio or television, should have a commensurate level of prominence. Does the Minister not agree that those people who have gone through the hoops to be Ofcom-licensed should have more prominence? That is partly the idea behind the amendments on licensing the “The News Agents” podcast, for example. It is produced by someone who has gone through the hoops to get those Ofcom licenses, whereas the other podcast—I forget its name—

“The Rest is Politics” would not be licensed, on the basis that its producers have not jumped through those hoops to meet the standards required to get Ofcom licensing.

But the podcast is not subject to the regulatory requirements. It is absolutely the case that “The News Agents” is produced by a broadcaster that holds an Ofcom license, but that does not mean that the requirements of the licence apply to the content of the podcast.

Does the Minister not find it slightly perverse that the top-billing podcast, “The Rest is Politics”, which is the most listened-to podcast, is not subject to the requirements, yet one that is not the most listened to is subject to the requirements?

Under the terms of the Bill, neither of them will be. The purpose of the Bill is to extend the regulatory regime to cover live radio, in whichever format it is consumed, but I do not think that podcasts—I am depressed to hear that “The Rest is Politics” is the top podcast on the charts, but there is no accounting for taste—should be subject to regulation, despite high listener numbers. As I say, we are happy to keep the matter under review, and the Bill allows for the amendment of relevant definitions. On the basis of that assurance, I hope that the hon. Member for Aberdeen North will be willing to withdraw her amendment.

Amendment 51 relates to the definition of “corresponds” in proposed new section 362BG(4). I recognise the amendment’s intention, and it is correct to say that there may sometimes be a very small difference between when an internet radio service is received by a listener and when the corresponding licensed broadcast service is received. That is why proposed new section 362BG(4) refers to when programmes are broadcast and provided by the station, rather than when they are received. It is not the Government’s intention for stations to fall out of scope of the protections because of very small discrepancies.

In any event, we consider that it is clear that very minor time-lags of up to a few seconds are not to be interpreted as not being “at the same time”, and we expect Ofcom to interpret the provision accordingly. However, the hon. Member for Aberdeen North has raised an important issue as to whether minor differences in output between versions of substantially the same programming should be allowed and, if so, whether the provision could be amended in a workable way. We are happy to consider the issue further with the industry and Ofcom. On that basis, I hope that the hon. Lady will not press her amendment.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Barnsley East for tabling new clause 3, and we recognise its intention, which is to ensure that listeners can access a wide range of audio content on their connected devices. The provisions in part 6 of the Bill are being put in place to protect the public value of live, licensed UK radio. Although the options available to listeners have grown over recent years and will continue to do so, live radio remains the main way in which audio content produced by broadcasters is consumed. The provisions also reflect the fact that the regulatory framework that is in place for BBC, commercial and community radio services secures the ongoing provision of their public value content.

The new clause would extend the scope of the regime to unregulated content. At this stage, without a fuller understanding of the online audio market, it would risk significantly broadening the scope of the Bill. In particular, it would place disproportionate burdens on the platforms, without a clear means to ensure that the regime protects content that is of public value. In addition, it may risk significantly delaying the implementation of the regime. For those reasons, we cannot accept the new clause, and I hope that the hon. Lady will consider not pressing it.

I accept the Minister’s reassurances on amendment 51. His comment on the small time delay is helpful and clarifies the intention of the Bill. His clarification to the Committee is incredibly helpful. I also appreciate his making clear that he would be keen to work with Ofcom, Radiocentre and other interested parties on how the provisions could be improved, if they could. I hope that both Ofcom and Radiocentre hear that, and can put the case to the Minister about the potential for improvement. I understand that the Minister is keen to get the Bill right, and for it to work as intended.

I want to follow up the point that the shadow Minister made about the asymmetry between on-demand services—the fact that on-demand radio services are not within the scope of the Bill but on-demand television services are. If I want to listen to Radio 5 Live’s “Wake Up to Money”, I either have to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning, which is not my favourite thing to do, or I can listen to it on demand, which I did fairly regularly for a number of years. I would expect the same protections for that service as for watching “Question Time” the next day. It is reasonable for members of the public to assume that the same regulations apply. They are both BBC programmes that were broadcast live. I was probably not awake to see both, because I do not stay up for “Question Time”—I very much love staying in my bed for as long as possible.

I should be able to catch up with those programmes on demand, and it makes sense for them to have prominence as public service broadcasts. If I ask Alexa to play “Desert Island Discs” from Sunday, I expect it to play “Desert Island Discs” from Sunday, not the best of “Desert Island Discs” or a particularly popular episode from last year. In the same way, I would expect today’s “Wake Up to Money”, not last week’s episode, Sunday’s round-up or whatever else.

The asymmetry will be confusing for members of the public, who expect the same level of protection, particularly for BBC services, because people have a huge amount of respect for and attachment to the BBC, as well as other public service broadcasters. The BBC is paid for by the licence fee and there is the charter; there are many reasons why it sits so highly in people’s hearts and minds. Why is there therefore not the same protection for television and radio on-demand services, at least for things that were broadcast live and can be considered repeats? I have included the BBC alongside the Ofcom-licenced services in the amendments because it often plays repeats or on-demand versions of programmes that were broadcast live on the radio, although that does not apply to some of the podcasts.

I plan to press amendment 45 to a vote, and the Minister will have an opportunity to speak again if he wishes. I would appreciate it if he took into account the fact that members of the public will not understand the difference between the television and radio requirement, and may be poorly served if they are not able to access the on-demand services they want. Will he commit to consider at least the repeats issue—I class it as repeats, because that is the conversation that we had when we discussed on-demand television services and meeting the public service broadcast requirements? Essentially, that is what a chunk of the Bill is about. Even if we were to remove things that are not broadcast live, such as “The News Agents” podcast, and take into account only things that are broadcast by either the BBC or Ofcom-licenced radio live and then played afterwards on catch-up, people would be able to access the services they want with the protection they want. When they say, “Alexa, please could you play ‘Desert Island Discs’ from Sunday?” they expect to get “Desert Island Discs” from Sunday, rather than something totally unrelated or something like the best of “Desert Island Discs”, which is clearly not what they wanted to listen to at that moment in time.

To some extent, the question is where we draw the line. The Bill is about live radio. The hon. Lady has put forward a different category of programming, so we now have three additional categories.

We have the category of what was live programming, which is available on a catch-up, on-demand basis. She gave the example of “Desert Island Discs”, but other examples are “The News Quiz” and various programmes that have gone out in recent days which people want to listen to a little bit later. We then have the category of programming that is not being broadcast live, but is nevertheless produced by a licensed broadcaster—“The News Agents” is an example. We also have the category of programming that is not produced by a licensed broadcaster, which extends into the world of podcasts, of which there are potentially millions. I think it would be extremely difficult to move that into a category of licensing. It is a question of where we draw the line, and the Government felt that the clause addresses a particular challenge, which is to protect live radio from the platforms taking advantage by either charging or replacing ads and so on.

I appreciate what the Government are saying about drawing the line, but does the hon. Gentleman accept that that leaves us with a contradiction between audio and visual? For a Bill that is aiming to future-proof, it fails to do that.

The regime that the Bill introduces for TV public service broadcasting has slightly different objectives from the regime that we are introducing for radio. In the case of radio, as we have debated, it is much more to do with ensuring that things like advertising are still supplied by the broadcaster, rather than being replaced by the platform, so that, for instance, there is no possibility of the platforms charging radio stations. They are slightly different objectives. It could always be said that there are distinct differences between the regime for audio and the regime for visual, and I think that is going to be inevitable. As I say, this is something where consumer habits are changing and we will of course keep the matter under review. There are powers to make amendments, should they prove necessary in future.

To be fair, the third category that the Minister mentioned is not something that I brought up. It is something that he has included as a category—not me. I am still clear that there is asymmetry between the on-demand services. I understand that he is trying to protect access to live radio, and I get that. Surely the Bill is also trying to protect access to live TV? It is trying to protect access to public service broadcast.

The Minister and the Government have agreed and understood that people are watching live TV on catch-up. They are saying that a broadcaster’s public service obligations can include on-demand services because of the number of people that are watching television on catch-up. It is exactly the same with radio. I do not understand how he can suggest that the line be drawn where it has been. To me, protecting live radio and live television means protecting access to those on-demand and catch-up services for the same programmes that someone would be listening to on demand.

I am fairly sympathetic to what the hon. Lady is saying, although I have to say that there is a slight difference, as there is no provision in the Bill for public service elements of a licence to be delivered through on-demand services. There is a difference, I am afraid, and I think the Minister is right in that respect.

There is provision for public service elements of television to be delivered through on-demand services in the Bill. I do not see why people would not understand that there is the same benefit in accessing this stuff on demand. On radio programming, whether I listen to “Wake Up to Money” at 5 am or 3 pm, I am still getting the same public service benefit from listening to that. I can understand why the BBC, when it is having charter negotiations, might be saying, “We produce this programme, however many people listen to it at the time. Many people listen to it on catch-up, so this is part of the public service benefit and public service good that we provide for the licence fee as part of our charter obligations and as part of our relationship with the Government and with the general public.”

Turning to the amendments that I have tabled, there possibly are different amendments that could have a similar effect on on-demand services and catch-up. I would appreciate some flexibility from the Minister. I understand that the Government are trying to legislate for live radio, but they have chosen to draw an arbitrary line. It would be better if the line were slightly further over than it is. We will have to disagree, so I would like to press amendment 45 to a vote.

Before we vote on amendment 45, may I check Stephanie Peacock’s intentions for new clause 3?

It depends somewhat on what happens with the amendment; I know the vote will come later. The hon. Member for Aberdeen North made the case in some detail and, in my intervention, I also made the case on this contradiction. I completely accept that there is a slight difference between audio and visual content, but, again, I am concerned about the lack of future-proofing. My intentions therefore depend somewhat on this vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

I beg to move amendment 50, in clause 48, page 93, leave out lines 26 to 28.

This amendment would remove the proposed new section 362BH(4), which provides for powers that could in future prohibit or restrict radio stations from levying charges on voice assistant platforms.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 52, in clause 48, page 94, line 27, leave out

“the provider of the selected service agrees”,

and insert

“requested by the provider of the selected service”.

This amendment would clarify that pre-roll advertising would only be allowed if it is something the radio provider has requested.

Amendment 48, in clause 48, page 95, line 3, at end insert—

“(5A) The provider of a radio selection service must provide providers of internet radio services, at their request, with effective, high-quality, continuous and real-time access to, and use of, aggregated and non-aggregated data, including personal data (subject to subsection (7)), that is provided for or generated in the context of the use of the relevant radio selection services by users.

(5B) For the purposes of the personal data referred to in subsection (5A), providers of radio selection services must provide for such access to, and use of, personal data only where the data are directly connected with the services offered by the relevant provider of internet radio services through the relevant radio selection services.”

This amendment and Amendment 49 would require designated radio selection services to provide radio stations with effective, high quality and real time access to user data that is generated by listeners of those stations.

Amendment 49, in clause 48, page 95, line 7, after “(4)” insert “or (5A)”.

See explanatory statement to Amendment 48.

Amendment 53, in clause 48, page 95, line 12, at end insert

“or impose any other conditions which would have the same effect”.

This amendment would strengthen the “no charging” provision on voice assistant platforms so that it covers non-financial charges that they could levy on radio stations.

It is me again, with further amendments on radio.

Amendment 50 would remove the powers that could, in future, prohibit or restrict radio stations from levying charges on voice assistant platforms, which is not unreasonable. I will not say too much about it, as it pretty much speaks for itself.

Amendment 48 concerns designated radio stations and data. It is particularly important for the BBC but also for commercial radio platforms. There is no form of consistent or coherent legislative or regulatory ability for radio services to access high-quality aggregated or non-aggregated data about listeners. Particularly for the BBC, accessing that data and being able to prove how many people are listening to radio services is difficult when none of the platforms has any requirement to provide it. I understand commercial sensitivities and why platforms would like to keep the data and not share it, or at least why they would be uncertain about sharing it, but public service obligations require these organisations to understand the data they receive so that they can make sure that they reach the audiences they wish to reach. If Radio 5 Live is mostly listened to through tech platforms rather than through radios, how can the BBC say how many people are listening to it? How can it understand what its listeners want if it is not able to access data on how many people are really enjoying listening to “Wake Up to Money” or BBC Radio Scotland’s “Sportsound”. If it does not have the flexibility and the ability to access data, it cannot put on the programmes that people really want. It cannot move and change with changing listener habits and cannot ensure that the general public are provided with the best possible services.

With commercial radio stations, it is slightly different. Obviously, they want to appeal to their audiences, but they have to be able to make the case to advertisers about how many people are listening to their services. They have to be able to access some of the data to see who it is that they are appealing to and who is listening to their services. If a shop sells lots of clothing, it will keep an eye on how much clothing is sold—what is selling, what is doing well—and it will buy less of the stuff that is not doing well. The amendment simply asks for a level of parity to some of the information available.

There is something really interesting around data sharing, particularly for a commercial station’s audience. Commercial stations sell advertising based on the number of ears listening. If all of the data is controlled by the platforms and there is no way for radio stations to access that data, the ability for a commercial operator to continue to sell advertising is significantly limited. Where we have operated previously in a linear environment, diaries placed in people’s homes provide a certain level of data. But the ability for online services to provide much more transparency around the audiences that they deliver is controlled by a third party, and that becomes incredibly dangerous and difficult. So I think there is something in data sharing that we should perhaps consider. The issue also exists for many other forms of media as well. It is similar for TV, for example—it is not just limited to radio.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct. It is not just limited to radio, but the BBC has control over iPlayer and can see how many people are viewing it, whereas it has much less control and understanding in relation to things streamed through tech platforms. We cannot stream BBC programmes other than through the iPlayer, but its radio programmes can be streamed other than through BBC Sounds.

To give a level of reassurance on the data sharing, it is not about sharing personal data that people do not consent to being shared. If we set up a new mobile phone, for example, it asks if we are willing to share data and information. I would ask for data sharing to happen only for people who have consented to their data being shared, which a lot of people do.

Lastly, I want to touch on amendment 52, which is about pre-roll advertising. The amendment would clarify that pre-roll advertising would be allowed only if it is something that the radio provider had requested. I think that is the direction that the Minister and the Government are going in, anyway, but we need clarification about pre-roll advertising because I would like the provider of the selected service to agree to it.

We have mentioned already the basis on which commercial radio is run, how advertising pays for commercial radio and how it is able to produce its services and sell them because it can provide adverts that are relevant to people. If every time we listen to Classic FM, we get an advertisement that Classic FM has not consented to, we might end up in a situation where people say, “I don’t want to listen to 30 seconds of adverts. I will just listen to something else.” It should be Classic FM that is making that choice, not the tech services through which it is being streamed. Radio providers should be the ones making the decisions, because it should be their judgment whether it is worth playing those 30 seconds of advertising, whether that will turn people off, and whether it is the right commercial choice to include it in their service. It should be the providers’ choice, rather than that of the tech platforms. Amendment 52 relates specifically to that.

All the amendments in this group refer to the relationship between internet radio stations and radio selection services. As I have mentioned previously, striking the right balance between the two groups will be integral to the success of the regime as a whole. It is with that in mind that I will address amendments 48 and 49 together, before looking at amendments 52, 50 and 53.

On amendments 48 and 49, data is among the, or possibly the most, highly valued assets in our modern, tech-forward society. I am well aware of that, having served as shadow Minister for Data not too long ago and, having sat opposite the Minister for a lengthy discussion on the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, I know he is too.

Data is key to innovation, unlocking benefits for users and growing an organisation more broadly. It is also crucial for creating the mutually beneficial advertising partnerships on which commercial radio naturally relies, alongside many of our other creative industries. I realise the vital importance of radio stations being able to access data for their audiences, regardless of the fact that such audiences might be listening through a smart speaker. I therefore appreciate the intent of amendments 48 and 49, which seek to ensure designated radio selection services provide stations with user data.

It was my understanding, however, that the need for data was one of the primary reasons for including preferred routes as part of the clause. Indeed, the BBC told the Culture, Media and Sport Committee that

“having the ability to play out through our preferred service means that we then get that data to allow us to improve our services. That is why it is such an important provision that should remain in the Bill”.

I am therefore keen to understand from the Minister whether it is his understanding that the requirement for smart speakers to provide a service through a preferred route inherently includes a guarantee that data will be accessible to radio stations as a result. If not, I hope the Minister can take on board what the amendments are trying to achieve and provide us with a comprehensive reassurance that radio stations will have access to user data as they deserve.

I turn to amendment 52. Unlike the draft version of the Bill, the published version signals that pre-roll advertising might be allowed, subject to the agreement of a station. That means that an advert or branded message of the smart speaker’s choosing could play on a smart speaker before the requested radio station begins playing. That is one of a number of changes from the draft version that I believe has helped alleviate some of the strong concerns tech platforms held about this part of the Bill.

On the other hand, Radiocentre, which represents commercial radio, has worries about the new addition. In particular, it cites the difference in bargaining power that radio stations may have in comparison with a tech firm, fearing that may result in the phrase “subject to the agreement of a station” being abused through effective coercion. That would effectively mean that radio stations are forced to take on adverts before their content starts playing.

I understand the concern and am supportive of the way the part as a whole has sought to redress the power imbalance between radio and platforms and secure a healthy future partnership between the two. However, I hope that Ofcom’s ability to enforce the regime more broadly as a result of the Bill will provide protections against abuse of the system, so long as Ofcom is appropriately empowered. There should be protections against any situation where a radio station is forced to allow a pre-roll advertisement against its will.

Can the Minister confirm whether the Bill does enough to ensure that will be the case and provide assurances that the protections for radio stations to refuse will be properly enforced? If he can—and I hope he will—I believe the amendment may not be necessary. After all, it is hard to imagine a situation where a radio provider would freely request a pre-roll advertisement, and I worry that, as a result, the amendment may have the counterintuitive effect of disrupting tech platforms’ precarious acceptance of the part more generally in its published version, compared with its draft.

Amendment 50 seeks to remove the restriction that would mean radio stations cannot charge smart speakers for their services. Conversely, amendment 53 seeks to extend the equivalent restriction on platforms to cover non-financial charges. It is my understanding that the premise of the relevant sections of the Bill is quite simple: to ensure that neither party charges the other. That seems fair to me, as it applies both ways. Can the Minister confirm whether this part looks to ensure that neither radio services nor smart speakers can charge the other when carrying out their duties under this part? If that is the case, any change to that arrangement, as sought by these amendments, may cause an unfair imbalance where it is currently an equal measure.

However, by way of reassurance for radio services that may be concerned about their bargaining power, I hope that the Minister will outline explicitly the protections in place throughout the Bill to ensure that the regime will be enforced with integrity. It is, of course, important that radio stations can be carried by platforms regardless of any power imbalance, and without having to face any unnecessary charges or burdens. That will provide certainty for radio stations and clarity for platforms, both of which need to accept and understand of the regime if it is to work as intended.

I will start with amendment 50. As the hon. Member for Barnsley East has set out, the whole purpose of the regime we are putting in place is to ensure that the provision of live radio via smart speakers or similar devices is not monetised by either party and that there are protections for radio stations from having to sadly face charges imposed on them by platforms. At the moment, we agree that it is very unlikely that a station would be in a position to extract charges from a platform; the reverse is the case. However, in the widespread consultation we had—the hon. Lady has also referred to the discussions she has had with platforms—it was felt that nevertheless there did need to be some fall-back protection in place. If the hon. Lady’s proposed amendments were to be made, there would be no ability for the regime to be updated in the future, were the market to develop in such a way as to make it a realistic prospect. We think it is important to have that safeguard power should we one day encounter a situation where radio stations sought to extract charges from a platform.

Any exercise of the power within the Bill is subject to consultation, as set out in proposed new section 362BH to the Communications Act 2003, and it would also need to be approved by each House through the affirmative procedure. We nevertheless think the power is an important one, and I therefore hope that the hon. Member for Barnsley East will consider not pressing her amendment.

Turning to amendment 52, we do not think there is a need to change the wording of the current provision. There are a number of ways through which a station can reach its listeners via their connected devices. They can do so directly, through the use of a service operated by the platform; there are, in particular, means such as the Amazon Alexa radio skills kit, which offers an extremely effective way—particularly for small stations—to provide their content via the internet. Some of the aggregators, such as Global Player or BBC Sounds, act as a portal through which a number of different stations provided by the same operator can be made available. Others, such as TuneIn, bring together a range of different stations from different providers.

It will be for each station to decide the option that best fits its needs and to take advantage of the protections offered by the Bill. Some of those options may involve the inclusion of a short period of advertising before the radio station is played. However, the provisions in proposed new section 362BI are clear that advertising cannot be imposed on a station—it must be agreed to. This will ensure there remains scope for mutually beneficial arrangements, while ensuring that radio maintains control over the content that reaches its listeners. For that reason, I do not think the amendment, as the hon. Member for Barnsley East suggests, is necessary.

I appreciate the argument the Minister is making, and I did not really want to interrupt, but for clarity, these amendments are in the name of the hon. Member for Aberdeen North, not mine.

I do apologise. I am not sure whether the hon. Lady was endorsing them, but I will direct my remarks particularly to the hon. Member for Aberdeen North.

If the Minister was listening to my speech, he would know that I am more sympathetic to his position than to that of the hon. Member for Aberdeen North, but it is a fine balance between both the platforms and the radio.

And indeed a fine balance between the Government and the SNP. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for clarifying her position; I direct my remarks particularly to the hon. Member for Aberdeen North.

The Government absolutely recognise the intention behind amendments 48 and 49, but we do not think it appropriate to include such provisions within the Bill. We absolutely acknowledge that it would be of benefit to radio stations to be assured of access to listener data above and beyond the data that radio stations collect themselves, from monitoring their own streams or from surveys such as those by Radio Joint Audience Research. The provisions in the Bill are being put in place to address issues specific to radio, namely securing BBC and Ofcom-licensed commercial and community stations’ ability to access their listeners. As my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South made clear, the issues raised in the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Aberdeen North could apply across a wide range of sectors and are therefore more appropriately addressed in the context of the Government’s wider work on competition in digital markets.

I hope that the hon. Member for Aberdeen North will, to some extent, be reassured by the provisions in proposed new section 362BI that allow radio stations to nominate a preferred route for their service to be delivered to listeners, provided that the route is not unduly burdensome for the platform to deliver. I take the point from the hon. Member for Barnsley East about the importance that some stations attach to the ability to designate a preferred route. These measures do provide scope for a route through which—subject to a listener’s consent, for example through logging in—a broadcaster may be able to access valuable data to enable it to further improve its service. For those reasons, we do not support the amendment; I hope that the hon. Member for Aberdeen North will not press it.

In addressing amendment 53, it may be helpful to set out the context of the overall regime. At the moment, platforms and radio stations both benefit from carriage: the platforms provide radio with another way to reach its audiences, and listening to radio is one of the main reasons why people buy devices such as smart speakers. At this stage, there is no evidence to suggest that the platforms are seeking to charge stations for access, but as more and more listening shifts online, there is a risk that the balance will shift in favour of the platforms, creating an economic incentive for them to monetise the content to which they provide access.

Proposed new section 362BI will address the issue by limiting the scope for platforms to use their position to monetise the carriage of radio in the future. In the event that they seek to do so in ways that might not be covered by these provisions, or indeed by the ongoing work within Government on competition in digital markets, the new provisions will provide the Secretary of State with powers to intervene. In particular, proposed new section 362BP(2) will enable the Secretary of State to make provision by regulations

“about the terms and conditions that may be offered by the provider of a radio selection service to the provider of a relevant internet radio service for or in connection with the use of the service to access the relevant internet radio service”

and

“about the charges that may be imposed by the provider of a radio selection service”.

On that basis, I hope that the hon. Member for Aberdeen North will not press her amendment.

I thank the Minister for that. I make it clear that there is not a fine line between the two parties; there is a gaping chasm. However, in relation to the Bill, I think we are largely pointing in the same direction.

On almost every issue we have raised, there have been slight differences between us and the Government, but we are generally happy with the direction in which they are going. I am only disappointed that it has taken 20 years to get to a Media Bill, and I am very keen for the next Media Bill to come more quickly, because things are changing very quickly. The need for changes in legislation to keep up with the changing shape of our world will come more quickly than in 20 years’ time. I made exactly the same case during the passage of the Online Safety Act 2023. It should have been created when I was first using the internet in the early ’90s, rather than waiting until 2022 or 2023.

I appreciate and accept the Minister’s reassurances on amendment 53 in particular. I understand what the Government are trying to do on the protection from levies for both parties and on the requirement for neither party to be able to create the levy. The direction I am probably coming from here is that there is an imbalance of power here. To me, it feels as if the platforms have a huge amount of power. Having spoken to people during the passage of the Online Safety Bill about the App Store, for example, the level of power that such organisations have and can wield is absolutely excessive. We have seen that with organisations such as the App Store, and it feels as if it is only a matter of time before some of the tech platforms here decide to chance their luck. The protections that are in place are therefore important.

We are inches away in relation to charging in the other direction; I do not think we are that far apart. I think the Government recognise and understand that should there be market failure or a significant imbalance of power, they have the ability to make changes in future. They will be able to look at and consider such changes. They therefore have the power to make such regulations to provide a level of protection for commercial radio, as well as for the platforms, should the imbalance of power swing drastically the other way, which does not seem likely.

I am happy not to press amendments 48 to 53, but I still have concerns about the level of data sharing. I do not feel that the Government have been able to give me the reassurances that I would have liked, but I will not press the issue to a vote, although I may bring it back on Report. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment 12, in clause 48, page 102, line 11, after “service” insert

“, or—

(b) a person who was but is no longer a provider of a relevant internet radio service,”.

This amendment and Amendment 13 enable OFCOM to give a provisional notice of contravention to a former provider of a relevant internet radio service.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendments 13 to 15.

Clause stand part.

Schedule 9.

I am grateful to hon. Members for their participation in this debate on part 6, which is an important part of the Bill. It is based on the findings of the digital radio and audio review, taking account of the way in which radio listening is changing, as we have discussed, and in particular the awareness of platforms acting as a gatekeeper with the potential ability to direct listeners away from UK radio content towards other services, such as their own music playlists or third-party services that have paid for prominence or that seek to leverage value in charges.

Our published impact assessment sets out how the economic relationship between stations and platforms will change as an increased share of listening moves online. That shift will increase the economic incentive for platforms with a significant share of radio listening to seek to monetise the carriage of radio services, for example through requiring radio to give up a fixed share of advertising inventory. The ability of UK radio to continue to deliver public value to its listeners would be endangered if platforms were able to do so effectively.

The purpose of these provisions in the Bill is to put in place a targeted package of measures that will require the major platforms to ensure that UK radio stations remain available to their listeners on request, and that will prevent those platforms from inserting or overlaying their own content, such as advertising or charging for access. This will ensure that UK radio remains accessible to listeners on their connected audio devices, while providing scope for innovative collaboration and partnerships between stations and platforms.

The measures do not go as far as those proposed in the digital radio and audio review. For example, they do not include measures on access to data transparency of algorithms or self-preferencing of services. Those are wider cross-sectoral issues and, as such, are more appropriately addressed through the wider work that is ongoing within Government relating to competition in digital markets.

The measures in this Bill focus on broadcast radio. Internet-only radio-like services and other online audio are not within the scope of the Bill. Our priority is to protect the public value of radio services that are subject to oversight and sanction from Ofcom, for example through the broadcasting code. We have also listened carefully to the practical concerns issued by the tech platforms during consideration of the draft Bill. We have made a number of changes to ensure that the effect of the measures is reasonable and proportionate while reflecting the policy intention to secure radio’s position in the long term as it continues to transition from an analogue to a digital future.

The provisions inserting proposed new sections 362BA to 362BE into the Communications Act 2003 therefore provide a framework for the identification of “radio selection services”—the voice-activated software underpinning connected audio devices—and then the process by which such services can be designated. The significance of voice activation is that, in large part, it enables platforms to take on a gatekeeper role; it is often the voice assistant intermediary through which listeners may be directed away from radio. It will be for Ofcom to consult and to advise the Secretary of State on which platforms should be designated.

The provisions in proposed new sections 362BF to 362BH set out that the live online streams of BBC and licensed commercial and community stations will be able to receive the protections set out under the regime, provided that those streams correspond to the station’s broadcast service and that the station has opted in to the regime. The protections do not extend to on-demand content produced by stations, or to other unregulated online-only content. We recognise that the audio market, and listening habits, will continue to evolve, so the provisions in proposed new section 362BH allow for amendment of the relevant definitions, which will allow this regime to keep pace with that evolution. [Interruption.] It is not that dramatic! Proposed new section 362BH also includes a specific reference to stations seeking to charge the platforms for provision of their services. Although, as I have said, there is no evidence to date of stations being in a position to do this, the provision recognises that potential risk and clarifies our expectation that the carriage of radio services should not be monetised by either party.

Proposed new section 362BI sets out the duties that will be imposed on designated radio selection services in relation to those radio stations that are within scope of the regime. It will be supported by the code of practice prepared by Ofcom in accordance with the Bill. The first duty, set out in subsection (1), essentially says that when a listener asks for a radio station, they should receive that station. The second duty is that the station should not be interrupted; while brief identifications or pre-roll adverts are permitted, once the station is up and running it must be allowed to continue. The third duty is the default route protection. The fourth duty is that stations must not be charged for the provision of their live services. Finally, the intention is not to prevent a user from setting their own preferences, where available, or using the device for other means.

Government amendments 12 and 13 are technical amendments to correct a drafting omission in proposed new section 362BS, which deals with provisional notices of contravention that Ofcom may issue to enforce requirements. The new provision covers only former providers of radio selection services; it does not cover former providers of a relevant internet radio service. Unless the amendments are agreed to, it will not be possible for Ofcom to issue a provisional notice of contravention to a former provider of a relevant internet radio service. The amendments deal with an obvious gap in the enforcement mechanisms; I hope, with this explanation, that hon. Members can support them.

Government amendments 14 and 15 are also technical, and will correct a drafting omission. I hope that they will similarly be supported.

Ordered, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Mike Wood.)

11.24 am

Adjourned till this day at Two o’clock.

Criminal Justice Bill (Second sitting)

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairs: Hannah Bardell, Sir Graham Brady, † Dame Angela Eagle, Mrs Pauline Latham

† Costa, Alberto (South Leicestershire) (Con)

† Cunningham, Alex (Stockton North) (Lab)

Dowd, Peter (Bootle) (Lab)

† Drummond, Mrs Flick (Meon Valley) (Con)

† Farris, Laura (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department)

† Firth, Anna (Southend West) (Con)

† Fletcher, Colleen (Coventry North East) (Lab)

† Ford, Vicky (Chelmsford) (Con)

† Garnier, Mark (Wyre Forest) (Con)

Harris, Carolyn (Swansea East) (Lab)

† Jones, Andrew (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con)

† Mann, Scott (Lord Commissioner of His Majesty's Treasury)

† Metcalfe, Stephen (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)

† Norris, Alex (Nottingham North) (Lab/Co-op)

† Phillips, Jess (Birmingham, Yardley) (Lab)

† Philp, Chris (Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire)

† Stephens, Chris (Glasgow South West) (SNP)

Simon Armitage, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Witnesses

Rebecca Bryant OBE, Chief Executive, Resolve

Harvey Redgrave, Executive Director, Crest

Andy Marsh, Chief Executive Officer, College of Policing

Andy Cooke QPM DL, HM’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary and HM’s Chief Inspector of Fire & Rescue Services

Dame Vera Baird DBE KC

Jonathan Hall KC, Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation

Professor Penney Lewis, Commissioner for Criminal Law, Law Commission

Public Bill Committee

Tuesday 12 December 2023

(Afternoon)

[Dame Angela Eagle in the Chair]

Criminal Justice Bill

The Committee deliberated in private.

Examination of Witnesses

Rebecca Bryant and Harvey Redgrave gave evidence.

We are now sitting in public and the proceedings are being broadcast. We will begin this afternoon’s session by hearing oral evidence from Harvey Redgrave and Rebecca Bryant OBE, who is with us virtually. We have until 2.45 pm for this panel, so please keep your eyes on the clock. Could the witnesses please introduce themselves for the record?

Harvey Redgrave: Hi, and thanks for having me. I am Harvey Redgrave, chief executive of Crest Advisory, which is a specialist crime, policing and criminal justice organisation. I am also a senior fellow at the Tony Blair Institute, where I lead on home affairs policy.

Rebecca Bryant: Good afternoon, everybody. My name is Rebecca Bryant. I am the chief executive of Resolve. Resolve is a membership organisation focused on community safety and antisocial behaviour. Our members are housing providers, local authorities, police forces and police and crime commissioners.

Good afternoon to both our witnesses; thank you for your time. Rebecca Bryant, you mentioned Resolve’s long-running interest in antisocial behaviour. Could you give us your views on the clauses in the Bill that relate to antisocial behaviour and whether there is anything you would add to them?

Rebecca Bryant: Thank you for the question. First of all, as a membership organisation, the views are of our members. We have spent time talking to them since the Bill was published. Quite a few different views have been put forward by our members and by Resolve ourselves as an organisation. Some of the clauses we agree with, and some of them we do not. I can take you through each particular one.

We absolutely agree with the clause on creating a duty for police and crime commissioners to promote awareness of the antisocial behaviour case review. I am quite happy to elaborate on that. On extending the power to implement dispersal orders to local authorities, our members generally agree that dispersal powers should remain with the police rather than being spread to local authorities, and there are very specific reasons for that. The police are required to enforce any breach of the dispersal order, and really these powers should be seen as a partnership response rather than a sole agency response.

When a dispersal order is being put in place, that needs to be considered by the local authority and with it as a partnership across the board through the community safety partnership. There should be an understanding as well that the police are on the ground and out on patrol 24/7, so are in a much better position to be able to use that power. They also have the skills and knowledge to use it.

That takes me on to extending the time frame for a dispersal order from 48 hours to 72 hours. All our members that we consulted are in favour of the extension of time. Our members are not in favour of extending the public spaces protection orders to the police because local authorities are very skilled in using them—that is where the knowledge lies. Significant expertise and a lot of consultation with the public are required before you put one in place. Rather than extending it, it should be used in partnership through the community safety partnership.

In relation to lowering the age for issuing a community protection notice from 16 to 10 and increasing the upper fine limit from £100 to £500 for breaches, members are mixed, particularly on the lowering of the age to 10. A lot of work goes into early intervention and prevention and how we deal with young people on the path to causing antisocial behaviour. Penalising young people at age 10 for antisocial behaviour by fining their parents if there was to be a breach is quite a significant step and flies in the face of our approach to early intervention and prevention, which uses positive mentoring and youth interventions for young people.

On extending the time frame for applying for closure orders from 48 hours to 72 hours after serving the notice, everybody was in favour, but they would like to see more explicit guidance and support around magistrates courts. On giving the closure power to housing providers, everybody who is a housing provider is absolutely in support of that; Resolve has been lobbying for that for some time now, particularly as it is a very good tool to use for more serious types of antisocial behaviour, such as cuckooing and exploiting vulnerable people.

In terms of the power of arrest for all breaches of civil injunctions, on the whole most of our members are not particularly swayed by that because the power of arrest is a very serious tool. It requires the police to conduct that power of arrest, and it will mean significant resource implications for the police. Not only that, but we would have to get past the courts on proportionality and reasonableness for the power of arrest to be attached to any clause. It would also significantly impact on the court system, particularly if someone was arrested. They would have to be presented to court the next day, so there would be issues around cells and also the management of community expectations once we had got an injunction with the power of arrest. For the CSOs who enforce breaches of community protection notices, it was felt that this would be positive because having more resources with which to be able to enforce those breaches would be welcome.

Q76 May I come back to the point on the minimum age for community protection notices? When responding to the Government’s antisocial behaviour action plan, you talked about how we need to think about children as victims of antisocial behaviour—I think your phrase was “silent victims”. Could you briefly talk us through that?

Rebecca Bryant: Yes. I would like to bust a few myths, if that is possible while giving evidence. There is a perception in the media and the community that young people are the main perpetrators of antisocial behaviour when, in fact, they are not: the vast majority of antisocial behaviour is perpetrated by adults.

In focusing on young people, we should be thinking about how they are impacted by antisocial behaviour. They are often victims. You will have seen terrible films on TikTok and social media outlets of fights, violence and aggression. That means that those young people are victims rather than perpetrators as a whole. We certainly need to recognise that if we can get in early and use the early intervention and prevention tools available to us to stop the antisocial behaviour or stop those young people becoming antisocial, we will be able to reduce antisocial behaviour as a whole.

Antisocial behaviour is often a precursor to more serious crime, so if we can use our opportunity—I call it a “golden moment”—to intervene with a young person, perhaps with an alternative trusted adult from outside the home, and work with them to understand the impact of the behaviour that they may be perpetrating, that in itself does not fall into the idea that we should be reducing the CPN to the age of 10.

Q Mr Redgrave, may I ask you a bit about some of the section 16 provisions about drug testing? You may be familiar with the ambition to give greater powers to test for controlled substances—class B and class C drugs—with a view to directing the person into appropriate treatment at an earlier stage; the idea is that that will intercept more serious offending further down the line. You have written something about this, for the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, I think—or, at least, the Institute has done so. Can you comment on the provision, and what is your view of a wider form of testing in police stations?

Harvey Redgrave: I am in favour of this measure. I think it was used relatively effectively under the last Labour Government in relation to prolific offenders. [Interruption.] Sorry, do I need to speak a bit louder?

Please try to speak up a bit.

Harvey Redgrave: I am in favour of the measure. It is right to test more offenders, particularly prolific offenders, many of whom are driven by addiction. The more we can divert offenders into treatment to address their offending behaviour, the better. I think there needs to be a broader look at how we deal with prolific offenders who recycle around the system sometimes tens or hundreds of times before they stop their offending. There used to be something called the prolific and other priority offenders programme, which was disbanded along with the whole infrastructure around it.

There is a need to place this drug-testing measure within a broader set of interventions that look at how we grip prolific offenders, how judges are able to defer sentencing, and how offenders are able to be rehabilitated and dealt with much earlier on rather than them serving short sentences, coming out, reoffending and going back in at great expense to the taxpayer.

Q I think that some of that is in the Sentencing Bill, which is running in tandem with this legislation.

The other question I wanted to ask is about Crest Advisory’s role in Baroness Casey’s review—again, if you were not personally involved in that, you can correct me. I think Crest Advisory played some role in supporting her review into the misconduct issues in the Met police, and there are two provisions in this Bill that at least partially respond to that. I would like to look at clause 73, which is on ethical policing and the duty of candour. In the light of your work with Baroness Casey, do you think it is important, and if so why? What does it answer in relation to her findings about failings in the Metropolitan police?

Harvey Redgrave: To clarify, some of my team at Crest Advisory were seconded in to support Baroness Casey on her review, but obviously she led the review and wrote it herself. It is really important that we look at the ethics and systems around misconduct within policing. There is a crisis of public confidence in policing at the moment, particularly among women. The Commissioner of the Met has spoken repeatedly about wanting to have more say and control over getting rid of officers when there are cases of misconduct, and I think the Government have acted on some of that.

I support the measure, but I would argue that there is a case for going even further and looking at the whole system around vetting and how that takes place within policing, and the system of who really upholds the professional standards within policing. Which body do we hold responsible—the College of Policing, the National Police Chiefs’ Council, or the Home Office? It feels to me like there is a slight lack of clarity at the moment about where the buck stops on some of this at a national level, with each force able to adopt slightly different practices.

Q Do you think it is helpful then that the duty of candour, and what is required underneath it, will be set by the College of Policing? Do you think that will help ensure consistency?

Harvey Redgrave: I think that it is helpful and is a welcome step, but I am not sure that, in isolation, it will be enough to bring about the kind of culture change that Baroness Casey believes is necessary, within not just the Met but policing as a whole.

Q My final question on this topic is about the other highly irregular employment-law-type power in the Bill: the right conferred on a chief constable to appeal against a disciplinary outcome for one of their subordinates. I think we can put that in plain English: if they do not like an acquittal, essentially, they can submit an appeal. Do you think that is an appropriate power for a chief constable to hold? I think Baroness Casey dealt with that; I recall reading about senior officers who were unhappy about the fact that they suspected problematic people were still part of the team.

Harvey Redgrave: It comes back to the question of whether the chief constable should have more discretion over being able to hire and fire people, and to be able to get rid of people they are unhappy with. We have created systems and processes over the last 20 or 30 years that have taken some of that discretion away. It is a balance, and we need proper professional standards to be upheld by the College of Policing. In general, I think it a good thing for there to be greater discretion for chief constables to be able to act when they believe there is misconduct within their force.

Q Okay, that is helpful. My final line of questioning is about one of the issues that has been debated in Parliament, not just in relation to this Bill but previously too. It was about having a stand-alone offence of assaulting a retail worker. I do not know whether you are familiar with the contours of that debate.

We heard from the Crown Prosecution Service this morning, and it said that it did not think such an offence was necessary because the mechanics of an assault charge apply anyway—obviously, with actual bodily harm and grievous bodily harm, if that should arise. There is also a statutory aggravating factor for assaulting a retail worker. Do you have a view on this? If you do, could you set out what it is and why?

Harvey Redgrave: Shoplifting is a real concern and we need some deterrents in the system, but I am not sure that we get those deterrents through harsher sentencing. A bigger problem is whether we are catching offenders, charging them, and convicting them. All the evidence shows that for this type of offending, it is swiftness and certainty that deter rather than severity. Not many shoplifters are thinking about aggravating factors or how long they are going to spend in prison.

Q Just to be clear, is your view basically that the police response needs to be more uniform, rather than we need a distinct offence?

Harvey Redgrave: In general, the Bill probably focuses too much on sentence lengths and not enough on what is happening at the front end, around the police’s ability to catch, detain and bring offenders to justice. That is where I think the real gap is.

Q I would like to ask Rebecca Bryant some further questions about the antisocial behaviour and nuisance begging and rough sleeping measures.

Rebecca, thank you for joining us this afternoon. In response to the shadow Minister, you raised questions about reducing the minimum age for community protection notices from 16 to 10, which is enclosed within clause 67 of the Bill. Do you agree that bringing 10 to 15-year-olds into the scope of CPNs provides an opportunity to halt a path into criminality that might otherwise occur? Combined with that, there is an opportunity to make other interventions to try to prevent the young person from getting into crime.

Rebecca Bryant: It is using a hammer to crack a nut. For 10 and 11-year-olds in particular who are on the cusp of causing antisocial behaviour, there are many other tools available to partners. I am not necessarily thinking about fining parents, because a lot of the young people who are involved in antisocial behaviour come from more deprived backgrounds, and breaching and fining is not going to enable change.

What we are looking for is a change of behaviour in the longer term. Yes, we are looking to prevent in the first instance, but then we look for change. Being able to engage with a young person and their parents by putting in positive mentoring and other youth interventions would surely have longer term success than a community protection notice would have. Also, there is a community protection warning before a notice; that kind of warning and discussion between a parent, a child and the authorities, which could be the housing provider, the local authority or the police, has much more impact when you are offering a positive intervention.

Q Those interventions are likely to be tried prior to the use of a CPN. Do you not agree that a CPN would be a welcome alternative to prosecution in the more extreme cases?

Rebecca Bryant: More extreme antisocial behaviour is often a criminal offence, so potentially there would be criminality and therefore a charge. That may be welcome in some cases, but not a blanket reduction to say that anybody from the age of 10 could have a CPN, which could then lead to breach and fine. As I say, from our members’ perspective, that seems too young.

Q Thank you. I would like to move on to the nuisance begging and nuisance rough sleeping measures. First, do you support the plans to implement the repeal of the Vagrancy Act 1824, and do you agree that repealing that Act potentially leaves some gaps in the law? I would like your views on the nuisance begging and nuisance rough sleeping provisions in clauses 38 to 62, which are designed to replace the 1824 Act measures where nuisance is being caused, but not otherwise.

Rebecca Bryant: First, our members absolutely welcome the repeal of the Vagrancy Act. It is outdated and clunky, and has not been fit for purpose for many years. The replacement powers suggested in the Bill are generally welcomed by our members. I think there is some movement around more community rehabilitation. The people we are talking about here are particularly vulnerable members of society who have been through significant trauma or who have significant mental health problems, drugs and alcohol addiction, and their behaviours and rough sleeping are due to those underlying facts. Thinking about community rehabilitation and support to change is as important as moving people on and creating the powers to do that.

Q Harvey, do you think that there is the capacity for police forces across the country to drug-test everybody who comes through their doors?

Harvey Redgrave: No, it needs to be attached to more resourcing.

Q So if this law passes, it will not be able to be enacted?

Harvey Redgrave: I am assuming there is an impact assessment and a cost that has been attached to the Bill.

Q Never assume, Harvey. So currently, across the policing estate in our country, this would not be able to happen.

Harvey Redgrave: I do not think it would be able to happen if you took current resource levels as the baseline. Some piloting is already going on in some forces, I think. I do not know how much of that has been allocated in future years.

Q Okay. As the conversation was about Louise Casey’s review, I was remembering some of the highlighted things in that review—testing samples left in fridges with sandwiches and things. I cannot say I have noted that the police estate across the country could cope with anything like this law, so I just wanted to check. Going back to Louise Casey’s review and the issue of vetting and suspension, do you think that what is in the Bill is enough?

Harvey Redgrave: No. It is a good step forward, but not sufficient.

Q Okay. Have you seen evidence that where police officers are suspected of violence against women and girls or child abuse they should be suspended from duty, not just put on paper-based activities?

Harvey Redgrave: I would agree, yes.

Q You would agree that they should be suspended, as a teacher would be.

Harvey Redgrave: Sorry—I would agree with the premise of your question.

Q Okay. But currently that is not in the Bill.

Harvey Redgrave: If I could also add one further thing on violence against women and girls—

Please feel free.

Harvey Redgrave: One of the good developments that has taken place in the last couple of years is Betsy Stanko’s work on rape and Operation Soteria, which is now being rolled out across the country. As you know, it takes a new approach to the way that rape is investigated. There is a very good case for widening that to look at all violence against women and girls, because some of the same principles apply. I would look very closely at whether that requires legislation, and if it does not, at what is required to broaden that approach.

Q So you think there might be a legislative solution by writing that into primary legislation or secondary legislation.

Harvey Redgrave: Potentially.

Q Rebecca, when you were talking about clause 67 and the CPNs, I think you suggested at the beginning of your comments that this was not a unanimous view from your members. Is that correct?

Rebecca Bryant: Yes, it is.

It is not a unanimous view from your members.

Rebecca Bryant: No, it is not a unanimous view. There are some mixed views. Some people represented by some organisations suggested reducing the age to 14 rather than 10, particularly when we are talking about the 10 to 13 age group, who are particularly young. Yes, of course they have criminal responsibility in this country, but we are talking about antisocial behaviour here rather than—

Q I just asked a very simple question: were your members unanimously opposed to this measure? And you said no, it is not unanimous—correct?

Rebecca Bryant: Yes, that is what I am saying.

Q I have a question for Harvey—a point of clarification, really. You mentioned that you did not think that there was any need to increase the sentence for shoplifting; you thought that it just needed to be applied more uniformly. Is that right?

Harvey Redgrave: I suppose it is more about saying where I think the priority should be. I do not have a particular problem with increasing sentences for shoplifters; it is just that I do not think that that is where the biggest challenge is.

Q I think the Minister started by asking about the creation of a new stand-alone offence of assaulting a retail worker. By association with your previous answer, do you think that that is unnecessary, or do you think it would be a helpful deterrent?

Harvey Redgrave: I think it is fine; I do not have a problem with it. I am broadly supportive of it, but I do not think it will act as a particular deterrent when we are not catching enough shoplifters to begin with. That would be my slightly—

Q Sorry to interrupt, but are you saying that all assaults on retail workers tend to be associated with shoplifting?

Harvey Redgrave: Yes.

Q Thank you. Rebecca, can I follow up on Vicky Ford’s question? You made it clear that opposition to reducing the age to 10 was not unanimous. There were some people who thought that 14 might be more appropriate. Were there any who thought it should go up?

Rebecca Bryant: No.

Q So it is really just a question of finding the right level. Is that correct?

Rebecca Bryant: Yes, I think so. When I say it was not unanimous, I am saying that a few members said that they agreed with 10. The vast majority said that they did not.

Q Okay. The problem is that between the ages of 10 and 16 there is a vast range of maturity, shall we say. Presumably, if some discretion were exercised, it might well be an appropriate measure for some 10-year-olds but not for others. Would you agree?

Rebecca Bryant: I would suggest that if the behaviour were serious enough to warrant a CPN at the age of 10, there would be other significant issues within the family environment. You would be looking at a huge range of interventions. Unless a particular scenario is presented, it is quite difficult to say what type of intervention you would try in order to reduce or stop the antisocial behaviour, but I do not want to get away from the point that early intervention and prevention work. If we invest in early intervention and prevention, you would expect antisocial behaviour cases involving young people to reduce. The enforcement side would therefore become less necessary.

Q Finally, with an understanding of everything that you have just said, do you think that the measure proposed will be detrimental, or is it just unnecessary?

Rebecca Bryant: I think it is unnecessary, and I think you will find it is very rarely used. There are other enforcement tools and powers available for young people that are also rarely used, because the focus of the sector is very much on early intervention, prevention, restorative justice and community remedies. There are all sorts of other tools that are perhaps more appropriate, particularly for dealing with young people who are on the cusp of causing antisocial behaviour.

Q Rebecca, I am really interested in the stuff about 10-year-olds. You said that if there were a situation in which one of these orders would be applicable, there would be other issues in that child’s life that were affecting their behaviours and everything else. What would be better than imposing this sort of order on a child of 10?

Rebecca Bryant: Look at how we respond to antisocial behaviour. It is a partnership response—things like Supporting Families, which used to be Troubled Families, and those types of interventions and support provided to the whole family, which are trauma-informed and understanding of adverse childhood experiences, and recognise that behaviour is often a symptom of something happening within the family environment. We should be taking a whole-family approach, rather than looking at a young person, a 10-year-old, as an individual on their own. There is something there about the drivers of why that young 10-year-old is behaving in the way that they are. It is much more complex than focusing on a specific incident perpetrated by a child at the age of 10.

Q Would you accept that a family that has a child with challenges in his or her life may not be the best equipped to ensure that the child adheres to any order placed on them, and the child may therefore end up in the criminal end of the business rather than the supported end of the business?

Rebecca Bryant: That is a fair assessment. Civil enforcement powers do not enforce; all they really do is set out very clearly how society expects individuals to behave. There is an expectation when that order is given that the person is able to comply. If a young person aged 10 or 11 is perpetrating and demonstrating this type of behaviour, are you setting them up to fail if you are not thinking about different sorts of interventions and support? You could think of supporting the parent to become a better parent, able to set boundaries and support longer term change, or using other trusted adults and other types of intervention and remedy to support that young person to change.

Thank you. It looks like there are no further questions from Members. I thank the witnesses for their evidence. We will move on to the next panel.

Examination of Witnesses

Andy Marsh and Andy Cooke gave evidence.

Q We will now hear oral evidence from Andy Marsh and Andy Cooke. We potentially have until 3.30 pm for this panel. Would the witnesses please introduce themselves for the record?

Andy Cooke: Good afternoon. I am Andy Cooke, His Majesty’s chief inspector of constabulary and His Majesty’s chief inspector of fire and rescue services.

Andy Marsh: Hello, I am Andy Marsh, the chief exec and chief constable of the College of Policing of England and Wales.

Q Thank you both for your time this afternoon. Andy Marsh, I would like to start with you. The point about vetting has come up frequently. You may have heard it in the previous panel, and you may be aware that we also discussed it this morning. What is the College’s view on vetting?

Andy Marsh: I am of the view that there has not been enough rigour in the way in which vetting responsibilities and duties have been conducted. I am also of the view—significantly because of high-profile cases, but also because of inspection work by Andy Cooke’s team—that not only have vetting processes been inadequate but they have not been complied with. The College has done two things as a start: we have rewritten the code of practice for vetting to introduce new standards, and we are about to launch a new authorised professional practice for vetting that will set new, more rigorous standards across England and Wales that address all of the areas for improvement addressed in Mr Cooke’s inspection report.

Is that enough? In my opinion it is not enough. When the spotlight moves on from this important area of safeguarding the public and the reputation of policing, will chiefs and police forces continue to apply the scrutiny and effort that is going into this at the moment? It is my intention—I have expressed this—for this to be an area of service provision that is high-risk and which the College proposes to license or authorise in each force vetting unit each year. There will be training and support for personnel, and there are good people in those force vetting units, but in my plan, if they do not achieve the required standards, they will not be allowed to do vetting. It will have to be done by another police force.

Q I might come to you, Andy Cooke, in a second for your reflections on that, but very briefly, when you write up your expectations, are you likely to put a new time limit on the period of vetting or do you have an alternative way of doing that?

Andy Marsh: I am unlikely to put a new time limit on the period of vetting, because I think in the 21st century when people—I am talking about all employees and police officers—commit a misdemeanour or when something occurs that throws into doubt their vetting status, that happens in real time, and our vetting systems should be good enough to pick them up in real time as well. We cannot wait for periods of time.

I used to be responsible in England and Wales for firearms licensing, and that period I was responsible for saw a shift in doctrine from revisiting a licence every three or five years to revisiting someone’s safety to hold a weapon 24/7, 365 days a year. Our approach in principle, while complying with the code of practice and the authorised professional practice on vetting, is that there will be time thresholds for hard stops on renewal, but in my opinion and assessment, there is an expectation that vetting should be under constant review.

Q Andy Cooke, is the inspectorate of a similar mind to the College on this?

Andy Cooke: I am fully supportive of the College’s desire to license vetting officers to practise. As you are well aware, the vetting inspection we conducted not too long ago had more recommendations than any inspection previously done. It showed policing in a pretty poor light. Some forces were doing okay, but overall it was not sufficient to protect the public or the reputation of policing. If policing cannot be sure it has the right people in it, that is a sad indictment on the force or forces across the country. There needs to be a continued focus on this area of policing. Licence to practise will assist in that, and the inspectorate will continue to look at these issues right across the forces across England and Wales.

Q Andy Cooke, clause 19 allows entry, search and seizure without a warrant under certain circumstances. Do you have any concerns over that power and how we can have confidence that it is being exercised properly?

Andy Cooke: It is a power that will need to be closely monitored, but it is a power I am supportive of. The ability to recover stolen property in such circumstances is a real issue if policing is going to catch the people it needs to catch, particularly around the likes of mobile phone theft, which is endemic across large parts of the country. The inspectorate will obviously keep a close eye on it as part of the legitimacy of policing and the ethical context in which policing is conducted. It will form part of future inspections when necessary.

Q Welcome Andy Marsh and Andy Cooke. Let me take the opportunity to say thank you for all the work you and your teams do supporting policing across England and Wales. It is very much appreciated by all of us, both in Government and in Parliament.

Andy Marsh, can I continue the line of questioning about the warrantless power of entry where it is necessary to recover stolen goods when there is no time to get a warrant? Andy Cooke just mentioned that the inspectorate would keep a close eye on whether that power, if granted by Parliament, is being exercised properly. Could you confirm for the Committee’s benefit whether you would in due course, if this were passed, produce some authorised professional practice to make sure that police forces exercise the power in a way that is responsible?

Andy Marsh: Minister Philp, as you are aware I am strongly supportive of police officers conducting all reasonable lines of inquiry to catch criminals and keep communities safe. It caused me great frustration as a chief if ever a letter landed on my desk to say, “My bike’s on sale on eBay, my daughter’s phone is in a house and you said you couldn’t do anything”.

We have already started our plans to hardwire this new power into our guidance, our training and our standard setting to do our very best, along with working in partnership with His Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and fire and rescue services to ensure that we use this power consistently in two respects. I do not want to see circumstances where the power should be used, where it is not and people could be caught and property returned; and I certainly do not want it to be used in such a way that would undermine confidence in policing. As in many things in policing, we need to get this just right. The College has a fundamental role in achieving consistency and getting it just right.

Q So do you, like Andy Cooke, support the inclusion of this measure in the Bill?

Andy Marsh: I do.

Q And are you confident that, with the right guidance and inspection regime, it can be implemented in a reasonable and proportionate way?

Andy Marsh: I am.

Q Thank you. Let me ask Andy Marsh again, about the statutory ethical policing code contained in clause 73, which includes a statutory duty of candour, which was one of Bishop James Jones’s recommendations following Hillsborough. Can you tell the Committee what kind of impact you think that will have on police conduct in general and, specifically, the duty of candour going forward?

Andy Marsh: It should be a very significant moment in policing. The first code of ethics was put in place in 2014. I could explain to the Committee why we think we are able to improve on that, but we have to talk about why it is going to make a big difference. The College is able to put a code of practice in place which requires a chief constable to have due regard.

We wanted to make that code of practice as strong as possible around a duty of candour, but there were many other things in it—for example, a duty on a chief constable to ensure ethical behaviour in a force, through their processes, policies, reward recognition, promotion, application of the victims code, challenging unprofessional behaviour, looking after staff welfare, dealing with misconduct and vetting properly.

Even before we get to the duty of candour, which is very strong, this is the strongest lever the College of Policing can pull in order to bring about cultural change around standards in policing. We will be working with the launch of the second two parts of the code in January, which is different from the legal code. We will be working on supporting policing over a change programme to secure that cultural change, over many months—possibly years.

Q Great, thank you. May I ask Andy Cooke and Andy Marsh each in turn a question which has arisen a few times, both in this Committee’s proceedings today but also over the last year or two? It relates to the question of whether there should or should not be a separate offence for the assault of a retail worker.

As you know, we made assaulting a public-facing worker a statutory aggravating factor for other assault offences in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022. We have already created a separate offence of assaulting emergency workers. Some people now say that we should have a separate offence for assaulting a retail worker, to give it more prominence. Others say, “Well, where do you draw the line?” You could have an offence for assaulting a teacher, a local councillor—and so it might go on. What is your opinion about whether there is any use in creating that separate, stand-alone offence?

Andy Cooke: I think I am right in saying it is an offence in Scotland, but I do not know how much that has resulted in a change in offending behaviour. I have not particularly looked at that point. It is a question of where you draw the line. The key issue is not whether a new offence should be constructed for assaulting a shop worker. It is more about how well, or not, policing is dealing with assaults, full stop; and how well police officers are dealing with the offence of shoplifting and the ancillary offences that sometimes go with that. I am aware that the National Police Chiefs’ Council is doing an awful lot of work around this at the moment, working with the PCC for Sussex and yourself, Minister.

Certainly, there has been a large reduction in the number of positive outcomes or detections for shoplifting over the last five or six years. That is not acceptable. It is in line with an awful lot of the other core charge and outcome rates that we have seen across policing. This is more about ensuring that the police across England and Wales treat this more seriously, particularly where there are aggravated offences alongside, such as assault. That is what Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman is attempting to do on behalf of the National Police Chiefs’ Council. Rather long-windedly, to come back to your initial question, without seeing the evidence for how that reduces offences or increases detections, I would not necessarily be in favour of a separate offence.

Q Before Andy Marsh answers the same question, you referred to the recently published retail crime action plan, which Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman authored in close consultation with me as Police Minister and with the Home Office. You highlighted the unacceptably low charge rates, which I agree with. What level of confidence do you have that that retail crime action plan will deliver those results? To what extent will you be able to follow that up in your regular PEEL inspections and your “all reasonable lines of inquiry” thematic next spring to make sure that that action plan, which is good on paper, is actually delivered in practice and delivers the results, which are more detections and arrests?

Andy Cooke: All those issues will be captured by the police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy inspections that we do every two years on every police force across England and Wales. We will look at reasonable lines of inquiry particularly and at the overall outcome rates—not just charge rates, because the out-of-court disposals are important as well, as it is whatever is the best sanction to fit the individual and the community at the end of the day. We look right across that to ensure that policing is doing what it should be doing, as we do every week of the year, and will continue to do so.

This is a really important issue for me, because these are crimes that strike at the heart of communities and neighbourhoods. It is really important that policing gets confidence and trust back. Whether that is the confidence and trust of shop workers or across neighbourhoods and communities, whichever way it is, a large part of getting that confidence and trust back is by the police showing themselves to be effective in what they do. The police need to increase their efforts to do so.

Q I completely agree, as you know. Without the zero-tolerance approach, there is a risk of escalation. Andy Marsh, may I put the same question to you about the utility or not of a separate offence?

Andy Marsh: The College is supporting policing with guidance around dealing with retail crime, particularly persistent offenders. I agree with everything that has been said: much more needs to be done in order to deal with this crime type.

In relation to the specific offence, I can see that there are two purposes to it. The first is that it might well act as a deterrent. The College of Policing holds the evidence base for policing. We cannot categorically tell you there is an evidence base for deterrence, but that would be one of the reasons for putting it in place. I think the second, more important reason is for Parliament to signal its concern about a particularly disruptive crime that damages the fabric of our communities and society. This sends out a signal that the police need to do better. I am supportive of the proposal.

Q It is not a proposal; it is from the Government—it is an idea that has been floated from time to time.

Moving on to a proposal contained in clause 21, which relates to giving police access to driver licence records—particularly the photograph—which currently are only readily accessible for road traffic purposes. The idea is that they can be used for facial recognition searches, where an image is retrieved from a crime scene from CCTV. That might include a shoplifting offence. This would make the DVLA driving licence database searchable by the police, in the same way that other databases are, including for facial recognition purposes. In your view, both Andy Marsh and Andy Cooke, would that assist the police in investigations? Is that a measure you would support?

Andy Marsh: I am supportive.

Andy Cooke: Yes, I support it. What goes alongside that is ensuring that the actions of the police on facial recognition are ethical and lawful. I am a big supporter of facial recognition used in the right way, and I think that opening up that database would benefit the detection of crime.

Q Excellent. My final question relates to clause 74, which is concerned with the appeal mechanism after a misconduct hearing. At the moment, if an officer is dismissed by the panel—which remains an independent-majority panel with the chief chairing it—the officer who has been dismissed can appeal to the police appeal tribunals. If the officer is left in post, however, there is no appeal the other way, so if the chief constable wants to sack the officer for misconduct and disagrees with the panel, there is no right of appeal. This clause would introduce such a right of appeal.

Do you agree with the Met Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, in saying that this measure will help chief constables better to manage their workforce and root out officers guilty of misconduct where appropriate and where necessary?

Andy Cooke: It would certainly help in relation to that. At the moment, the only recourse is judicial review, which as we know can be exceptionally expensive and difficult, so I see no problem at all in having that right of appeal for a chief constable.

Andy Marsh: The code of ethics, which we have just been talking about, puts a responsibility—in fact, a duty—on a chief constable to discharge their responsibilities around standards, conduct and behaviour; and I have been in a position, as a chief, where I have not been able to do that because ultimately I haven’t had the decision on who I ultimately have serving alongside me as a police officer. They are not employees—they are servants of the Crown. I have found that to be a deeply unsatisfactory position, so I am supportive of this.

Q My first question is to Andy Marsh on the issue of vetting, which he very eloquently said needs to be a constant. Do you not think, then, that there needs to be at least some guideline in law about the regularity of that vetting?

Andy Marsh: Yes, I do. That is a periodic hard stop, let us say, where there is a full review, but there should be a number of different control measures, both automated data searches and a duty—a responsibility to report and self-report—that will occur in real time between those vetting periods.

Q Okay. What sort of timeframe would you put on that hard period?

Andy Marsh: Whichever timeframe you chose, you could see reasons why it wouldn’t be right.

Q Ten years is currently the suggested—

Andy Marsh: Ten years is the current one. I think to change that without massively increasing the capacity of vetting units would be to, let us say, write a cheque they couldn’t cash.

Q So currently, even if we were to legislate that the vetting had to be improved—

Andy Marsh: If you were to legislate then the police would have to find the money, and it is often—

Q Difficult choices would have to be made in order to ensure that vetting was happening. I appreciate your honesty.

Andy Marsh: I would say, “What is the best way of ensuring a trusted, ethical workforce that actually is enforcing highly frequent—I would debate highly frequent—more frequent, hard-stop vettings which would be very costly, with back-office capability?” That might, in my opinion, not be the best way of doing it. I would rather move to a more agile, 21st-century—

Database, AI and so on.

Andy Marsh: Yes. So many of the searches that are required for vetting can be put into robotic processes, with ultimately the human being making the decision at the end.

Q Of course. You talk about there being an automated system. I have asked everybody who has sat in front of me today this question. Currently there is no crossover between behaviours found in courts in the United Kingdom; so in family courts, in civil courts in our country, that would not currently be being used in the vetting. Let’s say a domestic abuser was found to be a multiple domestic abuser of various different women, in the family courts in this country. Would that come up in your vetting?

Andy Marsh: To directly answer your question, I don’t know. Possibly not.

The answer is no. I do know.

Andy Marsh: But actually, if you had a multiple domestic abuser, I am pretty confident that they would be flagging on other systems.

Q Except that less than one in five people come forward to the criminal justice system.

Andy Marsh: Excepting that.

Q Okay. But an automated system that had all of that data on it for vetting would be helpful?

Andy Marsh: Yes.

Q What is your view on the suspension issue? I have unfortunately heard of a case where a police officer was suspended for safeguarding concerns, shall we say, and was put on paper-based duty, and the thing they were doing was the vetting. Do you think that officers who are under suspicion of issues of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, child abuse and safeguarding-related crimes should be suspended?

Andy Marsh: Will you permit me a little commentary, rather than a yes to that?

Go for it, mate.

Andy Marsh: I will tell you an anecdote, which I think will explain why this is dangerous. People can use the police complaints system for reasons other than simply securing justice and fairness for having been treated unfairly. As chief constable of Avon and Somerset, I became aware of two reports that I had in fact—and you will be shocked by this—raped the police and crime commissioner, Sue Mountstevens. I certainly had not, and the lady reporting that was in a mental ill health institution, but the crime recording rules required the police force to record that there was a rape, and I was named as a suspect. I would have thought that it would be farcical, wouldn’t it, for me to be suspended under such circumstances, given that there was not a grain of truth in that? There is a danger—

Q But it would be very easy for a professional person to initially triage such a case, for example, and do some very clear due diligence about somebody’s mental ill health, the likelihood and the timings. If there were any sort of case to be investigated and answered, do you not think that the person should then be suspended?

Andy Marsh: Fairness and justice are for everyone, particularly victims of violence against women and girls; if you look at everything I have said and done in my career, you will see that that is what I genuinely believe. However, I believe that an automatic suspension would be swinging the pendulum way too far. I have given you a very simple example, which is of course ridiculous. What I have learned through 37 years in policing is that there are many, many different shades of ambiguity around situations.

Q Of course, of course. It is funny that often it is only on this issue that there are only grey areas. A police officer in my police force—in West Midlands police—was put on light duties after he was considered a risk to children, and he used that to access the data. He went on to abuse, and has since been convicted of abusing, around 19 teenage boys. He used the powers of being put on desk duties in the police force to do that.

Andy Marsh: That is shocking and disgraceful, and it should never have been allowed to happen.

Q I am afraid that I could probably come up with many more examples similar to that. You do not think that, in those circumstances, there should be a suspension.

Andy Marsh: In the circumstances that you just described, of course. But I will say to this Committee that I think each case should be treated on its merits, with a very low threshold for suspension.

Q On the basis of it being currently treated on its merits, which we cannot necessarily legislate for, how many do you think are being suspended, left in police forces on separate duties, such as vetting, or, of those on that sort of suspension—as was the case in I think the Metropolitan police; it was definitely a police force—are training the new officers?

Andy Marsh: I can write to you with that information, but I am afraid that I do not have it to hand.

Q Okay. That would be very helpful, thank you. Confidence that anything can be implemented is undoubtedly vital. Your eBay example was a good one. You stated that you were confident that all this could be implemented; however, you just said that the police would need to write a cheque, or that a massive cheque would have to be written for some of the ethics and standards things. If everything in the Bill were implemented—I invite you to comment, for example on how you think the drugs testing would be rolled out—how it is possible that everything will be implemented at the same time as prioritising violence against women and girls crimes in every force? How will it be implemented so that confidence is not lost?

Andy Marsh: I do not think I said that I was confident that all the powers in the Bill could be implemented. I was answering the question about traceable property and the power to gain entry—that was the element that I was confident about.

Q Oh, specifically—apologies. Do you think that everything in the Bill could be implemented?

Andy Marsh: I am supportive of the measures in the Bill. Some will undoubtedly come with a requirement to increase the resource.

Such as?

Andy Marsh: The drugs testing would be a good example. I do not believe that there is currently a latent capacity waiting to do that.

Q Andy Marsh, can I continue with you? I have an observation, following on from Jess Phillips, about what sounds like a nightmare, where you were accused of rape by somebody. Just as an observation, were that to happen to a Member of Parliament, you might find yourself being asked to stay away from the House. You might lose the Whip from the party you are a member of. It is an interesting observation that in this place, there is almost a presumption of guilt before anything else when it comes to this type of crime, where in theory Members of Parliament can have access to vulnerable people. It is an interesting dichotomy, I suppose, that where the police have access to vulnerable people the whole time there could be this same problem. As I say, that is more of an observation than me necessarily asking you to respond to it—

Andy Marsh: Well since you make the observation, I am not sure, as a police officer, that most police officers would agree that the standards of conduct in Parliament are necessarily higher than the standards of conduct for a police officer—if you don’t mind me saying.

Q It is about the response to the standards of conduct; it is not necessarily the standards of behaviour, but the response to them and how Parliament responds.

Andy Marsh: The College of Policing is responsible for a number of different products to support the professional standards that are maintained within policing. In relation to violence against women and girls, we conducted a super-complaint review in partnership with the Independent Office for Police Conduct and His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, and we found a number of weaknesses and flaws in the way that, for example, allegations of domestic abuse against police officers were dealt with.

We are working very hard to tighten up those shortcomings and make improvements. In fact, the lead for the violence against women and girls taskforce, Maggie Blyth, is now working as my deputy and using all the levers at the disposal of the college to hardwire those standards into the way we go about our business. I would challenge any suggestion that we have a soft attitude to violence against women and girls.

Q No, no—I wasn’t trying to suggest there was a soft attitude. I was just trying to say that there are lots of different examples.

I wanted to follow on from Minister Philp’s questions earlier about powers of entry, because I was fascinated by your response. You mentioned that you might see that somebody obviously has an iPhone in their house—it has been stolen and then found on the Find My iPhone app, so there is very hard evidence that it is definitely there, but a police officer cannot do anything about that. You mentioned similarly a bicycle that could be for sale—a daughter’s bicycle for sale on eBay, for instance. You talked about how you would give guidance to police officers on how they go about enforcing this, but I came away slightly more confused; this is more me as a layman, trying to understand how you go about doing your business.

What struck me is that at the one end of the scale through the Find My iPhone app, you are looking directly at a bleep that says, “This phone is in the front bedroom of this bloke’s house in Walthamstow” or wherever—other constituencies are available. You know for a fact that it is there because the electronic signature is there. If someone has a bicycle up on eBay, it is probably there because that is where the person is advertising it from, but you do not necessarily know for sure. At the other end of the scale, you have a hunch that somebody may have some stolen goods in their house, but you would obviously then get a search warrant. If you are writing the guidance, how do you find the point at which one side is very clearly, and the other is very clearly not, eligible for the powers of entry?

Andy Marsh: There is a continuum of reasonable grounds and belief, which is written into this proposed legislation, that is actually very strong. It is about as strong as it gets in the judgment of a police officer. We will give forces written guidance, probably in authorised professional practice, and we will give them material on which they can be trained face to face in the classroom and material that can be used online.

Without a doubt, there will be some scenarios that will need to be debated among the groups of police officers engaging in professional development. We will also put this in the initial training curriculum. I am sure, given my confidence that we can introduce some guidance and training that would ensure consistency, that we will see a testing, through the judicial process, of what that belief actually means. At some stage, I am pretty confident that we will end up with a consistent interpretation of what it means under different circumstances.

Q There are different forces across the country. Some could be a bit more punchy about it, and some could be a bit more reticent about it, but eventually through legal testing in the courts you would come to a—

Andy Marsh: It is my job, through the college, to ensure consistency. Within a bandwidth—Mr Cooke’s inspection reports show this for pretty much any aspect of policing—you will see forces that do more of something and less of something. Actually, it is my job to ensure that the good practice from the inspections conducted by HMIC is fed back into our guidance.

We have a practice bank which turns that good practice into examples on our website—I would welcome you all looking at that—for a range of things. That will be one of the ways in which we help forces interpret this. But I would not subscribe to any suggestion that it will be the wild west out there, and that you will have one force doing something completely different from another.

Q No, I am sure that is the case.

Andy Cooke, there will be a number of people who are going to be worried that the police may take advantage of these powers in order to get around the trouble of getting a search warrant. How would you reassure my constituents that that is not going to be the case and that we can be confident that this is going to be used for the legitimate reasons, which I am sure Andy Marsh will lay out? How can we be confident that that is not going to be broken?

Andy Cooke: I think the first stage is the fact that it is an inspector’s written authority to do it, and it can initially be given verbally, but then the inspector has to put the name to that action and fully understand what the reasonable belief is to ensure that to happen.

Secondly, we will consider this as part of our inspection regime. When we look at the legitimacy of policing and at the powers of policing, we focus on stop and search and on use of force. We focus on the legitimacy of the powers that the police are using in any particular way. As this is a new power as well, if it is passed by Parliament, it will get particular attention from ourselves.

Q And you are both confident it will be safe.

Andy Cooke: I am confident it is the right thing to do and the right law to pass. Will mistakes be made? Of course they will. Police officers are human like everyone else. Is there a danger of it being misused in a very small number of cases? Potentially—but that is the same for any power that policing has, which makes it so important that the right people come into policing.

Q I just want to pick up on one point about the suspension issue that Jess Phillips, who is no longer in her place, was raising with you, because I did not totally understand your answer. What is the threshold for the suspension of a police officer?

Andy Marsh: To explain the process, when a complaint is raised, internally and externally, the chief constable will have a delegated appropriate authority, which tends to be the deputy chief constable. They will have a pretty much weekly meeting, but sometimes it is a real-time daily meeting if something crops up that they need to consider.

The first thing that would happen is that a complaint would reach a threshold of gross misconduct or, indeed, criminal. Once it has reached that threshold, the deputy chief constable—the delegated appropriate authority—needs to make a decision about what should happen to that person. Should they be suspended? Can they continue with their duties? Should they engage in some degree of protected-type duty? What I can say, from my experience of working with police forces across England and Wales, is that the threshold and the tolerance before suspension has dropped substantially.

Q That does engage quite a significant issue because it is so different from what would happen in the ordinary workplace. Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, let us say an allegation of serious sexual harassment—maybe not a criminal offence, but misconduct—was advanced. The employer has a duty in law to sort of establish the basic facts. In the example you gave, if both the complainant said, “That never happened,” and everybody said it was not true, it would not meet the threshold. But if it does meet a threshold where there is, as I think Jess put it, a case to answer, in any normal workplace that would ordinarily result in suspension on full pay, pending a disciplinary process, at which the member of staff may end up exonerating themselves. But this system seems quite nebulous.

Andy Marsh: No, I am not expressing it clearly, because if it would appear to be a substantial complaint—a complaint which would undermine the trust and confidence of the public should that officer remain serving—then they should be suspended. Actually, I can reassure you, in all the cases that I am aware of and that I look at where there are allegations of violence against women and girls, I see a very low threshold for suspension, so if I have misled you at all, I am sorry.

Q But what if it was just sexual harassment?

Andy Marsh: Then they are very likely to be suspended, and I am really happy to write to the Committee and share the guidance and information—

Q I am not putting you on the spot; I am just trying to establish where the threshold sits.

Andy Marsh: It is very low. If I was accused of any form of domestic abuse, verbal or physical, or coercive control, I can guarantee you that I would be suspended.

Q I want to take you back to the shop workers issue. Minister Philp, in his comments, clearly demonstrated that the Government are a bit shy of having a specific charge related to assaults on shop workers. For the record, can you tell us why shoplifting and related crime does not get the attention it requires and that the public, shop workers and the USDAW would like it to have?

Andy Marsh: In explaining this, I am in no way seeking to justify a lack of attention, but when a call is made to a police control room, they will triage it and they will use something called a threat, harm and risk matrix. If the offender has left the scene and no one is at immediate risk, that is unlikely to secure an immediate deployment. There is more likely to be a follow-up investigation. The retail crime action plan and guidance on our website, and all the focus on the use of images and facial recognition and on persistent offenders, is bringing a much sharper focus to an area of standards and police response that has slipped to an unacceptably low level.

Q You are saying that in recent times the police have not responded to shop crime in the way that they ought to have.

Andy Marsh: Yes, that is very often the case. For example, if on the one hand you had an incident of shoplifting where the offender had left the scene—let’s say the items stolen were less than £50—but on the other hand you had a report of a domestic violence incident or some antisocial behaviour happening on the street right now, those two calls would be prioritised above the shoplifting.

Q How much of it is a resource issue? If there were more neighbourhood police, would that sort of thing get the attention everybody believes it deserves?

Andy Marsh: When you look at the changes in crime type over the last decade, we have seen a very significant rise in what I would call complex crime and vulnerability. The answer is that the police need to be able to respond to complex crime and vulnerability, and they need to be able to secure the confidence of the public in their ability to deal with shoplifting. I am a big supporter of neighbourhood policing. We intend next year to introduce a professionalising neighbourhood policing programme, which will give neighbourhood officers, for example, not only the training and skills to deal with shoplifting, but the new powers on antisocial behaviour to keep their communities safe.

Q That is helpful. I wonder if either of you could educate me in another area. If somebody comes into your home and bashes you, is that level of crime higher than if it happens in a public place or a shop? Is the law different?

Andy Cooke: No, the law is not different. The aggravating factor is that it is inside your house, not in a public space. People may consider that one is worse than the other, but at the end of the day the offence is the same, unless there is a weapon involved, as it obviously becomes a different offence after that—in private and in public—but both are equally serious.

Q Is there not the same level of aggravating factor if somebody goes into a corner shop, where someone lives over the shop, and bashing that person?

Andy Cooke: The law would not necessarily say so. It would depend on the circumstances, on the weapons used and on whether it was a public or a private place. An open shop is, to a great extent, seen as a public place. The point I am trying to make is that an assault on a shop worker in a shop is a serious issue, and policing needs to do better to respond to these issues. I do not think there is any chief constable in the country who would disagree with that.

You asked if it was a resource issue. If there were more police officers, then they would be able to respond to more issues. Part of it is around prioritisation; and chief constables are responsible for the prioritisation that they choose. Have chief constables across the board got that prioritisation right? In my view, no, because a lot of the neighbourhood crimes we see—the thefts, car crime, burglaries, robberies—for some time have not been given sufficient credence, nor sufficiently tackled, as we have seen from the very low charge and disposal rates.

Q You said a few moments ago that the aggravating factor in a corner shop situation would not necessarily apply. Is there not a case for strengthening the law to protect the corner shop keeper or the person in Marks & Spencer who is assaulted? Should the fact that they are being attacked within their workplace not be an aggravating factor?

Andy Cooke: I understand fully the point you are making. I think it might strengthen the response from the police, as opposed to strengthening the law. The question of whether there should be a separate offence for teachers or other people in the community has been asked already. There are enough laws to deal with this. It is the response from policing that needs to improve. The response from some of the retailers themselves—that is, the bigger retailers, who can afford to put more money into this—also needs to improve.

If there are no further questions, I thank our witnesses for their evidence. We will move on to the next panel. Thank you very much, the two Andys.

Examination of Witness

Dame Vera Baird KC gave evidence.

We now hear oral evidence from Dame Vera Baird, former Solicitor General and former Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales. For this panel we have until 3.50 pm. Could the witness please introduce herself, for the record?

Dame Vera Baird: I am Vera Baird. As the Chair has just recited, that is my background. I am very pleased to be here; thanks for the invitation.

I just gave the very briefest background.

Dame Vera Baird: Well, I’ve lived a long time—let’s be careful.

Q You are very welcome, Vera. I think this is the third or fourth Bill where we have taken evidence from you, when myself and Minister Philp have been in the room.

You are aware that the Victims and Prisoners Bill is still going through Parliament; it is hoped that it will be improved somewhat in the Lords. Can you offer a general comment on how you see this Bill providing additional solace for victims?

Dame Vera Baird: I think there are some bits of it that are good and perhaps will be very helpful to victims. The real problem with the Bill, if I may be really clear about it, is that it does not really contribute to solving the key criminal justice issues of the day, which are that charging has collapsed, prosecutions are few, there is a backlog of 65,000 at the courts—which has got worse, not better, since the end of the pandemic—and the prisons are full. There is no coherent strategy or provision in the Bill that is tackling any of those issues. Fine, there is some change to sentencing, but you have to appreciate how few people get as far as sentencing these days. I wonder whether we are not starting at the wrong end.

However, having said that—and I do say that, very strongly; and in that sense, the Bill is a disappointment—there are some bits of it that are very welcome.

Q Which ones?

Dame Vera Baird: I think that rationalising the way intimate images are dealt with is very good. The Law Commission has done a really good job of doing that. I think there are a couple of missing bits, which I could come back to later. Probably some of the aggravating sentence provisions are good, but I am worried about the fact that the Wade review has not been implemented as a whole.

There is a risk with the aggravations of sentence in domestic abuse without the mitigating factor in the Wade review. If someone strikes back after suffering coercive control for a long time, that should be a serious mitigation. I can easily see some of the aggravating provisions catching women, who will not be protected by the mitigation. Although some of the aggravations are fine, that is a real problem for women victims of coercive control—coercive control is 90-odd per cent. men on women; there is no doubt of that. That is the classic model of male-on-female, spousal domestic abuse. I am worried a little bit about that, but the basic provisions are reasonably okay.

I am pretty worried about prisoners going abroad. The problem with that is that it is permission without really knowing what permission is being given for: we do not know what kind of prisoners will go, whether it will be in the middle of their trial, whether it will be while they are still on remand or any of it. That is a little worrying. It is a bit of a mixed bag.

Q We will move on a little. Given what you have said, do clauses 23 and 24 about the aggravating factors in grooming and the end of relationship go far enough?

Dame Vera Baird: I am not sure what the grooming one adds; I think it just broadens it. If grooming is involved, it is already taken into account as an aggravating factor in sentencing. Perhaps we can do that with a person who might have abused a groomed child directly. Perhaps this provision broadens it so that if the person who fixes up the child is also groomed—perhaps become someone has gone through him, grooming is in the environment and so it will enhance the sentence. The Bill broadens this a little; if it does, it is a good flag to wave because we want to tackle grooming and make sure it is taken into account. But I do not see it as a major change.

The problem is where there is a victim of someone abusive, and the killing is brought about by the victim’s decision to try to leave—or to leave. So we are looking at aggravating the sentence of an abusive person when the victim has said she is going to leave. That is a classic model, which Jess knows all about: the eight steps to homicide. That has been well researched. Professor Jane Monckton-Smith talks about this: when the victim says she is going to leave is the most dangerous time. That is the time when killing happens, so it is appropriate to aggravate the sentence because of that position being there—it is commonplace.

The worry is that sometimes women who have been coercively controlled for a very long time and have suffered badly are also aware that their husband is being unfaithful with someone else. He says that he is going off with the other woman, and that can trigger her to kill him. Without the protection in the Wade review—to say that if she is being coercively controlled, that is a mitigation—what you will have done is to aggravate her sentence through this change, which is not a thing that anyone intends. It could do with just another quick look at how it will work.

Q Clause 30, which addresses the assessing and managing of risk posed by coercive behaviour in offenders, refers to an “intimate or family relationship”. Is that wording of the clause clear enough? The expression “intimate” opens too wide an interpretation —or perhaps too narrow an interpretation.

Dame Vera Baird: I am honestly not sure about that; I have not given it much thought. It sounded like what we would expect to be there, so I do not think I have much of a comment.

Q There are two other things. The first is clause 22, which compels a defendant to attend court for sentencing. I think we all realise that that will be challenging to implement, but what are the benefits and pitfalls of that proposal in relation to the victim?

Dame Vera Baird: As I am sure the Ministers know very well, this adds absolutely nothing to the current law. A judge can order somebody to come into court. If they do not, it is a contempt of court.

Q The clause actually talks about using “reasonable force”.

Dame Vera Baird: But you can already use reasonable force. As long as it is proportionate and necessary, the Prison Service is entitled to use reasonable force to fulfil the orders of the judge. If the judge says, “You must come” and you do not come, it is, No. 1, a contempt of court. And guess what the maximum sentence is for a contempt court? It is two years, exactly as it is in the Bill. If a person does not want to come and the officers regard it as necessary and proportionate to use force to bring them, they are entitled to do exactly that to fulfil the judge’s requirements. There is really no change here.

I well understand the sense from a victim that they want this moment—“Right, he’s going to face what he’s done now and I’m going to get some benefit from that.” But the reality is that you cannot capture somebody’s mind, can you? There are always risks that people who are dragged into court might be a nuisance. You can just imagine what could be done there. So it is a very difficult one to get right, although I understand the impulse to try to do this.

I think it was the former Lord Chief Justice John Thomas who suggested that a better way was to make sure that if the person does not come out of the cell, he is in a cell to which the sentencing can be broadcast. He cannot get away and the victims know that he has, as it were, faced his moment. Whatever he is doing—whether he is listening or he is not—they do not know, and that is the time passed.

Q That is very helpful. This is my final point. Clauses 11 and 12 address the offence of encouraging and assisting serious self-harm, and of course there are plenty of victims in that sort of category. Are those clauses fit for purpose or could they be improved?

Dame Vera Baird: I think they probably need to be strengthened quite a lot. I do not think there is anything in there that could criminalise somebody who provided a means for doing it as opposed to encouraging it. So if someone provides—I do not know—a knife or some drugs, I am not sure there is provision for that, and I think that is a big miss. This is a really worrying area and we need to legislate, and that is one of the good things in the Bill.

Q I just wanted to clarify something. A statutory instrument is going through the Lords today on coercive control as both an aggravating factor and a mitigating factor, to deal with exactly the point that Clare Wade was driving at. Some of what we have done in relation to Clare Wade is not in this Bill. This is not the entirety of our implementation of the Clare Wade review, and I just wanted to provide that reassurance. Not all of that requires primary legislation.

In that context, coercive control is making its way through in different forms. I have a narrow question about what you thought about the use of MAPPA—multi-agency public protection arrangements—in relation to the management of a serious coercive control offence.

Dame Vera Baird: I think it is good to state that formally. I am sure that it happens now quite a lot.

Q What difference do you think it will make when that person is out of custody?

Dame Vera Baird: It is a strict regime and it is very carefully managed. The probation service is aware of the high level of risk. It is definitely beneficial for dangerous offenders, and the probation service has recognised domestic abusers. Even when they have not committed domestic abuse offences, it still recognised them as presenting that danger, if they are already in MAPPA. I am sure that the most coercively controlling offenders already go into MAPPA. It is not a closed box that you can only fight your way into through these five categories of offending. It is much wider than that, but let’s do it—fine.

Q In relation to that, just because it is not possible to look at domestic abuse without being a bit more holistic, how do you think domestic abuse protection orders, when they begin the pilot scheme in the spring, will interact with MAPPA management?

Dame Vera Baird: That is a very interesting question, but they are better and they have positive bits to them, don’t they?

A DAPO does allow GPS monitoring, for example.

Dame Vera Baird: That is an improvement on the current model. There will have to be close working between those who apply for the DAPOs and those who are running MAPPA to make sure that there is no overlap or missing bits and so forth. This cross-boundary working is going to be particularly important with that. But they are both good steps. I do think MAPPA is slightly redundant, but let us do it, and the DAPOs and those positive requirements are definitely a big step forward. What you said about the statutory instrument is really interesting—

Lord Bellamy, today in the Lords—

Dame Vera Baird: Yes, that is really good to hear, but these are going into statute. Why is the protection for women only going into a statutory instrument, which frankly fewer people will ever get to know about? Why is it being done in that way? Why is it not in here with these?

I will have to revert to the Committee on the answer to that, because I actually do not know.

Dame Vera Baird: Anyway, I am not supposed to ask you questions—[Laughter.]

Q No, that is fine. Just going back a bit, I am interested, as you can tell, in the combination of the MAPPA management and the DAPO scheme; we are at the brink of its inception. If you took together a wider application of DAPOs and then the MAPPA arrangements that are going to be formalised in this legislation for serious coercive control, do you think that creates a better blanket of public protection in relation to this nature of offence?

Dame Vera Baird: I think it is bound to, yes. I have felt since their inception that DAPOs, because of those positive requirements, were likelier to be more effective than just the negative nature of whatever they were called—I forget what they are called currently.

MAPPA is an effective mechanism. You raise very interesting questions about how they will interact, and I just think it is about cross-working, really, between police and probation in particular. They have to work in IOM anyway, so they must have ways of working together that ought to be reasonably effective. But I hope that you will, as it were, as a Government draw to their attention the need for an understanding of how those mechanisms will work together, because that would be an important way to point out that it needs to be done effectively.

Q On the point about DAPOs and MAPPA, do you think that MAPPA currently covers all those who are suffering serious domestic abuse and then go on to be murdered, for example?

Dame Vera Baird: No.

Q You have said that this legislation is good—“Yes—do it.” Do you think that it makes any real difference on the ground to the issue of domestic abuse—policing and probation monitoring?

Dame Vera Baird: I think it is a good piece of flag waving, and it ought to be something that ups the attention of the relevant parties. A lot of people do not get protected sufficiently by MAPPA.

Q The vast majority do not get protected, would you say?

Dame Vera Baird: I do not know about the numbers, but it is not a foolproof system. When it works, it works well, I think, and it can be quite subtly tuned for particular kinds of offender. But I do not know that it works so well with domestic abuse generally. In fact, what does?

Q You said that you were pleased with the parts about intimate images. Do you foresee that this will increase and encourage victims of that particular crime to come forward?

Dame Vera Baird: I hope so. It is pretty straightforward. It started off with a nice private Member’s Bill, and it was good for upskirting, but it was very taken with the intention of the individual. Taking a photograph and upskirting—frankly, if you do it, it is a crime, I would have thought. Struggling to find out whether they had done it for their own sexual benefit or to sell it online or whatever: I do not think that matters. I think the Law Commission have got to, “If you do it at all—make an intimate image—it’s an offence. If you do it with that intention, it’s worse. If you do it with this intention, it’s worse,” and that looks as if it works well.

I do not know why deepfake is not banned. Everybody knows what that is. The Minister will tell me there is a Standing Order going through. You just gave me a shocked look. Deepfake is not in the Bill, is it?

No, deepfake is not in it.

Dame Vera Baird: So that is where you could have possibly even a performative person doing deliberately provocative, maybe naked actions. You can take their face off, put mine on instead and put that online. That is dreadfully, dreadfully damaging—every bit as much, possibly more, because of the potential bravado of the act, which would then be blamed on you. That needs making unlawful, and it needs dealing with.

The other problem is that there are no orders to get rid of the stuff that is online already. I asked Penney Lewis—who is coming presently, so she will tell you—why they did not try to tackle the question of taking down stuff. She said that their terms of reference relate to criminality, not the civil orders. My view is that there should be a new look at that, because the pain of being a victim of intimate images is knowing that they are online.

There is a heroic academic at Durham called Professor Clare McGlynn who has done a huge amount of work on this. The impact on somebody of knowing that there is a naked picture of them somewhere online makes them withdraw: they cannot face anybody new, because they think that inevitably they must have seen them online and will have a poor view of them. That is how it gets internalised.

So it is urgent. If the Law Commission was not asked to look at taking stuff down, which I understand is done effectively in Canada, it should be asked to look at it again, or you must find another mechanism for it. The pain is from knowing that it is still up.

Q Turning to some of the amendments proposed to the Bill, could I ask your opinion on the issues around removing parental responsibility for men convicted of sexual offences against children? What is your view on that?

Dame Vera Baird: Now that I understand that the mitigation relating to being coercively controlled will go into law, at least at a lower level—although I do think it should be in this statute—I am less worried. There is some possibility, isn’t there, if it is about murder or manslaughter, because a lot of victims who have been coercively controlled and strike back are convicted of manslaughter—