House of Lords
Wednesday 7 December 2016
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Bristol.
My Lords, Courtauld 2025 brings together all parts of the food system to reduce food waste, from farmer to producer and from retailer to consumer. It goes further than before, with targets to be reached by 2025 including a 20% reduction in UK food and drink waste. WRAP has established industry-led working groups to address key issues including reducing waste from fresh produce, meat protein, dairy, and the hospitality and food sector, and increasing surplus food redistribution.
I thank the Minister for that reply. He will know that, despite our best efforts, the level of household food waste being recycled has stalled, that less than 50% of local authorities collect food waste separately and that food manufacturers are continuing to send an unacceptably high level of food waste to landfill. In these circumstances, does it not make sense for the Government to stop relying purely on voluntary agreements—although they have their place—and to introduce mandatory food waste reduction targets in England across the supply chain? This approach has already worked and made a significant difference in Scotland, Wales and many European countries. Is it not time that we took similar robust action in England?
My Lords, the Courtauld Commitment 2025 is a very positive step. In the UK each year, there are 10 million tonnes of food and drink waste, around 70% of which is from households, and 1.9 million tonnes of food waste from households goes to landfill, compared with 2,000 tonnes from manufacturing. We need to work with WRAP and with industry and consumers to remedy this unacceptable situation. WRAP’s Love Food, Hate Waste campaign is directed towards consumers and is a key priority.
My Lords, my wife is a trustee of the Oxford food bank, which collects fresh food from wholesalers and retailers 365 days a year to distribute to local charities. Is the Minister aware that many of the supermarkets in Oxford are reluctant to provide food to the Oxford food bank? Instead they send it to landfill as waste, simply because it is too much trouble to hand it over to the army of volunteers who would like to come and collect it. Is there anything that the Government could do to encourage supermarkets to help organisations such as the Oxford food bank?
My Lords, the first thing I would say is that I very much appreciate the valuable work that FareShare, Company Shop and the Oxford food bank are doing. It is absolutely essential that good surplus food does not go to waste but is directed in the waste hierarchy first for human consumption and then, if it is not fit for that, for animal consumption. The waste hierarchy is very important. I will take up the Oxford issue, because 95% of all supermarkets are engaged in the Courtauld Commitment, and part of that is precisely directed to the redistribution of food.
My Lords, the cost of what is wasted is £470 a year for the average household, and £700 a year for the average household with children. In turn, avoidable food waste is the equivalent of the CO2 emissions produced by over 7 million cars per year.
My Lords, the results of the third phase of the voluntary Courtauld Commitment with business are due imminently. Are the Government considering asking WRAP to publish company names, or to legislate, if reductions in food waste are not secured?
My Lords, my noble friend is right that the 25-year environment plan provides an opportunity. The first phase of that will be public consultation, and I am very much looking forward to observations and so forth. Dealing with the food waste issue must be part of our long-term vision of a better environment.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that a significant cause of food waste is the overcautious use of sell-by and best-before dates? Does the scheme he has referred to include a review of how such dates are used? Frequently, common sense will tell you that something with a short date has potentially much more life in it than you are allowed to give it.
My Lords, does the Minister realise that 100 years ago, most food waste was fed to pigs? Now, millions of tonnes of food that is suitable for humans one day is regarded as unsuitable for pigs the next. This is a natural and sensibly environmental way of using up food waste, other than where it can be used for human consumption. Will he look into the regulations that prevent food waste being fed to pigs, the natural and sensible outlet?
My Lords, the Government are committed to maintaining the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law. Both are vital to our future success. In particular, the Lord Chancellor is working with the judiciary and others across the justice system to encourage better public education on the role of the judiciary and how it operates. Greater understanding supports efforts to ensure a diverse and representative judiciary, helping to protect the vital role of the independent judiciary for the long term.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that answer. Does he agree that supporters and critics of Brexit ought to unite in insisting that Governments are not above the law, and that judges, however inconvenient and open to contest on appeal their judgments sometimes are, are an essential arbiter of what the law is until Parliament decides to change it? Ought we not to be proclaiming these principles from the rooftops, in the Cabinet Office, in the classroom and even in newspaper offices?
My Lords, I thought we were, and I thought my noble and learned friend Lord Keen did so only last week. I thought my right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor did so very firmly in Questions in another place yesterday—I could repeat her answers to all the questions—and I will continue to do so myself.
My Lords, when the right-wing press launched its unprecedented assault on the High Court judges following their judgment in the Brexit case, Members across your Lordships’ House were dismayed by the lukewarm reaction of the Prime Minister, the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney-General. Since then, the same newspapers have conducted a personalised assault on members of the Supreme Court, collectively and individually, eliciting a similarly feeble response. Why have the Government not defended the freedom and independence of the judiciary with the same much-admired vigour of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, who, despite being involved in the case on behalf of the Government, gave forceful expression to the need to respect the function of the courts and individual judges in the execution of their duty?
My Lords, should the higher judiciary’s integrity and independence come under renewed attack, will my noble friend encourage his senior ministerial colleagues and, in particular, the Lord Chancellor, to defend the judges with the robustness that their predecessors would have shown?
My Lords, I can certainly remember one of my right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor’s predecessors and his robust defence of the judiciary. But I have to make it clear that she has made a robust defence of the judiciary, and all members of the Government will continue to do so.
My Lords, will the Minister define a little further what is meant by public education, as it seems that one of the most powerful shapers of world views is what people see in the headlines of newspapers and what they see in the media, not just what is taught to them rationally, for example in schools?
My Lords, I agree with the right reverend Prelate; it is very important that we listen to what is in the press. But I cannot police what is in the press. All I was saying in my original Answer is that that is part of the educative process. What Ministers say is also important. That is why I repeated what my right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor said, and what my noble and learned friend Lord Keen said.
My Lords, it is the turn of the Cross Benches.
Does the Minister agree that the real vice and mischief of misconceived attacks on the integrity and good faith of the judges is not the hurt that it causes the judges—judges are not there to be popular and they tend to develop pretty thick skins—but rather the fact that it undermines the public trust and confidence in the administration of justice, and it is that which damages the rule of law?
The noble and learned Lord is quite right, and right to emphasise that judges have in themselves very thick skins—the noble and learned Lord will know this. It is also right, as I made clear in my original Answer, that we are very keen to see greater understanding of the role of the judiciary and how it operates. The Government will continue to support that.
My Lords, it is not just understanding what the judges do that matters but the confidence to which the Minister himself referred. Does he agree that as we look forward, if we do, to a post-Brexit world we will need to have utter confidence in our legal system to reassure business and to attract foreign investors, and that anything that is done now to damage that long-term future by applauding short-term political name-calling is to be regretted?
My Lords, do the Government agree that it is an insult to the British people to suggest that they do not understand the rule of law? Is not the truth underlying this Question that those who do not like the referendum result are trying to use the law to overturn it?
My Lords, is the Minister aware that I have tried twice to find out from the Government whether there is guidance as to what Ministers should do in performance of their Section 3 duty to uphold judicial independence? On the last occasion, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen of Elie, directed me to the Cabinet Manual, but it gives no guidance except a reference to judicial independence. Will the Minister ask his colleagues to give some written guidance to themselves about how they should comply with their Section 3 duty—and, in doing so, will he advise his colleagues to reject the idea in today’s Daily Mail that we should take the American practice of electing judges instead of the practice that, for example, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, very clearly instituted in the past?
My Lords, I do not think that the noble Lord would expect me to comment on what appeared in the Daily Mail today, and I have no intention of doing so. But I shall note what he said about guidance to Ministers and pass it on to my right honourable friends.
My Lords, it is important that we all reassert in absolute terms the integrity of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, but does my noble friend recollect that in the debates that ran before the abolition of capital punishment, one argument that was frequently put was that the mistakes made by the judiciary could not be rectified after an execution?
Technical Education and Apprenticeships
My Lords, technical education reforms based on the panel recommendations of the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, will provide a high-quality technical track centred around 15 routes preparing individuals for skilled employment. We are raising the reputation of apprenticeships, creating a world-class system, offering high-quality apprenticeships for people of all ages and from all backgrounds. Investment in careers over this Parliament totalling £90 million will ensure that every young person has access to advice to fulfil their potential.
My Lords, I know the Government are committed to ensuring that apprenticeships are as accessible as possible to all people from all backgrounds. Awareness of those opportunities is key. Can my noble friend the Minister advise what steps the Government are taking to ensure that we engage at an early stage with schools so that teachers and pupils are aware of the great opportunities apprenticeships can offer, either alongside academia or as an alternative route, making it clear that apprenticeships can be an equally distinguished route into a successful and fulfilling career?
My Lords, we legislated through the Education Act 2011 to require schools to secure impartial and independent careers guidance, including on apprenticeships for 12 to 18 year-olds. It is important for young people to have a range of options presented to them and be well informed on what those options are. We continue to raise the profile and esteem of apprenticeships with young people by featuring successful apprentices in the Get In Go Far campaign, so that young people see apprenticeships as a high-quality and prestigious path to a successful career, just as much as they might in heading in another direction, such as to university.
My Lords, the noble Baroness raises some very interesting points, which have been around for a long time. Since the Labour Government raised the profile of apprenticeships, things have moved on. One thing that employers find is that parents are often the issue—they sometimes feel that being an apprentice is not as good as going to university. I just wonder how we can help them change their mind and understand the importance of an apprenticeship to their children’s future.
The noble Baroness makes a very good point. Parents have an important role, particularly with young people—we know that teenagers are not always the most communicative of individuals. Early on, parents have a role to inspire. That is why the Get In Go Far campaign has a role for parents as well. It is accompanied by advertisements on TV and it is clear that parents as well as their children are looking at this. Since August 2016, the campaign has resulted in more than 125,000 people starting an application for an apprenticeship.
My Lords, we are about to embark on what may be a lengthy discussion of the Higher Education and Research Bill. Will the Government make it clear that they treat colleges of further education as of equal importance to the higher education that we will be discussing?
That is certainly right. We know, for example, that the number of learners in further education studying for qualifications at level 4 and above has gone down by 3,800. This was partly because there was, perhaps, a little too much emphasis on the higher education side. A balancing out is needed and our advertisements, and our work with parents, schools and the university technical colleges—which I suspect my noble friend Lord Baker is about to ask me about—are playing a part.
I thank my noble friend for the introduction. Is the Minister aware that university technical colleges now send 44% of their students to technical universities—more than the national average—and that they produce 30% of apprenticeships, which is higher than the national average of 8%? If we are to close the skills gap, we must produce more technical home-grown talent. The only way to do that is to expand university technical colleges.
My noble friend is absolutely right and I pay tribute to him, and indeed to Dearing, for the part they played in setting up the UTC programme. I remember standing at this very Dispatch Box about three years ago and speaking about just seven UTCs; there are now 48. We continue to look at the performance of the UTC model and learn lessons from those that are open to ensure that they offer a great education for young people who want to follow a technical path and that, crucially, they produce the necessary skills to help us grow our talent.
What consideration have the Government given to including technical and vocational achievement in school league tables and to encouraging schools to celebrate their apprenticeship leavers with the same pride that they show in their university entrants?
My Lords, employers spend some £3 billion each year on training but only about 15% of that works its way through to further education colleges. Now the Government are poised to make another £350 million of cuts to the adult skills budget, which will impact on part-time and adult learners at FE colleges. If the Government really are committed—as I believe they are—to widening access to and participation in technical and vocational education, what action does the Minister intend to take to promote the importance of the further education college sector and encourage more employers to use it?
One of the initiatives—there are several—is that we will be setting up, by April 2017, an institute for apprenticeships. The aim will be to have an employer-led approach to ensure that there are more apprenticeships. I think the House will know that we aim to set up 3 million over this Parliament. Also, through the Technical and Further Education Bill, we are extending the remit of the apprenticeship institute to cover college-based, technical education from April 2018.
My Lords, in the course of my work as chairman of the Chartered Institution for Further Education, I have become aware that there are large numbers of would-be mature students, all well-motivated, who would like to start technical courses. What options will the Government make available so that people of all ages can start such a course?
We had quite a discussion yesterday on the Higher Education and Research Bill about the importance of mature students and part-time students coming back on to the training ladder. This is one of the many initiatives we have to help not just young people.
Will the Minister advise the House of the Government’s latest thinking on introducing apprenticeships for fully qualified nurses? What discussions have the Government had with universities that currently provide degree qualifications for all qualified nurses?
I may need to write to the noble Lord. The only answer I can give now with regard to the nursing profession is that health and science is an important part of the 15 new technical routes. There are five different routes one can go down. This was part of the Sainsbury review.
Railways: Industrial Action
My Lords, we condemn the industrial action being held over the coming weeks, and the further disruption this will cause to passengers. We urge the unions to call off these needless strikes.
Southern is working closely with Network Rail and fellow operators to mitigate the effects of these strikes as far as practicable, and is putting out as much information as it can to keep passengers informed on what travel arrangements will be in place.
My Lords, we now face 16 days of utter chaos, with a corresponding impact on travellers, tourists and, more importantly, our economy, and there is more to come. Is it not time for the Minister to accept that this crisis demands a tough response from the Government? Will they seriously consider taking control of the Southern franchise, if only by appointing an administrator until such time as the situation becomes normal?
The noble Lord raises a point we have mentioned before about the governance of this franchise, but the important thing is to segment this. The strikes taking place on Southern rail help no one. Let us bear in mind that of the 99% of people directly impacted by the new contract, only one person has not signed a new contract. Therefore we have to ask why the strikes, which I accept compound the challenges which the line faces, are still happening. However, the Government have put in place remedial action. The noble Lord will be aware of the appointment of Chris Gibb specifically to look at the issues and challenges faced by this network. He is due to produce a report for the Secretary of State at the end of this year.
As an experienced railway manager who has dealt with many such intractable disputes, may I suggest to the Government that they need to move this logjam on both sides? First, any train on which passengers are travelling—these are long trains with 12 coaches—should have a second person who is qualified in the rules and regulations. Secondly, in return for that, the unions should undertake that that person will attend to the needs of passengers, check tickets, help disabled people and generally make himself available instead of sitting in the back cab of the train doing nothing. If that were done, I believe there would be the core of a solution.
The noble Lord is right, but let me assure your Lordships’ House—indeed, I am sure that many noble Lords are aware of this very point—that the changes being implemented ensure that there is no loss of jobs on driver-only operated trains. Those who were conductors are now train supervisors. The duties outlined by the noble Lord are exactly the duties they will undertake.
My Lords, will the Minister take on board the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, about people with disabilities? I declare no interest, living north of London. At Euston station it is possible to book somebody to help you if you have a mobility problem. You can book that in advance. However, I understand that is not possible when trains are altered at short notice. People with disabilities cannot rush to get trains when the platform is announced at the last minute. What can the Government do to ensure that station staff look after these people and make sure they get on trains?
The noble Baroness is of course right. The Government and train operating companies up and down the country do just that, and people who require special assistance can book in advance. In most cases they get the service and the extra assistance they require. There are issues on Southern in particular, which I know your Lordships’ House is aware of. The cancellation of trains, whether because of a problem with Network Rail, an issue with scheduling or indeed the strikes, makes it difficult for those who require additional assistance to make the necessary bookings. The Government are acutely aware of this, and these points are being repeated in discussions with all people who are involved with the actions and the necessary solutions with regard to this service.
My Lords, surely a huge train crash is about to happen. When you get on these trains at the moment on the Southern route to Victoria, from Gatwick into Victoria there is literally not one inch to move. People come and put their wheeled luggage in the middle of the aisle, and if there was the slightest emergency, it would be horrific. Surely we are not waiting for that to happen before the Government can do something. Fire them—do something with them. It is just hopeless at the moment.
I know that my noble friend speaks from personal experience and exasperation at some of the challenges she has faced. I fully accept that many Members of your Lordships’ House are in the same position. That is why I have directly initiated, in co-operation with the Leader of the House, a regular review of some of the challenges which are directly being faced or on which representations have been made to Members of your Lordships’ House on this important issue. As I have already said, the Government have appointed Chris Gibb to look at what actions can be taken to ensure that both the train operating company and Network Rail, which operates the track, work together on finding a reasonable, fast and efficient solution.
My Lords, in my career I have been a striker, thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, a shop steward, an industrial relations negotiator, a line manager and a managing director. I have been through more disputes than I care to think about, and every dispute has had two sides. Is not the Minister painting a simplistic picture to say that it is just the trade unions? The Government control Network Rail and pull the strings of the train operating company; will they get in there and do something to solve this problem?
I fully respect the noble Lord’s wide experience. However, I am sure that when he reads Hansard, he will see that I have not given a simplistic solution in my replies. It is a challenging situation, and, equally, I have accepted the principle that it is not just the strikes and that other challenges are caused by problems with both Network Rail and the train operating company. There is a need to find a solution, but the strikes are not helping. That is the point I was making.
Health Service Medical Supplies (Costs) Bill
The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.
That Lord Fowler be appointed a member of the Select Committee in place of Baroness D’Souza.
Policing and Crime Bill
Report (2nd Day)
Relevant documents: 3rd Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights; 3rd, 4th and 8th Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee
Clause 84: Hot pursuit of ships in Scotland or Northern Ireland waters
120: Clause 84, page 109, line 33, leave out “or in Northern Ireland waters”
My Lords, Section 32 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 limits police jurisdiction throughout Northern Ireland and its adjacent UK waters within the seaward limits of the territorial sea in the same manner as Section 30 of the Police Act 1996 applies in England and Wales. However, within these limits, the police do not have powers suitable for the maritime context.
The new clauses proposed in this group comprise a new Chapter 6A of Part 4 of the Bill, making provision for the police and other law enforcement in Northern Ireland to have powers corresponding to those conferred on law enforcement in England and Wales and in Scotland by virtue of Chapters 5 and 6 of Part 4. In particular, new Chapter 6A provides Northern Ireland law enforcement with maritime-specific powers, such as to stop, board, detain and divert ships for the purpose of preventing, detecting or investigating an offence under the law of Northern Ireland. Unlike the provisions in Chapters 5 and 6 of Part 4, and at the request of the Northern Ireland Department of Justice, the powers are, however, limited to ships in the territorial waters of Northern Ireland and do not extend to international or foreign waters.
There are particular policing accountability and oversight arrangements in Northern Ireland, and it has not been possible for the Department of Justice to secure the necessary agreement with relevant stakeholders within the time available for the exercise of powers by law enforcement officers from England, Wales or Scotland in Northern Ireland waters in hot-pursuit situations. Again at the request of the Minister of Justice in Northern Ireland, these amendments would remove the hot-pursuit provisions that relate to law enforcement officers from outside Northern Ireland entering Northern Ireland waters. The Northern Ireland Assembly agreed the necessary legislative consent Motion in respect of these provisions on 28 November.
I note that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has an amendment in this group and I propose to respond to it when winding up. For now, I beg to move.
My Lords, as the Minister has just said, my noble friend Lady Hamwee and I have Amendment 122A in this group. It concerns Chapter 5, which is headed “Police Powers: Maritime Enforcement in Connection with English and Welsh Offences”.
The Bill gives extensive powers to the police in connection with preventing, detecting, investigating or prosecuting offences under the law of England and Wales in relation to a UK ship in England and Wales waters or international waters, a ship without nationality in England and Wales waters or international waters, a foreign ship in England and Wales waters or international waters, or a ship registered under the law of a relevant territory in England and Wales waters or international waters. That seems to me to cover any ship anywhere in the world, although there are restrictions if the UK ship is in foreign waters or if it is a foreign ship in England and Wales waters, when either the Secretary of State’s permission or, in some cases, that of the foreign state to which the ship is registered is required. In one place the Bill talks about “England and Wales waters” and in another it uses the words,
“within the territorial sea adjacent to England and Wales”.
I am not sure why there is different wording in different parts. Perhaps the Minister can explain.
The powers are to stop, board, divert and detain, to search and obtain information, and to arrest and seize. Officers who can exercise these powers include special constables, port constables, customs officials and anyone else the Secretary of State specifies in regulations, subject only to the negative procedure. This gives extensive powers to a whole range of law enforcement officers without restriction in relation to the exercise of the powers relating to a UK ship in England and Wales waters on the basis that the law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to suspect—the same low level of suspicion required to make an arrest or to carry out a stop and search in the street—that an offence under the law of England and Wales is being or has been committed, or there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the ship itself is being used in the commission of an offence.
The powers include to require the ship to be taken to a port in England and Wales or elsewhere—although, if it is a port outside the UK, the Secretary of State’s authority is required. Also included is the power to search the ship, the crew and the cargo for evidence and to search anyone on the ship for weapons. Not only that but the law enforcement officer can take anyone else with him to exercise those powers, and the person who accompanies the law enforcement officer can exercise those powers provided the law enforcement officer is supervising. Law enforcement officers are also protected under the legislation from criminal or civil proceedings if acting in good faith and where there are reasonable grounds.
As I am sure noble Lords will agree, these are extensive powers that can be exercised by law enforcement officers of any rank or any level of seniority, the implications of which can be serious and costly—diverting a ship into port and detaining it there, for example—for any offence under the law of England and Wales.
As the legislation is currently drafted, a special constable could, in theory, divert a ship into port and detain it there because he has reasonable grounds to believe that a minor assault or a minor act of criminal damage has taken place. As we argued in Committee, we believe the power should be restricted to indictable offences only that are specifically set out in regulations by the Secretary of State in the same way as the powers in relation to cross-border enforcement are restricted to serious offences specified by the Secretary of State in the same Bill. Surely the Government have in mind the types of offences these powers are intended to be deployed against. If they can specify them in relation to cross-border enforcement, why not in relation to these powers?
In Committee, the Minister suggested that, in other contexts, I had argued that we should put our trust in the operational judgment of chief police officers. I believe the noble Baroness was referring to my belief that the decision as to which of the currently available police ranks were used by a chief constable should be a matter for him or her dependent on the needs of the particular force, rather than being stipulated by the Secretary of State in regulations. That is a wholly different scenario. We are talking potentially about a crime reported in the middle of the night when the chief constable is soundly asleep and a special constable decides, as this legislation would allow him to do, to impound a cargo ship or a cruise liner because one of the crew members had slapped another one across the face. That is what this legislation, as drafted, allows.
The noble Baroness went on to say that we should trust the operational judgment of the police. I was a police officer for over 30 years, including a decade in operational roles on the street. I can assure noble Lords that I have ample evidence to suggest that the operational judgment of every police officer or special constable should not be trusted on every occasion. Indeed, an off-duty officer on a cruise who might get involved in an altercation resulting in him being assaulted might relish the opportunity to divert a cruise liner into port so that the assailant can be arrested.
The Minister went on to say that the police can investigate offences where they take place on other modes of transport, so why not ships? Even if the officer halts the train or stops the bus, the financial implications and the inconvenience caused to innocent passengers is slight compared with the potential consequences if a ship is diverted into port. I hope the Minister is clearer now as to why we should treat maritime vessels differently.
I would not have brought this amendment back at this stage if the Government had given a reasonable explanation for not agreeing with my Committee stage amendment.
The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has again argued for the maritime enforcement powers in the Bill to be restricted to the enforcement of serious offences. As I indicated in Committee, we do not believe it is necessary to limit these powers in this way. The Government believe that we should trust the operational judgment of the police to determine when it is appropriate and proportionate to exercise their powers at sea. For example, we do not believe that the police would commit resources to interdict a vessel in international waters where there had been a theft of an item of, say, confectionery from a gift shop—which, incidentally, would be an indictable offence.
However, a police officer on, let us say, a UK-registered ferry should be able to act when the vessel is in international waters where a person commits a common assault on another person, or where a person exhibits threatening or abusive behaviour. In both cases, we are talking about summary-only offences and in both cases the noble Lord’s amendment would prevent the police acting, even though the law of the land applied and the actions of those individuals might none the less be triable in the courts of England and Wales. We do not impose restrictions on the categories of offences the police can investigate where they take place on other modes of transportation, so, again, I am unclear why we should treat maritime vessels any differently.
This is about the difference between a bus, a train and a ship. The ability to stop a ship and push it into harbour is a completely different level of activity from saying, “We’re going to stop the train at Reading because somebody has been assaulted”. I have listened to the argument made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and I completely agree with him. It cannot be right that a single police officer can decide to turn around a cargo ship or a cruise ship in the Irish Sea for a summary offence. I accept that, as the Minister said, there are complications around theft, with the theft of some sweets from a shop being an indictable offence in some circumstances, but we have to make a definition somewhere. This is about being utterly reasonable, and I do not think that the Government are being reasonable here.
The police are professionals and they must have operational discretion as to when to exercise their powers. I know that a ship at sea is not a bus, which can just move into the side of the road, but a serious offence could have been committed. The police should be able to know when they need to exercise their powers. In answer to the noble Lord’s question, there are currently no powers to take effective enforcement action in such circumstances, other than in relation to modern slavery and drug offences.
My Lords, I am rather disappointed about the police in this situation. Certainly in my life, junior NCOs have taken charge of situations similar to this and had to make decisions. There must be somewhere within the constabulary either a lack of training or a lack of selection of their junior leaders.
My Lords, I am glad that I brought back this amendment, if only to hear the noble Lord, Lord Blair, call me utterly reasonable. As for the Minister’s faith in the ability of an off-duty police officer who becomes involved in a brawl on a cruise ship to make completely the right operational decision not to divert the vessel into port, that goes beyond my own experience and that of the noble Lord, Lord Blair, of the way in which it would be natural for some off-duty police officers to behave in such circumstances. Clearly, I am not going to press this to a Division, but I think the House recognises the considerable discomfort that both the noble Lord, Lord Blair, and I have over the legislation as proposed.
Amendment 120 agreed.
121: Clause 84, page 110, line 5, leave out “or Northern Ireland”
Amendment 121 agreed.
Clause 85: Restriction on exercise of maritime enforcement powers in hot pursuit
122: Clause 85, page 110, line 10, leave out “or Northern Ireland”
Amendment 122 agreed.
Amendment 122A not moved.
Clause 93: Interpretation
123: Clause 93, page 114, leave out lines 40 and 41
Amendment 123 agreed.
Clause 96: Hot pursuit of ships in England and Wales or Northern Ireland waters
Amendments 124 and 125
124: Clause 96, page 117, line 12, leave out “or in Northern Ireland waters”
125: Clause 96, page 117, line 29, leave out “or Northern Ireland”
Amendments 124 and 125 agreed.
Clause 97: Restriction on exercise of maritime enforcement powers in hot pursuit
126: Clause 97, page 117, line 35, leave out “or Northern Ireland”
Amendment 126 agreed.
Clause 104: Interpretation
127: Clause 104, page 121, leave out lines 35 and 36
Amendment 127 agreed.
Amendments 128 to 136
128: After Clause 104, insert the following new Clause—
“CHAPTER 6APOLICE POWERS: MARITIME ENFORCEMENT: NORTHERN IRISH OFFENCESApplication of maritime enforcement powers: general
(1) A law enforcement officer may, for the purpose of preventing, detecting or investigating an offence under the law of Northern Ireland, exercise any of the maritime enforcement powers in relation to—(a) a United Kingdom ship in Northern Ireland waters,(b) a ship without nationality in Northern Ireland waters,(c) a foreign ship in Northern Ireland waters, or(d) a ship, registered under the law of a relevant territory, in Northern Ireland waters.(2) In this Chapter, “the maritime enforcement powers” are the powers set out in—(a) section (Power to stop, board, divert and detain) (power to stop, board, divert and detain);(b) section (Power to search and obtain information) (power to search and obtain information);(c) section (Power of arrest and seizure) (power of arrest and seizure).(3) The following persons are “law enforcement officers” for the purpose of this Chapter—(a) a constable who is a member of the Police Service of Northern Ireland or the Police Service of Northern Ireland Reserve,(b) a person appointed as a special constable in Northern Ireland by virtue of provision incorporating section 79 of the Harbours, Docks, and Piers Clauses Act 1847,(c) a designated customs official within the meaning of Part 1 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 (see section 14(6) of that Act),(d) a designated NCA officer who is authorised by the Director General of the National Crime Agency (whether generally or specifically) to exercise the powers of a law enforcement officer under this Chapter, or(e) a person of a description specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State. (4) Regulations under subsection (3)(e) are to be made by statutory instrument.(5) A statutory instrument containing regulations under subsection (3)(e) is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.(6) Regulations under subsection (3)(e) may not make devolved provision except with the consent of the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland.(7) For the purposes of subsection (6), regulations under subsection (3)(e) make devolved provision if and to the extent that—(a) the effect of the regulations is to confer functions under this Chapter on a person of a description specified in the regulations,(b) it would be within the legislative competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly to confer those functions on persons of that description in an Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and(c) the consent of the Secretary of State would not be required under section 8 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 in relation to a Bill conferring such functions.(8) This section is subject to section (Restriction on exercise of maritime enforcement powers) (which makes provision about when the authority of the Secretary of State is required before the maritime enforcement powers are exercised in reliance on this section).”
129: After Clause 104, insert the following new Clause—
“Restriction on exercise of maritime enforcement powers
(1) The authority of the Secretary of State is required before a law enforcement officer exercises any of the maritime enforcement powers, in reliance on section (Application of maritime enforcement powers: general)(1), in relation to a foreign ship, or a ship registered under the law of a relevant territory, within the territorial sea adjacent to Northern Ireland.(2) The Secretary of State may give authority under subsection (1) in relation to a foreign ship only if—(a) the home state has requested the assistance of the United Kingdom for the purpose of preventing, detecting or investigating an offence under the law of Northern Ireland,(b) the home state has authorised the United Kingdom to act for that purpose, or(c) the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (Cmnd 8941) otherwise permits the exercise of the powers in relation to the ship.”
130: After Clause 104, insert the following new Clause—
“Power to stop, board, divert and detain
(1) This section applies if a law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that—(a) an offence under the law of Northern Ireland is being, or has been, committed on a ship in relation to which the powers conferred by this section are exercisable by virtue of section (Application of maritime enforcement powers: general), or(b) a ship in relation to which those powers are so exercisable is otherwise being used in connection with the commission of an offence under that law.(2) The law enforcement officer may—(a) stop the ship;(b) board the ship;(c) require the ship to be taken to a port in Northern Ireland.(3) The law enforcement officer may require the master of the ship, or any member of its crew, to take such action as is necessary for the purposes of subsection (2)(c).(4) A law enforcement officer must give notice in writing to the master of any ship detained under this section. (5) The notice must state that the ship is to be detained until the notice is withdrawn by the giving of a further notice in writing signed by a law enforcement officer.”
131: After Clause 104, insert the following new Clause—
“Power to search and obtain information
(1) This section applies if a law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that there is evidence relating to an offence under the law of Northern Ireland (other than items subject to legal privilege) on a ship in relation to which the powers conferred by this section are exercisable by virtue of section (Application of maritime enforcement powers: general).(2) The law enforcement officer may search—(a) the ship;(b) anyone found on the ship;(c) anything found on the ship (including cargo).(3) The law enforcement officer may require a person found on the ship to give information about himself or herself.(4) The power to search conferred by subsection (2) is a power to search only to the extent that it is reasonably required for the purpose of discovering evidence of the kind mentioned in subsection (1).(5) The power to search a person conferred by subsection (2) does not authorise a law enforcement officer to require the person to remove any clothing in public other than an outer coat, jacket or gloves.(6) In exercising a power conferred by subsection (2) or (3), a law enforcement officer may (amongst other things)—(a) open any containers;(b) require the production of documents, books or records relating to the ship or anything on it, other than anything that the law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to believe to be an item subject to legal privilege;(c) make photographs or copies of anything the production of which the law enforcement officer has power to require.(7) The power in subsection (6)(b) to require the production of documents, books or records includes, in relation to documents, books or records kept in electronic form, power to require the provision of the documents, books or records in a form in which they are legible and can be taken away.(8) The power of a law enforcement officer under subsection (2)(b) or (c) or (3) may be exercised on the ship or elsewhere.”
132: After Clause 104, insert the following new Clause—
“Power of arrest and seizure
(1) This section applies if a law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence under the law of Northern Ireland has been, or is being, committed on a ship in relation to which the powers conferred by this section are exercisable by virtue of section (Application of maritime enforcement powers: general).(2) The law enforcement officer may arrest without warrant anyone whom the officer has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be guilty of the offence.(3) The law enforcement officer may seize and retain anything found on the ship which appears to the officer to be evidence of the offence, other than anything that the officer has reasonable grounds to believe to be an item subject to legal privilege.(4) The power of a law enforcement officer under subsection (2) or (3) may be exercised on the ship or elsewhere.”
133: After Clause 104, insert the following new Clause—
“Maritime enforcement powers: supplementary: protective searches
(1) This section applies where a power conferred by section (Power to stop, board, divert and detain) is exercised in relation to a ship.(2) A law enforcement officer may search any person found on the ship for anything which the officer has reasonable grounds to believe the person might use to—(a) cause physical injury,(b) cause damage to property, or(c) endanger the safety of any ship.(3) The power under subsection (2) may be exercised on board the ship or elsewhere.(4) A law enforcement officer searching a person under subsection (2) may seize and retain anything found if the law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person might use it for a purpose mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (c) of that subsection.(5) Anything seized under subsection (4) may be retained only for so long as there are reasonable grounds to believe that it might be used as mentioned in that subsection.(6) The power to search a person conferred by subsection (2) does not authorise a law enforcement officer to require the person to remove any clothing in public, other than an outer coat, jacket or gloves.”
134: After Clause 104, insert the following new Clause—
“Maritime enforcement powers: other supplementary provision
(1) A law enforcement officer may—(a) be accompanied by other persons, and(b) take equipment or materials,to assist the officer in the exercise of powers under this Chapter.(2) A law enforcement officer may use reasonable force, if necessary, in the performance of functions under this Chapter.(3) A person accompanying a law enforcement officer under subsection (1) may perform any of the officer’s functions under this Chapter, but only under the officer’s supervision.(4) A law enforcement officer must produce evidence of the officer’s authority if asked to do so.(5) The powers conferred by this Chapter do not affect any other powers that a law enforcement officer may have.”
135: After Clause 104, insert the following new Clause—
“Maritime enforcement powers: offences
(1) A person commits an offence if the person—(a) intentionally obstructs a law enforcement officer in the performance of functions under this Chapter, or(b) fails without reasonable excuse to comply with a requirement imposed by a law enforcement officer in the performance of those functions.(2) A person who provides information in response to a requirement imposed by a law enforcement officer in the performance of functions under this Chapter commits an offence if—(a) the information is false in a material particular, and the person either knows it is or is reckless as to whether it is, or(b) the person intentionally fails to disclose any material particular.(3) A law enforcement officer may arrest without warrant anyone whom the officer has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be guilty of an offence under this section.(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.”
136: After Clause 104, insert the following new Clause—
(1) In this Chapter—“designated NCA officer” means a National Crime Agency officer who is either or both of the following—(a) an officer designated under section 10 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 as having the powers and privileges of a constable who is entitled to exercise the powers and privileges of a Northern Ireland constable (see paragraph 11(6) of Schedule 5 to that Act);(b) an officer designated under that section as having the powers of a general customs official;“foreign ship” means a ship which—(a) is registered in a State other than the United Kingdom, or(b) is not so registered but is entitled to fly the flag of a State other than the United Kingdom;“home state”, in relation to a foreign ship, means—(a) the State in which the ship is registered, or(b) the State whose flag the ship is otherwise entitled to fly;“items subject to legal privilege” has the same meaning as in the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 (S.I. 1989/1341 (N.I. 12)) (see article 12 of that Order);“law enforcement officer” has the meaning given by section 104A(3);“maritime enforcement powers” has the meaning given by section 104A(2);“Northern Ireland waters” means the sea and other waters within the seaward limits of the territorial sea adjacent to Northern Ireland;“relevant territory” means—(a) the Isle of Man;(b) any of the Channel Islands;(c) a British overseas territory;“ship” includes every description of vessel (including a hovercraft) used in navigation;“ship without nationality” means a ship which—(a) is not registered in, or otherwise entitled to fly the flag of, any State or relevant territory, or(b) sails under the flags of two or more States or relevant territories, or under the flags of a State and relevant territory, using them according to convenience;“United Kingdom ship” means a ship which—(a) is registered under Part 2 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995,(b) is a Government ship within the meaning of that Act,(c) is not registered in any State or relevant territory but is wholly owned by persons each of whom has a United Kingdom connection, or(d) is registered under an Order in Council under section 1 of the Hovercraft Act 1968.(2) For the purposes of paragraph (c) of the definition of “United Kingdom ship” in subsection (1), a person has a “United Kingdom connection” if the person is—(a) a British citizen, a British overseas territories citizen or a British Overseas citizen,(b) an individual who is habitually resident in the United Kingdom, or(c) a body corporate which is established under the law of a part of the United Kingdom and has its principal place of business in the United Kingdom. (3) References in this Chapter to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea include references to any modifications of that Convention agreed after the passing of this Act that have entered into force in relation to the United Kingdom.”
Amendments 128 to 136 agreed.
Clause 105: Extension of cross-border powers of arrest: urgent cases
137: Clause 105, page 123, line 29, leave out from “Scotland” to end of line 30
My Lords, Chapter 7 of Part 4 of the Bill closes a gap in cross-border powers by providing for urgent cross-border powers of arrest by police and other law enforcement officers across the three UK jurisdictions. Amendments 138 and 140 extend these powers so that they are exercisable by immigration officers and officers of Revenue and Customs, as well as National Crime Agency officers and designated customs officials who have the powers of Revenue and Customs officers. Amendment 137 provides that the powers are exercisable by British Transport Police officers in respect of offences wherever committed in the UK.
Amendment 149 inserts a new clause to provide that all the cross-border powers of arrest will be exercisable by Revenue and Customs officers in relation to any of the functions of HMRC or Revenue and Customs officers. This means that the powers will be available in relation to both tax and customs matters, rather than being confined to tax matters as they are now. The amendments also clarify the meaning of key terms as they apply to the exercise of the cross-border powers by Revenue and Customs officers and immigration officers. These amendments further enhance the effectiveness of law enforcement across the UK, ensuring that criminals are not able to evade the law simply by crossing an internal border. I beg to move.
I just raise one question on these amendments, although I readily accept that, perhaps if I had read everything sent to me, I would not be asking such questions. As the Minister said, this talks about an extension of powers to immigration officers, Revenue and Customs officers, the British Transport Police and others. Should these provisions have been included earlier in the Bill and it has just been realised that they were not there, hence these amendments being brought forward, or is this some completely new power? If so, what has been happening up to now? What have been the consequences of not having these powers? How detrimental has that been?
Amendment 137 agreed.
Amendments 138 to 140
138: Clause 105, page 126, line 43, at end insert—
“(9) In subsection (8), in the definition of “investigating force”, the reference to a police force includes a reference to—(a) the National Crime Agency;(b) any of the following (to the extent that their functions relate to the investigation of offences)—(i) officers of Revenue and Customs;(ii) immigration officers;(iii) designated customs officials within the meaning of Part 1 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 (see section 14(6) of that Act).(10) In the application of this section in a case where the investigating force is a police force mentioned in subsection (9)(a) or (b)—(a) the reference to a constable in subsections (4)(b) and (5)(b), and the reference to a constable in the investigating force in subsection (7)(a), is to be read as a reference to a National Crime Agency officer designated under section 9 or 10 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 (“a designated NCA officer”), an officer of Revenue and Customs, an immigration officer or a designated customs official (as the case may be);(b) any reference to an officer of at least, or above, the rank of inspector in the investigating force is to be read as a reference to a designated NCA officer, an officer of Revenue and Customs, an immigration officer or a designated customs official (as the case may be) of at least, or above, the equivalent grade.”
139: Clause 105, page 128, line 4, at end insert—
“(5A) Regulations under subsection (5) may include consequential provision, including provision amending any statutory provision; and, for that purpose, statutory provision has the same meaning as in section 137B (see subsection (10)(c) of that section).”
140: Clause 105, page 128, line 10, at end insert—
“(8) In the application of Schedule 7B in a case where the investigating force is a police force mentioned in section 137C(9)(a) or (b), any reference to an officer of at least, or above, a particular rank in the investigating force is to be read as a reference to a designated NCA officer, an officer of Revenue and Customs, an immigration officer or a designated customs official (as the case may be) of at least, or above, the equivalent grade.””
Amendments 138 to 140 agreed.
Schedule 16: Schedule to be inserted as Schedule 7B to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
Amendments 141 to 148
141: Schedule 16, page 344, line 30, at end insert “who has not been involved in the investigation in connection with which the arrest was made”
142: Schedule 16, page 344, line 33, at end insert “who has not been involved in the investigation in connection with which the arrest was made”
143: Schedule 16, page 344, line 42, at end insert “who has not been involved in the investigation in connection with which the arrest was made”
144: Schedule 16, page 344, line 46, at end insert “who has not been involved in the investigation in connection with which the arrest was made”
145: Schedule 16, page 345, line 9, at end insert “who has not been involved in the investigation in connection with which the arrest was made”
146: Schedule 16, page 345, line 13, at end insert “who has not been involved in the investigation in connection with which the arrest was made”
147: Schedule 16, page 345, line 37, at end insert “who has not been involved in the investigation in connection with which the arrest was made”
148: Schedule 16, page 345, line 41, at end insert “who has not been involved in the investigation in connection with which the arrest was made”
Amendments 141 to 148 agreed.
149: After Clause 106, insert the following new Clause—
“Cross-border enforcement: officers of Revenue and Customs
In section 87 of the Finance Act 2007 (cross-border exercise of powers: officers of Revenue and Customs), in subsection (4) for “only in the exercise of a function relating to tax (including duties and tax credits)” substitute “in the exercise of any function of the Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs or of officers of Revenue and Customs, within the meaning of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 (see section 51(2) to (2B) of that Act)”.”
Amendment 149 agreed.
150: After Clause 107, insert the following new Clause—
“Powers to require removal of disguises: oral authorisation
In section 60AA of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (powers to require removal of disguises), for subsection (6) substitute—“(6) Subject to subsection (6A), an authorisation under subsection (3)—(a) shall be in writing and signed by the officer giving it; and(b) shall specify—(i) the grounds on which it is given;(ii) the locality in which the powers conferred by this section are exercisable; and(iii) the period during which those powers are exercisable.(6A) An authorisation under subsection (3) need not be given in writing where it is not practicable to do so but any oral authorisation—(a) must state the matters which would otherwise have to be specified under subsection (6), and(b) must be recorded in writing as soon as it is practicable to do so.(6B) A direction under subsection (4) shall be given in writing or, where that is not practicable, recorded in writing as soon as it is practicable to do so.””
My Lords, these amendments respond to an amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Dear, in Committee, which concerned the authorisation process for the exercise by a constable of the power to require the removal of a disguise. Section 60AA of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is an important preventive tool, enabling the police to remove disguises in instances where they believe offences may be committed. As an intrusive power, quite rightly this requires prior authorisation from an officer of the rank of inspector or above.
However, as the noble Lord, Lord Dear, explained in Committee, the spontaneous arising or escalation of public order incidents does not always permit sufficient time for this approval to come in written form. Amendment 150 ensures that oral authorisation is permitted where it is the only practicable course of action. This authorisation must then be put in writing as soon as is practicable. Amendment 204 makes a consequential amendment to the Long Title of the Bill.
These amendments have been the subject of extensive discussions between officials and the relevant national policing leads, as well as between MPs and the former Policing Minister, Mike Penning. They will give greater clarity and flexibility to the police in the operational use of this power. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support the amendment. I remind the House that I tabled much the same amendment in Committee. I suggested then that the Minister might take the amendment back, consider it and bring it back on Report—which, of course, has been done. So I record my thanks to the Minister and the officials at the Home Office for their support.
Some misgivings were expressed in Committee that face veils—religious coverings—would be caught in this legislation. I would like to make it clear—as I think is now accepted—that the only change in this amendment is to allow authorisation for the police to use existing powers to be given orally and recorded in writing later. I hope that the fears concerning religious coverings have been allayed and I am very pleased to support the amendment.
My Lords, my name was on the original amendment but I was unable to take part in Committee because of prior commitments. The noble Lord, Lord Dear, deserves more than praise for the very rational way in which he introduced this issue. The result is an entirely practical one, which is entirely consistent with the maintenance of good order and allowing the police to exercise necessary functions, sometimes in very difficult circumstances. Therefore, I too am happy to support the amendment.
Amendment 150 agreed.
Schedule 17: Cross-border enforcement: minor and consequential amendments
Amendments 151 to 155
151: Schedule 17, page 350, line 42, leave out sub-paragraph (4)
152: Schedule 17, page 351, line 24, leave out sub-paragraphs (2) and (3)
153: Schedule 17, page 351, line 27, at end insert—
“( ) After subsection (2) insert—“(2A) In the application of section 137C where a person is arrested under section 137A by an officer of Revenue and Customs in respect of a specified offence that is being investigated by an officer of Revenue and Customs—(a) subsection (2)(b) is to be read as if (instead of requiring the detention to be authorised by both an officer of at least the rank of inspector in the arresting force and an officer of at least the rank of inspector in the investigating force) it required the detention to be authorised by an officer of Revenue and Customs of at least the grade equivalent to the rank of inspector;(b) subsection (2)(c) is to be read as if (instead of requiring the detention to be authorised by both an officer of a rank above that of inspector in the arresting force and an officer of a rank above that of inspector in the investigating force) it required the detention to be authorised by an officer of Revenue and Customs of a grade above that equivalent to the rank of inspector;(c) subsection (3) is omitted;(d) in subsections (4) and (5), the reference to an officer of the investigating force is to be read as a reference to an officer of Revenue and Customs;(e) in subsection (6), the reference to an appropriate officer in the investigating force is to be read as a reference to an appropriate officer of Revenue and Customs (as defined by subsection (7));(f) subsection (6)(a) is omitted;(g) in subsection (7)(b), the reference to an officer of at least the rank of inspector is to be read as a reference to an officer of Revenue and Customs of at least the equivalent grade;(h) in subsection (7)(c), the reference to an officer of a rank above that of inspector is to be read as a reference to an officer of Revenue and Customs of above the equivalent grade;(i) subsections (8) to (10) are omitted.(2B) Where section 137C applies in accordance with subsection (2A), Schedule 7B applies with the following modifications—(a) any reference to a constable in the arresting force is to be read as a reference to an officer of Revenue and Customs;(b) any reference to an officer of at least, or above, a particular rank in the investigating force is to be read as a reference to an officer of Revenue and Customs of at least, or above, the equivalent grade;(c) any reference to the arresting force or to the investigating force (otherwise than in relation to a description of officer in the force) is to be read as a reference to officers of Revenue and Customs;(d) instead of the modification made by paragraph 9, section 42 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 is to be read as if the references in subsections (1)(c)(ii) and (3)(b) to the police were references to officers of Revenue and Customs;(e) the Schedule is to be read as if it also provided for references in the provisions applied by section 137D(2)(d), (3)(d) and (4)(d) to a police station to include references to an office of Revenue and Customs.(2C) In the application of section 137C where a person is arrested under section 137A by an officer of Revenue and Customs in respect of a specified offence other than one that is being investigated by an officer of Revenue and Customs— (a) any reference to an officer of at least, or above, the rank of inspector in the arresting force is to be read as a reference to an officer of Revenue and Customs of at least, or above, the equivalent grade;(b) the reference in subsection (6)(a) to the arresting force is to be read as a reference to any officer of Revenue and Customs.(2D) Where section 137C applies in accordance with subsection (2C), Schedule 7B applies with the following modifications—(a) any reference to a constable in the arresting force is to be read as a reference to an officer of Revenue and Customs;(b) any reference to the arresting force (otherwise than in relation to a description of officer in the force) is to be read as a reference to officers of Revenue and Customs;(c) instead of the modification made by paragraph 9, section 42 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 is to be read as if the references in subsections (1)(c)(ii) and (3)(b) to the police were references to officers of Revenue and Customs;(d) the Schedule is to be read as if it also provided for references in the provisions applied by section 137D(2)(d), (3)(d) and (4)(d) to a police station to include references to an office of Revenue and Customs.””
154: Schedule 17, page 351, line 29, leave out paragraph 10
155: Schedule 17, page 351, line 34, at end insert—
“(1) In Schedule 21 to the Crime and Courts Act 2013 (powers of immigration officers), Part 2 (modification of applied enactments) is amended as follows.(2) In paragraph 41, for “Paragraphs 42 and 43” substitute “Paragraphs 42 to 43”.(3) After paragraph 42 insert—“42A(1) This paragraph has effect in relation to the application of section 137C of the 1994 Act where a person is arrested under section 137A by an immigration officer in respect of a specified offence that is being investigated by an immigration officer._(2) Subsection (2)(b) is to be read as if (instead of requiring the detention to be authorised by both an officer of at least the rank of inspector in the arresting force and an officer of at least the rank of inspector in the investigating force) it required the detention to be authorised by an immigration officer of at least the grade equivalent to the rank of inspector._(3) Subsection (2)(c) is to be read as if (instead of requiring the detention to be authorised by both an officer of a rank above that of inspector in the arresting force and an officer of a rank above that of inspector in the investigating force) it required the detention to be authorised by an immigration officer of a grade above that equivalent to the rank of inspector._(4) Subsection (3) is omitted._(5) In subsections (4) and (5), the reference to an officer of the investigating force is to be read as a reference to an officer of Revenue and Customs._(6) In subsection (6), the reference to an appropriate officer in the investigating force is to be read as a reference to an appropriate immigration officer (as defined by subsection (7))._(7) Subsection (6)(a) is omitted._(8) In subsection (7)—(a) in paragraph (b), the reference to an officer of at least the rank of inspector is a reference to an immigration officer of at least the equivalent grade; (b) in paragraph (c), the reference to an officer of a rank above that of inspector is to be read as a reference to an immigration officer of above the equivalent grade._(9) Subsections (8) to (10) are omitted.42B(1) Where section 137C applies in accordance with paragraph 42A, Schedule 7B applies with the following modifications._(2) Any reference to a constable in the arresting force is to be read as a reference to an immigration officer._(3) Any reference to an officer of at least, or above, the rank of inspector in the investigating force is to be read as a reference to an immigration officer who is at least, or above, the equivalent grade._(4) Any reference to the arresting force or to the investigating force (otherwise than in relation to a description of officer in the force) is to be read as a reference to immigration officers._(5) Instead of the modification made by paragraph 9, section 42 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 is to be read as if the references in subsections (1)(c)(ii) and (3)(b) to the police were references to immigration officers.42C(1) This paragraph has effect in relation to the application of section 137C of the 1994 Act where a person is arrested under section 137A by an immigration officer in respect of a specified offence other than one that is being investigated by an immigration officer._(2) Any reference to an officer of at least, or above, the rank of inspector in the arresting force is to be read as a reference to an immigration officer of at least, or above, the equivalent grade._(3) The reference in subsection (6)(a) to the arresting force is to be read as a reference to any immigration officer.42D(1) Where section 137C applies in accordance with paragraph 42C, Schedule 7B applies with the following modifications._(2) Any reference to a constable in the arresting force is to be read as a reference to an immigration officer._(3) Any reference to the arresting force (otherwise than in relation to a description of officer in the force) is to be read as a reference to immigration officers._(4) Instead of the modification made by paragraph 9, section 42 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 is to be read as if the references in subsections (1)(c)(ii) and (3)(b) to the police were references to immigration officers.””
Amendments 151 to 155 agreed.
156: After Clause 109, insert the following new Clause—
“Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime as member of local authority
(1) Section 1 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 (disqualification and political restriction of certain local authority officers and staff) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (9) (references to a person holding a politically restricted post under a local authority include every member of the staff of an elected local policing body) omit “, except for a deputy police and crime commissioner”. (3) After that subsection insert—“(10) The reference in subsection (9) to every member of the staff of an elected local policing body does not include a deputy police and crime commissioner.(11) For the purposes of subsection (1) only, the reference in subsection (9) to every member of the staff of an elected local policing body does not include the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime appointed under section 19(1)(a) of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011.””
Amendment 156 agreed.
157: After Clause 110, insert the following new Clause—
“Police and crime commissioners: parity of funding at inquests
(1) Where the police force for which a police and crime commissioner is responsible is an interested person for the purposes of an inquest into—(a) the death of a member of an individual family, or(b) the deaths of members of a group of families,under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, the commissioner has the duties set out in this section.(2) The police and crime commissioner must make recommendations to the Secretary of State as to whether the individual family or the group of families at the inquest require financial support to ensure parity of legal representation between parties to the inquest.(3) If a police and crime commissioner makes a recommendation for financial support under subsection (2), then the Secretary of State must provide financial assistance to the individual family or the group of families to ensure parity of funding between the individual family or the group of families and the other party to the inquest.(4) The individual family or the group of families may use funding authorised under this section solely for the purpose of funding legal representation at the inquest.(5) In this section, “interested person” has the same meaning as in section 47 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.”
My Lords, the purpose of this amendment and its associated new clause is to establish the principle of parity of legal funding for bereaved families at inquests involving the police. Of course, we debated this in Committee.
The lack of such funding and the associated injustice was highlighted by the somewhat sorry saga of the Hillsborough hearings, and the extent to which the scales were weighted against the families of those who had lost their lives. Publicity was given to the issue because of the high-profile nature of the Hillsborough tragedy and the steps that were taken in its aftermath to pin the blame for what had happened on supporters at the game, perhaps in an attempt to cover up where responsibility really lay, and which emerged only years later.
The other week, according to the media, the coroner dealing with the first pre-inquest hearing into the 21 victims of the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings backed applications for their bereaved families to get legal funding for proper representation. He commended the application, said he did not have the power to authorise funds and commented that for those families who wanted to be legally represented, there was a compelling case for proper legal representation. However, inquests at which the police are legally represented are not confined to major tragedies such as Hillsborough; numerically, they are more likely to cover the death of a member of an individual family.
Many bereaved families can find themselves in an adversarial and aggressive environment when they go to an inquest. They are not in a position to match the spending of the police or other parts of the public sector when it comes to their own legal representation. Bereaved families have to try, if possible, to find their own money to have any sort of legal representation. Public money should pay to establish the truth. It is surely not right, and surely not justice, when bereaved families trying to find out the truth—and who have done nothing wrong—find that taxpayers’ money is used by the other side, sometimes to paint a very different picture of events in a bid to destroy their credibility.
In the case of Hillsborough, the Lord Chief Justice made a specific ruling when he quashed the original inquest. He said he hoped that given that the police had tainted the evidence, the new inquest would not degenerate into an adversarial battle. However, that is precisely what happened. If there is to continue to be an adversarial battle at inquests involving the police, we should at least ensure that bereaved families have the same ability as the public sector to get their points and questions across—and frankly, in the light of what can currently happen, to defend themselves and their lost loved ones from attack and, if necessary, to challenge the very way in which proceedings are conducted. This is a bigger issue than simply Hillsborough, since it relates to the situation that all too often happens to many families but without the same publicity as Hillsborough.
In response in Committee, the Government accepted that all would sympathise with the intention of the amendment. They went on to say that the former Home Secretary had commissioned Bishop James Jones to compile a report on the experiences of the Hillsborough families, and that we should wait for his report before considering the issues further. Clearly, the coroner at the pre-inquest hearing into the 21 victims of the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings did not feel it necessary to wait for the Jones report before expressing his views on the application for funding for proper legal representation.
The Government were asked in Committee for clarity on the scope and terms of reference of Bishop Jones’s inquiry and whether it would look not only at the circumstances where large numbers of families are potentially involved but at situations where one bereaved family may be traumatised by what has happened to the victim, and faces the full panoply of legal representation by a police force that is an interested person for the purposes of an inquest into the death of a member of an individual family. The Government replied that they would see and respond to Bishop Jones’s review in due course, but added that he was still considering the terms of reference for his Hillsborough review with the families and intended to publish them shortly. That suggests that the outcome of the review is some way away and will be much orientated to Hillsborough, rather than to the issue of funding at inquests generally where the police are represented.
In Committee, the Government also said that the amendment would place a significant financial burden on the Secretary of State. That may not necessarily be the case since the requirement for parity of funding, where the police are represented at taxpayers’ expense, may lead to a harder look at the level and extent of representation required by a police force at an inquest, or indeed whether in some cases such legal representation is really needed at all. In any case, the lack of the terms of this amendment did not prevent the significant amount of funding that finally had to be provided in relation to Hillsborough—which I think the Government said amounted to £63.6 million. So even without this amendment, because of the way in which the situation was handled, that was apparently the amount that they ended up paying out.
The Government also raised what they themselves described as technical issues with the amendment, but accepted that those were detailed points and secondary—an acknowledgement, I suggest, that they could be addressed if necessary. We surely do not need further delay for the outcome of an inquiry where the terms of reference have apparently not even been finalised, where there is little likelihood of a speedy report and where the Government’s commitment is only to consider the review in due course. Despite the Government saying in Committee that all would sympathise with the intention of the amendment, there is no commitment even in principle to address the issue of inequality in funding for bereaved families at any time, yet alone within a credible and realistic timescale that shows that this is a matter of some priority. I suggest that we need to act now to change a process and procedure that appears at times to be geared more to trying to grind down bereaved families than to enabling them to get at the truth and obtain a feeling that justice has been done. I beg to move.
My Lords, I regret to say that I cannot support this proposed new clause, although I have a great deal of sympathy with the thinking behind it. I am quite sure that we should move to a situation where, in appropriate cases, there could be parity of funding. Where I differ from the noble Lord is in the suggestion in the proposed new clause that it should be the police commissioner who makes the recommendation. In my view, it should be the coroner. The truth is that we are dealing with a judicial process, and clearly some people will want to be represented, but whether or not what they have to contribute is relevant is something that only the person in charge of the judicial process can really determine, and that is the coroner. He alone can have a clear view of the issues and the relevance of the participation of the relevant parties. Also, we are really in the process of people making applications for funding that may themselves be resisted. There has to be a process whereby those submissions can be determined. It seems to me that that has to be the coroner.
I point out just two other considerations. I can conceive of circumstances in inquests where the police commissioner has a conflict of interest—either that he or she may be the subject of criticism in the course of the inquest, or that he or she might seek to take regulatory action against chief officers as a result of the inquest. That is a potential conflict of interest that we need to reflect upon.
Lastly, we need to entrust this process to an independent figure. The elected police commissioner is not an independent judicial figure; indeed, as he or she comes to the end of their elected term they may have every sort of personal reason to bump large wads of cash to people coming along to apply for it. It is not a happy situation. If the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, were to come forward with a proposal to the effect that the coroner should be in a position to make these recommendations, I would be happy to support it subject to any contrary argument. But as to the proposal that the police commissioner should trigger the recommendation, I absolutely cannot support it.
I support the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, on that point. However, given that this is Report, I ask the Minister to bring back a government amendment that says that it is the coroner. We should not lose this opportunity. I support the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, in saying that we ought to have a process in which there is an equality of arms between the two sides. As I understand it, however—I stand to be corrected—the House can do that only if the Government bring forward an amendment on Third Reading which says what the noble Lord’s amendment does, but that it is not the police and crime commissioner; it is the coroner. I completely agree.
My Lords, I can be very brief and agree entirely with the last two speakers. The sentiment behind the amendment is admirable, but the way it plays out needs regulation. I too strongly support the Government taking this away and bringing it back with the coroner in pride of place.
My Lords, I support the amendment tabled by my noble friend. I speak as a scientist. I tabled a Question some eight or nine years ago about when there are scientific questions in a legal case and lots of money is spent by the Crown on some prosecution and little or zero money is available for the defence. It would be more appropriate, as in many civil cases, to have some sharing between the two sides of the nature of the scientific study and the interpretation of the data. When that does not happen—for example, it did not in the case of R v Sion Jenkins—you get serious miscarriages of justice and lots of money being spent: £10 million, I think, in that case. This amendment is very important.
My Lords, many years ago the “Marchioness” inquiry had to have a second coroner’s inquest. The parents of the people who had sadly lost their lives came to me and asked for legal aid, because there was no legal aid generally speaking in that situation. It was possible for me to authorise a fixed payment. In other words, I would decide how long their matter should last. Having had regard to the submissions made, I was able to fix an amount that defrayed the cost of the second inquest for the parents, which was extremely satisfactory.
A police force may be an interested party without being represented, but where it is represented, money should be available to the people affected on the other side. I agree that a judicial officer should decide that. The obvious judicial officer in this case is the coroner, who is already fixed with the ideas and matters likely to be litigated in the inquest. Therefore, if the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, was to go for the coroner instead of the elected police commissioner, that would be worth putting on the statute book now, subject to any argument we may yet hear from the Government. It is true that a considerable inquiry is already initiated, but it is primarily related to what happened at Hillsborough, which was a very special case. This is a much more general proposition. There is a good deal to be said for it. If the police want to save public money they should reduce their representation.
My Lords, I support the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, taking into account the contributions that have subsequently been made. I will reinforce some of the points I made in Committee and some of the points the noble Lord made.
Hillsborough was not unique. A more recent case I was a participant in was the inquest of Jean Charles de Menezes. Noble Lords will remember that Jean Charles de Menezes was accidentally killed by armed officers in 2005, having wrongly been identified as one of the suspects who had attempted to carry out a suicide bombing. I gave evidence for the family. I experienced first-hand the tactics deployed by some police counsel at inquests—a search for the truth turns into a bruising adversarial encounter. As I said in Committee, the coroner had to warn the police counsel over the aggressive tactics he was using in cross-examination.
As far as the family of the deceased is concerned, I do not believe there can be any argument. It cannot be right that the police can employ as large and as eminent a legal team as their considerable budgets will allow to represent them while the families of those who die at the hands of the police struggle to raise the funds to be represented at all, nor should it fall to public interest lawyers to have to provide pro bono representation. If the Government are looking for a low-cost or no-cost option, perhaps the police could be forced to divide whatever budget they decide to deploy at an inquest equally with the family of the deceased. Any death at the hands of the police is a tragedy, and it is as important for the police as it is for the family to ensure that the true facts emerge in order to reassure the public that the police have acted fairly and reasonably and to enable the police to counter those with a political agenda, who often accuse them of a cover-up and of having given a misleading account of what happened. Spending public money on establishing beyond doubt what happened when someone died at the hands of the police is worth every penny, and I believe the police themselves should fund both legal teams to the same extent.
I accept what the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, said about the issues with this amendment, and I accept what the noble Lords, Lord Blair of Boughton and Lord Dear, have said on this issue. Having served in your Lordships’ House for only three years, I do not know whether I should dare say that my understanding is that, as we are on Report, it is only the Government who could bring forward an alternative amendment at Third Reading. If we are, as we should be, trying to establish the principle of equality of arms in an inquest situation, if this is the only amendment we can divide on and if the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, decides to divide the House, we will support him.
My Lords, I do not doubt the sincerity of the intentions behind this amendment. The new clause comes directly from the experiences of the Hillsborough families, and anyone who has heard of their long fight for justice cannot fail to be moved. I entirely accept, however, that the issue raised by the amendment is of general application.
As noble Lords will be aware from the debate in Committee, the Government’s position on this amendment is that we should wait for the report commissioned from Bishop James Jones on the experiences of the Hillsborough families. In commissioning the work, the then Home Secretary asked Bishop Jones,
“to ensure that the full perspective of those most affected by the Hillsborough disaster is not lost”.—[Official Report, Commons, 27/4/16; col. 1436.]
The families will have numerous experiences, including views on legal representation, and this will be reflected in Bishop Jones’s report, which he aims to publish next spring.
I entirely accept noble Lords’ points about the coroner, and we will bring them to the attention of Bishop Jones, but I reiterate that it is appropriate that the Government have the opportunity to consider his conclusions and recommendations fully before deciding what action to take. It would therefore be premature to proceed with the amendment at this stage.
It must be right that any consideration of this amendment takes account of the financial implications. The cost of the legal representation for the 103 Hillsborough families at the fresh inquests amounted to £63.6 million. Clearly, the Hillsborough inquests were an exceptional case, but they provide at least an indication of the level of financial commitment such an amendment could imply. While it is the case that the Hillsborough families received public funding for their legal costs at the fresh inquest, it was a bespoke scheme, instituted due to the exceptional nature of the events that took place 27 years ago.
Recognising the exceptional nature of the Hillsborough inquests, it is also right that we look at other data. We cannot say for certain in how many inquests the police are named as an interested person. However, we know from the Independent Police Complaints Commission report Deaths During or Following Police Contact: Statistics for England and Wales 2015/16 that in the last financial year, 200 persons died following contact with the police. All of those deaths would have been subject to an inquest. Of course, the financial implications of this amendment are but one of the matters noble Lords will wish to take into consideration, but we cannot be blind to the impact on the public purse.
However, I come back to my core objection to this amendment: that this is neither the time nor the place to pursue this matter. As I have said, the Government are firmly of the view that we should wait for Bishop Jones’s report and then determine, in the light of that, the most appropriate way forward. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, will accept that this is the proper way to proceed and agree—
Before the Minister sits down, I would like to be quite clear. Is she rejecting the wise advice from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern? Is she saying that this is not a point of principle but a point of public expenditure?
I am not disagreeing with anything that noble Lords have said. I have said that, in the light of the review by Bishop Jones, this is not the time to press the amendment. I hope, on that note, that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.
I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate and will just make one or two comments on what the Minister had to say in reply. What is recorded in Hansard is that,
“the former Home Secretary commissioned Bishop James Jones to compile a report on the experiences of the Hillsborough families”.
It does not say there that he has been asked to compile a report on the much wider issue raised in this amendment. As far as the timescale is concerned, I can only repeat what the Government said in Committee not so long ago, on 2 November, which is that Bishop Jones has only reached the stage where:
“He is considering the terms of reference for his review with the families”—
presumably the Hillsborough families—
“and intends to publish them shortly”.
He must be some way from that, if it is going to be a detailed report looking at the situation as a whole, rather than just the Hillsborough situation. Certainly, if there is a suggestion that he is going to publish something within a very few months, it would suggest very much that it is going to be concentrated on what happened at Hillsborough and the experience of the Hillsborough families, and not on the much wider issue covered in this amendment of representation for bereaved families at inquests generally where the police are legally represented. The issue of costs has been raised by the Government, which must raise some further doubts. I refer again to what the Government said on 2 November, which is that the Government wish to,
“put on record that these amendments would place a significant financial burden on the Secretary of State … The cost of the legal representation for the 103 families at the fresh inquest into Hillsborough amounted to £63.6 million”.—[Official Report, 2/11/16; cols. 757-59.]
The Government incurred that cost without the terms of this amendment being in operation. But it is quite clear that cost is a major consideration as far as the Government are concerned, rather than the fundamental issue of principle—parity of funding—which is addressed in the amendment. We also of course have not had any commitment from the Government in principle to what is in this amendment, and there is a reference as well to it being considered in due course.
I will come on to the comments that were made. Because there has been no indication that we can bring this back at Third Reading, I believe that we are no longer in a position where we can come back then with an amendment to our amendment. But if the issue is that this should be decided by a coroner or through some sort of judicial decision, rather than by the police and crime commissioner, and if the Government were prepared to give a commitment to bring along an amendment of that nature, I am quite sure that we would support it. The issue for us is not whether it is the police and crime commissioner making the recommendation. The gut issue here is parity of support for bereaved families at inquests where the police are legally represented. Since I do not think I have had a sufficient response from the Government, I beg leave—
Before the noble Lord sits down, I draw attention to the fact that if in due course this amendment were passed in a form that specified the coroner, there would still be the question of the date on which it would come into force. It would certainly be possible for the Government, if they thought it right, to wait for Bishop Jones’s report before bringing it into force. On the other hand, as we know, there are occasions on which, if the Government think they have good reason, they sometimes do not bring things that they have an option to postpone into effect at all. So it would certainly be possible to make it clear that that is what could happen here.
I hope the Government will agree that the noble Lord can bring this back without agreeing a commitment as to what should happen. It would be extremely wise for this House to have the chance to consider the amendment with the coroner in instead of the police and crime commissioner, and I hope my noble friend’s discretion is sufficient to allow her to say that the Government would not object to the amendment being brought back. Ultimately it is the House rather than any party that decides whether or not an amendment can be brought back, but I hope we would not need to go into that kind of procedure here if the Government were kind enough to say that if the amendment came forward in the shape that I am suggesting, and which the noble Lord has made clear he would be happy with, it could be considered. That would not mean a commitment by the Government to accept such an amendment, but at least it could be considered at Third Reading.
I can only invite the Minister to say whether the Government will indicate that they accept that I can bring this matter back at Third Reading. Having heard the views of the House, I would certainly wish to do so in the kind of terms that the House has indicated might make the amendment more acceptable. But I do not think I can do that if I am not going to get any indication from the Minister that the Government will accept that I can bring it back at Third Reading. I think I am seeing her shake her head, which I take it means that the Government will not accept it and indeed are not prepared to say anything that would enable me to bring it back. I believe that I have understood the Minister correctly, and in the light of that I really have no option but to seek to test the opinion of the House.
Amendment 158 not moved.
Clause 111: Firearms Act 1968: meaning of “firearm” etc.
159: Clause 111, page 132, line 22, leave out from “description” to end of line 24 and insert “which—
(a) is designed to discharge only a small plastic missile (whether or not it is also capable of discharging any other kind of missile), and(b) is not capable of discharging a missile (of any kind) with kinetic energy at the muzzle of the weapon that exceeds the permitted level.”
My Lords, the government amendments in this group seek to improve the provisions in Part 6 of the Bill relating to firearms. Amendments 159 to 162 make four improvements to the definition of airsoft weapons, which are non-lethal and pose a low risk to public safety. These weapons are legitimately used to discharge pellets manufactured with plastics and are considered as safe for mock skirmishing activities. Amendment 159 responds to concerns raised with us that the current definition is too restrictive and has no realistic prospect of applying to many airsoft weapons, because those weapons could be used to discharge missiles other than these pellets. It amends the definition to refer to the original design of the weapon to discharge only a small plastic missile as defined in the exemption. However, as the then Firearms Consultative Committee found in 2002, airsoft darts, which have higher penetrative qualities, pose a higher risk of causing serious injury than pellets discharged at the same kinetic energy level. Amendment 160 sets out that only weapons designed to discharge small spherical plastic missiles will be considered to be airsoft weapons.
The amendments also take account of new evidence from forensic tests undertaken during the summer on the lethality of airsoft weapons which were used to discharge pellets of up to 8 millimetres in diameter at the maximum permitted kinetic energy levels. Amendment 161 therefore increases the maximum allowable diameter from the current maximum of 6 millimetres to 8 millimetres, in line with the forensic evidence. Amendment 162 makes a technical amendment to the definition of automatic fire airsoft weapons in relation to the permitted kinetic energy level of such weapons, to be consistent with Amendment 159. The Government are committed to legislation that has a proportionate impact. These amendments will allow legitimate businesses in the airsoft industry to continue operating while setting clear standards of compliance required to protect public safety.
Amendments 163 to 165 to Clause 112 amend the definition of an antique firearm in order to cover air weapons as well as weapons that use an ignition system. As currently drafted, the clause confers a new regulation-making power to specify antique firearms by reference to the obsolete cartridge that they are chambered to discharge, or their ignition system. The intention is to place existing guidance on antique firearms on a statutory footing to clarify the law on antique firearms and prevent abuse by criminals. Currently, it is not possible to include air weapons within the definition of an antique firearm as they do not have an ignition system.
Amendments 163 and 165 will ensure that the definition can cover any type of firearm by reference to its propulsion system which, technically, can apply to air weapons as well as ignition firearms. Amendment 164 limits this extension of the definition to England and Wales only, given that the regulation of air weapons is a devolved matter in Scotland.
I hope that Amendments 166 and 167 address the legitimate concern raised by my noble friend Lord Attlee in Committee about the potential impact of EU deactivation standards for deactivated weapons on collectors and the film industry, and the need for the UK to be able to retain more robust controls.
Clause 114 amends the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 to make it an offence to make a “defectively deactivated” weapon available for sale or as a gift, or to sell such a weapon or to give it as a gift, other than to a person or persons who are outside the European Union. This gives effect to the European Commission implementing regulation on deactivation standards, which came into force on 8 April 2016 to set the standard for deactivating firearms across the European Union. As currently drafted, the clause retains the link to the EU standards in primary legislation. Amendments 166 and 167 remove this and instead provide for the standards to be specified by the Secretary of State. While we remain members of the EU we are required to abide by the EU standards, but these amendments provide the flexibility to set our own higher standards in the future.
In these circumstances, the Government recognise that it would be inappropriate for our museums to be subject to the new offence when transferring or receiving firearms deactivated to previous standards. It is not our intention for museums licensed to hold firearms to incur additional costs in relation to already deactivated weapons to comply with new deactivation standards which are not directed at them. The risk that museums may have to destroy weapons which are part of our cultural heritage would be an unacceptable result of these provisions. Amendments 168 and 169 therefore provide for the exemption of museums licensed by the Home Office in relation to firearms to be able to transfer or receive weapons which were deactivated to UK standards before the EU directive came into force and until the Secretary of State sets new standards.
Amendment 169A responds to an amendment tabled by Geoffrey Clifton-Brown at Commons Report stage. It amends the law relating to the legitimate practice of lending and borrowing a rifle or shotgun for the purposes of hunting animals, shooting game or vermin, and shooting at artificial targets on private premises. Current legislation permits a firearm certificate holder to lend a rifle or shotgun to a non-certificate holder only if the occupier—or, where the relevant firearm is a rifle, the occupier’s servant—is present on private land of which they are the occupier. The amendment allows a certificate holder to lend a firearm or shotgun on private premises, where they have the permission, in writing, of a person with the right to invite guests on to the premises for the purposes that I have already referred to. The effect of this amendment is that both certificate holders with the right to invite guests on to premises for shooting purposes, and other certificate holders with the written authorisation of such a person, will be able to lend a firearm to a non-certificate holder. The certificate holder providing the written authorisation will be able to set restrictions on either the lending certificate holder or the borrower if they wish.
Finally, Amendments 170 and 171 extend the application of the offence of possession of pyrotechnic articles at live music events to Wales as well as England. This follows consultation with the Welsh Government, who agree that this new offence does not relate to devolved matters.
There is also Amendment 169B in this group, but I will wait to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has to say before responding. In the meantime, I beg to move.
My Lords, I support these amendments, and I am particularly grateful for Amendments 166 to 169 and for the Minister’s explanation. The Minister has done everything she possibly can to meet my concerns. Unfortunately, however, she has to react to EU legislation, and the current regime will still have serious effects on collectors and businesses. But there is nothing we can do about it—it is a matter for the EU. In Committee I mentioned the Minister’s excellent officials, and I hope that she will encourage them to engage at EU level to try to get the EU to see that it ought to adopt our system of deactivation, which has worked so well for so many years. However, I am grateful to the Minister.
My Lords, I too thank the Minister for introducing Amendment 169A on the lending of a firearm by someone who has a certificate. I am well aware that this has caused a great deal of confusion and uncertainty, and I very much hope that this clear amendment will receive publicity in both the farming and the sporting press, which will mean that that confusion goes. I declare an interest as president of the Countryside Alliance.
Before speaking to my Amendment 169B, I would like further clarification of government Amendment 169A and the extent to which the provisions are new or simply reiterate the existing position. I am grateful for the Minister’s letter to me of 6 December, but the fact that I raise further points indicates that I do not necessarily feel that I have found the answers within that letter. I make these points simply to ascertain the answers to the questions I raise, nothing more than that.
On the face of it, this amendment appears to say that it is acceptable for a 17 year-old who does not hold a certificate to borrow a rifle or a shotgun on private premises from a lender who is aged 18 and may have had a certificate under the Act for presumably a very short period of time. It will be helpful to know if that is an accurate interpretation or whether it shows a misunderstanding on my part. If it is basically correct, what checks have to be carried out on the 17 year-old—or on any other person—to make sure that they are a suitable person to borrow a rifle or a shotgun when they themselves do not hold a certificate under the Act? How will it be known whether they have, for example, a criminal record containing offences of violence or even illegal possession of a weapon? What check will there be on that, and who will undertake it before such a person is allowed to borrow a weapon? Will it be acceptable for a person with a criminal record to be able to borrow a rifle or a shotgun under the terms of this amendment or is that precluded anyway under the lender’s certificate, to which reference is made in the amendment?
The amendment states that the borrower must be in the presence of the lender during the period for which the rifle or shotgun is borrowed. As a serious question, is that literally the case, including—to put it bluntly—if they want to go to the toilet? Does,
“in the presence of the lender”,
mean that the borrower must at all times be within the sight of the lender? What will be the penalties if a rifle or shotgun is lent and the conditions referred to in the amendment are not adhered to, and if those conditions are breached, is there any statutory requirement to report such a breach to the police or any other authority?
I would be grateful for responses to those questions, and if they cannot be provided today, obviously it will be perfectly acceptable for them to be given in correspondence subsequently. It may be that I have so misunderstood the situation that there is a one-sentence answer to the points I have raised anyway.
On my amendment, which we discussed in Committee, the issue we raised was that the cost to the police of firearms licencing was much greater than the income coming in from the licence, which effectively meant that the issuing of such licences was being subsidised. The Government spoke in terms of being able to look at this issue following the introduction of the police’s online system for handling applications for civilian firearm and shotgun certificates. In Committee, I asked when the online system would be introduced, whether it would lead to the police recovering the full costs of their role in administering applications and whether the fees would be increased in the interim to cover the costs now being incurred. The Minister very kindly undertook to write to me and I thank her for the letter which I subsequently received. The letter states that the fees have now been set at a level that will enable the police to recover the costs of firearms licensing once an online system is in place. Therefore, I ask the Minister to confirm for the record in Hansard that, once the online system is in place, there will be no further subsidising by the taxpayer of the cost to the police of firearms licensing and that the fees will be set at a level that will enable the police to recover the full costs of their role in administering applications.
However, the difficulty with the letter is that it was somewhat vague on when the new online system would be introduced. In fact, no date or timescale was given; rather, there were references to producing an outline programme plan, including key deliverables and a cost estimate. I therefore ask again: when will the new online system be in operation?
The letter then went on to talk about the interim period and referred to planning to commence a review in the new year to consider the level of the fees and the progress of the implementation of online licensing. It did not say when the fees would be increased in the interim to make sure that existing costs incurred in handling applications for civilian firearm and shotgun certifications are fully covered and that there is no subsidising by the taxpayer of this activity.
As it is clear that the online system is some way away from being introduced, I therefore ask again when the Government are going to increase the fee for civilian firearm and shotgun certificates in the interim period, prior to the introduction of the online system, to a level that enables the police to recover the full costs of their role in administering applications and eliminates any apparent subsidy from the taxpayer. What is the problem with eliminating that subsidy now, and what is the justification for continuing with the apparent subsidy? Surely the answer is that there is none.
My Lords, I would like to make a declaration of interest, in that I hold a shotgun certificate and a firearm certificate, and to that extent I may be supposed to have a personal interest. Moreover, I have a declaration of personal responsibility to make too, in that after the Hungerford shooting way back at the end of the 1980s I was the Minister in the Home Office—subject, of course, to Douglas Hurd, now Lord Hurd of Westwell—responsible for the carriage of the firearms Act in 1988. I also have a long-standing interest in the law relating to firearms.
I am broadly in favour of Amendment 169A. Indeed, it is a response to my former Parliamentary Private Secretary, Mr Geoffrey Clifton-Brown—and all credit to him for tabling it in the House of Commons. However, I have one reservation about proposed new subsection (1)(b) in the amendment, which states,
“in the case of a rifle, the borrower is aged 17 or over”.
Contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said, I think that that threshold is far too high. I look back to my youth when I used to use a .22 carbine, shooting on the lawn under the very close supervision of my father, who was, I think, a fairly respectable Member of this House. We felt that there was nothing improper about that so long as the supervision was close. I think that the age 17 threshold is too high. Personally, I would rather see a lower one—14 or something close to it. I agree that there should be supervision but I do not agree with the threshold.
I am very much against Amendment 169B, which concerns the full recovery of costs. I think we need to keep in mind the basic proposition that if you give powers to officials, on occasion they will be abused. That is one of the great rules of politics. Therefore, one needs to watch very carefully the powers you give officials.
In Lincolnshire, the chief officer pursues a sensible firearms policy. However, I am conscious that there are forces not too distant from Lincolnshire in which the firearms officers are fairly aggressive, driving up the cost. You should have a restriction of the reasonable cost, not the full cost, because it is possible for chief officers and firearms officers, through an overaggressive use of their investigatory and inspection powers, to drive the cost up, either because they want to deter firearms use or simply because they have a fairly aggressive approach. Therefore, my strong preference is that the limit be confined to a reasonable cost and not the full cost.
In acknowledging my own failings in 1987, I will go a little wider. There are three areas relating to the possession of firearms to which I hope my noble friend will give consideration in the future—or perhaps even in this Bill. First, what happens when your guest leaves by accident his or her gun in your house? This has happened to me. One of my guests, a Member of your Lordships’ House, was shooting with me in Scotland and he managed to leave his shotgun accidently when he went a long way south, 200 or 300 miles away. The gun was in the gun cabinet and perfectly locked up, but the estate owner was not certificated to hold it. I asked myself whether I should take it down to him. I was not certificated to transport it. What does one do? I am not going to tell you what I did for obvious enforcement reasons, but it is a dilemma. What is the law where a gun is accidently left behind but is secure in a gun case? We need to have provision to cover such a situation.
Secondly, and rather similarly, if you go shooting some distance from your home you take your gun in the car. You travel along the motorway—no doubt with your wife or your partner—and when you stop at a service station, for obvious reasons, you leave your gun, generally speaking, in the car, with your wife in the car looking after it. However, in the normal run of events, she is not certificated. In my case I have taken precautions in that regard, but your wife or partner in the car is in possession of a gun for which she is not certificated. That is potentially an offence.
My final point—I am sorry to trespass on your Lordships’ patience—relates to the keys of gun cases. Some of your Lordships may know of the unfortunate case where a lady admitted to a police officer that she knew where the keys to the gun case were, and she was done for being in possession of the gun. That is a complete nonsense. I did not tackle these problems when I was the Minister in charge of this issue, but I like to think that my noble friend will be more sensible than I was.
In the old days, enforcement of gun laws was fairly relaxed. The chief officer would know that so and so was a reliable citizen. However, that is not the case now—probably rightly—and what I have described can give rise to serious sanctions and penalties. That alarms me. I like to think that my noble friend on the Front Bench will reflect on my shortcomings as the Minister responsible for the 1987 Act and perhaps remedy the deficiencies.
My Lords, I support Amendment 169B in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Kennedy of Southwark.
I accept the point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, about reasonable cost as opposed to full cost recovery—or, at least, I could accept it if it was an approach the Government took across the board. However, in Committee I drew a parallel with the Immigration Act, where the Government proposed a philosophy of full cost recovery for visa applications and for the Immigration Service generally. I asked the Minister then, if she was not going to agree with amendments tabled to ensure full cost recovery for the issuing of firearm certificates, to explain why a different approach is being taken to the principle of full cost recovery when it comes to immigration. In particular, I asked her to refute the obvious allegation that the Government are discriminating against foreign nationals as against those who go hunting with guns for sport. I cannot recall the Minister specifically responding to that question; perhaps she could address it today.
Having apparently agreed in Committee to the principle of full cost recovery for firearms certificates, the Minister went on to say that there was a public consultation on these issues and that,
“there might be good reasons not to set fees at full cost recovery levels, either for a transitional period or for certain categories of licence holder”.—[Official Report, 9/11/16; col. 1163.]
There are very good reasons why visa applications and the like should not be set at full cost recovery levels, yet the Government appear determined that they should be, without any public consultation or a transitional period. Can the Minister explain why foreign nationals are being treated differently from those who possess firearms?
I asked the Minister in Committee what consultation there had been with groups that represent immigrants or those who might apply for visas before the Government implemented full cost recovery for immigration visas. Can the Minister please answer that question for the record, as she was unable to do so in Committee?
My Lords, perhaps I may first deal with some of the questions that have arisen out of Amendment 169A. Both the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and my noble friend Lord Hailsham asked about the age threshold of 17—the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, probably thought that it was too low and the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, thought it too high. The age of 17 or over for borrowing rifles reflects the current position under Section 16 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988—which the noble Viscount may have taken through Parliament himself.
The noble Viscount asked about firearms accidentally left in someone’s house. I understood that if you held a firearms licence yourself, it was okay for someone to leave something in your house, but I am not certain on that point so I will write to him.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked whether the provisions were new. The answer is both yes and no, because they amend current legislation. After careful consideration, we have decided to clarify and align the existing provisions for the borrowing of a rifle or shotgun to practise the hunting of animals and the shooting of game or vermin on private land. He also asked whether individuals with a qualifying criminal record are prohibited from possessing a firearm under Section 21 of the 1968 Act. It is for the lender to satisfy himself or herself that a borrower does not have a relevant criminal record when he or she is lending them a firearm.
The lender would have to be present. If the borrower needed to go to the toilet, for example, they would have to leave the certificate-holder with the weapon while they went to the loo.
I will just respond to Amendment 169B from the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. The Government agreed that fees for firearm certificates should be set on a cost recovery basis. I am happy to confirm, as I did in my letter to the noble Lord, that the cost of these certificates is expected to reflect the full cost of licensing once a new, more cost-effective online licensing system is in place. We already increased the fees for civilian firearm certificates in line with this objective, and Clause 117 allows us to set fees for licences issued by the Home Office and the Scottish Government. As I think I said in Committee, this will save the taxpayer around £700,000 a year.
As I also think I said in Committee, work is under way on the new system, managed by the police ICT company in conjunction with police forces. I recognise that the noble Lord would like greater certainty about when the new online system will be in place and what will happen in the interim. I share his frustration regarding the progress made with the development of the online licensing system. Accordingly, the Policing Minister will write to the national policing lead for firearms for an update on progress.
However, I am able to offer greater clarity on the timing of the next review of police firearms fees, which will commence in the new year and consider both the levels of fees and the progress made in implementing online licensing. In addition, we will review the current firearms licensing IT system to ensure that it continues to meet the operational needs of policing until a new capability is delivered. I will keep the noble Lord—and other noble Lords—updated as this work progresses.
To answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, the Government’s position is that all fees should be set on the basis of full cost recovery, as set out in Treasury guidance. There is therefore no discrimination against any particular category of fee payers. I hope with those words of explanation—
My noble friend was good enough to say she would write to me and I am grateful. Would she include in her letter a response on what I would summarise as the service station point, and the point about when one’s wife or partner knows the whereabouts of the key to the gun safe?
I certainly will. I would be very careful before going to my noble friend’s house, given the guns and their placement in various cars and things. I hope Viscountess Hailsham will be careful, too. I will certainly write to my noble friend on all those points.
Amendment 159 agreed.
Amendments 160 to 162
160: Clause 111, page 132, line 26, at end insert—
“(aa) is spherical, and”
161: Clause 111, page 132, line 27, leave out “6” and insert “8”
162: Clause 111, page 132, line 29, leave out from “which” to “successively” in line 30 and insert “is capable of discharging two or more missiles”
Amendments 160 to 162 agreed.
Clause 112: Firearms Act 1968: meaning of “antique firearm”
Amendments 163 to 165
163: Clause 112, page 133, line 25, leave out “ignition” and insert “propulsion”
164: Clause 112, page 133, line 35, at end insert—
“(2DA) In its application to Scotland, subsection (2C) does not apply in relation to a firearm that is an air weapon.”
165: Clause 112, page 133, line 45, leave out “ignition” and insert “propulsion”
Amendments 163 to 165 agreed.
Clause 114: Controls on defectively deactivated weapons
Amendments 166 to 169
166: Clause 114, page 135, leave out line 35 and insert “technical specifications for the deactivation of the weapon that apply at the time when the weapon is made available for sale or as a gift or (as the case may be) when it is sold or given as a gift.
(4A) The Secretary of State must publish a document setting out the technical specifications that apply for the purposes of subsection (4)(c) (“the technical specifications document”).(4B) The technical specifications document may set out different technical specifications for different kinds of weapon.(4C) The Secretary of State—(a) may from time to time revise the technical specifications document, and(b) where it is revised—(i) must publish the document as revised, and(ii) specify in it the date on which any changes to the technical specifications that apply for the purposes of subsection (4)(c) take effect.”
167: Clause 114, page 135, leave out lines 36 to 40
168: Clause 114, page 135, line 40, at end insert—
“(5A) In the case of a weapon rendered incapable as mentioned in subsection (4)(b) before 8 April 2016, subsection (1)(a) or (b) does not apply if the weapon is made available for sale or as a gift, or (as the case may be) sold or given, by or on behalf of a museum in respect of which a museum firearms licence is in force to another museum in respect of which such a licence is in force.”
169: Clause 114, page 135, line 42, at end insert—
“(6A) In this section, “museum firearms licence” means a licence granted under the Schedule to the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988.”
Amendments 166 to 169 agreed.
169A: After Clause 115, insert the following new Clause—
“Authorised lending and possession of firearms for hunting etc
(1) After section 11 of the Firearms Act 1968 insert—“11A Authorised lending and possession of firearms for hunting etc(1) A person (“the borrower”) may, without holding a certificate under this Act, borrow a rifle or shot gun from another person on private premises (“the lender”) and have the rifle or shot gun in his or her possession on those premises if—(a) the four conditions set out in subsections (2) to (5) are met, and(b) in the case of a rifle, the borrower is aged 17 or over.(2) The first condition is that the borrowing and possession of the rifle or shot gun are for either or both of the following purposes—(a) hunting animals or shooting game or vermin;(b) shooting at artificial targets. (3) The second condition is that the lender—(a) is aged 18 or over,(b) holds a certificate under this Act in respect of the rifle or shot gun, and(c) is either—(i) a person who has a right to allow others to enter the premises for the purposes of hunting animals or shooting game or vermin, or(ii) a person who is authorised in writing by a person mentioned in sub-paragraph (i) to lend the rifle or shot gun on the premises (whether generally or to persons specified in the authorisation who include the borrower).(4) The third condition is that the borrower’s possession and use of the rifle or shot gun complies with any conditions as to those matters specified in the lender’s certificate under this Act.(5) The fourth condition is that, during the period for which the rifle or shot gun is borrowed, the borrower is in the presence of the lender or—(a) where a rifle is borrowed, a person who, although not the lender, is aged 18 or over, holds a certificate under this Act in respect of that rifle and is a person described in subsection (3)(c)(i) or (ii);(b) where a shot gun is borrowed, a person who, although not the lender, is aged 18 or over, holds a certificate under this Act in respect of that shot gun or another shot gun and is a person described in subsection (3)(c)(i) or (ii).(6) Where a rifle is borrowed on any premises in reliance on subsection (1), the borrower may, without holding a firearm certificate, purchase or acquire ammunition on the premises, and have the ammunition in his or her possession on those premises for the period for which the firearm is borrowed, if—(a) the ammunition is for use with the firearm,(b) the lender’s firearm certificate authorises the lender to have in his or her possession during that period ammunition of a quantity not less than that purchased or acquired by, and in the possession of, the borrower, and(c) the borrower’s possession and use of the ammunition complies with any conditions as to those matters specified in the certificate.”(2) In consequence of the amendment made by subsection (1), omit the following—(a) section 11(5) of the Firearms Act 1968;(b) section 16 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988.”
Amendment 169A agreed.
Amendment 169B not moved.
Clause 119: Possession of pyrotechnic articles at musical events
Amendments 170 and 171
170: Clause 119, page 139, line 16, leave out “in England”
171: Clause 119, page 139, line 17, leave out “in England”
Amendments 170 and 171 agreed.
Clause 120: Meaning of “alcohol”: inclusion of alcohol in any state
171A: Clause 120, page 140, line 6, at end insert—
“( ) In that Act, after section 191(1)(i) insert—“(j) powdered or vaping alcohol.”( ) In the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, in Schedule 2 (controlled drugs), Part III (class C drugs), after paragraph 1(e) insert—“(f) powdered or vaping alcohol.””
My Lords, in Committee I endeavoured to remove the Government’s redefinition of “alcohol” in the Licensing Act 2003 to cover alcohol “in any state”. I was worried that that covered powdered and vaping alcohol and I sought to remove them from the redefinition. The Minister argued that we really needed to establish the legal status of powdered and vaping alcohol and that if my amendment was accepted, it would have left us still in an unclear position about the legal status of those products, and we needed clarity. I accepted her argument and suggested that the difficulty might be overcome if we decided to class powdered or vaping alcohol as class C substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 or prohibit their production, supply, import or export by an amendment to the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. Either course of action would resolve the legal status and leave beyond any doubt where these two substances stood. Accordingly, I asked the Minister to remove Clause 117, which sought to cover alcohol in all forms, but she was not prepared to do that at that stage.
Today I have returned to the subject and have tabled an amendment which would no longer allow powdered or vaping alcohol to be classed under the 2003 Act; instead, they would fall under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. I will not repeat all the arguments I made at Second Reading and in Committee, in the light of what has been happening in America, where the number of states that have banned these substances has gone up from the 26 I mentioned when we discussed this subject previously to 32. Of particular interest is that they have now been banned in California. Governor Jerry Brown signed a Bill into law on 28 September. Of course, this is a state which on 8 November voted to legalise recreational marijuana. So California is prepared to legalise marijuana but will not permit powdered alcohol to be sold in the way that our Government will permit, if this clause remains.
How have we got to this position? As I understand it, there was a consultation in the summer in which the Home Office spoke primarily to representatives of the drinks industry, it pondered what it should do with these technological developments as they come along, and it was decided that it was better that they should be legalised for sale. For all the reasons I have advanced previously—you can take powdered alcohol anywhere, you can mix it with existing drinks, you can take it into prisons very easily, and so on—I urge the Government to think again before they move forward in this way. I ask the Minister to consider accepting the solution that the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and I are offering. It is straightforward and very much in line with what is happening in the States and elsewhere.
Given all the problems we have with liquid alcohol and with drugs in prison, it is quite wrong to be legalising the sale of these substances. I believe the public would share that view. If they knew what we were debating today, they would be absolutely outraged that we are about to legalise these substances so that in due course people can be vaping alcohol and using the powder. In the hope that I have been as reasonable as I could be in trying to see the Minister’s point of view and have endeavoured to help her as best I can, I beg to move.
My Lords, it might help the House if I explain why the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, and I view this as quite such a dangerous substance and why it is quite different from alcohol in a liquid form, which one drinks. The reason is that powdered alcohol can be snorted, as can vaping alcohol. The problem is that it is then absorbed through the sinuses, directly through the blood-brain barrier, so that you get an immediate hit. You can get a very high hit in the brain with a very low blood-alcohol level because it has a direct route. If you drink a drink, as many of your Lordships probably will this evening, you will absorb it through the gut and it will go through the liver, where an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase partly metabolises it—it burns it up. It then goes into your bloodstream and then to your brain, so the amount getting to your brain will be reflected in a peripheral blood sample, which is where blood-alcohol levels are measured for driving and so on.
However, this powdered or vaping mechanism completely bypasses that. The problem is also that it is extremely difficult to detect, but the rapid high is much higher and faster than one would get even with a schnapps-type drink that might be downed quickly. That effect is particularly dangerous. In an important study done in the US, more than 1,800 undergraduate students were interviewed and 23% indicated that they would use the product if available. Of those, 62%—that is, just about two-thirds—also indicated a likelihood of misusing the product; that misuse was higher among Caucasian students and those who were already hazardous drinkers, who were significantly more likely to use it. We have tabled this amendment because we think this formulation is particularly dangerous and acts like a dangerous drug.
My Lords, as this is the first time I have spoken on Report, I should quickly declare that I am an elected councillor in the London Borough of Lewisham and a vice-president of the Local Government Association.
The question of powdered or vaping alcohol was discussed in Committee, as my noble friend Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe mentioned, and his amendment would now classify it under the Misuse of Drugs Act. I must confess that I had never heard of powdered or vaporised alcohol before we debated this in Committee on 9 November. I have now of course heard that this alcohol can be put into fruit juice and other soft drinks; apparently, it can be baked and put into a whole range of products. I also thought that vaping was an alternative to smoking and had no idea that you can now apparently vape alcohol. I think we all agree that alcohol is a mood-altering substance, so I hope that the Minister can respond to these important issues. I take entirely the medical evidence given by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, on how these products can get into your body and how quickly they can react. It is important that we look at this carefully and, if it needs to be regulated properly, at how that can be done.
My Lords, I remind the House that Clause 120 amends the definition of alcohol in Section 191 of the Licensing Act 2003. The current definition of alcohol covers spirits, wine, beer, cider or any other fermented, distilled or spirituous liqueur. The clause adds “(in any state)” to the definition; the purpose of this is to ensure that all alcohol, no matter in which form it is sold, is covered by the requirements of the 2003 Act.
Amendment 171A seeks to exempt powdered and vaporised alcohol from the 2003 Act and instead to control it as a class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Controlling powdered and vaporised alcohol as a class C drug would, in effect, prohibit the possession, production and distribution of these forms of alcohol.
Alcohol is a legal substance and the Government’s approach is to minimise the harm caused by alcohol by regulating its sale and supply. The 2003 Act seeks to reduce harm through promotion of the licensing objectives. These are: the prevention of crime and disorder; public safety; the prevention of public nuisance; and the protection of children from harm. The 2003 Act also contains a number of criminal offences, including selling alcohol to a child under the age of 18 and selling alcohol without a licence.
The Government believe that the focus on the four licensing objectives provides sufficient safeguards for the sale of alcohol. It would be contradictory and disproportionate to regulate the sale of liquid alcohol but make alcohol illegal when it is provided in another form, such as powder or vapour. The classification of harmful drugs in the 1971 Act is predicated on an assessment of their respective harms and in accordance with recommendations made by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. The 1971 Act places a duty on the Secretary of State to consult the advisory council before bringing a substance within the controls provided for in that Act.
Quite apart from questions over the merits or otherwise of controlling powdered and vaping alcohol in this way, the absence of such a consultation having been carried out means it would be inappropriate to amend the 1971 Act in the manner proposed by this amendment. The Government are not aware of any evidence that the harms posed by powdered and vaporised alcohol are such that it is necessary to consider controlling it as an illegal drug. Powdered and vaporised alcohol are not substances of which the misuse is having or capable of having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem, as is the test under the 1971 Act. Unless and until there is evidence to suggest that these forms of alcohol are meeting that test, I believe that a regulatory approach is the appropriate one.
Clause 120 will ensure that the four licensing objectives continue to be met despite innovations in alcohol products and that the public, especially children, continue to be protected from irresponsible sales of alcohol. On that basis, I would ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
I thank the noble Baroness for that question. Home Office officials have discussed powdered alcohol with the Department of Health and Public Health England and are very much keeping it under review. They may well have to do things at a later date but, for now, they are just keeping a watchful eye on it.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, for her support and expertise, and to my noble friend Lord Kennedy for weighing in from my Front Bench with support for the amendment. As noble Lords might expect, I am disappointed with the Minister’s response. The Government have consulted —they consulted the drinks industry—but if they had consulted over a wider area, and particularly the committee to which the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, referred, I think they might have got an entirely different view in reaching their judgment on this classification.
I know quite a lot about the four objectives that govern the Licensing Act and, quite frankly, they are totally inappropriate in trying to deal with this. They were drawn up in the context of liquid alcohol, and there was a list of all the forms in which it is produced, but this is quite different. This is a move in an entirely different direction. I feel that, rather than take a serious look at this, the Government are simply applying the existing legislation as best they can, but they will not be able to implement it.
I will take the Minister’s arguments away, have a look at them and decide whether to come back again at Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 171A withdrawn.
172: After Clause 126, insert the following new Clause—
“General duties of licensing authorities
(1) Section 4 of the Licensing Act 2003 (general duties of licensing authorities) is amended as follows.(2) After subsection (2)(d) insert—“(e) the provision of social or cultural activities.””
My Lords, Amendment 172 would create a fifth licensing objective that licensing authorities must promote when discharging their functions. It would secure the provision of social or cultural activities as a general duty. It follows the similar Amendment 214A from Committee.
There is a very strong case to be made that activities such as live music should be completely deregulated from the Licensing Act. Other legislation, such as the Environmental Protection Act 1990, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 contain a great many of the protections in law that form the basis for conditions relating to live music that may be imposed by the Licensing Act on a premises licence. The Licensing Act therefore presents a tier of legislative duplication that is in many respects unnecessary, given that live events can be controlled by other means.
Despite this compelling argument, the Government have not been minded to deregulate further than audience sizes of 500—a level that builds on the Live Music Act I took through Parliament. In the meantime, there has been a continuing decline in live music venues. As the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, rightly said in Committee:
“There has in recent years been a perfect storm of circumstance for our night-time economy. Rising rents and business rates, property developments, noise complaints, complaints about anti-social behaviour and more have conspired to devastate our night-time cultural landscape”.—[Official Report, 9/11/16; col. 1212.]
In these circumstances we need to amend licensing objectives in particular to help these venues survive. Current objectives relate to crime and disorder, public safety, public nuisance and protection of children. Mark Davyd of the Music Venue Trust said:
“Licensing is just one of many areas of the legal framework around grassroots music venues that is contributing to their rapid decline”.
As the chief operating officer of Live Nation said:
“Unfortunately not all local authorities are like-minded and their interpretations of the Licensing Act are not always helpful, or consistent, which is frustrating and creates obstacles for venue operators at all levels”.
The amendment is designed to introduce a new objective in the local authority decision-making process that would take account of the positive cultural impact of staging an event. At present, authorities are not obliged to consider the wider benefits of music and entertainment in the community, and instead focus on the negative impact of applications. The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, said in Committee, that,
“music and other activities should be helped and supported where possible through the licensing system, rather than just regulated”.—[Official Report, 9/11/16; col. 1214.]
A proportionate approach from licensing authorities would be welcome when they handle applications or complaints relating to entertainment. That the four existing licensing objectives are completely predicated on preventive measures does nothing to help struggling venues that are already being hit by high business rates and new planning developments. Amendment 172 is therefore required to support the social or cultural impacts of an activity regulated by the Licensing Act.
I have of course read the Minister’s response of 9 November and taken account of what she said. Her argument was that it would be difficult to replicate the evidence of harm in the same way as for licence conditions that seek to protect against and reduce harm—a rather circular argument. She went on to say that a licensing objective of promoting cultural activity and inclusion is,
“quite a subjective matter and may be interpreted in different ways … Making this a licensing objective could place licensing authorities in a censorious position, whereby licensees organising events might be obliged to explain what additional cultural value their entertainment might generate, and the licensing authorities would be required to evaluate that information”.—[Official Report, 9/11/16; col. 1216.]
This amendment is substantially different from the Committee stage amendment in two crucial respects. First, it is no longer limited to cultural matters and makes a much broader point about other activities that have social benefits that may need to be supported by a positive objective in the Licensing Act, too. This would deal with a legitimate criticism of the original amendment —that it would result in all premises having to provide cultural activities. That was not the intention of the original draft, but I accept that it could have led to it.
Secondly, the amendment relates to provision rather than the original amendment’s attempt at “promotion”. The specific call for promotion was regarded by the Minister as putting licensing authorities in a potentially censorious and subjective position, as I just mentioned. I should point out, however, that the current objectives, particularly the prevention of nuisance, are already interpreted subjectively and censoriously.
As is stands, the cultural activities of, say, a grass-roots music venue are not considered at all. Once gone, these venues will not come back into our towns and cities. There is a delicate balance that should be achieved by local authorities. Having this fifth objective might just be critical to a decision that will lead to their remaining open. The Minister’s response in Committee was fairly cursory, and I look forward to a more detailed and substantive response to the amendment at this stage. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support Amendment 172, which has been excellently introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. There needs to be a shift from authorities viewing our nightlife economy as something to be restricted to viewing it as something to be encouraged. Indeed, provision should be made. If London, to take just one example of cities across the UK, has lost 40% of its music venues in the past five years—not, it cannot be overemphasised, through lack of demand—there is something seriously awry with how our local communities are developing.
The licensing authorities need a better understanding of this landscape and to act constructively to counter this. As the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, said, in her reply in Committee the Minister said that cultural activity is “quite a subjective matter”. However, there is nothing in the amendment submitted in Committee or in this amendment about which cultural events should take place. The amendment is not in any way prescriptive; nor is there any sense of a limit to be placed on cultural events or of their particular value socially or culturally. The Minister talked of “a censorious position”, but the fact is that there is already, to a significant degree, an implicit censoriousness—one might say a tunnel vision—in the treatment of our clubs and music venues by licensing authorities, and the amendment would address that.
In evidence given yesterday to the Select Committee on the Licensing Act 2003, Mark Davyd, chief executive of the Music Venue Trust, said, “We want to see grass-roots music venues acknowledged and respected alongside theatres and art centres as spaces that are vital to the health, wealth and happiness of the UK”. That is a laudable aim. It also means that comparable criteria for operation should be applied to all those venues, but that kind of parity can be achieved only if all these cultural activities are perceived in a positive sense and as being connected through the wider landscape. There needs to be a mechanism that achieves that. The licensing authority is, or should be, the meeting place of all the different stakeholders; it is the logical place for that to happen. I hope the Minister will look favourably on the amendment.
My Lords, we debated this issue in Committee. Many years ago, I was a member of the licensing committee of Southwark Council, although nowadays I am on Lewisham Council and am a member of its planning committee. I am very supportive of this amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, and the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty.
The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, has a track record of standing up for live music, buskers and grass-roots music venues, and we should all be very grateful to him. We need to help and support the music and entertainment industries, and this amendment will go some way to doing that, as the noble Lord said. The night-time economy is very important and needs to be supported. Clubs, music venues and similar types of establishment bring billions of pounds to the UK economy every year. I very much welcome the appointment of the night tsar by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. He clearly recognises the importance of the night-time economy to the economy of London as a whole and is working to ensure that the economy works for industry and residents. It may well be that, as we get new metro mayors around England in the next few months, we find that they will follow his example and do the same to support the night-time economy in their cities.
I also recall our debate in the Moses Room some months ago when we looked at the activities of some local authorities and how they applied legislation. It seemed to me that some people have gone well beyond their powers there. However, I support the amendment and hope that the noble Baroness can give a positive response when she replies.
My Lords, Amendment 172 seeks to add,
“the provision of social or cultural activities”
to the list of licensing objectives. This would require licensing authorities to make licensing decisions based on this objective, such as placing conditions on licences with regard to the provision of social or cultural activities.
As I explained in Committee, the existing licensing objectives, as provided for in Section 4 of the Licensing Act 2003, seek to reduce harm, which can be evidenced. Licence conditions intended to reduce the level of harm can be easily understood—for example, a requirement to restrict noise levels. Requiring licensing authorities to consider the provision of social or cultural activities would run in contradiction to the other licensing objectives, all of which are aimed at harm reduction.
Importantly, the 2003 Act provides that when a licensing authority receives a compliant application for a premises licence or club premises certificate, it must grant the authorisation unless it receives “relevant representations”. In effect, this means there is a presumption that licensing authorities will grant a licence in respect to an application, with appropriate conditions, unless there are strong concerns in terms of the licensing objectives.
I respect the noble Lord’s intentions with regard to grass-roots music venues and cultural participation, and share his desire to see a vibrant music industry, but I do not feel it is appropriate to use the 2003 Act to pursue that goal. On that basis, I hope the noble Lord will be content to withdraw this amendment.
I thank the Minister for her response and the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for his contribution. One of the key points that he made, and which we are making with this amendment, is that of course local authorities have to make judgments currently. That runs, to use phraseology used by the Minister herself, directly counter to the arguments that are being made by the Government. She talks about evidence of harm, as if somehow under the current objectives it is all cut and dried and the evidence is absolutely clear-cut, but the fact is that judgments are made by local authorities. I am sure that when the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, was a councillor in Southwark, he had a very enlightened approach to these matters, but these things are a matter of interpretation, and how you treat the evidence of harm is a subjective matter. In many cases, strong concerns might be disregarded because there are other, supervening objectives that a local authority thinks are important, or it may give more time for remedy.
There are all sorts of aspects, so to regard the current set of objectives as somehow pristine and able to be interpreted with huge clarity by local authorities, in contrast to this confused, woolly cultural objective, is only to confuse the issue. It is really a way of saying that the status quo is fine. But the status quo is not fine, and local authorities need some further guidance on these matters. I am not going to push this amendment further at this stage, but I hope there is a way in which further guidance or some other nudge towards a better solution for our night-time and grass-roots music venues is achievable. I am sure from the nods that I am receiving from the Government Front Bench that there is some sympathy for that approach. Now I am getting completely the reverse—clearly I had lulled myself into a false sense of security, which is always a big mistake in this House.
I hope the drip-drip of the fairly incessant rhythm—perhaps that is the right phraseology to use in connection with live music venues—of the campaign to ensure that we keep our live music venues has some effect. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, that the night-time tsar in London is a fantastic new development, and I hope that other combined authorities will follow what London is doing in that respect.
I believe the Home Office also has responsibility in this area to help to preserve our venues, rather than simply stonewalling and saying, “We’ve got a very fine Licensing Act as it is and we don’t need any further objectives”. When we come to our next debate, I am sure the Government will make the same argument but they may find a rather different response when it comes to a vote. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 172 withdrawn.
Amendment 172A had been retabled as Amendment 173C.
173: After Clause 126, insert the following new Clause—
“General duties of licensing authorities (No.2)
(1) Section 4 of the Licensing Act 2003 (general duties of licensing authorities) is amended as follows.(2) After subsection (2)(d) insert—“(e) securing accessibility for disabled persons.””
My Lords, I am sorry to say that the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, whose name is also on this amendment, is unwell. Her eloquence will be sorely missed this evening.
These five words which the amendment would insert would provide a simple and effective improvement in life for disabled people, and would fulfil one of the key recommendations of the Lords Select Committee on the Equality Act 2010 and Disability, which I have had the privilege of sharing. This amendment is a narrowed-down version of Amendment 210 in Committee. It is supported by the Access Association and the Equality and Human Rights Commission. It originated with a suggestion put to the Select Committee by a spokesperson for the National Association of Licensing Enforcement Officers, who has also written in support. The Select Committee on the Licensing Act 2003 has no objection to it.
It is not just about disability; it is about all of us as we get older. It is about mainstreaming accessibility into everyday life. The ability—indeed, the right—to participate in various everyday areas of life can depend on the ability to access public spaces and buildings. Moreover, under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the UK bound itself to ensure that disabled people enjoy the rights to equal access set out in its Article 9. The Government have been criticised by the inquiry set up under that convention. Here is a way to show that that criticism is unjustified.
One-quarter of the disability discrimination-related inquiries to an Equality and Human Rights Commission helpline relate to failures to make reasonable adjustments. That is a big problem, and it is clear that some service providers do not understand what they have to do. If the amendment were passed, applicants for licences would have to include consideration of the requirements of disabled people from the outset in the application process. Accessibility could then be included in the licence conditions and would become just a regular objective.
In the debate in Committee, the Minister was against this on two grounds. The first was that it duplicated existing requirements in the Equality Act, which puts duties on employers and businesses to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people. I cannot agree. The amendment would make those reasonable adjustments an anticipatory duty—that is the important aspect—not a burden on disabled people after they find they are excluded. The duty would be anticipatory and it would shift the burden off the shoulders of disabled people to the local authorities. Moreover, the existing duties of licensing authorities in Section 4 of the Licensing Act refer to,
“the prevention of crime and disorder … public safety … the prevention of public nuisance; and … the protection of children from harm”.
The amendment is about the prevention of harm to disabled people. Duplication is clearly not a problem as there are scores of other statutes referring to health and safety, children and nuisance.
The amendment would not require extra activity by licensees or the regulation of activity. It is only about planning in advance for access. It would mean that businesses and premises, knowing that inspection was coming, would turn their minds to accessibility in advance of being found wanting. It would end the scenario of a disabled person turning up at, say, a restaurant and finding it inaccessible, with no remedy in hand, and the humiliation and embarrassment that follow. The local authority would be able to impose conditions on the licence. The ultimate sanction, but an exceptional one, would be a refusal to extend the licence or grant it until those adjustments were made. This is of course in a framework of what is reasonable.
The amendment is narrower and more focused than its earlier incarnation. Disabled people know that mere guidance to owners of premises does not work. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has explained that it is unable to monitor compliance. This is the chance for the Government to show their commitment to narrowing the disabled unemployment gap. It would be in line with the Prime Minister’s policy of allowing everyone to go as far as their talents will permit. The Government should not speak with forked tongue on this policy. It would add not to the burden of licensing authorities but only to their objectives. It is disabled persons who bear the burden at the moment, and they are harmed by the existing barriers to access. Licensing is about preventing harm.
The second argument from the Government against the amendment was that it was singling out businesses and premises for compliance with the Equality Act. However, businesses and premises are being asked not to do anything extra but simply to put their minds to accessibility. This is not a party political matter; it is about common sense backing up compassion. It is about self-interest as we all get older. It is about legal requirements that already exist. It is about decency. I cannot imagine that it will be opposed in any quarter. This House should be seen to stand up for people who need it. This fits entirely with the mission on most sides of the House. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support Amendment 173. I will not rehearse the arguments about the details of the amendment so persuasively set out by the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, and by the ad hoc Select Committee of your Lordships’ House that she so ably chaired. Its excellent report on the Equality Act 2010 and its impact on disabled people bears testimony, if any were needed, to the proud and noble tradition of your Lordships’ House of fighting against disability discrimination and for equality.
I was proud to serve on the National Disability Council, which was set up to advise on the implementation of the Conservative Government’s 1995 Disability Discrimination Act, otherwise known as the DDA. Central to that Act was the concept of the duty to make reasonable adjustments to enable disabled people to access goods, facilities and services. As the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, has said, the nature of that duty was anticipatory. The onus was not on the disabled person so much as on the provider to anticipate reasonable adjustments. That anticipatory principle is sacrosanct. To ignore it would be to go backwards, with all the political consequences that would involve.
I have to say that 21 years on from the DDA, I am suffering not from my disability but from a sense of déjà vu. Despite the milestone that the Act represented both for disabled people and for the Conservative Party, disabled people are still waiting. The regrettable fact is that the passage of time has not been matched by the passage of progress. The passing of this amendment would help to put that right.
I should like to explain briefly why I see this amendment as in keeping with fundamental Conservative principles. First, the obvious question—this relates to the idea that if the system ain’t broke, don’t fix it—is whether the system is broken and needs to be fixed. Yes, I know from personal experience that the system is broken because far too many disabled people are still trying unsuccessfully to access many licensed premises. Yes, it urgently needs fixing. If any noble Lord doubts that, I invite them to imagine how it would feel to be denied access to a licensed premises on account of being a Member of your Lordships’ House. Yet, that is happening every day of every week to disabled people on account of being disabled.
Secondly, is the amendment consistent with the emphasis in the DDA on the anticipatory nature of the duty to make reasonable adjustments, which are so fundamental to that Act? Yes. Thirdly, is it practicable? Yes, which is why it has the backing of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, as we have already heard, and the Access Association among others. Finally, does it build on the Conservative Party’s rich heritage of social reform and opportunity? Undoubtedly it does, which is why the party of the DDA should take this opportunity to build on the Act’s principles and affirm its belief in disability equality.
I do not doubt my noble friend’s empathy or sincerity, but I wonder whether for some non-disabled ministerial colleagues, the concept of making reasonable adjustments is to assume that disabled people will be reasonable, yet again, and adjust downwards their legitimate hope of not being discriminated against on account of their disability.
In conclusion, the Select Committee’s report, from which this excellent amendment stems, sent an undeniably powerful message to disabled people that the anticipatory nature of the duty to make reasonable adjustments is not up for renegotiation. Disabled people should not have to demand access. Parliament needs to convey that same simple message tonight. Accepting this amendment would enable the Government to prove to disabled people that they mean what they say when they commit to building a country that works for everyone. I hope they will seize this opportunity to honour that pledge.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the powerful speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shinkwin. As the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, has said, this amendment is more focused than the one we tabled in Committee, but it is essentially about the same issue: giving the licensing authority a few more teeth by way of the licensing objectives to ensure that disabled people can access as many licensed premises as possible.
We are not being unreasonable. The key phrase for what a licensee should do to allow disabled people to access their premises is still only to make a “reasonable adjustment”. A licensed premises which, for example, is entirely upstairs with no lift available would still not be caught by this addition to the objectives. I dare say the Reform Club would not be either, because it is up a flight of stairs, as many of us who cannot access that premises know.
Crucially, the amendment would transfer the onus to the licensing authority from disabled people themselves. If a disabled person cannot get into a pub, club, or restaurant, or any other licensed premises, why should they have to take action themselves which might mean taking the licence holder to court? Our lives are hard enough now without having to enforce the law too. This is a golden opportunity to do what many organisations think should have happened years ago—to have licensing officers who are able to take action beyond writing a licensee a letter or having a word in their ear.
Does this mean extra work for the licensing authority? No, because we are told that it visits licensed premises all the time. Are we putting an unfair burden on licensees? No, because we are talking about only a reasonable adjustment, not an unreasonable one. The whole point is to take the burden off the shoulders of the disabled person who, under present circumstances, is made to feel guilty for making a fuss, or even for not being able to join a group of friends for a drink or a meal. It happens all the time.
I believe the tide will turn one day when there are even more disabled people out and about than there are now. This is a perfect opportunity to act now.
We support the amendment from these Benches. I congratulate those who tabled it on their persistence and on taking forward the work of a Select Committee to seek to translate it into legislation. That is an example of how this House can work so effectively.
As others have said on many occasions, we should not have to legislate, but it seems that we do in order to change attitudes. Sometimes we have to make something enforceable before people come to understand that the subject is actually a right. The amendment has been described as anticipatory. Unfortunately one often sees that it is too easy for someone who infringes a rule not to take the sanction seriously. It can be regarded as an operating cost. If you are caught out and have to pay a penalty it is tough, but it is part of the costs of the business.
The value of the amendment is that bringing the issue into the licensing process will concentrate minds at the right point. I slightly take issue with my noble friend Lady Thomas, who talked about teeth. I say that it is about a mindset—so minds rather than teeth —but I think that is the only difference between us.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, said, it is about mainstreaming the issue, making sure that everyone approaches it with the right objectives in mind. It is very harsh—almost offensive—to expect the objectives of the amendment to be met by individuals who find themselves unable to get into a set of premises, to use that as the example, not having known beforehand that there would be a problem, and to put the burden on them, in retrospect, to take it up—and we know that these rights are difficult to enforce, because individual rights are not easily enforced.
The Minister said in Committee that it would be inappropriate for licensing conditions to refer to specific legislation, because there is already an obligation to comply with that legislation. The new formulation is very neat. The current objective is shorthand, in just the same way as the other four licensing objectives are shorthand—one of them is for protection of children, safety is another. Indeed, the Minister gave examples of that in Committee. There would not be a call for the amendment if guidance worked and if good practice, which is no doubt observed by the good practitioners, was observed by those who have made the amendment necessary. We are very enthusiastic in support of the amendment, although it is sad to have to be enthusiastic for it.
I support the amendment not because I am disabled but because like most of our population I am getting older. Although I can still run for a bus, there is going to be a time when I shall not be able to. So this is not only for disabled people—it is for us all. It is for the whole population, and I think that we have been incredibly flabby as a nation in not putting this into practice before. I was astonished to find that there was this let-out and gap in our legislation and that people can still exclude and discriminate against an important section of society. If we do not all support this amendment today, I think that we are being thoroughly wet and flabby and not living up to the ideals of an enlightened society.
My Lords, I support the amendment. I was a member of the ad hoc Select Committee so ably chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, along with others who have already spoken. It was a great learning experience. In my long lifetime, if not as long as some in this House, I have always been struck by the immense progress that we have made over the years. But when you get into the detail, you are absolutely appalled that the rest of society imposes on our many colleagues with disabilities that they shall not enjoy that which we all take for granted. Imagine if we were not able to go into a restaurant or a pub—I am a teetotaller, but I spent half my life in pubs and bars trying to find Labour Members when I was Labour Chief Whip. It is appalling that we expect disabled people to put up with second best.
The Act put through in 1995 by the noble Lord, Lord Hague, is one of which the Tory Party is rightly very proud. I ask the Government to live up to that Act and agree to the amendment.
My Lords, I want to deal briefly with the argument that the amendment is not necessary because it simply duplicates what is already in the law. Licensed premises, including entertainment venues such as pubs, clubs and restaurants, are obliged under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments for disabled customers. It is intended to be an anticipatory duty; it falls on service providers to make the reasonable adjustments and take the appropriate action ahead of any disabled person coming along and asking to be allowed to avail themselves of the service. However, the Equality Act duty is widely disregarded, placing the onus on the individual to enforce the duty, when enforcement is extremely difficult for the individual on account of its cost and complexity.
Adding “securing accessibility for disabled persons” to the list of licensing objectives under the Licensing Act 2003 would enable the Equality Act to be proactively enforced without the whole burden of enforcement falling on the individual. It is said that the amendment simply duplicates current law and does not add anything, so it is not needed, but that is not true. There is a reasonable adjustment duty, but it is difficult for the individual to enforce it, so some such mechanism as the amendment proposes is necessary to give the Equality Act teeth—and with great respect to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, I prefer “teeth” to “mindset” on this occasion.
It is also said that the amendment adds nothing to the powers that licensing authorities already have, but that is also not true. The current objectives of licensing authorities are the prevention of crime and disorder; public safety; the prevention of public nuisance; and the protection of children from harm. There is nothing about securing accessibility for disabled persons. Amendment 173 is necessary if licensing authorities are to have the power to take accessibility for disabled persons into account.
The Equality Act’s reasonable adjustment duty is intended to be anticipatory but, because of the problems for individuals in enforcing the duty, things do not tend to work out that way. That is why we need the power that the amendment proposes to give to licensing authorities to enable the enforcement of the duty, if not in an anticipatory way, at least proactively.
My Lords, Amendment 173, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, adds to the general duties of licensing authorities a duty of securing accessibility for disabled persons. The noble Baroness raises an important issue; we debated the matter under another amendment, which sought to add in the provisions of the Equality Act in Committee.
It is right to say that people running licensed premises should do much more to ensure that the premises are accessible by disabled people, so that they can go out with their friends and family and enjoy themselves on those premises. It is right that disabled people are able to get access to those premises. When the Minister responds to the debate we may hear that there are general duties under the Equality Act 2010 in force already and that adding a specific amendment does not add anything to the statutory requirements already in force, as noble Lords have said. I hope that we can get a very careful explanation of why that is the case. The Government have a general duty to ensure that the law is properly applied, so I hope that they will use this opportunity to say clearly how they can ensure that that actually happens.
The problem often is whether licensed premises owners fully understand what their obligations are—or, if they do understand, whether they do anything to make those reasonable adjustments. We need to have a very careful explanation from the Minister in response to the debate, because we have the whole issue of the guidance, what review mechanisms are in place, and how the Government are going to ensure that the mainstream access to buildings to which the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, referred actually happens.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Deech and Lady Thomas of Winchester, not only for their powerful speeches in this debate but for taking the time to speak with me over the past few weeks on the subject of this amendment. I also commend my noble friend Lord Shinkwin for the sheer quality of his speech and everyone who has spoken in this debate for their persistence in seeking to secure the rights of disabled people.
I am very sympathetic to the issues that have been raised on this matter. Licensed premises such as pubs, restaurants, theatres and cinemas are places where many of us choose to socialise and are therefore an important part of our daily lives. Too many of these venues are difficult for disabled people to access. The same is true of other, non-licensed businesses, too. The issue before us is whether we should use the regulatory framework provided for in the Licensing Act 2003 as a mechanism to enforce the provisions of a quite separate piece of legislation.
The noble Baroness, Lady Deech, and others have answered this question in the affirmative, arguing that it should not be left to disabled people denied access to licensed premises to have to fight on their own to secure their rights. The contrary argument, which I set out in Committee, is that this amendment is seeking to skew the regulatory regime in the 2003 Act and use it for a purpose for which it was never intended. The amendment potentially puts us on to a slippery slope. If we can use the 2003 Act to enforce the obligations placed on businesses by other enactments, where does this stop? Are licensing authorities then to be charged with, for example, ensuring that pubs and restaurants are paying the minimum wage or complying with other aspects of employment law?
While it could be argued that the particular challenges faced by disabled people make this amendment a special case, we should not seek to downplay the fact that there will be a cost to business. I accept that the amendment does not place any new direct obligations on licensed premises as a class of business, as they are already subject to the requirement to make reasonable adjustments. However, if we are expecting licensing authorities to act as an enforcement agency in this regard, there will unavoidably be a cost to them in discharging this new function. As the cost of the licensing system properly falls on licensees rather than the council tax payer, consequently any increase in costs for licensing authorities will need to be passed on through increased licensing fees. We must take this into account when considering the amendment.
I have heard the powerful voices expressed in the debate here today. I cannot ignore the strength of feeling in your Lordships’ House. I believe that there is scope for compromise around possible amendments to the Licensing Act, which would work with the grain of the existing licensing regime. I cannot say more at this stage, as there is further work to do to scope such a possible compromise, but nor can I give the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, any undertaking today that I will be able to bring forward a government amendment at Third Reading. I hope, however, that the noble Baroness will agree to move forward on the basis of the preliminary discussions that we have had earlier this afternoon and, if not, perhaps we should come to a decision on her amendment today.
My Lords, I know that the Minister is sympathetic, but I still find the arguments unpersuasive. The Licensing Act is already used to enforce other Acts, for example, about children. If there is a cost to business, or a cost that is going to be passed on, are we to say that we can never make improvements for disabled people because it might cost somebody something? That simply will not do. I believe the Minister is suggesting that any amendment that the Government may bring forward would not remove the burden from disabled people but require them to make representations, make phone calls and use the internet to fill in forms and so on—when we know very well that even if you are able, trying to deal with local authorities on this sort of thing can be a nightmare. I am simply saying that access for disabled people—and, as the noble Baroness said, for the elderly, which is all of us eventually if not already—should be mainstreamed.
All parties in this House, some more than others, claim to have as their raison d’être improving the life of the disadvantaged and the vulnerable. To refuse to do this when presented with a straightforward, effective amendment is incomprehensible to me and goes against what I believe this House stands for. The amendment would make adjustments anticipatory and remove the onus from disabled persons. I do not believe that any compromise that the Minister might offer, well-disposed though she is—I know that she spent a lot of time on this—would meet that bill. Given the mission of this House, I do not think that we should talk the talk; I think that we should walk the walk. On that note, I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Amendment 173A had been retabled as Amendment 173B.
173B: After Clause 126, insert the following new Clause—
“Premises licence under Gambling Act 2005: gaming machines
After section 172 of the Gambling Act 2005 insert—“172A Gaming machines: staffing condition on availability and use A licensing authority, when exercising its power under section 169 to attach conditions to a premises licence, must include a condition, in respect of a licence for premises in which gaming machines are being used, that there must be at least two members of staff present on the premises while the premises are open.””
My Lords, I refer to my interests as a Newcastle City councillor and vice-president of the Local Government Association, inasmuch as parts of the amendments to which I shall refer would impact on local government.
I wish to speak to the two amendments in this group in my name and those of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe. Fixed-odds betting terminals, even after a reduction from £100 to £50 on the amount that can be wagered every 20 seconds, are a source of large profits and social and economic damage. The 35,000 machines to be found in betting premises are concentrated in poorer areas of the country, where they divert money from the local economy and are the scene of 40% of all serious crimes against businesses. As I pointed out in Committee, police callouts to attend incidents at these premises increased by 51% in 2014 from the previous year. Seven thousand machines a year are destroyed and assaults on staff are increasing. The London Borough of Newham, with no fewer than 87 of these shops, sees police being called out on average once every day to premises harbouring these machines. The Local Government Association backs Newham’s campaign for more control over this growing industry.
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling commissioned a report on these machines which referred to the claim of the Association of British Bookmakers that increased regulation would cause a substantial loss of jobs in the betting sector. But whereas the £1 billion that is spent in fixed-odds betting terminals supports 7,000 jobs in the gaming industry, that diversion from other forms of consumer spending destroys 13,000 jobs in the wider economy. If the industry continues to grow to double its size in the next 10 years, the net cost to the economy will be the loss of 11,000 jobs, with the total annual wage bill affected by a loss of £650 million at today’s prices compared with the level obtaining in 2013, on which the comparative figures are based.
The report also deals with the tax revenue flowing from the use of these machines. This year it is estimated that the duty received by the Revenue will be £78 million, but the amount of income tax and VAT lost will be £90 million. By 2023-24, the net annual loss will be £50 million. These figures do not, of course, reflect the indirect cost to the taxpayer of the consequences of the social damage arising from gambling—for example, in family breakdown or costs to the National Health Service, let alone the crime to which I have alluded.
BACTA, the body representing the manufacturers, suppliers and operators of 310,000 amusement machines —not those in betting offices or casinos—has come up with 12 proposals which it is submitting to the consultation being undertaken by DCMS. Interestingly, these include a new machine with a maximum stake of £10 instead of the current permitted stake of £50; a suggested jackpot limit of £125; and a high-percentage payout of 90% on the money staked, bringing the industry closer to the concept of amusement arcades rather than high-risk and expensive gambling.
All of this suggests that greater control of the industry, as envisaged in Amendment 173C, in the name of the right reverend Prelate, is required. In addition to the impact of the industry on society, however, there is also, quite literally, the impact on staff. In Committee I referred to the revealing fact that in many shops, where it is now usual to have only one employee, staff are housed in what is described as a cage, which they are permitted to leave only after 6.30 pm. Tellingly, Ladbrokes is now purchasing chairs weighing as much as 35 kilograms for customers—too heavy, it is assumed, for a disappointed customer, or indeed a criminal, to use in an assault on staff or to do damage to the premises. That is an indication of the seriousness of those issues.
Amendment 173B, in my name, prescribes that at all material times, at least two members of staff must be on the premises to deter violent behaviour and, if need be, to seek assistance. The noble Baroness, Lady Chisholm, replying to the debate in Committee, referred to the power conferred on the Secretary of State to set conditions by way of secondary legislation—under existing primary legislation—including staffing levels, and indicated the Government’s awareness of,
“the dangers posed by fixed-odds betting terminals”.—[Official Report, 9/11/16; col. 1232.]
She repeated this at a meeting she kindly organised and said that the Government would consider proposals emerging from the review they launched on 24 October, in which the call for evidence closed two days ago. Can the Minister indicate when the Government expect to release the results of the consultation and their response to it? Of course, I do not expect her to give an indication at this stage of what that outcome will be.
However, I hope that the Government will not be swayed by the self-interested testimony of the industry or, for that matter, by the views enunciated in an article for ConservativeHome—described as “the home of conservatism”—by Christopher Snowdon, who rejoices in the title of head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs and who in a recent article dismissed concerns about this industry and the terminals, concluding that they,
“might not be to everybody’s taste but they have a place in the modern industry and existing regulation and taxation is more than adequate, if not excessive, for a gambling product that is only available in licensed, adult-only establishments”.
The evidence contradicts that bland assertion of acceptance of this side of the gaming industry pretty comprehensively. One can only hope that, unlike the appointment of Brexit Ministers, the Prime Minister will not be tempted to appoint Mr Snowdon to be involved in the review or to advise the Government. I look forward to the Minister giving assurances that the Government recognise the need to change the regime under which this industry, which blights too many high streets and too many lives, operates, and that they will act quickly after receiving and considering the review report. I beg to move.
My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 173C, 196A and 200A in my name and I support Amendment 173B, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Beecham. I am grateful for the way in which he introduced this group of amendments.
Members of your Lordships’ House will be only too aware that the House has rehearsed the arguments around betting shops, and in particular fixed-odds betting terminals, numerous times in the past year, and there seems to be little need to repeat them here in detail. We know that violent crime is on the increase in betting premises—up 68% in London over the past five years—and it seems very likely that the increasing reliance of betting shops on FOBTs is a key reason for this trend. I read just last night that of the 523 serious robberies committed in commercial premises in 2015, 200 took place in betting shops. Given the increasing threat of violence—which the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, has spoken well about—that betting shop staff face from organised thieves as well as angry, frustrated or opportunistic customers, the amendments in this group are an entirely reasonable attempt to help bring the situation back under some kind of control.
My amendment, which was first proposed in Committee by my right reverend friend the Bishop of St Albans, would give licensing authorities greater scope to impose conditions on the use of gaming machines in betting premises, with the aim of enabling those authorities to better enforce the licensing objectives of preventing crime and protecting the vulnerable. It would also clarify the ability of licensing authorities to undertake a cumulative impact assessment, as well as taking other risk factors into account. Given that fixed-odds betting terminals now make up 56% of the profits of a high street betting shop, it seems obvious to me, at least, that licensing authorities should be able to impose conditions on the use of these machines in areas where this is a high risk of gambling-related harm.
This amendment is, of course, limited in scope. Even if licensing authorities could impose conditions on the use of gaming machines, there would be limited opportunities to do so in practice. The “aim to permit” licensing framework of the Gambling Act 2005 is so heavily skewed in favour of the betting industry that licensing authorities have great difficulty imposing any conditions whatever on betting premises, the threat of judicial review deterring all but the boldest local authorities from taking significant measures to combat gambling harm through conditions. That is why I support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, which would make minimum two-person staffing a mandatory condition of a betting premises licence. Although, as the Minister pointed out in Committee, licensing authorities can in theory impose conditions requiring two-person staffing levels, in reality the practice is much more difficult. Under the current licensing framework, only a mandatory condition can ensure adequate protection for staff.
In Committee the Minister suggested that amendments such as these should be properly considered in the round as part of the Government’s review of stakes, prizes and licensing arrangements. I entirely agree, so I hope the Minister can reassure the House that the suggestions in these amendments will be thoroughly considered as part of the Government’s review.
First and foremost, can the Minister reassure me that the Government will look at how the Gambling Commission might widen the scope of the conditions a licensing authority might impose in relation to gaming machines? Will they look in particular at the potential for licensing authorities to impose conditions that restrict the ability of customers to engage in anonymous fixed-odds betting terminal gaming—which would be possible without changes to primary legislation? I know that the betting industry is planning to trial new methods of identification, including biometric identification. If those trials prove successful, licensing authorities should be able to require the use of such methods in areas that are particularly vulnerable to gambling-related harm.
Secondly, will the Government encourage the Gambling Commission to issue guidance on the potential for licensing authorities to undertake cumulative impact assessments, as is currently possible with alcohol licensing? The latest research shows that people living near a betting shop cluster are at greater risk of gambling-related harm, and licensing authorities should be able to reflect that in policy-making.
Finally, will the Government look at the way in which the current “aim to permit” licensing framework inhibits the ability of licensing authorities to tackle gambling-related harm through the use of conditions? Colleagues have spoken to licensing authorities, which feel that they simply have no chance of imposing meaningful conditions when confronted by a betting industry armed to the teeth with eminent QCs. If the Government are serious about giving meaningful power to local decision-makers, they need to review this framework as a matter of course; otherwise, amendments to mandatory conditions, such as that proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, will be the only way to make effective progress on reducing crime or protecting staff.
My Lords, I am very pleased to speak in support of Amendments 173B and 173C in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol. I have added my name to both.
Beginning with Amendment 173C, I support the proposal to devolve more powers to local authorities so that they can determine, going forward, the number of fixed-odds betting terminals in their area. As has been said before, fixed-odds betting terminals present a very distinct challenge that results from the unique way in which they combine high stakes with a very high speed of play, such that it is possible to lose £18,000 in an hour.
Rather than repeat the statistics that I cited in our debate on these amendments in Committee, I want to highlight a study specifically of the play of people with loyalty cards. This is particularly interesting because those with loyalty cards tend to gamble regularly, and the research demonstrated that 37% of such users manifest problem gambling behaviours. Are we as a society really happy to countenance accepting a form of entertainment in relation to which regular engagement exposes nearly 40% of those partaking to serious risks?
A study published in 2016 on addictive behaviours in 72 homeless adults in Westminster identified elevated rates of problem gambling in the group, with 82.4% of those reporting problem gambling stating that their gambling preceded their homelessness. The authors of the report said that,
“our homeless participants identified Fixed Odds Betting Terminals as the most problematic form of gambling”.
In responding to the debate on these amendments in Committee, the Minister was keen to highlight the success of the Gaming Machine (Circumstances of Use) (Amendment) Regulations 2015, which require gamblers wishing to bet more than £50 on B2 FOBTs to do so either through a verified account or via over-the-counter authorisation. However, an assessment by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport revealed that only a limited number of stakes—between 8% and 11%—were being placed through verified accounts and that people placing bets with staff occurred in only around 1% of the sessions. Thus the uptake for stakes being placed through verified accounts and OTC authorisation was incredibly low and suggests that the Government’s attempt to track players has been unsuccessful.
In addition, the DCMS evaluation report noted that from 2014 to 2015 there had been a £6.2 billion reduction in bets over £50 but a £5.1 billion increase in stakes of between £40 and £50. This suggests that the intervention is simply changing the way that players play and is not seriously curbing problem gambling connected to FOBTs. The fact that increasing numbers of people are betting just under £50 every 20 seconds is deeply disturbing.
On Amendment 173B, I note that in her response to the debate in Committee the Minister said:
“The Association of British Bookmakers’ Safe Bet Alliance provides specific guidance on staffing security in bookmakers, which was drafted with the input of the Metropolitan Police. Members of the Association of British Bookmakers operate single staffing only when a risk assessment has been undertaken”.—[Official Report, 9/11/16; col. 1231.]
The implication of what she said seemed to be that this was satisfactory. However, given the extensive evidence of gamblers vandalising FOBT machines after losing apparently considerable sums of money, given also that betting shop staff recall having felt intimidated and scared when individuals have lost money on FOBT machines, given too that betting shops accounted for more than 200 of the 523 serious robberies against commercial properties in London in 2015, given that the Association of British Bookmakers has a very strong incentive not to allow its main source of income to be seen as a catalyst for public disorder, and, lastly, given that, although the Metropolitan Police can provide advice, it does not make law, it seems to me that we should not conclude that the current arrangements are satisfactory.
The Prime Minister has said that she wants to make Britain a country that “works for everyone”, as has already been mentioned. Although FOBTs are certainly working well for betting shops, they are not working well for other people—especially those in deprived communities, where a large number of FOBTs are located.
In conclusion, I emphasise two things. First, although I strongly support the proposal to give local authorities powers to limit the number of FOBTs, thereby providing the opportunity to limit the number of these dangerous machines, is it not far more important to make FOBTs less dangerous? To this end, I am very committed to the Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, in the previous Session, which proposed reducing the maximum stake per spin from £100 to £2. That is the big issue, and I very much hope that the Government will adopt this solution in their gambling review.
Secondly, I hope that the Minister will accept these amendments today, but if she says that we must await the outcome of the review on this matter, I hope that what I have said at this stage and previously will be taken into account as part of the review process. Finally, can she say when she expects the results of the gambling review to be published?
We certainly support the objectives of these amendments. As there was in Committee, there have been plenty of examples of the damage that is currently being done through these terminals and of the problems that we now face.
When the matter was discussed in Committee, the Government said that they understood the concern that such gaming machines could fuel problem gambling and that they were committed to reducing the risks of potential harms associated with such machines. They did not express any enthusiasm for adopting the amendments in Committee and, as has already been mentioned, they said that there was already a review under way which had been announced on 24 October. One assumes that the Government will be looking for the review to make recommendations which will enable them to implement the commitment they said they had in Committee to,
“reducing the risks of potential harms associated with such machines”.—[Official Report, 9/11/16; col. 1231].
Perhaps the Minister could indicate that that is how they are looking at this review and expect it to produce recommendations which will enable them to stick to the commitment that they enunciated when the matter was discussed in Committee.
As has already been called for—and I would do the same—it would be helpful if the Government could indicate now what the timescale is. They said in Committee that the call for evidence period would close on 4 December, which has now passed. I shall not ask the Government on 7 December what their conclusions are from the call for evidence but it would be helpful to know by when they will have come to conclusions. They said in Committee that, following the close of the period of the call for evidence, they would consider proposals based on robust evidence provided to assist in their decisions.
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, has explained, these amendments would have the effect of devolving power over licence conditions for gambling premises and gaming machines to local authorities. Such conditions would, among other things, enable licensing authorities to impose minimum staffing levels on premises with such machines. I thank the noble Lord and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol for again bringing this important matter to your Lordships’ attention. Let me emphasise that the Government are alive to the concerns about the dangers that fixed-odds betting terminals can pose.
It is worth reiterating that, as we speak, the Government are holding a review into the regulation of gaming machines, gambling advertising and the effectiveness of social responsibility measures on gaming machines, with a specific look at potential harm caused to players and communities. As part of this, we are liaising closely with the Local Government Association, among others, and we have received submissions related to the devolution and/or creation of additional powers for local authorities which we will of course consider alongside other proposals and evidence received.
I emphasise in particular that, as part of the review, the Government and the regulator, the Gambling Commission, are carrying out a thorough process which will look at all aspects of gaming machine regulation, including categorisation, maximum stakes and prizes, location, number and the impact that they have on players and communities in relation to problem gambling and crime among other things. All of these factors are potentially relevant and interrelated, and all should be considered together when looking at whether changes could or should be made to current gambling entitlements. We believe that the correct mechanism for looking at these issues is in collaboration with the regulator, the Gambling Commission, drawing on the best evidence available and subject to open consultation.
In addition, before we take any decision on this issue, we would want to ensure that the following risks were properly considered and consulted on. Any local authority which sought to exercise a power to change the number of fixed-odds betting terminals allowed on licensed betting premises would be likely to find its decision the subject of legal challenge. If these legal challenges are considered robust enough, we may be in a position of devolving a power that could not be effectively deployed. Local authorities have had a number of high-profile legal challenges from bookmakers on planning matters and may be reticent about utilising additional powers if it led to costly and protracted legal cases. We would therefore want to consult with the Local Government Association and local authorities on this issue. Again, I reiterate that the current review process is the appropriate mechanism to assess this, rather than immediately launching into these amendments to the Gambling Act.
We are also mindful of the possibility that piecemeal reform could give rise to unanticipated consequences. For example, if a local authority decides to reduce the number of fixed-odds machines, it may have the effect of encouraging operators to seek to open additional premises, furthering the problem of clustering.
We have already taken steps to tighten the controls on these machines and we have set out our plans for the review of gaming machines, gambling advertising and social responsibility which will include a close look at the issues related to fixed-odds betting terminals. I emphasise that we are taking this very seriously and that the review is looking into all these issues. When the review was announced on 24 October, it was stated:
“The review will be considering robust evidence on the appropriate maximum stakes and prizes for gaming machines across all premises licensed under the Gambling Act 2005; the number and location of gaming machines across all licensed premises; and social responsibility measures to protect players from gambling-related harm (including whether there is evidence on the impacts of gambling advertising and whether the right rules are in place to protect children and vulnerable people).
The review will include a close look at the issue of B2 gaming machines … and specific concerns about the harm they cause, be that to the player or the communities in which they are located.
In launching this review I want to ensure that legislation strikes the right balance between allowing the industry to grow and contribute to the economy while ensuring consumers and communities are protected, including those who are just about managing”.—[Official Report, Commons, 24/10/16; col. 1WS]
On the timetable for the review, as noble Lords know, the call for evidence closed on 4 December. An enormous amount of evidence was generated and there was a great deal of interest from the general public as well as from a variety of interest groups, local authorities, trade bodies and industries, and we will be looking in depth at the evidence that was submitted before considering proposals, which we hope to announce next year.
Given that this process is in train and that we are taking it extremely seriously, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her reply. At one stage I thought about asking her how much I should stake on the change that she seemed to be sympathetic towards.
However, I am slightly disconcerted by the latter part of the noble Baroness’s speech, when she referred to concerns about legal challenge. If there are such concerns, I hope the Minister will indicate that the Government would—assuming they want to make a change—enact the necessary legislation to pre-empt the legal challenge which might arise under the system as it currently stands.
With respect, I question one of the assumptions which is often made, and to which I referred in moving the amendment, about the contribution made to the economy. If the study to which I referred is correct, there is a net loss to the economy from the current operation of the industry in respect of fixed-odds betting—I am not talking about other elements of gambling. I invite the Minister to ensure that proper consideration is given to that aspect. The industry will undoubtedly talk up the economic benefits, but according to the report that I cited that seems not to be the case and it is misleading to make that claim.
However, it is clear that the Minister is at least sympathetic to the amendment. Although I will not seek to divide the House, I hope for a positive response as part of the process that the Government have already initiated. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 173B withdrawn.
Amendment 173C not moved.
174: After Clause 127, insert the following new Clause—
“Prescribed limit of alcohol
(1) In section 11(2) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (interpretation of sections 4 to 10), the definition of “the prescribed limit” is amended as follows.(2) For paragraph (a) substitute—“(a) 22 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath,”.(3) For paragraph (b) substitute—“(b) 50 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, or”.(4) For paragraph (c) substitute—“(c) “67 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of urine,”.”
My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment 175. Amendments 174 and 175, in outline, seek to reduce the legal limit for alcohol in the blood for drink-driving and introduce changes for younger or probationary drivers. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, for their assistance and for putting their name to the amendments. I thank the Minister for all her interest and efforts regarding this matter. I thank her particularly for arranging a meeting yesterday for interested Peers with the Minister, Andrew Jones, who has responsibility in this area.
I shall not seek to repeat in full the arguments made in Committee, save to mention that the number of deaths from drink-related accidents has remained static for five years, at 240 a year, and that 2.9% of those accidents fall within the 80 milligram to 50 milligram range to which the amendment relates. I know that the Minister has explained that there is a group of persistent offenders, but the 2.9% of accidents that fall between 50 milligrams and 80 milligrams are within the low-hanging fruit area that could be avoided if there was a reduction in the limit allowed in the blood.
Before I mention two additional areas for consideration since Committee, I want to outline how I see the debate on this issue. Both sides, whether it is those moving the amendment and all the organisations, such as the RAC and RoSPA which support it, or the Government, base their arguments and conclusions on evidence—they have come to different conclusions and interpretations on the evidence. For instance, a PHE study recently published in The Lancet said that 40 milligrams in the blood increases the risk of an accident. I therefore hope that I have misunderstood Her Majesty’s Government in saying that theirs is the only evidence-based position. It is not conducive, particularly in today’s climate, to conduct debates in a polemic way rather than seeking to accept that both sides are acting on evidence and coming to different conclusions.
Of the two additional matters to have arisen since Committee, the first relates to disparity and the second is conceptual. On disparity, the amendment relates to the law and the specific offence of having too much alcohol in the blood. That is an offence in and of itself under our law. There is now a different limit in Scotland and in Northern Ireland. That offence often stands in conjunction with, and is pertinent evidence for, the more serious offences in our law of causing death by dangerous driving or causing death by careless driving, the latter being a more recent change to our law. It is important to remember the context of those offences. They were introduced because it was very difficult to persuade juries to convict for manslaughter. Juries cannot relate to walking down the street with a knife or a gun, but they can relate to being in a car, failing to drive properly and causing an accident. That is the background to those offences.
A particular disparity in relation to this matter has come to my attention, and it relates to devolution. We have devolved to Scotland the power to set a different level of permitted alcohol in the blood—it is now 50 milligrams there—but the offences of causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving are the same on both sides of the border. Many of your Lordships may have watched the very popular television series, “The Bridge”, a Scandinavian drama where the murder victim’s body is found on the huge bridge between Denmark and Sweden. Therefore, both police jurisdictions are involved in investigating the case. But let us consider the case of someone driving from Scotland into England whose inadvertent driving causes a death first in Scotland and then later a death in England. In the fictional series that I have mentioned, there was no problem in both police forces investigating the murder because it was a murder in Sweden and in Denmark, but, because of the way in which the law is framed between England and Scotland, such an offence would be particularly difficult to investigate here because, in relation to charging for causing death by careless driving, in one jurisdiction 70 milligrams is over the legal limit and in the other it is not. The offence would obviously be considered very differently by the Crown Prosecution Service and the procurator fiscal because, in a decision whether to prosecute, the 70 milligrams is much weightier evidence before the court if it is also a criminal offence. Assuming a decision to prosecute is made, how does a judge direct the jury in each jurisdiction? Such a direction is affected by whether the level of alcohol in the blood is a criminal offence in the courtroom. We have created this problem in relation to how we prosecute these matters.
It matters particularly to victims. Even when we are not talking about the same perpetrator, which I recognise is unlikely, will we not end up in a situation where the standard of driving, particularly driving without due care and attention or careless driving, may be very similar but the limit for alcohol in accidents that occur in Scotland will be different from that in those that occur in England? Surely families in England and Wales will also want the criminal law to recognise that the behaviour that led to the death of their relative is meritorious of a conviction or at least a trial in the criminal court. At its best, the criminal justice system is part of the healing process for victims. It is not too far-fetched or the stuff of fiction to think that we will end up with victims in England and Wales feeling that the death of their relative was not viewed in the same manner as that of someone in Scotland or, I might add, in Northern Ireland. If there are prosecutions for the 240 annual deaths that I talked about, it will be important to gain that evidence as well.
On the conceptual point, it has been mentioned again and again from the very beginning in meetings with Her Majesty’s Government that there is a balance to be struck between personal freedom and public safety. I of course accept that you are free to go to the pub; you are free to drink; you are free to have many drinks, subject to the licensee’s obligations. You are also free in this country, although I would be very sad to see it, to drink yourself to death if you wish. But it is a very different consideration for public safety if, when you have had at least some alcohol, you then get behind the wheel of a car. You cannot pilot a plane or drive a train or tram while you have any alcohol in your blood, and you are not allowed to operate many other types of machinery. So this is not about fining people who have had one glass of wine in the pub. Bringing down the limit and beginning to create zero tolerance to drinking and driving would not be a bad thing.
I recognise that there will soon, I hope, be evidence available from the Scottish change in the law. There will be evidence, as we heard outlined previously, about the rural economy, and there will, I hope, be evidence about the reductions in deaths and injuries. We need to be careful about the difference between correlation and causation when we look at that evidence. But there will also be, I hope, the evidence from the criminal courts on how the change in the alcohol limit affects prosecution, particularly that of causing death by careless driving. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will be able to give assurances that the Government will take forward this matter constructively. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support both Amendments 174 and 175. I rise slightly wearily because I do not know, after the calm, clear and patient explanation from the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, of why this is necessary and it is illogical not to do it, that I can find any more reasons to give to the Government for making this change. However, I will try.
We heard from Mr Grayling in the Daily Mail today—he was Secretary of State for Transport this morning, but I am not sure if he still is—that the Government are,
“not interested in penalising drivers who have had ‘a glass of wine at the pub’.”
Nor are we. Drinking is a perfectly acceptable way to spend your time, but I object when the person who has had a drink gets into a car, which then becomes a dangerous weapon. We hear again and again that any alcohol in your blood can impair your faculties and behaviour. Drinking and driving is just not something that we ought to accept in civilised society.
We heard that the number of deaths has plateaued at 240 a year since 2010. From the available evidence, there are estimates that 25 people die unnecessarily a year, and we could reduce that number still by bringing down the limit of blood alcohol content. Yet it seems to me that we accept 25 deaths a year. Why on earth do we think it is okay for 25 people to die on the roads? That does not even include the people injured from crashes. Some 8,000 people a year are injured from crashes, so if we accept that 25 lives would be saved, we must also accept that quite a lot of injuries would be prevented as well.
Lowering the limit would be a deterrent. We do not need to wait for Scotland. Multiple countries and multiple reviews show that lowering the limit has a deterrent effect. It is in fact the biggest deterrent, and it is cheap and easy to do. It is something we ought to do quickly. Martin Luther King said that,
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
It is an injustice when we accept that deaths on the road are something we do not want to deal with because we do not want to stop people drinking and getting in their cars afterwards. Personally, I think that is unacceptable.
My Lords, I will speak briefly to the evidence. An analysis was done in Switzerland comparing both novice and experienced drivers who had been fatally or seriously injured, and whether they had been drinking alcohol. The analysis compared two time periods, before and after reducing the legal limits, for 2011 to 2013 and 2014-15. In between-time, the limits in Switzerland were reduced to 20 milligrams for novices and 50 milligrams for others. The study found a larger reduction of serious alcohol-related accidents in both groups of drivers than of accidents without alcohol between the two time periods.
Early trends from Scotland with respect to the impact on fatal accidents of reducing the drink-driving blood alcohol levels to the same levels in December 2014 are also very promising. In 2010, the North report published by the Government reviewed drink and drug-driving laws, and modelled that a lower limit of 50 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood would save a significant number of lives. Applying those models to Scotland suggested that between three and 17 fewer deaths per year could be expected. The good news is that there seems to be a trend of that happening. In 2015, the first full year in which the reduced limit was in place, there were 24 fewer fatal accidents, a 13% reduction, and 98 fewer accidents involving serious injury—a 5% reduction.
As the noble Baroness said, it is difficult to attribute causation conclusively. However, is there really any reason why the results found in other countries should not also apply here? I strongly support a reduction in these limits to the same levels that apply in other UK jurisdictions. We must not forget that in May this year, your Lordships’ House also voted to support this reduction, anticipating that this could save as many as 100 lives a year. The measure is supported by a significant majority of the public.
My Lords, I am pleased to add my support to the two amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge. As she did, I express gratitude to the Minister for arranging the meeting we had with Andrew Jones, and for producing an evidence-based specialist to give us his views—which were very interesting but not tota