House of Lords
Wednesday 10 November 2021
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Durham.
Hereditary Peers: By-elections
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the operation of section 2 of the House of Lords Act 1999; and what plans they have, if any, to amend section 2(4) which has so far resulted in 43 by-elections to replace hereditary peers.
My Lords, the Government currently have no plans to amend Section 2(4) of the House of Lords Act 1999 to end by-elections for replacing excepted hereditary Peers.
My Lords, I am not in the least surprised by that reply. As the noble Lord knows, a by-election is taking place as we speak—the drama of it is among all of us. It is the seventh this year and, as the Minister knows, following the retirement of the Countess of Mar, there are now no women at all among the 92 hereditary places. Is it not obvious to the Minister, as it is to pretty well everyone else—apart from maybe half a dozen in this House—that a system of by-elections in which only hereditary Peers can stand and, in most cases, only hereditary Peers can vote, and which in practice is for men only, is not just indefensible but risible?
My Lords, if the noble Lord was not surprised by my Answer, I was not surprised by his question. The Act was part of an understanding and agreement that was enacted in statute and then as required in Standing Orders in 1999. The noble Lord was PPS to the Prime Minister at the time and assented to that. Yes, there is a by-election today. I have voted in it and, in accordance with the Carter convention, I voted for a Labour Peer. I have kept to the agreements made in 1999.
My noble friend is right to refer to the risible nature particularly of the current by-election, in which the whole House will be voting to replace the late Viscount Simon, a Labour Peer. Of the three candidates, one is a member of the Labour Party, one says that he is a Conservative and a third says that he is a member of the Labour Party but is pictured in Wikipedia festooned with Liberal Democrat paraphernalia. Is it appropriate that, despite the sad death of Lord Brian Rix, this Whitehall farce of ours looks like it will continue for many more years? I know that the Minister is not renowned for his sense of humour—
I am certainly not going to comment on my sense of humour. What I would say is that I always take your Lordships’ House seriously. If that is mistaken for not having a sense of humour, then I plead guilty. I believe that I have answered the noble Lord’s question. The arrangements subsist under statute and agreement until such time as there is agreement not only in your Lordships’ House but across the country and in the other place as to the future nature of this House.
My Lords, the work of this House, as shown on the Environment Bill this week, is greatly valued and respected, but we lose that respect because of the deep and profound concerns about the size of the House and the way in which people get here. Will the Government finally acknowledge that we need restraint and effective scrutiny on political appointments and that we need to end the farce of hereditary Peer by-elections?
My Lords, I believe that I have answered the last question from the noble Baroness. People get here in many ways, the majority by patronage through nomination by one individual who happens to be the Prime Minister of the time. I respect everyone in this Chamber, however they got here. Indeed, some get here by being right reverend Prelates. We should concentrate on doing our work well and publicising our discontents a little less.
Does my noble friend agree that closing off the by-election option for hereditary Peers and putting the House of Lords Appointments Commission on a statutory basis should not be seen as mutually exclusive options and that, implemented together, they could be taken to constitute stage two of House of Lords reform?
My Lords, the role and composition of a second Chamber would be appropriately discussed by a constitutional convention. The noble Lord may recall that his party’s manifesto promised us the establishment of a constitutional convention, which should appropriately be on an all-party basis. The Government appear to have abandoned that. Will the Minister pledge to argue with his colleagues that they should reconsider it?
My Lords, again, we have discussed this before. I have made clear in this House and the Government have made clear that the proposed groundwork of the commission is being carried forward in separate workstreams—for example, the Faulks review on judicial work. We have decided to pursue this through separate workstreams.
My Lords, behind the Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, lies a sentiment that has much wider appeal among Members, as emphasised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, which is that this House has too many Members. However, I consider the Question to be premature. Will the Minister consider whether the Act might give a precedent for legislation to ask all the major groups in the House to reduce their numbers by a similar self-selection process, as occurred under the Act? This could be by 20%, say, thereby reducing the numbers to become more in line with those in the other place without altering the current political balance.
My Lords, my noble friend puts forward an interesting suggestion. Some would say that what was proposed in 1999 worked well at the time, but I repeat that the Government believe that reform must be considered very carefully. I take note of what my noble friend has said.
My Lords, for those of us who support the Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, it is a matter not of personalities but of closing a backdoor that gives membership to this House —perhaps I should say another backdoor. I hope that the Government realise that the reputation of this House is not so strong that we can maintain arrangements that seem indefensible to the vast majority of this country. Perhaps the Government do not mind this, but many in this House do.
My Lords, does the Minister not recognise that “hereditary” and “elections” seem to be a contradiction in terms? I recall that, on a parliamentary visit with the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, he would say, “My name is Patrick Courtown, I’m a hereditary Peer and I’m elected,” and I would say, “I’m Baroness Smith and I’m appointed.” It does not make sense to anybody else in the world. The point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, is the most important one: what really matters is the work of your Lordships’ House. When we are here, nobody knows who—other than the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, because I have just pointed it out—is hereditary and who is appointed, because it does not matter once they are here. Therefore, why not just end this farce of by-elections and treat all Members as equal? On that basis, I can promise that the Official Opposition will give any legislation a fair wind and get it through very quickly.
My Lords, is this not really about good faith? I have not been here very long but some of your Lordships were here when a deal was done, establishing the current system pending stage two reform. At the risk of making myself Billy-no-mates again, as I was in my old job, I favour eventual democratisation but, unless we are prepared to do that, does my noble friend not agree that it is perverse to be targeting what is, despite a limited franchise, the only elected element in this Chamber?
My Lords, I will not be tempted too far down that road or some people might resuscitate some of the things that I said 10 years ago about your Lordships’ House and its composition. I now stand at the Dispatch Box as a Minister. My noble friend is absolutely right that we have a system that came out of particular circumstances. It was assented to and, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg, said at the time, will bind and honour all who gave it their assent until we have reform of your Lordships’ House, which, as I hear, a lot of people would favour.
UK–EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement: Foreign Workers
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of Article 399(5) of the United Kingdom–European Union Trade and Co-operation Agreement; and what steps they are taking in respect of the regulation of dues and charges payable by foreign workers or their employers.
My Lords, Article 399(5) obliges parties to effectively implement provisions of the Council of Europe Social Charter that they have accepted. It does not impact their ability to choose or amend which provisions they accept. Article 18(2) of the charter relates to simplifying, reducing or abolishing fees for workers or their employers. The UK has denounced this provision. From February 2022, charges for work visas payable by all foreign workers and their employers will be harmonised.
My Lords, on 12 July the Foreign Secretary wrote to the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, giving notice that with effect from 26 February 2022 the UK would denounce Article 18(2) of the European Social Charter 1961, which it had ratified 59 years earlier. That provision committed the contracting parties to simplify existing formalities and to reduce or abolish chancery dues and other charges payable by foreign workers or their employers. Deratification of that obligation may not be sensible in view of our shortage of lorry drivers but, more importantly, how can it be lawful? Perhaps the Minister will say that the Government overlooked the provisions of Article 399(5) of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement in attempting to denounce the provisions of the charter that it had already accepted.
My Lords, TCA Article 399 only obliges the UK to implement provisions of the charter that the UK accepts. It does not prevent the UK from accepting further provisions or ratifying different versions of the charter in the future, nor does it prevent the UK from not accepting or disapplying provisions. The 1961 charter specifically allows states to disapply individual provisions of the charter and the UK may choose which provisions of the 1961 charter we accept at any given time. The TCA does not affect this position.
My noble friend is right in stating the extent of Article 399, but it is quite a wide extent, because obviously it deals with the implementation of all the ILO conventions that have been ratified, together of course with the provisions of the European Social Charter, which we have agreed to accept, as she says. Can my noble friend update us on the overall progress in a wider sense towards completing implementation?
My Lords, the UK Government amended the immigration fee regulations in September to give effect to the change, as my noble friend knows. As I previously explained to the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, this is nothing to do with the UK-EU relationship. Our obligations on this matter relate to the implementation of the Council of Europe treaty and do not arise from the UK’s former relationship with the EU or from the TCA.
My Lords, I am conscious that this Question follows one that attracted remarks about the sanctity of a deal done in 1999, but touches on a deal done rather more recently. I ask the Minister how it can make sense for two parties to say that they will honour and implement commitments made under the European Social Charter, but subsequently say that it is perfectly permissible under that deal to disapply and renounce them.
Well, I think I explained our obligations to the noble Lord, Lord Hendy. We continue to place great value on the role of the Council of Europe in advancing work on human rights, democracy and the rule of law across Europe. It has been and will continue to be important to the UK’s human rights and foreign policy agenda.
My Lords, the new Justice Secretary is on record for calling the Council of Europe’s convention on human rights “feckless” and “undemocratic”. Now the Government have signalled that they wish to dilute the commitments under the Council of Europe’s Social Charter. Is this part of an agenda to seek trade agreements with countries that do not adhere to all eight of the ILO conventions and to the Social Charter? Will the Minister state clearly whether we will have stronger or lesser labour rights as a result of these moves?
My Lords, we will have an immigration system in which, wherever in the world you come from, there will be fairness. We are not considering withdrawing from the charter and I have explained about the human rights aspect. The CESC allows us to denounce all the charter or specific provisions. There is a huge list of countries, so we would not be alone in not implementing Article 18(2).
My Lords, the TCA is disappointingly light on support for the services sector, despite services contributing the overwhelming majority of UK economic activity. Many different sectors are experiencing a rapidly increasing vacancy rate, with hospitality facing particular challenges filling roles, due to the costs and complexities of new arrangements. We were promised that our new relationship with the EU would bring less red tape and bureaucracy rather than more, so what is going wrong?
I could tell the noble Baroness what is going right. We will have a system that is fair for the whole world, as people who have the skills and can contribute to our economy will be able to make their life and work in the UK. I accept her point about certain sectors facing shortages at the moment and the Government have remedied this.
My Lords, I greatly respect the expertise of the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, and do not want to comment on the legality of this, but could my noble friend confirm that the effect of reversing the Government’s policy would be to make it easier and cheaper to import cheap labour from abroad? Would the Opposition Benches not be more likely to make the Labour Party electable again if they were to seek to implement Gordon Brown’s cry to train people, so that we have British workers doing British jobs, rather than simply making it easier to import cheap labour from Europe?
I totally agree with my noble friend and have said on many occasions that the days when we could import cheap labour from the EU or anywhere else are gone. Our immigration system will be based on the skills that people bring to bear and there will be certain thresholds on incomes.
My Lords, the Minister will be aware that there is some confusion arising from statements made by the Home Secretary about our adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights. Earlier, I think she said that the Government were still adhering to it. Will she confirm that there is no intention in any way to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights and the Council of Europe?
I will not add to what I said to the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, but our departure from the European Union will not diminish the UK’s engagement with the Council of Europe. We are committed to the European Convention on Human Rights and to improving the effectiveness of its court. We are a leading player, a founder member and one of the five major financial contributors, having given €34.2 million this year. We use the Council of Europe to hold member states to their human rights obligations and deliver messages to them, in public and in private.
Does my noble friend agree that foreign workers or their employers coming to fill vacancies as lorry drivers, forklift truck drivers, nannies or au pairs have to pay for their visa? Is that not proving to be a barrier to them coming to the UK, and will this be reviewed?
Clinical Negligence Claims
The costs of clinical negligence are rising at an unsustainable rate, eating into resources for patient care. Annual cash payments have quadrupled in the last 15 years to £2.2 billion in 2020-21. That is equivalent to 1.5% of the NHS budget and these costs are forecast to continue rising. This is despite our substantial safety programmes. The Department of Health and Social Care is working intensively across government to address these issues.
I thank the Minister for his reply. I have raised this issue every year and have heard a similar response from the Minister sitting there every year. When a child is born severely disabled, the parents have to fight to get compensation or money to be able to look after that child. That can often take years. Does the Minister agree with the former Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, that we should look at the Swedish model in which, if a child is born severely handicapped, the money is made available straightaway and the parents do not have to wait for the courts to provide support?
The Government have looked at a number of different schemes from abroad. It is always very important to learn from good and bad practice, but what happens in a number of those cases is that the costs of compensation end up increasing. So We are looking at various solutions.
My Lords, the new indemnity scheme for historical clinical negligence that was brought into effect last year, the Existing Liabilities Scheme for General Practice, initially applied only to general practice members of the Medical & Dental Defence Union of Scotland, with general practice members of the Medical Protection Society due to come under its purview a full year later, in April just past. So I ask the Minister to update the House of any formal or informal assessments of the workings of this scheme in Scotland, the level of uptake and lessons learned, before it was further rolled out.
Before I respond, I wish to give a belated welcome to my noble friend Lady Davidson. I have worked with her often in the past, and she displays a wisdom beyond her years and a sense of humour that excels that of many on our Benches. To answer my noble friend, the Existing Liabilities Scheme for General Practice covers the historical liabilities of GPs, where the department has agreed commercial transactions with the previous indemnity providers. The scheme applies only to general practice in England and is part of the state indemnity reforms introduced in England in 2019. These 2019 reforms mean that GPs in England now benefit from more stable and affordable indemnity to cover future negligence claims. I understand that similar arrangements were introduced in Wales at the time. I am afraid that the policy on state indemnity is a devolved matter, but officials in the department are in regular contact with their counter- parts in the devolved Administrations.
My Lords, some 10 years ago the NHS Litigation Authority concluded in its maternity claims report that
“the most effective way to reduce the financial and human cost of maternity claims is to continue to improve the management of risks associated with maternity care, focusing on preventing incidents involving the management of women in labour”.
Yet, in the intervening 10 years, the number of claims has gone up from 391 in 2009 to 765 in 2019-20. Is it not about time that we put patient safety first in these considerations rather than looking at what happens to lawyers, and take some lessons from the airline industry where, if something goes wrong, we start by looking at no-fault and do not allocate blame but look at improving the system?
The noble Baroness raises an important point. However, in looking at the system overall, there is no evidence to suggest that the rise in overall costs is due to a decrease in NHS safety. Nevertheless, safety and learning from incidents are essential in their own terms. Our ambition is for the NHS to be the safest in the world and for maternity safety to be a priority, and there are various schemes in place.
My Lords, can the Minister tell me why the Government do not move to repeal Section 2(4) of the Law Reform (Personal Injuries) Act 1948, which essentially disregards treatment that the claimant may receive under the NHS? Can he also do something about the record of NHS Resolution in paying damages in 80% of litigated cases, with its lawyers being paid on a win-or-lose basis and therefore incentivised to carry on with unsustainable defences?
The noble Lord raises an important point about how we resolve a number of these issues. As many noble Lords will be aware, when the NHS does a wonderful job, we all support it but, sadly, when it does not do such a good job, there is a culture of delay, defend and deny. Sometimes it is incredibly difficult, and I have heard of people who have had terrible experiences in trying to get someone to resolve their issue. I heard of a very sad case: a young official in the department told me that a friend of hers, a young Afro-Caribbean lady, 24 years old, lost a baby and, miraculously, the papers have disappeared. They are now trying to gaslight this poor patient. It is really important that we resolve this.
In terms of the cost, NHS Resolution negotiates large-scale contracts for defendant legal services, using its position as a bulk purchaser to obtain the best expertise. NHS Resolution is looking to resolve claims promptly and most claims are often settled without court proceedings or going to trial. It is a difficult balance because while we may be concerned about the fees of the injury lawyers, they are able to shine a spotlight on the NHS delay and denial, as it were, and go further when many patients themselves or their families are in distress.
My Lords, the element of compensation in clinical negligence cases which relates to the cost of further health treatment is based on the cost of care in the private sector. Why is this so when NHS treatment is as good or better? Should not private health costs be provided only where the patient cannot get treatment on the NHS?
My Lords, given that the key to reducing the overall cost of clinical negligence is to have less of it, the real issue is the need to increase joined-up patient safety learning across the NHS. Does my noble friend the Minister accept that the cost of current legislation—that is, damages and claimant legal costs—is reducing in any event, as detailed in the NHS Resolution annual reports of 2020 and 2021, and that the overall payment for claims in 2019-20 was therefore £2.2 billion?
My noble friend raises an important point. The Government remain committed to continuous safety improvement, particularly on developing learning cultures in our health system and tackling the issues of denial and delay. While we strive towards this goal, we have seen that the cost of clinical negligence claims has quadrupled in the last 15 years, and there is no guarantee that reducing harm would necessarily result in fewer claims. In many cases, the overall costs are being driven by increases in the average cost per claim. Indeed, claims have recently levelled out, falling from £2.26 billion to £2.17 billion but this is largely due, in least in part, to the coronavirus pandemic.
My Lords, the annual cost of clinical negligence has risen from £1 million in 1975 to £2.2 billion last year, as we have just heard. The Medical Defence Union’s evidence to the Health and Social Care committee’s inquiry into NHS litigation reform predicted that any money raised by the new health and social care levy would be entirely swallowed up by the amounts being paid out each year in NHS clinical negligence claims. What assessment have the Government made of this claim, how does it impact their plans to reduce the huge NHS waiting lists for treatments, and what money will be left for social care?
The noble Baroness raises an important point that spending more on compensation means less money for the care of patients. That is why we are committed to looking at various ways of reducing this and are working with the Ministry of Justice. Issues include the role the royal colleges play and the training they give to their medical staff, while needing to instil a culture of more openness when things go wrong. When things go right, we are ready to praise but when things go wrong, they have to stop hiding, delaying and denying, and be open.
Thank you. I accept entirely what the Minister says about learning from experience but was this not supposed to have been baked into the NHS after numerous reports in recent years? Does he accept that we need to look again at the way in which the NHS trusts are often slow in learning from their mistakes, rather than allowing this culture to continue?
I completely agree with the sentiments behind the question. It is important that at all stages we bake in a culture of openness in the NHS so it can no longer hide behind the fact that we are full of praise for it when it does things well. However, when things go wrong, I am afraid that it shuts up shop and hides behind various techniques. It is important that we are as open as possible in trying to make sure we tackle some of the problems and learn in the future.
Russia: Gas Supplies
My Lords, we have significant concerns about Russia’s pattern of military build-ups on the border with Ukraine and in illegally annexed Crimea. Russia’s threatening, destabilising behaviour is unacceptable. The United Kingdom and international allies are unwavering in our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and, indeed, territorial integrity. Russia’s destabilising behaviour could affect western European gas supplies, especially as storage levels are low. However, UK gas imports are diverse and in 2020 Russian imports represented less than 3% of our total supplies.
I thank the Minister for his comprehensive reply, but it is much broader than this. I believe that NATO nations are standing into danger. We have seen this pressure on gas supplies. We have seen the build-up of military forces. We have seen Alexander Lukashenko—who is, let us face it, a puppet of Putin—now putting pressure on the borders of Poland and Lithuania. There are very real risks that things might escalate. This is highly dangerous behaviour. If that happens, would an Article 4 be called? I am not sure—it might be. That is extremely dangerous and worrying.
There are two issues. First, the NATO Council should meet to discuss whether using the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is in the interests of Europe. It is a real danger to rely so much on Russia. Secondly, bearing in mind that the actions on the borders might well lead to an Article 4-type question, there needs to be a meeting of NATO Ministers. This is becoming a very dangerous time—this is typical grey-zone warfare that Putin has embarked on and is now expanding.
My Lords, on both those fronts I totally agree with the noble Lord. I agree with his assessment that the issue of Nord Stream 2 is having a destabilising effect across Europe—we have repeatedly been consistent in expressing our concerns in that regard—and about the importance of NATO and of NATO Ministers meeting. A NATO meeting is scheduled, and I am sure that these issues, particularly with the unravelling of the situation on the Polish border, will be primary in the concerns and discussions that the NATO Ministers have.
My Lords, it seems almost certain that reports of build-up along the border are directly related to a year-long increase in the number of violations on both sides of the line of contact of the June 2020 ceasefire agreement. If that is the case, that needs to be engaged with. What diplomatic contribution are our Government making to help to strengthen the ceasefire, either within the OSCE or otherwise multilaterally or bilaterally?
My Lords, the noble Lord speaks with a lot of insight and experience. I assure him that, for example, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister engaged directly with President Putin on 25 October, where Ukraine was primary in their discussions. I too, through the workings of the OSCE, an area that I will now be looking after, will ensure that the Minsk accords and agreements, and the principle that was agreed, will be upheld. So on all diplomatic fronts, we are engaging, both bilaterally and through multilateral organisations.
My Lords, last week there were reports that Gazprom was putting pressure on Moldova to sign an agreement if it distanced itself from the European Union. The Ukrainian energy Minister has called for the European Commission to formally review the Nord Stream 2 approach. The Minister here said that the UK has concerns about the scheme. Can he be specific? Is he supporting a halt to the process, and does he therefore disagree with the European Commission’s position that due process should be carried out regarding the Nord Stream 2 project?
My Lords, on the specific point about Nord Stream 2, our position is consistent: we believe that it destabilises the continent of Europe due to its reliance on it. Recent events have also indicated its heavy reliance on a single source of supply and the insecurity that that can bring. We are working with key partners on this issue, but we are very clear on what our position is.
My Lords, I should declare a sort of interest, in that that nice man Mr Putin has banned me from going to Russia. I think the Government accept how serious the situation is, but the Minister should know that Putin will judge us by our actions, not our words. So does he think it is sensible for the United Kingdom at the moment to be reducing its Army by 11% and reducing the number of its surface warships and aircraft, or does he think that President Putin will look at us and say that that shows weakness?
My Lords, on my noble friend’s first point, I will be sure to relay that to the Prime Minister and raise directly the concerns about him not being able to visit Russia. On the serious point about our military presence, as my noble friend will be aware, we have exercised our full support to Ukraine, including the deployment of vessels to the region in order to ensure security for international waters, and we strongly support the Ukrainian position on territorial sovereignty and integrity.
My Lords, malicious activity by Russia in the context of destabilising Ukraine was prominent in the recent integrated review’s assessment of the global security context. Given its evident predictability, can the Minister reassure the House that the relevant government machinery—namely, the National Security Committee—has met recently to review scenarios and likely contingent responses, both national and integrated with close allies?
My Lords, without going into the detail, the noble Lord is of course correct that the integrated review had a specific focus on the threat posed by Russia, not just through aggression from military sources but through other sources—cyber remains a key concern. The National Security Council repeatedly meets on issues of priority, of which the concerns across Europe are also well documented.
My Lords, as Russian forces continue to build up on the Ukrainian border, Associated Press reported that Russia and Belarus are further deepening their integration, stopping short of a full merger. Obviously Lukashenko now relies on Russia for support far more than he did before because of the international community’s opposition to his crackdown on the opposition within the country; 10 days ago we discussed the sanctions. I welcome what the Minister has said about discussions with NATO but, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Houghton, said, we really need a co-ordinated approach here. Can the Minister tell us why the Government are still delaying the full implementation of the Russia report?
My Lords, on the noble Lord’s last point—the Russia report—we have already taken key steps and actions. I have previously documented the steps that we have taken. There is a cross-government approach to the response to that, and a reply was issued immediately after the report came out. In the interests of time, I will write to the noble Lord about the specific actions that we have undertaken.
My Lords, South Ossetia, Crimea, eastern Ukraine and even Salisbury—for the past 10 years and more, Russia has been pursuing a policy built on the distraction of the West, of bullying, balderdash and sometimes outright banditry. To follow up on previous questions, is it not time for a renewed, revitalised and fully integrated strategy, not just military and economic but also diplomatic, particularly focused on the Black Sea, which is an area of great potential vulnerability for Russia? The first part of any such strategy must surely be for us in western Europe to stop buying more and more Russian gas every time we catch a cold.
My Lords, I agree with my noble friend and I assure him that we are doing exactly that. The integrated review is a good example of how we are working across government, and indeed with our allies. On his last point, as I said in my original Answer, less than 3% of our gas supply now comes from Russia. Currently, 45% of our overall energy mix is gas, of which 48% is domestically sourced, so increasingly we are moving away; certainly our reliance on Russian gas is less than that of others across Europe.
My Lords, what I can speak to is that we have had a range of discussions, and our views on Nord Stream 2 are very well documented. On the point that the noble Lord raises, we have made our position very clear to the US, and indeed to all our other allies, about Nord Stream 2 having a destabilising effect across the continent of Europe.
My Lords, does the Minister not remember that part of the problem with the Nord Stream gas pipeline was interference by the Ukrainian authorities with the Russian pipeline that was running through Ukraine? Would it not be best to start by getting an agreement with the German Government on the best approach and way forward?
My Lords, obviously the German Government will present their own position. We note the US and German collaboration to mitigate the negative energy impacts of the pipeline, but it is equally important that we stand firm in support of Ukraine, which continues to be challenged, and not just by insecurity when it comes to energy; let us not forget the situation in the Donbass and the continuing pursuance of the annexation of Crimea, which is right on our continent. It is Russian aggression that needs to recede.
Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2021
Green Gas Support Scheme Regulations 2021
Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (Coronavirus) (Amendment of Schedule 10) (No. 2) Regulations 2021
Motions to Approve
That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 9 and 27 September and 18 October be approved.
Relevant documents: 17th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, 14th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (special attention drawn to the second instrument). Considered in Grand Committee on 9 November.
Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 (Disability Assistance for Children and Young People) (Consequential Modifications) (No. 2) Order 2021
Motion to Approve
Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill [HL]
Order of Commitment
My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Unless, therefore, noble Lords object, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.
Status of Workers Bill [HL]
Order of Commitment
My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Unless, therefore, any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.
Education (Assemblies) Bill [HL]
Order of Commitment
My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Unless, therefore, any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now make a Statement to update the House on various recent developments in our relationship with the European Union. The Statement will also be made in the other place in due course by my right honourable friend the Paymaster-General.
As noble Lords will know well, we have two principal agreements with the EU: the trade and co-operation agreement and the withdrawal agreement. The first—the biggest and broadest bilateral trade agreement in the world, freely agreed by both parties—is working well. Teething problems have largely been dealt with, business has adjusted well to the new relationship, and trade is getting back to normal. Both parties have agreed data adequacy. We are reaching complementary agreements—for example, the 17 bilateral aviation agreements that we have reached. The substructure of specialised committees is functioning; almost all the committees have now met, the trade partnership committee will meet on 16 November, and we expect a further partnership council in December.
There are, however, two problem areas within the TCA. The first is fisheries and the second is Union programmes, notably the Horizon science research programme. On fisheries, since we received the necessary applications in June, we have been engaged in technical discussions about licensing with the Commission, also involving the Governments of Guernsey and Jersey and the French Government. As is known, we have granted 98% of applications from EU vessels to fish in UK waters—nearly 1,800 licences in total. The remaining 2% have not provided the data needed to access our 6 to 12 nautical mile zone. As we have said consistently, we are ready to consider any new evidence to support the remaining licence applications. Indeed, we granted three more licences on 14 October because the Commission sent new evidence, then another on 26 October. We set out the full latest figures to Parliament on 3 November. Licences for Jersey and Guernsey waters are assessed by the relevant authorities in Jersey and Guernsey, not the UK Government. However, we support the approach they have been taking, which has been entirely in line with the provisions of the TCA.
We have therefore been disappointed that, faced with these facts, the French Government felt it necessary to make threats which were disproportionate, unjustified and would have been a breach of the trade and co-operation agreement. I welcome France’s deferral of the implementation of these measures; I hope they will take them off the table permanently. I spoke yesterday to my friend Clément Beaune in the French Government following our talks in Paris on 4 November. We obviously have different views on the fisheries question, but it is certainly our intention to keep working to get to an outcome which is fair to those who are genuinely entitled to fish in our waters.
The second difficulty I mentioned is that of the Horizon science research programme and some other related programmes. We agreed to participate in this in the TCA, and to pay a contribution, which is likely to be £15 billion over seven years. The TCA is clear that the UK “shall” participate, and the relevant protocol “shall” be adopted. That is an obligation. If it were to become clear that the EU did not intend to deliver on that obligation—and it has not done so so far—or simply to delay sine die, we would regard the EU as in breach of Article 710 of the TCA. We would of course put together a domestic research programme for our own scientists and universities in its place. But it is in neither ours nor the EU’s interests to get to that point, and much the best way forward is for the EU instead to finalise our participation as a matter of urgency.
I now turn to the other agreement, the withdrawal agreement, which of course includes the Northern Ireland protocol. We have been in discussions with the Commission on the changes needed to that protocol since we published our Command Paper in July. Our position was set out then in full and remains unchanged. On 13 October, the EU published four non-papers with proposals on medicines, customs, sanitary and phytosanitary matters—or SPS—and the engagement of Northern Ireland stakeholders in the operation of the protocol. Around the same time, we transmitted a new legal text to it, operationalising the proposals set out in the Command Paper in legal form. Our immediate view of those non-papers was that, while the EU’s proposals did not go as far as our Command Paper, nor cover all the areas that we believed needed to be addressed—in particular, the protocol’s untenable governance arrangements—they were worth discussing. We were keen to see if its proposals would at least reduce trade friction in the way that it claimed.
Since then, we have been in intense discussions with the European Commission. I have met Vice-President Šefčovič every week for the last three weeks in Brussels and London, and we will meet again on Friday as part of this week’s talks. The aim has been to assess whether it is possible to close the substantial gap between our positions and secure a consensual, negotiated resolution. So far that has not been possible. This is, at least in part, because the Commission’s proposals would not do enough to make the protocol sustainable for the future or even deliver what they have claimed. I have heard that view also expressed by many businesses I have spoken to in Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
If the talks do in the end fail, we will of course publish in full our assessment of the EU’s proposals and set out why they fall short of a durable settlement, but we will not do that until we have exhausted all the negotiating possibilities. For now, I wish to preserve the integrity of the negotiations and to remain positive. Accordingly, we continue to work to see whether the EU position on these issues can yet develop further, and whether it is possible to find a way to deal with the other important matters necessary to put the protocol on a sustainable footing, such as the interlinked issues of the imposition of EU law and the Court of Justice, state aid, VAT, goods standards, and so on. That work will continue in the talks under way this week.
In my view, this process of negotiations has not reached its end. Although we have been talking for nearly four weeks, there remain possibilities that the talks have not yet seriously examined, including many approaches suggested by the UK. So there is more to do and I certainly will not give up on this process unless and until it is abundantly clear that nothing more can be done. We are certainly not at that point yet. If, however, we do in due course reach that point, the Article 16 safeguards will be our only option.
We have been abundantly clear about this since July, when we made it clear that the tests for using Article 16 were already passed. Nothing that has happened since has changed that. I can reassure noble Lords that, if Article 16 were to be used, we would set out our case with confidence and spell out why it was wholly consistent with our legal obligations. We would also be ready to explain that case to any interested party, not just the signatories to the treaty but those with a broader interest in relations with the EU and the UK.
However, the EU seems to be arguing something different at the moment. It seems to be claiming that it would be entirely unreasonable for the British Government, uniquely, to use these wholly legitimate safeguard provisions within the treaty, designed precisely to deal with situations like the current one. It also suggests that we can only take that action at the price of massive and disproportionate retaliation.
I gently suggest that our European friends should stay calm and keep things in proportion. They might remind themselves that no Government and no country have a greater interest in stability and security in Northern Ireland and in the Belfast/Good Friday agreement than this Government. We are hardly likely to proceed in a way that puts all that at risk. If the EU were to choose to react in a disproportionate way and decide to aggravate the problems in Northern Ireland, rather than reduce them, that is of course a matter for them. At that point, of course, we would be entitled to come to our own judgment about how much value we could attach to their commitment to supporting the peace process and the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland, as against protecting their own interests.
This Government will always proceed in the best interests of Northern Ireland and, indeed, the whole of our country. That means, one way or another, working towards a balanced arrangement in Northern Ireland that supports the Belfast/Good Friday agreement rather than undermining it. We would much rather that others joined us on that journey, rather than making it more difficult. I hope that, in the short number of weeks before us, the Commission and the EU member states will look at what we have in common, look at our collective strategic interests as western countries and help us to find a stable and sustainable solution so that we can all move on. There is still a real opportunity to turn away from confrontation, move beyond these current difficulties and put in place a new and better equilibrium. I urge everyone to take that road—the road not of confrontation but of opportunity—for the sake of everyone in Northern Ireland and beyond.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for advanced sight of his Statement. However, I express my disappointment that this is the second time in as many months that he has waited until the final day before a recess to make a Statement on such important issues. He knows that some colleagues may not be present and that, importantly, the other place is not sitting. The Statement may well be repeated by the Paymaster-General in due course, but there will be a significant delay and I do not see anything in the Minister’s text that could not have been shared with both Houses on Monday or Tuesday.
We all know that the Government’s position on these matters often fails to stand up to scrutiny, but it is only right that he and his colleagues in the other place subject themselves to that scrutiny. I have suggested before that continuing the Brexit melodrama suits the Minister and his Cabinet colleagues. He has been dismissive, but perhaps the hope in No.10 is that this battle will finally distract the papers and public from the sleaze accusations—call me cynical.
We welcome the Minister’s update on discussions with the French Government, the Commission and our friends in Guernsey and Jersey around fishing licences. During the passage of the Fisheries Act, your Lordships’ House warned that the timescales for implementing a new licensing system were tight and that issues such as these may arise. Clearly, this does not excuse some of the interventions we have seen during the recent dispute, and we hope that all sides can continue these discussions in the calmer manner seen during recent days.
On Horizon, it is of course disappointing that ratification of the UK’s participation is taking so long. As the pandemic has shown, cross-border academic collaboration can only be a good thing. UK researchers have already faced a huge amount of uncertainty as the Government weighed up whether to participate in programmes such as Horizon. Now that the decision has been made and enshrined in the TCA, as noted by the Minister, the EU must act accordingly. He says that, if the EU does not comply, the Government will create a domestic equivalent, so can he confirm what contingency planning may already be taking place? When could such a scheme be operational? I am happy for him to write to me on that.
We have all watched with interest and alarm in recent days as the rhetoric around Article 16 is once again ratcheted up. We read of potential dates for the UK to trigger a trade dispute, and of others on which Mr Šefčovič will outline retaliatory measures. Cooler heads must now prevail. We have also seen reports that the Minister is seeking outside legal advice on rewriting the protocol, including on the Court of Justice issue. Commentators suspect that this is to prevent the Attorney-General having to overrule in-house legal advice, so can the Minister confirm whether such a search is indeed under way?
This also brings us back to the question of when Parliament will see the legal text sent to Brussels by the Government. We were told that it merely replicated the contents of the Command Paper in legalese, but if that is the case, why is new advice necessary? Does he intend to produce a revised draft? Why were Ministers in Northern Ireland not consulted? It is clear from the Minister’s Statement that UK-EU relations have not significantly improved, despite the diplomatic mastery that he deployed during his short trip to Lisbon.
Following each week of talks, we hear that, rather than bridging gaps, the two sides are growing further apart. That will not only deeply disappoint UK businesses but, as we move into the festive period, frustrate them too. This is not a game to them; rather, it is about getting products on shelves and sustaining people’s livelihoods. At the time of publication, a month ago, a variety of business groups believed that the Commission’s proposals represented a significant step forward. We know that there are disputes, but there remains widespread agreement that there would be significant improvement.
Central to this are the people and communities of Northern Ireland. The evidence increasingly shows that they want a deal between the EU and UK, not another stand-off, with all the uncertainty that that brings. The respected Liverpool Institute for Irish Studies found that people of Northern Ireland oppose the use of Article 16 and instead want solutions.
Business groups in Northern Ireland are demanding a deal. Seamus Leheny of Logistics UK said that
“a UK-EU negotiated outcome is vital”
for the economy. Interestingly, he has not had any representation over the ECJ whatsoever from his 18,000 members. That is why Labour has called on the UK and EU to bring Northern Ireland’s leaders and communities into the process to speak for themselves. It is simply untenable to say to the people of Northern Ireland, “This is what we’ve decided: take it or leave it”. Northern Ireland must be involved in these talks and in the huge decisions being made about its future.
The Minister has said on several occasions that he stands ready to look at any and all proposals for improving the flow of trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, wherever they may come from. Why, then, has he been so reticent to seriously consider the idea of a wide-ranging, long-lasting veterinary agreement that is backed by organisations like the CBI? The EU has previously signalled that such a deal can be done, so why is that not currently at least on the table?
Although it increasingly feels inevitable, it continues to be our view that triggering Article 16 would be a destabilising step for businesses and communities alike. It may serve the Government well to maintain division, but it does nothing for anyone else. The Minister has been clear that he does not like the protocol. We know that, because he tours the studios every week telling the country of all the problems he has found with the deal that he personally negotiated.
But the evidence shows that, whatever the Minister wants, people in Northern Ireland want a deal. It is time for the Minister to show some responsibility. He should work constructively with the EU to find solutions, and then, if he still can, given everything that has happened, he must play an active role in rebuilding support and trust among all communities in Northern Ireland.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for making the Statement. However, just as he refers to the production by the EU of “non-papers”, it seems to me that this is largely a non-Statement. It contains nothing new and largely consists of yet more sabre-rattling—something that, I have to accept, the Minister excels at. He says that the trade and co-operation agreement is working well. According to the OBR, its effect is that our GDP will be 4% lower than if we had remained in the EU, so I suppose we should be very grateful that it is not working badly.
Underlying all the issues to which the Statement refers are two substantive problems for the Government. The first relates to trust. As the Minister made clear in his Lisbon speech, the UK is widely distrusted as a reliable partner. As a result, everything becomes more difficult, and what should be relatively small, easily resolvable issues, such as the licensing of fishing boats, become potential major flashpoints.
The second is that there exists at the heart of the Northern Ireland problem the irresolvable issue of where the EU-UK trade boundary is set. The Government in reality do not want a boundary at all when it comes to GB trading with Northern Ireland but want one when it comes to trading with the EU. The Good Friday agreement means that they cannot possibly have this best of both worlds. In seeking to achieve that impossibility, the Government are, understandably, running into problems, but it is completely disingenuous for the Minister to protest about unintended consequences of having a border down the Irish Sea when the Government’s own impact statement at the time set out in major detail exactly what those deleterious impacts would be. The Minister negotiated the deal. I cannot believe that he did not understand the consequences at the time. Did he think that it would be possible to live with them, or did he even then think that he could renege on the deal once the main trade and co-operation agreement had been signed? Either way, he was less than straightforward in presenting the deal as a Great British negotiating success.
On the operation of the protocol, the EU has made very substantive concessions which appear to offer the prospect of a resolution of the main operational problems. In these circumstances, repeatedly to dangle the prospect of Article 16 in front of the EU just looks like a provocation which will make the negotiations harder rather than easier. At the weekend, in commenting on the Article 16 threat, Sir John Major said that it was “colossally stupid” and “un-Conservative”. In part, he said this because it would threaten a trade war with the EU, a prospect which Simon Coveney again raised at the weekend, which would indeed be colossally stupid. But in part also, he said it because it undermines the Government’s central claim that they “got Brexit done”. Triggering Article 16 would lead to chaos and confusion, when businesses, not least in Northern Ireland, want stability and continuity. It would be the opposite of Brexit having been done. How, therefore, does the Minister rebut Sir John’s comments? How does he respond to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, that the majority of people in the Province do not believe that triggering Article 16 is in their best interests or that the potential involvement of the European Court of Justice is a red line—it is not; it is for the Minister, but it is not for the people in Northern Ireland.
It is overwhelmingly in the national interest to deal unemotionally with the problems in the operation of the protocol on the basis of the proposals now on the table. Can the Minister assure the House that he will finally put his sabre away and just get back to straight- forward negotiating?
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, and the noble Lord, Lord Newby, for their reactions to my comments. I will try to deal with the points they raised systematically by subject.
On the initial point raised by the noble Baroness about the timing of the Statement, international business has its own timetable. Unfortunately, there are meetings and contacts the whole time which shape outcomes. It was our view that this was the most sensible moment to give a clear update in the best knowledge of the situation. We will continue to update the House at the right moment to keep it up to date with developments.
On the question of whether the TCA is working well, I think it is. That there are disputes over fisheries and Horizon does not change the fact that this vast agreement, the biggest anywhere, has come into effect with remarkably little difficulty. I have expressed before my scepticism—although I recognise that people can have different views—about some of the predictions of the economic effect of Brexit. I continue to be sceptical about the particular figure referred to by the noble Lord; I think we will see real life set this out in due course.
On fisheries, I thank the noble Baroness for recognising that the position that the French Government have taken is not reasonable; I do not think it is. That we are dealing with this question quite late in the year and the timetable is tight is of course because the French Government did not send the necessary paperwork for the applications to the Commission until June, half way through the year, and most of the evidence we needed arrived only in September. So, what is represented as a very long discussion is in fact quite a short one; most of the 1,800 licences that I referred to were given before the start of this year or in the first week of the year. We are doing our best and we proceed according to the evidence. Discussions are continuing this week and I am sure we will get to a fair outcome.
On Horizon, obviously, contingency planning takes place for all eventualities. We had hoped that it would not be needed, and I still hope that it will not be needed. I am very happy to set out in writing where things stand on this subject, because it is of huge importance to a large number of universities and research institutes, not just in this country but across Europe, which have an interest in collaborating with us. I repeat that much the best thing is if we can see that the treaty is delivered on, we are able to join and things can proceed as we expected. I still hope that can happen.
On Northern Ireland, there is a lot to say and some of it has been said before, but I repeat that, in our view, Article 16 is not inevitable—I want to be clear about that. It is much better to come to a negotiated agreement; that is the best way forward for stability, sustainability and prosperity in Northern Ireland. That is what we are working to do, but the safeguards are there if it is not possible to deliver that outcome. I am not concluding at the moment that that outcome is not possible; I think it is, and we are working hard to deliver it. Obviously, we look at the real-world situation in Northern Ireland and the stark division of opinion that is clear from the polling, and that shapes the situation we are dealing with. We think it is absolutely legitimate to use safeguards which were put in place for exactly this situation if that is the best way of supporting stability in Northern Ireland. However, let us see whether we can avoid that situation.
On legal advice, I think the noble Baroness would not expect me to disclose the details of legal advice and how the work of the Attorney-General is done, but I hope that she agrees that we would want her to have the best possible advice, reflecting the full range of opinion on these very sensitive and unprecedented questions. I think that is a reasonable expectation.
On the negotiation process, I do not think it is true that we—the UK and the EU—are growing apart in the negotiations. We have inched a little bit closer; there has been some movement, and that is good. We just are not moving together quickly enough, and the gap is still an extremely wide one. However, there has been some incremental progress. It was our hope that that could have been quicker and more substantive, but we are trying.
I do not think it is true that, as the noble Lord, Lord Newby, said, the EU proposals offer a satisfactory solution to the problem that we now face. As I said, we will set out our view on that in detail in due course. For example, they do not eliminate a single customs declaration for any good moving into Northern Ireland. The famous 50% figure is actually a 50% reduction in the number of fields in the customs declaration, with most of the significant ones still remaining—it is not a 50% elimination of process. On medicines, we still do not have a situation that deals with the reality of the fact that the regulator in Northern Ireland is not the MHRA but the EMA, so there is clearly a risk of divergence and not being able to deliver medicines to the whole country—and we have to deal with that. So they make progress, but they do not take us the whole way there.
To repeat, we would like to get to an agreement. We are working hard to get to one, and we talk to all ranges of Northern Ireland opinion. I spoke only yesterday to the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister to update them on the talks, and we continue to proceed in a way that we hope will make the best progress. I do not think that the threats that are swirling around of a reaction to Article 16 are in any way helpful, but obviously that is the business of the European Union.
I conclude that we want to find a solution to this. It is obvious that the protocol is not the only possible solution to the set of problems that are presented to us in Northern Ireland. There are other solutions and possibilities—we set them out in our Command Paper—and we still think that that would be the best way forward to provide a sustainable, stable solution in everybody’s interests in Northern Ireland.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Statement. Last week, in our protocol committee we took evidence from the University of Liverpool, which produced the results of its survey. That survey was quite clear: that issues to do with Covid and health waiting lists were more important to the people of Northern Ireland than the protocol. As somebody who lives there, I can say that nobody talks about the protocol that I can hear of. Only this morning, Stephen Kelly from Manufacturing NI said that there were many benefits from the protocol. It is very important that there is a negotiated solution to the protocol. Does the Minister agree that invoking Article 16 now would not solve any economic or political problem and that such a step would undermine political stability in Northern Ireland, something that was very hard-won on all sides?
My Lords, I have looked very carefully at the polling produced by the University of Liverpool. It is inevitable that at the top of people’s agenda, in almost any poll, would be questions such as health, education and day-to-day issues. I do not think that that distracts from the fact that the protocol is self-evidently a major issue in Northern Ireland’s politics. What I took from that and other polling I have seen is the high level of division on the question of the protocol. There is a very clear division in most polls about support for the protocol or a wish to change it. In the environment of Northern Ireland, that very stark division is what makes things difficult. Obviously, I do not agree that triggering Article 16 would undermine stability. We would do it only if it was necessary to support stability in Northern Ireland. It is a safeguard and should be seen in that context.
Will my noble friend remember that wonderful quotation on Harold Macmillan’s desk that
“Quiet, calm deliberation disentangles every knot”?
Will he go very carefully indeed? We have only to look at today’s Order Paper, with business on Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Question that we had earlier on Russia and Ukraine, to realise that, daily, the world is getting a more dangerous place. The worst thing that we can do is to fall out with long-standing friends and neighbours in Europe. We must work together with them. Will my noble friend do everything he can to lower the temperature and increase the amity?
My Lords, obviously I agree with my noble friend’s question. I said in my Statement that the West needed to think about what it had in common, for exactly these reasons—and that is really important. Of course we want to be friends and have friendship with our European neighbours; that is absolutely clear. But that does not mean that we must accept every proposition that they put forward. We have our own interests and we need to protect them, in Northern Ireland as well as elsewhere. I think we try to proceed with quiet calm, as my noble friend says. It is not us that are making threats about the TCA and not us that are making threats of retaliation against France.
I think there is a difference between a legitimate provision in a treaty, which is Article 16, and threats to do things outside the treaty, which are the threats that have been made to us in the last few weeks. I think both sides need to look at this, retreat from the positions that the EU and France have put out, and try to find that quiet calm to which my noble friend refers.
My Lords, further to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, the main purpose of today’s Statement seems to have been to reinforce the threat to trigger Article 16. How does the Minister think that such blackmail tactics—because that is what they are—will make a negotiated settlement more likely?
I repeat what I have already said: threats have been made by both sides. Our position is unchanged; I made that clear in the Statement. Our position is to try to find a negotiated settlement. That is what we would prefer to do. Article 16 is a legitimate instrument in the treaty, which has been, albeit briefly, already activated by the EU and withdrawn. If we think that Article 16 is the best way of preserving stability in Northern Ireland, obviously it is an instrument that we will use. However, I repeat, it is not our preference.
My Lords, earlier today we were discussing the question of the hereditary Peers’ by-elections and how it might diminish the opinion of the great British public of this House. Actually, the great British public neither knows nor cares about it, but never mind. Does my noble friend the Minister consider that what does diminish the standing of this House in the eyes of the general public is the non-stop criticism in this House of his position—which is a very difficult position—from people on the other side who have yet to reconcile themselves to the fact that the British public voted to leave the European Union? Does he find that this sniping and nit-picking is helpful to his position, or does he find that perhaps it gives succour to his negotiating partners in the EU, who believe that this may represent somebody— whereas actually it represents none of the British people at all?
My Lords, obviously I very much agree with the thrust of the question. There is a lot of commentary about the situation in Northern Ireland that does not engage with the reality and facts of the question but is a sort of proxy fight about a question that is settled. It would certainly make our job easier if we could look at the national interest questions that are at stake here, and at the need to provide stability and prosperity in a very troubled part of our country, and make our position in trying to defend that easier to push forward.
The Minister has said here today that the talks are not at an end yet, but I am sure that he is very conscious—as we are, back in Northern Ireland—that every day the talks go on costs the Northern Ireland economy countless millions of pounds. I hope that he takes that into account. The noble Lord, Lord Newby, said that the people of Northern Ireland do not want Article 16 triggered. I will tell the House what Northern Ireland does not want: any trade barriers between Northern Ireland and GB. That is what it does not want.
Further, the protocol disrespects the very delicate constitutional balance—this is at the heart of the agreement, we are told. It undermines Northern Ireland’s relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom and it is not acceptable to any of the unionist parties in Northern Ireland. I ask this House to take cognisance of that. Why is it that only one side of the community has to be respected and not the other side? I ask the Minister: as the conditions now exist very clearly for the triggering of Article 16, why has it not been triggered?
My Lords, I think the exchanges that we have had in the last few minutes show the point I was making earlier: that there are in fact starkly divided views in Northern Ireland about these questions. That is why it is impossible to make an instrument such as the protocol work effectively, in the way that the EU insists that it be implemented, when those very stark divisions exist. We need to find a solution that everybody in Northern Ireland can get behind and which supports the delicate balance in the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, which was so painfully negotiated and which is the key to peace in Northern Ireland.
I very much sympathise with the points that were made on timing. Trade diversion is obviously happening every day and is very much on our mind, but we think that the responsible thing to do is to do everything we can, push as hard as we can and explore every possible avenue in and around the talks to see whether we can find an agreement that everybody can get behind. That will be my aim until I have concluded that it is impossible—and we are not at that point yet.
My Lords, page 58 of the OBR report states that UK GDP will be 4% lower as a result of the agreement negotiated by the noble Lord, Lord Frost. Page 59 of the OBR report states that trade—both imports and exports—is now 15% lower. The Minister said that he was “sceptical” of this and would be presenting his own figures. The Chancellor’s entire Budget and spending review were based on the OBR figures—so should we all now have a high degree of scepticism about the Chancellor’s statement and spending review? Will the Minister join us in scrutinising that set of figures, to show that we should not believe them?
My Lords, I do not think that I said that I was planning to present my own figures in this respect, merely that I was sceptical about the many judgments that had been made officially about the state of the economy in 2030—which I think is the 4% judgment—which is a long way out, and many things can happen, including policy changes that we will make to ensure that that situation does not develop. That is the way that I look at this problem.
My Lords, does the Minister accept that we are not here debating Brexit; we are debating his threat to detonate the Northern Ireland protocol in an agreement that he negotiated and signed? This has nothing to do—as the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, claims—with Brexit itself. Does he also recognise that while unionist sensibilities of course have to be recognised, we are dealing here with the long and painful history of the Irish question? There was not a single mention in his Statement of relations with the Irish Republic and how many people in the Irish Republic believe that this is a threat to the Irish Republic’s place in the single market and an attempt to force it out of it. What is his reaction to that? I urge him to stop posturing and get on with negotiating. The EU has moved a long way; how much has he moved?
I thank the noble Lord for his advice; I am certainly taking it, in that we should carry on negotiating—that is what we are trying to do, including this week and, I hope, beyond it. I repeat that Article 16 is a legitimate provision within the protocol. It has already been exercised once, and we cannot be in a position where it is not possible to exercise a legitimate provision in the protocol. That is simply not a reasonable position to take.
On the question of Ireland, we have made clear—I have said in this House on a number of occasions—that we do not wish in any way to threaten Ireland’s place in the single market. Nothing that we have proposed would do that. We have proposed measures that would protect the single market while allowing trade to flow freely throughout the United Kingdom. We have no wish to do that and nothing in what we have proposed can be interpreted as such; I want to be absolutely clear on that point.
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord succeeds in his negotiations but, irrespective of how many times he triggers Article 16, should that happen, it in no way replaces the protocol. In other words, there is the feeling in some unionist quarters in Northern Ireland that if we trigger Article 16, we will get a new deal. We are not getting a new treaty or a new protocol; we are merely amending it. It is a negotiation within it, so it is a mirage that triggering Article 16 is a solution.
Will the Minister also consider the fact that those of us who live there and have our political background there are, effectively, totally excluded from this process when we have solutions to put in place, based on the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, which would avoid a lot of the problems that we have currently? Would he be kind enough to address that and confirm that no triggering of Article 16 replaces the protocol?
The noble Lord makes an extremely important point. I have said before, and say again, that Article 16 is not an on/off switch for the protocol. It is not a sort of self-destruction mechanism for the protocol; it is a safeguard. There are constraints on what can be done with a safeguard. The legal limits of it are to be defined but, if you use Article 16, it is clear that you are left with a protocol with safeguards operating. That is why we find it so difficult to really understand the volcanic reaction that we get to the suggestion of using the safeguards provisions. It is a safeguard, and it is designed to support stability and ensure that the protocol fulfils its task of supporting the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. If we do use the safeguard and Article 16, that will be the spirit in which we do so.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for giving us an update, and for doing so in prime time, not at 7.30 pm. I also refer to the helpful reply that he gave to the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman of Darlington, about contingency arrangements on R&D. Could he talk more widely about contingency planning in the event that Article 16 had to be triggered? What conversations have he or his officials been having with interested businesses and Northern Ireland interests, about, for example, the impact of any tariff or bureaucratic changes that the EU might implement here or on the island of Ireland, and what we might do by way of response?
I thank my noble friend for the question. We are beginning that process. Obviously, we do not wish to pre-judge whether Article 16 is used and, as I said, we want to proceed with predictability, certainty and clarity, setting out the case if we do use Article 16, so there will be time to adapt and to deal with any measures if it comes to that point. We wish to provide legal certainty, clarity and the ability to deal with the situation and not to produce instability with sudden changes or surprise mechanisms. Predictability, clarity and certainty are the watchwords.
My Lords, has the Minister noted that polls now show a lead of about 10% for Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland? Does he think that that might have something to do with his Brexit policy over the last few years? How much higher does he think that lead might go if he, as my noble friend Lord Liddle says, detonates the Northern Ireland protocol, triggers Article 16 and begins a long trade war with the European Union?
It is probably not helpful for me to get into speculating about what polls may or may not show about outcomes months or years from now. To be honest, I am not sure there is a very direct connection between our Brexit policy and the rise of Sinn Féin in Ireland, which I think is due to quite a wide range of other factors and has parallels with what is happening across Europe. However, I defer to the noble Lord’s judgment; he has been to the Sinn Féin conference and I have not.
My Lords, the protocol continues to damage the economy and political stability in Northern Ireland, but some Members in this House seem oblivious to that fact. Does the Minister accept that the Government must fully restore Northern Ireland’s position as a full part of the internal market of the United Kingdom? Does he also accept that the people of Northern Ireland cannot continue to be subject to laws in Northern Ireland on which they have no say or input? The status quo is not an option.
My Lords, those are very good points. They are based on the fact that, ultimately, the protocol says that Northern Ireland’s position in the UK’s internal market must be respected and that it is part of the UK’s customs territory. That must be read alongside other provisions in the protocol, but we are not convinced that those requirements are being respected in the way that is necessary if we are to ensure that they are more than a dead letter. That is why we have proposed measures that would rebalance the protocol, support the balance of the Good Friday agreement and take us to a better place.
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Committee (7th Day)
Relevant documents: 1st, 2nd, 4th and 6th Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee, 7th Report from the Constitution Committee.
Clause 79: Deciding on the conditions
172: Clause 79, page 74, line 2, after “offence,” insert “and the details of any financial costs they incurred as a result of the offence,”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment provides the victims with the opportunity to register their financial losses and seek compensation.
My Lords, in moving Amendment 172, I will also speak to Amendments 173, 177, 179, 180 and 186, to be inserted after Clause 79. These are about victims’ financial losses, which can often arise as a result of an assault on their person, their property or their belongings. The amendments seek to ensure that the authorities and the perpetrators are made available of these costs and that, in turn, where possible, there might be some restitution for these innocent people whose property and goods have been attacked.
I bring the issue to the Committee’s attention based on a most unfortunate and regrettable experience of a friend of mine, Mr James McAra, who lives just outside Scunthorpe. He was at home watching television on the evening of 13 September this year in his house at Ashby. He was alone—he is a widower, aged 78 years, who has lived there for 55 years. He has brought up his family; they have all flown the nest and he is left alone. At 10 pm, his life was changed. There was a terrific crash outside the house, then suddenly his windows were smashed in and his front door was crashed down. Five masked, armed men with sledgehammers appeared in the house. He confronted one of them, who then gave him a push and shouted to his accomplices, “Oh fuck, it’s an old man. We’ve got the wrong effing house.” With that, they turned around, ran out and left him in a terrific state of shock. In the event, it turns out that the noise outside had been the smashing of his car with sledgehammers. It was so badly damaged that it has had to be written off.
As noble Lords can imagine, this is a most distressing experience—an attack and assault—for a man of such an age. The police arrived promptly; by all accounts, they were excellent and knew straightaway what had happened. The two houses next door had been raided on numerous occasions over the last two years in relation to drug dealing, and only two months earlier a young man had been found dead in one of them. The police believed that the attack on his property was intended for one of those houses, related to the ongoing drugs problem. This couple of houses, with numerous instances of anti-social behaviour, has made this once peaceful street a nightmare to live in. As a consequence, James is now considering moving because of this sickening experience and attack.
I turn to the amendments. To compound matters, Mr McAra is well out of pocket from this experience. The car insurance in no way covers the cost of the replacement car he has had to get. Then he has had to pay the excesses on the house insurance for new doors and new windows, and he has now been told that his future insurance premiums on his car and his property—the lot—will go up next year. Where is the justice for a victim of this kind?
I suspect that the chance of getting some reparations from the attackers, if they could be found, arrested and convicted, is quite a long shot. However, we have been disturbed to learn that it is not always understood by the authorities what the total cost has been and that there is no formal request for a record of the costs that might arise, in a variety of different ways, when someone is attacked in this way. Obviously, a requirement for conversations with the victims is laid down and victim support is offered, but financial losses are not necessarily recorded. I believe, and I am sure noble Lords share this view, that they should be. They should be taken into account in determining punishments and, if it is possible to get restitution, they should be known factors taken into account for that purpose.
Having heard this story, I am sure that noble Lords, like me, feel that it is time for some changes to try to give further assistance to victims. Mr McAra’s constituency MP is Holly Mumby-Croft, a Conservative MP who knows all about these facts and has been as supportive as she could be in the circumstances. She has been advised that these amendments will be put before the Committee today and, in due course, we are hoping they will be adopted and go back to the Commons. I think she is hoping that she can look for a sympathetic hearing from the Front Bench today. For positive action, in adopting these amendments, which will cost little to implement, we must go some way towards actually making changes. The amendments before us would facilitate such changes. On behalf of victims affected in this way, particularly Mr McAra, I have great pleasure in moving this amendment.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, has relayed to the Committee clearly a very distressing case of mistaken identity and anti-social behaviour generally in that street, apparently to do with drug dealing. If the perpetrators of this terrible crime were found, I am not sure that they would be given a caution, and I thought this part of the Bill was about police cautions—but I accept the general point that victims need to be protected. Although a caution would not be applicable in this case of the break-in at the home and the damage to the car, there might be one in respect of the general anti-social behaviour in the street. It is absolutely essential that the needs of victims are taken into account by the police, including for the financial losses that victims have suffered.
As I said on a previous group, out-of-court settlements have a high victim approval rating already. These amendments, in so far as they apply to police cautions, would ensure that they remain high, and to that extent we support them.
My Lords, I agree with the points that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, just made. I also think that Mr McAra should be very grateful to my noble friend Lord Brooke for raising the points about the lack of a formal record of the cost of the incidents. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that it seems very unlikely that anyone would get a caution for this sort of offence. Even if it got to court, there would be an obligation on the sentencing court to consider compensation, because one has to consider this whenever one sentences an individual. Nevertheless, my noble friend has raised an interesting question and I look forward to the Minister’s reply.
I hope I can be forgiven for intervening slightly out of order. I have been thinking as I listen to this debate about the very troubling case which the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, raised, but I am not sure that what he is looking for is germane to this clause. However, there is an issue of general principle about unrecovered, uninsured losses arising from a serious crime of violence which does not cause considerable personal injury.
If there is an injury that would attract damages of £1,000 or more, some ancillary costs are payable under the criminal injuries compensation scheme. This raises in my mind that perhaps the Government should look at something like the Pool Re reinsurance scheme, which applies to claims which are uninsured as a result of terrorism events. The underinsured or uninsured person can go to this entity, which has been set up jointly by the public and private sectors, and recover the cost of damages for what has occurred outside the insurance scheme. I suggest to the Minister, who is an extremely experienced lawyer, that perhaps the Government should look at the criminal injuries compensation scheme and the Pool Re scheme and try to produce something which would deal with quite a significant number of cases which probably do not involve a massive amount of money, but in which people who are not very well resourced suffer a great deal, and disproportionately, as a result of the kind of offence that the noble Lord described.
My Lords, this group of amendments, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, seeks to require that reasonable steps be taken to obtain and take into account details of any financial costs incurred by the victim as a result of the offence when deciding on the conditions to attach to a caution and when deciding on the amount of the financial penalty.
I will begin with the particular instance that the noble Lord set out. Both he and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, used the word “distressing” and I agree with that entirely. I would go further and say that it was appalling; it is a horrific set of circumstances and I am sure everyone in the Committee would share that approach. I extend deepest sympathies to Mr McAra. I am very pleased to hear that his local MP has been helpful and supportive; I was also pleased to hear that she is a Conservative, although one of the glories of our parliamentary system is that all MPs from all parties extend that sort of support to their constituents. It is very good to hear that the system is working.
I also tend to agree that this would be unlikely to be a caution case. I am hesitant to say any more, because prosecuting decisions are independent and a matter for the CPS. I defer in this regard to the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, but it sounds to me as though this would be more than a caution case.
The Bill states that both the diversionary and community cautions must have conditions attached to them. Those may include rehabilitation and reparation conditions, financial penalty conditions or conditions related to certain foreign offenders. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, that I give this amendment and the points that he made a sympathetic hearing, as he wanted, but I will explain why as a matter of principle we cannot accept it. This is not because we disagree with the point that underlies it but for the reasons which I will set out. The starting point is that Clauses 79 and 88 already provide for the authorised person to make reasonable efforts to obtain the views of any victim of the offence and take those views into account when deciding on the conditions to be attached to a caution. This includes obtaining their views on financial costs incurred and any decisions on seeking compensation.
Under the current cautions regime, the code of practice for conditional cautions makes clear provision for this in specifying that financial compensation may be paid to a victim. In addition, where the offending has resulted in damage to community property—I appreciate that in the case we have discussed the damage was to personal property—reparation may also take the form of repairing the damage caused, reparative activity within the community more generally or a payment to a local charitable or community fund, which might be more helpful if an offender does not have the financial means to pay. The current code also states that compensation for the victim should be prioritised ahead of other costs or financial penalties.
As is the case with the current code of practice for conditional cautions, the code of practice for the new diversionary and community cautions is the appropriate place to set out further detail on how the conditions attached to a caution may be decided. Again, that will include obtaining and considering any financial losses and requests for compensation. The code will be drawn up under the delegated powers in the legislation. We will consult widely, as the noble Lord would expect, and it will be laid under the affirmative procedure.
Consulting victims goes beyond just cautions. It is a key principle of the victims’ code, point 6.7 of which says:
“Where the police or the Crown Prosecution Service are considering an out of court disposal you have the Right”—
that is, the victim has the right—
“to be asked for your views and to have these views taken into account when a decision is made.”
As I have sought to explain, that will encompass the financial circumstances as well.
Finally, without wishing to be too particular on the drafting but just for the record, I point out that, although the parts of Amendments 177 and 186 relating to Clauses 81 and 90 share the same underlying intention, those clauses relate to financial penalties paid to a court, which are punitive and are not the same as the rehabilitative or reparative conditions, which I know are really the focus of the noble Lord’s amendment.
Before I sit down, I will briefly pick up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew. He raised an interesting point of principle, which I am happy to look at and consider. My immediate reaction is that there may be a principled distinction between these cases and cases of terrorism, for which it is difficult to obtain insurance at all. There may be a difference in principle between an uninsurable risk and an uninsured risk or the cost of insurance going up. That said, I am happy to look at the point; no doubt we can have further discussions on it. I am conscious that it might be another government department that has responsibility in that area.
I hope that I have responded fully to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke. For the reasons that I have set out, I respectfully ask him to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to everyone who has contributed. As noble Lords probably gathered, I was looking for a peg on which to hang my hat. I am pleased that I found a peg and I found someone who was prepared to cast a hat on it as well—I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, for finding a possible solution.
There is a problem and it should be addressed. People should not be out of pocket. The cost is not just in respect of the one year when they have the incident. If an insurance policy goes up, it goes up and it stays up; it is an ongoing cost to the individual. I am grateful to the Minister for saying that he will have a look at this, so if there is an opportunity to find a way through I am happy to leave it for now and see if we can have a conversation to find a way for victims to be given the proper compensation for the problem that they have encountered. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 172 withdrawn.
Amendment 173 not moved.
Clause 79 agreed.
Clause 80: Rehabilitation and reparation conditions
174: Clause 80, page 75, line 1, leave out subsection (8)
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment removes the subsection which allows the maximum number of hours attached to the unpaid work condition and the attendance condition to be amended by regulations.
My Lords, I will also speak to the other amendments in this group. The Committee has already considered these issues, so I can be brief. I apologise for not recognising that some of the amendments in a previous group covered similar issues.
In that previous group, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, suggested that the maximum number of hours attached to the unpaid work condition and the attendance condition, and the maximum fine that could be attached to a caution, should be set in the case of the fine and varied in all cases by regulations and that those should be amended only by the affirmative resolution procedure. The noble and learned Lord previously said in Committee that this was not an ideal solution, as regulations could not be amended and that this House was reluctant to use the “nuclear option” of praying to annul regulations, which is the only option available if it disagrees with a statutory instrument. Even with the affirmative resolution procedure in place, in practice, if the House disagrees with an increase to the maximum number of hours of unpaid work—or any of the other conditions attached to police cautions—there is little that it can do about it, unless changes are made through primary legislation.
I grant that the value of money is eroded over time by inflation and periodically the maximum fine capable of being attached as a condition to a caution may need to increase accordingly, but surely not the amount of time to be spent in unpaid work or subject to the attendance condition. There is a question of principle. If an offence is so grave that greater punishment is required, that should be a matter for the courts and not for a police officer to decide. There is precedent in our legal system for this principle. If magistrates want to impose a harsher sentence, they must refer eligible cases to the Crown Court, where a more senior judge can make a decision with more serious consequences.
When I joined the police service in the 1970s, the police performed the role of both investigator and prosecutor. Parliament then decided that prosecution decisions should be made by an independent body, the Crown Prosecution Service, for very good reasons that I do not need to rehearse here, while punishment of the individual has primarily been a matter for the courts, supported by reports from experts on the medical, social and criminal antecedents of the accused, in many cases, and considered by highly trained and experienced judges who are obliged to follow sentencing guidelines. In the proposals contained in this part of the Bill, the police are investigators, prosecutors and sentencers. There must be limits on the extent to which they should be allowed to carry out all three functions in relation to a case and those limits should be set out in primary legislation, on the face of the Bill. That is the purpose of these amendments and I beg to move Amendment 174.
My Lords, I listened with interest to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. As he says, in this part of the Bill the police are investigators, prosecutors and sentencers. They also decide whether the matter should be sent to the CPS, with the people charged and sent into the court system. Of course, once the case gets into the court system, magistrates are judge, jury and sentencers. There are different roles at different stages of the system. The burden of the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, is in some way to codify, limit and guide the police when they are doing this pre-court intervention with the type of cautions set out in the Bill. I look forward with interest to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for putting forward this group of amendments. If I can put it this way, the noble Lord realistically recognised that we have covered some of this ground before—not this particular issue but the conceptual underpinning on which it is based. I hope, therefore, that the Committee and the noble Lord will not take it amiss if I reply relatively briefly, because we have covered some of the points before.
Amendments 174, 176, 182 and 185 relate to the delegated powers contained in Part 6. The amendments propose to remove the clauses that allow the maximum amount of the financial penalty and the maximum number of unpaid work and attendance hours to be specified in regulations and would replace that by putting the details in the Bill. Amendments 175, 183 and 184 set out that the maximum penalty attached to a caution would be fixed at £200 and would make it explicit that an offender’s ability to pay must be taken into account.
The Bill contains powers to set and amend the amount of the maximum financial penalty and to amend the maximum number of unpaid work or attendance hours by regulations via secondary legislation. As I explained on a previous occasion, it was drafted that way to ensure maximum flexibility when responding to the needs of operational practitioners. Any changes to these regulations will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny in the normal way, but removing the delegated powers in their entirety, which is what Amendments 174, 176, 182 and 185 would do, would mean that there is no flexibility to amend either levels of financial penalty or the number of unpaid work hours. If we have the maximum financial penalty on the face of the Bill, to change it or update it, whether because of inflation or anything else, we would have to have to come back to primary legislation. I respectfully suggest that that is not a great use of parliamentary time.
Finally, as to the matter of whether the offender’s ability to pay should be explicitly set out in statute, of course it is a relevant factor, but we believe that this—alongside a range of other relevant factors around giving a financial penalty, the amount that it is set at and how quickly it is going to be paid—is better set out in detail in a statutory code of practice rather than in the Bill. With apologies for taking that a little shortly, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for saying something. The whole point of not allowing it to be in regulations is that it is an important question of principle that once a crime gets to a certain level requiring a certain punishment, it should be for the courts to administer that punishment, in the same way that if a magistrate decides that the punishment they are able to give is not sufficient, they have to refer it to a higher court. These are the people with the experience, training and background properly to assess both the individual and the circumstances, and to apply the penalty. Therefore, it should be dealt with in primary legislation.
This should not be about providing maximum flexibility for operational partners. It should be about consistency and certainty, and citizens knowing that above a certain level of unpaid work, attendance at a training course or a fine imposed by the police, they cannot go without referring the matter to the courts. That is the whole point. I completely accept that the Minister has explained why it is in regulations and not in the Bill. However, he has not addressed at all the argument that it should not be that flexible.
Why is the accused’s ability to pay important? I was talking to my noble friend Lady Randerson about this amendment earlier today; like the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, she is an experienced magistrate, now retired. She said, “It is so important to take into account the accused’s ability to pay, because if you impose a fine, say, of £200 on somebody who has little or no income, it will almost guarantee that they commit a crime in order to get the £200 to pay the fine.” That is why that seemingly innocuous addition, which should be in the Bill, is in fact absolutely important. In the light of the Minister failing to engage with the heart of the amendments, we will return to this issue on Report, but in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 174 withdrawn.
Clause 80 agreed.
Clause 81: Financial penalty conditions
If Amendment 176 is approved, I cannot call Amendment 177 by reason of pre-emption.
Amendments 175 to 177 not moved.
Clause 81 agreed.
Clauses 82 to 85 agreed.
Clause 86: Application of Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984
178: Clause 86, page 78, line 17, leave out subsection (4)
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is to probe the effect of subsection (4).
My Lords, by way of a little light relief for the Committee, I rise to move Amendment 178 in my name.
In this part of the Bill, “Part 6—Cautions”, Clause 86 deals with:
“Application of Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.”
On page 78, at line 17, Clause 86(4) states:
“Section 40 of the 1984 Act (review of police detention) applies to a person in police detention by virtue of section 85 above as it applies to a person in police detention in connection with the investigation of an offence, but with the following modifications—
(a) omit subsections (8) and (8A);
(b) in subsection (9), for the reference to section 37(9) or 37D(5) substitute a reference to the second sentence of section 85(6) above.”
Can the Minister please explain to the Committee what that means? We do not have the foggiest idea. Legislation is supposed to be capable of being understood by those to whom it applies, but this is incomprehensible to us, let alone to the poor police officer who has to apply it or the poor accused who may be subject to it. That is provided that I have the gist of what this whole thing is about, and it actually applies to police officers and the accused. However, I beg to move.
My Lords, taking that last point first, one of the glories of our system is that the drafting is done by parliamentary counsel, and I will not criticise the way it has been done. However, I agree with the underlying point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that legislation ought to be—
I was going to say “comprehensible” but that is a pretty high test— perhaps “as clear as good legislation can be”. I have to leave at least some space for my former colleagues at the Bar to have a career; if we make it too precise, we will do people out of a job. However, there is a serious point here, and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that legislation should be as clear as possible. I will set out what the words are seeking to do, and if it is thought that there is a better way of putting them to get to the same result, obviously, I will be happy to hear it. However, let me explain what they seek to do.
Clause 86 sets out the provisions of PACE and the modifications required to them that will apply upon arrest for failure to comply with any condition attached to a diversionary caution. The purpose of the clause is to ensure that the diversionary caution operates effectively within the existing framework of police powers; it mirrors the approach taken in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which gives the police powers of arrest for failure to comply with the existing conditional caution.
The subsection of this clause ensures that someone arrested and detained by the police is subject to the same treatment as any detained person, and periodic reviews of their detention are carried out. Obviously, that is important. The same subsection also contains modifications to put specific matters in the Bill: the power to detain those who are unfit to be dealt with at the time of arrest; the power of arrest for detainees bailed for any breach—that is, non-compliance; and the power to search a detainee in police custody following arrest.
The modifications make specific reference to the diversionary caution. For example, the PACE power to search and examine a detainee to ascertain their identity is modified to ensure that the power will still exist where a detainee has failed to comply with any of the conditions attached to the person’s diversionary caution. Therefore, it provides—I was going to say “clarity” but perhaps that might be pushing the point a little—that these powers apply only to the diversionary caution and not also to the community caution, where there is no power of arrest or prosecution for non-compliance. That is why Clause 86(4) is needed. Without the necessary PACE provisions as modified, the powers for police to deal with breaches of a diversionary caution would be limited and that would undermine the effect of non-compliance with the conditions.
I do not know whether what I have said has reassured the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that the clause is properly focused. I hope that I have explained what it is trying to do. I am not being flippant and I do appreciate that legislation needs to be as clear as possible and that it is important that people understand what it encompasses. However, when one is legislating against the background of other legislation, it can be quite difficult to do it other than by cross-references back. If there is a better way to achieve the same result without adding pages and pages, I should be very happy to hear it, but I hope that I have explained what the clause is focused on and why it is drafted in the way it is. I therefore invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment. However, I am happy to discuss this matter between us if there is another way of doing it.
I am very grateful to the Minister. Perhaps I may gently suggest that if something akin to what the noble Lord said was contained even in the Explanatory Notes explaining that part of the Bill, we would not have to spend time in Committee trying to understand what it was about. I know that my noble friend Lady Hamwee and I have looked everywhere possible to try and decipher what that meant—to no avail. It may be that to parliamentary draftspeople it is as clear as day—but for us lesser mortals it is not. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, before my noble friend withdraws his amendment, I should say that he is quite right. There are a number of different points at which it is important for people to understand what legislation means. For us looking back at legislation, we can do so online and it is important that the changes go up online as soon as possible, including in the previous legislation. This is quite a serious point that is, of course, much broader than the Bill—but I am going to infuriate the Committee by getting it off my chest. One can spend an awful lot of time trying to understand what a piece of legislation, passed 20 years ago and amended five times, actually amounts to unless what is put online is completely up to date. It wastes an awful lot of noble Lords’ time and must waste Ministers’ time trying to get their heads around it if the Explanatory Notes do not set out those things intelligibly.
Amendment 178 withdrawn.
Clause 86 agreed.
Clause 87 agreed.
Clause 88: Deciding on the conditions
Amendments 179 and 180 not moved.
181: Clause 88, page 79, line 36, at end insert—
“(c) make reasonable efforts, or ensure that reasonable efforts are or have been made, to ensure conditions include interventions to support the offender to desist from offending.”
My Lords, I am moving the amendment in the name of my friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester, with her permission, as she is, sadly, unable to be here. I declare her interest as Anglican Bishop for Prisons in England and Wales, and we are very grateful for the support of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, and the noble Lord, Lord Beith.
I should say first that, while there are many parts of the Bill with which I take some issue, I do by and large consider it a welcome feature of the Bill that it places a new emphasis and focus on diversionary and community cautions, and on simplifying the previous regime. Done well, these out-of-court disposals, with helpful conditions attached, can be an effective solution that strikes a balance between punishment, the protection of communities and supporting the offender to successfully seek restoration in their community.
However, it is an issue that the conditions attached to these cautions can be poorly conceived and become either unnecessarily restrictive or, indeed, not sufficiently rehabilitative in order to help people to avoid reoffending. This amendment is intended to improve and clarify what is already presented in the Bill by providing assurance that conditions attached to community cautions will
“make reasonable efforts, or ensure that reasonable efforts are or have been made, to ensure conditions include interventions to support the offender to desist from offending.”
That closely matches the wording in Clause 79(3), which insists on efforts to obtain the views of any victim or victims of the offence. Seeking the views of victims is a sensible objective, but it leaves this clause, “Deciding on the conditions”, rather lopsided. Attention is paid to who can set conditions and to the views of victims, but not to the most fundamental point, which is surely what impact these conditions have on the offender.
The critical point here is that community cautions are likely to be useful only if the conditions are effectively tailored to help offenders desist from offending. Key drivers of crime are poverty, mental ill-health, trauma and substance misuse. If conditions of cautions do not take steps to address those drivers, how can we reasonably expect to reduce reoffending? The alternative is simply to see the revolving door continue to spin, with the same offenders being trapped in cycles of offending, without the help they need to escape and rebuild their lives. Apart from being bad for the offender, this is obviously bad for victims and communities, who will continue to be impacted by reoffending. Only by restoring relationships and communities and providing the right support to prevent reoffending can we begin to really break this cycle.
I am very grateful to the Revolving Doors Agency for its briefings and support, and for its work with its new-generation campaigners. These are young adults with experience of the revolving door of crisis and crime, and discussions with them were around how they viewed conditions attached to cautions, what they found useful and what they did not find useful. Revolving Doors established that among the useful conditions were: attendance at drug and alcohol treatment to help break addiction cycles; meaningful, ideally accredited, unpaid work to build up skills and provide career options; family counselling sessions; and signposting to services to help with financial issues and poverty. All these conditions, critically, are designed to work with offenders to address underlying causes of their offending and provide them with meaningful alternatives that do not simply keep people trapped in the same cycles of criminal activity and the criminal justice system.
I hope that we might hear from the Minister of plans to extend and increase funding and support for such interventions, as I was rather disappointed not to see Dame Carol Black’s full recommendations for funding for drug treatment in the Chancellor’s Budget. You might also expect me to say that in the case of women’s offending we know that when a number of these things are provided through a holistic approach through a women’s centre, there are encouraging outcomes regarding reoffending.
I turn to the other aspect of conditions, which is about them sometimes being unnecessarily punitive without having any benefit. That is also highlighted by research from the Revolving Doors Agency and its work with its young new-generation campaigners in highlighting that not all conditions are useful or helpful. One campaigner told Revolving Doors of a condition where they were banned from public transport despite relying on it to get to school:
“I used to have get two buses to school, and then I was banned from public transport. How else was I meant to get to school? I was taken to court for still being on public transport.”
Other highlighted examples were conditions that were not tailored to the needs of the offender but seemed arbitrary or overly restrictive—almost as though they were being set up to fail.
One danger of the Bill as drafted is that since it is mandatory to impose conditions on these cautions, there is a risk of up-tariffing, with conditions attached that are more restrictive than necessary and actually undermine the ability of an offender to desist from crime. Indeed, the Centre for Justice Innovation noted that the Ministry of Justice’s two-tier out-of-court disposal pilot evaluation highlighted the dangers of up-tariffing within out-of-court disposals. It showed that, contrary to the principle of de-escalation, people who would have received simple cautions were given conditional cautions instead. Conditional cautions involved people having to complete more interventions than they otherwise would have done and came with the threat of enforcement in the case of non-compliance. That threat of enforcement is critical. There is little point to community cautions if the conditions are so onerous that many people end up breaching them and find themselves receiving a custodial sentence.
I stress again that the amendment looks to improve on the Bill. This clause already provides for several criteria for deciding on conditions—notably, the views of victims. It is a small and easy fix to ensure that a further criterion is to ensure that conditions make reasonable efforts to support the offender to desist from offending. I beg to move.
It was a privilege to add my name to this amendment, which has been so ably moved by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, speaking the words of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester. I associate myself with everything that has been said and particularly with the work being done by Revolving Doors and the Centre for Justice Innovation.
This particular amendment raises a problem with this part of the Bill. One can understand why putting in a condition or requirement in relation to the victims might appeal to a certain type of politician, but they forget that, if you are legislating, you need balance. Why put something in about victims without putting something in about the whole point of this, which is to try to deal with offending?
The reason that I put my name to this amendment goes to the way that the Bill has been structured. I apologise again for not being in my place last Wednesday. I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for moving the amendment that I put in. This point raises exactly the same problem: we have a framework Bill. We do not have the draft regulations or, more importantly, the draft code of practice.
I entirely support this reform, but I do not think that many people realise what a critical role cautions play in the operation of the criminal justice system and, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has said in relation to an earlier amendment—I did not rise then because I thought that I could make the point now—the incredibly important constitutional and rule-of-law issues, which I underline. These relate to the relationship between the legislature, and how much detail it should go into on this, and the Executive—because the police are part of the Executive branch of government—and to what extent they should be allowed to punish, which has generally been the province of the courts.
I welcome these reforms because this is an important part of the sentencing regime—and it is part of it, whatever epithet one wishes to apply. But it seems to me that a much better approach to the Bill would be if this was brought together as a whole, so that we could say, “This bit ought to go into the Bill. That is dealt with in regulations. This should be dealt with in the code of practice”. We should have it all before us, so that we can make a sensible decision. I do not understand why this has not been done, but I hope that, before the Bill comes back on Report, we see draft regulations and a draft code of practice. Otherwise, we will all be plagued on Report with this type of really serious concern.
There are many more issues—the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has raised some of them this morning—such as the point that the Minister made very eloquently this morning about being able to alter levels of fines. Of course, in an age where we are perhaps going to see a lot of inflation, that is important, but why alter the number of hours? The gravity of the sentence with which a particular person should deal ought to be fixed.
Therefore, I hope that the Minister will look at, first, putting this amendment into the Bill and, much more seriously and importantly, at bringing the draft code of practice and the draft regulations, so that we could review the whole thing and do a proper job, as Parliament, consistent with the rule of law.
My Lords, I am very glad to support the right reverend Prelate and the noble and learned Lord who has just spoken. The right reverend Prelate gave us a very careful analysis of the reasons that such an amendment would improve Clause 88 of the Bill, and the noble and learned Lord, the former Lord Chief Justice, reminded us of the constitutional context and the fact that the way that the Bill is structured, and the sheer complexity of it, are not really very satisfactory, especially when so much related material is not available to us at this stage. I hope that note will be taken of what he said on that latter point.
My feeling was that, as drafted, Clause 88 does not cover the ground properly, and that the inclusion of the requirement in this amendment—that consideration should be given to what provisions can be made for the “offender to desist” from crime in the future—would give the clause a necessary balance; a phrase that the noble and learned Lord used. The clause’s emphasis is very much on finding the victim’s views, which is entirely appropriate but limited in scope.
It is of course relevant to remember that, very often, one of the strongest views that victims have is that no one else should have to suffer what they have and that something should be done to make sure that the person who has done it does not do anything like that again and cause that sort of harm in the future. So these two things are not in opposition to each other: it is a complementary requirement for the clause to include a direct reference to measures to try to make it possible for the individual to desist from crime. There is a wide range of measures, but, in the context of this clause, the right reverend Prelate mentioned drugs and drug treatment. Of course, alcohol is also a very significant factor in many of the sorts of crimes that we are talking about.
This brings back memories of an incident that occurred during my time in the House of Commons, when some teenagers pulled down and stole the union flag from outside my office. They then made the mistake of exhibiting it around the pubs of the town, which led to the police catching them pretty quickly. The sergeant rang me up and said, “I do not really want to issue a formal caution because one of them wants to go into the Army, and that may prevent him doing so. I suggest that they club together, pay for its replacement and all write to you to apologise”. That was the kind of practical policing that, nowadays, is so surrounded by rules and requirements that it is often more difficult to do. But it was the right solution. I had some delightful letters, most of them insisting that their families had always voted for me. But it made a sufficient impact on the individuals—it was just a minor thing—making them less likely to commit crimes in the future. That is the emphasis that we need to add into this clause—an emphasis on trying to ensure that that individual commits no further crimes in the future.
My Lords, we support this amendment, but, as I have already said, we have our doubts about the whole regime. For the benefit of noble Lords who missed the midnight debate on Monday, I bring you the edited highlights, which are relevant to this group.
I quoted from the House of Commons briefing paper 9165. On the Government’s proposals on diversionary and community cautions, it says:
“the available evidence suggests the system: … may result in a further decline in … OOCDs; … is likely to cost more … is unlikely to have a major impact on the reoffending rates of offenders; and … may improve victim satisfaction but is unlikely to have a major impact.”
I have to say that the high point for me on Monday night—or was it Tuesday morning?—was the Minister’s answer to my question about how effective conditional cautions, which are the existing system of cautions with conditions attached, were, compared with simple cautions that do not have conditions attached. The noble Lord announced with glee, if I may say that in a very respectful way, that:
“As the Committee will know from previous exchanges, I am quite a fan of data.”—[Official Report, 8/11/10; col. 1577.]
The Minister then looked at his phone and a message from his WhatsApp group—it is good to see members of the WhatsApp group in the Box today—saying that, in effect, there was no data. The Government not only keep no record of how many conditional versus simple cautions are administered, just the total number of all cautions, but have no record of what kind of conditions are attached to conditional cautions. On the basis of that data void, they plan to implement a system where all police cautions will need to have conditions attached.
I also quoted from a 2018 paper by Dr Peter Neyroud, former chief constable of Thames Valley Police and now a distinguished academic, published by the University of Cambridge and commissioned by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, entitled Out of Court Disposals Managed by the Police: A Review of the Evidence. On the police attaching conditions to cautions, he said:
“The result … was a significant degree of inconsistency and a substantial number of inappropriate and un-evidenced conditions.”
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham gave us an example of, presumably, a youth who was banned from public transport, which meant he could not get to school. I continue to quote from Dr Peter Neyroud:
“Whilst the provision of further training and more guidance improved the situation somewhat, the cost of such an investment within a more general implementation of OOCD’s with conditions”—
exactly what the Government are proposing—
“would be prohibitive and, in any case, did not completely resolve the problems.”
Never mind—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, came up with a better idea: the inspectorates of the constabulary and of the CPS could ensure consistency, so that somebody in a similar situation, committing a similar offence, would have the same conditions attached, no matter where they were in the country. I am afraid not, said the Minister:
“Those two inspectorates are not regulators; they do not have power to enforce compliance.”—[Official Report, 8/11/21; col. 1576.]
Inconsistent, inappropriate and unevidenced conditions will be attached to cautions all over the country, bringing no benefit to offenders, little benefit to victims and increased costs to the criminal justice system. That is what this part of the Bill does.
We support this amendment, which should also apply to diversionary cautions, but the omens are not good that the police will know what they are doing when it comes to applying conditions to support the offender to desist from offending. There is serious doubt that, even when they do, the conditions will have any effect on reducing reoffending.
My Lords, this has been a wide-ranging debate. When the right reverend Prelate introduced it, he made a general plea in favour of cautions and on why his amendment was appropriate. He spoke of the benefits of cautions and what they need to be effective, and of the revolving door of crisis and crime and of a holistic approach. He particularly gave the example of women offenders, for whom a holistic approach is appropriate to reduce reoffending. Then he went on to give examples of why quite a lot of cautions fail—by giving too many conditions. My experience, through following both cautions and sentences through court, is that the more conditions you put in place, even if they are in place for the best of reasons, the more likely you are to have a breach and to re-enter that cycle, coming back to court or to the police when conditions are breached.
My central point is that out-of-court disposals are a difficult area. The Government and previous Governments have a lot of experience in trying to come up with an appropriate regime for out-of-court disposals. As we have heard on the Bill—I agree with pretty much all the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick—we have another cautions regime, which we hope will work in some way. I particularly noted the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, about the need to see draft regulations or a draft code of practice to ensure consistency across the country.
I close by drawing an analogy between the youth regime and the adult regime we are talking about here. We have seen far more extensive introductions of cautions in the youth regime over the last few years, which has seen far fewer youths being brought to court. That is possibly a good thing, but the consequence is that the youths who come to court are often charged with far more serious offences. That may be right in some sense, but we see repeated interventions for youths with conditional cautions, simple cautions or other out-of-court disposals, a multitude of times, until eventually the youths end up in youth court.
I support the overall objective of having an effective caution regime, but I share the scepticism of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, about the reasons for putting this regime in place. One should not be misled into thinking that any particular regime would immediately have better results than previous regimes or the current regime.
My Lords, I hope it is in order to pick up one point that was put to me at the end of the last group and say a word on it. I hope the Committee will forgive me. It goes to all groups, in some ways, because it is about how legislation is put online. Legislation.gov.uk has a facility to look at the original texts and unscramble the later amendments, so to speak. A point that occurred as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, was speaking was whether one could put in hyperlinks to take you through different pieces of legislation. I am happy to look into that, but I now turn to this amendment.
My noble friend Lord Framlingham asked what a diversionary caution is. To try to sum up a large part of the Bill in about three sentences, I say that there is going to be a lower-tier disposal called a community caution and an upper-tier disposal called a diversionary caution. Conditions must be attached to both, aimed at one of three objectives—rehabilitation, reparation or punishment. Restrictive conditions can be set, where they contribute to reparation or rehabilitation. In that regard, there is a similarity to the existing conditional caution regime. I hope that answers the question.
I now turn to the substance of the amendment in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester—moved by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham—alongside the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, and the noble Lord, Lord Beith. It goes to the primary objective of the new two-tier statutory framework, which I have just explained, to provide, as a requirement of the community caution, meaningful court conditions to help an offender stop offending.
I am grateful for the broad support, as a matter of principle, of the right reverend Prelate for the aims of the Bill on out-of-court disposals. I respectfully agree with the point made by the noble and learned Lord on the importance of the caution regime in the criminal justice system. I also agree with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, that cautions must be carefully considered to avoid the syndrome of repeated interventions.
While the amendment is obviously well intentioned, the Bill already makes provision for the purpose that underpins it in Clause 80 on diversionary cautions and Clause 89 on community cautions. The Bill asks the relevant person to focus on the position of the offender. Of course we all agree that one has to look at the position of the victim, but I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Beith, that one must also look at the offender. The Bill already does that.
While I agree with the broad thrust of the purpose of the amendment, I suggest that it is unnecessary. That is because, aside from the punitive option of a financial penalty, the conditions of both the diversionary and the community caution must be aimed at rehabilitation or reparation, thereby addressing the underlying causes of the offending. Importantly, the cautions enable referrals to support services where relevant as conditions of the disposal. Referrals at this pretty early stage of the criminal justice system could include referrals to relevant intervention services such as substance misuse services, mental health treatment providers or gambling addiction, or restorative justice referrals. All those help to address the underlying causes of offending behaviour and so help to reduce reoffending or the escalation of offending behaviour.
As I have said, a code of practice will accompany the legislation. It will be drawn up in collaboration with stakeholders and subject to a formal public consultation and to an affirmative statutory instrument. I respectfully agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, as he would no doubt expect me to, as to the fundamental importance of the rule of law in this and, indeed, other areas. I wonder whether actually the police are best viewed as being seen as part of the Executive; we could probably have an interesting debate on that. The answer might be that it depends on the purpose for which you are using the principle of the rule of law as to what exactly it would encompass.
To give the noble and learned Lord a bit more information, the way that the code of practice will be put together is that there will be an informal stakeholder engagement exercise with police forces, the National Police Chiefs Council, police and crime commissioners, the CPS and relevant third-sector organisations, which will help with drafting. We will then have a formal public consultation, which will take place next year. Importantly, the power to issue the code and the regulations is contained in the clauses of the Bill, so we will not have the power to do that until the Bill receives Royal Assent and is commenced.
I want to pick up the underlying points made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. I hope he will not take it amiss if I do not respond to those. There is a clear conceptual gulf between us, if I may put it that way, as to the purpose of the regime and whether it is soundly based. I set out the Government’s position on that earlier. I am not sure it is helpful if I just repeat those words each time because there is that gulf between us and I am not sure it is going to be bridged. I hope the noble Lord will therefore not take it amiss if I do not respond in detail.
It is not a conceptual gulf. It is a question of where the evidence is that cautions with conditions attached are more beneficial than cautions without conditions attached. I can answer that question for the Minister: there is no evidence, because the Government do not collect any. That is coupled with the fact that this House will be asked—this Committee is debating it now—to sign a blank cheque for all this when the detail has not been worked out. There will be public consultation and consultation with stakeholders, but we have no idea what this is going to look like in the end. That is no way for this House to proceed with this legislation.
Well, we did have that exchange. I went through the way that it has been piloted in various police forces, and we had an interesting exchange. I am happy to look again at the record and see whether there is anything else that I can add, but I am not sure that will necessarily persuade the noble Lord in any event. Again, I am not sure it is helpful to go through those fundamental points each and every time we come to one of these amendments.
I hope I have responded substantively—and, I hope, substantially—to the amendments tabled by the right reverend Prelate. For the reasons that I have set out, I ask him to withdraw them.
Before the noble Lord sits down, and to go back to the fundamental point about the code of practice and the regulations, is there not even a framework or some outline that we can look at so we could work out what is necessary in primary legislation and what is necessary in a code of practice? I must say that it is wholly contrary to the rule of law for a democratically elected body—I include the whole of Parliament in that—to pass legislation that has not been properly gone into.
Here we are dealing with the liberty of the subject. I think that most people do not appreciate the seriousness of a caution. When I was Lord Chief Justice, we had a number of cases where people found out years later the problem with having accepted a caution. In one case, for example, a person who was young and had no convictions of any kind could not go to America. There are other cases where a caution for a minor offence makes you into a “person of bad character”. These are matters that go to the liberty of the subject and they are of fundamental importance.
It is quite contrary to the rule of law to ask us to pass legislation for which there is no urgency. As the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby said, this is a long-standing problem. Could the Minister not reconsider? I entirely sympathise with the civil servants at the MoJ because they are hard-working. Of course, they have to work hard because of all the Government’s cuts to the Ministry of Justice; they are not responsible for that and nor is the Minister, who I am sure would like as much money as possible. Could we not, in this vital area of the liberty of the subject, do some proper work on it rather than wasting a lot of time debating principles? It would be so much more efficient, on an issue that is not urgent, if we could have a draft, a framework or something to look at.
My Lords, of course I understand the point made by the noble and learned Lord. We could have an interesting debate about whether that is properly encompassed in the phrase “rule of law”, but I take the underlying point that he makes. I have sought to set out where the code of practice would be relevant, where the Act ends and the code of practice begins. I am happy to have a further discussion with him on that point.
I agree that cautions are an important part of the criminal justice system. They can have consequences, as the noble and learned Lord set out, and not being able to go to America is just one of them. That is why in a later part of the Bill, which we will come to, the question of when a caution is spent is so important. We have sought to build that into the Bill, which I hope meets, at least in part, the point that he makes. I am happy to discuss this point with him further.
I thank the Minister for his substantive and indeed substantial reply. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester will certainly read Hansard carefully and decide whether this is a subject that we will come back to. My observation would be that part of the purpose of the clause was to recognise that the offender needs to be involved in considering whether the conditions will help them not to reoffend, and I am not sure that is covered in the rest of the Bill. That would be the reason for coming back.
I note the involvement of the third sector in the production of a code of practice. I agree that I wish that we at least had a draft. I hope that the Centre for Justice Innovation, along with Revolving Doors, would be two of the organisations involved in that process, because the work they do is really good. At this stage, though, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 181 withdrawn.
Clause 88 agreed.
Clause 89: Rehabilitation and reparation conditions
Amendment 182 not moved.
Clause 89 agreed.
Clause 90: Financial penalty conditions
Amendments 183 to 186 not moved.
Clause 90 agreed.
Clauses 91 to 94 agreed.
Clause 95: Code of practice
Amendment 186A not moved.
Clause 95 agreed.
House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 3 pm.
Racism in Cricket
Commons Urgent Question
The following Answer to an Urgent Question was given the House of Commons on Tuesday 9 November.
“I will start by being very clear about something on which I know the whole House will agree: there is no place for racism in sport. Indeed, there is no place for racism anywhere in society. It must be confronted, it must be eradicated and it should never be written off as just ‘banter’.
The Government are extremely concerned by the reports of racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club. Quite simply, the situation faced by Azeem Rafiq was unacceptable. It should never have been allowed to happen in the first place and it should have been dealt with properly during the initial investigation. We have made it clear to the England and Wales Cricket Board that this requires a full, transparent investigation, both of the incidents involving Azeem Rafiq and of the wider cultural issues at Yorkshire County Cricket Club. The ECB is now investigating the matter fully. It took action against the Yorkshire club on Friday, stripping it of the right to host international matches, and has suspended a player.
There have been a number of resignations from the Yorkshire board—quite rightly—including that of its chairman. Lord Patel of Bradford has taken over as chairman and has set out the approach that he will be taking to tackle the issue at Yorkshire. Crucially, he has started by apologising to Azeem Rafiq, but we know that that will not undo the pain that Azeem feels. More action is needed and we have called on Lord Patel and the ECB to investigate fully, to eradicate racism where it exists and to tackle the culture that can support it. In addition, the ECB is now undertaking a regulatory process. It must take strong action where it is necessary and that action must be transparent and swift, for the benefit of cricket.
The ECB has also launched the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket to look at wider issues that go beyond Yorkshire. It is chaired by Cindy Butts, a highly respected anti-racism campaigner. She is a board member of the Kick It Out campaign in football and is also, as you know, Mr Speaker, a lay member of your Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. I have great confidence in her independence and her phenomenal track record in this area. This terrible case—the awful case of the abuse that Azeem Rafiq should never have suffered but did suffer—shows how much more needs to be done to stamp out racism in the game, and I urge anyone who has experienced discrimination in cricket to approach Cindy Butts’s commission and report what they have experienced. I understand that the Equality and Human Rights Commission has requested information about this incident. That is quite right, and I encourage the EHRC in its work.
Sport should be for everyone and it should not take cases such as this to bring that to life. The Government applaud Azeem Rafiq’s courage in speaking out and encourage anyone who has been similarly affected to do the same. This must be a watershed moment for cricket. The Government will closely scrutinise the actions taken by the ECB—the Minister for Sport met the board last week to discuss this topic—and by Yorkshire County Cricket Club in response to these damning allegations. The investigations to which I have referred must be thorough, transparent and public. That is necessary to restore the public’s faith in cricket in Yorkshire and beyond. Parliament is watching, the Government are watching and the country is watching. We expect real action and the Government stand ready to step in and act if those involved do not put their own house in order.”
My Lords, I welcome the appointment and early actions of the noble Lord, Lord Patel of Bradford. He surely has shown more leadership in a few short days than we have seen from the entire Yorkshire County Cricket Club over many years.
I would also like to place on the record our sympathy and respect for Azeem Rafiq: sympathy, because nobody should suffer the racist abuse in the workplace that he has suffered; respect, because he blew the whistle and has set in motion a process which we hope will ensure that any form of abuse within cricket at any level can be swiftly identified, properly challenged and appropriately punished. While it is of course for individual sporting bodies to consider and respond to these kinds of incidents, can the Minister confirm whether the Government have plans to review the procedures in place across different sports and, in the light of events at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, governance arrangements, to ensure that they are fit for purpose? Finally, what support are the department considering or planning to offer the noble Lord, Lord Patel, in the difficult task that he has taken on?
I am grateful to the noble Lord for his support for the noble Lord, Lord Patel of Bradford, whom I spoke to this morning. Understandably he is rather busy, focusing his attention on the matter at hand, but I reassured him that there is huge support across your Lordships’ House for him and the important job he has in addressing this appalling situation at Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
We are very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Patel, began by apologising to Azeem Rafiq for the appalling behaviour and the unacceptable way in which his case was dealt with. The Government will closely scrutinise the actions that the Yorkshire County Cricket Club and the ECB take in response to these very concerning allegations. We want that investigation to be thorough and transparent but also swift, to ensure that the public’s faith in cricket can be restored—in Yorkshire and beyond. If not, the Government will not hesitate to step in and act.
My Lords, I welcome the actions of the noble Lord, Lord Patel, but can my noble friend the Minister look at all sports? It is not just cricket: it is football—it is every sport. If you are a person of colour, the pain that you suffer, as those sitting here of colour will know, stays with you for life. It is important that we start looking at these clubs. They make huge amounts of money. They need to look at their codes of practice and what they are doing, and the leadership must come from the top. It would be useful for us all to know how they will report what they are doing in their clubs across the country to improve the situation and ensure that local communities are better represented within their own movements.
My noble friend makes a very important point. Sport, like all areas of society, has a very important role to play in tackling discrimination where we see it. In June of this year, Sport England, UK Sport and the other sports councils published the results of a detailed independent review into tackling racism and racial equality in sport. The findings made it clear that, sadly, racism still exists in sport in the UK and that there are long-standing issues for us all to tackle. Each council is working swiftly to develop its own specific action plan to deliver on these commitments and address the recommendations, but, as she says, working with communities and individuals is a hugely important part of that.
My Lords, it is quite clear from what has happened that the capacity of those sitting in darkened rooms to talk about themselves to themselves is still very alive in sport, as in other sections of our society. When the Equality and Human Rights Commission gets involved, it shows that something has gone wrong. What are the Government going to do to tell people, even if they will not change—even though it is good to do so—that they must change because society will not tolerate them carrying on like this? Can we have an action plan?
The noble Lord makes an important point. Something clearly went catastrophically wrong with the culture at board level at Yorkshire County Cricket Club. It is good that the former chairman and two other members of the board have resigned, and that the noble Lord, Lord Patel of Bradford, has come in to drive the culture change that is needed there. It also makes the important point, as he does, about the need for diversity and representation at senior levels in sport, which we are aware of.
My Lords, I should first point out that I am a member of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Essex County Cricket Club, Middlesex County Cricket Club and MCC. With our friend, the noble Lord, Lord Patel, now installed in Yorkshire, a committee of inquiry being undertaken in the other place and an investigation being carried out by the England and Wales Cricket Board, do the Government not have some space to consider whether any specific action on their part is required to confront the appalling incidents that have come to light? At the same time, perhaps to get some sense of perspective, we should remind ourselves that cricket has its finer aspects, which hopefully will be on display again in Abu Dhabi this afternoon.
My noble friend is right: the vast majority of people who play and enjoy cricket have the right attitude. He is a well-published author on the subject as well as being a member of all the clubs he mentioned. My honourable friend the Sports Minister met the England and Wales Cricket Board at the department on Friday to seek the assurances we wanted to hear about the approach it is taking. We are following that very closely and will not hesitate to take action ourselves if we think it necessary.
My Lords, a year and two weeks ago, Imam Qari Asim, who advises the Government on Islamophobia, and myself, who advises on anti-Semitism, wrote to the ECB offering advice and requesting a meeting. In effect, we have had no response whatsoever. Does the Minister think it a good idea for cricket to take some advice, and should not Kick It Out, which has done such good work in football, be properly resourced to do similar work in cricket?
I am sure that the ECB has heard the reminder; it should reply to the noble Lord and take him up on the offer of his insights and expertise. He is also right to point to the work of Kick It Out. Cindy Butts, who the ECB has appointed to chair its Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket, has experience working with Kick It Out in football and will be known to your Lordships as a lay member of the Conduct Committee. We are very glad to see her appointment and the work that she is taking forward.
My Lords, may I make a more general point? Does my noble friend agree that one should be rather slow to criticise individuals, or to take action that can cause damage to individuals or institutions, unless one is aware of all the relevant facts? Is there not a danger that, out of a spirit of political correctness, people are saying and doing things rather prematurely?
I do not entirely agree with my noble friend. He is right to point to the need for evidence. That is why we are very keen to see the full report and are glad that it has been provided to the Select Committee in another place. However, this case, sadly, has been going on for a number of years. It has not been dealt with with the speed and thoroughness it ought to have been, and we are glad that that finally is happening.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, is absolutely right that racism goes much wider than sport. I am afraid I disagree with the noble Lord; we must call it out wherever we see it, because through silence we acquiesce and we condone. Therefore, will the Minister work with other government departments to ensure that there is a coherent approach, not only to the forms of racism we see day in and day out, but to the other forms of discrimination that debase the very society in which we live?
Yes, absolutely. I am mindful of the Question yesterday on inclusion in sport. That is at the centre of the Government’s strategy Sporting Future. It is critical when confronting the disease of racism that all of us speak out and call it out. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, which is why we want to see the report in full so that everybody can play their part in tackling this.
My Lords, the issue goes much wider than cricket bodies. Clearly, cricket is funded by big money and sponsors also have a role, not in calling out individuals, but in dealing with institutional racism of an organisation. Would the Minister like to give any advice to sponsors such as NIC Group, which has refused, like other sponsors, to take a stance against institutional racism, by sitting on the fence and not doing what those like Anchor butter did instantly in withdrawing their funds and standing up to racism?
It has been very powerful to see the response of sponsors in focusing the minds of people at Yorkshire County Cricket Club on the very concerning allegations that have been made and the way they have been dealt with. I am sure the other sponsors will have heard the noble Lord’s call for action, but I also hope they will be reassured by the work the club is now finally taking.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Commons Urgent Question
The following Answer to an Urgent Question was given in the House of Commons on Tuesday 9 November.
“The recent political violence is of significant concern to the UK Government. Milorad Dodik, the Bosnian Serb member of the presidency, has threatened to withdraw Republika Srpska—the entity—from a range of state institutions. That is an act that the high representative calls a de facto secession. This is a dangerous and deliberate attempt to distract from a failure to improve standards of living and to tackle corruption. It is unacceptable.
The UK fully supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina. After the devastating conflict of the 1990s, the region has lived in peace for 26 years and the Dayton political system, which should have been used to deliver progress and development for citizens, has been exploited by politicians who are focused on building and maintaining their own position.
We recognise the important role that the EUFOR peace and stabilisation force has played and we welcome the renewal of its mandate—an important deterrent against those malign actors who wish to see instability on Europe’s doorstep. We worked hard in the Security Council to ensure that it authorised EUFOR’s mandate for a further 12 months. The UK continues to play an active role. My honourable friend the Europe Minster was in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the summer to support that work.
The high representative will visit the UK for meetings in December. The UK is in close contact with him to ensure that we work in co-operation and is giving him vocal support, including on the use of executive powers should the situation require it. That is a further check and balance on the destabilising actions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the upcoming NATO Foreign Ministers meeting, the Foreign Secretary will push for more focus and resource on Bosnia and Herzegovina and on the need to rebuff Russia’s actions.
The international community also has collective responsibility to ensure that there is no return to the conflict of the 1990s. Along with our international partners, we are ensuring that the high representative’s position and work are secured and we will continue to urge Russia to return to productive engagement with the peace implementation council’s steering board. Along with our international partners, we are working to tackle the divisive rhetoric and actions from some politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the threat to re-establish a Republika Srpska army and to pull out of other established state-level institutions.
The UK is committed to helping the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina build a better future in a stable and prosperous state, with strong institutions. We support the NATO Headquarters Sarajevo, including through the secondment of UK staff officers who play an important role in building the capacity of the armed forces. We are providing capacity building and expertise to those actors who demonstrate genuine commitment to progress.”
My Lords, there is clearly an urgent need to reinforce the political will behind the Dayton accords, and James Cleverly in the other place, in response to the Urgent Question, stressed the vital role of the high representative. As the Minister knows, his effectiveness is undermined by Russia’s continued lack of acceptance of his position. The ongoing threat to re-establish a Republika Srpska army would represent a disastrous turning point in the region. Does the Minister agree that this is a red line which must not be crossed? Can he confirm whether the upcoming NATO Foreign Ministers’ meeting will co-ordinate a response to this possibility?
My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that we stand firmly behind the high representative and he has the United Kingdom’s full support, including for the use of executive powers should the situation require it. It is my understanding that the high representative will be visiting the United Kingdom in December, which will offer opportunities to engage directly with him on the situation. We were pleased, notwithstanding the challenges Russia posed, that the EUFOR is being renewed in November, which is a positive development—notwithstanding, as I said, Russia’s bid to undermine this role.
On the issue of the red line on Republika Srpska, we have been very clear that what we have seen recently from the actions of Mr Dodik, who is part of the tripartite presidency, is undermining the Dayton accords. He needs to cease from the statements he is making, which are doing nothing to further the great progress we have seen over the last 26 years.
My Lords, it is worth recalling that one of the high representative’s predecessors, my late noble friend Lord Ashdown, served with great distinction and benefited greatly from the combined work of NATO and the European Union, with the full support of the British Government. He spoke to me before I visited the region and met the President and Prime Minister of Serbia; those from Republika Srpska refused to meet me because I met Bosnians and Croats.
It struck me that technical assistance on good governance is needed in that area to defeat the considerable state capture there has been through organised crime, which the Russian Government are actively supporting in their destabilisation efforts. Will the Government support Serbia’s continuing negotiations for joining the European Union, and will they work with the European Union so that there is a common front for good governance in the area to make sure that there is not a vacuum which Russian destabilisation efforts can fill?
My Lords, I join in recognising Lord Ashdown; I am sure I speak for all in your Lordships’ House in saying that we miss Lord Ashdown. He was very generous with his time when I engaged with him outside the exchanges—I would not call them combative, but very measured—we have in your Lordships’ House. He had great insight on various ssues, and particularly Bosnia-Herzegovina. The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, is correct, and we are working with EU partners. It is particularly notable that, on this occasion, the likes of Serbia and Croatia very much stand with ensuring the territorial sovereignty and integrity of Bosnia.
My Lords, regarding countries within the former Yugoslavia, I speak as chairman of the of the All-Party Group for Croatia and as a Council of Europe parliamentarian.
On the priority of maintaining stability in Bosnia-Herzegovina, I welcome the United Kingdom’s current actions and proposals: within the Security Council, already to have helped achieve the authorisation of EUFOR’s mandate for another 12 months; the Foreign Secretary’s intention at the next NATO meeting to press for increased involvement to avoid the splitting up of Bosnia-Herzegovina; and the United Kingdom’s constructive contacts with the high representative, including consideration of the possible use of executive powers.
On collective work with others, does my noble friend agree that adjacent states should now be invited to join NATO interventions, not least Croatia and Slovenia, which are also existing members of the European Union?
In yesterday’s debate in another place, the useful maxim was reiterated:
“When goods cross borders, soldiers do not”.—[Official Report, Commons, 9/11/21; col. 182.]
In the interest of prolonged stability, might the Department for International Trade now lead new initiatives to sustain trade and economic growth both in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the western Balkans?
Using its own authority, as well as operating within the Council of Europe where it remains a prominent member, does my noble friend concur that the United Kingdom, assisted by other states, should launch a variety of initiatives straightaway to protect and benefit Bosnia-Herzegovina and the region in order to prevent war and enable long-term peace?
My Lords, I agree with all my noble friend’s points. I assure him that the United Kingdom Government are using their position within NATO—the noble Lord, Lord Collins, made that point. We will be discussing this at the next meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers later this month, as well as how we can further support Bosnia-Herzegovina. My honourable friend the Europe Minister was in Bosnia over the summer, and I am in the midst of planning a visit to the region with my preventing sexual violence in conflict responsibilities, and to Bosnia specifically.
My Lords, as the first chairman of the All-Party Group for Bosnia in the other place, and one who was much involved in all the debates urging our then Government to take more decisive action, I am deeply distressed to think there is any possibility of further conflict. Will my noble friend use every endeavour he has, perhaps liaising with my noble friend Lady Helic, who knows more about this than the rest of us put together, to do what they can collectively to impress that we must never have another Srebrenica? That was a stain on Europe. I have not discussed it with her, but I think my noble friend Lady Helic would be well placed to give my noble friend every help and advice that he needs.
My Lords, I assure my noble friend that I know our noble friend Lady Helic well, and she does not need support or encouragement in giving advice to me as Minister of State. Indeed, I am regularly welcoming her insights on a variety of issues, particularly in her work on PSVIC. My noble friend is correct that she has deep insight on the conflict.
On a personal note, in a previous career just after securing my job in the City, I engaged through Save the Children in a direct visit to the region when the conflict broke out. I have also visited Srebrenica on a number of occasions. The annihilation of a complete community, young boys and men in particular, who were taken out for simply being of a particular nationality and faith, should never ever happen again anywhere—let alone in Europe. Perhaps it is a sombre reflection for us in your Lordships’ House; I said to my Private Secretary as we walked across that we often talk of conflicts that are remote, but today we are talking of emerging conflicts on our continent once again.
The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Tuesday 9 November.
“With your permission, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the further steps we are taking to keep this country safe from Covid-19.
We head into the winter months in a much stronger position than last year. Of all the reasons for this progress, the greatest is unquestionably our vaccination programme. Across the UK, the overwhelming majority of us have made the positive choice to accept the offer of vaccines against Covid-19. Almost eight in every 10 people over the age of 12 have chosen to be double-jabbed and more than 10 million people have now received their boosters or third jabs. I am grateful to colleagues from all parties for their steadfast support for our national vaccination programme.
Despite the fantastic rates of uptake, we must all keep doing our bit to encourage eligible people to top up their defences and protect themselves this winter. I understand that vaccination can, of course, be an emotive issue. Most of us have taken this step to protect ourselves, our families and our country. Sadly, we have all seen how Covid can devastate lives, but we have also seen how jabs can save lives and keep people out of hospital.
Our collective efforts have built a vast wall of defence for the British people, helping us to move towards the more normal way of life that we have all been longing for. The efforts of the British public have been phenomenal and those working in health and social care have been the very best of us. Not only have they saved lives and kept people safe through their incredible work, but they have done the same by choosing to get vaccinated. I thank NHS trusts and primary care networks for all the support and encouragement they have given to their staff to take up the vaccine. The latest figures show that 90% of NHS staff have received at least two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, although in some trusts the figure is closer to 80%.
Although our health and social care colleagues are a cross-section of the nation at large, there is no denying that they carry a unique responsibility. They have that responsibility because they are in close contact with some of the most vulnerable people in our society—people we know are more likely to suffer serious health consequences if they get Covid-19. Whether it is in our care homes, our hospitals or any other health or care setting, the first duty of everyone working in health and social care is to avoid preventable harm to the people they care for. Not only that, but they have a responsibility to do all they can to keep each other safe.
Those twin responsibilities—to patients and to each other—underline, once again, why a job in health or care is a job like no other, so it cannot be business as usual when it comes to vaccination. That is why, from the very beginning of our national vaccination programme, we put health and care colleagues at the front of the line for Covid jabs and it is why we have run two consultations to explore some of the other things that we might need to do.
The first consultation looked at whether we should require people who work in care homes to be vaccinated —what is called the condition for deployment. After careful consideration, we made vaccination against Covid-19 a condition for deployment in care homes from 11 November. Since we announced that in Parliament, the number of people working in care homes who have not had at least one dose has fallen from 88,000 to just 32,000 at the start of last month.
Our second consultation looked at whether we should extend the vaccination requirement to health and other social care settings, including NHS hospitals and independent healthcare providers. Our six-week consultation received more than 34,000 responses and, of course, covered a broad range of views. Support for making vaccination a condition for deployment was tempered with concern that, if we went ahead with that condition, some people might choose to leave their posts. I have carefully considered the responses and evidence and have concluded that the scales clearly tip to one side. The weight of the data shows that our vaccinations have kept people safe and saved lives and that that is especially true for vulnerable people in health and care settings.
I am mindful of not only our need to protect human life but our imperative to protect the NHS and those services on which we all rely. Having considered the consultation responses and the advice of my officials and of NHS leaders, including the chief executive of the NHS, I have concluded that all those who work in the NHS and social care will have to be vaccinated. We must avoid preventable harm and protect patients in the NHS, colleagues in the NHS and, of course, the NHS itself. Only those colleagues who can show that they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will be employed or engaged in the relevant settings. There will be two key exemptions: one for those who do not have face-to-face contact with patients and a second for those who are medically exempt. The requirements will apply across the health and wider social care settings that are regulated by the Care Quality Commission.
We are not the only country to take such steps: there are similar policies for specific workers in other countries, including the United States, France and Italy. We also consulted on flu vaccines but, having considered views that we should focus on Covid-19, we will not introduce any requirement to have flu jabs at this stage, although we will keep the matter under review.
Of course, these decisions are not mine alone: as with other nationally significant Covid legislation, Parliament will have its say and we intend to publish an impact assessment before any vote. We plan to implement the policy through the powers in the Health and Social Care Act 2008, which requires registered persons to ensure the provision of safe care and treatment. I will shortly introduce to the House a draft statutory instrument to amend the regulations, just as we did in respect of care homes.
This decision does not mean that I do not recognise concerns about workforce pressures this winter and, indeed, beyond as a result of some people perhaps choosing to leave their job because of the decision we have taken. Of course I recognise that. It is with that in mind that we have chosen not to bring the condition into force until 12 weeks after parliamentary approval, thereby allowing time for remaining colleagues to make the positive choice to protect themselves and those around them, and time for workforce planning. Subject to parliamentary approval, we intend to start the enforcement of the condition on 1 April.
We will continue to work closely across the NHS to manage workforce pressures. More than that, we will continue to support and encourage those who are yet to get the vaccines to do so. At every point in our programme we have made jabs easily accessible and worked with all communities to build trust and boost uptake. That vital work will continue, including through engagement with the communities where uptake is the lowest; through one-to-one conversations with all unvaccinated staff in the NHS; and through the use of our national vaccination programme capacity, with walk-in centres and pop-up centres, to make it as easy as possible to get the jab.
Let me be clear: no one working in the NHS or in care who is currently unvaccinated should be scapegoated, singled out or shamed. That would be totally unacceptable. This is about supporting them to make a positive choice to protect vulnerable people, protect their colleagues and, of course, protect themselves. The chief executive of the NHS will write to all NHS trusts today to underline just how vital the vaccination efforts are.
I am sure the whole House will want to join me in paying tribute to the heroic responses across health and care. Those who work in health and care have been the very best of us in the most difficult of days. Care, compassion and conscience continue to be their watchwords and I know they will want to do the right thing. Today’s decision is about doing right by them and by everyone who uses the NHS, so that we protect patients in the NHS, protect colleagues in the NHS and protect the NHS itself. I commend this Statement to the House.”
My Lords, I thank the Minister for the Statement, which largely concerns the matter which we discussed on Monday—making vaccination mandatory for patient-facing NHS staff. I need here to declare an interest as a non-executive director of a local trust.
We know that vaccination saves lives and that it is the best protection against this deadly disease. It helps to cut transmission. We, of course, want to see NHS staff vaccinated. But have the Government considered and taken account of the fact that the NHS is already under the most intense pressure this winter? Waiting lists are close to 6 million, there are already more than 90,000 vacancies across the NHS, and in his Budget the Chancellor failed to allocate funding for training budgets to train the medics we need for the future.
There will be anxiety at local trust level. However laudable the principle, it could exacerbate some of these chronic understaffing problems. We simply cannot afford to lose thousands of NHS staff overnight. Indeed, I spent this morning, as a non-executive of my local trust, discussing risk and its mitigation. Without doubt, the highest risk facing the whole of the NHS is staff shortage.
It was clear that the mandatory vaccine for care home workers covered all staff. These are predominantly in the private sector. Does this new mandate for vaccination apply also to all patient-facing staff, whether they work in the NHS or for private providers?
It is important that the Government have listened to representations from organisations such as NHS Providers, the NHS Confederation and others about delaying the implementation of this until after the winter. We welcome that. I urge the Secretary of State and the Minister to resist the blandishments of the former Secretary of State to bring forward any deadlines. However, have the Government consulted the British Medical Association, relevant trade unions and the royal colleges, which have raised concerns about the practicalities of implementing this policy? It seems to me that there needs to be a push right across the piece.
Will the Minister outline to the House what success looks like for this policy? Some of the 10% of NHS staff who are not vaccinated include those with medical exemptions, those who are on long-term sick and those who could not get the vaccine first time round because they were ill with Covid. Can the Minister tell the House the actual number of NHS staff who should be vaccinated but have not had the vaccine? In other words, when does he consider there to be success? Does full vaccination across the NHS look like 94%, 95% or 96%? What are we aiming for here? What is the target?
The aim of this policy is presumably to limit those with Covid coming into contact with patients, but one can still catch and transmit Covid post vaccine, so will the testing regime that is already in place for NHS staff—I think it is about twice a week at the moment— increase in frequency? Furthermore, will the thousands of visitors who go on to the NHS estate every week be asked whether they have had a vaccine or have proof of a negative test?
What analysis have the Government done of those who are vaccine hesitant in the NHS workforce? What targeted support has been put in place to persuade take-up among those groups? We know that in trusts where take-up is around 80%, specific support has been put in place—I know it has been in my own trust. But we know from society more generally that there has been hesitancy, for example, among women who are pregnant and those who want to have a baby. That means, sadly, that a significant proportion of those in hospital with Covid are unvaccinated pregnant women and, indeed, some of them have died. So, for example, will there be a dedicated phone line to give clear advice to women and their partners who might have concerns?
Today on the BBC “Today” programme, the Secretary of State spoke about the impact assessment for the mandatory vaccination of care home staff. We have been asking the Minister for this information to be brought to the House. We have done that many times. When will the impact information be available to Parliament?
Finally, on vaccination more generally, Leicester has a vaccination rate of 61%, Bradford—where I come from —63%, Bolton 69%, and Bury 71%. Generally, on children’s vaccinations, we seem to be stuck at 28%. On boosters, there are still around 6 million people eligible for a booster who have not yet had one. The Government’s own analysis shows that people over 70 who are dying from Covid or hospitalised should have had a booster, but many have had only two jabs.
With Christmas coming, which will mean more mixing indoors at a time when infection rates are high—with one in 50 having Covid—we are facing six crucial weeks. What more support will the Government offer now to local communities, such as those I have named, to drive up vaccination rates? Nobody wants to see either local or national lockdowns again.
My Lords, I declare my interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I also thank the Minister for repeating this Statement. Covid-19 Statements are now taking on the role of London buses—large gaps for a while and then suddenly two in one week on vaccines. It feels as though arguments were going on behind the scenes for such a quick second vaccine Statement to be repeated in less than two or three working days.
Like the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, my honourable friend Daisy Cooper MP asked yesterday about the publication of the long-awaited impact statement —Making Vaccination a Condition of Deployment in Health and the Wider Social Care Sector—that this Statement refers to. It would have been helpful for MPs to have had sight of it at the same time as the Statement. As the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, said, frankly we needed to see it a long time ago, given that the social care deadline starts tomorrow. It was finally published overnight, and I have some questions on it for the Minister.
The Statement announces that all NHS and social care staff will have to have to be fully vaccinated by 1 April 2022. The deadline for care home staff remains tomorrow. The predicted numbers on page 4 of the impact statement are pretty staggering—up to 126,000 staff, of whom 73,000 are expected to be NHS staff. Page 6 of the impact statement also says that the modelling cost of replacing unvaccinated workers is between £162 million and £379 million. That is also staggering, given the financial pressures and backlog of cases across a health and social care sector that at the moment is still struggling with the pandemic.
From these Benches we really want to see staff vaccinated but would prefer that it is voluntary and remain concerned about the consequences of tomorrow’s care homes deadline. Page 6 of the impact statement published overnight talks about the disruption to health and care services. But for social care that disruption has already started. Many care home staff have already left or this week are being fired, with a good number moving to the NHS and to retail and hospitality roles.
Large homes are reporting closing down wings of beds due to lack of staff and some smaller homes are handing back state-funded patients to local authorities. Both the Statement and the impact statement are silent on how patients will be looked after before we even get to the consequences of social care homes without beds.
So can I ask the Minister what emergency plans there are to help areas? By the way, answers that say “It’s down to local authorities” are not helpful. This is a crisis created, at least in part, by mandatory vaccines, and there are no staff or beds that can just magically appear. Or is what Sajid Javid said at the Conservative Party conference the reality: namely, that families will be expected to step up to the plate to look after their loved ones in the absence of care home beds? If so, it would be good to see Ministers’ planning for that and the consequent problems for the workforce.
The Statement says that other parts of the social care system—for example, domiciliary care—that were excluded from the original care decision will now be included, but neither the Statement nor the impact statement is clear about the deadline for those in the social care system now being drawn into mandatory vaccination. Can the Minister say what the deadline is for these new groupings? It surely cannot be that the deadline for domiciliary workers is this week. Is this just for full-time staff employed by the care sector, or will others offering regular services such as activities in care homes or subcontractors working in hospitals now be included? There are staff working as sub- contractors for the NHS who have front-line access to patients; for example, delivering meals. Are they included or excluded?
The table on page 4 of the impact statement lists the total number of staff in each sector exempt from vaccination. I cannot find anywhere the criteria for exemption. Can the Minister please tell the House what those criteria are?
I have now asked the Minister at least twice in the past fortnight about the online vaccination form which sits behind the GP records and the app. How many of those who were vaccinated overseas and those who took part in clinical trials are now on the records system? Has it increased from the 53 people that he talked about last week, and are the arrangements for logging third doses for the severely clinically extremely vulnerable, as distinct from the booster doses for everyone over 50 and health staff, now sorted out? I am still getting reports that they are not.
Finally, there has been considerable concern that the Prime Minister was not wearing a face mask at Hexham hospital yesterday, against all NHS advice. This morning, Dr David Nabarro, the World Health Organization’s special envoy for Covid-19, said on Sky News:
“I’m not sitting on the fence on this one … Where you’ve got large amounts of virus being transmitted, everybody should do everything to avoid … getting the virus or inadvertently passing it on. We know that wearing a face mask reduces the risk. We know that maintaining physical distance reduces the risk. We know that hygiene by regular hand washing and coughing into your elbow reduces the risk. We should do it all, and we should not rely on any one intervention like vaccination on its own. So … please, would every leader be wearing face masks, particularly when in indoor settings? … This virus is unforgiving, and we need to do everything possible to prevent it getting in between us and infecting us.”
Can the Minister explain why the Prime Minister was not wearing a face mask, in breach of Hexham hospital’s rules, and will he pass on those words from Dr Nabarro to No. 10 Downing Street?
I thank both noble Baronesses for their questions and the important points they made. It is important that we are clear about many of the issues that they have brought up.
Let us be clear that the best mitigation against this is to encourage those who are vaccine hesitant to take up the offer of vaccination. In both health and social care, we have worked extensively with key stakeholders and arm’s-length bodies to encourage vaccine take-up. This has involved a number of different measures: bespoke communications materials, paid advertising, stakeholder toolkits, positive messaging using influencers and leaders, content in different languages, briefings with different faith groups, webinars with clinical experts, vaccine champions and practical support including vaccination at places of work, flexible access to vaccine hubs, digital booking support and monitoring and support from NHS England. We will continue to encourage uptake in the run-up to the requirements coming into force.
The NHS has also focused in recent months on a targeted approach to improve uptake in hesitant groups by undertaking specific, targeted campaigns directed towards, for example, midwifery staff, ethnic minority groups in certain areas that have been hesitant and students, as well as using the booster campaign as an opportunity to re-engage staff. I thank noble Lords across the House for the advice that they have given me on how we can address hesitancy in some communities and for their very useful suggestions. I have discussed this with a number of other people, and we are looking at potential pilot projects, one working, for example, with faith communities in inner-city areas and mapping the data from Public Health England and the relevant offices.
It is interesting to see how many absences are due now to the unvaccinated. The seven-day average to 6 October 2021 shows an average of 74,863—nearly 75,000—absences in NHS trusts per day, of which more than 15,500 were for Covid-19-related reasons, including the need to isolate. This benefit would be reduced if we relied only on testing, although that remains part of our armoury.
I was asked a number of questions about scope and who this extends to. It applies to all providers, both public and private, of a CQC-regulated activity. This obviously covers a wide range of services, including hospitals, GP and dental practices, and social care providers. Further support on implementation for the sector will be provided through continuous guidance. The policy does not apply to those services and activities which are not regulated by the CQC. Children’s and social care services which are CQC regulated will be in scope of the requirement, but it will not apply to services that are provided as part of shared-living arrangements. Many of these reasons are of course as a result of the extensive consultation that has been undertaken.
I was asked for the number of uptakes. The vaccination uptake figures for NHS staff show that nearly 93% have had at least one dose. Uptakes still vary, from 84% to 97% for the first dose, among NHS trusts. Among primary care workers, this ranges from 94% in the south-west to 76% in the east of England—so we would welcome the advice of any noble Lords who have experience of the east of England. In adult social care, nearly 84% of domiciliary care staff have received one dose of the vaccine, and nearly 75% have had a full course of a Covid-19 vaccine, as of 14 October, which we believe represents the best proxy for the workforce in scope of the policy in other settings, too. So, despite our best efforts, there is still much more that we can do. I personally feel very uncomfortable about compulsion, but I also understand the arguments on both sides when I meet many patient groups and others who tell me that, if they were in hospital or a care home or had relatives there, they would feel much better if the staff were vaccinated and were protected.
What more can we do? The Covid-19 vaccines have been approved by the MHRA as safe and effective, and we continue to send that message out. Analysis suggests that the Covid-19 vaccination programme prevented more than 100,000 deaths in England as of 20 August. We continue to have targeted engagement. The NHS plan also includes one-to-one conversations for all unvaccinated NHS staff with their line manager, with clear guidance on how to do this. We have found that such one-to-one conversations are working in some cases. We want to make sure that we listen as well, hearing concerns that are seen to be legitimate as well as concerns that are not medical reasons but other reasons that staff may have for being so hesitant. It is really important that we understand, and that was all part of the extensive consultation.
We are trying to increase the number and diversity of opportunities. We are using the booster campaign, walk-ins and pop-ups for not only the public but staff as well.
A question was asked about pregnant women. Short-term exemptions from requirements are available to those with short-term medical conditions, but also including pregnancy. For pregnant women, the exemption expires 16 weeks after childbirth. This will allow them to become fully vaccinated after the birth. We will set out these arrangements, as has been called for by noble Lords, in the guidance on exemptions.
As noble Lords acknowledged, we set out yesterday an assessment of the impacts alongside the laying of the regulations. We also published a full impact assessment yesterday for the original care home regulations, and I thank the noble Baroness for acknowledging that. As committed to by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State in the other House yesterday, we will publish a full impact assessment for the regulations as soon as possible, and before Members vote on the proposed legislation. I recognise that Peers will be keen to understand the impacts of the policy as soon as possible and as part of consideration of the regulations. However, I hope that noble Lords will appreciate the necessity of trying to move as quickly as possible to ensure that patients are protected and that workers are given as much notice as possible. We will set out the statement of impact, which noble Lords will be able to consider, and it will be published before Members cast a vote.
We have done a number of things on vaccine hesitancy, and I have laid them out already. We want to encourage as many people as possible to take up the vaccine ahead of the regulations, which is one reason why we have the grace period until 1 April next year. The individual worker maintains a choice as to whether they decide to have the vaccine. Even if they choose not to have the vaccine, the registered person may redeploy them to a non-patient-facing role. When that is not possible, the worker cannot be employed or otherwise engaged by the registered person. This is incredibly important when it comes to patient-facing staff, especially for the families of those patients who are deeply concerned that their loved ones may be infected by unvaccinated staff.
I was asked how the measure will be enforced. On the approach to vaccination requirements, it is the CQC’s role to monitor and take enforcement action. At the time of registration and when inspected, health and care providers would need to demonstrate that they have effective systems in place. There are a number of measures in place to support care home workers. The majority of care home staff are now fully vaccinated, but there are a number of different programmes. Given the time, I shall not go into them but, if noble Baronesses would like more details on those encouragement programmes, I should be happy to write.